And then the time came when Morgoth was finally vanquished and Beleriand lost. They called it the War of Wrath, and minstrels sang tales of sorrow, death and dragon fire, and of the warriors who fought with great valour.
The fighting was fierce, and the death toll was high. Gildor Inglorion had fought many battles in his time, but here on the plains of Anfauglith life and everything he knew came apart, and something new began - but that he knew only much later. At the time, it was fire and hell and destruction.
“Gildor! Ai, Gildor, wait for me!”
The Noldo turned, his eyes lighting up at a lad running up to him.
“Thranduil! What has got you so excited?”
The blond Sinda stopped, panting and bestowing his mentor a bright smile. “I’ve got my armour, finally. It took so long to finish it, I thought I would have to go to battle with just my leathers!” Throwing back his cloak, he lifted his arms and turned around, proudly showing off a piece of great craftsmanship and beauty, clearly the best - and showiest - Oropher’s gold had been able to buy.
Gildor observed every detail with great diligence. “Who made this, Master Thavron? Exceptional work. But to be honest, I find the sight of you much more delightful.” He gave the young man a quick embrace. Not many of the Sindar had readily followed the Noldor King's call to arms, but Oropher and his young son were among them, duty-bound by their position at the High King’s court. They stuck with their own kind, though, and Gildor hadn’t seen his young friend for a while.
Thranduil’s smile vanished. “I know. Father doesn’t approve of my association with you, and while he turned a blind eye at court, he made it quite clear what he expects of me here. But I just had to see you for a moment, and show you this.”
Gildor patted the other on the back. “I’m happy to see you, too, Thran. Come, walk with me, and let me hear your news.”
Thranduil’s father Oropher was a Sinda of the late King Thingol’s court who had come to the Havens of Sirion after the fall of Menegroth. He despised the Noldor, who were, in his book, responsible for all evil that roamed Middle-earth, and while he accepted their association to further his own ambitions, any contact over the purely political with them was highly unsolicited by him, particularly where it concerned his only son.
Gildor Inglorion, a distant cousin of the royal family of little importance, was a free spirit, preferring to roam the forests and plains of Middle-earth, sometimes alone, sometimes with a small company, never growing tired of this still new and exciting land. Some fifty years ago, on one of his trips he had made the acquaintance of a very young Thranduil, who had escaped the confines of the city to find solitude among his beloved trees, and they had become fast friends over their shared love for trees and rivers and all things that lived. Thranduil had come with his father to the Havens only recently, finding it difficult to make new friends partly due to the strained relations between Noldor and Sindar and partly for his father’s haughty behaviour, and he had soon taken to the easy-going, dark-haired Noldo. Gildor, flattered by the open admiration of the attractive youngster, became something of his mentor, helping him find his place in a not-so-welcoming society and encouraging him to pursue his own interests. But when Thranduil grew older, his father had drawn him into his own affairs and deliberately limited the time the two could spend together, while Gildor’s own duties often brought him far away from the coast, to use his knowledge of the land in the increasing fight against Morgoth.
When the army marched north more recently, the friends were separated by kinship and duty, but found many occasions to meet during the march or in camp, or sometimes escaping together with a small hunting group. Nobody ignored the fate they were marching towards, but for Gildor and Thranduil it came with the hidden blessing of spending more time together than they had been able to in years. But the arrival at their destination meant separate camps for both peoples with as much distance in between as was still justifiable, and seeing each other became nearly impossible.
Lost in thought, Gildor had listened with only half an ear at Thranduil’s tales of the life in the Sindarin camp, until he had started talking about his new armour. Gildor, who wore a much simpler, but equally well-made, piece from the hands of the same Master smith, listened with interest to the surprisingly knowledgeable account of the armour’s finer detail, realising with surprise how much more mature and serious his formerly so carefree friend had become.
Thranduil might still be very young - in fact, he would be celebrating his first three-figure begetting day in only a few weeks - but none of his prattle could hide the fact that he knew precisely what was waiting for him, and that war was not an adventure. Nor that the lavishly gilded design of his armour hid the fact of it serving only one purpose: to protect its bearer and hopefully to preserve his life.