A/N: written in response to the farewell challenge for members of the Mirkwood Castle group. The lines marked by ** are Jay of Lasgalen’s.
A Fond Farewell
**Thranduil looked up from the documents he was studying as there
was a knock on the door and a messenger entered.
"A letter, my Lord. The courier said it was most urgent."
Curiously, for the seal was unfamiliar, Thranduil opened the message
and read it swiftly. Then he read it again, more slowly, and looked at the messenger in silence for a moment before responding.**
“Please go and find my Steward and send him to me, we have plans to make,” he said as he closed the seal and traced the dried wax absently with his finger.
“Aye, my lord.” The messenger bowed and hurried off to obey his King, his brow lined with concern for the sadness he had seen cast a shadow across his lord’s face. Fortunately his search was short, for Malion, who had been Oropher’s most trusted friend and steward ever since the Sinda noble had allowed himself to be named King of the Greenwood, was already on his way to speak with Thranduil. He nodded acknowledgement of the brief message, and entered the study to find that the messenger’s worry over the King’s mood was well founded.
“What has happened, Thranduil? Is it ill news?” he asked as he tenderly placed a hand on the slightly slumped shoulder, foregoing the formality of addressing the King by title, as was his privilege, granted by the one he had known since birth.
“Nay, in fact it is just the opposite. I have received my first missive from the leader of the new colony in Ithilien, and an invitation to attend their midsummer celebration,” he said as he handed the letter to his dear friend. Malion read it quickly and his eyes reflected his delight.
“You will attend, of course,” he said as he moved to the cabinet that contained a selection of wines and poured them both a goblet of Thranduil’s favourite.
“Gladly. I can not deny Legolas anything, as you well know, although he could have sent this sooner,” he replied with mock annoyance while accepting the wine with a smile of affection at the mention of his son’s name. According to his estimation, they would have to leave immediately to reach Ithilien by midsummer’s eve.
“Then why were you looking so melancholy when I arrived?” asked the Steward as he made himself comfortable the armchair opposite the one in which Thranduil was seated.
“Because of this.” The King turned the letter over and pointed to the emblem in the wax. “I did not realise that my son had designed his own seal, but his choice of symbols tears at my heart.” Malion carefully examined the offending item then chuckled and shook his head.
“‘Tis nothing but a reflection of his dry humour, in my opinion. The gull carries the banners of both the King of Gondor and the King of Eryn Lasgalen in his beak. Rather than a reminder of that which now afflicts your son, as you no doubt see it, it speaks to me of his hold over the hearts of both you and Aragorn,” the Steward commented. “He is very brash and proud, not unlike his sire and grandsire.”
Thranduil laughed at the gentle teasing, his melancholy disappearing as he realised Malion was right. Legolas was not wallowing in self pity; he was flaunting his strength of will, his ability to defy the cry of the gull, at least for now.
“When you reach Ithilien, you must compliment the master carver who produced the seal, for the work is very finely detailed and exquisite, but not of elvish make,” he added with a wicked gleam in his eye. Thranduil looked at him with alarm and then sighed with resignation knowing what Malion was thinking.
“Aye, I agree with you that praise is warranted and I too suspect the craftsman was none other than the son of Glóin.” Legolas’s friendship with Gimli did still not well with Thranduil, who still harboured ill feelings towards all Dwarves, but he would be gracious for his son’s sake. “However, you should do likewise since you will be accompanying me,” he added, laughing at the stunned look on Malion’s face. His steward was of a similar disposition towards Gimli’s kinfolk.
“As you wish, my incorrigible lord,” teased Malion his words causing Thranduil’s silvery laughter to fill the chamber. “When do we leave?”
“I plan on travelling the day after tomorrow. We can accompany the others as far as the Elf Path,” he said, his sadness returning as he recalled the farewell feast that was planned for the next night.
“Then I had best make haste and inform the captain of your guard to begin the preparations.” Malion rose and bowed slightly before leaving but was stopped by a hand on his arm and a mischievous wink.
“You should make provisions to carry a selection of wines to Ithilien. Not only is my son possessed of a dry wit, but undoubtedly also a very dry cellar.”
After having willingly danced with every maid who was to leave on the journey to Mithlond and on to the Blessed Realm the following morning, Thranduil finally relaxed against the trunk of one of the trees that formed the glade chosen for the evening’s feast and reflected on the changes taking place in his world.
Many of his people had succumbed to the call to sail west, and had done so for quite some time, but were wise enough to realise that whilst the Shadow remained a threat, travel to the Havens was far too dangerous. Also, Mirkwood needed them, and they had remained, suffering from the sea longing as Legolas would until the day he sailed. Barely a year ago the ones he had danced with this night were dressed not in pretty skirts, but the tunics and leggings of warriors, wielding their bows with skill and grace in defence of their home It was a bittersweet realisation for Thranduil that while one realm was slowly dying, another was being born.
“Come, my lord, will you not dance with us again?” asked one of the more forward young maids, one who like many others had hoped to win Legolas’s heart over the years. Now it was too late for that, at least in Middle-earth, but there was always Valinor. Thranduil smiled, his heart overflowing with love for the carefree Wood Elves that were devoted to him, rose and took her hand, allowing himself to be lead back to the gaily whirling merrymakers.
For the rest of the evening all thoughts of the coming departures was forgotten as the King, dressed only in a light silk shirt and leggings, and golden tresses flying untamed as he frolicked barefoot until the first rays of sunlight caressed the horizon. It was a magical night and not one elf left until the revels ended.
As the two groups of travellers gathered the next morn, Thranduil marvelled at the eager chatter and the laughter of those around him who had forsaken sleep to spend as many moments as possible with those who were remaining behind. Some wore sad faces, but there was little talk of a permanent good bye, for everyone knew that it was only a matter of time before they would be reunited forever. Thranduil had always found the knowledge a comforting thought in the lonely times whenever his heart and his arms longed for his beloved Queen. He would sail eventually, likely with Celeborn when they had finally tired of their forests.
With the threat of attack by the dark creatures that once inhabited Mirkwood no longer a concern, the elves walked freely through the trees, singing their goodbyes to all the living things they passed, until finally they reached the fork in the road.
“We have come to the place where our paths diverge, and I wish you all a safe journey. I will not say namarie, for I know we will one day meet again albeit in a different land,” said Thranduil as the groups separated into those who were to head south to Ithilien and those who would stop at Imladris on their way Cirdan’s havens.
So saying, he clasped the wrist of each of his warriors and to the delight of all, put propriety aside and bestowed sweet kisses on the cheeks of all the maids, whether they were bound or not.
With his eyes bright with unshed tears, the glorious King of Eryn Lasgalen stood apart from his guards, comforted by the warmth of Malion’s hand on his shoulder and watched until his loyal subjects disappeared from view.
“May the Valar watch over you until we meet again,” he said quietly, knowing his words would be heard in the whispering of the leaves.