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What It Means to be a King

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Menegroth. April 12, First Age 468

LADY MELIAN, the Queen of Doriath and the lady wife of King Elu Thingol, held a tiny infant in her arms. It had been a long time since a child was born within the stone walls of Menegroth. And, he may be the last. Even within Doriath guarded with her power, a shadow had fallen. And outside the borders of Doriath, the Enemy’s shadow lengthened and the darkness was coming. But today her husband was laughing with his nephew, Lord Arandur, and Arandur’s son Oropher, the child’s father.

The baby squirmed in her arms and the gold of his hair glowed as the highlight of silver, ever present in all of Thingol's kin, sparkled under the sunlight. Melian fingered the silken cheek of the baby. Holding the infant made her ache for Luthien, her beautiful child who was now lost to her.

Just then, the baby opened his eyes and Melian was drawn into the bright blue-green eyes the lady had never seen among the Sindar. A light from a nearby window bounced off the baby’s eyes making them glow as if faceted like gems. They were almost the exact shade of his mother’s eyes.

“Hello, Thranduil,” Melian whispered.

The baby looked up into Melian’s twilight gray eyes then smiled. It was as if the whole room brightened and the sunlight enveloped him. Melian smiled back.

“He is so beautiful, Arinariel. I could see him grow up to become one of the most beautiful of your kind,” she said softly as the baby took hold of her finger and grabbed onto it with surprising strength. “I see the beauty of a true Eldar in him.”

Melian looked deep into the infant’s bright eyes, then she frowned as a light from the window faded and a shadow fell. Within the depth of the baby’s eyes, she saw so much grief to come, her heart broke. She held the infant closer. There will be much grief this little one must endure in his long life.

“Arinariel, raise him to be a healer like you,” Melian said softly. “Do not let him become a warrior like his father. In time, he will become a powerful lord, but I see much grief in his life.”

Lady Arinariel smiled sadly with a look of one who knew what kind of grief lay before her son.

“If I could keep him safe by making him a healer, I would. But, alas, my lady, it is not within my power, for is it not I who brought it to him by delaying the grief I should have born?” Arinariel’s eyes misted with much sorrow. “If I could have convinced Oropher like Galadriel had of Celeborn…”

“Then Thranduil would not have been born. It may seem as if you contrived it, but it is the will of Eru. Children are precious gifts and those given in times of darkness are even dearer as they are given to us in furtherance to His design, a light for these dark times of approaching shadow.” Melian fingered the fuzzy golden hair, much paler in color than his mother's glittering gold tresses.

“But, we are safe here, my lady. I know even the Dark Lord cannot match his power against yours.”

“You forget I am merely one of the Maiar while the Dark Lord is one of the Valar. I cannot hope to match Morgoth's power if he is to come here himself.”

“But, surely your protection around Doriath will hold?” Lady Arinariel said.

“Perhaps. While I am here,” Melian sighed, another drawn out sigh, as she looked far away, her heart full of grief. “But, sometimes, it is not the evil that brings darkness but the folly of our own making. And, even I cannot undo a doom that is already written.”

“You speak of the doom of the Noldor?” Arinariel asked. “It is terrible how much loss Feanor’s sons have faced, even if it was the doom of their own making. I hope Galadriel goes far enough away that the doom will not touch her.”

Melian smiled, pushing away the thoughts that troubled her. Despite the troubles to come, today was to be celebrated.

“Who managed to finally pry Celeborn away from Thranduil? I thought he would never give me a chance to hold the baby,” Melian laughed.

“Thranarin,” Arinariel smiled back. “He managed to convince Lord Celeborn to join the rest of the warriors in celebrating. I think Celeborn was fussing over Thranduil, more than when Thranarin was born, as his way of telling Galadriel that he also wants a child.”

“I know he was,” Melian laughed, pushing away her grief for now. “And, I am quite sure Galadriel knows but is ignoring it. Too many desires she has at the moment to want to start a family. But, she will, in her own time. She is the wisest of all her kin, I dare say. But, right now, she is blinded by pride and ambition. In time, she will come to see that it is the simple things that really matter.”

“There is more to her than ambition and pride, my lady. She is generous of heart and noble, as noble as they come,” Arinariel said, frowning as she took back the squirming infant from the queen.

“I did not mean to speak ill of her, Arinariel. Merely, that she still has much to learn.”

“In that sense, all of us have much to learn,” Arinariel said looking at Thranduil. “I wish I could impart even a small portion of her wisdom to him. It is a pity that he will not grow up in the light of the Valar. At the least, if Galadriel was not leaving, she could have taught him some of the wisdom of Noldor.”

“Do not worry, Arinariel. Many believe knowledge is wisdom, but that is not so. All who are wise have much knowledge but not all who have knowledge are wise. Too many forget that knowledge alone does not give you wisdom. True wisdom comes from deep understanding acquired through painful experiences that bring enlightenment and ability to see things as they truly are. Such a thing, however, requires more than a book knowledge and is much harder to achieve. There will be much loss and pain along the way. Had Noldor more wisdom and less knowledge, there would have been less haste, less willingness to commit violence against their kin, and maybe all the losses that had come and will come could and would have been avoided. But, alas, we have all been unused to loss and sorrow until the intrusion of the Enemy. And for some of us, the wisdom gained may come too late.”

The queen sighed, her heart heavy with the sorrows of the Age but she pushed them away the moment Arinariel looked up. Melian smiled warmly down at the child’s mother.

“Worry not for Galadriel. She may not be the most powerful or the most knowledgeable among her brothers and cousins, but she is the wisest of them all. She will not allow the wisdom gained from her experiences in Middle Earth to be wasted. I just…I will miss her very much when she is gone. When is she planning to leave?”

Arinariel reached out and the queen of Doriath took her hand. “Before another war breaks.”

“Soon, then.” Melian’s heart was saddened but she smiled down at the baby’s mother. “I am glad, at least, you will be here, Arinariel. No matter what will come, it is good to have a friend near.”

Then, the queen looked down at the baby who was now yawning and nudging closer to his mother as his eyes filled with sleep.

“And, for him, too. A good friend to share each other’s burdens. Yes.” Then Melian smiled brightly. The queen ran her finger over the baby’s soft cheek and his little face illuminated with a brilliant smile as he fell asleep in his mother’s arms.


Melian   (Sindarin, Dear Gift)--One of the Maiar, heavenly beings who served Valar. Mother of Luthien.

Doriath (Sindarin, Fenced Land)--Realm of Thingol and Melian in Beleriand during First Age. It is known as "Fenced Land" because Melian used her power as a Maia to place a protection of enchantment on the borders of Doriath so that no one could enter without the will of King Thingol. Under the light and teachings of Melian,  Doriath flourished and was considered the greatest realm in Middle Earth during the First Age.

Elu Thingol (Sindarin, Greycloak)--Originally, a leader of Teleri known as Elwe (Quenya, Male Star). He led the third group of Elves, Teleri, to West. When he arrived at Beleriand, Elwe was entranced by Melian and was lost. Two third of the Teleri would not wait and followed Elwe's brother Olwe to Valinor. After awakening, Elwe gathered those who remained and established a realm with Melian as his queen. This realm is called Doriath and its people, Sindar.

Eru Illuvatar   (Quenya, The One Father of All) Supreme deity and creator of all. Created Ainur first out of his thought which is Valar and Maiar collectively. Eru created Elves, then Men, so Elves are called Firstborn and Men, Secondborn. Dwarves are created by Vala Aule and given blessing later by Eru.

Valar   (Quenya, singular, Vala) spiritual beings born of Eru's thought and aided Eru in creating the world. There are 14 (15 if you include Melkor, later known as Morgoth) that entered the world and reside at Valinor in the Continent of Aman west of Middle Earth. Men call them gods.

Maiar   (Quenya. Singular, Maia) lesser spiritual beings to assist Valar in creating the world. Some of the well known are Sauron and balrogs. Gandalf, Radagast and Saruman are also Maiar who in the shape of old man were sent to Middle Earth as wizards to help fight against Sauron later in the Third Age.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Blue Mountains. September 2, Second Age 143

MAIRON missed the fire pits of Angband and the deep burn of the lava that flowed ever beneath the Iron Mountains. These mountains in the far east of now destroyed Beleriand were cold. There was no liquid fire like the ones that used to flow beneath the mountains that surrounded the iron fortress.

A stray wind howled as it sped through the hollow cavity of the cave. Mairon allowed his formless body to be caught in the wind’s invisible grasp and flew out onto a desolate landscape outside. The sun was falling and the gray landscape outside the mountain glowed red.

Mairon followed the wind as it softened and sighed toward a cluster of pines that grew at the feet of the mountains where adeep valley cut into the side of the mountain’s roots. Ever since his master was taken away by the Valar at the end of the Great War, Mairon had hidden beneath these rocky mountain ranges.

The fallen Maia shuddered at the last image of his master.

Outside the walls, the clamor of the Valar and their host was so loud, the solid stone walls of Angband shook like wooden hut amid a storm. The light outside was blinding and with the Thangorodrim shattered and Melkor’s great dragon lay dying, the defeat was imminent. Shaken, Mairon ran to his master.

The Great Melkor, in his corporeal form, as huge as the mountain with his iron crown shining with the light of the two remaining silmarils, sat on the stone throne as if he had no care in the world.

“What shall we do now, master?” Mairon asked.

Melkor laughed, his dark head thrown back. His laughter rang through the stone walls when the clamor outside rose like an angry beast and swallowed it. The ground trembled and cracked with a thunderous noise. With a loud rumble, the stone ceiling shook and pieces of rocks, dust, and rubble rained down onto the great hall, but Melkor looked at Mairon with twinkles in his dark eyes, a smile playing on his lips.

“The right question, Mairon, is what will you do now?”

Like a lone wolf, Mairon let out a howl as heat churned within his breast. The hollow sound rang through the vast mountain range, echoing off the distant horizon.

Restless, Mairon rushed the wind and rustled the leaves of the pine trees that stood several leagues from the cave whence he came. Far to the south, a lone figure was returning home, his catch slung over his shoulders. Mairon had seen this figure before. This Elf was the only one Mairon had seen who wandered so far up North, away from where his kindred had settled by Belegaer, the great sea, that separated the Middle Earth from Valinor.

Knowing he could get rid of the Elf-hunter whenever he wished, Mairon had not bothered with the Elf. But today, he was in the mood for some blood. Mairon flew south toward where he had seen the hunter put down his kill to rest.

The fallen Maia wished he had his physical body. Then there would have been choices as to the different shapes he could take that would throw this hunter off. A warg? A vampire? Or something unexpected? Mairon knew this Elf was no mere hunter. Although the Elf wore a worn leather jacket with brown tunic like one of the Laiquendi, Mairon had seen the strength of the light in his eyes. He certainly was not one of those lesser Elves of Middle Earth.

Thinking about his choices, Mairon regretted not having his physical form. He could have even looked an Elf-lord. But imitation of Eru’s children required much skill and power as well as time. Skill and power he had aplenty, but the time he did not have if he was to use the disguise now. But he still had control over his servants and other beasts.

Mairon swept past the plain between the valley where he saw the hunter skinning his catch next to a stream. After some thought, Mairon decided to go further south and backtrack. The fallen Maia was aware that most Elves knew the north was crawling with Orcs who had escaped the destruction of the last war.

As Mairon passed the hunter, he slowed down and made a long arc. The valley cut deep through this section of the mountain range. One side was a steep cliff with a drop of several leagues.

As he flew over a grove of pine trees, feeling the presence of his servants, something caught Mairon’s eyes. One of the smaller pine trees had been knocked over as if by some great force. There was a track that went straight over a cliff. Curious, Mairon flew over the cliff, the hunter forgotten for now.

Mairon swooped down from his lofty heights to the floor of the valley. Something with life pulsing through its veins lay among the stones and rocks that were strewn all over the bottom of the cliff. There, he saw the unlikely trio: Elf with an elk and a wolf.

The Elf’s long dark hair was splayed over the rough floor strewn with rocks. Near him lay a cold body of large elk its spiked antler half jammed into the Elf who lay clutching at the bloodied antlers on his side. The Elf’s legs lay strangely twisted. Next to the elf was a wolf.

Mairon flew nearer, then pulled back sharply. The air was thick with sickly sweet, metallic scent. There was blood everywhere, a splash of dark red on pale gray rocks. It was on the elf, on the elk and the wolf and on the rocky floor.

The wolf was dead. A dagger stuck on its neck, its white eyes glazed, its mouth still foaming. But the Elf, he was alive. Mairon could feel the pulse of the blood in the elf’s veins although it was becoming faint with each passing minute.

The Elf was young, barely two centuries old.

However, the Elf did something that surprised the forsaken Maia. With halting voice, barely audible, the Elf called on the spirits.

Spirits were souls of those who refused the summons of Mandos after their body had died. Those who refused the summons wandered about the Middle Earth as spirits. Most of them did not bother with the living, but some, if called upon, can be bargained with. But such a thing was dangerous unless one who summoned them was powerful enough to control the spirits. And among the Elves, as far as Mairon knew, such practice was forbidden.

Mairon looked into the eyes glazed with pain. In the depth of the gray eyes, Mairon saw such fierce desire, the forsaken Maia was intrigued.

“You want something,” Mairon said.

“Help…help me…”

Mairon smiled. This one was desperate enough to give anything.

 


Angband (Sindarin, Iron Prison)--fortress of Morgoth (Melkor), the first Dark Lord, during the First Age

Thangorodrim (Sindarin, Mountains of Tyranny)--highest peaks in Middle Earth during the First Age. It was a group of three volcanic mountains among Iron Mountains underneath which Morgoth built his fortress of Angband

Laiquendi (Quenya, Green Elves)--Part of Teleri who followed Elwe (Thingol) to West, but lingered in the forest, unwilling to cross the Misty Mountains. But a small group later followed Denethor and moved into Beleriand and settled in Ossiriand. This group is called Green Elves and they mingled rarely with others, especially after losing their king after the first war fought in Beleriand against Morgoth.

Mandos (Quenya, Castle of Custody)--One of the Valar. He is the keeper of the dead. When children of Illuvatar die, their souls go to the Hall of Mandos.

Chapter Text

Lindon. October 29, Second Age 143

THRANDUIL OROPHERION looked up at the crisp blue sky, so unlike the dark gray storm that raged in his heart. The words that had him ride hard all night howled behind his ears.

Do you love him enough to let him go?

Thranduil pulled his horse to an abrupt stop and hesitated before the wide open double gates. The tall gates of steel and stone were built between two massive marble statues, at least six stories high. The gates led to a city built on a green hill with tall peaks of the Blue Mountains shielding it on the east.

Braigon neighed loudly, shaking its dark mane, its breath hot and rough. Thranduil whispered words of comfort as he patted his horse’s neck.

The city built within the white walls were filled with pale buildings and lofty towers with round domes, glowing like a white gem under the rising sun. Thranduil squinted at the light. He realized now why the capital city of Lindon was called Minas Silivren, the Glittering White City.

Darting his eyes over the blue and gold armored guards stationed high above the ramparts built over the gates, Thranduil entered the city. After the devastation of the last great war, Elves who had not sailed to the Undying Land of Valinor have carved pale white rocks found abundant along the western coast and built a grand city with tall towers and wide avenues lined with fragrant cypress trees.

Streets filled with the sunshine and the refreshing scent of cypress were bustling with people.

Leaving his horse at a post, Thranduil walked toward the streets paved with white stones. Standing at the edge of the city, Thranduil felt like a child inside a house looking out at a bright, sunlit garden full of people.

Laughter permeated the air. Elven children squealed with delight as they played with colorful balls that jingled, seal bladders painted in colorful dyes of ocean blues, fire reds, and tree greens, filled with beads and bells.

Thranduil had not seen Elven children for a long time. Elwing and Earendil had been the only children besides himself at Sirion. But that was over two hundred years ago now.

As he stood watching, a jingle of a stray ball caught his eyes as it bounced and rolled to a stop by his feet. A child with long curly hair ran toward him, her white dress peeking under a short leather vest. Thranduil bent down to pick up the bright blue ball and felt a tug on his hair. He looked up and saw a pair of light gray eyes, the color of rain clouds. In the child’s dimpled hands was a handful of his golden hair.

“Pretty,” the little Elven child said.

For a moment, Thranduil was reminded of Elwing and he smiled despite himself. The girl pawed the glittering silver gold locks in her hands, her clear eyes full of wonder and joy.

“Ellariel, we do not pull other people’s hair.” A dark-haired Elf laughed as he picked up the little girl, carefully loosening the child’s hold on Thranduil’s golden locks. The Elf wore a faded brown tunic under a well-worn leather jacket. A hunter’s outfit.

“I apologize, young sir, for my daughter. She has never seen a golden hair before…” The Elf’s bright face was full of laughter. His gray eyes, the exact shade of gray as the child’s, were filled with piercing light.

Thranduil’s breath hitched as he froze and the ball burst in his hand with a loud pop. The child’s father immediately pulled the child into his arms as he turned toward Thranduil. When his gray gaze fell on Thranduil’s face, blood drained from the hunter’s face.

“Forgive me…” the hunter said as he stepped back, shielding the little girl protectively. The girl squirmed in her father’s arms as he wrapped his arms around her and hurried away.

“But, my ball, ada. My ball…” The little girl whimpered as the father disappeared around the bend in the road.

Thranduil looked down at his hands. His hands were fisted tight, knuckles white with tension. What had once been a ball filled with tiny red beads and silver bells was now a tangled mess in his hand. The sparkling red beads that filled the ball had spilled all over the white cobbled street under his feet.

Thranduil sucked in his breath and looked down at the busted ball in his hand as if for the first time. As the tension on his shoulders and hands eased, the bursted ball slipped off his fingers. There was something in the face of that Elf that Thranduil had forgotten.

No. Not forgotten. Never forgotten.

Thranduil shook his head. Forget? He could never forget it. Maybe pushed away in the back of his head as he wandered the East with his father, but he will never forget what they had done. But that elfling, she was just a child. She was innocent.

People passing turned and looked at him, talking in a hushed voices among themselves. Thranduil walked away from the busy avenue and the sight of the children playing.

But these are Noldor. These are Noldorin children, children of killers, a voice whispered in his head.

A claw, sharp and long, ripped through his heart. Thranduil hissed and stopped from walking as the memory of Menegroth seized him with its dragon claws. He gritted his teeth as the claw twisted. He bent down, gasping for breath. Images of burning Menegroth that had been pushed back, but forever etched in his memory, came alive, sudden and scorching. He could smell the heavy metallic tang in the air, taste the bitter smoke and the dark fear that had gripped him.

His lung tightened painfully and Thranduil tried to breathe as his lungs screamed for air.

“Are you all right?” someone touched his arm. Thranduil jerked away from the touch as if it was dragon fire, stumbled back and ran to where he left his horse.

I don’t belong here, not with these people, Thranduil decided.

Leaving Minas Silivren, Thranduil spurred his horse towards a small forest far from the walls of the White City.

By the time Thranduil reached the entrance to the forest, the sun was heading down toward West and the breath on his horse was like a breath of a fire drake. Thranduil stopped and breathed in the earthy scent of oaks and beech trees that are abundant here. The smell of leaves and earth, the green scent of forests, always calmed him.

Getting off the horse, Thranduil ran his hand down the back of Braigon which glistened with sweat. Thranduil whispered the song of comfort until Braigon’s breath calmed.

“Forgive me,” he whispered softly to the horse as he leaned his head onto the animal’s head and closed his eyes.

It was a mistake to go to the Noldorin city. But he couldn’t sleep or rest after Lord Istuion’s visit. The elder lord had asked to see Thranduil alone, after dinner. And when he did, Lord Istuion had talked of the king’s offer to foster Thranduil at Lindon.

The finest education, a chance to learn from the wisest and the most skilled in Middle Earth, Istuion had said as if Thranduil would even consider. The elder lord had made it sound as if Thranduil’s staying in Lindon would help his father. But the young Sinda had stopped listening.

There was no reason to stay.

Calmer now, Thranduil led Braigon to a well-worn path that led to a house built beneath a large oak tree. The trees were already starting to shed, covering the dark earth with its bright-hued leaves of yellow and red.

This part of the wood belonged to Mithlond, the Grey Havens. Both the house and the land were under the rule of Lord Cirdan. They were given to Thranduil’s father to house those who followed him although his father seldom stayed here.

The house was built with the same pale stones that were everywhere here. But unlike the magnificent buildings carved out in stones with gleaming woods and marble pillars of the White City, this house was plain with cobbled stone walls. It was one story building, but it sprawled around the entire entrance to the wood.

It had been a small structure at first, but rooms were added as more of the survivors of the destruction of Beleriand came to his father.

While Thranduil and his father stayed here only brief periods after many years of wandering, people inevitably knew when they returned. And, no matter how inconspicuous his father tried to be, as soon as people found that his father was back, there was always a crowd of people who wanted something.

This time was no different. Ever since they returned from mapping the area far east, his father had been busy meeting people. In fact, his father had just returned from a meeting with the Noldorin king who had granted him leave to take those people who wanted to go east over the Blue Mountains. Soon, they shall leave Lindon permanently to settle in a forest far from here, somewhere where there are no Noldor and no war. Soon, they would have a home of their own again.

Today, as usual, the house was bustling with people. Thranduil had expected it. However, he did not expect to see king’s guards at the house. And they weren’t the only Elven warriors in the courtyard.

With a frown, Thranduil stepped into the courtyard after leaving his horse when a force knocked him off his feet.

Thranduil felt earth slip under him when a strong hand held onto his upper arm and pulled him up before he hit the ground.

“Are you all right, penneth?” asked an unfamiliar voice.

Thranduil looked up into a light filled gray eyes. It was a guard in the blue and gold armor of King Gil-galad.

A Noldo from Valinor.

Thranduil’s body tensed as soon as he saw the keen light within the Elf’s eyes. Although all Elves were born with starlight in their eyes, only those Noldor from the blessed land of Valinor had such intense light that any Elf who had seen them would be able to tell those Noldorin Elves born in Valinor from the other Elves and from those Noldor born in Middle Earth.

“Don’t touch him!” Someone snatched Thranduil’s arm from the Noldorin warrior and pushed Thranduil behind, stepping in between Thranduil and the Noldorin guard.

It was Tatharion, one of the few surviving royal guards from Doriath. He had watched over Thranduil since they fled Menegroth. The Noldorin guard raised his hands, palm up.

“I was just trying to see if he was all right,” the Noldorin warrior said. “I did not mean to throw him off his feet.”

“No harm done,” said a familiar voice. “Come, Tatharion. He was just trying to help Thranduil. You are overreacting, you old Elf!”

Thranduil looked over at Tatharion’s shoulder and saw a warrior with white hair in silver and white armor.

“Aron!” Thranduil stepped forward, nodding toward Tatharion who withdrew still glaring at the king’s guard with his one good eye.

Aron stepped forward to take Thranduil’s hand in a warrior salute.

“How are you, elfling? It’s been a while since I last saw you and Uncle Oropher. How long has it been? Fifty, sixty years?”

Thranduil returned the greeting, throwing a wary glance at the Noldorin guard. The guard shook his head, then retreated to a corner of the courtyard where rest of the warriors in the king’s colors were standing around.

“Are you here to see father?” Thranduil asked.

“That, too, but I am here escorting Lord Cirdan.”

“Lord Cirdan is here?”

“Along with the messenger from King Gil-galad, ” Aron gestured toward the Noldorin guards.

Thranduil frowned looking around. The courtyard was filled with Elven warriors in three distinct colors: Gold and blue of the King Gil-galad’s guards, white and silver of Lord Cirdan and blue and silver of former Doriath guards who now served his father.

The king’s guards were huddled together, a wide distance away from his father’s guards who were glowering at them. Only Lord Cirdan’s Elves were laughing, some standing with the king’s guards, others talking to his father’s warriors.

“What is happening?” Thranduil asked. This was the first time Thranduil had seen royal guards here at his father’s house. No matter that he was once one of the princes of Doriath, his father was nobody at King Gil-galad's court.

“I do not know, elfling. The only thing I know is that Lord Cirdan received a message from the king and now his lordship is here. He accompanied the king’s messenger to see your father.”

Then, Aron looked up and down at Thranduil, his eyes wide.

“Thranduil, my young friend, you have grown since the last time I beheld you. You have outgrown me.” Aron laughed. “And to think that your lady mother once worried about you not growing.” Aron chuckled as he shook his head as he looked over the young Sinda once again.

Thranduil shrugged.

He was the youngest among the Sindar born in Menegroth. And, until the end of First Age, Thranduil had been a scrawny elfling. While most Elves were full grown in the body upon reaching one hundred years of age, Thranduil had been slow to grow. It was not until he was out in the wild with his father that he had grown to his current height and size.

Now, at 265 years of age, no one called him little, not even those Noldor from Valinor who were the tallest and largest among all the Elves of Middle Earth. That is, they were the tallest after those with the royal blood of King Thingol of Doriath and his brothers. As Thranduil’s father, Oropher, along with his cousins, Lord Amdir and Lord Celeborn, were the only surviving princes of Doriath, it wasn’t surprising that Thranduil grew taller than the most Elves.

“Where have you been all these time?” Aron asked. “They were looking for you since early afternoon. All the lords are gathered at the library. I believe they are expecting you.”

“Me? Why would they want to see me?”

Aron shrugged. “I do not know, elfling. All I know is that they are waiting for you. You better go on.”

Thranduil excused himself and headed to the library. At the door, the young Sinda paused to take in a breath. Then, he raised his hand to knock when a sound of loud scraping and a crash came through the door.

“I will not leave my son!” his father roared.

Thranduil stood stock still, his hand still in the air.

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Valinor (Quenya, Land of Valar)--Also known as the Undying Lands, it is the realm of Valar in Aman across Belegaer, the great sea, that separates Continent of Aman from Middle Earth. In order to protect Elves from the clutches of Melkor (Morgoth), Valar had called Elves to live in Valinor. Everything in this land is hallowed and stainless. Major cities are Valimar where Vanyar, the first group of Elves, reside with the Valar. There are also a Noldorin city of Tirion and Teleri city of Alqualonde by the sea and an island of Tol Eressea to the east.

ada (Sindarin, daddy. Short form of adar, father)

penneth (Sindarin, young or little one)

Menegroth (Sindarin, Thousand Caves)--the capital city of Doriath where King Thingol ruled with Queen Melian at his side. The underground fortress was built with the help of Dwarves of Belegost at a time when Sindar were in friendly terms with Dwarves. These were not the same Dwarves who later killed King Thingol and sacked Doriath, bringing long enmity and distrust between the Elves and Dwarves. Not everyone in Doriath lived in Menegroth. Many Sindar lived freely among the forests within Melian's enchanted fence as well as the outside the fence.

Chapter Text

Lord Celeborn’s calm voice came through the door as Thranduil listened.

“Oropher, it will only be for a limited time. He is not asking you to leave Thranduil here permanently.”

“How could you ask this of me,” his father’s voice shook. “He is the only one I have left. If Gil-galad didn’t want me to leave, then he should say so, rather than suggest... Did he really think I will leave my son, among the Noldor? All alone?”

“He will not be alone. He will be fostered by the king and I will be here and so will Lord Cirdan. He will receive the best education the Noldor could provide…” Lord Celeborn sounded as if he was pleading.

“There is nothing these Noldor could teach my son!” his father said. “I cannot …I will not leave my son.”

“Then, how will you lead these people, Oropher?” The deep baritone full of authority interrupted. Thranduil knew the voice belonged to Lord Cirdan. “I helped your followers to build the ships, but it was because the king allowed it. As much as I want to, if the king does not give me permission, I cannot give you the ships to carry your followers to the east.”

“My lord, you are not saying--” his father’s usually calm voice trembled.

“I am under King Gil-galad’s command. But, even if I could provide you with the ships, what will you do for the provisions? For arms?”

“But he wants my son as a hostage. My son!”

“No, not as a hostage, Oropher, but to remain here as the king’s ward… “ said the voice of Lord Istuion. He was Lord Cirdan’s nephew but grew up with Thranduil’s father. And along with Lord Amdir, he was like a brother to Oropher.

“You, too, Istuion? They bought you, too?” his father’s voice was filled with anguish.

“I am going to ignore that, Oropher. You know better. All we are saying is that Thranduil could be educated here, learn about Noldor, so that we could have a better relationship.”

“I don’t want any relationship with Noldor! That is why we are leaving,” his father said, his voice cold as winter.

“My friend, no matter how much it pains you, we are kin, the Sindar and the Noldor. We must learn to live together,” Lord Cirdan said.

“How? When they ripped out my soul and shattered my heart?” His father’s voice sounded rough with emotion. “And, now they want to rip out what remains?”

“His majesty is not trying to deter you,” an unfamiliar voice said. “My king will foster him, provide him with the best education and nurture him like a prince along with the king’s young cousin until you are settled. In return for your son’s service, whatever you may need for the move east, my king will provide with no need to pay them back. We are in much need of good captains to fight the enemy.”

“The enemy is gone. Angband has been utterly destroyed by the War of Wrath when the whole of Beleriand sank under water.”

“What you say is true, Lord Oropher, but as you well know, many of those orcs and some of the dragons have escaped the destruction. And while you were exploring the east for the past century or so, those creatures have been breeding in the North. There have been sightings of dragons and our scouts have reported increased Orc activity since the last time you have mapped them. We had several attacks on the northern villages outlying Lindon.”

“What is that to me?” Oropher said. “I am nobody. Gil-galad has his army. Let him deal with it.”

“You are part of this realm. You represent the Sindar.”

“You are mistaken, Lord Erestor. I represent no one but myself and my household. Lord Celeborn is the Lord of Harlindon, over Sindar who reside in Lindon, not I.”

“Oropher, he is not talking about the residents of Harlindon. They are mostly Mithrim who have resided with Noldor at other Noldorin realms or those who lived outside Menegroth,” Celeborn said. “You are the leader of the surviving council that ruled from Menegroth.”

“You have forgotten, Celeborn,” his father’s voice was bitter as the wind in mid-winter. “There is no longer Doriath, thus no council. We are just survivors of the destruction. And let me remind you, Celeborn, since you have left Doriath before any of the attacks took place, we are the survivors of the destruction that Noldor caused. Those who have joined my household are just that, survivors. They are no longer advisers or captains.”

“Yet, almost all of the surviving royal guards are here with you,” the one called Erestor said. “And, many who lived in the capital city of Menegroth, the upper echelon of Doriath council who have not sailed to Valinor, are here with you. Can you deny it? You are one of the princes of Doriath and the leader of your people.”

“You have Lord Celeborn. He is as much a prince of Doriath as Amdir and I. Let him supply the warriors your king needs.”

“Please Oropher, you know as well as I that most of my people are not the trained warriors from Doriath, not like many of your followers. Those who have been warriors under Noldor serve the king already in his army,” Celeborn said, his voice sounding defeated and barely audible through the door.

“You are telling me, because those who follow me are warriors, that I should leave my son behind? To do what? To face the serpents of the north? To die like the many who burned in their fires? Let Gil-galad run his blade through my heart, for that is what he is doing. I will not leave him. Even if…even if it means I cannot leave.”

Thranduil took in a sharp breath to contain a tremor that went through him. He closed his eyes and took another long breath. For the past century, he has traveled with his father, mapping the routes, making contacts with wood elves who lived in a great forest far east. All through that, his father had been distant, rarely looking at him or addressing him directly, except for one occasion.

Since his mother’s death at Sirion, his father had thrown himself into doing his duty and meeting his obligations. They have always come first. But now, his father was willing to put aside everything. For him.

Thranduil swallowed the lump in his throat. This was what Lord Istuion was referring to last night when he had asked to see Thranduil alone. Thranduil laid a trembling hand on the door and laid his head over it. What had been a puzzle last night came back clear as sunlight now.

“Your father cannot stay here,” Lord Istuion said. “It is your father’s dearest wish to leave Lindon, but even if Oropher wanted to stay, he cannot. He has a duty and an obligation to lead the people who want to leave.”

Thranduil had not known why Lord Istuion was saying that. Of course, he knew that. The young Sinda knew what duty meant to his father. But it was what Lord Istuion had said before that which had puzzled him.

“Do you love your father?” he had asked. “Do you love him enough to let him go so he can do what he needs to do? For I know that your father will give up all that he is. For you. Can you let him go and stand on your own?”

Now, Thranduil understood. Rather, he had known but did not want to know. The young Sinda fisted his hands, then took in another long breath to calm the tremble that ran through him. Then, picking up his chin, Thranduil knocked on the door before entering the room.

A hush fell over the room as Thranduil entered.

Thranduil looked at his father. Oropher was standing, leaning on the table before him, his two arms spread out, holding onto the edge of the table. There was a chair knocked out behind him. He was clearly agitated, although when Thranduil entered, his father straightened and assumed the all familiar serene face, all emotions gone from his demeanor.

Thranduil turned away from his father and bowed with his hand on his heart toward Lord Cirdan who sat at the head of the long table across from Thranduil’s father. Lord Cirdan, Lord of Faladrim, those Sindarin Elves who lived at Grey Havens by the sea, smiled brightly at Thranduil.

Next to Lord Cirdan stood an elf who was unfamiliar to Thranduil. He was dressed in deep blue and gold of King Gil-galad’s colors.

“You have asked to see me?” Thranduil turned back to his father.

“We have asked to see you, Thranduil,” Celeborn rose up, next to his father, “because we have an offer from the king’s court and it regards you.”

His father cleared his throat and glared at Celeborn, but he seemed unable to speak.

“First, let me introduce you to Lord Erestor from King Gil-galad’s court, one of the advisers to the king,” Celeborn said, gesturing to the unknown Elf next to Lord Cirdan who gave Thranduil a slight bow. “He is here to ask you to join the king’s service. Next year marks the First Yen of the Second Age. King Gil-galad is recruiting the first company of king’s guards among the youth of Lindon. He requests that you join them. Unlike us where our youth must be over 250 years in age, under Noldorin rule, any Elf over 125 years of age can join the king’s army if they wish to walk the road of a warrior.”

Lord Erestor who stood next to Lord Cirdan stepped forward.

“We understand that you have already received your warrior training," Lord Erestor said with a smile on his face. "We also have few among the youth who have been training for some time. Among them, we have chosen the most skilled to train as officers for the new recruits. We hope that you can join them. The training for the new officers will start in the coming Spring. You will be instructed by the best of our warriors. Our esteemed swordmaster, Lord Gilmagor, who commands the king’s army has agreed to train the top officers himself,” Lord Erestor said as if Thranduil should know who Lord Gilmagor was.

“It doesn’t matter,” his father turned his icy winter blue eyes toward Lord Erestor. “We will be leaving so there is no reason for him to join the service of your king.”

“Oropher, the decision rests with Thranduil. He is no longer a child,” Lord Celeborn said, putting a hand on his father’s arm. Oropher snatched his arm from Celeborn, then looked at Thranduil.

Without a word, his father shook his head once.

The young Sinda glanced at Lord Istuion who sat next to his father’s other side. Istuion’s eyes, grave and sad, met Thranduil’s eyes steadily.

“My king is willing…” Lord Erestor started, but his father cut him off.

“You need not listen to what he has to say, son.”

“I will hear him, father,” Thranduil said, taking his eyes away from Lord Istuion to look toward the king’s adviser.

“My king is willing to provide all the provisions and arms your father has asked for, all that are needed for your father to bring those of his followers to the far east where he plans to settle. His majesty will do this asking for nothing other than for you to serve him as one of his officers for his army. You will be treated with the utmost respect due you as the great-grandson of Lord Olwe. And, we will provide you with the best instructors for the finest education we can offer. You will not be in want of anything while you stay in Lindon as the king’s ward.”

“For how long?” Thranduil asked, ignoring the sting of the iron claw that dug into his heart, drawing blood.

 


 

The lords and the king's messenger had left, and only Thranduil and his father remained joined by Lord Amdir and Lord Istuion. His father remained silent, looking away out the window.

“Why, Thranduil,” Lord Amdir asked. “Why did you even agree?”

“What would you have me do?” Thranduil asked Lord Amdir, his father’s cousin who was raised with Oropher and was like an uncle to the young Sinda. “Did you want me to just stand by and watch my father sell more of mother’s things? Yes, I know about that. What little she had with her. They are all gone.”

Lord Amdir looked down at his feet then glanced at Oropher.

Thranduil turned his defiant eyes to his father as Oropher turned toward him. His father’s face was impassive as it ever was.

“Thranduil, that…” Lord Amdir placed a hand on Thranduil’s arm. “It was not just your mother’s. All of us, we had to sell whatever of value we had. Even then, we could not meet the cost. There are so many who want to come with us…”

“But, why does it always have to be you, father? There are others. Why is it always you?” Thranduil said, instant regret building inside as soon as the words tumbled out of his mouth.

His father’s light blue eyes clouded, but otherwise, his face remained unchanged.

This was not what Thranduil wanted to say. He wasn’t sure why he even said them. The iron claw that held his heart tightened. His heart lurched when he looked upon his father’s impassive face.

His father met Thranduil’s eyes for a moment, then he turned away and walked out of the room. Amdir glanced at Thranduil but hurried after Oropher.

The claw twisted inside Thranduil’s gut, stopping the flow of air into Thranduil’s lungs. He felt sick. He wanted… he wasn’t sure what he wanted. He just wanted his father to know what was in his heart, but somehow, when he tried to talk to his father, words came out wrong.

“Thranduil,” Lord Istuion’s steady voice and a firm squeeze on his arm made Thranduil turn to the elder Sinda. “I know this is hard for you, but this is the right choice, for you and for your father. Your father will now have enough resources to settle the people he leads and you will get a chance to learn from those who are considered the wisest in Middle Earth.”

“Is it? Is this really the only way? Why does it have to be me? Why my father?” Thranduil could not help the bitterness that rose from the pit of his stomach.

“There is no one else. Celeborn and Amdir are the only other remaining princes from Doriath besides your father. As you know, Celeborn gave his fealty to Gil-galad. He rules Harlindon under the Noldorin king. And, as for Amdir, he chose to follow your father.”

“There’s your uncle,” Thranduil said. “Lord Cirdan is the eldest and the most respected of all Sindar left in Middle Earth now that most of them passed from this world or have sailed to Valinor.”

“You know that my uncle is loyal to Gil-galad. He fostered the king since Gil-galad was a child. He embraced Noldor since the beginning. The people who follow your father, they will have nothing to do with the Noldor. You know that. They may esteem my uncle, but they do not accept his policies just as they have rejected Celeborn for the same reason.”

“How about you? You hate Noldor as much as I do.”

Istuion sighed. “Hate is such a strong word, Thranduil. Besides, I am of Lord Cirdan’s line, not of King Thingol. The remaining Sindarin elves from Doriath and the Green Elves from Ossiriand who want to leave Lindon all want to follow those of King Thingol’s line and that leaves only your father, Celeborn, and Amdir.”

“But, Elrond is alive. He is here in Lindon, I hear.”

“Yes, he is. But, he is a Noldo…”

“He is Elwing’s son!”

“Yes,” Istuion sighed again. “But, he is also the son of Earendil, Lady Idril’s son. As the great grandson of Gil-galad’s uncle, Elrond is the king’s closest kin. In fact, there’s a word that Gil-galad may name Elrond his heir.”

“Ridiculous! He has more of his mother’s Sindarin blood in him than that of a Noldo. Even his own father had less than half of Noldorin blood in him.”

Istuion sighed again and looked at Thranduil.

“It does not matter how much Sindarin blood he has. If his father is a Noldo, then he is a Noldo. You know that, Thranduil.”

“But his father is not a Noldo! Earendil’s mother may be a Noldorin princess, but his father was a human. A child follows his father’s race and the last time I saw Earendil, he was a man and not one of us.” Thranduil knew he was making a losing argument, but his heart would not be appeased.

Istuion frowned and shook his head patiently. “Yes, strictly speaking, Earendil was a mortal, but as a half-Elven, he has chosen to become an Elf and that makes him a Noldo since Noldorin blood is all he has of Elven blood. You can argue all you want, but he is what he is, Thranduil.”

Thranduil got out of his seat and started to pace. The heat was insufferable. Thranduil yanked at the neckline of his tunic.

“And as for Elrond, I believe he will be joining the officer training along with you,” Istuion said, his voice quiet.

“Wonderful!” Thranduil glared at Istuion as if he was an Orc incarnate. "Elwing's son, now a dog for the kinslayers..."

“Thranduil!" Istuion grabbed onto Thranduil’s upper arms with such a firm hold, Thranduil couldn't move. “Listen to me. This is important." Istuion's usually gentle eyes held steel in them. "I know this is hard for you, but these people here in Lindon are not the same Noldor who attacked us at Menegroth and at Sirion. Many of the Noldor here are the same Elves who suffered losses at Sirion in the hands of Feanor’s sons. Feanor’s sons and their followers are the only Noldor who committed the kinslaying. Do you understand, Thranduil? Do not lump all Noldor together as one.”

Thranduil shook his arms away from Istuion and looked away.

How could he have forgiven them so easily? Thranduil could not understand. Lord Istuion’s sister, Aron’s mother, the one Thranduil loved as his own aunt, was killed by the swords of Noldor back in Menegroth.

Istuion squeezed Thranduil’s shoulder and gave him a sad smile before leaving him alone.


 

War of Wrath (FA 545-587) is the last war of the First Age and the greatest war ever fought in Middle Earth. A host of Valar which included Vanyar and the remaining Noldor in Valinor along with Valar and Maiar fought against the forces of Morgoth and defeated him, ending Morgoth's rule over Middle Earth.

Beleriand (Sindarin, Country of Balar) is western most part of Middle Earth where Noldorin and Sindarin realms existed during First Age. After the War of Wrath, the entire land mass sank into the sea and was lost

Harlindon (Sindarin, South Lindon)-- Celeborn ruled Harlindon under Gil-galad. Most of the Sindar who remained in Lindon lived in Harlindon under Celeborn and his wife, Lady Galadriel

Yen (Quenya, long year) is how Elves calculate years. 1 yen is 144 solar years, so First Yen is the 144th year. The plural form is yeni.

Olwe is King Thingol's younger brother. When Thingol disappeared in Beleriand under Melian's enchantment, Olwe led to Valinor the majority of Teleri who were unwilling to wait for Thingol. Once in Valinor, Teleri took Olwe as their king. His daughter, Earwen, married Finarfin, third son of Finwe, Noldorin king in Valinor. Galadriel is Earwen's daughter. Tolkien said Olwe has sons, but they are unnamed and not mentioned in any of the stories.

In my story, Olwe had two sons during the trek to Beleriand, Arandur and Amglar. Once in Beleriand, Olwe, thinking they will follow soon, left his two eldest sons behind to look for Thingol while he led to Valinor those Teleri who were unwilling to wait. Thus, Arandur and Amglar along with Galadhon, son of Elmo (youngest of Thingol's brothers) stayed behind. Once the three cousins found Thingol, they gathered the rest of Teleri to live under their uncle's rule. Arandur is Oropher's father, Amglar is Amdir's father and Galadhon is Celeborn's father.

Chapter Text

White City. December 20, Second Age 143

 

MAIRON pulled back as the heat of the forge licked at his arm. The heat usually did not disturb him, but this fragile shell of the body burned so easily, he had to be careful. Already, he had burned several fingers as well as one of the eyebrows. Although Mairon saw that the Elven body healed quicker and was stronger than the body of men, it still was a nuisance.

Mairon poured the melted metal into the mold he had prepared, then dunk it into a vat of water. The metal screeched as the moist white steam shot up and surrounded Mairon, showering him with the scent of metal, heat, and fire. Mairon closed his eyes and relished the heat and the scent. He did not realize how much he missed working at a forge.

Quickly, before the metal could set completely, Mairon took the cooled metal off the mold and with expert hands stretched the now malleable metal into wires of various thickness wrapping them around the gems, softly singing the enchantment to incorporate it into the piece being shaped. Soon, a delicate hair ornament in a shape of a butterfly sitting atop a flower sat on his palm. It had been millennia since he created anything for the pure joy of it, and an unfamiliar thrill fluttered in his stomach.

"That is quite a skill,” someone commented from behind him.

Mairon whirled around. It was unlike him to not have noticed another’s presence.

The one who stood behind him was a tall Elf, a Noldo of a typical coloring, dark hair and gray eyes, but he was not a typical Elf. And he certainly was not someone the owner of his body knew, for Mairon did not recognize this Noldo among the images of faces he had seen from the youth’s mind.

The Noldo who stood before him wore a blackened leather apron used by most jewel smiths, and his garment was dark with soot and burns. He looked like any other smith, yet, Mairon’s skin flushed from the power that radiated from this jewel smith. This Elf was powerful and he had seen the light of the trees of Valinor. Although it was the first time Mairon had seen him and obviously the first time the owner of his body had seen him, there was something familiar about his face.

Within the intense silver-gray eyes framed by high cheekbones, Mairon saw the image of someone long ago albeit with flaming red hair. Despite the different coloring of the hair, the proud nose and the chiseled chin were an almost exact copy. A family resemblance, no doubt.

Once he realized who it was, Mairon tensed although the uncounted years of dealing with others had allowed him to hide it well.

Could this jewel smith see through him? Mairon knew that by merging his essence with the body, the transformation was complete. Although he knew he had a complete control, Mairon couldn’t help but wonder.  

Once the bargain was struck and met, Mairon had possessed the Elf’s body and had put the Elf immediately to sleep. It was not until the body recovered that Mairon filled the youth’s head with images of what had happened, wiping clean his memory of the orcs or the incident of their meeting. Mairon had kept the youth’s mind hazy and let him do the talking once he had arrived at the White City. He knew he shouldn't behave in any way that would make him stand out, but at times like this, when he saw the forge, he couldn’t help himself even though he knew that Elves saw far more than Men did and were difficult to deceive.

“I don’t think I have ever seen a metal work quite like this,” the Noldo said, his gray eyes riveted on the small hairpin in Mairon’s hand.

Mairon relaxed.

He did not expect detection. The hunter was also from Valinor and several centuries older than this Noldo, but even he had not seen through the physical body. But Mairon knew better than to underestimate his opponents. His bitter experience with Thingol’s whelp and her human lover had seen to that. And powerful blood ran through the veins of this Noldo in front of him, maybe not as potent as that of Luthien, but Mairon knew well to take care. After all, he was in the middle of an Elven city, far from his underlings.

“May I?” the Noldo held up his hand and Mairon placed the bejeweled piece on it.

The enchanted piece, shaped like a butterfly fluttered its delicate wings as the gems made into snowdrops twinkled like stars as it opened its bejeweled petals.

 “The metal work is a wonder in itself, but the enchantment spell on the piece is something I have not seen. It is a work of beauty,” the Noldo held Mairon’s eyes. “And you are not one born in Valinor. Where did you learn how to do this?”

Mairon smiled at the look of wonder in the Noldo’s eyes. But this was nothing to Mairon. He had been so enthralled by the work, not having worked with his hands for a long time, he didn't give it much thought. Had he his true form, he could have made things these Elves could not even imagine. But with the limited power this young body supported, Mairon could not use the whole of the massive power he had. It was an inconvenience Mairon tolerated for a chance to see Elves up close. At least, his knowledge was all intact.

“I learned the spell from somewhere and changed it a little. It isn’t much. Just a small trinket for my sister.”

“Sister?” the Noldo’s face brightened as he looked Mairon up and down. “You must be Rodwen’s brother. You were the one for whom she asked me the permission to use my forge?”

 “Your forge?” Mairon asked even though he knew. Rodwen had been talking about this Noldo whenever she could.

“I am Celebrimbor. I run this forge along with several others in Lindon managed by my followers.”

 Mairon feigned surprise and immediately bowed respectfully.

 “Thank you, my lord, for allowing me to use your forge. I hope I am not a nuisance.”

 If there was one thing Mairon had seen in his short time at the White City, the Noldor were attached to manners and these small acts of acknowledgment did wonders.

 “No, not at all. I am always looking for a talented smith. This is one of the best jewel work I have ever seen and I have seen much.” Celebrimbor handed the hairpin back to Mairon. “Rodwen did say that you create beauty with your hands. And your sister is quite skilled as well. I did not know that the talent runs in the family.”

 Mairon shrugged as if it was nothing, but he was immensely pleased. It had been ages since someone had praised him for his craft. Once, long ago in the fiery forge of Aule in Valinor, Mairon had been the greatest of the Maiar, praised for his unparalleled skill in craft and building. It was in the Aule’s forge that he had earned his name, Mairon, the Admirable One. But now, most Elves just called him Sauron The Abominable. And while he worked for Melkor, he had put all his talents into making the machines of war; he did not have time for trivialities such as this.

  “Rodwen has been talking nonstop about you. I heard you were lost in the mountains for close to two months. How’s your injury?” Celebrimbor looked down at Mairon’s leg. “I heard that you have gotten injured while hunting up in the North?”

 Mairon, too, looked down at his legs. In fact, the broken legs took much longer to heal than Mairon had expected. For the Maia who was unused to any prolonged physical injury, it had been hard. The side of the Elf’s waist where the elk’s antler had cut open had been messy and dangerous and without the hunter’s aid, Mairon knew the body would have died and no matter the deal that was struck with the youth, one could not possess a dead body.  And the wily youth had known it.

 “Yes. I fell off a cliff. A wolf was tracking the same elk I was hunting.”

 “Rodwen told me you were lost for a while. Your hunting companion returned without you, I heard. I remember how devastated Rodwen was. The guards were out looking for you for a whole month before giving up. It is strange how they did not find any trace of you.”

 “I was much more north than they realized.” Also because that was part of the bargain. The dying Elf had wanted to prevent his hunting companion from finding the way further North to the cliff where he had been seized and thrown over with the Elk’s antler jammed into his stomach. Up there, on the top of the cliff, were not only the wolf and the elk, there was also a company of orcs.

 “How did you manage to find your way back? I heard you and your companion were quite far up north.”

  “Luck was with me, I believe. There was an Elf who lived nearby and he was out hunting. He found me. He and his family nursed me back and brought me back to Minas Silivren.”

 “Indeed? I didn’t know there were Elves living that far up North. It was not luck, my young friend. Valar were looking after you.”

 Mairon tamped down a scoff. Valar had nothing to do with it. The young Elf had not known that when he called out to a spirit, it was Mairon the Maia who answered, not some wandering soul. The wily Elf thought he could save his companion and still deny the spirit by offering a body that could not be saved. But, Mairon had seen into the young Elf’s mind and had known what the Elf had planned. The fact that there was an Elven hunter nearby and a group of orcs that he could command all had helped. Had the Elf’s fëa left the body before Mairon could take over completely, then no matter that the Elf had given up his body freely, no amount of power would have allowed Mairon to possess the body and subdue the Elf’s soul.

 “Yes, if the hunter had not been there, I would have been lost. He brought me back to the city although he left without seeing my family. You speak the truth, my lord. Maybe it was Valar looking after me." Rather, this may be what my master meant, Mairon thought wryly. "Maybe I am blessed because if I wasn’t injured, I would not have had this chance of meeting you. My sister is always talking so highly of you. It truly is an honor."

 Celebrimbor laughed, his dark gray eyes shimmering into silver as he did so.

“I am sure not as much as your sister talks to me about you. You are always welcome here. I would love to see more of your work. In fact, why don’t you come and work with me?”

 “You honor me, my lord. If it wasn’t for the training…”

 Celebrimbor’s eyes darkened with disappointment.

 “Ah, I had forgotten. You are one of the twenty-four selected for the officer training. Rodwen did mention it. When do you start?”

 “I believe the training starts in the Spring, after the New Year’s celebration.”

 “I see. Well, you are welcome here until then. After your military training, if you are interested in becoming a jewelsmith, come look for me.”

“I am honored, my lord,” Mairon said simply and bowed. As he watched Celebrimbor walk away, Mairon felt a strange flutter in his stomach. Something told him that he and this Noldo were connected in some way.

 

__________

*Luthien (Sindarin, Daughter of Flower) was the only child of Melian and Thingol. She was known as the most beautiful of all living beings in Middle Earth. She has half Maiarin blood from her mother. With the help of Huan, the dog from Valinor, she defeated Sauron and rescued Beren, a man. Luthien later married Beren, becoming the first Elf to marry a mortal. Together they managed to obtain one of three silmarils from Morgoth’s crown. This story is in Tolkien’s Lay of Luthien and in Silmarillion. Aragorn was singing Lay of Luthien when he first met Arwen in the forest in Rivendell. Arwen is a direct descendant of Luthien through her father, Elrond, and is said to look just like her.

Celebrimbor (Sindarin, Silver Fist)—son of Curufin, 5th son of Feanor. He was the only known grandson of Feanor. He was at Nargothrond but took no part in the deeds of his father and uncle regarding Luthien and Beren. Celebrimbor repudiated their deeds and when his father and uncle were cast out of Nargothrond, did not follow them. During Second Age Celebrimbor moved to Eregion (some versions say he ousted Celeborn and Galadriel) and became its lord. He formed Gwaith-i-Mirdain, the guild of elven craftsmen, and accepted Sauron (in his fair form of Annatar) and through his teachings made the rings of power. The three elven rings were made by Celebrimbor alone and were untainted.

Fëa (Quenya, Soul or Spirit)—souls or spirits of Elves and Men

Vala Aule (Quenya, Invention, also known as Mahal, Maker, in Khuzdul, the language of Dwarves) is a Vala and a smith, a maker of all crafts. He crafted substance of which Arda is made. He created Dwarves, impatient for the children of Eru to be born. Noldor learned much from him while in Valinor. Mairon used to be a Maia under Vala Aule, but was seduced by Melkor and became Melkor's most powerful lieutenant. 

 

Chapter Text

Grey Havens. March 10, Second Age 144

 

THRANDUIL looked up at the sky. It was deep blue with no clouds in sight. It would be a lovely day to sail, yet the world seemed gray to the young Sinda.

From where he stood, leaning against an oak tree up on a hill, Thranduil could see the harbor where the three white ships were anchored and preparing to set sail. Just as Lord Cirdan predicted, the wind was blowing easterly.

His chest heaved and a thick lump formed in his throat but Thranduil knew no tears will come. The day he was covered in his mother’s red blood, he had sworn that he will never cry again. 

A horn cried out from the ships, a sound of a lost fawn calling for its mother.

Thranduil swallowed the painful lump in his throat, knowing that too soon, his father will be taken from him, the last remnant of all that he had loved. The ache that had grown steadily since the day he had agreed to stay in Lindon exploded, making his throat throb and ache with an intensity of a sudden storm.

The young Sinda took in a long breath and fisted his hands.

This was his decision; it was his choice to walk this path. Hasn’t his father always told him to trust himself? He must trust that he had made the right decision. If his father can bear this, then so can he.

But there was one thing that grieved Thranduil more than the pain of the separation to come. Before he was parted from his father, he wanted to resolve the distance that had grown between them. His father tried to hide it from him, but ever since the loss of his mother at Sirion, his father had kept away, keeping the contact between them to a minimum. Even through their wanderings in the east, his father barely spoke to him and looked at him even less.

Thranduil knew the fault was his and did not blame his father, but before he let his father go, Thranduil wanted… he wasn’t sure exactly what he wanted. He just knew that there were things that needed to be said between them. But the time passed, and he didn’t know how to approach his father. And now, the time had run out.

The lump in his throat hardened, making it hard for him to breathe. He was drowning in the vast waters of the ocean and no matter how much he wanted to scream, no sound came. The shadows that circled him ever since he left Menegroth drew closer.

“Thranduil!”

Thranduil took in a quick, calming breath before he turned to face the one who called him.

“They are ready to sail. Lord Oropher is looking for you,” Aron said as he walked over to stand next to him.

"How are you faring, mellon nin?” Aron’s silver-blue eyes scanned Thranduil’s face.

“I’m fine,” Thranduil replied and hurried down to the docks. He didn’t want to give Aron a chance to say more. Thranduil wasn't sure he could handle it. Not today.

There were many people at the docks, all saying their farewells. Most of them were already on board. Thranduil saw his father and Lord Amdir standing with other Sindarin lords and some unfamiliar faces. They moved away as Thranduil approached, leaving his father alone with him.

“Come, ion nin. Walk me into the ship,” his father said.

Thranduil nodded and followed his father onto the elegant white ship carved into the shape of a swan. In his private quarters, his father turned to face Thranduil. His father's blue eyes were dark and unfathomable.

“Have a safe journey, father,” Thranduil said. His voice sounded stiff and cold even to his own ears, but it was all Thranduil could manage.

Oropher’s eyes dimmed as he looked into Thranduil’s eyes. The young Sinda tried hard to meet the gaze of his father, but he couldn’t. Without thinking Thranduil looked down, feeling around his neck for the chain beneath his tunic.

His father reached over and pulled out the chain bound with a layer of thin strips of leather forming a thick necklace around Thranduil’s neck.

“Is this…?”

Thranduil looked into his father’s blue eyes for a fleeting moment and gave a quick nod before casting his eyes downward.

“You carry it?” It was just for a moment, but his father’s voice wavered as he fingered the leather-bound chain around Thranduil’s neck.

“Always…” Thranduil managed, then gave a fleeting glance toward his father. “Although…I don’t deserve it…”

Thranduil cast his eyes down again. His eyes stung and he did not want his father to see his weakness.

But immediately, his face was chucked up. His father’s large hands, calloused and hard from uncounted years of wielding his sword, wrapped around Thranduil’s face. Thranduil sucked in his breath at this unexpected gesture. Although his father had never been unkind to him, ever since the death of his mother, his father had been like winter, pale and distant.

 “I don’t blame you, son,” his father whispered, his voice unsteady and hoarse.

The throb behind Thranduil’s throat flared and choked him, stinging his eyes, blinding him. The pain knocked out the air, barely enough to breathe. Thranduil bit down hard on the back of his teeth and blinked away the tears. He didn’t realize how much he needed to hear those words from his father. It was as if the heaviest chain of all other chains that had dragged him down all these years had lifted although Thranduil knew he did not deserve such release.

His father’s blue eyes bore into him.

“The fault was never yours. You are not to blame. Just as love and concern for Elwing brought you to that place, so has it brought your mother there.” His father looked into Thranduil’s eyes as if he wanted to burn that into him. “Promise me that you will not blame yourself.”

Thranduil knew his father expected an answer, but the pain in his throat was overwhelming. He could barely make any sound. So, he just nodded and looked up.

“If anyone is to blame, it was I…” His father's eyes misted.

Thranduil shook his head vigorously, still unable to utter a word. He realized for the first time that his father blamed himself. Unable to speak, Thranduil grabbed his father’s arms and looked into his father's light blue eyes transferring all that he felt. 

His father’s eyes warmed as he pulled Thranduil’s head and laid his forehead on it.

“As soon as we are settled, I will find a way to bring you back with me. I will be waiting each day until then.” The words trembled, a bare whisper, so unlike his father, but Thranduil heard them.

Thranduil nodded again and looked down at his feet. There were so many things he wanted to say, but he was drowning again. His lungs burned and the throat tightened so hard, he couldn’t make a sound.

Just then, the horn blared. Ships were preparing to depart. His father dropped his hands and stood up straight.

“Thranduil, these Noldor, the high elves as they so call themselves, may know more, are stronger and smarter, but you are not just any Sinda. Your blood is as noble as any one of them. Don’t forget who you are. Show these Noldor what you are made of. Do you understand, my son?” His father’s blue eyes flickered as he chucked Thranduil’s face up again and looked deep into his blue-green eyes. “Do not let them crush you.”

Thranduil fisted his hands. “Never. I will never let them defeat me.” He managed although his voice cracked and shook.

His father’s face brightened with fierce pride as another horn rang out, much longer this time.

“Lord Istuion will be here until the next spring to finalize last minute agreements and bring along any who have not made it to Grey Havens today. He will act as your guardian until he leaves. Later, if you need assistance with anything, don’t forget there is Lord Celeborn at Harlindon and Lord Cirdan at Grey Havens,” his father said. “They will help you. Trust them.”

Thranduil nodded.

“I know I have not been a good example to you. Your mother…” his father’s voice broke and he looked away, but resolutely, he turned back to Thranduil. “All she ever wanted was for you to be happy.” His father eyed Thranduil with an unfathomable expression again.

Thranduil dropped his head, but his father reached out and ran his hand through Thranduil’s hair just as he used to do when Thranduil was a child.

As his father’s hand moved from his blond hair to rest on his shoulder, Thranduil felt a tremor from his father’s hand. In that moment, a realization shined through Thranduil’s head foggy with grief. His father was as afraid of losing his son as he had been of losing his father.

“I will find my way back to you, adar. I promise,” Thranduil said although the pain in his throat was unbearable and the tears in his eyes threatened to spill.

A firm squeeze on his shoulder was all he got but the young Sinda knew his father understood him. When Oropher let Thranduil go and straightened, his face was serene as it had ever been.

“May the light of Elbereth be ever with you, my son, in all your endeavors and keep you safe,” his father placed his hand over his heart and bowed.

“And may her white light ever be with you, my father, all through your journey and keep you safe,” replied Thranduil to the now ancient words of Doriath, echoing his father’s gestures and words.

The father and son looked at each other and smiled, a genuine smile for the first time since the loss of his mother at Sirion.

______________

                                                   

Too soon, the three ships moved out of the bay. As Thranduil watched the ships pass out of the harbor, Lord Cirdan turned to Thranduil.

“Now, Thranduil!” And, the ancient Elvenlord held out a bow and a quiver. Thranduil grabbed them and ran.

Nimbly, Thranduil ran up the steps carved into the rock that faced the sea as fast as he could to a small swan ship docked to one side. Its bow was facing the sea where the three white ships were departing from the harbor.

By the time Thranduil climbed up the ship and made it to the middle of the foremast, the three ships were moving out to the open sea in a straight line as Lord Cirdan had said.

Thranduil jumped up onto a ridge built onto the foremast. As the salty wind blew, the ship swayed up and down. It took him some time to balance himself on the ridge and make himself comfortable with the motion of the waves. Once he was confident he could manage to stay up without falling, Thranduil grabbed an arrow.

The ships were already far out, but he had to try. Thranduil threaded one of the three special arrows Lord Cirdan had given him just for this occasion. Lord Cirdan had said that if Thranduil could not hit the target within the time he draws three arrows, the ships would unfurl their sails and they will be too far out even if they managed to be in line.

Unlike most of the Elven ships which had a single mast, the three ships built for his father had three masts on each ship. And on each of those masts, a steel ring was nailed to it, each ring a lady’s hand’s length wide in diameter.

Thranduil kept his eyes on the first set of three steel rings on the hindmost ship and waited for the ships to line up just so that all three sets of rings on each ship would be overlapped enough for him to shoot his arrow through. Keeping his breath steady, he sent a brief prayer to the Valar before he pulled back the string and released the first arrow.

The arrow sped through the air with a deadly aim. It passed the first three rings of the hindmost ship, then the ship in the middle moved up as waves hit it and the arrow hit the outer ring of the second ship and fell off into the ocean.

Thranduil fitted the second arrow as soon as he released his first, but as he released the arrow, a wave hit the bow of the ship he was on and the arrow flew off, completely missing the mark altogether.

Thranduil looked up at the sky, watched the direction of the flag high on the mast,  took a gulp of breath then nocked the last arrow as his heart thundered in his breast.

 

____________________

*mellon nin (Sindarin, my friend)

*ion nin (Sindarin, my son)

*adar nin (Sindarin, my father)

 

Chapter Text

ELROND who came as an envoy of the king along with Lord Erestor frowned, looking up at the tall blond figure on the mast of the ship as the young Sinda threaded the third arrow onto his bow. With his pale gold hair flowing behind him, balanced precariously on the edge of the mast, he cut an impressive figure.

“Is there a reason for the son of Oropher to shoot at the departing ships?” Erestor asked.

“He is trying to shoot through the rings nailed on the masts of the three ships,” Istuion said quietly.

“And, not just one set of three rings, Lord Erestor.” Lord Cirdan turned to Erestor fingering his white beard that danced in the ocean wind. “He wants to shoot through the three rings of each one of the three ships and gets that arrow to land on the bowsprit of the front most ship where Oropher is.”

Erestor frowned. “Ships are already far out and they are still moving. He just shot through the first three rings. Even that would have been difficult for many under such circumstances. How will he be able to shoot the arrow through all three ships? Although the ships are in a straight line, you forget the waves and the wind.”

“That is true, uncle,” Istuion turned to Lord Cirdan. “Although the setup is similar to the test that was given to us, we did not bob up and down," Istuion said, then turned to Elrond and explained. "We had to shoot through logs with rings that swung in a set arc, each swinging at different times. And even then, most of us took many tries before making it through the first or second set of rings.”

“Beleg had done it, all three sets, and on his first try,” said Celeborn who stood next to Lord Cirdan who nodded in agreement.

“Indeed. I was there when Beleg was being tested. He even made the shot while riding on a horseback although that took him one more try.”

“You are talking about a legend who was famed for his unparalleled skill in archery. Is there any Elf who could measure up to Beleg?” Istuion asked, looking out at the ships.

“But what is he trying to prove?” Erestor asked and looked toward where Thranduil stood.

“This isn’t just any feat, councilor.” Lord Cirdan turned to Erestor.

“This is the rite of passage for all Sindar who want to be a warrior,” said Celeborn. “You must be able to shoot through the first set to join the Order of Warriors, then through the second set to join the march wardens, but the third sets of rings, now that would place you among the few elite warriors of Doriath.”

“He is the last member of the warriors of Doriath,” Istuion said. “But Thranduil never had a chance to take part in it. Everything from Doriath…" Istuion stopped. Celeborn put his hand on Istuion’s shoulder and stood still, both lost in the shared grief.

Sorrow, like a drop of black ink on a bowl of clear water, clouded the elder lords. But as soon as Elrond sensed it, it was gone.

Then, as they watched, Thranduil let go of the last arrow.

Elrond realized he was holding his breath. It seemed for that moment, all sounds died except for the wind.

The arrow flew straight and deadly through the first set of the rings, then past the second set of rings, then hit the bowsprit of the front most ship after going through the third set of rings.

They must have seen Thranduil high up on the mast because everyone on the ships was out on the deck. As soon as the arrow hit the mast, they burst into a song, surprising Elrond.

Then, Elrond was again surprised. The Sindarin lords Cirdan, Celeborn, and Istuion along with others in the dock joined in the song. It was sweet, fierce and sad. Although Elrond was not familiar with the song itself, he knew it to be a warrior song where a youth is being initiated into the Warrior Order. The words were in Sindarin, but it was different than the ones used by most Elves. It was ancient, words more flowing and more beautiful in sound than the Sindarin that was used by everyone now.

Something hot stirred in Elrond’s heart as the song came to a conclusion. He wondered if it was because he was a part Sinda.

Lord Cirdan laughed out aloud once the song ended.                   

“Well, Valar be praised. Oropher got the best parting gift anyone could ever give him," Lord Cirdan said. "All those winter days Thranduil spent balancing himself on that mast paid off."

"He practiced through the winter?" Elrond asked.

"Do you think he was able to do that without any practice? Thranduil probably had enough taste of icy sea water to last him a lifetime." Cirdan laughed again, the sound like rumbling of waves. “I believe he forswore the sea altogether.”

"I thought he managed because he is a Sinda. Aren’t a bow and arrow the main weapons Sindarin warriors use?" Elrond asked.

"You know our culture well, Elrond," Cirdan smiled. "Just as Noldor start out with learning to use their swords, we start out learning to use our bows before we are trained as warriors."

“I believe Oropher holds the record for being the youngest to pass the test. And, of course, Beleg for succeeding at the first attempt, isn’t it?” Celeborn turned to Istuion.

“Oropher also beat all of us to it, coming second to Beleg for successfully shooting through all three sets of rings on his fifth attempt. Thranduil did it on his third try,” Istuion said.

"Yes,” Cirdan smiled looking up at Thranduil. “The skill runs in his family, I believe. Lord Arandur was quite skilled with his bow as well.”

“According to my father, Oropher surpassed his father,” Celeborn said. “It seems Thranduil will surpass Oropher.”

“Does that mean Thranduil’s son will surpass Thranduil?” Lord Cirdan said with twinkles in his eyes

“Quite possible,” Celeborn smiled back.

It was then that the blond Elf who had climbed down the mast joined them. Elrond watched as Lord Cirdan greeted Thranduil.

The first thing Elrond noticed was the height. He was even taller than most Noldor. In fact, Thranduil did not look like other Sindar. Among the dark haired people and the silver or white haired lords, Thranduil was golden.

Most Noldor and Sindar are dark haired in a variety of shades. Some Sindar of noble houses, like Lord Cirdan’s, have a white hair, but generally, most Sindar are dark haired like Noldor with the only exception being those from the royal house of Doriath. All who were related to Elu Thingol, except for those with the blood of Melian, had a silver hair.

“You remember Elrond, son of Earendil? He is the younger of the twins,” Lord Cirdan said as he led Thranduil to Elrond. “Elrond, meet Thranduil, son of Oropher. You were too young and a mortal at that time to remember him well, but Thranduil and your mother grew up like siblings.”

Just as Lord Cirdan said, Elrond’s memory during his time as a mortal was not clear. It was not until he had made his choice to become an Elf that everything came into a sharp focus. He remembered even the minute details afterward, but the memory of his childhood and of the times before he became immortal remained vague as if he was looking at a forest covered in a thin mist.

As to his childhood, there were only a few things he remembered well, such as Maglor’s voice, like gentle waves, that lured him and his brother to sleep after nights of terrible dreams. Elrond did not remember what those dreams were, but he remembered screaming in the middle of the night, the darkness and that terrible feeling of falling and being alone. He used to wake up clinging onto Elros.

And suddenly, Maglor would be there, comforting like the sunlight, folding both Elros and him in his gentle arms. Thousands of needles plunged into Elrond’s heart at the thought of Maglor.

Shaking off the memories, Elrond looked up at Thranduil. When a pair of bright eyes fell on him, Elrond took in a sharp breath and stared, at loss for words.

Thranduil’s eyes were mesmerizing, but it was not the beauty that took Elrond’s breath away. It was the chillness of the air around Thranduil. There was something cold and distant about the young Sinda like a lone star in the dead of winter.

Despite the brightness of the gem-like eyes, Elrond sensed darkness and despair in them, even of death. It reminded Elrond of the eyes of both Maedhros and Maglor. In the last two remaining sons of Feanor and those of their followers, there had been lingering darkness and despair. Elrond understood that it was because they have seen too much death and destruction. Those Noldor were ancient, worn and grieved; they had experienced too much loss. But, to see such darkness in one so young, for Elrond knew Thranduil was barely a century older than he, it startled him.

Mae Govannen, Thranduil,” Elrond said, trying his best to sound welcome which he did not feel. He did not know why. Elrond never disliked anyone before but there was something about Thranduil that Elrond did not like. He couldn’t explain it but his heart did not warm to the cold Sinda.

Thranduil’s frozen eyes grazed over Elrond. Despite the reservation, Elrond could not help but look into the unusually colored eyes, neither blue nor green, yet both. Elrond thought he had never seen such a color in another Elf, yet somehow, they looked familiar. Wanting to see deeper, Elrond stared into Thranduil’s eyes, but they were shuttered and unreadable, a rare thing to Elrond to whom reading other’s feelings was like a second nature. But, this young Sinda in front of him felt like a thick wall of ice: impenetrable, distant and devoid of emotion.

“I came as a messenger from his royal majesty, King Gil-galad, to welcome you to Lindon,” Elrond smiled with his hand over his heart. “His majesty looks forward to making your acquaintance. He has prepared your quarters within the King’s Tower where he welcomes you—”

“I will stay in the barracks with other cadets in the training,” Thranduil said, his voice matter of fact, deep and firm. His voice reminded Elrond of a sound of a hunter’s horn ringing deep within a forest.

“Barracks is where you will spend most of your time during the training, but when you are not, the king thought you will be more comfortable having your own quarters.”

“When and where do I report for training?” Thranduil asked.

Elrond pursed his lips realizing that for Thranduil, the matter of housing was a topic that was already closed.

But, Lord Erestor who stood next to Elrond did not notice.

"My young lord, the rooms are already prepared and his majesty—”

“I did not ask you,” Thranduil said, giving Erestor a side glance.

Erestor flushed.

“Now, Thranduil.” Lord Istuion placed a restraining hand on Thranduil’s upper arm.

“Will you tell me when and where or do I need to find that information on my own?” Thranduil said, his voice even, not a hint of any emotion in them.

Elrond met Thranduil’s icy gaze.

“On the tenth day of Spring at the West courtyard outside the King’s Tower. Line-up is scheduled at sunrise,” Elrond said.

Thranduil regarded Elrond, then nodded.

“If you will excuse me, I have much to prepare,” Thranduil said. He bowed toward Elrond, then to the Sindarin lords, then turned on his heels and walked away.

Elrond watched Thranduil's broad back, feeling Lord Erestor bristle next to him.

“Have I done something wrong? I certainly did not mean to offend,” Elrond said looking around at Lord Celeborn, then at Lord Istuion.

“We were only extending the king’s hospitality,” Erestor huffed, clearly offended.

Lord Istuion sighed.

“It is not you, Elrond. It is Thranduil. Please excuse him, Lord Erestor. I’m afraid, Thranduil is not into exchanging pleasantries,” Istuion said.

“He is having a trying day. The departure of his beloved father and the people he loves must have worn out the lad. He doesn’t say much, but he is usually of impeccable manners. I’m sure once he gets to know you and becomes familiar with those around him, he will be more amiable,” Lord Cirdan said jovially.

Elrond noticed Lord Istuion shifting nervously where he stood. Something told Elrond that Lord Istuion didn’t quite agree with his uncle.

He hated to admit it, but Elrond was glad. Had Thranduil stayed in the King’s Tower, Thranduil would have been quartered in the same wing as Elrond.

Elrond thought back to Sirion. Although Elrond did not remember Sirion well, he remembered his mother, the majestic, dark haired lady who always stood by a tall white tower, looking out toward the sea. Her features were unclear in Elrond’s mind, but he remembered the sadness in her face and the warmth of her presence. And the only time her face brightened with joy was when a tall and muscular man with long wavy blond hair came from the sea, smelling like an ocean wind.

His mother laughed when the man was about. Elrond remembered how her joy would infect his brother and him. He remembered the squeal of laughter as the man hoisted him up high in the air, but then, the man would leave again and the house would fall into silence. It was much later that Elrond realized that the blond man in his memory was his father. His father may have been a hero to Elves and Men, but Elros and he barely knew him.

But besides his father, there was also another blond in his faint memory who could make his mother smile. He was a lithe and scrawny youth who was more delicate than imposing, the same blond youth who had abandoned his brother and him to the mercy of those who had blood on their hands.

Thranduil differed greatly from the beautiful, delicate youth Elrond remembered from Sirion. But Elrond recognized the unusual blue-green eyes of the youth. Having met Thranduil now, he realized that Thranduil and the young blond Elf are the one and the same.

I will come back for you,” the blond youth promised before leaving them in the darkness of the cave, but that was the last time Elrond and his brother saw him or their mother.


___________________
Elrond (Sindarin, Star Dome)—(Born FA 532) One of the twin sons of Elwing and Earendil. Like his parents, he is a peredhil (Half-Elven). Peredhils are born a mortal, but as Earendil’s sons, they were given a choice to choose which race they wished to belong

Beleg (Sindarin, Mighty)--Captain of the march-wardens of Doriath and known as the greatest archer of First Age. (For the story about him, read Children of Hurin by Tolkien)

Earendil (Quenya, Sea Friend)—son of Lady Idril, Noldorin princess of Gondolin, and Tuor, House of Hador, a mortal. Thus, Earendil is a peredhil. Gondolin fell when he was 7 years old. The refugees of Gondolin escaped to Sirion where he met and wed Elwing. Earendil loved the sea and was often away on voyages. When he was away, remaining sons of Feanor attacked Sirion.  Earendil is considered one of the greatest heroes to Men and Elves.

Mae Govannen (Sindarin, well met)            

The tenth day of Spring—April 10: To make the dates easier, I made Yestare (New Year) as April 1th, the first day of spring

 

Chapter Text

King’s Tower. Mach 25, Second Age 144

EREINION GIL-GALAD FINGONION felt the cool air of Spring blow through his balcony as he stood watching the guards empty the training fields below him. The night was falling like rain as the last glimmer of crimson streak disappeared behind the far away horizon.

Elrond was due back from Grey Haven tonight. Hopefully, his cousin was successful.

The king sighed and went back to his chambers. With Spring came the First Yen of the Second Age and the first young recruits into his army. Previously, the army consisted of the surviving warriors from the First Age who have chosen to remain in Lindon. They were all highly skilled with many centuries of experience but they were used to serving under different princes from the House of Finwe, whether they were sons of Fingolfin or Finarfin. It had taken many decades to bring them together into one cohesive working unit.

The new recruits this year will be the first soldiers to enter the king’s service strictly under his own name. Thranduil will be one of them. Gil-galad let out a long sigh. Will holding onto Oropher’s son be enough? Gil-galad did not know, but he was running out of options now that Oropher has left with his followers.

Sighing again, the king sank into the blue silk cushions embroidered with silver stars. Last night, he had that dream again, the one he had the first night he slept in the palace after its completion.

In his dream, he saw a large clay pot. Inside the pot grew three trees. The tree on the left was white as untrodden snow, the middle was golden and the one on the right was silver.

The White Tree standing under a golden light was the smallest, but most beautiful with snow-white flowers of unearthly beauty.

The Gold Tree was illuminated by a flaming sun and under its fiery glow, the Gold Tree grew bigger and stronger than others and its branches filled with golden leaves and fruits.

 The Silver Tree was illuminated by a winged moon. The light of the silvery moon was pale under the fiery light of the flaming sun. But despite being overshadowed by the flaming sun, the light of the moon was true and the Silver Tree grew and spread, its delicate branches blooming with white flowers that sparkled silver. The music filled the void and Gil-galad knew everything was good.

But suddenly, a lightning flashed overhead. A dark seed flew over from the north and crashed onto the Gold Tree, splitting its golden limb. One-third of its limb fell onto the side of the White Tree. The pot shattered.

Gil-galad ran to the pot. Among the broken shards and loosened earth, the broken two-third of the Gold Tree and the Silver Tree stood, supported by their entangled roots, clinging onto what remained of the earth.

Gil-galad sighed with relief and went closer to look at the seed which had fallen by the foot of the Gold Tree. It was shiny and raven black. He reached out but before he could touch it, it shuddered then cracked. Inside glowed bright red and when Gil-galad bent over to take a closer look, a flame leaped out. Gil-galad jumped back and the flame swayed and danced and spread over onto the trunk of the Gold Tree. The flame crackled and licked, then ravaged one branch, charring it beyond recognition. Black and sharp, it broke, then plunged into the Silver Tree.

“Ai! Ai!” wailed Gil-galad, but there was nothing he could do but watch as the charred branch impaled the silver trunk. The Silver Tree shuddered. Somewhere thousands of voices wailed. And the blood flowed, red as anger and swift as tears. It slid down the trunk of the Silver Tree, leaving a dark scar. And the blood flowed onto what remained of earth.  The music stopped, replaced by the wailing of voices unseen.

The Silver Tree withered, its white flowers turned to gray dust and its silver leaves fell like flakes of snow. The metallic scent of blood and the odor of burning wood pervaded the air as the silver roots untangled itself from the roots of the Gold Tree and shriveled, now a twisted husk of what it once was. The earth that was held by the commingled roots began to loosen. A dark weed sprouted from the seed. It spread and grew all around the broken pot, fed by the blood and the loosened earth.

“What can I do?” Gil-galad asked as sorrow seeped into his heart. The weight of the grief pulled him down onto the ground. A shoot grew out of the weed. It was long, shiny and sharp. Suddenly, it lunged.

Gil-galad jerked awake.

The king pulled at the neck of his tunic. His body burned as if scorched. He got out of the chair where he had fallen asleep and took in a breath before grabbing a cup of water to gulp it down. It was the same dream, but he had not dreamed it for some time now until last night.

After several months of having the same dream, Gil-galad had sought an elderly loremaster. The king had known that it was a warning of sorts and that it should not be said to just anyone.  The loremaster had agreed and has told the king that time will come when he should reveal it.

Since then, the elder loremaster had sailed to Valinor, leaving his post to his young protégé. Now Gil-galad was the only one who knew of the dream and he had not been able to tell it to anyone, not even to Cirdan, Gilmagor, and Elrond, the three Elves whom he trusted above all others. 

Gil-galad grabbed a key he wore around his neck and took out a long box, elaborately carved and gilded in gold, from his desk. Inside was a rolled parchment. Its edges were worn and tattered.

The wailing of the voices. Over many nights, Gil-galad had written down the words, struggling to remember the words which faded as the morning sun rose.

The king skimmed over the phrases that he had read over thousands of times.

 

A dark seed grows, fed by blood and ire;

The old evil awakens, hiding its dark fire

To ensnare innocents in its tangled shoots.

 

The Darkness will rise and the lights of Arda fail

From the seas to the mountains all will travail

As the ring of gold claims dominance above all.

 

For the hope to shine and never wither

The two houses of silver and gold must stand together,

Brother to brother by blood and love, all roots mingled.

 

When the darkness …

 

Gil-galad stopped. The last stanza was still hard for him. He rolled up the letter then put it back in the box. He wasn’t ready to face it yet. There was so much yet to do.

There was a knock and the king quickly put the key away.              

“Enter!”

Elrond walked in, still in his riding clothes.

“How was your trip to the Grey Haven, Elrond?”

“I am afraid, sire, that I do not bring the news you desire,” Elrond said, his usually sunny face sullen.

“Oh? How so?” Gil-galad offered him a goblet of wine which Elrond took and sat down on a seat opposite him.

“Lord Istuion declined the position.”

Gil-galad nodded feeling disappointment swept through him.  He expected it knowing how close Lord Istuion was with Oropher, but he had hoped that the Sindarin lord would share in his dream by joining the council. Besides being Lord Cirdan’s nephew, Gil-galad had immediately liked him the moment he met the Sindarin lord when he first came to Lindon with Oropher to seek an audience. Although grave and distant as any other Sindarin councilors from Menegroth, Gil-galad saw warmth and quiet strength in Lord Istuion.

Gil-galad had offered Lord Istuion a seat in the council hoping to persuade the Sindarin lord to stay in Lindon. The king did not want Lindon to become an exclusively Noldorin realm. He wanted his realm to become inclusive of all Elves regardless of their roots. In order to do that, he needed councilors who had served in Menegroth’s court among his own court but those who decided to remain in Middle Earth chose to leave Lindon with Oropher. The few who remained politely refused the king’s offer, opting instead to live in Grey Haven with Lord Cirdan or at South Harlindon with Lord Celeborn.  

Gil-galad bit down a sigh. His dreams have shown him that darkness was coming and only by being united can they defeat it.

“And Oropher’s son?”

“I met with him as you have asked,” Elrond said. “He declined to stay in the King’s tower.” Elrond looked away, avoiding the king’s eyes. Gil-galad regarded Elrond. Although his demeanor was calm, Elrond's usually calm gray eyes looked restless. Something was amiss.

 “So, what did you think of him?” Gil-galad asked.

“He is cold and arrogant,” Elrond said, took a sip of his wine and looked down at his feet.

“Well, that sounds just like Oropher. The trait must run in the family,” Gil-galad said watching Elrond. The king had never known his cousin to make such a statement about anyone, even those who deserved them.

“Do we really need to deal with him? I know you hope to bring together all Elves and want to keep in touch with those Oropher led away, but surely, there must be other ways in which we could find common ground with Sindar. Is it necessary for you to foster this Sinda? Why must it be with Oropher and his Elves? Lord Celeborn seems agreeable enough and you have Lord Cirdan on your side. Shouldn’t they be enough?”

Gil-galad was more than surprised at the outburst and he wondered what the Sinda has done to put off his easy-going cousin. It was rare for Elrond to dislike anyone, and even rarer to show such dislike. Usually, Elrond trusted and accepted everyone, even the difficult ones. He is usually the one making excuses for other’s bad behaviors, trying to understand them the best he could.

“The Sindar under Lord Celeborn and Cirdan are not the ones I worry about.”

“The ones who followed Oropher are only a small portion of Sindar, just a handful. There are many who stayed behind and chose to live under Lord Celeborn and Lord Cirdan. What could Oropher do against you?” Elrond frowned.

“It is not that I think he will rise against me if that is what you believe. If I believed that, I wouldn’t have fought the council to let him go.”

“Then, what is it that you fear?”

Gil-galad looked away, keeping a firm control over his emotions. The king knew well the power Elrond has. His young cousin has an uncanny ability to read people’s emotions.

“Did you feel anything from him? Did you sense something from Thranduil that affected you?” Gil-galad glanced at Elrond.

Elrond dropped his head. He was silent for a moment, but slowly, he shook his head.

“No. He was difficult to read. I didn’t feel anything from him. He was like a block of ice.” He looked up, a frown on his face. “But there is something dark about him.” Elrond pulled at his front braid, something Gil-galad noticed Elrond did when his cousin was troubled.

“Something troubling you, Elrond?”

Elrond glanced up. There was hesitation, but Elrond shook his head again, then forced a smile.

“It’s nothing. It’s just… he obviously does not want to be here and I wondered why you would keep him here, against his will.”

Gil-galad repressed a sigh and wondered if he should tell his young cousin. He trusted Elrond. But his cousin was still young and there was much he needed to know and learn. The king knew that Gilmagor did not plan to linger in Middle Earth. As soon as Elrond was ready to take the responsibility, the Lord Commander planned to sail.

“Finish your training, Elrond. And one day, I will tell you, but know that it is vitally important that all of us are united. And more than anyone, I need to have Oropher understand the importance of this unity among us Elven kin. It is precisely because he does not want to be part of us that we need him. It is my hope that you could reach Thranduil in a way I could not with Oropher. Perhaps, Thranduil will listen to you and Oropher will listen to his son.”

“You are the king. If Oropher did not listen to you, what makes you think his son will listen to me?” Elrond frowned at Gil-galad.

“Oropher has no connection to me, but he and his family owe you allegiance. If there is one good thing I am sure of Oropher, it is that the duty and obligation were bred into him at birth, just as you and I have been. I am sure his son is no different. At least, I hope so.”

“His family’s obligation to me, or to my family, died the day Doriath was lost. And I am a Noldo. I doubt Oropher, or Thranduil for that matter, considers me as one of them.”

“Blood endures, Elrond. Realms may fall and mountains sink into the sea, but the blood remains. As long as you remain your mother’s son, no Sindar can ignore you. I am counting on it.”

 

_____________________

Ereinion Gil-galad Fingonion (Sindarin, Scion of Kings, Star of Radiance, Son of Fingon) In Silmarillion, Tolkien has it that Gil-galad is Fingon's son (House of Fingolfin). But in later writings, Tolkien made Gil-galad first as Finrod's son, then later as Orodreth's son (House of Finarfin) which would make Gil-galad Elrond's distant cousin and the grandnephew to Lady Galadriel.

I went with Gil-galad as Fingon's son for two reasons: (1)Gil-galad's epesse Erenion, meaning Scion of Kings, is more fitting as Fingon's son. His great grandfather Finwe, grandfather Fingolfin, and his father Fingon all had been high kings (2)As Fingon's son, Gil-galad would be closely related to Elrond as the first cousin to both Elrond and Lady Galadriel. If he was Orodreth’s son, the king will become only a distant cousin to Elrond while becoming the first cousin to my Thranduil character. 

Finwe-- the First high king of all Noldor. He was one of the three Elves, along with Ingwe (Vanya) and Olwe (Thingol's brother), who led the Elves to Valinor. He is also Gil-galad's great grandfather.

He is the only Elf to have married twice. By his first wife Miriel, he has a son, Feanor, who later with his 7 sons, led Noldor back to Middle Earth from Valinor. Miriel died after giving birth to Feanor which was an unusual event as she was first to die in Valinor. Because of the unusual circumstance, Manwe (King of Valar) allowed Finwe to take another wife.

By his second wife Indis, a Vanyarin lady—a niece of King Ingwe of Vanyar, Finwe had two sons and two daughters. Gil-galad’s grandfather Fingolfin is the eldest son with Indis. Lady Galadriel is the daughter to Finarfin who is the second son of Finwe with Indis.

After the rebellion by Feanor, Valar forbid Elves from marrying more than once in their lifetime.

 

Chapter Text

Grey Haven. April 7, Second Age 144

THRANDUIL looked down at the bed in his room at Lord Cirdan’s mansion in the forest. A month had passed since his father left. Tomorrow, he shall leave this house and travel to Minas Silivren.

He had never stayed here long, but the thought of entering a Noldorin city troubled him. He looked at the bed where the things he needed to pack lay in a neat pile.

He did not have much. The king will provide the uniform including an armor and a weapon. He didn’t really need anything else, not that he had anything else. Whatever of value he had were destroyed at Menegroth and they barely had enough at Sirion. And when he wandered the wild with his father, they made do with whatever they could get their hands on.

There were only three things of value to him. One of them he had given to Glineth for safe keeping. And the other…Thranduil fingered the leather-bound chain on his neck. He wondered if he should leave it with Lord Istuion. He couldn’t bear it if he lost it, but then, he didn’t want to be parted from it.

Holding onto his necklace, he looked at the rest of the items on the bed Glineth had laid out for him: Bow and a quiver; several pairs of undergarments; socks; a new cloak Glinth had given him this morning as his early begotten day present; a comb made of beechwood—.

Thranduil picked up the comb. He didn’t really need it. Although all Elves, whether male or female, were vain about their hair and spent hours grooming, Thranduil knew there was nothing he could do with his. His hair was so straight and slippery, he couldn’t even braid them. With a snort, he tossed the comb over his shoulder.

When his eyes rested on the double blades sheathed to the back of his quiver, Thranduil swallowed hard and took out one of the blades. He will have to leave these with Lord Istuion. Engraved with silver vines, the hilt was studded with three large green gems in a shape of beech tree leaves, an emblem that came to represent House Arandur.

These double daggers belonged to Lord Arandur, Thranduil’s grandfather. King Thingol had gifted them to Lord Arandur when the king gave him the command of the king’s troops. It was the same daggers the dying Lord Arandur had given to Oropher in Menegroth. And in the midst of the Great War when everyone, including Thranduil, had forgotten about his first centennial begotten day, his father had gifted them to him.

Thranduil’s throat thickened as longing for his father and Menegroth rose like a mist about him.

A soft knock made Thranduil look up as the door to his room opened. Thranduil schooled his features.

Glineth walked in with a tray richly laden with a bowl of stewed apples, honey cake, and nuts. There was even a glass of wine. Although his begotten day wasn't until five days later, Glineth had prepared a sumptuous dinner that night as he was due to depart early next morning.

Petite even for one of the Nandor, Glineth had been with Thranduil’s family for as long as he could remember. Thranduil was told that she was there even when his father was a mere youth. And when Lady Arinariel married Oropher, Glineth served as his mother’s lady’s maid. To Thranduil, Glineth was family, a second mother. When his father left, leaving Lord Istuion to follow, she had asked to stay behind. She said she needed more time before leaving Lindon, but Thranduil knew that she had stayed back for his sake.

“You barely touched your dinner, so…” she smiled brightly at him, her rich brown eyes warm and concerned. “You haven’t been eating much lately. At least have some dessert, my young lord.”

“Don’t address me like that, Glineth. I’m no lord. Look at me.” Thranduil scoffed. “I am going to be a guard to a Noldorin king, a dog for the king of kinslayers to do as he is bidden.”

Glineth frowned.

“If Lady Arinariel was here, you wouldn’t dare say such a thing,” she said with a frown.

“Then, I guess, it is good that my mother isn’t here.” Thranduil snorted.

Glineth put down the tray on a small table next to the bed.

“Listen to me, Thranduil. No matter where it lands and what it must endure, an acorn will become an oak tree. Unless you let them, no one can make you who you are not.”

Thranduil sighed and turned away to look out the lone window in the room.

“I know that. It is just....”  Thranduil dropped his head. “Forgive me. I am not myself today.”

Glineth reached out to touch his face and looked into his eyes.

“You look so much like your mother.” Glineth smiled faintly. Then she rubbed the area under Thranduil’s eyes as he pulled back.

“You have not slept much since your father left, Thranduil.” Glineth frowned. “It is happening again, isn’t it? I see you walking the forest in the night. You are--”

“I’m fine.”

“Thranduil, you must tell Lord Istuion. He could talk to the king, maybe he could delay the training--”

“No! I told you, I’m fine!”

Thranduil took in a sharp breath when he saw the look in Glineth’s eye. He had never shouted at her before, even when he was at his worst. His mother would definitely not approve if she had been here. Was he going to let this darkness get the better of him? Thranduil let out a long sigh to release the tension in his body.

He rubbed at his forehead, then he took Glineth’s hands in his.

“Please, Glineth. I can handle it. I am no longer a child. I am not going to let the darkness consume me. I am stronger now. Do you not trust me?”

Glineth smiled, although it did not reach her eyes.

“I trust you, Thranduil." She ran her hand through his hair. "But, if it becomes too much… if you are in any way…” Glineth stopped. “You know that I am here for you. I will stay here as long as you need me. Do you understand, young one?”

Thranduil nodded obediently. “Forgive me?” His heart ached at having made her aware. She would worry now if she wasn’t already.

“Always. You know that.” Gineth smiled then. She reached up on her tiptoe to kiss him on his cheek. “Rest then, dearest. Valar know you need the rest,” Glineth sighed.

Thranduil gave Glineth the best smile he could muster. Her eyes showed that she wasn’t fooled, but she did not press him further. She moved to leave but stopped at the door.

“We have a word that Aron will arrive late tonight.” she said.

Thranduil frowned.

“He will accompany you in the morning.”        

“I’m not a newborn babe. I can find the way there myself,” Thranduil said pursing his lips.

“No one doubts that, dearest,” Glineth smiled softly. “He is on his way to the White City as a messenger for Lord Cirdan. He wants to spend the day riding with you.” With that, she left him alone.

After Glineth left, Thranduil stuffed everything on the bed, except for the bow and the daggers, into his pack and laid down on the bed. He knew she was right. He needed the rest. Thranduil had not slept much since his father left, and he was weary.

Thranduil ran his hands through his face. No matter how tired he was, no matter how on edge he had been, he knew he should not snap at others, especially Glineth. He knew that in his head, but he could not control his impulses at times. His tongue lashed out as if it had a mind of its own.

Control your tongue, Thranduil. Control your temper. Thranduil repeated to himself.

But for the past month, his dreams were dark and filled with old shadows that haunted him since the last day of Menegroth. Thranduil rolled onto his side. But he was stronger now. He will not succumb to the darkness his mother fought so tirelessly to bring him out of.

_______________

 

River Sirion. January 22, First Age 507

Nana!”

Thranduil screamed as loud as he could, but breath caught in his throat as if he had run through the whole of the Forest of Neldoreth.

The forest burned, red flames licking like tongues of snakes. Thranarin fell forward, his eyes wide as a spot of red in front of his chest grew bigger until the fire burned through. Smoke rose and Thranarin’s bright silver hair was swallowed up by the flames. Thranduil struggled to call out to his older brother, but no words came. The acrid smoke choked through the lining of his throat, stinging his eyes, and knocking out his breath.

“I am here, meleth nin. I am here,” said a beloved voice, but he couldn’t see. The thick smoke blinded him.

“Nana!”                                                   

Arantaur, I am here,” she said, and something warm enveloped him. “You are safe, my love. You are safe.” Her voice mixed with the howl of the wind far away. And like a wind to a smoke, everything disappeared as if nothing had been.

Thranduil strained to open his eyes but they were so heavy. It was a struggle to lift the eyelids. When he finally managed, Thranduil saw a faint glow. And along with it, there was a scent of herbs and niphredil,* his mother’s scent.

The beloved face of his mother looked down at him, her bright, light-filled eyes were shiny with moisture. She smiled brightly at him.

“Nana?”

She nodded, and her lips moved, but no sound came. Instead, she smiled again and kissed his hand in her grasp.

“I’m hot,” Thranduil said.

“I know, sweetheart. Here, drink,” she pressed a cup onto his parched lips. But Thranduil could not move as if a large boulder pressed down on his chest and kept him pinned down. His mother lifted his head and poured the liquid onto his withered mouth. Just then a wind whooshed in and along with it something white and glittery.

“My lady.” Thranduil heard Glineth call his mother but he was too tired to look.

“Look, Arantaur, snow,” his mother said as she scooped up a handful of snow. “It is snowing outside, dearest. Will you not get up so you could go out and play?”

She placed a handful of snow on his head. It felt cool against his burning head, but it only lasted a moment before it flowed down his forehead in trickles as his mother wiped it off and added another handful of snow onto his face.

Thranduil loved snow, but now, he was so tired.

“Where’s Elwing?” Thranduil asked. “Where’s Thranarin?”

Glineth covered her mouth and turned away. His mother’s lips moved but no sound came. The light in her eyes wavered. Her bright blue-green eyes shone looking like jewels under water.

Glineth pulled his mother back and turned back to him as his mother moved out of Thranduil's sight.

“Elwing is sleeping,” Glineth said, sounding strange. “When she wakes, I’ll bring her to you. If you get up, then you can play with her, wouldn’t that be good, little one?”

“I’m so tired,” Thranduil said.

“I know. But, you have to try. Yes?”

Then, his mother was back at his side again.

“You have to try, my sweet. Please try to keep awake. Please, my love, for me?”

His mother picked him up from the bed and drew him into her arms. Then, she rocked him as if he was still a baby. He was too big to be rocked, but he was too tired to protest. And Thranduil really did want to get up for her. He loved his mother so.

But his eyes were so heavy and everything seemed to go around and around. It seemed to him that the world around him was fading away into a gray mist. And when he closed his eyes, it was filled with dark images, flashes of gold and red armors, filled with screams that jerked him awake, then sucked him back into darkness. And they were followed by a sense of immeasurable grief and guilt. Thranduil didn’t know why he felt so sad or why he felt such guilt, but he felt as if he had done something terribly wrong. And no matter how much he wanted to get up, he couldn’t.

It was all just too much and Thranduil wished he could just disappear. He wanted to become nothing and felt his body become airy as if he could float away when he felt a pressure on his hand. Someone pulled.

“Thrandy…” A familiar voice called.

Exhausted, Thranduil did not care, but he knew that voice and she shook his hand incessantly, not leaving him alone.

Thrandy…” The voice kept calling and kept pulling at his hand. Her voice shook, filled with sniffles.

“Thraaanddy…” She was crying now.

Elwing.

Elwing was crying. Thranduil struggled, drawing every bit of energy he had left. When he managed to open his eyes, a pair of large gray eyes stared right at him.

Elwing had her chin on the bedding where he lay, her round baby face only a breath away from his, her two dimpled hands clutching onto the edges of his bedding. She looked at him, her eyes filling her face, wet with tears.

“Don’t go, Thrandy. Glineth says you are going away. I don’t want you to go.”

Even though everything ached and hurt, Thranduil reached out. He didn’t want Elwing to cry. When the new king and the queen came to Doriath, they told him that it was his duty to protect the little princess. He made a solemn promise in front of the king, his grandfather, and father that he will always keep Elwing safe.

“Don’t…cry…Elwing.”

________________

 

Gray Haven. April 8, Second Age 144

Thranduil sat up on the bed and yanked open the neck of his tunic. He felt suffocated. Heat consumed him as if he was a burning log. Thranduil threw open the window in his room and took a lungful of cool morning air.

“I will not succumb,” Thranduil whispered to the trees outside his window.

He looked up at the sky where a lone star shone brightly. Darkness was receding now, silver moon pale on the sky as the new dawn gazed down at him.

During the long trek down from Menegroth to Sirion, after they fled the burning city, Thranduil suffered a deadly grief like the many survivors who lost their loved ones. Feanor’s sons attacked during the Midwinter Festival, the longest night of the year.

The trek down River Sirion to the secret Haven by the sea in the middle of snow blizzard, leaving their beloved home behind with hardly anything in their hands, the strength of the Elves failed. Many died on the road during the months-long trek, not of the cold or hunger but of grief, despite the countless number of warriors who sacrificed their lives so that the few could escape down the river.

After the devastation of Menegroth, Thranduil had been too young and too weak of strength to endure the force of grief that wrecked his young body and mind. He was 38 years old.

Thranduil used to be ashamed, thinking of how weak he had been that he almost succumbed to the grief. He should have been old enough. Elwing was only three years old and had lost both her parents including her two older brothers who were six.

It was not until his mother explained to him that Elwing was a mortal that Thranduil understood. Apparently, unlike Elven children whose bond with their parents are so acute that young children who lost both parents did not survive, children of men did not die from the severance of such a bond as long as they are given good care. Thranduil had marveled then at the strength of mortal children. For the Elves, children are bonded to the hearts of their parents just as spouses are bonded to each other’s souls. Losing one’s mate shattered his soul while losing children or parents shattered their hearts. It is the worst kind of loss among his kindred and many who lacked strength did not survive such loss.

This was one of the reasons why Elves did not have children in times of war and unrest. And soldiers did not go to war when a child was born to them. And because their memories did not dim and felt everything intensely, young Elven children did not survive witnessing violence. They said it was only because of the skill of his mother as a healer that Thranduil survived.

But his mother told Thranduil later that it was Elwing who saved him.

Everyone who survived worried over Elwing, but she was hearty and strong. And unlike young Elven children who could not form a new bond with another other than their parents, Elwing took to Lady Arinariel and grew under her care as if Thranduil’s mother was her own mother.

In the beginning, they have kept Elwing away from Thranduil, afraid that like Thranduil, the much younger Elwing will lose her will to live. But, that day, when Thranduil was so far gone that they couldn’t get any response from him and everyone had given up, Elwing sneaked into where Thranduil lay.

Glineth and his mother had found Elwing by Thranduil’s bed, he was told, on a tiptoe, holding onto Thranduil’s bedding. When his mother saw that Thranduil opened his eyes at Elwing’s urging, she had told Glineth to leave them together. They let Elwing sleep next to Thranduil. She sang to him, told him stories and even laughed as Spring arrived.

And as Spring turned to Summer, Thranduil got out of bed and learned to walk again and even smile at times with Elwing at his side. And the too few survivors of ruined Doriath settled by the mouth of Sirion as it flowed into the sea.

And as years passed, Elwing grew and her memory dimmed. Apparently, the memory of mortals faded with time. The fact that Glineth had shielded Elwing at the time of the bloody attack also helped, Thranduil supposed. But even if she had seen it, it seemed to Thranduil that Elwing would not have remembered or felt the horror and grief as acutely as did Elves.

In fact, just like her father, Elwing grew rapidly. In 14 short years since they settled at Sirion, she grew tall and fair. At 17 years of age, she was a young maiden who looked as old as if she was an Elf maid of over a century old, making Thranduil feel as if he was the only child left even though he had just reached a majority.

The knowledge that Elwing’s mortal blood made her forget the events that happened less than two decades ago didn't make it easier, however, when Elwing chose to marry Earendil of Gondolin. It left other Sindar, including Thranduil, but especially his father as Elwing's guardian, speechless. Had it not been for the intervention of Lady Arinariel and Lord Cirdan, Oropher would have never agreed to the union.

And Earendil who had solemnly promised Oropher to love and protect Elwing, failed her at the moment when she needed him the most. And, in the end, Thranduil, too, failed to keep his solemn promise to keep Elwing safe.

 

_____________

 

Begotten day is a birthday for Elves. Because they are born exactly to a year to the day they are conceived, it is called the begotten day. In my story, Thranduil is born on the 12th day of Spring, First Age 468.

Thranarin (Sindarin, Vigorous Morning)--Thranduil’s elder brother and Oropher’s first child (He is one of my OC)

 Nana (Sindarin, short form of Naneth, mother)—mommy or mom

Nephridil is a white flower that used to grow in the forest of Doriath. It is said that it first sprang when Luthien was born.

Meleth nin (Sindarin, my love)

Arantaur (Sindarin, Lord of Forest)—Thranduil’s name his mother gave him at birth. Only Lady Arinariel called him by this name. According to Tolkien, Elven women gave prophetic names to their children

Elves on Aging—According to Tolkien, up to 3 years in age, Elves and Men look the same. But afterward, Elves grow slowly in the body. At 50 years, they reach their majority (I took that to mean they will look about 13 or 14-year-old. During the Medieval period, once a child entered a teen, about the time of first menstruation for girls, she was considered an adult and able to marry). Based on that, you could calculate how old they would look if they were Men. Divide the Elf’s age by 4. At 38 Thranduil would have looked like 10-11 years old human child.

Tolkien said, “some hundred years would pass before they were full-grown”.  I take that to mean that they would look 17-18 years old by the time they are 100 years in age (Men are in their full adult form at that age). Although Elves may look as they do not age, they do, just so slowly it is not discernable to Men. Mortals may not be able to tell, but Elves, I think, would be able to tell how old each other is.   

 

Chapter Text

 

                                         White City.  April 8,  Second Age 144

 MAIRON pounded the molten metal. Today will be his last day at the forge. In two days’ time, he will be joining the cadet training and leave for the King’s Tower. As loath as he was to leave this forge, Mairon was curious to meet other Elves, especially the king. Although the parents of the Elf whose body Mairon possessed are members of the nobility, they obviously were not part of any ruling class and lived far from the palace and its occupants.

Among others, Mairon was curious about King Gil-galad.  Until he came to the White City, Mairon had not known that there were two members of Finwe’s line who are still alive. As far as he knew, only two sons of Feanor survived, but they were lost after the Great War.

But what intrigued Mairon was that instead of Celebrimbor, who was older with more power and better claim to the throne, it was Gil-galad, a young whelp less than three centuries old and feeble as a newborn pup, who was the king.

Under Melkor’s leadership, it was the strong who led. Mairon followed Melkor because his master was the strongest. He had visions the other Valar lacked. And Melkor chose him, the strongest among all Maiar, to be his captain.

Mairon stopped and looked down at the metal bar he had pounded into a thin metal sheet.

Mairon had always been the strongest among Melkor’s followers, but he did not always succeed against their enemies. The fallen Maia grounded his teeth at the remembered humiliation at the hands of the Sindarin whore and her mortal lover. And that blasted hound!

Mairon threw his hammer onto the work table.

After the battle with the Huan the wolfhound, Mairon fled, wounded and bleeding, to Taur-nu-Fuin in fear of his master’s wrath. But Melkor had been surprisingly nonchalant about it when Mairon had a mind enough to report the incident to warn his master.

“Let them come,” Melkor said, pulling up a corner of his lips with a wicked glint in his eyes. “Through them, I will get to seed more fields. If they are going to do the farming for me, why should I bring out my own hoes?”

Mairon had not known what Melkor meant at that time. His master was always steps ahead of him no matter how much Mairon tried to follow. It was not until Luthien and Beren escaped with one of the jewels that Mairon had understood that his master was referring to the Elven realm protected by Melian.

When Mairon had summoned the balrogs and other captains to pursue Luthien after she and her lover escaped with one of the three jewels on Melkor's crown, his master had stopped them.

“You need not send the captains, Mairon, nor you go yourself. Send out the goblins. The mere presence of the horde should be enough to give a semblance of a chase.”

“You do not wish to have your jewel returned, master?” Mairon had not realized that those jewels were dispensable.

“What need I of the jewels?” Melkor had laughed, his dark eyes glittering with mirth. “From the beginning, they were mere bait. And now they are all caught in my net. Feanor, I expected, but Melian I did not. I had something else planned for her, but this will do nicely.  Now, Melian’s daughter and her lover are taking the doom with them into Doriath. By her and her lover’s hand, the Sindar shall also share in the Doom of Noldor and so much more.” With that he had laughed, his head thrown back, the stone walls ringing with his laughter.

And his master had been right. Doriath fell without them having to do anything but to watch. Within few decades, all Elven kingdoms fell and the whole of Beleriand had belonged to them.

But that brief respite from the battles did not last. Valar had come with a mighty army. Even now, Mairon wasn’t sure if his master had seen it all and knew what was coming.

Mairon sucked in his breath and leaned into the work table. The image of his master as he laughed sitting on his iron throne as the Valar’s army threw open the gates of Angband was still fresh in his mind.

After Valar’s army stormed into the Great Hall, Melkor had gotten up from his iron throne and welcomed them into the hall with open arms. Melkor was laughing, but his fellow Valar were not. This time, they did not bother to listen to Melkor, nor allowed him a chance to talk. They cut off Melkor’s hands and feet, then chained him before anyone could do anything.

Forced to kneel and watch, Mairon had been afraid. If they could do that to Melkor, the greatest and the most powerful of the Valar, then what could they not do to him? Fear ruled his heart then and Mairon had trembled.

It was then that Eonwe, Manwe’s herald and a fellow Maia, turned to him.

“Come back with me, Mairon. I will go with you to Lord Manwe. Take your due, let Lord Manwe judge you for all you have done and when you are thus cleansed, you and I can again be friends as we once were.”

And Mairon was moved. Before his allegiance to Melkor, Mairon had been great friends with Eonwe. And the fallen Maia truly did want to repent. He wanted to return to Valinor and be his old self again.

But before he took Eonwe’s offered hand, Mairon glanced at his master, the one whose face was hidden behind the curtain of his long dark hair. It was then Melkor lifted his face and looked at Mairon with his cool gray eyes. And in them, Mairon heard his master’s laughter which rang clear in his mind, spoken only to him.

Well, my dear Mairon. What will you do now? Will you go back to Valinor and kneel before Manwe and Aule? They might forgive you, you know, if you are sincere enough. Then everything will be as before, will it not, my Little Flame? It will be the same,  perfect little world ordered exactly the way they want. You will be nothing but one of the many subjected to their whim. Or would you rather make this world into the perfection that you so desire? I have sown enough seeds in this world that given time, you will have power enough to order it the way you please. It will all be yours. But then, do you have what it takes?

Melkor had laughed aloud, throwing his head back, with that typical gleam of amusement in his eyes, then he was gone.

“Damn him!” Mairon jumped back at the jolt of pain, dropping the piece he was holding. The acrid odor of smoke and burned flesh assaulted his nose and Mairon grimaced.

“Brother!” someone gasped.

Mairon turned around to see Rodwen who looked at his hand with eyes round and filled with horror.

She ran over, grabbed his hand, then plunged it into the bowl of water that lay on top of the table next to him.

“You burned your fingers again,” she took out the hand, then started to blow gently on the fingers that started to form small cysts at the tips. She applied something she carried in a small glass jar she took from her leather bag. The pain calmed.

“Can you not take care?” Rodwen looked up, her clear gray eyes shiny with moisture. “You really should be careful with the fire, brother.”

Mairon looked down at Rodwen. She was a delicate creature, a wisp of womanhood. Even in this form, it would be so easy to break her with his one hand. But as he looked into the trusting clear eyes, unfamiliar warmth spread inside him. He could feel the warmth of her affection, the sting of grief for his pain. Her mind was open and full of concern for him. He was not used to being fussed over or being looked at with such open and unassuming adoration.

At first, such excess of emotion from her seemed contrived. Mairon could not believe that someone would care about another so whole-heartedly, to feel pain as if the other’s pain was her own. He had thought her actions only a guise but he had seen into her wide open mind. There was no deceit there; her thoughts were pure as the heat of the volcano and genuine as the power that flowed through his veins.  And her tender concern touched him like things rarely did.

“Do not worry over me, sister. I’m fine. Only a minor burn. See?” he showed his fingers which were blistering, angry red streaks on the tips of his fingers. “They are not burned as badly as before.”

“I don’t know why you are forgetting about your fingers lately. You never used to burn your fingers. Maybe you are concentrating too hard? The things you create are beautiful, much more beautiful and wonderful than I have ever seen you make or seen anyone make, but I rather have you whole and healthy.”

“Now, you sound just like mother.” Mairon laughed.

This was all new to him, having a family, having people around him who cared what he did and was genuinely concerned about his well-being. Although part of him knew that it was only his shell that was loved, when Rodwen looked up at him with such warmth in her eyes, it made him, however briefly, wish he could stay in this form forever.

Back in Valinor, the closest to a family he had was Aule. The Vala watched over him, taught him many things, but the stern Aule rarely listened. He constantly lectured Mairon as to what not to do. It was Melkor who had given him the full freedom to do as he willed and trusted that Mairon will do them well.

Melkor was also the first one who had given him full rein, allowing him to experiment and push the boundary of knowledge. After Aule, Melkor had been the closest Mairon had, but his master had always been so above him. Despite allowing and encouraging Mairon to do what he wished, Melkor always managed to make him feel like a child.

“Come now, brother. Mother has prepared a farewell dinner for you. The whole family is coming to the dinner and spending the last day with you tomorrow.” Rodwen pulled at Mairon’s hand.

“I am hardly going far,” he protested, but Mairon was looking forward to the meal. It was another thing that was new to him—eating, especially the plants. The Orcs and Men he ruled over did not eat plants, only meat. But the Elves ate a surprising number of a variety of plants and Mairon found that he liked them.

“I am only going to the King’s Tower….”

“But we won’t get to see you often. Indulge our mother for tonight, brother. Ever since almost losing you, mother gets anxious about you. And, I do, too. Please come, dear brother. Everyone is waiting.”

Mairon smiled and allowed the young Elfmaid to lead him home, feeling the warmth of her hand in his.

 

 

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*Feanor’s eldest sons are Maedhros and Maglor, the only two of the seven sons of Feanor who survived to the end of War of Wrath. (Rest of the sons in order are: Celegorm, Caranthir, Curufin, and the twins, Amras and Amrod)After the war, bound to the oath made with their father to recover Silmarils, the two brothers stole the two jewels from the camp of Valar’s army who recovered the jewels from Melkor’s crown. They slew the guards who were guarding it and took hold of the jewels but roused the camp. The brothers were willing to fight to the death to keep the silmarils, but they were allowed to go. But the jewels did not tolerate the blood-stained hands of Maedhros and Maglor and burned them. Unable to endure the pain, Maedhros jumped into the fiery chasm with his silmaril and Maglor threw his into the ocean. It is said that Maglor still wanders the shores singing of the grief of Noldor

Jewels—Three silmarils Feanor created with the light of two trees. It is considered to be Feanor’s greatest work. Melkor (aka Morgoth) slew Finwe, Feanor’s father, and fled with the gems to Middle Earth. To revenge his father’s death and to recover the jewels, Feanor defied the Valar, made oath that sealed their doom and left Valinor, leading Noldor to Middle Earth. The battles fought during the First Age are called ‘War of the Great Jewels’ for this reason.

Hound—Huan, the wolfhound of Valinor belonging to Vala Orome the hunter. It was given to Celegorm, the third son of Feanor, in Valinor. It followed its master to Middle Earth when Celegorm left Valinor. Huan was given a special gift by Valar where he can speak three times during his lifetime. When Luthien was captured by Curufin and Celegorm, Huan spoke for the first time and helped Luthien escape. He accompanied Luthien to Sauron’s tower and helped her rescue Beren, killing all the werewolves and defeating Sauron who fled. Huan returned to Celegorm, but encountered Luthien and Beren once again and when Curufin tried to kill Luthien, Huan turned against his master and defended her. He then brought skins of Sauron’s monsters for Luthien and Beren to use as a disguise to gain entrance to Angband. Huan died from injury after defeating Carcharoth, Morgoth’s werewolf.

Manwe—(Quenya, Blessed One) also known as Sulimo (Quenya, Breather) and Aran Einior (Sindarin, Elder King) Lord of the Valar and all of Arda, brother of Melkor and with Melkor the eldest of Ainur (refers to both Valar and Maiar) created by Eru Illuvatar (The One God)

 

Chapter Text

Lindon. April 9, Second Age 144

THRANDUIL rode out of the mansion in the forest with Aron early yesterday morning.  From the mansion, at a leisurely pace, it was two day’s ride to the White City. Although they could have arrived in the city by mid-afternoon, they lingered in the forest where they had camped for the night. Glineth had packed them a sumptuous feast with cold meats and stewed fruits, but Thranduil could not eat them. For once, Aron did not push.

"Where will we be staying tonight?" Thranduil asked as the White City loomed before them. The sun was sinking, but he wasn't sure if he wanted to sleep among the Noldor any earlier than he had to.

"Lord Cirdan keeps a small manor within the White City where he houses his people when visiting the king," Aron said with a knowing smile. "It is staffed with our people. My uncle thought you would rather prefer to sleep there before heading to the training field tomorrow morning."

Although he was Lord Istuion’s sister son, Aron looked very much like Lord Istuion, with the Sindarin lord’s white hair and silver eyes. They even shared the same temperament, gentle and warm as a summer wind.

For the past fifty years or so, Aron had left Thranduil and his father and was at Grey Havens where he completed his training as a captain of the guards. As one of the captains for Lord Cirdan’s guards, Aron has chosen to remain in Grey Haven when Oropher left which surprised Thranduil as Aron, like Lord Istuion, was more a family than just a friend.

 “Are you prepared, Thranduil?” Aron asked. “You know that Noldor are the best warriors in Middle Earth?”

“I will be with the cadets, Aron, not full-fledged warriors,” Thranduil said nonchalantly.

“But unlike the Sindar, they train earlier, soon after reaching their one hundred years of age.”

 “And? I have been training since I reached my majority.” 

“That may be true, but you have not had a training in a structured environment and the training will be unfamiliar to you. These youngsters received training in this environment for decades. But more importantly, these cadets are sons of Noldorin nobility from Valinor and are the best among the youth of Lindon.”

“That may be so, but all the cadets are born in Middle Earth. You think they are superior to me?”

“You are far more experienced but don’t underestimate them, Thranduil. Not all, but some of them will be as good as one of the seasoned warriors from Doriath, maybe not as experienced, but as well trained. I have trained with some of them. These Noldor are very skilled.”

”They may beat me with swords, but with a bow…”

“Yes, I have seen your skill at Grey Haven. I don’t think there will be many here that can match your skill with a bow, not even among the full-fledged warriors. But, this is about training as an officer, not about being a bowman. They will expect you to be proficient in all the weapons, not just with a bow.”

“So, you feel I do not qualify?”

“I’m not saying that. Your instincts are honed in the wild, actually fighting orcs and trolls. These cadets, as good as they are, have been trained in a training ground. I have no doubt as to your fighting instincts. But, your skills on individual weapons…" Aron sighed with a shake of his head. "Noldor are superior when it comes to swords and spears although not so much with bows. But, you are Uncle Oropher’s son. If you are anything like Thranarin—“ Aron stopped and took in a sharp breath.

Thranduil bit down a gasp as a sharp pain swept through him.

Even after all these years, hearing his brother’s name said aloud brought on the pain anew. When the sting of the ache passed, Thranduil turned to see Aron looking away, his eyes haunted and dark with the remembered pain.

Thranduil reached out and squeezed Aron’s hand. Thranarin may have been his brother, but he was also Aron’s sworn brother. Aron’s bond with Thranarin had been as strong as his. And when Thranarin fell at Menegroth, Aron was there, had seen what Thranduil had seen. If anyone felt Thranduil’s loss, it was Aron.

Aron squeezed back and nodded, his emotion in control now.

Older than Thranduil by two and half centuries, Aron was born around the same time as Thranarin. He had trained with Thranduil’s brother and joined the Royal Guards at the same time. Along with one other, Durion, who followed Thranduil's father to the east, the three of them had been inseparable until the day Noldor attacked Menegroth.

“I just don’t want you to be crushed.” Aron managed a smile. “Just be ready for some bruises on your ego, Thranduil. I had some sound beatings when I first started and…” Aron hesitated. “Noldor have a tendency to think they are better-- in all things. And mostly, they are.”

“Well, we’ll see about that,” Thranduil scoffed aloud.

 “Do show them, Thranduil.” Aron smiled brightly now.  “I can’t wait to see what you will do to those unfortunate souls that get in your way.”

Thranduil allowed his lips to curve up. Aron knew him well.

“You want me to come with you tomorrow morning?” Aron asked.

“I think I can find my way to a training ground, Aron.” Thranduil rolled his eyes.

Aron smiled with a nod.

“By the way, I got you a sea barrel from Grey Haven. It will be delivered to the manor house in the city. When you have time off from training, you can try it out. I remember how much you enjoyed them. It is for your begotten day present.”

Thranduil smiled, something he did rarely these days. “Indeed? What am I going to do with a sea barrel, Aron?”

Aron shrugged. “Well, there is a lake under the King’s Tower and the water runs all the way down to Gulf of Lhune.  I am sure you’ll find something. You always do.” Then, his expression tightened.

“Talking of Grey Haven, what did you think of Elrond?”

Thranduil quickly turned away. He was not ready to talk about Elrond yet. The ache that started the day he met Elrond at Gray Haven flared up into a painful throb.

“What is there to think about? He's a Noldo,” said Thranduil in a measured tone.

Feeling Aron’s eyes scanning his face, Thranduil tightened the rein over his emotions.

“He looks old. At least, now, he will not age like a mortal. Did you know that although Elrond chose to be one of us, his brother chose to remain a mortal?” Aron asked.

Thranduil turned to Aron.

“Why would Elros do that? What will happen when he age and die? How could they choose to be apart? There are none but two of them left.”

Aron shrugged.                                                           

“Only Valar knows. Elros left for the island with the Edain after the war.”

“That means Elrond is alone. He has no one now, no parents, no brother…” like me, Thranduil sighed. “Elwing wouldn’t have liked that. After what happened at Sirion…” Thranduil said no more, but shook his head.

“I doubt Elrond remembers much of the events at Sirion. Little Elwing did not remember any of it,” Aron said.

Thranduil thought back to the day at Grey Haven when Lord Cirdan introduced the grown up Elrond. Lord Istuion had mentioned that Elrond will be there and Thranduil had steeled himself. He did not expect Elrond to remember him, having seen how little Elwing remembered of her childhood, but it still hurt when Elrond’s gray eyes looked at him without any hint of recognition.

And Little Elrond was no longer little. He had grown into a noble young lord. His twilight black hair and the sculpted chin and cheeks reminded Thranduil of King Dior who was considered beautiful even among the Elves. And Elrond’s gray eyes were very much like Elwing’s, full of warmth. But there was something definitely mannish about him although Thranduil had not met many men. Maybe it was his complexion. All Elves have pale skin, but Elrond was darker than most Elves and more muscular. Like Earendil. Thranduil wondered if Elrond was as hairy as his father. Earendil had hairs in places Thranduil had never thought was possible to have. Thranduil grimaced.

 “Thranduil?” Aron broke into Thranduil’s thoughts.

“Yes, he looks older,” Thranduil mumbled. “Elrond looks older than you, Aron. It seems everybody is passing me and leaving me behind.”

“Well, you are our youngest.” Aron laughed and padded Thranduil’s back, then squeezed his shoulder, looking at him with eyes full of sympathy. “He may not remember you, but you remember him. That should be enough.”

 “It is not as if I expected anything else.” Thranduil scoffed.       

Aron looked unconvinced, but nodded and asked again, “Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you tomorrow?”

“No.”

“Then, I may leave early. Do not be alarmed if you do not see me in the morning.”

 

 

The mouth of River Sirion. May 25, First Age 538

The beach was empty as always. This area was not far from the Elven settlements, but no one ventured out here. The beach was hidden as it lay under a sheer cliff which jutted out above him. Standing above the cliff, one could not see the sandy area underneath. It wouldn't be until Thranduil was past the shadow of the rock above him that anyone on the top of the cliff could see him.

This was his secret place, the one which he shared with no one, not even with Aron and Durion, not that they had much time for him. Although Thranduil reached his majority twenty years ago, warriors took every opportunity to leave him behind. And when he is included, Thranduil was always kept at the back, away from the dangers where he was allowed to pick off orcs from distance. He knew that he was too young to be initiated into the Warrior Order, but times were different now. They needed every abled body who could wield a sword or a bow. Dangers around them have grown while the number of warriors diminished. So many of the warriors had been lost at Menegroth.

But while he convinced his father to train him as soon as he turned his majority, even now, warriors kept him away from the heat of the battle whenever they could. But, how was he to learn to be a warrior when he was always pushed behind the backs of others whenever there was any skirmish worth mentioning.

This time, too, while Lord Amdir took Aron and Durion to meet with the warriors from Noldorin settlement to stop orcs that were encroaching too near their haven, Thranduil had been excluded.

His mother, at least, had given up insisting that Thranduil become a healer. Not only is the healing art something Thranduil had no talent in, he wasn’t even remotely interested in it. He had no idea why his mother had it in mind to make him a healer.

Tamping down the mounting frustration, Thranduil urged his horse into a run. He was not allowed outside the living quarters during evenings, certainly not around marshes and definitely not in the open areas like this beach, but Thranduil figured what his parents did not know wouldn't hurt them or him. At least, if they found him missing in the morning, they wouldn’t be as alarmed as they would be to find him missing after the dark.

So far, the Dark Lord’s creatures had not found their settlements, but there were dangers all around them, especially at night. But at times like this when the sun was rising and everything glittered golden, Thranduil felt it was still like those old times, back in Doriath, under the beech trees of the Forest of Neldoreth.

As Thranduil felt Brennil stretch her neck and thunder down the firmly packed sand, trembling with excitement at being allowed to run freely, he closed his eyes and spread his arms wide and felt the winds rush past him, whipping his hair and face. He was sure that if he could fly, it would feel like this.

He whooped at the top of his lung, as loud as he could and laughed out aloud. This was the only place he could do this as the noise of the waves and wind masked all the sounds he made, no matter how loud.

All the anguish he felt seems to disappear at this moment, all his frustrations and anger that he wanted to hide from his father, and especially from his gentle mother.

Feeling better, Thranduil rode back up the narrow track between the two large boulders. The entry to the beach area was hidden by tall grasses that grew abundant here. Thranduil had found this pass only two moons ago, tracking a game.

Just as he got up onto the grassland by the bank of the river that flowed down into the sea, Thranduil looked up towards the white tower of Arvernien as he always did when he was here. The Noldorin settlement where Elwing lived with her husband Earendil and the refugees from Gondolin was built on a top of a cliff, westward from the Sindarin settlement headed by his father.

There was something heavy laden over its sky, something dark.

Curious, Thranduil rode towards it. Elwing’s mansion was only an hour of hard ride away.

Then, he saw them, tall spears and red armors glistening in the sky that was just now beginning to lighten. The sun was not yet over the Ered Luin (Blue Mountains) but he could see the glittering red armors and helms trimmed in gold. When he was close, but far enough to not gather their notice, Thranduil got off his horse and crept towards the soldiers. If there was one thing he had learned from his father’s warriors, it was stealth. And these red-armored soldiers were obviously Noldor and Thranduil had learned to be wary of them.

When Thranduil saw the device on the armors glinting on the faint dawn, he froze. He could never forget it: Eight flames with eight rays shooting out of a jewel in the middle. A device of Feanor.

Thranduil’s heart pounded like a war drum.

 

 

 

White City. April 10, Second Age 144

"Thranduil! Thranduil!”

Someone called, but Thranduil could not turn away from the scene before him.

Thousands of glittering spears and those warriors in red and gold armor turned suddenly and they faced Thranduil. Their eyes radiated with piercing light and their spears ran red with blood as the soldiers thumped end of their spears on the ground. The sound was deafening as the ground trembled beneath the young Sinda.

And there was blood.

There was so much blood they flowed like a river all around him, around Thranduil’s feet. Dark claw of fear gripped Thranduil’s heart, its ragged iron nails tore through his tender flesh. Thranduil gulped down air. He wanted to scream. He wanted to run, but hands, hundreds of hands, stained red with blood sprouted out of the ground, through the river of blood and closed around his mouth, his neck and his feet. They held onto his arms and his legs and dragged him down into the river of blood.

Thranduil choked and gasped for air, unable to scream or struggle.

Someone shook him hard and the world before him began to fade. But the red blood did not. His lung screamed and his chest tightened painfully. He was drowning.

“Thranduil!”

A painful slap on the face ripped Thranduil from the blood stained hands. Thranduil opened his eyes wide, gasping for air. His body shook like a tree in the storm as his lungs burned. He couldn’t breathe.

“Breathe, Thranduil. Breathe. It was just a dream, my friend. Just a dream,” Aron’s voice soothed as he grasped Thranduil’s face, his hands cool and comforting against the fever that ran through him.

When air filled his lungs, Thranduil looked up and saw Aron’s dark silver eyes looking down at him.

He sat up on the bed and willed his trembling to stop. Yet, his hands still shook. Aron got up and brought a glass and pressed it to Thranduil’s lips. Even now, his chest burned as if he had been drowning.

“Drink!” the older Elf commanded.

Thranduil turned away. He had not wanted Aron to know. Aron was so over-protective, as bad as Glineth, sometimes worse.

“Drink now, Thranduil,” Aron’s usually gentle voice was filled with steel. Thranduil rolled his eyes, but took the glass and drank.

“When did you start having nightmares again?” Aron asked, his face pale and drawn.

“I’m fine.”

“Thranduil…”

Thranduil got out of bed. “Stop coddling me! I’m not a child. In two days, I will be 266 years old, not a child of 38. I can handle one nightmare.”

Aron frowned at him, but Thranduil stared back; he will not back down. For too long, too many have sacrificed for him. No more.

Aron sighed. “If there is--”

“I know. I know. If there is anything that doesn’t seem right, I am to let you, rather, to let your uncle know. Satisfied?”

Aron nodded.

“Then, go, before you are late on account of me. I can find my way around. If my brother has not told you, I can speak Quenya as well as I speak Sindarin.”

Aron’s eyes widened.

That was no surprise. Quenya was forbidden to be used or spoken in Doriath. But his mother had not agreed that knowledge should be forbidden, and his father had agreed. And within the security of their own chambers, his mother had taught Thranduil and his brother.

“I don’t think anyone here speaks Quenya anymore.” Aron smiled after a while.  "Never mind that. Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you?”

“I’m sure.”

Aron held Thranduil’s eyes for a moment, but in the end, he nodded.

“Then, I'm off to see Lord Erestor. I will be breaking my fast with him. Don’t forget to eat before you leave. It will be a long day. Just look for the tallest white tower on the top of the hill. You can’t miss it.”

 

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Edain-- 3 Houses of men who helped Elves in their wars against Morgoth. In order to thank them for their loyalty and assistance, Valar granted them an island near Valinor.

the Island-- Refers to Numenor which Valar gave Edain for their help in the fight against Morgoth. Elros was its first king.  Aragorn's ancestors are from Numenor and are descended from Elos.

On Elrond’s Age —Elrond was born in the First Age 532. After the War of Wrath ended in FA 587, Elrond was 55 years old and a mortal when he was given a choice to become an Elf. But as a Peredhel, Elrond would have aged much slower than other Men. Tolkien said Aragorn as a Numenorean had a longer life than most men. Tolkien considered Aragorn to be at the prime of his life, a man of about 45 years old at the time of LOTR which is about half his age of 87 years. So if Elrond was like Aragorn, he would have looked like 27 year old when he was 55. But, unlike Aragorn, Elrond has undiluted Elven blood in his veins which would have given him some advantage of couple years, I think. Still, Elrond would have looked older than Thranduil and Aron despite being younger.

Arvernien—Southernmost tip of Beleriand where Cirdan established a secret haven for the Elves running from Morgoth. In FA 506 Feanor’s sons attacked Menegroth and Sindarin refugees fled here and established a settlement by the Mouth of Sirion. They were joined by the refugees from Gondolin in FA 511 (they took close to a year to travel to the haven).

Quenya--Ancient Elven language used by those who live in Valinor. Noldor spoke Quenya until Thingol forbid its use upon learning of the first kin-slaying of his brother Olwe's people by Noldor. Afterward, Noldor adopted Sindarin and Quenya is used only for ceremonies. (Think of Quenya as Latin for Elves)

 

Chapter Text

White City. April 10, Second Age 144

THRANDUIL stood outside Lord Cirdan’s manor. The darkness was fading, the moon pale in the sky. Yet it was still too early and there was no one else around.

With his pack on his shoulder, Thranduil looked up at the tall tower on the top of the hill. The White City was built on a large hill overlooking Gulf of Lune to the south with the Blue Mountains to the east. Lord Cirdan’s manor where Thranduil stayed was located just within the walls of the White City by the South Gate.

Once outside the manor, a street paved with white stones steadily headed all the way around the large hill and on top of that hill was a massive white tower, taller than any other structures in the city.

Not seeing anyone around, Thranduil headed up the road. Now that he was out of the manor, he was famished. He realized that he had not eaten anything since he left the mansion two days ago. Last night, being in the Noldorin city had made him uneasy and he had no appetite. And, this morning the blood in his dreams had made his stomach queasy and could not eat. Thranduil hoped that they served good meals for the cadets. He could even eat an Orc now. Then he grimaced. Well, maybe not an Orc. 

As he walked up the road, Thranduil noticed that on each side of the road there were many smaller side streets and on each side of the streets were rows of houses built with white stones with pointed roofs and bright blue tiles. Tall, arched windows with elaborately curved window sills crafted in white wood were everywhere.

Some of the houses were large with sweeping stairs. Many of them were decorated with tear-shaped amber lights under the eaves of their roofs, some with silver chimes. Under the approaching dawn, the houses glowed pale. And every time wind swept between the houses, a soft sound of tinkering music wafted through the still empty streets.

The chimes reminded Thranduil of his childhood home in Menegroth with its silver fountains and chimes made of crystals. Instead of amber lights, they hung golden lanterns among the carven branches of stone white trees where Lady Melian’s nightingales sang sweet songs amongst the bejeweled leaves.

His heart constricted. An iron claw that held his heart ever since they left the burning Menegroth tightened and dug into the tender part of his heart as his thoughts flitted toward the Western Garden of Menegroth and his beloved beech tree. They were all gone now, deep in the bottom of the ocean. The claw dug deeper.

Thranduil’s throat thickened as he stood in the middle of the empty streets listening to the silver chimes and their haunting songs.

Just then, a peal of laughter rang through the empty streets. Thranduil turned to watch two young Elves, barely past their majority, run past him, laughing. Their dark hair danced in the early morning wind, their laughter clear and joyful. They ran to someone who sauntered out of one of the houses ahead of Thranduil. Then, the two youngsters squealed with delight before running down the street. A tall Elf with dark hair stood watching the two youngsters, shaking his head. He wore a light tan colored tunic, sleeves rolled up over a well-muscled arm.

Thranduil approached the Elf having decided to ask for the direction. Among the myriad of roads and streets, there must be one road that ran directly to the King’s Tower.

“Excuse me. May I ask what is the best road to take to the King’s Tower?” Thranduil asked.

The Elf turned around to face Thranduil. The light in his eyes was pale and keen, making his eyes glow in the approaching dawn.

Thranduil widened his eyes and stumbled back. Ice laced down his spine.

“Are you all right, young master?” the Elf asked.

Thranduil’s heart thumped loud and painful as the iron claw clamped over it.

The Elf reached out and touched Thranduil’s arm. The skin of his arm where the Noldo touched burned. Thranduil snatched his arm from the Elf, then turned and ran.

“Did you not want to know how to get to the King’s Tower?” the Noldorin Elf called from behind him. Thranduil didn’t turn back but slowed his steps and kept walking, biting down the desire to run. He was no coward; he will not run.

His heart thumped so loud, it blocked everything else. 

Do not let fear rule you. Thranduil repeated his mother’s words to him. His mother had taken decades instilling that into him. He will not let her down. Thranduil clenched his back teeth and walked on even though he didn’t know where he was going. The street paved with white stones curved. He followed up the road, then down and up again until the street curved again.

The tower loomed high up above him. He looked up at the sky. It was so much brighter now and more people were on the streets.

Thranduil picked up his pace and ran up the white road. The road went ever higher. Then he stopped abruptly.

In front of him was a wide-open area with white stone walls that came up to his thighs. It was a dead end. He was high up now and he could see a tall dark mountain rising ahead of him and behind the mountain, the sun was rising and the sky was blood red.

Thranduil took in a sharp breath as his chest heaved. The claw squeezed and his heart tightened as if it will burst.

So much blood.

He turned to stone. His feet grew roots and burrowed into the spot. His heart thumped faster, louder, frantic war drums in his ears. His breath hitched and became painful. As he watched, frozen and mute, the sun rose higher and the red began to bleed away.

The rising sun tinted the entire sky golden. The white stones in front of him glittered like silken robes of an Elven lady as the golden light turned white and the sun rose fully out of the shadows of the mountain.

Thranduil stood watching the sun and felt his heart slow into a soft thump. His head that has been pounding a moment ago, cleared.

He closed his eyes and let out a long breath, and stretched out his senses to feel the air around him. He dug deep inside him as his mother taught him. Ever since he decided to stay in Lindon, he was on edge. He had allowed emotions to affect him, snapping at people who didn’t deserve them. How childish was he?

Thranduil took in another breath. Keep your fears in control, Thranduil reminded himself. You have fought this shadow once.  Back in Sirion, after Menegroth. But, then, he had his sun and the moon back then. Now, there were no lights left in this world for him. Thranduil opened his eyes wide and glared at the shadows dispersing now. But I am no longer a child. I am stronger now. Over hundred years he had struggled in the wild east, running through the grasslands, venturing through the unknown passes among the mountains and strange forests, and fighting under the dark gray nights in the cold of the north. Through all that he fought his shadows and kept them at bay. He can do it again.

He fisted his hands. He squared his shoulders and turned around.

Then it struck him; the line-up was at sunrise. Cursing softly, Thranduil looked around. Ahead of him, the stone roadway headed up higher and on the pinnacle stood a stone tower glowing bright white in the rising sun.

The King’s Tower.  

Thranduil quickened his pace as more people began to appear on the streets. Soon, one, then three then six people began to pass him. Thranduil felt himself stiffen, heat rise in his body. Their eyes didn’t seem to glow in the full light of the sun, but Thranduil couldn’t help the shudder that ran through him as he passed more and more Noldorin Elves on the street.

Willing his stiff body to move, Thranduil hastened, his eyes fixed on the white tower. In a few moments, the street he was on came to a wide avenue. The avenue headed straight up to the King’s Tower.

Up close, the King’s Tower was a colossal structure built atop a low grassy hill surrounded by a channel of water.

The road he was on led to the King’s Tower through a white bridge behind massive double gates. The gates were wide open.

On each side of the gate was a large stone carving of a guard in great helm and armor holding a spear in one hand and a shield in the other. Carved in white granite, it glowed golden as the morning sun shone down on them. They were about five stories tall on each side of the great gate and beneath each statute stood a real-life guard in the golden armor reminiscent of those of Gondolin guards Thranduil had seen at Arvernien. Their golden helms were tall and curved and decorated with blue gems. On their shoulders, they wore deep blue cloaks that fell about their feet. And from their eyes, lights keener than starlight shone. Thranduil stood still, unable to take his eyes off the two guards and the light in their eyes.

“What is your business at the King’s Tower?” one of the guards asked when Thranduil who stood rooted in front of them did not speak.

“I…I am here to train,” Thranduil managed, relieved that his voice did not shake.

The other guard looked up at the sky.

“You are late, are you not?”

“Well, I am here now,” Thranduil lifted his chin and stood back, his shoulder squared, doing his best to relax his stiffening muscles.

The guard who spoke first frowned then looked at the other.

“The gate that accesses the training fields is at the end of the garden in the middle of the palace. The training fields are adjacent to West Courtyard which is directly below the King’s Tower. I would run if I were you, young one,” said the other.

Willing his stiff legs to move, Thranduil ran over the bridge and through the garden which led to a large courtyard paved with white stones. At the far end of the courtyard was large stairs and each side of the stairs was a balustrade in elaborate patterns made of white wood.

By the stairs that led downward stood a lone figure, a tall and thin Elf with long dark hair in elaborate warrior braids. As Thranduil approached the stairs, the Elf turned to face Thranduil.

“Are you here to train?” He wore a golden leather armor instead of gold plated armor worn by the guards by the gate. But he was without the blue cloak. He, too, was a Noldo from Valinor and his eyes were bright with fierce light. Thranduil swallowed hard and nodded stiffly. Instead of the Elf’s eyes, Thranduil tried to focus on the crooked nose of the Elf.

Elves do not have scars or any type of blemish on their skin. Unlike mortals, on Elves, scars healed completely over time and did not leave any marks. But, this Elf must have had his nose broken at one time and it healed without being set properly.

“You are late! Do you think this is some play gathering? Drop your pack and run! Everyone is already lined up,” the Elf barked pointing to the stairs.

Taken back by the command, Thranduil dropped his pack and ran down the stairs.

But at the first landing, he stopped from running despite himself. The training fields were immense. Wide as the ocean, three levels of fields spread out before him.

The stairs from the landing where Thranduil stood led to the first level which was a wide open field inlaid with flat slabs of rock. Below that was another field that was twice the size of the first one and covered in short grass. And the field at the bottom was the largest open field Thranduil had ever seen. The ground of the last one was rough with uneven surfaces. From where he stood, just outside the King’s Tower, he could see all three fields below him. The smallest field just down the stairs could hold about 2-3000 soldiers and each field lower could easily hold twice the one above it.

There were many Elves on each of those three training grounds, some doing drills, others practicing simulated battles.

Thranduil looked around. It would take all day to find where he had to go, then he saw that the field just below him held Elves who were not yet in uniform.

Thranduil took in a big breath and walked down the rest of the stairs to approach the Elves on the first field.

I may be late, but I made it. How much harder can this be?  Thranduil comforted himself.

 

But, he was wrong. The day was just about to get worse. Much worse.

Chapter Text

White City. April 10, Second Age 144

 

ELROND surveyed the cadets around him. With Spring, all three training fields were filled with warriors doing drills, practicing new skills or testing out new arms.

 Now that there was no Dark Lord and his minions scattered, more Elves were having children. But this year was the first time in this Age that they were able to recruit enough youth who were old enough. Despite the peace of the times, the king wanted a well-trained army.

“Elrond, did you hear about the Lord Commander?” Belegor asked. Excitement rose from his companion like ocean waves.

Belegor and the many of the cadets here were those born at the beginning of the Age and Elrond have been training with them for several decades now.

From this group, top three will be given a choice to join any division such as the coveted position within the royal guards, even a chance to train with the elite group of warriors known as Silmacil. Although all of them will be given a command of their own squad after the training, there was also a rumor that Lord Gilmagor, the Lord Commander of the King’s Army, will train the cadets himself.

 “Do you think it is true that Lord Gilmagor will train us?” Belegor asked.

“I do not know, but the king believes so. But, I don’t think Lord Gilmagor will instruct all of us from the beginning. Only the top cadets will have that honor,” Elrond said, his eyes scanning the entrance to the practice field. Where was this Sinda? Elrond glanced at the brightening sky.

 “Perfect. That would mean we will be among the chosen,” Belegor said, lifting his chin as he, too, looked about him. “You and I are the best.”

“Perhaps,” Elrond said.

I should have visited Lord Cirdan’s mansion in the woods. Elrond sighed. He knew the king expected him to befriend Thranduil during the Sinda’s stay in Lindon, but Elrond had talked himself out of the visit. At the Grey Havens, Thranduil made it clear that he wanted to be left alone. It was never said aloud, but the message had been unmistakable.

Elrond looked at the sky again. The sun was rising. The Sinda should have been here already.

“Do you know what will they be testing us on? I heard they will test us today to see how much we know,” Belegor said.

Elrond shook his head.

They have not been given a detail as to what the officer training entailed. Elrond heard many different versions, though. Gil-galad’s army consisted of old warriors from different realms of First Age and they all had their own way of training their new recruits.

Elrond looked at Belegor. “Once the drill masters are here, I am sure they will give us the details.”

Just then, three warriors in golden leather armor over blue tunic approached the group. Even just by looking at the way they walked, no one could mistake them for anyone other than warriors. There was power in their confident strides. All three of them wore their warrior braids with pleats on them showing that they are officers.

The sun rose out of the mountains and the sky was bright. They were not the same officers who had trained him and many of the cadets, but Elrond recognized the tallest of the three. He was a lieutenant in the Royal Guards responsible for the protection of the king and highly respected among the warriors.

“Gather up!” the lieutenant said. “Six columns.”

Immediately cadets separated into equal numbers to form six columns in front of the officers.

“First, I am Lieutenant Gwendir. To my left is Officer Bellion and to my right, Officer Malthorn. We will be your instructors as well as judges. I understand most of you have been training here for some time. Then, I will assume you are aware of the rules, but we do have someone new joining us,” Officer Gwendir said looking at Officer Bellion.

“Sir! We are missing one. There are only twenty-three of them,” Officer Bellion said.

A murmur went through those gathered.

“I guess we will start with a name call then…” Gwindir said with a frown.

“Is it true that Lord Gilmagor will be training us?” Someone at the back of the line spoke up.

“It seems some of you have forgotten the basic rules. What is Rule 3, cadet?”

“Sir! Do not speak until spoken to. Sir!”

“If you know the rule, I suggest you follow it,” Gwendir said then looked around at the rest. “Once the training starts, any disobedience will not be tolerated. Understood?”

“Yes, sir!” Cadets said in unison.

“Now then, who is the new face. Let us see him,” said Lieutenant Gwendir as he looked around the cadets.

No one moved forward and a murmur ran through the cadets as they looked around themselves. Elrond grimaced when he saw, behind the shoulder of the lieutenant, someone coming down from the top of the staircase that connected King’s Tower to the training fields.

There was no mistaking who it was. None now lived that Elrond had seen who had the glittering gold hair like Thranduil other than Lady Galadriel although his was much paler in shade.

And there Thranduil was, his waist long hair loose and without any warrior braids, shimmering like a spray of water all about him. Elrond thought Thranduil did not want to be noticed. That was the feeling Elrond got when he first met the Sinda, but if the fool truly did not want to be noticed, he certainly wasn’t doing a good job avoiding attention.

As Thranduil walked down the stairs, Elrond felt the waves of curiosity rising in other cadets as they, too, caught sight of the Sinda. Once at the bottom of the stairs, Thranduil stood at the edge of the training ground, obviously unsure as to where he needed to go. The blond Sinda scanned the crowd. When his cool eyes fell on Elrond, Thranduil squared his shoulders and walked toward the lieutenant who stood in front of the cadets.

It was then that the feelings of excitement suddenly shot up all around him bombarding Elrond with a flurry of emotion. Even when he was trying his best to control his senses, not wishing to intrude on others, it was hard to ignore such explosion of excitement. Elrond looked up at Thranduil as the tall Sinda approached, then bit down a groan when he saw another figure far behind the blond Sinda. It was Lord Gilmagor, the master swordsman and Lord Commander of the King’s Army.

Because this was the first day of the officer training, Elrond had not expected the Lord Commander to be here. Known as the greatest swordmaster of the known world, it is said that while Feanor first invented armor and weapons, Lord Gilmagor developed the Way of the Sword and what is now known as the Noldorin Style. It is believed that all the best swordsmen among Noldor, and all those from House of Finwe, were instructed by him.

He was also the king’s teacher and Gil-galad respectfully deferred to him in all military matters. Elrond knew that Gil-galad had wanted Lord Gilmagor to train him. But even the king did not command the swordmaster. Elrond understood that if he wanted to learn from Lord Gilmagor, he had to earn that honor.

And now Lord Gilmagor was here. Elrond could understand the tenseness mixed with excitement from those cadets around him. He knew that every one of them wanted to have Lord Gilmagor as their instructor.

Thranduil approached the lieutenant, oblivious of the figure behind him. Lord Gilmagor stopped far back.

Lieutenant Gwendir whirled around to face Thranduil when the blond Sinda cleared his throat.

“Yes?” Gwendir said to Thranduil.

The blond Sinda looked taken back at first. For a brief moment, a strong wave of unease emanated from Thranduil, but before Elrond could grasp the emotion, Thranduil seemed to have regained composure and took control, blocking Elrond’s senses from reading any further.

“I am here to train,” Thranduil said after clearing his throat once again.

“Have you been informed that the line-up was at sunrise.”

“Yes.”

“Did your sun rise later than theirs?” Gwendir said, tilting his head towards the cadets in front of him.

A laughter swept through the cadets. Thranduil’s face flushed, but he did not look away.

“No, it did not,” Thranduil said.

Gwendir waited but Thranduil said no more.

“No excuse for being late?” Lord Gilmagor who had stood far back from them was suddenly in front of them. Gwendir straightened, thumped his heart twice with his fist and stepped back, giving his spot to Lord Gilmagor.

“None,” Thranduil said as he faced the elder Elf.

Elrond frowned when Thranduil seemed to shrink back from the swordmaster. The Sinda stood back, his body tense and rigid, so different from the confident and cold youth Elrond saw at the Grey Haven.

“Good. Because there is no excuse for being late.” Gilmagor turned to the group. “Am I clear?” Lord Commander’s voice was filled with steel. It was a powerful voice yet with the resonance of a river flowing peacefully under sunlight.

“Yes, sir!” Everyone shouted out.

“Name.” Gilmagor turned to Thranduil.

Thranduil swallowed hard, but said, “Thranduil Oropherion.”

“Son of Oropher? You are a Sinda?” Gilmagor frowned.

As soon as Gilmagor said the word “Sinda” Elrond felt the curiosity and interest of the cadets for Thranduil deflate, a ball that just got punctured.

Elrond swallowed the bitterness in his mouth. He had expected such reaction, but he was disappointed at the immediate cooling of the interests of the warriors around him based on the knowledge that the newcomer is a Sinda.

Most of the cadets chosen to become officers are the offspring of Noldorin nobles although many of the incoming soldiers are Sindar and the number of Sindar that lived in Lindon far outnumbered that of the Noldor.

It is true that most Noldor are superior when it comes to warfare and handling of weapons. Even so, Elrond knew there was a definite tendency among the Noldor to look down at Sindar, especially Nandor, as inferior. It was never said or spoken outright, but Elrond felt it as surely as a winter wind that chilled his skin even when it could not be seen.

“Well, Thranduil Oropherion. Lateness does not exist among my soldiers. That is immediate disqualification…” Gilmagor’s voice rang out.

Elrond wished he had taken the time to talk to the blond Sinda. Had he reminded Thranduil, maybe this would not have happened. Although Elrond had no love for Thranduil, he also disliked the snicker that rippled through the cadets. The moment Gilmagor let it known that Thranduil is a Sinda, he was labeled inferior by the Noldorin cadets.

“My lord,” Elrond stepped out of the line where he was standing. “Thranduil is new to—” But his words were cut off.

“Did I tell you to speak, Earendilion?” Gilmagor turned his cool gray eyes toward Elrond. Elrond felt his body heat up. The Lord Commander’s steel gray eyes bore into Elrond and he felt ice slid down his spine.

“Lieutenant Gwendir!” Gilmagor called.

“Sir!” Officer Gwendir stepped in next to the swordmaster.

“It seems to me, your cadets do not know the rules. Why don’t you enlighten them.”

“Sir!” Gwendir brought his fist to his heart, then turned to those lined up.

“There are only four simple rules: One, do not question the order given. Two, do not place your fellow soldiers in peril. Three, do not speak until spoken to. Four, the last goes without.

The Lord Commander turned to the cadets once the lieutenant was done with the reciting of the rules.

“You are here to become an officer, a leader, an example among others. What you do will reflect on all who follow you. A muddy water upstream will cloud all the waters downstream. Never forget that.”

Then, he turned to Thranduil and Elrond. He gestured them to come closer.

“I would have thought both of you know duty and obligation better than most. It seems you need to be reminded what it means to carry a burden,” Gilmagor said and his eyes bored into Elrond then Thranduil. The Sinda seemed more flustered than Elrond thought possible. “At the end of the Sun Field is a pillar,” Gilmagor continued. “And by that pillar are the white stones that were used to build the King’s Tower. Grab a piece of rock from there and bring it up to here,” Gilmagor pointed to a stone pillar at the edge of the field nearest to where the cadets were lined up. “And, be quick. Until you return, your brothers at arms here will be doing the push-ups.”

Gilmagor gestured toward Gwendir.

“Feet up!” Gwendir commanded.

Cadets flashed daggers at Thranduil and Elrond as they did a headstand with their feet straight up in the air, their entire body supported by their arms.

“Count!” Gilmagor ordered and the cadets shouted out “one!” as they flexed their arms to lower themselves to touch their chin to the ground, then back up again.

“How big?” Thranduil asked.

“Make that two. And, for the rest, double up!” Gilmagor shouted.

The cadets flexed their arms touched their chin to the ground, then pushed themselves off the ground to clap before landing back on their hands to touch their chin again, their feet still up in the air to straighten their arms.

“Two!”

Thranduil cursed under his breath but ran toward the edge of the field leading to the stone bridge that connected the upper field to the lower. Elrond followed.

I should not have said anything, Elrond regretted, but he had not expected this.

The king had introduced Elrond to Lord Gilmagor some decades ago, but Gilmagor stayed away from the palace and the politics. It was only two decades ago that Lord Gilmagor finally succumbed to the king’s request and accepted the command of the army. During that time, Gilmagor had corrected Elrond on his form, explained intricacies of swordsmanship, but did not officially train him. Gil-galad had warned Elrond that Gilmagor was fastidious with people and extremely careful about who he took on as his students. After completing the training of the king, Gilmagor had not accepted any new students so it was a surprise that he had agreed to train the cadets himself.

 Elrond caught up to Thranduil.

“Why were you late?” Elrond asked. “Was the time unclear to you?”

“No,” Thranduil said.

Elrond waited but realized that Thranduil had no intention of explaining.

“If you were aware of the correct time, then why were you late?” Elrond frowned up at Thranduil whose face was impassive and devoid of expression that Elrond could read.

Thranduil glanced at him briefly with a frown but remained silent.

“Had you been on time, we wouldn’t be in this mess—”

“I did not ask you to defend me.” Thranduil stopped, then glared at Elrond before speeding up ahead.

They ran past the bridge that connected the second field to the third. Although Elrond had trained in these fields, this was the first time he had to lug up a rock. But he knew that while it was easy going down, it will be another matter to go back up carrying a load.

“How big are these fields?” Thranduil asked when Elrond reached his side.

“From Edalan to Ithilan to Anoran…Down then go all the way back up, little over a league and half, I believe.”

Thranduil turned to Elrond. “Those are the names of the fields?”

“Yes, the smallest field on top is Edalan (Star Field), the middle one is Ithilan (Moon Field) and the largest is Anoran (Sun Field).”

“Interesting. Well, a league and half. That isn’t so bad.”

“You think so? Wait until we have to go back up with the load,” Elrond said dryly, biting down the desire to roll his eyes.

 

The slopes that connected the training grounds were rather steep and in no time, they arrived at the end of the Sun Field where there were piles of rocks just outside the boundary of the field. Thranduil stood at the edge of the field as Elrond took a breath.

“Did he mean these rocks? They are big,” Thranduil mumbled.

Elrond looked down at a large formation of rocks just at the edge of the field. There were boulders as large as one of the houses, but even smaller ones were twice the size of their head.

Thranduil jumped down among the rocks and started to look through them.

“What are you doing?”

“Looking for the smallest one. He did not say how big.”

“I don’t think we have the time,” Elrond said. “It will take us much longer to go up if you didn’t notice. We have uphill as well as the weight to drag us down.”

Thranduil scoffed aloud at that, but he took up a rock slightly smaller than half his torso. He threw it at Elrond who caught it with a grunt, then picked up another.

“Let’s go,” he said and scrambled up the edge onto the field.

“But, he said two.”

“We have two,” Thranduil said. “One,” he held up the one in his hand. “Two,” he gestured toward the one Elrond held.

“I do not believe that is what he meant.”

“I don’t care what he meant. He said two and we have two.” Thranduil turned and ran toward the rampart up the middle field.

Why in the Valar’s names did I bother to speak up! Elrond looked up toward the West, then he picked up another rock with his other hand. Carrying one more added significantly more weight. He looked up at the Star Field from where he stood. The way up seemed far indeed. Elrond weighted the rocks in his hands. Extra rock will slow him down. Elrond thought of the cadets up on the Star Field then dropped one and followed after Thranduil. If he were to show up with two when Thranduil only had one, there will be no way for the Sinda to defend his action.

 

By the time they ran up the ramp onto the Star Field, both were panting. The rock which hadn’t felt that heavy in the beginning had begun to weigh like a dragon hoard.

“We better get moving,” Elrond said, noticing the condition of the cadets.

The cadets on the ground were in a bad shape. Barely any of them were maintaining their legs high up toward the sky. Their faces were red and their arms shook.

Elrond ran toward the pillar Gilmagor had mentioned and dropped his rock, followed by Thranduil.

Lord Gilmagor motioned to Gwendir and the cadets tumbled into a heap where they were. Lord Gilmagor glanced at the rocks under the pillar, then tilted his head as both Elrond and Thranduil stood at attention.

“Why are there only two rocks?” The lord commander looked at Elrond then at Thranduil.

“You said ‘make that two’, sir!” Thranduil said. “We brought up two. Sir!”

Gilmagor’s eyes flashed. His lips curved, but the smile did not reach his eyes. “Well, Thranduil Oropherion. So, I did,” Gilmagor’s voice was soft as a bird feather.

He turned to Elrond, “Go join others, Earendilion.”

Elrond hesitated. He certainly didn’t want to get into further trouble, but at the same time, he did not want to leave Thranduil. He felt responsible for the Sinda and although the sword master kept his emotion hidden as well as Thranduil did, Elrond could feel a storm rising in the sword master.

Thranduil was in trouble.

_______________
Silmacil (Sindarin, White Sword)—an elite group of warriors charged with special missions (my creation)

 

Nandor (Quenya, Those who turned back)—part of Teleri who followed Elwe (King Thingol) but turned back at Misty Mountains and remained in the great forest. They are also known as Silvan Elves or Wood Elves. Portion of Nandor who traveled to Beleriand and joined Sindar later is called Laiquendi (Quenya, Green Elves)

 

*Edalan (Star Field), Ithilan (Moon Field) and Anoran (Sun Field) –the names of the three training grounds (in my story only) will be in English. As Elvish is not my forte, I will stick to what I know.

Chapter Text

White City. April 10, Second Age 144

 

ELROND watched as Lord Gilmagor turned to Thranduil.

“I wanted two rocks from you, Oropherion. Should I start the cadets on another set of push-ups?”

The cadets behind them groaned.

“I think our Sindarin prince is used to getting his way and does not know how to take orders from others,” Lord Gilmagor said as he gestured Lieutenant Gwendir.

Thranduil’s face turned a dark shade of red and before Elrond could stop him, Thranduil picked up the rock he just dropped, then hurled it against a stone pillar. With a thunderous cry, the rock split into two.

“You want two rocks, then have two rocks!” Thranduil hissed.

There was a gasp and everybody fell silent.

It was so quiet, Elrond could hear the soft gurgle of water flowing on the sides of the training fields. Gilmagor shook his head and wagged his finger at Thranduil.

“Temper, temper, Oropherion. Now, not only are you late, you just violated Rule Number 3. Go back down and bring up two pieces of rocks. Go!”

Thranduil’s face turned even darker as he glared at Gilmagor, but he turned and stomped away toward the bridge that connected the Star Field to the one below it.

“Rest of you, twenty laps around the Star Field, then armor up.”

Elrond stood motionless, watching Thranduil. He should have informed the Sinda of the rules and maybe he should have met with him prior to the start of the training. But he had not wanted to see Thranduil again and had put it away at the back of his head. It was his fault. Elrond fisted his hands.

“Move on, Earendilion,” Gilmagor said as he turned away.

Elrond knew he should just do as he was told. This was the way of the military, especially during training, but Elrond knew he wouldn’t forgive himself if he walked away now.

“My lord,” he called out before Gilmagor walked away.

Lord Gilmagor stopped, then turned around slowly. The Lord Commander's forehead was pinched and his eyes were narrowed. Lieutenant Gwendir who stood just behind Lord Gilmagor shook his head at Elrond, but the Half-Elf braced himself and faced Gilmagor.

“I, too, didn’t bring two rocks and I knew you meant two, sir!”

“Earendilion," Gilmagor's voice was cold and steady. "Your father was one of my students at Sirion although for a brief time. Do not think my tenderness for him will make me lenient towards you.”

Elrond picked up his chin and stood at attention.

“No, sir! I do not expect that. Sir!”

Gilmagor’s steel gray eyes bore into Elrond like ice spear. Elrond held his breath, unable to breathe, biting down the desire to run. When his body felt frozen and Elrond felt as if he will crumble on the spot, Gilmagor turned his chin toward the bridge and walked away.

Taking a lungful of breath, Elrond ran after Thranduil.

Thranduil did not bother to run this time. He sauntered down the small stone bridge then onto the Moon Field as if he had all the time in the world.

“We better hurry up if we hope to make it on time,” Elrond said as he slowed down next to the blond Sinda. “They will be getting their armor and weapon after the run. The last one always goes without. They always have one less than the number needed. If we hurry, we could at least get to the armors and weapons in time—“

“Why are you here?” Thranduil said, his eyes straight ahead. “Didn’t the Crooked Nose tell you to join others?”

“Crooked Nose?” Elrond looked at Thranduil, but the blond Sinda did not answer. Elrond let out a sigh. “What does it matter? We better hurry. It will take much more time to carry two rocks up the fields.”

Thranduil stopped in his track and threw Elrond an icy gaze.

“Elrond I had known at Sirion was smarter than you and he was only six years old,” Thranduil said. “Stay away from me if you know what is good for you.” With that Thranduil took to a run, leaving Elrond behind.

 

 

The two pieces of rock they had to hurl did slow down their progress noticeably and by the time they have gotten up to the Star Field, most of the cadets were already in their armor and gathered at the training ground.

“Come on, Thranduil.” Elrond urged Thranduil into the armory at the base of the King’s Tower. As they walked in, the last group of Elves was walking out, each with a body armor, greaves, vambraces and a spear. One of them thrust a bundle to Elrond along with a spear.

“We saved it for you,” he said as he glanced at Thranduil, then hurried out with his fellow cadets.

Thranduil must have heard, but he walked in, glanced at the empty shelves. All were empty of the armors and spears save for one shelf marked under a label Meduion, the one who is the last. Instead of a hardened leather armor, there was a wooden one.

Four pieces of thin wooden boards were woven together with ropes and meant to be worn over shoulders and tied together with a rope attached to the middle board. There was a wooden pole next to it instead of a spear. It was a plain wood pole with a pointed end. Without a word, Thranduil took the wooden boards and wore it and took up the pole.

“Thranduil…” Elrond frowned down at the armor and the spear in his hands and offered them to the blond Sinda.

“I have mine,” Thranduil said and walked past Elrond.

 

 

Outside, the rest of the cadets were lined up with the spears by their feet.

“Ah, here is our Meduion,” Gilmagor said when Thranduil approached. He gestured Thranduil forward. “Let’s see how good you are.”

The Lord Commander gestured toward Gwendir. The lieutenant along with the two officers took up their spears and faced Thranduil. In their golden armor with shining spears in their hands, the three officers looked impressive.

Suddenly, Elrond felt a surge of emotion from Thranduil. Although Elrond could feel emotions from others who were near him, Thranduil had been one of the few who kept a tight control over his feelings. But now, there was a swirl of mixed emotions coming in waves from the blond Sinda. Elrond frowned.

Among the jumble of feelings that flowed from Thranduil, Elrond found one major emotion: Fear. No, not fear. It was stronger than that.

A terror.

That’s what it was. Elrond turned sharply toward Thranduil as the three officers surrounded the blond Sinda.

Elrond couldn’t understand. The three officers are warriors from the First Age. They were from Valinor and had fought in the many battles of the First Age and survived. They were far better skilled than any of the cadets. There were none better to test the cadets without causing any serious harm.

Officer Bellion called out, “Ready!” before he lunged and his spear flashed. Thranduil stood there rigid as if he had turned to stone and the spear tore through his left side and whipped across his left waist.

Thranduil staggered, his teeth clenched.

“You are slow, Oropherion. Maybe you need some encouragement.” Gilmagor gestured toward the cadets and Elrond along with the rest of the cadets took up their spears and started to thump the ground with the butt of the spears. The ground trembled as twenty-three spears pounded onto the stone covered floor in a coordinated movement. “Ra! Ra! Ra!” They shouted.

Thranduil's eyes widened as the terror spiked and rammed into Elrond’s senses making Elrond gasp. Just then Gwendir shouted, “Ready!” before his spear lunged at Thranduil’s right side. Thranduil did not move as Gwendir’s spear whacked Thranduil’s right arm. The wooden pole in Thranduil's hand flew off the air as Officer Malthorn swept his spear clear across Thranduil’s legs.

Thranduil tumbled onto the ground, his face bloodless.

“Stop!” Elrond moved without a second thought. He grabbed Thranduil up from the ground and then was shocked to find that Thranduil was shaking. But the moment it registered, Thranduil snatched his arm from Elrond’s grasp. And, whatever emotion Thranduil had let slip was gone. The blond Sinda was cold and shuttered as he was when Elrond first met him.

“Do you intend to meddle into the training, too, Earendilion?” Gilmagor’s voice was spiked ice.

Elrond swallowed hard and looked at Thranduil who has gotten up now. The Sinda’s blue-green eyes were chips of ice, emotionless and cold. There was no emotion, no feeling from Thranduil as if Elrond had all just imagined it.

“Earendilion, five laps, Star Field. Now!” Gilmagor’s command whipped through the air.

Elrond had no choice but to run. The Half-Elf ran to the edge of the field as he heard Lord Gilmagor call out the next Elf.

By the time Elrond returned, it was his turn to face the officers. They were fast, but not impossible to block. Elrond could tell the officers held back their speed and strength. It was as Elrond had expected. He didn’t feel that the officers were being more gentle with him than they were to Thranduil.

What is wrong with that Sinda? Elrond wondered. Thranduil was supposed to have been trained as a warrior. He should have expected this much aggression. Was his training under Sindarin warriors so inferior that he could not stand up to the challenge? Elrond knew, of course, that Noldor are better skilled, but Thranduil was supposed to have been taught by the best of Doriathrin warriors. Elrond had heard about their prowess as warriors. Maybe all that were just talk. Either Thranduil's training was subpar or he was just afraid. Thranduil didn’t look like a coward, but then such a thing can’t be discerned by just looking at a person.

A spear thwacked across his left shoulder. Elrond winced and pulled back sharply to avoid another hit.

“Pay attention!” Gwendir snapped. Elrond didn’t need to be told twice.

When each cadet was thus tested, they moved on to the rest of the weapons from the use of swords to bows to long daggers and spear.

And on each weaponry they were tested, Thranduil did not fare better. Even with a bow where Elrond had expected a far better result, having seen Thranduil’s performance at Grey Haven, the young Sinda was mediocre at best.

Elrond couldn’t help but notice the look of disdain from other warriors as they glanced at Thranduil and snickered among themselves. The blond Sinda said not one word but carried on with a face devoid of emotion. And when the morning session was over, Thranduil was one of the five warriors with the least scores. And accordingly, those five were made to run around the three fields while the rest of the cadets took their lunch.

And as the day wore on, Thranduil got worse.

The gruesome day ended as the sun peered over the far away horizon just before disappearing over the west. Most of the cadets lay on the ground, exhausted.  Lord Gilmagor had gone up the stairs into the King's Tower after the initial tests on the weaponry concluded.

Elrond turned to Thranduil who was leaning against a stone pillar by the edge of the field. If the rest of the cadets were in a bad shape, Thranduil was worse. He was barely recognizable from the morning. The wooden plates he wore were broken and hung loosely about his neck. His entire sides, arms, and legs, lacking armor and thus exposed, were slashed, torn and bruised. His fair skin, almost transparent in its whiteness, was black and blue, many places red and inflamed, a shocking splotch of colors on the whiteness of his skin. Bruises were everywhere from the side of his head to his bare hands, even his arms which can be seen through his torn sleeves. Elrond could only imagine how much pain Thranduil must be feeling. Even with the full armor with vambraces and greaves, Elrond was aching all over from the day long pounding coupled with hardly any rest. He marveled at how Thranduil never once cried out and bore everything with a grim, determined face.

He may be a coward, but he wasn’t a whiner.

“Gather up!” Lieutenant Gwendir approached them once the last ray of sunlight faded into twilight.  “We will go over how the training will go from now on. First, today’s activity is over so you can ask questions if there is one. Starting today all your activity will be graded. Every day we will put up names of the top three cadets with the highest scores and the bottom five with the lowest. At the end of the year when the training ends, the top three will have a choice of where they will be assigned. Also…” Gwendir stopped suddenly and smiled.

All the cadets fell silent. Elrond felt everyone around him tense. An air of anticipation swirled all around him like a morning mist.

“As I am sure you all are wondering, Lord Gilmagor will be picking some of you to train himself.”

Everyone whooped. Excitement ran rampant among the cadets. And questions came from everyone at once.

"How many of us?" "When?" "What will the choice based on?"

The lieutenant smiled.

"I don't know the details. Three are the most he ever trained at one time, but whether that will include top three cadets is not known. Lord Gilmagor has his own way of making the decision. No one could say. I suggest you do the best you can. He only trains those who are most capable."

Belegor wriggled his eyebrows at Elrond as two of his closest friends pounded on the Belegor’s shoulders as if he has already been chosen. Elrond swallowed a groan. As much as Elrond hated to admit it, Belegor was one of the best swordsmen among the cadets. He probably has a reason to be congratulated although it was rather too soon.

Elrond glanced at Thranduil who was standing a bit apart from the rest of the cadets, looking away. The blond Sinda seemed oblivious to the excitement of those around him.

“All right. Calm down. I am not done,” said Gwendir. “From today on, all of you will bunk at the barracks. But until the field training which is scheduled for the Autumn, you will have a free day at the end of each week unless you are one of the bottom five. Also, the one who receives the lowest score for that day, thus the bottom of the list, your Meduion, will be running to the bottom of the field to bring up a rock just like Thranduil Oropherion did today. As for the other four on the bottom list, they will be doing the head push-ups double time until the Meduion returns.”

Everyone groaned.

Gwendir smiled. “The best part is, the bottom five will be doing this while rest wash and eat their dinner. So, whoever the last five are, you better hope your Meduion is fast, strong and reliable. Or better yet, do your best to avoid being the last five on the list.”

Just then, Officer Malthorn approached Gwendir with a scroll. Gwendir took it and whistled out aloud.

“Well, here is the Meduion for today. Congratulations, Thranduil Oropherion.”

 

 

Chapter Text

King’s Tower, April 10, Second Age 144

GIL-GALAD glanced at the door for the hundredth time. He hoped no one noticed and he knew that he really should pay attention, but the matter he wanted to bring to the council was very close to his heart and he wanted to present it as soon as he could. And normally, he would bide his time as what he proposed would cause a stir, but Gil-galad had that same dream again last night. Something was happening and Gil-galad felt for the first time that the time was slipping away like the sands under his feet eroded by the ebb and flow of the water.

Unfortunately, Lord Cirdan, his staunchest supporter beside Lord Gilmagor, had gone back to the Grey Havens soon after the New Year celebration. And Lord Gilmagor was at the training field. He was to return after inspecting the cadets, but the afternoon session had started a while ago and he still was not here. Of course, the king knew he could count on Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel, but while they were highly respected, they did not command many supporters among the council.

Sighing inwardly, Gil-galad glanced at Lord Erestor who stood just below the dais whispering something to Captain Aron from the Grey Havens. At least the news from Lord Cirdan was good. But then, the king did not doubt that Lord Cirdan shared his view when it came to Elrond.

If he could just convince the chief councilor, things would become easier. Gil-galad didn’t count on it, however. Lammaeg usually opposed whatever Cirdan proposed or agreed. But the king was aware that the opposition against Cirdan stemmed mostly from Lammaeg’s resentment of Gil-galad’s attachment to Lord Cirdan. It was strange to him how Lammaeg didn’t begrudge his attachment to Lord Gilmagor, but when it came to Lord Cirdan, Lammaeg almost seemed unreasonable. But how could he not be attached to Lord Cirdan? The elder Sindarin lord had been a father to him while his mother slowly faded away out of grief after the Battle of Unnumbered Tears.

“You must stay strong, my son,” she said. But she had not stayed strong for him and as soon as Gil-galad was old enough to carry on, she closed her eyes and did not get up.

Gil-galad sighed and pushed away the dull ache brought on by the thought of his mother. Instead, he looked at Lammaeg as he listened to Celebrimbor with apt attention. Although the chief councilor clashed often with Cirdan, Gil-galad did not doubt Lammaeg’s loyalty to him. The chief councilor was not only his mother’s brother, Lord Lammaeg had served on the council for his great-grandfather King Finwe, to his grandfather and to his father before him. His uncle was invaluable in ordering the new realm, gathering the scattered remnant of Noldor and bringing them all under Gil-galad’s authority. And when Celebrimbor, as the eldest surviving male of Finwe’s line, took control of the council after Gil-galad was crowned king at mere 66 years of age, it was Lammaeg who put Celebrimbor in his place whenever the king's elder cousin was out of line.

Through the years, his uncle had been the pillar that held Gil-galad up and steered him through the overwhelming duties of being the king. But unlike Gil-galad, Lammaeg shared Celebrimbor’s view that Noldor were superior to all other Elves and races in Middle Earth and that Noldor should rule over others.  In fact, both councilors had argued fervently against having Celeborn rule Harlindon, conceding only after taking away the right for Lord Celeborn to have his own army. All warriors serving in Harlindon were under the authority of the king and wore Gil-galad’s colors. Although Gil-galad respected his uncle, he knew that Lord Lammaeg, as well as Celebrimbor, was a hurdle he will one day need to overcome.

The king drummed his fingers on the carved armrest made of white marble as the afternoon sunlight poured through the tall arched windows lining the length of the Hall of the Council. Celebrimbor’s deep baritone mumbled at the edge of his consciousness as the king watched the afternoon sunlight elongate the shadows.

Gil-galad wondered if he should send one of the scribes sitting behind the chairs of the councilors to go look for the Lord Commander.

The king glanced at Lord Erestor again. The young councilor was loyal and an excellent orator but he was yet new to the post and didn’t command many supporters. And the king knew for sure that his uncle preferred Celebrimbor over Elrond. No. It would be best to search out for the Lord Commander before bringing up the matter of his heir.  

Gilmagor may not like being part of the council but his words carried much weight. Not only was Gilmagor deeply respected by many Noldor including his uncle, the Lord Commander was known for his wisdom as much as his knowledge of weapons and military strategy. Gil-galad knew that his wish to build up the army would not have passed the council if it was not for his master being on his side. But Gil-galad knew that sooner than later he must learn to stand on his own. Even without him saying so, the king knew the call of the West was beginning to wear heavily on Gilmagor.

“…assemble expedition. What does our king say in this matter?” Celebrimbor who had been addressing the council suddenly turned to the king.

Gil-galad tensed, feeling grateful that he had been looking at Celebrimbor although the king had no idea what his elder cousin had been saying.

 “Assemble expedition…” Gil-galad repeated the last words he heard and tilted his head. It was a trick he learned from Lord Cirdan. The lord of Faladrim never answered anything directly and always made the listener wait for the answer. But no matter how long he took, Lord Cirdan made it seem it was all worthwhile. Gil-galad just hoped he looked as confident as Lord Cirdan was. 

Gil-galad nodded as if he was thinking. He glanced at Erestor.

The young councilor took one look at the king, then turned to Celebrimbor.

“But the cities Naugrim have left behind are old now and crumbling in many parts. To assemble expedition of our troops down the caves of Naugrim seem dangerous. What do you think, Captain Astalder? You know best as you have been there and seen the condition of the underground cities.”

Captain Astalder’s lips crept up, his gray eyes dancing as his eyes met the king's. Gil-galad was sure that even if others didn’t, the astute captain knew Gil-galad had not been paying attention. If there was one thing Gil-galad found about the captain of Silmacil, it was that the captain knew much more than he let on.

“As I said, there are traces of Orc army all around the base of Blue Mountains. The places Lord Oropher has marked were cold already, but the Orcs have definitely been there. The track led down into the abandoned underground city Naugrim had left behind. Expedition down there is not recommended because it is a completely uncharted territory. The sinking of Beleriand has ruined many of the cities and I believe that is one of the reasons that most of them have migrated to the east. Even so, if there are any remnant of Naugrim, they may consider our presence an intrusion.”

“But if we do nothing, how would we know?” Celebrimbor asked, looking around at the councilors. “And if there are any remaining Naugrim, then we should invite them to Lindon and find ways to give them an incentive to stay and work with us.”

“But what would having a relationship with Naugrim do for us,” said Celeborn who sat with an uncharacteristically grim face. “They have all left for the east, too far from Lindon to have any meaningful relationship even if a relationship could be established.”

Celebrimbor barely acknowledged Celeborn. Instead, he turned to Gil-galad.

 “I believe it is your wish to include everyone, to establish a realm that brings everyone together,” Celebrimbor said. “Is it not so, your majesty?” Celebrimbor tipped his head gracefully toward the king.

Gil-galad plastered a smile on his face. His cousin was careful to refer to him, but everyone knew that Celebrimbor and Lammaeg ruled the council. There was hardly anything Gil-galad could do without first obtaining their approval. And it seemed to the king that he needed to fight both Lammaeg and Celebrimbor for every little thing he wanted to get done. Many times, Gil-galad found himself frustrated that he was a king in name only even though he was no longer a child he once was when he first became the king.

“I think we all want unity among all the people that occupy Middle Earth, Lord Celebrimbor,” Gil-galad said. “But we must focus first on uniting our kind before we can include others.”

“With due respect,” Celebrimbor said glancing at Lord Celeborn. “Most Sindar live in Harlindon and Lord Celeborn seems loyal to you. I don’t see how there is no unity among our kin?” said Celebrimbor. His emphasis on the word ‘seems’ was not lost on Gil-galad and the king quickly glanced at Celeborn whose face remained unchanged except for his hand which fisted shut.

Seems, Lord Celebrimbor? Nay, councilor. I know not ‘seems’,” said Lady Galadriel, her melodious voice soft and dangerous.

“My apologies, Lord Celeborn,” said Celebrimbor. “It was not meant as any disrespect to you.” Celebrimbor nodded toward Celeborn, then bowed to Lady Galadriel who sat next to her husband, her hand on Celeborn’s arm.

“I have no doubt as to any under Lord Celeborn,” Gil-galad said firmly. “But there is Lord Oropher—“ Gil-galad started, but he was not allowed to finish.

“What is Oropher but a knave from a forgotten kingdom,” Celebrimbor snapped.

“I would advise you to rephrase that, Lord Celebrimbor,” Celeborn who sat with ever darkening demeanor growled. His voice was frigid as winter snow, looking more like Oropher than his usual sunny self.

Gil-galad had never known Lord Celeborn to frown. The Sindarin lord was usually serene and diplomatic. Most of the time, Celeborn played a mediator, soothing disputes among the councilors who divided into those who supported Celebrimbor and those who supported Cirdan. And with powerful people such as Lord Lammaeg backing Celebrimbor, it seemed supporters for his elder cousin grew larger each year. And each year, Gil-galad saw division among his councilors grow with Celebrimbor and Lammaeg on one side and Sindarin lords like Cirdan on the other. Although the last kinslaying was close to two hundred years ago, it seemed the anger over the incident did not lessen. And the attitudes of many Noldor such as Lammaeg and Celebrimbor made matters worse.

Gil-galad shuddered remembering the first line of the lament: A dark seed grows, fed by blood and ire.

Celebrimbor glanced at Celeborn.  

“But as you said it yourself, Lord Celeborn. Those who have departed east is too far away from Lindon to establish a meaningful relationship with. Oropher is gone, even further than the Naugrim. And even if he wasn’t, what is his loss to us? Unlike Oropher, the migration of the Naugrim has an impact on us. They have delved and provided us with raw materials for the armors and weapons the king has desired. We are not miners. We know nothing of mining deep under the mountains. What we can obtain from quarries are limited. Without these cave dwellers, we will not have enough raw materials for smithing. And without raw materials, we cannot produce more arms.”

“So what do you suggest, Lord Celebrimbor?” Lady Galadriel asked when none of the councilors spoke.

“Since we also need to investigate the ruins and the abandoned cities of Naugrim, we should send representatives there, ready to explore, so that if we do meet any remaining Naugrim, we can negotiate and establish a trade. It is better to obtain their permission to enter their city rather than assume the city is abandoned and just enter,” Celebrimbor said. “And just because some of them have attacked Sindar, why should we give up having a relationship with them altogether? Just as not all of us are guilty of kinslaying, not all of them are guilty of killing our kin.”

Gil-galad glanced at Lord Celeborn. Understandably, the Sindarin lord’s face was dark, his usually serene face lit normally with smiling blue eyes was pinched. The king has heard from Lady Galadriel how Lord Celeborn’s father was killed trying to protect the king when King Elu Thingol was attacked. And a year later when the whole of Dwarves of Nogrod attacked Doriath, Celeborn’s brother died protecting the borders from those Naugrim. It was understandable that Celeborn has a special dislike of the Dwarves.

In that sense, Gil-galad understood Celebrimbor’s barely veiled ill will toward Celeborn. The Sindarin lord was from Menegroth and Celebrimbor harbored a special dislike of Sindar from Menegroth ever since his father was killed there. To a grieving son, the fact that the attack was instigated by his father and his brothers meant nothing. As Lord Gilmagor always said, anger blinds people and makes them unreasonable.

But at the same time, what Celebrimbor said made sense and there was no solid reason to deny Celebrimbor.

“If the king would allow, I would like to lead the expedition to the Naugrim cities,” said Celebrimbor.

“But you are needed here, Lord Celebrimbor. My soldiers need their weapons.”

“With due respect, Sire, we are at peace. Even if we need to fit the new recruits, many probably don’t know how to use the proper weapons yet.” Then, he held out his hand before the king could protest.

“And, I have others in my forge who could work on the armor and the weapons.”

“Well, that is settled, then,” Lord Lammaeg said, getting up from his seat.

The stone chandeliers above their heads began to glow like starlight as the sinking sun covered the council chamber in a deep red glow.  

--------------

Naugrim (Sindarin, staunted people) Many dwarves who originally lived in the roots of the Blue Mountains left starting around year 40 of Second Age and migrated to Misty Mountains and joined Durin’s Folk in Moria.

“Seems…’seems’” is a line from Hamlet. It just seemed to fit so well here, I couldn’t resist.

  

 

Chapter Text

Lindon.  April 10, Second Age 144

 

MAIRON was impressed. Having observed these Elves in their own city, Mairon could understand now why his master wanted to subjugate these Elves so much.

Mairon had met Elven warriors before, of course. But they have all been during the First Age, in times of war, either on the battlefield or in the dungeons. Mairon had never seen Elves amid their society. When he was in Valinor, it was during the time when Elves were not yet awake. And long before the Elves arrived in Valinor, Mairon had followed his new master into Middle Earth.

And these puny beings, even with their limited knowledge and power, were intelligent, brave and skilled. If he could have these Elves under his will, there will be no race on whole of Middle Earth that Mairon could not conquer. Suddenly, all the things his master promised seemed achievable.

But how to get these Elves to obey his will? If there was one thing the War of Jewels has taught Mairon, it was that he should not underestimate these Elves. For Ages, his master tried to bring them under his dominion. When they first awoke, his master captured the Firstborn and tempted them, tortured them and tampered with them. But the Elves were strong in body and mind. Only by breaking their spirits and mutilating them beyond recognition was Melkor ever able to bring them under his will.

However, there was a big side effect. Breaking their spirits, thus breaking their will and tampering with their body, his master found that they lost the will to survive. Their souls left the body and his master was left with the lifeless and useless body. So, before the souls could separate, Melkor filled them with his will and that of wild beasts. They were infused with a desire for life so they will not willingly choose death; with a hunger for destruction so that they will kill and destroy without hesitation; but most importantly, with fear for their master so that they will obey without question.

“Master, they are worthless,” Mairon remembered telling Melkor. “They have no honor and no courage and they degenerate into sniveling weakling full of fear.”

“But, fear is good, Mairon. It is through fear that we will control them most effectively. They will never question their order, nor will they think any further than what they are told. We will never need to doubt their loyalty. If you command them, they will give up even their life for you, for I have conditioned all other desires second to their fear of their masters.”

“But as soon as their spirits are completely overrun, their bodies degenerate and twist into something hideous,” Mairon had said wrinkling his nose. Not only were the captured and twisted Elves turned ugly, they smelled horrible as well.

“Ah well,” Melkor had shrugged then.  “It is Eru’s way to prevent tampering with his children, I suppose. It does not matter. Ugly, they may be, but they are strong and hardy. They will make good enough soldiers.”

But the twisted and mutilated Elves were difficult to breed. And as powerful as his master had been, he could not create new life out of nothing. It was not until his master captured Men and interbred them with the first Orcs that they were able to breed a massive army.

But Mairon did not like working with the Orcs. Easy to breed and obedient to his will they were, but they were stupid, cowardly and so uncouth compared to these Elves. There must be some way to bring the Elves under his will without breaking them totally as his master had done.

“What do you think of our Meduion?” A cadet next to him asked, interrupting Mairon’s thoughts as he stood up along with the rest of the cadets to head to the lake to wash up.

Mairon glanced at the blond figure who was running down the stone bridge to the field below as the last four cadets did a head stand as Lieutenant Gwendir watched.

“What about him?” Mairon wasn’t interested in the Sinda or any Sindar for that matter. What are they but glorified wood elves? Even his master did not care for Teleri when he was at Valinor. According to his master, all Teleri, whether they are Sindar, Laiquendi or Nandor, are meek as new born babes. He said they have no ambition, no sense of glory, and that they are perfectly happy in their forests and seas.

“He didn’t look like a Sinda, did he? I thought he was one of the king’s relations or something. What a disappointment,” the cadet said glancing at the blond Elf. “I thought at least he was going to be a worthwhile warrior to watch out for.”

Mairon scoffed. “Pretty package doesn’t always mean much. Sindar are good to look at, but not much else,” Mairon said then turned away. The moment he found that the new cadet was a Sinda, Mairon’s interest had died. He had not bothered to scan the young Elf. There were plenty of powerful Noldor here where his time and interest would be better spent.

Mairon remembered clearly what his master had told him about the Elves back in the First Age. His master always said Vanyar had the strongest mind, were not moved or tampered with. Noldor were physically the most strong, but they craved knowledge and power so most easily persuaded and manipulated. Teleri, Melkor had no use for. They were simple and happy people who cared naught for power. Teleri were content, thus unwilling to be persuaded.

“Why did you choose Noldor, Master? I thought there were other more powerful Elves than these pathetic group.”

“Ah, yes. The Vanyar, my brother’s favorite Elves. Powerful in mind and magic they are and more beautiful. But they are much like my brother. They are blind and obedient to a fault. They are too narrow-minded and stubborn to listen to others. Besides, They are not as skilled with their hands as Noldor are. And unlike the Vanyar, Noldor wanted knowledge and power. Remember, Mairon. The ones who want power are the ones most easily tempted. Of course, Noldor would also make better soldiers than the rest of their kindred.”

But the Noldor had turned out more resistant than his master had thought. Once they arrived in Middle Earth, his master thought to slowly bring them under his dominion. But they have arrived at Middle Earth earlier than his master had foreseen and had ruined his plans. To make the matter worse, the Noldor resisted his master to their last breath instead of succumbing.

On a hindsight, they should have conquered Doriath long before Noldor came. If Teleri were weak, Sindar as part of that group would have been easier to break. They could have used them against the Noldor, but his master had thought they would have enough time. They had been wrong.

Mairon turned his eyes toward the blond Sinda far below at the Sun Field now. Could he be thinking this in a wrong way, the way his master had done?

Among the Noldor, there was one who Mairon knew to have power and influence among the cadets. And if what he gathered from others was correct, this Elf also had the king’s ear.  Mairon looked at the young Noldo who stood amid the cadets and was the only one who still seemed interested in the blond Sinda.  Although the Noldo tried to hide it, Mairon noticed him stealing glances at the blond Sinda throughout their activity.

Mairon scrutinized the young Noldo.

Elrond Earendilion. This one had powers even the Half-Elf was not even aware of yet. A powerful blood ran through this half Man, half Elf mutant, all the blood of his hated enemies mingled into one. Mairon had kept a careful eye on Elrond the moment he first laid his eyes on the young Noldo.

Even among the impressive array of Noldor before him, it was hard to miss Elrond. There were few even among Noldor who were as tall as this young Noldo. In fact, unlike the svelte construction of other Elves, the Half-Elf was of a sturdier built typical of Men. With his darker skin and muscular frame, at first glance, Mairon almost mistook Elrond for a Man. Upon a close inspection, however, he could not miss the starlight in his eyes, nor the power that ran through Elrond’s person. If left to grow, Mairon knew this young Noldo could grow into a dangerous threat. Mairon wondered what could temp this Noldo. Oh, what he wouldn’t give to see this Half-Elf kneel before him. If Mairon could bring Elrond into his service, the Maia was sure he could find ways to influence the Noldor. In any event, even if he failed to influence the Noldo, Mairon planned to wreck his vengeance on Elrond before leaving the White City.

The fallen Maia looked at Elrond, then at the blond Sinda whom Elrond was watching. There was something there between them. He couldn’t quite get his finger on what that was, but something told Mairon that he should mind it.

According to his master, Eru’s children had two weaknesses: fear and sympathy.

“Mairon, give these lesser beings something to fear and they will do anything to get away from it, even stomping over what they consider sacred. And best way to get at them is to use their sympathies. If they feel strong enough for another, they will even give you their life to save the other.”

And Mairon has experienced that firsthand. The Elf of his body had been willing to do what was forbidden for the love of his friend. If it had not been for that, Mairon would not have had this opportunity. And this young half-Elf had plenty of sympathies. He overflowed with it. Mairon had watched as Elrond stood by Thranduil even though the Noldo clearly disliked the blond Sinda.

Mairon wasn’t sure exactly what the feelings Elrond had for the blond Sinda, but the Sinda’s presence affected the young Noldo greatly.

Mairon smiled. Maybe, the Sinda could be useful after all.

 

-------------------

Firstborn—refers to Elves who were the first of Eru’s children to be awoken in the world. Men are referred to as Secondborn as they woke later with the rise of the sun.

 Melkor’s brother is Manwe, the king of Valar and all beings in Arda (the world)

 My view of Melkor and his view of Noldor is different from that of Silmarillion and other writings but I don’t think this is divergence. Silmarillion and other writings are based on history written by Elves, Men and later by Hobbits. History is written in the perspective of the writer and is limited by his own knowledge. The writer could not possibly know exactly what Melkor was thinking. Mairon, as someone who actually served Melkor, would know better the thoughts of his master than anyone else.

Chapter Text

Lindon.  April 10, Second Age 144

 

THRANDUIL bit back a groan as he let go of the rock, careful to keep his face blank. No matter what, he will not show weakness in front of these Noldor.

“You can wash up at the lake, Oropherion,” said Lieutenant Gwendir. “Follow the other four.” The lieutenant gestured toward the last four cadets who collapsed in a heap where they had been doing their head push-ups. “There is a lake at the bottom of the King’s Tower where all the warriors wash up after their training. And the barrack for the cadets is up the main stairs by the south wing of the Tower.” With that, the lieutenant dismissed them. Training fields were now completely empty.

“Have your feet turned to stone?” one of the four cadets said to Thranduil, irritation evident in his eyes. Thranduil knew he had taken much longer to complete his run than this morning, but it had been all he could do.

“He’s a Sinda,” the other cadet next to the first Noldo said as if that answered everything. They hurried to stone stairs cut into the boulders at the south edge of the Star Field which Thranduil had not seen until now.

“Elmaethor is a Sinda but he is quicker than the others, unlike him,” another grumbled as he followed the other two down the stairs.

The last of the four turned to Thranduil. He was shorter of the four cadets and Thranduil could tell that he is one of the Sindar.

“Don’t mind them. They are just tired and in pain. In case you didn't know, there is a change of bedclothes with the towels next to the stairs.” With that, the Sindarin cadet nodded to Thranduil and followed after the other three.

Silently, Thranduil trailed behind them, biting down a hiss. The motion of walking shook his wrist and the pain was excruciating.

“In pain, are they?” Thranduil scoffed under his breath.

When they came down to the ground level, just below the level of the Sun Field, there was a lake that pooled beneath Southern turrets of the King’s Tower. Streams that ran under the bridges that connected the three training grounds and the channel of water around the King’s Tower all flowed down over the rocky cliff feeding the lake.

While the other four cadets washed under the waterfall near the stone stairs, Thranduil walked toward one of the several willow trees by the lake. From where he stood, the turrets of the King’s Tower looked as if they could touch the sky.

After carefully peeling the torn and stained clothes off his aching body, Thranduil sank into the cold lake water. He hissed as he gingerly picked up his right wrist. It was now visibly swollen and throbbed with each movement.

During the first test with the spears, Thranduil had twisted the wrist just as the spear hit him on the arm. Without any vambrace to protect the forearm, the hit was direct and painful, but worse, the twisting motion just at the moment of the hit must have damaged his wrist bone. The pain had been excruciating and it had grown exponentially worse as the day progressed.

It was not until he was being tested in archery that Thranduil realized the extent of the injury to his wrist. Although it throbbed and burned from the previous spear thrust, he thought it merely bruised. But, when he tried to draw the bow string, the pain shook his hand and his hand neither had the strength to pull all the way back nor the tenacity to maintain the pull, both of which affected the accuracy of his arrows. Everything got steadily worse after that.

With each encounter, the paralyzing effect of facing the Noldor from Valinor lessened when he concentrated on something other than their glowing eyes. But, the exhaustion coupled with the escalating pain from his wrist shattered his concentration making it difficult for Thranduil to overcome the paralyzing stiffness that came upon him in the initial encounter. He needed a moment, but the moment was all it took for the tests.

Throughout the day, it took most of his effort to keep his right arm from shaking. The Pain, he was used to, but the snicker of the Noldor, the contempt in their eyes and the pity in Elrond’s, those were unbearable. It took all Thranduil had to keep going, to keep up the look of placid unconcern he had carefully mastered over the years. But even then, if he could have crawled under a rock, he would have.

 Thranduil grimaced as the pain flared again. He wrapped his good hand over his swollen wrist and tried to muster what little healing spell he had learned from his mother. But he was too tired, and he didn’t have the strength the spell needed. It was times like this that he regretted not learning more from his mother.

In the end, the spell was weak. A mere sprinkle. But the pain receded a bit and Thranduil sighed as he lay back, dunking his entire body and face in the cold water.

The sides where the swords and spears cut and tore his skin burned and every muscle in his body ached and throbbed. Thranduil wondered how deep this lake was. He was so tired. He opened his eyes in the darkness of the water. It was as if he floated in the world that was silent and dark. Silent except for the music of Ainur that still lingered in all the waters of Arda. The soft gurgling of melodies calmed his pains for a moment and Thranduil was comforted by the aqueous darkness and the silent melodies.

When he could not hold his breath any longer, Thranduil emerged from the water, letting the water drip down in rivulets down his body.

The lake was empty. 

Thranduil looked around in the silence of the lake and realized that the other cadets must have washed quickly and left even though there will be no dinner for them. They probably wanted to make sure they have a bed to sleep in tonight. "The last one always goes without", the lieutenant had reminded them before leaving.

Thranduil scoffed as he got out of the water and dressed in the bedclothes and slippers found with the towels. It didn’t matter to him. There were many nights when he had to sleep on a cold ground. He didn’t like it, but he could bear it.

Thranduil looked up at the sky. Thousands of stars sparkled above him.  Somewhere in the White City and inside the palace, people were singing the song of praise to Elbereth Gilthoniel, the Lady of the Stars. Thranduil sang the words softly to himself.

Under the vast sky, he felt so alone.

He wondered if his skills that he had honed in the wild not enough. He was, after all, just a Sinda. Those who were born under the lights of two trees were superior, even his mother had said so.

Are these Noldor so much better?  Will I always be the last? The Meduion even among the Noldor?

Among his father’s warriors, Thranduil had been the youngest and was the last to be taught the Ways of the Warriors by the soldiers who were the march wardens and the royal guards of Doriath. Normally in Doriath, Elves were not allowed to train to be warriors until reaching 250 years of age, but due to the times, Thranduil started after his majority. He was the youngest and the smallest among the warriors. He thought he had outgrown being the last, always trailing far behind all of them. But he had learned to catch up to them and to pass some of them behind. They said he was farther ahead than anyone had been at his age. But all that meant nothing because he is a Sinda and inferior.

The moon was full tonight but clouds gathered blocking a portion of the moon. And in it, Thranduil saw his father’s stern face. What will his father say if he knew that Thranduil was standing here doubting himself?

Remember who you are. Show them what you are made of,” his father had said. But will he be able to compete against these Noldorin cadets? Was he good enough?

Thranduil looked down at his swollen wrist. Pain that had calmed for a moment, flared up. It reminded him of the first time he was allowed to join the warriors in a field training, over two centuries ago now in Sirion. Thranduil had pleaded, argued, then finally persuaded his father to take him, promising his father that he will go back to his mother to become a healer if he could not keep up.

It was the last day of the month-long training. He was running far behind the warriors after a long day of tracking through swamps and rocky cliffs after spending the day training in weaponry. They were on their way back to the camp 5 leagues away as the sun was sinking. Exhausted after the long day, Thranduil tripped over a rough trail and tumbled down the jagged cliff they had just climbed and hit the bottom of the rocky floor.

Thranduil was alone in the dark when his father found him with torn hands and a sprained ankle. After seeing that there was no other major injury, his father said, “You’ll live. A warrior does not moan, groan, or quit. We break camp at dawn. If you are not there, then I will send one of your mother’s healers to return you back to her.”  With that, his father climbed back up the cliff leaving Thranduil alone at the bottom.

With no other choice left to him, Thranduil climbed up that cliff nursing his sprained ankle. And all through that night, Thranduil dragged his sprained ankle through the swamp, up more rocky cliffs, and limped along the rocky riverside for five leagues to the campsite. He cursed at his father, at Valar and whoever he could think of whenever he stumbled and slipped down a cliff and had to climb back up all over again. More than dozen times through the night, he thought of giving up. But each time, somewhere near but out of his sight, someone was singing the song of praise to the Lady of the Stars.

And in the haze of the morning fog as dawn approached, covered in mud, his hands and face scratched, torn and bleeding, Thranduil had dragged his injured foot into the camp. As he practically crawled into the campsite, the warriors gathered around him and they sang to the last star as it faded in the brightness of the rising sun. It was as if he was there all along and the long night had only been a dream.

When the warriors had dispersed to break the camp, Thranduil had turned to his father.

“Did you not for a moment wonder whether I would make it?”

His father had looked at him with a frown.

“There is not one among the warriors here who doubted you would make it to the camp in time. Did you doubt yourself, Thranduil? If there is nothing else you trust in this world, son, trust in yourself and your ability. No one will believe in you if you do not believe in yourself. If you have the will and determination, anything is possible.”

Thranduil knew his father had meant every word. And all the anger and hurt he had felt, all the curses he had stored for his father and others had fallen away at that moment. He knew then that they had believed in him even when he did not believe in himself. And he realized then that all through the night, the warriors had taken turns watching over his progress.

Thranduil picked up his chin. If he gave in to self-pity now, allowed himself to be beaten down by these Noldor, then he was dishonoring all the trust his father and the other warriors had shown him. Had he not promised his father that he would not let these Noldor crush him?

It had been his choice to stay and serve the Noldorin king. Until the fifth yen that was promised, he may have no choice about serving the king, but he certainly wasn’t going to grovel beneath Noldor, and he certainly wasn’t going to remain their meduion, no matter if these Noldor are born talented.

Thranduil stretched out his right hand against the sky. The skin pulled where it was swollen and Thranduil winced as pain ripped through his arm, making it hard for him to keep it from shaking. Until his wrist heals, it will be a challenge, but he had made it through worse things than a damaged wrist. Today may have been bad, but he had worse.

“Did you hurt your wrist?” someone asked and Thranduil whirled around.

Elrond stepped down from the stone stairs that led up to the Star Field.

“It looks badly swollen,” Elrond said and he reached over.

Thranduil stepped back out of Elrond’s reach.

“I’m fine.”

“I am not your enemy, Thranduil. I know little, but I have some training in the healing arts. I could help you,” Elrond said.

“I don’t need your help.”

“Then, at least get some salve from the healers. There is a healer’s ward below the south wing of the King’s Tower, just before the barracks. It is on your way. You could also ask one of them to use one of the beds there. There will be no more bedrolls at the barracks…”

“I don’t need a bedroll.”

Elrond sighed. “But, please, do have your injuries addressed. Tomorrow will be even more grueling. You don’t want to start the day with any unnecessary pain, especially when you haven’t had anything to eat all day. Here. I saved you some.” Elrond held out a bundle wrapped in a piece of linen. When Thranduil did not move, Elrond opened up the bundle. It was a slice of thick bread and pieces of dried fruit.

“I told you, I don’t need your help.” Thranduil turned away.

“Look, you don’t need to like me.” Elrond blocked Thranduil. “But you will need all your strength tomorrow. Your body will need nourishment to heal faster. You should at least eat.” Elrond thrust the food in his hand toward Thranduil, but the Sinda slapped it away. The sudden motion knocked the food off Elrond’s hand and the bread and fruit fell onto the ground.

“Leave me alone, Peredhel!” Thranduil walked away without bothering to look.        

 

------------

Warrior training age for Sindar is 250 years, but it is 125 for Noldor. I made it this way because unlike Noldor who were in constant conflict with Morgoth, Sindar were in the relative safety of the protected realm of Doriath, so they didn’t have a need to replenish their warriors as often as would have the Noldor. (I probably think way too much about these things. >_<

 Elbereth Gilthoniel (Sindarin, Star Queen Starkindler)—Refers to Varda (Quenya, sublime or lofty) Queen of Valar, wife of Manwe. Varda made stars thus known as Lady of the Stars. Elves revere her the most among all the Valar and in times of deepest darkness and need, call upon her for it is said that she can hear all voices from every corner of the world.

 Fifth yen refers to year 720 (yen =144 years, so 5x144=720). As this is year 144, Thranduil has 576 years more to go in his service to Gil-galad

 

  

Chapter Text

King s Tower.  April 10 Second Age 144

 

THRANDUIL entered the barrack set aside for the cadets.

It was one large rectangular room with a tall window at the end of the short wall furthest from the door. Long wooden platforms were built against the two long walls topped with bedrolls. There were eleven bedrolls on the wooden platform on the side of the wall with the door and twelve on the long side of the wall.

Across from the door, there was an empty spot where a platform should have been. There was only an empty space there and a bare stone floor. And leaning against the empty spot was Thranduil’s backpack. On top of the pack, a bundle of blue tunic with golden leather armor lay folded. There was no wooden platform and no bedroll but the wall had a wooden sign nailed to it with a word Meduion written on it.

When Thranduil entered the room, cadets were laughing, sitting on top of their bedrolls or at the edge of the wooden platforms, gathered into several groups. However, when Thranduil stepped into the room, a hush fell.

 “Welcome, Meduion,” a tall Noldo at the end of the room rose up and made an exaggerated bow with elaborate hand gestures toward Thranduil. Cadets around the Noldo sniggered.

“Don’t mind Belegor,” one of two cadets who was sitting on the raised platform next to Thranduil whispered as the blond Sinda settled down on the stone floor next to his pack. “He is one of the best among us, but he can be rather proud. The fact that he placed first on today’s list probably makes him an ass at the moment,” the Elf said.

Unlike the majority of other Noldor, this Elf’s eyes were amber in color and his hair seemed darker brown than black. He leaned down, his eyes warm and friendly.

“Thranduil Oropherion? I am called Cellon, son of Brundor,” the amber-eyed Elf said with a smile. “And this is my friend Gelir, son of Amarthon.” He pointed to the other elf who was sitting next to him.

The other Elf, who looked like a typical Noldo, gave a terse nod.

Thranduil gave a quick nod back then laid down on the stone floor. He took out his cloak from his backpack and placed it over him with his pack as a pillow. At this moment, Thranduil did not care. He was tired and exhausted. He did not care who or what the others were called. Every part of his body throbbed and ached and the bones and muscles seemed to creak as he stretched out on the stone floor.

Thranduil sighed contentedly and closed his eyes with a relish when someone kicked at his slippered feet.

Meduion, you do not get to sleep first. The last is to be the last of everything,” someone said.

Thranduil cracked open his heavy lids. It was the one called Belegor standing above him, his hands on his hips. His gray eyes were twinkling with amusement. Two other cadets peered down behind Belegor. Thranduil sat up with a heavy sigh and looked up at Belegor who leaned over him.

“I am tired and achy,” Thranduil said, his voice even and emotionless. “And because of that, I will forgive your rudeness, Noldo. Next time, do not touch me. I will not give you another warning.”

Thranduil laid back down and closed his eyes.

 “What did you just say, Meduion?” Belegor kicked at Thranduil’s feet again, this time harder.

 “Leave him alone, Belegor. He is new. He is not familiar with the rules,” said Cellon who stood up to block Thranduil from Belegor as the blond Sinda sat up.  

 “Let him be,” Cellon said to Belegor.

 Belegor pushed Cellon out of the way. The other two Elves behind Belegor pulled Cellon away while blocking Gelir who, too, got up from his bed.

 Belegor turned back to face Thranduil. Sighing, Thranduil got up to his full height.

 “You deaf?” Thranduil sneered down at Belegor.

 The Noldo was tall, about Elrond’s height, only about two to three finger width shorter than Thranduil with a typical dark hair and gray eyes, but perhaps with more finely chiseled features than others.

 “You do not know your place,” Belegor growled, thrusting his face into Thranduil.

 “Oh, no, Belegor,” Thranduil said with a shake of his head. “I know exactly where my place is. It is you who do not know or do you not know how to read?”

Thranduil pointed toward the wooden sign behind him.

“I swear it says ‘Meduion, is it not Cellon?” he turned to the amber-eyed Elf who had introduced himself earlier.

Cellon smiled widely. “It sure says so, Thranduil Oropherion.”

 Soft laughter rippled through the room. Belegor’s face turned red. He narrowed his eyes into slits.

 “Why don’t you get back to your nice ‘I-am-first-place’ bed and let me be,” Thranduil said.

 “You insolent…” Belegor reached forward to grab at the front of Sinda’s tunic. But his hand never reached it.

 With unforeseen speed, Thranduil grabbed the hand, twisted it and with a swift kick to Belegor’s feet, pulled the Noldo over his shoulder. Belegor landed on his back with a loud thud.

 There was a gasp around the room followed by a silence. It took Belegor’s two companions a moment to recover before they moved. But Thranduil was faster. The one who was just behind Belegor rushed at Thranduil, but the Sinda kicked him in the stomach, then when the other moved in from the side, punched him in the chest. When they bent forward, Thranduil’s elbows crashed down on their backs. Both fell in an instant.

Thranduil winced and shook his right hand where pain exploded, stopping him a moment to swallow a groan. But, soon, he turned to Belegor, ready to strike the Noldo once more if needed. But, Belegor seemed dazed as he raised himself off the floor and sat up.

Thranduil scoffed. He may be tired, but his instincts were honed in the wild fighting for his life.

Thranduil had wandered the plains and the forest of the east for over hundred years following his father. And during that wanderings, they had spent several decades in the North when an encounter with a large group of orcs led them up North of Misty Mountains. During those years, Thranduil fought orcs, trolls and other dark creatures. The North had been a vast unforgiving place unlike the fertile wooded forests and wide plains between the mountain ranges. Besides being inhospitable, the region was crawling with creatures bred by the former Dark Lord.

Although they had lost many good warriors in the process, his father had thought it prudent to scout the areas where these creatures hid. They spent several years in the harsh conditions doing a thorough search, mapping the locations and recording the numbers of the creatures that inhabited the north region.

Due to their small number, they had tried their best to remain undetected, but they could not avoid occasional clashes with the creatures. And there were many times when Thranduil found himself fighting for his life and for those of his companions. There was no way these cadets who were taught on a training ground was going to best him.

As Thranduil straightened, the door opened. Elrond walked in and looked around at the silent room.

“What happened?” Elrond asked, then gasped when he saw Belegor on the floor and two of Belegor’s companions sprawled beside him. Following behind Elrond was Lieutenant Gwendir.

“Remember to put your uniform on before lining up tomorrow morning,” Gwendir said, then he frowned as he took in the scene.

Gwendir looked at the cadets who were all on their feet now, then at the three Elves on the floor.

“What is going on here?” the lieutenant bellowed.

Belegor who had managed to stand up pointed to Thranduil. “The Meduion attacked us.”

“Thranduil Oropherion?” Gwendir frowned at the blond Sinda.

“I told Belegor that I wasn’t going to give him a second warning,” Thranduil said, raising his chin to face the lieutenant. He kept his eyes straight, avoiding the light in Gwendir's eyes.

Gwendir furrowed his brows.

“Causing commotion is not a behavior fit for an officer. Oropherion, outside!”

Elrond turned to Gwendir. “But, sir, it is about to rain…”

"Do not go further, Earendilion. Do not make things worse for yourself,” Gwendir warned then stepped out of the door.

“How?” Gelir asked as Thranduil was about to follow Lieutenant Gwendir out of the door. “If you can move like that, how is it that you are the Meduion?  How are you able to do that to Belegor and the other two?”

Thranduil shrugged. “Their eyes didn’t glow.”

“What? What does that mean?”  Cellon blinked next to Gelir, clearly not understanding, but Thranduil did not bother to elaborate.

When Thranduil stepped outside, Gwendir was waiting.

“I don’t need to explain what your punishment is, do I, Oropherion?”

“No, sir.”

“Then, get going. If you are quick enough, you may get back before the rain comes,” Gwendir looked up at the sky.  Unlike before, the cloud covered the sky hiding the moon and the stars.

Thranduil headed toward the field below when Gwendir called him again.

“Once you are done, you can sleep in the shed by the infirmary, if you prefer. It is a tight space, but there is hay there. It may be preferable to a hard stone floor.” With that Gwendir nodded, signaling him to start.

Thranduil ambled down to the Star Field. With no moon and starlight, outside was pitch dark, but Thranduil had no trouble finding his way to the training fields. The white stones with which the stairs and the ramparts were made, including the boundaries of the three training grounds, glowed pale white in the darkness as if they held the light of the stars inside them.

Any other day, Thranduil may have admired the glow of the lights, but right now, he could barely keep his feet moving. He didn’t even have the strength to prevent the shaking of his right hand which ached and burned as if axed and scorched. Part of him wanted to get this over with, he was just so tired, but the other part of him just didn’t care anymore.

When he arrived at the corner of the Sun Field and cradled a rock in his arms, the sky far to the East flashed followed by a thunderous roar. Thranduil looked up. As if the sky suddenly cracked open, rain poured down with a fury. The sudden gush made Thranduil swerve loosening his hold on the rock. Pain exploded double on his wrist and the rock slipped off his arms, throwing Thranduil down onto the mud.

The rain pounded down his head and shoulders, roaring like jeers of Noldorin cadets. Thranduil looked up at the dark sky, ignoring the thousands of heavy raindrops demanding him to bow down.

Light flashed and thunder roared. Thranduil roared back with everything he got.

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On sleeping--In LOTR, Gandalf and Legolas are seen sleeping with their eyes open. But I limit open-eyed sleep to when Elves are traveling outside their realm, in an unknown area or hostile place. In my headcanon, when Elves are within the safety of their home or in an area where they feel safe, they will sleep like any other race. Otherwise, it wouldn't make sense for them to have eyelids.

Chapter Text

White Tower of Arvernien. May 25, First Age 538

<9:02 AM>Once he reached a wide-open stone terrace built over a cliff, Thranduil stopped and hid behind a tall granite statue erected at its boundary. The flowering bushes that surrounded the statue gave Thranduil ample coverage but he scooted down low when he saw one of the three red armored soldiers walking back toward the middle of the terrace. The Noldorin soldier had been looking around large vases at the far end of the terrace where stone stairs led to a white tower built on the edge of the cliff. The tower was Elwing’s favorite place to watch for a ship that may carry her husband back home.

Thranduil aimed his arrow at the Noldorin warrior when another soldier in the red armor came out of the mansion that stood on the far right of the terrace. He walked over to the one in the middle of the terrace.

“She’s not in there. Search all around,” the second soldier said in Quenya. It was the same commanding voice that had jeered at Thranduil previously. Now that Thranduil could see him closely, he realized the one with the jeering voice has a hair that was as red as a sunset, a rare color among the dark-haired Noldor. In fact, his red armor was gilded in gold with designs of rays of the sun around the edges.

Thranduil grabbed another arrow when a third warrior with a bow strung and ready in his hand came around from the back of the mansion to join the other two. 

“I don’t see her, Ambarussa. Are you sure she came this way?” the archer said to the redhead.

“I’m sure!” The redhead frowned.

Noiselessly, Thranduil took out the third arrow. He lined the three arrows over his bow, then nocking one arrow to the string, aimed it at the Noldorin archer. Once their archer is disposed of, Thranduil will have time to shoot the other two who only had swords. Thranduil silently planned the moves and calculated the distance, then he pulled back the string of his bow.

As the string became taut, Thranduil felt a chill run down his spine. He took in a breath, then let the tension of his bow string settle.

No matter how much he wanted to deny it, Thranduil knew he had no chance if he was to face the three highly trained Elven warriors directly. His best chance was to shoot them down as quickly as he can before any of them could reach him. And at this distance, with nothing near for the three warriors to hide behind, Thranduil knew he could kill them, if not all, at least two before he will have to face the last of them.

But how can he kill another Elf? All Elves are kin, no matter how distantly related.

And the three Noldor standing on the terrace were so close, he could see the gray color of their eyes. Thranduil swallowed hard.

Tremor pass through him, shaking his very core. He had killed orcs and goblins, and he had hunted for food, but he had never killed another Elf before. Despite all the hatred he felt for the Noldor, everything he believed in cried out against committing the deadliest of sins. He lowered his bow.

Then, Thranduil’s thoughts strayed to Menegroth. These Elves were the ones who had killed his brother, killed his grandfather, killed Aron’s mother and the gentle queen. They were the same people who destroyed the home he loved. Thranduil clenched his back teeth and picked up the bow again. Elwing’s life may depend on him killing them.

With trembling hands, Thranduil held up his bow and aimed it at the Noldorin archer as the Noldo stood next to the red head. Thranduil took in a big breath to still the tremor that went through him. His heart pulsed rapid and furious as if it will jump out of his chest. The young Sinda glanced at the Noldorin warriors, afraid that they could hear it.

The threaded arrow in front of him shook and Thranduil stepped back to steady himself before pulling back on the string when something crunched under his feet.

The redhead turned and looked directly at where Thranduil hid.

“Come out! I know you are there. Are you an Elf or a filth of the Dark Lord who hides in the darkness and skulks like a coward?” the redhead said aloud.

Thranduil knew better than to abandon his bow, but his blood boiled and anger darkened his heart and mind.

He stepped forward into the opening, then threw down his bow and the arrows on the ground. He took out his long knife which was strapped to his belt along with his dagger.

The redhead laughed when he saw Thranduil with his long knife drawn.

“A child?”

“I’m not a child!” Thranduil spat. “You want a fight, then fight, Noldo.”

A corner of redhead’s lips curled up.

“You are no match for me, elfling,” the redhead said, holding up his head high to look down at Thranduil. The redhead looked very tall against Thranduil’s slight and lithe frame. Although Thranduil was 70 years old, he was smaller than most other Elves at that age.

“You think because you are a Noldo that you are superior to everybody,” Thranduil rushed in, swinging his long knife, going for an opening on the redhead's right.

The redhead barely moved, but slid past Thranduil’s thrust as if it was a mere play.

“We are superior. I’m guessing you are not one of our kin from Gondolin?”

“I rather be an Orc than be one of you, you kinslayer!” Thranduil huffed having made several swings and thrusts but not having made even the barest contact.

“Then, you are one of the Elves from Doriath? How is it you speak Quenya?” the redhead frowned, taking another step to avoid Thranduil’s advance.

“You murderer. Your kind killed my brother, my grandfather, my aunt, people I loved, destroyed my home.” Thranduil swung with all his strength using all that he had learned but none of his swings touched the redhead who with deft movements avoided them.

“I have lost family, too, at Doriath,” the redheaded Noldo growled, then took a swing, easily blocking Thranduil’s labored thrusts.

“Every one of your kin deserves death.” Thranduil grounded his teeth.

The redhead’s eyes flashed, then with a roar, Ambarussa slashed twice at Thranduil’s arm. The long knife in Thranduil’s hand clattered to the ground. Thranduil gritted his teeth, but could not prevent a groan from escaping as he grabbed at the two gaping wounds on his arm as the red blood seeped through his fingers. The redhead, with surprising speed, stepped forward and grabbed Thranduil’s neck, picking him up off the ground.

“What do you know of death, elfling!” The redhead bared his teeth, his lips curled. The bright light of his eyes seemed to glow like a firelight.

The steel gauntlet on the redhead's hand dug into Thranduil’s bare neck. Thranduil gagged, breath cut off him. He tried to pry off the steel covered fingers, but try as he might, the redhead did not loosen his grip.

Ambarussa, please,” one of the two red-armored warriors, the one with the bow, pleaded. “He is but a child. Let him go. He is no threat to us.”

It was then a horn rang out surrounding them with a long deep note, then tooted twice.

The three red armored warriors stopped and the redhead loosened his hold on Thranduil, enough for the young Sinda to take a breath.

“It’s Lord Maedhros’ horn. He is calling all the warriors to retreat,” the one who had intervened looked up at the redhead.

“I am not done yet, Astarno. She has the Silmaril. We are not done until we find her,” the redhead said as he turned back to Thranduil, then tightening his steel fingers over Thranduil's neck once again, the redhead picked the Sinda up off his feet, then shook him.

“Where is she?”

Thranduil struggled as the steel fingers dug again into his throat cutting off blood and breath.

Stop!” A shrill voice rang out. The three warriors turned. “Let him go or I’ll drop this in the depth of the ocean where none of you can ever find it!”

At the base of the stone stairs that led up to the white tower, Elwing stood, tall and majestic.

The white jewel set amid the Dwarven necklace glowed bright white on her neck as she held the edges of the bejeweled necklace towards them.

The redhead growled, then hurled Thranduil onto the ground. Then without a second thought to the young Sinda,  Ambarussa turned to move toward Elwing.

Thranduil did not think. He grabbed redhead's legs and held onto them with all his might.

“Run, Elwing, run!” Thranduil shouted in Sindarin.

The redhead’s steel gauntlet came crashing down on Thranduil’s head, once, then twice, but Thranduil hung onto him harder as something thick flowed down his forehead and stung his eyes.

“Get off me!” Ambarussa picked up Thranduil bodily and hurled the young Sinda onto the ground, smashing him on the side of his wounded arm.

The pain on his bleeding arm and the side where he hit the ground exploded as if pummeled with an ax, but Thranduil bit hard onto his back teeth. Trembling from pain, Thranduil got up and when the redhead walked near him to pass him, he sprang onto the redhead’s leg once more.

“You are not going anywhere!” Thranduil screamed.

The redhead’s other foot came crashing down on Thranduil’s side. Pain blasted through his body and Thranduil groaned and rolled over, unable to hold on.

Thranduil tried to lift up his head, but a cold steel clad foot held Thranduil’s head down on the dirt.

“If I were you, elfling, I’ll stay down,” the redhead growled. Then, he turned to the other two warriors.

“Astarno, shoot the woman and Thornandur, you take this elfling,” the redhead took off his foot from Thranduil’s head and turned.

“Ambarussa…” the one called Astarno protested.

“Now! Stop her.” The redhead commanded.

Ignoring the throbs of pain wracking his body, Thranduil threw himself onto Astarno who was threading an arrow onto his bowstring and shouted with everything he got.

“Run, Elwing! Run!”

 

 

 

White City.  April 11, Second Age 144

A heavy groan escaped Thranduil’s clenched teeth as a burning claw ripped through his wrist. The raw pain sizzled all the way to his bones as if the wrist was hacked, then thrust into a pit of roaring fire. Realizing he had rolled over onto the injured wrist, Thranduil carefully lifted his body off his hand, then gingerly grabbed the throbbing wrist. It was even more swollen today than it was yesterday.

The pain was so acute the quick healing spell he had used last night was useless against it.

Biting down another groan, Thranduil sat up. Every part of his body ached. The dark memories of Doriath and Sirion that haunted him every night now were fading in the light of the morning, but the shadows lingered.

“These Noldor really know how to thrash you,” Thranduil said through the gritted teeth, remembering the pounding he got from the redhead almost two centuries ago. No matter. That Noldo was dead and so was the other Noldorin warrior. Out of the three, only one remained: Astarno, the one who shot Elwing. It is one name Thranduil will never forget as long as he lives. One day, if that Noldo is still alive somewhere on this earth, Thranduil will find him and kill him with his own two hands.

Cradling his right hand, Thranduil laid back down on the hay. He was exhausted. He needed food soon. He wasn’t sure if he could take another such grueling day without anything in his stomach.

Just as he closed his eyes to block out the throbbing pain, someone pounded on the door of the shed before wrenching it open.

“Get up, you fool.” Elrond panted at the open door to the shed. “The lineup is in few minutes.” He threw a bundle at Thranduil. “It’s your uniform. If you don’t want to be the last one again today, you better get dressed and get yourself to the Star Field.”

Thranduil sat up and took in Elrond’s agitated form as the young Noldo tried to catch his breath as if he had been running about all morning.

“Who asked you to be my keeper?” Thranduil drawled up at Elrond. He was too tired to care really, but he didn’t want anyone telling him what to do, especially a Noldo, even if it was Elwing’s son.

Elrond’s eyes practically burned like a fire pit.

“You ungrateful, arrogant Orc!” Elrond stepped forward, then just as quickly, he wrinkled his nose and stepped back. “Bah! You smell terrible,” Elrond grimaced. “And you look even worse,” Elrond said looking over the blond Sinda.

Thranduil scratched the back of his head. He supposed he looked bad. He had been drenched and covered in mud when he crawled into the shed last night.   And too tired to care, Thranduil had slept in the wet clothes, mud and all. He could imagine how bad he must look and smell.

“You better wash up, too. You already missed morning meal and you don’t have much time,” Elrond said and took out a loaf of bread stuffed with strips of meat from inside his tunic. “You have to eat something before you start today. An empty stomach will deter your recovery and it will be even more grueling today.”

Elrond offered the bread to Thranduil. The Sinda didn’t take it but looked up at Elrond with disdain.

“Damn you, Thranduil! Pride will get you only so far. It will not fill your empty stomach. I knew Sindar can be stubborn, I didn’t know they can also be so thickheaded. If you are going to be a half-wit, then go ahead.” Elrond threw the bread on top of the bundle he had given Thranduil then stomped out, closing the door of the shed with a bang.

“So, you are not all meek and nice, are you?” Thranduil said with a scoff, unable to prevent one end of his lips from creeping up. “You may be your father’s son, but you have your mother’s temper.” Thranduil laughed out aloud. Then, picking up the bread, he ate it like a wolf starved.

 

_______________________

Ambarussa (Quenya, top-russet)–-the twin sons of Feanor, Amrod and Amras. They were the youngest of Feanor's seven sons. Both Amrod and Amras were called Ambarussa, a name given by their mother. In Silmarillion, both twins survived Menegroth along with Maedhros and Maglor but perished at Sirion when they attacked Elwing to get their hands on the Silmaril Elwing held. But in Shibboleth of Feanor, Amrod died at Losgar when his father burned the swan ships not realizing one of the twins was sleeping inside one of them and only Amras survived until Sirion. I chose to go with the latter in my story. 

At 70 years old, Thranduil would look about 15-16 year old human.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

ELROND stomped down the stairs to the Star Field. The other cadets were just beginning to trickle into the training ground, some practicing, but most of them just fooling around and laughing as young Elves tend to do when left to themselves.

Too tired last night to think, Elrond had fallen asleep as soon as his head touched the pillow but when he did not find Thranduil in the barracks in the morning, Elrond thought the Sinda had gone either to the lake to wash and dress or to the dining hall. But when Thranduil’s golden head was not at the dining hall, Elrond found himself looking for the blond Sinda at the practice fields. In the end, he was running, asking after Thranduil at the infirmary, questioning other cadets, checking every place he thought the Sinda may linger.

He told himself not to worry. Thranduil made it clear last night that his help was not welcome, yet Elrond couldn’t let it go. Gil-galad rarely asked anything of him but the king sought him out for this task. It was a duty and Elrond wanted to do it well. As the time came to line up approached and Elrond couldn’t find anyone who had seen Thranduil, Elrond went to Lieutenant Gwendir to report the Sinda missing.

 And that ungrateful Orc… Elrond let out a long breath trying to calm himself. While he had been frantic searching for Thranduil, worrying over him, the Sinda had been sleeping the morning away.

When Gil-galad first approached him, Elrond thought it would be an easy task. Thranduil was only 64 years older than him.  They were practically same age.  Lord Oropher was much older and difficult to approach, but even the cold Sindarin lord, when they first met, bowed to Elrond in acknowledgment, a courtesy which Oropher did not show even to the king. Elrond thought Thranduil would be easier to be friends with being younger and maybe less burdened by the past sorrows as did his sire. But Elrond was wrong.

Thranduil wasn’t just difficult to reach, the Sinda brought out dark memories Elrond did not wish to remember. The moment Elrond looked into the cold and distant eyes of Thranduil, the Half-Elven was sucked back into that time back in Sirion, the time that Elrond thought he had forgotten. But with the memory of those blue-green eyes, the images of the darkness of the cave, the muffled sounds of clanking of weapons and the wailing screams, they all came back. And those words:

“I am going to get your mother. And I will come back for you.

After Elrond came back from their first meeting at the Grey Havens, there were too many nights Elrond awoke, startled, his hand seeking Elros in the dark, crying out to his brother. But there was only empty space. Elrond had to light the lamp, trying to push away the dank smell of the cave that lingered in the quietness of his chambers.

Elros. Elros. My better half. My brother.

Something hot coiled in his throat and Elrond swallowed it down as the memory of his brave older brother made Elrond’s throat ache. His brother had tried his best to sooth Elrond even as he too shivered as they clung to each other in the darkness of the cave, afraid to breathe or cry.  

The thought of Elros brought waves of longing Elrond had carefully tucked away.

The day he met his brother again after the Great War, Elrond had lost his temper then as he had with Thranduil, but back then, it had been more out of grief than anger.

“Why, Elros? Don’t you want to see mother again? They told you, did they not? Valinor is closed to the mortals.” Elrond rubbed at his chest where the muscles above his heart tightened painfully.

Elrond could not imagine being in the Middle Earth without his older brother. If they were to be sundered, then the thirty-five years Elrond had waited to see Elros after his brother left to fight with the Edain in the Great War meant nothing. Elrond bore the separation because he thought once the war was over, they will become a family again. But instead, Elros told him that they will be separated forever.  

“I’m sorry, Elrond. I did not tell you of my decision because I wanted you to choose out of your heart, not for my sake. I wanted you happy.”

“Happy? How could I be happy when you and I will be separated forever?”

Elrond’s heart broke as he realized how little time they had together. Once his brother left the shores of Middle Earth, Elrond will never see Elros again. Men, no matter how long-lived, never lived long enough. Had Elros chosen to be an Elf, even if they separated from each other and went to the Hall of Mandos one day, be it thousands of years later, Elrond will see Elros again. But Elros chose to remain a man. A man’s life differed from the Elves. Elrond did not know where Men went after their souls passed from this world.

“I would have followed you,” Elrond said, his throat thick and tight. Bitter tears flowed down his cheeks. His family will never be together again.

“But that is it, brother,” Elros said, grabbing Elrond’s shoulders, touching his forehead onto Elrond’s as his eyes, too, filled with tears. “I knew that if I told you my choice, you will choose likewise even when I know your heart is with the Elves. I didn’t want you to follow me and be my shadow, brother. You are more important than that. Go where your heart tells you. Become who you were meant to be, Elrond. You know, as well as I that this is what was meant to be.”

Elrond wept bitterly then, for he knew Elros spoke the truth.

Many days after Elros left Middle Earth, Elrond regretted his choice to leave Elros to fight in the War of Wrath while he led a smaller part of Maedhros’ people to Gil-galad.

When the Great War started with the landing of the host of the Valar in Beleriand, Elrond and Elros had been too young, only thirteen years old in age. But as soon as they turned twenty, Elros decided to join with Men to fight the Dark Lord.

“Do not go,” Elrond had begged. “This is not our fight, Elros. Valar had forbidden us from joining in the battle.”

“Not us, Elrond. Only the Exiles and those Elves whose hands are tainted with the blood of their kin are forbidden. We are not Elves. We are Men. The Edain are our people, our grandfather’s people. Have you forgotten who our parents are? Maedhros and Maglor may have raised us, but they are not our parents.”

Unlike Elrond who had forgiven Maedhros and Maglor of their bloody deeds at Sirion, Elros had never quite forgotten that these two Noldorin Elves were responsible for the loss of their mother and their home. And although he had come to love and respect Maedhros and Maglor, as soon as Elros became old enough, his elder brother had wanted to leave them.

Knowing what was in Elros’ heart, Maglor had reached out to Gil-galad who had become the high king of all Noldor in Middle Earth. Under a truce, Gil-galad had agreed to accept those followers of Maedhros and Maglor whose hands were not tainted with blood. There were women, artisans and others who were not warriors and who had not participated in the bloodshed at Menegroth and at Sirion.

As this was the time when the whole of Beleriand was overrun with Morgoth’s creatures, the exhausted and dwindled army of Maedhros and Maglor could not confront the Dark Lord’s creatures and they had been running, moving from place to place, never quite settling down long in one location. For those given leave to move to the Isle of Balar, it meant protection from the onslaught of the Orcs running rampant in Beleriand as the war raged. And Maglor had given Elrond and Elros the task of leading these people to Gil-galad.

But instead of going to Gil-galad, his brother had joined the war alongside the Men.

Seeing the resolution in the depth of his brother’s eyes, Elrond had known then that there were no words that could dissuade his brother.

“Then, I will come with you,” Elrond had said even though all he wanted was to take care of the people who were entrusted to him.

Elros had shaken his head, with that same firm look.

“No, Elrond. This is where we must part. We are no longer children. We must walk our own paths, brother, even if those paths lead to different places.” Then, with a smile that lit up his gray eyes like a glint of light on a sword, Elros had clasped Elrond’s back. “Besides, you don’t like fighting. I know how much you want to be a healer, Elrond. Go. Take care of the people you are to lead. Before long, we will meet again.”

Elrond had thought then that once they meet again, they will settle down with Gil-galad who had given him a home and they would become a family again. But Elros chose a different path.

Pain bloomed in his heart knocking out his breath. Elrond couldn’t shake off the feeling that had he been a warrior like his brother, he would be with Elros now.

Elrond looked toward the West again.

In few months, it will be a century since his brother sailed from Middle Earth. Now, Elrond had no one except Gil-galad. The king was the closest family Elrond had in all the Middle Earth. The sorrow he hid deep inside him swelled up like a swollen river. Elrond fisted his hands and swallowed hard. This was not the time to get emotional.

Keeping a firm hand over his turbulent emotion, Elrond glanced back at the shed before running down the remainder of the stairs to join the cadets on the training ground.

Elrond will become what he knew the king expected of him. Gil-galad hoped that Elrond will eventually take over the command of the army. According to the king, Lord Gilmagor planned to sail as soon as the army was in order. And Elrond was determined not to let the king down, even if it meant giving up his desire to become a healer. If he had made this decision sooner, maybe Elros would not have left him.

“Elrond?” Someone touched his forearm and Elrond looked up.

Belegor peered into Elrond’s face, his gray eyes concerned. “Are you all right?”

Elrond forced a smile.

“You were frowning,” Belegor pointed to Elrond’s forehead. “I have never seen you frown like that. What is bothering you, my friend?” Belegor pulled Elrond’s hand off his front braid which the Half-Elven had not known that he was pulling.

“It is of no concern.” Elrond dropped his hand and tried to shake away the memory and the longing.

“It’s that Sinda, isn’t it?” Belegor knitted his forehead, his handsome features pinched. “You are getting yourself involved with him, that is why you are like this.” Belegor shook his head. “Elrond, some people are just not worth being nice to. You can’t be nice to everyone.”

“It is nothing like that, Belegor. The king has asked me to watch over him,” Elrond said simply.

“I see. Now it makes sense. So it is true that the king was thrust with the protection of this Sinda? It is no wonder then why the little Orc acts so high and mighty despite being a Sinda.”

“I do not think it is quite that…” Elrond wanted to explain, but knew it was useless. Once Belegor made up his mind, nothing changed it. Although open minded about many things, Belegor rarely listened to any other. And when it came to other Elves, the younger generation of Noldor, unlike elders who were wise enough not to say so outright, were not afraid to voice their superiority over other Elves.

Belegor was no exception. His father was not only the chief councilor but also the leader of those Noldor who believed in the superiority of Noldor over all other Elves. And Elrond was very aware how Lord Lammaeg thought his half-Elven blood not sufficiently Noldor enough for his taste.

It was good that Lord Lammaeg’s children did not share their father’s thoughts regarding Elrond. Belegor accepted Elrond as a Noldo. And once accepted, Belegor never bothered with the other parts of Elrond’s mixed blood. But Elrond knew that not all of Belegor’s friends accepted him as fully as Belegor did.

And if he was very honest, Elrond never felt completely Noldor because there were some Noldor who did not see him as one of them. And he never felt completely Sindar because many Sindar did not accept him as one of them. Sometimes, Elrond wondered what he was. As accepting as many Noldor were, Elrond didn’t feel that he fit in, neither with Noldor nor with Sindar, and now, neither with Men. He was all of them yet none of them.

Belegor patted Elrond’s arm. “Don’t worry about the Sinda. We’ll put him in his place. If that Orc thinks he can tackle me unaware again, then I am not Belegor Lammaegion,” Belegor ground his teeth.

Elrond felt unease run through him. He could feel Belegor’s anger and disgust. He knew well how other cadets and many young Elves in Lindon looked up to Belegor. Almost everyone knew who Belegor was. And his friends were loyal. If Belegor went against Thranduil, it meant hard times for the Sinda.

“Belegor, do not concern yourself with Thranduil. He doesn’t know much about how things are around here. I should have kept him informed of the rules and other things. It was my job and I failed.”

“Stop taking the blame for other people’s shortcomings, Elrond.” Belegor put his arm around Elrond’s shoulder. “Your problem is, you care too much, my friend. Just stand back and watch.”

Belegor winked and moved away when they saw the three officers approach. Behind them, the remaining cadets scrambled to get to the field before the officers.

Among them was Thranduil. But unlike others, the Sinda did not run. With his long legs, the blond Sinda strolled onto the field and sauntered into the forming line. He stood there as if he had no care in the world, his hair still wet and clinging to his head. Then, with his head held high, Thranduil surveyed those around him with an icy cold gaze.

“That Meduion thinks he is the gift of Valar to Middle Earth,” Belegor standing next to Elrond sneered under his breath.

“Come now, Belegor. The officers are here,” Elrond said to remind Belegor.

The Half-Elf hoped that Thranduil would ignore whatever he heard, but that was not to be.

Thranduil turned towards them. With a corner of his lips curled up into a wicked grin, Thranduil raised his chin towards them.

“Belegor, was it?” Thranduil drawled. “How’s your back?”  

Belegor’s eyes flashed like lightning, ramming Elrond’s senses with the force of searing heat.

“Attention!” Officer Bellion called out just as Elrond reached out to grab Belegor. But the officer’s call snapped Belegor back. The Noldo took in a sharp breath, then turned back to face the officers, his face tight and jaw clenched.

“Line up. Two Columns.” The four columns of cadets dissolved seamlessly to form two columns. “Five laps around the entire training fields. Start!” Officer Bellion’s voice boomed across the training ground and the cadets began to move in unison.

 Elrond glanced at Thranduil. If the fool was stupid enough to make Belegor his enemy, then there was nothing Elrond could do. Had Thranduil’s foolishness been tempered with humility, Elrond may have been inclined to persuade Belegor otherwise, if his friend could be persuaded, but the way it stood, Elrond may end up punching that arrogant face of the Sinda before Belegor has his chance.

 

_____________

Hall of Mandos—- the Dwelling place of Vala Namo (Quenya, Ordainer or Judge), also called Mandos (Quenya, Prison-fortress), the Doomsman of the Valar. The Hall is where the spirits of Children of Illuvatar, the Elves and Men, go after their death to await their fates. Thus, the hall is also called “Halls of Waiting”. The Elves could choose to reincarnate into bodies identical to those of their prior life after certain periods of cleansing and self-reflection unless they were judged guilty after committing some terrible misdeed, in which case, they are to wait in the halls until the ending of the world. Elves and Men went to different halls where Men left Arda (world) completely unlike Elves who were to either reincarnate or wait in the halls until the end of time. It is said that the hall grows in size as the world aged.

War of Wrath (aka Great War)—the last war of First Age fought by Valar, Elves, Dwarves and Men against Morgoth, the Dark Lord. Morgoth was defeated utterly and taken prisoner. But, Sauron escaped and hid. This war lasted 42 years and ended destroying the Beleriand and sinking it under the ocean.

Chapter Text

King’s Tower. April 11, Second Age 144

GIL-GALAD stormed into his chambers followed by Lord Gilmagor.

“Leave us,” he commanded the servants more sharply than he wonted. They left quickly, closing the door firmly behind them under the king’s scrutiny. Once silence settled in the room, Gil-galad turned to the commander of his army and a mentor.

“I don’t understand, master. I thought you were on my side. I thought you were with me,” Gil-galad touched his forehead, trying to calm the throbbing there.

“I am with you, Ereinion. I always have and always will.”

“Then why?” asked Gil-galad. “I thought you approved of Elrond. Was it not Elrond that has sealed your decision to teach the cadets yourself?”

If there was one person Gil-galad thought he could rely on at the council, it would have been Gilmagor, but now he wasn’t so sure. He was relieved, at least, that the discussion had been just between his uncle, the commander and himself. Had this been in front of the whole council... Gil-galad shook his head. He didn't want to think about the damage it would have caused.

Gilmagor sighed, running his finger over the bone on his nose that jutted out, marring otherwise fine features of his.

“It is not the matter of Elrond’s character. It is more about his lineage.”

“He is my cousin, heir of my father’s brother. Have you forgotten that he is Idril’s grandson?”

“I have not forgotten. It is precisely why he cannot be your heir, Ereinion. He is the grandson of Turgon’s daughter. Our kings come from the line of sons, never mind that he is not even of pure Noldorin blood.”

“When have you become the purist?” The king challenged. “I thought only Lord Lammaeg talks of ‘pure blood’. I expect that from my uncle, but you…”

“My feelings have nothing to do with agreeing with Lord Lammaeg just now. You know I don’t agree with the views of your uncle, but I agree with him as to this matter.” Gilmagor held out his hand, stopping Gil-galad as the king turned to protest.

“This isn’t about my view of Elrond. It is not about my feelings but about what your people expect. As their king, it is your job to execute the will of the people, not for you to execute your will on them.  If you hope to unite all Elven kind in Middle Earth as you so wish, you should not start by alienating your own followers by changing our tradition for no reason. The purity of the blood aside, you cannot name an heir who is from a daughter’s line until all heirs from the line of sons are exhausted. That is the way it has been and that is the way people expect it to be. Even now, there are many who see Celebrimbor as having the better claim than you. And by rights, Celebrimbor should have been the king as the sole surviving member of the line of Feanor. And, make no mistake, Ereinion, had it not been for the kinslaying by Feanor and his sons, the crown would not be with you.”

Gil-galad took off the golden circlet on his head. “Then why did they make me king? I didn’t want this.”

“Because you are the only surviving heir in the House Fingolfin. After Maedhros gave up his right to the kingship to your grandfather, all of us acknowledged Fingolfin as the high king and the kingship has remained within his House.”

“And as Uncle Turgon’s heir, Elrond is part of this House. Why would it be wrong for the crown to go to Elrond, especially when Uncle Turgon had the crown before me?”

Gilmagor let out a long sigh and raked his hair.

“Turgon had the crown after your father’s death because you were only 27 years old and too young to rule. He was the eldest surviving male of the House at that time but Turgon knew the kingship will fall back to you and not to his heir even if he had a son. His heir would have only inherited Gondolin, had it survived, not the high kingship.  Besides, Elrond is a Half-Elven.”

“But so was King Dior of Doriath. He was a Half-Elven and a mortal at that but he became the king after Thingol.”

“But their circumstance differs from ours, Ereinion. After King Thingol’s death, they were only two who could have taken the kingship. Lord Celeborn was one of them but he had left Doriath decades before Thingol’s death and they knew not where to look for him.  The other was Lord Arandur but he refused, claiming that Lady Melian wanted Dior to inherit.”

“Lord Arandur as in Oropher’s father?” The king looked up at Gilmagor.

Gilmagor nodded.

“Yes. Lord Arandur was Thingol’s nephew but according to him, one of his captains brought a word from Queen Melian before she disappeared, that she wanted Dior to inherit. And when Lord Arandur refused the crown, it excluded everyone in his House including Arandur's nephew Amdir as he grew up in his uncle’s house along with Oropher."

"No matter what Lord Arandur claimed, Dior became the king because people accepted him."

"People of Doriath accepted Dior because they respected Lady Melian above all others and took her words to heart. I am afraid your words alone will not have the same effect on our people.”

Gil-galad sighed knowing this to be true.

“How do you know all this?” Gil-galad asked. “For a Noldo, you seem to know Sindarin history well. Those are details even I have not learned from Pengolodh and he is the loremaster.”

“Master Pengo is knowledgeable and wise, but his knowledge of Sindarin history comes from pieces of information he gathered from the refugees of Doriath he met at Sirion. And the stories he added to his Annals are mostly those stories that are of interest to us and are written with our perspective. Unfortunately, those Sindar Pengo had access to did not always have the firsthand knowledge and many of their accounts missed the names of others not central to the story. And, Oropher’s people, those Sindar from Menegroth who had actual knowledge of what happened in Doriath, stayed away from us.”

“So, where did you get your information. I doubt any of Oropher’s people opened up to you.”

 “No, they did not,” Gilmagor scoffed. “But Oropher was close to Lord Cirdan and deferred to him in all matters. I went to talk to Lord Cirdan when you first came to me regarding Elrond. I knew everything about Elrond’s father, but not enough about his mother.”

“And the knowledge did not convince you that Elrond is worthy?”

“As I said, it is not about the quality of Elrond’s blood. He has a royal blood of both Noldor and Sindar but he comes from a daughter’s line from both royal Houses. If there was no Celebrimbor, some may not question Elrond’s qualifications despite his mortal blood. But as it stands, Celebrimbor has the better claim until you have a son. If you name Elrond your heir now, you are practically telling Celebrimbor you reject him as a part of your family. As Lammaeg said, under you, we will be united.  But, if people are given a choice between Elrond and Celebrimbor, most will choose Celebrimbor.”

“That includes Lammaeg himself,” Gil-galad said. “He believes anyone who is not Noldor beneath notice. My uncle thinks Elrond does not have enough of Noldorin blood in him.”

“I know how you feel about Lord Lammaeg and his views, but I recommend that you keep them to yourself, Ereinion. You need Lammaeg. He commands a large following and has the connection and influence over many Noldor. But most importantly, Lammaeg is loyal to you. No matter that your views clash often with his, he will never think of betraying you.”

Gil-galad sighed as he looked down at his hands. He knew Gilmagor was right.

“Do you think they will choose Celebrimbor even though he is Feanor’s grandson?” Gil-galad knew he was making a losing argument, but he had to ask.

“You know the answer to that. It is not our way to blame a son for the error of his father, or a father for the error of his child. No one blames him for the act of his father and neither should you.”

Gil-galad nodded, realizing he cannot fight this now. The king felt the scrutiny of his sword master and turned to meet the piercing eyes of the elder Elf.

“Let me ask you, Ereinion, as your friend and not as your teacher or adviser. Why do you insist on naming your heir now when you are still young? You are a young ellon with prospects better than most. We are at peace now. Is it so strange for the council to think that you will marry one day and produce an heir? Have you not seen the hopeful eyes of the many young maidens in this kingdom whenever you pass? What is it that spurs you to want an heir not of your own body? And why is it that you want an army when we have no dark lord to speak of?”

Gil-galad threw himself onto one of the chairs in his chambers. He pulled at the neckline of his velvet tunic, suddenly feeling suffocated.

“Talk to me.” Gilmagor’s eyes softened as he stood before the king. “What haunts you, young one?”

The king put his hand over his mouth. The vision of his mother lying on her bed, once beautiful face that became too pale and too thin, a wisp of her former self, swam before his eyes.

Once, proud and majestic she was. With long dark hair that was waves of silken curls and gray eyes that twinkled like evening stars, his mother had been the only source of joy for him in the land by the sea which was strange and foreign, so different from the windswept Hithlum with the scent of pines and snow-capped mountains where he was born.

Gil-galad was only 20 years old when his father sent him away with his mother to the care of Lord Cirdan.

“Ereinion,” Gilmagor called, bringing the king out of the thoughts of the past. “Will you not talk to me?”

“I don’t think I could marry,” Gil-galad whispered, repressing the overwhelming sadness that clung to him like a morning chill. 

Gilmagor frowned as if he had not heard right.

Gil-galad reined in the tremor that shook him as Silwen's soft silver eyes and moonlight white hair swirled like morning mist in his mind making his heart ache and bleed. But this was not a matter related to the realm. It was personal and as such, it had no bearing on their discussion. The dream, maybe, but not this. Gil-galad's eyes swept over the gilded gold box sitting on his desk before meeting Gilmagor's eyes again.

“I heard that you started to train the cadets yourself? Why is that? I thought you were planning to select only a few to train?” The king leaned back in the chair, trying hard to sound normal.

Gil-galad knew that his master was too sharp not to notice the intentional change in the subject, but he wasn’t ready to talk about it. Not yet.

Gilmagor met the king’s gaze and held it but after a moment, sighed, then took a seat across from the king.

“I met a new cadet. He intrigued me.”

“Oh?” the king looked up at his sword master. It was rare for the elder elf to say such a thing. Gilmagor was quite fastidious when it came to people. Of all the years the king had known him, the only other person Gilmagor found ‘interesting’ had been Elrond although that alone did not make Gilmagor take on Elrond as his pupil as the king had hoped. “Tell me about him.”

“At first, I thought he was a Vanya, someone I knew in Valinor although I knew that couldn’t be.” Gilmagor’s eyes clouded for a moment as if he was seeing somewhere far.

The king raised his eyebrows. “A Vanya? I thought there were none in Middle Earth?”

As far as Gil-galad knew, all of that race of Elves went to Valinor before the birth of the sun and the moon. According to what he read, Vanyar did not readily mix with others. Of the few that did, they were all married into his family.

“He wasn’t. He was just golden.”

“Golden? I know of none in Middle Earth except for Lady Galadriel. Of course, unless he has a blood of Men like Elrond. I have seen mortals with a blond hair although their hair is not so radiant in color as the Vanyar. Theirs certainly were not like Idril's or Lady Galadriel's.”

“I do not believe there is any mortal blood in him. I am talking about Oropher’s son, Thranduil. I guess you have not met him yet?”

Gil-galad shook his head.

“I offered to house him here in the palace, but he refused. And my invitation to the celebration of the First Yen did not reach him. According to Lord Istuion, Thranduil went into a forest as soon as his father left and didn’t plan to return until after the celebration ended. I received a similar response for the dinner invitation before the training. I don’t know if he is avoiding me, or if the timing was unfortunate. So what intrigued you?”

“I thought I saw something in him. At first glance, I could tell he was a trained warrior. Although he is young, it looked as if he was tested in a field in the way he stood…the look in the eyes. But…” Gilmagor seemed hesitant to go on.

“He was not what he seemed?”

“I am not yet sure, but there is something not right about him. I sensed fear in him.”

“You are not saying he is a coward? I cannot believe that the son of Oropher could be a coward.” Gil-galad gaped at his sword master.

“Sons do not always take after their fathers, nor are fathers always like their sons.  But I do not think it was a cowardice. Hardy and resolute, he was. Stood and took everything without one word of complaint although he suffered more than all the rest. That alone tells me he is no coward. I have driven the cadets hard all day. I wanted to see how hardy they were. As I always said…”

“Yes, I know.” Gil-galad smiled remembering the grueling training Gilmagor put him through insisting that a leader must get up when everyone is beaten down even if he was hurting more than the rest.

“A leader needs to have a great stamina, both in mind and body along with plenty of iron will and determination,” Gilmagor said as if he wanted to drill that into the king.

“Then what do you think it is? Did he at least do well enough against other cadets?”

“No. He was the meduion."

Gil-galad couldn't believe it. "I thought Thranduil was trained by the best of Doriath warriors?"

"I can't say how well he is trained, but he certainly is experienced. I could tell by the ease with which he grips his weapons and how quickly he adapts to those around him although he seems to have some difficulty with his right hand." Gilmagor stopped, then shook his head. "But, something haunts him. It weighs him down and affects him deeply. Whatever it is, if he cannot overcome it, he cannot lead. And there is another problem." Gilmagor sighed. "He is not familiar with the Noldorin style. I don’t think he knows any of the patterns for wielding a sword other than his native Sindarin movements. I have learned the Sindarin style from Lord Cirdan’s people. The patterns are much more simple, effective but not as sophisticated as ours although I’ll admit to some innovative moves.”

“Can we set someone to teach him?”

Gilmagor scoffed aloud, but his eyes laughed. “This young Sinda declared to me that he can learn whatever patterns in Noldorin style before the next quarter.”

Gil-galad rounded his eyes.

“That is in ten days. What has made him say such nonsense? Does he even know how many patterns there are?”

“I care not. He said he could, so I expect him to do so.”

“But, master…”

“He is young and arrogant to a fault. He must learn to be responsible for what he says.”

“But what if he can’t do it? The sheer number of the patterns in ten days? You spent one week for the each pattern when you taught them to me.”

 “When I trained you, you were learning to wield your weapons for the first time. I needed to make sure you learned your patterns correctly. But Thranduil is already a warrior. The style may be different from what he may have learned, but a trained warrior should be able to pick them up much more quickly than a novice. Well, that is, if he is a properly trained warrior. He has yet to show me that he is.”

“Still…ten days? What will you do if he cannot do it?”

“Then, he will be unable to keep up with the rest. But more importantly, an Elf who says things lightly has no place among my officers. I will send him down to basic training with the common soldiers as I told him I will do.”

The king knew nothing he could say will change Gilmagor’s mind. The sword master had originally wanted to sail to Valinor and reluctantly agreed to take a temporary command of the army upon the entreaty of the king and the council. But Gilmagor had made it clear that he will not tolerate any meddling by anyone, including the king and the council, as to how he train the army while he was in command.

But, how will Oropher take it if they throw his son down to basic training with common soldiers when they have told him that his son will be trained as an officer? Gil-galad rubbed at his forehead.

“At the least, shouldn’t we teach him the patterns?”

“I have already set Elrond to do so. I have tied them to be each other’s warrior companions.”

“Elrond would not like that. He is not very fond of Thranduil.”

“If Elrond is willing to disobey commands to defend the Sinda, then he will make better warrior companion to Thranduil than any other. Besides, they can learn much from each other.”

“Disobey commands? Elrond?” Gil-galad asked. That didn’t sound like Elrond at all. But Gilmagor did not elaborate. “And if Thranduil is anything like Oropher, then I don’t know what Elrond can learn from him,” the king added.

“I know Oropher is difficult but he has a will and determination rare in many others. You should not have let him go.”

“What should have I done? Chain Oropher to Lindon? It would have only brewed more discontent. How can I hope to unite our kind if I hold any of them against their will?”

The king stood up from his chair, sudden heat suffocating him. Gil-galad was keenly aware that he was keeping Oropher’s son against his will; but, that could not be helped.

“But if Oropher is to establish a realm, how will you deal with him and his followers then? At least when they were under your rule, your words would have governed them.”

Gil-galad walked over to a table and poured himself a drink. There had been a heated discussion among the Council before Oropher was allowed to leave Lindon.

“Oropher said he had no wish to establish a kingdom. I don’t think he has that sort of ambition. You agreed with me on that.” The king turned to Gilmagor and offered him a glass of wine.

“And I still do, Ereinion.  It is the only reason I voted with you in the end. But, he is a born leader. People flock to him of their own will. Have you not seen how many of his followers grew by the time he left?”

The king thought back to the time when Oropher first approached him with the request to leave Lindon. In the beginning, it had only included his household, barely enough number of Elves to fill one ship. But they have grown over the years to require three ships by the time Oropher sailed.  Although it still was only a handful compared to the number of Sindar who remained in Lindon, it was large enough to garner the attention of the council and also because they consisted mostly of the upper echelon of former Doriath citizens such as the surviving councilors, royal guards, and craftsmen who had lived in Menegroth.

“Even if Oropher does not have such ambition, his followers may. Ambition alone does not make one a king, but neither does a lack of it prevents one from becoming one,” Gilmagor said.

“In that event, it is Celebrimbor I should worry about. His supporters seem to be growing.”

“It is precisely why Lammaeg and I are against you naming Elrond your heir now, Ereinion. We do not want to antagonize Celebrimbor or give his followers a reason to choose between you and him.”

 “I suppose,” Gil-galad looked away with a sigh realizing that they have circled back to the issue they had originally started with.

“Then you understand why we don’t want you to name Elrond your heir now? Right now, you need to focus on growing your power and influence. As soon as he is ready, install Elrond as part of the council. I will help you. Let them see who Elrond is. Let Elrond earn his place rather than naming him your heir against the council's wishes. Besides Celebrimbor, there may also be a child. We need not decide on the heir until you are sure there will be no child.”

Gil-galad nodded. But the king was sure already that there will be no child. But how can he tell Gilmagor that he will never marry, that he will never have a child of his own?

__________________________

Idril ( a Sindarized version of Itarille, Sparkling brilliance)-- Daughter of Turgon, thus the princess of Gondolin. She was the second Elven princess, after Luthien, to marry a mortal.

Ellon—male elf

Hithlum—Northern Beleriand ruled by Fingolfin, then later by his son, Fingon. In Silmarillion, it is stated that after taking the high kingship, Fingon sent his young son to Lord Cirdan for safe keeping few years before leaving for Battle of Unnumbered Tears, the last battle fought by Noldor against Morgoth where they were utterly defeated. Fingon died in this war and the crown passed to Turgon, Fingon’s brother.

Age for Elves—Up to 3 years of age, Elves and Men look same, according to Tolkien. But afterward, Elves grow slowly. At 50 years, they reach their majority (I took that to mean that they will look about 13 or 14-year-old human. During the Medieval period, once a child is about 13 when girls have their first menstruation, they were considered adults and marriageable). So, up to age 50, divide the Elf’s age by 4 and you will get how old they look if they were human. At 20, Gil-galad would have looked about 5 years old, and at 27, he would have looked about 7 years old.

Tolkien said, “some hundred years would pass before they were full-grown”.  I take that to mean that they would look 17-18 years old human by the time they pass their 100 years of age. To me, although Elves may look as they do not age, they do age, just very slowly and not discernable to humans. Humans may not be able to tell, but Elves would be able to tell how old each other is.   

Chapter Text

King’s Tower. April 11, Second Age 144

 

THRANDUIL watched as the elder healer who had set his broken wrist talk to Lieutenant Gwendir.  She spoke in a hushed voice that Thranduil could not hear. Gwendir’s eyes met Thranduil’s briefly before the lieutenant left.

Thranduil grimaced as he looked at his injured wrist which lay under a pile of herbal mixture meant to calm the swelling. It was laid on a pillow and propped up on a wooden desk.

A young healer who looked barely hundred or so in age carefully removed the herbal mixture from the part of the wrist that required stitches and started to sew the wound shut. Thranduil wasn’t sure if it was the herbal mixture, but the pain had calmed making it bearable unlike the moment Belegor’s spear hit it.  Along with the sickening crunch, the blast of pain had been so strong, Thranduil had cried out, unable to hold in the agony that tore through his lips.

The moment Thranduil heard the crack, he had known the wrist finally broke despite how carefully he had wrapped it tightly with a piece of wood and strips of his torn tunic early in the morning.

If it wasn’t for that confounded young Noldo, Thranduil was sure he would have passed the day without an incident. Well, except for that little mishap with the Crooked Nose in the morning. But, how was he to know that the Noldorin style of sword wielding was so very different from the style he had learned from his father and the other warriors? Thranduil found that there was much in the use of swords that he had not known. Although his thorough training in the wild allowed him to make quick adjustments and adapt to the differences in techniques, he just didn’t know enough and soon found himself at odds with others.

And Gilmagor had eyes of an eagle. And Thranduil had let his pride say stupid things. The young Sinda sighed. Thranduil knew he had no one to blame but himself.

The young healer who was finishing up the stitching of his torn skin looked up with a question in her eyes.

“It’s nothing,” Thranduil said. The girl went on to remove the rest of the herb mixture and took up a green salve in a clear jar. The swelling and the bruising that had made the wrist unrecognizable had calmed. Thranduil was thankful that the throbs of pain were bearable.

As for Belegor, Thranduil was sure the Noldo’s strike had been intentional. Thranduil had been careful to hold all the weapons with his left hand, trying his best to protect the injured wrist throughout the day. Belegor obviously noted this and when they were put against each other to practice blocking, the Noldo had aimed for the wrist.

Thranduil hissed and bit down a curse as his wrist burned and the throb worsened. Pain laced through his skin as if someone cut open his wrist with freshly forged steel still hot from the fire.

“Forgive me, I should have told you that it will burn,” the healer said, her eyes wide, her cheeks flushed red. She glanced up at him but quickly downcast her eyes.

“I’ll live,” Thranduil said through gritted teeth, trying to ignore the intense burn that seemed to magnify the pain.

“Once the burn settles, the pain will lessen,” the young healer said as she placed a white fabric before adding small wooden splint to fixate his wrist before binding all of them with strips of linen.

Thranduil pursed his lips and tried not to show how painful the handling was. The young healer glanced up at him again before dropping her eyes. She has been doing that for some time and Thranduil wondered if his face betrayed too much pain. Whatever the girl may think, it was the best he could do.

Once she was done, the elder healer came to check. The young healer got up and vacated the seat for the elder who sat and picked up Thranduil’s wrist to check the binding. She wrapped her hands over the binding and sang a soft tune, the words of which he didn’t recognize and the sharpness of the pain lessened. Thranduil let out a breath he didn’t realize he had been holding.

“Very good, Lassiel. The binding is well done,” the elder healer turned to the younger who beamed at the compliment.

“So, how does it feel now?” the elder healer asked Thranduil.

Thranduil shrugged. “Manageable,” he said.

The older healer’s eyes twinkled.

“You are not much of a talker, are you, young one? Next time, if there is next time, do come early instead of waiting until things get this bad,” she said.

Thranduil looked up as the elder healer from Valinor regarded him. Unlike the bright eyes of the warriors from Valinor, the bright eyes of the elder lady did not bother Thranduil. Most of the elder ladies he had known in Menegroth had those bright eyes from Melian to Lady Galadriel. In fact, the healer’s bright eyes reminded him of his mother’s warm and gentle eyes.

 “This injury is not from just one strike with a spear. Your wrist was already injured and overused. I would guess as early as yesterday morning. Being brave does not mean you have to take pain when you don’t have to. We are here near the barracks just for such incidents as this.” The healer gently padded the bound wrist. “Before it finally splintered, it would have hurt quite badly.”

 “I had worse.”

 The healer smiled patiently. “It is not a weakness to ask for help when you need it, young one.”

“Thank you,” Thranduil said and got up.

 The healer’s gray eyes twinkled as she smiled up at him. She raised her eyebrows.

 “Where do you think you are going?”

Thranduil frowned. “Return to the training field.”

“I do not think so. You are not to use your right hand until the bone sets. You have overused it after its initial injury. It will take time for it to heal. I have already talked to your lieutenant.”

“But…”

“No buts.” The healer’s calm eyes brooked no argument.

Just then, someone walked into the infirmary. It was Elrond.

“He may not be able to use the wrist but I am afraid he is not excused from the training, Mistress Taurien.” Elrond said to the elder healer who beamed up at Elrond.

“Hmmm, I am afraid I cannot allow him to do anything that will cause any strain on his wrists tonight. Besides, today is almost over. I will insist that he be allowed to recover for the rest of the day without any further strain on his injury. Starting tomorrow, he can start with activities that would not put too much weight on his right hand.”

“I understand, Mistress Taurien. I can guarantee that he will not be straining his wrist further today. But he does have things he must do tonight.”

 “Is that your officer’s order?” Mistress Turien frowned.

 “It is.”

 Thranduil looked up at Elrond.

“But why is it you are here?” Thranduil asked. They could not have sent Elrond just as a messenger.

 “They just assigned warrior companions for everyone and I happened to be assigned yours,” Elrond said.

 “Wonderful,” Thranduil said dryly. Thranduil knew that he would be paired with someone eventually but had not expected Elrond. When training warriors, they always paired them so that they can share loads from simple chores to protecting each other’s backs in battle.

“Don’t worry, Sinda. I am not happy about it either,” Elrond said. Thranduil glared at Elrond and the young Noldo returned it in kind.

Mistress Taurien raised her eyebrows, looking at Elrond then at Thranduil.

“Now, why would you two be reluctant to be each other’s warrior companion?” Mistress Taurien said. “You two are two of a kind…” She didn’t get to finish her sentence.

“In what ways?” both spoke at the same time, turning their heads toward the healer.

Thranduil was sure the look of disbelief and disgust on Elrond was also on his face.

The healer laughed.

“First of all, both of you are different from the rest. Just by looking at you, that is obvious.”

“Different from others, I’ll grant, but I am nothing like him,” Thranduil said, his chin pointed at Elrond.

“Thank the Valar for that,” Elrond said coolly. “I would like to believe I am not so ill-tempered or ill-mannered.”

“I rather be ill-tempered than be 'il-lusory'.”

Elrond raised a single eyebrow with a look of disbelief.

"Illusory? I? How am I deceptive? You are the one who acted like a coward in front of everyone, earning the first meduion title among the cadets, yet before the day ended, you downed three of the best. If that is not illusory, I do not know what is.”

“Well, you are the one who acted so concerned for me. ‘Eat this Thranduil. Let me help you, Thranduil’” the Sinda imitated Elrond’s voice. “And now you are a different person. If that was not deceptive, what was that then?”

“Are you sure both of you are over two centuries old in age because you two sound like two elflings in their thirties,” the healer said, her eyes twinkling with laughter. Thranduil looked away feeling the heat on his face.

“Come now, Sinda. We have much to cover,” Elrond said, his face flushed and his voice subdued.

Thranduil turned to Mistress Taurien and inclined his head respectfully.

“Excuse me.”

The elder healer nodded back, her eyes twinkling again. These elder ladies always made Thranduil feel like a child. Thranduil quickened his pace to follow Elrond closely.

As soon as they stepped out of the infirmary, however, Lassiel, the younger healer, ran up to them. When they stopped to look at her, she glanced at Elrond.

“I will be at the western corner of the Star Field, meet me there,” Elrond said and left them alone. Thranduil watched Elrond walk away as the young healer handed a small bundle in her hand to Thranduil.

“I—uh--forgot to give you this,” she said, her voice small and hesitant. “These are pockets of powdered willow barks. A pinch on a cup of any drink or meal will help you with the pain. But please don’t overdo it. Too much can induce nausea although it will be temporary and not harmful.” She bit her lower lip and stole a glance up at him, her cheeks flushed. “If you need more, you are welcome—.”

“I won’t. Thank you.” Thranduil turned, tucked the herbs into his pocket and hurried after Elrond.

“That was quick,” Elrond said pulling up a corner of his lips.

“She was giving me some herbs for the pain. Why would it take time?” Thranduil frowned.

Elrond held his eyes, then snorted softly as he turned away.

“What?” Thranduil frowned.

“Nothing.” Elrond shook his head. Then, he looked up at Thranduil. “Did you really tell Lord Gilmagor that you can learn the entire patterns of the Noldorin style by the next quarter moon?”

“I did.”

Elrond tilted his head and looked up at him, lifting a single eyebrow. “And what has prompted you to say such a thing? Do you even know how many patterns there are?”

Thranduil shook his head.

“Just as I thought.” Elrond shook his head and sighed. “Only someone who is ignorant would make such declaration.”

“Who are you calling ignorant?” Thranduil sneered. “How hard could it be?”

“It is not a matter of difficulty, Sinda. They can be learned with time. It is a matter of the sheer number of patterns you have to remember. There are six major ones.”

“Only six?” Thranduil snorted, rolling his eyes.

“Yes, six,” said Elrond with a smirk. “Six major patterns, each pattern with six defensive and six offensive sub-patterns.”

“Each?” Thranduil's shoulders sagged despite himself as he quickly calculated the number of patterns he would have to learn. “Seventy-two patterns?”

“Seventy-eight. Each major pattern has its own moves.” Elrond looked at him coolly. “And you have only ten days. Oh, and don’t forget you are not excused fully from the training and the chores. You will be marked as the meduion for the rest of the days you have to miss a portion of your training because of your wrist.  Lord Gilmagor will not make you carry a rock, but you are to run the entire course around the three fields five times before the line-up in the morning two times at the dismissal.” He looked up counting with his fingers. “That is what? A seven and a half leagues run in the morning before the training and three leagues after the end of the training.” Elrond turned to Thranduil with a smile. “And don’t forget the chores. We are up for the service at the dining hall for the next two nights starting tomorrow.”

Thranduil couldn’t help himself from groaning.

“You have nobody to blame except yourself,” Elrond said coolly.

“Well, thank you for your wise observation, Master Know-it-all.” Thranduil glared at Elrond.

“You should have allowed me to help you when I first noticed your wrist. I would have helped you,” Elrond said meeting Thranduil’s eyes, cool smile gone from his face and the warmth back in his gray eyes.

“And I will say this again, Peredhel. I don’t need your help.” Thranduil faced Elrond.

They glared at each other for a moment.

Then, Thranduil realized the rashness of his words. He knew nothing of the Noldorin style and he knew of no one to ask. If Elrond decided to not help him, he was totally alone to learn the patterns by himself. Even if he trusted his abilities, Thranduil knew he could do nothing without someone to instruct him. But to back down now, his pride would not allow it. The Sinda swallowed hard and looked away, breaking the eye contact first.

The rational side, the practical side of him, urged him to apologize and ask Elrond for help. Of what he had seen of Elrond, Thranduil knew Elrond would not refuse him, but his tongue weighted tons as if it grew large and heavy. He fisted his hands, then stretched them out.

Just say them, dammit, he cursed at himself. Thranduil bit his lower lip then looked up.

But, before Thranduil could force open his mouth, Elrond turned away.

“Let’s hurry up. We have only a few hours before we have to turn in for the night. By my calculation, you need to learn eight to nine patterns each day. With about 30-40 moves you have to learn for each pattern, you do not have much time.”

Thranduil stood watching Elrond loosen his muscles in preparation. Whatever words of placation Thranduil had tried to form died on his lips. As unfair as he knew he was being, Thranduil couldn’t help anger flicker in his heart. Or, maybe it was shame. Thranduil wasn’t sure, but he did not like it. Elrond made him feel small and unworthy.

Elrond shot him a glance as Thranduil stood mute and unmoving, trying to fight the desire to walk away.

“Come and loosen up your muscles, Sinda. And, don’t worry. I am not doing this to help you. Gilmagor ordered me to teach you the patterns. It is up to you to learn and practice them so you could keep up when you do the patterns with the cadets, that is if you can manage to learn all the patterns in time.”

Thranduil scowled, but squared his shoulders and joined Elrond.

 

 

Chapter Text

The King’s Tower.  April 12, Second Age 144

 

THRANDUIL entered the dining hall crowded with warriors. Or so it looked as it was the first time Thranduil saw it, never having made it to the dining hall until tonight. He was surprised that the dining hall was rather small for such a massive palace.

 

Although small, it had several tall windows along the long walls making the room airy. Each of the white spaces between the windows was covered with expertly weaved tapestries that covered the wall from top to bottom depicting the battle scenes from the First Age.

The one closest to Thranduil had a blue background with a sky full of stars. The Battle Under the Stars, the first battle Noldor fought in Middle Earth. At the far end of the wall was a scene from the most recent war, War of Wrath, showing the gargantuan black dragon against a red sky fighting a winged ship with a golden light. On the ground, the white light of Valar’s forces crashed onto Morgoth’s dark soldiers.

Amid the white walls and the pale gray wood of the tables, the tapestries woven with colorful threads stood out. Underneath the ceiling ablaze with crystal lights were two columns of long tables, each large enough to hold twelve full-grown Elves. Many of the twelve tables in the hall, six on each side of the long walls, were half full as some stood congregated around the wide center aisle talking amongst themselves.

“This is your first time here, Thranduil?” someone asked. Thranduil turned as Cellon, grinning ear to ear, came up to stand next to him. “How’s your wrist? I heard your wrist was injured as of day one. How did you manage? And that first night. That was unexpected.”

Thranduil shrugged and turned away. He didn’t want to dwell on it. But instead of going away, Cellon talked on.

“My warrior companion and I are also up for the dining hall chore tonight along with you and Elrond,” Cellon said although Thranduil had not asked. “You and Elrond are on the floor to serve drinks tonight. Glingaeron and I will be helping in the kitchen. We switch tomorrow.” The Noldo then added without any prompt on Thranduil’s part, “but you don’t need to clean up. Gelir and Erfaron are responsible for cleaning up tonight.” Cellon even pointed out the other Elves he was talking about as if he was Thranduil’s guide.

“You are so helpful,” Thranduil said with what he thought was unmistakable sarcasm, but obviously this 'Helpful-Guide' didn’t get it. Cellon looked at him with his face full of smiles.

“No problem,” Cellon said. “Ask me anything.” He said with such enthusiasm, Thranduil looked at the Noldorin cadet with a frown. Cellon blinked, his smile wide, his eyes twinkling with genuine interest.

Thranduil rolled his eyes and turned away. 

Another of Elrond variety, Thranduil decided.

“How is it that cadets eat here?” Thranduil asked as he saw the table on the farthest corner filling up with fellow cadets in training.

“We are considered junior officers,” Cellon laughed. “But if you noticed, most of us are on a chore duty and will eat after most of the officers are done.”

He swept the room and noticed that there was no dais.

“Where is the high table?” Thranduil asked.

“High table? Why would they have a high table here? This hall is for the soldiers although for officers, not for the nobles,” Cellon said.

“Nobles have a separate hall where they dine and congregate?” Thranduil asked with a frown. 

In Menegroth, Lady Melian and King Thingol ate with everyone, nobles and commoners alike. If you were lower in the social status, you were seated farther away from the high table where the king and the queen sat. Still, if you made it on time when they were in the hall, you could eat at the same time with the king and the queen.

“First of all, this hall would be too small to hold everyone. We have several halls, one for the common soldiers, this one for the officers, and another one for the nobles. And most of city residents dine at their own home.”

“Many of the officers are from noble houses and they eat here,” Elrond said as he walked over with two jars of wine. “Sometimes the king joins us, but most of the nobles eat with their own kind.”  Elrond thrust one of the jars to Thranduil. “It is our turn to serve wine tonight,” he said to Thranduil.

“Is Sindar’s way different?” Cellon asked. “I have never been outside the White City. Well, except to hunt up North. Where exactly are you from? You seem unfamiliar with our ways. Are you from Harlindon?”

“No,” Thranduil said and ignored the expectant look in Cellon’s eyes.

“He is from Doriath. The Sindar who know nothing of the ways of Noldor are all from Doriath,” a lanky Elf said as he approached them. The Elf had a nose like the beak of a hawk and was shorter than Elrond or Cellon. His earth brown hair had a warrior braid of Faladrim, Lord Cirdan’s people. “I am Glingaeron, son of Earfindor. Welcome to Lindon, son of Lord Oropher,” he said to Thranduil and inclined his head in greeting. Then, he turned to Cellon. “They are waiting for us in the kitchen.”

“What do you know of Doriath?” Thranduil asked. It has been now 228 years since his beloved home was destroyed. These Elves looked barely a century and half old at best. 

“Not much. I have a relative from there who moved in with us at Grey Haven. He was one of the artisans from Doriath. Most people I have met who lived within the boundary of Doriath don’t seem to know much about Noldorin ways.”

 Before Thranduil could reply, a chorus of voices arose seeking a drink. Elrond gestured Thranduil and the Sinda followed. Thranduil and Elrond took turns answering the calls for drinks, weaving through the tables.

 “Well met, cadet, who would you be?” One of the officers turned to Thranduil as the blond Sinda poured wine into the officer’s goblet.

“I don’t remember seeing you around here before?” another said next to him.

 Thranduil bit down hard on the back of his teeth trying his best not to get rigid. Most of the officers at this table were from Valinor and they were old, at least several millennia old. Thranduil could feel his heart pump harder. He could feel the power of these Elven warriors. The air around this table crackled with them and it only made Thranduil even more tense. He could feel his breath quicken as they looked upon him with their keen eyes full of bright light.

“Don’t worry, lad. We are not going to hurt you,” another said with a merry laugh.

“Aren’t you too big to be afraid,” someone said and everyone in the table laughed jovially.

“I am not afraid!” Thranduil managed when he took control of his breath again.

Sudden heat inflamed Thranduil’s body. He tightened his grip on the wine jar as anger stirred in his heart, that he, Thranduil Oropherion, should be an object of ridicule to these Nordorin warriors. These killers of kin.

“Leave him alone.” The one who greeted him first admonished the group. “Can you not see you are making the lad uncomfortable?” The Noldo turned to eye Thranduil. “Do not mind them. They are just teasing you, young one. They don’t mean anything by it.”

Thranduil tried hard to keep calm his frantic heart and bit down on his lip.

“By the way, cadet, are you in some way related to House of Finarfin?” the Noldo asked. “Besides your golden hair, there is something about you that reminds me of Lord Finrod and his brothers.”

Whatever heat that surrounded Thranduil flared up tenfold. Thranduil gripped the wine jug harder. He wanted to smash that smiling face of the Noldo in front of him when someone grabbed Thranduil’s wrist holding the jug.

“Captain Astalder,” Elrond pulled Thranduil aside, then pump his fist twice to his heart in a military greeting. “It’s good to see you and your team back in the city. Will you be staying at the King’s Tower for a while?”

“Who knows?” The captain laughed, his laughter clear and merry. “How’s your training, Elrond? You know the lad?” The captain nodded toward Thranduil with a twinkle in his eyes.

Elrond smiled warmly. “He is my warrior companion, Thranduil. He is new to Lindon.”

Just then, some people began to thump on the table seeking wine.

“Please excuse us, captain, but we are needed,” Elrond said and pulled Thranduil with him. “Can I come and talk to you later?” Elrond asked the elder Elf even as he pushed Thranduil toward other tables. The elder Elf nodded and Elrond beamed at him before pulling Thranduil with him.

“If you have to ever lose your temper, Thranduil, you will do well to avoid Captain Astalder and his warriors. They are the elite squad, The Silmacil,” Elrond whispered. “They are probably the best warriors in the whole of Middle Earth. If they wanted to, they could probably kill you just with a look.”

“I am not scared of them,” Thranduil said with a frown, glancing at the table with the captain. They were laughing and eating, no longer paying any attention to the two young Elves.

 “You sure looked as if you were,” Elrond retorted. “What were you doing anyway? You looked as if you were about to explode.”

“Your captain said I reminded him of Finrod!”

 Elrond rolled his eyes. “I think he meant it as a compliment.”

 “How is being compared to a Noldo a compliment?”

 “You arrogant Orc!” Elrond snapped. “Lord Finrod’s mother is your father’s aunt. Besides, what is wrong with being compared to your cousin? In truth, Lord Finrod was the great warrior prince you can’t even hope to measure up to. And let me remind you, Thranduil. You are inside a Noldorin city. You are under the service of the Noldorin king. Just accept it. Stop this useless prejudice you have against us. We are not the same Noldor you have grievances against.”

Thranduil glared at Elrond and he opened his mouth when there was a commotion in the dining hall. The warriors in the hall cheered as someone walked into the dining area. Both Thranduil and Elrond turned to look.

A young but stately Elf with a powerful presence and imposing air walked in followed by Lord Gilmagor and another elderly Elf.  The young Elf was finely dressed in deep blue velvet tunic with elaborate gold circlet that held back his long dark hair. His intricate warrior braids were plaited with gold and blue ribbons.

Even among the best of the Noldor gathered in the hall, this young Elf stood out. Although he was young, there was power and grace about him. And Thranduil’s heart filled with dread.

“Come now, Thranduil. The king is here. He will want to see you,” Elrond said as he pushed Thranduil toward the newcomer.

`Thranduil bit down a groan. He knew that a meeting with Gil-galad was unavoidable, but he had not wanted to meet the king just yet. But knowing there was no excuse he could come up with to postpone this meeting further, Thranduil trudged forward.

“By the waters of Belegaer, stop looking as if you are walking into certain death. He is not going to hurt you in any way,” Elrond whispered next to him, his voice filled with amusement.

Too soon, they were in front of the king. Gil-galad smiled broadly and looked at Elrond then at Thranduil as Elrond bowed to the king.

“So, you must be Thranduil Oropherion. Welcome. I apologize that I have not had the time until now to welcome you to Lindon.” The king smiled graciously and inclined his head. “I had hoped that you would join us for the New Year’s celebration a month ago.”

This year marked the First Yen of the Second Age and the celebration of the New Year had been one of the largest held in Lindon. Oropher had left twenty days before the celebration, but after his father’s departure, the king had invited Thranduil and Lord Istuion to the palace. But instead of accepting the invitation, Thranduil had gone off to a forest leaving Lord Istuion to make excuses for him.

Thranduil had thought that was that, but instead of taking the hint to leave him alone, the king had sent another invitation to dine at the palace. Thranduil had ignored that, too, and ran off again getting an earful from Lord Istuion later for shirking his duty. But, Thranduil did not understand this need to maintain some sort of diplomatic relationship with the king. He was nobody. His father was just a wanderer now and nothing more. What need was there for a diplomatic relationship? He was just another Elf serving under the king’s name. As soon as the term of his service was up, Thranduil will leave this place and that was that. He wished Gil-galad would just leave him alone.

Gil-galad looked at Thranduil with all smiles and graciousness.

Thranduil took in a breath, then inclined his head, touched his heart then swept it out in a graceful manner. As much as he hated to do it, Thranduil had been taught by his mother who demanded nothing less than impeccable manners from her son.

“Thank you, your majesty. No apology needed. I had not wanted your welcome anyway.”

The older Elf behind the king with elegant green velvet dress tunic frowned mightily and Lord Gilmagor pursed his lips. But Thranduil did not care. He avoided looking at their bright eyes and instead focused on the king.

“Well, I am glad then that I didn’t get the chance.” The king’s face retained the smile although it did not reach his eyes. “If there is anything you are in need, please feel free to tell me. I want you to feel perfectly welcome in my city.”

“Oh, everything is perfect, your majesty. I have a roof over my head and a stone floor under my back. What else would a humble soldier like me need?” Thranduil looked up, shook the wine jug in his hand. “If you would, your majesty, I am in the middle of doing my chores. Please excuse me.” Thranduil made an elegant bow again then turned around before anyone could stop him and walked away from the king’s presence.

“Did you have to be such an ass?” Elrond whispered behind him as he followed Thranduil away from the king.

“What do you mean? I thought my manners were impeccable,” Thranduil said nonchalantly.

Thranduil noted that the king and the elder Elves went to join Captain Astalder and the members of Silmacil. The Sinda made a mental note to avoid those groups of people. Lindon was big enough. Surely, he could survive here without having to run into them.

Thranduil went on to serve wine on the rest of the table when he came upon the table where Belegor sat with his friends.

“Fill up the goblet, wine boy” Belegor said. Thranduil ignored the bait. It will soon be Belegor’s turn. The Noldo should know better but then Thranduil could see himself doing that, so he ignored the Noldo and picked up the jug to pour wine into Belegor’s goblet.

“I hope you can fill a goblet better than you can handle a sword, Meduion. Sindar are so incompetent,” Belegor said rolling his eyes upward.

Reason, along with caution, flew out of Thranduil’s head. Thranduil inverted the jug and emptied its content on Belegor. The wine gushed out onto Belegor's face and hand, splashing all over the table.

“Oops!” Thranduil shrugged as Belegor and those who sat around Belegor jumped out of the way as the wine splashed and spilled onto the table and towards them.

In a blink Belegor was in Thranduil’s face, his wet sleeve dripping wine. He wiped the splashed wine on his face and pointed his finger at Thranduil.

“You did that on purpose, you Orc!” Belegor hissed. “Don’t think you could do what you did the first night, Meduion. You took me by surprise, but that won’t happen again.”

“Perhaps,” Thranduil said and allowed his lips to curve up. “You want to find out?”

“Stop it, both of you! Did you forget the king is here?” Elrond stepped in between Thranduil and Belegor. “Don’t create commotion, you two,” Elrond growled.

Belegor glared at Thranduil and Thranduil glared back, unwilling to be the first to move, but Elrond pulled Thranduil away.

“Is this what you want Lord Gilmagor to see, Belegor? Thranduil, go to the kitchen and get a new jar of wine.”

Belegor glanced at the table with the king and cursed under his breath, but stepped away.

“Go. Get wine, Thranduil. Go on.” Elrond pushed Thranduil toward the kitchen.

Thranduil marched into the kitchen as Gelir passed him with a large basket.

Thranduil knew he was acting like a child, but Belegor and all these Noldor brought out the worst in him.

Control your temper, Thranduil. Keep it together, his mind reasoned. This pettiness does not become you, Thranduil reminded himself as he entered the kitchen.

The kitchen was busy, cooks and helpers going in and out and no one minded him. The smell of roasting meat by the roaring fireplace and the aroma of herbs and the thick soup boiling in a large cooking pot all managed to water Thranduil’s mouth reminding him how many nights of the meal he had missed. For each day he was labeled the Meduion, he was not allowed a hot meal. He was allowed only the packaged meal mixed with herbs Mistress Taurien insisted Thranduil needed to help heal his injury. 

Thranduil looked around and found a room with wooden barrels on top of a large table with several wine jars. He passed a large cooking pot and entered the room.

The room was dark and small. The large table took half of the room. Along with the barrels and wine jars, there was a wooden bowl filled with some sort of herbs.

As he reached for one of the jars, Thranduil winced as pain shot through his injured wrist. Whatever the healers had done yesterday was wearing out. Thranduil reached for the pack of powdered willow bark the younger healer gave him. Maybe he could drink some wine with the medicine. He looked around the room.

Just behind a door, in a dark corner, stood a tall wooden case displaying goblets. Thranduil moved over behind the door to grab a goblet when someone walked in and took up the bowl with herbs. She took a handful of the herbs from the bowl and threw it into the cooking pot. She obviously didn’t even notice that Thranduil was in the corner.

“Put the rest of the herb later once it is fully boiled,” the cook instructed someone when she suddenly screamed, “No, no, no!”

Thranduil poked his head out and saw that Glingaeron had brought out one of the wine barrels. Cellon stood next to the cooking pot gaping at his warrior companion and the cook.

“That barrel is not for tonight,” the cook tutted to Glingaeron. “Don’t you see the special gold seal?” She pointed to an elaborate marking on the side of the barrel. “This is a special barrel Lord Lammaeg brought for the king’s table only. His majesty is saving this for Midsummer Festival when there will be all the important lords in attendance. This is not for the lot of you! Take it back and bring a plain barrel next to the cellar door. Don’t you even touch the ones in the back. Now get!”

Cellon laughed as Glingaeron grumbled and hoisted the large wine barrel back up and took it away. The cook sighed and shook her head, but another called on her from the other side and she rushed away.

So the king keeps the best wines for himself and his guests, does he?

Thranduil thought about what a sumptuous feast the king of Nolder would have in his fancy palace with all the elegant lords and ladies. Then, he thought back to the desolate times Sindar had back in Sirion after Noldor attacked Menegroth, after everything had been taken from them. The cold days down River Sirion. The days with hardly enough to eat. And the years wandering the wild forests of the east without a home. Hatred for the Noldor burned through him.

Thranduil stepped back into the darkness of the room when he saw Gelir approach Cellon with a basket full of dirty dishes.

“What is the matter?” Cellon must have seen something on Gelir’s face.

“Nothing. Just Belegor being…” Gelir’s voice lowered and Thranduil couldn’t hear.

“That son of Orc!”

“Cellon, leave it,” Gelir said but both of them walked away.

When he saw that there was no one around the cooking pot, Thranduil stepped out.

His distaste for Noldor flared. Thranduil looked at the open packet of herb the healer had given him. The girl had said too much of willow bark powder will induce nausea. The whole packet of the herbal powder would make the whole lot of them sick.

They are Noldor, let them get sick, a voice whispered in his head.

But many are innocent people who had no hand in causing me or my people grief.  It is only the sons of Feanor and his followers. Thranduil closed the packet of herbs in his hand.

Think about Belegor, Gilmagor and the warriors who laughed at you, a voice whispered again.

But, Thranduil knew that those warriors were just jesting. It was the same kind of friendly banter he used to exchange with his father’s warriors when they roamed the wild. But somehow when it came from the Noldorin warriors, it had grated on him.

They were just teasing. They were innocent of what happened at Menegroth and Sirion.

Thranduil took in a long breath to steady his hammering heart and to clear his head.

“These warriors are innocent. They are not to be blamed for what happened,” Thranduil said the words out aloud to convince himself.

They are Noldor. No Noldor are innocent!

Thranduil grimaced as his head rang. The last thought rang out so loud and clear it felt as if someone shouted into his mind. Thranduil touched his head, then hesitated.

The healer did say this isn’t harmful. It’s not poison. Just something to make all of them feel bad, Thranduil reminded himself, then he poured the entire content of all the packets into the cooking pot and mixed it in.

This will be my present.

“Happy Begotten Day to me,” Thranduil said softly with a bitter smile. Then picking up a jar of wine, he left the busy kitchen.

Chapter Text

Star Field.  April 13, Second Age 144

ELROND noticed that Thranduil was distracted as they practiced the patterns. Usually, Thranduil was focused and alert, careful to follow even the smallest details of Elrond’s movements. But tonight, Thranduil’s mind seemed to be elsewhere. Elrond wondered if Thranduil was also sick last night. Elrond did not see the Sinda at the infirmary but Thranduil probably did not consider a stomach trouble worth a visit to a healer.

Last night, after they had finished their chores at the dining hall, Thranduil left to go to the shed to sleep, preferring the small space over sleeping on the stone floor of the barracks. 

When Elrond went to the barracks after washing up, there was a chaos. Many of the cadets were feeling nauseous and several of them regurgitated contents of their dinner. Elrond, Cellon, Gingaeron and few who seemed all right, took the sick cadets to the infirmary. But the healing ward was already full with officers who were not feeling well either. Elrond assisted the two healers who stayed up through the night helping the cadets and officers calm their turbulent stomach.

Because of the number of the warriors affected by this puzzling condition, more healers from the city were called into the King's Tower only to find that once they arrived, the condition calmed.

The sickness only lasted for few hours. After the midnight hour, nausea had calmed and many returned to their barracks to sleep. But some had worse than others and suffered until few hours before the dawn.

“Were you nauseous last night, Thranduil?” Elrond asked as he completed the movement to wrap up the sessions for tonight.  

Due to the time restriction, he just didn’t have the time to go over the movements of all eight patterns Elrond had scheduled to teach. They were up for another night of chores at the dining hall tonight.

"No. Why?” Thranduil looked up sharply.

 “I saw you practice your patterns all through last night. I was just wondering if you couldn’t sleep because of nausea.”

 Thranduil shook his head.

 “That’s good. With that seven and a half league run at dawn, it would have been really terrible to have nausea as well.  At least for once, the rest of the cadets probably feel like you today. They, too, did not get much sleep last night.”

 “How are they?” Thranduil asked.

 Elrond frowned at the unexpected question.

 “The cadets. You said they didn’t sleep much,” Thranduil clarified as they headed toward the dining hall.

 “They are all fine now. Many got sick last night. Two or three threw up too much and were under Mistress Taurien’s care until this morning but the rest seemed all right. After three hours or so, everyone was well enough. But so many got sick, Lord Gilmagor was having the incident investigated.”

 “They found anything?”

 The question seemed innocent enough, but coming from Thranduil, Elrond thought it strange.

 Maybe the Sinda is finally warming up to the cadets.

 “They think maybe it was the soup. It seems the people who didn’t get sick were the ones who didn’t have the soup last night.” Elrond grinned. “It is good that Cellon bumped into you when he was bringing out that soup for us. If it wasn’t for that accident, we might have gotten sick last night, too. Although it could be that Cellon did that on purpose to spare us.”

“Why do you say that?” Thranduil stopped from walking and looked at Elrond with such a frown, Elrond was taken back.

“They think Cellon may have been responsible for putting something in the soup kettle. The cook said she found traces of some different herb in the cooking pot. According to the cook, Cellon was the only one who was near the soup kettle besides herself.”

“But why would they suspect him? There is no reason for him to do such a thing,” Thranduil said showing more emotion than Elrond had ever seen him. “If anything, Cellon does not seem like someone who would have a reason… to do…that.”

Elrond felt a slip of emotion, like a soft, stray wind, that touched his delicate senses. Anguish? Frustration? It was hard to tell. The feeling was brief and was gone the moment Elrond thought he felt it.

“That is true. Cellon I know gets along with everyone.  But I was told that Cellon had an argument with Belegor last night and few cadets made some disparaging remarks siding with Belegor. Probably Belegor’s friends. I am not sure exactly as I was serving at the table with the king and did not see it myself….”

“And?  Just because he was upset at few cadets? That does not make him guilty.”

“I agree with you,” Elrond shrugged. “I, too, cannot imagine him doing anything like this. My senses never detected anything other than good intentions from him in all my interactions with him.”

“Your senses?” Thranduil frowned.

Elrond bit his tongue and winced inwardly. He didn’t want anyone to know about his so-called ‘special talents’, especially this Sinda. “I meant, I never felt anything bad about him.  We all have some sense of that, don’t we?”

“Perhaps,” said Thranduil and looked away.

It surprised Elrond that Thranduil would even care whether they suspected Cellon or not. As far as Elrond saw, Thranduil did not seem to care about others.

“But it looks as if they have already decided that Cellon may be the one. While you were doing your evening laps around the fields, guards came to escort Cellon to Lord Gilmagor’s office.”

“What?” Thranduil frowned mightily.

“Yes, there is a talk that he may be charged with a crime. The king got sick, too, and I heard that there is a possibility that the council may get involved. Cellon may get kicked out…”

“Orc crap!” Thranduil said it so loud, Elrond almost jumped. “Where’s Lord Gilmagor’s office?”

“What?”

 Thranduil’s reaction completely baffled Elrond.

 “Gilmagor’s office. Where is it?” Thranduil asked.

 “The first floor of the central tower…”

 Thranduil turned and ran.

 “Where are you going?” Elrond called after Thranduil.

 “Gilmagor’s office!”

 Elrond looked toward the dining hall. They were supposed to help in the kitchen today. Missing chore duty has its own set of punishments. But, as warrior companions, they are supposed to move together as one. Elrond cursed softly to himself and ran after Thranduil. This blond Sinda will be the death of him someday. Elrond was sure of it.

 When Elrond caught up to Thranduil, he was inside the hall of the King’s Tower. As it was dinner time, the hallway was quiet and empty.

 “Which one is it?” Thranduil demanded when Elrond ran up. “Lord Gilmagor’s office.”

 “The last door on your right. But, why are we going to Gilmagor’s office?” Elrond asked with a frown as they approached the door in question.

 “Because Cellon is innocent,” Thranduil said as he knocked and entered the room without waiting for an answer.

 Inside, Cellon stood at attention before a carved wooden desk that stood between two large windows. Behind the desk sat Lord Gilmagor. And there were three others in the room: Captain Astalder, Lieutenant Gwendir, and Lord Lammaeg wearing the same green velvet tunic he wore last night when he accompanied the king.

Elrond took in a sharp breath. If Lord Lammaeg was here, then the matter was being taken much more seriously.

 Lord Gilmagor looked surprised when Thranduil walked in, followed by Elrond.

 “What is this? Why are you two here?” the Lord Commander asked.

 “Sir, Brundorion is innocent,” Thranduil said, standing at attention, his hands behind his back.

 “And how do you know this?” Gilmagor asked.

 Thranduil swallowed, then bit his lip with his head down, but he looked up and said in a clear voice.

 “Because I did it. I put willow bark powder in the cooking pot last night.”

 Elrond could feel a headache coming on. He cursed under his breath and glanced at others in the room. Gilmagor pursed his lips. Lord Lammaeg, Cellon, and Gwendir looked as if they were struck dumb. Captain Astalder alone seemed amused.

 “And may I ask why?” Gilmagor asked, his voice subdued and calm.

 “I wanted to get back at some of the cadets…and you,” Thranduil swallowed hard and turned his gaze away, not meeting Gilmagor’s gaze.

 “Did you conspire with Cellon Brundorion?” Gilmagor pointed to Cellon.

 “No, sir. He knew nothing of it. It was a decision on an impulse. I alone did it.”

 “Were you aware that your actions could affect his majesty?” Lord Lammaeg cut in, looking over Thranduil up and down.

 Thranduil glanced at the Chief Councilor but immediately looked away. Instead, he looked at the space ahead of him, just above Lord Gilmagor’s head.

 “Yes,” Thranduil said quietly.

 “Do you know the consequence of your action?” Lammaeg narrowed his eyes.

 “Whatever the consequence, I will take its just share. But it was just a prank. Nothing more,” Thranduil said.

 “Prank? You tried to poison the king. That is treason,” said the Chief Councilor.

 “No sir, I did not. I made him nauseous, yes. But I knew the herb was not lethal. It wouldn’t have killed him. And I wouldn’t have done anything to kill him. I am no kinslayer after all, unlike some …” Thranduil let his words hang.

 Elrond groaned. The room fell silent. It was quiet enough to hear a rustle of wind outside. Everybody knew what Thranduil was inferring. Lammaeg’s face darkened as he took several strides to stand in front of Thranduil.

 “Do you know who I am?” Lord Lammaeg asked Thranduil, breaking the silence.

 “No, sir.”

 Thranduil seemed to shrink back at the closeness of the elder Elf at first. Elrond could feel the unease rising in Thranduil and saw that it took an effort for the Sinda to stand there, but he didn’t back away although Thranduil did not meet Lord Lammaeg’s eyes.

 “I am his majesty’s Chief Councilor. I have known from the beginning that you are trouble. And when I saw you last night, your actions confirmed that. You think because you were once a kin to a king that you are still somebody, don’t you? The truth is, pup, you are nobody.”

 “Lord Lammaeg!” Lord Gilmagor rose from where he sat. His words cut through the air brimming with a warning, but the Chief Councilor continued without regarding it.

 “However great Doriath once was, it does not exist anymore. Do you understand, pup? You have no realm, no title. You have nothing. You are here out of the kindness of my king’s heart and nothing more. You are in no position to parade your arrogance. Do you even know what kind of trouble you are in?” Lammaeg said, stabbing Thranduil’s chest with his finger with each phrase.

 Whatever unease Thranduil seemed to have had with Lord Lammaeg evaporated as the Sinda’s eyes practically spouted fire. Elrond was hit with searing heat, something akin to a raging volcano, as Thranduil’s flawless white skin took in a shade of red, but his voice was steady and cold, cold enough to freeze the air in the room.

“Why don’t you enlighten me, my lord, as you are so eager to do so?” Thranduil hissed, his teeth clenched. Unlike a moment ago, he held Lammaeg’s eyes as if the Sinda wanted to burn holes in them. “As you say, I am nobody. I see now that truth does not matter. You have judged me regardless. So, you want to charge me with a treason, then do it! There is nothing you can take from me that wasn’t already taken by your bloodthirsty kin.”

 “Why you insolent young pup!” Lammaeg roared, his face turning a darker shade of red than that of Thranduil.

 “Enough of this.” Gilmagor cut in. “Lord Lammaeg, this matter deals with one of my cadets. It is my jurisdiction. I will deal with this my way if you don’t mind,” he said to the Chief Councilor.

 “This is a matter of the king’s security!”

 “As you heard, there was no intention to harm the king. It was a prank. A bad one, but with no intention to truly harm anyone, especially the king,” Gilmagor’s voice was cool and calm.

 “You heard him. He intended the king to suffer.”

 “He also said it was just a prank, that he knew it will not kill the king. And it seems to me the cadets and I were the main target of the prank, not the king.”

 “You will just take his word?” Lammaeg frowned at Gilmagor. “The words of the perpetrator. The words of the Dark Elf?”

 “My lord, there is no need for the name-calling,” Elrond burst out. He knew what Thranduil did was wrong, but such use of the words was uncalled for.

 Elrond knew better than anyone how the term ‘Dark Elf’ originally referred to those who have never been to Valinor, thus never seen the light of two trees. Someone like himself. And it would include many of the younger generation of Noldor who were born in Middle Earth.  But Noldor used that term to mean all other Elves in Middle Earth and never to refer to another Noldor. And amongst them, the term was used as a derogatory word to refer to uncivilized Elf. And the Sindar, whose society had flourished under the light and wisdom of Valinor brought by their Maia Queen Melian, considered the term an insult when applied to them.

 When Elrond opened his mouth again, Officer Gwendir who stood next to Elrond took hold of Elrond’s arm and pulled him aside, then shook his head in warning. But both Lammaeg and Gilmagor ignored Elrond’s outburst as if he had not spoken at all.

 “No, Lord Lammaeg. I am not just taking his word. I am looking at the circumstances and the evidence. No one got truly hurt. Everyone recovered within two to three hours. It was an inconvenience and nuisance to those who experienced it. But I have a word from Mistress Taurien that the nausea was temporary and the herb is harmless in any other way. And before you came to interrupt me with Cellon Brundorion, my lord, I was about to pass judgment. Now that I know better, I will do so, but as I said, this is a matter of discipline for the military and not a matter for the council.” Lord Gilmagor walked to the door then opened it. He looked at Lammaeg, then turned to look at the open door to his office pointedly.

 Lammaeg glared at the Lord Commander.

 Elrond tensed wondering if Lammaeg would back down. Lord Gilmagor may command the king’s army, but Lord Lammaeg controlled the king’s council.  It was well known that Lammaeg and Gilmagor differed in their views on many issues and clashed often. And Elrond knew how much Gil-galad hated getting in between them. But more importantly, even as powerful as Gilmagor was, the ultimate authority over all matters, including the military, lay with the king’s council.

The air in the room went heavy and Elrond swallowed hard. He could feel everyone in the room tense. Something dangerous flowed around the air of the room.

 Lord Lammaeg lifted his chin and threw a knife glance at Thranduil.

 “I am going to keep my eyes on you,” Lammaeg said to Thranduil. Then he turned to Lord Gilmagor. “The king will hear of this,” the councilor said then swept out of the door. Gilmagor closed the door behind the councilor.

 “Oh, thank the Valar,” Captain Astalder sagged on the seat he was sitting. “I almost threw up and I didn’t even have dinner yet,” he said. “Just looking at the councilor’s face gives me indigestion. Don’t you agree, my lord?”

 Gilmagor snorted but didn’t respond. He turned to Cellon.

 “You are dismissed Brundorion. Nothing of this matter is to be spoken outside. Understood?”

 “Sir!” Cellon touched his heart twice with his right fist, glanced at Thranduil, then left the room.

 Gilmagor walked to his desk and sat down. Elrond looked at Thranduil who stood rigidly, his face dark, his eyes stormy. The knuckles of the hand that gripped his wrist behind his back were white with tension.

 Captain Astalder got up and passed Gilmagor’s desk. Elrond noticed the silent looks the two exchanged.

 The captain went over to a window next to the desk and looked out.

 “You two return to the dining hall and complete your chores. Once we make the decision, I will send for you. Dismissed,” said the sword master.

 Thranduil who had been looking down at his feet looked up. Gilmagor met his eyes and held it until Thranduil brought his fist to his heart and left. Elrond followed.

All the way to the dining hall, Thranduil said not one word. And Elrond did not know what to make of Thranduil. But one thing was clear. Whatever rapport Elrond thought he had built with Thranduil over the past three days was just a brief sprinkle of rain on a cracked and dusty earth after a long drought.

Chapter Text

King s Library.  April 14, Second Age 144

THRANDUIL regarded the floor to ceiling double door at the end of a long hall. The room was at a corner of King’s Tower in a quiet part of the palace. He stepped into a large room with tall and narrow windows. Despite the many windows, maybe due to several large bookcases covering all the walls in between them, the room felt dark except for the middle of the room where a massive table carved in wood stood.

There was a balcony built on three sides of the walls forming an upper floor where more bookcases can be seen against the walls.

“Excuse me please.” Thranduil walked fully into the room when no one answered after a knock.

The room was silent.

Sunlight poured in from high above. Thranduil looked up to see a domed ceiling. It had a large circular opening in the middle which allowed a stream of light to fall onto the table. Unlike the tall and narrow windows, the light from the ceiling illuminated the table as if it was a gigantic table lamp. There was no sign of anyone. A tranquility surrounded the space and it was as if he stepped into a different place where all time stood still.

“Master Pengolodh?”

Thranduil called out, careful to keep his voice down a notch. This was a library after all. He remembered being scolded for laughing too loud in the library of Menegroth which was like a vast vault filled with scrolls, codices and old Elves.

Today was the first rest day for the cadets. It was a short week as they started the training in the middle of the week.  But it didn’t matter to Thranduil. As the Meduion, he was not allowed to leave the King’s Tower.

Since he couldn’t go anywhere, he did his mandatory morning run before dawn hoping to work on the patterns for the entire day. Only seven more days to go before the test and he was already behind schedule. There just weren’t enough time between the training and the chores. And now this.

As part of his punishment, Thranduil was commanded to help the loremaster with whatever task at hand until his wrist heals. His real punishment is scheduled for the end of the spring, to muck out the officer’s stable for the period of one moon cycle just prior to Midsummer Festival.

Lieutenant Gwendir made an announcement that the culprit came forward. He also reassured the cadets that Cellon was innocent. Both Cellon and Elrond were commanded not to speak of the incident to anyone.

Thranduil supposed they were trying to protect him from any retaliation by the cadets, but the Sinda would rather confess in front of everyone and receive punishment accordingly and openly instead of being hidden behind their so-called ‘mercy’.  He didn’t want any favors from Noldor no matter how well meaning it was.

But this was punishment. The option did not rest with him.

Thranduil let out a heavy sigh. And if he was honest, what he did was reprehensible even to him. Thranduil wasn’t sure why he did it. To make so many people suffer to get back at few…Thranduil winced and shook his head. He was just glad his father, or worse, his mother, was not in Lindon to hear about it.

“Loremaster?”

Silence.

Thranduil sighed again and walked to the table in the center of the room. Someone had been in the middle of copying a codex. There were jars of ink and feathers sharpened and fitted with silver nibs along with several prepared scrolls, half filled with elegant Tengwar.

When it seemed as if there was no one in the library, Thranduil approached a bookcase, wondering what kind of books the King of Noldor kept in his library. He picked up a codex bound in silk threads when he felt a movement above him. With an instinct of a warrior, Thranduil caught several falling scrolls with one hand.

Thranduil looked up.

There was a ladder leaning against one of the many bookcases lining the walls of the second floor. A young maiden stood on the last rung of one of the ladders that were all around the room. There were several scrolls on her arms and one tucked under her chin. On her mouth, she held a piece of paper. She dropped the paper from her mouth onto the top of the scrolls on her arm.

“Forgive me,” the maiden called down to Thranduil as she stepped off the ladder and straightened. Then she disappeared behind the railing, beyond Thranduil’s sight.

Thranduil frowned up at the now empty railing when the door to the library opened. A thin Noldo of slight build with an armload of scrolls entered.

“Oh, you must be the new cadet,” the Elf said.

His frizzled dark hair was pulled back in a low ponytail with blue silk cord, marking him as someone who studies lore. He had a smudge of ink on his earlobe and a full smile on his face. He looked rather young for a loremaster, looking no more than six or seven centuries old at the most. Of what Thranduil remembered of loremasters at Doriath, all of them had been two or three millennia old, at least.

“Lord Gilmagor said you will be coming by,” the Elf said as he pulled at his ear, then looking behind Thranduil, he smiled warmly. “Oh, good. You found them?”

Thranduil turned around just as a maiden with glossy waves walked down a twisty stairway hidden behind a column just right of where Thranduil stood.

“You met Lady Lalaithwen, I presume?” The Elf looked at Thranduil again.

“I just got here,” Thranduil said, turning back to face the Elf. “You are Master Pengolodh, the loremaster? What exactly am I to do here?” Thranduil asked.

The Elf put down the scrolls on the table and straightened. “Oh, please call me Pengo. That is what everyone calls me. What did Lord Gilmagor tell you?”

“I am to do whatever it is that you required of me.”

“Ah, I see. Well, I am supposed to teach history, but I am so overwhelmed with work. My master sailed leaving me in charge of so much…” the Elf smiled again, then his eyes filled with excitement. “I am in the middle of compiling my annals. It is a lot of work, but so exciting.” He rubbed his hands together. “It will help me greatly if you can assist Lady Lalaithwen here. She will be teaching the young ones our history while their teacher is on a temporary leave. This will give me time…”

“You want me to help her teach Noldorin history?” Thranduil glanced at the young elleth then frowned at the lore master. “I am sorry to inform you, Master Pengolodh, but I know nothing of Noldorin history.”

“By the lights of the trees! You did not receive any instructions in the histories? You seem like a noble born.” Pengolodh looked Thranduil up and down, his eyes wide.

“I did not say I do not know history,” Thranduil said, trying his best not to roll his eyes. “I said I do not know Noldorin history.”

“You are not one of us?” the loremaster’s eyebrows went up to his hairline as he looked Thranduil once over then rested his eyes on Thranduil’s hair. “You cannot be a Vanya.” Then his eyes grew even larger if that was possible. “You are a Sinda?”

Thranduil felt his body heat up and he frowned down at the skinny Elf in front of him.

The young elleth who looked several decades over a century in age stepped forward unbidden.

“What Master Pengo means is that you are quite tall and big for a Sinda. Most Sindar are smaller,” she said, pulling up a corner of her lips. She was rather tall, even for a Noldorin maiden, coming almost to Thranduil’s chin while most ellyth just barely reached his shoulders.

“Not all Sindar are smaller than Noldor. Where I am from, my height and size are a norm,” Thranduil said, bit forcefully than he intended. And although it may not apply to all of the people in Doriath, it certainly was true when it came to his family and immediate kin.

“You are from Menegroth?” The loremaster’s wide open eyes filled with thousands of lights as if they were struck by stars.  

“I am.”

“Oh, my! How wonderful!” The loremaster clapped his hands together like a child, his face glowing like a moon. “It is so hard to find people from Menegroth. I managed to gather some information from other Sindar from Doriath, but those from Menegroth are rare and difficult to approach…Oh, yes. Yes! You must tell me everything you know about Doriath.”

“Certainly not! I am not telling you anything about Doriath, Menegroth or anything that is to do with the fallen kingdom,” Thranduil hissed.

The Loremaster who had been almost jumping with excitement shrank back.

“I will do whatever other things you may want of me, but do not talk or ask me about my former home. Do not expect it, loremaster,” Thranduil’s voice rang through the empty library, more a command than a statement.

Pengo looked completely taken back, his eyes wide like a child who was just scolded for no reason.

“You need not shout,” the young maiden said. “Master Pengo was not trying to force you to do anything you do not wish to do. He was just excited at the prospect of learning more about your people. He is a scholar which you obviously is not.” The elleth looked up at Thranduil’s glare and met it, her chin held high.

Thranduil’s blue-green eyes clashed with her dark gray ones. People rarely looked at him with such boldness when he frowned but the young woman stood firm, meeting Thranduil’s glare without a falter. Thranduil took in a breath, then took a step back to incline his head. It wouldn’t do to be rude to a lady. And a lady she certainly was.

“I apologize for raising my voice,” Thranduil nodded toward the Loremaster. “But, as I said, do not expect me to talk of Doriath,” Thranduil repeated, this time easing his tone, but brooking no argument.

“As someone supposed to be getting punished for his action, you are in no position to demand anything, Thranduil Oropherion,” Gilmagor said as he stepped over to the center of the room to stand next to the Loremaster.

Thranduil straightened and stood at attention, biting his tongue, knowing that if he did not do so, he didn’t know what other trouble his troublesome tongue could get him into.

“Oropherion?” The lore master’s eyes widened again. “Lord Oropher’s son?”

Gilmagor turned to the loremaster. “I should have given you more information about him, but I didn’t get a chance, Pengo.” Then the Lord Commander turned to the elleth. “Lalaithwen. I didn’t know you will be here this morning. Will you excuse us, please?”

The girl curtsied to Gilmagor and left the room, throwing a brief glance at Thranduil as she left.

Once the door closed after the maiden, Gilmagor spoke again to the loremaster. “He is also the one the king talked to you about tutoring.”

 Pengo looked at Gilmagor, then turned to Thranduil.

“I do not need tutoring.” Thranduil could not help the words that leaped off his tongue.

Gilmagor turned to regard Thranduil. The Sinda felt himself tremble at the light in the elder Elf’s eyes and turned away his own gaze at first. But resolutely, Thranduil turned back and met the bright eyes of the Lord Commander. 

I will not succumb. Thranduil told himself. No Noldor will crush me.  Thranduil thought back to the anger he felt at that king’s councilor and held onto it as a child would his mother’s hand at his first step.

The Lord Commander held Thranduil’s eyes. Briefly, Thranduil thought the Crooked Nose’s lips twitched upwards but it was gone in a moment.

“The king promised you a thorough education. I wouldn’t call it a complete education if you were to leave here without learning anything about our history. Since you cannot use your wrist, you will join the cadets in the morning for the strategy sessions, but skip afternoon sessions on weapons training and come here before your session with Elrond on the patterns.”

“I do not believe my father would mind that I knew nothing of Noldor and their history,” Thranduil countered, feeling more sure of himself as the tremor he felt at meeting Gilmagor’s eyes calmed.

“But if you knew nothing of Noldorin history, then, you wouldn’t be able to help Lady Lalaithwen with the teaching of the children,” Master Pengo said.

“Lalaithwen? What is this about teaching?” Gilmagor frowned as he turned to the loremaster.

“I didn’t realize he was the same person that the king talked to me about, so I had planned for Thranduil to help Lady Lalaithwen teach the children. I had too many things on my hand and Lady Lalaithwen offered to take over the teaching of the elflings,” Pengo explained.

The frown on Gilmagor’s face deepened.

“Did her father approve this?”

“My lord? I didn’t think he would disapprove. But, she made the offer as we were talking about it just this morning. I didn’t think it was inappropriate for me to accept.”

“No, of course not. But, I do not think her father would approve of having her here—.” Gilmagor glanced at Thranduil.

Thranduil got a distinct impression that Gilmagor almost added, “with him” at the end of his sentence. Whoever the maiden’s father was, he probably didn’t want his daughter mixing up with a Sinda.

Good riddance. Thranduil scoffed to himself. He had no intention of being involved with a Noldorin elleth either.

The loremaster looked completely puzzled, but Gilmagor waved his hand.

“Never mind that. I will send you Elrond. He will probably be better, anyway, at teaching than Lalaithwen.”

The loremaster smiled widely, his gray eyes lighting up.

“Oh, yes, my lord. That would be preferable, but with the cadet training, I didn’t think Elrond would have the time to teach the children. He knows the history well, better than most. I would love to have Elrond.”

Thranduil couldn’t help rolling his eyes. It seemed Elrond was popular whether it was the infirmary or the library.

“But will not taking him off the training cost him? I do not want to make it hard for Elrond to catch up to the other cadets later.”

“You do not know Elrond if you think so, Pengo. He is far advanced than most others. Missing a  week of weapons training will hardly matter to him,” said Gilmagor with a wave of his hand. “But after the end of next week, they will have to return to their training.” Gilmagor glanced at Thranduil. There was definite amusement in Gilmagor’s eyes now. “And Elrond and his warrior companion here could help you teach the children, twice a week perhaps, as a part of their chore afterward? That is, if Oropherion passes his test on the patterns,” said Gilmagor and turned to Thranduil. “How are your patterns coming?”

“Coming wonderfully, sir,” Thranduil said with a smile plastered on his face.

“Indeed? I look forward to seeing your entire seventy-eight patterns. Shall we start right after your morning run on Monday after next week?”

“As you wish.” Thranduil wanted to smack that grin hovering on the Crooked Nose’s face, but instead, Thanduil smiled back. “Sir!”

“Carry on, then,” Gilmagor said, then turned to the loremaster. “Pengo, do your best.”

The loremaster bowed respectfully to Gilmagor as the sword master left the library.

“Well, I suppose, we should start with your lesson. Those scrolls I brought are for you. I was going to have you and Lalaithwen gather materials to teach the children while I instructed the Sindarin prince on Noldorin history, not realizing you two are the same people.” Pengo laughed but stopped when Thranduil did not.

Instead, the loremaster gestured for Thranduil to sit.

“These are some of the scrolls that deal with the history of Arda, those brought by the Exiles. I guess we will start with the beginning of Arda when Eru Illuvatar created the world by creating Ainur, the Valar and the Maiar, including Melkor, the one later called the Dark Lord Morgoth.”

“I think I know enough of that. You forget, Loremaster, that our Queen Melian was one of the Maiar. I have been taught about the creation from the great lady herself.”

“I see. How about the sundering of the Elves? Let’s start with the three groups of Eldar: the golden-haired and blue-eyed Vanyar, the dark-haired and gray-eyed Noldor, and the largest group…” Pengo gestured Thranduil to continue.

“Teleri are dark-haired and gray-eyed as well although there are some who are white-haired like Lord Cirdan,” said Thranduil. 

The loremaster looked up and eyed Thranduil. “Well, except for your noble kin who are silver-haired and blue-eyed. But, you are not exactly silver-haired, nor are you blue-eyed.”

“I am here to learn, not to answer questions,” Thranduil said.

“I didn’t say you need to answer,” Pengo said and smiled brightly. “I am merely thinking out aloud. You will see me do that often. And, by the way, I am part Sindar. My mother was a Sindarin lady…”

“Did I ask you?” Thranduil frowned.

“No, you did not,” the Loremaster smiled again, his gray eyes laughing. “Just thought you might want to know.”

“I don’t.”

“Oh well,” Pengo shrugged, then laughed again. “Then, let’s see how much you know. I need to make sure you know enough before we can move on.”

Thranduil shrugged.

“Tell me what you know of the sundering of the Elves.”

“Three groups of the Elves were led by their respective leaders. But the Teleri, being many, were slow and were delayed. When they arrived at Misty Mountain and the great river, many decided to settle down at the large forest there. They are now what we call wood Elves or Silvans.”

“Is that where your father led the many of his followers who did not wish to stay in Lindon?” Pengo asked when Thranduil stopped to take a breath.

“I thought I told you I wouldn’t answer,” Thranduil said, looking at the loremaster with steady eyes.

“I thought you said you were to do whatever I required of you,” Pengo said, then pulled at his earlobe, tilting his head like a child. “Or was that Lord Gilmagor?” He grinned widely, looking up at Thranduil with innocent, wide eyes. “No matter. Go on.”

Thranduil realized that the loremaster was not the bumbling fool the Sinda originally thought.

“When the Teleri arrived in Beleriand where Vanyar and Noldor were waiting, all the Vanyar and all of the Noldor who journeyed to the west into Beleriand were ferried across the ocean to Valinor. But the Teleri did not. They lost their lord, Elwe, and wanted to look for him. But many of the Teleri were impatient to go to Valinor. So they were led into the Blessed Land by Elwe’s brother.”

“Your great-grandfather?” Pengo asked.

“Yes, by Lord Olwe,” Thranduil said. Pengo’s eyes glittered like gems.

“Then what happened?” the Loremaster asked, his gaze intent and excited.

Then It was obvious to Thranduil that the loremaster did not know the details of what happened to Teleri afterward and was eager to learn.

Before leaving Middle Earth, Lord Olwe left behind his two eldest sons, Arandur and Amglar, to look for his lost brother Elwe, most likely believing that all of them will follow soon after. Arandur and Amglar, along with Galadhon, their cousin, had separated into east, west and north to look for Elwe while Lord Cirdan searched south near the shore.

“Well,” Thranduil drawled, leaning back on his seat. The loremaster would have to do a lot better than make a simple threat to get anything new out of him. “The rest who remained to look for their lord, settled down in Beleriand under Elwe and Melian who became known as King Elu Thingol and Queen Melian of Doirath and those Teleri are called Sindar.”

The excitement faded from the loremaster’s eyes as Thranduil wrapped up the whole story in one sentence without adding any new information that wasn’t already known.

------------

Pengolodh (Sindarin, teaching sage)—born to Noldorin lord and Sindarin lady, he is known as one of the great loremasters after Rumil and Feanor. He is also referred to as  “Sage of Noldor”. He was born in Nevrast at Beleriand during First Age. He wrote Annals of Beleriand (stories of First Age) and edited Annals of Aman (stories of Noldor in Valinor).

Tengwar (Quenya, letters)--writing system invented by Feanor. It is also called Feanorian alphabet

elleth (Sindarin, female Elf, plural form is ellyth)

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Kitchen.  April 17, Second Age 144

 

MAIRON walked into the kitchen carrying empty wine jars. The kitchen was preparing for dinner and everyone was busily engaged.

“You four, come with me!” someone barked.

Mairon turned about as the blond Sinda walked in with an empty basket along with Elrond.

“Yes, you four,” the Elf limped over then pointed toward Thranduil, Elrond and Mairon, Erfaron, who were working in the kitchen tonight.

Mairon knew the older Elf to be the butler who managed the dining halls within the palace. He was an old Elf with a slight limp. An old injury from the First Age, no doubt.

“Come, come, cadets. I don’t have all day!” snapped the butler. “We have supplies that just came in. They need to be brought in,” the Elf said as he gestured them toward the back of the kitchen.

The kitchen was an enormous complex that occupied one of the smaller towers behind the Great Hall just next to the dining hall for the officers. It had walkways and doors that led to practically every part of the palace. Mairon had never been inside any kitchen before coming to Lindon as he never paid attention to it. His master and the fellow Maiar had no need for food, unlike the Orcs and Men who required constant feeding.

Having seen how the kitchen led to almost every part of the Palace, Mairon thought about how easy it would be to storm a castle if they could manage to get into a kitchen. It was too bad that this kitchen was located amid all the training warriors, in the most heavily guarded area in the entire White City.

The Butler stopped in front of a thick wooden door reinforced with steel braces. The door was left open now but Mairon noted that it took two keys to open the door.

Looking at the thickness of the steel reinforced wood, Mairon wondered what the King of Noldor kept in his cellar that there was such security.

In fact, Mairon had wondered why the walls of the White City were so thick? For a city that was built during the time of peace, it had walls that were tall, thick and well secured. He wondered if these Elves knew something he didn’t.

The door opened into a long set of downward stairs and the four cadets glanced at each other before following the Butler down.

“Have any of you been down here before?” Elrond asked Mairon and the other cadet as the Half-Elven glanced at Thranduil. The Sinda was silent as usual.

“No. First time. You?” Mairon asked Elrond as Erfaron next to him shook his head.

“Just a handful of times,” Elrond said as they went down a long flight of stone stairs onto a well-lit corridor.

The corridor stretched to the right. And there was another set of stairs on the right that led up. Thranduil stepped toward the stairs. 

“Not that way, cadet. That goes up to the South Tower. Nowhere to go but up,” the Butler said.

The elder Elf led them further down the corridor. Far ahead, the corridor crossed another passageway with a wide channel of water flowing next to it.  

“Is that a water channel?” Thranduil who rarely said anything suddenly spoke up.

“The King’s Tower is built on a hill in the middle of a lake. They widened a large stream that flows from the lake into the Gulf of Lhun and made it into a water channel wide enough for a passage of a boat.  That is how we get supplies into the King’s Tower,” Elrond said.

The butler raised his eyebrow and looked at Elrond, then at Thranduil, but did not say anything. Instead, he harrumphed then stopped at a wooden door to the left.

It was a plain door with no markings. The butler opened the door to a dark room where he stepped in and waved his hand. Several balls of light, no bigger than fists, floated up to illuminate the dark room.

It was a cellar. There were barrels upon barrels on the right side. On left was wooden lattice panel. Through the carved openings, Mairon saw several tall wooden shelves which lined the walls. They were filled with wine barrels and glass jugs.

Separating the wine cellar on the left from the rest of the room was a wide middle aisle with three long wooden tables. The right side was filled with neat rows of barrels with different colored labels.

On the ceiling hung cured meats of all kinds. Tall wooden shelves lining the far walls contained piles of thick discs of various shades of yellow and white. And many varieties of dried herbs hung from the ropes from the ceiling, its herbal aroma fighting with the heady scent of fermented fruit from the left side.

“Down the center aisle to the door at the far end,” the Butler pointed. “You three get the barrels outside, and you,” the butler turned to Elrond and pointed to the wine cellar, “bring up one of the wine barrels up to the kitchen for tonight. Don’t touch the barrels with the gold seal. Take up the barrel as it is lined by the door. I have ordered it so there will be no further mistake as to which barrel,” the Butler said."

Mairon and the other cadet followed Thranduil down to a small door at the back. Outside was a narrow passageway cut into a boulder. You could see glowing crystal lights giving off a faint light. Somewhere at the end of that passage, the sound of Elves laughing wafted through the air.  

Once out of the narrow passageway, Mairon saw that it was a small underground dock. The landing was cut out of large stone and there were steps cut into them that led into the water. Several Elves were unloading barrels as well as glass and earthen jugs from the boat.

“You three here to help?” one of the Elves unloading the supplies asked. He raked a hand through his white hair tied in a low ponytail. He didn’t wait for the answer as he pointed to the barrels piled on the entrance to the passageway.

“Those are all salted fish,” he said. Then he picked up another barrel to hand over to one of the Elves standing on the ramp. “They are all counted. Where’s Athradon?”

“Here, you impatient Sinda.” The Butler limped out into the dock. “I will count them myself, thank you,” he said to the one who spoke earlier.

The Elf on the boat laughed. “As you wish, Noldo. It is all the provision I am to deliver for the Spring season so you do what you need to,” said the Sinda on the boat.

Athradon frowned. “Aren’t you going to deliver meats and wine from Harlindon in the next quarter moon?”

“Aye. I meant from the Grey Haven. But yeah, from Harlindon, there will be that and the two shipments quarter moon before Midsummer.”

It was then that Thranduil who had been looking around the underground dock asked. “Can you access this dock though the water?” He pointed to the water under the boat.

The white-haired Sinda on the boat laughed again.

“Aye, lad, if you are a fish. This is the lake water below the training fields and it is deep, I was told.”

“Don’t even think you can get into the cellar, cadet,” Athradon who had been inspecting the barrels turned to Thranduil. “The lake is deep as the ocean here and,” he pointed to the waterway which curved to the right. “This waterway goes directly to the dock where the barracks for both the palace and city guards lay.”

“You keep this cellar too damn secure, Athradon. They are food, not treasure,” the Elf on the boat said. He turned his jovial face to the cadets. “Come and enjoy the hospitality of our Grey Havens, lads. Lord Cirdan keeps his cellar thrown open. He doesn’t mind few cadets getting into his wine or food. You have to either have a wing or a fin to get into the cellar here.” The Elf shook his head, but he was laughing.

“Move out, Harador, before you tempt our cadets to the dark side. Too disciplined and strong are our cadets in Lindon, to be easily swayed, unlike those from the Grey Havens,” Athradon said with a sniff and turned away.

“Dark side? What’s bad about getting few bottles of wine, eh?” Harador winked at the cadets before he turned back to order his Elves.

Not easily influenced? Mairon swallowed a laughter. You think so, Master Athradon?

It hadn’t taken that much to push Belegor into action. Just a suggestion here and a word there. The Noldo was angry and had seethed with indignation, his pride sorely hurt. Anger was such an easy emotion to manipulate. Mairon smiled inwardly.

His master had taught him early on not to underestimate the damage that anger could do.

When anger burns, it does not discriminate friends from foe. It burns all.

Mairon remembered well his master’s glee as he told Mairon of his prized seedling. Now, Mairon could understand how his master felt with Feanor.

“Ah, you had to see him, Mairon. The fire in his eyes, the heat in his soul, it was like looking into my own,” Melkor had gushed. “And just like that, he slammed the door on me. Me!” His master laughed. “The Elf may think he had turned me away, but when you see what he had done, then you’ll know he had played right into my hands.

It is too bad I wasn’t there to see it with my own eyes. Oh, how glorious the red blood would have looked in those blue waters of Aman. None could have sullied those hallowed waters better than the blood of the Firstborn, the ones the rest of my sorry lot tried their best to shield from me. The brightest of the Firstborn defied them and spilled the blood of their own kind. What an irony! Even I could not have done it better.”

Mairon moved the barrels into the wine cellar as the Butler instructed. He glanced at Thranduil as the Sinda followed the butler out the back door and noticed that Elrond’s eyes followed the blond Sinda.

Elrond’s interest in the Sinda had not diminished. That made Mairon feel more sure that this Sinda was the right one. The one perfect sprout.

“Remember, Mairon. You only need one. Just one well-chosen piece. Stain its hands with blood to seal the deal and that one dark sprout will do more damage than all the army of Orcs at your command. Remember that, Mairon. Blood begets blood.”

Mairon had not been sure at first whether this Sinda would be useful. Both sprouts Melkor had nurtured, Feanor and Maeglin, were not only full of anger, they were also in the position of power and influence.

But this Sinda is a minor princeling of an obscure House not worth mentioning. He had no influence and no connection. Except for the distant relationship to Elrond, there was nothing to recommend Thranduil other than his eye-catching looks. His tall stature and the mesmerizing coloring certainly made the Sinda easy on the eyes but those qualities meant nothing when it came to power.

Despite his misgivings, however, Mairon kept an eye on the Sinda. There was darkness in Thranduil and the anger in him sizzled so hot at times, Mairon could bath in it.

But despite the anger and hatred, Thranduil had been reluctant to act against those he hated. This puzzled Mairon. Why wouldn’t anyone want their enemy to suffer? Thranduil wished it; there was no doubt as to that. Mairon had felt it radiate from the Sinda. Yet, Thranduil hesitated when the time came. Worse, he confessed too quickly. Mairon could not understand the Sinda’s action. He had expected the Sinda to keep quiet, to let another take the blame. Didn't he consider all Noldor his enemy? The secret would have made it easier for Mairon to manipulate him.  

Mairon carried the barrels lining the backdoor into the wine cellar and was arranging it when he saw through the carved openings of the lattice paneling the other cadet move closer to Elrond. Mairon had noted him because Erfaron was one of the close friends of Belegor.

He was saying something to Elrond in a low voice. Mairon sent out his senses to hear better.  As good as the Elven hearing was, there were limits. His Maiarian senses, however, were much more powerful. And his senses were one of the few among his vast powers that he was able to retain in this body.

“Is it true that it was not Cellon who was responsible for tainting the soup?” the other cadet asked.

“You heard Lieutenant Gwendir. Cellon is innocent,” Elrond said under his breath as he threw a glance at Mairon’s direction.

“But you know who did, don’t you, Elrond? You always know.”

“I am not to talk about it, Erfaron. That was the order from Lord Gilmagor.”

“So, you do know. Come, Elrond. It wasn’t just my warrior companion and me, it was everybody, including other officers.Erfr, leave it, please. It was just a prank.”

“Just a prank? Come, Elrond…”

But before Erfaron could say more, Athradon limped in from the back door followed by Thranduil carrying a barrel.

“That’s all the supplies. Once you put them into their respective spots, bring these items to the cook,” the butler said and pointed at the barrels, meats, and herbs.

As they each carried their individual packages up to the kitchen, Mairon hid a smile.

What the Sinda needed was a bitter taste of Noldorin 'hospitality'. Something to shake his hesitation, something to make his anger and the distrust of Noldor simmer. A word here and a push there to fan his hatred. If he can get the Sinda to erupt, have the Sinda kill...

But who to kill?

Mairon wondered who would prevail if he put Thranduil against Elrond. Can Thranduil kill Elrond? Would the Sinda be able to? Elrond was skilled with his sword. Mairon had seen it. But the Sinda had reflexes beyond the skill of the cadets. Without a sword in hand, Elrond had no chance against Thranduil. But with swords, Elrond would not be an easy kill for the Sinda. Thranduil could shoot Elrond, but as far as Mairon had seen, Thranduil’s skill with a bow was mediocre at best. And with weapons in hand, that fight may end up with Elrond’s hands in Thranduil’s blood.

But that would do just as well, Mairon smiled.

Blood on Elrond's hand would torment him. That would be good, indeed. Mairon did not just want to see Elrond dead. He wanted to see this descendant of Luthien on his knees, begging, crushed and tortured. The Half-Elven must atone for the humiliation Mairon suffered in Luthien’s hands. Yes. Anything less would not do.

And he had time. He would not rush this. His time within this body was limited, it was true. But it would be enough time to find the weakness in the Elves and torment the son of Earendil . Yes, indeed.

 -------------

Maeglin (Sindarin, sharp glance)--son of Aredhel, a Noldo and Turgon's sister, and Eol the Dark Elf, a Sinda related to Thingol. He is known as the traitor who brought down Gondolin. He loved Idril (Elrond's grandmother), Turgon's daughter, but Elves do not wed their first cousins and Idril did not like him having felt the darkness from him. When he got captured by Morgoth, he gave up the location of Gondolin for the promise of lordship over Gondolin and Idril who was already married to Tuor (Elrond's grandfather).

Chapter Text

Western Courtyard. April 20, Second Age 144

 

THRANDUIL and Elrond finished their work at the library as quickly as they could. After today, Thranduil had only one more day before he is to be tested for the patterns. With the work at the library added to his usual chores and remaining training, Thranduil had less time to learn the sword patterns.

Tomorrow was the rest day and Elrond had convinced Master Pengo to let them skip tomorrow so Thranduil could have a whole day after he was done with his morning and evening runs around the fields. Already, the training fields were empty as many cadets cleared out after the end of their chores.

Thranduil and Elrond left the library at King’s Tower and headed toward the Star Field. They turned a corner passing outside a walled garden that led to the Western Courtyard when Thranduil's mind blared in warning.

A force propelled Thranduil forward before he had a chance to react. Only the years of experience dealing with unforeseen events allowed Thranduil to catch himself before hitting the ground. When he straightened, however, the young Sinda found himself surrounded.

“Thrand…oof!” Elrond’s call was cut off and muffled. Thranduil whirled around to look for Elrond who was following behind him. Two cadets held Elrond down on the ground, his arms twisted back, his mouth and eyes covered. Thranduil turned back to those who surrounded him. There were six cadets. One of them was Belegor.

Despite the hostility radiating from the cadets, Thranduil couldn’t help being impressed. He had not felt their presence. As noiseless as these cadets were taught to be, Thranduil had not expected it of the Noldorin warriors. Maybe it was the heaviness of their armor, but as far as Thranduil remembered, the Noldorin warriors he had seen at Sirion made a lot more noise than his father’s warriors who were practically soundless no matter how heavily armed they were. But, then, these cadets did not wear any armor. Either that, Thranduil was slacking and not paying attention to his environment as he was taught to do.

“What do you want?” Thranduil asked although he could guess.

“I heard it was you who had poisoned the soup,” Belegor said, his eyes narrowed and dark.

“I wouldn’t say ‘poisoned’ but yes. I put the herbs,” said Thranduil, noting that the other five cadets moved around and now made a tight circle around him, each warrior only an arm’s length out of his reach.

If these cadets were Orcs, six was no match for him, but these were Elven warriors. Even though Thranduil was able to catch Belegor and his two companions off-guard the first night, the Sinda knew he could not have bested Belegor and his friends without the surprise in his favor. Had it been a fully open confrontation as it was now, he may not have been able to throw all of them off their feet in such a short time.

“So you enjoyed making everyone miserable, Sinda?” Belegor said.

“Not everyone, but you? Yes.”

Belegor’s face turned dark as his nose flared. “Is that so?” He glared at Thranduil.

“So, Belegor was right? It was you who made us sick?” one of the Elves who surrounded Thranduil asked. “My warrior companion was so sick he threw up all night,” he growled.

“Well, if you want your revenge, go ahead,” Thranduil said and opened his arms wide, palm up.

“Do you even know how sick some of us got?” another cadet said.

Some of the cadets who surrounded him began to pound their fists into their open palms, but none of them made a move toward Thranduil.

“Either you get this over with or get out of my way,” Thranduil said, glancing at each one of them.

Someone behind him made the first strike. Sharp pain cracked behind his back and Thranduil propelled forward. A cadet in front of Thranduil caught him with an upper hook into Thranduil’s stomach. Pain, sharp and biting, kicked into his stomach, yanking his breath. Thranduil clenched his teeth to prevent crying out. But before he could right himself, Thranduil was thrown back as a fist smashed into his face, then his chest. He was unable to count the number of punches that followed until his knees hit the dirt.

Thranduil fell on the ground, on all fours. He lifted his hand and wiped away the sticky wetness on his chin. His mouth burned as a taste of metallic tang filled his mouth. The cadets who surrounded him pulled back as soon as Thranduil was down.

“Why isn’t he fighting back?” one of them asked.

Belegor who had stood back until now stepped forward, his eyes shiny with excitement.

“You are not so stupid after all. Are we too much for you, Sinda?” Belegor said then bared his fist. The Noldo’s lips curved up wickedly. “Now, for the final blow.”

Thranduil looked up as Belegor’s fist flew toward his face. Before it could make a contact with his chin, however, Thranduil grabbed it.

“Not you,” Thranduil growled through his bleeding mouth. “I have no regrets as to you,” Thranduil said as he got up, off the ground, using Belegor’s fist to pull himself up.

Belegor hissed as his eyes sparked with fire.

“What’s going on here!” someone bellowed just then. Thranduil let go of Belegor's fist as the Noldo stood at attention and Lord Gilmagor stood before them.

The cadets immediately straightened in attention. Thranduil grunted as he made an effort to straighten. The muscles pulled and ached everywhere. The Sinda bit down another groan.

“What happened here, Oropherion?” Gilmagor asked once Thranduil managed to stand up straight.

“Sir!” Belegor stepped forward.

“Careful, Lammaegion. I did not ask you.” Gilmagor glanced at the young Noldo. The Lord Commander’s voice was full of warning, a quiet before the storm.

Belegor flushed and clamped his mouth shut.

Gilmagor turned to Thranduil. “Oropherion?”

Thranduil took in a breath. He could feel the nervous glances of the other cadets.

“I fell, sir,” Thranduil said staring straight ahead.

Gilmagor narrowed his eyes as he looked Thranduil up and down.

“And how did you fall?”

“On my hands and knees, sir.”

The air in the garden turned heavy as silence filled the space.

“And Belegor’s fist?”

“I was using it to get up, sir.”

Gilmagor’s eyes sparked into little flames and Thranduil felt his insides shiver at the keen light in them but it did not have the debilitating effect it used to have. Still, Thranduil focused his eyes straight ahead and not on the Lord Commander’s eyes.

“Think carefully what you say, Thranduil Oropherion. Lying to your commander is not only an act unbecoming an officer, it is punishable. Do you want to rephrase your answer?”

“No, sir.”

Gilmagor narrowed his eyes, then he turned.

“Earendilion!” Gilmagor called out.

 Thranduil turned around to see Elrond dusting the dirt off the front of his uniform before standing at attention. The faces of two cadets standing at attention next to Elrond were drawn and drained of blood.

“What happened here?” Gilmagor walked to stand before Elrond.

Elrond glanced at Thranduil. Thranduil shook his head. Elrond pursed his lips and frowned for a moment, but said, “I fell and did not see anything. Sir!”

Gilmagor glanced back toward Thranduil. The Lord Commander’s lips curved up, but the smile did not reach his eyes. Thranduil felt cold run down his spine at the look in Gilmagor’s eyes.

“Is there anyone here who did not fall and saw what really went on?” Gilmagor looked around at the other warriors. His voice was soft as a lady’s silk dress.

No one said anything, their eyes forward.

Gilmagor turned to Elrond, then back at Thranduil with a big smile on his face.

“So, you are telling me,  Oropherion, that you fell and Lammaegion here helped you up?”

Thranduil remained silent.

“And these other cadets? They were here to help you, too?”

When Thranduil still kept silent, Lord Gilmagor continued.

“Since these cadets have been so kind to you, Oropherion, you wouldn’t have any objections to returning a favor by helping them with their chores, do you?” Gilmagor tilted his head, his lips curved up.

Thranduil fisted his hands at the impulse. He wanted to punch that grin off the Crooked Nose’s face.

“If they wish it,” Thranduil said.

“Of course, they would want you to. Is that not so?” The sword master looked at other warriors who were looking quite uncomfortable now.

“What chores were you and your warrior companion supposed to do tonight, Lammaegion?” Gilmagor asked. His voice was silky and dangerous.

“Sir! We were to fill water barrels. But… we have already completed our chores, sir!”

“Is that mean there are no more barrels to fill?”

“No, sir. We have four more barrels. But they are for next week and we do not need help. Sir!”

“Oh, but you were so kind to help Oropherion here. I am sure he wouldn’t mind filling them for you. Isn’t that so, Oropherion?”

Thranduil bit his tongue. He didn’t need any more problems and he was very aware how his tongue tended to get him in trouble. But the extra chore meant even less time to work on the patterns. But, it was either comply or tell and Thranduil was loathed to do the latter.

“But sir,” Elrond who was frowning behind Thranduil spoke up.

“Was I speaking to you, Earendilion?” Gilmagor said, his eyes on Thranduil.

“But, sir…” Elrond persisted.

But before Elrond could speak further, Gilmagor raised his index finger stopping Elrond. The Half-Elf’s shoulder sagged, but Elrond stepped back.

Gilmagor smiled brightly, then turned to the other warriors.

“And, as officers who value honor, fairness, and friendship, you all would want to help Oropherion with his chores. I am sure that all eight of you gathered here to help this one cadet who had to remain in the barracks. Is that not so?” the old Elf’s voice was smooth and sweet as honey.

When no one said anything, the Lord Commander continued. 

“Being such good companions, you eight will do 10 laps run around the three fields for Thranduil. In fact, you can start tonight to show solidarity. Then, tomorrow morning, all of you will do another 10 laps run in Oropherion’s stead. As it was with Thranduil, you are to finish before sunrise. Questions?”

“But, sir,” Belegor stepped forward, “tomorrow is a rest day and I am expected to break my fast with my family tomorrow morning…”

Belegor stopped when Gilmagor eyes flashed, then the young Noldo stepped back as the sword master’s eyes narrowed into two keen lances.

“Thranduil Oropherion would have run tomorrow whether it is a rest day or not. As faithful and helpful companions, I expect you,” Gilmagor eyed Belegor, then turned to the other warriors, “and all of you, to be there for your fellow cadet. Is that clear?” It was not a question and all of them knew it.

“Yes, sir!” Belegor and the seven warriors said in unison although they sounded weak and reluctant.

“Good. You are dismissed. Go! Do your run now.”

The cadets, their shoulders sagging but unable to utter a word in front of the Lord Commander, moved away quietly.

Both Elrond and Thranduil also turned to leave.

 “You two. Stay.”

Thranduil glanced at Elrond who met his eyes.

Lord Gilmagor watched others leave. When all of them have disappeared out of the garden, the sword master turned to Elrond.

“You have a very bad habit of interrupting your officer, Earendilion.”

“Elrond has nothing to do with this,” Thranduil said.

Gilmagor’s eyes glinted and Thranduil stopped but glared back at the Lord Commander.

“I expect that of this one,” Gilmagor gestured toward Thranduil. “But, you, I expected you to be cooler headed. Any more interruptions from you and I will have to rethink your position. Everything has a right time and place. Am I clear, cadet?"

Elrond met the commander's eyes. Then, the young Noldor dropped his head. "Yes, sir."

"Good. Now, what did you want to say, Elrond.”

“Sir, Thranduil already has more than enough chores. As is, we are behind on the patterns. Filling four water barrels alone will take a good half a day. Sir, Thranduil only has tomorrow to complete his patterns and we still have so much to cover. We had chores every, single day.” Elrond sounded as if he was pleading.

“Then, I suggest you help him with it. You are his warrior companion. His burden is your burden. With two of you, you should be able to cut the chore time in half,” Gilmagor said with a shrug.

“But even with two of us, it would take at least good four hours.”

“Then what are you waiting for? You are dismissed.” With that, Gilmagor disappeared after the other cadets.

Once Gilmagor was out of sight, Thranduil sagged holding onto his stomach. He leaned onto a wall. “By Belegaer, those Elves hit hard. Damn!”

Elrond grabbed Thranduil’s arm and led him to a bench few feet away.

 “Those cadets are the best among the youth of Lindon. Did you expect anything less? Let me see.” Elrond tried to pull open Thranduil’s tunic for a look.

“Just bruises, nothing broken.” Thranduil swiped away Elrond’s hand. Then, Thranduil looked up and saw that Elrond’s right cheek was swelling up. It looked red and tender.

“They hit you, too?” Thranduil turned Elrond’s face towards him for a closer look, keeping a tight rein on the anger. It was one thing for them to hit him. He deserved it; Elrond did not.

“No. They were just trying to keep me down.” Elrond fingered the now swollen side of his face. “I almost threw one of them off me, trying to get up. One of them elbowed me to keep me down. But, why didn’t you hit them back? You could have gotten to at least three or four of them, the way I have seen you move.”

“They deserved to let out some of their anger. They didn’t do anything to me and I hurt them. I might have done the same if I were them.”

“You seemed unwilling to extend such courtesy to Belegor.” Elrond chuckled.

“That Orc! Oh no. I wasn’t about to let that bastard hit me. I did that whole soup thing mostly for Belegor’s sake.”

“And, Lord Gilmagor?”

“Him, too.”

“Unfortunately for you, Lord Gilmagor did not have the soup that night and Belegor only very little. He didn’t even get sick at all.”

“Ah well,” Thranduil shrugged. “Just my luck.”

“Maybe Thranduil, you shouldn’t do things like that. You antagonized whole of the cadets and other officers. For what? A failed attempt to get back at two people who didn’t get hurt at all?”

Thranduil held Elrond’s eyes, then scoffed out loud. “You think me an idiot, don’t you, Peredhel?”

Elrond shrugged. “I just wondered why you did what you did.”

Thranduil rolled his eyes. “Have you never done anything on a whim? Do you always think everything through carefully before you do them?”

“Not all the time, but…And Belegor, he is not a bad person if you get to know him. He is honorable and friendly. Most of the time, anyway. Actually, in some ways, he is a lot like you.”

“In what ways?” Thranduil glared at Elrond.

“He is bit hot tempered and doesn’t always think before he acts or says things.” Elrond smiled, his eyes crinkling at the edges. “And as he is probably the best among the cadets, you could learn a lot from him.”

“I don’t want to learn anything from him!” Thranduil sneered. “And sneaking up on me like that. Is that something an honorable Elf would do?”

“You put herbs in people’s food to make them sick. Would you say that was honorable?”

“At least, I never pretended I was honorable.” Thranduil scoffed. “You go on, I have to go get that chore done so I can get the rest of the patterns down,” Thranduil said then grimaced as he got up, unsteadily, on his feet.

“I think you need to rest a little.” Elrond held onto Thranduil’s arm to steady him.

“I don’t have time, Elrond. If I don’t learn all the patterns by the day after tomorrow, Gilmagor will kick me out of the cadet program. He doesn’t seem like someone who makes empty threats.”

“No, he is not. But, you still have so much to learn. I am not sure you can…especially with you in this condition. Mayhap you can talk to Lord Gilmagor for mercy. He is not unreasonable. He must know that this feat is almost impossible. With all the things that went on, there just wasn’t enough time.”

“No. I am not going to give him the satisfaction of seeing me beg. And, I don’t think he is the kind of person who would bend the rules just because someone asked. No, I have to make this work.”

“Be reasonable, Thranduil. We were supposed to finish eight patterns each day, but we are hopelessly behind. With just one day to go, we should have finished all the patterns, but you have yet to learn the six major ones. And they are the hardest! How are you going to get that all done and have time left over to practice the entire patterns? You have to at least practice the whole pattern once…even then…”

“Just listen to me,” Thranduil turned Elrond around to face him. “I found a way to do the patterns faster.”

Elrond raised his eyebrow.

“I practiced the movements for each pattern and set it to a rhythm. I have been doing it every night after your lessons. The evening and morning songs to Elbereth…” Thranduil hissed as he shifted.

“Thranduil, I think you should have yourself looked over.” Elrond pulled him over to the direction of the barracks where the infirmary was located.

Thranduil shook his arm off Elrond’s grip.

“I can handle pain. This is nothing, Elrond. Cadets hit me hard, but they threw clean punches. I had worse. Orcs can be quite nasty to their captives.”

“You got captured by Orcs?” Elrond looked at Thranduil with wide eyes.

Thranduil sniffed, then nodded. It was one of the toughest ordeals he went through while mapping the North, next only to things that happened at Menegroth and Sirion. But, maybe because of it, what little mishap he had to go through here didn’t feel so bad. His father was right after all: Roots that weather frosts get stronger.

“Thranduil?”

The blond Sinda looked at Elrond. The young Noldo’s gray eyes were warm and open. They were filled with concern, so much like the eyes of Elwing they were, Thranduil’s heart ached at the thought of her.

“Thank you for your concern, Elrond. But, I’m fine,” Thranduil said more gently than he had ever allowed.

Then, the Sinda got up and turned away, suddenly conscious. Thranduil reined in all his emotions and carefully tucked them deep inside. Only woe befell all those he ever cared about.

“I am going to see about the filling the water barrels. If you are willing, I will see you tomorrow for the patterns,” Thranduil said formally, inclined his head, then without sparing another look toward the young Noldo, Thranduil walked away.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Sun Field.  April 21, Second Age 144

THRANDUIL made another turn, circling his sword in the air. For hours now, Thranduil practiced the last six patterns. Not only were they the hardest, being the most advanced, they were also the least familiar to Thranduil. Although he knew that he only needed to learn the steps and not master them, the movements themselves were difficult to learn. It was also harder because even Elrond was not a master of these six patterns and could not explain them as fully as Thranduil wanted.

Last night, Thranduil spent most of the evening filling the water barrels. When Thranduil finally made it to the field, it was after the midnight hour and Elrond had been waiting for him.

They had worked through the night and although today was a rest day, Elrond stayed with him through the entire day, only leaving to attend the dinner meeting with the king.

Sweat began to bead Thranduil's forehead as his breath roughened. Elves did not sweat normally. It was a sign he needed a rest. Thranduil swerved as he made a wrong turn. His practice sword hit the stone in front of him and flew off his hand. The force threw Thranduil onto the ground. With no strength to get up, Thranduil lay sprawled on the ground feeling the ache in his wrist spread down his arm. His wrist was still healing and the strain he put on it did not help.  

Thranduil groaned and covered his sweat soaked face with his hands. The palms of his hands burned. Through the faint light emitted by the white stones, Thranduil looked at his bare hands as if for the first time. There was not a spot on his palms that was not blistered, smudged or crusted with blood. Even with his Elven strength and stamina, back to back days and nights of constant strain on his body were beginning to take a toll.

For the past ten days, the only rest he had was when he rested his exhausted mind while doing walking-sleep during his morning and evening runs. Walking-sleep was a required skill when you trained as a warrior. It allowed warriors to perform long marches over great distances without the need to lay down to sleep. While they moved, soldiers slept open-eyed to allow their body and mind to rest. But walking-sleep can only be done when you are doing something repetitive that demanded minimal concentration. Unlike marching or running, practicing the patterns required mental acuity and physical exertion.

Thranduil let out a long breath. He was so tired.

Everything ached, each joint, each muscle in his arms, his legs… his entire body. He felt like he was buried, heavy earth weighing him down, cutting off blood, breath…life. Even the darkness around him seemed to weigh him down.

Thranduil lay still, his arms and legs spread wide. Everything was quiet. Silence and darkness, dark gray under the starlight, filled the empty space all around him.

Thranduil looked up at the star-filled sky. He had been working, doing chores, training and working on the patterns for non-stop for days now without any sleep or rest other than walking-sleep. And what little rest provided by the walking-sleep was obviously not enough.

In few hours, dawn will come and he must rise to do his morning run before facing Lord Gilmagor for the test.

“I can’t do this,” Thranduil whispered into the darkness of the vast Sun Field.

Why am I struggling so hard? Why am I bothering with all these? Why don’t I just give up? Who cares if I am a foot soldier? I am nobody anyway. I can’t do this anymore.

Thranduil closed his eyes.

 

Northern edge of Misty Mountains.  June 10, Second Age 105

Someone screamed and Thranduil struggled against the heavy mists that filled his consciousness. Something was rotting. His stomach roiled as something foul and acrid pricked his senses. His body felt so heavy. Pain laced down his back as if burning rocks seared the skin there. He wanted to open his eyes, but his lids were heavy as if someone buried his head in the ground.  But the blond Sinda opened them wide when a scream of a familiar voice pierced his ears.

Thranduil pitched forward but something held both his hands back. Coughing, feeling weak and unsure, Thranduil looked about him and found that he was tied, his wrists bloody and bound to two large stakes, one on each side of him.

Thranduil blinked to clear his weary eyes. Stone walls closed all around him. A stray light from above through a crack in a rock formation was the only light. Fear constricted his throat when he realized he was inside a cave. Thranduil grew up inside a cave but Menegroth was a vast place full of light and beauty, filled with songs and treasures beyond wonder. This cave was rough, dark and damp, filled with the sickening odor of decay and blood.

Thranduil’s stomach tightened into a knot as he realized where he was. Ahead of him, a huge orc, its worn iron armor dark with age, stood over someone. The creature sniggered as he pulled away a bloodied fist.

“Leave…leave him alone,” Thranduil cried out when he realized who it was. His voice came out cracked, barely above a whisper. “Tatharion!” Thranduil called out the name of the Elf who had watched over him since he was a child at Sirion.

The Orc, his twisted face made more horrifying by a fresh knife scar that tore across his face, stood over the old guard of Doriath. Tatharion sat slumped against the Orc. Blood dripped off Tatharion’s face, his one eye torn open and hollow, drenched in blood.

“This is what you get for interfering, Maggot,” the Orc said, as he shook Tatharion and his bloodied fist. The Elven guard sagged onto the dank floor when the Orc let him go.

The Sindarin warrior had tried to shield Thranduil with his body when a group of Orcs took turns to whip and slash at Thranduil. They have dragged Tatharion away and made the older Elf watch as they beat Thranduil senseless until the blond Sinda passed out. 

The scarred Orc turned, grinning ear to ear and glanced at Thranduil.

Fear clawed Thranduil’s inside as he remembered. Thranduil, Tatharion, and Dirnenion had been overwhelmed by a horde of orcs. They had managed to cut the number of Orcs by half but in the end, there were too many.

But where was Dirnenion?

Thranduil looked around. Dirnenion was Tatharion’s warrior companion. Those two always moved together.

Thranduil strained to look through the haze and the pain. He wondered if his father was looking for them. The three of them had been on their hunting duty, to catch something for dinner when they were attacked. By the light that poured from the crack in the cave, Thranduil knew that it was a daytime, but he could not tell how much time had passed since they were dragged in and tortured.

Thranduil scanned the dimly lit cave until the Orc with the scar stood in front of him.

“Looking for the other Maggot?” The Orc laughed, his laughter cruel and amused.

The beast pointed to a group of orcs huddled together to Thranduil’s right. They were cackling, some poking and kicking at something in the center of them. Shaking their iron covered bodies, the group parted and started to move away, leaving the center open to view.

There was a body, crumpled and bloodied to a pulp, unrecognizable except for the dirt and blood crusted Elven boots. The twisted and violently mangled body left no doubt. No hope.

Fear, dread, and uncertainty burned away as the heat took hold of Thranduil. Overwhelming grief crashed into his aching body and shook him.

“You cursed seeds of Morgoth! Kill me, too, you miserable Filth!”

Curses poured out of Thranduil. Dirnenion would not have been murdered if he had not tried to protect him from the Orc’s knives as they hacked away at Thranduil’s hair and shoulders. Both Dirnenion and Tatharion had tried to shield him. Just as his mother had. So many of them. Too many have died to keep him alive. Why? He wasn’t worth it. Was not his hand tainted with blood? Have they not died because of him?

“Kill me!” Thranduil screamed.

“No problem, little worm,” the scarred one, the one who had taken Tatharion’s eye limped over with the leather ropes knotted here and there with shards of stone.

“Killing’s not a problem, Little Elf Scum. But we need to have some fun, too.”

The other orcs crowded around Thranduil, grinning and nodding.

“Yeah, then we should roast him. He looks tender.”

“Beat him. Beat him. Make him tender,” said another nodding, his bulging eyes glinting with dark glee.

“Beat him! Beat him!” shouted the rest of the Orcs as they gathered around Thranduil.

Thwak!

The scarred Orc obliged. Thranduil’s skin tore and bled as the stones and the leather ropes rent the skin and bone apart.

Thwak! Thwak!

The pain made thinking impossible but Thranduil clenched his teeth and refused to scream. He didn’t want to give these foul creatures the satisfaction.

Thwak! Thwak! Thwak!

Thranduil’s lips tore under his teeth and blood filled his mouth with acrid liquid iron. Every nerve ends stood up, burning, sizzling, raw with pain.

So much pain.  Why was he still clinging onto this life? Why was he struggling when this world was so full of pain, misery, and suffering? His life, as short as it was, had been filled with nothing more than anguish and despair. He hated it. Hated this world, this pain, this ugliness. There had been only suffering after suffering, days filled with the loss after loss, a winter after winter. Spring seemed so far away and all the trees were barren, leafless and lifeless. Why was he struggling when it was easier to just let everything go and pass from this world?

Thranduil let out a shuddering breath. All he needed to do was to give up. Let go.

“Thranduil!” Someone picked up his face. Thranduil looked up to see Tatharion’s bloodied face. The guard’s once comely face was hideous. Where one of his eyes would have been, there was only a mangled flesh, rest were beaten and swollen ghastly mess.

“Hold on, young one. Don’t give up,” he said in a voice weak and trembling. “For us, for your father, for yourself… Hold on… just a little longer...”

Tatharion didn’t finish. He was yanked away. And the scarred Orc who seemed to have been knocked off his feet got up. The creature took out his curved sword and stood tall over Tatharion and Thranduil.

“Say goodbye, Elf scum!” The Orc said to Tatharion. “We are going to have some more fun with your little elfling. But don’t worry. I’ll send him over to you soon enough.”

The orcs inside the cave cackled aloud as the scarred orc raised his sword high above him.

Then, the scarred Orc pitched forward. A green feathered arrow sprouted from his neck. Then one after another, orcs fell. Every. Single. One.

Thranduil let out a breath and passed out.

When Thranduil came to, he lay on his side as someone applied something thick and cool behind his back, shoulders and the arms. When his eyes focused, Thranduil saw a face covered in glittering silver hair. His father’s face was calm and serene as it ever was.

“Tatharion. Dirnenion…” Thranduil managed although his throat was parched and the sound was barely audible.

“Tatharion is with the healer. Dirnenion… “ His father let out a shaky breath. “He is with Mandos.”

Thranduil’s heart constricted. He felt numb. “I failed them. I failed you…”

“They did their best. And you… held on.” His father’s voice shook, a rare show of emotion but it lasted only a second before he resumed the stony demeanor.

“I couldn’t do anything…I did nothing while…” Thranduil’s throat closed. His voice failed him.

“There will be times when no matter what you try to do, you could do nothing.  Sometimes, holding on is all that we could do, son. Do the best we could and hold on. As long as you hold on, there will be another chance, another day. In times like this, the only thing that is important is that you do not give up.” His father rested his hand on Thranduil’s arm. “Remember that, Thranduil. No matter how difficult, no matter how hard, don’t give up. Life is a precious gift given by Eru. Pain. Suffering. All these. These are just a trial He gives to make you stronger. Sometimes it is hard to believe that, but you must believe, son.”

Thranduil could not look at his father. He wanted to believe, but he didn’t feel it. He didn’t feel worthy.

“So many died trying to protect me. I don’t…I am not…” His throat thickened, constricting the flow of air. It was so hard. Why must he struggle? Thranduil let out a shuddering breath.

“Then that is more reason for you to go on. Don’t let their sacrifice be for naught, Thranduil. They have given you the greatest gift they can give. You must fight that much harder, struggle that much more, to make their sacrifice worth it. Do you understand, son?”

“But sometimes it is so hard. I don’t know if I can…” Thranduil closed his eyes. He was so tired. So tired of this struggle, this constant pain and hurt. “I am sorry, father. Maybe I am not worthy….” Shame shook him then. How weak was he? He turned his face away.

His father lifted Thranduil’s face and the young Sinda looked up, half afraid and half delirious of his father’s closeness. His father had been so distant through all their wanderings.

“Son, we all falter; we all doubt. There is no shame in it. But, at the end of the day, if you are still alive, if you hold on, even if you have nothing in your hands, you will learn to stand up and walk again. What suffering Eru gives, it is there to make you stronger. Believe, my son. Roots that weather frost get stronger.”

 

 

Sun Field.  April 21, Second Age 144

Thranduil frowned as he looked up at the stars. The last words of his father rang clear in his mind.

The roots that weather frost get stronger.

He looked up to see how much the stars had moved. He didn’t have much time and he was loathed to waste any more. Thankfully, the stars had barely moved. With a groan, Thranduil sat up.

Giving up was not an option. All those people who sacrificed for him, he must give back that much more, fight that much harder. He had a lot to atone for. His thoughts reached into the last moments of Menegroth. Thranduil shook his head hard. No. He promised he will not blame himself. If this was Eru’s punishment, he must endure it. It was his lot to suffer. To give up was to reject Eru’s mercy and to trivialize the sacrifice others made for him.

He took in a breath to gather what strength that remained in him and picked up the sword that lay on the ground and started the last of the patterns.

He will not give up. He will fight and struggle to his last breath, for his mother and Direnion who had given their lives for him; for Tatharion’s lost eye; for his brother and the countless number of Doriathrin warriors who died; and for the lives of the dear ones he had taken.

He picked up speed.

The last pattern was difficult. Thranduil made a swing. His arm ached from the strain. His knees shook and Thranduil dropped his sword. He grabbed his wrist as pain shot through it. His right wrist had not fully healed and the strain was becoming too much.

“Dammit!” Thranduil swore aloud into the dark night.

“You are holding too tightly to your sword,” a voice drawled.

Thranduil whirled around and there at the center of the Sun Field, on top of the rock formations, crouched Captain Astalder atop one of the rocks. Thranduil took in a sharp breath as his body stiffened as he beheld the light in the captain’s eyes. In the darkness of the light, the captain’s eyes glowed like those of a wild animal.

Captain Astalder got up and lightly jumped down and stood only a few feet from Thranduil in a blink. With a speed too fast even for Thranduil’s Elven eyes, there was a gleaming steel in the captain’s hand.

“Gripping tighter to your sword stiffens your arms which is what makes it difficult for you to make that move. And you are putting unnecessary strain on your body. This last pattern is Water. Think about what water is. It is flowing.” Astalder’s sword arm moved. “It is all embracing.” Like a piece of silk garment hung on a branch, he moved as if he didn’t have a bone in his body. It curved and swayed like a stream of water. “It is neither stiff nor sharp.” His sword followed making a circle in the air. The starlight gleamed along the edge of the steel and as he moved, the sword moved as if it was a stream of light at the captain’s fingertips. “It flows, is smooth and unending.” The captain’s arm was formless, like a water meandering down a shallow stream. The sword gleamed as if it had no form or shape.

Thranduil stood there, mesmerized and awed by the beauty of the movements as Captain Astalder danced under the starlight, a wisp of a silk garment twisting in the wind. His movements were smooth and flowing like a river, his sword just a gleam in his hand.

Thranduil had seen Elrond and his fellow cadets do the patterns but never had he seen it being executed so beautifully or so masterfully. It was breathtaking.

“Now, you try it,” the captain said. “Think of yourself as a stream of water flowing down a creek, bending and twisting around a stone as it flows downward.”

Thranduil turned and twisted.

Astalder pulled up Thranduil’s shoulder, then his other hand landed on Thranduil’s stomach.

“The strength of this movement comes from here, at your center. Breathe out as you turn and curve your body. Breathe in as you straighten. Your core should be firmly in control but the rest of your body must be fluid as if your body has turned liquid. Let your hand swerve around the sword handle.”

“But, if I don’t hold it tight, the sword will slip,” Thranduil said looking at the sword in his hand.

“If you grip tighter, it becomes easier to knock your weapon.” Astalder’s sword flashed and the sword in Thranduil’s hand flew off his hand. Thranduil looked up wide eyed. He did not even see Astalder’s hand move.

“Think about your joints. Your arms move freely. Although they are joined, they are not stuck together. Hold your sword within your hand so that it will not fall, but grip loosely and allow it to move freely within it. Don’t think of your sword as something separate from your body. Think of it as an extension of your arm. Now follow me.”

Together, they moved. Thranduil followed the captain’s movement as the Noldorin warrior flowed around the space between them like a stream of water that flows over boulders. There were no other words to describe the way he moved. The Elf flowed like he was one of the elements.

“Now we are coming to the offensive patterns. Let the power flow through you like a river that swells up after days of rain. You rush, you engulf, you are a thunderous waterfall, devouring waves of the sea,” the captain’s sonorous voice went up a notch.

The movement took a turn. What had been a smooth flowing stream of water swelled up into an angry river, a rapid, rushing, crushing force.

Thranduil tried to keep up. Astalder’s sword was just a blur now, a tidal wave.

Thranduil panted as his heart raced. Yet, the movements did not strain him as it had before.

The captain went over the major patterns, correcting Thranduil’s form as he guided Thranduil over each movement. Unlike Elrond, the captain was a master and under his guidance, Thranduil grasped the basic principles behind each pattern although he knew that he was far from mastering them.

When Thranduil had gone through each major pattern without stumbling, the captain smiled. “As I thought, your instincts are finely tuned. You have a way to go, but I see much potential in you.”

“Why are you helping me?” Thranduil asked once his breath calmed.

Astalder shrugged.

“It looked like you needed help.”

“I have nothing to give you in return,” Thranduil said.

“Sometimes, you need to give and accept for no other reason than that it was needed to be given and accepted,” the warrior said. Then, he yawned. “And, I was bored anyway. If I may ask, you are a double wielder, are you not?”

Thranduil frowned. When it came to the use of the swords, he was more used to the double long daggers favored by the march wardens of Doriath.

“My weapons of choice are the bow and double long daggers.”

Astalder frowned. “Bow, I understand. You are a Sinda. But, double long daggers? You mean the short swords? Why those? They are great if you are smaller, but with your height and strength, I would think you would go for the full-length swords. It takes extra skill, strength, and agility to wield two full-length swords, but you have the height, strength and reflexes few possess. It would be a waste of your natural assets.”

Thranduil shrugged. He had never thought about it. The march wardens of Doriath all used double long daggers for close quarter combats.  His father alone, amongst them, had favored his long sword.

“Something to think about, cadet. Good luck in the morning!” With that, the captain disappeared into the darkness as suddenly as he appeared.

Chapter Text

Star Field.  April 22, Second Age 144

 

ELROND sat up and blinked away the fatigue when someone shook him. Captain Astalder stood looking down at him.

“It is best to sleep in the barracks, Elrond. These stones are probably too cold for you yet. At any event, you may want to move out of this spot if you don’t want him to see you. He will be starting his run soon,” Captain Astalder said with a grin. 

Elrond grimaced as he got up from the stone bridge connecting the Star and Moon fields where he had been sitting for several hours now. The cold of the stone seeped through his bones chilling him. He never could shake off the cold like other Elves. While his senses became sharper and more acute, his tolerance of cold and heat did not increase. Cold still made him shiver and the heat made him sweat. And while he ran faster, moved more elegantly and was more agile than he had ever been, these changes also made him aware how different he was from other Eldar.

Elrond shook off the stiffness. He had not realized he had fallen asleep. All around him darkness was receding and dawn was approaching.

It was just before midnight when Elrond had come to check on Thranduil when he saw Captain Astalder steadily moving closer to the Sun Field. The captain moved so stealthily and silently that Elrond almost didn’t notice him. And Elrond was sure that if he didn’t stand where he could see the whole of Moon and Sun Fields, he would not have noticed the warrior.

“How did you convince Thranduil to let you help?” Elrond asked.  

“I did not give him a say. And the desperate rarely has a choice.” Astalder wriggled his eyebrows, his steel gray eyes sparkling like a polished silver. “Everything has a right time and place. If you time it right, things tend to work out.” The captain winked.

Elrond smiled. The nephew and the uncle were so much alike yet so different. Where Lord Gilmagor was strict and unyielding, the captain was carefree and compassionate. Elrond always found Lord Gilmagor difficult to approach. The Lord Commander was like a serene river that Elrond couldn’t fathom the depth. Although the surface seemed calm, if he looked closely, the current churned with such power he was sure it could sweep away anyone or anything.

Captain Astalder, on the other hand, seemed friendly and easygoing; he was open like a lake of clear water that you could see everything within. Yet open as he seemed, underneath, power lay there that Elrond could not measure. It made Elrond wonder how powerful those other warriors of First Age must have been.

“What do you think, captain. Will he pass?”

Astalder shrugged. “Who knows? His instincts are sharp. He understands quickly. But then, the patterns are not meant to be learned overnight. It is a process that requires time. It must ingrain itself intimately into a warrior so that he must be able to execute without even thinking.”

“But he wasn’t given enough time,” Elrond said.

“Not given or not taken?”

“Does it matter?”

“Not to me, of course!” Astalder laughed. “But to my uncle, it may.”

Elrond frowned.

“Does that mean Lord Gilmagor will not pass Thranduil even if he is worthy?”

“Unfairness is never a fault of my uncle, Elrond. You could be sure of that.” The captain lay a comforting hand on Elrond’s shoulder. “Besides, he is aware of what the king wants. One whose heart is loyal always knows what is in his lord’s heart.”

Then it dawned on Elrond.

“Did the king send you?”

Astalder threw back his head and laughed. “If he has, you would know better than I. Is it not so?” Then, he winked. “A good warrior knows what his commander wants even if it is not said.”

With that, the captain waved his hand and disappeared before Elrond could ask more.

Elrond sighed but turned back to watch Thranduil making his morning run. It was so hard to get anything straight out of these Elves. He wondered if he will be like that, too, with time. It seemed to him that they don’t start out that way. At least, the young cadets were not that way. And of course, Thranduil was too straightforward.

Elrond watched Thranduil making his last lap around the fields when he felt a presence.

“So, how is he doing?” Lord Gilmagor stood next to him. “Is he ready for the test?”

“Sir,” Elrond turned to Gilmagor. “Are you really going to throw him down to the basic training if he fails? You know as well as I do that he is better qualified than some of us in the cadet program.”

“Skill alone does not make a good officer, Earendilion. To be a good leader, one must value his words like a dragon his gold. A leader who allows his arrogance to speak without substance cannot inspire others nor earn their trust.”

“But I don’t think he is all words, sir.”

“We’ll see,” Gilmagor said as he watched Thranduil run up the bridge towards them.

Gilmagor gestured Thranduil to follow.

“Sir, he just ran seven and a half leagues. Shouldn’t you allow him some rest before starting the test?” Elrond frowned looking down at Thranduil who bent down to take a breath. His back rose like waves and his breathing was loud and harsh.

“Whatever for? He is in perfect condition to start. He should be sufficiently warmed up,” Gilmagor said. “Are you ready, Oropherion?” the Lord Commander stood under the eaves of a tree that stood just outside the outline of the Star Field. “Whenever you are ready.”

“But, sir?” Elrond protested, but Thranduil reached over and laid a hand on Elrond’s arm.

“I’m fine,” Thranduil said quietly, his breath still rough.

“When are you ever not?” Elrond couldn’t help the sharpness in his voice.

Thranduil’s eyes lit up like gems as the blond Sinda’s lips curved upwards.

“Are you worried about me, Elrond? But if I don’t make it, then, you’ll get a new warrior companion. Wouldn’t you like that, Peredhel?”

Elrond glared at the Sinda. That wasn’t far from the truth; Elrond would rather prefer another for his warrior companion. But to hear it from Thranduil’s lips, it sounded wrong. Elrond did not like it.

With a scoff and a glint in his eyes, Thranduil walked over to stand few feet from Gilmagor.

“Let’s start with the most advanced, shall we? If you don’t know them enough, there is no reason to go through the entire seventy-two patterns,” Gilmagor said.


“As you wish,” Thranduil said then took a carefully measured breath, turning his body to make the first movement. With a nod from the Lord Commander, the blond Sinda started.

Elrond held his breath. Elrond knew Thranduil did not sleep at all the night before and was sure that the Sinda barely slept the past ten days. Elrond suspected Thranduil slept during his runs but with the amount of strain he put on his body in addition to the injury he sustained on his wrist and from the cadets, Thranduil needed a proper rest. And the patterns were physically demanding.

Starting with the elemental patterns which were the hardest, Thranduil moved. His movements were sinuous, swift and strong. The undulation of water, the speed of the wind, and the strength of trees all entwined in one.

Elrond let out a breath. The Sinda was doing rather well. His major patterns were halting at times, but it showed the grasp of the principles and the concept. Elrond was sure the few hours Captain Astalder spent with Thranduil gave the Sinda what Elrond could not.

Although the king had assigned him a sword master once Elrond arrived at Lindon, it had been the occasional sword lessons from Captain Astalder that had really opened Elrond’s eyes. The practice was an integral part, but seeing the moves performed by a master was a priceless lesson in itself. In that sense, Elrond had been lucky, he had a chance to learn from the best. Both Maedhros and Maglor had been the master wielders of swords.

The six years Elrond had spent learning about weapons under Maedhros and Maglor had been invaluable later when Elrond started to train seriously under the weapons master Gil-galad had assigned him.

In the beginning, Elrond had not been interested in wielding a sword, but Elros had pestered Maglor ever since he turned thirteen to teach them to handle weapons. In the end, it was one of the Edain whom Elros brought to Maglor who convinced the Feanor’s sons that they were old enough to be trained.

Even then, Maglor had been reluctant, thinking they were too young. Maglor tried to interest Elros in other subjects, but Elros had been adamant and eventually, Maglor gave in, seeing how quickly they grew.

It was later that Elrond learned that Elves encouraged their children to learn about the world before they are taught to handle a weapon, whether for pleasure or for need. Only after attaining the age of one century was an Elf allowed the access to the weapons. For the Elves, weapons were turned to as the last resort as a means of protection and defense after having gained knowledge of the preciousness of all life.

In a way, it was ironic to Elrond that he had learned to value all life from the sons of Feanor.

As Elrond’s mind wandered to Maglor and the Feanorean army with whom he and his brother had spent fourteen years before leaving them, there was a sudden commotion from the field below them.

A sudden warning blared in Elrond’s head and with an instinct born of years of training, Elrond jumped away as something shot past him one after another. Alarmed, Elrond turned to Thranduil and thought he saw something flash. A dread filled his senses.

The blond Sinda stood still as if carved in stone, frozen in a pose. Lord Gilmagor who had been standing few feet from Thranduil was now standing an arm-length in front of the blond Sinda, two naked swords gleaming in his hands. Below Lord Gilmagor’s feet lay broken pieces of four spears, the kind that was used with catapults.

Just then, a warrior ran over. His face was pale and stricken.

“Lord Gilmagor,” he sounded as if he was being strangled. “I…” the warrior gulped, “I apologize, sir. We were maintaining the catapults before today’s training. One of them misfired.

“Was anyone hurt?” Gilmagor’s voice showed no emotion.

“No, sir,” the warrior said as he eyed the broken spears and Thranduil who has now straightened from his pose.

“Were not the weapons masters instructed not to point the weaponry in the direction where there are others?”

“It was pointed toward the Gulf, sir, but a supply wagon slipped and the impact thrust the catapult this way when it was triggered.”

“See to it that something like this never happen again.”

“Yes, sir! Sorry, sir!”

Gilmagor dismissed the warrior and turned to Thranduil.

“Never mind the interruption. Let’s start at the eighth movement of the Sun Pattern.”

Thranduil frowned. He hesitated as he took the starting position. His movements which were undulating and fluid a moment ago started to lag, each turn hesitant and unsure.

Elrond realized what was happening. Unlike himself who had trained on the patterns for decades and the movements had become a part of him, to Thranduil, who had crammed the information in a matter of days, he couldn’t just stop in the middle of a pattern and pick it up from a different part. His muscles have not had the time to ingrain the movements into its memory. Having memorized it in sections, as a set of patterns, Thranduil could not start from a middle at a moment’s notice.

“No, no no!” After a while, Gilmagor stepped in, his eyes narrowed. “That is not the correct pattern. Eighth movement, Oropherion.”

Thranduil looked down, but Elrond felt it. It was brief, just a passing emotion like a brush of wind, but it was a definite panic that Elrond felt from the young Sinda.

“Am I to understand that you do not know?” Gilmagor asked. “Eighth movement of the Sun Pattern, do you know it or not?”

Elrond took in a sharp breath as his heart began to race. Thranduil was not his ideal Elf in any way. The blond Sinda was arrogant and ill-tempered. And, he was cold and distant. All the characteristics Elrond disliked. But at the same time, Elrond knew how much Thranduil put into this, and how much the young Sinda suffered in the short time he had been in the White City. And no matter what Elrond thought of Thranduil, he knew that the Sinda did not belong with the new recruits.

“Well, Thranduil Oropherion?”

Thranduil clenched his fists, but did not move, nor did he say a word as he dropped his gaze.

After thinking for a minute, Elrond took in a long breath, then he began to sing. It was a song dedicated to Elbereth: Part two of the Song of Praise dedicated to the Lady of the stars. It was Song of Morning which was sung just as the last star disappeared before the sunrise.

All Elven children from the day they were born grew up listening to them and the first thing they are taught when they learn to speak were these songs.

The Song of Praise was divided into two parts: Song of Evening and Song of Morning. Each contained six movements just as each pattern contained six defensive movements and six offensive movements.

The night before, Thranduil had shown Elrond what he had done in order to remember each pattern with their many different moves. Thranduil had changed the tempo of the Song of Praise faster and started each pattern at the beginning of the Song of Praise as he sang them to himself.

Elrond started the Song of Morning at the first movement. Among the faint background noise of warriors training, Elrond’s voice rang out clear.

Thranduil turned to Elrond. Their eyes met. Then, just as Elrond expected, Thranduil began to move, adjusting his movements to the song as the first movement ended and second began.

Gilmagor turned to Elrond and frowned, but he did not interrupt as Thranduil moved in tune with the song.

By the time Elrond finished his song, Thranduil completed the Sun Pattern. Although Thranduil had several areas where he obviously didn’t know them enough to show perfect form, he completed the entire patterns to the end.

Lord Gilmagor crossed his arms as Thranduil stood still as the Sinda controlled his breath to complete the patterns.

There was silence.

Elrond looked at the Lord Commander.

“Do you think you know the patterns completely?”

Elrond was taken back by the question. He turned to look at Thranduil. The Sinda frowned but did not say a word.

“I asked you a question, cadet.”

Elrond swallowed. Was this a part of the test? He wanted to protest, but Gilmagor’s previous warning rang clear in his head. The commander had warned that he will not allow any further interruptions.

Elrond turned back to Thranduil. The Sinda’s jaw locked. Elrond could see the veins on Thranduil’s neck twitch and his blue-green eyes turn into chips of ice, but the Sinda did not utter a word.

Elrond wondered whether it was a trick question. It couldn’t be good no matter what Thranduil said. If Thranduil said he knew, then Elrond was sure Lord Gilmagor will point out the many areas where Thranduil faltered. If he said he didn’t, then he was admitting that he didn’t know them completely.

“Well, Oropherion? It is a simple question. Do you or do you not?”

Thranduil clenched his fists but dropped his head.

“No. Not completely.” Thranduil admitted.

“Indeed. You are far from knowing the patterns completely,” said Gilmagor.

Thranduil’s shoulders sagged. Elrond fisted his hands. This seemed wrong. But he did not know how to defend his warrior companion, for what Gilmagor said was true.

Lord Gilmagor turned to Elrond.

“You have something to say, Earendilion?”

“Sir, I know what you say is true but if he knows enough not to hinder his training with the cadets, wouldn’t it be sufficient? All of us learned the patterns over the period of years, Thranduil only had ten days. Yet in that time, he has learned it. You cannot expect perfect form, sir. Isn’t it enough that he has learned them?”

Lord Gilmagor’s lips curved.

“You thinks so, Elrond Earendilion?”

Elrond felt cold run down his back. There was something in the way the commander said the words. Lord Gilmagor turned to Thranduil.

“It is true that you have learned your patterns. But it is also true that you do not know them completely. In fact, until each pattern becomes ingrained, so much so that it can be executed without a thought when needed, it cannot be said that you know them. Patterns are the basic requirement for an officer in my army.” Lord Gilmagor gestured to Elrond. “But your warrior companion is adamant that you know enough. To prove that, you and your warrior companion will train the new incoming recruits in the pattern. Questions?”

“Sir?” Both Thranduil and Elrond protested at the same time.

“You said yourself that I do not know the patterns completely. How do you expect me to train others in it? And Elrond has nothing to do with this. Why should he share in my punishment?” Thranduil asked.

“The recruits are absolute novices and you know your basic patterns well enough. Among the both of you, I am sure you will manage. And as for Elrond, he chose to defend you. And as your warrior companion, it is proper for him to share in your punishment. You should think about that before you act in the future, Oropherion,” said Lord Gilmagor.

“Is that mean you are cutting both of us out of the officer program?” Elrond could not help but ask.

“Not fully. You will train with the cadets in the morning but for the afternoon weapons training, you will be excused to teach the recruits. Dismissed.” Gilmagor turned away.

“But sir!” Thranduil said.

Thranduil opened his mouth to speak, but Gilmagor turned to Thranduil with one finger out towards him. Thranduil eyes slanted with fiery light, but he clamped his mouth and just glared.

Elrond glanced at Thranduil as he felt a swarm of heat rise from his blond companion. Thranduil’s hair seemed to have a life of its own as its ends stood up as if it was mane of some wild animal. Elrond watched fascinated, his own protest forgotten, as the veins on Thranduil’s temple twitched and Thranduil’s jaw locked. But, it only lasted but a moment as each strand of hair sank back down on Thranduil’s shoulder as if it was just a wind a moment ago. The heat dissipated as the young Sinda took control of himself.

“Good. I am glad to see you finally getting in control of yourself. You could say all you need to say without having to disobey commands. If you expect to command, you must know what it is to be commanded. You can return to your training. You will commence with the teaching of the recruits starting this afternoon.”

With that, Gilmagor walked down to the Moon Field as Elrond and Thranduil watched.

Elrond turned to Thranduil when he heard the young Sinda grind his teeth.

“I’m going to get that Crooked Nose one day,” Thranduil said under his breath.

Elrond shoved Thranduil’s shoulder with his.

“He could hear you, you ass,” Elrond hissed. “And you have already tried and failed. Remember the disaster of the soup incident?”

“That was unplanned.”

“Please Thranduil. Don’t take this personally. He is just doing his job.”

“You think so?”

“I know so. Don’t get me in any further trouble, Thranduil.” 

“Then, maybe you should stay away as far from me as possible.” Thranduil walked away to join the cadets who were listening to the three officers at the other end of the Star Field.

Elrond sighed as he watched Thranduil. As try as he might, Elrond wasn’t sure if he could honor the king’s wish. The Sinda and he were just too different. And it seemed to Elrond that he could not avoid trouble whenever he was with Thranduil.

 

Chapter Text

King’s Tower.  May 30, Second Age 144

GIL-GALAD looked down at the whole of Minas Silivren that lay before his feet.  This was the second highest point of the White City facing the east. It lay directly across the King’s Tower which faced the great sea.

To the east, the Blue Mountains rose up curving around the White City.   And to the south, Gil-galad could see the main gates of the city where a steady stream of people passed through the gates. The Summer Solstice was one score away and the city was bustling with Elves coming to the city for the celebration.

By the time of the Midsummer’s Festival, this place will be filled to its brim with the Elven folks from all over his realm to participate in the Festival which will start at sundown at midsummer’s eve. As the first Midsummer celebration of the New Yen, it will be the biggest celebration yet, even larger than that of the New Year.

Already, the streets were full of people busily preparing for the festival. The rows of fragrant cypress trees that lined the white streets were decorated with gold lanterns. And lining each side of the streets were white flower boxes filled with the bright gold flowers meant to ward off evil spirits.

Although Gil-galad had performed the rites every year since he had become the king, giving thanks to Eru Illuvatar as the sun rose on the longest day of the year, this year will be special.  This year, on the midnight of the midsummer’s eve, Gil-galad will start the Onen Calad, the Light Sharing.

Thinking of Onen Calad, Gil-galad bit into his lower lip. He wasn’t worried about the thanks-giving ritual as he had performed that many times; but, this will be his first Onen Calad. It was a ceremony performed during the times of peace as it required a certain amount of control and peace of mind. Master Pengo had told him that it was not performed during the First Age by the hidden kingdoms because the release of the light in the night by the masses made their location glaringly obvious. And even by others, it was performed during the early part of their arrival into Middle Earth.

“Sire?” Erestor turned to Gil-galad. The young councilor oversaw the preparation of the ceremony and had been busily directing other Elves regarding the placement of the altar and the people.

“It is nothing. Do not concern yourself, Lord Erestor,” Gil-galad gave the councilor a smile. “Just thinking about Onen Calad.”

“Do not worry, Sire. For many of us, this will be our first time also. Besides, I have seen your light as you practiced the rites with Lord Lammaeg and the Lord Commander. The Fire burns strong in the House of Finwë. It will not fail you.”

Erestor smiled brightly with a fierce confidence which Gil-galad did not share, but the king returned the councilor’s smile with his own.

For some time now, Gil-galad had been practicing the gathering of the light within him. All Elves have a light within, a part of the Secret Fire that burned in the souls of each Elf. On the midsummer’s eve, as the night deepened, every Elf will sing the praise to Eru. They will gather their inner light and send it off into the sky. The lights will be filled with their sorrows, their regrets, and the many things within them that they wished to let go. Some lights will be filled with their hopes and wishes, usually those belonging to the children. It is called “Light Sharing” but Gil-galad felt it was an unburdening of the things that weighed on their souls, a way for them to cope with the heavy burden of the immortality.

They said Onen Calad was a life-changing experience, one that must be felt, not something that can be told in words. Gil-galad looked forward to it, but part of him was afraid. There were so many things he wished to let go, but there were also so many things he wanted to hold onto. His mother’s gaunt face flashed before his eyes along with the soft silver eyes of Silwen. Pushing away the sting, Gil-galad took in a breath and turned to Lord Lammaeg and Celebrimbor who were still engaged in the discussion of the details of the expedition to the North. 

“Is it really necessary to take other jewel smiths in this expedition, Lord Celebrimbor?” Gil-galad turned to his cousin when he overheard Celebrimbor say his smiths will accompany him.

“If we find Orcs or Dragons, it will quickly become very dangerous for your smiths,” Lord Gilmagor said who stood next to Lord Lammaeg.

Celebrimbor inclined his head toward Lord Gilmagor. Gil-galad found that if there was one person Celebrimbor deferred to, it was Lord Gilmagor. Perhaps the one-time pupil found his master still intimidating, something Gil-galad understood.

“What you say is true, my lord, but most of the smiths I have chosen had been warriors during the First Age and fought in the battles. They are well-skilled with the weapons. The younger, inexperienced ones and those who lack warrior training, I plan to leave them across the river with the North Legion. With the whole of North Legion there to protect them, I believe they will be safe.”

“But what will happen when the dragons appear? Didn’t Lord Oropher’s report mentioned about the sighting three of those beasts?” Gil-galad asked.

“That report is few decades old, Sire. And according to the report, those worms were still young, not yet mature enough to breathe fire. I do not believe they will be much of a threat,” said Celebrimbor then turned to Captain Astalder standing behind Lord Gilmagor. “And Captain Astalder didn’t find any trace of them. Is that not so, Captain?”

“That is so, my lord. We have combed all the valleys and crevices of the Blue Mountains but we didn’t find any trace of them. But, these serpents have wings. They could be anywhere,” Captain Astalder said.

“Even so, if they come upon us, with the Silmacil accompanying us, I would like to think we could handle them,” said Celebrimbor.

“You are assuming, of course, that there are no more than those three, Celebrimbor. A dangerous assumption, that,” said Gilmagor. “There could always be another, older worm with them. Oropher and his warriors sighted three dragons, not that there are only three dragons. But where there are dragonlings, there may also be a mother. A she-dragon of child-bearing age will breathe fire. And no matter how brave or powerful the warrior, a fire-breathing dragon is not to be taken lightly.”

“Are you assuming then that there may be mature dragons in the Blue Mountains?” Gil-galad turned to Lord Gilmagor.

“Be prepared always and no foe will take you unaware,” said the Lord Commander.

“Then, isn’t it too dangerous to send any troops up north, never mind the expedition?” Celebrimbor frowned.

“Dangerous, indeed. But necessary. If there are dragons, cold or fire-breathing, we must take care of them, sooner than later. Once they grow and become fire-breathing, it will not be the fire breath alone that we need to worry.  The older they become, more independent and more dangerous they grow. Then no walls will be high or strong enough to keep them out and no cities will be safe,” said Gilmagor.

“What do we know about the dragons?” Gil-galad asked.

‘Enough. After the devastation of Dagor Bragollach, we have gathered much information on the dragons. Many members of Silmacil perished to get this information,” Gilmagor said gravely. “With the addition of the knowledge Elros and the Edain brought from the Great War, we know enough of these Morgoth’s beasts. And unlike the wingless variety, the ones with the wings are not capable of independent will until much older. But with time, they will grow powerful enough to command themselves just as Orcs do. But unlike Orcs, the worms will become much more powerful and intelligent with time.“

“Will Silmacil be enough to kill them?”

“If there is no dominant will to control them. Even the ones of child-bearing age should be less than five centuries old and not yet powerful enough. As the Silmacil did not find a trace of them, it is most likely they are hiding underground. And if they are, there is no better time to exterminate them than now. Once they are out in the open, it will become much harder to fight them. That is the reason I have decided to move a part of the North Legion up over the river.”

“But, my lord,” Celebrimbor turned to the Lord Commander. “Although I understand that the part of the mission is to make sure these Dwarven ruins do not harbor any Orcs or Dragons, the remaining Dwarves may view this as an act of war. Wouldn’t it be better to open negotiation with them and convince them to help us?”

“I am aware of that. But the Dwarves in the Blue Mountains are not what they once were. Whether they like it or not, they will need our help to fight the dragons,” said Gilmagor.

“Where are these Dwarves located? Where do you expect the dragons to be?” asked Gil-galad.

“Captain?” Gilmagor turned to Astalder.

“There are two major Dwarven cities: Belegost which is located half way to the Upper River Lune and Nogrod which is just past the Lower River Lune that mark our boundary. North of the river all along the foot of the mountains are the Dwarven settlements. More than half of Nogrod is under water and most of that city was abandoned after the war Nogrod waged against Doriath. It seems Nogrod Dwarves dwindled significantly after that war. Most of the survivors have migrated east or joined the Belegost Dwarves. Their city is now in a complete ruin.  I do not believe any of Morgoth’s creatures are there. There is too much water.”

“Then, where?” Gil-galad asked.

“If any orcs or dragons are hiding in the ruins, it would most likely be in the Belegost city. I have taken a team to search the area but it was like a maze down there. Most of the city is in ruins and the access will be a problem. Many Dwarves from Belegost have also moved east and those who remain are scattered near the main entrance to their old city. When we approached them, they were quite wary. They met us fully armed with their weapons drawn. We couldn’t convince them to allow us to enter the ruins and I had to resort to sneaking a team past them. If you think we are leery of them, you need to see how skittish they are with us,” the captain said.

“That is why you should leave me and my smiths to smooth the way. They are already leery of us. If they see a whole legion of us, we may end up with a war on our hands. Give me time to speak with them. Silmacil will be more than enough protection, my lord,” said Celebrimbor.

“You will have time, Celebrimbor. North Legion will accompany the cadets after the Harvest Festival. They will be stationed near an Elven village there. Even if you fail, the Dwarves cannot question our right to protect those of our own. Besides, if there are fire drakes and they managed to survive the Silmacil and become air-born, we will need a Legion. Warriors stationed across the river will be too far away to be of any help,” said Gilmagor.

“Cadets?” the king frowned. “A village? I don’t understand. Why would cadets be there? I thought they will be doing their field training up north of Grey Havens, not anywhere near our northern border?” said Gil-galad. “And what village? I thought all Elven villages have moved below the Lower River Lune?”

The captain glanced at Lord Gilmagor before letting out a sigh.

“I received a message from the team I left up north. They found a small Elven village southeast of the main gate of the Belegost Dwarven ruins.”

“Why would anyone live so far up north?” Gil-galad said.

“It is a Laiquendi (Green Elves) village. Probably the reason why we missed it before, Sire. You wouldn’t find them unless you are actively looking for them. Even then, they are very difficult to locate,” said Astalder. “My scout noticed it only because of an elleth with a young child was visiting the village. The report said the pair came from further north.”

“Are you telling me there are more Elven villages up further north?” Gil-galad frowned.

“Not more, Sire. Just one. After the encounter with the elleth, my team said they scoured the area and they are quite sure there are no other villages up north. They seemed to think the elleth and the child live outside the community.”

“I thought only Sindar lived scattered. Do not all Green Elves live within a community?” Gil-galad asked.

According to what Gil-galad learned from Pengolodh, except for the Sindar who lived in Menegroth, the rest of the Sindar lived freely all over the forests within the protected borders of Doriath. And the Sindar outside the protection of the girdle roamed the rest of Beleriand freely. But the Green Elves lived close together as a community away from others. And unlike other Elven societies where only fully-grown youth are taught to use weapons, all Green Elves, regardless of their gender, were taught to use their bows, hunt, and fight as soon as their children reached their majority.

“That is my understanding as well, Sire. But it looked as if the elleth came to the village to obtain supplies. One of my scouts followed the elleth and the child, but someone waylaid him.”

There was a gasp from the councilors around the king who had been listening to the captain.

“Are you telling me, Captain, that someone, one of the Green Elves no less, waylaid one of the Silmacil?” said Celebrimbor, his eyes wide open and unbelieving.

“Well,” the Captain shrugged. “It is hard to believe, but that was what the report said. My scout said he was attacked. The attacker knew exactly what to expect and knocked my scout cold before he could react. When my Elf woke up, he tried to find the attacker and the elleth, but there was no trace of them.”

“Was he sure that it was a Green Elf?” Celebrimbor asked.

“I do not know. According to the report, the attacker wore a hunter’s outfit of the Nandor but he was tall and seemed familiar with the Silmacil training, however unlikely it sounds. But the main problem is not him or the elleth but the village. It seems they will not let any of my Elves enter their village nor hear anything they have to say.”

“And why not?” Celebrimbor asked. “They are just trying to help them.”

“They made it clear to my scouts that they will not talk with any Noldor,” the Captain said.

“What have they against us that they would not deal with your Elves?” Lord Lammaeg who had been quiet until now said with a frown.

“The Green Elves held King Thingol as their overlord, my lord,” said Councilor Bainor, a Sindarin lord of Mithrim who had lived at Gondolin. “Although they kept themselves aloof from others, Green Elves considered themselves part of Doriath. With what happened there and at Sirion, it is not difficult to see why they would be wary of Noldor.”

Lord Bainor was one of two Sindarin council members who were not from Grey Havens or Harlindon. He and the other Sindarin lord represented Mithrim, the Sindar who lived outside Doriath and lived further north. Most of them had accepted the Noldorin rulers as their lords and had mixed with the Noldor since the First Age.

When there were no major council meetings, like now when Lord Celeborn and Lord Cirdan and their accompanying Sindarin lords were not in attendance, Lord Bainor and the other Sindarin councilor were the only voice of Sindar in the council.

Lord Lammaeg grumped loudly. “If they do not want our help, then we should let them be. Unwanted help is only a burden.”

“It is easy to say that when you have barely dealt with them, Lord Lammaeg,” said Lord Commander. “How could they not be suspicious when many Noldor here tend to look down at other Elves. Although Sindar are tolerated and many are accepted as equals.” Lord Gilmagor nodded toward Lord Bainor. “Many Nandor are looked down upon as uncultured second-class citizens. But even if they do not want our help, we cannot ignore them. There are women and children in those villages. Elven children.”

“And I certainly will not allow any harm come to any of my people whether they are Green Elves or Dark Elves or whatever they are called. If they live in this part of the world, those Elves are my people,” said Gil-galad. “I will lead this expedition.”

“Absolutely not!” said Lord Lammaeg. “With due respect, Sire, Lord Celebrimbor will be there and so will Elrond with the cadets. You three are the only remaining heirs of the royal houses. With the uncertainty of danger, there is no need to have all three of you there, especially when there may be a fire-breathing dragon.”

“I agree with Lord Lammaeg on this,” Gilmagor said before the king could protest. "This is not a big enough event for your presence. At any event, you should be in the city with the people. The people will need their king if the expedition goes awry.”

“Well, I don’t understand why the cadets have to be up north,” said Gil-galad, trying hard to suppress the heat he felt. He was the king. It was his right to defend his people. “You said it is dangerous, yet you plan to take the cadets who are still too young and untested.”

Gil-galad remembered the horror of facing the Orcs. Although he was kept far enough away from the actual battles, he had ridden with Cirdan in one of the Falathrim ships, shooting down the Orcs on the mainland as they tried to save as many survivors from Beleriand with the ships.

“Dangerous, indeed, it will be but half of North Legion will be with them as well as the Silmacil. This is an opportunity for the cadets to see the warriors in action as well as to participate in the actual battle in a safer environment,” said Gilmagor.

“How is that a safer environment?” Lord Lammaeg asked. “The cadets have never even seen the Orcs. Even if the Silmacil could take care of the dragons, the Orcs may escape and the cadets may have to fight those creatures.”

“It is precisely the reason why I wish to take them, Lord Lammaeg. Training in a training ground is good but unless they are tested in a field of battle, they will never learn what it means to face those foul creatures. And no amount of hunting wild animals can prepare them when they have to face a horde of snarling Orcs intent on killing them. Even as foul as the Orcs are, taking a life of a sentient being is a traumatic experience. The first time will be difficult even for the best of us. The cadets will require time to recover.” Then, Gilmagor turned to the king, his steel gray eyes boring into Gil-galad. “You wanted a well-trained army? Only experience can train them well enough.”

“But the warriors under Feanor stepped off their boats into Middle Earth and they fought and pushed back the Morgoth’s army,” said the king. “They had never seen the Orcs before coming here, surely.”

Lord Gilmagor smiled without humor and Gil-galad saw much grief behind Lord Gilmagor’s eyes.

“Feanor’s army had blood on their swords and revenge in their souls. What horror they had seen in Middle Earth was nothing to what horror they had caused at Aman. When we arrived in Middle Earth, it was after spilling much blood. And those of us who endured Helcaraxë, we were hardened body and mind by the trials we faced. These cadets, they are indeed brave and well trained, but they know nothing of grief, nothing of the struggles and the violence. They know of naught but peace and they will fall like leaves in autumn after a storm if thrust suddenly into war. Believe me, your Majesty. These young cadets, who seemed so well trained in their weapons and strategy, will not suddenly become the calm, clear thinking officers without first overcoming the trauma of their first kill and their first battle.”

“And to relay your fears, your majesty,” Captain Astalder spoke up. “Based on what information we gathered so far, the Orcs are just a ragtag group with no dominant will controlling them. And the winged dragons are not what their predecessors had been. Unlike the wingless variety, the winged dragons are completely dependent on a dominant will. It will be many centuries before they become strong enough to be a threat all on their own. As long as there is no Morgoth or one of his powerful lieutenants controlling them, the most you need to worry from a winged dragon is its fiery breath. And we have not seen evidence of any control. The orcs that have raided the northern villages were weak and poorly managed. The villagers fought them off without any help from the border guards. I believe with the North Legion and the team of my warriors, we can effectively control the number of Orcs the cadets will face. We wouldn’t let any harm come to them, Sire.”

Gil-galad looked at the captain then at the council. Many of them were nodding.

“If it is necessary for their training then I will leave that to you, Lord Gilmagor,” the King said.

Gil-galad had learned to choose his battles. And when Lord Gilmagor and Lord Lammaeg agreed, it was best to retreat. Besides, the king had another matter he wanted to press with his Lord Commander. For some time now, Gil-galad had been unhappy with how Lord Gilmagor had treated Elrond. It was one thing to demote Thranduil. The Sinda probably deserved it, but Elrond? His young cousin was more qualified than anyone and Gil-galad could not understand Gilmagor’s reservations about teaching Elrond. Although the king knew how his master felt about anyone telling him what to do, it was one matter Gil-galad planned to get his way.

 

-----------

Gold Flowers—refers to St. John’s wort which was used to decorate homes during Summer Solstice to ward off evil.

Onen Calad (Sindarin, Sharing Light)—This is not canon but something out of my imagination. Elves are creatures of light and I wanted to give them something that distinguishes them from others.

The Secret Fire—also known as the Flame Imperishable, it is the power wielded by Eru Illuvatar, the power to give life and substance. Eru’s creations all have the Secret Fire imbued in their fëar (souls) and have free will and independent thought, as opposed to those created by Morgoth. This is the reason behind the dominant will that can control Orcs and Dragons.

Nandor (Quenya, Those who go back)—Part of Teleri who started the journey west but remained behind Misty Mountains. They are also called wood elves, but a smaller part broke off, led by Lenwë to the south and developed great knowledge and skill with herbs, trees, and the beasts. Before the rising of the sun, a part of the Nandor led by Lenwë broke off and followed Denethor, Lenwë’s son, and came to Beleriand. They were welcomed by Sindar of Doriath. They are called Laiquendi, the Green Elves. They are also known as “Hidden People” as they rarely mixed with others.

Falathrim (Sindarin, coast people)—Part of the Teleri who stayed behind in Beleriand by the shores. They are the first builders and sailors of ships. Cirdan was their lord. Quenya name is Falmari, but that word is used to refer to Teleri who went to Valinor and took Olwë (Oropher’s grandfather in my story) as their lord.

Helcaraxë (Quenya, ice fangs)—Referred to as ‘Grinding Ice’, it is a  region that connected Aman and Middle Earth in the far north. It is a vast waste of “fogs and mists of deathly cold” with hills of ice that clash and grind. Second, larger host of Noldor entered Middle Earth through Helcaraxë after being abandoned by Feanor.

Dagor Bragollach (Sindarin, Battle of Sudden Flame)—fourth battle of the Wars of Beleriand fought by Noldor against Morgoth. It was a disastrous war for the Elves and Men which scattered the Noldor and almost completely destroyed House of Beor. Fingolfin and his nephews (Galadriel’s brothers), Angrod and Aegnor, died in this war.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

North Gate of White City, June 17, Second Age 144

THRANDUIL rotated his shoulders. He had been working since the dawn, cleaning out the sixty stalls and carrying out the cart of horse manure into the one end of the enclosed meadow. He will return here at the end of the day to work the manure into the earth. After today, only one more day was left to his punishment.

He couldn't wait to return to the Lord Cirdan's manor house in the City. Now that he had mapped the route into the cellar, he only needed to execute the plan. He just hoped that Aron brought another sea barrel Thranduil requested.

"Sir!"

Just as Thranduil sighed and leaned into the two rakes he had been using, someone called him.

Farion, one of the three Green Elves among the recruits Thranduil trained with Elrond, walked towards him, his joyful face full of smiles.

"You are still here?" Thranduil asked.

All recruits and cadets were sent home a week ago for a twelve-days of celebration to spend with their families before the Midsummer Festival.

The young Nando scratched the back of his head, flashing his teeth.

"I live too far up north for me to travel home and return in time for the competitions," Farion said. "But some of my friends have come to the White City to join the celebration."

"Indeed? You plan to compete?"

The celebration of summer solstice took twenty-four days. First twelve days were spent with family and the latter twelve days was a public affair consisting of many competitions, dancing, and singing. It was rare for Green Elves to come out of their tightly-knit community. It was even rarer for them to join others whether to train like Farion or to celebrate with others. Even at Sirion, those Nandor who had joined his father kept to themselves, rarely joining others in the communal dinners.

"They say Noldor are better at almost everything but not so much on archery. So, we thought to try our hands in the competition."

"Good for you." Thranduil smiled. "My father always said the Nandor are among the best of the archers."

"I do not know if Noldor think so."

"Noldor are good at many things, Farion, but not all and certainly not undefeatable. Maybe they are born with a greater ability, but nothing that can't be overcome with hard work. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise."

Even as he said the words, Thranduil laughed at himself. It was so much easier to tell others what to do than to do them yourself.

"Was there a reason you sought me out?" Thranduil asked.

Farion scratched his head again. "I heard that you were still in the city and working. If you do not have a place to stay… We have camped outside the East Gate. It would be an honor to have you among us, if you will."

Thranduil was touched. He knew well how rarely the Green Elves invited strangers among them. And for a moment, Thranduil thought of changing his plans.

"Thank you for thinking of me, but I have other plans."

Farion flushed.

"Of course. It was presumptuous of me." The sparkle in Farion's eyes faded. He looked away at the streams at the far edge of the pastures. "I…Thank you," the Nando said simply. But Thranduil knew what Farion meant.

Farion had lagged far behind others when Thranduil and Elrond joined the recruits. Shorter and lighter than others, Farion was quicker and more agile, but when it came to the weapons training and especially with the patterns, Farion was slow to learn.

"I don't think I would have been able to catch up to the others if you did not take the time to give me those extra lessons in the evenings, sir. I don't know how to repay you."

"Do not think much of it. Recently, an officer helped me when I was in need. Sometimes, you need to give and accept for no other reason than that it was needed to be given and accepted. At least, that was what he said to me."

"I see," Farion turned to face Thranduil and smiled brightly. "Do you need help with the raking, sir?" Farion reached for one of the rakes in Thranduil's hand.

Thranduil held onto them and shook his head.

"No. I am done for the morning. I cannot work on the meadow, anyway, until the horses are back in their stalls."

"If you don't mind me asking, sir. Why the two rakes?" Farion asked. "Is it not easier to use just one?"

Thranduil scoffed. "It was the Lord Commander's order. He wanted me to use two rakes every time I mucked out the stables and worked on the pastures."

By now, everyone knew about the soup incident. After what happened with Belegor and the cadets, no one tried to exact revenge, but the reception of the cadets had been cold. Not that Thranduil cared.

When Thranduil first reported to the stables, the stable master handed Thranduil two rakes and one cart along with the written order from the commander.

Cleaning the stables was not new to Thranduil as he had done so since Sirion. At the White City, most of the horses were kept outside the city walls to roam freely on the rolling grassland that stretched from the city walls to the edge of woodland that bordered the conifer forest. However, about fifty of the horses were kept in the stables built along the arm of the North Gate of the city. These horses were pastured in a meadow three-leagues wide. A creek running westward from the mountains separated the field from the rest of the grassland.

It was Thranduil's job to muck out the five stables, each with twelve stalls, once the horses were let out to graze. Thranduil needed to clean all the stables before joining the cadets each morning. Once his work with the recruits and the chores were completed, Thranduil returned to the stables in the evening to clean up the meadow of any manure and work them into the soil.

That was not all. He had to use the rakes, one on each hand, to do the work. And each day he could not complete the entire work, an extra day was added to his sentence. And if he worked without a rake on each hand, two extra days were added.

But using the long handled rake, one on each hand, made the job much harder and more painful. Thranduil was sure the Lord Commander thought of it purely to torture him. In the beginning, the length of the rake hindered the work. Each night, his arms felt as if they will fall off his shoulders. The discomfort and the pain slowed him, and for the first two weeks, he couldn't finish mucking out even the half of the stables before he had to join the cadets. And the cleaning of the meadow took even longer.

As he failed to complete the work on time, more days were added on, and Thranduil ended up working extra two and half weeks to his assigned one month. Now, with only five days to the summer solstice, only the king's guards and the city guards who were on duty were in the King's Tower. It was good that Thranduil didn't have anyone to celebrate with or had a home to return to.

After a month of working every day, however, Thranduil could kick his cart to roll along in front of the first stall and muck out the entire twelve stalls by the time the cart hit the wall on the other side of the stable. In less than two hours, he could muck out sixty stalls and put fresh hay in them. In fact, the two rakes became very handy now that he could wield them as if they didn't weigh at all. Thranduil was sure he could muck out the stables faster than anyone. Then he sniffed. It's not something to brag about, you idiot.

Thranduil headed toward the lake to wash once Farion left. He will be accompanying Elrond and Lady Istawen, the teacher who Elrond and he had replaced during her absence. They will escort the children who will join the healers going to the woodland beyond the grassland to collect herbs for the upcoming festival.


Mistress Taurien led several younger healers into the open grove to gather several different varieties of plants that were used in the infirmary.

Their eyes sparkling with curiosity, two to three elflings surrounded each healer, listening with apt attention. Until the children reach their majority, they will learn diverse topics in a variety of subjects. By the time they reached one century in age, many of them will choose to specialize in one.

Thranduil sat under one of the trees outlying the grassy area and watched the little ones laugh. He leaned back into the soothing embrace of the tree's music. It was a wonderful time to be a child. There was no threat hanging over them like a dark cloud. Nothing to fear. No danger. No worries.

And there were many other children. Growing up at Menegroth as the only child in the city was lonely. All he had wanted then was to have another child to play with. How happy he had been when Eluréd and Elurín came to Menegroth. But that had been short-lived.

Thranduil grabbed at his chest. The thought of Menegroth never failed to stab at his heart. Taking a quick breath, Thranduil got up, pushing away the thought of Menegroth, when he saw that one of the elflings reached for a small flower on a tall-growing bush.

"Elloth, no!" Thranduil moved at the same time he shouted.

The little girl jumped and looked up just as Thranduil picked her up and pulled her away from the bush.

"Did you not hear Mistress Turien say a moment ago that this bush is dangerous? This is a Blood Thorn. You get pricked, and it will bleed you to Mando's Hall!"

The girl blinked as Thranduil let her down on the grass, away from the said bush.

"But it looks so pretty," she said, pressing the tips of her fingers into her lips.

"Never judge a thing by its looks, Elloth. Sometimes what looks the nicest can be the deadliest."

Do not trust, little one. Trust brings nothing but pain. Thranduil bit down the urge to shake the child. How naïve he had been once. He had trusted when he should not have and caused the death of so many.

"You are scaring her, you ass!" Elrond hissed into Thranduil's ear as he pulled Thranduil away from the child.

It was then that Thranduil noticed the unmistakable fear in the child's eyes.

Elrond knelt in front of the girl then took her in his arms. The girl burst into tears.

"It's all right, little one. Thranduil did not mean to scare you. He was just worried. There, there." Elrond patted the girl as she whimpered against his shoulder.

Thranduil looked away. He could kick himself if he could. He turned and walked away from the scene as the other healers and children turned to look.

He was never good with the little girls. Even while he was helping Elrond teach the children, Thranduil had found young girls difficult to handle.

Let Elrond deal with her. These little ones were sensitive, not at all like Elwing.

At Sirion, Elwing bullied Earendil and Thranduil even when Thranduil was the eldest and was biggest among them. When the three of them played, as there were no other children around them, Elwing was the one who always dictated the rules. And when the play didn't go the way she wanted, Elwing would make them do it over until she was satisfied. Earendil and Thranduil used to call her the "Dark Queen" behind her back.

Thranduil scoffed at the irony. Elwing used to send Earendil home in tears, usually with a black eye, a bloody nose, or both. How they ended up falling in love with each other, only Valar would know.

Thranduil stopped walking when he heard a sound of someone scream. It was a repressed sound almost hidden by the gurgling of the brook, but someone was distressed.

Thranduil scooted down low and glided toward the sound, hastily stringing his bow. When he saw a slim figure standing by a large boulder behind a willow tree, Thranduil climbed up the tree, careful not to make any sound.

It was a young woman. She was a healer, that was clear by the gray hooded robe she wore. The girl stomped her foot as she pulled open her hood. A cluster of dark curly hair tumbled out and fluttered in the breeze.

"It is hopeless," the healer mumbled. She let out a long sigh, raked her hair before standing up straight. She held up her hands, slowly raising them up above her head toward the sky. When she tilted her face up, Thranduil realized it was that young assistant healer. He had not bothered to remember her name, but he knew that face.

Seeing the gestures, Thranduil realized what the girl was doing. She was trying to bring out her light to send it off to the sky in preparation for Onen Calad. Someone told her the gestures, but it was clear that the girl did not understand the process.

After repeating the same gestures for some time, the girl plopped onto the moss-covered floor and covered her face with her hands. Her shoulders shook.

Noiselessly, Thranduil stepped back into the shadow of the tree branches. It was none of his business. What did he know of comforting anyone? If anyone could help, it was probably Elrond or Mistress Taurien.

Thranduil jumped off the tree then turned to move away.

"Thranduil!"

The Sinda almost jumped at the call, his hand automatically reaching for his sword. He quickly glanced at the young healer and caught a glimpse of her wide eyes as she sank down behind the boulder. He straightened to face the one who called him. It was one of the guards who had accompanied the healers.

"The healers are taking the children to a grove across the stream. They are going to practice Onen Calad with the elflings. Did you see any of the healers here?"

Thranduil shook his head.

"If you see any of them, please tell them to meet the rest of the group at the pine grove across the stream."

"Will do," said Thranduil "Has Elrond gone with them?"

"Yes. Check around here, Thranduil. Mistress Turien said her assistant went this way to practice. I will check further in." With that, the guard moved away.

Thranduil turned toward the boulder.

"He's gone. Did you hear him?" Thranduil asked.

The young healer peeked out from behind the boulder, only her eyes and top of her head visible, looking like a doe about to run.

"Yes," she said softly, her dark gray eyes wide and hesitant as she stepped out.

"All right then," said Thranduil and turned.

"Don't…" she said.

Walk away, Thranduil. His mind warned.

"Don't go, please."

Thranduil grimaced but turned to face her.

"How may I assist you?" Thranduil asked as politely and as nonchalantly as possible.

The young healer glanced up at him, her one hand twisting the other.

Make excuses. Walk away, Thranduil.

"Do you…do you know how...the Onen Calad? Do you know how to find the light within?"

"No."

"Oh." The girl's head dropped, and her shoulders sagged.

"Did not your mother teach you?"

"My mother… " The healer looked away. There was a moment of silence. Thranduil wished he did not ask. "She did not survive the grief after my brother died at Sirion," she said and dropped her head.

An iron claw clamped around Thranduil's heart. Just before she dropped her head, he glimpsed the familiar pain in her gray eyes.

"You grew up at Sirion?" He had not known that there were other children besides Elwing and Earendil. And this healer looked young. He didn't think she was more than a century in age.

"No. After escaping Gondolin, we stayed at the Isle of Balar with the king. But my brother Nestadion was at Arvernien. He served under Lord Egalmoth."

Thranduil frowned. He knew that name. Egalmoth was the captain of the guards at Arvernien, the one who was left at the mansion to protect Elwing.

"I am sorry for your loss," Thranduil said. At Sirion, the Noldorin soldiers who served Earendil had fought side by side with his father's warriors. He had forgotten that many Noldor died that day trying to protect Elwing.

The healer shook her head. Her eyes misted. "I don't know why I am telling you this. Somehow, it seems as if you will understand."

Don't trust me. Words shot up to Thranduil's throat, but he bit them back. She didn't need to hear that at this moment. Instead, Thranduil pulled back. He wanted to leave. He wasn't good at these things. Thranduil wished Elrond was here. Elrond would know better what to do.

"You seem easy to talk to," she said, looking down at her feet.

Are you serious? Me? Thranduil fought the urge to shake the girl. Either she was naïve, blind, or both.

"I was trying to gather the light within. Mistress Turien explained it to me, but I can't seem to do it."

Thranduil sighed.

"It is because you focused more on the gestures," Thranduil said.

The girl looked up, her eyes wide. "I thought you told me you don't know anything about Onen Calad."

"I said no such thing. I said I don't know how to find the light within."

"But I thought all of us have a light within us?" she asked.

"Well…yes." Except for me.

"Why do you sound so unsure? If I can't do it, does it mean that there is something wrong with me? I do not know what I'm doing wrong."

I should have walked away. What did I get myself into? Thranduil had long ago stopped seeking the light inside him.

"Miss, it is not that you do not have the light within you; it is only that you don't know how to find it. Had not your father taught you anything if your mother could not?"

This was a kind of thing a mother taught a child. But rarely, when a mother was not available, then the duty fell on the father.

"My father has not been the same since my mother passed away," the healer said.

A sharp ache rippled through him, a knife thrust into the pool of his heart.

Thranduil's mother had been the sunlight in the lush forest that had been his father. When she died at Sirion, his father withered. What had been a summer forest of light, vibrant with life, had turned into a winter forest of darkness. And within that forest that darkened ever more, Thranduil had lost his own light and had not been able to find it.

"The process is nothing to do with the gestures. They are only there to help you focus." Thranduil plopped onto a ground across from her. He crossed his legs in front of him. "Sit. Make yourself comfortable," he said.

The healer walked over and sat down across from Thranduil, imitating his posture.

"I cannot show you. I can only tell you what I know."

She nodded.

"First, you must open your mind," Thranduil said.

The girl let out a long breath and closed her eyes. She laid her mind bare in front of him. Thranduil shuddered at such open display of trust.

"Now think about all the things that weigh you down. The grief. The loss of your brother…your mother and all those whom you have loved."

The healer frowned. She clenched her hands that lay in front of her.

"Think of them as rocks. The pain, the loss, and the anger. Each is a lump of rock that sits inside you and weighs you down…" Thranduil said surprised at how much he sounded like his mother.

Thranduil remembered back to that time at Sirion, after he had recovered from the deadly grief. Although he walked and talked, something had been missing from him. They said he had lost his light. It was a combination of his mother's tireless effort and Elwing's unfailing affection that kindled the dying embers of his light to shine again. But even then, it had taken them twelve long years.


Sirion. June 21, First Age 518

"Take the burden out of you, Arantaur," his mother's voice was music. Melodious and fragrant, it wrapped around Thranduil. "Weigh them in your mind. Feel their texture, their weight. They are not so heavy, not so cold." The song soothed as it always did. His mother's song gently prodded his mind like a gentle kiss on his forehead.

The lumps inside him, those that had settled deep inside and blocked all light within him seemed to lift a little as his mother's song pervaded the dark recess of his mind. His mother's voice was hypnotic, yet the burdens still felt heavy and cold. It was then that a warm hand held onto his icy one.

"You can do this, Thranduil. I believe in you," said a beloved voice.

Thranduil looked up and met the warm gray eyes. Elwing smiled widely. Her eyes were bright, filled with the starlight, rare in the eyes of the mortals. She was so big now, taller than Thranduil by a full head although she was only fifteen years old. And whenever his mother had these sessions with Thranduil, Elwing was there.

These days, Elwing spent more time at the Noldorin settlement with Earendil than with him, but she never missed these healing sessions.

"What happened in Menegroth…It was not your fault, my son," said his mother's voice among the music that lingered in his mind. "You are not to blame."

"But I …" Thranduil's breath quickened as his heart raced painfully as it always did whenever he thought of Menegroth.

"The sons of Feanor were already there. It was not you who let them into Menegroth." His mother's voice soothed as the song asserted itself into his mind.

"Thranduil, you are no longer a child. Stop being so stubborn. It is time to let this go and move on," Elwing said with such a firm conviction Thranduil blinked up at her. "You reached your majority this Spring. You are not going to grow if you hold onto these burdens." Elwing's eyes crinkled with laughter. "How long do you intend to remain this little?"

"I'm still older than you," said Thranduil with a frown. But Elwing grew so fast, Thranduil knew that the age alone could not stop her from growing bigger and taller than he.

Elwing shrugged then picked up her chin.

"I am taller than you, shorty," she said and grinned. Her eyes flashed mischievously.

"That's enough, you two."

His mother gave them a look, but her song did not waver. It continued to weave its power all around Thranduil. The bare trees, leafless and lifeless, stirred. Sunlight flooded the plains where the grass was brown and a tangled mess. The frozen earth trembled as it thawed under the warmth of the sun.

"When you let go of the winter, spring will come. I promise you, my son. But first, you must want it." His mother reached for his other hand and held it in her grasp. "If you let me, I will help you. I am here, Arantaur. I will always be with you."

His mother turned up Thranduil's face to meet her eyes, so much like his own.


Woodland outside the White City, June 17, Second Age 144

The eyes of the healer in front of him wavered and filled with tears that brimmed over.

"Do not hold onto this grief and sorrow. No matter how harsh the winter, spring must come. In time, Earth will thaw, and flowers will bloom. It is how Eru meant them to be." Thranduil said the words of his mother, lowering his voice a notch. He wasn't good at soothing anyone. But somehow, he wanted to comfort this healer. Thranduil knew better than anyone the weight of such grief. He grabbed her hands. They were cold and trembled within his grasp. "This grief. You need not bear it alone." He squeezed her hands.

The healer bent her head as her shoulders shook.

In a subdued voice, barely above a whisper, Thranduil sang the words of healing that his mother sang to him many years ago. Because he had heard them so many times, the words were ingrained into his mind. But he was not his mother. He did not have the powers that she had. But he sang anyway, for the words soothed him then. Maybe, they will soothe her now.

The healer's hands which had been cold a moment ago warmed in his hands.

The healer looked up, her face tear-stained but bright. The starlight in her eyes glowed warm, and a light enveloped her. Even under the bright morning sun, Thranduil could see the light emanate from her, surround her. It was there in the folds of her gray robe and like a halo around her dark head.

"You found it," Thranduil said.

The healer nodded and smiled brilliantly.

Thranduil let go of her hands to withdraw his hands, but the girl held onto them. She leaned in.

"Thank you…" she said. Her gray eyes were alight with light, and within them, Thranduil saw something sparkle, something more than just gratitude. He wasn't sure what it was, but everything inside him blared in warning.

Thranduil pulled away from her hands and stood up on his feet.

"If that is all, then…" Thranduil stepped away.

The healer scrambled up, her eyes wide. Her hands hovered around her mouth.

"Did I do something wrong?" she asked.

Thranduil shook his head.

"Of course not, Miss. They will be looking for you. You should hurry along."

"It's Lassiel."

"What?"

"My name. It's Lassiel."

"Well, Lassiel, I am glad you found your light. Please excuse me." Thranduil turned to walk away but stopped at the tug on his tunic.

He turned around with a frown. Lassiel was holding onto a corner of his garment.

The hand that held his tunic trembled, but Thranduil hardened his heart.

"Yes?"

"I just wanted to thank you. That is all," Lassiel said as she looked up. There was no longer the light that had enveloped her the moment ago.

"It is unnecessary. If you would excuse me," Thranduil said and turned away, pulling himself free of her grasp.

"Can we? Can we not…be friends?" she asked before he could walk away.

Thranduil did not turn to face her.

"Let me be very clear, Lassiel. There is no place in my heart for friends or anyone else. Not you. Not anyone." With that, Thranduil walked away as fast as his legs could carry him.

Unlike her, it wasn't only the grief that burdened him. Light within? He had lost it again when Eru took his mother and Elwing from him. Now, it was a struggle just to keep his head above the darkness that tries ever to drag him down. Friends? He didn't need any. He didn't deserve any.


Egalmoth (Sindarin, Spike upon a flowered crest)—Noldorin Elf of Gondolin, Lord of House of Heavenly Arch. He escaped the destruction of Gondolin but perished during the Third Kinslaying at Sirion.

The Isle of Balar—Island located in the Bay of Balar south of Arvernien. It was the home of Cirdan and Gil-galad after the destruction of Falas. It also served as a refugee camp for Sindar, Noldor, and Edain (Men) during the War of Wrath.

 

Chapter Text

Cirdan’s Manor.  June 18, Second Age 144

THRANDUIL packed his travel gear as soon as he returned to Lord Cirdan’s manor house in the White City. He wanted to be gone before the chains of duty and obligation had a chance to trap him.

 In four days, every Elf in the realm will gather at the King’s Tower to celebrate the Summer Solstice. All through the month prior, the city was bustling with preparation. At Lord Cirdan’s manor house, just as the many grand houses did on many of the streets, a profusion of red and pink summer roses spilled over the white balustrades, a splash of color over intricate lattice and stone walls, perfuming the air. While the city had surprisingly few numbers of large trees, there was an overabundance of flowers, their sweet fragrances mingling with the aroma of herbs and the intoxicating scents of wines and liquors.                                

Everyone who lived outside the city walls, as far south tip of Harlindon to the north of Grey Havens, all seemed to have traveled to the White City. And Lord Celeborn, along with his wife, Lady Galadriel, had arrived two weeks ago leading many Sindar who lived in Harlindon. And, Lord Cirdan was here, too, and Aron had come as a part of Lord Cirdan’s escort.

“You are going away again,” Aron said when he saw Thranduil pack. “I believe Lord Cirdan and my uncle expect you to join them when they attend the king’s Midsummer Eve dinner at the palace.”

“Precisely,” Thranduil said. “If I am gone before they ask, then no one can blame me for shirking my duty.”

He was nobody from a kingdom that was now just a ruin, rotting away in the depth of the ocean. Yet, the elders still nagged him about duty and obligation as if he still mattered.

“Come, come, Thranduil. Will you not join us this year, my friend?”

“Go, go, Aron. Will you not leave me be this year?” Not bothering to look up, Thranduil grabbed his cloak. “Did you bring the sea barrel I asked for?”

“Yes. I was surprised that you asked for another one so soon. What did you do with the other two? You hardly had time off until now, and I see that those two barrels are gone already. If you don’t mind me asking, how have you been using them?”

Thranduil shrugged as he tucked his bow behind the pack.

“I do mind,” Thranduil said, curving his lips as he picked up his pack and headed for the door.

“What are you planning, Thranduil?” Aron blocked Thranduil’s path.

“Nothing that would hurt anyone. It would benefit, actually,” Thranduil said with a smirk.

“Come, now, elfling. You are not causing any more trouble, are you?” Aron frowned, his hands on his hips, looking every bit like his uncle.

“Me? Trouble? What do you mean, Aron?”

Aron shook his finger, his eyes narrowed.

“You are planning something! I know you.” Aron frowned. “Just because we are at Grey Havens, don’t think we do not hear, Thranduil. I heard about that incident on your first night at the barracks, and that one with the soup. Lord Lammaeg was furious with you. At almost every council meeting with Lord Cirdan or Lord Celeborn, the chief councilor mentioned that incident somewhere.”

“What does Lord Cirdan or Lord Celeborn has to do with my actions?”

“Hasn’t my uncle told you that how you behave will reflect on all of us? No matter how much you wish to deny it, you are the heir of House Arandur. You represent the last of Doriathrin warriors. You are our face, our honor, and pride.”

Thranduil grimaced as he turned away. He already had an earful from Lord Istuion on his return to the manor house during the first rest day he was allowed to leave the King’s Tower. Lord Istuion had been informed of the soup incident, and the elder Elf had spent the entire day talking about duty, obligation and being an example to other Sindar.

 “Fine. The soup incident was my fault.” Thranduil admitted.

“Thranduil, please try not to cause any more stir. That thing about the boots...”

“That was not my fault,” said Thranduil indignantly. “They started it by putting holes in mine.”

“And I heard you retaliated by cutting off the entire soles of theirs.”

Thranduil shrugged. “They should not have touched my things.”

“How about that incident with the hair. What were you thinking?”

“The Noldo started it! He cut my hair. I wanted others to know that if they touch me, I will punch back.”

“More like a kick in the groin. According to what I heard, that cadet only cut one hand length off a front section of your hair while sparring with you. And, you. You shaved the entire front section of his head. The poor lad dropped out of the cadet training because he was mortified of being seen. I heard his parents were so outraged they petitioned the king to have you kicked out of Lindon.”

Thranduil shrugged and looked away. He heard more than an earful about that incident, too.

“You are exaggerating, Aron. It was only a thin line along the front,” Thranduil fingered the top of his hair line just above his forehead. “And he only took off few days to have a hairband made to cover the area. It is not like it is permanent. The hair will grow.”

“Then, you should not have acted the way you have when he cut off yours. He only cut the ends. You shaved him when you knew how sensitive we all are about our hair.”

Thranduil scoffed. It was true, indeed. If there was one vanity all Elves shared, it was the hair. Even those who had minimal knowledge of herbs knew all about the herbs and enchantments that kept one’s hair healthy, shiny and tamed.

Of course, it didn’t apply to him. His hair was so coarse, thick and slippery. Glineth had officially declared that his hair was untamable. No matter what concoctions were used, no braids ever stayed put on his hair, and nothing could keep it bound. No matter how intricate the binding, within an hour or two, all types of bindings or braids came undone.

Only Lady Melian and his mother had been able to braid his hair and keep it bound until he needed to loosen them. And after Sirion, no one had touched his hair. No one had been able to tame it.

“I am sure the cadet did not mean it, Thranduil. You probably are the only one with loose hair during training.”

Although keeping one’s hair out of face was recommended during training, it was not part of the regulation. The right to wear certain braids or binding must be earned. Not wearing any braids or bindings simply meant the person did not have any particular skill, trade or ability that allowed her to belong to any organization. And all the cadets, as young as some of them were, wore at least a warrior braid or a hunter’s braid.

“I may be the only one without any braids, but Baraben did not cut my hair by accident, Aron.”

“You telling me that he purposely cut your hair?”

Thranduil nodded.

“That is hard to believe, Thranduil, that any Elf would intentionally cut another Elf’s hair against his will.”

“For you, maybe. You would never think of doing such a thing, but these are Noldor we are talking of.”

“Come, Thranduil. Really now. You are telling me that there is someone other than you who would dare to tamper with another’s hair? You who glued and hardened the great lady’s hair?” Aron laughed out aloud.

“I was only twenty!” Thranduil could feel heat infuse his face. “And that was ages ago. And I didn’t mean it.”

“What had you not meant? Eating the gift Lord Cirdan sent to Lady Melian or replacing it with adhesive gelatin?”

“I did not know it was for hair. It smelled like a sea jelly with honey. I only meant to eat little, but it was gone before I realized.”

“But did you had to replace the hair concoction with glue?”

“I did not know that the liquid I put in that jar would react with the remaining jelly and cause the hair to become sticky and hard.”

It was the only time Thranduil remembered seeing his mother angry. But the one who had the worst had been the queen. Lady Melian’s hair was longer than others, and the two attendants who were working on the queen’s hair had their hands stuck on the long tresses of their queen which hardened into a glossy mess. But it wasn’t just Lady Melian. She had shared the gift with other court ladies. And his mother who always wore the gray hood of the healer could not do so because her hair hardened while it lay glued to the side of her healer’s robe.

It had taken healers three days to make enough potions for everyone to dissolve the hardness of the hair so that the hairs could be washed.

Even Lady Melian had not been happy about it although the incident had made the king laugh. But there were too many angry ladies to be appeased. And as a punishment, his mother applied a generous amount of the tainted ointment into his hair. His hair spiked and hardened, Thranduil was forced to stand in front of the gates of Menegroth with a sign dangling in the middle of his hair for a week.

“You remember that spiked hair of yours?” Aron was practically crying; he was laughing so hard.

“Damn it, Aron. It wasn’t that funny.”

“And that sign your mother hung on the top of your head!”

His mother had hung a sign: ‘I am a bad elfling.' Then, Thranduil had been made to stand at the gates of the Menegroth to greet all the returning guards who were out on patrol.

But all the guards had been his friends. After asking, “what have you done now?” they would solemnly lecture Thranduil for being naughty, but as soon as the ladies left them, the guards had laughed and thanked Thranduil for making their days interesting.

“You were a pretty little thing then. Handful you were, but no one minded. Least of all, Lady Melian. I think you were a comfort to the king and the lady after they lost Luthien. A little bundle of energy and light you were. You brought smiles to all of us. To hear you laugh and to see you running about that place...” Aron’s voice cracked, his eyes far away.

Pain, like drops of water, seeped into the cracks in his heart. Thranduil turned away. That was long ago now. That child no longer existed.

“Join us, Thranduil. There will be a public Onen Calad this year. We haven’t had one since the lady left us. And I know you haven’t had a private one since your mother left. I think it is about time, Thranduil.”

Thranduil looked toward the door avoiding the entreaty in Aron’s eyes. What Aron did not know, what no one knew, was that Thranduil no longer had any ember of light within him.

“Aron, do not ask me. Not Onen Calad.”

Aron patted Thranduil’s arm. But Thranduil glimpsed the sorrow in Aron’s eyes which his friend quickly hid. Instead, Aron smiled.

“I am not going to pressure you. Even if you are not ready for Onen Calad, join us anyway. Let’s get some prizes off these Noldor.” Aron said as he took the travel pack from Thranduil’s hand. “Do you not want to show these Noldor what a real skill with a bow looks like?”

 Just as in Doriath, Noldor celebrated Midsummer with feasts, music, and games, but unlike Sindar, their competitions were fierce.  

Doriath had archery contests and sword matches, too, but they were more for entertainment. The top prizes for winning such competition had been a crown of flowers made by the queen, dance or a kiss from a lady of choice. Most of the times, it was a time of camaraderie, to show off the brotherly bond among the warriors which ended up being a hilarious occasion to laugh and poke fun.

But here at Lindon, Thranduil saw that Noldor took these competitions seriously and attended these competitions as if their reputations and pride were at stake. And, the prizes given out were not things of symbolic value. Rather, there were bejeweled daggers or swords, a gilded bow with gold arrows made by the best Elven smiths, even a small chest of gems.

But the only competition Thranduil knew he could win with certainty was archery. He hated to admit it, but his skills with swords and spears were just slightly above average at best. There were more than few cadets who were better skilled than he.

As for the archery, Thranduil knew there were many Sindar either under Lord Celeborn or Lord Cirdan who were better archers than any other Noldor in the city. And there was Farion and his friends. Some Nandor were even better skilled than some of the Sindar. Even if Thranduil did not compete, he was sure it would be either a Nando or a Sinda who would win.

It did not matter to Thranduil who won the competition as long as it was not one of the Noldor. Besides, Thranduil would rather sleep on a branch of his favorite beech tree in the forest and see the rising of the sun alone than to be swept along with a crowd of people who meant nothing to him. And, he needed the time to execute his plan before the Midsummer Eve’s dinner.

Thranduil reached for the pack in Aron’s hand. It was then that Lord Istuion walked in. Following behind him was Elrond, holding a velvet box. Thranduil bit down a groan.

“Greetings, Thranduil. His Majesty, King Gil-galad, requests the honor of your presence at the Midsummer’s Eve Dinner to be held at the Western Courtyard of King’s Tower.” Elrond offered the box in his hands to Thranduil. “As the rightful heir of your House in Lord Oropher’s absence, the king wishes to show his friendship to you, Thranduil.” 

Thranduil had just returned from the barracks barely two hours ago. He had not expected the king to send out a separate invitation to him. And so soon. Thranduil glanced at Lord Istuion who looked at him placidly with a barely perceptible nod. But, Thranduil did not take the offered box in Elrond’s hands.

“I thank him for the invitation and the show of friendship, but I am already engaged for that evening,” Thranduil said, doing his best to be polite.

Elrond blinked. It was clear Elrond had not expected Thranduil’s answer.

“What he means, Lord Elrond, is that he gratefully accepts the king’s thoughtfulness.” Lord Istuion took the offered box still in Elrond’s hands. “And, of course, Thranduil will be delighted to attend the dinner.”

“I am not going, Lord Istuion,” Thranduil frowned at the Sindarin lord.

Istuion smiled although it did not reach his eyes, “Of course you are. As Lord Oropher’s son, you will do your duty.”

Thranduil glared at Lord Istuion but eventually turned his face away. The duty and obligation, the invisible chains, always had the mastery.

Lord Istuion opened the box Elrond brought. In it, cradled against the deep blue velvet fabric was a silver diadem wrought into a swirl of three beech tree leaves, the insignia of House Arandur. Thranduil’s breath hitched at the emblem that he had not seen for centuries.

“I will go, but I am not wearing that!” Thranduil said, feeling the heat rise suddenly to choke him. He marched away, banging the door shut behind him.

Thranduil walked down the steps; then, he was running, not caring that others who passed him looked at him strangely. He did not stop until he was just outside the walls of the White City. He followed the wall until it turned, hiding him from the view of the road and the battlement above. Few feet from the wall stood a row of trees, the only ones near the wall. His favorite oak stood alone, away from the rest of the trees, next to the stream of water that flowed out of a channel next to the South Gate.

But, Thranduil did not move towards it. Instead, he leaned his back against the white stone walls and closed his eyes. He crossed his arms around himself, trying to calm the tremor that ran through him. His breast heaved. His head hammered.

It was over two centuries ago, yet he remembered that day as if it just happened. He sucked in a long breath, turned toward the wall, his head onto the cold stones.

He should be over this. He promised he would not blame himself. This should be behind him. But, it was not. I will never be.

Thranduil did not realize he was hitting the wall with his fist until pain ripped through it. He opened his eyes to see his right hand, trembling still. The knuckles have torn, and red blood dripped from the open wound, dripping down his fingers as he spread them wide and looked at it as if for the first time.

Thranduil shook his head hard as the earth beneath his feet cracked open. He did not want to remember. But the darkness lunged from the dark abyss below and grabbed him.

Thranduil gritted his teeth as he watched the red blood drip down his arm staining his white tunic bright red. With a low moan, Thranduil slid down onto the ground, his hands clutching at his head.

His mother had tried for years to make him forget and for a while, in that land by the sea where his mother sang and Elwing laughed, as the sea turned golden in the light of the sun, Thranduil thought he could forget.

But the blue waters of Sirion turned red with blood, and Eru saw it fit to take away his sun and the moon. Thranduil knew then that he was not meant to forget, that the old sin would forever shadow him. It haunted him in the dreams, in the folds of white dresses embroidered with gold, in the sparkle of diadems worn by the nobles. But most of all, it was there in the bright red of Elven blood that stained the white marble floors and his small white hands. He will never be rid of these blood stains.

“Are you going to protect them?” Thranduil had asked.

“We are guards, are we not, little one?” the tallest and the fairest of them had said.

Liars! The treacherous liars, the whole lot of them.

Thranduil had trusted them. They were supposed to be the guardians, but they were demons. And like a naïve fool that he was, he never once doubted.

 

________________

Note: Hair concoction I am talking of is made of agar-agar which is made of seaweed and is a vegan substitute for gelatin. Gelatin can be used to tame hair and can also be used as an adhesive. What Thranduil unwittingly added enhanced the adhesive and the hardening quality 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Menegroth.  Yule, First Age 506

 

THRANDUIL dropped down onto the mossy underfoot and turned to the ancient beech tree that stood coiled on top of a large boulder. The tree’s many moss-covered roots wound around a huge rock shiny with moisture. Its silver gray branches were bare and reached toward the ten-story stone ceiling that opened into the dark sky.

There was no moon or stars tonight. Only the pale lights from the golden lamps hanging from the stone carved branches illuminated the garden.

"You miss her, don't you, Master Graybark?" Thranduil patted the tree's gray trunk. "I miss her, too."

The tree had barely spoken few words since the departure of Lady Melian, but  Graybark let out a slow and low rumble. The grand old beech tree was Thranduil's favorite even among all the beech trees in the Forest of Neldoreth and Region.

During summer evenings when most residents of Menegroth feasted in the forest outside with the king and the queen, his parents brought Thranduil to the Western Garden to sit on the branches of Graybark to watch the stars. His mother would sing while his father played his harp. Thranduil would sit amid the fluttering moonflies shimmering in starlight to hear his mother’s ethereal voice mingle with his father’s sonorous one. But that was a while ago. These days, Thranduil saw his father rarely, and his mother no longer sang.

Thranduil sniffed then looked up at the dark sky. A silver stream swooshed as it fell from the opening in the ceiling onto the glistening spires of rocks that sprang up all around a clear pool of water, flowing beneath the boulder where Graybark stood. The mist of water always created rainbows when the sun shone down. And when moonlight shone, there were silver rainbows that shimmered above the water mist. But today, there was none of that. It was gray like a forest expecting a rainstorm.

Thranduil whistled a soft tune, a special song Lady Melian taught him, to call the birds and little critters.

The nightingales had stopped singing when Lady Melian left Doriath and flew away never to come back along with the moonflies. But there were other small creatures and birds, but he could not find any of them tonight.

“Where’s everybody?” Thranduil mumbled then took out a pouch of the nuts, bellflower roots and slices of apples he had smuggled from the kitchen. Tonight’s feast will be the last until the spring. There will be no more of fresh fruits and vegetables to share with his friends until the season for berries in the spring.

Ever since the great lady left, the winter at Doriath had been long and harsh. Even within Menegroth where the weather had never touched any of the flowers or the trees, winter came.

Still, Thranduil loved winter and snow. And this winter, there was a lot of snow. He looked up at the dark sky. High above, a faint glimmer filled the opening. They shimmered in the light of the many lamps that twinkled like stars above Thranduil’s head.

Softly, they fell and landed on Thranduil’s lashes. The elfling laughed out aloud and opened his mouth, sticking out his tongue to taste the tiny flakes of snow.

So cold and so sweet.

He reached out to grab them. They looked like the pale white moonflies that used to twinkle like slivers of silver lace.

“What are you doing here alone, little one?” a familiar voice asked.

“Captain Himion!” Thranduil ran to the white-haired captain of the royal guards.

Before the Dwarven attack at Menegroth, Lord Galadhon commanded both the Royal and Palace Guards. After the Dwarven smiths slew King Thingol and Lord Galadhon, Captain Mablung took over the command of both guards, but he, too, perished under Dwarven ax. Now, Captain Himion headed the Royal Guards while Captain Farvael commanded the Palace Guards, both under Thranduil’s grandfather.

His mother had said that the king, Lord Galadhon, and Mablung were all together with his grandmother and the many who went away after the Dwarves attacked the city. They have all gone to the Hall of Mandos, and Lady Melian had gone there to be with them.

The captain lifted Thranduil up onto his arms.

“Aren’t you supposed to get dressed for the ceremony?”

“I don’t want to,” Thranduil said, puffing up his cheeks.

“And why not?” the captain asked when three young guards approached the captain.

They were in their full regalia as the members of the royal guards. But instead of the silver scaled armor worn by all the warriors, the three wore the gray leather armor worked into layers of silver leaves over a pale blue tunic. Their black capes were embroidered with silver stars and the device of the king, a winged moon.

“Thranarin, Aron, Durion.” The captain nodded to them as they touched their fist to their heart in a military greeting. “Are you three here to escort the queen and the princes?”

“Sir! Just Eluréd and Elurín,” said Thranarin. “I believe Thranduil is supposed to escort the queen and Little Elwing.” His brother gave the captain a look.

“Ah, yes. That is so.” The captain looked up at Thranduil. “You were made the protector of Princess Elwing, weren’t you? How impressive.” The captain and the others exchanged looks, and they all cheered noisily.

Thranduil shrugged as if he did not care, but he was quite pleased.

This past spring, during the New Year celebration, Thranarin was officially named the protector of the twin princes. His warrior braid plaited with gold thread symbolized his new status. And Thranduil was given a title, too, as the protector of the little princess.

“But I am not a warrior yet. It is not official until I become a warrior,” Thranduil said and looked down at the floor dejectedly. If his mother had any say in it, he would never become one. And Thranduil knew, just as well as others did, that his father never gainsaid his mother.

“You will. In time,” Thranarin said, ruffling Thranduil’s hair.

“But nana wants me to study healing.” Thranduil pouted, looking up at his brother miserably.

“Don’t worry, Thranduil. Do you not remember grandfather’s words? The House of kings rule and the House of princes protect. For years uncounted, our house has protected the boundary of this realm. Now that there is no one from the House Galadhon left in Doriath to protect those in the royal house, it is now yours and my duty to protect the royal family while father and Uncle Amdir are out in the marches to safeguard the people in this realm.”

Silver-haired and blue-eyed, Thranarin was almost as tall as their father. In fact, he looked very much like their father. Thranduil smiled and reached up toward his brother. Captain Himion handed Thranduil over to Thranarin who put him down on his feet.   

“That is, indeed, true. Lady Nimloth is the only one of the House Galadhon left in Doriath now. Your lady mother would have to accept that you and your brother are the only sons of princes left to guard the royal family,” Himion said. “You will make a fine warrior one day. Do not worry, little one.”

“Will I be able to join you and the king on the hunt next year then?” Thranduil asked eagerly. The Winter Festival started with the king leading the three-day hunt, a tribute to Lord Tauron. And tonight will be an offering to Aran Einior and his queen Elbereth, the Queen of the Stars.

Himion padded Thranduil on the shoulder. “All in due time, little one. We’ll see once you reach one century in age.” Then, the captain turned to Durion.  

“If you can spare a moment, Durion, deliver a word to Captain Faervel to call in all of the Palace Guards back to the city. Fully armed. Have him send guards to the Hall of Melodies.”

“Sir? Tonight?”

The young warriors frowned. Thranduil looked up at the captain. Even he knew that most of the guards were off duty for several more days to celebrate the winter solstice.

“Yes. As soon as possible. Lord Arandur just got a word from the East Marches that Feanor’s sons are gone from Nan Elmoth.”

“I thought we didn’t want them there. Isn’t that good news?” Durion asked.

“Perhaps. We had them watched for days, ever since they camped at Nan Elmoth. One of the scouts thought it strange that there was so little movement although there were lights every night. He went in for a closer look and found the camp deserted except for few horses and crystal lamps left throughout the remains of the campsite. Lord Arandur didn’t like it. He just sent orders to the south and west marches to return to the city.”

“Is that necessary, sir? Even the Dwarves do not wage war during winter, and neither does the Dark Lord,” Durion said. “Maybe they were in a hurry on their way to Amon Ereb.”

“That may be true, but after the demand they made, Lord Arandur thought it best to be prepared for the worst. After what happened with the Dwarves…. We were so unprepared.” The captain glanced at Thranduil, then stopped.

“But we are spread thin on all our borders…” Thranarin frowned. “Is it not better that we work with them? My father said they are wise and knowledgeable. Perhaps it is about time that we join with them.”

The captain shook his head and smiled sadly.

“You are young. You think like your father and Lord Celeborn, Thranarin. If they had it their way, we would have joined hands with the Noldor and joined in the last battle. But look what happened.”

“But I agree with my father, sir. Had we all joined together, we may have won against the Dark Lord. Now, we are an island in the sea of darkness with no light to guide us,” Thranarin said. “And the shadow grows ever darker.”

“I have heard from the marchwardens that the fight at the borders has become quite brutal, particularly in the north marches,” Durion said.

“North like where the father is?” Thranduil asked his eyes wide. He leaned into his older brother wrapping his arms around Thranarin. “Is father in danger?” Thranduil did not understand much of what was said, but he knew that his father was fighting the creatures of Dark Lord up in the north marches.

Thranarin laid a protective hand over Thranduil’s shoulder, drawing him closer. He threw a scathing look to Durion who clamped up immediately.

“Lord Oropher in danger?” the captain laughed. “You mean the Orcs. I heard they fear even the sound of your father’s blade being drawn. Do not worry, little one. Even among our best warriors, there are few who could best your father.” The captain patted Thranduil’s golden head then nodded to Thranarin and Aron. “Why don’t you two take our little friend to the Hall of Melodies. I am sure our queen is waiting for him. And once the ceremony is over, gear up.”

“Starting tonight, sir?” Aron asked, his eyes wide. “Tonight is the winter solstice. I am sure we are not the only ones who celebrate it.”

“Lord Arandur wishes it. Just a precaution,” the captain said.

Thranduil looked up wide eyed. But Captain Himion patted Thranduil’s head with a comforting smile on his face.

“We are just being cautious. We do not want any more Dwarves sneaking up on us, do we?” He winked at Thranduil then nodded to the other warriors.

The three young warriors exchanged looks; then, they saluted the Captain before dispersing in their separate ways.

Thranduil grabbed his elder brother’s hand and looked up. His head only reached Thranarin’s waist. But he was no longer the shortest. Now, Elwing was the shortest person amongst all of them.

“Thranarin, are we in danger?” The elfling looked up at his elder brother. “Who are Feanor’s sons? Are they bad people?”

“Do not worry, little brother. Remember Lady Galadriel and her kin I told you about from Nargothrond?”

Thranduil nodded. Many delegates and warriors came from Nargothrond during the time of King Thingol, but Thranduil wasn’t allowed anywhere he could be seen by the outsiders. In fact, when Noldor visited, his mother took him and stayed out of sight until all delegates and the warriors from Nargothrond left the city. Lady Galadriel was the only Noldo Thranduil had met. And no one from Nargothrond came these days.

“Feanor’s sons are their kin. And so they are our kin. They have seen the light of the trees and learned from the Valar. That means they are wise and good. There is nothing to fear from them, little brother,” Thranarin said.

“But, Alqualondë,” Aron said and frowned as they headed toward the Hall of Melodies.

“Alqualondë was over half millennium ago, Aron. And none of us has seen anything with our own eyes. Maybe there was a miscommunication. We don’t really know, do we?”

“Something happened at Alqualondë?” Thranduil asked.

Known as the Swanhaven, Alqualondë was a seaside city of pearls built by Teleri who had left Middle Earth and settled at Valinor. His grandfather’s father, Lord Olwe, was the king there. But that was all Thranduil knew about the city.

“Nothing you need to worry about, Little brother. If anything, it is the Dwarves that should worry us. But no matter what, if something untoward happens, our warriors will protect you and everyone here. If you are alone and there is an attack, look for us. Understand, little brother?”

“I know that already!” Thranduil made a face. He had heard it many times, from the time he was a mere babe. Both his mother and father had drilled into him that the warriors are protectors and that he should look for them when help is needed. But Thranduil did not need to be told that. All the guards and all the marchwardens he had known in his life were his friends.

“But do I have to escort Elwing? Why can’t I come with you and the twins?”

“Why, Thranduil! How will you call yourself the Protector of the Princess if you are already shirking your duty?” Thranarin laughed.

“But Elwing is so annoying.” Thranduil crinkled his face. “She is always telling me what to do.”

“Is Little Elwing bossing you around, Thranduil?” Aron asked his eyes twinkling. “She is less than half your size, elfling. Use your big-elf voice on her,” he said.

“No, Aron. I don’t want to scare her or hurt her feelings. She is so little,” Thranduil said shaking his head. He looked up at Aron disapprovingly. “Didn’t Aunt Tinuel tell you never to treat badly those who are smaller than you, Aron?”

Aron widened his eyes. “Aye. Aye. ‘Tis so. I had forgotten what my lady mother had always told me.” Aron looked down at Thranduil with a sorry look on his face. “I have been a bad elf,” he said.

“There, there, it is all right, Aron,” Thranduil patted Aron on his arm. “We all make mistakes at times,” Thranduil said, feeling wise and older.

His elder brother shook his head with a smile.

“Bad, Aron. Bad.” Thranarin said, but his voice was full of laughter. “Mayhap we should harden your hair, Aron.”

“Aye,” Aron said. “And hang a sign on it, too.”

Both Aron and Thranarin laughed out aloud. Thranduil groaned and protested when they arrived at the Guarding Corridor, a smaller version of the corridor by the main gate.

Carved deep into the wet rocks, figures of fantastic beasts gleamed with the fire lights, flames thrown by the stone-carved dragons with ruby red gems for eyes and fangs carved in bones. They were enchanted so that anyone without Elven blood in their veins will be seized with dread and fear, their minds confused and muddled which was a dangerous thing as the shadows under the carved figures hid openings to the darkness below. One wrong step and they will find themselves thrown into a pitch darkness of twist and turns of a deep labyrinth that lay under the floor.

This was the last defense of Menegroth, built as a safeguard to keep the residents safe in the event an attack occurred before the main gates could be closed, just as it did three years ago. Because Elves created this enchantment and wove it into the building, its power still remained. During the attack by the Dwarves, many residents of Menegroth retreated to the deep chambers which were reachable only through this corridor while the Palace Guards led by Captain Mablung fought the intruders on the main floors and at the depth of the treasury.

At the end of the corridor was the Hall of Melodies. As soon as they stepped into the large, brightly lit hall, they were surrounded by the shimmering crystal melodies that trilled in the air.

Unlike the corridor, the hall was bright as if dappled in sunlight under a canopy of trees. Green vines clung to the stone walls, dotted here and there with pale white flowers. Golden lamps hung from the branches of carved stone beech trees. High above the ceiling, crystal lamps with a string of crystals and silver beads dangled and danced, singing in sweet voices, filling the hall with crystal melodies.

Several chaises upholstered in deep green silk stood on the floor inlaid with white pebbles dotted with green gems. There were several of the queen’s attendants there preparing for the ceremony which will start at midnight.

 “There you are,” Glineth got up from where she was helping a healer in a gray garment place a golden diadem on the head of a small child with dark wavy hair.

“Thrandy!” the child called out and shaking herself free ran to the warriors.

Thranduil groaned as his brother pushed him toward Elwing who smiled widely in front of him.

The healer walked over, standing near a wall where the tapestries woven by Lady Melian were displayed. When the Dwarves attacked three years ago, they had stripped Menegroth of everything they could get their hands on, but they had not been able to get inside this area and the chambers above. The hall and the residences above were the only sections of Menegroth that had remained intact.

 “Aren’t you two supposed to be here a while ago?” The healer whose face was hidden by a gray hood said, standing tall over the young warriors. She was only few finger widths shorter than Thranarin and was the tallest among all the ellyth in the room.

“We aren’t that late, mother,” Thranarin said with a smile. He grabbed Thranduil’s shoulder. “He isn’t even ready. And I don’t see the twins.”

“They were restless waiting for you and have gone walking with their mother.”

“Come here, Thranduil.” Glineth put a long silvery jacket she had on her arm around Thranduil and started to button up its many silver buttons.

Thranduil pouted up at his mother, giving her his best miserable expression.

“Nana, do I have to wear this jacket? It is so uncomfortable.” Thranduil pulled at the upturned collar.

“It is a beautiful tunic that took your lady mother whole of summer to make. Do you even know how long she worked the dyes to make it just the right color to match your eyes?” Glineth said. “Look how beautifully she embroidered the edges with the silver thread you so love?”

Thranduil did love the sparkle of the silver threads, but he didn’t care about that now.

“You look lovely in it. Why wouldn’t you want to wear it, elfling?” Lady Tinuel who had walked over to greet the warriors looked over Thranduil with a smile.  

“It is not that, Aunt Tinuel. But, how am I going to run in this?” Thranduil looked down at the jacket which fell to his ankle.

Just then, Glineth placed a small silver diadem woven into three beech tree leaves on his head.

“Why do I have to wear this?” exclaimed Thranduil, now frowning deeply as Glineth fixed it over his golden head.

“The king made this for you when he commissioned the diadems for his children,” said Glineth.

“I wore mine, Thrandy,” the little girl said pointing to her delicate scroll of gold encircling her dark hair.

“Well, you can wear yours because you are a princess, Elwing. I am not a prince like Eluréd and Elurín.”

“But you are one of the king’s kin, Thranduil,” said a clear voice like a running brook.

A silver haired lady dressed in the same gossamer white dress as Elwing entered wearing a  gold diadem with a large white stone in the middle, a more elaborate version of Elwing’s diadem. 

Two young boys wearing pearlescent dress jackets followed behind, looking identical except that Eluréd, the elder of the twins, wore the golden clip which displayed his status as the king’s heir. Both wore the golden diadems with crescent moon design on them.

“Thranarin. Aron. Yay!” Eluréd and Elurín ran to the young warriors.

The queen turned to Thranduil.

“Your father and Lord Amdir are both princes of Doriath just as my uncle, Lord Celeborn, is. And along with them, you and your older brother are the only kin of the king left in Doriath.”

“But why do I have to wear a diadem when my ada is not the king. Elwing’s ada is,” Thranduil said stubbornly.

“But you are part of the king’s family. And, all the members of the king’s family have to wear a diadem.”

“But, my nana isn’t wearing one.” Thranduil pointed to his mother.

“Yes, Lady Arinariel, why are you still in your healer’s garment?” Nimloth said wrapping her arms around Lady Arinariel. “Am I ever going to see you in a normal dress for a change?”

Thranduil’s mother patted the queen’s hand.

“I received a word from Lord Arandur that Oropher will be arriving tonight from the north marches, bringing with him few…” his mother glanced at Thranduil and Elwing. “Few warriors he wants me to meet,” she said.

For a moment, Thranduil thought the ladies and even his brother and Aron looked rather grim and wondered why they didn’t look happy that his father was coming home.

“Ada is coming home?” Thranduil asked, excited at the prospect of seeing his father. His father had been away for a quite a while now. Thranduil could count on one hand the number of times he had seen his father since the attack by the Dwarves. And even those, just for few days before his father left again. What was worse, the few times his father was home, he spent most of that time sleeping rather than playing with him as his father used to do.

“Yes, Thranduil. He should be arriving any moment,” his mother beamed him a smile, not the bright sunlight kind she usually wore but Thranduil did not think much about it when he saw the twins pulling Thranarin toward the corridor.

“Ready, little ones?” Thranarin asked the twins who were practically jumping about the two young warriors.

“Can we go now, nana?” Eluréd asked.

 “How come my brother does not have to wear a dress tunic and wear a diadem?” Thranduil pointed to Thranarin with a pout.

“How now, Thranarin? Why is it that you have not changed?” the queen asked, her hands on her hips.

“I am still on duty, my lady,” Thranarin cleared his throat. “Lord Commander wanted to make sure there are still enough of us on duty.” Thranarin sounded apologetic, but there was also a relief in his bright blue eyes.

“Is that so?” the queen narrowed her eyes as the young warrior shrugged.

“Duty before pleasure, I am afraid,” Thranarin said sounding regretful and glanced at Aron.

“And we were told to come quickly, my lady,” Aron added, clearly eager to be gone.

The queen shook her head, but she bent down to kiss her two boys.

 “Nana! We are not babes,” Eluréd said his chin pulled up with a grimace while Elurín giggled.

“Yes, yes. You two are six-year-olds who think they are hundred,” the queen laughed as she let the twins go. “Thranarin, please take the boys to have their phials filled at the fountain upstairs before taking them to their father. They were so busy playing; they forgot to fill them.”

“As you command, my lady. If you would excuse us,” Thranarin bowed gracefully, winked at Thranduil, as the twins eagerly pulled at the two young warriors.

With a sour face, Thranduil looked at the twins.

“Why can’t I go with the twins? Why do I have to stay here with the ladies?”

“Because, Thranduil, you have to protect Princess Elwing,” Thranarin said with a chuckle, his blue eyes twinkling with mischief. “It is your job to make sure she is safe, remember? See you later, little brother.” Thranarin laughed out aloud, then added warmly. “Don’t worry, Thranduil. We will come back after getting the phials filled. We will all go together.” With that, he left through an elaborately decorated door, followed closely by Aron, each of them holding onto the hands of the twin princes.

“I’ll stay with you Thrandy,” Elwing said and took hold of Thranduil’s hand. Thranduil looked up dejectedly at his mother who laughed. The queen and the rest of the ladies joined in the laughter.

 “You are a big elfling now, Thranduil. You have to protect Elwing.  I am counting on you,” Queen Nimloth said and kissed him on the top of his head.

It was sometime after the twins left that they heard it, a loud blast that shook the walls of the cave city.

“What is that?” the queen said as she straightened. The sound had come from the Great Gates, but the king, his court, and people were across the bridge in the Forest of Neldoreth in preparation of Midwinter Solstice. “I hope it is not Eluréd and Elurín getting into something they shouldn’t,” Queen Nimloth said with a frown. The twins were known pranksters.

“That hardly sounds like something two elflings would do,” Thranduil’s mother laughed. “And with Aron and Thranarin with them, they wouldn’t dare,” said Lady Arinariel, then frowned. “Those two young warriors are worse than the twins. I will check on them as I have to stop by my chambers before going to the infirmary. Oropher may have returned.”

“You are not leaving us, Lady Arinariel?” Lady Nimloth asked. “You will join us later, perhaps?”

“It all depends,” his mother’s face looked grave. “We shall see how our…guests… are. I will join you if I can,” she said then turned to Thranduil with a smile. “Take care of them, Arantaur.” With that, she, too, left the hall.

“Come, Elwing, let me fix your diadem,” Glineth said and took Elwing to the chaise.

“Come, sit with me, Thranduil,” the queen said and sat down on one of the chaises with Lady Tinuel when the walls of the stone cave shook. The ladies looked up.

“Maybe we should call the guards,” Lady Tinuel said. 

Thranduil looked out at the corridor. “I saw Captain Himion not long ago. I will go ask for help,” Thranduil said and ran out of the hall, ignoring the call after him.

There were usually guards posted just inside the Hall of Melodies, but not today. Thranduil turned toward the corridor that led to the Great Gates. There were always several groups of guards stationed there. The passages twisted and converged, a nightmare maze for those who are not familiar with Menegroth, but Thranduil knew every turn and every nook of this place.

It was then that Thranduil heard the clashing of metals and shouts.

Thranduil stopped and turned toward the corridor leading to the armories.  If there were an attack, Captain Himion and the Royal Guards would be with the king who was outside Menegroth. But Captain Farvael and the Palace Guards were usually at the Guard Station near the armories.

Thranduil ran down a darkened corridor and ran headlong into a group of warriors. They wore gold plate armors with red tunics and capes. The capes had a device Thranduil had never seen: a flaming sun with a jewel in the middle. It was on a background of a star with eight rays and eight spikes embroidered in gold.

There were about twenty of them, tall and with eyes bright with light. They had naked swords in their hands. Two of them carried a torch.

“You are not our guards. Are you guards from Nargothrond?” Thranduil asked. “Are the Dwarves attacking?”

One with glossy black hair and darker skin than others looked down at Thranduil, his eyes on the diadem Thranduil wore.

“Are you one of the princes?” he asked looking down at Thranduil’s silvery dress jacket.

“You talk funny,” said Thranduil looking up at him. “I am not a prince. Eluréd and Elurín are.” Thranduil touched the warrior’s golden armor in wonder. He had never seen the warriors from Nargothrond although he had heard much about them from Thranarin and Aron.

“I am Thranduil Oropherion.”

The warriors looked at each other and shook their heads.

“My father is one of the marchwardens,” Thranduil said, his chin raised.

“Is that so? Is that why you are not afraid of us, little one?” The other warrior next to the dark faced Elf asked. He was tall and beautiful with a chiseled chin and deep gray eyes that glowed in the darkness of the corridor.

“You are Elven warriors. Why should I be afraid of you? Aren’t you here to protect? ”

He did not fear the keen lights in the guards’ eyes. Some of the people he loved the most in the world had the glowing eyes. Glineth said that their eyes glowed because they have lived in the land far way where Valar lived. It meant they are wise and good.

“Did you come to help?” Thranduil asked.

“Warriors protect, is it not so?” the beautiful one said, curving his lips.

My lords, we don’t have time for this. We need to find the queen and her children. And quickly,” another warrior said in Quenya behind the beautiful warrior.

Thranduil understood clearly, but he was forbidden to let anyone know that he spoke and understood Quenya.

“If you are here to guard, then the queen could use your help,” Thranduil said. He had heard that Nargothrond warriors were skilled and powerful. Even if Dwarves attacked, Thranduil could protect them all if he could get these warriors to the queen.

“You know where the queen is?” the dark faced one asked as he fingered Thranduil’s golden hair. Then, he turned to the beautiful one, speaking in Quenya, “Look, Kurvo, maybe this one is a freak like Tyelko.”

“Don’t call Tyelko feak, stupid. He has our grandmother’s hair, that’s all,” the beautiful one called Kurvo said with a slap on the dark one’s back. Then, Kurvo turned to Thranduil.

“Can you take us to the queen?”

“Are you going to protect them?” Thranduil asked.

“We are guards. Are we not, little one?” Kurvo said with a smile.  “Come, elfling. Take us to your queen, and we will take care of her.” He urged when a clash of metals and shout came nearer. The Noldo held out a hand encased in a golden gauntlet. It had a fresh blood stain. Thranduil took the hand.

“This way. If you are hurt, my mother can help you. She is a healer,” Thranduil said and led them to the Hall of Melodies.

 


 

House Galadhon—Galadhon was the son of Elmo, Thingol and Olwe’s brother. Thus, he was Thingol’s nephew. He was the father of Celeborn and Galathil (father of Nimloth who married Dior and became the mother of Elwing). There is not much else that is known about Galadhon. In my story, as the member of the house of princes, Galadhon commanded both the palace guards and the royal guards. His house was responsible for the protection of the royal family while Arandur (Oropher’s father in my story and also a nephew of Thingol) commanded the marchwardens and was responsible for the protection of the realm. Celeborn had left Doriath before the Battle of Unnumbered Tears (leaving later would have been almost impossible as the world outside Doriath had fallen to Morgoth after this war). So, when Galadhon died trying to protect Thingol from the Dwarves, Galathil took over the command. But, he too died fighting the Dwarves when he encountered them on his way escorting Dior to Doriath.

Eluréd and Elurín (Sindarin, Heir of Elu and Remembrance of Elu)—Twin sons of Dior and Nimloth, king and queen after Thingol and Melian. They were Elwing’s elder brothers. During the Second Kinslaying by Noldor of Sindar at Menegroth, the twin princes were seized and abandoned in the forest to die.

Lord Tauron (Sindarin, Forest Lord or Forester, an epithet of Araw, known as Orome by Noldor, a derivative of Aromez in Valarian) Vala known as the huntsman of the Valar. He was the first of the Valar to find the Elves and named them Eldar. He led the Elves when they traveled from Cuivienen where Elves woke up to Beleriand.

Aran Einior (Sindarin, Elder King) Quenya name is Manwe Sulimo, King of the Valar. He is the brother of Melkor (Morgoth, the first Dark Lord) and husband to Lady Elbereth (Sindarin, Queen of Stars), known as Varda in Quenya.

Nan Elmoth (Sindarin, Valley of the Stardust)—Forest about 75miles east of Menegroth. It is said that the trees here grew so tall and dark that they blocked the sun entirely. It was here that Melian enchanted Elwe (later known as Thingol). Later, Eol, father of Maeglin, lived there alone until he wed Aredhel (Fingon’s sister, thus, Gil-galad’s aunt) who wandered lost in this forest.

Kurvo (Quenya, skilled)—a name family members called Curufin, 5th son of Feanor. He was most like Feanor in appearance, temperament and skill. He was Celebrimbor’s father. He perished along with his brothers, Celegorm and Caranthir during the attack on Doriath.

Tyelko (Quenya, hasty, shorter form of his mother name Tyelkormo)—refers to Celegorm, the 3rd son of Feanor. He is said to be “fair” but I take that as having silver hair like his grandmother, Miriel, who is said to have silver hair (To me, this means that she had a noble Telerin blood on her mother’s side as she is a Noldo). But Feanor and his sons have never met her as she passed away at Feanor’s birth.

Chapter Text

King s Tower.  Midsummer, Second Age 144

ELROND threw the book he tried to read. Although Lord Istuion reassured him that Thranduil would attend the dinner, Elrond wasn’t sure.  He couldn’t even do the one thing the king had asked of him.

With a sigh, Elrond got up to dress. He had sent all the servants down to the fields to enjoy the evening. If he had his way, he would just stay in his chambers until the sunrise when the king will give thanks to Eru, but the king expected him to be there at this dinner.

It was part of his duty as the king’s kin to sit beside the king and aid him in his endeavors. Elrond knew that, and he wanted to do the best he could. But this matter with Thranduil was wearing him down. For the past three months, he tried his utmost to be patient, but no matter what he did, Thranduil seemed unmoved. And it seemed to Elrond that more he let Thranduil be, less trouble Thranduil caused. Perhaps, it was best just to let this Sinda be.

But if he were to keep a distance from the Sinda, was he not letting the king down? Was he not being remiss in doing his duty and meeting his obligations? Elrond let out a long sigh, then trudged down the stairs and into the long, open corridor that led to the western courtyard.

“Lord Elrond!” A lady dressed in a shimmering, diaphanous fabric over a red silk stepped out from where she stood behind a marble column.

Ai, Elbereth, save me!

Elrond realized the mistake he had made, but it was too late. Too deep in his thoughts, he had forgotten why he hid out in his chambers since the morning. But wasn’t this part of King’s Tower had a restricted access? Elrond glanced at the guards by the entrance to the stairs. They stared back at Elrond, their eyes unrepentant and dancing.

The lady flipped her dark curly hair over her shoulder and glided over to Elrond.

“I have been waiting for you, my lord,” she said and offered a white ribbon embroidered with a red poppy flower in the red and gold thread.

“I am honored, Lady Fumella. But if I may be so bold, I believe Erfaron was looking forward to receiving your favor.” Elrond tried his best diplomatic voice, but the young lady was unmoved.

“He has no right over me. You are my choice this year,” she said, smiling up at him.

“Erfaron will be heart-broken.”

But the girl just shrugged as if it meant nothing. “We are not betrothed. I am not bound to choose him every year.”

But why me? Elrond could pull his hair out. Didn’t he have enough problems already?

Elrond squashed the groan that lurked inside him and ignored the waves of amusement coming from the guards. Elrond bowed low. It was Midsummer’s Eve and the choice of partner for the evening belonged to the ladies. It would be rude to protest further.

“You honor me, my lady.” He offered his arm as was expected of him. She tied her ribbon around his upper arm to show that he was taken for the evening. Then, she wrapped her hands around Elrond’s arm.

Elrond wished, hopelessly, that he could avoid meeting Erfaron tonight. Being one of Belegor’s closest friends, Erfaron never expressed it outwardly, but Elrond knew the cadet never liked him. After the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, many Elves considered Men inferior and untrustworthy. Although some made exception of the Edain from the rest of the Men, more than few did not bother with the distinction. And despite Elrond being Lady Idril’s grandson, he ultimately belonged to House Hador, not to House Finwe. And even now when he was an Elf, it didn’t stop some from seeing him more a Man than an Elf. Even if that were not so, Fumella choosing him would not endear him to Erfaron.

With a resigned sigh, Elrond walked into the Western Courtyard with Lady Fumella on his arm.

The evening air was crisp as the north wind cooled the heat of the afternoon as the sun started its slow descent into the west. All around the courtyard, the sweet scent of summer roses and the intoxicating aroma of tart peach wine were heady in the air mingling with the melodies expertly played on several harps.

As soon as Elrond stepped into the courtyard, a number of young ladies who stood near the entrance into the courtyard rushed over, all with a strip of ribbon in their hands. Fumella raised her chin as she leaned into Elrond. The Half-elven had to make an effort not to flinch away from her touch feeling the swirl of disappointments that rose all around him.

Although this happened every year, Elrond was usually prepared. For many years now, Lalaithwen chose him, relieving him of the need to hide out until the last moment when he had no choice but to make an appearance. But for the past few years, Lalalithwen had been unpredictable, making him guess as to whether she will choose him. And this year, he couldn’t blame her for not choosing him. With all the things that went on, he had not had the opportunity to talk to her since her return.

“Lady Fumella,” called a familiar voice.

Both Elrond and Fumella turned to face the king. The king’s gray eyes were sparkling with humor.

“How did you catch the Elusive Elrond? You are the envy of the ladies this evening,” said the king with a definite amusement in his voice.

Fumella giggled, her face flushed. “With luck and a well-made plan, my king. It is unfortunate that your majesty is off limits,” she said throwing a flirty look toward Gil-galad.

“Yes, yes. Very unfortunate,” laughed the king. “But, I make a terrible partner. That’s probably the reason for the rule,” the king said, giving Elrond a look.  “As much as I hate to steal him away from you, will you spare us a moment, dear lady? I would like a word with my cousin,” said the king.

“Of course, your majesty,” the girl curtseyed prettily before turning to Elrond. “I will see you later, my lord,” she said before moving away.

Elrond sighed watching the elleth go.

“Lady Fumella? I feel for you. What happened to Lalaithwen?” Gil-galad asked. “Did you forget to woo her?”

“Woo her? I haven’t had the time to speak to her after she returned from her stay with Lady Galadriel.”

“Oh, good. Maybe I could convince Lalaithwen to stay by my side this year.”

“Sire, you are off-limits. Even if that was not so, no one dares to approach you. Can you not yield Lalaithwen to me?”

Gil-galad shook his head, his eyes twinkling.

“Be you my cousin and beloved friend; I yield none who holds my heart.”

Elrond rolled his eyes, but his heart was glad to see that the king was in a playful mood. Gil-galad was only eighty-seven years older than him, a mere blink in the eyes of Elves, but the king seemed so much older and so much graver.  

“Alas, there is nothing much I could do this year as I am already chosen. I’ll be lucky if I escape Erfaron’s wrath.”

“It is not your fault that his lady chose you. He knows as well as anyone that the choice of partner belongs to the ladies during the summer solstice. And as she is yet to be betrothed, she has a right to choose anyone.”

“Yes, I know that. But I have seen too many occasions where a heart in love abandoned reason. I’ve lost few friends over the years because a lady they have their hearts set chose me as her partner for the evening.”

“It is your fault for being so desirable, Elrond. There must be something in the blood of Men that stirs the blood of Elven maids. We have already lost two of our most beloved princesses to the houses of Men.”

Elrond raised his eyebrows. He had never seen Gil-galad this lighthearted. “You certainly seem to be in a happy mood today.”

“Ah, it must be the wine I am looking forward to.”

“Wine?”

“A very special reserve from my uncle’s vineyard, something he poured all his energy into when he was not working at the palace. He thinks it is the closest he came to reproducing the vintage he used to drink at Valinor. I tasted it when he first brought a barrel to me. It certainly is the finest I have ever tasted, but it is quite potent.”

“Are you serving that for the evening?”

“I wish I could. Unfortunately, he was able to make only one barrel.”

“That is hardly enough for all the guests. Maybe for the high table only?” Elrond looked about the courtyard. The high table was set up on a dais to seat twenty-four guests, twelve on each side of the king’s chair. Facing them were four rows of tables seating twenty-four each.

“Yes, for the high table only. I wish I could have a bottle of my own to share with you, but there is not enough to spare. But, don’t worry, Elrond. I reserved a seat next to me for you.”

“That is unfortunate,” Elrond said. Captain Aron had informed Elrond that Thranduil refused to come unless he was seated at a certain table.  “Thranduil will be seated at the farthest table from the dais, and as his warrior companion, I made the arrangements to sit with him.”

The king nodded. “That is unfortunate, indeed,” he mumbled. Then, he looked up, his face grave once again. “How are you faring with our Sindarin friend?”

Elrond tensed. If he was ever to get out of the obligation the king placed on him regardingThranduil, this was it. Elrond took a breath and opened his mouth when the king turned away to look down at the training fields that lay before the courtyard.

All three fields were filled with people this evening, many sitting on a blanket or make-shift tables. Tonight, the king’s cellar was thrown open, and the food and wine will be served to everyone. After the dinner, there will be dancing and singing to be followed by Onen Calad.

“I am so glad I have you here, Elrond. I don’t know if I could deal with this young Sinda on my own. There is so much going on with the council. This expedition Lord Celebrimbor will take after the summer solstice is more than just about a treaty with the Dwarves. The cadets will be affected, too. And more so for you and the Sinda.”

Elrond frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Lord Gilmagor will give you more details after the end of summer, but be prepared to travel with Thranduil up north.”

“I don’t understand.”

“They found an Elven village up north, near where the Dwarves are. A village of Green Elves.”

“Up North by Dwarven villages? That is quite further up.”

“Yes. And there are dangers. We suspect dragons within the Dwarven ruins. We need to move the villagers south, below the river that marks our northern marches, but the villagers refuse to deal with our warriors. The council decided that we needed to send them representatives who could convince them to move.” The king stopped and looked at Elrond.

“I am not one of the Sindar, Sire. I doubt they will consider me as one of them.”

“But you are the only living descendant of King Thingol.”

“But I know nothing of Doriath, nothing of people who lived there.” For most of his life, it was Noldor who nurtured and educated him. What he knew of Sindar was through Lord Cirdan’s people who had never lived in Menegroth. And he had met even fewer Green Elves.

“That is why we are sending Thranduil along with you. Lord Celeborn volunteered to go, but his people did not want their lord anywhere near where there may be dragons. As they wouldn’t let me go either, the council thought it best that we send you and Thranduil, instead. But do not fear the dragons. Lord Celebrimbor and the Silmacil will deal with the worms. And a large part of north legion will accompany you and the cadets. And Lord Istuion and Captain Aron will go.” King smiled when he looked up at Elrond’s face. “They volunteered to accompany you and Thranduil into the village. Although the cadets and north legion will be there, they will be stationed further away so as not to alarm the villagers.”

“I see.”

The king put his arm on Elrond’s shoulder. “I hope I am not burdening you too much, my friend. If I could find other ways….”

Elrond managed a smile. “It is my privilege to serve you, my king. I will do my best.”

Gil-galad gave Elrond a faint smile and looked away at the training fields full of people who were already singing and dancing below them.

Elrond bit down a desire to send out his senses to intrude on the emotions of the king. Gil-galad knew of Elrond’s ability and kept his feelings under tight control. The king was as difficult to read as Thranduil and other elders from Valinor who kept their emotions in tight rein. But Elrond didn’t need to read the king’s emotion to know that Gil-galad worried for him.

“Do not worry about me,” Elrond said and tamped down an urge to squeeze the king if such a thing was permitted. Gil-galad was still young, not yet three hundred years in age, yet there was so much burden on his shoulders. Elrond felt embarrassed that he had wanted to evade the one obligation the king had entrusted to him.

“I am sorry that I had to ask you to do this on top of befriending Oropherion. The Sinda is quite a handful, isn’t he?”

“At least he had not caused any stir since that hair incident,” Elrond said with a reassuring smile for the king.

Gil-galad shook his head. “Thank the Valar! I feared that I might have to send Thranduil back to his father. If you had seen how upset Lord Calel was! He stirred up all the councilors. If it wasn’t for Lord Gilmagor, I don’t know what I would have done. At least, Calel was manageable. Did you know how upset my uncle was after that soup incident? According to Lord Lammaeg, our friend was planning an attempt on my life.”

“You don’t believe that, do you?”

“Of course not. If I thought the Sinda could even entertain such a thought, I would not have kept him here. But, it would be nice to see Thranduil getting along. Have you made any progress?”

“He is difficult to reach.”

The king nodded, his face grave again.

“We will get to him, Sire. It has only been three months. Give him some time. No matter how thick the ice wall, it must melt, surely, with time,” Elrond reached out and laid a comforting hand on the king’s arm.

“Will five centuries be enough?” Gil-galad frowned.

“He will be a river by then,” Elrond laughed, trying to lighten the mood.

“River has its own problems.”

“In that case, we will deal with it then. We could always build bridges. I will do everything I can. I promise.”

It was then that Lord Cirdan and Lord Istuion walked into the courtyard with three younger Elves: Thranduil, Aron and Lady Silwen.

Elrond felt Gil-galad stiffen and suck in his breath. Almost immediately, it seemed to Elrond, the king built a wall around himself and put on armor as if he was readying himself for a battle. This puzzled Elrond greatly. Lord Cirdan was like a father to the king. There were love and respect between them that even Lammaeg couldn’t break, not that the councilor didn’t try.

“Welcome, my lords,” Gil-galad greeted Lord Cirdan warmly then nodded to Istuion, Aron, and Thranduil.

“My lady,” the king greeted Lady Silwen, somewhat coldly, Elrond thought. “It’s been too long,” he said woodenly as Lady Silwen bowed, her eyes downcast.

Elrond frowned as Gil-galad turned away from her.

The king smiled warmly to those around him, but Elrond saw the hidden robe the king wore above his armor, an invisible robe of sorrow like rain that comes silently in the grayness of early morning.

A fierce desire to protect the king rose from Elrond’s depth. Gil-galad was the only family left to him now.

Elrond wondered who the cause of Gil-galad’s grief was. He glanced at the newcomers.

Lord Cirdan was warm and gentle like summer sea breeze. And Lord Istuion was not different from his uncle in temperament even if he was the follower of Oropher and stayed distant. That went for Captain Aron as well.

As for Thranduil, well, he was another matter entirely, but Elrond knew Gil-galad well enough to know that the king could handle himself no matter how ill-mannered the Sinda may be.

Elrond glanced at the king and found that the king’s eyes grazed the lady. It was brief, but he saw sorrow there before the king turned to Lord Cirdan.

Elrond glanced at Lady Silwen. She was Lord Cirdan’s niece, a daughter of the brother of Lord Cirdan’s wife. Lord Cirdan’s wife had sailed to Valinor after the Great War. Elrond was told that she had lost her desire to live in Middle Earth after the death of her only son at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. Lady Silwen lost her parents to that battle as well and was raised at Lord Cirdan’s house along with Gil-galad.

For a time, Elrond, as well as others, thought Gil-galad had feelings for Lady Silwen. They were never betrothed, but Elrond always felt there was something there between them. But the times during the great war was chaotic. And Elves did not enter into romantic relationships during the times of chaos and unrest.   

Before Elrond could read anything from the lady, the king turned to Thranduil. The king’s face was serene as he greeted Oropher’s son, but Elrond could not help but notice the tightness of the king’s jaw.

“Are you enjoying the festivities?”

“No,” said Thranduil, looking away.

Elrond winced. But, the king smiled graciously at Thranduil.

“Is there something amiss? Perhaps I can remedy it?”

“No. I just don’t enjoy festivities,” Thranduil said nonchalantly.

“I am sorry to hear that. Perhaps there’s something we can do to persuade you to change your mind?” the king asked.

“I doubt it.”

Thranduil looked at the king, his eyes half closed and his chin raised, looking haughty and uninterested. Elrond held back an urge to whack Thranduil when Lord Cirdan laughed out loud and patted Thranduil’s back.

“Thranduil, if I did not know any better, I would think you lacked manners, my boy.  But, that can’t be, my dear lad, because I know you have been well taught. Is that not so?”

There was a moment of silence as Thranduil met Lord Cirdan’s eyes. For a moment Elrond thought Thranduil would make a curt retort, or worse, walk away, but instead, the young Sinda put his hand over his heart and made a graceful bow toward the king.

“My apologies if I offended you. I was just answering your questions with no other intent,” said Thranduil and looked up with a face perfectly composed.

“No need to apologize,” the king said with a gracious smile. “If there is anything I can do to make the evening more enjoyable, please let any of my staff know. You are welcome here, son of Oropher.”

Thranduil bowed again and stepped back without another word. The king moved away with Lord Cirdan, leaving the younger Elves.

“You are looking lovely this evening, Lady Silwen,” Elrond said.

Elrond had known her ever since he had led a portion of Maedhros’ people to Isle of Balar before the War of Wrath. But she hardly ever came to the White City, and Gil-galad rarely visited Grey-Havens after the completion of the King’s Tower. It was only when Elrond visited Lord Cirdan that he was able to see her.

Silwen smiled, looking ethereal in her plain white dress. With her white hair, pale face and silver eyes, she looked like a seafoam under the moonlight. Unlike other ladies in the courtyard, she had no jewels in her hair, no silver or gold girdles on her waist. Only decoration she had was a cluster of small white shells threaded with silver string around her neck. Amongst the ladies of court dressed in vibrant silk of many different colors, she stood out like a moonbeam in the darkness of the night.

“How are you, Elrond? Silwen smiled warmly.

Elrond repressed the urge he felt whenever he saw her. Before the palace at Lindon was complete, everyone had thought Gil-galad would take Lady Silwen to be his queen. But once the palace completed and the building of the city finished, Gil-galad had turned away. It surprised everyone, even Lord Cirdan and there had been a time when there was tension between Lord Cirdan and the king. Elrond wasn’t surprised. Lady Silwen was like a daughter to Lord Cirdan who was her guardian. But no one can meddle into the decisions of two people on the matters of the heart. Only their guardians or parents had some say in the matter. In fact, any say by anyone else would be considered a very rude intrusion.

“You have not been here since they completed this palace,” Elrond said. “There have been many changes since the last time you were here. Allow me to show you,” Elrond offered his arm.

But before Silwen could take it, someone snatched his arm away.

“You are ignoring me, my lord,” Fumella said, pouty and fierce. She looked Silwen up and down as the Noldorin elleth wound her arms around Elrond’s arm like a viper.

Elrond felt mild irritation at the interruption, but he bowed to Silwen. “Excuse me, Lady Silwen. This is Lady Fumella, my partner for the evening.” It was the duty of the chosen to see to every desire of his lady partner during the evening.

“Do not worry about me, Elrond,” Silwen smiled and excused herself, joining Aron and Thranduil who stood nearby.

Feeling his senses prick, Elrond turned to look at the direction of the king. Gil-galad was staring at the three young Sindar. Despite the plainness of their garments, or perhaps because of it, the three stood out. Smaller boned and pale of hair and eyes, Captain Aron and Lady Silwen looked like a pair of white butterflies in a garden full of colorful flowers. And Thranduil stood out no matter where he was and who he was with. For better or for worse.

 


 

House of Hador—Third House of the Edain (Men) established by Hador the Golden-haired who served Fingolfin (Gil-galad’s grandfather). Fingolfin gave Hador fiefdom in Dor-lomin. Hurin and Huor were Hador’s grandchildren by his first son. Hurin was Turin’s father and Huor was Tuor’s father (one who later married Idril and begot Earendil, Elrond’s father)

About Marriage—Elves marry for love and of free will (forced marriage does not work as rape will kill the victim). Sex means marriage so there is no such thing as a premarital sex (although I suppose they are free to flirt as long as they are not bound). Once married, they are married for life. Death does not resolve marriages. Also, most Elves choose their mates while still very young, soon after achieving the majority (which is 50 years in age). Those who marry late are considered to have strange fates or connected to ill chances. I guess this means our young Elven lords in this story have strange fates which, I guess, is true.

 

Chapter Text

White City. Midsummer 's Eve, Second Age 144

THRANDUIL sat with a goblet of wine in his hand, his back to one of the massive marble columns that supported a stone balustrade. The western courtyard was enclosed on the east by the central tower, north by Hall of Council and by open corridors on the west and south. All around the white stone rails, pink and red summer roses bloomed, clinging onto the intricate filigree designs of the stone structure.

The lords settled into discussing the matters of state while servants prepared the dinner tables. Left to themselves, Aron and Silwen had tried to introduce Thranduil to some of the people in the courtyard. Thranduil had wanted to stay for Aron and Silwen's sake, but he was not used to making pointless conversations with needless people. Once, long ago, he had wanted to grow up quickly so he could do what these people were doing: dress beautifully and talk elegantly of mundane things. But after a century of wandering the wild unknown, talking only when necessary, all these polite, meaningless conversations seemed senseless.

And for the first time, Thranduil realized how much he didn't have compared to these Noldor with their glittering gems and vibrant silks embroidered in gold and silver. He wanted to ignore it, but the Sinda did not miss that while the people maintained polite faces plastered with a smile, their eyes grazed Thranduil's face, hair, and dress jacket.

After tolerating just two introductions, Thranduil had excused himself, taking his goblet of wine and wandered out to a secluded spot in the corner of one of the corridors. From the height of where he was sitting, he could see the entire three training fields and the blue haze far beyond which Thranduil knew to be the Gulf of Lune. Even the people down at the training grounds were aglitter with gems in their hair and clothes.

Thranduil leaned onto the marble column feeling the coolness of the stone through his simple robe Glineth had salvaged. Lord Cirdan and his kin had chosen to be simple and plain. But it was one thing to choose to do so when one had enough riches. But for him and his people from Menegroth, there was no choice. Once, Sindar from Menegroth, too, had gems: luminescent pearls the size of plums, smoky obsidians, the blue lapis, rubies, emeralds, and his favorite, the white gems that glittered like stars. While those Sindar who did not live in Menegroth had time to gather their goods, his kin who fled Menegroth had nothing but what they had on their backs. What things of value they had that night had gone a long time ago in exchange for food, shelter, and arms. Thranduil clutched at the leather-bound chain around his neck. It was the only thing that remained to him, just pieces of what had been the most beautiful thing he had first seen.

The thought of Menegroth made his heart clench, his throat ache. Thranduil scoffed aloud and let out a dry chuckle.

What did it matter? After what you've done, it was Eru's mercy that allowed you even this. You should be grateful. Thranduil clutched at his necklace harder. Besides, why would you want an approval from Noldor? Who cares what they think of you?

And yet, it was so much easier to think it, but not so easy to believe it.

'You have nothing. You are nothing.' Lammaeg's words rang in Thranduil's ear. Maybe that old Elf was right.

Thranduil shook his head hard to calm the fire that took sudden hold of him. That day, it had taken everything he had to hold onto his temper, to stop himself from striking that councilor down.

Thranduil took in a breath and looked around, trying to focus his turbulent mind on something else.

Everything about this place was built to perfection from the immaculate stone columns to the vast granite floors polished like glass. It was a beautiful palace with tall columns that allowed ample lights to stream through story-high windows. Thranduil pulled at the collar of his dress robe. It was a beautiful prison, yet prison nonetheless. And he missed the forest. As enchanting as the White City was, despite the vast amounts of flowers, bushes, and cypress trees, there was a surprising lack of grand trees in the White City. And Thranduil missed trees.

A hearty laughter mingled with a merry giggle made Thranduil look up. One of the warriors was passing with a lady in his arms. He was whispering something in her ear that made her laugh. They were whispering, their heads touching, then they laughed out aloud together, their arms linked. They passed Thranduil as the last stray of sunlight fell on the stone column where Thranduil sat. Thranduil was a child again, sitting on his mother's lap as she sat humming by a stone column carved like a large beech tree as sunlight streamed down from tall windows cut into the stone walls. The room was filled with light, and the scent of niphredil and herbs was all around. His mother laughed as his father whispered something in her ear. Her soft laughter mingled with his father's hearty one. And the sunlight was warm.

It was like a long, forgotten dream, and Thranduil closed his eyes and leaned back onto the stone column as a corner of his heart tightened.

Three new moons rose and fell since his father's departure, but no words had come from the East. Thranduil knew it was too early to expect news, but he waited nonetheless. He looked up at the sinking sun that bled everything deep red.

"Lord Thranduil?" A musical voice, cultured and delicate, made Thranduil look up.

A tall young lady dressed in a faint green, like a bud in spring, glided over to him. Strands of her glossy black hair were braided with gold ribbons and allowed to fall in rivulets behind her back. There was something familiar about her, but Thranduil could not place it.

"Why look so glum during such a joyous occasion, my lord? Do you not love summer?" she asked. Her voice was lyrical like a strum of a harp.

Thranduil frowned and bit down the first response that came to his lips. Reluctantly, he got off his seat as was expected.

"Oh, please don't mind me. I was just passing when I saw you. Will you not go? I believe the bell calling the guests to dinner rang just now. Come, my lord. I believe we are seated at the same table. The one farthest from the high table, is it not so?"

Thranduil blinked. He did not remember the young lady, yet she spoke to him as if they had been introduced.

"Do I know you? And don't address me that way. I am no lord."

The maiden's gray eyes twinkled as amusement lit up her angular face.

"You don't remember me, do you?"

"No," Thranduil admitted, the word dragged from his lips.

The girl's gray eyes widened for a split second then she laughed out loud.

"What is so funny?" Thranduil growled, drawing his eyebrows together.

He cursed inwardly at the heat he felt on his face. When he traveled with his father, there had been all Elven men. For over hundred years, he had spent with warriors. He was not used to dealing with ladies, especially young maidens. Lassiel was the first young Elven maid of similar age he had spoken to in a long time. But he had been comfortable with her, and the healer had not laughed at him.

"You are so serious. You are at Midsummer's Festival, not on a training ground. You should relax. You look like you are about to face a foe in a battle."

"What do you know of battle?" Thranduil snapped. But it did not faze the girl one bit. She laughed again.

"Nothing, of course. But I do know that warriors have that glum face when they are about to knock someone out. Why the battle face when there is much to celebrate?" she said and let out a chuckle.

"What do you want?" Thranduil said, willing his composure to return.

The maiden tilted her head, her hands behind her back. She looked up into his face.

"Blunt, you are. But I do not mind. I prefer it over the sweet nothings. In case you do not remember, I am Lalaithwen. Do you remember me now? From the library? The scrolls?"

It was then that Thranduil remembered the girl who dropped several scrolls on his head.

"Now you remember me." Lalaithwen smiled as she swung her upper body side to side. "I didn't know I was so unmemorable that you would have forgotten about me." She stepped closer to him, then brushed loose rose petals off his dress jacket, surprising Thranduil with her closeness.

Do these Noldorin maids have no sense of personal space? 

Thranduil stepped back remembering how Lassiel clutched at his tunic. He hardly knew these Elvenmaids, yet they acted as if they knew him already.

Lalaithwen looked up, eyes wide and sparkling like a child's.

"Why are you sitting here all by yourself?" she asked. "Don't you want company?"

"No."

She seemed to wait for an explanation, and when he did not offer one, she asked again.

"Why not?"

Thranduil frowned at the Noldorin maid. Frustration bubbled up inside him filling him to the brim.

"Why should I tell you?"

"Because I asked?" she shrugged, looking up at him as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Thranduil raked his hair roughly and looked away.

"Lady Lalaithwen," he took in a quick breath. "If you don't mind, I would like to be left to myself."

If he could, Thranduil did not want to be rude to her lest his mother threw down the doors of Mandos to come and scold him. As gentle as his mother had been, she was a terror when it came to discipline, especially when it came to manners toward ladies and elders. But right now, Thranduil wanted to be left alone.

But instead of going away, the girl smiled brilliantly up at him.

"I'm sorry, but I cannot because, you see, I have just made up my mind. I choose you to be my partner at the festival." Then, she produced a white ribbon embroidered with golden stars.

It was now Thranduil's turn to look at the girl wide-eyed.

Thranduil knew about the right of a young maiden to choose a partner at Midsummer Festival. Days or months before the festival, many young Elven men who are interested in being her partner will woo her. She would make her choice at the festival by giving her chosen partner an armband embroidered with the sigil of her house if she had one or embroidery of something that represented her if she did not come from a noble house. Thranduil had heard of such custom, of course, but he was too young at Menegroth and the years at Sirion had been desperate where the celebrations had been kept to a bare minimum. Besides, there had not been Elves young enough to engage in such traditions.

"I cannot take that," Thranduil said. He knew that being chosen by any maiden was considered an honor, but if Gilmagor thought it inappropriate for Thranduil to know her, then he was sure her family thought the same. At any event, Thranduil was in no mood to entertain a Noldo, maiden or not.

"And, why not?" she placed her hands on her trim waist, her eyes narrowed.

"I hardly know you. In fact, I do not know you at all."

"Oh, that's all right. I don't know you either." Her face brightened, and she laughed that silver bell laughter again. "We can get to know each other. It is only for the evening. It is not like I am asking you to marry me."

Thranduil frowned.

I don't want to get to know any one of you, he almost said it out loud but managed to bite his tongue. That would have been rude. He could already imagine his mother's disapproving face.

"Well?"

When Thranduil remained silent, Lalaithwen raised her eyebrows, her gray eyes twinkling.

"Is that silence means you will reconsider?" she offered the embroidered lace. "If nothing else, I could guarantee you will not be bored."

"Lady Lalaithwen, let me be clear-" But before Thranduil could say further, someone called.

"Lalaith!"

Both Thranduil and Lalaithwen turned. Belegor stomped towards them, then, he snatched the lace band off the girl's extended hand.

"You are not going to offer this to a Sinda." Belegor looked down at the girl, "especially not to this Sinda." Belegor turned blazing eyes toward Thranduil. Then, he turned back to Lalaithwen. "I thought you were going to give your ribbon to --"

"I changed my mind," Lalaithwen said, as she snatched the ribbon back from Belegor. "It is my choice who I give my lace to, not yours. You know that," she said coolly and raised her chin defiantly.

"Father will not like this," Belegor said, glowering at the maiden.

Lalaithwen shrugged. "As I said, it is my choice, not father's nor yours, brother."

"Brother?" Thranduil said, thinking out loud.

"Yes. My sister," Belegor said, blocking Lalaithwen from Thranduil's line of sight. "You are not to get anywhere near my sister, Sinda. No member of my house will associate with a dark elf!"

"Belegor! That is enough. He is a Sinda, not a dark elf," Lalaithwen looked up at her brother, frowning deeply. She pushed Belegor aside to step out from behind him. "What is wrong with you, brother? Where are your manners? I have never seen you behave like this. And even if he was a dark elf, the choice is mine," she said, unflinching and firm. "Thranduil?" she turned to Thranduil and offered the lace.

"I will be honored to be your partner, my lady," Thranduil said allowing his lips to curl up, his eyes boring into Belegor's dark gray eyes.

"No, you are not!" Belegor pulled his sister away from Thranduil.

"Belegor!" Lalaithwen pulled at her arm on her brother's grip. "It is only for the festival."

Just then, Elrond walked over.

"There you all are. Have you not heard the bell for dinner? His Majesty is already seated."

Thranduil looked at Belegor smugly.

"Lady Lalaithwen," Thranduil offered his hand to the lady who took it. "Be a good Elf and step aside, Belegor," Thranduil said haughtily, letting a placid smile hover on his lips.

"Why you…" Belegor fisted his hands, his lips curled back, his teeth clenched. He took a step to grab Thranduil, but he was jerked back.

Elrond held onto Belegor's other arm.

"I don't know what is going on, but we are expected at the dinner tables. Don't cause any trouble, Belegor. You do not want to cause any commotion in the palace, against the king's guest."

Belegor's face crumpled with fury, but he shook off Elrond.

"Stay away from my sister, Sinda, or you'll regret it," he said. Then, Belegor straightened his jacket and walked into the courtyard. Elrond frowned watching Belegor walk away; then, he turned to Thranduil and Lalaithwen.

"What happened?" Elrond asked.

"I do not know," Lalaithwen said. "I chose Thranduil as my partner for the evening, and Belegor tried to stop me. Have you ever heard of such a thing? I have never seen him behave so outrageously."

Elrond's eyes opened wide as he looked at Lalaithwen then at Thranduil.

"Well, Thranduil, you will be the envy of all cadets. She is a flower much coveted," Elrond said, but his eyes held a reservation that was not lost on Thranduil.

Lalaithwen gave a gracious curtsey to Elrond at the compliment. "Why, thank you, Lord Elrond," she said with a laugh.

"Will you give us some privacy, my lady? I have something to discuss with Thranduil before dinner."

Lalaithwen smiled. "I'll see you at our table," she said and tied her ribbon around Thranduil's arm, then followed after her brother.

"I didn't know you knew Lady Lalaithwen," Elrond said.

Thranduil had a distinct feeling that Elrond didn't approve, not that he cared for Elrond's approval.

"I don't know her. I think it was an impulse decision on the part of the lady."

"Knowing her, I could see that. But, do you know anything about her?" Elrond asked.

Thranduil shrugged.

"I thought not. Well, you know that she is Belegor's sister which also means she is Lord Lammaeg's daughter."

"Yes, I think I got that much."

"You also know how Lord Lammaeg feels about you."

"Yes," Thranduil said. He had not forgotten Lord Lammaeg. "Not much different from his son, but she seems different from those two."

"Yes, she is. She is kind and generous, much more like her aunt than her father or brother, I am told. Do you know who her aunt was?"

"As I said, I know nothing of her," Thranduil said with a resigned sigh. "Why don't you just go ahead and say what you wish to say, Elrond?" Thranduil met Elrond's hesitating gaze. There was definite disapproval and something else.

"Her aunt was the king's mother. King Gil-galad's mother and Lord Lammaeg were siblings. His Majesty is very fond of Lady Lalaithwen, and it would be unwise for you…"

"Unwise? Unwise to do what? Court her? You want me to stay away from her, is that it? Is she too high for me? I am a nobody from a dead kingdom, so the king's cousin is out of my reach? After all, I am just a Sinda, not a drop of Noldorin blood in me, unlike you." Thranduil smiled down at Elrond with cold fury. "Don't worry, Elrond. I am not interested in co-mingling my Sindarin blood with that of a Noldo, any Noldo, for that matter."

Thranduil ripped the lace off his arm and thrust it into Elrond's hands and stomped away, down the stairs. He was in no mood to eat dinner, especially dinner with the whole bunch of Noldorin nobles who obviously think themselves above him or any other Sindar.

By the time Thranduil reached the bottom of the long stairs, he was calmer. He stopped at the last stone steps. If he had nothing to think of but himself, he would gladly walk away. In fact, he wanted to ride away from this stone city tonight and find his way to his father. Longing for his father and all others he had known since he was a child swelled up inside Thranduil like waves and crashed into his heart.

Thranduil took in a long shaky breath and shook the invisible chains that bound him to this place. When will he be free of them? Thranduil let out a long sigh and looked up at the sky. The red of the sinking sun receded, tinting the white stones of the courtyard into pale gold.

Now that he was calmer, Thranduil wasn't sure why he felt so angry. The girl meant nothing to him. He should not let this influence his behavior.

Before they arrived at the King's Tower, Lord Istuion had reminded Thranduil once again, that Thranduil's words and actions will reflect not only on his House and his father but on all Sindar. And Thranduil knew he should curve his tongue. He knew that, but sometimes he could not stop himself in time. But actions had more serious consequences than mere words.

Thranduil vigorously raked his hands through his hair. If he left now, his empty seat would make it glaringly obvious of his absence. The invisible chains that bound him to this place tugged.

"Damn it all!"

Thranduil fisted his hands, gritted his teeth but turned and trudged back up the stairs, back to the western courtyard.

Well, I guess now I will get to taste the councilor's fine wine that I worked so hard to acquire. Thranduil comforted himself.

 

Chapter Text

Star Field.  Midsummer s Eve, Second Age 144

MAIRON looked up at the terrace above the Star Field. Beyond the open corridor lay the western courtyard. The Maia had kept his senses honed on Thranduil and Elrond, but with so many voices, it was hard to tell what went on up there. It was too bad that this body was not important enough to be invited as one of the king’s guests.

“What holds your interest?”

Mairon turned and found Rodwen standing next to him, stretching her neck out to look over the terrace. “What are you looking for that you didn’t even know I was waving at you?” She threaded her arms around Mairon’s arm and looked up at him with a playful glint in her eyes. Mairon felt the warmth spread inside him. He looked down at Rodwen and ruffled her hair.

“Just curious what the king and his guests are doing,” Mairon said.

“Could it possibly…Is it who and not what?” Rodwen fluttered her lashes knowingly with a large smile on her face. “One of the noble ladies, perhaps? Hmmm?”

“No one interests me,” Mairon said.

“Yes, I know. That is, except for Lassiel. When are you ever going to ask her?”

Mairon frowned down at Rodwen. He had forgotten that the Elf he possessed had been in love with this mouse of a healer. Whenever he slacked his control over the body, he found himself wandering outside the healing ward. But what was the most frustrating was how his heart misbehaved whenever he glimpsed the young healer. He had tried, but Mairon could not control the body’s reaction to the young Elven maid. It embarrassed him, so he found it easier just to avoid the healer whenever he could. And it wasn’t difficult to avoid her as the healer seemed uneasy near him as well.

“I know. I know. It is not my place to speak to you about her. But you worked so hard to get into this officer program to be near her. I have been waiting, but you have not said a word about her after joining the program. Can you blame me if I am curious? We have been very patient, but mother and I were hoping this was the year you finally ask her,” Rodwen said. “You are probably the only cadet who is still unmarried and the only cadet without a partner tonight.”

“Are you here to berate me?” Mairon frowned down at Rodwen.

“Forgive me, brother dear. But I know how hard you have worked to get here, and it seems nothing is happening.” She pouted, looking up at him through her lashes, looking contrite. “I was only worried for you.”  She leaned into Mairon. “I wouldn’t be here after Summer, and there will be no one…”

“Are you going somewhere?”

“Oh, that’s right, you were not there when Lord Celebrimbor came to ask father.”

“Lord Celebrimbor?”

“He is going up North to negotiate with the Dwarves, taking many jewel smiths with him. It is a great opportunity for us to learn.”

“But, why is he taking you? North is not safe. Why would he take any women up there?”

Mairon knew just how dangerous his Orcs were right now.  And there were plenty of them up north although he had sent the majority of them out east and further north to look for a new location to build his base and to find food for breeding. Because so many Orcs were lost during the last war, Mairon had put the Orcs to breed. And when they are in that state, they are frenzied beasts, unpredictable and dangerous. Orcs didn’t require constant feeding like Men, but they needed to consume large amounts of flesh before they can breed. Breeding required energy and energy required meat whether fresh or rotten, as long as they were not burned. Mairon had wondered whether Elves knew this. After the War of Wrath, Elven soldiers picked up a new practice of burning the dead bodies of Orcs making them unusable as meat.  The few raiding of the villages in the North had been ineffective, producing no hostages and no dead bodies for Orcs to consume. But Mairon had not cared. He had plenty of Orcs further east if he needed them and those Orcs were breeding well enough.

But as weak as they were in their current condition, Orcs were unusually cruel and relentless in their frenzied state. And someone like Rodwen… Mairon shook his head. Elven maidens were Orc’s favorite meat. Unlike the mortal maids, Elven maids were not useful for breeding. They died when forced, but their flesh provided more power to the Orcs. Melkor used to feed his strongest Orcs with the flesh of Elven maids. Only rarely did his master kept Elven slaves for amusement, mostly to break them, some to seduce them. Mairon had never understood the perverse pleasure his master derived from them.

“You cannot go up there, Rodwen. Not now.”

If he were up in the North, one word from him would stop the Orcs, no matter how frenzied they were. But he was far from the North. Even if he shed this outer shell and had his full power about him, the distance was too great for him to control the beasts from where he was.

“We will not be alone, brother. Many of the jewel smiths under Lord Celebrimbor were warriors once, and the whole of North Legion are accompanying us.”

“You do not understand.”

“And Lord Celebrimbor has his own warriors. And he said some special warriors would accompany us. His lordship assured mother and father that we would be safe.”

“But why does he needs you there?”

“I am lucky to be chosen, brother. He believes we need to show the Dwarves our skill so we can exchange artisans. Lord Celebrimbor will take some with him into the Dwarven villages, and some of the Dwarves will be asked to come to our camp so we could share our methods with theirs. It is a chance for us to be friends with the Dwarves again.”

Mairon didn’t care for the Dwarves. They were a stubborn race who reminded him too much of his former master, the stony, stoic and stern Vala Aule.

“It’s madness. You do not understand the dangers that exist.”

And the Orcs were not the only threat. By now she will be well enough, maybe even able to fly. And she was not alone. At any other time, Mairon would not have cared, but something told Mairon that Celebrimbor would be of use to him. The Noldo was one of the vital pieces. Mairon wasn’t sure exactly yet how or why. Foresight was part of his ability as a Maia, but it was just a glimpse, and he could never be sure what it meant. But Mairon was sure that Celebrimbor would be as useful to him as Thranduil will be. Until he was sure, Mairon did not want the Noldo killed. And Rodwen. He did not want Rodwen hurt.

“Are you angry with me because I have made the decision without telling you?” Rodwen looked up; her eyes clouded with concern.  

“Would that stop you? You will go where Lord Celebrimbor goes whether I said yay or nay.”

Rodwen’s cheeks turned red. She grabbed them with her hands.

“Is it that obvious?” she asked, looking up at him with her eyes wide.

“I am your brother, Rodwen. I can tell.”

“Oh,” she looked down. “I never told anyone, not even mother and father.”

“Do you know how Lord Celebrimbor feels?”

Rodwen’s cheeks tinted deeper red. She hung her head, then shook her head.

“Rodwen…”

“No,” Rodwen shook her head harder. “I do not want to know. I know that I am not worthy.”

His mind flooded with the swirl of emotions from Rodwen. Mairon had known that Rodwen harbored deep feelings for Celebrimbor. She was young, and her mind was fully open like many of the younger generation of Elves around him. At first, Mairon had tried to influence Rodwen, attempting to steer her away from Celebrimbor. He had known that although Celebrimbor admired Rodwen’s talent, the Noldo’s feeling was just that and nothing more.  But the more Mairon tried, the more Rodwen resisted. Her feelings for Celebrimbor ran deep, and it was not within his power to change it.

“Nonsense!” Mairon said, sudden heat rising in his chest. He grabbed Rodwen’s shoulders. “It is he who is not worthy of you. You….you are…” Mairon searched for the words and before he could form any coherent thoughts, words he had never used before poured out of him. “You are the kindest, gentlest, the most beautiful creature I have ever known,” he said firmly.

Rodwen blinked up at Mairon. Then, her face brightened as if sunlight fell on it. She smiled broadly. Then, stepping forward, she wrapped her arms around Mairon.

“Thank you, brother. That is the nicest thing you have ever said to me.”

Mairon hugged her back. His chest felt tight and warm. Feelings that he could not describe filled him. Mairon closed his eyes and breathed in the warm honey scent of her. And he realized that he meant every word.

Rodwen pulled away, and Mairon let her go reluctantly.

“I’m going to remind you of what you said every time you try to yell at me,” Rodwen laughed. “Come, brother. Lord Celebrimbor is waiting for you.” She beamed him a bright smile. “You must have made an impression on him.”

Rodwen grabbed his hand and led him through the crowd. Mairon had not expected to see Celebrimbor again for a while.

“There you are,” Celebrimbor smiled widely and got up from the table where he sat and walked toward Mairon. “It is good to see you again.”

“The pleasure is mine, my lord.” Mairon bowed low.

“Please, let us not be too formal. It is midsummer. Walk with me.”

Mairon respectfully followed Celebrimbor as he walked toward the boundary of Star Field where few trees that existed in the White City stood.

“Is it true that you planned to take Rodwen up North?”

“Ah, you heard that already?” Celebrimbor turned to look at Mairon. “You do not approve,” he said looking down at Mairon. “You fear for her?”

“She is my sister. And I have been up North if you have forgotten, my lord. There are Orcs and maybe even worse things.” Mairon pulled back, realizing that he cannot speak too knowingly.

“Yes. There are worse things. Like dragons,” Celebrimbor said, then frowned. “You are not surprised.”

“Everyone knows the north is infested with Orcs and the creatures of the Dark Lord. Dragons were one of them so why should I be surprised if there are dragons. And if so, isn’t it more reason to not go. At least not take Rodwen.”

“Let me assure you; we will be well protected. And the ladies who will accompany me are well skilled both in the arts and swords even if they have never seen a battle. It is important that I bring our smiths, and especially women, to show Dwarves that our intention is in peace and not in war. I worked with them when I was at Nargothrond. If there is one thing I know that we share, they protect their women from touching blood as we do.”

It was then that Mairon remembered what he had learned upon entering the White City. Elves did not put much value in the prowess in war. It was the skill, honor, and courage that were admired. The killing, the taking of life whether good or bad, was considered a necessary evil in the times of need. Although Elven women were strong and skilled as Elven men, they did not engage in war as staining one’s hands in blood, whether to hunt or to fight, was something to be avoided. In fact, many Elves believed that killing took away their power to create and heal.  For the members of the royalty and the nobles, being a warrior was a requirement as it was their job to protect the realm and the people within it. But for the regular citizens, those who chose to become a warrior did so because they did not have any other skill or interest.  Becoming a warrior gave them the skills and duty to protect others in their villages.

Among the Elves, the most honored occupations involved nurturing, growing, teaching and healing. And baking. Apparently, baking bread was a holy thing among the Elves. And most of those jobs were done by Elven women. And loremasters, gardeners, and singers were valued above the swordmasters, warriors, and hunters. Clearly, the Elves had their priorities screwed up. Mairon planned to change that once he took control.

“With due respect, my lord. I mean not to gainsay you, sir. But Rodwen has no skill with weapons of any kind. And if there are dragons, taking young maidens with no skills in battle would only hinder other warriors.”

“You need not worry, cadet. Rodwen and other younger staff will be left inside our border surrounded by North Legion. As for those who will accompany me to the Dwarven city, we do not plan to engage the dragons until winter comes when the worms will be slow. Until then, we plan to negotiate with the Dwarves, exchange ideas, learn from them, and to convince them to fight with us. With our combined effort, we should be able to take the worms, fire-breathing or not.”

Mairon was surprised. How did these Elves know that the winged variety, unlike the wingless ones, were susceptible to cold? It was something his master tried to correct, but the War of Wrath happened before anything could be done.

“Why do you say dragons will be slow in winter? Didn’t Dagor Bragollach occurred during winter?”

“Yes, the Battle of Sudden Flames occurred during a winter evening. It breached the Pass of Aglon and forced my family to flee our home to Nargothrond,” Celebrimbor said, his face grave and his eyes dark. “But the dragons of that time were different from what we expect to face at the Dwarven ruins. The winged ones, apparently, are slow during winter. We believe that they have delved into the Dwarven ruin for warmth. We plan to flush them out into the cold to eliminate them. But before we do that, we will spend time working with the Dwarves. By the time you and the cadets come up North, any dangerous ones will be—”

“Cadets will be up North?”

Celebrimbor laughed. “Ah, I forgot. You have not been informed yet. Yes. Instead of doing your field training at Grey Havens, Lord Gilmagor plans to take the cadets up North after Harvest Festival.” Then, Celebrimbor looked down at Mairon with amusement in his eyes.

“I see you are thrilled. You think you can protect Rodwen and fight the beasts all on your own, do you not, young one?” He laughed out loud.

You have no idea. But Mairon hid his smile. If he was going to be up North, it changed everything. Thrilled was putting it mildly.

“It is good to be young. You always feel invincible when you are young.” Celebrimbor smiled again. “Now that we got that out of the way, there is a reason I wanted to talk to you. You are talented, and there is no reason for you to continue as a soldier for too many years once your duty as part of the noble class is satisfied. When you graduate the officer program, if you want to, I would like to recruit you into the city guards. I have the command of the city guards and can choose some as my personal guards among them. I wanted to know if it was something you were inclined to accept.”

“I would be more than honored, my lord.” Mairon bowed low. Things were going better than he could ever hope.

“Good. I am glad,” Celebrimbor said and beamed Mairon a smile before he said his farewell and disappeared among the crowd.

Mairon looked up at the star-strewn sky. Somewhere Melkor was watching over him. Oh, the things he could do. Within the White City, he did not dare leave his body for fear of detection. But up in the North, with the limited Elves about and danger all around, Mairon will have more freedom.

The Maia clasped his hands together in glee and looked about him when someone slapped his shoulder.

“Have you gotten your healer to say yes?” Cellon grinned widely. “I don’t think I have seen you this happy since the first time Lassiel said hello to you. “Or, are you that eager for the king’s wine?”

Just as he said so, several servants carried down barrels of wine down the stairs and sat them down on a long row of tables set up against the stone wall supporting a terrace above. Behind the last one of them, followed a figure dressed in a pale silver dress robe, cut in the somewhat older style and not quite fitting. Despite that, the Elf was breathtaking with flowing hair that glowed like streams of melted silver in the starlight. Behind him followed another ravishing creature with hair dark as midnight. She was a beauty even among the Elves although she wasn’t as beautiful as his Rodwen.

“Is that Lady Lalaithwen next to our friend there?” Cellon said next to Mairon before he raised his hand above the crowd. “Oropherion! Here!”

Thranduil looked up, but he walked down the rest of the stone steps with hardly a hint of recognition, holding his head high as if he was a king and all the people around him were his subjects. It amused Mairon to no end that this Sinda acted as if he had the most when he had the least.

“Well, you cleaned up nice, Oropherion. Clothes do make an Elf, does it not?” Cellon slapped Mairon’s arm, flicking his head towards the Sinda, smile full bright on his face. “Why are you down here with us when you could have the best of the king’s wine?” Cellon said to Thranduil.

The blond Sinda did not reply, but moved onto one of the wine barrels and picking up a goblet filled it with wine. Cellon turned to the Elven maid.

“Well, well, Lady Lalaithwen. Am I to believe that you have chosen him this year?” Cellon pointed to Thranduil who had a lace band around his upper arm. “If you were anyone else, I would have been surprised, but then you are you,” Cellon said. “But that also means poor Elrond is hounded by the ladies. Who caught him this year?”

The Elven woman laughed, a tinkering laughter bright and ringing. Whoever named her knew what she was about.

“Fumella,” Lalaithwen said, then laughed again.

Cellon’s merry face looked shocked. “What? Poor Elrond. How could you, lady, leave him to such a fate. Do you know what Erfaron will do to him?”

“I am sure Elrond can handle himself,” said Lalaithwen when Thranduil returned to them with two goblets of wine, one on each of his hand.

“Cellon, if you are getting wine, get it from that barrel,” Thranduil gestured toward the last barrel closest to them which looked rather dirty and grim compared to other barrels lined up on the table. Most of the people who have come to get their goblets filled were lining up behind other barrels, avoiding the dirty one.

“What’s so special about that barrel?” Cellon asked. “It looks dirty.” He grimaced.

“When did you judge something by its appearance?” Thranduil said. “Never mind then. Do as you wish,” the Sinda said and turned away.

“Don’t be so dry, Thranduil. Let’s taste how good it is,” Cellon said and snatched one of the two goblets in Thranduil’s hand.

“Hey! Get your own,” Thranduil said with a frown.

Lalaithwen touched the other goblet in Thranduil’s hand.

“Isn’t this for me, Thranduil?” She looked up at the blond Sinda with perfect poise. Thranduil frowned down at her. Mairon saw irritation in Thranduil’s eyes, but instead of the expected barb, the Sinda sighed and relinquished the goblet to her. Without a word, he turned back to the dirty barrel to get another goblet of wine.

Cellon and Lalaithwen looked at each other then laughed out loud.

“Oh ho!” Cellon’s face brightened when he took a sip from the goblet in his hand.  “You must taste this,” he handed Mairon the goblet. “This is the best I have ever tasted. I am going to get myself and my wife one,” Cellon said and excused himself. Lalaithwen followed after Thranduil.

Mairon frowned. This wasn’t good. If Thranduil was to fall within his grasp, the Sinda must suffer, and he must hate. Thranduil must not be allowed to assimilate into the life at the White City, and he must not be allowed to make friends. Well, except love. Mairon looked at Lalaithwen. He thought back to Golim and Eilinel. Yes. Love had its uses.

_________

Baking—By baking, I mean baking of lembas which were made only by women, Yavannildi, who tended the special corn with which the bread was made. It was a custom among the Elves that only Elven Queen kept and distributed the lembas. Melian, the queen of Doriath, held this recipe from Yavanna, a Vala. Galadriel learned the recipe from Melian.

Dagor Bragollach (Sindarin, Battle of Sudden Flames)—Fourth battle of the War of Jewels at Beleriand (FA 455). Morgoth broke the 400 year siege of Angband by sending out rivers of flames that destroyed the highlands of Dorthonion. Morgoth used Dragons for the first time in this war. Finrod (Galadriel’s eldest brother) would have been killed, but Barahir rescued him, earning him a promise which later led Firod to risk his life (and get killed) to help Barahir’s son, Beren. This was also the war which led Fingolfin (Gil-galad’s grandfather) to challenge Morgoth to a single combat which led to his death.

Pass of Aglon—A pass between Dorthonion and the west of Himring in the northeast of Beleriand. Celegorm and Curufin (Celebrimbor’s father), two sons of Feanor, fortified this area until the Battle of Sudden Flames breached it and forced Celegorm and Curufin to flee to Nargothrond where Finrod was a king.

Lalaithwen (Sindarin, Laughing Maiden, or Maiden of Laughter)

Golim and Eilinel—Golim was one of the twelve men who survived the Battle of Sudden Flames and Eilinel was Golim’s wife. He was a warrior under Barahir, heir of House Bëor and father of Beren (Luthien’s husband). After the war, he joined his lord, Barahir, and became an outlaw and hid from Morgoth for seveal years. But Sauron’s spies found that Golim came often to his old house to look for his wife. Sauron used this to lure Golim, captured him and by promising to reunite him with his wife, obtained the location of Barahir’s hideout. Barahir and all his warriors were killed except for Beren who was away at the time of the attack. Sauron promptly killed Golim after obtaining the information to “reunite” Golim with Eilinel who was already dead.

 

Chapter Text

King's Tower, September 6, Second Age 144

GIL-GALAD embraced Lord Cirdan warmly. Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn have already said their farewells and were talking to others.

"I wish you didn't need to leave so soon," said Gil-galad, taking in a whiff of sea breeze on Lord Cirdan.

"Celeborn and Lady Galadriel will be here with you until the Harvest Festival is over. And, I am sure the work of ruling will keep you busy enough," laughed Cirdan, his warm laughter like ocean waves dappled in sunlight. "My people would not rest until they have paid their respect to Lord Ulu. And there are much to do before winter arrives."

"Yes, I am aware of that. It is the only reason I am letting you go," said Gil-galad with a smile. "You must promise me to visit often."

"Will do, my boy. Will do."

Lord Cirdan patted Gil-galad's shoulder. The elderly Sinda was the only one who still treated Gil-galad as he had always done. And somehow it comforted the king.

Gil-galad looked about, hoping for the last glimpse. It had been almost a century since he saw her last. He didn't know when he could see her again.

"She will be following in the rear, riding with Captain Aron and my people."

Gil-galad felt his cheeks sear. Even after years he spent learning to hide his feelings, somethings he could not hide. But then, this was Lord Cirdan.

"Ereinion, sometimes we think we are doing what is right for others, but no one can know what is right for them except themselves."

Gil-galad swallowed hard but looked away. He found that Lord Cirdan looked deeper than the most.

"Do not burden yourself needlessly, my boy. You have enough on your shoulders as is. Take care of yourself." Lord Cirdan squeezed Gil-galad's shoulder before turning to mount his horse.

Lord Cirdan saw further, but the elder lord did not know the things Gil-galad knew.

After Lord Cirdan's escort moved out of the courtyard, Gil-galad bounded up the stairs, waving away the servants. He had a morning meeting coming up, but for few minutes, he wanted to be alone.

Just as he hastened past a long open corridor that led to stairs leading to the royal quarters, Gil-galad stopped. Among the many green granite columns, he glimpsed strands of white hair flitting in the wind. Part of him told himself to move on and not stop, but his body moved as if he had no control over it.

Silwen was leaning against the stone balustrade, her pale hair dancing with the wind. She was a vision of wind and waves, a flutter of cloud on an ocean.

Gil-galad's heart hammered. He could barely speak, his throat tightened and parched. But he found himself standing next to her.

She looked up, startled like a rabbit in a forest.

"My lord?"

"Lady Silwen." Gil-galad inclined his head and took a quick glance at her. She had lowered her head, and he could not see her eyes.

"How do you fare, Lady?"

"Well enough," she said softly, her head still downward. "How do you fare, my lord?"

"Well enough," Gil-galad replied and placed his hand next to hers on the stone balcony.

The morning sun tinted the white stones of the palace warm gold. The green granite columns took on a golden hue, and warm silence surrounded them both, the autumn sun brilliantly rising.

Her hands were on the top of the stone railing. Such lovely hands, things of clouds and wind like her, yet made of steel and heart, the same hands that had mended his hurts and wiped his tears. The hands that held and warmed his cold ones. He wanted to hold her hands again, pull her into his arms and kiss her again, but he did not dare. He did not trust himself.

Her hand was so close; he only needed to stretch his finger, and he would touch her. But she seemed like she was of another world. So close yet so far. Gil-galad glanced at her hands as the voice that tempted whenever he lay down to sleep, whispered again.

Take her hand, fool. One century. One decade. Even one day. Is it not better to have shared a moment with her than not at all?

But the image of his mother, pale and fading, would not let him go. Yes, it would be good for him, but would it be right for her?

"Silwen," he called, the name he had not spoken in almost a century.

"My lord?"

She looked up, her pale silver eyes searching his face, her emotions carefully guarded. Gil-galad's heart ached knowing he had changed her. Once, she had been carefree as the winds of the ocean.

"Lady Silwen! Lady Silwen!"

Gil-galad turned and saw Paddirwen, Silwen's handmaid, running down the corridor toward them.

"Paddi, slow down," Silwen moved swiftly with an elegance lacking in the other Sindarin maid. When she saw Gil-galad, Paddirwen tried to stop but flopped her arms as her feet stepped onto the hem of her dress. Before Silwen or he can get to her, however, the maid fell over, her face flat on the stone floor.

"Oh, Paddi. Are you hurt?" Silwen tried to lift the woman up.

Gil-galad shook his head, unable to prevent his lips curling up. The young woman was the most skilled of hand among the Lord Cirdan's household. She wove and made the most beautiful fabrics and garments, but unlike most of the Elves who were graced with the elegance of movement, Paddirwen lacked grace with her feet. Apparently, all the grace Eru gave her were taken from her other parts and given all to her hands.

He moved over and lifted the Sindarin maid from the floor as he had done many times once he had grown big enough to do so.

"Oh! your majesty!" Paddirwen squeaked, her hands grabbing her nose. "Hello," she said, her smile wide and brightening her sea-gray eyes.

"Hello, Paddi. Good to see you again,' Gil-galad smiled back, realizing how much he missed the people with whom he grew up, especially Paddirwen who had watched over him and Silwen when they were children. While Lord Cirdan's household had been in Lindon for three months, his duties and obligations had been such that he could not make time to see any of them.

"You still remember me," the maid's eyes filled with moisture.

"Of course, I remember you, Paddirwen Haradoriel. Do not think I forgot you or others because I have left Grey Haven."

Paddirwen grabbed Gil-galad's face and squeezed before Gil-galad could step back.

"Oh, Lady Silwen was right. You did not forget us. We still love you, too. You will always be our Little Ereinion."

"Paddi," Silwen gently pulled the maid's hands away from the king's face.

"Oh! Oh!" the maid took her hands away, her face red and her eyes wide.

"I am glad you still think of me as your Little Erenion," Gil-galad gave her a reassuring smile.

"There you all are!"

It was then that Captain Aron walked over, his steps hurried.

"Your majesty," the captain gave a formal military greeting.

"Captain," Gil-galad nodded, tamping down an irritation. He didn't know why he felt it. He didn't have any animosity toward Lord Cirdan's grandnephew, but since the Midsummer's Eve dinner, the Sindarin captain grated on his nerves.

"Excuse me, sire," he said, "I am here to escort Lady Silwen." The captain smiled warmly then turned to Silwen. "My lady, my warriors have already left the King's Tower. They wait for us at the city gate."

"Please excuse me, your majesty," Silwen said and bowed, taking the captain's offered hand.

"Of course," Gil-galad said and stepped aside to let her pass. He fisted his hands hiding them behind his back.

"Please come and visit us," Paddirwen said before following Silwen and the captain down the corridor.

When they turned a corner, Gil-galad ran up the stairs to the royal chambers. From his rooms, he had a clear view of all the sides of the King's Palace. At the balcony that faced the courtyard leading to the main gate, he saw the Sindarin captain helping Silwen onto her horse. Just as the captain and Paddirwen's horse moved ahead, Silwen stopped. For a moment, Gil-galad thought she would turn around and look up at him. But she stood there, on top of her horse, unmoving.

Gil-galad's heart hammered. If he ran down now, maybe he could…but the captain turned around and came back for her. Soon, she was gone, out of Gil-galad's line of sight. Gil-galad decided he didn't like the captain. Not at all.

The king walked toward his desk and grabbed the elaborately carved box gilded in gold. He needed to remind himself why he made the decision he did. He took out the key he held around his neck and tried to fit the key into the keyhole. After trying few times, he dropped the key and the box. He leaned into the desk as his chest heaved. He was drowning and unable to breathe.

Why does it hurt so much?

Warm drops fell onto the desk. For the last century, he had been busy structuring the new kingdom. The governing of the people and building of the city had taken most of his time and freed his mind of the thoughts of her. He thought he could bear the separation. But seeing her again, a burning knife stabbed at his heart.

So weak. Why am I so weak? It was my decision. I chose this.

He flung the golden box. It crashed against the wall and fell onto the granite floor. Despite the violence with which he threw it, the box remained unscathed. It will not break, nor will it burn. It was made with an enchantment to hold secrets.

Taking a quick breath, he furiously swiped away the moisture from his eyes. When he first made the choice, he knew the decision would hurt, but he had not known how deep it would cut him.

He looked around the sumptuously furnished room, with the white marble columns and story-tall windows arched and decorated with white wood. This was meant to be a home for both of them. He dreamed of raising children here with Silwen, children they would hold onto and never send away. Now, it was a prison, a gilded cage for the lone bird in chains of duty and obligation.

Gil-galad leaned into his hand.

A knock at his door made him look up. Gil-galad let out a long breath and schooled his features. He was taught better than this. He was the king. Taking a seat behind his desk, he cleared his throat.

"Come!"

A servant appeared.

"Your Majesty, Lord Commander is here."

"Bid him enter," Gil-galad said and stood up as Lord Gilmagor entered.

"I have a word from Celebrimbor. I thought you would want to know," Gilmagor said as he entered the king's chamber and thrust a crumpled paper in his hand.

"How is my cousin doing up North?" Gil-galad asked.

"He is talking with the Dwarves. Apparently, once Celebrimbor set up his furnace and had his smiths to work them, Dwarves took notice. As Celebrimbor planned, the sounds of their hammers have drawn them."

"Celebrimbor had worked with Dwarves before. He knew what he was doing."

"There's more. Celebrimbor thinks he could convince them to not only allow him and his warriors down in the ruins but provide guides as well."

Gil-galad opened his eyes wide. "That is excellent news! I have not thought it will go so smoothly or so quickly."

"Celebrimbor is persuasive if nothing else," said Gilmagor. "That is why I am here. We will have to send Thranduil and Elrond up earlier than we planned."

"But the Harvest Festival is not for another two weeks. Aren't the cadets involved in the festival? Besides, Lord Istuion and Captain Aron left with Lord Cirdan just now. They wouldn't be back until after the festival. And, that Green Elf we found among the recruits was sent up north just a few days ago."

While training the recruits, Elrond had found that one of the three Green Elves came from north beyond the boundary of Lindon. Elrond had brought the information to Gilmagor. Farion, the young Green Elf was brought to the king. But he had been as stubborn as his people. But after Thranduil was informed of the situation, both Elrond and Thranduil convinced the young Elf to return home to talk with the elders in his village. Even if Farion was unsuccessful, they thought Farion could introduce Elrond and Thranduil, easing them into a position to convince the people in the village.

"Celebrimbor thought it best to relocate the villagers before they flush out the dragons now that we need not fear war with the Dwarves. Even if the cold will affect their ability to fly, it may not lessen the potency of their fires. Even with the North Legion there, there could be casualties."

Gil-galad nodded. If they did not have a need for an excuse to send in their North Legion, then the faster they moved the villagers, better it was for all of them.

"But Lord Istuion and Captain Aron."

"Elrond and Thranduil would have to do without them. They are young but capable. I think they can manage. In any event, I will escort them my self with four other cadets. The rest could follow later as scheduled."

"Four other cadets? The Green Elves will not allow Noldor into their village. Are the cadets Sindar?"

"No, they are the two I have in mind to train myself. I want to test them, but to disperse any presumptions on the part of the cadets, I have decided to take their warrior companions with me as well.

Gil-galad felt sudden heat rise to his head as he realized what Lord Gilamgor was saying.

"Master, am I to believe that you will not choose either Elrond or Thranduil as your pupil?"

Gilmagor nodded.

"If I may ask, why? What is wrong with Elrond that you will not train him? Does my sight deceive me? Because to my eyes, there is none who can defeat Elrond when it comes to swordplay. Cadets may think Belegor is better, but Elrond is the better swordsman in all ways except showmanship."

"He is."

Gil-galad relaxed the muscles that he had tensed.

"Then, you do understand my puzzlement why you wouldn't train him."

"Elrond is a good enough swordman as is. There is nothing more I can teach him."

"I find that hard to believe, master." Gil-galad thought Elrond well skilled, but he had seen his master wield his swords. Even Captain Astalder, masterful as he was, could not compete with Lord Gilmagor.

"You mistake me, Ereinion. Elrond will be one of the finest swordsmen in Middle Earth; I agree. But, he will not be the best."

Gil-galad felt heat consume him. "I believe you underestimate him."

Gilmagor waved his hands in front of him. "Calm yourself, Erenion. I was not talking of Elrond's ability. If we are talking of ability alone, I agree with you wholeheartedly. But it takes more than an ability to reach the top. Natural talent must be combined with heart, determination, and iron will. When they exist in harmony, then you can climb the heights of Taniquetil."

"And you doubt that Elrond possesses those traits?"

Gilmagor smiled. "The ability, determination and will, Elrond has. But his heart is not in it. And that makes all the difference.

"You think Elrond will not make a good warrior?"

"I did not say that, Ereinion. He will make good enough warrior and he doesn't need me for that. His skills were influenced by Maedhros and Maglor. They were two of my brightest students beside Glorfindel and Ecthelion."

"But he has been with them for so few years. Just fourteen years. And the time he learned to wield sword even less."

"If you think so, then it is you, Eirenion, who underestimate Elrond. You forget his Edain blood. Men learn quicker than us. Maybe it is their limited lifespan, but when they burn, they burn brighter."

"And yet, you do not think him worthy of your instruction."

Gilmagor let out a long sigh.

"It is not the matter of worthiness. Elrond makes a better councilor than a warrior. He is level-headed, knowledgeable and wise."

"All the qualities a warrior needs as well." Gil-galad countered.

"But he rules with his heart. He is a better ruler than a general. In fact, Thranduil would make a better general than Elrond.

"What does the Sinda have that Elrond lacks?" Gil-galad shouted, then winced realizing he spoke louder than intended.

"A warrior needs heart, it is true, but in the heat of the battle, when the time is dark and needy, a general must be able to decide quickly, and at times, ruthlessly. There will be times when he must act with calculating accuracy before he can think. Thranduil can. Elrond thinks first with his heart." The Lord Commander moved over to a window. "I am not saying it is a fault. Those two complement each other as two warrior companions should. One for action, the other for thought. It is rare that one person has both qualities. That is the whole idea behind the pairing of the warriors."

"But I don't have a companion. And neither had my forefathers."

"You are the king. You have both the generals and advisers at your command. Besides, all high kings I have served had both qualities, except Feanor maybe."

Gilmagor's eyes clouded as he looked away out the window.

"All I am saying is that Elrond does not need to waste time learning further. He knows enough for his use. Instead, allow him to train as a councilor. He will be happier, and at the council, he will be your staunchest supporter."

"But you know as well as I, master, that our first job is to protect the people. Our word for "guardian" is not synonymous for the word prince and lord for no reason. He must be a surpassing warrior before he can be a councilor. You made sure I was both the king and the warrior. I want the same opportunity for Elrond. There is Lord Finwe's blood in his veins. I want Elrond taught alapentë."

"Alapentë? The Great Strike? You are aware that even among us, only the ones with great power can wield it even if they managed to learn it."

"You taught it to me, and I understand that you also taught it to Celebrimbor."

"Celebrimbor was born in Valinor, under the light of the trees. You were born with the power of the kings in your veins, Kings who were born in Valinor."

"So is Elrond. He has Idril's blood, my uncle's blood. Don't forget he also has a blood of Maia. If anyone can, he can."

Gilmagor frowned and stared at the king. Gil-galad met Gilmagor's intense stare. He gave up his love and freedom to meet the duty and obligation required of him. His wish will not be dismissed. He was the king and he will be obeyed.

"Is this a command?" Gilmagor asked after a moment.

"It is."

Silence flowed between them.

Gilmagor broke the gaze and bowed. "As you wish. You know how much it takes to learn that. If Elrond is willing, then I will teach him. If that is all, Sire, we will be leaving for the north within the week. Any other orders?"

Gil-galad picked up his chin but shook his head.

"Just out of curiosity. Why Thranduil? I thought his skills were average at best."

Gil-galad didn't care whether Thranduil was selected or not; the Sinda was given enough. But the king was curious what Gilmagor had seen in Thranduil. It was obvious to him that his swordmaster wanted to teach Thranduil, yet chose not to.

Gilmagor smiled, surprising the king.

"You haven't seen his skills lately. If you look out to the corner of the Sun Field after the midnight hour, you'll understand. Since the day he had come to Lindon, through rain and storm, he had been practicing alone at night. He has not missed a day. Even without talent, a strong will can sway the favor. And let me assure you, he is not without talent."

"Then, why not teach him? I see that you wish to."

"He does not want to learn from me," Gilmagor said and laughed out loud. Then, his face darkened. "And, there is much darkness in him. Much anger."

Gil-galad felt cold sweep his back at the look in his master. Then it came to him. Did he do the right thing keeping Thranduil in Lindon? The king wondered whether the dark seed that he was warned of referred to the son of Oropher.


Lord Ulu (Sindarin, Lord of Waters) refers to Vala Ulmo. He is a close friend of Manwe, lord of the world. Along with Vala Manwe and Vala Aule, they were the main architects of the world.

Mount Taniquetil is the highest mountain in the world. Located in Valinor, it is where the hall of Manwe and Varda is located.

Guardian—word for a guardian in Quenya is cundo. It also means lord, prince or a leader

Alapentë (Quenya, great strike)—a special technique taught to the most powerful of Noldor which allows the warrior to fight foes much greater than his height. (my invention)

Chapter Text

Star Field.  September 10, Second Age 144

THRANDUIL leaned onto a young tree next to him. After the five-laps run around the entire training fields, the heat of the afternoon sun was stifling. It was even more so as they had been training since the sunrise without a rest or a meal.

All around him, the cadets were on the ground groaning, clustered under the shades thrown by the few trees outlining this corner of the Star Field. He, too, was tired, but not overly so. He was the only one standing. Even Elrond who was usually in perfect form sat slumped, leaning against a tree trunk. Other cadets were on their backs.

All those punishments had their uses, I guess.

Even after his disciplinary runs around the training fields ended, Thranduil had continued to run before sunrise every morning. It helped him clear his mind.   

With a wry smile, Thranduil stretched to relax his muscles. He was glad that the cadets left him alone under the scant strip of shade thrown by the young tree.

It didn’t last, however.

“Move over,” Cellon gasped as he practically crawled over next to Thranduil.

“Go somewhere else,” Thranduil said, unwilling to relinquish the shade.

“Have some pity, you cold bastard,” Cellon said as he sprawled on the ground on top of Thranduil’s feet. “I am too tired. Too, too tired to move anywhere else.” Cellon’s breath was rough as the sea in storm, his chest, angry waves. “You’ll have to hurl me from this spot to make me move.”

Not too tired to prattle. Thranduil almost said it aloud, but instead, he pulled out his feet and moved out of the shade.

Officer Bellion walked over to them. Despite following everything the cadets did, the Noldorin officer seemed unaffected.

Thranduil straightened along with Elrond who managed to get up despite the exertion evident on his face. Other cadets tried, but barely.

“At ease. You are dismissed for the overdue meal. Line up here in two hours. We will talk about the upcoming field training.”

Everyone plopped back onto the ground when the officer left.

Thranduil looked down at Cellon who sat leaning on the tree.

“Why don’t you come and sit with me,” Cellon tapped on the ground next to him.

“I rather not,” Thranduil said and turned when his foot was pulled under him. It was only his reflex that prevented him from crashing onto his face.

“Do that again, and you wouldn’t be attending the field training,” Thranduil growled at Cellon who had yanked his foot.

Cellon waved his hands in front of him, his eyes wide, his laugh nervous. Among all the cadets besides Elrond, Cellon was the only one who still approached Thranduil freely. These days, few challenged or approached Thranduil, especially after they realized that Thranduil did not make idle threats.

“I advise you to think with your heart if it exists somewhere inside you. You hurt me, and you not only lose the only friend you have among the cadets besides Elrond, but you'll also have to answer to my Ithiliel. And, if you did not know, my Ithiliel and Lalaithwen are the best of friends.”

“And? Is that supposed to deter me?”

Ithiliel was Cellon’s wife. Cellon had dragged Thranduil on more than one occasion to his home during their rest day. His wife, a willowy Noldorin woman with laughing eyes, could outtalk her husband any day. Thranduil had never met anyone who talked and laughed as much as these two. When Thranduil returned home, mostly tipsy as the couple drank as much as they talked, he couldn’t get the buzz of their voices out of his ears for a day or two.

Thranduil sighed but sat down next to the talkative cadet. Cellon inched over and tried to put his arm around Thranduil’s shoulder, earning a glare. Cellon rolled his eyes but dropped his arm.

“Are you sure you are a Sinda, you frigid Orc? All the other Sindar I know are warm and friendly.”

“Then, go be friends with them.”

“I am friends with them.” Cellon laughed, his amber eyes lighting up. “You are coming tonight, yes? Tomorrow is a rest day. You have nothing to do except to pack for the travel. If you didn’t know, Lalaithwen is coming,” Cellon said and wriggled his eyebrows as if that would tempt Thranduil. “And I made sure Belegor isn’t invited.” Cellon’s eyes shone like a jewel.

“Unfortunate. Less reason for me to be there.”

“Oh, come, come, you cold bastard. Who will feed you the tree mushrooms you like so much, hmmm? Or that potent wine you love? You and Elrond are leaving in two days. The ladies wouldn’t get to see you until Spring, and even I wouldn’t see you until the new moon.”

“Praise Valar!”

“You are going to miss me until the rest of the cadets arrive at the north marches,” Cellon promised. Then, he gave Thranduil a sly look. “Don’t you want to give Lalaithwen a goodbye kiss? Six months may not mean much, but a maid as beautiful as Lalaithwen, there are many suitors. And she is adventurous.”

“She is of no interest to me.”

Cellon narrowed his eyes.

“I cannot imagine you pretending affection for a lady when there was none. You danced with her all evening during midsummer, and her laughter rang through the night. She sent you bread she baked.”

“She laughed of her own accord. And I danced with her because I was her partner and was obligated. Even then, it was for Belegor’s sake.”

Cellon frowned.

“That does not seem fair to Lalaithwen. Belegor is an ass, but his actions are his own. I know that I am not easy on Belegor either, but he is not as bad as you think. It is important to him to be the best.”

“Who isn’t?”

“Have some understanding heart, you demon. He tries harder than others because he wants to surpass his brother and make his father proud.”

“Brother?”

“Aye. Belegor had an older brother. A brilliant warrior who died defending Lord Fingon, I believe. He grew up listening to how great his brother was. I don’t know the whole story, but I heard that Lord Lammaeg and his wife had Lalaithwen and Belegor to fill the void left by the loss of their only son. Belegor tries hard to fill that void.”

“For someone who cares not for Beleg, you seem to know much.”

Cellon laughed. “Did you not know? Erfaron is my brother-in-law. He is one of the close friends of Belegor. And I have nothing against Belegor if he would just leave my friends alone. He likes to boast, and I like to put him in his place,” Cellon laughed again, then sobered. “Still, it is Orc of you to use Lalaithwen. If she finds out that you were taking advantage of her to get at her brother…”

“She thought I was funny.”

“You told her?” Cellon looked outraged.

“I did.”

“Ai! You are an idiot. No wonder you are wifeless at your age. Why am I surrounded by idiots?” Cellon shook his head. “My other friend is too afraid and you too bold. Ai! Ai! I fear for Lassiel, indeed.

“Lassiel?” Thranduil frowned. “The healer?”

“Yes, yes. The healer. My friend has been in love with her for as long as I can remember. He was supposed to ask for her hand after getting into the cadet program, but he is stalling. Idiot! Both of you!”

“Which friend?”

Cellon had many friends. As far as Thranduil saw, the Noldo considered anyone who can walk and talk his friend.

Cellon narrowed his eyes and stood up.

“You are not interested in her, are you? My friend is about to ask her. Soon, I believe.”

“Which cadet?”

“I am not going to tell you. He won’t like it that I have even talked of it. But he had his heart set on her for years. He went through a tough ordeal a year ago while hunting up north. Besides losing mobility for few months, the ordeal left some wounds in him. He changed after the incident, but I am sure he will be himself soon.”

“Lassiel does not need anyone with wounds,” Thranduil said, realizing too late that he said too much.

“What is this? What do you know of Lassiel” Cellon pulled up his eyebrows up to his hairline.

Thranduil turned away. “Nothing. I know nothing of her.”

Cellon shook his head. “Do not talk of those you do not know.” He gestured toward Thranduil. “Come, let’s go and have some meal. I could eat a whole deer!”

Thranduil grimaced. “What are you, a Dwarf? You go ahead. I want to rest first.”

“You will do as you wish no matter what I say,” Cellon threw his hands, then left Thranduil.

Relishing the silence, Thranduil leaned back onto the tree trunk, letting the soft music of the tree embrace him.

So much loss. Sometimes, Thranduil forgot that Noldor had lost much during the past age. Thranduil remembered back to the tear-stained face of the healer. She had lost her brother, too. Apparently, Belegor did as well. Thranduil did not like the Noldo and Belegor’s father even less, but they, too, have lost their loved ones. Thranduil’s heart clenched. Maybe his mother was right; they were all the same. Maybe the grief had changed them, too.

Still, they are Noldor.

“These people here in Lindon are not the same Noldor who attacked us at Menegroth and Sirion… Do you understand, Thranduil? Do not lump all Noldor together as one.”

Lord Istuion’s words echoed in Thranduil’s mind. Although he hated to admit it, Thranduil knew there were good people here: Elrond, Captain Astalder, Cellon and his family, even the officers who trained them. They were stern but fair, except Gilmagor maybe.

Thranduil sighed as he leaned his head back to rest it on the trunk of the tree. He wished it was easy to just forget. To forget, maybe to forgive and perhaps to be forgiven. But every night, the images of his brother, his neck spewing blood as the Noldorin sword sliced through it, filled his eyes; the screams of the queen and the wailings of the twins filled his ears; and, the thick smoke of Queen Melian’s tapestries burning filled his lungs.

Thranduil grabbed at his left chest as it clenched tightly.

How could I forget? How could I forgive or be forgiven?  

He had given up being forgiven. But could he really forget those terrible sounds and sights that hounded him every night?

“When you let go of the winter, spring will come. I promise you, my son. But first, you must want it.”  His mother’s words swelled up from the depth of his memory.

Thranduil closed his eyes tightly and grabbed at the necklace he wore. The image of his mother falling, her golden hair bright under the sunlight as she fell like an Autumn leaf, her blood staining her gray garment red.

Forgive them? How? They killed her, his gentle mother who, even after she lost her first-born son to a Noldorin blade, had admonished Thranduil for saying he hated the Noldor.

“Hate is a poison in your drinking well, Arantaur,” his mother had said. “It harms not only you; it harms those who love you and those you love. It is a worse thing than a guilt. Let it go, my son. Hate only breeds hate.”

Carefully, Thranduil took off the necklace and peeled off the thin leather strip and smiled at what lay underneath. It was a row of seven white gems on a mithril chain. He fingered the bright white gems of uncommon brilliance that sparkled like stars under the dapple of sunlight. It was a prominent part of an elaborate necklace once, but all were gone now to feed, clothes and arm his father’s followers. These seven gems were all that was left of his mother’s legacy.

The bright white light of the jewels calmed his turbulent heart as if his mother was with him. In it, Thranduil felt his mother’s presence, her gentle touch, and her quiet love.

Mother, give me the strength to forget.

Somewhere in his heart, he felt his mother smile, a patient, loving, but also waiting. Thranduil sighed and smiled.

And, maybe to forgive. Maybe.

He did not dare ask for forgiveness, but the light of the gems twinkled and brightened his heart.

“What’s this!”

Someone snatched the necklace right out of Thranduil’s hand.

Thranduil shot up. Belegor pulled back, out of Thranduil’s reach, the white necklace gleaming in his hand.

“Belegor! Don’t do this,” Thranduil said as his heart began to beat, faster and faster as the heat wrapped around him. Thranduil held onto the feeling of the light the necklace had given him just a moment ago, but seeing his mother’s necklace in the hands of one of the Noldor burned him.

“Give it back, and I will let you walk away. Belegor!” Thranduil took in a long breath to keep himself in control. “Please.”

Thranduil wanted to hold onto the light, but it was fading fast.

“These are no ordinary gems. You ignorant lot cannot make gems like these. Where did you get it, Dark Elf?” Belegor asked, frowning down at the sparkling rows of gems in the chain.

The darkness nipped at the back of Thranduil’s neck. He could feel himself losing control.

“Just give it back to me,” Thranduil said, struggling to sound level. He thrust his empty palm forward. His heart hammered faster.

Belegor frowned and stepped back again. “Where did you get it? It can’t be yours.”

“Return. It. Now.” Thranduil ground his teeth as he fisted his hands.

But, Belegor stepped back further and put his hands behind him.

As soon as the light of the necklace vanished behind Belegor, whatever force that checked Thranduil disappeared.  

Thranduil growled and pounced.

But, Belegor sidestepped and blocked Thranduil’s hand reaching for the necklace. In one smooth motion, Belegor bent to one side, then swung a punch, knocking out Thranduil’s breath.  

Thranduil grabbed his face where pain bloomed. He looked at his hand and saw blood.

Boiling anger sizzled through Thranduil’s veins and took from him the last bit of control. Thranduil let out a feral growl and flew at Belegor.

Thranduil grabbed Belegor’s neck and hurled him down onto his back. In a blink, Thanduil sat astride Belegor and pummeled the Noldo and let him have it all.

“You just couldn’t leave me alone! Could you? You piece of crap!” Thranduil spat with each strike.

Something whipped through the air. Thranduil’s back exploded into sharp pain, stopping Thranduil.

“Get off him this instant!”

A sharp command brought Thranduil his reason and sanity. Breathing like angry beast Thranduil glared up at Gilmagor who stood above him with a sheathed sword in his hand ready to strike again. There was a ring of cadets all around him and Belegor.

It was then that the young Sinda realized that his fists were bloody with bright red blood. He looked down at Belegor who lay under him, groaning. Belegor’s face was a bloody mess.

Frowning, Thranduil got up and moved away from Belegor. As much as he disliked Belegor, he had not meant to go this far. Thranduil tried to calm the wildly beating heart and the heat that had taken hold of his body.

“He stole a necklace!”

Belegor sat up when Thranduil moved away. The young Noldo wrapped his bleeding face with one hand and pointed the other at Thranduil, still clutching the necklace.

“It belongs to me!” Thranduil said through clenched teeth.

The calm that he tried to hold onto vanished the instant Thranduil saw the necklace in Belegor’s bloody hand. Thranduil went for the jewelry, but a sharp pain behind his knees made him tumble onto the ground with a groan.

The pain was blinding, but Thranduil clenched his teeth and swallowed another groan.

“Lord Gilmagor, please! There is no need to hurt him,” Elrond stepped forward from among those gathered. He helped Belegor up. Then, he stretched out his hand toward Thranduil. Thranduil slapped it away.

“I will not tolerate the uncivilized behavior in my cadets. You will behave like an intelligent, educated Elf or I will treat you like witless, wild Orc if you insist on acting like one. Do I make myself clear, Thranduil Oropherion?”

Thranduil glared up at the sword master, rubbing the back of his legs. There were thousands of things he wanted to say, but he pursed his lips and bit his tongue.

“Well?” the sword master’s word was like a whip.

Thranduil nodded once, then turned away. He had not wanted this, but he couldn’t stand seeing the necklace covered in Noldorin blood. But Thranduil knew any further outburst from him would cost him dearly.

“And, you, Belegor,” the sword master looked at Belegor. “You are not to accuse someone of a crime without proof.”

“But, I have proof. Look for yourself, my lord. This is a jewel from Valinor.” Belegor who has scrambled up opened his palm.

Gilmagor thrust his hand toward Belegor, and the young Noldo handed the necklace to the sword master.

Gilmagor took the gems and wiping off the blood, examined it. As he turned the gems over his hands, his face paled.

“Where did you get this, Oropherion?”

Thranduil lifted his chin and looked back at the sword master.

“It is mine. That is all you need to know,” Thranduil said.

Frowning dark gray eyes met and held his eyes, but Thranduil glared back at Lord Gilmagor. The keen light in them had ceased to affect him for some time now.

“Lieutenant Gwendir!” Lord Gilmagor called, his eyes still on Thranduil. “Brief the cadets on our upcoming field training. I will take Thranduil and Belegor with me.” Then, he turned to Elrond who stood aside. “You come, too.”

Soon, four of them were in front of the king. After being advised by Lord Commander, Gil-galad dismissed all others except for the four involved Elves and Lord Lammaeg who insisted he had a right to be there as the father of Belegor if not as the chief councilor to the king.

After Elrond was asked to relay what happened to the king and the chief councilor, the necklace was handed over to them to look over.

“It certainly is not something from this land,” said Lammaeg. “Even from Valinor, this quality of stones is rare. But it is not only the quality of the stones. I have never held stones of this shape although they look familiar to me.”

“I have seen this necklace, my lord,” Gilmagor said. “This is a portion of a larger, more elaborate piece. The seven tear-drop diamonds that used to hang on the front of a larger piece. They are the only ones of its kind I have seen.”

Lammaeg’s face darkened.

“Yes. I remember now. Lady Elenwe wore them,” the councilor said. “A wedding gift from her lady mother or was it the queen?”

“And, at Gondolin, I have seen it worn by her daughter Idril,” Gilmagor said. 

Lammaeg turned dark eyes to Thranduil. The young Sinda glared back at the councilor, holding his chin higher. 

“You arrogant dark elf, there is no way this could belong to you,” Lammaeg growled.

“Watch your language, Lord Lammaeg!” Gil-galad frowned at his chief councilor.

“Thranduil is not a dark elf, Lord Lammaeg. He is a Sinda from Doriath!” Elrond said, frowning at the councilor.

“Sinda or not, no real Elf would do anything violent as to hit another Elf bloody!” Lammaeg said pointing to Belegor’s bloody face.

“Are you sure of that, Lord Lammaeg? I know of Noldor who have done much worse,” scoffed Thranduil as he watched everyone gathered turned red at his words.

“You are out of line, Oropherion,” Gilmagor warned, his eyes hard, his words like ice.

“You all have already decided I am guilty. How much worse can it get?” Thranduil challenged.

Gil-galad sighed.

“Thranduil, we are not trying to gain up on you. We are just trying to find out how you came by the jewels. These are no ordinary gems, which I am sure you are aware.”

“Many things were lost during First Age. Mayhap, he found them?” Elrond said quietly. “He couldn’t possibly have stolen them, my lord. That is ridiculous. Thranduil is many things, but he is no thief.”

“I did not ‘find’ them, Peredhel,” Thranduil said through gritted teeth as he turned to Elrond. “It was given to me by my mother.“

“Your mother?” Lammaeg said. “And how did your mother come by it?”

“Maybe his mother stole it,” Belegor said.

What little control Thranduil had snapped as fire erupted from his head and pulled him into the dark, fiery chasm.

“You little Orc shit! How dare you blacken my mother’s name!” roared Thranduil.

Thranduil flew at Belegor. Forgive and forget? Not until he ripped that foul, Noldorin mouth off that Orc with his bare hands!  But before he could grab Belegor, his arms were snatched from him. Thranduil bucked as both Elrond and Gilmagor held firmly to his arms and pulled him away. 

 “Do you not see, my lords? He is violent and unfit. Certainly not an officer material. How do we know he is telling the truth? He grew up near where Lady Idril settled at Sirion. There was an opportunity.” Lammaeg looked at Thranduil with disdain.

“How dare you, you filth!”

Thranduil snarled at Belegor ignoring Lammaeg. He didn’t care that they thought him a liar or a thief.  But, how dare Belegor besmirch his noble mother’s name? Thranduil strained to get at Belegor. He was going to choke the life out of that filth.

“Thranduil, stop this!” Elrond pleaded, clamping his arms harder around Thranduil’s arm and shoulder, trying to hold Thranduil back. “Acting like this will not help you. Please, Thranduil, calm yourself.”

“Yes, Thranduil. Act like an Elf, not an animal,” Belegor said.

Thranduil loosed a mighty roar, shook off Elrond and Gilmagor and lunged at Belegor.

Something whistled in the air, and Thranduil felt a sharp pain on the back of his head before he fell heavily onto the floor, his hands clutching at Belegor who cried out as the Noldo fell backward with Thranduil on top of him.

Chapter Text

Great Hall.  September 10, Second Age 144

GIL-GALAD watched, unsure what to do. Everything had happened at once. Belegor’s shocking accusation hardly registered in Gil-galad’s head when Thranduil lunged at Belegor. Gilmagor and Elrond were thrown back when Gilmagor’s hand moved with lightning speed.

Thranduil fell forward taking Belegor down with him, Sinda’s hands still clutching the front of Belegor’s tunic. Belegor’s cry echoed through the Great Hall as he was thrown down onto his back with Thranduil on top of him.

As soon as the bodies of the two cadets hit the floor, the door to the Great Hall crashed open, and the royal guards burst onto the scene, their weapons drawn.

Gil-galad stood there frozen when his uncle gestured to the guards and pointed to the blond Sinda sprawled on the floor. Elrond helped Belegor up, then hovered over Thranduil, checking over the Sinda. Gilmagor walked to the body on the floor and looked down at Thranduil who remained still like a broken doll on the stone floor.

“Lock him in a cell!” Lammaeg ordered the guards. Two of the four guards who had burst into the hall approached Thranduil.

Gilmagor lifted his face. His gray eyes glinted with a fierce light, a sight terrible to behold.

The guards faltered and stepped back. They turned to Gil-galad, obviously unsure what to do.

 “Your Majesty, we cannot have violent Elves like this Sinda walk around Lindon,” Lammaeg said. “He is mad! Can you not see, Sire? Look what he did to my son? Doesn’t that require punishment? Will you allow a mad Elf to roam among the people outside, train with the cadets who are supposed to be the best of our youth?”

“Your Majesty, if I may.” Gilmagor moved over to Gil-galad. “I haven’t known Thranduil Oropherion for long. But, I can tell you that I have never known Thranduil to lie. He is usually too honest, sometimes brutally so. If he did wrong, he would be the one to tell you so, to your face. He is arrogant like that. I don’t know why this necklace is in his possession, but Thranduil I know is too damn proud to steal.” Gilmagor sighed and continued. “He is impetuous and hot-tempered. It makes him do and say stupid things at times, but he is no liar.”

“Then, tell me, Lord Commander.” Lord Lammaeg who had been examining his son, turned to the sword master. “How did Thranduil came by the necklace? You yourself identified it as something Lady Idril wore at Gondolin. I certainly remember it being worn by Lady Elenwe when she married Lord Turgon.”

Gilmagor pursed his lips, looked away at Thranduil who lay on the floor still unconscious.

“I do not know,” Gilmagor said after a moment of silence. He turned to the king. “If you would, my lord, you should speak to Lord Istuion. If the gems really did belong to his mother, surely Lord Istuion would know. Did you not send a messenger after him the day he left with Lord Cirdan?”

Gil-galad nodded as he let out a sigh and a brief prayer of thanks to the Valar for giving him the foresight to send a messenger after Lord Istuion soon after the news from Celebrimbor. He had thought it prudent to inform Thranduil’s guardian of the change in plan. Lord Istuion had turned his horse around and had returned to the White City, choosing to accompany Thranduil rather than to travel to Gray Havens.

Now, Gil-galad was relieved that it would only be a matter of hours not days to hear from Lord Istuion.

“Yes. That would be a good idea. Please send for him.”

“In the meantime, your majesty. Thranduil should be kept in a cell to cool his head,” Lammaeg said.

Gil-galad nodded.

“Sire!” Elrond protested, his gray eyes fierce with disapproval. “He should be sent to the infirmary to be looked after, not to a cell.”

“He is only knocked unconscious. If anyone needs to go to the infirmary, it is my son. Thranduil will wake shortly, but when he does, will he behave in a civilized manner?”

“Had your son behaved in a more civilized manner, Thranduil may have,” Gilmagor said.

Both the father and the son flushed red at Gilmagor’s words.

Lord Lammaeg’s eyes flashed. “It was Oropher’s son who beat my son bloody, not the other way around, Lord Commander. And it is Thranduil’s guilt that is being questioned, not my son’s. And if it weren't for my son, we wouldn’t have known that this Sinda had one of the royal jewels.”

“Enough!” Gil-galad gestured the guards toward Thranduil.

The best way to end this dispute was to conclude the matter as soon as possible, Gil-galad decided. Keeping Oropher’s son at Lindon was becoming more a hassle than its worth.

“Take him to the cell. Keep him there until he awakes and is calm,” Gil-galad ordered.

The guards nodded, then each picking up Thranduil’s arm dragged him out of the Great Hall.

“Sire! You can’t just have Thranduil put in a cell when we do not know what the story is,” Elrond protested.

“What is there to know? He had something that didn’t belong to him,” Belegor said as he straightened.

“That is enough out of you, Lammaegion.” Gilmagor threw a dagger glance at Belegor who clamped his mouth shut. “You are dismissed. Have your injury examined, then return to the training field.”

Belegor looked toward his father, and thankfully, Lammaeg nodded back in agreement. Gil-galad was glad. The king did not want any more inflammatory comments. It was getting complicated as was.

“Sire, please. Is confinement necessary?” Elrond protested again.

“It is just until I speak with Lord Istuion, Elrond. Mayhap it will do him good to cool down in a cell for a little while. Just until I speak with Lord Istuion.”

Gilmagor frowned mightily at that but seemed resigned to Gil-galad’s judgment for which the king was grateful. Elrond looked on Gil-galad pleadingly, but the king turned away.

The Sinda is unconscious and cannot contribute anything anyway, Gil-galad reasoned, remembering the volcanic heat from Thranduil before he jumped Belegor. Gil-galad had never seen such anger and hatred in an Elf. The king had heard of such anger. His own grandfather had challenged Morgoth out of great wrath. But Gil-galad had never heard of Elf attacking another Elf out of rage and hatred. Even the attacks on the Teleri and the Sindar were out of a desire to recover Silmaril and not out of hatred for other Elves.

It was the right decision for the safety of all, Gil-galad comforted himself.

Lord Lammaeg excused himself to accompany Belegor to the infirmary. As they were about to move away, Gilmagor spoke.

“One more thing Lammaegion.” Gilmagor’s voice was grave but firm. “When you return to the training field, please inform Lieutenant Gwendir that you will be unable to accompany Thranduil and Elrond up north. Tell him to inform the next cadet who will ride in your stead.”

‘’Sir?” Belegor looked lost.

Realizing what his master meant, Gil-galad felt sorry for Beleg. He knew how hard Belegor had worked to be chosen.

“What is this?” Lord Lammaeg asked.

“As you are aware, Councilor, I am taking Thranduil and Elrond up north the day after tomorrow. No matter the outcome of this incident that will not change. The matter with the Green Elves is too important. I had planned to take four other cadets up with me, as a precaution, you understand, as we will be traveling without guards and the speed is necessary. But I see now that Belegor will need time. He can ride with the rest of the cadets.”  Then Gilmagor turned to Belegor. “You are dismissed.”

“Sir!” Belegor saluted and left the Great Hall. But Lord Lammaeg did not follow his son.

Instead, the Chief Councilor glared at Gilmagor. It was obvious to Gil-galad that his uncle understood if Belegor did not. The temperature in the room went down a notch as silence flowed. Elrond looked as lost as Belegor was as he looked at Lord Lammaeg then at the Swordmaster.

“I thought you did not let your personal feelings interfere.”

“I did not. You will know that if you see with reason.”

“I see perfectly fine. Skill, bravery, determination. They are all there. Yet, you will choose the deviant over your own kin?”

“It is more than that.” Gilmagor sighed. “We’ll talk of it later. This is not the time nor the place.”

“Unless you change your mind, I do not see how we can come to an understanding. You are making a mistake, Lord Commander.”

“That is for me to judge.”

Lammaeg’s face didn’t change, but having known his uncle since he was a child, Gil-galad didn’t miss the flicking of the robe sleeve as Lord Lammaeg straightened the lines of it. His uncle was incensed. Gil-galad’s head hammered.

“Well, it certainly is. Please, excuse me, Your Majesty, while I look to my son’s ‘unjust’ injury.” With that, Lord Lammaeg left the hall after his son.

“Is this necessary?” Gil-galad turned to Gilmagor once his uncle disappeared behind the doors.

No matter how often they clashed, ultimately, his master and his uncle were friends who drank together once the heat of their clash at council meetings dissipated. But, Gil-galad had seen how a doting parent could become unreasonable when a matter dealt with their children. His uncle would not take this matter lightly, and the king was sure Gilmagor knew this as well.

“When you know you have made the right decision, you have to take a stand, no matter how difficult it is. I did not decide this lightly.”

It was then that Gil-galad realized that the swordmaster had another cadet ready. Belegor must have been walking a very thin line.

“My lords!” Elrond’s call brought them back to the problem at hand. “Shouldn’t we talk about Thranduil? He is in a cell!”

Gil-galad sighed. Why can’t problems happen one at a time? Gil-galad moaned inwardly. It seemed that when things occurred, they piled on, one after another.
Gil-galad sighed again but turned to Elrond.

“You disagree with my uncle, Elrond?” the king asked.

“I do not know Thranduil enough to make a judgment, my lord. He usually keeps to himself. But, if you ask me only of my own belief, I do not think so.  He is difficult to understand at times. I agree that he is arrogant and proud, but I have never seen him being devious or unfair. As Lord Gilmagor said, Thranduil is more at fault of being brutally honest than the other way around.”

Gil-galad turned to the sword master. “Did you know Thranduil’s mother when you were at Sirion?”

“Alas, no. We never formally met. I don’t even know how she looks like. She always wore a healer’s hood in a way that concealed most of her face. And she kept away from most of us, speaking only to Lady Idril.  And now that I think of it, I do not remember seeing her talk to anyone directly except Lady Idril. But the time being what it was, I did not pay much attention to her. Only thing I can say is that although Oropher never came to visit us, or allowed us to visit him or his people, his lady wife came bringing with her some of Oropher’s people who brought food and supplies to help us settle in Sirion.”

“So is it possible that Idril gave the necklace to Thranduil’s mother in gratitude?”

“Absolutely not.” Gilmagor shook his head. “The gems are not only rare, but it would have had too much emotional significance to Lady Idril for her to have given it away.”

“I don’t understand then what is your thought, Lord Gilmagor. You don’t think Thranduil lied, but you also don’t think the necklace could have belonged to him, then…” Gil-galad stopped.

Gilmagor shook his head again, his face dark and worried. “Let us wait for Lord Istuion. Maybe he could bring some light to this matter,” he said gravely.

“Elrond, do you remember anything of Thranduil’s mother or the necklace?” Gil-galad asked.

Elrond flushed.

“I am afraid, I don’t remember much of my time at Sirion. Lady Idril sailed long before I was born and I remember only my mother’s face. All others are just fragments of images and feelings.”

“You were a mortal at that time and just a child. It is to be expected,” Gil-galad reached out and squeezed Elrond’s arm. He hoped this matter did not bring Elrond any bad memories. The king was sure the memories were not pleasant although Elrond had never talked of it.

It was then that Lord Istuion was announced and ushered into the Great Hall. As the Sindarin lord approached where Gil-galad sat, the chief councilor slipped in behind Lord Istuion.

Istuion bowed respectfully to the king. He was one of only handful of Sindar in Oropher’s service who did not begrudge a show of respect to Gil-galad.

“I apologize for asking you to come on such short notice, Lord Istuion. I have some grave matter that deals with Thranduil.”

Gil-galad didn’t miss Istuion tense visibly. The king wasn’t surprised. The last time the palace had sent for Lord Istuion, it was to attend a council meeting on Thranduil’s behalf where Lord Cael had wanted to banish the blond Sinda for cutting off his son’s hair.

“I wish to ask about Thranduil’s mother,” the king said.

That caught him off guard, the king noted.

“Lady Arinariel? There isn’t much I could inform your majesty. What can I assist you with, Sire?” Istuion said, his voice guarded.

“Hasn’t she been with Lord Oropher for a long time? I thought you knew her well.”

“She was a healer, a very good one. But she kept mostly to herself. Only people who really knew her were Oropher, Lord Arandur, and Queen Melian. Our queen was very fond of her. Especially after Lady Galadriel left Doriath, Lady Arinariel and the queen were inseparable.”

“What do you know about her family?” Lord Lammaeg asked.

Istuion turned to look at the councilor then back at the king.

“May I ask why I am asked these questions about my lord’s lady wife?”

“Please forgive us. But, we are just trying to find the truth. Thranduil was found with this.” The king handed the necklace of gems in his hand to Istuion. “These are gems of uncommon beauty and brilliance. This quality of diamonds is rare even in Valinor I have been told. Have you ever seen it?”

“No, I have not,” Istuion said.

“Thranduil claims it is from his mother.”

Istuion frowned. “If he says it is from his mother, then it is so.”

“But, how did such rare gems from Valinor come into his hands, or hers if what he claims is true,” the councilor said.

Istuion's gentle gray eyes turned to granite as he turned to the councilor.

“Thranduil is not a liar.”

“Then, explain to me how he came by it,” Lammaeg said coolly.

Istuion pursed his lips and took in a big breath. After a moment’s silence, he said gravely. “I cannot.”

Lammaeg’s eyes gleamed, his face bright.

“As you can see, Your Majesty, even Thranduil’s guardian cannot explain.”

“But, Thranduil is not a liar. I have never known him to lie,” Istuion said, his voice tight, his brows furrowed.

“We are not saying that he is a liar, my lord. We are just trying to find how he came by the necklace,” the king said gently. He had no wish to anger Istuion. Although he is a Sinda and a close friend of Oropher, Lord Istuion commanded respect from many Noldor who knew him, besides being Lord Cirdan’s nephew.

“Maybe Lady Arinariel brought it from Valinor,” Istuion suggested.

“His mother is from Valinor?” Lammaeg asked.

“Yes, she came with Lady Galadriel.”

Gilmagor and Lammaeg glanced at each other then frowned.

“What is her relationship with Lady Galadriel?” the councilor asked.

“I do not know,” Istuion said. “Lady Arinariel was a healer under Lady Galadriel’s service, and Lady Galadriel considered her a friend. That is all I know. None of us was told of her family, and none of us asked. Oropher loved her, and that was enough.”

“Was she a Noldo?” Gil-galad frowned. He couldn’t imagine Oropher with a Noldorin wife, but if she came with Lady Galadriel, it was likely.

“I…” Lord Istuion looked hesitant. “I am not sure. As I said, we did not ask.”

“So what do you know?” Lammaeg said, his voice scathing. “And if she was just a healer and nothing more, she could not have afforded such gems as those.”

“I may not know her, but if Thranduil said he received the necklace from his mother, then he received it from his mother,” Istuion said with such conviction, no one doubted that the elder lord believed it.

“Then, maybe it is his mother who stole…”

“Lammaeg!” Gilmagor hissed, stopping Lord Lammaeg from saying further.

“Careful, Lord Lammaeg,” Gil-galad growled with a warning glance to his uncle. He did not want this matter to get out of hand. It was already becoming a bigger matter than he wanted.

Lord Istuion went rigid. His silver eyes glinted like a sheen on a naked blade as he turned them toward the chief councilor.

“If you have ever known Lady Arinariel, you wouldn’t dare even suggest…”

“How would you know? It seems you know nothing of her although she has been with Oropher for centuries,” Lammaeg countered.

“I do not know much about her. It is true. But, if you have ever met her, you’ll know that she was the kindest, noblest and the gentlest lady there ever was.”

“I’ll have you know, Lord Istuion, that this necklace was given to Lady Elenwe at her wedding and was given to her daughter, Lady Idril, who wore it at Gondolin,” said Lammaeg, but Gilmagor stepped forward in front of Lammaeg.

“Please excuse us, Lord Istuion,” Gilmagor said. “We do not want to insinuate anything, but if you can forgive our intrusion, we would like to know if Lady Arinariel knew Lady Idril well, maybe even from Valinor?”

“I do not know,” Istuion flushed. “I did not meet Lady Idril, and I was not in Lady Arinariel’s confidence so I cannot say anything about that.”

Istuion looked about the Great Hall then. “Thranduil may know of this as he sometimes accompanied his mother when our lady went to visit the Noldor. Where is Thranduil? Shouldn’t he be here? We are discussing him, after all.”

“He…he is in a cell,” Elrond said, looking very apologetic.

Lord Istuion’s face which had remained calm throughout the questioning turned pale and cold, reminding Gil-galad of a winter forest.

“Your Majesty! You would imprison Oropher’s son without first determining the truth?”

“He attacked my son!” Councilor Lammaeg said before Gil-galad could reply. “Your violent ward beat my son bloody.”

“If your son behaved anything like you did just now, then I am not surprised. If Thranduil had not, I would have,” Istuion said.

“How dare you!”

“HOW DARE YOU!” roared Istuion surprising everyone in the room. As far as Gil-galad knew him, Istuion was a soft-spoken Elf who rarely raised his voice nor looked upon anyone with a frown.

“Is it not enough that the boy is traumatized by the horrors he witnessed as a child? He lost his mother, brother and grandfather to the swords of Noldor.  Now, you accuse him of thievery and lying?”

Lord Istuion’s eyes were fierce as he scanned the room to rest on Lammaeg.

“And now, you insult his mother.”

The Sindarin lord turned his blazing eyes to the king.

“Despite my misgivings, I have done what you asked of me. You asked me to convince Lord Oropher to let his son stay here so that he can become a bridge to our two kin sundered by the horrors committed by Feanor’s sons. I did as you asked, going against the wishes of my lord and friend because I believed in the greater good it could bring. But, how is throwing Thranduil in a cell, over a crime that is not even proven, going to do that? If you cannot trust him, then how is he to trust you?”

There was so much grief in the eyes of the Sindarin lord, Gil-galad’s heart was rendered in two.

“It is true that he is insufferable at times. Believe me, Your Majesty, Thranduil is a handful. I know. But the boy is burdened with much grief and sorrow. I know that does not excuse all of his behaviors, but if you treat him as a miscreant first before giving him a chance, then miscreant he will be. Please, I beg you, Your Majesty. Give him a chance, and you’ll see the noble and generous heart that beats below the coat of thorns he wears. 

You cannot hope the relationship among Noldor and Sindar to change by just expecting only us to change, for Thranduil to change. You must change, too,” Istuion said looking at the king, then at others. “Have you, lords, any one of you stopped to consider for even for a moment that this necklace, however unlikely it may seem, does actually belong to Thranduil? Instead of thinking about the various ways in which his words cannot be true, have you just trusted him and gave him the benefit of the doubt?”

Gil-galad could not hold the Sindarin lord’s gaze, and he looked away.

 “I thought not,” Istuion looked up at the ceiling and sighed. The sound, like a stray wind in the midst of winter, chilled Gil-galad and he was sorely sorry to have brought this grief to the Sindarin lord.

“That may be so,” said the chief councilor, his voice much subdued. “But even you admit that his behavior is insufferable. Are we to tolerate that? He is not the only one who suffered. Many of us who lived through the First Age suffered, too. And  Thranduil was not the only child who witnessed violence. Elrond and his brother were only six years old when they were taken captive by the kinslayers, but you do not see Elrond behaving in such manner as your ward,” said Lammaeg.

Gil-galad felt Elrond bristle beside him. But before his cousin could speak, the king took hold of Elrond’s arm. As much as he hated to put Istuion through it, it was something the king wondered himself. The First Age was tragic for most of his people. It was true that Thranduil was a child, but so was Elrond. In fact, his cousin was younger at Sirion than Thranduil was when Menegroth was attacked.

Istuion’s face hardened.

“What do you know of Thranduil?” asked Istuion. “It is true that Lord Elrond and his brother were taken when they were children, but it is my knowledge that the kinslayers have done right by them. Elrond and Elros may have witnessed the horror of Sirion, but their demons turned out to be the guardians. At least, the twins have learned to trust under Feanor’s sons. But what has Thranduil learned?” Istuion’s voice went up a notch. “To him, Feanor’s sons were guardians. When they came, Thranduil thought they were guards, and like all Elven children who were taught to trust their guards, he trusted, but Thranduil’s guardians turned out to be the demons who betrayed his trust and slaughtered his family in front of him.” Lord Ishuion’s voice trembled as his voice rose higher. “Do you know what that does to a trusting child, councilor? It plunged him into a dark abyss and almost killed him. It took his mother and Lady Elwing years to bring Thranduil out of that darkness, to plunge him back into it again when Sirion…”

Lord Istuion’s words trembled to a stop, his eyes shimmered. There was so much grief there, Gil-galad could not look upon the elder lord.

Silence swept the stone walls of the Great Hall as everyone averted their eyes as the rough breath of the Sindarin lord came in fast and rapid like a small storm. Istuion looked up at the ceiling as his breathing slowed, then he continued in a voice much calmer.

“Do not compare one person’s tragedy to another, Councilor. It may seem to all that they are similar, but it isn’t. To Lord Elrond, the demons turned out to be the guardians, but for Thranduil, the guardians turned out to be the demons, and that made all the difference.”

Istuion straightened, returned the necklace and looked directly at the king. “As I said, I do not know much about Lady Arinariel. You should seek that from Lady Galadriel as it was she who brought Lady Arinariel to Doriath.”

 

________________

Gil-galad’s grandfather, Fingolfin, was the high king of Noldor during the most of First Age. When Morgoth broke the Siege of Angband in the Dagor Bragollach (Battle of Sudden Flames) when dragons were first introduced, many Elves died, and many parts of Beleriand destroyed. In “wrath and hate” Fingolfin rode to Angband alone and challenged Morgoth in which duel Fingolfin perished.

*There is no known incident of Elf attacking another Elf except for the kinslaying by Feanor and his sons (attack on Menegroth and Sirion) and that of Eol killing Aredhel (Turgon’s sister who died to protect her son from Eol’s poinsoned dart) when he tried to take his son with him to death (he had a choice to die or live in Gondolin and Eol chose death). For this crime, Turgon executed Eol by throwing him off a cliff. Eol’s son Maeglin is the only known betrayer of Elves for being captured by Morgoth and giving up the location of Gondolin in exchange for Idril and the lordship of Gondolin. But in none of these cases, killing of Elves by Elves was done out of hatred for another Elf.

 Elenwe (Quenya, Star person)—Wife of Turgon (Fingon’s younger brother, thus Gil-galad’s uncle) and mother of Idril. She was known as the only pure Vanya known to have accompanied Noldor in their flight to Middle Earth. While crossing Helcaraxe, she perished. Turgon never forgave Feanor and his sons for this loss. Elenwe passed her golden hair to Idril, making Idril one of the few Elves in Middle Earth with golden hair of Vanyar.

Chapter Text

GIL-GALAD ordered the guards to bring Thranduil back to the Hall when the Sinda wakes. It was then that Lady Galadriel glided into the Great Hall. The king was glad that Lady Galadriel was in the King's Tower and could be summoned quickly. Otherwise, this inquiry would have taken days. No matter what his uncle may say, it wouldn't do to keep Oropher's son in a cell for days on end. And the king did not wish to bring more grief to Lord Istuion.

"Thank you for coming, my lady," Gil-galad said formally, with his hand on his heart.

She may be married to a Sinda, but Galadriel was now the only surviving member of the House of Finwe in his father's generation. Of the four who remained in House Finwe, Galadriel was the eldest. And unlike Elrond and himself, she was born of Aman, and the light of the trees still burned brightly in her eyes despite the centuries of sorrow and grief. At least, Gil-galad thought so even though he had heard that Galadriel's light diminished much after Nargothrond was lost.

The lady regarded the group gathered in the room.

"You did not specify why you needed me, my lord. What is this all about?" Galadriel asked.

"Excuse us, my lady, but we needed your assistance to verify something."

Gil-galad showed her the gems in his hand.

"Are these familiar to you, my lady?"

Galadriel took the bright white gems on the silver chain and fingered the stones that glittered like stars. Her eyes misted and for a brief second, it seemed to Gil-galad that her white fingers trembled.

"Yes," Galadriel said, her voice a bare whisper. "The Seven Stars of Valimar. There is only one set of these in all of Aman although these gems are one section of a larger necklace."

Galadriel's lips trembled, and Gil-galad was surprised to see a flicker of sorrow that darkened her light blue eyes. Although he had not known the lady for long, having met her briefly at the Isle of Balar before she moved to Nenuial with Celeborn and their followers before settling in Harlindon, Gil-galad had never known Lady Galadriel to betray any emotion even during the most heated debate in a council.

"Those gems belonged to Lady Elenwe. Is that not so?" Lammaeg asked.

Galadriel looked up from fingering the bright stones in her hand.

"Ah, yes. Elenwe had one just like it."

Lammaeg's face was serene, but Gil-galad noted the gleam of triumph in his uncle's eyes.

"I do not understand, my lady," Gilmagor who stood next to the king said. "What do you mean by 'she had one like it'? Is this not hers or was there another? I thought you said the necklace is the only one of its kind?"

'Indeed, Lord Gilmagor. There is only one of this necklace, but this is not the same one as the one Elenwe wore. That one is an imitation made with Elven-made stones. These," Galadriel picked up the gems in her hands, "are mined from the Holy Mountain itself. These gems are from the necklace made for the elder sister who commissioned a copy for her younger sister whom the lady loved very much."

Both Gilmagor and Lammaeg frowned.

"But, Lady Elenwe was the only child. She had no siblings." Gilmagor said.

"Yes. Elenwe was. But, the necklace was not made for her but her mother and her mother's elder sister. Both ladies gave their respective necklaces to their daughters."

"Lady Elenwe's mother and her elder sister? And their daughters?" Lord Gilmagor and Lammaeg looked at each other; then, their faces held such amazement, Gil-galad who had never been to Valinor was puzzled. He was sure Elrond and Istuion felt same as he.

Gil-galad looked at his uncle, then at his swordmaster. Their faces, wide-eyed and pale of face, turned grave.

"It makes even less sense." Lammaeg frowned down at the gems in Lady Galadriel's hand.

"My lady, could you tell us about Lady Arinariel?" Gilmagor asked.

Galadriel who had been fingering the gems looked up, her eyes narrowed, a deep frown on her forehead.

"Arinariel?" she asked.

Gil-galad was surprised at the sharp tone to her voice. Her eyes which had misted with sorrow turned guarded.

"Thranduil was found with this necklace in his hand," Gil-galad said with a sigh. "He said his mother had given it to him."

The lady pursed her lips and remained silent.

"We asked you here so you could tell us about Thranduil's mother," Gil-galad explained.

Galadriel remained silent for so long that Gil-galad feared that she wouldn't say any more.

"We hoped that you could tell us, my lady. Lord Istuion said you brought Thranduil's mother to Doriath before she married Lord Oropher."

Galadriel closed her eyes briefly before she opened them again.

"But if you have this necklace, shouldn't Thranduil have said something although I am not surprised if he did not. Thranduil is intensely private just like his parents." The lady shook her head, letting out another sigh. "And he may have wished to protect his mother. But, then, I do not understand why you need to ask me about his mother? Even if I wish to tell you, I cannot as I have sworn to keep her name a secret. Thranduil, however, is under no such restriction. Where is he?" Galadriel looked around the room. "I am surprised that Thranduil has allowed any of you to touch this necklace…."

Then, the lady went rigid. She picked up her golden head, and her blue gaze probed each of the Elves in the Great Hall. Gil-galad felt her mind brush his before he could close himself off.

"You have taken this from him…and …" Galadriel's blue eyes flashed dangerously as others cowered under the lady's irate gaze. When her eyes found Lammaeg, the councilor flinched and stepped back away from her.

"You dare accuse the grandson of my uncle of such demeaning act such as…" she pursed her lips, her eyes flashing.

Gil-galad felt dread grab hold of his heart. He glanced at Lord Lammaeg and Gilmagor whose faces were drained of blood.

"I apologize, my lady. We have not intended for this matter to go as it had. But we had limited information, and we needed to verify the identity of his mother. That is why we sought your assistance." Gil-Galad tried to explain.

"But you said Thranduil verified for you, that he said it was from his mother. Were not his words enough?"

"Please forgive us but I recognized the necklace as those belonging to Lady Elenwe. I did not know that there was a copy. But if I may, my lady, were you saying the necklace belongs to Thranduil?" Gilmagor asked.

"Of course. It belonged to his mother. It is natural that her son should have it now that she has passed from this world."

"Preposterous!" Lammaeg sputtered. "You are saying that she is…that she is lady Altananore's daughter. How is that possible? There are no Vanyar who are known to have returned from Valinor! If she were here in Middle Earth, then some of us would have seen her, and we would have known of it."

"Are you calling me a liar, Lord Lammaeg?" Lady Galadriel's icy blue eyes flashed again.

Lammaeg paled visibly.

"No. No, my lady! All I am saying is that all Vanyar left middle earth and none of the pure-blooded Vanyar has ever returned here. Lady Idril's mother, Lady Elenwe, is the only known pure blooded Vanya to have left Valinor. And we all know that she died at Helcaraxe and never reached Middle Earth."

Lady Galadriel looked down at Lammaeg quietly which gaze the councilor could not withstand. He turned his eyes away.

"I guess you suppose that whatever record someone has made of the accounts of our flight is accurate? Then how to do you account for all the variances to the stories, councilor? How about missing pieces? Those histories are written by those who gathered information. It only tells the story of the few who had seen or heard, but not all that are recorded are the truth. There are things that are not told because very few know of it or because those who know did not have a chance to tell it. Lord Oropher and my husband fought in the many of the great wars in Beleriand, but none of it has ever been recorded. The fact that they are not known, does it make it untrue then?"

"If you would, my lady," Lord Gilmagor sought permission, and when Lady Galadriel nodded, he continued, "Maybe if it was some other Vanyarin lady, I could understand, but it seems someone would have noticed her if she was here in Middle Earth all these times."

"Even when she was in Doriath which was closed off to all Noldor and where none knew who she was? Even then, she carefully kept away from most people. Only ones who knew of her were my uncle, Oropher, Celeborn and I. I didn't know, but Lord Arandur had been friends with her father when they were young and journeying into Beleriand. He recognized the likeness, and she had told him all. But, beyond him and Oropher, there was only my lord husband and I who knew although I have a suspicion Queen Melian knew."

"But why the secrecy?" Lord Gilmagor asked.

"It was her way to atone for disobeying Valar and her family so that she will not drag her family's name with her into exile as she was strictly forbidden to follow. But Elenwe was like a sister to her as she had grown up with no siblings except her cousin. And…" Galadriel hesitated, but with a sigh, she continued, "I knew this only later when she came to me, but Elenwe was with child at the time of the travel. She did not tell Turgon out of her love for him, for she knew how conflicted he was and how unhappy he would be to remain in Aman when all others of his family were leaving. And Turgon who should have known was too wrapped up in the preparation to leave Valinor to notice. Thranduil's mother was a healer. She had disguised herself as Elenwe's handmaid to follow us, but only until we departed Aman. But when she found that we were preparing to travel through the Helcarax, she feared for Elenwe's condition and for the love she bore her cousin, she defied the Valar and her family.

Of all of us, she alone left the blessed land out of love and concern for another and for nothing else. And for that, she had paid a dear price." Galadriel's eyes were deep wells of centuries of grief. "Valar punished her most unfairly by taking Elenwe away at Helcaraxe."

For a moment, Gil-galad thought he saw defiance amid the sorrow reflected in the eyes of Lady Galadriel.

"Devastated and unable to return home, she came to me. Idril, who was the only one who knew of her presence beside myself, was sworn to secrecy for her sake."

The king who had been listening quietly along with Lord Istuion and Elrond cleared his throat.

"I am sorry to interrupt, my lady, but may I ask who Thranduil's mother is? It seems you three who are from Valinor know, but as you are aware, Elrond, Lord Istuion and I are not familiar with the family connections in the Blessed Land." Then, he turned to Elrond. "Do you know?"

Elrond shook his head. "Lady Elenwe is my foremother, but I know nothing of her, and there is no mention of her family in any record that I know of."

"I would like to tell you, but I am sworn to secrecy as Idril had been. But under the circumstance…Lord Gilmagor…" Galadriel turned to the swordmaster, then to Lammaeg. "I suppose you can reveal it even if I cannot. But I must ask that her true name never be spoken, and this story never mentioned outside this room. Please. For her sake."

Gil-galad looked around the room and took his hand over his heart. Others followed.

"Lady Altanarore is the Lady wife of Lord Ingwion, son of Lord Ingwe, the high king of all Elves in Valinor," Gilmagor said. "That would make Thranduil's mother the grand-daughter of Lord Ingwe."

Gil-galad gaped at his Lord Commander unable to keep his mouth closed. That was unexpected, but it answered Thranduil's bright coloring and his mesmerizing features. The Hall was quiet as others absorbed the new information.

But weren't the Vanyar supposed to be noble, peaceful and full of magic? Thranduil seemed none of those things.

"My cousin took pains to hide her identity for the sake of her family, and I expect all of you to honor her wish unless Thranduil decides to share that information," said Galadriel. "But where is Thranduil? Shouldn't he be the one to tell you this?"

"Forgive us, my lady. We had no idea," Gil-galad sighed. "We were just trying to find answers."

"He was violent and …" Lammaeg clamped his mouth shut when the lady threw him her fierce gaze his way.

"Treated like a common criminal, I don't know if I would have acted with any less violence," Istuion said quietly.

Just then, as previously ordered, two guards entered, escorting Thranduil between them. The young Sinda stopped in front of the king and scanned the room.

Gil-galad who had taken back the necklace from Lady Galadriel offered the string of gems to Thranduil who snatched it up from the king's hand.

"Let me apologize for doubting your words, Thranduil…" the king began, but Thranduil cut him off.

"If you are done, do I have your permission to leave now?" Thranduil said, his voice icy enough to freeze over an ocean.

Gil-galad sucked in his breath. He had made a mistake, so he will bear this, Gil-galad told himself. The harder it was to do it, better to do it quicker, Gilmagor always said. "Thranduil, I…" Gil-galad extended his hand in apology.

"Is there anything more you want of me, your majesty?" Thranduil snapped, his words like claws over a tender wound.

"Why, you insolent…" Lammaeg started but stopped at a gesture from Gil-galad who sighed and shook his head at Thranduil.

Thranduil snapped his neck downward, then turned, but Lady Galadriel held onto his arm.

"Thranduil, you need not be so rude," the lady said. "The king is trying to…"

Thranduil snatched his arm from the grasp of Lady Galadriel before she could finish her sentence.

"You are nothing to me. I need not listen to you." With that, Thranduil turned and left the hall.

"You see! You see how insolent he is?" Lammaeg said watching Thranduil disappear behind the door that closed after him.

Lady Galadriel's eyes brimmed with much sorrow.

"You do not understand the grief in his heart, Lord Lammaeg." Her voice was quiet and thrummed with emotion. "In his mind, we are the people who have taken away his family and the world he knew and loved and now we tried to take from him the only things that sustain him."

"His dignity and pride," Elrond said, his dark eyes reflecting the sorrow in the lady's eyes. Lady Galadriel bestowed him a warm smile.

"You understand much, my young lord," she said. "Sometimes, the understanding heart is all that is needed to help heal a lonely and broken one" she said softly and held Elrond's gaze.

"If you would, your majesty, I would like to be excused," Lord Istuion said suddenly and took his leave. Lord Gilmagor and Lammaeg and Elrond followed suit, leaving Galadriel alone with the king.

"I believe, I am no longer needed here," Lady Galadriel said.

"Thank you for coming, my lady," Gil-galad said gravely. "I have done badly, haven't I?"

Galadriel shook her head and smiled.

"You are doing the best you can. Do not be too hard on yourself, Ereinion. You are barely over two decades older than Thranduil, yet you have so much on your shoulders. I don't think anyone could have done better. As to Thranduil, he will require much patience. He is young, and the tragedies he faced lay heavily over him. Thranduil is like a deep forest in winter. Trees are stark and bare. The wind is relentless and cold. But given enough sun and time, green leaves will sprout, and flowers will bloom. Then, so different the forest will be from what it had been, it will surprise you. Just remember, Ereinion, one cannot hope for trust without an understanding heart. And trust must be earned. It is not something that can just be given."

Gil-galad nodded. Then, bent his head, his hand over his heart.


Nenuial (Sindarin, Lake of Twilight)—refers to Lake Evendim which is located east of blue mountains. Some accounts of Tolkien state that Galadriel and Celeborn crossed the Blue Mountains and lived by this lake. In this story, Galadriel and Celeborn lived there prior to Celeborn accepting fiefdom under Gil-galad and settled at Harlindon.

Valimar (Quenya, Dwelling of the Valar)—known as the city of many bells, it is located in the heart of Valinor where dwellings of Valar and Maiar are located. The two trees, silver and gold, grew just outside the city on the mound of Ezellohar.

Taniquetil (Quenya, high snow peak)—highest of the mountains of Pelori which Valar raised to protect Valinor from outside forces. It is also the tallest peak where the palace of Manwe and Varda is located.

Vanyar (Quenya, Fair)—highest of the High Elves and the first of Elven kind to be awakened. They are also known as Fair Elves (as opposed to Noldor known as Deep Elves and Teleri known as Sea Elves). Vanyar are the first and the smallest clan of Elves and all of them traveled to Valinor and never returned to Middle Earth (except to fight in the War of Wrath with the army of Valar). They are also known as spear-elves as it was their weapon of choice (as opposed to Noldor's sword and shield and Teleri's bow and arrows). Considered the fairest, wisest and the noblest among their kin, Vanyar are beloved by Manwë and Varda amongst all kindred of Elves. They live in Mount Taniquetil near Lord Manwe and rarely mingled with other Elves.

Ingwe (Quenya, Highest, chief)—King of the Vanyar and the high king of all Elves.

Chapter Text

King’s Tower, September 10, Second Age 144

MAIRON took one look and knew the time had come. Thranduil emerged from the King’s Tower like a wounded beast. The Sinda’s blue-green eyes were alight with fire and hatred so palpable, Mairon could feel them even at a distance.  Whatever fiery emotion the Sinda had before this did not compare, and Mairon knew he could not let this opportunity pass.

Millennia of experience dealing with people of Middle Earth had shown Mairon that he could influence people’s minds when they were in their most emotional state whether that was anger, grief or love. When the emotions boiled over, they were vulnerable, even the Elves who were considered the wisest. And among the varied emotions, Mairon found the anger the easiest to manipulate. And the more wounded they were, more destructive they became.

Keeping his distance, Mairon followed Thranduil. After leaving the steps of the palace, Thranduil broke into a run as if he could not contain the fire within him. 

There were many people on the ground of the palace, those preparing for the Harvest Festival and the cadets and officers on their way out of the palace to spend the upcoming rest day with their families. But, Thranduil seemed not to notice any of them. Mairon picked up his pace to keep up with the blond Sinda who disappeared among the throng of people on the Western court.

Fortunately, despite the many people in the similar uniform, it wasn’t difficult to notice the flash of the golden head among the crowd of dark-haired Elves. Mairon stood looking down the stairs that led down to the training fields. The training fields were emptying quickly as the warriors eager to see their families hurried up the steps of the Star Field.

“I guess he is getting off this time, too, with just a slap,” a voice said behind him. Mairon turned around and saw three of the cadets approach him. Erfaron walked up to stand next to Mairon and looked down at the figure of Thranduil running across the Moon Field toward Sun Field.

“What did you expect? His majesty is obligated to give him protection. The king is fostering the Sinda to be trained and educated here,” Baraben said.

“But he punched Belegor bloody? That kind of violence against another Elf should be punished, do you not think so?” Erfaron looked at Mairon then at others.

“I have to say, Belegor asked for it,” Glingaeron said. “He accused Thranduil of stealing. I would not have stood for it if anyone called me a thief.”

“It is because you do not know much about gems, Glingaeron. That necklace was made of gems that were not ordinary. I should know. My uncle is a jewel smith. Dwarves are skilled, but no one but our craftsmen from Valinor can cut jewels of such brilliance.” Baraben looked down at Glingaeron, then turned to Mairon. “What do you think? I heard Lord Celebrimbor was quite impressed with your jewelry work. You did work with him before starting the cadet program, did you not?”

“Those gems were, indeed, gems of rare quality,” Mairon said with a nod. “Definitely beyond the skill of the Dwarves.”

“You see?” Baraben said, lifting his chin. “Think about it. How would a Sinda have gems like that? No offense to your family,” Baraben nodded to Glingaeron, “but even you must admit Sindar are unlikely to own such rare gems.”

“Unlikely, maybe,” Glingaeron said, his eyes tight, “but not impossible. He is from the royal family of Doriath.”

“Royal?” Baraben sneered. “You mean a minor princeling. I heard his father was one of the march wardens of Doriath, only distantly related to King Dior who was Elrond’s grandfather. And even that, Thranduil’s father was obviously not a good march warden since Doriath fell during his watch. And, as a son of a march warden, how would Thranduil have access to the stones of such quality?”

Mairon felt Glingaeron struggling to keep his emotion in check. Glingaeron shook his head.

“I don’t know. But you can’t just claim it is impossible because he is a Sinda. And you cannot accuse a person of being a thief just because he has something valuable, no matter how unlikely, without any other proof than that.” Glingaeron shoved Baraben and walked away.

Baraben snorted watching Glingaeron pass him. 

Erfaron patted Baraben’s back. “He’s a Sinda; what did you expect him to say?”

Along with Thranduil, Glingaeron was one of only four Sindar in the officer training. And three of them, including Glingaeron, was from Grey Havens, sent by Lord Cirdan among the best of the youth of Grey Havens.

Despite it being unspoken, Mairon had seen the divide between the Noldor and Sindar. The third kin-slaying was only two centuries ago. It brought a deep rift among the Elves.

Of course, Mairon had known about the attack on Doriath. While he was Melkor’s lieutenant, he had spies out on all the realms in Beleriand. He had especially made sure to keep an eye on Feanor’s sons. When Mairon received a report of a movement by Feanor’s sons, gathered to strike Doriath, it had been a surprise even for Mairon. He had not expected Feanorians to strike at their distant kin, nor had Mairon expected Feanor’s sons to attack during the holiday celebration when such attack would be least expected. Having seen how occupied Elves were by their ceremonies, Melkor had used that against Gondolin as well. But this attack on Doriath by Feanor’s sons had not been a surprise to his master.

“Ah, Mairon, Mairon. The time has come. The moment I have been waiting for,” Melkor said as he rubbed his hands, his dark eyes gleaming like Simarils in his crown. “Time to reap what I have sown.”

“Should I send more troops, master, to Doriath? Once the battle between the Noldor and Sindar are done, we could sweep up whoever remains. Isn’t that why you sent Glaurung to Nargothrond, to attack Doriath when the opportunity arises? Although the fool has gotten himself killed, I have stationed enough Orcs near the western and northern border of Doriath.”

But his master smiled and shook his head.

“Not yet. Not just yet. For now, we will just watch. Doriath has lost its teeth, but it still has its claws, and our armies have not fully regained its prior strength after the last battle with the Noldor.  And if we were to move now, it will only force the Sindar and the Noldor to ally together.” Melkor flashed Mairon a bright smile. “Besides, Doriath must fall by the hands of Noldor. A wound given by the hand of kin will hurt more than any wound I could give it. And the divide that will come will be useful later.”

“But what of the Feanor’s sons? With their combined strength, Doriath will have no chance against them, I think. Even if one or two of the Feanor’s sons fall, there will be some who will survive the battle.”

“True.” Melkor nodded. “You go, Mairon. But do not make a move until the Noldor have slain Doriath with their hands. Once the sons of Feanor have the silmaril in their hands, crush them as I have no more use for them. They should be weak after engaging Doriath. Same for the Sindar if they were to come out the victor in this battle. I will have a reinforcement ready. But,” Melkor stepped closer and looked into Mairon’s eyes, his dark eyes flaming like black fire. “Should Feanor’s sons prevail, and the Sindar escape with the jewel, let them go and do not engage.”

“I don’t understand, master. Isn’t this the perfect opportunity to crush them all?”

“Mairon, Mairon. You must learn to see further, my Little Firecracker. Until we find all of them and purge Beleriand of their kind, there will be Elves in Middle Earth. They are like insects. No matter how much you crush them, there will always be ones that you couldn’t get. But, if they were to fight among themselves, well then, you can just sit back and watch them kill each other. As long as the Sindar have the Silmaril, Feanor’s sons will not be far behind. The more damage they cause their kin, the better for us. What have I taught you?”

“Blood begets blood,” Mairon said and smiled widely.

 

And his master had been right. Even after two centuries since the last bloodshed at Sirion, there was tension between the Noldor and Sindar. On the surface, everything seemed peaceful. They were civil to each other, but the capital city of Lindon was divided. Although Sindar outnumbered Noldor five to one, the city was mainly occupied by the Noldor. And the king and the ruling council consisted mostly of Noldorin nobles. On the other hand, most Sindar lived outside the walls of the city or at Grey Havens or Harlindon ruled by Sindarin lords. Those few Sindar who resided within the walls of the White City lived clustered together. Mairon had seen a block divided by one street. One side occupied by Noldor dressed in their vibrant silks and the other by Sindar in their muted colors. Although it was only a street that divided them, they rarely crossed the street to the other side.

When Baraben and Erfaron moved away, Mairon headed down the stairs to the training fields, keeping his eyes on the Sinda who was heading toward a corner of Sun Field.

At the end of the Sun Field was a vast area full of stones and rocks, rocks that were used to build the city. Some of them were unearthed to make the training fields, Mairon learned. A valley cut deep below the rock-strewn slope making it impossible for anyone to approach the White City from this side. Thranduil’s golden head disappeared among the large boulders that were strewn all over the sloped area at the edge of the training fields. Mairon hesitated briefly before following Thranduil. The path sloped dangerously, a drop of several stories.

Is he trying to kill himself?  Mairon wondered as he followed behind, clinging to the rocks. Even if his body died, Mairon would not, but he needed this body for a while longer.  

At the edge of the rocky cliff, Mairon looked about. He couldn’t find a glimpse of Thranduil anywhere. Then, he heard a sound of rock hitting a rock.

Careful not to be seen, Mairon crawled over the cluster of rocks. Sunken from the edge of the Sun Field, surrounded by tall boulders, there was a small clearing just at the edge of a cliff. Mairon was sure that even from the top of the King’s Tower, they couldn’t be seen. Maybe that was why the Sinda chose this place. Thranduil picked up one of the large rocks and hurled it over the cliff. Seeing how wide the clearing and the number of rocks piled beneath the cliff, Mairon realized this wasn’t the first time Thranduil had been here.

Thranduil’s face was contorted, his jaw tight, his eyes aflame with dark fire. And with the sight of him, Mairon was hit with the boiling heat. But what’s more, the young Sinda’s mind was wide open.

Letting his power flood the body he occupied, Mairon reached in. Inside Thranduil’s head was a raging storm. Myriad of memories and feelings intertwined and howled, churning the vast sea of emotion within Thranduil. Amid the turbulent swirl of emotion and thoughts, Mairon found one that dominated.

Mairon saw a terrace built on a high cliff by a white tower. Three Noldorin warriors dressed in red armor were near the stone steps that led to the tower. On top of the stairs, near the cliff’s edge stood a majestic young woman with dark hair, clothed in white. On her neck, she wore a marvelous necklace with a bright white gem, his master’s gem. The silmaril.

A golden-haired Elven youth was on the ground kept there by a redheaded Noldorin warrior who had his armored foot on the youth’s head. The Noldorin warrior shouted something, then moved away from the blond youth. But as one of the Noldorin warriors pulled out his bow and aimed his arrow towards the young woman, the golden-haired youth jumped onto the archer.

 

White Tower of Arvernien,  May 25, First Age 538

<9:40AM>  “Run, Elwing! Run!”

The blond lad shouted at the top of his lung as he jumped onto the Noldorin archer who tumbled over with the youth on top of him. The other Noldorin warrior picked up the blond youth off the archer, then threw him onto the ground. The warrior helped the archer get up, then drew his sword facing the blond youth on the ground.

An arrow flew out of nowhere and pierced the warrior’s hand holding the sword. The Noldorin warrior dropped the sword with a groan. And before they could react, another arrow struck the archer on his helmet, throwing him down onto the ground.

Everyone turned toward where the arrows came.

A warrior in a blue and silver scaled armor stepped forward into the clearing with his warbow drawn, another arrow nocked. He aimed it at the redhead.

“Captain Himion!” the blond youth called out once he sat up.

“Thranduil! Get behind me. Now!”  the captain shouted in Sindarin to the youth.

The Noldorin warrior whose hand was pierced with an arrow darted from where he was, then stood blocking the redhead from the path of the Sindarin Captain’s bow.  The Noldorin warrior broke the arrow and pulled out the arrow from his hand, his eyes trained on the Sindarin captain. Captain Himion pulled the string of his bow taut.

Just then, behind the Sindarin captain, an Elven lady in a healer’s gray garment came forward and laid her hand on Himion’s bow. The captain lowered his weapon. She wore a long hood that hid her face completely.

The redhead took one look at the Sindarin captain and back at Thranduil, then he aimed his sword at Thranduil neck as the youth tried to get up off the ground.

“One move, Dark Elf, and this child dies,” the redhead said in a hesitant Sindarin.

Himion aimed his bow at the Noldorin warrior who stood shielding the redhead when the healer rushed out before the Sindarin warrior could stop her.

“No! Please, don’t hurt him,” the healer knelt next to Thranduil and drew the youth into her arms, placing herself between Thranduil and the redhead’s blade.   

Thranduil, with his eyes wide, pulled at the woman.

“Mother? What are you doing here?” Thranduil asked in Sindarin, wiping the blood that dripped down to his eyes.

The healer pulled off the deep hood of her healer’s gray garment. A hair of glittering gold dipped in sunlight poured out from the gray hood brightening her entire person. Pure light glowed about her, making her shine like a jewel under sunlight, too bright to look upon. Even among the Elven kind, she was fair beyond measure with eyes like the blue-green waters of Aman.

“Please. He is my son. Still a child. Will you not spare him, son of Feanaro?,” the lady said. She laid her white hand on the blade of the sword and pushed away its cruel tip with her gentle hand.

The redhead’s gray eyes widened as he took a step back. Then, he frowned at the blonde lady in front of him.

“You! But, how?” the redhead looked lost as he looked at Thranduil’s mother, then at Thranduil. “I see now why he speaks Quenya,” the redhead shook his head then looked up.

Thranduil looked up also and saw that Elwing had almost reached the top of the tower.

“Astarno,” Ambarussa called out in Quenya to the Noldorin archer who had gotten up and stood, his bow trained onto the Sindarin captain. His left cheek had a deep cut and was bleeding, dripping down onto his armor. “Can you shoot?”

“Yes, my lord,” the archer said.

“Shoot down the woman up the tower. Thornadur, you kill this Sindarin archer.”

“No! Please, stop. There is no need for any more killing. Has not enough blood spilled this day? Please, Ambarussa. Stop this…” The healer let go of Thranduil and grabbed the redhead’s steel clad hand.

Thranduil turned and called out in Sindarin to Captain Himion.

“Himion, roll right! The other archer is going to shoot Elwing!”

Himion rolled to his right, barely missing the dagger that flew towards him. As soon as the roll was complete, the captain released his arrow toward the Noldorin archer. Himion’s arrow struck the archer’s hand. The bow fell, but the archer had already released his arrow.

Everyone turned to the top of the stone stairs where Elwing had been. She was nowhere to be seen.

Before Himion turned back to face the redhead, Thornadur who had thrown his dagger at Himion while still standing in front of Ambarussa roared and rushed forward with his sword high in the air.

Sindarin captain scrambled up and blocked the Noldorin warrior’s sword with his bow, but the Nodorin warrior was quick. He sliced the bow in two and kicked Himion in the stomach. Himion stumbled backward.

Thornatur raised up his sword for the final kill when Thranduil’s hand flashed. The Noldorin warrior swiped away the dagger Thranduil threw at him. But the distraction was enough. Himion turned aside, then ran his long dagger through the Noldorin warrior.

Himion turned back toward Thranduil. It was then that the redhead backhanded Thranduil so hard that the young Sinda was thrown back and hit the ground.

“Please, don’t do this!” the healer grabbed the hand that struck her son, but raising his hand holding the sword, Ambarussa whacked the healer, the force throwing her down onto the stone paved floor.

“My lady!”

Himion ground his teeth. Grasping his long dagger, Himion sprinted toward the redhead when the captain saw Thranduil got up and grab his long dagger on the ground. With a shout, Thranduil rushed at the redhead.  

And everything happened at once.

“No, Thranduil!” Himion cried out when he heard a wind whistle and saw arrow leaving the archer’s bow. It was headed directly toward Thranduil. Himion did not think and thrust his body to block the arrow’s path to the child.

“Oof!” Pain and the force propelled the captain back and he fell to the ground just a few steps shy of reaching Thranduil.

Grabbing at his left shoulder shot through with an arrow, Himion looked up and watched in horror as Lady Arinariel got up and pulled Thranduil’s arm as the youth swung his long dagger.

The action jerked Thranduil’s aim and the young Sinda’s dagger missed the redhead who swung his own sword.

“No!” Himion rushed towards Thranduil, but he was still two strides away when Lady Arinariel threw herself between the redhead’s sword and Thranduil, pulling Thranduil into her embrace, her back towards the thrust of the Noldo’s sword.

The blade shone in the sun as it struck the gray garment. The lady gasped and let go of Thranduil as her golden head fell backward and she fell like a petal in the wind, a spark of starlight in the darkness of a midnight storm.

Something hot grabbed hold of Himion as he roared. He, picked up his sword and plunged it deep into the redhead. The old Sindarin warrior watched his eyes filled with horror as the redhead’s eyes opened wide, filled with shock, but those gray eyes were not looking at him, but at the body of the lady in gray by his feet.

Himion pulled out his sword and the redhead crumbled into a heap next to a white light in the gray garment as she faded like a dusk into night.

The old Sindarin captain looked down at the two fallen figures, one red and the other golden. The same red blood that stained the lady’s gray garment began to stain the red and gold armor of the redhaired Noldo.  And that same red blood dripped from the tip of the Sindarin captain’s sword.

The captain stumbled back as if his legs could no longer support him. His chest heaved as the sword slipped and dropped out of his hand onto the ground. His eyes on the two fallen figures before him, captain’s knees hit the ground. 

“Naneth! Nana!” Thranduil’s anguished scream filled the small courtyard as the youth grabbed his mother. Her blood stained Thranduil’s hands and garments red as the youth shook his mother’s silent body.

Himion looked up to see an arrow trained on him. The Noldorin warrior called Astarno had threaded his bow and it was aimed directly at the Sindarin captain. Himion stood up.

“I’ll kill you!” Thranduil screamed and sprang up from beside the body of his mother. The youth picked up his fallen long dagger and moved toward the Noldorin warrior. Astarno moved the bow toward Thranduil but before he could release the arrow, Himion moved. The captain snatched the dagger away and with a swift kick to the back of Thranduil’s legs threw the young lad onto the ground. Then, Himion blocked Thranduil’s fallen body with his and faced Astarno.

“I am the one who killed your companions. Kill me, but leave the boy. He has already lost so much,” Himion said, his gray eyes looking into the gray eyes of the Noldorin warrior.

Astarno pulled the bowstring taut as Himion stood facing him.

The Noldorin warrior stared down at the Sindarin captain, then looked down at Thranduil who struggled to sit up. The youth was bleeding from his head and his left arm. His pale skin looked stark under the red of the blood stain and the black bruises that were everywhere.

“The boy’s mother is dead. Do not take any more from him. Let him go, please,” Himion said. “The child’s father has already lost one son at Menegroth along with his own father. This child has not done anything except to try to defend those he loves. He is innocent.”

What Himion said must have reached the Noldorin warrior. The Noldo’s stance faltered.  

Instead of letting the arrow fly, Astarno let go of the tension in his bow and let the weapon drop to his side. The Sindarin captain and the Noldorin warrior regarded each other. Their eyes were filled with the same gut-wrenching sorrow. 

As they regarded each other silently, a white bird with bright starlight on its long white throat circled their heads and let out a long single cry. Both warriors looked up at the bird as it circled over their heads. As they watched, it flew toward the West when a deep horn rang out from the ocean.

“Lord Cirdan’s ships are here,” Himion said to no one particular as he watched the Noldorin warrior crouch down to wrap the fallen body of the redhead in his cloak.

Thranduil finally sat up, groaning softly. When his eyes beheld the Noldorin warrior picking up the dead body of the redhead, Thranduil’s face turned red, contorting hideously.

“Murderer!” Thranduil got up again, then looked around for a weapon. Himion wrapped his arms around the young Sinda and held him firmly.

“Let him go, Thranduil. He is not the one who killed your mother.”

“He’s a Noldo. All Noldor are murderers!” Thranduil screamed.

Himion turned to the Noldorin warrior.

“Take your dead and go quickly. There has been enough blood shed this day.”

It didn’t take the Noldo another word as he hoisted up the body of the redhead and without another glance, sprinted away.

“No!” screamed Thranduil as he bucked within the captain’s arm. “I’ll kill you, you Morgoth’s filth!” Curses poured out of Thranduil’s mouth as he fought to pry open Himion’s arms that held him captive in an iron clasp.

“Kill him, Himion. Kill him! Don’t let him get away!”

The elder Sinda turned Thranduil to face him, then shook the youth roughly.

“Listen to me, Thranduil. Think of your mother. Would your lady mother want more blood? Would she want you to taint your hands with the blood of your kin? Don’t you understand that she wanted to protect you from this bloodshed, protect you from being stained with blood?”

Thranduil’s bloody face streaked with tears crumpled.

When Himion let him go, Thranduil fell to his knees.

“I hate them! I hate them all!” Thranduil’s anguished scream mingled with another sound of a horn from the sea.

 

Sun Field.  September 10, Second Age 144

When Mairon found what was useful to him, he pulled back. It was one thing to glimpse into one’s open thoughts, but it was another thing to linger. Mairon knew well that it was only the extreme emotional state that prevented Thranduil from knowing that someone had peeked into his mind. But if he explored for too long, even at this agitated state, Thranduil will sense him, and Mairon did not want that.

As it was, Mairon had found what he was seeking. The Noldorin warrior, the one called Astarno, Mairon knew him. And it seemed the timing was perfect as well. The road up north, there would be no guards, just eight of them in a forest.

Mairon smiled darkly. He would see blood in the Sinda’s hands soon if everything went as planned. And once his hands were tainted with the blood of kin, there would be no turning back for Thranduil.

 

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Gondolin (Sindarin, Hidden Rock)-The hidden city of Turgon (Gil-galad's uncle and Elrond's forefather on his father's side). It was secretly built and kept hidden from all until First Age 510. Found through the treachery of Maeglin, Turgon's sister son, Morgoth attacked it in the morning when the sun was rising in the Midsummer as Elves gathered to give thanks to Eru. So, Gondolin, the most beautiful Noldorin city of the First Age, fell during Midsummer while Menegroth, the greatest Sindarin city fell during Midwinter.

Glaurung-First of the dragons of Morgoth. He is known by many names: Great Worm, the Worm of Morgoth, the Golden, and the Deceiver. He is also described as the Father of Dragons. He led an army of Orcs and destroyed Nargothrond. He also used his power to erase memory of Nienor bringing about the tragedy of the Children of Hurin (the story of Turin)

Silmaril (Quenya, radiance of pure light)-Jewel Feanor created which housed the light of the two trees of Valinor. There were three of them. Vala Varda hallowed the jewels so that no mortal or evil hands could touch them. Morgoth's desire to possess them and Feanor's desire to reclaim then led to the fall of Noldor and brought doom and grief for Noldor and Sindar.

 

Chapter Text

Woodland near River Lune. September 21, Second Age 144

 

ELROND, stay close,” Thranduil said as he slowed his horse to wait for Elrond who stopped to admire the flaming copper-red leaves of a beech tree.

Elrond looked up, surprised to hear the Sinda speak. Thranduil had kept silent and to himself throughout most of the ride north. Elrond could not sense anything from Thranduil, but the half-elven noted that Thranduil seemed unusually tense as his eyes scanned the area around them.

The afternoon sun was waning and the trees around them, young and no thicker than Elrond’s torso, cast long shadows over the overgrown thickets and bushes.

After scanning the area, Thranduil looked back. Lord Gilmagor was leading the cadets with Lord Istuion in the rear. They have left the last guard station this morning and have been traveling through the rocky plains of tall grasses and just entered the woodland where young beech trees dotted the area among the thickly grown vegetation. Ahead, the flaming red leaved trees grew dense and cast deep shadows. To the east, the edge of the forest fell sharply into a deep valley leading to a wide moorland to River Lune.

Thranduil rode forward to Lord Gilmagor.

“My lord, we should go around the forest,” Thranduil said.

Lord Istuion who had been riding in the rear moved forward. “I agree, Lord Commander. We are being tracked.”

“Yes, I am aware of it,” said Gilmagor taking out a map from his pouch. “They have been trailing us since late morning when we entered the plains. I have thought them just a pack of wolves, but now, I do not think so.”

“Are they Orcs?” Erfaron asked, his hand sliding over to his sword.

“It’s about time,” said Oron. “We are prepared. Let them come.”

“Yeah!” the three cadets beside Elrond and Thranduil shouted their agreement.

“It’s not Orcs,” Thranduil said. “They are too disciplined and silent to be Orcs.”

“What you say is true, Oropherion,” agreed Lord Gilmagor. “We would have been attacked already if it were Orcs. They are not very patient,” he said.  “Unless they are controlled by their master. But even then, you can hear Orcs from miles away. No. Certainly not Orcs. Our guards patrol this area all the way to the river. If there were any sight of Orcs around here, the guards would have known.”

“I agree with Thranduil. We should go around the forest, Lord Commander,” Istuion said. “The east end of the woodland is a sheer cliff. If these creatures push us toward it, we will have nowhere to go. And the trees of this forest is too young to be used as a cover while providing plenty of hidden areas for the enemy to ambush us.” Lord Istuion glanced at the eastern edge of the woodland which sank into a deep valley, a high cliff running along River Lune.

“We could go around toward east, below the cliffs and follow the river,” Istuion suggested.

Gilmagor shook his head as he showed the map to Istuion.

“The cliffside follows the river all the way up north to where the River Lune flows from the great waterfall. According to the map, the Elven settlement is above that cliff, near the waterfall, but we would have to ride further up north for another day before the cliff edge of the valley becomes gentle enough for us to climb.”

“How about circling the forest on the west side?” Istuion asked.

“West is flat, but the ground is strewn with loose rocks. It is dangerous for the horses. We will have to slow down significantly,” Gilmagor said. “However, it is a shorter distance than going around to the east.”

Just then, from the west came a deep howl followed by several answering calls.

“Well, maybe not the west.” Gilmagor turned to Thranduil. “What do you think, Oropherion? You have passed through this region, have you not?“

“It has been almost a century since I passed through here. But If I remember correctly, there are boulders and hills near the river, enough to give us cover, yet the area is open enough for cadets to fight. If we take a stand in the forest, cadets’ movements will be restricted by the trees and the bushes. They are not trained to fight in a closed area. If they are what I think they are, the beasts will have a feast day inside the forest.”

“It is not like we have never hunted before,” Erfaron said with a frown. “We can deal with a couple of wolves.”

“These are no ordinary wolves,” Thranduil said with a fleeting glance to Erfaron.

Gilmagor frowned and faced Thranduil.

“Are you suspecting what I am suspecting?” Gilmagor asked.

“I am. They are too careful, too disciplined to be mere wolves,” Thranduil said.

“Lord Istuion?” Gilmagor turned to the elder Sinda.

Lord Istuion nodded.

Gilmagor shook his head again. “I didn’t want to believe that there were gaurhoth or wargs within the boundary of Lindon.”

Elrond was surprised. Werewolves or wargs? Elrond had not heard those words since the First Age.

 

 

Amon Ereb, June 1, First Age 540

ELROND fingered the soft leaves which had fuzzy hair on them, silver in color.

“It’s pretty,” Elrond said. “The loremaster said that our forefather had a hair of silver. Have you ever met Lord Thingol?” Elrond turned to his foster father who sat crouched next to him and his brother sifting through the bushes.

Maglor smiled. “No, I have not had the privilege.”

“How come Elros and I do not have silver hair?”

“Because we have more of Lady Melian’s blood in us,” Elros said looking up from pulling up a plant. He picked up his chin proudly.

Maglor laid his big hand on Elros’ head, but Elros pulled away.

From Maglor, Elrond felt an ache, like a heartbeat, so brief it was. Maglor smiled again, his smile not as bright as before.

“That’s right, Elros. There is powerful Maiarian blood that flows in your veins.”

“Is that why we can talk to each other without speaking?” Elrond asked.

“Elrond!” Elros shook his head. Elrond looked up wide-eyed. He did not realize it was to be a secret.

“Ah! You two learned to use sanwe-latya, have you?”

“Sanwe-latya? There is a word for it?”

“Of course, elfling. Did you think you invented it?” Maglor laughed. “Ability to exchange thoughts is inherent in all sentient beings. But not all people can use it equally. The stronger you are and more close you are with the receiver, it becomes easier for you to share your thoughts. As twins, it would be especially easier between you two.”

“Can I use it to share thoughts with you?” Elrond asked.

Maglor’s eyes clouded.

“I have never heard it used between Elves and Men,” he said.

“Oh,” Elrond dropped his head. Were he and his brother so different from the Elves? But Maglor’s hand fell onto his head and padded it warmly.

“But you are not just any man-child, are you, Elrond? As Elros said, a powerful blood flows in your veins. You may grow up to be more powerful than any of us,” Maglor said. “You are the great-grandson of Lady Luthien who put the dreaded Dark Lord to sleep, the one who with Beren cut out the Silmaril from Morgoth's iron crown. You and your brother are the scions of the great lady and the Edain. What can you not achieve if you will it so?”

Elrond looked up. Maglor was smiling, his face warm like sunlight. Elrond smiled back. It was then that the ground where they were gathered trembled.

Maglor got up. A horse with a rider approached them from the castle on the hill. Although they were within sight of the castle, they were about a half league away at the mouth of woodland.

“My lord!” the rider called out even before he pulled his horse to a stop before Maglor. “Warg riders, my lord.”

Maglor’s calm faced betrayed nothing. “How far?”

“Half a day’s ride. We just received a missive from the outpost at Ramdal. The army…” The Rider glanced at Elrond and his brother. “There’s more. Your brother bid your haste return.”

Maglor nodded. Then, he frowned up at the rider.

“But why did my brother send you, Astarno, for a simple message?”

Captain Astarno’s face was calm. “We suspect some scouts may have escaped our vigilance.”

“I see.” Maglor’s face tensed briefly as he surveyed the area around him. Elrond got up from where he crouched and looked around, mimicking Maglor. At the mouth of woodland sunlight shone brightly, but as the wood thickened, the trees cast dark shadows. Elrond looked up at Maglor, his heart beginning to race. But when Maglor turned to face Elrond and Elros, there was a smile on his face.

“Well, boys. I think we have to cut this outing short. Should we race to the castle?”

“Yes!” Elros rose up, excitement evident in his bright face.

Maglor whistled for his horse which had been left to graze where he will.

“Come, Elros and Elrond.” Maglor held out his hands. But instead of holding Maglor’s hand, Elros ran to the rider.

“Can I ride with you, Captain Astarno?” Elros held up his hands to the rider.

Astarno glanced at Maglor, then looked down at Elros.

“I am sorry, elfling. But I am on my way to check on the guards posted at the boundary of this woodland,” said Astarno.

“Awww,” Elros turned to Maglor. “Can we not wait for him?”

Maglor smiled, but Elrond felt the sharp ache in the heart. He wasn’t sure why he felt it, but Elrond knew this pain he felt was not his, but from his foster father. 

“Why don’t you do a quick sweep, Astarno? We will wait for you. I am sure the guards could handle themselves. Mayhap we can race to the castle together to see who can get there faster,” Maglor said, dropping the hands he held out to the twins.

Elrond grabbed Maglor’s hand.

“And we will be faster than you, Elros. Right, atar?” Elrond said. Maglor looked down at Elrond and squeezed his small hand. His foster father’s eyes were shiny bright. Warmth like a blanket heated by sunlight enveloped Maglor as he rubbed his thumb into Elrond’s hand in his grasp. This was the first time Elrond had called Maglor ‘father.’

He’s not our father, a wordless shout entered Elrond’s mind, and a feeling of disapproval flashed into his head.

Elrond looked at Elros. Elros’s disapproving eyes met his. Elrond swallowed hard knowing his brother will have more to say about this later.

Elrond pouted and leaned into Maglor’s hand. Elrond liked Maglor even if his brother did not. As far as he was concerned, Maglor was more of a father than his own father had been. And as for their mother, had she not abandoned them? Elros believed that their mother would come one day to fetch them. But Elrond knew better. Their mother was never coming back for them.

Just then, a wind changed. Both Astarno and Maglor turned sharply toward the woodland.

Astarno jumped off his horse, holding a bow in his hand already threaded with an arrow. And in Maglor’s hand, there was a naked sword.

“Take my horse, my lord. The boys!” Astarno sprinted toward the woodland and disappeared among the trees.

Elrond found himself lifted off his feet and on the back of Astarno’s horse with Elros seated behind him.

“Hold on, you two. Do not let go of the rein. Understand?” Maglor pushed the rein of the horse into Elrond’s hands. “Remember what I taught you. Keep your self low and hold on. The horse knows where to take you. Go now!”

“But…how about you?” Elrond asked although his heart thumped so fast it hurt.

“I will be behind you. Go now, little ones.” With that Maglor whispered something to the horse and it shot forth.

Elrond turned back to see Maglor standing there with his sword drawn, watching them. His horse appeared from the far edge of the woodland.

“Elrond!” Elros shouted from behind him as his brother’s fingers dug into Elrond’s side. Elrond turned as the horse took a sharp right to avoid colliding with a shadow that was coming at them from the left.

“Aaaak!” They shouted in unison as they held on, Elrond onto the neck of the horse and Elros clinging onto Elrond as things blurred around them as the horse picked up speed.

Then, suddenly, the horse stopped and reared, braying loudly. Elrond’s face smashed into the neck of the horse. Elros’ body rammed Elrond on the back. Then, the pressure on his side and back fell away when the horse began to run again.

“Elros!” Elrond turned around just as Elros tumbled onto the ground, but the horse was moving so fast, Elros was left far behind. Elrond pulled at the rein still clutched in his hands. “Stop! Stop! We have to go back for my brother!” he shouted to the horse.

The horse eventually did stop, but when Elrond turned the horse around, he could not see his brother. Elrond urged horse faster and saw with relief Elros getting up, but before standing up on his feet, Elros fell back onto the ground.

“Elros, I’m coming!”

Elrond could see Elros struggling to sit up again. Elrond managed to steer the horse toward Elros when his brother raised himself up on his side, but he seemed unable to stand up.

“Hurry. Elros is hurt!” Elrond urged the horse, but before Elros could be reached, the horse slid to a stop, snorting loudly. Just behind Elros, a creature loomed. Elrond had never seen one like it before.  It was a size of a horse, but it looked more like a picture of a wolf he had seen in a book, except its eyes were red, and its mouth was full of dagger-like teeth. Thick bluish fur surrounded its muscled and wide shoulders. It rose up silently like a shadow and skulked behind Elros. And the creature was not alone.

Elrond wanted to call out his brother’s name, but no sound came from his mouth. He couldn’t move any part of his body as he shook. Elros lifted his face toward Elrond then frowned, then he turned to look behind him as the creatures growled baring their teeth. There were three of them.

“Hiya!”

A loud battle cry and the sound of hooves beating on earth brought Elrond out of his stupor. It was Maglor on his horse. Two of the three creatures turned to the Nodorin warrior. Maglor drove his horse near the creatures, then jumped up high in the air sailing above the two of the beasts. His sword gleamed brightly as the warrior landed on the back of the beast that stood over Elros. In one smooth motion, Maglor plunged his sword deep into the head of the beast. The warg didn’t even utter a sound before it fell where it stood. Maglor flew up and landed lightly next to Elros. He picked up Elros in his arm and held out his sword in front of him.

The two wargs rushed in, one from the left and the other from the right, but Maglor jumped out of the way. However, despite their overgrown size, the beasts were agile. Instead of crashing into each other, they turned sharply and positioned themselves back on each side of Maglor. Growling menacingly, they circled the Noldorin warrior.

“Atar!” Elrond called out to Maglor. One of the beasts turned toward Elrond.

“Ride, Elrond!” Maglor shouted. “Go! Ride!”

But Elrond did not want to lose any more family. Elros was all he had. He had just learned to love someone other than his brother. How could he leave them? If he left them now, how would he be different from his mother and father who had abandoned them?

Elrond kicked the horse’s side to urge it to go forward toward Maglor and Elros. One of the beasts broke off from circling Maglor and blocked Elrond. Elrond’s horse shied, brayed loudly and reared. Elrond held on, refusing to let go.

Then two things happened at once.

Another horse rode up. Captain Astarno jumped, his sword gleaming like starlight in his hand. At the same time, Maglor’s sword flashed. Elrond heard the steel song, the singing of the swords as two swords whistle past each other leaving two bright arcs that disappeared in an instant.

The two beasts fell, both split into two. But before Elrond could see more, Astarno landed behind Elrond and pulled him into his arms blocking any further sight of the creatures.

 

 

Riverside near North. September 21, Second Age 144

 

The sun was sinking leaving a red streak in the sky. Lord Gilmagor had led the cadets down into the valley. They found a row of boulders on top of a small hill standing between the river and the cliff, in the midst of flat moor just before the fens by the river. Lord Gilmagor ordered the cadets to prepare for the night.

“They will wait to attack in the dark. We better be ready,” Lord Gilmagor said.

 The horses are let loose, instructed to go further up north following the cliffside. If these were any other horses, cadets would have worried for them. But these horses were bred from the horses brought from Valinor, those brought by Feanor’s sons in the hijacked ships. Maedhros had given some of them to Fingolfin when the eldest of Feanor’s sons conceded his kingship to his step-uncle. And these horses were bred from them. They understood instructions and could follow them.

“Can you believe it? Werewolves and wargs? At this time and Age? I thought they were only in the stories,” Erfaron said as he sharpened the stakes using the branches they had picked up at the woodland.

“Have you forgotten, Erfaron? There is even a kinslayer living in these parts,” Oron said next to him.

Elrond’s ears perked up. A kinslayer? His heart began to drum. Elrond had heard that Maglor was alive, wandering the vast Arda. Ever since he had become an Elf, Elrond had tried to reach Maglor with his mind, but there had been no answer. And he could not ask about Maglor. It was never said, but the talk of kinslayers was a forbidden topic inside the White City.

Could they be talking about Maglor? Elrond wondered, his heart suddenly hopeful.

“What is this? Where have you heard that?” Elrond asked.

“You have never heard it? Cadets were talking about it just before we left the White City,” Oron said. “Erfaron, you even commented, if I remember.”

Erfaron shrugged. “Who cares about one kinslayer. They are forbidden to enter Lindon. That is all I care about.”

“But what is this about a kinslayer living in these parts? Is that true?” Elrond asked.

“I do not know if it is true, but the word is he lives just a league away from the village of Green Elves. To think that Green Elves have been hiding a kinslayer. Who would have thought?” Oron chuckled.

“They may not have known,” Erfaron said. “Didn’t they say his place was hidden?”

“Who is ‘they’?” Elrond needed to know where this story originated. How is it that he had never heard about this?

Oron and Erfaron looked at each other. “You know?” Erfaron asked Oron, but the cadet shook his head. Erfaron faced Elrond. “Everybody was talking about it at Cellon’s place the day…” The Noldo glanced at Thranduil who sat sharpening the wooden stakes quietly, his back to the cadets. Erfaron tipped his head toward the blond Sinda and made a motion with his fists.

“Why did you not come, Elrond?” Oron asked. “I think almost all the cadets were there except Belegor and you two.” Oron’s eyes flitted toward Thranduil before landing on Elrond.

“Do you know who this kinslayer is?” Elrond asked although he didn’t think the cadets would know.

Oron looked at Erfaron.

“It was a Quenya name. Cellon did say it once.” Oron frowned, scratching his nose.

“Makalaure?” Elrond offered. “Kanafinwe?” His foster father was known by his Sindarized name ‘Maglor,’ but his Quenya name was Kanafinwe and Makalaure, which was Maglor’s mother name. But among his brothers, he was called Kano. “Kano?” It was unlikely anyone outside his family called Maglor this, but Elrond asked anyway. Hope filled his heart, and it thrummed loudly.

But Oron’s face was blank. “Noooo,” he shook his head. “It was more like Ass—something. Asta--.” Oron looked at Erfaron.

“I didn’t pay too much attention,” Erfaron said with a shrug.

“Astarno?” Elrond swallowed hard.

“Yes! That’s it. Astarno. That was the name,” Oron said with a bright smile.

CRACK!

A loud snap made the three cadets turn as Thranduil shot up from where he sat. A broken wooden stake fell from the Sinda’s hands.

 

---------

Amon Ereb (Sindarin, lonely hill)-- the highest point in the southern plains of East Beleriand. It stood alone within sight of Gelion. On top of the hill, Caranthir (4th son of Feanor) built a stronghold which he fortified with the help of the Green Elves. It guarded eastern passage into the southern part of East Beleriand. Feanor’s sons withdrew here after the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. After the third kinslaying at Sirion, Maedhros, and Maglor, the two remaining sons of Feanor brought Elrond and Elros here. But after only two years, Morgoth drove them out, and the Feanorians wandered without a home base ever since.

Sanwe-latya (Quenya, thought opening)—exchange of information, perception, emotion or memory from the mind of another. It is said that at one time all sentient beings could use this form of communication but as language developed, the ability to use this diminished. Only those with powerful minds whose souls are dominant over their bodies can use this easily (like Valar and Maiar and some powerful Elves). Two minds must share some close affinity toward each other before this ability could be used. The mind must be open as it cannot be done forcefully (the reason why Melkor could not read the thoughts of another against their will)

Ramdal (Sindarin, wall’s end)—cluster of low hills in East Beleriand. It was located few miles away from Amon Ereb and marked the eastern end of Andram, the Long Wall, that ran westward for many miles. In my story, Maedhros had erected a watch tower here to watch for Morgoth’s army. From the tower, one could watch north and west for the movement of Morgoth army before it reached Amon Ereb giving Maedhros enough time to evacuate the people from Amon Ereb. Maedhros would have known that he could not face the army of Morgoth alone.

 

Chapter Text

ELROND dug his feet into the ground, refusing to cringe at the searing heat he felt, but the other two cadets flinched back when Thranduil turned to face them. The blond Sinda was terrible to behold.

The blood red of the fading sun drenched Thranduil’s silver-gold hair in dark red, and the Sinda’s eyes shone with black heat. Thranduil glared at them as if he will burn them into ashes where they stood. Elrond felt, rather than saw, Erfaron’s hand grip the hilt of his sword.

Elrond sensed Thranduil struggle to control the fire thrashing inside. Although his face remained icy, the deep red shadow flickered behind his eyes and the heat in them robbed Elrond of his breath even though Thranduil stood several strides away from him. Elrond took a step toward Thranduil, but the Sinda took in a breath, turned without a word, hoisted up the bundle of stakes he had been carving and stalked down the hill.

Oron let out a breath.

“Did we say something wrong?” Oron turned to look down at Thranduil as he descended to the bottom of the hill where the other two cadets were busy piling dry bushes in the shallow trench they had dug around the bottom of the hill.

“Who knows what goes on that arrogant head of his. Son of Orc!” Erfaron swore, glaring at Thranduil’s back. “I would like to give him a good whack one day.”

“Keep it down,” Elrond said, laying a hand on Erfaron’s hand still holding onto the hilt of his sword. “We do not want to fight among ourselves while preparing to face an enemy.”

“I like it not, but it is hard to say otherwise when the Sinda behaves thus.” Erfaron glanced at Elrond then at Oron. “Don’t tell me I was the only one offended?”

“I thought he was going to strike us down,” Oron said. “Maybe the Sinda does not think of us as his companions. Can he be trusted to fight beside us and protect our backs?”

“Oron! You are exaggerating and your words needlessly divisive,” Elrond said frowning.

“Well, the Sinda behaving the way he is isn’t inspiring much confidence in him,” said Erfaron. “Can you blame Oron if he thinks so?”

“No, Elrond is right,” Oron said, his voice grave. “I should not have said such a thing about a fellow cadet.” Oron turned to Elrond and bowed his head. “I apologize for my words.”

Elrond sighed. “I am sure you did not mean them, Oron.”

Oron nodded back, then turned to walk back down to his warrior companion.

“The fault lies with your warrior companion, not with Oron,” Erfaron said and followed after the other cadet.

Elrond let out a sigh. He wondered how many cadets felt that way about Thranduil.

Lack of trust. That was a terrible thing. If warriors who trained together cannot trust each other, how could they face enemies together?

Elrond knew some cadets disliked Thranduil, but this was a first time he heard anyone doubt Thranduil’s integrity as a fellow warrior. Elrond wondered if it was Oron’s personal view or something the cadet heard. Elrond did not know Oron well, but the Half-Elven did note that Oron who used to be closer to Cellon was now one of the followers of Belegor. It was nothing unusual. Belegor had many followers, but it seemed to Elrond that Oron changed after joining the officer program.

Elrond looked down at Thranduil at the bottom of the hill as the Sinda spread out the carved stakes all around the edges.

Looking at Thranduil, unease darkened Elrond’s heart. A dread glided down his spine like a water snake on the surface of the water.

There was murder in those blue-green eyes.

Such hatred.

Elrond shivered, suddenly feeling cold. How is he to reach Thranduil? If the task had seemed mountainous before, it seemed almost impossible now. The mountain he needed to climb loomed before him, its cliffs covered with mists of snow and ice. And Elrond felt small looking up at the mountain’s impossible height.

What has made you like this, Thranduil? What have you seen that hardened your heart and made you hate so?

Elrond’s heart clenched. Could it be the talk of the kinslayers?

People talked of Maedhros, his brothers, and his warriors as if they were some depraved monsters. But how much did anyone know them? Maedhros and Maglor, the leaders of those kinslayers. And Astarno, one of their captains. People labeled them demons and murderers and shunned even the talk of them.

When Elrond had joined Gil-galad back in First Age at the age of twenty, he had given only a brief statement as to how Maedhros and Maglor raised him and Elros but had not spoken of them since. Elrond had felt the anger and the shame of the other Noldor around him. He had not wanted his foster fathers judged by the people who blamed them still, people who didn’t know the generous, noble and compassionate side of Maedhros and Maglor.

Elrond bent down to pick up the broken stake Thranduil dropped, then frowned. The broken edge of the stake was crushed into a pulp as if by a great force.

It came to Elrond that it wasn’t just the talk of the kinslayers that made Thranduil react. It was the name Astarno. Thranduil recognized the name. Did Thranduil meet Astarno? What has Astarno done that elicited such response from Thranduil? It was only by chance that Elrond heard little of what happened at Sirion and Menegroth. Maglor never talked of those incidents. And Elrond and his brother had not asked. Could not ask. And Elrond had not remembered many details of his childhood. But ever since meeting Thranduil, pieces of memories that Elrond thought he had forgotten had begun to surface.

 

Amon Ereb. August 10, First Age 538

“Ohhh!” Elrond could not keep his mouth closed. He had never seen so many books in one place. The few books he had at home had been gifts from strangers who came from across the sea in their big white boats.

Gaping, his heart aflutter, Elrond looked around the round tower lined with wooden shelves built to fit the curves of the stone tower.

“Isn’t this amazing, Elros?” Elrond said as he turned to his brother. But Elros was already rummaging through a large chest just behind the desk that sat opposite the door.

“It’s not here,” Elros said. But Elrond knew that already by the feeling of disappointment he felt from his brother.

“Maybe we could just ask them.”

Elros rolled his eyes and shook his head, but didn’t bother to say anything. Instead, Elros looked around the library. On the walls, there were weapons and shields mounted on wooden boards. There were several swords among them, but none was the one they were looking for.

“Elros…”

“Look upstairs, Elrond.” Elros moved over to the door once he looked around the entire first floor.

“Where are you going?”

“To his bedroom.”

“But…”

“Just do it, Elrond.” Elros rolled his eyes again.

“I don’t want to be here on my own. Don’t leave me here alone,” Elrond whined as Elros opened the door ajar to look out.

“Stop being a baby. You’ll be fine,” Elros said.  He turned toward Elrond. “If you get caught, tell them Captain Astarno said it was okay.”

“But we’ll get the captain in trouble.”

“You won’t, Elrond. He said we are free to go anywhere.” With that, Elros slipped out of the door closing the wooden door behind him.

Elrond pouted at the door forlornly but walked toward the center and climbed up the curved stairs up to the second level. It was built on a narrow ledge wide enough to hold the bookshelves and a passage of one full grown adult to walk freely around the shelves.

There were more swords mounted on the wall here, but Aranruth was not among them.

Elrond sighed and looked down when he saw a book on the floor. It was bound in pale gold leather and leafed with silver. Elrond opened the book, and his eyes widened. It was a drawing of a plant. Pretty letters were written beneath the picture. It was a Quenya word. Although he understood Quenya, Elrond and his brother grew up speaking Sindarin with their mother. And after they have learned their way around the castle at Amon Ereb, Maglor thought it proper that they should be taught how to read and write Quenya. Elrond traced the elegant script with his finger and eagerly turned to next page, all thoughts of Aranruth forgotten, when the door to the library opened.

Elrond slid down onto the floor although he did not know why he was hiding. Elros said it was all right, but somehow Elrond felt he was doing something wrong. Elrond lifted his head carefully and looked down through the elaborate steel railing.

There were three Elves. The tallest one of them had a flaming red hair. A thin gold circlet tamed the luxurious red waves which were kept off his face by two elaborate braids.

“How many?” The deep voice belonged to Maedhros.

“Too many.” The grave voice that followed behind Maedhros belonged to Captain Astarno. “Entire Arvernien is crawling with them. But Sirion is too deep. And they do not have boats. I do not think they will risk crossing the river,” the captain said.

“Which means they will come from North through East Beleriand when they do come,” Maglor said.

“Astarno,” Maedhros commanded.  “Double the guards posted at Ramdal and set up dedicated guards to watch the pass between Andram and Taur-im-Duinath as well. I do not wish to take any chances. And take a team to look for a way to cross River Gelion and map out a route.”

“As you command,” the captain saluted and left the library.

“Nelyo, is it wise to go across River Gelion? The Green Elves, they may have heard what happened at Sirion.”

“The Orcs are running rampant in the whole of Beleriand, Kano. I doubt they have heard anything…. And even if they did, we do not have much choice. Diminished we are, after the loss we took at Sirion. This hold is not strong enough to meet the dark tide. Morgoth does not know of this place, but he will soon enough. He will not rest until he cloaks this land with his shadow. The darkness will eat away all that we have built here, and we are alone, an island in a vast sea of darkness. We cannot face him, weakened and weary. We must seek a new harbor to weather the storm.” Maedhros sounded tired. “And Kano, you take a team and sail down River Gelion. I want to make sure the passage is safe before sending the twins down the river…”

“No,” said Maglor. “We should not send them back now. All roads are covered in darkness, even down the river. And the boys, they need us, and we need them, brother.”

“Kano, what can we do for the children? They are better off with Artanaro (Gil-galad).”

“Why? Because Gil-galad is the kin to the twins? They are our kin, too, Nelyo. We can raise them as well as that boy, perhaps better than he as we have experience raising our brothers while he does not. And neither Cirdan nor Gil-galad has asked after the twins.”

“You heard Astarno. Morgoth’s creatures occupy Arvernien now. Like shadow wall, they stand, feeding on all that is bright. All birds flying between the Bay of Balar and East Beleriand are shot down. They have no way to reach us.”

“That is more reason we cannot send the boys away, especially when we are unable to coordinate the children’s safety with those at the Isle. Do you not see, brother? Valar meant for us to find the twins. We are meant to care for them.”

“Do not talk to me of Valar, Kano. What have they done but stay silent and unmoving while we suffered, while all those innocent people in Beleriand suffered and still suffer.” Maedhros sank into the chair behind the desk and leaned onto his hand. “And as for the boys, there may be family…”

“What family? Their father wasn’t even around. Their mother abandoned them. You heard Astarno. She jumped into the ocean, Nelyo.” Maglor’s voice trembled as it went up.  “She jumped rather than give up the jewel. If she valued her children, would she have done that? Leave her children behind? What kind of mother does that?”

Elrond had never heard Maglor sound so upset. He was always so calm and warm. Elrond’s heart began to beat faster and faster. Did their mother abandon them? Was she never coming to get them? Elros believed so firmly that their mother was going to come for them one day. Elrond’s eyes filled with tears as his heart tightened painfully.

“She was threatened, Kano. Did you not hear? Ambarussa told Astarno to shoot her down.”

“You know Astarno as well as I do. He may have tried to appease Ambarussa, but he would not have harmed her.  This is the same Astarno who almost got himself killed trying to fight Tyelko’s warriors, the ones who took those twins at Menegroth. Astarno tried to prevent them. Do you know how badly he was hurt? He still came to me, in his condition, to ask me to stop Tyelko’s warriors.”

“Yet, he defended them when I would have them banished for what they did to those children.”

Maglor’s voice was quiet. Elrond had to strain to hear.

“But Astarno was right. Banishing them would have meant their death. Morgoth’s creatures were everywhere. Where could have they gone? No matter what they did, they were loyal to Tyelko.  His loss grieved them, and the blood lust was on them. Through damnation, blood, and fire, they had followed us, given us their hearts and souls. Who were we to judge them?”

“But those children, Kano. They were mere babes, no more than those two you brought.” Maedhros’ voice cracked, and his smooth baritone sounded shrill and broken. “What horrible monsters we have become? We are demons, Kano.”

Silence flowed as Elrond’s heart beat loud and furious.

“The tragedy at Menegroth, the fault does not lie entirely with you, Nelyo,” Maglor said after a moment of silence passed. Maglor’s voice sounded subdued and concerned.

“I am the one who gave the order,” Maedhros said, his voice flat and colorless.

“You tried your best to limit the loss. Both ours and theirs. You convinced our brothers to wait until Midwinter when you knew there would be fewer people in Menegroth. You did everything you could, Nelyo. How could you have known there were still that many warriors inside the caves or that the newcomer would rally the guards at the gate?”

“I should not have sent in Moryo and Kurvo so deep inside the cave. I had hoped that if we could capture the queen and the princes, Dior would break and will negotiate with us.”

“It was a good plan. If we were successful, we could have made the exchange with minimal loss on both our sides,” Maglor said and let out a sigh as if to empty out his soul. “We had underestimated the Sindar, and we paid for it with the lives of our brothers. It was not you, brother. It was the Doom that was working against us.  How could we have known that their warriors were called back or that their legion had not gone too far from Menegroth before turning back.”

Maedhros remained silent. For a long time, they did not speak, and Elrond wondered whether he should let them know he was there when Maglor spoke again.

“But no matter, I am not sending Elrond and Elros away. They have just now started to sleep without nightmares. They have only now gotten used to us and being here. I am not going to disturb their peace again by sending them away somewhere they have never been. No, brother. I am keeping them, and you will not stop me.”

“Having them with us will taint them with our doom. Let the elflings go, Kano.”

“We call them elflings, but have you not seen that they are Edain, not Elves? The doom lies with us, not with them.”

“All who we touch are doomed!” Maedhros’ words cut through the air like a blade. “Have you not seen the Edain suffer? Do you think they would have suffered if they had not joined us?” Maedhros’ voice went up and hung in the air, sharp, biting, and cold.

Maglor did not reply, and deep silence settled between them until Maedhros spoke again. This time, his voice was calm but heavy with grief.

“They will one day leave us, Kano. No matter how much love you give them, they will not love you back. They can’t. How could they? How will you bear it then?”

“If it is the punishment Eru measured out for us… if at the cost of our hearts it can lessen even little of what wrongs we have done, will you not take it, brother?”

 

Moor west of River Lune . September 21, Second Age 144

As the light of the sun weakened, the clouds gathered, and the once brilliant Autumn sky turned gray. Over the river that ran south, a great cloud of mists gathered hiding all that lay under it.

Cadets completed their assigned tasks and gathered behind Lord Gilmagor who stood watching the valley where they had descended. The cliffside rose steeply all along the edge of the forest and stretched far into the north.

“My lord, we completed our preparations,” Elrond said. “What shall we do now?”

Lord Gilmagor turned to them. “Now, we wait. You’ll find that in battle, the actual moment of fighting is much shorter than we think they are. More than half of the time is spent waiting.”

“Waiting for what, sir?” Oron asked.

“Waiting for the right time, cadet. Timing is crucial in a battle as it is in all things. Now that we have some time, shall we do some learning?” Gilmagor turned to the cadets.

“But shouldn’t they be attacking soon?” Elrond said.

“Soon, yes. But not so soon.” Gilmagor smiled. “What have you learned about wargs and werewolves?”

“Not much,” said Erfaron. “They are used mostly as scouts because they are nimble and unlike Orcs are harder to detect for us as they can pass for other animals. But they can think and communicate and are wholly controlled by the will of the dark lord. But I thought these creatures were destroyed after the War of Wrath.”

“Apparently, not all of them perished,” said Lord Gilmagor. “I thought any remaining had migrated to the east.”

“Shouldn’t we position ourselves, my lord? The sun is almost but disappeared,” Gelir said standing next to Erfaron, his warrior companion.

“Do not fear. They will not attack until it becomes pitch dark. Unlike us or the Orcs who require starlight or moonlight to see, these creatures can see in the pitch darkness. They will wait until there is no light.” Lord Gilmagor looked up at the sky. “And there will be no stars tonight,” Gilmaor said and continued.  “When they come, aim for their eyes as it will be the only thing you will see in the dark. And their eyes are one of the few places that are vulnerable. They have hides and furs thick as an iron armor so arrows anywhere else would be useless.”

Gilmagor turned to Thranduil. “Oropherion, you have fought these creatures. Have you not? I have read your father’s report he submitted to the king. You spent several decades up in the northern region of Misty Mountains. Anything you can tell the cadets?”

“As the Lord Commander said, their fur is like an iron armor, especially around their neck, shoulders, and sides,” Thranduil said.

“How do we kill them then?” asked Saldor, Oron’s warrior companion.

“Aim here,” Thranduil touched the top of his head. “There is a soft spot here. Plunge your sword here, and you can kill it instantly.”

“They probably wouldn’t lower their heads voluntarily for us to do that,” Oron chuckled.

“No. You’ll have to jump onto the top of its back to do that,” Thranduil said nonchalantly. “Easier way is to slide under and cut their underside although if you time it wrong, it will fall on you and bury you under its spilled gut. If the weight doesn’t crush you, its stench will. Better if you can stake them. Of course, if you are skilled enough, you can split them into two by slicing through the gap in their joints. But if you miss, you will risk breaking your swords.” Thranduil pointed to two spots, one behind front legs and the other before the hind legs. “Their joints are wide apart here, and the fur in that area is sparse as it is where they bend.”

“How could they bend those areas?” Gelir rounded his eyes, grimacing.

“Because they are not natural. They are bred to spy and scout for the dark lord. They are very limber and despite their size can fit through small openings because their bones are attached to their muscles like cats,” Thranduil said.

The sky darkened. Swirling mists swelled up from the river and mingled with the oncoming darkness.

“To your positions!” Lord Gilmagor’s command whipped across the approaching darkness. “Lord Istuion with me.” And with that, the cadets were plunged into the thick darkness of the approaching night.

 

__________

Aranrúth (Sindarin, King’s Ire)—King Thingol’s sword. It was saved from the destruction of Doriath and passed to Elros who became the first King of Numenor. It became the heirloom of the Kings of Numenor and was lost when Numenor was destroyed.

Taur-im-Duinath (Sindarin, Forest between Rivers)—Forest that lay between rivers Sirion and Gelion. It covered most of the land south of Amon Ereb. The forest was thick and dark and even Orcs did not go there except few Dark Elves who wandered there.

River Gelion—River east of Amon Ereb that separated East Beleriand from Ossiriand where Green Elves dwelled. It is said, Gelion was swifter than River Sirion although it was less wide or deep.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

THRANDUIL squeezed his eyes shut even though it was not necessary. The darkness was complete, and he could not even see his hands in front of his eyes. Thranduil took in a breath and focused on the heat inside him.

Astarno.

The name echoed in his head. After Sirion, Thranduil tried to convince Lord Cirdan to go after the retreating army of Maedhros, but the council had decided not to pursue. Thranduil had not understood. They had taken the twins, Elwing’s children Thranduil had hidden inside a cave before chasing after the three Noldorin warriors.

And those three warriors in red armor. Those three had taken from Thranduil his sun and the moon, never to shine again in Middle Earth. The grief of loss he felt at Sirion surged like a typhoon and crashed into his heart sucking the breath from his lungs. Thranduil gritted his teeth as the tidal wave of emotion threw him into the impenetrable blackness of the vast sea. Darkness closed all around Thranduil, calling him into its black embrace.

“Thranduil?”

A hand reached out in the darkness and grabbed his arm, pulling Thranduil out of the black sea.

“Are you well?” Elrond’s concerned voice whispered next to him.

Thranduil took in a lungful of air and shook off Elrond’s hand. How Elrond saw through the pitch darkness and found him, Thranduil did not know. But he took in a long breath to control his turbulent emotion. This was not the time to drown in his memories. He needed to focus.

As if Elrond knew Thranduil was back in control, the Half-Elven did not say anything further.

Thranduil took in a deep breath and sent out his senses all around, focusing on the minutest changes in the air around him.

Thranduil remembered back to the sword training with Captain Himion and his surviving officers. One of the first things they did once Thranduil was apt enough with his long daggers was to blind him.

“Your senses could fool you, Thranduil,” Captain Himion said. “Especially your sight. Do not rely on one sense alone. Use all. There may also be a time when you may not be able to use one or the other of your senses. Develop all of them so that if one is lacking, you could still depend on your other senses.”

Thranduil reached out through the darkness, his senses all alert now, every hair on his body standing on its end. He could hear the rough breathing of the cadets next to him and the slow, even breath of Lord Istuion. However, he could not feel Lord Gilmagor.

Thranduil opened his eyes to look ahead. Lord Gilmagor glowed as if he had an inner light burning inside him. The commander was the only one Thranduil could see in the darkness.

It was then that he felt a slight tremor under his feet. It was hardly discernible, so slight it was. Had his senses not been alert, he would not have felt it.

“They are coming,” Thranduil said.

“On your guards,” Gilmagor said. “They are coming from both east and west.”

Thranduil directed his senses toward the river. Sure enough, the movements were coming from both the river and from the valley where they had descended this afternoon. Thranduil’s heart clenched when he realized there were too many feet, much more than he had expected. He had anticipated about twenty at the most, but what he heard sounded more than thrice that number.

“That is no pack or two,” Gelir said somewhere far right. It was hard to mistake the fear in his voice.

“I thought they were mostly used as scouts,” Oron said. “I never heard of wolves or wargs attacking as a horde and in such large numbers.”

Erfaron cursed, and Saldor who was stationed farthest from Thranduil swore, his mumbled profanity doing little to hide the quiver in his voice.

Soon, the ground trembled and a loud rumble of sound resounded from both east and west. Along with the sound of feet thundering on the ground came a loud howl and growl of many beasts.

 “Steady, cadets!” Gilmagor’s voice ripped through the darkness. “You are the scions of the great warriors of First Age. Show your fathers and forefathers what you are made of, lads. Do not let these beasts frighten you. Stand steady!”

Thranduil knew Gilmagor’s words were meant to arouse spirits and boost the cadet’s confidence. Battles were fought on two fronts, mental and physical. No matter how well trained, if soldiers hearing a battle cry of their enemies were seized with fear and left paralyzed, the battles were lost even before they started.

Thranduil felt the cadets tense and knew their hearts were in the grip of fear. Having faced these twisted beasts more times than he would like to remember, Thranduil knew these beasts warranted such dread, but he also knew that it wasn’t just the monsters that these cadets feared.

Gilmagor was capable and experienced. But he had, obviously, forgotten that for young and inexperienced cadets, fear of disappointing their fathers or forefathers only added to the pressure they already felt. The burden of meeting the expectations combined with the fear and anxiety gnawed away at their confidence. Thranduil remembered the first time he faced an Orc horde. His fear of disappointing his father, instead of helping, had made things worse.

“Great warriors, indeed,” said Thranduil. “Sons do not always take after their fathers. Shall we see who can down more of these creatures? If you can even get to one of them.”

“Thranduil!” Elrond hissed next to him, his voice tight and full of warning.

“Challenge accepted, Sinda,” Erfaron ground his teeth, first to take the bait.

Thranduil couldn’t help his lips curving up. He didn’t care for Erfaron, but Thranduil could not but admire the Noldo’s spirit.

“It hardly seems fair,” Gelir said.

“Just because you have more experience,” Saldor harrumphed.

“Let’s make it even then, shall we?” Thranduil said. “You four against Elrond and I. Whichever team brings down more wins. Losers do all the chores for a week. You think you could handle that?”

“Absolutely!” Erfaron said. “Oron, Gelir, Saldor?”

“Let’s do it!” Oron said.

“Aye!” said Gelir and Saldor together.

“Do you have to do this now, Thranduil?” Elrond whispered to Thranduil.

“Come now, Elrond. It will be fun,” Thranduil said, unable to stop the grin spreading in his face, thankful that the darkness hid it.

Whatever protest from Elrond was swallowed up as the red and glowing eyes filled the darkness of the night, fierce and terrible. And along with them, a sound of howling and snarling rose like a wild storm in the night.

“Ready!” Gilmagor’s command cut through the roar and the cadets took their positions. The pale form of Gilmagor pulsed as he stood like a pale pillar in front of them.

“Release!” Gilmagor shouted, and the arrows of the cadets sang.

Fast as he could, Thranduil’s hands moved, each arrow aiming straight for the red glow in the dark. There were so many of them, but Thranduil focused on shooting down as many of the red eyes as he could. Less standing, less he had to fight later.

“Fire Arrows. Ready!” Lord Gilmagor shouted as the first sets of the red eyes came near just a few strides from him. Gilmagor’s pale form shimmered.

“Ready!” cadets shouted in unison. Thranduil struck the fire stones, the standard army issue, he held in his left hand. A spark ignited the tip of his arrow just as five other fire-lit arrows stood ready from each cadet’s bow.

“Now!” Lord Commander shouted as soon as the first group of red eyes reached him.

As previously planned, four flaming arrows shot up toward the sky illuminating the area. Thranduil and Saldor aimed their arrows to the trench previously made by two cadets and filled with dry bushes and branches and soaked with liquor. The instant the fire arrows hit the ditch, the fire burst forth. Flames surged and spread. A circular wall of fire blazed around the stone island where the cadets stood. The beasts, mix of wargs and wolves, screeched to a stop, some veering off but too late. Few of them plunged into the wall of flame.

Lord Gilmagor’s hands sprouted two gleaming swords, and Lord Istuion held two long daggers. Both moved like dancers. Their movements, different yet alike, wove through the emerging beasts. Their swords, a glimmer of silver fire in the dark, sliced through the creatures in a deadly dance.

All the while the bows of the cadets sang, deadly music to accompany the lethal dance of the elder warriors. The air filled with the thick, sickening stench of blood, burning flesh, and fur.

The beasts pulled back.

Just outside the ring of fire, beasts loomed like shadows, big as horses and dark as the night. Their snarl rose, an angry sea in the pitch blackness of the night. Then suddenly, all sounds stopped as the beasts turned their backs and retreated into the darkness.  

“Hold your arrows!” Thranduil shouted and stashed his bow behind him. Elrond followed, but more arrows whistled past. Thranduil glared at the cadets lined up left of him. But they did not stop until Lord Gilmagor’s command sliced through the air.

“Hold! Save your arrows. Ready for battle!” Gilmagor and Istuion moved back near the cadets.

“There’s more?” Gelir asked, his voice shaky.

“That was just first assault. Now we fight.” Thranduil said and unsheathed his sword. He turned to the cadets. “Now is the time to show me your skill and pride as Noldorin warriors. That is if you have any skill or pride.” Thranduil flashed them his teeth, challenging them with his eyes.

The cadets whose eyes wavered with uncertainty and fear hardened, their fear replaced with flames of anger.

Be angry. Anger will save you when fear binds and hinders.

Elrond cursed under his breath and glared at Thranduil. But there was no more time.

As the elder warriors stepped back, the fire that had blazed previously weakened. The black shadows turned as if they were one mass. A lone beast howled. And as if on cue, the beasts jumped over the diminishing flames, one after another.

The swords of the two lords sliced, cut and stabbed, but there were too many of them.

“Elbereth!”

Thranduil shouted at the top of his lung, expelling the breath he held. Fear knotted his stomach and tightened his muscles. No matter how many times he fought these demons of Morgoth, fear nipped at him each time he faced them. But, Thranduil reached into the anger he held deep inside. It had gotten him through many death-defying moments.

Thranduil ran down the hill, half growling, half shouting, aiming for a creature thrown back by Lord Gilmagor. Lord Commander stood his back to Lord Istuion, and they were surrounded.

A creature snapping at Istuion turned to face Thranduil. It hunkered down, then leaped. Yelling, Thranduil ran to meet it, throwing his body back to sail below the underside of the animal. Thranduil thrust his sword into the underbelly of the beast, cutting it open as he slid past it.  

The Sinda rolled to the side and was on his knees when he felt a beast behind him. He thrust his sword up to block the snapping jaw, grabbed onto the beast’s fur, swung up onto its back and plunged his sword into its head.

He leaped off before the beast fell, flipped in the air to land on his feet.  

Thrust, slash, leap, flip, plunge, block.

The air filled with the stench of the beasts and the blood. Thranduil moved through them, sinuous and deadly.

But, these were living creatures. No matter how experienced, unexpected things, deadly mistakes, happened.  

Thranduil rushed, aiming to cut the beast into the half. He leaped, plunged his sword just behind the beast’s shoulder. As soon as his sword hit, Thranduil knew his aim had erred. But he was in the middle of a flip that he could not stop. He knew he could not hold onto his sword which embedded itself into the creature’s bone having missed the gap in its joint. If he did not let go, the force of his motion would either break his wrist, the sword or both.

Thranduil let go. He reached for his dagger as he landed on the beast’s back when he was knocked off by a mighty swipe from another warg.

Thranduil sailed backward and slammed violently against a boulder. His lung expelled air as pain exploded on his left shoulder and head. His head rang, and his sight darkened. Thranduil struggled to sit up, grunting, once his body slid down the boulder onto the ground.

Everything hurt.

When his eyes cleared, the warg stood over him, his sword still sticking out just behind its left shoulder. It snarled, its red eyes savage with fire. Thranduil fumbled for his dagger, but it was not in his hand or his sheath. The Sinda pawed his back and realized the bow was not there. Even if it was, it was not his bow. All the weapons they carried were issued by the army. His double daggers wouldn’t be there.

He had nothing. When the realization hit, Thranduil chuckled.

 The warg growled, its lips curled back, teeth exposed.

“Let’s see whose anger is greater, beast. Mine or yours? You want to kill me? Do it. Do it now. I have no regrets!” Thranduil growled back.

That wasn’t quite true, but at least, Thranduil did not regret leaving this world. This world had given him nothing but pain.

“Get away from him, Seed of Morgoth!” Elrond ran up the hill, leaped up, stepped onto Thranduil’s sword still sticking out from the warg and flew onto the beast’s back.

When the warg lay dead, Elrond pulled out the sword embedded in the warg and threw it to Thranduil.

“Stop sitting around, Sinda! There are still more beasts.” With that Elrond turned and rushed to slay two wolves behind him.

Thranduil got up, snapping his dislocated shoulder back in place with a grimace.

“Yes, I was just sitting around playing with the warg which slammed me on a boulder. How remiss of me!” Thranduil swore out aloud.

Nursing his aching shoulder, Thranduil looked around. Lord Gilmagor and Lord Istuion, Thranduil knew they could stand their own, but they were surrounded by wargs and wolves and could not help the cadets. Cadets were holding their own, but barely. They were clearly overwhelmed.

It was then that Thranduil noticed Erfaron. He had made the same mistake. A snapped piece of Erfaron’s blade was buried on the side of the warg in front of the Noldo. It was apparent Erfaron’s sword hand was unusable. It hung limply on Noldo’s side while with the other hand he held a dagger out in front of him. Thranduil knew the dagger was not enough to defend against a warg, but he was too far from Erfaron to be much help. And other cadets were all engaged.

“Erfaron!” Thranduil threw his sword to Erfaron who looked up. The sword flew through the air. Erfaron threw away his dagger, leaped up and caught the sword. He turned in the air to plunge it into the warg’s head.

With nothing in his hand, Thranduil ran down the hill where he had buried several stakes. The fire inside the trench that had ignited the branches there was just flickering flames now, useful only as a source of light for the warriors.

As Thranduil was about to reach one of the stakes, a wag and two wolves blocked his way. Thranduil took out the wineskin attached to his belt, the ones rationed to each cadet. He leaped up to soar above the creatures, dousing them with wine. As soon as he landed next to the stakes, the beasts lunged at him. Grabbing one of the stakes, Thranduil stirred up the burning branches and flung them at the creatures. The warg and the wolves caught fire. They yelped, running madly as flames erupted on their backs and sides.

“Elrond! Douse the beasts!” Thranduil yelled to Elrond who was the closest to him. He continued to stir up the burning branches and threw them at the beasts.

Elrond looked up, saw the warg and the wolves flaming and running wild.

Once Elrond caught on, it was relayed to the cadets with surprising speed, and soon, many of the wargs and wolves were aflame. Even the ones that didn’t catch fire cowered and ran. Tide changed. Wargs and the wolves fled, a flicker of fire and smoke in the dark of the night.

Thranduil looked around, calming his breath. The ground as far as he could see in the faint light was covered with the bodies of the animals.

Lord Istuion, accompanied by Elrond addressed cadets’ injuries. Erfaron’s wrist was sprained, but not broken. Gelir’s left arm was torn, and Saldor’s leg was bitten, but his armor limited the damage, and the injury was minor. Oron, only one among the cadets, seemed unscathed.

Once their injuries were bound and medicated, the cadets were ordered to finish any animals remain living. Elven warriors killed cleanly, but in the frenzy of the kill, sometimes they missed the vitals that killed instantly. But, killing a helpless and injured being, whether animal or otherwise, was a harder thing than killing them in the heat of a battle. Regardless of how evil they are. No matter how necessary and how many times Thranduil had done it, it was and will always remain the most difficult part of the aftermath of combat.

When they finished and piled the animals to be burned, the sky in the far east glowed pale. The sky cleared and stars appeared.

Along with the rest of the cadets, Thranduil moved toward the misty river. No one spoke. But each one of them was drawn to water to wash off the blood. Blood meant death and death meant darkness. The dark blood of the creatures bred by Morgoth more so than any other. Their blood was filth and corruption.

The moorland between the river and the site of the battle was wide and covered in thick mists. But the faint light rising in the east was enough to light their path. They washed in a stream of water. And once cleansed, they offered their song of thanks and praise to the Valar as the sun rose and the mists melted away.

Having called their horses, cadets prepared to leave. They gathered any unbroken arrows, weapons, and provisions that were scattered. Thranduil was able only to find his quiver containing few arrows. But his bow was broken, and he could not find his dagger. Thranduil was glad that he did not bring the twin knives his father had given him. Those were irreplaceable.

“Your sword,” Erfaron approached Thranduil and handed the sword Thranduil threw the Noldo. “I…” Erfaron seemed to search for words. Thranduil saw that Erfaron’s bow remained intact.

“If you are willing, I’ll trade that sword for your bow and arrows,” Thranduil said.

Erfaron’s eyes met Thranduil’s. Understanding passed between them. Erfaron handed Thranduil his bow and the quiver of arrows, stashing the sword into his empty sheath. He gave Thranduil a warrior salute before returning to his horse.

Once the fire used to burn the carcasses were contained, they left the stone isle at the moors. Lord Gilmagor left a message for the border patrols who were stationed a day’s ride away knowing the guards will see the smoke and come to investigate.

The Lord Commander’s face was grim, and Thranduil wondered if the commander worried over the unnaturalness of this incident. That many wargs and wolves, it was far from ordinary.

They rode swiftly, no one wanting to linger at the battle site. Thranduil noted that the four cadets who had been light-hearted and lively at the beginning of their trip were quiet and grim as the elder lords. Killing, even of evil creatures like wargs, was never an easy thing. And the night had been long and bloody.

It was not until they reached a waterfall that they stopped to have a meal and rest.

Chewing a piece of lembas, Thranduil walked up to the foot of the waterfall. The sound of water falling was deafening. The cliff was high here, and the water fell from the height of an eight-story building. The water plunged into a deep pool before splitting into several swift streams rushing between large boulders before running down south into the River Lune.

“Oropherion!”

Thranduil turned. Lord Gilmagor stood there.

“This place does not feel safe. We will not linger here,” he said. Then, the commander threw something to him.  Thranduil caught it. It was a sword. One of the twin blades Gilmagor carried.

Thranduil looked up wide-eyed.

“You need a sword. I am entrusting it to you. Return it to me once we reach the north marches."

Thranduil’s eyes met Lord Gilmagor’s. No warrior gave away his weapon lightly, even if for a short time. And this was not the military issue as had been the one Thranduil gave to Erfaron. This was Gilmagor's personal weapon. For a warrior, his weapon was his life and nothing less than complete trust would make a warrior relinquish his weapon freely.

Thranduil looked down at the sword in his hand. When the Sinda looked up again, Gilmagor had already moved away, back to the camp set up downstream.

Thranduil’s throat tightened as his nose stung. Despite the dire situation they were on, the elder Elf had seen, understood and approved. Thranduil had not sought approval. He thought he had not cared whether anyone approved of him or not, the least of all the Lord Commander. Yet, his chest expanded as long-buried warmth surged in Thranduil's breast.

“Stupid Crooked Nose,” Thranduil murmured, but he was immensely pleased. “What does it matter if he approves of me or not,” he said, but Thranduil knew it was not true.

His hand trembled as Thranduil pulled out the sword from its sheath. It was one long piece of metal slightly longer than a regular blade. It sang, a clear crystal note, as it cleared the silver sheath. Even under the bright sunlight, the sword glowed pale as if made of starlight. It was no ordinary blade. Not even a master Dwarven smith could make a blade like this. Thranduil swallowed. It was a thing of beauty, and for the first time in his life, he desired a thing a hand of Noldor made.

 ---------

Lembas (Sindarin, Journey bread)-- waybread of Elves made of special corn that grew in Valinor. Orome the hunter of Valar gave it to the Elves as a sustenance in the Great Journey west. Only women, called Yavannildi, made this bread. By custom, Elven Queens kept and distributed the lembas. Queen Melian learned it from Vala Yavanna. And Galadriel learned it from Queen Melian. It was very nutritious and kept fresh for a long period of time.

 

Chapter Text

North of Laiquendi village September 23, Second Age 144

 

THRANDUIL looked around at the pale face of the cadets. Muscles of their faces were tense and lined. Since the battle two nights ago, they have been moving nonstop since their short stop at the waterfall.

Thranduil looked up at the sky. It was a deep pool of black velvet dotted with sparkling jewels thrown haphazardly. Thranduil’s hand moved of its own accord searching his neck for the leather-bound chain. His hand found nothing. The Sinda repressed a sigh and comforted himself knowing that his mother’s necklace was in Glineth’s safe hands back in Grey Havens. It had been necessary to leave it behind to avoid losing it, but Thranduil felt colder without it.

As the night deepened, the cliff that kept pace with them on their left began to hunker down, no longer steep and unconquerable.

The cadets were silent, only the woeful whispers of wind and the soft tinkling of the silver bells woven into the manes of the horses disturbed the tranquil silence of the night.

When the incline of the cliffside became gentle enough for the horses, cadets dismounted and started the climb. The wind from the vast moor that lay in the east grew bitter as they ascended to the top of the cliffside.

“Ai, thank the Valar! A stream!” Saldor exclaimed when he reached the top, grinning wide for the first time since the battle.

The top of the plateau was, indeed, full of young elm trees and flowing between the row of the trees was a small stream.

“Mayhap we can rest here, Commander,” Lord Istuion suggested. “The young ones could use some rest.”

Lord Gilmagor nodded.  “Lord Istuion, please look to the cadet’s injuries. They may need new dressing. I will survey the area. Thranduil and Elrond, take the first watch. Rest, set up camp.” With that, Gilmagor disappeared among the pines and birches across the stream.

Thranduil and Elrond glanced at each other. They exchanged nods, and Elrond took to a tree north of the glade where the rest of the cadets set up camp. Thranduil walked toward a cliffside where they had just climbed and jumped up lightly onto a branch of the tallest elm there.

Despite the brightness of the stars tonight, the plains and the moor that stretched below the cliff to the river were barely visible. Only the river shimmered like a silver thread in the darkness of the night.

The trees hummed soflty, their music just a faint melody amid the chirping of the insects. This forest was young, and it had not learned the ancient songs Thranduil had often heard in the older forests. As the sound of cadets moving died down, the harmony of the night deepened adding into its symphony the tooting of the birds and the flurry of tiny feet over the dried, fallen leaves and tree branches.

If the forest and the creatures that lived in it were calm, then there was no threat. Thranduil closed his eyes and relaxed his muscles, taking in a lungful of forest scents, pine trees mixed with birch. Then he scrunched his nose. Elms didn’t smell as sweet. Regardless, he had missed the forest and its many sounds and scents. He leaned back onto the branch of the tree and allowed the sounds of the forest to envelop him.

“Thranduil!”

Someone broke into Thranduil’s tranquility.

“I’m to take over your post,” the elf called as he moved about somewhere below. “Thranduil?”

Loath to move, Thranduil thought of not answering when he heard the cadet moving away from him. The blond Sinda shook the branch on which he sat. “Here!”

Soon, a figure emerged through the branches. It was Saldor, his hair damp and smelling fresh.

“Anything?” Saldor asked once he climbed onto a branch next to where Thranduil sat.

“Nothing. It is a quiet night.”

“Quiet is good.” Saldor smiled. “I don’t think I could take another like the one we had.” Saldor looked away.

Thranduil stowed the bow he had lying on his knee onto his back and grabbed the tree trunk to get down to a branch below.

“Thranduil?” Saldor looked up. He ran his hand through his hair, then rubbed at the back of his neck. “How do you do it? You moved through those beasts like….” He seemed lost for words. “But then, you have no fear.” The Noldo looked away again. Saldor clutched at his bow and Thranduil noticed the whiteness of his knuckles. “It’s nothing,” Saldor said and looked down at his bow.

Thranduil glanced at the branch below. Then, looked back at Saldor who settled down on the tree branch which he just vacated. Saldor’s shoulders drooped.

“You are wrong. I was terrified,” Thranduil said.

Saldor turned to Thranduil, his eyes wide. The cadet shook his head. “But you seemed so…”

“No matter how many times I fight them, I am afraid each time I face them.”

“Then, how?” Saldor frowned, but his hand relaxed. “How do you manage your fear?”

“My father said to me once that courage is not about lacking fear. Rather, it is about doing what you need to do despite it. You stood your ground. That is what matters.”

Saldor met Thranduil’s eyes, then nodded. The Noldo smiled, and Thranduil realized how young Saldor was. He was one of the youngest among the cadets.

Thranduil swung down onto the branch below when Saldor poked his head through the upper tree branch.

“Don’t wash near the camp. Go further down. There is a nice pool. Deep enough to dunk your entire body,” he said with a grin, then disappeared.

Thranduil jumped down onto the ground and looked up. It surprised Thranduil how these cadets, Noldor as they were, felt no different from the Sindarin warriors. They had the same fears and the same courage. The cadets had been afraid, but faced the beasts and stood their ground. And when he opened up to them, they, too, opened themselves to him.

His mother’s words came to him then.

High Elves, Deep Elves, Grey Elves. Whether they are Vanyar, Noldor, Sindar or Nandor, those things, they are just words, Thranduil. It doesn’t matter whether we are dark-haired and gray-eyed or yellow-haired and blue-eyed. We are all Elves. We are all kin. We differ only when you want to see only that which differentiate us. But, if you open your heart and open your mind, you will see that we are all the same. We are all brothers and sisters. Even the kinslayers. Even if they have done the worst things possible. It is not up to you or me to judge them.

“Thranduil!” Elrond called as Thranduil approached the stream. “Oron told me there is a pool further down,” the Half-Elven said. “I can’t wait to wash off the grime of the travel,” he said as they walked down the path strewn with pebbles which glimmered pale white under the starlight.

They walked in companionable silence until Elrond spoke. “How is your head? Or was it your shoulder? That warg threw some nasty punch, it seemed.”

“I thought I was just sitting around playing with the animal?” Thranduil said, rubbing his shoulder. It had been sore for a while, but the pain had calmed enough that he had forgotten about it.

“Well, you did sit around until I reached you. It looked as if you didn’t plan on getting up.”

“Get knocked against a boulder and see if you can get up as quickly,” Thranduil said and took in a quick breath. Better get this over with. “Thank you,” he said in a much lower voice.

“What?” Elrond said.

“Thank you for coming to my aid.”

“What was that again?” Elrond leaned in, his hand over his ears.

“Did your ears remain mortal?” Thranduil frowned and turned to look at Elrond. “I said thank you.” It was then that Thranduil caught the grin on Elrond’ face.

“You are an ass!”

“I was just making sure I heard it right.” Elrond chuckled. “I wasn’t sure if I will be able to hear something like that from you ever again.”

 

Sunlight glinted off a gold leaf as it glided in a slow arc. It fluttered in the air and shimmered under the light. The light was brilliant, the gold of the leaf almost white and bright. Thranduil squinted and turned away, but when he turned back for another look, it was no longer a leaf, but a hair of rarest gold. His mother’s head fell backward, her golden hair tumbling over the gray cloak. She was falling. Her body moved slowly as if it was suspended in the air and each movement took a breath before it went on. Thranduil shouted, but no sound came as he reached for her.

But she wasn’t there. Instead, an Elf stood there. A warrior. His eyes were filled with piercing light. His red cape draped over the golden armor fell open. In his hands was a bow.  It was threaded with an arrow aimed at Thranduil.

“Shoot her. Astarno!” Someone shouted, and the name echoed.

Astarno. Astarno. Astarno….

The arrow flew at Thranduil.

 

Thranduil startled awake.

“Be calm now, Thranduil. All is well, young one.” Lord Istuion’s warm and mellow voice whispered beside him.

Thranduil blinked and took in Isution’s white hair glowing like snow under moonlight. Lord Istuion sat next to Thranduil who had taken a spot as far from the fire and other cadets. The elder lord smiled, gentle and warm. For a moment, Thranduil thought it was Aron, so alike the uncle was to his nephew.

“Would you like a drink?” Lord Istuion offered a cup in his hand.

“No,” said Thranduil and turned over, his back to the elder Sinda.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were having nightmares, Thranduil. When did it start?”

Thranduil closed his eyes. He wondered if he had screamed in sleep? He had been careful each night since they left Lindon, taking the latest watch and sleeping farthest from the cadets as he could without drawing suspicion, sleeping as little as possible. But it was inevitable that someone would have noticed. But Thranduil had not wanted Lord Istuion to know. Lord Istuion rarely kept any secrets from his father. For a moment, Thranduil was glad that his father was far away and could not be reached.

“Do not worry, Thranduil,” Istuion said as if he had read Thranduil’s mind. “Cadets were too exhausted to notice. This was not the first time, was it?” Istuion let out a long sigh. “When we return to Lindon, I want you to start soul cleansing. I will talk to Mistress Turien.”

“I don’t think it is necessary,” Thranduil sat up. He glanced at the other cadets lying near the fire. There were five of them. Thranduil did not see Lord Gilmagor amongst them.

“The commander is on the watch. I will be relieving him soon,” said Istuion. “And you need not worry about Mistress Turien. I know her to be discreet.”

 “My lord, I can handle few nightmares. Do not underestimate me.”

Thranduil faced Lord Istuion. Istuion’s silver eyes, usually warm and friendly, turned into blocks of marble.

“Health of one’s soul is no laughing matter, Thranduil. The soul is the root of a tree. If there are worms that gnaw at the root, it must be addressed. A hollow tree does not only break easily, but it is also an easy target for the lightning. And a tree that catches fire will harm not only itself but the entire forest. You know this.”

“I can handle it,” Thranduil said, refusing to turn away from the probing eyes of the Sindarin lord.

“Then show me your light. It should be a simple thing.”

Thranduil turned away, breaking eye contact. Thranduil was aware that Istuion wanted to see the strength of his light. But even that, concentrating his light on the top of his palm, Thranduil had not been able to do for quite a while. 

“I cannot,” Thranduil said, more a whisper than a reply.

Lord Istuion was silent for a while, and Thranduil wondered what the elder elf was thinking.

Thranduil turned to look at Istuion. The elder lord’s eyes shimmered. Alarmed, Thranduil straightened. “It is not your fault, my lord. It is mine. I should have been stronger.”

Lord Istuion shook his head. “It was my duty. I should have paid more attention.” Istuion sighed. “If anything should happen to you… Please, Thranduil. Indulge this old Elf. Will you not allow Mistress Turien to help you?”

Thranduil swallowed a lump that suddenly seemed lodged in his throat. Why was it easier to defy when the elder lord ordered him around, but not so easy when he asked thus?”

Thranduil bent his head. “I will do as you ask.”

Istuion reached over and lay his hand on Thranduil’s shoulder.

“I am glad,” the elder lord said then stood up. “I will go now to relieve the commander. Try to sleep more. Dawn will arrive soon enough,” Istuion said before disappearing into the trees.

With a sigh, Thranduil sat up and leaned onto a trunk of the tree next to him. His hand automatically reached for the necklace that wasn’t there. The dream came back vivid and real-like. Thranduil looked around. That kinslayer was supposed to live near here. Lord Gilmagor had said the village of the Green Elves was about half day’s ride south from where they were. That meant, that kinslayer lived somewhere along their path. Thranduil reached for the sword he had placed under his bedroll. The time had come for the revenge.

But, if he did this, it also meant he had to leave Lindon. Kinslayers were not welcome in Lindon. They were not welcome anywhere, in fact. It was said that all of them perished when the Beleriand broke. Some said they lived in an island far off Forlindon, the only part of north Beleriand that survived. But, no one would know as no ship went there.

Taking the sword, Thranduil got up and moved opposite where Lord Istuion disappeared. He crossed the stream, past a row of pines and far enough that he could not be seen from the campsite. There was a small grove surrounded by pine trees and birches.

Thranduil took out the blade from its sheath. The white sword glowed as if it was surrounded by white flame when the starlight hit it. Thranduil took in a breath as he grasped its handle. The blade felt so familiar in his hands as if it was made for him. He swung the sword, cutting air. It whistled a melodic tune.

That last remaining kinslayer. He was one of those famed warriors of the First Age, battle-hardened and skilled. Was he skilled enough to face the Noldo? Thranduil moved, swinging his sword in the Noldorin pattern. That elf will know all the movements of the Noldorin Style. Thranduil changed the pattern to that of the Doriathrin warriors. That technique, however, was more suited for double swords as they were developed with the use of dual daggers in mind. Thranduil wished he had his knives.

Once we get to his village, I will have to ask Farion for a dagger to augment this sword.

Then, Thranduil stopped. This weapon was a Nodorin sword, a sword given by Lord Gilmagor in trust. It seemed wrong to use this sword to cut down another Noldor, even if it was a kinslayer.

Thranduil looked toward the campsite. If he was to pursue this revenge, was he prepared to lose the companions? Thranduil had never considered any of the cadets his friends. He had never felt he was part of them. Until now. The shared experience of fighting together had brought him closer to the other cadets. Thranduil had not thought it would matter, but it did.

Thranduil lowered the sword. Two paths lay before his eyes. The first one he had sworn to himself that he will take if ever the road was shown to him. And that road stood clear and vivid in front of him now. But another path lay next to it, a path he had not foreseen. The first road, Thranduil knew where it led, and he had prepared himself to accept it, even the darkness and the ruin that awaited at the end. The other, however, he could not see the end and could not fathom what lay there. But his heart desired it and knew his mother would have encouraged him to take it.

Then, the sounds of the night suddenly stopped. Thranduil looked around. It was as if the insects and creatures of the forest all stopped in their track. The trees around him shuddered. Then, as if nothing had happened, the insects started to sing again, and the animals moved about.

Something was happening in the forest. It was far enough from here for the animals and insects to ignore it, but it was not so far that they didn’t feel it.

If it was one thing Thranduil learned, creatures in the forest felt things faster than his kind could perceive them. Thranduil sheathed the sword and lay his hand on the bark of the tree nearest him. These trees in this forest were young and did not speak as some of those that did in the Forests of Neldoreth and Region, but Thranduil had learned long ago how to read them. Lady Melian herself had taught it to him. The tree trembled when his mind touched it.

Thranduil took in a sharp breath.

“Orcs,” he whispered, then ran toward the camp.

  

Chapter Text

North of Laiquendi village September 24, Second Age 144

ELROND got up. The sky was still dark, but something had woken him. The Half-Elven touched his heavy head. The images he had seen faded but the last part remained vivid as if he was there.

An elfling, few years shy of reaching majority, was crying as hideous creatures, twisted and dark with black beady eyes full of malice, crowded around him. The child clung to a severed hand as he whimpered.

Elrond looked around the camp. All was quiet. Only the sound of insects and occasional sounds of animals moving about disturbed the tranquility. He shook his head trying to shake off the unease he felt. He wasn’t sure if the image he saw was real or just a dream.

Feeling restless, Elrond got up and surveyed the cadets sleeping open-eyed, something they did when their bodies were alert. Elves cultivated this form of sleep whenever they had to sleep with their senses tuned around them.

It was then that Lord Gilmagor appeared at the edge of the grove where the camp was set up. He was frowning.

“My lord?” Elrond asked once Gilmagor was near enough.

“Something is not right. Do you feel it, Elrond?” Gilmagor asked.

“Sir?”

“Something is happening. There’s something dark above the trees,” the lord commander said.

Just then, Thranduil burst into the campsite.

“There’s trouble,” said Thranduil.

“What have you seen?” Lord Gilmagor asked the blond Sinda.

“Orcs. At the village. They will need our help,” Thranduil said, his usually calm demeanor flushed.

“How do you know this?” Gilmagor asked.

“I thought most of the Orcs are stragglers. The few that tried to attack were easily fended off, I believe,” Elrond said remembering back to the recent attack on the villages north of the White City.

“These are no stragglers. They are many and well-armed,” Thranduil said.

“How do you know this?” Gilmagor frowned.

“Trees,” Thranduil said. “What does it matter. We need to move now. They are in danger.”

“They?” Gilmagor and Elrond said together.

“The villagers, the Elven village. Please, they need our help.”

Gilmagor frowned and looked at Thranduil steadily. Elrond wasn’t sure what to think, but the lord commander turned to Elrond.

“Elrond, wake them up and get ready to depart. Thranduil, go get Lord Istuion and gather the horses on your way.”

Thranduil nodded and hastily went away.

Within a half-hour, they were on their way. Dawn was still hours away. With the growth on the forest floor still abundant, it was not safe for the horses to run through the forest, but Lord Gilmagor’s faint light led them through the darkness of the woods, a mere glimmer of light in the midst of the dark shadows of the night forest.

 

A streak of red painted the sky in blood as dawn rose when the forest floor took a dip slowing the cadets. The forest thinned as the land fell into a gentle slope. At the end of the hill was a thick cluster of fir that stood just before a river. Tightly packed firs were growing just above a bank of a fast-flowing river. From the top of the hill where they stood, Elrond could see the river rush to his left where it fell over a cliff in a haze of mist. Far beyond below the cliff, Elrond could see the River Lune flowing southeast into a horizon where the sun was rising.

Gilmagor raised his hand and the cadets clustered around him. “We will have to be quiet. Those cluster of fir marks the boundary of the Elven village. They may not welcome us there.” Gilmagor pointed to a group of fir trees standing about two stories tall. They grew dense like a wall, their green boughs linked as if woven together.

“Ready your bow but keep them off your hands. We do not want to put their guards on edge,” Gilmagor said in a soft whisper. Cadets strung their bows as they moved forward, then stashed them behind their backs, their eyes alert.

The trees here were older and thicker. Elrond inhaled the scent of pines and fir, then wrinkled his nose when he detected something foul in the air.

Gilmagor raised a fist. Without a sound, the cadets got off their horses. With a faint jingle, barely detectable to ears other than those of the Firstborn, the horses moved away. Without turning his head, Gilmagor pointed to his right. Elrond and Thranduil moved over to the far right of Gilmagor. In twos, the cadets spread out, their weapons ready.

The forest was silent. There was no sound of birds tweeting, insects chirping. Not even a rustle of leaves. Elrond could hear his own heart beating loud and clear. He glanced at Thranduil, afraid Sinda could hear the harsh sound.

Thranduil’s face was blank, his forehead furrowed. His eyes looked away as if he could see something Elrond could not. Then the Sinda closed his eyes, his head tilted as if he was listening for something. Then Thranduil shot forward with surprising speed between the fir trees. Elrond followed, almost crashing into the blond Sinda when Thranduil stopped suddenly. Elrond stepped forward then gasped out aloud.

In front of him was a clearing with a tall fir tree in the middle which had been topped over, smashed in several areas. The remnant of rope ladders was strewn all over, mostly covered in red blood, some in black. Many of the trees inside the clearing were toppled, their trunks smashed. The floor of the clearing was littered with green and brown leathers, ripped into pieces and drenched in blood with what remained of the bodies. It was evident that Orcs feasted here.

Bile rose, burning Elrond’s throat. He had never seen such carnage like this. His eyes stung as he emptied the content of his stomach. Elrond looked up when nothing more came up. Thranduil stood immobile next to him, his face dark, his eyes burning like gems on fire.

Then, suddenly, Thranduil growled. He bared his teeth, and a guttural sound, almost animal-like in its raw intensity, bellowed from his mouth as he sprinted away.

“Thranduil!” Elrond got up on his shaky legs and ran after his warrior companion.

Thranduil rushed out of the central clearing into the forest when Elrond heard a loud cackle, laughter of a predator in front of a prey. Then, Elrond saw them. Several Orcs were huddled around something.

“Wait!” Elrond warned, but Thranduil pushed off a rock and sailed through the air, a streak of pale gold.

Thranduil’s bow was already nocked with an arrow.  The Sinda’s hands were a blur as an arrow after arrow left his bow even before his feet hit the forest floor. With a bound and a leap, Thranduil sprinted towards the huddled orcs at a breakneck speed. Three fell to his arrows before Orcs realized what was happening. And by the time they turned, Thranduil was upon them, flaming white sword in his hand, slashing left and right before the foul creatures had time to right themselves or grab a weapon.

Then, as suddenly as he sprang, Thranduil stood still, frozen.

“Thranduil!” Elrond shouted when he saw a group of three Orcs appear between the trees and moved toward Thranduil, their swords raised. Elrond loosed his arrows to down the two, but the third Orc was upon Thranduil swinging his huge ax. The Sinda didn’t even look up, but his sword arm moved just once, cutting off the Orc’s head before the creature could reach him.

When Thranduil’s eyes did not leave whatever it was in front of him, Elrond sprinted over to see. The Half-Elven gasped at what lay before him.

In front of Thranduil was an elfling. His light brown hair was crusted with dirt and blood, his face covered in mud and soot except for a track of tears down his face. He was holding onto a severed hand, tight onto his chest. His brown tunic was covered in red blood. He looked barely past thirty-five summers at the most, no more than a child and too young to be facing such horrors.

“Ai, elfling!” Elrond cried out when an ear-piercing screech sounded to his right.

Thranduil grabbed hold of the child with his free hand and slashed away arrows as he moved his body protectively around the elfling. Elrond did the same to stop the arrows flying at them.

Between the trees, dark shapes, growling and screeching, rushed at them. Elrond got up to stand before Thranduil and the child with his sword drawn. But, as soon as the Orcs stepped out of the shadow of the trees, they fell, one by one, their necks pierced with the Elven arrows.  

“Pull back!” Gilmagor commanded as he stepped next to Elrond. Lord Istuion joined on Elrond’s other side.

“Take cover while we survey the area. This is not a work of a small group of Orcs. There must be more. There are not enough of us here to face them,” Istuion said as he ran after Gilmagor who disappeared among the fir and the pine trees.

Thranduil swooped the child and moved back behind a wall of the cadets who had their bows drawn. Except for Erfaron and Oron who had no bows, the cadets moved behind trees and boulders and waited.

Leaving his post in the front to Erfaron and Oron, Elrond moved back to where Thranduil crouched behind a tree with the child in his arm. The child huddled within the Sinda’s arm without a whimper.

When Elrond approached them, Thranduil let go of the child, but the elfling clung to Thranduil.

“You are safe. This is Elrond. He is a friend,” said Thranduil in fluent Silvan as he pushed the child toward Elrond.

The Half-Elven wondered at the softness of Thranduil’s voice. Elrond had never thought Thranduil capable of such warmth, but in the Sinda’s voice was the tenderness of Spring and the warmth of Summer.

“Hello, little one. We are guards. We wouldn’t let any harm befall you,” Elrond said in hesitant Silvan.

Elrond knew and spoke fluently most of Doriathrin and all other dialects of Sindarin from Falathrin to Northern dialects spoken by Mithrim and Edain. He also knew all forms of Quenya spoken by his foster parents to those spoken by Noldor from Gondolin who used Sindarized forms of Quenya. Both his foster parents and Gil-galad had spared no expense when it came to his education. However, among all the dialects and languages he had learned, Elrond had the least chance to practice the Silvan dialect. So instead of saying further, Elrond smiled. That had always worked, whether they were old or young, Elven or otherwise. But the elfling stood there, hunched over, clinging to the gruesome object in his hands, his dark gray eyes wide, his lips tight.  

“I wouldn’t hurt you. Here, here, child,” Elrond cooed. The child seemed to relax his muscles. Instead of hunching, he straightened but hung his head, his hands clutching firmly onto the severed hand.

“Here, let me take that from you. It is all right. You can let go now.” Elrond reached over to take the severed hand in the child’s hand, but the child flinched and shrank away. Elrond reached out with his senses. But, all he could feel was a swirl of emotions jumbled together, incoherent and jarring, flashes of dark shadows in the thick of gray mists.

Elrond stood unsure what to do when Thranduil who was watching silently walked over. He sat down in front of the child, one knee in the dirt, bringing himself down to the elfling's eye level. Thranduil’s usually stern and icy eyes were warm and open. Elrond felt a keen ache from Thranduil as the Sinda opened his mind to the child.

"Your mother tried to protect you, has she not? She tried to shield you from those monsters." It was spoken so softly in Silvan that for a brief moment, Elrond thought the elfling did not hear, but the boy's gray eyes brimmed with tears as he nodded ever so lightly. "I know you don't feel very brave now, and you think you have failed her, but you did not. You survived. She did her best to protect you. If you wish to do right by her, then you must continue to survive, or all that she has done would be naught. You wouldn't want that, would you, little one?"

The boy shook his head. Tears fell and made fresh tracks down his dirty face.

Thranduil took out a piece of linen from his pocket that was used as a towel and issued to each cadet. He placed the cloth on his hand and offered it to the child.

"Let her go, little one. Let her rest now. You must be brave and learn to stand on your own two feet. I will help you if you let me," Thranduil said.

The elfling heaved a big sob and slowly let go of the hand he clutched. Thranduil took it and gently wrapped it up in the linen. The boy shook, then he threw his arms around Thranduil and pour out his grief.

Thranduil didn't say a word, did not offer any words of comfort. Instead, he allowed the child to cry in his arms as he sat there unmoving, his eyes dark and unfathomable. Elrond’s eyes misted as the claw of the sorrow leaped off the child and assaulted his senses with the pain of grief too great for a child to feel.

 

The sun was climbing the sky when the two elder lords returned.

“Those Orcs must have been left behind to cover the horde’s track.” Lord Gilmagor looked away behind the fir trees where he had gone before.

“Is that even possible?” Oron asked.

“This was a well-coordinated attack,” said Lord Istuion. “They didn’t burn down the trees the way they usually do. Most of the trees were smashed down. They must have brought trolls.”

“The North Legion is stationed across the river. If there were burning of the trees here, it would have alerted them,” said Gilmagor.

“I thought villages of Green Elves are hard to find. How did these beasts find this place? If the attack was coordinated, doesn’t that mean that they knew exactly where this place was and planned the attack?” Erfaron said as he paced where he stood.

“Yes. Villages of Green Elves are hard even for us to find. We knew of this place purely by chance.” Gilmagor sighed and shook his head. “We have to send someone to inform the North Legion of this incident. By the looks of it, the Orcs consumed the dead bodies. We must find that horde and destroy them before they have a chance to breed.”

“Who will you send?” Elrond asked as he looked at the other cadets. It was evident to him that the road the messenger had to travel could be deadly.

“I will go,” Lord Istuion said. “This will be too much for any one cadet, and we cannot spare more than one. And, the road is unfamiliar as there’s the possibility of encountering a horde of either Orcs, wargs or both.” The Sindarin lord turned to Lord Gilmagor. “And the cadets need you here in the event any of those creatures return.”

Gilmagor stood silent.

“We shall all go,” Gilmagor said after a while. “There is no reason for us to stay here now that there is no one to save,” the lord commander said gravely. “We’ll do what we can for the dead, then we will cross the river. Some of our warriors should be stationed across the river not too far from here.”

“Is it safe? What if Orcs come back?” Gelir asked.

“The trail is cold. It seems they have left the area before the sun rose. At any event, they will not attack while the sun blazes in the sky.”

 

The sun scooted to the west by the time the cadets gathered what remained of the residents of the village. There weren’t much of them left. Instead of the individual grave, cadets dug a large one after wrapping the parts of the body scattered around the village with green fabric found in one of the flets before burying them. Elrond and Thranduil also dug a small grave for the child’s mother.

“What is your name, little one?” Elrond asked once the Song of Parting ended and the cadets gathered to cross the river.

“Galion,” the child said.

“Hello, Galion. I am called Elrond, and this is…” Elrond pointed to Thranduil standing next to him.

“I know,” the child said. “Thranduil. You are Thranduil Oropherion,” the elfling said looking at the blond Sinda.

Elrond felt Thranduil stiffen. The Sinda grabbed a low-lying branch of a tree which stood beside him.

“How did you know that?” Elrond asked.

“My brother told me. The one with the silver-gold hair like the moonlight.”

Elrond frowned, keenly aware of Thranduil’s hand which fisted tightly over the branch as it trembled lightly.

“Your brother?” Elrond had to ask as dread spread inside him.

“Farion. My brother Farion told me of him. And he mentioned you although I just remembered,” the child said. “Farion went down the flet with father to fight. He said…he said…”

Tears brimmed over, but Galion wiped them away, his lips firm.

"You are very brave," Elrond said, touched by the child's bravery in fighting off the tears.

"But, I didn't do anything. I didn't know how to fight, had I known how to fight, I might have..." he looked down at his feet. Tears fell onto the dirt in front of him.

"It was not your fault, Galion. Only the Orcs are to blame," Thranduil said firmly, "You will not let grief claim you because if you do, you are letting those foul creatures win and making your mother's sacrifice into nothing. Do you hear me?" It was spoken softly, but his voice cracked at the edges.

The child nodded, then wiped away the tears with ferocity.

 

They found a row of large boulders near the river where the river narrowed before it fell roaring over a steep cliff. Using these rocks, the cadets crossed the river. The sun sank once they were on the other side. Aware of how exhausted the child was, Lord Gilmagor allowed the cadets to set up camp to rest and eat once they crossed the river. For the first time since they were on the road, Thranduil was sitting near the fire next to the child. As Elrond had never seen Thranduil sitting near the fire, Elrond walked over and found the reason why the Sinda was so near. The child was asleep, his hand clutching onto Thranduil’s tunic.

"The child looks exhausted," Elrond said looking down at the elfing.

"He should be." The impassive mask was back on Thranduil, and his voice was cold.

"Is he injured in any way? Have you checked?"

"Yes. And, no, he is not injured."

"How did you know about his mother?"

"I didn't."

"But, you seem to know exactly how..."

"Peredhel!" Thranduil interrupted with a look of impatience. "What do you want?"

"Nothing. I want nothing," Elrond sighed. "I just wanted to know if the child is all right."

"He is not, but he will be," Thranduil said with a steady gaze into Elrond's grey eyes.

Elrond sighed. For a while, it seemed as if Thranduil was warming up to the cadets. But this Sinda in front of him was not the same Thranduil Elrond knew last night. Something had changed.

Thranduil pried open the elfling’s palm gently and loosed himself before walking away. Galion whimpered. Elrond padded the elfling softly.

“Hush, little one. Everything is all right. You are safe,” Elrond whispered, singing a soft tune Maglor used to sing to him when he was troubled. Galion relaxed as his breathing steadied.

Elrond looked up and saw Thranduil walk to Gilmagor who was standing at the far edge of the camp. The Sinda handed a white sword to the lord commander, showing another sword which Elrond recognized as one Thranduil salvaged from the wreckage of the Green Elven village.

Although the lord commander’s face was carefully blank, Elrond could not help the feeling that Lord Gilmagor was not pleased.

 

It was almost dawn when Elrond got up to take his turn to watch. The camp was quiet except for the chirping of insects. When Elrond approached the side of the river, he found Gelir.

“Gelir? Where’s Oron? I thought I was replacing Oron.”

“Oron went to show Thranduil where the kinslayer lives.”

“What?” Elrond almost dropped the lamp he was holding.

“I was answering the call of nature when Oron asked me to mind his post for a while.”

“When? How long ago? Which way?” Elrond’s head hammered.

“Not that long ago. They went toward the waterfall.”

Elrond turned and ran toward the waterfall. The roaring of the water covered all the sounds when he went near the cliff. His head throbbed mercilessly as Elrond waved his lamp around him.

“Thranduil! Oron!” Elrond called out, but the sound of the roaring water covered his voice. It was then that he saw a flash of gold in the middle of the boulders over the cliff where the water fell.

Elrond jumped lightly over one boulder than another.

“Oron?” Elrond landed lightly next to the cadet who stood there. Elrond thrust his lamp to look closer when the cadet pushed Elrond.

Elrond opened his mouth to shout, but the cold water rushed into his face and mouth as he fell into the depth of darkness.

 

Chapter Text

North of the River. September 25, Second Age 144

MAIRON laughed out aloud. The roaring of the water swallowed up the cruel mirth, and it was as if nothing had happened.

Too easy.

Mairon sighed, quite pleased. He reached out to the Orcs stationed below the waterfall. The shell of the body he occupied limited his ability to use sanwe-latya over great distances. But the Orcs and Wargs were close enough now. They were all under his control and within easy access while he remained in this area. He reached out with his mind. The Orcs cringed with fear.

Master? The Orcs groveled low onto the ground unsure where to face.

Through the eyes of the Orcs, he saw a figure bound, hands behind his back. His blue tunic covered with golden leather armor was dripping wet. The long dark hair covered his face, but Mairon knew him.

Show him a good time, but I want him delivered whole and intact, not a hair missing. Do you understand?

As you command, my lord. The Orcs groveled once again before their images faded.

He didn’t mind them tormenting the Half-Elven somewhat, but he didn’t want to be deprived of the joy of torturing the little mixed-blood himself. If the little Half-Elf was traumatized before he had a chance to do anything, it would not be as enjoyable.

Mairon whistled a soft tune he had learned at the White City. He looked up at the sky which seemed to brighten. He had much to do before the sun came up.

Mairon looked down at the cadet he had knocked out. He had hoped the wargs would at least injure if not kill one of the two elder Elves but the wargs had been surprisingly unreliable. At least the creatures managed to force the cadets to travel around the cliff to the north. By diverting the cadets around the cliff, Mairon had given the Orcs enough time to feast on the villagers. It was close, though. He had not expected the cadets to be aware of what went on in the village or move as quickly. Mairon had hoped to put Thranduil into action by placing him near where Astarno was. But the blond Sinda had been unpredictable. Mairon had not expected the Sinda to suddenly warm up to these Noldorin cadets.

The mists over the river were thinning. Mairon gazed at the other side of the river where the fir and pine trees were still entrapped in the gray haze of the morning mists.

The kinslayer was well skilled, probably a better swordsman than Thranduil. But, having spent the past few months with the blond Sinda, Mairon was not worried. Anger can overcome skills if the wielder was resourceful, and Thranduil was resourceful if nothing else.


 

THRANDUIL followed the river upward until he found a stream that flowed down from North a league from the destroyed village. Remembering back to the descriptions Gelir and Oron gave, Thranduil located a group of fir that grew over a large boulder once the stream became shallow. Although there was a cluster of fir here and there, there were three fir trees that grew over a large rock that jutted out of the shallow stream. Leaving his horse to feed on the clump of greens that grew abundant near the waterway, Thranduil climbed up the boulder and came face to face with a giant thorn bush. He almost reached into it, then noticed the red flowers. The blood thorn.

It took him a while before Thranduil was able to locate the small house built against a large rock half buried on earth. Thranduil slowed as he approached the house. There were flowers growing by the window. And to the sunny side of the house, there was a small plot of land surrounded by a low fence where several vegetables were grown.

When he felt no movement and no sound all around the house, Thranduil sat down on a nearby rock. He ran his hand through his hair when he heard it.

A sound of metal hitting stone rang through the forest.

It was not too far from the house. With his hand on the hilt of his sword, Thranduil headed toward the sound.

The wood was thin. Most of them were pine, tall and dark. The floor of the woods was covered with the browned pine needles, so thick that it was like a thick carpet of animal fur.

Thranduil stopped when he saw him. A tall, dark-haired elf was mining a rock quarry from a massive boulder near a small creek. Thranduil did not remember Astarno’s face. The kinslayer had worn a golden helmet that covered most of his head and Thranduil had been busy confronting the redhead. But the Elf in front of him was definitely too tall to be one of the Nandor.

When Thranduil approached, the Elf stopped and turned.

Thranduil sucked in his breath. It was the same Elf he had seen in the White City, almost a year ago now, the one in hunter’s leather armor who had a little daughter. She had reminded Thranduil of Elwing.

The Elf put down the pickaxe in his hand.

Thranduil moved closer, his heart rattled in his chest. The hilt of the sword he held in his hand dug into his hand and tore his skin, but Thranduil ignored it.

“Do you know who I am?” Thranduil asked as the Elf watched him with eyes that were surprisingly steady. The Noldo looked as if he had known all along that Thranduil was going to be here.

“No,” he said. “I do not know your name, but I know you, and the day I saw you last autumn at the White City, I knew one day you will find me.”

Thranduil swallowed hard. His hand holding the hilt of his sword ached and trembled.

“You. You killed my mother…”

“Actually, no. I wasn’t the one…”

“But you were there!”

The Elf sighed, then nodded. “Yes. I was there.”

“You were one of the Feanorian soldiers who… who killed…who…” Thranduil stopped and sucked in a breath to calm his trembling body.

“Yes. I killed.” The Elf dropped his head.

“Why?”

“Why?” the Elf frowned as he looked up. “I served the House of Finwe. My father and brothers served it before me. You are a warrior, are you not?” his eyes dropped to the leather armor Thranduil wore. “You don’t have warrior braids, but you are wearing the king’s uniform. If you are a warrior, then you must know that you are ruled by your lord's command. Sometimes we may not agree with it, but honor and loyalty dictated that we follow without question. It was so with me.”

“Even if it was wrong?”

“I swore to follow Lord Feanor, then his sons. I swore an oath and followed it through death and fire although it led me to the road of doom and grief.”

“And you have no regrets?” Thranduil asked, his voice hoarse and barely audible even to his own ears.

The Elf laughed, dark and terrible.

“No regrets? No, Elfling. After what we had done…what I had done, there can’t be anything but.”

Thranduil took the sword out of the scabbard. “Then you should not have any regrets in leaving this life.”

The Elf stopped laughing and looked into Thranduil’s eyes. The light in the Noldo’s gray eyes dimmed and turned dark but not with fear.

The Elf looked at Thranduil with unfathomable eyes filled with centuries of sorrow.

“You will become a kin slayer to avenge a kin-slaying?”

“I will become whatever it takes to avenge my mother, my brother, my grandfather, my aunt and all other friends and family you took from me!”

“’I’ took?”

“You. Feanor’s sons. His followers. Those who came from Valinor. Noldor. Kinslayers. All of them!”

The Elf shook his head.

“You including me among the Feanor’s sons and their followers, I can accept. I was one of them. But why include all Noldor? Many who are in the White City are blameless. Many were victims themselves…”

“I do not care! They are Noldor. They are all one and the same. Enough talk! Take out your sword, kinslayer!”

Thranduil took a position, his sword raised to strike. Even if the Noldo refused to fight, he would strike him down. He will kill. But, his legs felt weak. His legs and arms shook. The salvaged sword in his hand trembled in front of him. Thranduil bit down hard on the back of his teeth to ground himself.

But the Elf in front of him stood back. He didn’t even look towards where his sword lay but kept his eyes on Thranduil.

“You would call all Noldor kinslayers when many of them had not done any harm to you or your kin?” the Elf asked.

The images of Cellon and his smiling face, the warmth in Elrond, Gilmagor’s sword given in trust, Mistress Taurien’s twinkling eyes, even that of young Saldor’s head that poked through the tree branches raced through Thranduil’s mind, but the Sinda shook them away.

“I don’t care. All Noldor are one,” Thranduil said, more to convince himself.

The hunter in front of him frowned.

“That is unfortunate. A few decades earlier, I would have gladly given you my life if it was what you wanted of me. But now... My daughter is still too young to survive on her own, and my wife is too deeply attached to me to survive should I die now. And you are still too young. No,” he shook his head. “If one day, you want to take my life, I will yield it, but not today.”

“And you think you can just dictate that!” Thranduil lifted his sword. “Get your sword or I’ll strike you down where you stand.” He pointed to a sword leaning against a pine tree near the stone quarry.

“I am not going to fight you.” The Elf stepped back from Thranduil.

“Prepare to die if you will not fight!” Thranduil let out a yell and charged.

The Elf stood still, his eyes never leaving Thranduil as the young Sinda charged towards him. With a battle cry, Thranduil lifted his sword high in the air to smite the Elf in front of him.

One strike would be enough. One strike and the Elf in front of him would crumble in a heap as his mother had done, fall away like Elwing had gone. How long had he waited to do this, to find this Noldo and to strike him down?

One strike.

Thranduil lunged.

The tip of Thranduil’s sword slid past the Elf’s shoulder aiming for the Noldo’s neck.   The hunter did not move a muscle. The kinslayer’s dark gray eyes were filled with sorrow immeasurable as Thranduil’s blade slid under his chin.

Thranduil’s blade hung there in the air just a breath away from breaking into the Noldo’s skin.

The sword in Thranduil’s hand shook, and the Sinda gripped it harder. The tip of Thranduil’s sword broke the skin, and a red gash appeared on the Noldo’s neck, but the blade would not go further. The Noldo still did not move. The sword in Thranduil’s hand trembled and grew heavier. Thranduil had to grip the hand holding the sword with his other hand to prevent it from shaking. Breath gushed like a harsh winter wind, and Thranduil’s body shook. Thranduil lifted his eyes to glare at the Noldo whose eyes were fixed onto his. The Noldo's gray eyes were full of compassion.

“I…I am going to kill you. I will. I WILL kill you…” Words came unbidden, half broken but his sword arm would not thrust.

The kinslayer's eyes were full of sorrow.

“You are no killer, Elfling. I had known it when I looked into your eyes. There are shadows within you, but they have no hold over you yet.”

“You don’t know me!”

Thranduil gritted his teeth. He just needed to thrust his blade, just one thrust, but his arms would not budge.

“Aaargh!” Thranduil cried out aloud. Pulling his hands away, he tried again for that final thrust. But his hands refused to make that final movement.

“Damn you, Noldo!” Thranduil gritted his teeth, but the sword dropped from his hands and clattered onto the ground.

Thranduil looked down at his trembling hands.

Why? He couldn’t understand it. Why couldn’t he kill? He wanted it. His heart wanted it. It was not as if he had never killed. He had killed so many Orcs, goblins, and other dark creatures.

“Killing is not an easy thing,” said Astarno as he picked up Thranduil’s sword and offered it to Thranduil. “It has nothing to do with courage or even skill. It is not at all like killing Orcs or other dark creatures. Killing a fellow Elf, especially one without a weapon, goes against everything we are as Elves.”

Thranduil sneered loudly.

“That didn’t stop your people from killing women and children, from taking the two young princes of Doriath and having them murdered. They were mere children, weaponless and weak!”

The Elf let out a long sigh as he placed the sword on the ground in front of Thranduil. The Noldo looked away for a moment before turning eyes dark with grief back to Thranduil.

“That was done by the warriors who followed Lord Celegorm. They were Celegorm’s sworn brothers in arms. They saw him die at the hand of your King...”

“Celegorm killed the king!”

“Yes, they killed each other. And the Celegorm’s Elves were grieved, and bloodlust was on them. I know that does not excuse what they have done... Lord Maedhros, when he found out about the young princes, he tried to find them. He made us comb that entire wood but…”

“And, Elwing. You tried to shoot Elwing!”

“That was a direct order. Even then, I would not have killed her.”

“Liar!” Thranduil screamed, then with one swoop, he picked up his sword and swung. But the Noldo stepped away from the tip of the blade. Thranduil gave a chase, but the Noldo stepped just behind the point of Thranduil’s sword. As swift as a pair of birds, they raced over the floor of the forest, the kinslayer running backward, his eyes never leaving Thranduil as the Sinda followed after him, his sword at ready. The Noldo’s feet barely touched the floor as if they had wings on them.

“Fight me! Fight me, damn you!”

The hunter stopped when they have made a wide circle back to where they had started. Thranduil stopped two steps away and grabbed a low lying tree branch with his free hand.

“As I said before, elfling, I am not going to die today. There are those I must protect. But, even if I were to fight you today, you cannot best me. Your skills are better than many at your age, but I have been fighting for centuries before you were even born. And I may not look it, but I have been instructed by the greatest sword master of the Noldor. You wish to kill me? Come back when you are better skilled, young one. I give you my word as a warrior that I will still be here when you come back.”

“And, you think I will trust you? Trust your words?”

“Elfling! Look into my eyes, and you will know that I speak true.”

“I don’t believe you! I don’t believe anything you or any Noldor would say to me.”

Had he not trusted them once? Trusted because they were guards and warriors? They were supposed to protect. That was how he was taught, taught to trust Elven warriors. But that day, that cold winter day when the snow turned red with the blood of his brother and kin,  Thranduil had learned not to trust, and he wasn’t going to trust now.

“Then, that is another reason I cannot die today,” the hunter said.

“Well, you just try and stop me,” growled Thranduil, and the Sinda let go of the branch he held.

The sudden movement drew the hunter’s attention. The distraction was all that Thranduil needed. The Sinda jumped, his knee smashing into the Noldo. The hunter stumbled backward, his back hitting the pine tree behind him. With his sword, Thranduil struck.

The hunter grabbed the blade with his bare hands.

“Do not do this. The road you have chosen will only lead you to ruin.”

“I don't care!” Thranduil hissed into the face in front of him as he strained against the strength of the hunter.

“Elfling, you are still so young. There is so much life in front of you. Do not do this.” The hunter’s eyes glistened with moisture. “The agony of the road you wish to walk is not something I would wish on anyone.”

 

Chapter Text

“Stop talking!” Thranduil rammed his body into the Noldo. The hunter’s grip on the blade slackened and the steel bit into the Noldo’s shoulder.

“Aaargh!” The hunter yelled, then gritted his teeth to muffle the sound.

“Stop it!” A high-pitched voice screamed.

“Ellariel, no!” Another voice shouted.

The hunter’s eyes widened as he looked behind Thranduil’s shoulder, then he moved with a speed Thranduil did not foresee. The hunter pulled Thranduil into his arm, letting the blade sink into his shoulder, taking Thranduil by surprise. Then, the hunter turned pushing Thranduil against the tree encasing the Sinda between himself and the tree trunk.

As soon as the hunter did so, he let out a gasp and fell into Thranduil’s arm. On the hunter’s back, there sprouted an arrow.

A woman screamed somewhere several leaps away.

“Don’t hurt my ada!” A young child ran to the hunter and clung to the Noldo’s leg.

Open mouthed and wide-eyed, Thranduil pulled out his sword that had penetrated the hunter’s left shoulder. The hunter stumbled back, grabbing at the wound. Red blood seeped through his fingers. But instead of looking at Thranduil, the hunter turned away from the blond Sinda.

Thranduil saw behind the shoulder of the Noldo an elleth, her bow threaded with an arrow running toward them with a swiftness of a deer.

“Beril, no. Don’t hurt him. Please,” the hunter said, his voice feeble as he fell to his knees in front of Thranduil.

“Get away from him!” The elleth drew her bow, aimed at Thranduil. The woman’s eyes were wide, rimmed red as she glanced at the Noldo who slumped further as he tried to reach for the arrow behind his back.

“Don’t. If you love me, Beril, let him go,” the Noldo murmured. “Please, my love.”

The woman looked at Thranduil warily, then back at the Noldo.

The hunter fell forward. The woman gasped, dropped her bow, and rushed to the hunter’s side.

“Don’t hurt my ada!” The little girl looked up, her arms wide open. She stood there as if to protect the hunter, her dark eyes wide and brimming with tears. “Why are you hurting my daddy? Warriors are supposed to protect and not hurt people. That’s what daddy said.”

The child’s words rammed into Thranduil’s head, the force of it knocking out the wind from his chest. He had said those same words once as a child.

Don’t hurt them! Why are you doing this? Why are you hurting them? You are supposed to protect them! You are warriors.

He had shouted those words as he watched the Noldorin soldiers strike down Thranarin and Lady Nimloth’s ladies who tried to stop the soldiers as they dragged away the two princes and the queen. And now this child was saying those same words. At him.

The shock of hearing those words spoken to him came at Thranduil like Morgoth’s hammer. Thranduil felt his chest burn for lack of air.

Thranduil staggered back. His legs shook. He looked at the child’s eyes. Her wide eyes were filled with horror and disbelief, and in the midst of those raincloud eyes, Thranduil saw himself reflected in them. His pale-yellow hair was disheveled, his eyes filled with dark flames. The one who was reflected in the child’s eyes was not an Elf. He was not his mother’s son. His mother would not have recognized him.

“I…” Thranduil did not know what to say. Did he really want this child to feel what he had felt back at Menegroth? Even if she was the child of his enemy, he did not wish that on her.

“Go away!” the child screamed. The tears brimmed over and fell down her face.

Thranduil backed away, then turned. There was no strength in his legs, and Thranduil stumbled. He walked, or maybe he ran, he could not tell and was unsure where he was going. His stomach churned, something bitter rose up through his throat constricting the flow of air.

He walked on, his legs heavy. Everything around him seemed covered in thick mist, and he could not see where he was going. He wasn’t sure how long he went on, walking through the forest, his mind dazed.

You weak fool!

Thranduil thought someone shouted. He looked up startled as a bird, black as night, flew off from the nearby branch. It screeched as it flew away and as if in answer, the sky rumbled as dark clouds blocked the sun.

A sudden rain poured over his head. Lightning flashed, and thunder rolled across the sky.

Weak? Yes, he was. He was too weak to defend those he loved, too weak to fight the temptation of the darkness when it mattered. He was weak.

Why was he like this? He sucked the life out of everything he touched. To think that his mother had wanted him to become a healer. The bitter irony of it tickled him, and Thranduil laughed out loud. His hollow laughter rang through the forest. Losing balance, Thranduil stumbled and fell. His knees hit the water. Thranduil was vaguely aware he was kneeling by a stream, knee deep in water. He looked about, his eyes unseeing.

He wanted to disappear, fade away into nothingness. Maybe then no one will be hurt because of him. The hurt in that child’s eyes radiated inside his heart. After the agony of seeing what those soldiers did, how could he do that to another child? If those soldiers had been a monster in his eyes, to that little girl, he was the monster now.

Thranduil buried his head in his hands. The grief he had felt at what happened at the village fell on his head like pouring rain. The look of absolute loss on the face of young Galion, Thranduil knew he was responsible for that. It was he who had convinced Farion to return home. Just as it had been he who had led those kinslayers into the Hall of Melodies. And it was he who had led his mother there at the cliff by the white tower at Arvernien. He had killed them all. He had known it all along. It was his doing, his darkness that drove him.

Revenge? That was only an excuse, Thranduil realized. An excuse to satisfy the burning need inside him to kill. He needed blood, and Astarno was near. Maybe it was always that. Just a reason to kill, to satisfy the hate that burned inside of him. It was his darkness that called out for the blood. It had never been about his brother or his mother. Never about Dirnenion or Farion or all other warriors lost at Menegroth, Sirion and in the wilderness. Revenge was never about them or for them. For Thranduil knew deep inside that his mother never wanted blood. She would never condone what he had done or tried to do. Even his brother. Both had been gentle souls. And even the warriors, all the Sindarin warriors who died at Sirion, they had not killed to revenge their lost kin, but to protect what was left of them.

As if he was reliving that day, Thranduil heard his father’s voice ringing out clear to those gathered to fight Noldor at Sirion. There had been many who were not warriors who had wanted to fight, to return what Feanorians had done to Doriath. But his father had rebuked them.

Look at you! When have we become so eager to kill one of our own kind? This is not about revenge but about protecting one of our own. We are not leaving to fight Orcs or some goblins sent by the Dark Lord. It will be the red blood of kin that will be spilled this day. Do you think any one of us really want this? Do you think I want this? We will fight because we have no choice. We are warriors. It is our duty to fight and to protect. Each one of you has your own duty, your own obligations to meet. Do your job and let us do ours.

Now, those words came back to Thranduil as if to rebuke him. His father had lost so much more than he had, yet, his father had not wanted revenge. He had fought only to protect, to do his duty.

But what had he done? Thranduil groaned, grabbing his hair. He had wanted revenge, wanted to see the Noldorin Elf bleed to satisfy his need to see someone pay for all he had lost. He was putting all the blame on that Noldo to forget his own part in the guilt. Even after all those teachings his mother had tried to impart to him, Thranduil had refused to see, refused to hear. And now, he had become like a monster, no different from the kinslayers whom he hated.

Like the storm that raged inside him, the wind picked up and rain pelted him. And maybe because of it, Thranduil did not hear the movement behind him until it was too late. When he picked up his head, it was to see the blur of movement. Searing pain registered, but the darkness grabbed hold of him, and he heard and felt no more.

-------

 

When consciousness returned, the world was moving upside down. Thranduil’s head swayed, and the world swayed with it. The pain in the back of his head throbbed. His throat was parched and dusty. But it didn’t matter. Thranduil closed his eyes and allowed the darkness to swallow him once again.

--------

 

When he came to the second time, he was thrown over into a dark corner like a sack of unwanted things. The stench and the screeching were familiar, but Thranduil did not pick up his head for a look. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed or what time of day it was, but he didn’t care. It didn’t matter anymore.

“Why we carrying him?” someone spoke.

The black speech grated on Thranduil’s ear, but the Sinda lay there like a dead kill, his eyes closed. Let them feast on him if they will, but he wasn’t going to do anything to make it easier for them.

“The filthy Elf has strong legs. Let him walk,” someone else added. “He weights like a dead troll.”

“Shut up! The others are here with the package. Maybe if you hadn’t knocked him so hard, he would’ve wakened up by now. Master wants him unharmed. So, get!”

“We should let the package carry him. He looks strong enough,” the one who had spoken first suggested.

“Yeah, Sharku. Let him carry the other one.” More than one of the voices agreed. And soon there was a shuffle of new feet, light, not at all like the heavy footfall of the Orcs.

“Unhand me, you filthy creatures!” A familiar voice growled.

Thranduil opened his eyes wide.

“Elrond?”

Chapter Text

North of the Lower River Lune. September 26, Second Age 144

ELROND pulled the wet cape close around him with his bound hands. The Orcs had stripped Elrond of everything that was of value, including his armor, the gold brooch with a matching ring from the king, and the most important, the dagger Maglor had given him as a parting gift. But, they let him keep the cape and the tunic he wore under his armor. Elrond bitterly regretted bringing the dagger with him to the north, but he had never been parted from it. He had always kept it hidden in his boots for an emergency. Maybe if he had not gutted that Orc when he first crawled out of the pool, the dagger might not have been in his hand, but Elrond had not known then that there were more of them.

As soon as the Orc fell, Elrond had been knocked unconscious. When he awakened, rain poured, and thunder rolled. His hands were bound and tied to a warg.

The wargs which had provided a ride to the five Orcs who captured him had dumped all of them below a low rising cliff and disappeared to the east as the afternoon sun came out behind a thick cloud. The Orcs took shelter under the overhang provided by a large boulder jutting over the cliffside.  Having been half-dragged and half-running to the verge of collapse to keep up with the running warg riders, Elrond had fallen onto the ground too exhausted, his body soaked in sweat, rain, and mud. But too soon, the sun sank, and Elrond was roughly pulled up. He had a mind to just lay there but the bulky Orc, taller and crueler than the rest, had whipped him until the Half-Elven had staggered up.

With the sinking of the sun, the temperature had dipped. Despite it still being Autumn, the northern air was biting. Elrond cursed silently at his human blood as he gritted his teeth to prevent them from chattering. Elrond couldn’t stop his body from shaking, however. The drenching rain just as the last light of the sun was extinguished had chilled him to the bone although it had washed off the mud and blood from him.

Elrond wondered if the cadets were looking for him. And, who was the one who had pushed him?

With the disappearance of the sun, it seemed as if the Orcs perked up as they ran through the forest with renewed strength. The bulky Orc had a thick leather cord wrapped around Elrond’s neck. Elrond had to keep pace with the Orc or risked being dragged again. They ran through the dark forest with the light from the torches held by one Orc who ran in front of the bulky Orc.  Two ran on each side of Elrond and the bulky Orc and the last one behind them. Elrond had always heard that the Orcs were unintelligent and gawky creatures who did not think but did as commanded. But the look of these Orcs made him doubt those words. The Orcs formed a tight ring around Elrond. Elrond had never heard of such discipline among the Orcs unless… No. It couldn’t be.

According to what he had learned, the Orcs were disciplined and deadly when they were controlled by their masters, ones who ruled over them, such as the lieutenants of Morgoth. The great war destroyed most of these leaders among Morgoth’s army. As far as Elrond knew, Orcs were scattered and weak. But, then there was the attack at the village. Lord Gilmagor obviously thought it well coordinated just as that attack by the wargs. 

When the night deepened, they stopped when a group of four Orcs, skin dark with green undertone with crooked legs, greeted them. They were much shorter than the stouter Orcs who had kidnapped him.

“Sharku has been waiting for you. You have the package?”

The bulky Orc yanked the leather rope he had tied around Elrond’s neck forcing the Half-Elven to stagger forward.

“Master said not to spoil him,” hissed the shorter Orc after he glanced at Elrond’s face and tunic torn by the rocks and debris when he was dragged over the grounds of the moor.

“You see any limbs missing?” the bulky Orc jeered at the shorter Orc. “We showed him a good time, that is all. Haven’t we, boys?” the Orc threw a glance at his four companions.

“Yeah! Yeah! Good time! Good time!” cheered the bulky Orc’s companions banging their swords to their iron armor.

The shorter Orc snatched the leather rope and pulled Elrond. The cave they took him had a high ceiling and was dry. Elrond was grateful for the warmth despite the dread knotting in his stomach. He had seen the Orc horde and had learned much about them, but facing them at the village the day before had been the first close encounter Elrond had with these horrible creatures. Both Maedhros and Maglor had been overprotective and had not allowed Elros or Elrond anywhere near Morgoth’s creatures.

Elrond was led to a group of Orcs shouting something to the one with sunken yellow eyes. Behind him stood the largest Orc Elrond had ever seen so far. It had a twisted scar knotted across his face as if someone had axed his face long time ago. One of the Orcs who had greeted them was whispering something onto the yellow-eyed Orc who looked up as the group shouted something.

When Elrond walked in, Orcs crowded around him.

“Let the package carry him. He looks strong enough,” someone said as others grabbed at Elrond.

“Unhand me, you filthy creatures!” Elrond shook his body away from the Orcs when a dark shape that was sprawled on the floor suddenly sat up.

"Elrond?"

The half-Elven opened his eyes wide. The figure’s head glinted pale silver from the faint light of the torches.

“Thranduil?” Elrond’s stomach knotted half in relief and a half in dread.

“What happened? Why are you here?” Thranduil tried to get up but swayed.

“Are you hurt?” Elrond ran over to Thranduil.

“No. Just dizzy. I think they hit me rather hard on the head,” Thranduil said, then looked up. “Something happened to the cadets?” Thranduil’s eyes widened as he sucked in a quick breath. “Are they….” Thranduil’s voice cracked.

“No.” Elrond shook his head. “At least, I don’t think so.”

“Then, how come you are here?”

“Those five captured me,” Elrond pointed to the five Orcs who were standing just inside the cave but outside a ring of others who were huddled around the yellow-eyed one and talking amongst themselves.

“You let five Orcs capture you?” Thranduil frowned with disbelief in his eyes. “Five?”

“I was dazed!” Elrond snapped. “I was pushed over the waterfall. I couldn’t get out from under roaring water. I was choking, damn it. I had water in my lungs!” Elrond found that he was no longer cold.

“Was there Orc-raid at the camp?” Thranduil asked wide-eyed.

“No.” Elrond took in a long breath. He didn’t know why he felt so rattled.

“Then, who pushed you over the waterfall?”

“I…” Elrond could not say. He could not bring himself to believe that it was Oron. How could it be? He will not believe it. He refused to believe it. “I do not know.” Elrond glanced away.

“You are not making sense. The camp was not attacked, but you were pushed over the cliff into the waterfall. What were you doing? Standing over the waterfall for a look or play?”

“Well, I didn’t slip if that is what you are suggesting.” Elrond tried to calm himself, but the words snapped out of his lips. Why can’t the Sinda ever say anything comforting?

“No? Just checking. With you, anything is possible.” Thranduil shrugged.

Elrond frowned. “What do you mean by that? I should be saying that about you. How did you get captured? Where were you?” Elrond narrowed his eyes remembering what Gelir had said. “Did you find the elf? The one called Astarno?”

“What is it to you?” Thranduil pulled back, his eyes which had been darting around the cave focused. Elrond could feel Thranduil pulling back, retreating behind his ice wall.

Elrond remembered the turbulent waves of grief he had felt from Thranduil in the dark just before the Warg attack. In that impenetrable darkness, grief immeasurable rose up, clawed his senses like a blade to a child’s skin. Although his eyes could not see, Elrond had felt the dark despair rose up like waves. Thranduil had been drowning in it.

“Did you meet him?” Elrond asked, his voice a wavering whisper in his own ears. Part of him wanted to know if it was true. If Astarno was there, then was it not possible that Maglor maybe was there, too? “Did you see anyone else there?”

Thranduil looked away.

A dread filled Elrond’s heart. “What did you do, Thranduil?” Then, something Maedhros mentioned many years ago rose up in his mind. “Why were you seeking Astarno? What has he done to you?”

Thranduil looked away but turned back to Elrond.

“What do you think happened? He was there at Sirion. What do you think happened there? Do you even remember?”

Yes. You abandoned me. Left my brother and me to fend for ourselves. You and my mother. Neither of you had come back for us. You broke your promise.

Elrond bit into his teeth to prevent himself from saying his thoughts out loud. It surprised him how much he remembered. He thought he had forgotten it all, forgotten and forgiven but something hot churned his stomach and boiled his blood.

“Elros and I were mortal children back then,” Elrond said instead.

Thranduil scoffed. “Of course. How could I forget? Memories of the mortals were short-lived.”

“It is a good thing that it is.” Elrond turned away from Thranduil and came face to face with that big Orc with a huge slash scar on his left cheek.

"Stop talking, you maggots!"

The Orc smashed its massive fist into Elrond’s face, throwing the Half-Elven against a wall behind him. The force of the impact robbed Elrond of breath.

“Leave him alone, you filth!” Thranduil shouted, trying to rise and teetering on his bound feet. The Orc swung around and backhanded Thranduil, throwing the Sinda against a wall behind him. Then, without bothering to look, the Orc grabbed the front of Elrond's tunic.

"What is so special about you?" The Orc brought its twisted, scarred face close. Elrond almost gagged at the fetid odor. Something was dying and decaying inside the Orc’s mouth.

"Piss off, scar face!" Elrond spat at the orc.

The Scarface roared and grabbed Elrond's neck, lifting him off the ground. Elrond's face turned red as the air was cut off from his throat. He struggled to use his bound hands to push off the orc's hands, but the beast was strong. The orc shook Elrond, knocking more air out of his lungs when he was suddenly thrown against a wall with the Orc sprawled on top of him.

Gagging, Elrond scrambled up and saw Thranduil balancing unsteadily on his bound feet and arms just behind the Orc.

"Hey ugly, is that all you got, Filth?" Thranduil chuckled.  "You punch like a five-year-old elfling. That actually tickled."

The Scarface got up and punched Thranduil with such force that Thranduil lost his footing and fell back to the ground. The Orc picked him up like a sack of grain and hurled him back on the ground.            

Thranduil rolled onto the rocky surface and rolled up into a ball. The orc picked up a roughly hewn club and rammed it into Thranduil's stomach. Thranduil groaned, but screwing his face up at the Orc, the Sinda laughed out loud.  

"Too weak to use your hands? Need a weapon to help you out?" Thranduil jeered.

The Orc snarled but threw down his club. Then, fisting his huge hands, punched Thranduil as if he was a sack of sand to practice punches. The last blow to the head made a sickening sound and blood spattered onto the Sinda's fair skin. With a vicious growl, the Orc landed another punch on Thranduil’s stomach.                            

Thranduil groaned but continued to laugh. Scarface unsheathed his huge sword.

"Let's see if you can still talk, Maggot, after I cut out your tongue!" growled the Orc.

 Elrond opened his mouth to shout, but his throat burned and he couldn't say a word. As he struggled to moisten his burning throat, the Orc with the sunken yellow eyes walked in with an angry growl.

"Knock it off, Krud! Master wants them unspoiled."

"He meant for the black haired one, but this one,” Krud took a handful of silver-gold hair and yanked it, pulling it hard enough to lift Thranduil's head off the ground. “He didn’t say anything about this one.” Krud shoved his ugly face into Thranduil. The Sinda gritted his teeth and didn’t make a sound, his eyes flashing defiantly.

"You fool! Don’t you know that if the master wanted us to pick him up, he wants us to bring him alive? Now, get out and get ready to move!"

Krud looked disgusted, but with another vicious kick to fallen Thranduil, he walked away.

Elrond, having found his voice again, crawled over to where Thranduil was sprawled on the ground.

"Thranduil," Elrond shook the blond elf gently.

Thranduil groaned, then raised his body off the ground to sit up.

"Filthy creature!" Thranduil murmured as he spat out blood in his mouth. Then, he rubbed at his side where Krud had kicked several times before he left them alone.

“Could you try and not rouse these creatures?” Elrond sighed. “Do you want to get killed before we get a chance to escape?”

“Escape?” Thranduil let out a snort. “Did you see how many there are inside the cave?”

Elrond looked around. The Orcs were already moving out but even counting only those who were still in the cave, there was good two dozen of them.

“Eleven of them already left the cave, and I am guessing there are at least six outside as a lookout. And if you noticed, most of these Orcs are not slaves. They are warrior variety, the most vicious of their kind. Unless Lord Gilmagor brings other warriors, the four cadets will not be able to handle them.”

“I am sure they are looking for us. We will need to slow these creatures down, look for opportunities. I am sure there are things we could do.”

“Well, good luck with that.” Thranduil flung himself down on to the ground, then turned his back to Elrond.

Dread tightened a knot in Elrond’s stomach. Fear and despair he had suppressed slid out of his head where Elrond had locked them. 

“You are not giving up! Thranduil I know would never give up.”

“You don’t know me,” Thranduil said.

“Then, make me understand. Show me. But don’t just lay there as if you do not care.”

“I don’t care.”

“Damn you! What is wrong with you!” Elrond shook the Sinda, but Thranduil had closed his eyes.

Two Orcs with crooked legs and crooked teeth came over just then. Somehow, there was nothing straight about these creatures.

“Move, Maggots! Get up!” One of them undid the rope that tied Thranduil’s feet, then attached a long rope over the bound wrists. Once done, he yanked Thranduil up, but like a broken doll the Sinda fell back down onto the floor as soon as the Orc let him go. “Get up, Maggot! We are not carrying you this time.” The Orc kicked at Thranduil, but the Sinda still did not budge.

“Get!,” the Orc yelled and slammed his iron-clad foot into Thranduil’s side, but the Sinda still did not move. The Orc took out his curved sword.

“I’ll carry him.” Elrond grabbed Thranduil and covered the Sinda’s body protectively with his. Elrond hurled Thranduil up then tried to throw the Sinda over his shoulder when Thranduil pushed Elrond away. With a sigh, Thranduil rolled his eyes then straightened to follow after Elrond.

All night they marched. Whenever Elrond or Thranduil stumbled, whips lashed out at them, hitting them on their backs, arms, and head mercilessly. Elrond took turns with Thranduil supporting each other as they stumbled in the darkness as the orcs who held their bindings pulled at their leash.

"Maybe the warriors are on their trail. These creatures usually don't travel this fast," Thranduil hissed as they jogged in the dark alongside their captors.

“I knew they will look for us. They will come for us, Thranduil. They will find us, and everything will be all right.” Elrond felt light shining in his breast.

“You really do think that, don’t you? You really think everything will be all right even after all that had happened.” Thranduil chuckled. There was no mirth in it, however.

“What is wrong with having hope?”

Thranduil did not say anything and looked ahead. Elrond thought the Sinda wouldn’t say anything more when Thranduil murmured, so softly that Elrond barely heard it.

“I don’t know what hope is.”

Elrond’s heart clenched. There was something in the way Thranduil said it as if his heart shattered with each word.

“We will survive this, Thranduil. We will walk away from this, and it will be like it did not happen.”

“What if I don’t want to survive?”

Elrond’s heart chilled.

Thranduil laughed, his laughter hollow.

“Why would you say that?” Elrond stopped.

A whip cracked over his back. Thranduil grabbed Elrond and pulled him back into the rhythm of the jog.

“Do not think about me. You just do what you need to do to survive.”

“I don’t understand why you would say something like that. Of course, you want to survive. Think about your father, Thranduil. He expects you to come back. Your friends and family.”

“They don’t need me.”

“It is not the matter of need. There are people who care about you. And those people who rely on you.”

“No one relies on me. And as for my family, I will see all of them one day, even if it will be many millennia later.”

“How about Galion. Remember what you said to him, that he must survive to do right by his mother who had sacrificed for him? Don’t you think you owe him to survive this? He will be waiting for you. He just lost his whole family. You said you will help him. Were you lying?” Just as you lied to my brother and me?

Just then whips cracked over their backs.

“Stop talking, scums!” orcs running behind them growled. “Move faster!”

The merciless whipping gave the two young elves no choice but to keep their mouth shut and move as fast as they could.

______________

Languages of Orcs: Orcs used a mishmash of different languages. There is at least one writing by Tolkien where he stated that Melkor taught Orcs speech. The black speech is known to have been created by Sauron to be the sole language for all his servants in Mordor to replace the various Orkish and common speech used by the Orcs. But it seemed only Sauron and his top lieutenants, such as Nazgul and Olog-hai (elite battle trolls), used the pure form. Orcs desecrated everything they touched including languages, and Sauron did no succeed in unifying the language. I think the pure form of Black Speech is probably what Melkor taught his followers which Sauron later modified for his use. 

The names of the Orcs I used are not related to the Black Speech. I found names made using Black Speech to be difficult to pronounce and too long so I made my own. None of the Orcish names, except for Sarku (Old man) is based on the Black Speech.

 

Chapter Text

North of the Lower River Lune. September 26, Second Age 144

 

ELROND stumbled as Orcs pushed him and Thranduil into a cavern once the sky began to lighten. The Orcs covered the entrance to the cave with bushes to block the stray sunlight. Only the somber flames provided by few torches threw a dim light making the shadows inside the cave scatter and shake. 

Jutting walls inside the chamber formed pockets of corners. The Orcs thrust Elrond and Thranduil into one of those dark corners far back from the opening of the cave.

Except for the two fully armed orcs standing guard near them, the rest of the orcs huddled behind three large orcs, the yellow-eyed one named Sharku, scar-faced one called Krud and the bulky Orc who had delivered Elrond.

By the look of the rocks piled in a circle blackened by soot in the middle of the chamber, Elrond was sure Orcs had used this cave before. Just above the firepit, a thin stream of sunlight penetrated the darkness of the cave and sent a beam of light onto the walls of stone.

When the creatures were seated, smaller Orcs brought in a pile of uncooked meat. Sharku took out his dagger and skewered one large chunk, then started eating. Krud and the bulky Orc then grabbed for the meat. Each held onto what appeared to be the lower half of a skinned deer. Krud took one leg, and the bulky Orc took the other leg.  

“Let go, cur!” Krud growled.

“You let go!” The bulky Orc growled back.

Krud and the bulky Orc butted their heads like two rams fighting, their hand holding onto the leg while their other hand reached for their weapons. The other Orcs standing behind the three, eagerly waiting for a chance to get their hands on the food, turned, the meat forgotten. They gathered around the two orcs, their eyes glassy with excitement.

“Fight! Fight! They shouted.

“Krud! Krud!” Some of the orcs started a chant but was met with a bigger chant of “Burog! Burog!”

“Silence!” Sharku swung his sword right down the two Orcs, and the Scarface and the bulky Orc jumped out of the way, each with a leg of the deer in his hand. “I’m eating, you louts!”

Krud and the bulky Orc glared at each other but turned to the meat in their hands. They tore into it with such ferocity Elrond turned away grimacing. His stomach heaved, but Elrond tamped it down. It was bad enough that the cave smelled as if meats were left to rot for a month. As soon as Elrond turned away, the rest of the orcs must have joined in the feeding as the sounds of crunching of the bones and tearing of the muscles rose tenfold. Combined with the fetid odor, the ravenous sounds of feasting roiled Elrond’s stomach making it difficult for him to breath let alone look. Elrond wondered how Thranduil could sit there with such a bland look on his face and watch those foul creatures eat.

“They are eating animals, aren’t they?” Elrond asked, not really hoping for an answer.

“Perhaps.”

“How could you be so calm about it?” Elrond asked, but even as he asked, he realized there was nothing they could do.

Once the eating started, the two guards disappeared among the horde to join in the frenzy.

“Perhaps we could make a run for it,” Elrond whispered glancing at the entrance. “They seem quite occupied. If we could stay near the wall, by the shadows…”

“They may not hear as well as we do, but they see better in the dark than we can.”

“But they do not move as fast as we. Isn’t that so?”

“Who told you that?” Thranduil sneered.

“Well, look at them. Their armor alone would weight like a dragon hoard.”

“Do not be fooled, Elrond. Orcs can move surprisingly fast when necessary whether in their armor or not. Besides, the entrance to the cave is over a furlong from here, and there are more than thirty eyes. They could also have some of their soldiers stationed outside to be a look-out. Even if that were not so, without a weapon, how do you expect to cut your binding? They may look rough, but these bindings are stronger than they appear.”

“Well, we can’t just sit around and wait for them to deliver us to whoever their master is.”

Thranduil snorted, but he did not say any more.

“What is wrong with you? I have never seen you like this. What has happened? Thranduil I know would never just sit around and allow himself to be taken. I have seen you make what seems impossible possible. We could do this, Thranduil. We can escape.”

Thranduil leaned back into the stone wall and closed his eyes.

Looking at the Sinda, Elrond felt his body drain of all the energy in his body. Thranduil knew more about Orcs than he did.

If the Sinda is so hopeless then maybe there is no hope for us.

A shiver ran through him, and Elrond wrapped his arms around himself. Elrond’s heart began to pulse rapidly making his breath harsh and painful.

When he was with Maedhros and Maglor, they were on the constant move. Many times, they clashed with Orc horde. But Elrond had never been afraid. He had always known that his foster parents would protect him, and they had. He had never felt alone while he was with them and with Elros. And when he saw Thranduil in that cave, despite the fear that ate at him inside, Elrond had felt relieved that he was not alone. But seeing Thranduil sitting there, uncaring and uncomforting, Elrond felt hopelessly alone.

“I don’t want to be eaten,” Elrond said more to himself than to Thranduil. He put his head down on his arms which were folded over his knees. When he felt eyes on him, Elrond picked up his head. Thranduil was watching him.

“I don’t think you will be eaten, Elrond. Whoever this master is, he wants you. The Orcs will not dare harm you until this master…” Thranduil sat up suddenly. “What do you know about this ‘master’?” the Sinda asked.

“Nothing. What would I know about Orc masters? By Belegaer! I don’t even know much about Orcs!” Elrond took in a breath to slow his heart which hammered in his breast. What did this creature that the orcs call master want with him? Whatever it was, Elrond knew it could not be anything good. All his nerves stood on end when he thought of it, and Elrond trembled inside.

“None of Morgoth’s lieutenants know about you. You were too young during the First Age, but if they do know about you, then you will be someone they will consider their enemy number one.” A dark look crossed Thranduil.

“Why would I be that?”

“You have within you all the blood of those who had opposed Morgoth. All of them.” Thranduil frowned. “You have to escape, Elrond.” The look of determination Elrond had seen in Thranduil was back. “They cannot have you.” Thranduil glanced at the orcs.

Orcs had finished eating and were spreading out, some to the shadowed corners and others in the center and near the cave entrance.

“Their master wants you, too.”

“I think I was only their secondary target who just happened upon them. No. You are their target,” Thranduil said, his eyes not leaving the Orcs.

It was then Sharku gestured toward the bulky orc.

“Burog, set guards.” Then, the yellow-eyed orc went behind a jutting rock and disappeared from Elrond’s view followed by Krud.

Burog gestured to four orcs. They moved closer to the cave entrance and stood at attention. Then, he walked further inside the cave. He kicked two other Orcs and pointed to the back of the cave. Grumbling, orcs got up and passed where the two elves sat. They disappeared into the blackness far right to the where Elrond sat with Thranduil.  Burog came near the two Elves at the back of the cave shouting orders at a group of orcs lying on the ground under the shadow of the jutting walls.  

Now that Elrond had time to look more closely, Burog differed from others. Unlike others who wore worn pieces of mismatched armor, Burog wore an armor that was fitted to his bulky frame. He also carried a massive, double-edged ax unlike the strip of curved iron that many orcs carried. Among the dark metal of his armor and dirt brown leather spattered with old blood, something sparkled in his belt and on his fingers.

“That filth has my dagger,” Elrond hissed under his breath. Thranduil who had been watching the two Orcs disappear into the back of the cave turned.

“Burog? Was it he who took the dagger from you? When?” Thranduil asked.

“When he captured me.” Elrond nodded, biting down the anger. The Half-Elven looked at the dagger. How could he allow these Orcs to take the dagger?

“And those rings, are they yours?” Thranduil seemed to scrutinize Burog. The Sinda seemed suddenly alert, his eyes sparkling like jewels by the pale light of the torches.

“Just the one on his pinky. It was from the king along with that brooch he is sporting,” Elrond said between clenched teeth.

“Hmmm.” Thranduil’s lips curved, and a new light danced in his eyes.

“What are you thinking?” Elrond whispered as he watched Burog come towards them.

Thranduil looked up at the orc with haughty calm when Burog stopped in front of them.

“Hey, ugly! Return my friend’s dagger, you thief,” Thranduil said as if he was a prince commanding the lowliest slave.

Elrond winced. What in Utumno are you doing, stupid?

Burog looked down at Thranduil, then laughed out loud. He padded his dagger in his belt.

“He wants this back, does he?” the Orc chuckled, then he bent down to look down at Thranduil. “Want to take this, dog?”

“Why, don’t mind me if I do,” said Thranduil getting up to his full height, towering above Burog. The orc was twice as broad and muscled compared to Thranduil but was shorter by a head. With a placid look on his face, Thranduil extended his bound hands and reached for the dagger in Burog’s waist.

“Thranduil, don’t…” Elrond did not finish.

Burog rammed his massive fist into Thranduil’s cheek knocking the Sinda against the stone wall.

Elrond bolted upright, trying to get up on his feet when Burog turned and grabbed Elrond’s neck. The orc took out the dagger and ran it down Elrond’s cheek, down to his throat. The cold steel pressed into the skin of Elrond’s neck and drew blood.

Elrond glared up at the Orc. Whatever weakness he felt before had calmed replaced by burning fire in his breast. To think that Maglor’s dagger will be used against him. If only he had his sword….

Burog chuckled, then stashed the dagger back into his belt.    

“Master wants you? But you are weak!” The Orc squeezed his hand that held Elrond’s neck. “Burog can snap your neck. So easy." The Orc cawed.

Burog pulled on Elrond’s neck. The Half-Elven had no choice but to get up off his feet. His inside shivered as the calloused fingers dug into the soft skin of his neck.

“Get your filthy hands off me, you spawn of Morgoth!” Elrond’s inside hardened as heat exploded within his stomach. The churning darkness that was the Orc flowed through Burog’s hands. The intensity of hatred burned like a dragon fire and inside that was desire only to kill, to destroy and to burn all that was good. Elrond had always been taught that orcs are evil, but he had believed that there must be some good in them if they used to be elves, tortured and corrupted. But the Orc’s touch revealed only darkness devoid of any spark of light. Elrond felt his insides shrivel at the thick darkness that oozed nothing but pure malice.

“You do not frighten me.” Elrond hissed through his clenched teeth.

“No?” the Orc cackled, his face twisting monstrously. “Now that's new.” Burog flashed his teeth which were sharp like fangs of wolves. “You never played with us. Burog  will show you.”

Using his other hand, the Orc grabbed hold of Elrond’s bound arms and pulled at an awkward angle. The Orc only made a slight pressure on his movement, and Elrond felt searing pain between the joints of his shoulder. Burog was pressuring the nerve point.

“You see, slave. No damage if I keep the pressure like this. Master wouldn’t know.”

Burog squeezed, and Elrond’s veins sizzled like liquid fire. Elrond clenched his teeth harder, but every nerve in his body burned like lava that devours everything in its path. Elrond screamed.

“Burog!” someone shouted.

Suddenly, Burog yelped and let go. The Half-Elven dropped to the floor, trying hard to swallow the scream as the radiating pain slowed, then stopped. Elrond looked up.

Thranduil stood over the fallen Orc with a rock in his bound hands. But other Orcs came and surrounded Thranduil, their swords drawn, their teeth bare.

Burog stood up and touched the back of his head. Black blood oozed there.

“He’s mine!” Burog pushed away other Orcs,  punching one nearest to Thranduil. The Orcs stepped back giving Burog room.

"If you were going to hit me, at least do it well, you filth! Ah, but that's right,” jeered Thranduil, throwing the rock away. “That Scarface, Krud was it? He did say that you couldn't hit properly to save your life. I guess he was right at least. You punch like a child.” Thranduil laughed.

Burog screeched loudly. Elrond grimaced as his sensitive Elven ears shook from the loud cry. The Orc rammed into Thranduil knocking the Sinda down. But Thranduil got up, kicked Burog between his legs. Burog howled. One of the Orcs stepped in, but Burog slammed his fist into the Orc. Turning to his companions behind them, Burog roared out loud. The orcs drew further back. Burog turned back to Thranduil then attacked. Thranduil deftly dodged the punches. But Thranduil’s hands were bound, and Burog’s hands were not. Worse, Burog had weapons, and Thranduil had not. The Orc took out his ax. Cornering Thranduil with his massive body, Burog rammed the head of his ax onto Thranduil’s stomach, then hurl the Sinda against the wall behind him.

“Burog, the master angry if packages hurt. We don’t want master angry,” one of the Orcs who stood around them said.

“Master wants them unharmed, Burog!” Sharku who came out from the other side of the cave wove through the Orcs to stand before the others.

Burog turned around, growled then backhanded the first orc who spoke. The orc was flung back against a wall as other orcs scattered.

“This not the end, Elf scum,” Burog growled. “Burog will show you.” He let out another ear-splitting screech then marched away.

Elrond took in a breath until his trembling muscles calmed from the pain, then moved over next to Thranduil who had slid down the wall and was sitting on the ground. Thranduil groaned and leaned back against a wall, his eyes closed.

"Are you all right? Why would you do that? Why would you bait him? It is only making him angrier and more violent. Can you just keep quiet? I have never known you to talk so much!" Elrond scowled at Thranduil. “He may come at you again.”

Thranduil chuckled as he opened his eyes.  

"I am counting on it,” Thranduil smirked. Then he rubbed his stomach. “I had forgotten that these creatures are probably the same murderers who destroyed that village; killed Farion.” Thranduil’s eyes glittered with eerie light.