The Scars of Love
The chamber was golden, luminescent with the warmth that streamed in through the window. Outside the window were tall trees of green, a vibrant dance of gentle winds. The day was calm, the chamber quiet; the sky was blessed with a smiling azure hue.
One with this warmth was a golden visage seated by the window, shimmering hair tumbling down and around his propped-up elbow and rendering him a part of the rays of the sun. He was as unmoving as a sculpture, the stillness only disarrayed by thin strands of hair faintly blowing about in the zephyr breeze. Only his eyes moved, seemingly still and yet following every move of the children outside.
Legolas was laughing as he raced through the trees, occasionally being dragged down to a wrestling match with one of Elrond's sons. His nimble movements prevented him from being seen often, and Thranduil could only catch glimpses of golden hair as he swirled about among the trees, drifting in and out of the father's keen sight.
It had not been long since the child's recovery from the deep sleep. After awakening, he had jumped out of bed, crying that he had to go home, that his father would be worried. Finding Thranduil sitting by the bedside was a great surprise, to say the least. Thranduil had explained with a scowl that he could not wait, and had come to take him home. And Legolas had been ecstatic.
I missed you, Ada, he had laughed, throwing his arms around his father's neck. And Thranduil had smiled, had pulled him close and buried his face in the soft hair, fingers stroking slowly.
I missed you too, little Greenleaf.
He let out a quiet breath.
Gaze upon his swift-footed elfling, he remained still, bathed in the afternoon sun. A soft breeze swept past the trees, reaching up to his face; a whisper of comfort reached his heart, and he closed his eyes gratefully. The whispering breeze caressed his long tresses, slid down his shoulder and onto his back, mingling with the golden river of warmth. And when Thranduil opened his eyes, the breeze was gone, returned once more to the soft azure of the sky.
And silently seated against the trees that danced with the merry laughter of the child, his light blue eyes still and translucent against the halo of the sun, the elf's fierce beauty was but gentle, fragile.
The door behind him closed with a soft click. Thranduil did not turn to look.
Was it worth it?
He closed his eyes.
Quiet footsteps approached, slow and uncertain and yet not uneasy. Above the soft footfalls rang the echo of his child's laughter.
That alone made it worth it. Did it not?
Opening his eyes wearily, he took in a light breath. He was tired. But this was not yet over. He knew this tension that pervaded the air between them, the dark secret of what was to be unspoken and unseen. He watched the deep shade of burgundy invade his vision, Elrond leaning one hand on the windowsill to look outside. Deeply troubled eyes turned to look into his own, and Thranduil did not look away. How he wished he could.
With the entrance of the elvenlord, the magic was broken, and though the warmth and brightness remained, their hearts groaned with weariness. The room was filled with shadows, despite the sunny laughter that rang outside the walls. The darkness of the secret that threatened to be spilled out of its captivity, to bring back the nightmares. The nightmares were not yet over. And he was unsure that they would ever be.
"What is done is done," said Elrond, answering the unspoken question that hung heavily in the air. He watched Legolas as he succeeded in tackling a much taller Elladan before being thrown up into a tree by Elrohir. Loud protests and laughter echoed among the rustling trees. The wind was fair today.
"Let us hope that worries are for naught, that it will forever be buried in the past."
Elrond's quiet voice rang with deep reverberation in the room. Thranduil's gaze lingered a moment longer upon his child and, without a word, he rose and moved toward a table in the center of the room. Elrond followed with the same slow grace, picking up a wine bottle and a pair of glasses from the cabinet on his way to the table.
"You said -"
The voice was abrupt, but not sharp – like a jagged edge of a broken glass, too jaded to scratch, nothing left but pain.
"- those...caresses, if one can call them so-" he gritted his teeth, his knuckles whitening against the table, "- differ not from more...intimate activity – in the resulting trauma."
A hot breath followed, a painful unearthing. Elrond seated himself on a chair facing the young king. A gentle trickle of liquid flowed through the silence.
"Yes, only touches he experienced, and those touches are enough – but those, too, are buried into oblivion." His tone was calm, patient. Thranduil drank mechanically out of his glass. Elrond eyed him while drinking from his own. A toast would have been a sad irony at this point.
After heaving a breath, Thranduil leaned forward. His elbows against the table, taut fingers violently raked back loose strands of hair from his bowed head. A maelstrom beginning to whirl within, a lash of vicious gales that tossed him about. It was violent, terrible – and Elrond did not know how to calm it. Whether he should, he did not know.
Finally the violent raking of hair ceased mid-motion, pale knuckles protruding from the strong-boned hand. Green-blue blood veins could be seen, as the tendons that protruded with tension. He had thinned.
"What a spectacular mistake," muttered Thranduil, a quiet laugh trembling through taut fingers. "Some king I am, failing to be a father." The laughter sifted through his hair. He was then silent.
Forehead leaning heavily forward into the hand propped upon the table, Thranduil remained unmoving. Under the shade of the motionless fingers, his eyes were pale, still. He took a deep breath. And his silver-glazed eyes continued to stare, wide and trembling and motionless, into a distance, into himself, into the abyss.
Elrond reached out and gently touched his shoulder. Thranduil flinched. Then he let out a weary sigh.
"I killed them. Did you know that?" The laughter was quieter now, bitter. "So blinded was I by rage that I, the just king of elves, drove helpless humans out of the forest."
The melodic voice, praised throughout the land for its clarity and strength, was now soft, tired. "I burned down their refuge. And their screams – the fire, and my child's innocence and trust and the memories I erased – I will have to live with that for the rest of my life."
His head bowed further into the bone-bared hand. Rivulets of hair slid forward, gliding over his shoulder and shadowing his face. And in his golden sanctuary, he did not move, did not speak.
Elrond bit his lip. He had no words of comfort ready.
There was once a time when there was good, and there was evil. And there were also times when good became evil, and evil became good. And there were times, when the measure of justice and goodness became rusted and broken, when good was evil and evil was good, and there was no more good or evil anymore.
Was it evil to avenge one's beloved child?
Was it good to love an unknowing youth in such a way?
The world no longer turned its pages in fairy tales, and legends were a thing of the past. Happy endings were no longer; and among the chaos of the new world was a just king and a loving father, who was thrown into the abyss of wretchedness, and no one could judge him to be evil, and yet evil he had done – but Thranduil was no longer good, and he was yet not evil, for he was only Thranduil, a father, an evil, a wretched soul. And the only thing that existed before them, the only reality that was tangible and pure, was the heat of his tears, the depth of his agony.
Perhaps the world had lost its sanity. Perhaps the only right way to steer through these confusing times was through one's emotions.
Elrond closed his eyes. The sun yet invaded his vision.
"Scars," he murmured, tracing the smooth surface of his wineglass with slow fingers. "Do you know what hurts a child more than any other, Thranduil?" He reached out, dark eyes opening to focus on the bundle of weary strands of hair before him, gently sliding them behind hunched shoulders. The younger elf raised his face, a defeated sigh escaping his lips. He shook his head.
Love? Hate? Cruel words? He did not know.
Perhaps waiting for his father to come to help him – waiting in vain.
Thranduil let out a bitter smile. With a deep inhalation, he closed his eyes and reopened them, focusing them on Elrond. The older elf was no longer watching him; his dark eyes were upon the part of the room which the sun could not reach.
Good and evil no longer fought, no longer existed; the plain world where good and evil were pitted against each other, where good always triumphed and the good people lived happily ever after, was no longer. These things were only a legend now, living and breathing in the heart of every creature, mingling and embracing, one suppressing the other, entangled in a never-ending dance.
But despite the shifting of the world, the groaning of the earth upon this new age, Elrond remained Elrond, Thranduil remained Thranduil, and a flower remained a flower.
Perhaps the only thing that changed was the way he saw the world now; perhaps all that had happened was that he acquired new eyes, wiser eyes perhaps. And his heart was sadder for it.
Elrond closed his eyes. His heart sank.
And amid the chaos of it all, amid the continuous confusion and ceaseless movement of the world beheld by ever-changing eyes of those who lived to look upon it, the only thing that was sure, the only thing that now existed plain and visible before them, was the scar that was left by the fierce wrestling of the entangled entities of what used to be once called good and evil. One was no longer sure, no longer understood the world around oneself, but the child's scar was there, and innocence had suffered amid the brutal brawl of the non-innocents. The scars did not fade.
Alas that the scars were brought by none other than love – no matter how twisted it had become.
Elrond's hand continued to stroke his companion's hair. "A parent's tears, my friend. Your tears."
Thranduil did not move. His gaze was lost, forlorn, young. Elrond raised his eyes, his gaze moving toward the window through which sunlight and childish laugher seeped in yet.
Elrond's hand slowed to a stop, sliding down the length of the younger elf's hair and resting on his back. "Do not falter, Thranduil."
Without a word, Thranduil bowed his head. And the two remained silent, enveloped in the gentle warmth of the sun.
Merry laughter echoed bright against the azure blue sky.
To be Continued in From Twilight to Dawn
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