34. The Journey to Mordor Part Two
Elrond sighed in exasperation as he sat up in his bed. Erestor was not in the tent as he had remained behind with the slowly progressing dwarven armies. The tricky alliances faltered as they neared Mordor. Now on the plains before the desolate land of the enemy, where they had camped until they could reorganise and finalise their tactics, Elrond was finding it increasingly difficult to manage the diplomatic façade that his position required him to.
“My prince,” Elrond automatically mumbled the response that he had given the fair prince so many times, “I would assist you to slay him.”
Thranduil scowled as he joined Elrond in the bed, lying by him, his head supported by his hands.
“What has he done now?” Elrond asked sympathetically, “Maybe you should have remained with Erestor and ridden with the dwarves. I hear that he is in good spirits.”
“Well,” Thranduil sighed, “Durin’s company has its merits, but I cannot let your Isildur fall prey to my father’s fury. As it is, I am resorting to desperate tactics to keep them apart. For Gil-Galad is right, we need Isildur’s armies.”
“If I were Oropher, I would act no different,” Elrond said frankly, “It is a miracle that the human prince still draws breath, for Glorfindel has been baying for his blood since their spat at the banquet all those years ago.”
“Yes,” Thranduil said morosely, “So has been Círdan and Celeborn. I am hard put to restrain the Balrog Slayer, the Mariner, the Silver Tree and my Ada from making Isildur history. None of them particularly care about diplomacy and all of them hate Isildur more than they hate Sauron. Now, I am struggling with the over protectiveness of the good King Amdir and his son.”
Elrond laughed, “Amdir still refuses to attend councils if Isildur is in attendance. Who would have thought that he loved his daughter’s betrothed thus?”
Thranduil said dreamily, “She will laugh when she hears of this, will she not, Elrond? That I would be so propositioned by a human with four grown sons? Ah, the decline of my grace!”
“I heard the good Isildur telling Gil that he admired your feminine beauty,” Elrond said wickedly.
He heard the expected sardonic snort followed by the wistful, “I wish, Elrond, that he had asked me before my betrothal, I could have proved him wrong. He would not have stirred for days, the insolent fool.”
“Will you not duel him?” Elrond asked quizzically, as he shifted position to place his head on the prince’s chest.
“I would, but we are on the enemy’s threshold. We cannot afford infighting. That is what Erestor said. And I trust his advice,” Thranduil murmured as he idly ran his fingers through Elrond’s hair.
“For someone who gives great advice,” Elrond said mournfully, “He still does not see my love.”
Thranduil snorted, the rumble in his chest tickling Elrond’s neck before saying, “That is one thing I have wondered about, Elrond. That you should have such kin as Isildur who proposition elves he does not even know when you, the mighty herald of the High-King himself, hide your love with friendship.”
“Still,” Elrond whined, “I have given him enough reasons to suspect.”
“He is no fool, Elrond,” Thranduil said drawing his fingers lightly along Elrond’s neck, making him shudder, “He is a diplomat and a strategist more intelligent than me. What I have seen, he will have seen earlier. Yet,” he paused as he felt Elrond’s pulse increase in anxiety, “Maybe he does not look for lust where he has never expected it to arise. It is as well. It is risky, for he is married to the High-King and you are betrothed to Galadriel’s daughter.”
“What would you have done in my place, Thranduil?” Elrond asked quietly, his heart beat an unsteady drum in his ribs.
“I,” Thranduil contemplated, “I may have answered that I would proclaim my love from the rooftops, had you asked me this before Anoriel,” his face softened, “Now, Elrond, I understand you, I would act no differently. I would only wish to see him happy and safe.”
“Elrond,” Gil-Galad’s sharp voice paused their idle conversation, “Come out a moment.”
Thranduil said lazily, “Go, see to it, and return, I feel too comfortable to leave and anyway it is better he does not see me.”
Elrond nodded as he got out of bed and pulled up the covers to Thranduil’s chest before throwing on a light tunic over his leggings and walking out. Gil-Galad stood with Glorfindel, both of them talking rather coolly, their relations had never improved after Erestor had first departed for Imladris and now, it was with increasing hostility they viewed each other.
Glorfindel said, “Elrond, I want you to see this deployment plan.”
Elrond bent over to study the parchment, they discussed it for a while before Gil-Galad muttered, “I will help myself to water, Elrond. I am rather thirsty as the Lord Glorfindel had woken me from my rest.”
He entered the tent without hearing Elrond’s soft groan. Glorfindel asked him concerned, “Who is in there?”
A moment later Gil-Galad’s surprised exclamation could be heard followed by a rather sleepy prince saying, “Good day, Lord Gil-Galad. I thought I had lain to sleep in your cousin’s tent this dawn.”
Gil-Galad suppressed an impatient retort as he said calmly, “I am sorry to have disturbed your rest, Ernil Oropherion. I was merely surprised.”
Thranduil looked around before settling down into the bed muttering, “It is Elrond’s tent. Thank the Valar, my father would have skewered me had I awoken in your tent.”
“I do not cheat on my bonded-mate, Ernil,” Gil-Galad said defensively, tearing his gaze from the slender form on the bed, “Whatever he might presume to the contrary.”
“Well,” Thranduil snuggled into the bed, pulling the covers higher, “I did not imply that you would cheat on Erestor, my Lord. I merely meant that my father would have been displeased had I been found in your tent, in your company.”
“Oropher hates me,” Gil-Galad said harshly.
“So would you hate my father had he proposed to send your son as a consort to a human prince whose value of life and love is despicable,” Thranduil said evenly, his eyes holding the King’s boldly.
Gil-Galad shrugged, “I need to hold an alliance together, Thranduil, and I cannot afford Isildur’s withdrawal now.”
“Bed him if you will to keep your alliance intact, Lord High-King, but do not support him in my matter lest my father finally vents his anger on both of you,” Thranduil said quietly, “I cannot promise to hold him back if it happens.”
Gil-Galad nodded curtly and made towards the entrance when Thranduil called after him, “I too have scruples of honour, Lord High-King, I will not cheat on my fiancée, no more than you will cheat on your bonded mate.”
Celeborn watched with increasing apprehension as Oropher strode towards him, there was a fire in his cousin’s eyes that had been damped out centuries ago.
He asked the King soothingly, “Are you well?”
“Celeborn, I would kill the human if I lay my hands on him, he was following my son around today morning!” Oropher said furiously.
“I will ask my wife to speak with Gil-Galad,” Celeborn said reassuringly. Oropher sighed as he relaxed into his cousin’s embrace and followed him into the tent.
Celeborn made sure that Amdir and Oropher were engaged in the archery range, before he touched his wife’s mind. It opened to him immediately, concern and relief spreading through their bond.
Elrond lazily watched Gil-Galad duelling with Círdan, their perfect moves made the fight look like a synchronized dance. Something he had never achieved, his technique had always been brutal than elegant. But then, he had studied under Maedhros, whose style was a more dance of death than one of refinement.
“Herald,” Galadriel’s voice invaded his mind, “You must go and inform Elendil of his son’s perversion of Thranduil. Oropher may do something rash, if we do not act quickly. You will start the battle soon, end this folly before that.”
“Tell your nephew,” Elrond said reasonably, “He is on better terms with Elendil.”
“By the time I persuade him to seek Elendil out, it will be too late. Oropher’s wrath is terrible, Elrond,” Galadriel intoned harshly.
He found himself at Elendil’s tent half an hour later. He wished he had thought to strap his sword on before leaving his own encampment. It is foolish, he thought severely, that I should need a sword in an ally’s tent.
“Lord Elrond,” the human king was all politeness as he ushered Elrond into a comfortable chair and remained standing, “How may I help you?”
Elrond wished that Erestor had taken on this matter, the chief counsellor was an expert in these diplomatic nonsense. He took a deep breath and said, “It is a delicate matter, King Elendil, one in which I seek your counsel as a kin.”
Elendil frowned, but pushing a chair facing Elrond, he seated himself expectantly.
“Isildur’s pursuit of the Greenwood Prince must stop,” Elrond said firmly.
Elendil laughed, “My son is determined to get a taste of that handsome wood-elf. I have tried talking to him, but to no avail.”
“Thranduil is not a wood-elf merely, Lord Elendil, something you must be aware of. Unless you want the wrath of Oropher upon your house, stay away from him,” Elrond said severely.
“I thought that the Prince was past his majority,” Elendil said curiously, “Is it not an elven custom to let the children choose for themselves after they come of age?”
“Oropher is not a usual parent, Elendil,” Elrond warned, “He will go to any lengths if Isildur persists. The last thing we need right now is a battle amongst our allies when we are at his doorstep!”
“What will you have me do, Lord Elrond?” Elendil shrugged, “I cannot send my son away, for he is needed on the field to command my men. If I speak harshly, Isildur and Anárion as well as my grandsons will rebel. I will try, with whatever authority I still have over them.”
Elrond got to his feet saying, “I am grateful to you then, I hope that you have more success than any of us had in this matter.”
Elendil bowed reverentially before his ancestor’s brother and then said hesitantly, “Lord Elrond, in our family, we have passed down the ages, a book, a journal of our first King.”
“Of Elros?” Elrond asked wide-eyed, his twin’s mortality was something that he had never recovered from. The barely healed wound in his flesh sprung open fresh. In his presence, his friends usually avoided the topic of his twin as they did that of his fostering by the sons of Fëanor.
Elendil reached out to steady him, but Elrond shook his head determinedly.
Elendil continued, “While it is a treasured heirloom of our royal house and much revered by his descendants, I think that it is yours now,” he went over to a chest and then carefully extricated a silken covered book, “I and my heirs are far too removed from the first King to be enamoured by this.”
Elrond reached with shaking hands for the book and then whispered a soft statement of gratitude before turning swiftly onto his heel and leaving the tent. His breath was rushed and he panted as he reached his own tent. The braziers were already lit as Erestor moved about in the tent, carrying scrolls from the chests to the bed. He turned to greet Elrond brightly.
“You look horrible,” he remarked concernedly to Elrond taking in his disturbed features.
Elrond shook his head silently as he clutched the book to his chest and slowly entered. Erestor dropped his scrolls to the ground haphazardly and moved to steady Elrond, whose cheeks were trailed by silent tears. Elrond remained silent and rigid even when Erestor gently sat him upon the bed before removing his boots and setting them aside. The counsellor then pushed him back upon the bed and stroked his head reassuringly. Elrond broke into bitter sobs as Erestor sang an old lay that had been Maglor’s choice whenever he had to contend with a twin pair of depressed foster elflings.
When Elrond had finally stopped his tears, Erestor asked quietly, “You would desire privacy?”
Elrond said wearily, “I would desire company this night. I am not myself.”
“Then come, let us go to the pond and take a quick dip, Elrond,” Erestor said determinedly, “I stink of dwarven spirits and would not taint your bed.”
“And why should I accompany you?” Elrond asked half-amusedly.
“Because I desire company, ,” Erestor pulled him out of the tent, “It is a moonlit night, and this is likely to be our last bath before battle.”
“It is decided then?” Elrond sighed.
“Yes,” Erestor said quietly, “Would that peace would be ours without shedding blood. But we cannot. But you and I are not required to ride this week as Glorfindel and Círdan will lead our troops.”
They walked to the small pond companionably, their hands linked as they descended to the edge of the water. A solitary guard elf stood sentry as they undressed and entered the water. Elrond was careful to keep his eyes away from Erestor’s naked body and sighed mentally with relief when the counsellor was waist deep in the water. He joined Erestor and they lazily relaxed.
“My friends!” Thranduil hailed them merrily as he took off his robes and discarded them on the rocks before diving in gracefully, “I had not expected company.”
Erestor said smiling, “Even we Noldor are in need of a bath occasionally, though we stay away from the dirty work.”
“’Restor,” Thranduil complained as he tried to dunk the chief counsellor who proved too wily for him, “Why cannot even a simple statement of mine escape your barbs?”
Elrond smiled as Thranduil moved towards him and demanded, “Do wash my hair, peredhil, I feel incredibly lazy.”
“You do know that your father has spoilt you rotten?” Erestor asked irritably.
“A fact that I am aware of every moment, ,” Thranduil pulled Erestor by a long leg and began washing Erestor’s hair, “Maybe I can spoil you rotten?”
They laughed and jested until Thranduil bid them good night and climbed out, his still wet form wrapped in a light robe that Erestor had loaned him. Elrond thought critically that the prince had never regained his true splendour after the trip to Mandos and back. Maybe after this war, he could persuade Oropher to send the prince and his betrothed to Imladris for a couple of seasons. His musings were interrupted as he heard the sudden sound of Thranduil’s startled shout followed by silence. Erestor and Elrond ran up the pond’s shore, wrapping their robes hurriedly about themselves, and reached the top.
Thranduil was standing pressed against a rock, his robe parted open, revealing his wet torso. Isildur straddled him, one hand running lustfully down Thranduil’s chest, the other holding a sword to Thranduil’s upturned neck.
Elrond said angrily, “Isildur, what madness is this? Release the prince now!”
He realized belatedly that neither Erestor nor he was armed even with a simple dagger.
Isildur sneered, “Lord Half-Elven, you have enjoyed this desire encased in flesh,” he ran his fingers down Thranduil’s stomach, “So I have heard, perhaps you are jealous?”
“Leave him, Prince Isildur,” Erestor said his eyes flashing with suppressed anger, “And we will speak of this no more.”
“What is happening here?” Oropher’s stern voice asked them as he stepped into the moonlight, Amdir and Celeborn with him, “Isildur, release my son immediately.”
“I am sorry, my Lord,” Isildur said quietly, “I will demand a kiss of passion from him as his betrothed demanded scarce weeks ago. Then I will release him.”
Oropher strode forward angrily, “Let my son go now, you filth!”
“Better manners, My woodland king!” Isildur said haughtily, “I merely wish to taste him,” he pressed the dagger against Thranduil’s slender throat, a fine line of blood erupted.
Oropher gasped and pleaded, the pride replaced by fear in his voice, “Let him go, Isildur, and claim what you would from me. Do not hurt my son.”
“Well,” Isildur tilted his head, “Maybe you can fill in for him, I do not much mind the age. After all it does not matter in an elf.”
“What do you want?” Oropher’s eyes were fixed on the dagger, abrading his son’s golden skin.
“Break your long celebrated celibacy with me, my Lord,” Isildur replied quietly, “and I will never harm your son again.”
“As you wish,” Oropher said immediately, “Let him go.”
Erestor cut in before the rest of the dazed elves could even blink, “Lord Oropher, I must insist that-”
“It is my son,” Oropher said softly as he walked towards Isildur, “And I would damn myself a hundred times than see blood on him.”
Elrond watched in helpless horror as Thranduil slowly inched his face towards his father and spoke, “Ada, he asks for a kiss from me. It is not much.”
“Yes,” Isildur paused, his expression guilty, “I would not attempt to demean you, Lord Oropher, a kiss from your son, and I shall leave.”
“My son will not kiss a swine like you,” Oropher said bitterly, “not even when the cost I have to pay is what you set it to be.”
“Isildur,” Elrond cut in, “Let the prince go now and we can still forget this.”
“No,” Isildur said sulking, “I ask for a kiss from the son or a night with the father.”
Thranduil said determinedly, “A kiss it is then, Elrond, Celeborn, hold my Ada back. Ada, I will finish this and return to the tent. You should leave now.”
Oropher opened his mouth stubbornly, but Celeborn and Elrond pulled him back as Isildur pressed his lips against Thranduil’s soft ones possessively. Oropher screamed softly before turning back and running towards his encampment, his eyes wild with rage and grief. Elrond, Celeborn and Amdir followed him in fear.
Erestor said calmly, “That is enough, Isildur, or I shall risk slaying you with my bare hands.”
Isildur broke apart and then slunk away through the bushes, leaving Thranduil to press his hands against his bruised lips, tears trailing down his eyes. Erestor did not speak as he moved to embrace the young prince of Greenwood, they stood silently, their breaths the only sound in the night.
“I am tainted,” the prince said sadly.
“You are a fool,” Erestor said gently, “that you would think yourself thus,” he pressed a chaste kiss on the Prince’s nose, a gesture they had shared many thousands of times in their long friendship, “Come now, let us go see your father. He must be worried.”
“He must be half-dead with fear,” Thranduil sighed as he rested his head against his companion’s chest.
Elrond tried to reason with an angry Amdir who was rousing his commanders from slumber, a feral expression on his visage.
“Stay away, peredhel!” Amdir spat, “He has insulted my daughter and my son by law!”
Celeborn entered the tent and pulled Elrond aside muttering, “I have tried to reason with Oropher. He is determined. I think you should run to Gil-Galad and seek his aid. I spoke with Galadriel, she agrees.”
Elrond sighed and ran to the high-king’s tent. Gil-Galad was about to retire.
Elrond said panting, “Gil, Isildur assaulted and insulted Thranduil before his father. Both Oropher and Amdir are determined not to ride with the humans. They ride at dawn together to the black gates! Please, Gil, we must stop this folly.”
“I cannot, Elrond,” Gil-Galad sighed, “Oropher will not forgive the insult. Would that Galadriel was here. We can only ride alongside them when they charge.”
Thranduil and Erestor entered the tent, despite the situation they carried themselves with their usual pride. The Sindar prince’s lips were slightly bruised, the only visible indicator of his traumatic experience. Erestor’s eyes were cold as the chief counsellor reassuringly brushed past the prince to position himself behind his king.
The prince bowed to Gil-Galad before saying quietly, “The Kings of Greenwood and Lothlórien will ride for battle come dawn. As you well know, the numbers are not sufficient. I will not see elves slaughtered on the plains. If you can, I beg you to ride with us.”
“Does Oropher know you are asking this of me?” Gil-Galad asked.
“No,” Thranduil said firmly, “And he will not accept it if he knows. But I think not of your pride or his will, but of my people.”
Elendil made his way in saying sadly, “My sons will not ride with the Greenwood army, Gil-Galad. I know of no way to persuade them.”
Thranduil said softly, “I would beg Isildur himself if it would help. I cannot willingly lead my elves to death.”
“My prince,” an aide entered, “your father awaits you at the barracks.”
Thranduil sighed before embracing Elrond tightly murmuring, “To think that we were laughing mere hours ago.”
Elrond said firmly, “We will lead our host soon enough, I will get our commanders.”
Thranduil smiled sadly at Gil-Galad, who was still trying to reason with Elendil, saying, “Lord Gil-Galad, I see that you have already forsaken elven wisdom for human lust. This is how your ancestors fell, my lord. I warn you.”
Elrond averted his eyes and strode out; Thranduil was already walking towards his father’s tent.
“My prince,” Elrond caught up with him, “Will you talk with Oropher again? Grief and vengeance are not good in a battle.”
“I know, Elrond,” Thranduil wearily pushed his braids away from his face, “And I fear. But I will speak with him. You make haste and array your troops.”
Elrond pulled him into a rough embrace whispering harshly, “Take care of yourself, .”
Thranduil returned his embrace whispering as he looked at the red sky to the east, “It will be a bloodbath.”
Erestor asked Gil-Galad quietly, “You will send out Glorfindel and Elrond?”
“I woe this,” Gil-Galad murmured as he watched the long plumes and the shining shields of the armies of Lothlórien, Greenwood and their dwarven and human allies shimmer in the harsh dawn, “They will all die, and it will be my fault.”
“Send out our armies,” Erestor said softly, his eyes holding a silent plea as they looked into the King’s deep grey eyes, “There are too many souls who are riding to war not even knowing that a stupid man’s folly and a father’s love are the only reasons for this madness.”
“Glorfindel and Elrond will take a flank out,” Gil-Galad sighed, “So much for all those days spent strategizing, we are once again winded short by our own follies. I would slay Isildur with my bare hands if I could.”
Celeborn approached them, there was an unusual harshness in his blue eyes. He bowed to Gil-Galad before saying, “Will you join us? Or do you still justify the human?”
Gil-Galad sighed, “You are my kin, the humans are not. Yet for the sake of the greater good, I cannot choose,” seeing the coldness on Celeborn’s features, he continued sadly, “I will do what I can. Your blood, if spilt, is on my hands, I know.”
Celeborn gave a rolled up scroll to Erestor saying quietly, “I would trust nobody else with this,” he looked at the High-King angrily, “From Oropher, he wants it sent to the Havens and to Valinor by the first ship thither.”
“I will see to it,” Erestor said determinedly, “Celeborn, stay safe.”
Oropher stood still as his son carefully arrayed him in fine elven armour. He wished desperately that he had sent his son across the sea, to the land of eternal peace. Despite his rigid composure, a single tear stained his hollowed cheek.
“Ada,” Thranduil knelt down to fasten metal claps on the boots, “You are my father, are you not also the king of our people? Is not their safety more important than my honour?”
Oropher said in a hollow tone, “Yes, my son, it is so. But what is done cannot be repaired. I have asked Celeborn to call for Gil-Galad’s troops. Durin will join us, he has sent word.”
Thranduil wrapped his arms around his father’s slender waist and rested his head against the armour clad chest whispering, “You are my father. I would love you no less if you signal for a halt to this now.”
Oropher raised him saying quietly, “I wish I could. My son,” he paused uncertainly, the fears in his mind looming like a huge spectre, “Will you promise me something?”
“As long as it does not involve something extremely sentimental,” Thranduil said smiling softly as he placed Oropher’s helm on his head.
“You must sail for Aman with Anoriel should anything happen to me,” Thranduil’s eyes narrowed at Oropher’s last words.
“You will be all right, Ada,” Thranduil chided glowering, “Even if I may knock you with the flat end of my blade after this for your stupid stubbornness.”
“Promise me,” Oropher begged, as he ran his fingers along Thranduil’s cheek, “Promise me that you will.”
“My Lord Oropher,” an aide entered, “The Lords are ready to ride and the troops are arrayed.”
Thranduil said quietly, “Come, Ada, let us make haste. I can promise you nothing. You are a king. And I am a crown prince. We have our own ties to bind us to Greenwood and to Middle Earth. Should I fall, you will have to remain to rule our fair woods. And should you not return, Ada, I will do whatever I can, though I,” he faltered, “I will no longer be what I am now. But we cannot selfishly rule our fates, Ada, there are those who need us, our realm needs us. We must return to Greenwood.”
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.