The death of a queen
It was weird but as she lay dying she felt closer to life than ever before, every sound and scent were so much richer than before. She could feel how her body was giving up the struggle, how the poison was doing its terrible work. The healers had tried everything they possibly could do but it had been too late, and now she was laying there with only hours left of her life. She turned her head, the healers were resting, someone was in the room at all times to monitor her condition and she felt so sorry on their behalf. She could sense their despair and sorrow, they had failed in saving her and the failure was in their eyes a defeat.
One of the healers were with her at the moment, it was in the middle of the night and the elleth slept in a chair close to the queens bed. Lirulin swallowed and tried not to wake anyone, they needed their rest. They had fought tirelessly to save her from an injury which would have been nothing more than a small flesh wound had the arrow not been poisoned. She felt the bandage around her chest, it made her feel a bit constricted. To her right her husband slept in an armchair, he was pale and she closed her eyes and tried to push the sensation of despair away. What would happen to them now, her husband and son? The grief of having to leave her beloved son was heart wrenching and she could only hope that he would get over her death without fading.
Her husband moved in his sleep, restless and torn between his duty and his emotions. She hoped that her son never would end up in such a situation, she hoped it by the Valar.
To be trapped in a loveless marriage was bad enough, to watch it destroy her only child was worse. The only thing which she and her husband had in common was the love for their son, and the emotions which they never revealed to anyone because they were too private. She and Thranduil was like water poured on hot steel, it would explode! They could barely stand each other and their fights were legendary, she had often been afraid that they one day would end up with murder. The queen avoided her husband as much as she possibly could and they were not even able to complete a normal conversation without exchanging harsh words of rage and despise.
Lirulin had anticipated that she would be married off when she got old enough, it was to expect since she came from a very important family with both power and influence. But she had not expected that her husband to be was the rather young king of Greenwood, and that she would be forced to live a life quite different from the one she had dreamed of. She had tried to protest against her parents plans, she had begged and pleaded but they had not backed down, she had to marry him, the whole thing had been arranged when Thranduils father was still alive and there was no reason why it shouldn't happen as planned. Lirulin had been devastated, she had wept for weeks and she had seriously thought about ending her own life. She did not want to marry him, she did not want to marry anyone!
She remembered the wedding all too well, she had been dressed in a most lovely gown and she had looked amazing, everybody said so. But her heart felt like ice in her chest and she wished that the earth itself could open up and swallow her. He had looked very handsome, she had to admit that he looked amazing and if she had not been who she was she would probably have fallen head over heels in love with him at first sight. But she already hated him, hated him for taking her away from everything she knew and loved, hated him for allowing her parents to force her into this. She hated him for saying yes, for agreeing to a treaty made by his own father, she thought that he was a spineless coward, he could have refused and saved them both from this.
She had spoken the words although they rang hollow in her ears, they were lies, pretty and silly and she said them just to avoid further embarrassment. The feast was grand and she had felt like an animal on display, all the eyes which were staring at her, all the strangers who were trying to determine if she was good enough, worthy of becoming a queen, worthy of sharing the kings bed and table.
Oh the bed, that had turned out to be a mess, a really nasty mess. She had been horrified by the very idea that he would touch her, she was sure that it would be just awful so when she saw her chance she took it and ran, she hid herself in a cellar and tried to ignore the little voice in her head which tried to tell her that now she was being the coward. Of course he found her, he knew his own palace, every nook and cranny and she had not been hiding all that well, the guards had seen her running by them. Somehow he had managed to calm her down and convince her that she should follow him to their rooms. She would start rumors if she didn't and she had been brought up to fear gossip more than anything else. She should always behave in the proper way and be a lady, it was her mother's main rule.
Once they were in their private rooms he had sat down next to her and explained why he had agreed on marrying her. It was out of pity and out of duty and respect for his father's wishes, he knew things she didn't and she was aghast to discover that she would have been given to some mortal king to secure a trading treaty if Thranduil hadn't agreed. She had felt like a marionette there and then, a pawn, a thing to be ordered around, a slave. He had tried to reassure her that he would treat her with all the respect he could muster and she had not believed him. She was so angry, so very hurt and disappointed and she had yelled at him, even hit him. She took out the rage she felt towards her family on him and he let her do it although it hurt him and made him angry too. It made him so angry he barely could restrain himself, he accused her of being everything but a lady and she had shouted insults back. Before long they had been fighting for real and suddenly the wild fire of rage became a fire of a whole different kind.
She had been caught by a hunger unlike anything she ever had experienced and she knew that he felt it too, it was as if the entire room was ablaze with passion and she had never even imagined that it would feel this way. Their passion was almost violent, he had torn her dress asunder and she had given him some rather nasty scratches across his shoulders and back and the guards outside of the doors must have been in complete shock. Both had been screaming and shouting and Lirulin remembered that the mixed fury and lust had been so strong she barely felt it when he broke through her maidenhood and consummated the marriage. Even when they were quite literally fucking like wild rabbits they had been screaming insults at each other but they had discovered that they shared one thing, that one thing bound them together like nothing else. Their lust for each other, the desire that never died down and stopped them from living completely separate lives. She hated him but she wanted him, just as much as he hated and wanted her. He could not keep away from her and each night he would come to her bed and stay there and she was a bit proud of the fact that he stayed true to her. He never touched another elleth than her even if he often swore that she would be the death of him and she soon discovered something odd about him. His appetite for sex was almost insatiable and he would take her several times each night but he also had an almost desperate need for physical contact. He needed to feel skin against his own, to hold another close and he always fell asleep with his arms around her. She could almost convince herself that she at least loved him a little when she lay there with his strong arms wrapped around her and his warm breath towards her skin. The next morning she hated him again, and she hated herself even more for being so weak, for giving in to her own carnal desire once more. It was just that he was so damn amazing in bed, she had been so very innocent when she married him and she had known naught of the pleasures her body were capable of creating. Thranduil was not a very affectionate person, he never showed his emotions to anyone and he never allowed anyone to touch him. Perhaps it was because of this that their marriage bed became the only place where he let go and fulfilled all his needs.
Everybody in the palace of course knew of the strange marriage, the king and Queen could not meet eye to eye when they met in the palace and the despise and anger boiling between them were all too obvious. But at night the anger turned to something else and everybody who had rooms close to the royal quarters complained about the noise the two of them were making. Lirulin had developed a habit of screaming when he made her come and he was loud too, it would often sound as if they were murdering each other and the occupants of the other rooms in that area of the palace soon found out that sleeping was something they needed to do somewhere else, out of hearing range from the royal bedroom. Some made jokes about it but it was rather apparent that the king depended on this to function. When he had been in bed with her he was a much more agreeable person around others. He was relaxed and thought much better, made better decisions and he had patience and was much less intimidating than he would be otherwise. If he had not been with her for some reason he would soon become restless and loose his concentration, his mind would start wandering and he lost his patience and would snap at people for no apparent reason. So everybody knew that the racket from the bedroom was for the common good, when the guards with a snicker could report that the royal couple had been at it again everybody knew that the king would be in a good mood and that those who had propositions or complains could come forward and talk freely about them without risking anything. His temper was unstable at its best and everything which made him more normal was a blessing.
Of course he couldn't stand the sight of his wife if they met in the palace, they would throw glances at each other filled with daggers and some wondered why he was so angry with her and yet so desperate to have her in his bed. After all, he could give her rooms of her own and they would be able to live completely apart without even the risk of seeing each other. Had she really been able to insult him so badly that he wasn't able to forgive her? In that case many thought that he was a little unwise and that he should have acted more maturely. Words were just words and a heart can change as time goes by. They could perhaps have learned to love each other for real but her bitterness had pushed a wedge between them and she knew that he hated her because he couldn't stay away from her. She reminded him of his weakness, of his inability to control himself completely. When he gave in to his lust and took her he gave in to something which to him told him that he was helpless, flawed and barely more than an animal. He hated her because he wanted her, because her beauty and passion never seized to turn him on. He hated her because he never could be perfect and in the silent nights when he was sleeping and talking in his sleep she had discovered things which explained this obsession with perfection, with being in control at all times. She knew that his father had been very demanding and strict but he had been so much more towards his son, so very much more. She could pity him then, feel that she was being unjust towards him, that she should not blame him for any of this. When he begged in his sleep, screamed and relived old horrors she knew that he was a scarred soul, that he never would be able to live up to his father's impossible ideals and demands and that this was the cause of it all. She knew that people who had been the victims of abuse sometimes react in the most peculiar ways and becoming extremely clingy and sexual was one of them. Yes, she did feel pity, sorrow even to know this, his most terrible secret.
She could have told someone of it, spread the word. She could have gotten the revenge she wanted, but she knew that the revenge would hurt the wrong person. It was her parents she really hated, not him, not entirely. After all she did not know how her life would have been if she hadn't married him, she may be dreaming of a life in freedom but would that have been possible? She wasn't sure and so she was the loyal wife in at least one way and never shared what she knew. She knew that they both were like falcons with broken wings, crying for the freedom of the clear blue skies, dreaming of soaring with the wind but slowly withering away in a cage of gold.
When she got pregnant it had been a shock, one which transformed everything. Suddenly she had one innocent soul to think of and she had managed to be a very good mother, at least she hoped that she was a good mother. And he was so afraid, so very afraid of becoming anything like his father, he was so gentle and caring towards his son and she knew that in this she could trust him completely. He would if necessary die for his child and when he was together with their little leaf she could see a ghost of the boy he once had been, innocent and filled with joy and curiosity. He would do anything for Legolas and with his son he was happy and content. To Legolas he was just ada, not a king, not an ellon who would cry in his sleep and feel that he never ever was free, never ever good enough.
The strange marriage of course affected their son, he knew that his parents were arguing but they tried to shield him as much as possible. They were able to behave in a civilized manner when he was around but both felt the bang of guilt when they saw other couples with their children. Their family would never be living in harmony and peace. Legolas was in despair whenever his parents started to argue, they were shouting accusations at each other, claiming that the other was trying to ruin their lives and that he or she was being immature, a bad parent or even worse. Legolas did not understand any of it and as he grew he started to develop a few very worrying problems. He had huge trust issues and became a very introverted young elf who never really showed anyone how he felt. Lirulin felt so terribly guilty, she just wished that she could put it all behind her and start anew but somehow she just could not find the words to say. She could not control her own flaring temper and if he said anything she even thought to be an insult she would attack first to prevent him from getting the upper hand. She guessed that it was her own insecurity which made her lash out like that. She had never been very strong and her parents had been too controlling and left her terribly afraid of letting go and trusting others.
Legolas grew and his bond with his father was strong and loving and he also loved his mother dearly but he tried to avoid being in the same room as them both. It was also apparent that he never really understood why they fought and argued and tried to hurt each other but at the same time were so passionate and filled with desire. He was too young to understand that passion can be based on even the most unlikely of emotions, and that there is a difference between love and the physical act of making love.
Lirulin stared at her sleeping husband again, she remembered the last night they spent together, how he had held her and drifted off to sleep with an expression of peace on his face. He felt safe when he had someone to hold on to, she knew that now. He needed to feel that someone relied on him and needed him to be strong. When he was alone he was nothing, he was a person who just couldn't stand alone, he needed to lead or be leaded by someone but he just could not be expected to do anything great whilst being alone because then he would think and his mind would wander and dark thoughts and memories would reoccur and haunt him. That was his tragedy and his real weakness, he needed someone to love and cherish to become the strong person he really was, to be the best possible version of himself. Lirulin once again cursed their parents for what they had done, she had never been able to love him, never been the one to give him strength. Instead she had been a constant reminder of his bitter past and when he lashed out and cursed her it was in reality his past he despised and hated. She knew that he needed love, real love. Not just the type she could offer him but the kind of love which heals the soul and opens the heart. She feared that he would fade without it.
She felt a tear running down her cheeks, so much could have been different if she had been strong enough to face her demons and just sit down and talk to him, but now it was too late. She smiled, a bitter smile. Her life was soon over but his wasn't and she knew that she at least could try to show him the way towards happiness. Her family had always been gifted and she had the ability to see fractions of the possible future but only small broken shards of it. It required a lot of strength and she had barely used it because it made her feel very ill but she had no reason to spare herself now. And so she allowed her mind to drift along the rivers of time and space and she searched for his soul and found it. Her inner eye did see, and she felt content and let her Fêa slip back into her dying body.
She hawked and he lifted his head, looked startled. "You are awake?"
She nodded and took his hand, it was so warm and she felt so bitter, so sad. If things had been different they would have been so very happy together. "I am, there is something I need to say to you before it is too late."
He swallowed, did not meet her gaze. She knew that he blamed himself, if he had sent more guards with her the orcs would never have gotten close enough to hurt her. "You should save your strength."
His voice was hollow, tired. She made a strange laughter. "Why? To draw breath for one more minute? I am dying husband, nothing can change that. So just for once, listen to me before you turn your back to me"
He bit his teeth together, she could see it but he said nothing. "I have seen what's to come Thranduil, I have seen a piece of the future. There is someone in your future who may heal your soul and heart, who will bring you true peace and joy. Believe me, I have seen your true mate, someone as pure as snow with a heart as flaming as that of a dragon. Allow yourself to be healed, for his sake, for the sake of our son"
He looked down. "I cannot believe you wife, but I will do whatever I can to keep him safe and content, this I swear."
She sighed. "I already know that, for once, think about yourself instead of others. You are the leader of this realm, the realm is you. If you are hurting and sad then what about your people and the forest? It will be hurting too, I feel it in my very bones. Please, at least, think of my words, I know that you desperately need someone by your side, do not let a cold heart be the end of everything you have built here"
He said nothing, just scowled and she sighed and touched his hand once more. "Please, get Legolas in here, I need to say goodbye to him. "
Thranduil nodded slowly and got up, his movements were stiff and mechanical, lacked even the slightest touch of elven elegance. She knew that he already was fading, the shadows of his past were eating away at his fêa all the time and she prayed that the Valar would help him to see that there was hope, that he could put the past behind him and look forward.
Legolas entered the room, he was crying and her heart felt like it was ready to burst into a million fragments by the sight of his tears. He took her hand and kissed it, shivering with fear and grief. "Naneth, please stay, don't leave us"
She swallowed, her breathing was getting more and more shallow by the minute and she felt light headed. The healer was back on her feet and the expression within her eyes told them all that this was it. "I wish I could ion nin, but I fear that I hear the callings of Mandos as we speak, he is asking me to enter his halls. Do not weep my dear child, one day we may meet again."
He sobbed and she stroked his long blond hair. "You have grown to be such a handsome young ellon, I am so proud of you, always remember that"
He pressed his face towards her neck, she felt how he shivered. "No naneth, don't listen to the voices, stay with us. We can't lose you"
She could only smile, a bittersweet smile. "Well, at least there will be no more shouting and screaming, the palace will be peaceful once more"
Thranduil gasped and stared at her, his eyes were black and horrified. "Even now, at the brink of deaths abyss you cannot control your tongue!"
She smiled and caressed her son's cheek, he was the one who was feeling the full impact of this, he was the one who would suffer. She stared at her husband, tried to look less like a threat and more like a friend. "Please remember what I told you, if you've ever cared even a little about me promise me that you'll remember."
He lowered his head, looked down. "I will, I promise."
His words were but a faint whisper but she heard them. "Then I can meet my fate knowing that someone may be able to do what I could not, save you."
She turned her gaze towards Legolas, he let his tears run down his face and he did nothing to hide them. She kissed his brow and held his hand. "Ion nin, you must promise me that you'll never put yourself in our position, when you marry do marry someone you love with all of your heart, not just a little fragment of it."
He nodded. "I swear naneth, I will."
She smiled and felt how her body started to feel strangely uncomfortable, she was slipping away now. "Be happy, that is all I wish for the both of you, lay the past behind you and look ahead. There will be pain and sorrow and loss but also great happiness. I have seen it."
Thranduil made a strange sound, it sounded like choked sobs and Legolas shivered. She squeezed her sons hand once more. "Help me Ion nin, help me saving your father from fading away, promise me that you will help him when the day comes and he meets that one soul who will be his redeemer."
Legolas could just nod, he saw that her eyes had become distant, that her breath was very weak. "I have seen her, a creature of pure ice and fire, a soul unlike anyone I have ever encountered. Do not fear, everything will be ok in the end."
Thranduil just shook his head. "I wish I could believe that."
She reached out, grasped his hand with the last of her strength. "You must, or else it will be lost, all of it. And most of all your heart and soul. "
She gasped and felt how her heart prepared for its last beat, trembling and weak. "May the Valar bless and protect you, I will see you again, this I swear."
There was a sudden flash of light and she was looking down upon her own body in the bed, she saw how Legolas threw himself over her, shaking her, yelling and sobbing and pleading her to return. Thranduil was leaning back into his chair and for the first time in the many years they had been married she saw a tear running down his cheek while he was awake. It made her feel humble as she walked into the light, yes, there was hope. His heart had not become utterly frozen, not just yet.
Legolas remained kneeling by his mother's death bed for a good hour and Thranduil locked himself in his study drinking heavily. They were both mourning but in different ways and for different reasons. Legolas was mourning his mother, the one person he loved the most in the world, the one who had supported him and loved him and showed him what joy and life was. The one thing in his world which was only good and safe and always there for him. His father on the other hand mourned what could have been, and he mourned that fact that without her he was like a lonesome tree in a storm. He had taken all of his anger and all of his frustrations out on her, it had not been fair towards her but she had had the strength to cope with it, and now, without her, what would become of him? Would he turn into his own father? Cold demanding and heartless, driven only by ambitions and intricate plans? He would rather die! But he knew deep within that he already was well on the way to becoming his own fathers ghost, why could the past never stop haunting him?
The queen was laid to rest the day after in a very beautiful and solemn ceremony. The entire court and most of the commoners were there and many asked themselves the same question, what now? What would become of their leader without her there to keep him stabile?
They could only wait and see.