I was gazing across the Anduin, trying to make out the outline of where Mirkwood began, when gentle Eliriael approached me in the garden. I was surprised to see her holding a letter out to me. Who would have written to me here?
Gingerly, I took the fine parchment and turned it over in my hands. I immediately recognized to whom the seal belonged: the Tûrdirith. Father.
My hands began to tremble in anticipation and I was glad that fair Eliriael had disappeared after giving me the letter, granting me privacy. As I broke the seal and unfolded the parchment, I was taken aback. The long and sloping elegant letters distinctly belonged to Father, but it was unlike him to have filled an entire sheet of parchment.
Words cannot express the relief I felt when hiril Agorin informed me you were safe in Lórien. It is my wish that you remain there in the care of their healers and make a complete recovery. The road back to King Thranduil’s halls poses too much risk at this time. Yet, I will do my best to secure a way back for you, if you desire to return.
Father was always one to talk of action. Despite having doubts about the writer of the letter when I saw the length of prose, I was convinced it was Father by its tone. He would not write unless it was to convey what had been done in the past, what was being done presently, and what was to be done in the future. Some resentment built within me at seeing his lack of emotion in the first paragraph, but I kept reading. It was enough for now to have something form him – to be holding the same parchment he had held.
I know you must be disappointed in me.
I paused and read the words again, unable to believe what Father had written. Then, my eyes quickly scanned ahead, eager to read more.
I know you must be disappointed in me. You are disappointed by a father who did not give chase when his only daughter was taken by his enemies. You are disappointed by a father who did not urge all his acquaintances and friends to aid him in rescuing his child. You are disappointed that it was not I who stormed the fortress of our enemy to bring you to safety.
Tears gathered in my eyes with each line I read and they began to overflow. The hardness that had been gathering in my heart since I was first taken captive by the orcs began to crack as the truth of Father’s words pierced me. How many times had I hoped to hear Father’s footsteps among the trees accompanied by a battle cry from his lips as he came to slay my captors? How many times had I resigned myself to the fact that duty would keep him away, before hope would kindle again as soon as I heard the ring of a sword cutting the air? I knew he was a renowned soldier of his time and had heard of his skill in battle; he could have taken them all down.
I am disappointed in myself as well.
I felt a pang in my chest for Father. He was a proud elf that seldom spoke of his faults and mistakes…though partly because he worked carefully to never make them.
From the time that you were a child, you and I both knew I could never be a father first, soldier second. I was ever thankful that it never put your life in danger before. I know I cannot make amends, Merenell, for all the times I could not be there as I should have, and this time also. And I know you may not forgive me simply because I explain what I had to do, but I think you do have a right to know.
Chasing you would have meant leaving those under my command to die. Perhaps you will not believe me when I say that you are infinitely more precious to me than my soldiers. Yet, I am bound to my duty to protect our realm. If I chased after you as my passions willed me to do, the remaining orcs would have killed those soldiers and pressed further into our open defenses.
I felt doubt, suspicion, and resentment surfacing within as Father’s words shifted to matters of tactics. Precious? His duty was the most precious to him. He could stand to let his daughter be taken and killed, but not his soldiers. There were many more elves than orcs in that part of the forest; the orc party would have been taken down eventually before they could reach King Thranduil’s Halls. My fingers itched to crumple the letter and throw it into the Anduin...but I read on. There were not many more words left.
I was a dutiful commander that day
A large ink blot stained the parchment here. Father had clearly held his quill here in anticipation before writing his next words.
but an unworthy father.
The anger building like a knot in my throat halted at my father’s confession.
Merenell, I have decided that I will remain Tûrdirith long enough to make your passage back north a safe one should you wish to return. And then, I will return home with you and retire from my position so that, though it is many years too late, I may spend the rest of my years being, first and foremost, your father.