Work has had me enslaved, but hopefully things are now under control! Here we have the story of our two mothers, from the eyes of Thranduil.
Guest 1345: yes, that pity is felt by all I think, but I do believe that is the way they would have dealt with the problem, from a historical and cultural perspective.
Guest: Wow - thanks! LOL
Ninde: elfo malvado fuera, efectivamente :))
Lara: me alegro haberte sorprendido :) Y gracias por tus palabras tan generosas!
Earthdragon: surprise, yes! Barathon has some decisions to make now, doesn't he? Hope you like the story of Aglareb and Lassiel :=)
Noph: yup, lots of stuff going on right now - time to reveal, I think :) Thank you, as always.
Chapter fifty-nine: Circle of Love
This is the story of two great women…
"I first admired her from afar, for in my youth I was fond of revelling in the forests with the Silvan people, much to the amusement of Oropher. My father was king and I a happy young prince," he smiled in remembrance, her lovely face floating before his mind's eye and wrenching from him a watery smile.
Thranduil's avid audience had finally settled, as much as it could after the morning's shocking events. Sipping on potent wine, Handir and Rinion sat shoulder to shoulder, physically closer than they had done in centuries, something that did not escape Thranduil's notice, and Legolas had focussed his eyes once more. The ragged cut on his arm had been cleaned and bandaged, albeit the bruise on the side of his head had reached an interesting shade of purple. Elladan and Glorfindel sat on either side of him and Thranduil found it strange that his Silvan son should be flanked by Noldorin lords.
Mithrandir, who had stayed behind to oversea the cleanup together with Aradan, had joined them a while later, standing now in one corner as he listened and watched the broken family from the sidelines, watched its leader extend his figurative hand in open invitation to belong once more, to close the circle that had once been so cruelly broken.
"It was her eyes - those enormous pools of river moss that sparkled and shone and told you everything she felt. So open, so giving, such a child of nature … I fell in love with her that night and in my excitement, I told my father I had met someone, for back then, there was nothing we could not speak of, nothing I would hide from my father…
Yet he was not pleased that she was not of noble descent and I cannot say I had not expected that. It was not because he did not approve, not because she was Silvan but because the Council would be hard-pressed to agree to such a union. I was disappointed but I did not give up hope for I loved my father and he loved me. Indeed, after much pleading on my part, he finally allowed it and I was ecstatic," he smiled, a small part of his remembered joy teasing his bruised spirit.
"Yet all that changed one day, and I could not understand how that had come about. He told me Lassiel had a reputation, and that I was not to see her any more. I tried to explain that this was nonsense, hearsay and gossip but he was adamant. It was one thing to overlook her family, but to allow his Crown Prince to court a woman of ill-repute was too much. This time, there was no changing his mind and so, knowing I would never court another for thus I told him in no uncertain words, he chose a bride for me, a political union between two of the highest born Sindarin families.
Our relationship was never the same after that, for although I was a loyal and dutiful heir, he hurt me too deeply - I could never really forgive him, even though I loved him fiercely," whispered Thranduil, his eyes momentarily glancing over at Glorfindel, who sat protectively next to Legolas.
"Aglareb was grace and elegance," he continued, "and even when I told her of Lassiel, she did not falter in the fulfilment of her father's wishes. She married me, knowing that I did not love her, that I loved another. She said it was her duty, that she would remain by my side and give me children and yet I learned, later, that it was not simply her desire to carry out her father's wishes - she loved me, so much that she gave up her own happiness in exchange for simply being close to me. Had I known, perhaps I would never have agreed to it at all, for I inadvertently ruined her life."
The king paused here, turning to the window for a moment and sipping his wine, and when he spoke again, it was as if he spoke to himself, ironing out the pieces of this convoluted puzzle.
"I wonder now, if Lassiel's ill-repute was a purposeful ploy to turn Oropher's mind from my wishes - one devised by Aglareb's own family, for if they knew of her devotion to me, her silent love of me, they would have sought to protect her…. just as I protected Lassiel…"
Seeming to suddenly snap out of his introspection he turned once more, and continued with the tale.
"Time passed by, and I would see Lassiel, when I could slip away for I did not wish to humiliate Aglareb with my infidelity. However she did find out and again, she said she cared not, for that was her lot. She could not leave me just as much as I could not leave Lassiel - it is why she understood my predicament so well.
Our children were born, and with every day away from me, the quieter and more withdrawn my Silvan lover became, until what I had feared for so long finally became evident on her face, in her body. She was withering away as she watched me live my life with another, father the children of another woman.
I could not allow it and so I devised a plan, one that would stop what seemed inevitable. We two, would conceive a child and she would travel to Valinor, anchor herself to that small part of me that she could have. She fought me, for this was not reason enough to seek a child, she argued. But fear finally drove her to accept my desperate plan.
And so it was that our Silvan son was conceived, and preparations for her departure began while she withdrew to the deep forest, for no one could know of what we had agreed upon. Only Amareth and Erthoron had contact with her then…"
Legolas' eyes sharpened and he looked to his father in disbelief.
"Yes, yes she knew, as did the leaders of your village, Legolas. The fact is that one, terrible day, Aglareb came to me and told me she knew Lassiel had conceived my child. She was broken and defeated for she had tried her best all those years to do her duty, live with her unrequited love - all I had to do was respect her - and in that I failed.
I sent word to Amareth of what had happened, warning her to take care, for there was no way of knowing what danger my illegitimate child may be in for you see, Aglareb's family is a powerful one. Yet I received no word for weeks and was becoming concerned, until Amareth finally told me a child had been born and that Lassiel had left."
Legolas wore a deep scowl as he listened, as did Rinion, but Handir's face was blank as he listened, his eyes unfocussed, as if he were living the events his father was narrating.
"I had wanted at least to bid her farewell, greet my child but fear had driven the Silvans to take her away with all haste, not risk my involvement for there was obviously a traitor in our midst, for how else had Aglareb learned of the child? While his or her identity was not known, the danger was real.
"I was disappointed, but I understood and yet, what I thought would be Lassiel's saving grace, to stop her from fading away, turned against me, for a heavy grief settled upon me at her departure and I could not help but yearn for her presence, and that of my son. And every day I would see Aglareb, quieter and greyer, stranger with every passing month, and still, I could not give her what she wanted, what she needed. I could not love her," he whispered, his heavy eyes straying to Rinion and Handir.
"She was fading, in spite of her children and yet I never thought, for one instant that she would leave. And yet, one morning, out of the blue, she told me.
I could not believe it, for what mother can leave her children behind?" asked the king, before answering himself.
"The answer of course, in hindsight, seems clear. Bandorion killed Lassiel before she could sail, and Aglareb must have found out. Her grief and suffering had been due to Lassiel in many ways, and especially because of the existence of a child, that and the fact that her love for me was not returned. Bandorion's reverence, his love for Aglareb drove him to seek retribution for her pain by killing the child," said Thranduil, thinking as he spoke, his voice becoming more and more agitated as the pieces seemed to fall perfectly into place. "That it is why she sailed, I believe, not only for unrequited love, my inability to lover her, but the guilt of having unleashed Bandorion's madness, inadvertently driving him to kill what I most loved….and she did love me, she would never have wished to hurt me as Bandorion had."
"Wait," came Rinion's voice, making them all jump for they had been so engrossed in the tale.
"There is more to it than that, I am sure - I was old enough to understand a little of what transpired in those days," began Rinion as he stood. "I saw my mother and my father consumed by grief, I saw Bandorion seethe at my father for the pain he caused the queen and although still young, I sometimes wondered at his fierce protection of her, and his growing hatred towards my father. I thought perhaps, that Bandorion had delusions of kingship, with our mother as his queen sitting beside him.
And then one day something snapped and where before my mother would look to Bandorion for support, with the eyes of a trusted friend, of a sudden those eyes became distrustful and - fearful… whether that was because she had learned of his madness I could not say at the time.
When she finally sailed and I was left utterly confused and hurt that she would leave us, alone with an uncle I no longer trusted, I pleaded with you to send Maeneth away for you see father," said Rinion, his eyes suddenly sparkling with pent up ire … I did not like the way he looked at her at all…"
There was stunned silence at Rinion's words and Thranduil's nostrils flared and his eyes sharpened dangerously, while Handir abruptly turned his face to the window in sudden understanding.
"I am glad you had the courage that failed me, father," said Legolas, "yet had I known what I do now, I would never have hesitated."
"I do not doubt your courage, Legolas," smiled Thranduil sadly. "You stayed your hand for Barathon, because for one brief moment, you saw yourself reflected in his eyes, didn't you? You understood his pain better than any of us…" he trailed off knowingly, and Legolas could only return his gaze, open and frank for it was true.
"I have spent so long hating my mother, for what she did," said Rinion, drawing the attention away from Legolas, "for abandoning her children because she was too selfish to endure, for the sake of them - for Maeneth who was not even of age. I could not understand it and I hated her and when she left and there was no one to hate, I turned to my father - and hated him instead," he said sorrowfully as he faced Thranduil, the light of understanding in his still young eyes.
"Yet now, I begin to understand. Her love for you, the humiliation of an illegitimate child, and then - Bandorion and her own guilt at what he had done, her fear of him. Perhaps he threatened her, should she tell the king of his misdeed…" he mused.
No one answered him for that remained a mystery, one Bandorion had taken with him into the void.
"I am sorry - for what it is worth," said Legolas as he looked at Rinion and Handir."
Rinion stepped forward. "As am I - it was never your fault…" he said simply, and Thranduil's eyebrow twitched in surprise, wondering perhaps if Rinion would close the space between him and his younger brother, but he did not.
"Well," sighed the king. "That is the sum of it, as much as I know. I hope - I have not pushed us all further apart, now that you know…"
"No," said Rinion confidently. "You should have done that many years ago, father."
"Perhaps, yet I am not perfect, Rinion, this you already know," he smiled ruefully, yet the underlying relief was clear to them all. "I could not bring myself to admit to such things for our relationship was already so strained. I thought it would sentence us as a family, that I would lose the only thing left to me - my children."
"For my part, father, I respect your courage," said Handir. "You have spoken openly and I am grateful for that. I understand most of it, I believe," he said, although there was a frown on his face and insecurity in his voice.
Thranduil turned to Legolas then, his eyes pleading an answer from his youngest son.
"I do not know what to feel. I am still putting the pieces together, dealing with the fact that my mother was killed…that my own people kept me in the dark for so many years…"
"You have unfinished business, Legolas, and I understand that. I ask only that you see me as the father I always wanted to be for you, but never could be - I am not the monster you must have imagined in your youth…"
"No - you are not," he answered softly, for he had, indeed, imagined his father as a monster. "I just need time to assimilate it all… something I do not seem to be able to find…." he trailed off.
"Father," said Handir. "Forgive me but it is time, we must inform the Silvans of our decision."
"I would accompany Handir to the Silvan camp, stay there for a few days. I have things to discuss, questions to ask," said Legolas.
"Alright. Handir, Legolas, Elladan go and prepare yourselves. I will see you in the Throne Room in half an hour. Mithrandir?" asked the king.
"I must accompany our young Warlord here, for there is a certain Silvan Spirit Herder I must meet."
A knock on the door interrupted them, and Aradan joined them with a respectful bow. "My King, this is the article you asked me to retrieve?" asked the Councillor rhetorically.
"Thank you, Aradan," said the king, turning then to Legolas with a curious look on his face.
"I have never seen anyone fight with spears as well as my father - until today. I think he would be proud for you to have this," he said solemnly, holding out the mighty spear Legolas had used to kill Bandorion. "It is a unique weapon, one Oropher king was famous for - I gift it to you now, my son, in return for your promise to become a Master, when time permits."
Legolas held out both hands and gently took the spear of Doriath, his eyes not quite knowing where to settle first. "It is magnificent…" he whispered, and Dorhinen came to his mind's eye. The Sinda had told Legolas it lay in the vaults beneath the fortress, waiting to be claimed, when in fact, Bandorion had had it in his power all this time.
"Thank you," he smiled weakly. "I will try to be worthy of it." Yet while it was true, he had misgivings about using the weapon; he still did not understand Oropher's behavious, and then he had just helped to kill his great uncle with it - Oropher's own brother. Could he ever be worthy of it, he wondered sadly, would it one day cease to remind him of how he had come about it?
Thranduil nodded hesitantly, as if he had read his son's thoughts, and then turned to them all. "Come, we have work to do. Glorfindel," he added as an afterthought, "I would appreciate your company this night, if you would lend it?"
Glorfindel's eyes rested first on Legolas, and then on Elladan, who nodded subtly at his commander. "Of course," said Glorfindel, knowing the Silvan would be well-accompanied.
Yet Thranduil seemed to sense his hesitancy, and if, indeed, he had, he said nothing, turning once more to the window and listening distantly as they left, until silence settled around him and his lungs heaved a mighty breath that escaped him in a rush of pure relief.
It was done, there were no more secrets and the truth had not been as toxic as he had thought. Could it be, he wondered, that this would finally begin to seal the breech that so many around him had helped to open between the king and his children? Was it possible, he thought, in growing optimism, that he could finally rule this land in joy?
No more shame, no more hiding the truth. Aglareb, Lassiel, names upon his tongue that would no longer be pushed back into the darker recesses of his mind, names that would once more shine for the love they were professed, just as these two women had done upon Arda, before the twisted desires ofothers sent one to Mandos, and the other to Valinor.
'We will meet again, my ladies, when all is done and I am no longer king.
A little later, Legolas sat together with The Company in his rooms. Looking like a respectable lieutenant once more, save for his bruised head. His eyes travelled over each and every one of his brothers; Idhrenohtar, Ram en' Ondo, Rafnohtar, Lindohtar, Rhrawthir, Glamohtar, Koron en Naur.. they all watched him in return, waiting for him to speak for they knew he would.
"Well then," he began a little uncertainly. "It has been an - eventful few days, my friends…"
They smiled but they did not speak and so Legolas continued.
"I must share with you now, what I believe should be the way forward," he said as he stood. "We go, together with Handir and Mithrandir, to the Silvan camp and give them the news they await. Then, I believe we should stay there for a few days - there are many I would speak with, questions I must ask - issues to be addressed for in all truth I have little idea of what my people expect of me. Once that is done, I will speak to whoever is to be my Captain and I wonder," he paused, watching them all as he spoke, "if I can request your presence in our patrol, that perhaps I can explain the nature of our future work together for The Company must always ride with the Silvan Warlord - that is what I will tell him. Perhaps he will allow that…"
"Yes, that is what we all want," said Idhreno with wide eyes that glanced over them all. "We have been parted for too long and if we are to do Yavanna's bidding with you as our commander, we must learn, you must learn, before we can do that alone."
"Yes," smiled Legolas, "that is it. However, I will ask for a leave of absence for a short while, for I need to return to the forest, discover who my mother was, understand things that yet plague my mind…"
"Alone? No," said Rafnohtar flatly, watching as the rest nodded their agreement with his sparing words.
"You may accompany me as far as Lland Galadh - but I must enter the deep forest alone…"
"Alright, said Koron en Naur. I believe we can live with that - what say you, brothers?" he asked them all.
"We say 'aye'," said Idhrenohtar for the rest of them. "I just hope our future Captain will be understanding…"
"So we are decided, no more partings, if we can help it," said Legolas. "We are one, you and I. Let us make this Company the bravest, fiercest, closest band of warriors the Greenwood has ever seen. Let us show the rest, be they Silvan, Sindarin or Avarin, what warriors of the forest can be, when given the chance. Let us rewrite the books and the protocols, the training and the fighting, bring back the honour and respect of the true warrior."
There was silence, and there were moist eyes and swelling hearts for in those few words, Legolas had marked the way forward, had begun what would forever become the code of conduct for The Company, their reason for being, their life's work would now begin.
"Come," said Legolas as he slipped on his quiver and buckled it across his armoured chest, checking his twin knives were within hand's reach should he need them. With a sideways glance at the mighty spear of Doriath, he suddenly realised he had no idea how to carry it.
Koron en' Naur smiled. "Oropher used to cross it over his back - just make sure the tip points upwards," he snickered, much to everyone's amusement, wondering what it was that must have happened to Oropher to make the mercurial Sinda chuckle.
"Are we ready, brothers?" asked Legolas, adjusting the weapon on his back for the first time.
"Aye," they called as one, and then followed the Silvan Warlord from the room and into the fortress proper, under the incredulous stares and respectful bows of those they passed, and if Legolas had had any doubt as to the repercussions of Bandorion's death, now, there were none.
Below, Thranduil had taken the time to compose himself. He had never shared a healthy relationship with Bandorion, and he didn't think Oropher had either. There had been jealousy, he was sure, for his brother's kingship, and the woman he had later chosen for his son to marry, jealousy that slowly turned into obsession, and then from obsession to crime - and madness.
A sense of closure, of understanding brought with it a serene peace that the king had not felt in many years. He would not mourn the passing of his uncle, albeit he regretted having taken his life - however inevitable he knew it had been.
Hope had wedged itself stubbornly in his awakening heart for his three sons seemed to be moving ever closer to him as the truth of their family was slowly revealed. He wondered then, if it was time to call for Maeneth - wondered if she would ever forgive him for sending her away. Would he even recognise her now? After so many years in Lothlorien? By now, she would have spent the same time there as she had in her homeland…
He was distracted from his thoughts by the din that had slowly been mounting as the Throne Room filled out; after the events that had led to Lord Bandorion's death, alarm had spread throughout the fortress and the people had flocked to the king, in search of answers and reassurance that all was well. Indeed he knew too well that gossip would have spread like wildfire - they would be anxious to test the truth of what they had heard.
Talking quietly now with Glorfindel, Celegon and Captain Dunorel approached them, while Rinion and Handir spoke on their own, one of Rinion's hands resting on his brother's shoulder.
"Lord Legolas, Lord Mithrandir," called the herald from the door, and Thranduil turned to meet them.
Glorfindel's eyes widened fractionally as they fell on Legolas, striding amidst the warriors of his Company, and Elladan, his own lord's son. He looked calm and composed, no longer shocked and sorrowful as he had earlier. He had worked it out, realised Glorfindel, he had understood and accepted and if he was at all good at judging characters, he would say Legolas had found his peace. He would always remember, though, the day he had helped to take an elven life, for that was not lightly forgotten, indeed Glorfindel knew he never would.
Bowing, Hwindohtar and the Company awaited the king's words, standing amidst the utter silence of the court.
"Lord Legolas. I send you now, to the Silvan people, together with Prince Handir and Mithrandir. You have requested five days which have been granted. On the sixth, you must meet with your new Captain, Dunorel," he said with a wave of his hand.
Legolas' eyes slipped to Dunorel who was watching him closely. Legolas nodded respectfully, before turning back to the king.
"In five days' time, this land will celebrate the coming of a new Lord, the union of our people, an alliance renewed, together against the darkness that rises once more. Go, and make me proud," he said to Legolas, "and return to me the Warlord of your people."
Legolas' eyes had grown wide at his father's words, yet he could not help the twitch of his lips and the joy in his eyes from showing.
"Thank you, my King," replied Legolas before bowing, and then allowing Handir and Mithrandir to lead the way, out of the throne room, out of the fortress and its gates, under the appreciative gaze of all those who looked on.
There were no more veiled insults, no more smirks and rude comments. The bastard had gone, the child of a Silvan nobody had slowly dissipated and then reappeared as a lord of his people, Warlord of the Silvan people, son of Thranduil - nay, no more insults, only growing admiration, and respect.