8. Fortune's Fool
"Oh western wind, when wilt thou blow,
And bring the gentle rain?
Oh, that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again."
Traditional English folksong
The winds of Iavas blew down off the Misty Mountains as Thranduil's party journeyed homeward.
The leave-taking had been restrained and even falsely cheerful to Sigrid's ear. They stood again on the broad terrace, with the colored leaves of autumn falling about them. What had passed between father and son the night before, Sigrid did not know, for Thranduil had come to bed late and smelling of wine. Now, Legolas laid a hand on Thranduil's shoulder. "Be well, Father."
Thranduil drew a deep breath and nodded. "Garo 'lass, my son."
He turned, mounted his horse. and the party moved out. The sound of Elven voices came from the fading trees as they made their way through the wood, heading westward toward the Anduin. 'When honey spills , and apple swells, though wind be in the west; I'll linger here beneath the sun . . ."
This time, Thranduil did not join in the song. He remained silent, turning his head only once to look back before the palace was lost to sight around the bend of the trail. Legolas still stood on the terrace, his hand raised in farewell.
Thranduil had been withdrawn on the ride northward, and it was not until they were well above the falls and passing the southern tip of the Wood that he regained a semblance of his former self. Again, Sigrid rode behind him, arms about his waist, head leaning into his hard back, feeling the remnants of tension in his muscles.
"This was once my home," he said, looking to the east, where the land rose into dark, tree-clad hills and glens. "Amon Lanc, where my father brought us first to dwell in Ages long past. Then it became the Enemy's, filling the wood with fear and peril. Now Lord Rúmil of Lorien rules it, and I've not the heart to see, although I deem he does it well and wisely. My kinsman, Celeborn, enjoyed it for such a short time.
"At long last I begin to understand Galadriel and Elrond," he said with a sigh. "I laughed at them for their Rings of Power, for I thought it folly. But I feel it myself now, the temptation to hold back the hand of time from all that I love. Would that we could, eh, Galion?"
"Would that we could, Sire," Galion agreed. He too was somber, his dark brows knit. But in his saddlebags, Sigrid knew, he carried a gift to her from Prince Legolas; the bare root-stock of three rose bushes; a red, a pink and a white. Tender blooms from the south to try their fortune in the Wood of Green Leaves.
* * *
In the last days of the month of Gwaeron of the following year, a courier from the south came riding up to the Elvenking's great gates bearing two letters. The first bore the Seal of Gondor, on paper bordered in black. Thranduil opened it while seated on his throne, and Sigrid saw his face pale as he read it.
"King Elessar is dead. His son, Eldarion, sends me word."
The second letter was larger, a wrapped package sealed in silver wax stamped with an acorn device. Thranduil stared at it long, as if it were some venomous viper he held in his lap, before rising and heading for his private study. When Sigrid and Galion made as if to follow, he whirled and shook his head. "Leave me!"
"Sire . . ." Galion began.
"Leave me! All of you!" Thranduil shouted. He shut the door behind him.
* * *
Hours later, the candles in the sconces had burned down to stubs. As Sigrid watched, one reached its end and went out in a little puff of smoke. "Enough," she said. "It has been too long. I am going to him."
Galion stirred beside her. "Mistress . . . Sigrid, I warn you not to. I have been with Thranduil many a long year, and he becomes wild when these moods take him. There are times when even those he loves dare not brave his company."
"This is not one of those times," she said firmly. "Go to bed, Galion, for you look exhausted. But I am going in there." Before he could make any further protest, she placed her hand to the door and entered.
The first sight to meet her eyes was a flash of gold; Thranduil lay face down upon his desk, his bright hair puddled around him. Next, she saw tumbled wine bottles, all empty and too many of them. On the desk lay an open letter, and Thranduil's outstretched arm reached past it, his hand resting lightly on a thin band of delicately twined mithril.
Sigrid tiptoed to his side and took up the letter, noting only the first few words, "Adar vuin, nin gohenno . . .' before folding it and placing it out of sight in a desk drawer. The circlet she recognized but did not touch.
Gently, she shook Thranduil's shoulder. "My Lord? Thranduil . . .? Dearest, you must wake and come to bed now."
Slowly, the golden head raised up and Thranduil looked at her with bleary, unfocused eyes. He had fallen forward onto his own hand, and royal oak leaf of his signet ring was imprinted on his cheek like a fell brand. Unlike the lesser trees that will bend before a wind, oaks are strong, unyielding; they will stand firm before the gales of adversity until they snap.
"Oh, Thranduil, " she said.
"I had hoped . . ." he said, seeming not to hear her. "I had hoped he would change his mind at the end. But Hope died, and now my boy is gone."
"My love, please," she whispered. "You need to sleep."
Thranduil shook his head and stumbled to his feet. His eyes were dark pools, and grief twisted his face. "I am accursed," he said. "All whom I love, I lose -- adar nîn, ion nîn, . . ." he reached out an unsteady hand, stopping just short of her cheek, ". . . ves nîn."
Sigrid sighed, barely able to trust her voice. "You loved her very much," she said bleakly.
"Loved her?" he laughed, bitterly. "I was weak and she was strong, but not strong enough for both of us. I loved her, and I killed her . . . my love." His last words came out almost in a sob.
Before Sigrid could react, Thranduil reached out for her and swept her into his arms. Clutching her as a drowning man holds to a branch that is keeping him from being swept away into the flood, he kissed her fiercely. She tasted wine and a hint of salt from the corner of his mouth. Strong arms lifted her onto the desk, the weight of his body pressing her back, and his hand groped, pushing her skirts up around her waist. Another fumble at his own clothing, and she felt his hardened flesh blindly seeking her.
"Oh, Thranduil, my poor love," she whispered. She could no more refuse him than a slender willow resists bending before the power of a summer windstorm, or the earth rejects the falling rain. She lay quietly, accepting, beneath him as she became the vessel into which he poured his grief and need. Slowly, inexorably, he filled her, and she turned her face to gaze at the lonely band of mithril that lay beside her head, while she rocked with the force of his thrusting.
He came with a cry, and she felt moisture on the side of her face, where his lashes brushed against her cheek. Sigrid shut her eyes tightly, holding back her own tears. The name on his lips had not been hers. Lalaithiel . . .
He rolled off her and she slid away from him and stood up, smoothing ineffectively at her dress and hair. Thranduil rose, staggered and would have fallen had she not rushed to catch him under the arm. "Sorry . . . so sorry," he slurred.
"Come, Thranduil, you need your sleep." He was light for someone of his size, but even so, she had trouble steering him to the door. Outside in the hallway, Galion rested, half sitting with his back against the wall and his arms draped over his bent knees. He scrambled to his feet when he caught sight of the two of them.
"Here, let me help you get him to bed. I've done it enough times." Galion's servant mask had fallen firmly into place, but not before Sigrid had seen a flash of pity in his eyes. "Are you all right, Mistress?" he whispered in concern.
"Quite," she replied, knowing how she must look with her dress half undone and her hair disheveled. "Does he do this often?"
Galion put Thranduil's other arm over his shoulder and bore him up. Immediately, Sigrid felt the weight upon her lessen. "No, but when he does . . ." He turned his dark head back, to where the mithril band gleamed, plainly visible through the open doorway. "I suppose he was due. That was our Prince's circlet; Thranduil's before him. He has no need of it now. I have been dreading this day ever since Legolas came home from the war with the sea in his heart. Poor Thranduil, he always feared his son would meet his doom before the Black Gates. Instead it was the sound of the waves on the shore that took him."
"What can we do for him?" she asked.
"To lose his only child?" Galion sighed and shook his head. "Willow bark tea and bland food tomorrow. Friends to make him laugh and a good woman to hold him as you have done. And time. It is all we can do. Fortunately, time is something we First Born have in abundance."
Together, friend and lover took the drunken Elvenking through the darkened corridors of his palace to his bed.
* * *
To be continued . . .
* * * * * * *
Garo 'lass: Have joy
Adar vuin, nin gohenno . . . : Beloved father, forgive me . . .
adar nîn: my father
ion nîn: my son
ves nîn: my wife
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.