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The Ainur of Shadows

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Lady Tauriel had taken it upon herself to show Hloirëa the inner workings of the Elvish city and though she absolutely loved the chance to see more of the architecture as well as looking at the fine crafts that were hand-made by the residents of the halls, it was a bit strange to have elves come up offering small gifts for her help in clearing the forest.

Strange in the way that she had never been good at gifts, as she was told again and again that she didn’t deserve them at a young age and even as she knew now that those giving them thought she deserved them and it was rude not to accept… it still felt like she owed them something back. Because trading was equal and she didn't have to feel like she owed people.

Many called her ‘generous’ or ‘too kind’ and that too made her feel a bit uncomfortable- as if itchy somewhere deep inside she couldn’t reach.

“I have heard you are close to Lord Mandos and Lady Vairë?”

Knowing the conversation was a way to trick her into relaxing but willingly letting it do just that, she looked at the woman with the hair that reminded her of autumn. “Lady Nienna was the one who first recognized me when I had come to Valinor, though most often I stayed in the Halls of Mandos, keeping Vairë company as she wove.” Smiling at the thought and remembering the woman’s gentle smiles as she listened to Hloirëa tell stories to Olórin when he would come by to see them. “The tapestries of time displayed out around the halls, the woven stars hanging up on the high ceiling… Yes, I often found solace there from those that were not as fond of me.”

Tauriel looked at her curiously, the time the woman had spent with the dwarves making her much more used to expressing her emotions in body language and facial features, though she did not ask the question lingering in her eyes. “And after the War of Wrath… you were sent to stay in the void?”

“That's a kind way of saying I was banished.” Turning away from that conversation, she moved away from the woman as she looked over the wares displayed along the markets. 

Pausing at a table as she spotted a small disk of semi-clear crystal like an ashtray, she picked it up gently and then slowly used her magic to clear it until it was like glass, shaping it like a convex slowly as she held it out until the sunlight that went through it was filed down into a small point. 

Turning, she looked at Tauriel with the magnifying glass in front of one of her eyes. “I spy with my big eye…”

The woman laughed in surprise. “What- your eye is huge!”

Duplicating the magnifying glass, she held them both up to her eyes and blinked slowly, having to lower them when she felt a headache coming on. “Dear gods, that is bad for my eyes.” Then setting one down, she held out her hand. “Hand.”

With a quizzical look, the woman put a hand in hers, though she gasped softly when Hloirëa showed her how it magnified her ring.

“It can take the light and bend it, making things look bigger than they actually are. Cool, right?” With a half-grin, she set the disk back on the table and nodded to the vendor before strolling away. “Sometimes I hate places like this because I go to find one thing but get distracted enough to forget that thing, meaning I end up with twenty different things, all of which I didn’t need.” 

“I doubt I can help you there, my Lady, as you didn’t say you wanted anything in particular when I suggested bringing you here.” 

Hloirëa hummed with a small frown, looking at a wooden table holding different stones and gems surely traded from Erebor, she wandered over and stared at the different items. “It’s going to bug me nonetheless.”

“You totally wanted sunglasses.” Leaning against the table when she looked up, Sirius grinned at her. “Admit it- you’d look badass in a pair of circular sunglasses made of black stone.”

“You’re not wrong.” Picking up a thin sheet of black Micha, she held it up across her eyes with a grin, laughing when he gave her two thumbs up. Putting the rock down, she reached out a hand to pat the man’s semi-solid face before moving past the table. “But I don’t have a ton of expendable income.”

Sirius grinned wolfishly as he bounced along at her side, ignoring the elves he startled by going right through. “We both know you could easily make more by shaping gems with your shadows- do you think this world has diamonds?”

Hloirëa held out a hand, concentrating on her shadows and letting them slowly come together to form a big blue diamond reminiscent of the Hope Diamond. “If it didn’t before, it does now. Here, hold this.” Tossing the diamond at the spirit, she grinned when he fumbled to catch it, even as it went right through him, Tauriel catching it.

The woman looked at her with wide eyes. “What is… did you just create this?”

“Creating things isn’t any harder than conjuring them.” She glanced back at the woman then pointed at Sirius. “It was his suggestion. Blame him.”

The man put a hand over his chest with wide eyes as if to say ‘who, me?’ before shaking his head and pointing back at her. “You can’t understand me, obviously, but it was totally her fault. She’s the one who called on me!”

“I didn’t call you! You came to annoy me with random ideas to distract me from-” Her eyes widened, snapping her fingers as she remembered, surging forward to pull Sirius into a hug so she could kiss his misty cheek before pulling away. “My potions! I was going to get herbs!”

Sirius laughed heartily, putting a hand on her head as he shot her a wink and then disappeared. 

“What was-”

“I remembered what I wanted to get.” Taking the gem from Tauriel lightly and slipping it into the small pouch at her side, she moved through the vendors and stalls looking for herbs. Finding a stall that was nicely laid out with the different plants and salves, she looked through what was being sold with keen eyes. Finding a plant she didn’t know, she straightened and looked at Tauriel, though she paused when she found the Prince and a dark-haired elf that seemed slightly familiar with the woman.

Tauriel went to speak, but before she could, a hand hit her shoulder lightly.

With a roguish grin, Orophin raised an eyebrow at her. “Where’s Haldir?”

“I’m not his minder, ‘Phin. Hey, since you’re here could you tell me what this plant here is? The one with the slightly prickly leaves?” Her gaze went back to the plant, studying it. “I’m trying to find more potion ingredients.”

“Really thought he’d be following you around…” Wincing when she jabbed him, he rubbed his side and then looked at the plant. “That looks like Azuradan. It has sweet roots and when ground up it can be used for headaches, I’m fairly sure.”

Hloirëa made an ‘ah’ sound. “Pain relief. Is it native to certain temperatures?”

“Not that I know of?” Orophin shrugged just slightly, before putting a hand on her head. “Look, don’t get into trouble or set anything on fire, child, I’m going to go find Haldir.”

She kicked him in the shin. “Get out of my sight you overgrown wheat stalk.”  

Chuckling, Orophin nodded to the other elves and then started to walk off, though he paused where he probably thought she couldn’t see to rub at his shin (making her smile to herself).

The dark-haired elf stepped forward, though he seemed to steel himself when she looked at him and her smile faded slightly. “I was sent to invite you to dine with King Thranduil this evening at the high table, Lady Hloirëa.”

She looked at the man for a moment before nodding idly. “As the King wishes.”

Looking relieved, the elf dipped his head and then moved away from them with quick strides.

The Prince, however, stayed by Tauriel’s side. Seeming to see her look, he raised a single eyebrow just slightly. “Even if I am on thin ice, am I not able to have time to see my friend when she is with you?”

“I didn’t-” Realizing she was scowling slightly, she scrunched up her nose and then took a deep breath to make herself chill out. “I apologize for my face-... your father irks me.”

Sharing a glance with Tauriel that was laced with humor, the man tilted his head just slightly. “I could sit between the two of you should you wish for a sort of barrier.”

“Please.” The word breathed out, her shoulders relaxed and with a crooked smile coming to her lips, she looked between the man’s eyes before holding out her hand. “I’m Hloirëa, though no one seems to like to call me that.”

“It seems a bit wrong to call you a name meaning ‘venomous’ when trying to be respectful.” But the man took her fingers, bending as if to kiss her fingers.

She pulled away and snorted when he looked at her. “My full name is better, but only known to the one who gave it to me.” Then reaching out, she turned his hand and slid their hands together with a small chuckle. “And should you ever wish to reside in the towns of men for any period of time, this is how you shake someone’s hand, your highness.”

“Are you allergic to all forms of respect?” 

Hloirëa snorted softly. “If I was I would have died already. No, I just think that real true respect comes from knowing something and choosing to accept it in all its flaws. As well, manners are always good, but lowering one’s self to make another feel like higher is not respect- it is ignorance to your own self-worth.”

The blonde elf looked at her for a moment before nodding slowly. “If I am to call you by your name, then you should call me by mine. I am Legolas Thranduillion.”

“Well met, Legolas.” Her eyes crinkled when she smiled, feeling that warm happiness she got whenever she met people that actually seemed to like her, though she pulled away a second later. “Now can you help me figure out what these plants are? I have no idea what anything is and I’m fairly immune to poisons because of a biological thing, so I should not be left alone when trying to make potions for the healers to replicate.”

Nodding again with a faint uptick to his lips, he moved to help talk through the different properties of the plants she didn’t understand, getting so into their discussion on how they were used by the Mirkwood elves vs how she used them that they almost didn’t notice when Kili stole Tauriel away for lunch.

With a basket of plants on her arm, she pulled out the diamond and then held it out to the vendor that had been watching them in amusement and sometimes chiming in things neither of them knew. “For taking up so much of your time.”

“Oh- that...” 

“You have no idea how priceless that kind of gem is, do you?” Pushing her hand back towards her, Legolas gave her a dry look. “Do you have gold coins?”

Scrunching up her nose, she put the gem in the elf’s hand heavily and then knelt to put a hand to the dirt, closing her eyes. Darkness spreading out into the earth, she felt it catch on a vein of metal, tapping each of her fingers once against the earth as it vibrated just faintly- a small hunk of silver metal coming to her hand. Standing and brushing off her knee, she held it out to the elf. “Trade this to the dwarves for coins. It’s Mithril.”

Taking the Mithril with a look between her and Legolas, the elf dipped his head. “Too kind, my Lady.”

“No problem.” Turning and sending Legolas a look when he walked at her side, she gestured to the gem he held. “It’s pretty, isn’t it?”

“Very. Though I have always thought blue sort of… wistful.”

Hloirëa smiled faintly. “Its design is based on one of the most precious yet tragic diamonds in my old world whose owners all died horrible deaths, so I suppose the blue fits it rather well, don’t you think?” Holding out her hand, she took it back and let her shadows enclose it in a simple silver setting that hung the gem against the slope of her chest.

Legolas nodded, though his words were a clear warning. “My father has long had an eye for gems since my mother passed as he cannot seem to find anything else to match her beauty, so should you have an attachment to that, I would not wear it so visibly.”

“Oh, I don’t mind. I would love to haggle prices with a king.” Her grin was wide as she swung her basket at her side and she felt better when the man’s eyes only crinkled in humor.

 

After a walk of the medium-sized gardens where they continued their friendly discussion on the different plants, as she found she knew a few of the flowers to be ones that were very closely similar to ones from her world, otherwise just suggesting what they might be used for.

Though that friendly discussion turned into a friendly argument when Legolas went to pull a red flower from the ground, muttering that it was a weed, and she stopped him as she was more than sure that it was a poppy flower.

“Hloirëa, they’re a poisonous weed that tricks people with their vibrant color.”

“Poisonous! They’re rich in calcium and not horrible tasting either- plus you can use them for helping with certain intestinal issues and they’re almost vital in sleeping potions!”

Legolas huffed. “Sleeping potions, yes, if you want the person to never wake!” His voice was dry. “I almost went into a sleep-like death when I was a child, eating these!”

She paused at that, tilting her head. “...what happened?”

“The healers said that my throat almost closed up, though luckily not enough where I couldn’t breathe- though they told me my passing to the undying lands would have been inevitable had I eaten any more than I did, so father forbids them to grow, for the protection of the people.”

Hloirëa looked at him in amusement. “That doesn’t mean they’re poisonous, Legolas. Many of the elves in Lothlórien use them in muffins and loaves of bread without any downsides to their health, though it does mean your body doesn’t break down the components of this particular food right and you should steer clear of them.” When the man furrowed his eyebrows, she reached out to put a hand on his shoulder for a moment. “Your father probably banned them because he was scared of losing you.”

After a moment of looking at the flower, he nodded and then looked at her with a much more neutral expression. “Perhaps I could show you around the library?”

“I do love a good library.” Hand dropping, she smiled faintly. “And they’re practically harmless- unless your people have a restricted section of books on dark magics that are liable to hurt you, of course.”

At his raised eyebrows, she laughed and started to explain Hogwarts to him as they walked through the halls. 

The library was peaceful just as Legolas had promised, though it seemed to amuse him how easily she immersed herself into the shelves, finding the fiction section all on her own from just skimming random works and finally starting to sit down on the floor when she found a book she liked. Though that led the blonde elf to wave her over to a chair by the corner, huffing when she sat down on the floor and rested her back on the side of the chair.

“You know that the chair was meant for you to sit in.”

“I like the floor.” Her smile was small as she read the words slowly, as she was much better with spoken word than the written one, having been teaching herself slowly (with some help from Galadriel and occasionally Celeborn) since she’d gotten to Lothlórien. 

Walking back to the stacks and returning a moment later with a book as well, Legolas sat down in the chair. “Suit yourself.”

Reading quietly until she got frustrated enough to tap the chair and heft up the book to point at a word so he could translate it, they sat quietly as she read, though the next time she got stuck on a word he translated it for her without her asking. 

When she tilted her head back, Legolas was leaning against the side of the chair looking down at her book. “You have had your finger on the word ‘terrified’ for a while now.”

Hloirëa just held the book up higher, setting it on her knees with a smile. “So you don’t have to strain your eyes.”

“No matter that elvish eyesight is renowned for being able to see across whole valleys, another arm’s length would be far too much.” His voice was dry.

“Would you like to read out loud then, Mr. My-eyesight-is-impeccable?”

With just the slightest smile, leaning further towards her, he started to read. “-as the great beast has six heads and teeth like knives...” 

Reading along with his voice, committing new words they came across to memory as she turned the pages occasionally, they sat there as the light of the library flowed across the wood floors like molten gold flecks running through an hourglass.

Eventually, though, footsteps made them pause and they both looked up to find Haldir walking over with a letter in his hands. “There is news for you, my Lady.”

Pushing herself up hastily and taking the letter, she read the loopy script hastily, laughing faintly when Galadriel signed with a note that she was surprised to be consulted over the Valar of Death. “News indeed. We’re riding to Dol Guldur first light!”

“And will you return after?” Legolas stood up slowly, moving to pick up the book she’d set aside, his eyes curious. 

“I… do not know yet. I have not truly thought about my plans in the future, though now that your people have less fear of me, I guess I have no reason to stay away.” She smiled and then waved the letter. “But first I wish to see King Thranduil’s face when he realizes my letter arrived far before he thought it would!” Her grin was slightly evil, along with her laugh.

Haldir huffed. “Perhaps heading to the main hall would be best then. I will let the other know that our stay is coming to an end so they will rest early and pack in the morning.”

Nodding, she helped place her book back where she’d found it before moving to follow where Haldir and Legolas took the lead, falling into step with each other easily. 

 

The Main Hall was lit with the light of the stars reflected off the white wood of the architecture and though the light was cold and reminded her of pain, it was still beautiful. Pausing just a moment to admire the sight as she looked around, her eyes caught on a tapestry that she had not noticed before now. 

A dark shadow with three recognizable gems set into a crown she had helped to pry from blackened skin stood over a much smaller figure with a glowing sword, a mace of fire held in black-gauntleted hands, eyes seeming to glow a bright yellow even though the tapestry.

“Melkor.” Her breath was soft, moving to the tapestry and then reaching up to brush a hand over the crown her dear friend was wearing. The tapestry shifted under her fingers for a moment, the yellow seeming to drip down the black helm as the anger in the figure’s frame shifted to something like fear.

“The Legendary Fingolfin, facing down the monstrous Morgoth. It is a reminder to my people that evil cannot win forever.”

Her hand pulled away and the tapestry shifted back even if she was still able to see the wrongness in the threads. “Evil? No.” Her voice was a whisper. “Evil is a mindless corruption seeking out blood because it likes the smell of death. Evil is that which has been created with the sole purpose of destroying and thus will cannibalize everything around it and then itself in the process, as it is in its nature.”

“They say that after the kingdoms of the Ñoldor were almost destroyed by Morgoth, Fingolfin mounted his horse and rode to challenge the monstrous Lord of Evil to single combat, mistaken for the Vala Oromë as he rode to Angband.”

Hloirëa flinched at the name of the fortress, wrapping her arms around herself. She could see it now, the elf mistook as the one Vala that hated all things ‘abnormal’ with a passion riding to kill her friend for defending his lands as best he could... “And Melkor felt fear.” 

The King’s voice was amused. “He should have, had he more emotions than that of a mindless evil beast, as King Fingolfin was able to wound the Dark Lord seven times!”

“...And as he fell with burning wings, he wondered if his father ever loved him at all.” Cracking her fingers as she stared at the tapestry, she shook her head and then turned away. “It is no wonder your kind look at the cold and distant stars to find warmth instead of the burning sun- you are far too comfortable with finding emotions irrational when you are not allowed to feel so strongly.”

Thranduil’s eyes followed her as she walked up to the head table and sat down gracefully next to Legolas instead of the seat next to the King. 

Holding the letter from Galadriel to the man, she looked at her plate. “Pass this to the King, please.”

Taking it, Legolas passed it silently to his father. “Do you not like the stars?”

“I think they are pretty if that is what you are asking.”

“You know it is not.”

Hloirëa poked at her fork for a moment before turning to him. “I think they are pretty trinkets that hold no real value to the world. Sure one of them is useful for navigation, but what do the rest do? Give you false prophecies? Sparkle meaninglessly?”

Legolas’s eyebrows did a funny thing she didn't understand. “I suppose... they are there to make the void less terrifying to those that do not understand that the darkness itself is not the enemy but that which knows how to use the darkness to their advantage.”

Looking between his eyes, her frustration abated, she nodding slightly as she turned back to her food. Eating a piece of the fish before her in thought, she chewed before speaking. “I like the moon far more than the stars. Her light is soft, but not unkind, and her light will never lead you astray.”

“And what does the moon say of Dol Guldur?” Thranduil’s voice was sarcastic, leaning forward to look at her as he waved the letter like a fan. “I did not think that a letter would reach my hands for another few days at least.”

“I never specified the method of travel it would reach ‘Ladriel’s hands. And frankly, I have not heard from La Lune since I came to Arda.” 

Legolas gestured to her necklace. “Why not make something that would help you communicate with her?” When she tilted her head slightly, he continued. “You said creating things is not hard for you, so why not that?”

Hloirëa smiled slowly. “Brilliant.”  

Darkness curled from the shadows of the balcony to her side, creeping slowly across the floor like vines and then curling up in her hand, brushing against her fingers like an affectionate cat. Leaving just enough darkness to pool in her hands, the vines disappeared as if melting in the light. 

Closing her hands around the darkness and bringing it up to her lips to blow her magic into the darkness, she felt it slowly take form in her hand.

She looked up with a grin. “It’s alive...” The creature jumped, making her startle into laughter as she brought her hands up to look into one of the cracks. “No, no, honey, don’t- I’m not a danger to you…”

There was a low echoing noise like a bass opera singer and then a small pale green frog with big black eyes poked its head out of the hole in her hands. 

Legolas leaned further her way. “What… is that?”

“It’s a moon frog.” Separating her hands slowly and smiling at the small frog, she held it out to the man slowly, voice soft. “It’s okay, little frog, the elves won’t hurt you.”

Moving slowly at first it then sprung from her hands to land in Thranduil’s lap and she laughed brightly as he freaked out, standing up only to give a horrified noise when he found it sticking to his robes.

Hloirëa sipped her wine. “Did I mention that they like those with light hair because it reminds them of their mother, the moon?”

“Aren’t you its mother?” Legolas looked at her, both of them ignoring the chaos being caused by the small lightning-fast frog rampaging around the hall.

Watching the small frog leap off the balcony to evade the guards and snickering to herself, she leaned back in her chair. “Oh, no, they’re fully La Lune’s problem now, though I assume given a year or so they’ll be singing all over the forest.” Her smile was bright. “Maybe they’ll even migrate to Lothlorien!”