AUTHOR NOTE: Hello my amazing FFN readers and friends, I swear I am alive…I think?! O.o Well, a lot has happened in a few short months, personally and professionally, so while I have been writing away at TLA I haven't wanted to update without having a significant amount of chapters complete for you guys to enjoy. I'm currently assigned to several projects (it is all very exciting but I can't talk about anything), so please forgive the long delays! I am still motoring on, it is my life's work to finish this story by the end of summer this year (but it may not be the last you see of it). Anyway, thank you so so so much for all the amazing support and hello to readers new and old…you guys are still the best for sure! GAH…I am brimming with excitement…so I will shut up now and let you read. As always, please R&R because if I don't get feedback I don't know how best to take the story forward, so please be aware how absolute vital you lot are.
Lots of Love, cookies and cuddles, your friendly neighbourhood Wood Elf
PS: I know some of you were quite alarmed by the argument between Clara and Thranduil, and it felt uneasy - to an extent it was meant too. Put simply they have grown apart. Thranduil is wrestling with his demons and is haunted, he struggles to accept or even articulate his fears, whilst Clara is struggling with the concept of her immortality and her purpose beyond a matriarchal figure. It does not mean that the pair are not desperately in love with each other, it just means that the love they share is going through the same confusing and frustrating time as they are themselves. Tolkien explains that often elven couples would spend time apart from their lovers, taking time to focus on themselves and rejuvenate their spirits, so that they might return to their unions feeling invigorated and appreciative of the bonded love they share with their mate. For creatures that leave as long as the world itself, it is understandable that space is needed, I just wanted to explain why I wanted to highlight that within the plot of the story. Don't panic, they still love each other, divorce lawyers not required just yet.
*Eighteen Months Later*
"Ada is going to kill you!"
I quirk my eyebrow from my hunched over, breathless, barely-able-to-stand, position in the far end of what was once the dining room, whilst Legolas sheepishly tucks his knife back into its sheath and backs away from the scene of the crime.
"Well…" I gasp in sweet air to try and relieve my burning lungs, "if…" I inhale deeply again, "it was that…important…he should have had it…locked up…like he does the rest of his…precious treasures…good gods…I can't breathe…"
"Did you think combat was easy, Nana?" Legolas smirks, as he extends his hand to help me over the deceased chandelier.
"No…but…" I whine and stretch my arms behind my head, straightening up my spine and hoping it will somehow open my diaphragm some, or whatever it is supposed to do, so I can catch my breath.
"But?" Legolas continues to tease as he tosses me a towel, and mercifully pours me a drink. I stagger rather ungracefully towards him, fingers eager to get a grip of that cup. He chuckles at the pained expression I give him over the brim of the beaker as I literally gulp down the water, coupled with my undignified wheezing - I am truly the most unfit warrior in the history of elves.
He places his hand on his hip and gives me a serious look; "Nana, it is perfectly okay not to be a warrior, not all of us are blessed with the skill, maybe you should accept that you are far more suited to the arts than this painful business?"
"What are you trying to say exactly? That I am soft as a sponge?" I grumble, and wince at the twinge in my hip as I try to lean on the table but think better of it…dammit, I think I pulled something? Ugh, I will never hear the end of this now.
"And about as uncoordinated as one too," he snickers and ducks as I toss my towel at him and limp off to inspect the shattered chandelier. Yip, I probably should not have used it as leverage to leap over my son's head. I groan, and facepalm myself - Naneth's and Queen's should not be combat training in their dining hall! I suppose there isn't the slightest chance that the entire Kingdom did not hear that? There is the sound of footsteps clattering down the hallway and the door being swung open, followed by a mixture of shocked and amazed gasps, and some more mild snickering from Legolas.
Well, that clears that up then…everyone did hear it!
"Nana?" Celairiel practically trips over her skirts, her eyes wide as she takes in the devastation of what was once the main dining room. "Oh, Ada is really going to notice that…can we tell him it just fell?"
"Nana! Nana! Nana!" Ferion skips excitedly from behind his sister, tittering and clutching a pile of loose papers; "I made these…and…can I play?"
"Np! No playing near the glass," I warn and scuttle over to stop him ploughing straight through the shattered remains. He wraps his arms around my waist and grins up and me, shoving his creations upwards - obviously these are far more important than the broken light structure.
"Oh they are just beautiful ion nin," I croon, because they are, he is such a little artist and secretly I am a little smug that at least one of our children inherited my creative gene. I attempt to kneel down to his height to inspect them further, but my back and hip spasm again and I launch back to my feet, hopping around like an angry kangaroo.
"Really Legolas?" Celairiel asks, a challenging smirk playing on her lips; "giving a Queen combat lessons in the dining room? I thought you had more sense? Next time try the libraries…there is more to break."
"You are just jealous she did not ask you," Legolas retaliates almost instantly earning him a seething glare, he grins wickedly, "Oooh, did I hit a nerve tree whisperer?"
"I don't need weapons to render you powerless brother," she snipes threateningly and even Ferion rolls his eyes.
"Yes, but weapons get the job finished a lot quicker," Legolas snickers as he sidles past his younger sister, winking patronisingly, and for a moment I am convinced that she is going to go for his throat so I intervene.
"Enough!" I reprimand them sharply and both of them flinch, like they did as elflings, "No fighting in the house…new rules."
"Well, you just broke that one!" Celairiel accuses and strides after me, determined to prove her point - I wonder who she took that trait after?
"I have no idea what you are talking about love, that chandelier just fell from the ceiling," I lie smoothly as I hold out my arms and allow Ferion to scramble up into them. I tilt my head over my shoulder and add breezily; "honestly I have been pestering your Adar to have it fixed for months now, it was always threatening to go…just lucky no one was in the room when it happened…isn't that right Legolas?"
"Works for me," he shrugs jovially and saunters to the door, "I will go let the servants know of the accident, and ensure somebody logs it as a maintenance issue…I mean the walls will have to be checked…could be rot?"
"Could be," I agree with a bob of my head, and resume to snuggling my completely oblivious elfling. "Right, I think I need to bathe, I can't go to supper looking like this can I?"
"Oh, you are crafty," Celairiel shakes her head in mock disapproval as she follows me out of the room, giggling mischievously. "Do you think Ada will believe it?"
"Not in the slightest," I snigger, "your Ada and I were the worst culprits for causing havoc before you were born, and probably a good deal afterwards, you have no idea how many times we blamed others for our mishaps."
"I just cannot imagine Ada being so reckless," she replies with a faraway look, "I cannot even remember the last time he laughed, well, maybe he is a little better at it now."
"He is trying,"I nod in agreement and then grin in remembrance. "He laughed last night when you told that young squire to…and I quote…'go kiss an orc,' that poor boy."
"Poor boy my…ahem…do you know how many ellith he has charmed? Well, let us say I was just another name on his list," she sniffs haughtily, "so I was just letting him know I am not a prize, and Ada only found it funny because he agrees. You know there is no ellon in this Kingdom he would tolerate as my suitor, and frankly I agree with him, the pickings are dismal."
"Well, there are other kingdoms?" I chuckle, although inwardly I thank every Vala by name that she is utterly repulsed by the notion. I secretly agree, there are no ellyn good enough for my daughter here.
"You mean, court a Noldo lord?" she gasps in faux astonishment, skipping ahead of me to grip her chest in a show of theatrics, "or what is worse, a Sinda ellon from those traitorous Lorien folk? Oh Nana, no, the shame would haunt me forever."
Both Ferion and I erupt into fits of laughter at her dramatics, because she has very aptly verbalised her father's thoughts on the matter. She continues to entertain us the whole stroll back to my chambers, amusing me with her take on the relationship and ideals of her parents. I am relieved that the agreed distance between Thranduil and I has not been too keenly felt by the children. We are always amicable, and never once do we let them feel as though we were not a united pair. Our union is not broken, or over, it just requires space and growth. I think my children know this and I think they thrive better because of the release of tension between Thranduil and I.
If I am being brutally honest I would say that tasting a little more freedom has been exactly what I needed. I just needed to be me, or as close to me as being a ruler allows. I took my council seat, I demanded to be made aware of all political matters, and I took to the archives and libraries to learn, to read, to be better and to fill myself up with knowledge that would build up my confidence. I juggled raising my son with raising myself, teaching myself that I could no longer live in the mindset of a mortal - I was more than human and yet not entirely akin to an elf. I sought myself and found myself becoming philosophical, and in finding this new facet to myself I delved into my creativity and it felt wonderful to paint and grow and make things again. My art was not just to pass time anymore, but it was to literally get lost in - like how I used to before. Thranduil gave me my distance, it broke his heart but in breaking it he found it again, and sometimes we just have to break our hearts to make them feel like they should.
He is trying, truly searching himself, and that is all I can ask of him after the things he has seen. In our new found time apart - because we literally decided to live privately apart - he has returned to his forest, and I hope, he has opened his spirit to it again. Since I now insist we share as much of the burdens of ruling as possible, he now has the time for himself and I believe I am seeing a more settled side to him. He really is part of the wild, and you really should not try to tame the wild. As for the lies and secrets, the broken trust, and the terrible melancholies, well only time and his actions will help me forgive him…and I will…he just needs to work for it.
I still live within the King's chambers, because I will not have one soul suggest that I do not love him or that I do not entirely support him as his Queen. So publicly, for all intent and purpose, we still dwell quite happily together, and technically that isn't a lie, but we do not share such close space with each other anymore.
I quickly moved into my solarium, for I had plenty of spare space to use, and I shaped it into a peaceful boudoir of my own. I quite like the fact that I can just go there and know he isn't permitted to demand me out of it, and in all fairness Thranduil has been remarkably respectful. I believe my actions - though a little brash at the time - were enough to shake him into registering the pain his suffocation was causing me. So, we sleep apart, and occasionally eat apart, but we do have one solid rule; we must, must, always make time for one another at some point during our busy weeks.
Thranduil stipulated that it cannot be filled with business, politics, or issues regarding the children, and I dubiously agreed that I would spend time with him as long as it was on the basis of companionship - because I was still damn angry at him! At first those few hours were strained, difficult, and often sank into bickering arguments, but with time I have found that I actually look forward to our little 'dates' - I tried to call them this once but Thranduil was very confused by the reference, so the humour was lost. I feel like I have found my friend again, it is like learning to love someone all over again, although I don't think I ever stopped loving him…I just did not necessarily like him!
On return to my chambers tonight I find Elbes has drawn me a bath - she is one of the very few loyal servants who are aware of the slight change in my relationship with the king. She dutifully takes Ferion and scolds Celairiel for have twigs stuck in her hair and moss on her feet, and so I leave my more than capable lady to oversee supper plans whilst I enjoy a well deserved soak.
The bath is exactly what I needed to recover from strenuous exercise, which I clearly still have an extreme intolerance towards! I submerge in herbal laced water, inhaling the essential oils, and considering that this is as close to bliss as any female can hope to achieve. At times like this I like to list off all the things I am thankful for; my children, my friends, my odd yet wonderful second remade life, my immortality, my home, my people, Thranduil, and presently Elbes…because toddling elflings are exhausting and I have literally no clue how Ollie manages twins without help? Honestly, this is probably the first bath I have been able to take where Ferion hasn't either tried to get in with me, lay on the floor and babbled incessantly the whole time, or wailed for food, sleep, or attention.
Sometimes the real heroes in life are ordinary elleth with super duper patience and feminine intuition - Eru bless Ellie!
I take full advantage of my allotted moment of bliss, but eventually I have to trail myself out of the water before I turn into a prune, and face the world again. I take my time dressing, but by the time I have finished towelling my hair I am beginning to get suspicious of the silence…so I go hunting.
I cross the balcony and meander towards Thranduil's bedroom, spying the well lit space, I assume he is home. I tap the doorpost a few times before I slide through the already cracked open doors, and part the gossamer curtain;
"Thranduil?" I call quietly, feeling a little invasive. Our rooms are not off limits to each other, not by no means, I just feel that respect works both ways and I should be just as thoughtful with him as he is with me, although I know he insists that I can come and go as I please. He thinks of this space as our space, our bedroom, and therefore I am free to return to it whenever I wish.
A rustling and a shadow to my left alerts me to his presence, and I attempt to look as disinterested as possible as he shuffles wearily into the room in nothing but loose leggings and shrugging off a long robe. His left eye is heavy, shadowed, a sure sign he is tired or troubled. His gaze lifts to mine and he smiles suddenly, his countenance brightening, and I can't help how I copy him.
"Good evening melamin," he speaks in a soft husk and for some unknown reason I blush.
"Yes, it is…a good evening that is," I quip as I spy the clean tunic left on the bed and practically leap to reach it to him; "I was just popping through…looking for Ferion actually…is he with Ellie?"
"He is with his siblings," Thranduil replies evenly, whilst giving me a sidelong knowing smirk, "Legolas, apparently, heard of some musical display in the markets this evening, and Celairiel practically ran all of them out the door in her excitement. Do not fret I sent Elbes with them…and Rista…you are free for the evening."
"Oh, pity, I was looking forward to a family supper," I mutter glumly, absently rubbing the dull ache over my hip and back.
"Well, I am still looking for a dining companion if you would care for my company?" Thranduil suggests breezily, but I hear the hopefulness in his voice and I can't help my soft giggle in response. He grins in relief at my obvious joy at the suggestion, but I watch as that smile fades into a frown.
"What?" I query, still rubbing my hip.
"You're hurt," he accuses and I automatically grow defensive.
"No, I'm not, I just had a little bump today, nothing a rest won't fix," I reply airily and he rolls his eyes in utter disbelief before dipping his hand into the drawer by his bedside.
"A little bump with the dining room chandelier perhaps?" Thranduil arcs a questioning eyebrow as he trots around the bed to come stand opposite me, carrying a small pot in his hand. "You know - as part of our terms - that I do not question your endeavours or attempt to curtail your interests, but Clara…combat? Love, you struggle to stay upright most of the time, let alone run with knives - you are going to destroy my home!"
"Oh hush up!" I scold and playfully shove his chest, "That chandelier was ugly anyway, and I think combat is a good skill for a Queen to have, don't you agree?"
"Do you want my honest thoughts or the censored opinion?" he asks with a tilt to his head and I grimace, gesturing for him to carry on with his assessment. "I think," he begins thoughtfully, "that wanting to be able to defend your people and your family is a noble thing, and I do not discourage the desire to learn. However, as a King who loves his Queen, and knows her worth to his people, I would put myself between she and the edge of a blade in a heartbeat before I would see blood on her hands."
For a moment I forget to speak, for I am so caught up in the underlying worth of his statement that I could cry with happiness. He really is trying to understand me, and I know that for him to let me even train or think about fighting causes him visible anxiety. I never wanted him to get out of my way, I just wanted him to let me try to and fly alone, and he is.
He is still fighting his demons for me, for himself, and for us…do I dare hope that we are out of the thick of the storm now? I honestly hope so.
"May I?" Thranduil offers, holding out his fingertips smeared in a strong smelling poultice that I recognise. I snap out of my trance to frown at his hand.
"I can do it myself," I tell him forcefully, folding my arms tightly about my chest and narrowing my eyes suspiciously.
"I know, but may I?" He pushes and I sense a yearning in his voice, the want for a reassuring gesture of care between us, so I relent with a single nod.
I carefully untie the laces at the side of my shift dress, loosening them enough over my hip to allow his hand to slide through the fabric and settle on my throbbing back. I tense automatically, but ease up as he carefully massages the relaxant oils into my grumbling muscles. His thumb and base of his palm knead deeply into the skin and I have to stop myself from groaning from a mixture of relief and pain.
"You used to do this for me every night when I returned from the guard, all battered and bruised" Thranduil mumbles quietly, his voice so close to my ear that I shiver involuntarily. "Do you remember?" He asks and I just about bob my head in agreement.
"That was a long time ago," I comment, biting my hand so I don't give away the whine that threatens to escape my lips…ouch!
"Not that long ago in comparison," he chuckles and retracts his hand, and I register that I kind of miss the touch, so I spin and grip his wrist.
"Thank you," I murmur as sincerely as I can manage, "that was nice…your hands are not as rough as I remember?"
"King's hands," Thranduil grins, stepping closer to me and outreaching his palms in my grasp, "they become soft from wielding feather quills instead of swords."
"Still just as warm," I reassure him, pulling his palm to my cheek so I can snuggle into the heat brushing my lips along the curve of his thumb, "Still mine."
"Always," he replies in an equally reassuring voice, the tip of his thumb tracing my cheekbone.
"We should get something to eat," I sigh, releasing his hand but not pulling away from our close proximity. "I barely get a meal to myself these days, Ferion has taken to wanting to share plates as well as food."
"I noticed," Thranduil gives me an understanding grimace whilst helping me lace up the dress. "He refused to eat his egg this morning unless we shared it."
"And by share he means that eating becomes an elaborate story of the bread soldiers falling into the volcano?" I ask whist sniggering quietly.
"Yes!" Thranduil exclaims as he takes my hand and proceeds to the door, "and, once they are all suitably drowned in lava, the dragon gets to eat them?"
"Let me guess…you were the dragon?" I ask with a quirked brow.
"I know! The resemblance is uncanny!" Thranduil provides in a rather sarcastic retort
"Shockingly so," I snigger in reply whilst narrowly ducking a slight shove.