4. Epilogue: To See With Blinding Sight
'Old age should burn and rave at close of day;'
After his parents left, Thranduil found himself unready for sleep. He thrust all thought of paperwork aside and allowed his restless feet to carry him down the corridor, past the great magic doors, and out into the moist air of the spring night. On the stone bridge, he paused, listening to the rush of the river below and letting the sigh of the wind through the leaves soothe his spirit. He felt the cool smoothness of the carved railing beneath his touch, worn to satin slickness by the passage of myriad elven hands over the past three thousand years. His people. His realm. His forest.
He nodded to the two guards, standing their vigil at the end of the bridge. Then, moved by sudden impulse, he went to them. "You are relieved of your post for tonight," he said.
"My Lord?" queried the taller of them -- a dark-haired Laegel, possibly one of Galion's numerous far-descended progeny. An independent streak ran through that line, and Thranduil treasured it.
"You heard me," he replied gently. "The world has changed, my fellows. The orcs and spiders are gone. Go in to your wives and take your rest. There is nothing left out there to harm us."
He stood watching while the two guards bowed and went inside, then turned and stepped off the bridge, heading into the forest. He paused to lay his hand against the trunk of one of the tall beech trees that lined the path. A rustle of leaves sprang up and spread from tree to tree heading southward, the sound joining with the footfalls of a solitary deer that ambled somewhere out in the undergrowth.
Thranduil sent his strength out into the forest and felt the life-force of the trees flow back into him in return. He laid his forehead against the cool bark with a soft sigh. Only he and his trees would know how close a call it had been the previous week; how near he had come to going under for good.
Nothing more to fear, he had told the guards. Indeed the only thing to fear now would be the fear itself: the loss of strength, the surrender to weariness. "You came home to fade along with me, Legolas," he whispered into the darkness. "I'm not going to let that happen." As long as the forest stood, so would he. And he would remain strong for all of them.
Already, the Woodmen had abandoned the forest. Thranduil has seen to that, slipping into the huts of those who would cut the trees and clear the land for their fields, whispering into their ears in the dark of night and giving them unquiet dreams that made them flee the wood out of a nagging unease. Time to finish the job. He would have a word with Radagast and ask the Wizard to set up a girdle of enchantment, as Melian had done for Thingol of old. Eryn Lasgalen would fade from the sight of Men, although not from the world.
Out in the forest, two owls hooted softly, the one to the other. Thranduil smiled and, giving a parting caress to the ancient beech, he turned and walked back over the bridge, whispering the spell that opened the great stone doors before him.
On the threshold, he paused, giving a final glance out into the spring night. "Stubborn, Father?" he laughed, his heart leaping with joy at the thought of the long-years that stretched out before him, providing he had the will to rage against the long slow fade. "You don't know the half of it."
Thranduil clasped his arms together, feeling the strength of the muscles beneath the fabric of his robe and murmuring the words pricked long ago into his skin. "Belê. Bor." Strength and loyalty, the words of his oath to his wife's people, also made up the spell that locked the gates. That same oath would carry them through the Ages to come.
Slowly, the great doors ground shut behind him, and Thranduil sought his bed.
The chapter titles and epigraphs come from Dylan Thomas's poem, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, the last stanza of which reads:
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
What perfect words to set the mood for a story about the delicate balance between fathers and sons and Thranduil's battle against the fade. Thank you, Mr. Thomas.
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