Recklessness and Reconciliation
Life is a gorgeous, broken gift
(Sleeping At Last: Emphasis)
“Leave none alive!”
The echo of Thranduil’s words rang in Faeldir’s ears as he valiantly stood his ground amidst the elvish army, ready to follow his king to whatever end. He had finally managed to put aside the worries for his brother, keeping them in a somewhat remote corner of his heart. If Amardir could face a pack of orcs all by himself then he was willing to take on an entire horde of them as the soldier he was hoping to be.
Still, it was not what he had expected. It was by far worse, the noise tremendous and the dense clouds of dust wafting through the valley and mingling with an ineffable stench as the battle grew ever fiercer. On and on they pushed through the orcish lines, side by side with the dwarves and the men of Lake-town, intent on preventing the enemy from getting too close to the mountain. Faeldir must have lost count of how many foes attacked him and how many he had cut down, the only thing he was sure of was that he could not allow himself to slack, after all he had promised his brother that he would fight for both of them.
Soon enough it became apparent that the orcs’ strategy was to cut them off from the city, so Thranduil had to turn his back on the mountain and the treasure inside it if he did not want to sacrifice the people that had just escaped the dragon fire and had found shelter in within the ruined city, hoping to recover from their losses.
“Fall back to Dale!”
Loud and clear was the Elvenking’s command despite the insane rumbling of the multitude of voices that raged around Faeldir. Holding on to his sword, he charged in the vanguard of the elven soldiers towards the bridge that spanned the river. Trying to stay close to the king, who had broken into a gallop on his elk, he sped on as fast as he could, finishing off the orcs that had managed to escape the king’s sharp blades. The city gate came into sight, but the Elvenking did not slow down, but rather increased his fierce pace, determined to wipe out as many enemies along the way as he could. Faeldir did not look left nor right, his eyes set on the cantering elk that was relentlessly ploughing through a group of orcs ahead, impaling a whole bunch of them in between his wide antlers and Thranduil cutting off their ugly heads in one wide swing.
Suddenly the elk’s graceful motions stuttered and in front of Faeldir’s eyes the majestic animal first swayed lightly, staggering left and right as Thranduil tried to rein it in. A myriad of hostile arrows brought the elk down to its knees, the massive shape collapsing in a huge heap of brown fur in the middle of the city gate.
Fear clawed at Faeldir’s heart as he leapt over the orcs’ dead bodies barring his way, afraid that the king himself might have been wounded or worse. He struggled to get past the lifeless animal, streams of blood forming small puddles of red around it. Thranduil had swiftly descended from his fallen companion and Faeldir could see him on his knees, trying to regain his poise, a pack of bloodthirsty orcs only waiting to cut him down next.
Faeldir’s contempt for those horrid creatures now turned into blind hatred, knowing how much this animal had meant to the king. Rage spurred him on to rush to Thranduil’s side, notwithstanding the ring of enemies that was closing in now around both of them, more and more orcs streaming towards them from the crooked alleys of Dale and isolating them from the rest of the incoming elven army. Faeldir stood defensively in front of Thranduil and brandished his sword in a menacing way at the advancing orcs.
“You may think yourself victorious in having killed the king’s mount,” he spat at their ugly faces, “but I would advice you not to crow too soon!” Daring and foolish as it might have been it was the only thing his mind could come up with as he was trying to play for time.
“Move aside elfling, you won’t stop us from slaying your king!” cackled a particularly nasty looking specimen. “Or do you really think you can fight us alone?” The whole group now breaking out in derisive laughter at the look of horrified defiance on Faeldir’s face.
“He is not alone.” Thranduil’s voice was cold as ice and full of disdain when Faeldir saw him get to his feet and take a stand beside him.
A wordless nod and a gleam of appreciation in Thranduil’s eyes were enough to boost Faeldir’s confidence and he straightened himself, steading his sword beside the king, whose twin blades were a deadly menace, threatening to cut down anyone who dared to lay a hand on his young soldier.
And so they fought side by side, a synchronised dance of silver blades relentlessly cutting through the ring of enemies. Together they pushed them back, spinning around, ugly bodies collapsing in lifeless heaps around them as their fury carried them on.
And if ever there was a young elf worthy of the word valiant, Faeldir was the one who would with no doubt deserve such praise.
Relief soon came when the rest of the elven army broke through and a multitude of swords and spears were raised beside Faeldir and the king.
The battle though was far from over, but rather increased in fierceness, the men of Lake-town joining in as best as they could in defending their city against the enemy they so thoroughly despised. Many of them ill equipped and untrained in wielding a weapon, they fought with what little means they had, finding courage in their open display of hatred as their battle cries filled the old alleys of Dale. Fear and determination equally present on faces that were mostly either too young or too old to be thrown into this merciless mayhem. Faeldir found one of them looking oddly familiar amongst the crowd that followed Bard, charging past the elves and deeper into the heart of the city. Only that he had exchanged the dark red waistcoat for a makeshift armour of sewn together patches of leather, which fitted snugly around his belly and matched the colour of his thick brown hair and beard. He might have been as far from being a warrior just like the others, but he made up the lack of technique with determined swings of his broad sword at the orcs lunging at him and more often than not his aim was good enough to allow him to keep the nasty opponents at arm’s length.
Faeldir did not tarry in making up his mind, but hurried after the group of men as they made their way into the upper parts of Dale. This was just another opportunity to prove himself as an able warrior, something he felt he dearly longed for, the compelling reward for his heroic deeds stretching like a golden light on the horizon before him, inciting the young elf to even more daring deeds of bravery. If he had been able to come to the king’s defence it should be a much simpler task to watch out for Odmund. In a way Faeldir could not quite explain to himself, he felt responsible for the farrier’s life. After all he was the one who had provided the horse for Amardir and if he could not do anything about his brother he could at least try to make sure Odmund would live to see Silvermane return to him.
Orcs were pouring in from the lower levels and to Faeldir’s terror he could now even clearly see the massive outline of a troll looming over everyone and ploughing his way through the narrow streets, swinging his immense club with evil delight and smashing people by the dozen if they dared cross his path.
Tall like an undersized mountain on legs and a skin that resembled greyish rocks overgrown with patches of dirty green moss and lichen it looked like something out of those stories his older brother used to tell him in the halls of Mirkwood when he was a little elfling, sending pleasant chills down his spine as he listened with wide eyes. A shiver ran down his back indeed now, but it was far from pleasant with mortal danger so close at hand. Faeldir increased his pace as it became clear that the troll was heading directly towards the group of Odmund.
It trampled closer at a remarkable speed, leaving a wake of devastation behind him, and whatever buildings had remained standing were now crumbling and burying all those beneath them that could not flee fast enough. Odmund as the rearguard had turned around, startled by the sudden increase in destruction behind them, and almost dropped his sword as he glimpsed the giant shape approaching him. He stood rooted to the spot, unable to move and his eyes wide in horror. Most of their group had been able to squeeze themselves into a narrow passageway that connected one alley with another, finding shelter at the last moment. A young man was shouting in panic and gesticulating wildly as he tried to pull Odmund away.
“Move! Don’t stay behind!”
He grabbed Odmund’s arm in a frantic attempt to get him to move further into the archway and away from certain death.
But Odmund only stared in disbelief at what came at him, muttering to himself words that only he could understand, and finally his comrade had to accept the futility of his effort and turned away, but not without calling back over his shoulder:
“You better search for cover or this will be the end of you! Stubborn old man!” And with a disgruntled shake of his head he was gone.
As the troll was thrashing along like a crazed beast Faeldir jumped nimbly over rubble and dead bodies alike hoping to take on the troll before it reached Odmund. Horrible grunting noises filled the air and the ground trembled beneath the heavy feet that were roughly the size of stone slabs.
He could see Odmund still motionless, seemingly resigned to his fate, people around him shouting in high pitch voices as they scattered away and mothers pulling their children towards the nearby archways for shelter. The farrier did not even make an attempt in raising his sword to protect himself, the hopelessness in his eyes spurring Faeldir on to make his move. He reached for the silver dagger that hung from a leather scabbard around his hip, a gift from his brother of which he was particularly proud. Not only was it beautifully crafted, but it was also lightweight with a blade that was both thin and extremely sharp. Perfect for what he was about to attempt.
And in a moment of recklessness and courage and probably a considerable amount of foolishness he flung himself at the giant mass beside him, his elvish light-footedness aiding him to his advantage as he propelled himself upwards. He reached for the rags, which the troll wore draped around his bulky chest, to hold on to. The troll swayed slightly and came to a sudden halt, sluggishly turning his misshaped head around to find the source of the nuisance on his back which he could not quite locate. In the momentary confusion Faeldir hoisted himself even higher, reaching out with his right hand for the clunky set of rusty chains hanging from the troll’s neck. If he could get a good grip around them, he could aim with his dagger for the vulnerable artery this monster surely must possess. The stench emanating from under him and the coarse and rugged skin beneath his fingers made him shudder with revulsion, but the thought of Odmund and his brother kept him in focus and he crawled still higher.
In the meantime the element of surprise was gone since the troll had realised that someone was clinging to his back and he was beginning to move around furiously, all the while uttering unintelligible grunts. Faeldir had to evade the giant saucers that were the troll’s hands attempting to strike him and brush him off like a bothersome fly. He got a better hold of the chains and swung along the troll’s broad back, and suddenly from the corner of his eye he could see Odmund brandishing his sword and yelling at the top of his lungs: “I am coming! Hold on!”
It seemed that the sight of Faeldir attempting to take on the troll all by himself had woken Odmund from his trance-like state and risen his spirit. With his blade held high, swinging it surprisingly agile above his head, he charged at the giant enemy. Tackling the troll from front and back they soon got him thoroughly confused as he struggled to make up his mind if he was going to either clobber Odmund to smithereens or squish Faeldir to a pulp with his bare hands. It was a difficult decision that occupied all of the troll’s minute brain, so Faeldir seized his chance and pulling himself further up on the rattling chains towards the massive shoulder he managed to position the dagger right between the multiple folds of the troll’s wobbling neck.
He needed to act fast now.
The troll had risen his club, ready to deal a deadly blow, but Odmund pressed himself against the nearest wall beside him, evading the hit and the club smashed the ground instead.
Now was the moment to close in for the kill.
In a fraction of a second Faeldir buried the blade up to the hilt in the troll’s neck and a deafening roar like from a wounded beast spilled from his lopsided mouth and echoed through the narrow alleyway. Faeldir clung to the chains and pulled with all his might to retrieve his dagger, but the troll was staggering backwards and barging against the walls as he howled in pain, making it nearly impossible for Faeldir to get a good grip on the hilt.
Come on, he said to himself.
Just a bit more. He yanked stronger. Almost, but still not enough.
He tried twisting it, but the troll’s body seemed indeed to be made of stone rather than flesh, so the blade would not budge easily.
Amardir will kill me if I lose this dagger, he thought desperately as he fumbled with all the strength he could muster.
One more pull and he could feel it almost come lose, but then the troll began tumbling backwards. He seemingly had lost control over his legs after Odmund had dealt a blow at his shins. Faeldir looked behind him and the nearby wall had come dangerously close. He had to jump off if he did not want to be turned to mush in between a dead and a living piece of rock.
But not yet, not without the dagger!
He yanked once more while the troll swayed like a drunken man, his wailing deafening Faeldir’s ears, and finally the blade came lose!
“Yes!” he exclaimed in joy.
But then his breath was knocked from his lungs by the force of the impact that hit him. Searing pain shot through his chest when the bones of his ribcage cracked as he was smashed against the wall and then the troll’s massive body came crashing towards him like a rock.
A gasp of agony escaped his mouth and then everything went black and silent and the last thing he remembered were his fingers closing tightly around the hilt of his dagger.
Unaware of Faeldir’s misfortune just a few streets away, Thranduil made his way through the heaps of dead bodies, the whole extent of the massacre now unfolding in front of his eyes. Too many lives had been lost already and he was no closer to reclaiming his necklace as the mountain still lay under fierce attack. They had been able to secure wide areas of Dale with the combined effort of Bard’s men, pushing the orcs back outside into the valley, but the gems he had come to win back still eluded his grasp.
Doubts about the rightfulness of his quest began to prey on his conscience with obnoxious insistence, the words of Elhadron, Amardir and even Gandalf coming to his mind. Maybe the treasure he so much desired was not buried in that mountain after all. He felt that his heart pulled him back to Mirkwood, back to where he had left it behind, with this strange girl that had broken through his shields like no one before. And while he was fighting a battle over those shiny jewels, she was there alone fighting her own battles in a world she still barely knew. He could not even give himself a clear reason anymore why he had been so adamant about her staying in the palace. Was it really because he worried about her safety? Or was he too afraid to admit his own feelings for her and rushing into this quest was a welcome escape from having to face what his heart had whispered to him in many lonely nights? The answer was right there if he only listened closely, but his pride did not allow him to give in just yet.
With a resigned sigh he tore his eyes away from the dead soldiers around him, their blank eyes only reminding him of another worry that weighed heavy on his heart, which was the uncertainty surrounding his son’s fate. Amardir had not come back yet and for all he knew Legolas could have even perished in Gundabad. But this was a thought so terrible he quickly pushed it back into the darkest corner of his mind. Maybe he had returned and joined the fighting without him knowing?
The distinct cantering of hooves cut through the king’s gloomy thoughts as he moved past the lifeless bodies, the tension in his chest nearly unbearable as he silently prayed not to find his own son among the fallen ones.
A determined voice called out to him from behind and when he reluctantly pulled his eyes away from his macabre search he saw Amardir on Silvermane galloping with haste towards him. The surging joy at this welcome sight drowned in a cold wave of disappointment when he noticed that he had come back alone, no sign of his son or Tauriel beside him. A sense of foreboding crept like a stealthy shadow into his heart, but he was intent on not letting his distress float to the surface.
Amardir brought the horse to a halt beside the king, dismounting hurriedly and addressing Thranduil with a curt bow. Thranduil greeted Amardir with his usual unwavering gaze, his voice commanding and calm.
“What news do you bring from Gundabad? I see that you returned alone. Why are my son and Tauriel not with you?”
A mixture of concern and apprehension dawned on Amardir’s face. “My lord, I did find your son and Tauriel on their way back from Gundabad, both of them unharmed. But I am afraid that the news they brought with them are of the rather unsettling kind.”
The brief flicker of relief on Thranduil’s face turned into a concerned frown at Amardir’s next words.
“It seems that there is another orc army under the lead of Bolg marching on us from the North. Legolas and Tauriel saw them emerge from Gundabad.” He tried to steady his voice, the horror of what would soon be upon them casting a shadow on his eyes. “They are bringing more fell beasts with them, legions of bats, darkening the skies as they fly overhead their army.”
“I see. This is a most unpleasant albeit not completely unforeseen complication.” Thranduil knitted his brows before returning his gaze to Amardir. “Still, this does not explain the absence of my son. Where did he go?” He would have to deal with those unnerving foes soon enough, but first he needed to have clear his son’s whereabouts.
Amardir hesitated for a moment, anticipating a disapproving reaction from his king at what he was about to reveal.
“Ravenhill,” he said with a meaningful nod and lowering his voice to nearly a whisper, “that is where they went.”
“Ravenhill?” Thranduil repeated, raising one eyebrow in scepticism. “Are you sure of that?”
Whatever Amardir had or had not prepared as explanation, it was cut off by the arrival of someone not altogether unexpected.
“King Thranduil!” boomed Gandalf’s sonorous voice, his distinct grey figure emerging suddenly from one of the lower archways and Bilbo trotting like a loyal shadow behind him, looking utterly overwhelmed and perplexed by the mere chaos into which he had tumbled. The wizard possessed an unmatched ability to appear on cue seemingly out of nowhere, ready to give unsolicited advice to all those that were in within hearing.
Thranduil turned around slowly, his look of annoyance barely concealed behind a strained sigh. “Ah, Mithrandir, always on time, aren’t you?” Without giving Gandalf time to answer he continued matter-of-factly. “But I must warn you: unless you do have further information as to what drove my son and Tauriel towards Ravenhill, I do not have the time for another lengthy conversation right now.”
Unperturbed by this less than warm welcome Gandalf greeted the Elvenking with a jovial smile. “If you would just briefly lend me your ear, I believe I can be of help.”
“How so?” Thranduil inquired, the doubtful frown on his face turning into a small smile as he bestowed a benign look upon Bilbo, who looked even more out of place in this forsaken battlefield than he had in the king’s tent. Still, beneath the distraught expression on the hobbit’s face, his eyes shone with gratitude that, against all odds, he had made it this far alive.
“Master Baggins, I am relieved to see that you are quite unharmed.”
Bilbo replied with a wry smile and a curt bow, swiftly sheathing his bloodstained blade in the presence of the Elvenking.
“Yes, mostly intact indeed,” he said with a nervous chuckle, “but I have to admit that I am less than fond of all this blunt violence.”
“Well, I am afraid that this will not be over any time soon. As Amardir informed me we are expecting another orc army to attack us from the North.”
“This is why I need to speak with you,” Gandalf interjected, “Thorin has gone with his most trusted warriors to Ravenhill to take out Azog and they will be sorely outnumbered if no help comes their way.”
The realisation of what his son’s intentions had been began to dawn upon Thranduil and for a moment the conflicting emotions tearing at his heart became apparent on his face. He clenched his jaw as he turned again to face Amardir. “So this is the reason why my son did not come back with you.” It was a statement, not a question, still Amardir obliged with a dutiful nod.
“Yes, my lord. I have been meaning to tell you that they wished to help the dwarf and his nephews rather than return to Dale.”
Thranduil’s face was a frozen mask, a king’s anger and a father’s worry struggling inside him as he spoke again. “He knows very well that I would have never given sanction to this! They are not the dwarves’ rescue party. I have spent enough elvish blood in defence of this accursed land.”
“Do not be too hard on your son,” Gandalf rose to speak, “he is only trying to do what he thinks is the right thing.”
“You mean what Tauriel deems the right thing. And what could easily get them both killed, you forgot to mention that.” Thranduil shot Gandalf an icy glare. How could he condone his son’s insolence?
“That is why you should be sending your men up there to join them and help the dwarves. This battle is far from over and if you leave now, their fates are sealed.”
“With your permission,” Bilbo suddenly chimed in, “if there is still time I will go up to Ravenhill and try to warn Thorin.” He countered Gandalf’s doubtful frown with assurance in his voice. “You know very well that I am agile and nimble and I can go unnoticed if I wish to do so.” Upon seeing what he thought to be a condescending smile on the Elvenking’s face he added “I am not afraid, even if I might look it and I may be small, yes, but that does not mean that I cannot also have courage.”
“I have never doubted your level of courage, Master Baggins, even if it sounds to me bordering on recklessness what you are suggesting.”
Thranduil tilted his head sideways and eyed Bilbo curiously, still trying to determine if his suspicion concerning the hobbit’s remarkable skills in the art of disguise would anytime soon be confirmed.
Gandalf’s stern voice cut through his thoughts like the rumble of a nearing thunder.
“Not just recklessness, but folly! You will be seen and killed. I will not allow it!”
“And I will not discuss this with you and you will not talk me out of this,” Bilbo pouted, putting on his most austere face and wiggling his finger in front of the wizard’s face. “Not this time. It is the least I can do for my friends.”
Gandalf squinted and opened his mouth to form another objection, but thought better of it and simply closed it again, muttering something about ‘obstinate’ and ‘hobbits’ into his beard. He had not quite counted with the willpower of hobbits, which at times could apparently rival the dwarves’. Or maybe Bilbo had simply spent too much time with the dwarves and their obstinacy was starting to rub off on him.
Whatever is was, the smug smile brought upon Thranduil’s face by Gandalf’s perplexed expression did not escape Bilbo. He smiled back briefly just to turn away without any further ado and was soon swallowed by the crowd, or so it seemed.
But there was no time for an awkward silence, Thranduil knew that speed was paramount, and there was little time for council if he wanted to get to Ravenhill and make sure that Dale would not fall into the hands of the orcs. Plans were swiftly made and strategies devised and Amardir was left with detailed instructions on how to proceed.
“You will stay here.” Thranduil concluded their talk. “Look for Feren and make sure the defences hold.”
“Yes, my lord.” Amardir nodded. “Anything else?”
“Make sure Silvermane is returned safely to Odmund. His daughter is still lost, there is no need to add to his already grievous losses.”
“Of course. I will see to it.” He hesitated for a moment. “One more thing though I wish to ask.”
“Yes?” Thranduil’s patience was beginning to wane, as he was hoping to get away quickly.
“Have you seen my brother? I very much would like to know if he is unharmed.” The concern in Amardir’s voice was quite obvious despite his effort to sound as calm as possible.
“He fought valiantly by my side and seemed very eager to prove himself,” Thranduil said with appreciation.
“Yes, that is exactly what I am afraid he is trying to do. He can be quite reckless, you know that as well as I do.” Amardir only managed a strained smile.
“You may go and look for him if that is what you wish to do. As long as you make sure to see to your duties.”
“Thank you my lord,” Amardir said gratefully.
“And what will you do? Where will you go?” The wizard looked curiously at the Elvenking, although by now he surely must have guessed the answer.
“You know very well where I will be going.”
Facing Amardir he said: “You told me where my son has gone,” and turning towards Gandalf he added, “and you told me why he has gone there. I will go to Ravenhill and I will not be coming back without him.”
There was resolve in his voice and in a more nonchalant tone he added “In the meantime you, my dear Mithrandir, might want to call on your own special allies for help against the incoming assault. If it is true what Amardir says, we will need all the help we can get.”
“Yes, a wise thought indeed.” Gandalf nodded in agreement and gave an encouraging pat to Silvermane who had waited patiently beside Amardir to be returned to her owner. The wizard seemed quite pleased with this outcome and with a friendly smile he said to Amardir: “We better get going and prepare ourselves before those nasty orcs surprise us.”
And so Thranduil left the city of Dale behind.
With swift strides he cut through the battlefield, bracing the incoming orcs with unrelenting violence as he made his way back towards the mountain and up the steep slopes that led to Ravenhill, apprehension and hope mingling in his heart as he hurriedly ascended the roughly hewn stairs. A dense flurry of snowflakes swallowed the clamour that echoed through the valley beneath him, wisps of white vapour emerging from hidden crevices and ghostly shadows dancing around the grey boulders like eerie spectres.
Something did not feel right. It was quiet, too quiet for his liking. What if he came too late? He would never forgive himself if his son had been injured or worse. He forbade his thoughts to go any further and sped up his steps instead. Instinctively he tightened the grip around his swords as he increased his pace, the possibility of an ambush lingering around every hidden corner. Thick clouds shrouded the desolate towers, the snow that had begun to pile up painted with red and black, the knot in his stomach tightening at the sight of every lifeless body he passed by.
Please let it not be him, was all he could think of as he took another flight of stairs, his cloak caught in an icy gust of wind and billowing behind him like a black banner.
Dark and unpleasant loomed the tunnels of this ruined fortress, outlines of corpses filling the narrow passageways with bizarre shadows. Jagged shapes stuck out in odd angles, but nothing moved, bodies as dead as the stone on which they had collapsed seemed to be the only inhabitants of this forsaken place. His mood darkened with every step he advanced into the unknown. But somewhere in this labyrinth of crumbled walls there had to be his son and Tauriel and he would not leave this place until he found them, either way. He held on to the hope of finding both of them alive, although faced by the sheer amount of dead bodies strewn across the entire fortress he had to force himself to not let his confidence dwindle.
There, another turn, another twisted staircase, and still no sign of his son, only more bodies frozen in death and streams of red winding themselves like meandering veins through the blemished blanket of white. He turned left into a crooked hallway under the main tower, which eventually fanned out into several other passageways, his steps echoing softly in the darkness as he reached the cavernous centre of this gloomy area. His eyes on the ground, he quickly scanned the bodies, plump shapes of grey in the ever darkening hallway, his heart in a constant loop of relief and despair as he walked by them one by one.
Not him, he repeated to himself over and over again, not my son.
But where was he then? Why was he not here?
This could only mean one thing.
He needed a moment to collect himself. His feet wouldn’t carry him any further, terrified of what he might find. The worry about his son had taken over all his thoughts and he was not being reasonable anymore.
He sank against the wall and buried his head in his hands, hope beginning to fade with every minute trickling away, the proud Elvenking bowed with grief, convinced that his son was lost indeed.
A wave of hopelessness broke through the impenetrable armour of the fearless warrior as he closed his eyes, the shield of self-control crumbling beneath the all-consuming fear for his son’s life. And then the haunting images of his own father dying in his arms flooded his mind, an overwhelming sensation of emptiness washing over him as he suddenly saw himself clutching at his son’s lifeless body instead. The mere thought of losing his child pierced him like an icy dagger, the cold creeping into the very corners of his heart as he stood on the brink of letting himself fall into the abyss of despair.
He bit his knuckles to stifle a sob that welled up inside him, his mind lost in the nightmares of his own imagination. The icy grip around his heart turned into a delirious fever, a scorching heat laying bare the old wounds of dragon fire as the magic that concealed them burned away in the blazing fire of his emotional turmoil. The all too familiar sting of sharp pain rushed through his veins and he had to hold on to the wall behind him to steady himself. His breath was shallow and his fingers trembling, searching for support along the rugged surface as he fought the flames that consumed him from within. He stared into utter darkness when his left eye went blind and he feared to crumble beneath the pain that boiled in his blood.
Always had he been able to pull himself together again and push back the darkness that threatened to swallow him when the fire returned. There had always been something to hold on to, something that kept him going. But now things were different. He had lost so much already, but at least his son had been there. And now he was gone too. What reason was there to keep on living?
Why should he fight the fire? Why should he not just give in to the seductive murmurs of the shadows that lured him into the realm of eternal oblivion? He was tired, so tired of fighting. Fighting for ages, fighting against the darkness, against a foe that had taken away everyone he loved. A foe that seemed to always win no matter how much he fought back. He did not have the strength anymore, there was only so much even an Elvenking could endure.
Another wave of pain shot through his body like lightning, sending him staggering backwards and instinctively he reached for the hilt of his sword. His fingers closed one by one around the soothingly cool surface of the metal. There was only one more deed he must ask of his loyal weapon.
He needed to end this now. End the pain and the suffering; once and for all.
From the depths of his clouded mind he heard his son’s voice calling out to him through his own delirious haze.
“Yes, iôn-nín, I will be there with you,” he whispered blindly into the darkness.
Thranduil unsheathed his sword with trembling fingers, the searing pain that seemed to burn him from inside out rendering his motions shaky and erratic.
“Ada!” There it was again, only closer now. “What on all Arda are you doing?”
It could not be real. How could it? His son was gone.
He struggled to see, but he had already descended too far into the darkness that was welcoming him.
“Father, please stop this, whatever it is you are doing!”
And then there was a firm hand pulling his own away from the sword.
“Legolas?” Was this another feverish vision mocking him? “Is that really you?” His heart did not dare to believe just yet, but the warmth of his son’s fingers around his own slowly pulled him out of his misery, the flames inside him receding, the pain ebbing away.
“Yes, I am here with you.”
“I could not find you! I thought I had lost you! I though you were —,” he started, but then his voice failed him.
He searched for his son’s eyes in the darkness, and as the foggy veil began to lift he saw their familiar crystal blue staring at him in shock at his emotional state.
Before Legolas could say anything else Thranduil flung his arms around him and pulled him into a tight embrace, holding on to his only child like the most precious treasure on all Arda. Startled at first at this unexpected display of affection Legolas stood motionless, his father’s arms wrapped around him, but then he gave in to the overwhelming sensation of comfort and safety and closed his arms around his father in return.
An incredible wave of relief rushed through Thranduil as he felt his son alive and well in his arms.
For how long they stood in this wordless embrace they could not tell, but it seemed to both of them that it was something long overdue.