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Interrupted Journeys: Part Two--Journeys Perforce

Chapter 5: The path that seemed right

by ellisk

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You chose amid doubts the path that seemed right…The Two Towers

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Thranduil and Colloth rode side by side through the forest, Aradunnon between them. Neither Thranduil nor the guard thought it wise for Aradunnon to ride by himself back to the capital given the injury to his thigh but neither could persuade him to a different course of action. As they traveled, they took advantage of the opportunity to discuss the needs and deployment of the army and Thranduil’s wish to arm every warrior with swords. The king was not unaware of the eager reactions of the warriors that could hear these conversations. Concluding the arrangements to make that purchase was Thranduil’s first priority when they arrived in the capital, which they expected to do sometime that evening.

Thranduil cast a glance at his brother. Aradunnon was fairly steady on his horse and his wound had healed significantly over the course of the journey home. Thranduil smirked. “I am not certain who I fear the most since I am returning with you injured—naneth or Amoneth,” he commented idly.

Aradunnon laughed lightly and rolled his eyes. “Nana still treats me like a careless elfling. She behaves as if I have returned from playing irresponsibly with my friends when I am returning from battle,” he exclaimed with exasperation.

Thranduil smiled. “Yes, I was very thankful when you joined ada’s warriors. Nana immediately shifted her focus from me to her baby. Your mistake was not pressuring ada for a baby brother.”

Aradunnon looked slyly at his brother. “Would I have wanted one?” he asked jokingly.

Thranduil chuckled at that. “Yes, you would have. Most of the time,” he qualified.

Aradunnon returned his brother’s gaze with dancing eyes. Then he looked away. “It is Amoneth that I fear facing,” he said softly. Then he shrugged. “On the other hand, this injury will keep me in the capital for at least another few weeks and I doubt I will be doing much beyond meetings so she will have more time with me to herself.” He sighed. “She will like that.”

Thranduil raised his eyebrows. “But you will not?” he asked, tone rising with sincere surprise.

Aradunnon grimaced slightly at the impression he had given. “No, no, I will. I love spending time with Amoneth. I love her. But…she did not understand why I left so soon after returning to the capital from the borders and she will be even more upset when she sees this injury.”

Thranduil frowned. “How could she not understand why you left? Lindomiel told her in detail what happened on our trip back from Lorien. Obviously you would investigate that.”

Aradunnon laughed bitterly. “Amoneth asked me why Dollion or Geledhel could not lead the warriors south. She pointed out that they are experienced captains.”

Thranduil raised his eyebrows. “Do you agree?” he asked neutrally.

“Of course not, Thranduil. I would have gone to look into this myself without being told to do so. My point is that Amoneth does not understand my duties. She has known nothing but peace and she sees little need to worry about patrols and guarding the Road and our borders. She is jealous of my time.”

To their left, Colloth snorted.

Aradunnon flashed him a scathing look that caused Thranduil to look at the guard with interest. “What is your opinion, Colloth?” Thranduil asked with an amused smile. Colloth was rarely shy about expressing his views of Aradunnon’s affairs and he provided interesting fodder for teasing Aradunnon.

“I think Amoneth might be less jealous of His Highness’s time if the prince bothered to freely dedicate any of it to her rather than gaming and flirting,” Colloth replied with mock-formality that made Aradunnon bristle and Thranduil struggle to hold back his laughter.

“I spend a healthy amount of time with Amoneth, Colloth. You of all people should know that. But she wants every minute of my time.”

“She wants you to not flirt with every female creature on the face of Arda,” Colloth retorted coolly.

Thranduil could no longer repress his laughter. “That would be a start,” he concurred.

Aradunnon scowled at his brother. “I do not flirt.”

Thranduil laughed loudly enough to attract the attention of the warriors riding behind them.

“It is true,” Aradunnon insisted. “I am simply friends with a good many people and many of them are female.”

“Females who think you are flirting,” Colloth commented. “If that is your view of ‘friendship’ then I am certainly relieved you make enough of a distinction to not kiss your male friends.”

Thranduil laughed again, shaking his head.

Aradunnon looked irate. “The only lady I have kissed in practically this entire age is Amoneth. Honestly, Colloth, what do you think I should do differently?”

“Make a choice. Betroth yourself to her or stop giving her the impression that you might,” he replied seriously.

Aradunnon frowned. “I am not certain a betrothal is a good idea. I love her, but she does not understand my duties. She must if I am to marry her.”

Thranduil looked at his brother seriously. “I agree that Amoneth does not grasp everything that I would expect her to about a court lifestyle, Aradunnon. But you do not grasp everything you should about relationships with ladies. Amoneth might be more understanding of your responsibilities if she felt secure that she had your heart. It must be very difficult for her to believe that she does when you put your arm around maidens’ waists and look on them as you do…”

“Look on them as I do?” Aradunnon repeated irritably.

Thranduil sighed softly. “Yes. When you talk to any maiden, you stand far too close to her and look down with that…intense look. And they melt. Even Lindomiel comments about it so it is inconceivable that Amoneth does not notice.”

“So you are suggesting that I stand across the courtyard and shout my conversations with anyone but Amoneth?”

“Of course not. I am suggesting you treat Amoneth specially. If you reserved certain actions for her alone, she might accept that you favor her. If she did, she might make an effort to show you that she understands your duties.”

Aradunnon remained silent.

Thranduil looked at his brother levelly. “How many maidens have told you that it is impossible to take you seriously, Aradunnon?” he asked softly.

“Most,” he admitted. “But I have not been serious about any of them.”

“Precisely why you must alter your behavior if you are serious about Amoneth. And I think you are, muindor nin.”

Aradunnon shook his head slightly and smirked. “I find you very annoying when you are right, Thranduil,” he replied with a playful look. Then he grew more serious. “I will try to be more conscious of the way I ‘flirt’ with the maidens in the capital.”

“It might also help if you talked to Amoneth and told her how you feel about her and her attitude towards your responsibilities,” Thranduil suggested quietly.

Aradunnon nodded. “It definitely would. I will.”

Thranduil smiled at his brother while Colloth rolled his eyes. “I will believe it when I see it,” he said under his breath, eliciting a snort from Thranduil and a glare from Aradunnon.

Later that day, the returning warriors arrived in the capital to be greeted by their awaiting kin. Thranduil and Aradunnon were no exception and everyone present smiled warmly at their king when first Dieneryn and then Lindomiel embraced him when he dismounted in the stable yard. Most laughed outright when both Dieneryn and Amoneth unabashedly fussed over the injured prince, much to his obvious embarrassment.

With his arm firmly around his wife’s waist and thankful for her presence, Thranduil proceeded slowly to his own flet while answering questions from various citizens about what they had found. His answers were completely honest and uncensored—there was no point to any other response—and they clearly concerned the elves that listened to him. He spoke for several minutes to the elves in the courtyard, reassuring everyone that he already had plans in place to deal with any further encroachment into the forest. By the time the king and his family ascended the stairs to their flet, the citizenry seemed largely satisfied but the ruling council obviously had a good many questions.

The rest of that evening was dedicated to Thranduil and Aradunnon’s account of the battle to the family in the sitting room. When that concluded, Thranduil and Dieneryn dragged Aradunnon to the infirmary to visit the healers while the king’s advisors turned to their tasks. Thranduil had called for a series of reports—information they had been working on since Aradunnon had first departed for Amon Lanc—to be ready for him that evening. He wanted to review it so they could discuss it in the next day’s council meeting.

That meeting was certain to be an event.

*~*~*

Aradunnon left the infirmary leaning on a crutch and pleased to escape his mother and brother’s eye. As he limped into the courtyard, he suddenly realized how thankful he was to be back in the capital and away from the destruction that he had seen around Amon Lanc. It had disturbed him to see the forest in that condition more than he was willing to admit even to himself.

Aradunnon smiled as he surveyed the scene before him, contemplating what he would do to entertain himself while he ignored the healer’s directive to rest. He saw a good number of lovely ladies singing in one part of the lawn and his friends drinking and playing a game on another. Looking between these two locations, he noted the light shining from Amoneth’s flet. His smile broadened. As much as he would enjoy some mindless play, he would prefer her company at the moment. Frivolity had its uses but to drive away the sense of gloom that still clung to him from his trip south he needed something more meaningful. Moreover, he was still mindful of the comments Thranduil had made as they rode home that day and talking with Amoneth seemed to be a wise course of action.

The guards at the foot of the stairs to Amoneth’s flet snapped to attention as the troop commander approached. Aradunnon smiled at them and their attitude relaxed as he hobbled up the stairs. He was not surprised when the door to the flet opened before he even reached it. Amoneth was obviously pleased and surprised to see him but her expression was as disapproving as she could make it.

“Are you supposed to be climbing stairs with that injury?” she asked as he reached the platform.

He laughed lightly. “If I do not want to sleep on the ground in the forest rather than in my own bed I suppose I will have to climb stairs, Amoneth.”

She scowled at him sternly. “Your bed is not here. It is several talans over. Are you supposed to be climbing these stairs or were you sent home to rest?”

Aradunnon smiled as he settled himself on the cushions on the balcony and beckoned for her to join him. “Regardless, I am here now,” he answered evasively. The truth was obvious to Amoneth.

She sighed and sat next to him. “I suppose I should be flattered that you risked your health to visit me rather than in some foolish game on the lawn,” she said coolly.

Aradunnon raised his eyebrows. “Indeed, I considered joining in the games but I decided I would rather spend the evening with you,” he replied softly, kissing her lightly on the lips.

Amoneth looked at him sidelong when he leaned back. She wanted to be irate with him for his behavior when he was last in town and for going south into such danger but that was easier said than done. She felt her irritation with him melting away as it usually did in his company. Recognizing that she was already falling under the spell of his intense eyes, she let out a short laugh, looked away from him and tried to adopt a distant attitude.

His eyebrows climbed higher. “Tell me how I have upset you, Amoneth,” he requested tiredly.

She frowned. “What usually upsets me, Aradunnon?” she asked in reply.

Aradunnon shook his head dramatically. “I have not been here for over three weeks, Amoneth. I could not have flirted with anyone yet. You must give me time to commit the offense before you chastise me for it.”

Amoneth laughed lightly at that as Aradunnon had intended.

Then Aradunnon turned her face to his with a hand under her chin. “But I think perhaps we should talk about this. Seriously,” he suggested in a soft voice.

Amoneth looked down and nodded. That soft voice always was her undoing. So gentle and seductive at the same time. She drew a deep breath. “Yes, I think so too. Lindomiel even told me that I should talk with you about…certain things.” She stumbled to a halt, unsure how to continue. She was shocked when Aradunnon chuckled.

“Thranduil told me that I should talk to you. It seems our family is concerned about us.”

Amoneth frowned at his casual attitude. “Perhaps they should be. I have told you many times that I cannot reconcile your words that you love me with your actions with the maidens in the capital. It hurts me, Aradunnon. I think it begins to hurt me just a little too much,” she replied in an unusual burst of directness.

Aradunnon’s eyes widened. He reached for her hand and held it between both his as he spoke earnestly. “If that is the case, then I am deeply sorry, Amoneth. And I will correct it. I promise you that I will stop ‘flirting.’ It is you that I love.”

Amoneth’s brow furrowed and she did not look at him.

He frowned and touched her chin again. “You are the only person that I love as I do,” he repeated firmly. “I am completely at a loss as to what I must do to convince you of this.” He pinched her chin lightly to draw her eyes to his. “Look at me, Amoneth. Can you not see that I love you?”

She looked at him sadly a moment before looking away. “You have made the promise that you will stop flirting many times.” She sighed. “I know what I see when I look in your eyes. And I know the affect it has on me.” She paused. “What do the other maidens that you kiss see in your eyes, Aradunnon?”

He sat back, eyes wide, and stared at Amoneth. His immediate reaction to her words was to be sincerely insulted. And deeply hurt he realized a second later. He felt harsh words boil to his lips. But his temperament was more measured than his brother’s and his uncle’s, at least this once. He bit back his first response and remembered that Colloth had made the same accusation earlier that day. Obviously if both Colloth and Amoneth had drawn that conclusion, something must be wrong with his behavior. And Amoneth must be truly hurt if she believed such things. He would never allow that.

He took a deep breath and spoke in the most even voice he could muster. “I assure you, Amoneth, though I may flirt, I have not kissed anyone save you in a very long time. Since not long after Thranduil married and I first told you that I love you.”

She looked at him, surprised, clearly searching his eyes for the truth of his statement. He stared at her, utterly shocked, but trying to maintain a neutral expression. He truly loved her and would not allow this conversation to escalate because of his temper. That would solve nothing. When she said nothing, he spoke again.

“Do you honestly think that I am telling you that I love you and then leaving you at your talan to go kiss some maiden in the forest? Do you believe that?”

She looked down, ashamed that she had thought that and must now admit it. It sounded much less plausible discussing it now as she looked upon his hurt expression. But it was easy to believe as she watched him stand arm-in-arm with any maiden that would allow his advances. She did not speak immediately and that told Aradunnon all he needed to know.

“Amoneth, I do not deny that my behavior could be construed as flirting though that is not my intention. Nor do I deny that I have kissed a good many maidens. But I would never hurt any of them with such duplicitous behavior. I would never treat you that way. I am sincerely sorry that my behavior has given you such doubts and therefore has certainly hurt you. I truly had no understanding of the seriousness of your doubts of me.”

Amoneth had tears in her eyes as she made her reply. “It is I that owe you an apology, Aradunnon,” she whispered. “I know you are an honorable elf. And I love you because of your…exuberance.”

He laughed softly at that description.

“Sometimes it is difficult to see you with your arms around maidens.” She paused. “I do see that you love me. I did not know if you truly realized it yourself despite your words since you still flirt with everyone. I had no idea…that is I assumed that you…that your flirtations with everyone else were no different than they are with me. After all, I see you behaving with ellyth whose names you do not even know exactly as you treat me.”

Aradunnon blinked. Thranduil had said exactly that, as well. He was certain that he and Amoneth had similar albeit less candid conversations in the past. He had not taken them very seriously because he truly did not recognize the impact of his behavior. For some reason—perhaps the bluntness of Amoneth’s words or perhaps the fact that Thranduil and Colloth had just told him the same things—he understood now how his actions had hurt Amoneth.

“I had no idea I had given you that impression, Amoneth. I will never do so again,” he said sincerely. “And though you may have seen me flirting, I assure you, I neither behave nor feel with anyone as I do with you. I have never felt for anyone the love I feel for you. Nor have I ever felt in any maiden’s presence what I feel in yours. Being with you, in your arms, kissing you…that is an entirely unique experience. One that I could not continue without if I were to loose you.”

As he spoke, Aradunnon had drawn Amoneth closer into his arms and against his chest. He whispered his words into her ear. When he fell silent, his lips brushed softly against her cheek. She sighed, leaning into the caress before turning her face to kiss him. Amoneth melted against him, her arms wrapping around his neck. He enjoyed the closeness for a moment, feathering kisses across her cheek, along her jaw and down her neck. Then he pulled back slightly.

“Do you believe that I love you, Amoneth? Do you believe that I cherish you?”

She smiled slightly, looking at him through partially closed lids. “Now is hardly a fair time to ask,” she whispered in response.

He smiled as well, lowering his lips to claim her again. “I promise you that you will no longer harbor such doubts of me, Amoneth,” he whispered before kissing her.

*~*~*

The next afternoon, Thranduil’s ruling council gathered in his office ready to discuss the decisions the king would make in response to what he had seen in Amon Lanc. Celonhael and Hallion had both prepared information for him. Thranduil’s eyes turned first to Celonhael.

“What suggestions do you have for raising funds, Celonhael?” All the other decisions revolved around that answer.

Celonhael sigh softly. “Very few,” he replied, “And possibly none that will be acceptable.”

Thranduil raised his eyebrows. “Are you telling me that the largest forest in Middle Earth contains nothing of value, Celonhael?” Thranduil replied with open scorn.

Celonhael’s mouth formed a hard line. “Well, my lord, it all depends on how you define value. Of course the forest provides products such as flours or meals made from bark and nuts, jams and syrups made from berries, wax from berries and bees, wood, hides, sinew…and we regularly trade these items for goods that we cannot obtain ourselves such as wool, wine, salt and certain foods. But you want gold to buy ore. That is the difference. Not many people can give us gold in exchange for products. Certainly not the woodsmen. Not even the men in Esgaroth have gold in the quantities you want. We can only turn to Imladris, Mithlond, Gondor or Arnor for gold. And they are not going to pay gold for hides and pine flour. Only luxuries will fetch payment in gold. The forest simply does not produce many such commodities.”

Golwon scowled at Celonhael. “You make it sound as if the forest was bereft of resources,” he scoffed. “Men will pay for medicines. I would bet Elrond of Imladris would as well. And the forest provides nearly every medicinal plant known.”

Celonhael nodded. “Indeed, that is true. I researched that. I sent messenger birds to Imladris and Mithlond and I spoke to the woodsmen in the east who trade with Gondor. I have lists of medicines that both Imladris and Gondor are interested in obtaining from us. The problem is, once again, they want to trade, not pay. Elrond indicated in his last message that he would be willing to pay in gold or gems for certain medicines when I explained to him why we were insisting on such payment. But the men in Gondor are less sympathetic.”

Thranduil was scowling. “What quantities of funds can you generate selling medicines to Imladris?”

Celonhael looked at him, his expression revealing before he spoke that the answer would not be one that would please Thranduil. “If we sold the medicines Elrond wants to Imladris for twenty years, we might have enough gold to purchase the ore required to arm the entire army with swords.”

Engwe looked down, somewhat disgustedly. “Well, twenty years is not so vast an amount of time,” he commented quietly.

Aradunnon snorted. “Perhaps you would like to take part in some field command, uncle?” he responded sarcastically.

Engwe scowled at him preparing a retort but Thranduil waved him silent. “Sell the medicinal plants to Elrond, by all means. But that is not sufficient, Celonhael. In my view, twenty years is too long to wait to arm the warriors.”

“Indeed,” Aradunnon agreed.

Dieneryn was frowning slightly. “Dyes are a luxury, Celonhael,” she interjected. “We have some very rare dyes here in Eryn Galen. I use them in my weaving. Can we not sell those?”

Now Celonhael looked between Thranduil and Dieneryn cautiously. “Yes, my lady. There are two dyes that we can produce that the woodsmen told me would fetch a very high price in gold or gems in Gondor. One is the green dye from mushrooms and fiddlehead ferns.”

Thranduil frowned. “Mushrooms and fiddlehead ferns are foods, Celonhael, not dyes. Green dye comes from copper mordents.”

Celonhael smiled. “Apparently men feel copper is for making bronze tools and weapons, not dyes,” he countered before growing more serious. “But you have hit upon the problem. If we sell to Gondor the quantity of mushroom and ferns needed to make the amount of dye they want, we would obtain a large portion of the gold we want but we would likely be giving up an entire season’s supply of both foods.”

Thranduil shook his head. “Those are staples during the spring. I am not sure we should promise to provide such a thing. If game is short, we will need them. What was the other dye they wanted?”

“A red dye, my lord.” Celonhael answered vaguely with a nervous glance at Golwon. Golwon turned to glare at his peer with an astonished look on his face.

“The dye from sapponwood?” Dieneryn speculated. When Celonhael nodded, she raised her eyebrows and looked at the table.

Thranduil immediately understood Celonhael’s reticence. One of the richest and very few truly colorfast red dyes was produced from the heartwood of sapponwood trees. A live tree would have to be destroyed to produce it. Again he shook his head. “That is out of the question, Celonhael,” he said firmly.

Celonhael nodded. “I understand that, my lord. However, I did do a little research you might want to see before you make a final decision.”

Thranduil scowled. “I just came from Amon Lanc where I saw more cleared forest than I ever care to see again, Celonhael. I will not clear forest by my own hand.”

Celonhael looked at Thranduil evenly and slid an open ledger down the table at him. “I can raise enough funds for all the swords you want with one sale of fifty trees. There are over three hundred sapponwood trees on the eastern border,” he offered airily.

Thranduil looked over the information on the ledger and his eyes widened. “They will pay this? That is a vast sum!”

Celonhael only nodded.

All eyes were on Thranduil who was simply staring at Celonhael. The king would ordinarily never agree to the cutting of live wood—it was a course of action certain to infuriate the Silvan elves. Indeed everyone in the room was very sensitive to the issue of cutting live wood, but this was clearly the proposal that would raise by far the most funds.

“What do you think, my lord?” Celonhael asked after a moment’s silence.

Thranduil drew a deep breath. “I think the idea of raising that amount of revenue is very positive,” he responded.

Golwon’s jaw dropped. He was responsible for relations with the villages. “Positive’ in his opinion implied the king was leaning in a completely unacceptable direction. The forest in that area was already damaged by the cutting Men had done in the construction of their villages on the eastern border.

“My lord, you cannot allow this,” Golwon began his protests in a firm voice. “The villagers will not tolerate it. Cutting trees for necessary purposes is barely palatable to these elves. Cutting them, killing them, so that someone may wear a red cloak! You must be mad. There will be rebellion over that.”

Golwon had an explosive temper and tended to express his opinions in council using inflammatory language. Nonetheless, Thranduil’s eyes turned to his advisor, looking at him levelly. But he said nothing.

Aradunnon was not so restrained. He had been urging Thranduil to buy more weapons since his brother became king. He unceremoniously took the ledger from Thranduil’s hands as Golwon spoke, glancing quickly over the figures. His jaw dropped. When Thranduil did not reply to Golwon’s outburst, Aradunnon did. “The fact is, Golwon, that the Men will pay for these dyes. In gold. Did you see these figures?”

“I did. Gold is not what is dear to the hearts of the Silvan, Aradunnon. Trees are,” Golwon stated coolly.

“Yes, I understand that. And if you want me to protect those trees, and the villagers that live amongst them, then you had better provide me with some funds for weapons,” Aradunnon retorted hotly.

“How much gold does it cost you to make a bow, Aradunnon?” Golwon shot back.

“How much gold does it cost to buy a sword, Golwon? Do you even know?” Engwe intervened.

Engwe also captained troops and helped Thranduil with overall strategy and logistics in the protection of the vast forest. He agreed that more weapons would be necessary to deal with the threat at Amon Lanc. He was Oropher’s brother, Thranduil’s uncle, and he had a volatility that matched Golwon’s and an arrogance that was unrivaled. When Thranduil had first become king, he found his uncle difficult to manage but valued his military advice too much to dismiss him from the council. Thranduil still found him annoying and often impertinent. But he still valued his advice. Everyone on the council cringed when Thranduil, Golwon and Engwe squared off.

“The Silvan have defended this forest since the Time of the Trees with bows. Why do we need swords now?” Golwon asked, exasperated.

Aradunnon, Engwe and Celonhael all snorted in disbelief at that statement.

“Did you listen to the report on Amon Lanc, Golwon? Orcs! Over two hundred of them. Building fortifications. We cannot fight orcs with bows only. Were you at Dagorlad? Did you learn anything there?” Aradunnon asked incredulously.

“I was and I did. I learned that we will never return to Mordor. Oropher may have persuaded these elves to such insanity once. They will never do it again. Elves have very long memories. They remember the disaster that followed the last time we raised troops and weaponry. The fact that recently we have appeared to be preparing for another war frightens the citizens. Makes them wonder what the king plans for them.”

Again, Thranduil looked at Golwon silently.

Dieneryn frowned. “And what do you tell them, Golwon?” she inquired coolly.

Golwon rolled his eyes at the implication. “That Aran Thranduil is an evil tyrant and they should run for their lives,” he responded with deep sarcasm. “I tell them that he is only trying to protect them and that he has no desire to repeat past failures. But this…cutting trees to accumulate gold goes too far.”

“I do not agree,” Thranduil interrupted. “I just returned from Amon Lanc. I saw the destruction of a large portion of the forest there. As I have said, I have no desire to cause more ruin. On the contrary, I intend to protect the Wood—and I may have to make some sacrifices for the greater good. But regardless, however I choose to obtain the finances I need, I am not ‘accumulating gold.’ I am raising funds to prevent the destruction of this forest and its people.”

All eyes turned to the king. He had obviously made a decision.

He looked at Celonhael. “Tell the men that we will sell them the dyes and see to the cutting of the trees,” he said decisively. “Make arrangements to sell a portion of the mushrooms and ferns for the green dye as well and finalize the sale of the medicinal plants with Elrond.”

Celonhael nodded with a pleased look.

Then Thranduil turned to Hallion. “I looked at the samples and prices you gave me from the dwarves. I admit, I admire the quality of the swords but their prices are extortion.”

The eyes of every council member shifted to Hallion and widened, the idea of cutting fifty trees was overshadowed by the shock of this new topic. Dwarves!

Hallion and Thranduil failed to notice the reaction their discussion produced.

“That is what I told them, my lord,” Hallion replied. Then he looked at Thranduil sharply. “And they know it. Those prices with go down by one third if you negotiate them yourself. I promise you.”

Thranduil made a disgusted face at that. “I do not care to negotiate with dwarves,” he paused and smirked at Hallion. “That is why I left this to you.” Then he sighed. “Bring me the dwarves. I will extract a more reasonable price from them.”

“Do you not think it would be wise to settle the price with the dwarves before we cut the trees, my lord?” Hallion asked quietly.

Thranduil shook his head. “I will take this price if I have to. I would simply prefer not to.”

All in the room stared between the king and steward in silent shock. It was Engwe that found his voice first. He leaned forward knocking his knuckles on the table for attention. “What dwarves?” he asked shortly.

Thranduil turned a cool look on his uncle. “The ones in Hadhodrond? I seem to recall you tutored me on foreign cultures. Do you not recall the dwarves? Short, hairy things? Live in caves? Like to work rock and metals?”

Engwe glowered at Thranduil. Everyone in the room would have been smothering their laughter if they were not equally concerned about this development.

“I do recall dwarves, Thranduil,” Engwe replied caustically. “Do you recall Lord Hallion’s history lessons on the topic of Menegroth? What did you learn about dwarves in those lessons?”

Thranduil turned a harsh glare on his uncle. “Not to trust them. And I do not. I do not like them either. But Hallion suggested, and I have come to agree, that we do not have enough smithies, smiths or skill to make the weapons I want. I can purchase very high quality swords from the dwarves. With the funds the sale of the red dye will produce, even given the original quote from the dwarves, we can have two hundred swords.”

Aradunnon’s eyes flew to Thranduil. “You are joking! That arms almost half the troops with dwarven swords and it means that every warrior will be armed with swords. That is outstanding news!”

Thranduil nodded. “Indeed. And if I can bring down this quote—and believe me I will—we should be able to get another one hundred swords from the dwarves. That arms over half the standing army with high quality swords and it means we will have some in reserve. I think those numbers justify cutting the trees and dealing with dwarves.”

Aradunnon nodded his agreement. The other councilors, minus Hallion and Dieneryn who had been aware of the details of this plan, finally exploded.

Golwon’s voice was the loudest. “You are cutting down trees to deal with men and then dwarves to buy swords!” he exclaimed in a loud, angry voice. “What part of that do you think will be acceptable to the villagers, my lord?! They do not like cutting trees, they do not like foreign influences and they do not care about swords. They are going to riot.”

Engwe also was furious. “Dwarves! Thranduil have you lost your mind?! You cannot trust them. They are dangerous. I agree that we need weapons but let us forge them ourselves. The dwarves will sell you poor quality products if they do not kill you.”

Celonhael was somewhat more subdued but he did protest as well. “My lord, I strongly recommend that we conserve some of these funds. I truly hoped that was your intent. You do not want to be as low on funds as you are if there is an emergency. A drought, a flood, a bad winter. Anything where we need to buy food and other supplies. We need better reserves.”

Thranduil looked at his advisors calmly. He knew the response this announcement about the dwarves would elicit and he was prepared for it. He addressed Golwon, who was practically steaming, first. “I will go to the east and speak with the village leaders—and the individual villagers, if necessary—myself, Golwon. I will make it clear why this is necessary.”

“It is not necessary…” Golwon began.

“Yes it is,” Aradunnon began but this time Thranduil cut him off.

“I say it is necessary, Golwon, therefore it is necessary. We have discussed my reasons behind the improvement of our weaponry many times. You listened to the report from the south. I was there. I say more weapons are necessary.”

He turned to Engwe. “As for the dwarves, I may have been an elfling in Menegroth, uncle, but I remember it. I do not want to negotiate with dwarves. But I am willing to accept that I have no choice. I will do what is best for these people. I will do it cautiously—and believe me, I am—but I will not expose this realm to danger because of grievances two ages in the past. And you can accuse dwarves of many things, but I have never heard of a dwarf turning out anything of poor quality and allowing his name to be associated with it. That I do trust.”

Engwe shook his head. “The quality of their work aside, the grievance I have against the dwarves is not a trivial matter such as a dwarf failing to address the High King with respect. A dwarf killed the High King. Such deeds are not to be forgotten.”

Thranduil’s eyes narrowed when Engwe continued his protests. “I do not forget, Engwe. But I must concern myself with the future as well as the past.”

“Dealing with dwarves is insane, Thranduil. You do not understand the issues. You cannot do this. Your cousin Celeborn has the good sense to not even travel through Hadhodrond yet you want to do business there…” Engwe yelled a few more statements but Thranduil did not hear them. His uncle had finally gone too far.

Hallion, seated between the king at the head of the table and Engwe to his right, was already pushing his chair back from the table to be clear of the storm that was about to erupt when Thranduil’s hand slammed on the desk. He stood and towered over Engwe. “I do not understand? I cannot do this?” he repeated, voice rising. “Which of us is king of this realm, uncle? I seem to recall that title is mine. Therefore, I can do this. You may express your opinions, and you have, but the decision is mine to make. I have made it.”

Engwe was Oropher’s brother, possessed of the same temper as Oropher’s son. He simply scowled and stood as well, leaning forward aggressively. “You are king, Thranduil. How long do you expect that to last if you make decisions these people do not support? That your own council does not support?”

“Excuse me, Engwe, do not speak for me,” Hallion interrupted softly. “I support this. And any other lawful decision the king makes.”

“Indeed,” Aradunnon added, glaring at Engwe.

Golwon shook his head. “I cannot support this,” he said firmly but in a reasonable tone.

Dieneryn looked around the table coolly. She had always served to help dissipate the tempers of aggressive ellyn when her husband initiated this type of confrontation. She was more than prepared to do it for her son.

“’I do swear that I will be faithful to you, my undoubted King, and bear you true allegiance, obeying your lawful commands in all matters that concern this Realm from this hour forward until my death or until the world ends,’” she intoned softly, looking between Engwe and Golwon.

Thranduil looked over at his mother with hooded eyes and then allowed his gaze to drift to Golwon and Engwe. Dieneryn had just recited the oath of fealty all nobles of the realm had taken first to Oropher and then, upon his death, to Thranduil. Golwon’s mouth was a hard line, but he looked down. Engwe simply turned his glare to Dieneryn.

“You cannot possibly support this, my lady?” Engwe said angrily.

Dieneryn fixed her brother-in-law with a cold glare momentarily and then looked at Thranduil. “Is this your decision, my lord?” she asked quietly.

“It is.”

Dieneryn turned her eyes back to Engwe. “I support this,” she said simply and with finality.

Engwe shook his head and looked at the council. “Surely you do not all support this. Dwarves! Were none of you in Menegroth? And cutting trees to do this? The people will not tolerate it.”

“Are you inciting my very council to revolt, Lord Engwe?” Thranduil asked in a dangerous tone. It caused everyone present to look at him with alarm. Their concern only grew when they did. Thranduil had a black look on his face directed at his uncle that made them all gasp lightly.

“Thranduil, I am not going to lead anyone to rebellion,” he said scornfully but his voice had lost its bluster.

Thranduil’s eyes narrowed. “You are on very unstable ground at the moment, Lord Engwe. I suggest you try your answer again. With different content and a different form of address,” the king said icily.

Now Engwe looked thoroughly shocked. “For pity sake,” he declared in a somewhat high-pitched voice. “I am not inciting rebellion. I support your rule as I did my brother’s. I simply do not agree with this decision. Surely I am allowed to express opinions. My lord,” he tacked on hastily.

Thranduil’s eyes narrowed further but Dieneryn spoke before her son was able to respond. “Engwe, there is a time for expressing opinions and a time to stand by decisions that have been made. You are not a tutor debating an answer on an essay with your student. You are a member of the ruling council advising your king on an issue. You have provided your recommendation. We all have over the last month as we discussed the various information coming from the south. The king listened and he has made his decision. The only question is, will you support it? Should that be at question?”

Engwe blinked and stared at her for a moment. Then his eyes flashed around the table. Aradunnon glared at his uncle, leaning forward in his chair as if prepared to rise. Golwon did not appear any happier with the decision but he very clearly did not want to be any part of this conflict. His face was somber and his eyes were on the table. Celonhael stared at Engwe, mouth open partially and clearly horrified this had gone as far as it had. Hallion’s face was impassive as he looked at Engwe levelly. Engwe sat down, eyes dropping to the table in front of him. “Of course not. You have my apologies, my lord. I forgot my place,” he said quietly.

With effort, Thranduil refrained from saying, ‘Yes, you did.’ He knew his brother had a good deal of pride in him and it would serve nothing to provoke it. He sat down as well and looked at his councilors, speaking in a level voice.

“I know that you all still hope this peace we have enjoyed since the war with Sauron will hold and I hope you are correct. I know that you do not agree with me concerning the dwarves or cutting live wood. I do not completely approve of those actions myself. But I have absolutely no faith in the peace any longer and I will protect these people. Therefore, I deem those undesirable actions necessary this one time.”

Golwon looked at him cautiously. “You will have to speak to the villagers in the east about this, my lord. Personally. And with great care. This will be spectacularly unpopular.”

“Then I will do so. With your help.”

Golwon only nodded.

Then Thranduil turned to Celonhael. “I will keep the funds from the sale of the green dye and the medicines. And I will not touch any more of the resources in the treasury outside of emergencies. I recognize the value of your earlier counsel, Celonhael.”

Celonhael inclined his head to the king. “Thank you, my lord. I truly think that would be wise. Especially if this peace does not hold.”

Thranduil nodded once. “Precisely,” he said dryly. He looked at the room in silence for several moments before turning back to Hallion. “I believe we were also going to discuss arrangements for the Western and Eastern Patrols to make regular passes by Amon Lanc to make sure the orcs do not return,” he said quietly.

Hallion turned to Aradunnon and the council focused their attention on this new topic.

*~*~*

Thranduil left his office late that night. After the meeting itself ended, the king, along with Hallion and Golwon, spent a good deal of time discussing how he would handle his visit to the villages. After Golwon left, he and Hallion had reviewed arrangements for the negotiations with the dwarves. Thranduil shuddered every time he thought of that. He was ready to forget his day by the time he entered his personal chambers. When his eyes fell on Lindomiel, he nearly did.

“You are so late, meleth,” she said with concern in her eyes, drawing him to sit on the balcony.

He gratefully settled himself on the cushions and leaned back into her embrace as her arms wrapped around him. He closed his eyes and simply relished the feel of his wife’s soft body and the smell of the scented oils she used in her bath. She had clearly just emerged from the bath.

‘Pity,’ Thranduil thought to himself. ‘That would have been a most pleasant means to relax.’

As her fingers began to untwist the braids in his hair, he sighed at the sensation. She placed a kiss on his temple and he smiled.

“Did you and Hallion decide when you will travel to the villages?” she asked softly.

At that question he opened his eyes and looked at her with raised eyebrows. “You have already heard about this?” he asked with some amazement.

Lindomiel laughed lightly at her husband. “It was only you and Hallion that missed dinner, meleth. The rest of us were there.” She paused for affect. “Celonhael and Aradunnon did very good Engwe and Thranduil impressions though I trust most of what they said was a somewhat embellished version of the truth. Or at least I hope so. From Dieneryn’s expression it might not have been too exaggerated a re-enactment. She did not appear to be amused.”

“Dare I ask…” he began and then shook his head. “No, I do not dare. I do not want to know.” He smiled at her amused expression and answered her original question. “I will leave the day after tomorrow and deliver the news regarding the dyes myself.”

Lindomiel merely nodded to that and Thranduil was relieved. Lindomiel was as much of a wood elf as any Silvan in the forest despite the fact that she was Sindarin. He had truly expected as much trouble from her as he did from the villages concerning cutting live wood.

“How long will we be gone?” she asked quietly, now combing the hair that she had unbraided.

He raised his eyebrows. “We?” he repeated, looking at her.

She blinked. “Of course, we. I will come with you if you wish. I understand this is something you must handle yourself to impress its importance on the people in the villages, but I often represent you to these villagers. They know me well at this point. It will look much better if I am with you.”

He looked at her, truly surprised. “Lindomiel, I know you could not approve of this decision…” he began but was interrupted by her expression.

“I do not. And I doubt you do either. But I trust your judgment that it is justified. I would never undermine you by showing anything less than complete support publicly, Thranduil. And it is obvious to me how trying this day has been for you. I do not intend to add to your grief.”

Thranduil stared at his wife for a moment before drawing her firmly into his arms. “Have a told you recently how lucky I am to have you, Lindomiel?”

She laughed at that and returned the embrace. “I know this was a difficult decision, Thranduil. I will not make it worse for you. Engwe already fills that role.” She pulled back and looked at him slyly. “Besides, Dieneryn tells me that you are bringing dwarves here to negotiate better prices for the weapons. If I stand any chance of actually being present for that meeting, I must put on my most charming behavior now.”

Thranduil laughed. His wife’s fascination with the other races amused him to no end and he indulged it any time he safely could. “I will tell Hallion in the morning that you will be renegotiating the prices with the dwarves, meleth,” he joked. “I have not forgotten the deal you made the last time we purchased Dorwinion from the Men.”

Lindomiel smirked at him. “I think the advantages I used negotiating with the Men might not work as well on dwarves, Thranduil.”

Thranduil pulled away from her fully to study her at that comment. Lindomiel returned his gaze earnestly for a moment before breaking into laughter. Thranduil’s expression did not change. “There is likely more truth to your statement than you know, meleth. That is why I always send Celonhael with you and over half my guards,” he said dryly.

Lindomiel shrugged. The topic had distracted Thranduil satisfactorily and that had been her goal. “As long as we benefit,” she responded softly, brushing her lips against the tip of Thranduil’s ear before turning her attention back to his hair.

Thranduil shook his head slightly. “I never forget how lucky I am that you are my wife, meleth. Sincerely,” he said quietly after a moment.

“Nor do I forget how lucky I am, Thranduil.” She replied quietly. Then after a moment she smirked. “Imagine if you had sent Aradunnon to the council in Lorien in your place.” She laughed. “Oh poor Amoneth! But I would never have fallen for his foolishness.”

Thranduil looked at Lindomiel playfully. “Aradunnon can be quite persuasive, Lindomiel,” he teased. “Maybe things would have been different.”

Lindomiel raised her eyebrows. “I doubt that but I do not deny he is persuasive. He has Amoneth completely ensnared despite his outrageous behavior.”

Thranduil scowled slightly. “Colloth and I spoke to him about that on the way home from Amon Lanc. I am hoping it will do some good.”

Lindomiel looked at him slyly. “Whatever you said at least inspired them to talk to one another. Something no amount of pleading on my part has accomplished. Amoneth seemed to think it was a good conversation. She appeared more positive than I have seen her in a long time.”

Thranduil sighed and leaned back into his wife’s embrace. “Good. I would like to see Aradunnon settled.”

Lindomiel nodded solemnly. “I would like to see Amoneth with a better acceptance of Aradunnon first. He may be flirtatious, but Amoneth is selfish. She always has been and that will not fit well into Aradunnon’s lifestyle. Being married to him will require adaptability and patience.”

Thranduil arced his eyebrows. “Is that so, meleth?”

She smiled at his implication for she had not intended to make one herself. “Yes, it is, Thranduil.”

He smiled. “Unfortunately, I do not doubt that,” he replied softly, his mind turning to all he had seen in Amon Lanc and its potential to affect Lindomiel’s future. The future of his entire realm. He knew that the unpleasant decisions he had made today were likely to be the first in a series of such choices given what he had seen in Amon Lanc.

After a moment he resolutely focused on Lindomiel alone, turning and drawing her into his arms.

*~*~*

Naneth/nana—Mother/mum
Adar/ada—Father/dad
Muindor nin—My brother
Elleth/ellyth—Female elf(s)
Ellon/ellyn--Male elf(s)
Aran--King
Meleth (nin)—(My) love
Hadhodrond—the canonical elvish name for Khazad-dûm and an attempt to render the dwarvish name to elvish sounds. Khazad-dûm did not become known as Moria—the Black Pit—until TA 1980, when the dwarves accidentally unleashed Durin’s Bane, the Balrog of Morgoth.

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Chapter name
The path that seemed right
Created
09 Oct 2004
Last Edited
09 Oct 2004
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