~ Chapter 1 ~
Lifting the flap of the tent, Thranduil looked out across the encampment and smiled to himself. Thirty thousand was the final count of their armed host, Sindarin and Silvan elves alike. They had all but emptied their capital at Amon Lanc in the southern Greenwood of able warriors. His father Oropher had been king of the combined peoples of that realm for but two and a half thousand years. Already he commanded such loyalty from his subjects though that they could easily have brought even greater numbers. This was, after all, to be one of the greatest battles of the Second Age.
The combined armies of Oropher, King of the Greenwood and Amdír, King of Lórien covered the plains in a swath of silver and green. Both forces had much in common, despite being from different kingdoms. Although predominantly composed of Silvan elves, they were content to follow the leadership of Sindarin kings. The two armies were also bound for the same doom upon the morn; to join forces with the hosts of High King Gil-Galad and of Elendil, High King of the Dúnedain. Such a united host had not been seen in Middle-Earth for thousands of years, nor would likely ever be seen again. These armies had come together under a single banner though; The Last Alliance of Elves and Men. Tomorrow, they would meet the creatures of Sauron on the open plain before the Morannon, or the ‘Black Gate’ in the Common Tongue.
Surveying the Greenwood army proudly, Thranduil thought that any orc would be addled out of its wits to stand against such a force. Oropher’s warriors were all the very finest of the realm, each one trained to utter perfection at the crafts of blade and bow. The prince had seen the elf-knights who counted themselves among High King Gil-Galad’s army the day before. It was all very well and good, he had thought, that they were so finely equipped with shining helms and long silver spears. To Thranduil’s mind though the warriors of the Greenwood were the ones he would far rather fight beside. They may fight clad in leather armor instead of polished breastplates, armed with short bows and swords of ore rather than pure steel. However, Thranduil had trained beside these elves both Silvan and Sindarin alike, and could not imagine warriors with more heart in all of Arda.
Letting the tent flap fall back into place Thranduil turned once again to watch the debate unfolding inside. Standing across from one another at a long table laden with maps and small figurines, the two Sindarin kings spoke in increasingly tense words.
“I did not march the length of the Misty Mountains to hand over command of my forces to Gil-Galad.” Oropher was saying, both palms laid flat on the table before him. “He has our allegiance and pledge of fealty in battle, is that not enough for him?” The King of the Greenwood cut an imposing figure, tall and crowned with a circlet of silver upon his golden hair. Thranduil had always known his father to be a proud but kind person though. The prince paid no mind at the dangerous glint in the king’s eye as he stood slightly to one side with his arms folded over his wine red tunic.
Amdír, king of the elves of Lórien gestured impatiently to the tent wall, more so to what lay beyond on the other side of the hill outside. The army of High King Gil-Galad was encamped not far away, and one had only to walk a few paces beyond the boundaries of the watch to sight a multitude of blue and gold banners.
“The High King is not asking for us to surrender our command entirely, Oropher. Did you not expect as much when we took up the call to war?”
His long fingers pressing into the tabletop fit to turn his knuckles white, the king of the Greenwood glowered. “What I expect is for the king of the Noldor to command Noldorin elves, and leave the command of Sindarin and Silvan to us. Come now, mellon-nin. Are you truly saying that you are willing to leave the fate of your people in the hands of the son of Orodreth?”
Prince Thranduil listened intently, watching as the silvery-haired Amdír raised an eyebrow.
“You have some quarrel with the house of Orodreth?”
Oropher came dangerously close to smirking. “Orodreth was a fool. Were it not for him and his willingness to listen to the council of mortals, the city of Nargothrond might have been held. I am not inclined to trust his son any better.”
Seeing that any opposition was unlikely to get anywhere with the stubborn lord of the Greenwood, Amdír picked up the blue painted figurine of Gil-Galad off the map between then.
“I like it not, but then why should our forces fight any less well for being commanded by those who know them best? Very well Oropher, if your course is set then I am with you. Although I pray that you at least will keep me informed of your movements in battle, so that I might fight at your side.”
“Gladly, old friend.” Coming around the table, Thranduil’s father clasped wrists with the other Sindarin king. “Leave Gil-Galad to me. He will have more than enough to concern himself with on the morn regardless.”
“Won’t we all?” Amdír smiled grimly. Turning, he nodded at the young prince of the Greenwood in passing before stepping smoothly out of the tent.
Thranduil watched as his father’s shoulders relaxed and he massaged his temples. Looking up, the corner of Oropher’s mouth quirked at his son.
“Well then Thranduil, what think you of all this? Come now and give me your opinion.” Oropher waved him over as a servant stepped forward from the recesses of the tent with a goblet of rich white wine for the king. “Someday you perhaps shall be king, but Valar permitting I pray you do not find yourself faced with days like this in which to rule.”
Approaching his father, Thranduil considered the conversation he had just witnessed before speaking. The servant offered him a glass of wine as well, but he refused. He preferred red vintages to white anyways.
“Has the High King much experience with leading armies, Adar?”
Taking a long sip of his wine, Oropher set the goblet down on a small wooden table at hand with a ringing ‘clink’. In even movements so small as this, the elven king was graceful. Thranduil had seen that grace put to terrible and deadly effect in battle many times, and knew better than most that his father’s elegance was just as much born of battle than beauty.
“Gil-Galad has reigned as king of the Noldor for more than three thousand years now, and seen his fair share of combat in that time.” Oropher spoke in a voice both deep and mellow. “He has led forces into skirmishes, and done much political manoeuvring in that time. There are some that would say he is more than competent to lead the joint forces of our people against Sauron.”
Thranduil frowned slightly, his youthful face furrowed as he considered this. “But you do not trust him?”
Oropher let out a huff of air that might have been an ill-concealed chuckle. Looking fondly at his son, he shook his head.
“No, ion-nin, I do not. Do you recall much of our life in Lindon, before we came to live in the Greenwood?”
Thranduil shook his head. “I fear I do not. I remember something of the journey, and our first meeting with the Silvan elves.”
Now Oropher did chuckle, low and rich in the back of his throat. “No, you would not have much if any memory of those days, so young an elfling you were. Suffice it to say that I removed our people from our lives in Lindon because of Gil-Galad.”
Perplexed, the young prince tilted his head enquiringly. “Adar?”
“As king of the Noldor, Gil-Galad has always seemed to me first and foremost concerned with the business of Noldo elves. If we had remained in Lindon within his domain, I believe we Sindarin elves would not have fared near so well as we have among the Silvan folk of the Greenwood. I do not wish to see our warriors forgotten, lost amongst the ranks of Noldorin knights whom Gil-Galad cherishes and will no doubt see best ordered.”
Thranduil nodded. He too did not like the sound of being forgotten, potentially ignored by a Noldor High King with less interest in a young Sindarin prince. With conviction now, he answered his father.
“Then in that case I think it best that you lead our forces, Adar. And that Amdír lead the elves of Lórien at our side. Besides, I doubt that King Gil-Galad even knows or best understands how we Greenwood elves do battle!”
The last piece Thranduil said with perhaps a bit more enthusiasm than he had meant, but Oropher just shook his head and gazed fondly at his son.
“Ah my sapling, you shall no doubt make a fine warrior in your prime.” The king said, calling Thranduil by his childhood nickname. It was derived from the meaning of the prince’s name in the Common tongue; ‘tall beech-tree’. Chuckling, the king patted the hilt of his own longsword, which sat propped at his side against the chair in which he sat. “Already you take pride in the fighting prowess of your people. That is good. Never forget to be proud of what you are, and you shall never falter ion-nin.”
Pleased, Thranduil grinned and bowed his head. “I shall always be proud to be your son, Adar. This time tomorrow, we shall celebrate the prowess of the warriors of the Greenwood after we break the ranks of Sauron’s forces. I can feel it; we shall have victory against the spawn of the enemy!”
Oropher was laughing aloud now, and with a flourish he waved his hand in dismissal. “Off with you then, O mighty sapling. Rest yourself, for on the morrow you will need all your strength to help Amdír and I secure this victory of which you speak.”
A spring in his step, Thranduil practically danced as he departed from the king’s tent. As soon as his son was gone though, Oropher immediately sobered and picked up his goblet of wine once again. Thranduil was young, a mere two and a half thousand years old, and had not yet truly seen battle in his life. Yes, the prince had often skirmished with goblins and the other occasional interloper they came across on the borders of the Greenwood. The horror of war was something entirely different though, and Oropher wished to Eru that he was not about to expose his child to such things.
The king of the Greenwood did not rest that night, but stood as a silent sentry watching over the encampment from the mouth of his tent. He could see the plains stretching away into the darkness before them, beyond which lay even now the black, evil iron of the gates of Morannon. Oropher had brought his warriors he, all thirty thousand ready and willing to lay down their immortal lives for this mad dream of peace. He dearly hoped that Thranduil’s grand predictions of victory came to fruition.