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Interrupted Journeys: Part Two--Journeys Perforce

Chapter 9: He delved there a fortress

by ellisk

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When a thousand years of the Third Age had passed and the Shadow fell upon Greenwood the Great, the Silvan Elves ruled by Thranduil retreated before it as it spread ever northward, until at last Thranduil established his realm in the north-east of the forest and delved there a fortress and great halls underground. Oropher was of Sindarin origin, and no doubt Thranduil his son was following the example of King Thingol long before, in Doriath; though his halls were not to be compared with Menegroth. He had not the arts nor wealth nor the aid of the Dwarves… Unfinished Tales
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Thranduil returned to the Green Wood nearly four months after leaving it, thankful to be home. With him came Radagast. The elves that greeted their king on his way through the forest to the capital eyed his guest suspiciously at first, but Radagast quickly overcame their reservations with his obvious love of the forest and its creatures. Thranduil laughed to himself at their relatively easy acceptance of this stranger. Never had he seen them so willingly suffer a Man’s presence. Of course Radagast was no man and even if the Silvan elves did not recognize exactly what he was, they did all eventually realize that.

Once home, Thranduil turned his guest over to Aradunnon, informing him that he should provide Radagast an escort to Amon Lanc. Aradunnon was plainly surprised by that order. Thranduil’s family, even more than the rest of citizens, studied the Brown with unconcealed curiosity. But the King and Queen offered no more explanation than to say that Radagast was one of Elrond’s guests from the Havens and he intended to determine once and for all if the power rising in Amon Lanc was Sauron. None of Thranduil’s advisors dared ask how that would be accomplished and Thranduil, perversely enjoying teasing them in a way he knew he would never tolerate himself, offered no further explanation.

Aradunnon was disappointed when Thranduil informed him that he had not secured any aid to fight the orcs beyond Radagast. He argued once again to be allowed to take the army to Amon Lanc but Thranduil forbade such an action. The prince even pressed for Thranduil to call up citizens to supplement the standing army in a fight, but the king flatly refused to consider that—they had neither the arms nor the training to make that a viable solution. Perfectly aware that these decisions meant Thranduil intended to respond to the threat by moving the capital, Aradunnon argued the futility of such an action with his brother at every opportunity, but Thranduil had made his decision and would not be moved. He only hoped that the scouts would find some defensible locations.

Thranduil did not have to wonder about that topic long. The scouts Hallion sent north returned quickly—only six months after their departure. The day after their return, Thranduil gathered with his entire council and family to hear their news. Everyone was present, even Lindomiel, who did not regularly attend council meetings, and Amoneth, who had never attended one.

“What do you have to show me, Tiron?” Thranduil asked the elf that Hallion escorted into the room.

Tiron was the leader of the scouts that had investigated the lands north of the mountains. He was a forester by profession, very skilled in woodcraft and reasonably experienced in warfare after serving as an officer in Mordor. The king indicated for him to take the available chair to his right at the head of the table. That was normally Hallion’s place, but the king wanted to be able to see the maps Tiron had carried in with him.

Tiron sat and cast a furtive glance at the others already seated around the table. Thranduil would be intimidating enough. Facing the anxious expressions of Aradunnon and Engwe, who leaned forward in their chairs, already staring at the maps in his hands, made the scout swallow hard and draw a deep breath. He resolutely turned his attention to the maps he had brought, unrolling them on the table. The first was a large, general map of the northern forest.

“Well, my lord, you charged us to find a suitable place to resettle the capital north of the mountains—one that was defensible. The first priority is naturally finding someplace that can support a settlement as large as the capital would be. Someplace along the rivers would be the most obvious locations so we concentrated our efforts there and we found several possibilities that appear to offer enough variety of foodstuffs, hunting and appropriate forest conditions.” He pointed to multiple points on the map on the table. “Any of those places would support the capital. Once we identified them, we analyzed them for their defensive potential.”

Thranduil, Engwe and Aradunnon were studying the map, weighing each of the locations marked in their minds.

“Do you have detailed drawing of these areas,” Aradunnon asked, already completely absorbed in scrutinizing the indicated locations. He reached across the table and pulled the top map to the side, revealing smaller ones. They were indeed drawings of the individual areas Tiron had indicated. “Good,” Aradunnon said absently, flipping through them to find one showing an area just north of the mountains. He pulled that map close to him and studied it.

Seeing that, Engwe frowned. “We need to move further than just north of the mountains, Aradunnon,” he said firmly. He reached for the map of an area where the river north of the mountains formed a relatively tight arc.

Aradunnon was shaking his head. “It is not a matter of how far north we move. We can hold the orcs to the south. It is a matter of protecting the location we choose. That makes the mountains an obvious choice. If we put the capital in one of the valleys at the base of the mountains, that offers clear defensive advantages.”

Engwe shook his head. “We are just south of those mountains now. Why move at all if all we are going to do is go to the other side of them? Oropher always moved the shortest distance possible and that was a mistake—we inevitably ended up moving again. If we moved here,” he said indicating a swath of territory in the bend of the river, “we would have the river to our backs. It is swift and wide there, is it not,” he asked looking at Tiron.

The scout nodded.

“I think the river would provide an acceptable amount of protection and this location is further north. It is much less likely we will have to move again from there.”

Aradunnon scowled at Engwe. “The river cannot possibly provide the same protection that the mountains can. I can shoot an arrow across the river and so can an orc. It is much harder to come over the mountains to bring down an attack from them. And if we move that far north, think about logistics—the communication line between the capital and the warriors in the south. It already takes me a week to get runners to my captains at Amon Lanc. If we move too far north, how can I command the troops?”

“You can use birds, as we do to communicate with Imladris and Lorien,” Engwe said coolly.

Aradunnon scoffed at that. “Imladris and Lorien stay in one place. We taught birds to fly to those places. My captains do not stay in one place. How do I teach a bird to find them? It makes no sense to go that far north to a less defensible location and destroy my ability to command my troops.”

“Surely you can teach your commanders to go look for a message in predetermined locations and then train the birds to fly to them. Moving a few leagues north is not worth the effort. We should make a definitive change.”

Thranduil knocked his knuckles against the table for attention. “Enough from the both of you. Let Tiron speak. He was there. You were not.”

Aradunnon and Engwe fell silent, still looking at the maps of the locations they had so quickly favored.

Thranduil nodded to Tiron. “What were your recommendations going to be, Tiron?”

“Those were two of the three locations we agreed were the most defensible, my lord. There was another, but it was even further north than either of those….”

“Absolutely out of the question,” Aradunnon interrupted. “We cannot go further north than the bend in the river.”

Thranduil glared at his brother and Tiron looked at the king nervously. “But it is truly an outstanding location, your majesty,” he said in a quiet voice.

Thranduil turned a look on his brother meant to silence him. “Then tell me about it,” he replied in a firm voice.

Tiron pulled a map from the bottom of the stack that he had brought with him. Thranduil looked away from his brother and gave the scout his attention. As he did, he frowned in confusion. The map was clearly not of a forested area.

Seeing the king’s expression, Tiron hurried to explain. “You are aware of the hills north of the river, my lord?”

Thranduil heard his brother draw a breath to protest again. He silenced him with a brief glance. “I am.”

“We found those hills to be riddled with natural caves. Very nice ones. This particular hill has a very large cave entrance. In the back of that cave are passages that lead back into other caverns. Some of those interior caverns are very large as well. More importantly, the river runs into the caves and several of the interior caverns have springs so the caves would have a natural, pure water source. We believed that with minimal work, these caves could serve as a stronghold to shelter the populace in times of war. The forest around them is very rich with foodstuffs and game. The hills are large enough to form a barrier against attack just as the Emyn Duir would and they are surrounded by river tributaries as well. It is the most defensible position in the forest, my lord. By far. It is the location we recommend.”

Hallion glanced at Aradunnon’s furious countenance and grimaced slightly before speaking himself. “When I reviewed these locations with the scouts before this meeting, I agreed with them that this location should be presented as the most viable. Given that you indicated that you wanted to move once more and never again, this is the location I recommend, my lord,” he said softly.

Thranduil raised his eyebrows and looked from the map of the caverns to his steward with a somewhat amused expression. “Are we feeling homesick, lord Hallion?”

Hallion returned his gaze seriously but said nothing.

Thranduil laughed lightly. “I do not have the means to recreate Menegroth, lord Hallion,” he said.

Aradunnon’s posture relaxed slightly.

“Clearly not, my lord. But those caverns would require very little work to convert them to a suitable keep for times of siege. They have a natural water source. The main cave entrance lies behind a river that would have to be forded before attacking the keep in the caves. The territory around the caves is ideal for settlement. If you wanted a location you could permanently defend, that is it.”

Thranduil looked at his steward and then back at the map of the caves. His expression grew more serious. “That is certainly true,” he replied quietly.

Aradunnon’s brows knit together severely. “May I speak, my lord?” he asked.

Thranduil looked up at him, scowling at his false formality. “Yes, you may, Aradunnon,” he replied irritably.

“If you move that far north, you will practically move these elves out of their forest. That is almost as far north and east as one can go and still be in the forest. I could not possibly command troops from that location and I do not think you will get the people to move that far. It is too radical a change.”

Golwon nodded. “There is some truth to that, my lord. Amongst the southern villagers, I am seeing resistance to moving north of the mountains. You will never move them north of the river.”

Tiron looked at Thranduil. “Forgive me, my lord, if it is not my place, but not everyone has to move to the very entrance of the caves. There are many places for villages along the rivers and the forest edge that we mapped. I think it is not a matter of where all the individual villages move as long as they go north of the mountains. It is a matter of where the capital moves. Where the people could flee in times of true difficulty. And this location is the best, defensively speaking.” He looked at Aradunnon. “You cannot deny that.”

Aradunnon’s mouth formed a hard line. “It would be best in times of siege. I am not concerned with a siege. I am concerned with offensive attacks against Amon Lanc to keep the orcs under control. I cannot do that from this location,” he said stabbing his finger at the map.

Thranduil looked for a moment at the maps in front of him, very aware of everyone watching him tensely.

“What precisely would have to be done to these caves if I wanted to use them as a keep?” he finally asked.

“Nothing really, your majesty, if you only want to use them a keep, other than constructing doors for the main cavern, a few portcullises, and a bridge across the river. If you want to occupy them, some finishing work would be in order. It would be minimal, as I said. Making certain passages broader and cutting in some ventilation would be required. You may want to delve a few more passages and caverns depending on your needs.”

“In your opinion are these things we could do ourselves or would I need to bring in dwarves?”

“If you want to occupy the caverns, I think you would want some help from the dwarves, my lord.”

Celonhael looked at Thranduil sharply and shook his head. Thranduil frowned.

“Very well,” he said, glancing at Hallion who stood to escort Tiron from the room. “This is excellent work, Tiron. Very thorough. I appreciate it greatly. We will consider our options. Please do not discuss this until I announce our decision.”

Thranduil’s family remained silent until Tiron was outside the office and the door was closed. Then the explosion erupted.

“You are not seriously considering moving so far north? Aradunnon demanded hotly.

Thranduil scowled but ignored him. “How will this decision be received, Golwon?”

Golwon sighed and shook his head. “Tiron had a good point. Most people will not be moving so far north. The various villages will move, if they move, wherever they like regardless of where you live, Thranduil. My concern in that case would be, if the villagers move only across the mountains—and most suggest they are unwilling to move further—how will you govern them from such distances? And worse still, how will you govern the villages that choose not to move north of the mountains?”

Thranduil looked at the map with a harsh stare. “We face the same difficulties now. The villages in the Narrows are almost a week from the capital. We manage. But I do want to motivate the villagers to move north of the mountains.”

Golwon nodded once in agreement. “Perhaps if we use these scouting maps and take a group of the more stubborn villages leaders north to see the opportunities there, they might be more willing to move. But you will never persuade all of them, Thranduil. There are those that simply will not abandon the forest.”

Thranduil frowned. “I am not abandoning the forest,” he retorted firmly. “Organize meetings for me with the more resistant village leaders and tell the scouts that I want them to take those leaders north. What about the people living in the capital? What is their mood towards moving?”

“They know that you intend to relocate the capital to safer ground. No one seems overly resistant. That might change when they see how far you wish to move but most of the elves that live in the capital do so because they want to be close to you for whatever reason. If we present this carefully, I think it will be well accepted.”

“Well, I cannot accept it,” Aradunnon interrupted, unable to remain silent any longer. When Thranduil turned to him, he leaned forward angrily. “Thranduil, logistics. How do you propose that I command patrols near Amon Lanc from north of the Forest River?”

Thranduil returned his brother’s gaze evenly. “Regardless of where I move the capital, I do not intend to defend any territory south of the Narrows any longer, Aradunnon. We will hold the orcs there.” Aradunnon’s eyes widened and he opened his mouth to protest but Thranduil forestalled him. “That decision is made, Aradunnon. We have discussed it numerous times. We cannot clear Amon Lanc. By trying to do so, we are wasting resources.”

“There are villages in the Narrows…”

“I will speak to their leaders beginning this week to explain that we can no longer protect them that far south. I am certain it will come as no surprise to them. They are the first villages I intend to move. Once they have relocated, you will withdraw your warriors north of the Narrows and you can work with Engwe on ways to command them from north of the river. I am moving the capital to those caves. Celonhael, I want a full accounting of the treasury. I would like to get what help we can from the dwarves.”

Celonhael raised his eyebrows. “My lord, we do not have the funds necessary to employ dwarves to build New Menegroth.”

Thranduil laughed. “I do not intend to build New Menegroth. After I speak to the village leaders from the Narrows, I do intend to go north to have a look at these caves myself. If I feel it is feasible to occupy them, I want to know what I have to negotiate with when I speak to the dwarves.”

Lindomiel turned astonished eyes on Thranduil. “Occupy? You do not intend to live in this cave, do you?”

Born and raised in Lorien, Lindomiel had never seen a cave, much less lived in one as the older elves from Doriath had. To her, the very idea was inconceivable.

Thranduil looked at Lindomiel, surprised by her incredulity. “If possible, yes, I do, Lindomiel. That is what I will speak to the dwarves about.”

Lindomiel’s jaw dropped momentarily and then her expression became openly rebellious. “And the dwarves can live in whatever they build for I shall not. There is no possibility that I am living in a cave, Thranduil. None at all.”

Thranduil blinked and raised his eyebrows as all eyes turned to the queen. Everyone was perfectly aware that Lindomiel was most adept at maneuvering Thranduil to get her way. Indeed, the council often employed her help to urge the king towards certain decisions. No one had ever heard her flatly contradict him.

Aradunnon was all too happy to jump on the apparent support. “Agreed. I am not living in a cave like a dwarf and I am not moving that far north. It is completely out of the question.”

Amoneth looked at Aradunnon with relief. “I do not even want to move as far north as the mountains. I certainly will not move to the opposite end of the forest from Lorien. I will never see my family again.”

Thranduil stared at Amoneth a moment. “Do you think that I make decisions for this kingdom based on my personal desires, Amoneth? Much less yours? I am moving the capital to those caves because that is the most defensible position in the forest. Sauron is rising in Amon Lanc. I must be able to defend these people somehow. That is my priority. Not whether traveling is convenient for you.”

Amoneth looked at Thranduil, somewhat shocked by his tone, and Aradunnon frowned angrily. “Mind how you address my betrothed wife, Thranduil,” he said sharply. “I support her on this. I will not move that far north. Not for personal reasons but because I also am compelled to make the best decisions for this realm. I cannot effectively command my warriors isolated in the northeastern corner of the forest. I will move no further than north of the mountains.”

Thranduil’s brows drew together as he leveled a glare on his brother that was well known for making his courtiers cringe. It never had any effect on his brother, though Golwon, Celonhael and even Hallion looked with concern at the king as he faced this most unusual source of adversity.

“My decision as king of this realm is to move the capital to these caves,” he declared in a low, resolute voice. “The villagers can choose to live further south if they wish and I will make clear to them what the risk of doing so is. But I expect my family and my advisors to support my decisions. Period. If you cannot, then you are welcome to leave my service and my household.”

The room remained silent in shock at that announcement.

Thranduil sighed and spoke in a softer voice. “I understand your concerns. I know I am asking the villagers to make a drastic move. I will meet with them and help them work with the scouts so they can find safe locations that they are satisfied with to relocate their villages. As for the military situation, Aradunnon, you must know that I am no more pleased with it than you are. I do not want to surrender any part of this forest. But I also will not kill warriors in a loosing fight. We must regroup to a position we can successfully defend. And we will work on the logistics of commanding the patrols from the north. And as for the caves themselves, try to look on them objectively. When I sent those scouts north, I never dreamed they would find a location where I might actually build a stronghold. As my troop commander, Aradunnon, you cannot deny that I would be a fool to ignore the opportunity. I know it is easier for Hallion, Golwon, Engwe, nana and myself to imagine living in them since we remember Menegroth. But I have not made that choice yet. I have not even seen the caves to evaluate whether I am willing to try to occupy them. Please try to be open to the idea until you have seen what it involves.” He looked at Celonhael. “I remember perfectly well that you lived in the forest in Doriath, Celonhael. I do not doubt you will refuse to live in a cave here. Perhaps we can make some arrangements to accommodate such preferences. After all, I could not possibly make these caves suitable for all the citizens in the capital to live in even if they chose to do so. They will certainly live in telain and cottages around the caves as they do here.” He paused. “My point is—I know I am asking a great deal but I am making the decision that will keep these people the safest. It will be difficult enough to manage. If my own council and family do not appear to support it, I have no hope.”

Aradunnon looked down. “You are correct, Thranduil. I apologize for the way I spoke to you. You cannot turn away from the possibility of a stronghold. But you will have to help me understand how I can command troops while separated from them by hundreds of leagues.”

Amoneth frowned and spoke before Thranduil could reply. “Aradunnon, I will not move so far north,” she repeated stubbornly. Then she looked at Lindomiel. “And surely you do not want to live in a cave.”

Lindomiel looked at her friend sidelong. “I do not, but the king has spoken,” she said coolly without looking at Thranduil.

Thranduil’s eyebrows went up and he again stared at his wife.

Amoneth’s scowl deepened and she appeared ready to speak again. Aradunnon tightened his grasp on her hand. “We will discuss it further later, Amoneth,” he said quietly.

Pressing her lips together angrily, Amoneth sat back in her chair and glared at Aradunnon.

Thranduil silently looked at his council for a moment before nodding slightly. “Golwon, arrange for me to meet as soon as possible with the village leaders that live in the Narrows. While we await their arrival, prepare a schedule for meeting with the other village leaders to help them work with the scout to identify potential places to relocate. I am going north to look at these caves after I meet with the village leaders from the Narrows but before I meet with the others. Celonhael, I will want that accounting before I leave. Anyone who would like to go north with me to look at the caves is welcome to come. Hallion, you will come. When I return, we will announce where the capital is moving to the general populace and we can begin moving villages and preparing to move the capital.” He took a deep breath and stood, raising the council to their feet as well. “It is early but I think that is enough for the day.”

Accepting that dismissal thankfully, Amoneth turned and flounced angrily from the office without a backward glance at Thranduil or Aradunnon. The prince sighed and pursued her, anxious to avoid his mother’s disapproving gaze. Eyes on the ground, Lindomiel followed them as well, leaving silently and in a much more sedate manner, but also without looking at the family. Thranduil watched her departure.

The rest of his council remained in place.

Thranduil raised his eyebrows and spoke to no one in particular. “Well that went well,” he said softly.

Celonhael laughed lightly. “They are young, my lord. Even younger than you. They never saw Beleriand much less Menegroth or Nargothrond. They have no reference for what you are proposing. Be patient and give them time. Finding such an easily suitable stronghold was truly a stroke of luck. They will see that eventually.”

Thranduil turned his eyes to Celonhael seriously. “These Silvan elves also never saw Menegroth. They also have no reference for what I will propose to them. And unlike members of my family, who should see that making the best decision for the people comes before personal desires, the Silvan elves have the right to think only of themselves when reacting to this decision.”

“Which is why you must make them understand the advantages of this decision, Thranduil,” Hallion said firmly. “And you will. We will meet with them. They trust you. You have led them well for over a millennium.”

Thranduil focused on his steward. “We will certainly see if you are correct, Hallion.” He walked out the door, followed by his council.

*~*~*

Aradunnon followed Amoneth up the stairs of her flet and into her sitting room without pausing to acknowledge the servants that looked at them with wide eyes at their stormy appearance. A glance from the prince sent those servants from the room silently and rapidly. When they were gone, Amoneth turned to face Aradunnon angrily.

“I am not moving to the Ered Mithrin,” she declared with dramatic exaggeration.

Aradunnon’s brows knit together in a scowl. “No, you are moving just north of the Forest River,” he replied firmly. “If Thranduil says that is what we are doing, then it is. He is the king and it is our duty to support his decisions, as he said.”

Amoneth’s eyes flashed with anger. “He is your king. I will return to Amroth and Lorien before I will move almost five hundred miles from there.”

Aradunnon stared at her. “If that is your attitude, perhaps you should,” he finally said in a quiet voice. “Amoneth, I love you with all my being, but I have a duty that I was born to that you simply refuse to comprehend. Thranduil and Hallion and nana and the rest of the council followed my adar to Eryn Galen. Along with him, they chose to accept the responsibility of leading these elves. Protecting them. Anyone in the family could have chosen not to follow my adar or accept a part of that responsibility but they did follow him and they took oaths to him and to these people.” He paused. “I was born here. I was born a prince in this realm, not Doriath. A prince of these people. My people. I was raised my entire life to the responsibilities I have to them. You cannot possibly think that I am going to abandon them in this time of need. You cannot believe that I would renege on my oath to them or to Thranduil. He is my king and my brother. What sort of person would do such a thing? Would you want to marry such a person? I would not.”

Amoneth looked at Aradunnon with wide eyes for a full minute. Then her eyes filled with tears. “No, Aradunnon, I do not think you should turn your back on these people, whom you obviously love, when they are threatened by the Evil One. I simply wish that you loved me as much as you love them.”

Aradunnon blew out a frustrated breath. “Valar, Amoneth, I do love you. Do you love me as much as you love yourself and your own needs? Can you put anyone or anything before yourself? That is what is required of a ruler. I am not king of this realm and I pray I never am, but I am still a leader in this realm. I have often sacrificed my personal desires for the sake of Thranduil’s subjects and I will do so whenever it serves the greater need of these people. My wife will have to be willing to do the same. Just as Lindomiel does.”

“Lindomiel is no more pleased with this decision than I am,” Amoneth countered bitterly, obviously stung by Aradunnon’s words.

“No she is not and everyone present was shocked by her reaction. But I guarantee you that she will move to those caves. And she will outwardly appear to like it.”

Amoneth snorted. “That is stupid. If she hates it and the family hates it people hate it, why is Thranduil making such a decision?”

“Perhaps because he has a greater understanding of the overall situation then the rest of us?” he suggested sarcastically. “Do you know how many orcs are in Amon Lanc? Do you know how far they and the spiders have spread? Do you know how many warriors we have or the state of our armaments? Do you know what it would take to defeat Sauron? You do not. Neither do the people know all those things. They will move when he orders it because they trust his knowledge and leadership. They know that he has never made a decision that did not benefit them in the end. His family’s actions cannot serve to undermine that trust. Why? Because if the people do not trust him and choose not to move, Thranduil cannot force them to do so and they will die. As much as I hate to admit it, even I see that I can no longer keep the Narrows safe for occupation. I will try to prevent the orcs from completely overrunning it, but I cannot keep it safe for elflings. If you undermine his authority, you will cause the death of these people, Amoneth.”

Amoneth frowned angrily but was quiet for a moment. Then she looked back at him to try another approach. “But you are more familiar with defense in the southern realm than Thranduil is. He has not been south for fifty years. And you said that you cannot command the troops from north of the river. So moving north does not serve their defense.”

Aradunnon sighed softly. “I intend to speak to Thranduil and Engwe about that further, but that is not an argument that aids you, Amoneth. The obvious solution is that if I cannot command the warriors from the capital. I must return to field command.”

Amoneth looked at Aradunnon worriedly. “But I do not want you in the field. I do not see why Thranduil cannot move to his caves while you and I stay here. Or slightly further north. But here, in the south, where you are needed most.”

Aradunnon looked at her thoughtfully and raised his eyebrows. “That is a possibility. If the only solution is for me to return to field command, it would be easier, or possibly even preventable, if I based myself in the south. That would make communication between warriors in the south and the capital via birds more feasible.” He paused and looked at her. “I will discuss that compromise with Thranduil. But—I want to clarify something here and now. If he does not agree, will you obey him and move north without open complaint? If you cannot say that you would do that, then truly we are not well suited no matter how much we may love one another, Amoneth. My duty must be to these people first and my wife must make the same commitment. It is not enough that you love me, you must love Eryn Galen.”

Amoneth’s eyes filled with tears again. “What are you saying, Aradunnon?” she whispered.

Aradunnon looked at her with profound sadness but determination. “I am saying that it would be best to break this betrothal if you do not feel that you understand or accept the responsibilities I have, Amoneth. They will not change or go away. Indeed, they will only become more difficult if the Evil One threatens Eryn Galen. My first thought will always be for my people and yours must be as well.”

Her jaw dropped slightly. “Aradunnon, I love you.”

He looked down. “And I love you. But as I said, that is not sufficient. You must understand me and who I am. Moreover, you must be willing to take on the same role. These people already look upon you as a member of the king’s family. They look to you for leadership. Can you provide it, as Lindomiel and my naneth do? As every member of my family does?”

“Everyone does not always agree with Thranduil.”

Aradunnon smiled slightly. “No, we rarely all agree. But have you ever seen anyone present anything less than a perfectly united front in public? When I marry you, it is my duty to make sure you will uphold that unity. I will not do anything that might endanger Eryn Galen, even marry you.”

Amoneth looked away. “I will do nothing to endanger Eryn Galen, Aradunnon. I will move if Thranduil orders it. I will obey him and not contradict him publicly. You have my word,” she said quietly.

“Can you be happy making that commitment, Amoneth? Do you even want to stay in Eryn Galen given the changes we have seen over the last yén? If the Evil One rises here, life will very likely become very difficult. I do not want you to bind yourself to a life that will make you miserable.”

“I would be miserable without you, Aradunnon. Why do you think I have stayed here for a millennium and tolerated all your roguish behavior? I could not do otherwise, no matter how much I wanted to return to my friends in the Golden Wood and forget about you. I love you.”

Aradunnon sighed and drew her against him, into his arms. “I love you, Amoneth. I do not want you to think that I wish to break this betrothal. Though we are not yet bound, I already feel you are part of my soul. But so is Eryn Galen. I needed you to understand that.” He brushed a kiss on the top of her head as she pressed her cheek against the soft fabric of his tunic.

“I do understand it, meleth. I will try to live by it. I promise.”

He nodded and tightened his arms around her. “And I will speak to Thranduil about your idea of us staying in the south. It is a good one. Thranduil will not immediately agree to it, I can guarantee that. But with time, I might be able to persuade him. I do like that idea.”

*~*~*

The King of Eryn Galen entered his personal chambers to prepare for dinner and found his wife on the balcony. Rather than sitting on the cushions placed there for that purpose, Lindomiel was sitting on one of the branches of the tree that supported the flet, back against another. In her hand was a leaf she had plucked from the tree. She was playing with it idly, her mind obviously a million miles away.

Thranduil sighed. He crossed the sitting room and joined her on the balcony. Running one hand down the length of her hair, he stooped to kiss her cheek. “I know I am asking a great deal, meleth. Please do not refuse me without giving me a chance to show you that it might not be as horrible as you fear.”

Lindomiel looked at Thranduil sadly and then turned her attention back to the leaf in her hand. “Do you understand what you are asking, Thranduil? You were born and raised in Menegroth. I have never seen a cave. I cannot imagine going from dwelling amongst the living trees to being smothered by dead stone, buried underground in a cave. It sounds to me like a living death.”

“Do you believe I would allow you to suffer such a thing, meleth?” he asked quietly.

She looked back at him. “No. I know you would not,” she admitted in a soft voice.

“Then can you trust me? If the caves are not suitable for dwelling, we will live in the forest and use them as a stronghold only. If we determine we could occupy them, will you withhold your judgment until you see them completed? I will not force you to live in them if you truly cannot abide them. How could you think I would do that?”

Lindomiel looked down. After a moment, she stood and put her arms around Thranduil’s neck. “I am sorry, Thranduil. I do trust you. I should not have reacted as I did. I certainly should not have done so in your council meeting. I apologize. And I will go with you to the morning meeting to apologize publicly.”

Thranduil laughed lightly at that. “There is no need for that, meleth. If you think no one on that council ever contradicts me, then we will have to make sure you can attend council more regularly. Engwe and I often spar. My brother and I do. I was concerned by how upset you are. I only ask you be patient and consider the caves. After you do, we will live in the forest if you choose to.” He smiled. “I guarantee that is what Celonhael will insist upon. Elu Thingol and Melian could not draw him into Menegroth. I will fair no better here.”

A faint smile came to Lindomiel’s lips. “Did you see the look on your naneth’s face when you said you planned to speak to dwarves about helping you with the caves? I do not think she approved.”

Thranduil laughed as well. “I did glance at nana. Did you happen to see Engwe’s face?” Lindomiel shook her head. “Pity. I did not either and I would have liked to. He rebelled when I bought weapons from them. Imagine if he has to live in a structure they helped build. Maybe we can make him live in the stronghold even if we do not.”

That drove Lindomiel to giggle. “I really did not think the dwarves that came here to sell the swords were so terrible, Thranduil. I rather enjoyed talking to them.”

Thranduil pulled his wife from the balcony and towards their bedchambers to dress for dinner. His face grew more serious. “You would, meleth. I have never met anyone as open to new experiences as you are. Those swords were a worthwhile purchase that I do not regret. But I do not love dwarves. I do not want to deal with them. I will if it benefits these people.”

Lindomiel only raised her eyebrows in response to that and followed her husband to the bedchambers without protest.

*~*~*

Adar/ada—Father/dad
Naneth/nana—Mother/mum
Meleth (nin)—My love

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He delved there a fortress
Created
30 Oct 2004
Last Edited
30 Oct 2004
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