The Greenwood Tales: Part 3 - New King
"It looks wonderful," Aladain remarked glowingly, standing in the dining hall and looking around. "You did a fine job, Thranduil, and this is a place any ruler would be glad to call home."
"I have a gift to bestow on you," Thranduil told his friend.
"A gift? What gift, Thra - your Highness?"
"You have been my dear friend for years uncountable, and there is no way I can possibly repay you for that," Thranduil said. "But perhaps I can start. Aladain, I name you captain of my guard."
Aladain's mouth opened and closed several times. "Thra - your Highness - I - I am honored." The Elf fell to his knees before his friend and clasped his hand. "It will be my pleasure to defend you, with my own life if need be. Now I must start assembling a guard."
By the end of a week, he had one -Elves highly trained in art of sword, bow, and spear. All were more than willing to lay down their lives before their king if it should come to that.
As Greenwood prospered and grew wealthy again, slowly recovering from the pain of losing Oropher, everyone noticed that King Thranduil seemed distant, detached from it all. He wrote lovely songs, composed stirring ballads, and ruled his people firmly but kindly, but his mind seemed very far away. He had been king for perhaps one hundred years - a very short time to the Elves - when Aladain came to him. Thranduil was holding a quill stained with ink above a roll of parchment, as if he was about to write.
"Your Majesty." Aladain bowed.
Thranduil started. "Oh - Vedui', Aladain. What is it?"
Aladain decided not to mince words. They were old and dear friends, after all, even if Thranduil was now king and Aladain was captain of the guard. "Your Majesty, your mind is very far gone these days. Your people love you. They worry about you, and bid me inquire after you."
Thranduil did not answer for a moment, writing a few lines on his parchment. At last, he said, "I am heartsick, Aladain. I love a woman, but never before have our kinds wedded or loved. I die a little bit each time I see her. But I can do nothing."
"It is Elaimar, is it not?" Aladain said.
Thranduil started. "Yes. I - I love her, Aladain. I see her in my dreams each night. I cannot bear the sight of her by day. The love we might have had taunts me, burns me. Never before have the Sindar and the Laiquendi wed, but what can I do, Aladain?" He spread his hands helplessly. "I am passionate about her."
"Why not?" Aladain said. "The Sindar and the Laiquendi are both elves - one Gray, one Green. It is only chance that your kinds have not loved before now. The Laiquendi always stayed in Ossiriand."
Thranduil wrote another few lines on his page, biting his lip. "You speak truth, Aladain, but I know not how she feels for me."
"Oh, Elaimar, Elaimar, Elven-lady fair
Gray are your eyes, golden is your hair
Delicate are your hands, sweet are your songs
When they fall upon my ears, the world cannot commit wrongs
Fair like your face is the music from your lute
When I hear thy notes, they strike me mute."
Aladain nodded, smiling. "A good couplet, my lord."
Thranduil let the pen drop from his hand and let his head fall onto his arms. "What shall I do, Aladain?" he almost wailed. "What shall I do, when each day my heart hurts more to look upon she who is fair beyond all others on this Middle-earth?"
"Speak to her," Aladain urged his despondent king. "She will never know your heart unless you confess it to her. You must tell her - or spend the rest of your life in shadow and in sorrow."
Thranduil looked up. Tear stains marred his face, but his voice, when he spoke, was clear, calm, and resolute. "You are right, Aladain. I shall take your advice."
Thranduil rose gracefully from his chair, leaving the ink still glistening on his unfinished verse to his love. He set the quill aside and walked from the palace.
He found Elaimar, sooner than he expected. She was speaking with a Sindar and strumming her lute softly at the same time. The melody she played was clear and soft, yet somehow sad.
"E-Elaimar," Thranduil said, cursing the quaver in his voice. "A word, please?"
"Yes, of course, your Highness," Elaimar replied, standing and curtsying before her lord. She looked expectant, as if waiting for him to begin to speak.
"In private," Thranduil said.
Elaimar curtsied again and followed Thranduil into a secluded grove of trees, far away from any prying ears.
Thranduil opened his mouth, tried to find something to say, tried to tell Elaimar what had been tormenting him for these past years, but he found no words came to him except the verse he had been composing to her.
"Oh, Elaimar, Elaimar, Elven-lady fair, Gray are your eyes and golden is your hair. Delicate are your hands, sweet are your songs....." His voice trailed off.
Elaimar stared at him. "Thran.....my lord....?"
Thranduil opened his mouth, about to try again, but his arms moved of their own accord, gathering Elaimar near him. Her body was unbelievably soft against his, her eyes deep and entrancing, her lips so near, so sweet....
Before either of them was aware what was happening, Thranduil had leaned forward and kissed Elaimar. She was shocked for a moment. He could feel her about to pull away, but then she relaxed and fell against him, their lips working, tasting, so sweet and soft. Explosions of passion burst inside Thranduil's head. He pulled Elaimar closer, and her arms went about him, pulling the Sindar and Laiquendi Elves nearer and nearer, their lips working so hot and fresh.
Thranduil reached up and caressed Elaimar's cheek as their lips were still twined together. He closed his eyes, a blissful wave of pleasure sweeping over him. Her kiss was sweeter than anything he'd ever dreamed before.
After several more moments, the Elves broke apart and gazed at each other, both rather startled. Thranduil's body was trembling, and so was Elaimar's.
"Is this what you wished to tell me?" she said.
"Yes," Thranduil breathed, stepping forward and taking both of her hands. "Elaimar, I have loved you for longer than you know. Elaimar Icestar of the Laiquendi Elves, without you my life becomes dark and sorrowful."
Elaimar gazed at him from her deep gray eyes, understanding burning brightly in them.
"Do you know what?" she said softly. "I love you, Thranduil Greenleaf. I love you deeply, king of the Greenwood Elves, Sindarin prince of my heart. And I always will."
The last thing Thranduil heard before Elaimar kissed him again and all other thoughts were wiped from his mind was her say, "Whoever said that Gray and Green could not meld together into one?"
The wedding was a splendid affair, held outdoors under a warm summer sun. All of Greenwood was assembled for it. Thranduil was wearing his finest clothes and his silver-and-emerald crown. Elaimar was resplendent in a long white dress made from lace and sheer material; a long veil floated from her head. She carried a single elanor flower.
That night, as newlyweds might be inclined to do, they made love. As Thranduil at last drifted off to sleep, drained yet exhilarated, he thought only of Elaimar's unsurpassed perfection.
Greenwood seemed to grow in joy and beauty with its king and queen, now that all was right and Thranduil was himself again. Queen Elaimar was wise and just, ruling as well as her husband.
One morning when a hint of winter edged the cool air, Elaimar pulled Thranduil aside.
"The Valar blessed our union, and now they shall bless us again," she said, gazing into his eyes, her arms twined about his neck. "I am with child, Thranduil."
"A-a child?" Thranduil stammered.
"Yes," Elaimar said, a smile lifting her delicate lips. "A child, Thranduil."
She kissed him, hard, and Thranduil didn't resist.
It had seemed that Greenwood could no longer grow in wealth and bliss, but it was wrong. When the news was spread that shortly there would be a Prince or Princess of Greenwood, the response was overwhelming. Elves often danced in the street for no apparent reason, melodies were played, and everywhere joy and love abounded like water.
"It is encouraging," Elaimar said one evening as she and Thranduil sat high in the trees, sipping cool goblets of fionnaul. Her belly was gloriously rounded around their child, swelling out through the delicate green dress she wore. She laid a slender hand on her stomach, smiling as the child moved within her. "They will greet the Prince or Princess with even more joy than they have shown."
Thranduil laid his hand on his wife's warm, hard stomach, laughing as his son or daughter kicked him in the finger. "Yes, the Prince or Princess will come healthy into this world."
At that moment, there was a great commotion below, and the Elves of Greenwood seemed to be alarmed. Torches blazed through the dark forest, voices shouted in a confused blend of Quenya, Sindarin, and Westron, and feet hastened toward the palace.
"What is it?" Elaimar questioned, moving to look over the edge of the talan they sat on, reminiscent of the ones of Lórien. "What could cause such a disturbance?"
Aladain came dashing up the light steps leading to the talan. "Your Highnesses -" he bowed quickly - "a messenger from the Golden Wood. He says it is urgent, urgent! I will show him in." He waited breathlessly for Thranduil's response.
"Yes," Thranduil said hurriedly.
Aladain dashed back down the steps and returned a few moments later with a tall Elf, lithe and blonde-haired, clad in gray with a long bow at his back. He inclined his head respectfully to the King and Queen of Greenwood. "King Thranduil, Queen Elaimar. I am Haldir, guard and captain of Lórien and envoy of Queen Galadriel. The Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood bid me tell the Lord and Lady of the Green Wood that a great evil has stirred in the Dwarf-halls of Khazad-dûm. The nameless fear has awoken."
This made no sense to Thranduil, but it apparently did to Elaimar. She clapped her hands over her mouth, her face turning gray. Thranduil raced over to catch his wife before she could fall backwards. The queen stared, petrified, at Haldir. "The nameless fear? Surely not - not the Balrog?"
"None other," Haldir said grimly, his face set. "The Dwarves, while mining for mithril, Moria-silver, delved too deep and stirred this ancient evil of Melkor, of Morgoth, the corrupted Valar."
Elaimar bit her lip so hard that a bit of blood appeared on it beneath her teeth. "I feared this."
"Come to Lórien," Haldir urged. He cast an eye over the queen. "My Lady will shelter you, ease the birth of your child, keep you safe for as long as you require. Orcs are in the move in the Ered Mithrin. Very soon they will be arrived at Greenwood."
As if to punctuate the Elf's words, a war-horn sounded faint and distant.
"They are alerted, alerted by their fellows in the Misty Mountains, that the Balrog awakens. They march upon Middle-earth. You must do something!" Haldir pleaded. "My brother, Orophin, is among you. He left Lórien long ago - traveled to Ossiriand - and has now come here." He indicated the crowns on Thranduil and Elaimar's heads. "Those are his work, I see."
The war-horn sounded again.
"We leave," Thranduil said grimly.