Treacherous Paths 2: Choices
A/N: Once again, a huge thanks to Lady Ambreanne for her ideas, they really help the plot come alive. This is the final chapter in this story. I'm quite disappointed that I only have two reviewers so far, but they are reviewers, none the less and I am so very grateful to them for sticking by my side all the way. But, guys, come on, if you read this story, please drop me a line and tell me what you think, even if it's flames, though I don't think this story is so bad that it deserves any, but you know what I'm getting at.
Disclaimer: Just read the previous chapters, then I think you'd get the idea by now.
Theliel awoke with a start. Her chest was heaving and her brow was covered in droplets of sweat. Her eyes were dilated and she could not shake the images of her nightmare from her mind. But was it just a dream, a product of a mother's worry or was she truly seeing visions of what could happen? It had been so vivid and looked so real that it was most probably going to haunt her for a long time to come.
The queen looked to Oropher, afraid that she might have woken him up. His eyes were still glazed over, giving her the indication that he was lost in the world of elven dreams.
Theliel silently shifted the blankets so that she could leave the bed to get some fresh air and hopefully clear her head. Although the stars were still shining brightly, there were tell-tale signs that dawn was on its way in only a few hours.
She tiptoed out of the room to get a drink of water from the kitchen-chambers. After she finished the glass, Theliel decided to check on Thranduil before going back to bed.
Inside she saw that he was sitting by the balcony, "Son?"
The prince did not turn or even acknowledge her presence, he just sat there as still as a statue. Theliel padded across the room and through the opening, onto the balcony. She looked out first to the horizon before turning to face her son, "Have you been conscious the entire time?"
Thranduil only nodded, still not looking up at her.
It pained her to see him like this. She had always known him to be so full of life and light, always laughing without it being forced, "Thranduil, is Vanmoriel so bad that cannot so much as smile any more."
He looked up at her and instead of seeing his eyes filled with light, they were dimmed considerably, making them look almost black, which was also caused by the fact that he had dark rings around his eyes and his cheeks were hollow, "Do you truly not know the answer to that?" His voice sounded rough as though he had not spoken in a long time.
Theliel knelt to the floor on both knees and took her son's trembling hands into her own, "You must not do this to yourself. You must not!"
"Do what to myself?" She could now detect that there was also hollowness in his voice.
"When was the last time you looked at yourself in the mirror, and I mean, really look?"
Thranduil looked down, he was unable to answer her.
"Let me ask you another question instead? Is Celebrial truly worth you fading?"
"Yes," It was a simple answer but it carried a large weight behind it. Thranduil got up from his seat, "The dawn is here, I must get ready."
Theliel left the room more disturbed than she ever was before. That was not her son in there; they might have looked alike, but that was about it.
By the time the sun had fully risen, the crowds started assembling in the throne-room and perfumes of every kind began to waft throughout the room, giving it a pleasant smell. A buzz of voices echoed all around, giving a lulling affect to the atmosphere.
The first to arrive came rather early but they wanted to make sure that they did not miss a thing. An hour had passed and the elves were still filing in. Everyone got an invitation and they made sure that they could make it to this memorable event.
Another hour went by and finally the gigantic doors were opened so that the king and queen could enter and pass between the crowds to sit in their tall thrones. They both looked lavish and magnificent, there was not an eye in the room that was not awed by the grace and dignity of the royal couple. Theliel was a model of calmness and serenity but inside she was the complete opposite.
Oropher, of course, looked and felt pleased. Everything worked out the way he planned: Thranduil left that common rogue, he was marrying that was in high standing, he was going to have the perfect daughter-in-law and his grandchildren will come from completely noble parents. Life was good.
He was brought out of his thoughts when the minstrel started playing a solemn tune. Everyone turned when Thranduil stood in the doorway, looking both grave and regal. With a stony countenance, he marched down the isle with his head held high. Both Theliel and Miluion, who was standing in the front next to Elrond because of his long association with the royal family and mainly Thranduil, gasped and stared at him with pride shining in their eyes.
Thranduil had never looked more princely as he did then. His hear was combed back, though wisps of hair hung slightly over his eyes but the rest were tied back in a thin braid leaving the rest to hang loose down his neck. His trousers were the colour of onyx, giving them a slight sparkle. His long-sleeved top was a gorgeous emerald-green, it had a high collar, giving him the temptation to tug at the restriction and it reached his thighs. Golden buttons ran down to just his stomach, leaving a slit the rest of the way, patterns of the same colour ran down the sides of the buttons, around the collar, the edge of his sleeves and tunic. He wore a thick, velvet cape, a much darker green than his top, it covered his left shoulder and was tied by a gold chain. His boots were also made from velvet, but they were black to match his trousers. Thranduil's entire attire was completed with a golden circlet, shaped like vines with leaves on.
He went to stand solemnly in front of his royal parents, not looking at his father the entire time. They did not wait long before the minstrel played a different tune, telling the people that the bride had come. Vanmoriel looked very much the same as she did in Theliel's dream, except the dress looked, somehow, more appalling. The frills and patterns were even more over-done and even the sleeves seemed more pronounced. It was certainly a rich material, but the person who made it either did not have taste or they did not like the elleth.
Vanmoriel marched down the aisle, with her arm through Dûrion's with the same dignity as the royals. Thranduil looked at her and found that same gleam in her eyes, the same gleam that her father carried. He could not shake the feeling of dread everytime he looked at either of them. The prince had always found something strange about his father's advisor and now, his daughter, as well.
Thranduil heard a very soft growl coming from his right and he found that Elrond was glaring at the father and daughter, 'Maybe he is also sensing that something is not right.' He looked to the far corner, knowing exactly who he was going to find there.
Celebrial's eyes shone more than was normal and there were already signs of tears falling. She seemed to be having a hard time in suppressing her building emotions.
'If only...' Before he could continue with his train of thought, Vanmoriel was at his side but he did not bother taking her arm into his. He was fed up with having to pretend for the sake of the people. He was coming to the point of no return and whatever he did would not make any difference.
Oropher, as king, was given the duty of marrying any couple in the realm. He was given the privilege doing his own son's bonding ceremony. The speaking went on, but Thranduil was not paying any attention, he was so lost in thought that he almost forgot where he was. It was only when the king asked if anyone objected to the two being united did he snap to attention.
Just when his father was about to continue, Theliel stood out of her seat, "I object!" There were gasps all around and the queen was met with shocked stares, "I object." She said quieter.
Oropher looked to her, "Theliel-"
"No, I will not allow this to go any further." She turned her complete attention to Thranduil, "My son, everyday I have seen you fade little by little before my very eyes. When you told me that you would fade if you married this woman I realized what you said was not something to take lightly and it could happen." She addressed the rest of the people, including Oropher, "What good is a prince if he should fade!? What good will it do if your prince married a woman who would benefit this realm and her people but you end up losing him!? Does that honestly make sense! It does not to me! I cannot speak for the rest of you, but I know that I would prefer a happy prince to one who is fading!"
The crowds seemed to find the logic in that. They now realized that the prince was only that woman for their own good and not out of love, and so they cheered and shouted in agreement. All objecting to the bonding, not only out of fear for losing a prince but also because he was loved and respected by all.
Thranduil was now beaming and was already looking like the elf everyone knew and loved. He ran up the steps to give his mother a hug, a tear running down his face, "Thank you, thank you so much, mother, I will never forget this." He spoke so that only she and the surrounding elves could hear.
"There is no need to thank me, sweetheart. I love you too much to let this happen. Last night, my eyes were opened to the fact of what could very well happen."
"Theliel, what in Morgoth do you think you are doing!" Oropher hissed through clenched teeth.
"I am doing what is right." His wife said calmly.
"No! I had chosen Vanmoriel for the prince and no other!"
"Do you not even care that you might lose your son!?"
Oropher was in a definite rage, "You are being foolish!"
Galadrial stepped forward, towards the family, "That is no way to speak to your wife."
"Stay out of this, Noldor!"
The lady of Lothlorien gave him such a piercing stare that he could no longer look at her, instead he turned back to his spouse, "So what are you going to do now that you ruined this very important ceremony."
"Something I should have done from the beginning." She looked to Galadrial, "As you probably know, Thranduil is deeply in love with another but she is far from noble..."
'Say no more, I will take her under my wing and teach her all she needs to know. It may take about two years at the most, but once I am finished with her she will have transformed into a lady. Come forward, young Celebrial.'
Said elleth was stunned, she heard of the legends of the lady of Light but her abilities still seemed to be beyond comprehension.
'Do not be afraid, I mean you no harm.'
Hearing the kind voice in her head, Celebrial stepped forward and went to stand next to Thranduil. Without hesitation, he grasped her hand and smiled at her. There was finally hope for them.
A fortnight went by and both parties were preparing to leave. Elrond had spent as much time as he could with Thranduil and Celebrian, whom he had fallen deeply in love with but was not ready to admit it to her.
It was a bittersweet moment for Thranduil and Celebrial. They were going to be separated for two years but that was a small price to pay for being able to be together again. Oropher had not given her his blessing, in fact, he was still fuming, but deep down, way down, he thought that it was a good idea and so did not forbid it.
There were hugs and kisses all around before everyone mounted their horses and were ready to leave. Each exchanged words of farewell and promises of writing more often.
Thranduil stood alone even after the travellers left. He was going to miss Elrond and Celebrial, but he felt content and even happy. Things were finally starting to look up for him and that made him smile.
About a year later
News was spreading rapidly like wild-fire; news that the queen was in labour. Elves were gathering in the courtyard, waiting for more news. Every now and then they would hear a commotion coming from the palace, causing everyone to fidget and whisper to each other.
"I wonder what is happening in there."
"Do you think it will be another prince or will it be a princess?"
"I hope the queen is alright."
"Is this not exciting? There has not been this much commotion since the Sindar first arrived and our new king was announced."
"Have there been any news."
And that is how the chatting went about and what was being discussed.
Inside it was very much the same. Oropher was pacing like a caged lion and Thranduil was just sitting on a chair that was right outside the door. Neither of them said a thing, just stuck to their own thoughts and wonderings.
Each winced simultaneously when they heard a scream coming from the room.
Two hours later, they heard the most piercing scream that morning but was soon followed by the most beautiful sound in the world; the wailing of a new-born baby. Miluion opened the door, "Come inside and meet your new..." He stopped and allowed the two to enter.
Oropher went forward and kissed Theliel's sweaty forehead. He then looked into the bundle of blankets that she was holding. What he saw was a beautiful baby boy. If Thranduil looked like his mother then this child was an infant version of his father.
Thranduil walked happily to his mother and kissed her on the cheek before he, too, looked at his new baby brother, "He is so beautiful." A lump began to form and tears made his eyes sparkle, "I have never seen anything like it before." He grinned at his mother and let out a laugh of pure joy, this was truly a happy for all of them.
The new father gently took his precious son into his arms and walked to the balcony to address the people that had gathered below him, "BEHOLD YOUR NEW PRINCE!"
The crowds erupted in deafening cheers.
Oropher held up his hands to silence the crowd. When he got their attention, at last, he carried on addressing them, "HIS NAME SHALL BE ARANHIR AND HE IS YOUR NEW CROWN-PRINCE AND THE HEIR TO THE THRONE OF GREENWOOD THE GREAT!"
A hush descended on every elf as though the forest had been emptied.
Oropher turned to look inside, "Thranduil, come forth."
Pale and in complete shock, the prince did what he was told, "My lord –"
"You are no longer my heir for all you have been was a disappointed." He grabbed his son's right hand and pulled his signet ring off, "I denounce you from that title, making you merely the prince."
All Thranduil could do stand in shock. There were murmurs of protest coming from the elves below but there was nothing they could do. The king had spoken and his word was law.
Final A/N: That's right guys, this is the final chapter and there will be a short break before I continue the next story. Without giving too much a way, there will be more action in it and it might be longer than the first two and perhaps darker. I'd like to thank everyone for reading and putting this in their favourites, that means a great deal to me. Cheers for now.
Aranhir: Lord king
God bless and ride free, citizens.