Thranduil sat at the end of the long dining table and tried to put the puzzle pieces back together. He had many questions and so few answers and this frustrated him greatly. However the biggest thing to bother him was, obviously, that he had lived many months with the elf lady, well, in the same palace at least, with the possibility of spending as much time with her as there were hours in a day, but he had been so focused on his grief that he had not paid any attention to the lady. Yes, the lady who now turned out to be... you. If only he had paid more attention, he might have noticed the similarities in the way you and the siren expressed yourselves and then possibly made the crucial connection by counting one plus one equals two before you had decided to return home to Valinor. Also, if the king had been there for you more, put at least some effort in getting to know you, perhaps you would have felt comfortable with the idea of telling him about the restless dreams earlier.
The king kept staring at you from the distance while trying to appear interested in the conversations taking place around him. However he found it to be very challenging because what he really wanted was to change seats with an elven lady who was sitting next to you. Now, as the evening progressed and the guests had started to speak more loudly due to the influence of the elvish wine, Thranduil couldn't hear your voice anymore. However he was able to see you – your expressions, gestures and your hands, he was basically able to get a general idea of what you were talking about. Yes, there was no doubt in his mind anymore; the elven lady was the siren... and the siren had been the elven lady all along, they both were... you.
But the biggest question that troubled the king was why didn't you remember him? When you had crawled out from the lake, you had looked at him like he was nothing but a stranger... and you still did. Were you upset with the king and therefore knowingly ignored the months you and he had been somewhat romantically yet very intimately involved with each other? Thranduil sometimes thought that you had been lovers, in a way at least, but then again, in the elven society being a lover meant having mutual feelings of affection and devotion for each other when, like the king had realized after losing you to the first snow, his relationship with you had been very one sided; you had loved him, unconditionally and with everything you had had, while the king had just chosen the bits that had suited him without actually letting you close on a deeper, emotional level.
Perhaps you were not even aware of this yourself and the incapability of remembering the events of last summer and the following autumn was some kind of coping mechanism that had developed in your mind when your elven body had been spat out from the bottomless lake. Was your mind protecting you from the truth because then you would also remember how unhappy you had been? Yes, that. You had been so unhappy that it had not rained for months in Mirkwood and therefore the garden and the surrounding forest had started to die around you. Thranduil scolded himself for not paying more attention; it was not like he had not known how the weather worked with you. It had always rained a lot when you had been happy, it had indeed rained so much that it had started to annoy some of the elves, and then the complete opposite when you were sad or felt uncertain about something.
Anyway, if you came to remember the time you had been a water spirit, you would remember that you were, or had been, deeply in love with the elf king, but you would surely also remember all the bad things such as the deep sense of desperation, loneliness and the king's rejection too. Thranduil cursed half aloud when he recalled himself telling you that perhaps the only reason why he was so fascinated with you was that you were his link to someone else - the elf lady... who then happened to be you but then again, neither of you had known it at the time. Now that Thranduil really went through the events and the timeline of his affair, he finally realized that it, the thoughtless and quite cruel talk in the library, had been the moment when the rain had stopped but for some reason the king had been too distracted and focused on himself to see it, most likely too selfish too.
Perhaps it was indeed for the best if you did not remember any of it, including your feelings towards the king even though it meant that he had to start building the relationship with you from the scratch. Actually after wasting the entire winter and the spring too, he was below “the scratch”; he had made a very poor first impression and now there was a mountain of amends to be made. However, the alternative was that you became aware of everything and as the result, the mountain would be too high to climb. Yes, “below the scratch” was definitely a better starting point. Maybe this was a chance for a new start, a real chance, now that the king was not blinded by the overwhelming grief anymore and you were not dependent on the king and his hospitality. Yes, you were the king’s equal in many ways, capable of standing up for yourself and rather independent, not some odd creature that the king was fascinated with – a pet, a charity case or a hobby project. No, you were a Lady, not a plaything.
The dinner was over and before the king even realized it, you had managed to leave the table and retired to your chamber, probably to write the letter to your parents. Thranduil wished his guests goodnight and then returned to his private quarters as well. He paced around the room, stopped every once in a while to think for possible solutions and then continued his nervous rounds around the fine furniture. He felt anxious and hopeful at the same time, coming up with potential plans to win your heart and then shooting them down after over-thinking and creating problems from thin air. Some of the plans were plain horrible and unrealistic… and some fairly executable, good even. Unfortunately the king found it very difficult to tell one from the other due to his chaotic mental state.
What if there was another reason why you seemed to be unable to recall the past events? What if it was the small forest lake protecting its secrets by wiping out the memories that were linked to the creatures dwelling below the surface? It was possible because Thranduil had also been unable to remember his own almost-drowning... until then later. Or perhaps the elf lady and the siren were not really the same person, physically, and therefore it took and would still take time for the memories to resurface. Yes, the king was absolutely certain that at some point, sooner or later you would remember, if not everything, then some of it because it was obvious that there was a part of you that already did remember something. The dreams about the murky depths and the glowing-eyed creatures... the way you had reacted to the idea of the first snow. You had frozen still and your voice had been filled with fear, just for a moment, but it had been there... like a ghost from the past.
Thranduil was unable to get any sleep that night. He did not purposely stay up until the sunrise but the hours just slipped away completely unnoticed during his attempts to formulate a plan that couldn’t fail. He couldn’t take any risks because he did not have any leverage over you. It meant basically that you weren’t obligated to stay and you had no ties to Mirkwood, in fact, your actions were governed by your free will and there was a real possibility that you would just leave the Woodland realm if you got pissed off with the king and his stupid schemes. Therefore Thranduil had to be smart about this and the plan had to be waterproof.
But he had no time to waste; you had clearly stated that you would send the letter early in the morning and therefore the king had to find you before you managed to do so. This was vital because he had a feeling that if you managed to hand the letter over to the messenger bird, which would then deliver the note overseas, you would feel obligated to sail away since surely your parents would arrange a boat to pick you up from the Gray Havens. Sure, there could be another letter after the first one, stating that no boat ride was needed on second thought but it was just simpler if no letter was sent at all… or perhaps a letter that informed your parents that you were alive, explained what had happened and shared the joyous news that you were going to marry the king of Mirkwood, six thousand years late, but still. Better late than never.
Thranduil wandered along the corridors and great halls, searched the garden and finally found you standing on a balcony and talking to a black bird that looked almost blue when the light of the rising sun hit its beautiful feathers. The bird was sitting on your finger and listened to your detailed instructions carefully. It sang a little when you asked for a confirmation, to make sure that it had understood everything and then allowed you to tie your letter to its leg. You gave the bird a soft scratch, whispered “Safe journey” into its ear, but just as you were about to set the bird free, you heard the king calling your name so you asked the bird to wait for a moment. It hopped off from your finger and flew to a tree nearby.
- Lady (Y/N)! Thranduil said, walked swiftly to you and asked with great urgency in his voice “Did you already send the letter?” He took quick glances to assess the situation; for his great disappointment you had no letter in your hands and there was no bird around to be seen. Perhaps he was late and you had already sent it. The king scolded himself silently and started immediately scheming a new plan to fix the situation. Maybe he could order the most skilled archer in his guard to track down the bird and shoot it before it left Middle Earth. The messenger birds were trained by the elves to be immensely loyal towards the one who sent them and therefore no one was able to change their minds after the final order had been given.
- Good morning, King Thranduil. you said, turned to face the king and dropped a curtsy. “No, but I am just about to” you added and scanned the king’s face with a slightly suspicious look on yours. You had not expected to see the king this early in the morning and you definitely had not expected him to ask about the letter due to his very indifferent and nonchalant attitude towards you as well as your plans.
- May I advise you… the king began somewhat hesitantly and paused for a moment, just shortly to get his thoughts into order. His head was spinning from the lack of sleep and the way you were staring at him with great intensity in your gaze, he found himself in a situation where it was difficult, no, challenging to speak firmly yet eloquently. “Yes?” you asked and tilted your head as you waited for the king to continue. He took a deep breath, cleared his throat as he perfected his posture and then continued by saying as calmly as possible “…To not send it.”
- Excuse me? you asked, made a simple gesture with your hand towards the nearby tree and the bird instantly flew to you, sat on the wooden railing of the balcony and stared at you, clearly waiting for orders.
- Do not send it, please. Thranduil said when he saw the letter attached to the bird. You scratched the bird under its chin a little as a reward for obeying you so loyally and conscientiously. Then you shifted your attention to the king.
- I am confused, my lord. you said with a tone that did not sound very confused. Your tone was quite neutral and impossible to read, just like your facial expressions were. However Thranduil was able to detect an undertone of growing frustration and annoyance in your voice. You began with the same tone “Yesterday we clearly agreed that-“
- Yes, I am aware of that but I have come to realize that a huge mistake was made. Thranduil stated but this statement caused you to glare at him. Clearly you did not like to be blamed for things that you had not done. Oh no, you had not made any mistakes, as far as you knew, and the whole ignoring you –thing that had pushed you to this decision, was all on Thranduil. The king noticed your reaction and corrected himself before you managed to say anything. “I made a mistake when I agreed with you” he stated, to which you responded by rolling your eyes.
- I see. you commented and then continued immediately with a highly sarcastic tone. “Yes, that is clearly the only mistake you’ve made.” Thranduil shifted his gaze elsewhere, now realizing that he had offended you more than he had even dared to think. Clearly he had entered this conversation with an assumption that he could get away with the whole ignoring –part, at least for now, and therefore he would have to only own up to the mistake of basically telling you to do whatever you wanted. Now he realized that it was not going to be that easy and some crawling had to be done. However this created an inner conflict for the king because he neither begged nor crawled, he didn’t actually like admitting that he had made a mistake or been wrong, either. But now it was not the time for protecting one’s big ego and the king knew it – it was time to make you stay, no matter what it took.
- I’ve obviously made many other mistakes too… the king admitted, his expression revealing to you that he probably would have rather fought hundred orcs than made that statement aloud. Witnessing it amused you slightly and pleased you greatly; it was not common to see a proud king like Thranduil squirming under his seemingly calm exterior. “…But I am not here to talk about them” the king stated and then added “Not at this time.” You sighed and rolled your eyes, now even more frustrated and annoyed than before. If you were being honest to yourself, you couldn’t really say that you were surprised. In fact you should have seen it coming even though you couldn’t understand why it was so impossible for the king to accept that you needed recognition. Yes, you needed Thranduil to acknowledge the mistakes he had done and properly apologize for them but clearly he was refusing to do so even now when a simple yet sincere “sorry” would have made a huge difference in your eyes.
- Thranduil. you said, sighed as you shook your head slowly. “What do you want? What do you really want?” you asked with an exhausted tone that was filled with suppressed sorrow as you furrowed your brows and focused your eyes on the king. Your full attention was now all his – no interruptions, no distractions. Yet you felt… torn. There was a part that was not really interested in anything the king was going to say, a part that wanted to just get this over with so you could get on with your life and meet someone decent in Valinor; perhaps a warrior who had fought bravely for things he believed in and then gotten killed in the battle, rested in the Halls of Mandos until his spirit was calm again and then had been reborn in Valinor. Yes, it was a possibility, a great prospect. But then again, another part of you wanted to hear reasons, explanations and even excuses, something to justify the king’s actions and to make it alright.
- I want a year. the king stated after a somewhat long silent moment. The truth was that Thranduil would have wanted to say “I want you” but he had changed his mind at the last second because he feared that his original answer would have been too bold and intrusive. Hell, just yesterday evening, barely twelve hours ago, he had basically told you to go… he had made it clear that you were more than welcome to sail away, if that was what you wanted.
- Come again? you asked and chuckled a little as you processed what you had just heard, finding it somewhat hilarious considering how convenient the timing was; you had been in Mirkwood for nearly six months, during which the king had not bothered to give a shit and now… now that you had finally made up your mind about leaving… he suddenly wanted even more time from you. You knew that your reaction, the chuckle, probably made you sound smug and arrogant, which you were not, but the truth was that you did not really care. Actually if someone was being arrogant, it was the king because of making such requests.
- Give me a year. he stated, no, pleaded. Yes, there was desperation in his voice and the way he looked at you, hanging onto maintaining eye contact with you like his life was depending on it, made your heart ache, just a little a bit though, but it was enough to change your attitude towards him to a slightly more emphatic direction. The shift was subtle indeed but it was still a shift to the more favorable direction.
- I already gave you several months, my lord. you said and sighed as you dropped your head.
- Yes and I wasted them by being distracted. Thranduil muttered, clearly getting slightly frustrated because of your relentless objections and questionings. The truth was that the king had expected you to be deeply flattered as well as overjoyed due to the king’s sudden change of heart. He had nearly assumed you to run to him with open arms but instead of doing so you were giving him an attitude, although, on the other hand, he was able to understand why – he was no idiot after all. With that being said, it was driving him insane nevertheless despite being sympathetic as well as appreciative towards you and your convictions.
- That is… you began, shifted your gaze elsewhere and then continued “…Such a vague statement.” Thranduil furrowed his brows as an involuntary response. “Distracted by what, my Lord, huh?” you asked and focused your eyes intensely at the king once more, your expression quite emotionless and distant.
- By something that… he stated, swallowed one time and added “…I thought I had lost.”
- Ah, I see. you commented, shook your head a little and stated “And therefore treating me like I was nothing but air... was justified.” Thranduil could hear the bitterness in your voice. It made him regret ignoring you even more because it was now more than apparent that his behavior had offended you and made you very upset even though you had not let it show. “Was it?” you asked after a long pause.
- No. the king replied and sighed as he shook his head. The king sounded defeated and… broken too. It was more than obvious to you that he really hated to admit that he had been wrong and admitting that he had made mistakes did not come easy for him – it was… insulting and bruised his mighty ego. However the sight of the troubled king made you feel sorry for him, you couldn’t help it, although sympathy was the last thing you wanted to feel towards him – he did not deserve it. You took a quick glance at the tree where the black bird was still waiting for further orders.
- I am not distracted anymore. Thranduil stated firmly, his eyes basically begging you not to order the black messenger bird to fly away and to deliver the letter to your parents.
- Distracted by something that you can’t have. you mumbled with a barely audible tone and then asked “Why the sudden change of heart, King Thranduil?” Your voice was clearer and more assertive now and even more so when you continued speaking “Did you decide to settle with the most convenient option available, even though it is not what you actually want?”
- You are wrong. the king stated instantly, glaring you like you had insulted him the worst way possible.
- Oh, am I? you asked and smirked bitterly at the tall elf.
- Yes, you indeed are. he replied and perfected his posture to appear more convincing.
- About which part exactly? you asked, folded your arms and scoffed as your mood shifted back on the frustrated and somewhat annoyed side.
- All of them. the king sighed, dropped his head and mumbled with a desperate tone “You have gotten it all wrong, my Lady.”
The statement made you laugh and your laughter mocked the king, who listened to the shower of daggers coming out from your mouth in total silence. He cursed silently that he couldn’t tell you everything he knew about… well, everything… not right now at least… and wished that he could have just walked to you, cupped your face with his hands and muffled your laughter with a kiss. The king liked your laughter very much and he would have loved to listen to it, the sparkling bubbles that filled the entire room, but this time he just wanted it to stop since it was not laughter of joy but laughter filled with mockery, bitterness and disappointment.
The reason why you were laughing was that once again the king was laying the blame on someone else but himself; he was so comfortable with making such bold statements, basically claiming that you had just misunderstood everything and he had done nothing wrong. Of course, you were unaware of many things, you simply did not remember much… or nearly anything… about the time you had been the siren – just little things here and there, not enough to even make a guess or to have the slightest inkling about anything… yet… and therefore the king’s statement sounded unfair and self-centered in your ears. “You have gotten it all wrong… what an arrogant statement” you thought during the long, depressing silence.
- Humor me. you said after you both had just stood there by the wooden railing of the balcony, side by side, saying nothing and staring at the nearby trees. “Give me one good reason why I should stay” you stated and turned to face the king. Thranduil was secretly impressed by the way you took control of the situation when you wanted to be heard, just like you captured the attention of every elf when you entered a room, no matter how small or large – your presence never went unnoticed. You were eloquent and intense at the same time, old and young, almost otherworldly but still down to earth, your spirit was wild and free, yet your manners ladylike at all times. This mixed combination of many seemingly conflicting qualities made you mysterious, almost dangerous, in the eyes of the elves that had been born in Middle Earth, Thranduil included. However at the same time the king knew that a graceful and age-old elf like you posed no threat due to your great love for everything that lived.
You were like no other elf the king had met before, but then again, he had never met anyone from Valinor… except Lady Galadriel. Yes, the king suddenly realized that you reminded him of the Lady of Light and he felt almost silly for not realizing this connection before; you and Lady Galadriel shared the same homeland, you both had been born in the Undying Lands and sailed across the sea to live in the Middle Earth. You most likely were as old as she was, if not even older, although you had spent over six thousand years as a water spirit while your physical form had remained, frozen in time, in the bottom of the bottomless lake. You were unaware of this at the current time, of course, assuming that your spirit had rested with your body during those years of entrapment. This assumption was due to the fact that you did not have any solid memories from that time.
However despite of this, you couldn’t help feeling sometimes that you were an old soul trapped in a young body. The feeling haunted you every once in a while, every day more and more, like a ghostly visitor that was always there watching over you… or a dream that you were unable to recall but at the same time you knew deep down that there was something… something more to know and actually, your feeling was right; you had lived as a siren for over six thousand years, which made you an old soul in a young body.
It was confusing because you did not understand the meaning of that feeling just like you did not know the reason behind it… it just… haunted you and made you restless, which you, naturally, interpreted as a sign of being homesick and nothing else. You had left Valinor a long time ago. It felt like a long time even though at the same time it felt like it had just happened. Those over six thousand, nearly seven thousand years were erased from your memory but they existed at the same time… deep down you knew… deep down you knew you had lived… you had lived but… in a different place.
- One year. the king stated and you suddenly recoiled from your thoughts. You jumped a little as you gasped and then focused your gaze at Thranduil after staring into the space between you and the tall king with a blank look on your face for a moment that could have been just few seconds but felt like many minutes. To be honest you had no idea of how long it had been and if the king had been talking to you during that time. You had spaced out but now you were back again. “What is one year anyway in the lifespan of an elf?” the king reasoned and continued with a calm tone “If you still feel this way a year from now, I will give you a ride to the Gray Havens myself.”
- With your elk? you asked after clearing your throat.
- Yes. With my elk. the king stated to which you reacted by chuckling a little. This time, however, your laughter was sincere and not meant to insult anyone. You stopped laughing very soon and then an awkward silence took over once again.
- Well? the king asked curiously with a hint of hopefulness in his voice.
- Oh, I don’t know. you replied, placed your hands on the wooden railing and leaned to it while staring at the garden. The bird still waited.
- What do you have to lose? Thranduil asked, constantly scanning your expressions and monitoring your body language. He was able to see the siren in you, it was very easy now because your manners and gestures were the same… you were the same even though you looked different. The king was obviously very happy about it but simultaneously it made him wonder if you had had your voice as a siren, would you have been just as stubborn and defiant then? The king knew that you had been unable to voice your thoughts, your worries and doubts as well as your objections because you had been forced to simplify even the most complex thoughts and concerns into understandable hand-gestures and therefore many things had been left unsaid. Oh Valar… there must have been so much you had wanted and needed to say… but you just… had lacked the physical ability to express yourself.
Suddenly the king felt guilty for taking advantage of your impaired state. He had not done it on purpose and at the time he had considered his actions justified and righteous, but now, looking at you as you had the courage and the capability to stand your ground, he realized that he had indeed treated you like a pet when actually you had been this same person… all along. Therefore the king hoped that you would never come to remember everything but at the same time he feared that you would… and this time, when you did, you would have a voice of your own and the capability of standing your ground against the king.
- My sanity? you scoffed and rolled your eyes. “You clearly ignored everything I said about being restless here…” you spoke with a frustrated tone and after a deep inhale added “…And the dreams-“
- It is not homesickness. Thranduil blurted immediately and interrupted you, immediately regretting it.
- Oh, you did listen. you commented. “I am almost impressed, but then again… not really” you stated, knowing that you were not exactly being a very pleasant person to have a conversation at the moment. No, you were sniping and actually quite salty, indeed your behavior was not very ladylike but the truth was that you were tired of keeping it in like you had during the past, long months – you had never objected or even complained, no, you had just smiled politely and bottled it all in.
- I have a feeling that you know more than you’re telling me. you stated since Thranduil stayed quiet and did not make any comments, almost like he had been trying to make sure that he wouldn’t blurt anything… or say too much. “What is it?” you asked with a curious tone that challenged the king to tell you the truth, you demanded to know, although the insistence was very subtle, just an undertone of curiosity.
- Nothing, my Lady. Thranduil commented and smiled briefly, trying to reassure you and to put your mind at ease, to make you less suspicious. “All I can say for now is… give it time” he stated with a soft, almost loving tone and then added “It will make sense soon.”
- It? you asked, now hooked on knowing the truth. There clearly was something else to know, a secret or an enigma that you had to solve... and the only way to solve it was to stay in Mirkwood… for now at least.
- Everything. the king spoke with a longing look in his eyes. You swallowed when you felt a strange wave of yearning hit you. You had no idea where it had come from and why you suddenly felt this way… like you had wanted to bury your face in the crook of the king’s neck, nuzzle the soft skin with your lips and breathe him in. The feeling was intense… yet strange… you had to find out what it meant.
- One year. you stated hesitantly and nodded. The king was right after all; one year in the lifespan of an elf was nothing and therefore you had nothing to lose. However you hoped that you wouldn’t regret this decision in the future. You really hoped that your curiosity was not going to turn out to be the end of you, that the things you might find out, or to remember, weren’t bad enough to crush you. You hoped that the king wouldn’t break your heart and fill your mind sorrow and shadow. Oh, the sorrow that sometimes took over your heart and spirit… it was almost unbearable, just like the feeling of helplessness as well as the overwhelming sense of being unable to communicate… perhaps it was more than you could take. You sighed, hoping that you were not making a big mistake and knowing that in Valinor you would have found peace… but you had made up your mind; you were going to stay for a year, you were going to take a risk.
- One year. the king stated and nodded back with great confidence. He seemed relieved, very pleased too and after flashing a somewhat flirty and charming, yet mysterious smile at you, he bowed and turned away as he was going to leave the balcony. He walked to the doorway and stopped to take a look at you over his shoulder; you were standing by the railing, facing away from the king. Your long hair glimmering in the morning sun and your aura filled with gracefulness and nobility. Your actions were elegant and your whole being was eerily breathtaking – you were one of the oldest elves in Middle Earth, born in Valinor under that twinkling stars and surrounded by the eternal sea. The king followed you silently, with deep admiration as you gestured the bird to fly on the railing and then started to remove the silky ribbons that attached the letter to the bird. Then you set the bird free and put the letter into the pocket of your dress.
- You didn’t give me any reason to stay. you stated, keeping your eyes fixed on the garden, facing away from Thranduil. You knew that he was still there, you could feel it for some reason, now more clearly than before. “Even though I only asked for one” you added with a tone that was filled with many emotions, all getting mixed with each other and making you sound troubled.
- But you decided to stay anyway. he replied with a smirk on his face. The smirk changed into a hopeful smile as he continued “No words can describe the joy that this-“
- Do not make me regret it. you said, took a deep breath and finally turned to look at the king.
- I’ll do my best, Lady (Y/N). Thranduil stated with a sincere tone. You smiled a little and nodded as a sign that you appreciated his efforts and were willing to do the same – to try your best to get it right and to give him a fair chance. “A dinner, at sunset. Come to the garden” the king said, bowed and walked quickly back inside. He had many meetings to attend but most importantly, a romantic dinner to plan.