It had been a fortnight since Lord Elrond had shown the King how to use magic to mask his scars and the King had spent much more time upon his feet, but there was still one more thing he needed to do before he felt he was worthy to reclaim the regency of the Woodland Realm. Thranduil had agreed to give this one go, one literal shot in the dark, as he had refused to try in the daylight. Not that night made much difference to the eyesight of elves, but at least under the veil of darkness, prying eyes would be less likely to wander.
Merely being able to dress in clothing fit for combat had made the King feel better. He wore no armour, as Lord Elrond had assured him it would not be required, but sturdy boots, a leather tunic and had braided his hair for the first time since he had been returned to the Woodland Realm. Of course he could do this, Thranduil had thought, it is simple. Although now, as he stood in the dark training field, the King once more felt doubt wash over him. Lord Elrond stood beside him, their weapons laid out on the table at the entrance to the field. There was no one else around.
"I cannot use a bow," Thranduil said. There would be much he was willing to try, but there were still exceptions.
"You have not yet tried," Lord Elrond said.
"I trust not my eyesight. I should be ashamed to miss," Thranduil had mastered masking the scars and the cloudy blind eye, but forcing sight back into the damaged eye was still a challenge.
"I understand," said Lord Elrond, "But you were ever the better swordsman than bowman." That was true, Thranduil had to admit to himself. But elves were renowned for their skill with the bow, and the King feared to pick one up. Lord Elrond continued, "Close your eyes."
"What?" asked the King.
"Close your eyes," Lord Elrond said. The King sighed and did so. He could hear Lord Elrond moving about him. "You know where your hands are, don't you?"
"Even with your eyes shut, you know where your arms are in relation to the rest of your body."
Thranduil felt something solid being placed into his right hand. He took hold of it, and felt a sudden power return to him. His body remembered the weight of his sword, how it moved, how it cut through the air. "Can I have the other one?" Thranduil asked, opening his eyes and looking at the sword in his right hand.
"Not yet," Lord Elrond said. "Your arm still needs more time to heal. But you know this sword. You know its feel, its weight and length. You know where the end of its blade is in relation to your hand and the rest of your body. Keep your eyes shut, and strike me."
"This is silly," Thranduil said, shutting his eyes again.
"But you've moved."
"Of course I've moved. I was not going to stand half a foot in front of you. Swing and strike me."
"I don't know where you are."
"Yes you do. You can hear me. I won't move. Don't open your eyes, or I'll blindfold you. Hit me."
Thranduil swung half-heartedly in the direction of Lord Elrond's voice and was surprised when he heard the chink of the two blades hitting. He opened his eyes. "You moved," he said to Lord Elrond.
"No I didn't. You found me. Now close your eyes. This time I will be moving, but I'll still be facing you. Trust me."
Thranduil sighed and closed his eyes again. He swung randomly and found nothing.
"You're not trying!" Lord Elrond called.
"I feel like a child," Thranduil moaned, again swinging and missing.
"You look like one too, swinging away at imagined monsters in the dark. You can do this."
"It is folly," the King said, slightly lowering his sword.
"It will work."
Thranduil noticed an awful lot of determination in the healer's voice. He twirled his sword in his hand. Was he prepared to give up so easily? After all he had been through; the last few weeks of sickness and weakness and the shadow of pain… if he could prove he was not broken to himself, he could easily convince his Realm. He concentrated, swung his sword and found steal.
"Good!" Thranduil could tell that Lord Elrond was smiling. "You know your footwork. You know how to move. Keep your eyes shut and fight me."
Thranduil moved his feet and swung, finding Lord Elrond. Elrond stepped away, Thranduil spun around and swung, again finding steal. He opened his eyes. "You're making this easy on purpose."
"Perhaps," Lord Elrond smiled. "If you believe so, keep your eyes open and fight me. Trust your arms, your legs, your ears, and your judgement. Are you ready?"
"Ready," said the King, twirling his sword before lunging at Lord Elrond. The two parried and fought for over an hour, at which time Lord Elrond said that it was enough. Thranduil conceded, but he knew why Lord Elrond had stopped. The King had hardly been on his feet for these past few weeks, let alone wielding a sword, and now was sweating and sore.
"Your body will get used to it quicker than you expect," Lord Elrond said, ever the mind reader.
"I feel like some old, stiff creature," Thranduil said, as the re-entered the armoury.
"A few more days, and you'll be as sprightly as Legolas."
Thranduil laughed. "Few are as sprightly as that boy," he turned to Lord Elrond, "He has done well."
"Yes," Said Lord Elrond.
"You do not think he will mind relinquishing his duties?"
"Not if you feel ready to re-take them."
"After a hot bath, I shall feel quite ready," Thranduil said.
"Shall I summon the Prince for you?"
"Please. He will not mind?"
"I feel that Lord Legolas may be more inclined to throw a party to celebrate his re-found freedom than to mourn the loss of any responsibilities."
"You do not think he has changed, then?"
"Quite the contrary. If I may suggest such council, mellon-nin, give the Princeling some position of responsibility. It needs to be important, anything too minor he will begrudge, but nothing you do not think him suitable for."
Thranduil nodded. "I shall. And I think I have just the thing in mind."