Login

Lost Password?

Create New Account

Interrupted Journeys: Part Two--Journeys Perforce

Chapter 11: In the furtherance of feuds

by ellisk

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

The Northmen had increased greatly in the peace brought by the power of Gondor. The kings showed them favour, since they were the nearest in kin of lesser Men to the Dúnedain (being for the most part descendants of those peoples from whom the Edain of old had come); and they gave them wide lands beyond Anduin south of Greenwood the Great, to be a defence against men of the East. For in the past the attacks of the Easterlings had come mostly over the plain between the Inland Sea and the Ash Mountains….

… but it was learned by the regent that the Northmen did not always remain true to Gondor, and some would join forces with the Easterlings, either out of greed for spoil, or in the furtherance of feuds among their princes.

On his return Rómendacil …showed especial favour to Vidugavia, who had aided him in the war. He called himself King of Rhovanion, and was indeed the most powerful of the Northern princes, though his own realm lay between Greenwood and the River Celduin.
Return of the King, Appendix A

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

Their tour of the caves complete, and eager to discuss the details of the needed improvements with the dwarves, Thranduil indicated for the scouts to lead them from the caves. As they emerged, two of his guards were waiting for him anxiously.

“My lord, we have…guests. Men. We found them near our camp as we patrolled.”

Thranduil’s eyebrows rose dramatically and he glanced at Conuiön.

Conuiön’s brows furrowed deeply. “Men?” he exclaimed with obvious surprise and concern. “How many? Did they say why they are in the forest? Can you tell where they are from?” Conuiön fired off questions rapidly before restraining himself to allow his guards to answer. The captain of the King’s Guard did not like surprises of this nature. He smiled slightly, however, noting that the dwarves waited with equal interest for answers while fingering the handles of the axes they wore at their belts. Apparently he shared at least one trait in common with dwarves.

The guards frowned, concentrating on the questions and the formation of a complete answer. “There are ten of them—Northmen. They said they were in the forest because they heard that we are here. They were looking for us with the intention of speaking to us. They appear to be a few high-born men and the rest guards.”

Thranduil frowned slightly.

“It appears the neighboring Men have some concerns about the new presence at their borders,” Nali said quietly.

Hallion directed a glare at Nali. “We have very good relations with the Men in the south,” he said dismissively.

Thranduil nodded but his expression was serious. “Indeed, and this move will certainly interest them. It will affect how they defend their villages in the south and trade with us.” He adopted a blithe smile. “And as Master Nali implied, our people will now be in much closer proximity to the Northmen’s major realms. I am not surprised to hear from them. I am surprised to hear from them so quickly. We have not even announced this move to our own people.” He focused on Hallion and Golwon. “I suppose we had better go speak to them.”

Turning to walk back to their camp, Thranduil tried to stifle a smile as Hallion sighed disgustedly. The king was well aware that Hallion preferred to approach diplomacy much more prepared than he would be for this spontaneous encounter. More to the point, he preferred to prepare Thranduil much more thoroughly when dealing with foreigners. The king followed his guards and advisors back to camp silently, watching Hallion’s expression as he mentally ticked through the list of potential complications that might arise from this meeting.

When they arrived, the dwarves and the elves that had been inspecting the caves looked at the men for a moment before moving off to their own tents while Thranduil and his advisors went to greet them. Seeing the Elvenking, the Men stood.

Thranduil smiled genuinely, recognizing two of the men immediately.

“Gimstan. Baldor. This is a welcome surprise,” he said by way of greeting as they bowed respectfully. Gimstan was one of the representatives he dealt with most often when trading with the men in the southern villages. Baldor was from Esgaroth.

“It is a pleasure to see you again, your majesties,” Baldor responded warmly, inclining his head to both Thranduil and Lindomiel. Thranduil had always liked this particular Man. He was forthright and honest. Easy to work with from the king’s point of view. Thranduil had been sorry to see how much he had aged during his last visit. He looked positively ancient now.

“Indeed it is,” Gimstan added, also smiling. He indicated another Man in regal dress. “Your majesty, I would like to present lord Viduladia. He is Prince Vinidalya’s heir and captain of his military.”

Thranduil's face clouded momentarily with confusion. “Welcome to the Woodland Realm, lord Viduladia,” Thranduil replied, nodding politely to the young man. “Forgive me but I thought Prince Vinidalya’s heir was lord Vinibarya.”

The young noble bowed slightly but pain showed in his face at Thranduil’s implied question. “Thank you, lord Thranduil. I bring you greetings from my lord father. He felt it was important that I meet you now that I am his heir. My brothers were killed leading our armies against Men from the East with our allies in Gondor.”

Thranduil raised his eyebrows and glanced at Hallion. Prince Vinidalya was the ruler of the Northmen settled between the forest and the River Running. His was the largest and most important realm of Northmen. But the King of Men in Gondor ruled the Northmen, ultimately, and was not merely an ally. Apparently that was changing. Thranduil was not surprised—alliances between Men seemed very short-lived from an elven perspective.

Thranduil studied Viduladia’s fresh face, unmarked by scars of battle, exposure to weather or even the stubble of a beard. He was young. Too young to be a captain and a diplomat. Pitying the boy’s obvious uneasiness, Thranduil decided to make an effort to lighten the mood.

“It is, of course, a pleasure to meet Prince Vinidalya’s son though it is a shame he could not accompany you himself. Your father owes me a rematch on our last game of Fidchel.”

A smile claimed Viduladia’s lips at that. “My father warned me that you might mention that, lord Thranduil. And he cautioned me not to accept any challenge. I do not have his skill in Fidchel.”

Thranduil smiled in return. “I do not have your father's skill in Fidchel, lord Viduladia. He only just taught me to play. Thus, the rematch. But we will have to find out what your favored game is. I care not what the contest is, so long as I have my rematch.” Viduladia laughed lightly at that. Then Thranduil turned to the elves with him. “Allow me to present my wife, Lady Lindomiel, my mother Lady Dieneryn, my steward, Lord Hallion, and my advisor, Lord Golwon.”

Viduladia bowed politely over the ladies hands and nodded to the elves. As often happened, Thranduil found himself wondering if the beauty of his wife and mother or the imposing countenance of himself and his courtiers was most disconcerting to the young man. Men always found their first meeting with the House of Oropher to be challenging. Catching the gleam in Baldor’s eyes, Thranduil could see the older man was equally amused by the youth’s discomfort. The king turned to business to avoid giving voice to his laughter.

“I must admit, I was surprised when my guards told me we had visitors from the Mannish realms to the east. May I ask what brings you into the forest?” he asked, addressing the young nobleman in respect for his rank.

Viduladia straightened slightly under Thranduil’s gaze. “My lord father sent me to discuss rumors that the elves intend to move from the southern forest,” he responded with a formal tone.

Thranduil nodded. “I thought that might be the case. Join me in my tent where we can speak in comfort,” he said, indicating for the Men to precede him to the tent. The guards next to it opened the flaps to allow them to enter.

“Is it true, your majesty, that you intend to move your capital to these hills?” Baldor asked in an eager voice as they sat.

The reason for his interest was obvious—Esgaroth was emerging as a center of trade for Men due to its advantageous position on Long Lake at the head of the River Running. The Forest River also ran into Long Lake. If they could become a center of trade with the elves along the Forest River, it would be profitable for their realm indeed.

Thranduil looked at the man with the inscrutable expression elves are renown for. “We are indeed considering that,” he replied.

Baldor frowned slightly, accustomed to more direct speech from the Elvenking. “From the presence of dwarves I gather that your considerations are in their final stages,” he pressed.

Thranduil smiled slightly. “They are.”

Viduladia’s brows drew together. “Is this move motivated by the rising difficulties with orcs from Dol Guldur?” he asked, irritation showing in his voice.

Thranduil raised his eyebrows. “Orcs from where?” he asked quietly.

Hallion’s mouth formed a thin line. Thranduil was likely already put off by the boy’s tone. If he took insult from the name he had just used, that would only make matters worse.

Viduladia frowned. “Men from Gondor have come to call the mountain Dol Guldur. You elves call it Amon Lanc. Whichever name you choose to use, I care not. What concerns me is that orcs are breeding there and attacking my southern villages even while your troops are still in the south fighting them. Now you are retreating north. If you cannot control the orcs in your forest, my armies will. I have enough trouble from Easterlings without adding orcs to my problems.”

Thranduil’s eyes narrowed slightly. “The elves—and by that I mean myself, Lord Amroth of Lorien and Lord Elrond of Imladris—suspect that Sauron himself is rising in Dol Guldur, as you called it. Perhaps that is an apt name. If you can tell me how to fight that, I would be happy to join forces with you.”

Viduladia’s eyes widened involuntarily at that before his expression hardened. “All the more reason to destroy Dol Guldur now. I will not stand idly by while my villages in the south of the realm are attacked. If you are retreating, if you cannot control what passes across your borders into my realm, then I will,” he declared hotly.

Hallion cringed at that declaration and saw Gimstan do the same. Thranduil turned a withering glare on the young prince.

“Cross into my realm with an army and test if I can control my borders,” he retorted in an openly threatening voice. Then he took a deep breath, trying to remember the youth’s inexperience. “You have not fought Sauron, lord Viduladia. I have. I have spent the last fifty years fighting the orcs rising in Amon Lanc and trying to organize an alliance against them. I have spoken with Lord Amroth and Lord Elrond, who also fought Sauron with me in the Battle of the Last Alliance. I have spoken with messengers from the Valar regarding the situation in Amon Lanc.” Viduladia momentarily gaped at Thranduil in response to those statements but Thranduil continued without pause. “We all agree that now is the time to build strength, not fight. I will contain the orc and spider threat in the southern part of my realm as best I can to protect my own people but I will not destroy my entire army fighting a force I cannot defeat.” He fixed Viduladia with a stern look. “Elves are not known for giving definitive advice, lord Viduladia. That adds weight to this statement—I strongly urge you and your father to protect your villages but wait to attack Amon Lanc. If that is not satisfactorily compelling, I will add this—if you need to be reminded of the borders between my realm and your father’s, I will accommodate you—in unmistakably plain terms—when you cross those borders to attack Amon Lanc.”

“Gentlefolk,” Baldor interjected in a placating voice, “we did not come here to undo generations of cooperation between our realms. We came here to find out what changes will be needed to continue that cooperation if the capital of the Woodland Realm is in fact moving.”

“Indeed,” Gimstan concurred. “Prince Vinidalya has already made it perfectly clear that our armies will not violate the elves’ borders in pursuit of orcs. I was present for that discussion.” Viduladia looked coldly at his advisor but Gimstan resolutely ignored him, focusing instead on Thranduil. “Prince Vinidalya is concerned by this move, lord Thranduil. We have recently suffered some heavy losses against the Easterlings. And now we have this greater threat on our western border. The elves’ presence in the southern forest defends not only their own realm but ours as well. If you can no longer hold back the forces of Dol Guldur…if you truly think it is Sauron rising there…you cannot deny our right to be troubled by that.”

Thranduil nodded coolly. “I do understand that. My villages on the eastern border are harried by Men from Rhûn who cross through your lands and into mine,” he said pointedly.

“All the more reason why we should address these issues together,” Gimstan said evenly.

Thranduil looked at the men silently for a moment. Viduladia was clearly young, even for a mortal. This was certainly his first diplomatic mission to treat with elves. He had just lost his brothers and faced more battles himself. Thranduil reminded himself that he was dealing with children and focused the conversation to answer their concerns. “I do not intend to withdraw all my forces north of the mountains,” he said in a calm voice. “I intend to fight to contain the orcs south of the Narrows. I will defend the Forest Road and the ford across the Anduin as I always have. Some of my people have told me they intend to continue living south of the mountains. But I have told them that I will not be responsible for the safety of any village that does not move north of the Road and I am withdrawing my troops from the Narrows. How you manage your people is your affair, but I could not recommend that they remain in the Bight. It is not safe. I would move them further north or east or fortify their villages with more troops if you allow them to stay.”

Viduladia looked at him with a harsh expression. “They will stay and I will send more troops south,” he said with finality.

Thranduil merely nodded. “The fact that you live on the open plain may serve you. The orcs will not travel outside the protective darkness of the forest onto the bright plain unless there is great need. And the spiders prefer the trees,” he responded neutrally.

“And what of trade, my lord?” Gimstan asked quietly after a moment’s silence. “Many of our villages in the south depend on trade with the elves for products we simply cannot obtain without entering your forest.”

Thranduil smiled at Gimstan. They had long worked together. “And we obtain many products from your villages that the forest does not provide. We will undoubtedly have to rework how the trade occurs, but it will still be necessary. Thankfully, we have a the River Running that we might use to accommodate longer distances between our villages.”

Gimstan looked at Thranduil cautiously. “Since you will no longer have villages in the Narrows, would you consider allowing Men to hunt there and take products from the forest themselves for a tariff?”

Thranduil looked at Gimstan coolly. “No, I will not. It would be too dangerous to have my patrols and your hunting parties in such close proximity. And Men simply do not have the same level of respect for the forest that elves expect. The southern forest will suffer enough from the loss of the elves and the presence of orcs and spiders. I will not allow its suffering to increase due to over-hunting or over-cutting. I will maintain trade with your villages and you will continue to respect the borders of this forest.”

Gimstan sighed, looking at Thranduil with a disappointed and slightly insulted expression. But after Viduladia’s outburst, he had expected nothing different so he simply nodded his acknowledgement.

Baldor was looking at Thranduil intently. “You mentioned the River Running, my lord,” he commented.

Thranduil turned to him expectantly. “Yes, I did.”

“The Master in Esgaroth is indeed very anxious to discuss the River Running and the Forest River with you further. Both those rivers flow into Long Lake, as you know. Because of this, Esgaroth is already a very central trade location. It could be even more so if the elves made better use of it.”

Gimstan frowned and nodded. “Yes, precisely what my southern villages fear—Esgaroth becoming a middleman in trade with the elves as it is already in trade with Dorwinion. We prefer to deal directly with the elves. If we cannot, we would rather trade with Gondor.”

Baldor scowled at him. “You are severing ties with Gondor so that is an empty threat. And we charge very fair prices for our services. My men travel months through very dangerous territory to bring back products from Rhûn,” he countered sharply. “We are simply calling the king’s attention to the fact that if he does establish his capital here in these hills, the Forest River runs straight from here to Esgaroth.” He turned to Thranduil. “Very convenient, your majesty.”

Gimstan’s expression did not change.

Thranduil only nodded in response. “When I do finally move my capital, I will make a point of meeting with the necessary parties to establish new trade arrangements,” he replied neutrally. He had no desire to become involved in Mannish trade disputes.

Gimstan turned from Baldor to Thranduil. “’Finally move’” he quoted. “We were under the impression that you were moving now.”

Thranduil smiled blandly at him. “We are. But now is a relative term, I think. If I move my capital to these caves, I must employ the dwarves and elves with me to prepare them first. That will take years—around fifty, I imagine. We will move when the caves are ready. That is ‘now’ from my perspective. I expect Men may see that fifty year time frame somewhat differently.”

Indeed all the men’s eyebrows rose dramatically.

“You do not intend to move for another fifty years?” Viduladia exclaimed.

Thranduil nodded. The man’s reaction confirmed for Thranduil that he was indeed young. “That is correct—though I am moving the villages in the Narrows immediately. I want that territory empty by winter. But my capital will stay where it is until the caves are inhabitable.”

Viduladia let out a sharp breath, staring at the elvenking in open surprise. Baldor and Gimstan nodded with amusement.

“As long as I’ve been dealing with elves, I should have realized that,” Baldor said, laughing slightly. “Then it seems we will have plenty of time to adapt to the changes in your realm over the years, lord Thranduil. I fear I will not see them, however, and that saddens me. I have always enjoyed doing business with you.”

Thranduil smiled at the Man. “And I with you but I believe the next fifty years will be necessary to give us time to adjust the change slowly. I will communicate with you as my people move. I admit it was insensitive of me to have not done so already. I simply forgot how…carefully men like to plan. Now that I have been duly reminded, I will do a better job of keeping your lords informed of our progress. In the meanwhile, I hope you will inform them in my name that I have not forgotten their importance. The Woodland Realm values its relations with its Mannish neighbors and intends to maintain them.”

Baldor inclined his head. “I will certainly return that message to Esgaroth. I know my lord will be pleased with it and with all I have learned here,” he said respectfully.

Gimstan looked at Viduladia who was still staring at Thranduil. With a frown, he spoke in his lord’s stead. “And we will take your message to Lord Vinidalya. He will also be pleased to know that the Woodland Realm continues to fight as our ally in the south.”

Remembering himself upon hearing Gimstan speak, Viduladia looked down and then back at Thranduil with a more controlled expression. He also nodded.

Thranduil struggled not to laugh at the youth. “If that is all our business, perhaps you would like to prepare for dinner. We would be pleased if you would join us. It is rather late for you to begin your return trip to your realms tonight.”

“We would be delighted to join you for dinner, lord Thranduil, since we are certainly not hunting ourselves,” Baldor replied with a mischievous expression.

Thranduil did grin at that. “I am certain of that,” he said, a knowing gleam in his eyes.

The Men bowed and exited the tent, escorted by Golwon.

Hallion let out a long breath as they left. “That went very well, in truth,” he commented quietly, looking at the tent flap.

Thranduil raised his eyebrows skeptically. “I detect a bit of instability in our Mannish neighbors. Did you think it odd that Viduladia referred to the King of Gondor as his ally and not his Lord?”

Hallion frowned. “Indeed. Vinidalya is arrogant and the Northmen have been very prosperous under his rule. It would not surprise me to see them loosening their ties with Gondor as Vinidalya claims more independence and I do not see that as positive. But I was speaking of the way this individual meeting went—I think it was wise not to attempt to discuss details of trade or defense with them until we are better prepared.”

Thranduil laughed lightly at his steward. “Yes, Hallion, I did not miss your utter horror when the guards announced the Men were here. After one thousand years I think I have learned enough about you and about negotiating with Men to know it is best to move slowly. Most of the issues they see as problematic seem to dissipate over time without intervention if they are allowed to do so.”

Hallion smirked. “You are not a natural diplomat, my lord. I cannot help but be nervous when thrust into situations such as this one,” he joked.

Thranduil rolled his eyes but refused to be baited.

Hallion’s eyes drifted to the tent flap again and he grew more serious. “In addition to the issue of defense, you cannot deny, given what was already said, that some conflicts will arise over trade as well. To be honest, my lord, one of the advantages I saw in this move was trade directly from the stronghold along the Forest River as Baldor suggested.”

Lindomiel, silently watching as her husband dealt with the Men, frowned at that. “The Men in Vinidalya’s realm have long been our allies, Hallion. I for one would not like to see that alliance weakened—especially if we are facing Sauron and they are cutting ties with Gondor. Especially since we are moving closer to the capital of their realm.”

Thranduil scowled and interrupted Hallion’s response. “I would rather not deal with any of them, though I recognize that is not possible,” he added at Hallion’s shocked and concerned expression. “Men are difficult to work with. They are so variable. Vinidalya and Viduladia for example—Vinidalya is arrogant but he is practical. His son worries me. He seems to have all his father’s temper and none of his wisdom.”

Hallion laughed. “I remember having the same conversation about you, my lord. That boy is likely under twenty. By the time rule of his father’s realm comes to him, he will have a better understanding of leadership. It sounds as if he and his father have conflicted over the situation in Amon Lanc already. I suspect that is why Vinidalya sent his son to speak to you—so he could learn firsthand the wisdom of his father’s orders.”

Thranduil scowled. “He better have learned it.” His eyes turned to Hallion. “Dol Guldur?”

Hallion raised his eyebrows. “The Men in Gondor may have an acceptable command of the Noble Tongue after all. That is not a bad name.”

Thranduil snorted. “I do not think I like the Men in Gondor renaming parts of my forest,” he said coolly. “Though I cannot disagree that particular name is fitting.” He sighed. “Dwarves and Men for dinner. I cannot imagine how this situation could grow worse,” he said sarcastically, moving towards the tent flap with obvious reluctance.

*~*~*

Aradunnon sat in the grass leaning against the trunk of an old oak and watching Amoneth, Dollion and Haradon throw knives. What had started as a simple challenge had evolved into a contest that the warriors had assumed they would easily win. They were wrong and Aradunnon had enjoyed sitting silently while his captains underestimated his betrothed wife. He smiled to himself as Amoneth stepped up to make her last throw, her face the very picture of concentration. He took pleasure in how easily she interacted with his friends. Since they had become betrothed, she was much more open to the idea of sharing his time and that had been a very welcome surprise.

It helped compensate for the less welcome surprises such as the king’s request to speak privately with he and Amoneth upon his return from the caves. Thranduil had refused to elaborate beyond issuing the order but Aradunnon assumed the audience was inspired by whatever Amoneth had done to upset Lindomiel the day the dwarves had arrived. He tried to speak to Amoneth about it but she would only say that Lindomiel had over-reacted to something she had said. Aradunnon rather doubted he had heard the entire story. He was certain if the king was taking time from his schedule to discuss the incident with them formally, he must feel it was significant and that could mean nothing good. But Thranduil would be gone at least another two weeks. Tonight, Amoneth was truly entertaining company as she teased the warriors in the city guard.

Her last throw hit the dead center of the target and the birds in the trees were rousted from their evening perches by the victorious squeals of the ellyth and moans of the ellyn watching the competition. Amoneth had indeed won. Aradunnon watched the spectators congratulate her as she returned to his side by the tree, the other competitors following her. She settled on the ground next to him, leaning against his shoulder. Dollion, Haradon and Gwedhieth quickly followed suit, forming a tight little circle and still arguing over the outcome of the contest.

“You are simply embarrassed to have been beaten by an elleth, Haradon,” Gwedhieth was saying in a teasing voice. “And one a sixth your age. You should be ashamed, really. No wonder the king is moving the capital north if this is the quality of the warriors he must depend on. Perhaps we should send some ellyth out with you to show you how to fight.”

“Indeed,” Aradunnon interjected, laughing. “I think you need to admit that Amoneth is better with knives than you, Haradon. Perhaps you could challenge her to an archery contest tomorrow. I think you could still win that.”

Haradon glared at Aradunnon for a moment before laughing himself. “Very well, the lady is better at throwing knives than I,” he said with a nod towards Amoneth. Then he grinned at Aradunnon. “Let us have a go against you, captain. Or better still, let us see how you do against Amoneth. I seem to recall I have beat you several times with knives.”

Aradunnon grinned back at him. “I would prefer an archery contest. Or perhaps swords instead of knives.” He paused and Haradon put up his hands in surrender. Aradunnon nodded knowingly. “As I expected. Suddenly no one is interested,” he said airily as Amoneth giggled. “Just as well. While the king is away I am far too busy for such foolishness. I have an early meeting in the morning. I should be retiring soon.”

As his friends laughed at the prince’s mock-refined attitude, no one was aware their conversation had been subject to more public scrutiny until one of the elves sitting in a group several yards away spoke up. “So it is true that the king is not in the capital—he is scouting caves in the north with dwarves; building some type of stronghold with the intention of moving the capital there?”

Aradunnon grew more serious and looked over at the elf that had spoken. He did not immediately recognize that elf or anyone in his group but that was not surprising. Some of the villages in the south, especially in the Narrows, had already begun to move north and their people passed through the capital in the process. Aradunnon assumed the elf that had spoken and his friends must be from the southern villages. They were all now quiet and focused on his response.

“I know that the king has asked the villages in the Narrows to relocate north of the mountains for their safety and I have been ordered to move the warriors north of the Narrows once all the villages are relocated. I am not certain what the king’s final decisions will be regarding the capital, however,” he answered, returning the elf’s gaze evenly. He was aware that Amoneth raised her eyebrows.

The elf that had addressed him scowled. “I find it difficult to believe that the king’s own brother does not know where he will be living within the next few months. You surely know the king’s decision. Why the secrecy?”

Aradunnon smiled coolly. “There is no secrecy. The king has not made any final decisions. Naturally, I know the options he is considering but it is not my place to discuss them.”

“But he is in the north looking at caves with dwarves?” This was asked by another elf, sitting near the one that had spoken first.

Aradunnon turned to that elf. “The king is traveling through the northern part of the forest looking at all the sites our scouts identified as suitable locations for new villages. And yes, he did invite dwarves from Hadhodrond to look at some caves with him. He is interested in the possibility of turning them into a stronghold as the scouts suggested.”

This answer elicited some approving nods from another group of elves also listening to the conversation—citizens that had lived in the capital since before Thranduil had become king.

The elf that had spoken first was looking at Amoneth. Aradunnon turned to her as well and saw her gazing at the approving nods somewhat incredulously.

“So you would welcome the king’s decision to move to a stronghold in the north?” she asked in a neutral voice, addressing the elves from the capital.

Aradunnon tried not to scowl.

They nodded again, now looking at her. “Absolutely,” said an older elleth. Aradunnon recognized her as one of the laundresses. She was sitting next to her husband who was a warrior in the capital guard. “If he can find a place like that, we will not need to fear orcs or spiders or even worse things again.”

“What about the forest? Do you not fear for it?” one of the elves from the south asked.

“I do,” replied the laundress solemnly.

“But protecting the forest will be the army’s responsibility,” added her husband. “The king was wise over the last millennium and especially the last yen. He has built the army and armed and trained it well. Private citizens can keep themselves safe and not worry about war. We will defend you and the forest.”

“Then why do you not do so?” said one of the villagers from the Narrows angrily. “Why must I move again? A fourth time?”

“Sometimes an army must retreat from an indefensible position to regroup in a stronger one,” the warrior said firmly.

“That is why we should be thankful the king has found a stronghold, if indeed he has,” the laundress said. “We will never have to retreat from that.”

The elves from the Narrows looked from the laundress and her husband to Aradunnon, eyeing him warily. They said nothing further.

Aradunnon decided to take that opportunity to distance himself from this conversation. He stood, pulling Amoneth to her feet along with him. She looked at him with some annoyance but he focused on Dollion and Haradon.

“As I said, I have an early meeting in the morning. Do try to report for duty sober, Dollion,” he joked quietly, looking pointedly at the large goblet of wine his friend held. “I would hate to have to discipline the captain of the city guard. Quite embarrassing.” He paused. “Especially after you were so thoroughly trounced by an elleth in a knife-throwing contest. Surely you have suffered enough shame for one week.”

Dollion burst into laughter as Aradunnon pulled Amoneth away.

She resisted ineffectually. “You are the one that has to be in an early meeting. Not me. I wanted to listen to that conversation.”

Aradunnon scowled. “If I could trust you to do nothing more than listen, I would let you stay. But since I do not trust you, I intend to see you to your talan and give your guards instructions to keep you there.” She stopped walking entirely and he looked down at her. “Expressing your opinions on the king’s decisions—especially given that I know you disagree with this particular decision—is not your place or mine. Notice I said nothing beyond what is already public knowledge.”

Amoneth glared at Aradunnon. “You do not trust me?” she repeated in a low, angry voice.

Aradunnon’s expression remained neutral. “The public courtyard is not the place for this conversation, Amoneth,” he said coolly, but his voice held a warning tone.

Amoneth raised her eyebrows. “Very well,” she said with an overly accommodating tone. She took his arm and led him silently to her talan, closing the door and drawing the curtain for privacy. When she had, she turned to him with a glare that demanded an explanation for his comment.

Aradunnon shook his head. “Do not look so surprised, Amoneth. The king has asked to speak to us when he returns—he has asked for an official audience. I know the topic of that meeting will be whatever you said to anger Lindomiel the night the dwarves were in the capital…”

“Why would Thranduil care if his wife and her friend were arguing?” Amoneth cut him off angrily.

Aradunnon frowned. “Because you said something inappropriate in front of the dwarves and Lindomiel told Thranduil. What you said must have been related to him or Lindomiel would not have repeated it. The fact that you will not tell me what happened makes me very uncomfortable…”

“I told you that Lindomiel overreacted to something I said…”

“And so the king is overreacting as well by wanting to speak to us about it? Let me tell you what happens when Thranduil overreacts, Amoneth…”

Amoneth scowled at him. “I do not care how Thranduil reacts. I am not marrying him. I am marrying you. And you never support me. You always support Eryn Galen or Thranduil or Lindomiel. I am sick of it. If I said Lindomiel overreacted, why can you not believe me?”

“Because I know you, Amoneth. You simply do not understand the significance of what you say sometimes…”

“I said nothing more than what was said in that conversation,” she exclaimed angrily, pointing towards the courtyard. “Why should I be forbidden to take part in the same types of conversation that you participate in?”

“I only repeated public knowledge in that conversation and I expressed no opinions.” He paused. “Valar, Amoneth, you did not publicly criticize Thranduil’s decision to move north, did you? With whom did you discuss this? He has not even announced the decision. You should not be discussing it much less criticizing it.”

Amoneth frowned. “We were speaking to the dwarves. They know what Thranduil’s decision is,” she said quietly, subdued somewhat by Aradunnon’s obvious concern.

He leaned forward as if he had not heard her. “Dwarves?” he exclaimed. “You criticized the king’s decision in the presence of foreigners? Please tell me you did not do that.”

Amoneth glared at him. “Indeed, I did not. Lindomiel would not let me speak…”

Aradunnon let out an explosive breath. “Well, thank the Valar for that! Amoneth, do you have any memory of the conversation we had in this very room the day Thranduil made the decision to move north? You promised me that you would not gainsay him publicly.”

Amoneth’s brows drew together and she looked down, guilt creeping over her features at that reminder. “It was not publicly. It was only Lindomiel and the dwarves…”

Aradunnon grabbed her by the shoulders, staring at her in disbelief. “Amoneth, from this moment forward, any conversation you have with anyone but me alone you should consider public. Do you understand?”

She pulled away from him and looked at him disdainfully. “Do not be absurd, Aradunnon,” she began.

He laughed bitterly. “I am not being absurd, Amoneth. I am being completely serious. Did you hear what Thranduil said in that council meeting when I told him I would not move north? He said anyone who would not support his decisions was welcome to leave his service and his household. Do you think that was an idle threat? I have never heard my brother make one. If you confess to Thranduil that you criticized him in the presence of the dwarves, he may ask you to leave Eryn Galen. If you confess it with the attitude you are showing me, he certainly will. Permanently.”

Amoneth looked at him silently, obviously trying to determine how serious he was.

“Amoneth, I am not exaggerating. He will send you back to Lorien. And I would agree with that decision,” he said firmly.

Amoneth’s mouth dropped open.

He nodded solemnly. “And if he does, I will not come with you.”

Amoneth took a step back, her eyes filling with tears but Aradunnon shook his head.

“Not this time, Amoneth. I love you. And I know you love me. But we have discussed why that is not enough for someone in my position. You must accept my duties and you must accept your own. You will be expected to serve Eryn Galen. That means more than helping Lindomiel manage the household. Part of that service is offering opposing views when the king asks to hear them. Part of that service is unquestioning support of the king once he makes a decision. Part of that support is making personal sacrifices for the greater good of the realm. I told you that I must believe that you love Eryn Galen as much as you love me. This incident has done nothing to make me believe that. On the contrary, it has only convinced me further that you understand nothing but your own desires. That is not an attitude my wife can have.”

“I cannot believe you would break our betrothal over a conversation that was not even allowed to happen,” Amoneth whispered incredulously.

Aradunnon shook his head. “I may have no choice, depending on Thranduil’s reaction. Amoneth, we have discussed this. I cannot believe that you care so little for me that you would behave thusly. Is our love so insignificant to you that you cannot curb your tongue?”

“Aradunnon, I have watched you flirt with every female in Rhovanion for a millennium. Would I have done that if I did not love you? I simply do not understand why this is so significant…”

He scowled at her. “Yes, that is exactly my point. You do not understand and you apparently refuse to make an effort to understand. You gave me your word that you would not gainsay the king. Is that meaningless? You were raised in court in Lorien. You have lived most of your life in this court with Lindomiel and my naneth as very good examples. How can you understand the responsibilities of a court lifestyle so poorly? You are nearly a millennium old. How can you still be so selfish and thoughtless?”

Amoneth had no response to that. She simply stared at him, breathing hard and clearly struggling not to cry. She turned away when she could no longer hold back her tears, hoping to feel his arms around her. She heard him sigh instead.

“I need to think about this, Amoneth. I love you. I cannot imagine life without you. But I also find that I cannot imagine you helping to lead these people as Lindomiel and my naneth do. I have always known that and I have ignored it because I love you so deeply. But that is not acceptable.”

Much to Amoneth’s amazement, Aradunnon walked silently from her flet.

*~*~*

Elleth/ellyth--Female elf(s)

Ellon/ellyn--Male elf(s)

Naneth/nana--Mother/mum

Chapters

Jump to chapter

Chapter name
In the furtherance of feuds
Created
17 Nov 2004
Last Edited
17 Nov 2004
Hits
320
Words
6978