Until the end of days
The crowd was silent, the atmosphere tense and almost unreal. It was a mixture of disbelief and rage and also sorrow and the square was filled with elves, most of them members of the court and some servants. They all stared at the ellon who stood there held by two guards, he was shivering so bad they all saw it and the guards could hear the clattering of his teeth. He looked terrible, his back covered in blood and he wore only a pair of rather dirty pants. The shivering was part because of the freezing cold and part because of fear and the fact that the gashes across his back already were infected and he was running a fever. He was gasping for air, trembling and barely able to stand on his feet. It was unreal, it couldn't be happening, he couldn't believe it and his mind was racing.
The king stood there and he looked so calm, so very majestic but everybody could see that his eyes were bloodshot and he was pale. Some couldn't believe that he would let this happen but they all knew that he was obliged to follow the law, nobody was above it, not even his own son. It was such a tragedy, they all found it hard to believe that it was true but it was, the evidence was overwhelming and so there was no escape. They all knew what he had done.
He stood there and knew that he was about to die, that they would kill him but he was innocent, or was he? He didn't know, that was the most terrible thing. He couldn't remember anything and he had tried time and time again to force his mind to produce a memory, anything. To no prevail and now he was facing the end, he felt tears flowing down his cheeks and he couldn't stop them, even if he tried. He was so weak, so shaken by it all. He had lost all of his haughty arrogance, all of his confidence. It couldn't be real, it wasn't happening, but it was.
He remembered the trial, but only pieces of it, as if his mind tried to protect itself by shutting out the most terrible things, he remembered their eyes though, filled with disbelief and then scorn and anger, disgust. Guilty they had all said, he didn't have to hear the words they were speaking, the sentence was already made before he even entered the room. And yet he couldn't believe it, he just couldn't. He hadn't done it, it was impossible, how could he have done something so awful? He should have remembered if he had?!
He remembered being tethered to a pole and flogged, the pain had been just awful but the feeling of betrayal even worse, the feeling of confusion. Why didn't they help him? Why didn't they believe him?! He was telling them the truth, couldn't they see that he wasn't lying? It had broken him, his heart felt like stone, like an open wound within his chest and when they dragged him back to the cell he had been unable to speak at all. It couldn't be real.
His father had come to the cell that morning, he hadn't noticed at first that there was someone there outside of the bars, staring at him. He was so weak, trembling with fear and pain and he had been unconscious for hours. The loss of blood so great and the loss of faith and hope even greater. His father was crying, it was such a bizarre sight, he had never seen his father cry before, not even at the Dagorlad. He had tried to get up, his limbs didn't seem to obey him, he felt disconnected somehow, like he wasn't really there. His father had gasped and wiped tears of his face with his sleeve, staring at the wall. " I am so sorry son, I am so very very sorry. I wish it was different, I wish I could believe you but I can't, the evidence is undeniable."
He had managed to make a croaking sound. " Ada, I didn't do it, please, I didn't"
Oropher sighed. " I hear you, perhaps you believe that, but we have seen the truth. And there is no running away from it. Not even you are above the law Thran, you will pay for what you did. Even if it breaks my heart."
Thranduil whimpered, he felt dizzy, sick. The sun was rising and he knew what that meant. Oropher turned around, he could barely hear his voice anymore. " For all that it is worth, I have loved you son, by Eru how I have loved you. And with the one as my witness, I never wished for it to end thus. "
He wanted to scream in denial, to beg his father to stay, just to stand there so he wouldn't be so alone but Oropher walked away from the cell slowly and Thranduil heard a few silent last words. " Farewell, you are no longer my heir, no longer blood of my blood. I will never speak your name again."
Thranduil tried to get up again but he couldn't, his head was spinning and he couldn't see because of the tears. Why was this happening? How could it be happening? He understood naught of it all, it was impossible? Or was it? The doubt was the most terrible thing about it all, perhaps they were right, perhaps he had done it? The evidence was overwhelming and he knew it, if he really had done it then…. Then he deserved it, then he really ought to die for his sin, it was just that he couldn't believe this about himself. He just couldn't. He was once more alone in his cell, in just an hour they would lead him to the square where he would be executed and an hour was such a short time but somehow it felt like eternity, because it gave him time to think and remember.
It had started four days earlier, with the feast Oropher had given in celebration of the betrothal of his daughter. Beriah was radiant that night and nobody had seen anyone more happy than her, her betrothed had been more than happy too, he was a very high ranking officer and they had courted for several years. The feast was lavish and grand and there were elves drinking and laughing and having fun everywhere, it had been an awesome evening but it was to end in tragedy.
Thranduil and his two brothers Alagir and Daerion had been having a very good time, they had been drinking and flirting and dancing and Thranduil had teased them both in a rather friendly manner. Both were eying this one elleth and both were way too shy to approach her.
Alagir and Daerion were younger than Thranduil, they had barely come of age when the war of the last alliance claimed so many lives and they had grown up with war and darkness. It had sort of affected them in many ways and it was great to watch them let their hair down and forget about their worries. Thranduil had fought alongside his father in the horrible battles and he was the crown prince, but he was infamous for behaving in a manner that was far from princely and not exactly mature. He was too fond of partying and females and he had no sense of propriety.
Oropher had perhaps spoiled him when he was just an elfling, he was used to getting away with everything and he was also used to others giving in to him and giving him whatever he wanted at all times.
He had fought well during the war, and was regarded as the best of the warriors that remained after the war but his behavior hadn't changed much. His uncle who was Oropher's advisor had often claimed that it would end in a disaster if Oropher didn't do anything to discipline the ellon. Thranduil had never liked his uncle, he was Thranduil's mother's brother and very fond of meddling in the politics of the realm. Thranduil had always regarded him as an ass kisser of epic proportions and he had no respect for the ellon whatsoever.
The night had been very beautiful with a clear sky filled with stars and Thranduil had been drinking a lot. He had been flirting a lot too, he was renowned for his sexual appetite and also for treating the females with a sort of disrespect that made his father very angry indeed. Thranduil could get anyone he wanted and that had made him indifferent to the wishes and needs of females in general. They were just there, readily available and he just had to smile and say some sweet words and then they were all ready to spread their legs for him. Because of this he had no respect for other ellith than those of his family and he usually never bedded anyone more than once. He was like a bee in a field of flowers and he had never thought about the broken hearts he was leaving behind him.
The females bored him, that was the truth, he had in fact also bedded ellyn and he didn't see anything wrong with that either. He should be allowed to indulge himself, he was after all the crown prince. The ellith all saw a crown and a title and it was that they were after, not him, not really. It had made him bitter and he just used them, turned the games they played against them. It was wrong and it hurt many but he didn't care, he had never met anyone worthy of his respect, never.
He could remember some moments from the evening, blurred and strangely distant but they were memories. He had talked to his mother and congratulated his blushing sister, then he had had some more wine and he had wandered off to mingle with the guests. And he had seen an elleth he had never seen before and tried to talk to her but she had sort of shied away from him and then things got really blurred. He remembered having more wine, a very dark and tasty red which had left a peculiar taste in his mouth but he hadn't really disliked it, it was just unusual. After that he could just remember having talked to that very pretty dark haired elleth and then it all disappeared and the next thing he remembered was waking up in his own bed, ripped out of his sleep by someone grasping onto him rather violently.
The party had been going on for many hours, there were still marry making going on, some were dancing or singing and others were gathered in groups chatting away and the atmosphere was relaxed and peaceful. Oropher and his queen were engaged in a very interesting conversation regarding the annual collection of nuts which the master of the royal household wanted to postpone due to a very cold summer and Oropher had been on the brink of agreeing when there was a scream coming from the entrance to the palace. All heads turned and they saw an elleth running like she was being chased by orcs, she was almost naked and bloody and her eyes were wide with fear and pain.
A guard had managed to catch her and she just screamed, terrible keening wails that cut through everybody. She was a mess, she had a huge bruise around one eye, and several cuts and bruises elsewhere too. She had bite marks on her neck and chest and her left wrist was probably broken, she had lost several teeth and the blood covering her thighs and torn dress told the rest of the tale. The elves just stood there in shock, nobody really knew what to do or how to react. The elleth just collapsed, she lay there shivering and gasping and the healers came running, the leader bent down, touched her cheek and she let out a piercing wail once more. Everybody cringed and the king just stood there, in disbelief and with a terrible feeling of something being awfully wrong. The queen was in shock too, she just clung onto him and Alagir and Daerion came running, confused and scared.
The healer shook the young elleth gently. " Easy, what has happened? Please, tell me!"
The elleth sobbed, she was a pathetic sight with the blood and the bruises and nobody had seen an elleth looking that distraught before. " I…I was talking with him, and he wanted to bed me…but I didn't want to…and …and…"
She screamed again. " He just didn't listen to me, he …he took me anyhow"
The healer was pale, he stared at the king who stared back, eyes dark and almost distant. They had all seen Thranduil trying to flirt with this elleth earlier that evening, and they had seen her turn him down over and over again.
The guard tried to keep his head calm in spite of it all. "Who? And where? Where did he take you?"
She gasped for air, her eyes rolling in her head, she looked as she was about to pass out. "He…he dragged me into his room. He…he hit me and I couldn't…he was so much stronger than me… Oh Eru it hurt"
She shuddered and lifted her hand to cover her breasts and they all saw a dark bruise on her lower arm, as if she had tried to shield herself from a strike. It had a very strange pattern, as if the one hitting her had worn a ring and the ring had been rather large with a sort of elongated shape in the middle. Oropher made a strange sound seeing it, he took a step backwards, as if he was about to drop to his knees. Only one person wore a ring like that, he just knew it, this was it, his son had gone too far this time.
The guard stared at her, he couldn't really believe this but she keened again and started rocking back and forth. " He said I had to obey since he was the prince, but I didn't want to do it, I didn't and I told him that but he didn't listen…Oh Eru, I am so sorry!"
Oropher was shaking all over, in total disbelief and shock and the queen was pale. Her brother came running, he stared at the elleth then he obviously tried to get the situation under control. "Guards, escort the king and the queen to their rooms, make sure they are safe."
He turned to Alagir and Daerion. " Daerion, get your sister to her rooms, and then make sure that the gates gets closed. Alagir, come with me. We are going to your brother's room, this has to be investigated."
They all hurried to follow the orders and the healers carried the elleth to the infirmary, she was becoming more and more hysterical and the healer had never seen anything like that before. She had been badly beaten and there was no doubt about her having been raped, her injuries were rather apparent. Alagir followed his uncle towards Thranduil's room with several guards in tow behind them. They just burst into the room and all stopped, staring with disbelief at the scene in front of them. Thranduil lay across the bed, naked and on his stomach, there was blood everywhere and the sheets were smeared with it. He was snoring slightly and the place stank of wine. There were several empty bottles by the bed and they saw what had to be remains of the elleth's dress on the floor, he had apparently torn the garment completely apart.
Alagir let out a gasp and his uncle swore, he gestured towards the guards. " Grasp him!"
The guards were just as much in shock as they were, they hesitated for a few seconds, then they ran to the bed and grasped the prince by his arms, pulled him out of the bed. He was bloody and there were scratch marks on his skin in several places and he gasped and blinked and didn't appear to understand anything at all. Alagir could just stand there and watch, he couldn't believe it. He just couldn't. His brother could at times be an arrogant ass hole and he would get furious if anyone tried to deny him the things he wanted but this? Oh Eru no, not this! Thranduil was obviously very drunk and unable to understand the situation, the guards dragged him away and Alagir just stood there. His uncle patted him on the back with a strange strained pale smile. " Go to your father Alagir, he needs you now, and so does your mother. You have to be strong now, for us all."
Alagir just blinked, he didn't quite understand until the reality of the situation struck him like a hammer. If Thranduil indeed had raped this elleth then…Oh Valar, he knew the penalty for rape, and since he was the next heir in line that meant that he would be… No, gods no, he didn't want this, not like this, never.
The palace was in an uproar, everybody was in shock and the rumors were flying around like a swarm of wasps. Thranduil was put in a cell and nobody was allowed to speak to him and the royal family were in complete and utter shock. The healer managed to calm the elleth down and she did confirm that it was Thranduil, that he had raped her while being drunk. Oropher just collapsed when he heard that and the queen passed out. The palace had become a very somber place by the morrow, it was very quiet and almost sinister and nobody dared to raise their voices. Nobody really dared to believe it, that the prince had raped that elleth but he had, there was no doubt about it. They all knew the penalty for rape, but would he get off the hook since he after all was royalty?
Thranduil hadn't understood anything when he woke up in that cell, his head hurt, he felt sore and cold and he couldn't remember a darn thing. At first he thought it had to be some sort of a prank although a very poor one, then the guards told him although they had been forbidden to speak, they just respected his skills as a warrior and he had saved them both during the long war. He couldn't believe it, he refused to believe it. He roared in disbelief, commanded to be let out and slowly, very slowly he started to realize that it was real, that it was true, that he had done something absolutely horrible. He had been given some food and drink and a pair of pants, that was all. He hungered for some company, for anyone to come to him and say that of course they believed him, for course he hadn't done it. But they never came…
He was so cold, so alone and so in despair, he felt like an animal trapped in a cage, ready to do anything to get out of there. He couldn't understand at all, had he really done something that awful? He had never forced himself upon an elleth before, yes, he got angry if they turned him down but never to such an extent? He had been drunk alright but he had been drunk before too and he hadn't raped anyone because of that. He didn't understand, sweet Eru it couldn't be true!
He just sat there in the cell, feeling completely miserable and utterly lost. When the night fell and it got dark he wept, he couldn't let the guards see his tears but they did hear him and perhaps they did feel some sympathy for him after all for one left a small candle burning, just a tiny flicker of light.
The next morning the council was gathered to discuss what they were to do about it, it was a trial but there was no doubt about the result. The elleth was almost unconscious, she was hysterical once more but told the entire tale once again, of how he had hunted her the entire evening and how he had been unable to accept that she didn't want to sleep with him.
Nobody had problems believing that, they all knew of his reputation regarding females. The guards told everybody what they had seen in the room, the sheets were displayed in all their horror, the elleth confirmed that yes, she had been a pure maiden before he so brutally robbed her of her innocence and the ring he had been wearing were compared with her bruises and it was a perfect match.
Thranduil was brought before the council too, he was shivering with both rage and confusion and fear and tried to remain calm, knew that it was his only chance but his own doubt became too great, too strong. He broke down in front of his father's stern and sorrow filled gaze, confirmed that yes, he had tried to pursue the elleth earlier that evening but he couldn't remember anything more than that. He was so afraid, so terribly so, and so ashamed for the grief he had brought upon his family. His mother had locked herself into her rooms and refused to speak to anyone and his sister was just crying. Alagir and Daerion were in disbelief and they had been weeping too, he could see it.
His personal servant Galion stood there, the usually jovial face drawn and empty, the eyes distant. Thranduil tried to explain, tried to come up with all sorts of explanations but they all fell to the ground like dead birds, they all rung hollow, untrue. He broke down in tears when the king in a thin and broken voice told everybody what his fate was to be, flogging and then beheading the day after. Some couldn't really believe that the king had done it, sentenced his own son to death like that. But it proved that he was strong, that he was just and that he didn't let anyone get away with crimes.
Thranduil had been in shock when they dragged him out and flogged him, his mind a blur and his body felt like it wasn't even his own flesh and blood. It wasn't until later when he was back in the cold cell that he really felt the pain and it made him whimper and moan and for the first time since he was an elfling he was crying out for his mother, desperate for the comfort of her arms. But she didn't come, nobody came, not even the healer.
As his fever rose he started to hallucinate and he saw awful images, things so terrible they made him scream like a child. He started to believe that yes, he had done it, he had raped that elleth, he was guilty and this was his just punishment. He was seeing Lord Namo and begged him for mercy, he sent sobbing prayers to the one, ended up on the dirty floor in a heap of shivering limbs and tears. In the end he passed out.
He thought that his brothers perhaps had visited once but he wasn't sure, and he knew that he wouldn't see his mother again, ever. It was terrible, it made him lose it. His father's final words were almost as bad and he didn't try to protest at all as they chained him and dragged him out to the square. The crowd was so silent, so eerily so and he heard that some wept. He didn't know for who they wept, it couldn't be for him most surely. The chief of the guard pushed him into the middle of the open square, a block was made ready and the ground was covered with straw, the sight almost made him swoon. He gasped for air, tried to breathe, tried to hold his head up high and at least die like a prince but he couldn't, he was too afraid. All he could think about was his mother and he whimpered. " Nana…please, I am so sorry…"
His uncle hawked, broke the silence, he stared down at the ground. " My fellow elves, I am very sorry to inform you that the victim of this horrendous crime have passed away, the healer found her this morning in her bed, she had taken her own life with poison."
There was a gasp from the crowd and Thranduil felt his knees shiver, they were ready to give out on him. All he could see was that block, and the axe that stood leaned up against it. He had no strength left, absolutely none at all. He just hoped that the executioner was a good one, that it wouldn't hurt. If he really had done it he knew that he would face damnation also on the other side, but he didn't care, all he could think about was the hurt he had caused his family.
He was forced down, had to kneel in the dirty straw and it just became too much for him, he let out a terrified wail and he felt to his shame that he did lose control of his bladder and pissed himself, like a child. There was silence, everybody was frowning and looking towards the entrance to the hallway where the headsman had been waiting. What took him so long? Thranduil was close to passing out, he had been close to death before, while fighting but this was nothing like it, he hadn't known then when death would touch him. He wasn't ashamed to weep like a baby, he was so cold, so terribly cold.
A servant was sent to fetch the executioner, perhaps the ellon hadn't heard the signal Oropher had given? He was gone for quite a while and the prisoner collapsed, fell onto his side and just lay there trembling, there was a murmur coming from the crowd, this was unheard of, and very undignified. Even if the crime was horrific there ought to be at least some dignity in this, they were elves, not savage edain. The servant suddenly reappeared, panting and he looked a bit pale, he ran up to Oropher and whispered something into his ear and the king went beet red and then he went rather pale again. He gestured towards the guards. " Bring the accused back inside, it will have to wait until tomorrow. The headsman is drunk!"
Everybody gasped out loud and there was a racket of another world as the guards grasped Thranduil and dragged him along back to the cell. He had lost consciousness and there were some glances thrown at him that could hold some sympathy. The king was swaying on his feet and the two younger princes were moaning, both looked like it was them who just had been saved by the bell.
He woke up in the cell once more, at first he didn't understand but then he remembered and he broke down crying once more He was left alone, a servant left a bowl of stew by the door, and a cup of lukewarm tea and he drank it all, desperate for some warmth. He was stinking, freezing and so terribly confused and scared. This had to be a nightmare, a complete nightmare. He had never even dreamed about something like this, something so awful. He crawled back into a corner, curled up and just sat there, silently weeping, feeling as though the very gods themselves had abandoned him.
He had fallen asleep or perhaps he had passed out, he wasn't sure. But suddenly there was light, and he lifted his head with a groan, he shivered still, wished that he had been dead, then it would have all been over with. He saw someone moving outside of the cell and he gasped when he saw that it was his mother. She was pale and looked thin and weak but there was a sort of savage light in her eyes. There was a soft clatter of metal and the door was opened. She entered the cell, carrying some clothes and he just stared at her, didn't understand. " Nana?"
His voice was raw, barely audible. She sent him a swift smile. " Please son, get these clothes on, I am here to free you."
He gasped for breath, his body felt like jelly once more. " Nana? Why? Why are you helping me?"
She bent down, started dressing him with trembling hands, she was obviously in a hurry. " What kind of mother would I be if I allowed one of my children to be put to death like some mad dog?"
He stared at her. " Ada doesn't know?"
She shook her head. " Of course not, hurry son, please. Let not this be in vain. "
He felt a burning sensation of haste, he didn't care about his pain or the dizzy feeling within, he got the clothes on and stood on shaking legs. He had to get out of there, he had to. She let him lean onto her as they left the cell, in the shades he saw another elf, it was Galion. Elhedril kissed his cheek swiftly. "There is a secret passageway out of the basement. Galion knows of it, and there are horses waiting for you. Ride hard, don't stop until you are a long way from here."
Thranduil choked a sob. " Nana, please, believe me. I didn't rape that elleth, I swear!"
She touched his face as if she was seeing it for the first time. " I believe you son, you are passionate and proud and you are spoiled too but not cruel, never cruel. I know you like I know my own flesh. "
She grasped his hand, kissed it desperately. " Flee my son, while you can. Galion will look after you."
He had problems drawing breath, tears were filling up his eyes once more. " Oh naneth, I love you, until the end of days."
She nodded, tears in her eyes. " I love you too, go now, hurry!"
Galion grasped him by the arm and dragged him along, he turned his head once and saw her standing there alone, a small fragile creature and he felt his heart being close to breaking for real, forever.
Galion helped him down through winding passageways, through natural caves and even across an underground river. Thranduil was shivering with fever and he was so in despair he didn't pay any attention to where he was going. Galion was a servant but he was also a very good warrior and a typical silvan, he knew the forest and the land and before long they were in a cave where two horses stood tethered. Thranduil tried to get a grip of himself. " I don't think I can ride, I am too weak."
Galion nodded. " I know, I will sit up with you. But we have to hurry, we have to reach the river."
Thranduil frowned. " The river?"
Galion nodded. " Yes, there is a boat waiting there, we will have to leave your father's realm Thran, it is no other option."
Thranduil felt how a wave of sadness and grief crashed down onto him. He gasped, closed his eyes. " I know, it just…it feels like a defeat"
Galion helped him onto the horse, sat up behind him. " Call it survival Thran, it is no defeat."
Thranduil just sat there, allowed his servant to steer the horse through the dark night. He was leaving it all, his life, his name, everything. It could perhaps be called survival but to him it was most certainly a defeat anyhow. He sighed and felt how the horse took him further and further away from everything, his home, his family and his reality. He had no idea of what was to come, he just sat there passive and silent and Galion sighed and urged the animal on. They didn't have much time, the guards would discover that the cell was empty soon enough, he believed Thranduil when he said that he was innocent. He had known his master to do stupid things before but never anything like this, there was something going on.
Galion clenched his teeth together and swore to himself that he would stand by his friend's side, no matter what.