Pale morning light crept through the narrow window, cutting a golden swath across the stone floor. The morning dawned in Ossiriand once more, at this beginning of a new Age, the Second Age of Middle-earth.
The cool, pale light fell on a bed in the small room, and, more so, the bed’s occupant. He was tall and slender, the thin covers seeming a shroud about his lithe form. His hair was long and golden, a river of sunlight down his strong back. It was pulled away from his fair face and up over pointed ears, the mark of one of Elf-kind. His eyes were closed, long lashes lying delicately on the fine skin of his face. His hands were slender, with long fingers.
As the sunlight crept higher, the man opened his eyes, which were a rich shade of blue. A smile crept across his delicate lips. He threw the covers aside and stood. He was garbed in a long, simple robe of soft gray, but on him it seemed a mark of royalty.
The man danced through a series of stretches, the light musculature of his arms and legs rippling beneath the robe. His exercises finished, he stripped off the robe and garbed himself in Elvish clothes – a silver tunic under a light green one, gray pants, and soft black boots. He tossed back his long hair, letting it ripple and shine in the light, and then hurried from the room.
“Mae govannen, Thranduil,” another Elf called to him.
Thranduil turned lightly on the balls of his feet. The Elf who had spoken came gliding over, clasped his friend’s shoulder, and said, “How goes it with you?”
“Well, Aladain,” Thranduil answered. “Lindon seems brimming with life this morn of the new Second Age. I feel honored to be part of its web.”
Aladain smiled, his lips gently curling upward. “And yet still you dream of Greenwood.”
Thranduil shrugged, ignoring the mild rebuke. “The forest is so vast, Aladain, so huge beyond compare. And so empty. None live there but for the animals and the wind. Surely it could be made into a settlement for our people, the Sindarin Elves, the Elves of the Twilight?”
“Your dreams are commendable, and I shall be glad to share them,” Aladain said gently. “You are my friend, Thranduil, and to leave you is something I cannot bid myself do. If you should choose to leave Ossiriand, I will follow you.”
“I thank you for your devotion,” Thranduil replied, grasping his friend’s shoulder tightly. “And I am touched by it.”
As the day went on, Thranduil thought about Greenwood. Its presence had been lying heavily on his heart from the day his father, Oropher, had mentioned it. It lured Thranduil, tempted him. Although Ossiriand was a lovely place, Thranduil felt his time might have come to leave it.
He barely tasted the food that night and retired quickly to his chamber. He sat by the window, staring out into the star-studded sky. The dark tops of the trees waved softly in the nighttime breeze.
For six months now Greenwood had enticed him. Since Oropher had brought it up that one fateful day in conversation with his only son. Thranduil smiled slightly, thinking of his father – as wise and as fair as befit their kindred. He lived within Ossiriand, and shared Thranduil’s dream of settling Greenwood. But both of them feared the growing power of the evil Maia Sauron – should they settle the forest, they would have to be prepared to defend it with their lives. A chill went down Thranduil’s back as he thought of the corrupted Ainu and the evil deeds he took such pleasure in performing.
It was time to make a decision. Each day the woods of Ossiriand comforted him less, although as an Elf the green forest should have soothed his mind and heart.
He was going to Greenwood.
Thranduil lay down in his bed at Ossiriand for the last time. He felt strangely calm, now that he had decided. Who would come? Thranduil was well-known and respected in Ossiriand. Surely some of the Elves would accompany him.
“So you have decided?” Aladain said. It wasn’t really a question.
Thranduil nodded wordlessly. Morning was breaking, and the birds had just begun their dawn-time chatter.
“Let me be the first to accompany you, friend,” Aladain said. “Let me e the first to pay fealty to he who will be king of Greenwood.”
Thranduil blinked, surprised at his friend’s words. “Aladain, I go only to live there. I have no designs on a throne or anything of the sort. If we should go, my father will take up the kingship.”
“Perhaps,” Aladain said. “But eventually he will falter, be killed by blade or choose to cross the Sea. And then someone must lead us, guide our steps when they might weaken. Who better than you? You are strong, you are wise. Thranduil, you would make a fine leader, and, if your father should take the throne, one might say you were entitled to it. You are well-versed in the history and lore of our people. Your songs and poems are very fair, as is your voice and your face. Although you do not bear an Elven Ring of Power, you are strong. I would be proud to acknowledge you as my king.”
Thranduil smiled slowly. “Perhaps, Aladain, perhaps. This entire venture is a perhaps. Are you so sure that you would not make a better king?”
“No, friend,” Aladain said. “You would be the finest.”
Thranduil fought back sudden tears, touched by his friend’s words. “You honor me deeply, Aladain Treechild.”
“I have nothing but respect for you, Thranduil Greenleaf of the house of Oropher,” Aladain answered softly. He turned. “I will make it known to all Elves of Ossiriand that Thranduil Greenleaf goes to establish a settlement of our people in the Great Greenwood. If they will, they can leave Ossiriand and journey with him.”
“Do you think Gil-galad will take it amiss?” Thranduil questioned, thinking of the proud and stern Elf-king of Ossiriand.
“No,” Aladain replied confidently. “He is a true king, in that he does not try to govern his people’s souls. If they wish to leave, he will permit them to leave.”
“Do you speak of Greenwood?” a voice asked, pure and melodious as a stream flowing in the spring. A tall Elf, with golden hair, fair of face and light of step, glided up to them and laid a hand on Thranduil’s shoulder. “My son.”
“Father,” Thranduil said, embracing the Elf. “You read us perfectly. We were indeed speaking of Greenwood and my plan to leave.”
Oropher smiled slightly. As with all Elves, his beauty had only grown with time, and now each movement he made was a symphony of grace, each sound of his voice was clearer and purer than a bell, and it was said through Ossiriand that he was one of the fairest Elves ever to honor it.
He tilted his head to one side and gave Thranduil the piercing, intent look the younger Elf knew so well. “So, you have decided. So be it. I shall accompany you.” He sighed. “I only wish that Lithiríel was here.”
Thranduil knew his father’s longing. His mother, fair Lithiríel, had been killed by the arising of the power of Morgoth in Middle-earth, before he had been trapped for all time in the Void. He knew that his father longed for her desperately, and often took long walks through the woods of Ossiriand to be alone with his grief, crying where no one could hear him, never returning until the sun had long been gone from the sky.
When he had taken gracious leave of his father, Thranduil made his way through Ossiriand with Aladain, telling those Elves he met of his plains. He was surprised at how many elected to accompany him, a trust and respect in their ageless faces. As Aladain had predicted, Gil-galad unquestioningly accepted his subjects’ decision to leave, and blessed them with all fortune in their new home.
“We leave tonight,” Thranduil said. His possessions were already packed, his white horse saddle. Aladain was similarly prepared. They sat on a bench in the courtyard, watching as Elves hurried hither and thither to ready themselves for the journey that night. The air was cool about them, and the wind rustled gently through the towering trees. Faintly, Thranduil heard a Laiquendi singing. The hauntingly beautiful sound brought tears to his eyes. This was one part of Ossiriand he would miss dearly.
“Perhaps not,” Aladain said, reading with his usual ease his friend’s thoughts. “A Laiquendi, Elaimar Icestar, has chosen to come with us to Greenwood. There, perhaps, she will sing for us.”
Thranduil turned and saw a tall Laiquendi, clothed in flowing green with a crown of wildflowers upon her streaming rivers of golden hair. Her face was beautifully proportioned, her stunning eyes deep gray, her neck long and slender. In one delicate hand she carried a lute.
Thranduil rose and acknowledged her respectfully. “Elaimar Icestar. I am honored that you shall be accompanying us.”
Elaimar smiled faintly, her fingers lightly touching the strings of the lute. A musical rain sprang from the instrument, as light and sweet as only Elves could play. “I return your greetings cordially, Thranduil Greenleaf. It is my pleasure to come with you and your kin to the Great Forest.”
Turning, she hurried off, her green gown flowing about her feet, accentuating how graceful her movements were.
Aladain grinned at Thranduil. “Not the fairest of her kind, no, but there are few who surpass her loveliness among her people, the Laiquendi.”
Surprised to discover that he was flushing, Thranduil put his hands to his face. Did his feelings appear so obviously? He had thought Elaimar quite attractive, but nothing more.
That evening, as the sun sank, a long procession of Elves cloaked in gray passed through the gates of Ossiriand. Some rode, some walked, some led horses. All carried provisions for their new life in Greenwood. Hoods were pulled up over long hair and fair faces.
Thranduil rode ahead on his white horse, the stallion eager to go wherever its master wished. The Elf sat easily in the saddle, holding the reins with one hand. The stallion’s steps were quick and fiery, carrying Thranduil closer and closer to Greenwood.
Aladain rode up beside him, his white teeth flashing beneath his hood. “So we travel, Thranduil. From the old to the new, from the known to the unknown. It will be a great adventure. We know nothing of this greenwood except a description given by your father. I trust him and you, but we will explore this greenwood for ourselves.
Thranduil only smiled.
Oropher rode up to him, the Elf sitting lightly astride his bay mare. “Thranduil, I feel that we have made the right decision. Here shall be a forest as such the world has never known. The Sindarin Elves shall make it a place of beauty and a joy to all of the Eldalië.”
The ride was long, taking seven days. At the evening of the seventh day, the Elves rode up over a rise and looked down into a vast forest, spreading in every direction as far as the eye could see. The last light of the say glimmered on the trees. Birds sang in their evening chorus. All the Elves could faintly hear the flowing of a stream.
“Greenwood,” Thranduil said, urging his horse on. “Our new home.”
The wood was silent and still, the noise of the hooves of the elves’ horses the only sound among the trees, which were tall and straight. Green leaves fluttered gently in the breeze, the last gasp of the dying day.
Ahead, some especially tall trees loomed. Their branches were thick and sturdy. Perfect for building.
“Come,” Thranduil said. “Rest.”