The Life & Times of Greenwood the Great
Part II: Shadows Rise
Nightmares in the Aftermath
c.1362 SA - Eryn Galen
That night, after he had fallen asleep, Oiolairë felt Thranduil's body tense. She sighed, it was the same thing she had felt from afar. Nightmares had been plaguing him since he had fled Lindon. She only knew of the time frame because Ortherion had told her when he had arrived at the Palace that Thranduil had left Lindon and had returned. The time frame he had given her had matched only too well with what Oiolairë had felt of her husband's restlessness.
Love, she said to his mind trying to calm him down, but she could only hold him and watch as his nightmares grew darker. However, even though she could feel the restless state of his mind, and occasionally his body, she could not actually see any of his nightmares except for one. For some reason over that one, he himself had no control to block it from her. All it was, was a black figure surrounded by fire, holding up something in the air as it laughed. Love, wake!
Thranduil started, reaching for his sword before Oiolairë soothed him. Without a word he sat up, ignoring her completely now hiding his face in his hands. "Don't hide from me," Oiolairë said softly. Thranduil did not seem to hear her, so instead she moved closer, wrapping her arms around him. He pulled out of her embrace, standing and walking over to the balcony silently. Oiolairë watched him for a long moment, even more worried about him than before. Then she stood as well, walking over and leaning against the rail across from him.
Thranduil remained silent for a long time. He had never been one to speak of anything plaguing him to anyone, ever. It had taken long years of their relationship growing before Thranduil had even mentioned to her that he knew both the Black tongue and his strange power. She had known of his power before, it had been exposed before they had even started courting. It was, however, even longer before Thranduil had spoken to her about anything involving his past nightmares.
Blood had followed him throughout his life, in such waves that Oiolairë still did not fully understand how he had not faded, but still he was silent. Even when he had spoken to her of such things, he did not speak of how it caused him ill, but only gave a rather monotone version of the events as they had happened. He had only done even that because he knew that as soon as they were fully bonded, even with his amazing ability to control himself, that she would see everything that almost no one else could. Only Ortherion came close, and that was because he had been witness to most of the same events.
Therefore, Oiolairë also knew that nightmares of this sort had not plagued him since he had last had to use the Black tongue, which had been back in Lindon while still a General. And they had not lasted this long since shortly after Doriath's destruction. Since she had not been there before, she had no idea what to do this time. It also scared her, seeing as something horrid had happened, and nothing less could have caused Thranduil this much pain.
"Love," She finally started. Thranduil turned his face to her but did not acknowledge anything else. "What is going on?"
Thranduil blinked slowly a couple times, before facing away again. "I am not sure." He said softly, so soft that Oiolairë read his lips more than heard the words. She was silent for a minute before she moved closer to him, leaning her body into his, forcing him to acknowledge her presence. Slowly, he let his arms hold her. She turned slightly, grabbing one of his hands with hers and pressing a kiss to it. He finally sighed, pulling her even closer and relaxing his tense muscles. He kissed the top of her head, finally allowing his emotions to mingle with hers until both were calm.
Hannon. Was all he said.
"I am worried for him." Oiolairë confided in Ortherion the next day. Thranduil was bathing at the time, Oiolairë partially thinking it was to be alone once more. "You both have told me before of his long months of nightmares after Doriath, and this time they have not subsided since he left Lindon. You know how he is, he does not allow anyone to help, even me. He will drown himself eventually, if he is not trying now." Oiolairë ended grimly.
Ortherion had concern glistening in his eyes. "Only Daugion has any knowledge of what happened, he was the first one to find Thranduil afterword. He said Thranduil looked like he was almost… panicking. His eyes were closed and he was leaning against the side of the palace. He was trying to calm himself then. I am not sure what happened to have caused that, but I can guess it had something to do with Annatar."
"What does that mean?"
"I don't know." Ortherion admitted. "I wish I did. I had to leave quite soon after he returned, and was not able to speak with him alone since. I do not think that would have changed much, he is still as stubborn as ever. I do not think it will take anything short of a miracle to get him to speak."
"That's what I was afraid of." Oiolairë sighed. Just then, Thranduil emerged from the bathroom, narrowing his eyes slightly, as if aware something was going on behind his back. Then he simply glanced at the food that had been brought, considering it, before ignoring it and walking away into the bedroom. "See?" Oiolairë pointed out. Ortherion was tapping a finger against his chin, thinking hard.
"Give me a moment." Ortherion said, grabbing the lunch and taking it with him into the bedroom. Oiolairë sighed and sat on the couch, hoping Ortherion could help.
He found Thranduil sitting perched on the rail of his balcony. He was deeply contemplative, and so statue like that Ortherion fancied even the strongest gale would not move him. Ortherion took up a perch next to him putting the lunch between them. "Eating is generally a very important facet of life."
"I ate this morning." Was the short response.
"Well then, there is also a goblet of wine." Ortherion said, pouring a glass for himself to make it sound more tempting. Thranduil stirred slightly, probably annoyed with Ortherion because he knew if he refused Ortherion would know for sure something was wrong. If he did not refuse, Ortherion would still try to goad him into talking.
Finally, Thranduil seemed to respond with what he thought was a good excuse, but it sounded half-hearted. "I have been told I need to drink less."
"Bah! We never listened to anyone before." Ortherion said grinning.
"Maybe we should." Thranduil's voice was too weak for Ortherion's liking. The day before, Tawarthion had said he seemed better. Oiolairë had even said the same. But today it seemed Thranduil had taken a turn for the worse. Ortherion realized from his knowledge of his long time friend that Thranduil might have done better if allowed to return to normal life. It would have at least distracted him as the last few months in Southern Greenwood had. Ortherion had no wish to see him run himself into the ground though.
"Since when did you ever agree to anything?"
"Since other people decide when I need rest." Thranduil said, confirming Ortherion's fear.
"It is in your best interests."
"Resting was never in my best interests." Thranduil muttered.
"So you are telling me all those times you ran into the woods, not once did you ever fall asleep?"
"That is not the point." Thranduil said. "Those first few times I was too young."
"That's true. You have been too young for a lot of things, Thranduil." Thranduil looked at him, somewhat surprised. "We were too young when we started running across roofs, we were too young when we started playing with swords, you were too young when you discovered your power, we were too young to become warriors, you were too young to learn the language you did, we were too young to become royal bodyguards, we were too young to see a mass slaughter of Elves, we were too young to lose our parents, we were too young to be commanders and generals, you were thought to be too young to be king, and now you are too young to realize yet that you need other people in your life."
Thranduil's eyes flashed slightly, but Ortherion plodded on. "I, your wife, Daugion, we are all concerned for you. We can see the light in your eyes fading. If you do not allow someone to help you, I do not want to see what will happen to both you and everyone else. You think this nation will survive losing you? You think Oiolairë will? You think I, who have shared your fate until now would not also decide to follow you?"
"I am not dying." Thranduil said softly.
"No, but you are not quite living either."
"Please, Ortherion, I…"
"I am not trying to corner you. Perhaps I am, but not in an intimidating way. I only want to help you. I do not like seeing you suffer any more than I did when we were little, and I do not want to see it now. I know you cannot be seen to suffer to everyone else, but you do not have to act the same around those who know you best."
"Old habits die hard." Thranduil said.
"Then perhaps you need a new one."
"I am trying."
"Not hard enough." Ortherion said.
"What do you suggest I do?"
"Well," Ortherion started picking up the glass he had filled. "Eating and drinking is a good start."
Thranduil rolled his eyes exasperated but did as he was told. "I have a feeling I won't be escaping you."
"No, not at all." Ortherion answered. "Perhaps you should have considered that."
"Maybe," Thranduil answered. He was silent for a few minutes before he spoke again. "I know everything you have said." He finally started quietly. "But there are some horrors I have no heart to share. Doriath was easier with you. We both experienced the same thing. But there were reasons I never did the same with that cursed tongue. Or now, with that cursed being."
"Cursed things are not ill to speak of." Ortherion said quietly. "I do not think I will die if you tell me."
"No, you would not." Thranduil admitted. "It was given to me as a burden, one that seems I need to carry alone."
"No one can carry everything alone. You have enough burden as king, if you have no heart to tell Oiolairë, then I am still right here."
Thranduil was again silent for a long while. Then he finally spoke. "Give me time. When I am ready, we will talk."
At least he was admitting to that much.
The next few days Thranduil was quiet. He said little and did not make it a point to bring up conversation. He was not as restless as usual. Instead, he stayed still for long periods of time, meditating or listening to the trees. Oiolairë let him do such, only bringing him meals or sitting with him. Sometimes she sang his favorite songs as he sat still. At long last he stirred when she put her hand on his shoulder.
He looked up at her and watched her as she sat down next to him. "Hello, love." She said softly.
He remained quiet and glanced out toward the forest for a moment. "Has it been that long?" He asked.
"Yes." She answered. "You have been silent for a long time."
"It has been but a few days."
"A few days sometimes can seem a lifetime when one has such nightmares."
"I have not had any since-."
"You last slept three days ago." Oiolairë said wrapping her arm around him. "You must sleep eventually."
"Perhaps." Thranduil answered softly. "But if I avoid it long enough I shall sleep without dreaming."
"Or make them worse once you do dream."
"I can handle myself well enough."
"Then why do you not sleep?"
Thranduil went quiet once more, again staring out into the forest. His eyes were darker than they had been for awhile, and Oiolairë had only seen them like this twice before when he was a General. The first was when he came back after that mission that they found that horrid man that had tortured those two children. Thranduil had looked like he had seen a demon after that for a few weeks. And then the last time he had spoke the Black Tongue he had looked haunted for a little while. But he had gotten over that quicker…. And Ortherion had been worried because usually it did not take long for Thranduil to recover himself…
Queen Melian had asked him to learn the language in half an attempt to give Thranduil a challenge to occupy his time rather than his usual reckless habits of doing things like cliff-diving. The other reason she asked was because Thranduil was proven strong of spirit and was not easily subdued. If any elf could handle speaking it, Thranduil could.
So the next day, Thranduil arrived in the morning. Thingol had agreed to allow him his military duty in the afternoons, so that Melian could teach him earlier while his spirit was still strong.
The next day Thranduil appeared before Melian and she led him to a more private room. Partially so that he had less chance to escape and partially because Melian did not want other Elves to accidentally overhear and be negatively affected.
"Are you ready?" Melian asked him.
Sure enough, she saw the light of a challenge in his eyes. "Yes." He said, quite ready for anything.
"First, make sure your control is strong now." Thranduil cocked his head and his eyes darkened slightly and then nodded. Melian had taught him his control, and she knew it was strong enough for this.
Melian called a stop midway through the morning. "We will do this for a few hours every other day. If you are too survive this with any sanity, you will have to use every ounce of control you have. It is impressive, but this drains it." Thranduil nodded, a touch of weariness in his gaze even then. He seemed to be good at ignoring it then and after he left Melian he went to work as a warrior.
Melian, his parents, and Ortherion kept a close watch on him after that. For the first year, he seemed completely fine. After that, however, his gaze grew wearier. They took a break then, but afterword when they started again, nightmares started plaguing the young warrior.
Dreams of great wars and blood coating the walls of his home began filling his mind. Years later, he would recognize those dreams would come true, but at the time it was pure nightmare and unrelated to anything but the Black language he was learning. Ortherion watched concerned with his parents as after he would finish with everything for the day, he would disappear into the woods.
But Elves learn anything fast, and by the end of the second year he was fluent enough to hold full conversation. His learning ended there, more than able for it to serve for military purposes. After it ended, he seemed to be better. But that was until he was actually called upon to use it. Two Orcs were captured at one point, and they only spoke in the tongue they knew.
Melian was otherwise occupied at the time, so Thingol called in Thranduil. Thranduil approached the door hesitantly before leaning against it so he could hear everything the Orcs said. He translated it and related the translation silently to an ellon looking directly in his eyes who took it to the king. The king then did something he never wanted to ask Thranduil to do. He wanted Thranduil to trick the Orcs. So Thranduil again leaned against the door, this time with his eyes shut and then he began speaking.
The Elves that stood as guard shuddered heavily. Orcs speaking it was one thing, they were vile creatures anyway, but it was the dark humans and those of higher power that spoke it that made it sound truly horrifying. Thranduil's voice accomplished the same. Already an intimidating voice and presence, the Black tongue on his lips sounded so evil that the Elves looked horrified and covered their ears. But the Orcs it terrified. They honest to goodness thought their master had come to haunt them personally and they immediately spilled their guts about everything.
Thranduil hissed one last sentence at them before standing, his eyes dark and left. He silently wrote everything they had told him and gave it mutely to the king. That night the dreams were worse.
He was running a long a corridor. In the dream it was unrecognizable. Blood coated the walls like they were rivers and then he came across a group of Elves. He watched horrified as he lifted his sword against them and swiftly made an end to all of them. Blood, Elven blood, dripped from his sword and coated his clothes. He stood there for a moment before sounds of feet running came behind him. He glanced back to see his family, all wide-eyed in terror. "Thranduil!"
He woke up in full sweat and slipped out of the palace, running into the woods. The trees picked up on his weary soul and spoke comfort to him. After a long time of that and staring at the stars it eventually worked and his breathing eased again. He returned to the Palace the next day and seemed normal once more.
It had been the same later, when he had first used it for Gil-galad…
They had not been in Lindon long. Thranduil and Ortherion had only been a part of the army for a year, and then Thranduil was summoned by Gil-galad. Thranduil entered the Palace, and he saw a cloaked person writhing on the floor speaking in nothing but the Black Tongue. Whoever it was seemed to know Elves were affected strongly by this language and Thranduil noted he was speaking complete nonsense, simply hoping to get away.
Gil-galad gave Thranduil a pleading look, not ordering but asking. Thranduil's face hardened, but he purposely flicked his eyes at everyone else in the room. Gil-galad nodded and gave an order for everyone to leave. The cloaked figure looked up and cursed the Elves but clearly expected things to go well for him.
Thranduil, however, wrapped himself in a dark cloak and pulled a hood over his face. Gil-galad seemed curious about that until Thranduil spoke. Gil-galad shivered with the dark intensity of his voice. He had been gifted with a powerful voice anyway, but this was different, darker.
The cloaked figure suddenly shot up. He stared at Thranduil for a long time, Gil-galad having retreated so that he could not be seen. Thranduil said something else and the man fell at his feet, kissing the ground before him. Gil-galad again questioned whether he liked this side of the young captain.
The man started speaking rapidly while Thranduil remained silent. Then the man stopped talking, looking at Thranduil in awe. Thranduil paused and then spoke again. The man frowned and replied to which Thranduil turned his back on the man, seeming to walk away. The man called out, and Thranduil stopped, glanced over his shoulder, and waited for the man to draw near in silence. Once the man did, Thranduil moved so fast Gil-galad barely saw what happened, but the next moment the man was unconscious.
"What happened?" Gil-galad asked, trying to repress his shivers.
"He used to work for Morgoth. He has been on his own since. He wanted to assassinate you."
"How did you-?"
"I told him I was a remaining devoted servant, that I would get him out to try another day. Then I told him I did not know if he was committed enough. That's when he called out and came to my side. Then I knocked him out."
"You have uncanny control."
"Perhaps." Thranduil said and walked away.
"Thranduil!" he called but Thranduil ignored him.
Gil-galad watched him go, trying to process what just happened. It was then he realized how dangerous Thranduil could possibly be. He looked at the assassin on the floor and blankly he wished Thranduil would have gone ahead and killed him. But if he had Thranduil would have been overstepping his bounds.
"Guard!" Once the guard entered, Gil-galad motioned and they knew what to do. Then he went out to the training fields to look for Thranduil's troop. He said Ortherion and walked over. "Where is Thranduil?"
Ortherion's brow creased. "I thought you sent for him?" When he saw the look on the king's face he frowned. "What did you ask him to do?"
Gil-galad merely looked at him and Ortherion must have read the answer in his eyes. "It was that language wasn't it?" He sighed. "You won't see him for the rest of the day." Ortherion said.
"Why not?" Gil-galad asked.
"He may be able to use it, but that does not mean that he is immune to it."
"What does that mean?"
"His ability is not that he is not affected, it is that he has the control over himself to ignore the effects."
Gil-galad's eyes darkened. "Will he be okay?"
"Tomorrow he will be no different than he was before." Ortherion answered. His eyes scanned Gil-galad's. "No gift comes free. Be careful with other people's." Ortherion said before moving back to his troop. Gil-galad only sighed.
Ortherion found Thranduil in the woods later that evening. He eyes were open, staring up at the sky as he sat against a tree.
"What are you doing here?" Thranduil asked.
"Gil-galad told me what happened."
"So you are worried for me?"
"Frankly, after what happened last time, yes."
"I will be fine." Thranduil said closing his eyes for a moment. "The trees are so much different here…"
"It has been a long time since you were affected this much." Oiolairë commented.
"This was different." Thranduil said sighing. "Besides… I have been affected before."
"Not since Doriath."
"No… not since then."
"You can still talk to me."
"Then why do you remain so silent?"
"Perhaps I am not sure how to describe it."
"You can always try."
"I am not sure I want too." Thranduil said, his eyes darkening.
Oiolairë sighed and laid her head on his shoulder. She did not push him farther, it would only make him retreat more. So instead she started singing once more. Eventually she felt his tense muscles relax, and he drew her in closer. "Your song touches my spirit."
She looked at him and kissed his cheek. "May you dream well tonight, or whenever you finally take rest."
Ortherion took one look at Thranduil the next day and Thranduil knew he was in for it. "You have had time. And you are giving your wife and your Council… and me, a heart attack. So time to talk." Ortherion said and sat Thranduil down in the middle of the garden. "Speak."
Thranduil sighed and his eyes grew distant. "I-."
Thranduil looked at him unhappily but sighed. "What is there to say?"
"For one, why are you in such a dour mood? And what is this that you have no wish to speak of? Something happened, more than what you said. I bullied Daugion into telling me how he found you after that meeting. And the weariness in your eyes speaks volumes. So speak, and I will listen."
Thranduil was silent for a long moment before he finally spoke. "I am not sure how it happened. As soon as we arrived I knew something was wrong, for Gil-galad did not come to greet us. At long last he found me and told me there was something wrong. Annatar had come with Celebrimbor and did not appear to be leaving. Gil-galad was cornered as were we all. I should have left then, for I felt something was drastically wrong. But I went to the meeting. At the meeting I felt wary but not like we were in danger. And then they summoned Annatar and I felt a change. Something had gone wrong. And then I looked into his eyes and they were so… I am not even sure how to describe them. But perhaps they were that unrepentant. I knew this meeting was not going to be successful, but at that point there was no way to bow out gracefully. Somehow the meeting turned from interrogating Annatar to interrogating me… and my people. At long last I knew it was hopeless, Annatar kept telling me that everything was going to go from bad to worse if I did not agree with him. When I left I glanced back…. And when I did I saw what has been what has given me nightmares all this time.
His eyes were… dark. But as I watched they changed. They became like fire and then I saw a dark figure dressed in black and… evil armor. They raised something, perhaps a ring for it glittered in the firelight, above their head and then it changed to Ennor and it was in flames. Annatar said that I had failed and that the world would fall. I was weak… But it does not matter now."
"Perhaps it does. I think there is still hope yet."
Thranduil glanced at him. "I hope so."
"Now shall you be able to sleep?"
"Perhaps. I will be fine soon enough."
"Good. Else I will have to bully you into it."
Thranduil gave him an amused and skeptical look. "I would not let you bully me into anything."
"No but I amused you and that's a start." Ortherion said before he got up and left the room.
A/N: Sorry this one took me so long. I was messing around with different ideas until I decied to go into the past once more... Enjoy :D