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Broken Wings

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It’s the first day of school, again, Thranduil isn’t comfortable with how fast their children are growing up.

Lord Elrond and his entourage make plans to return home, but not before giving some last-minute instructions to his protégé, as well as a listening ear, and a bit of advice.

Evvy writes to her father and brother and tells them about her first few weeks at the Palace!

 


 

 

“So, take these broken wings

And learn to fly again

Learn to live so free

When we hear the voices sing

The book of love will open up

And let us in…”

“Broken Wings,” by Mr. Mister

 

 

  

City of Dale, 4th of September 2944 T.A.

Classes for Bain and Tilda had started today, and Thranduil had been looking forward to another year of walking his Tithen Pen to school.  But this morning, when he entered Bard’s study, the Elf looked despondent. 1

“How did it go?” Bard asked warily, as Meryl, Tilda's little pug, followed him in and snuggled down next to Thangon for a morning nap.

“She does not want me to hold her hand, anymore.” The Elf’s worried eyes met his.  “She said she did not mind on the way, but she does not want to look like a baby in front of her friends.”

Despite Bard’s sympathy, he wasn’t surprised; he’d had been waiting for this. 

He rose from his desk and stepped over to give his husband a kiss on his forehead.  “Why don’t we talk about this somewhere more private?  You look like you could use a strong drink, yeah?”

“Could we?”

Bard stuck his head into Percy’s office.  “Hey Pers, I’m taking the morning off.  If anyone asks, I’ll be available after lunch.”

“Sure thing, kid.” The Steward didn’t look up from his papers. “Don't mind me;  I'll just toil away alone, here.”

"I knew you'd understand." He pointed to the giant dog on by the fireplace. “Serë, Thangon.  You, too, Meryl; stay here with him.” 

The Bowman hauled his Elf to his feet and had an arm around his waist as they climbed the Grand Staircase and went into their chambers.   After they kicked off their boots, they sat up against the headboard, as Bard poured him a tall glass of Dorwinian.

“Drink up, you.”

“Only if you will join me.”

Bard poured a smaller glass for himself, and they sipped in silence for a few moments. 

“This makes me think of the night of our first kiss; do you remember? 2 Bard mused.  “I was upset, and you sat me down on your bed and took off my boots.”  He gave Thranduil a sidelong glance, “then you plied me with strong wine and took advantage of me.”

“I did not!” Thranduil’s jaw dropped.

“You did.”  He fluttered his eyelashes and said in a high voice, “I was but a helpless victim to your charms; putty in your hands.”

The Elf’s left eyebrow quirked.  “As I recall, it was you who kissed me.”

“Perhaps you put me under a spell,” Bard whispered as he leaned closer, “because that kiss was magical.” 

“There is only one first kiss, Meleth nîn,” Thranduil’s lips brushed lightly against his with a smile.  “I know what you are doing.”

“Is it working?”

“I think so.”

“Good,” Bard took the Elf’s cup, set it on the side table, grabbed the back of his neck and captured his mouth in a hard kiss that didn’t let up until they were both on fire.  “Care for a Second Breakfast?”

Within minutes they shed their clothes, and amid kisses, playful nips and a lot of moaning, Thranduil hovered over him. 

“Our first time together was just as wonderful as our first kiss.”  His voice was low, husky.  “Do you know how often I think of our wedding night, Meleth nîn?”

“Show me,” Bard panted as the Elf’s slick fingers stroked his insides, teasing him into a frenzy.  “You b-bastard!” he threw his head back with a groan.

“Hmmm… I do not recall you calling me that on our Wedding night,” the Elf’s eyes narrowed.  “Shall I stop?”

“Don’t y-you dare!”  Another moan escaped him.  “This is w-what I get for trying to m-make you feel better?  You torture me l-like this?”

“Oh, I am sorry,” Thranduil’s smile turned evil.  “How can I make it up to you?”

“You!  I need you!”

The Elvenking took himself in hand and entered him in one stroke, and they both cried out.  All teasing was forgotten when his hips began to move, and they lost themselves in each other. 

“I love how you feel,” Thranduil said bit down on Bard’s collarbone.  “I can never get enough of you.”

Bard replied by grabbing the Elf’s nipples and squeezed them.  Thranduil’s hips to lost their rhythm for a moment, before thrusting even harder.

When they reached the edge and fell together, Thranduil clung to him and called his name, over and over, as the colors grew brighter than the stars. 

 

“Oh, gods,” Bard swallowed, his voice hoarse.  “I don’t think I can move for the rest of the day.”

“Is that a bad thing?” Thranduil had his arms around him, and kissed his hair.

“I just hope no one needs me before my legs stop shaking.”  Bard propped up on one elbow and rested his chin in his hand.  “Feel any better?”

The Elf heaved a heavy sigh.  “A little.  I just hate how fast the children are growing up.  I know Tilda was taller when I came home last month, and I missed it.”

“She didn’t grow at all when she was sick, remember?  Now, as soon as Hilda has her set up with clothes and shoes, her ankles are showing under her dresses and she’s complaining that her boots pinch.”

“I know…”  

“She’s going to be ten years old at the end of this month, and as she said, she 'wants to be told stuff,' now.”  Bard nuzzled his arm.  “We can’t stop time, as much as we want to.”

“She is starting to outgrow her stuffed toys," Thranduil pouted.  "She rarely takes Charlotte out of the Castle, anymore.”  

“That’s only because she’s too busy running around Dale with Tauriel, or hanging upside down on the climbing bars at the Park.  The stones in the Courtyard are full of chalk drawings; the only time they’re clean is when it rains, and as soon as things dry up, she and Feren’s girls are at it again.”

“I know it is selfish,” the Elf sighed.  “I am happy she is healthy, really I am, Bard.  But sometimes I miss the days when I carried her everywhere.  I miss those tiny arms around my neck, or her head on my shoulder when she falls asleep.”

“Aww…” Bard stroked his arm.  “I miss that, too.  I feel like it was only yesterday when Sigrid and Bain were that small.  The first time I realized Bain and I were eye-level, I had to go sit down!”

“Sigrid has not changed as much as the younger ones,” Thranduil observed.  “But her face has matured, has it not?  She is truly a lovely girl.”

“A lovely woman,” Bard corrected, sadly.  “Although if you ask me when that happened, I couldn’t begin to tell you.  The other day, I saw her reading a book and couldn’t get over how stunning she was.  I swear, my heart stopped when it hit me that she’s old enough to have suitors, now.”

“She is not!” Thranduil’s eyes bulged.  “Sigrid is much too young!”

“Oh, I didn’t say I liked it, love.  Praise Ulmo, she’s focused on her studies, and doesn’t want anything to get in her way, right now; especially romance.”

“But what if someone wants to pursue her?”

“I’d feel sorry for him.” Bard chuckled.  “Have you forgotten our daughter is surrounded by Elves with sharp, pointy things?  The guards are genuinely fond of the kids; if a boy was flirting with Sigrid, we’d know about it.”

“It is good to be the King,” the Elf’s eyes twinkled.  “I truly pity the man who asks for her hand.”

“Feren says the same thing about his girls.” Bard laughed.  “He said any boy tries to kiss Alis or Dafina would find the entire Army on his doorstep,” he jabbed the Elf in the ribs. “I know what that’s like.  You think I wasn’t scared shitless when you just showed up in Dale that first morning?”

“It is nice to know that works,” Thranduil smirked, then said, “Bain will be taller than you, I think.”

“Better looking, too.”

“Do not say that!  I think you are beautiful.”

“Well, I hope he takes after Mattie’s father, with a nice, full beard.  Thank the stars he has my hair.”

“Why do you say this?”

“My father-in-law was bald on top.  My Da used to tease him and say he shaved it off and glued it to his face.”

“What did he say to that?”

“Oh, Bain – my Bain was named after him, you know – said he was so handsome, he had to cover his face so Da wouldn’t get jealous.”

Thranduil snickered. “I would have enjoyed knowing them.”

“I think so, too.  One of the reasons why the Master hated me so much was that I stole Mattie from him.  Did I ever tell you that story?”

“Some of it.  Mattie’s Uncle arranged the match, as I recall.”

“Yep.  But did I tell you what happened when her Da found out about it?”

“No,” Thranduil rolled over to face him with an interested smile.

“Bain punched Uncle Marvin in the jaw and knocked out two of his teeth.” 3

“Good for him!” the Elf laughed.  “We must remember that when young men line up to call on our daughters.”

“That goes for all of our daughters.   I don’t care how old she is, Tauriel’s not going to end up with just anyone!” 

“I agree.”  Thranduil flopped back against the pillows, with a sigh.  “Thank you for helping me be a father, again.”

“It’s been wonderful to watch you enjoy them, love.” Bard reached over and caressed his face.  “I know you’re upset about Tilda, but just because she is pulling away a bit, doesn’t mean she stopped loving you.  She just wants to explore different things about life.”

“There will come a day when she will not want me to hug her at all,” Thranduil’s face fell.

“That’s not true.  She’s Ada’s girl, and will always need you.  The thing is, try to stop seeing her as your baby, and meet her where she is at.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, since she’s been healthy, she’s turned into quite the tomboy, yeah?  She’s running around in leggings as often as she’s wearing dresses, these days.  Do you remember what I told you in June, just before you got the message about Tur?  Tilda’s serious about learning how to wield a sword; who better to teach her than the mighty Elvenking himself?”

“I had forgotten about that,” Thranduil sat up.

“I did, too, until just before you came home.  Tauriel offered to get her started, but she wants Ada.  Why do you think she sat with us when you went up against Glorfindel?  She used to hate that stuff, remember?   But she wanted to watch you.”

“Really?” a slow grin spread across the Elf’s face. 

“And that’s not all.  Every summer, don’t you take Bain and his friends camping?  Tilda might not be up for a week in a tent, but what’s to stop you from taking her out to the woods, and showing her how to track?”

“She would like that?”

“It doesn’t hurt to ask.  She needs you to see her as she is, and if you encourage her to grow, she’ll always look to you for guidance.  If you refuse to see her as anything but your baby girl, Tilda might drift away, and never come back.”

Thranduil lay back down and stared up at the ceiling.  “It might not be so bad…”

“Course not,” Bard leaned over and kissed his cheek.  “The children are on a journey, love, even the older ones; we need to be just as excited for them as they are for themselves.”

“One day they all will leave us, though.”

“Probably.  But they’ll come back, and Valar willing, with a boatload of grandchildren.”

Thranduil turned toward him with an eager grin.  “More babies to spoil...”

“Exactly,” Bard winked.

 

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

 

City of Dale, 26th of September 2944 T.A.

“I am afraid this will be our last lesson, Lieutenant.”

Daeron knew it was coming, and his heart was heavy.  “I understand; you must cross the Misty Mountains soon, before the pass closes for the winter.”

“True.  As much as I would like to, we cannot stay.  Mithrandir and I need to meet with Celeborn and Galadriel on a matter of importance, then he needs to find Radagast and inform him of the situation with your wife.  Glorfindel has also been patient, but he is anxious to get back to Rivendell.  He does not like to be apart from Erestor for long periods of time, and while Rivendell is adequately protected for now, his very presence often frightens off enemies.”

Elrond’s mouth widened into a pleased smile.  “But there is little need for me to linger.  You have been an excellent pupil, but I have nothing more to teach you, Mellon.”

“That cannot be true!” he protested.  “I feel like I have only scratched the surface of the things you have shown me; surely there is more I need to work on!”

“Oh, I did not say you should discontinue your work.  You have an excellent grasp of the fundamentals; all you need now is to practice and refine your skills.  You have been keeping up with your notes, I hope?”

“Of course.  I try to write every night: what patients I have seen and their treatment, the basics of what you and I have been doing…” he met Elrond’s blue eyes.  “I hope that is all right?  I can destroy them, if you like.”

“You may keep them, as long as they are kept safe.  Now, have you forgotten the other assignment I gave you?”

“You mean the book you wish me to write?  There has been no time to think of it, My Lord.”

“I agree, there have been more important matters at hand, but when things calm down, you need to work on this.  I would like to see a copy on my desk within the next two years.  This book,” Elrond leaned back in his chair and rested his ankle on his other knee, “will be increasingly important in the decades to come, as the Free Peoples begin to work together.  We Elves know all there is, when it comes to treating our own people, but there is a scarcity of knowledge in the treatment of men and their diseases.   My books, to use your phrase, ‘only scratch the surface.’” He waved his hand dismissively.  “Too often what is useful to an Elf could be poisonous to a Child of Man, and in the other cases, dosage is completely different; do you see the urgency?”

Daeron ran his hand over his jaw.  “My Lord, writing for my own benefit is one thing, but I have no idea how to arrange things in a manner which others can make sense of!  I’m not a terribly organized person, and rely on my wife’s skills to keep up with the mechanics of day-to-day life.”

“I suggest you find a ghost-writer, someone who knows a bit of the subject matter, but is distant enough to ensure clarity in your writing.”

“But would not another Healer be better?”

“No; the opposite in fact.  We want a book that any Elf can pick up and understand, and you are too close to the subject matter to have any perspective.” Elrond tilted his head.  “Your friend Evranin came here with us, to help establish a library for Dale.  Is she not the sister of another Healer in Lothlórien?”

“Evvy is going through the Palace libraries and will be presenting King Bard with a list of books for his approval within the next couple of months.” 

“I can think of no other candidate who would be better, Mellon.  She knows how good books are written, and can arrange the information for easy reference.  We will be stopping in the Woodland Realm before Mithrandir and I part ways, so I will speak to her myself about it.”  Elrond hesitated.  “You look concerned.  Do you not agree she would do an excellent job?”

“Oh, I do, My Lord!  She is a perfect choice; it is just that there is a personal situation that might complicate things.”

“Ah,” the Elf-Lord nodded.  “Turamarth’s attack.  Tell me, how is he doing now” 4

“He is beginning to have some good days, and we often ride out into the woods and practice our skills.  He is still physically weakened, but his stamina improves.”

“I have not seen him out and about in the City.  Is this typical of him?”

Daeron shook his head.  “No, sadly.  He was always gregarious and outgoing before.  Now he… does not like to be among groups of people.”

“How is he with you and your family?”

“In the safety of our home, his true self is beginning to emerge, again.  My son is a great comfort to him, and Rhian has been able to help him in ways I cannot.  I am hoping that with time and effort, this will pass.”

“If he does well at home, there is no reason to think he will not continue to improve.” Elrond nodded.  “Continue to take him out for short periods, then slowly increase the time, as you take him different places.” Elrond hesitated, then said, “I should tell you that I have known the nature of Turamarth’s attack from the beginning, only because my sons and I are familiar with those types of injuries to the Fëa.”

Daeron sighed.  “I guessed as much, but thank you for not asking me about it.  Even I do not know all the details; he recently revealed all to my wife, though.”

“And this does not bother you?”

“I would never ask Rhian; that is Tur’s secret to tell, and we both know it.”  He sighed, and his gaze traveled to his lap. 

“Daeron?” Elrond’s brows lifted. 

“I am afraid Rhian did not take the news of her Immortality well.” 5

“Are things all right between you?” 

Daeron swallowed, and remained silent, as he fumbled with his fingers.

“It is not an easy adjustment to make, I am sure,” the Elf-Lord’s eyes held concern.  “What does she say about it?”

“She refuses to discuss it.  Turamarth helped calm her down that first day, but since then, she resists any attempts I make to talk to her.”

“I am sorry to hear that. Are you concerned that she turns to Tur, rather than you?”

“Oh, no!” Daeron quickly met his eyes.  “I am not concerned about that at all!  They are like siblings, and are good for each other.  I just wish…”

“Perhaps she turns to your cousin because he is not as important to her.”

“But she should not be afraid to come to me!  I am her husband!”

“Exactly.  She could be afraid of things changing between you.” He raised his eyebrow and studied Daeron.  “Do you not fear the same thing?”

“Very much, so.” He admitted with a hard swallow. “When you and Mithrandir told us of the prophecy, I felt relieved.  I have loved Rhian for much longer than she even knows, and for me, it was an answer to questions I have been asking since Sellwen died.”

“Rhian does not share your feelings, I take it?”

“She does not grasp the enormity of it, I think.  To her, Sellwen is nothing more than a name, an abstract idea.”

“That is not surprising,” Elrond agreed.  “Let us consider Princess Tilda.  Her mother died at her birth, yes?  She has no memory of Bard’s wife, so there was no reason for her to mourn.  Even when she looks at the painting of Matilda, she only sees an echo of what might have been.”

“That is a good analogy.  I never expected Rhian to think any different and I am fine with that, but this has stirred up a great deal for me.”

“How?”

“In the weeks before Sellwen’s death, I had fantasies of her growing up and falling in love with me.  I had no qualms considering my fate if I married her, back then, which would mean I would lose everything in order to be with her.  But of course, that never happened, and I learned to move on.

“When I met Rhian, I was confused at my feelings!  It was before the blessing of Eärendil and long before Mithrandir came to tell the Kings what it all meant.  Yet, I loved her, and once again, I was willing to give up my Immortal life, and gifts that shaped me, to be with her.”

Elrond leaned forward and clasped his hands together.  “And, now that you know you will not lose any of it?”

Daeron blinked rapidly, and stared off into space.  “How could I be anything but happy?  Yet at the same time, how do I share my joy with a wife who feels robbed?”

“I am sorry, Mellon,” Elrond sighed.  “I had hoped that once she calmed down, she might be open to all this.”

“That is just the trouble; she is not open at all!  She either behaves as if our meeting that day never took place, or, if I bring up the subject, she finds an excuse to leave the room.”

“She is afraid.” Elrond reminded him.

“I think part of her… blames me, somehow.  Or at least she sees me differently.”

“Surely not!” The Elf-Lord’s eyes widened.  “You had nothing to do with this.  Mithrandir and I had nothing to do with this; we were merely messengers from the Valar!”

“I know.  I do not think she is even aware of it, but she hangs on to Daeron for dear life, and when I hold him, Rhian looks at me as if…  We have only been married a few months, but much of that has been full of turmoil: Tur’s arrest in Lothlórien, then I left for two months, and when we came back, Tur needed our help.”

Elrond ran his hand over his mouth and considered for a moment.  “At the risk of being indelicate, Mellon, when was the last time you two made love?”

“We have not.  She refuses my advances, saying she is tired, or goes to bed early and pretends to be asleep when I come in.  She is shutting herself off, and the harder I try to break down those walls, the more she pushes me away!  Rhian has been through a great deal, and in some ways, it reminds me of the state she was in after she gave birth at the Palace.  She has withdrawn into herself.”

“What happened after your son was born?”

“It goes back further than that, My Lord.  Rhian’s first husband, Garth, was physically and sexually abusive.  It was not until after Darryn was born that we realized the extent of her physical injuries, which were quickly mended.  But the emotional damage was considerable.”

“What did you do for her then?”

“Lord Thranduil placed her in rooms where it was quiet, and my Aunt Indis lived with her, until she was physically stronger.”

“Indis is one of the best Elven Counselors I know.”

“She gave supportive care, but Hannah was the one who served in that capacity.”

“Hannah?  The midwife?  Is she not your mother-in-law?”

“Yes, but she was not married to Ben at the time.  As a child of Man, Hannah was more familiar with the situation my wife had been forced to endure, and this helped Rhian trust her.”

“I see,” Elrond grasped his chin, deep in thought.  “And yet Rhian overcame all of that; I saw little of the damage you describe when I met her, though I am sure the scars will always be there.”

“Should I go see Hannah, and tell her what is going on?”

“I would wait.  If Rhian went to her on her own, she would be more open to receiving help, otherwise she might feel like you are setting her up.” Elrond advised.  “But should this go on for several months, then I do not see where you have a choice.”

“That is what I shall do, then,” the Lieutenant sighed sadly.  “I was hoping we had both seen the last of those days.”

“Ah, well; too often these things are out of our hands.”  Elrond leaned forward and grasped his shoulder.  “Give it some time, Mellon nîn.  Give her the space she needs, and see what happens.”

“I will,” Daeron swallowed.  “What if it is not enough?” 

 

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

 

Lothlórien, 28th of September 2944 T.A.

Ada!”  Orlin rushed into Ohtar’s office in the back of Galadriel’s vast library.

“Shhh!  How many times have I told you to keep your voice down!” his father scowled.  “Now, why are you making so much noise this time?”

“Look!” Orlin grinned as he waved the sealed envelope in the air.  “A letter from Evvy!”

“Wonderful!  Shut the door, and read it to me.”

Orlin did so, then took a seat beside his father’s desk and broke the seal: 

 

6th of September 2944 T.A.

Dear Ada and Orlin,

Greetings from the Halls of the Woodland Realm! 

Oh, Ada, what a challenge I have been given!  At first, when I arrived, I was overwhelmed and unhappy, but Airen met me and not only has she opened up her arms, but she and Elion have opened up their home as well!  I am now staying in their spare room, and I feel much better.

There was a commotion when we first entered the Palace, but I soon learned that Galion, Thranduil’s Aide has gotten married to – and you will not believe it, but it is true – our friend, Rôgon, the blacksmith!  They wed in secret, but when everyone found out, the King’s Council gave Galion a respite from his duties and they did not come out of his apartment once!

To say King Thranduil was surprised is an understatement, but he seemed happy when he and Prince Legolas went to Dale the next day. 6

Rôgon is married!  Can you believe it! 

Two weeks ago, we all went to Dale to attend their Wedding Feast.  They had a small, private ceremony on the 26th of August in the Castle Gardens.  Cwën, Airen and I were asked to stand with the Elves of Rivendell, to support Rôg, while the Royal Family stood for Galion.  It was simple but oh, so lovely.  The Lady sent gold rings, and Princess Tilda wore the sweetest crown of flowers from our home.  Rôgon cried throughout the entire ceremony, and Galion just smiled up at him. 

The Feast was a lively celebration, just like Daeron’s and Rhian’s wedding!  I did get to speak to them briefly at the Feast, and they seemed very happy.  Oh, her little boy is so cute!  He has grown since I had seen him last, and Rhian tells me he is learning a new word every day. 

Orlin, I looked for Turamarth.  I know you said not to, and you keep telling me nothing is my fault, but I could not help it.  I was so hoping to see him, just to see if he looked better, but Daeron said he was still staying with them, and that Tur cannot cope with large crowds at the moment.  I promised you I would not ask what happened to him, but it was hard not to feel guilty.

Still, we had a pleasant two days in Dale, and soon it was time to get back to work! 

I have been here a few weeks, now, and my life has fallen into a routine:

--In the mornings, I eat breakfast with Airen and her husband, then I am off to work!   Gwindor, the Archivist, works in the same capacity for Lord Thranduil that you do for the Lord and Lady, Ada.  He is kind and helped me feel at ease right away.  When I arrived, he told me our first task was to help him with a full inventory.  He had been holding off until I arrived, as it would help me determine what could be useful with the people of Dale. 

He also took me to the lower caves to meet with the Printer’s Guild.  Saeros is the Assistant assigned to work with me to get the new books printed.  He seems a bit shy, like me, but I am hoping that will change as we begin to work together. 

--I usually have my midday meal at my desk, then after my day is done, I return to the Apartment.  If Airen and Elion are still on duty, I eat alone, curled up with a book. 

Airen pesters me to go to the Dining Hall when they cannot be there in the evenings, but just the idea of going alone among all those strangers give me butterflies in my stomach!  Maybe when I have been here a few months, I might feel brave, but for now, I need the solitude to relax and get used to my new life.

That is not to say that Airen is my only friend here.  The second day after my arrival, who should come knocking at my door but Idril and Indis, Daeron’s mother and aunt!  I had met them at his wedding, of course, and these wonderful Ellyth have taken me under their wing.  In our spare time, they have shown me all over the Palace, and told me stories about Daeron and Tur and all the trouble they would cause.  Idril showed me the ceiling in the Palace Kitchens, and told me the story of when Daeron accidentally set it on fire.  There are still scorch marks, but I could even see places where they had tried to clean it off!

I can tell they worry for Tur, as well, Orlin.  Indis’s eyes get so sad when she speaks of him, but Idril is right there to remind her how strong Tur is and not to give up hope.  Adamar and Ómar are also wonderful to me, I feel like I have two sets of Aunts and Uncles now!

I try to picture you two living in Orlin’s house (I am glad you moved out of our childhood home – it is too big for one Ellon, and full of memories that would only keep you in the past.)  I think about Naneth, and how peaceful she seemed when we said goodbye.  I am grateful for her gold ring.  Most of the time, I wear it on a chain, but on days when I am particularly homesick, I put in on my hand, so I can see it and feel closer to all of you, or picture Naneth on the ship, when she arrives on the White Shores.

I still have days when I want to cry from homesickness, yet at the same time, I am excited for this new beginning.  Your Little Bird needs to mend her own wings, and learn to fly, but never doubt for a moment that my heart remains with my dear, dear Ada and my older brother.

Write to me soon and tell me what is going on at home!

With all my love,

Your Aewpin

Orlin folded the paper with a sigh, and handed it to his father.  “I can finally admit how worried I was for her, but she seems fine.”

“I am still worried, but I suppose that will always be the case,” Ohtar took the letter and placed it in the pocket of his tunic, over his heart.  “I hope she did not go to be closer to Turamarth.  She could be badly hurt.”

“I honestly do not think so,” Orlin reassured him.  “It is not realistic to say Tur had nothing to do with it, but I talked with her about it the night before they left.  Evvy was adamant that she is doing this for herself.  She has feelings for Tur, yes; he helped her to see herself in a different light, Ada.”

“How so?”

“Most of her life, Evvy’s first instinct was to withdraw.  She’s spent most of her years with her head tucked under her wing, as she tried to survive our mother’s constant attempts to ‘fix’ her.  Who can learn and grow like that?”

Ohtar covered his eyes.  “It was my fault; I allowed that to go on too long.”

“I will not lie to you and say otherwise, Ada, but I also believe we were too immersed in all of it to see clearly.  I know you are familiar with those spyglasses Men use, to see at great distances?”

“We have one in our collection that was found after the Disaster of Gladden Fields.  It is said that Isildur himself used it.”

“Well, suppose you were given one with a defective lens, but you did not know it?  Every image you see with it would be skewed, but until you have a chance to look through a different spyglass, there is no way to tell, is there?”

“I suppose not,” Ohtar swallowed.  “I always hoped it would get better; if I had only loved her more, if I could come up with the right thing to say or do…” he shook his head.  “But that is not anything we can change, is it?”

“No, Ada, it is not.” “But in meeting Turamarth, she has been given new spyglass, but it is up to her to learn to use it.  Whether or not anything happens between them, we should be grateful for that.”  Orlin put his hand on his father’s arm and gave him a reassuring squeeze.  “Let us look forward, not back, yes?”

Ohtar covered his son’s hand with his. “New beginnings, Ion nîn.”

 


 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Aewpin – “Little Bird,” Evranin’s nickname.

Meleth nîn – My love.

Serë,Thangon – (Q.) Stay, Thangon.

 

NOTES:

[1] An Invincible Summer, Ch. 20: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/34855688

[2] What Makes a King, Ch. 7: https://archiveofourown.org/works/10838010/chapters/24626007

[3] What Makes a King, Ch. 6: https://archiveofourown.org/works/10838010/chapters/24520668

[4] Legolas, Ion nîn, Ch. 25: https://archiveofourown.org/works/17088320/chapters/44623087

[5] Legolas, Ion nîn, Ch. 42: https://archiveofourown.org/works/17088320/chapters/48543257

[6] Legolas, Ion nîn, Ch. 38: https://archiveofourown.org/works/17088320/chapters/47219776

Chapter Text

 

***Character List for Broken Wings***

 

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 - One of the Galadhrim visiting the North for a year.  Archer.

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.  Age: 6724 (Born in Doriath F.A. 251). Cousin of Oropher and 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 an 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

Eiliënt – Female Silvan Elf.  Archer in Army of the Woodland Realm.  Went to Rivendell in 2944-2945 T.A. for Military Exchange.

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, served in Lothlórien as Daeron's 2nd-in-Command 2942-2943 T.A.  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. Staying in the North for Military Exchange in 2944-2945 T.A

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. Staying in the North for Military Exchange in 2944-2945 T.A

Elrond Peredhel – Lord of Imladris.  Heir to Gil-Galad, though he rejected the title.  Age:  6443 (Born F.A. 532) 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.  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.  Age: 8372 (Born 1362 Years of the Trees). 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/Maia.  Came to Middle Earth abt. 1000 T.A. with Glorfindel.  Plays matchmaker in his spare time, when he’s not busy trying to save the Free People of Middle Earth.  Helped Bard and Thranduil get together, as well as Galion and Rôgon, and several Marshalls of Rohan.

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 of Rúmil’s unit.

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.

Gildor - Woodland Elf, named after distant Uncle Gildor Inglorion from Rivendell.  Son of Gwindor, Chief Archivist at the Palace, and husband of Nielthi.  Adoptive parents of Dylan and Rowena, two orphans from Dale.

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.

Gwindor - Chief Archivist for the Woodland Realm.  Evranin's boss since August 2944 T.A. Works out of the Main Library in the Royal Wing, but also takes care of the other one at the West end of the Palace.  Father of Gildor; adoptive grandfather to Dylan and Rowena, two orphans from Dale.

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.

Kædhan – Male Elf. Archer in Rivendell’s Army staying in the North for Military Exchange in 2944-2945 T.A.

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

Lasbelin - “Autumn," the name of Tauriel's reddish-brown Stallion, with a large strip on his face.

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.

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

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.”

Lidros - Woodland Elf.  In charge of all non-military and Royal Mail at the Palace.

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 a year, in the exchange program 2942-2943 T.A.

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.

Meássë - Elf from Rivendell.  Sister to Lt. Vildan

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.

Melui - Rivendel Elfling.  Niece of Captain Vildan, child of his sister Meássë.  Her name means "sweet."

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.

Mistanâr – Wandering Mouse.”  Vildan’s Grullo-colored mare.

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.

Narseg - Rivendell Elf.  Brother-in-Law of Captain Vildan.

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.

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

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

Nyssiel – Female Elf.  Archer in Rivendell’s Army, staying in the North for a Military Exchange in 2944-2945 T.A.

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.

Rahlen – Male Elf. Captain and Warrior in Rivendell’s Army.  Requested to stay in the North for a Military Exchange-Commanding officer for his unit 2944-2945 T.A.

Raif – Boy of Dale, aged 10.  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 in 2942-2943 T.A. 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.

Saeros – Woodland Elf, son of Seldion and Heril.  Works in the Printer’s Guild at the Palace.  Friend and colleague of Evranin.

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 12.  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.”

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

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" (who went by the name of "Jarod," in the City.)

Tîrevan - “the Archer”, Fifth King of Dale (and Garon the Founder's third great-grandson.)

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.

Vildan – Male Elf. Warrior in Rivendell’s Army staying in the North for Military Exchange in 2944–2945 T.A.  Son of Valendil; sister to Measse and Uncle to Melui.

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

 

“Time after time, I tell myself that I'm

So lucky to be loving you

So lucky to be the one you run to see

In the evening when the day is through

I only know what I know

The passing years will show

You've kept my love so young, so new

And time after time you'll hear me say

That I'm so lucky to be loving you…”

Time After Time, by Jule Styne / Sammy Cahn

 

 

City of Dale, 28th of September 2944 T.A.

“Lords Elrond and Glorfindel to see you, Ivran announced, “as well as Commander Feren.”

“Send them in; thank you.”  Thranduil and Legolas exchanged puzzled looks as they got to their feet.  “Elrond, why the formality?”

“Because we come to you on official business,” the Lord of Imladris saluted.  “We have a proposition for you.”

“I am intrigued,” the Elvenking waved them all to sit.  “What is on your mind?”

“Two years ago, there was an exchange of officers between your Kingdom and Lothlórien, yes?” Glorfindel asked.

“There was; it was Celeborn’s idea, and we were both pleased with its success,” Thranduil said.  “Am I to understand that you might be interested in the same sort of arrangement?”

“It seems,” the Noldor Warrior leaned back in his chair, “that some of Lord Elrond’s escort are fascinated with the culture here in the North, and expressed some interest in staying for a while.”

“How many?”

“There are six:  Captain Rahlen is the superior officer and will be in charge of the unit.  He is multi-skilled, but prefers groundwork with the sword and spear.  Vildan is also a warrior, who is especially talented with fighting knives—”

“He is!” Legolas sat forward.  “I sparred with him several times during my stay in Imladris!  I have been telling Tauriel about him, and she was disappointed she has not had the chance to go up against him.”

“Perhaps she may yet,” the Elvenking smiled.  “I think I would like to see that.”

Glorfindel went on.  “I have two Archers:  Kædhan, and his sister Nyssiel are eager to help your troops in the Forest.”

“So, you propose they simply stay, and our Elves will serve as an escort in their place?”

“I do not see why not; your Guardians are well-trained as the Warden’s of Lothlórien or the Vanguard of Imladris.  We have much we could learn from each other.”

“Yet you said six; who are the other two?”

Elrond cleared his throat. “My sons have also expressed an interest.”

“That would be wonderful!” Legolas grinned. 

“Ai!” The Elvenking rolled his eyes.  “Will my Forest survive?”

“Make no mistake: they will answer to Captain Rahlen,” Glorfindel added quickly.  “Technically, Elladan and Elrohir are of the same rank, but it does the twins good to be reminded of the chain of command once in a while.”

“I will hold you to that, Mellon nîn,” Thranduil laughed. 

“Actually, the Forest is why they want to stay,” Elrond said.  “They wish to work in your Southern lands finishing what their grandmother started three years ago.”  His face grew grim.  “They were as shocked as we were to learn of Sauron and return of the Nazgûl.  While the Forest cannot be cleansed until Sauron is destroyed, they want to ensure its safety a much as possible.” 

“I jest about your sons’ sense of humor, Elrond,” Thranduil assured him, “but never doubt my respect for them as warriors.  They are among the best I have ever seen.  If they want to help clear the spiders and Orcs from my lands, they would be most welcome.”

“I thank you.  They were not pleased when they learned Galadriel went up against the Dark Lord himself.” His small smile had a hint of amusement. “Never mind that she could destroy a dozen Orcs with the snap of her fingers; they are protective; especially after their mother was hurt.  They are even worse with Arwen.”

“Ah.  No one can tease their sister but them?”

“Precisely.  Valar help anyone who puts a frown on her face.”

“I know you and King Dáin have established good relations, but you should know that part of the program involves work with the Dwarven military?  To learn to fight alongside each other in battle?”

“We do,” Glorfindel answered.  “In fact, Lord Dwalin has requested to travel with us; he is moving to the Blue Mountains to wed Lady Dís, and he is looking forward to the opportunity to introduce and demonstrate the same program there with your Guardians.”

Thranduil turned to Feren.  “You would not be here if you did not already approve.”

“Correct, My Lord.” The Commander smiled.  “In fact, I have taken the liberty of coming up with a list of candidates, all waiting for your consent.”

“And who do you have in mind?” 

“I would like Lt. Commander Mablung to head up the unit.  He has earned his rank as my second, but he has never had the chance to travel beyond our Western borders.  The experience would make him an even better strategist and warrior.  I chose four others who would also make the most if their time there:  Maglan and Morwë are brothers, and excellent fighting partners; their prowess in combat compliment each other as much as Turamarth and Daeron.”

“That is a concept we would like to encourage with our Vanguards,” Glorfindel nodded. “Celeborn is pleased at the results among his Wardens.”

“That is gratifying to hear.  Who else?”

“Legron is close to being promoted to Captain, and I have two Archers, Thenin and Eílíent who have done exemplary work in the Forest, but they need a change.”

“How so?” Elrond asked.

“Eílíent’s parents were killed by spiders,” Feren explained.  “She is exceptional with the bow and arrow, but her work is beginning to turn into a vendetta, and while I do not blame her, I have to order her to rotate out and rest.  She needs time away from the Forest, to regain her perspective.”

“And what about Thenin?  Does he also need a rest?”

“Thenion is Eílíent’s husband, and I will not force long separations in peacetime.”

“I agree,” Glorfindel’s brows shot up.  “But you are sure Eílíent is up to the task?”

“Absolutely, My Lord.  All she needs is a change of scenery, and you will find no complaint with Thenin’s prowess.” Feren’s gaze met Thranduil’s.  “Unless you have doubts?”

“I do not,” he told the Imladris Elves.  “Feren has chosen well; all six candidates would do the Woodland Realm and Rivendell credit.  Still, this does not give them much notice; you are leaving in a week.”

“Most of these Elves have expressed an interest in this exchange. If they cannot, there are others who are equally worthy.  This is a good program, Thranduil.”

“Then we will do it.  Once we have the list confirmed, we can announce it at the Feast.”

“I look forward to it.”  Glorfindel said, as he and Feren rose.

“Legolas, might I speak to Thranduil privately?”

“Of course, My Lord,” the Prince got to his feet, and after a polite salute, left with the others.

The Elvenking went to his credenza, poured them both some wine, and handed one to Elrond.  “It is too bad Turamarth is in no condition to go.”

“We are going to go to Lothlórien first.” The Noldor took a sip. “A trip through the Forest, and a few weeks in the Golden Wood could cause a serious setback.

“Some other year, perhaps.  Is there something special you need to do in the Golden Wood?”

“Yes.  And that is what I wish to speak to you about.  The remaining members of the White Council—”

“And the bearers of That Which is Unnamed?”  Thranduil offered.

“That, too.  As we told you at the time, I received that message from the White Tower, and sent copies to the three Wizards.   We need to discuss why Saruman did not respond.”

“Perhaps the birds were waylaid.”

“No; all three birds came back with it.  The message I had sent to Galadriel came back as well, because the birds saw or sensed something they didn’t like.  I am concerned that the same is true for Saruman.”

“How long since you have been to Isengard?”

“Almost as many centuries since I have been to the North.  There was never much need; the White Council always gathers in Rivendell.”

“I am sure there is a reasonable explanation, Elrond.”

“After Galadriel banished Sauron in Dol Guldur, Saruman ordered me to take her to safety.  I never paid much attention to what he said next, but it has increasingly weighed on my mind.”

“Which was?”

“I had suggested we attack Sauron right then, but he said, and I quote, ‘Leave Sauron to me.’  I thought little of it then; he is an expert in such things,” his hands fiddled with his glass goblet. “Perhaps he knew something we did not?  Or it is possible he knew our efforts would be fruitless; who can say?  I was worried about my mother-in-law, with good reason.”

“I am glad you were there to help her.”

“It was a closer call than most people know.  But praise Varda, she is well.”  Elrond shook his head.  “I have thought much about this after our confrontation with Pallando.  He was an Istari; a Maia, yet he was seduced!  I am not saying the same is true for Saruman, Thranduil, but until we have a better idea, I recommend you do not initiate contact with him.  You could be right in that there could be a good reason for all this, but my heart says different.”

“That should not be a problem.  I have not seen him since Mírelen’s funeral, and had little to do with him otherwise.  If he contacts me, I will send you a message.”

“Good.” Elrond shifted in his chair.  “Now, to the second reason for this meeting: when I first arrived, I spoke to Bard about your youngest daughter.  I have observed her, but have not had the chance to closely examine her.  I would like to do so, with your permission.”

“Has Bard agreed to this?”

“He has.  But I want your consent as well; I see how close you are,” he gave the Elvenking a small smile.

“I will not say I favor one of our children over the other,” Thranduil was quick to say, “but she has allowed me to experience much of the joy I missed as a parent, and I am grateful.”

“I can see that; and obviously your other children understand.”  Elrond laughed.  “When Arwen was small, my sons fought over her.  They still do, and she uses it to her advantage.”

“She is a smart Elleth.” The Elvenking smirked.  “Tilda is in school at the moment; when would you like to see her?”

“Oh, I do not want to interrupt her lessons; we could do it after, and you and Bard should be present.”

“I would insist upon that.  If we take her to the Healing House, she might get nervous.”

“How about in here?  She is comfortable in this room, and it offers privacy.” Athought occurred to the Elvenking.  “Elrond, I think I should tell you about my experience with the Elenion Panilwë Húmë.” 1

The Imladris Lord gave him a cautious look.  “We were instructed not to speak of that, Thranduil.  I know you were given that same information…” 2

“And I will not.” Thranduil waved his hand.  “This has to do with Tilda.  My father told me something, and if you are to examine her, this might help.”

“And what was it?” 

“It was he who told me Galadriel used the Light of Eärendil to save her.  He also said the Valar were interested in her.”

“In what way?”

“His exact words were, ‘From young Tilda’s line will come an answer to a long and fervent prayer.’  Bard is a bit nervous about her being in such close contact with a Silmaril; he cannot see those jewels as anything but evil.” 3

“Your husband is not completely wrong, but Galadriel would never endanger her, even if it is to save her.  Still, I will look particularly close.”

“I would appreciate it.  Let us take care of this today; I will let my husband know, and bring her here immediately after school.”

 

Later in the afternoon, Thranduil and Ruvyn waited at the school with the rest of the parents, and when Miss Eryn opened the door and rang the bell, the children poured outside.

“Hi Ada!  Teacher says my spelling is getting better! Look!” She showed him a test with a large “B” marked in red ink. 

“Excellent, hênig!”

“See, Ruvyn?”

“I am very impressed, My Lady,” the Elf grinned. “I see our practice has paid off.”

“Practice?” A quizzical brow arched above Thranduil’s left eye.

“Uh huh!  Ruvyn makes me go over all my spelling words, until I get it right. And he helped me with my Sindarin, this summer!  Sometimes I can’t say the words right, so he taught me how to roll my ‘Rs.’  See?  Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!”

The Elvenking held his breath and fought off a wave of jealousy.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault he was gone so long; the Guardian was only doing his job. “Very good, Tithen Pen.” He tousled her hair.  To Ruvyn, he nodded.  “It is a comfort to know our Princess was well-cared for.”

“I was but a poor substitute for her Ada.” The Guardian was diplomatic, but there was fondness in his eyes.

“Are we going to ride today?” She asked.

“I am afraid not, my little love.  We have an appointment with Lord Elrond, who would like to speak to you.”

“Why?  He talks to me anyway.”

“Do you like him?”

“Uh huh.”

“I am glad, for he is a very wise and powerful Healer.  When he heard about how Galadriel and Daeron saved you, he asked us if he could examine you.  He is very interested, and wants to see how they did it.”

“Oh.”  Tilda looked thoughtful.  “Will it hurt?”

“Not at all.”  Thranduil got down on one knee to eye-level.  Da and I will be there the entire time.  It will not hurt, and he may also ask many questions, which I hope you will answer to the best of your ability.” He stroked her head.  “But, Tithen Pen, we will not make you do anything that you are not comfortable with.”

“But why does he want to?”

“Well, suppose another little girl in Rivendell gets sick; he might learn something that could help her get well, too.  You would be helping, would you not?”

Tilda’s lips pursed nervously.  “You’ll be there?”

“Every minute,” Thranduil smiled. “Do you remember when you wanted a job, and I asked you to listen to the children, so we could help them? 4

“Uh huh,” she nodded, “Da says a Princess is supposed to serve her people…”

“He is right.  How would you feel if he learns something that could help other children?”

“How long will it take?”

“Not too long.  An hour at the most, I would think.”

“Okay.  Then we go riding,” she turned her blue eyes on him full-blast.  “Is it a deal?”

“We have a deal.”  Thranduil stood and grinned, “but only if you let me hold your hand all the way home.”

Tilda moaned and rolled her eyes, but when she held out her hand, she was smiling.

 

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

 

Bard couldn’t help his trepidation, as he watched Elrond examine their daughter.  Thranduil must have sensed it, because his hand reached for his and gave him a reassuring squeeze.

He should be nothing but grateful; Tilda was only with them today because of a true miracle.  Wasn’t that enough? 

But he'd spent too many years living under the Master of Laketown, which taught him that everything came with a price.  He couldn’t help but fear that their daughter’s renewed health had come with some sort of catch.  What if she was obligated to do or be something she might not want? 

Elrond and Tilda were sitting in chairs facing each other, and the Elf-Lord couldn’t have been more kind or patient, when he asked questions. 

“Do you sleep well at night?”

“Uh huh.”

“And do you have dreams?”

“Sometimes.”

“Do you remember them?”

“Most of them.  Sometimes they are scary.  I used to dream a lot about when the Dragon came, and when the Orcs came, and Da had to kill the Troll, but I don’t do that anymore.”

“I am glad.  What about now?”

“Well, sometimes I dream about when the bad men came and put us in the wagon.  I don’t remember much about that, except when Ada got me out and gave me to Tur.” 5

“I imagine that must have been very frightening.”

“I don’t like to think about it.  It hurt.”  She rubbed her chest.

“Your heart hurt?”

“A lot.”

 “But it does not hurt anymore?  Not even a little bit?”

“Nuh uh.” She shook her head vigorously.  “I have good dreams, too.  Do you want to hear about those?”

Bard leaned forward slightly, as did his husband.   What was this?  Elrond glanced at them, then continued his interview.

 “I would like that very much, Tilda.”

 “Well…  I dream about the place with the big trees, and Celeborn.  It’s really pretty there.”

“It is,” Elrond agreed.  “Have you been there often?”

“I’ve never been there.  When Gallerdil and Daeron were helping my heart get better, Celeborn sat and talked to me.  I wanted,” Tilda frowned, “to go up to those houses in the trees, but he said there wasn’t time.”

The Bowman breathed a sigh of relief.  Nothing unusual; she had told everyone about that as soon as she woke up that night.

“And sometimes I dream about this really pretty place, and there’s a river, and this really, really long grass…”

Thranduil tensed beside him. 

“I see.  It sounds very peaceful.”

“It was nice, I suppose.” Tilda lifted her shoulders briefly.  “It’s also kind of boring; I mean, there wasn’t anything going on…”

“There were no people in this dream?”

“Only once.  There was this really tall Elf who was across the field; I mean REALLY tall.  And he had blond hair like Glorfindel, but I could tell it wasn’t him.”

The Kings exchanged worried glances with one another, then turned back to their child.  

“What makes you think it wasn’t Glorfindel you saw?”

“His face was different from that guy.  I mean they are both pretty, you know, but Glorfindel has that glow-y thing?  This one didn’t.  And his hair was different.” She held her hands up a few inches from either side of her head.  “His hair was big, curly like Rhian’s only blonde, like Ada’s – well, more like Legolas; his hair is more gold-y, you know?”

“That is interesting.  And you only saw this person once?”

“Uh huh.”

“Did this Elf say anything?”

Tilda shook her head.  “He just… looked around, like he was trying to find something.”

“Something, or someone?”

“I don’t know,” she spread her hands and shrugged.  “It was kinda sad; he looked lonely.  You know, how Ada looked before he and Da got married.”

“Did you say anything to him?”

“I tried to, but I don’t think he knew I was there.  He walked away, then he disappeared. Then I woke up.”

Elrond stroked his chin.  “And you only saw this Elf once?”

“Uh huh.  If he comes again, should I try harder?”

“You did nothing wrong, my child.  If that person was meant to see you, he would have.  Can you do something for me?”

“Sure.”

“If you have any other such dreams, anything at all, would you please tell your parents?”

“Even the scary ones?”

“Any dream you have.  May I ask a favor, Tilda?”

“What?”

“Could your Ada write down what you dream and send it to me?”

“Would it help somebody else?”

“Excuse me?”

“Ada said you might find out something that could help others.  I want to help people, ‘cause I’m Princess and that’s what we should do.” Her face brightened. “Maybe I could write you and tell you about my dreams myself?”

“I would like that very much, but tell your parents just the same, would you?” Elrond gave her a big smile.  “What a brave and admirable Princess you are.  Now, could you please stand up for me, and hold very still, while I give you a physical examination?”

“And it won’t hurt?”

“Not one bit; you have my word.”

”Okay.”

Tilda allowed him to place his hand on her chest, while he “watched” her heart, then asked her to turn around, and take some deep breaths, so he could look at her lungs.  Lastly, he placed his hands on her head, and asked her to close her eyes, so he could check the sheath surrounding her brain, where the worst of the infection struck, two years ago.

“Well done, Tilda!” Elrond smiled at her. “You are a wonderfully healthy little girl.  Have you suffered any sort of illness since you spent time with Lord Celeborn?”

“Nope.  Not even a cold!  Sigrid had a bad one last winter, and Daeron made her go to bed, but I didn’t even get the sniffles!”

“Hmmm…  And your friends at school have been healthy?”

“Sometimes they get sick, but the Elves help them a lot.”

“That is nice of them.” Elrond tilted his head and narrowed his eyes.  “You have been feeling well?  No headaches?  No aching muscles?”

“Nuh uh.”

“Excellent!  I am happy for you.” He patted her head.   “I believe we are finished, little Princess.  I thank you for your time.”

“You are welcome,” She lifted the sides of her dress and curtsied low.  “I ‘ell nîn, Hîr Elrond.”

Elrond laughed and clasped his hands together.  “Your Sindarin is perfect!  Your Ada must be very proud!  You must ask him to teach you Quenya, soon.”

“Really?”

“Of course; if you can pick up this language so easily, I see no reason why he should not begin your lessons on the ancient tongue of our people.”

Tilda’s eyes shone, as she turned to Bard and Thranduil.  “Could I?”

“Of course, Tithen Pen.  You already know some, remember?  How do you talk to Meryl?”

“Oh, that’s right!”

At the mention of that name, there was an eager scratching and yipping at the door to Thranduil’s study.  Bard got up to open it, and the little pug came tearing in to see her mistress, her corkscrew tail a blur.  “I think she’s tired of waiting.”

“Are we done?”  Tilda picked her dog up and cuddled her.  “Can we go riding now?”

“Sure can, Little Bean.  Go on upstairs and change out of your school clothes.  Ada will be waiting for you, when you come back down.”

“Okay!  Tulë, Meryl!”  And off she went, with the little dog scampering behind her.

The Kings turned to the Elf-Lord.  “Well?” Bard asked.

“You have nothing to worry about.  She is more than healthy; any lingering effects of her Brain Fever are gone.  In fact, I think the Light of Eärendil has made her impervious to any illness.”

“Really?” Bard’s eyes widened.  “So, she’ll never…”

“She will never suffer another illness, and I am sure you have noticed that her memory problems and her mood swings from the damage to her brain are also gone.”

“Yes.” Thranduil agreed.  “But it is still wonderful to hear.”

“She used to limp on her left side when she got tired,” Bard was still wary.  “You are saying that’s completely healed?”

“Yes.  I must tell you something else I observed:  Those of us so gifted, have an ability to…see who a person is.  By that I mean, when I met you, Bard, I could immediately see you were Immortal.  I already knew this, of course, because of what Thranduil said about your marriage.”

“Is that why you were surprised at Daeron and Rhian?”

“It is along the same lines.”

“How?  How can you see that?”

“There are no words in Westron to describe it.  But let us think in terms of color, yes?  Suppose the Elves and all other Immortal beings have an aura that is, say… Yellow?”

“Aura?”

“If you can picture the air immediately surrounding Thranduil as Yellow, that is what I am referring to.  You would see he was Immortal.”

“And me?” 

“You are yellow, as well, although a different shade.”

“All right.  And what about Sigrid and Bain, or Percy and the rest?”

“We can assign them a Blue quality.”

“That makes sense.  And only certain Elves can see this?”

“Yes.  Myself and my children, because we have Maian blood due to one of my great-grandmothers.  Mithrandir and Radagast can, because they are Istari.  Galadriel and Glorfindel were born in Valinor, under the light of the Two Trees, which give them special powers, as well.”

“And Thranduil?”

“I cannot, Meleth nîn.  I am a powerful Sindar, but not gifted in that way.”

 “As you remember, Bard,” Elrond continued.  “Eärendil’s Blessing has made it possible for an Elf and a Mortal to join—”

“So, what would someone in that relationship look like?”

“Normally, since each of them ‘gift the other’ with part of themselves, one could say they combine to make the color Green.”

“As with mixing paints, yes?” Thranduil offered.

“Exactly.  As I have said to Thranduil, several Elves in my lands have joined with Mortals since my father’s blessing, and they are ‘Green,’ if we continue with this analogy.  Impervious to illness, live a longer life, but will eventually age and die.  They can be compared to my brother, Elros.

“Elros?  You had a brother?”

“A twin brother, yes.  The Elves of my particular line were given the right to choose. When he chose Mortality, he lived to be almost five hundred years old.  He was the founder of the Númenoreans race.” 6

“Really?  I’ll have to grab one of Thranduil’s books and read more about it.  So, we just found out that Rhian and Daeron are different, like Thranduil and I.  When you see them, they’re… Yellow?”

“Yes.” Elrond paused.  “Now as to Tilda—"

"Well, that's easy," Bard said, "she's Mortal, so that would make her blue."

The Elf-Lord's gave him a meaningful look.

"She is blue, right?  Right?"

Elrond gave him a patient look.  "Not exactly..."

“What do you mean, 'Not exactly?'  What, exactly?  Oh, gods…” Bard’s heart began thrashed against his ribs.  “Oh, shit... You’re about to drop another bombshell, aren’t you?”

“Just wait, Meleth nîn.” Thranduil put his arm around him.  “It may not be so bad.”

“I would hardly think it is bad at all,” Elrond said.  “Before I tell you, I want you to know that I have met with Glorfindel, Mithrandir and my sons, who all share this opinion—”

“Oh, gods…” Bard said again, and buried his face in his hands.  “Are you telling me that now she’s some sort of Goddess who can spew lightning from her fingers or something like that?”

“Nothing like that, I promise, but she has been given a gift.  The right to choose.”

“Choose what?” The Bowman’s head went up and he met Thranduil’s eyes, before they turned back to the Elf Lord in front of them. “No scary magic stuff?”

“Not at all.  Your Tilda has been granted the same rights as those of my line.  When the time comes, she will have the right to choose her own fate, as will all the children born from her body.”

 “You are saying she is like your children?”

“Yes.  Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen all have a ‘color’ that is uniquely their own; one that cannot be defined, because it is up to them to choose what it will be.  Your youngest child shares it.”

“How can this be?”  The Elvenking gasped and squeezed Bard’s fingers so tight it hurt.

“My father and mother were the first of my line to be given the choice of fates.  Perhaps it was because the light that healed Tilda came from a Silmaril that he possesses.  Eärendil gave Galadriel that light, and to my knowledge, that was the only time the Light of Eärendil was used to heal someone in this fashion, and it has remained.”  Elrond smiled.  “Perhaps he was meant to, for some reason unknown to us, but either way, I like to think my father gave her – and you – a gift.  If she joins with a child of Man, she will be Mortal, and be given the Gift of Men, but with a long life.  If she weds an Elf, she will be bound to Arda, like you, and a place will be made for her on the Ships.”

 “I…” Bard gasped and grabbed his Elf’s arm. “I…  Oh, shit… I need to sit down.”

“You are sitting down, Meleth nîn.” 

“Oh, right.”  He said weakly, Oh, good...” Then he put his head between his knees, and mumbled. “Ulmo’s fucking balls…”

“Bard!” The Elvenking hissed. 

Still doubled over, Bard fumbled in his pockets, and pulled out a handful of coins.  “Put this in the swear jar, and just let me have my nervous breakdown, all right?  Oh, shit...  I can’t breathe...”

“You will be all right, hênig.”  Elrond smiled, then came over and put his hand on Bard’s head.  After reciting an incantation, his heart and breathing calmed down. “You are only having a panic attack.”

Just then the sound of skipping came bouncing down the Hall.

Ada!” Tilda called.  “I’ve got my green riding suit on, and Tauriel did my braids and everything!”

“I will head her off.”  The Elvenking got up.  “Stay there until you are steadier on your feet, Meleth nîn.” He turned to the Elf-lord and saluted. “Thank you, Elrond, truly.”  

“It is not my doing,” he held up his hands.  “You can thank my mother-in-law and my father.”

“And believe me; I will.  I will right Galadriel when I get back,” he said, as he dashed quickly out of the study and closed the door. 

Elrond handed Bard a strong drink, as they both listened to Tilda and Thranduil.

“Your hair looks very nice, Tithen Pen; you look just like your sister!” 

“Yep!  And I want to saddle Blossom all by myself this time.”

“I will need to check her girth strap; you know the rules.”

“Fiiiine,” she sighed.  “But I want to brush her after, too.  Can you help me reach?”

“I will be happy to.”

“Annnd clean her feet?  All by myself?”

“We shall see.” Thranduil told her. “Menathanc?”

Tilda’s squeal of delight echoed down the hall. “Ada!” She giggled. “Put me down!”

”Let us go see Cook and bring some snacks, yes?”

 

Elrond smiled at him, as their cheerful voices faded away.

“This is good news, Bard; I hope you know that.  It is a great honor.”

“Oh, I know… I know…” His hands still shook.  “I just…”

“I think your husband is pleased,” Elrond said quietly. 

“Pleased?  Are you kidding?  More time with his baby girl?  He’s going to be walking around with that grin for months!”  Bard lifted his goblet and drank his wine in one pull.  “I, on the other hand, still need a few minutes to get used to this.  Not that I’m not grateful or happy, mind you.  It’s just…”

“I know.” The Elf laughed.  "Would you like some more?"

Bard held out his empty glass.  “Fill it to the top, and keep ‘em coming.”

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Menathanc - Shall we go?

Meleth nîn - My love

Tithen Pen - Little One

Tulë, Meryl! - (Q.) Come, Meryl!

 

NOTES: 

[1] Elenion Panilwë Húmë – (Q.) “Walk among the Stars” is a special alignment of the stars and planets, which only happens on Tarnin Austa (Summer Solstice) 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. 

[2] An Invincible Summer, Ch. 43: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/38194661

[3] Ibid.____ Ch. 44: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/38329433

[4] What Makes a King, Ch. 15: https://archiveofourown.org/works/10838010/chapters/25456920

[5] An Invincible Summer, Ch. 38: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/37497905

[6] Legolas, Ion nîn, Ch. 27: https://archiveofourown.org/works/17088320/chapters/44949553

Chapter Text

 

“I'll light the fire

You put the flowers in the vase that you bought today

Staring at the fire for hours and hours while I listen to you

Play your love songs all night long for me, only for me

Come to me now and rest your head for just five minutes, everything is good

Such a cozy room, the windows are illuminated by the

Sunshine through them, fiery gems for you,

Only for you…”

Our House by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

 

 

City of Dale, 15th of October 2944 T.A.

Bowen had been coming to Rhian and Daeron’s house a couple of times a week to play Strategem or cards with Turamarth, and, as with most things, what used to be a rewarding activity, seemed hollow and futile.  But he forced himself to concentrate, both on games and the conversation, and the routine helped.

Today, Beriel, the big dog Lord Thranduil followed behind him into the Sitting Room, to the great delight of Darryn, who came running.

“Hi, Bow’n!” he waved with a grin, then patted the dog’s head.  “Hi Bewwy!”

Beriel wagged her tail and covered the little boy’s face with kisses.

“Yuck!” Darryn scrunched his face up and laughed.

 “Are you ready for another game?”

“I am,” Turamarth said, as he rose from the couch.  “But I thought we might go for a ride.  Vórima needs her exercise now that she is carrying a foal, and I have not ridden Sandastan this week.”

“Sure!”  Bowen grinned.  “See you later, Rhian!”

“You boys go have fun.  Do you want Beriel to stay here?”

“I don’t mind taking her, but if you think Darryn might like it?”

“He would.   We had to send our cat over to Hannah’s house; the baby was a bit to much for Floyd to take, and he misses him.   It would also help distract Darryn when U-N-C-L-E T-U-R leaves.” She winced.  “He gets upset.”

“We can do that.”  Bowen scratched his dog behind the ears.  “Serë, Beriel.”

 

In truth, Tur had no desire to go out, but he had begun to grow impatient with himself, and knew he needed to work through this anxiety.  Rhian had told him how Hannah and Indis made her stick to a regiment during her recovery after Darryn was born:  she had to bathe and dress up every single day, and his mother walked her up and down the Hall in the Royal Wing, to get her used to being out of her apartment. 

“Those rooms were like my ‘Cave,’” she told him.   “My safe space, and it was hard to leave it.  But little by little, they made me go out; King Thranduil wouldn’t let the guards come up to me and talk to me, even, I was that scared.  But after a while, it got easier.” 1

So, Tur took deep breaths, and went.  Bowen kept by his side and spoke of nonsensical things, and while was grateful, he couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty.

“It’s okay,” Bowen said, as if reading his thoughts.

“I know,” Tur said, with a confidence he didn’t feel.  “You should not be worrying about me, Bowen.”

“You’re my friend,” the boy said simply.  “You help me, I help you; what’s the difference?”

“The difference is, I am an adult, MellnethI should be looking after you.”

“And you will.” The boy stopped and looked up at him with grey eyes that were much too mature for his thirteen years.  “I don’t mean any disrespect, Tur, but I’m not gonna stand by and not help.  You were there for me when Mam died.  I don’t know what…” he sighed. 

“I wanted to,” he put his hand on Bowen’s shoulder. 

“I know.  Now it’s my turn.  So, let me.”

“But you do not know what happened, Bowen.”

“Does it matter?” the boy blinked up at him, as the sun lit up his blonde hair like a halo.  “I don’t think I need to know; I would be your friend anyway,” he lifted his shoulders quickly.  “I punched King Bard, and you didn’t let that bother you, did you?”

From the mouths of babes…  He couldn’t help the smile that came to his face.  “You are right.  Thank you.” 

Bowen nodded and they proceeded on their way.  Several Dale folks waved and said hello, and the boy waved back on behalf of both of them. 

“Why do we not bring our supper with us?” Tur said.  “Let us go into Adila’s, and we will get some food to take with us?”

“I’d have to let Anna and Daffyd know.”

“I have an idea about that.  Come on.”

They went into the small Café, and after they ordered their sandwiches, Tur pulled some extra coins out of his pocket.  “Is your son around?”

“Raif is just in the back, finishing his homework.”

“Could we ask him to deliver some messages for us?”

“Certainly.  Raif!” she called.

“Yes, Uma?” the dark-haired boy came out from the back.  “Hi, Bowen!”

“Turamarth has a job for you,” she smiled as she wiped off the counter.

“Could you please go to Lady Rhian’s house and tell her we will be home after supper?  Then go to the Livery and tell Daffyd the same thing?  We do not want them to worry.”

“Sure!”  The boy’s white teeth gleamed against his olive complexion.

“For your trouble.”  Tur handed him two coins.

“Oh, I do not think—” Adila began.

“No, Mistress; I insist.  He is rendering us a great service.” Tur made himself smile. 

“All right, then.”  Adila smiled back, and put her hand on his forearm.  “I’m so happy to see you out and about again, my friend.  We all care about you.”

Turamarth froze, but forced himself to tolerate the touch.  This is a good thing, he told himself.  It will get easier…  If Rhian could do this, then so could he.  She promised.

“Thank you.  I… appreciate it,” he swallowed, and put a smile on his face.  “Could you please make sure to put the spicy mustard on my sandwich?”

Adila laughed, “Of course.”

 

They continued their walk through Dale, and when they reached the stables, Sandastan greeted him with a loud neigh.  

“Gi suilon, Mellon nîn.”  He stroked the stallion’s tan neck and tugged gently at the dark brown mane.  “Would you like to take a ride?”

Bowen was leading Vórima from her stall with remarkable expertise, and within minutes they were saddled with their food and some waterskins they borrowed from the Head Groom.

It was good to get away from the house.  And, he had to admit, he needed a break from his cousin and his family.  In fact, one of the reasons Tur decided to start pushing himself to get out every day was because the increasing tension between Daeron and Rhian was beginning to affect him, though he would never hurt them by saying so. 

Something was not right, he knew, since that meeting with the Kings and the others from Rivendell.  Rhian had come home in tears that day, overwhelmed at the idea of being Immortal, and that she had been chosen by the Valar for some reason that still wasn’t quite clear.  They had been hoping a bit of time would help.

But so far it hasn’t.

Their smiles were forced, for the baby’s sake and perhaps for his own.  Daeron was showing her patience and extra consideration, and she appreciated it, but when he gently tried to get her to discuss it, she couldn’t.  Or wouldn’t.

Either way, Turamarth needed to work past this, because if Daeron and Rhian did not find a way to accept this news, the fighting would start, and he knew he wasn’t strong enough to bear it.  And if their marriage was in as much trouble as his heart forebode, he wanted to be well enough to help them.

Daeron was his Gwador, Rhian was every bit as dear, and thanks to Darryn, the dark binding around Tur’s heart was beginning to loosen at last.  It was his first sign of hope for himself, and he needed to use it, to work with it, and to make it grow in his heart.

While he and Bowen rode out the West Gate, he decided, he would write a letter to his mother, for some guidance.  This was too important to be left to chance.

They were his family.

 

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

 

City of Dale, 8th of October 2944 T.A.

Galion, for the first time in his long, long life, had a home of his very own.  The fact that it came with a rugged, devastatingly beautiful husband only added to his bliss.  

They had moved into Rôg’s house over a month ago, but only after Hilda insisted upon getting it ready.

“My lands, will you look at this place?” she sighed, as she ran her finger over the mantlepiece.  “Well, don’t you worry, love; we’ll get it whipped into shape soon enough, and it will be fit for a King.”  Hilda patted Rôgon on the cheek.  “I know you’re used to living on your own, but now you’ve got a husband, and we’re going to make this a real sanctuary for the both of you.  Trust me; when we’re done, you’ll love it.”

“Did you see that fiendish gleam in her eye?” Rôg asked him, after she left. 

“She lives for things like this.” Galion laughed.  “But I trust her judgement.”

The next day, she showed up with Greta, and they followed her around the house, while he told her of his plans to furnish, and Greta made notes on supplies needed.  Two days before their ceremony in the Garden, Hilda arrived with an army of volunteers from Dale bearing brooms, buckets and brushes and set everybody to work with a flourish.

It turned into a real party, Dale-style.  Rod and Catrina showed up with drinks and food.  The Baker and his wife brought pastries and cookies, and Adila didn’t come, but sent over some hot tea and coffee, and a note wishing them well. 2 The Ladies Institute of Dale came bearing gifts, too; flour, sugar, spices, canned goods, and such to fill their pantry to bursting.

On the morning after the Wedding Feast, the house gleamed and shone and was ready to receive the furniture that had arrived from the Palace, and once again, everyone pitched in.

Hilda directed traffic as Rod, Llewelyn, Chief Constable Tom and his sons, carried in the furniture with Bard and Thranduil’s help.

“You owe me,” Bard joked, as he and the Elvenking carried in the new couch. 

The single cot upstairs was replaced with a huge bed and a thick mattress, stacks of clean linens were in the airing cupboards, new linen towels were placed in the privy upstairs, as well as the downstairs bath, and the old, smaller tub was taken out, to make room for one big enough for two!  The kitchen stove and ovens had been scrubbed, and Rôgon’s four mismatched plates were supplanted by a complete set of crockery that would serve ten.  The cutlery was a gift from the Palace Silversmiths, bearing their combined monograms, and the brand-new set of pots and pans were made by Rôgon himself.

The Sitting Room was no longer a mish-mosh of old, unmatched furnishings.  Two overstuffed chairs and a comfortable couch were brought in and placed according to Hilda’s directions, complete with a low table (“they call it a coffee table, love,” Hilda told Rôg.  “Adila said everyone uses them where she grew up!”) and small lamps on the walls were installed, as well as on the end tables for late-night reading.

Rôgon’s only request was that the furniture be the same shade of blue as Galion’s apartment (“It matches your eyes, Mîr,” he said, one night in bed just a few days after they were married).   Galion was so moved, that he arranged for entire house to be decorated to compliment his husband’s new favorite color: the dishes, the dining chairs the linens and even the napkins and tablecloth were color-coordinated.

 

The newlyweds were still working to fit into their new lifestyle; Rôgon spent long days in the forge out back, and didn’t always remember to pick up after himself and clean the tub when he was done bathing.  Galion had to point out the laundry basket in their room three times, to remind him that his clothes go there, and not in a heap on the floor. 

“I am sorry, Meleth nîn,” he kissed Galion on the nose.  “I promise to try harder.” 

And he did, though he wasn’t always perfect.  They were so much in love that even when Rôgon found a small pile of soiled leggings and tunics under the quilt on his side of the bed, he laughed good-naturedly, and put them where they belonged.

Galion spent his days with the King and the Prince, as they tutored Legolas in the art of politics.  He also worked with Hilda and Greta to ease away from his duties as personal servant and valet to the King.  He would often be home before Rôg was done working, and was excited at the prospect of cooking delicious meals for his husband.

Of course, there were times when Rôgon would come through the back door after a long day at the forge, and his brown eyes would light up, at the sight of him.  Rôg’s lop-sided grin made Galion weak at the knees, and more than once, the blacksmith was grabbed by his filthy tunic with a hard kiss, and he‘d wrap his legs around his waist and let the Rôg carry him into the bathing room, where they would tear each other’s clothes off and after some acrobatic sex, fall into the tub together to clean off.

The first few times, they laughed at the burnt food and the ruined tea kettle, then walked arm-in-arm to the Long Lake Tavern for dinner.  But Rôg simply couldn’t be making a steady stream of cooking pans for his own house, so if they were feeling amorous, they made sure things were moved over to the sideboard.

But after a while, it was apparent that ruined meals couldn’t always be blamed on their overeager sex drive.  Galion was forced to admit he was just a terrible cook.  His first attempts at a cake was burnt on the outside and a gooey mess on the inside.  Rôgon was sweet, and ate a piece anyway, and made sure to only pick the hard bits of charcoal out of his teeth when Galion wasn’t looking.  His soups and stews were a bit tougher to ignore; they were either too bland, too spicy, or too bitter. 

“It is all right, my sweet,” he shook his head, and pushed his bowl away. “I am not very hungry this evening.”  

“You do not mean it,” Galion said, near tears, “I am trying so hard; how could I make a mess of a salad?  A salad?”

“Well, how much oil did you use with the vinegar?”

The Aide blinked.  “Oil?”

Rôgon picked up his napkin and covered his mouth, as his shoulders shook.

“Are you all right?  Did I poison you?”  Galion pounded him on the back.

“Come, Mîr; let us go to the Tavern.”  He laughed, as stood and brought the Aide to his feet.

“We cannot keep going there, Rôg!  I want us to spend quiet evenings together in our home, but I cannot when the food is dreadful!” Galion buried his face in his hands.  “Neither one of us has had the chance to dust or clean, and now our house looks dingy, and I am so sorry about ruining your leggings in the laundry; I did not know that if you put wool in hot water, it will shrink like that!”

Rôgon gathered him up and kissed his cheek.  “I have an idea, Meleth nîn:  Instead of going to the Tavern, why do we not go to the Castle, and see if Cook or one of the kitchen maids can feed us?  Then we can speak to Hilda and Greta about helping us hire someone to come in and help us?  He or she could take care of the laundry and the cleaning, as well as fix us our dinner?  We can easily afford it.”

“I…think I would like that,” Galion admitted, then groaned in frustration.  “I do not understand why I cannot organize all this!”

“After all the wondrous things you have accomplished in your life, why are you letting this make you feel like a failure?” Rôg, took his hand. “Mîr nîn, you and I work long hours at jobs we love, jobs we are successful at; I do not care who does the housework!  All I care about is that when my husband has time off in the evenings, he is relaxed and happy.”   

“You are right,” Galion’s shoulders began to lose their tension.  “There is no rule that says we have to do it ourselves.”

“No, there is not.”  Rôg kissed his hand.  “Come along.”

A week later, they hired the Baker’s daughter (and Enid’s granddaughter).  Freya was a lovely girl in her early twenties, who was looking for some part-time work.  She came in the afternoons during the week to clean, dust, take care of their laundry and mending, and prepare their dinner, before she went home to her new husband.

 

Rôg had just finished his latest order, and was about to set the last sword aside when his heart lurched, suddenly filled with terror.  He gasped and clutched his chest, just as a blood-curdling scream came from inside the house. 

In an instant, the sword was haphazardly cast to the ground and he was up the steps to the back porch, and wrenched open the door.

“Galion! Where are you?” He rushed into the kitchen, to find his husband standing on top of the table, shaking like a leaf, and pale as a ghost.

“In there!” His hand shook as he pointed to the pantry door.

“An intruder?” Rôg glanced around quickly for a weapon, and grabbed the frying pan from its hook on the wall.  “Did you see him?”

“Yes,” Galion hissed.  “It was l-looking right at me!”

“Stay there!”  The blacksmith raised the pan, silently crept to the pantry door and wrenched it open with a shout.

The bag of flour had been knocked from the shelf, its contents spilling out all over the floor.  A jar of blackberry jam lay broken next to it, leaving a sticky mess.

But there was no one in there.

“There is no one in here,” he said.

“It is in there!  I saw it!”

“Where?”

“On the second shelf, in front of the sugar,” Galion called to him in a tremulous voice.

“There is nothing here!” He moved the sack of sugar aside, then back…

 “Do you see it?” 

Just then a rat ran over Rôg’s foot and with a startled shout, he jumped and smashed the frying pan onto the floor.

“Rôg?  Are you all right?” 

“I am fine,” he called out to the kitchen,”it has been taken care of, Mîr nîn.”

After climbing down off the table, Galion cautiously approached.  “What was it?”

Rôg lifted the pan, to look at the rat.

Which turned out not to be a giant, hairy beast with blood dripping from it’s gaping maw, but a simple, small mouse.  A dead mouse.

“Oh, no!” Galion was horrified, and skewered him with a look.  “I did not want you to kill it!”

“Well, you were screaming!  You frightened me half to death!”

“Well I was frightened!  It startled me!”  the Aide’s eyes filled with tears.  “And you murdered it.”

 

The next day, Galion came home from work carrying a basket.

“Did Cook send some of his bread home with you?” He asked hopefully.

“He sent something,” his husband grinned, and set it down on the floor.

“What is it?”

Galion opened the latch, and out jumped a black cat with four white paws.

“It’s a cat,” he said.

“Very observant.”

“I prefer dogs.”

“Dogs do not catch mice.  He will.”

“Fine,” Rôgon rolled his eyes.  “But he has to earn his keep, or he goes, is that clear?”

Whatever his original name was, Rôgon changed it to “Lorda,” because not only was he lazy, he quickly took possession of Rôg’s favorite chair, and spent most of the day sleeping on his back, twisted like a crescent moon with his front paws splayed over his head. 

“Why my chair?” Rôgon muttered one evening, as he picked the big cat up and dumped him in his husband’s lap.  “Yours is just as comfortable.”

“He likes it.” 

“He could like your chair just as much.  Let him go over to you.”

“A cat chooses his owner.”

“Well, this owner does not choose this cat.  And he does not even work that hard.”

Lorda enjoyed following Rôg outside and watching him work.  He either observed him from on top of the woodpile, or curl up in a ball in front of the stone wall.  On one occasion, a mouse ran across the yard in front of him, and the cat opened an eye and watched his progress, and gave Rôg a look that said, “Well?  Aren’t you going to get that?”

He shook his head and went back to work.

On the rare occasion when Lorda actually caught mice, he didn’t bother to make sure they were dead, and Galion chased Rôg, who chased the cat, who was chasing the injured mouse as it left a zigzagged trail of blood across the floor. 

“It still falls to me to kill them, Galion; why do we keep him?” Rôgon groaned.

“Because people who have homes have pets,” Galion said patiently, as he scrubbed the bloodstains off the floor.  “We are too busy to care for a dog; cats are independent.”

“I disagree; Lorda depends upon us to feed him, while he spends his days lazing about and getting cat hair all over my chair!  He also depends on us – namely me - to finish the job he starts with the vermin, which causes us both more work than if I would have just taken care of them in the first place! And the bloodstain on our brand-new Sitting Room rug has not come out!  You are the one who wants him, but he constantly pesters me!”

“He likes you,” Galion said smoothly.  “Vuin nîn, think of him as the child we could never have together.”

“He is not a child,” Rôgon said crossly.  “Or if he is, he is an impudent, disrespectful, impertinent…” he growled.  “An Elfling would not behave like this!”

“Ah, but he would not be half so interesting,” Galion finished up with the kitchen floor, and after he dumped out the water and put the bucket and brush back under the sink, he took his Blacksmith in his arms, and kissed away Rôg’s irritation.

“Fine,” Rôgon rolled his eyes.  “But I will not allow him in our bedroom, is that clear?”

“Crystal,” Galion nuzzled his neck. 

That didn’t really work either.  They closed their bedroom door at night, but if Lorda found himself on the outside, he would stand up on his hind legs and pound the door with his front paws and yowl until Galion couldn’t stand it anymore and let him in.

“Fine,” Rôg rolled his eyes, as Lorda curled up on his chest and began to purr.  “But if he tries to bite my toes again, out he goes, is that clear?”

“Absolutely.” Galion kissed his way up Rôg’s arm, to his shoulder, then sucked on the tip of his ear.

And so, Lorda wormed his way into their lives, whether the blacksmith liked it or not.  The black cat liked to sit on the back of his chair and bat at his hair, so when a length of red yarn mysteriously appeared beside his book on the side table, Rôgon began to absent-mindedly dangle it with one hand, while holding his book with another.

“Just so I can read in peace, he said.  “Nothing more.”

“Of course,” Galion’s mouth twitched.

When a basket full of small, knitted shapes appeared on the floor beside the couch, Rôgon raised his eyebrows.  “And what are those?”

“Oh, these are toys Sigrid made for Lorda.” He grinned. “Are they not adorable?”

“Why?”

“They are stuffed with catnip.  He will like them.”

Rôg picked up one of the toys knitted into the shape of a mouse.  “I would much rather he practice on real mice, Mîr nîn.  Is that not why you brought him home in the first place?”

“Think of it this way,” Galion smiled. “If he is busy playing with these toys, he will not pester you.”

“Fine,” Rôgon sighed.  “But as long as the toys are picked up at night.”

“Naturally.”

When Lorda became intoxicated on the catnip and rolled drunkenly around on the Sitting Room rug, Galion clapped his hands with delight and said, “What a clever boy you are!” He picked up the cat and snuggled him.   “Isn’t he wonderful?”

“Hmmm.”  Rôgon quirked his brows and went back to his book.  “He acts like he’s been smoking Longbottom Leaf.”

Galion began to make a habit of stopping by the market on the way home, to pick up a tidbit of meat or fish for Lorda.

“Just a little treat.” He knelt on the floor and stroked his sleek fur, as he ate.

“If you feed him too much, he will not catch mice.” Rôgon crossed his arms.  “Not that he catches mice.”

“Does Ada want our kitty to starve?” Galion crooned.  “He is terribly mean, is he not?”

“You are spoiling him, Mîr.”

 “And why not? Lorda is my very first pet.”

“You have never had one?”

Galion shook his head, and blinked up at him with eyes of sapphire.  “The pets always belonged to the family, but not to me.”

Rôgon sighed, knelt beside him and stroked his cheek.  “Does he make you happy?”

“He does, I promise.”

Which was true. 

Until the night, Lorda pushed even Galion to the limit of his patience.

 

29th of October 2944 T.A.

They had just returned from dinner with the Royal family, and after enjoying a cup of tea in the kitchen, Galion came up behind him and nuzzled the back of his neck as he washed up the dishes. 

The nuzzling turned into kisses, which turned into some delightful groping, that led to moaning and heavy breathing, which resulted in the couple racing up the stairs and falling into their bed with delight. 

“I love you,” Galion whispered into his mouth, as he reached for the ties on Rôg’s leggings.  “I want that big cock in me.”  He plunged his hands into his husband’s smalls and squeezed him, making Rôg gasp.  “Puitho nin, Meleth nîn!

“Aníron gi phuithad,” Rôgon moaned, as he yanked Galion’s tunic over his head.  “I want to make you scream!”  Then he quickly undid the leggings and pulled them off, grinning at the smooth, soft skin and graceful body of his treasure.

“You are so beautiful,” he whispered, as he leaned down to bite one of his nipples, and when Galion gasped and sunk his hands into Rôg’s hair and begged him not to stop, the rush of blood to his groin made him even harder.

With a sigh, he tore himself away, and grabbed the oil.  When he plunged two fingers into Galion’s opening, his husband threw his head back with a cry, which soon turned to groans, when Rôg teased his prostate, while he took his hard, pink cock in his mouth.

“Make me scream…”  Galion begged, as he stroked Rôg’s cock. “I need you inside of me, Meleth. Fuck me hard and make me scream…”

With a roar, Rôgon sat up, and rolled Galion on his stomach, lifting up his hips.  The Aide bent and spread his legs and pushed against him.  “I want you so much…”

Rôgon lubricated his hard, throbbing member, and slowly pushed inside his husband, wanting the pleasure to last.  Both Elves threw their heads back, mouths hanging open, blinded with pure lust.  He ran his hand over the creamy smoothness of Galion’s back, then grabbed his hips and began to fuck his husband in short, rapid thrusts.

“Harder!  More!  Please!”

And oh, he did.  He was slamming into his beloved, as Galion had both hands on the bed, tossing his black hair in ecstasy, begging for more… always for more….

“Yes!” he moaned. “Yes, that is it!  Scream for me, Mîr nîn.”

To Rôgon’s great delight, Galion did just that, suddenly twisting underneath him, crying, “Rôgon!  Rôgon!”

 “I love it when you call out my name,” Rôgon gasped.  “Yes!  Yes!”

“No! NO! Ahhhhhh!  STOP!  Please!”  Galion lifted one hand and reached for his crotch.  “NAEG!  We have to stop!”  He fell onto his side, taking a surprised Rôgon with him.  With a strangled yelp. the Blacksmith landed behind him.

“Galion!  You could have broken my... What is the matter?”  he croaked.

Just then, a black figure shot out from underneath his husband’s body, and, with a loud hiss and a howl, Lorda was off the bed and out the bedroom door like a flash.

Galion, who only seconds before was writhing and screaming in the passion of their coupling, now writhed and screamed in pain.  “He bit me!  That stupid, fucking, lazy, good-for-nothing cat BIT ME! I am going to kill him!  I will find him and tear his fucking head off!”

Rôg carefully pulled out of his husband, and rolled him onto his back.  Galion shrieked as he clutched his crotch, and blood seeped through his long, slender fingers.

“Let me see, Vuin.”  He winced in sympathy, as Galion gritted his teeth and continued his litany of curses onto their erstwhile pet.  Rôgon grabbed one of the small towels they always kept in the bedside drawer.

“You have to move your fingers, Meleth nîn.  I really do need to see, and to clean the wound.”  Rôgon slowly pried his fingers loose and, after dipping the end of the towel in the glass of water by their bed, he tried to wipe away the excess blood.

“Did he bite it off?” his husband whimpered. 

“No, but there is a significant scratch that needs immediate attention.  Here,” he folded another towel and placed it over Galion’s bleeding member, wiped his hands and got up to pull on his leggings.

“What are you doing?” Galion whined.  “You are not leaving me?”

“That must be healed immediately.”

“No!”

“Galion, Ermon is the soul of discretion—”

“ERMON?” the Aide sat up with a yelp.  “NAEG!” he grabbed at his crotch again. “Please do not get anyone; it would be too humiliating…” Tears ran down his face. “Oh, this is terrible!” He sobbed.  “That... that... animal has ruined my life!”

Rôgon pulled on his tunic, kneeled on the bed and kissed him.  “Please, do not cry, Meleth nîn.  I will get this taken care of and you will be as good as new.  And I will make sure Ermon keeps this to himself.  No one else will know; I promise.”

Now Galion was really crying.  “Why would Lorda do that?  I am the one who loves him!”

“I do not think it was personal.” Rôg stroked his hair.  “We forgot to shut the bedroom door, and, well, your Gwîb was bouncing around down there, and... maybe he thought it was...”

“So, now, he decides to get to work?  That lazy, fat, good-for-nothing PARASITE is out, do you hear me?  You can throw him in the river, for all I care!”

“Let us just get you taken care of, first.” He kissed him.  “I will be back soon and once it’s done, we can forget this ever happened, yes?”

“I cannot,” Galion wailed.  “I’ve got blood all over our new sheets!”

“Then we will burn them, and buy new ones.”

“But could we not just let it heal on its own?” he sniffled hopefully.

“How?  You could not wear leggings, in that condition.” Rôgon lifted his brows and tilted his head.  “And how long do you think it will be before we can make love, again?”

 “Ai, gorgor!” Galion’s face crumpled again.  “I hate that cat, and I never want to see him again!”

“You brought him home, as I recall.” 

“You want to throw that in my face, now?” His cheeks were wet with tears of anger and pain. “That is just plain cruel!”

“I am sorry,” Rôgon wiped the sweat off Galion’s face and kissed his brow.  “I will be right back.”

 

Thankfully Ermon’s house was not far, and he was home.  “What happened?” he asked the blacksmith.

“Galion has had a…  mishap, and you must come right away.”

“Could you not take him to the Healing house?”

“I cannot.  It is rather…” Rôgon squirmed.  “He has had an accident.  Please come.”

“Let me grab my bag, and you can explain on the way.”

When Rôg told him, Ermon stopped and stared at him, wide-eyed.  “You are joking, no?  You mean the cat thought…”

“Yes,” he sighed.  “Any other time, he is fat and lazy and barely lifts a whisker, but for some reason he thought my husband’s Gwîb was some sort of…”

“Mouse?” The Healer’s mouth curved upwards.

“Rat,” Rôg said indignantly.  “A large one, with a particularly long tail.”

 

Summoning every once of self-control he could muster, Ermon managed to keep a straight face as he tended to his patient, but after ordering him to rest for a couple of days and wear nothing but a loose robe, the Healer made a quick exit.  Rôg could hear him laughing all the way down the street.

Later, when they were drifting off to sleep, Rôgon wrapped his arms protectively around his beloved. “Tomorrow, I will take Lorda to the Castle and give him back to Cook.”

Rôg!!” Galion gasped. “You cannot do that; he loves us!  How could you think of such a thing?”

“No reason.” He rolled his eyes, and kissed him good night. “I love you.”

When he came in the house for lunch the next day, Lorda was curled up on Galion’s chest, and they were both fast asleep.

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Ae ma… - Oh, yes…

Aníron gi phuithad – I want to fuck you

Gwîb – Penis 

Lorda – (Q.) Lazy

Mellneth – Young friend

Puitho nin, Meleth nîn! – Fuck me, my love!

 

 

 

 

 

 

NOTES:

 

[1] And Winter Came…, Ch. 7: https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/27875265

[2] No one minded that Adila didn’t come – her husband had been murdered there in the forge last year, when Dale was attacked). An Invincible Summer, Ch. 36: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/37243763

Chapter Text

 

“The more I know, the less I understand,

“All the things I thought I’d figured out, I have to learn again,

I've been tryin' to get down

To the heart of the matter,

But my will gets weak

And my thoughts seem to scatter,

But I think it's about forgiveness

Forgiveness

Even if, even if you don't love me anymore…”

The Heart of the Matter by Don Henley

 

 

The Woodland Realm, 11th October 2944 T.A.

“Good morning, Evranin!” Saeros was waiting outside the door of her apartment. 

“Hello,” she said, trying to hide her surprise.  “Can I help you?”

“Not at all; I was in this area of the Palace and thought I would escort you to work.”

“That is nice of you.  I imagine it is good to get out of the lower levels once in a while.”

“We are underground,” the Ellon grinned.  “It makes no difference one way or another, yes?”

Evvy couldn’t help but laugh.  “That is true.  I am used to living high in the trees; I sometimes forget.”

“Do you miss the trees?”

“Of course; it is my home, though I am pleasantly surprised to find how much I like it here.  The people are friendly, and I enjoy my work.”

“How goes the inventory?” he asked, as they walked along the passageway. 

“We are almost finished, as a matter of fact.  Then I must meet with Lord Bard soon, to go over my recommendations for the Dale library and I will give you a list of books to print shortly after that.”

“Wonderful,” he held his hands behind his back, as they walked.  “I am anxious to get started.  I understand you will also be asking us to print more schoolbooks?”

“Yes; I will be meeting with the School Warden, as well.”

“Are they coming here?”

“No; Mistress Bronwyn cannot leave Dale in the middle of the school year.  I have heard there is a building set aside for the Library, and I must go over the design with the City Planner.”

“Is that important?”

“Oh, yes!  The lighting must be bright, but not so that the sun shines directly on the shelves; it will age the books prematurely, and they could become brittle.  And the storage areas must be cool and completely dry.  Books are extremely heavy, so I must make sure the floors have thick, hardwood flooring, and be well-reinforced.  The ceilings must be high enough to accommodate the shelves, and it must be big enough to house not only the books, but all the tables one needs as well.”

“I had no idea,” he shook his head.  “Of course, most people do not know what printing a book involves.”

“Oh, I do!” Evvy’s eyes were earnest. “I have a great deal of respect for a printer’s attention to detail, and the patience it takes to make a good quality book!  It is quite a complicated process, is it not.”

“It is,” Saeros nodded.  “But I enjoy it.”

Just then a small crowd of children overtook them on their way to daily classes.

“Hi, Evvy!”  “Good morning, Evvy!”  “We’ll see you this afternoon!” Their chatter echoed off the cavern walls, as they rushed by with their papers.

“Ai, the noise!”  Saeros scowled.  “Elven children do not behave in such ways.”

“That is because they are not Elven children,” she laughed.  “I enjoy their company,” she smiled.  “They come into the West Library twice a week, and Gwindor has allowed me to choose the books for Story Time.  I adore it when they gather on the floor around me as I read to them.” 

She became thoughtful. “When Daeron came to stay in Lothlórien, he told me of the many orphans left after the Battle that first winter, and how thin and sickly they all were…” she shook her head.  “Ai, how sad that must have been for them! To lose their home, and so many family members…”  Evvy gazed ahead at the group of children, who were being ushered into their classroom, by a smiling, dark-haired Elleth. “They seem happy, now.”

“And noisy.” He smirked then said, “Forgive me; so much has changed here; it is difficult to keep up, at times.”

“I suppose it does take some getting used to,” she admitted.  “But I will never forget when some of the nearby villages that hit with a plague.  I went with Orlin a few times to help...” Evvy shuddered. “Oh, Saeros, it was just so sad; children should never have to suffer like that,” she swallowed.  “Daeron found something in one of Lord Elrond’s books to help prevent further outbreaks, but it was too late for too many…”

“You should not have gone!” Saeros’s eyes widened.  “Why did your brother make you do this?”

“I volunteered; I wanted to help!” she stopped and stared at him.  “Have you no compassion for those who suffer? Do you not understand what King Thranduil is trying to accomplish?  All the Elven lands must strengthen our Alliances with the other Free Peoples if we are to triumph in the end!  I do not understand you, Saeros; do you not pay attention to the scrolls you copy, to the books you print?”

“What I understand is that by the time the trouble starts, I will be well on my way to the Havens,” he said, calmly.  “As you should be.  This is not our fight.”

“You make me sad, Mellon,” her lips turned downward.  “I have learned much in the past two years, and I may be just a Scribe, a librarian, but if a war comes, I will be here to support my friends!”

“And I suppose Daeron and Turamarth are included in your circle of friends?”

She blinked at his vehemence.  “As a matter of fact, yes.  I will be helping Daeron with his book soon, and his wife—”

“His human wife,” Saeros pointed out.

“What is that to you if she is?” Evvy shoulders lifted and fell in a huge sigh.  “I do not know what to say to you, Saeros; clearly you have opinions I do not share, and I think…” she swallowed, “I think I will bid you good day.”

She turned to walk away, but he touched her upper arm. “Evvy, I am sorry to make you angry.”

“I am not angry; I am disappointed.  I am grateful for your kindness, and I would like to think we are friends, but I do not understand your prejudice.”

 “Forgive me,” he smiled sheepishly.  “Sometimes, I… find it difficult to adjust to new things, to make new friends.”

“You are simply shy, like me.” She said kindly. “I have never been one to jump into things, either; it takes a lot of effort for people like us to feel comfortable with new situations.  Still that is no reason to become rigid.  You are only hurting yourself, if you do not try, and I truly hope you change your mind about this.”

“Perhaps you could reform me?”

The corners of her mouth slowly lifted.  “Perhaps I should.  Have a good day, Saeros.”

She left him on the walkway and headed toward the Main Library, but when she stopped and looked back, he was still there, staring at her with intense eyes. 

Did Saeros bear some sort of personal grudge against Daeron or Turamarth?

Well, she thought, if he does, it is no concern of hers.  With another smile and a quick wave, she went to report for duty.

 

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

 

City of Dale, 25th of October 2944 T.A. 

 

 

“Mama!” Darryn screamed, only it wasn’t Darryn.  It was an old man with grey hair and bright blue eyes, yet had the juvenile voice she knew to be her child.  “Help me!  Where are you?”

He was in the middle of a field, and a man had grabbed him by his hair.  Before she could react, he smashed his fist into Darryn’s face, and turned to face her with an evil grin.

It was Garth.

“No!  Leave him alone you bastard!” Rhian tried to run to her son, but something was holding her back…

But her former husband just laughed.  “Listen, bitch; he is my son, and I’ll do any fucking thing I want to him.”

Darryn struggled in his grip, but was too old and feeble to fight him off.  “Help me, Mama!  Who is this man?”

“Shut the fuck up!” he punched her son again.  “I’m your real Da, and it’s about time someone made a real man out of you!”

“You are not my father!” Darryn said in an unnaturally young voice, as blood streamed from his nose and mouth.

“What, you think that namby-pamby Elf she married could take my place?”

“Garth, leave him alone!  You’re hurting him!”

“And I wouldn’t have to if you’d been a halfway decent wife, you worthless piece of shit!  This is all your fault,” he screamed at her as he pointed an accusing finger.  “You’re nothing!  You’re a murderer and I hope you burn in Mordor for what you’ve done to me!”

Rhian struggled frantically to get to her son. “You didn’t deserve to live!  You beat me, and hurt me—”

“Whose fault was that, huh? If you’d been any kind of a wife, I wouldn’t have had to straighten you out,” he sneered.

“Then take me,” she begged as she tried to push forward against this invisible barrier.  “It’s me you want to punish, just let him go and—”

“Not a chance,” his face twisted into an evil grin.  “This is what you get for abandoning me to die in that fire.  A life for a life, Rhian.  Your son is going to pay for your sins.” Garth leaned down and said to Darryn.  “Maybe I should teach you to behave like I did your mother, aye?  Oh, did I love to make her scream and beg underneath me, didn’t I?  I’ll take you right up your ass—"

“Oh, gods…” she wailed helplessly. “Oh, Valar, please don’t; please!”

But she was being dragged backwards.

“Let me go!  You have to let me go!” she looked down to see strong arms around her waist. 

It was Daeron, holding her tight.  “We do not belong here, Hind Calen.  We need to go.”

“What is the matter with you?” she screamed and kicked at him.  “He’s hurting my son!  Let me go!”

“Rhian…”

“No! Let me go!”

“Rhian, Hind Calen…”

“Please!”

“RHIAN!”

Rhian woke with a gasp, to find Daeron leaning over her, shaking her shoulders.

Hind Calen, you were having a nightmare, again.” He said with concern in his eyes, as he stroked her cheek.  “Do you know where you are?”

“But…” she breathed.  “What happened?”

“You were thrashing around,” he said, in a soothing voice.  “You are safe, in our home, and it is night.  All is well.”

“Oh,” she blinked awake. “Did I shout?”

“I am afraid so,” his eyes were full of concern.  “Rhian, I—”

But the sound of Darryn’s cries interrupted them.

“I will get him and bring him in to you,” he folded back the blankets. 

“No; you get back to sleep.  I’ll get him.”  She got up and pulled on her thick green robe and slippers.

“I do not mind, Hind Calen,” Daeron told her.  “Truly.”

“Oh, I know,” her voice was still shaking. “But you have a long day tomorrow…”

“As do you; are you not working at the Castle?”

“It’s fine, Daeron!” she snapped, then closed her eyes with a sigh.  “Look, I’m sorry; just let me take care of my son, all right?”

And she fled.

 

“Hey little man,” she crooned, as she walked into his room.  “What’s got you awake?”

Darryn was sitting up in his bed, his breath coming in short hiccups.  “Mama crying?”

“No, baby.” She picked him up and sat on the rocking chair.  “Mama’s all right.”

Darryn sat up and put his hand on her cheek.  “You wost your smile.”  He smooshed her cheeks up, like he often did with Tur. 

Her eyes filled with tears and she forced a grin.  “You found it for me!” She hugged him tight and sunk into his warm sweetness.

The little boy leaned his head against her chest with a sigh, and Rhian closed her eyes and inhaled the sweet smell of his dark curly hair.  “I love you, Darryn.”

“Wuv you too, Mama.” he said with a yawn.

She started rocking as she softly sang his favorite lullaby, and they both eventually settled down.  She gently rose and tucked him back into bed with a kiss on his brow, before returning to her room.

The lamp was still on, and Daeron was sitting up, waiting for her.

“We cannot go on like this, Rhian.  I know you are unhappy with the news Lord Elrond gave us, and I have tried to be patient and give you as much space as you needed…”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“Do not be sorry!  Just… talk to me, please!  You toss and turn with dreams and I know all this has brought back pain from your past,” he put his hand on his chest.  “We are joined, Hind Calen; we are married!  I can feel your anxiety and it kills me that you are shutting me out!  I am torn up inside,” Daeron rubbed his hand over his jaw, and closed his eyes.  “I know the news was not what we were expecting, but why will you not let us face it together?”

“I don’t know why it’s so hard.” She struggled for words.  “But I…”

 “Can you at least tell me what you have been dreaming about?”

Suddenly the air left her body, and her chest felt like it was trapped in a vice, as her stomach churned.  She opened her mouth to speak, but the words wouldn’t come out, and her breaths came in short, choppy gasps.

Instantly Daeron was across the room, and had his hand on her shoulders.  “Breathe, Meleth nîn.  Look at me…”

 

Once her panic attack had passed, he grabbed his robe and put it on.  “I am taking you downstairs.”

He didn’t give her a choice, but firmly steered her down the steps, through the Sitting room and took her into the kitchen.

“Sit here, while I make us some tea,” he pulled over the kitchen stool and sat her down.  “Then we are going to talk.”

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

 

Once the tea was done, he carried the tray into the Dining room and sat them both down at the table and poured her a cup.

“Eat, please; you have no appetite these days.”  He pushed the plate of butter cookies at her.

“I can’t right now,” she swallowed, as tears rolled down her face.  “I’m so sorry, Daeron.  I know I’ve been horrible to you, and you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Ai, Meleth nîn,” he quickly got up and took the chair beside her.  “Please, do not cry.  Whatever it is, we can face it together.”

“I don’t know if I can do this,” she shook her head and buried her face in her hands.  “I’m so sorry; I should be stronger than this, but—”

“No, Rhian,” he stroked her hair.  “You do not have to be anything you are not, but I am here.  Let me help you.”  He lifted her chin to look up into his eyes.  “Tell me what you are frightened of; what are you dreaming about?”

“I see Darryn, after he passes on,” she closed her eyes tight.

“Lord Elrond says he will live a good life to a ripe old age, and have a peaceful death.”

“Yes, but what happens next?  He’ll be all alone, and I see him waking up in this field with flowers, and he…  isn’t safe anymore.  Garth is there and he hits Darryn, like he used to hit me…” she sobbed.  “He called me a murderer and…  I try to help…  but I can’t.”

Ai, gorgor…”  Daeron’s eyes filled with sympathy.  “That must have been horrible, but it is just a dream; it is not real.”

“What if it will be?  I’m his mother, Daeron; I let Garth die that night, and now…  I won’t be there to protect him, and neither will you!”

“Rhian,” Daeron’s eyes narrowed.  “When we first married, we thought we were blessed with a long life; Darryn was always going to leave us much sooner.  What is different now?”

“I guess… I never thought about it, until Elrond said…” 

“Where is your faith, Hind Calen?  Do you honestly think Eru would allow such abuse in the afterlife like this?”

“Why not?” she wiped her eyes angrily.  “He allowed me to be abused, and beaten and raped in this one!  And from what you tell me, Miriam and Sellwen didn’t have it much better!  If he—”

“No, my love, that is not the fault of Eru or the Valar.  The blame is Roald’s; the blame belongs to Phylip and to Garth.  No one made them behave that way.”

“But he didn’t stop them, either, did he?  Why was I not worth protecting?  Why?”

Eru does not make things happen, Hind Calen; people do, through neglect and fear and ignorance.  It is a sad, unfair thing, and I wish with all my heart it was different.  All we can do is our best, and try to learn from all of that.  The Valar has a purpose for us, and we must trust them.”

“How can I believe that?” her voice full of resentment.  “I’m supposed to be some… reincarnation of this person who lived a miserable life in the first age, then twice in the third age I get stuck with monsters for parents!  Lucky me!” she threw her hands up in the air.  “If no one can tell me for sure that my little boy will be safe, then I should be there!  I have to be there! I’m his mother, and I abandoned him!”

“You did no such thing; I believe with all my heart that Darryn will be safe and well, both in this life and the next.” 

Daeron tried to put his arm around her, but she shook him off.

“Don’t touch me!” she hissed.  “Just… don’t.”

It was as if an arrow had been shot in his heart.  “What have I done?” he demanded, hurt.  “You cannot stand for me to touch you, we have not had sex in eight weeks, and you tense up whenever I am with Darryn!  What else do I have to do to prove to you that I am not like Phylip, that I am not like Garth?”

“I don’t know,” she said in a small voice. 

“Tell me you are not serious, Rhian,” his heart clenched with frustration.  “Tell me that, even if you have as little faith in Eru as you think, that you at least believe in me!  That you still believe in us!”

“You don’t understand, Daeron!” she cried.  “I am his mother!  Darryn is my flesh and blood, and you have no idea what it is like to…” she stopped herself and her eyes grew wide.

He froze, and said, slowly and deliberately, “What did you just say?”

“Oh, Daeron. I didn’t mean it like that.” She held her hands up.

“Yes, you did,” he told her quietly.  “This is the crux of our problem, is it not?  You have been walking around this house, around our lives for the past two months, telling yourself you are the only one who can truly love that little boy upstairs!  Do you seriously think that child is not my son too?” his voice became low with fury.  “How dare you!”

“No,” she covered her mouth with horror.  “I only meant—”

“Stop!  Just stop!”  A sad laugh escaped him, as he looked at the floor and shook his head. “All I have ever done since the day I met you, was consider your needs, and put them first.  For almost two years, I kept my feelings to myself, because I did not want to make things harder for you!” He smacked his hand down on the table, and his eyes bored into her green ones, as the knots inside started to unravel.

 “Do you know how I found out about the exchange program?  King Thranduil saw the pain I was in, and offered me a chance to go!   He could see the pain I was in, my family could see it, my friends could see it, but I would not allow them to say anything to you for fear it would hurt you!

“And the night before I left, Rhian, you stood at the steps of the Great Hall and said horrible, cruel things to me, do you remember that? 1  Do you have any idea what that was like for me? Do you?” his voice rose.  “You tore my insides to bits!  To shreds!  It would have hurt less if you had stabbed me!

“I will never forget the things you said; you accused me of not caring about you, about Darryn! When you accused me of pretending to be your friend, so I could play the hero,” he pounded his chest, “I stood there and took it, did I not?  You know I did!” he shouted.  “Did you also know that Lord Thranduil had to take me out into the woods and talk to me all night long, because I was so…” he struggled for words, as his vision blurred. 

“When you apologized, what did I do?  Did I blame you, or berate you, or make you feel terrible about it?”  Daeron’s mouth formed a grim line.  “Answer me, Rhian.  You owe me an answer!”

“You didn’t,” she whispered.  “You were kind.”

“I accepted your apology, because I love you.  I was patient, because I love you.  I kept it all inside because I loved you enough to let you decide on your own how you felt about me!  I wanted your love freely, or not at all.”

Daeron covered his eyes, as his throat began to hurt.  “And I would have gone through it again, bore the pain gladly, because that is what it means to love someone, Rhian!”

“But none of that agony compares to how you are tearing me apart this minute.  What do you think I am, some sort of statue?  Are you so used to me being the one to… to bend, that you have decided I am somehow infallible?  I promise you; I am not! 

“Not once, since we met with Lord Elrond, did you ask me how I felt!  It did not even occur to you to wonder, did it?  I gave you time, and patience and understanding.  I did not pressure you, or force you, not even when you pulled away from me in our bed!” 

He wiped his eyes quickly.  “You have absolutely no idea what I have been thinking or feeling, because you did not care enough to find out!  You are so used to me supporting you, taking me for granted!  And worse, you have been treating me like I should be ashamed to be who I am, and I cannot, Rhian.  I will not! 

“Do you think that, if we had not wed, you could control what happens, that you could somehow guarantee that Darryn would be safe for every moment of his existence?”

“It’s just that I don’t know what will happen,” she sobbed.  “It scares me, and sometimes I…” she shook her head.  “I don’t want to hurt you.”

 “You must be joking, Rhian!  Hurt me?  You are destroying me!  I am not Garth, I am not Phylip, and I will no longer be punished for their mistakes!  I cannot sit back and wait for you to come to your senses!”  He turned and left the Dining Room and headed toward the stairs.

“Daeron—”

“No!” He whipped around, saw her rise from the table, and raised his hand to stop her.  “No more!  I am not willing to put my feelings aside anymore.  I am tired, and hurt and angry and…” a tear rolled down his face.  “I have never felt so alone in my life, can you understand that?  To be joined with you, to feel your Fëa in my breast, as you say that I do not know how you feel, or I could not love you enough, that I am not capable of loving Darryn enough, is more than I can bear.”

“I’m sorry,” she began.  “Maybe—"

“Maybe what?” he rubbed away a tear with the heel of his hand.  “Maybe it was a mistake for us to get married?  Maybe I should have sailed West instead of coming back here last year?” He last words came out as a sob.  “If that is true, then… Maybe you are right.”

He ignored her gasp, and silently took the stairs three at a time, and went into his room to get dressed.  When he turned to leave, he opened the door to see Turamarth standing there, with a look of concern on his face.

“I heard.”

Gwador, this has nothing to do with you, I hope you know that.  I just—"

“I know.” Tur whispered, and opened his arms.  “I know…”

Daeron found himself enveloped in a hard, warm hug, and he nearly broke down in tears. 

“Please: do not hate her.  It would only make this worse.”

“I do not.” His cousin tightened his arms.  “Where are you going?”

“I do not know; perhaps just a walk.”

“Do you want me to wait up?”

“No.  You need your rest.”

“Do you want me to talk to Rhian?”

Daeron pulled back and wiped his eyes.  “I love you for that, but I beg you not to.  I… just please; stay out of it.  Promise me, Gwador.”

Turamarth sighed and shook his head.  “I promise.  I would not know what to say, at any rate.”

“Thank you.”  And he went downstairs and left the house, without looking back.

 

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

 

“My Lord Thranduil?”

The Elvenking was awakened by the persistent knocking on their door. 

“What?” Bard sat up and wiped his eyes, as he looked at the water clock.  “It is after two in the morning!”

More knocking.  “I am sorry to disturb you, but we have a problem.”  It was Ruvyn’s voice and he sounded worried.

“I will see what he wants, Meleth nîn.” Thranduil put on his black robe and walked over the thick carpets and opened the door.  “What is wrong?”

“Rod from the Long Lake is downstairs, My Lord.  He says he needs you to come; there is… a situation, and he is not sure how to proceed.”

“Tell him I will be down in five minutes.  Who else is on duty now?”

“I am not on duty; he came to my apartment first.  I will come with you.”

“Go down and wait with Rod, while I get dressed.”

“Yes, My Lord.”

Thranduil went back into their bedchamber and grabbed some clothes and his cloak.   Once dressed, he leaned over his sleepy husband.

“What happened?” the Bowman mumbled.

“There is something going on at the Tavern, and I am needed.”

“Oh, come on; can’t the Constable or one of your Elven guards take care of it?”

“Apparently not.  Rod is here, and he woke up Ruvyn.  I must see what is happening.”

Bard sat up.  “Do you want me to come?”

“I do not think so.”

“Oh, is it an Elf thing?”

Thranduil grinned.  “I certainly hope not.” He kissed Bard’s cheek.  “I only want the Elf Thing with you.  If I need you, I will send for you.  Go back to sleep.”

“You’ll get no argument from me.” Bard settled back against the pillows and pulled up his blanket.  “Go be an Elf King.”

 

Rod was at the foot of the Grand Staircase, hat in hand.  “Sorry to wake you, My Lord, but I think you’re going to want to handle this yourself.”

“What happened?” he asked, as he fastened his cloak.

“It’s Daeron,” the Tavern owner leaned in and whispered. “He’s drunker than I’ve ever seen, and in a right state.  I don’t know what to do.”

“Daeron?”  Ruvyn’s jaw dropped.  “You could have told me, at the time Rod; I would have come and gotten—”

“Peace, Lieutenant,” Thranduil put his hand on the Elf’s shoulder.  “I think I know what is bothering him.” To Rod he said, “You were right to come and get me.  Is there anyone else there with him?”

“Just my employee, Jack, and only to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself.  We all think the world of that boy, My Lord, but there’s something not right.”

“Let us make haste, then.”

“Should another guard come with us?” Ruvyn asked.

“No.  I think the less people involved, the better.”

 

The trio hurried across the courtyard and through the quiet Market, where the soft light of the Tavern windows beckoned. 

“He’s in the back,” Rod murmured, as they wove through the tables full of upturned chairs, to the small one tucked in a corner.  Jack was standing worriedly over the auburn-haired Elf, whose head was buried in his arms.

“How much did he have to drink?” Thranduil asked quietly.

“He was throwing them back hand over fist, I’m sorry to say.  We should’ve been keeping track, but to be honest, I’ve never had to worry about Daeron; he’s always been responsible.  Then, when we tried to close up, he refused to leave, and… broke down.” Rod wrung his hands.  “That’s why I thought you should come; he’s a grand lad, and I hate seeing him like this.”

 “Thank you, Rod.”  Thranduil took the chair beside the Guardian. “Daeron?” he gently shook his shoulder.  “It is time to go home.”

“Mmmm…”  he didn’t move.

“It is King Thranduil, and I am come to take you home.”

Instantly the Elf’s head went up, and bleary eyes blinked at him from a face that was ghostly white.  “Aran nîn…  Why are you here?”

“Your friends are worried for you.”

Daeron’s eyes searched his face.  “Are you?”

“Very much.  You look most unhappy, Mellon.”

The Guardians face crumpled.  “I do not know what to do.”

“Let us get you up, yes?”  He stood and grabbed one arm, while Ruvyn grabbed the other and hauled him to his feet. “They tell me you drank quite a bit, Daeron,” he said, as he picked the Elf up.

“Did I have a good time?” he murmured.

“I am told you did not.”

“Oh.” The Guardian’s head sank onto Thranduil’s shoulder.  “I need to forget.”

“Forget?”

“How to feel things.”

The Elvenking stopped.  “Are you all right, Daeron?”

“It does not matter anymore,”  he whispered. “I wonder if it ever did.”

“It matters to me.  It matters to a great many people.”

“I love her, My Lord.” Daeron said, softly.

“I know you love Rhian.”

“I love Darryn.” Daeron’s voice cracked, “He is my son!”

“I know that too.”

“But love is not enough, is it?” he sobbed. “Sometimes... it makes everything worse.”

 “Perhaps when we get you home—”

“I cannot go home,” the Elf said, in a faraway tone.  “She…  I do not know if she wants it to be my home, anymore.” Daeron’s hand went to his chest.  “I do not know if I feel her…  I cannot feel her… it hurts, Thranduil.  I am bleeding.”

Thranduil sighed.  “Ruvyn, do you have an extra bed ready in your apartment?”

“I can have it done up in a minute or two.”

“Do that.  Go on ahead and get Daeron’s old room made up.  He will be staying with you, at least for tonight, perhaps longer.”

“Yes, My Lord.” Ruvyn eyed his colleague and friend.  “He does not look well.”

“He is not, and it has little to do with his inebriated state.  I expect your utter discretion, is that clear, Lieutenant?”

“Of course!” he promised.

“Good.  I want extra blankets on the bed, get some warming bricks and make plenty of hot tea.  Do you happen to have any Athelas there?”

“There is always some with my kit.”

“Have a bowl of it in steaming water by his bed.  We may be up all night.”

“Yes, My Lord.”  The Guardian raced ahead.

 

By the time, Thranduil reached the apartment, Ruvyn had the door open and the bed waiting.  He gently laid Daeron down on the bed, and together they pulled his boots off, and pulled the layers of blankets up to his chin. 

After checking his heart, his breathing, he lifted Daeron’s eyelids and sighed.  His normally greenish-blue eyes had taken on a grey tone.  Just like when he returned from Dale when Sellwen had died.

“It is as I feared; he is grieving.”

“Ai, gorgor!” Ruvyn’s eyes bulged.  “Surely not!  He and Rhian just got married and…”  his eyes met Thranduil’s with dread.  “Are they…”

“I do not know the precise details, but it is no secret that Daeron has some extraordinary gifts.” He reminded Ruvyn.  “To use those gifts well requires a sensitive nature, and sometimes…” he sighed.  “Sometimes a person like him is especially vulnerable.”

“How can I help?”

“I hear the kettle.  Go make us plenty of hot tea and come back in.  I need to tell you some things, and we need to figure out a way to fix this, or I do not know what will happen.”

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

 Ai, gorgor – Oh, horrors

Meleth nîn – my love

Hind Calen – “Green eyes,” Daeron’s pet name for Rhian

NOTES:

 

[1] An Invincible Summer, Ch. 17: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/34480331

Chapter Text

 

“Making love with you

Has left me peaceful warm and tired

What more could I ask

There's nothing left to be desired

Peace came upon me and it leaves me weak

So sleep, silent angel go to sleep

Sometimes all I need is the air that I breathe

And to love you

All I need is the air that I breathe

Yes, to love you

All I need is the air that I breathe…”

The Air That I Breathe, by The Hollies

 

 

City of Dale, 28th of October 2944 T.A.

Daeron groaned as he opened his eyes, then closed them again to shut out the light.

“How are you, Lieutenant?”

The voice was a deep, smooth baritone, one that centuries of training had conditioned him to obey.

“My Lord…” he struggled to waken, and sit up.

A firm hand pushed him back down. “Stay.”  Thranduil’s tone was gentle. “Give yourself a moment or two.”

“What time is it?” Daeron murmured.

“It is nearly noon.”

His eyes flew open again.  “Ai, gorgor!  I am late for work!”

“You are not going to work today, or for the next two weeks.  Elladan and Elrohir have been covering your shifts at the Healing House and will continue to do so.” Thranduil’s left brow quirked.  “You have been working so hard, it takes the both of them to keep up with your job!”

 Daeron scrubbed his hand over his face as he became more aware of his surroundings. “This is  my old room…” His gaze swept around to the light walls, and the curtains on the window to his left.  “How came I to be here?”

“Ah, that we will discuss in a moment.  What I need to tell you first, is that it is nearly noon on Wednesday, which is fortunate for you.  Otherwise you would wake up to a torturous hangover.”

Oh…” Daeron stared up at Thranduil, until his words sunk in. “Wednesday!” he sputtered.  “Should today not be Monday?”

“Not if you have been in a Healing Sleep for almost three days.”

“But…” His eyes bulged. “I… what happened?”

“Let us take care of the most urgent matters, first; are you well enough to sit up, yet?”

“I think so…”

Thranduil rose from his chair, and supported his back as he eased him up against the headboard.  “You know how this works; get your bearings for a moment, then I will help you get to the privy.”

Daeron flushed with embarrassment. “Oh, My Lord, surely you have better things to do than—“

“Nonsense; you of all people should know that when one has been asleep for several days, it takes a while to find one’s feet.”

“Well, I do need to...”

“Then let us not waste time, Lieutenant.”  The Elvenking hauled Daeron to his feet, and took him down the hall.

“I had a fight with Rhian,” he recalled, once he was settled back in bed, with a hot cup of strong tea. “I went to the Tavern…”

“And that is where we found you, and brought you here.”  He placed a finger under Daeron’s chin, and studied his face.  “Your eyes look much better; the dullness is gone, and they are back to their normal color.”

“Does Rhian know where I am?”

“She does.  You will be happy to know she has been under Elénaril’s care these past few days, as well; including a deep sleep.”

“Is she all right?” Daeron’s eyes widened.

“‘Therein lies a tale,’ as they say.  I have a great deal to tell you, Mellon nîn…”

 

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

 

26th of October 2944 T.A.  Just after midnight

After Daeron left the house, Tur checked on Darryn, to make sure he was still asleep, then went back to his room.

He’d expected to hear Rhian weeping, or at least her feet on the stairs, but all was quiet…. Too quiet.

After an hour, he became concerned, and tiptoed downstairs.  “Rhian?”

She wasn’t in the Sitting Room, so he looked through the archway to the Dining Room, and saw her silhouette in the moonlight.  She was as still as a statue.

Something was wrong.

“Rhian?” he called softly.

Nothing.

He stepped over to her.  “Rhian?  Are you well?”

She stared ahead with unseeing eyes. 

“Rhian, can you hear me?” He put his hand on her shoulder and shook it, but there was no response.

He felt her forehead, which was fine, but her hands were icy cold.  

Ai, gorgor…

“Come, Rhian; we will get you a bit more comfortable, and try to warm you up, yes?”

He pulled out her chair, picked her up and carried her to the couch and tucked the big blue afghan around her up to her chin.  Rhian blinked and stared uncomprehendingly up at the ceiling.

Tur didn’t possess any sort of Healing gift, but Daeron had made sure he knew the basic skills and how to manage a mild sleeping spell.  He squatted down to look into Rhian’s face. “Gwathel muil, I will get you some help,” he whispered, as he stroked her brow, and sang softly until her eyes closed and her breathing was deep and even, then raced upstairs to get dressed. 

What if Darryn woke while he was gone?

He wrapped the sleeping toddler in blankets, carried him downstairs, and covered his face as they went out into the chilly October air.

The Castle was closest, so Turamarth cut through a neighbor’s back yard and rushed to the Courtyard, careful not to jostle the heavy bundle in his arms, but Darryn stirred and pulled the blanket off his head.

“Unca Tur?” He yawned. “‘s dark.”

“It is, hênig.”

“Where we goin’?’”

“We are going on an adventure,” he forced a light tone of voice. “Go back to sleep.”

“'mkay,” Darryn laid his head back down on his shoulder.

He raced up the steps to find Vildan and Cwën on duty.  “I need to see King Thranduil.”

“He is not here,” Vildan eyed the sleeping child. “Is something wrong?”

“Yes.  I do not know where Daeron is, but his wife is in a state of deep shock, and she needs a Healer.”

The Vanguard opened the door, “Stay here Cwën; I will go and wake up Lord Bard.”

“Yes, Captain.”

Turamarth followed Vildan up the wide, carpeted stairs, careful not to jostle Darryn, and waited outside the Royal Bedchamber, until the King of Dale appeared, tying his green robe. 

“What’s wrong?”

“It is Rhian, My Lord. She needs help, and I could not leave the child alone…”

After a quick explanation of the night’s events, Bard sighed. “I’ll come.  Tur, go wake up Tauriel so she can watch the baby, and get back to Rhian, and I will meet you there.  Vildan go find Hannah, and see if she can get over there.”

“Yes, My Lord.” Tur carried Darryn to Tauriel’s door and knocked.

Her hair was mussed with sleep.  “Tur?  What are you doing here?”

“Shhh…” he put his fingers to his lips.  “Rhian is unwell." he whispered. "Can you watch him?  I will send over some of his things, later."

“Of course.” She held out her arms as Darryn stirred with a whine. “Let us get you back to sleep, Pînig, shall we?  I shall sing to you; would you like that?”

“Thank you,” Tur mouthed, then took off.

 

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

 

26th of October, Just after sunrise…

Rhian woke up in a surreal stupor, her mind in such a whirl she couldn’t separate one thought from another.  It had been like this for weeks, and she was exhausted to the marrow of her bones.

She sat up and stared around the living room, at down at the heavy blanket. Stars, everything hurt; what happened?

Oh, no…  She hunched over and grabbed her stomach as the memory of last night crashed into her like the waves on the Long Lake during a storm.

She had had another of those bizarre nightmares, and…  Daeron had left her. 

He’d gotten fed up and walked out.

You don’t deserve him, the same niggling voice that had been haunting her thoughts for weeks, whispered.  He’s much to good you…  He doesn’t want you, he doesn’t want you he doesn’t want you hedoesntwantyouhedorsntwantyouhedoesntwantyou—

Noises came from the kitchen, and Tur appeared with a cup of tea.

“You are awake I see,” he smiled.  “Darryn is at Castle; and your father is helping the Bardlings lookafter him,” his voice was soothing.  “Hannah and Lord Bard came, but she had to go to deliver a baby.”  He tucked the blanket around her shoulders.  “We need to make sure you do not get a chill, yes?”

Rhian blinked up at him, and struggled to find something to say, but nothing came out.

Tur sat beside her. “Elénaril and Lord Bard will be here very soon.”

She met his eyes, and forced her tongue to work. “Why?”

“Because, Rhian,” he sighed, “you are ill, and we are going to get you some help.”

“B-but Daeron…”

“We are taking care of him, as well.  Now, we need to get some of this tea into you.  Hannah put some herbs in it and it should help you feel a bit better.”

Her vision swam, as he pressed the mug into her hands, but they shook too badly to take it.

“Here; let me help you.” He placed his hands over her fingers and lifted it to her lips. “That is it…”

She drank it halfway down.  “Thank you,” she murmured.  “Daeron’s gone.  I—“

“You do not have to explain anything, Rhian,” he said softly.  “I know.”

“It’s my fault.” Rhian leaned against him and buried her face in her hands. “He’s better than me, and—“

 “Shhh…” he rubbed her back as he held her.  “Let us see what happens when Elénaril gets here, all right?”

A knock on the front door interrupted them, and Tur handed her a napkin to wipe her eyes. “I will get that.  You keep warm and see if you cannot drink anymore of that tea for me, yes?”

He went to answer the door and soon returned with the Elven Healer, accompanied by Lord Bard.

“Good morning, Rhian,” Bard smiled gently, as he sat in one of the chairs. “You’ve had a rough night.”

“Hello,” she said weakly as her eyes filled, again. “I’m sorry for the trouble I caused.”

“Never mind about that,” Elénaril sat down on the couch on the other side of her. “We are here to see if we can get you well, again.” 

“But I’m not sick,” Rhian said.  “I can’t get sick; Lord Elrond told us that, when he said I was… different.”

“Not from physical disease,” the Elven Healer reminded her, “Elves are not spared from emotional problems. But do not blame yourselves; such things are insidious and often times go unnoticed until things get much worse.  How do you feel, right this minute?”

“Tired,” she sighed.

“Can you describe it?”

“My body feels heavy, like I am walking through water.  Everything feels like I am walking uphill.”

“Hmmm…  Do you have racing thoughts?”

“Sometimes.  Things run through my head faster than I can keep up, especially at night.”

“How is your concentration?”

“It’s hard to stay focused, but I’ve been doing what Hannah taught me; breathe slow, and relax.”

Elénaril’s eyes narrowed.  “Does that help?”

“Yes, at first, but lately it feels like the only thing that calms me down is holding my son,” she laughed sheepishly as she wiped her nose.  “Darryn’s getting tired of me carrying him around all the time.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“A while.  I just keep thinking if I keep going, keep pushing, it will get better,” Rhian said, “like after Darryn was born:  I had to force myself to do everything; to bathe and dress, to leave my rooms, even to talk with people, and it was hard, but I fought it, do you remember?” 1

“I do.” She checked her eyes and studied her eyes.  “Ai, hênig…  so dull! Have you been having nightmares?”

The girl’s gaze fell to her lap, and her hands fumbled, as he nodded her head.

“How often?”

“Three or four times a week, but I did what Hannah taught me to do about it.  Focus on something good, remind myself that it’s not real, and get busy with something else.”

Tur’s brow wrinkled with concern.  “Does Daeron know about this?”

“I’ve been trying not to bother him.” Her voice shook. “It’s just that since you all came back from Lothlórien, he’s worked such long hours, between the Healing Hall, and with Lord Elrond. You know how hard he’s been working, Tur!  When he’s home, or finally has a day off, I don’t want him to worry about anything.”

“It is true,” Tur told them.  “He needed to take advantage of Elrond’s presence while he was here.”

“I cannot disagree; he has also kept up with a full patient roster, as well,” Elénaril nodded. “He is very dedicated.”

“I have been trying to adjust to all this,” Rhian’s face fell.  “I know it seems like I haven’t but…” her lower lip trembled, “it’s all muddled…”

“Can you describe it?”

“That’s just it!  I can’t really explain it.  I’m so worried about Darryn, and in my head I know it isn’t reasonable; I do!  But in here,” she covered her heart, “it keeps getting bigger…”

“Rhian,” Elénaril took her hand.  “I want you to tell me about these dreams, you have been having.  Try to give me as much detail as you can.”

“It’s almost always the same…”

For the next several minutes, she forced the words past her lips, then soon they became a torrent.  Everything came out, even things Rhian didn’t think had anything to do with the problem.  And all the while, the Healer listened intently and watched her, as Turamarth kept his arm around her.

“I’ve been so afraid,” Rhian sobbed, stumbling over her words.  “I’ve never had all this: a real home, a real family, a husband who loves me…   And I’m so scared I’ll lose it, that I can’t trust it.  That might sound stupid, but I know how it happens!” Her voice rose to near-hysterics.  “You think you’re safe, and then something changes and it all…”

“Do you feel unsafe, Rhian?”  Elénaril asked.

“Yes!  No.  I mean…  I feel like something will happen, something terrible, and I can’t seem to shake it!  I’ve tried!” she sunk her hands into her hair, as if to pull the bad thoughts out.  “It gets to be a tangle, sometimes.  I’ve tried everything!  I write down all the things I should be grateful for, I repeat them, over and over and over.  I make myself smile, and do what I know to be the right things, and just hope the feelings will follow…” 

“Rhian,” the Healer gently pried her fingers out of her hair and held them.  “How long has it been since you slept through the night?”

“I don’t remember,” she whispered.  “I really don’t.”

“Ai!” Tur rubbed her back.  “Why did you not say something?”

“Because Daeron’s hardly home as it is!  He’s out to all hours with his patients, and when he gets home, he needs sleep, too!”  Rhian wiped her eyes.  “And don’t be thinking you’re in the way Tur, because you’re not!” She turned back to the Elven Healer.  “You believe me, don’t you?  Tur’s been helping me with Darryn and the house, and I couldn’t have managed without him!”

“I agree; in fact, I suspect helping Tur has given you a sense of purpose and control.” Elénaril patted her shoulder. “Have you eaten, Rhian?”

“No.”

“She hardly eats anything, lately,” Turamarth offered.

“Come on, Tur, why don’t you and I go make her some breakfast?”  Bard got up.  “We’ll let the girls talk.”

Once they were gone, the Healer asked her gently.  “I am assuming it has been a while since you and Daeron have physically joined, yes?”

Rhian nodded her head.  “I was really upset when Lord Elrond told us, and we just… haven’t.  I know he’s angry about it, and I can’t blame him for leaving me…  I’m just so stupid…”

“No, you are not.  Rhian let me tell you what I think:  your first husband abused you, forced himself on you.  A year and a half ago, you were attacked in your own home and was in fear for your life,” the Healer squeezed her hands.  “Hênig, perhaps the root of this problem is not about being Immortal at all.  It was the fact that something else has been forced upon you, without your consent.  Do you see the pattern?  I think that is the root cause of your relapse.”

Rhian stared at Elénaril, and covered her mouth, as her chest tightened and began to hurt, and she became completely undone. The Healer held her tight as her body wracked with sobs that shook her down to her toes.  She closed her eyes and felt herself being rocked and comforted, as something inside began to flow out of her, like poison from a wound.

When her lungs began to work normally again, a cool, wet cloth was handed to her and she wiped her swollen eyes. 

“Have you been avoiding Daeron physically?” Elénaril asked gently.

“I don’t mean to.  I didn’t want to worry him at first, then it just became…” she struggled for words, “…it became easier and easier to avoid all of it, do you know what I mean?  If I wouldn’t let myself think about it, if I kept myself busy enough, I could put it out of my mind, and I could get through the days.”

“Yet it came out in your dreams, yes?” Elénaril’s voice was soft.  “This has caused problems with your marriage?”

“He thinks I don’t love him anymore.”

“Is that true?”

“NO!” she cried.  “But it’s my fault he thinks that way.  I started out by trying to protect him, but instead, I shut him out.”

“It does not matter, now,” Elénaril stroked her hair.  “We are going to put you both to rights.”

“Where is Daeron?”

“He is at Tur’s apartment with Ruvyn.  Ermon has put him in a Healing Sleep, which is what I want to do for you.”

“He was that bad off?” Rhian burst in the tears again.  I did that to him?”

The Healer quickly put her arm around the girl.  “Ai, no!  Not at all, child.  Your husband is also exhausted beyond endurance, from stress and overwork.” 

“I don’t blame Daeron, but he is a Healer… did he see the signs?”

“Daeron asked Lord Elrond for some advice, and from what I understand, he urged Daeron to be patient and perhaps you would come around on your own.”

“And that was wrong?”

“Elrond meant well, but he was unaware of your history of depression and anxiety, and had no way of knowing the delay would increase the problems between you.  I will write and explain the situation.”

“But I don’t want to get anyone in trouble!  What if he gets mad at Daeron?”

He will not; Elrond will want to be made aware of his mistake, to be sure it does not happen again.”

“What if it’s too late?  Am I going crazy?”

“Not at all; your exhaustion has allowed your worries and fear to turn into paranoia.”  She cupped her cheek.  “You are not well, Rhian, and I would like to put you in a Healing Sleep, for at least two days.  Once you both are rested up, we can get you better. And you will get better; I promise.”

“How long will it take till I’m well?”

“Not long.  Once we allow your body and brain to rest, and you will be surprised at how differently things look, and I am sure you and Daeron will work it out.”  

“What if he doesn’t want to work it out?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that,” Bard interjected, as he carried in a plate of eggs and toast, and set them in front of her, as Tur followed behind with a fresh pot of tea, and sat on the other side of Rhian. “Now eat up, you.  You and I have a lot in common, you know.”

“But you knew you were Immortal when you married Lord Thranduil; I didn’t.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Bard waved his hand. “I had my moments, too, but I’m not sorry I married Thranduil, and I don’t think you’re sorry you married Daeron either, are you?”

“No!  But I’ve been completely stupid, and made him think he was to blame…”

“Oh, I did that too.” Bard sat down and poured himself some tea.  “Do you remember when we were at the Palace, and that woman threw herself off the walkway?”

“It was Rhys’s aunt, wasn’t it?”

“Aye.  Well, right after that happened, Lord Thranduil and I had a terrible fight.” Bard sighed.  “Actually, I fought with him; he was only trying to support me and be there for me…”

“That sounds like Daeron,” Rhian threw up her hands. “He’s bent over backwards for me and what do I do?”

“I know what it’s like to struggle with everything at once,” Bard’s smile was knowing.  “I was flying by the seat of my pants learning how to be a decent King, then there was Tilda’s illness, and I had a hard time learning how to control my body.  I had to re-learn to wield a sword, and even to shoot my bow.  You can ask Commander Feren how well I took to that…” he rolled his eyes. 2  “Thing is, it all came to a head one day.  I blew up and took it all out on my husband.  I said terrible, hurtful things that I didn’t mean, and I blamed him for everything I was going through.” 3

“I did that, too…   I didn’t mean to hurt him, but…”

“Of course, you didn’t!” he smiled.  “Oh, sometimes we just… make bloody arses of ourselves, don’t we? I didn’t want to tell him I was having problems, and when it finally came out... I guarantee you, you two couldn’t have possibly been as cruel as I was; and I didn’t mean a word of it!”

“What happened then?”

“Ah, well,” Bard laughed, “Galion and Hilda locked us both in a room and wouldn’t let us out until we made up.  It was awkward, let me tell you, but once we started talking, things just… fell into place again.” 4  He reached over and patted her hand.  “I know it feels like your marriage is over, Rhian, but I promise, this is just a bump in the road.  As your King, but more importantly, as your friend, I’m asking you to do everything Elénaril says, and get well.”

“I will,” Rhian’s eyes filled, and turned toward Turamarth, “I’m so sorry…”

“Savo amdir, Gwathel.” Tur held her tighter.  “Now eat, please.”

 

Once she had finished her food, Bard rose to leave.  “Tur will take care of things here, and we’ll keep Darryn at the Castle.  He can spend some time with his Granddad when he comes to work, and Hannah can stop by for visits.  We’ll look after him, love.”

“Thank you, My Lord.”

“You’re welcome.  Be well, now.”

 

After a quick bath, Elénaril helped her into a clean nightgown and got her settled into bed.

“We will be checking on you several times a day, but keep in mind that I will not wake you until I judge your Fëa to be stronger.  Do not worry about anything.”

“What about the dreams?”

“The Sleep will prevent them, and we will administer them each night for a long while, and by then there will be no danger.”

“Will Daeron be here when I wake up?”

“I have no reason to think otherwise.” 

“Will you tell him how sorry I am?”

“I will make sure he knows everything, Rhian.”  Elénaril smiled.  “Now, close your eyes, please.”

As she did, the Elven Healer’s song filled the air, and she floated into a blessed oblivion.

 

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

 

“And so…” Thranduil crossed his legs and laced his fingers together over his knee, “while you and your wife have been lazing about, your son has been spoiled beyond repair at the Castle.” He rolled his eyes dramatically.  “The guards have been teaching him how to stand at attention, and there has been several ‘battles’ in our halls between our young hero and a mob of… er, ‘Orcs and Spiders,’ of which the newest member of my Guard remains victorious.”

Daeron smiled into his tea, as he drank.

“But the next bit of news, you may find distressing.”

“What?” he sat up straight.

“I am afraid Cook may have replaced you in Darryn’s affections.  Lewis is a hero in your young son’s eyes, and the feeling appears to be mutual.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I jest you not!” Thranduil held up his hands. “Cook has tried out several new cookie recipes on him, and he has even given Darryn his very own stool in the kitchens.  Not even Tilda has been bestowed that honor.”

“How soon can I see him?”

“Tomorrow.  You need to spend some time alone with your wife.  How do you feel?”

“Better.  Rhian is all right?”

“Elénaril is with her now, and will be back over to check on her this evening.” The Elvenking smirked. “She left you the following instructions, and I quote: ‘Daeron is to go home and make passionate love to his wife, as much and as often as possible.’ Do you think you can manage that, Lieutenant?”

Daeron threw back his head and laughed.  “I will force myself.”

“There is more I must tell you: while you have been asleep, Evranin arrived to meet with Lord Bard to go over their plans for the Dale Library.  I want you and Rhian to go back to the Palace with her, and for the next week or so, meet with her to arrange your notes to begin your book.  Tur has all your notebooks packed in crates, ready to be put on the wagon.

 “But more important, Daeron, you and your wife need some time away from all your responsibilities here, and use this as a chance to reconnect.  I’ve asked Galion to arrange for you all to stay in a guest suite on the Royal Wing. I have no doubt your parents would enjoy a visit with you and their grandson.”

“But my patients—”

“Are in excellent hands.  For all their absurdity, you and I both know the twins have been trained by the best.  And when you return,” Thranduil gave him a pointed look, “things are going to be rearranged at the Healing House to lighten your patient load.”

“But they need me, My Lord!”

“They do, yes, but your wife and family need you, just as much. You have only been married five months after centuries of being on your own; it takes a while to achieve that balance, but you must do better, yes?

 “Daeron, you are one of my Guardians, you are my family’s personal Healer, but most important, you are my friend,” he shook his head.  “I should have paid better attention, and I failed you both.”

“No, My Lord—“

“What is important is that we will all do better from now on.  Now,” the Elvenking rose and handed him a stack of folded clothes.  “Your boots are by the door.  Now get dressed, and I will walk you home.”

 

Elénaril was at the house when Daeron and Thranduil arrived. 

“I have delivered your other patient, Brennil Vuin,” the Elvenking clapped him on the shoulder. “Boe annin mened, Lieutenant.  Galu a no veren.”

“Thank you, My Lord.”

“Rhian woke up less than an hour ago,” Elénaril smiled as she opened the door wider to admit him.  “Tur is in the kitchen.”

“How are they?”

“Tur is fine, and Rhian looks much better.  I have left an herbal mixture for her in the kitchen, and she is to have it twice a day with some herbal tea, not black tea.  I know she loves Adila’s coffee, but she cannot have any of that either; it only serves to make her jittery.”

“All right,” Daeron shook his head.  “Anything else?”

“Help her get to sleep every night.  That means someone else will have to get up with Darryn.”

“We will work it out,” Daeron nodded, and looked toward the stairs anxiously.  “Is she—”

“Anxious to see you? Yes.” Elénaril finished with a smile.  “Go see Tur, then go to your wife.”

“Thank you…” Daeron’s voice caught.

“You would do the same,” she squeezed his shoulder, picked up her bag and left.

Tur came in from the kitchen, “How are you?”

Daeron walked across the room and pulled his Gwador into a hug.  His throat tightened, and he swallowed several times to keep his composure.

“I know,” Tur whispered.  “I know…”  He pulled back and smiled.  “I have some food ready in the kitchen, and I have a bag packed to go stay with Ruvyn.  You have the house to yourself until you leave for the Palace.”

“Have you heard?  Evvy's here."

"I know."

"Are you all right?" Daeron looked into Tur's eyes with concern.

"We will talk about that later.  What are you waiting for?  You do remember how to make love to your wife, do you not?” he turned Daeron around and pushed him toward the stairs. 

“Ego, puitho orch!” he grinned.

“No dhínen, Ul.” Tur shook his head.  “Go on.”

 

Rhian was lying against the pillows, resting, and he couldn’t help himself from pausing to take in the sight of her.  The high color in her cheeks stabbed him in the heart.  How had she gotten so pale and sick and he never noticed?

He silently went over to the bed, leaned down and kissed her lips.

She opened her green eyes and blinked.  “Daeron?”

Instantly she pulled him down and covered his face with kisses and tears.  “Oh, stars, I’m so sorry,” she sobbed. “I am so very sorry!  I thought—”

“Shhh…” he brushed the hair away from her face.  “It does not matter, Hind Calen.”

“But I have been so horrible… I wouldn’t blame you if you never wanted to see me again, but I do love y—”

Daeron silenced her with a kiss, then another, as her body relaxed underneath him and her hands left his shoulders and arms snaked around his neck.  His tongue pushed against her lips and she willingly allowed him entrance with a low moan, which vibrated right down to his groin.

His hand traveled from her hair down to her waist and he pulled up her nightgown to expose her full, beautiful breasts.  Dark, rose nipples stood at attention, waiting for him to suckle.

“Gi melin, Rhian,” he murmured, against the skin of her neck.  “I cannot be without you; I cannot.”

“Oh, babe,” she kissed his hair.  “I want you.  Please…  I’ve missed you so much.”

He smiled down at her as he yanked off his tunic, while she undid his leggings, and pushed them down past his hips. 

“You are so beautiful, Daeron,” Rhian breathed, as she took him in hand and began to stroke him.  “I love how you feel…”

He threw his head back and moaned as her touched became more intense.  “Rhian, I will not last much longer…”

“Then get your clothes off and get inside me,” she whispered urgently, as she pulled her gown off her head and opened her legs. 

Daeron removed his boots, and nearly ripped his leggings getting them off.

A ma!” he groaned, as he entered her, “you are so wet…”

“Don’t be gentle,” Rhian cried out clenched around him, as he moved inside her.  “Oh, stars, I’ve missed you. It feels so good!  Faster!  More!”

Daeron had been craving his wife, her body her smile, her soul, and now he feasted as one who had been starving.  He lowered himself on to her elbows, kissed her, looked deep into her eyes, as he quickened his thrusts.

They were beautiful; so deep and dark and green, and when he looked into their depths as he came, he saw, and he understood, and he knew that she could see his own Fëa.

“I’m going to come, Daeron!” She moved against him.  “I love you!”

 “I love you, so much, Hind Calen,” The tears fell, as they felt the joy of completion in their bodies and in their hearts.

 

“I’m so sorry I didn’t talk to you,” she whispered in his arms, as her head rested against his shoulder and his hand was buried in the curly mass of her hair.  “I never thought weren’t a proper father to Darryn.” Rhian raised up to caress his cheek.  “No one could love him more, and he is blessed to have you.  We both are.” 

“But he will leave us, Meleth nîn.” He grazed her cheek with the back of his knuckles.  “No matter what happens, we will have to say goodbye one day.”

“I know. I hate it, but now that I won’t be having those dreams anymore, I can find a way to live with it.”

“I know you will.  You really are brave; do you know that?”

She winced.  “Yes, well, I’ve learned the hard way that there’s a fine line between being brave and being reckless.  I risked my health, and my family…”

“You are not the only one who made a mistake; I am sorry I was gone so much; I was foolish to think I could keep up with it all, and still be a good husband and father.”

 “But that was such a rare opportunity, babe!  You had to do it, and I’m so proud of you.” She hugged him and threw her leg over his.  “Mmmm…  You feel so good.”

“How are you, Rhian?  Truly?”

“Elénaril says I have a ways to go, but it’s like the… colors are starting to get brighter.  I don’t even know when everything had turned grey, does that make sense?”

“Perfectly.   I should have noticed; I am your husband—”

“Stop,” she put her hand over his mouth.  “We can say we’re sorry for hours, but I’m sure we can think of something better to do with our time.”

He let out a growl as he rolled her on her back, “I dhû hen and, Hind Calen.”

Rhian giggled up at him.  “Do you worst, Lieutenant.”

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Boe annin mened, Lieutenant.  Galu a no veren – I must go, Lieutenant.  Blessings and have fun.

Ego, puitho orch – Go fuck and Orc.

Gwathel, muil – Sister, dear

I dhû hen and, Hind Calen. – You are in for a long night, Green Eyes.

No dhínen, Ul - Shut up, Ugly.

Savo amdir, Gwathel – Have hope, Sister.

 

 

NOTES:

[1] And Winter Came…, Ch 7: https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/27875265

[2] Ibid___, Ch 10: https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/28253028

[3] Ibid.___, Ch 21: https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/29736558

[4] Ibid.___, Ch 21: https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/29736558

Chapter Text

 

“When I wake up in the morning, love

And the sunlight hurts my eyes

And something without warning, love

Bears heavy on my mind

Then I look at you

And the world's alright with me

Just one look at you

And I know it's gonna be

A lovely day…”

Lovely Day by Bill Withers

 

 

 

City of Dale, 30th of October 2944 T.A.

Thranduil woke to warm arms around his waist, and soft kisses on the back of his neck.  He smiled and sank into his pillow with a contented hum and enjoyed the last moments of drowsiness, before his day began.

Aur geilu, Meleth nîn,” he murmured, eyes closed. “This is a nice way to wake up.”

“Oh, you think so?” Bard chuckled, as he snaked a hand down the planes of his stomach to massage Thranduil’s cock. “Is that even better?”

“Mmmm…” He rolled onto his back and smiled up at his Bowman.  “You are hungry this morning.”

“Ravenous,” Bard kissed him softly.  “I had the nicest dream.  Shall I tell you about it?”

“I would rather you show me.”

“I was hoping you’d say that.” 

Bard rolled Thranduil onto his stomach and lifted his hips.  A few moments later, the Elf let out a soft moan as a well-lubricated cock slowly entered him.

Ahhh…” he murmured. “I like your dream.”

“Thought you might.” Bard leaned down and nipped at the tip of his pointed ears, making him shudder with pleasure.  “Close your eyes, love.”

And he did.  One of the wonderful things about sex with his husband was the joy of seeing the love in each other’s eyes, but Thranduil also reveled in the physical sensations of their joining.  The tiny bolts of lightning when Bard’s cock brushed over his prostate, the slow buildup of pressure in his groin, how every muscle in his body clenched just before he exploded and throbbed in release...

Above him, Bard buried his face in Thranduil’s hair and shivered inside of him, and his hips lost their rhythm as he gasped through his own release, then slumped over him with a happy sigh.

Thranduil turned his head and captured his lips in a languid kiss. “I love you.”

“Mhmm…. That was nice.”

“It was,” Thranduil carefully moved from underneath him and twisted around to hold him.  “You have nice dreams, Meleth nîn.”

“I could stay like this for another couple of hours, but I’ve got a full day.”

“Doing what?” Thranduil asked, as he nestled into him.

“‘Kinging,’” Bard smirked.  “If we don’t show up at breakfast, the kids will come looking.  And you’ve got to give Darryn back to his parents, later, whether you like it or not.”

“We could be quick…” Thranduil murmured, as he nibbled his earlobe.

Bard let out a long-suffering sigh. “You’re a maniac.”

“You started it, Bowman,” the Elf snickered, as he flopped them back down onto the mattress for another round.

 

 

 

At breakfast, Darryn sat in Thranduil’s lap.  “C’n go see Cook?”

“If you eat your breakfast, I will let you visit after we take Tilda to school?”

“’kay,” Darryn took another bite of his eggs.

Legolas smiled at the boy.  “Tauriel, when are you going to spar with Vildan?”

“Aye,” Bain’s eyes widened. “Everyone wants to see how you go up against him with your knives!”

“When our schedules permit,” Tauriel said, cagily.

“If memory serves,” Legolas grin was sly.  “You are in charge of making the schedule, and I have noticed he has been working night shifts, for the past few weeks.”

“Legolas,” she warned.

Gwinïg?” Thranduil asked.  “Is there something we should know?”

“Nothing, Ada.” She shot daggers at Legolas and buried her face in her cup.

“We’ll have to schedule that so I can watch, too,” Bard said, as he grabbed another muffin.  “Don’t want to miss that.”

“We all want to see this match,” Thranduil smiled at her.  “Since there is no problem, we will all watch, next week.”

“Yes, Ada.”

“Percy, could you help arrange it?  You know Bard’s schedule more than he does.”

“I’ll let you know,” the Steward said, as he put down his cup and stood.  “Ready to face the day, Sea monsters?”

“Come on, kids,” Hilda got up.  “Get your things and lets get you to school!”

Thranduil stood with the baby in his arms.  “I will get Darryn’s things, and meet you in the Hall, Tilda.”

“Okay, Ada.”

The Elvenking took Darryn to the privy, then helped him into his wraps, though it was a struggle to keep his hat on. The October air had turned cool after the harvest, and the last thing either of the Kings wanted was to return their small charge to his parents with the sniffles.

 

The three of them enjoyed their morning walk, and Miss Eryn greeted them at the school with a smile. 

“Good morning, My Lord,” she curtsied.  “I see you have a visitor.  Hello, Darryn!”

The little boy grinned as he tried to pull of his knitted cap.  “Hi, Ewwan!”

“Oh, no; we must keep that on, Pînig!” Thranduil quickly wrestled it back in place.  “Aur geilu, Miss Eryn,” he winked, “soon to be Mistress, yes?”

The Teacher blushed attractively, and held out the sparkling new ring on her left hand.  “Evan proposed last night.”

“I have seen it,” he smiled. “Sigrid and Hilda helped him pick it out.”  

“Really?”

“I am told there is a story there; be sure to ask Hilda about it, sometime.”1 Thranduil said.  “Congratulations, and I hope you will be very happy.  Have you decided when you will marry?”

“Sometime in the spring, My Lord.  We are hoping to include my class in the ceremony.”

“How delightful!  Did you hear that, Tithen Pen?”

“That will be fun,” Tilda stood on tiptoe as Thranduil leaned his cheek down for a quick peck.  “See you this afternoon, Ada!” and ran inside.

The Elvenking turned to go, but Eryn hesitated.  “My Lord, may I speak with you privately for a moment?”

“Of course; is this about the wedding?”

“No,” Eryn shook her head.  “It is about Lady Tilda.”

Thranduil’s stomach stirred nervously.  “Perhaps we should meet with Lord Bard about this; he would want to be present—”

“Oh, no, My Lord!  I don’t mean to worry you at all!  She is one of the brightest in her class; I just wanted to tell you how impressed I have been with her since school started.”

“What do you mean?”

“Tilda has made a point to help some of the other students.  Some have not caught on to their reading as fast as others, and sometimes when we go out to the playground, she asks to stay behind and help them catch up.” 

“She does that?” Thranduil couldn’t help the surge of pride in his breast. 

“Oh, but Lieutenant Ruvyn stays in the classroom with her, My Lord!” she said quickly.  “Please do not worry about her safety!”

“I am not,” he gave her a reassuring grin. “How long has she been doing this?”

“Almost since the beginning of this year.  I think her struggles after her illness has helped her develop compassion for others.”

“She is serving her people…” he smiled.  “And this is her own idea?”

“Aye; she tells me she wants to become a teacher, some day.  Even Liam, who had teased her in the past has received her help, and now he is one of her biggest defenders.” She gave the Elvenking an amused smile.  “I think the boy has a little crush on her.”

Thranduil’s brows shot toward his hairline. “I hope you are discouraging that.”

“You needn’t worry; Ruvyn keeps a close eye, and he says Tilda’s focused on her studies.” Eryn looked up, as the nine o’clock bell rang from the South Tower.  “I must get inside.  Goodbye My Lord; goodbye Darryn!” She wiggled the little boy’s foot and dashed into the building.

 

“Can we go see Mama?” Darryn asked Thranduil on their way back to the Castle. 

“In a little while.  In the meantime, would you like to stop in at the kitchens and see Cook?  I think Tilda deserves a special surprise for dessert tonight.”

“Yay!” Darryn laughed, and yanked off his hat before the Elvenking could stop him.

 

 

But his trip to the Castle kitchens was delayed when Rôgon approached him in the Courtyard.

“My Lord,” he saluted.

Aur geilu,” he said, and returned the salute.  “Has Galion already gone inside?”

“No, and that is why I am here,” the blacksmith looked uncomfortable.  “He… is under orders by Ermon to spend a few days at home, resting.”

“Ai, gorgor!  Has he been hurt?”

“In a manner of speaking,” Rôg said as his ears turned bright red.  “He will be completely fine, but I cannot tell you more than that.”

“Why not?  Cwën,” he called his guard over, and handed Darryn to her.  “Could you please take him inside and get his coat off?”

“Yes, My Lord,” she grinned at the baby and tickled him as they went up the Castle steps.

“Now,” he turned back to Rôgon.  “What happened to Galion?  He is hurt, yes?”

“Well, Ermon came last night and did what he could, and in a few days, he will be back—”

“’Did what he could?’  What does that mean?”

“I—”

“Never mind; I am going over to see for myself.” Thranduil strode with purpose across the courtyard in the direction of the blacksmith’s house.

“Oh, no!” Rôgon begged him.  “He will never forgive me if I let you see him like this!”

“What?” Thranduil whirled around and fixed him with a glare that would curdle milk, and grabbed him by the front of his tunic.  “Do you have any idea what I will do to you if you have harmed one hair—”

“I would never!  I would end my life first!” Rôg tried to pry his hands away.  “I swear on my life I did not!”

“Why can you not tell me what happened?” He shook the poor blacksmith, and people were beginning to stop and stare. Ivran glared and took a step forward, his hand on his sword.

 “It was not me!” Rôg blurted.  He glanced around him, and whispered, “It was the cat!”

Thranduil’s jaw went slack. “The cat?”

“Shhh! My Lord, I will tell you,” Rôg’s calloused hands fumbled awkwardly, “but only to spare my husband more humiliation…”

Thranduil slowly released him, still suspicious.

“Could we please speak in private?” Rôg’s head jerked toward Ivran.

With a nod, the Elvenking sent his guard to a safe distance. “This had better be good, Rôg.”

“I speak the truth,” he whispered.  “My beloved was attacked by our cat.”

“The same cat Galion has bragged about, for the last month?  The one you named, ‘Lazy?’”

 “That is the one.”

“But Galion adores him! Why would Lorda attack him?”

“It was an accident.  Or rather, a… misunderstanding…”

Thranduil raised his hand and pinched the bridge of his nose.  “Perhaps you should start at the beginning.”

“Well, you see, we had gone to bed last night, and forgot to shut the door, and…as you well know… Galion and I enjoy a rather vigorous se—”

“Stop!” Thranduil raised hands and scrunched his eyes closed.  “I do not need to hear about that!”

“But I must!  You see, we were… in the same position you saw us… that day.”

“I am going to wish I had not asked, am I?”

“I am certain of that, My Lord.  But better that than cause my Mîr more pain.”

“Pain?”

“You see,” Rôg whispered, “we had no idea Lorda was on the bed…underneath Galion and when… well, he…screamed in agony and I nearly sprained my own…  There was a great deal of blood, and I had to go get Ermon…” He winced.  “Please tell me you have the general idea because I just cannot say anymore.”

Thranduil’s eyes widened in utter horror, and he felt suddenly nauseous. “You mean that cat bit off his…?” 

“Oh, no!  No, praise Eru,” Rôgon waved his hands in the air.  “But it was a bad…  I mean, he still has his… but it was…wounded, and Ermon prescribed a few days of rest, but mostly loose clothing to give…things… a chance to heal…” he finished weakly.

The Elvenking stood absolutely still as he digested this.  “I believe you,” he said in a small voice.

“Eglerio i Belain,” Rôgon’s shoulders humped over with relief. 

“I believe you only because that is too bizarre of a story to make up.  What did you do with the cat?”

“Galion loves him, and will not be parted from him.”

“And he has forgiven the…er…indignity?”

“He says Lorda was simply mixed up, and thought his Gwîb was a…”

“Mouse?”

“A rat,” Rôgon said indignantly.  “A huge rat, as a matter of fact.  Why does everyone think my husband’s Gwîb is tiny?  It is not, I promise you!” 2

“Enough!” The Elvenking covered his eyes.  “I know you two much more intimately than I ever wish to, and if I did not love Galion as much as I do…” he sighed.  “But I do, so what do you need from me?”

“Just please, do not ask him, and do not tell anyone; for Galion’s sake?”

“Not a word.”  Thranduil nodded briskly.  “Who would believe me? Valar forbid Lord Percy got wind of this...  If anyone asks, I will say he has burned his hand in the kitchen, yes?”

Rôgon considered.  “That is easily believable; my husband is an appalling cook.”

“Fine.  I warn you; I cannot lie to my husband.  Then again, the odds of Bard guessing something like that are negligible...  Send Galion our best wishes for his swift recovery.”

“Thank you, My Lord.”

“And I am putting this entire subject under seal, Rôg.  Never, ever speak of this to me again.”

 

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

 

Ermon, Chief Healer for Lord Thranduil, smiled down at his sleeping wife, who looked so peaceful and beautiful, nestled among the pillows.

He leaned down and nuzzled her cheek, until she opened her eyes.

“Aur geilu, Niphredil,” he smiled into her hair, and let his hand settle on her breast, giving her nipple a squeeze.

“Ai!  That is how we ended up with three children,” she smiled, as she slapped his hand away. 

“It does not hurt to practice,” he grinned.  “Alas, we have no time, even if you were so inclined; we are due at the Healing House soon.”  He helped her to her feet then gave her a searing kiss.  “Save that for later.”

 

Once they were dressed, they went into the nursery.  Ermon bent over the crib where his children slept, and gently kissed their heads.

 “They will need to go into their own cribs soon,” Ermon reminded her, as he ran his fingers through Almarë’s white-blonde hair.

“Véana and I have been trying,” she whispered.  “They will have none of it.”

 

 

 

 

 

As skilled and knowledgeable as they were as new parents, the couple repeatedly sent up prayers of thanksgiving for the blessing of their full-time Nanny, for they could not have gotten through this last year without her.

The first year of parenthood is a whirlwind for any race, and despite their expertise, Ermon and Elénaril simply could not cope with their triplets without help.  As kind as the ladies of Dale were to help with food, babysitting and laundry, it simply wasn’t right to rely on this indefinitely. 

Ermon knew Legolas and Tauriel’s caretaker had sailed, but luckily Véana, who had recently worked for Lady Emëldir and her husband, was available.  She came to Dale two weeks later, moved into one of their extra bedrooms and quickly helped the new parents settle into a routine of feedings, nappy changes and laundry.  Ermon and Véana slept in shifts until the babies were old enough to take goat milk, so poor Elénaril could get rest for longer periods of time. 

By the time Ermon went back to work in January, the triplets were sleeping through the night.  The ladies in Dale still insisted upon helping with the laundry for the babies, and babysat for all three of them so they could get an evening off.

Last month, Almarë, Nórimo and Calapîa had celebrated their first birthday (and, according to the customs of Men) with a large party that should have probably been held in the Great Hall, as they all barely fit in their house.  Tables were set up in the back yard, to accommodate all the guests and the children received an entire new wardrobe of hand-made, hand-knitted clothes, as well as many Dwarven-made toys from the new shop Bifur had opened up recently in the Market. 

With Ermon’s blessing, Elénaril went back to work half-days when the children were ten months old.  She loved being a mother, but he knew she needed to keep practicing the art the Valar had gifted her with, to keep her Fëa strong.  Again, Véana was a blessing in that respect.

The Tírahîn became well-known among the people of Dale, when she pushed the babies in their carriage or wandered through the Market on her days off.  The tall, brown-haired Elleth was patient, soft-spoken, and had a brilliant smile that sent more than a few male hearts aflutter.

But to no avail.  Véana had been in love with a Guardian of the Woodland Realm, and when he lost his life trying to save Queen Mírelen and Prince Legolas from the Orcs nearly a thousand years ago, she wept bitterly, took of her silver betrothal ring and set it aside, along with part of her heart. 

The rest was given to the babes and children in her care, and it she carved out a pleasant life for herself.  It may not have been the joys she had hoped for once, but she found fulfillment and a sense of purpose and that was enough.

This morning, after they kissed their children goodbye, the couple headed toward the Healing Hall, and saw the King up ahead, talking rather animatedly with Rôgon.

“What is wrong, I wonder?” Elénaril asked Ermon.  “Were you not called to Rôgon’s house last night?”

“I was,” he said.

“Was it serious?”

“Oh, a minor mishap…  Nothing I could not handle, Meleth.

 

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

 

Rhian opened her eyes with a smile on her face, and snuggled into Daeron’s arms.

“Aur geilu, Hind Calen,” Daeron held her close.  “Did you sleep well?”

“Beautifully, thanks to your losta-luith,” she told him.  “I’d forgotten what real sleep felt like.”  She inhaled deeply and let out a contented sigh.  “Mmm… smell that air; I think Autumn is my favorite time of year.”

“You think?” Daeron asked, as he kissed her hair. 

“I’ve only really seen the four seasons since we came to Dale.  In Laketown, it was two things; frozen, or unfrozen.  That first winter at the Palace, when I first walked through the King’s Garden with Aunt Indis, the snow on the evergreen trees looked like white frosting, and the icy branches sparkled and shone in the sun like diamonds, you know?”

“I do,” Daeron smiled down at her.  “I like that, too.”

“But then spring came, and I had no idea how many flowers there could be!  I borrowed a picture book from the library and saw those purple Irises and pink lilies…”

“Surely there were some flowers in Laketown,” he tilted his head up.

“Not really, and only the wealthy had them.  The rest of us used pots to grow vegetables and herbs for healing.  No one had much money to waste on decorations.”

“I am sorry to hear that.  Flowers are beautiful; they feed your soul.”

“But they don’t put food in hungry bellies.  I was lucky in that respect, I guess.  My father – Phylip, I mean – had some money, so I didn’t starve, like so many others, but he wouldn’t let me plant anything.” 

“Yet you like the Autumn?  That surprises me, Hind Calen.  The flowers are all gone, now.”

“They are, but the air smells wonderful, especially in the evenings. And the trees turn all those different colors, it’s like magic!”  She lifted her head.  “Did you see the Maple out back?  You were in Lothlórien during my first October here.  The first time I saw the leaves turn from green to that red, I cried, it was just so beautiful!”

“Too bad the leaves have fallen, already.   I could have taken you out to see them in the Forest.”

“I’m sorry,” Rhian sighed.  “If I hadn’t been so…”

“Shush,” he kissed her forehead.  “There is always next year, and the year after that…”

“We’ve got all the time in the world.” Her eyes shone into his.

Daeron rolled onto his side to face her with a grin.  “Say that again.”

“’All the time in the world?”” She smirked saucily.  “Why, does that turn you on?”

“Hmmmm…” he growled, and kissed her.  “Again.”

“’All the time in the world.’”

“Again,” Daeron kissed his way down her neck and took one of her nipples in his mouth and began to suck greedily.

Rhian laughed out loud, then moaned.  “All the t-time in the world…  Years and years and y-years— Ahhh….” 

“And years,” Daeron plunged his tongue in her mouth.  “I love you, Hind Calen.”

Rhian sat up and rolled them over.  “I love you.  Let me show you how much.”  She kissed his eyes, his nose, his mouth, then teased his nipples by pinching and sucking, before working her way down to his hardened member.  “Just think…  I get to play with this for all eternity…” She licked a hot stripe on its underside, then took him in her mouth.

Daeron hissed and closed his eyes, but only for a moment; he wanted to watch.  He lifted the heavy curtains of her hair and groaned at the sight.  “A, ma…  Lavo den…  Lavo Gwîb nîn, Meleth nîn!”

Oh, he loved it!  He threw back his head with a loud moan, and let himself drown in her ministrations for a few more minutes, before he gently pulled her off.

“Did I do it wrong?”

“No! I loved it; I love you, but I do not want to come like this,” he panted.  “I need to be inside you…”  He urged her up to straddle him, than position himself at her entranced and pushed her down as they both cried out.  “Yes!” he pulled her head down and kissed her hard and long, as she rocked her hips back and forth, then swiveled in a circular motion, which curled his toes.

“More, Rhian!  Give me more!” he cried and held her to him and began to suckle on her breasts as she moved with increasing force. 

“Oh, stars…” she gasped, “I love you!  Look at me!” she pulled him off her breast and pressed their foreheads together as they thrusted against each other. 

“I love you, Rhian,” he murmured.

“I know.  I know you love me,” she said with urgency, as their mutual pleasure rose.  “You loved me so much that you were w-willing to d-die for me,” she gasped, “And I love you, Daeron Adamarion.  I love you so much that I want to live for you.  I want to l-live for you always, and Oh, Daeron!”

Words weren’t possible anymore, and her body tensed as she clenched around his throbbing member.  Daeron was suddenly drowning in the green sea of her eyes and saw she was telling him the truth.  She wanted this with him, she wanted everything with him, and when they came at the same time, he buried his face between her breasts and wept.

For a long time after, Rhian held him to her and stroked his auburn hair and told him over and over how much he meant to her. 

“I mean it, babe.  I was confused, before; that’s all,” she whispered, as she kissed his hair.  “I understand a lot better, now, and as long as we are together, in death or in life, that’s all I care about.”  She lifted his chin and kissed away the rest of his tears. 

“But what about Darryn?”

“You were right when you said we’d lose him, no matter what happened. Those panic attacks were ridiculous.”

“Elénaril’s theory makes sense, Meleth nîn.  You had just gotten a sense of power and control over your life, and when Lord Elrond gave you the news, you felt like it had all been taken away again.”

“Hannah said something to me that really helped, too.”

“What was that?”

“Ben isn’t my blood father, but he’s my Da in every way that matters.  And Hannah is as good a mother to me as she is her own sons.” 

“They do.”

“So, even if what I was afraid of was true, they’d all be there for Darryn, and won’t let anything terrible happen to our boy, will they?”

“No,” Daeron sniffled.  “Our son will be well and happy there, as he will be in life.”

“He will; I know it, now,” her green eyes filled with happiness. “And we will cherish every single minute we have him, so we can take those memories with us.  No matter how long we live, we won’t forget him, and he won’t forget us.”

“I like your plan.”  Daeron nodded, as he held Rhian tight. 

“I’m glad,” she climbed off him, and kissed him again.  “Let’s get washed up and I will fix you your favorite breakfast.” 

“With the soft-boiled eggs?  And crispy bacon?” his eyes lit up hopefully. “And brown bread with honey butter?”

“You bet.”

“Then, after…” he bit his lip.

“What?” she put on her robe.

“I know Lord Thranduil was going to bring Darryn later, but could we go get him?  I miss him.”

“I like your plan,” she kissed the top of his head.

 

Two hours later, after a hearty breakfast, and a bath (which took longer than expected, because they splashed water all over the floor), they walked hand-in-hand over to the Castle to pick up their son.

Darryn was on the first floor near the Grand Staircase, playing with Ivran and Cwën. The former Warden was lying on the carpet, as the boy pretended to stab her.

“Got you!” he shouted.  “You dead!”

“Well done, Pînig,” Ivran laughed, then pointed at them.  “Look who is here, Darryn!”

Ada!!!”

Daeron ran forward and scooped the boy up as he shrieked with giggles. “Who is this new Guardian?” 

“Me!” Darryn’s dark hair peeked out from underneath a wooden bowl balanced on his head. 

“And is this your mighty sword?” Daeron pointed to the wooden spoon in his hand. 

“Uh huh!” the boy nodded.

“Oops, don’t lose your helmet, Lieutenant,” Rhian adjusted the bowl that flopped over his eyes.  Is that your cape?” She pointed to the linen towel fastened around his neck. 

“Just wike Ada!” Darryn growled.  “I kill Orks!”

“He did indeed,” Thranduil came into the Hall.  “Our Castle is much safer now.”

“He is full of energy, My Lord.”

“He is full of sugar,” Thranduil admitted.

Rhian’s brow furrowed a little. “Who gave you sweets so early in the day, sweetie?”

“Fwandoo!” he pointed at the Elvenking.

“Really?” Rhian’s left eyebrow lifted, as she skewered the Elvenking with a look.

“Well…” Thranduil smiled sheepishly.  “It was his soldier's pay for ridding the Castle of Orcs and spiders."

“‘Spoiled beyond repair?’” Daeron laughed. “I will be checking his teeth for cavities, My Lord. Are his things upstairs?”

“I will have them brought down, if you do not mind.  Thangon is up there, taking a bit of a rest from his career as a Troll.  Your son ‘killed’ him several times yesterday, and once this morning.”

“One can only be ‘dead’ so many times, before it becomes exhausting.”

Rhian hid a smile.  “The poor dog.  Let’s go kiss your Grandad, and we’ll take you home, yeah?”

 

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

 

Turamarth woke up in his old room at the apartment, and blinked at the ceiling.  It felt strange here, after months with his Gwador, but not as uncomfortable as it might have been, and for that he was grateful.  Yet the events of this week had him worried, and he needed some answers.

He rose, and went to wash.  Ruvyn had already gone to serve his shift with Lady Tilda at the school, and he didn’t feel like making his own breakfast, so he decided to visit the Bakery before he went to see Hannah. 

“Aur geilu, Mellon!” he said, as he lifted a paper parcel full of rolls.  “Can you spare me a few minutes?  I brought some treats.”

“As it happens, I’ve got the morning off, lovey.  Come on in, and we’ll have some tea.”

Once they were sitting with the rolls and the pot between them, she smiled.  “So, is that a treat, or a bribe?”

“Perhaps both.”

“What’s on your mind?”

“Rhian and Daeron are focusing on each other, as they should, but…” he searched for the words, “how can we prevent something like that from happening again?”

She tilted her head and studied his face.  “You’re worried.”

“Yes, not only for Rhian, but…” he swallowed.

“For you?”

He nodded and studied his teacup. “Rhian had been fighting her relapse with everything she had, but it happened anyway.  She put herself through the correct motions, telling herself all the right things, sure the feelings would follow…  That is essentially what I have been doing, as well.  I have made myself go out, talk with people, and such, but is it enough?”

“Do you think it’s helped you?”

“I do.  Or at least I did, but now…  Rhian collapsed under the weight of it; how could I be sure the same thing would not happen to me?  For all that I did to reassure her the other day, the sight of her in that condition frightened me, Hannah!”

“It should; she was in a bad way.  But let’s think about the difference between this time and that winter.  Back then, Rhian shared her thoughts and feelings with either me, or your mother, right?”

“That is true.  My mother has told me the same.”

 “This time, who did Rhian talk to?”

Tur sat back and ran his finger around the rim of his cup.  “She did not want to talk about it at all.  Not even to Daeron.”

“That’s right; she was in denial, which is a powerful thing.  How about you?  Are you running away?”

“I do not think so; I have talked to Rhian, and to you, and I write in the journal you gave me…”

“Exactly!  Do you see the difference?”

He nodded.  “I think so.  But there is something else that worries me, and I must have the truth from you, Hannah.”

“What’s that?”

“Did my problems contribute to Rhian’s setback?”

“Absolutely not.  In fact, you gave her something useful to do with the memories she’s stuck with.  She made you stronger, too.”

“I am far from strong.”

“Not true.  How much anxiety did you feel when you carried Darryn to the Castle in the middle of the night?  Or when you sat up with Rhian and took care of her?”

“For Rhian I felt great worry, but for myself… I was fine.”

“Don’t you see? You knew exactly what to do for Rhian because you understood what was going on!  How many others would have judged her, or gotten angry?  That could have pushed her over the edge, and we might never have gotten her back!”  

“Oh, but—"

Hannah grabbed his hand.  “That’s why I don’t worry about you, Tur.  You’re going to be all right, lovey.  I promise.  Just keep writing in your journal, and you know Daeron and Rhian will always be there for you.”

 

Turamarth left Hannah’s a few minutes later, feeling one step closer to the Elf he used to be:  A Soldier; a Servant of his King, and a Protector of his people. 

To prove it to himself, he walked twice around the Market Square.  As the people waved a greeting to him, he waved back, and his smile didn’t feel quite so forced now. 

“Turamarth!” a voice called to him.  “Tur!”

He knew that voice, and his insides froze.  Take a deep breath… he told himself, before he turned around.  Take a deep breath, and remember what Hannah said…

Evranin was at the foot of the steps of the Coffee Café.

He compelled his feet to move toward her. 

“Hello,” he said softly.

Deep breaths.  This is real, she is real, and I am safe….

“How are you, Tur?” she smiled hesitantly at him.  “I hope I am not bothering you, but I saw you—”

“No, it is fine.  I am… doing better.”

“I am glad,” her eyes widened, and the corners of her mouth curved upward into a warm, compassionate smile. “You look a great deal better.  You look like yourself again.”

“I am… starting to feel like myself, but I am not there, yet.”

“Well, I am sure you will be, soon.” Evvy bit her lip. “I am working at the Palace, now; did you hear?”

“Daeron told me.  Do you like it?”

“Oh, very much!  I have been staying with Elion and Airen, and have made friends… I am homesick, of course; I miss my brother and father but....”

“I heard your mother sailed,” he swallowed, “I am very sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you.” She looked down at her hands. “It was for the best, and we are all better off.”

They stood in awkward silence for a moment, then she said, “I am here to meet with Lord Bard about the library.  We were taking a break, and I remembered my last visit to Adila’s…” she smiled.  “You were rather busy, that day, as I recall.” 3

Turamarth’s mouth twitched. “I remember.”

“Well… I enjoyed seeing you, again, but I must get back.” She gave him a shy smile.  Be well, Turamarth.  It was wonderful to see you, again.”

Cuio vae, Evvy,” he said, softly.

At the sound of her nickname being spoken, she beamed at him, showing her perfect white teeth and her deep brown eyes danced.  “Cuio vae,” she turned to go.

Don’t go! Don’t leave… Stay… always…

“Evvy?”

“Yes?”

“May I…  May I write you?”

Evranin’s doe eyes widened with surprise and pleasure.  “I would like that very much.”

The sudden stab of gladness that broke through the grey veil in his heart felt so foreign, it almost hurt.  Yet it was there.

She lifted her hand to wave at him, and the gold wedding ring on her finger gleamed in the sun.

And the light went out, again.

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Niphredil – “Snowdrop;” a pet name Ermon calls his wife (because of her white-blonde hair.

Ma? – Yes?

Tírahîn – Elven nanny (Lit. “Children Watcher”)

Aur geilu – Good morning (lit. “Morning blessings”)

Eglerio i Belain – Praise the Valar (lit. “Glorify the Valar”)

A, ma…  Lavo den…  Lavo Gwîb nîn, Meleth nîn! – Oh yes… Lick it… Lick my cock, my love!

Cuio vae, Evvy – Farewell, Evvy

 

 

 

NOTES:

[1] Legolas, Ion nîn, Ch. 30: https://archiveofourown.org/works/17088320/chapters/45534256

[2] Broken Wings, Ch. 4: https://archiveofourown.org/works/20519588/chapters/49055189

[3] Legolas, Ion nîn, Ch. 11: https://archiveofourown.org/works/17088320/chapters/42259295

Chapter Text

 

“Just say you'll love me for the rest of your life

I got a lotta love and I don't want to let go

Will you still love me for the rest of my life?

'Cause I can't go on

No, I can't go on

I can't go on

If I'm on my own…”

Will You Still Love Me by Chicago

 

 

City of Dale, 30th of October 2944 T.A.

After waving goodbye to Turamarth, Evvy had to stop herself from skipping back to the Castle to continue her afternoon meetings with Lord Bard and Lord Ben.  Though her heart yearned for him, she was even more thrilled to see Tur look more like his old, lighthearted self! 

Since that day he took her to the park with Darryn, the Guardian had always been in her thoughts, and a part of her knew he was the One.  She was too afraid to define these feelings as love, just yet; she hardly knew him, and had been dreaming of the opportunity to get to know him better.

Evranin owed Turamarth a great deal, though he didn’t know it.  Thanks to him, her self-confidence had grown in leaps and bounds, and whenever she found herself feeling insecure, her mind had fallen into the habit of seeing herself through his eyes.  What would Tur think if she did or said this or that?  He had truly liked her natural self; he found her attractive and wonderful just the way she was!  Slowly, over the months since then, the image and voice of her disapproving mother was replaced in her mind with his smile, his laugh, his devotion to his family…

She touched her lips lightly and smiled.  What would it feel like to kiss him?  What would his lips taste like?  How would his arms feel, wrapped around her in a tight embrace?  Would he be a kind, generous lover?  Would their joining be as magical as the dreams that woke her in the night, panting and aroused?  Her body longed for his touch, as much as her heart longed for his love.

Would Tur ever be well enough to find his way to her?  Every night, she prayed for him, begging the Valar to bring him strength and peace again.  Even if he never wants me, she made herself say, as she spoke to Queen Varda, Tur deserves to be happy and well.  Please, Elbereth, help him!  But of course, she knew the Valar understood the secrets of her heart, and hoped her greatest wish would be granted.

The gold ring on her finger gleamed in the sun.  She didn’t need its familiar comfort today.  Evranin slipped it off her finger, then placed it on the chain around her neck.  Today, she would think about Tur’s smile, and when she returned to the Palace, she would wait for the letter he promised.

Evvy closed her eyes and sighed, and forced herself to focus.  She had work to do; important work, if Dale was to be as literate as Lord Bard hoped for his people.  When she returned to the Palace in two days, once the list of books was given to Saeros to begin printing, she was to work with Daeron on his book for Lord Elrond.  The subject matter left her a bit squeamish, and the drawings and diagrams would probably be difficult to deal with, but she had always liked Daeron and looked forward to getting to know Rhian and Darryn better.

Turamarth still had his own path to follow, and no one could say where it would lead.  In the meantime, she would work, and hope.

And continue to pray.

 

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

 

City of Dale, 31st of October 2944 T.A.

“You are up early, Meleth nîn,” Thranduil groaned as he stretched awake.

“I’m always up early,” Bard grinned down at his groggy husband, as he pulled on his boots.  “I’m a fisherman; it’s what we do.  Besides, I’ve got a busy day ahead.”

“I know you plan to meet with Evvy this afternoon, but what is going on this morning?” 

“Dale is pretty much finished now.  We’ve organized the Fire Brigades, hired more constables, of which Tom is now the Chief, and now that my monthly Court is running smoothly, Ben and I want to start talking about rebuilding Laketown.”

“Have some of your people expressed a desire to return?”

“Aye, and I promised once things were in hand in the City, we’d get started.  Most of my people have embraced life here, but some miss the fishing, and we need to take advantage of the resources from the Long Lake.  The gold King Abdullon gave me will go towards funding that project, so it won’t put a strain on Dale’s finances.” [1]

“That is a wise move,” Thranduil sat up and ran his fingers through Bard’s thick hair. “Will you build in the same place?”

 “No.” Bard moved to sit closer to his Elf.  “On a practical level, I’ll never trust those pilings to support much, but more important, I’d never ask my people to live where so many died, least of all over the rotting corpse of the Dragon that killed them.  Old Laketown is a tomb, now.”

 “I understand, Meleth nîn,” Thranduil caressed his cheek.  “Let those who died there rest in peace, Ma?”

“Exactly,” Bard quietly ran his fingers over Thranduil’s shoulder. “It’s three years today, you know.  When Smaug attacked.”

“So it is.  You left there a desperate refugee, you will come back a triumphant King, Meleth nîn.  That is no small feat.  I am glad your people chose to commemorate the day you came ashore, rather than relive that terrible night.”

It was true.  After the first solemn ceremony on 31st October 2942, Bard’s Council came to him and asked that the Remembrance Ceremony be held on the 1st of November.  “We’d rather remember our survival, My Lord,” Alun told him.  “They think of their loved ones, of course, but I get the feeling they want to focus on moving forward.”

 

“Me, too.  Did I tell you I’m not giving the speech this year?”

“You did not,” Thranduil’s brows pulled together.  “Who will be speaking?”

“I’ve asked Hilda and Percy, but we’re going to have someone different each year.  This is their day, and they should have a voice.”

“That is kind,” the Elvenking agreed.  “Each family has a story to tell, and it should be heard.”

“Next spring, I want to arrange a caravan to go back to Laketown for anyone who wants to go.  I’ll ask Dáin to make a stone memorial, and have a ceremony to honor those who were lost. But first…”

“Yes?”

“I think I need to go myself, and maybe bring Bain.”

“To face the memories?”

“I think I have to.  It wouldn’t do for me to fall apart in front of my people; they’ll need me to be strong.”

“I could come, too.”

“I’d like that, but will you be all right?  You don’t exactly like Dragons; what if parts of Smaug could still be seen?  His scales are like armor, and they won’t disintegrate.”

Scales.

A thought struck him. “Bard…”

“Hmmm?”

“You are right about the scales…”

Bard’s eyes narrowed. “And they are probably still full of jewels…”

“I doubt you would find much. No doubt bandits have looted it, by now, or drowned in the attempt.  But Smaug’s scales would make excellent armor…”

“But I have that Mithril set you gave me,” Bard reminded him. “And you promised one for Bain.”

“That is true, but I see no reason why you could not have another.  And those scales are surprisingly light…”

“Armor out of the Dragon’s scales?  I’ve never heard of such a thing!”

“This was a common practice in the First Age.  They are almost as impenetrable as Mithril.”

The Bowman rubbed his chin. “But could you get the smell out?”

“Yes.  There are ways, and Dáin’s people know how to work with that material, if memory serves.  I do not know if Rôgon has any experience, but you could ask him.”

“And it would protect my men…   But what if my people object?  They might think it morbid.”

Thranduil shrugged.  “They might, but it would not hurt to make your case in the next court, and leave the decision in their hands.  If they say nay, then of course you will honor that.  But think of it, Bard; how intimidating would the Army of Dale look before an Enemy?  The reputation of your Military is a large part of the advantage you will have!”

Bard grinned.  “It would be spectacular.  But don’t the jewels in the scales belong to the Dwarves?”

“Technically yes, but if you and I take the responsibility to recover them, they could serve as a fee to the Dwarves for making the armor…”

“…which would save Dale a fortune,” Bard’s face brightened. 

“Also true,” he reasoned.  “Think about it: after the Battle, we talked about how the blood spilled on the Field of Desolation nourished the soil to bring life again, do you remember? [2]  Why not think of this as honoring those who died, by using that tragedy to protect the survivors?  I am sure that is what the victims would want for their loved ones.”

“Thranduil, you’re a genius!” he leaned forward and kissed Thranduil.  “I’ll bring it up in the next Council meeting, and then we’ll ask my people to decide.  But I warn you: if my people hate the idea, then I won’t force it on them.”

“That would be the honorable thing to do, Meleth nîn.”

 

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

 

City of Dale, 1st of November 2944 T.A.

Turamarth helped load the last of the luggage onto the wagon parked in front of the house.  “How many notebooks does an Elven Healer need, Gwador?  I must have packed hundreds of them!”

“That is because they are also treatment records.  I have tried to note every patient I have helped, and planned to glean them later for useful information.”

“’Later?’” Turamarth rolled his eyes.  “You always were a procrastinator.  I pity those who will have to help you get this mess organized.”

Daeron stopped and tilted his head.  “You didn’t know?  Lord Thranduil asked Evranin to help me,” he said, softly.  “I hope that is not upsetting to you.”

“Not at all,” Tur said, though his face gave away the truth.  “She has a great deal of experience and would be the perfect choice.”  He hesitated then told him, “I…spoke to her the other day.”

“You did?  How did it go?”

Tur’s face clouded.  “We had a nice conversation, and I even asked permission to write her, but…”

“You did?  That is wonderful!”

But Tur stepped away from him, and asked angrily, “Why did you not tell me she had gotten married?”

“Married?” His head jerked back in shock.  “Are you sure?  I heard no such thing!”

“There was a gold ring on her left hand, Daeron!  I saw it with my own two eyes!  Was she already secretly married to Mahtan?  Her story about refusing him must have been a lie!”

The Elven Healer heaved a sigh of relief, and began to laugh.

“What is so funny?”

“You are,” he said.  “You, Turamarth, are jealous!”  At his Gwador’s thunderous look, he explained.  “Before you strike me, let me tell you that that gold ring was a parting gift from her mother, Vériel.  It is a token of remembrance, nothing more.  Evvy told Rhian that it will only fit on that finger, and she only wears it on days she is homesick, otherwise it is carried on a chain around her neck.”

Daeron crossed his arms, and enjoyed the changing expressions on Tur’s face.  “So…  you were saying?”

“You mean, she is not married?”

“No.”

“Is she…” Tur blew out a nervous breath, “Is she seeing anyone at the Palace?”

“Not as far as I know,” he chuckled.  “I promise if I see her with anyone else, I will let you know.”  Daeron paused and regarded his cousin with concern.  “Are you ready for this, Tur?  We have not talked about your feelings for her since… the incident.”

“I know.  I am not sure what to do, but all I know is when I saw her at Adila’s I started to remember how I felt that day in the Park, and,” he searched for words, “it did not upset me, and I think I liked it.”

“You remembered the joy you felt?” he encouraged, with a smile.  “Do you see?  When we first left Lothlórien, you had no recollection of happiness.  Look how far you have come, Gwador!”  He pulled Tur into an embrace.  “I am so proud of you,” he whispered. 

“Ci vilui, Daeron,” was Turamarth’s reply.  “I love you very much.”

“And I you.” 

They stepped back and wiped their eyes, and laughed at each other. 

“When you two are done with your mutual admiration,” Rhian smiled from the front door, “I’ve fixed us all a big breakfast.  Get it while it’s hot!”

 

Darryn didn’t quite understand what the Palace was, but he was excited about the trip.  “In a wagon?”

“Aye, little man; you, Mama and Evvy are going to ride in the wagon and have a nice time, and if you’re a good boy, Ada will let you ride with him on Aegis part of the way.  Would you like that?”

The boys eyes immediately darted to his father.  “Can I wide?”

“Yes, Ion nîn,” Daeron smiled.  “But you must eat all your eggs first.  And look; Mama put berries in the pancakes today!”

“Here; let me cut it up for you,” Tur leaned towards his nephew. 

“You goin’ too?”

“No, Pînig, I will stay here and take care of the house and water Mama’s plants.”

“Speaking of house…” Rhian met her husband’s eyes.  “Daeron and I have been talking, and we were wondering if you’d like to stay with us permanently.  We’d both love it.  Da and Hannah told me yesterday they want to stay where they are, and those rooms downstairs are empty.  You could set up in my old room, and use Da’s room as your private sitting room.  We’d still need to use the downstairs bathing room, of course, but since Darryn is still small, we should stay upstairs with him.”

Tur gave him a puzzled look.

“I agree, Gwador.  Of course, if you prefer to go back to the apartment, we would not stand in your way, but we love having you here, and do not want you to feel obligated to go.”

Turamarth sat back and his lips pursed as he considered.  “I have thought about moving back, but…”

“Tell you what, love; take these two weeks to think about it,” Rhian suggested.  “And even if you don’t know by then, there’s no pressure.  If you want to go back, you know you can come around as often as you like, Darryn loves his Uncle Tur—”

“Aww…” The baby leaned against Turamarth and rubbed his arm. “Wuv you.”

Tur grinned, and kissed the boys dark hair.  “I love you, too.”

“Just give it some thought, yeah?”

“I will.  In fact, Ruvyn asked me the other day what my plans were.”

“He did?” Daeron asked, surprised.  “Why?”

“Captain Rahlen and Lieutenant Vildan would like to move out of the barracks, but there is no other housing available in Dale to rent.  He told them I own the apartment, and they had to come and ask me.”

“The income from their rent would help…”  Daeron said, diplomatically.  “But the biggest concern here is what is good for you.  Lord Thranduil has given you a paid leave, so do not do it because you need the money.  Even if he had not, you know I will not let you go without.”

“I know,” Tur nodded, “and I appreciate it.”  He bit his lip.  “I admit I was considering leaving, when there was tension between the two of you—”

A pang of guilt pierced Daeron’s heart, and he saw tears forming in Rhian’s eyes, as her hands flew to her mouth.

“I am so sorry,” she gasped, as he put his arm around his wife.  “Oh, gods…”

“Do not be,” Turamarth reached across the table and grasped her hand.  “You could not help it any more than I could stop it from affecting me!  But I want to tell you that your crisis helped me, too!  I learned that I can still serve those I care about; I felt useful and needed and…   For the first time since all that happened, I felt like the strong one, and it showed me that I have not lost who I am!”

She swallowed.  “But still…”

“No, Gwathel.  Lord Thranduil always says that the Valar does not make everything happen for a reason, but do you see how they brought reason into this terrible thing?  Manwë and Varda made some good come out of all this, so let us be thankful, yes?”

“Are you sure?  I still worry about you,” Rhian searched his face.  “You know if you need anything, Hannah will be there for you.”

“And should the need arise, I will seek her out,” Tur promised.  “In fact, I believe I will tell Rahlen and Vildan they can move in the apartment; I honestly want to stay here.”

“Oh, I’m so pleased!” Rhian clasped her hands together.  “Did you hear that, baby?  Uncle Tur wants to stay here with us!”

“Yay!” Darryn clapped his sticky hands together, then picked up a syrup-soaked piece of pancake.  “Open up!” he cried, as he fed it to his favorite Uncle.

 

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

 

“Are we settled?  Darryn, do you have to go potty?” Rhian checked the pillows in the wagon in the Courtyard, as the group gathered to leave.

“I took him just before we came,” Daeron reminded her, as he mounted Aegis.

King Thranduil and Legolas were on the dais, saying goodbye to everyone.  They were accompanying the Vanguard from Rivendell for their rotation in the Woodland Realm, then staying for a week to work out of the Elvenking’s study and meet with his Council.

 “Here’s Evvy!” Rhian grinned, as the beautiful blonde Elf approached, clasping her cloak.  Elladan met her at the back of the wagon and helped her up.

“Hi, Ebby!”  Darryn grinned, as he settled in the cushions and grabbed his stuffed rabbit. “You comin’ too?”

“I am.” Evvy’s eyes danced.  “Are you excited to see the Palace?”

“Uh huh!  Bye Unca Tur!” we waved at the approaching Elf.

Rhian looked past Evvy’s shoulder, as Turamarth slowly approached.  His face was shy, hesitant; it had taken him some effort to come.  In fact, when she’d asked him about it earlier, he declined.  Yet, though it clearly was difficult, he’d done it and she was so proud of him.

Cuio vae, Evranin,” he lowered his head, touched his heart, and gave her an Elven salute. “Harthon a threvaded estent.”

“De vilui, Mellon nîn,” Evvy returned the gesture.  “Fer-nesto im.  Teitho annin athodh?”

“Of course, I will.” Tur stepped closer.  His eyes traveled to her hands, as they held the side of the wagon, and hesitantly reached out to touch her fingers, but they curled back at the last second and he dropped them.  “I… am glad we talked, Evvy.” 

“I, too, am glad.  I look forward to seeing you again, hopefully sometime soon.”

Just then King Thranduil announced it was time for the caravan to move out.  With a jolt, the wagon moved forward with a jerk, and they were off.

 Soon after they got started, Daeron came to the side so Rhian could hand the baby to his Ada.  “Here you go, Little Man!  Have fun!”

Once she settled back down, Rhian and Evvy had a wonderful visit. 

“I’m so glad we’ll be spending so much time together!” she said.  “I knew I liked you at the wedding, but there was too much going on for us to really get to know each other.   I just know we will be good friends!”

“I think so, as well,” Evvy smiled. 

“So, tell me about yourself, and about Lothlórien, would you? Daeron said it was the most beautiful place he’s ever seen.”

“Oh, it is beautiful!  And up until this summer,” she sighed, “it felt magical, in a good way.  Now, I do not know...”

Rhian rubbed her arm.  “It will be again, to you; I am sure of it.  But keep in mind that Daeron’s people have lived most of their lives in a dangerous forest, and they still have a deep love for their homeland.”

Evranin agreed, and they spent the next several hours speaking of their lives and experiences.  Rhian was fascinated by the traditions and descriptions of the Golden Wood.  In turn, Evvy listened with rapt attention at the stories of Laketown. 

“That must have been horrible!”

“Oh, it was, believe me.  I don’t miss that place at all.”

“I was told it is completely destroyed.”

“Aye, and good riddance, though many good people lost their lives in the fires.  I’ll miss them, too.  Still, the rest of us have built a good life for ourselves, thanks to King Bard.  Actually, if it hadn’t been for him, I don’t think I would be happy at all.”

“What do you mean?”

Rhian began the tale of Garth and his death the night the Dragon attacked.  As she spoke, she was both surprised and pleased that she could relate the events with little or no real emotion. 

“Oh, Rhian, I am so sorry,” Evvy shook her head.

“Don’t be; it’s over, I know I did the right thing, and think about it this way:  I wouldn’t have my son, nor would I have met my wonderful husband.  Look where I am now, happier than I have a right to be!  Daeron and I had some trouble adjusting, but we’re on the right track, just like any married couple.” 

Rhian eyed her new friend, and asked, “How are you?  I know you lost two good friends, recently, and that must still hurt.”

“It does,” the Elleth’s eyes lowered.  “Mahtan and Gelmir were good friends with my brother and I, and it is hard to think of them as gone.  A few times since I came to the Palace, I would see or learn something, and I would think, “I must write to Mahtan and tell him about it,” she swallowed, and her hands fumbled, “then I remember I cannot…”

Rhian leaned over and placed her hands over hers.  “Oh, sweetie…  There’s nothing I could say to make that better.  Just know you’ve got a friend in me and Daeron.  And I know he’s had a hard time lately, but Turamarth thinks the world of you.  It won’t make up for their absence, I know, but I hope it helps a little.”

“It does,” Evvy’s smiled was hesitant.  “Will… Will Tur be all right?  I do not want to pry, but I… think about him, and worry a great deal.”

Rhian paused.  “I have high hopes; we all do.  It’s a good sign that you and he talked, I know that for sure.”

“I will not ask you to break any confidences,” Evranin was quick to say.  “Please do not think I would—”

“No; I know you won’t, and that tells me you are good for him.  But,” she chose her words carefully, “just be patient, and let him take the time he needs.  Don’t give up on him, Evvy.  I wish I could tell you how long it would take, or what will happen in the end, but I think, if he were to end up with anyone, it would be you.” She tilted her head.  “If that is what you want.”

“I think I do,” the Elf said softly.  “When we were at your Wedding Feast, and he took my hand, I think I felt…”

“The Ehtë Raumo?” The corners of Rhian’s mouth lifted.  “Daeron thinks it was the same for Tur.  We’ll just keep praying and hoping.  Both of you deserve to be happy.”

 

The journey in the wagon went swiftly with such good company, and by the time the tall doors appeared, it was clear a true and lasting friendship was sealed.  Darryn spent little time riding with his mother.  He took a turn with his Ada, the Elvenking, Legolas, and when they reached their destination, the little boy was fast asleep in Captain Rahlen’s arms.

 

Adamar and Idril waited for them just inside the Main Doors, along with Aunt Indis.

“I’m so glad to see you!” Rhian kissed each one. “Where is Uncle Ómar?”

“He is on duty, covering my shift,” Adamar told her, “though he expects his own chance to visit with his favorite little boy.  Here is Darryn!” the Elven Captain reached up and took the sleeping child from the Rivendell Vanguard.  “I assume he had a pleasant trip?  He smiles, I see.”

“He did,” Daeron grinned, after embracing his mother.  “But he will be thrilled to see his Haru and Haruni, when he wakes.” 

“Evvy!” Rhian called over to her, “have you met my mother- and father-in-law?”

“I have,” the Elleth walked to them with a smile. “They have been most kind to me since I came, and made me feel at home here.”

“I’m not surprised, but I’m thrilled to hear it.  Will we see you later?”

“Soon,” Evranin told them.  “I must get unpacked and sort through my lists.”  She turned to Daeron.  “I must work with Gwindor and meet with Saeros, to get things ready to print Lord Bard’s order.”

“Saeros?  I had assumed he moved back to his parent’s village.”

To anyone else, Daeron seemed fine, but Rhian felt a pang of… something in her Fëa: her husband was unsettled.

“I do not know anything about that, I am afraid,” Evranin replied.  “He is assigned to work with me on the Dale Library.  King Thranduil’s orders.”

“It would have to be,” Daeron muttered, then sighed.  “In any case, try to get a bit of rest before you plunge back into work, Mellon.”

“I will,” Evvy smiled and waved as she left.

 

The suite assigned to Rhian and Darryn was close to his family, and had three bedrooms, though one was set up as a study.  The boxes containing his notes were already there, waiting to be unpacked, according to his tastes.

Rhian opened their trunks and put their things away, while her husband dealt with their son, who was grumpy from his nap, and needed a cuddle.

“Babe?” she asked casually, as she shook out his tunics, and hung them up.

“What is it, Hind Calen?” Daeron handed Darryn his Blankie and rubbed the boy’s back.

“Did I imagine it, or did you… bristle, when Evvy mentioned that Elf’s name?  Sawr…”

“Saeros.  His name is Saeros,” Daeron sighed.  “And yes, you were perceptive.  He grew up with us – with Turamarth, to be exact.  I am five years older than my cousin, which means nothing now, but back then, he and Saeros were in the same class level and there was always a sort of… rivalry between them.  I never understood it, but they disliked each other intensely.   I am ashamed to tell you, that our Turamarth could have been kinder to him.”

“What do you mean?  That doesn’t sound right.”

“My Gwador was full of mischief, but how many of us behaved badly when we were young?  As we grow, we learn better, do we not?”

“What did he do to Saeros?”

“Turamarth always wanted to be a soldier, and he excelled in physical activities.  The teachers had a terrible time making him sit and focus on his studies.  Uncle Ómar had to take away his wooden swords and bows when he did poorly on his tests.  ‘If you want to be a Guardian,’ he would say, ‘you must learn your maths and be fluent in Sindarin, Quenya and Westron—”

“But Tur didn’t speak Westron when he first came to Dale; you told me that!”

“He could speak some, yes, and he could read the language,” Daeron winced. “He and I… worked out that minor detail, to get him to pass.”

“You helped him cheat?” Rhian’s eyes widened. 

“I did not!” he declared in mock-indignation.  “I simply… recalled the questions and answers of my own tests…  aloud.”

“You didn’t!”

“I sat in my room and recited what I remembered, and Tur stood on the other side of the door and wrote them down.  That way if we were asked, we could honestly say I did not give him the answer.”

Rhian shook her head.  “Unbelievable…  So what does this have to do with Saeros?”

“While Turamarth was an athlete, Saeros is a natural scholar and intellectual, which is perfectly fine.  But my cousin decided to tease him for doing poorly at weapons and racing.  He bullied him, as a matter of fact, and when I found out about it, I went straight to Uncle Ómar and told him.”

“Turamarth, a bully?  No!  That’s not right…”

“It did not last long, I assure you.  Uncle grabbed him by his collar and hauled him to King Thranduil’s study.” Daeron chuckled.  “Lord Thranduil wisely made him wait outside for a number of hours, while the Guards glared at him.  By the time the doors were opened, Tur was ready to wet his leggings.”

“Oh no…” Rhian giggled.  “What happened then?”

“Oh, the King put the fear of Mordor into him, and he was shaking in his boots.  No Guardian in his Kingdom will ever be dishonorable to another Elf and if it happened again, he would never be considered for service.”

“That must have nearly killed him,” she said.

“He cried for hours.  Then Thranduil ordered him to make reparations to Saeros for his cruelty, which he did, to the letter.  He went before their entire family, admitted what he had done, and apologized, then took over the Ellon’s chores for a month, including taking care of Saeros’s horse.  Although,” Daeron added, “the horse had better care under Turamarth, than with his owner.  Still, Gwador was genuinely repentant, and understood the seriousness of his actions, which was the most important thing.  He never did it again.”

“But all was not forgiven?”

“Since then, Tur had tried to make it up to Saeros, and wanted to be friends, but the Ellon refused to ever forgive.   Personally, I think he is jealous of Tur’s prowess and hates that it comes so easily to him.  He found out about our plan to help him pass his Westron test and went to the King, to get him struck off the list.”

“Oh, no!”

“I went with him, and admitted my part, as well.  I was surprised Lord Thranduil did not eliminate him, but he decided that his gifts in all other areas would compensate.  He could understand and read Westron, but it was not until he stayed in Dale during the Long Winter that he became fluent.  When Saeros found out Tur was still a Guardian, he was furious and spat on him.”

“My lands!” her jaw dropped. “I can’t picture an Elf doing something so hateful!”

“What about that surprises you?” Daeron quirked an eyebrow.  “Have you not read all those books on Elven history?”

“Aye, but…  Well, that was another age, and it’s different reading about something so long ago.”

“I assure you; Elves can be vain and stubborn and prideful even in the Third Age.  I had heard Saeros went with his family to live in a village twenty miles south of the Palace.  After Tauriel’s family were all killed, his parents went to help the Weaver’s Guild produce the same quality fabrics from the resources near there.  I wonder why he returned?”

“Evvy told me they’d become friends during the ride here; I just assumed you were all friends, I guess.” She shrugged, as she put the last of Darry’s clothes in his drawer.  “Maybe this will be a chance to make things better.”

“Perhaps,” her husband said, though his face said the opposite.

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Ci vilui, Daeron – Thank you, Daeron.

Cuio vae, Evranin – Farewell, Evranin

De vilui, Mellon nîn – Thank you, my Friend.

Fer-nesto im.  Teitho annin athodh? – Get better soon.  Will you please write to me?

Harthon a threvaded estent – I hope your journey is quick.

 

NOTES:

 

[1] An Invincible Summer, Ch. 47: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/38740733 

[2] What Makes a King, Ch. 4: https://archiveofourown.org/works/10838010/chapters/24340374

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

“And if I should ever go away

Well, then close your eyes and try

To feel the way we do today

And then if you can remember

Keep smiling, keep shining

Knowing you can always count on me, for sure

That's what friends are for

For good times and bad times

I'll be on your side forever more

That's what friends are for…”

Written by Burt Bacharach & Carole B. Seyer

 

The Woodland Realm, 5th of November 2944 T.A.

Daeron and Evvy took a break from their work on his book to meet Rhian and Darryn for lunch in his parent’s apartment.

“It is good to have someone else do the cooking once in a while,” Idril smiled, as they sat down to the meal. “I have enjoyed my time off to play with my grandson.”

Rhian laughed, and tried to pull Darryn into her lap, but the little boy evaded her and climbed into his grandmother’s lap.

“Of course, you can sit with me, Pînig,” Idril snuggled him in her arms. 

“How is it going?” Rhian asked Daeron, as she spoon some food onto their son’s plate.  “You don’t have to eat everything, baby, but you must at least try it, all right?”

“’kay,” Darryn picked up a piece of broccoli and put it in his mouth. “He made a face, but he chewed it and swallowed it.”

“I do not know, Hind Calen,” Daeron passed the platter to Evvy, before he took a piece of pork roast for himself.  “Evranin has a gift for clarity, but we struggle to find a way to arrange it all into a comprehensive guide.”

“What do you mean by clarity?” Idril asked, as she cut up Darryn’s meat.

“I freely admit I am no writer.   I used abbreviations to save time, and I sometime have difficulty remembering what I meant.”

“I’m amazed you can read his writing,” Rhian grinned at Evvy.  “It’s atrocious, isn’t it?”

“Yes!” the Elleth laughed.  “Though I have had practice at it; Orlin’s is just as bad.”

“Perhaps it is typical for all Healers,” Idril smiled.  “Turamarth’s penmanship is rather lovely.”

“Daeron and Tur are blessed to have you and Indis,” she said quietly.  “To have mothers who encourage them and guide them is a gift I hope they never take for granted.”

“We do not, I assure you.” Darryn told her seriously.

“I know what you mean, Evvy,” Rhian added.  “My own mother died when I was very young; I barely remember her, and my birth father, Phylip either didn’t know how to be affectionate, or didn’t want to.  That first winter, when I first met Aunt Indis and found out she was Daeron’s aunt, I cried.”

“Why?” Indis’s brow wrinkled in concern.

“Because she and Daeron were so… easy with each other.  When I met you and Adamar, I kept thinking, ‘so this is what it could have been like.’  It was hard not to feel sorry for myself, and maybe a grieved a little bit, too.  All I had wanted was for my father to show me he loved me, and he never did.”

Evvy reached over and grabbed her hand. 

“But we’ve moved past that, haven’t we?” Rhian gave her fingers a squeeze.  “I think that even if we don’t get the love we need from our parents, the Valar sends people into our lives to make sure we have it.  I have Ben and Hannah now, and I’m so thankful.”

“And I always had my Ada and Orlin,” Evvy sighed.  “I feel sad for Saeros, though.  He and I have been talking—”

“You have?” Daeron’s eyes narrowed slightly.

“Well, yes,” her shoulders lifted in a small shrug.  “We spend a great deal of time working together, as he is in charge of printing the books for Lord Bard’s library.”

“That makes sense,” Rhian nodded, giving him a cautious sideline look.  “How well do you two get along?”

“Oh, he can be prickly…”

“Personally, I find him opinionated and prejudiced,” Daeron told her.  “If he has trouble making friends, it is only because he has shown little interest in being one.”

“I know he seems that way with others, but he is different with me!  He is lonely and unhappy, Daeron, that is all, and I have been trying to help him.”

“How?”

“Well, from what he told me, he was unhappy as a child, and I feel sorry for him.  Do you not see?  He does not like himself,” she argued.  “I know what that is like, and I want to help him with that.”

“Do not forget you are working through your own problems, Aewpin.  and while things were better with you and your mother before she sailed, you still endured centuries of hurt and insecurity.”

“That is exactly why I feel I must help Saeros!  He knows I understand, and he has faced similar difficulties with his own family.  He has shared with me that they were cold and sometimes even cruel, just like my own mother.”

 “I am afraid I must disagree with you,” Idril’s eyebrows drew together in surprise.  “Heril was a kind and ebullient Elleth, and so was her husband, Seldion.  We did not know them as well as some others, but they were good people.”

“What happened to them?” Rhian asked.

“Tauriel’s parents as well as the others in her village were primarily weavers of silk.   They were attacked when she was a baby, and it burned to the ground.

“I was the one who found Tauriel,” Daeron’s face clouded at the memory.  “Neldor and Solana had placed her under a losta-luith, and hidden her in their cellar, and placed a rug and their table over the hatch.  Praise the Stars she woke up and started screaming when we arrived, otherwise she would have...” he sighed.

“Oh, that’s terrible…” Rhian’s eyes were sympathetic.  “Poor baby.”

Idril nodded.  “When Lord Thranduil informed us of the tragedy, Heril and Seldion left a few weeks later, and Saeros went with them.  When he moved back a few years ago to resume his work as a Scribe, we thought little of it; perhaps he had only gone to help them get settled.”

“I am confused,” Evvy’s lips pursed.  “Why did he not tell me of this?”

“Perhaps it was too painful,” Rhian suggested.  

“When did all this happen?” Evvy asked.

“Six centuries ago.  You and Tauriel are roughly the same age, I think.  Tur is the same age as Saeros, and had already served as Guardians for over a thousand years by that time…” Idril answered.  “I am sorry, Evranin, but the parents you describe are simply not the Elves my husband and I knew.” Idril sighed.

“But grief can do terrible things,” Rhian suggested.  “Maybe they were good friends to Tauriel’s parents?”

“I do not know; they left the Palace shortly after.”

“Maybe you are right,” Evvy said in a small voice.  “All the more reason to give him patience and understanding, do you not think?”

“How do you know Saeros is not just playing to your sympathies?” Daeron asked her gently.  “Something about all this makes me uneasy.”

“Why?”

“Evvy, while I do not want to call him a liar, please keep in mind that all you know of his family’s current behavior is what he tells you.”

“But that would mean he is lying, and I just…  cannot believe that about him.  I know you and Tur have a bad history with him, but he tells me he wants to change.”

“If what he says about his parents is true, then he has my sympathies.  We don’t mean to make Saeros out to be a monster, but don’t get caught up in his troubles to the point you lose focus on yourself.”

“Perhaps,” Evvy’s voice was doubtful.  “I… need to get back to work.  If you would please excuse me…”  She wiped her mouth and after saluting Idril and the others, left the apartment.

“I hope we didn’t upset her, too much,” Rhian said softly.  “I don’t know this Elf, and maybe I shouldn’t judge, but something about all this just doesn’t feel right.”

“I know what you mean,” Daeron put his arm around his wife. “Let us give her some time to think about all this.”

“Maybe we should send Aunt Indis to seek her out,” she suggested.

But Idril shook her head.  “If she is not ready, it would do little good.  It would be best to back away from the subject, Ion nîn.  Give her a bit of time to come to her own conclusions.”  If we push too hard, it will only make her pull away from us.”

“But could you still tell Aunt what is going on?” Rhian pursed her lips.  “I can’t explain it, but I have a bad feeling about this.  It makes me think back to when Garth was so… manipulating.  I hate to think of Evvy going through the same thing, and maybe I’m just being paranoid…”

“No, Vuin; I trust your instincts.  I will speak to my sister, when she returns from her work in the southern stations,” his mother nodded.

“All done!” Darryn said with a smile.  “C’n I have cake, Haruni?”

 

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

 

The Woodland Realm, 12th of November 2944 T.A.

Rhian woke up before her husband, and rolled on her side to face him.  Their blankets had slipped down during the night, and settled just below Daeron’s waist, as he slept on his back.  His long, mahogany hair fanned around him and mingled with her brown curls, much like their bodies had mingled with each other last night.

Since their reconciliation, she’d lost count of the times they had made love, and not only was her body sated, but her Fëa held an inner peace that could only come from her beloved.  He filled up her empty spaces, and she filled his.

It was only now that she understood the gaping chasm that had come between them, and it broke her heart all over again.  Tears pricked the corners of her eyes, as she recalled the look on Daeron’s face when he thought she regretted marrying him.  Never again, she promised herself.  If it took the rest of her days, she would make it up to him; she would prove to him over and over that she was the lucky one.  Daeron was the biggest blessing in her life, more than Darryn, even, because she couldn’t imagine raising their little boy without him.

Daeron sighed in his sleep, and shifted slightly, raising one arm above his head and turning away from her.  His profile was a thing of beauty, those prominent cheekbones, and his smooth, soft chin, and long neck…

There was no mistaking her husband for a Man, regardless of the pointed ears, she thought.  They had no body hair except on their heads, and this gave Daeron’s skin an ethereal quality.  He was tall, and some would say leaner, but her husband was by no means skinny.  His muscles were defined enough to show his strength, yet he possessed enough control to shoot an acorn out of a tree, without disturbing the leaves around it, and cutting down an enemy with swiftness and precision. 

What was he like in battle?  She’d seen him spar with Tur in the back Garden, but that had a friendly, playful quality to it.  Rhian had never seen her husband full of fury, with weapons flying.  The though made her shudder from a combination of fright and pride.

Images from their the trip to Dale after the Long Winter came to mind, when the reports came that a band of Orcs and Wargs had threatened them.  When Daeron hurried her back to the wagon, and they took off, she clutched on to her baby and prayed, not only for their safety, but for him and all those who went to fight.  But before he left, he kissed her forehead, touched her cheek…

Oh, gods…  He had called her his love, even back then.  

“I can’t, Daeron,” she had said, when he told her to be brave.

“Yes, you can, Meleth Nîn.  Rhian, you have much courage, and I know you can do this...”   

And she had, because he believed in her, long before she knew how to believe in herself. 

She reached over and gently lifted a small strand of hair from his face, as tear pricked her eyes.  How much time had she wasted, shaking her fist against the sky because of things in her past that could never be changed?  What a fool she had been to wallow in disappointment over her lot in life, when so many others had suffered as well?

And perhaps all that Lord Elrond spoke of was too enormous to take in at first, but the idea that she has such an important destiny suddenly wasn’t so frightening, because she had Daeron, who believed in her, and who showed her almost from the moment they met that she did possess the courage needed.

Rhian closed her eyes:

Forgive me.  Please forgive me for doubting you and thank you for the life I have now.

I don’t deserve this.  I have been foolish, selfish and immature and I ask for your help to be worthy of Daeron and all the gifts you have bestowed upon me.  If you have a plan for us, then I promise to work hard and be what you want.

Just, please; don’t give up on me.  Help me…

“Hind Calen?”  A soft mumble brought her back to the present.  “What are you doing?”

“I am praying.”

“Are you well?” Daeron shifted toward her. 

“More than well,” she whispered.  “I… think I’m beginning to understand.”

“What is it?” his full mouth lifted in a slight, but curious smile.

“All that stuff that Lord Elrond told us.  Before, I was adjusting to everything at once; we’d only been married a few weeks when you had to leave, then when you came back, you had to look after Tur.  But that’s what you should have done,” she added quickly.  “I wanted to help you, babe, don’t doubt that.  But after we… joined, it was so different inside me, and maybe it’s because I’m a woman that it took me so long to get used to it, I don’t know.”

“Have you spoken with Lord Bard?  He has gone through a similar process, and it might help you.”

“I’ll do that, I promise, but I’m not talking about that.  Elénaril was right when she said I broke down because it felt like something was forced on me, and I didn’t have a choice.  But you said something that night we fought…”

“About what?”

“I had lost my faith, Daeron.” She sat up and tucked the sheet over her breasts.  “But I think I understand why they… looked after me like this.  I never thought I was anything special, really, but they must believe in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.”

“I believe in you,” he gently stroked her cheek, light as a feather.

“I know, and it means the world to me.  I’ve always believed in you, too,” she said, as her voice caught.  “I think when I was… when we had problems, I stopped seeing myself through your eyes, and what was left was something worthless and despicable.  But I must have some redeeming qualities if the Valar has gone to so much trouble to make sure you and I are together.”

Daeron pulled her back down and gathered her into his arms.  “Indeed, though we may not fully understand it for years.  Decades perhaps.”

“True.  Since they told me about my gift for growing things, I’ve tried to go out into the garden and, I don’t know… figure out what they mean, but I honestly don’t see it.  The plants don’t ‘talk’ to me like babies talk to you, or like how you ‘see’ shadows.”

“Perhaps when Radagast comes, he will help you.”

“Maybe he will.  But in the meantime, I want to focus on you, and our family.  Maybe I’m not meant to deal with any of this for a while, yet.  Lord Elrond only told me because he was only going to be here in the North for a short time, and it could be centuries before he came again.”

“True,” Daeron considered.  “The last time he was in the Woodland Realm was when Queen Mírelen was killed, and that was a thousand years ago.”

“Exactly!  So, of course he had a lot to do.  That doesn’t mean all this stuff with me has to be put into place this instant.”

“But what about the fact that you have been given a place on the ships?  Are you reconciled with that?”

Rhian sighed and paused before she answered.  “I think I am.  In a way, don’t you think we all are Immortal?  I mean, the race of Men doesn’t live very long on Middle Earth, but don’t they go on to live somewhere else?  If you think about it, it isn’t a question of living or dying, as much as ending up in different places.  You and I will spend a longer life here, but when we leave, we can’t come back any more than Da or Hannah or Darryn could, so to those left, it would be like we died, too.  Does that make sense?”

“It does, though I am sad to think we will be separated from our son.”

“But he won’t stay with us for that long anyway.  He’ll grow up, and maybe he’ll move away to someplace like Rohan, or even Gondor.  Twenty years is short time, even for humans, but sooner or later, we’ll have to let Darryn go and live his own life.”

“That is true.  What helped you understand all this, now?”

“Something Glorfindel did.  I didn’t think much of what he said then, but it’s been weighing on my mind more and more, since we’ve come back together.”

Daeron’s eyes widened slightly.  “Was he unkind?”

“Oh, nothing like that.  I’d been avoiding him and Elrond while I was working at the Castle, and thankfully they didn’t push.  But the day before they left, it was nice out and Glorfindel cornered me in front of the Kings and asked if he could speak to me out in the Gardens.  What could I say, but yes?”

“What happened?”

“Well, I thought he’d take me out there and lecture me – and Valar knows I deserved it – but he didn’t.  He just sat beside me on a bench in the sunshine, and asked me about the flowers there.  After a while I relaxed a bit, and he told me about his childhood in Valinor, back when the Two Trees were shining.  He didn’t go into anything splendiferous about that place, thankfully.  I’d have been even more intimidated about the whole idea if he had.”

“What did he talk about?”

“He spoke of his mother, and his father and all these small details of the place.  What his house looked like, the meals his mother prepared for him, and the games he played with his friends…  I didn’t see it then, but now I know what he was doing.”

“He wanted you to see that you would not be as out of place there as you thought.”

“I think so.  I get it now; when they first told me we were going there, I panicked!  I’m a human, so little and lowly… How in the world could I fit in next these beings I’ve been reading about?  Gods, and Maiar and Elves that had such amazing powers, you know?  You’d be floating up there, high above anything I could ever be, and I’d be crawling on the ground… I’m nothing compared to them.”

“Do not think that way, Hind Callen,” he took her hand.

“But how could I not?  I thought I’d not only be out of place, but I’d be stuck like that forever, do you see what I mean?”

“If that were true, I could see how it would seem like a curse, rather than a blessing.”

“But Glorfindel seemed to understand, bless him, though I couldn’t even put into words what frightened me so much.  Now, I can picture us there, and it’s… good, Daeron!  All the things I love about our life here, I’ll find there, too; a house and a garden, and  if we have more children, they’ll be with us, too.  Glorfindel said they have festivals and forests, and cities just like Dale, but without the danger.  I’ll miss Da and Darryn, of course I will, but,” she met his eyes, and smiled.  “I can picture living there with my soul mate.”

“A Hind Calen…” she was swept up in his arms and he buried his face in the crook of her neck, “you have made me very happy.”

“Thank you,” she whispered.  “Thank you for seeing things in me I didn’t know was there.” She stroked the back of his head and closed her eyes, and hugged him tighter.  “I love you.”

Gi melin,” he murmured.  “Le I velethron e-guil nîn, Rhian Adamarion.”

“Me too,” she smiled and pulled her head back, and put their foreheads together and grinned.  “Apparently I the love of all of my lives.”

Daeron chuckled.  “I am so thankful we are together again.”

“Me, too.  I don’t ever want to feel apart from you again.”  She gave him several quick kisses.

“When we return home, I was wondering…”

“What is it, babe?”

“Lord Bard is physically different, since his marriage.  It took him months to relearn some things, such as archery and sword work.  I know you took some self-defense before we married, but I think we should revisit those skills.”

“We could,” she mused.  “It might be fun.”

“I would very much enjoy fighting with you,” he bit his lip.  “It would be…exciting.”

“After the ‘fight,’ there’d be lots of ‘making up?’”

“Exactly, Meleth nîn.”

“Mmmm…But won’t you still be working all hours at the Healing Hall?  Babies don’t exactly follow a schedule, and I won’t let you neglect your patients.  They need you, and I know how much your work means to you.  Tell you what,” she snuggled against him.  “Let’s put Tur in charge of teaching me.  He’s getting better, and this might help him get back to the work sooner.”

“Brilliant,” Daeron kissed her.

“Is Evvy still upset with us?”

“She has not said, and I have been careful not to bring up Saeros.  I was surprised at how defensive she felt.”

“I know, but Aunt Indis is right to be careful.  I was like that when I was with Garth.  I couldn’t handle anyone thinking badly of him, not because I thought they were wrong, but because I wasn’t able to handle the truth of what he was.  Hannah said that happens; our spirits know the truth, but our minds just can’t accept how awful it is.  We’re in so much denial, we get nervous.”

“There is much truth in what you say, and I see the same in her.”

“Have you seen him at all, since we’ve been here?”

“No, but the Palace is a huge place.  Have you.”

  I wouldn’t have any idea who he is, babe.  But everyone has been kind and friendly, so if I met a disapproving Elf, I’d have noticed.”

“Perhaps not.  Saeros has always had a habit of playing up to whomever he was with.  That is what makes me nervous about him around Evvy; she is young and vulnerable, and he could easily manipulate her.”

“But she has us, and Elion and Airen look after her, not to mention your family.  They’ll all keep an eye out.”

Daeron nodded, as Rhian slid out of bed with a reluctant sigh.  Just before she slid out of bed with a reluctant sigh.  “I’d love to lie around with you for another hour, but our son is going to be up soon.  Do you think you could take the afternoon off?  It would be fun to bundle Darryn up and take him for a walk in the woods?”

“He’d have more fun if we rode on Aegis.  I will see if Falarion can provide you with a mount, and we could pack a light lunch.”

“It’s a deal,” she leaned down a gave him a peck on the cheek. 

 

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

 

The Woodland Realm, 16th of November 2944 T.A.

The rest of their stay at the Palace flew by in a pleasant blur of activity.  Daeron felt closer than ever to his wife, and it was lovely to spend time with his parents.  Aunt Indis returned from her trip a week after their conversation with Evranin, their evenings were spent in their shared apartment, watching Haru Adamar and Uncle Ómar crawl around on the floor with their grandson. 

Rhian smiled up at him, then leaned her head on his shoulder.  “Your family could have been upset at the idea of marrying a woman, but look at us here together.”

“We are blessed, Hind Calen,” he whispered to his wife. 

“Yes, we are,” she agreed.

At last, it was time for them to return home, and there were tearful goodbyes near the Main Doors, as the wagon waited to carry Rhian, Darryn and some other supplies.  Lord Thranduil and Galion had returned the week before, and the Vanguards from Rivendell would not be returning to Dale for another month, so their escort was minimal, yet they were well-protected.

“Novaer, Ion nîn,” Adamar embraced him.  “We will come to visit, at Yule and see how you all fare.  In the meantime, look after my grandson.”

“I look forward to it, Ada.” 

“I have loved seeing you,” Idril hugged him tight.  “We are so proud of you all.”

“Thank you, Nana,” he smiled softly, then took the baby from his wife so she could hug Evranin.  “Kiss Haruni, and tell her to come and visit us, soon.”

Darryn pouted.  “Come now?”

“I wish I could, child,” Idril kissed his hair.  “But soon, we promise.  Aunt Indis and Uncle Ómar want to say goodbye, as well.” She took the baby and carried him to be fussed and petted some more.

Evranin was with Rhian, holding both her hands.  “Please, write soon?”

“You bet.  Look after yourself, and come see us soon, would you?  Maybe you could come with the others to celebrate Yule?  Airen, you come too, and bring your husband!  We’ve got tons of room in that big house, and Darryn would love it!”

“We would love it,” Elion put his arm around his wife.

Daeron turned to follow his wife out the door, where Aegis was waiting impatiently, but something out of the corner of his eye made him turn back around. 

Saeros was standing across the cavern, on a lower walkway, observing the small crowd that had gathered, which was not unusual.

What was unusual was what he saw, lingering around him, something that Daeron had only recently begun to see.

Yet he was new to these skills, and this could be a mistake…

What if it wasn’t?

Ai gorgor…

 

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

 

City of Dale, 18th of November 2944 T.A.

Aran nîn, might I speak with you for a few moments?”  Daeron had entered the hall of past the Grand Staircase, just as Thranduil was leaving his study with Legolas.

“Of course,” he nodded.

“Is this a private meeting?” Legolas asked.

Daeron considered.  “I do not think so, thought I think discretion is needed.  I might be able to use your insight, Legolas, if you are not busy,”

“Then I will stay,” the prince nodded.

“Would you like any refreshments?”  Thranduil raised his arms to indicate the chairs in his room, and urged them to sit.

“No, thank you.  I am needed at work in a half-hour.”  Daeron settled himself and took a folded piece of paper out of his pocket.  “I would like to send a message to Lord Elrond, and I want you to read it first.”

“This sounds cryptic, Lieutenant,” Thranduil accepted the paper, but did not unfold it.  “Suppose you tell me what is in this message and why you want to send it?”

“As you know, I have been working to develop the gifts, Lord Elrond believes I have, and while it will take a great deal of practice, I think my skills have increased.  While he was with me, of course things were easier to… ‘see’ for want of a better word; I leaned on his power and skill.  It has only been in the past few weeks that I have begun to detect things on my own, and part of this letter is to report thus.”

“What kind of things?” Legolas asked. 

“I can see shadows from the Black Breath, and have been given the ability to fight them.   Elrond tells me – and your father – that I have been given this gift to fight the Evil that could return to the Woodland Realm. 

“I have also begun to see…” the Elf struggled for words, “for what of a better word, different types of Fëas which seems to radiate around the person, and I am not sure what to do with that.”

“Elrond called them ‘Auras,’” Thranduil said.  “It was how he discovered that our Tithen Pen has been given the choice of the Peredhel, do you not remember?”

“I do,” Daeron agreed with a nod.  “It was one of the subjects we covered, and I have been noticing the difference between Tilda and her human siblings.”

“Does she know?” Legolas looked to his father.

“No, and this information does not go any further,” the Elvenking told his son.  “Daeron knows only because he is our family’s personal physician, but no one else is aware.  Bard and I have decided to wait until she comes of age, to tell her.  It is unfair to burden her or the other children with this while they are still young.”

Thranduil turned back to the Healer.  “Why does this concern you now?  Have you seen something amiss with our daughter?”

“Not at all,” he said quickly, “I only see faint hints of it, at any rate, but it does affect my treatment of her in the future.  No, Hîr nîn, my concern is not with any Elf in Dale. 

“Rhian and I have been worried about our friend Evranin, namely her friendship with Saeros—”

“The Assistant to the Master Scribe?  Narthon has not reported any complaints to me.”

“I would not know about that, but my wife is nervous about it, and I share her concerns.”

“I know Saeros and Tur have never been friends, and that goes back to their childhood, but surely they have matured past those petty grievances!”

“I know my cousin has, and our family is fond of his parents, apparently Saeros still holds a grudge and his different opinions about your policies about our interaction with Men and Dwarves.”

“That is of little consequence to me,” he shrugged.  “I do not consider dissention to be a treasonous act.  Every subject in my Kingdom is entitled to think freely, if they follow the law.  Sedition is another matter,” the Elvenking studied the Guardian.  “What is it you are trying to say, Lieutenant?”

“He avoided us for our entire stay, despite Evvy’s invitation to join us.  But when we were leaving the other day, I saw him in the distance, and… saw something.  Something about his Fëa, that I do not understand.”

The Elvenking’s stomach stirred, and he leaned forward in his chair.  “Does a Black Shadow linger over him?”  Ai!  Not again, he silently prayed.  Were they to be hounded by Sauron constantly, until they sailed?  Would this Evil dog their every step?

“No, I do not see the Black,” Daeron put his hands up to quickly reassure him. 

Thranduil sighed, as did Legolas.  “Eglerio,” he murmured.  “Edregol vaer…  What did you see then?”

“That is just it; I saw… a lack of color, My Lord.  1  A Void of emotions.”  He sat back.  “I do not refer to the Auras that denote our destiny, the way Elrond explained to us.  I mean something about his personality, his Fëa shows a… lack of something.  I wish I knew more about it.

“Normally, an Elf feels things very deeply: our love, our passion, our longing, do you see?  But this is somehow skewed in Saeros.  I could be mistaken, but if I am correct, My Lord, I see a complete lack of conscience, no compassion for those who hurt or any instinct for regret.”

“That is…  not right,” Legolas whispered.

“No, it is not,” Daeron said, seriously.  “I think he might be deranged, in some way, and if that is true, not only is Evvy in danger, so are many others at the Palace.”

 

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Aewpin – “Little Bird,” Evvy’s nickname since childhood.

Edregol vaer – That’s wonderful

Eglerio – Praise the Valar (lit. “Glorify”)

Hind Calen – “Green Eyes”

Meleth nîn – My love

Pînig – My Little One

 

 

NOTES:

[1] Broken Wings, Ch. 3: https://archiveofourown.org/works/20519588/chapters/48867101

Chapter Text

 

 

 

“I believe in you

You know the door to my very soul

You're the light in my deepest, darkest hour

You're my savior when I fall

And you may not think I care for you

When you know down inside that I really do

And it's me you need to show

How deep is your love?”

 

“How Deep is Your Love?” by The Bee Gees

 

City of Dale, 18th of November 2944 T.A.

“Just a moment, Daeron,” Thranduil held up his hand.  “I know you are worried, and that you and Saeros will never be friends, but there is no proof that he is putting anyone in danger.  I know you are erring on the side of caution, but I cannot lawfully approach an Elf in my Kingdom based on what you have told me.  He is done no actual wrong, has he?”

“Well, no…” Daeron admitted.  “And perhaps I am over reacting.  I am very new to all of this, and I could be misinterpreting what I saw.”  His face fell.  “My apologies, My Lord; I should have taken the time to make sure.”

“There is nothing to apologize for, Mellon.  While I do favor you and your family on a personal level, as King of the Realm I cannot behave so in an official capacity.”

The Elvenking lightly grasped his chin.  “I think we should send a message to Elrond.  A short one via bird should reach him in a few days, though I suspect the reply will be lengthy and we will not receive it until the spring.”

“But what about Evranin?” Daeron leaned forward in his chair slightly.  “I do not wish her to be hurt!”

Thranduil considered his question for a moment or two, as he leaned his elbows on his desk.  “Are you sure you are not operating on the assumption that Evvy and Turamarth will eventually get together?”

“Why not?” the Healer argued.  “I think they do care for each other, and once Tur becomes stronger—”

“Peace, Mellon nîn,” he raised his hand to calm him.  “I only mean that both have every right to pursue their own friendships and relationships.  If for some reason either of them decides they are not right for each other, we have no say in the matter.  Evvy may yet return to the Golden Wood when her work is finished.  If that is what she truly wants, then we must say farewell with our goodwill.”

“Tur loves her,” Daeron sighed.  “I know it.”

“But not every Elf who falls in love, ends up with the object of his desire,” Thranduil reminded him with a wry smile.  “The Ehtë Raumo is no guarantee for happiness, no matter how worthy the Elves are. 

“Let us not forget the true reason why Evranin was sent to the Realm: Lady Galadriel did not want me to bring her here to find a husband; Evvy needs to be independent, and to discover what she can about herself and the wider world.”  The Elvenking raised his left eyebrow slightly and skewered Daeron with a warning look.  “She does not yet know how to be strong-minded and I will not allow anyone to press their own expectations upon that young Elleth.  She should make her own choices, and learn from her own mistakes.”

“You are right, of course, Aran nîn,” the Elf nodded. “If you like, I could speak to Rhian and my parents and reiterate her mission here.”

“That would be good.”

“But suppose Daeron is correct,” Legolas brows drew together in a thoughtful expression, as he rested his ankle on his other knee.  “Would we not be endangering anyone by ignoring this?”

“I did not say ‘ignore,’ Ion nîn.  There are some things I can do, though it is not much.  I can speak with your father and uncle, Daeron, and have Saeros observed inconspicuously and report his movements to me.  I will also send a message to Feren, and he will make some casual inquiries regarding Saeros’s parents.  He is due to finish with the Vanguard’s rotation in the Forest in a day or two.

Daeron heaved a sigh of relief.  “I would appreciate that.  I hope I am wrong; it may well be that Saeros might enjoy making a little mischief, but I think too highly of Evranin and her family to take chances.”

“I agree, but still, we must be careful.”

The Elf rose from his chair and saluted his King.  “Thank you for your time, Aran nîn.  Do you happen to know where Rhian is?  I have a few minutes before I report for duty.”

“I believe she and Lady Hilda are in the Throne Room, making sure all is in place for Court tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” he bowed and after exiting the King’s study, went back to the Grand Stairs and turned left, past the small receiving rooms and Ballroom with its polished floors to the last room at the end, where Lord Bard received his people and heard complaints, judged disputes and made law.

Beyond the tall, impressive double-doors was a large hall, and at the far end was the dais where Bard’s carved wooden throne sat in all it’s splendor.  Dragons, fish and other symbols of the history of the people of Dale were carved into its tall back, as were the arm rests, but Hilda had made sure they were also padded with red velvet where Bard’s elbows would be resting. 

Near the throne, a table was set up for Lord Percy to provide the King with as much background information as required, and to provide documents for Bard’s signature, and Seal.   To the right of the Steward’s chair were two seats for two Scribes to record all the proceedings.  Most months, Hilda served in this capacity with Rhian’s help, but Evan sat in their stead a few times, and did a good job.

 

To the left of the throne on the dais, were the padded chairs for the members of Dale’s Council, as they offered their advice and opinions on the proceedings.  Thranduil had advised Bard long ago to take his time in choosing the members, and as of now, each member represented different concerns with the operation of their rapidly-growing city.

 Lord Ben gave a monthly report on the condition of the buildings in the City, and surrounding areas, and Llewellyn Seren’s husband and Ben’s Assistant) sat next to him.   Lord Alun and Evan concerned themselves with financial matters, strived to keep up King Bard’s policy of transparency when it came to Dale’s budgets.   Chief Constable Tom and his son Egon represented all things Law Enforcement, as well as making sure that new decrees made in Court were posted all over Dale.  Roderic from the Long Lake and his wife Catrina spoke for the concerns of the Marketplace, and every shop owner in the City usually attended Court days, to not only keep abreast of problems, but to help spread the word to their customers. 

At Thranduil’s suggestion (and insistence) no Elf sat on Lord Bard’s Council, but several of them did attend the proceedings, as was their right, as citizens of Dale.  The Elvenking himself absented himself from Court as a rule, to avoid the appearance of participating in government, but he King of Dale made no effort to say that he would “consult with Lord Thranduil for suggestions.”  To pretend that he had no influence over these things was unrealistic and would only serve to undermine the people’s trust.

Anyone could attend Court, provided they were respectful and not disruptive.  No children were allowed, unless they were to be brought before the King for a specific reason, and Bard hated the stories he heard of other countries that forbid sitting down in front of their King.  He had insisted that several rows of benches be placed in the Throne room, and his chair was up on the dais only to be easily seen, not to demonstrate his superiority. 

“Let visiting dignitaries be appalled,” Bard had shrugged, when Galion brought the subject up.  “I want to show my people that I’m here to serve them, while they serve me.”

 

Today, Daeron found his wife leaning over the Percy’s table, reading over the agenda with her boss. 

“I think we can call a break after this person, for the Midday meal,” Hilda was telling Rhian, who was plumping the cushions on the throne.  “Unless we run into a problem, none of the morning items should be done on time, don’t you think?”

“I can let Greta know.  What about supper?”

“Hmmm….” the woman ran her finger over the list.  “This one might take a while…  and I know Bard wants to discuss regular practices for the Fire Brigades.  But I know he also wants as many people in Dale to participate in that…”

“We just built this place, the last thing anybody needs is to see it burn down, like Laketown,” Rhian mused.  “If we suggest to Lord Bard to put it that way, I don’t see where he’ll get much resistance.  I like his idea to have full buckets hanging all over the place.  Da and I have put two in both floors of the House.”

“Do you have a can of flour handy in the kitchen for grease fires?” Hilda asked her.

“You bet.  That was the first thing I did, after last month’s Court.  I honestly hadn’t thought of it.  You know, maybe the Fire Brigade could talk to the kids in the school?  They should know this stuff, too.”

“Put it on the list,” the Seneschal told her.  “Daeron!  What brings you here?”

“My wife,” the Elf came up and kissed Rhian’s cheek.  “Mae g'ovannen, Meleth nîn.  What are you doing?”

Rhian set the red cushion back on the throne.  “Just making sure Lord Bard’s back won’t suffer tomorrow.   This is a beautiful chair, but it’s not exactly built for comfort, and he said it gets painful after a while.  We thought a few small pillows might help.”

“I am sure the King will appreciate it.  Tur is watching our son, and I needed a quick meeting with Lord Thranduil before I go to work.”

“Is Darryn’s nose still stuffy?” she asked.

“I took care of the inflammation,” he said, “but Tur and I built a tent from a blanket and chairs for the steam.  When I left, they were both sitting in it, pretending they were swimming.”

“Aww…” she smiled.  “I’ll bet he’s loving that.”

“Which one?”

“Both of them,” he grinned.  “At least Darryn stopped begging for cookies.”

“Oh, good,” Rhian smirked.  “Don’t tell Cook you and Uncle Tur have been eating most of them; it would hurt his feelings.”

“Better that than an unhealthy boy,” Hilda chimed in.  “But you’re right not to say anything; Lewis is a sweetheart, but he can be temperamental.”

“Oh!” Rhian winced and smacked her forehead.  “I forgot Tur’s letters!”

“Do not worry, Hind Calen,” he put his arm around her.  “I saw them in the front hall, and dropped them off to Galion before I saw the King.  It is all taken care of.”  A thought struck him.  “Do you happen to know if Tur received any reply from his first letter?”

“I wasn’t given one to pass along,” Rhian shook her head.  “You don’t know either?”

“I have not seen one.”

“Well, maybe Galion gave it to him directly.  I’m sure Evvy would write back… Do you know what he said in his letters?”

“No, and neither one of us will ask.  As a matter of fact, I have been instructed by Lord Thranduil…” Daeron went on to reiterate the Elvenking’s edict about interference.

“No; he’s right,” Rhian nodded, as her mouth thinned out.  “We all should stay out of it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t hope.  They’re perfect for each other!”

“I agree, but neither one of us wants to see them marry for the wrong reasons.  The biggest case in point is Evranin’s own parents.  We will be supportive of them as individuals, yes, but we will not discuss one to the other, unless they bring up the matter themselves, and even then, we must refrain from giving advice.”

“Good plan,” Hilda said, as she arranged the stacks of papers and made sure the ink wells were full.  “Best way to kill that relationship is to start pushing.”

“I must go,” Daeron hugged his wife, then kissed Hilda’s cheek.  “I have a full day in the clinic, but please remember I have three patients due to give birth at any time.  I should be home before Darryn’s bedtime, but…”

“I know, babe,” she hugged him back.  “Good luck.”

With another quick kiss and a wave, the Elf went to work.

 

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

 

City of Dale, 24th of November 2944 T.A.

“Gi suilon, Lady Tauriel!”  Vildan, the Lt. Commander of Elrond’s Vanguard fell into step beside her.

“It is just ‘Tauriel,’ please,” she replied hotly.  “Better yet, you may call me Captain Neldor-Thranduillion.”

“That is a mouthful,” he teased, with a grin, “but if that is your wish…  Good morning, Captain Neldor-Thranduillion.  How are you on this crisp autumn day?”

“Why do you need to know?” she asked him. 

“Why not?  You and I are not enemies, and though we did not compete with the fighting knives—"

“Look,” Tauriel grimaced, “I am sorry my father postponed this sparring match between us that you and Legolas want, but I had nothing to do with that.  I do not see any good reason for such an event!”

“A little competition is healthy; do you not agree?  Did not Lord Thranduil himself agree to test his skills against Lord Glorfindel?  I know you enjoyed yourself that day.”

“That is because I was watching my father,” she stopped and stared up at him.  The Noldor Elf was taller than her, though not as tall as her Ada.  Unlike most Elves she had known, Vildan preferred to wear his dark hair up in a ponytail, or sometimes in a haphazard, messy bun at the nape of his neck. 

But wouldn’t that be uncomfortable under a helmet, she wondered?   A small part of her hoped it did, the part that couldn’t stop wondering about it… 

Tauriel growled to herself and shook her head.  As if it mattered one way or another to me, she thought to herself.  He could wear his hair any way he liked! 

“Excuse me?” Vildan’s full eyebrows lifted.  “I did not quite catch that.”

“I did not say anything!  Why is this… why do you even bother with such trivial matters?  Surely your reputation as a soldier is guaranteed.  You are a Vanguard – equal to the Wardens of Lothlórien, and to the Guardians of my lands!  What is it that you need to prove to yourself?”

“Not a thing, Captain,” he bowed his head.  “I enjoy competition as much as the next soldier.  It is also an excellent excuse to talk to you.”

“But, why?” she shook her head in disbelief.  “If superficial flirtation is what you are after, any number of Elleth or women would be happy to oblige—"

“’Flirtation’ is a bit harsh,” Vildan said in mock-chagrin, “I prefer to think of it as…  banter between friends.”

“I am not your friend, Commander,” Tauriel put her hands on her hips, “nor do I engage in meaningless, frivolous banter.  Seek such attention elsewhere; I am busy.”

“I was told it was your day off,” his voice was mild.  “As it happens, I am off-duty today as well, and I was wondering—”

“I am not going to spar with you!” she growled.

“Who said anything about sparring?” he held up his hands in surrender.  “Do you not usually take your horse out for a ride at some point during the day?  I was hoping to join you.”

“You have been to the nearby forest several times,” she had to stop herself from rolling her eyes. “Why?”

His smile didn’t quite leave his face, but his tone lowered and became serious.  “If I am honest, I was planning to go anyway.  We just finished our rotation in the Woodland Realm, and some time among healthy trees would restore me.”

She crossed her arms.  “You are not a Silvan; surely the sickness in my land would not affect you as much as my folk?”

“I am an Elf, Tauriel,” he said stiffly.  “How could I not see the suffering of those good trees and not mourn?”

Tauriel’s shoulders drooped as she sighed.  “My apologies; I should not make such assumptions.  As it happens, I was on my way to the stables, and you may accompany me, if you like.”

“I would like that very much,” Vildan’s face brightened.

 

Tauriel’s horse was shared the same sire and dam as Turamarth’s beloved horse.  While Sandastan was a buckskin, a light beige with a black mane and tail, this stallion was a reddish-brown, and sported a wide blaze down his face, and two stockings on his back feet.  When she entered the stables, he was nuzzling his brother’s nose, as if in a silent conversation, but when a small gust of wind carried her scent to him, he turned his head and greeted her with a joyous neigh.

“Gwannas lû and, Mellon nîn,” Tauriel grinned, as she gently lifted his head and blew several short breath into his nostrils.

“Not many people know to do that,” Vildan observed, as he tilted his head.

“Maybe where you are from,” she said, “but every Elf from my lands is taught to respect every creature’s customs and mannerisms.”

After stroking his soft, nose, she pulled a carrot out of her pocket with a smile.  “I know what you want.”  After the stallion gobbled it up, he rubbed his head over her upper arm so roughly, she had to adjust her stance and brace herself.  “You are in a good mood,” she laughed as she stroked his velvet nose.   

“What is his name?” Vildan asked, as he patted the big horse’s neck.

“Lasbelin,” Tauriel said.  “He looks like the color of the leaves in Autumn.”  She looked around the barn.  “Where is your horse?”

“Not in the Royal Stables, of course.  Mistanâr is with the others in the barn by the barracks.”

Tauriel lifted an eyebrow with a small smile.  “You named him ‘Straying Rat?”

“’He’ is a she,” he shrugged, lightly.  “Since she learned to walk, she never liked to stay in the fields with her mother, and liked to run off and explore.   “Ai…” he rolled his eyes, “I cannot tell you how many times we had to search for her.  She could escape the fences, and even learned how to open the gates in the barns!  I lost my temper with her after her third escape on week and called her thus.” He shrugged.  “It stuck.”

“I think I like her already,” she smirked.  “Why did you follow me here, if your horse is over there?”

“You invited me to accompany you,” Vildan replied, as the corner of his mouth turned up. 

Tauriel murmured a curse under her breath, then said, “I will get him saddled up, and meet you by the South Gates?”

“As you wish, My Lady,” he said, and with a salute.

“Do not call me—!”

But he was off.

 

An hour into their ride, they reached Tauriel’s favorite place. 

“It is magnificent,” Vildan murmured, as he took in the sight of the giant Willow.  His eyes swept upwards, to the thick limbs, and the curtains of small leaves that swayed in the breeze, yet offered shelter and shade to those who desired it.

Tauriel dismounted and after hobbling Lasbelin, she gave him an apple and sent him to graze.  “Most of my Elven friends prefer to ride to the West, toward the Woodland Realm, but I… found myself heading South during my first summer in Dale, and discovered this place.

“Do you take all your new friends here?” he asked as he took care of Mistanâr.  “Now, please stay here, Vuin nîn, and do not chew through your lead this time,” he stroked her dark face.  

They approached the trunk of the tree, and after offering to carry the satchel Tauriel had brought, he followed her up until they were both seated high in the tree, each resting comfortably on a wide limbs and resting against the trunk.

 “Your horse is rather remarkable,” Tauriel observed.  “She has a black face yet her body almost “shimmers” when she moves.”

“That is because the hairs on her body are light grey, with black tips.  All the horses that came out of Gildin, the horse Lord Glorfindel brought with him from Aman bear these markings.  Though his stallion has long gone to his rest, his descendants continue to bring us a bit of the beauty from Valinor.”

“I am surprised all of your Vanguards do not ride such an animal.  She is beautiful.”

“She certainly is, and she knows it.  A horse like her requires a great deal of effort and vigilance, not because she is hard to train; the opposite is true, in fact.  She is strong-willed, and thinks she knows what is best for me.  Mistanâr has a bit of the intelligence of her great-great-grandsire, and she likes to create mischief!  My father was fortunate enough to have one; Mistanâr is his daughter, and though she challenges me to near-madness, I love her dearly.”

The Ellon’s face softened, as he spoke lovingly about his horse, and decided he might not be as annoying as she originally thought.

She shook herself from her thoughts, and changed the subject.  “Are you hungry?  Cook usually packs much more than I could ever eat…”  She unbuckled the strap and saw not the usual two paper-wrapped packets, but four. 

And there were two wineskins…

“Vildan?”

“Yes?”

“Who told you it was my day off?”

“Legolas.”

“Did you ask him?”

Vildan shook his head.  “He was at the Tavern last evening and said you might like some company on your ride, today.”

“This wasn’t… your idea?” she asked slowly.

“Well… not exactly,” he admitted.  “But when he suggested it to me, I liked it very much.  I had always assumed you prefer your own company, so…”

“I do,” Tauriel gritted her teeth, as she peeked into the packets.  “I do not suppose you like chicken sandwiches, with lettuce?”

“Yes, but…” he bit his lip.  “Is there honeyed mustard on them?” he asked hopefully.

She peeked inside again.  “There is.” She narrowed her eyes.  “You are certain you were not part of this scheme?”

“No!” he shook his head.  “I did want to ride with you and get to know you better, but I promise—”

“I believe you,” she pulled out two of the sandwiches and handed them over to him, then opened the second wineskin and sniffed.  “I believe this is yours, as well.” She took a small taste. “Miruvor, I believe, is your favorite drink?”

“It is…” he took it, “but I did not speak to your Cook; how did he know all this?”

“Because my foster-brother arranged it, I am sure.  It seems,” she unwrapped her cheese and sweetbread, “you and I have been set up.”

“Set up to do what?” Vildan eyed his meal with relish, then took a large bite.

“I think Legolas spent too much time with Mithrandir,” Tauriel gritted her teeth.  “Obviously, he fancies himself a matchmaker.”

The Vanguard choked on his food.  

“Easy, now,” her voice was casual, as she spread the cheese over the slices.  “I do not wish to drag your corpse all the way back to Dale.  It is my day off, you know.”

After several rounds of coughing, he opened his wineskin and took a long drink.

“Match… You?”  Vildan swallowed, and his eyes filled with horror.  “You cannot be serious!” 

Tauriel suppressed a smile.  “I am sorry you find the idea so repulsive.” 

“What?  Oh, no; I do mean it like that!” he sputtered.  “It is just that…  Do you know what will happen to me if my Commander thinks I am courting the daughter of the King without permission?  Lord Thranduil will have my head, and Rahlen will be holding the blade!”

“Then eat hardy while you can; if Cook hears you have wasted his good meal, he will be sure to help ensure your death.”

Vildan’s jaw dropped.  “Your lack of concern for my well-being is a comfort.”

“I do not worry about your well-being,” she replied, as she finished her bread and cheese, then began to cut up an apple.  “Legolas, on the other hand, will bleed like a stick pig when I run him through.”

The Ellon threw back his head and laughed.  After starting in on his second sandwich, he paused and said, softly, “Truly, I mean no insult, Tauriel.  I… heard about your friendship with the Dwarven Prince—”

Tauriel’s jaw set and she glared.  “That is none of your business!”

“I understand that,” he quickly assured her, “and once I say this, we need never speak of it again.  The idea of Legolas pushing us together is… disrespectful to you.  I met Prince Kili when he and the company came to Rivendell, and we spoke a little.”

“Really?” Tauriel’s heart lurched, but the sharp stab of grief she expected seemed a bit milder. 

“It is true.  I was practicing on our Archery Range, one afternoon, and he showed up with his bow and arrow.  I found him to rather pleasant, rather less dour than his Uncle.  He spoke of his family, mostly about his mother, who worried for him, for them all, but she did not try to stop them.”

“I know,” Tauriel sighed.  “She told me.”

“You have met the Lady Dís, then.”

“She and I are friends; at first, we were united in our mutual grief, but now for our own sakes.  I admire her: she is a formidable Dwarrow.”

“Perhaps,” Vildan caught the apple she threw him.  “Elrond respects her, and there is no better judge of character, to be sure.” He took a bite of the apple and chewed thoughtfully, as he relaxed his head against the tree.

“I half-expected you to disapprove of my relationship to Kili,” she ventured.  “Many of our people are.”

“And many would disapprove of your father’s marriage to a human,” he shrugged.  “What does it matter?  What would have happened had you and Kili not been…friends?   Stories are of your brave deeds did not go unnoticed by the world, Tauriel; who would not want to know you better?”

 “Why I am so interesting to you?  If it has nothing to do with the Ehtë Raumo, why are we here?”

“Before this, had I spent my entire life in Imladris, and wanted nothing more than to stay there, safely tucked away in the Valley until Lord Elrond chose to sail.  I had not even been to Lothlórien!  Before I knew of you, I cared little for the fate of other races.   After the Battle, Mithrandir came and told us everything that happened.  When I your story, it inspired me to want to come to the North, not only to meet this brave Elleth he spoke of, but to understand why we should all work together to save Middle Earth.”

Tauriel was stunned, and a bit embarrased.   “And have I…  has the world has lived up to your expectations?”

“Yes, and no.  Lothlórien was very beautiful, but I arrived shortly after the dangers and remnants of the shadow remained.  And, as you know, Mirkwood lived up to it’s nickname, though I am told things have greatly improved.”

“Please do not call it that; especially before my Adar,” Tauriel reminded him.

“I did not mean it as a slight; nor do I think Lord Celeborn intended so when he called it thus.  Ai gorgor!  To see a living, breathing place suffer so!  ‘Û, Law,’ I cried to Elladan, when I first saw it, ‘how do the Silvans stand it?’ I asked him.   Then Lord Thranduil explained to Evranin about Radagast’s services and it made sense.”

“Had he not done so, the Woodland Realm would have fallen,” she agreed.

“I agree.  The Wardens who spent a year in service to the North spoke so highly of you all, it solidified my desire to come.” He gave Tauriel a sidelong glance.  “It was my idea for the Vanguard to stay, you know.”

“I see,” she smirked.  “I imagine it took a great deal of persuasion.”

“Not at all, My Lady; we are the Vanguard, protector of the Lord of Imladris, whose wisdom has obviously rubbed off on his people.  Only an arrogant fool would turn down such an opportunity as this!”

“You do have a gift for flattery!” she laughed. 

“Flattery? You wound me, Princess,” he clapped his hand over his heart.

“I am not a Princess,” she reminded him.  “I am only the King’s foster-daughter.”

Vildan shifted on the limb to face her.  “Royalty is more than blood, Tauriel.  You are beloved by the Kings of Dale and the Woodland Realm, who call you daughter.  You are beloved by everyone in Dale, and even the Dwarves hold you in the highest esteem.  You rule by example, and that makes you as worthy of the title as the rest of your family.  Please, Mellon nîn: never say again you are ‘only this’ or ‘only that.’”

Tauriel was stunned.  Her vision suddenly swam, and she had to purse her lips to keep them from trembling.  “Thank you,” she said at last.  “I would like to be your friend, if that is your wish.”

The Ellon suddenly grinned, lightening the mood.  “Does that mean you will spar with me?”

She threw her apple core at him, and rolled her eyes.

 

 

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

LETTERS

 

 

To: Evranin, daughter of Óhtar

Palace of the Woodland Realm

27th of November 2944 T.A.:

 

Suilon, Evvy,

It is my fervent hope that this letter finds you well and happy.  My mother and Aunt wrote me recently and tell me you spend a great deal of time with the foster-children from Dale, and that you share meals with my parents frequently.  They report that you seem relaxed and have settled into your life there nicely.

I wrote you several weeks ago, and I must assume the letter became lost, as I have received no reply.  If you have changed your mind and decided you would rather not receive any more correspondence from me, please let me know, and I will bother you no longer.

That is not to say that I do not wish you well, Evvy; though things beyond our control might jeopardize our friendship, never doubt that it was something I wanted.

More and more, my mind travels back to the morning with my nephew, do you remember?  While my childcare skills were less than impressive, I hope you will look upon me kindly, for I enjoyed it more than you know.  I hope when you next visit Dale, you might agree to take another walk through that park, and perhaps we finally have a chance to get to know one another a bit more.

Please extend my kind wishes to your family when you write them; Daeron speaks highly of them, and I liked your brother Orlin very much.

With warmest regards, I remain

Your servant,

Turamarth

 

To: Captain Ómar, Guardian of the Woodland Realm

Lady Indis, Counselor to King Thranduil’s Army

Palace of the Woodland Realm

27th of November 2944 T.A.

Dearest Ada:

I continue to improve, though not nearly as rapidly as I would like.  Daeron tells me my impatience is a good sign, but I do not know how to handle this… restlessness! 

Upon Lord Elrond’s recommendation, I know you and Nana have kept a respectful distance, since I came home, though I can only imagine how difficult that must have been for you.

I need to see you, to spend some time with you both; might I have your permission to ask Lord Thranduil if you might come to Dale for a few weeks?

I have another favor to ask, if you would; I have written to Evranin twice, and have yet to receive a reply.  Could you make sure she is well?  To be honest, I have heard disturbing things about her friendship with Saeros, and while I do not have any interest in nursing old grudges, I cannot help but worry that her lack of response has something to do with him.

With all my love, I remain

Your devoted son,

Turamarth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Lasbelin – “Autumn.”  Tauriel named her horse after the reddish-gold leaves in the fall.

Mistanâr – Wandering Mouse.”  Vildan’s Grullo-colored mare.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

“I don't get many things right the first time,

In fact, I am told that a lot

Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles,

And falls brought me here

And where was I before the day

That I first saw your lovely face…”

The Luckiest, by Ben Folds

 

 

City of Dale, 24th of November 2944 T.A.

Vildan and Tauriel spent the next few hours reminiscing about their childhoods: his at Imladris, and hers at the Palace. 

“I am sorry your birth parents were killed,” Vildan’s eyes were sympathetic.

“I am, as well. I do not remember them, which I suppose was a mercy, and I will see them one day.  My nanny, Núriel sailed a century or so ago, and I am sure she is telling them all about me.”

“That must be a great comfort.”

“Very much so.  I was blessed to have her and Galion, and Ada was always there, though he was terribly busy.  That does not mean he ignored me,” she was quick to add.  “If I woke in the night with terrors, it was Ada who reached me first.  Núriel and Legolas said it was only he who could calm me when I was a baby, and I have memories of him walking up and down the hall as he whispered and sang…” she looked off into space.  “Neldor and Solana will be pleased to know that.”

“I am sure they are,” Vildan’s eyes softened.  “My own parents are in Valinor now.”

“Did something happen?” A stab of sympathy pierced her heart.

“Nothing so dramatic,” he shrugged, as he reached up and absent-mindedly loosened the tie in his hair and let it fall loosely around his shoulders.  “Adar and Naneth felt their work here was done. They had accomplished all they set out to do in Middle Earth, and decided to sail a few years ago.” Vildan was silent for a few moments.  “I was happy for them, but I miss them; I think that is another reason I was so eager for travel.”

“Have you no other family here?”

“My older sister remains in Rivendell.” 

“How much older?”

“Let us see…  I turned eight-hundred-twenty-six while we were in Lothlórien, and she is about four hundred years older…”

“That is the same difference between Legolas and me.  He was out on patrol much of my childhood, but he came back to see me every chance he could.  What is her name?”

“Meássë, and she is married to and Elf named Narseg.  I like him; he is good to her, and they have a small daughter named Melui?”

“‘Sweet?’” Tauriel smiled.  “Does she live up to the name?”

 “She does,” Vildan’s eyes lit up.  Melui has silver hair, like my mother, and the biggest, bluest eyes I have ever seen.  I think she takes after me, which means,” he grinned, “her favorite uncle refuses her nothing.  Meássë told me she was glad I was leaving; little Melui was becoming spoiled.”

“Oh, I am sure she did not mean it.”

“I know.” He nodded.  “It was hard to say goodbye.  Melui wanted to come with me, and that was a bit traumatic.”

“How old is she?”

“Almost twenty, and she is adorable.  I bought some jewelry from the Dwarves to send to them: a little necklace for the baby, and some sapphire earrings for my sister.”

“I am sure they will love them.”  Tauriel sat up straight and said, “I am… not angry anymore that Legolas orchestrated all this,” she skewered him with a look, “but if you tell him that, I will deny it.”

Vildan curled his lips inward, to hide his smile.  “Should we find a way to exact our revenge?”

She considered, with a small smile.  “I like the sound of that.  We can make our plans on the ride back.”

“That will be a pleasure,” Vildan finished his apple, tossed the core away, and drank the last of the wine from the skin before closing it up. 

They dropped gracefully from the Willow’s branches, and took a few moments to pat the trunk of the tree to extend their thanks, then looked around for their horses.

Which were gone.

“I do not understand,” Tauriel’s lips pursed in annoyance.  “How did they…”

“Ah,” Vildan picked up the pieces of chewed rope.  “Mistanâr’s handiwork, no doubt.”  He threw them down in frustration, put two fingers in his mouth and let out a ear-splitting whistle.

“I have always wanted to learn how to do that,” she chuckled.  “I can manage all the bird calls for the Guardians, but those are subtle, and meant to be so.”

“My sister taught me how to do it when I was very young.  It is easy; let me show you,” he took a step towards her.  “You put your thumb and forefinger together, like so, then lick your lips and pull them over your teeth; now put your fingers in your mouth and push your tongue back…”

“Wike thiss?” Tauriel asked, her voice muffled.

“No; you need to…” he put his fingers over hers and began adjusting them.  “It—”

They stood frozen, gazing into each other’s eyes, for several long moments.  Suddenly Vildan shook himself and dropped his hand.  “Díheno nin, Hiril nîn; I did not mean to become so familiar.”

“Apology accepted.” Tauriel her herself squeak.  Annoyed, she made a big show of looking around.  “I have no idea where they have gone; it is not like Lasbelin to behave like this; he is…” And she walked away as fast as her legs could carry her.

Vildan followed, and they remained quiet as they walked up a small hill.  But when the two Elves reached the top, and looked down upon the other side—

“What,” Vildan ground out, “is your stallion doing to my mare?”

“You cannot be serious!” Tauriel whirled around and spat.  “Why did you not tell me your mare was in season!  It is your responsibility to—”

“I did not tell you because she was not!”

“Well, obviously she us and you never bothered to check,” Tauriel’s cheeks flamed.  “Did you not think to put her under the Nuitha-luith before you came?”

“Of course, I did!” Vildan’s face was beet red.  “How dare you accuse me of not looking after my—”

“Accuse you?  Look at the two of them!  After you brag on and on about her bloodlines—"

“Because I am proud of them, and of her!  And she was not in season!  Do you think I am so irresponsible as to allow just any stallion near her without a spell?”

Tauriel’s jaw dropped.  “’Just any?’  Now you are insulting my horse?  I will have you know the King himself supervised his breeding and was present at his—”

“I do not care if he serviced the mare himself!  That horse’s chosen mate is back in Rivendell—”

Furious beyond reason, Tauriel and slapped him across the face.  Hard.  Then she slapped him again.  “You will never, and I mean never make such a crude remark about my father, do you hear me?” she spat at him.  “That is an order, Lieutenant!”

Vildan, stunned into silence, swallowed, as he slowly reached up to touch his face.  “I…,” he whispered, before he masked his features, and stood at attention.  “My deepest apologies to you and King Thranduil, Captain.  It was wrong of me to say what I did.”

 

A satisfied grunt interrupted their exchange.  They glanced down the hill to see Lasbelin had obviously finished and was basking in exhausted bliss. 

“I obviously cannot ride him fast for a time,” she rolled her eyes disgust at Lasbelin.  “You do not have to wait; if your horse is ready to ride, go ahead.  I will catch up, as soon as mine is rested.”

“I cannot leave you alone without an escort,” Vildan’s full, dark brows drew together and his eyes blazed.  “It would be irresponsible.”

Before she could come up with a crushing reply, the Lieutenant turned his back and walked down the hill to catch his mare.   

Not another word passed between them, as they walked their horses during the long, silent trip home.  Tauriel bit her lip, and refused to think about what had happened, or the terrible turmoil in her heart.  

Or the tears that sprung to her eyes.  Three times.

 

After dinner that evening, Legolas couldn’t stand it anymore and asked her how her ride went.

“It went,” she glared at him.  Then she went into her room and burst into tears.

 

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

 

City of Dale, 30th of November 2944 T.A.

No matter how many times Da had told Sigrid she shouldn’t worry about the family, that it was his job to look after things, she did. 

Ever since Mam died, she stubbornly helped look after Bain, gave Tilda all the attention and love she could, until Da recovered from his loss.  Auntie Hil and Uncle Percy came over almost every day, to make sure they all were warm and eating and getting enough rest.  Oftentimes, she’d see Uncle Percy quietly put his hand on Da’s shoulder, or ask him to go out on his boat for a while.

Sometimes, when he thought everyone was asleep, she would peek down from the loft, where her and Bain’s beds were, and see Da at the table with his head buried in his hands, weeping.  He never knew.  He also didn’t know how often she would pull the covers over her head and cry, too.  Oh, she missed her Mam!  For a long time, it was a sharp pain, and even now, there was a dull ache that never went away. 

Sometimes, in her dreams, she’d be sitting on mother’s lap and could feel long, slender fingers running through her hair as she braided it.  When Mam had finished tying it off, she’d pull Sigrid back and wrap her arms around her, kissing her neck until they both giggled.

Mam always sang.  During the days, when she washed the dishes, or cooked supper, she’d hum a pretty song, while Sigrid rocked her doll to sleep.  In the evenings, after Mam and Da kissed her and Bain goodnight, she’d sneak to the railing of the loft and watch them, as they sat in front of the cookstove that kept them all warm.

“Sing for me,” Da would say softly. “You know how much I love your voice.”  Sometimes Da would sing, too, and their voices blended to wrap the whole house in a safe, warm cocoon.  “When I get married,” she whispered to her doll, “I’m going to have a man just like Da.”

Then Mam and Da told her they she was going to have a new little brother or sister.  Sigrid was thrilled; a baby was much more fun than a doll!  But Mam became pale, and tired all the time.

Suddenly, she was gone, and it was Da who was pale and tired all the time.  

The day after Mam died, Sigrid slipped outside, and quietly dropped her doll into the water, and watched it floated away, along with the rest of her happiness.  

She told no one, and Da was too full of grief to notice.  Not even Auntie Hil asked about it, because there was a brand-new baby, who desperately needed milk.  Hannah found another nursing mother, and while it would have been easier to just let the baby stay with the other family, but after a few weeks of hardly any sleep, they managed to get Tilda to tolerate goat’s milk.  She was carried home, and Da could sleep, though for the first year, he clung to the baby like a lifeline, and Sigrid understood; if he had held on to her or Bain like that, it would have been distressing, but Tilda and Da both needed it.

 

 

Since he had gotten remarried, Da had blossomed.  The layers of sadness, worry, and exhaustion that had dogged his every step was gone, and this new father had emerged.  In some ways he was a stranger to her; she hadn’t been used to seeing him smile and laugh so openly like this, or his greenish eyes dance, and he whistled, now. 

A weight had lifted for herself, too. 

Sigrid had been an excellent student, when she attended school in the Woodland Realm, and for the two years after in Dale.

Thanks to Mam, Da, and Auntie Hil, she was given the best education that could be had in Laketown, though supplies such as paper and ink were in short supply.  Books – new books – were a rarity; the few she could get her hands were devoured until they were almost memorized.   Learning was a joy, and when she discovered all the treasures in her new Ada’s library…  Well, it had only been one of the joys that he had brought into her life.   

 

When she turned eighteen, Da urged her to take the entire summer off, to do as she pleased.”

“Think of it as a reward for helping me all those years,” he told her.  “You’ve never had a carefree childhood, so this is my gift to you.  You’ll never have another chance.”

It was surprisingly easy, and she had enjoyed it, but the first day she reported for duty at the Healing Hall, her stomach quivered with excitement.  Lord Elrond was going to be one of her instructors!

At first, she had believed that Elves used healing magic for everything, but when she helped in the tents after the Battle, she quickly learned differently.  Elves were impervious to disease, but not to injury or poison.  They benefitted from herbal remedies like Men or Dwarves, but their dosages and mixtures must be different.

The Elf Lord did not go easy on her; he assigned passages in his books for her to commit to memory then rigorously quizzed her, corrected her, and insisted that she not only learn human medicine, but many of the procedures Elves use.  She was surprised at how often these treatments were the same.  

“And what is the dosage for Men?” Elrond would ask.  “And for Elves?  Dwarves?”

Sigrid was determined to take as much advantage of his tutelage as possible, and constantly asked him questions.  He smiled and chided her one evening, while the family had gathered.

“My dear child, always remember how important balance is to a Healer.  We see people at their most vulnerable, and that is a powerful thing.  It is rewarding, yes, but it is also draining.  Take time every day to feed your heart and soul, Sigrid.  Only this will keep you strong.”

 

After Lord Elrond left, Elénaril took over as her main instructor, along with Hannah and Daeron.  She worked from the moment she arrived, until nearly supper, and was in charge of the Hall’s herbal gardens.

Sigrid knew little of plants or planting, but with Rhian’s help, and a book from Ada’s library, they planned the space to best accommodate each plant’s need for the sun, and all this week, Sigrid had been busy with her hands in the dirt planting Orris root, for pain, and covering some of the other beds.

Tonight, her back was a bit sore, and she couldn’t get comfortable.  Frustrated, she sat up with a sigh and reached for her robe and slippers and went out. After using the necessary, Sigrid thought she might pop down into the kitchens and make herself a cup of chamomile tea; if she cleaned up meticulously, Cook shouldn’t mind.

 

Cup in hand, she blew over the steaming liquid as she reached the bottom of the Grand Staircase, looked and saw two figures whispering as they headed toward the Royal Wing.

What was Daeron doing here?

Careful not to spill, she hurried up the steps.  Light filtered through the open door of Da and Ada’s chambers, and Da sounded upset.

Oh, stars…

Did something happen?

Her heart thumped against her ribs, as she hurried to the end of the hall, through the doors and past the chairs by the fire.

Dior was standing at the foot of the bed, Da was sitting up looking over to his right with a concerned look on his face, as Daeron was leaned over Ada

The cup smashed to the floor, forgotten. Her hands flew to her mouth as she screamed.

All went grey, then black.

 

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

For the third time in two hours, Bard was woken by his husband’s restless tossing and turning.  Sighing, he rolled over and rested his head on Thranduil’s shoulder, but pulled back when he flinched, and inhaled sharply through his teeth.

His eyes flew open wide and he sat up.  “What’s wrong, love?  Did I hurt you?”

The Elf grimaced.  “I know you did not mean to, Meleth nîn.  It is nothing to worry about.”  His voice was stiff, and he moved his jaw as little as possible.

“Stop,” the Bowman said, firmly.  “You clearly are in pain, and we need to get to the bottom of it!”  He tilted his head and scrutinized him.  “It’s your face, isn’t it?  What’s going on?”

“It is nothing.  I was not looking where I was going this afternoon, and bumped into the doorway to my study.  It happens, sometimes.”

“But you told me your Elven eyesight compensates for such things; how did this happen?”

“I have long made it a habit to enter or exit a room close to the right side of the doorway, or if we are together, I feel better if you are walking on my left.”

“I know that, and I make sure I do,” Bard’s eyebrows lowered and pulled together.  “So, what happened?”

“I was reading a paper, as I walked, which is my own fault for doing so.  Most of the time, it does not bother me, but I must have done more damage than I originally thought.  Please; do not be too concerned.”

“I’ll be the judge of that; what do you normally do for such things?”

“It lasts for a few days, and I usually have to take a bit of poppy juice in some willow bark tea.”

“You mean, there isn’t any kind of spell that can help?” Bard demanded.  “Didn’t Elrond examine you when he was here?”

“He and Galadriel did so when I was in Lothlórien.” The Elvenking sighed, and carefully licked his lips.  “They both agreed things have not gotten any worse, but they will not get any better; not until I go to Valinor.  I was burned by a creature of Melkor, Bard; not even their combined powers can cure those injuries.”

“All right,” Bard took his hand and kissed it.  “We’ll get you some help.”

“I had planned on summoning Daeron in the morning—”

“Well, I’m not going to let you just lie here suffering.”  Bard slid over the side of the bed and pulled on his pajamas and robe.  “I’m getting him now.”

“But Meleth nîn…” Thranduil protested weakly.

“No arguments,” he shook his head and went the door of their bedchamber.

Captain Dior was on duty, and he quickly approached the King of Dale.  “Are you well, Hîr nîn?”

“I am, but Thranduil is not.  I need you to go get Daeron and bring him here.”

The Elf’s eyes widened in alarm.  “Ai gorgor!” and raced into the bedroom, with Bard following behind.  “Chín harn, Aran nîn?”  His hand was reflexively on his sword hilt.

Thranduil sat up, and raised his hand to calm his guard.  “I iaur harn o Rurlug lhûg, Hest.  I am in no danger, but my husband would like to have me seen immediately.”

Bard met Dior’s eyes with determination.  “He will be seen, right away, and no arguments.”

“Yes, My Lord,” the Elf bowed and saluted.  “I will send someone immediately.”

 

After the guard left, Bard went over to Thranduil’s side of the bed.  “Let me help you get some night clothes on, love.  Or at least a robe.”

“I can do this myself; I am not crippled,” the Elf snapped.  Then he closed his eyes and sighed.  “Forgive me, Meleth nîn.  I do not mean it.”

“I know you’re in pain.  Just let me fuss; it makes me feel better.”

“Very well,” Thranduil inched forward gingerly to sit up straighter.  “Please just give me the robe and bottoms; it will be better if I do not have a shirt.”

“Sounds good.  Let’s just get you up for a minute, and we’ll put this on,” Bard grabbed his hands and pulled him up, and helped him dress.  “There you go; let’s get you back into bed…” he sat the Elf back down against the headboard and pulled the covers up to his hips.  “Better?”

“Thank you,” Thranduil said, in a thin voice.  “I… it is better if I do not talk.”

“Then don’t.” Bard sat on the edge of the bed to face him, and took his hand.  “I have some questions, so just give my hand a squeeze if the answer is yes, all right?’

The Elvenking’s responded by tightening his grip.

“Good.  Now, you said this has happened before?”

Yes.

“Often?”

No response, as the Elf leaned his head back. 

“Just every year or so?”

Nothing.

Bard chuckled.  “Every couple of years?  Every couple of decades?  It must be, since you’ve never been like this while we’ve been together.”

Yes.

“Right,” he blew out his breath.  “Can I get you anything to drink?”

Thranduil shook his head ever-so slightly, but with pleading eyes.

“You’d rather just wait for Daeron?”

Yes.

Bard lifted his hand and kissed his palm.  “I hate seeing you like this; the last time you were sick, I was laid up in a body cast right beside you.  You’re always the strong one, not me.”

Thranduil shook their joined hands back and forth with a fierce expression, then pointed to the sketch paper on the table by the fireplace.

“What?  You want to write?”

Yes.

“Great idea; we can do that.”  Bard went to their chairs and picked up the papers, grabbed a book to offer a surface and one of Thranduil’s pencils. 

“Nope; too thick…” he fumbled through the small bundle and picked up the one with the finest point.  “That’s better.”

After taking it over to his husband, he waited patiently while the Elvenking rapidly wrote out a message.  Then he handed it to Bard with an earnest expression.

How many times did I cry in your arms in those weeks before we were married?

“All right; we help each other, then.”  Bard impulsively lifted his hand to brush away the hair from the Elf’s face, but then stopped and curled his fingers back.  “I’m sorry, love, but you’ve got a lock of hair resting on your cheek.  Is it alright if I take it off?”

 

At Thranduil’s nod, he leaned forward, and carefully caught it along his hairline, slowly pulled it away from his cavernous wound, and brushed it away from his forehead.  Then he caressed the right side of his husband’s face.  “Daeron will be here soon, and we’ll get you fixed up.”  A thought struck Bard.  “Can Elves heal themselves with a spell?”

Thranduil leaned into his hand and sighed sadly.  Bard could feel from their bond that his touch was making the Elf feel better, so he kept it there. 

Then another thought struck Bard; something Daeron had told him after Alun’s and Rhys’s aunt killed herself during the Long Winter:

“The hands of the King are the hands of a Healer, and so shall the rightful King be known…”

And didn’t Elrond say something about his ancestry include an Elf? [1]

Bard closed his eyes, took a deep breath and sent as much comfort to his husband as he could.  He pictured the pain, like waves of heat in the summer, and imagined it cooling off and floating away.  Relax, he silently told the muscles of Thranduil’s jaw and neck.

A moan of relief reached his ears, and he could feel his husband sink back into his pillows. 

“Did that really help?” Bard asked him.

Thranduil put his right hand over the one on his face and squeezed it.  “Yes,” he whispered, not moving his lips.

“No talking, love.  Just stay as relaxed as possible and we’ll think about something else.”  He paused, then said, “we could talk about when Tilda was a baby.  Would you like that?”

A squeeze.

“Did I ever tell you how she got the nickname ‘Little Bean?’  Well, it was right after she was born, and she was a good, quiet baby; nothing like Sigrid was,” he chuckled.  “Bless her little heart…  maybe the Valar knew another screamer would send us all over the edge; I don’t know.  Or maybe it was because when she would start to fuss, Hilda came over and showed us all how to wrap her up into a blanket and make her feel safe.  She called it ‘swaddling,’ but whatever it was, she loved it.  Her favorite was a little brown blanket made from one of my old shirts, and it was Bain who said she looked like a little bean, from Auntie Hil’s soup!  And it stuck,” he shrugged.  [2]

“I love all my kids, you know that, but I needed Tilda…” he swallowed.  “I don’t want to think what that first year would have been like had she died with her mother.  Even then, it took me a long time to feel like life could still be good.  It was when she was almost a year old, and loved sea gulls.  I think the first time I laughed again after losing Mattie was when she pointed to them and said, “Gaw!  Gaw!” his lips formed a smile at the thought. 

“Sigrid was always smart as a whip, you know.  She walked at nine months; I don’t know when Elflings do that, but that’s early for a human baby.  It was only a step or two, but you could have knocked us over with a feather; she just pulled herself up by the chair then off she went.  She talked early, too.

“Bain didn’t walk until a few weeks after he turned a year old, and Mattie was getting anxious.  Enid stopped by – she used to help watch the kids, if Hilda and Percy were busy – and said not to worry; when he finally decides to walk, he’ll just take off.   And that’s what he did!  He just let go of the furniture, and went clear across the room to his Mam.”

The Elf didn’t smile, but leaned into his hand again, with bright, affectionate eyes. 

They both turned their heads when at the sharp tap on the door.

“Come in!” Bard called.

Daeron entered, carrying his leather satchel.  “I am told your scars pain you, My Lord?”

“More than he’s letting on,” Bard said, as he looked at his husband in concern.  “He smacked his face today, and never said a word about it.”

The Elven Healer set his bag on the bottom of the bed, and stepped over to the King.  “We had better take a look.  Please sit up straight and lean forward,” he said, as he slipped the robe from Thranduil’s shoulders.   “Are you ready, Aran nîn?”  With a slight nod, the Elvenking leaned forward, his eyes closed in concentration. 

Bard grasped the bedpost and licked his lips nervously.  He'd seen those scars a few times since they met, but they upset him more then he'd ever let on.  Just the thought of his Elf in agony, with no real way to help him, tugged at his heart.

Slowly, the skin of Thranduil’s cheek disappeared, revealing the cavernous wounds, and the Bowman swallowed hard, as his throat began to hurt, but when the burns on his neck were revealed, he couldn’t stop the gasp the left his body.

Instantly Thranduil looked up, his one grey-blue eye, and one milky white were bulging, both in pain and in humiliation.  A small whimper escaped, and through their bond, Bard could feel a terrible pulling in his chest.

“Oh, no, no,” Bard quickly went over to sit on his right, and took his hand.  “I’m not disgusted, I promise.  I just can’t stand to see you in such pain, love.” He kissed the palm, and rubbed it between his own.  “It’ll be all right, once we’ll get you taken care of.”

“Please, Hîr nîn; you must calm yourself,” Daeron told Thranduil. “I must closely examine you, and you will do better if you can relax, as much as you can.”

“Deep breaths, love,” Bard said, in a soothing voice.  “Focus on me...”

Just then, there was a flurry of footsteps, and Sigrid ran in, holding a cup.

“Darling, it’s not—“

The girl white as a ghost, and screamed.

“Oh, shit!!”  Bard scrambled off the bed, just as Dior darted over to catch the girl, as she fainted. 

“Sssigg —” Thranduil tried to say, but pain was too great.  “Ahhh!”

“Are you all right, love?” Bard called over to him.

“I have him,” Daeron said.  “Please, My Lord; you must calm yourself.  I cannot let you put the glamour back up, until I finish checking your scars for injuries.  I will be as swift as I can…”

Bard helped Dior put Sigrid down on the rug before the fireplace and they put her feet on one of the chairs.  He had just put a pillow under her head, when several guards rushed into the room.

Rahlen and Elladan entered, followed by Ivran, all ready to draw their weapons. 

“We heard screaming, My Lor—” Rahlen began, then stopped.

“I know of this,” Elladan told his colleague.  “Say no more.  Do you need help, Daeron?”

“If you want to help, tend to Sigrid. The rest of you: keep everyone out!”

But it was too late.  Tauriel and Legolas had arrived, along with Bain and Thangon, who immediately jumped up on the bed and put his head in Thranduil’s lap, whining his sympathy.

Bain gasped.  Tauriel blinked rapidly, and somehow managed to have the wherewithal to grab Bain and turn him around.  “I do not know what is going on, but he Daeron is tending to him, and we will—”

Ada?”

Tilda was there, clutching Charlotte.

Her eyes were wide with shock, before her face disintegrated and she started to cry.  Legolas dashed over to pick her up and turn her away.

“Do not worry, Gwathel,” he murmured and stroked the back of her head.

Thranduil turned ashen, as he tried to reach for his Tithen Pen.

Tilda’s response was to inhale and scream.  “Ada’s dying!  ADAAAAAAAAA!”

 “Bloody fuck!” Bard gritted his teeth.  “Everyone, get out of here!” he bellowed.  “Now, dammit!” 

 

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Chín harn, Aran nîn? – Are you hurt, My King?

I iaur harn o Rurlug lhûg, Hest - It is the old wound from the Dragon Rurlug, Captain.

Lasbelin – “Autumn.”  Tauriel named her horse after the reddish-gold leaves in the fall.

Mistanâr – Wandering Mouse.”  Vildan’s Grullo-colored mare.

Nuitha-luith – Spell to prevent female animals from becoming pregnant.  (lit. “to prevent from coming to completion-spell”)

Díheno nin, Hiril nîn – Forgive me, My Lady

NOTES:

 

[1] Legolas, Ion nîn, Ch. 30: https://archiveofourown.org/works/17088320/chapters/45534256

[2] Ibid.  Ch. 11: https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/28410648

Chapter Text

 

BEGINNING NOTE: 

Do you guys remember last year’s Holiday Story, “Performance Review,” when I mentioned to the gang that they had “Readers?" 

Well, last week, Thranduil and Bard asked for another meeting, and they had more than a few demands complaints questions....

“Why is it these people only want to talk to you?  Why do they not want to speak to us?” the Elvenking demanded. 

“I agree,” Bard nodded.  “This doesn’t seem fair that you get all the credit and accolades, when we are the ones who have to act out whatever drama your sick mind can come up with!”

“Fair enough,” I spread my hands outward. “What do you suggest?”

“I would like to meet with these…” Thranduil paused, searching for the right word, “I do not know what you call them…”

“Readers?  Fans?” I suggested, “Angels from Heaven who grace me with their time and effort?”

“Yep. Those ones,” Bard leaned forward and clasped his hands together.  “These people should have a chance to meet us and ask us questions, don’t you think?”

“You mean, like a sort of ‘Comic Con?’”

“What is this… Comic thing?”

“It’s a conference where fans gather to meet up with each other, and meet their favorite actors and celebrities.  The actors who play the characters sit up on a stage, while the fans – and some like to dress up – take turns asking them questions and such—”

“What kind of questions?” Bard asked warily.

“Oh, just about any kind, really,” I answered.  “They ask about the difficulties they might have participating in the stories, or what they might have been thinking, or what helps them.  Sometimes they even ask who does their hair—”

“I would be happy to talk about my hair, and my skin regime,” Thranduil volunteered.

“I thought you might,” I smiled into my fingers.

“I like the sound of that,” Bard considered.  “But if all the children will be there, ask the Readers to keep their questions rated for a Teen and Up Audience, please.  I don’t want to traumatize Tilda.”

“I can ask, but you know I’ve gotten many compliments on “The Elf Thing.”

“And we are most grateful,” the Elvenking’s eyes brightened, “but reluctantly, I must side with my husband.  None of our children want to hear about our sex life.”  

“So… you’ll tell them, then?” Bard’s eyebrows lifted as he pressed the subject.

“I’ll tell them,” I promised.

“Do you think they will want to do this?”  Thranduil’s eyes narrowed.

“Why not?  They’ll get a free trip to Dale, and I think they’d have grand time!”

 “We could set something up in the ballroom here in the Castle,” Bard offered, “or, if there are a lot of participants, we could go over to the Great Hall.  I’ll bet the folks of Dale would bring a Pot-Luck Supper for the readers, too.”

“It would be a great party!”  I clasped my hands eagerly. “You’ll have to send a message to Gandalf.  If he can arrange for a portal for so many people, we’ll do it!”

“Ma no!” Thranduil beamed.  “Please extend our invitation as soon as possible, and give them a forum to submit their questions…”

“I could ask them to leave them in the comments, or to sent them via a Private Message on tumblr—”

“Tumblr?”

“It’s a social media website, and there are tons of pictures of you and Bard on it.  I am BeulahMae on there, and I’ll give them the URL https://www.tumblr.com/tagged/beulahmae

“Do that,” Bard ordered.  “I think it’ll be fun, and the kids would love it!  Hilda would love to meet them, too.”

“I’m due to post another chapter today, so I’ll let them know right away,” I grinned.  “In fact, I’ve got to get back to it.”  I rose from the conference table, and slid my laptop in my bag.  “Gotta run, guys.  See ya soon!”

And so, per the King’s instruction, I am asking all of my readers to think about what they might want to ask.  You can also heap praise on them (Lord Thranduil particularly wanted me to stress this point) and if you come along, there will be food, and lots of wine and Ale. 

Oh, and Tilda just told me she could be in charge of giving you all a tour, Lynne and Mona said they’ll have a special Yule Sale on their fabrics, and the Elves might let you watch them spar and shoot!  Sound like fun?

Every character in Two Thrones will be participating—Men, Elves and Dwarves, so don’t be shy.  If you need ideas, each part of Two Thrones has a character list.

I really hope you all want to do this, because I’d hate to have to come back to these guys and tell them the party’s off.  Tilda will start to cry, and her Ada will get mad, call his guards, and have me arrested, Gandalf will get involved and probably turn me into something unnatural, and it’ll all just turn into this whoooole thing… 🙄🙄🙄

 

~ ~ ~ ~

 

 

“When the rain is blowing in your face

And the whole world is on your case

I could offer you a warm embrace

To make you feel my love

 

When the evening shadows and the stars appear

And there is no one there to dry your tears

Oh, I hold you for a million years

To make you feel my love…”

 

To Make You Feel My Love, by Bob Dylan

 

 

 

City of Dale, 30th of November 2944 T.A.

“Bloody fuck!” Bard gritted his teeth.  “Everyone except Daeron get out of here!” he bellowed.  “Now, dammit!  Legolas!” he called over to his blonde stepson.  “Tell them as soon as I get things straightened out in here, I’ll come and talk to you all.  Don’t say anything until I get there; just keep telling them it’ll be all right, do you understand?”

“Yes, Bard!”  Tilda was in Legolas’s arms, and screams only got louder.  She reached out both hands to Bard as the blonde Elf took her out. 

“You heard your Da; he will explain.  We must go and let them tend to Ada.”  Tauriel had to put her arms around Bain’s chest and drag him away, kicking and screaming.   Beside Bard, Sigrid was starting to stir with a soft moan.

“Elladan,” he hissed to the dark-haired Elf beside him.  “Pick up Sigrid and take them all to the Sitting Room.  And for fuck’s sake, somebody go get Galion; we need him here, now!”

After everyone exited, Bard closed the chamber doors and leaned his forehead against it for just a moment, to pray for strength before returning into the room.  Thranduil was moaning softly as Daeron probed his face.

 “I am sorry to cause you distress,” Daeron remained matter-of-fact, but his voice carried a tinge of sympathy, “but I think I see what happened.  When you hit the corner of the wood doorframe, a tendon near your jaw was torn.  That is why it hurts to talk.  Thankfully, it is something I can fix, but I am going to have to place my fingers on it.  It will feel much worse, before it feels better, I am afraid.”

The Elven Healer took several deep breaths, then carefully placed his fingers on the injury, and Thranduil cried out in agony.  Tears ran down his face, unchecked, and when the salty tears hit his burns, he screamed.

“Here, love,” Bard rejoined them and grabbed the belt from his robe, and gently dabbed the skin near his injured eye. 

Softly, Daeron began to sing, until the light appeared.  Instinctively, Bard placed his hand over Daeron’s wrist and gave them both all the aid he could.  He closed his eyes and found himself joining in.  Though he did not know the words, he hummed along, surprised that he could follow the melody.

After several moments, he could “see” the extent of the damage, and “watched” the tissue rejoin and become one again.  Daeron carefully checked every bit of exposed flesh, to make sure all was as healed as it could be. It wasn’t much, but when they finished, they left Thranduil in much better condition than before.

For the very first time, Bard found himself looking forward to their voyage to Valinor.  The idea of his love living with all this, for even one more day, broke his heart.   

 

After Daeron’s song was finished, the Elf picked up a glass jar and opened it.  “This will help numb the pain.  Master Óin makes sure I keep a good supply on hand for just such an emergency.” He placed a thick layer of ointment over his cheek, then said, “All right; you can put it back up again.”

Thranduil concentrated, but he was too upset, and another tormented whimper escaped him.

“Come on, love.  Calm down,” Bard grabbed both his hands.  “I’ll help.”  The Bowman closed his eyes and sent as much as he could through his Fëa, offering strength and comfort and control.  At last, the Elvenking managed it, before collapsing into Bard’s arms, keening softly.

“Shhh…” Bard rubbed back and held him.  “The worst is over, now.  You were so brave.”

“Between the ointment and the glamour, he should be feeling much better in a few minutes,” Daeron told Bard, as he washed his hands.  He stepped over to the case at the foot of the bed.  “I know Cook keeps a supply of Willow Bark on hand, but here is some Poppy Juice.  Place three drops in his tea four times a day for the next week.  He must absolutely abstain from any alcohol, and make sure he drinks plenty of water.  He is to stay in bed for the next two days, and rest.  I will stop by tomorrow – or this evening, rather – and check him, but for now, I would like him to get some sleep.”

Thranduil had calmed down some, but lay limp in Bard’s arms.  “Are you going to use a spell on him?” the Bowman asked.

“Yes, but I am also going to give him a strong dose tonight.  Daeron explained.  “Injuries from Dragon’s blood are much like the sting from a Spider, or some poisoned blades: they ‘haunt’ the victim’s dreams, for want of a better word.  After such an upset, I think he needs both.”

“Do whatever it takes to get him feeling better, yeah?” he stroked Thranduil’s hair.  “You hear that?”

Thranduil nodded his head, and leaned it on Bard’s shoulder and began to cry.

“Oh, no!  Are you still in pain?”

 Thranduil shook his head and managed to say, “Did you see their faces, Bard? I f-frightened our children…” he sobbed out several rapid words in Sindarin. “They are repulsed by the sight of me!”

“Hey, hey, none of that…” Bard turned and placed a finger under his husband’s chin and lifted it to meet his eyes, now both a beautiful blue-grey.  “They’re just shocked, that”s all, but we’ll explain, and it’ll be fine.  They love you, Thranduil.  They always will, you’ll see.”

“I think we should give him his medicine,” Daeron said quietly.  “He will feel a bit better after he sleeps.”  He offered a spoonful of the deep red syrup.  “Two of these, please.”

Thranduil swallowed the red liquid, and grimaced at the taste.  After downing a glass of water, Bard helped him out of his robe and settled him back, as he pulled up the covers. 

“Get yourself settled, and get some rest; I will see to the family.  It’s going to be all right, love; I promise.”

The Elvenking nodded weakly.  “Please… tell them I am so sorry.”

“There is nothing for you to be sorry about.  “Close your eyes, now.” Bard leaned over and kissed his lips softly.  “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Daeron laid his hand on Thranduil’s forehead and softly sang the Elvenking to sleep.  When his breaths were slow and even, Bard’s shoulders fell as he let out a huge sigh.

“Oh, what a fucking mess!  Could that have gone any worse?”

“I doubt it,” Daeron lips pursed in sympathy.  “I will stay with him while you speak to your family.  I wish you luck, Mellon nîn.”

“Thanks for everything,” Bard clapped his hand on the Elf’s shoulder, and squeezed.  “This means a lot.”

 “If it helps, I will speak to the children as well.”

“If we need you, we’ll call, but in the meantime, you look after him.   That’s the most important thing.”

 

Once he left their bedchamber, Bard sighed, as he heard sobs coming from the Sitting Room.  Oh no… 

He hurried into the room, where lamps and candles were lit, bathing the room in a soft calming glow.   Percy was sitting next to Sigrid and Tilda was in Hilda’s lap, as she helped the little girl catch her breath from screaming in terror.

“We heard the commotion,” she explained to Bard, as she soothed the little girl.  “Come on, Beanie.  It’s all right, now.”

Tilda shrieked.  “S-Somebody hurt Ada!”

“Settle down, baby,” Bard went and picked her up, and laid her head on his shoulder.  “Legolas told you it was going to be all right, yeah?  We’re going to tell you the whole story, but I want to wait until Uncle Galion gets here.”

“Will he die?”

“No, darling,” he looked over her shoulder at Tauriel, who was comforting Bain.  “Are you all right?”  She looked pale herself.  “You didn’t know about this?”

The Elleth shook her head and remained silent.

“What’s going on, Da?” Sigrid demanded.

“All this happened to Ada a long time ago, and Uncle Galion was there, so it’s better if you hear it from him.”

“You have sent for him?” Tauriel asked.

“I have, and he should be here any minute.  In the meantime, lets all get you something to drink, yeah?” he eyed the Elven guards and gave them a nod.  “Wine for the adults, I think, and get some juice for the kids.”

“Right away, My Lord,” Elladan bowed and left.

A swish of fabric rustled around silent feet, as Galion ran in the room, closely followed by Rôgon.  “Bard!  What happened?”

“Oh, praise the Stars,” Hilda sighed.  “Let me explain…”  she took the Elven Aide by the elbow and went out into the hall to whisper.

Rôgon looked around.  “Is there anything I can do?”

“Just listen.  You’re family, Rôg, so you should know, too.” Bard rubbed Tilda’s back as he looked around the room.  “Now, I don’t normally allow any ‘Kinging’ up here in these rooms, but I’m about to make an exception.  What you all are about to hear is Under Official Seal, is that understood?  No one is to speak of this except other members of the family, is that clear?”  Bard met the eyes of everyone in the room, and made sure they responded.

“Yes, Da.”  “Yes, Bard.”  “Okay.”

“What about you, Beanie?” Bard lifted her head.  “We’re going to tell you what happened, but you won’t say anything?”

“Uh huh,” Tilda nodded her head, snuffling.  “But will Ada always be sore like that?”

“It’s part of the story and you’ll understand in a few minutes.  Now, let’s sit down and settle ourselves, and let Uncle Galion tell you, yeah?”

“Okay.”

Bard sat down in his chair and kept her in his lap, while Galion re-entered the room and took Thranduil’s chair. 

“Best to start at the beginning, I think,” Bard suggested.  “If they’re going to learn about this, I want them to know just what Ada sacrificed for his people.”

Rôgon came to sit on the arm of his chair and put his arm over the back, as Galion crossed his legs and took a deep breath.  “Very well,” the Aide began.  “I am sorry you all had to find this out in this manner, but I assure you, your Ada has borne these since before the beginning of the Third age.  You all know of the War of the Last Alliance, yes?”

“We studied it in school, when we lived at the Palace,” Bain offered.  “Ada was there, right?”

“Yes, and had he not been so brave, the entire Allied Army might have perished.”  Galion took a breath.  “You see, your Adar received those wounds when he killed a Dragon.”

Bain sat up straighter.  “It was from the Dragon?  He told me a little bit about that, but I had no idea—” 1

“You knew?” Sigrid asked him, shocked.

“Well, only that he’d killed it, but he said he couldn’t talk about it.  I had a nightmare at the Palace before Tilda got sick, remember?  That’s when he told me, but he asked me not to say anything.”

“Your brother is right, hênig; Thranduil cannot talk about it, and I know you do not want to upset him, so you must never ask him, yes?”

Nods all the way around.

“It was over a year before the end of the war, and the Woodland Army was facing a horde of Orcs, when suddenly the enemy fled the field—”

“Why?” Tilda asked, her head leaning on Bard’s chest.

“Because they knew what was coming.  You see, Sauron had released Rurlug, Terror of the Sky from Barad-dûr, to destroy everyone on that field.  Your Ada saw it, and…”  he told the story of how Thranduil ordered his men to hold Feren back, climbed that hill and was prepared sacrificed his life to kill it.  He told them how the two swords shone as the Elvenking did a forward somersault and drove them into his gut, then was consumed by fire.  2

 

“Feren broke free from his restraints and was the first to reach your Adar, thinking he was dead.  By some miracle, he had survived, and we gave thanks many times that Lord Elrond himself could tend to him.  Even so, it took months; thankfully Thranduil was asleep for most of it, or he would have been driven mad from the pain.  The burns that covered most of his body were healed, but Thranduil had gotten som Dragon’s blood on his face and neck, and try as he might, nothing could help. It was Elrond who taught him how to keep up his glamour, and that was an arduous process.  It covers those terrible wounds, yes, but it also keeps most of the pain away, so he can live.”

“They put him to sleep for months?” Sigrid’s jaw dropped.

“Six months, to be exact.  Commander Feren took over leadership of the Woodland Army, and even after Thranduil woke up, he was never well enough to join the fighting.”

“What did he do, then?” Bain’s face was stricken.

“Kings Gil-Galad and Amroth, paid homage to your father, as well as King Elendil, and his son, Prince Isildur.  They all knew Thranduil had saved the Alliance, and honored his sacrifice.  All the Kings realized their only chance at victory was to work together, so they came to him in the Healing Tent, while he recuperated.”

“And we won.” Bain smiled.

“True, but not without great loss. Gil-Galad and Elendil were both killed, and it was only a last- minute stroke of fortune that allowed Isildur to pick up his father’s broken sword and cut the ring off Sauron’s hand.” Galion said, with a sigh.  “Remember, Thranduil’s father, your grandfather Oropher, also lost his life in that War.”

“He must have been really sad,” Tilda’s eyes filled.

“Oh, he was, Little One; your Ada loved his father.  Soon after, your Adar and the Army rode home and mourned their dead. Thranduil worked hard to help the Woodland Realm heal, and some years later he met and married Queen Mírelen.  He was very happy, for a long time, and when Legolas was born, he rejoiced in his new son.”

”Did she know about Ada’s wounds?” Sigrid asked.

”She did, and she completely accepted them, much like your Da did, when he first saw them.”

”When was that?” Bain eyed him, brows lifted in surprise.

”Before we were married,” Bard answered. “But I’m glad to know Mírelen understood, too.”

“But then she died, like my Mam,” Tilda frowned.  “And he was sad again.”

“He was, yes,” Galion told them all.  “It took all of Ada’s effort not to fade from his grief, and though he did his best, he was deeply affected by the loss of his wife.”

“He was,” Legolas said, softly, as he and Tauriel’s eyes met.

“Da was sad, too,” Sigrid reminded Tilda, “but then he and Ada met.  We have a huge family now, with Legolas, and Tauriel and Uncle Galion.  Now we have Uncle Rôg, too!”

“I am glad to be here with you all,” Rôgon smiled as he patted Galion’s shoulder.

“And don’t forget Auntie Hil and Uncle Percy!” the little girl sat up straighter as the worry left her face.  “And the animals, too.”

“That’s right Beanie.” Bard tousled her hair.

“But you can’t fix Ada’s face?” Tmilda’s eyes were wide.  “Ada saved everybody, and he won’t ever get all the way better?”

“No, Tithen Pen; I am afraid he will not,” Galion sighed.  “That is the nature of a sacrifice, is it not?  Oropher taught your Ada that he must always be ready to do what is necessary to serve his people.”

“And he sure did, didn’t he?” Bain shook his head.  “He thought he was going to die, but he just did it anyway.”

“That is true, Bain,” Galion told the boy.  “But you must know that your Adar did not do this brave deed just out of duty.  He did it because he loved our home and our people.  Thranduil knew that if the dragon had lived, the Woodland Realm would eventually be no more.”

 “I saw it happen,” Legolas said softly.  “Galadriel showed it to me in her Mirror one night, and I could hardly bear it.”  He looked over at Galion.  “You were there with him, every step of the way, Adanneth; I saw you help him, as he recovered.” 3

“Yes,” the Aide nodded, and grasped the Rôg’s hand that rested on his shoulder.  “He earned the love and respect of those in the Alliance, and that is why he is held in such high esteem by rulers of all the lands.  And those of our people who were dubious about their young King, grew to love him for his sacrifice.”

“So, you’ve seen these scars?” Bain asked.

“From the first day, yes.  I was with him every step of the way, when he had to learn to do many things over again.”

“And the scars don’t scare you?” Tilda lifted her head from Bard’s chest.

“Not at all, child.  Those scars are the proof of Ada’s love for the Free People of Middle Earth, that he was willing to die to save us.”

“I’ve seen them, too.” Hilda said.  “Your Da took me aside and let me in on it, so if something happens, I could help.”  4

The woman eyed Tauriel.  “You didn’t know?”

“No,” the Elleth said softly.  I had heard of the Dragon, of course, but why did no one tell me?”

“Because your Ada was afraid, Gwinïg,” Galion said.  “He struggled hard to be present for you and Legolas, and he was afraid you would turn away.  He loved you enough to spare you that burden.”

“So…” Tilda sat up and wiped her eyes.  “Daeron can make him feel better?”

“Yes, love, but only so much.  But that’s why he needs us,” Bard ran his fingers through her hair.  “How do you feel about all this?”

“I feel sad for Ada,” she wrinkled her face.  “It’s not right he has to hurt like that.”

“Such things are never fair, I know.” Bard told her. “Do you remember Alis and Dafina’s Grandad?  He lost his leg, and that wasn’t fair either, but they made him wooden one and he gets around pretty good, doesn’t he?”

“So, that… gla—”

“’Glamour,’” Galion smiled.

“That glamour is like Gruffudd’s wooden leg, so he can do things?”

“That’s right.  And now I want to talk to you all about what happened a few minutes ago,” Bard shifted in his chair and leaned forward.  “What Ada did was brave, right?”

“You were brave,” Bain said, with wide eyes.  “You killed Smaug, too!”

“I did, with your help, but we were all lucky, weren’t we?  All of us.  We could have ended up dead, or scarred like Ada, but we don’t have that, do we?” 

“Oh, stars…” Sigrid started to cry.  “I was awful to him, Da!  I screamed and… he must be devastated!  It’s just that I thought—”

“I know; you all thought someone had entered the Castle and attacked him.”  Bard leaned forward.  “But right now, you should know Ada is terrified.”

“Why?”

Bard adjusted Tilda in his lap, looked around the room again.  “We need to put ourselves in Ada’s place, and ask ourselves what he needs from us.  If you were him, what would you be feeling right now?”

“I’d be scared you all might not want me, anymore,” Bain said.  “That I’d be too ugly.”

“So, what should we do about it?” Bard prodded.

“Show him he’s still Ada,” the boy said. “Make sure he knows it doesn’t make any difference.”

“We all should do that,” Sigrid agreed.

Ada stayed up all night with me when I was sick,” Tilda said.  “I even threw up, but he didn’t get mad or anything.  He just helped me get clean.  Then he helped me with my exercises and made sure I got better.  I want to help him back.”

“That’s my sweet girl,” Bard smiled and booped her nose.  “Remember what Galion said; Ada can’t talk about the Dragon’s attack.  So, if you have questions, ask me or Galion privately, and we’ll answer them.  So, what do you say, gang; suppose we prove to him these scars don’t matter, and we love him just as much?”

After there was agreement all the way around, Bard got up, and settled Tilda against his hip. “We’ll do that in the morning, then.  In the meantime, how about we all try to get some sleep?  I don’t know about you, but I’m tired.”

“I will come with you, for a moment, at least,” Galion stood.  “I need to see him.”

“Absolutely,” Bard put his free hand on the Elf’s back.  “You go on ahead, I’m going to say goodnight here.”

Hilda kissed Bard and Tilda.  “I hate how they found out, but it’ll be better this way, I think.”

“I think so, too, Hil.  Thranduil had planned to tell Tauriel soon, and each of the kids when they were fully grown, but I have faith in our Sea Monsters.  They’re tougher than they give themselves credit for.”

“Well, if he asks, tell him I’m glad.”

“I will.  Good night.”

Rôgon kissed the children, along with Hilda and Percy.  “I will wait here for Galion.”

“Thanks, Rôg.”

“Can we see him, Da?” Sigrid pleaded. 

“He’s asleep right now, but you can come in for just a minute.”

“I would like to come, too, if that is all right,” Tauriel asked.

“Tell you what, gang; you all can come, but only if you don’t make any noise, all right?”

Bard led the small crowd down the hall, and they all silently filed into the bedchamber and stood around the bed.

“He looks the same,” Tilda whispered in his ear.

“And he will, unless he gets hurt, or very upset,” Bard murmured back.  “But if it happens, you’ll be as brave as he was, right?”

“Right,” she solemnly promised.  “He’s still Ada.”

“Good girl.”

Galion was speaking softly to Daeron in Sindarin, and Sigrid went over to join them.  After a few moments, the Aide leaned down and kissed Thranduil’s forehead.

“Losto si, Ionnauth nîn,” he said in a soft, loving voice, as he stroked his hair.  To the others he said, “I will see you in the morning.”

“I appreciate this, Galion,” Bard said, as Tilda leaned forward to kiss the Elf.

“I will take care of clearing Thranduil’s schedule for the next few days.”

“I will help,” Legolas smiled at Galion.  “Get some rest, Adanneth.”

“Now that you’ve seen him, it’s time to go back to bed,” Bard said quietly. “We’ve got about four hours until the sun comes up.”


After Daeron took his leave, Bard had been in bed less than ten minutes before the door opened again.  “Da?”

“What, Beanie?”

Tilda ran into the room and crawled up onto the bed.  “I want to be with you and Ada.”

“All right, just don’t bump his face, love.”  Bard helped her crawl over him, and she settled against his right side, and hugged his arm.  “Better?”

“Uh huh,” she yawned.  “I’m sorry I hurt his feelings.”

“I know you didn’t mean it, love, and when he wakes up, you can tell him.  But you really need to get some sleep.”

 

A few minutes later, the door opened again…

 

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

 

1st of December 2944 T.A.

Thranduil’s eyelids felt weighted down, but after several attempts, he managed to squint into the morning light.  He smacked his lips and made himself swallow to moisten his dry mouth, but it did little good.  What—

Ai, gorgor!  The flood of memories crashed over him, and threatened to drown him in sorrow.  He had frightened his children, but the image of Tilda’s little face, filled with such horror and revulsion…

A noise to his left startled him and his head whipped around.  Ai, naeg!  The scars on his jaw and neck protested with a sudden stab of pain.  He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to stifle the moan.

“Move slowly,” a voice softly instructed.

Thranduil blinked his eyes open.  The chairs from the fireplace had been pulled to his bedside and Legolas sat next him, holding out a glass of water in one hand, and a hollow reed in another.

“Use the straw to drink; Daeron’s orders,” he placed the straw in the glass and held it to Thranduil’s lips, and the Elvenking took several long sips.

“Ci athae,” he croaked, as his head fell back against his pillow.  “Why are you here?”

“Apparently, this is a family tradition,” the blonde prince's mouth curved upwards.  “Look around.”  He jerked his head to his left.

Tauriel was beside Legolas, curled up in the chair under a soft blanket, her feet propped up next to his hip, eyes closed in slumber.  The solid warmth to his right was little Tilda, who lay facing away from him, her back and bottom jammed against him, her braid curling around the pillow she shared with him.  A hand was resting on her waist.  Was it Bard’s?  No, it was Sigrid’s who lay facing him, her beautiful face in repose.  There was Bard, his Meleth nîn, behind Sigrid, with his long, strong arm protectively gathering the girls to him. 

Was Bain here too?  There he was, curled up behind his Da, his face buried into the soft pillow, his mouth hanging open.

Even the family pets refused to be left out.  Ferien was curled up on the back of Tauriel’s chair, her green eyes staring into the Elvenking’s.  Meryl, Tilda’s little pug wheezed softly, as she snuggled into Thangon’s side at the bottom of the bed, his sonorous snored, filled the room.

“They are all here…”  Thranduil whispered in shock.

He swallowed.  “They are not frightened of me?  Did they…”

“They are fine with it, Ada.  They were afraid someone had attacked you, but once Bard explained, they love you even more.   Everyone understands what happened, and they feel badly about upsetting you.”

Thranduil’s eyes swam, and Legolas leaned forward to wipe the tears that trickled down the side of his face.  “It will be all right, Ada.  All is well.”

The Elvenking lifted his left hand to cover his eyes.  “Eglerio i Belain,” he sobbed.  “Edregol vaer… De fael, Elbereth.”

Legolas winced as he glanced at the dogs. “I like this family ritual, although I am amazed anyone can sleep with the noise Thangon makes,” Legolas said, softly.  “Tauriel tells me this happened when they were worried about us in Lothlórien.”

“We also piled together after Dale was attacked.  After we had rescued the hostages, we could not bear to be parted, even to rest.” Thranduil smiled through his tears of relief.  “I do not know how we managed to settle into that smaller bed, but we did.” 5

“You mean the bed from your tent?”

“The very one.  Cook uses the room, now.”

The prince leaned back in his chair and laughed silently as he shook his head. 

“Ci athae, Ion nîn.”  Thranduil reached out to grasp his hand.

“I love you, too.  And I am happy to be in this family.  Now,” Legolas stood.  “You should try and sleep some more.  I will be downstairs to look after things.  I have sent messages to the school that the children will be absent today, and Percy has canceled all of Bard’s appointments.  I will be up as often as I can to check on you.”

With a soft kiss to his brow, Legolas tiptoed out.

Thranduil cast his sleeping Elven daughter a loving look, then rolled on his side to gaze upon the rest of the family, as they slept.

With a sigh of gratitude, the Elvenking’s eyes grew heavy again, and he drifted off to a peaceful slumber.

 

Any lingering doubts Thranduil might have had about his family’s acceptance were quickly cast aside, when everybody woke up.   The family spent most of the day with him (between naps), and Tilda wouldn’t give up her place at his side.  She put herself in charge of making sure Ada drank plenty of water (and made sure used a straw), and helping him eat soft things.

"Thank you, Tithen pen," he told her seriously.  "I could not manage without you."

"I know," she told him.  "But don't worry, 'cause I'll take care of you."

”I am honored.”

Ada?”  Tilda snuggled into his right side, as she nibbled on her toast.

“Yes, my little love?” he gazed into her big blue eyes.

“I’m sorry I hurt your feelings,” she said with deep regret.  “I love you a lot.”

He turned to meet his husband’s eyes.  Bard’s face was serene and happy, with just a hint of I told you so.

Once again, he thanked the Queen of the Stars, for undeserved blessings.

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Ai, gorgor…  Oh, horrors!

Ai, naeg!  - Oh, ouch!

Ci athae – Thank you

Ci athae, Ion nîn – Thank you, my son.

Edregol vaer… De fael, Elbereth… - That is wonderful…  Thank you, Queen of the Stars

Eglerio i Belain – Praise the Valar

Gwinïg – “Little Fingers,” Tauriel’s childhood nickname.

hênig – my child

Ma; no! – Excellent; may it be so!

Meleth nîn – My love

Mellon nîn – My friend

 

NOTES:

[1] And Winter Came…, Ch. 8: https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/27998778

[2] What Makes a King, Ch. 6: https://archiveofourown.org/works/10838010/chapters/24520668

[3] Legolas, Ion nîn, Ch. 16: https://archiveofourown.org/works/17088320/chapters/43099031

[4] And Winter Came…, Ch. 21: https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/29736558

[5] An Invincible Summer, Ch. 40: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/37775288

Chapter Text

 

BEGINNING NOTE:   Have you been thinking of our trip to the “Two-Thrones-Con?"  Remember, all the characters will be available to answer questions and sign autographs, but if you want them to sign their names somewhere on your person, you must bring your own Sharpie—their quills would cut you to shreds (Also, if anybody wants an autograph on their boob or something, make sure the kiddies aren’t looking…).

Is anyone going to dress up?  You are welcome to do the cosplay thing, it would be great!  I myself own no such costume, but I plan to wear my traditional holiday sweatshirt:

 

I plan to complete the ensemble with a festive holiday hat (complete with twinkle lights) and make sure I carry a large tote for the goodies I'm going to buy at the Market.  Now, officially, cameras aren't permitted, as this technology is beyond the capabilities of Middle Earth, but if mine just happens to still be in my purse *wink wink* when we arrive...

 

 

 

A few Thrones Con Questions:

Who are your three favorite characters?

What would be the first place you'd go when you get to the Marketplace?  Why?

Is there a favorite Merchant you like?  Rod & Catriona?  Lynn & Mona?  Maggie, who runs the Pottery Shop, and her husband, Constable Tom?

What about our favorite resident Cook, Lewis?  Is he the tyrant the Royal Family makes him out to be, or is he just a big softie?

 

Ok, now...

On to Chapter Thirteen!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Where are you now

I need you now

If you were around

It would be alright

 

Living on my own

I know I'm to blame

I'm locked in my chains

And you're free…”

Where Are You Now? by Nazareth

 

 

City of Dale, 3rd of December 2944 T.A.

“Are you ready, Lady Tilda?”

The school day was over, and the little girl exited the building with the her classmates.  Ruvyn quickly checked her over to make sure her coat was buttoned, and her mittens and hat were snug.  “Do you need help to carry this?”

“No thanks; it’s just papers to show Da and Ada.”  She held onto the railing as she came down the steps, and lifted the strap over her head to over her front.  “Ready?”

“I am,” the Guardian smiled down at her, as they began their journey home. 

“Where’s Da?”

“I am afraid it will just be the two of us, today.  Lord Bard sent his regrets an hour ago.”  Ruvyn smirked.  “I hope my company will suffice?”

“Oh no!  I didn’t mean…” her face fell. 

“I know, he said gently.  “Your Da wants to stay close to your Ada.” 

 “Da said we’re not allowed to talk about it.”

“That is true.”

“But Uncle Galion said all the Elves know.”

“Most of us do.”  Ruvyn said, as they walked.  “I only know, because my father and Uncle were there during that war.  They idolized our King and never forgot his bravery.”

“That’s what Uncle Galion said,” Tilda’s eyes clouded, and her mouth turned downwards, “but I saw him, and did something terrible.”

“I am sure that is not true.”

“No, I really did,” Tilda’s eyes brightened slightly with tears that threatened to fall.

Ruvyn leaned over the child.  “Would you like to talk about it, heryn nîn?”

She swallowed, and quickly swiped her hand across her eyes.  “I don’t want to get you in trouble.”

“That is kind of you, but I think we can discuss your problem without going into specifics.”  Ruvyn led her to the seat by the fountain in the courtyard.  The structure was quiet today, shut down during the winter months.

“Okay.”  Tilda settled and took off her book bag.

“I am your guard, but I would like to think we are also friends.”

“You are,” she said.  “When I had to learn to be a flower girl, you helped me practice!”

“That is true,” he laughed, “although Lady Hilda and Miss Greta did not appreciate all those small pieces of paper.” 1

“But I learned how to do it!  And when I got scared of King Abdullon, you came and sat with me till I felt better. 2  And when those bad men took us, you hung on to the bottom of the wagon, even though you hurt your arm. 3 Next to Ada and Da, you’re my best friend.”

“That is the highest of praises,” he put his hand over his heart.  “I would be worried if I came before your parents, but I consider you a friend, as well.”

“I miss Meldon and Nualë a lot, but I’m glad you’re still here.”

A stab of grief pierced the Elf’s heart.  “I think of them often,” he said quietly.  “Are you afraid something will happen to me?”

“Sometimes,” Tilda said honestly.  “Ada says it’s okay to feel bad about that, but try and remember the good times, too.  I hope you don’t go to those Halls, though.”

Ruvyn smiled.  “I hope to always be here.  You and your family have made my King very happy.  Before your parents married, Ivran and I guarded him at the Palace, and he was sad for such a long time…  But when I see him laugh with Lord Bard, or with you,” he leaned back on the bench, “I feel joy.”

“Ruvyn?”

“Yes?”

“Ivran got married, and so did Daeron.  How come you haven’t?” she asked.

“I have not met the right Elleth, I suppose,” he shrugged.  “But I am not unhappy or lonely, Tithen Pen.  I like everything about my life.”

“Me, too.”

“Are you ready to tell me what this terrible thing is?  As your friend, I vow to keep it in confidence, unless it involves something dangerous.”

“It was nothing like that.   I told Ada I was sorry, and he says it’s okay, but when I saw… him, I,” she sighed.  “I screamed.  I couldn’t help it, and I know it really hurt his feelings.  I didn’t mean to, but he knows I got scared of him.  My Da said…” she stopped.

“What did Da say?”

“He said Ada would understand, and maybe he does, but I don’t feel better about it.  I told him a couple of times I was sorry, but it still bothers me.  A lot.”

“Ai, hênig…” Ruvyn put his arm on the back of the bench and leaned toward her a bit.  “You are not alone in this, Tilda.  Many of us find it much easier to forgive others, than to forgive ourselves.  But, as you say, you could not help it.”

“Maybe I should have tried harder.  It was bad to see it, but when I screamed and he looked at me, it was so sad.”

“Tell me, child: what went through your mind when you saw him?  Did you think you could not love Ada anymore?”

“Well, n-no,” she considered, and shook her head.  “I was scared because I thought someone came and hurt him, like when those bad men attacked Rhian’s house.”

“What is wrong with that?  Of course, you would be frightened about that!  If you recall, I was also there that day, and I cannot forget my own terror.  Does your Ada know why you reacted thus?”

“No; I haven’t said.”

“You should talk to him, Tilda.  It would help you both, I think.”

“Really?”

“Yes.  He will understand; I am sure of it,” he nudged her.  “So, when you get home, you will?”

“Okay,” she sighed.  Then she turned toward him.  “I didn’t know you were scared, too.  I mean, when the bad men came.”

“I was very frightened.”

“But you sneaked under the wagon, and told Da and Ada where to find us.”

“I am a soldier, and my years of training kicked in.  But I confess, I could not bear the thought of anything happening to you or your sister.  And something did, if you remember.”

“Well, Celeborn came to help me and Ada.”

“But none of us knew that until after.  I saw my King go up in flames,” he said, quietly, “and I wept.  I also wept when we all thought you had died.” 4

“But I didn’t die; I was visiting with Celeborn.”

“All I can tell you was that I was very happy to see you sit up in Ada’s arms and tell your Da to watch his language.” 5  Ruvyn smiled, and stood.  “Do you feel a bit better?”

“Uh huh.  I know what to do, now.  Before, it was all muddly in my head.”

“It helps to talk things out with a friend.  Now, we must get you home, so your family does not worry.” The Elf picked up her bag and helped her climb down. 

“Thanks, Ruvyn.”  Her hand slipped into his as they approached the Castle Steps.

“I am at your service, My Lady.”

 

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

 

Thranduil’s jaw still pained him, though much less, and he had to be careful when he talked, but the Elvenking was antsy to be confined to bed.  Bard took it in stride, and said his grumpiness was a good sign. 

Things were easier when the children were home; Tilda rushed into his room, crawled onto the bed and took her place beside him, legs bent into a “W” that humans can only do when they are small. 

“Did you eat enough today?” she asked briskly, as she reached for the glass and put the straw in it.  “Uncle Galion said he’s going to see if they can make you one out of glass; it would last longer, and you could see the stuff when you drink it!  Won’t that be fun?”

“It would,” Thranduil said, still keeping the movements of his jaw to a minimum. 

“That’s a good idea, Til,” Sigrid smiled as she walked in.  “How are you, Ada?”

“Tired of lying here,” he grumbled. “I think I will get up tomorrow.”

“You’ll get up when Daeron says you can, and not a second before,” her hands flew to her hips and she tilted her head, just like her Da. 

“That’s right!” Tilda chimed in with a scowl. 

“If you need anything, send Tilda to get Auntie Hil.  Bain’s spending the night at Rhys’s house, and Da is off with Ben, checking on something or another.  He said he’ll be home in time for supper.”

 “You two have fun.  I’ve got a bunch of homework, so I’ll be in your library.” She leaned down and kissed his forehead. “I love you.”

“I love you, too, Iellig.” Thranduil gave her a lop-sided smile and patted her hand.

After Sigrid left, Tilda offered him another drink, but when he shook his head, put it back on the tray.  “I have some papers from school; do you want to see them?”

“Always, my little love.”

She crawled to the bottom of the bed and grabbed her bag.  “I did good on my maths – I only got one problem wrong, see?”

The Elvenking took her paper and examined it.  “Excellent!  Subtraction is a challenge, yes?”

“But the real surprise is this!” she pulled out another paper with triumph, and handed it to him.  A list of twenty words were neatly printed, but there was also a note written and underlined by Miss Eryn in red ink:

 

A+!!

Well done, Tilda!

 

“I got all my spelling words right!” she bounced.

“You did!” Thranduil opened his arms and gathered her to him.  “I am so proud of you!  If I could, I would kiss you.”

“Don’t, cause you’ll hurt.” She snuggled into him and grew quiet.  “Ada?”

“Yes?”

“I’m sorry about screaming.”

“I know; you told me.  Is something wrong?”

“Well, I hate that I hurt your feelings, and I still feel bad.  Ruvyn told me I should talk to you about it.” She sat up again.  “Don’t worry; we didn’t talk about you-know-what; Da said nobody is allowed.  But I really was afraid, but not of you…”

As Tilda explained the conversation with her guard, Thranduil felt tension he didn’t know he had, leave his body.  His worst fear was that the children would see him differently, now.  Though his youngest treated him with great care, it helped to hear it out loud.

“I am sorry, my love,” Thranduil stroked her hair, “but I am glad to know you were afraid for me, and not of me.”

The little girl studied his face carefully.  “I can’t tell anything, now.”

“Lord Elrond taught me well, did he not?”

She raised a hand.  “Does it hurt if anyone touches it?”

“Just around my jaw,” he pointed to the place where the tendon was healing. “That will clear up in a week or so.  But here, here and here is fine.  Go ahead; touch me, if you like.”

Tilda carefully ran her fingers over his cheek and up his temple.  “It’s really magic,” she breathed.  She cupped the other side of his face.  “It feels the same.  And it doesn’t hurt at all?”

“Not at all,” he lied.  “Only if I bump it.”

The little girl’s shoulders drooped in relief.  “That’s good.  I’d be sad to think it hurts all the time.” 

“We cannot have that,” he put his arms around her.  “Are you hungry?”

“I had a snack downstairs.  Cook said he’ll be sending up dinner soon, and don’t worry; I’ll help you.”

“What would I do without you?”  Thranduil leaned his cheek (the right side) on the top of her head and smelled the sweetness of her hair. 

 

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

 

 City of Dale, 7th of December 2944 T.A.

For weeks, the Second-in-Command of the Vanguard in Dale waited for the axe to fall.  He had not only upset the Kings’ daughter, he had, in his fury, made a lewd comment about the Elvenking himself!  Surely this deserved some sort of censure, but to date there had been nothing!

When he encountered Tauriel, be it within the halls of the Castle or on the sidewalks of Dale, she refused to acknowledge him.  He would be insulted, but for the fact that he reversed direction whenever possible, or made a point to engage someone in conversation.

Legolas, bless him, never asked.

But Vildan, son of Valandil, was among the chosen elite of Lord Glorfindel’s army; he was Vanguard, and that meant not only his military skills had to be the best, but the code of honor they lived by demanded he go see the Elvenking and come clean.   Another matter had recently arisen that could also affect his future in the North, as well.

Vildan woke up early and dressed quickly, taking great pains to make sure his tunic was wrinkle-free, and his hair was pulled pack into his usual smooth bun, with no stray hairs, and his boots had been polished to perfection.

“Good morning, Mellon,” Ruvyn greeted him, as he sat at the kitchen table, finishing his breakfast.  “There is hot water for tea.  Are you on duty today?”

“No, but Rahlen told me King Thranduil is now available, and I must speak with him.”

“This sounds serious,” the Guardian buttered his roll, and took a bite.  “Are you in trouble?”

“To be honest, I do not know,” he admitted. “But there is another issue I must bring up, and it may require my early departure from the North.”

Ruvyn dropped the roll on his plate. “You cannot be serious!  What did you do?”

“I… would rather wait to tell you, until after I speak to Lord Thranduil.”

“If you needed help with something, Vil—“

Vildan held up his hands. “Please; just let me get through this, and I will tell you all, yes?”

“Fine,” the Guardian said, before he stuffed the rest of the roll in his mouth. “I will hold you to that.”

 

 “Lord Thranduil will see you now,” Galion approached the bench he had been sitting on.

Vildan rose and saluted. “De fael, Hîr nîn.”  The Lieutenant took a deep, marshaling breath and entered the Elvenking’s study.

Thranduil was seated on one of the comfortable chairs by the hearth. “Aur galu, Nardû,” he said, after the Vanguard paid courtesy, and indicated the chair opposite.  “Please; take a seat.  There is hot tea, as it is a cold morning.”

Vildan draped his cloak over one of the desk chairs and settled into the leather upholstery.  “Thank you,” he accepted the cup the Elvenking offered.  “Will you not have some?”

“Perhaps later.  Now, I understand you have an issue of some importance you wish to speak to me about?”

“There are two matters, to be exact, but they are intertwined.  Firstly, I must confess to you some inexcusable behavior on my part.  You see, two weeks ago…” Vildan began to explain the events of his day with Tauriel, but when he said that she had slapped him, the Elvenking’s gaze grew intense.

“Just a moment,” his finger whipped up to point at the ceiling, “you say she struck you?”

“Yes, My Lord.  Twice, in fact, but—”

“Have you come to lodge a formal complaint?”

“Not at all!” Vildan cringed.  “I deserved it; I promise.  I lost my temper, you see and said something in anger, and I am ashamed of it.”

“What sort of thing did you say, Lieutenant?”  

The Vanguard could feel the King’s temper rising, took a breath and blurted.  “I was upset to find that Tauriel’s stallion was, er… servicing my mare.   I reacted badly—”

“What were you doing out with her in the first place?”

“Legolas suggested she enjoys company on her days off.  Your cook had prepared a lunch for the both of us, at his request, and we—”

“Legolas arranged this, you say?  Did you ask him to do this?”

“No!  I promise you, My Lord, my intentions were completely honorable!”

“So, you are not pursuing my daughter,” Thranduil tilted his head.

“Of course, not!”

“Do you think she is beneath you, as a Silvan?”

“Not at all!  I greatly admire her courage and skill, and I only wanted the chance to get to know her better, but—"

“But what?”

“Well, we had a pleasant ride to a certain Willow she is fond of, near the ruins of Laketown, and we ate our midday meal in the tree and had a nice conversation.”

“That does not sound like a problem, Lieutenant.”

“It was not, until we jumped down and discovered our horses were missing.  My mare, Mistanâr, had chewed through her ropes, and I am sure assisted in Lasbelin’s escape as well, but when we found them, her horse was covering her, and I am sorry to say I lost my temper, and we argued.”

“Then she slapped you?”

“Yes, but Lady Tauriel was not at fault in this.”

The Elvenking sat back with a fascinated look.  “What was said, exactly?”

Vildan’s face burned, but he told him.  “I said something that implied her horse was not an ideal mate.”

Thranduil rubbed his chin.  “She adores that stallion, and if you insulted him—”

“It was not Lasbelin’s honor she was defending; it was…”

“Yes?” the King crooked his right eyebrow.

“…it was yours.”  Vildan sank into his shoulders and closed his eyes.  “I said – in a fit of fury – that Mistanâr is part of a careful breeding program in Imladris, and it did not matter if you serviced her yourself…” he swallowed, and sat up straighter.  “I have no excuse for such an insult, My Lord, and if you feel I deserve to be punished, I am prepared to accept the consequences.”

Thranduil regarded him for a few moments.  “Drink some of your tea, Vildan; you look like you could use it.  In fact,” he rose from his seat, grabbed a decanter with amber liquid, uncorked it and poured some into the cup, “this will help.”

“Thank you, My Lord.”  The Vanguard brought the cup to his lips and downed the liquid in one gulp.  Which was a mistake, because for the next few moments, the Elvenking had to pound his back as he sputtered.

“My apologies,” he croaked.

“Ah.  I see you have not had any of King Dáin’s whiskey.  Did you not try some during your stay in Erebor?”

“N-no, My Lord,” his voice was still a bit rough, but the effects of the drink relaxed him a bit.

“I assure you, this was not intentional, though perhaps we can call it poetic justice,” Thranduil smiled crookedly.  “It is not every day an Elf comes to confess a lewd comment regarding my person.”

“I deeply regret that.”

“I believe you.  Now, let us talk about your mare.  Is she the exotic-looking creature I have seen in the paddock?  The silver one whose coat seems to shimmer when she walks?”

“That is the one, My Lord,” he said proudly.  “One of her distant grandsires belonged to the Mearas.  My father spent centuries preserving this line. Mistanâr was his parting gift to me, before he sailed, and several of his horses went with him, to continue this work in Valinor.”

“How remarkable!  I have never seen a full-blooded Meara, but I have heard stories of their intelligence and will.  If your mare possesses even a fraction of that, you are indeed a lucky Elf.”

“Thank you, My Lord.  She is my treasure, and I have loved her and cared for her since the moment she was born.  Though at times, I am not sure if I am lucky or cursed.”

“She has a mind of her own?”

“She certainly does.”

“But Lieutenant, if you are so protective, why did you not place a Nuitha-luith?”

“I did; please believe me!  That is why I became so angry - Tauriel accused me of neglect.  I can see why she would think thus, but I made sure the spell was in place before we left Imladris!  I have been most careful, but Mistanâr is willful, and I think perhaps she...”

“That horse is powerful enough to overcome such a spell?” the King asked, incredulously. 

“It would seem so,” he sighed.  “If I had known—”

“That mare is a female who knows how to get her own way,” Thranduil laughed softly.  “She reminds me of Lady Hilda!”

“Now that you mention it, there is a similarity,” Vildan’s mouth turned up slightly. “Though only in the best of ways.”

Of course, of course,” he waved his hand dismissively.  “I must tell you, my groomsman told me Naurmôr, my stallion, is rather infatuated with her, but she will not give him the time of day.  Lord Bard’s horse fared no better.  But the lady has made her choice, has she not?”

“She has, whether any of us like it or not.   Mistanâr often looks out the window to the Royal Stables and calls to her new mate.”

“Does he answer?”

“He does.  There have been some complaints that the noise is keeping folks in the nearby buildings awake.”

“Oh, dear,” the King snickered.  “If those two are disturbing the peace, then we must make arrangement to move her into our stables.  I will send a message this morning, and you can bring her later this afternoon.  You do realize this also leads me to ask the inevitable?”

“I do, yes.  My horse is now pregnant – due to drop the foal sometime in October.  The problem is that this could affect the length of my tenure here.  There are several ways to deal with this issue, I think.”

“Such as?”

“If I leave now, I can travel with her down south, and through the Gap of Rohan to take her home for the foaling.  I could also wait until the spring, and use the mountain pass, but she will have gained some weight by then, and I worry for her balance on those steep trails.

“Another option,” he squirmed in his seat, “would be to stay on after my service is done and wait for the birth, and when the foal is able to follow, take the southern route home.  I have concerns about this, because the little one would be vulnerable to predators, and be attacked before I could dismount.”

“Is it your wish to leave, Vildan?  And even if it was, will Mistanâr allow herself to be parted from her mate, even after her… is it a colt or a filly?”

“A filly, My Lord.”

“How splendid!  What is your wish, in this?”

“After careful consideration, I feel it should be you who decides.  I behaved abominably, and have brought dishonor to yourself, your daughter and my people, and worst of all, Lord Elrond.”

“Do you want to leave?”

“No, My Lord!  I am very happy to be here! But I have brought shame upon—“

“You will not do it again, will you?”

“Of course not, but the damage—“

“Did you mean your words?”

“No; it was said in anger.”

“Did you apologize?  To Tauriel?”

“Right away. It was meant sincerely, but—“

“Vildan, I admit to a bit of vanity, but if I cannot tolerate even an unintentional slight, then I am not fit to lead my people.” He narrowed his eyes.  “That is not to say I would enjoy a constant stream of insults, but surely I can take a bit of ribbing.”

“Thank you, My Lord!” Vildan breathed a sigh of relief.  “Please; if Tauriel speaks of this to you, tell her how sorry I am.  I truly respect her, and it pains me that we are at such odds.”

“You mean, you two have not spoken since?”

“We… did not part well, and I would like very much if we could be at least cordial again.  She did not deserve to bear the brunt of my upset, and I would like the chance to apologize again.”

“Well, there is little I can do about that; my daughter has passed her majority centuries ago, and possesses a will of her own.  Though as her father, I will demand the utmost respect and courtesy toward her.” 

“You have my solemn vow, My Lord.”

“Then let us declare this incident dealt with, and the matter forgotten. Dismissed, Lieutenant.”

Vildan gratefully saluted the Elvenking and went into the hall, where Turamarth was waiting for his own audience with the King.

“How are you, Lieutenant?  You look wonderful.”

“Thank you; I am well.  Did things go well with the King?”

“It could not have gone better,” he said, and with a wave, went beyond the Grand Staircase and out the big doors.

A huge weight had been lifted.  He could stay, praise the Valar!  Before he headed back to the apartment, the Lieutenant stopped at the Adila’s Cafe, and bought a carafe of strong coffee and a dozen of Ruvyn’s favorite cheese pastries.

 

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

 

“Thank you for seeing me, My Lord,” Turamarth saluted and stood at attention.

“At ease, Tur.” Lord Thranduil gave him a small smile.  “You clearly have a great deal on your mind, so take a seat and let us see what we can do, yes?”

Once he was comfortable, Thranduil studied his face. “You look much better, Mellon.  How do you feel?”

“I feel better, My Lord.  There is a lingering… shadow, for want of a better word, but I have forced myself to return to my regular routine and as the weeks passed, it grows easier.  I do not dread the Marketplace anymore and have begun to enjoy the company of others again.”

“That is wonderful news,” the Elvenking smiled.  “Are you physically recovered; do you think?”

“I have not only sparred with several of my colleagues and held my own, I have made a point to do so in the public rings by the barracks, in front of an audience.  I did well, and with each session, I am more at ease.” The Elf licked his lips.  “I hate to put it this way, but looking after my cousin and his family during their crisis has… helped me see that I can still thrive by serving others.” Turamarth winced.  “Please, My Lord; do not think I wanted anything like that to happen—”

“But it felt good to be ‘the Strong One,’ again?”

He nodded vigorously.  “Oh, it did!  That was when I started to feel like myself, and though I hurt for my Gwador and Rhian…” he searched for the right words.

“You felt wonderful for yourself,” Thranduil finished.  “No, Tur; you are right to acknowledge that, because I thought the same thing.  Tell me; do you still wear Celebrian’s Sun-Star?”

The Guardian reached into his tunic and pulled out the large, yellow diamond pendant.  “I have never taken it off, and I do not plan to.”

“Excellent.”

“Thank you, My Lord.”  Tur replaced it under his clothing and gave him a relieved smile.

“Is that why you wanted to see me?  To apprise me of your progress, or is there more?”

“There are a few things I would ask, if you would be so kind,” he fumbled with the fingers in his lap, then met the King’s gaze with as much purpose as he could muster.  “I want to feel a part of things, again.  I have worked and fought hard to get where I am now, and I am proud of that, but I do not think I can improve any more unless I resume my duties.  I have loved my time with Darryn, and I made the right choice to remain with Daeron and Rhian, but… I want more.  I want to be a Guardian again, My Lord.  I am a soldier, a protector, and I miss it.”

Thranduil steepled his fingers and rested them against his mouth. “Daeron is your physician, Tur.  What does he say?”

“He is concerned, of course, but he understands why I want to.  He says I am physically ready, and in addition to working with the others, I have been instructing Rhian personally, to help her adjust to what changes her body might have experienced.”

This interested his King greatly and his eyes lit up.  “And?  Has she gone through the same changes as Lord Bard?”

“I believe so.  I worked with him during the Long Winter, and though Rhian still feels awkward, she has made remarkable advancements.”

“I would love to hear more about this, later.  For now, let me ask: have you spoken to Ermon or Elénaril about your wish to return to work?”

“Not yet, My Lord.”

“While I trust Daeron’s opinions in most things, I do not doubt that his deep love for you might cloud his judgement.  Make an appointment to be examined thoroughly by one of them, then have them submit their report.  If they say you are ready, we will begin to schedule you on a part-time basis, with the goal of completely returning to duties within a few months.”

Turamarth beamed.  “Thank you, Aran nîn.  All I ask is for the chance to prove I can still perform my duties – mostly to myself.”

“I know, Mellon nîn,” the King smiled softly.  “Your journey has been nothing short of miraculous.  At this point, it matters not how much of your strength is depended upon the jewel you bear.  Just keep it with you, and enjoy it.  Now, is there anything else?”

“Yes, My Lord.  I had written to my father some weeks ago, asking for him and my mother to come and see me, but I have received no reply.  I could understand if you could not permit it, but…”

Thranduil’s brows pulled together.  “I promise you, Tur: no such request was made known to me.  I would have granted that.”

“It is not just me: Daeron and Rhian write to his parents every week, and just yesterday, she said they have received no news, either.  I myself have written twice to Evvy, and had concluded that she must not want to answer, but in light of this…  I hate to imply anything, or accuse our messengers of withholding our letters, but… I do not know what to think.”

“Are you sure?  Galion receives many letters and is meticulous about making sure they are given to the proper recipients.  This could be a serious matter, if what you say is true.  Interfering with the correspondence of my Kingdom is tantamount to treason.”

“I can only tell you we have not heard from our family, and we are getting worried.  I need to know they are well, and want to make sure Evvy is all right.”

“And we must do so. Galion?” the Elvenking called into the other office, as he pulled out some thin paper and hastily wrote a message. 

“Yes, My Lord?” the Aide opened the adjoining door and stuck his head in, as the King folded the paper.

“I want you to send a Raven to the Palace right away.  Make sure the bird knows it must go directly to Captain Adamar, the Keeper of the Gates.  Send two others to escort him, with orders to protect this message against anything – or anyone that might interfere.  This must reach Adamar, at all costs.”

Galion’s face grew serious, as he took the folded paper.  “I will go to the Aviary myself.”

Turamarth’s stomach began to churn.

Something was just not right.

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

De fael, Hîr nîn – Thank you, My Lord.

Heryn nîn – my lady.

Lasbelin – “Autumn.”  Tauriel named her horse after the reddish-gold leaves in the fall.

Mistanâr – Wandering Mouse.”  Vildan’s Grullo-colored mare (a white undercoat that is black at the tips on the body, and black face and legs).

Nuitha-luith – Spell to prevent female animals from becoming pregnant.  (lit. “to prevent from coming to completion-spell”)

 

NOTES:

 

[1] An Invincible Summer; Ch. 19: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/34716686

[2] Ibid.; Ch. 45: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/38462252

[3] Ibid.; Ch. 36: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/37243763

[4] Ibid.; Ch. 38: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/37497905

[5] Ibid.: Ch. 39: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/37637711

Chapter Text

City of Dale, 7th of December 2944 T.A.

For as much as he enjoyed his time with Tilda while recuperating, Thranduil had been thrilled to get back to his regular, active routine.

“Are you sure, love?” Bard asked earlier this morning, as he dressed.  The children had just left for school, after making sure to kiss Ada goodbye for the day.

“Please, Meleth nîn,” Thranduil fastened the pin at his throat before he came over and put his arms around his Bowman.  “I love our rooms, and it has been wonderful to be so cared for, but I need a change of scenery.”

“Fine, then, but if you get tired, or things start to really hurt, do you promise to come back and get some rest?”

“I will.  It does not hurt so much to talk, and I will use the straws if I need to drink.  I will eat up here privately, and if you can join me, I would enjoy that.”

“I’ll make sure to be here.” Bard kissed the tip of his nose.  “I can’t wait to kiss you for real, again.  I miss it.”

“As do I, Hervenn nîn.” Thranduil brushed the hair away from Bard’s face and enjoyed the warmth of his greenish-brown eyes for a moment.  Then he took in the rest of him.  “What have you done to your hair?”

“Not much, really.”

“That much is evident.  You look like a Warg; sit down while I fix it.”

“I thought you loved it,” the Bowman frowned, in mock-insult.

“I do love it,” he said, as he untied the leather string of his haphazard ponytail, and picked up a comb.  “To the rest of the world, the King of Dale must look sleek and polished.  If everyone sees you look so savage, I will have to fight off all your admirers.” He leaned down and whispered into Bard’s ear, “That Warg belongs only to me.”

Bard grinned back at him in the mirror.  “I can live with that.  Trust me; as soon as you’re well enough, I’ll be unleashing the beast all over you.”

“Mmmmm…” he gingerly kissed his earlobe.  “I look forward to it—naeg!”  The twinge of pain made him wince.

“Did I hurt you?” Bard whipped his head around and searched his face.

“You did not, Meleth nîn.  I was reckless.  Please do not worry; this will pass.  Now; let us get you ready to face your public and I can get back to my life.”

“If you’re sure,” Bard pursed his lips, but faced forward again.

 

When they met in their chambers for lunch, Thranduil had much to relate.

“How did you face hold up?”  Bard asked, as he took a couple slices of bread and grabbed the butter. 

“I admit it did throb a bit, but when Vildan began his tale, all pain was forgotten, Meleth nîn.  It seems,” the right side of his mouth lifted into a crooked smile, “our Gwinïg has captured his attention.  More than he wants to admit.”

“So, what happened?”

Thranduil repeated the conversation he had with the Vanguard, including the crass remark he made at his expense.  “Vildan was surprised at my benevolence and my sense of humor.”

Bard chuckled.  “He can thank the poppy juice Daeron’s been giving you.  I shudder to think what would have happened had you been sober.”

The Elf’s head jerked back in mock insult.  “You think I cannot take a joke?”

“About you and a horse?” Bard smirked.  “Not a chance.  But if that horse is as valuable and rare as you say, I can see why he’s upset, and now he’s got a pregnant mare.  What did you two decide to do about it?”

“We discussed alternatives,” Thranduil leaned down and gently lifted his soup spoon to his mouth, and consumed it carefully.  “If he leaves, it must be now, but if he stays, it will be for much longer than a year, until the filly is grown enough to travel.”

“Filly, you say?  That’s good.  Personally, I want him to stay; I like the lad.”

“As do I.  But all this is speculation;  a message must be sent to Elrond.”

“Would he command Vildan to go back?” Bard asked, his fork stopped halfway to his mouth.

“I do not think so, but if he does, I have no choice but to respect it.  Elrond technically outranks me, you know.”

“But…”

“Bard, I hold hold the title of King of my lands, but Elrond was heir to the High King Gil-Galad, and while he refused the title, and prefers the term ‘Lord,’ it does not diminish his position among Elves.  Do you recall what happened the last time the King of the Woodland Realm refused to respect the High King?”

“But you never…  Oh, wait,” Bard sat back a bit and picked up his water, “you’re talking about the War, aren’t you?”

“And my father, who lost his life, yes.  But my regard for him goes well beyond any question of position, though he is among the wisest of our kind.  Elrond could have seen the charred remains of me on the plains before Mordor, and had he decided to give me a merciful end, no one would have questioned it.” Thranduil gingerly touched his face.  “Do you remember how tired we both were just after Rhian had given birth to Darryn, when he had to heal her wounds, especially her ribs?”

“I was exhausted,” Bard recalled softly, and put his glass back on the table.

“As was I, and I am Sindar.  But Galion told me how Lord Elrond painstakingly did so for me every day, for six months, until my flesh and bones were restored.  Every day, for six months!  Even after, he took time help me become strong again, and to walk and use my fingers…” Thranduil held up his hand and studied it.  “I owe him everything.  I am sitting here today, as a King, as a father, and as a husband, because Elrond would not give up on me.  The pain I have endured these past three days reminds me of the sacrifices he made.”

“I understand,” Bard got up and went over to kneel next to his chair.  “I owe him everything, too,” he picked up the Elvenking’s hand and kissed the inside of his wrist.  “I love you.”

“I love you, Hervenn nîn.”  Thranduil smiled softly. 

“So,” Bard gave him a mischievous smile, “are you going to tell Elrond what Vildan said?”

“No,” he laughed, then became serious.  “I did not just let him off because of the pain medicine, Bard.  I…” he sighed, and shook his head.  “I do not think I am in a position to judge such things.”

“Why?” the Bowman’s eyes narrowed, as he reached up and stroked the right side of his face.

“I thought about the terrible things I said to Tauriel, the day of the Battle, and the fear on her face, the tear that ran down her cheek haunts me,” Thranduil’s throat tightened.  “It should haunt me; perhaps my humiliation had more to do with my mercy than the poppy juice.”

“Not your humiliation; what you learned from it.”   Bard kissed each of his fingers.  “I’m proud of you for seeing that, love.” 

“Well, perhaps it was a both, not to mention the piteous look on the poor Elf’s face.  I admire his courage to come and confess all.”

“He didn’t have to.  Did Tauriel say anything to you about this?”

“I knew none of this, until he walked in my study,” he blew out a breath in dismay, “but it explains a great deal.  Tauriel has been unusually subdued, and I have been curious.”

“I’ve noticed Legolas has been treating her with kid gloves,” Bard stood and returned to his seat.

“What is this ‘kid gloves?’”

“Oh, it’s just a saying we have. It means he’s been going out of his way to be nice.  I’ve wondered if he was trying to make something up to her.”

“As soon as he returns from the Palace, I will speak to him,” Thranduil decided. 

“What are you going to say to Tauriel?”

“I do not know if I should say anything; I do not want to embarrass her, or pry into her private affairs.  What would you do?”

“That’s tricky, I know.  Suppose Vildan mentions he spoke to you, and you never said anything?”

“Ai… that is a consideration.  I must say something to her; she will certainly notice the presence of Vildan’s mare in the box stall next to Lasbelin.”

“Excuse me?”

Thranduil’s shoulders shook as he laughed.  “It seems the horses are deeply attached to one another.  Do you remember that mare the head groomsman was telling us about?” 

“That silver one?”  Bard’s jaw dropped.

“Mearas are horses, yes, but some of them are sentient enough to choose their own mate.  It does not always happen, but when it does, they are bonded for life.  Which means that whatever plans Vildan had for breeding are gone; she will be with no other.”

“Oh, boy.  No wonder he was upset.”

“He regrets that.  He knows it was not Tauriel’s fault.”

“In that case, you’d better have a chat with her.  Who knows?” Bard shrugged.  “Maybe she needs to talk about it, but doesn’t know how to approach you.”

“I did not see it that way,” the Elvenking finished his soup and sipped his tea through his new glass straw. “I will speak with her this evening.”

 

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

 

Tauriel was sitting in the chair by the fire, looking into the flames,  absent-mindedly stroked Farien’s fur, when she heard a soft tapping on her door.

“Might I come in?” Ada stuck his head in with a smile.

“Of course; how are you feeling?”

“Better with each passing hour.  Please do not be concerned.  In fact, I am more concerned about you.”

“Me?  I do not understand.”

Gwinïg Vuin nîn,” he sighed, as he took the seat opposite.  “Vildan came to see me this morning.”

The cat yowled as Tauriel stood, dumping her off her lap.  “What did he say?”

“He told me everything, including his bad behavior, for which he apologized profusely,” he tilted his head and studied her closely.  “He sincerely regrets his words, so I have decided to accept, if that is what upsets you.”

“I… was not worried, Ada.”

“Are you sure?  You have not been yourself these past weeks, and we have noticed.”

“I am fine, Ada.  The last thing you need to think about is me; you still recover from your injury.”

“It is nothing, now,” he waved his hand dismissively.  “Iellig, I have become increasingly convinced it was nothing Vildan said or did that you find… disconcerting, and while I am here for you, if you need to talk.  That is all.”

Tauriel slowly sat back down, and Thranduil leaned forward to take her hand. 

“Now, let me ask you again: are you all right, Gwinïg?”  He kissed the back of her hand and gave it a comforting squeeze. 

Her throat suddenly began to hurt, and her vision swam.  Her breaths became choppy, as she whispered.  “I do not know, Ada.  I feel confused and I do not know what to do.”

“I am told that Legolas set all this up?”

“He had no right to do that!” she blurted out.  “I do not dislike Vildan, but I just…”

“It is too soon after Kili, yes?”

Now it wasn’t just her throat that hurt; the pain in her chest swelled to near bursting.  The next thing she knew, Ada was helping her stand and gathering her into his strong arms, as she buried her face in her hands.  She wasn’t weeping, but the tears came of their own volition anyway.

“I wish I understood all this,” she managed to say, as she rested her cheek against his chest.

“Few can understand the workings of a loving heart, my child.  And you did love Kili, in your own way, and he clearly loved you.  What I do know, from personal experience, is that love will never leave you.”  He stepped back and lifted her chin to face him.  “Only you know when it is time to move on, Tauriel, but do not wait for Kili to leave your heart.  Let that part of him stay, and you will treasure it, no matter if you find someone else, or not.”

“But it hurts, still.”

“Part of you always will.  I miss Mírelen at times, though I love Bard, and he is the same with his Mattie.  To pretend they never existed would be to dishonor them and all we had together.”  His brows drew together with concern.  “Has Vildan said or done anything to disrespect your memory of him?”

“No!” She sighed.  “Maybe that is the problem, Ada.  Part of me was expecting him to be judgmental and derisive, but…”

“He was supportive and accepting?” Thranduil smiled down at her.

“Yes!” she waved her hands, as she paced the rug.  “He made no advances, did not seek anything from me besides friendship!”  Tauriel noticed Ada’s mouth was twitching.  “I do not think it funny?”

“I am sorry, Gwinïg,” he said.  “Now, please sit down; you are upsetting the cat.”

Tauriel plopped back into the chair and waited for Farien to settle on her knee.

“I do not mean to laugh at you, truly.  I am only reminded of when I first met Bard.”

“He did this to you?”

“If you are asking whether I knew right away that he was my Fëa-mate, the answer is no.  I was hit with the Ehtë Raumowhen I first laid eyes on Mírelen, so I knew the difference.”

“I am not surprised; Bard had just killed Smaug and brought all those refugees to the ruins—”

“You misunderstand, hênig; I speak of when I first hired him to deliver the wine barrels, six years before the Battle.  I found him… disturbing.  At first, I thought it was because his recent loss of his wife reminded me of my own grief, and perhaps that was part of it, but he entered my thoughts more than I liked.”  His eyes met hers. “At times, I even became angry.”

“Why?”

“Because my encounter with Bard not only stirred up memories of my wife, I found myself getting past my grief and loss.  How dare I do that, when I loved her with all my heart?  I made a point to avoid any contact with Bard, until of course, we met again in Dale.”

Something stirred in Tauriel’s chest.  “You felt guilty.”

“I was not ready to conceive of such things then, but the seed was planted.” Thranduil shifted in his chair, and crossed his legs.  Tauriel, only you can say why the Lieutenant from Imladris upset you so, but somehow I do not think it was because of anything he said about me.”

“Perhaps you have a point,” she admitted.  “I hate this confusion!”

“Of course you do!  You have a naturally curious nature which craves clarity in all things.  Always as a small child, you wanted to know what was behind every cupboard door, and constantly peppered Galion and Núriel with questions about people, places and how things operate.”  He smiled,  “But sometimes in life, Vuin nîn, we must accept ambiguity and… drift along for a while.”

“How do I do that?” She sighed. 

“With trust.  Maybe it is too soon to consider such things, but your faith in the Valar will let you know what to do when and the time is right.”

Tauriel was silent for a few moments, as his words sunk in.  “What if there is never a right time?”

“Why is that something you need to know right now, hênig?” Thranduil spread his hands wide. “Just do what you have always done; concentrate on your work, enjoy our family, and spend time with your friends.  Nothing has to change.”

“What do I do about Vildan?”

“Since he has only expressed a desire to be friends, why not at least be cordial? There is no avoiding him, in any case, because I gave instructions to have his mare moved to the Royal Stables.”

Tauriel gasped and clutched Farien a bit too hard (to which the feline loudly expressed her opinion).  “Oh, I am sorry!” She soothed her cat with slow, loving strokes then asked,  “Why did you do this?”

“Because Lasbelin has formed a strong attachment to Mistanâr and they are going to be parents next year.  Your stallion cannot stand to be apart from his mate, has been driving everyone in that part of the City mad from the noise.”

“Ai, gorgor,” she whispered, and rolled her eyes.

Thranduil stood, and stroked her hair.  “Have you forgiven Legolas?”

“I have.” She giggled. “But he does not know that.  He’s groveling, and I rather enjoy it.”

 

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

 

Thranduil laughed softly, but then became serious.  “You know, in all the excitement of Legolas’s homecoming, you and I have never spoken of the events at Erebor this summer.  I am honored that my daughter would become the heir to Lady Dís, and when Bard told me of your plan to dispose of that wealth, should it come to you, I was so proud.” 1

“I wanted to make sure it would do some good,” Tauriel shrugged.  “That is all, really.  I do not need the riches, nor do I care about them.  The gold and jewels you gave me will provide anything I could ever wish for in the future, but right now, I have everything I need:  a nice home, a loving family, and Legolas and I are almost as close as we ever were.

Ada, I have no desire to leave this place, and when the day comes that I am permitted to enter the Woodland Realm, I would only go there to visit my friends at the Palace, or to use the road to travel East.” She smiled up at him.  “I am truly content with my life now.”

“Yet,” Thranduil said, gently, “you do not display the picture of Kili, nor his ring that Dís gave you.”  His smile was sympathetic. 

Tauriel lowered her gaze and blinked rapidly.  Her voice was small and soft.  “I think…  I think I am afraid to have them where I can see them often.”

“Can you tell me why, Gwinïg?  Is the pain still too great?”

“It is the opposite, Ada.  I have only just begun to let go of the grief, and…” her brow became furrowed as she struggled to express herself, “it is such a relief, not to be so sad!”

“It is like Bard often says, ‘It feels good to feel good,’ yes?”

“That’s it.  I do cherish my memory of Kili, but I think I want to wait a little while longer.”

The Elvenking tilted his head in empathy, as he stroked her hair.  “I do understand that, Tauriel.  But do not make the mistake I did; I was so terrified of my grief, that shut myself away to avoid it.  And you and Legolas paid the price for my cowardice; that is the biggest regret of my life.”

“I will keep that in mind,” she nodded.  “Perhaps I am afraid, at least a little, but I do not think I am shutting myself off, am I?”

“I do not think you are,” he agreed, “but such things are insidious.  Just check yourself every once in a while, because it is a slippery slope.  I would very much like to see these gifts, if you would not mind?”

Tauriel put the cat down and rose.  She walked over to her dresser and pulled open the bottom drawer and withdrew a wooden box with sharp, angular carvings characteristic of Dwarven craftsmanship.  She carried it over to her bed and sat down with it in her lap. 

“Come and see,” she said.

Thranduil came over and sat on the edge of the bed, while she put the box between them, and opened it.  The inside was lined in heavy blue velvet, and contained several things:  a thick envelope with “Tauriel Neldor-Thranduillion,” obviously the letter that Dís had written.

“Where is the will declaring you as her heir?” he asked.

“That is at the Palace.  I asked Galion to take it and keep it in the safe in his study.”

“That is a good idea,” he picked up the smooth blue stone with runes.  “I am told this says, ‘Daughter?’”  he turned it over in his fingers, admiring the remarkable play of color it displayed as it caught the light.  What kind of stone is this?”

“Dwalin told me it is a Blue Labradorite, made from the same piece she made the one that was buried with him.  They supposedly come in different colors, but Kili’s favorite color has always been blue.”

“This is very thoughtful of her,” he handed it back. 

“You… do not mind that she calls me daughter, then?” Tauriel met his eyes.

“Of course, I do not, Gwinïg,” he smiled at her reassuringly.  “If she had claimed you when you were a child, that might pose a problem, but you are fully grown, and have the right to make your own decisions.” He winced.  “I admit I had some trepidation, but that was only because I worried that Dís might try to claim the right to arrange your marriage.”

“Oh, that,” she giggled.  “You did prepare a document to send to King Dáin?”

“I did,” he grinned.  “You are officially free to follow your heart, though I hope he pays me the courtesy of asking permission to court you?  It is tradition, and as your father, I reserve to right to be sure he is worthy of you.”  He sighed.  “I only want you to have someone who will cherish you and keep you safe.”

Ada,” she said wryly.  “I am one of the best warriors from the Woodland Realm; I highly doubt there would be a need for that.”

“I meant,” the Elvenking snickered, “one who will keep your heart safe, my Gwinïg.  Though I do not worry; should any suitor abuse your trust, there will be little left of him for me to dispose of.”  He looked down and picked up a small box.  “May I?”

Inside was a small golden ring.  Its stone was the same shimmery blue as the token.  “It is quite beautiful,” he remarked.  “And unexpectedly plain for something of Dwarven-make.” He held it up and examined the tiny runes carved into the sides.  “I wonder what they say,” he murmured.

“Just Kili’s name, and his lineage of the line of Durin,” Tauriel answered absently.  “Dwalin told me this was given to him when he was a small child; any other ring would be thick and ornate.  But I do like it.”  She took it from Thranduil and put it on her middle finger of her right hand.  “See?  It fits perfectly.”

“It suits you,” he smiled.  “Tell me, when you see it on your finger, what do you think of?”

“At first, I thought of the Battle, of my confrontation with you, then Kili’s death upon Ravenhill,” she said soberly. “It was a terrible, unspeakable day.”

“I am sorry, Gwinïg.”

“I know, Ada.” She gave him a weak smile.  “But later that day, you comforted me.  After everything, you told me my feelings were real, and… I think in his way, Kili brought you and I back together.”

“And for that, I am more grateful than I could say,” Thranduil took her hand and ran his thumb over the ring on her finger.  “But I do not want you to think that was the purpose of Kili’s death.  He gave his live to save you, and I am grateful, but the fault lies with Bolg.” He searched her face with worry in his eyes.  “You do realize this?”

“I do,” she said.  “But the Valar took that senseless act, and brought good, did they not?”

“Indeed, my Gwinïg. “I have often prayed Kili will find peace in the Halls of his Fathers, and I thank him for his courageous act.” He kissed the ring.  “I think you should wear it; to remind you to live the life Kili would want for you.”

“Perhaps I will,” she held it up and let it catch the light. “Much of the sorrow and yearning has passed, I think.  Kili would not want me to malinger.”

She then lifted the last object from the box and unwrapped the soft cloth.  It was detailed drawing of Kili, done with colored pencils, with a joyous smile on his face.  It was obviously recent, but made before the harsh reality of the Quest for Erebor marred his spirit.

“This is how I want to remember him,” Tauriel whispered.  “He had the same smile when we sat and talked on the evening of the Mereth Nuin Giliath, and he told me of the Fire Moon he saw once.  But I think for now I will put him away.”

“There is no hard and fast rule with such things,” Thranduil said as he took the picture to examine it.  “Maybe he will always be put away, to take out once in a while when you feel nostalgic.  It does not mean your feelings have faded, for I think Kili will always have a small piece of your heart.”

“May I ask you something?”

“Of course, Iellig; anything.”

“When you look at the paintings of the Queen, does it make things with Bard… complicated?”

“Not at all, nor does the paintings I did of Mattie disturb Bard.  They hang in all of the children’s rooms, and I have seen Bard look at them, on occasion; especially the one in Sigrid’s room. 2  If you are asking whether it makes me unsure of his love for me, the answer is no.

“Tauriel, should you be fortunate to find one who truly values you, then he should be able to understand the difference between a sweet memory from the past, and know there is a way to go on and be happy.  No one has the right to demand you forget cherished memories.”

“Thank you, Ada.” She put the items back in the box, all but the ring, which remained on her finger, then put it away.  “I love you very much,” she said as they embraced.

“And I you,” he rested his chin on the top of her head.  “Always.”

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

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.)

Gwinïg – Little Fingers (Tauriel’s nickname, given to her when a small child)

Hervenn nîn  - My Husband

Mereth Nuin Giliath – Feast of Starlight

Vuin nîn – My beloved

 

NOTES:

 

[1] Legolas, Ion nîn, Ch. 37:  https://archiveofourown.org/works/17088320/chapters/47219776

[2] An Invincible Summer, Ch. 32: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/36684912

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“Don't tell me the truth

Tell me that it didn't happen

There's been a mistake

There's been a misunderstanding

Dirty your hands

Tearing my heart into pieces

If this is the end

Then we whisper the wind and release it…”

“Walking Blind, by Aiden Hawken

 

 

The Woodland Realm, 1st of December 2944 T.A.

“You have changed me, Evranin; in fact, I do not know what I would do without your friendship,” Saeros said, as they strolled along the walkway in front of the Main Dining Hall. “I have never known anyone who understood me so well.

When her eyes twinkled at such flattery, his chest swelled with satisfaction. Evvy craved approval like no Elf he had ever known, no doubt due to years of constant disapproval from her Naneth, but the power he was able to wield over her mood was thrilling.

It wasn’t hard to give her compliments on her physical appearance.  Evvy’s long ash-blonde hair was thick with a slight wave to it, and today she had decided to wear it down, and allow it to frame her face.  Her eyes were large, and their deep brown depths reminded him of the deer in their forest.

“Do not say that,” she demurred. “You are the only one who can change yourself; it is nothing that I have done.  I just wish I understood why so many describe your parents so differently.  To listen to you, they were almost as bad as my mother, yet they speak of their kindness and patience.” Evvy heaved a sigh. “I feel stuck in the middle, and it is exhausting!”

Saeros, let his shoulders droop, and said morosely, “Then I must stop spending time with you, Aewpin.” He swallowed and eyed his feet. “I will not come between you and your other friends, and you must—“

“No!” She grabbed his arm, making him smile inwardly. “I… I do not like this tension, but…” she set her jaw. “I am here to learn independence and to trust my judgments. I know what it is like to feel so bad about oneself, and maybe I’m selfish, but helping you makes me feel better about all of it.”

He gave her a chagrined look. “I want you to be happy, Evvy; not cause you trouble.”

“Helping you makes me happy.” She nodded firmly. “So, no more of this nonsense, yes?”

He covered her hand with his and gave it a squeeze.  “You do help me.  Sometimes I think you are the only one who can.”

Saeros thrilled at the smile he brought to her face, then changed the subject.  “Have you gotten a letter from your family yet?”

Her face fell. “There has been nothing,” she said. “That does not necessarily upset me, as the winter slows down communication.  Maybe the messengers from Lothlórien had problems with the snow.  We may be light, but the horses

“I am sure it is as you say.” His eyes narrowed as he asked. “Something else upsets you.”

“Yes,” she admitted, and her cheeks flushed slightly. “I hate to mention it, because I know you and Tur have problems, and I do not want to upset you…”

“Evranin,” he smiled reassuringly, “we are friends, and friends should be able to tell each other anything.”

“I… am confused about something, to be honest.”

“Perhaps I can help,” he leaned down to meet her lowered gaze.  “Please; you have been so kind to me, let me do the same.”  Saeros led her to a bench in the hall near her apartment.  “Now, sit, and tell me, and perhaps we can make things better.”

Evvy lifted the bottom of her dress and arranged it around her feet when she sat. “I have written to Tur.”

“That does not sound so terrible,” he said, softly.

“But I sent it a month ago, and have received no reply,” she winced.  “Maybe I should have waited; he might not like it if I seem overeager.”

“I am sure there is a good explanation,” He gave her a reassuring smile. “He is, as you say, in recovery.”

“I agree, and did not want to bother him.  But last time I was in Dale, he asked me if he could write.  Why would he do that, only to ignore me?”

“Perhaps it is wishful thinking? Are you sure you were not the one to request this?”

“No!  He brought it up, just as I was getting ready to leave. Of course, I said yes; I am so worried about him!”

“That does seem inconsiderate…” he rubbed his chin.  “Perhaps if you wrote again?”

Evranin frowned.  “I spent most of my life chasing after my Naneth for attention approval, and do not think I want to do it now.”

“If that is the case, then you would be right.  You deserve better.”

She chewed her lower lip.  “Maybe just a short note?”

“It certainly would not hurt to at least ask why he has not replied.  You are owed some explanation.  My friend, Lidros, has overseen letters and packages for the Palace since before I was born.  I will speak to him and ask if he could make sure to look for something for you.”

“I would like that,” she smiled, then gasped, as she jumped to her feet.  “Ai, gorgor! I must hurry; Gwindor hates it when anyone is late!”

“Then you must fly, Aewpin,” he stood.  “The printing room is next to Lidros’s area; I will stop and see him, first.”

“Oh, that would be wonderful!  Be sure and tell him thank you, for me!” Evranin squeezed his upper arm and ran.

 

Saeros managed to conceal his grin, as he went down several flights of steps to the lower levels, where the press was placed, away from the rest of the Palace, to keep the noise level down.   King Thranduil’s printing press was located in the large room at the end of the corridor, but the first door to the right contained the room that received all  for all non-Royal and non-military letters, packages and parcels.

When Saeros first arrived the Palace four centuries ago, and began to work in that area of the Palace, he carefully cultivated a friendship with Lidros, who by now trusted him enough to let him help sort the incoming and outgoing parcels, as they chatted to pass the time. 

As Saeros entered the corridor, he saw the Lidros’s workroom unoccupied.  After looking both ways, he quickly pulled the key out of his pocket, unlocked the door and entered.

 

Just a few minutes later, he exited, made sure the door was secure, and stuffed several envelopes in the inside of his tunic as he walked down the hall.

 

7th of December 2944 T.A.

Saeros happened to be outdoors, when the three dark shapes flew from the East, and settled themselves on the perch near the Main Doors.  The middle bore a message, and when the Palace Guard tried to take it, all three flapped their wings furiously, and one tried to bite the Elf,

He ducked behind a tree to watch the two guards on duty carefully approach the trio, with soothing words, in Sindarin and Quenya.  But as soon as they got too close, they kicked up a terrible noise and flapped their wings, chasing them off.

“Boe annin mened Adamar Hesto?” one of them asked, with his hands on his hips.

“Caro!” his superior said, impatiently, and waved him off. “Aran Thranduil would not send such a thing unless it was of vital importance!  No lim!”

Saeros chose that moment to casually walk through the Main Doors, passing the Captain along the way.  He stopped for just a moment, to watch Adamar remove the message, and the worried expression told him everything he needed to know.  For just a moment, the Captain looked up and their eyes met.

Saeros quickly turned back, and made a point to smile and wave to passersby, keeping the same nonchalant attitude until he reached his rooms, and began to plan.

 

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

 

City of Dale, 8th of December 2944 T.A.

Bard woke earlier than normal, to a warm body in his arms, and the soft smoothness of his husband’s shoulders, the ribcage slowly rising and falling with each deep breath.  He slowly and carefully disentangled their legs and rolled over to get out of bed—

Two strong arms grabbed him and yanked him back.  “Not so fast,” a low, sultry voice whispered in his ear. “Why are so anxious to leave our bed, this morning?”

Bard’s eyes closed, and he smirked.  “I am not anxious, I just wanted to let my Elf sleep some more,” he murmured, and lifted on of the hands around him to kiss it’s palm.  “He has had a rough week, and needs his rest.”

“As you can clearly see, your Elf is well-rested, well-recovered, and,” Thranduil pulled him closer, pressing his hardened arousal into Bard’s back, “he misses his husband.”

He rolled over to face him.  “Are you sure you’re well enough?”

“I do not think I am ready for hard kisses, which I miss,” he smiled, “as you can see, the rest of me is in perfect working order, and feels a bit neglected.”

“Well, we can’t have that,” Bard twirled a piece of silky blonde hair around his finger.  “Never let it be said that the King of Dale neglects his duty.”

He gently kissed Thranduil’s mouth, then left soft kisses over the healthy side of his face, then his neck to his pink nipples.  Bard spiced things up by biting first one, then the other, which, if the delightful growls were any indication, his Elf heartily approved.

Bard laughed when he found himself thrown onto this stomach, and fingers dug into his hips.  “You really have missed me.”

Thranduil’s response was swift and thorough action, which made words impossible for nearly a half-hour.

 

“So, do you feel better?” Bard held his husband and lightly ran his fingers up and down his shoulder.

 “Much,” Thranduil chuckled softly, as he ran his hands through the dark hair of the Bowman’s belly.  To be honest, I have missed being with you, but just sleeping in your arms is almost as intimate as joining our bodies.  It restores my soul and chases away the pain from all those years of loneliness.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” Bard kissed his hair.  “It wasn’t just my heart that broke when Mattie died; it took years for my body to stop crying out for her.” He sighed and rolled onto his back and studied the beams in the ceiling.  “A few years after Mattie died, Hilda got it into her head that I should start thinking about marrying again.”

Thranduil’s eyes widened and he propped himself up on one elbow.  “And did you?”

“It had been a while since I lost her, and I had gotten used to the wound inside, do you know what I mean?”

“I do,” Thranduil murmured.  “It is almost harder to realize that has become normal.”

“That’s it.  To think of years on end, carrying that thing around inside of me…” he rubbed his hand over his mouth.  “There are times my children were the only things keeping me here, their faces looking up at me…” he sighed.  “Otherwise, I’d have taken a boat out into the Lake and jumped in.”

The Elf cupped his cheek.  “You do not have to tell me, if you do not want to.”

“Oh, it’s fine, love.  I realized all I wanted was for someone to stop the bleeding.  I only stepped out a few times, with a couple of women, and a man, but I realized it wasn’t fair to them, or to me.  Those few kisses were emptier than all the nights alone.” His voice cracked, and his throat suddenly hurt.  “They just… weren’t my Mattie.”  1

“Ai, Meleth nîn,” his Elf stroked his hair.

“I’m so glad I didn’t settle, because we’d have both been miserable, and so would Sigrid, Bain and Tilda.”  He kissed Thranduil softly on the lips.  “I’m so glad I waited, because now I know I was waiting for you.”

Thranduil lifted his head and studied his face, “Do you remember our wedding night, when we first got into bed?”

“I do,” he brushed a stray lock of hair out of the Elf’s eyes.  “When I first felt you, all of you against me, I felt like I had finally come in from the cold, that at last, I would be warm again.”  Bard’s smile was compassionate.  “I looked into your eyes, and knew you felt the same way.” 2

“Yes…”  Thranduil laid his head back down, and rested his cheek against Bard’s chest.  “I knew that joining with you would change your body, and you would be more like me, but that was another thing we had in common, despite our physical differences.”

“You, too?” Bard turned his body so that they were face-to-face.  “You know, I’d always heard Elves hardly needed any sleep, and when they did, they never closed their eyes, but you sleep just as much as I do.  I half expected to spend most of the nights alone while you wandered half the night.”

Thranduil chuckled.  “That is simply not so, but those rumors are not new.  I will say I sleep a great deal more since we married, but that is because I am happy.  Perhaps it is also because I married a human, and you have given me such gifts.

“And you obviously eat meat, though not nearly as much as me and my kids do.”

“We do not need it,” he shrugged.  “Neither do we sleep with our eyes open, at least among my people.  I have no idea if any of the Noldor or Elves in Valinor do this, and I have never cared enough to find out.  It matters little to me.”

“Good point,” Bard agreed, then changed the subject.  “Have you spoken to Tauriel?  I never had a chance to ask, and you were asleep when I came to bed last night.”

“I did.  I think she likes Vildan more than she is ready to admit, and this causes her great distress.”

“She feels guilty,” Bard surmised.

“Exactly,” he smiled.  “I think, in time, that will change, but where that will lead, no one knows.”

“Nor should they.  I think Gandalf has been a bad influence on Legolas, and he fancies himself a matchmaker.”

Thranduil winced.  “I thought of that, as well.  I thought about reprimanding him, but I think that is our Gwinïg’s place.”

Ada’s are allowed to reprimand,” Bard grinned wickedly, “but I’m thinking what that girl needs, is revenge.  Why don’t you let me handle this?”

“What do you have in mind?”  Thranduil sat up with widened eyes. 

“Shh…” Bard pressed a finger to his Elf’s lips.  “The less you know, the better.”

“Just tell me one thing; will Percy be involved?”

“You bet.” Bard laughed.

 

Just after breakfast, the Royal Family gathered in the hall of the Royal quarters, then made their way down the Grand Staircase.

“Bye Da,” Bain waved, next to Tauriel.  “Bye Ada!”

“Enjoy your day,” Thranduil kissed his daughter’s cheek and patted the boy’s shoulder.  “Is Rhys with you, or will he meet you at school?”

“I’m here!”  Rhys hurried out of his father’s office, where they usually ate breakfast together.  “Coming!” He held his bag, as he yanked his arm through the sleeve of his coat.  “Bye, Da!” he called.

“Put your hat on, son,” Alun stuck his head out of his study.  “You’re just getting over a cold.”

“Yes, Da,” Rhys yanked on his green hat.

“Did you study for your test?” Bard asked.  Since September, Princess Dura, King Dáin’s granddaughter had been teaching the older children a class in Dwarven Culture along with some rudimentary Khuzdul.

“Aye,” both boys answered. 

“Then you’d best get going.  See you this afternoon,” Bard waved the trio off, before he turned back and kissed Tilda’s forehead.  “Got all your stuff, Beanie?”

“Uh huh!”

Sigrid was pulling on her coat for her day of instruction at the Healing House, and Ivran helped her into it.  “Thanks,” she smiled.  “I should be home for lunch, but then I’ve got to stay until after six.  Ermon wants to make the rounds at the Elder apartments, and I asked if I could go along.”

“I like that,” the King of Dale told her.  “Listen, if you see where any of those folk could use some help—”

“I’ll make a note of it and let you know, I know,” she kissed his cheek.  “Auntie Hil said the same thing.”

“That’s my girl.  Now get, you.”

“Where is your blue scarf, Tithen Pen?” Thranduil held Tilda’s coat.

She shoved her arm in one sleeve, and the item popped out the cuff.  “There!”

“Very clever,” he wrapped it securely around her neck, then met Bard’s amused grin.  “What, Meleth?”

“You live for this stuff,” the Bowman laughed.  “What are we going to do when she’s too grownup for this?”

“Nag at them all to give us grandchildren to fuss over,” the Elvenking checked the laces on their youngest daughter’s boot, then fastened his own cloak.  “For today, I will enjoy a pleasant walk with our Little Bean.”

“I’m not your Little Bean,” Tilda sniffed.  “I’m your Tithen Pen!”

“She’s got you there,” Bard laughed.  “Have a good day, sweetheart.”

The guards had just opened the front door, when an Elven messenger rushed in, holding a small slip of paper.

“Aran Thranduil!” he cried, then spoke to the Elvenking in rapid Sindarin.

Bard posture stiffened, as he watched his husband unfold the paper, and when the grey-blue eyes skimmed the message, his face paled. 

Ada?”  Tilda took his hand and blinked up at him.  “You can still take me, right?”

Thranduil met Bard’s gaze with a quick nod, then smiled down at their daughter.  “Of course, I can.  Bard?” he said, in a deliberately casual voice, “would you mind sending for Commander Feren, and ask him to meet me in my study as soon as I get back?”

“I can do that,” he said.  “Anyone else?”

“If you and Lord Percy could also attend,” he said brightly not looking away from their daughter, “I think it would be useful.  Could you also send for Daeron and Turamarth?”

“I’ll get them set up in the conference room.”

“Ooh, will they bring Darryn, too?”  Tilda looked hopeful.

“You will be too busy at school, my little love.  Now come; Miss Eryn does not like her students to be late, does she?”  he took the little girls hand and went through the doors. 

Bard went out on the steps and watched his husband and daughter walk through the courtyard.  Thranduil’s voice and demeaner was cheerful, but if the stirring in their shared Fëa was any indication, something was very, very wrong.

 

When Thranduil returned, everyone was waiting around the long, polished table.

“I have received a message from your father, Daeron.  You and Tur will be interested to hear this:

’Aran nîn,” he read, “Received no such letters. Sent several.  Just rec’d word of Heril and Sellen—Herdir Ilinsor reports they sailed.  Await further orders.-- Adamar, Captain and Keeper of the Gates.’” 

The Elvenking put down the message and looked around the room.

“So, we know someone has been intercepting messages?”

“Personal ones, yes.  This is a treasonable offense, but pales in comparison to the fact that I’ve got two Elves missing!”

“But they sailed,” Bard was confused.  “Didn’t they?  What if they moved?”

 “Then we would know about it,” Galion shook his head.  “We keep careful records of the whereabouts of all our people, and any who wish to leave for the Grey Havens must get permission from the Palace.”

“You’d force them to stay?”

“Not at all,” Thranduil told him, “but until they board those ships, their safety is my responsibility.  We must arrange for their safe passage, and record their departure for our census records.”

“If they left,” Galion added, “I assure you, it was not in an official capacity.”

“Are Saeros’s parents the type who would leave without prior permission?”

“No,” Thranduil answered.  “To everyone’s knowledge, they were Elves of impeccable character.  Six centuries ago, when Tauriel’s village was attacked, not only were the houses and Elves destroyed, but also the large silk farm, there. Heril and Sellen had experience with such things, and volunteered to go and see what could be salvaged.  As much as I would have liked that industry to move farther north, they need the milder climate.”

“They didn’t build over those ruins, did they?” Bard asked.

“No.  They moved their operations closer to the Palace, but not by much,” the Elvenking swallowed and rubbed his eyes.  “According to this, they disappeared at the same time Saeros began to live and work in the Palace.  Missing letters mean little, next to the possibility that two of my people have been missing and I knew nothing about it!  I mean no offense, Daeron and Tur.”

Turamarth bowed.  “I agree.   I am also convinced these are tied together somehow.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but how could any of your people be missing so long?”

“It is not uncommon, unless there is a catastrophe, Bard.” Galion answered.  “Each of our villages is overseen by an Elven leader - a Herdir, we call them -  to see to the supplies, security and to preside over ceremonies and festivals, and send regular reports to the Palace.   If there is a dispute of any kind, and the Herdir cannot settle it, only then do they involve the King.”

“So, if Saeros tells his village his parents sailed, then came to the Palace and told you they were still there…”

“And if this Leader wanted to write to the Palace asking about it, who’s to say that bastard didn’t steal those reports?” Percy spread his hands.  “He’d damn well make sure his tracks are covered.  He’s crazy like a fox to make sure he’s buddies with your what-do-you-call it—"

“Têwtham,” Galion offered. “An Elf named Lidros has been in charge of sorting and delivering such things.  We know he and Saeros are friendly.”

Bard pursed his lips.  “What are you going to do, and how can I help?”

Feren’s mouth turned slightly downward.  “We have had him watched, and besides his growing friendship with Evranin, his movements are no different than they have been since he returned to the Palace.  He has always been friendly with Lindros, and he spends no more or less time in there than usual.  But now that this other information has come to light, we have a better idea of what we are looking for.”

“But don’t our letters always come in a box?” Percy asked.  “You have to use a spell to open it, right?”

“That is for Royal and Military communications,” Galion explained.  “What has been missing are personal letters.  Though I believe,” he looked to Thranduil for approval, “we will include Daeron’s and Tur’s from now on.”

“We will,” the Elvenking confirmed.  “And we will also provide boxes for communication to and from each village.  Ai, gorgor!” he growled.  “Never in five thousand years have we had such a need for such suspicion!”

 “You know, this might be the perfect way to catch the perpetrator in the act,” Percy rubbed his chin.  “I have an idea, if you’re willing to listen.”

“Of course,” Thranduil and Galion said.

“If this lad, Saeros is trying to get inside information, what better way to catch him out?” the Steward placed his elbows on the table, and leaned forward.  “Look, I don’t know what to tell you about your missing Elves, but I can say the Master of Laketown would often spread misinformation to catch out any spies.  Suppose instead of securing that stuff in the box, have Daeron or Tur write to the Palace, telling some tale that we all know isn’t true.”

“I think I see what you’re getting at,” Bard smiled.

“What would we say?”

“Oh, that’s up to you and your King.  But for example, let’s say you write to your mother, Daeron and say Rhian left you, and ran off with the Miller’s son, or is going to have another baby—”

“But my parents!” Daeron gasped in horror.

“That’s the beauty of it; we’ll make sure they know the truth ahead of time!  Find a way to let them in on it, and for them to watch for who might let it slip.  Everyone involved needs to be warned, and if and when this information gets out at the Palace, you’ll know who it is.”

“I like this,” Feren said.  “Thranduil?”

“I do, as well.” The Elvenking steepled his fingers and rested them on his chin. “But I am afraid the time for such maneuvers as past.  I have a feeling time is not on our side and we must act quickly.”

“I have a question, My Lord,” Daeron raised his hand.  “When you sent that message to my father, did you place it under Seal? If he mentioned this to the family, and word of these suspicions reached Evvy—”

“She could let it slip to Saeros…” Turamarth’s face went white.

 “He was told to say nothing,” the Elvenking promised, as he got to his feet, and everyone else stood with him. “We all know Adamar will follow orders without question.  Still, I think we should go to the Palace immediately.”  He turned to his Aide.  “Galion; send a bird right away and tell Adamar to gather Evranin and his family and take them to the Royal Wing, where they can be protected.  I want Saeros and Lindros confined to their quarters, and held there until we can question them.”

“Ma, Hîr nîn.”  Galion exited quickly.

“I would like to come with you, Aran nîn,” Daeron jumped to attention.

“As would I,” Tur added as he stood.  “Please.”

The Elvenking’s  eyes regarded him carefully, and Turamarth added, “Hîr nîn, they are my family, and I…” his jaw set, “it is… Evranin.  If you order me to stay, then I must follow on my own.”

“If I order to you to stay, Lieutenant, you will do no such thing!” Thranduil’s blue eyes glared. 

Bard looked between the Elves, hating the tension, but unable to interfere.

“Yes, Aran nîn,” Turamarth looked down.  “My apologies.”

The Elvenking’s eyes softened, and took a few steps to stand before the subdued Elf.  “I was going to take you, Tur.  But you are a Guardian, first and foremost.   do not know what we may face, if any and I have to know I can count in you.”  Thranduil lifted his chin. “Never have you failed me, Mellon, and I will not let you do so now, especially not when it comes to your family.”

“De fael, Hîr nîn,” Turamarth whispered.

“Very well,” he nodded, and said to the room.  “Get your things and meet us in the courtyard in two hours.”

 

“I will brief Legolas when I get there,” Thranduil said to Bard gathered his things and laid them out on the bed.  “We are taking the Vanguard, as well; Saeros is not familiar with them, and this might work to our advantage.  I hate to take Daeron and both sons of Elrond, as I know it leaves the Healing House understaffed, but Elladan and Elrohir possess some of the same gifts as Daeron, and if there is truly some sort of… darkness about Saeros, they may be able to help us determine what to do.”

“That’s a good idea,” he said.  “But don’t get ahead of yourself.  Things may not be as bad as it seems, you know.”  But even as Bard said it, the foreboding in his heart grew heavier. Despite that, he forced himself to keep his voice light. 

 :And don’t worry about the children, I’ll tell them you had to go, and you’re sorry to miss them.”  Bard finished packing his saddlebags, as Thranduil changed into his black tunic and leather leggings.  “Here are your boots.”

After slipping into them, Bard led him by the arm to the closet.  “Hold still, and I’ll get you strapped in, love.”

“I am glad you do this, Meleth nîn,” Thranduil smiled at him through the mirror, as Bard helped him into his armor.

“So am I.  This way, I can picture all this, and know my Elf has as much protection as I can give him.” He caressed Thranduil’s cheek.  “It helps, when I wake in the night, and you’re not there.”

The Elvenking rested his hand on Bard’s wrist.  “I hate to leave you.”

“This is not leaving me; this is taking care of the people you love, and the land you love.  There’s a difference.  Just stay safe, and get back to us.”

Thranduil looked deep into Bard’s eyes, and smiled.  “You love me very much.”

“And you love me, very much.  Now kiss me, but gently.”

“Nonsense.” The Elf grabbed the back of Bard’s neck and pulled him forward into a deep, long kiss, that made his knees weak. 

“Mmmm…  I won’t forget that,” he smiled.  “Did I hurt you?”

“It would hurt more if I couldn’t say a proper farewell.”

“Not farewell, love,” Bard breathed.  “More like, ‘I’ll be home soon.’”

“I like that much better,” Thranduil rubbed their noses together.  “Now, please help me with my shoulder straps?”

“Thranduil?” he couldn’t help asking, as he fastened the buckles.

“What, Meleth?” The Elf lowered his arm slowly, and turned to face him. 

“Promise me the truth, here.  You had a vision, before we rescued the girls from Jarod, remember?” [3]

“I do,” Thranduil looked deep into his eyes and put one hand on his chest, and one over Bard’s heart.  “I feel no such thing, today, at least for myself.  Do you believe me?”

“I don’t have to; I can feel it.”

“Because I am in you, and you are always in me, yes?”

“Yes,” Bard nodded.  “Always.  Now, let’s get going, so you can get back.”

By the time they made it down the Grand Staircase, Cook and Greta were ready with parcels of food.

“Begging your pardon, My Lord, now, I know you Elves like your Lembas, but Greta and me thought you might enjoy a few of these cookies and muffins along the way.”

“I thank you, Lewis,” the Elvenking took the bundle, wrapped in bright cloth.  “They smell wonderful.”

“Safe travels and best of luck with whatever you’re doing.”

“Lewis,” Thranduil smiled.  “I will not be gone for months; I am simply going to the Palace.”

“Well, I do know the family fussed and fretted when you were gone all summer, especially the little Princess, and now folks are all a-gatherin’ out there…” Cook pulled out his red kerchief and wiped his nose, then cleared his throat. “Please, My Lord; just take care.”

Bard couldn’t help but smile.  Lewis might be blustery and a bit of a tyrant in his kitchens, but he and the rest of the household staff adored the tall, blonde Elf, and they worried for him just as much as the family when he was gone.

“I will do my very best,” Thranduil said solemnly.  “I would appreciate it very much if you could do something for me?”

“Anything, My Lord,” Cook straightened. 

“May I count on you to keep Princess Tilda occupied?”

“Not to worry,” Lewis smiled.  “We’re getting ready to do all the baking for the Yule Ball and she’ll be a big help in the kitchens.”

“Thanks, Cook, Greta,” Bard gently urged Thranduil toward the door.  “I’m afraid they’re waiting, love.”

The heavy oak doors were opened, and the Kings stepped out on the dais.  In an instant, every soldier in the courtyard stood at attention.  Family and friends had gathered to see them off, the horses were chomping at the bit, eager to be on the road.

Naurmôr was standing at the bottom of the steps, and neighed loudly—

A loud screech was heard over the din of voices, and everyone looked up.

A falcon swooped down, headed straight for the Elvenking.  Instinctively Thranduil held out his arm and the great bird landed on his thick leather vambrace, and held out his leg.

“Oh, shit…” Percy came up beside Bard.  “This can’t be good.”

It wasn’t.  Thranduil read the small paper, turned to Bard and whispered, “Daeron and Tur’s parents are safe, as is Lindros, but,” he swallowed, “Saeros and Evranin have disappeared.”

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Boe annin mened Adamar Hesto? – Do we need to get Captain Adamar?

Caro! – Do it!

Herdir – Master of an Elven Village in the Woodland Realm

Herdir Ilinsor - the Elf who is in charge of the Village where Saeros and his family used to live.

No lim! – Hurry!

Têwtham – “Letter Hall” the room that houses and sorts all ordinary correspondence in the Palace.

 

 

NOTES:                    

[1] What Makes a King, Ch. 12: https://archiveofourown.org/works/10838010/chapters/25133664

[2] What Makes a King, Ch. 21: https://archiveofourown.org/works/10838010/chapters/26098071

[3] An Invincible Summer, Ch. 37: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14127870/chapters/37370825

Chapter Text

 


 

 

“I know people hurt you so bad

They don't know the damage they can do, and it makes me so sad

How we knock each other down just like children on a playground

Even after that old sun went down

I was either standing in the shadow or blocking your light

Though I kept on trying I could not make it right

For you girl

There's just not enough love in the world…

Not Enough Love in the World by Don Henley

 

 

 

The Woodland Realm, 8th of December 2944 T.A., Early morning

Evranin finished her breakfast and opened the door of the apartment she shared with Airen and Elion to find a bouquet of flowers at her feet.  She reached down and picked them up, stifling a sigh. 

Airen came up behind her and looked over her shoulder.  “They are lovely.”

“They are,” she agreed, as she looked at the card.  They were from Saeros. “I do not know what to do, Mellon.  It was a nice gesture, but I do not feel right about accepting them.  I do not want to give him the wrong idea.”

“I think it is too late for that.  Evvy, you need to speak to him,” Airen told her firmly.  “In fact, I think you should do so today.  To drag this out would be cruel.”

“I know.  I have given him no cause to think our friendship is any more than that, but I think he is lonely and unhappy.  Perhaps—”

“No! Enough, please!” Airen’s forehead creased with worry and frustration, as she held up a finger.  “Elion made me promise not to interfere, and so far, I have held my peace, but I have to tell you there is something about him that makes me nervous!  I believe he is playing on your insecurities and makes you think you are…” she waved her hands in the air to find the right words, “he makes you believe that you have the power to transform him somehow!”

Evvy stood very still, eyes wide with hurt.  “You do not trust my judgement?”

“No, that is not what a mean at all!  Please, Mellon; I know what you went through with your family, more than anyone in this Palace.  I know how much you need to prove yourself, but tell me, if Orlin were here, right now, what do you think he would say about Saeros?  If you do not trust me, you lifelong friend, please; think about the brother who has loved you and protected you all your life!”

“Do not bring my family into this!” Evvy snapped, tears filling her eyes.  “I happen to like how I feel when I am with Saeros!  He sees me as strong, and capable—”

“We think those things about you, too!  But think about it: if Saeros was as sweet as you say, why does he have so few friends?  Does that not tell you something?”

“What it tells me is that no one has taken the time to get to know him,” Evvy’s jaw set. 

“How do you know this?  You only arrived here this summer.”  Airen sighed and said softly.  “What do you know about his family?”

“Just what he told me.  His parents despised him for not becoming a soldier; his father feels his talent as a scholar are useless.”

“And you believe that?”

“What reason would he have to say otherwise?  My assignment here is temporary, so what does he have to gain by lying to me?”

“What has he to gain?” Airen’s voice rose again.  “Everything!  People like him crave power and control over others, and I think you are playing right into his hands!   Evvy, we love you and care about you, and sometimes we can see what you cannot.  Please, please listen to what I am saying!”

“I have to believe there is good in him,” Evvy wiped the tear that fell on her cheek. 

“Why do you have to?  Do you think if you can help Saeros find some sort of redemption, that it will erase the years of hurt you endured?”

“Perhaps that is exactly why!” she cried.  “I know, more than most people what it feels like to be beaten down by a parent that should have loved you, supported you and built you up!  I want to find a way to take that pain and use it for some good.  Why is that a bad thing?”

Airen shook her head.  “Because I believe, and I would not say this lightly, Mellon nîn, I believe your need to redeem Saeros, is really your way of redeeming yourself.  Vuin Evvy, you do not have to make up for anything!  You have done nothing to deserve what you mother did;  her behavior was not your fault!”

The Warden took a step closer and reached for her, but Evranin backed up.  “What if it was?” her lips trembled.  “Because if you are right about Saeros, that might mean my mother was right to see something in me that needed to be fixed?  Maybe she needed to needle and push at me because there is something wrong with me?”

“Ai, baw!” Airen grabbed her and held her close.  “That is just not so, Aewpin.  Not at all.  I am so sorry I made you doubt yourself; that is the last thing I want to do!  I just think Saeros sees you as some sort of... prey. 

"Maybe I am wrong, but just know that we love you, Evvy.  We love you because you deserve it; you always have.”  She pulled back and gave her a worried frown, “I say these things because I am your friend, and because I think you deserve the best that life has to offer.  If Saeros is spending time with you in hopes of forming an attachment, it is kinder to make things plain, as soon as possible.  I know you still have feelings for Turamarth.  It is true, yes?” she stroked Evvy’s hair.  “He is special to you.”

“But that does not matter!” Evranin leaned her head on Airen’s shoulder as they hugged.  “He will not answer me!  He said he was going to write, you know that, so where are his letters?”

“I do not know, but that is no reason to turn to someone like Saeros to make up for it.  Something has to be wrong.  Elion has known Tur and Daeron all his life, and he says there has to be a reason; they are honorable Elves.”  Airen stood back and brushed the hair away from Evvy’s face.  “They are Guardians and always keep their word, or die in the attempt.  Now, do you honestly think Saeros is as honorable as a Guardian of the Woodland Realm?"

“I… do not know…”

“If what Saeros says is true, and you both have a difficult childhood in common, that did not stop you from having friends back home, did it?”

“You might have a point.  It is just that I do not want to hurt his feelings.  He is…”

“He is what?” Airen tilted her head and scrutinized her. 

“I wish I knew how to say this…” she pursed her lips.  “I feel, when Saeros speaks to me, he sounds very convincing and reasonable…”  Evvy groaned.  “Perhaps this is in my imagination… I am seeing things that are not there, am I?”

“If he was wielding some sort of spell, I am sure the King would be aware of it.  But still, you have a better grasp of history than most Elves, so you know that some of our kind can be manipulative and cruel.  Fëanor was one such Elf; and he persuaded all of his sons and many others to take a vow that led to at least three Kinslayings!  Eöl had a dark heart and he tried to kill Maeglin, his own child, and murdered his own wife in the attempt! 

"These things happen, Mellon nîn.  I am not necessarily saying Saeros is such a being, but I remain firm in my belief that there is more to this than meets the eye.”

“So, what should I do?” Evvy held up the bunch of flowers.

“You need to have a frank discussion with Saeros and set some limits.  I know you are afraid if disappointing anyone, but these things are unavoidable.  If you want me to come with you, I will.”

Evvy’s shoulders lifted and dropped in a sigh.  “Thank you, but I think it would be better if I did this myself,”

“Then will you promise to do it this morning, and be done with it?” Airen searched her face.

“I will.”

“Would you like to meet here after?  I could arrange to switch my shift.”

“Please do not go to so much trouble; if you could just meet me for lunch, instead?”

The Warden grinned. “That we can do.” Airen hugged her tight.  “I am so proud of you, Vuin.”

“Ci athae.”

 

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

 

City of Dale, 8th of December 2944 T.A., Early morning

Daeron took a deep breath as he stretched awake, then rested his hand in the mass of curls that splayed across his chest.  Rhian was facing away from him, her head resting on his arm.  His smile was serene as he absent-mindedly lifted a lock of hair and toying with the brown spiral.  The color had grown deeper since the weather had turned cold, and he missed the sun-kissed highlights that framed her beautiful face.

He relished the quiet, because he knew it wouldn’t last.  Soon Darryn would be waking up and calling for his parents, and another day would begin.  Their son will soon celebrate his third birthday, and discussions had begun to take him out of his crib and into a bed. 

Ai, raising a small son was a joy, but it did take a great deal of time and effort! When he worked in Old Dale, there was a saying he often heard the older women say to the new mothers: “It takes a village,” and while not every citizen of Dale participated in their son’s care and upbringing, their varied, extended family worked together to make sure the little boy was well-cared for. 

Rhian shifted next to him with a deep sigh, and the pattern of her breathing told him she was waking up. 

“It is morning, Hind Calen.” He ran his fingers through the tangles of her hair.  “I like your hair loose like this.”

“Except you’re not the one who has to get a comb through it,” she whispered, eyes still closed. “I had it all in a neat braid when I went to bed, you know.”

“You also had a nightgown, which landed over there on the chair.”

She giggled.  “My husband is an animal, but I like it.  There are benefits to becoming Immortal; our sex life is amazing.”

“I have less need to hold back,” he said, as he lifted his upper arm and showed her a bite mark. “Neither do you.”

“Oh, babe,” her eyes widened, “I did that?”

“And the one on my shoulder.” He teased.

“I’m so sorry!” She hid her face in his chest and chuckled. “I was trying not to scream and wake everybody up!  She lifted her head with a mischievous grin. “The things you do to me…”

Daeron winked and brushed the hair off her brow. “I love you.”

Her response was several soft kisses.  “I adore you.  Thank you, babe.”

“For what?”

“For being patient with me, when I didn’t deserve it.  For understanding that it takes time for me to learn how to adjust to all this stuff, even if most of it is wonderful.  And, that night…” she sighed.

“Do not think of it, Meleth nîn—“

“No, please; I have to say this.  If you ever feel hurt, or angry or neglected, I want you to tell me, even if it’s hard.  I’m a lot younger than you, even by human standards, and there’s a lot about life I just don’t understand, yet.  I love you for being patient, I do, but talk to me, teach me, help me learn.  No more holding back, promise?”

“I will do that,” he said, as he caressed her cheek. “But what should I do if you push me away again?”

“I’ll try as hard as I can not to, but if it happens, then push back.  That whole thing was my fault, I know that.  I did what I always do when I’m scared scared and overwhelmed: I pull into myself.”

“It was the only way you knew to cope,” he said. “It was not entirely your fault—“

“But I can’t do that anymore!  I have a wonderful husband who has taught me what love really means, and I almost threw it away!”

“Yet here we are,” he smiled. “I promise to talk to you, yes, but remember that when we join our bodies, our fëas understand each other.  That will also help.”

“Is that your way of saying you want me more often?” Rhian smirked.

“Oh, I can never get enough of you.” Daeron captured her mouth in a deep kiss…

…and they heard the knock on the front door.

Rhian and Daeron froze, as they heard Turamarth open it downstairs and the urgency of the messenger.

“You go on, babe,” Rhian jumped out of bed and handed Daeron his robe.  “I’ll get Darryn up.”

By the time he reached the bottom step, Tur was already closing the door.  “King Thranduil wants to see us at the Castle in a half-hour.  I will put the kettle on for tea.”

“Do you know what it is about?”

“I have an idea,” Tur headed into the kitchen.  “I was given permission to return to guard duties on a part-time basis, provided Ermon or Elénaril clear me for duty.”

“That is wonderful!  Why did you not say so?”

Turamarth quirked his eyebrow and smirked.  “You were working late, Gwador.

“Ma,” he agreed.  “A breech delivery.  But that is not something Lord Thranduil should be immediately concerned with.”

“He is not.  While I spoke with the King, I asked him to look into why we have received no letters.  He sent a bird - with an escort – to Uncle Adamar, and I think he is not pleased with the news.”

“Ai, gorgor…” Daeron’s stomach lurched. 

“Go upstairs and dress.  I will have your tea ready when you come back down.”

 

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

 

“Very well,” Lord Thranduil nodded, and said to everyone in the conference room.  “Get your things and meet us in the courtyard in two hours.”

Turamarth’s insides were shaking, as he and Daeron walked back to the house.  “Gwador?  What if—"

“Do not do this to yourself, Tur,” Daeron clapped his hand on Tur’s shoulder.  “I know this is not how I envisioned your return to work, but if I did not believe in you, I would have stopped you.” He paused in their stride and face him.  “You need to do this, and I will be at your side, just like always.”

Ci vilui,” Tur pursed his lips and set his jaw.

“There is no need to thank me.  And we may get to the Palace and find all is well, but we will prepare ourselves.  You know Ada and Uncle Ómar will watch over them.”

 

As soon as the meeting was over, they rushed back to the house.  In the Sitting Room, Rhian was setting their packed saddle bags on the sofa.  “I figured you might need them, so…” she shrugged.  “You do have to go to the Palace, am I right?”

“We do, Hind Calen, but how did you know Tur was coming?”

“Because I think I know what the meeting was about.  Tur and I talked about it last night, while you were delivering that baby.”  She dashed around them and unlocked the front closet that held their armor and weapons.  “These should be ready to go…” she said as she pulled out their helmets, then paused.  “What?”

Daeron smiled, took his helmet, and kissed her forehead.  “You take good care of us.”

“Well, you’ve got the hard job,” she set their armor and capes on the furniture.  “Now go get dressed to travel while I check these over.  Oh! Did you have anything to eat, or are you going to have some Lembas?”

“Do you have time to make something?” Tur called as he went into his room.

“Be ready in a jiffy!”

“Unca Tur?” Darryn padded behind him.  “You goin’?”

“I am, Pînig.  Your Adar and I will go see Haru and Haruni.”

“Can I go?”

“Not this time,” Tur pulled a heavier tunic over his head and sat on the bed to pull on his riding boots.  “But I am hoping we can bring them back to see you; how would you like that?”

“’kay,” Darryn frowned.  “Miss you.”

“I will miss you, too.” He picked up the child and put him in his lap. “Will you be a good boy for your Mama?  For me?”

“Uh huh.”

“I know you will.  Now, give me a hug and a kiss, and let us help your Mama make a nice breakfast, before we go.”  He picked the boy up and threw him over his shoulder like a sack, and Darryn giggled all the way to the kitchen.

His stomach still hadn’t settled down, but he was determined to get through it.

Because this was his family.

Because this was Evvy, and he had to make sure she was safe.

 

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

 

The Woodland Realm, 8th of December 2944 T.A.

Adamar pursed his lips as the messenger entered his office.

“I believe it is the King’s response, Captain.” The private bowed and saluted.

“Thank you.  Get back to your post, but be ready if I need you.”

“Yes, sir.”

The Captain of the Gates had hardly slept since he yesterday, when he was summoned outside the Main Doors and found not one, but three falcons perched on the wall, his heart pounded against his ribs. 

Something was terribly, terribly wrong.

“Back away,” he had ordered the guards, when the birds spread their wings and chased them away.  “Let them calm, and allow me to approach.”

“Alatúlie,” Slowly, speaking soothing words in Quenya, he stepped over them.  “Essenya Adamar ná.  Ma hanyal ni?”

Almost instantly, the middle bird grew still, folded his wings and nonchalantly began to groom his feathers as he held out the leg carrying the message.

Adamar carefully removed the message.  “Hantan len.”

Captain Adamar – Daeron & Tur report no communication from your family.   Evranin has not replied to several letters.  Say nothing, but look into this and send reply tomorrow.  – Aran Thranduil

Adamar solemnly went into his office and threw the paper into the fire.  

 

That evening, he lounged with his wife and sister-in-law in their apartment, and casually asked, “have we not received any news from Dale?”

“This is not like our sons,” Indis shook her head.  “Always we receive letters but for two months, there is nothing!  Idril and I have written many times, but this has never happened.  Ómar?” she called to her husband who was changing out of his uniform after his shift, “have you heard anything?”

The Captain emerged in a comfortable tunic and leggings. “No one else has complained of this, that I know of.”

“Do you think Lidros is to blame?”

“I do not have any reason to think so,” Adamar shook his head.  “He has an excellent reputation.”

“I think I know who is behind this,” Ómar said grimly. “We all do.”

“But we have no proof,” Adamar interrupted him.  “I cannot tell you why, but we are to say nothing of this to anyone.”

Ómar immediately grasped the seriousness of his words. “We will not, though I will go so far as to tell you, Evranin has complained of the same problem.”

 

Early this morning, the Keeper of the Gates got up earlier than usual and send the news to the King, and anxiously awaited orders. 

Once again, the King’s message arrived with two birds as an escort, and this time everyone who saw them knew something serious was happening.

“Hesto Adamar?” Elion slowly approached; his forehead furrowed with worry. “What is happening?”

He quickly skimmed the note then crumpled it up and shoved it into his pocket.  “I want you to find Captain Ómar, and take our wives to the Royal Wing.  Where is your wife?”

“Airen is at the Dining Hall—”

“Tell her to go to the Library, and take her to join my family.  Then the two of you stay and keep them safe, is that clear?”

“Ma, Hesto,” Elion saluted and ran with all speed.

 

Adamar signaled to two other Guardians.  “Aphado nin!” he cried and made their way over the walkways and paths to the corridor where the printing presses were kept.

The large room at the end of the hall was silent and dark, and though a lamp was lit in mail room, they were surprised to find the door locked.

“Open this door, Lidros!” Adamar shouted as he pounded.

No answer.

“Break it down,” he ordered, as he stepped back.  The guards expertly kicked the solid wood as one, and it splintered with a groan. 

Lidros was lying on the floor, unconscious, in a small pool of blood near his head.

Ai, gorgor!” one of the guards shouted as he raced to the body and pressed his fingers under his ear.  “He lives!”

“Carry him to the Healing Hall and do not leave him!” Adamar ordered.  “I want him guarded every minute; do you understand?”

“Ma, Hesto!” and in a flash, Lidros was quickly carried off.

Adamar and the remaining Guardian kicked in the door to the Press Room and made sure it was unoccupied, but this was no surprise.  He hadn’t been sure he’d seen Saeros out of the corner of his eye when the first message came yesterday, but now he was positive. 

Saeros was behind all this, and he had to get to Evranin, now.

“We must lock down the entire Palace,” he ordered, as they ran back to the center of the Palace.  “Saeros is to be considered armed and dangerous.  Go find Prince Legolas and tell him what has happened!”

 

When they approached the entrance to the Main Doors, they were both surprised to find things already in a state of chaos.

“What has happened?” he demanded, after his companion went to find Prince Legolas.  “Where is my wife?  Have you found Saeros?”

“Ómar is with Idril and Indis, but we cannot locate Saeros,” Airen ran up to him with a frantic expression, “Evvy is also missing.”

 

He has just sent the report to Dale, and came back through the Main Doors when Ómar ran up to him.

“Why are you not guarding our wives?” he demanded, as his stomach churned.

“They are safe, but we have another problem,” Ómar grabbed his arm.  “Lieutenant Gildor’s children did not report to school this morning, and I think they have been taken.” [1]

“Where is he?”

“He is with his wife in their quarters.”

Adamar raced as fast as his legs could take him to Gildor’s apartment, to find the couple huddled together on their couch.  Nielthi was weeping, as they answered questions.

Gildor and his wife had fed them their breakfast and kissed them goodbye as usual, then Nielthi walked them to the corridor where their classes were held.  Did you see them go into the classroom?  No; she was late for her duty, so she told them to go straight down to class.  At ten and twelve years of age, they were certainly capable of managing that; as a matter of fact, Dylan had been pestering his parents to let them walk to school by themselves.

“We decided I could take them as far as the corridor and they could walk themselves to class,” Nielthi sobbed into her handkerchief, “I am so sorry,” she begged her husband.  “I sh-should have taken them all the way, but he wanted to be responsible!”

“Shhh…” Gildor kissed the top of her hair.  “No one could look after them better than you, Meleth nîn.”

“Nielthi,” Adamar squatted in front of the weeping Elleth.  “This is not your fault.  I think I know who is behind this, and King Thranduil is on his way, even as we speak.  We will find them, I promise you.”

“But they have no coats!” she wailed. “They are human and cannot tolerate the cold!”

Just then, there was a knock in the doorway, and everyone looked up.  Adamar jumped up and rushed to Elion, whose face was unnaturally pale. 

The Lieutenant held up two satchels.  “We found these by the North Wall,” he whispered, and pulled out the contents of one of them.  They were papers, written in a childish hand.

Nielthi screamed in horror and collapsed in her husband’s arms.

 

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

 

Evranin didn’t see Saeros before she reported to Gwindor in the Library, and she hated to admit it was a relief.  It was cowardly to put off the inevitable, and she knew Airen will want to know all about it, but she needed some time to prepare what she wanted to say. 

“Evvy?” It was Gwindor, the head Librarian.  “I am going to order some tea.  Would you like some?”

“Yes, please,” she looked up from the scroll with a smile.  “This has gotten a bit brittle, Master; I doubt it will last another decade.”

“Put it with the others to be copied.  How are these?” he pointed to the small pile to her left.

“Oh, those look good, but I want to have them rechecked in five years.  And those,” she pointed to a small cart piled with more scrolls, “are perfect.”  Evvy sighed, “I wish I had time to read all of these wonderful documents!  So much history to learn!” she smiled.

“Ah,” he laughed.  “I confess I would enjoy a year or two in the Lord and Lady’s Archives in the Golden Wood.  Are you prepared for your class this morning?”

“I am, but I need a few minutes to finish up here.”

 

Evvy normally spent two mornings a week helping the adopted fosterlings from Dale with their reading lessons and helped them pick out a book they might want to take home to their Elven parents.  She knew Gwindor especially looked forward to this, as his grandchildren, Dylan and Rowena were among the students. 

They had been adopted by Gwindor’s son, Gildor and his wife during the Long Winter, and it was decided they would stay in the Woodland Realm, rather than move back to Dale.  Gildor’s duties as Lieutenant to Captain Ómar prevented such a move, yes, but mainly the children had been too traumatized by the destruction of Laketown and the Battle and wanted to stay.

They were delightful children, though Gwindor said it took a while for Dylan to come out of his shell.  But Gildor and his wife Nielthi, had been patient, and though he remained quiet-spoken, he smiled a great deal more.  They were their new grandparents’ pride and joy, and Gwindor’s wife enjoyed making all their clothing.

 

When it was time for the teacher to bring them to the library, Evvy and Gwindor looked for his grandchildren and was surprised at their absence.

“They did not come to school today, Master,” the instructor told him.  “Many of the children are home with colds, and we assumed they were among them.”

“But I saw Neithi this morning, and she said nothing about illness,” Gwindor became alarmed.  “She was on duty, as usual; if the children were sick, she or my son would be with them.”

“Master,” Evvy gently put her hand on his arm.  “I am sure there is an explanation for this.  I can take care of things here; why do you not go find Gildor and make sure?  You will not be able to concentrate, otherwise.”

The Archivist swallowed.  “I will, thank you. 

“It is well, Mellon,” she assured him.  “Go.”

Once the class was dismissed and Evvy was alone in the Library, she decided to take a break.  She stepped out into the hall just as Saeros stepped out of the nearby shadows.

“Saeros!” she cried. “You startled me!”

“I am sorry,” his voice was smooth.  “I was hoping you and I could go for a walk?”

“Well, I only have a few minutes…” she bit her lip and looked around.  “But yes, I will.  I think you and I need to talk.”

“Did you receive my flowers?” he tilted his head.

“I did,” she hesitated for a moment, then took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders, “I am afraid I cannot accept them.  If I have given you the wrong idea about our friendship, then I owe you an apology.”

“What would you consider to be the ‘wrong idea?’” Saeros’s voice suddenly became edgy, and his eyes narrowed.  “Have I not repeatedly expressed my gratitude for our friendship?  You understand me, Evranin!  How many others refuse to look beyond their assumptions and judge me?  Yet you do not, and I simply wanted to express my appreciation.”

“So…” she took a deep breath, “are you developing feelings for me beyond friendship?”

“What would you say if I was?” he looked deep into her eyes.  “What would be wrong with that?”

“Nothing!” she held up her hands, “but I am afraid I must tell you that I do not return such feelings.  I am sorry to hurt you, Saeros, but I just do not feel that way about you.  We can be friends, but that is all.”

“You could grow to love me,” he said.  “Many happy marriages have begun with less.”

“But not for me. Not after I had to endure such an arranged marriage that was miserable for everyone involved; surely you understand this!”

“And you are convinced such a union with me would be just as miserable?”

“Y-yes,” she sighed.  “I am sorry, but yes.”

“You lie,” he grabbed her arm.  “Why do you not admit it?  You are waiting for Lieutenant Turamarth!  Yet where is he?  How long have you been waiting for word from him?”

“That is none of your business!” she tried to pull her arm away, but he tightened his grip.  “H-How do you know I have not heard from him?”

He leaned in to whisper in her ear.  “Because I have all the letters you two have been trying to exchange.   Now, Evranin, you are going to behave calmly and naturally as you come with me.”

“I will do no such thing!” She hissed then took a deep breath, ready to scream. 

He clapped his hand over her mouth and dragged her behind a pillar.  “You will not make a sound.  The Palace is about to explode any minute now, but you are going to help me remain hidden.”

Her arm bruised under his painful grip, and she frantically thrashed her body to be free of him.

“No, no, no, sweetling,” Saeros whispered in her ear, “you will calm down and behave yourself, because I happen to know where Lord Gwindor’s grandchildren are, and their lives are in your hands.”

Evvy’s eyes bulged as she froze, and met his hard gaze.

“If am captured, I might forget where they are, and those poor children will be left to freeze to death," he smiled, "and I know you would not want that.  If you want them to live, you will do exactly as I tell you.”

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Aewpin - "Little Bird"

Ai, baw! – Oh, don’t!

Alatúlie – (Q.) Welcome

Aphado nin! – Follow me!

Ci athae - Thank you/you are helpful

Ci vilui - Thank you/you are kind

Essenya Adamar ná. – (Q.) My name is Adamar

Hantan len – (Q.) I thank you.

Haru - Grandfather

Haruni  - Grandmother

Hesto Adamar – Captain Adamar

Hind Calen - "Green Eyes"

Ma hanyal ni? – (Q.) Do you understand me? 

Ma, Hesto! – Yes, Captain!

Pînig - My little one

Vuin - Beloved

 

 

NOTES:

[1] And Winter Came…, Ch. 26: https://archiveofourown.org/works/12026709/chapters/30451701