36. A Vale of Blood Part Two
Anárion defended his elder brother, “Isildur had never meant anything other than to distress the young elven prince. Not even in his wildest dreams had he expected Oropher and Amdir, not to mention the King of the Dwarves to ride for war!”
Elendil sighed, “What is done cannot be repaired, My Lords. I will lead an army of my warriors to the aid of the unfortunate soldiers who have been trapped by my son’s folly and Oropher’s over protectiveness. I will wait till the dawn for news before riding east. Isildur, you shall remain here to manage the camps and to liaise with our allies, your brother and sons may assist you to do so.”
Gil-Galad muttered angrily, “I think you should send your sons to fight, Elendil. Obviously all this lack of Gondorian brawling is driving them mad with desire for any young, handsome elf they fix their eyes on. First, it was Lord Erestor. We were all lucky that he did not have Oropher as his father. Now, you have touched Ernil Thranduil and Oropher is unfortunately his father! Eru knows how this is going to end.”
Isildur said sullenly, “I did not mean to hurt Oropher’s feelings. I was drunk. And he looked so beautiful in the light of Ithil. Never have I seen such magnificent perfection.”
“For my sake, Isildur,” Elendil growled, “Pray, keep your mouth shut. You have brought this upon us, and now we must all reap the consequences. Years of plotting and planning have been brought to nothing!”
Galadriel sighed as she watched Anoriel and Celebrían light candles beneath the mallorn trees. Their faces were shadowed by fear and doubts, for their fathers, their cousins, their betrotheds, their kin and their friends. Galadriel smiled bitterly, once upon a time in her younger years, she would have lit a candle for her brothers or her cousins. Now, after years of loss and pain, she could not find it in her to light a single candle for her beloved husband.
She sighed again as the wind rustled through the leaves, the mirror was calling, again. She had been defiantly avoiding the glade since her return to Lothlórien, she did not want to see images of the war and the cost it would claim. She did not have the courage and the spirit to bear that foresight. Nor did she have the ability to withstand the seductive call of her mirror. She turned slowly to walk towards the glade, after making sure that the two young elf-maids were still immersed in their tasks.
Every step she took to approach the innocent looking basin cost her immeasurable pain. As she looked within the silvery depths of the water, tears flowed down her pale cheeks. Gil-Galad was pacing worriedly before a large tent. He seemed alone. The scene changed to show an army led by Elrond and Glorfindel battling an immense orc host. The expression of disgusted pity and revulsion that was mirrored on Elrond’s ivory features was matched in intensity by the hatred on Glorfindel’s fair face.
The water changed to reveal Durin of Khazad-dum battling on the plains of Morannon with his doughty warriors, the grim set to his features the only indication that he did not find the situation pleasing.
Then Galadriel gasped in horror, Thranduil was fighting two wraiths, his stallion had fallen, yet the prince remained fearless. The wraiths brought him down, Galadriel pressed her hand to her chest, panting softly. Then a second rider appeared and put himself between the wraiths and the vanquished prince. Galadriel frowned as she recognized the pale aristocratic features and the ebony black hair of her cousin’s son. She had expected him to be strong to resist the darkness of Mordor, but she had never dreamt that he was capable of such a feat as he accomplished now.
The scene shifted again to show her husband and Amdir fighting side-by-side. Their long swords glimmered in the dim light as they swerved, tackled, thrust and parried with the experience of centuries.
A few leagues away from them, she could recognize the helm of Oropher, King of the Sindar. He was fighting gracefully, his eyes calm and focussed on his enemies. She screamed softly, her lips calling out a useless warning, as she helplessly watched a cave troll assail his mount with brute force. The noble creature whinnied in pain before falling to the knees. Oropher dismounted quickly, but not quickly enough to save himself from a fierce orc’s blow to his left shoulder blade. His eyes widened in shock and sudden pain as he clumsily staggered; his sword half-lowered.
Thranduil shouted in anger and pain as he watched his father totter unsteadily, fresh blood spurting from his wound. More than two dozen orcs separated the prince and the king.
“Go, I will take charge,” Erestor shouted as he signalled the warriors to guard Thranduil’s back.
The prince did not need to be told twice. He pushed his way desperately through the battling orcs and elves, paying little heed to his own safety as he rushed to his wounded father’s side. He shouted again as another orc slashed its foul blade across Oropher’s broken, blood-spattered armour. Oropher fell to his knees, his lips parted in a silent scream of pain. Thranduil reached him, furiously slashing his way through orcs. As he dropped to his knees to catch his father’s collapsing form, he was sobbing helplessly. His father’s blood stained his hands.
Oropher smiled painfully, “I know you would rescue a rusty old blade.”
“Ada,” Thranduil whispered frantically, “Stay with me, we will leave, we shall never return to this forsaken place. Stay with me, please!”
Erestor approached them and gently pried Oropher’s wounded body from his son’s hands and ordered, “Thranduil, take my stallion, ride for the camp with your father. I will guard your retreat.”
“The battle must be fought,” Oropher whispered, his eyes glazed in pain.
“It shall be, my lord,” Erestor said grimly, “Now, quiet and go safely with your son.”
Galadriel tried to send her energy to the wounded king, wishing desperately that she could bring him back to health. Thranduil was riding fiercely, salty tears streaming down from his green eyes onto his father’s face. He could feel Anoriel’s mind reaching out to him, in silent support. Maybe it was her strength that held him on his stallion, for he was weary, grieving and scared. As he literally ran his horse into the healer’s tent at the edge of the encampment, Gil-Galad arrived, the scouts having informed him of Oropher’s fall. The healers quickly helped the prince lower his father onto a mattress. As they began removing the broken armour, Thranduil stood by, tears streaming down his face, his father’s right hand still closed over his own.
“My Lord, may we see to your wounds?” a healer asked tentatively.
Thranduil shook his head fiercely as he knelt beside his father’s bed and prayed desperately. Strong hands guided him firmly, yet gently towards the next bed and coaxed him down to a sitting position.
“He will be all right, he is stubborn and strong,” Gil-Galad offered weakly, as he sat beside the distraught prince, “Let us see to your wounds now.”
“He was twice pierced by foul blades, the poison has seeped through his blood,” Thranduil said bitterly, “I am no child, to make me feel safe by saying that he is all right.”
Gil-Galad sighed sadly as they watched the healers bleed Oropher to drain the poison away. The Sindar King was biting his lips, his eyes closed in pain, but he did not make a single sound, desiring to save his son from seeing him thus.
Thranduil got to his feet and approached his father again watching the healers work silently.
A few hours later, Elrond and Glorfindel entered the tent, their armour black with orc blood. Glorfindel stood next to Gil-Galad while Elrond approached the prince, who had not moved from his position.
“My prince,” Elrond said quietly as he inspected the bandages on Oropher, who was breathing harshly, “We need to draw out more blood. The poison still has a strong hold on him.”
Oropher gained consciousness for a moment, his green eyes automatically seeking his son’s and smiled gently.
“Save your energy, Ada,” Thranduil said brusquely, “They want to bleed you more. I knew you could not even be trusted to look after yourself!”
Erestor entered at the moment with Celeborn, Gildor and Círdan, pallor even more than usual on his features. Celeborn rushed to his cousin’s side with a cry of horror.
Oropher painfully raised his hand and ran the fingers down Celeborn’s smooth face, whispering, “I wished to see you, I am glad you are here, I…I do not know how longer your lady’s energy can sustain me.”
“ADA!” Thranduil knelt by his father’s side, “what are you talking about? Stay silent and let them heal you.”
Oropher shook his head, “My son, bleed me not again. I am not strong enough to resist his call. I leave.”
Thranduil sobbed brokenly, “You cannot, I will follow you, Ada, I cannot live without you. You are my life.”
“As you have been mine, my dearest son,” Oropher gasped, “My treasure, my most precious treasure, yet, this is right, I go now to join my beloved and you shall return victorious to our realm as King and demand your bride from Amdir.”
Galadriel panted painfully as Mandos called to Oropher more determinedly, her energy was not enough to keep him here.
“Cousin,” Oropher said weakly, as he greedily pulled his son’s sobbing frame to his chest, “My treasure, I leave in your keeping. Keep him safe. I have sent a letter to his mother-kin. I pray he listens to them. Crown him.”
“Your son is my son, Oropher,” Celeborn said quietly, “By death or life, I will do my best for him.”
“I would see Amdir before I lose my body,” Oropher said quietly.
“He…he is wounded,” Celeborn hesitated, “As is Amroth. Durin has fallen,” he said sadly, “Ai! Isildur, look at what you have wrought!”
“It is the song of Iluvatar,” Oropher said simply, “Erestor, Elrond,” he lifted his head slightly, “Be there for my son, see that he reaches his beloved safely.”
Erestor knelt by him and kissed his forehead whispering, “He is a brother in all but blood, my King.”
Oropher smiled and then looked at Elrond, their eyes meeting each other, “And I thank you for the kiss. To you and Glorfindel, I wish you luck in love,” he looked at the golden haired elf. Lastly he stared at Gil-Galad one long moment before saying quietly, “Iluvatar’s song, not your fault.”
Galadriel fainted and fell on the mallorn leaves of the forest floor, her link to the Sindar King’s mind severed, only a faint wave of gratitude on his part for her assistance reached her.
Oropher convulsed before raising his eyes to meet his son’s imploring gaze and said serenely, “No father would have a better son. My golden star...” his eyes lost their light and his hands stilled in his son’s golden hair.
“Ada?” Thranduil whispered fearfully, “ADA!”
Oropher, Prince of Doriath, King of the Greenwood, had left his son alone in the cruel valley of Morgul Vale.
Thranduil bowed, his head crushed against his father’s chest as he sobbed stricken. Gil-Galad, Círdan, Glorfindel and the healers moved out of the tent, their hearts cringing at the scene they had witnessed. Elrond watched the relaxed, calm features of Oropher’s body. Serene, soft-spoken, stubborn, sensitive, that was how the Sinda remained in life and death. An old worldly aura of refinement and decency hung onto him.
Celeborn told Thranduil gently, “We need to break this to Amdir.”
“You do it,” Thranduil whispered, “Elrond?”
Elrond nodded swiftly and left with Celeborn. They could hear Thranduil’s sobs even when they had stepped into the outside world.
“The first casualty of war,” Círdan said brokenly as he stood with Gil-Galad watching the long lines of wounded and the dead being brought to the healing encampments.
“Why is that only those who are loved the most are claimed?” Gil-Galad asked his foster-father sorrowfully, “They took my own father, well loved was he.”
“As was your grandfather, Fingolfin,” Círdan sighed, “As was Finrod, son of Finarfin. I have no idea, Gil, why is it that some are left to decay while others fall nobly?”
Gil-Galad rested his head against his foster-father’s shoulder whispering, “Glad am I that you and Galadriel have always been there for me. I do not know what I would do without you to light my way.”
“As Oropher said to his son, I say to you. You have a worthy bonded mate, he will light your path always,” Círdan said gently, stroking the King’s dark mane, “He is a noble soul, caring and intelligent.”
Anoriel gently helped Galadriel to a sitting position and asked her worriedly, “What was it that you saw?”
Galadriel shook her head mutely, her eyes red with her crying. Anoriel said firmly, “Tell me. I have lost my connection to Thranduil, though I can sense him safe. What is it?”
“Oropher,” Galadriel said quietly, “Oropher has fallen.”
Anoriel gasped and stood up, her eyes flashing with worry, “I must go to Thranduil; he will fade!”
Galadriel watched the young princess, dully thinking of her true resolve to aid her fiancé, before saying flatly, “It is a war, Anoriel, and that is why you will stay here. I will not let Thranduil fade. My husband will keep him safe.”
Anoriel left the older woman alone, running to Celebrían for comfort and solace, all the while sending her own strength to her bonded mate.
Elrond lent his healing energy to Amdir, the king of Lórien had suffered three blade wounds and lingered in the darkness of the poison. Elrond closed his eyes wearily thinking of the lives lost that day. Nearly the entire dwarven army had been decimated. Thranduil’s kingdom had lost most of their swordsmen and so had Lórien. The losses to the Noldor army were also immense. Elrond wished, not for the first time, that he could kill Isildur painfully. He had to admit that Glorfindel’s idea of kidnapping the human and using him as orc fodder had its merits.
Thranduil maintained his vigil by his father’s corpse, even after the healers had come to prepare the body for cremation. The light had gone out of his eyes, his face pale and stricken as he sat slumped by the mattress on which the corpse was laid out. The call to fade was strong, but Anoriel’s mind had opened to him, sending him comfort, love and solace. He sighed, he could not fade. He would have to continue his duties to his realm. At some point of time, Erestor had quietly helped him out of his broken armour and dressed his wounds.
“He led half our army into the halls,” Thranduil said softly, “Fool.”
“He did that which the rest were afraid to do,” Erestor replied quietly, “He won the gates.”
“What shall I say to those who will question his folly in the days to come?” Thranduil said bitterly, “That Oropher, King of Greenwood led half his army to death merely because a human prince desired his son?”
“You will say that you had a noble, loving father, who always cared naught for his happiness and comfort as long as he saw you happy. You will say that he was a King, much loved by his people. You will say that he taught you to love,” Erestor said softly, his hands gently massaging Thranduil’s shoulders.
“I am lost without him,” Thranduil whispered, “More than I can admit.”
“You are the son of your father,” Erestor said firmly, “He will not see you waste away with remorse, he called you his greatest treasure. Prove it, to the rest of us who doubt your father’s legacy. Prove it that you are your noble father’s son!”
“I am glad that I do not have to prove anything to you,” Thranduil said wryly, “For you have always seen me whenever I am broken or vanquished.”
“As you have seen me,” Erestor said tenderly, embracing the prince, “What are friends for?”
“Hold me tonight,” Thranduil pleaded, “For I fear that being alone with him..his body, would drive me insane.”
Erestor leaned his back against the tent wall and pulled Thranduil to him. They kept the silent vigil until dawn, their heartbeats the only sound in that tent of grief. Not for the first time, Thranduil wished that he could kill the human of Gondor slowly and painfully.