There and Back.
Summary: It was one of those unfortunate oversights that a busy and rather meddlesome wizard was prone to make. So it was that when Thorin Oakenshield and his companions blunder into the feast of Wintergathering, Thranduil’s reaction is not quite what Gandalf had expected. And even if he did, the result may well have been much the same anyway.
The story of There and Back Again from the Woodelves’ perspective.
Note: This follows Black Arrow although it does not require you to have read that in order to enjoy this. Suffice to say that Thranduil struck a bargain with Smaug in order to retrieve the black arrow that he then gives to Bard’s ancestor. In this way it is passed down to Bard so he can kill Smaug. Smaug demands that Thranduil send someone to renew the bargain every ten years. It is that time. The warriors who go to Erebor to pledge peace are called the Danedh-Amlung, Dragon’s Ransom.
Laersul: The oldest son of Thranduil.
Thalos- his middle son
He knew it was time, for the dreams had started again.
….the huge red-gold Dragon lay coiled upon a high bed of gold and gems. His tail stretched long, far down into the shadowed halls and out of sight. It twitched slightly somewhere in the shadows and there was the sound of shifting coins, metal, treasure beyond dreams. About Smaug’s claw was tangled a long string of emeralds, deepest green like the forest. Smaug breathed. Thin wisps of smoke blew out of his nostrils for his fires were low and sleepy. The eye of the Dragon was multi-facetted, iridescent, shot with a thousand lights, molten fire. He could not look away.
The Dragon bowed its great golden head then and a slow warmth came from him that seemed to bathe Thranduil in light and he felt an unbearable loneliness, a hunger that could not be sated, and something utterly alien. Cold fire. Deep darkness. A far song. He listened...
...Wind under great bat-like wings, soaring high, higher than cloud, higher than the Moon, above the World, seeking the Great Flame beyond the Circles of the World...and falling back, falling back into darkness...
He thought of a moth fluttering round a candle-flame. His was not the gift of Song though and he knew he had not fully understood….
‘Ten years,’ Smaug’s voice followed him, echoed down the empty halls, reached up into the silent tiers and drifted through the dark arches, ‘And you will send me your son.’
And he had. Laersul first, and then four others until last time when he had finally sent Legolas. But it was Thalos that Smaug wanted. And Thranduil knew this time, there was no way out if he wished to keep the Dragon’s Peace, the promise that Smaug would not come to the Wood, and no Woodelf would lift a weapon against the Dragon.
It kept him awake at night. He sat before the fire, empty in Spring and Summer, but he sat there anyway from habit, and steepled his long fingers and thought…It was not just the dragon’s ransom this time. Something else was coming…He felt it in the Wood. The trees whispered restlessly, of some darkness that moved beneath the eaves, creeping closer. And it came not from the South, but the West. From the Misty Mountains. Thranduil did not know what it was, not yet, but he felt the Woods shudder as it passed.
He did not know what danger came from the Mountains, not yet, but he was sure of the danger that came from the South; the Necromancer. He was calling to Smaug, summing the dragon as a servant of the Dark, though Smaug had not yet answered. Smaug, thought Thranduil, remembering, was the servant of no man, or god. Smaug served himself and for the moment at least, it suited him to keep the peace with the Elves.
‘You should sleep,’ a voice came from the other side of the door. Galion.
‘How long have you been out there eavesdropping on my thoughts?’ demanded Thranduil but there was no heat his voice
‘I can hear you pacing!’ Gallon opened the door and strode in proprietorially, though Thranduil was not pacing but sitting quietly in the chair before the empty grate. Galion made straight for the maps that were unrolled on the table. He quirked a pleased eyebrows for little silver clips were all in place and there were not the usual odd assortment of objects keeping the maps unscrolled, and without pausing, swerved towards the narrow table and the pewter decanter that was filled wine, half filled, he corrected himself upon looking. He helped himself to a goblet, filled it to the brim and then threw himself in the comfortable chair pulled up beside the crackling fire.
The wine was not Dorwinion, Galion already knew for he put the wine out, but it was a fine vintage nonetheless.
‘Thalos will go then?’ He swung one leg over the arm of the chair in a vulgar position as was his custom. It made Thranduil wince at one time but no longer even noticed. ‘You have to write to him then, invite him back for the Feast of Wintergathering.’ Galion’s bright green eyes darted up and met his own. ‘But it will mean at least we have all our boys back,’ he said brightly. ‘Legolas was the last Danedh-Amlung, and Laersul accompanies each of them on their journey to pledge the peace with Smaug. They will all be here for Wintergathering.’
Thranduil grunted. That was true enough and a rare enough pleasure but small compensation.
‘This time it feels different,’ he said, not explaining the prickle that was in the fingertips and his toes. ‘Something else is happening.’
‘Well it’s no good hoping for any help from West,’ Galion swirled the wine in his goblet and belched. Thranduil looked slightly pained but he had grown used to Galion over the years and knew it was useless to try to change anything about him. ‘I told you what would happen when you sent Alagos to tell them what Smaug had said to Legolas; Sit-on-your arse-Saruman will say to Sit-on-your-arse-Elrond to sit on his arse and Galadriel…’
‘Enough!’ Thranduil interrupted. He might say many things but Galadriel was just one of those people you never knew…or you always felt… might be listening. ‘Mithrandir has ever been our friend. I am sure he will send a message when he has something to say.’
Galion screwed up his face in a dismissive way. ‘I would have thought,’ he said emphatically, ‘that a message from the King telling him that the dragon is feeling. hearing a summons from the Necromancer in the South of the Greenwood, that even the White Council might feel a smudge of concern. But I suppose it is only Mirkwood.’ He said the last word with deep bitterness.
To which Thranduil really could not find an answer.