The first part of my new story The Island.. Hope you like it!
And: As usual I do not own anything by Tolkien. I do however own the plot and the OCs I've created for this story.
He'd held his breath for almost too long this time. With two hard kicks he breached the surface and gasped for air. The warm salty water burned his eyes. He swam a short distance surrounded by a few brightly colored fish that for some reason seemed to enjoy his company. Not many others did, he mused.
Finally, he put his feet down on white, soft sand and waded until he reached the shore. As always the sea had washed up a few new intricate seashells during the rainstorm last night. Calling it a storm might be an exaggeration though. The storms along with the rain here were always gentle, and had a tendency to hit them only nighttime. Practical indeed, just as the never ending summer.
Last night the light rain had lulled him to sleep sitting in his favorite chair on the terrace. It had been a blessing of sorts. He hadn't slept like that for a very long time and was likely not going to sleep like that for a while again. He sighed and pushed all of his long and dripping wet hair behind his shoulders.
He picked up an unusually big white seashell. It would make a lovely toy for his granddaughter, he thought. A bathing pool for her dolls. Then he remembered that she was already an adult and had been for a long time. He had not seen her for years. He let go of the shell and it landed in the sand in the same spot where he had picked it up.
He sighed and walked a few steps before he sat down next to two empty wine bottles he had finished on the beach a two days ago. As always he looked to the east over the sea for a while with sadness in his heart. Home, he thought.
Then he closed his eyes and laid down in the warm sand and let the sun dry his body while he listened to the seagulls shrieking from the top of the high white cliffs surrounding his own beach. His Kingdom. He could not help smiling at the irony of that.
He could hear footsteps now. He hadn't expected visitors today, but on the other hand, he almost never did. He knew the footsteps well. He had known them since he was a little elfling, and they had not changed because the person making them hand not changed, not much anyway. He didn't bother getting up, he just turned his head and watched the silver haired elf lord walking down the path among the high, slender pine trees, his white robes billowing in the light breeze.
"Thranduil. I did not find you in your house, so I made an educated guess you would be here."
The tall elf cast a shadow over Thranduil's face.
"Celeborn, I did not expect you. What has brought you here a day like this? Is it pity, perhaps?"
"Don't talk like that. You know very well I have come to see a friend. You."
Celeborn didn't show any signs of being prepared to sit down in the sand so instead Thranduil got up on his feet.
"Let's go to the house. Perhaps I have something for us to drink. A bit of wine maybe." Celeborn nodded and Thranduil started walking up to the house.
Thranduil couldn't help feeling that this house was an empty shell. Too big for him, with a large number of empty rooms where dust was piling in the corners and the curtains and bed covers were slowly being digested by time itself. Rooms that he hadn't seen the inside of for years. A never ending number of closed doors in a long, dimly lit empty hall.
When he came here he wanted to live like the king he thought he rightfully was. But in the end he had realized that it was all a lie. He was no king here, held no importance and had no purpose. Why keep up the charade?
"Why did you really come here cousin?" Thranduil sat down on the heavy wooden table in his combined study and bedroom and handed over a glass of red wine to Celeborn.
The elf lord hesitated to answer the question, looked around and sipped his wine instead. The room was in a state of chaos. Books, scrolls, maps and empty and half empty wine bottles covered almost every single surface. The only corner of the room that seemed to be in perfect order was where the enormous four poster bed stood. The bed was neatly made and both the bed linen and the bed curtains were white and clean. Maybe there was still hope left?
"Do you want me to send a maid over to take care of this?" Celeborn finally said let his gaze sweep across the room.
"So you came here to offer cleaning help?" Thranduil's laugh was dry and lifeless.
"No, but you can't go on like this. And you know it. You are beginning to fade, slowly but surely. Have you seen your reflection in a mirror lately? We are worried. Don't you understand?" Celeborn swallowed all the wine in his glass anxiously and looked at Thranduil.
Thranduil sighed. He could see nothing but true sincerity in Celeborn's eyes. Slowly he slid down from the table and went to the other side of the room where he pulled down a sheet that had covered a full length mirror in a heavy wooden frame. He watched his reflection in the dusty glass for a long time. The elf that looked back at him was not the one he remembered. His body looked skinny and his long blond hair dull and dry but most of all his eyes had lost their glow. His gaze had once had the power to spellbind everyone, but now his eyes were just two empty bottomless blue pools. He let the sheet drop down over the mirror again.
"You see it yourself, don't you?" Celeborn's voice sounded strangely distant.
"I'm still looking for a way back." Thranduil said.
"You know as well as I that there is no way back. And even if there was, there would be nothing left of the world we knew."
"Perhaps. But still I would feel more alive there. I do not belong here."
"Your son would miss you." Celeborn said quietly.
"I highly doubt that." Thranduil answered angrily. The last time he had met Legolas it had ended in a fight and after that he had not spoken to his son for years.
"He is worried, and deep down you know it. He just cannot stand seeing you like this. It breaks his heart. Here in the Undying Lands fading doesn't have to be anyone's fate. There are plenty of things that could bring you joy here if you opened your heart. Just come with me and stay in our home in the city for a while. You are strong, and you know that. Inside of you is still the elf that lost both his father, two sons and his wife, but still managed to live on and successfully rule a kingdom."
"Well, perhaps that elf has finally realized that his time has finally come. That his life has been long enough already and that there is simply not enough to live for anymore."
"Do not ever speak like that again. Things will change for the better, This is not Middle Earth, and no one here has to have a fate like that." Celeborn said, but there was not enough strength in his voice to sound convincing.
Perhaps he had given up already? Thranduil honestly didn't care and felt that metaphysical feeling he had become more and more used to lately. He mentally shivered, but kept quiet. He just waited for Celeborn to go. Eventually he would. Sometimes they would sit quietly for hours just sipping wine and after that the elf lord would leave and come to check upon him again a few months later. Celeborn meant well, but now all Thranduil wanted was to be alone.
"My offer still stands." Celeborn got up on his feet. "Come and stay with my family for a while."
"I'll think about it." Thranduil said half halfheartedly. They both knew he was lying.
"Until next time my friend." Unexpectedly Celeborn hugged him and when they parted Thranduil was sure he could see traces of tears in the other elf's eyes. Thranduil sighed.
"Until next time."
When Celeborn left Thranduil suddenly felt an almost unnatural wave of fatigue hit him. It was only midday but the only thing he felt like doing was to crawl down between the sheets in his large bed and take a nap. Before he fell asleep, he briefly thought about the fact that he was fading. He would die, sooner or later. The fading had already begun. Death had always seemed distant to him even if he had seen plenty of it around him during his long life. Strangely, it didn't seem to bother him much, in fact he almost certainly would welcome death when it took him. He sighed and surrendered to a deep sleep.