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A/N: This first chapter originally appeared in my stories I posted for Father's Day. I have reworked it and added to it to use it to as the beginning chapter for this story.
Ch. 1 - The Pain of Not Knowing
Mirkwood, April 3019 TA
Thranduil stood amidst ash, partially burnt tree limbs and burnt underbrush. He looked around and saw wide sections of the forest that held only the burnt-out trunks of trees. He felt the pain of the forest, the cries of the trees and the lingering memories of trees that been turned to ash. He felt desolate. They had lost- no, he stopped himself. That was not true. They had won, the free peoples of Middle Earth had vanquished Sauron the Deceiver. He was unsure how, but he felt it the air. But at what cost, they had lost so much in the process. He looked around at the desolation. The forest was and had always been a part of his soul since the day his father, Oropher had led them down the mountain and into the Greenwood. His father, Thranduil thought and closed his eyes against the renewed pain of loss. He had lost his father in a battle that had stripped his very soul. Another “victory” against Sauron, he could only pray to the Valar that there was never another battle because he would not survive it. Body and soul would be ripped asunder. He was faintly amused that he had survived this one. He stood rooted to the spot feeling the pain of the forest wash through him. He was alive. That would be the starting point. He reached out with his essence to touch the trees. To say goodbye to those trees that lay as ash that would in the fullness of time would become an aid in growth for newborn trees. He reached out to trees that had been traumatized, their spirits shy, hiding even from him. In his heart he coaxed them to show themselves that the war was over. There would no longer be fire. Slowly he and the Greenwood would rebuild each other.
“Adar?” He heard his oldest son’s voice; it was a balm upon his soul that his oldest sons, both Celebren and Sadron, had survived the firestorm that had been the battle amid the trees. He closed his eyes and tried to quell the pain that he knew lived in his eyes at this moment. His child did not need to see that. He could not burden him with such knowledge.
Celebren waited for his father to acknowledge his presence. When Thranduil did finally look upon his son the depth of pain he saw in his father’s eyes almost floored him. He as Crown Prince, also held communion with the trees, the entire ruling family of Mirkwood did, but the communion was strongest within Thranduil. “Celeborn is here.”
Thranduil looked at his son and bent his head in acknowledgement. Celebren bowed and moved to see to other matters but Thranduil stilled his motion with his nearest hand. Thranduil looked into the eyes of his eldest son and laced his fingers through Celebren’s silver hair, cradling his eldest son’s head. He gently leaned forward and kissed his son’s forehead and breathed deeply. Celebren felt somehow renewed in spirit and when he looked for a second time into his father’s eyes he saw a kernel of joy trying to combat despair. He heard his father whisper, “Celebren, my son. You give me the strength to carry on, Hannon Le!”
Celebren was stunned. Thranduil was not generally given to effusive praise and always seemed to him as a tower of strength and resolve. But this battle under the trees had taken the last of Thranduil’s reserves. He bent, and voiced words from his soul. “It has been my highest honor to have been of service to you, My King and my Adar.”
Thranduil bent hand on heart and strode towards Celeborn. He saw the Lord of Light and he seemed changed somehow. As if a secret sorrow was nestled within his heart. Thranduil bowed to him, “My Lord Celeborn.” He looked up into ageless grey eyes that had possibly seen even more than he had.
“Thranduil King, we meet again.” Celeborn also looked around and viewed the destruction that the battle under the trees had brought. He closed his eyes to the pain he saw around him. A silent prayer to the Valar was said in his heart, “Please, I beg of you. Let this be an end to it.”
The two elven lords just stood still for a moment joined by their silent recognition of the moment and all the sacrifice that had led to this moment of stillness and possibility of lasting peace.
It was Thranduil that broke the silence, “So, how shall we go forward from here.” His voice devoid of any of the side or posturing that might have occurred in previous meetings. While he and Celeborn were kinsman by way of Thingol, their relationship had had its share of misgivings and misunderstandings. Too much had happened of late to give those sorts of grievances any sort of light. Celeborn looked at him and he could see in the Sindarin Lord’s visage he held much the same opinion of the old injuries to pride and circumstance. And yet there was more hidden in his eyes. Thranduil was unsure that he wished to know; he bore too much of his own pain to carry still more from another, even a kinsman. Thranduil motioned that they move off to a glade near by that was on the borders of devastation but somehow remained more or less untouched. Thranduil’s attendant, Guildor motioned for his lord’s retinue to join and attend the King, but Thranduil turned to his attendant of long years to belay the standard action, stating, “No, my friend. I do not wish that. I need to be alone with my cousin.”
“As you wish, my king,” Guildor stated in all obedience, but with a concerned glint in his eye. He bowed and retreated.
Celeborn was a little taken aback by Thranduil’s use of the word “Cousin.” Their relationship was a complicated one and for reasons dating back centuries Thranduil very rarely gave voice to their bond of kinship. “Lead the way.” He remarked cordially.
Entering the glade brought mixed emotions to Thranduil. He could feel the joy of the greenery around but much of the innocence had been lost. Many portions of Mirkwood for centuries had had their innocence corrupted, but much of the northern forest had been protected by Thranduil’s sheer force of personality and vigilance. But even in and among the northern enclave within Thranduil’s protection destruction had been wrought. The despair brought by the fires of battle still lingered in the collective spirit of these trees even though some, such as the ones ringing the glade, remained outwardly undamaged. Thranduil closed his eyes and turned his face upwards, communing once again with the wounded spirits of the trees, each trying to heal the other.
Celeborn stood silent, waiting for his kinsman to come back to him. He could feel a nascent stirring within him as all Elves are bound to Arda but the connection between Thranduil and his forest was a sight to behold.
Thranduil slowly came back to himself and looked on Celeborn, seeming more refreshed than he had when they entered the glade. “Pardon for the delay,” he said to his kinsman.
Celeborn deferred, “None needed.”
Thranduil motioned that they seat themselves on upon the springy grass in the middle of the glade. Celeborn sat himself down and crossed his legs, refraining from commenting upon the ingrained informal ways of the Silvan elves.
Thranduil, whether he picked up upon Celeborn’s thoughts or he was merely expressing his own thinking, said by way of explanation, “Forgive the lack of formality, cousin. I find at present I have not the strength for or desire to put up a show.” He paused briefly, a slash of pain crossing his face. All pretense gone, he looked at Celeborn, “I ask only as an adar, do you know what has become of my son?”
Celeborn looked at his cousin, his pain and desperation palpable, said with the utmost care, “Cousin, I wish I had an answer for you. Beyond Lorien I do not know.”
“But you did see him in Lorien.” Thranduil’s eyes held an almost painful envy, “How was he? Was he well?” Did he say anything about our parting. Thranduil thought desperately but pride and an ingrained sense of privacy even now precluded him from saying.
Celeborn sought to reassure the father he saw before him, “He was well.” The Elven lord paused, “As well as could be expected.”
Thranduil’s ice blue eyes flashed with fear then anger, “What do you mean ‘as well as could be expected! Was he injured…and you did nothing!” he menaced.
Celeborn held up his hands, “Peace Cousin! He was well!” he countered forcefully. “They had entered our borders after leaving Moria, after they had lost Mithrandir to a Balrog.”
Thranduil’s blood ran cold, “A Balrog.” He uttered. “What did I do? My rash words caused this!” His thoughts unbidden cast back to when this whole misbegotten episode entered his realm and disturbed his peace and had taken his son.
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