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Legolas, Ion nîn

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He'd say "I'm gonna be like you, Dad
You know I'm gonna be like you"

--"Cat's in the Cradle," by Harry Chapin

 

 

 

North of Rivendell, Eradior; Spring of 2943 T.A. (Home of the Dúnedain)

Halbarad, the current acting Chieftain of the Dúnedain, was very tall, with dark unruly hair, and a full beard, which he allowed to grow unchecked during the winter to provide warmth for this face, then trimmed it short in the summer to accommodate the warmer temperatures.  He was forty years of age, which is young for a Dúnedain to be Chief, but as a member of the House of Arathorn I, and a cousin to Arathorn II, he was the rightful ruler of the Rangers of the North.

But he wasn’t.

Arathorn and Hal had been best friends since childhood, and spent their entire lives together playing, learning swordsmanship and archery, riding, hunting.  Both boys grew up at Chief Arador’s feet learning the history and lore of their people, from the arrival of Elendil upon the shores of Gondor to the failure of Isildur to do away with the One Ring.  Both boys felt immense pride at the accomplishments of their ancestors, and both vowed they would never, ever be tempted to keep such a thing!

“Do not be so quick to judge such matters, boys,” Arador warned.  “It is well that you are proud of who you are, but never allow yourselves to become so arrogant you think yourselves above danger!  Learn and respect the strengths of your enemies, and you can overcome them.  A true Dúnedain is vigilant and honorable, seeks wisdom in all things.  His sword is always ready to protect the defenseless, aid the weak, and serve the Valar.”  Arathorn’s father smiled down at them.  “Do you promise to do this?”

“Yes, Father!”

“Yes, Uncle!”

Ten years ago, in the year 2933 of the Third Age, Halbarad went out into the wilderness with Elladan and Elrohir, twin sons of Elrond, and his Chieftain.   

After the third night, they were sitting around the campfire while the Elves kept watch, when Arathorn asked to speak with him privately. 

“My foresight tells me I will not remain your Chieftain for very long,” Arathorn told him gravely.

“Do not speak such nonsense,” Halbarad scoffed.  “You’re merely affected by the gloom of this forest, that’s all.  Tomorrow, the sun will shine, and you will see the foolishness of this notion.”

“Halbarad,” his cousin grabbed his arm, and looked at him intensely.  “Maybe you are right, and maybe I am, but I must have this promise from you:  Should anything happen to me, you must take my wife and my son, willing or no, to Rivendell, and you must make sure they ‘disappear.’”

“What are you talking about?  I cannot—”

“You can, and you will, Hal.  You have to.  My son will be the hope of Men on Middle Earth, though in my heart I know I will not live to see him grow into manhood.”

“What will happen to the boy?”

“That I cannot see.  All I know is, he must live, but until he is grown, his existence must remain a secret from the Evil One, or he will be struck down in his youth. 

“But that Enemy perished when Isildur—"

“No, Hal.  The One we will not name has not perished, as the old legends tell us.  He is gaining strength, even now, and this world will see him again.   This Enemy knows Isildur has an heir that will be his doom.”

“How would Aragorn be the doom of Sau—”

“Do not speak his name!  He has ears everywhere!”  Arathorn sighed.  “Whether it is my son, or one of his line, I cannot say, but I do know that if my son cannot fulfill his destiny, then all of Middle Earth will fall!”  He squeezed Halbarad’s arm.  “Please, Hal!  Give me your word of honor!”

 “I promise,” he looked at Arathorn’s earnest face, and gave his vow.  “If that terrible day should come, I will do as you ask, and deliver him to Rivendell or die in the attempt.”

“Thank you,” the Chieftain’s shoulders relaxed a bit.  “But I must ask even more of you, and this will be difficult.”

“Which is?”

“You must deliver him, then convince the others that Aragorn did not survive.  Our enemies will no longer hunt him, if they hear he is dead; do you understand?  Only you and the sons of Elrond must know the truth; lest Rivendell be attacked.  It could also mean the lives of our entire clan!”

Halbarad was insulted on behalf of his companions.  “We are people of honor, Arathorn!  You know they would die before they revealed his whereabouts!”

“Yes, I know they would.  I have every faith in our people, Hal, but it is not a matter of trust.  You must keep this secret for their safety as well!  If the Enemy hears that the line of Kings is no more, he will abandon his search and our people could be a safer.  If he has any inkling the prophecy could still be fulfilled, he will continue to capture and torture them for information.”  Arathorn pulled out a scroll from inside his tunic and handed it to him.  “This officially names you Regent, should I perish, and names you Chieftain, upon the death of my son.  Take it.”

The Ranger was heartsick.  “I cannot lie to our people – I will not!”

“You will be protecting them!” Arathorn became angry.  “Stop thinking like a Ranger, and start thinking like a Chieftain!  You must protect the true heir of the line of Kings, and they will understand!  Do this!” He pleaded. “Promise me, Halbarad!”

Halbarad, considered his cousin’s words, then nodded.  “It will be as you say; I promise.  But I pray that day never comes.”

 

But it did.

Three days later, an Orc sent an arrow through Arathorn’s eye, killing him instantly.  There was no time for last words or goodbyes, and the Ranger held him in his arms and wept for a long time.  Then he wiped his eyes, and brought his Chieftain’s body back to Gilraen and held her as she mourned, and comforted their son with soothing words and kisses.

The day after the burial, Halbarad, Elladan, and Elrohir accompanied Arathorn’s wife and child to Rivendell, and held a meeting with Lord Elrond.  He told the Lord of Imladris of Arathorn’s visions regarding his son, and of his last request.”

“I agree,” said the Elf-Lord, “for I, too, have foreseen this.  If the boy is not proclaimed dead to his people, the Orcs will be relentless, and you will all be killed.  He and his mother will remain, be given new names, and you must do as your Chieftain asks.”  He put his hand on Halbarad’s shoulder.  “Arathorn is right to ask this of you; as a Chieftain, the safety of your people must come first.  As of this day, Aragorn, son of Arathorn is dead.  From this day onward, he will be called ‘Estel.’”

“’Hope.’” Halbarad repeated softly.  “Thank you for telling me this.  May I visit?”

Elrond gave him a grave look.  “No. It is too great a risk.  Until Estel comes of age, no Dúnedain will enter the House of Elrond.  If there is great danger or need, you can consider Lothlórien to be your safe haven, but my City must be off limits.  I will send a message to the lord and Lady informing them of this.”

“Yes, My Lord Elrond,” the Dúnedain and the twins bowed their heads. “It will be as you say.”

“Now, bring the boy and Gilraen to the Healing Halls, along with a change of clothing for him.”

Aragorn and his mother were sent for, and after some quick explanations, they reported as per the Elf-Lord’s instructions.

Elrond spoke kindly to the boy, as he stroked his brow and murmured the losta-luith, which sent him to sleep.  They tore the boy's clothing to pieces, then Halbarad took a deep breath, sliced along the child’s forearm, and tearfully soaked the rags with Aragorn’s blood.  Elrond then healed the wound as if it had never been, and he woke up smiling at his mother.

“Are you well?” Elrond asked him.

He nodded shyly at the tall, dark-haired Elf, then looked between him and the twins, noticing the family resemblance.

“I am Elrond,” he chuckled.  “I am Elladan and Elrohir’s father, but you can call me Ada, if you wish.  You and your mother will live with me, now.” He smiled.

Three days later, the Ranger took his leave of the Lady Gilraen (now called Lalaith), and picked up little Aragorn (Estel).   

“Hal crying.” the boy said, as he touched the tears on his face.

“That is because I must go away for a little while, and I will miss you very much.” Hal sniffed.  “Now, promise me you will look after your mother, then kiss me goodbye.”

“’Bye,” Aragorn hugged him tight and have him a sloppy kiss on the cheek.  “Be good.”

“I will.”  Halbarad laughed, then handed him back to his mother, mounted his horse and left without looking back, so they wouldn’t see the pain on his face.

Now it was time to make careful preparations. 

The new Chieftain, and the sons of Elrond found a small clearing, built a fire and camped for the night.  The next morning, they carefully staged a violent scene, and threw around the bloodied bits of the boy’s clothing.  Orcs not only could smell the difference between the blood of an animal and that of a child of Man, they could also distinguish those with Númenorean blood in them, particularly the line of Isildur. 

Now Aragorn was dead to all but a select few.

Then Halbarad went back to his people, and that night they all gathered in the Longhouse of his Village, to hear his report.   The sons of Elrond stood silent beside him, as he swallowed hard, then told them that young Aragorn had been dragged off by Wargs in the night, and while there was no sign of his remains, his bloodied clothing told them everything. 

Elladan and Elrohir helped the Chieftain bear his people’s profound grief, and Halbarad recalled his late friend’s words:  there was a vast difference between what it meant to be a Ranger, and what it meant to be Chieftain. 

Every night, he prayed to the Valar for the little boy in Rivendell, and hoped his people would forgive him.

He would not see Aragorn again for another eighteen years. 

 

 

 24th of October 2943 T.A.

“Halbarad?  You asked to see me?”  The Elf named “Beleg,” entered Halbarad’s study.

“Yes, I did, my friend.  Please,” he indicated to the other chair, “have a seat.”

The Chieftain eyed the young Elf with concern.  While it was true that this Ellon had lived many more years on Middle Earth than he had, Beleg was just over 1000 years old, which was relatively young in the eyes of his people, and clearly something was troubling him.

“I have noticed a change in you since last June, Beleg, and while I don't wish to pry, I see you are distracted and pensive.

Beleg was startled and seemed embarrassed.  “I apologize; I never meant to be a burden—”

“No; you misunderstand me, Mellon.  I'm not disappointed in your performance with us, quite the opposite in fact.  You have been a great asset to us, and I will accept any and all help to protect my people.  You’ve never shirked your duties, and have often done more than what was expected.  Would that all my Rangers were as dedicated as you!” he laughed.  “Still, I think the hard work has helped you, too.” He stretched out his legs and folded his hands across his stomach.  “When you first came to me, to ask permission to join us, we had a conversation as to your circumstances, which I will not repeat.  But I also noticed a sense of grief in you, and a desperation to ‘outrun’ it.  This was true, wasn’t it?”

The blonde Elf stared at him for a long time, then gave a small nod. “It is true,” he said, quietly.

“Since then, I’d like to think you and I have become friends?  I respect your abilities, you know this, but I also respect you as a person; you have many admirable qualities, Beleg.”

“Thank you, Chieftain.”

“Please, call me Halbarad, better yet, Hal.” He shrugged. “I asked you here as a friend, not as a subordinate.”  He smiled.  He crossed his legs, and steepled his fingers.  “You’ve changed since this summer.”

“I have?”

“Yes.  I wish I could say you were happier, and in some ways I think you are, but since the warmer months, I’ve seen that something else is troubling you.  Perhaps it always did, and you are ready to face it now.”  He smiled and said in a kindly tone, “I’m here if you wish to talk about it; you have my vow it will go no further.”

The Elf sat very still for several minutes, and Halbarad though the Elf was might get up and leave, but Beleg said, softly, “I saw my mother, at the Tarnin Austa this year.”

“What; you mean the Summer Solstice?” He asked in surprise.  “I know you Elves celebrate it; Elladan and Elrohir usually do what you did: go off in the woods and look at the stars.”

“This is true.”

“Yet this year, they said they had to leave, and go to Rivendell.  Something about ‘Spirits.’”

“Yes.  It is the Elenion Panilwë Húmë.”

“’Walk Among the Stars?’” Halbarad translated. 

“That is correct.  It only happens once a millennium, when the planets and stars are aligned in the sky in certain pattern.  If the Elenion Panilwë Húmë occurs when the night is free of clouds, the legends say a veil is lifted, and we can often see those who have gone before.”

“Well, they certainly didn't tell me that,” He grinned.  “Your kind have many customs, often secret ones, and I’ve learned over the years not to ask.” He eyed the Elf curiously. “I do know that your mother has been gone for a long time. You say you saw her?”

Beleg swallowed.  “We spoke.”

“That’s…  extraordinary.” The Chieftain’s eyes widened.  “Do you wish to talk about that?”

“We spoke of many things.  There was someone I…  left behind, in the…  where I am from.  She was someone I had come to greatly care for, and I thought I was in love with her.  Perhaps I still am, in a way, but she did not share the depth of my feelings, and only loved me as a friend.  She loved someone else, and he was killed, though I tried to protect them both.”

“Both of them?”

“I wanted to save him for her; if I could not have her, I did not want to see her unhappy.”

Halbarad looked intensely.  “Many people would not be so honorable or generous, yet since I have come to know you, I am not surprised.   I am sorry for both of you.”

“Thank you,” the Elf nodded.  “I admit, that was a large part of why I came.  The thought of staying and watching her grieve, knowing she would never love me, was too difficult.”

“Is she well?  I know Elves do not manage grief like Men do; is she in danger?”

“They did not marry, so she was spared the agony of the Rista-Goeol.”

“Ah.  The ‘Terrible Severing.’  I do know a bit about that.  Still, I’m sorry for her pain, and yours.  But you said there was more that you and your mother spoke of?”

“We spoke of my father.”  From the change in Beleg’s face and his posture, it was obvious it was a contentious subject. 

“And?” Halbarad pressed. 

“She urged me to reconsider my opinion of him.”  The Elf said stiffly, as he stared into space.

“And?” the Chieftain repeated.

“I… do not know if I can.  She talked of him as a loving husband and father, but I do not remember him that way.  I only know an Adar who could not stand to be near me, because I resemble her.”

“Was he abusive toward you?”

“No!” the Elf said, quickly, then shrugged.  “No, but in a way what he did was worse; he avoided me.  I was raised by his Aide, Galion, and a nanny.  There is a genuine love between us, but they could not take the place of my father and we both knew it."

“I have heard of Galion.  Still, it sounds to me like you were looked after well, and never starved for affection.  Were any of your caretakers unkind?”

“Oh, no.  Galion and Nuriel, were strict, but loving.  I am grateful for that, but as much as I love them both, I wanted my father to love me, and he simply did not.” Beleg swallowed.  “He should have been…”

 “Better?”

“Yes!” the Elf said angrily, and pounded the arm of his chair.  “I was his child!”

“And I take it your mother would like to see the two of you reconcile?”  The Chieftain got up to pour them both something to drink.  “Here,” he handed the Elf a glass.  “You look like you need this.”

“Thank you.”  The Elf accepted the cup gratefully and drank it down. 

Halbarad refilled his glass, then took his seat again.  “It’s only natural for your mother to want things to be better between the two of you.  That's not surprising; she loves you both and wants to see you happy.”

“Yes.” The Elf's mouth was in a straight line.  “But I cannot do as she asks.  And why should I?”

“Perhaps she is not asking this for your father’s sake, but for your own, Beleg.  Have you considered this?”

“I do not need him, and he certainly does not need me.  He has remarried, and has a new family now.  He shows them all the affection he would not give me, and I am told they are all very happy.” The Elf snorted in bitterness and hurt.

“Remarried?  I didn’t know Elves could do that.”

“Uncle sent me a letter, explaining.  Apparently there were some factors that the Valar took into consideration, to allow it, and my mother told me she herself petitioned to have their bond severed, so he could love again.”  

“She what?  Can that be done?”

“Apparently.  Then Mithrandir performed the ceremony himself.”

“The Wizard?  He was there?  Certainly, that adds validity to this situation, for the Grey Pilgrim does not wander aimlessly, nor are any of his words idle.” 

“It matters not to me.  All that took place after I left, and I think it is better if we both lead separate lives; there is no place for me anymore, and I am done trying to please him.”

 “Ah.  So that is the real reason why you are here with us.  To avoid your father.” Halbarad looked concerned.  “To hide.”

“How can you say that?” The Elf was furious.  “I have done everything you asked of me and more!  I have patrolled the lands around the village and killed countless Orcs to keep your people safe!  I went to Gundabad to spy for you!  I would not call that ‘hiding!’”

“And yet?” The Dúnedain raised his eyebrows.

Beleg stared at him with his mouth open. 

“I do not mean to tease you, truly.” Hal sighed.  “Nor do I have any real answers or advice, but I think you may need to fully acknowledge the reasons why you came.  I think it would help you, Mellon.”

The Elf’s eyes filled, and he sat still for several minutes.  Then he said in a very quiet voice, “Maybe you are right.  Perhaps I left, because I was afraid.  Not of him, but of myself.”

“How so?”

“I have been angry with my father for many years, Halbarad.  I do not know how to feel any other way about him.  I think I was afraid if I stayed, my anger would turn into something worse.”

“Which would be what?”

“It would turn into hate,” he swallowed.  I think if that happens, there is no hope for us.  Even I realize that is not what I want.  I think…  it is better to stay away, because here, I do not feel the the hurt so much, and,” he swallowed.   “My fëa was weary with the weight of it all, Halbarad.  Maybe it always will be.”

 “So, what are your plans?”

“I honestly do not know.  I am not ready for another confrontation with my father, at this point; I know that much.  She said you were planning a trip to Rivendell, and that I should go with you.”

“Funny you should mention that.” Halbarad smiled.  “Lord Elrond sent me a message earlier in the year to make sure you came in the fall, so that is where we are going.  We leave in three days.”

“Elrond?  But the twins did not mention it.”

“They left before the message arrived.” He smiled.  “Have you ever been there?”

“No.  But my mother was born there, and I have always wanted to go.”

“Really?”

“She was a handmaiden to Lady Arwen, when she met my father.”  Beleg said.  “I met her briefly when we visited the Golden Wood, but she said very little of my mother.”

“Well, no; she wouldn’t, would she?”  Halbarad recalled their visit to the Golden Wood.  “No one in that land, save the Lord and Lady, and their grandchildren know the truth of you.  But of that I will say no more, except to express my wish that you find answers you seek; even to questions you haven’t asked.”

The Chieftain emptied his cup and stood.  “I’m afraid I’ve got to get back to work.”

The Elf stood and clasped his forearm.  “Thank you.”

“For what?  I did not tell you anything.” He shrugged, with a smirk.  “I just asked a few questions.  For now, you are dismissed, and I want you to take the rest of the day off, and pack all your things.”

"Thank you," the Elf got up to leave, then turned.  "Halbarad?"

"Yes?"

"It was... good to speak of things."

"I'm glad I could help," the Chieftain nodded.

After Beleg left his office, he was thoughtful for a time, but there was work to be done.

 

 

Just outside Rivendell, 2nd of November; 2943 T.A.

After riding for days through steep hills and basins, ravines and gullies, their party climbed up a hill through a thick copse of pine trees and stopped at the top of a cliff, just as the afternoon sun was turning into evening.

“Beleg!” The Chieftain of the Dúnedain called to the blonde Elf.  “Move to the front; I want to show you something!”

When Beleg maneuvered his horse through the group to join Halbarad, the man smiled and swept out his arm.  “Behold!  The secret valley of Rivendell; what do you think of it?”

The Elf followed his finger, then gasped at his first glimpse of the Last Homely House East of the Sea.

And oh, what a sight it was! 

“So, this is Imladris,” the Elf said in wonder.  He took in the bridges and the domes and the architecture, and shook his head.  “It is beautiful!”

“It is, indeed.”  He said to his friend.  “We will camp here for tonight.”

The Dúnedain quickly had a fire going, and made several lean-to’s for added shelter in case of rain.  Most of them sat around the fire, but Beleg took his supper and sat near the cliff to enjoy the view, and the Chieftain went to join him.

“Do you still have family in Rivendell?” Halbarad asked the Elf.

“Not that I know of.  Uncle told me that my mother’s older brother had been killed by Orcs, so my parents invited them to live with us.”

“Do you remember them?”

“Only a little.”  He smiled.  “I know I loved them, and they loved me. I remember lots of hugs, and kisses and bedtime stories…”

“Are they still with your father?”

“No.  After Nana died, they became too grieved and my father urged them to leave on the next ship.”

“Why?”

“Because he was worried about them.  I was told they were in danger.”

Halbarad thought about this for a moment.  “I have seen what happens to an Elf who is fading.  Have you?”

“No.”

“It’s a terrible and tragic sight, son.  If your father insist they leave, then he did them a kindness.”

“Perhaps,” the Elf shrugged.  “I suppose I would do the same.”

“So, your father not only lost his wife, but he also lost two very important people in his late wife’s life?  Aside from your ‘uncle,’ he had no one to help him?”

The Elf’s breathing shallowed.  “He had me.  I was always there, wanting to…”  There was a stony silence.  “He had me.  Until he didn’t.”

 “Perhaps he wanted it, but didn't know how, Mellon nîn.” Hal clapped him on the shoulder.  “Whatever his reasons, you deserved better.”

“Yes.”  Beleg looked away, and would say no more.

 

The next morning, they looked down into the valley and saw two riders coming up the narrow, zig-zag path to meet them: the sons of Elrond.

“Mae g'ovannen, Mellyn nîn!” Elladan said with a grin, as he got off his horse.  “Have you missed us?”

“I enjoyed the quiet,” the Chieftain rolled his eyes.

Elrohir came over and embraced Beleg.  “So, what do you think of our home?” he smiled.

“From what I can see, it is breathtaking.  I very much look forward to meeting your father.”

“That is well, for he is expecting you.” Elrohir grinned.

“Of course; he is expecting all of us.”

The twins said nothing, but gave him small, knowing smiles.

“What is it?” the blonde Elf looked at them, puzzled.

“Beleg?” Halbarad called softly.

The Elf turned toward him and met his eyes with surprise.  Halbarad was holding the reins of the Elf’s horse, which had been saddled, and loaded with his belongings.

“Did you wish for me to scout ahead?” Beleg asked.

“No, son.  We are not going to Imladris.  “You are.”

The look of shock and hurt on the Elf’s face pained the Chieftain deeply.  “I do not understand,” he said, his eyes wide with confusion. “I must leave you?”

“For now, yes.”

Have I displeased you?”

“Walk with me,” Halbarad said, not unkindly.  Then he handed the reins to Elladan, and led the young Elf out of earshot from the rest of the group, then put his hand on Beleg’s shoulder.  “I am not displeased with you.  On the contrary; I’ve considered it an honor to have you among us.” 

“But why did you come all this way?”

“I could have just sent you, that is true, but we all wanted to come and see you off, because…” the Chieftain’s throat tightened.  “Because you have become like a brother to us, and we will miss you, Mellon.”

“Why do you not come with me, even for a visit?”

“I have my reasons.” Halbarad sighed, then asked, in a low whisper.  “How many people here know that Beleg is not your real name?”

The Elf swallowed.  “You, and the sons of Elrond. That is all.”

“And you understand that while you were with us, revealing your true identity would have placed us all in danger?”

“Y-yes…  So, you are saying—”

“I am saying, you must trust me, and not ask questions.  All will be revealed in the fullness of time, by those wiser than you or I, do you understand?”

“If that is what you wish of me, then I will.”

“I have come to expect no less from you.”  The Chieftain sighed.  “I want you to know that we have treasured your time among us, Beleg.   You have lightened our burdens, which are many, and we are impressed by your skills as hunter, and as a warrior.  It is an honor to call you ‘friend,’ and we will feel your absence keenly.”   

Halbarad gestured toward the valley below, and gave the Elf an encouraging smile.  “Your mother sent you here for a reason, and for now, your path is leading you to a place we are not meant to follow.”

“Will I see you again?” Beleg’s eyes filled, and his voice was hoarse.

“We will meet again, and greet each other as if no time at all has passed, Mellon.   My foresight tells me we will be at each other’s side during perilous times, and your courage will be an example to others.”

The Elf pulled him into an embrace.  “I will miss you, Mellon nîn.  As a father you were to me, for a little while.”

“And as a son you have been to me.” Halbarad said softly, as he tightened the embrace, then stepped back.  “I have two things I would like you consider, as you continue on your journey. Firstly, is this: Those we look to for support, will often disappoint us, yet the Valar sends us what we need, often from unexpected places.  Be wise enough to look for it, and be thankful when it comes.”

“And the second?”  The Elf searched his face.

Halbarad held the young blonde’s face in his hands. “There is a difference between ‘will not,’ and ‘cannot.’”

“I do not understand.” Beleg was puzzled.

“You will.” He tapped his cheek.  “Now it’s time to say farewell to the rest of your friends, and start your next adventure!”

 

There were several rounds of hugs and lots of throat-clearing and rough voices, wishing him well.  “Send news, when you can!”

“You must do the same!” Beleg smiled as he became reconciled to his fate.  Then he mounted his horse and with a last wave, carefully led his horse down the narrow path to the valley.

Halbarad stood at the top of the cliff for several minutes and watched him go, with a heavy heart.  “May the sun shine upon your path, and may you find the answers you are looking for.” He murmured. 

Then he allowed himself to say, just this once:  “Farewell for now, Legolas Thranduillion.”

 

 

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Elenion Panilwë Húmë – (Q.) “Walk among the Stars” is a special alignment of the stars and planets, which only happens on Tarnin Austa once every thousand years.  Legends say that if the skies are clear on this night, the veil between worlds can be lifted for a time, but only for those whose hearts have no malice.

Mae g'ovannen, Mellyn nîn! – Well met, my friends!

 

 

NOTES:

“Beleg,” is actually Legolas, who has been traveling under a pseudonym for his own safety.   From CH 22 of "An Invincible Summer." 

https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/35171138

 

 

Legolas is referring to an encounter with the ghost of his mother during the Summer Solstice.  This is chronicled in CH 44 of “An Invincible Summer.” https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/38329433

 

“Tarnin Austa (meaning "Gates of Summer”), was held on the first day of summer. It was custom to begin a solemn ceremony at midnight, continuing it until dawn of Tarnin Austa. No-one could speak from midnight to daybreak, but upon the rising of the Sun they would burst into ancient songs, with choirs standing upon the eastern wall. At that time the city was filled with silver lamps, and lights of jeweled colors hung on the branches of the new-leaved trees.” - J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, pp. 172, 211, 347

 

 

Chapter Text

 

***Character List for Legolas, Ion nîn***

 

Adamar – Elf. Daeron’s father; Captain of the Gates; responsible for safety of the Palace and surrounding walls. Husband of Idril. Who is in in charge of the Palace Kitchens and chef for the Royal Family.

Adila - the Blacksmith's wife, who was born in Harad, and helping Indis look after the refugees rescued from a Pleasure House.  Husband Bron was killed in attack on Dale in May 2943 T.A.  Now owns the Coffee Café, as a gift from the King of Harad.  Has a daughter Tamir age 12, and son named Raif, age 10.

Aegis – Daeron’s grey horse.  His name means “Protection.”

Airen - Female Elf from Lothlorien, who helped escort Daeron and his unit to spend the year in the Golden Wood.  Married to Captain Elion, Guardian of the Woodland Realm.  She and her husband work at the Palace in Adamar’s unit.

Alagos – “Windstorm,” Legolas’s white horse with dark legs, mane and tail. (lit. “Storm of Wind).

Alis – Orphan from Dale; Adopted by Feren and Glélindë at the age of five.

Almarë - Infant daughter of Ermon and Elénaril, along with sister, Calapîa, and brother, Nórimo. (Triplets, born 2nd of September T.A. 2943)

Alun – father of Rhys, son of Ina, nephew of the late Iola. Widower. Used to work the accounts for the Master of Laketown.

Amaren - Archer.  One of the Galadhrim visiting the North during 2942-2943 T.A.

Anna – Wife of Daffyd, who runs the Livery.  Friend of Ellyn, widow of Owen.

Arwen – Daughter of Elrond and Celebrian.  Sister to twins Elladan and Elrohir.  Lives in Lothlórien with her grandparents.

Bain – Crown Prince of Dale. Age: 16 (Born 2928, T.A.). Son of Bard, King of Dale, and the late Matilda (Mattie) of Laketown.  Brother to Sigrid and Tilda; Stepbrother to Legolas and Tauriel.

Bard – King of Dale; archer, former Bargeman.  Age: 42 (Born 2902 Third Age); son of Brand and Sigrid of Laketown.  Husband of King Thranduil.  Father of Sigrid, Bain and Tilda.  Stepfather to Legolas and Tauriel.  Former husband of the late Mattie of Laketown. Gained Immortality upon marriage to King Thranduil.

Ben - See "Old Ben"

Beorn – Skin Changer; friend of Gandalf and Radagast.  Lives in Southern Mirkwood.

Beratín – Chestnut gelding owned by Rhys of Dale. 

Bert – Man of Rohan, forced to work for Jarod (“The Boss”) and his syndicate.  Helped Bard and Thranduil find the hostages when Dale was attacked in May 2943 T.A.  Went to Gondor with Gandalf to save more victims, and decided to stay.

Bilbo – Hobbit.  One of the Original Company. Had feelings for Thorin.

Blossom – Dapple grey palfrey owned by Princess Tilda.  A small mare to suit her size; she couldn’t pronounce her Elven name, so Falarion, Horse Master of the Woodland Realm, allowed her to change her name.

Bofur – Dwarf.  One of the Original Company of Thorin Oakenshield. Friend of Princess Tilda and Tauriel.

Bowen – Son of Ellyn and the late Owen of Dale.  Eleven years old.  Older brother of Maddox and baby Owena.  Very protective of his family – looks after him since their Da died.

Bregolas – Stallion belonging to Prince Bain.  Black with a star on his forehead and three white socks.  Was killed while protecting his master during the attack in Dale May 2043 T.A.

Bron - Blacksmith.  Husband of Adila and father to their boy and girl.  Killed by bandits in May 2943 T.A., when their children were held hostage with the Prince and Princesses of Dale.

Bronwyn – Head of Schools in Dale.

Calapîa - Infant daughter of Ermon and Elénaril, along with sister, Almarë, and brother, Nórimo (Triplets, born 2nd of September T.A. 2943).

Catrina – Wife of Roderic.  Helps husband run the Long Lake Tavern.

Celeborn – Lord of Lothlórien; rules with his wife Galadriel.  Cousin of Thranduil.  Father of Celebrian and grandfather to Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen.

Cook – Real name: Lewis of Dale.  In charge of kitchens in Bard’s Castle as well as the Great Hall.  Now lives in Bard and Thranduil’s old room behind the Hall.  Very strict with the cooking staff, but sometimes lets Tilda go in to make things for her fathers.  Good friends with Greta, Housekeeper of the Castle (some say they’re courting).

Cwën - One of the Galadhrim visiting the North as part of the exchange, in 2942-2943 T.A. but stayed, as she was betrothed to Lieutenant Ivran.

Daeron – Elf. Guardian of Woodland Realm and Healer. Age: 1995 (Born in Woodland Realm, 949 Third Age).  Son of Captain Adamar (Keeper of the Gates) and Idril, who runs the kitchens in the Woodland Realm.  First cousin and best friends with Turamarth, (their mothers are identical twins).  Husband of Rhian of Dale and stepfather to Darryn.  Was given special gifts of Healing by the Valar; can “connect” with the Fëas of the unborn.  Recent protégé of Elrond; learning how to fight the Black Breath.

Daffyd – Runs the Livery in new Dale.  Friend of the late Owen and Ellyn.  Husband of Anna, father of Powell.  Adoptive father to Bowen, Maddox and Owena, after their parents’ death.

Dafina – Three-year-old orphan from Dale; Adopted by Feren and Glélindë.

Dáin – King Under the Mountain.

Darla - Woman from Dale, and Hannah’s daughter-in-law.  Married to Jon, Hannah’s son. Mother of two: a boy and a girl.

Darryn – Rhian’s baby boy, named after Daeron, who became her friend.

Dilna – Dwarf.  King Dáin’s wife - Queen Under the Mountain.

Doran – “Oak.”  A giant tree outside of Dale; friend and confidant of Daeron.

Dwalin – Dwarf. Trained Kili and Fili.  Becomes a friend to Feren.  Will help train Bain.

Egon - Son of Tom the Potter, new Constable of Dale

Elénaril – Elven Healer; wife of Ermon, the Chief Healer of the Woodland Realm.  Mother of triplets: daughters Calapîa, Almarë and son Nórimo.  Age: 2199 (Born in 745 T.A.). 

Elion - Guardian of the Woodland Realm, currently serving in Lothlórien 2942-2943 T.A. as Daeron's 2nd-in-Command.  Fell in love with Airen, Warden of Lothlorien and engaged to be married in T.A. 2944

Elladan – Son of Elrond.  Identical Twin brother of Elrohir.  Good friends with Legolas, Daeron and Turamarth.  Likes to play practical jokes.

Ellyn – Widow of Owen of Dale.  Mother of Bowen, Maddox and Owena.  Was diagnosed with a serious illness in July 2942 T.A. and died, leaving her children to be adopted by Daffyd and Anna.

Elrohir - Son of Elrond.  Identical Twin brother of Elladan.  Good friends with Legolas, Daeron and Turamarth.  Likes to play practical jokes.

Elrond Peredhel – Lord of Imladris.  Heir to Gil-Galad, though he rejected the title.  Husband of Celebrian, who now lives in Valinor.  Father to Elladan, Elrohir, and Arwen.  Helped save Galadriel when she was attacked in June 2944 T.A.  Used his Ring of Power, along with Galadriel and Mithrandir to defeat the Blue Wizard Pallando, a now-servant of Sauron, when he attacked Lothlórien.

Emëldir - Head of Thranduil's Council in the Woodland Realm.  Wife of Silmon, Head of the Agricultural Guild.

Enid - Widow of Dale; 61 years of age.  Mother-in-Law to the Baker in Dale.  Shared a tent with Rhian and Gladys, in the refugee camp after the Battle.

Erestor – Archivist and Counselor to Lord Elrond of Rivendell.  Husband of Glorfindel.

Eriol – Lothlórien Elf.  One Galadhrim who worked in the North for a year 2942-2943 T.A.  Warrior.

Ermon - Chief Healer of the Woodland Realm.  Age 5959 (Born 226, S.A.).  Husband of Elénaril.  Grew grew up with Galion and Oropher.  Was present at Thranduil’s birth.  Father of triplets: daughters Calapîa, Almarë and son Nórimo, born September 2943 T.A.

Esta - Black and white sheep dog.  Given to Bard's children as a gift over the Long Winter.  Killed in the attack on the Royal Family of Dale in May 2943 T.A.

Estel – Child of the Dúnedain and Elrond’s foster-son.  True name is Aragorn, son of Arathorn, heir to the throne of Gondor; his true identity is hidden, even from him.  He was brought to Rivendell at his father’s death, when he was two years old, and Halbarad and the sons of Elrond created a scene to make Sauron think he was dead.

Ethan – Oldest son of Seren and Llewelyn.  Brother to Liam and Liliwen.

Evan - Assistant to Alun, Treasurer of Dale. Moved here from the East Bight to seek his fortune. Age 31.  Engaged to Eryn, Tilda’s schoolteacher.  Former suitor of Rhian, but they remain friends.

Evranin “Evvy” – Lothlórien Elf.  Daughter of Óhtar and Vériel.  Currently working to set up a library in Dale and help Daeron write his book.  Lives at the Palace, and is attracted to Turamarth.

Farien – Tauriel’s female cat.

Fengel – King of Rohan.  Father of Thengel, who lives in Gondor with his mother to escape Fengel’s tyranny.

Feren – Silvan Elf. Commander of all branches of the Elven military in the Woodland Realm. Husband of Glélindë (Married 1955 T.A. – 987 years).  Adoptive father of Alis and Dafina.  Currently expecting a child in August 2945 T.A.  Currently living in Dale with wife and children.  Best friend of King Thranduil since childhood. Age: 3847 (Born in Woodland Realm, 2538, Second Age). 

Fînlossen - “Snowy Mane.” Thranduil's favorite white stallion that he gifted to Bard.

Floyd – Old Ben’s big orange male cat.

Galadriel – Ancient Noldor Elf.  Daughter of Finarfin, King of the Noldor in Valinor.  Rules Lothlórien with husband Celeborn.  Mother of Celebrian.  Most powerful Elf in Middle Earth; former pupil of Queen Melian, a Maia.  Born in the Years of the Trees in Valinor.  Cousin of Thranduil through her marriage to Celeborn.  Grandmother to Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen. Special friend and Pen Pal to Princess Tilda.

Galion – Elf. Thranduil’s Chief Aide and Steward.  Childhood friend and Aide to King Oropher.  Age 5857 (Born in Doriath, 528, S.A.).  Father-figure to Legolas and Tauriel, best friend to Hilda and Percy.

Gandalf/Mithrandir – Wizard; helps Bard and Thranduil get together.

Garon the Founder – First King of Dale.  Established his Kingdom in the year 2432 T.A.

Garth – Rhian’s late husband; died when Smaug attacked Laketown. Was a drunkard and abusive.

Gerion - One of the Galadhrim visiting the North for the year 2942-2943 T.A. Warrior and 2nd in Command

Gilfanon - Master Healer of Lothlórien.  Supervises Orlin and Penlod, Healers of the Golden Wood.

Girion – 15th King of Dale, killed by Smaug in the year 2770 T.A.

Gladys - widow of Dale, about 60 years old.  Friend of Enid; works as a seamstress with Glélindë.  Shared a tent with Rhian and Enid after the Battle.

Glélindë – Elf. Commander Feren’s wife; adoptive mother of Alis and Dafina. Currently expecting a child in August 2945 T.A. Works as a Seamstress in Dale.

Glorfindel – Elven Warrior from the First Age, who died killing a Balrog.  Came back to Middle Earth with the Istari, as an emissary of the Valar in 1000 T.A.  One of the mightiest warriors in Middle Earth.  Devoted husband of Erestor.

Greta - Head Housekeeper at the Castle in Dale.  Good friend to Cook; possibly they are courting.

Gruffudd – Grandfather of Alis and Dafina.  Lives with Feren and Glélindë, who adopted the girls. Missing one leg below the knee from BOTFA.

Haldir - Marchwarden of Lothlórien and Daeron's commanding officer during the soldier exchange.  Eldest son of Halfar, former Marchwarden, and his wife, Naimi.

Hannah – Midwife from Dale.  Age: 56 (Born in Laketown, 2888 T.A.). Wife of Old Ben, and stepmother to Rhian and grandmother to Darryn. Widow of Martyn, with three grown children, including Jon, who lives in Dale with wife Darla and two children.

Harry - "The Boss's" right-hand man and the head of Security for his operation.  Helped kidnap the princesses of Dale and several others in May 2943 T.A.

Hilda –Seneschal of Dale. Age: 58 (Born in Laketown, 2886, Third Age).  Wife of Percy, Steward of Dale.  (Married 2905 T.A. – 39 years). Good friend of the late Brand of Laketown and devoted to Bard, King of Dale.  Good friend of the late Mattie of Laketown, and mother figure to the Bard’s children. In charge of the Castle and welfare of Dale’s widows, and orphans.

Idril – Elf.  Mother of Daeron; wife of Captain Adamar.  In charge of the kitchens at Thranduil’s Palace; personal chef to the Royal Family, when in residence.

Ina – mother of Alun, grandmother of Rhys, sister of Iola.  Was horribly abused by father and sister.  Lives in the Woodland Realm under constant care.

Indis – Woodland Elf.  Counselor who specializes in PTSD. Mother of Turamarth; wife of Captain Ómar.  Aunt to Daeron.  Works in the Palace of the Woodland Realm. 

Iola – sister of Ina, aunt of Alun, great-aunt of Rhys.  Was driven insane by father’s abuse; murdered Ina’s husband; killed herself while being taken to the dungeons.

Ivran – Woodland Elf; personal Guardian to Thranduil. Husband of Cwën, Warden of the Woodland Realm, who came to live in Dale.

Jarod (aka "The Boss") - a very powerful and ruthless head of a sex-trafficking ring west of the Misty Mountains. Was killed by Bard in May 2943 T.A., when he tried to murder his children.

Jarvis- "Farmer Jarvis," one of the livestock farmers that lives outside the City Walls.  He has sheep, cattle and goats. Father of Judd, two other sons, and a daughter.

Judd - Farmer Jarvis' oldest son, works with his father.

Lalaith – Estel’s mother.  True name is Gilraen, wife of Arathorn.  Lives in Rivendell with her son for their safety.

Legolas – Elven Prince of the Woodland Realm. Born T.A. 1942; 1001 years old.  Was 11 years old when Mírelen was killed. Currently traveling with the Dúnedain.

Léod - Lord of the Wold of Rohan, and Third Marshal of the Mark.  His territory borders that of Lothlorien and its nearby villages and he works together with the Elves to rescue kidnapped children from Harad and destroy their captors.

Lewis – See “Cook.”

Liam – Second son of Seren and Llewelyn.  Brother to Ethan and Liliwen.  Likes to tease Tilda and tell her she can’t do things because she’s “just a girl.”

Liliwen – Daughter of Seren and Llewelyn.  2 ½ years old. Sister to older brothers Ethan and Liam. Born in the Woodland Realm during the Long Winter.

Lindo – Lothlórien Elf.  One Wardens visiting the North for in 2942-2943 T.A., in the exchange program.

Lindorë – Wife of Oropher, Queen of the Woodland Realm; sailed to Valinor three years after Thranduil’s return from the War of the Last Alliance.

Llewelyn – Husband of Seren.  Works in Construction with Old Ben.  Father of sons Ethan and Liam, and daughter Liliwen.  Thrilled that baby Liliwen as red hair like him.

Lynne – Former maid, now owns and operates Dale Fabrics with wife, Mona.

Mablung – Male Silvan Elf.  Lt. Commander of Army of the Woodland Realm.  Went to Rivendell in 2944-2945 T.A. for Military Exchange.

Maddox – Son of Ellyn and the late Owen of Dale.  7 years old.  Brother of Bowen and Owena. Adopted by Daffyd and Anna.

Maggie – wife of Tom, Chief Constable of Dale.  Runs the Pottery shop with her sons and their families.

Mahtan – Lothlórien Elf.  Warden of the Galadhrim.  Childhood friend of Orlin and Evranin; killed by Pallando in the attack on Lothlórien, June 2944 T.A.

Mallorn – Princess Sigrid’s horse.  Golden mare with white mane and tail; named after the golden flowers of the trees of Lothlórien. 

Mattie – (Matilda) Bard’s late wife, died at Tilda’s birth. Came from Dorwinian; former teacher.

Meldon – Woodland Elf.  Guardian in the Army; guarded Royal Family of Dale; childhood friend of Legolas.  Killed in May 2943 T.A. while guarding the Princesses of Dale.

Meryl - Tilda's pug dog, a gift from Galadriel and Celeborn, in August 2943 T.A.; friend of Thangon, who watches over her.

Mírelen – Thranduil’s late wife, killed by Orcs. Killed in the T.A. 1953

Miriam – Woman of Old Dale, lived under King Girion’s reign.  Was a patient of Daeron’s but was killed by Roald, her abusive husband in 2767 T.A., three years before Smaug came to the North destroyed Dale.

Mona – Former maid, now owns and operates a Dale Fabrics with wife, Lynne.

Naimi – Mother of Haldir, Marchwarden of Lothlórien, and wife to the late Halfar, former Marchwarden.

Naurmôr – "Black Fire," Thranduil's black stallion.

Neldor – Elf. Tauriel’s birth father.  Killed by Orcs when their village was attacked and burnt down.

Nórimo - Infant son of Ermon and Elénaril, along with sisters, Almarë, and Calapîa. (Triplets, born 2nd of September T.A. 2943).

Nualë – Woodland Elf; Guardian of Royal Family of Dale. Wife of Núin; killed along with husband by the Blue Wizard Pallando, during attack on Lothlórien, June 2944 T.A.

Núin – Woodland Elf; Guard of the Gates of Dale.  Husband of Nualë; killed by the Blue Wizard Pallando, during attack on Lothlórien, June 2944 T.A.

Núriel - Elf. Nanny for Legolas and Tauriel when they were children.  Sailed to the West some years ago.

Óhtar – Lothlórien Elf.  Keeper of the Archives.  Husband of Vériel, father to Orlin and Evranin.

Óin– Dwarven Healer.  Part of the Original Company.

Old Ben – City Planner of New Dale.  Age: 64 (Born in Laketown, 2880 T.A.). Husband to Hannah, Midwife of Dale.  Adoptive father to Rhian and grandfather to Darryn.  Former husband of the late Cristyn of Laketown.

Ómar – Woodland Elf. Father of Turamarth & husband of Indis.  Uncle of Daeron.  Captain of a Guardian Unit of the Woodland Realm.

Orlin – Lothlórien Elf, and Healer.  Friend and colleague of Daeron, brother to Evranin. 

Oropher - Late father of King Thranduil.  Killed during the Battle of Dagorlad in the War of the Last Alliance; 3434 S.A.

Orophin – Warden of Lothlórien. Brother of Haldir and Rúmil, Wardens of Lothlorien.  Middle son of Halfar, former Marchwarden, and his wife, Naimi.

Owena – Daughter of Ellyn and the late Owen of Dale.  Three years old.  Adopted daughter of Daffyd and Anna.  Sister of Bowen and Maddox.

Pallando – Former Blue Wizard.  Also called “Luinrandir.”  Disciple of Sauron; responsible for killing Thranduil’s wife.  Attacked Lothlórien in June 2944 T.A. killed by Thranduil and Celeborn.

Penlod – Lothlórien Elf and Healer, who worked with Daeron during his exchange year.  Born in Mithlond, friend of Rôgon.

Percy – Steward of Dale. Age: 62 (Born in Laketown, 2882, Third Age).  Husband of Hilda, Seneschal of Dale.  (Married 2905 T.A. – 39 years). Good friend of the late Brand of Laketown and devoted to Bard, King of Dale, and his family. Has good relationship with Thranduil and Galion.

Powell – Man of Dale, aged 21. Son of Anna and Daffyd; lives above the Livery in Dale with new wife Mari.  Helps his parents look after Ellyn's children.

Radagast – Wizard; helps the forest. Friend of Beorn.

Raif – Boy of Dale, aged 9.  Son of Adila, owner of the Coffee Café in Dale, and Bron, blacksmith who was murdered in the attack on Dale in May 2943 T.A.

Rhian – Woman, aged 22.  Wife of Daeron, Guardian/Healer of Dale, and mother of Darryn. Was abused by first husband, Garth. Age: 22 (Born in 2922 T.A.).  Gained unexpected Immortal Status and special gifts when she married Daeron.

Rhys – son of Alun, grandson of Ina.  Aged 15.  Bain’s best friend; stayed with Royal Family in Thranduil’s Palace during the Long Winter.

Roderic (Rod) – Runs the Long Lake Tavern in Dale.  Stayed in the Woodland Realm over the winter while he recovered from his injuries from the Battle of the Five Armies. Husband of Catrina.

Rôgon – Mithlond Elf.  Born in Grey Havens, Age 6188 (Born in Doriath, 197, S.A.); nephew to Círdan the Shipwright.  Skilled Blacksmith, married Galion (Aide to King Thranduil), August 2944 T.A.

Rúmil - Warden of Lothlorien, who is spending a year in the Woodland Realm/Dale.  Brother to Haldir and Orophin; youngest son of Halfar, former Marchwarden, and his wife, Naimi.  Was attacked by Pallando in Lothlórien June 2944 T.A., but recovering under the care of his brothers.

Ruvyn – Woodland Elf.  Personal Guard to Thranduil, but often watches Tilda.

Sandastan - Turamarth's dun-colored horse.  His name is a type of military shield formation.

Sellwen - A child Daeron deeply bonded with when he was serving in Dale under King Girion.  When she and her mother were killed, in 2767 T.A., Daeron suffered a breakdown from the loss.

Seren – Wife of Llewelyn of Dale.  Mother of sons Ethan and Liam, and daughter Liliwen. Gave birth to her youngest in Thranduil’s Palace.

Sigrid – Princess of Dale; Age: 18 (Born 2926, T.A.).  Daughter of Bard and Mattie.  Stepdaughter of Thranduil.  Training to be a Healer full-time.

Silmon – Silvan Elf.  Head of the Agricultural Guild in the Woodland Realm.  Husband of Emëldir, Head of Thranduil's Council

Sílnaith – “Shining Spear” Black Stallion with white mane and tail, purchased by Thranduil for Bain when his horse, Bregolas, was killed in the attack in Dale May 2943 T.A.

Solana – Tauriel’s mother.  Killed by Orcs when Tauriel was very small.

Tamir – Girl, aged 11.  Daughter of Adila, owner of the Coffee Café in Dale, and Bron, blacksmith who was murdered in the attack on Dale in May 2943 T.A.

Tauriel – Silvan Elf; Lady of the Woodland Realm. Age: 620 (Born 2324, T.A.) Adopted in infancy by Thranduil, King of the Woodland Realm. Stepdaughter of King Bard. Captain of the Guard for the Princess and Princesses of Dale.  Daughter of the late Neldor & Solana. 

Thangon – “Shield Wall” Bard’s humongous dog, given to him by Thranduil.  Goofy and playful, but can be deadly fierce.

The Boss - see “Jarod.”

Thranduil – Elvenking of Mirkwood. Age: 3788 (Born 2597 S.A.); son of Oropher and Lindorië.  Sindar Elf.  Husband of Bard, King of Dale (Married Dec 17, 2941 T.A.)  Husband of the late Queen Mírelen (Married 1479 T.A. - Widowed 1953 T.A., married 474 years); father of Legolas; adopted father of Tauriel.  Stepfather of Sigrid, Bain, and Tilda.

Tilda – Princess of Dale.  Age: 7 (Born 2934, T.A.).  Daughter of Bard, King of Dale & the late Matilda of Laketown (Mattie).  She greatly resembles her paternal grandmother, and Sigrid of Laketown, and is very petite in stature like her.  Stepdaughter of Thranduil, King of the Woodland Realm.  Sister of Sigrid and Bain.  Stepsister to Legolas and Tauriel.

Tim - A Cooper (barrel-maker) that moved to Dale last February from parts unknown.  He was secretly spying on the Royal Family in Dale for "The Boss.” Was murdered by Jarod in May 2943 T.A.

Tom – Man.  Chief Constable of Dale.  Owns the Pottery shop, with his wife, Maggie. Father of three sons.  Was recently hired to be Constable of Dale, along with his eldest son, Egon.

Trip – Man who worked for The Boss in the city of Duston, before the Dwarves rescued the children in November 2942 T.A.  Their ears were cut off and were branded criminals.

Turamarth – Woodland Elf. Daeron’s cousin and best friend.  Son of Ómar and Indis.  Learned to speak Westron over the Long Winter.  Lieutenant in the elite Guardian Unit of the Woodland Realm.  Has feelings for Evranin, but was attacked by Pallando in June 2944 T.A. and needs time to recover.

Vórima – Elven Horse.  The strawberry roan that Turamarth bought for Bowen to help pull him out of his depression.

Wynny – Kitchen main in Dale.  Was tricked by Tim into giving him details of the Royal Family for The Boss.  Was found murdered her apartment during attack on Dale May 2943 T.A.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

In my life there's been heartache and pain
I don't know if I can face it again, but I
Can't stop now, I've traveled so far, to change this lonely life...

--"I Want to Know What Love is," by Foreigner

 

 

 

Rivendell, 2nd of November; 2943 T.A.

Legolas’s first glimpse of Rivendell, from the top of the cliff was something he would never forget.  When he left the Dúnedain yesterday and retraced the twins’ path to the bottom of the valley, a sense of loss threatened to overwhelm him.  Those people had become his friends, his brothers, and Halbarad had become every bit as dear to him as Galion had been. 

His heart was heavy at the loss of their company, but as Rivendell grew closer, it was replaced with a growing excitement.  This was Rivendell!  The Rivendell that was his mother’s home, and perhaps he would find answers to all his questions about this mysterious, faceless image that had haunted him from childhood.

In June, he had celebrated the Tarnin Austa, and the ghost claiming to be his mother appeared to him, but in the months since then, doubts crept into his mind, and by the time Halbarad had summoned Legolas to his office, he’d half convinced himself the vision meant nothing.  But the Chieftain of the Dúnedain had taken it seriously, and the choice to pursue it was taken out of his hands.

Legolas’s horse reached the bottom of the hill, and he stopped to let his horse rest and take in the view.  It was an unusually warm day for this time of year, so he dismounted and sat on a nearby rock to enjoy his lunch, then went over to a thick patch of grass, where he spread out his cloak, and laid down upon it to gaze up at the clear November sky.

There was no real hurry, so the Elf closed his eyes, leaned his head back and let the sun’s rays warm his face, and allowed the soft sounds of a nearby waterfall soothe his spirit. 

Not since he left the North (and his father), had he taken any time to be still like this, and even now he found it a bit difficult.  Until now, he was always moving, always working toward something, though he didn’t quite understand what his goal was.  Halbarad was right, when he said Legolas was running away, but the Chieftain’s words cut him just the same.

He’d been certain of his path for a short while after his encounter with the mysterious Elleth during the Tarnin Austa, but during the months since them, doubts had lingered, then grew, until he was almost convinced it had all been a dream.  Wishful thinking, he told himself.  He’d never gotten used to the empty space in his life where his mother used to be.

He’d been hurt, when Halbarad took him aside and told him to go on without them.  Despite all his assurances, how could Legolas not believe himself tossed aside, like scraps?  He’d been looking forward to more years with his new friends, and had just begun to experience this wider world that, until now, he’d only read about in the many history books Galion had forced him to sit down and read!

Galion…  At the thought of his dearer-than-Uncle’s name, Legolas’ stomach lurched.  Oh, he missed him!   

~o0o~

As a small child, King Thranduil’s Aide had been there for him, always ready with a comforting embrace, a kiss on the forehead, and a compassionate, listening ear, as the Elfling sat on his lap and told him whatever was on his mind.  Later, as he grew older, he would still stop by Galion’s study after lessons, sit in the chair opposite his desk, ready to tell him about his school day.

And the Aide would listen intently, hanging on his every word, asking questions that prompted the Prince to consider his opinions, and explore other points of view.

Legolas always remembered that, to his right, was the open door between Galion’s and his father’s study.  Thranduil would often be at his desk, buried in paperwork, but when the Elvenking would glance over and meet his eyes, he would often give his son a small smile, before he got back to work. 

Legolas had asked Galion about it once, when they were out walking.  “Does Ada like it when I come to talk to you?”

“Of course, he does, Pînlass,” Galion assured him.  “He is just weighed down with the cares of running a Kingdom.” The Aide looked down on him with pity and concern.  “I realize you do not understand, Legolas, but your father loves you; he just cannot show it.”

The Elfling shook his head.  “But he did when Nana was alive,” he said, with sadness in his voice.  “Now, he is different, and Ada never laughs, or hugs me back, like you do.  He seems…  uncomfortable.”

“I can only tell you that he is doing his best, child.  There are things you are not aware of.”

“What things?”

“Someday, when you are older, I will be permitted to tell you.  Until then, you must trust me when I tell you that your Adar is stronger than you can possibly imagine, and he has done more for his Kingdom, and for you, than you know.”

“If I had a child, I would tell him I loved him every single day!” Legolas announced angrily.  “I would never make him believe he was unwanted!”

“That is simply not true, Legolas!  You are very much wanted; do not think such things!” Galion sighed.  “I am sorry, Ionnauth.  Sometimes an Elf can be so badly injured he never recovers, no matter how much he wishes to.  I promise you:  his problems have nothing to do with you.”

“But why can I not help him feel better?  I am his son, and if he would just let me…”

The Aide gathered the young Prince in his arms and kissed his temple.  “I want you to consider this from a different perspective, if you can.”

Legolas leaned his head on his Uncle’s shoulder.  “What do you mean?”

Galion pulled back and smiled down at the Elfling.  “Rather than dwell on what you believe you do not have, try to keep in mind all the people here who adore you, and be thankful!  Just because you do not receive tactile affection from your father the way you would like, does not mean you are without love at all! You have me, and you know Núriel loves you, does she not?  Dwell on the positive, Pînlass, not the negative.”

The mention of Núriel made him smile.  The Elleth had been his nanny since birth, and when his mother was killed, she had moved into the room next to his in the apartments, and never left his side.  Like Galion, Núriel was firm, but kind, and showered him with warmth and love.  She read him stories every night, made sure he didn’t eat too many sweets, taught him good manners, and was the nearest thing the young Prince had to a mother.  But like Galion, she did not talk about the dead Queen, and when Legolas would ask, she quietly hugged him and changed the subject.

“Legolas,” Galion told him, “you must understand that your father’s problems are not of your making.  He is doing the best he can.”

A tear formed at the corner of the child’s eye.  “Why can I not help him?  You say he loves me, but he avoids me as if I have hurt him somehow!”

 

Long after Legolas had been put to bed, his eyes opened to the sound of voices.  Angry voices.  He sat up and rubbed his eyes, then tiptoed toward the entrance to his father’s rooms.

“You need each other,” Galion was saying to his Ada“That child needs you and you need to see him, really see him with your whole heart, My Lord!  If you think pushing your own son away will mend your heart or your fëa, you are mistaken!  Legolas adores you; there is joy in his face every time he sees you, every time he wants to crawl into your lap!  It is a wondrous, beautiful thing, if you would only allow yourself to open your heart and accept the love he is offering you!  Why do you refuse to even try?  Is this what your wife would have wanted for her son?  Is this what Mírelen  would have wanted for you?”

“STOP!”  Ada’s voice boomed.  There was a sound of glass breaking and liquid splashing.  “You will not DARE presume to tell ME what to do with my own son!  NEVER AGAIN WILL you try to tell ME what my wife would or would not want!  You do NOT know what it’s like to lose someone you loved!”  He roared.

There was a long, terrible silence, and Legolas’s breath caught, and his heart was in his throat.  Galion was patient and gentle, always calm and to hear him shout like that was terrible and frightening.  Ada had never yelled at Galion like that, before!

Much of what Legolas had believed in his short life had disappeared when Nana died, and he clung to Galion and his idea of Ada desperately, to help him to feel safe again.  But in that moment, his childish heart believed that the Ada he’d known was now gone and all that was left was this King who was like a stranger to him. 

The Elfling ran into Núriel’s room next door, and burst into tears.

She sat up in her bed and took him in her arms.  “What is wrong, Legolas?”

The child couldn’t speak, he was crying so hard, and she got up and wrapped the both of them in a blanket and sat down on the chair in her room.  “Shhh….  Shhh…”  She stroked his head, as he sobbed into her neck.  “Oh hênig, you poor thing.” She rocked him and did her best to soothe him, but it was a long time until he could calm down.

She brushed his hair from his forehead.  “Did you have a bad dream?” she asked him, but all he could do was hiccup and shake his head.  The Caretaker tried her best to find out what the problem was, but Legolas would not say, nor did he speak to anyone about that night.

If Legolas had stayed just a few minutes more, he might have perceived things in a different way, and he could have saved himself a great deal of pain and years of loneliness.  If he had lingered, he might not have given up on his father; instead he would have thrown himself against those walls of pain, over and over and over again, until Thranduil overcame his fear and the torment in his soul might have been healed.  The Elfling would have showered the grief-stricken Elvenking with so much love and comfort, Thranduil might have stopped hiding behind his wounds and learned to enjoy life again.  Love would have conquered, as it should have. 

“I know you have lost a great love, Mellon nin; we all do, and I understand the pain of the Rista-Goeol  is a terrible and dangerous thing to endure." Galion’s tears threatened to run down his face. "We all loved the Queen.  But you still have a great love, a love that might save you, if you would only reach out beyond your pain!  Please, My Lord... Please, stop this self-flagellation, and forgive yourself!"    

Thranduil’s face was in his shaking hands, and he sat down, again.  “I…cannot,” he whispered.  “I want to, truly I do, but I just…cannot, Galion.  When I see him, I feel such guilt for not saving his mother.  I look into his face, and I see…”  he didn’t finish.  “I know he deserves better than this, but I cannot help seeing… her... and all that blood…  She made me promise not to fade, and I am barely hanging on, Galion!  I am so frightened…” His words were barely audible, but somehow Galion managed to understand what he was saying.

The Aide sat down beside Thranduil.  “You did everything you possibly could to save her, and I am sorry for your terrible loss, My Lord,” he said gently.  “But, it is not healthy that you never speak of it.   You have avoided fading, and you are stronger now, but please, Sire, you must learn to live again.  Not just for Legolas’s sake, not for your Kingdom’s sake, but for your own.  Please, please, Thranduil: do not hide from your grief!” 1 

Thranduil did try, but the damage had been done.  Since that night, Legolas never sought out his father, and only approached him when Galion or Núriel urged him (or forced him).  He didn’t ask Núriel or Galion any more questions about Ada, and when Thranduil tried to change things between them with gentle overtures, the child shrank from him, and barely tolerated his touch.

Legolas Thranduillion was a great deal like his father, and just as Thranduil hid behind a fortress to distance himself from life, so did his son build the same walls to distance himself from the only parent he had left.  They both had been running away, but it would be a long time before either of them realized this, about themselves, and about each other.

 

Years later, long after the Prince had reached his majority and earned a place in Feren’s Guardian unit, Galion sent a message while he was on patrol, telling him of a small orphan that was now occupying the other room in Legolas’s apartment.  Núriel, his former Nanny, would be moving back into the suite to assume the child’s care.

As soon as his tour of duty was over, the Elven Prince hurried back to the Palace, and when he reached the Royal apartments, the sound of giggling filled his ears, and he found his former Caretaker sitting on the couch with a small Elleth whose head was covered in red ringlets.  She was smiling up at Núriel who was playing a counting game with her fingers.

“Mae g'ovannen, Núriel,” Legolas said with a smile and went over to kiss her cheek.  “And who is this?”

“Legolas, Pînlass nîn!” Núriel got up and carried the baby over to him.  “It has been too long since you came and visited me,” she said with a sly grin, “so I had to find a reason to come back, did I not?”  She took the baby’s hand and waved it toward him.  “This is Tauriel.”

“Suil, Tauriel,” Legolas smiled, as the child put her finger in her mouth and considered him with interest for a few minutes, before she nestled her head on Núriel’s shoulder.

“Can you say hello, hênig?” the nanny urged softly.

“Suil.” The baby’s voice was shy and quiet. 

“She is a bit timid, just yet.” Núriel told him.  “She has had a fright, poor dear, but she is much better than she was.”

“Can you tell me what happened to her parents?” 

“After she has gone down for her nap.  You go get your bath, while I settle her.”

Legolas went into his room, and ran his fingers over the bed that had once belonged to his mother.  The day he had reached his majority, Galion had taken him to the storage rooms and showed it to him, and spoke of Rivendell. 

“It was a wedding gift from your grandparents, and I think you should have it,” he had told the Prince.  “It might make you feel closer to her.”  And it had.  His father had gone a bit pale upon seeing it again, but he never objected, though he avoided entering his son’s room from that day on.

The Elven Prince unpacked his saddlebags, and placed his dirty clothes in the basket to be washed.  He went to the bathing room in the suite and enjoyed a long soak, as he listened to Núriel sing the small Elleth to sleep, with the same songs he had learned as a child. 

Once he was cleaned and dressed, he joined the Caretaker on the couch, and there was a tray with some tea and snacks waiting for him.

“It is good to have you here again, Nannauth,” he took the cup she offered him, and grabbed a piece of cheese.  “I have missed your singing.”

“I have missed my days here as well.” She took a sip of her tea.  “I have cared for many children in my long years, but I treasure my time with you.”

“Even when I would misbehave?” he asked her cheekily. 

“Oh, that just made things interesting.  You were a highly creative and intelligent child.  Once you were older, those qualities served you well, did they not?”  She laughed.  “Although if I were human, my hair would be grey from all the pranks you pulled!”

“Of that I have no doubt.” He got back to the subject at hand.  “I was aware the village had been attacked, but the word was there were no survivors, sadly.” He studied the food in his hand, and returned it to his plate, having lost his appetite at the mention of that tragedy.  “I have spent several of my rotations guarding them, and cannot believe they were all slaughtered!” Legolas shook his head.  “Ada always made sure they were well-protected, as he did with all the outlying villages!  I do not understand!”

“From what I was told, there was some sort of diversion, but you will have to get the full story from your father, or Commander Feren.  After all the Orcs involved were killed, they went to gather the bodies of the dead, and someone heard a child crying.  It seems her parents had a trap door leading to a small root cellar, so they put her down there and threw a carpet and a table on top, so the Orcs couldn’t find her.”

“Who were her parents?” 

“Neldor and Solana.”

“The weavers?  I remember them, although I have not been there since they had a daughter.” Legolas winced.  “And you say Tauriel was the only survivor?”

“And only because they kept her hidden,” Núriel’s eyes clouded.  “The Orcs carried away some of the other mothers and children, and…  it was a kindness they didn’t survive.”

“Ai, gorgor…” He breathed.

“The Guardians found her and took her to your Ada.  He carried the child back to the Palace himself; he refused to allow anyone else to hold her.”

“Why?” Legolas was shocked. 

“Apparently the child would not stop screaming, and when he took her, she settled right down and went to sleep, I muin naer.”

“What about her parents? And the others?”

“They held the funeral at the scene, as soon as they were buried.”  Núriel sighed.  “Losing one Elf is a terrible thing.  I cannot imagine what it must have been like for your poor Ada to lead the singing for so many, especially those mothers and children.” She swallowed.  “They said everyone but Thranduil lost their voices from the grief, but he kept the song going for all of them.”

“Oh, I am certain Ada was perfectly composed throughout,” His voice held a tinge of sarcasm. 

“Legolas!” Núriel admonished.  “Whatever you think about your father, I will not sit here and allow you to disrespect him as a King, is that clear?” 

“You are right,” his eyes went to his lap. “No matter what he was as a father, I cannot fault him as a King.”

“No; you cannot!  Your father made sure those victims got the tribute they deserved, and if you would have seen the sadness on his face when he arrived with this baby, you would have understood that!”

“I apologize; I do not wish to upset you, Nannauth.” He gave her a smile that fooled neither of them.

“You lock away so much of your heart, hênig.” Núriel held her hand to his cheek.  “If you truly did not want your father’s love, you would not care.”

“I do not deny that,” he told her, “but Ada has no love to give me.  It died with my mother.”

“Oh, Legolas…” she sighed in frustration.  “I pray for you and King Thranduil every night, and I always will.”

“That is a comfort.” He put his arm around her and kissed her cheek again. 

“I hope so.  I pray that you both can let go of your pain, and find each other again.” Núriel glanced toward the newly-fitted nursery and changed the subject.  “She is not simply a foster-child, Legolas.  She is your sister, now.  Your father has adopted her.”

“What?”

“Galion suggested it, but I believe it is what Thranduil wanted as well.  She deserves a true family, after such a trauma, do you not agree?”

“I do, but—”

“It took a while for her to settle in with me; for the first three days, she screamed every time your Adar let go of her.  He spent the first two nights in the rocking chair in her room, because she needed to be held, she was that frightened.”

“He did that?”

“Of course, he did!” Núriel studied his face.  “Have you considered that perhaps Galion did not suggest adopting her simply for her sake?  This could be good for both you and your father.”

“Why me?  I cannot raise her; I will be out with my unit a great deal of the time.”

“No, you cannot.  But that does not mean you cannot love her.  If you and your Adar choose, this could be a way to find some common ground between you.”

 

And it turned out that Tauriel was good for all of them.  She was a joy, and after her initial anxiety, adapted to her new life well.  Legolas no longer dreaded his time off, but rushed back to the Palace to see how his sister had grown.  Tauriel would squeal with delight, toddle to him with open arms, and he would scoop her up and cover her face with kisses.  He would spend the days playing with her, chasing her up and down the wide hallway, to the Guards’ amusement. 

Mealtimes were spent with his Adar and Tauriel, and he was surprised to find his father smiling occasionally at the child’s antics, though he did not say much.  Núriel and Galion showered the Elfling with affection (tempered with discipline, of course) which Legolas happily contributed to when he was home.

But memories of the attack still plagued the poor Elleth, and she often had nightmares. 

After Legolas’s third rotation after Tauriel came, he was back in his rooms, fast asleep, when a shrill scream filled the darkness.  He bolted upright in bed, threw the covers off, grabbed his robe and into the common room, as Núriel appeared, tying the belt to her dressing gown. 

“What is wrong?” he asked the nursemaid, as they ran into Tauriel’s room to find the child standing in her crib, her face soaked with tears.

“There, there, hênig.” Núriel picked her up, yet she continued to scream.  “Legolas; go get your Adar.” 

Ada?” he asked staring stupidly at her.  “Why him?”

She skewered him with a severe look.  “Do as I say!” she ordered, her voice barely understandable over the child’s hysterics.  “Now!”

Not since he was a small child had he entered Thranduil’s bedchamber, and it was only because Núriel had commanded him so sharply did he approach the double-doors and knock.  “Adar?”

After  a few seconds of rustling blankets, his father’s shocked face appeared.  “Legolas! What—" 

He opened his mouth to explain, but Tauriel took care of that for him, as her wails reached Thranduil’s ears.

“Oh, I see,” his father said.  “Just a moment, please,” and he went back to his bed, presumably to get his own robe, before heading through the doorway into the children’s apartment. 

Ada!” Tauriel screamed, when she caught sight of the Elvenking, and lunged out of Núriel’s arms into his own, and wrapped her arms around his neck and sobbed into his shoulder.

 Legolas stood in the doorway of the nursery and couldn’t help but stare as he observed his cold, heartless father shush and soothe this child’s terror.  “Excuse me,” Thranduil said politely.  Legolas quickly stepped aside so Adar could take her through the common room and into the hallway to walk her up and down the smooth marble floor until she calmed down again.

He turned back to Núriel.  “What…”

“She only wants Ada when she has night terrors.” She went out to the Common room and sat down on the large white couch. “I can deal with her during the day, and so can Galion, but we are useless when it comes to something like this.”

“How often does she have these episodes?”

“Roughly once a week now.  It used to be every night, and it got so your father just kept her with him, so they both could get some sleep.”

Legolas sat down beside her and shook his head.  “I had no idea…”

“I believe they help each other.”

“How so?”

“There have been nights when I check on her, only to find your Ada sitting by her crib, watching her sleep.” Her eyes met his. “Your father suffers from dreams as well.  Did you not know this?”

“No; I did not.  Do you know why?”

“No, and even if I did, it is not my story to tell.  And do not bother asking Galion, because he will tell you the same thing." She raised one eyebrow and gave him a pointed look.  "If you were closer to your father, perhaps he might tell you.”

At this notion, Legolas’s head jerked back instinctively.  “I do not think—”

“Oh, the two of you!”  She threw her hands up in disgust.  “I never saw two Elves work so hard at being uncomfortable with each other!  You both are exactly alike, and neither one of you wants to give an inch!” She stood up.  “I am going back to bed.  Your father has her well in hand, and you may stay up or go back to sleep.”  And with that, she went into her room and shut the door.

Legolas sat there in silence for a few moments, listening to his father murmur to his sister, as her sobs turned into hiccups, and then finally stopped.  His heart lurched, then suddenly his vision swam with tears.  He got up and just managed to close the door in his room before they fell down his face. 

Nuriel wanted him to understand a side of his Adar he hadn’t known existed, and he tried, but all it did was remind him of the hurt he felt as a child, believing that he wasn’t enough to make his own father hold him like that.  He would have given anything to be held and comforted by Ada, the same way he was helping Tauriel right now, but it was too late.  Too late! 

He set his jaw and wiped his tears.  No, he told himself angrily; I will not think about this!  

After years of wishing the past could be changed, he had become and expert at shoving all the pain down, and burying so deep in inside of him that it barely saw the light of day.  Maybe he was like his father, after all.

Then Legolas Thranduillion took a deep breath, and got on with his life.

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Pînlass – “Little Leaf,” Galion’s pet name for Legolas, when he was small.

Ion nîn – My son

Rista-Goeol – “Terrible Severing” The pain from losing a bond-mate.  If this happens after they are married, after their fëas become one, it can be a dangerous thing; the spouse will often need to sail, to keep from fading, or, if they stay, he or she will feel the hollow place forever.

Legolas, Pînlass nîn! – Legolas, my Little leaf!

Nannauth – Mother of the heart.

Hênig – my child

Ai, gorgor… - Oh, horrors…

I muin near – the poor dear

 

NOTES:

 

[1] This is a scene from Ch 5 of “What Makes a King,” (as seen from Legolas’s point of view):  https://archiveofourown.org/works/10838010/chapters/24431118

Chapter Text

 

I would try to shield your innocence from time
But the part of life I gave you isn't mine
I've watched you grow

 

So I could let you go
If, if I could
I would help you make it through those hungry years
But I know that I can never cry your tears
But I would
If I could

--"If I Could," by Barbra Streisand

 

 

Outside of Rivendell, 2nd of November, 2943 T.A.

Tauriel had grown into an adorable young Elleth, who loved to play pranks, and get into everything!  Galion gave her the nickname “Gwinïg,” because her little fingers were continually touching new things, exploring new surfaces and their varied textures. 

The Elfling’s standard outfit was a tunic, leggings and boots, and would only stand still long enough for Núriel to put a simple braid in her hair before she was off for the day’s adventures.  She hated the long formal dresses for ceremonies and festivals; it took a great deal of cajoling and bargaining before Núriel or Galion could dress her up, and she was forced to sit still while Núriel arranged her hair into long ringlets and decorative braids.  There were times these efforts required the intervention of her Ada

“Do I have to wear it?” she pleaded.  “Could I not wear my best leggings?”

“I am afraid not, Gwinïg.  I am sure you are grown up enough to wear this for a few hours, and I promise you may change as soon as the ceremony is finished.” Thranduil would tell her. “Now, please cooperate with Núriel, and make us proud of you.  Can you do that?”

With an exaggerated sigh, she rolled her eyes.  “Yes, Ada.  I will.”

“You look very pretty, Tauriel,” he would tell her with a small smile.

While at these events, she would often pick at her dress and sulk, until she caught Thranduil’s eye and he would give her an encouraging nod, which settled her down.

 Unlike Legolas, who used to love to run everywhere at that age, she would stop and study whatever caught her eye, and she was a regular fixture with many of the craftsman in the Realm.

Gwinïg enjoyed sitting with the Weavers at the Palace, and they would give her small pieces of every type of cloth they made, so she could caress the smooth silk as it flowed smoothly between her fingers, or run her hands over the soft, wool blankets.  In early spring, when the Elves sheared sheep to get ready for lambing, she was given some roving to twist and shape into whatever she wished.

If a dog, cat or other animal was giving birth, her bright red curls could most likely be seen among the observers, and she continually peppered the adults around with questions, then locked away this new knowledge in her mind as a treasure.

When Legolas was home, he would lift Tauriel onto is back and take her to the barns to pet the horses, and walk with her in the forest and teach her the names of all the woodland plants and animals. 

Between his tours, he made a point to spend some evenings with Galion for a quiet drink or a game of cards or Stratagem.  The Aide would give Legolas a full report of their Gwinïg’s latest exploits and adventures.   One of the most memorable was when she was learning how to write her letters, and had somehow gotten into Galion’s study during the night to practice her writing:

“She opened the inkpots on my desk, spilled it all over some important trade agreements. It took your Adar and I the rest of the night to re-write them all.” He told Legolas, as he shook his head and laughed.

“Were you not angry?”

“We were upset to find the mess the next morning, and your Adar and I went into her room to confront her.  She was fast asleep, with ink all over her nightclothes, the blankets and on her face, from where she had been wiping the tears from her cheeks.  Her little eyes were swollen; she must have cried for quite a long time.”

“Poor Tauriel,” Legolas shook his head.  “What did you do?”

“Gwinïg woke up to the two of us standing at the foot of her bed, and burst into tears again.    Clearly, she was remorseful, so we had Núriel get her into the bath and had her bedclothes replaced.”  Galion laughed.  “It took a week before the ink stains faded from her face and hands, and that seemed punishment enough.  Your Adar and I cleaned up the mess on my desk and spent most of that day and night re-writing all those documents!” He smiled.  “We managed to finish them, but just in time.” 

“Are you going to replace your desk?” He asked, when the Aide took him to his study and showed him the black splotches on its surface.

Galion gave him an impish grin. “Would you believe I have decided  to keep it the way it is?”

“I would not!” Legolas laughed. “No one is more meticulous than you!” 

“Nevertheless, there it will remain.  I think it will serve as a useful reminder that things need not always be perfect.  I have also gotten this out of storage, so she can practice under more supervision.”

Legolas pointed to the smaller desk with a smile. “I remember this!  You set it up, so I could come and spend afternoons with you after my lessons.”

“I did.  And now our Gwinïg sits here and does the same.” 

During those years, Legolas’s relationship with his father remained cordial, but distant. 

But one day, something happened that changed the nature of their relationship for the better, for a time.

The Prince had returned from his latest tour three days before, and had spent the morning practicing his archery when he came into his rooms to bathe and change, and found Núriel checking behind and under the furniture with a worried expression.

“What happened?”  He asked her, as his stomach began to churn.

“Tauriel and I were playing a hiding game like we always do, but I cannot find her this time.  Usually her cat, gives her hiding place away; that creature follows her everywhere, but there is no sign of him either!”

“Did you check my father’s rooms?”

“Yes; twice, in fact.  But she is not in there, and I have been looking for over an hour!”

“What about their offices?”

“Those are locked at the moment; she could not have gotten in there.”

“What about the Guards?  Surely they have seen her!”

“Your father and Galion are not here, so they are with them; and the two posted at the entrance to the Royal wing have not seen her, but they always change shifts about this time; she could have crept past them in the commotion.  I sent Ruvyn outside to check the gardens, but it is unlikely she was there; she’s too little to open that heavy door.”

“Amarth faeg!” Legolas cursed, and his heart started to pound in his chest.  “Where is Ada?”

“He is in a Council meeting, but—  Legolas! You cannot—"

But the Elven Prince was already running down the Hallway at top speed.

 

Legolas reached the closed doors to the Council room, and the expression on his face was enough to gain access, and he ran into the room where the Elves were meeting.  “Ada!” He burst in.

Thranduil was aghast. “Legolas?  You know you are not supposed—"

“Of course, I know!” he snapped, then took a breath and collected himself.  I am sorry, My Lord,” he bowed to Thranduil, and the other Council members.  “Please; accept my apologies for the interruption, My Lords, My Ladies, but I would not come unless there was a dire need.” He turned back to Thranduil.  “Tauriel has gone missing, Núriel and the guards cannot find her anywhere!”

Instantly the King was on his feet in alarm. “Ai gorgor!”  Galion gasped.

Emëldir, the Head of the Council said, “You must go, My Lord.  I will finish up here.”

“Thank you, My Lady,” Thranduil quickly bowed to them and exited with his son.

As soon as they were outside, his father asked, with a worried expression, “Tell me everything.”

Once Legolas apprised him, the King organized search parties to look in every nook and cranny in the Palace.  “Start a door-to-door search of the living quarters,” he told one unit.  He sent some others outdoors, in case she slipped off to see the horses (which she had managed to do, once).

“It is cold outside, and her coat is still in her room,” he told his father.

“All the more reason to make sure she did not get out.”

Thranduil hesitated before he addressed another group of Guards.  “Search all the areas below the walkways,” he ordered, in a shaky voice, “She has never crossed them without an adult to hold her hand…”

Oh, Varda, Legolas closed his eyes and prayed, Please… please… In his mind’s eye, he saw her broken body lying in the depths below, and it chilled him to his very bones. 

Legolas opened his eyes, when he felt a hand on his shoulder, and was surprised to find it was his father’s. They had not physically touched in over a century.

“We will find her, Ion nîn.” Thranduil said softly, as he tried to comfort himself, as well.  “We will not rest until she is back in our arms, safe and sound.”  Ada squeezed his shoulder then they parted to search in different directions.

Two hours later, the panic had reached fever pitch, when Idril, the head of the Palace Kitchens ran toward them.

My Lords!” she cried.  “I have found her!”

“Where is she? Is she hurt?” Thranduil’s brows furrowed with worry.

“She appears to be well, and if you two would follow me, I will show you.”

She led them in to the kitchens, put her fingers to her lips to indicate silence, before she slowly opened a lower cabinet.

Tauriel was curled up around a large plate of berry tarts, fast asleep, and a half-eaten pastry was still clutched in her small fist.  Myril, her cat and partner in crime, was snuggled along her back purring with contentment, as he guarded her.  Gwinïg’s face was covered in jam, as was the front of her blue dress, and there was evidence that some of it had even gotten into her hair.   

Thranduil let out a long breath, as he clutched his chest.  “Praise Varda and all the stars…”  he said in a broken voice. 

Legolas leaned against the counter in relief, and sent up a silent prayer of thanksgiving.

Idril explained in a whisper. “I had made those to serve at the Council Meeting, and set the plate on the counter over there, to cool.” Idril whispered.  “We were busy helping with the search, and when I came back to check on some things, I noticed the tarts had disappeared, and this cupboard door was opened slightly.”  She smiled down at the Elfling.  “She has no idea how worried we all were, does she?”

“It does not appear so, and perhaps that is a good thing.”  The Elvenking squatted down and carefully lifted the sleeping child out of her cubby hole.

“Here,” Idril quickly threw a tea towel over his shoulder.  “This will prevent your robes from becoming sticky.”

“De athae,” the King whispered, as he nestled Tauriel against him. 

Legolas followed his father through the Palace and received many nods and smiles of relief, and the Elves were careful not to make a noise lest the child wake up.  Once Galion confirmed for himself that Tauriel was alive and well, he took Núriel to his chambers so they both could calm down with some strong wine.

Thranduil carried her into his own apartment and sat down with her in his overstuffed chair, and stared intently in Tauriel’s face, as if he was afraid if he looked away, she might disappear again.  He lifted his hand and gently brushed some of the hair from her sticky face“We will let her sleep.  We can wait until after she wakes before to get her into the bath,” he whispered.

Legolas was surprised at the tenderness his father had shown.  “Would you like some wine, Adar?”

“Oh yes, please,” he looked at his son gratefully, then added a bit nervously, “Pour yourself one and join me, if you would.  We could wait together.”

Legolas did so and set the goblet on the table next to the chair and sank into one of the couches.

There were several moments of awkward silence, until Thranduil said, “I am glad you care about her Ion nîn.”

Of course, I do, Ada,” he said softly, as he caressed her little foot. “Gwinïg is special to all of us.”

“She is, indeed.”

Then father and son looked at each other, for several minutes.  Thranduil said nothing, but Legolas couldn’t help but see a question in his grey depths. 

Perhaps Legolas was wondering the same things…

Thranduil tentatively looked into his eyes.  “Legolas, I know I…do not always…”  He tried again, and the words rushed out.  “I want you to know, I care about both of you.”

He had never seen his father this vulnerable, his words and uncertainty shocked the Prince, and he didn’t know what to do, or even if he should respond, lest it break the spell. 

Just then, Legolas spied something out of the corner of his eyes. 

There, on Thranduil’s mantel over the fireplace were two framed sketches:  one was of him when he was small, and from the shape of the tree limb he was sitting on, he remembered that it was one of his favorites.  And the Elfling in the picture had a wide grin on his face.  Beside it was a scene with Tauriel stroking the neck of a spotted fawn, under the watchful eye of its mother, and Ada had captured Gwinïg’s happy smile perfectly.  He had known, of course, that his father was an excellent artist, but he’d no idea these had been done.

Something in his insides shifted, just a tiny bit, and he gave his father a small smile.  “The pictures are nice,” he said.  “Especially the one of Tauriel, but it was kind of you to draw one of me.”

“Thank you.” Thranduil told him, his eyes wide with surprise, then he smiled back.  “They are… very special to me.” 

After that day, things were better between him and his father. 

They never became close, nor did they share personal conversations, but they were much more relaxed in each other’s presence and their shared love for Tauriel became a common bond, a thread pulling them a few steps closer to each other.   There was still much about Thranduil he didn’t understand, but the cloud hanging over the two of them had lifted, and they both enjoyed it.  Legolas even sat with his father and Galion on the occasional evening, enjoying a glass of wine, and oftentimes playing a game of Stratagem.

Tauriel remained a tomboy as she grew up, and became a fine Soldier and fighter, and eventually earned her place among the Guardians of the Woodland Realm.  As with Legolas, Feren showed no favoritism, and made sure she advanced in rank upon her ability and merit alone.  She was dedicated to improving her skills, and was determined to serve her King and her home.

Father and son still shared their pride in Gwinïg and their relationship continued to improve.

 

But one day, something terrible happened, and any closeness Thranduil had with his children were lost. 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Gwinïg – “Little Fingers;” everyone’s pet name for Tauriel, especially when she was small.

Myril - Cat

De athae – I thank you/you were helpful (formal)

Nae, law! -  Alas, it cannot be true!

A, Pînlass nîn… - Oh, my Little Leaf.

 

NOTES:

--Stratagem – Middle Earth’s version of Chess.  The earliest known game of chess goes back to the 6th century in India, although Persia, after it was conquered by the Arabs, developed it into the version we know today. Some historians believe that the Chinese had a part in this as well. Either way, the game is ancient, so I see no reason why Middle Earth wouldn’t have its own version.

--The small desk in Galion’s office is the same one Tilda used when she and her family stayed at the Palace during the Long Winter of 2941-42 T.A.

 

Chapter Text

 

The Woodland Realm, 2770 T.A.

A thunderous roar shook the Palace, and reached the ears of every Elf in the Woodland Realm, and struck terror into their hearts.  Legolas, Galion, and Thranduil dashed out of their respective rooms and raced out through the Main Doors just as an immense creature flew overhead.  All turned dark, as its shadow blocked out the sun. 

Ai!” he gasped, in shock, then looked over at his father, “Ada, what is that?”

But Thranduil could not answer, and had gone white to his very lips.  His mouth opened and closed, his eyes were bulging out of his sockets, and he couldn’t seem to take a breath.  Everyone was frightened at what they had just witnessed, but Ada was so much worse.  It was as if he was seeing much more than the scene in front of them; and it completely overwhelmed him. 

He put his hand on his Adar’s upper arm.  “Are you well?” 

Suddenly, Thranduil cried out as if in physical agony, and he quickly turned away, and his hands flew up to cover the left side of his face.  Galion instantly jumped in front of Legolas and blocked his view of his father, and began to speak to him softly.

“What is the matter?” He asked with concern. “Does Ada need a healer?”

“No, but I must get your father back to his chambers, as soon as possible,” the Aide answered.  “Find Feren, and send him to us immediately!”

“Why? What is wrong?” Legolas demanded angrily. 

Adar!” He addressed his father’s back, and he and Galion began to make their way to the Royal Wing. “What was that thing?”

Galion turned back to face him, and the fear in his eyes was palpable.  “That was a Dragon, Legolas.”

The Elven Prince’s eyes blinked in shock, then he rushed to find Feren.

It was not just any Dragon that had come to take possession of the North; it was Smaug, Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities, the last of such fell creatures to inhabit Middle Earth!  Word had reached the Dragon of the immeasurable riches of the Lonely Mountain, and he had come to conquer Erebor, and claim the treasures for himself.  

He had also come to exact his revenge.  

He never forgot the name of the young, inexperienced Elf who destroyed his brother during the War of the Last Alliance.  Rurlug, another winged-Dragon had been released from the Barad-dûr by Sauron, the Dark Lord, and was about to destroy the Woodland Army, when he was eviscerated by Thranduil, their new King, bearing his own sword in his right hand, and that of his late father, King Oropher, in his left.[1]

Smaug flew over Dale, and laughed at King Girion’s pitiful attempts to shoot him, but when the King of Dale’s Black Arrow nicked him in the chest, he grew angry, circled around and proceeded to annihilate the City and most of its people, killing every member of the Royal family save one.  Then he flew North to Erebor, barreled through its gates and filled its halls with blue flame. Only the Dwarves who had managed to escape the Mountain survived, for the Dragon would allow no one to live inside save himself.  

He slammed through the halls and gathered all the gold and jewels into a bed, and laughed at his victory.

Then he waited.

The fire-drake was certain this would draw out that same Elvenking from his secret cave in the Forest, and when he did, Smaug would take great pleasure in reminding this arrogant Elf of Rurlug’s death, before he reduced him and all his people to a pile of ash.

Smaug smiled to himself and curled up to await the attack that would surely come.

But it didn’t.

After the Dragon came, Thranduil did not come out of his rooms for a day and a night, and no one was permitted to see or speak with him, save his Chief Aide, the Commander of his Armies, and Ermon, the Chief Healer.  When Legolas attempted to go to his father, he was politely, but firmly rebuffed.  

Tauriel had been out on patrol when the news reached her, and she immediately returned to the Palace to await further orders.  She entered their apartment and put her bags on her bed, then approached the doorway that connected them to their Adar’s rooms, but that door was shut and locked.

“What is this?” She turned to Legolas with a puzzled expression.  “Why can we not see Ada?  Is he well?”

“I have no idea, and no one will tell me.” Legolas was angry and hurt.  “I have asked, and not even Galion will tell me.”

There was no time to speculate any more on the subject, because there was work to be done.  While still cloistered in his apartment, the King had ordered Feren to muster his Army, and as many supplies as they could spare, including Healers, and the caravan would leave in two days.

When they arrived, support was given to the few survivors of the City of Bells, who accepted it gratefully, as they mourned their loved ones and their King.  Relief was also offered to the surviving Dwarves, but Thror, deep in the throes of the Gold Sickness, refused to treat with the Elves, and sent his grandson, Thorin, who was clearly beginning to show signs of the same illness.

The Dwarven Prince demanded that the Elves lead an attack against the Dragon, but Thranduil would not, for the Elvenking was no longer inexperienced, and he refused to rise to the bait.

“That is what he wants, Thorin, can you not see that?” Thranduil slammed his fist on the table between them in frustration,  “Smaug is lying in wait, and he will not stop until he has wiped out what is left of your own people and to destroy all of mine!  We cannot win, and I will not lead my own people to a futile, meaningless death!  I can offer your people food and supplies, and protect you on the Road in my forest, as you travel to another settlement, but that is the limit of my involvement, do you understand?”

“You arrogant bastard!” Thorin spat, “I would rather starve than stoop so low as to accept help from you or your kind!” and he stormed out.

But the Dwarven survivors would not starve.  Elvenking knew full well that Thorin was showing signs of Gold Sickness, and kept the Dwarven Prince arguing as long as possible, so Feren, Legolas and the rest of the Elves could surreptitiously hand out food, blankets, and other supplies to Thror’s people.   The King Under the Mountain was angry when he discovered this, but he was hardly going to demand his hungry people hand back their food, or take warm blankets from their children.

After the Elven Army returned to the Woodland Realm, all were saddened at the decline in their King.  Thranduil closed the borders entirely, and any visits to and from neighboring lands, even to the West of the forest was not permitted.  The Elvenking was more withdrawn that many had ever seen, and he did not speak to anyone, unless it was concerning the business of their country. 

And the Adar that Tauriel had always loved, and the one that Legolas had grown to love, was gone.  It his place was a distant, unapproachable King whose eyes were emptied of feeling.  He was a stranger to his son once again, and their poor Gwinïg was now suffering at his loss in much the same way that he had done as a child.

The pain in Tauriel’s eyes made him relive his own, and he was furious. 

 “You must try to be patient and understanding.” Galion urged the Prince. “He cannot help himself.”

“’Cannot help himself?’” Legolas spat.  “He is not the only Elven soldier to have seen death and destruction. We have all lost friends to the cursed spiders of this land, and we have seen what the Orcs are capable of!  How dare he be so arrogant and self-absorbed to think his own struggles outweigh those of any one of us!”

“Of course, he does not believe such a thing, nor do any of us!” Galion responded with furrowed brows.  “You cannot begin to understand—"

“How can I possibly understand, if he does not tell me the cause of this behavior?” Legolas replied, through gritted teeth.  “Why can you not tell me?  He even pulls away from Tauriel; she is terribly hurt, and I will not stand for that?”

“I am sorry; I cannot.  Just please, trust me, and do not take it personally.”

“’Not take it personally?’” he roared.  “How dare you say that to me?  I spent most of my childhood being pushed away by him, and now he is doing the same thing to Tauriel!  Go talk to her, Galion, try to tell her she should not feel hurt and rejected!”

“Please, Pînlass, if you would just try, perhaps your father could—"

“Nay, I am finished!  I will not be subject myself to more indifference and rejection, or I promise you: I will be as kind and gentle with him, as he has always been to me!”   And with that, he stormed out of Galion’s rooms, and went to the forest.

Legolas moved out of his rooms at the Palace, and when he was home, he stayed in the barracks with his unit.  Tauriel remained in her rooms there, but he never asked her about their father, and changed the subject every time she mentioned him.  The two of them grew in their friendship, and spent every moment they could together, and it was Legolas who helped her study and advance her skills in weaponry, and eventually she passed the tests and was promoted to Captain!

The Prince stood proudly by her side during her promotion ceremony, as the King (for that was how Legolas referred to him these days - even in his own mind) handed her the ceremonial sword of her new rank.  Tauriel bowed her head as Thranduil placed his hands upon her to offer his blessing, and when he was finished, he offered his adopted daughter a reserved smile, but it was full of pride.  Tauriel blushed and shyly smiled back as she curtsied to her King.

Thranduil’s eyes left his daughter’s and turned to his son with a long look, but no more would Legolas trust any attempts at reconciliation.  He was not going to allow himself to feel anything but resentment and anger and when King perceived this, he turned to speak to Commander Feren, with a sigh.

Tauriel was congratulated by her peers, and Galion and Núriel were quick to embrace her and tell her how proud they were.  When she came to thank Legolas for all his help, she hugged him tight, and it dawned on him: his affection for her had grown, and morphed into something much deeper than friendship.  He somehow had fallen in love with the energetic, courageous Elleth, though for now, at least, he kept his feelings to himself.

Only Meldon, his best friend since childhood knew what was in his heart and he tried to dissuade Legolas’s feelings, but it did little good.  

 

October, 2941 T.A.

Ten years later after Tauriel's promotion, a Company of thirteen Dwarves were captured in the Forest, and brought before King Thranduil.  There was a terrible confrontation between the Elvenking and the King Under the Mountain, after which he was thrown into the dungeons to join his companions.  Against all odds, they managed to escape in empty wine barrels, just as a band of Orcs attacked them.  One was captured and brought to be questioned, and it was revealed that one of the Dwarves, the dark-haired-archer was suffering from a mortal wound.

The King sealed the Palace, but not before Tauriel somehow managed to slip out, defying the King’s orders.  It was then that Legolas had realized that Tauriel, his Tauriel did not love him in the way he wanted, because she had lost her heart to that same Dwarven Archer whose life she had tried to save.

Legolas followed her, and tried to persuade her to come back and apologize to the King, but she could bear no more of Thranduil’s isolationism; they were all a part of a bigger world, and if they did nothing about the growing evil in their area, it would find them and destroy their homeland.  He helped her find the Dwarves who had been staying with Bard, the same bargeman who delivered the Elvenking’s wine.   But when she refused to follow him, and stayed with her dark-haired Dwarf, he left with a heavy heart, yet was determined to help.

That night the dreaded Smaug emerged from the Lonely Mountain, and Laketown went down in flames.  And by some miracle which could have only happened with the Valar’s help, Bard, the heir of Girion, used the Black Arrow that had been handed down to him by all his forefathers, killed that fell beast with his son Bain’s help, and the Dragons that had plagued Middle Earth were no more.

Legolas stood on the beach with Bard, and shared his foreboding as to what might come, now that the treasure inside Erebor was free from Smaug’s grasp.  He was livid to learn that Tauriel was now banished, for defying the King’s orders, and refused to heed Thranduil’s summons; instead he followed his own instincts and took her to Gundabad to investigate.

 

City of Dale, 23rd of November, 2941 T.A.

When Thranduil came to Dale, with supplies and food for Bard’s people, he helped the new King of Dale to challenge the Dwarves for the means to rebuild their lives, but Thranduil was foolish to disregard the Wizard’s warnings, as Orcs came flooding into the Field of Desolation and turned into the worst Battle many had ever seen.

Legolas had never been so disgusted and angry at his father as he was that terrible day.  He didn’t even recognize this stranger, who was holding a knife to Tauriel’s throat and when he stepped in to stop him, his eyes narrowed as he defiantly held Thranduil’s gaze. 

He lunged forward, and quickly struck down the King’s sword.  “If you harm her,” he said in a low, dangerous voice, “you will have to kill me.”

Thranduil stared at him in shock, and dismay, as if a veil had suddenly been lifted from those grey-blue eyes.  His Adar gazed down at the sword in his hand, as if he hadn’t seen it there before, as if he only now understood where he was, and what he was doing.  Legolas didn’t care at that point; if he stayed a moment more, he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from attacking the King.  He spat at the ground, and curled his lip in disgust, then grabbed a still-shocked Tauriel and got her out of there.

 

He loved Tauriel enough to try to save her Dwarf, but Bolg had gotten to them before he could help.  Then that heart-stopping moment when that monster dragged her off of the cliff, and he vowed that he would kill that creature or give his life in the attempt, and after much effort, drove his knife into Bolg’s skull with a satisfied grunt.

Nothing could have prepared him for the sight of Tauriel, his Tauriel, weeping over the body of Prince Kili, yet he faithfully stood guard and protected her in her grief, until he was sure other Elves were approaching.

It wasn’t other Elves; there was only one.  He entered the tunnels of Ravenhill to find Thranduil searching among the dead bodies with fear and desperation in his face, and when the Elvenking laid eyes on him, the wide-eyed sob of relief was unmistakable.   He opened his mouth and made ready to say something to him, but Legolas had reached his limit, and could bear no more. 

“I…cannot go back.” He told his father, not missing the expression of sorrow and regret on his face.

“Where will you go?” Thranduil’s words caught in his throat.

“I do not know.” 

Adar swallowed, and though he was obviously stricken at this, he gently suggested he spend some time with the Dúnedain, and search for one named Strider.  It sounded as good a plan as any, so he nodded to the King, and turned to leave.

Then something remarkable happened.

“Legolas?”

He turned back to see tears begin to form in Adar’s eyes.  “Your mother loved you,” he said, with a rough voice.  “More than anything; more than life.”

Not once had Thranduil spoken to him of his mother.  Never had he said such personal things to his son, since Nana’s death!  Legolas’ throat tightened, and he couldn’t speak.

All he could manage was an Elven salute to his father before he fled.

 

He might not have been able to tell Thranduil goodbye, but he couldn’t leave without speaking to Galion, so he left Ravenhill and made his way to Dale.  He stepped over the many bodies, and nodded to the Elves who had already begun the cleanup.

He ran into Bard.  “Have you seen them?” the Bowman’s voice was frantic. “Have you seen my children?”

“I have not, I am sorry to say.  Have you checked the Marketplace yet?”

“I am headed there right now.”

“I am going that way, myself.” The Elf told him, and by an unspoken agreement, Bard kept his eyes straight ahead, while Legolas silently checked the bodies on the ground. 

Suddenly Bard let out a hoarse cry and fell to his knees weeping in relief, as his children got up from their places by the carousel, and ran into his arms.  The Elf quietly left them to their reunion, and went to find Galion.

 

When he found Galion, the Aide was in his own personal quarters, arranging some papers.  “Legolas!” he threw his arms around him, then urged him to sit with him on the cot. “Thank the Valar you are safe!  Is Tauriel all right?”

“She is.  She remains on Ravenhill with the King, and they will tell you all that happened.” He sighed.  “I must go, Uncle; too much has happened, and…I cannot stay.”

Galion sank down into a chair.  “Did you tell your Adar?”

“He suggested I join the Dúnedain.”

“Will you do this?”

 He nodded, then said softly,  “Galion, I…  he spoke to me of my mother.”

“He did?”  The Aide searched his eyes. “Are you all right?”

Legolas shook his head.  “I do not know…” 

 “Ai, Pînlass nîn…” Galion stroked his hair.  “Perhaps this is a good thing; some distance from all this will help to heal, though I will feel your absence keenly.”

“I cannot say when you will hear from me, but you will always be in my thoughts.  I will miss you, dearer-than-uncle!”

After a long, hard embrace, Galion kissed his brow, and Legolas left, found the Dúnedain and for the next two years as “Beleg,” explored the world, experienced new things and met new people.

 

Rivendell, 2nd of November, 2943 T.A.

Legolas sat up in the grass and gazed upon Rivendell with increasing nervousness, perhaps even fear.  For years he had worked as a Guardian and faced down enemies in the Woodland Realm and conquered each one, but the sight of Imladris both excited and frightened him; he’d always longed to go there, but what awaited him was probably the most important journey of his life.  Here he would face his pain, bring it out to the light, leaving him open and vulnerable.  What then?  What if nothing could change, or became worse?   All these intangibles terrified him like nothing had before or since.

He had little choice but to trust Halbarad, Lord Elrond, and even the ghost of his long-dead mother.

The time had come for Legolas Thranduillion to stop moving, learn to be still, and find the courage to scrutinize the deepest parts of him.

He got to his feet, squared his shoulders and after a deep breath, got back on his horse and approached the Last Homely House East of the Sea.

 

 

 

***************

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Adar – Father

Nana – Mom

Nae; law… - Alas; it cannot be…

Ai, Pînlass nîn… - Oh, My Little Leaf

NOTES:

 

[1] From What Makes a King, CH 6:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/10838010/chapters/24520668

Chapter Text

If I could reach the stars
I’d pull one down for you
Shine it on my heart
So you could see the truth
That this love I have inside
Is everything it seems
But for now I find
It’s only in my dreams...

--"Change the World" by Eric Clapton

 

 

Rivendell, 4th of November 2943 T.A.

Elrond was sitting at his desk, going over some reports when a soft knock at his door could be heard.

“Neledho,” he said absently, not looking up.

It was Lindir, bearing a tray with his lunch.  “You appeared rather busy, so I took the liberty of bringing you your midday meal.”

Ci fael, Mellon nîn.” The Lord of Imladris set his work aside, then indicated the chair.  “Please; sit down.  I hope you brought enough for both of us.”

“I have eaten, My Lord.” Lindir’s mouth upturned in a smile, as he took his seat.  “Lunch was an hour ago, and I was becoming a bit concerned.”

“Really?” Elrond picked up his napkin and placed it in his lap, then picked up a piece of cheese and some crackers. “I did rather lose track of time; I wanted to get caught up, before our guest arrives.”

“The Sentries report he is resting in the glade just below the path to the mountain.  He has been there most of the day.  Do you want them to approach him and offer an escort?”

Elrond picked up his sandwich and sat back in his comfortable leather chair.  “They will escort him, regardless, and I am sure he realizes they are there, Lindir.  Tell them to let the Prince take as much time as he needs; it is important that he does this on his own.”

The Aide got to his feet.  “As you wish, My Lord.  Enjoy your lunch.”

 

Elrond finished his meal, drank his tea, and set the plate aside to be collected later.  Then he eyed the papers on his desk with a pragmatic sigh; he was as caught up as he was ever going to get, so he sorted and stacked them into neat piles, wrapped ribbons around them and put them into his credenza along the wall.   He reached for the wine decanter on the tray sitting on top of his cupboard, poured himself a large glass of the deep red liquid, then sat and relaxed for a time.

In truth, the Lord of Imladris wasn’t even sure how much time he would be spending with the son of his friend; that would be determined by the Prince’s attitude and demeanor when he entered the gates of Imladris.  That child (for he would always be a child to Elrond, having known him since he was an infant) was the image of his mother, despite the light coloring, but his courageous spirit and fiery temperament most decidedly came from Thranduil.  And that likeness between them, that sensitivity and empathy that was both a blessing and a curse, did not make it easy for either of them.

But he wanted to be prepared as much as possible, so Elrond opened the bottom desk drawer on the left, and pulled out a wooden box.  After waving his hands and reciting the spell to open it, he reached inside and pulled out a stack of letters, and began to review them.

Two years ago, Elrond had been with the White Council at Dol Guldur, on their rescue mission to save the Wizard, Mithrandir.  What was supposed to be a simple extraction turned out to be much more serious and consequential for Middle Earth as a whole.

The Nine who had somehow arisen, and the White Council managed to fight them off, but no one was prepared for the Necromancer’s appearance, for it was none other than Sauron himself!  All stood frozen in horror, as even Saruman realized that Mithrandir’s and Galadriel’s foreboding turned out to be worse than any of them had imagined!  The Dark Lord had been gathering strength; right in their midst!   All seemed lost, but then Galadriel held up her precious vial, the Light of Eärendil, and banished him to Mordor, nearly losing her own life, in the process!

Mithrandir had quickly recovered, and rushed to help save Dale, and once they were sure Dol Guldur was cleared, he rushed to his mother-in-law’s side.  He had spent the entire winter in Lothlórien, in fact; he kept Galadriel in a Healing Sleep, much like he had done with Thranduil, at the end of the Second Age, during the War of the Last Alliance after he had been nearly incinerated by the Dragon Rurlug, Terror of the Sky, and brother of Smaug the Calamity, who had been killed by Thranduil’s husband, Bard, King of Dale.

And he prayed.  They all prayed over Galadriel for many weeks, as her life still hung in the balance. Celeborn did not leave his wife’s side, despite the the pleas of Elrond and the Healers for him to take some rest.  In the end, Elrond had her unconscious body brought to their private rooms; the physical contact with her bond-mate was clearly helping.

On the night of 18th of December, their prayers had been answered – by his own father!  Eärendil, along with his wife, Elwing,[1] had been commission by the Valar to sail his ship closer to Middle Earth than ever before, Bearing the Silmaril on his brow.  He hovered over the Golden Wood for several minutes, before the Mariner adjusted his sails, and began to move in a Northeast direction.[2]

Elrond had lifted his head skyward and closed his eyes as he drank in the Healing light.  Every Elf who was bathed in that light did the same, for it was a miracle, never to be repeated again.  Everyone who witnessed it felt some ease from their burdens and sorrows, and were filled with a renewed strength.  

But it was much, much more than that, and only the most learned and powerful of Elves on Middle Earth knew it.  Something important had happened, Eärendil’s close proximity announced a shift in the paradigm of all Elves that would be sure to make itself known very soon.  From that moment, things had changed from the way they had always been, since the days when Eru Ilúvatar created them, and the Edain, and since Aulë created the Dwarves. 

When his appeared in the sky over Middle Earth, Elrond knew then that the Lady would live, and he was glad.  But that was not the reason for the tears that had been running down his face that night. Eärendil was his father.  A father he had never really known, but always thought about, always wondered about, and always loved. 

He opened his eyes to the bright light with a heart of gratitude and fascination, because he understood the truth:  Some of this was for him, and him alone.  A gift from father to son, a connection he had always longed for.  Elrond was able to feel his father’s love for him, filling a hole in his fëa he had known was in him.  And there was more.  He somehow knew his mother, Elwing was with his father, and she, too was sending her love down to him.  He had not seen her since he and his twin, Elros had been small (about Legolas’s age, when his own mother died, he now recalled), and her absence had always haunted him. 

 

During his stay in Lothlórien that winter, a letter made its way to him from King Thranduil, written two weeks after the Battle of the Five Armies:

 

To Elrond, Lord of Imladris

From Thranduil Oropherion, King of the Woodland Realm

5th of December; 2941 T.A.

Suilad, Mellon nîn,

Please; a thousand pardons must be asked for my negligence in not writing to you beyond the business of running our Kingdoms.

I am sure you have heard news of the massive attack on Dale and Erebor, by two different Orc Armies on 23rd of November.  If your reports speak of the great danger, and the terrible loss of life, they cannot begin to describe the horrors of that terrible day, nor our grief for so many loved ones who have been called to the Halls of Mandos. 

Yet, while we do not believe in the platitude, “Everything happens for a reason,” it is a universal truth that the Valar “can bring reason to everything that happens.”  There is a new King Under the Mountain, as you probably already know, and Dáin of the Iron Hills is… not as unreasonable as his reputation makes him out to be.  He had been misled by Thorin, or rather, Thorin’s illness, but we are working toward a better understanding, which can help stabilize the North in times to come.

Mithrandir will give you a first-person account of all that for your records, so I will not bore you with the details.

Hence the personal nature of this letter, Mellon nîn. 

Many changes have taken place during these last several weeks, both in my personal situation and in my family.  As soon as the dreaded Smaug awoke, it destroyed Laketown, and the refugees are now starting over in Dale, led by none other than the descendant of King Girion! 

Bard was known to me before this; several years ago, I met with him and hired him to deliver wine and other supplies to the Realm, and of course his ancestry was easily apparent.  He had been recently widowed, with three small children, and at that time, I found a kindred spirit in our grief. 

When I rode into Dale to deliver supplies to the refugees, I found him struggling to care for his people, and we became better acquainted over the next several weeks, as we planned to confront the thirteen Dwarves sealed in the Mountain.  I wanted Mírelen’s necklace, Elrond.  But after witnessing the courage and determination of the Bowman and his people, I realized I wanted to help them survive, even more. 

The Valar somehow had us all on that field, when the Orcs swarmed us; and I thank them every day for whatever they did to put us there.

I shamefully confess to losing my equanimity that day, Elrond.  You, more than most, know what I went through in the War of the Last Alliance, and for a few debilitating moments, I was transported to that terrible place and time.  I am mortified to tell you that I ordered a retreat, then behaved horribly with my children!  Even seeing these words on paper crushes my heart and brings tears to my eyes.  Of that, I can say no more, knowing that firstly, you understand, and secondly, when next Mithrandir arrives to visit you, he will no doubt tell you everything. If he does, so be it; I trust you completely to understand and not judge, though I will forever hold myself in contempt.

I have been trying to speak with Galion about things, because that day taught me that I cannot hide anymore!  I must find a way to face those horrors of the past, or these “flashbacks,” for want of a better word, could render me incapable of leading my people in Battle!  I cannot put my people at risk.

Yet despite my despicable behavior, the Valar has gifted me a miracle!   They have granted me the means to let go of my grief and allow me to find happiness again!   King Bard is a Man, yet he has become as dear to me as Mírelen was.  And to my great surprise, my feelings are returned, though I have done little to deserve it.

I love him, Elrond.  I am truly and deeply in love with him and incredibly, Ilúvatar and the Valar have granted our wives the chance to give their blessings.   Mithrandir came to speak with Bard and myself not two nights past, and it seems this was what the Valar (and Mírelen) have wanted for me all along!  She has been released from Mandos and petitioned that our fëa-bond be severed.  I am free to marry whomever I choose, and I chose Bard I, King of Dale.  The Valar has done a remarkable and wonderful thing; given us a means to be together forever, and when the time comes for me to sail to the Undying Lands, my Meleth nîn will be at my side.

We have not told Tauriel and our children yet; we plan to do so within the next few days.  We are meeting with Bard’s new Steward and Seneschal (and friends) Percy and Hilda for a lunch meeting today, and we plan to give them the news first.

As for Legolas…

Now we come to the real purpose of this letter.  I am happy to share my good news, Mellon nîn, but this news is not without sorrow and heartbreak:  my son, Mírelen’s and my own child, has left me, left the Woodland Realm, and I think it will be forever. 

And it is my fault, Elrond.  I did this.  I became so lost in my sorrow and grief, that I made my son feel unloved, and unwanted which could not be further from the truth!  Yet, I pushed him and his love away too many times, and my behavior during the Battle has not only made him lose faith in me as a father, but as a King, and I do not know if that can be remedied.  Despite my joy, I am once again grieving, and it is only Bard’s love that keeps me from drowning in the shame I deserve.

Before he left, I was able to tell him how much Mírelen loved him, but did I have the courage to say that I loved him every bit as much?  No; I was a coward, Elrond!  Perhaps it is as well; what reason have I ever given him to believe me?  He would see it as a pathetic attempt to convince him to stay.

But at that moment, I was given the insight that this is what my son needed to do, and not just for himself.  I sensed a bigger plan was falling into place, so I let him go with a heartfelt salute, and saved my tears for afterward.   Rather than wander aimlessly, I was led to suggest that he join with the Dúnedain.  I was not much older than young Tauriel when Kingship was thrust upon me, and I envy him this chance to travel and experience the world in a way I never could. 

My foresight also urged me to mention a name to him: “Strider.” I do not comprehend the details, Elrond, but I sense that their paths are meant to intertwine, be it now, or at a future time.  I do not understand this “Strider’s” importance –but I think we both must trust the Valar’s plan; I hope I have done what they ask of me.

Mellon nîn, though my relationship with Tauriel improves by the day, I fear it is too late for my son, and there is nothing I can do but pray that the burden of grief and anger be lifted from him somehow.  It is too much to hope that we would one day be reconciled, but for his own sake, he must not live the way I did; and I am determined to find any way I can to help him be free.

Please; I beg you, as my friend, my savior, help him!  Be the loving, affectionate father that I was not, if that is what he needs.  If my presence in his life will cause him nothing but more grief, than I must let him go, though it would give me great pain.  Please, Elrond; I am entrusting you with something most precious.  Keep track of his whereabouts, do what you can to ensure his well-being, for he is part of me, and I love him very much.

De vilui, Elrond; de vellon nîn n'uir,

Thranduil

***

Elrond had been thrilled for his friend, of course, and though he knew little of this Bowman-now-King, he trusted the Valar’s will, and Mithrandir’s judgement.  At last, Thranduil had found healing, and happiness!  Still, that joy was tempered with deep sorrow over the loss of his son, and Elrond sighed when he reread the words.

Of course, as time went on, the safety of the young Woodland Prince became of grave concern, as shortly after he returned to Rivendell, he received a missive from the Lord and Lady of the Golden Wood:   

 

To Elrond, Lord of Imladris

From Celeborn, Lord of the Golden Wood

3rd of March 2942 T.A.

Suilad, Iônnauth,

My wife continues to improve, and though she objects, I have made sure she does not exert herself.

However, she has been given a vision, which concerns a certain young Elf, son of my cousin and our mutual friend.

Galadriel has foreseen that he has a vital role to play in the future of Middle Earth; and he must be protected, for his participation is crucial, and he is in more danger than any of us realized.  I have sent a falcon to deliver this same message to Chieftain Halbarad, which, Valar willing, he has already received.

For the foreseeable future, the Elf we speak of will be referred to as “Beleg,” and under no circumstances will he be called by his true name, unless he is under the protection of what we will not speak of.

I do not know when you might see Beleg personally, but we will add our prayers and efforts to look out for him, as we have always done.  Please send our grandsons to the Chieftain to aid in his protection. 

Galadriel and I agree that for now it is best that Beleg’s importance not be mentioned to him.  Things must be allowed to unfold naturally, and we must trust that all will be revealed in time.

As soon as it is safe, I will send a missive to my cousin, giving him the details.

On a personal note, Arwen was thrilled that you spent the winter with us (though she grieved for the cause, of course).   She loves and misses her Adar, but she flourishes under the doting attention of her grandparents, and I am sure you noticed the thick letter accompanying this!  She is a delight, and we love having her!

Celeborn

 ***

Elrond blew out his breath and set that letter aside.  Thank the Stars he had followed his instincts, because he had sent Elladan and Elrohir to Halbarad a few months earlier.  Celeborn’s letter had simply confirmed his suspicions

The next one came from Halbarad, Chieftain of the Dúnedain.  He was never one for flowery sentiments, and always got right to the point (which Elrond found refreshing): 

 

5th of March 2942 T.A.

My Lord Elrond:

A falcon arrived this afternoon, with careful instructions from the Golden Wood concerning one named Beleg, an Elf who will be joining us soon.  

Immediately after receiving the message, I sent your sons into the wilderness to find Beleg, give him the information he requires, and they will escort him to us.

Be assured, Mellon nîn, I will look after him as my very own, and will protect him with my life, if need be.

Regards,

Halbarad

 ***

Since that time, Elrond had indeed kept abreast of Legolas’s whereabouts, with the help of Galadriel, Mithrandir, Radaghast and of course, his friend Halbarad.  The Wizard himself made an appearance that same July, and they sat for hours in his study, catching up on news and discussing this very situation: 

 

“Tell me, my friend,” Mithrandir lit his pipe, “what have you heard from the Dúnedain?”

“He is there among them.” Elrond assured him.  “We can speak freely in here; I have a silencing spell, and of course, we both possess that which we cannot mention.  I assure you: nothing can go beyond these walls.”

“That’s good, because I have much to say,” the Maia replied.  “Galadriel is correct in her vision.  I visited the Golden Wood in April, was relieved to hear she had contacted you and Halbarad.  That boy must be kept safe, at all costs!”

“You know I will do this, regardless, but I would like to know these reasons, Mithrandir.”

“I understand,” the Wizard nodded, “and that is one of the reasons for my visit.  After I left Dol Guldur, I rushed to see Thranduil and Bard, and I will tell you all about the Battle later.”

”Erestor is eagerly awaiting you in my library, to take down your report.” Elrond smiled. 

“I stopped by and spoke with him, briefly, and I’ll start with him tomorrow.” The Wizard waved his hand absently. “For now, I wish to speak of the miraculous change in our Elvenking, and the King of Dale played no small part in that.  Believe it or not, those confrontations between Thranduil and his children set that entire chain of events in motion, for had Thranduil still been closed off, nothing I, or even the Valar could do would help him. Tauriel and Legolas, in effect, had held up a mirror to Thranduil; at last, our friend realized what he had become, and saw the ugliness in his fëa.  He was torn to pieces by it.”

Elrond winced, as he crossed his long legs. “That must have been painful to watch.”

Mithrandir’s eyes clouded.  “It was agony, but necessary, I think.  After the Battle, he found Legolas and bid him farewell, then tried to offer some comfort to Tauriel before she went down.  Then he broke down completely, Elrond.  He wept for hours.”

“Do you think that is a good thing?”

The Wizard nodded, sadly.  “As hard as it must have been, I do.  I was there and saw his sorrow for myself, though Thranduil is unaware of it.  I had gone up there to speak with him, and ran into Commander Feren, who told me that Thranduil was in a terrible, terrible state.  I came closer and saw him for myself; he had collapsed against the side of the cliff and...” the Wizard shook his head and sighed.  

“What happened then?”

“I assured the Commander he was doing the right thing.  Not all tears are an evil, and perhaps these were a healing step for him; a new beginning.  I left Feren with strict orders to protect his privacy, and not disturb him until after he’d calmed down, and he wasn’t to speak to anyone about it.”

Feren is his best friend; he’d have done that, regardless.”

”True, but,” Mithrandir smiled, “an order from a Maia carries a bit more weight.”

“It was kind of you to allow him to ‘pass the buck,” the Elf chuckled quietly.  “I received a letter from Thranduil, telling me about King Bard.  I was surprised, of course, but thrilled.”

 “I married them myself, did you know that?  Lovely little ceremony in his tent, surrounded by close friends and family.  Neither wanted a big fuss, or as Bard likes to say, ‘a big hullaballoo.’  It really was perfect…”

“And the children?  I understand Bard has three?”

“The Bardlings are wonderful.  The son, Bain is eager to follow in his parent’s footsteps and learn how to be King.  Their daughter Sigrid is intelligent, level-headed and will become a Healer one day.  And little Tilda,” the Wizard laughed, “is completely besotted with her new Ada, and the feeling is mutual!  She is seven years of age and has our stern Elvenking wrapped around her little finger.”

”Now that I would like to see.” Elrond smiled.  

“The little one was terribly ill in February, but thanks in part to your books on the Healing and treatment of Men, she is still with them, though she remains delicate.”

“I am glad to be of some small service, and will pray for all of them.  How does Legolas and Tauriel get along with the Bardlings?”

What little interaction Legolas had with them was somber, but not unfriendly.  Tauriel, on the other hand, is enjoying a new closeness with her father, and she seems to love her new siblings.” Mithrandir finished his pipe and put it down.  “I was in Dale this past May, you know.”

“Were you?” Elrond asked eagerly.  “And are they doing well?”

“Well, at the time, they were both recovering from serious injury, and had been bedridden for several weeks—”

“What?” Elrond’s eyes widened in shock.  “What in the world happened?”

“Bard was nearly dead from a crushing blow to his leg, and despite all Ermon could do, it was Thranduil who saved him, nearly at the cost of his own life.  They both should have died, but Dáin sent me a message asking for help, and I had to ask Námo and Vairë for their assistance.”  Mithrandir smiled mischievously. “Vairë and I have always been good friends, and I think Námo stepped in only because he wasn’t pleased I was paying his wife so much attention.” [3]

Despite the seriousness of the situation, Elrond couldn’t help but laugh.  “You are innovative, when you want something done.”

The Wizard shrugged and pulled on his pipe.  “I’m glad I did.  Mírelen herself requested that she be the one to help Thranduil.  There were things that needed to be said; things that you need to hear, my friend.” [4]

“Concerning what?  I already know the meaning of my father’s blessing last December. [5] I was surprised, but if this will help Elves stay in Middle Earth and become stronger for the War to come, I bless it.  My people are needed, but I cannot compel those to stay who wish to leave, nor will I.”

“No, nor should you; the desire must come from them.” Mithrandir gave him a reassuring smile.  “And of course, you know that your Celebrian has no wish to break her bond with you.  She waits for you with a full and healed heart.”

Elrond let out the breath he didn’t know he was holding.  “I hate to admit that was a fear of mine.”

“She loves you, Elrond.”  Mithrandir patted his knee.  “You will see her soon.  My heart tells me this will be over, for good or for ill, within this next century, though I know your honor will not allow you to leave until you have done your utmost.”

Elrond swallowed. “Or sacrificed my utmost,” he whispered sadly.  “My heart tells me not all of my children will see their mother again.”

“You know they have a right to their choice, every bit as much as you and Elros do.”

“I still feel the bitterness and pain at Elros’s parting, and I fear it will be worse with them.”  The Elf shook his head.  “This ‘blessing’ [6] is a curse for everyone left behind; whether they go to Valinor or no.”

 “Even the wisest among us cannot know the reasons for motives of Eru and the Valar.”  Gandalf shook his head.  “But let us not dwell on things that cannot be changed; I must speak to you of Legolas.  I have learned that the Enemy knows of him, and has known since his birth that he will play a part in his downfall.”

“How?”

“That is hidden from me, to my great relief.  But Mírelen’s murder took place because she was protecting her son.”

“Of course, she was!  Ermon, the Master Healer told me when I came for the funeral, that she had crouched over him, to keep the Orcs away; it is what any mother would do!  What is remarkable about that?”

“No; you do not fully understand, Mellon.  These Orcs were after the child.”

“Ai, gorgor…”  Elrond breathed.  “And you are sure of this?”

“Mírelen herself told Thranduil what she had learned.  Of course, it was only recently that we all understood the Necromancer was actually Sauron, but he knew of the child’s existence.  Thranduil, despite his crippling grief, doubled his guards; an order which remained until the day he left.”

“Sauron wanted the child killed?”

“Worse than that: He wanted the Elfling taken alive!  He planned to turn him into a thrall, and eventually release him.  This would not only foil the Valar’s plans for Legolas, but would ensure his victory in the North, thus ensuring his eventual victory over Middle Earth. Think about it, Elrond:  If the North fell in the War we all know is coming, Gondor would fall.”  Mithrandir got up from his seat and looked out the window of Elrond’s study.  “And if Gondor falls, there will be no King, and Middle Earth is lost.”

The Elf Lord joined him at the window and they looked down upon twelve-year-old Estel, who was playing in the garden with his nanny.  “Bless Mírelen for her sacrifice, though it nearly destroyed Thranduil.”

“Indeed, it did, and that is why I am here.  Like Aragorn, Legolas must be kept safe and hidden from spies. And, like Aragorn, the rumor has been spread that Thranduil’s son was killed.” 

Mithrandir turned to Elrond.  “Legolas mourns deeply from an unrequited love he feels for Tauriel.  She loved another – Kili, Thorin’s nephew?”

“The one with dark hair?”

“The same,” the Wizard affirmed.  “One of the reasons why he left his home was to try to heal from that wound.”

“But if he is destined for other, more dangerous things…”  Elrond began—

“He cannot be distracted, nor can he join with another, until after this is all over.”

“But surely the Valar cannot presume to control the hearts of those who worship them!”

“No, but in a way, this preoccupation with Tauriel will be a good thing, as it will keep him from developing another attachment.  ‘The Valar does not make everything happen for a reason, but it can bring reason into everything that happens.’”  The Wizard tilted his head and smiled.  “You yourself wrote that, did you not?”

“I did.” The Elf nodded.  “Funny you should say that - Thranduil quoted the very same thing in his letter.  Still, why is this infatuation with Tauriel important for me to know?”

“Because Legolas will be coming here to stay.   Sometime in the next few years, he will be led to come, and you must be prepared.  We must introduce him to the young boy, and they will need several years to develop a close, devoted friendship.  Their lives will depend upon it.  Aragorn will depend upon Legolas, even more than he already needs your sons.  It takes years to develop that level of trust, but they must become close enough to anticipate the other’s thoughts and moves in all things.”

“I will do that.  What else?”

“Legolas cannot be weakened or vulnerable to grief by marrying.  Eventually, he will let go of his sadness regarding Tauriel and understand she was not meant for him.  Still, there is reason to worry, and we must work together to help him, Elrond.”

With that, the Wizard handed him the box that he had brought with him when he entered Elrond’s study. “Legolas can’t afford to be distracted or weakened by anything.  For Middle Earth’s sake, for our friend Thranduil’s sake, but mostly for the boy’s sake, we must help Legolas find peace and reconcile with his father.  He cannot be burdened with pain and anger when the time comes, he will rely on his father’s love and support more than he will know, to give him the courage to face what he must.”

Elrond studied the seal on the lid.  “This is from the Woodland Realm.”

“It is indeed.” Mithrandir said, in a quiet voice.  “Thranduil gave me this to bring to you, and trusts you to find the right time to give it to him.”

“What is it?”

“Here,” Elrond was handed an envelope… 

 ***

Elrond sat in his study and meditated upon that conversation with Mithrandir, eighteen months ago, and picked up the last of the letters.  This was also from Thranduil, and as he reread it, his throat tightened in empathy for both father and son: 

 

20th of May, 2942 T.A.

Elrond, Mellon nîn,

Since our mutual friend will be delivering this personally, I will spare us both the formalities, and tell you of what is now in your possession.

During all the long years of my widowhood, I lacked the courage to speak to my son about his mother.   Of all the things of which I am deeply ashamed, this is the regret that will haunt me for the rest of my days.  I robbed my Pînlass nîn of someone who loved him more than me, more than her life!

I cannot change the past, but my husband Bard has helped me find a way to help him now.  “It is time to introduce Mírelen to her son,” he told me.   He gifted me with this book, to fill with memories, stories and drawings, in hopes that I could, in some small way, fill the chasm that was left by Mírelen’s absence.  It took most of the winter to finish, as I looked after my new family and some of Bard’s people, while Dale was rebuilt and restored.  I finally completed it before the serendipitous appearance of Mithrandir, and he graciously agreed to entrust this treasure to you.

For it is a treasure, Elrond.  This box, and these pages contain all my hopes, my earnest prayers and all the love I can possibly express for my son.  Everything I remember about Mírelen is written in these pages.  Too long has he felt bereft, too long has he felt unwanted, unloved and pushed away, and I beg the Valar to help me remedy this in some small way.

I ask that it be given to him only when you think the time is right, only after you believe Legolas is open and ready to face his past.  As to when that moment might be, I will trust your excellent judgement.

 If and when you think it would help him, make sure he understands that, as much as I would love to reconcile, I want him to be given this freely, and I ask nothing of him in return.  I only want him to find peace and healing; wherever his heart takes him from there, I vow to accept.

I trust you implicitly, for you have always been, Hîr nîn, Nestan nîn, Muin Mellon nîn,

Thranduil

 

With a sigh, Elrond placed the correspondence back in his box, spoke a few words in Quenya to seal it, then replaced it in his desk drawer, as memories, unbidden and unwanted flowed through him.

He and Legolas have more in common than the young Elf knows. 

The Prince wasn’t the only Elfling who had lost his mother and had bitterness toward a father, though his anger and pain had never been direct toward Eärendil.  He had never known the Mariner, except as an absent, abstract idea, but he had lost the mother he and Elros had cherished.  And they had been taken in by foster-fathers.  Elrond and his brother had been raised by Maglor and his brother Maedhros, and there had been great love between them—

Until the day the twins had learned the full truth…

No!  Elrond closed his eyes and refocused.  There was hope for Legolas and Thranduil, but there could be no hope for him, and it was useless to think about it.

Someone was knocking on his door, and it thankfully shook off Elrond’s melancholy before it had had a chance to take hold.

“Enter,” he said, softly.

Lindir stuck his head in.  “My Lord.  Beleg has arrived.”

Elrond stood up, finished his glass of wine, threw on his formal robes as Lindir helped him place his diadem. 

“I took the liberty of telling the kitchen that there will be no welcoming feast.  I fear it would attract too much attention.  Rather, you and Beleg will dine privately in your rooms, this evening.”

“Excellent.” Elrond smiled at his Aide.  “Shall we meet our esteemed guest, Mellon?”

“As always, My Lord, I am at your disposal.”  Lindir returned his smile, and opened the door for him.

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Neledho - Enter

Ci fael, Mellon nîn – That was generous of you, my friend. (lit. “Thank you/You were generous”)

De vilui, Elrond; de vellon nîn n'uir – Thank you Elrond (you are kind); forever you are my friend

Iônnauth – Son-in-law (Not to be confused with Ionnauth, without the thingie over the U, which means “son of my heart.”

Pînlass nîn – My little leaf

Hîr nîn, Nestan nîn, Muin Mellon nîn – My Lord, my Healer, my dear Friend;

 

 

 

NOTES:

A Thrall is someone who is completely in another person's power or having great power over someone; a slave, servant, or captive.  Melkor first developed Orcs from Elves who had been captured and turned into thralls.

http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Thrall-Noldoli

_______________________________________________________________

[1] http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Elwing

[2] http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Earendil_the_Mariner

[3] https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/31753875

[4] https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/31617468

[5] https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/32276277

[6] "But when all was spoken, Manwë gave judgement, and he said: 'In this matter the power of doom is given to me. The peril that he ventured for love of the Two Kindreds shall not fall upon Eärendil, nor shall it fall upon Elwing his wife, who entered into peril for love of him; but they shall not walk again ever among Elves or Men in the Outer Lands. And this is my decree concerning them: to Eärendil and to Elwing, and to their sons, shall be given leave each to choose freely to which kindred their fates shall be joined, and under which kindred they shall be judged.'."

― The Silmarillion, "Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath"

Chapter Text

 

 And when you feel afraid, love one another
When you've lost your way, love one another
When you're all alone, love one another
When you're far from home, love one another...

--"Love is the Answer,"  by  England Dan and John Ford Coley

 

 

Rivendell, 4th of November 2943 T.A.

Elrond and his party stood on the dais of his home, as his Guards escorted the only Elven Prince left on Middle Earth through his gates. 

There was no visible evidence to indicate the young Elf’s position or importance. His clothes were careworn; his cloak was tattered in a deliberate way as was the custom of the people he’d spent the last couple of years with.  This was the way of the Dúnedain: a subtle, yet stalwart guardianship of the lands and people under their protection.  They have long been the silent watchers and spies for the White Council, joining them in the fight against evil in Middle Earth.  These Men, descended from a line of Kings of Númenor.  Elros, son of Eärendil and Elwing, and twin brother to the Lord of Imladris, had chosen the fate of the Edain, and now resides in a place no one knows, save the Vala Námo, and Eru Ilúvatar himself.  These tall, brave men of the line of Isildur, never wavered in their commitment to serve and protect, whether their Kingdom be tall towers and Castles, or simple rustic forests.

Elladan and Elrohir had been honored to serve with their cousins, throughout the long years.  Elrond was proud that his sons wished to serve as well; despite their impish behavior and prankish inclinations, his twins were among the most talented and fiercest fighters on Middle Earth.

 

The hooded figure came to the bottom of the steps of Rivendell and dismounted.  Then the fabric was pulled back, and “Beleg’s” hair shone in the early November sun.   He bowed to the company and saluted his Lord with the utmost respect and honor, for Elrond was the heir of Gil-Galad, and though he never accepted the title of High King, every Elf on Middle Earth respected Elrond.  It was not just his station they respected; it was his wisdom.

“Welcome to Rivendell, Beleg.” Elrond walked down the steps with a welcoming smile, as he returned the salute.  “I hope you enjoy your stay here.”

“I am honored to be received, My Lord,” the Elf bowed his head.  “Êl síla erin lû e-govaned 'wîn.”

Elrond signaled to the Guards to take care of Legolas’s horse.  “Please; allow me to introduce key members of my household:  This is Lord Glorfindel, Cáno of Rivendell and all our surrounding lands.”

The young Elf’s eyes widen in recognition of the Elven-Lord’s name, and Elrond smiled a little at the reverent tone of his greeting to his Military leader. 

“It is my great honor to meet you, My Lord,” Beleg took the hand Glorfindel offered and they clasped wrists, warrior-style. 

“The honor is mine,” the Cáno was gracious, with no hint of patronization.  Everyone on the dais knew Beleg’s true identity, and despite his ragged appearance, the blonde Elf was the son of a King, and was paid the respect due him.

Another Elf, slightly shorter than Glorfindel, but just as fair of face, stepped up to him.  “I am Hesto Gildor, of the House of Finrod, Tain to Lord Glorfindel.”

After Glorfindel’s Second-In-Command clasped wrist with the Elf, a stately elf with black hair came forward and saluted.  “I am Erestor, Chief Counselor to Lord Elrond, and keeper of the libraries and archives of Rivendell.”

“Ni veren an dhe ngovaned, r nîn.”

“Mae de 'ovannen, Beleg; I am Lindir; Aide to Lord Elrond.” The Elf standing beside Elrond was a bit shorter in stature, and had the look of a scholar and administrator. 

Beleg bowed his head.  “Dhe suilannon, Hîr Lindir.”

“I imagine you must be hungry after your journey; please allow Lindir to escort you to your rooms, where you can refresh yourself, then I would like you to dine with me privately in my quarters in an hour.”  Elrond placed a hand on the young Elf’s shoulder.  “I am truly happy you are here.”

“De vilui,” Beleg said shyly and turned to follow the Aide.

“If you will excuse me, My Lord,” Gildor said.  “I have some duties that require my attention.  Have a pleasant evening.”  After bowing to the others, he took his leave.

Erestor and Glorfindel stood on either side of Elrond, and watched the blonde Elf retreat.  “I think his time with Halbarad may have done him some good.”

“You are correct.  The twins have noticed a marked change in his demeanor since they first met him.”  The Lord of Imladris sighed.  “But it is only a beginning.  May the Valar favor him, for much rests on his shoulders.”

 

A while later, Elrond looked upon his guest with a hint of amusement.

“I take it the food is to your liking?”

The staff in the kitchens must have been aware of the appetite of young Elves, for the table in Elrond’s private sitting room was loaded. It appeared that little of the food was going to go to waste, for as well-mannered as Legolas was, he was already on his third helpings.

Legolas looked up from his pie and winced.  “I am sorry if I seem gluttonous, My Lord; I have not had a feast such as this since my stay in Lothlórien over a year ago.”

He laughed. “Quite the contrary; you remind me of my own children when they were your age.  Believe it or not, you eat much more slowly than my sons.”

“Oh, I believe it, My Lord.” The blonde Elf wiped his mouth with his napkin and reached for another roll.  “It is fortunate they are both excellent cooks in the wild; they would starve otherwise, for I have not seen much of a decrease in their consumption of food.”

“Perhaps not,” Elrond chuckled quietly.  “It is funny; when they are here, they are as wild and boisterous as they were as children.” he cocked his eyebrow at Legolas, “Your father used to pity my wife and me, and not without good reason; they both were terrors!”

He observed Legolas carefully, to gauge his reaction at the mention of Thranduil.  The hand that had just grabbed the roll froze in the air, and eyes averted downward. 

To ease the tension that suddenly filled the air, Elrond handed him the crock of honey-butter.  “Here, this is especially good.   In fact, I will have one or two myself.”  He split two of the rolls, spread a thick layer on them and took a bite.  “Mmmm….  Just a touch of cinnamon…  I forgot how good these are.” 

The young Elf’s shoulders relaxed some, and he followed suit.  “Yes,” he said eagerly. “It is very good!”

They finished their meal, and the servants came to clear the table.  “Come,” he said, “Let us sit before the fire with a glass of wine.  We should talk.”

Legolas’s eyes became a bit worried, but Elrond was careful to keep things casual, as he poured them both a generous glass of wine and took one of the leather-upholstered chairs, and indicated the other.  The flames of the fire were bright, the wood was giving off a pleasant crackling sound as they sat in silence for a moment or two.

He smiled at the Prince. “My sons have told me much about you, as did the Lord and Lady.  Though you might not remember it, you and I have met.”

“You have?”

“Yes, I came to your naming ceremony when you were born, and had a wonderful visit with your parents and grandparents.  You wet on me, as I recall,” the Elf-Lord chuckled.  “You soaked my robes clear down to my leggings; your mother was mortified.”

Legolas smiled.  “I would not have remembered that, though I do apologize.”

“Oh, it was nothing that my own children have not done.” He waved his hand dismissively.  “I also saw you when I came to the funeral of your mother, sad though that was.” He studied the Elf.  “Have you no memory of that time?”

“I do not, My Lord.”

”Do you remember your mother at all?” Elrond asked, and his eyebrows raised when Legolas shook his head.

”Galion and Núriel - My Nanny - told me that happens sometimes, when the memory would be too painful.”

”They are correct, Mellon nîn. You were just a child, and they were right to protect you.  You look very much like Mírelen, you know.”

“I’ve been told this.  I have my father’s hair and eyes, but my face is my Naneth’s.”

“Not quite.  Your hair is the shade of your grandfather, King Oropher, and your eyes are the same shade of blue.  Your father’s coloring is lighter as was Queen Lindorië’s.” 

“I know my mother was born here in Rivendell.”

“She was, and I hope to give you opportunities to learn about her, during your stay.  Your grandparents have sailed, sadly, but for many years, they lived with your parents at the Palace and rejoiced at your birth.”

”They are gone, as well.” Legolas said with sadness in his voice, but there was a touch of resentment, too.

”Your maternal grandparents had lost both of their children.  You had an Uncle who was one of my Guards, did you know that?  He was killed by Orcs, when my wife was attacked.”

”No; I did not, though I am sorry to hear of it,” Legolas bowed his head with respect. “I am also sorry for Lady Celebrían’s pain.”

”Thank you.  She is well now, and I will see her soon.” He gazed intently at the Elf.  “I tell you this so you understand that your grandparents did not leave by choice; they loved you very much, Legolas, and love you still, as do your paternal grandparents.”

Legolas smiled.  “I hope I can learn more about them while I am here.”

“That is well, for I have plenty of stories of your mother to tell you,” he smiled.  “I wish I could allow you to speak to my people openly, but it would be too dangerous.”  Elrond sat forward.  “I must ask you to continue to use your pseudonym outside the confines of these private rooms, or my study.  Not even in your own rooms may your true identity be spoken.”

“I understand.” Legolas sighed.  “I do not wish to endanger anyone, My Lord.  I had no idea there was a price on my head, until Elladan and Elrohir first found me and took me to Halbarad.”

“I wish I could tell you it was not true, but Lady Galadriel was made aware of it, and she is never wrong.”

“You mean…  she knew?  Even when I was there in June?” 

“She did.”

“Lord Celeborn as well?”

“Celeborn as well.” Elrond took a sip.  “In fact, the only other person in Lothlórien who was aware of this during your stay was the Marchwarden Haldir.”

 “But…” Legolas was confused.  “I do not understand!  Even in private they said nothing, yet we are speaking freely here!   Are you sure my presence is not putting you or anyone at risk?”

“Legolas,” he said gently.  “Of course, they knew you; Celeborn is your cousin, and they also came when you were born, and Celeborn helped your father when your mother passed to the Halls of Waiting.  It was decreed that while you were with the Dúnedain your true name would never be spoken aloud, under any circumstance.  To do otherwise would have not only endangered you, but the others you were with.  Halbarad is willing to serve the wishes of the Valar, but he takes the safety of his people very seriously, and commanded that not even the Lord and Lady use your proper name.”

“That makes sense.”  Legolas agreed.

“It was a wise tactic, and Galadriel and Celeborn were not offended.  Those woods are as protected as my Realm, but even the secret utterance of one wrong word can be overheard, and all it takes is for that word to fall into the wrong hands.”  Elrond held his cup in a toast.  “Halbarad has spoken highly of you; you served them admirably, and he is very sad to see you go.  Elladan’s and Elrohir’s opinion of you is the same.”

“I am pleased to hear that, but I do not understand why the Enemy wants me.”

“I give you my word, that before your stay with us is over, you will understand the entire truth, Legolas, but I cannot reveal that to you just yet.  Do you trust me to tell you when the time is right?”

“I will try.”

“That is an honest answer, and I can ask for no more.  Just believe me when I tell you that what is kept from you is for your safety, and that of others.  I promise; the day will come when you know and understand my reasons.”

Legolas twirled the cup in his hands, then looked up at the Elf-Lord and asked, “May I be frank, My Lord?”

“I was rather hoping you would be.”

“Why do you want me here?  I am flattered by your invitation, of course, but I was finding a new purpose for myself with the Dúnedain!  Yet I am told I must come, but I do not know the reason.”

Elrond tilted his head and gave him a quizzical look.  “I suspect that is not quite true, Hênig.

Legolas swallowed.  “Perhaps I do,” he admitted.  “I do not know if I want to.”

“Another truthful answer,” he narrowed his eyes,  “though something tells me part of you wishes to speak of it.”

The prince sighed and gathered his courage. “I had a… The Tarnin Austa this summer was special…”

“It was indeed.  Elenion Panilwë is a rare event in and of itself, but even more so when the skies are as clear as they were that night.” He tilted his head toward the blonde Elf.  “I take it your Vigil was… “remarkable?”

“I saw someone who told me she was my mother.”

“Mírelen?” Elrond crossed his legs and smoothed the fabric on his leggings.  “Do you wish to talk about it?”

“Do you not already know?” Legolas wondered.  “I thought that was why you asked for me.”

“How would I know, ?  Have you told anyone about your Elenion Panilwë?”

Legolas gaze traveled to the flames in the fireplace.  “Only Halbarad, but that was just last week.  He said that you had written him in the spring, asking for me to come now.  So, you knew I was coming, even before the Summer Solstice?”

“I did indeed. To answer your question frankly, I know nothing about your experience at the Tarnin Austa, but if my reasons happen to coincide with what your mother told you, then clearly, you were meant to come, do you not agree?” 

“How did you know I was supposed to come?”

“I received a message from the Valar that you needed to be here.”

“A message?  How?”

Elrond rested his fingers on the arms of his chair.  “Lady Galadriel has her ways to learn the Valar’s will.  You may see that for yourself, if she deems it appropriate.  Your father as well as I have the gift of foresight, but I have another means to learn the will of the Valar.  Tell me, Legolas: have you heard of the Tower Hills and their history?” [1]

“I have. Last year we traveled near the Shire, and I saw the towers, but only from a distance.  They are quite beautiful.  I learned a little about them in my lessons with Galion as a child,  but while we camped near there, Elladan told me the full story.”

“He did not tell you everything there is to know about those Towers, particularly the tallest one.” Elrond said.   “You remember meeting Gildor, Glorfindel’s Second-in-Command?”

“I do.  A relation of his in my father’s Kingdom, is named for him.”

“Gildor is the head of a group of Elves who travel to the Tower Hills twice a year, for a specific reason.  Can you guess why?”

Legolas shook his head. 

Elrond studied him carefully, then made his decision.  He leaned forward, “Legolas, what I am about to say, must never leave this room.  Do you understand?”

“I promise, My Lord.”

“In the tallest Tower, the one called Elostirion, there is a Palantir.” [2]

“Surely not!” the young Elf was alarmed.  “You must not approach such things, you know this!”  Surely the Enemy—”

“Be at peace, son of Thranduil.” Elrond interjected.  “I assure you, , this particular stone is not linked with the others on Middle Earth, so the Dark Lord knows nothing of it.”

“Where is it linked to?”

“To the Vala Elbereth, Queen of the Stars.”

The Elven Prince’s mouth dropped.  “I…  You mean…”

“This Palantir is usually dark, but Gildor travels in the spring and the fall, nonetheless, and has for millennia.  It has become a traditional and ceremonial pilgrimage, to show our devotion to the Queen of the Stars and all the Valar.  But two years ago, during the autumn of 2941, and then the spring of 2943, there were several important messages, and some of them had to do with you Legolas, son of Thranduil.”

“Me?”

“I received the message in April that I was to write to Halbarad and ask him to bring you this fall.  I was also told you would come, because you would be sent a message of your own.”  Elrond smiled.  “Evidently your mother delivered it herself, which does not surprise me; Mírelen was always determined to change things, and it seems she has!” He laughed.  “Even as a child, she was strong-willed and knew her own mind.  She was very intelligent, Legolas; a good match for your father.”

“Are you sure it was her?”

Elrond could feel the child’s anxiety.  “Do you doubt it, Legolas? Truly?  Or do you doubt what she wants from you?”

Legolas stared into the fire again, sighed, then said, finally, “She wants me to reconcile with my father.”

“Ah.  I confess I suspected as much, but I did not want to be presumptuous.” He got up to pour Legolas some more wine, and handed it to him.

“I do not understand…” the Prince tried to absorb all this news.  “What does my mother have to do with Queen Elbereth and the Valar?”

“Well, I will tell you, and though it seems fantastic, I assure you, it is true.  Let me ask you: Where were you on the night of Eärendil’s Blessing?  What did you see?”

The young Elf was surprised at the question.  “I was camped for the night on the Caradhras, at the Redhorn Pass.  I will never forget it; the star came so close, high up on that Mountain, it was as if it was coming straight at me, but I was unafraid...” Legolas’s eyes were filled with wonder.  “I could not understand what it was, or what it meant at the time, but since that night, much of my deep grief was lifted from me, and things became… bearable.  I still felt unhappy, and the burden was not completely lifted, but much of the despair was gone.  I do not know how else to explain it, My Lord.”

“Most Elves experienced something similar, Mellonneth nîn.  My father saved the Lady Galadriel with that healing light, and her life was no longer in jeopardy.  I was at her side that night, and we had almost given up hope and were considering sending her to the Grey Havens.”

“She was that ill?”

“Banishing the Dark Lord from your father’s Kingdom is no small feat, Legolas, even for one as powerful as herself.  Yet she did it willingly. For she knew if Sauron remained, you and all your people, as well as Dale and Erebor would surely die.” He said.  “Had she not done this, my father’s message from the Valar would have meant nothing.”

“Message?”

“Before the Battle of the Five Armies, before Smaug was killed, I received word from the Tower Hills, that things were going to change for the Elves, to help those that want to remain and fight against Sauron can do so.  This message was received long after Mithrandir and the Dwarves came to Rivendell, on their journey to Erebor or I would have sent it along with the Wizard.  Your friend, Tauriel fell in love with Prince Kili, yes?”

Legolas turned slightly pale and nodded his head. 

“Have you wondered how that could be so?  Or the fact that your father fell in love with Lord Bard?  It was because the Valar, with Eru’s permission, decided to make allowances for the Elves.  There is love and marriage, Legolas, but no more will the death of a bond-mate mean a life of torment, or death from fading, or a journey to the Grey Havens.  You felt the band of grief loosen around your heart, did you not?”

“I did, though I could not understand it.”  The blonde Elf’s eyebrows furrowed.  “My mother said she petitioned the Valar to sever the bond between her and my father, so he could marry again.”

“That is true, but your mother did not stop there; she was the one behind this shift in Elven paradigms.  And Eärendil’s Blessing was the formal announcement, as well as a way to heal those Elves whose hearts and fëas were damaged and burdened.”  He tilted his head to one side.  “You should be proud of your mother, Legolas; she worked a miracle for all of us.”

“I am…” the Elf said in a small voice.  “I…  had no idea.”

“Many things have happened, since you left your home; some have to do with you personally, and some have to do with the future of Middle Earth as a whole.”  Elrond smiled at the somber young Prince.  “Legolas, your father sent you to the Dúnedain, did he not?”

The blonde Elf was quiet for several minutes, as he looked into the fire.  Then he said, “Yes.”

“Can you tell me why?”

“He mentioned someone named “Strider,” but I have not found him, nor does Halbarad know of such a person.”

“So, you think he lied to you?”

“I…  am not sure.”

“And you believe your time with the Dúnedain has been a waste?”

“Not at all, despite what my father wanted. I had found a new sense of purpose with them, and planned to spend the rest of my days with them, until you and my mother summoned me here, for reasons I do not know, yet you will not tell me why!” the young Prince’s voice grew louder in frustration.

“Legolas, your father did not lie; he foresaw that you needed to go there.  There is one named Strider who will be of utmost importance to you, and vice-versa; you have not met him yet, but I promise, you will.  Thranduil was not wrong to send you to Halbarad, whether this ‘Strider’ be among them or not.  What have you learned in your years with them?  What have you seen?”

Legolas’s temper settled down somewhat, and he considered the Elf-Lord’s question.   “I have seen much of Middle Earth, in a way I never could have as a Prince.  I have walked among many people, as their equal, rather than royalty and…”

“And?”

“I think I have a better sense of who they are and what they stand for this way.  No one was ‘putting on airs’ for my sake, nor were they even on their best behavior; they were themselves, and I came to care for and appreciate their customs and cultures.”

“This is a wise observation, LegolasI would say your time with Halbarad was good for you, and not the waste of time you may fear.”  Elrond set his cup on the side table, crossed his legs and steepled his hands.  “Can you tell of your most profound experience among the Dúnedain?”

“We came across many villages in the Wold of Rohan, and helped Lord Léod and the Elves of Lothlórien capture some who were exploiting children from Harad.”

“Your father wrote and told me of their efforts with some children the Dwarves had rescued.  They met with the King of Harad himself, did you hear about that, or how widespread this criminal network was?”

“I did.  It was good of Lord Bard to help them.”

Elrond studied the Prince closely.  “Do you not know what happened, Legolas?  There was an attack last May, and several were murdered in Dale.”

“No,” Legolas shook his head. “I had no idea.”

 “Princesses Sigrid and Tilda were kidnapped, and would have burned to death had your father not saved them.  These bandits attacked from all sides, all at once, and it was a miracle more weren’t killed.  Several others besides your new sisters were taken, and while that was happening, Prince Bain, Tauriel and several others were attacked and nearly killed while out riding.”

The Elf’s eyes widened in shock. “What?  What happened?”

“They are unharmed, thank the Stars; Thranduil and Bard led the rescue efforts, and the Galadhrim that were in Dale helped, but even then, there was a terrible fire, and had it not been for Galadriel and Celeborn, he would have been killed, and the smallest child would also be dead, for her heart gave out completely.” Elrond was astounded.  “You truly knew none of this?”

“No…” Legolas sat up straight, and shook his head.  He ran his hand over his mouth and his eyes wandered around the room as he tried to absorb this news.

“I understand that you feel apart from them, but these people are your family, Legolas.”  Elrond saw Legolas’s eyes fill with tears, and could see the pain in his face.  “I do not say this, to torment you, truly.  But I speak the truth; you are loved by many, and though you cannot see it, just now, I am praying that one day you will.  One of the reasons why you are here, Legolas, is that you need to stop hiding your pain in a flurry of frantic activity.”

Elrond got up, went over to the Elf, lifted his chin and smiled at him with compassion.  “Legolas, my young friend, I would ask you for the opportunity to help you free yourself from this dreadful weight, to help you breathe the free air again.”

The Elf said nothing, and nodded dumbly. 

“I think we have said enough for one evening.  You are tired, and I have given you much to think about.   Go now, and rest.” When the young Prince stood, he put his hand on Legolas’s shoulder and squeezed it.  “There is someone here I want you to meet, and tomorrow, we will take you on a tour of Rivendell.  After that, you will see Glorfindel and go over the duties that will be expected of you, while you stay with us.”

Legolas bowed his head and saluted.  “As you wish, My Lord.  I bid you good night.”

“Rest well, .  And remember, aside from my study and these rooms, you must always go by the name Beleg.”

“Of course, My Lord.” Again, he bowed, then left the room.

 

Elrond sat and looked into the fire for a long time, as he pondered his new guest.  In some ways, the situation was better than he had anticipated, but in others…

Regardless, the Elf-Lord had his work cut out for him.

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Êl síla erin lû e-govaned 'wîn – A star shines on the hour of our meeting

Cáno(Quenya) First Commander; similar to Feren’s position in the Woodland Realm

Hesto – (Quenya) Captain

Tain – Second-in-Command

Ni veren an dhe ngovaned, Hîr nîn -  I am happy to meet you, My Lord (formal)

Dhe suilannon, Hîr Lindir – I give greetings to you Lord Lindir

Mellonneth nîn – My young friend.

Hênig - My child.

 

 

NOTES:

Elenion Panilwë Húmë – (Q.) “Walk among the Stars” is a special alignment of the stars and planets, which only happens on Tarnin Austa once every thousand years.  Legends say that if the skies are clear on this night, the veil between worlds can be lifted for a time, but only for those whose hearts have no malice.

Tarnin Austa - ("Gates of Summer”) was held on the first day of summer. It was custom to begin a solemn ceremony at midnight, continuing it until dawn of Tarnin Austa. No-one could speak from midnight to daybreak, but upon the rising of the Sun they would burst into ancient songs, with choirs standing upon the eastern wall. At that time the city was filled with silver lamps, and lights of jeweled colors hung on the branches of the new-leaved trees.” - J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, pp. 172, 211, 347

http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Gates_of_Summer

 

***I assure you, with all sincerity, I am NO expert at Sindarin, and I thank you for your patience and tolerance if accidentally butcher it.

My sources for Sindarin are several, and though I do my best to get it right, I thank you for your patience as I am sure I am butchering it:

http://www.ambar-eldaron.com/english/downloads/sindarin-english.pdf

https://realelvish.net/phrasebooks/sindarin/doriath/

http://www.elvish.org/gwaith/sindarin_grammar.htm

 

 

 

[1] http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Tower_Hills

 

[2] http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Palant%C3%ADri

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Gazing at people, Some  hand in hand

Just what I'm going through, They can't understand

Some try to tell me, Thoughts they cannot defend

Just what you want to be, You will be in the end…

--“Nights in White Satin,” by Moody Blues

 

 

Rivendell, 5th of November 2943 T.A.

Beleg’s eyes opened to the bright sun shining through the window over his bed.  What time was it? 

He stretched and yawned as he drowsed; this bed was the most comfortable he had ever slept in, yet it had taken him hours to finally fall asleep.  Elrond had been right; their meeting last night had given him a great deal to consider, and he had tossed and turned much of the night. 

He blinked his eyes fully open, then sat up and took in his new surroundings.  The bedroom wasn’t big but it was full of light, and a sharp stab of homesickness went through him, as he studied the design of the furnishings, especially his bed.   It was much like the one in his room at the Palace back home.  That had been made here in Rivendell, as a wedding gift for his parents, and a reminder to his mother of her homeland. 

 

 

The day he had reached his majority, there was a great celebration at the Palace, though he would have preferred little pomp and ceremony.  His begetting day was in January and there had been a banquet and a dance, and there were many gifts.  His father had given him a mithril diadem, free of jewels, simple and flowing in design, which suited him perfectly.  King Thranduil had many such items for different occasions, and they suited him, but Legolas despised such frippery.  He particularly detested the crown that looked like silver antlers, and dreaded the day Galion might want him to wear it.  It was a bit of a comfort when he realized his Adar hated it just as much.

The next day, Galion took him to one of the storage rooms.  “There is something I think you should have, Pînlass.  He pointed out a large, long crate and together they took off the lids and revealed the elaborately carved bed.

“It belonged to your mother, Legolas.  It was a wedding gift from your grandparents, and I think you should have it.  It is time.”

He ran his hands over the smooth, polished wood.  “It is very beautiful, though it needs oiled.”

“I could have some of the servants do this, but I think you would enjoy taking care of it yourself.  It is yours now.”

“But what about Adar?  Will he not object?”

Galion put his hand on Legolas’s shoulder.  “You leave your father to me; do not worry.  I will send along some items to treat the wood, and leave you to it.  It is my gift to you.”

He threw his arms around his dearer-than-uncle.  “Thank you, Galion.  I love it.”

“And I love you, Legolas.”  The Aide said softly.  “It is good that you have this.”

The rest of the day was spent carefully examining the bed frame for signs of dryness or weakness, then he oiled it and polished it until it shone.  His mother had been gone for 89 years, and it was clear that someone had been taking good care of this, otherwise it would have completely dried out.  It couldn’t have been Adar; but he was sure that Galion had ordered it to be maintained for this occasion.

Once it was taken to his room and set up with a new spread, he marveled at it and felt closer to his mother than ever before, as if this bed was part of her, watching over him as he slept, and he liked the idea of that.

He was tracing the swirling patterns of the footboard when he sensed someone watching him.  At the sound of a soft gasp, he turned his head toward the doorway where Thranduil stood, with a pale, strained face.

Adar, I—”

The Elvenking raised his hand to shush him.  “Galion told me,” he said in a rough voice.  “I…  It is right that you have it, Ion nîn.  She would have liked that…”

“Thank you—”

But his Adar rushed from the room before he could finish the sentence.    

Thranduil went to his own rooms and he did not come out for two days, and from that day forward, did not enter his apartment.

At the time he understood, and had some compassion for his father, but that goodwill eroded over time, and disappeared completely after the Dragon Smaug sacked Erebor and Thranduil’s heart turned to stone.

It could have been so different…

Legolas got up and walked through the entrance to his sitting room, which was fitted with a table, two comfortable chairs and a small couch.  There was a fireplace in this room too, but it was not lit.  Like his bedchamber, the windows were large, and the light made it cheerful.  He went over to one of the windows and looked down upon a large garden.  Many of the flower beds were covered, as were the bushes, prepared for their winter sleep, yet it was still a pleasant sight.  The sun was high in the sky—

The sun. 

It must be nearly midday!  How long had he been sleeping? 

He quickly went to the necessary and took care of things, then he washed his face and hands, and brushed and braided his hair.  He didn’t have many clothes with him, and they weren’t at all suitable for a lovely place such as this; he would have to ask Elrond about having some more made.  He put on the spare tunic and leggings in his pack, pulled on his boots, and hurried out to find something to eat.

“Good morning, Beleg; did you sleep well?” It was Lindir who was the first to greet him, once he entered the hall.

“I did, eventually.” He grinned at the Aide.  “I am not used to such comfortable lodgings.  Can you tell me where I might find some breakfast?”

“I am afraid you slept through the morning meal, Beleg.  Lunch will be served in an hour in the Dining Hall.”

“It is midday?  I did not mean to sleep so long; I apologize—”

Lindir raised his hand to calm him.  “Lord Elrond instructed that you not be disturbed.  And it appears you did need the rest.  You look much better.”

“Thank you.  Could you please direct me to the Dining Hall?”

“Down this Hall, make a left, then a right, and go all the way to the end; you cannot miss it.   But in the meantime, I will have some tea and fruit sent to you.  There is a small balcony outside your sitting room for you to enjoy if you wish.”

“I would like that very much, Mellon, but after this, I do not wish to be such a bother.  I would prefer to dine with the others.”

“As you wish,” Lindir smiled and bowed.  “Lord Elrond and his companion will meet you in the Dining Hall soon.”

“I look forward to it.”

 

At midday, Beleg entered the Dining Hall which was beautiful and peaceful.  There were arches and curves everywhere, and while the Palace of the Woodland Realm reflected the forest they lived in, this Homely House celebrated the mountains and valleys and sky.  And there was something else; a timelessness and magic lived in this place.  He felt the same in the Golden Wood, though Lothlórien could not be more different.  Yet the same sense of enchantment surrounded him there as here. 

He would have to ask Lord Elrond about it.

“Good morrow Beleg; I hope you slept well?”

He went to the head table, and bowed to the Elf-Lord.  “I did, though it took a bit of effort.  Thank you for allowing me to rest, My Lord.” 

“It was no trouble.  Come; join us,” he indicated a seat two chairs from his.  In the middle was a child.  A human child.

He tried to hide his surprise, and took his seat. 

“Beleg, allow me to introduce you to my ward, Estel.”

“Mae de 'ovannen, Beleg,” the boy gave him a perfect Elven salute.

“Ni veren an dhe ngovaned, Estel,” he returned the greeting.  “Your Sindarin is excellent.”

“Estel has been with us since the age of two, and is my foster-son.  He lives here with his mother.”

“It is funny that Elladan and Elrohir never mentioned him.”

“Did they not?” Elrond was nonchalant.

“I did not mean to be rude, My Lord.  Please accept my apologies.”

“Think nothing of it.  Estel is always happy to make a new friend, is this not true, Ion nîn?”

Ada tells me you are a very good archer.  Could you teach me?” the boy asked. 

“Of course; that is, if your Adar agrees to it.  I would be happy to.”   The child was attractive, with dark hair and light eyes, and looked to be about the same age as Lord Bard’s son, when he met them.  “Do you have your own bow, yet?”

The boy’s smile lit up his face.  “I just received my new bow – Glorfindel said I was finally old enough.”

“And how old are you, Estel?”

“I am twelve; my birthday is the first day in March.” 

“You are tall for your age,” Legolas remarked.  “And you certainly look strong enough to have his own bow.”

“See? I told you I was big enough, Ada!” Estel told his father excitedly. 

“And you were right, hênig.” Elrond laughed at his foster-son.  “As a matter of fact, I was hoping that you would become Estel’s official instructor.  Glorfindel is working with him in swords, but Halbarad tells me your prowess with a bow and arrow outshines even the twins.”

“Thank you for the compliment, My Lord.” He grinned. 

“I have also been told you are an expert with fighting knives, and I would like you to meet with Glorfindel regarding instructions and practice with my own Guards.”

“It would be my honor, though I cannot imagine that someone like Glorfindel needs to be taught anything.”

“You might be surprised, Beleg.  It is always wise to understand how our enemy fights, but it is equally important to understand how our friends do, as well.  In times to come, we will be called upon to stand side-by-side with our kindred and fight our common Enemy.  We must be ready to work together, to share different techniques and ideas.” He regarded the blonde Elf.  “You have heard of the ‘exchange program’ between Lothlórien and the Woodland Realm?” 

“I met some of my friends in the Wold last year, My Lord.” He said with a smile.  

Elrond’s face showed slight alarm at this and asked carefully, “And were they happy to see you, Beleg?”

“They were,” Legolas said, with a nod of reassurance.  “They told me Lord Celeborn was excellent and thorough.  They had no doubts as to what was expected of them.”

“That is well.” The Elf-Lord smiled down at his ward, who was pushing his food around on his plate.  “Estel, you must eat your vegetables, or there will be no dessert for you.”

“Can’t I just skip them this once?” the boy pouted.

“Estel,” an authoritative female voice was heard.  “You know the rules: you cannot have your treats until you eat all of your greens.”

 “Beleg, I do not believe you have had the pleasure of meeting Lalaith, Estel’s mother.”  The Elf Lord indicated the lovely woman seated on the other side of him.

Mae de 'ovannen, Brennil nîn.” Legolas bowed his head.

“Ni veren an dhe ngovaned, Beleg.” Lalaith smiled.  “Estel, finish you lunch so you can help show Beleg around.”

The dark-haired lad’s eyes appealed to Legolas for help. 

“I am afraid I agree with your Ada.  I had to eat my greens when I was your size.  How can you grow big enough for a full-sized bow?”

“Estel, I was hoping you will help me show our new friend around this afternoon.”

“Can I show him my tree house?”

Legolas leaned down and said, “I would like to see it, very much.”

The boy grinned and dug into his beans with a bit less reluctance.

 

Once the meal was finished, Estel held his hand, as they toured the wonders of Imladris, and it was a wonder indeed!  Lothlórien had astounded him, with its Mallorn trees and the houses in the sky, but Rivendell had a unique beauty all its own, such a beautiful place nestled in the valley, so open and lovely.

Elrond hardly had to say a word; but looked on with pride and affection as Estel led the way, took him to the smithies, the meeting halls, and the different houses and introduced his new friend to the Elves who dwelt there.

At the main library, where Elrond kept the ancient artifacts of their people, Legolas gasped when he was brought before a statue bearing the shards of Narsil.

“That,” Estel said with pride, “is a really old sword, but it’s important.”

“Can you tell Beleg why it is so sacred?” Elrond quizzed the child.

“Because a Man like me used it to cut the Ring from the Dark Lord!” the boy pointed at the mural on the other wall.  “See?  That’s King Isildur!”

Legolas took in the scene depicting the end of the War of the Last Alliance.  “That must have been gruesome.”

Ada was there, did you know that?”

“I believe I read something about it, when I was a young-ling.” He winced.  “I am sorry, My Lord.  History was not my favorite subject, I am afraid.”

“Me neither.  I’d much rather be out playing, but Erestor says I have to learn about everybody’s history.”

“Me either,” Elrond corrected.

“So, you like to read?”

“Sometimes.  If the stories are exciting, but Erestor doesn’t always give me those,” Estel rolled his eyes.

 

Then they came back to the courtyard and Estel led him over to a large Oak tree with a small flet built high in its branches. 

“That’s my cargaladh!”  Elladan and Elrohir helped me build it when I was eight.”

“I believe this is where I will leave the two of you,” Elrond said.  “Estel, can you keep Beleg company until his appointment with Glorfindel, and take him to the barracks?”

“Of course, Adar.”

“Have a pleasant visit,” the Elf-Lord bowed his head to Legolas.  “After you are finished with Glorfindel, could I meet with you in my study?  Any of my people will be happy to show you the way.”

“Yes, My Lord.”  Legolas saluted. “Thank you.”

“Come on; lets go!” Estel started to climb the wooden planks attached to the trunk as “steps” for a growing child of Man to manage, and Legolas jumped up and caught the lowest limb and easily made his way up to the structure.

“It is well-made,” he looked around the small room, and the collection of stones, strings, bones, books and other treasures a boy likes to keep.  “I have a favorite tree back home, as well.  I liked to sit in it and read, when I was young.”

“Where are you from?” Estel settled in a cross-legged position, against the wall.

“I am from a place far from here called the Woodland Realm.”  At the boy’s blank look, he added, “Many refer to it as Mirkwood. Have you heard of it?”

Recognition lit up in Estel’s face.  “Uh huh.  Erestor showed me maps, and said it’s over the mountains, way past the Golden Wood.  I’ve never been there; what is it like?”

“Well, it used to be beautiful and green, but an evil being came to dwell in the forest and it got sick.”

“Is that thing still there?”

“No, and I am thankful.  The Lady Galadriel purged it two years ago, and I think the woods are feeling better, but it still suffers.”

“I know her!  She and Celeborn are the parents to Ada’s wife.  She went to the West a long time ago.”

“So, I have heard.” Legolas said soberly.  “I am sure he misses her very much.”

“He does, but he says he’ll see her soon.  He’s good to my Nana, and we like it here.  She likes to help make the tapestries, so that’s where she is most days while I’m at my lessons.”  Estel regarded him curiously.  “What is your Naneth like?”

“She died when I was very small, sadly.  She was killed by Orcs.”

“That’s how my real father died.  I don’t remember him, either.”  The boy looked sad.  “He was very brave, though.  We came from a village to the north of here.”

“Really?  What is the name?”

“They said it’s not there anymore, and that the Elves brought us here.   Nana said maybe when I’m older I’ll know everything, but I have to wait until Adar says it’s the right time.”

“Maybe it is difficult for Lord Elrond to speak of; Lady Celebrian suffered at the hands of the Orcs, Estel, so your mother is right to tell you not to press him.  My own father cannot speak of my Naneth, as well.”

“Is your Ada still in Mirkwood?”

Legolas smiled.  “I prefer to call it the Woodland Realm.  Mirkwood is not a nice name to my people.”

“Oh, I’m sorry!  I’ll try to remember that.”

“It is all right, but I would appreciate it.”  The Elf looked around at the bare branches, and the slight breeze that flowed through the small house.  “Are you warm enough, Estel?”

“I’m starting to get a little bit cold.” The boy was reluctant to admit it.  “I suppose this is the last time I get to sit here until next spring.  I wish I was an Elf, and the cold didn’t bother me.”

“I am glad you are a boy,” he smiled.  “Never wish you were someone other than who the Valar made you to be, Mellon nîn.  There is a purpose to everyone’s life; we just have to find the courage to discover it.”  He got up and helped Estel to his feet.  “I think it is time for us to go inside.  Can you take me to Lord Glorfindel’s office now?”

“Sure!”

 

Once they were back on the ground, he was shown to Glorfindel’s door, just as Erestor came up to them.  “Estel, it is time for your maths lesson.”

“I had a good time with you, this afternoon, Estel.” Legolas smiled.

The boy’s face fell.  “But when can I shoot my bow?”

“Perhaps tomorrow, Ion nîn.” Erestor raised his eyebrows.  “But if you do not do well in your classes, then no sport; that is the rule.”

Estel sighed.  “I know.  Novaer, Beleg.”

“No veren, Estel,” Legolas waved at him, as the child scampered off to the library.

 

The Elven Prince met briefly with the Commander and it was decided that he would begin training with the rest of the troops the day after tomorrow.  Legolas found the him surprisingly relaxed and easy to converse with, and he gradually felt comfortable with this legendary Elf.   It was clear that Glorfindel knew Legolas’s true identity, but was going to treat him like any other officer under his command, and allow him to advance on his own merits, which he appreciated.

“Because you will be tutoring Estel in Archery and several other matters, you will be posted to Guard various places within the City and around it’s walls for the foreseeable future.” He looked up from his papers.  “Is this agreeable to you?”

“You are my Commanding Officer, My Lord.  I am at your service,” he bowed his head respectfully. 

“Very well, then.” He handed the schedule to Legolas.  “I look forward to working with you, Beleg, and I hope you enjoy your stay.” He smiled.  “Perhaps you will agree to spar with me at time or two.  If you are anything like your father, it will be a delightful challenge.”

“I look forward to it.”  He saluted then left to find Elrond’s office.

 

“How did you enjoy your visit with my ward?” the Lord of Imladris asked, as he looked up from his desk.

“He is a delightful child, My Lord.”

“He has made Imladris a lively place, though Lalaith struggles to keep my people from spoiling him.”

“I take it you are an indulgent father?”

“Oh, I would have been, but after raising my twins; I learned the hard way that a good parent must set limits.” The Elf-Lord laughed.  “Even now, our fountains occasionally become overrun with soap bubbles, when Elladan and Elrohir decide Rivendell is too quiet for their liking.”

Legolas tried to keep a straight face.  “Do you not get angry?”

“Oh, I pretend to, but I cannot remain so,” Elrond shook his head.  “I think they do it to keep me from becoming too serious and morose.  I also think they want to keep their own sorrow at bay at the loss of their mother.” He sighed.  “They make a great deal of noise, but they mean well.”

“I suspected as much,” he grinned.  “Your study is impressive!”

Legolas looked around the room in wonder.  It was every bit as functional as his father’s office at the Palace, and the setup and architecture could not have been more different, yet, both rooms reflected their Elven heritage and style.  There were tall bookshelves, cupboards along two of the walls, and the huge desk in front of the window was simple, yet elegant.

“Please, take a seat,” Elrond invited, and Legolas sat in one of the tufted, leather-backed chairs.  To his surprise, the other Elf got up and moved around the desk to take the other seat, and he realized that this was going to be a personal conversation.

“I am sorry you were not aware of the attack on your family last May,” Elrond began, “and I want to apologize to you for being so abrupt with the news.”

“My father could have sent word.”  He told Elrond, with a bit of resentment in his voice. “It was not your fault.”

“Thranduil and Galion were right not to send word to you directly.  What if someone overheard?  Even if they did not use your pseudonym, the details in their letter could have easily provided our enemies with enough to suspect your true identity.  No; it was right that you be told here.”  He picked up a part of a letter on his desk, and handed it to Legolas.  “I received this during the summer from Galion, but it did not occur to me until after we spoke that this might also be intended for you, when you came.  I think you should read this, Hênig.”

Legolas took the letter, and his heart stirred when he recognized Galion’s slanted script: 

 

 

“…fortunately, Tauriel and Turamarth (son of Captain Ómar, whom you know well)  were with Crown Prince Bain and two of his friends on Hope Field (formerly the Field of Desolation), and they quickly got the boys to safety, and dispatched with the attackers.

At the same time, the two Princesses and some other women and children had been forced from the house of the City Planner of Dale, and were taken out of the City before the attack.

Master Ermon will be sending you a thorough account as to the miracles that occurred that night, with a great deal of help from our friends in the Golden Wood, and you may be especially interested to hear of Lord Celeborn’s participation in these events.

Still our victory was not without loss.  Several innocents were murdered, others were injured, including a friend of Lord Thranduil’s son, who goes by the name of Ivran.  He was struck with a barbed arrow, and thankfully will recover, but another, a Guard named Meldon was killed…

“Meldon?” Legolas gasped.  “It cannot be!  He and I have been friends since childhood.” His eyes widened in shock.  “We are the same age, and took our lessons, and joined the Army together…  What happened?”

“I am sorry, Legolas.  According to what I have been told, Meldon was standing guard with Lieutenant Ivran outside the City Planner’s house, and both were shot.  I have the medical reports from Ermon...”  Elrond’s voice became gentle.  “Meldon died quickly, and did not suffer a great deal.  Your friend was honored with a memorial service in Dale, then his body was taken back to the Palace for the funeral.”

Elrond gave him a compassionate smile.  “Your father also wrote me and expressed his sorrow at Meldon’s loss.  He told me the young Ellon has been close, and expressed his sorrow on your behalf.” 

“Did he?” Legolas was surprised, and a bit uncomfortable.

“Yes.  Neither of these letters negates the rumors of your untimely death, and they both found a way to make sure you were told.   I think it was kind of them, do you not agree?”

Legolas swallowed and said nothing. 

“It has been two years since you left, Mellonneth nîn; do you not miss your home even a little?”

“I miss a great deal of my former life, My Lord,” he said sadly.  “More than I thought I would.” He shook himself.  “But I think I am supposed to be here, and not just because my mother wanted me to come.” The young Prince’s eyes filled with tears and he swallowed.  “Meldon was…  I never said goodbye, and we did not part well.  I should have written...”

“I am truly sorry for your loss, Legolas.”  Elrond leaned forward and put his hand on his shoulder with a compassionate squeeze.  “I know you lost many of your friends and companions during that terrible Battle, and that is always hard.  I, too, have lost one whom I considered my dearest and closest friend.”  Elrond looked sad.  “My brother Elros was a part of me, and I will not see him again.  Try to find comfort in the fact that Meldon will one day return, and I wish you both a wonderful reunion.”  He squeezed again, then let go.  “For now, I urge you to take some time to mourn and remember your friend, and I will have supper sent to your rooms.  Think of your time with him, and sing the songs of friendship and mourning; I will see that you are not disturbed.”

The young Prince stood up.  “That will not be necessary, My Lord; I would like to keep busy—”

“Legolas,” Elrond rose, and said in a firm, but not unkind voice, “you are here for many reasons, not the least of which is because you need to stop running from things.  Your friend was obviously important to you, and you must learn to face your feelings.” He tilted his head.  “You may not appreciate this observation, but in this respect, you are very much like your father.  Has anyone told you this?”

“All of my life, My Lord.”  Legolas saluted and went back to his rooms.

A fire had been lit in the hearth; Elrond obviously had ordered it, knowing he would need its cheerful warmth.  After pouring himself a large glass of wine, he sat in one of the chairs and thought about the Elf who had been at his side through many a mishap and adventure and stood by him through thick and thin.  

 

 

Núriel had come to work for Galion right after the funeral for his mother, and her brother had a small Ellon who was the same age and the young Prince.  One day, not long after she had moved into his apartment, she brought the dark-haired young-ling to play with him and the rest was history.  Through the years they laughed at the same things, liked the same kinds of trees, and struggled through their grammar and maths lessons under Galion’s supervision.  Meldon had always been protective of him; though they never spoke about it his friend understood the depth of his loss and made it his personal mission in life to keep the young Prince smiling.

If Legolas became too sad or serious, he found himself the victim of silly practical jokes, or at times even pounced upon, wrestled to the ground and tickled until they both could hardly breath with laughter.  They entered the military on the same day, and worked through the ranks together.

“When I become King,” he told his friend, when they were children, “you will be my Commander, just like Feren.  I will need someone beside me I can trust.”

“What makes you think I would?” Meldon grinned and threw his apple core at him.  “What if I have better things to do?”

“You will do it because I will be your King!” Legolas made a face, picked up his roll and hit him in the head with it.

This soon disintegrated into a full-blown food fight that left the table in shambles.  Núriel threw up her hands at the sight and made them both scrub up the mess. 

Legolas took another drink then set it down on the table and stared into the fire as the tears began to flow.   

He felt loss at the death of his mother, but he barely remembered her; she was a abstract idea, and he hadn’t felt close to her.  But Meldon had been a constant in his life; even though time and distance separated them, he had thought often of returning to tell his friend about his adventures.  How many times had he wondered what his friend might think when he traveled somewhere new, or took in a beautiful sunset or looked upon the Misty Mountains for the first time?

The last time they spoke together, there was a terrible argument.  The Lieutenant had noticed his growing feelings toward Tauriel and tried to discourage him.  Much was said that day, but the worst of his words played through Legolas’s mind as if they were said yesterday: 

 

 

"She doesn't think of you that way, Mellon," Meldon had said, gently.  "She sees you as the big brother you have always been to her, and though she cares deeply for you, she is not in love with you.”

“You have been speaking to her about this?” he roared at his friend.  “How dare you!”

”No! I have said nothing to Tauriel of your feelings!” Meldon held his hand up in protest.  “You must believe me, Mellon nîn, I would never break your confidence!” 

But Legolas had let his fears and his feelings get the better of him.  “You lie!”

"I am telling you the truth!  How dare you accuse me of such a thing?”  Meldon was deeply hurt, but he tried to calm himself down.  "I am sorry I cannot tell you what you want to hear, but I do not want to see you set yourself up for heartbreak.”

He reached out and put his hand on the Prince's arm to offer some solace, but Legolas shook him off.  "Do not presume to touch me!” he hissed furiously.  “You forget your place.”

“But—“

”No!” Legolas stood nose-to-nose with him. “Stay away from me, Lieutenant.”

Meldon was incredulous.  "You do not mean that, Legolas.”

”I am your Prince, and you will address me with the courtesy to which I am entitled; is that clear?”

His friend’s eyes fell to the ground. “Yes, My Lord,” he whispered.

But the Elven Prince had already stormed off.  That same afternoon, Legolas left the Palace to find Tauriel and bring her back to the King, but instead they traveled to Dale.

And they saved Bard's children from Orcs.

And the Dragon awoke, and his father's Army came.  

Then the Battle, and all the terrible things that happened that day.

And he left his home and his family without bothering to take the time to find his closest friend to apologize, or even to say goodbye.   He had meant to write, to send word to them, but he procrastinated as he wandered, then the sons of Elrond found him and told him of the danger he was in, and that free correspondence would be impossible. 

In a way, this new identity as Beleg gave him a chance to step away from all the turmoil at home, and he kept himself from thinking about the mess he'd left behind.  He'd buried himself in new scenery, new experiences, his new friends, and worked himself to exhaustion each day so that when he finally went to his bunk at night, his sleep might be dreamless.

And he told himself that part of his life would still be there, when he returned.  All of his family: Thranduil, Tauriel, Galion, Nuriel would wait.  Meldon would be waiting and he would apologize and they would be friends, just as they'd always been.  But the real truth of the matter was that he began to believe in the lies he told himself, and instead of doing what he knew in his heart was right, he took the easy way out.

Legolas had been an utter fool.  Such a fool.  He had turned away the closest friend he’d ever had, and for what?  Because he was too proud, and to embarrassed to admit he was wrong?

All Meldon had tried to do was save him from humiliation.  Never in his life had Legolas abused his privilege to anyone, but that day he had used his station to lash out at the one person who knew him best, and there was no way to take it back anymore.

Until this day, Legolas had never understood what true, heartbreaking loss could be like, and he put his face in his hands and began to cry, as the agony of regret filled his heart.

“Nínion an gurth dhîn, Meldon,” he sobbed.  "Goheno nin...  Govano i nothrim în ah i mellyn în mi Mannos.”

For a long time, he cried and sang, and sent prayers to the Vala Mandos, that Meldon could be sent to Valinor soon, for he was a true and honorable friend, and deserved to know the joys of the Undying Lands.

 

***************

 

City of Dale; 12th of November 2943 T.A.

It was less than two weeks after Bard’s formal Coronation as King, and things had quickly settled back into the family’s normal routine.  Thranduil had just returned from walking Tilda to school when an Elven Messenger came forward with a bow.

“A falcon just arrived with a message for you, My Lord.”

“Thank you.”  The Elvenking took off his gloves and took the paper from the Guard’s hand.  He unclasped his cloak and threw it over his arm as he walked through the Great Hall toward his study in the back, but as soon as he read it, he quickly made his way to the King of Dale’s office, yanked him out of his chair and kissed him hard.

“Wow…” Bard laughed.  “What’s the occasion, love?”

“I have wonderful news!” and after kissing him again, more thoroughly, he handed the Bowman the paper he had just received.  “My son is safe and well in Rivendell; look!”

 

 

8th of November 2943 T.A.

Thranduil, Mellon mail nîn:

Beleg arrived safely beginning of this month.  Looks to be in good health, and disposition softer. Told him the sad news of his friend and he struggles to face it, but is doing well.  Have decided to wait until the time is right to discuss matters and present your gift.  I hope you trust me.  I will write a longer missive when the roads clear in the spring.

Best wishes to you and family.

Elrond

“That’s wonderful, Thranduil!”   Bard threw his arms around him.  

“Soon he will receive his book…” Thranduil’s heart lurched with hope.  “Do you think it will help him?”

“All we can do is pray.  I’m glad you didn’t send word to the Dúnedain.  He deserves to know about his friend, but you were right; better to be given bad news where he’s safe enough to deal with it.”

“I wish I could do more for him.  Just as Feren is to me, and Rhys is to Bain, and Turamarth is to Daeron, so Meldon was to Legolas.  They were like brothers.”  Thranduil sighed, sadly.  “He told me that his friendship with my son was why he asked to serve us here.” Thranduil sighed. “Galion was much closer to Meldon, of course, and keeps up a regular correspondence with his family.  His sister will be giving birth sometime next month, and I will be there for the child’s naming, of course, but I think I would like to give them a gift, to show my appreciation.”

“You should definitely do that.  In fact, let’s figure out a gift to give from the whole family, love.” Bard took his hand and squeezed it.  “Tilda said the other day how much she misses him.” He put his arms around the Elvenking.  “But the important thing is that Legolas is now with Elrond.  If anyone can help him, he can.”

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Ni veren an dhe ngovaned, Estel – I am pleased to meet you, Estel

Mae de 'ovannen, Brennil nîn – Well met, My Lady

Ni veren an dhe ngovaned, Beleg – I am happy to meet you, Beleg

Cargaladh – tree house

Novaer, Beleg – Farewell, Beleg

No veren, Estel – Have fun, Estel

Mellonneth nîn – My young friend

Mellon mail nîn – My Dear Friend

Nínion an gurth gîn, Meldon – I weep at your death, Meldon

Goheno nin... - Forgive me

Govano i nothrim în ah i mellyn în mi Mannos – May you join your family and friends in the afterlife.   

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Did I say that I need you?

Did I say that I want you?

Oh, if I didn't I'm a fool you see

No one knows this more than me…

--from “Just Breathe,” by Pearl Jam

 

 

City of Dale; 10th of May, 2944 T.A.

The Royal Family had finally said farewell to their temporary home at the Great hall, and moved into the Castle.  At Bard’s insistence, the second floor which was their living quarters was set up for comfort and relaxation.  This was the safe space for the Kings to throw off their crowns and capes and be a couple in love, and fathers.  Like the rest of the things in this part of the Castle, the furnishings were simple, comfortable, and made for their family to relax and be themselves; a contrast to the formal style of Throne room, the Ball room, and the smaller receiving rooms, downstairs.

While Tilda loved the idea of a room of her own, complete with a tiny set of steps next to the bed to accommodate her small pug dog, Meryl, things were different for the little girl during the nights, when the shadows loomed, and she usually showed up at their door, with big eyes and her dolls and dog in tow. 

Then Hilda had an idea that might help her, and spoke to Thranduil about it.  “Instead of sending the Little Bean to stay with Alis and Dafina during the Hen Party, why don’t we set up a sleepover party in her room?  Most of her little friends’ parents will be busy anyway, so it would help them, too.”

“That is a good idea, Hilda.  Galion would love an excuse to stay here.  Loud raucous parties are not something he enjoys, so this would give him an excuse to bow out of Daeron’s party, without seeming rude.”

Galion jumped at the chance, and the day of the parties, several cots were set up in the Princess’s room, ready to receive her overnight visitors.  Cook and Greta made sure that there were plenty of treats ready, when it was time for the girls to leave the grownup party and go upstairs.  The Aide threw himself into the spirit of things and conferred with several of the Guards to arrange for a special activity for them, but he refused to say what.

“It is a secret, Tithen Pen.  All I will say is that your Ada and his friends had great fun when he was young, and I think you and your friends will enjoy it very much.”

 

Later that night, in the larger Receiving room, Rhian had almost finished opening her gifts when they heard the loud commotion of squeals and laughter, followed by Thangon’s deep barks, and Meryl’s excited yipping.

Hilda got up.  “Let me go see what that’s all about.”  After a few minutes, she came back with a smile on her face, “You gals have got to see this!”

They followed the Seneschal of Dale to the bottom of the Grand Staircase, and saw what the girls were up to:  Galion had arranged for part of the steps to be covered with smooth planks, and there was Tilda, Dilna’s granddaughter Alda, and Glélindë’s two girls, Alis and Dafina squealing with delight, as they rode a narrow mattress down the ‘slide’ and tumbe into a deep pile of cushions at the bottom.

“That looks like fun!” Hannah’s daughter-in-law, Darla, laughed.  “Can I have a turn?”

The little girls were nice enough to let all the grownups take a turn, and hilarity ensued, as the women, young, old, Woman, Dwarrow and Elleth, enjoyed a ride.  Even Enid and Gladys, who were in their late sixties, whooped and hollered with the best of them, as they raised their hands in the air and flew.

But everyone agreed the highlight was when Hilda made Galion take a turn with her.  She grinned like a fiend, as the Elven Aide nervously took his place behind her.  Tilda, Sigrid and Rhian pushed them off with extra enthusiasm, and when they tumbled together and landed in a heap on the pile of cushions, Hilda was flat on her back with her skirts and petticoats above her head, and Galion landed on top of her in a sea of ruffles.

Everyone howled.  Dilna and Enid hung onto each other, breathless with laughter, as did Idril and Indis. Sigrid and Rhian were wiping their eyes, and Tauriel was shocked to see her dignified, stoic Uncle Galion look so ridiculous, but soon she collapsed in giggles with the rest of them.

“I can’t see!” Hilda yelled, as she tried to dig her way out of the sea of fabric.   Galion was helpless, as the normally dignified, stoic Steward of the Woodland Realm got on his hands and knees to try to help her, but couldn’t find her either.

Thangon and Meryl had been sitting beside the staircase, tilting their heads back and forth, but the but Lady Hilda’s screeching was just too much to bear, and the little pug-dog dove into the disheveled mountain of petticoats and began to dig, but soon became lost in the layers.  The occasional glimpse of an arm here, or a leg there, was joined by a wiggling, yipping, petticoat covered bundle.

Thangon dove in with enthusiasm, to rescue his little side-kick, but landed atop poor Galion.

“OOOF!” The Elf groaned.

The huge dog took a mouthful of fabric in his mouth and began to pull and shake it with vigor, but he only made matters worse, and soon Hilda’s undergarments were ripped to shreds, as Thangon pulled the whole mess apart.  The ruffles on Hilda’s petticoats ripped away easily enough but the ragged strips got caught in her arms as she continued to dig herself out.  Meryl’s head emerged, her tongue curled up as she panted with excitement, before she dove back into the fray with a gleeful bark, with her corkscrew tail wagging into a blur.

“Thangon! Move off, you daft bugger!” Hilda’s muffled voice was heard.

Eventually, the Guards recovered enough to rescue them both, and managed to get the Aide and the Seneschal back onto their feet, amidst cheers and applause, and the ladies returned to their party (where sat the bedraggled Hilda with a large glass of wine), and sent out a drink to Galion, who resumed his supervision of Tilda and her friends.

 

***************

 

After the Stag Night, Thranduil and Bard had been carted back to their home in the back of Daffyd’s wagon, and Ivran and Ruvyn managed to get them up to their room, so Galion could take off their boots and throw a blanket over them, then left the Kings to sleep it off.

“Was everyone at the Inn this drunk?” Galion asked incredulously.

“Just ones who drank the Marchwarden’s wine.” Ruvyn shook his head. 

“Which was almost everyone.”  Ivran rolled his eyes at his friend.

They all took in the sight of their dead drunk Kings for a moment.  Bard was sprawled on his back, with his mouth hanging open, snoring, and Thranduil had flopped on his stomach, and was drooling on his pillow.

“Not a word out of either of you.” The Aide warned. “I do not want word getting around of the condition these two are in, is that clear?”

“Of course not, My Lord!” Ivran was indignant. 

“We would never!” Ruvyn seconded.  “Besides, everyone else was just as bad off, if not worse.  I doubt anyone would notice.”

“What about Daffyd and his son Powell?”

“I asked them to be discreet, and they readily agreed.” Ivran told the Aide.  “Daffyd said they owe Lord Bard a great deal for help with Mistress Ellyn’s children.  They will not say anything.”

“Good.” Galion sighed.  “Go to the Healing House and ask for either Ermon or one of his assistants to come first thing tomorrow morning, to look after them.”

“Yes, My Lord.” They saluted and left.

Before he went back to bed, the Aide walked up and down the wide Hall of the Royal Living Quarters doing what he often did, late at night:  check on the members of his family. 

Hilda had gone to bed a few hours before, and Percy had been hauled in not thirty minutes ago.  They both were fast asleep, although he wouldn’t envy Percy his headache the next morning.  Quietly, Galion placed a wastebasket beside Percy’s side of the bed.    He didn’t look in on Bain; he had decided to stay with Bowen and Rhys, and avoid the commotion.

He silently opened Sigrid’s door and peeked in.  She was bundled up in her blankets, and all he could see was the top of her head and her nose. 

After the fun on the stairs, she had come up and helped him get the little ones settled down, so they could finally all get to sleep, he’d been grateful for the help.  Galion loved children, he really did, but seven giggling little girls had been more of a handful than he’d anticipated. Sigrid helped get the girls into their pajamas and made sure they all went to the privy.  Then she took them to the washroom to get their faces washed, their teeth brushed, then sat with Galion as he told them stories until they all began to get sleepy.

 

 

Once the last one had drifted off, he kissed Sigrid on the forehead.  “Thank you, heryn vuil.  I was about to use a sleeping spell.” 

“Are you still glad you didn’t go to the Inn with Da and Ada?”

He laughed. “I doubt their party was as wild as Tilda’s.”

 “Good night, Uncle Galion.”  She hugged him. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.  Sleep well.”

Galion smiled to himself and softly shut the door, and saw that Tauriel’s light was on.  He knocked softly.  

“Come in.”

“Are you well, Gwinïg?  It is very late.”

“I am fine, Uncle.  Are you well?” she fastened the belt to her robe, and started to brush her hair.

“I will recover.” He smiled.  “Perhaps this will help our Tilda adjust to her new home.  Did you see Ivran and Ruvyn drag your fathers to their room?”

Tauriel giggled.  “I heard the Marchwarden’s wine was popular.” 

Galion stood behind her, and took the brush from her.  “Are you happy, my Gwinïg?” 

“I am.” She said, thoughtfully.  “I miss Kili; he will always be in my heart, but his memory has softened, and I no longer think so much about that day on Ravenhill.  Now, I think about his smile, and his eyes, when he gave me his mother’s stone that day on the Lake.”

He put his hand on her shoulder and she looked up at him, and chose her words carefully.  “I also miss my foster-brother; Uncle.  I think about him every day, but I do not feel the hurt or the guilt I once did.”

“That is wonderful, Tauriel.  He must follow his own path, for a while, but I believe he will come back soon, and all will be well.” Galion ran the brush through her shining red locks.  “Tell me: have you spoken of your feelings about this matter to Ada?”

She shook her head.

“You might be interested to know he received a long letter from Lord Elrond last month.”

“He did?”  Tauriel asked, slightly hurt. “But why would he not say anything to me?”

“Hold still, Muin nîn.” Galion quickly worked her hair into one long braid then fastened it.  Then he handed her back the brush and sat down in the chair opposite her.  “Ada said nothing for the same reason I did not.  You lost a great deal that day, Gwinïg: your home, your best friend, and the one you loved.  If that were not bad enough, you were deeply hurt by your confrontation with Thranduil.”

“But Ada is different now, and we are better than we have ever been!”

“Yes, you are, and I thank the Stars every night for that.” Galion squeezed her hand.  “But your Ada will never forget his actions, and will take that shame with him, even to Valinor.  Is it any wonder he wants to protect you from more pain?  What if he were to take you into his study and show it to you, and you became depressed again?  He loves you, and is afraid to hurt you any more than he already has.” He tilted his head.  “Can you blame him, child?”

 She thought for a minute and nodded.  “I think I understand.”

“I knew you would.  I urge you to go to him and share these feelings, Gwinïg. But wait until after the wedding.” He grinned.  “Ada  will need a bit of time to recover from tonight’s exploits, I think.”

She got up and kissed his cheek.  “I will.” 

 

Next, Galion decided to brave it, and checked in on the group of sleeping girls, just in case one of them needed anything. 

All were fast asleep, but Feren’s youngest daughter, Dafina, dropped her stuffed rabbit on the floor, so he gently tucked it back under her arm in the cot she was sharing with her sister Alis.  Then he went over and pulled the blankets over Tilda.   She had not only kicked them off herself, which was typical, but also off of her friend Gwen, who was sharing the bed.  He silently cleared the floor of as much debris as possible, just as her dog Meryl woke up, walked down the little ramp and followed him into the hall, with her tail wagging. 

 “Meryl,” he whispered.  “Go back to Tilda.”

But she sat her rump down refused to budge. 

“I see…” he laughed.  “The party was a bit much for you, as well?” he asked.

Meryl tilted her head back and forth, then bared her teeth in a smile.

“Come on, then.” He rolled his eyes and sighed.  “The Guards will wake us if the girls begin to stir.”

Soon after, Galion was settled into his own bed, and the pug was curled in a ball next to him, snoring away.

 

****************

 

Things were unusually subdued in the Castle the next morning.  Thranduil rubbed his temples, as he gingerly made his way down the Grand Staircase, and when he reached the bottom, the Elvenking saw the stack of smooth boards and cushions, and laughed, despite his nausea.  “Who came up with the idea to slide down the staircase?”  He asked Greta, the housekeeper. 

“Oh, that was Lord Galion’s doing!  It was for the wee ones. And Princess Tilda and her friends had a grand time…”

Thranduil smiled.  “I have not done that since I was young.”

“…then the ladies joined in.  Even Lady Hilda and Galion took a turn!”

“I beg your pardon?”

Greta told him the whole story, and couldn’t stop sniggering.  “…and down they went on that mattress, then ended up tumbling ‘arse over pickle-dish!’”  She laughed. “The little girls just loved it!”

Thranduil’s eyes were wide in amazement, then laughed.  “I am sorry I missed it.”  He put his hands on the Housekeeper’s shoulders and kissed her cheek.  “Thank you, dear lady.  I promise Galion will never live this down!”

 

***************

 

King Bard’s Hunting Lodge; 17th of May, 2944 T.A.

Four days after his wedding, Daeron Adamarion was lying on his side, with his head propped up on his elbow, thoroughly enjoying the sight of his new wife. 

Rhian was on her back, with her head facing him; her mouth was opened slightly as she took deep, smooth breaths.  He smiled at the sight of the freckles at the top of her shoulders; he planned on kissing every single one of them…  Her skin was a shade darker than his, a golden tone that brought out the color of her eyes.  Her shiny, chestnut-colored hair fell into smooth waves almost to her rear end, but like most of the females he knew, it was put into a thick braid for sleeping.

Rhian murmured something in her sleep, and rolled away from him, so he rolled onto his back and considered his life.  Daeron had been prepared for the possibility of losing his special gifts when he joined with this Mortal and changed his fate, but as he looked into her eyes, into her fëa at the height of their joining, he was overjoyed to know he hadn’t.  Without a word being spoken, Rhian knew it too, for since that moment, she was a part of him, and he of her.

But even that paled in comparison with what else he had found in Rhian’s eyes.  Eru Ilúvatar, the beloved Creator had granted him the sweetest gift of all on his wedding night: Daeron had looked into Rhian’s fëa and found the One he’d  loved and lost all those years  ago, the one who had never had the chance to draw a living breath…

Eru had not forgotten his little Sellwen; she was here, sleeping beside him!  

Rhian had always been meant for him…

“Mmmmm….” Rhian rolled over and her soft, warm hand reached for him. 

He lifted his arm and gathered her to him.  “It is morning, my wife.”

“But I’m not ready to wake up, my husband,” she sighed.  “It’s wonderful to sleep in like this…. Your son likes to get me up at the crack of dawn.”

 “My son…” Daeron’s heart churned, and he laughed out loud.  “I will never get tired of saying that.”

 “Good.  The next time he throws a tantrum, he’s all yours.” Rhian snuggled into him. 

“Oh, he would never do that for his Ada.”

“Hah!  Just you wait.” She kissed his chest and began to massage his nipple.  

“I thought you wanted to go back to sleep.” He grinned.

“Well, I’m up now…” her hands traveled over his stomach, then lower.  “Apparently so are you.”

Daeron’s breath caught, and moaned softly in to Rhian’s hair as her hand stroked him, and gently massaged his balls. 

“I love how you feel,” she said.  “Your skin is amazing.”

“The way you touch me is amazing, Meleth nîn.”  He groaned, as her fingers tightened around his cock and moved a little faster.  “This is much better than going back to sleep…  ohhhh…” He gasped. 

Rhian moved up and kissed him, softly at first, but he grabbed her face and opened her mouth for a long, hard kiss that seemed to go on forever. 

“Oh, stars, that’s so good….” She moaned, as he nuzzled her neck.   “Sit up against the headboard, love,” she urged. “I want on top.”

“I will, and you will,” he breathed, “but only after I have my fun.”

He had her on her back in one smooth movement and after kissing her again, he moved down to her neck, her collarbone, then took her full breasts in his hands and began to tease her dark, hard nipples. “You are so beautiful, Hind Calen…” he lowered his head and sucked one, then the other, as she gasped and writhed beneath him. 

“Oh, please…” she begged. 

He laughed, and began to kiss down her stomach as her legs opened to receive him.  He ran his fingers through the thick, damp curls then began to caress her folds as he watched her mouth open. 

Then he tasted her. 

Their wedding night was explosive, and they were too astounded and exhausted afterwards to do anything but hold each other.  But later, after they’d finally rested, he had touched and kissed every part of his wife’s body, and when he first tasted his wife’s essence, it sent a jolt of desire through him.  He loved it.

He pushed two fingers into her wet warmth and teased her with his tongue until her hips couldn’t stay still, and her loud cries filled the air. 

Sweet music.

“Oh, gods, Daeron!” she buried her hands in his hair and her entire body stiffened, and she came hard with a scream, and his noises joined her as he felt her waves of pleasure.

She was still gasping and panting, when she pushed him away.  “I need you inside me; now!”

He settled himself into a sitting position against the headboard, then she straddled him, and lowered herself down on his hard, throbbing cock.  Ai, she was still pulsing from her orgasm, and he couldn’t help but cry out as she enveloped him.

He fondled suckled on her breasts as she grabbed the headboard and began to move on him, until he wanted to explode, but when she lowered he head and sucked on the tips of his ears, he had to pull off her nipple so as not to bite her, as his teeth clenched, and he let go with a loud cry.

They finally calmed down and among whispered endearments and loving caresses, they settled back into each other’s arms against the soft pillows.

“Oh, my lovely Rhian…” he kissed her brow.  “Having you in my arms is such a joy; never in all my years could I have imagined how wonderful it would be to make love to you.”

“I hope you thought it was worth waiting for,” he could feel her smile into his chest.

“I do, with all my heart,” he whispered.  “And not just because our fëas have joined…”

“…which was amazing,” she giggled.  “That was something I couldn’t have imagined..”

“It was seeing, and knowing…” his throat tightened,  “that Eru the Creator found a way to give you back to me.”  He swallowed. 

“Stars; that was incredible; I’ll never forget our wedding night, and really seeing you, like that.” She kissed his neck.  “Then to feel like I’d known you a long time…  I still can’t get over that.”

“Making love with you is a wondrous thing, my Hind Calen.” Daeron said dreamily.  “No words could ever describe how it really feels.”

She hummed.  “You know all about the human body, and how it works, Daeron.” She lifted her head and traced the line of his jaw.

“I do.  But it is one thing to ‘know,’ and another to experience it.” Daeron searched her face.  “You are my home, Rhian.” He placed his hand on her heart. “You have always been the home that the Valar wanted for me.”

Rhian’s eyes filled with tears.  “We both went through so much… All those things tried to tear us apart, yet we’re here now.  I won’t lie; I’ll never say I’m glad I went through all of that…”

“And well you shouldn’t.  Many people like to think that the Valar causes everything to happen for a reason, but that is just not so.”

She became very quiet, then sat up and pulled her knees up close, wrapped her arms around them, and stared out the window.

“Rhian?  Did I say something to upset you?”  He sat up and propped them both up with pillows. “Come here, Meleth nîn.  I do not like to see you unhappy.”

“No; it’s not that at all.” She let him pull her against him.  “I was thinking…”

“Can you tell me about it?”

After a moment, she nodded her head, then began to speak.  “I grew up with a father who taught me almost nothing of the Valar, or Eru, or how the world was really made.  And when I was small, I remember hearing that saying, ‘Everything happens for a reason.’”

“Many people say that.” He said gently. “It is a platitude to offer comfort, to try to make sense of the frightening chaos.   I can understand that.”

“I suppose, but when I married Garth, he…  hurt me.  If the things he did were part of some greater plan…” she looked up into his eyes.  “How could someone feel cared for by the Valar or even Eru, when they could ‘plan’ something like what happened to me?  That stupid saying convinced me they didn’t care about me, either.”

“Oh, no…” he ran his hand over her hair.  “No… that is simply not true, Rhian.”

“But you can see why I believed that, can’t you?  My father didn’t care about me, and Garth wanted me to believe I wasn’t worth anything either.” She shook her head.  “Ben and Cristyn loved me, but I didn’t get to see them often enough to teach me any better, so I really thought the gods didn’t think I was worth much, if all these things were part of their plan.  I… “ she picked the edge of the blanket covering her breasts. “I don’t know if I’m saying this right…”

“No; I think I understand what you mean, and of course, if you went through your life thinking the Valar wanted those things to happen to you, so other things could take place...” he shook his head. 

“When I worked in Dale before, I had patients who miscarried, or their babies were stillborn, despite everything I tried, and to look into the eyes of those suffering mothers and tell them it was somehow meant to be…  It would be the worst kind of cruelty, no matter how kindly it was meant, and could have driven some to end their own lives.  It is such a dangerous idea!

“Rhian,” he shifted so he could look into her eyes, “I know the depth of that pain, and what it can do. That night in Dale, when Sellwen died…. I thought her fëa was gone forever, and I knew that tragedy was not the fault of the powers of Arda.” Daeron paused, then said, “but even so, I… was lost for a long time, and no one was sure if I would get well, again.”

“What happened, love?”

“I …  my mind could not accept the truth.   I held on to the child, and could not let her go. My friends were frightened for me, and had to be careful not to break me beyond repair.”

“Oh, no…” her eyes filled with compassion.  “I didn’t know Elves could suffer like that, love.”

“It can happen with Elves just as it can happen with Men, Rhian.  We are strong, but highly sensitive, and someone with my gifts can even more vulnerable.”

“Is that why Lord Thranduil and Turamarth have always looked out for you?”

He nodded in affirmation. “Gifts like mine are wonderful, and I am glad they are still with me, but they come with a price.” He tightened his arms around her and went on.  “Turamarth did not always live so close; he had his career, and worked with the Guardians in the forest at home.  After Sellwen and her mother were murdered, my Aunt Indis spoke to Lord Thranduil, and made sure we were together as much as possible.”

“What happened that night?”

“The Master of the Healing House sent for Girion, and….” His voice became rough.  “The King came into the room, where I was holding her.  I…” Daeron blew out a breath.  “I kept tried to convince him - and myself - that she was still with me, and if I could just look into her eyes…”

Rhian reached up and brushed away the tear on his cheek.  “Your friends must have been heartbroken to see you hurting like that.”

 “They were gentle, and patient, but Girion had to make me see the truth.  He convinced me to see for myself, and when I put my hand on her little chest and all was still and empty…” Daeron’s vision swam, and his voice wavered.  “It was... unspeakable.

“There is something Elves experience called the Rista-Goel.  It is the ‘Terrible Severing’ we feel when a soul-mate dies.  When took her from me...” he swallowed, “ when I realized she was dead...I collapsed from the pain, and...”

Rhian ran her thumb across his trembling lips, and stroked his cheek, as she listened.  “What happened then, babe?” 

“King Girion moved me into rooms in the Castle, away from... all of it.  Then he arranged for me to be looked after, then sent a message to Lord Thranduil, to bring help, and quickly. I needed help, Rhian,” he admitted. “I was not fit to work in Dale anymore.”  He grimaced at the memory of those long months.

“I had no idea…” She hugged him tight.  “What happened then?”

“Turamarth came and brought me home, and my family took care of me.  They made sure I ate, I got enough rest, even had Ermon come each night to put me to sleep.  Aunt Indis took me out on walks and urged me speak of it, and it became easier to face my grief.  Turamarth was determined to help me become part of the world again.  He would not give up, and I owe him so much…”

“We both do.  Just like we owe Hannah for helping me live again.”  She squeezed him again.  “What would have happened, if you thought all that was part of the Valar’s plan?”

“If I believed they had deliberately caused those deaths, even for some greater good, there would be no reason to hope.  Why go on, after that?  I would have given up on life entirely, can you understand?”

“I really do,” she looked earnestly at him.  “What you say makes so much more sense.  All those terrible things had nothing to do with the Valar at all.”

“No; they did not.” He took her hand and kissed it. “But when we suffer through the madness of others, we can pray for the Valar to help us find purpose and reason in that turmoil, and help us come through it.  Sometimes we are better for it, but only because we looked for help.”

“‘Not everything happens for a reason, but the Valar can bring reason into everything that happens...’” Rhian whispered softly.

“Yes, Hind Calen; my people often say this.”

“I saw it in one of the history books Lord Thranduil loaned me, but I didn’t remember it until just now.” She shrugged.  “At the time, it didn’t mean anything to me.”

“But you do now, I hope?”

“Aye; I think I do.”

“And how do you feel, now?”

Rhian sighed, but looked at peace. “Better.  It’s funny, but knowing the Valar have less control makes me feel safer.  I know that sound silly, but…” she laughed.

Daeron caressed her face, then kissed her.  “It is not silly at all.  You are meant for me, and I am for you.” He swallowed hard.  “You have always been my soul-mate, my Daughter of Joy.  That has been the Valar’s plan for us, since before either of us came into being.  Many things tried to keep us apart, but here we are.”

“Here we are,” she whispered. “I love you so much.” 

“And I love you,” he kissed her again, then buried his face in the sweet smell of her hair as he held her tight.

They reveled in quiet contentment for several minutes, then Rhian said, “Daeron?”

“What, Meleth?”

“I can’t help but wonder why so much happened to try to keep us apart, don’t you?”

“What do you mean?”

 “I believe it’s true that Eru and the Valar found a way to bring Sellwen’s fëa back to you.  I...” She struggled for words.  “On our wedding night, when we joined, you recognized me, and I still can’t put into words how I knew it was true, but here we are, Daeron!”  She sat up again and looked at him.   Do you see what I’m getting at?”

“It is remarkable; a miracle, really.”

“But that’s just my point.  Don’t you see?  I nearly died from what Garth did to me.  Then I nearly died giving birth to Darryn, but I didn’t!  Then we were kidnapped and nearly killed by those monsters a year ago, and how many miracles came about to get us out of there?  Lord Celeborn made sure Thranduil lived, you and Lady Galadriel found a way to help Tilda, and we were saved!”

“That is true…”

Rhian’s voice filled with earnestness and wonder.  “Not even Sellwen’s death could stop Eru and the Valar from trying to make sure you and I came together!  Don’t you think that’s extraordinary?”

Daeron began to understand, and his eyes widened.  “So, you are saying…”

“What if you and I were brought together, for bigger purpose?”

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Muin nîn – My dear.

Rista-Goel - “Terrible Severing,” when the fëa of a bond-mate dies.  Since Daeron and Sellwen were not joined in marriage, it wasn’t potentially fatal, but agonizing nonetheless.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

You were blind

And now you regret it

'Cause I can't forget it

It's locked in my mind...

-From “Get Closer” by Seals and Crofts

 

 

Rivendell, 20th of May 2944 T.A.

“You wanted to see me, My Lord?”  Legolas was in the doorway of Elrond’s rooms. 

“I did.  We have not had a private dinner together since you first arrived, and I thought it might be nice to spend some time talking.”  He gestured to the spread on the table.  “Please; come in and join me?”

The Elven Prince shut the door behind him and sat down at the table.  “Thank you, My Lord.”

“Just ‘Elrond,’” he reminded him. “I prefer to leave my titles at the door at night.”

“My father used to say that, too.” He mused.

“Well, he learned it from me, if you must know.  To be specific, your mother learned it from me, and she in turn continued that policy in your home.”  He picked up a bowl of vegetables and after helping himself, handed it to Legolas.  “Mellon nîn: you have been with us for six months, now.  Glorfindel tells me your work with the Guards has been exemplary, which is no surprise – you are an excellent soldier.  He is impressed with your skills, Legolas; and that is high praise indeed.”

The young Elf looked at him with surprise.  “He is?”

“Glorfindel and your father are two of the best Elven fighters alive, and while no one is surprised you have inherited such talent, you deserve a great deal of credit for its development.  To display such speed and accuracy at your young age makes one think you may grow to exceed them both.”

“I… do not know what to say, besides thank you,” he smiled.

They continued with their meal, and as before, the Elf-Lord was amused to see the amount his friend could consume.

“Estel looks up to you a great deal,” Elrond smiled. “He talks about you non-stop, and I suspect that Glorfindel is a bit jealous; his status as hero has been usurped.”

“I am not sure what you mean,” the young Elf modestly responded, as he took a bite of his fish. 

“Are you not?” he laughed.  “What do you think of the boy?”

“He is well-mannered, and polite, yet he has a mischievous sense of adventure.  I had thought at first that he would feel lonely with no other human children here, but it does not seem to bother him a great deal.  He is very intelligent, and gets on well with the Elven children who are at his level of maturity.”

“Erestor tells me you sit with him in the libraries and explore our collection of maps.”

“We both enjoy it.  I confess I did not pay a great deal of attention to Galion as a child, and now that I have done some traveling, my curiosity has grown a great deal.  I have discovered a real interest in geography and history, particularly the First Age.”

“You were not a good student?”

“Not as well as I could have been.  I was always impatient to be outdoors, riding or playing with my friends.”  Legolas said, as he grabbed a roll and started to butter it.

“Friends like Meldon?”

Elrond saw the knife with the butter freeze in the air, and the young Elf did not say anything for several moments.  Slowly and deliberately, he finished his task, but then set the roll on his plate.

“Legolas,” Elrond gently prodded.  “I have sent several boxes to the Woodland Realm, and I could not help but notice you did not send any letters of your own.  I understand if you do not wish to communicate with your father, but I am surprised you have not sent anything to Galion or Tauriel.  You have not even sent any condolences to Meldon’s family.”  The Elf went stiff, and Elrond sought to calm him.  “I know you love them; yet you have not written.  Why is that?”

Legolas’s face grew red.  “I… do not know what to say to Meldon’s family.”

“You could tell them what he meant to you.  You could tell them how sorry you are, and that you share in their grief.  I am told Meldon had a sister?”

“Yes.  She was much older, and married an Elf who lived in a small village south of the Palace.”

“In Thranduil’s last letter, he wrote that she gave birth to an Ellon, and they decided to name him after his late uncle.” Elrond’s eyes narrowed.  “Does this not bring you comfort?”

The young Prince looked down at his plate, his food forgotten.  “Why does he tell you these things?”

“Because he knows I will tell you, I suppose.”

“Does he not say it outright?”

“If you think I am some sort of…liaison, between your father and yourself, you would be wrong.  I will be frank and say he asked me to look after you, as much as you might let me, but Thranduil does not try to use me in that fashion.  I would refuse, in any case, but you need to know he does not expect anything from you.”  Then he added.  “Others expect more, including me, but not Thranduil.”

Elrond returned to the subject.  “Legolas, you feel guilt at the manner with which you and your friend parted, yes?  You feel guilt that you did not send Meldon any word or apology, and now it is too late.  Yet it would bring his family a great deal of comfort to know you have not abandoned his memory, do you not agree?”

“I suppose it would.  What if he told them of our last conversation?”

Elrond rested his hands on the arms of his chair.  “Would you tell me of it?  What was said between you that is so difficult to think about?”

“I had become infatuated with Tauriel, and he tried to protect me.”  He looked at Elrond, with accusation in his eyes.  “You know this?”

“I know about Tauriel, but I would like to hear more from you.  I think it is important that you speak of it.”

“…I was embarrassed, and pushed him away, made him think I turned my back on our friendship.”

Were you embarrassed?  Or were you angry with him for speaking the truth?”

“Maybe both,” the blonde Elf whispered to his plate.

“So, you did not offer Meldon’s family any sort of condolence because of your own feelings?  You are being selfish, Legolas.”

“It was not like that!” Legolas quickly looked up in anger.  “You do not understand.”

“I understand more than you think, Mellon.  You made a terrible mistake, and rather than find the nerve to turn and face it, you ran away and buried yourself in your duties.  Yet you still nurse resentment toward your father for doing the same thing.”

“That is different!”

“Is it?” Elrond raised his eyebrow.  “From where I am sitting, it is not.  In the six months you have resided in my halls, you have not once approached anyone to inquire about your mother.  Why is that?  You care nothing for her?”

The Elf’s mouth formed a thin line, and he looked off toward the fireplace. 

“Legolas, nothing can make up for the time you lost with your parents.  Why do you hesitate to look beyond what is past, and seek a new understanding with your family?”

“I do not know!” Legolas threw his napkin down and stood up. “Stop… stop pushing at me!”

“Haftorn, Ellon neth!” Elrond said sharply.  “In this respect you are very much like your father, and you might as well accept this about yourself.  Thranduil’s temper does not frighten me, nor am I intimidated by yours!”  His voice softened, and he gestured to his chair.  “Now sit.  Please. I am not trying to attack you; I am trying to help you.”

He sat down, a bit more subdued. 

The Elf-Lord sighed.  “Legolas, few Elves can match your courage and prowess in combat.  I have received detailed accounts of your role in the Battle of the Five Armies; all who have read them are astounded at your talent, especially Glorfindel.”  He poured them both a glass of wine, then sat back, as he took a few sips.  “As I said: I do not push you in these matters to hurt you; I say these things because we see a greatness in you that could surpass the deeds of even the mightiest among us!  But you will not fully realize your potential, if you refuse to understand yourself, and your place in this world.  You must be ready to face the things that frighten you, can you understand?”

“I am not frightened; I am—”

“You are frightened, Legolas Thranduillion!” Elrond smacked the table sharply.  “You tell yourself your anger is justified, but the root of all that is fear.  To face those kinds of fears requires more wherewithal than any you might need in battle, and if you do not fully come to know yourself, it could mean your doom!”

“My father did not face his fears, as you enjoy reminding me.”

“That is true; for a long time, he did not.  Thranduil’s reasons are his own; you know nothing of them, and to use that as an excuse is unacceptable!”

 The Elf-Lord shook his head. “You disappoint me; you are much too old and much too intelligent to behave like a petulant child.  Your journey is your responsibility, and to rationalize your lack of progress like this is beneath you.  Grow up, and stop being such a coward!”

The blonde Prince’s eyes widened, and he started to respond, but fell silent.

“There are many types of bravery, Legolas.  A warrior faces his enemies without hesitation, but a true warrior must also face the greatest enemy of all; the one he carries within himself.  Your father found a way do this, and now he has finally found peace.”

“But it took him nine hundred years!”

“And you think we look down on Thranduil for this?  No!  We who understand the entire truth, admire him!”

“The ‘entire truth?’”

“You know only a small portion of your Adar’s life, and it is high time you learned more.   I have been entrusted with something to give you, but you are not ready.  If you want it, you are going to prove you are worthy to appreciate it.”

Elrond clasped his hands together and set his elbows on the table.  “I am sending you to Lothlórien for a time.”

“But I was there just last year—“

“And you will go back, only not as a visitor.  While you are there, you might like to see Marchwarden Haldir, and gain experience working with the Galadrhim.”

He could see the idea of working with the Wardens appealed to him. 

“I think I would like that very much, My Lord.”

“My daughter Arwen has lived there with her grandparents since before Estel came to live with us.  She and three of her hand-maidens will tell you much of your Mother; more than anyone still living in Rivendell.  She told me she met you briefly when you were there last.”

“She does not know my true identity, does she?”

“She has always known,” Elrond smiled.  “She met you when you were an infant.  And you have the look of your mother.”

Legolas shook his head. “She said nothing…  I suppose she was being cautious.”

“This time the Lord and Lady can acknowledge you, but in secret, such as here.  Do not speak your true name there, unless they give you permission.”

“Of course.”

“Arwen and her maids knew your mother intimately, and there is much they can tell you, Mellon.” Elrond got up and went to put a hand on the Prince’s shoulder.  “You might be surprised at what else you might discover, but I will leave to Lady Galadriel’s discretion.” 

Elrond gave him a kind, encouraging smile.  “Knowing where you came from will help you know yourself, Legolas.  It will be difficult at times, but I promise, you will be glad you did.”  

The Elf-Lord knew his words had hit home, when he saw tears threaten to fill the young one’s eyes.  “The grudge you hold against yourself is the biggest burden you carry, my dear friend.  Let the people who care about you, about your family, help you.  Then you might find a way to forgive yourself.”

“When will I return?”

Elrond lifted up his chin. “Only you can determine when that will be.”

 

 

***************

 

City of Dale, 29th of May 2944 T.A.

On this night, Bard turned over in bed to face his husband, who was twitching in his sleep.  In the darkness, he saw his Elf’s face contort an anguished moan escaped his lips.

“Thranduil,” he sat up and put his hands on the Elvenking’s shoulders.  “Come on, love; wake up for me.  You’re just having a dream, and you need to wake up.”  He stroked his cheek and his forehead.  “Thranduil?”

The Elf jerked awake, and blinked his eyes open.  “Wh…” he saw Bard’s face and looked relieved.

“Yes, love, it’s me.” He began rubbing Thranduil’s arm. “You’re here in the Castle with me, and everyone is safe.  Everything’s fine; you just had a dream.”

Thranduil sat up and rubbed his face.  “Did I cry out?  I do not want to wake the children…”

“It wasn’t loud.  I doubt they would have heard you, anyway; we’re not crammed in the back of the Great Hall, anymore.” 

“That is good…” the Elvenking sat for a moment, then pulled back the covers, got out of bed and went to the window, and ran his hands through his hair.

Bard got up and padded over to join him. It was a clear night, and the moon was a silver crescent among the stars.  “It’s a pretty night.”  He put his arms around his husband and pulled him against his chest.  “Was it the Dragon again?” he asked softly, as he placed a kiss on the back of his shoulder.

“No,”  Thranduil sighed. “Not this time.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No.”  The Elf leaned back into his arms, and sighed. “But I think I should.”

“What’s bothering you, love?”

“It was a year ago, this night, Bard.”  He said, softly.  “A year ago, we nearly lost our children…”

“I nearly lost you, too.” 

Thranduil turned to him and held him tight.  “I almost lost you to the madness of that man, and Tilda’s heart…”

“I know, love.  But we’re here, and she’s fine, and all is well; come back to bed, and we can talk about it, all right?”

Bard took him by the hand and got his Elf settled in under the covers.  “Do you want something to drink?”

“Just some water, please.”

“I can do that.” Bard decided to pour a glass of water and wine, then put them both on the bedside table.  “Just in case.”   He crawled into bed beside him with a sigh.  “Oh…  I love how warm these rooms are here…   Stars, I love those boilers.” He smiled.  “And the hot running water.”

“I do not have to worry about Tilda’s feet getting cold.” The Elf nudged him. 

“Were you dreaming about Tilda?” Bard asked.  “You know, when we thought she was dying…”

“She was dying, Bard,” he corrected.  “That entire day was a nightmare; I nearly lost you to that Thrall.  When you were hitting that Man, Jarod, and I tried to stop you, there was a moment when I did not think I could.  You were so full of rage…” [1]

“I know.  But you got through to me, thank the stars.  All the bad guys are dead and we’re safe.” Bard leaned closer and ran his fingers through Thranduil’s hair. 

“But, when you were out of control like that, did it frighten you?”

“I was too furious.  All I could think about was that you went up in the flames and he had killed you.  That bastard killed you, and he laughed about it.  I wanted to hurt him, and…  I knew he was dead.  But I still wanted to hurt him, until I—” he shrugged.  Then he jabbed his Elf.  “ You must have known something was going, because I was beating him to a bloody pulp, and I didn’t puke!”

“Yes; that gave it away,” Thranduil chuffed a small laugh, then said quietly, “I dreamed I was in the Great Hall again, and I was torturing that Imposter.”  [2]

Bard froze for a moment. “We had to find out what was going on, love.”

“I know.   I know the type of person he was, it was the only way, but…”

“But what?”

The Elf looked at him.  “As King, I have executed those who came into my lands and caused harm to my people.  I do not regret that, Bard.  I was presented with proof of their crimes, and the evidence of the suffering that was caused, and I carried out the sentence myself.  I did that, because I would not allow anyone else to bear that burden.  Because it is a burden, Bard.  No matter how justified the act, it was never something I wanted to do.”

“Is that why you went after that man instead of me?”

“Partly yes, but…”

“It’s something I respect about you, Thranduil.  You don’t just react to things; you’re careful.”

“No, Bard.  It was not true the day of the Battle, when I threatened my own daughter!  I was a monster then, and I was a monster that day in the Great Hall.  In my dream, I was glad he was screaming in pain, and I laughed…” he shook his head.  “Never in all my years have I ever tortured anyone.  I was hurting that man, and I did not care in the slightest.  Not in the Great Hall, not in the dungeons when the Dwarves were...disposing of the leaders.  I still do not care how they suffered.  I…” he groped for words.  “Should there not be some moment when I realize how I behaved, and feel the horror of it?”

“But you don’t?”

“No.” Thranduil shook his head. “That frightens me almost as much as everything else that day.” A tear formed in Thranduil’s eye and began to fall down his cheek.  “I think I am afraid it will change me back into what I was.”

Bard reached over to wipe it away.  “I understand, love.  I really do.”

“I do not think you do.”  The Elf turned of face him.  “In many ways, you are stronger than I could ever be.  People like to think I am the powerful one in our marriage, because I am ancient in years, and have seen and learned so many things in my life.  They think because I command an army of ten thousand, and am responsible for hundreds of thousands, that I…” he shook his head, “that I am invincible.  But I am weak, Meleth nîn.”

”I don’t know about that.”

“It is true!  You suffered greatly in your life, and yet were strong enough to hold onto who you were! You love for your family and friends never wavered.  You doubted yourself, but you didn’t let that change you into someone else.   What if…” he couldn’t finish, and fell silent.

“No, love. I don’t mean I understand how you feel,” Bard put his arm around his shoulders.  “I mean, I think I understand what you’re really afraid of.”  He turned Thranduil’s face to look into his eyes.  “Those people were no better than the Orcs we slayed the day of that Battle, do you understand?  A year ago, we were fighting a battle to save all that we love, and if that makes you a monster, then so am I.  They were enemies, who wanted to destroy us by killing children.  Our children!  What do the animals in your forest do when someone threatens their young?  Don’t they get vicious?  All they care about is keeping their children safe, just like you, and just like me.”

Thranduil looked down, but Bard reached out and turned the Elf’s toward him.  “You were not out of control, you were not turning into anything terrible; you were being a parent, who had mere seconds to try and save lives!”

He kissed his Elf’s brow.  “You’re really afraid that when Legolas comes back, he’ll still look at you and see a monster.  Aren’t you?”

“Yes,” the Elf whispered.  “I want him to know who I really am; I want him to know me as I am now, but what if he does not accept me?  What would I do?”

“Oh, love…”  Bard’s heart went out to him, and he gathered his husband close.  “I wish I could promise you it will be smooth sailing, but I can’t.  I do know that you shouldn’t worry about what happened.  You will never, ever retreat into yourself like that again; that I can promise.”

“But how do you know?”

“Because you are sitting here talking about it with me.  Because you’re part of a big family now,  and none of us are going to let you fall.” He smiled.  “Hilda’s the head of this family: do you honestly think she’ll let you turn back into a snooty-faced bastard?”

“No,” he heard Thranduil chuckle into his neck. 

“That’s right; she’d kick your arse clear into the middle of next week!  And you and I both know how loud she can yell.” 

“She would never let me hear the end of it.”

“Too right she wouldn’t.” Bard kissed his temple.  “We’re always going to be haunted with the things we’ve been through, love; don’t let those arseholes make you doubt yourself, Thranduil, or they’ve won.  Don’t let them!”

“You are right,” the Elf said softly, and hugged him tighter.  “Thank you, Meleth nîn.  You always know what to say.”

“Not always, but I know you.” He smiled into the smooth, blonde hair.  “Sharing a fëa helps.”

Bard sat back and looked into his eyes.  “Suppose Legolas does write to you; do you have any idea how you will go about mending your relationship?  Have you thought about what you will say to him?”

“I did not think that far.”

“Well, I know you talk to Galion, and that’s good, but I think you should go to someone else, like Indis, with this.”

“Why?”

“Galion loves both of you; I’m not sure it’s fair to put him in the middle, do you?  Indis is neutral, and can help you both see the other’s point of view.”

“Perhaps you are right.”

“Indis has been doing this sort of thing for a long time, she could give you suggestions as to what would be best to say and not say, should he write, or show up.  I know you don’t want to say the wrong thing and make it harder for both of you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you’ve been with my kids for a couple of years now; and you’ve seen it’s not easy to always know what to do or say.  Much of parenting is flying by the seat of your pants, isn’t it?  You’ve seen for yourself that love isn’t always enough, and just as Legolas needs to get to know you as a person, you need to know and understand him that way, too.”

“I did not think of it in that light…  He is my son, but do I truly know him?” Thranduil said sadly.  “Perhaps he is afraid I will not accept who he is.”

“That makes sense; aren’t you terrified of the same thing?”

“Maybe I am.” Thranduil said softly.  “Of all our children, I have loved him the longest, and I want so much…” his voice trailed off.  “You really think Indis could help me?”

“It couldn’t hurt.  This is so important to you, love; it makes sense to hedge your bets, doesn’t it?” he shrugged.

“You sound like Percy.”

“You’re right,” he grinned.  “You want to win, don’t you?”

“More than anything in the world.” Thranduil’s eyes were earnest. “But I want it to happen soon, Bard!  Elves do not feel time like Men, and our days with Sigrid, Bain, and Tilda are but a blink of an eye, and they will be…gone.” His voice roughened with emotion.  “I do not want to miss a moment with them, but what if Legolas waits decades, and misses this time?”

Bard stroked his head. “All we can do is put our faith in Elrond.  You told him what you just told me, right?”

“Yes.  I wrote him in April.”

“Well then, we’ll trust him, and we’ll both keep praying for your boy.”

“Our boy.” Thranduil corrected. “He is your son, too, now.”

Bard urged his Elf to lie down, and pulled the covers up over both of them.  “Come on; let’s try to get some sleep, yeah?” He kissed Thranduil, and cupped his jaw.  “You are a wonderful, brave Elf and a good father.  Don’t question yourself about that day last year, all right?”

“I will try.”

“You’re forgetting, Thranduil: you were in my Kingdom, and if I thought you were wrong, I would’ve ordered you to stop, but I didn’t, did I?”

“No.”

“And now, here we are, both of us alive and well, and four of our children are sleeping safe and sound down the Hall. That’s what we’re going to think on tonight.  And tomorrow morning, all you’re going to worry about is getting our Little Bean to finish her breakfast and get her to school on time, yeah?”

The Elvenking smiled.  “You always know the right thing to say.”

“I’ll take payment in kisses and great sex,” he maneuvered Thranduil onto his side and pulled him to his chest.  “But not tonight.  Let’s get some sleep.”

They lay there comfortably for a few minutes, then Bard heard his Elf whisper.  “Bard?”

“Hmmm…”

“Do you think Hilda will boss Legolas around too?”

“Course she will.  And he’ll love it.”

 

***************

 

City of Dale, 31st of May, 2944 T.A.

Three weeks ago, several of Daeron’s friends had come from the Golden Wood to attend his wedding to Rhian. Haldir, Orophin, Orlin and Penlod had worked with his cousin closely during his exchange year, and Turamarth had helped Rhian arrange the surprise for his cousin.

Daeron was thrilled, and Tur was glad to meet the Elves he’d spoken so much about, but he wasn’t expecting Orlin to bring his younger sister…

During the Wedding Feast, Ivran had nearly dragged him by the hair over to their group, so he could be formally introduced.  Evranin was her name, and for the first time in his life, the glib, smooth, charming Turamarth turned into a nervous, tongued-tied, awkward mess. 

Her blonde hair was full, with just enough waves to caress her face and shoulders, her wide, full mouth was pink and moist, and her eyes were large pools of soft brown.  And she had a spray of freckles across her nose and cheeks.

And when he learned her name, he took her hand to kiss it, and couldn’t catch his breath.

“Ni veren an le ngovaned, Evranin,” He managed to mumble.

“Mê le 'ovannen, Turamarth.” She said shyly, before she yanked her hand from his fingers.

“Just call him Tur,” Ivran clapped his and on his back. “Tell me, Evranin, do you dance?”

“Well, I—“

“—because my friend here is an excellent dancer,” Ivran quickly moved his foot as Tur tried to stomp on his toes.  “He was just wondering if your dancing is different in the Golden Wood.” Another smack on his back. “Were you not, Tur?”

He threw surreptitious daggers with his eyes at Ivran, and saw that Daeron was burying his nose in his drink to keep from laughing.  The other Galadhrim seemed amused, but Orlin looked a bit concerned, and whispered something in her ear.

“I… would you care to dance, Hervyn nîn?” Tur blurted out.

Orlin whispered, “Go on, Evvie.  It will be all right.”

She hesitantly stepped forward, and curtsied.  “Yes,” She said awkwardly. “I will dance with you.”

He took her out on the dance floor, and when the music started, he asked her about her trip.  “I...  hope your journey was free from incident.”

“Oh, yes.  It was…pleasant.” Then she fell silent.

“What do you think of Dale?”

“It is…nice.”

“Have you ever been around Men before?”

“No.” 

He could see she wasn’t trying to be rude; she simply felt ill at ease, and this only endeared her to him.  Tur suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to protect her.

What was this?  He didn’t even know her!

“Excuse me,” a voice was at his ear.  It was her brother Orlin. “Might I cut in?”

Her look of relief was obvious, so Turamarth gallantly stepped aside.  “Of course.”

 

“Do not take it personally, Gwador.”  Daeron said, when he rejoined the others.  “She is terribly shy around strangers.”

“I can see that.  Why did she come?”

Penlod leaned forward to say, “Her father and brother made her come; she has never been anywhere, and they thought this might bring her out of her shell a bit.”

“That is not the only reason Orlin brought her.” Orophin said cryptically.

“Avo bedo!” Penlod jabbed him.

“What is wrong?” Daeron demanded.

But none of the Galadhrim would say more, and Daeron and Turamarth exchanged a look of curiosity and concern, before groom went to dance with his bride.

 

The Guard was desperate to get to know her better, and one morning during their visit, his prayers were answered.  But that ended up a complete disaster!  He licked his wounds and told himself she’d be leaving, anyway, to ride back out of his life, just as swiftly as she came.  So why bother, right?

Right?

 

On this morning, the Elvenking walked up to him and said, “Turamarth, I would speak with you in my study.”

The Guardian was taken a bit off-guard at Thranduil’s brisk command, but obediently followed his King into the room, and closed the door behind him.

“Is something wrong, My Lord?”

“Not at all.” Thranduil sat down at his desk and urged him to take a chair.  “Our guests from Lothlórien are due to leave for home in two days, along with Ivran and his family.  It will be a rather large party, and I was wondering if you could accompany them, and help escort Ivran’s parents back to the Palace after his wedding to Cwën.”

Tur’s heart jumped with excitement, but he tried to remain calm. “Of course, My Lord, if that is what you wish.”

“The Caravan leaves tomorrow just after breakfast.  Be ready, Lieutenant.”

He got up and saluted his King.  “I will be, My Lord.”

“Dismissed.  Oh, and Turamarth?”

He turned back to see the King grinning.  “Good luck with the Elleth.  She’s lovely.”

“Thank you, Aran nîn.”

Turamarth tried his best not to dance a jig on his way out.

But he couldn't stop himself from clicking his heels, and letting out a little whoop.

Twice.

 

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Haf-torn, Ellon neth! – Sit down, young man!

Ni veren an le ngovaned, Evranin – I am happy to meet you, Evranin

Mê le 'ovannen – Well met

Avo bedo! – Be quiet! (Lit. “Do not speak!”)

 

 

NOTES:

[1] From “An Invincible Summer,” CH 38:  “You must help him overcome his fury, then Bard must throw the body into the fire.  You all must pray as it burns.  Tell your Elves to sing the Hymn of Varda; that is the most powerful prayer we know.  This will release the darkness, and Bard will be free of it, and so will the others.  You cannot fail, Thranduil, because if you do, your husband will have to be destroyed the same way, do you understand?”

https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/37497905

 

[2] From “An Invincible Summer,” CH 36: “Now,” Thranduil said, casually, as he pulled out his knife, and ran his fingers along the edge, to check the blade.  “I am going to remove your fingers, slice by slice, until you tell me what I need to know.”

The man spit at him, but then quickly screamed as the Elvenking’s knife slammed down and chopped off the end of his pinky.

“You know…  If I take them off at the tips, where all the nerve endings are, it will hurt much worse.  What do you think, Lord Bard?”

“Works for me.” Bard’s lip curled.  “When he’s done with your fingers, your ears, your nose, and your cock are going to be sliced off like a loaf of bread.  Now: why are you here, and who the bloody fuck is this 'Boss?'”

“I don’t kn-  AH!”  the man screamed again, as he lost another fingertip.

“Wrong answer, I think.”  The Elf tilted his head.  “Shall we try again?”

https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/37243763

Chapter Text

  

But you're so far away

Doesn't anybody stay in one place anymore?

It would be so fine to see your face at my door

And it doesn't help to know you're so far away…

--“(You’re So) Far Away,” by Carole King

 

 

 

City of Dale, 17th of May, 2944 T.A.

After Daeron and Rhian left for their honeymoon, their guests from the Golden Wood enjoyed their time in Dale.  Turamarth often served as host, though Evranin was always with her brother and the others, so their conversation never got past the basic niceties.

But on the morning he was supposed to babysit Darryn, he finally, finally had his chance…

 

Ben had to work at the Castle that day, and Hannah had to see some patients.  It had been Tur’s day off, so he graciously volunteered to watch the baby, and was at the City Planner’s home at 10:00 sharp.

 “Good morning, pet!” Hannah let him in the house.  “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

“Of course, I am!” He kissed both her cheeks.  “Where is my favorite nephew?” He called into the back rooms. “Darryn?  Where are you?”

 His answer was an excited, “Unca Tur!” and the little boy came barreling into the Sitting room and wrapped his arms and legs around the Elf’s leg.

“There he is!” He made a growling noise, lifted his foot up, and Darryn hung on, laughing.  “Did you eat all your breakfast?”

“Uh huh!” He grinned up at him. “Again!”

“What would you like to do today?” As he stomped around.

“I want de Park!”  Darryn let go go his leg and held his arms up.  “Can I swing?”

“Ask your Granny nicely,” Tur scooped him up, then looked at Hannah.  “Can we?  Please?”  He gave her a huge, teethy grin.

“Pweese?” Darryn echoed.

Hannah rolled her eyes and shook her head.  “It’s a nice day, and I don’t see why not.  Don’t let him go on the climbing bars.  He can swing, but only if you sit him on your lap, all right? He’s not old enough to hang on tight.”

“I think we can do that.”  He grinned.  “Would you like to swing?”

“Weeee!” Darryn threw his arms up.

“And that’s exactly why you have to hold him.   Now, he’s had his breakfast, and had a good poop, so you don’t have to worry about that.  We’re trying to teach him how to use the potty, so make sure you take him to the privy fairly often, but here’s a bag with some extra clothes and some washcloths, just in case.  If you go, pack some snacks, like an apple.”

“I was thinking of taking him to Adila’s for lunch.  She makes some nice sandwiches.”

“That sounds fine, but he’s not to have any coffee or tea.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’ll stunt his growth,” she told him.  You never give little kids that stuff.”

“But Elven children—”

“—are not human children, pet.” Hannah waved a finger at him. “He can have milk, juice or water; that’s it.”

Turamarth made a frowny face at the little boy, who stuck out his tongue and blew a raspberry at him.

“And get him right back here after lunch, so he can take his nap.  You’ve got your key?”

“I have it right here,” Tur patted his pocket.

“Good.  Darryn likes to be read to, when you lay him down for his nap, and you can sing, as long as you stick with songs that will help him relax.  Nothing fast or exciting.   And above all: make sure he has his blankie with him, or Valar help you, and whatever you do, don’t lose it!” She closed her leather bag and came over to him.  “I’ll be at the Healing House, unless there’s an emergency, so if you run into any problems—"

“Oh, we will be fine.” He jiggled the boy.  “How much trouble can one baby be?”

 “Famous last words,” she rolled her eyes.  “You’re about to find out.” Hannah laughed, then kissed Darryn.  “Will you be good for Uncle Tur?”

“Uh huh!” he touched his lips to her cheek.  “Bye, Gwanny!”

“I’ll see you both later.”  She went through the door and down the sidewalk.  “Love you!”

“Do not worry; we will be fine!” he called, then turned to his nephew. “We are on our own, Pinig!  Are we going to have a fun day?”

“Park!” The baby clapped his hands. “Yay!”

“Yay!” he laughed, as he picked up Darryn’s nappy-bag and locked the front door behind him.   He carried the boy down to the end of the street, and headed through the Market Square when the sight of the Galadhrim visitors got their attention.

“Good morning!” He called out to Ruvyn  who was giving their guests a tour of the shops. They were in front of Adila’s Coffee Shop when they turned and saw him wave.

“Woobin!”  Darryn yelled at the Guard, and waved at him.  “Hi, Woobin!”

The child held out his arms, and Ruvyn grabbed him and swung him in the air.  “Hello, Darryn! Can you say hello to our friends from the Golden Wood?”

“Hewwo,” he said with a smile. 

“This is Lady Rhian’s son, is he not?” Orlin asked. 

“And my nephew,” Turamarth said proudly as he tousled the little boy’s hair.  “His grandparents have to work today, so it is my turn to spoil him.”

“He is adorable!” Evranin lost a little of her shyness and smiled at Darryn, as she wiggled his foot. “Hello!”

He reached out and stroked her long blonde hair.  “Pwetty.”

“Why thank you…”

“His name is Darryn.”

Evranin looked up at him with curiosity.  “You mean, like…”

“Darryn is the Westron version of Daeron, yes.” Tur explained.  “It is a long story, but a good one.”

Their last meeting at the wedding was too awkward to think about, but she seemed surprisingly at ease today, so Turamarth decided to take the plunge.  “We were just going to the children’s park, so he can play; would you like to come along?”

“I am not sure…” she looked at her brother. 

“Penlod and I are going on a tour of the Healing House, and Ruvyn is taking Orophin and Haldir to the practice yard.” Orlin said, then asked his sister.  “I know you were just being polite, so if you would rather go with them…”

Evranin chewed her lower lip, and Turamarth’s heart thumped.  Please come please come please come…  “We will be in the Park for a few hours, then I was thinking of taking him out for lunch here,” he waved to the steps of Adila’s shop.  “You are more than welcome to join us, Evranin.”

Please come please come please come…

“I do not want to impose…”

“It will be no imposition.  It is a lovely warm day, and the flowers are in bloom in the Gardens at the Park; perhaps when we are finished, I can show them to you?”

“Why don’t you go, Gwathel?” Orlin urged her. 

“I will, then.” She nodded.  “If it is no trouble?”

“Of course not.” He smiled at the baby. “Darryn may she come to the park with us?”

Darryn nodded enthusiastically. “Uh huh!”

Turamarth took the child from Ruvyn and settled him in his arms.  “Go on, all of you, we are off to have some real fun!” 

“If you need me, I’ll be with Master Ermon,” Orlin kissed her cheek.  “Otherwise, I will see you in Adila’s store in a couple of hours.”

“Have a good time,” she smiled to her brother and the others, “Goodbye, for now!”

With Darryn balanced on one hip, he offered his other elbow to the Elleth and they walked through the Market then down the streets toward the playground.  Evranin insisted upon carrying the baby’s bag, and the little boy pointed and demanded to know the names of everything.  Tur gave him the Westron and Sindarin words for lamp (calar), street (mên), wagon (rach), and horse (lobor).  Each time he repeated them, Evranin praised him with applause.

“Yaaaay!” Darryn clapped. “Wha’s your name?” he asked the Elleth.

“I am Evranin,” she smiled.

“Ebw…” he tried.

“My family calls me Evvy.  Can you say that? Evvy?”

“Ebby!”

“It’s as close as you’re going to get,” Tur laughed. 

“He is terribly sweet.  How old is he?”

“Two years and five months.”

She gasped.  “Is that all?  He is so grown for one so young!”

“Children of Men age much differently than Elflings.” Tur told her. “To our kind, he would be about eight years of age, would he not?”

“Last year, some children from Harad came to stay in Lothlórien,” she told him.  “They were the first human children I had ever seen.  Our people took care of them until the King’s brother came to take them home.”

“I know.” He shook his head sadly.  “We also helped some of those children, here.  All the Kings of the North were kind to them.”  He gave her a serious look.  “You know what they were put through?”

“I do.  A little bit, anyway.  We were cautioned not to speak of it.” She squared her shoulders.  “Daeron helped my brother take care of them, and I visited them often and read them stories.”

“My cousin tells me Orlin and Penlod are excellent Healers.” He smiled in her direction. “I thought you might be one as well, but I would guess not, since you did not want to see the facilities here?”

“Oh, no; I do not like…  gory things.” She gave a little shudder.  “I work as a scribe in the Libraries.  My father is the Archivist for the Lord and Lady.”

“And do you like the work?”

“Oh, yes!  I love books!” she smiled.  “So many different stories there are, of people and places all over Middle Earth.  I have loved to read since I was very small.”

“Really?” he grinned. 

“May I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“You call Darryn your nephew, but I thought he was your cousin?”

“That is true, but Daeron and I were raised like brothers.  Our mothers are identical twins and very close.”

“I saw them during the wedding.  You must have spent a great deal of time together.”

“We all lived in the same set of rooms.  Lord Thranduil gave permission for our parents to remove the wall between our apartments, and,” he shrugged, “Daeron and I had four parents together, instead of two apiece.  We are blessed with such a close family,” he smiled down at the little boy, who tucked his head against his chest.  “And now it has gotten bigger.  Since Rhian and Daeron became engaged, Darryn has called me ‘Uncle Tur,’ and I feel proud to be so.”

“You said the child was named after Daeron?”

“He was.  Rhian’s first husband was killed before the baby was born.”

“Oh, how terrible!”

“It was a blessing. The Man – I do not recall his name – was cruel and abusive, and as a result, she suffered injuries and her health was poor.   Daeron met her when the Elves first came to Dale, and he made sure she was taken care of.  When King Thranduil was bringing Dale’s women and children to his Palace for that first winter, she went into labor on the road.”

“Ai, siniath fêg!” She gave birth in a wagon?”

“They managed to get her to the Palace, but she and the baby would have died if Daeron had not been there to save them.” Turamarth kissed Darryn’s dark hair. “You love your Uncle Tur, don’t you?”

“Yep.”  Darryn wiggled in his arms. “I wanna walk!”

Tur put the child on the ground between them, and Darryn reached for each of their hands.  “I wanna jump!”

 Tur and Evvy laughed and they swung him between them as they continued down the street.

“He is so sweet!” Evranin laughed, and Turamarth was thunderstruck.   

 

 

 

It was the most beautiful laugh he had ever heard.

“Unca Tu-ur!”  He’d stopped swinging his arm, without realizing it.

“Oh…  I am sorry…”  he cleared his throat, and began again.

 

 Finally, they reached the park and saw several other children playing there, under the watchful eyes of their mothers.  “Here we are, Súyon!  What do you want to do first?”

“Swide!” he pointed to the tall one, where some children were already lined up.

“Then the slide it shall be.”  He smiled, “Evranin, there is a bench here, if you want to sit and watch.”

“All right.” She gracefully went to the nearby seat and settled herself, then said shyly. “Turamarth? Please… call me Evvy.  Everyone else does.”

He stopped for a second and grinned.  “Evvy,” he repeated softly.  “And you must call me Tur.”

“Tur,” she repeated.

He helped Darryn on the slide for a while, then they ran around on the grass, so he could flap his wings and pretend he was a bird.  They sat for a bit, so Tur could have him show Evranin all the different animal noises he knew.  She smiled and clapped and heaped praises on the little boy.

Then they went on the swings, where his nephew sat in his lap and yelled, “Higher!” as he waved his arms and kicked his legs on the way up, and squealed on the way down.

Now Tur could see why Hannah warned him to hold on tight.  “You are fearless, Pinig; I am not so sure that is a good thing!”  When he looked up and saw Evranin smiling and waving at the baby, he whispered, “Do you want to go higher?  Wave at Evvy!”

“Hi Ebby!” Darryn yelled. “I see you!”

“I see you, as well!” She called back.  Then she met Tur’s eyes and smiled. 

Time slowed down for a moment, and he could hear the pounding in his chest…

 

Evranin

 

“Unca Tur?” Darryn pulled on sleeve of his tunic.

“Yes?” He said absently, still looking over at the bench.

“I gotta go...”  Darryn looked a bit anxious.

“Go where?” He said dreamily, as he focused on her huge, doe-like eyes…

“Gotta pee…”

“Hmmmm?”  …and those long, thick lashes…

“Unca Tu-ur!” the little boy’s voice was urgent.

“Yes?” he repeated.

“I gotta…Uh oh…”

Tur’s lap was suddenly soaked with warm liquid.

“Ai, gorgor!” he yelped, louder than he meant to, and the little boy started to cry.

“It is all right, Darryn.” Turamarth quickly got off the swings, then tried to calm the boy as they went over to the bushes, so he could discreetly change his leggings and smalls. 

The boy rubbed his eyes, and frowned. “I’m sowwy.”  Huge tears began to fall down his cheeks.

“I am the one who should be sorry, Pinig.  It is not your fault, ” he spoke in a soothing voice as he found a spot and knelt down.

“Is he all right?” Evranin followed, looking concerned.

“He has just had a bit of an accident,” he said. “Could you please hand me his bag?  Shhh… Darryn, no one is upset…”

“I’m all wet!” the baby cried, stomping his feet. “Yuk!”

She handed the bag to him, and he rummaged through it and took out a washcloth.  “Could you please get this wet in the fountain over there?” 

As she left, he took out the spare leggings and underwear, then laid the baby down in the grass and began to pull off his wet pants. He had them down past his ankles when suddenly they wouldn’t move.  He’d forgotten to remove Darryn’s shoes first, and now the leggings were stuck!  Darryn began to wail in misery, so Tur gave them another yank, which lifted the baby’s bottom off the ground entirely.  Which made him cry harder.

On his best days, Darryn was notorious for his hatred of being dressed, 1 but Turamarth’s amateurish attempts to manage the situation was more than any two-year-old should have to suffer.   The baby’s howls increased in volume, and he began to kick his legs, waving the useless wet bottoms in the air, drawing the curious looks of several others in the park.

Darryn’s kicking became frantic. “Off!” He whined.  “Get ‘em o-off!”

“Please Pinig; hold still; it will be all right,” he cajoled. 

He tried pulling them back up, but they just wouldn’t move, and panic rose in his chest.  What in Varda’s name was he going to do now? Should he take his knife and cut the fabric?  Or carry the child through the streets of Dale half-naked?  Turamarth grabbed one of his nephew’s ankles, and tried to come up with a prayer in Quenyan.  Nothing. 

Daeron and Rhian made it all look so easy! Ben and Hannah had no trouble either; even King Thranduil could take care of this!  What was the matter with him? 

“Here,” Evranin returned, bearing the wet cloth and looked saw Darryn’s red face and wet cheeks.  “Is he hurt?” She asked, as she kneeled beside him.

“He is just a bit… irritated.” His determined smile turned into a grimace, when the near-hysterical child waved his legs again, and kicked him squarely in his crotch. 

His teeth clenched, and didn’t say a word.  (The last time Turamarth cursed in front of his nephew, Darryn walked around for weeks repeating the Sindarin word, and asked everyone he met if they had one, too, and could they show it to him  “Do that again,” Daeron had warned, “and I’ll cut your own Gwîb off in your sleep!”).

“Turamarth?” Evvy was alarmed.  “Have you ever done this before?”

He opened his mouth to reply, when—

“What in the world are you doing to that baby?”

He looked up to see Seren, one of Rhian’s friends, standing there with her hands on her hips, shaking her head.

“Er… Darryn had a bit of an accident,” the Elf told her. “I – we are just getting him changed.”

“So, I see.”  Seren adjusted her skirt and kneeled down to join them. “You really have no idea what you’re doing, do you?”

“Wh…what makes you say that?” Turamarth did his best to look indignant.

“Because if you did,”  Seren reached into the bag, “you’d know that boys need to be covered up when cool air hits them, or else—“

A stream of urine shot up in the air, hitting the Guard in the chest and face. “Ppppfft!”   He sputtered and jerked his head away.  “Amarth faeg!”

“—that might happen,” the woman said casually, as she handed him a folded nappy. “Here; clean yourself off.” 

Evranin gasped, as she covered her mouth, and Seren sucked in her lips to keep from laughing.

 She put another cloth over Darryn’s privates.  “I know it’s ‘closing the barn door after the horse gets out,’ but better safe than sorry.”  Then she turned to the blonde Elleth with a friendly smile. “You’re the lass who came with Daeron’s friends!  I’m Seren.” She held out her hand. “I saw you at the Hen Party, and was hoping to get the chance to meet you!”

“I am Evranin, but most people call me ‘Evvy.’  I am happy to meet you.” She took the woman’s hand with a small smile.

Tur had wiped his face and tried to blot the front his tunic, with a sigh. 

Seren returned Evvy’s smile, then got down to business. Darryn was still upset, but Seren’s confidence seemed to calm the child down. “Now then, Little Man,” She said in a soothing, baby talk, “what did your mean, old Uncle Tur do to you?” she expertly maneuvered his leggings, while saying in a sing-song voice. “He’s just silly isn’t he?” She tickled his tummy. “Uncle Tur is a silly Elf.  Can you say that?  ‘Silly Elf!”

“Siwwy Ewf.” Darryn hiccupped, still teary.

“That’s right!  Very good!” Seren made a face. “Silly Uncle Tur doesn’t know anything about babies does he?” she blew a raspberry into his stomach.

“I have watched Daeron take care of him many times!”  he said in his defense.  “It looked so easy…”

“Watching isn’t doing, pet.  Don’t feel bad; lots of people learn the hard way about changing little boys.”  The woman worked quickly to get Darryn’s clothes free.  “Can you hold these for me, sweetie?” She handed the child his shoes to play with while she washed him off.

As Seren worked, she and Evvy conversed easily, and Turamarth fought the urge to pout.  Were the Stars conspiring against him?  Nothing seemed to go right!  He’d wanted to impress her; instead he sat there, feeling useless. 

“…the kids have so much more room to play here in Dale….  Annnd… Here we go!” Seren finished tying Darryn’s shoe and stood him on his feet.  “Nice and dry!  Feel better, sweetie?”

“Uh huh.”

“Thank you, Mistress.” Turamarth got to his feet and picked up his nephew, before helping the others up.  “I appreciate this.”

“I’m happy to help.” She winked at him.  “It’s a lot harder than it looks, isn’t it?”

“I suppose it is.”  He managed a sheepish smile.  “I was going to take these two to Adila’s for lunch.  Would you and your children care to join us?”

“Well, I would, but…” Seren bit her lower lip. 

“Is something wrong?” he asked, then he saw Evvy blush a deep red and avert her eyes.

“Turamarth, my love,” Seren was trying to keep a straight face.  “You might want to go home and change...” Then she looked toward the bottom of his tunic.

He looked down, saw a dark wet, stain over his crotch, where his nephew had peed. 

Ai, rhaich!” he gasped in horror, then grabbed Darryn’s bag, and held it in front.  

Turamarth’s dignity was in shreds.  How much worse could this possibly get?

Bad question.

“Unca Tur?” Darryn was looking around. “Where is it?”

“Where is what, Pinig?”

“Bwankee?” 

“What?  Your blanket?”  Startled, he looked around on the ground. 

“Oh, boy…” Seren winced, and started to look.  “I don’t see it…”

“What is wrong?” Evranin asked. “Has he lost something?”

“Darryn has a special blanket he takes everywhere, and he gets…upset if he loses it.” He explained.  “It is small, and dark green.  He is very attached to it.”

“Gween,” Darryn added helpfully, as he continued to look at the ground around them, and his lower lip began to tremble. “I want Bwankee!”

“The child had nothing in his hands when we met you in the Market,” Evvy told him.

“Are you sure?”  His heart sank.  Siniath faeg…

 “Did you even bring it, Tur?  Maybe it’s at home.” Seren offered.

“Home?” Darryn screwed up his face, and he began to sniffle. “Bwankee’s home?”

Turamarth quickly reached into his pocket, pulled out some coins, and handed them to Seren.  “Please, accept this with my compliments, and take my friend and your children to lunch, as a gesture of thanks for all your help.” He turned to Evranin, “Evvy, I am terribly sorry, I hope you understand, but—“

“I want my Bwankee,” Darryn’s cries began to gather momentum…

“—I am afraid I cannot join you; we have a bit of a situation—“

Bwankee!” The child began to wail, and tears fell down his face. “I want BWANKEEEEEEEEE!”

“—and I must go immediately…”

 “I’ll look after her, love.”  Seren squeezed his arm.  “You best get a move on.”

He got a better hold on the screaming toddler and began to hurry away.  “Please accept my apology for my abrupt departure!  I hope to see you before you leave!”

“Nover, Turamarth!” He heard the confused Elleth call after him.

“Happy hunting!” Seren yelled.

Turamarth picked up speed as Darryn’s anxiety increased, as did the pitch and volume of his screams.

 

***************

 

“My lands…” Seren laughed. “Will you look at those lads go!”

They watched as Turamarth broke into a dead run, his long, auburn hair flying in the wind, as he gripped the child to him and raced for the house.  They (and much of Dale) could still hear Darryn’s acute displeasure long after they were out of sight.

“Will Darryn be all right?”

“Oh, he’ll be fine; once he gets hold of his blanket, he’ll quiet right down.” She shook her head fondly, then added, “Darryn normally isn’t like this; but his Mam and Ada are away and he’s never been apart from her.  He’ll be his old self the minute Rhian and Daeron walk through the door.”

“I am sorry I could not be more help,” Evranin said nervously. “I do not have experience with small children.”

“Neither does Tur, poor lad; but his heart’s in the right place.”

“He cares about Darryn a great deal.”

“That he does. Turamarth’s a good lad, and we think the world of him. He loves that baby like his own blood, and that counts for a lot, in my book.”

Seren grinned, and put her arm around the Elleth’s shoulders.  “My friends were watching my own kids while I rescued you, so let me introduce you, yeah?”

They walked through the grass until they reached Ethan and Liam, who were watching their younger sister Liliwen play in the sandbox with Anna and Daffyd’s foster daughter, Owena. 

“Seren!” Anna was sitting beside her son Powell’s new wife, Mari, as they watched the baby.

 “Come on; you’ll love them.” She led Evranin over to them, and after a few moments of friendly chatting, Anna and Mari offered to watch all the children so they could enjoy a child-free lunch.

“It’ll be no trouble,” Anna said with a knowing smile. “Your new friend looks a bit pole-axed, and could use some quiet.”

“Bless you, love,” she kissed Anna’s cheek.  “I’ll return the favor next week, so you can have some grownup time; I promise!”

“I’ll take you up on that.  Now go enjoy yourself.  I’m heading home from here, so we’ll just bring them along.  Nice to meet you, Evvie!”

 

“The people in Dale are very friendly,” Evranin observed, as they walked toward the Market.  “I like it very much.”

“We look after each other, all right.  It’s been that way since we all lived Laketown, and Lord Bard does everything he can to keep it going.  Have you ever been to Adila’s?”

“I have not; is the food good?”

“It’s wonderful!  The place is open early for breakfast, with tea, coffee and pastries from the Bakery.  For the midday meal, it’s simple stuff, like soups, sandwiches and such.  She closes up in the early afternoon to be with her kids.  The Long Lake Tavern is the place to go for supper and late evening entertainment.”

“Adila is an unusual name, is it not?”

“She was born in Harad, but was married to one of the Blacksmiths here in Dale.  Bron was killed last year during the attack on the city, and she…needed to make a fresh start.  She sold her old house and the forge to an Elf from your neck of the woods.” [2] He’s been there since last summer, and seems to be doing pretty well for himself.”

They reached the steps to café, and when they went through the door, they saw Adila behind the counter handing a paper bag to a tall, brown-haired Elf.

“Wouldn’t you know it?  Hey there, Rôg!” Seren grinned in surprise, “we were just talking about you!”

The Ellon turned around with a smile.  “Suilaid,” he said, then recognized the Elf next to her and smiled.  “Evranin!”

 

Rog

 

“Rôgon?” Evvy’s face lit up.  “I thought you had returned to Mithlond; it is good to see you, Mellon nîn!”

“Mae g'ovannen, Sell muin!” he kissed Evvy’s hand, then Seren’s.

Rôgon, or “Rôg,” as everyone called him, wore all of his hair pulled back into a long braid down the middle of his back, and his light tunic showed the stains of his profession. At the moment they were rolled up to his elbows showing powerful arms. 

“I take it you two know each other?”

“Rôgon used to live in the Golden Wood.” She explained to Seren, then turned to the Blacksmith.  “Have you seen the Marchwarden and the others?”

“I saw them all at Daeron’s Stag night.” he smiled.  “We are planning to gather at the Inn this evening, for some games.  It is good to see you here; and I see you have made some friends,” he gestured to Seren.

“We were just at the children’s playground with Turamarth and his nephew,” she told him. “Things… did not go quite as planned.”

“I saw run through the square…” he smirked.  “He was hard to miss.”

“Aye, and no doubt you heard them coming a mile away,” Seren giggled.

“Was the child hurt?”

 “Not at all,” she assured him.  “Tur isn’t used to babysitting, poor lad, and was in over his head.  They’ll be fine.  Can you stay and eat with us?” Seren offered.  “I’m having a child-free lunch, and I’m going to make the most of it and talk with grownups!”

“Please?” Evvy smiled.  “I would like that very much.”

“I accept your kind offer,” he grinned, and they headed for one of the colorful tables.  Adila was introduced to their guest when she came over to take their order.

“I am pleased to meet you, Mistress,” Evvy saluted.  “Your shop is decorated beautifully; so much color!”

“Thank you,” the Harad woman’s accent only added to the exotic setting. “I like to have a taste of my homeland here.  The others seem to like it as well.  Let me go get your meal ready.”

While the women waited for their lunch, they chatted with the Blacksmith, who had ordered some cold drinks to go with his sandwiches.

“I thought you were from Lothlórien, Rôg, but Evvy tells me you’re originally from the Grey Havens?  Where is that?”

“It is an Elven colony past the Shire in Eradior.  Mithlond is actually a large harbor, and Lord Círdan manages the ships that take my people to the Undying Lands.”

“That must be sad, saying goodbye to so many of your people like that.” Seren said.

“It can be.  After I put my father and younger sister on a ship, I decided I needed a change, so I came to the Golden Wood and asked the Lord and Lady if I could stay.”

“May I ask what happened to your mother?”

“She was killed in a carriage accident; a horse became spooked, and bolted, and she was run over.  It was just… one of those things.” He looked down and toyed with the napkin in his lap. “My sister was still a small child, and we considered leaving her here for me to raise, but Lord Círdan had foreseen that she would not do well without our Ada.”

“So, you lost your whole family, then.” The woman shook her head sadly. “I’m sorry, love.”

“I thank you.” He smiled.  “Let us talk of happier things; it is a lovely spring day and I have two beautiful lunch companions!”

“Now it’s our turn to thank you.” she said.  “What made you come to Dale?”

“Curiosity, I suppose,” Rôg shrugged.  “Two years ago, I went with the Wardens to the villages in the Wold when the plague struck.  Lord Celeborn wanted me to help with the livestock and such until the men were strong enough to get back to work.”

“My lands!  That must have been awful!” the woman shuddered. 

“It was a sad sight, to be sure, and I stayed long after the sickness passed to help them rebuild their lives.  I found I liked to be around these Men; they were good people.”

“It was nice of you to help,” Evranin said.  “Do you like the people here?”

“I do.  Lord Thranduil had written to his cousin that he wished he had an Elven blacksmith in Dale, because it was inconvenient to keep sending weapons back to the Woodland Realm for repairs.”

“The Dwarves could help with that,” Seren mused.  “Not that I’m not glad you’re here, mind you – I’m surprised they didn’t ask Lord Dáin for help.”

“They did, but Dwarven weapons have a much different point of balance than an Elvish blade.   Each race must utilize their strengths to its fullest advantage, and their weapons need to reflect such.  In either craft, it takes nearly a hundred years to learn, although I consider myself rather an expert; I have been making Meigol edhellin for three millennia,” he gave them an impish grin. 

“I suppose you know what you’re doing then.” Seren laughed.  “My husband, Llew, things the world of this lad,” she told Evvy.  “and so do my boys.  When I tell Ethan and Liam I had lunch with you, they’re going to be jealous!”

They laughed and talked together, and when Adila brought their meal, she sat for a moment and became acquainted with Seren’s new friend.  Evvy and the Harad woman hit it off and the Elleth was fascinated to hear of the traditional Story-Telling among her people. [3]

All too soon, their visit came to an end, and Evranin’s companions came to pick her up.  After Rôg greeted his Galadhrim friends again, he went back to work, and Seren had to go pick up her children.

“Thank you, Mistress,” Evranin smiled.  “I am glad to know you.”

“I’ve had a lovely time, dear,” she kissed Evvy’s cheek.  “Make sure to come visit before you leave!”

“I will.”  Then the Elleth said shyly.  “Will Darryn be all right?  With Turamarth, I mean.”

“I’ll go find the baby’s Grandmother and let her know what’s what, but I’m sure it’s fine.  Bye now!”

 

***************

 

Two hours later, Hannah heaved a weary sigh and let herself into her house.  There had been an emergency and thank the Stars, it ended well.  Elénaril had been working that day, and she was able to prevent a miscarriage.  As much as Daeron deserved his time with his new wife, they would all be glad when he returned.

“Hello?”  All was quiet in the house. 

She set down her bag, hung up her shawl, and went into the Sitting Room—

It was absolute chaos.  Toys were strewn everywhere; the cushions were off the couch and set up to resemble some sort of…shelter with a blanket thrown over the top.  On the table, Floyd, their big orange cat, was helping himself to the remains of whatever was left from their lunch.

“My lands…” she clasped her throat.  “Seren wasn’t joking, was she?”

She tiptoed up the steps and peeked into the downstairs nursery.  Turamarth was spread-eagled on the floor, fast asleep, with Darryn gathered in the crook of his arm, sucking his thumb and holding his little green blanket.  Underneath the Elf’s head was a stuffed horse.

She reached down to pick the baby up, when Tur’s eyes flew open in alarm.  “Please; do not wake him!” he whispered softly. “It took an eternity to get him to sleep!”

“I’m just going to get him in bed, all right?  Just, hold still, now...”

Oh-so gently, she got Darryn tucked under the covers, kissed his forehead, then turned to find his Elven-Uncle sitting cross-legged on the floor, looking bewildered and very sorry for himself.  She motioned for him to follow her into the hall, and she left the door open just a crack.

“Come on, lovey,” she put her arm around his shoulders.  “Seren said you needed lots of tea and sympathy.”

“It might be better if you poured the ‘sympathy’ into my tea,” he sighed, as they headed into the kitchen.

”You grab the bottle,” she winked, “I’ll grab the kettle.”

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Ai, siniath fêg! – Oh, rotten news!

Súyon – (Quenya) nephew

Pinig – My little one

Ai, gorgor! – Oh, shit!  (lit.  Oh, horrors!)

Gwîb – Penis; cock (Yes; Tolkien named it)

Siniath faeg – Rotten news

Nover, Turamarth! – Farewell, Turamarth!

Suilaid – Greetings (pl.)

Mae g'ovannen, Sell muin! – Well met, dear girl

Meigol edhellin – Elven blades

 

NOTES:

There actually was an Elven Blacksmith named “Rôg,” in The History of Middle Earth:

 

 

 

 

  “Rôg was a blacksmith, and chief of the Folk of the Hammer of Wrath. He was considered the strongest of the Noldoli, and was like considered third greatest in valour. He led his people against the BalRôgs and the Orcs during the Fall of Gondolin after the Gate was broken. Later during the battle, he stirred his kindred against the BalRôgs with words of passion, and though many were slain, they slew a number of the fiery creatures "that... was a marvel and dread to the hosts of Melko, for ere that day never had any BalRôgs been slain by the hand of Elves or Men". But the House of the Hammer of Wrath were hemmed in, and every one of them perished, including Rôg.”  http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Rôg

 

[1] From “An Invincible Summer,” CH 54:

 

 

 

 

“During the ceremony, the baby had begun to fuss to be let down, so Daeron placed him on the floor where he seemed to sit quietly with his blankie.  He so caught up with the wedding, that he hadn’t noticed that Darryn quickly managed to remove all his clothing, and had just undone his nappy.  He was standing completely naked and pleased with himself, when Rhian noticed him, and gasped in horror and embarrassment at the sight. 

“Daeron!” she scolded. “How could you not notice he was doing that!”

“Well, he constantly squirms, and…”  the poor Elf sputtered, and knelt down to try and put his tunic back on, but the baby was too fast for him and took off in a dead run around the room.”  https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/39425212

 

[2] From “An Invincible Summer,” CH 52: 

 

 

 

 

“Oh, Bard; I am sorry I did not mention it before, but did you meet the dark-haired blacksmith from Lothlórien?  He had spoken to the Lady about accompanying them to Dale, to possibly purchase Bron’s business.”

“You mean the one from the Grey Havens?  Celeborn made a point to introduce me.  Seems nice enough, and I’ve got no problem with it.  How did he end up in Lothlórien?”

“I am not sure.  But my cousin thinks highly of him, so I am not worried.”

“Any friend of Celeborn’s is a friend of mine.  I know Adila’s been looking to sell the house and the forge, anyway.”  https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/39425212

 

[3] From “An Invincible Summer, CH 27: 

 

 

 

 

“A ‘Tale of Wisdom,’ My Lord,” Adila explained patiently. “The children will be expecting it.”

“But… why?”

“As their Guardian you are the Rasi - the Leader - of their Gosa, My Lord,” Adila explained patiently, “and as the Rasi, it is your sacred duty to impart your vast knowledge upon the children, so they may grow to be as wise as you.”

Percy snickered and crossed his arms.  “Oh, this is gonna be good…”

https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/36408054

Chapter Text

 

I'll stand by you, I'll stand by you

Won't let nobody hurt you

I'll stand by you

Take me in, into your darkest hour

And I'll never desert you

I'll stand by you…

--from “I’ll Stand by You,” by The Pretenders

 

 

City of Dale; 18th of May 2944 T.A.

“Surprise!”

Bard and Thranduil sat up in bed with sleepy smiles, as Tilda and the rest of the children burst into the Royal Bedchamber.  Sigrid and Tauriel were each carrying a breakfast tray.

“Happy Birthday, Da!” Tilda climbed up on the bed and snuggled between them. “Ada never likes to tell what day his birthday is, so we decided to make you celebrate it together.” She turned to him and kissed his cheek. “Happy birthday, Ada!”

“Begetting day,” Sigrid corrected.  “Elves celebrate the day they were conceived.”

“What does ‘concieved’ mean?”  Tilda turned to Thranduil.

“It is when I was first created.” He told her.

“You mean when you get in your Mam’s tummy?”

“Yes,” he answered, not entirely happy with where this was going.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Tauriel and Sigrid cover their mouths in amusement as Bain snickered.

“But how can you know what day that was?”

Bard raised his eyebrow at him, and answered. “Elves can tell those kinds of things, Beanie.”

“How?”

“We can ‘see’ the spark of new life, when it appears.”

“You mean in your Mam’s stomach?  You can see that?” Tilda looked between her fathers, and asked the question everyone knew was coming.  “But how did you get there?”

Thranduil held his breath, and blushed, as everyone in the room looked to him for the answer.  He managed to come up with, “In the same way humans do, Tithen Pen.”

“But how?”

“Perhaps your Da can answer that.”  He said, and pretended not to see Bard’s filthy look.

Bain snickered, threw up his hands and said, “I’ve got to get ready for school.”

“Me, too,” Sigrid giggled and was out the door behind her brother.

Bard put his arm around their youngest and changed the subject.  “Look at all this food!” he handed Tilda a piece of toast.  “I can’t eat all of this.  Did you help Cook make this again?”

“Uh huh.” She took it and started munching.  “He let me butter the toast, and mix up the eggs, but he said the stove is too big here, so he had to cook them.   One of the maids made the tea.” She looked apologetically at her Da. “I don’t know if you’ll like it, though, cause I didn’t do it.” [1]

Bard frowned and sighed heavily.  “Well, Ada and I will try to tolerate it.”

“Here,” Thranduil handed her a piece of bacon.  “It was nice of you to include me in the breakfast this year.”

“Well, you never want us to give you a party or anything, so Sigrid and Tauriel said you and Da have to do your birthdays together now.”

“Works for me,” Bard kissed the top of her head. 

Once the meal was finished, and Tilda was off to get dressed, Bard leaned over to him, and kissed his neck.  “That was a close call, wasn’t it?”

“Please, do not make me tell her of the birds and the bees…” Thranduil winced.

“Oh, I think she’ll forget all about it for now.  Don’t worry.”

“A, galu…” The Elvenking sighed.  “Let that be the end of it, at least for a while.”

 

But it wasn’t. 

Thranduil held Tilda’s hand as they walked through the streets of Dale.  It was a warm day, and the skies were overcast.  “It might rain later, so make sure you pack all your papers in your book bag, yes?”

“Okay.” She said, thoughtfully, then added.  “Ada?”

“What is it, my little love?”

“How do Elves put a baby in a Mam’s tummy?  Is it magic?”

Ai! He winced.  “In a… manner of speaking…”

“But why only the Mam’s? Why can’t Adas do that?”

Ruvyn, burst into laughter, but at Thranduil’s look, quickly turned it into to a cough.

“Well…” he began.

“I mean, I don’t get why only boys and girls can get one.  Elves are different, right?”

“Er… Why do you ask?”

“Because!  Wouldn’t it be great if you and Da could get a baby?  I could be a big sister!”

More coughing – from both Ivran and Ruvyn, this time.

“Tilda, I think you need to speak to Auntie Hil, when she gets home from the Palace.  Wait to discuss this with her, all right?”

“Okay,” she shrugged, then began to skip. “Why did she go without us?”

“She meets with all the children who have been adopted by Elves several times a year.”

“But why?  The Elves are nice!”

“Thank you.  But she must make sure those children are happy, and have everything they need.”

“But what if they’re sad?”

“Then she will try to help them.” He smiled down at her. “Do not worry, Tithen Pen; the children are in good hands.”

“I hope so.” She continued to skip, as she held his hand.

Thranduil’s heart clenched, and he wished, not for the first time, that he could slow the passage of time.  His baby would not be one for much longer, and her sweet innocence would be gone.

Tonight, a small supper party with gifts was planned, but their family remained incomplete.   As much as he loved Bard and the children, the weight of his estrangement with his son overshadowed everything.  He wanted a chance to love his son openly, and selfishly, he wanted Legolas to love him, too.  It hurt to think he might not.

He squeezed Tilda’s hand and sighed.

 

***************

 

Bard’s Hunting Lodge; 20th of May, 2044 T.A.

“I am as eager to see Darryn as you are, Meleth nîn, but could we stop for a short time on the way home?” Daeron asked his wife.  “I have a friend I would like you to meet.”

 “What kind of friend, darling?”

“My tree.” Daeron pulled the sheets off the bed, and piled them with the other towels.  Rhian was busy sweeping the floor of the Lodge, while he was packing up the rest of the food and placing the laundry in bags.    

Their personal clothing, including Rhian’s exquisite wedding dress, was packed carefully in the trunk, the dishes were washed and put in the cupboard, the small barn was cleaned, the horses were saddled and ready to go.  A wagon would be sent later to pick up the rest of their luggage.

Rhian took one last look around with a sigh.  “I’m going to miss this place.  This has been the best week of my entire life.”

Daeron came up behind her and gathered her small frame into his arms.  “I love you.”

She turned around, stood on tiptoe and kissed him.  “I love you, too,” she smiled, then became serious.  “I know we talked about things before we joined, but you have to tell me the truth:  do you regret giving up your life in Valinor for me?”

He took her by the hands and they sat down on the bed.  “Rhian, of course I am saddened that I will not see the Undying Lands, and I will miss my parents and Turamarth, when they sail.” He swallowed, and cupped her cheek.  “There will always be a wish that I could have had both you and them, and if I were to say different, I would be lying.  But the truth, the absolute truth is that I want you; I choose you.” He put his arm around her.  “Some part of me always knew that I was destined for something different, Hind Calen.  I love my people, and I am proud of my heritage, but when I first came to Dale to work for King Tîrevan all those centuries ago, I… felt like I had come home, and those people…” he shrugged, “I knew it was where I was supposed to be.” [2] He kissed her temple. 

“I am 1,995 years old, Hind Calen.  Since I reached my majority at one hundred years, I have served my King, first as a soldier, then as a Healer, and I am proud of all that I have accomplished.”

“And you’re sure you still have your gifts?”  Rhian’s eyes were worried.  “What if you didn’t, and you realize you miss them, and start to resent that?  I’m terrified, Daeron!  You gave up so much for me…”

He regarded her for a moment.  “I do not feel the loss in my fëa, but perhaps we both will feel better if we can see for ourselves.  Lie back.” He eased her until she was lying flat on the bed, and he sat beside her and placed his hands on her heart.  “Take some deep breaths and quiet your mind, then place your hands over mine.”

“Why?”

“Our fëas are one, now, and I want to check something.” He spoke softly.  “Are you ready?”

After a few minutes of stillness, Daeron could “see” his wife’s heart beating in her chest, and the blood flowing easily through its chambers in a strong, steady rhythm.  His own heart lurched, and he smiled when he heard Rhian gasp.  It was true then; he didn’t lose anything.

Alae, Hind Calen,” he whispered, “do you see how your heart beats for me?”

She sat up swiftly.  “That’s… that’s what you do?  I mean, I know that’s what you do, but I never…  Why didn’t I think of us doing this before?” she babbled.  “We’ve been here all week, and we’re only now checking this out?”

Daeron laughed, and mussed her hair.  “We were too busy doing other things, Hervess nîn.”

“Like what, Hervenn nîn?” she said coyly.  “You mean, giving me the best sex I’ve ever had my life?”

“Speak for yourself, Rhian.” He nudged her. “It is the only sex I have ever had.”

“Darling, if that was you as an amateur,” she leaned closer to his ear and whispered in a filthy voice, “I can’t wait for you to fuck me when you’re an expert!” and she leaned up and licked the tip of his ear, making him shiver. 

If she wasn’t wearing riding clothes, he’d throw her on her back and lift her skirts…

“Mmmm…” he grabbed her face and kissed her hard, and when they finally came up for air, he said, “I do love you, and I love making love with you…”

“But?” she gave him a wicked smile.

“I miss our son.  And I want to show you my tree on the way home.”

She sighed, and pretended to be disappointed, but in truth, he could see her eyes dance when he mentioned Darryn.  “We’re all finished here.” She got up and held out her hand. 

They picked up the bags they were going to take with them, and went outside and locked the door behind them, but not before one last look around and a sigh.  This time had been pure magic, and he’d always treasure it, but he was ready to face the world again.

They rode in relaxed silence, knowing there were Guardians keeping watch over them in the trees.  Daeron offered up a few friendly whistles, and smiled when they were returned, saying there was no danger in their vicinity. 

He would miss his military work, but he felt good about giving it up.  He had plenty to keep him busy in the Healing House of Dale, especially since the population was growing by leaps and bounds, not to mention he was the personal Healer for all members of the Royal Family and the household staff.

The rest of his time he wanted to spend with his new family.  He wanted to be a true, present and loving father to Darryn, because he now understood the pain of his King; these years were fleeting, even to a human parent, but it will be especially painful for both of them when Darryn gets older…

Hind Calen?”

“Hmmm?” she said dreamily.  She looked so beautiful as the light shimmered between the trees.

“You worried that I would miss my family, and I was touched by your concern.  I confess to being worried for you, as well.”

“How so?”

“Just as King Bard will have to pay a price for choosing to marry his husband, so will you, Meleth nîn.  Our Darryn will not outlive us.  You understand this, do you not?”

She looked straight ahead and didn’t say anything for a few minutes.  “I have thought of that, yes.  It will break my heart, too, but I made my choice and it’s the right one.

“Before you and I became engaged, you sent Hannah to talk to me, and to make sure I knew exactly what I agreed to when I said ‘yes.’  I’m glad you did.”

“Your father did not want me to speak of marriage, and I wanted to keep my promise to him.  But yes, I asked Hannah to help.”

“Well, you know I spoke with Elénaril, but after that, I went to see Glélindë, and we had a long talk.”

“You did?”

“Yes.  She and Feren are going to have to go through the same thing when their girls die.  Nothing can change that.  Even if Alis or Dafina marry Elves, they would not share their space in the Undying Lands, so they would truly be sundered.” She looked at Daeron sadly.  “At least you and I have the comfort of knowing our family will be together again, one day, but for those two, it really will be goodbye forever.”

“What did she tell you?”

“If, Valar forbid, something happened to Darryn tomorrow and we lost him, would the pain you feel make you wish he’d never come into your life?” Lines appeared in Rhian’s forehead.  “I could lose you, to an injury or an accident, even if you hadn’t given up your future for me.  You could lose me, too.  Would it be better to stay away from each other?”

“No.  But I fear that will not be much comfort when we sing at Darryn’s funeral.”

“I don’t expect it will, and we’ll need each other to lean on.  But mixed in all those tears will be memories that I cherish.  And if we have grandchildren, we will see Darryn’s eyes, or hear his laugh.  It’s the love, darling.  We’ll keep his memory and remember the love and that will hold us until we can see him, and Da, and Hannah, and all of our friends again.”

He understood.  No matter what the race, no matter the lifespan, everything is a risk.  “I married a smart woman.” Daeron smiled.  “Ah!  We are here.” He stopped Aegis and dismounted.  He helped his wife down from her horse, then he helped Rhian climb up into the giant Oak tree.

“Is this easier now that you and I are one?”

“I wouldn’t know,” she laughed.  “This is the first time I’ve ever climbed a tree!”

“Û, Law!” he was taken aback.  “Never?”

“Daeron?  I grew up on a lake.  In a crappy shanty-filled city on a lake,” she grinned.  “But to answer your question, it seems easy, except that I’m,” she reached up, “a lot shorter than you! Help me up, would you!”

Daeron grabbed her hand and settled them both comfortably.   He sat against the trunk and wrapped his arms around her.  “Meleth nîn, this is Doron.  Two years ago, I sat on this very branch, and told him all about you, and about Sellwen.” He said softly, as his arms tightened.  “I can’t tell you how happy I am to introduce you.” [3]

“Really?” she turned her head to look up.  “Do you think he’ll like me?”

“Let us find out.  Once again, settle yourself, and close your eyes…”

The next several moments were spent in utter silence, and soon they both could feel the soft brush of leaves against them.  Rhian gasped in surprise, and he could sense her wonderment and joy. 

“What do you think of our friend, Hind Calen?” He kissed behind her ear.  “He is happy for me and he likes you very much.”

“Oh, my…”  She shook her head.  “I could tell...  Somehow, I just knew…” 

“I have no idea how much you will change, now that we are fully married.  But our bond allowed me to do this for you.”

“I love you,” she leaned her head back on his shoulder and kissed him.  “I’m so happy.”

 

An hour later, they walked up the steps to Rhian’s house – and as of today, Daeron’s new home – and opened the front door.

“We’re home!” Rhian called out.  “Where is everybody?”

They walked into the sitting room, and through the windows to the back, they could see Ben, Hannah and Turamarth, who was swinging Darryn in his arms.

“Oh, there he is!” She breathed, then took off out the back door, with Daeron closely behind.  “Darryn!  Mama’s home!”

“MAMA!” the little boy screamed and wiggled to be put down.  Then he ran towards them with his arms wide.  “Mam!”

Daeron’s heart was full, as she watched his wife pick up their son and bury her face in his dark, wavy hair. 

“Oh, my baby…” she sniffled.  “I missed you.”

“I miss’d you!” the baby said.  “Where you go?”

“Oh, your Ada and I went on a little trip.” She kissed his cheek.  “But we’re back now!”

Ben and Hannah were there, enveloping the couple with hugs and kisses.  “Welcome home, kids!” he said. 

Then it was Tur’s turn.  “You look…  well-rested,” he joked as he hugged his cousin tight. 

“Be good,” he scowled.  “How are things at the apartment?”

“Empty.” Turamarth admitted.  “But the good news is, I won’t have to pick up after you, anymore.  Rhian?” he smiled at his new cousin.  “Daeron is a terrible slob, did you notice?”

“Oh, I think I can handle that.  It couldn’t be any worse than the mess Darryn makes.”

“Oh, Tur knows all about that, pet,” Hannah laughed.  “You should have seen the state of the house after he babysat Darryn this week!”

“You?” Daeron’s mouth dropped open.

“Do not look so surprised!  Of course, I helped look after my little nephew; I even took him to the Park.”

“Were you good for Uncle Tur, sweetheart?” Rhian rubbed noses with her son. 

At that, both Ben and Hannah burst into laughter. 

“What happened?” Daeron asked them.

“Nothing…” Turamarth’s blushed and his ears turned bright red.  

“Oh, piffle,” Hannah put her arm around Tur’s shoulders.  “They’re going to find out sooner or later; better it be from us than from someone else.”

“What did you do to our son?” Daeron demanded, growing increasingly concerned. 

“What did I do to him?  Ask me what he did to me!”

“Come on you lot,” Hannah waved them inside.  “Let’s sit down for supper and I’ll tell you all about it.”

Darryn clung to his mother at first, but by the time supper was over, he was crawling into Daeron’s lap and calling him “Ada."   When Hannah told them about Uncle Tur’s misadventure, Daeron and Rhian laughed until their sides hurt, but then Rhian felt sorry for Turamarth, petted and fussed over the poor Elf until he began to laugh too.  Darryn laughed with them and clapped his hands whenever they said the word “swing.”

It was a wonderful evening, and when Daeron walked his cousin to the door to say good night, they embraced.  “Are you truly well?” he whispered.

“I will be, Gwador.” Tur said. “Now stop feeling sorry for me and go take care of your new family.”

 

Soon after, it was time to put their son to bed. 

The entire upstairs of Ben’s house had been turned over to them, but they kept the downstairs nursery furnished for convenience’s sake.  There was a large bedroom for the two of them, another nursery for Daeron, plus a third bedroom to accommodate guests, and future children.  There was even a room for his study, where he kept his notebooks and his collection of books by Elrond, and his leather bag full of instruments and such.  There was even a small sitting room, so they could relax by themselves, and listen for the baby, should he wake.

But they weren’t going to use it this evening.  After they gave Darryn a bath and after his Ada had sung him to sleep, Rhian took Daeron’s hand and led him into their bedroom.

“Hello, my wife,” he whispered, as he took her into his arms.

“Suil, Hervenn nîn,” she tucked her head under his chin, “Welcome home.”  Then they both began to sway to music only the two of them could hear.

 

***************

 

26th of May, 2944 T.A.

“Excuse me,” a deep, resonating voice said outside Galion’s office. “I was wondering if Lord Thranduil might be in?  I was asked to pick up some items for repair.”

The Aide placed his pen in its holder, and went into the Hall.

“Lord Thranduil is currently—”  He stopped in his tracks.

The Elf before him was wearing a leather apron, his hair was pulled back into a braid and he had tied a red scarf to cover his head.  His cheeks, arms and hands were smudged, and his clothes looked grimy, and there was a pair of leather gauntlets tucked in his belt.

“And who,” he said with a curl to his lip, “may I ask, are you?”

“Mae de 'ovannen!” the filthy Ellon said, in a manner that was much too casual for the Aid’s liking. “You must be Galion!  We have not met, but I have heard a great deal about you!” He bowed his head and saluted. “Ni veren an gi ngovaned.” Then he grinned, and his white teeth were a sharp contrast to his darkened skin.  “I am Rôgon, but feel free to call me Rôg; everyone else does.”

“I will do no such thing!” his head jerked back indignantly.  “And you may refer to me as ‘Lord Galion,” if you please, and remember the proper courtesies when you are in the Home of the Kings!” he huffed.

The smiled did not leave Rôgon’s face and he crooked an eyebrow. “You are most definitely Lord Galion. I see the stories about you have not been exaggerated.”

“What stories?  What are you talking about?”

“Nothing derogatory, I assure you.  Just that you are meticulous, obsessed with decorum, and organized to a fault—”

“How dare you!” Galion was completely flustered and had to stop himself from stomping his foot.  “I am not—"

The Elf leaned forward and looked into Galion’s office.  “And I see you live up to your reputation.  Very tidy.” He shook his head. “I admire that; I am a bit of a slob, unfortunately.”

“But…” the Aide sputtered.  “What… is your name again?”

“Rôg.  I am the blacksmith who bought Bron and Adila’s house and forge.” he tilted his head.  “I met with the Kings when I arrived, but I did not see you…”

“I must have been working in the Woodland Realm. I spend a great deal of time there…  Wait; why am I explaining myself to you?”

“Because I asked,” Rôgon shrugged.  “It is only polite to answer.” He gave the Aide a wicked smile.  “I am surprised you do not know this; are you not a stickler for proper etiquette?”

“Eithad!” This time Galion did stomp his foot.  “Now see here—”

“As much as I am enjoying this exchange, I was asked to collect King Thranduil’s and King Bard’s weapons and sharpen them.” The blacksmith’s dark brows furrowed.  “Surely you were told to expect me?”

Rhaich!  Galion felt a wave of horror sweep over him.  As a matter of fact, Thranduil had spoken to him about it yesterday.  But he was not about to admit to this… this… Elf, that he’d completely forgotten about it.

The side of Rôgon’s mouth upturned.  “You forgot, did you not?”

“Of course, I remembered!  They are kept in the King’s Chambers.”

He could have just sent one of the Guards to fetch them, but Galion decided he would rather get them himself, and...collect himself.  Not that this Elven Blacksmith unsettled him; Rôgon and his overly-familiar manner was completely beneath his notice.  At least that’s what he told himself.

“I will get them.” he said, with his nose in the air.  “You will stay here.”

 “I shall eagerly await your return, My Lord.” Rôgon’s face was serious, but there was mirth in his eyes.

The Aide turned his back in a huff, and saw Lieutenant Nualë standing there, trying to keep a straight face.  “Watch him closely.”

 “Of course, My Lord,” she saluted.

 

He quickly made his way up the Main Staircase, and to the last door in the Royal Wing, where he removed the items from their stand and wrapped them in a soft blanket. 

When he returned to the Hall in front of his study, he saw Hilda sitting on one of the benches with Rôgon.  She was chatting in an animated tone with the Blacksmith, who was laughing at something she said.

“Oh, here he is!” she said.  “Rôgon tells me you two haven’t met, until now!  He’s been here plenty of times, but you must have been at the Palace.”

“We have met.” Galion’s mouth formed a thin line.

“I was telling Rôg how hard Rhian and I worked on the King’s Gardens.  I was thinking of a fancy iron gate to put up at the entrance?”

“Really?” At this, the Aide was genuinely interested.  The Royal family enjoyed their private gardens, but it was Galion who expressed the desire for some sort of security.  It would also be nice to allow the dogs to run without the fear of them taking off.  Thangon was well-behaved, but Lady Tilda’s little pug, Meryl, was young and impetuous, and didn’t always like to listen.

“Do you have a design in mind?” Rôg asked her.

“Not yet.” She shook her head. “Tell you what: I’ll grab Thranduil and get him to sketch something, and we can get some measurements for you.” Hilda looked at the bundle in Galion’s arms.  “What’s that?” she asked.

“He…” The Aide cleared his throat.  “Rôgon is collecting the Kings’ swords to sharpen them.”

“Well, I’ll let you get on with it.” She got up and arranged her skirts. “It’s good to see you again; don’t be such a stranger, yeah?”

“May you have a pleasant afternoon, My Lady,” the Blacksmith kissed her hand.

“You’re always such a charmer!” she giggled.  “Percy will have a fit if I don’t ask when you can come over again.  It’s rare when someone can beat the tar out of him at cards!”

Galion’s eyes widened in shock.  This Elf has been in the family’s private quarters?

“I have been busy of late with orders, Hiril vuin,” Rôg held her hand in both of his, “but please give Lord Percy my best, when you see him.”

“I will,” she kissed his cheek.  “Be sure to stop by the kitchens and see Cook.  He still talks about the set of ladles and spoons you made for him!”

“I am happy he is satisfied with them.”

“Satisfied?  Light as a feather, they are!”  She jabbed him with her elbow.  “Cook doesn’t give out compliments on a whim, you know.  Go see him, and tell him I said to fix you a basket of food.”

“My deepest thanks.” The blacksmith turned to Galion.  “May I have those?”

The Aide had forgotten about the bundle in his arms. “Oh,” he said awkwardly.  “Here they are.”

“Ci athae,” Rôgon’s smile was wide.  “I enjoyed making your acquaintance, Hîr nîn.”

With a bow of his head, the Blacksmith turned and left the Castle, and Galion stood for a moment staring after him, then he shook himself out of his reverie and went back to work.

He wasn't going to give that Elf another thought.

He absolutely was not.

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

A, galu… - Thank goodness… (lit.  “Oh, blessings…)

Alae, Hind Calen – Behold, Green Eyes.

Hervess nîn – My wife.

Mae de 'ovannen! – Well met!

Ni veren an gi ngovaned. – I am happy to meet you.

Eithad! – Insulting!

Hiril vuin – Beloved lady

 

 

NOTES:

I want to point out again that in my fic, the plural for fëa is fëas.  I know Tolkien wrote it as fear, but I find that too jarring, and I can’t get past the idea that it means “to be afraid.”  It’s just my personal bugaboo, so thank you for your patience.

 

[1]  From “An Invincible Summer,” CH 35:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/37117362:

[2] From “An Invincible Summer,” CH 5:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/33048123

[3] From “An Invincible Summer,” CH 5:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/33048123:

 

 

Chapter Text

 

And the years rolled slowly past

And I found myself alone

Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends

Found myself further and further from my home and I

Guess I lost my way...

I began to find myself searchin’

Searchin’ for shelter again and again…

--“Against the Wind,” by Bob Seger

 

Lothlórien, 26th of May 2944, T.A.

After Legolas took care of his horse, he carried his bags to the small guest talan that had been appointed to him.   He washed the grime from the road, changed into a clean outfit and sat on the balcony to await the summons from the Lord and Lady.

“Maedol, Beleg!” A Warden came up the stairs toward him with a grin.  “I am the Marchwarden’s youngest brother, Rúmil. I was away the last time you were here, and was sorry I missed you.”

“Ni veren an dhe ngovaned, Rúmil,” Legolas saluted.  “I have heard you brother speak of you with great fondness.  I understand you were part of the exchange between your Army and that of King Thranduil’s?”

“I was.  As much as I cherished my time there, I am glad to be home.” The Warden looked at him, a bit puzzled.  “I am given to understand you are a Guardian in the Woodland Realm, yet I did not meet you during my stay?”

“I was… away on a mission.  I cannot speak of it, but I am glad to make your acquaintance.”

“I spent most of my time serving your King Thranduil in Dale where he lives with his family, and learned much of the world of Men,”  Rúmil said innocently.  “I keep in touch with several of the Guardians, and consider them life-long friends.” He tilted his head curiously.  “Perhaps you know them?”

“Whom did you meet?”

“I served in the Royal Guard and worked with Turamarth, Ruvyn, Ivran and Meldon, although he has been called to the Halls of Mandos, I am sorry to say.”

Legolas’s face fell.  “I heard he was killed, and my heart is heavy at the news.  I considered him a close friend.”

“I am sorry for your loss.  He was an exemplary soldier and a friend to me, as well.  I miss him a great deal.” 

“I think…” Legolas hesitated, “…I would very much like to hear about your adventures.  If you would be willing to share them.”

“I would like that, if my schedule allows.  I am due to report at the fences in a few days, and will be gone from the City for nearly a month.  In the meantime, I am to escort you to Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel, at once.”

“Of course; lead the way, Mellon.”

He followed the Warden over several walkways and up and down some stairs – it was still difficult for Legolas to find his way around – and eventually they came to the foot of the largest tree in the City, with a covered staircase winding around it’s immense trunk, leading to the uppermost dwelling.

Once they reached the top, he felt in familiar surroundings, as he stood here with Halbarad and the Dúnedain a couple of years ago, when they came here for some rest.

Presently, a door opened on the landing at the top of the stairs, and out walked Celeborn, with Lady Galadriel on his arm.  To his right came a stunningly beautiful dark-haired Elleth.  It was Lady Arwen, daughter of Elrond.  Her eyes were a deeper shade of blue than her grandparents, but they sparkled every bit as much as Galadriel’s.  She held his gaze and smiled, as the three of them walked down the steps to greet him.

“Leave us,” Galadriel told the Guards.  Rúmil and the others bowed quietly and exited. 

“Welcome, Legolas, son of Thranduil, son of Oropher, Crown Prince of the Woodland Realm.” she smiled. “I mâr vín i mâr dhîn.”

“My Lady…”

“Worry not, child; no one can hear us,” she assured him. 

Legolas held perfectly still, as her eyes, older than recorded time, searched his heart and soul.  He felt exposed and uncomfortable, and a bit resentful; nothing could be concealed from the Lady of the Golden Wood, even the thoughts and feelings he didn’t like to acknowledge.

“I see your struggles, Legolas.  You are filled with anger and fear, yet I see a great desire for inner peace.  Why have you not explored these matters with Lord Elrond?”

He couldn’t say, because he didn’t really know himself, so he looked down at the floor and said nothing.  Then he felt soft fingers lift his chin, and the Lady’s smile was full of compassion. 

“Do not be afraid, young Prince.  Before you leave this land, matters will be settled.”

“In what way, My Lady?” Legolas swallowed, and his breath caught.

“That,” she said, “will be up to you.  You are at a crossroads in your life, my dear child, and I cannot choose your path for you; I can only show you the way.”

Her words offered him no comfort, but he knew the time had come to make some changes.   He might have been traveling, seeing the world and having adventures, but he was also living a half-life inside and no amount of distance he could put between himself and his father would resolve it.

He squared his shoulders and gave Galadriel a determined look, and said with a confidence he did not feel, “Whatever you ask of me, I will do.”

She smiled again, and leaned down to kiss his brow.  “I would expect nothing less from the son of Thranduil and Mírelen.  Your parents are renowned for their courage, and I am happy to see the same in you.”

She stepped back and motioned for Arwen to come forward.  “Ni veren an dhe ngovaned.  I look forward to speaking with you of your mother.”

Legolas bowed and kissed her hand.  “As do I, Gracious Lady.  I am eager to learn more about her.”

But Galadriel was thoughtful, “You will speak to Arwen when I deem the time to be right, Legolas Thranduillion; you will gain little if your heart is not completely open.” 

He felt disappointed, but decided to put his trust in the Lady.  “As you wish.”

“Go; rest now, and I will send for you presently.  Tonight, a meal will be brought to your quarters, as I assume you are weary from your long journey.”

“Thank you, My Lady.  I appreciate the private accommodations, but I would be happy to join the Wardens in the barracks; please do not go to so much trouble on my account.”

“Another time, perhaps,” Lord Celeborn said.  “You will be grateful for the privacy and solitude, Ettā.”

Lord Celeborn put his hand on Legolas’s shoulder.  “It is good to see you, again, cousin.  I look forward to spending more time with you.”

“And I you, Ettā Celeborn.”

Legolas formally saluted all of them, and he opened the door to the receiving chamber, where Rúmil was waiting to take him back.

 

***************

 

Soon after, Arwen left to rejoin her friends in the gardens, and Celeborn was alone with his wife.   “What are you thinking, Meleth nîn?  Do you have a plan in mind?”

“I do.  I fear it will be traumatic, but I think we are out of options.”  Galadriel’s look was pained. 

“I worry for you, Hervess nîn.  You are still not fully recovered from Dol Guldur, and I know your progress was hampered the night we helped Thranduil and Tilda.”

“Yes, but—”

And, you also traveled to Dale to see them.” His eyebrows drew together with concern.  “It was a wonderful visit, yes, but you were tired upon our return.”  He took her hands and rubbed the backs of them with his thumbs.  “Are you certain you are up to this?”

“I would do better if you were there with me, Hervenn nîn.”

“I would insist upon it, whether you wanted me there or not.  I am also going to ask the Master Healer to stand by.”  Celeborn looked into her eyes and set his jaw.  “Make no mistake, if I see you weaken yourself to the point where you will do yourself injury, I will stop you.”

Galadriel sighed, and pulled them over to a nearby bench.  “I understand your worry, and I love you dearly for it; throughout the ages, you have been my protector, my champion and no one could love you more than I.”  She reached pressed her palm against his cheek.  “Do those things, yes.  But you must also understand the importance of what we need to accomplish, do you not?  If your young cousin does not willingly alter his viewpoint, he may not fulfill his destiny here.  What will happen then?  Not just to us, but to all of Middle Earth?  The Dark Lord knows he will play a vital role in his downfall and has hunted him since childhood to prevent his defeat, and we must make sure he is ready, when the time comes.” [1]

“Of course; I know this.  But you also have an important role to play in those events, do you not?  It is my task to make sure you will be strong enough.”  Celeborn leaned toward her and lowered his voice.  “Although I admit, my motives are for more personal reasons, Meleth nîn;  I love you, and cannot bear to see you put yourself at risk.”

She leaned her forehead against his, and closed her eyes.  “Without you by my side, I am nothing.  Your love has given me hope when I can find none, and strength when I feel none.  Whatever happens, we will face it together, to serve the Valar.”

“What if the War is won, once and for all?  I fear we will still lose much.”

“Yes, we will, but if the Valar grants me permission to sail, then we will see our families, and build a new life,” she smiled up at him.  “And I will still have you.”

Celeborn returned her smile, then after a pause, said, “Eventually, Meleth nîn.” [2]

 

***************

City of Dale; 31st of May, 2944 T.A.

Thranduil was in his office when Ivran knocked.

“Neledho,” he said, then smiled when he looked up.  “Suil, Ivran!  Are you ready for your feast this evening?”

“I am looking forward to it, Aran nîn,” the Guardian replied, then smirked.  “I do hope the Marchwarden’s supply of wine has run out?” 

“Whether it has or has not is immaterial to me; I do not plan to touch a drop of it.” Thranduil gave a sheepish smile.  “I do not believe I have thanked you for your service that night.”

“I do not know to what you are referring, Hîr nîn.” Ivran smiled.  “I distinctly remember forgetting about that.” [3] He handed the King a folded piece of paper.  “This just arrived from Lothlórien via falcon, My Lord.”

“Thank you.”  He took it and nodded to the Guard, who then left him to read it in private:

Suil, Ettā:

Beleg has arrived in our land for a time as per Elrond’s instructions, and is currently safe and well within our borders.  Elrond sent a letter of explanation, which I will forward to you when the party returns from the wedding. I am sorry you cannot accompany them – but we hope to see you soon!  Much love to your family.

Celeborn

The Elvenking stood up and went to see his husband, who was finishing up a meeting with Constable Tom, regarding his increasing needs for personnel and funding.

“Oh; I am sorry to interrupt.” He said courteously.  “I will wait outside.”

“No, no, My Lord,” Tom stood up.  “We were just finishing up.” The large burly man turned to Bard and bowed.  “I thank you, My Lord.”

“No Tom; I need to thank you.  Dale’s population is growing, and I agree you need to hire some more men to patrol the streets.  Let me work things out with Alan and Evan to see what we can come up with.”

“If the need is immediate, I can see about sending you help from Feren’s troops,” Thranduil offered.  “I know and agree that it is better if the Dale folk serve their own, but in the meantime, do not hesitate to ask, Constable.”

“That’s kind of you, My Lord,” Tom nodded his thanks.  “So far, we’ve been handling things, but I’m just trying to plan ahead, so we’re prepared, you see.  People are moving here from all over at a quick pace, and forewarned is forearmed.”

“Of course.  My offer stands, nonetheless.”

After Tom left, he asked his husband, “Do you have a minute, Meleth?”

“I always have a minute for you; what’s up?”

Thranduil shut the door, put up a silencing spell, then handed over the note for Bard to read, as he sat down.

The Bowman rubbed his temple as he handed it back. “I don’t understand why Elrond sent Legolas to Galadriel, do you?”

“I suspect things are not going as well as Elrond had hoped.  If it were, Celeborn would not make a point to send this at all.”

“Do you think something’s wrong, love?”

“I worry, Bard.  I will always worry over my child, of course, as I do with all our children, but something is not right, and I do not know what to do.” He licked his lips, then expressed the thought growing in his mind. “Do you think I should go with the wedding party tomorrow?”

Bard sat back with a sigh.  “I want to say yes, because I know how much you miss him, Thranduil.  But if Celeborn thought it would help things for you to be there, he would say so, wouldn’t he?”

“I was afraid you would say that.” The Elvenking looked down at his intertwined fingers. 

“I also know you agreed to speak to Indis about all of this.  Have you contacted her yet?”

“I sent a message to the Palace yesterday, asking her to come.  I do not wish to discuss this on paper; it is too important.”

“Well, I would advise waiting to see what she says.” Bard titled his head.  “But I think she would be telling you what you already know.”  He got up and pulled the Elf to his feet.  “I know what this is like for you; I can feel it here,” he touched his own heart, then Thranduil’s chest. “Just keep thinking on what Mírelen told you, love.  She said he would return, but it has to be in his own time.  It’ll be all right, love.”

Thranduil pulled his Bowman into his arms.  “Before you, I had not been physically touched in years beyond count.  But now, holding you, feeling your warm arms around me…  Every time we touch, I feel another part of me come to life.” He pressed a kiss to Bard’s hair.  “I cannot recall the last time I touched my own son…”

“I know.” Bard’s warm eyes looked into his.  “Thranduil, I know it’s hard, but you must keep your resolve and not push at him.  Trust Celeborn and Galadriel; I do.”

 

***************

 

Evening, in the Great Hall, 31st of May, 2944 T.A.

The feast to celebrate Ivran’s upcoming marriage was much more sedate than Daeron’s party at the Long Lake Tavern, and most of the Men, Elves, and Dwarves who were there that night, were relieved, though they would hardly admit it.  Two such parties within a few weeks was more than they could handle, and some still became nauseous at the sight and smell of liquor. 

Turamarth drank no wine; he couldn’t stomach the sight of it just yet, so he chose a light ale to drink.  He’d developed a liking for it during the Long Winter, when he would sit in the evenings in the Great Hall and play Darts with Bofur or other such activities that Lord Percy had organized to cheer the Men, who were missing their loved ones. 

At this moment, Tur was sitting at his table with Darryn in his lap, so his parents could join in the dancing, and when he set his tankard down on the table the toddler instantly reached for it.

“Pweese,” the little boy said.

 “No, Pinig,” he quickly moved it out of Darryn’s reach, and handed him a piece of sweet bread.  “This will be more to your liking.  Now, see your Ada and Nana?  Can you wave at them?”

“I see you are babysitting again,” Ruvyn teased as he came to sit beside his friend.  “Let us hope you have better luck.”

Tur rolled his eyes.  “How many people know about that?”

“Everyone!” he grinned.  “Come now, Mellon.  You cannot expect something as funny as that to be kept secret.”

He gave the Guardian a filthy look.  “So, it was you!”

“Hi, Woobin!”

“Suil, Darryn,” Ruvyn tickled the baby’s cheek.  “Do you love your Uncle Tur?”

The boy leaned his head against Turamarth’s chest and looked up at him with a huge smile.  “I wuv you.”

The Elf’s heart melted, and he leaned down and kissed the top of his head.  “Gi melin, Pinig.”  And he meant it.  His pride still stung from his failed attempts to impress Evranin, but he genuinely loved this child, and nothing would change that.  During the year that Daeron was away, to give Rhian time to know herself, he had kept close to this little boy and his mother.  At first, he’d been trying to fill the void his cousin had left, but it wasn’t long before he was loving Rhian like a true sister, and Darryn had stolen his heart.  If this was only a small part of what a parent can feel for his child, he was in awe, and very much looked forward to children of his own.

Except that dream seemed impossible now.  Since he had rushed off to find Darryn’s blanket, and left Seren and Evranin in the park, he hadn’t even spoken to the Elleth. 

Much of that was because he was busy at work.  Daeron had been Lord Bard’s main Guard, but when he resigned his commission to focus on the Healing Arts and his family, Thranduil had given him the position, and now, he was not only in charge of Lord Bard’s protection, but also coordinated the schedules for the security of the Castle itself.  Turamarth had spent a great deal of time scheduling for the temporary absences of some the Elves who would be gone, and making sure the substitutes were well-versed in the habits and needs of various members of the Royal Family.  His job was to make the transition smooth for everyone concerned, and it turned out to be a time-consuming effort.

But if he were honest, he had to admit he’d been avoiding Evranin, too. He was embarrassed and a bit depressed, and couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d ruined his chances with her, and she would ride out of Dale and out of his life forever.

But Lord Thranduil called him into his office this morning to inform him he would also be attending the wedding, he couldn’t help his exuberance; maybe he would have another chance… [4]

Then he balked.  As much as he wanted this, he didn’t feel he could leave Lord Bard unprotected, and he turned to go back to the Castle and tell the King he had to reluctantly pass, but his train of thought was interrupted when someone called out to him...

 

 

“Tur!”  It was Daeron, who hurried over to him.  “I hear your going to Lothlórien!”

“He did?”

“Yes, of course; I am going to oversee things while you are gone.  I cannot take many of your shifts; I’m busy at the Healing House, but the King asked me to supervise in your absence.”

“You?” Tur was incredulous.

“What do you mean, me?” Daeron’s head jerked back indignantly.  “Of course I can do it!  I did that job before you, and taught you everything you know!”

“You did not!” he barked back churlishly.  “I—”

“Oh, stop.” His cousin shook his head in amusement, then put his hand on Tur’s shoulder.  “Lord Thranduil summoned me yesterday, and we went over all the details.  You deserve this, Gwador.” He said, softly.  “I hope you have a chance to get to know Evranin, but for me it is more than that:  I want to give you back something, for looking after Rhian and Darryn while I was gone.   The Golden Wood is a wonderous place, and I want you to see it.  Let me do this for you, Tur.” 

 So, his bags were packed, his horse Sandastan had been checked over thoroughly to make sure he was fit to travel, and he was beginning to get excited.  And he tried hard not to think of Evranin…

“Are you not going to ask her to dance?” Ruvyn jabbed him with his elbow and jerked his head in the direction of their table.

“I…  What about Darryn?”

His friend reached across and grabbed his nephew.  The baby laughed as he snuggled with the other Guard.  “You were saying?”

“But she thinks I am an imbecile, Ruvyn!  Why would she—”

“Darryn?” Ruvyn grinned and stood the child on his thighs and spoke in a sing-song voice,  “Do you know how to say ‘Stop whining’ in Sindarin?  ‘Avo vuio!’  Can you say that?”

Darryn put a finger in his mouth and said, “Aboo weeo.”

“Very good!  Now let us try to say ‘Scaredy-cat’ in Sindarin, yes?”

“Ruvyn…” Tur warned. 

“What?” he said innocently. “I am merely trying to increase this child’s vocabulary.” Ruvyn turned back to Darryn.  “Say, ‘Gosta-mîr.’ 

“Dostameer.”

“Oh, that is very good! See what a smart child you are!  Now, let us see of you can say ‘Coward—'"

“Oh all right!” Turamarth stood up, but before he left, he leaned down and whispered.  “And I am telling his parents what you just taught him,” and took great satisfaction at the look of fear on Ruvyn’s face.

He took a deep breath and tried to look casual as he carried his drink across the Hall and approached the table where the Galadhrim were sitting together.  Haldir and Orophin were off dancing, with Princess Sigrid and Nualë, but Orlin, Penlod and Evranin were enjoying some snacks. 

“Mae g'ovannen,” Tur bowed his head and saluted.  “Are you enjoying the festivities?”

“Turamarth!” Penlod’s smile was wide.  “Please; join us!  This is a wonderful party.”

After he was seated, he set his glass down.  “I am sorry I have not seen much of you; there was much to be settled before our friends could leave.”

“I understand,” Evvy’s smile was sweet, but he could see anxiety in her eyes. “I see the child is much happier this night.”

“Yes, well…   Once again, please allow me to apologize for…” his voice trailed off. 

“Oh, no; I had a wonderful time, really.” She said, eager to put him at ease.  “Mistress Seren explained that Darryn was out of sorts because of his mother’s absence.  It was perfectly understandable.  I had a very pleasant meal with her and Rôgon.”

“You met Rôg?”  he was surprised.

“Oh, yes!  Actually, we all know him; he lived in our land for many years.”

“I have known him much longer.  Rôgon and I grew up together in Mithlond, and when I wrote and told him of the Golden Wood, he decided to come and see it.  I am – or was – his Healer.”

Turamarth looked around the Hall and saw the Elven Blacksmith laughing with Rod and Catrina, the owners of the Long Lake Tavern.  “Why did he leave Lothlórien?  Did something happen?”

“Not at all.  The Lord and Lady have a number of talented Smiths, and when he heard how many Elves lived here, he decided his skills would be of better use here.”

“They certainly are; he is very talented, and we appreciate him.  Lord Thranduil and Commander Feren are thrilled to have him here, as am I.  It is wonderful to have someone who understands the nuances of Elven weaponry.”

“You will find no one better.” Penlod nodded.  “He is famous for his skill; the best in Eradior.”

Tur took another drink and mustered his courage.  “Would you join me in a dance, Evranin?”  He stood and held his hand out.

“Of course,” she stood and curtsied.  “I would enjoy that very much.”

The music was a lively song enjoyed by the Dale folk, and they moved around the floor with a joy and exuberance that was contagious.  By the time the song ended, Turamarth and Evranin were both smiling and laughing, as they made their way back to the table. 

“De vilui, hiril vuin,” he kissed her hand. 

“I 'ell nîn, nardû.”  Her smile was wide and when she looked up at him, there was a flutter in his chest.  Ai, she was so beautiful!

“Evvy, let us take our turn,” Orlin stood up suddenly, and put his hand on the small of his sister’s back.  “I have not danced with you all evening, and I promised our parents you would enjoy yourself.”

Turamarth saw an immediate change in Evranin’s demeanor, and his forehead wrinkled in confusion.  He watched Orlin and Evvy take their places and wait for the music to start.

“Turamarth; Mellon nîn,” Penlod said. “I would like some fresh air; can you join me?” 

His gaze remained with them as Orlin spoke in earnest with his sister, then he turned to the dark-haired Healer.  “I do not understand why Orlin would be upset.  Have I done something wrong?” 

“Not at all.”  Penlod put his hand on Tur’s arm.  He took a drink and stood up.  “Come, Lieutenant.”

He followed the Healer out into the Courtyard, where several others were milling around the fountain. 

“Is there somewhere we can speak privately?” Penlod asked.  “I think there is something you should know.” 

“Certainly,” Tur replied with a growing sense of dread building in his stomach.  He led them to a bench away from the crowds, under a small canopy and urged him to sit.  “You are making me nervous, Mellon.  If I have done nothing wrong, why the secrecy?”

“Because,” Penlod took a seat.  “Please; do not repeat what I am telling you.  I do not think Orlin or Evranin wish everyone to know, but I can see your growing attraction to her, and I think she may return your interest.”

“Is that a problem?”

“Not necessarily, but there are mitigating circumstances.  I have known Evranin all her life and love her like a sister, but no one is more supportive or protective of her than Orlin.  You have seen how shy she is, have you not?  It takes a while for her to feel comfortable around people.”

“Yes, I have noticed, but I thought she felt at ease with me.  Did I offend her?”

“No; the opposite, in fact.  Evvy’s parents are…good people, but they are rather set in their ways and have some rigid expectations for their children.  Orlin has a stronger personality, so he does not feel so intimidated by their wishes, and has learned to follow his own path.  But Evranin is not so strong, and has not had a chance to develop much self-confidence.  Personally, I think her mother takes advantage of that, and Evvy worries greatly about disappointing her parents.” Penlod’s face grew serious.  “She is terrified of disappointing anyone.”

“What are you trying to tell me, Penlod?”

The Elf took a deep breath.  “The reason why she came here, was Orlin’s doing.  He talked their parents into letting her come, so she could take some time to consider the proposal of one of the Wardens.”

Tur’s mouth dropped open and his heart sank, and he slumped against the back of the seat.  “She is…  betrothed to someone else?”

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Maedol, Beleg! – Welcome, Beleg!

I mâr vín i mâr dhîn – Our home is your home.

Ni veren an dhe ngovaned, Rúmil – I am happy to meet you, Rúmil

Maedol, Mellon nîn – Welcome, my friend.

Ettā Celeborn – Cousin Celeborn

Neledho - Enter (Command)

Suil, Darryn – Greetings, Darryn

Gi melin, Pinig – I love you, my little one

Avo vuio! – Stop whining!

Gosta-mîr – Scaredy-cat

Mae g'ovannen – Well met

De vilui, hiril vuin – Thank you, beloved lady

I 'ell nîn, nardû – It was my pleasure, Lieutenant (Lit.) “My joy, Soldier.”

 

 

NOTES:

 

[1] From “And Winter Came…”  CH 35:   https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/31617468 

[2] After the War of the Ring, Galadriel sails, but her husband Celeborn stays in Middle Earth for an undetermined period of time. 

[3] From “An Invincible Summer” CH 54:   https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/39993237

[4] From “Legolas, Ion nîn,” CH 10:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/17088320/chapters/42097547

Chapter Text

 

'Cause you can't jump the track, we're like cars on a cable,

And life's like an hourglass, glued to the table.

No one can find the rewind button boys,

So cradle your head in your hands,

And breathe, just breathe,

Whoa breathe, just breathe

--“Breathe (2 a.m.)” by Anna Nalick

 

 

 

Midnight, City of Dale, 31st of May, 2944 T.A.

“Did you enjoy yourself, Hervess nîn ?” Daeron asked softly, as he put his arm around his wife’s shoulders.  The evening was clear and cool, and the streets were quiet; a nice contrast to the laughter and warmth from the Great Hall.

“I had a marvelous time,” Rhian leaned into him, “but I think I’m a bit tipsy.”

“I am certain of it,” he smiled down at her.  “But the flush in your cheeks only makes you more beautiful.”

“You’re just saying that because you want to get lucky, when we get home.”

“And if I do?”

“Then I would say, you’re in luck.” She giggled, and wrapped her arm around his back. 

Daeron had been amazed at how passionate Rhian could be when they were making love, and the first time she crawled on top of him and aggressively set the pace, he couldn’t last long from the excitement of her.  Oh, to see his sweet girl be so bold!  Rhian had been strong enough to put aside her past, and trust him to let her discover not only what pleased him, but what pleased herself, as well.  They were perfect together. 

 

By the time they made it to their house, Hannah and Ben were already in bed.  They had left earlier, and offered to take the baby with them, so Daeron quietly went into the downstairs nursery, lifted Darryn into his arms and they went upstairs to their rooms.

“Go on, Hind Calen; I will get him settled, then join you in a minute.”  He kissed her, and went down the hall to the little boy’s room to get him settled.

Darryn stirred a bit when he laid him down and pulled up his blankets, then sat up.  “Ada? Where’s piggy and fwoggy?”

“Go back to sleep, and you will see them.”  The Elf stifled a laugh, then eased him back down.  “They are waiting for you in your dreams, Ion nîn,” he whispered, as he kissed the boy’s hair.  Darryn’s eyes instantly closed again, and he rolled onto his stomach and stuck his rear end up in the air with his thumb in his mouth.

Daeron watched him with a contended smile.  This little boy was his; from the moment he was first put into his hands he knew Darryn was his son, and it had nothing to do with his deep love for Rhian.  The Elf had fallen in love with Darryn, long before he realized his own feelings for the baby’s mother. 

Garth, Rhian’s first husband, might have helped make him, but Daeron Adamarion wanted to be the making of him.  Whatever terrible cycle of violence that caused his birth-father’s behavior would be broken for the sake of this precious little boy.  Darryn would know a life of love, of strength and purpose, and the Elf thanked the Stars and the Valar every single day that he would be the one to help raise this child.

He left the room, leaving the door open just a crack, and then he stopped and sent up a silent prayer:  I will not tarnish my life with Rhian or Darryn by carrying hatred in my heart.  I cannot say I forgive you, but I thank you for my wife and my son.  May you find peace, wherever you are.

The wife he was so thankful for, was waiting for him, so with a smile on his face, he went to his bedroom.

But she wasn’t in bed.  She was in her green robe, curled up in their comfortable stuffed chair, gazing thoughtfully out the window with her chin in her hand.  The moonlight shone through the panes, bathing her profile in an ethereal aura, highlighting the heavy curls of her hair in silver. 

Hind Calen, I thought you could never look more beautiful than on our wedding day,” he murmured softly,” but I was wrong.”

At the sound of his voice, she turned her head and her face lit up with a wide smile.  He toed off his boots, then padded over to kneel in front of her.  “Ci velethril e-guil nîn, Hind Calen,” he said, as he reached up to untie her robe.  His Gwîb twitched hard, when he saw her naked body underneath. “Let me worship you, Meleth nîn.”

He ran his hands lightly over her thighs, her abdomen, the swell of her breasts, before he leaned in to take a nipple in his mouth.  Rhian liked it when he sucked hard, and he did so as he pinched and rolled the other one.  He felt her ribs rise with a gasp, and her hands buried themselves in his hair and pulled, just enough to excite him.

“Oh stars, yes…” she whimpered, as his other hand moved down and began to explore her moist folds.  “I love you, so much.”

He let go, reached up to kiss her, and smiled.  “I see you are wet for me.”

“Always, for you.” She was panting slightly, and parted her legs wider, as he inserted one finger into her moist heat. 

Daeron kissed his way down her stomach, pulled her hips forward a little, then reinserted two fingers and curled them upwards, before taking her in his mouth to fondle her clit with his tongue.

“Ahhhh!”

He looked up and watched as she threw her head back and moaned loudly.  Her hands gripped the sides of the chair and she began to move her hips.  “Oh, gods…  just like that, oh, fuck…”

He stopped for a moment.  “Touch yourself,” he panted. “I want to see you.”

As he continued to flick his tongue, her hands went to her breasts and she began to twist her nipples.  Words were not possible now, and she was writhing and groaning with increasing urgency—

From downstairs, Daeron could hear a knock at the front door.

He groaned and lifted his head.  “I think someone is at the door.”

“Daeron Adamarion,” she croaked, “if you stop right now, I will—  Oh, fuck yes!!”  Once again, she was a moaning mess as he vigorously resumed his ministrations. 

“I’m going to come, Daeron!” her eyes were scrunched tight and her hips began to buck.  “Oh, stars I’m coming!” her entire body went rigid, and her thighs squeezed together as she pulsed with incredible force around his fingers and against his tongue.  He moaned as his Gwîb throbbed in time with his wife’s body as he rode her orgasm with her.  Somehow she’d found the wherewithal to caress and massage the tips of his ears, which made him dizzy with desire.

Ai, Ma!  If he didn’t plunge inside her right now, he would explode!

But the knocking persisted.

“Oh, gods…” Rhian pushed his head away with a groan.  “Whoever that is, will wake up Da and Hannah!”

Daeron stood up, wiped his mouth on his sleeve, then leaned down to plunge his tongue in her mouth.  “Do not move.  I will get rid of them and be right back.”

“Mmmmm…” Her eyes were closed, and she melted into the chair. “I’ll be waiting…”

“Hold on to that thought, Meleth nîn.”  Daeron raced down the steps to the front hall and wrenched the door open.

Turamarth stood on the porch, his hand still in the air, about to pound on the door again.  The Elf’s unsteady posture told him his cousin had been drinking.  “I am sorry to wake you,” he said, as he weaved slightly. 

“You did not wake me.” Daeron replied tersely.  

“Were you busy?”

“Very.” He raised an eyebrow and gave his cousin a meaningful look.

“Oh?” Tur said.  Then, “Ohhhh…”

“Can this wait until morning?” he asked hopefully.

“Of course; I am terribly sorry, Gwador.” Turamarth’s shoulders slumped and he turned to go.

Daeron couldn’t ignore the woebegone look on his cousin’s face.  “Wait!”  He rolled his eyes and opened the door wider.  “Come in, and tell me what is wrong.”

The Elf turned and followed Daeron through the house and into the kitchen. 

“You look like you need a strong drink.”

“I have had quite a bit, though I could use more…” 

“I was thinking more along the lines of strong tea.  I can smell your breath from here,” he griped, as he got the stove going and put the kettle on.  “What brings you here in the middle of the night?”

“I…” Tur swallowed.  “I received some bad news, and I do not know where else to turn,” he said in a very quiet voice.  “I am sorry to bother you, Daeron.  I should have realized you would be…busy.”

This gave Daeron pause.  How many times had Tur been there for him, to pick up after him, to encourage him, always giving him his unswerving support?  His frustration was instantly replaced with shame; while he was upstairs giving thanks for his new life, he’d never thought to mention how grateful he was for his Gwador.

“No; I am the one who is sorry.” He went over and put his arm around Turamarth’s shoulders.  “I am here for you, always, you know that.”

“Does that mean I can have some more wine?” Tur’s jovial tone did not reach his eyes. 

“No,” he smiled. “Now, sit down before you fall down.”  Daeron went to the cupboard and took down two mugs, then reached for the tea and a pot.  “Tell me what is wrong, Mellon.”

“I need some advice.”  Tur fiddled with his hands.  “Can you tell me a bit about Evranin?  When you were working in Lothlórien, you got to know the family, am I correct?”

“I did.  Orlin is a good brother to Evranin, and very protective.” He scooped in enough tea leaves to make the brew extra strong.  “I also know you have taken a liking to her, so I asked Lord Thranduil if you could go with them tomorrow.”

“As it turns out, now I wish you had not.” Tur said glumly. 

“What happened?  She seems to like you, as well, so what is the problem?”

“Well, your friend Orlin failed to mention that Evvy is taken.  When she returns home, she will accept the proposal of one of Lord Haldir’s Wardens.”

“What?”  Daeron sat down on the chair opposite him. “Are you certain of this?”

“It is true!” Tur said furiously, and slammed his hand down. “Penlod told me.”

“Please; keep your voice down, Gwador!” he hissed.  “You will wake up everyone in the house, including my son!”

The Elf heaved a defeated sigh and ran his hand over his face.  “I am sorry,” he lowered his voice.  “I have only just met her, but she is…”

“Special?” Daeron offered helpfully.  “I could tell the minute you met her, Tur.  I saw you, when you kissed her hand; you ‘felt’ something, did you not?”

He nodded his head miserably.  “It was like I had touched fire and ice at the same time.  I have never felt anything like that before.”

“It was the same with Sellwen, and Rhian.  You felt the Ehtë Raumo; I am sure of it.”

“But does that not mean something?  Surely her brother knew I was taken with her, and neither said a word to anyone!  If not for Penlod, I would still be making a fool of myself!”

 “Daeron?”

They were interrupted by Rhian, in her thick robe, wrapped securely around her.  She took in Turamarth’s miserable countenance with a worried look.  “What’s wrong?”

“Actually, I am glad you are here.”  Daeron motioned for her to join them, despite Turamarth’s reticent look. “No, Gwador; we could use a female’s perspective on this.  Come sit, Hind Calen.  Would you like some tea?”

“No thanks, just water, please.” She took the chair next to Tur, and started to rub his back.  “You look awful, love!  What’s going on?”

While Daeron poured out the tea and served it, they told her everything, including their dismay at Orlin’s silence.  “Why would they not tell anyone?  It was cruel to lead him on like that!”

“Hmmm…” Rhian sat back and fiddled with her glass.  “You know what I think?” she mused, then shook her head.  “No, wait; first tell me about Orlin’s and Evvy’s Mam and Da.  What are they like?”

“I can tell you what Penlod said,” Tur offered.  “Their mother is on the Lord and Lady’s Council, and very strong-willed.  Their father works with her in the libraries, and quiet-spoken, but he said they are both good people.”

“Delos!” Daeron interjected vehemently.  “That is the diplomatic answer, as he is bound by loyalty to his rulers.  I am not, so I can tell you:  Lady Vériel is a shrew!” he made a face.  “I would never say that to Orlin or anyone there, but I felt sorry for Lord Ohtar, her husband.”

“What’s the father like?” Rhian asked. 

“Evranin takes after him: quiet spoken and taciturn.  Lady Vériel has the habit of  treating Ohtar’s silence as lack of intelligence, when what he is really doing is trying to keep the peace.  I have gone to their home several times for dinner, and…” he shook his head.  “Let us just say, I feel sorry for all three of them.”

“Well, that’s it then.” Her look was grim.  “It’s not hard to figure out.”

“What is?” Daeron asked.

“Figure what out?” Tur’s eyebrow spiked.

She put her elbows on the table and leaned forward.  “Orlin had to talk Evvy into coming here, right?”

“Right…”

“I know Evvy likes you, Tur; I’ve spent time with her, and her face lights up whenever your name is mentioned.”

 “But—”

“But it’s simple!” Rhian shrugged. “Don’t you get it?    That mother… what’s her name, again?”

“Vériel.”

“Aye, that.  Anyway, how much do you want to bet this Mam is trying to arrange this marriage to the Warden, and Orlin knows it?  Maybe Evranin doesn’t know how to stand up to that woman.”

“Elf.” Tur corrected.

“Whatever.” She waved her hand.  “Think about it; I was like Evvy, once, and look at me now!”

Daeron smiled at her.  “This is true; look at you now…”

“I think Orlin is looking out for his sister the same way you did, when you left for a year.  That girl—”

“Elf.” Turamarth raised his eyebrows.

“You know what I mean.  Orlin’s looking out for his baby sister and dragged her here hoping she’d see a bigger world, and maybe learn about herself a little bit.  I’ll bet he was hoping she’d meet somebody like you!”

“You may have a point.”  Daeron said thoughtfully.  “While it is true that most Elves marry for love, that is not always the case.  And not every Elven marriage ends up happy, even if love is involved.”

“Really?”

“Oh, yes.  Fëanor and his wife Nerdanel were very much in love at first, but his temperament caused them to become estranged in Valinor.  She left him and moved away.  In Middle Earth, we know the story of Eöl and Aredhel.  He forsook the day and would only allow his wife and son to live in the twilight.  She took their son Maeglin to live in Aran Thingol’s Court.

“Could this Vériel force Evvy to marry him if she didn’t want to?”

“No.  It would be akin to rape and that could end her life.”

“What if this Warden is a conniving, charming social climber, like my first husband, and convinces her she’s in love with him?”

“It would be more likely that Lady Vériel would manipulate her into giving consent.”

“But how do you know this Warden isn’t in cahoots with her?” Rhian persisted.

“’Cahoots?’” Tur’s look was skeptical.  “What does that mean?”

“It means the Lady Whatever and the Warden are working together to get Evvy to do what they want.  Does this man—”

“Elf.” 

She stuck out her tongue at Turamarth.  “Does this Elf need money, or something?”

“I suspect it is a question of status, rather than riches.” Daeron told them.  The Wardens of the Golden Wood are held in the highest esteem, Hind Calen, and to marry one is considered a great honor.”  Daeron sipped his tea.  “Wardens have a strict honor code, just as Guardians do.  I have no doubt that if she were to marry this Elf, she would be treated with the utmost respect.  Haldir would not allow anything less.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Turamarth buried his face in his hands.  “Perhaps I should stay here and…”

“No!” Rhian jabbed him in the ribs.  “Now you have to go!”

“He may have a point, Meleth nîn.”  Daeron rubbed his chin.  “There is a bigger issue, here.”

“What could possibly be more important than love?”

“Turamarth is a Guardian, and he represents King Thranduil at all times.  If his presence in Lothlórien causes a problem, it could turn into a diplomatic incident.”

“You can’t be serious!” Rhian shook her head.  “This has nothing to do with politics!”

“But it does,” he said patiently.  “Our people are guests in their realm, and Lady Vériel could make a great deal of trouble for the Lord and Lady, if she thought we were meddling in her business.

Her face fell. “That fucking bitch!”

“Do you kiss your son with that mouth?” Turamarth quipped.  

“Oh, shut up.” She smacked his shoulder, then said.  “Why don’t you go see Lord Thranduil first thing in the morning?  Tell him everything you know; if he says stay, then we’ll help you figure out something else, but if he says go, then go, dammit!”

“She is right, Gwador.” Daeron nodded his head.  “You will need Lord Thranduil’s support, whatever happens.”

Turamarth considered, then nodded his head.  “Then that is what I will do.”  He got up, and set his cup in the sink.  “I should be going…  I am sorry to wake you, but I am grateful you talked to me.”

Rhian went to him and put her hand on his arm. “You’re all packed, right?”

“Of course.” He smiled.  “You know me.”

“Then you’re staying here tonight.  We’ve got a guest room upstairs, and it’s all ready for you.”

“But I could not impose...”

“Stop.” She began to pull him along.  “You’re family, and you’re staying here.  Daeron can help you get rid of your hangover in the morning before you see the King, and Darryn will be thrilled to see his Uncle Tur.  Now come on, you.  Daeron, could you please get the dishes?”

“I will be up shortly, Meleth nîn.”  Daeron smiled at his wife as she fussed over his cousin, he was filled with pride and thankfulness.  Since they had returned from their honeymoon, Rhian had been going out of her way to make sure Turamarth never felt left out or lonely, and he could see how much it made his Gwador feel better.

A, de melin!

 

************

 

City of Dale, 1st of June, 2944 T.A.

The wedding party was due to gather in the Courtyard in less than an hour, and Thranduil had just come down the Main Staircase, to find Turamarth dressed and ready, but looking anxious.

“Might I speak with you privately, My Lord?” 

“Certainly.  Follow me.” He led the Guardian to the Hall behind the Staircase and into his office.  “Make it quick, Lieutenant; there is much to do yet.  Are you packed?”

“I am, but I do not think it would be appropriate for me to accompany the caravan.”

“Why do you ask?”  Thranduil was confused.  “Things are all taken care of, so if it is a question of duty...”

“It is not that, My Lord.  I…” Turamarth fumbled for words, then blurted.  “I would not trouble you with such a personal problem, but I think my presence there could cause strained relations between our Kingdoms.”

“What?” Thranduil was incredulous. “Explain yourself!”

After the Guardian explained everything, Thranduil put his fingers to his chin.  “I see.”

Turamarth squared his shoulders.  “Aran nîn, first and foremost, I am a Guardian of the Woodland Realm: if my presence could cause even a hint of impropriety, then I have no choice but to recuse myself from the traveling party.”

Thranduil sighed.   “While I do not doubt Daeron’s assessment of Evranin’s mother, I also know Celeborn.  He and Galadriel would never allow anyone in their Realm to be forced into an unhappy marriage, and risk the emotional harm of her subjects, even if it is between a mother and daughter.”

“But why does the Lady allow such behavior?”

“Galadriel does nothing without purpose, so you and I are going to have to trust her.” He put his hands on Turamarth’s shoulders.  “Mellon nîn, go with my blessing; find out where this path leads.  But no matter what happens, I expect your behavior to bring honor to the Woodland Realm, is that clear, Lieutenant?”

“My duty to you comes first, Aran nîn.  I will not fail you.”

“I know you will not.  I also have a task for you:  The Elf called ‘Beleg,’” he gave Tur a meaningful look, “is currently in the Golden Wood, so you must make sure our people give no indication of his…”

Turamarth understood immediately.  “I will see it done, My Lord.”

Thranduil searched for the right words.  “If you would, upon your return, tell me how he is?”

“Of course, I will.  Do you have a message for him?”

The Elvenking sighed.  “If, and only if he asks, simply say I hope he is well, nothing more.”

“I understand, My Lord.”

Galu, Mellon nîn.” The Elvenking encouraged.  “Galo Anor erin râd gîn.”

 

Lothlórien, 12th of June, 2944 T.A.

The trip home should have seemed long and tiring, but Evranin hardly wanted it to end!  She enjoyed her days in the saddle, under sunny skies, but her favorite time was the evening, when they made camp. 

As the highest ranking officer, Marchwarden Haldir was in charge, and made sure the soldiers rotated their positions around the perimeter of the group as they rode during the day, and kept careful watch at night.  It left little time for conversation with Turamarth, but when he was able to sit with them around the fires, she and Orlin enjoyed his company.  He was friendly, had a wonderful sense of humor, and was full of stories of his family and life at the Palace. All her normal shyness had evaporated around the Guardian, and she felt at ease with him.  Everyone she met on this trip was wonderful!

“Are you glad to be here?” Orlin asked her one night as they were walking to the tent she was sharing with Ivran’s mother. 

“I don’t know,” she took his arm and leaned on him. 

Her brother laughed and put his arm around her shoulders.  “I asked you the same question when we were traveling here, and you said the same thing.   Now, I think your words have a different meaning, do they not?” He smiled down at her. “You, Aewpîn, have had your first adventure!  What do you think of it?”

“I cannot explain how different I feel. I love our home, of course, but all my life I have read about people and places; it is something else entirely to see things for myself!” She heaved a sigh. “I almost do not want to go back…”

“I am forgiven for making you come, then?” He teased.

“You are,” she smiled up at him.  “What did you think of our adventure?”

“Much the same.  I have traveled before, but when I return, I see things from a different perspective; I like feeling like I am a part of a bigger world, and see what life can truly be like.  I think it changes me for the good, and I was hoping it would do the same for you.”

“Perhaps.  I think I know myself better, although Naneth will probably not be pleased.”

“She was not pleased when the Lady asked if you could join me, I know that much.” He grinned.  “I can only imagine what Adar is going through.  But Evvy,” he stopped and held her hands.  “I do not want to tell you whether you should marry Mahtan or not.  He is a skilled Warden and an honorable Elf, and he would make a good husband, to anyone who chooses him.”

“He would.  I like him very much; I always did…”

“But is that enough?” He said earnestly.  “You deserve to be with someone you truly love, and who loves you back.  Now you have had some time and space to ask yourself: are you considering saying ‘Yes’ because you wish it, or because our mother wishes it for you?”

Evranin’s stomach began to churn with anxiety.  “But you know how she is!  She will not stop until she gets her way; if I go against her wishes, she would make my life miserable, you know this!  And Mahtan will be so hurt…”

“So you would consider marriage, to bond with someone, simply because you want to avoid a scene with Naneth?  Do you not think Mahtan deserves to be with someone who truly loves him?  I do not think you see him as more than a friend, Little Bird, and if you tell me you honestly do not wish to marry him, I will not allow Naneth to force you into anything, I promise!  I will ask the Lord and Lady to intervene, if I have to.  You are of age, and you do not need our parents’ consent to marry or not.”

“Oh, thank you, Orlin…” she wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him tight.  “Gi melin, Gwanûr.”

“I love you too, Evvy.” He held her tight.  “But you have spent too much time huddled inside, surrounded by your books.  It is time to stretch your wings and fly by your own power, and see where the winds take you.”

“What if I fall?”

“Then I will catch you,” he rested his cheek on her head.  “I will take care of you, until you are strong enough to try it again.”

She set her chin against his chest and smiled up at him.  “What if I don’t fall, but want to fly away to another land?”

“You mean, to Dale?  With a certain Russet-haired Guardian who is a terrible babysitter?”

“Perhaps.”  She giggled.  “I think… I really like him, Orlin.”

“I know.  If he is your One, Evvy, then it is a good choice.”

“But do you think he feels the same way?”

“I do.  I think Turamarth thinks you are perfect, just the way you are, and you have blossomed beautifully since we came.”  They stopped when they reached her small tent, and he kissed her cheek.  “Have a good sleep, Aewpîn nîn.  We should reach the borders of our Wood tomorrow.”

“Good night, Orlin.” She smiled happily and went in.

No one saw the Russet-Haired Guardian, who had been standing watch nearby, but if they did, they couldn’t miss his wide smile, as he stood for the rest of his shift.

 

***************

Lothlórien, 13th of June 2944 T.A.

Legolas scurried down the steps to the forest floor and went to meet the Wedding Party, led by Haldir and Orophin, then the Guardians.  He grinned to see his old friends, and waited on the sidelines with the rest of the crowd, as Ivran and his parents were met by Cwën and hers, along with the Lord and Lady. 

Once the short ceremony was over, Turamarth came over and nearly tackled him with a hug.  “Beleg, you sprout!  How are you?” he grinned.  “I missed you!”

 “I missed your ugly face,” he told Tur.

“You speak of Daeron; I am the pretty one, remember?” the Lieutenant grinned.

Soon, they were joined by Ruvyn, Nualë and two other Guardians, and though they addressed him with a false name, their affection for him was real.  In the Palace of the Woodland Realm, these Elves treated him with deference and respect due his station, but after working for centuries side-by-side in a forest full of darkness and danger, it was the deep trust and comradery that kept them all alive, that helped them to blend their skills effortlessly.  Their friendships were deep and lasting, and Legolas had missed them!

“How is your ugly cousin?” he joked.

 “He is married now, did you hear?”

“Surely not!”

“He is, to a beautiful subject of Dale, and I have a small nephew to spoil, now.”

“A…  he married a Woman?”  Legolas’s eyes widened, then he said, “Where are you staying?”

“In the barracks with Ruvyn.  Ivran will be staying with his parents.”

“Let me help you all get settled, then I will take you to my rooms where we can visit.”

 

The impromptu party in Legolas’s talan lasted until nearly dawn, Haldir and Rúmil joined them, as the Elven Prince was caught up on the news of his friends.  It took a while to convince him that the news of Ermon’s and Elénaril’s triplets was not a joke, neither were the various exploits of Daeron’s Stag Night, after Haldir’s wine was consumed.

By silent agreement, no one brought up the subject of his father, or Tauriel, and for that, Legolas was grateful.  Tonight was meant for old friends, and it did much to lift his spirits.  He missed his home, more than he wanted to admit.

 

***************

 

Luinrandir reached the borders of Lothlórien just as darkness fell, and stopped for a few moments and smiled and a sigh of relief.  At last!

This is the place; but how to get in?  He could sense a powerful presence protecting this forest, and though not as strong as Queen Melian’s Girdle of protection around Doriath.  He could easily slip into this land unseen, but how to keep the Lady from detecting his presence?

There must be a way! he had come this far, over many miles on his quest, and he would not give up so easily. 

He could not.  His Lord would not accept failure of any kind, so his choices were to fulfill his mission for his Master, or die in the attempt.  To do otherwise would mean…  He shuddered, too afraid to contemplate the alternative.

No, he resolved to himself, sooner or later, an opportunity will present itself.  I know it.

He was patient.

He could wait.

 

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Hervess nîn – My wife

Ci velethril e-guil nîn, Hind Calen – You are the love of my life, Green Eyes

Ehtë Raumo – (Q.) “Lightning Bolt” (lit. “Storm Spear”) Sometimes, when an Elf first encounters his or her bond-mate, they can feel a powerful, emotional response, like lightning.

Delos! – Loathing!

A, de melin! - Oh, he loved her!

Galu, Mellon nîn – Blessings, My Friend

Galo Anor erin râd gîn – May the Sun shine upon your path

Aewpîn – Tiny bird,” Orlin’s pet name for Evranin

Gwanûr – brother, relative

 

Chapter Text

 

"Son," he said "Grab your things,

I've come to take you home."

--“Solsbury Hill,” by Peter Gabriel

 

 

Lothlórien, 13th of June, 2944 T.A.

“Welcome home, Evvy! ” Ohtar embraced his daughter, then his son.  “Suil, Ion nîn!  Did you have a good time?”

“We did, Ada.” Orlin said, as he went to their couch and took a seat.  He crossed his legs with sigh,  “Dale is a wondrous place!  I wish you could have joined us!”

“Maybe I will, next time,” Ohtar smiled.  “There is much I would like to learn about that area.  With so many changes over the last several centuries, perhaps I will do some research and write a book.”

“Oh, could you?” Evvy’s smile was wide.  “I could help!”

“Nonsense,” Lady Vériel came into the sitting room of their home.  “How can you say such a thing about a city of Men?”  Her lip curled in disdain, as she looked up and down at her daughter, assessing her appearance.  “Evranin,” she walked over and adjusted the neckline of her dress, with a sigh.  “Could you please take even a small interest in your appearance?  And your hair!  Who put those braids in like that?”  She clucked her tongue, and began to untie the fastening.

Naneth…”  Evvy tried to pull away.  “I like it; it is how the Elves wear their hair in the Woodland Realm!”

“Since when does my daughter try to look like those common Wood-Elves!  For shame!  It is bad enough that their King married—”

“Vériel!” Ohtar’s tone was sharp.  “That is enough!”

“No, it is not!” Her voice became caustic.  “I was against her going, and now look what happened; she’s been influenced by those… those…”

“You are wrong, Naneth,” Evranin cried.  “Everyone was kind, and friendly.  In Dale, Elves, Dwarves and Men all get along; there is little bigotry there.”

“It’s true,” Orlin seconded, giving his mother a pointed look.  “I found it refreshing not to have to listen to narrow-minded hate speech, and I know the Lord and Lady are in favor of such ideals.”

“You might do well to consider that, Hervess nîn,” Ohtar gave his wife a dark look.  “These are different times, and we cannot keep to ourselves and expect the world’s problems to pass us by.”

“And why not?  It has served us well so far!  The Lady Galadriel took care of the evil in Dol Guldur, and I think the rumors of some mysterious, ‘future War’ is just fearmongering.”  Vériel finished fussing over her daughter’s hair.  “There… see, Iellig?  Now your hair is perfect.” She smiled kindly, “You are such a pretty Elleth when you take some time with your appearance.”  Then Vériel lightly ran her fingers over the bridge of her nose.  “Have I not told you to stay out of the sun?  Now look what you have done; you have developed freckles, and it will take ages to get rid of them!”

“I like them, Naneth,” Orlin said, his patience running thin.  “You do as well, Evvy, do you not?”

“I…” she looked between her mother and brother.

“Of course she does not!” 

Ohtar rolled his eyes.  “Vériel, please…”

“Well, it is true!   Those Woodland Elves who were here last year had such unsightly markings on their faces, and they did nothing to cover them up!  Only common Elves have such things—”

“Evvy is not ‘common!’” Ohtar became angry.  “Our daughter is beautiful, and I think—”

But Vériel stopped listening to him, and turned toward their daughter in a wheedling tone.  “I am only trying to help you, Iellig.  I love you, but not every Elleth is born with great beauty, so we have to help you make the most of what you do have…   Have you seen Mahtan since you’ve been back?  He asked after you when we were in the Dining Hall three days ago.”

“I have not, Naneth,” she said in a resigned tone.  “I will give him my answer soon, probably after Cwën’s wedding.”

 

“Why wait?” Vériel pressed her with a patronizing smile. “To have a Warden take an interest in you is a blessing from the Valar!  You cannot refuse these opportunities, because you may not have another one.”

Evranin swallowed, and her eyes began to shine with tears. 

“All I have ever done was try and do what is best for my daughter, can you not see that?  How many nights have I walked the floor, worried about what will happen to you!  I have spent hours trying to teach you to enhance what good features you have, yet you still insist upon plain dresses and doing so little with your hair."

Naneth,” Orlin’s voice was angry.  “You are behaving as if my sister has the looks of a troll, and that is simply not true!  She is beautiful just the way she is.”

“I would never suggest such a thing!” Vériel clasped her hand to her throat.  “I am merely saying—”

“I know what you were saying,” he retorted, “and I will not listen to such nonsense.  I am going home, but before I do, I will tell you this: I have invited Evvy to come and live with me and she said yes.”

“But she can’t!”

“Yes, she can.  The only reason I am telling you this instead of her, is to save her hours and hours of constant nagging and veiled insults.” Orlin’s voice was firm.

Vériel was furious and drew herself up to stand tall.  “I will not tolerate such behavior from my own son!  You will never speak to me this way again!” The volume in her voice grew steadily louder, until she was shouting at the end. 

“It is no use, Naneth; you cannot make her stay.  She is long past her majority, and I would like her to know what it is like to live without such constant needling.”

“I will see the Lord and Lady about this!”

“I hope you do.” Orlin gave her a determined smile.  “Because I am eager to give them an account of your poisonous attitude and tell her the things you have said about Lord Celeborn’s cousin.” He waited for her gasp, then finished, matter-of-factly,  “Evvy’s trunk has been taken there and we will return with the rest of her things as soon as possible.  I will check with you, Adar, for a convenient time; preferably when Naneth will not be present.”

Evranin was shaking like a leaf, with her hands clasped over her mouth.  Her father instinctively went to stand beside her and put his arm around her shoulders. 

“It will be well, Aewpîn.” He murmured to his daughter.  “I want you to go.”

“Oh, Ada…” she threw her arms around his neck and burst into tears.  “I do not want to leave you, but—”

“No, Evvy,” he shook his head sadly.  “It is past time for you to leave home and live on your own.” He stroked her hair.  “I love how you have blossomed, and will not stand for anyone to push you back into your shell.”

“Ohtar!” Vériel looked wide-eyed at her husband.  “That was uncalled for!”

 “Was it?” Ohtar shook his head, and sighed.  “I, for one, approve; it is long past time Evranin learn some independence.” He got up, before his wife had a chance to reply.  “I am going back to the Library, where I can find some peace and quiet.  Would you like to join me, Aewpîn?”

“Evranin cannot join you,” Vériel said angrily.  “She needs to go see Mahtan!”

Naneth,” Evvy mustered her courage.  “I will see him when I am ready, and not until then.  You cannot—”

“Evranin Ohtariel, you will do as I say and go see that Ellon this instant!” her mother shouted desperately.

 “I…” Evvy wanted to say so much, but all that would come out of her mouth was, “I am leaving with Orlin, and will be back for my things, later.  Goodbye, Naneth.” Her voice quivered, but her words were clear.  “Ada, I will be at work in the morning.   I am going to get settled in my new home.”

Her mother’s face changed between fury and fear, and she threw up her hands.  “Fine then!  Leave me all alone.” She pulled a kerchief from her pocket and buried her face in it.  “I have never been treated so badly in all my life.” And she left the room leaving a deafening silence in her wake.

Orlin led Evvy out of her parent’s house just as the tears she had been holding back burst forth.

“I didn’t know it would be so h-hard,” she sobbed, and grabbed her stomach.  “I feel sick.”

“I knew it would be every bit as bad as it was, Aewpîn nîn.” Orlin held her up as they walked.  “We will go home, have a quiet evening, and then you will have a good night’s sleep.  I will say a losta-luith, if you have any trouble.  Tomorrow will be better, and once you are out from under her thumb, you will love the freedom you feel.”

“But,” she hiccupped.  “I still l-love her, Orlin!  I know it is wrong, but—"

He stopped to face her and lifted her chin to meet his eyes.  “Of course you love her!  She is our mother and I love her, too!  But loving someone does not mean giving them permission to dominate you.  For some reason, Naneth has the idea that her happiness is your responsibility, and it is not!”

“She says such terrible things about Turamarth and his people, and I am ashamed…”

“Do not be.  One of the reasons why Ada and I wanted you to go was to help you see that you can live outside of her expectations, Evvy!  Your values are not hers, and she needs to take responsibility for her own words and actions, and stop projecting her dreams onto you!  Her life, whether she is satisfied with it or not, is her concern.”   He tilted his head to meet her lowered eyes.  “Do you understand?”

“I think so, but it is hard.”

“It will get easier, I promise.” He hugged her tight, and kissed her hair.  “Now, let’s go home.”

 

**************

 

Lothlórien, 18th of June, 2944 T.A.

Ivran and Cwën’s wedding was lovely.  Ruvyn attended the groom, as Turamarth and the rest of his fellow Guardians stood proudly with their friend as he spoke his vows to Cwën.  She was supported by her fellow Archers, and the Feast that followed was full of lively music and wonderful food and dancing.

“Well,” Haldir sat down at their table.  “What do you think of Galadhrim weddings, as compared to Daeron’s?” he asked.

“That is not a fair question,” Nualë, said, as she sat next to her husband Nuín.  “Daeron married a Woman, so that wedding was a combination of culture and traditions.”  She looked at her husband with a smile,  “As to Woodland Weddings, I confess to being partial, only because my own with Nuín was wonderful.”

“They are rather similar,” Tur answered, but his attention was mostly on the beautiful, blonde Elleth who was dancing with one of the Wardens.  

“Is that him?” he whispered to Rúmil.  “The one who asked for Evranin’s hand?”

“That is Mahtan, yes.  His parents are good friends with the Lady Vériel and Lord Ohtar.” The Warden said, diplomatically.  “He is a skilled fighter with knives and his talent for Archery is considerable.”

Turamarth’s heart sank, and wished with all his heart Daeron was here.  It was one thing to discuss this Warden with his Gwador, and in the safety of Rhian’s kitchen, it all seemed so simple.  But Mahtan was more than an abstract notion now, and someone could get deeply hurt.     

“He looks like a fine Ellon,” he murmured, with a sigh.

“He is, Mellon nîn.” Rúmil said, with a knowing look. 

Tur took another long drink.  “The last thing I want to do is to cause trouble between our people, but I like Evvy a great deal.”

“I do, as well.” The Warden nodded.  “I cannot speak to what she will decide, but I see you have not spoken to her much since we arrived.”

“She recently moved in with Orlin, and has been busy getting caught up with her work.  Rúmil,” he asked anxiously.  “Does Mahtan know about me?”

“No.  And I will not be the one to tell him.” Rúmil leaned forward.  “First of all, I know their mothers, and while Mahtan’s parents are much easier to get along with, his mother, like many others, is a bit cowed by Lady Vériel’s…  strong personality.”

“I see.” Turamarth said carefully.

“Secondly, my friend, I think it wise to give Evranin enough space to take care of this matter herself.  Under any other circumstance, I would advise standing up and fighting for the one you love, but if you try to influence her one way or another, she might take it as a sign you are like her mother, and you do not want that.”

“No; I do not want that.  She must choose freely, or she will never be happy. It is funny; under any other circumstance, I think Mahtan and I could become friends.”  Tur shook his head sadly, and said, “I should not have come, Rúmil.”

“Yet you are here,” the Warden smiled and refilled his glass.  “Do not despair, Mellon. You do not know what will happen, but I know you, and you would have regretted it had you remained home.”

 

Later that night, he and ‘Beleg’ went for a walk under the stars on the Forest Floor.  “This is truly a beautiful place,” the blonde Prince said thoughtfully. 

“It is,” Tur agreed.  “I have never seen the like.  Rúmil lived with me during his exchange year, and he spent many an evening telling me about his home, yet no words could do the Golden Wood justice.  It is a wonderful place to visit, yes, but I still love our home best; deep, dark forest and all.  Daeron said something interesting about his time guarding these borders, and now I can see the sense in his words.”

“What is that?”

“For months, he reveled in the beauty of this place, the healthy forest, the slow pace.  For a while, he thought he would be sad to return to the North, with all the enemies we have to fight.” Tur shrugged.  “Who would not agree?  But now, his hope for our home has increased tenfold, he said.  Now that he knows what it is like to live like this, his first thought is to want this for our people, too.”

“I feel the same way,” Legolas said, quietly.  “I do not miss the spiders, or the Orcs or the sight of that dark, sleeping forest, but I miss my people.   I miss all of you, and I miss dreaming of what the Greenwood could be.”

“Beleg?” Turamarth’s voice was careful.  “I do not know why you left, though I have my suspicions.  If you would like to talk about it, at some point, I promise it will not go further.”

“I know.  Thank you, but I just…  cannot.  Not yet.”

“Well, I am here.” He turned to the Ellon.  “Anytime.”

Just then a Sentinel for the Lady came rushing up, and saluted.  He addressed Legolas.  “The Lady wishes to see you right away.”

“Where is she?”

“In her private Garden.  I am to escort you.”

“Do you need me to come, too?”  Turamarth offered. 

“The Lady has instructed this meeting to be private,” the Galadhrim Elf replied.

“It will be fine, Turamarth,” Legolas assured him.  “I do not know how long I will be, so I will wish you good night.” He saluted his friend.

“I will walk among the trees for a while, and enjoy the sight of the lamps.” Turamarth told him.  “I will see you on the morrow, Mellon.”

Several minutes later, he rounded another giant Mallorn Tree and noticed movement on the walkway above him, and stopped. 

It was Evranin.  She was smiling and embracing the young, blonde Warden named Mahtan.

His breath stopped and the roar of blood pounding in his ears muffled any other sound. 

Turamarth swallowed, stepped quickly around the giant roots of the trees, then ran into the forest.

He shouldn’t have come here.

 

***************

 

“Did you have a good time, Evranin?” Mahtan asked her, as they walked along the high trees and enjoyed the moonlight.

“Very much,” Evvy said quietly.  

“I have not had a chance to speak with you since you returned from your trip,” the Warden smiled down at her, and offered her his arm.  “You seem… brighter, I think.  The travels have been good for you.”

“My mother would disagree.” She said sullenly.  “She has done nothing but complain since I returned, and I…  Orlin asked me on our way home, if I wanted to go live with him. I moved out last week.  I hated the idea of leaving Adar there, but—”

“Evranin, your father can handle his own problems, and I am sure you would enjoy his visits.  Besides, do you not see him at work every day?” 

“That is true.  He is happy for me, but I do not dare ask how things are at home.  I am afraid to hear the answer.”

“Whatever happens, will have nothing to do with you. Let them work it out in their own way.”  He paused, then asked.  “Have you given my question any thought?  You do not necessarily have to move in with Orlin if you become my wife.”

“Can we sit down?” she asked. 

“Certainly.”

They walked to a canopy filled with flowers and settled themselves on the bench underneath.  Mahtan took her hands and looked at her intently.

Evvy took a deep breath and began.  “I…  You and I have been… friends for as long as I can remember.  We grew up together, and our Naneths are very close.  I love your Nana, I always have, but can I ask you why she encouraged you to propose to me?”

“I know the two of them have always thought we would marry.” He shrugged.  “We are perfect for each other.”

We are perfect, Mahtan.  I know you almost as well as my brother, but does knowing each other so well mean we should get married?”

“But it is the logical step to take, Evvy.  You and I would get along wonderfully!”

“I have no doubt we would, and you would make a wonderful husband.  But let me ask you:  Are you in love with me?”

“Of course, I love you!”

“But if our mothers had not pushed us together since we were children, would you honestly seek me out?  Would you honestly fall in love with me, if you and I had met as strangers?”

Mahtan searched her eyes carefully and was silent for a few moments.  “I…  do not know…”

“Of course you do not!  I care about you deeply as a friend, but I feel no excitement, no passion when we are together.  When I fall in love, I want my heart to pound and my cheeks to flush, and I want to dream of being with him…  I want the Ehtë Raumo,” her voice was earnest.  “And… I think you do, too, but I know you do not have that with me, do you?”

The Elf swallowed and looked down at their hands.  “No,” he admitted, “I do not.  I know that it does not happen with all married couples, but I had thought that maybe, somewhere along the line…” he sighed.  “But, no.”

“Mahtan, do you truly want to get married?” she asked softly.  “Do not think about anyone, not even me, and ask yourself: do you want to get married right now?”

She waited patiently while he came up with an answer, and didn’t utter a sound.  For too long, their ears have been filled with the voices of others, pushing their own expectations on the two of them, and she knew he needed some space, just as she did, when she left to take this trip.

After many minutes, she heard him say, “I do not think I want to marry you, Evranin.  I want the same things you do; I want a great love, one that makes me ache when she is not around, and one who craves me just as much.  I had hoped to find that with you, but… no.” he looked into her eyes.  “I am sorry.”

“Do not be.  We are finally being honest with ourselves, and it feels wonderful!” she smiled.  “You are such a good, brave and kind Ellon, and you deserve everything love has to offer.  I care about you too much to let you ‘settle’ for anything less, least of all me!”

“And I wish the same for you, too.  What will we do with our parents?”

“We will go tomorrow and tell them together.  They will make a great deal of noise, but in the end, no one can make us do this.  The Lord and Lady would never allow it.”

“That is true.” He kissed her hands.  “Are you well?”

“I am fine,” she gave him a brave smile.  “A little sad at the thought of hurting you, and wary of my mother, of course, but…” she searched for the words, “I feel… free.” She reached up and stroked his face.  “How do you feel?”

“The same.  There will be an empty space in my life for a while, but I will bide my time, and pray there is someone out there who is truly meant for me.”

“If she does not love you the way you deserve, Mellon,” she grinned, “that foolish Elleth will have to deal with me!  You are one of my best friends, and I will not allow you to be trifled with.”

“Should I not be saying this to you?” Mahtan couldn’t help his smile.  “Come, Mellon,” he stood and held out his hand.  “Let me escort you home.”

They laughed and talked in the moonlight then climbed the steps toward her brother’s home.  When they stopped outside her door, she turned and hugged him hard.  “I care about you very much, Mahtan.”

“Ci vellon nîn n'uir, Evranin.  Sleep well.” 

“I will.  Are you going home?”

“No,” he said, “I have much to think about this night, so I will walk for a while.”

“Are you sure you are well?” she put her hand on his forearm.  “I never wanted to hurt you.”

“I am fine, Aewpîn.  I feel like I am turning a new leaf, and I am starting to enjoy the idea of possibilities, if you can understand.”

“Oh, I can understand that!” she laughed and jabbed him in the ribs.  “Enjoy your walk, and I will see you soon.”

 

***************

 

Galadriel’s Garden, Lothlórien; 18th of June 2944, T.A.

It was nearly midnight when Legolas was led to the entrance of the Lady of Light’s private Gardens. 

“Here is where I leave you,” the guard saluted, then disappeared. 

The Elven Prince looked around the clearing, and saw several raised flower beds, a small waterfall that flowed into a small pool, and there was a decorated pewter pitcher set on the side.  In the center was a plinth, with a wide, flat basin, and the entire area was surrounded by walls of tall trees and flowering bushes, ensuring complete privacy.

“It is time,” he heard the Lady’s voice, and turned to see her dressed in a long, flowing white dress, which sparkled in the moonlight.  At her waist was a shining golden belt, and a large, moonstone pin decorated the bodice.  Beside her was Lord Celeborn, dressed in the same color, with his hand protectively at her elbow, and he could see the Master Healer waiting discreetly near the steps leading to their home.

“What is happening?” his brows drew together in confusion and trepidation began to fill his heart, like he had not felt in centuries.  Normally, Legolas stared danger in the face and plunged ahead with calmness and skill, but this…

This was different, and he was truly frightened.

“It is time,” Galadriel repeated gently.

“Time for what?” he asked, but Celeborn came to him and put his hands on his shoulders in a fatherly manner.

“Be not afraid, Ettā Legolas.” He looked into the young Prince’s eyes.  “Trust in my wife, and all will be well.  I will remain, to support the both of you.”

Galadriel walked over to the pool, filled the pitcher with water and carried it to the plinth.  “Come forth,” she commanded.

“Why are you doing this?” his eyes grew wide, but the Lord gently led him to stand before the basin.

“We are doing this because we love you, and we love your father,” he explained.  “Elrond helped you for the same reason.  You are not going to be punished, Pînlass; no one is judging you.  We merely want to help you understand some things.”

“You will see many things in the Mirror of Galadriel this night, Legolas Thranduillion,” She said.  “Do not turn away, for much is at stake.  And no matter what you see, I must warn you not to touch the water.”

 “I… do not understand…” Legolas said, warily.

“You have spent many years making the wrong assumptions about Thranduil, Ettā.” Celeborn said gently, “but there is more, much more to his life than you could possibly guess.”

“But can you not just tell me?”

“Did Galion not try?  Or Elrond?  Or even Halbarad?” Galadriel asked him.  “Yet despite all those efforts, you still choose to nurse your fears and hang on to your resentment.  The pain you feel is deep, Mellon nîn, and you cannot go on like this, or it could cause you to lose your life.”

“Do not be afraid,”  Celeborn patted the young Ellon on the back, and urged him toward the Mirror.  “I will be right beside you.”

Galadriel slowly filled the basin, raising and lowering the pitcher as she cast the spell in Quenya to summon the memories she needed.  Legolas heard his name, his father’s name and many others in her words, and the water rippled and waved, then stilled.

She handed the empty pitcher to her husband, leaned down and gently blew across the water.

“Behold, son of Thranduil,” she said. “Let us introduce you to your father.”

 

***************

 

For days he'd silently stalked the borders, searching for a weakness but all remained steadfast.  Yet, he could not give up. 

Finally! 

It was hours past midnight when he felt a change in the magic around him.  Was that a…waver?  Or a ripple in the fabric of this blanket of protection? 

He closed his eyes and quieted himself, then softly began to sing, and in his mind he could see the bright colors of the Lady’s power.

His instincts were right; there was a weakness.

Instantly he jumped to his feet, grabbed his sword and staff, and cautiously approached to take a closer look…

He walked for nearly a mile, carefully searching and singing under his breath…  Yes!  There!   A small tear, but an opening nonetheless; he had found a way in! 

Luinrandir nearly laughed out loud with the excitement; entering the Golden Wood was the hardest part of his mission.  Once in, it was nothing for him to mill about, sight unseen among the people, as he had done so often in other lands.  As soon has he had a good look around, he could come up with a plan.  

Silently, he crawled through the hole in the Lady’s magic, then stopped and closed his eyes to assess his surroundings.  

A slow smile spread across his face.

Oh… Galadriel’s power was weak just now!  Surely it was only temporary, but, this left him open to all kinds of ways to impress his Master…

He murmured a spell rendering him invisible, and headed toward Caras Galadhon.

 

***************

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Aewpîn – “Tiny bird,” Orlin’s pet name for Evranin

Ai, trastad… – “Uh oh…” (lit. “Oh, trouble…”)

Ehtë Raumo – (Q.) “Lightning Bolt”  (lit. “Storm Spear”) Sometimes, when an Elf first encounters his or her bond-mate, they can feel a powerful, emotional response, like lightning.

Suil, Ion nîn!  - Greetings, My son!

Tond Âr Nîn - Mírelen’s pet name for her husband, when she was alive.

 Ú Law! – No; it cannot be!

 

 

Chapter Text

  

Where do broken hearts go

Can they find their way home

Back to the open arms

Of a love that's waiting there

And if somebody loves you

Won't they always love you...

--“Where Do Broken Hearts Go” by Whitney Houston

 

Galadriel’s Garden, Lothlórien; 18th of June 2944, T.A. (Just past midnight)

Galadriel waved her hand over her Mirror, murmuring words in Quenya until the water was still, smooth as glass.

The grey mist dissolved, and images began to appear.  Legolas was startled to see the back of an Elfling as he ran along the walkways of the Palace, his blonde hair was flying behind him like a cape.  Beside him was a darker haired Ellon about the same age, and the echoes of their laughter ricocheted off the stone walls into the depths below.  They skidded to a stop, then jabbed and shushed each other to keep quiet, as they began their careful, stealthy approach to the entrance of the Palace kitchens.  

“Go on; I dare you.” The brown-haired Elfling whispered as he hovered in the shadows of the archway.  “Do it!”

The blonde slowly peeked around the doorway to see a group of pies cooling on the counter.  “There are six of them, look!”

The young Ellon screwed up his courage and looked.  “They smell so good…”

 “Cherry,” the blonde grinned.  “My favorite!”

When the child turned around, Legolas recognized the full, dark eyebrows, the pointed chin and the sculpted cheeks, but the mischief on the young child’s face was completely foreign.

“Go on,” Thranduil urged, “grab them!”

“Not by myself!  Come on!”

The Elflings crept in, stacked three each in their arms, and almost made it out the door, when the Elven cook caught them.  “Ai gorgor!”  He grabbed a nearby broom and ran after them.  “Avo garo!   Ci yrch 'waur!”

“Hortho!” Thranduil called, as he ducked the Cook’s broom and raced out the door into the Kitchen Garden.  “Hortho Feren!”

Legolas smiled, in spite of himself.  “That is Feren?”

“Oh, yes.” Celeborn grinned. “Those two terrorized the Palace almost as badly as my grandsons plagued Rivendell, when they were young.”

Now, Legolas could see the foreshadowing of the sculpted cheeks and the square jaw of his Military Commander. 

The Elflings’ feet were a blur across the green grass of the courtyard, and their triumphant whoops startled the nearby forest animals.

“What do we do now?” Feren asked. 

 Thranduil puffed out his chest with princely authority.  “We’ll hide them in the forest to keep as a snack whenever we are hungry.”

“But will the animals not eat them?”

“Not if we put them in my special tree.  He will keep the squirrels and birds away.”

“Do not be stupid, Thranduil!”  Feren shook his head.  “It is the first place our Adar’s will look!”

Thranduil rolled his eyes and said, “Trust me; it will work.  Now hurry!”

Once they got to the tree, Thranduil held his pie in one hand and easily grabbed the bottom limb.  “I will hide this, and then you can hand the rest up to me.”

They had taken care of all but two, when they heard the sound of horses running toward them. 

“Ai, trastad!” Feren cried, as he nearly fell off a branch. He managed to catch himself, but the pie he was holding fell out of his hand, landing on the head of one of the Guardians who had just arrived.

“Ai!” The Elf shrieked.

The leader, a tall, blonde Elf, whose facial features echoed Thranduil’s, dismounted as did is Commander.  A baritone voice, bellowed, “Thranduil Oropherion!  You get down here, this instant!”

The blond Elfling winced, then began his descent.

“Feren?”  The Commander crossed is arms and yelled into the branches above, “did you drop that pie on Elmir’s head?”

“Yes, Ada,” a small, frightened voice was heard in the leaves. “I am sorry, Captain Elmir. It was an accident.”

“Uian!” The Captain muttered as he pulled goop out of his hair, ignoring the snickers behind him.

The children landed on the ground, and Oropher and Imrahil tried to look stern as their sons stood meekly in front of them. 

“Cook is very cross, and your mothers are not pleased at all,”  Oropher put his hands on his hips.  “What shall I do to get you to behave?”

“I have a suggestion, Aran nîn,” Feren’s Ada said.  “If these Ellyn want everyone’s dessert so badly, should they not enjoy all their spoils?”

“Excellent idea, Imrahil.” Oropher agreed with a wink. “The punishment shall fit the crime.”

The next scene was in Thranduil’s bedroom, where he lay with a terrible stomach-ache.  “Naeg!  I am never eating cherries again!”  1

“But cherry pastries have always been Ada’s favorite.”

“Ah, well,” Celeborn chuckled. “The agonies of youth are easily forgotten.”

There were many such scenes of Thranduil’s misadventures, which were amusing, but there was one that was not.

Ai!” Legolas gasped.  “Ada is climbing the walls of the Dining Hall!”

“Oropher wrote me about this,” Celeborn’s brows furrowed.  “He became stuck.” 

The blonde Elfling’s breath was coming in short choppy gasps, and his fingers trembled as he desperately gripped the fixtures, but they were getting tired. 

“Natho nin!  Ada!  Nana!  Natho nin!” he screamed so hard his voice quickly became raspy.

He managed to turn at the sound of running boots, and saw his mother’s horrified face. “Ai!  Hênig!” Her hands flew to her mouth, and she went pale.

Oropher ran across the vast hall at breakneck speed. “Thranduil!  Hold on!”

But he couldn’t.  He fell with a scream, but thankfully was caught by strong, safe arms and clutched hard against his father’s chest.  Oropher was shaking, and held him tight, but once the King got his breath back, he turned the child over his knees and swatted his backside several times.  Then he put Thranduil back on his feet, and shook him hard enough to make his teeth rattle. 

“Do not ever, EVER do such a thing again!” he cried, with tears in his eyes.  “What if we could not get to you in time, Ion?”  The king held him tight again and buried his face in the child’s hair. 

“I am s-sorry, Ada,” Thranduil sobbed.

“Come; you have frightened your mother nearly to death, child.” Oropher picked him up and carried him to a weeping Lindorië, and the hugs started over again.

When his parents put him to bed that night, Oropher sat down beside him.  “Do you understand how important you are, my son?”

“Because I am the Prince?” Thranduil rubbed his eyes and he sniffled.

The King wrapped his arms around the Elfling.  “No, Ion nîn.  You are important because you are our child, and we love you more than anything in the world.”

“I am sorry.” The Elfling leaned into his father’s shoulder.  “I love you, Ada.”

“I love you, too, Thranduil.”  2

On another night, Thranduil was fully grown, but his face still held the glow and confidence of youth.  He was lying in bed with his hands clasped behind his head, listening to his parents argue.

“But he is too young, Oropher!”

“Meleth nîn, Thranduil is well past his majority, and many other Ellyn younger than he will be riding with us.  I do not wish him to go anymore than you do, but King Gil-Galad has summoned us to war, Lindorië.”

“But why do you have to answer?  He is Noldor, and has nothing to do with us!”

“Because,” Oropher said gently.  “If we do not stop Sauron, he will destroy us all, and we must work together to defeat him.  I do not wish to do this, you must believe me; but if I do not, no place in Middle Earth will be safe.  We could fence ourselves in, but we cannot fence the world out, no matter how hard we try, Hervess nîn.”

Lindorië began to weep.  “But you cannot both leave!”

“I cannot ask others to send their children, yet order mine to stay; you know that.” Oropher said sadly. “Even if I did, Thranduil would follow.”

“I know,” she finally whispered in defeat.  “Just come home to me, Oropher; both of you...”

Celeborn put his hand on Legolas’s shoulder, and squeezed, as Galadriel blew across the water again.  “What you will see will be difficult, Ettā, but you must not turn away.”

Thranduil was fighting with all his might as Elves were dying all around him.  His father had disappeared, lost in the sea of undulating violence.

“Ada!” he looked around desperately. His sword dripped with black Orc-blood, and there was a small scratch on his face.  “Ada!” his screams were desperate.  “Where are you?”

“Thranduil!”  It was Feren, working his way towards him.  “We have got to get out of here!”

“But I need to find Ada!” he pressed ahead, slicing his way through the of Orcs.  “We need to get to the King!”

“Thranduil!”

They both turned and the Prince’s shoulders sagged in relief.

“Retreat!”  Oropher called. “Get to safety! Now!”

Just then, a tall Orc ran up behind the King, swung his Morningstar through the air and smashed it into the back of Oropher’s skull.  He was dead before he hit the ground.

“No!  No!” he screamed in anguish and scrambled to his father’s side.

His beloved Adar was lying in a pool of his own blood and brain matter.  Swirls of black Orc blood, moved slowly  in the sea of red, never mingling, as it flowed beside the King. 3 Oropher’s blue eyes were open, but they were dull and empty.

Just then, Feren jumped over his crouched figure and killed two Orcs that had their swords aimed at the Prince’s – no, the King’s – head.

“You must leave, Aran nîn!” Feren called out to him.

“Do not call me that!” Thranduil tried to reach for his father.

“I have to!” the Captain pulled him away and shook him hard.  “I need to get you to safety, Mellon.”

“But my father—”

“I will send others to get him, Thranduil.” Then he grabbed him by the arm and they slowly worked their way behind the lines to the King’s tent.

Galion jumped to his feet.  “Thranduil?  Where is the King?”

But the tears on his face told the Aide everything. 

 “I heard the stories, but…” the Elven prince rubbed his chest.  “I do not know what to say.”

“That is only the beginning of your father’s troubles, Legolas.” Celeborn’s voice was gentle in his ear.  “Look.”

There was another battle, this time in front of the Gates of Mordor.  The new King fought with two swords now; the one at his left had belonged to Oropher, and for several years now, he’d kept this reminder of his father as a talisman, perhaps to help protect him.

But today, no amount of  swords could be enough. A fell cry tore at their ears and a terrible, winged creature flew past the Tower of Barad-dur and headed straight for them.

A Dragon. 

Thranduil’s face twisted in anguish, then resignation and sadness.

He turned to one of his Captains, and whispered. “Hold your position.  Do not follow me; and you must restrain Commander Feren, even at the cost of your own life, is that clear?  That is an order!”

“Yes, My Lord.” 

He ran ahead and quickly climbed up the steep, rocky hill in the Dragon’s path, then crouched behind one of the large boulders and waited.

“Thranduil!” Feren was struggling to get free; it took four Guardians to restrain him. “Let me go!  Please, Mellon nîn!” he screamed, “Do not do this, please!”

 “What is Ada going to do?” Legolas’s eyes widened in disbelief.  “He—”

Galadriel’s tone was somber.  “’A true King is a servant of his people.’” She said.  “That is something Oropher always taught your father.  Thranduil knows his duty.”

“But how can he…”

The Dragon was beginning his descent.  Thranduil put his hands over his heart and prayed.  “Queen Elbereth, be merciful and let it be quick.” He drew both swords, then jumped high in the air into a forward somersault, just as the Dragon swooped low, its gullet glowing in readiness to incinerate the Elves and Orcs on the field.

The King plunged his swords into the belly of the Dragon, and held on.  The forward motion of his leap, and the opposing motion of the Dragon tore long, parallel slices in its gut, disemboweling the fell beast.  

Thranduil disappeared in an explosion of flame.

“NO!” Feren screamed, with tears on his face.

“NO!” Legolas screamed and jumped back, but Celeborn pulled him back. 

“I know it is hard, but you need to see this.”

 Feren raced up the hill to crouch over his best friend who was little more than a charred mass of flesh.  “Oh, Thranduil…” he sobbed.  “I would have done this… Why did you not let me?”  He knelt before the body of his king, covered his eyes and wept. 

The blackened figure made a sound, and Feren’s eyes opened in awe.  “Thranduil?” He jumped to his feet and shouted, “He lives! Get a litter up here, NOW!  He is alive!  We must get him to Elrond right away!”

The Elvenking screamed in agony as they carefully placed him on the litter, and cried with every jarring step, but still they ran. 

“HURRY!” The Commander kept yelling, as he ran alongside his friend. “Hang on, Mellon!  Stay with us!”

As soon as they reached camp, Elrond ran out to meet them.  The Elf-Lord’s hand covered his mouth in horror.

 “It was a Dragon, My Lord,” Feren’s voice broke.  “He…saved us all.  Please; you have to save him!”

 Elrond approached the King, as Thranduil opened his eyes with a moan of agony.  One of them was badly damaged, but the other was clear, and when he saw the Elven Healer, he tried to speak but his mouth and tongue were too damaged.

“Oh, Mellon nîn...” Elrond’s hand oh-so-gently touched Thranduil’s brow and he spoke a losta-luith  to put him to sleep.  Then they quickly took him to a separate tent, where Elrond himself worked on him, as someone sent for Galion.

“You must prepare yourself,” Feren said to the Aide, as he brought him to the private shelter.  “He…  There is little of him which is familiar.  But Thranduil is in there somewhere, and we must help him through this.”

When the flap opened, and when Galion saw the body of the King, he collapsed in grief, and wept into Feren’s shoulder.  “Ú Law!” he moaned, and Feren lost his composure again.  “Will this death and carnage never end?” He sobbed. 

Legolas shook his head and wiped the tears.  “I did not know any of this…  Elrond worked wonders!”

“Elrond is powerful indeed,” Celeborn said,  “but you are mistaken, if you think your father came away from that War unscathed.”

“What do you mean?  He bears no sign of those burns, not even a scar!”

“Does he not?” Galadriel challenged him.  “You will fully understand what your father experienced, Legolas.”

Thranduil was sitting on the edge of his bed, facing Galion.  His hair was short, but the skin on the back of his neck was smooth and perfect, as was the skin on his hands, as he waved them in frustration.  “I must see, Galion,” 

Galion shook his head and remained seated.  “You are still in a great deal of pain, Aran nîn; I do not think you are ready.”

“Bring me a mirror!”

“What is going on here?” Elrond entered with a scowl. 

“Thranduil wants to look, but I do not think—”

“No; it is time.”  Elrond sighed, then retrieved a hand-held mirror. “I am sorry, Thranduil.  Not even I can completely heal the wounds from Dragon’s blood.”

The Elvenking held it up, and in the reflection, and for the first time in his life, Legolas saw the true face of his father.  There were wounds deep in the left side of his face, revealing the tendons and muscles underneath.  The scars traveled up over his left temple, and his left eye was milky-white.

Legolas’s hand raised in tandem with his father, as he touched his cheek gently, and tears were in his eyes, as he felt his father’s horror.  And the pain… Oh the pain! 

When he moaned, Celeborn rubbed his back.  “He struggled with this for a long time, Pînlass.”

“I know it seems bad, Mellon nîn—” Elrond began.

“’Seems bad?’  Look at me!” Thranduil’s voice caught.  “How am I to be King, to command loyalty and respect when even I cannot bear the sight of this?”

“Thranduil,” The Aide put his hand on his knee. “Your people love you.  They all know you saved us, saved the entire Alliance! Do not doubt our loyalty, Mellon.”

Galion moved to sit beside him.  “I will be with you every step of the way.  This will work out; I promise.  Elrond has an idea.”

Thranduil sighed, and leaned into his friend.  “I want to go home, Galion.”

“I know," the Aide said wistfully.  "We all pray for the same thing, Ionnauth.

“But Ada does not look like that!” Legolas reminded them.  “Elrond must have found a way to heal the wounds!”

“No, Legolas; your father’s bears these wounds to this day.” Celeborn pointed to the water.   

 “Try again, Thranduil,” Elrond patiently urged. “Concentrate.” 

The Elvenking closed his eyes intently, and for a few seconds, Thranduil’s wounds disappeared, and his skin and eye looked smooth and normal, but soon the left side of his face began to ripple, the glamour disappeared, and he cried out in pain.

“You did it!” Galion said, joyfully. 

“But only for a few seconds; I cannot keep it up!”

“You will, Aran nîn.  You must practice every day, and eventually, it will become second nature to you.  In time your glamour will stay, even in your sleep.  You might lose it if you are greatly distressed, but otherwise, no one will know of your injuries.” Elrond crooked an eyebrow and prodded, “Now, once more, on your own…”

Thranduil’s forehead wrinkled in concentration. He held the glamour longer this time, but slumped when he was finished.

Elrond waved his hand and murmured, and his face was covered. “That is enough for today.  You have only been awake for a few weeks, and I must insist you get more rest.”

 “I had no idea…”  Legolas’s voice shook.  

“The glamour provides protection from the elements, and it greatly eases his pain,” Galadriel explained, “otherwise, the constant agony of those open wounds would have driven him mad.”

“Did my mother know?  She did not marry him out of pity, did she?”

“Mírelen knew and accepted Thranduil as he was, and there was great love between them.  He was devoted to her, and to you.”  

Thranduil and Galion hurried across the hall, into the Royal Chambers, through the double-doors of their bedroom, and there in the ornate bed, was Mírelen, looking tired but triumphant, as she held a small bundle in her arms.

 “My mother,” Legolas breathed. 

 “Come and see our son, Tond Âr Nîn.” Mírelen was  propped up with soft pillows, her hair was arranged in a braid and tied with a blue ribbon. 

“Oh…” Thranduil sat beside his wife and looked at the tiny child.  “He is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen…”  His eyes filled with tears of happiness, and he softly kissed the baby’s head. 

“Oh?” Mírelen laughed.  “I thought I was.” 

Thranduil kissed her softly.  “You have never looked lovelier, Meleth nîn.” He rested his brow on hers, and they looked into each other’s eyes with sheer happiness. “I love you more than I ever thought could be possible, Mírelen.  Thank you.”

“I adore you, My Tall King.” She whispered.  “Now, would you like to hold our Son?”  She handed the wrapped bundle to him. 

The Elvenking cupped his hand around the baby’s head, and stared down at him in wonder, as the infant opened his blue eyes and blinked up at him. “He has my father’s eyes.” Thranduil was enchanted.  “Ion nîn…” He said softly.  “I think this is the happiest moment of my life.”

“He loved me…” Legolas whispered.

“He never stopped,” Celeborn said.  “You and your mother were everything to him.” 

The next scenes were a montage of little moments, as Legolas grew out of his infancy and eventually learned to walk.  And oh, how his parents doted on him!  All the Elves in the Palace would smile at the sight of their happy King, proudly carrying his little Prince in his arms, or laughed when Thranduil chased a running, squealing Elfling around the Palace…

 “But why did he change towards me when Nana died, if he still loves me?”

“Despite all you have seen and heard, you have yet to fully grasp your father’s pain.” Galadriel said.  “You need to understand what Mírelen’s death did to him.” She leaned down, pursed her lips, and carefully blew across the surface of the basin.

They were riding in the woods, with several guards and Mírelen was holding their toddler in front of her, and had just sung him to sleep, when Thranduil ordered silence. 

The clearing exploded with activity, as the King and his guards ran ahead and attacked the band of Orcs headed straight for them.  But no one predicted the second group, coming from the opposite direction.  Within seconds, the Queen’s Guards lay dead.

The Orc reached up to grab the baby, and Mírelen’s horse reared and tried to trample the fell creature.  The Queen grabbed the knife from her belt and sank it into the Orc’s arm up to the hilt.  It growled in fury and began to pull her and the baby off the horse.

“No!  No!” She desperately tried to beat him off with one hand and held her son against her. “ Help! Thranduil…”

Up ahead, Thranduil whipped his Elk around and his eyes widened in horror.  With a growl, he and Feren raced toward them, faster than they had ever moved before. 

“Oh, please…” Thranduil prayed.  “Please; please…”

Mírelen fell onto the ground, but she quickly knelt on all fours and tucked her baby under her.  They wouldn’t stop trying to grab the child, and she was fighting with everything she had in her.  The creature grabbed her by the hair and viciously yanked her head back and raised his sword.  As if in slow motion, Thranduil roared in fury, and jumped.  The Orcs head went flying, and rolled to a stop—

But Mírelen had fallen.  And blood was pouring from her neck at an impossible rate.

“No, no, please…!” Thranduil rolled her over and pressed against her neck to stop the bleeding.  “ Daro a nin, Meleth nîn.  Do not leave me, please!” He begged.

Feren had grabbed the screaming toddler, took him away from the terrible scene, and tried to soothe him.

“Nana!  Nana!” Legolas reached toward his mother.  “I want Nana!” he sobbed.

“Shhh…  Pînlass…  You are safe…” The Commander turned the child away from the carnage and tried to soothe him, but he couldn’t keep own tears under control.

The others formed a protective circle around the King and Queen, facing away, to afford them privacy as Mírelen was unable to talk, but she looked into his eyes and spoke her last with her fëa, before her light finally went out.  Thranduil gathered her to him, buried his  face in her dark hair, and sobbed, telling her over and over how sorry he was that he didn't save her. “Díheno nin...  Díheno nin, Mírelen.”

Then the Elvenking raised his head to the sky and screamed in utter agony.

Legolas’s screams filled the Garden; the wretched tearing in his soul made his knees buckle, but his cousin held him up.

“You feel the Rista-Goeol, Legolas,” Galadriel explained.  “Thranduil’s fëa was torn asunder, when Mírelen was called to the Halls of Mandos.”

He couldn’t speak; the pain was too great, and he continued to cry out in despair.  Who could survive this?  Why did it not kill his Adar, or force him to sail?

But the Lady knew his thoughts. “Your father did not fade, because Mírelen made him promise not to abandon his people, or his son.” Galadriel’s face became sharp.  “You will only feel this for a few minutes; how much worse was it for Thranduil, who had to cope for years on end and run a Kingdom?  How hard did he struggle to even stay alive?”

“But why could he not find comfort in me?” Legolas sobbed.  “I wanted so badly to…”

"Of course you did," Celeborn said, gently.  

"Galion tried to speak with him, did he not?" Galadriel asked him.  "You heard them argue, when you were a child."

"I did." The Prince nodded.  "Ada became angry."

"He was not angry, Legolas; Thranduil was hurting," she said. "You did not hear the rest of it, did you?"

"No, I... ran." he said softly.

"Alae, Hênig," she blew gently across the water again...

Galion stood there, frozen with hurt.

Thranduil closed his eyes, panting, his breaths quick and shallow.  “I am sorry,” he finally said, his voice in a rough whisper. “I should not have…. You did not deserve that.”

“No. I did not.” Galion’s mouth was a grim, furious line, and his eyes filled with tears. “I know what love is.” He hissed angrily.  “I know what loss is.  I also know how foolish it is for you to waste what is in front of you.  

Thranduil’s face was in his shaking hands, and he sat down, again.  “I…cannot,” he whispered.  “I want to; truly I do, but I just…cannot, Galion. How can I explain, when I do not understand it, myself?”

The Aide sat down beside him.  “Can you tell me about it?  Just try.”

“I feel shame and guilt for not saving his mother, but it is more than that.  I am… afraid,” he whispered. “This… something happens, and I cannot stop it…”

“What is it?”

“I know Legolas deserves better than this; I do know that, but there are times when I see him…”  his fingers worried the cloth of his tunic,  “I see Mírelen; I see her die in my arms, all that blood…  I am so frightened…” His words were barely audible. “I am barely hanging on, Galion!  What if I truly am going mad?”

“You did everything you possibly could to save her, everyone who was there knows how hard you tried. “

“I hate myself for failing her.  I am failing my son, because I cannot face this. I cannot control these memories, and I do not know what to do.”

“My Lord,” Galion’s voice was soft and comforting, “I think you should try to speak of this, and bring it out in the open, rather than running from it.  Perhaps it was not helpful to remove all memories of her.  You have avoided fading, and you are stronger now, but please, Sire, you must learn to live again, not just for Legolas’s sake, not for your Kingdom’s sake, but for your own.  Please, please, don’t hide from your grief!”  

“Thranduil blamed himself for not saving your mother,” Celeborn said.  “He believed he failed you both.”

“It was not his fault...” Legolas continued to cry out over his father’s grief, until at last Galadriel released him, and left him weak and out of breath.

“There is one more thing you need to see,” she said firmly.

“Please,” he begged, “No more…”

But Galadriel once more changed the scene, and he recognized the ruins of Ravenhill, just after the Battle of the Five Armies. 

 “Legolas?” Thranduil called to him, with a vulnerable, earnest look on his face.

He turned, but did not meet his father’s eyes.

“Your mother loved you.  More than anyone.  More than life.”

Legolas watched his image in the mirror salute his father, then walk away. 

Thraduil went out to Tauriel, and stood, with tears in his eyes, as he watched her weep over Kili’s body.

”Why does it hurt so much?” She closed her eyes in agony.

”Because it was real.”

The Dwarves had come to take Kili’s body away, and the Elvenking was alone.  He frantically removed his armor, then sat down against the cold rock, wrapped his arms around his knees and broke down.  His glamour fell, and his pain made him cry harder, and his sobs seemed to come from the deepest part of him. 

The Elvenking was completely shattered, and he wept for hours.

“Stop!  Please, no more!” Legolas begged, then staggered over to a nearby bench and buried his face in his hands. “No more…”

He felt a hand on his back, and looked up to see Galadriel look upon him with sympathy.  “I know this seemed cruel to you, Legolas, but it was the only way.”

“I’m so sorry,” his breath caught. “I have been such a fool.”

“Perhaps, Hênig, but there is hope for you.” She caressed his cheek with her soft fingers. “You did well.”

“Why do you say this?” He quickly wiped his eye.

“Because you still love Thranduil,” she smiled. “If you did not, you would feel nothing.”

“My Lady?”  It was the Master Healer. “I must insist you take some rest, now.”

“Go, Meleth nîn; I will take our cousin home and return soon.”  Celeborn gently helped the young Elf to his feet.  Let me take you back to your flet.”

“Will Galadriel be all right?” Legolas watched them leave with a worried look.

“She is tired, but the Master thinks she did fairly well.”

“She suffers because of me?” he was filled with shame. 

“Legolas,” Celeborn sighed. “Many things happened to bring you here to us this night.  If only your Grandfather had survived the War; if only that Dragon had never attacked; if only your Mother had not been killed…. Do you see the folly in your thinking, Pînlass?”

“Still… It should have been different.”

“Do not fall into the same trap as your father!  His own struggle with guilt and shame cost him much, do you not see?  Do not make the same mistake!”

“What should I do?”

 “Well, for the moment, go to bed, and get a good night’s sleep.” Celeborn kept his arm around the young cousin,  as they made their way to Legolas’s Talan.  “Tomorrow, your new journey can begin, and I will help you, if I can.”

“How could Ada ever forgive me?”

“He has always forgiven you, Mellon nîn.  You are his son, and he loves you more than his own life.” Celeborn assured him, as they stopped in front of his Talan.  “Waste no more time thinking of the past, which cannot be changed.  Think about the time you have now.”  

Legolas was still teary.  “I am sorry for causing such pain to everyone.  Truly I am.”

 “You are family, Pînlass.” The Lord grinned.  “We share the burdens.”

Legolas smiled.  “No one has called me that since I was a child.”

“Ah, well; Galadriel and I well remember when you were a child,” Celeborn crooked an eyebrow. “It does not seem that long ago when your own father was a child, and Oropher brought him to visit.”

The Elven prince hugged him.  “Thank you, Ettā.  I am glad you are my family.”

“I am also glad,” Celeborn hugged him back. “Sleep well.”

 

***************

19th of June, 2944 T.A.

Turamarth had spent the entire night walking among the trees, seeking comfort from the forest.  He came back to his room, crawled into bed, and after hours of tossing and turning, finally fell asleep

Just after dawn, the door was kicked in with a sudden explosion of noise.  He sat up in shock as several Galadhrim filled his room, led by the Marchwarden himself.   Rúmil and Orophin stood close behind him, looking grim.

“What are you doing?”  He panted, as his heart raced, and his eyes blinked to get used to the light.

 “If you value your life, Guardian,”  Haldir’s voice barely contained his fury. “You will not move a muscle.”

“But why—“

“SILENCE!”  The Marchwarden’s eyes didn’t leave Tur’s face, as he threw something on the bed.  “We just found Warden Mahtan,” Haldir said, through gritted teeth.  “He is dead from a knife wound to the back.”

“Siniath fêg!”  He tried to scramble out of bed, but two Wardens  quickly grabbed his arms.

Turamarth’s eyes went to the weapon in his lap, and suddenly the world stopped, and the room shifted on its axis.

The blade was covered in red blood.

The knife belonged to him.

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Ai gorgor! – Oh no! (lit.  Oh, horrors!)

Ai, trastad! – We’re in trouble! (lit.  “Oh no, trouble!”)

Alae, Hênig – Behold, My Child

Avo garo! – Don’t do it!

Ci yrch 'waur! – You dirty Orcs!

Daro a nin, Meleth nîn – Stay with me, My Love

Díheno nin...  Díheno nin, Mírelen. – Forgive me…  Forgive me, My Love.

Ion nîn – My son.

Ionnauth – Son of my heart

Natho nin!  Ada!  Nana!  Natho! – Help me!  Dad! Mom!  Help!

Pînlass – “Little Leaf,” Legolas’s childhood nickname.

Siniath fêg! – That is terrible! (Lit. “Poor news!”)

Tond Âr Nîn –“My Tall King,” Mírelen’s pet name for Thranduil

Uian! -  Monsters!

 

NOTES:

 

[1] From And Winter Came, CH 5.  It was one of the stories Feren spoke to Thranduil about, when he lay unconscious:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/31617468 

[2] From What Makes a King, CH 23.  Galion told Bard this story just after he and Thranduil were married:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/10838010/chapters/26313162

[3] It was the sight of the Elven and Orc blood, swirling in a puddle that triggered Thranduil’s flashback in the Battle of the Five Armies.  “What Makes a King,” CH 1:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/10838010/chapters/24057363

Chapter Text

And did you miss me

 while you were looking for yourself out there?

--Drops of Jupiter, by Train

 

 

 

Lothlórien, 19th of June, 2944 T.A. (Early in the morning)

Rúmil was finishing his breakfast, when Lindo rushed into the Dining Hall, frantically scanning the faces in the room.  As soon as their eyes met, the Elf deftly weaved his way through the tables to reach him.

“You are in a rush this morning, Warden,” he smiled as he took a bite of his toast.

“Mahtan did not show up for duty this morning, and I have just checked his room at home; his bed has not been slept in.”

Rúmil’s brows furrowed.  “Is someone covering his post?”

“Gerion came to relieve me, but…Mahtan has never done this; something has to be wrong!”

“I agree.” The Elf took his napkin and quickly wiped his face.  “Alert the Sentinels to sound the horns.” He pushed his plate away and stood.  “I will inform the Marchwarden.  Tell everyone to meet us in front of the Armory.

Lindo saluted and left.

Rúmil woke his brothers, and within minutes, every available Warden gathered, as they coordinated the search, and directed each group to a different area.

 

Less than an hour later, a horn blasted three times: two short, one long, indicating the Warden had been found.  With his heart in his throat, Rúmil and his group raced to the site, as he tried to ignore the terrible scenarios that raced through his mind:  Was Mahtan hurt? Had he been attacked by Orcs? A wild animal?  Had he somehow fallen from one of the flets?

But when he came upon Orophin and his unit, looking stunned as they stood in a circle, nothing could have prepared him for the scene on the ground, and behind him, Lindo cried out.

Mahtan lay face-down in the soft bed of moss, his arms out, fingers splayed, his head facing the side with dull, clouded eyes.  A knife had been thrust into his upper back, to the hilt.

Rúmil swallowed hard. “Who found him?”

“I did,” Orophin said, his voice breaking. “Cuio vê, Mellon,” he said softly.  “Govano i nothrim în ah i mellyn în mi Mannos.”  Then they all got down on one knee, lowered their heads and began a song of mourning.

 

***************

 

At the sound of horns, Haldir was determined to remain hopeful, but when the Elven lament reached his ears, his heart sank.  “Hurry!” he yelled to the others, they followed the singing, and when they reached the location, he skidded to an abrupt stop and swore under his breath.

“Ai nergon…” the blood left his face.  “It cannot be…”  For a brief moment, his mind refused to accept the enormity of what was before him, but he shook his head and recovered his wits.  “Did anyone touch him?”

“We have disturbed nothing, Hîr nîn.” Lindo’s face crumpled. Mahtan had been his best friend and roommate.

“Make sure you stay back,” he commanded, as he slowly approached the body, pulled the knife from the Warden’s ribcage and turned it over in his hands.  It was a Woodland weapon; Daeron possessed one just like it.  With shaking fingers, he carefully wiped blood off of the inscription on the steel blade, and read:

Turamarth Ómarion.

Ai, gorgor…

“Galadhrim! Lasto!” The Marchwarden roared.

Instantly, his Wardens stood at attention.

He clasped the handle of the weapon and barked.  “Who saw the Guardian Turamarth last evening?  Who can account for his whereabouts?”

“I saw him walking with Guardian Beleg late last night,” a Warden said, startled.  “Then he took off for the woods.  Is that—"

“Where did he enter the wood?” Haldir cut him off.

“Between the third and fourth trees of the guest talons, Arakáno.”

The volume of Haldir’s words began in quiet fury, and increased until it was a roar that bounced off the tops of the trees. “How is it possible that anyone could wander in the Golden Wood unaccompanied, unaccounted for, and able to commit this crime?  I want to speak to every Elf charged with monitoring this entire area last night!”

Orophin’s voice was incredulous. “Do you think Tur—“

Díneno!” He shouted, and every Elf was quiet.  Haldir stomped around the perimeter of the scene and gave orders in a firm, commanding voice:  “Never in the history of our land, has there been a kinslaying,” He studied the faces of his Wardens, “but you are Galadhrim, among the best warriors in Middle Earth, and I expect each and every one of you to remain disciplined, professional, and discreet.  You will gather facts, not opinions or theories.  You will report to me, or Lord Celeborn, and no one else.  You will not speak of what you saw here, not even with each other; that is an order!  Warden Mahtan’s parents will receive news of the tragedy with sensitivity and respect; not through rumor.  If we do not prevent a city-wide panic, we may never learn the truth of this!”

“Yes, Marchwarden!” As one, the Galadhrim saluted.

“Pair up, then work outward from this area.  Carefully search the ground and in the bushes and trees for any odd footprints; look for scrap of fabric, a button, anything! That might help us find out what happened here.  Then bring it to me.”

“Yes, Marchwarden!”

“Rúmil, Orophin,” he growled, “Eriol, and Amaren; come with me.  The rest of you, get a litter ready, but do not touch the body until the Master Healer has a chance to examine him.”

Lindo asked hesitantly, “May we… cover him, Marchwarden?”

Haldir paused, then said with a note of compassion in his voice,  “You may, but walk in my footsteps to approach the body, then backtrack.  Do nothing else to disturb him or the ground surrounding him, do you understand?”

“Ma, Arakáno.” Lindo nodded gratefully.

Before he left the area, he squeezed the Warden’s shoulder.  “You will stay and guard your friend, then accompany him to the Healing House.  My condolences.”

“Le vilui, Arakáno.” His voice was hoarse, but the Warden was determined to do his duty.

 

The Marchwarden led the Elves through the wood and up the steps to Turamarth’s Talan, kicked in the door to the Guardian’s room, to find him bleary-eyed and startled awake.

“Man cerig hi!” Turamarth shouted as he clutched his chest, panting.

“Pi melich cuil, avo rhaw tû chin!” Haldir’s voice was a calm, quiet fury, as a Warden grabbed each of his arms.

“Amman dan—"

“NO DHÍNEN!” Haldir’s eyes bore into the Guardian’s face as he threw the bloody knife in to Turamarth’s lap.  “Haladin Mahtan tov em.” He said, through gritted teeth.  “E  fern o sigil haru bost tín.”

The Guardian’s face went white to his lips, and his eyes bulged. “I did not do this!” he cried and struggled against his captors. “You must believe me!  I had nothing to do with Mahtan’s death!”

“This is your knife, is it not?”

Tur’s face contorted with confusion and fear. “Yes, but—“

“You were seen entering the Forest late last night.  Can anyone account for your whereabouts?”

“I was alone…  I saw no one, but I did not—"

“Tie him up, then take him to the dungeons, immediately,” Haldir commanded.

“No!”

“Orophin, you will guard him personally.”

 “I am innocent!” Turamarth screamed as they yanked him to his feet, and Orophin reached for his rope.

Haldir stood nose-to-nose with the Woodland Elf. “Are you going to resist arrest, Guardian?

 “No.”  Turamarth shook his head angrily. “But I demand you notify my King.”

“We will do that,” Haldir agreed.

“Do you really believe I am capable of this?” Tur demanded, as they bound him.

“What I believe or do not believe is irrelevant.  What matters is the evidence. Take him away!”

Nualë and Nuín stood in the door of their guest bedroom, as they dragged Turamarth out.  “What is going on?  Where are you taking him?”

“Guardians, go back to your room and stay there!” He barked, then spun on his heels and addressed his Wardens:   “Eriol, Amaren, you will summon the rest of the Galadhrim:  I want everyone on duty until further notice, and working in pairs.  Double the guards at the borders, and lock down this City;  all civilians are to remain indoors until the signal is given.  Go!”

Ma, Arakáno.” They saluted and took off.

“Surely you cannot believe Turamarth did this, Haldir?” Rúmil asked him in a low tone, after they left the Talon and walked past the Warden posted there.

“I… believe his shock appears genuine,” he admitted. 

“Of course it is genuine! I lived with him in Dale for an entire year!  Tur can be irreverent and playful, but I’ve rarely seen an Elf more dedicated to his duty!  Those Guardians uphold the same high principles as our Wardens, Haldir.”

 “I do not disagree, but one of our own has been murdered, and I must do my duty.  We will make sure he faces a fair trial, with his King present, and if Turamarth is truly innocent, he will be exonerated.” Haldir wearily sat down on a nearly bench and ran his hand over his face.  “I am charged with the safety of everyone within these borders, including outsiders, which means I must protect Turamarth and the rest of the Greenwood Elves from acts of rage or revenge.”

“Revenge?”

He shook his head.  “Rúmil, I have confidence in my Wardens, but I cannot speak for the rest of our people and I will not allow one murder to be followed by another.  For now, Tur is safest in the dungeon, where there is limited access, and I will only trust you and Orophin to watch him.  The rest of our guests are safest confined to quarters.  In fact, assign the Wardens who participated in the exchange program to guard the Greenwood Elves.” He stepped closer and whispered. “And be especially mindful of Beleg.  It is vital that he be protected at all times.”

“Beleg?” Rúmil pursed his lips, and tilted his head to the side.  “Why him?”

Haldir’s tone turned icy.  “You have your orders, Warden.”

 “Ma, Arakáno,” Rúmil saluted. “Where will you be if someone needs to find you?”

“I will find out why that area was unguarded, then inform the Lord and Lady.”  Haldir sighed sadly. “Then Lord Celeborn and I will inform Mahtan’s parents.”

Rúmil put his hand on his brother’s upper arm.  “Ni dem angin, tôr.”

Haldir could only manage a small nod.

It was one of the worst days of his life, and it was only beginning.

 

***************

 

Celeborn sat at his wife’s bedside and watched the Master Healer examine Galadriel.  Last night, while he took Legolas home she had been taken to bed and immediately put into a Healing Sleep.  Gilfanon listened to her heart, her lungs and lifted her eyelids to check her pupils, with a satisfied hum.

“I think she should remain asleep for at least two days, My Lord.  Frankly, I expected her to be weaker after her session with the Mirror, but I am happy to be wrong.”

“How can you be sure she is all right?”

“When I first put her to bed, her heart was strong and steady, her eyes reacted well to light and followed the movement of my fingers perfectly.  The rest of her reflexes were good, if a bit weak, but no more than would be expected.  Her lungs are perfectly clear and,” he studied Celeborn, “you feel no anxiety or alarm in your fëa?”

“None.  She feels strong within me.”

“That is most encouraging.” The Master Healer placed Galadriel’s hand under the blanket and said. “Spend as much time with her as you can.  As before, after she banished the Dark Lord, touch her, talk to her, send her your strength.”  He smiled.  “We must be careful, but I have no reason to believe she will not make a full recovery.”

“Thank you.”

“I am happy things went well with “Beleg’ in the garden.”

Celeborn smiled.  “I think this will be a turning point, and I give thanks for it—”

“My Lord!”  A servant appeared at the door to their chambers.  “The Marchwarden is here to see you; he says it is a matter of the utmost urgency.”

“Wake Lady Arwen at once, and bring her here to sit with my wife.”  The Lord of Lothlórien and the Master Healer exchanged looks.  “Stay with her, as well; I will return as soon as I can.”

 

***************

 

Legolas had expected to lay in his bed and ruminate for hours, after seeing his father’s life play out in Galadriel’s Mirror, but when he opened his eyes late that morning, after a sound sleep, he was pleasantly surprised.  Perhaps Celeborn had put him under a losta-luith; if so, he was grateful.

He rolled onto his side with a sigh, and let the sun bath his face, as he studied the green leaves of the Mallorn, and the beautiful golden flowers that bloomed among them. They were open, smiling at him, reminding him that today was brand-new, full of possibilities.  A terrible weight had been lifted from him; gone was the anger, which had only masked the fear inside; the fear that his father’s reticence had somehow been his fault, that he was not worthy of his Ada’s love.

Remnants of anxiety remained, of course, but that was to be expected.  There was much to be sorted out, and could only be done when he finally saw his father.  As to that, nothing had to be decided immediately.  For now, he would allow these new-found revelations sink deep into his fëa, give them time to shift his inner paradigm, to change the way he regarded himself, his family, his world.

He hummed a cheery tune as he threw back the covers, then got to his feet with a satisfying stretch.  After his morning ablutions, Legolas broke his fast, put his boots on, and opened the front door to find a Warden he didn’t recognize standing in the way.

“What is going on here?” Legolas demanded.

“I am afraid everyone must be confined to their rooms until further notice.  The Wardens are patrolling the City.”  The guard’s face was apologetic, but firm.

“What happened?”

“I cannot say.  You will remain here.”

“But what about the rest of my people?”

“They are confined to their quarters as well.  Someone will be here shortly to ask you some questions.”

“But—”

The Warden  grabbed the door handle and closed it in his face.

 

***************

 

The sun was getting ready to set, and since her brother had been abruptly summoned early this morning, she’d paced the floor, scrubbed, dusted, and tried not to bite her nails (yet another habit her mother frowned upon).  It wasn’t unusual for him to be called out at all hours, but it was unusual to have a Warden standing in the walkway, preventing her from leaving her home!

She had a book in her lap, and must have read the same page six times, when the sound of footsteps and murmured voices was heard.  She hurried toward the door, just as an exhausted-looking Orlin came in, throwing his cloak on the chair with a sigh.

“Where have you been?  No one has been able to go outside, and some Wardens were asking me where I was last night, but they won’t tell me why! And the horns have been sounding throughout the day…”

“Where were you last night?” Orlin asked her intently.

“I was here, of course!  You know that!  You came in after me, and then we went to bed, why?”

“And you did not go back out? For any reason?”

“Do not be ridiculous; of course I did not!  Where would I go?”

Orlin went over to the couch in their sitting room, sat down wearily and rubbed his forehead.  “When you spoke with Mahtan last night, how did he seem?”

“He was a bit sad, we both were, but mostly we were relieved.”

“What exactly did he say, Evvy?  Tell me everything.”

“He wants to marry someday, but he agreed that he and I were only destined to be friends.  He escorted me home, then said he was going to take a walk.” She fiddled with her fingers, and plucked at the fabric of her dress.  “I said all this to the Wardens already.  Now you will tell me what happened!”

“Sit down, Evvy; I have something to tell you.”  He reached out and took her hand, urging her beside him.  Orlin put his arm around her shoulders and said gently,  “Mahtan has been killed.  He was found in the Forest by what appears to be a surprise attack.” Then he held her to him, as his voice broke.  “I am so, so sorry, Aewpîn nîn.”

“What?  No; that is not true,” her lips trembled.  “He was just with me last night, and he was fine, Orlin…”  She shook her head in disbelief.  “You are mistaken; you have to be.”

She pulled away and made to stand, but her brother held on, and turned her to face him.  “Penlod and I have just finished examining his body.”  His eyes watered, and his voice wavered.  “There is no mistake.  I asked Haldir’s permission to tell you myself; I did not want you to hear this from someone else.”

She would not believe it.  No. No. Mahtan was one of her oldest friends and he was just talking with her!  They parted on good terms, but maybe if she had given him a different answer, he would not have gone—

“No, Evvy.  I know what you are thinking; this is not your fault.  Do not blame yourself.”

“But… he cannot be dead!  He just…”  She began to shake.

Orlin hugged her to him and put his hand on the back of her head.  “I also asked Haldir if I could be the one to tell you this.  I hate the idea of hurting you more, but you must know, Muinthêl.”

“How could it be worse?”

“Turamarth Adamarion was arrested for his murder.  He is currently under guard in the Lord’s dungeons.”

She froze.  Not a sound, nor even a breath came from her body.  She opened her eyes and looked over Orlin’s shoulders, as the room became an ocean of grey mist, and the waves of shock and denial threatened to drown her.

Then she screamed, as she collapsed in his arms.

 

***************

 

Orlin tightened his arms around his sister and gave in to his own grief and outrage.

Compared to Master Gilfanon and Penlod, Orlin was a relatively new Healer, but he’d seen his share of bodies, and prepared many brave Galadhrim for burial.  He saw countless devastating wounds, and while Mahtan’s was not gruesome, the circumstances of his death made it the most egregious, the most profane he’d ever come across. 

It was also the most puzzling, but that could wait until he met with the Council to report his findings.

He’d maintained a professional demeanor while he and Penlod examined Mahtan, both at the scene, and later in their building.   He’d kept up the façade as he carefully recorded every scrap of information they came up with for their report.

He remained composed as he walked through the walkways and climbed the stairs to his home.

But finally, he allowed the tears to come.

He mourned his friend Mahtan, and for his beloved home, and he was frightened, because murder had come to the Golden Wood. 

Which meant no one was safe.

And nothing would ever be the same.

When Evvy’s tears calmed a bit, wiped them with his away.  “I am going to be very busy with this and I cannot allow you to stay here alone, Muinthêl.  All but the most necessary work has been suspended, and this entire City is under heavy guard, but still, I think it would be best if you stayed with Ada and Naneth until this situation is resolved.”

“But you said—”

“I can tell you the that Mahtan was killed.  I can tell you that Turamarth has been arrested, that all the Greenwood Elves are confined to their rooms.” Orlin lifted her face to meet his eyes.  “I can say no more, but I must ask you to trust me, without asking why.  Can you do that, Evranin?”

“So you think—”

“I cannot tell anyone but the Lord and Lady what I think, and you must not ask me.” He kissed her forehead.  “But I cannot have you staying here alone.   It will not be so bad; Naneth will be busy with the Council or with Mahtan’s family; Ada cannot go to work so he will be there.”

“No.” 

“Evvy, I know you are just learning to be independent and I would never push you back under Naneth’s thumb if I didn’t have to, but you must be safe.”

“No,” she repeated.  “I am not leaving you to cope with this alone.  I will be here to look after you, and we will get through this together.  You’ve done most of the work today, yes?”

“Well, yes, but I will have to give our reports to the Council soon; it could take hours.  Will you be all right?”

“I am your little sister, but I am not helpless, Orlin.”

“But this is terrible news—“

“And you think being around Naneth will help?” Her eyes filled. “I did not want to marry Mahtan, but I loved him as a friend.  And any hope of… whatever was going to happen with Tur is gone, but the last thing I need is to listen to her needle at me and make me feel unworthy.”

“You are right.  In any case, she will be busy attending Council meetings.  Perhaps I can see if Ada can come here.  It would save you both from too much solitude.”

“Do that.  I want to tell him everything; he will understand.”

“First thing tomorrow, I will speak to him.” He hugged her again. “I am so sorry, aewpin nîn.”

“I cannot believe this is happening…” she whispered.

“Neither can I.  Have you eaten?”

“No. Have you?”

He shook his head wearily.  “I… could not.”

Evvy stood, and pulled him up .  “Let me make you a hot meal.  Come into the kitchen with me; I do not want to be alone.”

He dutifully followed her and sat at the table, holding his head in his hands.  They kept up a quiet conversation  of small talk while she made him some tea and prepared scrambled eggs and a salad, then they ate in silence. 

He helped her clean up and they both washed and readied for bed.

“Can we stay out here for a while?” she asked.  “I do not think I can sleep just yet.”

“Of course.  I do not want to be alone either.” He sat down, propped his feet up on the coffee table and urged her to lie down with her head in his lap, then pulled the soft blanket off the back of the couch and covered her.  “Is that better?”

“Just like you did when I was little.” She said.  “Right now, I wish I was small again, so none of this would be true.”

“I know.”  The lamps had been turned down low, and the soft glow chased the shadows away, comforting them both.  “We will find out more, tomorrow.”

“Could you read to me?”

“It might be good for us both.” He reached for Evvy’s book, and after tucking the blanket around her shoulders, he began to read.


*****************

 

Turamarth paced the floor of his cell, back and forth, back and forth, and prayed.  Sometimes in a whisper, sometimes to himself, and sometimes out loud.

Later in the afternoon, Haldir and Orophin came and questioned him for hours and hours, but his answers were always the same:

“What prompted you to go into the Forest?” Haldir asked.

“I saw Evvy embracing Mahtan, and it upset me, so I decided to go for a walk to settle myself.”

“Did you see or speak to anyone?”

“No.”

“Did you hear anyone talking or arguing?”

“No.  I heard a commotion with some animals, and I started to walk toward the noise, but it stopped almost as soon as it started.  Things went quiet, so I continued my walk.”

“What weapons were you carrying?”

“Just my sword; I was still dressed for the wedding, and left everything else back in my room.”

“Where was your knife?”

“As I said; in my room.”

“You are certain you did not have it with you?”

“I did not have it!”

“Calm down, Tur.” Orophin said.  “You know we have to ask these things.”

“Haldir, I did not have my knife, or my bow, or my arrows with me!”

“Did you go back to your rooms at anytime after you left the wedding?”

“No.”

“What did you do when you left the Feast?”

“I walked with L- ‘Beleg’ for a while.”

“What did you talk about?” Haldir’s gaze bore into him.

“About h…” his voice broke.  “We talked about home.  He told me how much he missed it, and I… there was much I could not say, but I wanted to.  I offered him a listening ear should he ever want to talk.”

“What else did you speak of?”

“Nothing?  One of the Lady’s personal guards—”

“A Sentinel. Which one?”

“I do not know his name.  He came and said Lady Galadriel wished to speak to him.  They left immediately.”

“And after that?”

“I walked along the Forest Floor and looked at the lights.  They are…very beautiful.  Then I saw Evranin and Mahtan, and I…”

“What?”

“That is when I became upset and left.”

“Why were you upset?”

“I told you!”

“Tell me again,” the Marchwarden’s voice would brook no argument. 

“I came here to get to know Evvy better.  I almost did not come, because I had heard she had a suitor.   I spoke to Daeron and Rhian, and then King Thranduil and they all convinced me to accompany the wedding party.”

“Why would they do that?”

“Haldir, you know more about her family than I do!  You know why!”

“It does not matter what I know. I want to know your reasons.”

“Rhian theorized that perhaps Orlin brought Evvy to Dale, because he wanted her to spread her wings, to see more of the world, and he hoped it would be enough to keep her from being trapped in an arranged marriage.  King Thranduil agreed, but I have been careful not to put any undue pressure on her.  I spoke with Rúmil at the wedding and told him I would keep my distance.”

“Why did you say that?”

“Because I refused to do anything that could cause tensions between our countries!  I will not interfere, if that is what Evvy truly wants!”

 “But when you saw Evvy with Mahtan, you lost control and went after him?  You killed him get him out of the way?”

“No!” he roared.  “Even if I were tempted, do you honestly think Evvy will want anything to do with me after this?  Why would I ruin any possible chance I have with her?”

He closed his eyes. “Daeron lived with you and Orophin for a year!  You know what he went through to give Rhian space, so she could choose him of her own free will!   You attended their wedding, Haldir.  You saw how much she loved him.  After seeing them together, how could you think I would try to force Evranin to be with me?” he balled his fists.

Tur’s jaw was set, and he looked them both in the eye when he spoke in a firm, clear voice.  “I am Lieutenant Turamarth Ómarion, Guardian of the Woodland Realm.  I have taken a solemn Oath to serve and protect my people, to serve my King!” He slammed his fist on the table.  “I would never bring shame upon my country, nor would I bring shame on any Elf on Middle Earth!  Never!

“I am a Guardian, Haldir, and I would not hesitate to lay down my life for you, or Rúmil, or Evranin, or even Mahtan!  I am no Kinslayer!”

Haldir and Orophin remained silent and studied him closely, as Tur sat back in his chair gasping.  “I am not a kinslayer,” he said softly, as a single tear rolled down his cheek, “and I want to see my King.”

“Very well.” The Marchwarden and his brother got to their feet.  “We are finished here.”

“I did not do this,” he whispered, not looking up. “It is not in me to purposely kill one of my kin.  I would not endanger my fëa, by murdering an innocent.”

“You will remain here, under guard until this matter is resolved.”  They made to leave, but not before Haldir turned to him.  “Tur?”

“Yes?” the Guardian met the Marchwarden’s blue eyes, which had softened some. 

“I…  We will be presenting our evidence to Lord Celeborn on the morrow,” he said.  “For what it is worth, I hope you will be exonerated.” 

“Did you send a message to King Thranduil?”

“Rúmil sent our fastest birds this morning.” Orophin said, softly.  “I am truly sorry this is happening.”

“You know I am innocent, Warden." Turamarth's voice trembled.

The Warden swallowed, gave an almost imperceptible nod, then left the cell to resume his post outside. 

Turamarth lay down on the cot provided for him, and began to pray, harder than he’s ever done in his life.

He should never have come here.

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Aewpîn nîn – Little Bird

Arakáno - Marchwarden (Q. “Commander”)

Ai nergon… - Oh, lament…

Amman dan – But why?

Cuio vê, Mellon – Farewell, Friend.

Díneno! – Silence!

E  fern o sigil haru bost tín. - He is dead from a knife wound to the back.

Galadhrim! Lasto! – Wardens! Attention!

Govano i nothrim în ah i mellyn în mi Mannos - May you join your family and friends in the afterlife

Haladin Mahtan tov em. – We just found Warden Mahtan.

Hanar – Brother

Hîr nîn – My Lord

Le vilui, Arakáno – Thank you, Marchwarden

Ma, Hîr nîn – Yes, My Lord.

Man cerig hi! – What are you doing here!

Muinthêl – Dear Sister

Ni dem angin, tôr  - I’m sorry for you, brother

Pi melich cuil, avo rhaw tû chin! – If you value your life, you will not move a muscle. (I’m sure I butchered grammar, but hopefully Haldir will forgive me.)

 

 

NOTES:

Thank you for tolerating all my Sindarin butchery. ;-P

In case you ever wondered where in the world I get all these names from, it’s from my favorite Tolkien info site, Tolkien Gateway.  I try to get the names from The Book of Lost Tales, when I can:   http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Category:Characters_in_The_Book_of_Lost_Tales

Chapter Text

 

 

 

City of Dale, 20th of June, 2944 T.A.

Rôgon leaned his forearms over the fence of the sparring ring.   “How do they feel, My Lord?”

Thranduil carried his new practice weapons over to the Elven blacksmith.  “They are perfect, Rôg; thank you.  Feren?” he called to his Commander. “How are yours?”

The Elf trotted over to them grinning.  “Much better, this time.” He placed his finger a few inches above the handle of his sword and balanced it.  “Not too heavy, not too light.”

“Bain, Rhys, Bowen; come here please.” The Elvenking waved his arm to the boys who were watching with great interest. 

“You were great, Ada!” Bain said.

“I thank you,” he said with a smile, “but I fear you are just being kind.  Feren bested me in the last match.”

“I wish I could fight like an Elf,” Bowen said, wistfully.

“Not possible, but Men are capable of great skill.”  Feren said.  “Have you been keeping up with your lessons with Tur?”

“Not since he’s been gone, and Daeron is too busy at the Healer’s.  I practice a lot with my forms, though.”

“And you boys haven’t been trying to spar amongst yourselves?”  Thranduil crooked an eyebrow at them.

“No, My Lord.” Rhys shook his head.  “My Da would take my swords away if I disobeyed.”

“As well he should.  The most important part of soldiering is following orders.” Feren told them.  “If one of my troops deliberately disobeyed an order, he would be demoted, or stripped of his rank; he might even be kicked out of the Army altogether.”

“Just by making one mistake?”

“A mistake made from neglect puts lives at risk.” The Commander explained.  “My units learn to depend upon each other, and follow their Captain’s orders without question or hesitation.  Tell me: if spiders are attacking, what would happen if the soldier hesitates?”

“He’d be dead,” Bain replied, “or get someone else killed.”

“Correct.  A Captain is responsible for the lives of everyone in his unit, and he or she must keep discipline.  Lord Thranduil, Lt. Commander Mablung and I carefully place each Elf with a unit with which he or she has the best chance of building absolute trust.  In addition, they are placed with a partner, and I make them practice endlessly until they can almost read each others’ minds.  You have witnessed Daeron and Turamarth fight, yes?  Or Ivran and Ruvyn?”

“I saw them spar two-on-two once!” Bowen grinned.  

“Exactly.  What did you notice about each pair?”

“Just what you said; they knew what the other was going to do, without even saying anything.”

Thranduil ruffled Bowen’s hair.  “And I have no doubt you will do just as well.  Now; Rôgon has your practice swords ready.  We need to make sure they suit you.”

“Here you are, My Lord.” The blacksmith handed his bundle to the King.  “I am not used to human boys and their growth spurts!”

“I have no doubt you will be doing this again, soon.” Thranduil handed them over.  “Feren? Do you have a moment to help the boys test them out?”

“I would enjoy it.  Who is first?”

“Me, please!” Bowen held his sword and gave it a couple of experimental waves, as he followed the Commander into the ring.

“So, Feren’s your partner, right?” Bain asked Thranduil.

“He is, Ion nîn, and I see the beginnings of the same with you and Rhys.”

“Really?”

“Yes.  He shows great promise as a warrior, and more important, he is fiercely loyal.  I believe once you are King, he will be your Commander.”

“Wow…. What about Bowen?”

“Turamarth tells me he has worked hard, and has reached the same skill level as the two of you, which is quite an accomplishment.  Remember, he is younger than you both, and he had a late start with his training.  Commander Feren is not easily impressed, but he’s taken an interest in Bowen’s progress, and wants to groom him to be Rhys’s second.”

“Like Mablung?” Rhys’s asked.

Yes.  Lieutenant Commander Mablung, is as skilled as Feren.”

“Wow...” Rhys said.  “So, I’ll be in charge of Dale’s Army?”

“Not necessarily.  Feren never promotes anyone in rank unless he or she has earned it; he does not play favorites.  In fact, you three be pushed harder than the others, so I want you to be ready for that.”

“Why harder?” Bain asked. 

“Because you will be constantly looked upon to set an example, to demonstrate good leadership skills and inspire the same in others.  It will take years of hard work and study for all three of you, but we will help.” He smiled.  “I have faith in you all.”

“Thanks, My Lord.” Rhys blushed, and continued to watch Bowen and Feren. 

“I’m just glad you and Da are doing all the hard parts; by the time I am King, it will be easy.” 

Thranduil raised his eyebrows.  “You will have it just as hard, but for different reasons.”

“But Dale will be all built, we’ll have an Army and you and Uncle Dáin will still be there!”

“Ah, but in a way, things are easy now.  Your people are working toward a common goal, and it is exciting.  What will happen when all that work is done?  There will be time for idle thoughts, which breeds discontent.   How will you keep your subjects motivated?  How will you protect them, even if it is from themselves, without dominating them?”

“I don’t know…”

“But you will, because Da and I will help.  Bain, for every problem solved, a new one will take its place.  Be vigilant. Adapt and overcome, but most of all, do everything out of sincere love for Dale and its people.”

“I will, Ada.” Bain said.  “Count on it.”

“And me and Bowen will help him.” Rhys promised.

“Bowen and I,” Thranduil laughed and patted them on the back.

“Mind if I join you?”

The Elvenking smiled at the familiar voice.     “Of course not, Aran nîn.”

 

***************

 

Bard’s stride was confident, as he carried his practice sword and gloves to the gathering.

“Hi, Da!” Bain called to him.

“Hello, My Lord!” Rhys greeted him with a slight bow.  “Are you going to spar with Lord Thranduil?”

“I was hoping to.  I’ve been too busy ‘Kinging’ lately and I need the exercise.” Bard pulled on his gloves.  “Feel like taking me on?” he challenged his husband.  “Hey, Rôg!  How are the boys doing with their new swords?”

“Bowen’s might be just a bit too heavy, My Lord, but children of Men grow fast; this one should last him about a year.  That is, if he does not have a growth spurt and shoot up six inches, like the Crown Prince, here.”  The Blacksmith jerked his head toward Bain, who at sixteen was eye-level with his Da.

“You’ll never be at a loss for work, then.” Bard rolled up his sleeves, and quirked an eyebrow at his husband. “Well?”

“I accept.”  Thranduil laughed, and to everyone’s delight, entered the ring with his husband.   As always, the sight of the two Kings drew a crowd and of course, most of the money was on the Elvenking.  They danced around each other for several minutes, then the air was filled with sounds of swords clashing, and those watching were blinded by flashes of bright light as the sun glanced off the steel blades.

 “Very good!” Thranduil said, when Bard leaped high into the air to avoid a sweep of his legs.

 “I learned from the best,” Bard said, as he parried.

“Me?”

“Nope.  Feren.  Ha! Gotcha!”

“You missed, Bowman,” Thranduil dodged a hit, with a grin.

“Oh, but I’ve got a secret weapon, Elf.” The King of Dale grinned.

“And what is that?” They continued to circle.

“I know something,” Bard jumped to his right to avoid a jab, “you don’t.”

“Which is?” The Elf lunged forward.

Bard grabbed his arm and pulled him closer, and whispered, “Tilda wants to start sword fighting.”

“She what?” Thranduil jerked his head back with an incredulous look, just as Bard twisted to the side, hooked his leg behind the Elf’s knees.  In less than an instant, he had his husband on the ground with his sword at his throat, amid loud cheers and applause.

“Ha ha!” Bard grinned.  “Do you yield, My Lord?”

“You distracted me!” Thranduil scowled. “Is it true?  Tilda wants to learn to wield a sword?”

“Aye.  Apparently she and Alis were told they couldn’t, because they were ‘just girls.’”

“Who would say such a foolish thing?”

“Liam; Llewelyn’s boy.” Bard chuckled. “I think he teases to get a rise out of her.”

“Ah, well,” the Elvenking pursed his lips.  “We will have to help Tilda prove him wrong, will we not?” He held out his hand. “Help me up, My King.”

 As soon as Bard clasped his wrist, the Elvenking yanked as hard as he could, and he found himself on the ground with his shoulders pinned.  But he didn’t care; sparring with Thranduil in the practice ring usually meant an equally exciting match in the bedroom, later.

“Show off!” he laughed.  “You cheated.”

“I did no such thing,” Thranduil smirked.  “I did not agree to yield, did I?”

“Fair enough.” Bard warned.  “One of these days, I’m going to bring you to your knees.”

Thranduil leaned down and whispered. “Perhaps it will be tonight, as I yield to you.”

“Hmmmm... It’s a deal.” The Bowman smiled. “Help me up, you.”

The Kings got to their feet and were brushing themselves off, when the air was filled with a loud screeching.  Everyone shaded their eyes against the sun, as three small figures headed toward them with speed and purpose.  Their cries became louder as they approached, and when they swooped down over the Elvenking, they screeched again in recognition and excitement.

“What the…”  Bard said with his mouth hanging open. 

The hawks landed on the fence, and their leader looked straight at Thranduil.  He fluttered his wings and with another loud screech, then held out his leg.

“I will get it, My Lord,” Mablung took a few steps toward the bird but its companions made a racket and spread their wings as if to threaten him off.  “It appears the message is for your eyes only.”

The Elvenking carefully approached, murmuring to the creature in Quenya, as the hawk tilted its head.

Everyone stood spellbound and silent, as Thranduil removed and read the message.  Though the Elvenking’s face was an impenetrable mask of calm, the sudden burst of anxiety in their shared fëa told a different story to Bard.

Thranduil just received terrible news.

After exchanging a quick glance with Feren, Bard kept his tone mild.  “Tell you what, boys,” he caught the blacksmith’s eye. “How about Rôg takes you three over to the Coffee Café and grab an early lunch?  Tell her it’s on me, and to send the bill later, yeah?”

“Sure!” Rhys quickly started gathering his stuff, as did Bowen, but Bain stepped over and put his hand on Bard’s forearm.

“All right, Da?”

Oh, his boy didn’t miss a thing!  “It’ll be fine, son.  Just let us find out what’s what; I’m sure it’s nothing.  Probably Celeborn catching him up on some family news.”

“Da,” Bain whispered, “they wouldn’t send three birds to make sure it got here.  But I’ll not say anything.”

“Good lad.” Bard patted his back. 

“Bard?  Feren?” Thranduil remained casual.  “May I speak to you in my office?”

“You bet.   Boys, you go on with Rôg, and I’ll talk to you later, Bain.”

 

Thranduil led the way, as three of them walked quickly from the barracks to the Castle, and once in the Elvenking’s study, he turned back to them.  His face was ashen, and Bard could see the left side begin to waver.

“What is it, love?”

Thranduil dropped his mask of calm and sank into his chair. “Turamarth has been arrested for the murder of one of Celeborn’s Wardens.”

Bard stepped back in shock. “You’ve got to be shitting me!”

Feren’s jaw dropped, and shouted so rapidly in Sindarin, Bard couldn’t keep up. 

“Please; speak in Westron!”

“My apologies,” the Commander said through gritted teeth. “My Lord, to accuse any of our people – one of our Guardians of such a heinous crime is an act of War!”

“What did that note say?” Bard asked.

“It was from Rúmil.” He handed the paper over.  “Apparently the murdered Elf was a rival for the affections of Orlin’s sister.”

“Evvy?  What…” Bard sputtered.  “Shit!  I can’t read this – it’s in Tengwar!” He handed it to Feren. “Does Rúmil believe this?  Why didn’t Celeborn send this himself?”

“I do not know.”  Thranduil’s face was wracked with guilt.  “Ai gorgor!” he groaned. “I knew of this other suitor, Bard!  This is my fault!”

“What do you mean?”

“Tur came to me before they left; he had only learned of this the night before.  He offered to stay, as he did not want to cause a problem with the Galadhrim.” Thranduil covered his face with his hand.  “I told him to go; I did not think…”

“No!” Bard slammed his hand on the desk.  “No, dammit!  Tur would never murder someone in cold blood!”

The Elvenking’s eyes closed. “Warden Mahtan was found with Lt. Turamarth’s own knife in his back.  They are accusing him of kinslaying.”

“Kinslaying?” Bard sucked in a breath.  “I don’t understand.”

Feren answered, “My Lord, when an Elf purposely takes the life of an innocent, or intentionally causes the death of another Elf, they are banned from Valinor.” [1] He look toward his King.  “We have civilians there, Thranduil; these accusations could endanger them, if public sentiment turns against them!  Suppose the Galadhrim want to retaliate?”

“Holy fucking shit…” It was Bard’s turn to fall into a chair. “But Thranduil, you know Tur isn’t capable of this!  You can’t believe this, even for a second!”

“I do not.  But someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to make us believe he did.”

“What do you want to do?  Is Feren right about this being an act of War?  Do you show up with your Army and burn the place down?  What?”

The Elvenking sat still for a moment and considered.  “I would avoid a full-on confrontation if I can.  I will take Daeron, and the rest of the Elves who participated in the exchange; it might help relations if the Galadhrim see familiar faces.  Captain Elion’s Wife will also go.”

“How soon can you get there?”

“A full caravan takes ten days to two weeks, but it is possible to make it in six, if we sleep in the saddle and use spells to keep the horses strong.”

“I am going, as well.”  The Commander said.

“But I need you at the Palace to muster the Army, Feren—“

“Mablung will get them ready and await your orders.” Feren crossed his arms angrily.  “You will not go without me, Thranduil!  Turamarth Ómarion is one of my best Guardians; he is my responsibility and I will be there for him, even if I have to follow on my own!”

The Elvenking stared at his friend for a moment, then nodded.  “You are right; speak to Mablung, and have him send a bird to Galion at the Palace.  I want Daeron’s father and uncle, then Elion, Airen, Amrol, Haden, everyone who spent a year on the Golden Wood to meet us by the bridge to the Palace, we will not stop, even for a moment.  Mablung will come as far as the Palace, then stay.  I want to leave within the hour.”

“Yes, My Lord,” Feren quickly wrote down the names. 

 “Thank you,” Thranduil’s shoulders sagged.  “Perhaps Dior should go, as well.”

“I think Dior should stay, Aran nîn.  I cannot allow Dale to go unprotected.  Lord Bard, I would like you to notify King Dáin, regardless.  Word may spread that the King has left abruptly; it could make us vulnerable.”

“It’s settled then.” Bard stood up straight.  “Thranduil, you go get packed.  Feren, get those messages sent, then go get your things together.  I’ll tell Daeron what’s going on, then have your horses saddled and ready, and get you some food—“

“We will just take Lembas, Bard.”

“Even better.  Meet you later, Feren.” Bard meant to follow the Commander out the door, but Thranduil grabbed his wrist and pulled him into a tight embrace.

“I am afraid I must break our ‘two week rule,’ Meleth nîn.” The Elf buried his head in Bard’s hair.

Bard put his hand on the back of Thranduil’s head and held him.  “It doesn’t matter right now, love,” he whispered, and kissed behind his ear. “You know that.”

The Elf swallowed hard.  “What if…”

“Listen to me,” he lifted Thranduil’s head and met his eyes.  “I know you’re worried about seeing Legolas, but you’ll do what it takes to save Tur; I know you.”

Thranduil sighed, sadly.  “It is selfish to be thinking of this right now.”

“No, love; it’s perfectly natural, but I’m not worried; you’ll do right by your people, and you’ll bring them all home.” Bard kissed him.

“Gi melin, Hervenn nîn.” Thranduil hugged him again.

 

***************

 

“Rhian!  Rhian, where are you?”

Daeron’s voice reached her in the flower beds, and its frantic tone made her drop her spade, and scramble to her feet. “Coming!”  She yanked off her gloves as she ran into the house to find her husband grasping the back of a chair, and his face devoid of color.

Daeron?  What happened?”

“I… do not know how to tell you…”  He shook his head in disbelief.

She grabbed his arms.  “What’s wrong? Tell me!”

“It’s Tur.” His throat bobbed as he swallowed, and his voice was thick with emotion. “He—“

“Oh no…” Her stomach dropped, and her hands flew to her mouth.  “Is he hurt?”

 “The Warden that was going to propose to Evranin has been killed, Hind Calen.”  Daeron’s voice shook.  “Tur… has been arrested for his murder.”

Rhian couldn’t breathe for a moment.  “Wh…  No… it’s just not true!  It can’t be!”

“I have to go to Lothlórien, Rhian. Now. Lord Thranduil wants me to be ready in one hour; he and Commander Feren will be meeting the rest of the Guardians at the Palace.”

She studied her husband’s devastated face, and straightened her shoulders.  “Well, of  course you’re going, babe!  Where else would you be?” She rubbed his back, then pulled him toward the stairs.  “Let’s get your things, and we—“

“Where is Darryn?”

“Hannah took him to Darla’s so I could work in the garden.  They should be back soon—“

 “I would like to say goodbye, if I can, but I must be at the Courtyard as soon as possible.”  Daeron’s eyes were downcast.  “I do not want to miss him.”

“Come on upstairs; you’re crap at packing, so talk to me while I take care of it, then we’ll see if we can track down our son…”

She walked him up the steps, set him in the chair in their room.  “Tell me everything.” She gathered his things as he spoke, and by the time he finished, Rhian was furious.

“That’s the stupidest thing I have ever heard!  Tur would never do such a thing!  I don’t care how it looks; I won’t believe it!!” She slammed a stack of clothes on the bed. “Who the do they think they are, going around accusing the nicest sweetest…. Ooh!” She stamped her foot and pointed his brush at him. “I swear, if they’ve harmed a hair on his head, I’ll go there myself and beat them to a bloody pulp with this!” she stomped her foot again.  “I’m so mad I could spit!”

 Despite himself, Daeron smiled and got to his feet.  “You are beautiful when you are angry, did you know that?  Thank you, Hind Calen; when I am gone, I will think of this and it will give me strength.He held her tight for several minutes.  “I do not know when I will be back…”

She kissed him then pulled his forehead down to hers. “Never mind that; Tur needs you, so go get him, and you bring him home, yeah?”

“I love you,” he whispered, then kissed her hair. “More and more every day.”

Downstairs the front door slammed shut.  “Rhian?  We’re home!”

“We ho-ome, Mama!” Darryn yelled.  “Mama?”

“Oh thank the stars,” Rhian shoved Daron toward the door.  “You go downstairs and hold your son; I’ll finish up here, then make sure your armor’s ready.  Go on!”

 

By the time she came down with his bag, Hannah was hugging father & son, and wiping her eyes.  “This is terrible!  I just can’t believe it!”

“Well, believe it,” Rhian set the bag down. “But don’t you worry; Thranduil and Daeron are going to get him, even if they have to break him out of jail!   Before you know it, Tur will be sitting at the table, cracking jokes and sneaking sweets to the baby!  Right, babe?”

“Right.” Daeron voice held more confidence.

“Course you will!” Hannah’s chin lifted and she smiled at Darryn.  “Ada’s going to go get Uncle Tur and bring him home, right?”

“Wight! I want Unca Tur!” he threw his hands up on the air.

“That’s the spirit.”  Rhian unlocked the closet where Daeron’s armor and weapons were kept. “Come on, love; we’ll get you kitted out then walk you to the Courtyard.”

 

Rhian and Hannah kept up a light chatter, as Daeron carried their son.  Up ahead in the Courtyard, Feren was just putting Alis down, then picked up Dafina to kiss both of her cheeks.

“But do you have to go, Ada?” she whined and tossed her blonde braids.  “I’ll miss you too much!”

“I do, Mallen Ant.” Feren booped her nose. “Do you know why?”

“Cause you make everybody safe,” she sniffled, “but can’t you do that from our house?”

“Now, Dafina,” Glélindë’s voice was gentle but firm.  “We talked about this, did we not?  How do we help Ada do his job?” 

She let out an exaggerated sigh and rolled her eyes, as only a six-year-old could do.  “Fine; I’ll be brave…”

“Good girl,” Feren kissed her again.  “Now go with your sister for a moment while I speak to your Nana.”  Then he swept ‘Lindë into his arms and he kissed his wife.

 

TUp ahead, the Royal Family surrounded Thranduil in a group hug, and Tilda was telling Thranduil to say hello to “Gallerdil.”

“It’s just as well the kids weren’t told,” Hannah murmured.  “No sense in scaring them.”

Darryn pointed from his father’s arms, “Horsey!” 

“That’s right, little man; Ada’s horsey,” Rhian smiled proudly. “What’s his name?”

“Ahgee.” The little boy grinned.

“Close enough,” she giggled.

 When they reached the gathering, Darryn held his blanket up to his father.  “Kiss Bwankie, by-bye, Ada.”

Daeron smiled at his son, and kissed him, along with the blanket. “You must be a good boy for your Mama, Ion nîn.” He held him close. “I shall miss you every minute.”

“I wish we had time to get Ben here to help see you off, lovey.” Hannah hugged him tight. “But we’ll pray for all of you.  Now, look after yourself, and give Tur all our love.”

“I will, Hannah,” he kissed her cheek, then handed Darryn to her.

 “Just get there as soon as you can, and tell him how much we love him.” Rhian threw her arms around him. “It’ll all work out; I know it.”

Daeron looked deep into her eyes. “I love you so much, Meleth nîn.”

“Gi melin, Hervenn nîn.” She caressed his cheek. “Be careful on the road, now.  We’ll be here, and thinking about you every single minute.”  Her eyes filled as she managed the brightest smile she could muster, and said, “You can do this, babe.  You can.”

Daeron kissed her again. “I do not want to leave you.”

“Tur needs you more, right now.” She sniffled. “Come home, safe and sound, yeah?”

He kissed her forehead, grabbed his bags and went over to Aegis and mounted up with Feren and Thranduil, and ride away, looking over his shoulder.

Rhian smiled and waved, until the party rode out of sight.

Then she doubled over and sobbed as if the world was coming to an end.  

 

Because maybe it was.

 

***************

 

Rivendell, 22nd of June, 2944 T.A.

Elrond was reading the crop projection reports when Lindir came in.  “My Lord, Gildor has arrived unexpectantly”  He said he needs to speak with you on a matter of some urgency.”

“Do you know what that is?”

“He will not say, but… he looks worried, Hîr nîn.”

Elrond sighed.  “Send him in, and make sure we are not disturbed.”

“Yes, My Lord.” 

A moment later, the tall blonde Elf, entered, still clad in his armor and dusty from the road.

“Pardon my appearance, Lord Elrond; I could not take the time to wash or change.”

“Mae g'ovannen, Inglorion.” He said.  “Are you not normally still north of us, this time of year?”

“We were, My Lord, but two weeks ago, I was recalled to the Tower Hill by a dream,” Gildor explained. 

“That is… unusual.” He pressed two fingers over his mouth.  “Tell me about it.”

“It was straightforward; I saw the three white towers, and a male voice instructed me to go there immediately.  I dared not ignore it.”

“There is no misunderstanding that.  Did this voice say why?”

“I can guess, but the voice just said I must go, and to hurry.”

Dread pierced Elrond’s fëa, its cold fingers gripping it harder with each heartbeat. “Go on,” he murmured.

“I made all haste to the Elostirion Tower, and… there was a message waiting in the Palantir. [2]   I wrote it all down,” he pulled a small box out of his pocket, and held it out with a grave expression.  “The message is for you, Elrond.”

The Elf-Lord warily took the box, placed his hand on it and recited the spell to unlock it.  He unfolded the piece of parchment, and as his eyes traveled across the words, they widened in alarm.

“Siniath faeg…” he gasped, grabbed the edge of his desk to steady himself and shouted, “Lindir!” Come at once!”

The Aide rushed into the room. “What is it, My Lord?”

“Send for the falconers immediately!” [3]

 

While the Aviary was preparing their birds, Elrond and Gildor made coded copies of the message then carefully sealed them in wax.  After placing a Thurinlach spell, he handed the capsules over to the Elven Falconers, who carefully fastened them to their swiftest birds, then spoke to them in Quenya. 

Elrond stood on the dais with Gildor, Glorfindel, Lindir and Erestor, as the command was given, and all sang a blessing as the messengers and their escorts spread their wings and took off in different directions.

“What do we do now?” Gildor asked.

“We can do nothing but wait.” Elrond’s face was grim. “And we will pray with all our might that we are not too late.”

 

***************

 

Lothlórien, 22st of June, 2944 T.A.

He stayed on the outskirts of the City most of the time; but wandered unseen among them when he felt like it.  Stupid, arrogant Elves!  Who do they think they are?  Even before he began to serve the Dark Lord, they were no match for him, but his Master made him so much more powerful, he could kill them with a snap of fingers!  And this land, this Golden Wood had been promised to him!  Oh, what he could do with this place!

As for the sleeping Noldor Princess?  Pah!   She was a fool to allow her powers to weaken so!  The blonde Warden’s death and framing the dark-haired Elf was a useful distraction; the chaos that ensued was exactly what he’d hoped for. 

Look at them, he laughed to himself, as he made his way across the Forest floor undetected, and walked among Elves who looked right through him. Fools…. Let them  turn the entire City upside-down.  Let them double their guards, and run themselves ragged… Let them think their armor and weapons could protect them!

Luinrandir went to the bottom of the biggest tree, silently climbed the steps, and into the house. When he reached the doorway to where she slumbered, the silver-haired husband was holding her hand.  Another fool…

He raised his hand, and mouthed the words that would send her into a deep, deep sleep that no Elf, or even a Wizard, could awaken.

But he wouldn’t kill her.  The Dark Lord wanted her brought to him, so he could have the pleasure of turning her himself.

He descended the stairs, and made his way back.  Suddenly he stopped, and looked up to his left, at one of the small houses where the foreigners were staying.  There was something; he sensed… yes!  

A slow smile spread across his face.  He’d been sent here to capture the Lady of Light, but what if he could bring the Dark Lord another prize?  One that could help him take over the entire North? Imagine what his reward would be! 

It would require delicate timing, but it could be done, and oh, wouldn’t his Master be pleased!

He returned to the Forest, to think and to plan.

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Agorel vae, hîr vuin. – You did well, My beloved King.

Gi melin, Hervenn nîn – I love you, my husband

Mae g'ovannen, Inglorion – Well met, Inglorion

Mallen Ant – “Golden Gift” - Feren’s pet name for Dafina

Thurinlach – A spell an Elf places to ensure only the intended recipient will receive some sort of message.  It can be placed over a box, or over a seal.  If someone else attempts it, the paper will burst into flames.

 

 

NOTES:

 

[1]From The Silmarillion, Ch 9; “Flight of the Noldor:  [Mandos stood atop a high rock and said in a loud voice,] “…Ye have spilled the blood of your kindred unrighteously…  For blood ye shall render blood and beyond Aman ye shall dwell in Death’s shadow…and by torment and by grief; and your houseless spirits shall then come to Mandos.  There long shall ye abide and yearn for your bodies, and find little pity, though all whom ye have slain should entreat for you…The Valar have spoken.”

[2] From Tolkien Gateway:  http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Elostirion

Elostirion was the tallest and westernmost of the three White Towers that stood on the Tower Hills and that had been built by Gil-galad for Elendil. It held one of the palantír of Arnor which did not communicate with the rest but looked only westward across the Sundering Seas to Tol Eressëa. It was the last stone of Arnor until it was removed at the very end of the Third Age.

[3] A falcon is the swiftest bird on the planet, reaching speeds of up to 240 miles per hour.

Chapter Text

 

Lothlórien 21st of June, 2944 T.A.

Orlin and Penlod arrived at the Lord and Lady’s Talan and took their places at the conference table, where Haldir, Orophin, and Celeborn were waiting.  Also seated at the table was the entire Council of the Golden Wood, led by Lady Vériel, and all were anxiously to hear their report.

“My Lords and Ladies,” Penlod bowed his head to Celeborn and the others.  “My apologies for taking so long, but we wanted Master Gilfanon to look over our results to be sure of our findings.”

“I applaud your caution.” Celeborn’s tired, worried eyes bore into them. “And what have you discovered?”

“My Lord,” Penlod’s voice was sure.  “We do not believe Warden Mahtan was stabbed to death.”

“What do you mean?” Vériel’s eyes were swollen and red from crying, but she maintained her authoritative posture. “My best friend’s son has been murdered, to date the only kinslaying on record in the Golden Wood, and you are telling me he was not stabbed?  Marchwarden, you took the knife from Mahtan’s back yourself!”

“My Lady, I did not say he was not stabbed,” Penlod responded, “I am saying the knife is not the actual cause of death; this was made to appear like a stabbing.” 

 “That is ridiculous!” Vériel threw up her hands. 

“We are all as upset as you, Naneth,” Orlin chided her, “but our duty is to find the truth, not to theorize.  We must put aside our own conclusions and follow the evidence.”

Vériel shook her head and crossed her arms, but remained silent. 

Haldir’s eyes narrowed.  “And what evidence do you speak of?”

“There are several observations we must speak of, and I warn you, it may become… unpleasant,” Penlod warned.  “We would not describe things in such gruesome detail, unless it was of the utmost importance.”

“Noted.” Celeborn nodded.  “And thank you for your consideration.  Not everyone in this room is used to such indelicacies; if any of you feel overwhelmed, please leave quietly.”

“Well, I’m staying,” Vériel said severely.  “We have a duty to Mahtan’s family to find the truth, and if you say things aren’t as they appear, you’d better have plenty of evidence to back it up.”

“Of course, My Lady,” Penlod concurred. “Before we begin, I will tell you we double-checked and researched our results, before we prepared our report.” He turned to Orlin.  “Go ahead, please.”

“Thank you,” Orlin bowed his head to his colleague and to everyone at the table.  “Penlod and I were called to the scene immediately after Warden Mahtan’s body was discovered, and I am grateful the Marchwarden ordered that nothing be disturbed.”  He opened the packet he’d been holding, and took out a piece of paper.  “We recorded our observations at the scene, but when we brought his body to the Healing House for examination, we found several inconsistencies with the original theory of events.”

“Which are?” Haldir asked.

“We did a thorough examination of Mahtan’s body, and Penlod and I were forced to conclude that the stab wound could not have killed him, because,” Orlin hesitated a second, “Mahtan was already dead when he was stabbed; or at least dying.”

He was met with silence, so he went on.

“The blade punctured his lung, and nicked the top of his liver, which means Mahtan would have had blood coming from his mouth, but there was none, was there?” Orlin looked to Haldir and Orophin, “you have seen these types of wounds many times; when have you ever come across one so neat?”

“That’s true.” The Marchwarden leaned back in his chair and rubbed his chin.  “I should have caught that right off, but it was all so shocking…”

“I did not catch it either,” Orophin agreed, quietly.

 “If Mahtan were alive, or at least conscious when the knife went in, he would have been in incredible pain, yet his hands were relaxed,” Orlin said.  “It is a natural physical reaction to grab at something, in this case, the ground, and curl one’s hand into a fist.  We should have found detritus from the Forest floor in his fingers, particularly under his fingernails, but,” he shook his head, “they were perfectly clean.”

“If the blade severed his spinal cord, that would account for this,” Haldir mused.

“True, but the blade was to the right of his spine.” Orlin said.  “Additionally, there was almost no  bleeding, internal or external; if he had been alive when stabbed, there would have been massive amounts in his chest and abdominal cavity.”

“Are you certain of this?” Celeborn asked. 

“Absolutely.  His heart was stopped when that knife went in.”

“What did kill him, if not that?”

“I have no idea.” Penlod sighed.  “We found nothing.  No bruising, no sign of struggle, no physical damage other than the knife.” He shook his head.  “There was no sign of choking, no broken bones; nothing!  I cannot tell you what killed the Warden, but it was not that knife.”

Everyone around the table was stunned. 

“There is more, My Lord,” Orlin said.  “Things we found at the scene that did not support the theory that Mahtan was attacked.”

“What do you mean?” Celeborn’s brows furrowed.

 “It is possible the scene was staged, to make us think Turamarth was guilty.”

“Orlin, I know you are friends with these people—” Vériel began.

“Let me be clear, Naneth,” he answered quickly. “Mahtan was a good friend to me; if I thought Tur was guilty, I would say so!”

“Tell us why you believe such a thing.”  Celeborn ordered. 

“At first glance, it certainly appeared Mahtan had been walking through the woods, when someone came up behind him, a knife was plunged into his back, which caused him to fall face-first to the ground.  It was obvious, but perhaps a little too obvious.”

“Explain,” Vériel’s look was intense.

“First of all, Mahtan was a Warden, Naneth; one cannot just ‘sneak up’ on one of the Galadhrim like that!”

 “He has a point,” Orophin agreed. 

“What if the killer was known to Mahtan?  Perhaps he turned his back, because he saw Turamarth as a friend; he did not feel threatened?”  One of the Council members asked.

“The Guardian could have distracted him to look elsewhere.” Vériel said. 

“If it were a civilian, I would agree with you, My Lady.” Haldir shook his head.  “However, my Wardens are trained to sense such things as tension and body language.”

 “Why was the killer so obvious?” Orlin pointed out.  “If Tur truly intended to kill Mahtan, would it not be easier to just shoot him with an arrow?  Why would he not remove his knife once he stabbed him?”

“Another good point, but it is just a supposition,” Celeborn steepled his fingers in his lap.  “We must concern ourselves with facts and the evidence.”

“That is true, which brings me to another bit if evidence, or rather, the lack thereof,” Orlin leaned forward, his voice earnest. “If Tur – anyone - stabbed Mahtan, there would have been a fight, yet there was no sign of any struggle in the dirt, was there?  Hardly any of the ground surrounding his body was disturbed, except for the footprints Haldir left to remove the knife.”

 “Did your Wardens note any other tracks?” Celeborn asked the Marchwarden.

“Just those we perceive to be Mahtan’s,” Haldir answered.  “I went back myself to check.”

“But could Turamarth not have covered his tracks?” Vériel wondered.

“We would know it.” Orophin answered. 

 “I agree.” Celeborn pursed his lips.  “Where were the Wardens who were supposed to be watching that area?” he asked angrily. 

Haldir brought out his report.  “At the estimated time of death, Rimion and Egnor investigated a strange disturbance approximately 100 yards from where Mahtan’s body was found, and they went to investigate.”

“What kind of disturbance?”

“A pack of dogs had gotten into the fences and were attacking a deer.  They managed to kill one of dogs, and save the doe, and chase the rest of them off.” The Marchwarden shook his head in consternation.  “They feel responsible for Mahtan’s death, My Lord.”

“When did this happen?”

“Just before we started the search, they said.  They showed me the body of the dog, and the deer’s injuries.  They are telling the truth.”

“So the Wardens were off dealing with wild dogs at that moment, leaving that area unprotected….”

“Yes.” Haldir confirmed.  “In any other circumstance they would be praised; they had to act, My Lord, but Rimion and Egnor are wracked with guilt, and have attempted to resign.”

“You refused, of course.”

“I did. My Lords, My Ladies,” Haldir addressed everyone.  “I hold my Wardens to the highest of standards and tolerate nothing less than a full effort to live up to them.  You have my personal guarantee that no Warden intentionally allowed this to happen.”

“Be that as it may, Marchwarden, an Elf has been killed, though you say it was not due to a knife,” Vériel said, angrily.  “What are your plans to find out the true cause? And if that Guardian is not behind the attack - and I am still not convinced of his innocence  – who or what killed poor Mahtan?” 

Celeborn considered  “Do you think that pack of dogs could have been a deliberate distraction?”

“It is highly possible, My Lord.” Haldir nodded reluctantly.  “But who or what orchestrated that is not known to me, although we are still searching for clues.  I am sorry.”

“Keep looking,” Celeborn answered.  “Lady Vériel is correct that we should remain cautious.  Until we know more, Turamarth will remain in the cells, and Caras Galadhon will remain under lockdown.  No one wanders in this City, except for the Wardens.”

Vériel looked to her fellow Council members, who nodded.  “We agree, My Lord.”

“My heart tells me we have not seen the end of this.”  Celeborn answered.  “Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going back to my wife.”

 

***************

The Lord of Lothlórien’s shoulders sagged under the leaden weight of shock and sorrow, as he made his way back to his bedchamber after the daily report. A murder in this land; a possible kinslaying!  How could this have happened?  And still no answers as to who did such an unspeakable thing?

Still, there was a ray of hope; Galadriel was going to wake up today.  He hated to break the news, but surely she could help provide some answers.  She had to…

He opened the door to find Gilfanon working over his wife with worry on his face.

“What is it?”  he ran toward the bed. 

“I… do not know!  She was sleeping, I swear to you, but a few minutes ago, things… changed.” Terror overtook the Healer’s face.  “Her heart slowed down, and her pupils do not react to light…” he picked up her hand and held it.  “She feels cool, My Lord…”

Celeborn instantly grabbed her other hand and held it to his cheek.  Her fingers, normally so warm and soft, did indeed feel cold to the touch, and fear threatened to splinter his heart in to tiny pieces.  “Is she dying?”

Gilfanon stood and let go of her hand.  “Take a moment to quiet yourself, and tell me if you can feel her, Celeborn.”

The Elf-Lord took a seat and closed his eyes.  Once he was centered, he felt for his wife’s fëa.  It was silent, yet it was still there.  “She is with me; I have felt no severing, praise the Valar.”

The Healer checked her reflexes, which were faint, but present.  He opened a small bottle of strong-smelling liquid, and passed it back and forth under her nose, and when that prompted no response, he closed his hands into a fist and rubbed his knuckles hard into her sternum.

“What are you doing?” Celeborn asked.

“This is normally quite painful, and often brings a patient back to consciousness.”  His forehead creased with worry.  “But she is not… let me try one more thing.”  He got up and took a long needle from his bag, then lifted the bottom of the sheet to expose her feet and jabbed their bottoms several times, but they remained still.

“I am so sorry, Mellon nîn.”  His eyes welled up.  “Her heart continues to beat, her lungs take in air, but it is as if she is… paralyzed, My Lord.”

Celeborn ducked his head and covered his eyes with a hand.  “Ai, gorgor…” he whispered.  “How could such evil come to our wood, Gilfanon?  Is my wife under some sort of… spell or curse?”

The Healer came to stand by him, and put a hand on his hunched shoulders.  “It is entirely possible, though I could not tell you by whom or what did this.  Forgive me.”

Celeborn scrubbed his face, lifted his chin and stood with a hardened expression.  “Stay with her; I must go.”

“What will you do?”

“Call for help.” He got up to leave, then turned back.  “Gilfanon…”

“My Lord, I will do everything in my power to keep her alive, even at the cost of my own.”

“Let us pray with all our might it does not come to that,” he said, roughly.  “But thank you.”

 

***************

 

Haldir had just left the Lord and Lady’s Talon when someone shouted his name.   It was Elurín, Sentinel of the Lord’s house. 

“Marchwarden!” he called.  “Lord Celeborn needs to see you right away!”

He turned and jogged back up the stairs.  “Is something wrong?”

“I… am not at liberty to say,” the Elf’s eyes were filled with fear. “You will find him in his study.”

Haldir ran down the hall and rushed in through Celeborn’s open door and stopped.  “What is wrong?”

“My wife, Haldir…  She has – she may never wake up.” Celeborn’s mouth formed a grim line; the Elf-Lord was composed, but clearly terrified.

Haldir‘s mouth fell open, as the tentacles of fear already grasping at him tightened their grip.  Never, in all the years he had known his Lord, had he seen his face look so white, so haunted, and he quickly poured him some water.  “Tell me what happened.”

“The Master said she was fine; just sleeping, but now, it is as if she is… locked inside of herself, and no one can wake her.”

Fear hit Haldir like icy water.  “What malicious spirit could do all this?” he managed to say.  “Do you think it has anything to do with Mahtan’s murder?”

“I do not know, but my heart tells me an Army ten times the size of Lothlórien’s is no match for an Enemy such as this.” Celeborn’s chest caved in and his shoulders slumped in despair for just a moment, then he made himself straighten, and set his jaw. “We need to send for Mithrandir; my wife cannot call for him, and I cannot wield—"

 “Do not speak of it!” Haldir warned.  “We will send a message with a bird and pray he can come quickly; it is our only hope, My Lord.”

“It will take time we cannot afford to spend, but it seems we have no choice.” Celeborn quickly wrote a message on a small piece of paper and sealed it.  “Take this to the Aviary, send the falcons this time; they are the fastest, and I want the messenger surrounded by four others.  Use whatever spells you need to enhance the speed of their flight, yet we will pray that Mithrandir is near here.”

“Yes, My Lord.” The Marchwarden stood and took the message. 

 “And give the order that no one is to go out alone; they must remain with a partner at all times and that includes you, Mellon nîn.” He spread his hands, “I do not know how much it will help, but…”

 “If this is truly an enchantment, then what do we do about Lieutenant Turamarth?  Rúmil insists he is blameless, and I have to say I believe him.”

Celeborn sat back and crossed his legs.  “Suppose we do free him.  Will that not alert the true culprit?” His teeth clenched in frustration.  “Raich! We have no idea what we are doing; because we do not know our foe!” he slammed his fist on his desk, and his voice boomed in anger.  “We have a luith-dínen in this room to prevent anyone from hearing us, but does that protect us from this… this… unseen enemy, who can enter our borders unnoticed and creep into my very own bedroom?  We are helpless Haldir!  We are at the mercy of someone or something, and I do not now how to stop it!”

Haldir considered.  “If this enemy has the power to best even the Lady, then we must not provoke him to strike out worse than he already has.  Perhaps it is better to keep everyone thinking that the Guardian did this deed, though I hate the deception.”

“I do, as well.” The Lord scrubbed his face.  “We are all targets, with no warning of when and where he will strike, Haldir.  I do not think I have ever been so afraid.”

“Neither have I, Hîr nîn.” Haldir sighed.  “I do know that your wife’s best hope is in you, so stay with her, do as Master Gilfanon says. I will do my best to take care of our people.” He saluted his Lord.

“Thank you,” Celeborn got up.  “I will go back directly.  And Haldir?  I want Legolas brought here to our private quarters to stay.  This pretense that he is Beleg is useless now, and it could be endangering his life.  I want him with us.”

“Right away, My Lord.” Haldir bowed his head, and went to the door.  “If this is what we fear, then our terror could only make things worse.  Perhaps there is something that can be done to reassure our people.”

“What do you suggest?”

“Leave that to me.  Please, go to the Lady Galadriel with all my hopes.”

 

 

***************

 

Legolas jumped at the sound of a knock on his door.  At last!  An explanation, or something!  He’d been trapped alone in this place for days, with nothing but Lembas and water; and after years of wandering in the outdoors, to be so confined was maddening!

He ran and opened the door. “What is it, Gelmir?”

The blonde Elf smiled.  “Lord Celeborn apologizes for the inconvenience and asks that you be taken to safety at once.”

“Me?  Why?”

“I am merely following orders.  Please; gather your things and come with me.”

“Anything to be outdoors; even for a few minutes!” Legolas dashed around and stuffed his clothes in a bag, and gathered his weapons—”

“I will take those, Guardian,” the Warden held out his hands.  “Orders.  I am sorry.”

“Will you not tell me what is the cause of my imprisonment?”

“I cannot.  But perhaps the Lord Celeborn can enlighten you.”

He followed Gelmir down the spiral steps to the Forest Floor, but was surprised when, rather than head toward the tallest tree, to his cousin’s Talan, the Warden led him in the opposite direction.

“Where are you taking me?” he asked.  “The Lord and Lady’s house is that way.”

“You must follow me,” the Warden said, without turning around.

“Gelmir?”

 

***************

 

Turamarth had been locked in this cell for three days and was nearly out of his mind with worry.  Since his interrogation, he hadn’t seen Haldir, and his conversations with Rúmil and Orophin were minimal.  

“Are you sure a message was sent to King Thranduil?”  he asked Rúmil, again.

“I told you, already; it was sent the day you were put here.”

“But did you receive a reply?” he insisted.  “Someone should have gotten word by now!”

“I will tell you as soon as I know, Tur, I promise!” 

“But why can no one come and see me?  Surely Ruvyn and Ivran—”

“They cannot.” Rúmil shook his head.

“Why?”

“I cannot say, Mellon nîn.”

Something about the familiar term of friendship made Turamarth snap.  “Do not call me that!” he slammed against the bars in frustration. “You will never call me friend again; not when you accuse me of murder and keep me locked in here, isolated from everyone I know!  You were a guest in my home, Rúmil!  I trusted you, in my home for an entire year!”

“I am sorry,” Rúmil closed his eyes in sadness.  “Truly I am, but I have my orders and I cannot…”

“Tell me, Warden; do you believe I did this?”

Rúmil’s eyes lowered.  “It does not matter what—”

“That is the coward’s answer!” He slammed the bars again.  “This is not about politics; this is you and me, who shared a home, shared meals together at my table, drank with at the Long Lake Inn, were welcomed by my parents into their home…  Look at me.  Look at me!”

Rúmil stepped away from the wall next to the door of his cell and turned to him.  The blonde Elf’s face could not disguise its weariness and worry. 

Something was terribly, terribly wrong in this place; Tur could sense it. 

“Answer me, Rúmil,” Tur said in a softer tone.  “Do you think I am a murderer?  That my vow to my King means less than a dalliance with an Elf maid?  Is that what you think I am?”

The Warden pursed his lips for a long time, then whispered.  “You are a soldier, so you know I must follow the orders of my Marchwarden.” The exhaustion left his eyes for a moment, and was replaced with compassion and pity.  “I have spoken at length to Haldir on your behalf, Tur.  I told him I refuse to believe any of this.”

He placed his hands through the bars and clasped Tur’s fingers.  “I know you did not do this, and I am sorry if this has ruined our friendship, because it was of great value to me.”

This validation, after so many sleepless hours in isolation, pushed the Guardian over the edge of control.   He pulled his hand away from Rúmil’s, backed up against the far wall, and slid down to the floor and hugged his knees.  Then he buried his head in his arms and finally gave in to his despair.

“I am so sorry, Tur.  Please; believe me.”

“Why?  Why am I here?” he sobbed, and wiped his eyes.  “I am helpless, and I do not know if I can take much more of this.” His voice was raspy.  “It is one thing to be held prisoner by an enemy, Rúmil.  I have been trained to handle that, but to be treated so by someone who was a close friend…”  He closed his eyes and ground the words out.  “This is betrayal, Rúmil, and never has my heart grieved me more.”

“All I can tell you is that there is more to this than you know,” Rúmil told him softly.  “I cannot say more, except to ask you to trust me.”

Turamarth’s laugh was bitter, “You ask too much, then.  Not after you and Orophin and Haldir burst into my room, tied me up and dragged me off like an animal!”

“Please, Tur…” 

But the Guardian leaned his head back against the wall and refused to look at him. He stared off into space, and said no more, but the tears still fell from eyes that were dull.

The two of them stayed that way for a long time; the prisoner huddled on the floor in grief and despair, the Warden watching him with empathy, sorrow, and not a little fear.

Then…

Rúmil turned and went across the hall to look out the window and listen. “What is that?”

Turamarth lifted his head. 

“Do you hear that?” the Warden asked.

It was the sound of singing…

No. Not singing.

Praying.

 

The voices echoed from the highest trees and were joined by those on the Forest Floor in perfect harmony.  The Elves in the Guest Talans, lifted their own voices and sent a foreign thread of their own, standing out at first, but then found a way to blend with their Lothlórien kin and became one with their song:

"A Elbereth Gilthoniel,
silivren penna míriel
o menel aglar elenath!
Na-chaered palan-díriel
o galadhremmin ennorath,
Fanuilos, le linnathon
nef aear, si nef aearon!

A Elbereth Gilthoniel!
o menel palan-díriel
le nallon sí di'nguruthos!
A tiro nîn, Fanuilos!

A! Elbereth Gilthoniel!
silivren penna míriel
o menel aglar elenath!

We still remember, we who dwell
In this far land beneath the trees,
Thy starlight on the Western Seas." 

Strife there might be between the Elves, brought about by grief and an unknown terror that struck at every heart in that place, but their mutual love and reverence for Varda, Queen of the Stars brought them together again, as only she could.

 

In the Guest Talons, the people of the Woodland Realm beseeched  the Valar to have Turamarth returned to them, so they could return to their lives in the Woodland Realm.

 

Mahtan’s family held each other and wept as they begged Queen Varda to ask the Lord Námo to bring their beloved to his halls and into his loving care, and that he be released to Aman quickly.

 

The Wardens at the fences, sitting on their flets or high in the trees, sang with all their might, yet kept their careful watch over their land.

 

The people of the Galadhrim took out their silver lamps, normally only used for Tarnin Austa, and hung them in their windows.  Their golden light shone out into the evening, then into the night, as they prayed to Queen Elbereth and the High King Manwë to protect them and restore their land to peace.

 

In the Highest Talan, Celeborn held his wife’s hand to his lips, closed his eyes and let the tears flow over her pale, cool fingers, while he begged Eru and the Valar to bring her back to him.  He sang of all her brave deeds on Middle Earth, how she served her people with love and dignity, and saved countless lives.  Please, he prayed, to me she is more than brave deeds; she is my wife, my love, my light. Please bring her back to me.

Lady Arwen sat by Celeborn’s side, with one hand on her Haruni, and the other around her Haru’s shoulders; singing, praying, and sending them both all the love and strength she could manage.

 

The Wardens patrolling the forest floor of Caras Galadhon paused for just a brief second to lift their hands to the sky and sing, asking Queen Varda to save them.

 

In Orlin's flet, he, Evvy, and their father held each other and sang with all their might.  Ohtar rested his chin on Evvy's head and stroked her hair, as she wept for her friend Mahtan, but her thoughts constantly traveled to the Woodland Elf with mahogany-colored hair, who was surely wrongly accused.  She prayed hard for him, and wondered if she would ever see him again.

 

Lady Veriel and the rest of the Council of the Golden Wood sat together in a guest suite of Royal Talon,  as they lifted their hands skyward and sang. This entire crisis had revealed a truth she had been avoiding for countless years, and she prayed for the courage to accept it.  

 

In the dungeon, Rúmil and Turamarth joined in the song, but their voices remained separate.  Rúmil prayed for his broken friend in the cell, that Tur might forgive him and his people one day.  He prayed that Turamarth’s fëa might be whole again.  He sang for himself; for the loss of the innocence of his home, and for the loss of his friend he had never wanted to hurt, but was forced to anyway.

Tur cried silently and begged the Stars to let him go free so he could just go home.  He had never missed Daeron or their parents so much in his entire life, and he promised Varda he would do whatever the Valar required of him, if he could see King Thranduil’s Palace and Dale once again.

 

The song went on for hours, and though evening came, followed by the dark night, a light of hope had flickered in everyone’s heart.  All the Elves felt a shadow lift, and the air felt sweet again. 

When at last the song died down and stopped, the silence was no longer filled with an oily dread.  No one could say if the cloud of fear would descend once more, but they stored these moments in their memory, to help them get through whatever lay ahead.

 

Rúmil looked in on Turamarth when the song ended.  The Guardian was still huddled on the floor, but at least he had fallen into an exhausted sleep, with tears still on his face. 

He quietly unlocked the door, then gently lifted his friend onto the bed, laid him down and covered him. 

Rúmil’s eyes filled.  “I am truly sorry, Mellon nîn, for you are as a brother to me.”

 He quietly left, locked the door and returned to his post. 

 

***************

 

Haldir had been standing just outside the Armory with Orophin, when the song began. Orophin wanted to put his arm around Haldir’s shoulders and offer his support, but he knew the Marchwarden’s burden was more than anyone could guess.  His brother was hanging on by a thread, and if he touched him, if he encouraged any kind of softness or comfort, Haldir would fall apart.

Yet he could not stop himself from asking, “Are you well, Hanar nîn?” His voice was full of concern.  “You have not rested.”

“I do not know when I can.” Haldir sighed.  “Or if I can; the land I have spent my entire life protecting, is in grave danger, and I do not know how to save it.”

“But we will do all we can, or give our lives in the attempt,” Orophin said, softly. “The Valar can ask no more of us.  The prayer helped everyone, I think.”

“But will it protect us?”

Before he could answer, two of the Sentinels from the Lord and Lady’s house came running up.  “Arakano!”

“What is it?”

“Lord Celeborn wishes to know when Beleg will be brought to the Lord and Lady’s rooms.  He was expecting him hours ago.”

But I sent a message to have Gelmir escort him as soon as he gave the order…  Have you been to his Talon?”

“We just came from there, My Lord; the door was wide open, and his things are gone.”

Haldir’s knees weakened for just a second, but Orophin grabbed him and his strong grip around his shoulders prevented anyone from seeing.

“Have the Wardens reported any sign of either of them?”

Just then, the sound of a horn reached their ears. 

Three blasts.

Two short and one long.

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Arakáno - Marchwarden (Q. “Commander”)

Hanar nîn – My brother

Haru – (Q.) Grandfather

Haruni – (Q.) Grandmother

 

 

NOTES:

“Tarnin Austa (meaning "Gates of Summer”) was held on the first day of summer. It was custom to begin a solemn ceremony at midnight, continuing it until dawn of Tarnin Austa. No-one could speak from midnight to daybreak, but upon the rising of the Sun they would burst into ancient songs, with choirs standing upon the eastern wall. At that time the city was filled with silver lamps, and lights of jeweled colors hung on the branches of the new-leaved trees.” - J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, pp. 172, 211, 347

http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Gates_of_Summer

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Lothlórien, 21st of June, 2944 T.A. (North of Caras Galadhon)

“Gelmir?” Legolas trailed after the Warden.  “Where are we going?”

“I am taking you to safety; those are my orders.”  The golden blonde Elf never turned his head as he led the Prince beyond the borders of the city and into the thick brush of the forest.  “This is for your own good; you must be kept from danger.”

“What danger?” he demanded.  “Why was I confined to my Talan in the first place?”

Gelmir stopped, but did not turn around.  “A Warden has been murdered and your friend Turamarth stands accused.”

“NO!  Turamarth would never slay his own kind!  Surely you brought him before the Lord and Lady to determine his innocence!  What does Lady Galadriel have to say?  ”

“The Lady of Light is otherwise occupied,” Gelmir’s voice took on a strange tone, “And you will go where I tell you to go, Prince Legolas.”

He froze at the sound of his true name spoken aloud, and his heartbeat thrashed in his ears.  “What did you call me?”

Slowly the Elf turned to face him.  Gelmir’s ready smile was replaced with an evil sneer and his eyes—

There was something strange about Gelmir’s grey eyes.  They were not dull, but the light in them was no longer pure and joyful; they were emitting a fiery red glow from the depths of his pupils. 

“Gelmir?” he asked tentatively.  “What is wrong with you?”

“I am doing my Master’s bidding.”

Legolas took a step back.  “But why would Celeborn—  Gelmir!  What is wrong?”

Suddenly Gelmir’s head jerked at an eerie angle, and his faced contorted, as if in some sort of internal struggle.  His mouth opened and closed several times and the muscles in his jaw spasmed as he fought to get the words out of his mouth—

“Dan… Da…” he rasped.

“What are you saying?”

“D…”  Gelmir’s mouth ground the word and spit it out. “Danger…”

The Warden’s head went back, and his entire body seized as if struck by an invisible bolt of lightning.  His hair stood on end, his eyes bulged from their sockets, and his teeth bared in an agonizing scream. His body was lifted several feet off the ground, yet Gelmir somehow managed to croak one last word before his life ended:

“Run…”

 

 

City of Dale, 22nd of June, 2944 T.A.

 Galion rode his horse beside the wagon into the Courtyard, then around the large fountain, before stopping at the Palace gate, where the party was greeted by Bard and Percy.

“I’m glad to see you, but shouldn’t you be at the Palace?” Bard asked.

“The Council have things well in hand, as does Lt. Commander Mablung.  The Army has been mustered and are awaiting the King’s signal even as we speak.”  The Aide dismounted and handed the reins to one of the soldiers. 

“How are Indis and Idril?  They must be frantic, with their husbands and sons gone.” 

“Ah; you have guessed my purpose for coming.” Galion gestured toward the wagon where the Guardians were helping the identical Ellyth down.

“Mae g'ovannen, Brennil vuin!  Nathlo i nathal!”  Bard bowed and saluted Idril and Indis, then took the latter’s hand.  “I am sorry for your troubles, dear lady; but I’m sure King Thranduil will get to the bottom of this, and bring them home.”

“Thank you, My Lord.” The Elleth saluted graciously.  “Galion asked if we wanted to come here and stay, if you would have us.  Idril and I wanted to be with Tur’s friends while we wait.”

“I will send word to Lady Rhian right away,” Galion offered. 

“No need,” Bard told them.  “She’s here with Lady Hilda, and she has Darryn with her.”  He tucked Indis’s hand under his arm and escorted her toward the Castle.  “You were right to come; and you may stay as long as you like.  Rhian will be glad to see you; she is as upset as you are.”

The Elleth leaned on Bard.  “Thank you, Hîr nîn.  We do not want to be an inconvenience, but… the wait is so difficult.”

“Of course it is; so we will suffer it together.” He patted her hand.

“Naneth!” Rhian ran down the steps and threw her arms around her mother-in-law, then Indis. “How are you, NathêlAre you well? Oh, I’m so glad to see you!” she hugged them both again.  “This waiting is just awful!”

“Suil, Rhianiel,” Idril stroked her new daughter’s brown curls and kissed her cheek.  “Lord Galion and I decided to bring Indis here to distract us while we wait, and worry.”

“Of course you did!” Rhian rubbed Indis’s back.  “You both are welcome to stay with us, for as long as you like.”

“Thank you, child,” Idril told her, “but we plan to stay in Tur’s apartment.”

“But it would be too sad and quiet there, Nana; we’d love to have you!”

“You are kind to think of us,” Indis’s voice was husky, “but we would prefer to go there; it would help us feel… close to our sons.” 

“If you’re sure…” Rhian bit her lip and studied her mother-in-law’s face.  “If you find it too upsetting, say the word and we’ll set you up in our spare rooms, all right?  And I insist you both come for dinner and a nice visit tonight.”  She hugged Idril again.  “I’m so glad to see you,” she whispered again.  “I really am.”

“As I am to see you, child.”

Rhian embraced her Aunt Indis.  “Daeron promised he would bring Tur home, and you know Lord Thranduil won’t come back without him. It’s going to be all right.”

“We have been praying as well, my dear,” The Elleth’s voice wavered, as she returned the hug. 

“Then we’ll pray together, Aunt.  Do you want some help getting settled?”

“That would be lovely.”

“Let me go tell Hilda and get the baby; I’ll be right back!”  Rhian picked up her skirts and rushed inside.

“I’m glad you came,” Bard told the twins.  “Rhian’s been at ‘sixes and sevens’ since they left. Hilda’s had her come here every day, to keep her from sitting home alone; she’s been trying to put on a brave face.”  He took both of Indis’s hands.  “Rhian’s right; it will be easier to keep the faith with family.”

“De vilui, Aran Bard.  You are most kind.”

A few moments later, Rhian brought out the baby.   “Look who’s here, Darryn!  It’s Haruni!  She’s come all this way to see us!”

The baby grinned and reached for Idril.  “Hahwoo!”  

“There is our little boy,” His Elven grandmother took him in her arms and kissed him.  “Can you say hello to your Nathêl Indis?”

As was typical when the two Elleth were together, Darryn looked between one and the other, fascinated and a bit confused, but enjoyed the kisses and fuss anyway.  Indis’s eyes brightened a bit as she tickled the baby under his chin.

Hilda came down the Castle steps, and there was another round of hugs.  “Oh, my dears…”  She added her well-wishes, then helped Bard and Galion wave them off.

“Hello, Galion!” It was the Aide’s turn to get a hug. “Boy have we missed you!”

“I’m glad you brought them,” Bard told him.  “Indis doesn’t look too good, does she?”

“Yesterday Idril brought her sister to the Infirmary for examination, because she was not eating or sleeping,” Galion murmured in a low voice. “The Healer came to me and suggested a change of scenery might help.”

“Well, of course it will!” Hilda kissed his cheek.  “You did the right thing, love.  And I’m glad you came, too.” She caressed his cheek with a smile, before she went back to work.

“You could have just sent them, you know.”  Bard studied the Aide’s face.  “Come to my study; so we can speak in private.” Bard took Galion’s elbow and urged him up the steps and into his office, where Bard furnished him with a drink.  “You look as terrible as Indis; do you want to talk about it?”

Galion hesitated for a moment, then spoke. “I am worried for Turamarth, of course, but if I am to be honest…  I am just as concerned for Legolas,” his face fell.

“Of course you are!  You raised him, Galion, and if you were soldier, Thranduil would’ve taken you with him.”  Bard took a sip.  “As it turns out, I was about to send you a message anyway.”

“Why?”

“It’s Tauriel.” Bard ran his finger around the edge of his cup. 

Galion leaned forward.  “Is she all right? Has she said anything?”

“That’s just it; she hasn’t.  She’s listless, preoccupied and if we ask her about it, she puts up a front and gets on with it.  At first I thought she was upset she couldn’t go with them; that she felt left behind, like she did when you all left for the Long Winter.”

“But you do not think this is the problem?”

“No.” Bard set his cup down and leaned on his elbows.  “I’m only guessing, mind you, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.  Think about it, Galion: for the last three years, she’s mourned Kili’s death, but she’s also been busy with her new life in Dale, and with our family, so maybe she pushed the whole issue with Legolas into the background.

“Thranduil isn’t the only one who is nervous about that; what if she still blames herself for hurting him?  What if Legolas comes back with Thranduil, and things are still awkward between them? I think Tauriel’s terrified she’ll do or say something to send him away again.” 

A, Gwinïg nîn…”  The Aide glanced up at the ceiling and sighed.

“She’s hurting, and we’re supportive, of course, but we’re not you.” 

“Where is she now?”

“At the barracks, practicing, but I had to order her to come home for meals – she’s been forgetting to eat.  I expect her for lunch within the hour.”

 “After I get my things settled, I will arrange for us to have a private lunch in my chambers.”  Galion got up from his chair.  “Thank you, Bard.”

“No, thank you; Thranduil might get a lot of credit for how Tauriel turned out,” Bard came over and clapped him on the shoulder, “but we both know the one who really deserves the praise is you.”

“You are most kind.” Galion’s throat tightened.

“Well, hurry up so you can say hello to the kids; they’ll be thrilled to see you, and make sure to let Hilda fuss over you,” Bard winked.  “It will make her feel better.”

“I will enjoy it,” the Aide saluted with a laugh.

 

***************

 

Lothlórien, 22nd of June, 2944 T.A.

Turamarth was awakened from a dead sleep by the clanking of keys in the door of his cell.  He rolled onto his back and propped himself up on his elbows.

“What now?” his eyes narrowed as Rúmil pulled the keys from the lock and opened the door.

The Warden entered the cell and stood over him.  “You are free to go.”

He sat up quickly.  “Why?  What happened?”

“There is much I need to tell you, but first I would like to take you from this place.”

The Guardian was on his feet in an instant.  “Where am I supposed to go from here?”

“I will speak to you privately, before I escort you to your Talon, where your friends are waiting.  Come with me.”

Turamarth followed Rúmil into the small office, where a plate of Lembas and hot tea were waiting for him. 

“I am afraid we are all on emergency rations; I hope it will suffice.”

“What is going on?” he sat at the desk, picked up the cup and took a long drink.

“The Golden Wood is under siege, by some unknown… entity, and everyone, not just your people, have been confined to their homes.  Lord Celeborn has only allowed Wardens to wander freely and only in pairs.”

“But who is attacking us?  Can Lady Galadriel not do something?”

“She lies near death, and Celeborn cannot leave her.”

The Guardian dropped the Lembas cake in his hand, as a wave of nauseous fear came over him.  “And this… thing was what killed Mahtan?”

“Yes.  He – and you – were simply a tool to distract us, while he gained entrance to the Lord and Lady’s house, and paralyzed her in her sleep.  No one saw him,” Rúmil’s voice broke.  “No one knows who or what he is, or how to even protect ourselves.”  His face was full of sorrow and regret. “No one was to speak of this until we knew more.”

 “Why do you believe me now?”

“I have always believed you!” Rúmil slammed his fist on the desk and the forgotten Lembas bounced on its plate.  “We purposely burst into your room that morning to gauge your reaction, and even Haldir realized you did not know anything about it, but we needed proof to give to the Council!  You would have done the same, Tur!”

“So what was this proof,” Turamarth frowned, “that meant more than my word?”

“Orlin and Penlod examined the body and told the Council the murder was staged; Mahtan was dead when he was stabbed.  And since we had no idea who or what was responsible, we had to try to make this criminal believe we still thought you guilty; lest he strike out and kill another.” Rúmil’s eyes fell and he swallowed.  “It was a desperate gamble, and we lost.”

“What do you mean?  Has someone else died?”

“Yes.” 

The blood rushed from Tur’s face. “Tell me.”

“Warden Gelmir was found dead this morning.”

“Amarth faeg…” the Guardian’s eyes closed.  “I am so sorry, Rúmil.”

“I am afraid the news is worse, Tur.  We believe Gelmir was with one of your people at the time of his death.”

“Who?”

Rúmil swallowed. “Beleg has not been seen since last evening.   We have been searching continually, but he is nowhere to be found.”

“Beleg?” Turamarth threw down his napkin and stood.  “Do you mean to tell me, that my Prince; the son of King Thranduil has gone missing, and you have not allowed any of our Guardians to go search for him?”

“What do you mean?  He is not—” Rúmil’s face lost all his color.  “Oh, Elbereth save us...  Tur, I did not know—"

“Where are my people now?”

“They are confined, as is everyone else.  Orophin is in charge; Haldir has gone to the borders to await King Thranduil; Lord Celeborn did not—   Turamarth, where are you going?”

“Where are my weapons?” The Guardian demanded. “You will return them to me, now; you have no right to keep them from me!”

Rúmil got out his keys, unlocked the cabinet and handed them over.  “I do not know where your knife is.”

“No matter; give me one of yours,” Tur quickly strapped his sword to his waist and took his bow and quiver.   “Where is my armor?”

“In your room, at your Guest Talan, I would imagine.”

“Good; I am headed there next.” He turned away from the Warden angrily.

“What are you going to do?”

“I am going to round up the rest of the Guardians and we will search for Prince Legolas!”  He snarled, as he stormed out the door.

Rúmil ran after him.  “I cannot let you do that!  The Marchwarden left orders!”

Turamarth swiveled around with such rage, the Warden took a step backward.  “Do you truly think I care?  Do you?  Aargh!” he clenched his fists and growled through gritted teeth. “I wish I had never come to this cursed place!”  He stuck a finger in Rúmil’s face.  “You had better pray we find the King’s son alive, because if anything happened to him while I was left to rot away in a jail cell…”  He shook his head ruefully.  “May the Valar have mercy on your soul, because you will get none from me!”

And with that, Turamarth Ómarion raced down the steps and across the forest floor.

“Wait!” Rúmil yelled, then began to chase after him.  “I am coming with you!”

 

***************

 

City of Dale, 24th of June 2944 T.A.

Rôgon, the Elven blacksmith, took a break from his work at the forge to spend the afternoon at Lord Bard’s private gardens at the Castle.

The walls had been rebuilt, and Rhian had done a splendid job with the design and placement of flowers and bushes to ensure something was blooming in each bed all summer long.  Each side of the curved stone path were accented with succulents and annuals of every color imaginable.

But it did not have a gate, which was why Bard had called him to his office three weeks ago, to ask him to make one.  He'd wanted his husband to have the same kind of private sanctuary he enjoys at his Palace, and Rôgon was eager for the challenge, as soon as he caught up with his current orders.

 

He was glad he came today, but as beautiful as this place was, the Elven blacksmith’s mind was far away, in the Golden Wood, and his heart was heavy.

Rôg put his notes, pencils and measuring tape into his leather satchel, brushed off one of the benches and took a seat.  He closed his eyes, lifted his face to the sky and breathed in the sweet fragrance of the flowers, as he listened to the birds singing in the trees, and the buzzing of bees as they gathered pollen.

 “Are you supposed to be here?” 

Rôgon was familiar with that annoyed voice.  Galion, Lord Thranduil’s Aide stood over him with a frown.  “This is a private garden, for the Kings’ personal use!”

“Not that I am answerable to you, Lord Galion, but out of courtesy, I will explain: I have been commissioned to construct iron gates for the entrances to this garden, as a surprise for your King.”

“I know nothing of this,” Galion crossed his arms.

“That is not surprising, as you are gone much of the time.  Perhaps, if you were to ask me, or Lord Bard, or Lady Hilda before you start to yell—”

“I did not yell!” Galion yelled.

“I have no idea why you dislike me,”  Rôgon stood and gathered his things, “but I am not in the mood to persuade you otherwise.  I bid you good day, and hope you enjoy the flowers.”

“Wait!  No; please sit.  I…” Galion awkwardly fiddled with his hands.  “I apologize for the interruption.” His dark hair swirled around his face as he turned to go. “I should leave you to your work...”

“Am I so repulsive, that you cannot stand my company?”

“What?” the Aide whirled around, flustered.  “I… Why would you say such a thing?”

“Because of the way you are scowling at me!”

“I am not scowling!” Galion scowled.

“Perhaps, My Lord, we could sit in a civilized manner and enjoy the peace and quiet?” Rôgon returned to his seat.  “We both have a great deal on our minds, do we not?” 

“I… could do that.” Galion hesitated, then took out his handkerchief to brush off the seat before he joined him on the other end of the bench and arranged his robes. 

 “I have taken all the measurements I need, and I was hoping to find some inspiration for a design for the gates, but…” he pointed to the satchel on the bench between them.  “My thoughts are too much with my friends in the Golden Wood.” Rôgon tilted his head curiously. “Are you here for the same reason I am?”

 “I am greatly worried, yes,” Galion admitted, softly.

“Caras Galadhon was always a safe haven to me; it was such a beautiful, magical place…  And now I feel as if it has lost its innocence, and I cannot help but mourn.”  Rôgon shook his head sadly, then met Galion’s eyes with all seriousness.  “I do not believe Turamarth is capable of such a despicable act.”

“Thank you.  Did you know the Warden that was killed?” The Aide asked.

“Since he was born.” Rôgon sighed.  “As I did Orlin and Evranin.  All three of them grew up together.  Mahtan would often visit my forge as an Elfling, and ask me questions about my work.  I enjoyed his company.” 

“How long did you live in Lothlórien?”

“Two thousand years or so.  My friend Penlod wrote to me after my mother was killed, and invited me to come.”

“I am sorry for your loss.” Galion was sincere.  “Does your father still live there?”

“He took my small sister to Valinor shortly after Naneth died.  Without my family, the Grey Havens held nothing for me but memories and loneliness.”

“My mother and father….”  Galion stared off into space, “sailed shortly after Doriath was destroyed.  The memory of Elves slaughtering each other was too much for them.  It was almost too much for me, to be frank, but Oropher spoke of traveling to the Greenwood.  The Silvan Elves have a gift for appreciating the wonders and works of Yavanna, and the idea of living among green and growing things after living in the Nargothrond caves brought peace to our hearts.” Galion lifted his shoulders and let them drop.  “I decided to give it a try.”

Rôg tilted his head and the corner of his mouth curved upwards.  “I assume you liked what you found; you are still here.”

 “I did; very much.  Then the Wood-Elves asked Oropher to be their King, and shortly after, he married Queen Lindorië…” his voice became soft, sad, “I almost left but once again, he persuaded me to stay.”

Rôgon’s eyes traveled to the Ellon’s mouth, which trembled slightly. “You miss King Oropher,” he whispered, with not a little sympathy.

“Every day.” Galion swallowed, then shook himself.  “But I do not regret staying; I helped raise Lord Thranduil, then his son Legolas, then Tauriel, and now, Lord Bard’s children…” 

“They are your family,” the Blacksmith shrugged. “Not by blood, but by love and friendship.  Anyone can see that.”

At the mention of his family, the rest of the Aide’s pompous reserve fell away, and for the first time since they’d met, Galion’s mouth lifted into a smile that lit up his deep blue eyes.  “I feel blessed to have them.”

“I am happy for you.” Rôg told him, and meant it.  “We need family and friends, do we not?  It can be hard to travel the world alone.” He gave Galion a rueful smile. “Ask me how I know.”

“Did you not have friends in Lothlórien?  What made you decide to come here?”         

“My reasons were purely prosaic. The Lady of Light summoned me to her chambers, and told me the unfortunate news of the attack upon your family – I was sorry to hear of it, mind you.  She told me of Bron’s death, and suggested Dale might be a good place for me.”

“Did they not need you there?”

“Lothlórien has several talented smiths.” Rôgon’s shoulder lifted in a half-shrug. “I enjoyed the beauty and the slow pace for a long time and had no thought of leaving, but she said I would find what I seek here.”

“And have you?”

A flash of humor crossed Rôgon’s face. “I have no idea: I was not aware I was looking for anything!” he chortled.  “Still, the Lady is wise, so I took her at her word.”

“How do you like Dale, as compared with Lothlórien?”

“I feel at home here, and I have made many friends. Lord Percy is particularly amusing; I enjoy his sense of humor.”

“I am not surprised,” Galion rolled his eyes.  “You two are a great deal alike.”

Rôgon chuckled.  “I choose to take it as a compliment, although I am not sure Lady Hilda would approve.  Percy is mature in the years of Men, yet has a boyish charm that is infectious.  He keeps me from taking myself too seriously.”

“He has a gift for jocularity, there is no question.  Percy’s humor helped the Men during that first winter after the Battle.  Many had lost family members, then Thranduil took away the women and children and sheltered them at the Palace.”

“It sounds like a difficult time.”

“It was for them, and many struggled with melancholy, but Percy did his best to keep everyone’s spirits up,” Galion smirked, “usually by playing pranks on their new King.”

“Surely not!” Rôg’s jaw dropped.  “Lord Bard allowed this?”

“He did, although he did not care for having buckets of water emptied on his head, but it made them all laugh.  Bard understood the wisdom behind the foolishness.” Galion leaned toward him, his voice conspiratorial, “and, of course, Bard exacted his revenge, which was also entertaining, though I am not sorry I missed it.”

Rôgon was intrigued, and his eyes widened.  “I have not heard any of this!  What did Lord Bard  do?”

“You do not know what Lembas does to Thangon?”

“No?”

“It creates – how shall I put it delicately – an ‘intestinal dilemma,’ if you will…”  The Aide crooked his right brow and his eyes twinkled.

It took a moment for Rôgon to comprehend; the sparkle in Galion’s eyes distracted him, but when he understood, he threw his head back and howled with delight.

Galion’s hand covered his mouth as he snickered, as Rôg grabbed his shoulder and doubled over with laughter.   

“Bard would throw him a biscuit and lock him in Percy’s room.  The sheets and blankets had to be hung outside to air out!” 

 “Knowing Percy like I do, he deserved it!”

After their laughter died down, Galion heaved a deep-weighted sigh and he tugged at the robe in his lap. “It seems wrong to laugh during these anxious times, does it not?”

 “Perhaps I am following Percy’s excellent example, and lifting your spirits.  You do a great deal to look after your family, which is every bit as important as what Percy does.”

“He serves his King as diligently as I do, although I am not nearly as colorful or entertaining.”

“Oh, do not say that,” Rôg lifted his arm and put it across the back of the bench.  “I have spent many an evening with the Royal family in your absence, and you are spoken of with great fondness and respect; especially by the children.”

“I… have been told nice things about you as well.” 

Rôg’s eyebrows went up. “If you can conquer your revulsion toward me, might we wait for news as friends?”

Galion shook his head and blushed as he chuckled.  “Yes, I… think I would like that.”

“Good,” Rôgon patted his hand, and stood.  “The sketches are going to have to wait for another day, when this dark cloud is no longer hanging over us.”  He picked up his bag and tucked it under his arm.  “In the meantime, we shall wait and pray for our friends and family, yes?”

“We will try to be strong for them.”  The Aide’s blue eyes met his and stirred something in Rôg he didn’t quite understand. 

With a lopsided grin he said, “Well, if you need someone to yell at, to make yourself feel better, I’ll be at the forge.  Have a pleasant day.”  With a nod, he left the garden.

Did Galion watch him walk away? 

He hoped so.

 

***************

 

 

Gates of Lothlórien, 25th of June, 2944 T.A.

At last!  After six days of traveling almost non-stop, the Gates of Lothlórien were in sight! 

And there was a party waiting for them outside of the closed gates. 

“DARO!” the Elvenking shouted at the company, and pulled up before Haldir and his unit.

“My Lord Thranduil,” the Marchwarden saluted from his horse.  “I bring you a message from Lord Celeborn: he strongly urges you and your Company to leave this place, for your own safety.”

Thranduil quickly raised his hand to stop Ómar, Daeron and Adamar from surging forward out of instinct.  “We will do no such thing!” the Elvenking shouted furiously.  “We have come to collect our kin, and we are not leaving without them!  I demand to know what is happening!”

Haldir bowed his tired head. “Forgive me.  Lord Celeborn means no insult; he is concerned for your welfare.  This wood has been under the spell of some… Sorcerer, who has bewitched the Lady of Light, and she lies abed with no way of reviving her.  Anyone who enters this place is in the gravest of danger.”

“Galadriel?” Feren’s eyes were like saucers. “It cannot be!”

But the harried look on the Marchwarden’s face spoke the truth.

“What about my people?” Thranduil’s voice was savage, “you have accused one of my Guardians of kinslaying; you will not stop me from seeing him.”

“My Lord, Turamarth was cleared of the charges,” he whispered, “and everyone in the City has been ordered to remain in their homes until we can determine who… or what, this enemy is.” Haldir’s posture remained proud and tall, but his eyes bespoke his terror.

 “Has Celeborn called for help?”

“He has.  A message was sent to Mithrandir by bird, and we earnestly pray for his swift arrival.”  Haldir took a deep breath and straightened his posture.  “I am afraid the news is worse, My Lord.  We found another Warden dead three nights ago…"  The Marchwarden marshalled his courage to speak. “Lord Thranduil, I am afraid this Enemy knows Beleg’s true identity, for he was with Gelmir.”

The air left Thranduil’s lungs.  “Is he—”

“There is no sign of him.  I desperately wish I had more to tell you.” The Marchwarden’s jaw twitched on the sides of his face.  “Lord Celeborn cannot leave his wife’s side; lest she perish.  My Lord, I was given orders to try to warn you away, but if I may be perfectly frank,” his eyes blinked rapidly to stave off tears of exhaustion and pain.  “I bless the Valar for bringing you.” 

 

***************

 

Imladris, 25th of June, 2944 T.A.

“Lord Elrond! He is here!” Lindir and Glorfindel burst into his private quarters without knocking.  “He says you must come; there is not a moment to lose!”

“Glorfindel, are the troops ready?”

“Yes, My Lord.  I will go to the stables and have the horses saddled.”

“Thank you.  Lindir, help me with my armor, please,” Elrond stepped over to the stand where it was displayed, and removed the chest plate.  “Look after Estel, and I will leave it to your discretion as to what to tell his mother.  Keep in mind: we do not know what we will be riding into, and I cannot afford rumors to make things worse.” 

“Of course, My Lord.”  Lindir’s fingers flew over the many straps and buckles with practiced speed, “Your things are packed and most of it has been placed on the wagon; there are a few last-minute things to get together, but that will take no time at all—”

They were interrupted by a deafening screech, coming from the courtyard.  Elrond and Lindir’s eyes met in surprise, as they hurried out onto the dais.

There was Mithrandir, impatiently waiting astride Gwaihir, Lord of the Eagles.

“What took you so long?” he demanded.  “Get on behind me; we haven’t a moment to lose!”

 “My Lord,” Glorfindel protested, “should you not travel with your Guards?”

“There is no time, you fool!” the Wizard answered.  “A thousand armies would be useless here; catch us up if you like, but Elrond and I need to leave immediately!  Hurry!”

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

A, Gwinïg nîn… Oh, my Little Fingers (a pet name Galion gave Tauriel when she was small)

Brennil vuin – beloved lady

De vilui, Aran Bard -Thank you, King Bard (formal)

Haruni – (Q.) Grandmother

Mellon nîn – My friend

Nana Idril! – Mother Idril!

Nathêl – (Q.) Aunt

Rhianiel – Rhian-daughter

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Lothlórien, 25th of June, 2944 T.A.

Legolas slowly opened his eyes.  It was dark, but for a source of light to his right.  He blinked several times, as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, then he studied the ceiling of the shelter.  It was rough-hewn rock; this must be some sort of cave.

He turned his head and winced; it was the same when he experimented with his arms and legs, and bit back a cry.  Ai!  Everything hurt!   

Where was he?

“Greetings, Legolas Thranduillion.  It has been nearly a millennium since we met.” An eerily pleasant voice came from his left, and it sounded familiar.

Groaning, he managed to prop himself up on his elbows and tried to find speaker.  There was no one.

“Where am I?”

“You are six miles north of Caras Galadhon, My Prince.”  The voice said from the shadows.

He rubbed his eyes and took in his surroundings.  There were crates stacked along the back wall, and several cots had been set up along the sides, their mattresses were rolled up and tied, with neatly-folded blankets and a pillow.  Torches protruded along each wall, and they were lit, yet he could not detect the source of the voice. 

“Who is there?”

Out from the shadows stepped a figure.

“Gelmir?  But… You were…  It cannot be!  I watched you die!”

The ‘Elf’ laughed.  “I thought this shape might be pleasing to you.  The Warden was a friend, was he not?  But if you wish, I will take another shape.”  Gelmir’s doppelganger turned and sat down on a nearby boulder, then morphed into a man, with greying hair and beard.  “Is this better?”

“Who are you?” Legolas shuffled away from him. “I demand to know!”

This was met with an amused laugh.  “You are in no position to demand anything of me, Prince.  I could kill you with a snap of my fingers.” He held his hand out and startled Legolas when  his thumb and middle finger emitted a loud noise that bounced off the walls.

 “W-Who are you?” he asked again.

“No one of consequence, but if you insist upon a name, you may call me Luinrandir.” The figure made a sweeping mock-bow. 

“What do you want from me?  If you are going to kill me, like you did Gelmir, do it and get it over with!”

The Man’s eyebrows went up.  “I have no plans to kill you, Prince of Mirkwood,” his eyes were haughty, full of arrogance.  “Though you must admit, Warden Gelmir’s death was spectacular, wasn’t it?  I admire the Elf for managing to warn you at the last moment, but he had to be punished for his disobedience, did he not?  Now, the other one - Mahtan, was his name, I believe – his was rather dull; it was dark, and I could not attract attention to him with all kinds of sparks and lights…  It would have been great fun, but I had things to do, you see.”

“You murdered them both, and framed Turamarth?” His mind reeled, as he stupidly stated the obvious, which greatly amused his captor.

The man’s laugh curdled the air around them.  “Oh, I admit the knife in the back was amateurish, and I knew the Marchwarden would quickly realize it was a setup, but it served its purpose; all I wanted was a distraction.”

“To do what?”

“Do you not know, Elf Prince?” He looked at Legolas in astonishment.  “Why, the Lady of Light is my prisoner as well, did no one tell you this?”

Legolas’s mouth opened and closed several times, as icy fear gripped him, squeezing the air out of his lungs.   “How… could you…”

“Oh, now that is an interesting story, which I know you will enjoy,” he flippantly waved his hands.  “As a matter of fact, you are the one who made all this possible, and I am grateful, as is my Master.”

“How… how can this be my fault?  You are a liar!” he growled. 

 “My dear Prince; I am telling the truth.  Once I finally made it to the borders of Lothlórien, I traveled along the fences, to find an… opening, a weakness, a ‘chink’ in the Golden Wood’s armor, if you will.”

“There is no weakness; she is the most powerful Elf in Middle Earth!”

“Then I cannot be sitting here talking to you, can I?  And Mahtan and Gelmir would still be alive, yet you and I both know they are dead.  Not many know the Lady’s powerful magic was weakened when she banished the Dark Lord in Dol Guldur, and alas, it would have been a perfect time to take advantage, but I, too was weakened from the banishment, and needed time to gather strength.

“I arrived at the gates of Lothlórien a few weeks ago, and searched the fence thoroughly, but then, as luck would have it, seven nights past,” he smiled at Legolas, “I found a way in.  And lo and behold, who did I find here besides the Lady Galadriel?  The very same Elf who escaped the Dark Lord’s clutches so long ago!  I could scarcely believe my good fortune!” He tilted his head and laughed.  “How fitting that the one who slipped through my fingers then, would be the one who made it possible for me to accomplish my mission now!”

Legolas’s shock brought him to his feet.  “What are you talking about?”

“Was it not you, who used a great deal of the Lady’s precarious strength by gazing in her mirror for hours?”

“That… you are wrong,” he whispered hoarsely.  “It cannot be true.”

 “Am I?” Luinrandir walked toward him, the slowly paced around him.  “You hated your father so much, that your Lady of Light was forced to stand for hours over that basin while you watched your father’s pain, his sacrifices; all the agonies he suffered. He spent a lifetime trying to spare you from this, and how did you repay him?” He stepped behind Legolas and whispered in his ear.  “Did you not notice the Healer standing by to assist Galadriel, while she poured her precious power into those visions, all to convince a stubborn, arrogant child his father loves him?”  

Legolas swallowed, and hot tears filled his eyes.

“If only you had listened; stubborn Elf.  How many times did others try to convince you?” 

Legolas could feel this Sorcerer dig into his mind, his thoughts, and try as he might, he could not keep him out.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk…” Luinrandir’s face was full of mocking pity.  “And now you see what your obstinance has done:  two of your friends are dead, your cousin’s wife is my prisoner, as are you, and,” the corner of his mouth turned upward, “your father is walking into my trap.  Just think of it! My Master sent me to fetch the Lady of Light, and I will return to him with the entire Northern Kingdoms,” he leaned closer, “including your Tauriel, and all of the King of Dale’s children.”

“NO!” Legolas launched himself at him and tried to grab his throat. With a nonchalant wave of Luinrandir’s hand, he was sent flying backwards. 

Legolas bounced off the rough stone wall and landed on the ground so hard it knocked the wind out of his lungs.  His heart thumped against his rib cage, as fought for breath.  “Berio nin, dhen iallon Elbereth Gilthoniel,” he silently prayed to the Valar.

“You dare to think you can stop me?” Luinrandir spat at him.  “Foolish boy!”  Lightning streaked from his fingertips, and he laughed, as played Legolas’s body like a puppeteer. He lifted the Elf’s body, then slammed it down again, and again.

Aaaaah!” The Elven Prince screamed and writhed in agony, and he begged for mercy, “Please...” but to no avail. 

Then, mercifully, his vision went black and he knew no more.

 

***************

Caras Galadhon

“Turamarth!”

The Guardian whipped his head around furiously.  “What do you want now, Warden?”

“I am coming with you!”  Rúmil caught up with him.  “You do not know the Forest like I do; you will need me.”

This Warden was the last person he wanted to work with, but he couldn’t argue with his logic.  “Very well.” He said, reluctantly. “Follow me.”

They first went to the guest talon where the newlyweds, Ivran and Cwën were staying, and the two Wardens worked together to gather the rest of the Guardians and apprised them of the situation.

“Take us to where Warden Gelmir was found,” Tur ordered, and Rúmil took them three miles northwest of Caras Galadhon, and they carefully studied the scorched patch of ground. 

Turamarth squatted down and ran his fingers over the blackened earth. “Ai, gorgor…”  he murmured softly.  “I cannot fathom who or what could do this…”

The Elves gathered in a circle and bowed their heads, in tribute to the fallen.  Then they broke off into two groups, one led by Cwën, and one led by Rúmil.

 “As you can see, there are no footprints, no drag marks…” Rúmil shook his head.

“What were Gelmir’s injuries?”

“No cuts or scrapes, no marks… nothing.  Orlin and Penlod are examining him now.”

“But you say there are no footprints? At all? Not even ones made by Gelmir?”

“No; just as with Mahtan.  We can normally tell if someone has covered his tracks, but obviously there was enchantment used to eliminate any trace.  The only reason we know Bele— Prince Legolas was with him is because he was sent to bring him the Lord and Lady’s Talon for his own safety.”

“Why was he not brought in the first place?” Turamarth demanded. “His safety should have been paramount!”

“Perhaps Lord Celeborn was afraid to draw any attention to him, by singling him out.  If he remained anonymous, there would be less danger.”

“Another gamble?” Tur’s mouth formed a thin, angry line.

“Please,” Rúmil sighed. “I know you are angry, and you have a right to be, but could we please focus on finding him?  I cannot, and I will not disparage My Lord or my Marchwarden, any more than you could your King or Commander Feren!” He spread his hands in supplication.  “We want the same thing, Turamarth, whether it suits you to believe it or not!”

After Tur’s brief nod, Rúmil had an idea.  “There is a cave about two miles north of here; we use to hold supplies and such, and to offer shelter during strong storms.  Maybe he is there.”

“Gather the others,” Tur said grimly, “then lead the way.”

 

The search party ran on the ground, and swung through the trees, until they heard voices, then a crackling sound and screams of agony.  They race ahead, until they reached a clearing in front of the mouth of a cave.

“This is it,” Rúmil whispered.  “Do you hear that?”

Without making a sound, Turamarth and Rúmil silently approached the cave’s entrance, and stood on either side.  The Guardian caught the Warden’s eye and signaled with four fingers, then three, two and on one, they both peered into the darkness.

Legolas was there, on the ground, with his eyes closed, and he was alone.  

 

***************

 

Cwën held her breath, as did Ivran beside her, as they waited for Rúmil and Turamarth to appear.  He put his hand on her shoulder and squeezed, to offer comfort, but her eyes never strayed from the Elves by the cave.

Turamarth turned toward the others in the search party and gave them a thumbs up.  Then held his palm outwards for them to stay back. 

Everyone stood silent and still as the two of them carefully crept inside to retrieve the Elven Prince, and she leaned ever-so-lightly against Ivran, and sensed his apprehension through their bond.  She sent him as much love and reassurance as she could, as he waited for his King’s son to appear—

Suddenly there was a blinding white light, and screams of pain, and Turamarth and Rúmil’s bodies flew out of the cave tumbled over several times and landed at their feet.

“Tur!” Ivran and Ruvyn ran toward the Guardian, while Cwën rushed to Rúmil.

“Are they alive?” Nualë asked. 

“Yes,” Ivran let go of Tur’s wrist.  “What about Rúmil?”

“His pulse is weak, but he is still with us,” Cwën heaved a sigh of relief.    She stood up and smoothed her tunic.  “Right; we need to go for help,” she told the others.  “Nualë, Nuín, I want you to take Tur and Rúmil back about fifty yards, and keep watch over them.  Ivran and I are going to fetch a Healer for them.  The rest of you: take to the trees, have your bows at the ready and make sure no one approaches that cave!”

 

***************

 

The Gates of the Golden Wood

“My Lord, I was given orders to try to warn you away, but if I may be perfectly frank,” Haldir’s eyes blinked rapidly, “I bless the Valar for bringing you.”

Thranduil’s insides churned, and panic engulfed him.  His son was missing, and in the hands of a murderer.  This was too surreal…too impossible to believe…

It was Feren who saved the moment.  “Mount up!” he ordered the others.  “We ride for Caras Galadhon immediately!”

Time dragged, and the journey seemed to take forever.  With each step, the fear inside Thranduil grew.  Oh, please… Thranduil rode, and prayed and begged the Valar to keep his son safe until he could get to him. 

 

At last, they raced into the City and Thranduil leaped off Naurmôr and raced up the steps to his cousin’s Talan.

“Celeborn!” he yelled.  “Out of my way!” he screamed at the Sentinels.  “Celeborn, where are you?”  His feet did not slow down until he reached the Royal Bedchambers.

Thranduil froze at the scene before him, and he covered his mouth.  Galadriel was laid out on the bed so utterly pale and still, it was as if she was made of wax. Arwen sat in a chair opposite her grandfather, singing softly, as Celeborn’s head was bowed in prayer  He held her hand against his lips, while his other hand rested upon her heart.

“Thranduil!” Arwen cried out in relief, threw herself into his arms and burst into tears, “Haruni nîn, nathathog, Ettā?”

“Shhh…” Thranduil cupped the back of her dark head and tried to soothe her.  “I do not know what help I can give, Niben Êl, but I will do what I can.”  He kissed her brow and urged her back into her chair, then turned toward her grandfather.

“A Ettā…” he said softly.

Celeborn turned at his words, at his red, teary eyes met the Elvenking’s. “Man i theled sen manadh gûl?”  His voice was dulled and weak from shock and sorrow. 

The Elvenking rushed across the room to his cousin and knelt by his side. “Ni dem angin, Celeborn.”

“I am so sorry about Legolas, Thranduil.”  Fresh tears fell from Celeborn’s face, following the path of the ones before.  “I cannot say why this is happening, and I could not protect him.  Please; forgive me.  This enemy is attacking all that we hold dear,” his voice broke. “My wife...”  Once Celeborn composed himself, he said, “I ordered Haldir to warn you off, Thranduil.  I did not want you to endanger yourself.”

“As if I could stay away.” He placed his hand on Celeborn’s shoulder. “I would never abandon my son and my people.  But I will help, if I can.”

“No dirweg, Ettā.” Celeborn put his hand atop Thranduil’s. 

Just then, a frantic voice begged entrance.  “Please! I must speak to Lord Celeborn immediately!”

The Elvenking rushed to the door and opened it, to find Lieutenant Ivran and his new wife, Warden Cwën.

“Lord Thranduil!” her mouth fell open, but she recovered herself and they both saluted.  “My Lord, I am grateful you are here.”

“What is it Cwën?  What has happened?”

My Lord, we found… ‘Beleg.’” 

“He is alive?”

“Yes, but something is terribly wrong; you must come.”

“Celeborn?” Thranduil turned to his cousin with great concern.  “I do not think you should leave her.”

“I cannot.  Master Gilfanon has said our bond may be keeping her alive.”

“Very well; I will assume command of the City.  Cwën?   Where are my Guardians?”

“They have been with Rúmil and Turamarth all morning.  We found him in a cave six miles north of here.”

“Show me.” He gave Celeborn and Galadriel a last look and a silent prayer, then followed her out.  “Find the Marchwarden,” he ordered one of the Sentinels, “and tell him where we are.  Tell him he is in charge of the City, and of protecting the Lord and Lady.  Keep everyone inside!”

“My Lord?” Cwën’s eyes darted nervously.  “Turamarth and Rúmil have been hurt.  They are alive, but unconscious.”

“Tell me everything,” he ordered as they hurried toward the Forest floor.

 

 

The Elvenking ran down the steps and met his Commander with the others.  “Cwën is going to take us to where they believe Prince Legolas is located.”  He met Daeron’s eyes.  “Tur is with them, and Cwën says he and Rúmil have been badly injured.”

Ómar’s face went white, and Adamar grabbed his arms.

“We will find your son, Captain.” Feren gave Ómar and stern look of encouragement.

“Yes, Commander.” Both brothers-in-law collected themselves and stood straighter.

Orophin ran up to them.  “I will go with you to attend my brother.”

“Very well,” Thranduil nodded curtly.  “Meninc hí!”

 

The band of Elves quickly made their way to the cave on foot, and as they ran, Thranduil tried to put things together in his mind and look for patterns or a possible motive for all this. The mysterious deaths, Galadriel’s comatose state, and his son’s disappearance might appear random to some, but he knew better.  It was easy to understand why Galadriel would be under attack; she possessed great power, and her magic protected this place…

But why would the enemy kill two other elves, yet not his son, who was traveling under a different name?

But perhaps this Sorcerer knew Beleg’s true identity. 

And as soon as the idea ran through his mind, another, horrible idea took its place.  Mírelen’s words came back to him:

“They wanted our son, and for a very good reason.  A War is coming, Thranduil, and our son will be needed. Somehow, Sauron must have foreseen the deeds Legolas will accomplish.  He knows that our son cannot guarantee his defeat, but if Legolas cannot play his part, it will guarantee his victory.”  She looked at him intensely.  “Do you understand?”  1    

Legolas had been the target of the attack, and his wife gave her life to save her son, from a fate worse than death: 

“The Orcs that killed me, were sent from Dol Guldur, to steal our son.  I have learned that he wanted our boy kept alive - I cannot contemplate what would have happened, had we not saved him. It was Legolas the Orc tried to grab off the horse; not me.  I drew my knife and drove it into his arm, do you remember?”

He knew who was behind this attack, and what they were after.  It was the only explanation. 

Oh, gods…  Terror filled him, and the air left his lungs.

“Feren!” he called.  “I would speak with you privately!” he stopped and grabbed his Commander’s arm.

“What is it, My Lord?  We must make haste!”

Thranduil led his friend by the arm away from the others and spoke in whispered tones.  “I believe I know the true reason for the attack on this place.” He said.  “What I am about to say is not an order from your King, although I know you would follow it.  This is a request from your best and oldest friend, yet you must promise to follow it, do I make myself plain?”

Feren’s eyes narrowed.  “My Lord Thranduil,” he said evenly.  “You, of all people should know how seriously I take my duty to you and the Woodland Realm!”

The Elvenking closed his eyes and sighed.  “Because what I am about to ask might test this loyalty…”

 

***************

 

North of Caras Galadhon

Feren looked down upon the clearing from his high perch.  Daeron and Ómar were tending to Turamarth and Rúmil’s injuries, and he had ordered the rest of the Elves into the trees, bows and arrows at the ready.

He didn’t want to think of what his King had just ordered, but he was honor-bound to obey his command.  Yet hope stubbornly remained, and he would hang on to it until the last possible second.  He prayed with all his might that the signal he was to wait for would never come.

His beloved King stepped into the clearing alone, and called into the cave with a clear, commanding voice,   “I am Thranduil Oropherion, King of the Woodland Realm, and I have come for my son.  You will return him to me at once!”

All was silent for many moments, and everyone waited.   Their Elven ears could make out faint noises in the cave, then a shadow moved toward the entrance and someone stepped out into the light.

It was Legolas.

Feren’s sighed as the tension left his shoulders.  Praise the Valar! 

Thranduil’s eyes shone with unshed tears and his chest heaved.  His throat bobbed as he swallowed hard, then managed to say in a soft tone, “Legolas?  Ion nîn!”

The Elven Prince looked at his father as if he was a stranger.  “Who are you to treat with me, Sindar?”

Feren felt the blood leave his face and his jaw went slack.  That was not the voice of the Pînlass they all had known and loved.  And his eyes…  there was something in them that was otherworldly. 

“Well?” The false Legolas demanded.

“You are not my son!”  Thranduil shouted in fury.

The doppelganger looked down at himself and held his arms out wide.  “I thought you would like it.  But if you insist…” 

The air around him rippled and waved, and a man, who appeared to be in his fifties stood before him.  “Is this better?  I am Luinrandir.  I am also the doom of you and your son, and your Kingdom.”

“You will take me to my son, this instant!”

“I’m afraid that’s not possible.” He shook his head.  “I’ve come to finish what I started nearly a thousand years ago, when your dear wife died.”

Thranduil’s face froze and he spat through gritted teeth.  “Explain yourself.”

“It was I, who sent those Orcs to draw you away from the Queen and her young son; who did you think would be smart enough to organize such an attack?  Orcs?  Pah!”

Luinrandir studied the Elvenking’s pale face.  “I cannot read you nearly as well as your son, but there is recognition on your face…  You know what I say to be true.  But alas, the plan was foiled; we did not get our prize then, but it was not wholly unsuccessful, was it?  Your wife died, you were a recluse for centuries, and this gave the Dark Lord enough room to take over much of your forest, so he was pleased.  Still, it always bothered me that I could not fulfill his wishes as far as Prince Legolas, so I was glad for the opportunity to correct my error.”

“What do you want in exchange for his life?”

“Nothing; I have what I came for.  I have Galadriel under my power, and your son, and very, very soon, I will have you.”

“You do not have me.”

“Not yet, but you will.”

 “Is my son in there?” Thranduil pointed to the cave, and made to go in.

“Not so fast.  Do you mean to leave me out here alone, so all the archers in the trees there will have a good shot at me?  What makes you think I won’t drop them like flies?” 

Luinrandir pointed to the tree on Feren’s left, spoke a few words, and two Elves fell to the ground, dead, their eyes staring at nothing, their bows broken beneath them.

It was Nualë, and her husband of only two years, Nuín.  Feren scrunched his eyes together and gritted his teeth, to stifle his cries, and lifted his hand to signal the others to hold their positions and not make a sound.

“STOP!” Thranduil’s voice broke and he held up his hand.  “Please… stop.  I will go with you willingly, but please; release my son!”

“You would willingly allow yourself to be brought before the Lord Sauron, to save a son who hates you?” The Sorcerer jeered and mocked the Elvenking.  “He will never forgive you, and he will never forgive himself now that he knows he was the reason his mother was killed…”

“Enough!” The Elvenking’s voice was as rigid as ever.  “I want to see my son!”

Luinrandir studied Thranduil for a moment, then rolled his eyes with an exaggerated sigh.  “Oh, all right; just this once, I will do you this favor, but only because it will be the last request you shall ever make as a free Elf.”  He went inside, then returned, holding Legolas by his foot and dragging him carelessly into the clearing and threw him down like a rag doll.  “There; are you happy now?”

The Elvenking fell to his knees.  His face crumbled, as he cupped his son’s battered face. “Oh, hênig...” he sobbed.  “Look at you...Ada is here...” He gathered Legolas into his arms, and held him tight, then looked at Luinrandir with pure hatred. “What have you done to my son?” 

“Just a bit of fun,” he raised one shoulder in a nonchalant shrug, “that left him begging for death.  It was pathetic, if you must know,” his voice mocked, “‘Please, oh, please, let me die!’ he just wouldn’t shut up...”

Feren bit his lip until it bled, to stifle his horror, and stay focused, for now he understood the weight his King had asked of him.  He let out a small whistle, and ordered the Archers to take aim…

“Legolas?”  Thranduil cradled his child’s cheek and searched his face.  “Gi melin, Ion nîn.” His eyes filled with tears as he stroked his face, then he kissed his brow.  “Forgive me; I hope you understand,” he whispered.  “I love you so much…”

Then he subtly lifted his hand, held up two of his fingers, and bent them quickly.

That was the signal. 

“Feren, if it comes to it, I cannot allow my son to be taken.” Thranduil had told him, when he pulled him aside, not two hours ago.  “I am going to offer myself in his stead.”

“No, My Lord!” he argued.  “You will be sentencing yourself to a fate worse than death, Mellon nîn!  I cannot allow you to do this!”

“That is true,” Thranduil whispered, his voice thick with sadness,  “You cannot.  I beg you, as my friend, to spare me.  And if,” his face crumpled for a moment, “If Legolas cannot escape, then you must help him find a place in Mandos’ Halls alongside me.  You cannot damn him to a life in the Tower of Barad-dûr.”

“Please,” Feren begged.  “Do not ask me to do this; I love you both too much.”

“I am counting on your love for me and my son to save us from a life at the Dark Lord’s feet.  Promise me?  Promise me, and when we meet once again in Valinor, I will spend an eternity thanking you.”

Feren stared at his friend, then grabbed him and hugged him hard.  “I understand.  And when you get to the Halls of Waiting, please; pray for me to find the strength to live with what I must do.”

“I do so vow, Mellon nînYou must go back and tell my family,” the Elvenking’s eyes spilled over.  “Tell Bard how much I love him, and… look after the children; the older ones will understand, though their sorrow will be great, but my Tithen Pen… I will never see her again...” his hand covered his eyes and he tried to get himself under control.  “Please…”

“May the Valar forgive me,”. Feren whispered, as he quickly wiped the tears out of his eyes, and whistled the order to fire.

In an instant, almost a dozen Elven arrows headed straight toward the King and the Prince on the ground.  Thranduil closed his eyes and buried his face in Legolas’s golden blonde hair to await their fate.

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

A Ettā… - Oh, cousin…

Berio nin, dhen iallon Elbereth Gilthoniel – Protect me, I beg of you, Varda, Queen of the Stars

Haruni nîn, nathathog, Ettā?-  Can you help my grandmother, Cousin?

Man i theled sen manadh gûl? – What is the purpose of this evil fate?

Meninc hí! – Let’s go now!

Niben êl – “Little Star,” everyone’s pet name for Arwen since she was small.

No dirweg, Thranduil. – Be careful, Thranduil.

 

 

 

 

[1] From And Winter Came…, CH 34:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/31479384

Chapter Text

 

 

Six miles north of Caras Galadhon, 25th of June, 2944 T.A.

“I am so sorry, Ion nîn.” Thranduil whispered into his son’s hair, as he kissed him one last time.  “I must take you to the Halls of Waiting, so your suffering can end.”

The salvo of arrows whined through the air aiming for their heads; Thranduil closed his eyes, breathed in his son’s scent, and steeled himself for what was to come. 

Would there be pain?  Yes, but followed by blessed oblivion, when Námo gathered them to him.   Then he would be reunited with all his loved ones in Valinor, where there would be no more pain, no more sorrow.  Would Bard understand, when the others returned home to give him the news?    

But he would never see Sigrid, and Bain, and Tilda… Percy and Hilda… Who could have known all those hugs and goodbyes only a week ago, would be forever!  His beloved Gwïnig, would help Galion look after them all, won’t she?  Sigrid will marry, and be a Healer, and he would be absent when Bain took his throne - what would Bard do then?And his Tithen Pen, his little Tilda’s eyes would never shine up at him with pure trust, and her sweet innocent face—

Thranduil paused.

How could he have time to consider these things; shouldn’t he be dead by now?  Maybe he had been killed, and the Valar, in their benevolence, saved them from the pain of the injuries.  But where was Námo?  Should he not be here, to lead them on their final journey?

His hands still felt Legolas’s warmth; his heart continued to thump against his ribs, and when he moved his fingers, they rustled in his child’s silky hair.

The Elvenking mustered the courage to open his eyes, and his vision was filled with the golden head of his son.  He blinked – yes, his eyes still blinked – and moved his gaze to the copse of trees surrounding them…

…arrows, frozen in their flight, were hanging in the air as if on a string.

A small sound escaped him.  No… no…  

But Thranduil would never be Sauron’s trophy.  He would protect his people, protect the North until his dying breath, and he would never allow his beloved son, who had suffered so much to be enslaved by this… thing. 

He stealthily reached between their bodies to grab his knife, maneuvered the blade upwards, and crawled it toward their throats…

“Forgive me for all the pain I have caused you, Pînlass,” he murmured softly in Legolas’s ear, “but I must inflict more, to save you.  I love you, Ion nîn.”

Thranduil clenched his teeth until they ached, to keep him from crying out.  His eyes closed, and tears flowed, and he begged the Queen of the Stars for strength, for speed, and forgiveness. 

 

***************

 

Gates of Lothlórien, 25th of June, 2944 T.A.

At Mithrandir’s urging, Gwaihir carried the Wizard and the Elf-Lord faster than the wind, until at last they arrived at the Gates of the Golden Wood, where the Eagle landed and bowed low to allow them to quickly jump to the ground.

“Many thanks, my friend,” Gandalf bowed low, as did Elrond.

“The honor is mine,” the Eagle bowed his head, observing the necessary courtesy, just as Landroval arrived from the East, and landed nearby, bearing Radagast.

“Are we in time?” the Brown Wizard asked anxiously.

“Are we?” Gandalf asked the Warden guarding the gates.  “Where is Haldir?”

“He left less than an hour ago, to escort King Thranduil to the Lord and Lady.”

“He is here?  And you allowed him to enter?  Fools!” he spat, angrily.  “He will be taken too!”

“Mithrandir,” Elrond interrupted.  “He is the child’s father; I confess I would not be turned away if Arwen were under attack.”

“If?” Gandalf ground his teeth.   “Do you believe that…Traitor will spare your daughter?  Quickly!” he ordered.  “Give us your horses!  Radagast, put a spell on these beasts to make them run faster!   O would that Eagles could fly through these Woods; we’d be there in minutes.   But we will make use of what we have.  Hurry!”

In an instant, the Brown Wizard’s words set the horses running, and the riders held fast to the reins and the saddles, leaving the Elves in a cloud of dust.

“Gandalf?” Radagast shouted from his chestnut mare, “will we get there in time?”

“Not soon enough to prevent tragedy; yet we will try.  Can’t you get these beasts to go faster?”

 

Still, the horses managed to do in less than 30 minutes what would normally take three hours, and the party pulled to a stop at the foot of the Lord and Lady’s Mallorn tree. 

Gandalf jumped down and handed the reins to Radagast.  “Stay here, my friend. Take care of  the horses; we may need them in a few minutes

“Of course,” the Brown Wizard agreed, and ran his hands over their muzzles and spoke to them to calm them down.

“Follow me!”

But Elrond needed no prompting to rush up the staircase to get to his family.   He and Mithrandir took the stairs three and a time, and waved at the Sentinels as he went by. 

“Where are they?” the Wizard demanded in a harsh voice.  “Tell me quickly!”

“They are in the Lord and Lady’s bedchamber,” the Elf pointed.  “Haldir is with them.”

Without waiting for the guard to finish, they both took off across the room to the stairs at the other side. 

“Get out of my way!” Gandalf shouted.  “Step aside, damn you!”

They burst into the room where Galadriel lay, and all other eyes bulged in surprise and relief.

“ADA!” Arwen was in Elrond’s arms in less than an instant.  “Praise the Valar you have come!”

Celeborn’s eyes were bleary from the weakness of his bond with his wife, “Mithrandir…  I do not know if—”

“There is no time to lose, Mellon.” The Wizard gently pushed him aside.  “Where is her Phial?”

“It is in her study,”  Celeborn told him.  “I cannot wield it, as much as I want to.”

 “Well, you need it now!” Gandalf turned to Arwen. “Go get it!  Run!”

“Go with her, Haldir!  Let no one stop her; we need that phial, or your Lady is dead, if she isn’t already!”  The Wizard went to the still form of the Noldor princess.  “Oh, My Lady…”

Gandalf took her hand and kissed it.  “She is so cold…”

Elrond sat on the bed on the other side and rubbed her other hand between his, as his daughter arrived with the wooden box.

“Excellent!” Gandalf took it from her.  “I want everyone but Elrond and Celeborn out of this room.  Haldir, you will guard the door, and protect it with your life.  No one must come in or disturb us in any way if you want your Lady to live.”

“But I must stay!” Arwen protested,  “Can I not be of help?

“Not this time; Iell mail nîn.” Elrond kissed her forehead, shoved her out the door, and locked it behind her.  “Are we ready?” 

“We may already be too late,” Gandalf’s blue eyes revealed his concern.  He opened the box, placed the phial over her heart.  “Celeborn, put her hand over this; no, her right one…  That’s it…  Shall we begin?”

 

***************

 

Six miles north of Caras Galadhon, 25th of June, 2944 T.A.

Captain Elion stood beside is wife, Warden Airen, as King Thranduil took Commander Feren aside, and spoke to him in animated whispers.  He saw them argue briefly, and Feren embraced him, as a tear fell from the King’s eye.

“What is happening?” Airen asked him. 

“I am not sure, but I greatly fear the answer.” He whispered.

At length, Feren left the King alone, and returned to the group, ordered them to attention, and spoke in a grim, but forceful voice:

“When we arrive, you will take to the trees, and position yourself with those already there.” Feren paused and the muscle of his jaw twitched.  “Guardians of the Woodland Realm, the order has been given: Code name ‘Nessa.’ You will tell the others to await my signal.” He swallowed. “The King himself will give the final order.”

The blood left Elion’s face and hands, and the stifled gasps of the Guardians behind him matched the one which threatened to escape his own lips.

 On the day each Guardian earned their coveted place in this elite band of Officers in the Army of the Woodland Realm, they were taught the list of these secret words, never to be written down, lest they fall into the hands of the enemy, never, ever to be repeated. 

“Nessa” was named after the Vala known as “the Dancer,” yet also called “the Swift” because of her speed.1  This action was thusly named in hopes the weapons used would be sharp, and the arrows would be merciful and hit their target, thus ending the life of their King. 

It was only to be used to prevent a greater tragedy for their people, but what greater calamity could there be, than for a beloved King to die at the hands of the people he trusted most in the world?

Each Guardian prayed this last, most terrible word would not be spoken, and for three thousand years they gave thanks it had not.

But on this day, Commander Feren had uttered the frightening name, and ordered the most difficult task of their lives.

“Is there no other way, Commander?” Elion stepped forward in protest, as Airen furrowed her brows in confusion.

“Elion!” Captain Adamar ordered him back.

“No dhínen, Hest!” Feren stood nose-to-nose with Elion, his voice full of anguished fury.  “You dare to question my orders?  You think I would invoke this lightly? Do you?”

Elion swallowed.  “N-no, My Lord,” and stood at attention.  “Forgive me.”

“Does anyone else want to refuse to follow orders?” the Commander asked the rest of them.  “Tell me now, and hand over your swords, to be branded cowards at the final test!”

All the Guardians stood at attention, devastated, frightened, but determined.  In Elion’s peripheral vision, the silhouette of his King was visible, his palms lifted upward in prayer, as slumped shoulders shook with silent, stifled sobs. 

Every Guardian in those woods, inwardly begged for a miracle to save him, to save them all, for even if they carried out this heartbreaking order, nothing guaranteed a victory against such an unknown, powerful Enemy such as the one they were about to face.

But they would obey their King.  They were Woodland Elves, loyal to the last, and if this compassionate act truly afforded Lord Thranduil, and Prince Legolas peace in the afterlife, they would face the consequences, and willingly.

 

They followed Cwën and Ivran, and about 150 feet before the clearing, they discovered Nualë and Nuín, hovered over the bodies of Lieutenant Turamarth, and Warden Rúmil.  Oropher rushed to his brother, and Daeron quickly took his bag off his shoulder and ran. Ómar was at his son’s side in an instant, with his hand on Tur’s brow.  Daeron began to take things out of his bag, while Nualë and Nuín picked up their weapons and quickly joined the group.

“Are they alive?” The Elvenking whispered softly.

 “They live, My Lord.”

Thranduil whispered something in Feren’s ear, before his hand signals ordered them into the trees to join the others.

 

Elion wasn’t able to explain “Nessa” to his wife; Feren ordered none be given, until after. To do otherwise might cause an argument, and endanger them all.

Still, Elion hated the idea of keeping this from Airen, but took his place beside her, with Feren in the tree to their right, and Nualë and Núin above. 

They waited.

The King of the Woodland Realm announced himself at the entrance to the cave, demanding the return of the Prince.

Out stepped what appeared to be the King’s son, yet his posture and steps were unlike Legolas’s, and when he opened his mouth, his words… his voice…

At Thranduil’s sharp command this… thing changed its shape to a form not unlike Lord Ben, Dale’s City Planner!  His eyes blinked rapidly in disbelief.  Who – what – was this horrid creature?

And where was Legolas?

Above them, the branches shifted suddenly, and Nualë and Nuín fell to the ground in a heap.  Ai, gorgor!

Airen froze, and Elion clamped his lips shut, and tried to deny the truth of what he had just witnessed.  His vision swam as he met Airen’s eyes and shook his head ever-so-slightly.  Any noise from her -  from any of them – would reveal their presence.

A tear escaped, but her eyes met his, with a small smile.   I am fine; I am calm, her eyes told him.  Of course she was; she was a Warden of the Galadhrim!   I love you, he mouthws, and they returned to the horrifying scene below.

When “Luinrandir” as he called himself, dragged their Prince out and threw him at his father, he landed with his arms and legs at terrible angles, as if his bones were broken.   Legolas’s only recognizable feature was the long, blonde hair and the warrior braids he liked to wear. His face was covered in bruises and the flesh around his eyes were swollen and purple, and his nose was clearly broken.

Lord Thranduil’s face crumpled, and he fell to his knees to gather his son to him.  The Elvenking gently stroked his cheek and tearfully kissed his forehead.

All that was left, was to wait for the King’s signal.

Please, Elion prayed, please do not make me do this.  I beg you, Elbereth Gilthoniel – I beg of all the Valar, help us!  Send us a sign, a miracle and spare them, please!

Airen sensed his anguish through their bond, and though she didn’t understand the reason, sent him love and strength, which eased the terrible spasms in his shoulders.   

But it did nothing to settle the growing knots in his stomach; he was about to be a kinslayer.  However merciful this act might be, would he bring the same doom upon his head as the Fëanorians? 2

He turned to his beloved wife, took a half-second to search her face in a silent plea.  Will our love stand this test? Will you understand and forgive?  I have never needed you more than I do right now; please, help me live with this!

 

A low, lilting whistle.  Nock your arrows and take aim…

There would be no shout to fire, not even another whistle.  The King had spared their Commander of this burden; he would give the signal himself.

Ignoring his wife’s surprised expression, Elion swallowed down the lump in his throat, nocked his arrow, drew his bow, and trained his eyes on Lord Thranduil, who was whispering to his son as tears fell from his eyes.

Please… Elion begged, once more.

The Elvenking slowly moved his hand along the length of his son’s back, then around to his hip, out of the Sorcerer’s line of vision.

Please…

Thranduil buried  his face in Legolas’s hair as he made a fist.

I cannot do this…please do not ask this of me...

The King slowly straightened two fingers…

No…no…

 And bent them quickly.

Fire! 

He let loose his arrow, aimed for Legolas’s head, as Airen bit back a cry.  He glanced into her eyes, which were accusing, and full of revulsion.  Regret spiraled through him, as he forced himself to look at the bodies of the King and the Prince—

But the Thranduil and the Legolas weren’t dead.

His arrow, along with the others, stopped in mid-air about a foot away from their heads, resembling rays shining out from the bright sun of the King’s and the Prince’s golden hair.

Nobody moved; they didn’t dare. 

And not even Feren knew what to do next. 

Airen’s angry fingers dug into Elion’s arm, silently demanding an answer, but he shook his head again, not taking his eyes off the scene below.  Did he damage his marriage beyond repair?  Like everything else, it would have to wait..

Lord Thranduil opened his eyes, closed them in defeat, and the same hand which asked for his death carefully disappeared from Legolas’s hip and he tucked it in between them, but gave no outward sign of movement.

What was happening?

Luinrandir pointed to the arrows hovering in the air, and murmured a spell.  He called to them, with a malevolent cackle, “You lowly Silvans dare to challenge me?  You will pay, and beg for death before the end!”

The ground trembled.

Elion and Airen’s wooden perch vibrated, as did the green leaves surrounding them.  He took Airen’s hand and braced himself for what was to come, and Airen’s lips moved in silent prayer.

Luinrandir’s expression changed from idle amusement, to surprise, to anger, and finally to abject rage.  His arm grew stiff, as did his fingers. He clenched his teeth, and grunted with with the effort, but whatever force was fighting against him proved to be equally powerful.

What was happening?

The Elvenking lifted his head from his son’s hair.   His face changed from fear, to hope, when his grey eyes turned to the woods.

A voice boomed through the trees, coming from nowhere and everywhere, from the North, South, East, and West; from above them and below:

 “Enough!  Stop this madness, or face destruction!” 

Through the trees and into the clearing stepped a tall figure cloaked in grey, and Elion’s eyes closed in relief.   Mithrandir had arrived, and not a moment too soon! 

Gandalf waved his staff, and the arrows pointing at the King and Prince splintered into tiny pieces, which gently floated to the ground like falling snow.

“What makes the Grey Pilgrim dare to treat with me?” Luinrandir mocked. “Your power is nothing, next to what the Dark Lord has given me!” He shook his head with amusement, and his laughter matched the Wizards volume and struck fear in the breasts of all who witnessed it.

“I will not say it again,” Gandalf warned. “Surrender, or die.”

“You are not enough to stop me!” Luinrandir snarled.  “Do you want more of these Elves to fall from the trees like rotten apples?”  He lifted his hand, but his fingers froze in the air, and after a moment of struggle, he laughed.

“I can wait you out, Wizard! Throw your meager punches, Olórin; try to protect your weak, meaningless friends.  My Master will not allow his spoils to slip from his grasp so easily, and when I have worn you down to a mere shadow, you, too will be taken before the throne of Dark Lord! Imagine it,” the Sorcerer laughed, “the great Olórin himself, a wraith of Sauron!” 3

Airen unconsciously moved closer to him, and he gave her hand a reassuring squeeze, eyes trained on the scene below.

Gandalf only laughed.  “I warned you, ages ago the day we set foot on Middle Earth; your arrogance will be your downfall!”

“From where I am standing, Mithrandir,” he said in a mocking tone, “you are the fool; I can feel your fatigue already!”

“Excellent!” Gandalf’s mouth slowly curved upwards in a sly smile, as he twisted his hand into a fist.  “I see the pretense served its purpose.”

“To amuse me?” Luinrandir smirked. “You have succeeded, my friend; I find this  greatly entertaining.”

“Once again, you are mistaken.” Gandalf told him, “you fell for it beautifully; it was almost too easy.”  He turned to the trees behind him, “Shall we show him, my friends?”

Another voice called from  below.   “Did you truly think Mithrandir would come to face you alone?”

Another figure entered the clearing.

The mighty Elrond Peredhel, Lord of Imladris, took his place beside the Wizard.  “You are correct, Mithrandir; this being’s arrogance will be the root of his destruction.” 

Elrond turned to Thranduil, then darted his eyes down toward his right hand.  His fingers surreptitiously waved towards the woods behind him.  Take Legolas to safety, the gesture ordered.  Now!. 

The Elvenking carefully cradled his son’s body, jumped to his feet, and raced to join Daeron and Orophin.

Radagast the Brown had also come, and took his place on the other side of Gandalf.  “I am here, and will gladly help destroy the one who has brought shame upon us.” he snarled at Luinrandir.    

“Shame?” the Sorcerer huffed.  “It is you who should be ashamed, for refusing to recognize the true source of power on Middle Earth!  Keep your pathetic delusions; they will only delay the inevitable.  It is not I who will surrender, it is YOU!”

A clear, powerful feminine voice, rang through the trees, pulsating the air with her wrath.  “Think again, Blue Wanderer.” 

A bright, blinding light came toward the group in front of the cave’s entrance.  Galadriel, the Lady of Light, ancient in years, the most powerful living Elf in Middle Earth, came forth to take her place beside Mithrandir, with her face full of beauty and menace.

And behind her, ever her protector, came Lord Celeborn, mighty and wise among the Sindar.  He stood on the other side of Elrond and the rage in his eyes would have made an Orc quake in it boots.

Airen squeezed Elion’s hand; her beloved Lady had been saved!

Luinrandir’s jaw dropped and his eyes widened.  “You!  But how—”

“Enough of this charade!  You will no longer hide behind a disguise!” Gandalf raised his arms and shouted, “Cé ná ulco sís nurtaina! Cásnin i sá tanuvaxe!” 

The Wizard slammed his staff into the ground, and it shook once more.  The trees whipped in the wind as did the tall grass below, bending stalks of flowers and bushes nearly in half.  Elion, Airen and all the Elves grabbed onto nearby branches to keep from falling.

Once again, the Sorcerer’s form changed, though he clearly fought against it with many shrieks and screams, but eventually the middle-aged man dissolved slowly to reveal an ancient figure with a long, white beard, wearing a cloak of sea-blue.  In one hand, he held a tall staff of dark blue, and he quickly pointed it toward Mithrandir.

“It will be my pleasure to kill you myself, Olórin!”

He shouted a curse in Black Speech and pointed it at Gandalf.   The staff, which he had brought with him from across the Sundering Sea, then especially blessed by Sauron himself, spewed forth opaque black smoke.

But Mithrandir held forth his own rod and aimed it at Luinrandir.  Rácinayë tya vandlië!  Rómestámo, ui wanwaldë!” he shouted, as Elrond and Galadriel each grabbed onto Gandalf’s staff with their right hands.

Elion and Airen gazed in wonder as a blue light appeared on Lord Elrond’s hand, Galadriel’s hand glowed white, and from Mithrandir’s hand a deep red stream spewed forth.4  All these colors traveled down the wooden staff and out the end, where they twisted together like a rope to attack the inky blasts coming from the rod of Luinrandir. 

 

***************

 

Thranduil cradled Legolas in his arms and snaked the sharp blade of his knife upwards.  It was a mere inch from his son’s jugular when a gust of wind blew his hair into his eyes, blocking his vision.  The ground trembled, and the rumble of Mithrandir’s voice filled the air.

Galdol, Mithrandir…  he silently gave thanks, as hope grew in his breast. Egleria-Belain… De vilui a Galu…

The Wizard stepped forward, and was soon followed by Elrond, and…  Galadriel!  She was free, again!  His eyes widened in joy and a sob escaped him as the Lady was soon joined by her husband.

Elrond caught his eye, and surreptitiously signaled to him: Thranduil needed to get his son out of there now.

He carefully slid his arms under Legolas’s knees and shoulders, jumped to his feet, and tried hard not to jostle him as he ran through the trees to Daeron, but the ugly creak of broken bones, ripped at his heart.

“Te harn, Daeron!” He called to the Healer, as he gently laid him down. “De nathathog?”

Ai!” Daeron gasped in disbelief.  “Û; law!  He is barely recognizable!”

“Yet he lives, praise the Valar.  The Sorcerer did not mean for him to die; and I have to believe he will recover.”

The Healer studied Legolas’s face carefully, and his brow wrinkled in alarm as he felt his arms and legs.  “He is broken in several places, My Lord.  We must check for internal injuries—“

But the shouting from the clearing grew louder.

Thranduil clenched his teeth in frustration.  “I must—“

“Yes, My Lord,” Daeron sighed, “you must.  Uncle Ómar and I will help the Prince; he is safe here.”  He squeezed the King’s forearm.  “I promise, Mellon; we will protect him.  Go, Aran nîn!”

Thranduil tore himself away from his son, dashed through the trees to the bodies of Nualë and Nuín.  The flashes of light were reflected in Núin’s open, unseeing eyes; never would this Elf gaze upon Middle Earth again. 

“Govano i nothrim în ah i mellyn în mi Mannos.” He murmured as he closed the Guardian’s eyelids.  Nualë’s  eyes were closed, and when he placed his fingers on her neck, he found a faint pulse.  She was alive! 

 “Elion! Airen!” he shouted.  “Nualë lives! Get them away!”

The Elves landed beside him, arms outstretched.  Thranduil handed them them up, and ordered.  “Take her to Daeron, quickly!”

Once they were off, he went to Celeborn’s side and briefly clasped his hand, as the magical duel played out before them.  It was maddening to stand there and watch; he wanted to be the one to kill that... creature.

As if reading his thoughts, Celeborn leaned toward him and whispered. “Fear not, Ettā; you and I will have our chance, but we must wait.”

Light and darkness met in midair, and bursts of colorful fiery sparks exploded with the brightest of lights, and loud noise, which forced the Elves to shield their eyes and cover their sensitive ears at times. 

Yet the Wizard, the Peredhel and the Lady never stopped their efforts, as Celeborn and Radagast chanted a spell in Quenya, and was soon joined by Thranduil.

Luinrandir screamed out spell after evil spell in Black Speech, invoked the name of the Dark Lord to help him, and for long, dreadful minutes, Thranduil feared the Sorcerer would be the victor.  Still, the forces of Good stood steadfast in this struggle against Evil, and the clash of light and dark moved slightly back, forward, then back again… 5

The blasts of lightning, the wretched noises carried on and on.  There was nothing to do but pray, and Thranduil did so with an intense fervor, hoping it would send strength to his cousins and friends.

The day was turning into evening; and the blinding flashes blasted into the dim sky.  Was this conflagration visible in Caras Galadhon?  How far would the lights and the noise travel?

Radagast chanted to keep the forest from catching on fire, and the Elves sang to give strength to those below.

At long last, the Light began to curse the Darkness; the explosive fire at the place where Good met Evil slowly progressed its way toward Luinrandir, and when it reached the tip of his staff, it moved down to the very end, dissolving it like sand, which fell to the ground in a heap of charred remains, leaving the old Blue Wanderer standing powerless.  With a last flash of red, blue and white, the Elf-Lord and the Lady of Light released their hold on Mithrandir’s staff, and for an instant, Luinrandir’s eyes flashed in curiosity and perhaps recognition.  6

 “Behold!” Gandalf’s deep voice resonated throughout the area.  “This is the true form of Pallando, no longer a Blue Wizard; nevermore will he be counted among the Istari!  Look upon him in his defeat, he who once was one of the Sacred Maia, witness to the song of the Ainur at the beginning of the World!  He stands before you now a traitor; stripped of his powers, and about to face his destruction!” 7

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Cásnin i sá tanuvaxe! – (Quenya) I order you to reveal yourself!

Cé ná ulco sís nurtaina! –  (Quenya) This Evil hides no more!

Egleria-Belain… De vilui a Galu… - Praise the Valar…  Thank you for your mercy…

Galdol, Mithrandir…  - We are blessed at your coming, Gandalf

Luinrandir – “Blue Wanderer”

No dhínen, Hest! – Be silent, Captain!

Rácinayë tya vandlië!  Rómestámo, ui wanwaldë! – (Quenya) Your staff is broken!  You are an Istari no more!”

 

 

NOTES:

[1]  Nessa was the wife of Tulkas and sister of Oromë.     http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Nessa

[2] The Fëanorians were responsible for the three kinslayings in pursuit of the Silmarils.  http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Curse_of_mandos

[3] Olórin is Gandalf’s original name in Valinor, before he came to Middle Earth:  http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Gandalf/Names

[4] As you may have guessed, Elrond, Galadriel and Gandalf combined the powers of the Three Rings to break Luinrandir’s staff. 

[5] The curses that Pallando uttered in Black Speech remain lost to history.  The words were so foul, so offensive that every attempt to write them down would result in the ink turning powdery, and the pages to go up in flames.

[6] It is possible that Luinrandir caught a glimpse of the Three Rings of Power before they were rendered invisible…

[7] Pallando was one of the five Istari who came to Middle Earth to fight Sauron.  He and Alatar, the other Blue Wizard, as well as Saruman the White traveled East in search of the Dark Lord, but only Saruman returned, saying he could not find him.  It is said that the Blue Wizards fell under Sauron’s spell, and some even say Alatar formed a cult that plagued Middle Earth well into the Fourth Age.  http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Pallando#Earlier_writings

Chapter Text

 

***Caution:  Some parts are a bit gory!***

 

City of Dale, 25th of June, 2944 T.A.

Bard was talking with Hilda and Percy in his study drinking tea, when it happened.

“Bard!” Percy caught him as he collapsed, grabbing at his chest.

“I need some help in here!” Hilda yelled out into the hallway.  “Something’s wrong with the King!”

Captain Dior ran into the office, “What happened?

“He was fine, then he just.. went down, all of a sudden!” 

“Could he have been poisoned?” Dior grabbed his cup and smelled it. 

“No; we’re drinking the same thing, and we’re fine.”

“Still, we will not take chances. I will send for a Healer right away.” The Elf Guard rushed out.

“Find Galion and get him in here!” She called after him, then returned to Bard who was having trouble catching his breath.  “Please; talk to me!” she grabbed a file and started fanning him with it.  “Tell me what’s wrong!”

“Oh, gods, Hil…”  Bard gasped and grabbed at his chest.  “I’m…”

“Where does it hurt, love?”

“It doesn’t…  I felt terrified all of a sudden...” he croaked.  “Oh, gods…”  His eyes widened.  “My son!  Where is Bain! Where are the children?”

“You sent them to Erebor for a visit, remember?”  She studied his face and put her hand on his forehead.  “You don’t seem feverish…” her eyes traveled to his chest, where he was rubbing his heart in rough circles.  “Where is Galion?”

“On his way, I imagine,” Percy said as he studied Bard’s face. “What is it, boy? Can you tell us?”

Hilda jumped up, shut his office door and locked it. 

“What in blazes are you doing, woman?” Percy scowled at his wife.

“Do you remember when Bard hurt his leg during the Long Winter?”

“How could I forget?  But what does that have to do with—”

“I’ve seen this before, Percy.  I want to make sure of something before Galion comes in; you have to trust me.”  She kneeled by the couch and was eye-level with Bard.  “I need you to settle yourself, love.”

The Bowman closed his eyes, and  forced himself to take long, deep breaths. 

“That’s it; calm down.  Now tell me if you still feel him.  He’s not…  He’s still there, yeah?”

“Yes…”

“Oh, praise Ulmo,” she sagged in relief.  “What is going on?”

“I’m…  It’s like I’m frightened, but not just for me, but…my son. It’s like I heard the words...”

“But Thranduil is still with us, and that’s something, love.”  Hilda caressed his cheek.

“Hilda!” Galion called, then pounded.  “Open this door!  Hilda are you in there?  Where is Bard?  What is happening?”

“Why did you lock it?” Bard asked her.

“I wanted to give you a chance to make sure we didn’t lose Thranduil; that boy is Galion’s son in all but name.” Her eyes narrowed.  “You said, ‘my son,’ and that could mean…”

“It could mean both Thranduil and Legolas are in danger…”

“Aye, and I wanted you to have a chance to make sure before we drop that kind of a bombshell on Galion.  The poor fellow is barely hanging on as it is!” 

“I understand,” Bard whispered.  “I think…  he’s still with me, so let him in.”

“What are you doing?” Galion demanded angrily, as Hilda opened the door.  “They told me he was hurt, and you do not…”  he took in Bard’s ashen appearance, and his hand still over his chest, and gasped.  “Ú, law!” his knees buckled, and he grabbed the back of a chair.  “What happened?  Did you—"

“Out of my way!” Elénaril flew into the room.  “Lord Bard, you look terrible!”

“I think it had something to do with Thranduil,” Hilda told her and caught Galion’s eye.  “Bard feels him, Galion; our boy is still with us.”

The Healer took Bard’s pulse, and his other vitals, while Hilda brought him a glass of water.  “You seem fine, though extremely upset.  Tell me exactly what happened.”

As Bard repeated his experience, Galion turned pale, so Hilda took him by the elbow and made him sit down.  “There now; let’s see what Elénaril says, yeah?”

“My Lord, I assure you: if something terrible had happened to Lord Thranduil and your bond was severed, you would not be sitting here like this.”

“Are you sure?” Galion asked, as Hilda took his hand. 

“Think back to when Lord Thranduil lost his wife,” Elénaril asked him.  “Was he as calm as this?”

“No,” the Aide conceded.  “Thranduil was… much, much worse.” He heaved a sigh.  “Thank you.  But we do not know if he or Legolas will be all right.”

“No, we don’t, love.” Hilda squeezed his hand.  “But right this minute, Thranduil is still with us, and we’ll hang onto that hope, yeah?”

“Of course; you are right.” Galion’s hands still shook.

“I’m worried about you.  Why don’t you take a walk, love?  Get some fresh air?”

“That is a good idea; I… think I will.” The Aide quickly stood up.  “Of course.  I… If anything happens...”  

“You’ll be the first one I send for.” Bard promised.

Galion’s head dipped, as he saluted quickly, then left.

“I didn’t mean to upset everyone.” Bard sighed, still looking a bit weak. 

“This is not your fault, nor is it a bother.” Elénaril said severely.  “You will send for me if anything else happens.”

“He will.” Hilda promised.

“Thank you for coming, Elénaril.  To tell you the truth, I’m sick with worry.” Bard rubbed his temples. “I hate this waiting!”

“Thranduil will send word as soon as possible.” Hilda was determined.  “We’ll hang onto that, for today.”

“’One foot in front of the other,’” Percy patted his shoulder.

 

***************

 

Lothlórien, Six miles north of Caras Galadhon, 25th of June, 2944 T.A.

 “Pallando? 1One of the Ithryn Luin?” Thranduil cried.  “It cannot be!”

“And why not?” Pallando/Luinrandir shook his white hair and beard.  “Who would be powerful enough to best even the Lady of Light?” he laughed.  “Go ahead; kill me,” he sneered.  His voice took on a pleasant, almost casual tone, “if you are merciful and let me live, I might be persuaded to convince him to allow this attack on his most trusted servant to go unpunished, and promise never to bother you again.” 

The Wizard’s blue eyes stared deeply into Thranduil’s grey ones. He tried to look away, but the edges of his vision turned hazy—

“Nay!” Celeborn shouted, “Your life is forfeit!”

“Well, if that is the case then I am sure your excellent archers should dispose of me quickly.”  Pallando lifted his head to the sky and opened his arms wide.  “Here I am.”

His words were so persuasive, and sounded so reasonable that many of the Elves in the trees nocked their arrows and took aim… many of the Elves in the trees nocked their arrows and took aim…

Thranduil shook his head quickly and averted his gaze.  “His voice bewitches you!” he shouted to the Elves in the trees. “Lower your weapons! Do it now!”

“Galadhrim!” Celeborn called, not taking his eyes off the Blue Wizard.  “Do as the King commands!”

These cautions were met with amused laughter.  “But I have no power; my staff has been broken.  I am defenseless, of no use to anyone now; you must have mercy on me, and let me live.  Any Elf who purposely kills the helpless, will forfeit his place in the Undying Lands.”

“Helpless?”  Mithrandir laughed.  “Nay, Pallando; even now your tongue spews venom.  But not for much longer.” 

Gandalf turned to Celeborn and Thranduil.  “Make it quick, and be careful.”

Celeborn grabbed Thranduil by the shoulders and whispered in his ear.  “Remember what I told you, when I pulled you from the fire, Ettā?   We must hurry!” 2

At their approach, Pallando quickly dove into the entrance of the cave, but the King and the Elf-Lord went after him.  Celeborn caught his robe, while Thranduil grabbed him by the hair.  The wizard screeched in pain, as the cousins dragged him outside again, kicking and screaming.

“NO!” he screamed.  “No, please!  Do not do this; give me mercy, I beg you!”

“Mercy?” Thranduil brought his mouth close to Pallando’s ear.  “You will receive as much mercy as you gave the innocent lives you destroyed!” With a hard yank of his hair, Thranduil gritted his teeth and growled.  “And you will receive as much mercy as you showed my son!”

“Bring him to the center of the clearing, and be quick about it!” Mithrandir called to them.  “Do not listen to his words!”

Once they had the Blue Wizard on his feet again, Celeborn went behind him, reached under his armpits and held his shoulders.  The Sorcerer flailed his arms uselessly and spit out several curses in Black Speech.

The Elvenking grabbed his beard, drew back his fist and smashed it hard into Pallando’s face, knocking out several of his teeth.  “That is for harming my Guardians! No more will you speak such filth in this blessed land!”

Celeborn reached up, clasped his head, and kept it still, while Thranduil pulled out his knife.

“You would use words to destroy us?” He growled. “Then I shall remove your last weapon!” And while the Blue Wizard screamed and tried to struggle, the Elvenking cut his tongue out.

“That is for torturing my son!” Thranduil threw the bloody organ on the ground. “You are truly rendered powerless!” he said, with great satisfaction.  “Think of that as you take your last breath!”

He nodded to Celeborn.  “He is all yours, Ettā.”  

Celeborn leaned over Pallando’s shoulder and whispered into his ear through clenched teeth.  “You dare to invade my lands, kill two of my Wardens, and attack my most beloved wife!  You dare to reject all the gifts Eru and the Valar have given you, and use your powers for evil, instead of good?  For that, I curse you, Pallando Rómestámo!”

Pallando’s eyes bulged and he struggled mightily, but the Lord of the Golden Wood held him tighter.  “For that, you will spend your eternity in misery; you will beg for relief, for forgiveness, but all will be deaf to your cries. For that, not a drop of water will you be given to quench your thirst.  For that, you are banned from all that is good and pure.  For that, may Mandos chain you to Melkor himself, and may you be tortured until the end of the World!”

Quicker than an instant, the Lord of the Golden Wood grabbed the sides of the Sorcerer’s face and snapped his neck with such fury, he nearly tore it from his shoulders.  He threw the body on the ground and when it landed, his head had turned completely around on his shoulders.

Luinrandir, Pallando the Blue Wanderer, murderer and servant of Sauron, formerly Pallando, the Maia was dead.

Yet it wasn’t enough for Thranduil.  He was suddenly filled with such fury that his glamour fell, and the pain only fed his rage.

This… thing…had killed his wife, his Mírelen!  This creature was responsible for nearly a thousand years of agony.  This creature had ruined his son’s childhood! Vengeance!  He wanted vengeance!  He wanted to cut Pallando into tiny pieces…

He dove toward the body on the ground with a feral scream, and raised his fist to—

“Thranduil?”  Firm hands were on his upper arms, pulling him back.  “Mellon nîn, Avo dhavo am môr. Elrond murmured in his ear.  “Calm yourself, or you will be in grave danger!”

“Release me!  I must annihilate him!” Thranduil struggled to shake him off, but Elrond hung onto him, and turned him away.

“No, Mellon. Tíro nin, Thranduil.” He shouted, and shook him hard. “Tíro nin!”

The Elvenking growled. “How dare you!”

“Do not give in to this anger!  Turn from this evil and come back to all who love you. You must come with me, now!” The Elf-Lord’s words were gentle, but his grip was strong.  Thranduil tried to pull free, but he kept talking.  “His body has been destroyed, but his spirit lives still, and you must not allow it to enter you.  Think of Bard!  Think of Legolas!  Do not leave them!”

The red mist dissipated, and Elrond’s face slowly came into focus. 

“Thranduil?” he asked anxiously.  “Mellon nîn?”

“I am here,” he whispered, then slumped into the Elf-Lord.

Off to the side, Galadriel ministered to her husband, to keep the dark spirit from entering him.

 “Hurry!  Get them back; we are almost out of time!”   Gandalf rushed forward, spoke a few words, and his staff set the body on fire.

Thranduil watched it burn with eerie fascination, as the high flames seared and melted Pallando’s flesh.

Yet the smoke…

…the inky, black smoke gathered above the body in an opaque mass, and began to whirl and undulate like a murmuration of thousands of tiny starlings.

 Now was when this spirit was most dangerous.

  “Sing!” Gandalf held out his arms and called to every Elf in the trees and on the ground.  “Sing and give praise to Varda, Queen of the Stars!  Sing, and send this creature’s spirit into the Void forevermore!  Hurry!”

The Elvenking’s voice joined the others, the same as when they had saved Bard and his family only a year before.   The Sacred Hymn of Varda blessed the air in their lungs, filling them with fresh sweetness. 

Then the cloud, what remained of Pallando’s fëa, began to burn.  The small particles at the bottom of the almost-solid, heaving cloud, glowed red, then white, then dropped into the flames with a loud sizzle, as the particles above them fell victim to the heat and flames.  Faster and faster, they dropped into the blaze, until only a small portion remained.

A loud, unnerving groan echoed in the air; one last-ditch effort at survival.  Thranduil’s skin crawled at the grating, wretched noise, but soon the remnants of the black cloud flickered, then hovered, and with a screech was gone, leaving only the united voices of their people, offering prayers to the stars.

It was over.

Thranduil sank to his knees and put his head in his hands.

 

***************

 

Lothlórien, City of Caras Galadhon, 25th of June, 2944 T.A.

Evvy was staring at the page of her book, re-reading the same passage for the third time, when the floor of Orlin’s Talan  trembled, and a flash of light shone through the windows.  But there was no rain.

She put her book down, went to the balcony. “Look, Ada!” Evranin called to her father. 

Ohtar got up from his chair and came to her side, as the flashes of light lit the sky to the north.  “Something is happening, Aewpîn, but my heart tells me not to fear.  The Lady has gone with Lord Elrond and Mithrandir to confront this Enemy.”

Evvy leaned into her father’s side as he put his arm around her.  “I hope so.  I have never been so frightened in my life.”  She thought for a moment, then looked up at him.  “Ada?  Do you think Turamarth is all right?” 

“I do not know, Iellig.  Your mother’s message said he was released just this morning, and he and Rúmil went to investigate that place.”

“Why did you not tell me?”

“Because,” he sighed.  “I was afraid they were going to their deaths, Evvy.  Forgive me; I thought it best to wait for definite news.  Perhaps I should not be telling you now, but Galadriel is freed, I have to believe they will win this Battle.”

“Turamarth could still be—”

Ohtar put his arm around her.  “We must pray and hope, Iellig.  I cannot say what will happen, but I give thanks that you, your brother and your mother are well and safe.”  He held her to him, and tucked her head under his chin.  “Tell me,” he whispered, “is Turamarth the reason why you did not accept Mahtan?”

Evranin froze in his arms for a moment, then said in a small voice.  “I…  I think Turamarth helped me realize that I would never love Mahtan more than a friend.  But I made a mistake, Ada, and he died.”

“How so, Aewpîn?”

“He would not have gone into the woods alone if it weren’t for me!  I should not have—”

“Mahtan’s death was not your fault.  He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and if it wasn’t him, it would have been one of the Wardens on patrol, or even Turamarth.  Lay the blame on the murderer.”

“But—”

“Evranin, do not do this to yourself!  Tell me: what did Mahtan say when you talked?”

“He understood.  We parted as friends.”

“Then you did everything right.  Do not blame yourself.  Did you have a chance to talk to your Guardian friend?” wrong.  Do not blame yourself.  Did you have a chance to talk to your Guardian friend?”

“No; he was jailed the next morning and all this happened.  He probably hates me, now.”

“You do not know that.” Ohtar urged. 

She put her arms around his waist.  “If the Enemy wins, none of this will matter.”

“True, but let us keep hope in our hearts, yes?”

They watched the far-off flares of light in the darkening sky, then a sudden rush of wind billowed through their hair and clothes.  The air became fresh and clean again, and the terrible weight in everyone’s heart lifted, as well as did voices in a song of thanksgiving.their hearts lifted, as well as did voices in a song of thanksgiving.

They held each other on the balcony and enjoyed their freedom.   An hour later, Orlin rushed up the steps and burst into his home.  Evranin flew into his arms.

“Messengers have just arrived!” he told them.   “It is true; the Enemy has been destroyed! We are free to leave our homes once more, but the order has been given that we must stay in the City until the Lord and Lady’s return.”

Ohtar pulled his son into an embrace.  “Praise the Valar, it is finally over.”

“Not quite.  Sit down; I need to tell you something.”

After they settled, Orlin sat beside Evvy and took her hand.  “I must return to work, but I wanted to prepare you, Aewpîn:  We have received word to expect some casualties.  One of them is Warden Rúmil, but Evvy; the others are Guardians…”

“W-who?” she swallowed.

“Turamarth has been badly injured, Aewpîn.  I am so sorry.”

 

***************

 

City of Dale, 25th of June, 2944 T.A.

Galion paced up and down the stony paths of the King’s Garden several times, completely at loose ends.  His hands fidgeted with his robes, then covered his mouth, then entwined with each other.  He tried to sit, but couldn’t keep still, so on his feet he went, and briskly walked the same route yet again.

His throat hurt, and the colors of the flowers blurred and melted into each other, as the tears filled his eyes. 

Please, he begged.  Please do not let me lose them, too; I could not bear it…  I have lost Orophin, then his Queen, and Mírelen…  Please, no more…

“My Lord?” a voice called to him, then someone approached.  “Are you well?  Here; let me help you sit down.” A guiding hand was at his elbow, and led him over to the nearest bench.  A soft kerchief was shoved into his hand. “You might need that.”

“I am fine,” he quickly wiped his eyes, embarrassed. 

“You are not fine,” the voice chastised him. “Stop being so stubborn; let someone look after you for a change!”

Once his vision cleared, he recognized the owner of that voice.  It was Rôgon, with his satchel of supplies. 

“Oh, I am sorry.”  The blood rushed to Galion’s face.  “This is—”

“Completely understandable.” Rôgon held his forearm.  “There is no need for embarrassment.” The blacksmith scrutinized him.  “Did something happen?”

“No…  Well, yes, but…” Galion growled in frustration.  “I was not this bad during the Battle!  Why is this so hard to cope with?”

“Tell me what is wrong, Mellon; it might help.”

The Aide hesitated at first, but then blurted out the whole story of Bard’s reaction.  He blew his nose.  “There is no indication we have lost anyone, but I cannot settle down!”

“Is it any wonder? Normally, you would keep your mind occupied by serving your King and his family.” Rôgon leaned against the back of the bench.  “I think you are anxious because the children are at the Lonely Mountain with Tauriel, and Lord Bard has Lord Percy and Lady Hilda.   My question is: who looks after you?”

Galion squirmed under his gaze.  “I do not know what you mean.”

“Yes, you do.  If the children arrived this minute, you would jump up and take care of them, would you not?” Rôg’s voice was compassionate.  “Tauriel worries for you.”

“How do you know this?” Galion’s jaw dropped. 

“She told me.” He shrugged. “She loves you, Galion.  You are as much a father to her as Lord Thranduil; why do you seek to diminish your role in her life?”

“I do not do that!” he protested.!” he protested.

“Yes, you do,” he said again.  “You minimize your importance with everyone who loves you, happy to stand in the background.  It is an admirable quality, and everyone admires your dedication, but even you need some support, occasionally.”

“You speak nonsense!” Galion shoulders straightened.  “I do not need—”

“Yes, you do,” Rôg said for the third time, as the corners of his mouth drifted upward.  Then he sighed.  “Look; I understand your fears, though I cannot imagine how hard it must be.  Still,” he stood up, and looked down upon the Aide, “you need a distraction, and I do not mean taking care of anyone, at least for a while.”

“What do you suggest?”  Galion sniffed and blew his nose again.

“Come with me.” He stood, and grabbed his satchel. “The sketches can wait for another time. Let me show you what I do to work off my frustration.”

“I do not know…”

“What is the matter?”  Rôgon’s right eyebrow lifted in a challenge.  “Are you scared?”

“Absolutely not!” the Aide stood angrily.  “Just let me tell Lord Bard where I am going—” he stopped.  “Where am I going?”

“To my house.  Now, hurry up.”  

 

Thirty minutes later, Galion was standing in Rôgon’s back yard, his robes had been removed and he was wearing his undertunic, leggings and boots.  “I have never done this,” he said, nervously. 

“There is no better time to learn,” Rôgon placed a piece of wood on the chopping block.  “You’re an Elf, and you’re not nearly as delicate as people think.  Now, here is the axe…”

Galion sent the blacksmith a filthy look, grabbed the handle—

“No; hold it like this,” Rôg put his hands over Galion’s to place them properly.  “Now, stand with your legs apart, keep your arms straight, and aim for the center…”

He lifted his arms, and swung it down hard.  “It is stuck!”

“Do not worry; pick it back up, wood and all, and do it again.” The blacksmith coached.

And the wood split with a satisfying crack.

“I did it!” 

“Yes, you did!” Rôgon grinned at him.  “How do you feel?”

“Surprisingly good.”  Galion mused, then asked hopefully.  “May I do it again?”

“As much as you want.” He laughed.  “I always need fuel to keep the forges running.” 

So, for the next several hours, the Aide took all his anxiety out on the woodpile, until his arms were tired, and his spirit had settled.  Rôgon brought out a tray with sandwiches and a pitcher of cider with two mugs.  They ate their supper in the late afternoon shade, and talked about many things, but none involved their current worry. 

By the time Galion was ready to head for home, it was evening. 

“Do you need an escort?” Rôg offered. 

“I will be all right.”  Galion picked up his robe and buttoned it.  “Rôgon?  Thank you, for this.  It helped a great deal.”

“That is what friends are for.” The blacksmith grinned.  “You are welcome to come help with my chores anytime.”

The Aide snickered. “I may do that.”  He turned and walked a few steps.

“Galion?”

“Yes?” His head whipped around.

Rôgon’s face betrayed his own worry.  “We will continue to pray for good news from the Golden Wood.”

“We will.” Galion said softly.  “As soon as we receive word, I will tell you; I promise.”

“Thank you.  Good night.”  With a wave, Rôgon went into his house.

Galion went back to the Castle, soaked his tired muscles in a hot bath, then fell into bed and slept through the night, for the first time in a week.

 

***************

 

Lothlórien, Six miles north of Caras Galadhon, 25th of June, 2944 T.A.

Elrond and Daeron arranged for the careful transport of the victims into the cave.  To minimize Legolas’s movements, they did not put him on a litter, but rather placed him on a mattress of one of the cots and carried it back.

“What are their injuries?” Thranduil asked them. 

“Rúmil, Turamarth and Nualë have been healed of their physical wounds,” Elrond told him,

“When will they wake?”

The Elf-Lord’s face was grave.  “I believe they suffer under the Black Breath.  I am not surprised, I am sorry to say.”

Thranduil winced. “Just as in Mordor during the War…”

“I am afraid so. Their fëas need to be mended, after such contact with evil.  How much Athelas do we have on hand?”

“I have brought some,” Daeron offered.  “And I will see if there is more here, but I do not understand what to do; I have never encountered this.”

“They are wandering as if in a terrible dream, and they need to be called back by a loved one.  It will not be easy.”

“Orophin will help Rúmil, of course, and Ómar and Adamar can help Turamarth…” the Elvenking’s eyes traveled to Nualë, who lay on her cot, covered to her chin in thick blankets. “But I do not know of anyone here can mean as much as her husband.”

“Perhaps Ivran and Ruvyn could help her,” Elrond said, quietly. 

“I hope so.” His eyes traveled to his son’s bed, where the Lord and Lady hovered over him. “Will he survive, Elrond?”

“I wish I could tell you, but we will do everything possible.  Thanks to Daeron’s quick work, his internal injuries have been mended, but bones were broken in many places, and it will take some time to treat.”

 “Lord Thranduil!” Ivran called to him. “Nualë is waking!” 

The King rushed across the cave and took a seat by her cot.  “Nualë?  It is time to wake up.  Your King and your friends are waiting for you to return to the Light.  Come back, Mellon.”

Her eyes fluttered and she moaned.

“Nualë? Can you hear me?  Listen to my voice, Nualë.”

“Dark…  So dark…”

“Come back to the Light, child.  Turn away the darkness, and do not believe its lies.  Come to the Light...  Listen to my voice, calling out to you…”

Her eyelids moved again, and she blinked rapidly.  “Wh…”  She opened them and saw his face.  “My Lord…” she breathed.

“Yes, it is me.” He stroked her forehead.  “We have been worried for you, child.”

“I was so frightened…” Tears fell.  “All was dark, and voices…  They said you were all dead…”

“We are alive, and the Enemy has been defeated.  You are safe, and all will be well,” he smiled.

“Where—"

“We are inside the cave by the clearing.  Our foe is now dead, do you understand?  The danger is passed, and you are safe.”

“But where is Nuín?”

Thranduil’s heart fell.  She was so weak…“Shhh…” He soothed, and stroked her brow. “Do not try to talk. You must rest.”  

“But where is my—"

 “Shhh…  do not speak.  Shhh…” Thranduil hesitated.   “Elrond!” he called urgently.  “I need you here!”

The Elf-Lord hurried to her bedside, as Ivran and Ruvyn stepped out of the way.  “What happened?”

After ordering the others to look after her, Thranduil took him aside and whispered.  “She is the wife of our dead Guardian.”

“That is ill news,” Elrond’s face clouded.

“She is not strong enough to bear the news of her husband’s loss, and I fear the Rista-Goeol will finish her, even with Eärendil’s Blessing.3  Could we put her in a Healing Sleep until she is stronger?”

Elrond went to her side and spoke soothingly to her, as he looked deep into her eyes for several minutes. 

“I am sorry.” He sighed.  “She has only just returned from the Darkness, and it still seeks to claim her.  To put her in a losta-luith runs a risk of her being lost to a fate worse than death.”

“Amarth faeg…”  Thranduil covered his mouth.

Elrond grasped his shoulder.  “Her best chance at peace would be to gently tell her the truth, surround her with love, and wait for Námo to summon her.   She will not last long, and if the Valar are merciful, she will be reunited with her husband soon.  Pray with her, Thranduil.  Make sure she stays awake; help her not to be afraid.”  His face was full of sympathy.  “I cannot help her, Mellon nîn, but you can give her a good end.”

“But what about Legolas? Does he not need me?”

“It would be cruel to awaken him just yet.  We need time to set his bones, so you can see to that poor child.”

Just then, a low, keening moan came from the bed, and the Elvenking’s eyes met Elrond’s.

“It is the only way; you cannot chance it otherwise.  Go to her; she needs you.”

“Nuín!” Nualë cried out and struggled.  “Natho nin! He is gone…” she dug her fingers into her chest, and writhed in agony.  “Gin iallon; natho nin…

“Shhh,” Thranduil’s hand cupped her face.  “Nualë, it will be all right.”

“I cannot… Where is he?” She sobbed.  “Is he dead?”

“I am afraid he is, child.” His eyes filled with tears.  “I am so sorry.”

“It hurts…” She feebly pounded her chest.  “Make it stop!  Ai! It hurts so much…”

Thranduil’s heart clenched with the memory of his own pain, but shook it off; he had to be strong for her.  “It will be over soon, hênig.  Soon you will never hurt again.”

 Her tearful eyes searched his, and her voice became child-like.  “I will see him?”

He mustered a smile.  “You will be in his arms again, I am sure of it.”

“I am so afraid…” her face crumpled.  “Ni nathathodh, Aran nîn?  Do not let me go back to the Darkness,” she begged.  “Please, My Lord.”

“Of course,  I will help you.”  He picked her up, cradled her in his arms, and sat on the bed.  “I will not leave you, but you must look at me, Nualë.” He lifted her chin. “Look into my eyes, and do not be afraid.” 

“But I do not want to die.” She sobbed.  “I w-want to go home...  Can we not go home?  Please?”

“Shhh…” He stroked his fingers on her cheek. “Nualë; you are a brave, honorable Elf. I know how strong you are, and how proud your parents are of you.”

”They will grieve,” she said sadly. “Can you—“

”I will look after them, and Nuín’s parents, as well.  I promise.”

”I am afraid,” her voice was faint.

“I promise, there is nothing to fear; only peace.” He struggled to remain stoic. “Lord Bard has seen the Halls of Waiting, and he says it is very beautiful.  Shall I tell you of it?” 4

She nodded her head slightly, as the tears of grief flowed. 

He told her of the vast halls tall, polished, Obsidian Pillars, which reflected the light the many ornate lamps.  Of Námo Who is waiting to take her to her husband, and Niénna, who will counsel her and dry her tears.  He sang and prayed and spoke to her, until her body weakened, and she was too tired to cry.

She kept her green eyes on his blue-grey ones, as he squeezed her hand, ran his fingers over her forehead and spoke of all the wonderful things she would find in Valinor one day.  He spoke of her family, of his memories of her when she was presented to him as an infant, the day he declared her name.

”I could see your heart then, Nualë, and you have not disappointed me.  You will be happy again, I promise.  Just keep looking at me...”

They sang to her, until she suddenly gasped, and looked off into space.  “Oh! There he is!”

“Go to him, hênig.“ Thranduil urged, “Go to the one who loves you.”

 Her eyes met his again.  “Thank you,” her mouth silently formed, and all the breath left her body, as her eyes closed forever.

Ivran and Ruvyn, wiped their eyes, and helped the King to his feet again, and he laid her on the bed.  Nualë’s face was peaceful, and a small smile was on her lips.

“The Darkness did not take her, My Lord.” Ivran said.  “I am sure of it.”

“No; her fëa is safe.” The Elvenking whispered.  “It was a good a death as anyone could wish for.” He leaned down and kissed her brow.  “Savo hîdh neñ gurth, Nualë.” Then he pulled the blanket over her head.  “I want her and Nuín buried together,” he instructed, “in each other’s arms.”

”Yes, My Lord.” Ivran was crying, and his new wife, Cwën put her arms around him and Ruvyn’s waists and supported them both.

Thranduil went outside the cave and wept.

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Amarth faeg… - Evil fate…

Avo dhavo am môr. – Do not yield to darkness.

Galu, Tôrada… - Blessings, Uncle… 

Lasto beth nîn, tolo dan nan galad, Mellon nîn. – Come back to the light, my friend.

Natho nin! – Help me!

Gin iallon! I beg of you!

Hênig – My child

Ni nathathodh, Aran nîn? – Will you help me, My King?

Rista-Goel - “Terrible Severing,” when a bond-mate dies and their fëa is summoned to the Halls of Mandos.  Often a spouse fades from the agony, but even if they live, they are but a shell of their former selves.

Savo hîdh neñ gurth, Nualë. – Have peace in death, Nualë.

Tíro nin, Thranduil.  Tíro nin! – Look at me, Thranduil.  Look at me!

Ú, law! – No! It cannot be!

 

NOTES:

 

[1] Pallando was an Istari, a Blue Wizard who came with Gandalf, Radagast and Saruman.  The other Blue Wizard’s name was Alatar.  The Blue Wizards came to Middle Earth, then went East with Saruman, but only Saruman returned.  It is said that his time there was the start of his troubles.  http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Blue_Wizards 

[2] From An Invincible Summer, CH 38:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/37497905

[3] Eärendil’s Blessing has relieved the Elves from the dangers of grief at the loss of a spouse, and makes it possible for them to marry again, if they wish.  This is particularly a blessing for the Silvan Elves, many of whom have no desire to sail to the Undying Lands.  From And Winter Came… CH 40:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/32276277

 [4] When Bard hurt his leg in April 2942 T.A., he lay near death, and Gandalf saved him.  From And Winter Came…, CH 34:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/31479384

Chapter Text

 

Lothlórien, Six miles north of Caras Galadhon, 26th of June, 2944 T.A.

Daeron shifted in his chair beside Turamarth’s bed, and Uncle Ómar stood behind him, with his hands on his shoulders, squeezing nervously as Mithrandir carefully waved his hand over him and murmured in Quenya. 

“Will he be all right?”

“Ómar, come around and stand by me.” The Wizard instructed him to sit.  “I want you to take his other hand.  We can only imagine the lies the Darkness has told him, so I want you to send out as much as you can.  Picture happy times with him, talk to him, and convince him those memories are real.  Make him believe the truth.”

Daeron swallowed. “Will it work?”

Mithrandir said nothing for a moment.  “It has to, or who knows what he will be doomed to endure?”

“My father raised him just as much as Uncle Ómar.  Would it help if he were here?”

“Yes, of course! Where is he?”

“With Commander Feren and the others, digging the grave for Lieutenant Nuín,” his gaze traveled to Nualë, who was being comforted by the King. “She will join him, soon.”

A sigh escaped the Wizard’s lips.  “The poor creature…”

Daeron swallowed, and called to Cwën, who was standing with her husband. “Could you please get my father?”

 

Once Adamar took a seat beside Ómar, Daeron placed his hand on Tur’s brow, and and said, “Turamarth?  I am here Gwador; our fathers are here.  We have come a long way to see you.  Turn away from the dark and the lies.  The enemy is no more, stars are out, and they are so beautiful.  Come to us, and see them.  Please, Mellon nîn.”

Turamarth made no movement for almost an hour, but they took turns calling his name, speaking of their favorite memories with him when he was a child.  The three of them reminisced together, as if Turamarth was part of the conversation, and the lightened mood brought color into his cheeks.

“Look at his chest!  He is taking in deep breaths!” Adamar pointed.

“Good, Ion!” Ómar smiled, and rubbed Tur’s hand between his own.  “Uncle Adamar and I want to take you home to Nana and Aunt Idril. They are anxious to see you.” His breath hitched a little.  “We all love you, my son; we want you to come back to us, to the Palace, to Dale, to all who care about you.  Please, Turamarth; please hear my voice.  Your Nana and Ada love you so much…”

The Guardian’s eyelids fluttered, and his thick, black lashes tried to blink.  Daeron lowered his head and stifled a cry of relief.

“Thank you…” he sniffed, and bathed Tur’s brow in the Athelas water.  “Keep trying, Gwador.  You have to come back.  You promised me on my wedding day that I would never lose you! You promised to spoil my son, and to teach him how to curse in Sindarin!  Darryn needs you to help him climb trees and to ride his first pony.  He needs his Uncle Tur to laugh and be silly, and take him to the park…”

“His fingers moved!” Ómar cried.  “He can hear us!”

“Gwador,” Daeron whispered in his ear.  “I know you think because I married, I do not need you anymore, but that is not so.” He swallowed the sudden lump in his throat.  “I will always, always need you.  Who will tease me and plague me and play pranks on me, to keep me from taking my life so seriously?”  Daeron brushed the hair from Tur’s face.  “Please…I need my best friend.”

Turamarth’s eyelids moved again, until green eyes - the exact shade of his own - gazed blearily up at him.  His mouth moved; no words came out, but he was awake.

“Mithrandir!” Adamar called. “His eyes are open!”

“Let me through…”  The Wizard left Rúmil with Orophin, and a relieved smile quirked up the sides of his mouth as he studied Tur’s tired, confused face. “Wonderful!  Welcome back, my boy!  You gave us a bit of a scare, for a while.”

Turmarth pursed his lips, and croaked,  “Where…”

“We are in in Lothlórien, and it is night,”  Daeron sniffed and wiped his eyes.  “We have come all this way to see you.”

Tur’s eyes widened, at the sight of his father, uncle and cousin.  “This is a dream…”

“I assure you; we are quite real,” Gandalf patted his arm.  “You had us a bit worried, but you are back, and you are safe.”

 “What is the last thing you remember?” Daeron asked him.

Tur’s eyes studied the ceiling, and he was silent for a time.  Then he whispered, “Found Legolas.   Was very angry…  There was lightning, and it hurt…” he swallowed, “Then nothingness, but for a terrible voice…”  A panicked expression flittered across his features. “He said you were all dead…”

Daeron squeezed his hand hard.  “Do you feel that?  I am real, and so are Ada and Uncle, Gwador.  You are safe, and the darkness is no more.”

 “How did you…?” Tur searched Daeron’s face. 

“Lord Celeborn sent a message.” Daeron’s fingers brushed through his cousin’s hair.

“Is King… here?”

“He came the moment he heard.”  Ómar stroked his cheek.  “And of course we all came.  We love you, Tur.”

Nana?”

Nana and Aunt are at the Palace waiting for word, they did not want to slow us down; the horses ran almost the entire way.” 

 “And it is over?  Where is Legolas?”

“The enemy has been destroyed, but I will not speak of that yet.  Legolas is here, and they are doing everything they can to help him.” 

Adamar leaned over his nephew.  “I am so happy to see you, Gwathellion.  Soon, you will be well and strong, and then we will take you home.”

“Home…” At the sound of the word, tears pooled in Turamarth’s eyes.  “I am so glad to are here…” he whispered, and began to weep in earnest.  Instantly he was swept up in his father’s arms, while Daeron and Adamar held his hand and rubbed his back. 

“The danger has passed,Ómar soothed.  “You are safe now, and you will not be alone again.”

Tur clung to his Ada until he could form words again, then whispered, “I thought I would never see you again…”

“No, hênig.” Ómar’s brown eyes penetrated the doubt and sadness in his son’s.  “Do not think about what might have been.  Let your tears wash away the gloom, and let your heart be light once more.” He kissed his son’s forehead.  “I have you, and you are safe.”

For many minutes, Turamarth buried his face in his father’s neck, and let himself be held and comforted.  Ómar and Adamar shed tears of their own, of for the tragedy he had been forced to endure.

Cwën came over and put her hand on Daeron’s shoulder.  “I am so sorry, for what Turamarth went through.”

He shot her a venomous look as he stood, and pulled her off to the side. “Your people thought Tur was capable of murder!” Daeron hissed angrily.  “Why did no one help him?”

“Daeron, I did not know what had happened, please believe me!” She kept her voice low.   “Ivran and I were kept to our rooms for nearly a week, with no word, until Tur banged on the door to look for the Prince!  We knew nothing about Lady Galadriel, or even that Mahtan or Gelmir’s had been murdered!” She jerked her arm loose.  “They were my friends, so if you think I—“

“Daeron?” Adamar came over to them, his face full of concern. “Now is not the time for anger and recriminations.  I understand your feelings, but we must trust Lord Thranduil to investigate the matter fully.”

“But—“

“This is exactly the kind of discord the Blue Wizard wanted to create!  He wanted us to be angry and suspect each other, to keep us from discovering the real Enemy behind it all, yes?”  Adamar kneaded his shoulder.  “We must not give in to anger, Ion nîn.”

“That will be difficult,” Daeron snorted with derision.

“Do you not think I am furious?” His father asked.  “But what good will it do for your cousin, who still suffers from the Black Breath?  Tur needs our love and strength.  All else can wait.” His father’s face grew firm. “You will do this, my son.  Do not make me pull rank and order this of you.”

Adamar stared into his eyes, until Daeron capitulated.  “You are right,” his shoulders slumped. “Forgive me.”

He rubbed his eyes, then faced Cwën, who was fighting back tears.  “I am sorry,” he told her, his voice full of regret.  “I had no right to take this out on you.”

“I understand,” she dipped her head and accepted his apology.  “I share your anger and outrage, but I think it should be directed at that…” he pointed to outdoors.  “pile of ash out there.  Our true enemy is the Dark Lord, not anyone here.” She stepped closer. “Wait, be patient, and we will know the entire story soon.”

“I will,” he promised. “Tur is with us still; that is all that matters.”  He surveyed the activity in the cave, and was glad to see Rúmil’s eyes were open.  Several other Wardens attended him, as Orophin rubbed his hands and spoke in soothing words, about their life and memories. 

Legolas’s bed was surrounded by the Lord and Lady, Elrond and Mithrandir, but something grabbed his attention, and his brows furrowed.

Three of them, all but Celeborn had stacked their right hands atop one another, and they slowly moved as one over the Prince’s limbs, as Elrond sang.

This was a technique he’d never seen before; usually one could place both hands together, but just the right?  Was it a more effective way to heal bones?  He carefully observed their words and movements, with awe. 

What a privilege it was to watch the Mighty Elrond at work!  How many years had he hoped to meet the author of his precious books, the most powerful Healer in Middle Earth?  He’d expected to be excited, thrilled, and have a list of questions ready, but for now he just felt grateful. 

Despite all that, something wasn’t right.  Legolas hadn’t moved, his color had not improved, and his face was just as pasty as before.  Elrond lifted the Prince’s eyelids, as his mouth pursed into a grim line.  Galadriel met the Elf-Lord’s gaze, and Mithrandir shook his head.

“Cwën?”  Lady Galadriel waved her over.  “Where has Lord Thranduil gone?”

“He went just outside, My Lady; the Guardian has just died in his arms, and…” her eyes traveled to the entrance.  “He needed a few moments to collect himself.”

“I will get him,” Mithrandir stepped around Elrond.  “Stay here and do what you can.”

 

***************

 

The Elvenking leaned his head against the tree and let the soft summer wind soothe his nerves, as he listened to the chirp of the crickets.  The tree, a Maple, held him up and expressed its sorrow at all it had witnessed but was glad that good had triumphed at the last.  His weeping hadn’t lasted long, and the release had eased a bit of tension, but soon it was replaced by a much bigger anxiety.  Could Legolas be saved?

“Thranduil?”  Mithrandir approached.  

“I am here,” he called, and blew out a breath.  “Is he—”

“He lives still.” The Wizard grabbed his arm.  “We need to speak privately.”  He led them away from the others who were digging, then his eyes raked him over with concern.

“What happened?”  The Elvenking steeled himself for bad news.

“We have mended your son’s bones as best we can, but he will need to lie abed for several weeks, and it will be longer before his body becomes strong again.”  The Wizard looked into his eyes with compassion.  “Legolas is not out of danger, Thranduil, and I need you to prepare yourself.”

“What is wrong?”

“We have tried to call him, but he is not responding, not even when all three of us put together try to reach him.”

“You have to save him, Mithrandir!” A shiver if fear went up Thranduil’s spine.  He grabbed the Wizard’s sleeve. “You have to!”

“Listen carefully,” Mithrandir emphasized his words.  “I did not mean he could not be saved.  There is something keeping him from answering.”

The Elvenking’s mouth fell open. “Is he…”

“He is there, and he hears us, but he is choosing to turn away.”

“What do we do?” Thranduil’s body stiffened, dread kicked at his heart.

“If Legolas will not come to the Light, someone will have to go into the Darkness and get him.”

“Then do it!” he demanded. “Go wherever you need to go and get my son out of that terrible place!”

“We cannot,” Mithrandir’s gaze was meaningful.  “Thranduil, you know how much we care for the boy.  If we could have brought him back, it would have been done by now.”

“Surely you do not mean…” his stomach flipped.  “I love Legolas, you know that more than anyone, but I am the last person my son would respond to!”

“Are you?  I’m not so sure.” Mithrandir tilted his head with a hint of a smile. “We know something that the Dark Lord does not; the Blue Wizard never had the chance to reveal this to his Master.”

“What?”

The Wizard whispered to him for several minutes.  When he had finished, Thranduil set his jaw and pursed his lips in determination.  “Show me what I need to do.”

 

The cots bearing the injured were moved outside, along with the others, and blankets were hung over the cave’s entrance to afford Thranduil the  privacy he needed.

The Elvenking sat beside his son, and took his hand.  “What happens now?”

“We will recite a spell to allow you to enter,” Elrond explained, “but once inside, I am afraid you are on your own.  We will pray and sing, to give you what we can, but it will be up to you to find him, and convince him to come back.”

“Are you ready, Ettā?”  Celeborn put his hand on Thranduil’s shoulder. 

“No, but if this is the only way, I will not allow my son to remain in torment.”

“The danger to you is also great,” Galadriel warned.  “Remember Celeborn’s words to you, ad use them.”

“I will,” he steeled himself.  “Getting him back is all that matters; he must live!”

“Do not be so hasty to sacrifice yourself!” Mithrandir snapped.  “It will do you no good; in fact, you would be playing into the Enemy’s hands!”

“I will do what I must!” Thranduil’s eyes blazed.  “Legolas is my child, and I will see him safe!”

The Wizard took Thranduil’s chin.  “Remember: your greatest fault is also your greatest strength.  It will either save you both, or damn you both.  Be careful.”

“Fine,” he said, a bit mollified.  “Let us get this over with.”

“Close your eyes…”

 

Dark.  Thranduil was enveloped in such blackness, he couldn’t see his hand in front of his face.  The air was heavy and acrid, as if he was enveloped in a thick cloud of smoke.  He coughed a few times, then covered his mouth with his handkerchief.  It helped with his breathing but did nothing for the rising panic. 

What should he do now?

The Elvenking carefully slid his left foot forward, and found solid ground beneath his feet.  Good.  He did the same with the right, and continued to walk in this careful manner, until a hint of fresh air reached his nostrils.  He could faintly make out the shape of an entrance up ahead – or was it an exit? 

As he approached the rocky archway, the black smoke dissipated and his vision became clearer,  he recognized the mouth of the same cave he and the others currently occupied. 

Thranduil took the kerchief from his face, and after a light cough, he called out.  “Legolas?  Where are you?  Legolas!”

He could see the rough ground now, and he hurried through the entrance, but when he stepped outside, he was not in the clearing in which he had cradled his son’s broken body, and fought the  Blue Wizard only hours before.

This was his own forest - he was sure of it - but something was very odd.

Even in the sickest parts of his Kingdom, the trees bore green leaves in the spring and summer, and changed to reds and oranges and yellow in the Autumn.  And plants still grew, to feed the animals that still lived there, and occasionally a stubborn and determined flower pushed up from the soil to encourage and bring joy to the Wood Elves as an offer of thanks for their continued protection.  Even in the worst places where nothing grew, there was still the golden light of the son, or the silvery light of the moon in the blue night sky. 

Thranduil was in a place that was devoid of color.  All was black, white, or varying shades of grey.  There was no life, no movement, no swaying of the branches or leaves in the wind.  The grass didn’t move.

Thranduil held up his fingers, still clutching his handkerchief, and he gasped.  His hand was a series of lines and shading, that carefully adjusted themselves when he moved. 

If he didn’t know better, he would swear he was standing in one of his own pencil sketches!  Over the centuries, he’d filled dozens of books with pictures of the way his forest used to be, but this place...

This. Place.

 Thranduil hadn’t laid eyes on this clearing in almost a thousand years, but he knew every tree, every blade of grass, and every single flower…

Thranduil shook himself and called again.  “Legolas?  Legolas, where are you?”

No answer.  “Na van evener, Legolas?  Will you not speak with me?”

There was a slight noise to his left, and he spun around to find his son sitting on the low limb of one of the trees.  Like everything else in this bizarre, surreal place, Legolas’s golden hair had been reduced to fine lines, and his normally green outfit - his favorite color since birth - were varying shades of the same grey that surrounded them.

Ion nîn?”  The Elvenking instinctively reached out, but the figure in the tree recoiled.

“You are not real,” Legolas warily stared at his outstretched fingers. 

“I am very real,” Thranduil kept his hand in the air.  “I came to help you.”

“You are an illusion, come to torment me.”

“I am in this dream with you, Legolas, and I will not leave without you.”

“If you are real, you are in great danger.  Go, before it is too late!”

 “Even if that were true, Ion, it will do no harm to speak with me.”  Thranduil turned and walked to the opposite side of the little glade, to the large, fallen log and took a seat.  “Please; will you not join me?” His fingers dug into the bark of the tree underneath him, and forced himself to remain calm.

Legolas considered his words, and jumped down.  He sat on the other end of the dead log.  “You should not be here,” he said again.

“Yet, here I sit.” Thranduil shrugged.

“I cannot go back.”

“Why do you want to stay?”

“I do not want to stay, but I must, My Lord.  I must atone.”

“What could you possibly have to atone for?”  His eyes widened.  “You are mistaken, Ion nîn.”

“It is true!” he gestured to their surroundings.  “This is the place, is it not?  This is where my mother and all six of her guards died.”

Thranduil chose his words carefully.  “This scenery was shaped to look like that place, Legolas, but it is not real.  I am real, and moving, as are you, but all this remains still.” He swept his arm out. “I do not know how or why this was contrived, but I promise you, it is false.”

“There is no life because that is my punishment, My Lord.”

“Do not call me that,” Thranduil winced.

“I cannot call you Adar.” Legolas answered sadly.  “I do not deserve to be your son anymore.”

 “Hênig,” Thranduil said carefully.  “Where did you get this idea?”

Nana died to protect me.”  Legolas studied his face.  “If they could have just taken me then, she would still be alive, and all those Guardians…  I knew Ruvyn’s father was one of them, but I did not realize it was all my fault.”

“No!”  The blood pounded in Thranduil’s ears and his fingernails dug into his palms, to keep him still.  “That is not true at all.”

“It is true!” His son shouted back.  “If Nana had lived, you would not have been lost in your grief.  You would have been strong enough to protect the forest, when it began to get sick!”     

“This is nonsense—“

“Is it?  How many of our people lost their lives since then, defending the forest against spiders and other fell creatures?”  Legolas’s face twisted with guilt and sorrow.  “I did not understand for a very long time, but I do now.  All those years, I was angry and hurt, but what I should have been doing was begging your forgiveness.  I understand why you cannot love me.  I killed Nana, and—"

 “Legolas, were only a small child; how could you think you killed anyone?”

“Because it was me, they wanted!  Even now, I am responsible for two deaths in Lothlórien!  If I had not been so obstinate, Elrond would not have sent me there, and now Galadriel will die because—”

“Galadriel has been saved.” Thranduil told him.  “I promise; she is quite well.  She and Celeborn are worried about you—”

“You lie! You do not understand how powerful he is,” Legolas’s voice caught, and a small sob escaped.  “If I do not stay, he will kill all of you.  Please,” he begged, “I have to atone for all those lives.  I want to protect you!”

 “Legolas, the Blue Wizard is dead.  Mithrandir stripped him of his powers, and Celeborn and I killed him with our own hands.”

“You speak of someone else.  There was no Wizard.”

“Did he tell you his name was Luinrandir?”

“Yes…” Legolas’s forehead wrinkled in confusion.  “How do you know this?”

“His true name is Pallando, one of the Blue Istari that arrived with Mithrandir.    Pallando went to the East, and joined with the Dark Lord, who enhanced his powers.”  Thranduil looked into his son’s eyes.  “I speak the truth; he has been destroyed his body and fëa have been burned.  He can no longer hurt anyone else.”

“You and Celeborn killed him?” Legolas was skeptical.

”I silenced his poisoned tongue by removing it, and Ettā broke his neck.” He leaned toward Legolas. “The only thing keeping you here is your belief in the lies he told you.”

His son remained doubtful.  Legolas stared dejectedly at the ground, his shoulders slumped in defeat and sadness.  “I want to believe that, but I cannot.  You are not real.”

”Legolas!” Thranduil list his temper.  “Why do you—“  But he stopped.  Their surroundings had grown darker and a thick, grey mist hovered in the air and permeated Thranduil’s bones.

It was then he remembered Galadriel’s warning: this place would feed on things like anger and guilt and shame...

But the harder Thranduil tried to convince Legolas the further he held himself away.  How can he get his son to understand?

Think!  Think! 

Almost instantly, the memory of his visit with Mírelen came to his mind.  She had offered him a chance to be free of grief, free from death, free from the horrors of war, yet why did he choose to go back?  What was the one thing he wouldn’t have if he went with her? 1 

When he had faced the fires to rescue their children, how had he convinced Bard to turn away from his rage at the thrall who had attacked their family? 2

A slow smile crept across Thranduil’s face; the solution was so simple, he almost laughed. He didn’t have to reason with his son—

All he had to do was love him.

The Elvenking closed his eyes, and let the thoughts and images flow through his mind.

I love you, Legolas.

I loved you from the minute I could feel the tiny light of your fëa in your mother’s belly.  I loved you every single day when your mother carried you, and the day you were born was the happiest of my life…

I will never forget seeing you for the first time; your mother had a blue ribbon in her hair, and her eyes shone in a way I had never seen before. You were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and you still are.

Slowly, Thranduil opened his eyes, and turned his face toward his son.

I loved you when you took your first steps and spoke your first word.  I loved you, as you sat in your mother’s lap while she sang to you.  I loved you when I read bedtime stories, and I loved your beautiful face when I kissed you goodnight. 

I loved watching you grow up, to be the strong, dedicated Ellon that you are. 

Your mother loved you.  More than anything.  More than life.

So do I.  Every minute of every day you are in my heart, and that will never change.

I love you, Legolas, Ion nîn…

And I can prove it to you.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Legolas looked at him quizzically.

 Thranduil asked him,  “What did you see, when you looked into Galadriel’s mirror?”

Legolas froze. “I… do not know what you mean.”

“Let the memory come to you, my son.  You were taken into her private Garden and she allowed you to look.  Can you remember what she showed you?”

Legolas rubbed his hands on his thighs, nervously.  “I do not…think I know.”

Thranduil tried a different tactic.  “Think of the garden itself: so many there flowers! Did you see the small pool off to the side, and her crystal pitcher—”

“It was not crystal, it was pewter.” Legolas’s head jerked to face him.  “It was a pewter pitcher.  I remember that.”

Thranduil grinned.  “So it is.  Now, when she poured the water into the large, deep bowl, and reached her hand in to—”

“No.  It was a flat basin, also made of pewter, and she blew across it, to make small waves…”  Legolas blinked rapidly.  “She spoke a spell, then…”

“What did you see?”

“You.  I saw you, and Haru Oropher.  You were small, and Feren was young…” 

Thranduil’s heart lifted as the memories changed Legolas’s face and posture.  He sat straighter, and the worry lines disappeared.

“You remember, do you not?” One side of his mouth turned upwards.  “You do; I can see it in your eyes.”

“Yes,” Legolas said, softly.  “I saw you…in the War.  And the Dragon…you were burned!”

“That is true.  I was hurt inside and out, for a very long time.” Thranduil winced.  “Did you see me with your mother? And when you were born?”

His son slowly bobbed his head up and down.  “You and Nana…. We were happy.”

“I loved you both.  I still do.”

“You…never hated me?”

“Never.  Not even for a moment, Ion nîn.”

“You have Bard and his family, now.”

“I love them, yes, but our family will never be complete until you are a part of it.” He shuffled a bit closer.  “Do not make the same mistake I did, Legolas.  I suffered for a long time when I lost your mother, but then it was my own guilt that kept me in a prison of my own making!  It was a prison with walls made of guilt and shame, and think of what that did to you, to us!”

Thranduil gestured to the drab, depressing scenery.  “This is the prison you made, but you do not have to remain here, not when there are so many who want to love you.   Please, Legolas; let go of the guilt for something that was never your fault!  Turn away from these lies that only seek to destroy you!”

 “I am real, and I love you very much.” Thranduil stretched out his palm. “I want to help you. Will you not take my hand?”

Legolas warily extended his fingers, but pulled back at the last minute.  “What if you are another lie, sent to give me false hope?”

“What if I am not?” Thranduil gave him a small smile.  “What if I am exactly who I say I am?” 

Legolas considered, his hand wavered in the air.

“I am asking you to take my hand, because you are my son, and I love you.  I have always loved you.”  A tear rolled down Thranduil’s face, but he dared not wipe it away. 

“No one hates me?  They do not blame me for any of this?” Legolas’s face was nervous. 

“We only want you to come back to us.  I love you, Pînlass.  Give me a chance to prove it to you, and be the father you have always deserved.  Please; let me do this for you?”

“Pînlass…” Legolas whispered.  “You and Nana used to call me that.”

“‘Little Leaf,’” Thranduil’s mouth curved upward.  “Just take my hand, my son.  Please, trust me.”

Again, Legolas slowly reached out, and lightly rested a fingertip onto Thranduil’s palm, then lifted it, leaving grey smudge.   “You feel real…”

“I am real.  Will you trust me?”

Legolas swallowed, and his voice cracked.  “I want to.”

 “My son, I am here, and I am real, and I love you.  Please, do this for me.”

 Legolas gently placed it in Thranduil’s palm, and when he closed his fingers around it.  “Ada?”  

“It is Ada.”

It is really you?”  Their eyes met with a growing joy.

Thranduil choked back a sob.  “Look at our hands, Pînlass!

The true color of their flesh slowly poured forth from their joined fingers, much like an artist’s brush. Thranduil and Legolas were wide-eyed, as the colors of the sleeves of their tunics appeared, then their faces and hair and leggings, until they were fully-formed and full of life.

Legolas looked around.  “The Forest did not change.”

“This place was nothing but a dark caricature of guilt and despair.”  Thranduil smiled. “You broke away from it, Ion nîn, and I am proud of you.”

“You are truly here...  You came for me.” 

“And I would do it a thousand times over.  You are my son and I love you.”

Legolas swallowed, “I am so sorry, Ada,”  he sobbed and collapsed into Thranduil’s open arms.  "Please... I am so sorry..."

Thranduil held his son tight and closed his eyes, as he buried his face in his hair.   “Shhh…  Do not speak of it.  I love you so much, Pînlass.  I want to spend the rest of your life showing you how much.” He pulled back and put their foreheads together.  “Now, let us leave this place, and return to our lives, yes?” 

Legolas searched his eyes, and nodded.  “Take me home, Ada.”

The Elvenking tightened his arms protectively around his son, and kissed his temple and said, “Close your eyes, Ion nîn. And think of all who love you.”

They both did. 

 

And Thranduil came to himself again in the chair next to his son’s cot, and Legolas’s eyes were opening.

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Elenion Panilwë Húmë – (Q.) “Walk among the Stars” is a special alignment of the stars and planets, which only happens on Tarnin Austa once every thousand years.  Legends say that if the skies are clear on this night, the veil between worlds can be lifted for a time, but only for those whose hearts are filled with goodness.

Ettā - Cousin

Gwador – Sworn-brother

Gwathellion – nephew (lit. “sister-son)

Haruni Oropher – Grandfather Oropher

Hênig – My child

Ion nîn? – My son?

Mellon nîn – My friend

Na van evíneg, Legolas? – Where did you go?

Nana - Mom

 

 

NOTES:

[1] From And Winter Came…, CH 35:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/31617468

[2] From An Invincible Summer, CH 38:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/37497905

Chapter Text

 

City of Dale, 27th of June, 2944 T.A.

The sun had barely appeared in the morning sky when Rhian pounded on the door of Turamarth’s apartment, where Idril and Indis were staying.

“Naneth! Nathêl!  Please, open up!”

Idril was in her nightgown and took in her daughter-in-law’s hastily-dressed appearance.  “What is it, henîg?”

“There is news!  A bird has just arrived with a message for King Bard!”

“What kind of news?” Indis came up beside her sister, and Idril grabbed her elbow.

“I wanted to fetch you myself, so we could find out together.”

“Is Darryn with you?”

“Hannah has him; she’ll meet us there, once he finishes his breakfast. Come on!”

Indis paled, “Sister…”

“Do not be hasty in your thoughts, dearest.” Idril patted her cheek.  “Now, let us dress quickly.”

 

Once they were gathered outside Bard’s office, he opened the door, and waved them in.  Galion, Hilda and Percy were waiting for them, as was Ben and Alun.  “Turamarth is safe, but some things have happened.”

Indis’s hand flew to her mouth, as Idril and Rhian helped her to a chair. “What things?”

Bard picked up a small piece of paper and read aloud: 

“To B — Tur cleared of all charges. Unforeseen enemy destroyed, but loss of life:  2 Wardens; Mahtan & Gelmir, and  2 Guardians; Nuín and Nualë. (Msg sent to Mablung.) 

Tur was injured as was Beleg, Rúmil, & Galadriel, but all will recover.  Must remain till injured can travel – full letter on its way.  Miss you all.  Will send other mssgs soon.  T"

Bard handed it over to Indis.  “Well, at least we know Turmarth will be all right.  I’m going to leave it up to Mablung to tell the Army here about Nuín and Nualë.”

“But this…enemy attacked Lady Galadriel?” Rhian eyes traveled to her mother-in-law’s.  “Who – or what – was he?”

“I wish I knew.  More to the point, are there more ‘Enemies’ out there that could attack Dale?”  Bard’s fingers ran through his hair. “The children are going to be devastated; they loved Nualë.”

“Where is Tauriel?” Rhian asked.

“She took the children to the Mountain yesterday.  We’re all going stir-crazy, and they were getting upset.”  He rubbed his forehead. 

“Don’t call them home early, Bard.” Hilda suggested. “Send a note to Tauriel, but have her wait until they get back to tell the kids.  We can’t have a service until Thranduil gets back anyway, and this will keep them occupied.”

“Hiro hîdh neñ gurth Nuín a Nualë,” Galion murmured softly, and got to his feet.  “I must travel to the Palace and assist Nuín and Nualë’s parents.”

“Aye,” Bard said.  “I think they’d appreciate that.”

 

***************

 

It didn’t take Galion long to pack, of course, but before he summoned an escort, the Aide walked to the outskirts of town.  He approached the White House, and raised his fist to knock at the door, but stopped when the banging of metal reached his ears. 

He walked around the side path to the stone building behind it, and saw Rôgon busy at work. 

His tunic was long-sleeved, and he wore long, leather gauntlets, thick enough to protect, yet supple enough to move his fingers.  Rôg’s long brown hair was pulled back tightly into a braid, and he had a kerchief tied around his forehead. 

Galion had no idea what he was working on; a red-hot, shapeless mass of something or other.  What drew him in was the look on the blacksmith’s face.  His forehead furrowed in complete concentration, and the golden glow of the metal reflected in his dark eyes. 

From what little he knew of this craft, interruptions were not appreciated; it could compromise the quality of the work. If Rôgon was half as conscientious as Galion was, he should wait to speak to him.

Yet he could not wait for long.

After several minutes, he was about to leave and send a written note, when suddenly the blacksmith picked the metal up with his tongs and plunged it into a bucket of water, sending a hiss of steam into the air.  The tongs clattered as they fell on the table.  Rôgon whipped off his gloves, and raised his raised his arms in the air to stretch his back muscles…

“Excuse me…” His voice was hesitant.

Rôg whipped around in surprise. “Galion!” he quickly walked across the yard.  “Have you received any word?”

“We have.  That is why I am here.”  He swallowed.  “It was a short message, but King Thranduil will be sending a full-length report.”

Galion handed him a copy of the message.  Rôgon’s face fell, and he slowly went over to the low stone wall and sat down.  “I am glad about Tur, but… this is tragic.”

“Were you familiar with Gelmir?”

Rôg’s head bobbed up and down as he stared at the words.  “He and Mahtan were of the same age group as Orlin and Evranin.  I fitted all of them with their first weapons.   They were young, eager, and had their whole lives ahead of them…” He covered his eyes with his hand. 

“How well did you know Nualë and Nuín?”

“I spoke to Nuín a few times at the pub, but Nualë was a favorite with the Princesses…”

Galion’s throat tightened.  “They will be heartbroken.  I am sorry for the loss of your friends, Rôg.”

“As I am sorry for the loss of yours.  What kind of…  could this attacker have come from Dol Guldur?” His mouth turned down. “The Lady cleared that space, at great expense to her health!  Could—”

“Do not do this to yourself,” Galion stopped him.  “Imagination is our worst enemy at times like these.  Keep the focus on what we know for certain, and stay busy.”

This mollified the blacksmith, and his shoulders dropped. “You would know, after working for the King for thousands of years.”

“Longer than that.  I was King Oropher’s Aide, before Thranduil.  And yes, one must become expert at things like this.”

“Thank you for telling me in person.  I appreciate this news coming from a friend.”

“I am glad to do it.” Galion’s eyes traveled to the blades of grass at his feet.  “Mablung is bringing the families to the Palace.  I must serve them in my King’s stead, until he arrives.”

“I am sure it will help them.”  Rôg sighed.  “I will send letters to Mahtan’s and Gelmir’s parents, though it seems inadequate…”

“Do not think that way.  Support from friends at times like these means everything.”

“When do you leave?”  Rôgon asked in a casual tone, though his brown eyes searched Galion’s blue ones. 

“I will be on the road within the hour.  I want to settle the families into the guest suites.”

“How long will you be there?” 

 “I have no idea.” Galion sighed. “But I must go where I am needed.”

“It is the right thing to do.”  The Elven blacksmith offered his hand, and they clasped wrists. “If you learn more, would you write?”

“Immediately; I promise.”

The corner of Rôgon’s mouth curved upwards in an impish smile.  “I doubt there are piles of wood sitting around the Palace to chop, but take time to walk in the gardens if things get to be too much.”

“I will do that.”  Galion laughed in spite of himself.  “Boe annin mened, Mellon nînCuio vae.”

 

As he walked back to the Castle, he grieved for the loss of the good warriors who had died in the line of duty, and prayed he could be of some small comfort to their families. 

He prayed for his King and for Legolas, and for Turamarth and all of those who had been affected by this.

Was it inappropriate to give thanks for this new, unexpected friend?

He did it anyway.

 

***************

 

Lothlórien, 30th of June, 2944 T.A.

Four days ago, the injured had been carried from the cave and installed in rooms at the Healing House, where they were kept under constant observation.

Once Legolas he opened his eyes in the cave, said little, remained awake, while they carefully carried his bed to Caras Galadhon, and Thranduil walked beside him and held his hand each step of the way.   Once he was installed in his own room, Elrond put him into a deep, Healing sleep, to let his fëa and body rest.  Thranduil had another bed installed for himself and sat by his side every minute he could, to read to him and talk with him, but when he attended his duties, Arwen came to sit with him. 

Rúmil was in another room, with his brothers taking turns with him.  He was awake during the day, and his mood steadily improved, though Elrond recommended he be put under a Losta-luith  at night, to protect him from nightmares.  He was expected to leave the Healing House in another day or so.

But Turamarth’s progress was not what they had hoped, and this had Daeron worried.  Despite the constant vigil at his bedside, the melancholy lingered to an alarming degree, and he tossed and mumbled and cried out at night, despite the Sleeping-spell.

Today, the funerals were being held for the fallen, so Daeron insisted upon staying behind. “Please Ada; go and take Uncle Ómar with you, and when the services are over, take him for a long walk in the trees; he needs the change of scenery.”

“I could say the same for you, Ion.” Adamar’s tone was affectionate.  “You have barely left him.”

 “I want to try talking to him again.  There will not be many people here, and if it is quiet, he might open up a bit.”

“I agree.” He clasped his son’s shoulder.  “I will send along your condolences.”

 

Turamarth was especially broody today.  “It is just as well I am confined to bed.” His fingers absently worried his blankets.  “I doubt anyone would want me at Mahtan’s grave…”

Gwador, no one thinks you had anything to do with it.”  Daeron poured out two cups of tea, and offered Tur one, but he refused.  He shrugged, set it on the table, then took a sip of his own, as he kept his voice carefully neutral.  “Perhaps it is you, that does not want to be seen?”

Tur didn’t meet his eyes, but he swallowed.

“They know you did not kill him, Tur.”

“But if I had not come—”

“Few people were aware of your attraction to Evranin.  Rúmil told me you made a point to back away, out of honor; who can fault you for that?  In any case, Evvy was going to refuse Mahtan whether you were here or not.”

Tur huffed.  “That did not stop Rúmil and his brothers from humiliating me in front of the entire city!”

“They were doing their jobs, Gwador.”  Daeron sighed and changed direction.  “Evranin has asked to see you, again.”

At the mention of her name, Turamarth curled forward, and his chest caved in, and his grip on the bedclothes grew tighter.

 “Will you not speak to her?”

“No.”

“Evvy was as much a victim as you were.”

“Oh, really?” Turamarth’s eyes blazed.  “She was not betrayed and humiliated, was she?  Was she broken and bruised and…haunted by…”

“Would you want her to be?”

Tur grew still, and closed his eyes with a sigh.  “No.  I am sorry.”

“You are not yourself; we all understand, Gwador.  Evvy understands that, too.”

“I cannot see her.”  His gaze lowered to his blanket, and he tugged at it again.  “Please, Daeron…  do not make me.”

“I will not force you to do anything you do not wish.  Are you angry with her?”

“No!  Not at all; I…” 

Daeron set his cup down, leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees.  “Talk to me, please.”

Turamarth closed his eyes and gritted his teeth.

“It is Evvy, is it not?  Every time her name is mentioned, or even when her brother Orlin comes in the room, your condition worsens.”  

Tur rubbed the back of his neck, as he turned his head toward the window.

“It will help to speak of it,” Daeron urged. 

“What if it does not?” Turamarth whispered, his voice was barely perceptible. “What if it makes things worse?” 

Daeron opened his mouth to speak, then paused to study him a moment, before he carefully asked, “Lord Elrond thinks you suffer nightmares, despite the losta-luith.  Is this true?”

No answer, but Tur’s knuckles went white, as his hands gripped at his blanket, and trembled.

“They are not real; none of them are.”

“But they are real to me.” He heaved a tired sigh. 

“These dreams are about what you saw in the Black?”

Tur still avoided his eyes, but his chin moved up and down slightly.

“There is no one here but me and you.  I will not force you to tell me, but it does not help you to keep it locked up.  Bring your horrors to the Light, Gwador,” he whispered. “You are safe, and you are loved by many, and we want to see you laugh again.”

Turamarth’s knuckles turned white in his lap, but when Daeron tried to relax his fists, he recoiled in shame.

“Please,” his voice was high and desperate, “do not touch me.”

“Tur, did something terrible happen to Evranin in your vision?”

The answer was a tear that fell from his right eye, though he remained still as stone.

 “But it was not real; none of it was real.”

“I know this in my waking thoughts,” Tur’s left hand raised to his temple, then returned to grab the covers. “But inside, they still…I did things....”

“Pallando made you believe you had done something to Evvy.”

His head moved up and down.  “Horrible things…” his voice shook.  “She screamed and begged me, but I did not stop until I…” 

Daeron reached to stroke his hair, but he flinched away.  “Did you have a vision of beating her?”

No answer.

“Was this vision of you raping her, Gwador?”

When Tur’s eyes met his, they were full of disgrace and pain.  “It was worse.  I laughed.  I enjoyed it, and when I was done, I watched her fëa die!”  His lips trembled.  “I felt powerful, and…satisfied.  I saw the light leave her, and I liked it, Daeron.  I saw it through my own eyes, and when I touched her, she was real, and warm… until she grew cold…”

Daeron said nothing, but waited for him to go on.

 “I tell myself a hundred times a day it was not real, it was not me, but…”  Turamarth’s eyes squeezed shut,  “Ai, naergon, Daeron; natho nin!” he pleaded, as his hand went to his chest and began to rub.  “What if this has turned me into a vile, sadistic freak, who would do the same in real life?  What if I am cursed, now?”

 “I do not believe for a moment, you could become such a being, Gwador.  I would never let something like that happen to you.”

“How can you be sure?”

“Let me ask you this: are you repulsed because of what you imagined you did in the Black,” Daeron’s eyes narrowed, “or is it because part of you secretly desires to do it again?”

“What?  NO!” Turamarth tried to get up.  “How could you—”

Daeron pushed him back down.  “Not yet; you are still too weak.”

Tur swallowed hard, and stared into his eyes.  “But you think—”

“I do not!!”  Daeron grabbed the back of Tur’s neck.  “Gwador, nothing will change how I feel about you.  But it is important that you be honest, so we know how to help you.”

Turamarth’s head fell back against the pillows, and he stared at the ceiling.  “I… when I was in the Black, I felt no guilt, no shame, nothing.  I enjoyed it.  But now… I get sick to my stomach.”

“And that is all?  Are you sure?”

“I think so.” His eyes widened suddenly, “Please; do not tell Ada or Uncle Adamar.”

“Not a word.” Daeron promised. “But I will see about getting you some help when Lord Elrond gets back.  We have spoken enough for now; you need to rest some, and think about something else.”

He picked up the book on the side table and began to read aloud.

 

Once the services were finished, Daeron sought out Lord Elrond.

“My Lord, I do not think Turamarth should be suffering so, at this point.”

“Is he in pain?”

“Not physically.  I worry for the state of his mind, and his fëa.”

Elrond leaned back in his chair.  “How so?”

“Turamarth his experiencing something similar to what Lord Thranduil suffered after the War; his dreams are invading his waking hours.  From everything I have read, this is indicative of a deeper wound in his fëa,” Daeron bit his lip.  “Is it necessary to know the details of Turamarth’s nightmares and visions?  Would it change how you treat him?”

 “I do not believe so,” Elrond mused.  “I take it he has spoken of them with you?”

“I was asked to keep it in confidence, and he has so little trust.  I can tell you these visions are completely against his character, and they involve a…particular sort of violence that even the memory of them is causing him great distress and shame.”

“I see.” Elrond steepled his fingers.  “To answer your question, the specifics are not important, yet Turamarth may take comfort.  I have seen others suffer the same, and we helped them get well again.  That is the nature of this evil, Daeron.  It twists our memories and hopes and fears and uses them against us in the cruelest way possible.”

“But you can help him?” he asked, as his fingers dug into the arm of his chair.  “Forgive me; perhaps I am overly anxious, but I have no experience to use as a frame of reference, for any of this, and… he is my dearest friend.”

“I believe we can.” The Elf-Lord stood and swept his arm out. “Lead the way.”

They went into Tur’s room, where he was sitting up and talking quietly with Uncle Ómar and his Adar

“Dhe suilon, Hîr nîn,” the Captains stood and saluted the Elf-Lord. 

Elrond graciously returned the courtesy.  “Dhe suilon, Hist.  I would like to further examine your son and nephew, if you would permit it.”

“Are you all right, Ion?” Ómar glanced at his son with worry.

At Tur’s awkward expression, Daeron hurriedly explained, “There is something I would like Lord Elrond to check,” he smiled.  “Any opportunity to learn from the Master of Masters is appreciated.  Please do not worry, Uncle.”

“Adamar, would you please take your brother-in-law to get some dinner?” Elrond suggested.  “He looks like he could use a good meal; perhaps an evening walk in the woods might also calm his nerves.”

“Yes, My Lord,” Adamar agreed.  “I have been urging him to do that very thing.”

“Then I officially prescribe it,” the Elf-Lord smiled at Ómar.  “We already have several Elves here who suffer from exhaustion; I would like it if he did not add you to the list.”

Ómar kissed his son’s forehead, and followed Adamar out. Daeron locked the door behind them.

 “Lieutenant; your cousin tells me that despite the Sleeping-spells, you continue to have nightmares, and suffer vision while awake?” 

Tur’s eyes darted between Daeron’s and the Elf-Lord’s.  “Yes.”

“First of all, I want to assure you, that I do not have details of what plagues you.  In any case, I would not ask, for and it does not change my treatment.  Now,” the Elf-Lord sat on Turamarth’s bed, facing him.  “I want you remain still, if you can.  This will not hurt.

“Daeron, I would like you to sit on the other side of Turamarth, and I will show you what to look for, should you encounter something like this in the future.”

Once he did so, Elrond took Tur’s face in his hands, and stared deeply into his eyes, and said “Hmm-hmm…” a few times.   “Daeron, do you recall when you first called Turamarth back from the Shadow?”

“I do.  I saw a great deal of what looked like ink.”

“Now, put your hands over mine, and look into his eyes…  tell me what you see.”

“Several clouds of grey mist…” he said softly.  “Some are clearer than the others…”

“It takes a bit of time for the remnants to fully dissipate.  Still, some spots are still quite dark, do you see them?”

“I do.” Daeron murmured.  “Is that normal at this stage?”

“It is not.” Elrond took their hands away, and he patted Tur’s hand, “Your cousin is correct; you are suffering more than I would like, at this point.  Sometimes the Shadows linger, and blur the lines between those visions and reality.  This is why it is important for you to be observed and to rest.  It was good that you could confide in Daeron; that helps a great deal.”

“Why would I be so affected, when the others have not?”

“Your state of mind at the time of the attack, is a factor.”  Elrond lifted Tur’s chin, and studied his face carefully.  “What was going through your mind when you encountered the Blue Wizard?”

“I was fatigued, My Lord.  I had hardly slept for several days…”

“The same could be said for all the Wardens here.” The Elf-Lord’s eyes still focused. “They were on high alert.”

“That is true, but I…” Tur gritted his teeth.  “I was accused of murder, of kinslaying!  They barged into my room, tied me dragged me through the City as a gûl band, and threw me into the gador!” Turamarth’s posture grew tense, and his breathing became shallow.

“You were angry.” Elrond narrowed his eyes.

“Yes!  My Gwador served this Realm admirably for a year; Rúmil lived in my own home when he was in service to my King, and he was so quick to believe—”

“And you felt betrayed.”

Tur’s eyes blazed, but he swallowed and said nothing.

Gwador, try and keep calm.” Daeron patted his shoulder.  “Could this have allowed him to be damaged further?”

“It is likely so.” He answered.  “Turamarth, you were in a weakened state and the Blue Wizard used your rage and disappointment against you to cause further injury.  You are lucky to have a cousin with sharp instincts, or you might have continued to endure needless pain.”

“Can you help?”

“Yes.  I would like permission to put you to sleep, and Daeron and I will attempt to relieve these shadows.” 

“I would be honored to help,” Daeron balked, “but my strengths lie in midwifery…”

“So I have been told,” Elrond’s eyebrow shot into the air, “but you might surprise yourself.  Let us begin…”

Once Tur was asleep, Elrond laid his hands on his chest.  “Now, Daeron, place your hands over mine—”

“Both hands?  I observed you and the others using only your right hands in the cave, and I wondered…"

“I am afraid that can only be done under… special circumstances,” the Elf-Lord smiled.  “Both hands please.” 

And they began.   Elrond sang into Tur’s body and his fëa, and while normally someone in Daeron’s position would be lending the Healer his own strength and talents…

…he was merely along for the ride.  Never had he worked with someone so powerful and precise!  It was all he could do to keep up with Lord Elrond’s song, and follow his lead!

The misty grey spots slowly dissolved to mere traces, but the dark “clouds” were stubbornly solid, and resisted even the mighty Elrond’s efforts.  Daeron concentrated and sent what he could, and harmonized with the Elf-Lord as he changed his song.  One at a time, they broke up the dense, dark places until they dissolved around the edges, then floated away.

The song stopped, and they opened their eyes. 

“I have done what I can,” Elrond said softly.  “The rest is going to have to be up to him.  Let him sleep through the evening and the night; if he’s been haunted, the rest will do him good.”

“He will be all right?” he asked. 

“We must still watch him carefully.” Elrond studied Turamarth’s face, then his.  “I would like an opportunity to speak with you, Daeron.  Is now a good time?”

“Of course, My Lord.”

“I do not wish to leave the Healing House, in case we are needed, but I will send for some supper, and we can use my office here.”

 

Once they were settled with a meal before them, Daeron took a drink and said,  “I have been thinking about Turamarth, and I wonder if it might be prudent to take him home, as soon as he is able to travel.   I know Lord Thranduil will remain with Prince Legolas, but Tur’s mood might lift if he were away from here.”

“I have never heard of Lothlórien put in that light,” Elrond’s brows shot up in surprise.  “Normally visitors are reluctant to leave.”

“Not so with my Gwador.  He only came because he was attracted to Orlin’s younger sister, Evranin.”

“The children of Vériel, the Council member, and her husband Ohtar?”

“Yes.  They traveled to Dale last month with Haldir, Orophin and Penlod to attend my wedding, and she and Tur struck up a friendship, but I believe it is more than that.  They formally met at our Feast, and all who witnessed it were certain he had been struck by the Ehtë Raumo.”

“Really?  The Ehtë Raumo is a powerful thing.”   Elrond touched his finger to his lips.  “I remember when I met my own wife...  I would imagine this affected the… nature and severity of Turamarth’s dreams.”

“It makes perfect sense.  But it is a complicated situation; Evvy’s mother had been pressuring her into accepting the proposal of the very Warden that Tur was accused of murdering.  This ‘Pallando’ creature had stolen his knife from his rooms and stabbed Mahtan with it.”

“I have read the reports, Daeron.  That is not how he died.”

“As have I, and now we know my cousin was framed.  I doubt our Enemy knew of the connection; it was an unfortunate coincidence.  A distraction to attack the Lady Galadriel and kidnap Prince Legolas.”

“Yes, so we have learned.  I had no idea about Orlin’s sister.  Do you think she returns his affection?”

“I do.  She told me herself she had refused Mahtan that very night, but they parted as friends; it seems all that was arranged by her mother, who is…”

“…persuasive,” the Elf-Lord shook his head wryly.  Vériel has a strong personality; excellent for governing, but…  Still, what is to be done now?”

“Turamarth will not see her, and that was what gave me a clue as to his true condition,” Daeron told him.  “Even now, I think he will need a great deal of rest, and time away from here.”

“I agree.  At this point, all she represents to him are reminders of traumas that have nothing to do with her.   Ai,” he sighed.  “That such love should be wasted so!  Still, you are correct; the sooner we get Turamarth on the road, the better.  He need not wait until he can travel; they came in a caravan so he could not ride in a wagon.”

“He will hate that,” Daeron winced.

“But the passing scenery will do him good, and he may become strong enough to ride toward the end of the trip.   We will speak to Thranduil tomorrow, and see what can be arranged.  No doubt the other wedding guests are anxious to leave, as well.”

“I have not had the chance to see them, but I would agree.” 

Daeron ventured nervously, “May I asked why you wished to speak of me?”

“There are two things, actually,” Elrond met his eyes.  “The first is regarding your extensive experience treating the race of Men.  Orlin was eager to show me the notes he copied from you during your year of service here.  I have looked them over, as well as your case notes from the plague and the Harad refugees.”

“If you see anything that needs correcting, My Lord, I would be only too happy to—”

“You misunderstand me.”  Elrond smiled, as he tilted his head.  “What I am saying is that I think your knowledge of this surpasses mine by leaps and bounds, and I would like you to consider arranging your notes and illustrations into a reference book.  Daeron, I consider you the leading authority in the treatment of Men, both in terms of Elven magic, and with herbs and potions.”

Daeron was stunned.  “You cannot think I am as great as you!”

“In this area, you are.  It will take a few years to write, I understand this, but eventually I would like to see your name alongside mine in libraries across Middle Earth.”

He pushed his plate away, food forgotten.  “I…do not know what to say...”

“Think about it.  In any case, that can wait a while.  There is a more immediate subject I need to broach with you.”

“All right,” Daeron reached for the pitcher, and poured more wine for both of them.

Elrond took a sip. “Over the years, Thranduil and Ermon have written at length about your skills and instincts.  I have done a great deal of research, and to date, there is no Elf in history that can do what you do.  It was one of the reasons I asked you to assist me today.”

“I may be able to connect with the fëas of babies, but what you did with my cousin was remarkable!”

“Thank you,” Elrond crossed his legs and relaxed, “but there is little difference between what you and I did today, and what you do at home.  Daeron, very few Elves can see the shadows like that.  Galadriel can, of course, but not even Celeborn or Thranduil can do this.” 

“But I was not much help,” he protested, “I had little to add to your skill and power.”

“Only because you have not had the opportunity to learn,” Elrond was patient, “but you have the great potential.”

“I have never encountered victims of the Black Breath.  Even when Dol Guldur was under siege, we did not suffer from such things!”

“I admit, this is a rare circumstance,” Elrond sighed. “Yet, that does not mean it will be so rare in the future.  The Great War is coming.  Dol Guldur may not remain empty for long, and there is no telling what fell creatures may inhabit it.  I doubt the Dark Lord himself would return, but that would not stop the Nazgûl, and your people must be ready.”

“That is… difficult to contemplate.”

“It would be wise to have someone with these skills in the Woodland Realm, would you not agree?”  Elrond sat back in his chair and folded his hands.  “It would take time, and practice, but I think you would excel at this.”

“Of course; it would be an honor to learn from you,” he said.  “I must get permission from My King, and make arrangements for my family.”

“You said you married last month,” Elrond tilted his head, with a serene smile.  “Who is the fortunate Elleth?”

“She is not an Elleth, she is a woman, but she is wonderful!  Rhian was widowed and heavily pregnant when the Dragon destroyed Dale, and her birth father was killed in the Battle.  She has been adopted by a kind relative, who was also recently married, and we are very happy.

“I also have you to thank for this,” Daeron’s smile reflected the tug at his heart.  “Thanks to the Blessing of Eärendil, I have a brand-new wife and have become father to a beautiful, two-year-old boy.”

Elrond’s eyes bulged in shock.  He sat up straight and leaned toward him.  “Did you just say you have fully joined with a Child of Man?”

“Y-yes...” Daeron’s chest tightened.  “Is something wrong?”

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Band – prisoner

Boe annin mened, Mellon nîn – I must go, my Friend

Cuio vae – Farewell

Dhe suilon, Hîr nîn – I greet you, My Lord

Dhe suilon, Hist – I greet you, Captains

Ehtë Raumo – (Q.) Lightning Bolt  (lit. “Storm Spear”) Sometimes, when an Elf first encounters his or her bond-mate, they can feel a powerful, emotional response, like lightning.  (It doesn’t always happen – Thranduil felt it when he first saw Mírelen, but she did not return his feelings at first.)

Gador - jail

Hiro hîdh neñ gurth Nuín a Nualë – May Nuín and Nualë find peace in death

Losta-luith  - Sleeping-spell

Naneth! Nathêl – Mother!  Aunt!

 

 

NOTES:

Gaol – Medeival term for jail.

In case you’re wondering, Elrond only used his right hand with Gandalf and Galadriel, because they combined the powers of the three rings, first, to help Galadriel wake up, then to use extraordinary means to heal the many broken bones of Prince Legolas.   But of course, Daeron has not idea Elrond possesses Vilya, the Mightiest of the three Elven Rings:  http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Three_Rings

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Lothlórien, 1st of June, 2944 T.A.

After an early breakfast, Elrond checked on his patients, then headed toward the Lord and Lady’s talon.

Galadriel and Celeborn invited Elrond, Thranduil, and Mithrandir to their chambers for a special Council meeting.  It was time to fit the many pieces of this puzzle together!

“Mae g’ovannen, Hîr nîn,” the Sentinels saluted.  “The Lord and Lady await you.”

“Ci athae,” he graciously nodded and was escorted to Celeborn’s private conference room, where Gandalf the Grey, Radagast the Brown, and the Lord of Lothlórien were waiting. 

“Good morning,” he greeted them, then asked Celeborn.  “Did Galadriel sleep well?”

“She did.  Her improvement has been remarkable.  I had feared she would lose what she had gained back since Dol Guldur, but she is well.”

“Joyous news indeed.  Still, I want her to rest for the next several weeks.”

“Of course, you want me to rest,” Galadriel smiled, as she entered the room and took a seat beside her husband.  “I am fine, Elrond.  Truly.” Her eyes swept around the table.  “Where is Thranduil?”

“He will be along, shortly.”

A few minutes later, Thranduil entered, and the door was closed.  Gandalf put the Silencing-Spell up himself, then began the meeting:

“I think the best way to unravel the mystery of all these events is to begin at the beginning.” He said.  “I want to start with the arrival of the Istari, which is in the Third Age, year 1000, I believe.  There were five of us, but our other names and the Valar we serve are not important to this tale. 1

“When we first arrived, Saruman the White, and the Blue Wizards, Pallando and Alatar, went East to search for Sauron.  Of those three, only Saruman returned, roughly five hundred years ago, and we assumed the other two were lost forever, as we had no word from them.”

“Did Saruman see them in the East?” Celeborn wondered.

“He says not, and insists his own efforts in the East were fruitless.”

“Of course they were!” Thranduil tensed. “The Dark Lord was in not the East at all, but in my own lands!”

“That is true, but Pallando did find Sauron, and his foolish pride led to his capture.”

“Why do you say this?”

“The Istari were never to approach Sauron by ourselves!  Our task was to locate him, gather the others, and work with the Free Peoples to imprison him until the One Ring was found, and thrown in Mount Doom.”

“At this time, we assume it has been swept out to Sea.”  Elrond said.

“That was Saruman’s theory, yes.  We will assume the same, at least for now.” The Wizard said.  “Pallando came to Dol Guldur as either a servant or a prisoner, and his powers were greatly enhanced.  

“Sauron perceived Legolas may have something to do with his downfall, and I will let Thranduil explain what he has learned from Mírelen herself, in a vision.” He turned to the Elvenking.  “My Lord?”

“Thank you.” Thranduil nodded, then addressed the group. “Two years ago, I… encountered my late wife, who told me my son is somehow tied to the downfall of the Dark Lord.”

“What did she say?” Radagast was fascinated.

 “She said, and I quote:  ‘He knows our son cannot guarantee his defeat, but if Legolas does play his part, it will guarantee his victory.’ 2  It was this Blue Wizard who coordinated the attack on my family, and killed my wife?”

“Yes.” Gandalf’s voice was gentle.  “Pallando was waiting a short distance away to take the child, but Mírelen was incredibly brave, Thranduil.  She saved a lot more than your son’s life.”

“Thank you,” the Elvenking clasped his hands together, “Go on, Mithrandir.”

“When Pallando was chosen to join the Istari, I argued against it, as I feared his arrogance would lead to his downfall.” Gandalf shook his head ruefully.  “It did, taking innocent lives with him. 

“Yet, we must be thankful for this weakness in his character.  He was sent by Sauron to find a way into the Golden Wood and he did so.”

“How?” Thranduil asked.  “Her magic would have prevented it.”

“Under normal circumstances, yes.  But the night he found a way in, it was because Galadriel was using a great deal of her magic—”

“To help my son look in the Mirror…”  The Elvenking said, quietly.  “Legolas blames himself…”

Galadriel put her hand over Thranduil’s. “He is wrong.  This could have happened at any time.  If Pallando had attacked before I banished the Dark Lord, we would all be dead.”

“Another reason to be grateful,” Thranduil patted their hands.

“His mission was not to kill Galadriel, but to capture her, and take her to Mordor, where her powers would be used to serve him.” Gandalf explained.  “Sauron had long desired her for his own, and it was the main reason why he chose Dol Guldur in the first place.”

“How did you learn all this?”  Celeborn’s mouth fell open.

“When our staffs were locked in the duel in front of the cave, the connection yielded much information.” Mithrandir replied.  “I will speak in detail about that in a moment, but for now, let us keep to the chain of events:

“Pallando entered the Golden Wood, and created a diversion by killing Mahtan, framing Turamarth, and during the shuffle, entered Celeborn’s and Galadriel’s bedchamber and—”

“—paralyzed her, according to Master Gilfanon.”  Celeborn’s eyes fell to his intertwined fingers.

“When the Istari assumed these bodies in Middle Earth, we lost the ability to render ourselves invisible at will.  Pallando was given a magic ring to walk unseen.  

“Where is this ring now?” Elrond’s eyes were wide.

“Destroyed, when we burned his body and sang.  I checked to make sure.  It was not nearly as powerful as what we possess, but it was enough to accomplish his mission.”

“I was in a Healing sleep.” Galadriel said softly.  “Had I been awake, I would have seen him.”

“Yes, My Lady.  Had he succeeded, you would have been taken before Sauron, and you and Nenya would have been lost.  But, Pallando was… sidetracked; which was both fortunate and unfortunate.”

“Legolas…”  Thranduil whispered.

“Exactly!” Gandalf’s mouth formed into a grim line. “Sauron’s orders were to capture The Lady of Light, no one else!   Yet Pallando failure all those hears ago ate at him and he saw a chance to correct that mistake.  He bided his time, and found a way to draw the boy away from the City, and…  Well, you know the rest.” 

 “How did you know to come?” Thranduil waved his hands.  “I came because Celeborn sent me a notice of Turamarth’s arrest!  I had no idea what was going on until we arrived, and Haldir tried to turn us away!”

Gandalf raised his hand to beg patience.  “This is the other part of the story, and I think now is the time for Elrond to speak.”

The Elf-Lord folded his hands together and said, “Nine days ago, Gildor Inglorion arrived in Imladris with an urgent message from Emyn Beraid.

“The Tower Hills?”  Thranduil was shocked.  “The Palantír of Elostirion?” 3

“Yes.  It was a message from the herald of Manwë and my direct superior in Varda.” 4  He often travels to Tol Eressëa, where the Master-stone is kept, and reports to our master, King Manwë.” 5

“We made several coded copies, and sent them to Mithrandir, Radagast, Saruman, and Galadriel.”

“We received no such message,” Celeborn’s brows lowered.

“The message to Saruman was returned unopened,”  Elrond told them. “We have not seen the falcon bearing yours; perhaps it returned after we left.”

“Perhaps Pallando destroyed it,” Thranduil offered.

“That’s unlikely,” Mithrandir shook his head.  “I believe the falcon sent to Lothlórien discovered your condition, My Lady.  Which was fortunate for us; the element of surprise was our biggest advantage.”

“Saruman did not acknowledge this message?”  Celeborn asked.

“No.”

“Is he in residence at Orthanc?”

“It matters not.  The falcons were sent to the person, not the place.  We must conclude he chose not to receive it.”

Galadriel’s eyes met Gandalf’s.  “That is worrisome.”

“It is indeed.” The Lord of Imladris concurred. 

 “What did the message say?” Celeborn asked.

“I have mine,” Radagast reached into his pocket, and spilled its contents on the table.  After sorting through the various bits and bobs, his face lit up. “Here we are!” and triumphantly picked up a crumpled pieced of paper, flattened it out and read: 

 

“Rómestámo now servant of the Abhorred One, sent to capture Artanis, and all Galadhrim.  War will come! All will be Lost, before The One is found!  Make haste!  Make haste!  Make haste!” 6

Everyone around the table fell silent, until Gandalf added, “Once Lothlórien fell, Pallando planned to take it for his own.  Every Galadhrim here would have been forced to do his bidding, Dol Guldur would have been re-taken, and there would be War against the North.”

Thranduil closed his eyes and murmured something under his breath.

“What did you say?” Celeborn asked. 

“There might be still.  I recall a vision I had, just after we returned the Harad refugees to their King.  In the final War the Harad will side with the Enemy.” 7

The Grey Wizard’s eyes bulged.  “After my warnings to King Abdullon?”

“The son was a bit of a hothead.  Since the whereabouts of Alatar Morinehtar, the other Blue Wizard, are currently unknown, we should assume he is also serving the Dark Lord.  Perhaps he was sent to Harad to undo our work.”

Gandalf sighed.  “Good thinking; I will look into that.  In the meantime, let us just be thankful for our recent victory.” He nodded to the Elvenking.  “We arrived with barely a breath to spare.”

Thranduil shook his head.  “A few seconds later, Mithrandir, and my line will have ended, and the Kingdom would be leaderless.  Yet the alternative would be to allow us to be given over to Sauron.  I was never so happy to see you in all my life.  Thank you.”

“You are more than welcome.” Elrond smiled, then asked Mithrandir, “Did Pallando see the Three on our hands?”

“He did.  Only their combined power could break the curse over Galadriel.  At the cave, and Pallando saw us put our hands on my staff, and he knew he faced his ruin. But our secret died with him, praise the Valar.  Sauron still does not know for certain who possesses the Three.”

“Praise the Valar,” Radagast blew out a breath, then asked Elrond. “How do the injured fare?”

“Rúmil was taken home yesterday, and will be cared for by his brothers.  Orlin will check on him daily, but I do not anticipate problems.  He needs time in the sun, and is strong enough to take short walks in the Gardens, which I highly recommend for you, My Lady.”

“I will make sure she does,” Celeborn took Galadriel’s hand.

“Legolas is still asleep, but I believe he is ready to be woken up.  He must remain abed for several weeks.  His body was broken in many places, and Elven Healing, even as powerful as ours, can only do so much.  His bones have been knit, but they must get strong again, then he will need to strengthen his muscles.  Legolas has both Sindar and Noldor blood, and this has helped him heal faster.  A Silvan Elf would not fare nearly as well.”

“Turamarth, my Guardian suffers a great deal.” Thranduil was anxious. “Daeron told me he needed help last evening.”

“I wanted to speak with you about that.” Elrond’s head nodded to the Elvenking.  “He has been traumatized by what he was forced to endure here, and the Black Breath drove those wounds deeper.  We have done our best; the rest will take time.  Daeron has suggested, and I agree, he should be taken home as soon as possible.”

“How soon can he be moved?”

“He must rest at least two more days, and we have limited his visitors to family, myself, and you, of course.  Turamarth must be kept calm, without any further upset.”

The Elvenking’s fingers rested on his chin. “I will not leave my son, but I see no reason why the others must stay.  Three days hence I will have Feren take Tur, Daeron and the other Woodland Elves home.”

“I should like to hold a Feast before you go.” Galadriel suggested. “The friendship between our peoples has been tested of late, and I would like to see things mended.”

“Excellent idea,” Mithrandir thrummed his fingers on the table. “We need to get the truth out, before rumors take hold.”

“If there isn’t anything else, I’d like to get back to my son.” The Elvenking scooted his chair back.

 “I believe we have covered everything.” Elrond gave him a quick nod.

“I’d like to go with you, Ettā.” Celeborn also got to his feet. 

“Me, too,” Radagast added.  “Are you coming, Elrond?”

“I need to speak with Mithrandir and Galadriel, then I will be along to check on him in a few minutes.”

 

After the others left, the Elf-Lord turned to the Wizard and the Lady. “I want you to tell me everything you know about Daeron Adamarion.”

“Is something amiss?” Galadriel asked. 

“Not necessarily.  You have not seen him since he came?”

“Just from afar.  We have been much occupied with other matters.”

Mithrandir stroked his beard. “We spoke in the cave, but to tell you the truth, I wasn’t paying attention.”

Elrond placed his hands flat on the table.  “Make an excuse to seek out Daeron, and talk with him a few minutes.  Then tell me if you have noticed anything ‘unusual.’”

“Why?”

Elrond told them of his observations and suspicions, and their jaws dropped.

“Fascinating…” Gandalf murmured.

“Are you certain?” Galadriel’s eyes widened.  “What does this mean?”

“I have no idea, at the moment.  I would like this kept between us, until I understand more.  I propose we meet tomorrow in your chambers, My Lady, and depending upon your observations, I will make my plans.”

 

***************

 

Thranduil threaded his fingers through his son’s golden hair, while they waited for Elrond.  Radagast offered a quick blessing, then was off to gather some cuttings to take back to his home.

Celeborn rubbed the Elvenking’s back. “How do you feel?”

“I am nervous, I admit.  I want so much for us to become close, but what if I do or say the wrong thing?”

“Your reconciliation will not be perfect, but I have faith in the both of you.  He has seen much your life, and I think he understands, now.”

Celeborn’s head perked up when the horns blew.  “Someone has arrived in the City.”

“That must be Glorfindel and the rest of my escort,” Elrond walked in. “They left Imladris just after Mithrandir and I did.”

“I must go.”  Celeborn stood, and patted Thranduil’s shoulder.  “Galu, Ettā. All will be well, I am sure of it.”

Thranduil covered his cousin’s hand. “Thank you.”

The Lord left, just as Elrond placed his hand on Legolas’s brow.  “His color is excellent… His heart is strong, and only remnants of the Black remain, which should fade.  His organs are functioning perfectly…” the Elf-Lord straightened with a smile.  “I think it is time.  Are you ready?”

The Elvenking’s heart throbbed against his ribs.  This was it. The beginning of a new relationship with his son.  Would he remember what was said between them in the Darkness?  Would he reject him?

Thranduil licked his lips and nodded.  “Yes.”

“Take his hand, but do not squeeze it; the bones are not quite mended.”

“I know.” Thranduil’s countenance was calm, but the higher pitch of his voice gave away his nervousness.

“It will be all right, Mellon nîn.”  Elrond gave him an indulgent smile before he turned to the young Elf in the bed, and softly spoke a few words in Quenya.  With a hand on his brow, he leaned down, close to his ear.  “Legolas?  Legolas Thranduillion, it is time to come back to us.  You are in Lothlórien, and all is well.  The danger has passed, and you and our people are safe.  Your Adar is here and is most anxious to speak to you.”

They waited, and after a few moments, the blonde prince’s breathing became deeper.  Thranduil’s hopes increased, as he watched his son’s chest rise and fall.  He gently massaged Legolas’s palm with his thumbs, then lifted it to his lips and kissed it.

“Gin iallon Ion nîn, echuia annin,” he whispered.  “Legolas?”

Blue eyes blinked several times, then opened.  “Wh…”

“Do not try to talk, just yet, Ion nîn.” Thranduil rested his hand on Legolas’s head. 

“You are in the Healing House of Caras Galadhon,” Elrond told him.  “All is well; the enemy has been destroyed and you are safe, and surrounded by those who love you.”

Legolas’s eyes recognized Elrond, and he widened in surprise.

“Do not be afraid.” Elrond soothed. “The Shadow has passed, and nothing will harm you.  I am here, Mellonneth nîn, and so is your father.”

He blinked several times, and he tried to move his head—

“Here, Pînlass,” Thranduil jumped to his feet and stood over his son.  “I am here. Try not to move too much just yet.”

Legolas’s blue eyes held his and filled with tears.  “Sorry…”

“Shhh…” Thranduil swallowed down the painful lump in his throat and smiled, as he caressed his cheek.  “There is nothing to forgive, my son.  Nothing at all.  I love you, and I am so…” his voice cracked, “so happy to see you.”

“Ada…”

“Yes?”

“Take me home?”

Thranduil covered his mouth as a loud sob escaped, as his head bobbed up and down. 

“I believe that is a yes,” Elrond grinned.  

The Elven Prince’s eyes were riveted to his father, who was stroking his brow. 

“You make me very happy, Ion nîn.”

“I am happy for you both.” Elrond clapped Thranduil on the shoulder. “I will give you some time alone, but do not allow Legolas to become fatigued.”

Thranduil wiped his face, then stood and hugged the Lord of Imladris.  He tried to find the words, but Elrond didn’t need them.

“My pleasure.” The Elf-Lord smiled, then quietly exited.

 

Once alone, father and son had little to say; Legolas was too weak, and Thranduil too emotional.  But it was enough for now.   He held his son’s hand and hummed a soft tune, until Legolas fell asleep again. 

 

***************

 

 “Daeron!” Evvy was waiting for him at the foot of the steps to the Healing House.  “How is he?”

 “Does Orlin not tell you these things?”

“I would rather hear it from you.” She begged.

“Tur struggles with all he has been through, and more I am not at liberty to say.” Daeron put his hands on her shoulders.  “I am truly sorry.”

“Why can I not see him?  Or even Orlin?”

Daeron gave her a sympathetic smile.  “He has been tortured, Aewpîn.  He needs rest and quiet…” he paused.  “It has just been decided: I will be taking Tur home the morning after the feast.”

“I cannot even tell him goodbye?” She burst into tears.  “I never meant to hurt him…”

“You did not hurt him!” Daeron’s voice was firm.  “Tur is… not himself right now, but that is the fault of the enemy, not yours.” His eyes were full of compassion.  “I know this sounds cruel, and I am sorry, but if you care for Turamarth as much as I think you do, leave him be for now.”

 “You are right,” Evranin stared up at him, her deep brown eyes were pools of sorrow.  “It is cruel!”

“Evvy, wait!”  Daeron called after her, but she fled in tears.

 

***************

 

Lothlórien, 2nd of July 2944 T.A.

Just before the Feast began, the bearers of the Rings of Power met in Galadriel’s rooms for a short consultation.

“Well?” The Elf-Lord asked.  “Did you speak with the son of Adamar?”

“I did.” Galadriel told them.  “It is as you suspect, though I do not understand it.”

“You were right,” Mithrandir’s bushy eyebrows drew together.  “You haven’t seen this before?”

“Never, though I have encountered several such Elves in the last few years.  I was hoping you had some sort of insight.”

 “I am as surprised as the rest of you.” The Wizard shrugged. 

“Glorfindel and I will accompany the Woodland Elves home tomorrow morning, then travel to Dale with Turamarth.  After I will meet Daeron’s wife, and report my findings.”

“Will Daeron not suspect something?”

“Not at all.  He and I spoke about developing his gifts, which I still intend to do.  I had originally planned to bring him to Imladris it is better that he is with his family.  Theirs is an exceptionally close family and the separation would hinder his concentration.  I am also curious to meet Thranduil’s new family.”

“They are a delight,” Galadriel’s smile was wide.  “You will enjoy them.”

“Someone should also give Bard a complete account of what occurred here.  He should not hear of Thranduil’s and Legolas’s near-death through a letter.”

“True.” Mithrandir agreed.  “I’m going with you. I want to speak to Dáin and see if he can listen for news from the Iron Hills.  We can enjoy Dale’s gardens in summer.”

 

**************

 

“Evranin!”  There was a knock on the door.  “Are you in there?”

She dragged herself off the couch and went to open the door.  “What is it Naneth?”

“Surely you are not wearing that to the Feast tonight!” Vériel stepped into the flet. 

“I am not going,” Evranin’s voice was dull. 

“Why ever not?  Everyone is there, and the Lord and Lady asked us all to attend!”

“She asked the Council to attend, to try and mend relations with the Wood Elves,” Evvy’s voice was as tired as her heart.

“It would look better—”

“I said, I am not going!”

“Do not use that tone of voice with me!” her mother snapped.  “Now—”

“Look at me, Naneth.” Evvy demanded. “My eyes are red from weeping; do you not care to ask why?”

 “Iellig, I know you are still heartbroken, but this Feast is too important to—”

“I am, Naneth.  But not in the way you think.” 

“But you were going to marry him, Evranin, and everyone at the Feast wishes to—“

“I told him no.”

“You did what?”

“Mahtan and I spoke a few hours before he was killed, and we both agreed not to marry. We cared for each other as friends, nothing more.” Her voice broke.  “We parted as friends, and then he said he was going for a walk…”

Vériel gaped at her in shock, then spoke through gritted teeth.  “So… if you would have agreed to marry him, he’d be alive today?  If you had been spending your time with him, instead of those…  plain, brown-haired,” her face soured,  “Guardians…”

The blood drained from Evvy’s face, then a deadly calm came over her.  “What did you just say?”

“Do not be impertinent!  I only meant—"

“So, this ‘change of heart’ was only a lie to worm your way back into my life, so you can run me over again?” Evranin shook her head. “You are still the same snob you always were!”

“You are imagining things.” Vériel dismissed her with a wave of a hand.  “This is why you need me to help you.”

Something inside her snapped; or maybe it broke free, for the first time in her life.  In that moment, the shy Elf was gone, and at last she found an inner strength she never knew she had. 

“I want you to leave,” She got to her feet.

“I beg your pardon?”

“You heard me.” Her voice was even, quiet and forceful.  “This is my home, and you are no longer welcome in it.  Get out, and do not come back.”

“Evranin, I simply want you to—”

“You have no right to want anything,” she huffed out a sarcastic laugh.  “All my life, you have treated me as if I was some mistake to the world you had to correct.  You have made me feel like your greatest disappointment.  Shame on me for letting myself believe it was out of love.”

Vériel’s face pinched with fury. “You are twisting my words!”

“Am I?”  She stared into her mother’s eyes.  “How many years have I dreamed of making you proud of me? Yet I never did, and I never will, do you know why? You enjoyed holding your love and approval just out of my reach, loved that power and control, didn’t you?”

She walked across the room, and opened her door.  “At this moment I have no love in my heart for you Naneth, and I demand you leave my home!”

After her mother gathered her skirts, and stomped out the door, Evvy closed it, leaned against it and burst into tears.  

 

***************

 

Some time later, Orlin let himself in, and found his sister in her room fully dressed, sleeping on top of the covers. 

Aewpîn?” he gently shook her shoulder.  “Are you well?”

“Mmmm…” she moaned softly, as she rubbed her eyes awake.

“You look terrible,” he cupped her cheek with concern.  “Has something happened?”

 “I broke things off with our mother,” she whispered.  “Completely.”

“Is that why you were crying?” he pulled her up and gathered her close.  “I knew she was irritated you had not come to the Feast, but—”

Evvy sat up straighter.  “How was it?  Who all came?”

“Things went well.  There were many speeches, explaining what had truly happened, and I believe much was repaired between our countries.”

She slumped against him in relief. “Oh, I am so glad!”

“Daeron told me he spoke to you.”  Orlin studied her face.  “Are you all right?”

“No.” Her eyes filled again, and she took a deep breath. 

“Because you argued with Naneth?”

“It might seem that way, but I feel good about that.  If feel as if a cord has been cut between us, if that makes any sort of sense.” She lifted her head from his shoulder.  “I stuck up for myself when I left to move here, but do you realize this was the first time I stood up to her by myself?”

“I do.” Orlin praised her.  “I am glad you finally understand how strong you really are.”

“Perhaps I see myself the way Turamarth does…  Or did.” She bit her lip.  “When I was in Dale, he liked me just as I am.”

“Of course he does, Evvy.” He kissed her temple.  “You have many who love you exactly the way you are.”

“Does he regret meeting me?  He was accused of killing my suitor, and though I might not have—”

“I honestly do not know, but I will tell you my own theory.” Orlin pulled back and looked into his sister’s doe-like eyes.  “I believe there is something between you, Tîrneth, but what if he does not want you to see him in this condition?”

“I would not care!”

“But he does! Right now, your face is a mess, and your hair is a rat’s nest; would you want him to see you like this?”

“No,” she admitted.

“Did Turamarth not spend that entire day in Dale trying to impress you?” 8

Evvy grinned shyly.  “Yes, he did.  He was so sweet.”

Aewpîn; he does not want you to see him at his worst, does he?”  He tilted his head and raised his eyebrows.

“Daeron did not put it like that, but…”

“But he asked you to give his cousin time and space, yes?”

“He did.” She leaned against him again.  “It will be hard, but I will do it.”

“I knew you would.  Let him go home and heal.  I am sure once he is better, he will write.”

“What if he does not?”

“Then he is a fool, and does not deserve my Little Bird.”  He hugged her.  “But if this is meant to be, it will happen.”

 

***************

 

Galadriel walked out onto her balcony and surveyed her Kingdom.  The Feast was a success, to everyone’s relief. Most of their guests would leave early tomorrow morning.

But tonight, her thoughts were on a petite, shy Elleth, and her overbearing, troublesome mother.

“Meleth nîn?” Celeborn came up behind her and put his arms around her. “You are pensive tonight.” He moved her hair and kissed the side of her neck.

“Did you notice Lady Vériel’s demeanor during the Feast?”

“I did, and I am not pleased.” He sighed.

“We cannot control the attitudes of those we rule, Hervenn nîn.” She shook her head.  “I am disappointed, I admit.  I believed her resolve to change was genuine, but I fear that once things calmed down, she returned to her old habits.”

“True change is difficult,” Celeborn’s tone was sad. 

“Her problems go deeper than that, my love.”  Galadriel told him.  “I wrote Lindir in Imladris for more information about Vériel and her family.”

“But surely we have the same records here, Meleth nîn.”

“True, but Ohtar and Evranin work in the Libraries and I did not want them to discover my inquiries.”

“Good thinking.  What did you discover?”

“Before you and I arrived to rule this land, King Amroth arranged many of the marriages of their people, and decided Vériel and Ohtar would be a suitable match.  She is Sindar, like yourself, of course, but her parents held rather strict views of class and did not believe in the, to use her father’s words, ‘the mongrelizing’ of the races.’”

“But Ohtar is Silvan; why would Vériel agree to such a match, if it was not for love?”

“She had other prospects, and needed to escape her parents.  They were tyrants—”

“Much like she is with her own children,” Celeborn pointed out.  “An explanation is not an excuse, for the pain she is causing her family now.”

“True, and it disappoints me.  Vériel’s mother and father were indignant at the idea of a Sindar marrying a Silvan, and they planned to sail and tried to force her to go with them, but she wanted to be free to live her own life; if she went with them, what would change?” she shrugged.

“Vériel has many gifts, and her discriminatory beliefs were not such a problem when we kept to ourselves.” Celeborn turned his wife around to face him.  “But things are changing, Galadriel, and she is not willing to change along with it.  We cannot afford to waste time with ancient arguments, do you not see?  A dissenting opinion in the Council room is not necessarily a bad thing, but to spew such vitriol in word or deed in public is poison!  Others have noticed, and it effects the morale of our people.  Why do you allow this, dearest?”

“Perhaps it is because Vériel reminds me of myself, at one time,” Galadriel said, quietly.

“No, she is not like you!  You are a Noldor far above her in rank, yet you do not use your birthright as a weapon!”

“I did when I first crossed the Ice,” she whispered. 9 “I was an arrogant fool.”

Celeborn took her hands.  “Maybe so, but you did not stay that way.  Whatever naïve ambitions you had, were left on that Grinding Ice, when you watched many of your kin fall or freeze to death.  You were insecure, Meleth nîn.  You were powerful, beautiful, intelligent, and full of potential, but you were also hurt from your ordeal.”

“I was annoyed with you, when we first met,” the Lady smiled.  “You were the only Ellon who was not captured by my feminine wiles.”

“The better word would be ‘imprison,’” He chuckled, and gathered her close. “But secretly, I think you liked that about me.  Valar forbid you would have chosen one of the others from Nargothrond.   Those simpering, cloying nobles would have buried you in praise, songs and poems.  You would have been insufferable!”

Her eyes danced.  “I was humbled; and by a lowly Sindar, no less!”

“A lowly Sindar who refused to let you be anything but your true self,” he rolled his eyes.  “It was hard work—”

“Celeborn!” she smacked his shoulder, then kissed him.  “I love you, my lowly Sindar Prince.”

“As I love you, my high and mighty Noldor Queen.” Celeborn picked her up and headed toward to their bedchamber. “Speaking of hard work, I propose we exert ourselves a bit…”

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Ci athae – Thank you

Elleth – female Elf

Gin iallon Ion nîn, echuia annin – I beg of you, my son; wake up for me

Hervenn nîn – My husband

Mae g’ovannen, Hîr nîn – Well met, My Lord.

Meleth nîn – My Love

Mellonneth nîn – My young friend.

Naneth – Mother

Nenya – Galadriel’s ring of Adamant and Mithril

Tîrneth - younger sister

 

 

NOTES:

[1] http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Istari

[2] From And Winter Came…; CH 34: https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/31479384 

[3] http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Elostirion-stone

[4] http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Eonwe 

[5] http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Tower_of_Avall%C3%B3n%C3%AB

[6]  RE: The message from Valinor

 

Rómestámo – is another name in Quenya for Pallando.  It means “East-Helper.

Abhorred One – Sauron

Artanis Nerwen – in Valinor, that was Galadriel’s name – Specifically, her father-name.  She was only referred to in Middle Earth as Galadriel.

All will be Lost – this plan, if successful, would have given Sauron the means to take over the all lands East of the Misty Mountains. 

Before the One is found! - Sauron still wouldn’t conquer Middle Earth yet, but once the One Ring was found, Middle Earth wouldn’t stand a chance.

[7]  https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/38866184

[8] https://archiveofourown.org/works/17088320/chapters/42259295

[9] Galadriel is referring to the Migration of the Noldor under Fingolfin:  http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Helcarax%C3%AB

Chapter Text

  

“I need a little shelter

Just for a little while

Sometimes I have the silence

Behind a driven smile

If you can't see first door

I will roll it away

I will kneel at your throne

Hold my hands up and pray…”

-“We Belong” by Def Leppard

 

Lothlórien 2nd of July, 2944 T.A., Early afternoon

Elrond had finished checking on Turamarth, just as Elladan and Elrohir entered the Healing House to greet him.  They followed by Glorfindel, who was carrying a cloth-covered bundle under his arm.

“Na vedui!” Elrond went to greet them, and nodded regally to the Elf-Warrior.  “Did you have trouble on your journey here?”

“Only a little, but that was easily dealt with.” Glorfindel saluted.  “Our biggest worry was for you and Mithrandir, after you flew off on the Eagle.  I am glad the danger has passed, though I wish we had been here to assist you.”

“Mithrandir was right, Mellon; armies were of no use in this instance.  I do have some plans in mind, but we will speak of it later.” 

The Elf-Lord greeted his sons with a smile and warm embraces.  “Legolas has had a difficult time.  The pair of you will do him good while he recovers.”

Elrohir checked his father over.  “Grandfather told us what happened.  Are you all right?”

“I am fine, I promise.”

“How is Legolas?” Elladan stepped up beside his brother. 

“We woke him a few hours ago.  Thranduil is with him.”

Elladan’s eyebrows raised in trepidation.  “How do they fare?”

“Father and son are well on their way to reconciliation.”

Glorfindel’s blue eyes were concerned.  “There have been deaths, I am told.”

“Five, in total, if you count the Enemy.  We can be grateful there were not more.”

Daeron stepped out into the hall to greet them with a delighted grin. I thought I heard voices! Suil, Mellyth nîn!  This is a surprise, though a good one.”

“Gwannas lû and, Daeron!”  Elrohir stepped over and hugged him.  “Ada decided the Golden Wood needs cheering up—”

“And we are delighted to be of service,” Elladan clapped him on the back.  “How are you?  Did you marry the Woman from Dale?  What was her name?”

“Rhian, daughter of Ben.” Daeron grinned.  “We were wed last month.  Haldir and some others came to the wedding, and the stories of my Stag night are legendary.”

“’Stag night?’” Elladan tilted his head.  “I am not familiar with the term.”

“A tradition among the race of Men which involves songs, drinking and a pretense at debauchery,” he shrugged, “although I am sure for some, there was no pretense.”

“Really?” Elrohir was interested.  “It sounds like my kind of party!”

“It was quite a night, though I have no idea how many of us arrived home.” Daeron leaned in conspiratorially.  “Haldir brought a good supply of his wine—”

Ai!” Elladan’s jaw dropped.  “Even for Elves that stuff is strong!”

“I did not fare so well,” Daeron winced. “I was sick all over the King the next morning.”

The twins’ faces were full of delighted horror.  “And he did not chop off your head?”

“He and Lord Bard were set to marry us; it would not do to have a dead groom, would it?”

“And your wife?  Is she well?”

“She is,” Daeron’s grin spread from ear to ear.  

“Congratulations, Mellon…” Elrohir stopped mid-sentence, as he glanced over Daeron’s shoulder at Turamarth.  His mouth slid into a frown, and he dashed into the room before anyone could stop him.

Elladan followed his brother’s movements with narrowed eyes until he, too, saw the sleeping Elf in the bed.  A shadow came across his face, and he drew in a stuttered gasp.

Û law…” he whispered, and followed his brother. 

“You must not disturb him, Ion nîn!” Elrond left Glorfindel’s side, scurried past Daeron to retrieve his sons.  He found them staring down at Turamarth with anxious faces. 

Ómar had been reading in the chair by Tur’s bedside, and put down his book.  His posture was rigid with worry.  “My Lord?  Is there something wrong?”

“It is fine, Captain.” Elrond was quick to settle things down.  “My sons simply wanted to check the status of his recovery.  I assure you, there is no need for alarm.”    

“You must not be here” he murmured.  “The Lieutenant needs rest and quiet.”  The Elf-Lord stepped up between the twins and ushered them out. “We will let him sleep, yes?”

“Yes, of course.” Elladan’s tone was slightly dazed.  “My apologies.”

“De vilui, Brennyn nîn.” Ómar bowed his head.  “I appreciate your concern.” 

After they closed the door behind them, Daeron searched their faces.  “What is it?”

“Nothing, I promise.”  Elrond assured the young Healer. “I am going to send for a tray, to tempt your Gwador’s appetite.  As soon as I have spoken with my sons, I will check on him again.”

“Thank you, My Lord,” Daeron bowed his head, before he re-entered the room and shut the door.

Glorfindel stared after him.  “Daeron is married to a Child of Man?”

“Mecin; avaquétima sí. Elrond said quietly, took the package from him. “I need to have a word with my sons.”

The Elf-Warrior said nothing, but saluted and left.

“Ionnath nîn…” Elrond held his hands up, to quiet them.

 “What happened to him?”  Elladan demanded. 

“I will not say, except he is one of the reasons why I need to go to Dale tomorrow.” He said in a quiet voice.  “I will be there for some time.”

“You are leaving?  But we just arrived!”

“I did not ask you to come for myself,” Elrond jerked his head toward Legolas’s room.  At their wary expressions, he went on. “It is not the same situation, but yes, I am going to make sure he will recover fully.  Neither of you will speak of this, do I make myself clear?”

“What is going on out here?”  Thranduil came out of his son’s room and shut the door behind him.  “You will wake up the patients!”

 “My Lord Thranduil,” Elrohir quickly put his hand on his heart and paid courtesy to the Elvenking. “Dhe suilannon.” 

Elladan followed suit.  “Congratulations on your son’s recovery.”

Ci vilui a mae de 'ovannen, Mellyth nîn.” Thranduil returned the gesture. “Please, tell me what troubles you concerning my Guardian?”

“Please excuse my sons; they were not aware Turamarth’s visitors had been restricted.”  Elrond explained.  “Is Legolas asleep?”

“He is.” 

“How is he?” Elladan asked. 

“His body will heal,” Thranduil smiled, “and we are…wonderful.  We have much to discuss, but I am content for now just to be with him.”

“We are happy for you, My Lord.”

“As are we all.” Elrond shuffled his bundle under his other arm and clasped him on the back.  “Might I volunteer my sons as caretakers while you attend tonight’s festivities?”

“If you do not mind, I would be grateful,” the Elvenking’s shoulders relaxed with relief.  “I hate to leave him, but this is an important occasion for our Realms, and I must attend.”

“We would be delighted.” Elladan grinned.

“Do not be too rough on him,” Thranduil’s mouth twisted into a smirk.

Elrohir spread his hands. “Who, me?”

“Yes, you.” Elrond scowled. “Go to the Dining Hall and get a tray of sweet breads, cheese and tarts to tempt Legolas’s appetite.  No wine; just water or juice.”

“Not even for us?” Elladan pouted.

“It would be cruel to drink in front of him. Go sit with him, but do not wake him up!” Elrond’s tone was severe, but his face was affectionate.  “What are you waiting for, Elrohir?  To the kitchen with you!”

Thranduil chuckled softly, as the twins left.  “I did not envy you and Celebrían when they were small, but I am grateful to you for bringing them, Mellon nîn.” 

The Elf-Lord offered an amused smile.  “Sometimes their puckish behavior comes in handy.”

“Those two are just what Legolas needs to chase away the cobwebs of his grief.”

“They will cheer him up, yes, but his real healing will come from you.  Speaking of which,” Elrond handed Thranduil the package.  “I had this packed, before Mithrandir showed up on the Eagle.”

“What is it?” The Elvenking arched a questioning eyebrow.

“I am sure you did not envision giving it to Legolas yourself, but it seems the Valar wishes it to be so.”

The Elvenking set it down on the small table under the hall window and unwrapped the cloth to reveal a familiar carved wooden box.

 “There is no better time than now, do you not agree?”

Thranduil turned to meet his gaze, eyes full of uncertainty.  “Do you think he will like it?”

Elrond stepped over, lifted his hand and rested it atop the Elvenking’s shoulder with a supportive squeeze.  “He will love it; I am sure of it.”

Thranduil pursed his lips together in a smile, and nodded, as he looked down upon the hand-carved box that held the book he had written for his son. 

“Ci fael, Elrond,” his voice was rough. 

“I ‘ell nîn, Mellon.” Elrond said softly.  “Long have I prayed to see happiness in your eyes again.”

“It…feels good to feel good, does it not?”

“Indeed.” Elrond’s smile disappeared, replaced with a pained look.  “I must speak with you privately, my friend.” 

“Does this have something to do with your sons’ reaction to Turamarth?”

“Indeed it is.  Shall we meet here, in my office? Say, an hour after the feast?”

“I will be there.”

 

***************

 

City of Dale, 2nd of July, 2944 T.A.

The deep toll of the bells at the North Gate reached Bard’s ears.  He put his pen away, screwed the top on his bottle of ink, and went to the adjoining door on his left into Percy’s study. 

“Come on, Pers; the kids are home from Erebor.  Where is Hilda?”

“I’m not sure, but she can’t be far,” he answered.  “She wanted to be here.”

The King and the Steward passed the Grand Staircase, where they ran into the Housekeeper. 

“Greta?  Would you please tell Lady Hilda the children have arrived?  We’ll be taking them straight up to our private Sitting Room to speak with them.”

“Of course, My Lord,” she curtsied.  “I’ll send her up right away.”

Bard and Percy headed toward the Main Doors and down the Castle steps to await the rest of their family.  Within minutes, the clatter of horseshoes striking the cobblestone streets drifted upwards to the top of the City where the Castle stood.  Their Elven Escort entered the Courtyard, followed by Bain, Sigrid and Tilda, and Tauriel, brought up the rear on her beloved bay stallion, Hûrnest.

“Hi Da!” Tilda waved from her perch astride Blossom.   The gentle, dapple-grey mare took great care with her small owner, as she dismounted.

“Hi, Sea Monsters!” Percy waved.  “Welcome home!” he kissed Sigrid as he helped her down.

“Aren’t we supposed to take the horses to the stables, Da?”  Bains eyebrows drew together.  “You always said—”

“Not today; I’ve got some news to share with you all, so we’ll head right up the steps, yeah?”

“What’s wrong?”  Sigrid watched his face.  “It’s bad news isn’t it?”

“Please, darling,” Bard’s voice was low.  “Just help your sister and brother get going, and I’ll tell you everything.”

 

Hilda was waiting for them in the Sitting Room.  Greta and Cook, bless them, provided snacks and drinks. 

“Have a seat, kids,” Bard motioned to the couches, before he settled in his favorite chair. 

“When is Ada coming home?” Tilda’s mouth formed a hint of a pout.  “Why isn’t Uncle Galion here?”

“He had to go to the Palace.  Just get situated and I’ll go over everything, all right?”

The girls sat on either side of Hilda, who put her arm around them, while Tauriel and Percy took the other, with Bain between them.  All the young faces turned to him expectantly.

Bard pursed his lips and blew out a long breath, as he leaned his elbows on his knees.  “Kids, I’ve got some very good news, but some bad news, too.  We’ve heard from Ada, and things were worse in Lothlórien, than we knew.”

“What happened?”

Ada’s first note said there was an unexpected enemy, but they managed to destroy him.”

“But can’t he come home now?”

“Not yet, Little Bean.  Some Elves got hurt—”

“Who?”

“Well, Turamarth was one, but they say he is well enough to travel.  I received a message just a few hours ago. Almost everyone will be starting for home tomorrow and they will be here in about two weeks.”

“Well, that’s good isn’t it?  I mean, it’s still a long time, but Ada is coming, right?”

“It is, but something else has happened, and Ada needs to stay there for a while.”

“How long?” Bain wondered.  “Weeks?  A couple of months?”

The King of Dale sighed and shook his head.  “I have no idea at this point, but I promise it’s for a good reason, and when I tell you what it is, you’ll understand.”

“Which is what?”

“Legolas is there, but he was hurt, and can’t travel right now.  Ada needs to stay and help him get better.”

Bain’s face fell.  “Will he be all right?”

“I don’t know the extent of his injuries…” Bard licked his lips.  “But the great news is, Legolas wants to come home with him.  How do you all feel about that?”

“That’s great!” Bain grinned from ear to ear, but when Tauriel said nothing, he asked, “You want him to come home, right?”

“Yes, of course I do,” she said quietly.  “Would you please excuse me?”  She stood and left the room.

 “I’ll go,” Hilda got up to follow her.

“Thanks, Hil.”

“Why is Tauriel sad?” Tilda asked. 

Sigrid moved closer to Tilda and put her arm around her younger sister.  “He’ll be coming here and not just stay at the Palace? This means he wants to be part of our family, right?”

“I looks that way.  Do you think you could help Legolas fit in with this mish-mosh?”

“Aye!” Bain was enthusiastic. “I’d love it if he came.  I’m tired of being the only boy.”

”What about you, Beanie?”

 “Well, I can show him how I ride my horse, and I’ll bet he’s got lots of great stories to tell.” A slow smile spread across TIlda’s face and reached her eyes.  “Would he want to be my brother?”

“I’ll bet he would.”  Bard smiled,  “Now, I’m counting on you three not to make Ada feel bad about staying, do you understand me?  We’ll miss him, but we don’t want Legolas to hurt himself by coming sooner than he should, don’t you think?”

“Right,” Sigrid nodded.  “So, what’s the bad news?”

Bard but his upper lip.  “Sig is right; I’m afraid there is more, and this will be hard.  Tauriel already knows, which is why she’s upset, but we wanted to wait until you were done with your trip, so you could hear this from me.”

“What?”

“Kids, not everyone survived the attack in Lothlórien.  Two of the Wardens were killed—”

“Were the Wardens some of the ones that came here?” Bain’s voice was faint. 

“No.  Cwën, and Airen will be coming home with Elion and Ivran.  But I’m so sorry to tell you, two Guardians were also killed, and once Ada gets back, he will have to have services both here and at the Palace.”

The children froze, and the summer freckles on Tilda’s nose stood out, as color left her face.  

“Who was it?” Sigrid asked bravely, though her voice quivered.

Bard knew the longer he drew it out, the worse it would be, but it took tremendous effort to force his tongue to work and make the words pass his lips.

“Nuín, one of the Gatekeepers—”

“No!  Poor Nualë!”  Sigrid’s face fell.

“I’m afraid she was killed, too, love.”

“Oh, no…” Sigrid covered her face and began to sob.  Bain leaned into Percy and shed tears of his own.  Tilda jumped from the couch, raced over to his chair and crawled into his lap.

“It’s not fair, Da!  She was my f-friend…” she keened into Bard’s neck. 

“I know, Beanie,” he rubbed her back.  “Shhh…  But she’s in the Halls of Waiting with her husband and they are together now.”

“But Meldon is there already, and so is Esta!  Why, Da?”

“I wish I knew, darling.  But we’ll think about them and remember the good times, yeah?”

Later that evening, Bard was reading in bed, when Tilda showed up, with her doll Charlotte and her pug Meryl, who trotted over and curled up beside Thangon.

“Da?  Can I stay with you for a while?”

“You sure can. Feeling lonesome for Ada?”

She stepped on the stool and crawled into the high bed.  “I’m sad about Nualë, too.”

“Tell you what,” he lifted his arm and gathered her to him.  “We’ll miss Ada and be sad together, all right?”

“Okay,” She sniffled, and snuggled in, while he went back to his book.

 A bit later, there was another knock on the door.

“Da?”  It was Bain.

“Come on in,” he called.

“I can’t sleep,” the boy said, with a hint of embarrassment in his voice.

“Don’t worry about it.” Bard shuffled over and patted the mattress on his other side.  “Up with you.”

 

Sigrid appeared a short time later, followed by Tauriel, who had been pacing the Hall, and was alarmed when she checked on the children, and found empty beds.

“Come and join us,” Tilda opened her arms.  “You’re sad, too.”

“There’s plenty of room,” Bard’s mouth curved upward. “Scoot over, Sig…  Are we all settled?”

“Uh huh,” Tilda yawned.  “But I’m still sad.”

“I know, Little Bean, but we’re here together.”

“I’m glad we are,” Sigrid murmured.  “This is what we all did after you and Ada rescued us last year, remember?”

“That’s right,”  Bain turned on his side to face the others.  “We all scrunched in that smaller bed behind the Great Hall, and even after Ada washed his hair, it still smelled like smoke!”

“‘Scrunched’ is right, but I felt better.” Tilda agreed with a small smile.  “We squished!”

“Mushed in tight,” Sigrid giggled a little.

“Squashed!” Bain offered.

“Crammed,” was Bard’s contribution.

“Noss paur”  Tauriel said.

Tilda sat up. “What does that mean?”

“‘Noss’ means clan or family, and ‘paur’ means together, as in a fist.”

The corners of Bard’s eyes crinkled, as he smiled.  “I love that.  That’s what we are, too.” He held up his hand and curled his fingers together.  “When trouble comes, we close ranks and stick together, support and protect each other don’t we?”

“Too right!” Bain added. “That should be our family motto.”

“Can we do that, Da?”

“Sure thing, Little Bean.”

 

***************

 

Lothlórien, 2nd of July, 2944 T.A.; After the Feast

The Feast went well, though Thranduil wasn't surprised at the residual wariness between his people and the Galadhrim.  It would take time to absorb the enormity of the past two weeks.  Sadly all shared in the grief of lost comrades, and by the end of the evening, the Galadhrim genuinely wished their Woodland guests a safe journey.

 The Elvenking reached the Healing House, and peeked in his son’s room.  Legolas appeared to be comfortable with the twins, so, after a short chat with the three of them, he went to meet with Elrond.

 

Once the two of them were settled in the leather chairs in Elf-Lord’s study, Thranduil glanced around the room.  It was a temporary chamber, on the small side, but it didn’t need to big, as the Elf-Lord only took up residence in it a few times a decade. The walls were the same as the rest of the building with its high ceiling, clean white walls, and in the tall window, the sheer curtain fluttered in the breeze of the clear summer night.

“I had planned to speak with you before my sons arrived, but there was no opportunity.  Thranduil, with your permission, I would like to accompany the caravan to the Woodland Realm, and to Dale.  Mithrandir and Glorfindel will also go.”

“Of course you are always welcome, but is there a reason?”

“Many, and that is why we need to talk.   From a diplomatic standpoint, it is high time I made acquaintance with the King Under the Mountain, and,” he smiled, “the new King of Dale, don’t you agree?”

“I will send a message first thing in the morning,” Thranduil’s heart pained a little at the idea of their separation.  “Bard and the children will be thrilled to meet you.”

“And King Dáin?” Elrond’s eyebrows raised. 

“You will be pleasantly surprised, Mellon.  If you can believe it, he and I have something that could be called friendship.  Mithrandir’s presence should help smooth things over.   May I ask favor?”

“Anything, you know that.”

“I will write my husband a letter tonight, and it would mean a great deal if you could give it to him.”  

“I would be happy to.”

“I would also ask that you tell Bard what happened.  My letter will state as much, but it better to hear them personally, and you and Mithrandir could reassure him I am safe.”

“I will make myself available for anything Bard needs to know.  What do you want me to say to the children?”

“Just that I love them, and miss them.  They should not be burdened with the details, but I suppose I cannot control what is said among our people—”

“I will reassure them, as well.”

“Thank you.”  Thranduil took a long drink, then said, “Elrond, I need to know why the twins were upset about Turamarth.”

“Please excuse their behavior.  They probably want to help, but in this case it would be unwise.”  Elrond hesitated. “I must explain the nature of your Guardian’s wounds, but as with everything we speak of here, it must be kept confidential.”

“Of course,” Thranduil sat back and crossed his legs.  “Go on.”

“Daeron made a point to protect Turamarth’s privacy, but my sons and I are familiar with the nature of his affliction.”

“What happened to him?”

A pained expression marred Elrond’s features.  “It is the same kind of wound that my wife’s fëa endured, after the twins rescued her.  We healed Celebrían’s body, but the Shadows lingered and not even with the combined powers of Galadriel and myself could we help her.”

“Are you saying Tur was raped?”  Thranduil’s skin began to tingle, then itch with horror and revulsion.

“Not physically. Turamarth suffered a vision involving sexual assault of some sort.  It is not as devastating as an actual assault, but the memory of it is quite real.”

“Is he in danger of fading?”

“It remains a remote possibility, I admit.  Daeron and I worked together to dissipate the Darkest Shadows, but he must be watched carefully; the lingering effects could be dangerous.”

“Does he not understand it was just a dream?”

“Thranduil, think back to your wedding night with Mírelen.  What was it like?”

The Elvenking stared off into the distance as images of their of their first coupling entered his memory. “It was...astounding.”

“As was mine,” the Elf-Lord said softly.  “Physically, Turamarth might be a virgin, but in his mind, has had his first joining; one full of anguish, violence and shame.”

Thranduil’s hand covered his eyes.  “Ai, law…” 

 “It is a tragedy.” A sad sigh escaped the Elf-Lord’s lips. “I am told he and a Galadhrim maid were attracted to each other?”  

“Orlin’s sister, in fact.”

“Little Evvy?”

Thranduil nodded. “He wasn’t scheduled to come, but I encouraged him, Elrond.  Tur met her at Daeron’s wedding, and may have felt the Ehtë Raumo.  The Blue Wizard must have seen into his thoughts and twisted his image of her…”

“So you understand why he needs to get away from here?  If this should become well-known, the humiliation would literally destroy him!”

“Yes,” The Elvenking winced.  “Will he need to sail, do you think?”

“Let us not consider that, yet.” Elrond told him.  “Since Eärendil’s Blessing, an Elf is less likely now to die of grief, and I would like to try and give Tur a chance at a normal life.  It’s possible he could heal and learn to be happy again.”

“So you want to go with him and make sure he is in no danger?”

“Among other reasons, yes.”  The Elf-Lord’s shoulders stooped. “I think I need to see this through for myself, as much as for Turamarth.  I am reminded of Celebrían and I lacked the strength to save her then.  I would like to think she would want me to do this.”

He stared out the window into the night.  “I miss her, Thranduil.  She did not die, yet I…” his hand went to his chest and he rubbed it.  “There is a constant ache because she is far away from me.”

“I am sorry.” Compassion filled the Elvenking’s heart. “Truly, I am.  When you sail, I pray she will be waiting on the White Shores with her arms open wide to receive you and your children.”

“Will my children sail with me, I wonder?”

“What do you mean?  Of course they will!”

“Ah, but you forget; my line was given a choice, and my heart tells me I will be sundered from one of them forever.” The Lord of Imladris sighed. “How will I explain that to their mother?  I fear our reunion will not be joyous, as you or I hope, but be mixed with bitter tears of grief…”

“You do not know this for certain, Mellon nîn.  Is it not you says not to dwell on grief until it comes to my door?”

“You are right,” Elrond shook himself back to the present. “We must set our minds to the tasks before us, yes?”

Thranduil got up to pour them another drink, and said.  “You said there were ‘reasons’ why you needed to go?”

“There are, and they concern Daeron.”

“What about him?”

“You and Ermon have written me about Daeron’s talents, but this is the first chance I have had to meet and work with him.”

“You need more time with him?”

“I do.  We believe Daeron Adamarion has a great deal more potential than anyone suspected.  I was given a demonstration of this talent when he realized Turamarth was still in danger, and sought my help.”

“How so?” 

“Few Elves have the ability to ‘see’ the Shadows of the Black Breath.  You are the most powerful Elf in the Woodland Realm, Thranduil; do you see them?”

The Elvenking’s brow wrinkled. “No.”

“The Great War is coming.  Should Dol Guldur be taken once again, you need someone to help your people overcome the Black.  I want to take the next several months and work with Daeron to fully expand his talents.  He tells me he is newly married, and does not want to separate from his new wife and child.  Perhaps it is good that I have not met him, until now.”

“You are rather cryptic, Mellon.”

“I suppose I am,” Elrond admitted. “There is yet another, very important matter that concerns us, but we need to know more before we say anything to Daeron.”

Thranduil held his fingers to his lips and digested this for a moment.  “Who is ‘we?’”

“Mithrandir, Galadriel and I,” Elrond answered.  

“The bearers of That Which We Do Not Name?”

“Yes.” Elrond’s shoulder lifted in a half-shrug.  “Plus Glorfindel and my sons.  I believe Arwen would see it, too.”

“Why?”

“Galadriel and Glorfindel were born in Valinor, in the Years of the Trees, and those that lived in their Light are mightier than any born in Middle Earth.  As for me and my children, we are descendants of Queen Melian, and have Maiar blood in our veins.”

“This is true.” He assented.  “But you said you were not aware of his talents with the Black Breath until Daeron asked you for help?  Why did you not see something right away?”

“I did, but it was only after we treated Turamarth that I learned he was married to a Woman.”

“What does that have to do with it?”

Elrond set his elbows on the desk and intertwined his fingers.  “This morning, I asked Galadriel and Mithrandir to seek Daeron out, and speak with him.  I wanted to make sure it was not my imagination.  I said nothing to you then, as you had enough to deal with, to be bothered by mere speculation.”

“I appreciate your concern,” the Elvenking leaned forward in his chair, “but Daeron is my responsibility and I need to know what worries you.”

Elrond nodded then took a sip from his cup.  “Thranduil, are there any other Elves in your Kingdom who have married a human since Eärendil’s Blessing?”

“Rhian and Daeron are the only couple within our acquaintance so far.  And of course myself and my husband.”

“You and Bard are an exception, so we need not go into that.”  Elrond nodded his head, and got back to the subject.  “When an Elf weds a human, he or she becomes Mortal, although they are gifted with a lifespan several times that of normal Men, and the human spouse is granted the same, as well as a life free from illness. 

“To put it simply, both would become as the Númenoreans of old, before those bloodlines were diluted with Men.”

Thranduil’s mouth dropped.  “I never thought of it in those terms, but… yes… you are correct.”

“The information I was given did not state this specifically, but that is the gist of it.  My own brother, Elros, died of old age, but he lived to be 500 years old.”

“So Daeron and Rhian will live to the same number of years, then after they pass, join the others of the Race of Men.” The Elvenking nodded his head.

Elrond’s voice was cautious.  “Thranduil, in my lands I have attended, or presided over, several Marriage Feasts between Elves and Men in the last three years.  They have kindly submitted themselves to regular examinations, so that I may understand and record the physical effects of such a joining.”

“What did you find?”

“With each couple, the change in their fëa is obvious at a glance, for one who ‘sees’ it.  In addition, while the Elf remains much stronger than a human, they lose some of the capabilities they were born with. Not all, but much of their magic is gone; it is the sacrifice an Elf makes to be given the Gift of Men.”

“Are these Elves adjusting well?”

“They seem to be.  They joys of their joined fëas compensates, and that is understandable.  Love is a powerful force among all the free peoples.  Elros never regretted his own choice, either.  He and his wife were very happy.”

“How do the humans fare?”

“Their changes are remarkable.   They are stronger, faster, healthier and suffer from no illness.”

“Much like my Bard.”

“True.  These people will age, though slowly, and so will their children.”  Elrond sat back and studied the Elvenking.  “Tell me: before his marriage, did Daeron express concern over the changes that might occur?”

“Yes.  He and I spoke at length about it.   He thought the matter over carefully and did his best to prepare himself, should he lose his gifts, but Daeron…”  Thranduil stopped in mid-sentence, as a wave of comprehension slammed into him.  “Elo…”

“Indeed.” Elrond’s eyebrow shot up with an expression full of meaning.  “I have also been told an extraordinary story concerning his wife, and someone else whom Daeron had known before.  Are you aware that he believes Rhian’s fëa to be the same as that of the infant Sellwen, another child of Man to whom he was struck by the Ehtë Raumo?”

It was as if a shower of puzzle pieces fell from the sky and assembled in front of him.  Yet some were missing.  “I knew of Sellwen, of course; Daeron told me of her long ago.  If he is aware of this, he has not had a chance to say anything to me about it.  They were only married a few weeks before we came here.” Something else came to mind.  “Galadriel asked for him specifically for the military exchange year…” 

“She did.” 

“She sent him a message.  I do not recall precisely what it said, but it was something about seeking…”

“I hope to understand more about Rhian once I meet her, but from what I see, from what several of us have seen, the Light of the Eldar has not left him.”  

Thranduil’s mind reeled. “You mean he…”

“I believe Daeron Adamarion remains Immortal.”

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Ci fael, Elrond – You were generous, Elrond.

De vilui, Brennyn nîn. – You are kind, My Lords

Dhe suilannon – I give greetings to you.

Ehtë Raumo – (Q.) “Lightning Bolt”  (lit. “Storm Spear”) Sometimes, when an Elf first encounters his or her bond-mate, they can feel a powerful, emotional response, like lightning.

Elo… - Wow

Hûrnest – the name of Tauriel’s bay stallion (because of course our tough, warrior Elleth wants a stallion) which means, “Heart of Fire” (because of course, her horse would have a name like that!)

I ‘ell nîn, Mellon – It was my pleasure, friend.

Ionnath – My sons

Mecin; avaquétima sí – (Q.) Please; not now.  (lit. “Please; not to be said now.”)

Na vedui! – At last!

Û law… - Oh, no; it cannot be…

Chapter Text

 

 

 

How did we let it come to this

What we just tasted we somehow still miss

How will it feel when this day is done?

And can we keep what we've only begun

And now these walls come crumbling down

And I can feel my feet on the ground

Can we carry this love that we share

Into the open air?

“Into the Open Air” written by Julie Fowlis

 

Lothlórien, 3rd of July, 2944 T.A.

Turamarth sat on the edge of his bed, looking out the window into the leaves of the world-renowned Mallorn trees.  The sun was reflected in the sheen of the large, green leaves, and the golden flowers turned upward like eager faces absorbing Anor’s warmth.

It was beautiful, really.  This whole place had a beauty unlike anything Tur had ever seen, and when he first came, his neck  craned in every direction to take in every bit of it.

On his first night, he watched the Lighting of the Lamps at sunset, and his heart wanted to burst at the beauty of it.  He stood on the balcony of the guest house with Nuín and Nualë, as they listened to the song, as the soft, silver glow accented the staircases that wound up the trunks of the giant trees, along with the hundreds of lamps hanging in the windows of the homes of the Galadhrim.

He would never forget it.

But the joy of it had disappeared days later, and his dreams and hopes turned into unimaginable nightmares.  He had seen Evvy embrace her suitor, and his heart sank.  Then Mahtan had been murdered, and Tur was dragged through the city, then interrogated for hours by those whom he considered friends.

Then he was attacked trying to rescue his Prince and plunged into Darkness beyond anything he could have imagined.  And now all he could be was despondent, depressed, and deeply ashamed.

He never should have come. 

Only Daeron knew the depths of his despair, and why wanted to go home so badly.

Gwador?”

Daeron quietly entered his room, and squatted down in front of him.  His face tilted upward and searched his own.  “Ada and Uncle have finished packing our things, and the party will be leaving within the hour.  Do you need anything?”

He shook his head.  “Thank you, but no.  I just want to get this over with.”

“What do you mean?”

“I…  dread leaving this room and going out there, where everyone will see me.”

“What do you think will happen?”

“I do not know…  What if they still think I am a murderer?”

 “No one thinks that, I promise.  Ada and Uncle said everything was explained at the Feast.  The Lord and Lady spoke, then Mithrandir, Lord Elrond, and King Thranduil all stood, and gave their accounts, and the Galadhrim were all made to understand who the true villain was in these matters.   Even the Marchwarden expressed his deep regret to our people for your arrest.”

“Was Rúmil there?”

“No, but Uncle and Ada spend a great deal of time speaking to Haldir and Orophin, until they were satisfied there was no lingering doubt.”  Daeron hesitated, then said.  “In fact, Rúmil has asked to see you, before you leave.”

Tur stiffened.  “What could he have to say to me?”

“I do not know, and I will not force you.  You decide, and if you want me to remain, I will be happy to do so.”  Daeron leaned in a bit closer.  “Keep in mind, he has been a victim of the Black, the same as you, and it might do you good to talk to someone who understands your pain.”

“You did not tell anyone what… happened in the Shadow?”

“That secret is yours to tell, and yours alone.”

Turamarth slumped his shoulders in relief.

“Do you want to see him?” 

After a pause, the Guardian nodded his head.  “No, but I might regret it, if I refuse.”

“I think that is wise.” Daeron got up, went out the door, and after a few minutes, returned with the Warden.  Rúmil was pale and the light in his eyes were dulled, but his face was hopeful.

“Have a seat, Warden,”  Daeron indicated the chair.  “Do either of you want me to stay?”

“I think I will be fine, Gwador,” Tur sighed. 

“Legolas has asked for me,” Daeron told the both of them.  “I will see him, then wait in the hall, if you need me.”

“Thank you,” Rúmil offered  a shy smile.

Once they were alone, the Warden tentatively met Tur’s gaze.  “I…wanted to be sure you were recovering.  How are you?”

“I have been better.  I will be better, once I am home.”

“I am so…” Rúmil’s voice was rough.  “I am so very sorry for the pain I caused you.  For what we did to you.”

Tur closed his eyes and his head drooped a bit, as he sighed.  “Daeron asked me to imagine if our situations were reversed.”

“And?”

“I think Feren would do the same, and I would follow his orders, just the same as you did with the Marchwarden.  I have been told you argued with your brother regarding my imprisonment?”

“I did.  You were right to feel betrayed, Tur, but I truly had no choice!”  Rúmil’s voice was earnest. “Haldir and Celeborn did not know who was attacking us, and they thought the people would be in greater danger if we let on that you were innocent.  I know it was wrong, but they were desperate to prevent more deaths.”

“I know.  And if that was the case, it was the wisest choice.”

 “I am sorry our friendship has been damaged, but I want you to know I treasured my time in Dale with you and all your people.”

“I believe you.”  Turamarth told him.  “I wish I could say all is well between us, but at this point, I can barely manage to get through each hour…”

“I think only those who both suffered in the Black, really understand,” Rúmil said, in a thin voice. “I have not had the courage to tell anyone about it, and my dreams are filled with things I wish to forget.  Do you sleep at all?”

“They still use a spell, to chase away nightmares; otherwise…”

“Me, too.  After my first night home, Orophin sent for Penlod, then sat with me all night to make sure I did not wake up screaming again.  He comes every night now.”

“Does it help?”

“Sometimes,” Rúmil lifted his shoulders in a shrug.

“It is the same with me.  It is as if I am outside in the cold, looking through a window into a warm, bright place, with no way to get in.” he whispered.  “I have no memory in here,” he placed his hands over his heart, “of what gladness feels like.  I know I was different, but…”

“Master Gilfanon told me that will pass.”

“What if it does not?” Tur asked, softly. 

“I do not know, Mellon, but at least we know we are not alone in this.  Maybe that helps.”

“Perhaps; I cannot say right now.”

“When you get home, the mists may start to fade.  May I write and ask how you are, Turamarth?”

“Not for a while, please?  I need to be away from all this, and learn how to breathe deeply again.”

“I understand.  But when your thoughts turn toward the Golden Wood again, remember you have friends who earnestly pray for you.”

Rúmil left his chair and started to leave, when Tur asked, quietly,  “Have you seen her?”

“Yes, briefly.” Rúmil’s eyes met his. “She does not understand.”

“I know.  Please, tell her I am sorry?”

“Is there anything else you want me to say?”

Turamarth scrubbed his hands across his face.  “Tell her none of this is her fault and I wish…so many things.”

 “I will tell her.”

Tur said nothing, but he gave his friend a slight nod.

“Safe travels.  And write me when you feel better?”

“I will.”

 

Daeron came in after Rúmil left.  In his hand were several sealed letters, which he stowed in his bag. 

“Did you write those?”

“No.  Elrohir helped Legolas with these and asked that I deliver them,” he answered.  “How did it go with Rúmil?”

“It was good, I think.  Are we ready to go now?”

“We are, but first, the King and Lady Galadriel would like to bid you goodbye privately.”

 

A few minutes later, there was a knock.

“Come in.”

“Good morning, Lieutenant,” Thranduil entered, followed by the Lady of Light.

Turamarth got to his feet and saluted. “Permission to take my leave, My Lord.” He wobbled a bit, so Thranduil jumped forward and eased him back down to sit.

“Granted, with my blessings.”  The King assured him.  “I wanted to wish you well.  I do not know the extent of your wounds, but trauma is something I am familiar with.  You are to receive the best of care; nothing will be spared until you are well again.” He held his hands over Tur’s head.  “May I?”

“Yes, My Lord.” 

 Thranduil gently lowered his hands to rest on Tur’s head, and offered a short prayer of blessing, then said, “Your orders are to rest, get well, and not give up on yourself.  I have great faith in you.” 

He leaned closer and his blue-grey eyes pierced his own.  “I want you to know, Turamarth, you have done nothing to dishonor me, or our people.  Nothing.  Your position as Chief Guard for King Bard, will be waiting for you whenever you are ready.”

“Le vilui, Aran nîn.”

Thranduil gave him an encouraging smile.  “Now, if you will excuse me, I must go give farewell blessings.”

“I would speak to the Lieutenant alone, if you will allow it,” Galadriel said.

“Tur?”  Thranduil tilted his head.  “I will not make you to anything you are not ready for.”

“I… I think it will be all right,” he said, hardly disguising the waver in his voice. 

“Very well, then.  I will see you at the wagons, Fer-nesto im.”  and the King took his leave.

Galadriel took the seat that Rúmil had just occupied.  “I am sorry for your suffering, Guardian, and I hope one day you will think better of the Golden Wood, and my people.”

 Turamarth flushed with embarrassment.  “It is I who should be sorry, My Lady.  I never meant to cause any sort of strife—"

 “I hold you blameless, Lieutenant. Throughout, you served your King with honor, and that is all anyone can ask.”  She reached for him, but stopped, when he flinched.  “May I touch you?”

He managed a nod, then she placed her fingers under his chin and her deep blue eyes held his gaze for many minutes.  

Your wounds are deep, Guardian…

Turamarth writhed in shame, praying the floor would open up and swallow him, and felt like he was covered in insects…

 Be not afraid, son of Ómar…  I only wish to help you…

“It is as I thought,” she said aloud.  Her face was sad, as she let go of his chin.  “My heart grieves for you, child. Of all who have suffered in this, your path to wellness will be the longest and most arduous.”

A tear rolled down Turamarth’s face, and his voice was almost inaudible.  “I fear I will never smile again.”

“Your fëa is shrouded by a dark veil, and you are desperate to flee the Shadows that haunt you.  Yet, they will chase you beyond these borders, for you cannot outrun yourself.” She lifted his hand and turned it over.  “But take heart, for this will help you.”

Galadriel opened her other hand, revealing a long gold chain, with a sparkling yellow gem the size of his thumbnail.  The facets caught the light from the window, and it glowed with warmth.

“It is beautiful…”

“This is the Sun-Star, a yellow diamond that shines with the light of the Elanor, flowers that will only bloom under the Mallorn trees.” She placed it in his palm. “By day, when Arien brings Anor across the sky, this will capture its light and help with memories that will taunt you.[1]  At night, when Tilion travels with Ithil, and your dreams are filled with Darkness and shame, the gem will bring you comfort.” [2]

 “But is this not an heirloom, a treasure of your own House?  Should it not be given to Lady Arwen?”

 Turamarth tried to give it back, but she curled his fingers around it.  “Nay child; it was meant for you.”

I do not understand, My Lady.”

“This jewel once belonged to my daughter, Celebrian, who suffered wounds much like yours.  Though they were too severe for her to survive here, the Sun-Star kept her fëa safe, until she reached the Havens, and sailed to the West.  Celebrian had a vision just before she boarded the ship, and bade me to keep this safe.  My daughter’s last act in Middle Earth was to infuse her own compassion into this jewel, and leave it for the One she knew who would have great need of it.” At the pained looked on his face, she caressed his cheek. “Today, I have fulfilled my promise, and pray that one day, your heart will be light.”

His eyes filled, “I ant lîn vîr vin faer nîn n’uir.” He reverently placed it around his neck and tucked it under his tunic.  “Thank you, My Lady.”

Galadriel’s smile was sad. “Go in peace, Turamarth Ómarion, with my blessings.”  

 

 

***************

 

Evranin chose not to go to the Forest floor to say goodbye, but she couldn’t stop herself from watching the scene from her balcony.  The wagons had been loaded, the horses were saddled and Ivran’s family and the other wedding guests took their seats. 

The Lord and Lady gave them their blessings, followed by King Thranduil, but it wasn’t until they were about to leave, and Mithrandir was mounted upon Tur’s horse, Sandastan, that the door to the Healing House opened and Daeron led Turamarth down the steps. 

Evvy’s hands flew to her mouth when she saw him.  He looked ashen, and weak, and though his body had not outwardly changed, he seemed…emaciated, as if he were starving from the inside-out!  Tur leaned heavily on his cousin’s arm, looking to him for support.  Or was it to keep from seeing the hundreds of well-wishers who wanted to express their sorrow and regret for what he had been put through?

Daeron whispered something in his cousin’s ear, and Turamarth quickly looked around and lifted his hand in a weak wave, before he trained his eyes on his cousin again.  His hand was clasping something to his chest, and everything about his countenance screamed, Get me out of here, please…

The Lord and Lady led her people in song, which lifted everyone’s hearts, as King Thranduil and Daeron helped Tur get into the last wagon, and get him settled.  The other Guardians were kind and did not behave as if anything was amiss, and the Wardens followed suit.  The order was given, and the horses started to move out of the City. 

But just at the last moment, Turamarth turned his head in her direction, and she gasped, as her heart jumped.  When their eyes finally met, his mouth opened slightly, then closed in a firm line, as he swallowed hard.  He nodded once to Evvy, then closed his eyes as he held something hanging around his neck.

She wanted to rush down there and tell him everything would be all right, and that she would wait for as long as it took.  She wanted him to know that all she cared about right now was for him to get better. 

Instead, she watched him, until they drove out of sight.

Then she went into her room, and stayed there the rest of the day.  She had thought there were no tears left in her, but she was wrong.

 

***************

 

5th of July, 2944 T.A.

Legolas blinked awake to see the sheer green curtains billowing in the light wind.  All was quiet, except for the shuffle of footsteps in the hall, and the low voices of the Elven Healers down at the end.

He turned his head slightly, and rested his eyes on his father’s bowed head, as he turned the page of the book he was holding.  Adar was so different, now! His face bore remnants of their recent ordeal, as did they all, but now he was…soft and open, much like the images he’d observed in Galadriel’s Mirror.  But Thranduil was no longer a reflection or memory.  His father was here, and real, though he could hardly believe it.  For the past several days, they were careful with each other, and not a little awkward.

 

 

 

“Give it time, Legolas, and go gently,” Elrond had encouraged, before he left. “You and your father need to get to know each other again, and you will.  The most important thing is to rest and get well.”

Legolas still slept much of the time, but he was glad he’d managed to stay awake long enough to have Elrohir write the letters for him.  He trusted the twins to protect his privacy; for all their joviality, they were true and loyal friends.  Even as he dictated, he didn’t have the strength to be anything but brief.

He had to write to Galion; he was so much more than an Aide, or even an adopted Uncle. He was Legolas’s touchstone for most of his life, long after he’d grown.

His condolences to Meldon’s family, included an apology for his inexcusable delay in writing, and a few sentences to say how much he treasured their friendship. 

He was nervous about writing Tauriel, and in the end, the twins advised it to keep it simple, so he told her he was sorry, not only for ruining the deep bond between them, but that he’d left her on the ledge at Ravenhill in the middle of her grief.  Legolas promised she did nothing wrong, and asked her to forgive him.

When Elrohir finished writing, neither he nor his brother said a word, and he thanked them for that.

“We like to tease,” Elladan told him,  “but not about this, Mellon.”

“I am glad you came.” Legolas admitted.  “This has been…”

“Difficult, and you have our sympathy,” Elrohir smile was wry. “Though when you feel better and we have to keep you abed, we will be the ones who need it.”

“You will be well again,” Elladan winked, “because we will plague you and tease you until you are!”

Legolas offered a weak smile, “Did your Adar tell you what happened?”

“He gave an overall account, yes,” Elrohir said. “But as for what you personally went through, he said little, only the extent of the injuries.” He sighed.  “We are not strangers to the Black Breath, Legolas, but I think you will be fine, in the end.”

“You are just trying to get out of cheering me up.”

“That is also true.”

 

***************

 

Thranduil turned the page in the book he was reading, just as his son moaned in his sleep.  It fell to the floor, forgotten in an instant, as he leaned over and stroked Legolas’s face and brow.

“Echuio, Pînlass!” He said in a gentle voice.Ôlel!  Echuio!”

Legolas moaned softly, became still, as his eyes opened.  “Where am I?”

“You are in the Healing House of Lothlórien, remember?”

His son remained confused only a moment longer, but his face became pained as the memories of the past several days flooded back to him.  “Oh…”

“I hate to see you like this, Ion nîn, but it will pass.  Are you in any pain?  Gilfanon has a brew ready, if you need it.”

“I think I do.  I… ache?”  Legolas’s brow wrinkled.  “I am not sure.”

“I am.  You are not the first Immortal being I have seen with badly broken bones.  I assure you; it is normal at this stage.”  Thranduil smiled, then sent for the Master Healer, who entered with a cup of steaming liquid.  After examining the patient, Thranduil helped Gilfanon prop Legolas up, and helped him take a sip.

“Blech!” the Elven Prince made a face.  “This stuff is terrible!”

“All of it, now,” the Master ordered.  “You will be drinking quite a lot of it over the next several weeks, so you might as well get used to the taste.  I do not want to use the Poppy Juice any more than I have to.”

“How does anyone tolerate it?” 

Thranduil laughed.  “You have never had occasion to need it before this.  I wish I could say it is an acquired taste, but it is not.”

 “I am afraid he speaks the truth, Legolas,” the Master grinned.  “Do you need anything else?”

“Well…” the blond prince blushed a little.  “I have to…”

“Ah.  Wait here.”  He went to the door and summoned Orlin.  “The Prince needs assistance to use the…facilities.  My Lord, let us step out and allow them some privacy.”

 

As he waited in the Hall, Thranduil looked out the window at the evening.   What was Bard doing?  How were the children?  It was only two weeks since he left, but his life in Dale seemed ages ago, after all that happened.  Yet if he were completely honest, he was glad to have this time alone with his son.  They both needed it; and it was too soon to ask Legolas to be thrown into the midst of their lively, noisy family.  No; better to ease him into it. 

He was selfishly grateful not to be the one to tell Bard exactly what took place.  Thranduil was still shaken by that scene in front of the cave, more than he wanted to admit to himself.  Ai… He and his son were less than a second away from death.  At his orders!  Would Bard understand, or would he be angry?  And if he was angry, would he forgive him?  There was nothing for it but to pray that, once his Bowman had time to process this, he would understand that nothing would tear Thranduil from Bard’s side but something as serious as this.

The Elvenking placed his hand over his heart, closed his eyes and pictured kissing his Bard.  I love you, Meleth nîn, and I miss you…   Then he smiled as he imagined his Bowman touching his lips. 

Thranduil’s thoughts turned toward his son.  Before Elrond left, he asked for his counsel: 

 

 

 

“How do I tell him about my life now?  I do not want to overwhelm him, or make him feel as if I am demanding anything.  What do I say?”

“I would let Legolas steer the conversation, Mellon.  Let him set the tone, but try not to linger on maudlin subjects too early, as he is still in recovery, but at the same time, if you can deepen the understanding between the two of you, it will help him get stronger.”

“That is rather ambiguous advice,” Thranduil looked doubtful.

“I realize that, but it is the best I can give you.”  Elrond smiled.  “Trust your instincts, both as a father and a diplomat.  It will come to you.”

 

As soon as Orlin was finished, the dinner trays were brought in, and Legolas managed to finish all of his bread, and half of his soup, but as he did better than yesterday, Thranduil decided not to argue.  He was sitting comfortably with one ankle propped up on his knee as he enjoyed a cup of tea, when his son asked about their homeland.

“Tell me about the forest.” Legolas asked him, once the trays were taken. 

 “The trees and plants have improved, and for the first time in several decades I think we will get ahead of the spiders.”

“So, you are allowing the troops to destroy them at the source?”

“I am.  I know Tauriel was upset with me for not allowing it before, but she did not understand the danger.” Thranduil sighed.  “I did not fully grasp the danger either, to my shame, and had she gone…  I shudder to think what would have happened.  Right into Sauron’s lair!  Thankfully, our Gwinïg has a much safer job protecting the Bardlings.” 

 Legolas was quiet for a moment, then said, “I am sorry, Adar.”

“What for?”

“If you had not been so grieved, the forest might not have gotten so—”

“No, Ion!” he quickly reached over and held his hand.  “You were not responsible; those are just the lies you were told, remember?  We talked about this.”

“I still get mixed up,” Legolas swallowed.  “Lord Elrond said it might take a while for things to feel…less real.”

“And it will, I promise.  Be patient with yourself, Pînlass.  Ask, and I will tell you the truth, as often as you need it, I promise.”

“May I ask you something?”

“Certainly.”

“I know you love Bard and I do not understand it yet, but—”

Thranduil sighed.  “Legolas, burdens and blessings come our way, whether we will it or no, and if we do not change with the times…” he swallowed.  “I will spend the rest of my life deeply regretting all those years when I locked myself away…”

“No, AdaEttā and Galadriel showed me in the Mirror.  You could not help yourself.”

“Perhaps.  But still, I missed so much with you, Ion nîn.  Time I can never get back, and the grief will follow me all of my days.” He leaned forward.  “I want it to grieve me, because the pain of it reminds me to treasure each moment I have with you, and I do not ever want to forget that.”

“Did…” Legolas hesitated.  “Why did Bard help you, when I could not?”

“Is that what you think?” Thranduil’s smile was fond, as he said.  “No, Pînlass.  It was not Bard who changed me; it was you.

“What did I do?”

 The Elvenking put both feet on the floor, leaned over and cupped his son’s face.  “Legolas, you forced me to see what I had allowed myself to become.  Only a monster would hold a sword to his own child’s throat!” his eyes closed tight.  “Ai… I scarcely believe I did that… But you, Legolas, you stood up to me, you did not back down.  Oh, the look on your face tore me to shreds, and never in all my life was I so humiliated,  but I deserved it, my son.  I deserved it!”

“Legolas, you saved me then, do you not see?  You were brave when I was a coward, and you were strong when I was weak, and it was you who knocked me to my knees!  It was you who tore down those horrible, wretched walls around my heart, once and for all!

Legolas’s eyes filled, but Thranduil didn’t see it because of the tears in his own. 

“If you and Tauriel had not done that, the Battle would have been lost and it would have only been a matter of time before Sauron’s forces destroyed our home.  You saved me.  You saved Dale, you saved all of it!”

“The Mirror showed you on Ravenhill, after I left.  I saw you weep, and I thought…”

“No. The only way for me to heal was to be completely broken first.   It made me change, and that, Hênig, was your gift.”

“But you were crying as if it was the end of the world, Ada!  I have never seen anyone of any race mourn so.  Why?”

“Because,” the Elvenking’s voice broke, “your mother died because I was a moment too late to save her.  But my own guilt kept me a prisoner, not you, not even the Rista-Goeol, for long after the danger passed, I could not open up, however much I wanted to.  That day on Ravenhill, I was in mourning, mostly for you, because I was too late, again.”

“I do not understand.  Too late for what?”

“Too late for you, Ion nîn.  You had freed me, and finally, when I could really be the father I wanted to be,” he sobbed the last words out, “I had lost you forever, because I was too late…” 

“But it was not forever, Ada.  We are here now, and there is no more reason for you to be sad.”

“There now, do you see?  Once again, your wisdom is greater than mine.”  Ever so gently, Thranduil kissed his hair, and looked deep into his eyes.  “I have loved you longer than anyone else in Middle Earth.  All the happiness I have found in the last few years was because of you.” He smiled through his tears. “I am sorry for the circumstances that brought us here, but I praise the Valar it has brought us back together.”

“When I am well, I would like to return home, but,” Legolas paused, then said, “should I live at the Palace?”

“I will never push you to do anything, but what I want most in this world is for you to be a part of our family in whatever way you are comfortable.”

“But… what does Bard think?”

“Bard has always considered you one of us,” he smiled.  “In fact, he gave me something to help you.”

“Me?”

“Yes.” Thranduil got up and reached under his bed for the bundle Elrond gave him. 

“What is that?”

The Elvenking returned to his seat.  “Before Bard and I were married, he promised to help me find a way to show you where you came from, and prove that you were very much loved.  I…” his breath caught.  “I know I never spoke to you about your mother.  I could not, and I had to have all reminders of her removed, just to remain strong enough to stay and care for our people.  I am sorry it took her away from you.”

“You do not need to apologize.”

“But I do, Pînlass.  No matter what the circumstances, you deserved better.”

Ada…”

He handed the box to his son, who lifted the latch, and took out the thick, brown leather journal.  “What is this?”

“Open it and see.”

Legolas ran his fingers lightly over the cover, then lifted it, to reveal the first page.   It was a detailed sketch of Mírelen, sitting in the garden of Rivendell.

“That was the very first time I saw your mother...” Thranduil said, fondly.

Legolas gasped.  “But…  Bard wanted you to do this?”

“Of course.  For you.  Was she not beautiful?”  Thranduil leafed through a few pages, to show the small, neat Tengwar script.  “I filled this book with stories and memories of our lives together, and it is yours to keep.  You have lost so much, Pînlass.  I hope this, in some small way will give you back some of those years—  Legolas?” His eyes widened when his son gasped suddenly covered his mouth.  “What is wrong, Ion nîn?  Does this upset you?”

The Elven Prince shook his head.  “Not at all…  This is more than I ever expected…  I love it, Ada.”  His blue eyes turned to him.  “Could you,” he licked his lips.  “Could you read it to me?”

Thranduil stroked his son’s hair.  “I would be honored.  Let us get you settled in the pillows, then I will begin.”

Once Legolas was comfortable, the Elvenking opened the book again, and when he read aloud the story of meeting his Queen, his mind traveled back to that beautiful, sunny day.  The words on the page came to life, and somehow he felt Mírelen was here in this room, looking down on her husband and son, with joy.

He glanced over to see Legolas’s eyes had closed, and his breathing was deep and steady.  Thranduil stopped, reached into the box and picked up a faded blue ribbon. 

“Ci vilui, Bereth Vuin nîn,” he kissed the ribbon - for it was the very one Mírelen had worn in her hair the day Legolas was born.  He marked his place, closed the book and gently put it in the box.

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Echuio, Pînlass!  Ôlel.  Echuio! – Awaken, Little Leaf!  You are dreaming. Awaken!

Fer-nesto im – Feel better soon

I ant lîn vîr vin faer nîn n’uir – I shall treasure your gift in my heart forever.

Le vilui, Aran nîn – You are kind, My King.

 

NOTES:

 

[1] Anor is the Sindarin word for Sun:  http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Sun

[2] Ithil is the Sindarin word for Moon, which Tirion takes across the sky every night:  http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Moon

Chapter Text

 

All the heroes and legends
I knew as a child have fallen to idols of clay
And I feel this empty place inside
So afraid that I've lost my faith

Show me the way, show me the way
Take me tonight to the river
And wash my illusions away
Please show me the way


 -Styx, "Show Me the Way"

City of Dale, 5th of July, 2944 T.A.

“My Lord, messages have arrived from the Palace.” The Elf ascended the steps and placed the papers in his hand.

Bard thanked the Guardian, and opened it as he descended the Grand Staircase.  The first one read: 

Lord B:  Have rec’d word that T remains in Loth’n. Funerals to go on in his absence.  Svs. in WR on 7th, and in Dale on 9th.  Pls inform Hilda to prepare. 

Enclosed – transcribed mssg from T.  – Galion

The other message made him stop in his tracks:  

G:  Must stay with Beleg.  Hold funerals - do not force families to wait.  Our ppl. (Turamarth & family) left on 5th with letters. Mithrandir, Elrond & Glorfindel also. Should arrive in Dale on 17th at the latest.  Pls pass to Bard; Mithrandir and Elrond will tell all on arrival.  -T

Bard sighed, crestfallen.  He’d never  begrudge Thranduil this time with his son, but he missed his husband!

But there was plenty to keep him occupied. 

 

He found Hilda in her office, going over plans to maintain the City Gardens with Rhian. 

“I have news.” He held up the paper.

“Is it good?”

“Yes and no.  Here.” He handed it to her.  Hilda’s mouthed moved silently as she read the words. 

“Oh, my lands…” her hand clasped her throat. “That’s a lot, but I think it’s right to do the memorial service now.  It’s cruel to drag it out. We’ll set up the Great Hall, for the Ninth of July, and do the traditional pot luck?” she looked to Rhian.

“Absolutely.  We’ll all want to contribute something.”

“That’s what I thought, too.  I’ll tell Cook to coordinate it, and provide the drinks and such.  Now Bard, you and Galion will do the service here?”

“I think Mablung should do it.  I was also thinking Sigrid should get up and say a few words.  Nualë was her Guard, and she need to get used to things like that.”

“Sad, but true.”  Hilda studied the rest the note.  “Elrond and Gandalf are coming…   Who is this,” she looked again, “Glorfindel?”

“I’ve heard the name.  I’ll have Sig look him up, but we know it’s just as big a deal as Celeborn and Galadriel’s visit last summer.”

“They were Thranduil’s family; this is different!”

“You always say it’s different,” Bard’s mouth curved upwards.

“I do not! These people don’t know us, and the Castle is still new – we haven’t even lived a year in it!  Oh, my stars!  I’ve got to find Greta and we need to scrub this place from top to bottom, and get the Great Hall whipped into shape… Where will they stay?”

“Well, we do have a Castle, Hil.”

“And we’ve got that picnic at the Lake on the 23rd…” Hilda sighed. “Should we cancel it?”

“Absolutely not.  Our people have been looking forward to this. We’ll invite our guests to come along.”

“Is Daeron coming?”  Rhian swallowed.  “What about Tur?”

“Oh, I’m sorry!” Instantly Hilda deflated, and put a comforting arm around Rhian’s shoulder.  “Here, love.”  She handed the girl the paper.  “You’re going to want to show this to their Mams.”

“Where are they?” Bard asked.

“They’re watching Darryn at Tur’s place.  Let me go get them—"

 “Better yet, why don’t you take that over to them?”

“Thank you, My Lord,” her shoulders relaxed a little. “Darryn should be napping now, so that’d be easier.” Her eyes met Bard’s.   Do you think Turamarth’s all right?”

“If something had happened, they would send word, so at this point, no news is good news.  So we’ll hope for the best, and take the rest as it comes, yeah?” 

“I’ll be back as soon as I can!” Rhian curtsied and left.

“I need to tell Tauriel and the kids.” Bard told Hilda.  “Do you know where they are?”

“Tilda’s outside playing,” Hilda said, absently, as she began lists.

“Thanks.” Bard left her to her work, and went outside to find the one person who always seemed to know where everyone was. 

Tilda was squatted down on the walkway with Alis and Dafina in the summer sun, her hair woven into two braids down her back, drawing pictures on the stones with the chalk Bofur keeps her supplied with.

“Hey there, Beanie!”  He walked down the Castle steps and studied their drawings. “Got a message from Galion, just now.”  

“Is Ada coming?  He’s bringing Legolas, right?”

“Not just yet, love.”

“But what about my Ada?” Dafina’s mouth turned downward. 

“I hope he is, darling.” He patted her blonde curls.  “But we’ve got some other people coming.”

“Who?”

“Gandalf, for one—”

“Ooh!” Tilda clapped her hands.  “He can do fireworks, can’t he?”

“We’ll be sure to ask him.  Two other Elves—”

“Gallerdil and Celeborn?” her voiced squeaked with excitement.

“’Fraid not, Beanie, but they’re friends of Galler – Galadriel, so we’ll be very polite, right?”

She shrugged.  “Okay.  But I really wish it were them.”

“Me, too.  Where’s Bain?”

“He’s riding with the boys and Tauriel, again,” her nose wrinkled.  “That’s all they ever do!”

Bard grinned and tugged at her braid.  “I guess they don’t know how to have fun like you do.  Is Sigrid still at the Healing House?”

“Nuh uh.  She got home a while ago, and went to Ada’s library.”

“You’re always such a big help.  What would I do without you?”  he kissed the top of her head, then sent her back with her friends.

He found Sigrid curled up in a reading alcove, with her nose in a book.  A plate with three apple cores was beside her, along with a jug of water. 

And tears were streaming down her face.

“Sigrid!  What’s the matter?”

“Oh, Da!” She wailed.  “I just don’t understand how men could be so…so stupid!” she waved the small volume under his nose.  “You… Men!  You’re all just so damn dumb, you can’t see what’s right in front of your nose!”

Bard sat down beside her.  “So what did we do this time?”

“Oh, not you personally… But what is it with men, anyway?” she blew her nose.  “Even Elven men can just be so unbelievably…  Arrgh!”   She growled.

He picked up the book and read the spine.  “The Debate of Finrod and Andreth… 1  Okay, so what did Finrod do to Andreth that’s got your dander up?”

“Well, it wasn’t so much Finrod – but he was stupid, too because instead of telling Aegnor – that’s the brother, not to dump Andreth, he went along with it!”  

“Who is Aegnor?”

He was an Elven Prince, and he looked in the water and saw this beautiful woman named Andreth—”

“She was in the water?”

“No, he saw her reflection in the water—“

“Well, where was she then?”

“She was there!”

“But you said she wasn’t in the water.”

“Da-a!” she smacked him on the chest with the book.  “He looked up from the water and saw her standing there and they fell in love!”

“But what’s so terrible about that?”

“It’s not, but he was an Elf, and she was a woman.” She sniffled.

“So?  Your Ada’s an Elf and I’m…well I’m not a woman, but I am of the race of Men.  Daeron’s an Elf, and unless I’m mistaken, Rhian is a woman, too.” He shrugged.  “What’s the problem?”

“I don’t know!” she threw her hands up, as the tears fell again.  “There shouldn’t be!  Andreth told him she loved him, but he turned away!  He loved her, but that…that bastard wouldn’t say it back, and he just… just walked away Da!”

“Language.” Bard told her, “and yes, I’m aware of the irony.”

“But Aegnor should have stayed and married her, they could have been happy, even if it was only for a little while,” She buried her face again.  “Ada says love is the most powerful thing in Middle Earth, but this…bas- I mean, Elf  would rather go to War!”

“A bit simplistic, don’t you think?”

“But isn’t love supposed to be simple?”

“Oh, lordy…”   Bard chuckled.  “If only.  But when it’s right, it’s worth it.”

Sigrid growled and snatched the book.  After finding a passage she was looking for, she thrust it back in his hand.  “Here, read this!”

Her finger pointed to a paragraph, and Bard read aloud: 


'Speak of neither to me!' said Andreth. 'I desire neither.  I was young and I looked on his flame, and now I am old and lost. He was young and his flame leaped towards me, but he turned away, and he is young still.  Do candles pity moths?'

 'Or moths, candles, when the wind blows them out?' said Finrod.

Bard stopped.  “Who’s Aikanár?”

“That’s Aegnor,” she rolled her eyes.  “You know Elves; they love to have a dozen names apiece.”

“Oh.” He read on: 


'Adaneth, I tell thee, Aikanár the Sharp-flame loved thee. For thy sake now he will never take the hand of any bride of his own kindred, but live alone to the end, remembering the morning in the hills of Dorthonion….

'For one year, one day, of the flame I would have given all: kin, youth,  and hope itself: adaneth as I am,' said Andreth.

 'That he knew,' said Finrod; 'and he withdrew and did not grasp  what lay to his hand: elda as he is...”

Sigrid crossed her arms.  “Well?”

 “Well, what?”

“Don’t you think he was being stupid?”

“That was in First Age, darling.  Maybe the rules were different.”

“But Da-a! Finrod told her that they would have to wait till the bloody end of the world!  See?”  She pointed to another paragraph:   


'I will tell him,' said Finrod. 'But I might as well tell thee not to weep.  He is a warrior, Andreth, and a spirit of wrath. In every stroke that he deals he sees the Enemy who long ago did thee this hurt.

 'But you are not for Arda. Whither you go may you find light. Await  us there, my brother—and me.'

Bard shook his head.  “You’re going to have to take this up with Ada when he comes home.  Better yet, ask Galion; he knows about all this stuff Sigrid, I understand you’re in love with love; it’s perfectly natural at your age. Just… don’t be in a hurry to run off and get married, okay?”  He put the book down and gathered her to him.  “You’ve still got your studies and a lot of other things you need to do.  Can you stay my little girl for just a while longer?” he made a mopey face.  “Please?”

“Don’t worry, Da.  I’ve got a plan, and marriage doesn’t enter the picture until I’m qualified as a Healer; I want that too much.”  Sigrid’s grin was mischievous.  “But what if some tall, dark, gorgeous man – or Elf, or Dwarf even, tries to spirit me away in the night?”

“Never happen, I guarantee it.”

“How do you know?”

“Because, my darling girl,” he held her face.  “Your Da and Ada make sure you’re surrounded by soldiers with sharp weapons, so I’m not worried about your virtue.  Besides, what do you think would happen to the poor guy when Auntie Hil got through with him?”

Sigrid’s mouth twitched.  “An entire Elven Army isn’t as scary as she is.”

“Nope.  Do you know what she said to Ada when she first found out we were in love?”

“I’m not sure I want to know.”

“Let’s just say, if he were to ever hurt me, the Elvenking would be singing high notes for the rest of his days.” 2

“She didn’t!”

“She most certainly did.”  He put his arm around her.  “Hey listen:  I’ve got a couple of things I need to tell you.  Thranduil can’t come home just yet, so we’re going to go ahead and honor Nuín and Nualë here beginning of next week.  Could you give the eulogy?”

“I… think I’d like that, Da.”

“Is I knew you would, love.” he kissed her temple.  “And there’s more.  I’ve just gotten word we’re to have visitors.” 

“Who?”

He told her.

“WHAT?  Glorfindel?  Are you serious?  And Elrond? The Elrond?” She jumped up and knocked the apple cores on the floor, and Bard barely had time to grab her water before it spilled. “Why didn’t you tell me right away?  Elrond’s only the most important Elf in the world!”

“Well, don’t tell your Ada that.”

“But he’s Elrond!  And – sorry, Da,” she quickly picked up the bits of apple, grabbed him by the hand and pulled him out of the library, book forgotten.  “Does Auntie Hil know?  Wait till I tell Ermon!  Has Elénaril met him, I wonder…”

Bard allowed himself to be dragged along with mixed feelings in his heart.  All his children were changing by the minute right in front of him, and he wanted nothing more than to slow the passage of time.

 

***************

 

Lothlórien, 12th of July, 2944 T.A.

“How are you this morning, Pînlass?” Thranduil returned to Legolas’s room after his bath.  His hair was wet in a braid over his shoulder, and his robes were Celeborn’s while the clothing he had brought were being laundered.

“I feel more alert today, and I wish I could sit up.” 

“As soon as Master Gilfanon gives the word, and not one minute before.”

Legolas’s smile was sheepish.  “It is difficult to remain so still,” he groaned.  “I am tired now, but when my strength returns, I think it will drive me mad!”

“I completely understand.”  One side of his mouth quirked up.  “Why do you think I have not moved into a guest Talon, yet?  My son is as stubborn and determined as me; and someone has to force you to remain still, so your bones can heal.”

“How could you know?”  He groused.  “You have never been stuck in bed like this!”

“Oh, but I have.”

“No!” Legolas was skeptical.

“If you lie still, and refrain from complaints, I will tell you about it; are we agreed?”

Thranduil sat in his bedside chair and rested his ankle on the other knee, as he told him the story of Bard’s crushed leg. 3

“…as it turned out, Bard and I were in grave danger, but we survived – with some help from Mithrandir – and once we regain consciousness, I was stuck in bed for nearly a month, right along with Bard.”

“You?”

“Yes,” he chuckled, “me.  Like you, Bard had to stay still, so the bones could heal, but I had given him too much of myself and was as weak as a kitten.”

“Where was Tauriel?”

“She was there, and I am sad to say she took it very hard.” 

 “I am sorry to hear that.” Legolas sighed.  “I wrote her a letter; did you know?”

“I heard a brief mention,” Thranduil’s brow furrowed.  “I will not ask for details, but I hope it is an attempt to make peace between you?”

“It is.  I could not write it; the bones in my hand are still healing,” Legolas held up his right hand.  “But Elrohir allowed me to dictate it.”

“Well they are fond of Gwinïg, and want you to work it out.”

“They told me if I was going to hurt her, they would tear it up, then tear me up.”

“I believe it.” The Elvenking smirked.  “But that is between you and Tauriel, and I will not pry.  To get back to the subject, Bard and I were terrible patients, and Ermon yelled at us—”

“Ermon?  He actually yelled at you?”

“He most certainly did, but that was not even the worst of it.  When we still refused to behave, he called for their ‘secret weapon.’”

Legolas brow wrinkled. “Which was?”

Thranduil leaned forward, his voice low. “They call her the ‘Mother of Dale,” Ion nîn.  I assure you, that woman can put the fear of Mordor into a Balrog!”

“What did she do?”

“Well, they brought her from the Palace, and,” Thranduil lowered his chin and grinned, “let us just say the walls shook…  I have not been yelled at since I was small and Feren and I stole pies from the kitchen!” 4

“What did she say?”

 

By the time Thranduil finished, Legolas held his ribcage and laughed. “Ouch!” Legolas scrunched his eyes.  “She ordered you to go back to bed, like that?”

“She had me cowed like a dog,” he shrugged.  “I admit it.  And everyone outside our door cheered.  Including Ermon and Feren.”

“No! Feren?”

“The men were taking bets, and he won a great deal in the pools.”

Legolas’s smile slowly disappeared, and he looked out the window, pensively.

“What is it, Ion nîn?”

Ada, I am glad we are talking like this, truly,” he said.  “I dreamed of this, but sometimes I feel…  Never mind.  I am just tired.”

“Well, let me help get you settled.” He eased Legolas back down and pulled up his sheet, then stroked his hair. “Have a good sleep, Pînlass.”

 

Once Legolas was asleep again, Thranduil went to see Gilfanon. 

“Did I hear laughter coming from his room?” The Master asked.

“You did.  I hope I did not hurt his ribs.”

“The high spirits are good for him, as long as he doesn’t move around too much.”

“He was fine, but then his mood suddenly changed.  He said he was fatigued, but…I think he wanted me to leave.”

“You can expect that, My Lord.” The Master offered him a chair.  “In fact, I was hoping we would have a chance to talk.  Can I get you something?”

“Thank you, no.” Thranduil took a seat. “I would like to understand more of my son’s condition.”

Gilfanon set his elbows on his desk and intertwined his fingers. “Before we begin, let me assure you: I am not judging anyone, and my only concern is for my patient’s well-being.  This means I must be brutally honest, and I cannot afford to spare your feelings.”

“Yes, of course.  Whatever he needs.”

“Thank you.  Let us examine what we know: the Blue Wizard convinced him he had to remain in the Black, as penance—”

 “Yes. He said he had to stay, to make us safe.”

“Have you considered why the Blue Wizard could imprison him so easily?”

“Because he twisted Legolas’s rage toward me to aim it at himself.”

“Ah.” The Healer held up his finger.  “But, did he? Let us talk about that, My Lord.  I do not think that delusion was the Blue Wizard’s doing; if that had been the case, the Lady of Light would have been able to call him back without your intervention.”

“But he chose to stay…”

“Because the Blue Wizard did not have to work hard to convince him.”

Thranduil’s heart squeezed. “He repeated Legolas’s own thoughts back to him?”

Gilfanon’s voice was gentle.  “Yes.”

“But…” he shook his head.  “My son does not deserve that!”

“No more than you deserved to blame yourself for the Queen’s death.  Yet you did, for many years, did you not?” Gilfanon’s smile was compassionate.  “You and your son are very much alike.”

“Yes.” Thranduil’s sigh was full of pain. “I never wanted this for him.  If only—“

“No!” Gilfanon stopped him.  “Do not wallow in what might have been.   You need to be strong for your son, for he has never needed you more.”

Thranduil looked up at the ceiling and blinked away tears. “I have a lot to make up to him.”

“Yes, you do.” Gilfanon agreed.  “You both mourn for the time wasted, which is natural, but you cannot afford to indulge in self-pity.  Legolas will need you to remain steady and constant.”

“So what do I do?”

“Meet him where he is at.  Accept him, wherever he is at until he works through this. Help him understand he is worthy of your love, that he was never the problem.  And above all, you must remain patient and consistent.”

“I understand,” he nodded.

“I am not sure you do, My Lord,” Gilfanon warned. “Legolas will not trust your reconciliation for a long time.  He will accept one day, be wary another, reject it, test you, push you, and reach out to you, and around you will go in seemingly endless cycle,” the Healer’s gaze was firm.  

“If he needs space, let him have it.  If he wants to talk, validate his feelings without judgment, then gently steer him toward the future you both want.  And,” the Master was hesitant, “since Legolas is no longer in physical danger, I recommend you remove to other rooms.”

Thranduil ran his hand over his face, and huffed a laugh. “I see your point.  He is probably feeling a bit smothered.”

“It is easy to do, when our children are hurt.  Do not be too hard on yourself; you both have been through a terrible time.”

”We have.  My husband has a saying about ‘flying by the seat of my pants.’  But I thank you for your guidance in this.”

“I propose we meet frequently, so that I might help you navigate this.  If need be, I could meet with both of you, as well.”

“I would like that.” Thranduil rose. “Thank you, Master.” 

“Of course,” Gilfanon stood, then added.  “I will send for Elrohir and Elladan when he wakes.  I would like you to take the afternoon and digest all of this.  You must look after yourself, or it will hurt both of you.”

He nodded, then the Elvenking left the Healing House and went for a long walk in the Forest.

 

***************

 

City of Dale, 18th of July, 2944 T.A.

The Bells at the West gate had tolled four times to indicate visitors.

“Okay gang,” Percy called out, “here they come! Look lively everybody!”

Thangon and Meryl led the charge, barking all the way as everyone scrambled to their feet and raced down the Grand Staircase.

“Be careful on those steps!” Hilda chastised.  “Tilda, hold your sister’s hand, now. The last thing we need is a bloody nose or a broken arm!”

“Elrond the Great could fix it, couldn’t he?” Bain murmured. 

“Don’t be impertinent!”

“Where’s Da?” Tilda asked.

“Over there with Ben.   Greta and Cook are getting the household staff lined up.”

“Rhian’s coming, right?”

“She’s on her way, with all the Mams and the baby.  Hilda stopped at the bottom of the steps and made them all line up.   “Let’s take a look at you…  Bain get that hair out of your eyes.  Didn’t you brush it?”

“Aye, but it’s too wild!”

“Oh? I’ll just grab my shears and cut it off, then.”  Her right eyebrow shot up.

“No!” Bain quickly licked his fingers and arranged it.

“If you’d done that in the first place…” She whacked between his shoulder blades. “No slouching!”

“Yes, Auntie Hil.”

“You too, Evan; get those shoulders back!”

 “Yes, Auntie Hil!” Evan grinned. But he stood straighter.

Hilda rolled her eyes, and tucked a strand of hair behind Sigrid’s ear and smiled.  “Beautiful, love.”

“What about me?” Tilda frowned.  “Tauriel did my hair special!”

“It looks wonderful, and so do you.  Where is she, by the way?”

“Coming!”  A clatter of metal approached, and Tauriel ran down past them like a shot to meet up with the Guard unit that had begun to gather.

Hilda went over to the King of Dale for a cursory inspection, and when she was satisfied, checked out the rest of the staff. 

“Oh, my goodness, Evan! There’s a loose thread on the hem of your tunic!” She grabbed Bard’s ceremonial knife from his belt and cut it.

“That’s the first time this weapon’s ever been used, Hil!” Bard complained.  “How is that supposed to go down in the history books?”

Hilda ignored him. “I’m surprised Eryn didn’t catch this.” She glowered at Evan

“I do not expect her to do my mending; she is not my wife, My Lady!”

“And if you’d quit dragging your feet, she would be,” she stood up straight with her hands on her hips.  “You’ve been stepping out with Tilda’s teacher for how long, now?  A year?” 5

“Can I be Flower Girl?” Tilda’s eyes were wide with hope.

“Evan’s not engaged yet, Beanie,” Bard told her.  “Give him some time, yeah?”

“Seems to me Eryn’s been strung along enough,” Sigrid muttered.

“Sigrid…” Bard warned. “That’s not the point.”

“The girl is right.”Hilda smacked Evan upside the head. “What are you waiting for, boy?”

“See what I mean, Da?” Sigrid murmured in disgust.  “Men!”

“What’s all that about?” Percy asked Bard out of the corner of his mouth.

“It’s a phase.” Bard whispered.  “A ‘‘She-Woman Man-Hater’ phase.  If you ask, she’ll tell you all about it.”

“No bloody thanks.” Percy shuddered, then called out, “Hey, are we decent, Hil, or should we crawl back into our hovels and pound rocks?”

“You’ll do. Now, I want everyone on their best behavior, is that clear?”

The kids knew the drill.  “Yes, Auntie Hil!”

 Bard grinned as men stood at attention, and snapped their heels together, just for the effect.  “Yes, Auntie Hil!” 

“Very funny.’”  She clapped her hands and pointed to the tall double-doors.  “Now, march!  And no slouching!”

 

***************

 

After an overnight stop at the Palace, Turamarth had insisted on riding the entire way to Dale.  His physical strength had been returning, and his time in the saddle was increasing.  Even if he’d still been weak, Tur would refuse to ride to the Palace or enter Dale otherwise.

“Everyone would see me in the wagon and want to ask questions, Gwador.  I am not ready for that.  I can barely tolerate the thoughts of the crowds.”

“Do not worry about that.  Ada and Uncle have it worked out.  When we get to the City, you just follow my lead, all right?”

On the road, Feren placed him and Tur toward the back, and their fathers brought up the rear to keep watch and listen to the Guardians in the trees.

Daeron helped him pass the time by reminiscing about childhood adventures.  His Ada and Uncle joined in and regaled them with memories of their own, and while Tur said very little, the lines on his face relaxed some.   They rode in silence for a time, which allowed Daeron’s thoughts to wander.

 “You are smiling, Gwador,” Tur observed quietly.

“Am I?” Daeron sighed.  “I am sorry—”

“No, please…  You look happy, and it helps.  What were you thinking about?”

“My wife.  Did I tell you what Rhian did before I left?”

Tur shook his head.

“She ordered me to bring you right home, and if I didn’t, she was going to come herself, and Valar help anyone who tried to stop her.”

“She said that?”

“Oh, yes. She slammed things around when she packed my things, and nearly broke my hairbrush in half.  I had no idea she could be so fierce!” 6

“I did.” Tur said in a faraway voice. Do not forget, it was I who looked after her and Darryn while you were gone.” He absently fingered his necklace, as he talked. “She stomps her foot when she is angry, did you notice?”

“I did.”

“May I ask you something, Daeron?”

“Anything.  You know that.”

“I know Rhian was different, when you first met.”

“She was.  She’d been badly hurt and abused by her first husband.”

“But now…” he didn’t finish.

Daeron wisely did not press the point.  Instead, he studied his cousin’s profile. “Rhian adores you, Tur.  You know that.”

“I do.  I admit when you first became engaged I was…at loose ends.  I was afraid I would lose…us, Daeron.  But Rhian does not let me feel like an outsider.  It means a great deal.”

“That’s because you are her Gwador, too.”  Daeron said softly.  “She loves you and so does Darryn.”

Tur didn’t say anything for a few moments, then whispered.  “But what if things can never be the same?”

“Then we will make things better in a different way.”

 

The bells rang, and the gates of Dale opened to cheers and waves and smiles. 

“Come with me, Tur.” Daeron maneuvered them to the rear, and as they passed upward through winding streets, he ducked his horse down a back street, to get to his house.  “Ada and Uncle will explain to our mothers, and bring them along shortly.”

Once they reached his home, Daeron dismounted, and helped him off Sandastan.  Turamarth’s knees buckled, so he helped his cousin walk to the steps and up onto the porch.

“I feel dizzy…” Tur’s voice was weak, and his skin took on an ashen pallor.  “The horses?”

“They will be taken care of.   We sent a message last night for the door to be left unlocked, and Rhian should have your room all ready.  Let us get you inside, and you can lie down.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Turamarth moaned and leaned into him. 

Daeron helped him inside, and straight up the steps.  He barely managed to get Tur’s boots and armor off before he was fast asleep.

 

***************

 

 “Blast! I’m too short!” When the company entered the courtyard, Rhian craned her neck to get a glimpse of her friends and family.

 

Indis shifted Darryn to her other hip. “There are Ómar and Adamar!”

The ceremony of was brief. After the King announced a Feast in three days’ time to welcome their guests, Feren dismissed the troops, and the Captains rushed to greet their wives and Rhian, and kiss their grandson.

Hannah and Ben came over. “So they went straight to the house after all?”

“Looks that way.  Could you and Da take the baby?  I want to take Nana and Nathêl to see their sons.”

“Sure thing,” Hannah took Darryn, but not before she kissed Indis. “Go on, love; it’ll be fine.  You’ll see!”

The three of them moved quickly through the crowd, and by the time they turned onto their street, Daeron bolted out the front door and down the porch steps.  “Rhian!” His face lit up.

 

“Daeron!” She opened her arms and ran over the cobblestones until she was swept up in his strong arms and spun around.  “I’m so glad you’re home!” 

He put her down, buried his face in her hair and whispered.  “I have missed you more than I can say, Hind Calen.”

“I love you,” she sobbed.  “I was so worried…”

“I know,” he held her face, and his warm lips kissed her eyes and cheeks and mouth. “But I am here, now.  We are here.”

“We had the service for Núin and Nualë, and it was so awful.” Her cheeks were wet with tears.  All I could think of was you and Tur and what if—“

“Shhh…” He wiped her tears with his thumbs.  “Here I am.” And he kissed her so soundly, it chased her fear away.

“Daeron?” She smiled through her tears.  “Your parents are watching.”

“So they are.” He gave her a quick kiss, then went to greet his Mother and Aunt. 

“Tur is worn out, and I expect he will sleep for quite a while.  But he is home, Aunt.” He hugged her again.  “We brought him home and we will keep him safe.”

“How is he?” Indis asked.

“You must prepare yourself, for you will find him much altered.” He put his arm around her and escorted her into the house.

“What happened?” Idril asked her husband.

“Tomorrow, Meleth nîn,” Adamar whispered. “For now, go see your nephew.”

They quietly went up the stairs and opened the guest room door.  Tur was indeed fast asleep, on his side, with his knees drawn up.  Even in sleep, the weight of his trauma showed.

“Ion naer nîn…He is so pale…” Indis approached the bed, and gently brushed the hair from his forehead.  “I would like to sit with him for a while.”

“That would be fine,” Daeron whispered. “But if he wakes and gets upset, please come and get me.”

“I will.”

After Idril went downstairs, Daeron took Rhian by the hand and ducked into their bedroom.  “I need to hold you for a little while,” he murmured into her hair. 

“I’m so glad your back,” she told him.  “Was it terrible?”

“More than you can imagine,” he shuddered. “There is a great deal to tell you, but please; not now.  Today, I need to enjoy my wife and son, and tonight…” Daeron lowered his head and captured her mouth in a kiss that made her tingle down to her toes, then rested their foreheads together. “Tonight, I need to be with you, Hind Calen.”

“Anything you need, babe.” She whispered.  “I love you.”

Downstairs, Hannah and Ben arrived, and a chorus of ‘hello’s’ were followed by the sounds of small feet and hands eagerly climbing up the steps.

“Where’ Ada?” The dark-haired toddler stuck his head in their door. “’s Ada here?”

“Darryn!” Daeron released his wife and opened his arms.  “Here I am, Pinig! 

Ada’s home!” The little boy waved his arms and ran to him.

“Shhhh…” Daeron scooped him up and kissed his cheeks and forehead, then headed downstairs.  “We do not want to wake up your Uncle Tur.  Now, tell me; did you learn any new words while I was gone?  I think you are bigger…”

Rhian smiled at her husband and son, and followed.

Tomorrow, the hard work would begin.

But today was about family.

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Ion naer nîn… - my poor son…

 

NOTES:

 

[1] http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Athrabeth_Finrod_ah_Andreth 

[2] From What Makes a King, CH 15: https://archiveofourown.org/works/10838010/chapters/25456920

[3] From And Winter Came… CH 31: https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/31073298

[4] From And Winter Came… CH 37:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/31879389

[5] From An Invincible Summer, CH 42: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/38056268

[6] From Legolas, Ion nîn, CH 18: https://archiveofourown.org/works/17088320/chapters/43393505

Chapter Text

 

 

 

When you're weary, feeling small

When tears are in your eyes, I'll dry them all.

I'm on your side, oh, when times get rough

And friends just can't be found

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down…

 

- Simon & Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Waters

 

 

City of Dale, 18th of July, 2944 T.A.

Once the party in the courtyard came to a full stop, Gandalf approached, followed by a tall, dark-haired Elf with an aura of nobility and wisdom.  He was followed by an ethereal, blue-eyed Elf whose golden tresses gleamed in the summer son.  Though the Bowman deeply loved his Sindar King, this Noldor was as beautiful and stunning as Lady Galadriel.

Bard found his voice, and he stepped down the last flight of steps with his hand to his heart.  “I welcome you to the Kingdom of Dale, My Lords,” he said, and extended it in an Elven greeting.  “We are honored to have you as our guests.”

“King Bard, the honor is entirely mine.” Gandalf bowed his head.  “Please allow me to present Elrond Eärendilion, Lord of Rivendell and its surrounding lands.  I would also like to introduce Lord Glorfindel, formerly of Valinor.

Mae govannen, Bard Brandion, Aran e-Dale.”  Elrond returned the formal salute. “Êl síla erin lû e-govaded ‘wîn.”

“Galdol.  I mâr nîn i mâr dhîn.” Bard gave the proper response, and shot a nervous glance over at Galion who had accompanied them from the Palace.  Did he get it right? The Elven Aide’s quick nod of approval was a relief.  “We have prepared a dinner in honor of your arrival, My Lords, and my family would be delighted to further make your acquaintance.”

“I would be pleased to join you,” Elrond’s chin lowered to his chest and up again.

“Shall we?”  Hilda stepped forward to usher their guests.

 As the group made their way to the dining room, Bard murmured Galion, “I’m glad you’re here.”

“I am happy to assist you,” the Elf saluted. “But my primary reason is to be of comfort to Tauriel.  Lord Elrond and Mithrandir gave a full report to our Council last evening.”

Bard stopped and studied Galion’s face.  “It was that bad?”

The Aide’s words were chosen carefully.  “Let us focus on the outcome for now.”

 

Bard was pleased with the children’s behavior during the dinner, although there was a dicey moment or two when Tilda asked Glorfindel why he was so “glowy.”

“Tilda!” Sigrid hissed.  “I am terribly sorry, My Lord—“

“It is perfectly all right,” Glorfindel’s eyes gleamed in amusement. “Lady Tilda, like your good friend, Lady Galadriel, I was born under the light of the Two Trees in Valinor.  I came to Middle Earth with her and her brothers, and after many trials, I was taken back, where I dwelt for a time, but was chosen to return to Middle Earth, as an emissary of the Valar.”

“What’s a enissary?”

“‘Emissary,’” Bard corrected. “It means Glorfindel was sent here for a particular reason.”

“Oh.  What’s that?”

“To…help protect Middle Earth,” a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth, “for children like you.”

“He has a job like Commander Feren, Little Bean.  Glorfindel is in charge of the Army that protects Rivendell.” Bard explained.

“That’s nice of you.”  Before she took another bite of her potatoes, she asked, “What’s Rivendell like? Ada says it’s really pretty.”

“It most certainly is,” he said, and for the next several minutes, the children were given visions of the Last Homely House East of the Sea.

“Lord Elrond,” Bard asked, “I’m told you have several goals to accomplish during your stay.  How can we assist you?”

Please, call me Elrond.”

“And you must call me Bard.”

“Thank you,” Elrond said, graciously. “I propose we meet with you and your Council tomorrow and go over the purposes for my visit, but for today, I would enjoy spending time with your family.  Thranduil has spoken at length about your children, and I find them as charming as he described.”

“Thank you, My Lord,” Sigrid’s cheeks flushed with pleasure.  “I have read a great deal about you and your family’s accomplishments.  Imagine: your father is Eärendil the Mariner!” 1

“He is indeed, and my Mother’s name is Elwing. 2 I wish I could regale you with stories, but I have little recollection of my father, and we lost my mother at an early age.”

Tilda frowned.  “Were you an orphan?”

“In a manner of speaking.  My twin brother and I were…rescued, for want of a better word, and raised by two Elven brothers by the name of Maedhros and Maglor.” 3

“Were they nice to you?”

“They were kind to us, especially Maglor, but shortly after we reached our majority, we…parted ways, and they are now in the Halls of Waiting.”

Tilda’s face fell.  “That’s sad.”

“It was a long time ago, HênigI very much look forward to meeting my parents one day, when I sail.”

“Those names sound familiar…” Sigrid mused.  “Aren’t they both sons of…”

“Fëanor? 4 Yes.  It was a complicated situation, but for now, let us speak of happier things.  Your Ada tells me you wish to serve your people as a Healer?”

“Yes, My Lord.  I start my formal training in the fall.”

“Might I offer my services as instructor during my stay?”

Sigrid’s jaw dropped, and a high squeak escaped her.

“I‘d take that as a yes,” Bard grinned. 

“Ermon has written me of your dedication.  Thranduil also tells me you have an interest in history?”

“I do, My Lord.  I’d like to be a Wise-Woman, like Andreth.  I read a book about her, recently.”

Bard spine stiffened, and his smile became forced.  The last thing he needed was a debate about the Debate between Finrod and Andreth…

“Who’s Andreth?” Bain asked.

“Andreth was a Saelind during the First Age.” Elrond told him.  “She died before I was born, but Galadriel’s brothers were acquainted with her.”

“Brothers?  I knew Finrod was Galadriel’s brother, but…”

“Aegnor and and Angrod were also children of Finarfin.”

“Aegnor was her brother, too?”

“He was.  Galadriel was especially close with Aegnor and his loss was bitter.”

Sigrid’s cheeks flamed.  “But he—“

“Ahem…” Bard cleared his throat, and quickly changed the subject.  “Glorfindel, I’m told your skills with the sword is legendary.”

“A bit, yes,” the Elf said, modestly.

“Some call him the greatest Warrior in Middle Earth,” Gandalf winked at Bard.

“Nuh uh!”  This slight on Thranduil’s honor was too much for Tilda. “My Ada is the greatest!  Everybody says.”

“I’m sure they do, love,” Bain seconded.  “But I’ll bet Glorfindel is just as good, too.”

“There are those who believe so.” One corner of the Elf-Warrior’s mouth twitched slightly.  “Lord Bain, Feren has agreed to allow me to participate in your weapons classes while I am here, if you are willing.”

“Whoa…” Bains eyes bulged with delight. “That would be great!”

The atmosphere around the table remained relaxed and easy.  Soon after dessert, their guests were shown to their rooms to rest, but not before Elrond presented Bard with a large packet of letters.

Tauriel received two; the other one bore her name in handwriting vastly different than Thranduil’s elegant script, which she recognized.

“Is something wrong?” Bard asked her with concern.

“This is Legolas’s handwriting.” Her voice trembled slightly. 

 “The only way to find out what he wants is to open it.” Bard flashed an encouraging smile at her nervous face.  “Well, take all the time you need, and you know I’m here, if you need to talk, yeah?”

She nodded nervously, and kissed his cheek.  “Thank you.”

 

Tauriel didn’t appear for the rest of the evening, so Galion went to check on her, and they were still in her room talking after the others went to bed. 

At last, Bard donned his night clothes, settled in their big bed, and opened his long letter from Thranduil.  It was full of news about his son, questions about the children, and how much he missed his Meleth.  

 

 

“I have never needed the comfort of your arms more than now, Bard.  The initial shock has worn off, and the enormity off all that has occurred rushes over me like so many waves. 

“I miss my husband, who helps me work through things like this, who reminds me of all I have, and who keeps me from drowning in the whirlwind of all this.

“I am determined to remain strong for my son, and for all the victims of this senseless tragedy, but without you to whisper to me in the comfort of your arms, Meleth nîn, I struggle.

 “I miss you. 

“I miss you…”

Of the mysterious “Unexpected Enemy,” Thranduil would only say:

 

 

“Elrond and Mithrandir will tell you everything, but I must warn you, it will be difficult for you to hear.  Meleth nîn, I beg your forgiveness and please, please remember I am well (though I cannot be whole until we are together), and I will come to you the moment Legolas is strong enough… 

“I love you.”

He sighed, folded up the letter and set it on his bedside table. Sleep didn’t come easily that night, and his dreams were filled with wild imaginings of his husband’s ordeal.

 

***************

 

Daeron stood over Darryn’s crib, and gazed at his son’s sleeping form.  He lightly ran his fingers through the shiny, dark curls, and was swept up in the strong urge to protect this child from all harm, followed by agony and guilt, because he knew it wasn’t possible.  Ai!  How did Ada and Uncle Ómar cope when he and Tur would go out and fight?  What will it be like when his son is old enough to join the military, if that would be his wish? 

“There you are,” Rhian’s voice was soft, as she came to his side.  “He’s so sweet when he sleeps, isn’t he?” She leaned her head against his shoulder.  “You’re a good Ada, babe.  Darryn’s lucky to have you.”

“I cannot describe how much I love him, Hind Calen.”

“Of course, you do. You’re his father, in all the ways that matter.”

The first time you put him in my arms, it was as if he always belonged there.” 5

“Me, too.  I don’t think I understood what love was, until I had him.  It’s so…pure.”

“His life will be short,” he sighed and met her eyes. “Rhian, the only reason I wish I were his birth father is I cannot bear to lose him so soon.” The last words were shaky.

“I know.  But Darryn was the one who brought us together. You would have never tried to help me carry water that day if I wasn’t pregnant.” 6

Daeron raised his arm and put it around his wife, as he kissed her hair.  “I hope you and I have more children together, but never doubt my love for him.”

“Come on,” she took his hand and urged him out of the room.  “Our son is asleep, Turamarth is asleep, and now, I want to be with my husband.”

Once they closed the door to their bedroom, Daeron said a quick Silencing Spell.  He went to his wife, and stroked her cheek.  “I dreamed of your kisses every night,” he whispered.

“Show me,” she grabbed the back of his neck and pulled his mouth down to hers.

Daeron’s breath caught, as she kissed him hard enough to make his knees weak.  “Oh, Rhian…”

“You’re here with me now, Daeron.” She ran her fingers through his hair. “You’re home, and you don’t have to be brave anymore.  Let it go, babe.”

Oh…  A loud grunt  escaped him as he swept her off her feet and carried her over to their bed.  She began to undo her bodice, but he pushed her hands away.  “Let me,” he whispered. Daeron’s fingers and hands flew over her clothes, until she was stripped bare and his hands were caressing the soft curves of her body.  The moon was bright tonight, and its silver glow made her skin look as smooth and white as marble.

“You are a work of art, Hind Calen.” He ran his fingers over her hips and belly, and moved up to cup the fullness of her breasts. “And you are mine.”   He circled her nipples with his thumbs and when he pinched them, her back arched off the bed with a soft moan. 

Daeron had wanted to take his time and enjoy her, but his hunger for her overwhelmed him, and he was hard and aching and frantic.  “I cannot wait, RhianI need to have you now.”

“Yes,” she panted, and opened her legs. “Hurry!  Stars, I want you so bad…”

His tunic was ripped off, tossed over his shoulder, and it was joined seconds later on the floor by his leggings and smalls.  He scrambled onto the bed as she pulled him on top of her and wrapped her legs around him. 

“I love you,” he whispered, then cried out as he  plunged inside her wet heat, and gasped at his wife’s face as she threw her head back with a loud moan.  When her green eyes met his and growled, “Don’t be gentle,” all the air left his lungs, and his hips thrust hard into her of their own volition.

Rhian plunged her fingers into his auburn hair and brought his mouth crashing down to hers in a collision of lips, teeth and tongues, as they moved together. 

“More!” She begged, and he gave it to her.  With every move in and out of her body, the coils of fear and pain at last began to loosen.  Rhian tightened around him and nipped his shoulders and chest, but when she pulled his hair and dragged her teeth over the tips of his ears, he screamed with pleasure.

“A, ma, Rhian!” He panted. “Le i velethril e-guil nîn! I need you…”

“I’m gonna come…” Rhian’s eyes were nearly black. “Come with me…. Come with— Oh gods!”

Daeron eyes dove into her sea of green, and his cock shivered inside of her.  He was so close…

“Ah!” She shrieked.  “Give it to me! All of it!”

Just as she throbbed and quivered around him, he poured all he had into his beloved wife.  She didn’t take her eyes off him, and they fell together in a waterfall of colorful stars.  Daeron was laid bare before her, leaving nothing hidden, and her fëa opened wide to accept it all, to embrace and protect him.

Through their shared fëa, Daeron saw the depths of his wife’s anxiety and worry while he was gone.  And without a word, Rhian  saw…everything in him.  Her eyes widened and filled with tears of compassion, as she cupped his cheek.  “Oh, Daeron… I’m so sorry …”

His shoulders shook with sobs, and the curly strands of Rhian’s hair was soon soaked with his tears.  He poured his heart out to his Rhian, and she wrapped herself around him, stroked the back of his head and murmured, over and over, that he didn’t have to bear this alone, anymore.

Words weren’t possible for a long time, but when at last Daeron was able to calm down, he kissed his wife, told her he loved her, and he slept deeply for the first time since he left last month.

 

***************

 

City of Dale, 19th of July, 2944 T.A.

Bard felt like he was going to pass out.

After breakfast, he went with the others to the conference room and listened to the full account of the Battle with the Blue Wizard.  

When Gandalf spoke about the order to kill Thranduil and Legolas, the Bowman’s chest caved in, as his hand instinctively went to his breastbone.  Tauriel buried her face in her hands, as Galion put his arm around her.

“Are you all right, Bard?” the Wizard leaned forward, his face full of concern. 

“No, I’m not!” His breath was ragged.  “Thranduil actually ordered his own men to kill him?  And Legolas?”  He glared at Feren and slapped his palms down on the table.  “How could you even think of doing something like that?”

“Bard, try to understand,” Feren began—

“Look, I’m sorry, and I don’t doubt you were given an order, but you’re asking me to accept—“

“Bard,” Elrond’s voice was low and patient. “consider the alternative: had Pallando been successful, Galadriel, Legolas and Thranduil would be gone, regardless.  They would become as powerful as the Nazgûl.  More, in some ways.  What would have happened had they been brought before Sauron?  He would use them to destroy everything they loved, especially their families.  The North would be lost.”

Hilda gripped his forearm.  “Bard, think back to when Jarod attacked us.  Thranduil told us he was a… what’s the word?”

“Thrall,” Feren told her

”Aye, that. Elrond’s right, Bard.  Jarod wasn’t a Wizard, but he nearly destroyed our family!  How much worse for all of you, and Lothlórien, if that Blue Bastard got his way?”

“And you can stop yelling at Feren, lad.  Thranduil did the right thing,” Percy said, grimly.  “He’d die first, before he let anything happen to us.  You’d do exactly the same in his shoes, and you know it!”

“You’re right; you’re right; I’m just…” Bard scrubbed his face as he tried to calm down.  “I’m glad he didn’t say much in his messages.  This is hard enough to take in person; a letter would have nearly killed me. Wait a minute; what day did this all happen?”

“The 25th of June,” Gandalf answered. “Why do you ask?”

“That was the day,” Hilda’s head bobbed up and down.  “We were sitting in Bard’s study, and he suddenly went white as a sheet!”

Elrond regarded him curiously.  “What precisely happened to you, if I may ask?”

“It didn’t hurt, but all of a sudden I was so terrified it made my knees buckle, and the words, ‘my son’ came to m