Summary: One-shot. Thranduil has something important to do.
This story is a present for Yenneffer, in answer to a question (and with the caveat that I really can't write romance).
Many thanks to my wonderful beta, Calenlass, for her work on this.
She seems to grow more beautiful every day.
I can still remember the time I first caught sight of her: I was weary, thirsty and – little though I liked to admit it – lost. I was thinking, as I led my horse down yet another path to yet another likely-looking glade, that things could not possibly get worse.
I was right.
She was there, in the trees. She was startled to see me at first, but then she guessed who I was. And instead of being awestruck at being in the presence of her liege-lord, she was appalled that the King of Eryn Galen could lose his way among his own trees.
I remember the way she looked at me, making a valiant effort to conceal her horrified disbelief. I think that was when I began to fall in love.
I did not realize it at first.
She was a Silvan Elf, and she was one with the forest in ways that I could not begin to comprehend. She tried to teach me. I like to think that I was not an entirely hopeless pupil. I knew I could never know the woods as well as she did, never be so close in spirit to every tree and bird that wandered in them, but, for her sake, I tried.
When did I know that what I felt for her was something more than friendship? I cannot say. But I have known for some time. I have felt my breath quicken in her presence, felt my heart skip a beat at the sound of her voice. I have learnt to listen for the music of her laughter when I am walking in the forest alone. I have begun to miss her presence if a day passes when she does not call me to see an opening flower or a fledgling bird.
My friends have assured me that she cares for me. I do not dare to believe them. It seems too much to ask for: surely I have not earned the right to such happiness. Yet... I must ask her. I must know.
I do not know what I will do if she refuses me.
He was a warrior when I knew him first.
He surprised me when I was talking to the trees, and I was not entirely pleased. Who would be, to find a pleasant conversation interrupted by the sound of a disgruntled Elf muttering about the perfidy of the forest?
I could not believe, at first, that he was our Elven-king. My father knew him, of course, but I had never met him, and I did not for a moment imagine that the King of the Woodland Realm would be so ignorant of the very forest he ruled. At first I was inclined to dismiss it as Sindarin arrogance – he does appear haughty on first acquaintance. But some instinct told me that he could be taught... And, to be honest, he was handsome enough that I was not at all averse to spending more time with him.
Naturally I never had the slightest idea of falling in love with him.
It did not take me long to realize that he was not as proud as he seemed. He was frightened. His father and most of his family had been slain in the terrible battle; his mother had sailed to the Blessed Realm: he was alone, trying to bring peace and security to a devastated kingdom, navigating the politics of court without anyone to advise him.
He was so sweet in his earnestness and determination that I found sympathy turning into friendship and then into something more.
Now, I am the one who is afraid. I am afraid for myself: I have fallen in love with the King of Eryn Galen, and I do not know if he cares for me. Even if he does... Even if he loves me as I love him... Our lives will not be easy. If I wed him then I will be Queen. I do not know if I am ready for the responsibility. I do not know if I am capable of taking on that burden.
I hear footsteps.
He is coming, and I am afraid.
For a moment, all I want to do is drink in the sight of her. She is waiting for me beneath a young cherry tree: it is the flowering season, and its white-coated boughs extend over her head and soften the sunlight so that she seems bathed in a gentle golden glow. Her hair and her eyes are as dark as midnight, and her smile is all that is precious and good in the world. I am certain that there is nothing this beautiful anywhere in all of Arda.
I stop and rehearse my lines again. They sound ridiculous in my head.
What do I have to offer her? Not peace, not safety... I cannot even promise her happiness, not when I know what my mother suffered. As Lindariel's bride-gift I will give her the duties and obligations of a queen. I do not know if I can bear to do it – for a moment, I am strongly tempted to turn and walk away.
But her gaze holds me rooted to the spot. I know I should not ask this of her. I know I have no right to place such a burden upon her. I know that if I truly care for her, I should let her find happiness with someone who is more deserving... Yet I do not have the strength of purpose. I love her more than I have ever loved anything or anyone, and the thought of facing the ages of the world without her is almost more than I can bear.
The word comes out in a hoarse whisper that I can scarcely believe is my own.
"You said you wanted to talk to me," she replies. I hear an edge of something in her voice, and once again I nearly turn and walk away.
I try to speak. My tongue seems stuck to the roof of my mouth. She is looking at me with curiosity that is rapidly turning into alarm. I shake my head; then, since my legs at least seem to be obeying me, I walk towards her. I stand staring at her for a moment, in something of a daze, before sinking slowly to my knees.
"You... you may not be happy. You will not be happy."
I feel a stab of disappointment. From Thranduil's expression I had dared to hope that he was going to... But it appears that I was wrong. Not even he is half-witted enough to begin a declaration of love in that fashion.
It is a minute before I can wrench my attention back to what he is saying.
"... And I know it is not easy, because you probably do not consider it an honour in any case, and there are innumerable responsibilities. I have my duties, of course, but that is only a part of it. You will have to see your children go to battle, possibly to die, whether or not they want to. I – that is – I am not suggesting that you will accept me or that you should. You will probably be happier if you do not. But I thought you had the right to know..."
As I listen in bewildered disbelief, it dawns on me that, yes, Thranduil is that half-witted.
He is still talking. I am no longer listening: my blood pounding in my ears is drowning out all other sounds. Of course he loves me – of course he does. I was a fool not to be certain of it.
He has stopped talking now. He is looking up at me with his heart shining in his eyes. He has never been as handsome or as strong as he is now, on his knees on the forest floor baring his soul to a young Elf-woman. I take his hands in mine, but I dare not speak or even breathe for fear of ruining this moment.
"Lindariel?" he prompts gently.
I realize that I am expected to answer. I also realize that he looks petrified. The King of the Woodland Realm has offered me his heart, and he is afraid that I will refuse.
I open my mouth, but the sound that comes out is an unintelligible squeak. I swallow and try again.
"Only if you promise me that our children will not be as foolish as you are."
As soon as the words come out, I am astonished. I had intended to make one of the conventional little speeches of acceptance. But it has served its purpose: Thranduil understands. He is smiling at me, eyes sparkling with gentle mirth.
"They will be your children. They will be perfect."
What did you think? Good? Bad? I should never write a romance again? Please review!