The next spring, in the year 3232 of the Second Age, a messenger from Imladris arrived at my father's gate bearing a letter with the seal of Gil-galad. My father read it carefully, speaking aloud the King's request for Eryn Galen to join his Alliance. Gil-galad had aligned himself with the Men of Arnor and Gondor to lead a vast assault on Mordor. Amdír had also agreed to fight. All he needed now was my father and victory was as good as assured. I watched in anticipation as my father read the letter once and then again before setting it down on his desk.
"You may tell your King no," he said to the messenger when he looked up. "I do not believe war to be the best course for my people at this time."
My heart leapt as I stared at him, shocked. "But you must!" I said.
"I 'must' do nothing, Thranduil," he said.
"They need you!" I insisted. "Lindon needs you! Not only Lindon, all of Ennor!"
Still he shook his head. "This is Lindon's war, not ours. The force they have is substantial enough without us. It would be an unnecessary cost. Why risk the lives of my soldiers when the war can be won without them? It would be foolish."
"What if Lindon loses?" I asked. "What if the force isn't enough, and they're defeated? Then what?"
"If that is the case, we'll deal with war when we must."
"That's not good enough," I said. "If Gil-galad's Alliance fails, the only army left between Thauron and control of all Ennor will be ours. And if Gil-galad fails, do you think we would stand a chance? We can't afford to take that risk."
As I spoke, I could see a hint of doubt creeping into his eyes while he considered my argument. I pressed on. "When I returned from the west, you praised me for my courage and concern for our people. Don't you think I have their best interest in mind now? There is a good chance of war coming to us whether we take it now or later. Isn't it better to join with a larger force when the odds are on our side rather than wait for certain defeat?"
"But there is a good chance Gil-galad will succeed without us," he countered.
"Maybe," I said. "But spirits in Mithlond and Imladris are low. They doubt their ability to win this war. If we join them we increase not only numbers but also morale. Is it not worth the risk to fight together now for a common goal?" I stepped toward him and put my hand on his shoulder. "Father, please. Consider my position. I'm not in favour of war any more than you are, but I do not think we have any other choice. You must trust me, for this one time at least."
My father slowly nodded as he weighed the options in his mind. He didn't speak for several moments, but when he did it was to address the messenger once again. "I will think on it through the night," he said, "and give you an answer in the morning."
He retired to his office then and I didn't see him for the rest of that day, or at all until the next morning when he came to the messenger with his answer. I could have shouted for joy when I heard him say that he agreed to lend a large part of his army to Gil-galad's cause. We started that very day to assemble our force, sparing only the minimum few to stay behind and guard the land in our absence. New weapons were made, as many as we could manage, and armour. Horses and pack animals were gathered. It all happened quickly but efficiently, my father not allowing any mistakes or delays. We marched for Imladris before the first day of summer, and on to war from there.
My father died in that war. He may have counted himself as part of the Alliance, but he refused to follow the order of anyone but himself. His stubbornness cost him his life. One carelessly planned move killed not only him but a third of his soldiers. I watched as he led a premature charge into the heart of the enemy's territory, and watched as the fiends of Mordor easily closed around their ranks and destroyed every last one of them. The enemy set the heads of our soldiers on pikes and made a bloody fence about their camp. Our archers sent back fiery arrows to burn it down for the decency of the dead, but still the damage was done, morale was crushed, and the battle came to a standstill while no-one dared attack for several days.
Gil-galad stood beside me as we watched the pike-fence burn. I was hardly aware of my tears, or of how acutely alone and lost I felt, until he gently put an arm around my shoulders. I leaned against his body, letting myself just cry. He stroked my hair and back in a gesture he must have known was inadequate to still the pain. Still I clung to him, telling myself that his tall frame and dark hair were so similar to Maglor's, even thought the comparison was hardly fair and neither calmed nor soothed me. It only intensified the pain to think of him, far away as he was, unable to comfort me in the most desperate time of need. I wanted my father back, but I wanted Maglor back more.
Gil-galad took me to his tent, where I slept fitfully through the night while he and Elrond watched over me like worried parents. By morning Elrond had left, though Gil-galad stayed to feed me heavy stew and make certain I ate every bite, though I insisted I wasn't hungry.
"Yeh naid yehr straingth, little Kaing of Grainwood," he said.
I don't think I had realised until that moment that I was the king. The thought hadn't even crossed my mind. But yes, my father was dead, and logically I was expected to take his place. All my life he'd been telling me that one day I would be King, but I had never given serious thought to the reality of that situation. I never thought he would die.
"Why didn't you help him?" I asked Gil-galad. "Why didn't you send your soldiers after him?"
"Deh yeh thaink it would hev maid eny difference teh the slaughter?" he said.
I shook my head. "No." He was right. I could try to imagine all I wanted that if Gil-galad had sent a battalion to my father's aid then maybe he, at the very least, would have survived, but the wishing was pointless and Gil-galad was right. The outcome would have been no different.
When I returned to my own camp that evening I was given a crown of grass woven with the only leaves, sickly and dry, that my father's squires could find. My squires, I told myself, though it would be some time before I could think of them as such without a tinge of guilt. The stars could not shine through the thick haze that hung over the battlefield, so soldiers lit hundreds of tiny torches in place of starlight for my coronation. I became King of my diminished people under a smoky black canopy, surely an ill omen if there ever was one, though an appropriate symbol for my leadership skills all the same. I hadn't the slightest clue of what to do or how to lead them.
I had no real choice but to follow Gil-galad's command for the remainder of the war. I had no idea how to lead an army, and he did. It was the natural order of things for him to be in charge. I often sat in his tent and talked with him, listening as he gave me suggestions of what he thought I should do, though he never told me outright "do this" or "do that". He had become King when he was not much older than I, and knew better than any how I felt and what I needed to hear. I almost always agreed with his advice. Some called me wise for it, though I knew I was simply inexperienced and afraid. At the least, though, I lived to return to Eryn Galen seven years later.
I thought of Maglor often after the war. I thought of my promise to return to him, now impossible to keep. I was King now. I could not leave my people. I sent scouts to find him, but they always returned alone. Two reported finding a cabin in the location I described. It had been abandoned some years before and no trace was left of the one who had lived there. I wondered where he had gone and what he was doing, and if he ever thought of me. I wondered if he knew I was King. I thought about him every day, then every other day, then every once in a while. I tried to keep myself from thinking too much, knowing that it would never do me any good. He was gone and I would never see him again.
I married early in the Third Age, to a good lady who is older than I by many years but still a close friend and lover. She doesn't know about Maglor, and I likely won't ever tell her. We're happy as we are with no added complications. We're expecting a third child soon. A girl this time, she hopes. I always wish my father were around to see our two young sons, or to see me for that matter. I like to think he'd be proud of what I've done so far. I know Maglor would be. Carin ilqua ron, alassenen.
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.