1. Prologue: The Dying of the Light
Prologue: The Dying of the Light
' . . . wise men at their end know dark is right,'
Thranduil awoke to darkness, brought out of sleep by an innate Elven sense that told him the sun had begun its journey across the heavens once again. For a long while he lay motionless in the warmth of his covers, staring upward into the gloom, reluctant to take up the dreary business of his life. He felt adrift on a vast sea of time, slipping ever further away from the sunlit shores of his childhood, when he had greeted the birdsong of the new day with joy, past the tempests of love, war and loss, and into a dead calm of weary sameness toward . . . he knew not what. One more day in the uncountable multitude that had made up the long-years of his life; one day closer to Ardhon Meth.
Last night's fire had died; the ashes lay cold in the hearth. The only light in the room came from a faint nimbus around the heavy draperies that covered his shuttered window -- his wife's window -- confirming that daylight had arrived outside the caverns. Thranduil preferred to keep the window hidden. The sight of it served only to remind him that Lalaithiel was no longer there to enjoy it.
He groped for the tinderbox that rested on a table next to his bed and lit the remnants of last night's candle. That done, he stood and began to reach for his robe, which hung over a peg on the wall beside the bed. Halfway through the motion, he froze, catching a flicker of light out of the corner of his eye. There should have been nothing alarming about a candle flame in a dark room . . . save that he fancied he had seen it through the palm of his own hand.
To have the spirit consume the body, to fade into invisibility, was an Elf's eventual fate -- at least those who did not set sail for the West. So Thranduil has always been told, and he felt himself resigned to it as the price to be paid for remaining in his Woods. But so soon? Oh, please Elbereth -- not so soon!
Slowly, he turned his head for a closer look. He swallowed hard and shut his eyes. 'Not so hasty, not so hasty. It is but a trick of the light and your fevered mind. It will be gone when you look again.'
Slowly, Thranduil opened his eyes, trying his best to hold his hand steady. He let out a groan of horror and blew the candle out with a single emphatic puff of breath.
He found his robe by touch alone and put it on, feeling suddenly cold despite the lofty wool. Going on instinct, he stumbled his way to his chair in front of the fireplace and dropped his body into it. A half-spent decanter of wine stood on the floor beside him, where he had abandoned it the night before, with a used goblet next to it. Not bothering to first toss the dregs onto the cold ashes, Thranduil poured with a shaking hand, stopping only when he felt the wine begin to spill down the goblet's sides and over his fingers. He drank, making a face at the sour metallic taste of red wine left standing too long. It was not epicurean pleasure he sought this morning, though, merely the steadying of his nerves and, he hoped, forgetfulness of what he had just seen.
It was the beginning of the end.
* * * * * * *
To be continued . . .
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.