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The Prisoner of Dol Guldur
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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5
Part 5

For disclaimer, rating, etc. see Part 1.

Author’s note:
I’ve asked the members of the main Edhellond group if they thought the story was in any way finished with Part 4. They said ‘no’, so I’ll try to bring it to a more satisfying end while still keeping it as short as possible. I’ve got too many never-ending WIPs going on already.


~~~

PART 5

“It seemed to him that he had stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world. A light was upon it for which his language had no name. All that he saw was shapely, but the shapes seemed at once clear cut, as if they had been first conceived and drawn at the uncovering of his eyes, and ancient as if they had endured for ever. He saw no colour but those he knew, gold and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant, as if he had at that moment first perceived them and made for them names new and wonderful. In winter here no heart could mourn for summer or for spring. No blemish or sickness or deformity could be seen in anything that grew upon the earth. On the land of Lórien there was no stain.”

The Fellowship of the Ring – Lothlórien, p. 455


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
His existence on the treetop floated away in the same timeless manner as his imprisonment had done. He seemed to spend his days in a strange state between true wakefulness and waking dreams, although he tried to stay awake all the time, fearing that if he closed his eyes ever again, the darkness would return.

He was unable to voice his fears properly, but Ada seemed to understand him nonetheless. There was always a silver lantern in his room, whenever he happened to wake up during nighttime – screened, so that the light would not hurt his eyes, still too sensitive after such a long time in the dark – but there.

And he was never alone. That was the greatest gift of all.

Whenever he opened his eyes, there was always someone to offer him food… and water, blessedly cool and fresh like life itself. He had little to no appetite, but he could never have enough water, and they never gave him more than a few little sips. Now that water seemed to be available all the time, the thirst grew even worse.

Someone lifted his head again, holding the cup to his lips, and he drank gratefully. He wanted to cry with relief, but his eyes refused to let the tears go, to waste the precious fluid. A small bit of something sweet, cool and juicy was placed gently in his mouth and he accepted it obediently, forgotten tastes exploding on his tongue with almost painful intensity. The wonderful taste called up the image of something small and red – some tiny fruit that grew on the forest floor, some sort of wild berry that he vaguely remembered having collected with the other little ones. But his mind could not yet make the connection between the fruit and any name it might have had.

He wondered who the others were. He knew he used to be one of those little ones, but he could not remember the others. Why did the memories always show his younger self in their company? And who was the woman with them the woman with the thick, auburn hair, the lovely, freckled face and the very bright, brown eyes? She had a lovely voice, too, soft and calm, and she always sang to them and told them stories. She had a name… if only he could remember what it was. The others called her…

Naneth?” he whispered, and the voice of Ada replied him, full of sorrow.

“Your Naneth is not here, my son. She is gone.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Thranduil’s heart nearly broke with grief, hearing Enadar call out to his mother who had died voluntarily in Dol Guldur, about a hundred years earlier. She had been the last of the earth-healers of the Faithful, the only one left who could slow down the poisoning of the forest. Captured by the evil servants of that dark tower, she had given up her life, ere the Úlairi could possibly have found the key to her in-born powers over tree, water and soil.

“I wonder is she knew that her son was beeing held in the same evil place all the time?” he mused. “If Enadar could feel her closeness?”

“There is no way to tell, my King,” Old Galion, the seneschal of his house, who humbly called himself a butler, shook his head in regret. “Mayhap when the young prince recovers some more, he will be able to tell us.”

If he recovers,” said Thranduil gloomily. Galion gave him a stern look.

“He is Oropher’s grandson. His grandsire escaped the fiery destruction of our First City and survived the sack of Doriath. You survived the sack of Doriath and the last battle, in which two-third of our people were slain. And Enadar survived an Age in the pits of Dol Dúgol all on his own. I daresay he will recover.”

Thranduil smiled at his old tutor sadly. “You make me feel like an elfling all over again, Galion.”

“As it should be,” the old Elf laughed quietly. “I have witnessed the birth of your father, after all. Not to mention yours, your sister’s and all your children’s.”

“True enough,” Thranduil admitted. “You have helped to raise every generation of our House – I know not what I would have done without your wisdom and patience, old one.”

“’Tis easy to be patient when we are not the ones to carry the burdens of kingship,” replied Galion with a fond smile. “You have done well enough, my King. You have rebuilt your father’s shattered realm and kept it safe for an entire Age. Without any help from the Noldor or their shiny trinkets. You should be proud of what you have accomplished.”

“Oh, I am,” said Thranduil with a helpless little shrug. “I just wish Lálisin and my other children could see the forest recover.” He glanced down at the still-feverish face of his miraculously refound son. “He has not even known Aiwë…”

“Nor has Celebwen,” reminded him Galion gently. “Too short was the time your little bird spent among us.”

“Celebwen had no choice,” Thranduil sighed. “She alone of our entire House has inherited the Curse of the Sindar. She could never hold out in Middle-earth, had she not moved to the Havens. No matter in what way, she is lost for us. The Abhorrent One could not reach her – but the Sea took her from us.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It confused him more than a little that Ada and the old one (who, too, had a nagging familiarity about him) would speak of the Sea like of an enemy. This was how the guards had spoken of it, on the rare occasion when they began their quarrel before getting out of earshot. With dismay and yet with involuntary respect. The Sea was where cowardly Elves fled who had no stones to stand up against Orcs, they would say. Treacherous water that swallowed friend and foe alike.

Yet he could also remember someone speaking of the Sea with utter longing – a pointy-eared little creature, as small as he had been himself, but with long hair like silver moonlight. He could still see her, squatting on the green grass under a big tree and describing the rolling and murmuring of huge, grey-green waves and the call that came from the Sea or beyond, and which no Elf could resist.

His thoughts halted in their restless meandering. He knew now what those little ones had been. Elves, they were called Elves. They had pointy ears and bright eyes, and lovely voices, and could live in a tree or travel on the trees like squirrels. And he had been one of them once. Thus he was an Elf. And Ada was an Elf, too, surely – the father of an Elf had to be an Elf, after all – and so was the old one who had sometimes watched over him lately.

He needed to find out who the old one was. Ada obviously liked him, and that old voice sounded friendly enough. He knew he had heard the old one’s voice when he had been very little. This was the voice that had told him – had told all of them – great and frightening tales about spiders and wolves and fire monsters… but also wonderful ones, about the great forests in eternal starlight, and a white city upon a steep hill, spiralling up to the hilltop with a white tower on the peak.

Kortirion the old one had called that city, or simply Kôr sometimes. It had been a place of true wonder, he told them, with trees lining its streets and with a silver lamp in the highest chamber of its white tower radiating light through the tall, arched windows in all directions. Until the fire monsters came and destroyed it, burned it down to its foundation and beyond that. Until there was naught else left but the naked hill, stripped from everything, even the soil that had covered the bare rock.

The Naked Hill… there was a name for that, for the terrible place where he had fallen into darkness, been kept like some wild beast, blinded by the utter lack of light, his mind violated by the Questioner, plucked apart with malevolent curiosity. To take away every memory he could have held on to. To reveal all secrets he might have had…

But he had no secrets that would have been of any use. They were a simple folk, living on the treetops, guarded by naught but their bows and the bravery of their hearts… He could not tell aught of use, he truly could not. And yet the icy will of the Questioner had sliced his mind to pieces like an iron knife, baring everything and desecrating everything by its mere presence.

Ada!” he shrieked in despair, reaching out to the only safety he knew in his present state of mind. Mayhap if Ada held him tightly enough, the cold one could not get him.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“I know not how long he will be able to go on like this,” sighed Thranduil, rocking the frighteningly thin frame of his son gently in his arms.

Galion shook his head in helpless sorrow.

“That was to be expected, my King. Nightmares are the least we had to count on, after an Age in that dreadful place. I only wish we knew what frightens him so much – then we might be able to fight it. Are you certain you would not like the Lady Artanis to take a look?”

“I am certain,” replied Thranduil adamantly. “We shall do this in our way. Mistress Cordophel should be here in a day or two – if anyone, she will know what to do.”

“But she cannot read minds,” reminded him Galion. “It might be faster if…”

“Nay,” Thranduil interrupted him. “It seems to me that my son’s mind, too, has been deeply wounded in those dungeons. Forcing it open would only do more harm. Mistress Cordophel can bespeak him… if he is ready to let in anyone, he will answer her. She used to be his nursemaid, after all… almost as close as a mother.”

Galion nodded in agreement. “Have you sent word to Legolas already?” he then asked.

“Not yet,” answered the King. “I wish not for him to learn about this by a messenger… less so if there is a chance that Enadar might not recover. Legolas was very young when his brothers fell in the Last Battle, barely of age – he took their loss very hard. Making him hope only to lose it all over again… it would be cruel.”

“He would wish to see his brother, I deem, no matter in what shape,” said Galion. Thranduil nodded.

“And he will. But I shall wait until Elrond and his people arrive. They are going to Minas Tirith anywise and can tell Legolas the tidings personally. He can then return with them after the Lady Arwen’s wedding.”

“That would be a good thing indeed,” said Galion. “The roads are still full of perils, and there is safety in numbers. Speaking of weddings… is it not time for one to be held in the Greenwood as well?”

“There shall be one,” answered the King, “and in a short time at that. Right now, though, we have more urgent matters at hand.”

“Sayeth the King who has been pressing his only son to fulfil his betrothal promise for half a millennium,” said Galion with a tolerant smile. Thranduil shrugged.

“Things have changed greatly in recent times, old friend. With the Enemy gone, and with him the most hideous of all perils, we can afford to wait just a little longer. And Legolas is not my only son anymore.”

“I fear you cannot expect heirs from this one,” said Galion, glancing with heartfelt pity at the fragile, shivering figure in his King’s arms. “Or that he would take over the burden of kingship from you. Even though he is your eldest now.”

“That matters little to me,” replied Thranduil, “as I am not tired of my burden yet. And having him with me again is a gift I have never hoped for. We shall have a lot of rebuilding to do in the upcoming years; and as the forest heals and regrows, so my son will heal and regrow as well.”

“Let us hope so,” said Galion gravely. “For right now he seems to me as one with the mind of a very small elfling.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
He felt blessedly safe in Ada’s arms, knowing with a deep-rooted certainty he could not explain that the cold one could not reach him there. But all that talking about apple daughters and silver maidens and green leaves confused him. His tormented mind could not make the connection between all those names and the people that might have been meant.

Ada and the old one called him an elfling. He vaguely remembered that elflings were little Elves – but when he was an elfling, should Naneth not be here with him? He missed Naneth, although he had no memory why. But it seemed that Ada missed her, too. Ada’s voice was so sad when he said that Naneth was gone. Why has Naneth left when it made Ada so sad?

He felt sorry for Ada. Mayhap he could cheer him up a little?

He opened his eyes with great effort, turning to that beautiful face almost blindly – like a sunflower to the warming rays of the sun.

Ada,” he whispered. “Water…?”

He could not speak much yet, speaking hurt his throat, but Ada always seemed so happy when he at least tried. Those bright eyes brightened even more with unshed tears, and he felt the water cup touching his lips again, felt the bliss of that cool smoothness soothing his raw throat.

But drinking and speaking tired him too much. He felt his eyes close on their own and he went limp in the warm, safe circle of Ada’s arms, hoping that his dreams would be less frightening this time.

~~~

Names and persons:

Lálisin (= wise elm), Legolas’ deceased mother, an Avari Elf of Nurwë’s family (name courtesy of erunyauve).

Celebwen (= silver maiden), the only living daughter of Thranduil and Lálisin, married to one of Círdan’s people, lives in Mithlond. This fact has been established in my story “Of Riddles of Doom and Paths of Love”.

Aiwë (= little bird), the late-born daughter of Thranduil and Lálisin, killed by a Giant Spider in her early childhood, in the early Third Age. See my other story, “Little Bird”.

Cordophel (= apple-daughter), an ancient Avari Elf, the sister of Galion’s wife Írith. She came to the court with Queen Lálisin and used to be the nursemaid of all her children (name courtesy of erunyauve).

All these characters are mine and appear in various other stories, as I work with a quite large set of firmly established background characters for Edhellond, Imladris, Lothlórien and Mirkwood. If you want to use any of them, please, ask first.


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