Shadow: 51. LI

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51. LI

"Your Majesty!" one of the Home Guard came tearing into the private study of the king, out of breath and frantic.

"What is it?" Thranduil rose hurriedly.

"The eagle colony came under attack a week ago. Our scouts chanced upon their ruined nests two days ago!"

The king reeled back in shock, but quickly gathered himself. Now was not the time to panic; this was serious news, and he needed his wits about him.

"Send for Felnor and Thinale, I shall see the scouts in the throne room."

The Guard acknowledged his request and left.

Thranduil headed for the throne room, heart heavy as he awaited the arrival of his subjects.

Felnor appeared within a couple of minutes, as ready as ever, while the scouts followed not long after. It was a while before the Chief Advisor appeared, apologising for his tardiness.

The apology was swept aside, and Thranduil motioned for the scouts to start speaking.

"Your Majesty, it appears that the entire colony of eagles have been wiped out by a large party of Orcs and unknown creatures. It seems that none were spared by the vicious onslaught.

"By all indications, it happened in the dark of the night, and they were taken unaware. Even the young ones were not spared."

Felnor and Thinale appeared just as shocked as Thranduil felt when he had first heard the news. Both looked at their king, who seemed at a loss for words.

"Did you manage to discover from whence they came?" Thranduil finally recovered himself.

"We followed the trail, which turned North and disappeared. It was then that we decided to return with the news, rather than to track it alone We believe that a large colony of Orcs make the desolate place their base now, judging from the rumours that abound."

Their king did not answer, and a heavy and awkward silence fell in the room.

It was then that Thranduil acutely felt the absence of his elder son again. Dethronir would have been able to help him. He stopped himself from going down that path. No amount of grief could bring his wife and son back, and it would do no good to waste his time feeling miserable about his losses. His people needed him more than ever now, and he was not about to let them down because of his personal weakness.

He indicated the scouts leave after muttering a few words of appreciation for their efforts.

"Your Majesty," Felnor said, seeing the pain and anguish in those green and stately eyes.

"There is naught we can do for the good beasts but to conduct rites befit of their noble souls," Thranduil answered. Yet, was that not a look of weariness in his proud eyes? Felnor quickly dismissed it, although he was growing increasingly worried for his king and friend by the day.

"In the meantime, the situation is dire," Thinale interposed, "First the trees, now the eagles, what next? Our People? The Orcs grow bolder with each day. Something has to be done!"

The king sighed again before replying. "What would you have me do, Thinale? Send in an army to annihilate them? You know we do not have the capability to both attack and defend Eryn Galen at the same time!"

The Chief Counsellor fell silent at his words, although he cast a knowing look at Felnor, who nodded discretely. Taking a deep breath, the captain started speaking.

"My lord, our resources are stretched thin, and our people would not be able to withstand an attack without sustaining much loss of life. Many of them are fanned out about Eryn Galen, which increases our vulnerability, and it would take much effort to bring them in. Even so, what are we to do after we have our people gathered around us? As it stands, we will be able to hold against a full-scale attack should the need arise. We cannot say for sure a fresh wave would not come on the heels of the first, charging down our newly exposed vulnerability."

Thranduil looked up at his words. He did not like the look upon the faces of his two most trusted advisors. Both were too calm and steely, and something told him they had discussed whatever was coming up most thoroughly prior to this.

Seeing how Thranduil had caught on, Felnor hesitated, unwilling to take the plunge just yet.

"Do carry on, dear Felnor."

"Mayhap it be time to send out word. It will not be too late to ask for help. Imladris and Lothlórien - "

Thranduil leapt to his feet, anger in his face.

"You know very well how I stand on this matter; it is entirely out of the question! The affairs of Eryn Galen does not concern them! If need be, we shall perish in our defence of our own home. If Eryn Galen would be smitten, every last one of our people would die fighting! Only cowards rely upon on when the time to fight comes," he cried.

"Your Majesty, this is not time to revive old feuds! This madness will not stop at Eryn Galen; our people's sacrifice would be in vain, and the shadow spread to the neighbouring lands, destroying all in its way. This must be stopped in its infancy, before the serpent has time to grow its poisonous fangs! Can you not recall the Last Alliance and the horrors of the battle? Would you have it come to that again?" Thinale said.

Thus addressed so harshly, Thranduil seemed to calm down, and sank back onto his throne. A million thoughts ran through his head, the horrendous images, the stench of death, the despair. His return to his homeland, his father and king slain, two-thirds of his army wiped out. The desolate days that followed, how Tuilinniel had worked for centuries just to restore the light to his eyes, which finally culminated in the birth of their second child. The shocking departure of his wife, followed by his older son.

"Your Majesty, forget the past. It cannot be changed," Felnor advised gently.

A bitter smile crossed the face of the monarch, which was followed by a hollow laugh.

"What choice do I have? I sent my son to Imladris, is that not proof enough of my desperation?"

"Leave me alone," he commanded, as he felt his heart grow heavy with the thought.

"My lord, you do not seem too well," the captain said.

"Have a search party sent back to the eagle colony, for I want all clues of the Orcs to be uncovered: their numbers, weapons, origins. We must ascertain if they were the same that attacked the trees," Thranduil ordered. "Should the Prince send any message, I am to be informed straightaway!

"In the meantime, prepare the caves."

His footsteps on the way back to his private sitting room through the connecting door sounded haunted and vacant to his own ears. How had he let things come to the way they were? He had been ecstatic at the birth of his younger son. Yet, the distance between them had grown with his involvement in affairs of the state, and as the small one had shown himself to be increasingly deviant from his father's stately nature. Always quick to wreck havoc, the younger boy's temperament did not go down well with his dignified father and older brother, and both had given up hope of ever managing to reign his wild nature in.

Yet, deep down, Thranduil knew that there was a heart that really cared. The paradoxical feelings for his son were strong. He felt disappointment at his lack of propriety and seriousness, but at the same time, pride at the skills and talents displayed for such a young one. But, had he not proven himself capable of settling down this past year? Thranduil was gratefully for the boy's efforts to cast aside their differences, but at the same time, knew that it was a fool's hope that their relationship would ever be completely salvaged.

Legolas, you are all that I have left. The reality of the situation finally hit home after twelve months of hiding from it.

The words of his advisors came to mind. How they had pleaded with him to send for help. Much as he hated to admit it, Eryn Galen was standing on the brink of almost certain destruction, and he would not be the one to lead them to their doom. For long had the Great Wood been a place of sanctuary and solitude for his people, and he would see to it that it stayed that way.

Walking over to his desk, Thranduil absently pulled out a quill and parchment, with the intention of informing Elrond of the latest happenings in his kingdom. Starting to write, the words stuck, and instead he ended up blotting the parchment. Grinding his teeth in annoyance, he threw the maimed paper aside and looked about for a fresh sheet, but it proved elusive.

Just as he was about to summon a servant to bring fresh supplies, something tucked between two seldom used books caught his eye, and he pulled it out from the bottom of his drawer carefully. Gently wiping away almost two centuries of dust, he sucked in his breath sharply as he saw what it was. A portrait of a smiling king and queen at one of the many merry banquets he frequently held under the stars, was sketched in a child's hand. To the right of the queen sat a little Elf, who was grinning with delight. The colours were bright, even garish for an Elven hand. Two arrows pointed to the king and queen. 'Adar' and 'Nana' were written awkwardly in Sindarin, as if the writer were still unfamiliar with the alphabet.

Beholding the forgotten picture, tears threatened to leap to the monarch's eyes, as the memory of an excited seven year old presenting the picture to him to mark the Midsummer celebrations was brought back to the forefront of his mind. He ran a trembling finger across the picture, absently tracing the outlines of the happy figures drawn in such a simple, innocent strokes, the outlines rough and less than picturesque.

His eyes drifted from the paper onto a portrait that hung over his fireplace, one that he had refused to remove in spite of the pain it caused him each time he cast eyes upon it. The Silvan king and queen sat in their formal robes, regal and graceful, the pride of Eryn Galen. Tuilinniel was smiling, her golden hair caught by the sunlight, and there was a kindness in her eyes. Thranduil, on the other hand, had a certain sternness in his posture that was befitting of the monarch. To his right stood an equally proud Prince Dethronir, his face, so like his father, handsome and stately. He too was dressed in his royal garments, and held his great sword in one hand, for his skill with the weapon had been legendary among the Wood Elves. The queen was flanked by a toothily grinning little boy, barely four feet tall, small for his age, a complete picture of irreverence. Dressed in formal garments, he held a bow in one hand, while the other was resting on his mother's knee, and had a quiver strapped to his back.

Thranduil smiled fondly as he recalled the hours spent trying to coax the twelve year old into his royal prince's raiment, and the fuss the young one had kicked up while made to pose for the painting. Finally, it had been his brother's threat of invoking his archery practises for a whole month that made him stop his endless fidgeting and complaints.

Looking at the smiling family, how was one to know that the beautiful lady was to be ripped from her husband and sons in such a cruel manner a few years after? Who was to know that the small boy would be forced to grow up without the presence of a mother's touch? How would one be able to understand that the Crown Prince was to be taken away from his people somewhere further down the road, leaving his father and little brother to fend for themselves?

Clenching his fists, Thranduil willed the tears away. He had to fight against the darkness. It was only then, when the darkness was banished from the surface of the earth forever, could they be sure that more families would not be torn apart, splintered, ravished by evil. He had to lead his people out through the end of the tunnel.

But how am I to do so if I cannot see the light at the end? Where am I to lead my people to?

For once, the answers did not come to him as they usually did. All his life, he had been so sure of what he wanted, making the decisions without a second thought. Even with the death of his wife, Thranduil had known what he had to do. The same could not be said for now.

Tenderly, he replaced the precious drawing back into his drawer, making sure that it was well-protected. Casting a last longing glance at the painting, Thranduil rose and left the room, making up his mind as for what his next cause of action was to be.

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.

Story Information

Author: fael bain

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Kings

Genre: Action

Rating: General

Last Updated: 08/10/05

Original Post: 09/21/03

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