The Kingdom of Tirion, in the capital with the same name:
“Did you hear? General Nelyafinwë have brought us yet another victory.”
“As one can expect from someone who has been blessed by Eru to protect the Kingdom!”
“Surely the King should bless his success by allowing the general to become the husband of princess Itarillë! The King have no other children since the Queen died in that accident on the frozen river so many years ago…
It was well known that King Turukáno refused to remarry and have more children, for he had loved his Queen very much, especially as their marriage had been made of love instead of being a arranged marriage as the custom normally was with a royal couple.
“Yes, he only have one child, so the princess should wed soon to give him new heirs in her children.”
The common people was joyful for knowing that enemies of their home was going to be driven away by the skilled general and his soldiers. But they were unaware of what would happen in the future...
And a few days later, the victorious army returned. General Nelyafinwë, the last son of the ancient House of Tatyar, was leading his men into the capital under the cheers of the common people and the royal court alike.
It was not that surprising that the general was well-loved by the ladies no matter their social rank. At the age of 27, he was in the very prime of life and handsome with long copper-red hair set up in a ponytail. His armour added to the image of a powerful general.
But not everyone shared the joy of the general's return to the capital. Like many others holding a powerful position at court, he had enemies. And one of them, surprisingly enough, was the King of Tirion himself.
“As if a mere general should overshadow a king!”
King Turukáno would rather die than admit it, but he greatly resented Nelyafinwë for having all the military skill Turukáno had never been blessed with. His own attempts of leading his army into wars shortly after his coronation proved a unspoken disaster already from the start, something which led to him being mocked as a joke when it came to wars. The so called “failure” of having only a single daughter as offspring from his marriage and refusing to marry again, was another reason to why Turukáno resented the growing popularity of the younger general.
“No way in the Everlasting Darkness that I will allow my daughter to marry him!”
He knew of the rumours, that someone had the nerve of starting the whispers about that Itarillë would be given to Nelyafinwë as a bride for his deeds. The general had to be removed from the court, but how? He was the darling of the commoners and landed gentry, meaning that any attempt of killing him would be dangerous in itself. There had to be a way to make Nelyafinwë fall from grace without anyone thinking that Turukáno was involved….
At the great feast held in honor of his military success, Nelyafinwë was once again reminded of why he secretly disliked life at court. Thanking once again for the gratulations of his announced betrothal to princess Itarillë, he drank some wine while watching the courtiers.
“If they are not plotting against each other to gain some small amount of more power, then there is various marriages being planned without thinking of how the chosen couple might not fit in personality at all.”
For all of that he was still unmarried, Nelyafinwë knew the pleasure of sharing a bad with a woman. No official mistresses, no, but he had enjoyed a fair number of shorter love-stories with ladies of various social rank while ensuring that there would be no bastards sired by him. He always had trusted men check the ladies first to ensure that she did not have any sexual diseases that he could be infected with, for that was not a unintended gift Nelyafinwë wanted to give a legal wife when he married.
Princess Itarillë was….a far cry from his taste in a woman, actually. There was nothing wrong with chastity in itself, of course and unmarried women from respectable families was expected to be virgins until the wedding night, but Nelyafinwë had a trusted source of information among the palace maids and she had told him that the princess was raised to almost view her future duties in the marital bed as a burden she must bear, not as something to get pleasure from.
The idea of becoming a son-in-law to the King was not something Nelyafinwë felt comfortable with, either. He was the most alive when in battle or in other situations that requested his skills with either a sword or his ability to act as a diplomat for the Kingdom of Tirion. Marrying the princess and becoming her prince consort when she was crowned as Queen at the death of her father…
No, Nelyafinwë would rather marry a lady of modest birth, someone from the landed gentry who would not expect him to remain in the capital all the time and still able to control the household when he was away at war.
“My lord!” a servant boy called from behind the heavy curtains, handing over a letter written in the King's own hand.
“A group of bandits that is plaguing the border in the west?”
The letter was a request from the King to deal with this problem before the wedding ceremony next year, and Nelyafinwë saw no reason to refuse. Besides, the area was near his own estate inherited from his ancestors, and if his own landworkers risked to be attacked…
“Tell the King that I will leave for this mission the day after tomorrow. Or people will think me heartless for not spending time with my future wife.”
The next day:
As promised, Nelyafinwë spent nearly the whole day with Itarillë, but there was no signs of her relaxing around him even as the twilight arrived. Was she that uncomfortable around men, thanks to mostly spending time with her similar-aged ladies-in-waiting and some very strict chaperones in their older years of life? Or was it because he was a stranger, and she only had seen him a few times at court before?
Anyway, it did not seem like they found anything in common, sadly.
Thankfully, the awkwardness of the silence between them was broken by Lómion, a younger cousin to the princess, when he came running.
“Greetings to you, my young prince. Is there anything I can do for you?” Nelyafinwë spoke, smiling at the twelve-year-old young lord.
“Can you teach me some movements with a wooden sword? My usual teacher is ill with suffering from too much wine yesterday at the feast.”
Ah yes, hangovers, the bane of everyone who drank too much of good wine in merry company.
“If that is the request, then I shall grant it.”
Itarillë did not protest at her betrothed leaving with her six year younger cousin to the training hall in a different part of the castle, she was only grateful for that Nelyafinwë finally had a reason to leave her.
The day after, general Nelyafinwë left the capital to deal with the bandits, taking only a handful of soldiers with him. He had no idea of that a trap would await him, or that it would pass three whole years in captivity before he returned to his homeland.
For King Turukáno had paid some professional soldiers to pretend to be the bandits so there would be a trap awaiting on the general, and then sell Nelyafinwë to a enemy Kingdom so he would fall even further from grace with false accusations of treason on his eventual return.