Disclaimer: Those you recognize belong to Tolkien. I do not own them. Everyone you do not recognize belong to me.
Summary: He was warned to never go to the cursed hill. But when Thranduil disobeys his father's orders to see if the stories are true, a single event from Oropher's past threatens the life of his young son.
Characters: Thranduil and Oropher, features OCs
Warnings: Violence, mild creative license with geography
Author's Note: Thranduil has always been one of my favorite Tolkien characters, and since there aren't many of them out there, I thought I'd put out a little Thranduil story of my own. What was this proud king like as a child? What was his relationship with Oropher? What was Oropher like as a father? These are all things I wanted to explore and hopefully present in an enjoyable manner. Thranduil is about the equivalent of a twelve-year-old here. And for those who have read my oneshot "A Balrog in the Closet" will probably recognize the character Aearion. Many, many thanks to doreenthatshot for her help with figuring out the finer points of this storyas well as Gwedhiel0117 for her help with placing Greenwood in the First Age as realistically as possible. Both of you guys are amazing, and I hope you both enjoy the story, as I hope the rest of you do too. Read, review, just no flames please! Enjoy!
hír-nín- my lord
aran-nín- my king
Amon Sereg- "Blood Hill"
ripple effect (noun)- the continuing and spreading results of an event or action
All was still in the vast study save the occasional whisper of a faded page as it was turned or the quiet clink the wine glass made as it was set back on the paper-filled desk. It was a peace Oropher relished. As king of Greenwood the Great, there were not many moments in the day where he could spend in solitude, often occupied dealing with matters within his realm or burdened down by the load of paperwork that seemed to constantly be in need of being seen to that he would sometimes delay until it was absolutely necessary. Paperwork had never been his strongest point.
Though it was not only official matters that demanded his attention.
A slight smile graced Oropher's fair but often stern features as he turned another page in the book he had been attempting to get through but had been unable to due to frequent interruptions. If it was not paperwork, then it was his young son who captured his time. Thranduil had been an adventurous spirit since he had been old enough to walk, but it was something that had grown more prevalent since his mother had left Greenwood after her mother had sailed to Valinor out of grief when her husband gave his life to save his from a traitorous Elf in his guard. Oropher could not refuse his wife's request since he often felt her unhappiness, though his own heart had been heavily burdened by her leaving and no word of her potential return, and Thranduil appeared to be acting out. There was not a day that went by, it seemed, where some complaint was brought to him of the youthful prince sticking his nose where it didn't belong or causing some sort of trouble around the palace. The absence of his mother was difficult for him to handle, and he only hoped it was something Thranduil would grow out of once they both came to accept it.
Another page in the thick book was turned. Oropher's smile broadened as he took a small sip of the cool, red wine, leaning back in the cushioned chair as he continued reading. He could not recall a time when he had managed to get through so many pages of his treasured book, a feat he was rather impressed with. A sense of tranquility smoothed out the stressed creases in his handsome face as he continued to scan the dark print, the long years of battle reflected in his green eyes the only true indicator of how long he had walked the earth. He brushed a strand of light blond hair behind his ear that had spilled onto the page he was currently reading which had come loose from the ponytail that was keeping the long tresses neatly back, reaching out for the glass again.
Then, his hand paused as Oropher glanced up from the faded pages, his eyes moving over the stone walls of the room until they came to the wooden door across from him. They narrowed slightly. He thought he heard hurried footsteps drawing nearer, and at the late hour, he knew it could not be anything good. For a brief moment, he wondered what Thranduil was up to.
Sure enough, the door of the study soon slammed open. Oropher winced slightly, inwardly groaning as he shut the book in defeat and rested his face in his hand. Whoever felt the need to interrupt him could have at least had the courtesy to knock first instead of barging in. But as he looked through his ringed fingers at the unexpected guests, he was surprised to see three small forms looking back at him through wide, fearful eyes as a taller figure entered the room.
"My deepest apologies, hír-nín," Aearion, his closest advisor, said, looking down on the Elflings between them with a disapproving eye. "I tried to stop these children. But they would not listen-!"
"We had to see the king!" the boy who was standing a bit closer to the desk than his two companions protested while the other two, a boy and girl with similar features, gazed upon Oropher almost pleadingly. "It cannot wait!"
"Whatever it is you wish to speak with him about can wait until the morrow," Aearion told them sternly, grabbing a hold of the three Elflings. "There is no reason to disturb the king at this late hour."
Oropher sighed as he lowered his hand, watching as his advisor struggled to pull the children from his study. He knew them well since they were friends of Thranduil and often caused just as much trouble as he did. Calanon, the boy who had spoken, was the son of the captain in Greenwood's army while siblings Erynion and Helinniel were the children of one of the palace's healers.
But something about their late-night intrusion without the presence of his son bothered him.
The higher voice of Helinniel brought him out of his thoughts, and Oropher rose to his feet. "Daro," he commanded sharply, causing the advisor and children to stop their struggling as they made their way toward the door. "Aearion, let them come."
Aearion looked startled by the sudden order, remembering the previous one he had been given to let no one disturb his king that night. "But, hír-nín..."
"I said let them come," Oropher repeated sternly, his tone and the flicker in his eye leaving no room for argument.
Sighing, Aearion released the three troublemaking Elflings, who immediately rushed toward the desk. Oropher raised a ringed hand and gestured to the couch that was set to the side of him, and Calanon, Erynion, and Helinniel immediately took their places on it while the king lowered himself back into his cushioned chair. He rested his arms on the desk as he studied the children carefully.
"What is it you wish to speak with me about at this hour that is so important?"
The three Elflings exchanged fearful looks, and it was clear they had not thought this far ahead. Aearion crossed his arms and leaned against the doorway, narrowing his light eyes at them. Finally, it was Calanon who met Oropher's intense gaze.
"'Tis... 'tis Thranduil, aran-nín," he answered nervously.
Oropher felt his heart sink at the quiet statement. By the tone of the Elfling's voice, he could tell his initial suspicion had been correct. His paternal instincts flared, filling him with a sense of dread. Something was wrong with his son.
"Calanon. Tell me everything."
The Elfling sat curled up against the hard, stone wall behind him, his wide, blue eyes gazing around at the darkness fearfully. From his inspection of the cave he was being held in, it was empty save a few pairs of old, rusted chains in the back.
He wished he had never suggested they come to this place. They should never have come here. His father would be furious.
This thought brought a thin line of tears to Thranduil's eyes, but he immediately wiped them away with his sleeve, refusing to let them fall. He had heard too many stories from his father and a few of the more seasoned warriors in their forces that emotion in times such as these would show weakness to your enemy, and that was something he would not allow himself to do. He was the prince of Greenwood. He would be strong.
However, there was nothing more he wanted to do than escape this dreadful place. The cave had been relatively quiet since his captors had chased after his friends, but he dared not venture out from where he had been left in event of their return. Thranduil knew they would likely come back soon either empty handed or with his friends. He desperately hoped it would not prove to be the latter since he did not want them to be with him in this horrid situation. It was his ill idea, he would handle the consequences.
But how could he if he did not know who, or what, his captors were? Thranduil pulled his knees a bit closer to his chest. According to the stories, spirits of soldiers who had died in this cave were said to still linger due to the violent bloodshed that had taken place. However, how could spirits have done this to him? How could spirits have caught him by surprise with their footsteps? How could they have physically restrained him? He may have had no idea what could have been harbored so near Greenwood, but what he could say for certain was they were not spirits.
Then, Thranduil quietly gasped and wrapped his arms tightly around his legs when he heard loud footsteps drawing nearer. From what he could discern, the sound belonged to his four captors. He could tell they were somewhat short as they stopped before him, but even with his sharper eyesight, the heavy blackness of the cave as well as the night outside made it difficult for him to clearly see their faces.
But with the slight moonlight filtering into the cave behind them, they could apparently see him a bit better, which unnerved the young Elf.
"Look what we caught," a gruff male voice said as one of the four stepped forward. Thranduil closed his eyes and turned his face away when he reached toward him, flinching slightly when the hand grabbed him roughly beneath the chin and jerked his head forward. The prince bit down on his lip, refusing to let the slight whimper escape. Then, he opened his eyes in surprise when the simple silver circlet that adorned his fair hair was pulled viciously from his head.
All four of his captors laughed.
"It appears our patience has paid off. Looks like we have us a royal one," the first voice continued thoughtfully before a sudden loud clang filled the cave as the circlet hit the rock floor. Thranduil's eyes widened when one of the four brought what appeared to be an axe down on it, cleaving it in two uneven halves.
"You must be Oropher's wretch."
The statement both infuriated Thranduil and sent a chill down his spine. His captors knew his father. He realized his situation had just grown much more dire.
"How much do you suppose we'd get for him?" a second voice, also male, asked.
"I suppose a lot," the first voice answered, taking on a mocking tone as he continued. "The king would want no harm to befall his precious son."
Thranduil unconsciously shivered as the four men laughed. But he did not outwardly show the fear he felt as he rested his blue eyes on them steadily, nearly unblinking as their laughter slowly trailed off.
"Just what are you staring at, wretch?"
The prince gasped quietly when one of the four suddenly stepped forward, catching a slight motion as his arm was raised above his head with, he assumed, the intent to strike him. Thranduil shrunk back as far as he could against the rock wall, covering his face protectively.
Thranduil cautiously lowered his hands, watching as one of the others grabbed his raised arm to stop him from striking him. "No," the first voice repeated, a bit more calmly this time. "Not yet. I want him alive and well for the king to find." The man who had nearly struck him lowered his arm, albeit reluctantly.
Then, Thranduil tensed when who he assumed was the leader leaned close to his ear. "Consider yourself fortunate," the first voice murmured. "You are worth nothing to us dead, Thranduil Oropherion."
"We did not have lessons today," Calanon explained quietly, his tone shaking slightly as he looked back into Oropher's intense gaze. Aearion, troubled by the possible fate of the prince, was now leaning against the desk nearer the Elflings. "We decided to take our horses out for a ride through the forest. Then Thranduil told us a story he had heard, and we decided to see for ourselves if it was true."
"I did not think it was a good idea," Helinniel quickly added. "But Thranduil was insistent. We should not have gone."
Oropher glanced at the youngest Elfling, his gaze softening slightly when he saw the thin line of tears in her eyes. "What story did he tell you?" he asked, though he suspected he knew the answer. "Where did you go?"
"Have you never heard of it?" Thranduil wondered, glancing back at his three friends from where his horse was in the lead.
"No," Erynion, who had spoken first, said with a shake of his head. "What is it?"
A smirk appeared on Thranduil's face as he slowed his horse to a stop in front of a fork in the path, Calanon, Erynion, and Helinniel doing the same around him. "The story says it is a cursed hill within the borders of Greenwood," he told them quietly.
"I do not believe in cursed places," Calanon stated firmly though Erynion and Helinniel both appeared slightly uncomfortable.
Thranduil's eyes gleamed, almost in silent challenge. "Amon Sereg was once used as a post for Greenwood's guards. One night, they were ambushed. A violent struggle broke out, costing many lives. The guards finally took their attackers captive, chained them in the cave at its peak, and tortured them without mercy. Many more died."
The prince paused for effect, seeing he had his friends' undivided attention. Erynion looked back at him with wide eyes while Helinniel grasped her brother's hand tightly as they listened to the story. Though not outwardly as afraid as the other two, even Calanon appeared somewhat wary.
"Then, one night, the prisoners escaped," Thranduil continued menacingly. "They slaughtered the guards in their sleep and fled, never to be seen again."
"Wh... what ambushed the guards?" Helinniel asked nervously.
"No one knows," Thranduil answered with a slight smirk. "Though the story says the spirits of all those killed there still linger behind, seeking revenge for their unjust deaths."
"That is just a story," Calanon said with upmost confidence while Erynion grasped his sister's hand tighter in a protective manner. "That did not truly happen."
"Then how is it not even the bravest of soldiers venture there?" Thranduil's smirk broadened.
Calanon hesitated for a moment. "Because... it is no longer in use," he replied. "There is no need."
Thranduil chuckled quietly. "If you are truly not afraid," he muttered, "would you see for yourself if the story is true?"
Some of the color drained from Calanon's face, but only a little. "A-aye, I would."
"Then let us go." The look in Thranduil's eye was sending out a silent challenge, daring his friend to ride with him to Amon Sereg.
Calanon sighed before he nodded, tightening his hand around the reins of his horse. "Let us go."
"I do not believe..." Erynion began, but his sentence trailed off when Thranduil and Calanon both brought the horses down the narrower of the two paths that would bring them further away from the city. He glanced back at Helinniel's worried face before reluctantly following after them.
Oropher sighed heavily. He knew the legend of Amon Sereg well, having been the one who told it to Thranduil. But that was all it was. A story. "Is that where he is now?" he wondered. A nervous look that passed between Calanon, Erynion, and Helinniel was all the confirmation he needed. "And you left him there?"
"No!" Erynion immediately protested. "He told us to leave."
Aearion exchanged confused looks with Oropher before they both looked back at the Elflings. "Why would he stay there alone?" the latter wondered. He was not able to conceive why his son would willingly choose to linger in such a place, and that was what concerned him most.
A moment of uncomfortable silence passed before Erynion continued to explain since Calanon could no longer meet the king's gaze. "The terrain is treacherous there, but we began climbing anyway..."
"Watch your footing," Calanon cautioned from where he was ahead of his three friends as he slowly made his way up the short cliff. "Some of the rocks are a bit unsteady."
The four Elflings had left their horses tied to a couple trees at the edge of the clearing that surrounded Amon Sereg. The hill itself was not very tall, but it was steep with the swiftly running Duilwen River rushing beneath it. Determined to prove he was not afraid of a story he did not believe to be true, Calanon decided to lead the way up the cliff with Thranduil close behind. Helinniel followed after him with Erynion going last in effort to make sure his sister was safe.
There were two outposts on this hill, one a broad rock ledge that overlooked the river below and the other a cave at its peak which faced out over the forest. The friends were nearly at the first one when a rock beneath Helinniel's foot came loose, and she screamed as she nearly fell. Thinking quickly, Thranduil reached back and got a secure hold of her wrist before she could tumble down, bringing her up to a slightly larger rock he was holding onto. Calanon, who had safely made it up to the ledge above, reached down and grabbed her hands, pulling her onto it before doing the same with Thranduil and then Erynion.
"Beautiful view," the latter reluctantly admitted, looking down at the river. "Hard to believe such a thing happened here."
"It did not happen," Calanon argued defiantly, crossing his arms. "It is merely a story."
"Then mayhap you would not mind seeing the cave where the prisoners were tortured," Thranduil posed, his eyes gleaming.
Calanon met his gaze before looking around the ledge, spotting a stone staircase toward the back that would bring them up to the infamous cave. There was only a short hesitation before he hurried toward them with determination, taking them two at a time until he was out of sight.
"I... I'd rather stay here," Helinniel muttered when Thranduil turned to her and her brother expectantly.
Thranduil nodded respectfully to her before he turned and disappeared up the staircase as well. Erynion lingered behind for a moment, but when he got a small smile from his sister, he followed after the prince.
Once they reached the top, they found Calanon at the back of the cave, standing stiffly as he looked at something on the floor. Thranduil and Erynion exchanged wondering glances before they walked toward him. "What is it?" the latter asked.
Calanon didn't answer. Instead, he pointed in front of him, and when the other two Elflings joined him, they saw he was staring at a few pairs of rusted chains connected to the wall. They were splotched with dark stains which looked eerily like blood.
"It... it was true?"
Thranduil slowly shook his head. "This was once used as a guard post, yes," he confirmed. "But the story of the torture and slaughters is just that. A story. My father told it to me."
"Do you believe this place truly is cursed?" Calanon wondered, uncertain for the first time since they had decided to come to the cave.
"No," Thranduil told him. "I do not."
"All right, we have seen it, but I believe we should not linger," Erynion said quietly, sounding nervous. "Besides, it will be dark soon."
The three Elflings turned to look at the mouth of the cave, seeing the sun was beginning to set behind the tall trees. If they wanted to reach the city by nightfall, they had best take his suggestion.
But before they could do anything more, they turned to the staircase that had brought them there, seeing a worried Helinniel run up them. "Our horses are gone!"
"What?" Thranduil and Calanon hurried over to the edge of the cave, looking across the clearing to where they had tied their horses, seeing what she said was true. They were nowhere to be seen.
Dread began to nag at Thranduil. Something was amiss. They should not have come here. "Go," he murmured, turning to Calanon. "Go!"
Not having to be told again, Calanon ran toward where their other two friends were waiting by the top of the staircase, ushering them to go down first before he went down himself. Thranduil followed them to the rock ledge, watching as they began to carefully scale down the short cliff. He started to go after them, but he gasped when he heard quiet footsteps behind him. They weren't alone.
A startled cry escaped from him when his arms were roughly grabbed and forced behind his back, pain wrenching his shoulders. He could hear Calanon starting to climb back up toward the ledge, but Thranduil shook his head even though he knew his friend couldn't see him. "No! Go!"
Then, a soft cloth obstructed his vision, and his world went black.
"Thranduil saved us," Erynion concluded in nearly a whisper, taking Helinniel's hand. "We would have returned for him, but we were pursued for a short distance. We outran whatever it was and made it back here even without our horses. I... I know not what happened to him."
Oropher visibly tensed as his eyes narrowed, but there was no outward sign of the fear he suddenly felt. He could not recall how many times he had told Thranduil to stay away from Amon Sereg, and he was angry that he had endangered his friends by goading them there. But something else was there as well, and that fury was quickly being quelled by nearly overwhelming worry.
"We... we're so sorry," Helinniel added.
The king did not answer immediately. Instead, Oropher rose to his feet and turned his back on the Elflings, leaning against the stone wall beside the window and closing his eyes. Aearion looked at him with concern as he pushed away from the desk and took a couple steps toward him.
Oropher rose a ringed hand, silencing him, as he turned back to the young Elves. "You have my leave," he told them firmly.
"But..." However, Calanon was quieted by the stern look that crossed the king's face, and he nodded in respect as he stood from the couch. Erynion and Helinniel did the same, and they all crossed the study and stepped out into the hallway. However, the youngest lingered behind for a moment, casting a sorrow-filled look at the king.
"Please find him," she murmured before she left after her friend and brother.
Once he and his advisor were alone, Oropher sighed and passed his hand slowly over his face, setting his palms on his desk as he stared intently at the pile of paperwork that sat on top of it as though he would find the answers he needed there. "You know the story of Amon Sereg, do you not?" he asked quietly.
Aearion closed the door of the study before turning back to him. "Of course, Oropher," he answered gently. Being a close friend of the king's since childhood, the advisor was the only one who could address him without a title if no one was around to hear. "It is merely a story. No such massacre occurred, and it is certainly not cursed."
Oropher raised his gaze to Aearion's concerned one, his confident demeanor slowly slipping away. "It is a guard post no longer in use," he added thoughtfully. "A mere story told to Elflings so they will not go near the treacherous terrain and the Duilwen." He paused. His son was in danger, but he had no idea what it was they were up against. "What would be in such a dangerous place, Aearion?"
The advisor slowly shook his head. "I know not," he admitted quietly, wishing he had a different answer for the distressed king to put his mind at rest. "But what caught your son is no spirit."
"No." After a long moment passed, the anger returned to Oropher's eyes once more as he left his desk and made his way toward the door. Trespassing within his realm was not something he dealt with lightly. Though alleged spirit or not, it did not matter. He would not leave Thranduil. "Come."
"What would you have me do, Oropher?" Aearion wondered, not moving to stop him as he hurried past.
The king paused in the doorway, glancing back at his advisor and friend. "Ready my horse."
Author's Note: So, that's it for this one! Special thanks again to Gwedhiel0117 for her encouragement to get this posted (I think I have driven you crazy enough with my hints, lol). Thanks for reading! Your reviews are much appreciated. Thanks!