1. Journey's End
Thranduil looked up from the documents he was studying as there was a knock on the door and a messenger entered.
"A letter, my Lord. The courier said it was most urgent."
Curiously, for the seal was unfamiliar, Thranduil opened the message and read it swiftly. Then he read it again and looked at the messenger in silence for a moment before responding.
"Where is the courier?"
"He left straight after delivering the letter, seemingly in a big hurry."
The king thought for a while, before letting out a long sigh.
"Very well. Send for Felnor," he said, before rising from his desk, leaving the letter lying open.
The messenger bowed low and left the room, rattled by how the king seemed to have been affected by the contents of the letter. At the time, he had assumed it to be a routine communication between Lasgalen and its many allies, but clearly this was something more. Perhaps he should have insisted that the courier stay until His Majesty had read the dispatch.
Thranduil was pacing his study restlessly when his captain entered the room.
As an answer, Thranduil wordlessly handed the letter to Felnor, who paled upon reading it.
"My Lord - "
"Indeed it seems as if the time has come," Thranduil sighed, looking out of the window, a faraway look on his face. "That it has come to this."
"Shall I send for His Highness? He left with a patrol not two days ago, and will surely be able to return should the word be sent."
"Perhaps it will be for the best. You knew him well too."
"Ai, my Lord. He was our Captain, and was much respected and loved - a great warrior too."
"And the time has come for it all to come to a close," Thranduil said, his voice hollow.
"It is late, my Lord. Perhaps you should take your rest. I will ensure that the preparations are adequate. Lasgalen shall see a feast like never before in five days."
"A feast like he would be used to. Thank you, Felnor,"
"My Lord." The Captain of the elite Home Guard bowed low and retreated from the study, leaving the monarch to his own thoughts.
Not long later, another knock sounded on the door.
Thranduil's tired face lit up as the door was opened.
"My Lord." His Queen entered, bringing joy to the heavy heart as soon as her husband looked upon her lovely countenance.
"Tuilinniel!" He quickly strode over to his wife and embraced her.
"Are you busy?" she asked anxiously, seeing the tension in his face, for she knew him well.
"Nay," he answered, kissing her on her forehead.
She smiled, which had the effect of lighting up her fair features like a flower in bloom, and the king felt his heart skip a beat, just as it did every time she was around, just as she never failed to make him see the beauty and goodness in everything, even during his darkest hour.
"Wait." She moved gracefully to the door and stepped into the corridor outside, while Thranduil watched her with some bemusement, wondering what she had in mind.
"Thank you, Lissiriel," he heard her say, and footsteps of the servant leaving.
"Come, let us go in."
Another smile sprung to Thranduil's face as he realised what was going on.
Tuilinniel continued her soft coaxing, and it was not long before a small head appeared in the doorway, reluctantly followed by the rest of the little one, who had a look of misgiving and a tiny pout on his face.
Love filled the monarch's heart as he bent down and stretched out his arms at the cherubic figure, who was scowling at him now, his golden curls falling in a mess as always.
"Go on," Tuilinniel said, giving the small boy a gentle nudge. "Go to ada!"
"Come to ada!" Thranduil echoed, as the tiny one turned to look at his mother searchingly, before suddenly running up to the monarch's waiting arms.
"Good boy," the king praised, scooping the toddler and standing up in one motion, whereupon the boy buried his face in his father's hair. "What have you been up to today?"
The Elfling did not reply, and instead grabbed a handful of his father's golden mane and refusing to lift his head.
"Why the silence, pen neth? It is most unlike you! Has the cat got your tongue?" he asked in mock surprise.
When there was still no answer, Thranduil made a clucking sound with his tongue and lifted his son well over his head and landed him on his desk, laughing as the boy let out an excited squeal.
"We shall have to examine you then, for it seems that your tongue is indeed lost!" he cried, attempting to pry open his son's mouth.
The boy gave out a loud shriek and tried to fight his hands off, causing the king to jump back in surprise.
"Why, this one still has much fight left in him!"
A gurgle escaped the little one, and the king turned back and studied him with a frown on his face, before suddenly attacking, tickling his son mercilessly, who started shrieking in excitement and giggling madly. Thranduil kept it up for a good couple of minutes before stopping suddenly, but the peals of laughter seemed to go on.
In the midst of this, there was another knock on the door, and Felnor re-entered, smiling at the sight and patiently waiting for the young boy to stop screaming before speaking.
"Your Majesties, I have sent word for His Highness, who should be back in two days," he stated, before leaving respectfully.
Thranduil's good mood evaporated as things came back to him, and his wife quickly learned forward and squeezed his hand.
"What is the matter, Thranduil?" she said quietly, not wanting to alarm her son any more than was necessary.
Thranduil too shot a worried glance at their boy, but found that he was now busying himself playing with his father's quill, dipping it in and out of the inkwell with rapt fascination, seemingly oblivious to his parents' conversation.
"I received a letter from Glorinon's brother. It seems a decision has been made. They are to stop by Lasgalen on their way West.
"He tells me they arrive in five days. That his brother has been taken ill one time too many. The shores of Aman now call him home, and he is heeding the call. The sea-longing has been stirred in him, as it is wont to do to our people," Thranduil said, his attention suddenly drawn to his little son, who had abandoned the quill and was now holding up a piece of parchment and studying it curiously, turning it round a few times and peering at the writing from all angles.
"Ai," Tuilinniel started kneading her husband's tense shoulders. "Perhaps it is for the better. He shall find his peace, as you have found yours."
The king was about to answer when the little boy let out a loud hiccup, and both his parents whipped around to face him, to see that he had let go of the parchment and clamped his little hands around his mouth, attempting to stop himself from hiccupping again. He was fighting a losing battle, however, as another one escaped through his breath-holding.
"What is this?" Thranduil asked, scooping his son up. "Firstly you lose your tongue, and you make these strange noises! What a strange illness indeed!"
Tuilinniel reached out and brushed a stray curl away from the tiny face. "He was getting grouchy from tiredness, yet refused to rest before he saw you!"
A pout worked its way into the little one's face, and he struggled to keep it there in spite of his hiccups; a truly comical sight indeed.
Chuckling, Thranduil pressed a kiss to his forehead, only to have the boy push him away haughtily.
"And how he shuns me!" the king continued, knowing his son was enjoying every minute of his feigned indignation.
The boy frowned and seemed to think hard before suddenly turning to his mother.
"Nana, what it there West of here?" he said, high voice crystal-clear.
His parents exchanged apprehensive looks. They had thought he had been too engrossed in what he was doing to have paid any attention to what they had been speaking about.
Before they could reply, however, the small boy tugged at his curls and asked, "What ends? Why does it end? And why not begin?"
"Always full of questions," Thranduil said. "It is way past your bedtime, young man, and I believe you are feeling very sleepy indeed! Let me make you a promise! If you sleep soundly tonight and do not attempt to wander the corridors in search of more new friends, I will answer your questions tomorrow. How does that sound to you?"
His son scowled wrinkling up his nose distastefully before suddenly asking, "Promise?" And he stuck his little finger out at his father.
"Promise," Thranduil answered firmly, grasping it in his own, marveling at how tiny and perfect it was, before allowing his son to kiss his cheek.
Tuilinniel took the young one from her husband, and left with a silent promise to be back.
Once left alone, Thranduil collapsed in his chair and rubbed his temples wearily. He did not want to have the explain the harsh realities of life to his son, not yet. Bad as he felt about dodging the questions, he had to think of how best to answer them without revealing too much the next day. His son, while young, was intelligent, and knew that his father had brushed him aside too easily.
Meanwhile, the innocent questions seemed to have unleashed a deluge in him, as he wondered why it all had to end; something not even his court philosophers could answer, something he doubt any ever could.
"It is a beautiful night," the newcomer said, interrupting Thranduil's thoughts. "I much appreciate you having held this for me, but it was hardly necessary."
The king turned, revealing the tiny toddler he held cradled in his arms, who had fallen fast asleep in his father's embrace just moments before. Tired out from the festivities, the boy had simply climbed into his father's lap, causing Thranduil to seek some peace in the balcony that led away from where the feast was undoubtedly still reigning, and instead overlooked the empty giant courtyard.
"He is so beautiful," the other breathed, admiring the peacefully slumbering figure, the rosy cheeks, and the messy curls. "He is so strong and yet so fragile. So astute and yet so innocent. Such is the way of the world."
"Ai, Glorinon," Thranduil said, trying not to feel too sad at his friend's appearance. He had been shocked speechless at the sight of his oldest and dearest friend, his onetime playmate, who was now weak and frail, ageing like a mortal would have. The once-dark hair was now streaked with silver strands, his face was covered in grooves and lines, and his once bright eyes were cloud and listless. In fact, Thranduil had noted that when Glorinon had smiled and greeted the royal family, the smile did not quite extend to his eyes, even as he withheld his Godson and Thranduil's heir. In fact, the only time when the other Elf seemed to exhibit any of his old self was when the younger prince had poked his head out from where he had been hiding behind his mother's legs and studied the newcomer thoughtfully. Then, Glorinon's face had truly lighted up as he greeted the child.
"They grow so quickly. It seems as if it were only yesterday, but four years have passed in the blink of an eye."
"It is but a flash in our long years of existence," Glorinon said.
"But it is a precious four years that I will give anything to relive once more."
"You did not tell me of his birth." There was no hint of accusation in his voice.
"Forgive me, Glorinon. I just felt I should not have troubled you, for you were ill - "
"Do not worry, mellon-nîn." Glorinon squeezed his shoulder, but his grasp was weak. "It brings me peace to know you have found yours. That you have risen from the darkness."
The king was at a loss for words, unable to put his thoughts into words for they were too many and too confused. After an age, he eventually said, "Indeed he has brought our people such joy and hope. His birth was the renewal of life itself."
"Like the first Greenleaf of spring," Glorinon added understandingly. "I regret not being able to watch Calenlass grow up as I did with Dethronir."
"Please, stay!" Thranduil pleaded.
"You know I cannot do this, Thranduil! I am haunted every night by dreams of darkness and death, the hollow screams for wives and mothers and daughters. I cannot forgive myself for the deaths of our soldiers, for leading them straight to their doom!"
"You were given the order to do so! Orders given by my father!" Thranduil cried, and fell silent as the child stirred fretfully in his arms. The two old friends looked each other long and deep, reading the shared memories of pain from the great battle.
"How can I live on when they died? How can I, when they are no longer with us? Arda has lost its appeal for me; nothing holds me here. I see nothing, neither in its trees nor rivers nor blades of grass as I once did. It is over for me, Thranduil, and that, fortunately, is not your path. You grieve, yes, but there is much that hold you behind. Look at your son, and tell me, no, tell him that you feel sorrow!"
Thranduil struggled for a bit, staring down at his boy.
"No, I cannot."
"He is a gift, a new hope rising, and he will make you proud, proud that you held on to what you believed, just as you have come to be proud of Dethronir, the son that every father wishes for. You are blessed, Thranduil, and you should use your gifts to rebuild our people, to pick up the pieces, to lead them through the darkness."
"My heart wishes for you to stay behind, yet it is not my place to ask that you do. I am sorry," Thranduil whispered. "You have your own path laid out before you, and although it is regrettable that it is not the same as mine, I wish you well."
Hearing his friend conceding the point at last, a small lighted up the gaunt and tired features.
"Ai, you speak the truth, mellon, for we all have our own paths to tread, our own burdens to bear. The time has come for us to part, for me to leave Middle-Earth, but rest assured that we shall meet again."
Tears leapt to the green eyes normally so proud and strong, as Thranduil beheld his greatest friend.
"Perhaps I could accompany you West?" he offered lamely, trying to stall the parting he knew would eventually take place.
"Nay, you know that once you set eyes open the sea that nothing will no longer hold your heart to Middle-Earth, and that you will start to wither and fade as I have. The gulls will call you home one day, but it is not today. Your place is here, with your family, with our people. My journey is nearing its end, but yours has barely begun."
"Such different fates for us, gwador," Thranduil mused sadly. "Such different paths we tread."
"Are they that different? They all lead to the same place in the end. Remember this."
"Thank you." Thranduil whispered, green eyes still glittering with unshed tears. "Thank you for being by my side all these years."
"And you have been a friend and a brother to me," Glorinon replied. "All things must pass, Thranduil, I am sorry I can no longer be here for you as I once was."
"And my heart weeps at not being able to help - "
"Nay, Thranduil, I am going home, listen! The gulls are wailing!" cried the other, suddenly collapsing on the ground.
Thranduil rushed forward in alarm to help him up, but was pushed away weakly.
"I am sorry, the hour runs late and we should be on our way," panted Glorinon. "Before I leave, however, I have one last request."
"I will gladly oblige, gwador," Thranduil answered, knowing immediately what was being requested of him.
"It always brought such joy to my heart, even when we were boys! If you are willing to do it for me one last time - "
"Be at peace, Glorinon," Thranduil murmured, cutting him off.
Watching from the balcony with his precious son still curled up in his arms, the King of the Silvan Elves watched the small procession leaving, his face wet with tears.
Sudden understanding came to him as he looked down at his son in an attempt to draw some strength.
The end came because it had to.
The end had to occur in order for a fresh start to be born, just as hope and life was always rekindled by the birth of a newborn child.
Glorinon's journey had not ended. It was simply a step toward a new beginning.
***** Sindarin Translations: Pen neth - young one Calenlass - Greenleaf (variation on 'Legolas') Gwador - (sworn) brother
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.