Actions

Work Header

Stareyed Wanderer

Work Text:

Stareyed Wanderer

Stiarna was born the first child of Kili, son of Vili, sister-son of Thorin, King of Erebor, and his Queen, Tauriel, daughter of Dirhael, Peredhel and former Captain of the Guard of Mirkwood. She was born less than three years after the retaking of the Lonely Mountain and the wedding of her parents (though it was unheard for dwarrrows to have children so soon after getting married). Her hair was bright red and completely straight (it would darken, thicken and gain a measure of waves in the following years); though the one detail both of her parents focused on the moment she was born was her hazel eyes... and the light of the stars that shone in them.

Stiarna Stareyes, her father called her, though it would be many a year before the girl understood what it meant to have the light of the stars in her eyes.

She always knew her parents were very different. Not only in the simple terms of one being a dwarrow and the other a she-elf, the way Tauriel was taller, Kili broader, or any other line in the long list of differences. The girl herself had inherited her mother's eye-color, hair being just a shade or two darker, though as thick and wild as her father's; her skin was soft and unblemished, like her mother's, taking a golden hue at her continued exposure to the sun; she wasn't as tall as her mother, though taller than any other dwarrow, slimmer too; though her bones had proven to be as strong as any dwarf's (a number of accidents in her crazy youth had proven it). She also aged half as fast as a human, twice as fast as a dwarrow.

At first Stiarna used to believe that any particularities of her, were due to her mixed heritage. And then her brother was born. Fili II (named in honor of their father's brother, who'd died before either of them were born) had light brown hair, with a slight hint of their mother's auburn and while it lightened as he grew, it didn't actually become red, instead it gained a sort of golden hue... (like both the uncle and the grandfather the children never knew); his eyes blue, the shade some dwarrows called Durin-blue (same as their uncle Thorin, and apparently many of their ancestors in Durin's Line). Fili was smaller, broader, and considerably more hairy; many soon began saying that he was a proper dwarf, a true Son of Durin.

Stiarna never said it, but it became a source of distress for her. To hear others say that her brother was a proper dwarf; while she not only wasn't that, she also wasn't enough like her mother to be considered a proper elf, or a human... instead it was like she was balanced in between all three races, not truly belonging to any of them. So instead, she searched for another way to belong somewhere, anywhere.

Stiarna was almost fifteen years old (though she looked around seven), when her Adad (Dad) gave her her first bow. It was small, obviously meant for a child; but it wasn't like the toys human children sometimes used; it was well crafted, meant to take her strength (which was superior to that of a human or elven child... though not quite as much as a dwarfling would have had). She'd always been fascinated by her parents' ability with the bow, especially since they were the only archers in the Lonely Mountain. Stiarna knew the bow was supposed to be a toy, something for her to play with; and yet she soon realized one thing: she was good with it. After the third person (the first non-relative) told her she was exactly like her parents, after watching her shoot a number of arrows; the young half-dwarf decided that was exactly what she would do.

Years passed, and the young princess kept getting better with bow and arrow. She could also use small daggers, for close combat, and was quite decent at hand to hand (a mix odd of elven and dwarven styles that tended to confuse anyone sparring against her, which was all the more of an advantage to her). But that was about it where weapons were concerned; as most of those used by dwarrows were much too heavy for her, while the knives elves favored were simply too long for her to be maneuverable.

So Stiarna Stareyes grew up, she was the firstborn child of her parents, but not the one who would inherit the throne. Which was quite alright with her, as she couldn't begin to imagine being Queen of Erebor. But it was also another reminder that she just did not fit, that she wasn't enough of either race.

And then the War of the Ring came, and everything changed unexpectedly, in many ways. When the odd creature was captured and imprisoned in Mirkwood by a contingency of elves and dwarves Stiarna wanted to be part of the group. She liked the forest, and tended to slip there every once in a while, to train her marksmanship on the spiders still running around. But she'd been caught the last time she'd done such a thing, and was grounded, so she couldn't. Then, after the creature escaped and most of those who'd been on guard were killed, her parents were called for a meeting in the forest to discuss what had happened.

Months passed, and her Adad proposed that a part of the army, completely formed by volunteers, be assembled and marched South, to try and help Frodo with his quest. Stiarna loved Frodo, her littlest cousin (uncle, technically, but he was younger than her!). When she'd learnt about the Council in Rivendell, about the Quest, and Frodo's part in it as the Ringbearer, Stiarna had been half-horrified, half-envious. She knew it was absolutely insane, and it wasn't that she wished to be in Frodo's place, not really; but she did wish she could see the world beyond the borders of Esgaroth, that she could be more than just princess Stiarna Stareyes... who didn't look enough like any race, who just didn't really fit.

Upon her parents' departure, the throne fell once more upon her uncles: Thorin and Bilbo; though at the same time they became very dependent on Dís, and a bit on Stiarna herself, what with their increasingly deteriorating condition (they were quite old, and getting more than a little forgetful, even if most chose not to talk about it). Usually it wouldn't have mattered much, the dwarrows in Erebor loved the kingdom so much there was hardly any trouble. But an army was coming, tens of thousands of Easterlings marching to wage war upon them, and Esgaroth, that made things like a proper chain of command necessary.

Preparations for the coming battle began even before the three smaller armies left South, and continued afterwards. Stiarna tried several times to join the military leaders in their meetings, to become part of it, but she was refused. There were no more archers among the dwarves, and those from Mirkwood and Dale that might be around didn't know her, or trust her. Also, whenever most people looked at her, all they saw was the princess of Erebor. Had she been a 'true dwarrowdam' she would have been sent straight into the tunnels, considered too young (she wasn't even sixty yet); that was where her brother was, after all, and there wasn't that much of an age difference between them, though he did look much younger.

So, once more, Stiarna was left adrift, wandering through Erebor. Helping the human civilians get installed into the old refugee apartments, make sure the dwarrowdams and dwarflings were all safe as well, check over the armories, sometimes even act as messenger between the groups; yet not quite able to join any of them.

And then it all began. Stiarna was in the West sector (the one with the 'big people' apartments) when they all heard the sounds of battle starting. The children were absolutely terrified, and to try and help calm them down, the princess convinced a few of sitting around him as she began telling them the first story that came to mind. One story became two, and two became more, as she just kept telling them pieces of the Quest for Erebor, which had once been her favorite, and exactly how her Uncle Bilbo told the story. Soon enough all the children had settled down.

After what might have been a couple of hours one of the women approached her and began singing a song which the children soon joined in; Stiarna was just wondering why she'd done that when Aska (Oldest daughter of Ori and Tilda, Lady of Dale and Erebor) approached her.

"You're needed in the War Room." She told the princess quietly in khuzdul.

Stiarna would have asked if something had happened, but it was obvious enough. She arrived to the War Room to find two shrouded bodies; the reaction from certain specific people in the room soon told her who exactly laid there: Lord Dáin Ironfoot and Crown Prince Brand... Stiarna's mouth went dry abruptly. She knew the prince, how could she not? With their respective positions it was only to be expected. He was a good friend of hers. Ironically enough Brand was the only of his line to be no good with a bow; and while Stiarna was an archer, and quite proud of it, her own situation gave her a particular understanding of how it felt to not be what and how others believe you should. That had created a strong bond of friendship between the two. She'd been an honored guest at his wedding, and had been there to console him when his wife died in failed childbirth, along with their unborn daughter.

After a nod in the direction of her uncles and grandmother, Stiarna immediately rushed to where Prince Bard II was standing in a corner, seemingly shocked into absolute stillness. The lad was so young, a few months away from his 18th birthday, and he'd already lost his father... and she'd seen King Báin practically curled up in his own chair, pushed down by grief.

"Bard!" She called, hurrying to embrace the young man. "Oh Bard..."

She wouldn't ask him if he was alright, she wasn't the kind to ask stupid questions. Which really meant there wasn't much she could say, or do, other than stand there and try to offer some kind of comfort to her young friend.

"Stiarna..." He murmured, voice quiet, and expression so lost.

The auburn-haired half-dwarf hated seeing that expression on the face of a boy who was always so bright, so happy. It didn't seem right. She vowed to herself that she would find a way to make things right again. At the same time, a corner of her mind registered the fact that it was the first time he'd called her just by her given name. He'd always used her titles (Lady Stareyes, Princess Stiarna, etc.), seeing her with a bit too much wonder, as her father's friend and later own his own mentor (someone had to teach the boy how to use the bow, his father didn't know how and Báin claimed to be too old... and she'd liked it, teaching someone else her passion).

The following three days were a bit of a daze. With the Lonely Mountain under siege, and too many enemies at their doors to do anything.

"This is absolutely ridiculous!" Stiarna cried out one day, pulling almost nervously at the braids in her hair (one for the Line of Durin, the second marking her status as princess, and the other for being considered off-age). "There must be a way we can break this Mahal-forsaken siege!"

"Strategically, the best way to do that would be by taking down the leaders of the army." Aska stated seriously. "Cut off the head of the snake, so-to-speak."

While at 47 some might consider Aska too young not to be with the other dwarflings, she wasn't just a dwarrowdam; she, like Stiarna, was only half-dwarf (her mother having been Lady Tilda of Dale, a human), and also like the Princess of Erebor, she was a perfect blend of races (though in her case they were only two). Aska had aged twice as fast as a dwarrow, allowing her to reach the 'age of majority' much faster than her little brother, or Stiarna's (though no faster than her own sister, Sigrid II, who'd been born and grown like a full mortal woman... though she'd probably live longer than most). There was one other reason why Aska was there, unlike her younger siblings, who'd each chosen to take the path of one of their parents; the half-dwarf was instead following in the footsteps of one of her uncles. Aska was a spy, and Nori's chosen successor to one day take over the spy-net in Erebor.

Stiarna, being part of the Line of Succession, but not meant to take the throne herself, had been coached to deal with the spies (something which her mother did usually, and her brother's consort would be doing one day). So, while the adults were all creating strategy after strategy (and scrapping them one after the other too), trying to find a way to take down the enemies. The girls tried to consider an alternate path to the same goal. Hence the whole 'cutting the head of the snake' metaphor.

"You mean like what was done during the Battle of Five Armies, in Ravenhill." Stiarna nodded.

"Exactly." Aska nodded (her position afforded her more knowledge over what had happened there than most people possessed). "Except, in the current situation, any assassin sent outside the mountain would be dead long before they made it to the generals..."

Stiarna had just begun nodding, mostly automatically, when something occurred to her.

"What if the assassins didn't have to leave the mountain?" She suggested suddenly.

Aska looked at her, confused. For all answer, Stiarna reached for the bow slung on her back (while she wasn't really part of the army, the situation they were in was stressful enough Stiarna couldn't help but feel a bit safer keeping her weapons on her at all times).

"Think it might work?" The princess asked the spy.

"I think it's the only logical plan anyone in this mountain has, it might as well be our only chance." Aska answered honestly. "Insane as it might be."

"You do realize we cannot tell anyone else about this, right?" Stiarna asked grimly. "We must handle it ourselves."

Aska grimaced but nodded. She understood, the plan was absolutely insane, the 'responsible adults' in their lives would never go for it. But it needed to be done, because Aska honestly had no idea how they were supposed to survive what was happening.

"If we're going to do this... then we need more archers." The spy decided. "Once the first arrow is fired we'll have but seconds to either end it all or die, and you alone won't be enough."

"Then lets go find us more archers." Stiarna agreed.

It wasn't easy, but they did find more archers. It was Bard who helped them, gathering a few of the men and elves who were amenable (and who agreed not to tell the other royals what the lasses were planning). The plan was pretty simple, all in all. Aska and a number of her most trusted spies (Nori had left her in charge when going with the volunteer army South), lead each one or two archers into a number of secret passages, which lead to outcrops of the Lonely Mountain, more than half of which had been turned into small gardens by Royal Consort Bilbo and Lady Tauriel in the last sixty years. There the spy would act as lookout, while the archers prepared. Stiarna would be the first to shoot, a specially crafted arrow with a diamond tip, created to pierce through almost any armor; it would also reflect the light of the stars as it flew through the air, acting as signal for all the other archers to fire. They had to do it right before dawn came, when they were least likely to be seen (even with rocks, the brush and some plants to hide them, it was a dangerous plan).

So the plan was made, almost a dozen archers assembled. It was until the last of them left, leaving Aska and Stiarna as the final pair, that the half-dwarf, half-human realized something:

"You assigned all the lateral outcrops..." She murmured.

"Yes." Stiarna nodded, knowing what her friend must be realizing, but refusing to say it herself.

"Where will you be going?" Aska inquired.

"Where I need to, to be able to truly cut off the head of the snake." The princess replied, somewhat evasively.

"You would need to be at the front, and pretty high for the arrow to be able to travel that far..." The spy began, a hint of hesitation entering her voice for the first time.

"I also need to be in the middle if I want all the other archers to see my arrow." Her friend agreed.

"There is only one place that would fulfill all those requirements..." Aska actually closed her eyes tightly in a grimace. "You cannot possibly be thinking..."

"I'm not thinking, I'm doing it." Stiarna corrected, even as she began walking.

"But it's insane!" The spy almost shrieked. "The ledge.. it's crazy! It's hard enough to get up there, there's a reason why it wasn't turned into another part of the garden. That spot also has no shielding, none at all, it's on full view. The moment you shoot your arrow, that will be it, you'll be seen, and shot at. And you won't be able to get back down, not without getting killed!"

"It's what needs to be done Aska..." The princess's voice sounded completely solemn as she spoke. "You know I am right... will you help me do this?"

"Argg..." Aska hissed a few choice words in khuzdul under her breath. "We're both going to get killed for this, you know? If the Easterlings don't kill us, your parents for sure will! Or maybe my Uncle Dori!"

Stiarna didn't reply to that, just smiled, she'd known she could count on her best-friend...

The moon had left the sky, and far in the East, beyond the Iron Hills, the first rays of sun could be seen. It was enough to make Stiarna hurry. She secured the quiver of diamond tipped arrows to her back, her specially crafted bow on her shoulder (not the same she'd used as a child, but that too had been commissioned by her adad, just for her). She slipped out of the mountain through a hole that could never be seen in the distance, carefully twisting to take hold of a conveniently placed rock, and then she began climbing, finding rocks where to place hands and feet. It was just a few feet, and then she reached the ledge. It was, in essence, a rock, about five feet wide and three or so long. Like Aska had mentioned before, it had nothing that could be used as cover, just the rock itself where Stiarna was standing. It was also the perfect vantage point, as her sharp eyes allowed her to see the General of the Easterling army as he climbed back onto the mumakil he usually rode, ready for the next day of siege.

Stiarna knew time was of essence. They had the advantage of surprise, but once the sun was out it would be harder to hide. She also knew the General needed to be taken out before any of their enemies realized something was going on (hence her being on that ledge).

"Stiarna..." Aska hissed from where she was playing lookout (head barely poking out of the hole on the mountain wall).

"Stay there." The princess hissed back. "This'll all be over in no time at all."

She knew it was insane, yet also knew that the time for turning back had passed. And even if she could, she wouldn't. It wasn't about her pride, or her wish to fight; it was about her desire to protect those she cared for, to look after her loved ones, like her family always did. So she took a deep breath and then she stood, swiftly and smoothly; bow already in her right hand, the first arrow on her left; by the time she was standing straight her bow was in position, the arrow being drawn already. Stiarna took careful aim, waiting a handful of seconds until the sun began rising from behind the Iron Hills, the rays hitting the Easterlings, and serving well to mark her target. She pulled the bowstring tight, until it was touching the corner of her lip; then she let out a breath, releasing the bow at the same time.

The arrow flew, fast and true, finding its target, straight across the General's throat (right above his mail, but below the helmet). He was dead before he knew what was going on. And by the time his underlings realized anything, nearly a dozen more arrows were hitting a number of others targets across the valley.

Strong as the princess's satisfaction was at achieving her goal; she knew she couldn't stop. So, with that in mind, she immediately drew the next arrow, and fired, one after the other, never stopping, never slowing down. She didn't aim too carefully anymore, just shooting down as many as she could. She managed to fire almost half a dozen times before enemy archers became aware of her, and of the other archers posted around the mountain. It wasn't hard for them to realize she was the most vulnerable, and soon she was being fired at.

Thankfully, someone standing guard at the gates noticed when the Easterling captains began falling, to arrows coming from the Lonely Mountain. The remains of the army were marshaled in record time, and soon enough the battle was on. It would all end that day.

It was about an hour or so until all kinds of bolts finally stopped flying and Bofur scaled the front of the mountain to the ledge. Aska couldn't do it, as one of the rocks thrown by the catapults had hit the edge of the tunnel where she'd been, causing her to crack her head open. She would recover, but was in no state to climb the mountain wall to her friend. She also lost consciousness briefly, and it was until she woke that everyone realized where Stiarna had shot from, and that she was still there.

Bofur found the girl (she was almost sixty, yet looked to be in her early twenties), was curled up in what looked like the border of the ledge; which had been reduced to half its width or so, the rest having collapsed under the weight of several rocks. Part of her hair was matted with blood and plastered to the side of her head (probably a rock); and there were a number of cuts on her arms and legs (nothing life-threatening, thankfully).

It took a while, but eventually the dwarves found a way to get Stiarna off the ledge and to the closest garden (it would have been too dangerous to try and get her back into the tunnel she and Aska had used first); that specific garden had an actual door, and from there she was carried straight to the healer's ward, where her wounds were seen to.

That day, Stiarna Stareyes became a legend, not just for Erebor, but for all of Rhovanion. They called her the Archer, they called her the Guardian of Erebor, and some even called her Princess Diamant (an old form of saying diamond, for the tip of her arrows). She was the one who'd taken down the General of the Easterlings, 'cut off the head of the snake', in a sense. She made sure everyone knew it hadn't been just her, though, if it weren't for all the archers working together, and for the army that had chosen to fight one more time, they'd have never broken the siege.

The families had indeed almost had a heart attack afterwards. Stiarna would never forget the near-shouted lecture her uncle Thorin had dished out on her, not even her parents had reacted like that upon hearing what had happened (then again, they didn't see her as she was when Bofur got her off the ledge). It was until later that night that her Uncle Bilbo explained.

"What you need to understand, little star, is that as angry as your uncle Thorin might seem, the things he said, the way he yelled, all that, he did not do out of anger, but out of fear." The old hobbit explained as he ran a hand carefully through Stiarna's clean auburn hair. "Your plan... the way Aska explained it to us... it was essentially the same he made all those years ago."

"I know..." Stiarna had based her own plan on that one.

"And do you remember how that plan ended?" Bilbo interrupted her in a soft but chastising tone. "Your uncle Fili died, and both your father and Thorin would have as well, if it weren't for great miracles and the intervention of the merciful lady..."

"Mesemu-Amdâr..." Stiarna used the name the dwarrows favored for her.

"Yes." Bilbo nodded. "When Aska first woke up and told us what you'd done. I know a part of us was extremely proud of you, of what you'd achieved... learning where you'd been, that you were still there... I'm quite sure I wasn't the only one who feared what we would find when we got there. Especially with the catapults the Easterlings used."

"It needed to be done." Stiarna insisted. "I needed to protect Erebor..."

"I know sweetheart, I know." Bilbo pressed his forehead to hers. "I understand the need to protect those you care for, especially when it feels like they won't let you... Doesn't mean I don't worry about you as well, we all do. You're so young still Stiarna... and I know that you're an adult now, and quite capable of making your own choices... but you could be as old as your mother, you could be older than me and I would still worry about you. I will always worry about my family, Stiarna, we all will. It doesn't mean we don't believe you capable of doing things, of being strong, and brave and helping us all... it just means you're so precious to us, we're terrified to lose you. So many lives have been lost these days, and it hurts..." His voice broke slightly. "But as much as what's going on hurts, losing you would have been much, much worse."

"I'm sorry for worrying you uncle..." She whispered after what seemed like forever.

She would never be sorry for what she did, for fighting for Erebor... but she was sorry for making those she wanted to protect, those she loved, worry so much. Bilbo seemed to understand what she wasn't saying, as much as what she was, and he accepted it (he knew there was nothing that would change her mind).

"I love you, kêlthatru (little star)." Bilbo whispered, placing a kiss on his niece's brow.

"Love you, uncle Bilbo..." She whispered back, already falling asleep.

Many things changed for Stiarna after that day, that battle, yet two were the truly important ones in her mind, beyond the respect, the praise, the pride and the titles; first was her new braid. Beyond the plaits of family, status and rank (which she already had), there were also those that were worn by the warriors. A very specific kind of braid signaled a warrior among the dwarrows, with slight variants depending on their weapon of choice. Except... there had never been a braid for an archer, because until her father, there were no dwarrow archers; and even then her father was also an apt swordsman, and that plait had sufficed. That changed after the battle of Dale, a braid was created to signal an archer, she was the first to ever have it fixed into her hair; though both her parents soon followed.

The other unexpected change came around a year later. Gimli had just announced his intentions to travel across Middle-Earth, to get to see new places, new people, with none other than Legolas Greenleaf as his companion. The biggest surprise came when he offered Stiarna a chance to join them. She had no idea if it had been his idea, or the elf's, but the half-dwarf would never forget his friend's words that night:

"We may both have dwarrow blood in our veins, but we do not belong inside a mountain, my princess." In the past he'd used her title as a sign of respect, but it'd long since become an endearment. "I... I have seen so much, such amazing beauty, such great wonder, under starry skies and ceilings of leaves that the depths of the earth are no longer enough. And you... I have a feeling they've never been enough for you."

He was right, even if Stiarna would never admit it out-loud. She'd never felt truly fulfilled living inside the Lonely Mountain (it was no coincidence that she spent so much time in Dale). So the young princess agreed and, with her parents' blessing, she packed a bag, her weapons, and left Erebor to travel through Arda.

xXx

The princess of Erebor spent the next decade going from one corner to the other of Middle-Earth in the company of Legolas and Gimli. She had a lot of fun, and got the chance to meet a great many people, of all races, like the rest of the members of the Fellowship of the Ring, including King Elessar Telcontar, who was actually a distant relative of hers, and his match and Queen Arwen Undómiel. He also met many others, like King Éomer of Rohan, prince Faramir of Ithilien and his wife, Princess Éowyn Názgul-Slayer, the Ent Treebeard of Fangorn, the twins sons of Lord Elrond (and brothers of Arwen) Elladan and Elrohir, among many others.

Their journeys actually began in Rivendell, where they attended Frodo's and Bilbo's birthday. It was an opportunity for Stiarna to see her cousin again, see how much he'd changed... she also got to say goodbye to him (she was the first person Frodo told he was leaving Middle-Earth, about the opportunity that was being offered to him). They were still in Imladris when it was decided that both Thorin and Bilbo would be accompanying them.

Their travels didn't have much order, the three friends simply went where the mood struck them. Sometimes liking a place and staying a fortnight, a month, or maybe even more; sometimes only staying long enough to rest for a few hours before moving on.

After ten years or so, they went back to Rhovanion. It wasn't planned, but the yearly raven that carried Stiarna messages from her family, that day included one from King Thranduil to his son. He was leaving. The King was getting on a ship and sailing west, someone needed to take charge in Mirkwood.

So the trio returned to their homes. And that was when the princess got her first surprise. When she arrived to the Lonely Mountain to find several dwarves (both male and female) walking around with a certain braid in their hair... an archer braid.

"Everyone wants to be like you, Princess Diamant!" Aska teased her the moment she had the chance. "The great Stiarna Stareyes, the Archer, the one who killed the leader of the Easterling army and broke a three-day long siege... It's been extremely funny at times, actually. To see all the dwarflings approaching the King and Queen, and sometimes King Bard and other humans, looking for someone to teach them archery. You will probably be approached soon."

Stiarna didn't quite believe it at first, until no less than two dozen dwarrows (half of them past the age of maturity) approached her at varied times, trying to convince her to teach them. Some even had an archer-plait already, but they were all so convinced that she was a great hero, and ought to teach them anyway. Some even went as far as taking gifts to her, either products of their own crafts, gems they'd mined, anything. It was odd, to be stared at, respected, almost worshiped, not because of her circumstances of birth, but because of the one thing she'd chosen for herself.

The situation, while odd, kept Stiarna busy and, in a sense, entertained for several years. Even if she no longer felt that she fit in the Lonely Mountain; she enjoyed teaching others archery, having their respect, their regard. She also enjoyed spending time with her family and her friends, dwarves, humans and elves.

A number of years passed, and while Stiarna still enjoyed being Princess Diamant, she couldn't help but feel anxious again, a desire for something different, something new. And then it came, in the form of yet another proposition from Legolas Greenleaf: Thranduil was gone, but not all the elves had gone with him. Even then, the prince did not wish to stay. During the trio's travels a plan had begun forming, of a new settlement in the White Mountains, half in the mountains themselves, half in the neighboring forest; a mixed settlement (at least dwarves and elves; though with Gondor on one side of the mountains, and Rohan on the other, humans would end up involved as well). Even then, not all elves were quite ready to live in such a way, and while some had decided to move to Imladris or what was left of Lothlórien; some were quite insistent on remaining in Greenwood (the forest had returned to its old name after the end of Sauron and his darkness). Yet for such a thing to be possible, someone needed to rule.

"You want me to be ruler of Mirkwood?!" Such was her shock that Stiarna's voice went through two octaves as she said those words.

"You would be considered a Regent, the Lady of Mirkwood." Legolas did his best to explain. "It is only right. Ever since the War of the Ring it's become known that your mother is a distant cousin of mine..."

"From our wood-elf mother." Tauriel punctuated. "K... Lord Thranduil would never approve."

"He doesn't need to." The blonde prince insisted. "I approve. It's up to me now. The elves staying are all wood-elves as well, so it's not like they'll have any problem with it."

"I'm not even a century old!" Stiarna's voice was still too high. "You cannot expect others to follow someone they will see as nothing more than a child."

"They've seen you fight spiders beside us, they will follow you." Legolas stated.

Kili's eyes widened, while Tauriel just shook her head. Neither of them had been exactly aware of the extent their daughter got up to in her escapades to the forest (both before and after her travels with Legolas and Gimli), yet her mother wasn't exactly surprised.

"It was actually Voronwë's idea." The blonde added for good measure.

That gave Stiarna pause. Voronwë was the oldest of the remaining Greenwood elves, he was also the Captain of the Guard... if such an elf was willing to follow Stiarna's lead. Also, while she wouldn't acknowledge it out-loud, there was a part of her that rejoiced at the idea not only of living in Greenwood, but of holding such a position as the one being offered to her. A position where she would be more than just someone's sister...

"I'll do it." She said before she was even fully conscious of it.

Kili's eyes widened again, Tauriel let out a breath, while Legolas simply smiled, he'd known she would say that... eventually.

So Stiarna Stareyes, princess of Erebor, became Stiarna Diamant, Lady of Greenwood. She liked it. Not actually the power, but being in a new environment. Even if she was shorter than any other elf, she looked enough like them not feel too out of place, and her choice of weapons fit as well; her plaits were different, but just enough to make her look somewhat exotic; no comment was ever made of the scar that went from beneath her hairline (above her temple) to just the edge of her eyebrow, everyone knew the story.

Living in Greenwood allowed her a level of freedom she'd never had in Erebor, a sense of independence she greatly enjoyed. At the same time she was close enough to Esgaroth and the Lonely Mountain to stay in touch with those she loved. In particular she took great joy in teasing her brother and best friend in turn, for them to be each other's One! Even if neither Aska nor Fili had acknowledged it, Stiarna could just see it, plain as the stars, to her eyes.

xXx

Good as the arrangement was, though, it was never meant to last forever. Years passed, a number that humans would consider to be many, though it wasn't s for elves, not even for dwarves. Eventually the elves left Greenwood, some to live in other cities; though most had decided they were ready to leave Middle-Earth.

Stiarna, for her part, had decided she wasn't ready to go back to Erebor. So, after a quick visit and goodbye to her family and friends, she went back to her travels.

She traveled for many, many years (so many she lost count eventually) going to places where she'd been before, with Legolas and Gimli, and others where she hadn't. She met many people in her travels, many were elves even, some choosing to travel like her, though most were (either fast or slowly) making their their way to the Grey Havens, and to the ships that would take them to Valinor. Stiarna never gave them her name, or any of her titles, but eventually they began calling her by one: Randír, the Wanderer. And that was exactly what she had become.

Every so often she would go back to Rhovanion, to Erebor (not Dale, not anymore, not since Bard tried to convince her to stay, tried to convince her to marry him, and she refused). She was surprised every time to learn Aska and Fili weren't together yet; though she guessed that their respective training might get in the way (after all, he was the heir to the throne, and she was slowly taking over as spy-master, as Nori became too old to handle it all).

Aside from the Lonely Mountain, Stiarna mostly avoided places with people she knew. Afraid someone would outright ask her what it was she was doing, why she didn't seem to be able to stop her wanderings... she had no idea what she could answer (or perhaps, perhaps she was simply too afraid of the answer to admit to it).

Eventually she lost track of her travels, made it to the White Mountains without really planning it. It was Gimli who found her, lost and half asleep. He scooped her up (she was so weak she couldn't even resist), and carried her to the home he shared with his old friend. Legolas was as worried about her as Gimli was, and it was he who insist that she stay where she was (when she'd been all for taking off the moment she woke up and could stay awake for more than a handful of minutes). The elven lord seemed to recognize that she wouldn't talk of what was wrong with her, but still insisted that she stay.

It was supposed to be a visit, but it soon became more than that. Before she fully realized it, Stiarna was practically fully installed in the White Mountains, living in private apartments within Legolas's and Gimli's own home. She knew in Esgaroth it would be seen as improper, an unattached woman living with two men; but no one commented on anything. Soon enough she was being called Lady Stiarna of the White Mountains and the Grey Forest, she was once again teaching archery to a bunch of younglings (some from right there in their settlement, but others from Rohan and Gondor); she had a life.

Of course, nothing ever lasted forever (her uncles taught her that), not the bad, and certainly not the good. For the most part, during her wanderings, Stiarna had made sure to go back to Erebor every couple of years or so; at least until the last few years, when she pretty must lost count of anything (time, space, nothing seemed to really matter). Once fully installed with Legolas and Gimli she began sending messages to her family again, but didn't seem to be able to find the time to travel again. She wasn't blind, she knew that all the younglings insisting on extra lessons, or one of her friends declaring they needed her help with some urgent matter precisely a day or two before she would have left was part of their plan not to let her go (they were probably afraid she would end up in an even worse state than the last time); in the end she was so happy where she was she didn't really try too hard. And her family accepted her choices. For some time.

It'd seemed like the usual routine at first. A raven carrying a message bearing the royal seal of Erebor... until she actually read the words in it. Her mind was still processing the last word when she dropped the scroll and ran straight for her rooms. By the time Gimli and Legolas caught up with her she had a bag packed and was reaching for her weapons.

"You leaving without saying goodbye, lass?" Gimli asked, suddenly standing in her way.

Stiarna froze, she really hadn't thought about it.

"I need to go Gimli, I..." She couldn't find the right words.

As it turned out, she didn't need to. Legolas passed the letter to her and she realized, without a word being said, that he'd read it; probably not all of it, but enough to understand.

"I've ordered a horse readied." The elven lord informed her. "It's a Mearas, it should bear you all the way to Esgaroth, you'll make good time. If you cross the Anduin at the North Undeep you can then go south of Greenwood, through the Brown Lands. Not the most favorable path to take, but certainly the fastest. Things aren't as dangerous as they were the last age, and I trust you can look after yourself well-enough."

The princess nodded, secretly glad that Legolas wasn't trying to be over-protective.

"You better send a raven to us once you get there lassie, make sure you're right." Gimli said in a stern (and obviously worried) tone.

"I promise you, Gimli." She nodded.

And that was that, she was instantly running in the direction of the stables. Letter clutched tightly in her hand. The letter written by her Nadadith (little brother), who informed her that their Adad had fallen very ill... he wasn't long from the world.

So Stiarna rode, for days on end, hardly ever stopping to rest, eating and drinking little (at least she had lembas, that helped). She made it to the Lonely Mountain in record time. Soon she found out that things weren't quite as bad as Fili had made them seem. While their father was indeed quite ill, he wasn't going to die quite so soon. He still had a handful of years left in him.

However, one thing did become clear very fast, and it was that he couldn't stay on the throne anymore. It was dangerous for an ailing dwarf to remain King, it might send a bad message; and while things weren't as bad as they'd been with the Stiffbeards or the old Master in Laketown, there was still trouble every now and then. Which is why, shortly after Stiarna's return to Erebor it was decided that Fili II would be taking the throne.

The ceremony was much like the one the young princess had witnessed over a century before, when her parents had taken the throne, except there was only her brother. And then, then came one thing very different: when her brother declared Durin VII, son of Thorin III Stonehelm (son of Dáin Ironfoot and Lord of the Iron Hills) as his heir; as well as announcing that he would never have a Queen.

The princess only waited until the ceremony was over and the party was well underway to slip out of the Main Hall and into the first secret passageway she could find. She knew them well-enough, being Aska's best-friend. It took her no time at all to find the Spy-Mistress, sitting on her heels, on a balcony of sorts that overlooked the party.

"Want to explain me what that was?" The auburn-haired asked before taking a seat beside her friend, completely ignoring her elegant dress.

"I don't know what you're talking about." Aska said in a blank tone.

"Oh, you know exactly what I'm talking about." Stiarna retorted. "Why did my brother just announce he was never giving Erebor a Queen?"

"Why should I know?" The brunette shrugged. "It's not like I was the one who said those words."

"I've spent the last century, ever since my brother became off-age, waiting for the moment the two of you would announce your marriage." Stiarna confessed. "And now I hear this..."

"He did offer me marriage." The spy admitted, in a voice so low her friend almost couldn't hear her. "I turned him down."

"You did what?!" The princess almost screeched.

"You turned down King Brand when he proposed to you all those years ago!"

"He wasn't my One! He wasn't even in love with me, just fascinated because of my looks, my connection to his father, and what happened in the Battle of Dale. Which became quite obvious when he met that merchant girl from Rhudaur and went crazy in love with her." She shook her head, taking a deep breath. "Brand wasn't my One, I'm not even sure I have a One... but you do. You and my brother are a match, why then would you turn him down?"

"What is the first duty of any Queen to her King?"

"What...? What are you talking about Aska?"

"The first duty any Queen has to her King, is to give him an heir. I cannot do that." The brunette pressed a hand to her middle. "Ever since that assassination attempt, in Laketown, over a century ago, remember?"

Stiarna closed her eyes tight. She would never be able to forget. It had been the first time any of the younger generation had been on an official trip anywhere other than Dale. At first things seemed to be going well, until Fili had decided he wanted to see more of the place than the 'formal tours' they were being lead on. When he'd seen the awful conditions some of the people lived in, he'd been furious. Demanding how the Master and the 'nobles' could live so well, while others were practically starving. It'd created a huge diplomatic situation, and had necessitated Stiarna calling both their parents and King Báin to help deal with things. She'd hoped they would be able to handle things; never expected someone to actually try to assassinate her brother that same night. Except somehow Aska found out, she knew and she moved to protect Fili, ending with a sword through her stomach for her trouble. Fili almost went ballistic, not to say their families' reactions upon arrival.

In the end it had been a diplomatic mess of epic proportions, Fili had been beside himself, and her best friend almost died, Stiarna would never forget that day.

"I know we never discussed it, but that injury had consequences." Aska said quietly. "I might have survived... but not all of me did. That sword destroyed my womb. I will never have a child. If I were to marry Fili, I would never be able to give him children."

"So... you won't marry him because you can't give him children..." The princess tried very hard to wrap her head around it all. "Yet he just announced he won't be taking a Queen. So there won't be any heirs coming from him anyway!"

"You're not getting it Stiarna." The brunette shook her head.

"Then explain it to me, please!"

"You know who I am, what I am..."

"Spy-Mistress."

"Exactly. You must also be able to realize that if I were to become Queen, I would have to give up being Spy-Mistress, I can either be one or the other but not both..." She took a deep breath. "I would be no good as a Queen, unable to fulfill the most basic duty of one. But I can do good where I am right now. As the head of the spy-network. I can help Fili from here, more than I ever would sitting on a throne... so here is where I'll stay."

Stiarna opened her mouth, then closed it again, as the truth suddenly dawned on her, it left her completely breathless.

"So you won't marry my brother so you can stay as his Spy-mistress and protect him better?"

"Who said anything about not marrying?" The brunette's smirk was sly. "He vowed not to take a Queen, nothing was ever said about a match..."

Stiarna smiled brightly as the rest of it hit her.

"Will you be a witness for us?" Aska sealed the deal with her request. "Tonight?"

And so it was that, in the middle of the night, Fili II, son of Kili and Tauriel, King of Erebor, married Aska, daughter of Ori and Tilda, Spy-mistress of the Lonely Mountain, with only their direct families as witnesses and no record being taken. As far as Erebor, Esgaroth and the rest of the world would be concerned, Fili II would rule as a single King, until at the end of his life his cousin, Durin VII would take over the throne; no one but their closest kin would ever know that the figure concealed behind drapes, walking hidden passages and always protecting the King from the shadows was the love of his life, his One, the Queen of his heart.

xXx

Kili, son of Vili, sister-son of Thorin, once King Under the Mountain, died in his sleep just before Durin's Day, in the year 120 of the Fourth Age. Before going he'd said his goodbyes to his wife, daughter, son and daughter-in-law (secret) all the family he had left. The last words he heard from the love of his life being:

"I'll be joining you shortly, Astalder (valiant one), hervenn amin (husband mine)."

Kili was entombed the following day, with all the honors of a former King and hero of the Lonely Mountain, the last member of the Company that reclaimed Erebor to leave Middle-Earth... What some, anyone not living in the Lonely Mountain or Dale, might have found most curious was that his tomb wasn't only surrounded by all manner of jewels, but also by blossoms (the greatest show of the influence a hobbit as Royal Consort had had). Cyclamens for resignation and goodbye, Tiger Lilies for Pride, Magnolia for Nobility, White Poppies for their search of Consolation, Mixed Zinnias for the Remembrance of the Absent Friend, Sweet-Peas for Goodbye; and many, many dark crimson roses for mourning.

It hadn't been long since the end of the vigil and other funerary rites when a message arrived for the Dowager Queen, from her old friend Arwen Undómiel: along with her own condolences for the loss of Kili, were the news of the passing of Arwen's own husband, Aragorn (King Elessar Telcontar) and the ascension of their only son (though they had three daughters too): Eldarion, to the throne of Gondor. Stiarna got a message stating similar things from Legolas and Gimli around the same time.

Tauriel left the Lonely Mountain a little over a year after the death of her mate, traveling with no company but that of her daughter Stiarna. The two crossed Mirkwood and the Misty Mountains, arriving to Lothlórien in a relatively short time. The woods were almost completely empty, no more elves were living in the once Golden Woods, as most had left in the course of the previous century. Stiarna actually knew that even most of those living in the Grey Forest had left in the previous decade; she doubted any were left beside her own mother and Legolas (even Arwen's brothers had long since left Imladris and Arda as a whole).

They were eventually joined by the former Queen of Gondor at the top of Cerin Amroth. Little was left of the lady who'd once been called the Evenstar of her people, the most beautiful she-elf in all of Arda. Instead the woman before Stiarna in that moment was the perfect picture of the grieving widow, and not only that, but a woman already with one foot on the other world. That was what they were doing there, after all, Arwen Undómiel had chosen that hill to be her last resting place, the very spot where she'd sworn eternal love to her dear Aragorn, so many years before, where she'd promised him her hand in marriage.

And so the three women sat there, talking quietly in elvish about their lives. It was the first (and only) time that Stiarna talked about her time as Randír (Wanderer), about all the places she'd seen and the things she'd done (though she never breathed a word about what exactly pushed her to the extreme Gimli and Legolas eventually found her in).

Night came, and as the last light of the evening gave way to darkness, Arwen's breathing slowed until it wasn't there anymore, same with the beating of her heart. Then it was up to Stiarna to dig a hole deep enough to lay the dead queen in, topped by Symbelmine and Nimphrethils. It was a good grave, even if the day would come when no one would know it was a grave; it had been Arwen's choice, and that made it alright.

One single thought kept repeating itself in the young princess's head as mother and daughter rode back to the Lonely Mountain. Her mother was leaving... Stiarna had known all along it would happen, from the very moment when she'd woken to learn her father had passed away in his sleep. Already Tauriel had held on longer than Stiarna could have ever expected. It wasn't that the Peredhel looked old, not at all, she looked... ageless, in fact, always had (probably due to her elven heritage). But the choice had been made when she married Kili. And just like Arwen had lost her tether to the world when Aragorn was gone, it was the same for Tauriel without Kili. Grief would take her soon.

Arrangements had been made already, in fact. A family meal took place upon their return to the mountain, and afterwards Tauriel went on a last walk, all by herself, through her Starlight Path (even with all the gardens that had been built in the last 180 years, some with many more flowers and trees than the Path could hold, there was none she would ever love more than the one her match had gifted her on their wedding day).

After a quiet but heartfelt goodbye to Fili and Aska, Tauriel asked to be left alone with Stiarna. There were things that still needed to be said, and little time left to say them.

"Legolas and Gimli are coming tomorrow." The Dowager Queen said with no warning. "They know I won't be here any longer, by the time they arrive. What goodbyes needed to be said between us have been said already."

"Nana (Mama)...?" Stiarna had always preferred the elvish word for referring to her mom (just like she used the khuzdul one for her dad).

"They aren't coming here for me, little one, but for you." Tauriel revealed.

Stiarna could do nothing but freeze in shock, either not understanding, or just refusing to register what it was her mother meant with that.

"You are my daughter, Stiarna, my dear child, Silmëiel (daughter of starlight)." Tauriel murmured while caressing her daughter's face. "I know all about you, even the things you dare not admit to, not even inside your own mind. I know that the name Randír is one that terrifies you as much as it fills you with pride. You fear that's all you'll ever be, a Wanderer, fated to forever wander Middle-Earth, never able to find a true home..."

"I... I don't fit Nana (Mama)..." Stiarna admitted with a heart-wrenching sob. "I... I'm not like Fili, or like Aska. I love Erebor, with all my heart... but it just isn't my home. And the only home I've ever found is emptying even now... I have nothing... I am nothing..."

"Don't ever say that." Tauriel scolded. "Never. You are many things Stiarna."

"I'm not like Adad (Father), nor am I like you..."

"No, you're not. Then again, even though I look very much like my mother, I was always more like my father. I might have lived six and a half centuries like an elf, but it was until I met your adad (father) that I truly found myself, that I was free to be myself. I was born a Peredhel, and I've chosen to live and soon die like a mortal. The vows I've taken will allow me to join Kili, and there's nothing I'll ever want more." She let out a hopeful sigh. "But it was never meant to be like that for you. You, my dear girl, are more like my mother than I ever was..."

Stiarna watched her with a mix of wonder and confusion.

"You have the light of the stars in your eyes, Lirimaer (lovely one)..." Tauriel said, as if that explained everything.

And truth was, for her it did. It was something Tauriel Peredhel had known from the moment she'd first laid eyes on Stiarna as a newborn baby. Even when the color of her eyes changed from the usual baby blue-green to the deep hazel and her bright-red hair darkened to the auburn a couple of shades darker than her mother; that light had always been there.

"Your eyes hold the light of the Eldar." Her mother explained with a quiet smile. "They always have, from the moment you first opened them to the world. I knew it from the very start, so did your 'adad (father)."

"Does that... what does that mean?" Stiarna didn't dare assume anything.

"You're an elf, my dear, have always been." Tauriel finally revealed. "Of course, like me you are Peredhel. Which means that, in the end, the choice is only yours... but I think you made that choice a long time ago, didn't you?"

"Nana..." Stiarna didn't know how to answer that, yet knew there was no need, her mother truly knew her like no one else ever had, or would.

"I spoke with Legolas many years ago, right after Aragorn's coronation in fact." Tauriel explained softly. "Even back then he was already planning on taking a group of elves and settle somewhere near Gondor, to help restore the kingdom. He'd also already decided that, even though he felt the call of the Sea and had since the War, he wouldn't be leaving Middle-Earth for Valinor until Aragorn had passed. Which has already happened. Considering the time he must be finished building the ship by now..."

"What about Gimli?" Stiarna blurted out, not quite understanding what was going on.

"I don't fully understand that." Her mother admitted. "But I believe he was given leave by the Lady Galadriel to go to Valinor. It's the only time something like that has ever happened..."

Aside from Thorin Oakenshield, of course, though that was a whole other story; Gimli had earned his place all on his own, probably by being one of the first dwarrows to make peace with the elves, fully putting behind any old animosities (no one else would have ever considered being co-ruler of a mixed settlement, after all), ad then there was his obvious admiration and regard for the Lady of the Golden Wood.

"That still doesn't explain..." Stiarna began, either unable or simply refusing to see the obvious.

"He's coming to offer you a place on that ship, if you want it." Tauriel finally said.

"But Nana... Fili..." Stiarna's voice broke.

"Your brother is old enough and a King now." Her mother reminded the princess. "He also has Aska... And this is a choice you must make for yourself. You must choose what makes you happy, Stiarna... What do you want?"

"I... I want to belong Nana... I want to find a place I can call home."

"You already have. And I don't mean Erebor. Home isn't a place, it's the people you feel most comfortable with. Those you know can accept all of you..."

"You and Adad have always accepted me..."

"True as that might be, I must admit we never fully understood you. And as much as I know that was no fault, of yours or ours... I still regret that it was so. Kili regretted it too, it pained him to know you weren't at peace in Erebor. It's why he never tried to call you back when you would travel, or when you chose to stay in the Greenwood all those years." She shook her head, letting out a quiet sigh. "We never said anything because we knew it made you happy."

"Greenwood was never my home either. Not really."

"Maybe not. But I know you've found a home, I can see it in you..."

"Legolas and Gimli... They... they're my home."

"Then I guess we already know what your next choice will be."

They knew indeed, in a sense, it had been the only right choice from the very start. And much as Tauriel might regret not being able to better help her daughter during her life, she wouldn't regret the time they got together. A part of the Peredhel had known from the start the kind of separation the two of them would have to face one day; maybe that was why she'd never said a thing about Stiarna being more elf than anything else... maybe she just wanted her daughter to make her own discoveries and her own choices. At least she knew her girl wouldn't be alone, she had friends, family of choice who would look after her, would be by her side... yes, all was good, and Tauriel could finally let go, in peace.

xXx

Tauriel of the Starlight Path, daughter of Dirhael and Tawar, Lady of the Dúnedain, former Captain of Mirkwood, wife of Kili, Dowager Queen of Erebor, passed away that same night. A soft smile in her face, for her children's future was secure, and she was going to meet her husband, where they would never be separated again.

Legolas and Gimli arrived early in the morning and, thanks to the agreement of both King Fili II and Lady Stiarna Stareyes, were welcomed in the funerary rites and the vigil (which was hardly ever allowed to anyone not direct kin... but Legolas was the closest thing Tauriel had to family, aside from her children, and they knew that).

Once the rites were over and Tauriel had been laid to rest in a tomb beside her husband (both covered in flowers and gems), Stiarna began her own preparations. Neither Fili nor Aska seemed exactly surprised at what she'd chosen. Truth was that both of them had known for a long time that Stiarna wasn't meant to stay in the Lonely Mountain; even if neither of them had known exactly what she'd do, they'd realized that much.

"I knew it a long time ago, nana' (sister)..." Fili whispered as he embraced her tightly. "Much as you might have been born inside this mountain, it was never truly your home."

"You must know I love you nadadith (little brother)..." Stiarna hurried to reassure him.

"But that's not enough." He finished for her, not the slightest hint of reproach in his voice. "It could never be, not when I, when both Aska and I, will die in a century or so, while you have millennia ahead of you yet."

"I..." The princess just didn't know what to say.

It wasn't that she wished things were different; and maybe a part of her felt that was worse. That she didn't even wish she could fit as a dwarf, that she could have a mortal life; it wasn't what she really wanted (her mother had pointed out, after all, that it was her choice, and it had been made, to be a she-elf).

"Never regret your choices." Fili told her calmly. "Beyond Fate and Destiny, it's our choices that define us. The choices of many have brought us here, have allowed us to even be here." He smiled at his sister. "I made my choice, to love my One, to respect her choice not to be my Queen, for no one to know that she's my wife, my truest love... and to keep the throne like 'adad wished me to..."

That one had been hard, Stiarna could almost see the tension in him. It would have been so easy... to abdicate the throne, leaving it to their cousin, Thorin III Stonehelm, and be a simple dwarf (he had a craft, as a jeweler, and was good enough as a warrior, a swordsman, he could have made it), married to the Spy-mistress of Erebor... but that would have also meant forsaking everything their father had taught them. And it wasn't even about being King, not in itself, it was about watching over Erebor, and its dwarrows, protecting them, being not only a King Under the Mountain, but also its guardian (in that the siblings were very much alike)...

"And who knows? Maybe one day, when the world finally stops turning, when the time comes for the universe to be remade, Éru will see fit for us all to meet again..."

Stiarna nodded, a tear falling down her face, she liked that picture, the prospect of her whole family being together one day, it was certainly something to aspire to. She silently prayed for such a future to come true one day.

xXx

They left the following day. To Stiarna's endless surprise her departure not only was no secret, but it seemed almost like all of Erebor and Dale had gathered to watch her leave. She was dressed in her favorite clothes: an elven-styled short dress and tight leggings made of sturdy dwarven fabric, dwarven boots and an elven cloak. Her hair was down, perfectly brushed, adorned with every plait she'd ever earned (one for being Erebor's Princess, another for the Line of Durin, one for her status as Regent, her Archer one and a Hero one for her actions during the Battle of Dale; she also had a number of family braids with beads belonging to every clan that had been part of the Company, her own extended family).

The auburn-haired woman might have made her choice, decided where she belonged, but that did not mean she was about to forget her origins, her roots (odd as they might seem to anyone who hadn't lived in Rhovanion in the last 180 years).

She was Stiarna Stareyes, daughter of Kili and Tauriel, sister of Fili II (and Aska), Princess and Guardian of Erebor, Peredhel, the Archer, Princess Diamant, Lady of Greenwood, the Randír (Wanderer), Lady of the White Mountains and the Grey Forest... she was a dwarrowdam, a human lady and a she-elf, and even if she'd chosen to live as the latter, she would never forget she'd also been part of the former. She was proud of her heritage, and of her history (so many places she'd seen, so many things she'd done).

In the end, Stiarna was her own person, and like so many before, she'd made her choice, made her own Destiny...