To A Distant Shore
A ladder of grey elvish rope hung glittering in the pale moonlight, swinging almost imperceptibly as, with silent elegance, the lone Elf descended to the forest floor and disappeared into the night. There was only ever one destination that called to him, only one need that guided light footsteps that left no trail so unerringly, and he had travelled this path so often that that he believed he could do so with his eyes closed. Men walked in their sleep in such a fashion, or so he had heard, and it was an amusing thought amongst the melancholy that overwhelmed him in the dark of night that an Elf might imitate a mortal in this manner.
But mortals were doomed to finally close their eyes forever, as King Elessar had done, and the pain of Legolas’s grief had run so deep that Thranduil had felt it as if it were his very own. Bitterness and anger welled in his thoughts for the friendship that had caused his son to hurt so, and to be lured by the call of the sea.
Several weeks ago, in the brief span of time between one heartbeat and the next, he had felt his son no longer and knew that he had sailed West.
At first the trees had been very curious to learn the reason for the sadness they felt from one they knew loved every living thing dearly. The grace he and the other bright ones had bestowed had kept the darkness at bay for countless years, until they finally succeeded in scouring the forest of the evil. Gone were the dark crawling creatures whose webs strangled the very life from leaves that were once again green and eagerly welcomed the warmth of Anor as they rustled playfully in the sweetly scented breeze. The cold fingers of the shadow had been burnt into nothingness by the light of life that shone brightly from the gentle beings whose silvery laughter echoed throughout the now flourishing Eryn Lasgalen. For many seasons all had been peaceful and joyous with many days and nights of singing and dancing as the lively beings frolicked in their newfound freedom, but ever so slowly an air of melancholy had blanketed the laughter and gaiety. Everything began to change as many left for the Havens, never to return.
The one whose light had been the brightest of all felt nothing of this contentment now, for he was rapidly fading. Although they did not fully comprehend the events that affected the singer’s life, the trees nonetheless knew something of love, especially for this one. In their own fashion they offered whispered words of endearment and comfort that eased the pain somewhat but were powerless to mend a broken heart.
The Elf was rapidly growing weaker as he drowned in his tears of distress, and he found little solace in either the living forest or in the empty chamber that was his destination. Only in his waking dreams did he ever find true happiness now, but when sleep eluded him, it was to his palace of stone, long since abandoned in favour of a talan as his realm dwindled, that he returned. Here in this emptiness the faint scent of one long departed first from his home, and now from these shores, still lingered, and the touch of a book or a pillow filled Thranduil’s mind with vivid memories of days gone by.
As he made his way slowly to the foot of the bed, the veil of time lifted and he remembered clearly the dishevelled golden hair on the pillow, the warm smile as bright eyes focussed from sleep and the fierce hugs the of the small child now fully awake. The love and affection between them had grown stronger and deeper as his son reached maturity and they faced the sorrow filled departure of the beloved lady in their lives. He stepped over to the half emptied book case and fondly ran his fingers over the smooth wood of the bow that had been his son’s first weapon, and allowed himself a proud smile for the skilled warrior he had raised.
Picking up one of the story books he had often read to his young son, Thranduil sat on the bed and slowly turned the pages of the tale he knew so well and frowned in confusion as the writing disappeared before his eyes, turning into a swirling mist that coalesced into a likeness of Legolas.
“Elbereth!” he swore in disbelief, dropping the book in his astonishment.
“Aye, it is I, Thranduil,” a soft feminine voice whispered in his mind.
“My Lady, why are you here?” he asked the disembodied voice of the Vala.
“I might ask you the same,” she replied, filling the room with silvery laughter.
“This is my home,” he replied with a shrug of despair for the words which no longer meant anything to his heart.
“Nay, it is your home no longer, son of Oropher. Come to us, the ship for Valinor awaits you.”
The early morning dew that fell like soft tears from the leaves above mingled with those of the lone Elf who passed below on his way to a distant shore from which he would never return. With a heavy heart and a thick voice he had spoken the enchantment that closed the gates to his Hall forever, sadly aware that without his protection the sands of time would one day turn the solid stone to dust. That the forest would finally reclaim its own was some small consolation, but not enough to quell his tears, nor ease his sorrow at the part of his life he was leaving behind.
The trees lamented the departure of the last of the bright ones, but just as he had given them much of himself over the long years, so they gave him something in return. Soft whispers in the far reaches of his mind guided the Elf along the path which lead to the small, secluded glade the oldest of the trees remembered had been a favourite place of the young King and his Queen for a picnic or moonlight tryst.
Glancing around, Thranduil was momentarily surprised to see where now stood and with the barest hint of a smile, he knelt in the grass, pleased when images of his most cherished night came unbidden into his mind. He watched as if in a dream as he and Elisiel lay together in joyful harmony of body and spirit beneath the stars, their joining giving life to the new melody of their son. How he missed them both, and how he longed to be with them once more.
“Weep no more, go to them,” the rustling leaves seemed to whisper as they danced apart in the light breeze, allowing Anor’s bright rays to dry the last of the morning dew. As the overwhelming sense of sorrow that had prevailed slowly faded, so did his reluctance to do as the trees and sweet Elbereth had bid. So it was that with a new lightness in his heart, Thranduil, King of Eryn Lasgalen no longer, swiftly made his way through the trees, his voice raised in a sweet song of farewell.
The journey through the Misty Mountains, where some minions of evil still dwelt, was uneventful, and Thranduil was certain that he was kept safe by the protection of the Lady by day, and Eärendil by night. It was a welcome thought and boosted his increasingly high spirits as he travelled alone. His melancholy mood returned in full however when he arrived at the long since deserted Imladris. As he imagined would be already be happening to Lothlorien and to Eryn Lasgalen in the distant future, nature had moved swiftly to fill the void left by the Elves. Not only were the gardens overgrown, but trailing vines covered the doorways and windows, gradually hiding the Last Homely House from view.
Careful to avoid crushing even a single leaf, Thranduil pushed the greenery aside and made his way inside. Need to remain in Mirkwood had prevented him from visiting Imladris more than a few times when it had been a thriving community, but he unerringly found Elrond’s library and nodded with amusement as his suspicions about his friend were confirmed. Although all the furniture that had been left behind was now merely home to rats and mice, not a single book or page of parchment remained in the dilapidated bookshelves.
Legolas and Gimli had assisted in removing some to Minas Tirith, but a goodly number must have been left for Elladan and Elrohir to see safely to the Havens. No wonder they sailed so long after their Adar! Thranduil smiled at the whimsical notion as he walked over to the alcove where Elrond’s desk stood, his eyes wide with astonishment when he saw the unopened bottle of Dorwinion and the piece of parchment. The missive addressed to him in Elrond’s fine hand was yellowed with age, but not brittle to the touch, he realised as he picked it up and quickly read the message, left with the benefit of that Elrond’s gift of farsightedness, or so Thranduil assumed.
We must share a cup or two of this excellent vintage when you arrive in Valinor, as I know you eventually will. I left this bottle behind since I could think of no other way to keep it from Glorfindel’s table. Locked cellars are of no matter to our dear friend as you well know.
Please bring it with you when you sail, mellon nin.
For the first time in many months, Thranduil laughed heartily as he folded the note and put it in his pack with the wine.
Thranduil tasted the salty tang of the sea breeze as he stood on the dock, staring appreciatively at the work of art that was one of Cirdan’s swan ships. The craft was as sleek and as graceful as the birds for which it had been named, and stirred something deep within the Wood Elf’s heart that made Thranduil realise he was more than eager to set sail. Gone were thoughts of the forest he left behind, and memories of the despair that had grown over the centuries as the realm he and his Adar built together was slowly destroyed by darkness. All he could see in his mind’s eye were the faces of those waiting for him in Valinor, and he heard naught but the soft voices of his loved ones, mingled with the song of the sea, calling him home.
At first he was concerned that he was the lone passenger, but once he had boarded, the sails filled with a gusty wind and the swan ship set sail, apparently following some invisible course. Soon the gentle motion of the ship as it sailed into the West lulled Thranduil into a state of reverie that ended when the harsh cry of silver gulls alerted him to the land ahead. He awoke with a start, and although he had no idea how long the journey had taken, he was not of a mind to question the Valar responsible for seeing to his safe arrival.
The white shores were beautiful beyond belief, but paled in comparison to that of the two golden haired Elves he saw standing on the dock. With little regard for decorum, he hurried down the gangplank and into the waiting arms of his beloved wife.
The passage of time and their physical separation became meaningless to the lovers, as oblivious to all others; they held each other close and wordlessly reaffirmed their eternal love through the union of their lips and their spirits.
“Elisiel, queen of my heart, I have missed you,” Thranduil whispered against the golden hair that rested on his shoulder when the kiss finally ended.
“As I have missed you, Thranduil, king of my heart,” she replied looking up into eyes darkened with the need for a more intimate union that mirrored hers, and she smiled as she shook her head. “We will have plenty of time to satisfy each other as I long to do also, but this is neither the time nor the place, my love,” she whispered as she beckoned Legolas forward. Having no intention of taking his arm from around Elisiel’s waist, Thranduil simply drew his son into the joint embrace as he had often done when his son was a child. Legolas placed an arm around each of his parents’ shoulders and smiled with contentment.
“Welcome home, Adar,” he said as he kissed Thranduil’s cheek.
“Have you not also a kiss for me, Oropherion?” Thranduil froze at the sound of the one voice he knew better than any others, and this time he willingly relinquished his hold on his wife and son to bury the elder elf in his strong arms, showering her cheeks with kisses as he did so.