1. Starlight On Leaves
It had been seven years – seven long, weary, bitter years. Years in which he had seen his father fall, and had himself been proclaimed king. Years in which the greater part of his army had fallen before the final climactic 'victory'. Now, he and his remaining warriors rode home to a rapturous welcome for returning heroes, though for many it would be a bleak homecoming – two-thirds of the elves of the Greenwood now lay in cold, barren graves in Mordor.
Thranduil rode through the lines of welcoming elves. Most were cheering and jubilant, though some wept quietly for one who would never again return. And then, at the head of the line he saw her, and his heart – dispirited and heavy with loss – soared once again with joy.
The memory of her had sustained him throughout those long years, supporting him even through the horror of his father's death. The image he held had given him hope to cling to in the darkest times, when defeat seemed certain. Now she stood before him, vibrant and real and alive, and his weariness and sorrow evaporated. Now he was truly home.
As he dismounted, the elves surrounding him knelt, honouring their new king. Telparian, however, stood smiling, and he crushed her to him in a fierce embrace, never wanting to let her go again.
All around, similar welcomes were taking place as others greeted one another – couples long wed, lovers whose betrothal had been cruelly extended, maidens whose loved one had been torn away before any pledges could be made. Parents greeted sons, sisters greeted brothers, and children swarmed over long-missed fathers.
Others, though – far too many – stood in lonely isolation, alone among so many jubilant reunions. For them there were no celebrations, and they would have only memories to keep them warm this night. His heart ached for them. He had had time to become accustomed to his own loss – as far as one ever could – but for some, this homecoming was bleak confirmation of what they had long known.
Beraid, Thranduil's steward – a glum, rather dour elf – approached and bowed. "Welcome home, your Majesty," he greeted Thranduil formally. "If you wish to meet with me in your office later, you will find all ready. I have the accounts and trade figures available, and copies of some of the letters that have been sent out in your name. I have …"
Thranduil interrupted him firmly. "No. Not now. Telparian can tell me all I need to know. I will talk to you tomorrow."
"Very well," Beraid replied stiffly. "Then I will make preparations for the feast of celebration and commemoration tonight. With your leave, sire, I will instruct the kitchens."
Again Thranduil stopped him. "No. Not tonight." He looked around at the joyful meetings all around, and at the sad faces among them. "Tonight is not a time for revelry. It will be a time for private celebration, and for each to grieve for the dead in their own way. Tomorrow – tomorrow there will be time for celebration. We will remember the dead and give thanks for those who live then."
Beraid gave Thranduil a rather disapproving look. "Very well, your Majesty." He turned and swept away.
Súrion, Thranduil's second-in-command, smiled as he saluted. "Thank you, my lord. That is most compassionate of you. The warriors will appreciate this time to be with their families again."
Dismissing the remnants of his army, and with a nod to Súrion, Thranduil turned to Telparian. "It was not compassion I had in mind, but rather passion," he whispered. "Tonight is for us."
Alone in their own rooms, Thranduil's gaze lingered on the fire blazing in the grate, the flagon of wine laying in a bed of ice, and the bed, soft, welcoming, and inviting. There was a new tapestry hanging on the wall, and a new wolfskin rug on the floor by the fire. The simple comforts seemed unbelievably luxurious after seven years of army life – where he had grown used to no bed but the hard ground, or occasionally a narrow camp bed; and nothing but a tent between him and the worst weather Mordor could throw at them.
Telparian drew him to the bed. As her gentle hands helped to remove his clothes, their shared kisses and caresses reminded him of just how much he had missed her. For a long time he simply held her, remembering. Remembering the silky softness of her dark hair, and the scent of honeysuckle that clung to it even now, in winter. Remembering the nights they had spent together in this very chamber, making love until sated and exhausted. Remembering the taste of her lips, the sweetness of her mouth, and the soft curves of her body. Remembering the vows they had pledged together; vows of love, support and commitment.
She gave that support now, her hands caressing his back, soothing the stiffness and tension that still gripped him. He drew on her passion and her spirit, her strength washing away the weariness and grief that still marred his soul. Slowly he relaxed, until the warmth, the unaccustomed comfort, and the sheer bliss of knowing that he was finally home, overwhelmed him, and he drifted into dreams.
He awoke to a dull thudding, aware of a soft body pressed against his. Telparian stirred beside him, and her lips brushed his mouth. "Rest, my love," she murmured. "I will see who it is."
He realised that the thudding was a repetitive knock at the door, and wondered who would dare to interrupt their privacy. It did not matter. Telparian had ruled the Greenwood admirably during his absence, and she was well able to deal with this … distraction. He rose from the bed and poured two goblets of the wine, deliciously chilled. Dorwinia was famed for its wines, and this white was one of the best vintages he had ever tasted.
Telparian shut the door firmly. "Beraid," she explained briefly. "I sent him away. He will not trouble us again," she added, her expression dark with displeasure at the untimely interruption.
"I hope not. I do not wish to mark this new age with a renewed kinslaying!"
Telparian smiled as she accepted one of the goblets of wine and sipped at it, gazing at Thranduil. "How I missed you," she murmured.
Setting his wine aside with a hand that shook a little, Thranduil drew her close again. The desperation of loneliness and need for solace was gone from his embrace, and there was a growing desire in the touches they exchanged. At last he raised his head to look into her eyes, eyes that were the silver-flecked green of starlight on leaves. "I missed you too," he said simply.
Starlight on leaves. It reminded him of something else that he had missed in the bleak barren lands of Mordor, something that not even Telparian could fully assuage. A need was growing in him, a need as great as his desire for his wife. The long ride north through the forest as his army returned to the Greenwood had eased the longing somewhat, but the constant presence of the others had muffled the voices of the trees. He needed to be beneath the trees; beneath the stars. He needed to feel and hear the song of the forest, to reaffirm his bond with the realm that was now his.
He dressed swiftly, gathering up the flagon of wine, a lantern, and his cloak. As an afterthought he took the wolfskin rug as well. Gently draping another cloak around her shoulders, he took Telparian's hand.
"Where are we going?" she asked, puzzled.
"The forest," he responded. "Come with me. I need to be outside, and tonight is for us. I could not bear to be parted from you again."
It was a still, moonless night, piercingly cold. Thranduil led the way to a secluded glade where pine trees grew alongside the beeches. Above them, the stars were brilliantly bright, scattered like diamonds across black velvet, so close he felt he could stretch out his hand and touch them. Starlight fell on the leaves and the grass, shining on his upturned face and glimmering on Telparian's dark hair. He stood still in the silence, absorbing the peace and serenity of the night, the beauty of the sky and the stars. He could hear the glad murmur of the trees at his presence, their joy underlined by sorrow that Oropher would not come among them again.
Their song was louder and clearer than it had ever been, he realised, and he was hearing new notes and songs that he had not known before. He had known that his father had a stronger, deeper bond with the forest, but had not realised that that greater knowledge would become his. "Can you hear them?" he breathed in awe.
"Yes," Telparian whispered. "A little. They are welcoming you home. I see now why you had to come here."
A circle of small stones marked the centre of the glade, their inner sides blackened and scorched from long-dead fires. Gathering pinecones and dry, fallen wood from beneath the trees, he kindled a fire within the circle of stones, and spread the wolf skin next to the blaze. Drawing Telparian close, Thranduil draped one of the cloaks around their shoulders, and poured the last of the wine. He held out a small flower to her. Delicately shaped, there were three long white petals, and three shorter ones, each tipped with pale green. Carefully he tucked it into her hair behind one ear. "For you," he promised.
Telparian smiled with delight. "Niphredil. It is my birth-flower. My father filled the room with these on the day I was born."
"A delightful idea," Thranduil told her. "I will declare it a tradition of the Greenwood that henceforth the first niphredil of the year are presented to you – in honour of your begetting day."
"I like traditions," she said. "Especially that one. Are there others?"
"We had a tradition in Doriath," he recalled. "A festival, held on a night such as this, as winter began to turn to spring. Fires would be lit throughout the forests of Beleriand. It marked the turning of the year; light out of darkness; new life from old. It was a festival of renewal, a festival of love. We called it Lhach."
"Lhach," she repeated softly. "I have never heard of it."
Thranduil shook his head. "No. When Doriath fell, and the people scattered, much was lost or left behind. The new lands here were a renewal in themselves, and Lhach was forgotten. But tonight … tonight is another renewal. The renewal of life, of hope. Of love."
"A festival of love? That sounds an excellent idea," Telparian murmured. She moved closer, her skin warm against his. Her hands began to roam beneath the loose tunic he wore, and Thranduil felt his body stirring in response, awakening again after so many long, lonely years.
Returning the caresses, he trailed the tips of his fingers along her cheek and down the side of her neck, dipping down into the low-necked robe she wore. As his mouth closed on hers, he drew her down onto the rug. "And now," he whispered, "Let us begin anew."
As one hand held her tightly against him, he fumbled with the ties on the front of Telparian's robe until it fell open. His lips and tongue traced a meandering line along the line of her jaw and throat, then down again to touch her breasts and circling her nipples before taking the dark peak into his mouth.
As Telparian tensed and moaned his name, she cupped his growing hardness in one hand, while her teeth nibbled at the lobe of his ear.
Thranduil groaned in desperate desire. Seven years, and she had not forgotten the one thing that undid him more swiftly than anything else. He moved his body over hers and slid into her with a sigh that was almost a sob. He moved slowly, revelling in the softness of Telparian's skin, her warmth, and the joy with which they came together.
The spiralling ecstasy spread and soared to engulf them both. Climax took them, too soon, and he collapsed against her with a gasp, shuddering. He felt the tremors shaking her, and held her close, overwhelmed by the love he felt for his beautiful winter maiden.
Telparian nestled against him sleepily as they shared the warm glow of the languid aftermath, and together they drifted into peaceful, untroubled dreams.
Sometime much later, Thranduil awoke as one of the logs on the fire cracked sharply. He listened, senses automatically alert, but all was peaceful. It was some while before dawn and all was still.
Telparian still slept, her expression serene. As Thranduil raised his head to look at the fire, she stirred slightly with a grumble of displeasure as a shaft of cold air snaked beneath the cloak that still covered them. Then, snuggling a little closer, she subsided again. Carefully, Thranduil slid from beneath the cloak, tucking it around her gently. Telparian's foot protruded from the end of the cloak, her toes blue with cold. Gently, he stroked the bare sole. Her foot twitched, and withdrew into the warm sanctuary of the cloak again.
It was still dark, and overhead the stars glittered fiercely. The light was reflected on his skin, on Telparian's hair, and on the frost-studded grass. Every leaf was outlined with sparkling white, and his breath clouded on the frigid air. Hastily pulling the second cloak around himself, he crossed the clearing, gathering more wood for the fire.
The frost had not reached beneath the trees, and an expanse of white and dark green caught his eye. More snowdrops grew in the shelter of the branches, hundreds of them, each cluster of flowers surrounded by long green spear-like leaves. He picked a few, murmuring thanks to Yavanna for her bounty as he did so. Pulling a few strands of hair from his head, he plaited them together, and tied the flowers carefully into a small posy. Returning to Telparian, he placed the snowdrops by her head where she would see them when she awoke, and slid beneath the covering, once more by her side. It was where he belonged, and he would never leave her again.
The new day would bring a new beginning, a new era for the Greenwood, a new king. With his arms around Telparian, he smiled. With her agreement, perhaps one day soon there would be another new beginning. It was time for the Greenwood to have a new heir.
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.