Summary: With the Shadow turning Greenwood to Mirkwood, Thranduil must relocate his people from the Mountains to a new home. Written for the Tolkien Tango #18: Bridge
Home for an Elvenking
By Nieriel Raina
Mountains of Mirkwood
Year 1067, Third Age
Thranduil paced before the small fire, anxious for word. He marched miles in the twenty-foot across room before the flickering light as the logs burned down to nothing but embers. It had been days – nay, weeks! — and still no word. They had not the time for delays. Something must be done soon.
For nearly two decades the Shadow had grown over his beloved mountains. Inch by inch, foot by foot, tree by tree, the Greenwood became known as Mirkwood. Evil creatures infested the lands where Oropher had moved the people long ago. Beautiful and deadly, many silky webs ten feet in diameter hung from once green trees, now shadowed and gnarled. His people fought hard with spear and bow, but daily they lost ground.
It had been one of the hardest decisions he had ever made as king, to concede the mountains were lost and to look for another home far from the Shadow. Already they had lost too many in the dark shadows under trees that had once been filled with light and song. The evil crept nearer, and Thranduil had his own family to consider. He had lost one son to War to the south, he would be damned if he lost another child to the Shadow.
Swallowing hard, he turned on his heel and paced the other direction. Once the decision had been made, he had become impatient to see it done, to see his people removed to a safer home. To see his family free to enjoy the forest as elves were meant to do. He itched to be out there, searching, but such was not his place or his duty. And so when he could not take the waiting any longer, he paced, back and forth, back and forth, each day feeling as if it were a Long Year.
Finally, a knock resounded in the empty chamber, Thranduil's haven when he wished to pace and think. "Come," he called, fearing it was simply another mundane request.
To his surprise, one of the scouts entered, his boots ringing on the wooden floor. Finally!
"My lord!" Rifgaron bowed then stood. Was that a glow of excitement in the scout's eyes?
"Well?" Thranduil asked, forcing himself to sound disinterested, though his heart raced with hope.
Rifgaron's voice was filled with enthusiasm. "My lord, I have found a place!"
A thrill ran down Thranduil's spine. "Oh?" He kept his face a mask of indifference, but something spoke to him, some smell emanating from the scout's clothing called to him.
"Far from here, to the north at the edge of the wood. The trees still sing and the land is green and bright. And there is a hill…" Rifgaron's voice trailed off as Thranduil narrowed his eyes.
"A hill?" The last place they had lived had been on a hill – a hill that now bore a dark tower and felt so evil none would travel within miles of it.
The scout gulped. "Not just a hill, my lord. It is riddled with stone caverns. And the trees are strong and tall. With some work, it would make a fine home…" A smile tugged at Rifgaron's lips. "It reminded me of the old tales, my lord. Of Menengroth."
Thranduil raised a brow, showing more interest. Caverns would be easier to defend. Even now, some of the people dwelt in caves. "Go on," he encouraged.
"Before the hill runs a small river, pure and swift, its banks lined with beech and oak. There is only one entrance to the caverns on the other side of the river…."
Something deep within him responded to the description. He held up his hand, bringing the other's words to a halt. A slow smile spread his across his face, and Thranduil slipped to a corner and grabbed the pack he had prepared days ago. "Show me."
The scout blinked. "My lord?"
But Thranduil had already slipped the pack on his back, grabbed his bow and quiver and headed for the door. "We'll stop in the kitchen for provisions. Come."
A hand rubbing the back of his neck and a frown marring his face, Rifgaron followed.
The hill turned out to be everything Rifgaron had said. But even more, the land spoke to Thranduil, and refreshed him. This would be a home worthy of defending, with its mighty trees, plentiful game and a hill that could easily be converted into a fortress, if he could persuade the dwarves to help him. That thought caused him some unease, but he had jewels enough in the treasury that would buy the dwarves' labor, for his people were not trained to delve into stone. And they would need a pair of great doors to serve as a gate at the entrance, warded by charms…
Even now he could see them swinging open at his spoken word, and behind him, a wooden bridge spanning the rushing water.
"It will do."
— o —
Several Years Later….
The voice reached him from over the rushing waters. He paused, and the returning hunting party halted, many of them, though weary, with amused grins on their faces. Thranduil continued between the trees lining the path alone. Many years had passed since he had first seen this place. But ever did it commune with him and hum with life. Even the stones sang.
A few strides from the bridge, he stooped to one knee and held out his arms.
A flash of gold darted towards him; little feet pounded the wooden planks, then launched his youngest son into his arms. "Legolas." Thranduil placed a kiss to the golden head.
"Welcome home, Ada!"
Oh, it was good to be home.