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Crowns and Feelings

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First Age, Year 495 of the Sun:     

It was only herself left of their small family of three persons now. Standing in front of the two newly covered graves she had digged all by herself, the grey hood covering her crying face from being seen. Fitting enough for this day, the land around her was all grey and misty, as if it too mourned what had been lost.

“Grandfather will not be pleased to know that I am his only heir now, mother…do you recall, how disappointed he was over that I was and still is your only child? That he wished for a grandson to carry on his line?” she asked to one of the graves, where many blue flowers had been planted. On the grave of her father, a sword had been placed as a recall of that he had been a warrior once.     

“Hm?”  

The silence was broken by the sound of horses arriving in high speed, making her turn around. Five riders, all dressed like messengers from the royal court, the leader being a handsome male with silver hair.   

“Princess! Princess Luthien! We bring important news from Doriath!”

Of course it could only be Celeborn, the King's nephew. Her second-cousin, a Elf who she had always been able to trust. It hurt to tell him those news she was about to break, but she knew it had to be done.

“Princess? Lord Beren?”

At least Celeborn was civil enough to knock on the front door to the house after dismounting, giving her time to enter through the gate from the mellow behind the house. It was her footsteps that gave her away, and they turned around as she  said:

“My parents are not here anymore. They have gone to Mandos for the second time and I know in my heart that they will not come back this time.”

The deeper meaning of her words took some moments to sink in, the lords all stunned in shock. Then, Celeborn bent on one knee for her.

“Then an even greater doom have fallen over the House of Thingol with both its Lord and Princess leaving life for different reasons. The Lord of Doriath is no more, long live the Queen and Lady of Doriath!”

In that moment, a wind forced the hood off her head, revealing a set of grey eyes set in a heart-shaped face surrounded by silver-blonde hair. Dior, the only child born to the famed Luthien and Beren, was now the Queen of Doriath.

 

It had all began 25 years earlier, here on the green isle of Tol Galen as Luthien was getting ready for the birth of her first child…

 

-

 

“Really, Father, please calm down. I am having a baby, not getting out on a quest caused by your crazy idea about a bride-prize for me again,” Luthien commented dryly from where she was laying on a large bed, surrounded by pillows and blankets. The large baby bump revealed that she was likely to give birth within the next coming weeks, her husband Beren giving his law-father Thingol a worried look over his shoulder as the tall Elven King walked back and forth in their drawing room.    

“Luthien have a point, sire. A hunt may ease your mind from worrying for a bit,” Beren said while Melian bent down to loose the braid Luthien currently wore. She did not say anything, but judging from the side-glare she gave her husband, she did agree with her mortal son-in-law. Realizing that all three was acting together, Thingol gave up.

“All right, all right! Beren, you are more familiar with the woods around this isle, surely you can show our hunter some good places for a hunt?”

He did his best to act civil to Beren, even if he had confessed in private to Melian that he still was far from pleased over that their only daughter had fallen for a mortal. Thankfully, Beren did not mind, hurrying over to a cabinet to bring out a hunting knife. Being one-handed since the events in Angband, he could no longer use a bow.

 

 

Being late winter, it was still snow outside and it could be tricky to find a hunting game, even for the hunters in the party. Though Beleg managed to fell a pheasant, they had hoped to find some deer as well. The roasted meat from a buck would be a good evening meal for everyone.

“Stop, stop! It is a pregnant doe ahead, do not shot her!” Beleg warned from a tree branch, pointing to the west where a almost silver-coloured doe had been frightened by the hunting horns. In fact, Thingol had to calm down his dapple gray stallion since it had been spooked by the doe suddenly showing up in front of them.

“You all right, sire?”

“Yes, everything is fine. That one was a close one, though…”

Suddenly, Thingol felt the mental link to his wife in heart and soul pull on him, in an almost fanatic manner. This only happened in the rare times Melian actually got panic for something serious.

“No... Luthien!

The sheer panic in his voice told everyone present that they needed to return, right away.

 

 

No one really knew how it had happened. In one moment, Luthien had merely moved in bed to find a comfortable spot while asking her mother for something to drink, but in the next moment she had felt something strange on the bed sheets and looked. The sight which had greeted her, was that of blood, a large pool of it too. Realizing that something must be wrong with the unborn child under her heart, Luthien had panicked and tried to rush out of the bed, only to collapse down on the floor due to suddenly losing her strength.

“Princess! Stay strong!”

Now Luthien was laying in her bed with freshly changed sheets, gasping for breath as she felt herself become weaker. Was this the price she had paid in the Halls of Mandos, by becoming a mortal? The risk of possibly dying in childbirth?

“My dear child…”

Melian was at total loss of what to do or say. Being a Maia, she had no idea how to act in a situation like this. Her only child, her sweet little Luthien who always had been a proof of her relationship with Thingol, was slipping away from them in a manner she had never expected to happen.

BANG!!

Suddenly the front door was slammed open, as Thingol and Beren hurried inside, followed by their hunters.

“Luthien! Dear, what is wrong?” Beren wondered in terror at seeing how pale she was, supporting her head from the pillow as her father landed on the other side of the bed.

“Luthien...what happened? What is wrong with my daughter?!” Thingol all but shouted in a demanding voice, making the present midwives clinge in slight fear.

“The princess have been losing blood from her vagina...but we can not get the baby to move...she have to give birth to the child, but her pulse is almost too weak and she have run out of her earlier stamina…”

Thingol knew that She-elves tended to weaken a bit in pregnancy due to the energy given to the child while in the womb, he had felt something similar himself while Melian had carried Luthien since a Elven father would give some of his own spiritual strength to his wife and unborn child. Did this link to that Luthien had sacrificed her own immortality as the price in order to be with Beren?

“So you are just going to watch her die?!”

Thingol actually looked ready to kill someone right now, something that was not alike him at all. Overprotective of Luthien, yes, that he was famous for, but this reaction was not something he would do in a normal situation.

“If removal of the baby is the only way to save her, then get it out of her!”

“Your highness! The baby have not reached the twelfth month yet….leaving the womb now, two months earlier, it will be in danger…”

But Thingol was not thinking clearly right now in his panic of possibly losing Luthien again.

“I value my daughter's life over that of an unborn grandchild, I want her life to be saved!”

There was a shared shock between Beren and Melian over his words, as they realized the deeper meaning of what he just had said. Luthien, who were half  unconscious of fatigue and blood loss, pleaded to her father in a whisper:

N-no….ada...Ada, please...let my baby live…

In the next moment, as the head midwife checked on her, Luthien felt another reason to worry; her labour had started too early.

 

 

It was nothing the present men in the royal family could do, outside leaving the midwives to do their work. Melian remained with Luthien for emotional support, and Beren looked like he had aged prematurely from worry over how thi had happened.

“Beren.”

He looked up at being addressed by his imposing father-in-law, and it was not just Thingol's height which made him shiver right now.

“....Listen. I already have lost my daughter once thanks to your actions, love or not. I am not risking her life because of some baby you put in her. I do not care what happens to that brat, as long as she survives.”

One of Melian's handmaidens, named Nimloth, happened to overhear her king saying those words as she passed by with a bowl of hot water. She did not like what she just had heard.

So that is how much you value your own firstborn grandchild, huh? Sire… ” she thought for herself, her face not betraying a single feeling of hers as she hurried into the chamber. Hearing Luthien cry and scream in pain was unnerving for anyone who heard it from behind the closed door. More than once, she was heard crying for Beren, for her father, but Melian had ordered her handmaidens to not allow either one enter the birth chamber before it was over.

 

 

Finally, just as the sun was raising in the morning light, one of the handmaidens opened the doors once again.

“My king, it is a pr-...”

But Thingol hurried past her, not bothering to learn what gender it was on his grandchild, Beren right behind him. Luthien was deadly pale where she laid in bed with one hand holding on to the hand of Melian, her life only saved by the maia blood she had inherited from Melian. It was too early to say if she would survive.

“Luthien! Please, my dear, brave Nightingale...please live…” Beren pleaded where he gathered her in his arms. Luthien opened her eyes, but only just. As she did so, the faint cry of a newborn infant could be heard from the bundle Nimloth was holding.

Get it out...take that child AWAY!! I do not want to see it around Luthien if it indeed causes her to die from us again!

Frightened by the sheer rage in Thingol's cold voice, Nimloth hurried out to another room.

 

 

There, she carefully tried to calm down the baby, no doubt horribly confused over the sudden change of surroundings and wondering why she was not hearing the voices of her parents anymore.

“There, there, princess, we will soon meet your nanaeth and ada again, she just need to rest a little before seeing you…”

Singing softly, she managed to make the infant baby stop crying at least. A shadow fell over her, revealing itself to be Oropher, one of the finest hunters in Doriath. The dark circles under his eyes revealed that he had not slept under the night.

“The princess gave birth prematurely?” was all he asked, understandably confused and not a so little bit worried given that Luthien was a very important person in Doriath as the only child of the King. Nimloth could only trust herself to nod as confirmation. For a moment, Oropher looked on the small baby, before saying in a hesitant voice:

“My mother...said something strange before I followed the king here. Something about that the Silmaril would be paid back to the Fëanorians eventually, that the King should act more kindly to his relatives before causing a new mess for Doriath...and that an important successor is already here among us.”

“Successor? You mean that this poor little lady actually will have to be burdened with the name of Dior , right?” Nimloth half complained in disbelief, knowing that it had been a name Luthien and Beren had planned to give that name to their first child. But what this newborn princess would be the successor of, no one knew. Her mother's fame as the fairest maiden of all time? Or the throne of Doriath?

“I do not know, I may be her son but not even I can get half the meanings at times when she starts speaking in those riddles she can suddenly say out of the blue! Same for my late father, who even got a warning about his death by her that same day as he fell in battle against orcs!” Oropher protested, whispering in order to not frighten the newborn princess Nimloth was holding.

 

 

With the small family moving to Doriath for a while, it still took several weeks before Luthien had recovered from being so near death at the birth of her daughter, and a wet-nurse had to be brought into service as she barely had enough strength to nurse Dior herself.

“From what little we can see of her hair colour, she will be a very pale blonde when growing up…” Beren said once when he and Luthien had a rare moment alone with their tiny daughter, who currently slept beside her mother.

“She will be beautiful, no matter what. Because she is our daughter.” Luthien responded and managed kiss him from where she was resting in bed. Her husband nodded with a smile, touching her cheek.

But unknown to them at that very moment, Dior were to remain their only child...

 

-

 

Back in the present, the adult Dior held back a strained smile at realizing what Celeborn meant in his words. Knowing Thingol, her grandfather was already complaining in the Halls of Mandos over that he only had managed to get one single grandchild as heir with Luthien becoming mortal.

“So it comes to this...in the eyes of the Elves, I am nothing more than a child, underage and not trained at all to rule a kingdom…”  

Beren and Luthien had tried many times for a second child, and failed. Dior was well aware of that Thingol had never been too pleased over both his own descendants was female, mainly in fear of that his own family could lose their royal standing at one of them marrying into another family.

“Are grandmother Melian still in Doriath?”

Celeborn could not hide the twitch in his body at the question, trying to not look her in the eyes.

“Nay, my lady. The...former Queen have left us too. At seeing the King's dead body she seemed to lose control over her emotions and...vanished like a morning mist, as if she never even had been here in the first place. The Girdle is no more…”

Dior felt a freezing cold in her whole body at hearing that. The Girdle was no longer around Doriath?! What was Melian thinking, leaving the kingdom unprotected like that!? Grief over losing Thingol was one thing, but to remove the main part of the magic which had protected Doriath for so long...they was open for attacks from Morgoth in Angband and another danger…

The Fëanorians, who would want the Silmaril back.  

Neither Celeborn or the other blamed poor Dior at all, when she was heard whispering loudly in an understandable fearful yet also bitter voice:

“I hate my family right now for leaving me to deal with this mess they left behind!”

Who would not feel so in a moment like that?

She turned around, her grey eyes looking worrying much like steel at the moment. Dior was young, that was impossible to deny at her 25 years of age, but she was no child. With a human father and born to mortal parents, she was an adult in body and reasonable mature in mind as well.

“We leave for Doriath in a hour. I may not be the grandson Thingol wished for, but prince or princess, my people needs me right now.”

Her first order as a Queen, and a reasonable one too. She was right in that the people of Doriath needed a leader to gather around. She may not be the first choice, but she was the last one of the current royal line right now.

Chapter Text

It was raining heavy from a iron-grey sky by the time Dior, Celeborn and the riders finally reached Doriath and rode further towards Menegroth.

“We will stay at grandfather Elmo's place tonight, it may feel more comfortable for you be to around family members than at the court since the burial is tomorrow,” explained Celeborn as he helped Dior to dismount from her mare. Dior nodded in understanding, having secretly hoped for something similar as she did not feel emotionally ready to yet step into her new role as the Queen of Doriath.                                                                                                                                                                                      

“I think that is a wise idea, indeed, cousin.”      

She was tired, and was pleased to come inside from the rain over the night. Because of her human blood, Dior feared to come down with a cold, because her immune system was not that of pure-blood Elves. In fact, she had fallen ill sometimes under her life, often freaking out the Elves around her as they did not really know how to deal with illness. It seemed like Celeborn was thinking the same, given how he laid a arm around her to use his own cloak to shield her from the rain a bit.     

 

As they entered the house, a older male voice was heard from the stairs towards the second floor:

“Celeborn? Oh good, you managed to get Dior back without too much trouble, I feared that you would not arrive in time…”

Elmo, the younger brother of Thingol and grandfather to Celeborn thought his son Galadhon, hurried down the stairs as best as he could. Not because of old age like a human would have, but rather because of a old hunting injury in his left leg which had never really healed properly and sometimes forced him to walk with a walking stick.        

“Great-uncle Elmo.”

Even if she was the new Queen, Dior still made a point of greeting Elmo as the now oldest member of the family since Thingol had passed away. In return, Elmo bowed as deeply he could with his walking stick for her.  

“Dior, I am truly at loss in what to say about this matter. Not only is my brother lost, but also his direct heir in his daughter, your mother Luthien…”

If it was possible for a Elf to look old and tired without wrinkles, so was it exactly that kind of look Elmo had in that moment.  

“Let's talk about it later, please. We can not let it burder our thoughts every moment, it will only leave a growing darkness in our minds.”

Dior tried to not sound too formal, as she still needed to be used to the fact that she actually was the new Queen, and did not want her relatives to think that her change of social status had made her arrogant.  

“As you wishes, great-niece of mine,” Elmo responded in, thankfully, the voice he normally used when talking to her.

 

Once Dior and Celeborn had taken a quick bath to clean themselves off after the journey and eaten a quick dinner, the whole family was gathered in Elmo's office.

“Alright, everyone, I will go straight to the point; Due to Dior's young age, we have to expect that things will be difficult in the start of this new reign. The Elves here in Doriath is used to have my brother rule, and Melian using her Girdle to prevent dangers. Right now it is chaos, with many feeling lost without the protection of either one. Dior, do you have any idea about possible control of the Maia powers you may have inherited from your grandmother?”

Much to her private frustration, Dior had to shake on her head.

“I am afraid not. As pointed out, I am merely a child in Elven years of living and the few times I have attempted to do something similar to my mother and grandmother, I have not been able to control my powers at all. Without Grandmother around here in Middle-Earth, I seriously doubts that I ever shall learn how to control them…”

To show her point, Dior did actually remove her long sleeve to reveal a half-healed burn mark on her arm, explaining that it was the result of trying to use her powers when digging the graves for her parents. With a sign over the mental image of how disappointed people would be at realizing that their new Queen would be unable to protecting them in the same manner as Melian had done, Elmo requested his family to help Dior against those who was very likely to cause trouble for her.

 

-

 

The next day dawned with a grey sky, somehow fitting the mood of the whole kingdom. Some of the house maids, who knew her from earlier visits in the house, helped Dior to dress up in a ash-coloured underdress, before taking a dark grey dress as her main clothing. She was not surprised over that it was a small high neck collar and long sleeves on the ash dress, since it would be improper to dress in the rather loose Doriath fashion at a burial. Her only jewelry to be worn, was a set of pearl necklace with a black onyx gemstone as central piece and a silver circlet with a similar onyx.              

 

Thingol's body had been washed and dressed in his finest robes made of deep blue and green silk, carefully arranged to hide the wounds which had been his bane. His favorite gold circlet had been set around his head for the last time, and then his sealed wooden coffin had been placed on a stretcher before being covered with a long green cloak with silver embroidery. Candles and incense had been lit in the chamber around the coffin.

“In here, my lady.”

Having requested to be alone at the coffin for a couple of minutes, Dior slowly walked around it with a hand sliding along the cloak. With her other hand, she picked up a silver flower crown which once had belonged to Luthien before her marriage to Beren.    

“So, grandfather...you were a powerful King in your life, founding Doriath and becoming father to the fairest Elf-maiden of them all. Yet you did not expect to be killed by the Dwarves, the children of the Smith-Vala? How terrible, so utterly foolish...all because of a magical gem…”

Suddenly, Dior threw the crown of her mother to the floor, causing it to break apart in several pieces by the force she had used.

“So it was your requested bride price for mother which ended up leading to your own death, huh? The irony of it all, a magical gem which was not even belonging to our family in the first place... all thanks to you and your damned pride! I never wanted to be Queen, yet it is all thanks to you as I now holds that blasted title! Because you insisted on father getting a bride price for mother which ended up causing their Doom as mortals!”   

In her anger, Dior did actually slam both of her fists upon the coffin, ignoring how her hands became sore and numb by the impact. Some of her inherited Maia powers acted out of control as reaction on her feelings, given that some of the candles was now hovering dangerously close to the curtains of silk at the big window.   

“M-milady?” a court lady asked nervously as she looked inside, making Dior take a deep breath to calm herself down.

“Carry Grandfather to the burial mound,” Dior spoke in a voice without much emotion to the servants who would carry the stretcher.     

 

Even if Thingol had been her maternal grandfather, it was well-known that they had been having a very distant relationship and if she had been able to, Dior would gladly have been absent from the burial all together until that it was over. But she could not, Dior had to be present as his successor and remaining heiress in the place of her mother Luthien. As the royal coffin was carried to its final resting place, the Elves dressed in black or the darkest coloured clothes they owned all either bowed or curtsied a final time for Thingol.     

“Everyone, please say your final farewell to my elder brother,” Elmo requested to the present Elves around, having realized early on that Dior would not be able to say a speech normally spoken by those close to the deceased, for more than one reason.               

“May he be rejoined with Queen Melian at his rebirth in Valinor.”  

It seemed like a fitting thing to say, even for those who had never really been comfortable with Thingol having a Maia as wife and Queen at his side. Several bouquets of spring flowers was placed on the coffin before it was set inside the digged grave. Then, after sealing the opening with several large stones, earth and smaller stones was used to form a burial mound.

~X~X~X~X~X~X

The burial was over, but Dior knew that a new challenge was just around the corner. As the only remaining direct descendant, she had to accept the condolences offered by the court members alongside her relatives.

“Are you alright, Dior? Perhaps you need a moment alone?” Galadriel asked in a whisper, understanding somewhat the conflict inside the young Queen due to her own memories about learning that her grandfather Finwë had been slain by Morgoth while stealing the Silmarils from Formenos.  

“I can deal with this. I need to, unless they sees me as weak because of my mortal blood,” Dior responded under her breath, only moving her eyes to give a quick glare to Galadriel. Not to shut her up, but requesting to not ask anymore.

“Please, be seated at least now when we are about to head for the reception so it can be avoided that you may collapse from fatigue. You have barely slept during the journey here...hey!”

In fact, Dior did actually collapse all suddenly without warning just as she was about to enter the large stone entrance of Menegroth, the lack of proper sleep over the past days and grief over the death of her parents catching up with her.

“Dior!”  

While they managed to catch her before she hit the ground, it had not gone unnoticed. As Nimloth supported the Half-elven, they could not help but hear whispers around them:

She is weak…

A child…

Too young to be a actual ruler…

...born mortal, can we even be sure that she will live long enough to have children of her own?

Will her mortality cause the line of Thingol to die out? ”  

A cold glare from Elmo stopped the whispers for now, but Dior knew that they would start soon again the moment she was out of sight and hearing.

“Take me to the royal office, I need to do something in there,” she requested in a whisper.

 

Once the doors to Thingol's former office had been closed, Dior sat down in the, for her over-sized, chair behind the writing desk.

“Why did Grandfather have to be so tall...anyway, I have three important letters to be written and sent away. If Beleg had not been killed six years ago, I would tasked him with this mission….” Dior groaned, recalling how she had been present when Thingol had been given a letter from Nargothrond that Beleg had been killed and Turin was still missing. She had not known Turin too well during his years at court as the foster son of Thingol, but had always found his pride a bit too similar to Thingol for them to really be friends. Well, one good thing about Turin was that he had gotten rid of that jerkass Saeros, even if it had been an accidental murder....

“Oropher! Stop hanging around in that tree and get inside here with Thranduil, I have a mission for you both!” Dior called when she heard a somewhat familiar sneezing from the window quickly followed by a shush, knowing that it could only be one father and son set acting in a such manner. Sure enough, two Elves in the clothes of the Marchwardens entered through the window.

“I apologize for the sneezing, my lady, I got some pollen into my nose at moving,” the young Thranduil tried to explain, before Oropher pressed his head further down in a proper bow for their new ruler.

“What is it you wishes for us to do?” Oropher wondered as she gave him a sealed letter, Dior having a personal seal with the letter D inside a circle to show that it was her who had written the letter. However, at seeing who the letter was addressed to, he paled in understandable worry.

“The Dwarven Lord of Nogrod?”  

“In the hopes of preventing them from attacking Doriath as revenge for my Grandfather being a idiot. I can not hand over the Silmaril as payment, but surely giving them a share of the treasures in this realm may prevent a sacking of this city and the spilled blood of my people. After all, it would be pretty hard to explain why the Silmaril suddenly is in the hands of the Dwarves if the Fëanorians wants it back. And I would wish to talk about what to do with the Silmaril with the House of Fëanor without getting myself killed because of my parents needing that gem as a bride price for their love,” was all Dior said as explanation. The second letter was addressed to Gil-galad as the current ruler of the exiled Noldor, which Thranduil was tasked to bring as messenger. But the third and final letter was given to Mablung with strict orders by Dior to not return before he had delivered it to Maedhros, the eldest and leader of the Fëanorians.

“I may be a fool, but I will not start my reign as Queen of Doriath with my hands marked with the blood of my own people.”      

 

-

 

Late that evening, after a long and fatiguing day, Dior remained silent as her new ladies-in-waiting removed all the mourning clothes and jewelry from her. A quick bath to freshen herself up a bit, before she was dressed in a nightdress which reached to the floor.

“Nimloth can remain, you others may return to your own chambers for the night,” Dior said as she dismissed most of the grown Elves in her sleeping chamber. Since Nimloth was busy in giving Dior a footbath to lessen the slight swelling she had gotten from her too-small black shoes, they believed that to be the reason for her staying behind with the new Queen.

 

“Does it feel good, Dior?”

“Yes, thank you for getting everything needed for a foot bath before we even had come in here.”

“That is because I know your way of walking and when something is off, like a sprained ankle or in this case, swollen feet from too small shoes…” Nimloth sighed as she started to dry one of the feet with a towel. Because of her human blood Dior did not exactly have small and dainty feet, rather it was more like a set of rather long and un-Elvish wide feet. Far from the classical Elven androgynous appearance, few would doubt her gender as Dior had a rather clear womanly figure in that apple-shaped body of hers even if she was rather slim from an active outdoor life and training from her father Beren.

“I am not even sure if I have finished growing yet, due to my mixed blood...I know that mother grew at a normal Elven rate due to grandmother Melian taking the shape of a She-elf, but myself? I am still uneven in how my body grew when I started to change from child into a woman…”

Dior gave her short hands a tired look, looking at the long fingers and board palms. Her arms and legs were both long, but she was short in height as contrast.   

“Dior.”  

Placing her hand on the younger Half-elven's diamond-shaped face, Nimloth gently kissed Dior in a way that was anything but chaste. Flushing over the kiss, Dior looked away for a moment, before moving one hand along her neck. Looking down, she saw Nimloth place her hand over her free one, Nimloth's dark golden skin colour seeming more dark against her own pale one.

“Colourless in contrast to your mother, as if! There is fair skin in all of your family tree, and your silver-blonde hair is inherited from your mortal grandmother Emeldir, I remember her as a much welcomed guest at your parents' wedding, especially that verbal thrashing she gave lord Thingol at learning what he had requested her only son to do if he wanted to marry his daughter.”        

Dior had to laugh, in the middle of removing her nightdress so she was naked as the day she was born. Nimloth did the same, but neither one cared for the  different appearance of their bodies now. They had been secret lovers for the past five years, ever since a very nervous Dior had confessed to Nimloth that she liked her in the manner as people normally would expect a maiden to feel for a youth. Nimloth then had revealed that she was drawn to both genders herself, though she had admitted to prefer ladies over the gentlemen.  

 

Lightly biting on Dior's semi-pointed ear tip, Nimloth whispered softly:

“You may be a uncrowned Queen now, but here, far away from the court, you are still the Half-elven who was brave enough to break a taboo from your grandfather.”     

Thingol had not been fully against relationships with the same gender, but there was no doubt that he would not have accepted it among his own family, especially not Luthien or Dior.

“As if I even wants to marry soon, which people will insist on once they learn that I already have been a woman since eight years back…”

Neither Luthien or Beren had expected that Dior would enter womanhood at only 17 years of age, and especially not how awkward her teenage years would be for all three of them.

“Do not think of that now, moon of my love. I do not doubt that you will have to marry and have heirs, but until then... you are mine and mine alone .”

The gentle touch at her most private area by Nimloth's fingers made Dior gasp in pleasure, Nimloth knew her weak spots and how to turn her on for some love-making. Knowing her, it was safe to say that despite the horrible day, Dior would indeed get a easier way to fall asleep all night once they had exhausted each other.     

“Then, help me forget my new royal role for awhile.”

Bending over Dior to kiss her, Nimloth's golden brown hair curls mixed with Dior's much paler hair over the pillow.        

Chapter Text

 Year 495 of the Sun

 

Amon Ereb, Home to the Fëanorian Host after the Battle of Unnumbered Tears

 

Amon Ereb still doesn't feel like home. Maedhros has hidden himself in a quiet, abandoned corner and has his arms crossed over his chest. Even lost in his thoughts, he appears worried, tired and worn out. From his spot, he has a good view on the busy market below him, one of the view places left in Beleriand where merchants could sell their wares, free and unafraid to get ambushed. Since the roads are no longer safe, many travelers come in groups and any noble Lord Maedhros has met at least doubled their guards. Hence why Amon Ereb is a loud bustling bee hive, especially compared to Himring, which rested on the top of a lonely mountain.

Yet the war forced many to flee south, Maedhros and his people included. Due to the losses they suffered, Amon Ereb has turned into last fortified city in this corner of Beleriand. Not counting Nogrod and Belegost, but they had their own problems. Especially since the Lord of Belegost, Azaghâl, Maedhros' dear friend had lost his life in the Nírnaeth Arnoediad.

The screams of the dying still follow him. They keep him awake at night and his brothers aren't faring any better.

Caranthir still struggled with a limb, had gotten injured in one of the battles and since the had little time to treat it, his left wrist bothered him from time to time. Since they are all still recovering, Maedhros had removed from all patrols and reduced his training hours. Instead he works with the Ambarussa to keep the city running, there was enough work to do with the influx of refugees they had.

They could just be thankfully that Maglor's people were used to living on horse back, just like Celegorm's. It's not visible from his view point, but north the wall had emerged an entire new district. A city made of tents, mostly self sufficient and well organized, because if there's one thing Amras and Amrod had aplenty, it's space. It used to take six weeks of fast riding to make the journey from Amon Ereb to Himring.

Now they barely get past the Dwarven Road. Thargelion and Estolad isn't overrun yet, but Maedhros can't see it that they can win back the territories anytime soon.

"Maitimo," a familiar choice calls out and Maedhros twists his head to see Curufin ascend the steps. His little brother is waving a letter. "I've news for you. It's from Tyelko."

Surprise colors Maedhros' face as Curufin puts the sheet of paper into his hands. In the recent years they hadn't the best relationship and it's already rare itself that Curufin seeks him out on his own. After the disaster that was Nargothrond, the evenings they spend together are strained. With Celegorm around, they often end in shouting matches, but after Fingon's death the hunter made himself scarce.

Avoiding Maedhros as best as he can and since the Ambarussa are strained thin with holding back the chaos in their city, Celegorm decided to make himself useful and lead the scouts. As if he wants to spare Maedhros the trouble of telling him to get out of his face.

He hasn't been home weeks.

Honestly Maedhros hoped he'd return soon. He can't have his little brother dying, just because he thinks Maitimo is angry with him. By now, their tempers should've cooled off enough to apologize.

Maedhros hasn't said as much to Curufin, but he will. He has too. He has lost a good friend already and he won't lose a brother due to false pride. Who knows what he'd have done, had Beren arrived at his doorstep with the quest for a Silmaril?

Celegorm's chicken crawl greets him as Maedhros unfolds the letter.

 

'Bridge of Sarn Athrad still secure. Belegost requests another battalion to guard the River Thalos. More Orcs expected in the next few months.'

'Azaghâl's son proposes to build reinforcements between Mt. Ramdal, Amon Ereb and River Legion.'

 

So far nothing new. Maedhros scans the text for anything interesting. There're a few regions they've to look out for. Apparently Belegost and Nogrod are fighting again. With Azaghâl's death, Belegost oldest heir is a daughter. His son is supposed to take over, who insists on keeping said sister as advisor. Yet in the end it was just politics. He'd send Caranthir, if he had to. It'd be good for Moryo to get out of the city. He was getting stir crazy in here and he had experience with the inhabitants of Ered Luin.

 

'Loss of three hunters for the Avari.'

'One important birth among the Lindar in Taur-in-Duinath'.

 

As if Maedhros kept track of the ever changing chieftains. Ambarussa would know.

The last part, though, caught his attention.

 

'Spotted a rather large company of Sindar weeks ago. Kept out of sight, tried to sneak past us, using old roads. Definitely from Doriath and took great care not to be seen. Crossed the Andram Mountains two weeks ago. Most likely heading towards the Nandor in order to avoid us.'

At the end Celegorm had scribbled a few last words, probably written in great haste.

 

'Destination: Tol Galen. Birds confirmed.'

 

Maedhros look at Curufin.

"Have you read this?" He wants to know, though it's most likely that Curufin already did. He reads most of the letters Celegorm writes first.

They now each other well enough by now that only need a bare minimum of words in order to communicate.

"It find it worrying what Doriath could possibly want with Luthien," Curufin says. "Doriath was involved with Nogrod a while ago, but we didn't intervene because none of us wanted to risk the lives of our warriors for a battle of unknown magnitude. You ruled that it'd be unwise to pick sides between allies."

"I remember that discussion," Maedhros grumbles. A little knot appears between his eyebrows and he hands the letter back to Curufin. The rest will have to be discussed later, but Doriath getting in contact with their exile princess was troubling indeed. "With us so far south, we must rely on Doriath and the Dwarves to keep our territories. The lands surrounding Amon Ereb are save, we can be glad that the Dark Elves living in Taur-im-Duinath see the sense of supporting us instead of crying outrage at the prospects of us invading their lands."

Curufin shrugs, "Ambarussa did good work with building a relationship with them. I'm confident that there are a few tribes, who will tell us what Doriath might want with them. From what I've gathered, Luthien refused to set a foot into her old home. Apparently she and her husband kept to themselves after Luthien gave birth. I don't know why she raised her child away from Doriath and choose Tol Galen instead, but if my sources are correct than she had a close relationship with a Silvan witch? Oropher's mothers, I presume?"

"You know quite a lot about the situation," Maedhros says and tries to keep the judgement out of voice. It's difficult to trust Curufin after what happened in Nargothrond. But given the fact that his brother suffered from the lack of contact with his son, he wants to be lenient.

"Celegorm asked me to keep track of Luthien." Curufin's expression is cold and unmoving.

Sometimes Maedhros forgets how much his brother has lost himself. Friends, his home and his son, all because Doriath refused to take in refugees fleeing from dragon fire. It seems a world away, but Maedhros had been more or less safe in Himring, his greatest worry being Maglor until his brother safely reached his gates. Caranthir and Ambarussa had been fine as well, as a quick message confirmed. Losses here and there, but nothing as disastrous as marching around Doriath for months.

"Send out your spies," Maedhros orders and his expression grows hard. "I want to know as much as possible about Doriath. Send the twins themselves if you have to. We need to know more. Morgoth isn't going away and way time that the Sindar start pulling their weight. We've lost enough men to their ignorance."

"My pleasure," Curufin purrs and heads down the stairs again. Seeing the life return to his eyes, is worth a harsher approach to diplomatics.

It's so easy to forget that Curvo used to be different. A loving husband and a great father, before the loss of his wife broke something in him.

"I wish keeping them together, wouldn't be so lonely," Maedhros mumbles to himself and turns to go back to work.

He might not be good company right now, but sitting around doing nothing

 

-

 

 Year 496 of the Sun: Several months later

 

"Luthien's daughter is now Queen of Doriath?"

The Sons of Fëanor have a lot of practice in politics, but even they had trouble schooling their expression as Maedhros spreads the news. Caranthir has buried his face in his hands, grumbling under his breath. Celegorm looks dumbfounded and seems currently too shocked to react. Ambarussa is suspicious like always, but like Curufin they probably knew it beforehand.

Maglor looks speculative and Maedhros can't say which one of his brothers worries him the most.

Celegorm probably, but they're having exactly this discussion, because he doesn't want any ugly surprises when the messenger is bound to arrive sooner or later. In a few weeks, if the scouts' reports are correct. Usually it's custom to send out an enjoy straight after a ruler's death, but the history between the Noldor and the Sindar together with the rumors that Nargothrond had fallen is enough to call for caution.

"How old is that girl?" The question comes from Caranthir, though he's basically voicing Celegorm's thoughts. They've the same expression on their faces. "She can't be older than ... twenty? Twenty-five?"

"They cannot crown a child, Moryo," Amras interrupts. "Our friends say that Luthien was mortal, when she died. She aged as the Edain do, following Beren's life and dying with him as he succumbed to death."

"Perhaps she's mortal as well?" Maglor muses. "I've collected enough versions about the tale of Luthien and Beren. Some contradict each other, but most have in common that they stole a Silmaril from Morgoth's crown and that Luthien gave her immortal life in return for a few more years with her love. It's not much of a stretch that Dior grew up as the Edain do, no matter what her mother might've been."

"Are you telling me that we've to acknowledge a ruler of a Kingdom, who's going to be die anyway in a few decades?" Celegorm finally speaks up. He scratches his head in confusion. "Don't get me wrong. I prefer a mortal woman over a fucking Sindar any time of the day, mortals are predicable and reliable at least. but I know for fact that Luthien wasn't Thingol's heir. Elwë never grasped the possibility that he might die. He felt save behind the girdle of his wife."

"Luthien was his only daughter. Who did Doriath intended to crown, if their cowardly king had fallen down the stairs and had broken his neck?"

Now it's Maglor, who can't seem to hold back his disgust.

Maedhros lets his brothers argue. He has called this meeting for a reason. With so many brothers around, being the Lord has the pleasant effect that they were all raised with the same values yet focused on different aspects of it. Advisors had never been necessary for him, especially not if Maedhros required a second opinion.

Hence why he lets Celegorm continue.

The silver-haired hunter shrugs. "Not a clue. For all I know Thingol intended to name one of his nephews. Marry Luthien to one of them, I think. Elwë still had another brother named Elmo, remember? He's the father of Artanis' husband and probably of Eöl as well."

"The latter is the piece of scum, who married Irissë, isn't he?" Amrod asks for confirmation. "The one, who got her killed?"

"Raped. Killed. No idea, little brother," Celegorm says, pulling a face. "It's not as if Turgon ever explained what happened."

At the mention of Turgon Maedhros flinches. He had forgotten his cousin entirely. After the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, his attention went to Gileadite and he stayed in contact with Círdan. Assuming that the crown would sooner or later would go to Fingon's son, since they hadn't heard anything from Turgon in the last twenty years. No invitation for a coronation, which would've been vital and important to the Noldor after the losses they suffered. No formal burial for Fingon either, which grated on Maedhros until this day.

Fingon's son will be High-king one day, Maedhros thinks. I've been planning the steps with Círdan, his letters says Ereinion is doing well in his studies.

Maedhros assumes that Artanis is still with him, educating their relative after there are very few of their family left to do so.

Finally Maedhros decides to say a few words, interrupting his bickering brothers, "Doriath will be here soon. We don't know if the rider is an ambassador or just a courier, but we'll treat him with courtesy. He just lost his King and we've learned ourselves how unreasonable the Eldar can be in facing something, which is quite normal for the Edain."

His gazes makes a round, eyeing each brother carefully and he expects to be obeyed. There's time for dissent and voicing opinions, yet with changes happening in Doriath they needed a united front.

"Maglor will be the guide and possible translator, your talent is famous even among the Sindar. They'll have the feeling that they know you already and after making such a long and dangerous journey, it's unlikely they'll ride out immediately again." After a short pause, Maedhros speculates, "Maybe you can gather information. Inquiries look harmless enough if it seems that you wish to write a song. It'd not be tactless, in the face of Elwë's death."

"Fine with me," Maglor nods and smiles.

His appearance and his reputation is harmless enough, compared to his brothers and they've used that tactic in the past. As bard, many simply assumed that he was the most approachable one.

Maedhros instead turns towards the twins. "Ambarussa, I want you present as well. This is your city and you've the best connection to the Green Elves in general. They respected you enough erect this city on the Hill, where they buried their one and only King. We can use this to our advantage. I refuse our people to be disrespected, simply because of Thingol's sense of superiority."

"Well, the Green-Elves never liked that much," Amras snickers before his face turns serious. "I think they blamed him for not arriving earlier to battle, which resulted in Denethor's death. Friends have told us how Thingol opened Doriath to them, but many returned or live at the edge of the forest instead with the Sindar in Menegroth, because didn't get long with him."

"The tribes in Taur-in-Duinath aren't his greatest fans either," Amrod adds and Maedhros congratulates himself for allowing the twins to live so far away from Himring.

When they settled in East Beleriand, he wasn't sure how the local residents would accept them, but the world outside Melian's girdle was dangerous enough that Avari and Nandor alike happily looked past cultural differences, if it meant gaining a reliable ally against the shadows in the north.

"Besides the tribes are aware how badly the last battle against Morgoth went," Celegorm comments, voice like granite. All the time with the scouts as apparently paid off, but like Curufin he hates Doriath with a passion. He's only less skilled in hiding it. "They're thankful for the service we provided. That we bought them another few decades at least and they're willing to join our ranks, because the see the necessity of the war we're fighting."

"Nevertheless, we'll be polite to whoever rides through the gates in a few weeks. They'll be protected by the law of right to hospitality." Maedhros studies the two brothers, who worry him the most right now. "If you think, you're not capable of treating a guest accordingly, take a horse and ride with Caranthir to Belegost tomorrow."

Celegorm has the decency to nod slowly, while Curufin pulls a face. The trip to Belegost has been planned for quite a while and had only been delayed in order to hold this meeting. Quite frankly, Maedhros hopes that they'll go with Moryo. It will be far easier to deal with Doriath, if he doesn't have to watch his little brothers at the same time on top of it. But he'll speak to them later in private.

 

Chapter Text

Mablung was in great relief at finally spotting Amon Ereb in the distance, hoping that Dior would forgive him for taking so long time with this mission. It had taken him a lot more time than planned to get here, as he first had done the great mistake of believing Maedhros to still live in Himring and traveled there first, only to find the stone fortress heavy barricaded in both the gates and windows. There had been no sight of living here, so he had been forced to ride the long road to Amon Ereb, which had cost him extra time to travel. That he had been even further delayed by the winter surprising him with some sudden snow storms, had not helped his mood. Naturally, the lone rider was soon spotted by the scots around Amon Ereb, whose task was to keep a eye out for possible dangers coming. While it had been expected that Doriath would send someone with information about the new situation in the hidden kingdom, they still wanted to ensure that it was not a trap from Angband.              

  

For a Elf who was used to the underground mazes and caves of Menegroth, Amon Ereb came off as a whole different world, with the markets and the city under the open sky. It was so unfamiliar with a city under the sky that Mablung for a moment felt at unease. Elves of various identities could be seen, their clothing and manners of speaking revealing if they were either Noldor, Nandor, Silvan, Laiquendi or even Avari. There was even a few Sindar from Cirdan's people, if he heard the accent correctly. The sight of so many Elves of varying background was a wondrous sight for Mablung. In Doriath visitors had been a marvel, even after the Noldor came to Beleriand. Guests used to fight for the right to enter Menegroth and it used to take at least a year of living at the court to get an audience with the King. Galadriel had fought hard for the right, especially once she and Celeborn had fallen in love. Whispers said that taking that long just to get a audience with Thingol had been one of the reason to why the Fëanorians had ended up on the bad side with the King - him viewing them as far too impatient. While the Fëanorians only saw wasted time that could be used on other things.              

Since he had ridden through the wild for months, seeing couples with mixed blood down the street with obvious adoration for each other, daring to go so far to kiss and hold hands in public, the last part of his journey was bound to be a huge difference to what he was used to. Back home in Doriath, a betrothed or married couple would never show their feelings out in the open to others to see it, rather they used various body signals to each other or something like the language of flowers, written letters or anything else that a eternal bachelor as himself never had gotten the hang off.         

 

“Watch where you are riding!”  

 

Mablung had to focus on his horse, so he did not cause trouble for people who walked on the main street. Parents with children, other travelers, merchants and soldiers…

It was truly a different world from Doriath, where the wealthy sent out servants to do errands while the master or lady of the house remained home. No high-born lady would be seen buying everyday things on markets, if they wanted something from the dressmaker or goldsmith they would be sending a order about what they wanted and the worker would come over to the house to get more details on how the lady wanted the finishing result to look like, before starting to work.          

 

Here he saw people, both male and female, buying or even selling things. One Noldo Elf even lifted a Silvan she-elf up in the air, both laughing over something before she was set back on the ground, then hugged tightly by him. Her hair had several bites of amber stones carefully braided into her hair, while he wore similar ones. Only then did Mablung recall the Sindar custom of husband and wife sharing a sign of being married, which the Noldor had taken over as part of being serious about becoming a new power center in Beleriand.

From what little Mablung knew of the Noldor customs, the mere idea of marrying someone below your own social status was unthinkable in Doriarth. Even if Beren had been the current chieftain of the House of Bëor after his father Barahir, he still had been far too beneath her royal status by the standards of Doriath to even be taken seriously as a possible husband to Luthien. In fact, had he been a Elf, he would have been exiled to the borders of Doriath as punishment for daring to step over the thin line on what was acceptable.  

 

As the resulting child of a such lawbreaking marriage, Dior would have faced a lot of hardships from Doriath even if she had not been the new Queen. That she was born and raised outside the kingdom, was only further marking her as a outsider. The Elves in Doriath tried to avoid marrying people not coming from Doriath as part of their self-image of a strong, powerful kingdom not needing help from others, though the fact that both the great-grandsons of Lord Elmo had married a such outsider bride each, proved some refusal of that image.                  

 

- ~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

In his office, Maedhros was busy with reading a letter from Caranthir. Things were well in Belegost and Azaghâl's children had promised to send more weapons and the usual payment would be the amount of wheat and fruits they could afford to give away, once the snow had melted enough to plowing and sowing the fields around Amon Ereb.    

While Celegorm and Curufin had followed Caranthir to the Dwarven city, Maedhros knew the two well enough to guess that they would travel back to Amon Ereb before the middle brother and most likely may show up unexpected any day now.                   

 

“Of course the Dwarves need to fix their own need of this harvest as well. It is important that it is enough to last if it becomes a very rainy or dry summer.”

 

He shuddered in memory of the first years after Dagor Bragollach, when food had been sparse until that they had managed to get better harvests and many had suffered. Thankfully not many had died from the hunger, yet the feeling stuck in the minds of their people ever since. Maedhros had been introduced to the concept of not having enough to eat far earlier, during his captivity in Angband. The Noldor had never gone hungry in Aman and having been denied food for days and weeks had very nearly broken him.  

A servant spoke after knocking and opening the door, interrupting Maedhros’ dark thoughts of the past.

 

“My Lord, there is a messenger from Doriath here, who calls himself Mablung of the Heavy Hand.”

 

Maedhros raised a eyebrow. As one of the two Sindar brave enough to assist in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad the name stuck out enough for him to recognize it immediately. Mablung had been a fine Marchwarden during the battle.

 

“Send for my brothers. Mablung of Doriath is a Marchwarden. I remember briefly fighting at his side during the retreat, though our paths never crossed again. We own it to him not to make him wait like a errant boy.”

 

That Dior had sent one of the two Doriath Elves from that horrible battle as messenger, told Maedhros several things about her without even a word: that she realized the foolishness of sending a courtier that likely was going to insult the Noldor thanks to the culture differences, that she wanted someone who could tell things straight to the point without losing it in exaggerated words or views about Doriath as the most powerful Kingdom in Beleriand. For being someone born and raised outside her own realm, she already showed signs of not following the path of her grandfather…

This was no spoiled girl raised in luxury and abundance at her grandfather's royal court from birth. This was a young woman who had grown up far from Doriath, always seeing the changing world outside Doriath despite rarely leaving Tol Galen, and realizing that the Girdle could have weakened her new home in the long run, by not needing a army. Even as a short-lived mortal, Dior had understood the need of building up alliances if Doriath was not to be viewed as the laughing stock of Beleriand, a ripe prey begging for Morgoth to hunt it down. Not a Queen naive to think that people would bow down to the superiority of Doriath and that they would remain on top.

 

- ~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

Mablung was currently bend over a big bowl of stew, savouring each spoonful he took. He felt famished, the familiar feeling of having spent months on the road. Lembas was useful as it stayed fresh for months inside the right kind of wapping, but it was easy to grow tired of the same taste after several weeks of travel. A chance to wash up and change his clothes, was something Mablung greatly appreciated.

The meeting with Maedhros was important to his Queen and he had been selected as messenger, because she trusted his diplomatic skills. Less in the manner the nobles back home might understand it, but Dior had seen that establishing a connection with the Fëanorians required a different approach. In the past Thingol had summoned those to his court he wanted to talk to, often delegating the majority of the work that was related to the Noldor in general to Finrod or Galadriel.   

 

Yet when Maedhros entered the great hall Mablung understood why the matter had fallen into his hands. The Fëanorian showed an expression that would’ve frightened many citizens back home. Thingol had the reputation to be stern, but also smooth and gracious. The most popular image of his King was him and his wife sitting on their thrones. Compared to that Maedhros walked into the room as if he was marching into battle. He wore heavy boots that suggested he didn’t spend his entire day inside and sturdy leather clothing. No fancy ropes or a great red cape, as Thingol would’ve.

Next to the bright red and also rather short hair that framed his face like a mane, Mablung found the greatest difference between Maedhros and Thingol at the Fëanorian wore no circlet as sign of being the eldest of the seven Sons of Fëanor.   

As someone who lived in the forest of most part of the year, the sight of roughened battle commander put him at ease. Mablung often roamed outside the girdle since it his task had been to keep unwanted visitors from never making it to the enchantments in the first place. Melian had degreed that they should not give the enemy the chance to study them.

After the troubling years, Mablung felt relief that he now would at least conserve with someone, who understood his world and put Mablung’s concerns into perspective, even if he did not agree with them.

 

“It is under much unusual circumstances that we meet again, Mablung of the Heavy Hand,” was the first thing Maedhros said as a greeting, which the Sinda was unable to deny.

 

The people of Doriath was so used to Thingol and Melian being in change, that Dior was most likely to face difficulties and resistance at every turn. And the idea of a female in control of the highest position of Doriath was even more foreign, even more so someone who counted as a minor in Elven ways of age. She-Elves were raised to become wives and mothers, caring for the home and children while the husband ensured that they had a income so they could feed.  

 

“Indeed, my Lord. The loss of our King is a great shock for the Kingdom.”

 

Personally, Maedhros was secretly pleased over that he and his family would not have to deal with Thingol anymore. The Sinda Elf had never really acted as if they were worthy of his attention despite being his old friend Finwë's grandsons from his firstborn son. For Thingol, the Noldor presented a threat to his power as the only High King in Beleriand. Finwë, Olwë and Ingwë had never had any trouble with their three peoples sharing Valinor as a homeland, even trying to keep peaceful relations by having their family members marry each other. From that view, Indis and Eärwen had served as help for other Vanyar or Teleri Elves of lesser social status who married a Noldor spouse.

 

“Then I hope that he may find peace in the Halls of Mandos alongside my grandfather, his old friend.”  

 

That Finwë always spoke fondly of his old friend, only for the Noldor to see a very different image of Thingol once finally meeting him, had been part of the less than easy relationship between Doriath and the various Noldor realms. He had never cared for Fëanor's or Fingolfin's families much despite them being the two senior lines, only the children of Finarfin who was related to him by his brother Olwë. Perhaps it was that blood relation that had allowed Galadriel to marry Celeborn in the first place. But such things was not important here, rather the opposite, minors things that belonged to the past now with a new era starting in Doriath. Whatever reason Dior had for sending Mablung as a messenger for, it had to be important.

 

“Her Highness tasked me with the mission of giving you this letter, my lord. She is aware of the danger from Morgoth since she have grown up outside the Girdle, but I do not know how she plan to deal with it.”

 

Maedhros saw the letter, seeing the new wax seal that must be Dior's own personal seal.

 

“Wait a moment before giving it to me.”      

 

Opening a sealed letter with only one hand was a bit difficult, but Maedhros had figured out a simple trick by taking his letter opener between his teeth and carefully pick underneath the wax seal until it was off the parchment. Ignoring the shocked look Mablung gave him for still having the letter opener between his teeth when finished, Maedhros started to read the letter Dior had written:

To Maedhros, Lord of Himring and Patriarch of the House of Fëanor

 

Lord Maedhros,

At the time you are given this letter, I hope that you and your family by one way or another, must have learnt about the passing of my grandfather, King Thingol of Doriath. I do not yet know the full details of his passing, despite his burial happening the same morning as the day I write this letter, only that it seems to involve the Dwarven merchants arriving to Menegroth for the business of trade. That alone is something I wonders about, as he almost never allowed people to pass through the Girdle...and that his pride, along with ignorance about people outside his Kingdom, may have been a reason to being stuck down.  

This may come as yet another surprise, but both my father Beren and my mother Luthien have also gone to the Halls of Mandos. Being mortals, I can say directly as a witness on their deathbeds that their mortality would not have allowed a journey to Doriath even if they had been healthy, much less take up the role of Queen and King Consort of Doriath. Old age made them both weak, and I strongly believes that the famed Quest for the Silmaril and the first time in the Halls of Mandos did affect them more than what they ever mentioned.

Another issue for Doriath and myself in the long run is that grandmother Melian is no longer around. Witnesses say that at seeing my dead grandfather, she seemed to fade into thin air, as if she was merely an illusion wearing her clothing and crown, which was left behind on the floor when she vanished.

I confess to being young, but I am neither a fool or naive. The Girdle was our main protection against enemies, and without it my people will need to take up arms to defend ourselves. My late father Beren taught me some self-defense and how to use a sword along with a bow, which may not be much but surely better than being a sheltered, defenseless doll hidden away from the dangers of world.

I wish for information about how things are in Beleriand where the Fëanorian Host is, if there is any signs of attacks from Angband yet. What is the state of the Noldor in total? As for the leadership over the Exiled Noldor, I only know from rumours (and the late Beleg Cúthalion) that the current heir to the Kingship is Gil-galad, the only son of Lord Fingon, your late cousin. Is there any other strongholds around, any other allies to know about? I deeply apologize if I happen to sound insensitive, and asking too much questions in one single letter,  but I need to know how to keep my kingdom and people safe!

Respectfully,  

Dior Eluchîl, Ruling Queen of Doriath and High Lady of the Sindar      

 

“While too dangerous to write down in a letter, lady Dior is of the personal belief that the Silmaril should have been given back to your family once Luthien and Beren was married, as she views it as the rightful heirdom to the House of Fëanor. When she was presented the Silmaril after the burial of the late King Thingol, she...showed clear signs of very serious discomfort around it, and did not relax until that it had been taken away again. However, many people in Doriath is not sharing that view, and she would be seen as weak if she gives it up without a official, and very convincing, reason to do it,” Mablung explained as he saw how Maedhros had stopped reading the letter, hie grey eyes not moving.  

Still holding the letter with his only hand, he took the letter opener out from his mouth so he could speak:   

 

“And why should my brothers and I keep allowing Doriath to keep the Silmaril, despite Dior being willing to give it back?”

 

It was a straight-on question, that one could not avoid.   

 

“Without the Girdle of Melian...everyone felt a sudden change in the air the moment queen Melian vanished, and soon rapports of worrying signs of a possible crop failure started to come in. Signs of the crops being damaged from unexpected heavy rain falls, and then too many weeks of strong summer heat started to make everything so dry that the birch trees started to get yellow leaves despite it still being summer, before the weather became cooler just as Dior arrived before the burial of Thingol. As far as I know right now, not having been in my home for about half a year, the Silmaril may be Doriath's only way to not face several coming years of crop failure and famine while the kingdom adjusts to not being strengthened by the power of Melian anymore.”

 

“That is what you get for shutting yourself off from the rest of the world and not trading enough beyond useless luxury things that can not be used for something more practical,” a voice said suddenly behind Mablung, and two red-haired shadows quickly hurried past the door. Maedhros himself seemed to not care what his two youngest brothers had just said.               

 

“I need to speak with my brothers about the information given in this letter and what you have told me, once Celegorm, Curufin and Caranthir returns from a mission I sent them out on. Yes, all six of them. I may be oldest, but I prefer to hear what all of them thinks about something like this, even if we might end up disagree with each other.”  

 

- ~X~X~X~X~X~X


A few days after that Mablung had come to Amon Ereb, he got a bit of shocking surprise when Celegorm and Curufin arrived. While a kind servant explained that the two Lords had followed their middle brother to Belegost but that it was no great surprise if they came back home earlier, it still served to unnerve him. Especially Celegorm, given the rumour of that the third-born Fëanorian had wanted to marry Luthien. In Doriath, marriage was a serious business, and in general only happening between two people of the same social status, marry below your own birth status was unthinkable. Mablung did know that one or two of his own Marchwarden warriors had been exiled to the most outer posts of Doriath as punishment for trying to woo some ladies of higher status.

 

Even with Celegorm being a descendant of Finwë, the House of Fëanor was viewed as inferior to the House of Fingolfin in Doriath, mainly because of that Maedhros had given up the Kingship to his uncle. Perhaps as a third-in-line to the Kingship, Celegorm would have been a possible husband for Luthien, since both Celeborn and Galathil had married someone else in the long run.

They had viewed their female relative as a friend, nothing else. Some really old rumour even said that lord Elmo and Thingol had remained in bitter disagreement about a potential marriage between their descendants, its seeds coming from Thingol not being too happy over that Elmo had allowed his son Galadhon to find and marry a bride outside the circle of the Sindar that later had formed the people of Doriath. And later his grandson Celeborn had almost created a similar scandal by marrying Galadriel.

 

“So, Doriath finally chooses to come out of their turtle shell and give help against Morgoth?”  

 

The question caused Mablung to almost coke on the water he was drinking, given how unexpected the voice was at his side. Yet there he was, the infamous hunter prince among the seven princes of the House of Fëanor. Having not gotten a enough good close-up look at him before the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, it was only now that Mablung could guess why Luthien may have played with the idea of pretending to swoon over Celegorm in order to get help in saving Beren from Sauron; not too unlike Beren in his prime, he was handsome in an unkempt manner that contrasted greatly to the nobles at the royal court in Doriath, and as a hunter Celegorm would have useful skills for sneaking around and avoid being discovered by someone on guard.

 

“If you means what our new Queen seems to plan for the future with both her grandparents gone, I am afraid that I can not reveal anything.” Mablung replied in a neutral voice. He guessed that Celegorm might want to get any information about Luthien and her marriage to Beren, or even possibly Dior since the young Half-elven was, by the standards of Doriath, not even old enough for a betrothal with her current twenty-five years of age.  

A quick look upwards told him that Celegorm had seated himself on the other side of the table, as he seemed to be prepared to have to keep his distance if things turned ugly. He had a wooden plate filled with toasted bread and some fried eggs to eat as a snack after the journey, as it would be dinner in only a few hours.

 

“Relax, I am not going to ask anything of that kind. However, we were aware of that Luthien had given birth at some point, Tol Galen is closer to Amon Ereb than Doriath, after all, and we did catch sight of their escorts the few times their left their home for some visit in Doriath...family visits, I guess? To ensure that Dior knew the faces of her relatives? Though we knew neither the gender or age of her child until the news that she had succeeded her grandfather as the ruler of Doriath.”

 

Well, Luthien had not turned down Celegorm for being a imbecile who only thought of his animals or hunting, or a silly-brained suitor. He had a way with words that Mablung rarely found in Doriath, especially among other former suitors of Luthien. Such oratory skills had been pretty much forbidden by Thingol, who feared that it could cause unrest in his kingdom and any public speeches was not allowed unless it was something he wanted to be let known.

As Celegorn talked, Mablung tried his best to not take the bait. The Noldo had a reason for choosing his seat in front of him, no doubt. Whatever his own, or perhaps on orders from his older brothers.

 

“....Luthien was not a easy guest to please, I shall tell you that. She complained about pretty much everything, from the bed to the food she was given. Even some clothing was borrowed to her from sweet-hearted Finduilas, yet she kept viewing it as inferior to what she was used to in Doriath.”

 

That was the last straw. Slamming down his goblet hard on the wooden table, Mablung reached over the table to grab hold on the front of Celegorm's shirt or at least trying to hit him in the face with a closed fist. But Celegorm was not the third oldest of seven brothers or one of the most famed hunters by Oromë for nothing. Before Mablung had realized it, Celegorm had used his own two-pronged fork to force his hand back down on the table, the two prongs of the fork holding his middle finger perfectly.   

 

“I know, I know, the princess is a sore point, because she was the greatest treasure of Doriath, right? Thingol's little girl, the fairest maiden of them all... and not my type at all , shall you know. She reminded far too much of the various noble daughters back home in Tirion, those who hoped to marry upwards by hooking one of the many royal princes in our family as a husband. I originally liked her because she seemed to be similar in character to our cousin Aredhel, but in the end, the only similarity was their black hair and grey eyes. Would not surprise me if she even used some of her maia powers to enchant me to the point that I failed to listen to my common sense.”

 

That was a shock, a huge one. In Doriath, no one would ever admit that they did not like Luthien in fear of punishment from Thingol. Indeed, she had been the most holy of treasures for them, because she symbolized the feminine ideal of beauty and kindness. And for her to be accused of using the powers she had inherited from Melian...

 

“She would never…!”

 

Celegorm stared him straight into the eyes, his own cold as steel.

 

“And how else do you explain that people seems to view her as flawless in Doriath, yet in Nargothrond everything became a overcooked pot of chaos once Finrod died? Think about it, a mortal suddenly showing up and requesting help from the King as per a oath he once promised due to loving a Elven princess, only for that King to end up dying. Then, the same Elven princess shows up herself, now pleading to help saving her mortal lover. She escapes, and a few months later we hear that they have done the impossible; stealing a Silmaril from Morgoth and escaping with their lives from Angband. Then, another rumour that sounds similarly impossible: he dies thanks to a massive wolf somehow managing to pass though the Girdle of Melian, she follows him to the Halls of Mandos and both returns to life, rumours claiming that she gave up her own immortality to be with him. How do you think the people of Nargothrond must have felt at hearing that they were allowed to come back to life, but not their beloved King Finrod ?”

 

Mablung was about to respond, when Celegorm continued:  

 

“Thanks to their love story costing Finrod his life, Luthien and Beren was not popular in Nargothrond, and it would be worse... where was Doriath after Nirnaeth Arnoediad, when we were forced to leave Himring, the last of our realms apart from Amon Ereb? Where was Doriath during the Dagor Bragollach, when countless Elven lives was taken by the rivers of flames when Ard-galen burned? When the highlands of Dorthonion lost their lords Angrod and Aegnor in battle? When Maglor's Gap was taken and my second oldest brother narrowly escaping with the remaining part of his people? When Curufin and myself was forced to leave the Pass of Aglon to stay alive? Curufin became a widower during that escape as his wife died to save their only child, and he is haunted by fear that Celebrimbor, his son, our nephew, may be along those who lost their lives during the Fall of Nargothrond this very passing autumn! Can you really phantom it? All those innocent lives who were lost over those past four decades, when Doriath remained sealed off in a safe bubble of peace behind the Girdle? Pretend all you want to not see it, but all the people of Doriath have invisible blood on their hands, since your King never raised a hand to help the Noldor or other Elves outside his Kingdom. Looking away makes you as much of a Kinslayer as I am, since your actions would've made a difference to many people. Because if Thingol had helped us to fight Morgoth from the very start, all those people might still have been alive today.

 

There was nothing Mablung could say to that, numb as he was by the growing horror inside his chest while the Noldo left. Celegorm was right. How many elves had lost their lives, all for being unable to pass though the Girdle in a desperate attempt to flee from danger that would most likely end in death? He recalled farmers at the borders to the Girdle rapport about terrified screams in the distance, pleading to be left inside Doriath as their last actions in life. And the echo of curses, frightening screams that cursed Thingol and his heartlessness against those who were not his subjects. Dying words that hoped that one day he would suffer, and that Melian would not be able to hide Doriath behind her Girdle forever.    

 

-~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

Soon afterwards, Maedhros were trying to keep his currently five brothers present, focused on what he had read in the letter from Dior.    

 

“She is not afraid of admitting that Doriath is going to be open for possible attacks now without the Girdle of her grandmother. From what Mablung told me, it also is a very high possibility of that they are going to face difficult years with the harvest because Melian used her magic to give the plants a boost in strength, it seems.”  

 

“I feel sorry for the girl, it was hard enough for uncle Fingolfin and us to rule during those years in the past, and being only in her mid-twenties makes it pretty unlikely that she will manage to keep things under control without help,” Curufin muttered in a low voice, the only sign of compassion he showed. The loss of his wife had hardened his heart and the event with Luthien bewitching Celegorm, from his view on it, proved just how little he thought of Thingol and his people nowadays. 

 

“With the Girdle of Melian, do you not think that they are unlikely to have much trained soldiers to defend themselves?” wondered Amras, having several papers of birch bark where he had tried to write up various numbers with a piece of coal and adding question marks behind some of the numbers. At his side, Amrod nodded in agreement to the younger twin.

 

“Would not surprise me. Dior mentioned that Beren at least was wise enough to train her...Celegorm, what are you doing at the window?” Maedhros questioned at seeing him reaching out through the window with his left foot still on the floor, his right knee bent on the window sill for balance.

 

“Give me a moment...caught you!”

 

Grinning in trumpf, Celegorm revealed his catch to be a messenger bird, a pigeon to be precise.

 

“This lady seemed to be all lost and unsure where to land, so I thought that I could help a bit.”

 

“Hm? Is that a parchment?”

 

Curufin, who was standing closest to Celegorm, took off the parchment to see if it was a messenger from one of their spies who kept eyes on what was going on far from Amon Ereb. At first, Curufin just stared at the message, before he suddenly started to make strange noises while tears formed in his eyes.

 

“Are you gonna laugh or cry?” one of the twins asked in confusion over his odd behavior. In response, Curufin handed over the message to Maglor, before his legs buckled under him.

 

“Do you want to hear the good or bad news first?” Maglor was careful to ask, most of the brothers requesting the good ones, as Celegorm now tried to focus on Curufin.  

 

“Good news is that Celebrimbor is alive. Currently as a refugee in Doriath with some other Elves that managed to escape the Fall of Nargothrond and apologizes in the writing for having caused such anxiety for us without knowing whether he is living or not.”

 

A invisible pressure of worry seemed to leave the room at those news that their youngest family member had survived, and it explained why Curufin had a little trouble to either laugh or cry in pure joy and relief over that his only child still lived.

 

“And the bad news?” Maedhros asked, getting a worrying feeling in the back of his head.  

 

Dior was poisoned by a orc blade when saving Celebrimbor from a attack that could have killed him. Fighting for her life while he was writing, no updated news.

 

The date on top of the message from Celebrimbor was from ten days earlier. A lot of things could have happened during that time. Snatching the letter from Maglor, Maedhros held it over a candle on the table so it was set on fire.

 

“Do not let Mablung know about this. Even with the fastest horse, he still is far from Doriath. We will wait for a new letter from Celebrimbor when he can send it, he is our best information source about Doriath right now.”

 

If Dior was dying or already dead from the poison in this very moment, they needed to change their plans about Doriath once again. She was the hope of Doriath finally starting to help the Noldor against Morgoth, and any successor of hers that had lived under Thingol would be very likely to keep following his path when it came to keep Doriath out of the war.


Dior...you better survive this poisoning! You are our best chance to change things into our favor against the Dark Lord! ” Maedhros thought for himself in fear of that the Noldor perhaps never would win the endless war without help.

Chapter Text

Late summer of year 495 First Age, Doriath           

 

By the standards of the Noldor, who had been having pretty a steady habit of coronate new High Kings during the years since first arriving to Middle-Earth in exile (three Kings in little over four hundred years), Dior's own coronation to the first reigning Queen of Doriath clearly must have been a very simple event. Thingol had ruled his kingdom for so long that there was no actual set rules on how or what to do in a coronation, as he had not really been planning to have a possible heir ready in case of something happened.                                                    

 

“Sometimes my grandfather could be really a blockhead when it came to planning the family future!” Dior thought privately as her ladies-in-waiting, all unmarried like herself, helped her to dress for the coronation. She had refused to wear the mourning clothes, having a feeling that it would be a gloomy atmosphere if everyone present was dressed in black, dark grey or other dark colours. She wanted to become the start of a new era in Doriath, so dark colours would not get that feeling right.            

“I found this sea-green dress you got for your begetting day from my family last year, Dior, and added some pearls on its gold pattern with mother's and grandmother's help. Even great-grandmother helped with the sewing so we would get finished in time for your coronation. What do you think?” asked Nimloth as she showed up, holding up the dress in question.             

 

It was a lovely full-body length down to the ankle, with gold embroidery at the shoulders, bodice and following the long arms which was not the long sleeves Dior tended to find troublesome. A similar gold pattern, with some red fabric added as contrast was around the skirt. A thin tail of white silk could be discreetly tied in the back to make it seem grander.   

 

“It was wonderful already before, and the pearls are adding some hints of white,” Dior smiled before they helped her to dress in it. A set of a pearl necklace and earrings made with thin gold chains had been fetched to match.

 

You are beautiful in your own way, my warrior princess. ” Nimloth said in a very faint mind speech to Dior. Being secret lovers in a more or less full term relationship, they had a strong bond similar to a marriage bond, even if they never had revealed that secret outside Nimloth's family because it could damage people's hope for that Dior would marry and have heirs in her own children. If there now was any lord willing to overlook her, by Elven standards, young age and not just seeing her as a path to gain power.    

 

One of her worries had revealed itself in the middle of planning the coronation; using Thingol's own crown would not fit her at all because of the size difference, and neither did the crowns once belonging to Melian and Luthien. So to avoid embarrassment on a such important day, the goldsmiths had merely slightly changed one of her current tiaras by adding emeralds to the leaf-shaped silver set with tiny diamonds so it would look like a more fancy flower crown. It was not much of a change, yet somehow it helped Dior to feel like she was taken more seriously for now. Or at least seeing herself as a actual ruler and not a little girl playing with the various family jewelry.  

 

“Long live the Queen of Doriath!”

 

Seated on the throne once used by Thingol, Dior was well aware of that she looked awfully young. This was going to be a very troublesome start of her own reign, before people grew used to her being the one in power. She knew that there was a very high risk of her possibly having a short, mortal life before she too entered the Halls of Mandos to follow the Path of Men, but she was determined to not become a simple mention in history as “ the short-lived Queen of Doriath ” or only known as the child of her famed parents. The time of Thingol was over, it was time for Doriath to break free of its long isolation and follow the events outside the borders unless Morgoth caught them like a set of sitting ducks on a hunt.       

 

~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

Dior had not expected the life of becoming the new ruler of Doriath to be easy. She was young and largely untrained for the position, yes, but not naive as many seemed to think. Part of her large work burden was, because she had to carry out both the tasks once made by either Thingol or Melian, and since she did not yet have a consort, it meant that if she choose to do some of her grandmother's royal duties, she would be forced to catch up with the ones made of her grandfather as well. While Elmo sat for her as Regent during meetings with the councilors of Doriath, and the rest of the family tried to help out as much as they could in sharing the royal duties, it soon became clear that Dior had no full control over her kingdom.

 

Sending out riders to check how things was outside the borders, she quickly learnt that the Dagor Bragollach had damaged the lands north of Doriath so much that nothing could live there. Same for the rest of Beleriand after the Nírnaeth Arnoediad, with the Fëanorian Host currently being seated in Amon Ereb in the south.

 

The harvest that year was a reasonable good enough to store away roughly a fifth of it to sow in the following spring, but the river Esgalduin overflowed in the heavy autumn rains when the Girdle no longer stopped its full force, causing a lot of damage to the farms located near the river. There was less issues with the river Aros as it was outside the border, but Dior still feared for the people living there and gave orders to the Marchwardens to keep watch there in case something happened.  



During those difficult first months as Queen, Oropher soon arrived back with the responding letter from the Dwarven Lord of Nogrod. In that letter, Dior learnt the main reason to why Thingol had been slain: He had, in his ignorance of their culture and customs, committed what was calling one of the Forbidden Crimes among the Dwarves.

 

He insulted their women and Maker straight to their faces!? ” Dior thought with a quickly growing dread in her stomach at reading what was written. The Lord of Nogrod had been generous to explain that Dwarrowdams was not born as often as their brothers, and insulting a Dwarrowdam was a horrible way to disrespect her personal honor. By basically calling all the Dwarrowdams in Nogrod ugly, Thingol had crossed a deadly line. And the comment he had used as insult? A very rude one about that Dwarrowdams must be horrible -looking thanks to having beards, if Aulë had been drunk when creating them! It was written in rather tiny letters, not that Dior could not blame the Dwarven ruler for not wanting to written it down, had it not been needed to tell her why.

 

“Well, that clearly was a too deep of a insult to ignore, King of another Kingdom or not...grandfather, you prideful fool ! ” she muttered for herself, grateful over that the Dwarves of Nogrod had offered to not attack Doriath over this mess, in exchange for that Dior gave away the finest jewelry and silk her kingdom could give, to be remade into jewels and clothes for their Dwarrowdams. In fact, if she could have it sent away before winter took its hold of Beleriand, it could be a sort-of unofficial gift for the Lady Consort and her daughter-in-law, in honor of the Lord of Nogrod going to have his first grandchild that very winter.

 

And Dior did know precise which jewelry and silk she would send away, all which had belonged to Melian and Luthien since they did not exactly have any reason for wearing it anymore. Especially all the blue silk fabric which Luthien once had loved so much. Dir herself did not match in any of those colours, wine red made her seem too pale because of her hair colour and blue was too strongly associated with Luthien here in Doriath.  

 

“Partly why I never wears blue...it reminds me too much of my so called perfect mother, and wine red for my grandmother!”     

 

Once the carts with jewelry and silk rolls had been sent away to Nogrod, with a small explanation-letter that blue and wine red was among the most favored colours from the times of her grandmother and mother, Dior could only hope that Nogrod would not cause more trouble for Doriath. Also, the Dwarves had a honor code of never attacking a female, even more so a lady who was of royal blood, so for as long as Dior remained alive Doriath would be spared from the anger over this insult Thingol had spoken about the Dwarrowdams.


The letter from Cirdan, which Thranduil arrived with just before winter, was somewhat more pleasant. Granted, Cirdan made a very clear point of that he would remain neutral between the Noldor and Doriath, especially as he still was the leader of refugees on the Isle of Balar, and had the Noldorin Queen mother Rilel living with her young son Gil-galad under his roof.

 

“Well, given how my grandfather refused to help out in the war, I am not really surprised that lady Rilel and Gil-galad would view him as being partly to blame for the death of lord Fingon…” Dior thought once she had managed to decode the actual words from Cirdan as she had read between the sentences after having discovered a very hidden pattern in the letter. As far as the remaining followers of Fingolfin and Fingon cared, Gil-galad was the current High King of the Noldor despite his young age and not had a public coronation yet.


~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

Another issue Dior faced as the new official ruler of Doriath, was the horrible news of Nargothrond falling to one of the dragons from Angband, and hearing rumours about its surviving refugees seeking shelter and protection from the orcs. During this time, winter season arrived, and soon Middle-earth entered the first months of the 496th year of the Sun.

 

“I really wish that I could have some way to talk with grandmother about this bloody mess!” Dior growled in frustration one late evening, having finally escaped the long list of needed paperwork only to realize that it was way past dinnertime and that the royal cooks had already left to go home. Being hungry since she had not eaten anything since lunch that day, was not doing any favor for her temper and in a attempt to snap out of it, she threw a small dagger towards a tapestry of Melian, slashing the face. In exactly that very moment, Nimloth and her nearly similar-looking mother Farien entered the chamber, the older She-elf carrying a large pot.

 

“My daughter told me that your work prevented you from getting any dinner, sweetie, so I made something for you,” Farien spoke as she set down the pot on the small table where Dior would eat, pushing away her dark brown hair from the eyes before looking at the young Queen.

 

Most Elves in Doriath, used to more refined foods, would have pulled away in horror from the unusual smell from the stew inside the pot, but Dior knew that it was supposed to smell like that; Farien had belonged to a small clan of nomadic Silvan Elves before meeting Galathil and was more or less infamous for her strange taste in food. For example, this bird stew was only served to those who belonged to the same family, and with Dior's relationship to Nimloth, Farien insisted on that she was counted as an unofficial law-daughter.

 

“I'm starving!”

 

With only them present, Dior did not need to mind her table manners too much, and thus began to eat like she would have done after a hunt on her own back in the forests around Tol Galen, in a way which likely would have caused the noble ladies to faint in shock over seeing it. In fact, she was so hungry that she managed to eat nearly half of the stew along with a large piece of bread Nimloth had brought along. As Farien brushed away some bread crumbs from Dior's face, she got a unpleasant look in her eyes.

 

“You have lost weight during those past months. I remember you not to be this thin before becoming Queen,” she said, holding out Dior's arms to feel on the muscles there, “And you do not have the muscles once formed from pulling on your hunting bow anymore.”  

 

Dior bowed her head, trying to keep her hands from trembling in anger. Thanks to that Luthien was viewed as a ideal of feminine beauty, Dior had faced a lot of trouble concerning her appearance. Her skin, only a slightly bit tanned from the sun when she had arrived to Doriath as the new Queen, was viewed as being too similar to the skin colour of farmers who worked outside and thus got a faint sun tan as result.

 

There had been a incident where some of her other handmaidens had tried to prank her by adding a hair dye made from walnut powder in her shampoo during a beauty treatment, and Dior had gotten a huge shock at seeing the changed hair colour afterwards. Her great-aunt Nenien, the wife of Elmo, had almost looked ready to commit kinslaying at seeing the horrible result and had needed a lot of honey alongside other natural ways to bleach hair to try and remove the dye from Dior's  hair until that it was her natural colour again, while the guilty handmaidens had gotten fired on the spot and sent back home to their families in disgrace before that day had been over.

 

But the biggest trouble Dior had faced about her looks, were her weight and body shape. While far from barely chubby and even physically fit by the standards of Men, her apple-shaped figure was seen as a sign of overweight by the Elves who were used to slender bodies. Sure, Dior had lost some weight from the stress of being a seriously undereducated ruler trying to avoid chaos in her own kingdom, but she was not blind to how her food portions slowly had reduced in quantity and size over the passing months. Nowadays, it barely was enough to count as a snack in her view, with the amount of food she had been used to eating in Tol Galen. More often than not, Nimloth was forced to smuggle in something for her to eat before bedtime so she would not be kept awake at night from her own feelings of hunger.      

 

“The traditionalists here at courts finds it improper that I dresses in pants and other male clothing, expecting me to dress like the noble maidens here...as if they can control what I once used to wear back when I lived in Tol Galen and took over more and more household duties while my parents aged! I miss hunting my own food and even all the work to ensure that the crops was growing well and tending to the few animals we had, I have barely time to get out on a ride those days!

With a calm look, Nimloth placed a hand on the table to prevent it from shaking by the power Dior sent out from her body as a sign of her build-up anger and frustration over how limited she was in controlling her own court despite being the actual Queen. She was used to her young lover not having full control over the Maia powers, and knew how to react in a such situation.

 

“Then head out on a long hunt tomorrow with Nimloth. Bring Celeborn, Oropher and some guards with you in case someone complains about it. Let the elders in the family deal with the fools at court.”  

 

Then, bowing down, Farien whispered;

 

“How is it going with your red flower? Still irregular?”

 

Dior knew straight away what the elder female meant.

 

“I have not had my red flower since the tenth day after my coronation, which I and Nimloth hid from the other handmaidens as I was not sure how they would react on it. Ada Beren did mention that he once overheard his mother and some other ladies speaking to some young women about that it is not uncommon with the red flower being irregular the first years for a girl, but that it later would come every month unless a pregnancy was involved. And as far as I know, I am not pregnant. Pretty difficult to be that when I am not married or having a partner with the necessary body part to make a baby in my womb,” she confessed with a apologetic look at Nimloth, who only raised a eyebrow over this rather annoying subject which had came up several times in their relationship already.

 

How was Dior expected to know that the stress from all the work as a Queen affected her cycle of womanhood? She-Elves only had that issue roughly every fifth year, and that only lasted for about a month before it was over? Being half-Elven, with some Maia blood from Melian, Dior was no stranger to her body being unfamiliar for people around her.  

 

“Thanks for the food, I will gladly try and have dinner with you sometime at great-uncle Elmo's home when I can manage to escape…”

 

“Or I will task grandfather Galadhon to get you,” Nimloth quickly suggested, knowing that her paternal grandfather was seen as dull and gloomy by many at the royal court, when he simply had that bored facial expression by default because he found no joy in how little everyday life seemed to change in Doriath for centuries. In fact, when others had called it a unimaginable scandal, he had found the whole story with Luthien and Beren one of the most sensational events in whole history of Doriath so far simply because it finally happened something big around. And he had happy accepted Dior as the new ruler of Doriath as well since she was a breath of fresh air for the kingdom in his eyes.

 

“Tell Galadhon that I will bring him something nice to eat at dinner, once I get to ride out for a hunt.”  

 

~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

And that suggestion to a longer hunt was precise what Dior did, early the next morning. Telling the royal court that she would be out on the hunt for some days, she even lead the small hunting group along the river Esgalduin to riding towards the south-eastern borders of Doriath, crossing a small stone bridge at the beginning of the Fens of Sirion to leave the Elven kingdom.  

 

“Are you sure about this, Dior? Hunting outside Doriath in those times can be dangerous,” Celeborn asked, looking nervously around. He was no coward, far from it, but few would blame him for being uneasy to be in unfamiliar places since he had only been outside his homeland a few times so far in his long life. Dior ignored him in favour of placing an arrow on her bow and trying to shoot. It was with great displeasure she noticed that it only went a few meters away. She really needed to get back in shape, this was a mockery to how she had been riding out nearly every day before becoming Queen!  

 

“If people thinks that I am going to be like the noble ladies and only watching from a distance while their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons are the ones doing the actual hunting, they are horrible wrong. I refuse to sit in a sidesaddle, I am used to ride like this!”     

 

In fact, Dior was wearing her full winter hunting outfit; comfortable yet tight leggings of wool, a pair of well-worn leather boots, a long-sleeved tunic under a long leather coat reaching down to her knees. A cloak of greyish green helped her to blend into the landscape. Because of her mortal blood, Dior did not trust herself to ride bareback on her trusted mare Moondancer for longer distances and preferred to ride in a saddle with stirrups and using a bitless bridle with reins for control. To finish off her winter clothes, she wore knitted gloves and a thick hood with fur to keep warm.   

 

As Dior rode a bit ahead on Moondancer with Nimloth on another mare, Oropher held back a small snicker over her words.    

 

“I love that rebellious attitude of hers. If Thranduil ever finds a lady like that to wed one day, I would be proud. If you asks me, lord Celeborn, so is Dior a fresh breath to Doriath. During the last years of his rule, I felt like King Thingol became...stiff? Refusing to follow along the changes in the world, so to say. Granted, the loss of his only daughter in marriage and to mortality, would be a huge pain for every father, but I think trying to father a son or even a second daughter when he had this fine granddaughter was him becoming a bit too desperate for a new heir.”   

“Not even Melian herself understood why she failed to bear a new child after Luthien. Her body was of flesh and blood, just like any other body of a She-Elf, so it was rather confusing for everyone. Then again, thanks to the Girdle, we never saw any reason to grow a large royal family…” Celeborn nodded in agreement, his father Galadhon having two sons had been the biggest number of children in the generations following Thingol with his brothers Olwë and Elmo. Galadriel had spoken of her mother Eärwen having at least two brothers and having several maternal cousins from those uncles, but they were far away in Valinor and would be unable to claim the throne of Doriath. Galadriel herself had quickly returned to the Ise of Balar after Dior's coronation, telling Celeborn to remain in Doriath to help the new young Queen.

 

Dior had managed to fell a pheasant with her bow, when it suddenly was heard screaming in the distance. Several voices, both adults and children. With a bolt of horror, she realized that it could be nothing else than a orc attack.

 

“This is why I have insisted on opening our borders!” she thought, making her mare gallop against the sounds of battle, in the protests from Celeborn.  

 

~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

It was a smaller group of Elves, no more than perhaps forty in total if everyone was counted, trying to defend themselves from a pack of orcs and wolves. A far from easy task, as many of the adults were already injured and lacked proper weapons. Their clothing had all seen better days, looking as if they had been forced to use blankets and other items to keep warm during winter.

 

“Ammë! Ammë! Atar!”

 

Dior had only learnt a few words in Quenya from meeting Galadriel as a young girl, but she knew enough to realize that the few children was screaming for their parents. Pulling back an arrow, she killed a orc in the back. Not bothering to draw another arrow, she instead drew her sword. It might be her first actual battle, but she would not allow those Elves to die while watching it happen!

 

“Stupid girl,” Celeborn muttered for himself in worry as he and several of the guards joined her, Oropher already using his skills with the bow from a hiding spot in a tree to help. The arrows took out the wolves before they could hurt Dior, yet one orc managed to slash her left thigh when she blocked a blade from entering the throat on one of the refugees. Had she not been sitting in a saddle, Dior would have lost balance and slided off her mare to the ground from the sudden pain.

 

“My lady!”

 

The male refugee ignored his right arm, which was bleeding very much, and used a small dagger from his belt to stab the orc in the neck, protecting Dior from another injury. In return, Dior borrowed him her sword while using her arrows again.

 

Finally, the last orc fell, a arrow in its throat. Feeling the rush of the fight leaving, Dior was now trembling in her whole body. While managing to avoid dropping her bow, she could not hide the large bleeding on her thigh.

 

“What was you thinking! Riding out in a battle without protection like that!” the male refugee scolded, his accent revealing him to be a Noldor, and lifted her off Moon dancer just as Nimloth hurried forwards, already using a small dagger to cut off parts of her dress as temporary bandages while Celeborn and the others helped the rest of the refugees. Dior tried first not to answer, trying to keep herself standing while Nimloth tried to wash away as much blood as possible, then carefully added pressure with another piece of cloth rolled into a ball until the bleeding had stopped, before binding up the wound with a longer piece of cloth. No one commented on seeing her leggings between the holes in her dress and underskirt where she had cut off clothes to create the bandages, this was not the right time to scandalized by a such break against morality.

 

“W-where are you coming from?” Dior asked, trying to not show herself as weak from the pain.  

 

“We managed to escape Nargothrond just before it was attacked. But several of those who was with us at first were injured and did not survive for long out in the wildness. We have spent most of the passing weeks just trying to survive and avoiding orcs,” the Noldor Elf responded, confirming her own thought about where they must hail.     

 

“You are only a few hours from the southern border of Doriath at the Fens of Sirion, so logically you were on the right path,” Dior managed to say, before hissing in pain as Nimloth tied the temporary bandage around her thigh. The wound did string, but they did not have time to do more for now.

 

“Get everyone up on the horses! The sooner we leave, the faster we can get back to safe ground if there is more orcs around!” Oropher said to the guards, already helping two of the children up on his own horse. He planned to run beside his horse, so more of them could ride.   

 

“Yes, back to Doriath!” Dior ordered as well, hoping that her behaviour would not reveal her as the current ruler of Doriath. Even if the planned hunt had been cut short, giving those refugees a sanctuary from the dangers of Angband would be worth it. They may only be a few out of all who may have survived Nargothrond, but even a single saved life mattered.     

 

~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

However, after that they had returned back over the Fens of Sirion, Nimloth noticed that Dior was paler than normally. And the way she breathed was not normal either, in fact it sounded like she struggled to breath. When Nimloth touched her chin for a moment, she was alarmed by the fact that Dior was burning hot like in a fever, not like she would feel from overdressing.

 

“Dior, can you look at me?”

 

The Half-elven tried to do so, but in her blurred vision she could only see Nimloth as a blur of the green from her clothes and her skin colour. It did not help when she tried to drink some water from the water skin, she had a response of severe nausea which caused her to throw up the water and what she had eaten to breakfast earlier. Using her dagger to cut off the temporary bandage, Nimloth was meet by the horrible sight of the wound on Dior's thigh now having turned a horrible dark colour.

 

“Dior...ah, what is wrong?!”

 

Celeborn narrowed prevented Dior from collapsing down on the ground, now unable to stand on her own feet as he caught her in his arms.

 

“My mother's hut is close-by, I will take her there!” Oropher said, having the same fear as Nimloth that Dior had been poisoned by the orc blade which had slashed her thigh. Had the orcs added poison on their weapons, to torture anyone who survived a attack? If so, she needed treatment quickly before it became even worse. And his mother was one of the few remaining elves in Doriath who still made a point of always being ready for poisoning, be it by mistake or by a more darker reason.    

 

Hurry! ” was all Nimloth managed to plead, her terror visible on her face as Oropher picked up Dior in his strong arms and hurried into the woods.

 

Thankfully, the hut was not too far from the border. Being a family member, Oropher knew that his mother Redhril would skip a scolding for him kicking up the door the moment she saw that someone needed her help.

 

“Nanaeth! Nanaeth! Please, I need your help!”  

 

Redhril had been in the middle of teaching her grandson Thranduil which herbs that was useful for pranking a rude person, when her only son stormed in after kicking the door in.

 

“Oropher! What have I said about your habit to kick the door off the hinges...hold on, is that young lady Dior!?!” she started in understandable anger, before seeing who he was carrying.   

 

“Orcs attacking some refugees from Nargothrond, she was slashed by a blade in the middle of killing the orcs…” Oropher gasped, trying to catch his breath just as his own wife Lassil showed up on her private horse with a food basket meant for her law-mother. Being a maid working with the court healers, Lassil got the task to get out Redhril's small carriage and tie her horse to it so they could bring the now unconscious Dior back to Menegroth as quickly as possible. While Redhril was respected for her skills as a shaman and wood witch, the royal court would frown at the Queen not getting her needed medical care in the capital under the eyes of the healers there.  

 

“As if any of those healers at the royal court knows how to deal with a poison like this! No, there is a bigger chance that they make a fatal mistake and ends up killing the poor girl rather than cure her!” Redhril muttered for herself as she tossed some herbs in a pot of boiling water, which she then ordered Thranduil to lay inside a bandage which would be used to try and draw out the poison from Dior's body when placed over the wound.

 

“Are the herbs not too hot, straight out of boiling water, grandmother?”

 

“There is a matter of life and death here, son. I am sure that the Queen would prefer to have a small burn mark from the herbs than being killed by poison…and some herbs works better if warm,” Oropher responded as he took a small red bottle of glass, in which there was a medicine to strengthen the heart. It would be a long fight against the poison if she wanted to live, so Dior needed every outside help she could get.

 

“Add some powdered charcoal in water and give her as well! Even if it may not help against this poison, it is worth a try!”

 

~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

When Celeborn arrived a few days later to Menegroth with Nimloth and the refugees his own mother Meril, the wife of Galadhon, offered to take care of them in his stead due to the current chaos going on in the capital.

 

“Some people are foolish enough to already start whispering who the crown should go to if poor Dior passes away after having a reign of only half a year!” she whispered to her son in passing, making Celeborn pale in fear while Nimloth already hurried ahead towards the royal chambers without even bothering to change her clothing. Pushing him with one hand on his back to follow his niece, Meril then turned to the refugees and apologized for the poor reception they were met by.   

 

“Please, come with me to the healing wings and I will explain better.”

 

Now, Doriath was rather infamous in the rest of Beleriand for being a safe place, yet many of the Elves outside the kingdom was very disillusioned with Doriath because of various reasons: the protective Girdle of Melian which had blocked people out when they had needed help, Thingol's refusal of helping against Morgoth and finally, the Quest made of Luthien and Beren. However, especially thanks to the former and said Quest had also caused the death of Finrod, the Elves of Nargothrond had come to the conclusion that anyone from Doriath was an omen of doom. The presence of Túrin had not helped to fix that view, not now after how the orc armies had been able to enter Nargothrond thanks to the stone bridge he had ordered to be built.

“Could we please be allowed to speak with the Queen? Surely she must have heard about the attack of our home, and wish to hear what happened?” a Noldor mother asked, trying to comfort her small daughter by nursing what little she could give the child, a far from easy task after her mother had felt the shock of losing her husband in battle to defend Nargothrond, worrying that Dior may follow in her grandfather's footstep and throw them out from her kingdom.

 

“She was the one to save you from the orcs, the young lady with pale hair.” Meril confessed, thinking that they deserved to know that much at least if Dior passed away from the poison. More than one wooden cup of water was dropped in shock.

 

“The...queen herself?!”

 

A confirming nod, before they looked at each others in unease. There were a very high risk that they would be blamed for the Queen's death by those who refused to see reason, despite that Dior had went out to fight the orcs on her own free will. As Meril talked with one of the healers who had overlooked the injuries on the refugees, one of the Noldor males grabbed a quill which laid on a table beside him, with a small inkwell and parchment as well. Writing down the date, he quickly wrote down:

 

Father and uncles, I apologize for having caused you all seven endless worry for my safety or fear that I was killed in the fall of Nargothrond. Worry not, I am currently in Doriath as a refugee, trying to snatch up any useful news for you. However, the young Queen, Dior, got injured by a orc blade when protecting the group of refugees I was with. Yes, she did actually do that, saving me from a blade in the throat before getting injured. She is currently fighting for her life thanks to that blade being poisoned. Will tell later how it will go, when I learns more. Celebrimbor

 

Rolling the letter together, a far from easy task with one arm in a sling due to his injury, he carefully sneaked out from the chamber where the refugees from Nargothrond had been placed. By following some servants who was heard talking, he soon found himself at the chamber for the messenger pigeons, various places to sending them neatly written down by Dior herself. Taking a pigeon from the Amon Ereb stand, Celebrimbor used a hair ribbon to tie the letter to the pigeon's leg and let it fly out of the window. Now all he could do was waiting, both on a response from his family and if Dior would live or die.

Chapter Text

As her body struggled to defeat the orc poison from the inside, Dior alternated between being awake momentarily and unconsciousness. The high fever caused by the poison, did not facilitate her attempt to eat or drink anything. In fact, most of the time, she barely managed a few spoonful of water or herbal tea to prevent her from getting dehydrated. Within three days after first getting injured, she could no longer chew any food. What little she managed to drink from water and herbal tea from that day on, were not enough to help.                             

      

“It is not looking good, are it not, Redhril?” asked Nimloth with worry in her voice, as Dior once again failed to drink much water. Taking a look on the still open cut on the thigh which refused to heal properly as a normal would already would have, most likely because of the orc poison, the female shaman could only shake on her head as confirmation.                                              

      

“I am honestly surprised that she have managed to stay alive this long. Even a normal Elf should have…”

 

She did not say the words, but all the gathered members in Elmo's family understood what she had meant. They were all exhausted from the unnerving past days, the endless fear for that Dior would die.                             

 

“Masters, mistresses, the court healers are demanding to be allowed care for the Queen…” a servant spoke, not entering the room where Dior laid.

 

“Tell them that we still fear that they will make her worse,” commanded Nenien in a tired voice. Like her husband, she seriously doubted that the healers at the royal court of Doriath was able to actually handle a situation involving a deadly poisoning after so many centuries of isolation from the rest of Beleriand. In terms of keeping the people of Doriath safe from Morgoth and orcs from Angband, Melian had been wise with her Gindle, but at the same time, it had deeply limited the chances to exchange knowledge that could be useful.

 

“At least we managed to move Dior from the court to our house, instead of risking her life in their hands….” Elmo muttered, where he was sitting in a chair with a glass of extra strong wine in his hand despite that he normally hated the taste of alcohol. If he ever was seen drinking anything alcoholic, it was a bad sign of the situation. Nenien, who knew her husband well, removed the wine bottle from the small table beside him since if he would attempt to drink anything more, he would be sick from it.  

 

The rest of the family was not looking anything better than himself at the moment, even with watching over Dior in turns so some of them could rest. Fear of losing her, not just as the new ruler of Doriath, but also as dear friend and family...

If anything, Nimloth looked the worst because of her bond as a lover to Dior, being indirectly affected by her state of poisoning as well. Both were paler than normal, hagged looks on the faces and Nimloth had barely eaten anything at all since the first night Dior spent here in the house.

 

“It would not surprise me if the worst may come tonight...she have barely gotten anything in her today, and the way she struggles to breathe is no no good sign either. If only we knew more of the poisons the orcs may use…!!”

 

They all heard that Redhril indirectly cursed the Girdle of Melian, by how bitter her voice sounded. She had always been against it, ever since the Girdle had prevented her from knowing the fate of her surviving relatives after that horrible time when Morgoth had returned to Angband from Valinor. It was in one of those orc attacks that she had become a widow, after all.  

 

“It all depends on Dior herself now. We have done everything we can do to draw the poison out from her body and give her help from the body to strengthen her immune system. Yet this final step...she can only do that alone .”

 

~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

Far away from Doriath in a very spiritual sense, Dior's first instinct was that she did not know where she was. It was much unnerving, this darkness around her with no hint to light. That she was alone, did not help either. She had never liked to be alone, and that fear had only grown worse in the weeks following the deaths of her parents, when she had lived alone before Celeborn and his group had arrived to bring her to Doriath as the new Queen. Their home in Tol Galen had never felt so empty in a such manner when Luthien and Beren still had lived, not even as they both fell to the darker sides of declining years and grew more dependent on her care of them. And being alone in the darkness had been part of her childhood nightmares when her parents had told her about the wickedness of Morgoth and Sauron.        

 

“No...no, there have to be a place where people is…!”

 

Pushing down a unpleasant memory that threatened to surface, Dior took a careful step. The wound in her tight made it both difficult and painful to walk, yet she refused to humiliate herself through crawling.  

 

I would not go further if I were you, my lady. The gates to the Halls of Mandos is not far. ”      

 

The unexpected voice behind her caused Dior to jump in fright, but the same movement spent a new wave of pain from her wound. Nearly losing her balance, a pair of strong hands caught her. The face were impossible to see due to the hood, but Dior could sense the eyes on her. Ancient, knowing of things beyond her own knowledge.

 

I did not expect to see yet another member of the House of Thingol here in less than a year, though your own case is excused, my lady Dior.

 

Mandos showed some signs of knowing both Elven and human behavior towards a high-born lady, in that he gave her a light bow. Before Dior could say or do something, she found herself seated in some form of spiritual chair with armrests which was padded really soft, maybe it was meant for newly arrived souls who died from severe injuries? Then again, she had never heard about someone returning to life as her parents had done and they had never given any deeper details about that event, so Dior was not really sure.

 

Just because one guest is on the limit between life and death, I will not be seen as a bad host to someone who may still live. Besides, I prefer people who is not freaking out at realizing that they are almost dead or actually have ended up in my Halls. And please call me by my actual name, Námo, ” the Vala said as he gave Dior a cup filled with a spiritual drink, which lessened the pain from her wound when she drank it.

 

“I take that my parents were not ideal visitors? Or my grandfather for that manner as well?”  

 

Under the hood, she guessed that he raised an eyebrow at the question.

 

A princess spoiled by her father and used to get what she wants, and a High King who were idiotic enough to insult the Stone Daughters of Aulë in the presence of possible fathers, brothers, husbands and other relatives. If Thingol could not stand his own daughter being viewed as less than perfect, then how do he expect other people to react when he does the same about their family members? Your mother was very rude at coming here, using her inherited Maia powers to loudly demand that Beren were to be given back to her and causing unrest among the souls here. And when people all over Beleriand, not only from Finrod's kingdom, heard that Thingol were here, I even had to lock him up for his own safely. He is not popular outside Doriath for various reasons.

 

This did not surprise Dior at all, not when recalling how much trouble the Girdle of Melian had caused for the Elves living outside Doriath over the years. Once again, that untold shame of belonging to their family flashed in her heart.

 

“Since my parents were mortal at my birth, I guess that I will follow them in the Path of Men and not stay long in the Halls,” she muttered. That seemed to catch the attention of the Vala, giving her a better look of his face.

 

Not quite so. Apart from the blood of Men, you have both Elven and Maia blood in your veins, meaning that you are a bit of a...special case. In fact, the All-Father have blessed you with the gift of choosing your afterlife. Allow me to explain better.

 

Before she could ask what he meant, the scenery around them changed at his words and Dior now found herself seated in a large chamber of some kind. Looking around, she saw several mirrors, gloving with various lights. Helping her up to her feet, Námo showed a mirror with pale grey light.

 

As I said, the All-Father have given you a unique chance of afterlife. In all those mirrors, you will be granted one glimpse of potential futures, all depending how you choose. I think you can already guess which future this mirror symbol.

 

It was a bit scary to say, it, yet Dior responded in a firm voice:

 

“If I died now, from the orc poison which not even my Maia blood may be able of defeating.”

 

She had guessed right. Not only did she see Nimloth give in to her own grief over losing her young lover and enter the Halls of Mandos to never leave them again, how the death of Nimloth would affect her own family, but the disagreement over who her successor would be. The royal court spitting apart over that Elmo or one of his three male descendants should be the new ruler of Doriath. And finally, how this internal split in Doriath made them an easy-to-catch victim for Morgoth, then defeating the House of Fëanor in a crushing final defeat and laying all of Beleriand under his hands, its various peoples either slain or enslaved in Angband.

 

Not the most joyful of futures, I will admit that. Mortality is a tricky thing, sometimes a member from the Race of Men enters my Halls from the most simple things like a accidental hit to the head from above, a sick child dying from illness, and a mother dying in childbirth. The differences between the First and Second Children of Eru can be very small and yet big at the same time.

 

Dior nodded. Even if she had only met a few Men during her young life, she had not been blind to the differences between the two races. Despite her mortality during the last 25 years of her life, a faint echo of her former beauty had never left Luthien, right down to the few past moments of living.

 

“And pretty much the same is bound to happen in the long run, if I survives yet refuses to marry and have a child as a my legal heir to Doriath…Nimloth and I knows that we need to add in a husband in our relationship, if I am to have some way to gain respect at court, but the biggest problem is that it is so hard to find someone of both respectable lineage and who would accept that my heart may not fully belong to him during the marriage. Same-sex relationships may not be illegal but it are frowned upon in Doriath, especially by those who lives strictly by the laws Grandfather created. And I do not like any of the young nobles at court, none of them have come off as a possible husband in my eyes because they either look down on me for my human blood or for my age. In fact, if one of them ends up as my consort, they will be unable to help protecting Doriath from Morgoth!”

 

No one truly knew why Thingol had created those laws about same-sex relationships in the distant past, yet it was one of the reasons to why Dior and Nimloth had needed to hide their own relationship after getting together as a secret couple. Even with Thingol gone to the Halls of Mandos, his shadow still haunted Doriath in so many ways. And it did not help in that they were also drawn to both genders, which would make it easier in a needed marriage for Dior as a Queen yet it held possible dangers as well.

 

Doriath is pretty narrow-minded in its traditions, indeed. For all of that they view it as working fine, it sadly is what drives potential alliances away. If you had been a boy, as your grandfather wished, you would have been locked from other marriages as you and miss Nimloth would have been married. But...as a unwed maiden, you have another power that a married King would not have.

 

A alliance through marriage, ” Dior breathed, almost not believing it herself. With the lack of proper respect her own royal court showed, that kind of possibility had not even been hinted. Granted, Elmo and his family were unlikely to have been thinking of all possibilities for her because there were some solutions that she had to think of herself to not become depending on their help, and do something alone.

 

Námo smiled, a darker smile of unknown character, but it was not a cruel one. Rather, he seemed pleased.

 

Indeed. A marriage would not allow a alliance to break apart without a good reason. Especially if it give fruit in children from the pair who marries for the alliance. There is a good reason to why the Race of Men often uses that in times of war, even those who conquer a land and wants to unstable power by taking a local woman as bride through it may not be her own wish.

 

Dior knew at once that it would be impossible to find a suitable husband for her in Doriath. Those of the highest noble rank were too arrogant from their upbringing and she held no doubt that several of them also once had tried to woo Luthien. There was no way she wanted one of her own mother's rejected suitors, acting as a second-best choice simply for being the Queen.

 

“Then I will need to search a possible husband outside my Kingdom. And I can not avoid meeting with the Fëanorians forever.”

 

As if she even needed an excuse to escape from the royal court for a time, a wish she had longed to make true ever since the coronation. Meeting with the Sons of Fëanor had to be done eventually, she did not want anything to do with the Silmaril and she needed to figure out how to return that cursed gemstone to the right owners without protests from either side.

 

You have not mentioned which future you will choose, but you want to return to Doriath for now?

 

“What kind of Queen would I be for the Elves of Doriath, if I were to leave the world of the living before I even have seen my 26th year since birth? After only six months as a Queen? No, I will not follow my parents on the Path of Men this time. Next time you shall see me here, lord Mandos, it will be at a older age that I have chosen myself!”

 

Námo nodded in approval. It was promising already in how the inner flame in her heart slowly began to burn more than before. Nor that he would have blamed her for wanting to end her suffering and simply dying, but she was wise enough to realize how it would affect those who held her dear.

 

A wise choice for now, lady. From what little knowledge I have managed to gain on what happens on the Path of Men, it seems very likely that they are reborn with time, but without the memories of the life left behind. Imagine possibly being a mortal woman in the distant future, and knowing of your current life as a failure.

 

Dior snorted.

 

“That is a fate I hope that my parents should go through then, and getting some more common sense than what they seemed to have in their younger days in this life! I do understand that their tale is lovely from a romantic view, but from the political view it is a seed of disaster! A fellow Elven Kingdom losing its beloved King, two brothers from a powerful warrior family with ties to royalty disgraced thanks to my mother, and a Dark Lord most likely getting a huge grudge towards Doriath for what my parents did in his own realm of darkness! It always come back to them, no matter what I tries to do as Queen!”

 

One unexpected side effect of being the Ruler of the Dead, was that Námo had learnt to read people rather well, or at least reading their souls that arrived to the Halls. He could tell that a lot of the related issues Dior had towards her famed parents, was plain and simple resentment. And no big surprise, honestly, when she was endlessly viewed and treated unfairly by her own people in favor of Luthien. Thingol had never viewed his granddaughter as truly worthy of his attention, proven painfully true by that he had doted on and treated his mortal foster son Túrin far more like a heir than her. As a result, the courtiers of Doriath, always eager to please their King, had imitated his behavior about things, leading to that Dior currently was the Queen of a realm she did not actually have much positive feelings about.

 

And by choosing to remain alive for now, you have started on the path to change the lives of many people both inside and outside Doriath, several sad fates may become better in the long run all thanks to you. Even if you may never know any of those people, I can tell you that it will have a much better result than what your mother ever managed. Beauty sure is lovely, but sometimes it is the character and strength of mind that is the real winner of people's hearts than a pretty face. Actions speaks far greater than words at times, as the famous rescue of Lord Maedhros from from the House of Fëanor by his cousin Fingon proves. True, Fingon had to cut off his hand to get Maedhros free, but the price was worth if since Maedhros is one of the most famous warriors in Beleriand those days, do you not agree?

 

Dior was sure of that if Thingol ever learned that she secretly admired the Noldor for fighting against Morgoth, despite the history between Luthien and Celegorm, he would disown her on the spot.

 

“Yes. But I also do not doubt that it will be hard to impress him, after having to deal with my grandfather for so long.”

 

A golden glow started to shine around her, as a sign of that she were about to return to the living world. Taking her hand, Námo spun her around a few steps as in a dance.

 

Willing to pay the untold price unlike another princess of your family, very good. If you do things well, the All-Father shall reward you beyond your wildest dreams. And I give you my word, this choice will keep you safe from Sauron and Morgoth, but you also must be ready on that all choices have its price. The official price for your parents' shared love and wish to remain together was her loss of immortality, and the untold price was that they would only have one single child born from their union. Two or more children born between the princess of Doriath and her mortal lover...the uninvited seeds of discord for various reasons you surely can guess by yourself. Besides, one of the fates you will change from now on, remains hidden in the white stone.

 

Each dancing movement, and as he spoke, Dior faded out of his hands before she could ask what he meant by the last words.

 

~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

Falling. Falling through air as if there was no gravity pulling her down.

 

Yet Dior felt no fear. She could sense the bond between her soul and body become stronger again as the Halls of Mandos faded away, how her emotional bond to Nimloth were pulling on her to return. After seeing the possible future that would have been if she truly had died now, Dior did not want it to happen, or at least lessen the impact of a such future. She could not avoid death forever, as a mortal she was fated to end up dying eventually.

 

“The least thing I can do in life, is to try and keep Doriath free from Morgoth during my lifetime and do so through a alliance with the remaining Noldor powers in Beleriand….”

 

Suddenly, Dior saw something in the distance which did not match the rest of her surroundings. A large white cliff in the middle of a huge green field? No...it was unnatural shaped, not in the manner nature would do with rain and wind over time. A city? If it were a city, it did not match what Dior knew about the Dwarven realms or the lives of Men, there was no way the Stone Children of Aulë would build their city in the open like that and none of the known Mannish village settlements were large enough to count as a city. Something pulled to make her come there, a feeling of huge sorrow and regret.

 

Then the city vanished as her soul were forced back into her body.

 

~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

…..waking up! She is waking up!”

 

Dior slowly opened her eyes, her sight first blurry before she could focus again. Her throat were awfully dry, and the first attempt to speak felt more like a gasping.

 

“Do not try to speak yet, child, you have been dancing with death for several days that left us all usure of your fate.”

 

The offered water were blessing cold and tasted divine, even if they could not give her so much in fear of that she may throw it all up if she were given too much to drink. Her stomach were weak after not getting much food during the days of her poisoning.

 

The young Queen knew that the coming days would be focused on recovery and rest, but she knew that other things had to be done eventually.

 

~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

Those days in worrying over whatever Queen Dior would survive the poisoning or not, had affected not only the royal court, but even the lower social classes. Celebrimbor could tell that this had to be some kind of awakening for the sheltered Elves of Doriath, how dangerously close their mortal Queen had been to dying. Sure, it was bound to make some people protest to having Dior as Queen since it would be so unnerving to have to worry about what she might die from, things that a Elf would recover from but not a mortal.

 

“Servers them right for thinking that the wound was harmless and the poisoning self-caused…” he muttered for himself, currently busy in writing down a new secret letter to his family about tat Dior had survived and were on the way of recovery.  

 

I hope that Queen Dior recovers as soon as she can now when she have defeated the poison in her body, for a few of the noble-born couples here in Doriath have started to whisper dramatic loud that the Queen is a fool for nearly tossing away her life to save “a group of sorry-looking Noldor”. Sheltered Idiots , are all I says about it. Without her, I believe that none of us forty refugees would still be alive today from the orc attack. I saw it in her eyes, the honest wish to protect people without any selfish hope for glory or fame.  

 

Personally, Celebrimbor knew that almost none of the top-ranking nobles here in Doriath would survive long in the wildness, if they were forced out from their comfortable lives where servants took care of everything for their masters and mistresses. He had learned that many of the lower nobles allowed their younger sons to become part of the Marchwardens if there were more than one son in the household and their daughters to become a governess to other noble children as a way to earn some money of her own and not be totally dependent on the parents' wealth to her dowry when she married, but there were little to no chances of marrying outside their social status.

 

“Well, I think that we are going to hear new gossip within a few hours. Apparently the Queen have requested all unwed youths at court to take part of a...how to call it, a exam to test their various ability to see if one of them is worthy of becoming her consort,” his friend Gildor Inglorion said at entering the room he and Celebrimbor shared. The refugees from Nargothrond had been given temporary living in a house close to the royal court of Menegroth since it had been somewhat chaotic during the illness of the Queen.  

 

“What do you mean?”  

 

Gildor, being a orphan of unknown parents but showed all signs of having both Noldor and Sindar blood in his veins, had been taken in as a baby by Finrod and while he had never been viewed as a actual heir to Nargothrond because Finrod had sworn to remain true to his beloved Vanyarin betrothed Amarië and thus were unlikely to be his father, looked like he had gotten hold of some useful news to pass further in secret to Amon Ereb and the Isle of Balar.  

 

“While we have not meet the young Queen face to face yet here at court, her action of saving us from the orcs speaks of that she is not a lady to remain behind and allow a husband to deal with fighting. And really, does any of the young nobles here seem to have ever hold a sword in their whole lives?”

 

Celebrimbor shaked on his head. If anything, his father and uncles would be much displeased with the noble families here in Doriath if they ever saw how court fashion were. Fine robes and lovely dresses, yes, but it looked outstandingly ridiculous with the more practical clothing that the Noldor preferred to wear. The noble sons looked like feminine dolls with next to no muscle mass (even if that were hard to see properly through the many layers of robes they wore), and their sisters were worrying thin in body shape. Surely as noble daughters, they could afford to eat more than enough food?  

 

“Nope. If she is smart, she is gonna ensure that they fail the exam, all of them. From what little I have seen them doing while trying to remain on top in a court where birth status is the most important rather than a sharp brain and the deeds of a sword, they would attempt driving off orcs with poetry and flowers.”

 

Both of them could not resist a laugh at how laughable that mental image was, and Celebrimbor were quick to add in that joke in the letter he would be sending to Amon Ereb, his family could be in serious need of a good laugh over such foolishness since they had not much to joke about themselves laterly.

 

“Speaking about Queen Dior and her search for a fitting husband since Doriath can not afford her to die unmarried and leave chaos as a legacy...I will warn Queen Mother Rilel that some of the courtiers here in Doriath may attempt to make a marriage between Dior and Gil-galad? While it is not too much of a age difference between them, about 20 years or so, those courtiers is bound to forgetting that the Noldor is not too happy over that Doriath gave little to no help in past years when Morgoth attacked our realms, and losing Fingon have made Rilel much bitter towards Doriath,” Gildor spoke as he picked up a parchment to write down his suspicions. Celebrimbor nodded, knowing that a such marriage offer between the two underage rulers would be seen as huge insult by the remaining followers of Fingolfin and Fingon. Marriage between two underage Noldor simply was not allowed because of the high risk of damage a too young wife could suffer in the birthing bed, a betrothal could work lasting for years but not a marriage.

 

In fact, one of biggest culture crashes between Doriath and the Noldor were that the nobles of Doriath, especially those of high noble rank, often betrothed their children at a very young age and set up the wedding date only a few years after that the young couple had started to change their bodies into adulthood

 

“I recall some rumour from the Isle of Balar in her first years as a widow that Rilel even attempted to send a curse on Thingol to die a slow, painful death for not helping Fingon in what would be his last battle in life.”

 

The widow of Fingon had not even seen four-hundred years of life, born as a daughter to two Exiled Noldor serving Fingolfin, but she had grown up to be a fearsome warrior who had raised to commander of his life guards, and pretty much everyone who had known the couple were in agreement that she had been the one to make the marriage proposal to Fingon and not him to her. Even Maedhros had said that Fingon could not find a better wife than Rilel since she would already be a familiar face to the Crown prince, not a stranger.

 

“If they think that lady Rilel is going to be unreasonable when she refuses to accept a such marriage for her son, she is going to look like a saint when my lord uncle from Himring will use all his tactics and military threats to prevent that from ever happening. Fingon was his best friend for a reason from their youth, and Gil-galad views him as a honorary uncle of a sort despite only meeting him a few times in his life so far,” Celebrimbor informed Gildor without looking up from his own letter. He was not joking about Maedhros being willing to do anything to prevent Gil-galad from marrying a possible enemy at a too young age, that was true.

 

~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

About two weeks passed, before Dior set up a date for the exam. Those noble-born youths who were below the age of one-hundred or already set up in a betrothal, had no other choice than accept the simple fact that they were excluded from even trying. For, as Dior herself said, she had no wish to break up betrothals simply because she was a higher price to catch and surely there must be parents who refused to see their daughters tossed aside in favour for someone else. By doing such, Dior had already lowed the numbers of possible husbands a long way, and increased pressure on those who remained.

 

“Elmo and Galadhon is going to oversee the exam, with those questions I have written down here. Anyone who in caught in the middle of cheating in some way, have the guards throw them out from the exam chamber. If someone protests failing the most important questions about the threat from Morgoth and acts immature while protesting, the guards have my permission to knock them out before taking them out from the chamber. I refuse to marry a immature idiot who refuses to see the danger of such denial,” Dior ordered as she handed over parchment sheets with the questions to her great-uncle, palace servants already busy with setting up small writing desks and chairs in the large chamber where the exam were to take place.  

 

“As you wish, little bird,” Galadhon said in his usual tone with the hint of boredom barely hidden, using the family nickname he had given Dior as a young child.

 

“Dior, the palace servants who once served your grandparents and mother have gathered outside the royal clothing chambers, as you requested me to spread word about,” Nimloth called from a side door, which lead to only one of many hidden labyrinths maidservants used to do their chores without necessary being seen by their betters.

 

“Thank you, I will come as soon as I can.”

 

It had taken time for the wound on her tight to finally start healing, and Dior still needed crutches in order to be able to walk without too much weight on her leg. Still, it was far better than needing to use a wheelchair since in her personal view, a wheelchair would only highlight the false image of her as frail.


After nearly half a hour of walking, which tired her out because she were not so strong yet after her long illness, Dior arrived to the long stone corridor where nearly three-hundred servants awaited them. All of them had once hold the role of serving Thing, Melian and Luthien indirectly as different types of maids and male servants whose tasks were to look after their wardrobe, keep the bedrooms clean and similar things that the royal family should not need to do themselves.

 

Everyday things and tasks that Luthien had never learned to do herself before marriage, and which Beren had need to teach her once they had moved to Tol Galen, especially as her pregnancy with Dior had made them need to set up a spare room meant to be her nursery.  

 

“Thank you for coming at my request, everyone, even if it were in the middle of doing your daily choices.” she smiled despite a faint wave of pain in her body as she carefully was seated in a chair that had been brought for her comfort. Dior hoped that by being polite yet also straight to the point, she may lessen the shocking blow she was about to release.

 

“Please listen well, all of you, for I would like to not need to repeat what I am going to say. As all of you know, either one of your oríginal mistresses or master is around anymore to be cared for behind the scenes. Had I been blessed with younger siblings, I would have allowed them to be cared for by your skilled hands. Alas, that sadly were never to be.”

 

She took a deep breath.

 

“Since it now is only me living in the royal palace, and with the family of my great-uncle Elmo living together in his home, I am afraid that I alone can not afford to have this many servants in the palace before I have wed and carried my first child. If you wishes to finish your daily chores and leave at dusk as usual, it is fine for me. And if you wish to leave within a hour, that is alright for me as well.”   

 

Dior did expect shocked and confused faces, possibly even protests about her having them fired after serving her family for so long, centuries before she even had been born. Yet to her surprise, it was not just one maid who opened the light-blue silk jacket she wore as a sign of once serving Luthien, gently folded the jacket together and put her golden hairpin with one single large sapphire on top of the jacket before placing it down at Dior's feet. One, two, three...nearly half of the overall maidservants and male servants did the same, leaving Dior with three rows of silk jackets in light blue for Luthien, wine red for Melian and silver-grey for Thingol. On each jacket, a hairpin in either gold or silver, with an inserted sapphire, ruby or diamond.  

 

“Just how rich is Doriath in unnecessary luxury goods to the point that that my family could afford to have their servants dressed like this? One of those hairpins alone have to be worth a smaller fortune, and could serve as the single most valuable item in a dowry for a farmer's daughter when she marries…” Dior wondered for herself.

 

“The former King refused to dismiss our service when your Lady Mother married, your Highness. He...did not truly believe that she were serious in leaving Doriath after her wedding to your Lord Father and settle down in Tol Galen. He expected her to come home, at realizing that there would be no comfort in a such life as she were used to have. But now...we can finally leave this palace that have become a cage of service, and stay true to our betrothed that a wedding were to happen once our term of service was over. We have longed for a chance to finally start our own families,” a maid were brave enough to speak.

 

Of course. Of course, it fitted in so well with how Thingol never had viewed Beren as worthy for his only daughter, a selfish wish that she would end up seeing it all as a folly of youth and return home to once again the role of his precious treasure that nothing else could match.

 

“I understand. And I thank you all for this service, even if your end of term were long overdue thanks to the stubbornness of my grandfather and my own hectic daily work.

 

Those who had not yet removed their jackets and hairpins, explained that they wanted to finish this final day at work without leaving things half-finished and would give up their signs of service to Dior later, which she allowed them to do.

 

~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

Late that evening, when she had returned to Elmo's house since they did not find it the right time to let her return full-time to the royal court yet, Dior made a clear point of enjoying the dinner.

 

“I have nothing against beef and pork, but I am honestly more used to chicken, various vegetables, eggs, fish and to rare events, lamb or goat meat.”

 

Luthien and Beren had not wanted any large cattle in Tol Galen, as that could reveal them to people they did not want to come. As a result, their few livestock had been a small herd of sheeps, goats and hens to give them milk, eggs, meat and wool for fabric. The animals had been brought along when Dior had left her childhood home for Doriath, and were now part of the herds owned by Elmo's family together.

 

“You are not picky about your food at all, you merely is unused to such richer meat as a result of your upbringing. And daily hard work results in needing more food,” Farien said in distaste over how the royal court seemed so determined to starve Dior into a more slender shape by far too small food portions.

 

“And that is why we enjoys this small feast in secret. Do you want more of the salmon pie, Dior?” Meril agreed with her law-daughter.

 

“Yes, please, and some of the sauce and cooked vegetables too, please.”  

 

Salmon was a favorite food of Dior from a early age, since it had been one of the most common fish breeds in the rivers around Tol Galen. She knew several recipes for salmon herself, but today she had wanted to taste something different.

 

“How did the exam go?”   

 

“It went much as predictable. Many failing the point of actually take Morgoth as a real threat, getting tossed out for cheating, a few parents loudly protesting that their little darlings should have passed. And several of the high-ranking nobles were much displeased over that most of those who passed, is younger sons to the lesser nobles,” Galadhon described in a bored voice. He had found the exam and its following drama pretty funny, but dreaded how the results would affect the royal court since many of the young nobles were dead set on winning Dior as a bride.

 

“Speaking about those who passed, Dior...I talked a bit with them afterwards, and almost none of them actually want to take the role of your consort. Not as disrespect against yourself, they were all serious about that they would remain loyal to you as Queen of Doriath, but rather because...they want to serve in the army. They realized the hidden meaning of the questions with Morgoth, and wants to become warriors for keep Doriath safe from dangers. But since the Marchwardens are basically the only soldiers we have at the moment…”

 

We have no military defense ,” Dior finished for her great-uncle, already feeling a headache coming. One again, the Girdle of Melian had proved itself to create another weakness in Doriath that she had to deal with.    

Chapter Text

Isle of Balar, early spring of the 496th year of the Sun:

HOW DARE THEY INSULT MY LATE HUSBAND AND LAW-FATHER IN A SUCH WAY!?!

The yell echoed across the training yard, causing a Elven youth not yet out of boyhood to slip in the middle of a training attack and fell face first in the sand, his spear to his left. He were not the only one to have been startled by the sudden scream from the upper floor of the heavy fortified house, judging from how quickly the servants hurried outside to not be in the attack line of the lady's wrath.

“Master Cirdan, do you happen to know what happened to make my mother yell like that?” Gil-galad asked once he got his high ponytail out of his face. Unlike the raven black colour of Fingolfin and Fingon, he had inherited more of his mother Rilel's dark brown hair, a more rare colour for the Noldor. Yet there was no doubt that he had the stormy grey eyes of the House of Fingolfin, and shared the long face that Fingon had gotten from Anarië.

Cirdan, who had been passing by while carrying some books he had planned to let Gil-galad read in his coming lesson, seemed to be similar surprised over the unexpected yelling of the widowed queen.

“At the moment I can not say, but I strongly believe that it may be linked to the red-tailed hawk that arrived to the messenger tower not long before your lady mother's outburst of anger.

Gil-galad knew that a such bird would never be used by Maedhros or the rest of the Fëanorians for important messengers, since they preferred to use more discreet pigeons, often with both various news and personal letters. Besides, it was not that long since the last letter from Maedhros, requesting a full list of what Gil-galad had learned in battle training so far. In a way, he may be a very distant figure in the young royal heir's life but still someone to look up to, and trust since Fingon had trusted Maedhros to keep his wife and son safe even if they had ended up with Cirdan for their own safety, with the sea acting as a barrier against orc attacks from Angband.

“And here I had planned to write Maedhros myself this time to tell him that I have grown to favour the spear as weapon…”

“Master Cirdan, prince Ereinion, lady Rilel request both of you to come to her private rooms. She have gotten a message that she wishes to talk between six ears,” a maid called from the doorway.

~X~X~X~X~X~X

Most of the houses here on the Isle of Balar were simple in building, homes that easy could get added rooms by braiding reed as base and adding clay which were allowed to dry so more walls and roofs could be built, but there was still attempt to house decoration with the materials that were available.

Cirdan had given Rilel and Gil-galad some of the nicest rooms he had in his home at their arrival to use as their own, and both were grateful for that. At the moment, however, Rilel had knocked over a smaller table so her current sewing project, a new tunic for her son, now laid in a mess of fabric and needles on the floor near the open window in her chamber.

“Mother? Is something wrong?” the young Noldor prince, High King in all but name because neither his uncle Turgon or his hidden city had ever been found after the death of Fingon, asked to his mother as he entered. Even as a reasonable well-dressed widowed queen consort, retired from the battlefields where she had spent her youth and life before marriage, there was no mistake about that Rilel still had a core of iron that could easy rival that of her late husband and law-father.

“Wrong? Something is wrong? YES!! Those self-important courtiers in Doriath seem to think that the Noldor Kingship is weakened because there is no crowned High King for us at the moment, and sees themselves as high-ranking enough to suggest something which I know neith Fingon or Fingolfin would agree with!”

She threw down a large parchment on the table, long enough to almost reach the floor if it were rolled out in its full length. Cirdan saw in unease the official seal of Doriath, the one commonly used unless Thingol himself choose to send something written by his personal hand. From the dark look on her face and fury in her eyes, Rilel honestly looked ready to tear the parchment apart with her bare hands if she could get away with said action. The young prince, who had been training to use speed reading when it came to long parchments like this one, now used that skill to try and find out what had made his mother so angry. It did not take long before Gil-galad found it.

They want to set up a marriage between me and the new Queen of Doriath, that arrogant bastard's mortal granddaughter?! And for that to happen, I need to move to Doriath, basically becoming a glorified hostage in all but name?

Now Gil-galad's blood started to boil in anger. Ever since losing his father, and knowing that Thingol held a part of the blame thanks to refusing to help the Noldor, he held no warm feelings toward Doriath. Both among the remaining followers of the House of Fingolfin and the Fëanorian Host, there was a shared view and agreement that only the Girdle of Melian had protected Doriath from feeling the full wrath from the Noldor. Things were already tense thanks to the deeds of Luthien and Beren which had created a large political crisis across all the Elven realms in Beleriand thank to Finrod dying, which did not warm any feelings towards her homeland.

“Seems like they do not view you as the High King, but merely the most likely heir to take up the role, yes,” Cirdan responded, his eyebrows together in a frown as he read through the long and very complicated details of the marriage contact. Basically, Doriath wanted Dior to succeed Gil-galad on the throne if he were to díe before her, rather than any of their possible children.

“As if the Noldor even would react well to a widow taking over the Kingship that legally would belong to her children, if she already is the ruler of another realm by the time she marries! I am only regent for Gil-galad until that he comes of age, and I would never want the full burden of being a leader for all of the Exiled Noldor!”

It was not that the Noldor would protest having a female leader, far from it, but Rilel knew that she had caught Fingon as a husband thanks to her skills as a soldier, not for her beauty or the few feminine skills she had mastered reasonably well outside the battlefield, like how Fingon always had worn her poor attempts to fix his clothing with pride despite the risk that the thread would become loose when she had been too stressed to make it neat and even. He had wanted someone who could protect his future children, not a noble-born lady who would back away in fear for the untold dangers of being married to someone who were a enemy to Morgoth.

“Aye. Besides, it is clear that they have failed to check how old Gil-galad actually is. No offensive, my young prince, but you are too immature in both mind and body at the moment to even consider a such important life decision as marriage,” Cirdan spoke in a manner that was not meant to be a insult. Not that he would have needed to worry too much, Gil-galad were used to it after so many years as his ward.

“As if that even is on the list of what I want to do in the coming years! I still find girls to not be very interesting currently, especially in searching for a possible queen of my own!” Gil-galad hissed sharply, proving what dark mood he was in.

Rilel looked over the marriage contract again, spotting yet another thing that anyone with a working brain and sharp eyes would find odd.

“There is no mention of how old that new Sinda Queen is. I know that the elite of Doriath have a habit of marrying at a younger age than what we Noldor does, but is she even old enough for marriage, if she is several summers younger than my son? A match where both the bride and groom is too young to consummate the wedding night, can be annulled by the older family members within a few years if too long time goes from the wedding and no child is born,” she muttered, referring to that Gil-galad would enter his 46th summer of life this year.

It was not the first time Gil-galad heard his mother mention things that normally would have been explained when his body started to change into the body of a adult, she had never babied him except in his most early years of life and she was of the firm belief that her son should always know the truth, even if it was unpleasant.

“As if I ever would be pleased to marry a bride young enough to be a possible child, be she born from mortal parents or Elven ones! No, I will never marry someone who carries the blood of Thingol, that is all I have to say about this! Both as the current heir and as the future High King of the Noldor!”

Neither Cirdan or Rilel were surprised over that Gil-galad slammed the various doors shut on the way back out to the training yard, where he would take out most of his anger on the straw dummies.

“He really have no love at all for Doriath, thanks to that idiotic King and his barely thought out attempt to get rid of a serious suitor to his precious daughter, by requesting a bride-price that rightfully belongs to the House of Fëanor. Besides, we would piss them off like nothing else if the Silmaril gets into the hands of my son as a part of the dowry Dior most likely would bring into her marriage.”

While she was on reasonable good terms with the Fëanorians, mostly exchanging letters with Maedhros as her fellow co-regent for Gil-galad, Rilel would never dare to hide the Silmaril from them. Given the chaos Luthien and Beren had caused just to get that gem as a bride-price for her hand, not to mention indirectly causing Finrod's death, the consequences were too risky even if Gil-galad were the son of Maedhros' best friend and Finrod being their own cousin had not stopped Celegorm and Curufin from plotting against him.

“Have my son get rid of his anger by some extra training today. I need to send this abhorrent thing to Maedhros and tell him that the young Queen of Doriath...seem to not have control over her own court, through I would not blame her for that if she indeed is raised far away from her current living living standards.” requested Rilel, feeling a headache coming over how she needed to form the words without revealing too much of her own anger.

She may not be that close to Maedhros, but she knew that both he and his brothers preferred to have Gil-galad as High King rather than her cowardly law-brother Turgon, who had fled back his hidden city without even bothering to at least visit the fatherless nephew he had, or even give his dead brother a actual burial, even if it would have been not far from the battlefield where Fingon lost his life! Her son may be underage still for more than half a century, but at least the exiled Noldor knew about Gil-galad and he had all the signs to be a future leader like his father and grandfather once he would be old enough for his first battle. Turgon...was a very different matter. In fact, Fingolfin had ended up removing his second son from the line of succession after too many years of no contact from Turgon since he by such actions had proven himself unreliable for help, causing Idril and the rest of his possible descendants to never have a claim on the Kingship without them even knowing about it due to Turgon shutting Gondolin off from the rest of the Elven realms.

Rilel snorted at that memory. She had never met her law-mother Anairë, but Fingolfin had often joked that they would have gotten along perfect, since Anairë had seemed to be a sheltered noble lady at first look, but had made a great first impression on the still underage Fingolfin in the form of being strong enough to break the wooden frame for her embroidery over his head for a rude comment Fingolfin had called her. (To be fair, he had been in a bad mood from a rare argument with Finwë over finding a bride to his future marriage just moments before.) So for Rilel, it was a great mystery in how Fingolfin and Anairë had ended up with a such eventual disappointment for a second son.

“Damn that spineless law-brother of mine! Causing so much trouble simply in hiding himself and that blasted city of his away from the world! If he have joined his father and two brothers in the Halls, I hope that they give him a good thrashing for hiding like a coward!”

The mental image of Fingolfin's disappointed face, and Fingon's anger while Argon likely would curse the ears off Turgon if he was anything like the stories told of Fingolfin's youngest son who had died too young, were enough to make Rilel smile a dark smile of amusement.

~X~X~X~X~X~X

Amon Ereb, little over sixteen days later;

This day had not started out that great for Maedhros, and the blame laid solely on the phantom pain from his missing hand again. And from his poor right shoulder, which had never really recovered from holding up his body for so long.

“A hot bath….now!” he gasped in pain as one of the servants checked in through the door to see why he had not raised from the bed yet.

Thankfully the servants at Amon Ereb knew what to do in a such situation, and it did not take many moments before a pair of them tried their best to help him without causing more pain.

“Is a medicinal herb tea needed, my lord?”

Maedhros rarely took any painkiller herbs unless the pain threatened to take him back into the dark memories of Angband and its horrors, always in the back of his mind on such days. And there was also his unspoken fear of growing addicted to pain relievers, which explained why he rarely took anything unless the pain was too much like this morning.

“One of the lesser ones, and it better work fast if I am to join my brothers for a late breakfast.”

The hot bath made wonders to stop some of the phantom pain, allowing him to move again without too much trouble while relaxing from the warm water. The cold weather of winter made it worse at times, yet it was many years since it last had been this bad, at least not since he had been forced to abandon Himring to come to Amon Ereb with his brothers. Maedhros was not one to care for omens or other signs that could foreshadow good or bad things for the future, but he had a feeling that a storm of some kind were on its way.

 

At the breakfast table which were mostly empty when he arrived, Maedhros were first greeted by the sight of Curufin and Maglor having a honest laugh about something. He got his clue from the letter Curufin held in one hand.

“What is the funny news in the letter from Celebrimbor this time?” he asked them while sitting down at his own place, taking some of the remaining porridge despite that it would not make him full, or even was warm anymore. The time in Angband had taught Maedhros to eat whatever he was given, even if it was food he did not enjoy. At least the tea water in the copper pot could be reheated on the fireplace, so some part of the breakfast were warm.

“The marriage drama in Doriath. It seems like Dior were being bothered by a suitor and actually gave him a black eye when he felt following after her in the garden. And that was after she first used one of her temporary crutches to give him a...quick induction to one of the strongest weak spots on guys to be left alone,” Maglor explained, to which the eldest brother merely rose a eyebrow while eating.

Kneeling or even kicking someone in the private parts may be something of a dirty trick outside battle for survival, but perfectly accepted among the Nandor for their unwed daughters to use on suitors who failed to notice hints on that their courtship were not wanted. Maedhros, who had been the victim of similar attacks in Angband as part of the torture, personally thought that if the unwed nobles in Doriath kept pesting Dior, they basically invited themselves to such pains.

“Smart girl to use what she have in her hands already to chase them off. Reminds me of the time Ammë were unlucky enough to trip and strain her ankle so horribly badly while she was carrying the twins. I think none of us, not even Father, escaped from getting smacked on the shins by her crutches because she had such sudden mood swings at times. A strained ankle and pregnancy in the later months does not match well.”

Maedhros were pretty sure that Nerdanel once had hit Fëanor in the family jewels with a crutch during one such mood swing, and heard him claim in a very pained voice that it had been Nerdanel's more literal attempt to ensure that he really would not make her pregnant again after the twins.

“Our parents could be more alike than that they seemed at first look….speaking about that, Celebrimbor managed to send some drawings of Dior this time. From what I recall of how Beren looked, there is no possible way that she could be a secret love-child between Luthien and Celegorm, since both our parents was very firm in the consequences if one of us knocked up a lady and refused to marry her. Besides, if it is 27 years since Dior was begotten, it would be a whole four years between her last meeting with Celegorm and the birth,” Curufin spoke, holding up some patchments to Maedhros.

The young woman in the drawings clearly showed all signs of following the growth of Men, already more or less fully adult at the age of 26 despite that her Elven blood could easily make her look some years younger. Obviously, she was not a such stunning beauty as her famed mother but she was not so horrible-looking that people would turn away in disgust, especially not soldiers who had faced orcs in battle. A bit on the plain side for a Elf, yes, but still good-looking by human standards. The same with what Celebrimbor had managed to catch of her body under her clothes, a little fuller than normal for elves but a body shape normally said to be good by humans, especially when wide hips was better in the birthing bed.

“Perhaps a bit uneven distributed between her Elven and Mannish blood in term of appearance, but I think she looks rather pleasant for the eye, even in a simple drawing like this. Our nephew may not be the best of artists, but he is good enough for catching her in a good way,” Maedhros finally said after some close studying of the drawings.

“Celebrimbor says that the royal court and nobles there seems to view her as ugly...most likely because they have not seen many mortals in their sheltered kingdom,” Maglor commented dryly while finishing his tea.

“Pff. She would be very good-looking by the standards of her paternal race. Especially if she have inherited the position of chieftain over the House of Bëor from Beren, through it is not much of a leadership anymore for various reasons that have happened over the last decades.”

~X~X~X~X~X~X

After breakfast, Maedhros decided to get rid of some paperwork in his office. It was not much this day, but he preferred it to be done in the morning so he could spend the afternoon on something else, like training in the front yard or riding out to the small villages that was under the protection of Amon Ereb. After all, even as a city there still was enough space to have small farms for animal breeding for bigger livestock that could be slaughtered and be an backup storage, or settlements that focused on other details needed for a large host of soldiers.

“At least spring arrived early this year here in the south of Beleriand, that is good since we already have been able to plow the fields and sow seeds for the harvest this year. Queen Dowager Borghild, King Geir and princess Brenna is going to be much pleased if we are lucky to have a good harvest in the autumn.”
Even after that Azaghâl had died, Maedhros was much happy over having a reasonable good relationship with his family despite that he would not have blamed them for thinking that he had lead the Dwarven King to his death. His old friend had wanted to die in battle, and both his widow and two children was valuable allies in those troubled times.

Suddenly, a servant came running with an unusual long parchment in his hands, in a hurry because of the wax seal.

“Message from Queen Mother Rilel, lord Maedhros. It was the pigeon for extra speed that was used, so it must be important.”

“From Rilel?”

It was only a few weeks since the last news of what happened at the Isle of Balar, surely nothing bad had happened to Gil-galad? He were still in that age when he sometimes could get into trouble without thinking, yet thankfully not in the stage when his arms and legs would be like a newborn foal and cause him to have trouble with balance because of his changing body. (Through it did bring up sweeter and funny memories of how Maedhros once had watched his brothers and cousins embarrass themselves in the same age.)

Thankfully, Rilel eased such worry at once in the start of the letter, even apologized ahead of some of the rather foul language she might have written down at the moment of her writing.

As Maedhros read the letter, his eyes grew wide, first of shock, then switching to anger and insult. Looking at the extra parchment that had been sent along, the marriage contract Doriath originally had sent to Rilel little over two weeks ago, he could do nothing else than agree with the widow of his cousin. There was no way Doriath would get Gil-galad as husband to Dior, not if they wanted to avoid the united wrath of him and the Noldor widow Queen. Cirdan would not give them any help, he had long been disillusioned by Thingol over the centuries and preferred to stay on the sideline for a good reason.

“Tell my brothers to come here after dinner tonight, it is not a good time at the moment. Tell them that there is a subject from Rilel and Cirdan that needs to be spoken about. Even if the letter was sent to me, its content concerns all us seven brothers since we are under the lordship of Gil-galad, coronation or not,” Maedhros finally managed to order to the servant, who bowed quickly before running off to find the other six Fëanorian Lords and pass on what their oldest brother had requested.

Once he was alone Maedhros threw the table over as a sign of his anger, not caring for the mess he caused with all the parchments flying. If those courtiers in Doriath thought that they could control the Noldor by arranging a marriage between Gil-galad and Dior, they had bitten off more than what they could chew. Thingol's decision to isolate his Kingdom had caused his people to become much out of touch with the current political events of Beleriand, and this was just one example of how that isolation had made the royal court become arrogant and blind for the reality of their current situation.

“If this kind of foolishness goes on, it will go to a path where we seem to need saving Dior from the dangers of her own realm!”

Somehow, the mental image of Celegorm and Curufin “stealing” away Dior for her own protection, with the well-known history between Celegorm and Luthien, made him chuckle if only for the sheer irony of a such event. His brothers may have been a crowning set of idiots back then, and would most likely be remembered in a unfavorite light in history for that stupid attempt of gaining power, but they were still useful to keep their House feared as the remaining military power against Angband.

“I bet that you would be agreeing with me if you saw me right now, ammë. Queen or not, Dior is a target for a danger that could ruin her whole life...just like Atar was in his youth…”

Oh, how Maedhros had never gotten tired at listening on the tale of how Nerdanel basically had saved Fëanor from a much ill-suiting possible marriage to a noble woman at the court in Tirion! He could already sense a similar pattern in what Celebrimbor told them in his letters, and how Dior were slowly ensnared by suitors who wanted the crown of Doriath, not herself as the one who ruled Doriath. The only difference between her and Fëanor was that Dior was an only child, and already a ruler in her own right.

“And Doriath thinks that there is no similarity between them and the Noldor, huh? As if they can act high and mighty, when they goes behind the back of their own Queen like this! I would not be surprised if she ends up running away one day just to be free from the royal court…”

Even if Dior would be unable to truly hide her Elven lineage if she indeed ended up escaping, she still had enough of Beren in her to be able to pass for a mortal lady of high status, someone who had been blessed at birth with especially refined looks by mortal standards on beauty. She had enough survival skills to live alone in the woods if she so wanted. Add in that her first twenty-five years of life had been spent on a small farm, and Dior would be able to more or less literally slid under Doriath's noses in the disguise of a common mortal woman with the help of a hood to hide her face and more rough clothes. That she was much shorter than her grandfather Thingol or Luthien, would also help her blend in among mortals if she wanted.

Now that would have been something interesting to watch, indeed, Doriath trying to find their missing Queen and yet failing to spot her if she was very close-by simply because they had seen so few mortal women in their long lives, but Maedhros seriously doubted that it would happen soon. If she were anything like how Celebrimbor had heard and described her as, Dior tried to be good ruler for her people and a such leader did not abandon them out of the blue. Surely the story of her parents had taught her how to act and how to not act if you were of royal blood or belonging to a line of chieftains. Love was nice and part of life, but allowing love to take such control over your own life and actions were bound to cause trouble in the longer run. After all, there was something not-so-small being called responsibility as well. Luthien were used to her parents taking care of things that troubled her, a horrible bad habit that did not work for her during the Quest for the Silmaril, where she had been forced to face a far more harsh reality outside her home.

“Good thing that Celebrimbor can act as a hidden information source there in Doriath for us. As long as he is not revealed as being from our House, things should go well. If he keeps a low profile, maybe pretending to be a common blacksmith with some extra interest in jewelry because of his skills, we should be able to learn more things about this unusual Queen…”

Yes, that was a plan Maedhros liked. If anything, he wanted to keep getting new information about Dior, simply because of how different she had proved herself to be from the rest of her family so far. And he did not doubt for a moment that his brothers would agree on this, given the past history between their House and Thingol. Perhaps he even could work out a plan to actually meet Dior in person somehow during the coming seasons, as long as that it was far from the borders of Doriath where the courtiers only would cause trouble for both of them.

Chapter Text

As Maedhros had requested, it was a private family meeting later that evening once dinner was over. All of his brothers did all agree that Doriath were attempting to cross a very thin line by setting up a marriage between Dior and Gil-galad, most likely a cover for a possible coup in which they planned to take control over the Noldor.                                                                                                                                                                  

“If we goes by that theory, then they would attempt to find a way to remove Rilel from her position, since as the mother of Gil-galad she holds a great deal of power until that he comes of age…” Curufin spoke, looking over the parchments they all had either written or drawn over the meeting. Most of them were suggestions to possible outcomes of the marriage that Doriath wanted.

“Yes, they are used to Melian acting “merely” as a Queen consort to Thingol, and all important positions of authority is held by male Elves. Just having Dior as the leader, instead of her male relatives, is bound to be a huge blow to expectations of what a She-elf is allowed to do and not to do in Doriath. Sure, Luthien broke against those expectations as well when Beren became involved in her life, but I am not surprised if many is rather unnerved by the simple fact that Dior logically holds a very strong personal power in that she can actually reject a suitor hoping to marry her and choose someone of her own will, arranging a fitting spouse for an unmarried sovereign is never easy. The position of her husband is basically going to be the strongest one of male authority in Doriath, second only to Dior herself not exactly like Thingol but enough close to it to be much sought after to those who are greedy for power, either for themselves or on behalf of their families.”                                         

 

Dressed in his hunting clothes and hair caught in a set of half-free braids, Celegorm was currently looking like any person who were perhaps not that much interested in politics, but he had bent to Fëanor's simple request to at least learn the basics so he would not be like a fish out of water when faced with it and he had gotten a useful insight in the ways of Doriath's upper-class traditions simply by Luthien being a bit careless when flirting with him during her stay in Nargothrond. After all, she had not learnt much of what different manners and culture the Noldor had, as contrast to Doriath. For Luthien, it was normal to flirt with males and then reject them, unaware of that Noldor warriors would get rather insulted if they were cast away like trash all suddenly and get a wounded pride if the lady in question could not give a good reason to why she suddenly stopped acting in a such manner. Not even Finduilas, who had been caught between Gwindor and Turin, had acted like that against her original betrothed despite his changed appearance and broken spirit from the fourteen years as a slave in Angband, according to the few survivors from Nargothrond that had managed to flee to Amon Ereb.                                                     

“So, are we in agreement? Setting up a offer to Dior to meet here at Amon Ereb this summer, around summer solstice?” Maedhros asked, mostly to hear if his brothers disagreed about the plan.  

“Yes, works for us. It is not like all seven of us would be able to travel to the Isle of Balar for a such meeting, anyway,” Amras said from his place, his older twin nodding.        

“If it works, we might be able set up a new trade as part of the agreements. The Elves of Doriath may not want the Dwarves in their home after how Thingol is said to be killed by them, but we should be able to act as a intermediator to avoid anything similar in the future.”                    

No one was surprised by Caranthir's words, after all he had a great mind for money and he was used to trade with the Dwarves before he had lost his own realm Thargelion. If someone were to work out a trade deal that fit two outside partners, it would be him.               

“Good point there, Moryo. And given what happened in the past, I would say that perhaps it is best that Tyelko and Curvo is the least involved about this meeting. Doriath is unlikely to have a favorable view about you two because of..well, you know the reason yourselves.”      

Both of them nods without a word to what Maglor had suggested. Out of the seven brothers, Doriath was set on seeing Celegorm and Curufin as villains in the tale of Luthien and Beren, because “surely” there was nothing honorable in first trying to have Thingol make his daughter a wife to Celegorm and then trying to kill her mortal lover while stealing her away?   

“Stupid Maia powers…” Celegorm muttered darkly, again feeling nothing else than plain distaste over how the time with Luthien had ended up as. Being seduced by the Maia inheritage she had gotten from Melian, unknowingly or not, he now felt as if Luthien had only toyed with his feelings to her own advantage. And people wondered why Curufin had tried to slay Luthien with a arrow which Beren had taken the hit of, in fear of that his brother would fall victim to Luthien's possible enchantments again? Even with all the time Celegorm had spent with Oromë and the Maiar following the Lord of Forests, he could still be taken by surprise by Maiar whose powers he was unfamiliar with, one of the main reasons to why they had tried to keep him away from Sauron while he had been ruling Tol-in-Gaurhoth. Most likely, Melian and Luthien had the same effect on him.                 

“If anyone from Doriath mentions those events with Luthien, just try to ignore it and leave. The least thing we need, if for them to find any legal excuse to back off a deal, even if Dior herself is in favor. Now, add your own names and seals after me. Most of our realms may be lost, but we are still Lords,” Maedhros requested after writing down his full title as the leader of their House and Lord of Himring, followed by the respective seal in wax.      

~X~X~X~X~X~X

When Maedhros laid in bed that night, he knew that it was going to be a restless one. No doubt that Rilel had been greatly unnerved as a mother by the marriage contract, in which Doriath could not even hide the long-term plan to take over the Noldor, to the cost of their young Queen if she married Gil-galad and became widowed.                  

“Fingon would be a good law-father and grandfather if he were still alive, but he would never sacrifice his only child in a arranged marriage that would risk Gil-galad's position as the next High King…”      

Speaking about Doriath … were they even willing to throw Dior aside, if she carried a child to term and was denied medical care at birth so it could look like her uneven heritage of Maia, Elven and Mannish blood caused her to not be strong enough to survive the birth? Rare as it was among the Eldars, Maedhros knew that his paternal grandmother Miriel had not been the only case of a Elven mother dying from something related to pregnancy and childbirth. The only known one in Valinor, yes, but once the Noldor arrived here in Middle-Earth Maedhros had learnt that outside Doriath, all She-elves were taught from their first signs of womanhood that they needed to be mentally prepared for the risk of dying in childbirth, even if they would prefer not to think of it at all. No one could foresee possible complications, a baby could get stuck and not come out, a premature birth was dangerous for both mother and child, or it could be a situation where no midwife or healer was available nearby. Or, as in the case of Miriel, giving too much of herself spiritually to the growing baby so she had nothing left for future children. Childbirth were not called a female-only battlefield for nothing.         

“It may be male Elves who impregnate them, but among the Silvan and Avari She-Elves is viewed as strong because of that they can give birth and survive. Even the Nandor share that view to a lesser degree…”

Perhaps that explained why Mahtan, Nerdanel's father, had always been so respectful of his female relatives? As one of the second generation of Elves born after that their parents had Awoken, Mahtan would not have been sheltered from the risk of childbirth his own mother had gone through, the same with his wife Celuwen despite that he had not become a father until after that they had arrived in Valinor. Maedhros could remember his maternal grandfather praise Nerdanel and Fëanor for their spiritual strength that joined together in their children. And what Mahtan had said once…  

 

Always treat your wife with respect and love, Matimo. Even if you may never marry, respecting females of all ages will help you get favor among them. You never know if it will be useful one day. Even if you are more used to your own gender thanks to not having a sister of your own and only a few female cousins on both sides of the family, do not let that hinder you.

 

The memory of those words made Maedhros smile, if only for a moment. Yes, he was sometimes homesick for Valinor and the family members left behind, but he refused to forget them. Who knew when their different advice one day could be useful?                

~X~X~X~X~X~X

During the following morning Mablung had, to his own surprise, found himself challenged by several Noldor soldiers to a simple training duel. Only that it did not turn out to really be that simple. Those soldiers of both genders proved to be a elite force especially trained by Maedhros himself, to be the very best soldiers of them all. The moment Mablung found himself laying on his back from one defeat, he was ordered to get up for a new challenge. Finally when he barely could stand on his own two feet anymore did he yield, if only for him being completely exhausted and could not manage more. That he had gotten several powerful hits, that could have been deadly in a real battle but now would turn into painful bruises soon enough, did not help.         

“Are this the best Doriath can offer in terms of military forces? If so, I will not blame the Queen for being ashamed over it,” his last challenger commented in a dull voice that revealed nothing else than simple boredom. As much as he wanted to protest, Mablung knew that the Noldo had a point:

If it came out that Doriath had not military outside the Marchwardens, then it would be impossible to prevent a attack. Morgoth was the main threat, yes, but the Noldor and the Dwarves both held a big grudge for various reasons. Mablung had not heard when Thingol spoke the insulting words that would doom him, but he had realized it to must be beyond repair when the Dwarven merchants from Nogrod suddenly had drawn their weapons, worn for protection while traveling from their underground Realm, and slain Thingol before escaping from Menegroth. In the following chaos, the guards trying to stop the Dwarves and they refusing to stop running, several guards had been cut down by the axes and many civilians narrowly avoided the same fate. To add further insult over Mablung failing to follow his vow of protection, two guests of Thingol's hospitality since two years back, Morwen Eledhwen from the House of Bëor and her daughter Nienor, were nowhere to be found afterwards, all evidence pointing towards that they had used the chaos after Thingol's murder to leave Doriath for Nargothrond where Morwen's son Túrin was under Orodreth's service. And now, with Nargothrond gone, he did not want to think of their possible fates.      

 

The more time Mablung spent here in Amon Ereb, the more he was forced to admit the flaws Doriath refused to admit to have, but which outsiders would spot right away. Information from the servants spoke of that Maglor and Curufin were the only ones of the brothers to be married, yet Maglor's wife had stayed behind in Valinor and Curufin were widowed, meaning that there was no Lady to care for the household duties in the fortress, and servant duties were not strictly divided between the genders either. No, the Noldor encouraged their females to take up weapons in order to defend themselves in a attack, while male soldiers simply had to know how to sew and cook since they could not exactly bring their wives or fiancees into battle to do household tasks.

And one of the biggest shocks of it all: how Thingol was seen as a coward hiding behind the power of his wife, yet also a tyrant for never allowing his people to leave the safe haven behind the Girdle. More than once, someone had loudly complained within his hearing over how Thingol apparently did not care for how Luthien had messed up politics between the Elven Realms, thanks to her first creating chaos in Nargothrond and then souring the already frail trust between the House of Fëanor and Doriath by her manner of treating Celegorm.

Besides, there was one last thing that every visitor had to learn quickly if they wanted to stay on the good side of the locals: if there was one thing not allowed on Amon Ereb, it was complaining about one's fate or one's lot in life. When half or more (and for many, far more) of one's own family and friends were taken by death - or a far worse fate in Angband - trying to secure what little prosperity and safety they still possessed, when more were at risk to die every year simply for being soldiers or spies away on missions, for southeastern Beleriand needed to be on guard against Morgoth, and when one's own Lord was missing a hand and not afraid to show that his body was covered in hideous scars under his clothing, yet still stood firm and never uttered a word of complaint, well …   

“Mablung! Lord Maedhros requests your presence in his office, but you should probably get yourself treated first unless you want to collapse in the stairs halfway up.”  

“As if I even needs a reason to visit your healers right now…”          

By any means, Mablung were lucky to not have any broken bones. If he were to return home to Doriath soon, getting delayed by injures that needed to heal first, would not be pleasant at all. As used as Mablung was to sometimes be far away from Doriath on missions, sometimes for several months as now, he wanted to be home so he could keep his wow to not allow anything happen to the royal family again. Thingol's death felt like a personal failure since the King had been slain in what should have been a safe place, his own personal treasury.        


The Noldorin healers were skilled, far more than what Mablung wanted to admit about the healers back home since they rarely had any really serious cases of injury. So it did not take long for him before he was standing in Maedhros' office.      

Said office spoke a lot of its owner: very few objects and furniture that did not take too much space, maps on the walls that showed important parts of Beleriand, some drawings in ink that must be his dead relatives lost in the battle against Morgoth, even his well-used sword were hung up over the small fireplace where a fire could be lighted to warm up the room in winter.

“You requested my presence, my Lord?” Mablung asked after a quick bow, mentally slapping himself when Maedhros raised an eyebrow in plain distaste over the bow. The years of being a warlord rather than a prince or even High King, for all the fact that most of his “reign” had been as a captive in Angband, clearly had set its marks.

“Yes. I have finally gotten together a important notification for your Queen that you are to bring her, with you starting the journey within the hour if you possibly can. Perhaps not really the information what she requested in the letter your bought for me, but the basics are there. When you arrives back to Doriath, ensure that she, and only she, reads it. If someone else outside herself or the family of her Regent reads it, there will be a huge misunderstanding that I prefer to not deal with myself or burden Dior with. Get it?” Maedhros commanded, as a follow soldier of higher rank to someone of lesser rank. Mablung could only nod as he were handed the rolled-up parchment sealed with not Maedhros' own seal, but rather with a Fëanorian star, a sign of that all the seven brothers was behind that letter.    

“I understands.”             

Again Mablung felt the difference between Maedhros and Thingol, he could perfectly imagine Maedhros grab the sword behind him and easy slay a foe if it were right in front of him. In fact, even if he had given up the title of High King to Fingolfin so long ago, the oldest son of Fëanor still held the aura of a true king, a leader who did not fear death. He had once tasted the horrors of Angband, and that survival had hardened him to the person that stood in front of Mablung this very moment.

If he were to lead the Fëanorian Host in a attack toward Doriath, the realm which Thingol and Melian had built together, would fall. Would they even allow Dior to live, as a prisoner under their watch for the rest of her life? As a hostage stripped of rank and titles, she could be used as pawn to create alliances without the Fëanorians needing to offer themselves, and not just because of that she was the granddaughter of Thingol and Luthien's only child. Or would she be viewed as too risky to keep alive exactly because of those blood bands, once again ending up taking the fatal consequences for something her kindred had done in the past and possibly die because of something which had happened long before she even had been begotten?      

 

Maedhros watched how Mablung bowed and then left the office. The Sinda would most likely be out of Amon Ereb as soon as he could, despite the far from gentle sparring matches from his soldiers before. Well, it had been meant as a reminder of how Doriath had gone soft while hiding behind the Girdle of Melian, and Mablung would recover from the bruises while traveling back to his homeland.

“My lord, a group of scouts have arrived with some captured orcs that most likely were sent out to spy on our movements. Atsa requests your permission to extract any possible information from them down in his part of the dungeon.”

In response, Maedhros simply held up a smaller parchment with two words in his hand;               

 

Permission allowed     

 

Atsa was, like all the others in Maedhros' elite troops of soldiers, someone who had faced the horrors of Angband. And like anyone who had either managed to escape or been among those who had been set free yet was unable to return home because many saw them as tainted by their slavery, untrustworthy in fear of that they could be spies for Morgoth. Maedhros, who knew that it could have been his fate to become a such outcast had he not been the High King at the time and the Noldor less willing to accept him back, had allowed those Elves to come to Himring and starts a new life under him. Most of them did not really blame their kin for refusing them, since they were not exactly the same persons as before the enslavement anymore, but they all had one thing in common:

A burning desire to help their new Lord defeat Morgoth, and getting to pay back years of pain and abuse on captured orcs was a useful way to let out some stream outside battle. If they could give Maedhros some useful information once the orcs broke down from the brutal questioning methods in the form of various torture, was a extra bonus.      

“Tell Atsa that Celegorm's special dogs would like some of that meat when he is done with his work downstairs. I think we soon will have a reason for that kind of entertainment this summer.”

Openly showing his own pleasure in how the orcs would first suffer in the hands of Atsa, and then be the prey in the Elven mockery of such games in Angband, Maedhros knew that this day could not have started better.           

~X~X~X~X~X~X

Despite the pain from his bruises as he rode on, Mablung was only too happy to finally leave Amon Ereb behind. There had been nothing to complain about the hospitality during the weeks he had stayed there, but there was no mistake about the dark looks sometimes sent in his way the moment none of the Fëanorians were around and badly hidden hostility if specific people heard his dialect.

Survivors from Nargothrond, or Elves who had lost relatives in its fall. People who saw Luthien as one of the reasons to the loss of Finrod, and in the longer run his brother as well. From what little Mablung knew, Orodreth had been more of a scholar, basically an botanist with special interest in mountain flora.

“As if princess Luthien even would have been able to know what would follow in the steps of her deeds…sure, running away without any weapons to defend herself or even basic survival skills was pretty thoughtless, but it is not like that she had needed to be taught such things earlier...”          

On the other hand, this forced Mablung to think deeper. Just how well had he known the former Princess? Luthien had been known by all of Doriath, it was hard to avoid it when she was the sole daughter of Thingol, a symbol of the freedom they lived under the protection of the royal couple. Mablung remembered talkings from when a young Daeron had shown unusual strong promise in using Songs of Power and becoming Melian's apprentice. As the years had passed and Luthien often were seen dancing to Daeron either singing or playing music for her, rumours had started to spread that they must be in love, words that was only made stronger when Luthien rejected other suitors that tried to win her hand in marriage.   

“The King was so much angry on Daeron after that princess Luthien had escaped from the treehouse…”    

He could still remember it, the blood-shot eye which Daeron had gotten from the unexpected fist in his face from Thingol, hard enough to make him fall down on the floor as a black eye started to form where the King had hit Daeron, the stunned silence in shock as the King threw down accusation after accusation at the minstrel who weakly attempted to protest that he could not be in two places at once. And had not the King himself requested Daeron to come for a talk behind the closed doors of his office, whose purpose had been revealed in Thingol's rant over his disobedient daughter and her crazy idea to run after her mortal suitor?                          

Perhaps it had been for the best that Daeron had left Doriath in self-chosen exile soon after that disgrace in front of the whole royal court. Falling from favor was hard enough even for the nobles who wanted to please Thingol, and Daeron who had been a royal favorite for nearly his whole life, would perhaps not be able to stand the humiliation. Mablung knew that Daeron had been heard at times at the borders over the years, there was no mistake in the manner of his singing, but those last few years there had been only silence.               

“For a pair that seemed so well suited for each other...what went wrong between them? Did Beren have something that Daeron lacked in Luthien's eyes?”  

No, this was not the right to think of the past or the mystery in why Luthien had chosen a mortal over someone she had known nearly her whole life as her husband. Mablung had a message to give straight into the hands of Dior, and by his own honor as Chief captain of the Marchwarden, he would ensure that she was given it. Even if it was written words of a coming doom.                                           

~X~X~X~X~X~X

At the same time, in Doriath:

 

If it was one among many things that made Thingol realm different from his uncles' realms and Nargothrond, so was it how the Elves of Doriath seemed to be almost… in denial over the danger from Angband that they could face. People were too relaxed, careless even. Too few guards around.

“Celebrimbor, try and relax a little. You look like you are about to run off any moment,” Gildor whispered under his breath, a elbow slightly poking Celebrimbor in the ribs to gain his attention.

“Are you not worried too? With almost no guard or anyone carrying a weapon at least?”

The trouble of growing used to his family's and Finrod's attempts to always be on the defense, in case of a possible attack, Celebrimbor could not help but smile faintly. And it felt so strange to not wearing a dagger in his belt, but no weapons were allowed around the palace anymore, and especially not close to the Queen since no one wanted to repeat the situation where Thingol had been slain. At least his two hairpins of iron could be used to stab someone in defense if it would be needed. In a way it was a bittersweet fondness, as Celebrimbor recalled how the late princess Finduilas had requested a set of matching hairpins for her and Gwindor as proof on that she had been willing to still marry him despite him being so changed after fourteen years as a slave in Angband.

She was not called the symbolic spirit of Nargothrond for nothing…

Not a warrior, but there had been all signs of Finduilas becoming a strong leader, a worthy successor to Finrod and Orodreth in various ways. She would never have allowed anyone to humiliate Gwindor if they had wed, changed appearance to looking like the aged among mortals or not.   

“I managed to get hold of a table and ordered two spring vegetable stews for us both at the tavern over there,” Gildor said, bringing Celebrimbor out of his memories for a while. And good timing, it was soon time for the midday meal anyway. Apparently it was more common for the working classes and common people to have three big meals a day with some small snack in between, yet the nobles took pride in only eating breakfast and dinner. Or perhaps not so strange, as none of the courtiers had been mentioned to do any more physical training outside walks and riding. And even there it hinted to be too little, for Celebrimbor's eyes; simple walks in the palace gardens and then being carried in large sedan-chairs everywhere else across Menegroth, and the riding generally was limited to either short periods around a closed-off park for the ladies while their male relatives rode out in the forest on what they claimed to be hunting but in reality was just races to see who could ride the fastest.

 

As Celebrimbor took the first spoonful of the stew, he noticed something strange. The taste...was not what he had expected. Spring vegetables had a special taste that often foreshadowed the richness of summer later in the year, and the asparagus, beets and spring onions in this stew did not have that taste at all. With a growing worry, he took a bite of the small bread bun to confirm his thoughts.

“Gildor? Is it just me being unused to the local food, or... something else?

Judging from the side glare Gildor used to look around in the tavern, he had a similar suspicion.

“Yes, it is a similar taste to what we noticed in the crops after that the Siege of Angband was broken. It is being affected now when Melian is no longer here?”

A snort in dislike somewhere behind them.

“Foreigners, all the same. None of them grateful for all the work people made in the food served to them. And the Queen is the same! Does she not realize that she insults the royal cooks by refusing to eat their food?!”

It seemed like the person behind them were a kitchen maid from the royal palace, having a day off or stopping in the middle of shopping necessities for the kitchen. Pretending to keep eating, Gildor and Celebrimbor heard the young maid talk more. 

“She refuses to eat various dishes ever since that evening when she suddenly rushed away from the table, in front of the whole court, and then claiming the following day that she had gotten a stomach ache from eating them! Her mother and grandparents never had any issues with the food back in their days, she is only trying to get attention and blame others!”

I recall Finrod making it a important point to always ask any mortal guest under his roof if they had trouble with some kind of food, ” Gildor breathed in growing annoyance, since some of the mortals followed a faith in which some dishes were forbidden or sometimes had to avoid a food dish for the sake of their health.

Celebrimbor nodded, there had been some such issues with the Easterlings at their first arrival into Beleriand, but now they knew what to serve at an meal and what to not serve. Perhaps Dior simply needed time to get used to the cuisine of Doriath, since it must be very different from what she had eaten in Tol Galen. Finding it not worth to listen on rumours that most likely was not true, they both paid for their meal and left.

 

Om the way back, they were found by a messenger from the court, bearing a written request from the Queen that she wished to meet the one who could be the unofficial leader for the refugees from Nargothrond. Seeing a chance, Gildor and Celebrimbor shared a quiet nod to go together.

~X~X~X~X~X~X

For anyone who had been a guest in fair Nargothrond before its Fall and recalled how Finrod basically had mixed a lot of styles together to give his underground realm a very distinctive style in itself, it became clear that Thingol seemed to have aimed for a style that was...well, grand was perhaps the best word. Every room, hallway and chamber were very high in ceiling with stone pillars giving support, following a central theme of the same basic colours on the walls if several chambers were meant as a wing. Yet this style of high in ceiling and huge chambers also caused the royal palace of Menegroth to feel cold, not truly welcoming once the first feeling of wonder had passed. If Thingol had aimed for making other Elves feel inferior to the power he expected to hold over Beleriand as the only High King before the Noldor had arrived, it would have been a mixed result since in reality, many had found it distasteful of him to show off the wealth of his Kingdom like that and looking like he openly was mocking them for not having a Maia to protect them.

 

The throne chamber had a theme of silver and blue, with royal blue as ground colour mixing together with a floral pattern of silver on the walls. The royal throne itself was made of white marble, its size revealing it could have been meant only for Thingol since the smaller thone on the right side had a slightly more feminine style in decoration.    

“I am glad that you could come despite the message coming so suddenly,” Dior spoke with a attempt of a friendly smile, where she was seated on the throne.

The dress she wore in green silk, helped to highlight the pale blonde hair currently caught up in a braid across one shoulder and the fine grey eyes that seemed even brighter under the emeralds she was wearing in a very simple diadem of silver. But those who wanted to believe the scandal of Celegorm being her true father would be very disappointed; there was no trace of the House of Fëanor at all in her face, not the high cheekbones that Celegorm shared with his father or the tinner mouth of Nerdanel. Her hair colour was the wrong shade, too blonde to be the silver hair from Míriel Þerindë, with no reddish hint that could betray descent from the reddish-brown Mahtan or his strawberry-blonde wife Celuwen.

“We are grateful for that you wished to grant us a audience, your Highness. We fully understand the need of recovering from the wound you suffered while protecting us from the orcs. My name is Gildor Inglorion, a loyal servant of the House of Finrod,” Gildor responded with a bow, quickly pointing out that he was not related to Finrod at all outside being taken in and fostered by him as a orphan.      

“And I am called Oronder, your Highness,” Celebrimbor said, using his less known mother-name to not be revealed as a member of the House of Fëanor.

That was currently his worst fear, to be taken hostage and used against his family in a situation where Doriath would again reveal themselves as not really aware of the events in the world beyond their hidden kingdom. Gil-galad may hold the title of High King, but it was the seven Sons of Fëanor that were the most powerful military strength currently in Beleriand. They would not be above using that to rescue him if it was needed, while Doriath would pay a painful price for the madness of keeping him hostage. Not even Orodreth, well familiar with his Fëanorian cousins from childhood in Valinor, would have tried anything like that just because of that.  

“I hope that my own subjects have not been treating you and your fellow refugees with disrespect? If so, that proves that we in Doriath sadly have poor manners when it comes to people outside the realm,” Dior attempted to be both friendly yet neutral, which was only natural.

They had to be the first people outside Doriath she actually gave a audience to and she must fear that it could go wrong or spread a negative image of her to the Noldor on the whispers of rumour. After all, Thingol had preferred to appear powerful in a attempt to hold on the illustration of superiority. In contrast to her deceased grandfather, Dior looked awkwardly out of place, like she did not truly matched her surroundings or social role, especially in how she tried to not draw attention to any feminine charms she could have. That alone made her look far more modest than her mother Luthien, who Celebrimbor recalled as not exactly being afraid of doing what often had been on the line to surprisingly aggressive flirting.   

“No, your Highness, it is only to be expected that not everyone in Doriath knows how to deal with strangers since the Girdle did not exactly make it easy to enter. There is the usual time needed to get used to the local food and such, otherwise we are all fine. Though a few of our fellow refugees have a wish of either going to the High King Gil-galad, under the care of Lord Cirdan, and a few others wishes to go to Amon Ereb where the Sons of Fëanor lives. It is not because of any actions from your people, but we do not feel much comfortable in a Kingdom not exactly known to have good soldiers to defend the common people,” Celebrimbor explained without making it sound like he was talking to a child.

Queen or not, if Dior followed the growth pattern of the race of Men, then she was already a adult woman in her best years according to how mortals viewed female aging and not a Elfling in a far too mature body. If that had been the case, things would indeed be more than just awkward for Dior.

“That is good. I was worried that my people would not act kindly behind my back towards people who have lost their home and family or friends to the Enemy. For I do not intend to be or act like my grandfather.

The last part was said in a slightly venomous voice, itself a proof of the rumour that the relationship between Dior and Thingol had been frosty enough to rival the Grinding Ice in the far north. The High King of Doriath had never warmed up to his mortal law-son, and his only grandchild seemed to have taken a blow of that relationship herself. Well, Thingol had only himself to blame if he was in the Halls, arrogance was not the best personal trait around armed Dwarves after all.

“That statement is something that should please the various remaining Noldor Lords, your Highness. Your late grandfather was not the best on keeping friendly alliances in Beleriand, sadly.”

Gildor had learnt the art of being a ambassador from Finrod, intended to help Nargothrond since clearly being of mixed Noldor and Sindar lineage, Doriath would not be able to turn him away for being a pure Noldo Elf. And that training was what he used now.

“As for your follow refugees who wishes to leave for the Isle of Balar and Amon Ereb….if they can wait a little more, I should be able to ensure armed escorts to protect them. It is the least thing I can do, since I am waiting for a messenger to return with a response from Lord Maedhros,” Dior assured in a manner that was a little too open to be a perfect royal mask. Then again, she had barely been Queen for about nine months and some people needed years to grow into a position of power.

“We thank you for your kind words, your Highness. It shall not be wasted and you shall not regret this just because some of your own subjects thinks otherwise,” Celebrimbor promised in a clear voice. His father and uncles would not want a debt to remain unpaid, especially one life-debt like how Celebrimbor owned his life to Dior killing that orc just before his life could have been ended.

A repayment meant that he had to save her life in return, and the only third-generation Fëanorian knew that it would happen sooner or later, based on some of the not-so-well-hidden hostile looks certain members at court seemed to send whatever Dior was spotted in the distance. Was that because she was viewed as a disgrace to her maternal line, not matching her mother in the eyes of the nobles who had been spoiled with Luthien's famed beauty?

 

Whatever it was, both Celebrimbor and Gildor felt similar hostile looks on their backs as they bowed in farewell to Dior and left the throne chamber in order to return to the house they shared with the other refugees. They had to be extra careful in their behavior before that letter from Maedhros was given to Dior by the messenger, one wrong step and only the distant Valar may know what would happen then.           

Chapter Text

As far as Dior cared once her 26th birthday had passed and been celebrated with only Elmo's family in private while giving her a full three days away from her duties as Queen, she truly began to feel a desperate need to leave Doriath for a few weeks. Just to get a actual rest from having to avoid her most empty-headed suitors who failed to realize the hints of that she refused to take any of them as a husband, for example. And the endless paperwork that she had to do as a sole Ruler without a spouse to help her.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

“And it is even more annoying that Nimloth is limited in what she can help me with…!”             

Not for the first time, Dior cursed the laws against same sex-couples that Thingol had created. With how much it was frowned upon, viewed as a waste of people who should be “married properly” to someone of the opposite gender and having offspring instead according to those traditionalists, it was getting awfully tiresome for both Dior and Nimloth to find time for stolen kisses and starving touches that would lead to love-making without being found out.

Sure, there had been a few of possible suitors who she actually had liked, neither too pompous or ambitious since they all had came from the lesser part part of Doriath's nobility, some of them only having little more than a family name as sign of their social status. Yet they had been pretty honest about why neither one had wanted to marry her, not for her human blood that many found to be undesirable or her age that creeped many out since for Elves 26 years was still a age of childhood, but because they had hope for a career within the military despite that it currently was only the Marchwardens available for younger sons that wished for a life of weapons and guarding Doriath.        

While Dior had started to gasp the minor tricks of being able to take control under people's noses, she knew that many factors at the royal court would prefer her to be a helpless, naive puppet to be controlled by others. And there was other things that she disliked….       

 

“Vegetables...why is it almost always vegetables served here in Doriath?!” Dior muttered in displeasure at noticing the lack of some form of meat to eat with it. Eggs were nice to have with the food, but she seriously carved meat. A freshly boiled chicken with a herb sauce, a stew made on lamb or mutton meat, or roasted goat. And fish dishes. Like cooked salmon, a fish soup and small fishes that could be grilled over a open fire.     

“A bit worried about the herb sauce, Dior?” Galadhon asked at spotting her side glace directed on a small bowl with a green sauce inside. He had offered to share the dinner with her, since Dior hated to eat her meals alone and as such, Elmo's family took tours of eating with her depending on their birth order in the family line.                   

“After the horrible reactions I have gotten from it a few times, yes…”  Dior responded, not protesting as he reached over the table and brought over the small bowl to his own plate since she refused to touch it.    

She shuddered in memory of the first time she had suffered from the red rashes showing on her arms, the horrible camps in her stomach that she first had believed to be a sign of her red flower arriving in a far more painful manner than normally, and then how she had struggled with trying to not throw up in front of everyone.             

Ever since, Dior had tried to avoid various dishes in the fear that it might happen again. But it was hard to know exactly what she had reacted on, and trying different dishes to see what it might be, next to impossible since the royal court took great pride in making dishes that in a way, symboled Doriath itself, meal that was more ornament than for actual eating. Dior knew that there was rumours of her being a picky eater among the common people, but how would she explain the reason behind her fear for people who never had any issues with food?               

“One would think that I am handing out orders about the food rations just to make people complain!”        

After the bad summer of the previous summer, with very justified fear for a bad harvest, Dior had insisted on making food rations and refused to change that order. Yes, she was much aware of that it had not made the common people happy, but she had truly not seen any other solution until they knew about the harvest this year would be better. It was more important for her to ensure that food was enough to not have her people starve, not being popular despite that it would have made things easier for her as a leader. However, since she had been born and raised outside Doriath it was hard for Dior to find a common ground with her subjects, a fact hidden in public but something she worried a lot about in private.        

“People may not mention it, but my cousin never was the best of guests at times despite being the Princess of our realm. Her behavior in Nargothrond had been shown before, when she would be a visiting guest to my family and noble families. I even recall how she once insulted our female cook by refusing to eat the rare bird dish served at dinner, making a scene when she believed it to be one of the smaller birds often seen around her and how father sent her straight back home to her parents after a severe scolding where my parents tried to explain for her that not every cook can create the same fine dishes as in the palace. Besides, neither Adar or Nanaeth liked a diet consisting almost entirely of vegetables, fruits and cereals,” Galadhon said, as if noticing from her face what Dior was thinking of.   

“Yes, he was a hunter in his younger days, I recall you all telling in my childhood, during the time of the Great Journey. But great-aunt Nenien is not the best in the kitchen, right?”

“No. Anything more advanced than basic porridge, soup, bread and stew is a invitation for the food getting ruined or inedible. There is people who claims that Galadhil can stand to eat his own wife's food due to the cooking of his grandmother.”       

Dior choose to not say anything, knowing how Farien could react if someone insulted her Silvan cooking simply because she was not born or raised in Doriath herself.                   

“I have ensured that a warm bath will be waiting for you later after dinner, Dior,” Nimloth revealed while entering the chamber where her lover and grandfather was eating. Well hidden in a pocket between her hips and long shirt was a small set of freshly made sandwiches, already filled with a generous amount of sliced cheese and egg salad, since she did her best to give Dior some extra food behind the backs of those who wanted the young Queen to lose the weight she had needed to regain after the poisoning earlier this year. Clearly, they failed to realize that Dior could fall sick from malnutrition if they kept giving her the current amount of food she was given at each meal.       

“Thank you, Nimloth.” Dior thanked her while Nimloth helped to slightly loosen the big fabric belt her fellow handmaidens had tied far too tight around Dior's waist to the point of that she nearly was unable to properly breathe. And eating was difficult as well when it was tied like that, so now Dior could enjoy the meal a little better.  

 

~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

“I have waited the whole day for this!” Dior sighed in relief as she undressed herself after Nimloth had loosened all the lacing strings and did not bother to be gentle while kicking the dress into the legs of a small reading chair close to the fireplace. In the corner of her eye, she noticed that Nimloth had carefully pulled the curtains despite it being only early evening.    

“No one disturb us for the rest of the evening, I even threatened your other handmaidens from trying to come here since many of them have a bad habit of gossip things of pure nonsense! And the last thing we need is any misunderstanding of things that noble-born maidens here in Doriath are not encouraged to do before the wedding night!” Nimloth said in a tone which revealed her own annoyance over being the leader of those younger handmaidens, who all came from high-ranked noble families but seemed to not have been raised to have much thought about how words and actions could affect others.   

“Shall we see if some time in the bath may pleasure you, dearest?”

She had guessed correctly; Dior was in rather desperate need of this kind of tenderness since they only had the chance to properly pleasure each other when Dior slept over at Elmo's house, where they did not need to worry about spying eyes or ears.   

Nimloth noticed the tense set of shoulders and reached out. As the basin was slowly filled with water she started run her fingers over Dior's skin to slowly make them relax under the massage. She always admired the firm muscles. Her lover's physics had taken after Beren, noticeable through years of physical exercise and learning the sword. Quite different from herself, who rarely left Doriath despite being a good rider. Under her hand Dior's body was a symbol of strength, the perfect blend of Elvish softness and her father's fortitude.

“One thing that I never could understand, is why the noble daughters insist on trying to be as slim as they can. No, I prefer this strength you have, Dior, both in spirit and soul. You remind me of the tales I used to hear from my family, about how my mother and my other foremothers had to help their male relatives in heavy work for survival, a too slim body like on the noble daughters would never give them enough strength for all the tasks that needed to be done over one day. No, I felt much joy at first seeing you train with your father and having a healthy appetite once the first worrying days after your birth had passed. Your poor milk mother had her hands up with trying to have you leave some milk left for her own baby,” Nimloth smiled, using the Sinda term for a wet nurse.

For a moment, Dior tensed up in her whole body. Again, those memories of her mother frowning at seeing her young daughter eat a lot more food than what Luthien herself did, and giving Beren disappointed looks whatever he laughed and encouraged their only child to eat her shade of the food until that she was full. While she had never been a chubby child past infancy, Luthien had worried about Dior eating too much, something that had caused some bitter tension once Dior entered puberty and needing more food for her changing body.  

“Thanks…” Dior responded somewhat uncertain, before turning around so she faced Nimloth without needing to look over her shoulder.

Even with the underdress and thin leggings still on, it was very clear that Nimloth would never be mistaken for a mortal woman.

First it was that glow which all Elves had, though Dior could not recall any memory of Luthien having it despite recalling some other very early memories pretty well otherwise. Second, that androgynous body shape that made it rather difficult to see if it was a female or male Elf at first, but thanks to her age and maturity there was a few small hints to her femininity if one knew where to look, though not in the same manner as a mortal since Nimloth had no signs of motherhood on her body yet that was the most common way to tell a unwed maiden and a married She-elf apart.  

Her Sinda-Silvan lineage gave Nimloth a rare exotic look in Doriath, where Sindar of Teleri origins was the dominant part of the population and where either black or pale blonde hair was the most common. Brown hair was more rare, and straight hair more common than the soft wavy hair Nimloth had. With their arms close to each other, the difference in skin colour was brought out.  

Nimloth was perfect. Too perfect.

Forever a reminder of what people insisted that Dior lacked in appearance, the acting as if she deliberately dishonored Luthien merely by not inheriting the famed beauty of her mother. The somewhat careless words that she had grown unnaturally by following the nature of her mortal blood.

Where Nimloth had flawless skin, Dior had old scars from childhood nearly everywhere on arms and legs. While not uncomfortable about the scars, and the not so well-hidden mutters of that it could not be natural with Dior having kept herself somewhat slim upwards thanks to her daily training and work at Tol Galen, yet had a less defined waist and hips that had grown wider as she went through that much hated and troublesome puberty. Long arms, and similar long legs that did not end in dainty feet. It was not without reason that she had been likened to a newborn foal as a child, with  rather long limbs for her age.

“How am I going to tell that I feels like a common duck among beautiful swans here in Doriath….” Dior thought for herself, wishing once more that she was not surrounded by such perfect beings all the time. No offensive to Nimloth or her family, but Dior seriously longed to see people that stood out like herself as a contrast to the royal court.     

 

Once the bathtub was filled, big enough to fit both of them in, Nimloth removed her remaining clothes and joined Dior in the hot water. The earlier massage had helped her relax in the shoulders, and now the water did it for all her body. Nimloth, who had hoped for the mood to be enough for a simple kiss, got disappointed when Dior barely reacted on getting the tip of her ear kissed.

Not that the young Queen leaned back in protest, but she seemed...worried and absent-minded. The touch of a hand along her arms and front seemed to make her remember where they were, but not enough. Dior even hissed like a shocked cat as reaction when Nimloth placed a kiss on one of her nipples.    

“Dior, we are here to enjoy ourselves. You have enough time for politics tomorrow.” Nimloth complained when Dior looked at her strangely.

Lately she had trouble to steer Dior's thought's away from her far too busy schedule. At every turn she found another topic that needed to be discussed and remembered later on. Eggs on the breakfast table brought up worries of a farmer that the loss of the girdle had lead to an increased fox population.                

Just like she had refused the oils Nimloth wanted to apply to warm her skin, since she declared it had more use as medical salve and that she would not waste precious resources in times of unrest.

“Please don't use that tone with me," Dior sent Nimloth a pointed look, not too happy over getting the cold hand on her back like that. "You sound far too much like my mother, when you do.”

 

Knowing that Dior had hated it then Luthien rebuked her daughter for something, Nimloth tried to use another way.                        

This time she tried to be more careful. Nimloth sneaked her hands up and touched Dior’s shoulders.

“Should I do something about the knots in your back?” she wanted to know and nudged Dior to turn around. “You are too tense.”

It took a while, but reluctantly Dior did as Nimloth requested. With a deep breath Dior tried to settle and tilted her head forwards as the clever hands began to work. Yet despite the soothing touches that did help her to relax a bit, Dior wasn’t able to quiet her mind.

There was too much to do, too much to organize and to prepare for that she barely notices Nimloth's presence behind her.

“Stop it,” Dior mumbled as Nimloth reached around her torso to fondle her breasts and swatted her hand away.

There may have been a time, where she would have enjoyed the attention. They had shared bath before and in the past Dior would have arched into Nimloth's touch by now.  

Yet today she shies away from it. Less because of her appearance, though the reminder of her mother did not help to set the mood. Rather it was the many little and yet also very important tasks that she simply had no time to take care of today that demand her attention now. Not to mention that the quiet and the lack of people around her gave her the opportunity to sort through her thoughts and form new arguments.

With a hum, Dior drew her knees up and settled her chin upon them. With so many guests in her realm, more visitors than Doriath had seen in the last centuries, she should find a way to make use of the skills the Noldor possessed. Despite the danger of her people feeling insulted that strangers interfering in their work, the opportunity was too good to pass it up.

Maybe she could phrase it as counteracting boredom that was bound to come up if the refugees felt too confined in the area granted to them?

“No, that could paint them as trouble markers, yet demanding a payment for the food they eat is just dangerous … Nimloth! ” Dior almost shouted the last word and flinched away from the woman behind her. “Can you not see that you are distracting me? This is important.”

Dior didn’t notice the brief look of hurt and irritation in Nimloth's face. All she had done was a guide a finger between her lover’s legs, yet the Queen of Doriath had other things in her mind. Instead of apologizing as Nimloth half expected her to, Dior climbed out of the bath and reached for a coat, already mumbling to herself where she could find ink and paper.

With a deep sigh, Nimloth watched her lover leave the room without receiving a word of thanks. For a moment she pondered if she should go after her, yet Nimloth decided against it. Obviously the Queen of Doriath was not done for the day yet, but she saw no reason to waste warm water.   

 

~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

Although she did not say it openly, it worried Nimloth a lot over what had happened in the bath. True, Dior had changed a lot over the six years that they had been lovers, gaining more self confidence in bed since the first times, but this was not a good sign.    

“Despite all my efforts, she kept getting distracted...am I... becoming unimportant in her daily life!?”

Nimloth did understand that Dior was very busy as a Queen, and could not waste time that rather could be used on something that needed her attention. Yet the coronation had changed something in their relationship; her exhausting duties as a Queen also had caused Dior to sometimes have a such bad mood that she nearly lashed out on people around her.

 

“Nimloth?” Dior asked somewhere in the darkness from the royal bed, also too big for one single person to sleep in, Nimloth herself laid in the smaller bed for a court-lady, that kind of bed that could be pulled out from below the royal bed. “How...come that you, as the great-grandniece of my grandfather, is still unmarried? As far as I know, She-elves in your age are both mothers and grandmothers, even. Did something happen in the past that made you shun marriage?”

“I did have a future husband once. Pleasant-looking, kind and gentle, of reasonable good lineage...pretty much everything a maiden would want in a husband. But there was a lacking spark between us, we both realized that as time passed. And when we went to talk in private about it...he admitted to be just like myself, able to see the opposite gender as friends but preferring to putting on a green gown. In the end, he pretended that he was too scared of Thingol to be comfortable in marrying me and left Doriath. Would not surprise me if he found a male lover somewhere if he still is alive.”   

If anything, Dior was not surprised at all that some gentlemen honestly had been unable to stand the idea of being so closely bound to the royal family, even if Elmo and his family members was much easier to get along with. She knew that Thingol had not always been as she had known him, but given how impossible it was for her to stop seeing her grandfather in a negative view, she felt more pleasure over how Thingol had been named as the main reason to the failed betrothal.       

“That one about a green gown is from your mother, I know that she spoke something similar when we revealed our relationship to your family,” Dior commented in a loud whisper with a faint laugh in her voice.

“That one, along with favoring a different arrow in hunting is a common euphemism any proper hunter in Beleriand outside Doriath would know and understand about someone's sexuality, I bet that even the Noldor should have a word of similar meaning. As you are willing to accept a husband in bed, I think you can safely be listed as people who cuts both ways.”

The attempt to hit her with a tossed pillow, was all the response Dior could do because she did not really see where Nimloth were in the room. Either because of her youth, or Mannish blood, so did Dior have weaker ability to see in distance or darkness than Elves.

“And none of my following suitors seemed willing to accept that I would be a wife in name only, I could see it in their eyes. They wanted the usual, a wife to birth children and someone to care for the household. That was not a life I wanted, so took the place of being a handmaiden to lady Melian and tried to be so good on it that she would not want me to leave though marriage. As much as I would have wanted help your mother to be less naive about how the world really works, I sadly often had my hands tied.”

Dior said nothing, but realized the unspoken words. Being about three centuries older than Luthien, it was only natural that Nimloth had wanted to help her younger relative be less idealistic in a way that possibly would not have caused so much trouble later when Beren showed up. Being so much down-to-earth in personality, Nimloth had secretly worried how her sheltered upbringing would come to harm Luthien eventually, and it had indeed in the long run.  

“Too bad, I think you would have been a good mother, Nimloth.”

“I like children, yes, but I prefer to not have to get pregnant to having them. I would gladly be a foster mother if that was possible. Just because a she-elf is said to have good hand with children, does not always mean that we want to be mothers.”

A sigh somewhere in the bed, followed by the sounds that revealed Dior turning around for another sleeping position. If only that was possible for her, without needing to actually marry.

 

~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

The next day were as most days, and yet not. Elmo, after suffering a extended meeting where he could literally sense the unspoken ambition between the rivalrous noble families in getting a son chosen as the Royal Consort, got a minor surprise at seeing one young noble storm out from the palace gardens, one of the few places in Menegroth that was not underground like the rest of the capitol.

“How did the meeting with the Queen go?” he asked out of habit rather than any interest nowadays, because he already knew how it would end. And going by the strains on the front of the fine robes, it seemed like Dior had found a different use for the hot tea than originally planned.  

“I have never heard about a maiden who can not be courted with flowers or fine jewelry! She will only have herself to blame if she remains unwed for her whole life!”

Unfortunately the last part had not been spoken quietly, and thus Elmo was not surprised by seeing a soft cake be tossed into the back of the head on the younger Elf. Once the noble had stormed off, Elmo took his time to walk out in the garden.   

 

“One of those more “slow-witted” suitors you already have rejected and they failed to get the hint?” he wondered, to which Dior nodded while still having a  facial expression of being ill-tempered at the moment.

In her hands, a half-finished tunic in plain white linen fabric were slowly being sewn together at the arms. Dior knew the basics of sewing and how to mend clothes, but she had never mastered the art of embroidery as most of her daily work in her childhood home had been to help out in various chores that was not too difficult for a young child. Not even entering puberty had changed that. Or becoming Queen, for the matter. At her side, Nimloth proved herself to be Galadhon's granddaughter by having the same bored facial expression he often wore while emptying her cup of tea, a sign on that she was not pleased by her lover's various suitors.        

“Your Highness. Chief captain Mablung is back from his mission,” a servant announced with a bow, before the Marchwarden arrived himself. He looked tired, and judging from how he moved, he must have allowed himself a quick bath and a fresh set of clothes before hurrying to the palace.

“Welcome back, Mablung. I hope that your mission to the Eastern Territories went well?” Dior asked in a gentle voice, but not hiding a unspoken command for him to speak the plain truth.    

“Yes, your Highness. I believe that it could have gone better, but given the late King's policy about not getting involved against Morgoth and...other events in the past, it is likely the best treatment I could be given for now,” he responded while bowing his head down in respect. Dior did not need to ask what other events he implied to, the very frosty relationship between Doriath and Nargothrond before its fall had not exactly been a secret.

“Lord Maedhros tasked me with giving this letter to you, my lady. Under the unspoken threat the he would not be pleased if someone else managed to get hold of the letter and read it before yourself,” Mablung spoke before handing over the letter Maedhros had given him.            

Whatever the letter said, it seemed to raise a big attention in Dior's eyes, for she did not reread the letter once, but twice as if not wanting to miss the tiniest details. Finally, after several minutes of slowly growing tension, she closed the letter and placed it in a well-hidden pocket in her collar. Gathering her long shirt in both hands as a sign of being about to leave, the half-Elven spoke in a clear voice:

“Nimloth, please find Oronder and Gildor among the Nargothrond refugees at once, the letter mentions something that is bound to affect them all. Mablung, find out which ones among the Marchwarden that have the best skills in fighting and is able to defend people well. Great-uncle Elmo, can aunt Nenien and your house maids check over my clothing for ones that is the least likely to be ruined under a longer time?”            

Old as he was, Elmo could immediately suspect that she was planning something that most likely would not be popular with the nobility at the royal court. And since she had mentioned a growing wish to leave Doriath for a while without truly abandoning her people, a need to simply rest from her duties as a Queen and regain both physical and mental strength that was slowly drained here in Doriath.

“Are you planning to travel anywhere, young lady?”  

“If I am to visit Amon Ereb for a needed meeting about how Doriath is to fit into this changed world with no protection from my grandmother, and arrive at the offered time of summer solstice with no delays, I need to leave within seven days!” she called over her shoulder before vanishing towards the corridor that led to her own chambers to personally go through her old clothes from Tol Galen to see which ones that was best for travel.

 

~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

As one could expect, the news of the Queen planning to leave for Amon Ereb did not stay quiet for long. There are always spying eyes and ears in the palace, which Dior used as a bait to spread the word. But this time, she refused to back down when nearly the whole royal court tried to block her way on the way to her private chambers.

Silence!” Dior didn’t yell, but her raised voice carried her anger well enough. “Stop talking about my future marriage. Listen for once. Pretend all you want that the Grindle is still here and protecting Doriath. I am leaving for Amon Ereb regardless of your many foolish protests. As Queen of Doriath I need to ensure my Kingdom will have allies against the next attack from the Black Enemy. I refuse to allow to let this realm become a simple tale of the past, because I did not have standing army to defend it.”

It was rare for Dior to lose her temper like that, but in moments like this that doubted that Dior was indeed the granddaughter of Thingol. Luthien's paternity had never been under question and thus it became impossible to think that Dior was a human changeling meant to pose as the child of the deceased Princess of Doriath, especially as there had been no other children born from her parents' marriage. Open accusations towards her being a changeling was a invitation to end up in deep trouble, since as the Queen she was most powerful person in the Kingdom.  

“My great-niece is right, without the Girdle of Queen Melian we need to build up our armies again in order to defend Doriath. However, as my brother sadly neglected that part of our sociality, we are hopelessly behind the current times in both necessary weapons, battle training and soldiers. And no, the Marchwardens will not be enough as a defense against the Noldor or the Dark Lord, should they choose to attack,” Elmo spoke in a stern voice that revealed his personal disappointment over how Thingol had allowed the Marchwarden to remain the only true warriors in Doriath over time.      

“In case of a siege, we can not be sure that the harvest will be enough to feed everyone. If we suffer a serious drought or flood that will ruin the crops, there is the risk that famine will crush us. It would inevitably lead to social unrest. Parents will fear that their children will not have enough to eat when there is less food than what we already have distributed in rations since the coronation,” Galadhon added in quickly, not allowing the present courtiers to protest since it was the plain truth.

Dior may be unpopular among the common people for the food rations, but the mere thought of the situation becoming worse than it already was made people keep silent about their complaints. For now, at least.

“Remember, the Silmaril, which was the bride-price the late King demanded for my mother, was originally made by the House of Fëanor, which is now led by his eldest son Maedhros. For them it’s more than just a heirloom and our already weakened Kingdom can not afford to fight battles over it.” Dior recounted, throwing an unspoken question into the room that was impossible to ignore.   

“A feud over a gemstone seems unwise...” one courtier attempted to say. It showed that he was unnerved by what the Queen just had said.

“Then I have to thank my dear grandfather for putting me into this exact situation,” Dior responded with clear sarcasm as she mentioned Thingol with a subtle shake of her head. “I hope, you are aware that he hoped my father would be killed in the attempt to retrieve the jewel.”  

Before anymore protests came, Dior took the chance to walk away as quickly as her long dress allowed. Not the short, delicate steps the ladies at court walked with, but the closest she could get to the long steps she was used to walk with from Tol Galen.  

 

~X~X~X~X~X~X

 

It pleased Dior a lot more to see Gildor waiting close to her private chamber, talking with Nimloth who must have gone herself to get him.

“Your Highness called?” he asked with a bow, showing once again that he had all the elegance of being raised at a royal court himself even if he had no true blood-ties to the ruling family.

“The letter from Lord Maedhros arrived a few hours ago. He made me an offer to visit Amon Ereb around the midsummer solstice and meet in person in order to discuss the growing threat from Angband,” Dior began. “It’s a good opportunity for your people to move refugees across the continent in safety, in case there are families who desire to return to Noldorin territory. Yet I must urge you to hurry. I intent to leave Menegroth within a few days and that does not leave you much time to gather all necessities.”

Her speech had all the information Gildor needed to come up several plans and back-up plans right on the spot. The surviving Noldor from Nargothrond had not received the warmest of welcomes from the Sindar and it would not take them much to prepare for travel.  

“I shall inform them right away,” Gildor said and added, still using Celebrimbor's mother name, “Orodner spoke of following to Amon Ereb, he has distant kin serving the Seven Lords. Families once split up in order to serve the three main strongholds of the Noldor equally. But that was before tragedy ruined almost all of our realms.”   

Of course it was white lies interwoven with some truth. Curufin had requested his son to stay behind in Nargothrond so they could have a person to gain information from. Besides, that had also been a attempt to spare Celebrimbor from the deep trouble Curufin and Celegorm had found themselves into after Finrod's death.

“He and the others are welcome to follow me to Amon Ereb if they wishes. Better we travel in a large group than two smaller ones, given the dangers of orcs and everything else a small travel group have to face,” Dior assured with her best attempt to a gentle smile. Much to her inner relief it seemed to work, given that Gildor returned the smile.   

“That offer shall be much welcomed, my Lady, for the exact reasons you mentioned yourself. Those times are a invitation to get a lone person killed if they do not travel in a large group and with armed guards for protection.”

She could understand the unspoken warning. Orcs and other beings who came from Angband. Or even people who held a grudge against her parents or grandparents, making her a target when no one of the four were around anymore in Beleriand. Although Beren and Luthien never had spoken of it in close details, Beren because he had been safe from such worry as a man and Luthien because she never had any such experiences before the Quest, Dior knew that by being born as a female, she was in bigger risk for assaults and attempts of a forced marriage because a Mannish daughter of high social status sadly could become a prey of Men with less than honest intentions, especially if she also was the only child in the marriage. And as the Queen of Doriath, she would be a ultimate prize for such people if she was not careful.