It was a nice spring day when lord Elrond reached the mighty palace which lay in the heart of the Greenwood the Great. The trees of the forest stood tall like strong guards and the never ending music of the birds brought joy to any guest of this land. It had been a while since Elrond had last seen Oropher. He knew about the prejudiced ideas of Oropher about the Noldorine, but times had changed from those days and he was now here for some trade negotiations.
King Oropher was standing in the tall doorway of his palace along with his wife; Queen Harma. Elrond was slightly relieved to see her at his side as he did not exactly cherish any kind of alone contact with Oropher. But Harma was warm and welcoming. When Elrond dismounted Oropher came closer to greet him and his company. Elrond lowered his head slightly in respect for the king, and he nodded in reply.
- Welcome my lord…I bet you had a tiring journey.
- Indeed your majesty, yet your beautiful land takes all the weary away…
Elrond then turned to the Queen. “My Lady” he said as he kissed her hand. “You shine like the sun as always, your majesty…”
Harma gave a shy smile and she blushed. “You are most kind My Lord, Welcome. We have the guest chambers ready for you and your company. Perhaps you would like to rest before the feast tonight…”
“We very much like to my lady.”
With this the King and the Queen accompanied the group to the chambers. Elrond knew he needed a good rest and a good feast to make his nerves ready for the battle with the solid Oropher tomorrow. He had to trade very important herbs that had been recently discovered in these blessed woods, and he knew well that these negotiations might take weeks, even months with someone like Oropher.
“I didn’t see Prince Thranduil your majesty. I hope he is in good health.” Elrond said as they walked through the corridors. He didn’t miss when Oropher slightly rolled his eyes but then Harma answered instead. “He is at archery training. A contest will be held tomorrow between the soldiers who have finished their trainings this year and the winner will be the captain of the legions. It is an important event, so excuse him.” She said with a smile.
“But that contest is not as important as my request from him to accompany me to greet my guest.” Oropher barked.
Elrond immediately caught the fact that this conversation had probably taken place between the king and the queen several times in the past days and he cursed himself for opening the issue.
“The prince is young my king. I still remember my own enthusiasm for these contests at his age.” Elrond said, and he was rewarded by an appreciating look from Harma.
“He is young, but he is not just anyone, he is a prince and he must fulfill his duties.” Oropher said.
“Alright husband, live the poor child for an instant…” Harma said as they reached the guest chamber. Then she turned to face Elrond with a wide smile. “We bid you a good rest my lord. We’ll see you at the feast tonight.”
Although the feast at the court of the king was fantastic and joyful as always and the king engaged in smooth conversations with the lords at his table but Elrond couldn’t help noticing Oropher’s annoyance through the first hours of the feast while Thranduil was again absent. Harma was trying so hard to strike the mood at the royal table but her attempts were in vein. Until the guard at the door announced the prince’s arrival and Elrond could swear he heard Harma let out a sigh of relieve. The prince entered accompanied by his steward and friend Galdor. Elrond couldn’t hide his surprise by seeing Thranduil. He had seen him when he was a little elfling playing in the woods, once he had seen Oropher years ago before he moved to Greenwood. But that Thranduil had grown into perhaps the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. He was dressed in dark green robes which displayed his significant height and broad shoulders. His golden hair was half tied in a single braid behind his head as all the Woodland soldiers and a silver circlet displayed his generous brow. His aquamarine eyes, glittering under his dark eyebrows, studied the room for a moment and then he headed towards the royal table which was placed above a few steps where normally the king’s throne would be. Thranduil stood a step lower than the table and bowed to the king. Even when he bowed, he didn’t lose the regal style. He put one foot on the step, and bowed slightly with one shoulder leaning on his bent knee; very stylish Elrond thought. This was definitely the son of a king.
“My king…” he said in his deep-toned voice as he bowed. Then he turned to lord Elrond and put a hand on his chest with a smile. “My Lord…”
“I expected you would at least arrive on time for the feast as you missed greeting Lord Elrond this morning. But I was wrong to think you may be that thoughtful.” Oropher attacked unmercifully.
Thranduil’s face did not show any kind of expression though anyone would have known he wasn’t pleased to be disgraced in front of the royal table and the not very adored Lord Elrond. “I was training for tomorrow’s contest your majesty. Surely our Lord would understand my enthusiasm and I am quite sure he would excuse my delay. Will you not my lord?” he suddenly looked at Elrond with pleading eyes. Elrond chuckled. “Of course your Grace…I have already told your lord father that I did not mind your absences nor did I mind your delay.” He said with a fatherly smile.
Thranduil gave him an appreciating smile and turned to his father. “You see my king, no harm is done!”
Thranduil wouldn’t have been surprised if Oropher would suddenly jump across the table and hit him in the face. But his father seemed calm. At least he looked calm. And Thranduil was relieved when he gestured for him to sit and he gladly sat himself in the safe place next to his mother. Harma gave him a blaming look but she didn’t say anything. Oh he loved how understanding his mother was. She would never trigger him in the wrong place and the wrong time that his father often did. The mood at the table gradually turned lighter and jollier and soon everybody forgot about Thranduil’s late arrival. The young prince tried to listen to the intense conversation his parents were having with Elrond about the latest affairs of Middle-Earth but the talks wouldn’t interest him. He was a warrior not a diplomat. He couldn’t imagine wasting his life on stupid paperwork and stupid names of the kings and their stupid decisions and how their stupid decisions affected his land. He was born for the field and the field was where he would be and he would gladly leave the paperwork to his father. He turned his gaze to the guests that were dancing joyfully to the music. And there he saw her.
He knew her from the music classes they went together when they were younger. But he hadn’t been that interested in her then. Thranduil remembered well that as he acknowledged himself as the best player of harp then, she had the most charming voice among them in the class. But she was different from those times. She had grown into a very fine maiden indeed. The elleth stood among some lords and ladies of the court and they seemed deeply engaged in a very serious conversation. Thranduil was breathless by her beauty. Her face shone like the sun and her blue eyes glittered in contrast with her dark hair.
Leuthil felt a gaze on her and she turned from the group to look around and her eyes met the piercing aquamarine of non-other than the handsome prince Thranduil. One could call him beautiful but handsome she saw him as she could not ignore his masculine features. She had known him as a classmate from a few years back. She still remembered how his smart hands worked on that beautiful harp of his and how he managed notes from those strings which no-one could. But she was never interested in him as a male. He was rude, impudent and arrogant; typically a spoiled son of a mighty king. She was also well aware of the prince’s reputation. Thranduil was known for his profligate life. They said that he takes a different elleth to warm his bed every night. Some rumors even said that he even took males for his pleasure when the heat took him. He was also known to be very rebellious, hot tempered and often violent. All knew how Oropher often reproached and even punished him for his regular disobedience. But despite all these, the Ellyn loved him. Perhaps there were no females in these lands that wouldn’t crave his intimacy. But Leuthil considered herself different as she felt nothing for this prince. She had developed a very nice relationship with Lenor, who was standing next to her, and she didn’t want to lose it. He was a very cultivated elf, and it seemed that he cared for her enough. Yet she felt her heart sink as Thranduil’s penetrating gaze fell from her face to her body, studying her as if he could undress her with his eyes.
Oh her body…her white skin gleamed behind her dark blue garment, her breasts were slightly larger than most of the other Elven kind and her narrow waist was followed with generous wide hips. Thranduil didn’t have to touch her skin to know how soft it would feel. Their eyes met. The girl was clearly surprised by his unexpected attention but she didn’t show any sign of being flattered by it. She simply looked at him in question for a few moments and then turned away and engaged in a conversation with an elf next to her. Thranduil also knew this elf. He was Lenor, one of the few elves that had the king’s definite approval. He studied old literature and cultures in the king’s library. Thranduil smirked to that. He darted his gaze from the elf to the elleth; she was a more pleasant sight to observe.
“Naneth…” he called as he turned to face the queen. “That lady over there, standing next to lord Lenor, is she Leuthil from my old music class? Wasn’t she out of Greenwood?”
Harma took a moment to look at whom her son was mentioning and then she smiled. “Oh yes that’s Leuthil…she had gone to Lorien for some time along with his father. She returned a few weeks back. Now she is studying in the court with some other ladies. A very fine student I shall say…very sharp.” Then she looked at Thranduil who seemed not very interested in the studying qualities of the girl. “She is Lord Alheru’s daughter, you know…so you may better take your hands of her.” she said and then she chuckled at Thranduil’s wide eyes. Thranduil automatically turned to the other corner of the hall in which Lord Alheru one of his father’s captains was drinking wine with some friends. Thranduil knew him very well. He had been a junior soldier under Alheru’s command when he first joined the forces. Alheru was one of the few Silvans who enjoyed court affairs. He was the captain who discovered Thranduil’s talent in warfare, yet he was always very bad tempered and harsh. Thranduil still remembered the pain his heavy hands could cause. He felt a very powerful urge to give up in the lord’s daughter immediately, but he pushed the thought away and focused back on Leuthil. He couldn’t help himself imagining her without those clothes. “Oh how sick I am” he thought as he smiled to himself.
He rouse from his sit and went down the stairs. He could at least ask her for a dance. Feel her body against his through the music. He hadn’t gone a few steps towards her that a gentle hand stopped him.
He irritably turned, only to find Morey holding his elbow. She was beautiful as always and she had that slutish smile of hers.
“Would you care for a dance my prince…” she said seductively.
“I’m not in the mood Mori…and of course it’s not proper here…”
“From since you care about what is proper and what is not…?” she said with a smirk, winking with her green eyes.
“My father is here Mori…let go of my arm…please.”
She slowly obeyed as she noticed the gravity of Thranduil’s voice.
“You don’t care about what’s proper when you take me to your bed, your grace…” she whispered. “Perhaps I can cheer that mood of yours with something other than silly dances.” She continued with a devilish wink.
“Not tonight Mori…I have some business to attend to…” and he released his arm from her grip. But when he turned Leuthil was gone. He felt his heart emptied. Why did he care so much anyway? He had lovely Morey to bed him tonight, and many other maidens for other nights. But he needed to see her. Her absence made him restless. He left Morey and stormed out of the hall. The corridors were deserted. It made him happy since his mood was over coming him and he had the potential of punching anyone in the face. He paced the long corridor. She couldn’t have gone too far…ah yes… there she was, standing alone gazing out of the great window that faced the forest; deeply in thought. Thranduil’s heart began to beat rapidly, pumping feverish blood through his vessels. He went closer, but she seemed to have not noticed his presence. ‘She has become so different’ he thought. So fair, so beautiful and mysterious.
“Good evening my lady…” he said. She suddenly jumped and gasped as she was pulled out of her day dream.
“My prince…” she said breathlessly, as she put a hand on her chest. “Forgive me…I didn’t sense your presence.”
“I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to scare you…” Thranduil said but he felt that she didn’t believe him. In fact Leuthil hadn’t believed him. She knew this prince and his foolish games with girls…why had he followed her here anyway?
Thranduil was breathless by her beauty…the color of her eyes, her dark hair, her angelic face…This was another kind of feeling, he hadn’t experience it with other Ellyn. How could he put his feelings into words as he was speechless like this?
“Is there anything I can help you with, your Grace?” she asked, when she felt that the prince was struggling to purge out his words.
“It’s a full moon tonight…yet how can I set my eyes on the moon when it turns dark and dead comparing to a sun like you…” Thranduil said innocently.
Leuthil felt her heart sink. So she hadn’t made a mistake, Thranduil was indeed watching her from across the hall, and his gaze had been indeed mischievous. “My lord…I…”
“I was going to ask you for a dance but you left the feast…” Thranduil interrupted.
“Well perhaps it was for the best, as I did not want to upset you with my refusal…” she said, trying so hard to be courteous. Perhaps another elleth would’ve fallen under his spell, but not her.
Thranduil looked at her questionably. How could she refuse him…? And how dared she talk about it so openly. But it was her right anyway, he was just not used to hear no for an answer…
“Why…I mean…were you…” he cursed himself for running out of words again. It was so unlike him.
“I came to the feast with someone my lord…” she said.
Thranduil was silent for a few moments but then he croaked: “Lenor?”
She nodded. Again there was silence for a few moments as the prince lowered his head, gazing at the floor. It gave Leuthil such pleasure to see him defeated.
“Does he have your heart…?” he asked openly.
“My lord…” Leuthil said irritated. “That’s personal”
Thranduil could feel burning flames rise inside him. The rage…the rage that he had inherited directly from his father; he could feel it take over him. He suddenly felt the intense need to go back to the feast and behead the stupid nerd. But he had to control himself…he had to cool down… it was her definite right to choose her partner and he had to respect it. But how could he…
“Do you love him my lady?” Thranduil asked again firmly.
Leuthil was startled. This was a stubborn royalty demanding an answer. But she acknowledged herself more stubborn. After all she was her father’s daughter.
“With all due respect my lord…my personal feelings are my own, and I have the right not to share them with you.”
Very brave indeed. Thranduil had never faced an elleth who rejected him, nor had he faced an elleth this bold and brave hearted. This called for a challenge, and he loved challenges.
“You don’t love him…” he said matter-of-factly.
“Because if you had, you wouldn’t be here lingering all alone in these deserted corridors while you could enjoy a royal feast with your beloved one…”
“I needed a break…” She said heatedly, not knowing why she was justifying herself for Thranduil.
“One never needs a break from someone she loves…”
Leuthil could feel the heat rise inside her. She was trying so hard not be impolite but this just wouldn’t do.
“My lord you are not exactly the sort of person to lecture me about love…you have thousands lovers yet you are not even capable of loving a single one of them back.”
She immediately regretted what she had said, yet there was no way of taking it back. To her fear, Thranduil raised his dark eyebrows. She instinctively lowered her head and stared at the floor.
“Forgive me my lord…I…I didn’t.”
“Your words are harsh…and insulting” Thranduil said resolutely.
Leuthil looked back at him. He was serious, with no emotions written on his handsome face. He would probably punish her, even banish her…oh Valar…what had she done.
“Forgive me my lord; that was not my intention.”
Thranduil came closer, towering above her. It was only then that she realized how tall he had become during these years. He was like a young tree, tall, slender, yet muscular with broad shoulders. She could feel the radiation of his anger. Yet she couldn’t do anything, but wait to see what tragedy his rage would bring for her.
Thranduil was fighting so hard to push back the heat that was taking over him. Although this elleth was too bold but she had said nothing but the truth…and he didn’t have the right to punish her for that. In fact he enjoyed her boldness. Boldness and truth were things rarely gifted to a prince or any other royalty.
Leuthil felt so fragile under his shadow. Never in her life had she felt weak in the presence of any male. But this arrogant prince was like a lion ready to tear everything apart.
“You’re wrong about me.…” Thranduil said finally. “I did not love anyone until tonight because they are not worthy of my love…I’ll compete with Lord Lenor for your heart…and I will gain it.” He continued determinedly.
He then took a few steps back and gave a slight bow. “I bid you a good night my lady…”
He didn’t wait for her to respond. The prince just turned around and left for the main hall.
Leuthil remained there breathless. She had to confess that she had expected a severe punishment for her not very nice words. Yet the prince had spared her. He was so arrogant. Who did he think he was? She knew she had to go back to Lenor but the conversation with Thranduil had been a bit overwhelming. She was unarmed in facing the mixture of feelings attacking her. Her old dislike for the prince was still there, she was also angry with him for his words and yet she couldn’t deny his charm. He was so beautiful, so radiant, and so adorable…his eyes, there was something in his eyes that made it so hard for her to look at them…
She turned to face Lenor who was standing beside her.
“So you finally decided to realize I wasn’t in the ball room with you…” Leuthil said teasingly.
“Shall we go back to the hall….?” He said.
“I think I’ll pass…I’m tired…and I need to wake early tomorrow to go to the contest, I want to stand in the front row…I better go home.” She said politely.
Lenor nodded. “I’ll come with you tomorrow …when will you leave home?”
“I’ll leave at dawn…I’ll see you beside the pool.” she said. “Good night Lenor…”
She turned and left the royal feast.
Thranduil paused a second behind the door before returning to the feast. He took a deep breath and entered the main hall again.
Almost everyone was drunk. The atmosphere at the high table was also jolly due to the perfect wine. Thranduil suddenly felt so tired for this. He needed to rest before the contest tomorrow. He had trained so hard today and he felt some irritating soreness in his arms. He suddenly regretted his decision to send Morey away. Perhaps if he could find her, she could guarantee a peaceful sleep for him tonight.
It was Galdor who was approaching him fast. Thranduil turned annoyed. “Galdor have you seen Morey…”
“The king wants you at the high table.” Galdor interrupted. “He’s been asking for you for quite some time. You better come.”
Thranduil sighed and obeyed. “But find Morey for me!” he nagged as Galdor rolled his eyes.
The king and the queen were deeply engaged in a cheery conversation with Lord Elrond when Thranduil arrived. Oropher turned to him. “Where were you Thranduil…? I’ve been asking for you for a long time now.”
“Forgive me father…what can I do for you?” he said not trying to hide his tiredness.
Elrond turned to the young prince. “In fact I am the one who has to be blamed for summoning you lord Thranduil.”
When he saw Thranduil’s raised eyebrows he continued. “I’ve heard that you have smart hands on the harp and you have a wonderful voice…would you mind playing a piece for us?”
The last thing Thranduil had expected was this. To be lured here, to perform a piece of music for the high lords!!!
“Oh…I…I have to go fetch the harp then…” he said hoping to escape the task.
“It’s already here son; Galion brought it.” Oropher said while he smirked at his son’s helplessness.
Galdor handed him the small harp. Thranduil hesitated but he had no other choice as eager eyes of Elrond and his companions were piercing him.
“Come here son…” Oropher said with an uncharacteristic tenderness. “Sit here…” he said tapping on a chair next to him. He always grew warm and gentle when the wine affected him.
So the prince sat on the chair. He took his time re-acquainting his fingers with the strings, producing scattered notes. He had been so engaged with his combat trainings that his fingers felt a bit numb on the fine instrument. He finally chose his song and started playing. His fingers danced along the strings, this time creating heavenly music with a talent unseen and unheard even by the elves of Imladris. Thranduil Oropherion had strong hands which held heavy swords; the crafts of killing. Yet all that dark power always turned to an uncharacteristic gentleness when he held his harp and sang old songs of love, passion and tragedy. He did not see the wide eyes of the lords, nor did he see the surprised looks that Elrond exchanged with his steward; Glorfindel.
His song was short but affective. After he finished, it took some time for his audience to react as they were deeply touched.
“You are truly talented prince Thranduil…for once the gossips were right.” Glorfindel said and made the others laugh and nod in affirmation.
“Thank you my lord.” Thranduil said with a smile.
“Thank you for playing Thranduil. If I hadn’t heard your music, I would have left Greenwood a lesser man…” Elrond smiled at him.
Thranduil gave him an appreciating smile. He always remembered his father detest the Noldorine elves. But Thranduil somehow liked this Lord of Imlardis. He turned to the king.
“Father, I wish to retire with your permission…I need to rest before the contests tomorrow.” Thranduil asked with an unusual courtesy.
Oropher nodded and smiled at him. Thranduil always wished that his father would always take a few more glasses of wine.
He rose and then turned to Elrond. “I assume you will be attending the event tomorrow as my father’s special guests, my lord?”
“Of course…I’ll be there.” Elrond said. “May you be victorious.”
“I’ll be happy to see you there…I assume it will be a bit violent this year.” Thranduil teased.
“My lord with you and Lord Miklovand, both competing for the captain post; perhaps we should expect some deadly casualties, it’s a good thing lord Elrond is here.” Galdor said, and made everyone laugh.
Elrond chuckled but then he turned to Thranduil seriously. “We live in dark times prince Thranduil, and we have no choice but to fit our hands with swords and bows…yet do not let these dark times steal your talent away…you have a gift to lift the spirits with your music, don’t let it be forgotten because of the evil around us… To stay yourself in this world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest victory you can ever gain.”
Oropher shifted in his place as he was not delighted with any Noldorine lecture his son. But Thranduil felt those words sink in his heart.
“I shall remember your words my lord…” he said with a smile. Then he bowed for the lords and then the king. He kissed his mother’s hand and left the hall for his chambers.
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