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Interrupted Journeys: Part Two--Journeys Perforce

Chapter 14: Held the evil at bay

by ellisk

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Then the name of the forest was changed and Mirkwood it was called, for the nightshade lay deep there, and few dared to pass through, save only in the north where Thranduil’s people still held the evil at bay. Whence it came few could tell, and it was long ere even the Wise could discover it. Silmarillion

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Eryn Galen

Third Age 1050

For over three millennia Thranduil had watched the sun rise every morning over Greenwood the Great. For nearly two millennia he had done so from the same place—the flet in the tallest tree in the capital. For the last millennium, the forest that brightened under his gaze was his own. His realm, inherited from his father and entrusted to him by its people.

Thranduil loved watching the sun rise over Greenwood the Great because that was how he had first seen the forest that would become his home—looking down at it from the heights of the Misty Mountains, Anar’s radiance in the East behind it, glistening like silver off the dew covered leaves and glowing like gold in the mist that hung over them. Thranduil had never seen the Light of the Two Trees in Valinor; he had never beheld the hour when silver Telperion waxed and golden Laurelin waned, but he imagined the mingling of their lights must have closely resembled that sight. Looking out over the forest each morning at sunrise, he recaptured the awe and the immediate connection he felt at that moment and he cherished it for it lent him the strength and determination to uphold his oath. He loved the forest as fiercely as he loved his own blood kin.

Today, like every day, Thranduil watched the sun rise over Greenwood from the flet in the tallest tree in the capital, but the southern forest no longer brightened in Anar’s warm light. A darkness hung over the trees that warred with the light and obscured it. It was worst where Dol Guldur belched forth black gloom, but the nightshade lay over the entire forest below the mountains. Even in the old capital bright light no longer reached the forest floor as it once did. Travelers crossing the Forest Road had begun to call the forest Mirkwood, seeing it now as dark and dangerous and fell. And largely speaking, they were correct.

For that reason, today the king moved with the staff that remained in the old capital to the new stronghold in the north—driven by orcs and spiders and other evil creatures from another home. Six times before he had fled the disharmony Morgoth had woven into Iluvatar’s Song. As Thranduil stood in the flet and watched the sunrise, his heart was heavy. Rather than looking east to the sun, the king looked down at the remaining buildings in the city below him and lost himself in the memories associated with his home of two thousand years. Most of the memories were trivial—everyday moments shared with his family or friends. Some of the memories were life altering. Looking at the Great Hall, he remembered his father addressing the troops before they departed to fight the war against Sauron and he remembered making his oath as king when they returned from that war. His eyes drifted over to the lawn by the river where he had married Lindomiel. That was possibly the most pleasant memory of his life. Thranduil closed his eyes, thinking of their first kiss and asking her to marry him in this very flet. His hand involuntarily clenched into a tight fist. This would be the last home he would be driven from. Here, and no further.

Without another glance over the railings, Thranduil descended the ladder and strode into the midst of the elves in the courtyard making final preparations for their departure. There were less than fifty that had not moved north already—some of Thranduil’s guards and Aradunnon’s warriors, minimal staff and a few families reluctant to leave. Of the king’s family, only Engwe, Aradunnon and Amoneth remained to travel north.

Standing with the family in the courtyard were Amoneth and Lindomiel’s parents. They had traveled to Greenwood to see the stronghold where the king’s family would now be living and to attend Aradunnon and Amoneth’s wedding. Amoneth had long since satisfied Thranduil’s concerns regarding her conduct. He concluded that she would likely never refrain from questioning his decisions or arguing with him—and he did not object to that—but she had learned to do so in appropriate settings. More importantly, as the Shadow had spread ever closer to the capital, the importance of Aradunnon’s duties—indeed, the duties of every member of the family including her own—became irrefutably clear to her. She had finally come to understand and accept the complex life that lay ahead of her as Aradunnon’s wife. That had seemed to Thranduil to be the one bright spot in the last few years of difficulty.

Without speaking to anyone, lest his dark mood infect his staff or guests, Thranduil joined his family and guards where they stood amid their horses. In response to his approach, Thranduil’s stallion threw back his head, whinnying. His front feet danced anxiously, pawing the ground.

Thranduil cast an amused look at him and laid his hand on his velvet nose to calm him. “You are all too ready to flee the Shadow, are you?” he said softly as the horse twisted his ears to listen. Still snorting and tossing his head, he settled down only slightly and turned to nip at his masters’ braids as Thranduil focused on his family. “Are we ready to leave?” he asked, his tone unreadable.

Engwe, his face grim, answered by jumping onto his own horse and fixing his eyes resolutely on the path north. The guests from Lorien and guards nodded and began to mount their horses as well.

Aradunnon looked at his brother, clearly troubled. “Do you think adar found this as difficult?” he asked in a voice for Thranduil’s ears only.

Aradunnon was born in Greenwood and so did not know the flight from Menegroth and Sirion or the migration from Lindon. He was barely of age the first time Oropher moved the Silvan elves and still very young the second. He had argued bitterly with his father on both occasions.

Thranduil looked at him intently. “Fleeing before the Enemy never sat well with adar,” he answered with the same unreadable tone.

Aradunnon’s expression grew cold. “We are not fleeing. We are escorting our people to safety. To a place from which we will defend this forest until the Dagor Dagorath if necessary,” he replied forcefully.

Thranduil nodded and Aradunnon saw his eyes flashed with a fierce light as he jumped on his stallion. Aradunnon helped Amoneth onto her mare and the king signaled for their traveling party to depart for the stronghold. They left behind a very small group of elves that would disassemble the remaining buildings and load their wood and furniture onto rafts to send north for use there. Soon, the only evidence that elves had ever lived here, besides the laments of the trees and river, would be the stone fountain and benches that stood in the courtyard. Too heavy to be worth moving, they would remain in place as the forest reclaimed the city around them.

*~*~*

The path north was scattered with villages and, over the course of their journey to the new capital, the king and his party spent nearly each night as guests in one of the new settlements. Their presence precipitated an enthusiastic welcome and merrymaking, including as elaborate a feast as the small villages could muster. And the journey was scheduled to end as festively as at it had been spent—with a feast to celebrate the king’s arrival to the stronghold followed the next day by another for the prince’s wedding.

When the King of Greenwood the Great finally broke out of the forest to ride down the path that led to the gates of his stronghold, trumpeters and the cheers of the elves that lined the path to greet him heralded his arrival. Thranduil rode to the bridge flanked by his guards, Conuiön and Tureden, and the same standard bearers that had ridden with him into the old capital upon his return from Mordor—all in full livery, the green and gold standard of the Woodland Realm waving in the spring breeze and glinting in the warm light of sunset. Dressed in richly embroidered formal robes and with his naturally regal bearing, the king cut a magnificent figure as he crossed the lawn to where his family awaited him by the bridge.

Experiencing the happiness of his people—seeing them well established in their new homes in the healthy, green forest north of the mountains and celebratory in the new capital—helped lift the darkness that had fallen over the king’s spirits over the last few seasons. Even more so did the sight of his wife waiting for him at the bridge. Seeing both her husband and parents, the queen’s face was lit with a radiant smile that shone, in Thranduil’s mind, brighter than the sun behind her. When he was a few feet from the bridge, he leapt from his stallion’s back and covered the remaining distance with long strides. His joy at finally arriving in his new home and being reunited with his entire family was plain for all to see. As he approached, Hallion, Celonhael and Golwon dropped to one knee and Lindomiel and Dieneryn curtsied. Gesturing for them to rise, he returned the greetings of his advisors, embraced his mother and then turned to his wife. After looking at her a moment, he took her hand and raised it to his lips. She smiled and looked into his eyes, which were dark green in the waning light. She saw in them the promise of a more satisfactory greeting to come once they escaped the press of the crowds that surrounded them.

Still holding her gaze with the intensity of his own, he spoke in a low voice. “I have missed you, my lady.”

Lindomiel’s eyes danced, equally happy to see her husband. “As I have missed you, my lord.” Then she sighed quietly. “But you have duties to perform and guests to attend to before I can show you the extent of my pleasure to welcome you to our new home.”

Thranduil laughed at that. “Indeed,” he replied, voice tinged with regret.

As Amglaur and Limmiel, Lindomiel’s parents, stepped forward to greet their daughter, Thranduil heard Aradunnon greeting the crowd clamoring behind them and telling them to go with the minstrels to the lawn where the feast would soon begin. Thranduil smiled, thankful for the brief reprieve. He would address the citizens of the capital before the feast. For now, he wanted a moment with his family to rest from the long road so he appreciated his brother’s efforts to grant him that boon. As the revelers moved off to the area set aside for that evening’s merrymaking, Thranduil looked past Lindomiel, still embracing her parents, and took in the sight of his new home.

Behind him, the green between the forest and the river was alight with lanterns and torches and arrayed with tables laid with bright decorations for the feast. In front of him, across the bridge, rose the forested mountain that contained the stronghold and the great stone gates that were its only entrance. Now the gates stood open, in welcome of the king, and the chamber they led into was brightly lit. But silhouetted by the setting sun, the mountain itself was dark and formidable. The Silvan elves looked on it with awe when they arrived in the new capital and saw it for the first time. Even to Sindarin eyes that had seen the splendor of Menegroth, it appeared to be an imposing keep and a glorious home. Glancing to his side, Thranduil saw Amglaur’s attention had also turned to the stronghold and for once the Prince of Lorien’s expression held respect. With a smirk, Thranduil guided Lindomiel with an arm around her waist across the bridge. The rest of his family followed behind him along with the standard bearers who carried the king’s banner to its place by the great gates.

Nali, Gelireth and Crithad met the king at the entrance to the stronghold. As the principal architects of the stronghold, they would have the honor of joining the king at the High Table tonight to celebrate its completion. Now they were present for the king’s final inspection of their work.

Preparing to greet them, Thranduil looked somewhat sadly at the dwarf. His beard, graying already when they first met nearly fifty years ago, was now very white. Thranduil, son of Oropher of Doriath, would never have love in his heart for the race of dwarves in general, but over the years some individuals would win his respect. The memory of one dwarf’s valor and sacrifice in the War of the Last Alliance inspired Thranduil’s willingness to consider trusting their kind to build this stronghold. After working with Nali over the last fifty years, the king recognized that the stoneworker had likewise earned his friendship. The dwarf’s honesty and enthusiastic dedication to the task before him had impressed and surprised Thranduil as few experiences ever had in his long life. He cast a warning scowl at Amglaur in response to his sharp intake of breath upon noticing the dwarf.

Nali bowed along with the elves as Thranduil approached. “It would be an honor to give you a tour of your stronghold, hir Thranduil,” he stated in Sindarin, the words sounding bizarrely gruff issuing forth from the dwarf’s tongue.

Thranduil smiled at him, aware that Lindomiel and Amoneth’s families were trying to conceal their dismay at the dwarf’s presence while he had to struggle to hide his amusement over his choice of language. Dwarves were eager students of languages in Doriath, guarding their own as secret, so it had not surprised the king that each time he inspected the progress of the stronghold, the dwarves had learned a bit more elvish. But no matter how they perfected the vocabulary and grammar, the sound of the normally melodious tones of the Noble Tongue spoken by the harsh voice of a dwarf would always make Thranduil cringe.

He gestured for Nali to lead the way into the stronghold. “The honor will be mine, Master Nali,” he replied, also speaking Sindarin and bracing himself to listen to the dwarf for the extended tour.

With that they passed though the gates and entered the stronghold.

Of all Thranduil’s family, only Aradunnon and Amoneth had never traveled north during its construction—Aradunnon was too busy with his military duties given the increasingly difficult situation in the south and Amoneth was not interested. Neither Aradunnon nor Amoneth believed there would be much to see in the caves and that is why they gasped upon entering the first hall of the stronghold. Lindomiel’s and Amoneth’s parents, who well remembered the underground strongholds of Beleriand, looked on with approving expressions.

The gates opened into a great cave that, in turn, opened into countless other passages and caverns. It was brightly lit by torches and its walls and ceiling were painted with a woodland scene so detailed that one could easily imagine they had walked under an arch into another part of the forest rather than through a gate and into a cave. The trunks of great oak and beech and elm trees were carved and painted on the walls and their boughs and leaves rose and formed a forest canopy on the ceiling. Figures of deer, fox and bears wandered amongst the trunks while squirrels, birds and butterflies flitted amongst the leaves. Some of the green gemstones that the dwarves had found sparkled amongst the leaves in the flickering torchlight causing the light in the hall to dance.

Lindomiel laughed lightly at Amoneth when she leaned forward, jaw frankly hanging open, to caress the nose of one of the deer carved on the wall.

In response to the laughter, Amoneth looked at her with wide eyes. “This is simply breathtaking,” she exclaimed, almost in disbelief.

“But not as lovely as a living tree,” Nali said coolly, staring at her levelly.

Amoneth turned to him, taking in his expression. It was openly challenging. She only smiled at him. “Trees are lovely in their own way, Master Nali. But this is lovely in a way I could never have imagined if I had not seen it. I grant you that I was utterly wrong. Truly I can understand how Yavanna so loves Aulë if works like this are the fruits of his hands.”

Nali’s bushy eyebrows rose, for clearly he had not expected that response. He harrumphed quietly and inclined his head, still eyeing her warily.

The amusement in Thranduil’s eyes only increased during this exchange. “And they say the memories of elves are long. I would bet the memory of dwarves is equally long and is passed down like an heirloom amongst the generations,” he commented, laughter in his voice. “But this is wonderful and there is no denying it. I knew you had begun work on the decoration but I had no idea you had completed any of it. What else have you done?”

Nali, Gelireth and Crithad smiled proudly at the king.

“It is never finished, my lord. Something can always be added,” Crithad began.

Gelireth nodded enthusiastically. “But we wanted the first hall to be as complete as possible before your arrival. All the public areas of the stronghold are adorned to some extent. Come look at the Great Hall,” she suggested. “It is also largely complete and almost entirely the work of your lady mother and wife.”

Thranduil’s eyebrows rose dramatically at that. With a sidelong glance at Dieneryn and Lindomiel, who were smiling broadly, he moved towards one of the caverns at the back of the first hall. Like the main entrance of the caves, it was closed by stone doors, though these were not nearly as tall as the great gates. They bore the device of the House of Oropher—a gold oak tree on a green field. At the king’s approach, the guards standing at the doors opened them wide. Inside was the tallest hall in the stronghold, its ceiling supported by stone pillars. Like the walls in the first hall, the pillars in the Great Hall were hewn in the likeness of trees whose branches formed the arches in the ceiling. But instead of sporting a woodland scene, the walls of the Great Hall were covered with tapestries that depicted the history of the Woodland Realm. At the back of the room, on a raised stone dais, stood elaborately carved wooden thrones. And behind them hung a single, unique tapestry that fell from ceiling to floor —it was a map of Greenwood and its immediate surrounds in Rhovanion overlaid on the royal crest. The map was woven in rich, bright colors and the crest in muted colors.

Thranduil turned to Lindomiel. “You remade the tapestry,” he whispered, unable to find more voice. He took her hand and pulled her to him. “Lindomiel, it is beautiful,” he said, placing a kiss on her cheek.

When he stood back, she smiled at him. The tapestry that hung behind the throne was indeed the recreation of the tapestry that Lindomiel had made for Thranduil as a wedding present. A jealous rival had destroyed the original the day before their wedding. Lindomiel had always intended to remake it but had never done so, lacking the time and the heart, for that work had been a labor of love that she was not certain could be entirely recaptured. But over the last fifty years, it had been.

“It is similar to the one Marti destroyed,” she said in a soft voice. “Though I am much better at weaving now than I was a millennium ago. It is bigger, to fit the height of this hall. And the map has changed, of course. This tapestry properly shows the capital and major villages where they are today instead of where they were when we were married.”

He drew her against him, arm around her waist. “I thought the shredded version of this tapestry that I saw in naneth’s workshop was beautiful. This is beyond description. Thank you, meleth,” he said, kissing her again on the cheek.

Then he turned to the other tapestries, walking along the wall, still with his arm around Lindomiel’s waist, to study them. Along the right hand wall hung tapestries that depicted scenes from Oropher’s reign. Thranduil detected his mother’s style in them. The tapestries on the left hand wall were scenes from his reign. They were clearly Lindomiel’s work. Thranduil followed them sequentially, pausing in front of some to remember, fondly or wistfully, the story behind them.

Of all the rooms in the stronghold, this would be the one that was most his own. But amongst all his other concerns, it had never occurred to Thranduil to order its adornment beyond its basic layout. He smiled gratefully at his wife and mother. “This is perfect,” he said. “I would not have thought of anything nearly so fitting myself. And I cannot imagine when you found the time to weave these tapestries with all the other work you did here. Thank you.”

Dieneryn returned his smile. “You are welcome, ion nin. The weaving was the task we looked forward to doing every day.”

Lindomiel nodded, obviously in complete agreement with that assertion.

From there, the tour led the king and his family through many more rooms and passages from the public halls to the kitchens and other such facilities to the family quarters and king’s office. The basic work of delving, widening, strengthening, lighting, ventilating and heating caverns was completely finished. The only work that remained was decorating the halls and, as Crithad had stated, that was a task that would never truly be complete. Some of the public halls already were adorned by Gelireth’s paintings or Crithad’s carvings but there were many blank walls. And nearly all the rooms in the family quarters remained bare. As they walked, Gelireth and Crithad described how they imagined painting or carving some of the walls. Others they planned to polish or light to exploit the beauty of their natural formations. Thranduil listened, adding suggestions as he did.

“I am glad you chose to begin the decorations in the public areas first,” he commented finally, as the tour ended and they approached the family sitting room. “The Silvan have never seen anything like this stronghold. It is wise to present them with something beautiful. We,” he said with a look that encompassed his family, “can be patient.”

Nali shook his head. “There is more than enough room for your staff and a good number of the citizens to live in this stronghold, yet the majority of them insist upon living exposed in the trees. You elves…I doubt I will ever understand you.”

Thranduil laughed at that, more in reaction to Engwe, Dieneryn and Amglaur’s struggle not to launch an angry retort than the comment itself. “Thus the term Wood Elf, I suppose, Master Nali.” Then he turned to Golwon with a more serious expression. “But I do want to know how the staff and citizens of the capital have reacted to the stronghold.”

Golwon shrugged. “The staff is very satisfied. All the facilities are larger—especially the kitchen and laundry. And the cave’s natural water sources make running both areas much easier. The citizens who enjoy painting or carving or any other art that might be used to decorate the caverns are hopeful to have the opportunity to participate in that work. Gelireth and Crithad are coordinating the efforts to allow that and those plans have raised some excitement. Everyone else is fairly indifferent. They are impressed when they enter the stronghold to do business here, but as you said, they are Wood Elves. They care very little about it except to see it as an unbreakable defense. That obviously pleases them. Many have commented to me that they feel confident the king will defeat the Shadow from such a place of strength.”

Thranduil looked away from Golwon, his expression unreadable and Lindomiel took his hand.

“You have guests to greet, Thranduil, and a feast to begin,” she said softly. “Let us not tarry inside.” Her eyes lit. “The stars call, meleth, and I want to dance under them with you.”

Thranduil turned a playful smile on his wife. “I am eager to dance with you as well,” he said with a glimmer of laughter in his eyes, “but we do have the feast to attend. And what guests do I have to greet? Our guests from Lorien came with me.”

Hallion looked at Thranduil with amusement. “Indeed my lord, but your brother’s wedding draws guests from his own family as well as his betrothed’s.” Thranduil and Ardunnon raised their eyebrows so Hallion continued. “Your cousins. Celeborn and Elrond. Along with their families…and attendants.”

Thranduil’s face brightened. “Elrond and Celebrian are here? And Celeborn?” he asked with obvious surprise. He was vaguely aware of Amglaur rolling his eyes but he did not care. In his mind, that was a pleasant surprise.

Lindomiel laughed at her father. “Indeed they are, Thranduil, happy to be here for the wedding and to see your new stronghold. I am sure they are anxious to see you. Let us go speak to them and bring them to the feast. The people are waiting.”

Refusing to be drawn into an argument with his father-in-law over Galadriel and Elrond, Thranduil nodded and followed Hallion down the passage to the family sitting room where his guests awaited him. Celeborn, Elrond and their wives stood as Thranduil entered the room, moving enthusiastically to embrace him. He returned the gesture gladly, truly pleased with the opportunity to see his distant kin. For a moment the room was alive with elves embracing, clapping each other on the back, and kissing ladies’ hands.

Then Thranduil addressed Elrond. “I am sorry you did not bring Elrohir and Elladan with you. I would very much like to see your sons full grown. As I would like to meet your daughter, Arwen. They were traveling the last time I was in Imladris.”

Elrond smiled. “I am certain my sons would have much rather traveled to see this wedding, but they were dutiful enough to stay in Imladris and see to its governance. That is one of the advantages of having sons, Thranduil. I can leave my realm to travel secure in the knowledge that it is well governed. You should try it yourself.”

Thranduil chuckled and looked at Elrond sidelong, recognizing his intent to tease him. He bit off his immediate response—that his brother and mother were perfectly capable of ruling Greenwood in his absence—out of deference for Elrond’s feelings and simply shook his head. ”I do not intend to enter into this argument with you, Elrond. My wife and mother are difficult enough to manage on the topic of elflings. But surely rule of Imladris is not so complicated that it requires the attention of all your children. What is your excuse for not bringing Arwen?”

Elrond smirked at Thranduil. “If I had only traveled here for the wedding, I might have brought Arwen. But we have additional business to address afterwards so I decided to leave her with her brothers instead.”

Celebrian smiled. “She was furious with us. She very much wanted to see Taur-nu-Fuin. She is very interested in seeing new places. She often travels with her brothers.”

Thranduil winced slightly at the name Celebrian had used. He was aware that Men called his forest Mirkwood but it was not a name he would ever use himself. He suffered it now only out of courtesy to his lady guest, forcing himself to smile and respond only to Celebrian’s description of her daughter. “Furious?” he repeated. “And she likes to travel…sounds adventurous. High spirits run in your family, I see. I find it most likely to believe it is Galadriel’s blood, or possibly the Maian or mortal blood. But such behavior is certainly not descended from our common ancestor.”

Celeborn snorted as Galadriel gazed at Thranduil with an amused glint in her eyes.

“This must be why you recommend children so highly to me, Elrond,” Thranduil continued with a wink at Celeborn. “You want me to suffer the same ignominy that you have been forced to endure. What is the Mannish expression…misery loves company?”

Elrond nodded his head, laughing. “Your turn is coming, Thranduil. Lindomiel will not let you wait much longer. I heard that from her very lips myself. I look forward to meeting your son or daughter.”

Thranduil looked at Elrond with mock-refinement. “You will see that my children will be the very picture of courteous behavior.”

Everyone burst out laughing at that.

“Just as their father was in Doriath,” Celeborn said and Galadriel laughed harder as Thranduil turned large, innocent eyes on his cousin. “Come, Thranduil, you believe in utter honestly. Let us have some. I am think Elrond, and certainly Lindomiel, would enjoy hearing about….”

Thranduil shook his head hastily, waving Celeborn silent. “I will have respect in my own realm, Celeborn,” he interrupted with as serious an expression as he could muster through his laughter.

Celeborn nodded knowingly, the promise of mischief in his eyes.

Thranduil smirked at him and then his eyes were drawn to three other figures that also stood waiting to speak to him—one dressed in white, one in gray and one in brown. Amglaur openly stared at these guests. Radagast stepped forward first, bowing slightly.

“It is a pleasure to see you again, my lord,” he said with a smile.

Thranduil smiled back at him wryly, drawn in, as usual, by Radagast’s easy warmth. “It is a pleasure and surprise to see you again, Radagast. As well as a relief. I worry about you living in the wilds alone. I wish you would at least send me word of how you fare more regularly.”

Radagast looked confused by that but his response was forestalled as companions stepped forward to greet their host. Mithrandir bowed solemnly, though a merry light shone in his eyes. “My lord Thranduil,” he said in his deep voice.

Thranduil inclined his head and greeted him warmly, clasping his arm in the traditional elven greeting. “Mithrandir, welcome to Greenwood. I imagine you came with Elrond.”

“I did though I have been intending to come further east since receiving Radagast’s bird about his findings here. This is simply a very pleasant excuse to do so.” He glanced at Aradunnon. “This is the groom, I presume.”

Aradunnon was looking between Radagast, Mithrandir and the other old man clad in white, studying them. Thranduil laughed lightly at his brother’s expression before drawing him forward, along with Amoneth, to introduce them.

Then Mithrandir turned to his companion, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Lord Thranduil, I would like to present Curunir, the Head of our Order.”

Thranduil accepted the hand Curunir offered, noting without comment that he offered not the slightest bow along with it, as even Lords Elrond and Celeborn did, greeting the king in his own realm. Instead, Curunir stood proudly and fixed Thranduil with an intense, searching gaze that Thranduil returned evenly. The force of Curunir’s stare reminded Thranduil of Galadriel and he glanced at her briefly, frowning at her stiff posture as she looked at the white clad Wizard. Finally, Thranduil spoke.

“I am pleased to meet you, Curunir,” he said pleasantly. “I think you were in the east when I met Mithrandir and Radagast in Imladris. I would be interested to hear what you learned in your travels.”

Curunir raised his chin slightly. “We can likely find some time to discuss such things while I am here, Thranduil. But I did not travel here solely to attend weddings. I came in response to Radagast’s claim that Sauron is rising in the south of this forest. I am here to investigate that.”

Thranduil’s brows drew together and everyone present tensed slightly at Curunir’s pronouncement and overtly imperious tone. Thranduil responded in a cool voice. “After the wedding, and after I am satisfied that allowing you to approach Dol Guldur will not threaten my realm, we will discuss with Lord Aradunnon if he can spare enough warriors to escort you south, Curunir.”

Curunir scowled at Thranduil but it was Galadriel’s inscrutable expression that drew the king’s gaze. “My lord husband and I would be happy to form part of that escort if you would permit us, Lord Thranduil,” she said in a formal, respectful tone that contrasted sharply with the Wizard’s. “We would very much like to see how the situation there has changed since last we were there.” Her eyes drifted to Elrond. “I believe Lord Elrond had hoped to see the hill as well. We all are anxious to confirm Sauron’s presence for ourselves.”

Curunir turned a scornful look on Radagast, who frowned. “Yes, I find it difficult to trust the perception of birds and rats. I prefer to see with my own eyes the truth of what is happening in Dol Guldur.”

Mithrandir looked at his comrade intently. “Perhaps it is Sauron or perhaps it is one or more of the Ulairi. We will only know by going there.”

“It is Sauron,” Radagast began.

“Nonsensical conclusions drawn by sparrows,” Curunir interrupted hotly. “We were sent to make judgments the Elves cannot make yet you will trust birds. We must see for ourselves.”

Thranduil’s eyes narrowed and he glared at Curunir for a moment. Then he shut him from his sight, turning entirely to Elrond, Galadriel and Celeborn. “I assume you have your own guards with you. I will provide some additional warriors, for it is best to go south well defended, but I am certain Radagast can lead you on safer paths near Dol Guldur than my people know. The elves that have met him have told me how pleased they are with his presence in the southern forest. They even, very begrudgingly, admit they have learned a good deal of woodcraft and healing—of trees and plants and animals and people—from him. It seems his knowledge of Yavanna’s arts are quite useful here in the Woodland Realm.” Thranduil glanced coolly at Curunir before turning a warm smile on Radagast. “You are always welcome in my Halls, Radagast, for you provide me a valuable service in the south.” He gestured to the door. “Come, all of you. There is a feast, and a populace eagerly awaiting it, on the lawn.”

They moved to the door and Mithrandir appeared at Thranduil’s side, looking at him with a gleam in his eyes. “I would like to provide some entertainment if you will permit me, lord Thranduil,” he began as the family and their guests headed to the lawn.

*~*~*

The welcoming feast that night lasted until dawn and blended into the celebration the next day of Aradunnon and Amoneth’s wedding. The couple had stopped merrymaking only long enough to dress for their wedding and gather with the families to exchange gifts. Then they returned to the festivities, wholly content and very excited now that their wedding day had finally arrived. Free from the gloom of the south and feeling in much better spirits than he had in years, Thranduil was much of the same mind as his brother.

Laughing in an utterly carefree manner, with one arm around Lindomiel’s waist and the other hand clasping hers, Thranduil led his breathless wife away from the green where they had been dancing for nearly an hour and back to the tables on the edge of the lawn. Elves playfully protested their departure as they retreated, inspiring Thranduil to swing Lindomiel back around and teasingly threaten to draw her back into the dance. She laughed and slipped from his grasp, fleeing to the benches and collapsing next to her father. Amglaur regarded his daughter warmly, pleased to see her obvious happiness.

Thranduil approached the table at a more sedate pace, smiling at his wife’s flushed face and bright eyes. His entire family was gathered there. Dieneryn sat teasing the normally stern Engwe and Golwon. Hallion and Celonhael were singing a somewhat racy song that caused Dieneryn to pause in her banter and direct a raised eyebrow at her cousins. But the sight that raised Thranduil’s eyebrows was his brother and new sister-in-law. Amoneth was sitting squarely on Aradunnon’s lap with both his arms wrapped around her waist and his hands resting on her thighs.

Thranduil joined Lindomiel, taking her hand as he sat next to her and looking coolly at his brother. “Every time I think you may have matured a bit, Aradunnon, you prove me wrong. A little public decorum might be warranted,” he said quietly.

Thranduil’s eyebrows climbed higher when Aradunnon flatly laughed at him.

“Thranduil this is my wedding night and this,” he said tightening his arms around Amoneth’s waist, “is my bride, for whom you have made me wait through a nearly fifty year betrothal. You should be thankful I did not abandon the feast the moment the ceremony concluded. Never you mind where Amoneth sits. You would better spend your time worrying about your own wife. I doubt you have even given her a proper kiss since our arrival. Poor thing.”

Thranduil loosed a surprised breath and stared at his brother.

Before he could speak, Lindomiel made her own reply. “I am kept perfectly satisfied, Aradunnon so you need not worry about me,” she said airily.

Thranduil’s eyes widened and he turned to Lindomiel as the rest of his family snickered at her words and her husband’s embarrassed shock. Amglaur cast a sour look at Thranduil, causing the king to blink—after all, it had not been he that made either of those coarse comments. This only caused everyone else to laugh all the harder. Thranduil turned to Aradunnon as the source of the foolishness, brows furrowed, eyes narrowed and flashing, mouth a thin line, looking far more like an older brother ready to pounce on a younger sibling than a ruling monarch.

“Behave yourselves, children,” a female voice intervened before Thranduil could launch his retort.

Thranduil and Aradunnon were perfectly accustomed to Dieneryn making exactly that admonition whenever Aradunnon’s mischief finally pushed his much older brother beyond the limits of his endurance. But Dieneryn was too busy laughing and staring at Amoneth, eyes wide with amusement, to have spoken. Slowly it dawned on the brothers that it had been Amoneth that had chastised them and not their mother. As one, they turned to her silently with identical, surprised expressions. She merely giggled in response to Dieneryn’s reaction.

Lindomiel laughed ruefully and put a restraining arm around Thranduil’s shoulders. “It is possible even for me to push Thranduil too far, Amoneth. Tread carefully,” she said softly.

Thranduil’s expression softened at that and he chuckled quietly. Looking down into the cup of wine he swirled in one hand, he shook his head. “Amoneth is quite right, Lindomiel, and therefore is safe. I believe the point I initially tried to make was that the behavior at this table is lacking. Shame on me for allowing you troublemakers to draw me into it.” He looked up at his brother and sister-in-law. “It will be best for me, I am sure, to have the two of you absent from my court. Perhaps without your influence my wife will behave in a more reasonable manner.”

It was Lindomiel’s turn to look at Thranduil with wide, astonished eyes. Amglaur glared at him as well. But Lindomiel was not reacting to the joking insult.

“Absent from court?” she repeated, now looking at Amoneth with a very serious expression.

Amoneth returned it solemnly, nodding. “Aradunnon and I will stay until my parents leave but we will not be living in the stronghold,” she said quietly, looking at Lindomiel with concern. She did not realize that Lindomiel had not been told that she intended to live in the south with Aradunnon.

“You will not?” Lindomiel asked. “Amoneth, you cannot think to stay in the south in hopes of traveling regularly to Lorien. That journey has become far too dangerous to warrant such foolishness. When ada and nana traveled here, the patrols drove five groups of over twenty orcs from the roads. Twenty-five warriors were required in addition to regular guard to keep them safe. Surely you would not risk Aradunnon and the guards to take you on such trips.”

Thranduil looked at Lindomiel sharply. “I was not aware that you were so well informed of the details of troop movements, Lindomiel,” he said. Thranduil knew how worrying he found the patrols’ reports. Hearing her speak of the dangers in the southern realm left him with a strong desire to shield her from such cares.

Lindomiel turned her eyes from Amoneth briefly to respond. “My parents were making that trip. Naturally I watched the reports. And my husband has been living in the south. I made it my business to become more familiar with security there.”

Thranduil looked at her sadly with raised eyebrows while Amoneth’s mother looked nervously at her daughter. “Lindomiel is right, Amoneth. You must not travel lightly between Lorien and Eryn Galen. It is too dangerous.”

Amoneth smiled indulgently at her mother. “We do not intend to travel to Lorien, nana.” She turned to Lindomiel. “I have listened to Aradunnon’s reports to the council and the king for the last fifty years, Lindomiel. I am well informed of the dangers of traveling. That is not why we will be living further south.”

Lindomiel blinked at that. “Well, you know if you still object to living in the stronghold, you need not live so far away to avoid that. Celonhael lives in a cottage in the forest,” she suggested softly but her voice revealed she was grasping to understand her friend’s reasoning now.

Aradunnon shook his head. “I am living closer to the mountains as a matter of duty to have faster communication with the captains in the southern territory,” he explained. “And as much as I have tried to convince Amoneth to stay in the stronghold where she would be safer, she insists on staying with me. So we will be living in a village just west of the mountains. She has already set up a household there for us over the last few months and Thranduil and I have agreed upon how we will command the rest of the patrols while I live there.”

Lindomiel looked at her husband, mouth open slightly in surprise. Thranduil nodded. “I do not like the risk Amoneth or anyone else in that village is taking. I feel it is too far south and since it lies west of the mountains, they offer it no protection. I would prefer for Amoneth to stay in the stronghold, but I can hardly command her to abandon her husband if she is unwilling. So we have agreed on this course of action. For now.” He fixed Amoneth with a stern look.

Amoneth simply smiled at him and nodded once. “And when it becomes too dangerous Thranduil and I will both pressure Aradunnon to be sensible and move further north. In the meantime, I will stay with him.”

Lindomiel stared at Amoneth and Aradunnon for a moment before standing and moving to embrace her friend. “Oh, I shall miss you, Amoneth. You have been my dearest friend since we were both elflings.” She released her friend and looked at Aradunnon sadly. “I do wish you both would reconsider this.”

Aradunnon returned her gaze apologetically but resolutely, his mouth a thin line but his eyes sad.

Amoneth loosed an exasperated laugh. “You will by no means turn this elf,” she said squeezing Aradunnon’s hands, “from his duty to his troops. Both Thranduil and I have tried to convince him otherwise and he will not waver. The only course of action left open to me is to keep him safe myself and the only way to do that is to stay with him. I have to go to the village.”

Lindomiel looked at Amoneth long and searchingly. Then she embraced her friend again. “Be careful. Both of you.”

Aradunnon smiled at her, his light, merry expression returning. “We shall be careful but tonight is not the time to think of such things.” He stood, unceremoniously dumping Amoneth from his lap but preventing her from stumbling with his arm about her waist. “Come, meleth, I see some friends of mine that might not be aware of your skill at gaming. Let us go educate them.”

Amoneth rolled her eyes but smiled and allowed Aradunnon to pull her off to speak with a group of his friends.

Thranduil smirked at their backs. “I cannot imagine what she sees in him,” he said in a quiet voice. “Aradunnon is very lucky.”

“Both Dieneryn’s sons were quite lucky, I would say,” Amglaur grumbled under his breath.

Everyone at the table heard him, despite his mumbling, and looked to Thranduil in anticipation of his response. After a millennium, his sparing with Amglaur was seen as nothing more than family entertainment. But Thranduil simply smiled. Taking Lindomiel’s hand, he raised it to his lips. “I am well aware of that and I never forget it.”

*~*~*

Thranduil enjoyed the company of his peers from the western realms for a good length of time after his brother’s wedding. In addition to simply taking pleasure in the rare opportunity to visit with his distant cousins, Thranduil also spent good deal of time speaking with them of military matters. They thoroughly debated all that Aradunnon had seen in the area around Dol Guldur. Aradunnon led those conversations but Radagast and even Amglaur contributed their perspectives as well. Elrond, Galadriel and Celeborn listened with concern but few interruptions. It was Gandalf and Saruman that bombarded those that had recently been near Dol Guldur with questions. And Thranduil arranged with Aradunnon for his guests to travel there themselves, but he would not agree to go with them. He had seen enough of the Shadow to know what is was.

On the eve of his guests’ departure, Thranduil shut himself in his office with Gandalf and Radagast for the hour before the evening meal. That raised eyebrows amongst his family members and guests but no one dared disturb the closed-door meeting.

After dinner, Lindomiel and some of the family went to the green outside the gates as they had become accustomed to doing since elves had moved to the stronghold. Like the courtyard in the old capital, the green in front of the gates had become an evening gathering place for the folks in the capital to sing and dance or game a bit and Lindomiel had always joined in the music since she first moved to Thranduil’s realm. She was sitting under a tree with Hallion, Celonhael, Golwon, Engwe, Dieneryn, Amoneth and Aradunnon when the king emerged from the caves with Gandalf and Radagast.

Lindomiel looked at him with some interest when he did not stroll out to the lawn as she expected or even notice his family there. Instead, he and the wizards inspected the stone doors. Apparently, Thranduil ordered the guards at the gates to shut them, for they began to work the complex mechanisms the dwarves had designed to move the heavy slabs of stone. With curious glances at one another, Lindomiel and the others stood and started across the bridge to see what the king was doing.

As they did, Thranduil’s attention was on the gates. All at once, from the roots of the mountain to its rounded peaks there seemed to emanate a great strength—the impenetrability of the mountain’s stone walls and the might of its towering heights became an undeniable, almost physical presence that captured the attention of all those nearby. The elves on the green turned towards the stronghold; the guards by the doors stepped back from them with wide eyes; even Thranduil’s family slowed their passage across the bridge to stare at him. The power of the mountain seemed to be called to the king and focused on him. He placed his hand lightly on the closed doors. As he did, the seam between the two doors drew together and the thin beam of torchlight that slipped between them from the brightly lit chamber inside disappeared. When he lifted his hand, the two slabs of stone that formed the doors appeared to have been fused. There was no opening between them to offer entrance to even the slimmest blade.

The door guards stared at the king, their eyes wide. The elves on the lawn were still and the music silenced as all looked at the stronghold and the king before it. All the Silvan knew the songs that told of the power of the High Elves returned from Aman and even the magic of the elves in Beleriand who never dwelt with the Valar. They knew their king was descended from Elu Thingol’s line—king of Doriath, the fenced realm of Beleriand protected by the Girdle of Melian. The Silvan themselves had their own sort of magic and it was strong. But they had never seen anything of this nature amongst themselves or from their king.

Lindomiel felt no less awestruck, though she made an effort to govern her expression. Closing the distance to the entrance of the stronghold, the rest of the family following behind her, she looked intently between Thranduil and the wizards’ serious expressions and then turned to the doors. Unconsciously mimicking her husband’s earlier gesture, she laid her hand lightly on the door, still able to feel the force of the enchantment that had been laid upon it. She pulled her hand back surprised when the doors began to swing open at her touch. They closed, shutting tightly, when she removed her hand. Her eyes darted to Thranduil.

He looked at her evenly, though in the recesses of his eyes Lindomiel saw a spark of amusement. “None shall pass through my gates save those who do so by my will, lest they come with greater power than that which laid this enchantment,” he said in explanation with a serious tone. Then he smiled at her. “But those who are welcome,” he continued, taking her hand and kissing it, “will find the gates open freely for them.”

Lindomiel let out a short breath and laughed lightly. The rest of the family, standing behind her, looked at Thranduil, who they often still saw as a mere youth, with proud and respectful expressions.

“New Menegroth, indeed,” Celonhael muttered under his breath, his joke about the stronghold taking on new meaning. Those present who remembered Doriath laughed quietly and nodded at him.

Gandalf and Radagast also smiled at Thranduil. “Now this is a worthy stronghold equal to the task before it—keeping these people safe from the Enemy.” Gandalf said with a cheerful tone. Then he looked at Thranduil. “And a king equal to that task as well,” he added in a lower voice.

Thranduil returned the wizard’s merry look with his own grave one. “That, time will tell,” he responded solemnly.

*~*~*

Hir—Lord

Meleth (nin)—(My) love

Naneth/nana—Mother/mum

Adar/ada--Father/dad

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Held the evil at bay
Created
17 Dec 2004
Last Edited
17 Dec 2004
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