37. A Vale of Blood Part Three
“Lord Elrond is still with the King, my Lord,” a healer replied respectfully, “He has asked not to be disturbed.”
Celeborn joined them, a haggard expression on his features as he waited for the healers to leave. Gil-Galad dismissed them quickly and turned to face his aunt’s Sindarin mate.
“Did you hear of the dwarven losses?” Celeborn asked quietly, his eyes deep pools of sadness.
“Yes, that Durin fell bravely with his mightiest warriors,” Gil-Galad sighed, “Elendil and his men are bringing the wounded and the dead hither. They sent a missive to inform me of the situation. Círdan’s warriors hold the gates that has cost us dear,” anger flashed in Celeborn’s sapphire eyes, Gil-Galad said wearily, “I would return him to you if I could, my Lord Celeborn.”
Celeborn nodded curtly before saying, “We conduct the funeral tomorrow at dawn. He loved the dawn so. Amdir is recovering, as is Amroth. Elrond has not spared the least of his skills to make sure that they live. Anyway, all the kings and the leaders will arrive for the ceremony at dawn. I would be pleased if you take upon yourself the task of informing your indispensable human alliance partners.”
Gil-Galad said quietly, “Will the prince be able to light his father’s pyre?”
“He is not wounded,” Celeborn said coldly.
“I know well the pain of lighting a parent’s pyre, for I have done it twice. Once ceremonially and once, an actual pyre,” Gil-Galad offered humbly.
Celeborn’s features softened as the silver-haired lord said quietly, “So have most of us, My Lord. I pray that Amdir and Amroth escape the clutches of Mandos.”
Elrond watched Amroth’s blue eyes focus on him confusedly.
“Welcome back,” Elrond offered as he raised a glass of water to the invalid’s dry lips, “I hope you are not in much pain.”
“Oropher?” Amroth asked hoarsely, “Did Thranduil get him here in time?”
Elrond forced him to swallow the water before saying quietly, “He was not able to resist the call.”
“The Ernil!” Amroth made to get up, Elrond frowned and pushed him back down saying, “Thranduil is not wounded. He is keeping vigil with Erestor in Oropher’s tent. And set your mind at ease, he is not fading.”
“Ada?” Amroth whispered, “Where is Ada?”
“He was brought wounded, he is in the next tent. Do not worry,” Elrond reassured the prince, “He is recovering as we speak. Now rest.”
Elrond pressed his ear to Amroth’s falling and heaving chest. There was something malicious at work that he could not identify. He closed his eyes and sent his healing energy once more through the prince of Lothlórien. It was repulsed. Elrond frowned. Though the prince seemed to be recovering fast with typical elven standards, there was a nagging doubt in Elrond’s mind that just refused to go away. He took a deep breath and decided on his course. Casting his mind out, he tried to contact Galadriel.
“Lord Elrond?” a weary voice asked him as he touched Galadriel’s mind.
“Yes, My Lady, Amroth is wounded, and I am not able to sense what exactly is amiss,” Elrond said quietly, taking care to shield his thoughts from the lady’s powerful mind.
“Take his hand in yours, and let me try to sense his soul,” Galadriel replied.
Elrond complied and he felt her invade his mind completely. He gasped in pain as his energy weakened, unable to withstand the invasion. Just as he was about to ask Galadriel to stop, she withdrew her thoughts and said thoughtfully, “It is the poison and more. He cannot fight any more, send him to me after… after tomorrow’s ceremony.”
Elrond assented and was withdrawing from her mind when she said softly, “Take care of the prince for me.”
“I will, even if you had not asked. He is dear to me,” Elrond replied seriously.
Thranduil watched the torches burn out, leaving the tent lit dimly by the red rays of the approaching dawn. He sighed, as he looked upon his father’s body, arrayed in state, so perfectly calm, that he could believe that Oropher was merely resting.
Erestor’s hands enfolded him tightly and he leant back, cherishing the quiet strength of his friend. Anoriel’s mind was still supporting him silently. He sighed again, Oropher was right. Even the bride that he had chosen for his son was the most perfect choice. Thranduil gently sent his own gratitude to Anoriel for her support, taking care to shield the raw magnitude of his grief from their bond.
“We should get ready,” Thranduil observed to Erestor as Celeborn and Elrond entered the tent quietly, “It is almost time.”
Erestor bent over Thranduil’s head to press down his soft lips on the prince’s nose whispering, “As you command, my prince.”
Celeborn helped Thranduil to his feet and said quietly, “I have brought you the robes.”
“Thank you,” Thranduil whispered as he stretched himself, “I will just wash myself and get dressed.”
Celeborn said gently, “I have had a barrel of water brought into the next tent. Come with me, I will help you ready yourself.”
Thranduil nodded and they left silently. Elrond looked over Erestor’s blood and grime splattered form and said firmly, “You come with me to our tent, you need to change. Glorfindel and Círdan as well as Greenwood warriors will stay here.”
Erestor got to his feet unsteadily, Elrond quickly looped an arm around his friend’s slender waist to support him. He frowned as Erestor gratefully leant in towards him.
“You are wounded,” Elrond accused as he caught the stench of fresh blood.
“I guess so,” Erestor tried a weak attempt at a smile as they made for their tent, “I was fighting in a battle that claimed half the warriors.”
Elrond pushed him in before closing the tent flap. Then he proceeded to get his healing kit and faced Erestor, an eyebrow raised. The chief counsellor sighed as he removed his armour and sword. Elrond winced as he saw the cut in Erestor’s tunic just above the stomach. Fresh blood shone dully on the cream tunic.
“It is healing fast and it is not poisoned,” Erestor offered weakly, as he tore away the tunic clinging to his body. Elrond nodded in relief as he saw the fast closing skin above the long wound. He advanced and gently pushed down Erestor onto the mattress saying reprovingly, “You might have had a scar if you were unlucky.”
“Scars make a warrior, do they not?” Erestor bit his lips as Elrond’s fingers worked to stitch close the wound quickly and efficiently.
“Well,” Elrond smiled inspite of his dreary temper, “They do, atleast according to a certain Balrog slayer’s opinion.”
“Do not tell him,” Erestor begged, “He would kill me himself.”
“What was it?” Elrond asked as his fingers ghosted over Erestor’s pale unflawed torso despite himself.
Erestor closed his eyes wearily, “I am not sure, Elrond, it may have been my own blade for all I know. I barely remember anything. All my thoughts were for Oropher.”
Elrond sighed as he wet a cloth and gently scrubbed Erestor’s skin, his hands those of a clinical, duty-bound healer. Erestor relaxed beneath his skilful hands and a semblance of peace settled on his pale features. He got to his feet saying, “A set of black robes would do, will you get me one from my chest? I will just scrub down the grime from my lower body meanwhile.”
Elrond averted his eyes as the chief counsellor removed his leggings. He strode across to the chest and rummaged about until he found a rich, sombre set of black robes befitting the occasion.
He straightened out the creases and asked in a tightly controlled voice, trying not to think of the scene behind him, “Is it safe to turn?”
“You are a prude, Elrond!” Erestor remarked teasingly, “Well, it is safe to turn.”
“You have been spending too much time in Thranduil’s company,” Elrond retorted as he turned back and shuddered at the sight of Erestor wrapped in a thin towel. Erestor was running a comb through his dark tresses unmindful of Elrond’s fanciful dreams as he snatched the set of robes and threw them on carelessly before tying up the various knots and sashes deftly. Elrond decided that changing his tunic was not an option with his current bodily dilemma. He decided to wear his formal robes directly over his tunic to solve matters.
“As if it is not hot in this accursed land already!” Erestor said sarcastically as he shook his head at Elrond’s actions.
“Comment on it more, and I will have to tell Glorfindel and my cousin about that pretty stitch I put in a few minutes before,” Elrond warned.
Erestor gracefully tilted his head in acknowledgement saying, “Point taken.”
They walked to Gil-Galad’s tent. The King was already waiting with Círdan, clad in deep brown real, yet sombre robes.
Gil-Galad kissed Erestor tenderly and then embraced Elrond before saying lamely, “It is time.”
“Will the humans come?” Elrond asked concernedly, “I do not think they should. The Sindarin warriors will not forgive them any time soon.”
Círdan replied, “Elendil is yet in the plains of Morannon. His sons and grandsons are sure to arrive.”
They walked to the Greenwood encampment. A large space had been cleared hastily for the funeral. Amroth and Amdir were already there assisted by healers. Celeborn arrived to greet the Noldorin delegation saying softly, “We are beginning. The Ernil is ready and wants to get this over with.”
A procession of Greenwood warriors silently bore the body of their fallen King to the slightly elevated firewood stand built for that purpose. Elrond felt Gil-Galad shudder beside him as the pallbearers set down their burden.
The herald of Greenwood announced, “Crown Prince of Greenwood, Thranduil Oropherion.”
Elrond felt his breath catch as Thranduil walked to his father’s pyre-side, clad in pristine white flowing robes that fluttered about his slender frame. His hair was unbound and free of braids as it flowed behind him rippling in the dawnlight. Only the grief in his once twinkling eyes gave away his pain.
His features were calm and serene as he bowed to the warriors and spoke softly, “The King of Greenwood loved the most to watch Sunrise. It is but fitting that we bid him farewell at the same hour of the day. We have shared many sunrises, each special to me. Yet, none of them were as special as yesterday’s dawn, for it was condemned to be our last sunrise together on Middle-Earth,” he smiled gently, “There is no defeat in fighting nobly and failing, that is what he taught me. He taught me to do my best, to never lose hope. That is what I promise to do. Before my father’s pyre, I swear before you, in the name of Eru himself, that I shall carry his burdens as long they are mine to carry. This war shall be fought and won, my fellow warriors. My father’s fall will not be avenged unless Sauron is thrown down!”
He took up a blazing torch from a near-by aide and then stooped down to press a last kiss on his father’s forehead before setting the pyre aflame. Elrond convulsively grasped Erestor’s arm as they watched Thranduil unsheathe his sword and hold it aloft to the east in defiance. It was a sight none of them would forget as long as they lived, the defiance of a grieving son highlighted against the greedy flames of his father’s pyre.
“In the name of the Valar, we ask Lord Celeborn, kin to King Oropher to crown the heir to the throne of Greenwood,” the herald announced clearly.
“That he should be crowned before his father’s burning corpse,” Círdan cringed, “It is not a fate I would wish on even Isildur of Gondor.”
“Yet that may be his fate,” Glorfindel said seriously, “To predict the song of destiny is folly.”
Thranduil knelt down on one knee, as Celeborn placed the mithril circlet of kingship on his nephew’s head. When the younger elf rose again, Elrond could no longer identify the fey, woodland prince whom he had met in Lindon centuries ago. Almost mechanically, Thranduil accepted the sceptre of office from his chief counsellor and then taking out a dagger from his swordbelt, he rend a cut on his right wrist and anointed the sceptre with his blood.
Celeborn proclaimed in a steady voice, though his eyes were sorrowful, “The King of Greenwood shall spare neither his flesh nor blood to protect his realm. HAIL, Thranduil, King of Greenwood!”
Elrond said along with the rest of those assembled, “Hail!” The jade, green eyes that flickered over him before moving to Erestor was shadowed by eternal grief and bitterness. A single tear flowed down Elrond’s cheek as he grieved for his friend’s loss.
As the new King of Greenwood arrived to greet his guests at his father’s funeral feast, Elrond stood back to watch him carefully. Thranduil greeted Amdir and Amroth politely, enquiring about their injuries and well-being. Then he turned to acknowledge Círdan and Glorfindel.
Gil-Galad joined them and bowed to Thranduil saying, “King Thranduil.”
Thranduil smiled before returning the obeisance saying, “High-King Gil-Galad, I am glad that you could be here today.” He turned away swiftly before Gil-Galad could reply.
Elroond sighed as Isildur and Anárion entered the tent, dressed in black tunic and leggings, their deportment sombre. Thranduil waited for the human prince to approach him and bow.
Isildur said politely, “My condolences for your losses, Prince Thranduil.”
“I am King now because of the afore-mentioned losses, Lord Isildur,” Thranduil said emotionlessly, maintaining eye-contact till the human was forced to look away in deep shame and guilt.
“Our Ernil is lost somewhere in the person standing before us,” Elrond remarked to Erestor, who had been standing next to him, “Will he ever return?”
Erestor sighed, “It will take a lifetime of men or more in the gardens of Lórien to heal his soul, I do not think we will see the woodland prince again. But he will survive, I pray.”
“We will make sure he does,” Elrond said reassuringly, “What else are friends for?”
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.