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Interrupted Journeys: Part Two--Journeys Perforce

Chapter 12: The help of all things

by ellisk

"Gandalf! " he cried. "I was seeking you…."My news is evil." Then he looked about him, as if the hedges might have ears. "Nazgûl," he whispered. "The Nine are abroad again. They have crossed the River secretly and are moving westward. They have taken the guise of riders in black."

"Who told you and who sent you? " I asked.

"Saruman the White," answered Radagast. "And he told me to say that if you feel the need, he will help; but you must seek his aid at once, or it will be too late."

And that message brought me hope. For Saruman the White is the greatest of my order. Radagast is, of course, a worthy Wizard, a master of shapes and changes of hue; and he has much lore of herbs and beasts, and birds are especially his friends…. "I will go to Saruman," I said…. "We shall need your help, and the help of all things that will give it. Send out messages to all the beasts and birds that are your friends. Tell them to bring news of anything that bears on this matter to Saruman and Gandalf. Let messages be sent to Orthanc."

"I will do that," he said, and rode off as if the Nine were after him.
The Fellowship of the Ring

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

Thranduil, his wife and mother, Hallion, Gelireth, Crithad and Nali leaned over the map of the caves considering it critically. They had indicated all the passages that the dwarves and elves would widen or strengthen and to what degree; they had determined how each cavern would be used to best exploit its natural structures; they had planned how to better ventilate the caves; and now they were discussing how to secure them. Portcullises easily closed off the cave entrances that were smaller and relatively hidden, such as the one where the river flowed into the cave system. The problem was the main cave entrance.

"It will be easiest to construct the doors of wood reinforced with iron, my lord," Hallion suggested.

Nali frowned. "I would be happy to cut down a few of these trees and bring in some iron to make your doors, lord Thranduil, but that is not the best option. You are building a stronghold into a mountain. No stronger keep can be constructed but these doors are its weakest point. The most obvious point of attack. You want them strong like the rest of the stronghold—made of good solid stone."

Hallion looked at the dwarves skeptically. "Have you looked at the height of the main cave entrance? It must be twenty-five feet high. Where will you get such large pieces of stone and how will you hang them? Surely oak and iron will do just as well as stone, cost half what you propose to charge for stone and be easier to manage."

"As well as easier to burn down," Nali countered. He turned to Thranduil. "The doors in Khazad-dûm are stone. The doors in Menegroth were stone. The doors here should be stone. I can remove stone of sufficient height from the cavern that you intend to use as your Great Hall and I am well versed in methods for hanging them. You should make the doors of stone, my lord."

Thranduil nodded. "I think I will side with Master Nali in this instance. I am willing to add expense if doing so enhances defense. Make the doors as you recommend, Master Nali,” he ordered.

Nali leaned back in his chair, satisfied. He nodded once. “Good decision,” he replied gruffly. Thranduil’s eyes shone with amusement, unaccustomed to anyone who felt the need to verify the wisdom of his judgments. “Now there is the matter of how the doors will be secured,” the dwarf continued, beginning to quickly sketch a detailed drawing of the manner in which he intended to construct and hang the doors.

Thranduil watched the drawing take form with interest, focusing in particular on the mechanisms the dwarves would put in place to open and close the heavy stone structures, but when Nali looked up to discuss methods to lock them, the king interrupted. “You need only make the doors so they seal tightly. I have my own way to close them,” he said quietly.

Dieneryn and Hallion raised their eyebrows and looked at Thranduil sharply. Everyone else but Nali looked at the king with some confusion. The dwarf smiled.

“You intend to close them with a spell,” he stated with obvious approval, looking at Thranduil with a greater respect. “I was not certain if all elves were capable of such magic.” His smile broadened. “Durin’s Doors have thusly withstood many evil assaults. You will never build anything as grand and beautiful as Khazad-dûm in this little hill, but it will be an enviable stronghold nonetheless.”

Thranduil glanced at the surprised stares of his wife, Gelireth and Crithad and then looked back the dwarf soberly. “I do not know if all elves are capable of such magic either, Master Nali, but I do know that I prefer that method to close these doors. So construct them with that in mind.”

Nali nodded and Thranduil focused on Gelireth and Crithad. “Can you think of anything else that we need to discuss?”

Gelireth looked at Crithad, who shook his head. Then she turned to Thranduil. “I think we understand the work that is to be done, my lord. There is only the matter of who will direct it. Master Nali, Crithad and I can manage the workers but I think we would all prefer someone of your household to be present. Questions and problems are certain to arise. And it is a week trip back and forth to the capital if we must rely on messengers.”

Thranduil nodded. “I agree. I want someone here.” He looked at his mother. “I think it would be best if someone familiar with the governance of the staff remained here. I thought you would be the obvious choice, my lady.”

Dieneryn glanced briefly at Master Nali and then looked at her son with an inscrutable expression. “I agree that someone familiar with the household should be here to manage the construction, especially of the family’s quarters, kitchen, laundry and other such areas,” she replied in a neutral voice.

Thranduil knew his mother would not be pleased with his request that she spend years working in the north with dwarves. Her noncommittal response was all the argument she would voice in public, however. He smiled at her. “Good. If there is nothing else, I think I would like to prepare to return south tomorrow,” he said standing and raising everyone else to their feet.

With a brief bow, Gelireth and Crithad left the tent. Nali bowed and turned to leave as well but Thranduil reached over and quietly placed a hand on his shoulder, holding him back as the other elves left. Nali looked at him expectantly with eyebrows raised.

“One last detail, Master Nali. But I would discuss it with you in private.” He glanced at the other occupants of the room—Lindomiel, Dieneryn, Hallion and Conuiön. “This does not leave this company. Is that clear?”

A chorus of quiet ‘Yes, my lords’ sounded as everyone looked at the king curiously.

Thranduil leaned over the map one more time. “Can we delve new passages—one here, from the Great Hall; one here, out the back of the cavern that will be used as a keep in times of siege; and one here, leading out of the family’s quarters. I would like them to come out here,” he said pointing to a point in the forest on the northern side of the stronghold.

Nali nodded solemnly. “Indeed,” he confirmed quietly. “Escape passages in case the fortification is breached. You do not want to be trapped in it. Certainly. We will add them ourselves.” He looked at the king. “This will be an outstanding stronghold, my lord.”

Thranduil’s face grew grim. “It must be if it is truly Sauron that rises in Amon Lanc.”

Nali only frowned in response to that. With another bow, he silently left the tent.

Dieneryn watched the dwarf leave and listened to his footsteps fade as he walked away. Then she promptly rounded on her son.

“Thranduil, you do not seriously intend for me to stay here with these dwarves, do you?” she demanded.

Thranduil grimaced. “Naneth, who else can I trust with such a task? Who else is familiar with the household? I cannot leave Hallion here for fifty years.”

Dieneryn’s eyes widened angrily. “But you can leave me?” she asked, voice slightly high pitched. “Thranduil, I have barely tolerated the dwarves over the last two weeks. You cannot expect me to live with them for fifty years.”

Thranduil’s mouth formed a hard line and he glared at her firmly. “Yes, my lady, I can. And you will. I need someone here who I can trust to make good decisions for the operation of the household and the security of the citizens that may have to shelter here. I can trust your knowledge of both topics. You are staying and that is final.”

Dieneryn looked at her son askance. “I will make you pay for this, Thranduil. I am still your naneth. I have ways of making you suffer,” she said with a voice that growled, but her eyes were playful. Disgusted, but playful.

Thranduil burst into laughter. “I do not doubt that, nana. Not in the slightest. But I take it you will stay?”

“Only because you are forcing me to,” she replied dryly.

Thranduil smirked at her for a moment. Then he leaned over and placed a filial kiss on her cheek. “I appreciate your sacrifice, naneth. And so does Eryn Galen.”

Dieneryn snorted and left the tent without a backward glance.

Hallion shook his head and smiled at Thranduil. “I am truly amazed you managed to persuade her to stay here,” he said softly.

Thranduil looked at his steward sidelong and laughed. “So am I. I may be able to command any elf in this forest but nana is not any elf,” he replied wryly.

Hallion nodded knowingly and followed Dieneryn from the tent, leaving Thranduil and Lindomiel alone. Lindomiel looked at her husband with obvious amusement and he drew her into his arms. “I am happy to see you smiling, Lindomiel. Tell me, now that we know what we will do here, do the plans seem as horrible as you feared or think you that you might be able to adapt to them?”

“I have already told you that it is not as bad as I thought it would be. And the forest here is beautiful.” She paused and looked at him with an expression that revealed she intended to say something that would provoke a fight. “Thranduil, I would like to stay here with Dieneryn. I do not deny that I do not have sufficient experience to direct the dwarves alone. But I want to help establish the household here.”

Thranduil looked at her, obviously shocked. His initial reaction was to be pleased that she was willing to participate in improving the caves since he knew she did not truly want to live in them. But there were too many reasons why he did not want her to move north immediately. He frowned. “Lindomiel, I am not certain that is a good idea…”

“I am responsible for the household, Thranduil,” she interrupted. “More so than Dieneryn in these days. I want a say in how it is set up here. And if you expect me to live in the family quarters, then I want to decorate them…make them tolerable.” She looked at Thranduil sternly. “I insist, Thranduil. This is the condition I place on living here. That I have a hand in developing it.”

Thranduil studied his wife for a moment, trying to judge her level of determination. She appeared very resolute. He sighed. “Lindomiel, the first few years here are going to be very rough living. In tents or the unfinished caves. I would be very concerned for you living here under those conditions. Perhaps later, when the initial work has been finished…”

“No, Thranduil. By then it will be too late to make any changes that I see will be needed. I want to stay. If the living conditions are suitable for your naneth, they are suitable for me.”

Thranduil’s frown deepened. “I am no more capable of ordering you to come home than I am of ordering nana to stay here. If you choose to stay, you will, just as nana would have left if she had chosen to.” He snorted. “Anyone who thinks a king rules this realm has never met its queens.” He paused and looked at her seriously. “I am grateful that you are willing to work with a situation that I know you are not entirely happy with, Lindomiel. I never take for granted how fortunate I am to have my family’s support and yours in particular. But I wish you would reconsider this. Return in a few years once life will be more comfortable here.”

Seeing she had won the argument, Lindomiel leaned forward and kissed him lightly. “I am perfectly capable of surviving a few challenges, Thranduil. I know you are worried about the dwarves, but they are harmless. If anything, Dieneryn and I will be safer for their presence. You have nothing to fear.”

Thranduil looked down at that. That was indeed his primary concern though he had no solid evidence to base an argument on—beyond the fact that dwarves had lived many years in Menegroth before they rose up and killed the High King. He fixed her with an expression that brooked no argument. “Perhaps, but I will be leaving Conuiön and Tureden here just the same.”

Lindomiel looked at Thranduil with laughter in her eyes. “I would very much like to be present for the conversation in which you try to order Conuiön to stay here while you leave. Or even the one in which you try to convince him that both the lieutenant and captain of the King’s Guard should be separated from the king for such an extended period. You may find that you command far fewer elves in this forest than you originally thought.”

Thranduil laughed. “You may be right. But I far prefer to be separated from my guards than my wife. Fifty years is not such a long time, but I find myself dreading it,” he said drawing a finger across her cheek.

Lindomiel smiled somewhat sadly in response.

*~*~*

A week later, Thranduil returned to the capital and settled gratefully into his customary chair in the family sitting room. In his opinion, he had done far too much traveling in the last year. The rest of the royal household was surprised to see him arrive without Dieneryn, Lindomiel, Conuiön or Tureden and they were even more surprised when the king announced that they had stayed in the north to oversee the construction of the stronghold.

Amoneth was openly astonished.

The family spent several hours discussing all the decisions that had been made in the north. Celonhael was very happy to hear about the discovery of the gemstones, whether or not they were semi-precious. Anything to help defer the cost of New Menegroth, as he still jokingly referred to the stronghold, pleased him greatly. Aradunnon and Engwe both frowned angrily as Thranduil related his conversation with lord Viduladia and Celonhael listened with interest as Thranduil and Golwon described the potential changes in trade with the Mannish villages. Finally, Aradunnon spent a good amount of time detailing the progress made over the last month moving villages from the Narrows and other events that occurred during the king’s absence.

Once everyone was caught up on the news, Thranduil, Hallion and Golwon retired for the afternoon to relax after their travels while the rest of the council returned to the day’s business. The king informed his staff that he did not intend to work until the next morning so he was surprised when a servant summoned he and Hallion to the king’s office. Apparently Aradunnon had a visitor that he thought they would like to see.

When Thranduil walked into his office and saw the guest waiting for him, his face took on an expression of clear relief. Glancing his appreciation to Aradunnon, he strode forward to greet their guest.

“Radagast, I am most pleased to see you,” he exclaimed with obvious sincerity.

The wizard smiled in response to that reaction. “Thank you very much for the warm welcome, my lord. I was concerned when your patrols found me that I had angered you.”

Thranduil again glanced at Aradunnon. His warriors had been searching for Radagast since they misplaced him nearly a month earlier on the way to Amon Lanc. Thranduil had no doubt that once found, Radagast had been placed under tight guard and returned directly to the capital.

He let out a short breath and looked at Radagast ruefully. “You did not anger me. You frightened me. I sent an escort with you because the forest around Amon Lanc is dangerous.” His expression soured slightly. “The Men I met with recently told me their people have begun calling the mountain Dol Guldur and as much as it pains me to admit it, that is a good name. I do not think it was wise to wonder near there alone.”

Radagast smiled serenely. “I was not alone, my lord.” At Thranduil’s confused expression his smile broadened. “Your forest is well populated by many families of deer and raccoons and possum and squirrel and fox and birds, so many birds of so many types…. I had more company than I have had since arriving in Middle Earth.”

Radagast was too busy thinking of the animals he had seen to notice Thranduil and his advisors react to that statement.

Thranduil shook his head slightly and tried to respond in a polite tone of voice. “With respect, Radagast, a deer would not have saved you from an orc had one wondered upon you. Nor would a squirrel have helped you accomplish your duty here—to determine what is rising in Amon Lanc.”

Radagast looked at Thranduil, slightly taken aback. “In fact, a family of deer did warn me of approaching orcs many times. And the squirrels and the birds and a few woodrats did a wonderful job of gathering information about Amon Lanc for me. I do believe it is Sauron rising there.”

Thranduil blinked at Radagast and was suddenly acutely aware of the dismayed stares of his councilors. “You believe this because a bird told you?” he asked calmly.

Radagast looked at him seriously, his normally merry façade gone. “Indeed, my lord. I was sent by Yavanna. I am her servant.” He went to stand by the window and held out his hand. Several small sparrows flitted to land on it, chirping brightly. He smiled at them. “What creature would be better to send to investigate the happenings around Amon Lanc than a sparrow? Orcs cannot kill them with their bows or catch them—they are too small and fast. And the orcs do not suspect them to be enemies. They are a natural part of the forest along with the squirrels and the rats. Sparrows can fly over the fortification and see what is there. Rats and squirrels can scurry over top of it and into its depths. And no one is the wiser for it.”

Aradunnon gaped at the wizard. “Including us. That sparrow might know every inch of the fortification at Amon Lanc but that does me no good when I am planning an attack. He cannot advise me.”

“She,” Radagast corrected, stroking one of the birds from the top of her head to the tip of her tail with his little finger. The bird hopped onto that finger from his hand when he was done. The wizard looked at Aradunnon serenely. “Do the trees never tell you anything, lord Aradunnon?”

Aradunnon frowned and answered with obvious restraint. “Of course they do. They warn the warriors of dangers in the forest. We can hear their song. But they cannot tell me about the layout of an enemy fortification.”

Radagast shook his head. “No. That is not their nature. Most trees do not move around the world so they have little concept of how it is shaped. But birds and squirrels and rats move as we do. They know how to understand the environment around them as we do. If you learn to listen to them as you listen to the trees, you might find them useful allies. In the meantime, I would be happy to tell you what I have learned about the layout of the fortress and the magic protecting it but I cannot imagine why you would want to know. You have no hope of attacking it.”

Aradunnon remained silent but his expression was plainly doubtful.

In contrast to his brother’s skepticism, Thranduil studied Radagast. “I would very much like to learn to listen as you have, Radagast,” he said quietly.

Thranduil’s council turned him in amazement.

Oblivious to them, Radagast focused on the king and brightened happily. “I would be delighted to show you before I leave.”

Thranduil nodded. “That would be much appreciated,” he replied. Then he responded to Radagast’s implied farewell. “You intend to return to Imladris?”

Radagast looked surprised. “Certainly not. I have sent a crow to tell Mithrandir what I have found here. With your permission, I would like to return to the southern forest.”

Thranduil raised his eyebrows at that suggestion. “Far be it from me to question your good judgment, Radagast, but are you certain you want to remain in the south? I am moving my capital and citizens considerably further north.”

“Yes, I have heard that and it is a wise decision from the point of view of the elves. But the forest and its animals are already despondent over the departure of the elves and the presence of the orcs and spiders. I would do what I can to console them. And I can learn from them and perhaps help them against Sauron.”

Thranduil studied the wizard thoughtfully. “As you wish,” he conceded quietly. “I am at your service if you need me.”

The king’s advisors’ jaws dropped.

Radagast smiled and bowed. “No, I am at yours. I will make sure the birds know how to find me for you before I leave. And we can spend some time talking to them together.” With that, he nodded to Thranduil and walked past his advisors to the door. The room remained silent until the wizard was down the stairs of the flet.

Then Aradunnon turned to Thranduil. “You cannot seriously intend to allow him to live alone in the southern forest.”

Thranduil raised his eyebrows. “Indeed I do. I could not possibly prevent it even if I wished to, but I do not. I think I will live to be very thankful to have him there,” he replied softly.

Hallion fixed the king with a concerned gaze. “What is he, Thranduil? He is no man. The light of Aman shines in his eyes.”

Thranduil returned Hallion’s gaze evenly. “It is not my place to reveal his secrets. He is exactly what he said he is—Yavanna’s servant in Middle Earth. As the king of a woodland realm, I am very pleased to have Yavanna’s servant in my forest. As Maethorness and several of the villagers from the south have indicated, the most difficult aspect of this move is abandoning the forest. I feel a little less guilty knowing that Radagast will be here. He is most welcome,” he said resolutely.

*~*~*

Thranduil’s advisors finished the remaining business of the day and retired to prepare for dinner—everyone except Aradunnon. When the council disbanded, Thranduil had a servant fetch both his brother and Amoneth to speak to him in his chambers. The order had clearly been issued by a king to his subject, treatment Aradunnon had rarely experienced from his brother, and there was no doubt what the purpose of the summons was—Thranduil meant to address Amoneth’s behavior. The formality of Thranduil’s attitude confirmed the seriousness of his intentions and filled Aradunnon with a cold dread. He had not entirely decided how he felt since he spoke to Amoneth on this topic and, though their conversation had taken place a few weeks before, neither had broached the subject again. Indeed, when it appeared conversation might turn to it, Amoneth shied away obviously unwilling to discuss it. But Aradunnon had thought of little else and he was of conflicting minds. He clearly did not want to see her sent to Lorien but he did understand why the king might choose that course of action. Regardless, the time for contemplating the problem was past.

Arriving before Amoneth, Aradunnon stood before Thranduil as the king seated himself and waited for the servant to return with Amoneth. When she arrived and came to stand beside her betrothed, Thranduil did not invite them to sit. Instead, he regarded them both in silence for a moment. Grimacing slightly at this final confirmation that the king was well and truly angry, Aradunnon fixed his eyes on the tapestry that hung on the wall behind Thranduil. At least they were speaking in the king’s private chambers and not the Great Hall. Thranduil glared at them until Amoneth dropped her gaze to the ground, clearly surprised. Seeing her do so from the corner of his eyes, Aradunnon offered a silent prayer of thanks that she had held her tongue.

“Amoneth,” Thranduil began in the cold voice that he reserved for those who had earned his wrath, “Could you please describe to me the conversation you had with Master Nali on the morning he arrived in my realm.”

Aradunnon dared a quick glance at his betrothed hoping to see a respectful expression on her face. Then he turned to look at her fully. Eyes still on the floor, Amoneth was pale. Aradunnon could see her pulse beating rapidly on her neck under her jaw. Clearly, it had finally dawned on her that the king’s threats might not have been idle. Frowning, he reached for her hand automatically.

Thranduil’s mouth formed a hard line at that gesture. Amoneth’s eyes darted to Aradunnon’s face and for a moment he saw profound gratitude in them before she turned to make her answer.

“I told the dwarves that I thought a cave could not be as lovely as a tree, my lord,” she answered quietly. After a moment’s hesitation, she looked at him squarely in the eye. “And I would have stated that I disagreed with the decision to move to the caves if Lindomiel had not prevented it.”

Aradunnon watched his brother’s expression harden. “Can you explain to me why the queen would have prevented you from making such a statement, Amoneth?”

Amoneth looked back at the floor. “Because it is not appropriate for the king’s own household to gainsay him. Especially in the presence of foreigners, my lord.”

“Why?” Thranduil demanded sharply.

Amoneth’s brow furrowed. “Because to do so undermines your authority and endangers the people that you serve.”

Thranduil looked at her silently for a moment and then shifted his eyes to his brother. “Did it take you long to rehearse those answers and this sudden humility, Aradunnon?”

Aradunnon’s eyes widened slightly and anger flared in them. Lifting his chin slightly he returned his brother’s icy glare evenly. “I spoke to Amoneth about the seriousness of this matter, my lord. I told her that whatever your decision might be, I would be bound to uphold it.”

Thranduil gestured towards Aradunnon and Amoneth’s entwined hands. “So then, this is not an indication that you will oppose me when I order her to return to Lorien?”

Aradunnon frowned and responded by pulling Amoneth closer against his side. When he spoke his tone was openly irate. “She is frightened, Thranduil. And I love her. How would you react if you were forced to watch Lindomiel in a similar situation?” He paused and forced his voice to a more respectful tone. “And how would you suggest that I might oppose you, my lord?”

Thranduil appraised his brother coolly. “Will you go with her?”

Aradunnon let out a long, quiet breath and closed his eyes. Thranduil could see the pain in his features. “I already explained to her that I cannot. My duty is here.”

Amoneth looked between Aradunnon and Thranduil sadly. Then she turned fully to Thranduil. “I beg you, my lord, do not do this. Can you not see the pain it will cause?”

Thranduil leaned back in his chair and regarded her for a moment. “I am doing nothing, Amoneth. You are responsible for this and if you can see the pain you have caused, that might be the first step in learning something,” he replied simply. “You seem to be unable to grasp what it means to be a member of the king’s family. I confess I cannot understand that. You have been a part of my household for a millennium. Have you been speaking of me in this manner the entire time?”

Amoneth looked down again. “No, my lord. I suppose I have never disagreed with one of your decisions before this. Or perhaps none of them have truly affected me.”

“I see,” Thranduil said icily. “That is likely true. But you have happily made a display of mocking the people in my family whose actions have affected you—Aradunnon and Lindomiel and my naneth. Your have never curbed your tongue when expressing opinions about any of them to people outside the family. Indeed the entire capital knows what a rogue you think your betrothed husband is.” Amoneth looked down again and Thranduil’s allowed his expression to grow openly angry. “So, in truth, Amoneth, I am not the least surprised that we have come to this. Indeed, I expected it.” He looked at Aradunnon. “You must have as well. Could you not see this happening?”

Aradunnon straightened slightly. “I did.”

“And that, frankly, is what concerns me most. Why did you do nothing about it? Why did you let it develop to the point where your betrothed wife was criticizing my rule to foreigners? Your duty was to correct your betrothed’s behavior. Do you think Lindomiel, as young as she was, had nothing to learn about being a queen in this realm? Do you think I had nothing to learn about being its king? We both learned and those around us helped us. Why have you learned nothing Amoneth? Why did you do nothing to help her, Aradunnon? I am of a mind to order you both to leave Eryn Galen.”

Aradunnon and Amoneth both looked at Thranduil in utter shock at that statement. “Thranduil, you would not do such a thing,” Aradunnon whispered, unable to muster more voice.

“Yes, Aradunnon, I would. If I thought it was necessary to protect this realm I would send nana from it. And frankly, I doubt your ability to serve this realm while your heart is in Lorien with Amoneth.”

Aradunnon looked at Thranduil for a moment and then, with a deep breath, he spoke in a voice more steady than he expected it to be. “Whatever your order is, my lord, I will obey it.”

Thranduil looked to Amoneth. “And you?”

Amoneth blinked. “I will obviously obey you, my lord.” She paused and her eyes became pleading. “Sending me to Lorien is one thing, my lord, but I beg you—do not send Aradunnon as well. He has done nothing and I could not bear to be the cause of him being forced to leave the home he loves.” She looked down. “Nor do I want to see Eryn Galen lose its troop commander. Surely you do not want that either.”

Thranduil looked at her appraisingly. “Could you bear to be the cause of him fading because he has been separated from the one he loves? Because that may happen if I banish you alone.”

Amoneth’s brows knit together and she turned her head partially to hide the tears that came to her eyes. “No,” she whispered. “I could not bear that either.”

“Do you have any understanding at all of the situation you have caused, Amoneth?” Thranduil asked in a soft voice.

Amoneth looked at him, startled by the change of tone. “Yes, my lord, I think I do.”

Thranduil drew a long breath. “Given your responses, I am willing to believe that you might. Therefore, I will give you one, final chance to prove to me that you will not be the downfall of my House, Amoneth,” he said quietly. Aradunnon and Amoneth looked at the king hopefully. “Lindomiel and my naneth have stayed in the north, as you know. They will be there until we are ready to move the capital. Until then, you will fulfill all their duties—you will run my household, you will act as the lady of my household during official events, you will behave yourself with complete perfection and the first time you fail to do so, you will be banished permanently from Eryn Galen. If you manage their duties until the capital moves, then and only then, will I permit this marriage. Is that clear?”

Amoneth glanced at Aradunnon. “Yes, my lord. Thank you.”

“I take it that this arrangement is acceptable to you?”

“Yes, my lord.”

Thranduil looked at his brother. “And to you?”

Aradunnon nodded. “It must be, my lord.”

Thranduil raised his eyebrows. “You think I am treating you unfairly?”

Aradunnon sighed. “No. But you cannot think that Amoneth can succeed at this task. She knows nothing about managing the entire household.”

Thranduil looked at his brother evenly. “Then it will be her job to educate herself and to do so quickly.” He paused. “And never fear, Aradunnon. I do not intend to allow Amoneth to fail. I cannot afford her failure. Therefore, she will have the benefit of my personal tutelage.” He fixed Amoneth with a cool glare. “Expect to spend a good deal of time in my company, Amoneth. You may start tomorrow by joining me for a meeting immediately after sunrise. I will introduce you to the household accounts and we will speak to the masters of the various divisions of the household staff to inform them of this change. Do not be late.”

Amoneth returned his gaze evenly. “Understood, my lord.”

Thranduil nodded. “Good. And here is your first lesson—I expect to see you at the dinner table after you leave here, Amoneth. You will take Lindomiel’s place. Before you go into the dining room, you will make sure everyone is present, find anyone who is not and then tell the servants that the family is ready for dinner. Do you understand?”

Amoneth raised her eyebrows. If Lindomiel did that before each meal, she had never been aware of it. “Yes, my lord.”

Thranduil looked at them both a moment longer. Then he spoke in a quiet, sincere voice. “I do not oppose your marriage to my brother, Amoneth. On the contrary, I am very pleased to see him happy with you. But he is a prince in this realm. That is not a ceremonial title. It carries responsibilities that affect the lives of many people. I did not ask you to do Lindomiel’s duties because I have no one else to do them. I asked you to do them because I am hoping that by managing the staff you will learn something about the nature of leadership. I am hoping that by working with me more closely you will see how my decisions are designed to protect the people in the household and realm.” He paused and looked at her intently, drawing her eyes to his. “I do not rule this kingdom alone, Amoneth. I cannot keep these people safe in the face of Sauron if I stand alone. I need the support of my family, my advisors, the village leaders and even foreign allies, as much as I prefer to avoid such dependencies. I need for you to understand that. I intend to help you understand it while you manage the household.”

Amoneth nodded. “I do understand, my lord,” she replied sadly.

Thranduil sighed. “We will see. As much as I want to help you—for your own sake and for Aradunnon’s—I also will not hesitate to send you permanently from Eryn Galen. I will do anything necessary, no matter the personal cost to myself, to protect this forest. Never doubt that, Amoneth.”

Amoneth nodded silently.

*~*~*

Naneth/nana--Mother/mum

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Chapter name
The help of all things
Created
19 Nov 2004
Last Edited
19 Nov 2004
Hits
350
Words
6181