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Interrupted Journeys: Part Three--Journeys Begin

Chapter 11: Friend or foe

by ellisk

In a village on the southeastern border of the Woodland Realm, an elleth walked uninvited through the open door of her neighbor’s cottage with two other elves. Like most inhabitants of the village, her neighbor’s door was always open, welcoming both the refreshing summer breeze and dear friends. But the occupant of the cottage had long since ceased to consider this elleth a friend. Indeed he was beginning to rue the day he had first spoken with her. And with the king’s warriors such a strong presence in the villages, he did not wish for her to be seen coming and going in his cottage, though he knew he was the one they suspected, not she.

“I heard you have had a letter from your son,” she said casually, seating herself comfortably by his fireplace.

The warrior passing close by the cottage on his patrol would think little of that topic of conversation.

The elf scowled but nodded. Lying was pointless. She would not visit here if she did not already know that he had something that might be of use to her. How she always knew, he shuddered to think, but he had his suspicions.

She raised her eyebrows. “Well, you should share it with us. News from the capital is always so interesting and we all miss him so,” she said with a jovial voice.

The elf walked over to a table, picked up a folded paper and handed it to her silently. He seated himself and listened as the elleth’s voice read his son’s words, describing his new duties, the people he had met, events in the capital and news that the king was sending even more warriors south to keep the villages safe from the Easterling threat.

The warrior outside the cottage door moved on along his patrol route as the elleth finished sharing the letter. They watched him walk away.

The general populace in the village welcomed the warriors in their community. They had been horrified to hear that their village leader, Dolwon, had confessed to dealing with Easterlings and they were perfectly pleased that the king had insisted that Dolwon and his family remain in the capital. When the king sent extra warriors to their village, they celebrated the increased protection. After all, more warriors to keep the forest safe was exactly what they had been begging for all along.

It did not occur to the villagers that the warriors were also watching them—trying to determine if anyone sympathized with Dolwon. Only those guilty of such collusion would think of that.

One of the elves in the cottage stood and strolled over to the door, leaning against it. He glanced down the path and into the trees.

“There is no one about,” he said in a whisper.

Manadhien nodded with a false smile on her face. “I am very disappointed that you would try to hide this letter from me,” she began.

He grimaced bitterly. “I hid nothing. It is a letter from my son to me. It contains nothing of interest to you so I saw not point in sharing it.”

“Nothing of interest!” she hissed in a whisper, the smile still on her face in case anyone watched through the open door. “You do not think it would interest me to know that even more troops are coming south to make my life more difficult?”

His eyebrows shot up. “Surely you are not still meeting with the men? What do you hope to gain? It is over.”

“Is it?” she responded, her expression growing bitter. “From the sound of this letter, there are few enough warriors in the capital that we might be able to attempt another strike. Especially since now we have people in the capital that can work with us to keep our allies apprised of the king’s movements.”

The others’ brows drew together and they looked at her. “Is that possible? I thought the Men had abandoned their pledge to help rid us of Thranduil,” one said.

“Perhaps news that the capital is poorly guarded will inspire them to renewed interest,” she said quietly.

Their host snatched the letter from Manadhien’s hands. “And how do you plan to get that news to the men? We cannot fetch water without one of the king’s warriors watching us. You certainly cannot stroll out of the village and into the eastern plain without arousing suspicion. Accept that this is over, Manadhien. We have more warriors here. The forest is safer. That was our goal. However it was accomplished, be glad that it was.”

Manadhien regarded him coolly as she listened to his angered outburst. Then she leaned forward and spoke in a harsh whisper. “My goal is to rid this forest of the House of Oropher,” she snapped. Then she released a deep, calming breath as the others raised their eyebrows in alarm. “Because that is the only way to keep the forest safe,” she continued in a calmer voice. “There are more warriors now, at Thranduil’s whim, but not to protect us. They are here to enforce his control over the villages and as soon as he believes he has achieved that goal he will withdraw them, leaving us at the mercy of orcs and spiders once again. Mark my words. Better that we take advantage of every opportunity to help ourselves.” She sat back in her chair and lifted her chin to look down at them. “I can get this information to our allies. Leave that to me,” she concluded, taking the letter back.

*~*~*

Dolgailon and Arthiel walked into the family sitting room hand-in-hand. Galithil, Legolas, Berior and Eirienil were already there, along with their parents. They were building a tower with wooden blocks, taking turns adding more to its heights. The tower already stood as tall as the elflings could reach and now Aradunnon was helping his youngest son balance while standing on his father’s lap so he could stack the blocks a little higher. Dolgailon grinned, knowing his brother only wanted the tower higher so that it made more noise when it finally toppled.

“Dolgailon! Arthiel! Come play with us!” Galithil demanded the moment he saw his brother. He spoke with all the certainty of a child accustomed to having his commands obeyed. The other elflings nodded happily.

Dolgailon grinned and shook his head wryly. “I do not recall ordering adults when I was not even three,” he said, sitting next to the tower, opposite the direction in which it leaned. He did not want to ruin the satisfying crash of the wooden blocks on the stone floor by allowing them to fall on him or Arthiel. She settled herself next to him.

Thranduil laughed at his nephew’s comment. “You are not an adult, Dolgailon. You are a brother. You can be ordered about with impunity.”

Aradunnon snorted. “Did I order you around, Thranduil?” he asked, mirth in his voice.

Thranduil raised his eyebrows. “Did you? You still do. I have no idea why I tolerate you sometimes,” he joked.

Dolgailon looked between his father and the king with laughter in his eyes. “I see this is another lesson on the joys of brotherhood,” he said with as much dignity as possible as Galithil climbed across his lap to place another block on the tower. Dolgailon steadied his brother before he fell onto the tower and grew more serious. “Commander, I wanted to have a word with you this evening, if I could,” he said, looking at his father evenly.

Thranduil looked curiously at his nephew as Aradunnon tried to hide a frown. “Can it not wait, Dolgailon? I leave to go south in the morning and I want to spend time with Galithil and your naneth.”

“No, it cannot wait,” he said firmly.

At that moment, the tower came crashing down, raining blocks everywhere. The elflings laughed gleefully and ran through them, kicking them so they made even more noise.

Aradunnon sighed and glared at Dolgailon a moment. Then he reached for Galithil, holding him by both shoulders. “It is time to clean this up and get ready for bed, ion nin.” The children all groaned at that. Aradunnon fixed Galithil with a stern look. “No arguments. Help pick up these toys and then go with nana to get cleaned up for bed. I will read you any story you choose when I am finished speaking with your brother.”

“Even the long one about wizards?” Galithil challenged.

Aradunnon nodded. “Yes, I will read that one if nana tells me that you have minded her.”

Galithil sighed but joined his cousins gathering blocks. Aradunnon and Dolgailon stood and the adults watched father and son worriedly as they went into Dolgailon’s apartment and closed the door.

“What is so important that you must take time from your brother, Dolgailon? He is too young to understand why I am leaving tomorrow and he needs me to spend time with him tonight” Aradunnon asked impatiently.

Dolgailon looked at his father impassively, refusing to allow his tone to affect him. “That is precisely why I wish to speak to you, Commander,” he said calmly. Then he frowned and looked down. “Adar,” he continued in a softer voice, “I want to ask for permission to lead the troops south tomorrow. You should not leave nana and Galithil and I am perfectly capable of taking these troops south and seeing to their redistribution at the southern and eastern borders.”

Aradunnon’s brows knit. “As am I, Dolgailon,” he said with an obviously surprised tone. “And I am not simply escorting these warriors south. I am taking command of the southern and eastern patrols in anticipation of the Easterlings’ advance.”

“All the more reason why you should allow me to take them south. Of course you are capable of commanding those patrols, adar, but so am I. And I do not have a two-year-old son. You do. You should not be leading troops into battle. What if you are killed? What will become of Galithil then?”

Aradunnon frowned severely. “Do you believe I have not thought of that, Dolgailon? I do not want to leave your brother. But you have your own command and a new wife here. Surely you do not want to leave her.”

Dolgailon sighed. “Of course I do not. But she and I discussed this. There is no doubt that it would be terrible for her if I were killed, but she is not a child and she would recover. If you were killed, Galithil would suffer that loss for the rest of his life. Any of the lieutenants in the training program can temporarily command it in my absence until this situation is resolved. And I am more familiar with the warriors and the terrain in the southern territory than you are. I am not equally suited to the task of taking these troops south; I am superiorly qualified. Therefore I am requesting that you send me.”

Aradunnon stared at his son a moment and Dolgailon met his gaze evenly. Then he sighed and his shoulders sagged. “Dolgailon, I prefer…the king prefers that I personally command battles that have the potential that this one does for being very large scale. Indeed, it was all I could do to convince him not to lead the troops south himself.”

Dolgailon frowned. “This battle might not even happen, adar. The information we had was not clear on whether the forest would be involved. And I have fought each time the Wainriders attacked in the past. I commanded the southern patrol almost one hundred years ago when they enslaved the Men of Rhovanion and tried to sweep into the forest. That battle was very large scale and we were not prepared for it, yet we held the Easterlings from the forest. I do not claim to have anything near your experience in battle but I believe I can manage the situation we face against the Wainriders now.”

Aradunnon nodded. “And so do I,” he said sincerely. “But I prefer to command battles of this scale myself, Dolgailon, and as this realm’s troop commander, that is my choice to make.”

“I understand that, adar. And if this were a battle that we agreed no one else could command or if there were no reasons why you should not command it, then you know it would never occur to me to question you. But that is not the case. You acknowledge that I could command it and you have a two-year-old son. You would best comply with your duty to the realm and to your family by allowing me to take the troops south. While you are the father of a small child, your preferences cannot always be honored.” He paused for emphasis. “I am questioning your priorities, adar. I cannot believe you would leave Galithil to command this battle when you have another, equally suitable alternative.”

Aradunnon’s mouth formed a hard line and he glared at his son. Then he closed his eyes and turned his back to him. “Your naneth has made the same argument to me. We certainly did not anticipate another attack from the Wainriders when we decided to conceive your brother. She told me to find a captain that did not have a small child to command this battle.” He turned around and looked at Dolgailon. “I do not think she had you in mind, ion nin. And I do not think Thranduil will allow it. He was reluctant to allow me to go south alone. He wanted to go himself. And frankly, commanding the troops in the south is not all I will be doing there. I am not at liberty to discuss the details, but only the king could assign someone else to command these troops. The decision to send me was based on more than military concerns.”

Dolgailon nodded once. “Very well. Then let us speak to him. The argument that he would prefer to command this battle holds no more weight than your argument to do so. The king also has a small child. And as for his other reasons for sending you south, for Galithil’s sake allow me to at least try to convince him that I can perform whatever duty he requires as well as you.”

Aradunnon sighed but turned towards the door. “Wait here. I will ask Thranduil to speak to us,” he agreed tiredly. Then he looked at his son with a mixture of pleasure and mischief. “Time in the capital and marriage to Arthiel has done wonders for you, Dolgailon. I would have never expected to hear you make arguments based on family priorities.”

Dolgailon smiled. “I want Galithil to enjoy the same childhood I did, adar. And it is my duty as a captain of the king’s warriors to make that possible.”

Aradunnon snorted. “That sounds more like my son. Perhaps you have learned more in the court than I thought. How to couch your arguments more appealingly, for example.”

Dolgailon shook his head. “No matter how it is argued, I am still right, adar,” he said, laughing lightly.

Aradunnon smirked. “Thranduil will decide that,” he replied as he left the room.

*~*~*

Darkness fell about Manadhien like a cloak as she ran swiftly through the tall grass on the plain. Under the pretext of visiting a friend in another village, she had left her own to travel to this less populated and therefore less guarded border of the forest. The warriors in the village did not suspect her, so they thought nothing of her departure. She had long maneuvered to make sure suspicion fell on others, never her. But, beside the fact that so many of her allies were now in the capital under guard, this message she trusted to no one but herself.

She slowed as she approached the meeting place, feeling the presence of those she came to speak with though she could not yet see them. She made a wide berth around the rock and saw three men reach quickly for their weapons as she came into view.

“It is I,” she said in a clear voice in Westron, knowing it was best to announce who she was. She could see them much better than they could see her.

Their hands did not leave their swords as she closed the distance between them.

“What did you call us here for?” one of the men asked gruffly as soon as he could see her clearly. He looked her over and then scanned the darkness behind her.

Their belief that arrows were trained on them kept her safer, so she let him look. “I have news that might interest you,” she said coolly.

The man snorted and spat. “The last time you brought us news, it led to the death of ten of my best men,” he retorted angrily. “I don’t think I like your kind of news.”

Manadhien shrugged. “Well, if those were your best men, perhaps you are correct that I should not waste my time with you. There are others who would be happy to profit from my information.”

He growled. “Your deal is with us. Tell me what you brought me here for,” he said, grabbing her arm roughly.

Faster than his eyes could follow, a knife flew from its hiding place and was pressed against his throat. Blood trickled, mixing with the sweat and grime in his beard. “Release me or you will not live long enough to regret the foolishness of your actions,” she said coldly.

Eyes narrowing angrily, he released his grip on her arm and stepped back from her blade

“Thranduil has word of your plans—all of them,” she said swiftly. She could fight three men easily but, like them, she did not know if there were reinforcements hiding and watching them. She needed to catch their interest.

The man looked at her scornfully but she did not fail to notice his muscles tense. “What of it? He don’t involve himself in the affairs of the Northmen or of Gondor. He is no threat to us.”

She shook her head. “Perhaps, but he is sending half the warriors from the north and the stronghold here. He is massing them on the eastern border of the forest.”

“That don’t affect me as long as they stay in the forest. And they will.”

Manadhien scowled. “It certainly affects you,” she said, struggling to conceal her ire. Men were stupid. “If they are here that means they are not near the stronghold. The information I have says the capital will be poorly defended—guarded by a few, inexperienced warriors.”

The man’s eyes widened and he laughed. “Surely you ain’t suggesting that we attack that stronghold? It’s a week’s march from here through the Northmen’s territory or through the forest. And it’s a stronghold. It would take more men than I have in my army to siege it if I could get to it. And once we do siege it, all his army in the east will return to defend it. It’s pointless and my army is committed to attacks I can win elsewhere anyway.”

Manadhien took a deep breath and spoke patiently. “No, I am not suggesting you attack the stronghold. I am suggesting that you can approach it more easily with a small group of assassins. I can give you details of how the patrols around it are ordered. When they are where and how many they are. And I can tell you when the king and his family is normally outside the stronghold.”

The man frowned. “You promised us easy spoils the last time and all I got was ten dead men. I ain’t wasting more men on another futile attempt. Besides, I get very little from killing your king.”

“You stand more to gain for killing the Lord of Dale I believe and I happen to know the details of his plans to travel to Mirkwood to see Thranduil,” she said, looking at him intently in the faint light of the stars. “Would that information be worth something to you?”

A smile reached her eyes as she saw the men glance at each other eagerly.

*~*~*

Fengel, Lord of Dale, stepped into the Great Hall flanked by two of his guards and the elven escort that had met his traveling party at the edge of the forest. As the guards at the door announced him, he could not resist openly admiring the grandeur before him. Not many Men had seen the inside of the Elvenking’s halls, himself included before now.

There were no gold or silver gilded decorations; no jewel encrusted bobbles; no marble or granite or crystal carefully crafted to lend a sense of power as Fengel had seen in the palaces in Gondor. The Elvenking’s Hall, like the forest that surrounded it, had a natural magnificence.

Fengel’s eyes followed the stone pillars, carved like tree trucks, to where their boughs formed the arches in the high ceiling. He glanced quickly at the walls and fixtures-- carved, painted and polished over two millennia of Elven occupancy. Finally he turned to look at the Elvenking’ himself. Crowned by flowers and holding a carved oak staff, he needed no artificial trappings of power. The strength of the forest and the mountain that sheltered them seemed to focus on him and emanate from him as he stood before his throne to greet his guest.

“Welcome to Greenwood, lord Fengel. I greatly appreciate your willingness to meet with me,” the king’s deep voice declared.

Fengel bowed slightly at the waist. “Your message was not one I could dismiss, lord Thranduil,” he replied, straightening and taking the hand that his host offered him in greeting.

Thranduil simply nodded grimly while turning slightly to draw Lindomiel forward with a hand at the small of her back. “You know the queen, of course,” he said.

Fengel smiled genuinely upon seeing her, grateful for the presence of someone he knew relatively well in this otherwise very foreign environment. “It is truly a pleasure to see you again, my lady,” he said, bowing over the hand she offered him and kissing it lightly.

Thranduil gestured toward a table where three other elves stood and led Fengel towards it. “You also remember lord Hallion,” he said as the steward bowed to him.

Fengel returned the courtesy and glanced curiously at the other two elves that Thranduil notably did not introduce. They all seated themselves at the table. Those elves looked more like the woodelves Fengel remembered occasionally meeting as a child when he lived in the old capital close to the forest. They had darker hair than the Elvenking’s family and grey eyes. But Fengel had never heard of elves cutting their hair short—shoulder length—in the manner of men, as these two apparently had. Nor had he ever seen elves with such dark skin. He wondered where under the boughs of the dense forest they had found enough exposure to the sun to have acquired the look of the men that lived on the plains. As surreptitiously as he could, Fengel studied them.

“I understand that you were already planning to travel to meet with lord Forthwini in the west,” Thranduil said, drawing Fengel’s attention, as Hallion laid out several maps. “So I hope my invitation was not too much of an inconvenience to you.”

Fengel glanced at the maps and frowned. They were of the east and south. “Of course not, but you are correct. My steward should have already informed you that I wish to travel through the forest. Indeed, when I leave here, with your permission, I will continue on the Path to the Forest Gate and proceed down the Anduin to visit him. And I would prefer to return by the same route.”

Thranduil nodded. “I would prefer the same. I do not wish to be responsible for your safety if you travel across the Forest Road.” He paused and looked intently at his peer, obviously turning to the business at hand. “Lord Fengel, I have come into some information that friendship dictates I share with you. I believe this information should be delivered swiftly to the King of Gondor and to lord Forthwini as well, so it is fortunate that you intend to travel to see him. I trust you will know best how to approach King Ondoher, for I have never exchanged messages with him.”

Fengel’s eyes widened slightly and he looked at Thranduil with raised eyebrows. The message he had received indicated the Elvenking had information regarding the security of both their realms, so he expected a serious discussion, but any news that apparently threatened even Gondor was alarming indeed.

“You are perfectly aware, having convicted conspirators in your own realm, that the Wainriders are an increasing threat,” Thranduil continued and paused, waiting for a response.

Fengel frowned and nodded. “Indeed they are. My people never recovered from their losses after the Battle of the Plain and I have seen much evidence that leads me to believe the Easterlings intend to press their advantage again.”

“I concur,” Thranduil said firmly. “I do not make a habit of discussing the internal affairs of this realm with foreign powers but today I intend to make an exception to that rule because in order to share with you the information I have, I will be forced to confess something that I do not think you will trust or understand unless you understand my motives for doing it.”

Fengel’s eyebrows climbed higher.

Thranduil looked at him directly. “The Easterlings have made numerous incursions into the forest over the last years. The raid lord Dolgailon informed you of several years ago was not the only one we have suffered. And of course you are aware of the accusations that my people have willingly interacted with the Easterlings. I do not take such news any more lightly that you apparently do.” He paused for emphasis. “But the incident that I could not ignore happened when my queen last traveled to Dale to speak to you about tolls.”

Fengel’s eyes darted over to Lindomiel.

“Her traveling party was followed from your city by Easterlings,” Thranduil continued and Fengel’s jaw dropped. “They were killed when we confronted them, but we found evidence that they intended to take hostages.”

Fengel’s eyes widened and then swiftly narrowed as his hands formed tight fists. “They would never have escaped across my lands with any hostages, much less the one you imply they intended to take,” he said coldly. Then he turned to Lindomiel and as quickly as anger had burned in his eyes, they filled with concern as he addressed her. “I begged you, my lady, to allow my guards to accompany yours as far as the forest. I am afraid that in the future I will insist they do.”

Lindomiel smiled at him but it was Thranduil that responded. “Clearly you understand why I was very upset by this news,” he said. “The Easterlings are a threat to all of Rhovanion and I wanted to know precisely what threat they represent. Although we did not suffer nearly as badly as your people did after the Battle of the Plain, I have no intention of allowing the Easterlings to surprise me thusly again.”

Fengel’s eyes flitted over to the two strange elves again, beginning to understand what they were. “My steward told me you had spies and I did not believe him,” Fengel said softly, turning his eyes back to Thranduil and looking at him steadily.

Thranduil returned his gaze. “Can you fault me for wishing to learn more about my enemy? Have you not sent men east to do the same?” he asked evenly.

Fengel frowned. “They did not return,” he replied shortly. “What did you learn?”

Thranduil leaned back in his chair. “I learned a great deal,” he said, nodding to the two elves.

“We spent some time in the lands of the Wainriders,” one of them began. “They are massing here,” he said pointing on the map to a location south of the Sea of Rhûn, “with a host of at least two thousand. In addition to the chariots they normally use, they have the means to attack with a large cavalry. We heard varying versions of their plans and we were obliged to leave before we could determine if they have settled on a specific battle plan. But we can speak with certainty about targets. Their main force intends to strike against Gondor within a year.”

Fengel’s mouth formed a hard line. “We suspected an attack. Forthwini has communicated to me that he now suffers nearly constant raids from up the Anduin or even across the Narrows. We knew their strength was growing.”

The elf fixed Fengel with a hard look. “There is more, lord Fengel. They have new alliances. We saw men from Harad with them and we saw some of them traveling south. They intend to attack simultaneously from the east and south, bringing war to Gondor on two fronts.”

Fengel’s scowl deepened. “And that confirms rumors I have heard from the court in Gondor,” he said coldly.

Thranduil nodded. “I hope this information aids the men in Gondor. I sympathize with their plight and I wanted to share what I had learned with them in case they were not already aware of their enemy’s plans. But I did not send elves to the Easterling’s territories to find information about Gondor.”

With that, the other elf took up the narrative. “The main force of the Wainriders seems to come from the east and is focused on Gondor, as we said. But they have allies amongst the Easterlings that have settled in your lands and enslaved or murdered your people. Those Easterlings are encouraging their fellows from the east to help them fortify and expand their holdings here in Rhovanion. Their eye is again turned towards your people and this forest.”

He paused as Fengel’s jaw clenched.

“From what we saw, they find few allies amongst their own kind. Those from the east seem to be obeying a greater authority to attack Gondor and will not be moved from their task,” the elf continued. Then he looked at Fengel cautiously. “We believe the Easterlings from Rhovanion have sought allies amongst the Northmen and amongst elves of this forest to accomplish by treachery what they cannot accomplish by force. We know they have offered weapons and aid against the spiders and orcs to lure our people. They are promising wealth and positions of power in exchange for the loyalty of your men.”

Hallion pushed a piece of parchment with a list of names across the table to Fengel. “We gathered names of the elves that the Easterlings have tried to deceive so that we can prevent them from becoming pawns of the Shadow. While working to obtain that information, we also witnessed the Easterlings speaking with your people. Those are the names of the men we heard them speak to and the villages we saw them enter.”

Fengel blinked and then looked at Thranduil, his back stiffening. “So you are saying that your spies in my realm have uncovered a plot against me,” he asked.

Thranduil returned his gaze evenly. “Yes, I am. These elves, working in the lands to the east and south of both our realms uncovered a plot to solidify the Easterling’s control in Rhovanion at the expense of both our peoples.”

Fengel glared angrily at Thranduil for a long moment and Thranduil’s posture stiffened as well.

“I did not send these to elves to your lands to cause you injury, lord Fengel. I acted to protect my people and I will not apologize for that. And now, by sharing what I learned with you, I am attempting to prevent harm from coming to you and your realm. The information is yours to do with what you will.”

Fengel scowled a moment longer and then turned his eyes to the list Hallion had given him. His expression hardened as he scanned the names. “Some of these are people I am already suspicious of,” he said quietly. “And the names of the men we executed three years ago are on this list.” He looked up at Thranduil. “As well as the names of some who I thoroughly trust. How certain are you of these names?”

Thranduil silently looked at the two elves and Fengel shifted his gaze to them as well.

“No man’s name is on that list unless we saw him treat willingly with an Easterling with our own eyes.”

Fengel leaned against the back of his chair with a long sigh. “It seems I will need to set spies on my own people,” he said tiredly, staring at the far wall. Then he focused again on Thranduil. “I cannot say that I am glad to hear this and I am not pleased at all to hear that you sent spies into my realm. But I can say I am thankful to be forewarned and clearly your willingness to share this information speaks to your intent. I will be certain that lords Forthwini and Ondoher are made aware of the threat against Gondor and I will investigate the names on this list thoroughly,” he concluded bitterly. Then he took a deep breath, forcing himself to appear grateful. “I appreciate you sharing this information with me, lord Thranduil,” he concluded sincerely.

Thranduil nodded. “I understand all too well how difficult it is to hear what we have told you but I would not withhold information that affects the safety of my allies,” he replied as everyone relaxed marginally.

Lindomiel leaned forward, smiling at Fengel. “We had hoped that you would be our guest tonight before you continue your journey to visit lord Forthwini,” she said.

Her smile drove the remaining tension from the room. “I would be honored to be a guest in the Woodland Realm, my lady. Indeed I had hoped to speak with lord Dolgailon. I know it was…uncomfortable for him to return to Dale to testify. I wanted to thank him again for doing so.” He turned to Thranduil. “And you for allowing it but now it seems I have even more to thank you for.”

Thranduil returned his smile. “Lord Dolgailon is in the southern part of the forest. He is the captain of the warriors that will meet any military advance the Wainriders intend to launch against us or Forthwini through this forest.”

Fengel nodded, apparently pleased with that. “I am sorry not to be able to see him but I am happy to hear he has returned to his command in the south. We are all safer with him there and I remember discussing with him that he preferred to serve there.” He laughed and looked Thranduil sidelong. “I know it is absurd since I had the impression that lord Dolgailon is several hundred years older than I can hope to live, but he reminds me so much of myself when I was younger…before my father died. I enjoyed meeting your nephew, lord Thranduil. He is a fine person. I hope my son turns out as well.”

Lindomiel looked at Fengel with bright eyes. “Have you and your wife finally been blessed with a child, lord Fengel?”

Fengel’s polite smile broadened to a genuinely delighted one. “A son last year and a daughter just a few months ago,” he said excitedly.

Lindomiel’s eyes widened. “Two children in two years?” she asked incredulously. She could not imagine enduring another pregnancy yet.

He simply nodded happily. “And you, my lady? You seemed very interested in children when we last spoke.”

Lindomiel grinned at him as Thranduil raised his eyebrows. “I am very happy to tell you that the king and I had a son two years past.”

Fengel leaned forward eagerly, smiling at Lindomiel and then he looked to Thranduil. “Oh I hope you will allow me to meet him. I have never met an elf child and I would so like to meet your son.”

Thranduil glanced at Lindomiel and then smirked. “He has never seen a Man,” he replied softly. “I will have someone show you to your rooms so that you may relax a bit before dinner. We will dine on the lawn tonight in your honor. Legolas enjoys the singing so I will let him join us for a short time.” He laughed quietly and looked at Fengel with mischievous glint in his eyes that seemed so out of character it made the Lord of Dale blink. “I remember the first time I saw a Man. I imagine this will be an interesting meeting.”

Fengel only smiled at that explanation for the Elvenking’s apparent mirth but Lindomiel raised one eyebrow and made a mental note to ask her husband the details of that story.

*~*~*

Dolgailon knocked quietly on the open door of the small cottage and waited for its occupant to turn and see him. When the elf faced him his eyes widened and Dolgailon saw a flash of fear in them before astonishment overwhelmed it.

“My lord! Come in. When did you return south? How do you fair?” he asked gesturing for Dolgailon to enter and take a seat.

Dolgailon stepped into the cottage and surprised his host by embracing him. “I am well, Tulus. And I hope you are as well,” he replied, studying the elf as he released him. Tulus seemed relieved by this greeting. Dolgailon sat in the chair. “Since I have been sent south, and specifically instructed to pay this village a visit, I thought I would call on old friends while I was here.”

Tulus looked hard at Dolgailon a moment. “Can I offer you some tea? I do not have any wine, I am afraid,” he asked, pulling a plate from the cupboard and piling some sweetbreads on it. He put the plate on the table next to Dolgailon. “Those are your favorites. The ones with honey,” he said with a smile.

Dolgailon picked up a piece of bread and smiled in return. “No tea, thank you. I cannot stay for long. But I wanted to speak to you.”

Tulus raised his eyebrows. “About my son, I hope. I would like to hear how he is doing in the capital. May I sit?” he asked.

Dolgailon nodded. “Of course. I am not the king. You do not need my permission to sit in your own home.” He looked at his host narrowly. “I always wondered where you learned the court manner you never failed to bestow upon me, Tulus. You always seemed more at ease than most villagers do in my presence. And I always thought it odd that a simple village guard was so skilled with his weapons.”

Tulus’s smile faded and he studied Dolgailon. “May I ask what the purpose of this visit is, my lord?” he asked quietly.

Dolgailon nodded. “You may. And I will tell you plainly. I have been sent south to command the warriors the king has sent to face the Easterling threat. Moreover, I have been charged with determining if anyone else in the villages here had dealings with Easterlings. Since the leader of this village confessed to trading with the enemy for weapons, the king is very concerned that more elves in your village may be involved with them as well. The troop commander thinks you are a likely suspect. I was supposed to keep an eye on you to try to determine if you are a traitor, Tulus, but I find I cannot do that.” Dolgailon looked at Tulus intensely. “Please tell me that my adar is wrong, mellon nin, and that you are not involved with the Easterlings.”

Tulus looked down. “I have never spoken to an Easterling, my lord,” he said honestly. He had not. “I had hoped the troop commander’s willingness to finally promote my son might indicate that he was willing to look beyond my past misdeeds. Apparently I was wrong.”

Dolgailon studied Tulus for a moment. “Why did you never tell me that you were once a member of the king’s guard?” he asked.

Tulus closed his eyes at the hurt in Dolgailon’s voice. “I assume lord Thranduil told you that I did not simply ask to be relieved of my duty. I am not proud to have been dismissed. It is not something I discuss lightly while sipping wine with my son and his young friends.” Tulus paused and then looked back at Dolgailon pleadingly. “Please do not hold my actions against my son. I want him in the capital, away from the Shadow in the south. And this promotion convinced him to go there when no amount of pleading from me did.”

Dolgailon shook his head. “Perhaps you are not aware of it, but I have been recommending that the troop commander promote Glílavan for years. I never understood his hesitance to do so. I ask you again, why did you not tell me?”

Tulus frowned and looked down again. “Because I am ashamed. Would you not be ashamed to be dismissed from the king’s service?”

Dolgailon leaned forward drawing Tulus’s gaze. “I trust Glílavan, Tulus, and I trust you. Glílavan has been my friend since I first became a warrior. He took care of me when I was young and reckless. And I spent many a leave here in your home. Please convince me that my trust has not been misplaced.”

“I would never hurt you, my lord,” Tulus replied in a soft voice. “I did not intend to hurt the king. I have been a fool for a good many yeni and there are many things that I wish I could undo. If not telling you about my past has caused me to lose your trust, then I can only add that failure to a list of many. But please do not judge my son. Let him have a chance to do better than I. Keep him in the capital.”

Dolgailon studied Tulus and the former guard held his gaze. Dolgailon saw sincere regret and desperation in his friend’s eyes. He nodded and leaned back in his chair. “You should move to the capital as well, Tulus. It would remove you from suspicion, it is safer there and I am sure Glílavan would like the opportunity to spend time with his adar. I know I have enjoyed the last few years with mine.”

Tulus sighed. “I have found my place here, pen neth,” he said quietly, slipping into the more informal relationship he shared with his son’s friend. “But I understand you have a new brother and several cousins. Not to mention a new wife. I always wanted more children and I miss my wife more than I can tell you. My deepest regret is not taking our son and going with her to Aman. We thought he should know the forest but we did not anticipate the Shadow that would spread here.” He sighed and then pasted a weak smile on his face. “Tell me about your new family, Dolgailon. It would warm my heart to hear about them.”

*~*~*

Legolas and his cousins followed their nanny onto the green excitedly. Celebrations on the lawn were always fun. By the time the children arrived, the tables had already been cleared and the dancing was in full swing. Eating in the family dining room alone with their nanny and Arthiel had confused the children somewhat since they had always eaten on the lawn with their parents for every other festival they remembered. But their disappointment was forgotten the moment they passed through the Gates and stepped into the magical world that was elven merrymaking.

“Seidreth, what festival is this? It is not Fall yet. The trees are still green. And we already had the Summer Festival,” Legolas asked as he skipped to keep up with his nanny.

Seidreth smiled. “There are many reasons to have a festival, Legolas. We had one when you and each of your cousins were born…”

“Who had a baby, Seidreth?” he asked with wide, delighted eyes.

Seidreth shook her head. “No one had a baby. That was just an example. We also have festivals if something important is happening such as when your cousin married Arthiel…”

Legolas glanced over at Arthiel who was helping Seidreth herd the four elflings onto the green. “Who is getting married?” he asked.

Seidreth frowned reprovingly at Legolas. “Do not interrupt, Legolas. No one is getting married. That was another example.”

Legolas frowned back at Seidreth. “Well, stop giving examples. I asked what this festival was for,” he said firmly.

Seidreth reproving expression intensified. “Be respectful, Legolas. Do you want the barest answer or would you like to learn something from your question? Are you not curious what other sorts of festivals there are?”

Legolas glared at his nanny, crossing his arms across his chest. “Yes, I am. But I am most curious about this one.”

Seidreth’s mouth turned down on one side as the other three elflings nodded in agreement.

Arthiel laughed. “Sometimes the king will have a feast on the green to celebrate the arrival of someone important,” she explained as Seidreth scowled. “When Dolgailon returns from the south, I imagine there will be a festival. There was the last time he came back to the stronghold.”

Legolas looked at Arthiel with wide eyes. “Is someone important here, Arthiel?” he asked.

She nodded. “Yes, a visitor,” she answered mysteriously as she guided Legolas to where the family sat together on the green.

Seeing their parents, the four elflings broke away from Seidreth and Arthiel to run to them. The adults barely suppressed their laughter as the elfings’ charge stumbled to a halt when they saw Fengel seated next to Thranduil. The Lord of Dale smiled delightedly at the children as they slowly walked over to their parents while staring at the stranger who sat amongst them. He seemed friendly enough, smiling at them, but he was unlike anyone they had ever seen before.

As Legolas reached his father, his eyes widened even further as realization dawned. “He is a man,” he whispered, looking from Fengel to his father. The other children blinked and stared even harder at the king’s guest.

Thranduil smiled, picking Legolas up to settle him on his lap. “Yes, he is, Legolas. But it is not polite to stare. Especially at guests of honor at a feast.”

Legolas looked away from Fengel for a moment at that quiet admonition but promptly looked back to find the man smiling even more broadly at him.

“Have you forgotten how to greet someone, Legolas?” Thranduil prompted gently.

Legolas glanced at his father and then sat up straighter. He turned back to Fengel with a more respectful expression. “Mae govannen,” he said with a little smile, curiosity still burning in his eyes.

“Mae govannen, Legolas” Fengel replied with the same broad smile.

Legolas looked back at his father. “Man eneth dîn, ada?” he asked softly.

Thranduil looked over at Fengel, who was now chuckling with amusement. “Pedo ten, Legolas.”

Legolas frowned slightly but looked over to Fengel. “Man eneth lín?” he asked, repeating the question he had asked his father, “a mas dorthach?”

Fengel glanced at Thranduil, looking at him wryly, before answering Legolas. “Fengel i eneth nín a dorthon vi Dale,” he said haltingly. “I think that answered the child’s questions and it was probably understandable but we have now exhausted my Elvish I am sorry to say.”

Thranduil laughed. “You did very well, lord Fengel. Far better than Legolas or any of the other children are going to do. I fear they do not know a single word of Westron.”

As if to underscore that statement, all the elflings gaped at Thranduil, plainly shocked to hear him speak the strange language that they could not understand.

Fengel smirked. “But they have the excuse of being not even three-years-old. I am well older than that. I remember a few other words from my childhood when the elves would come to trade in the old capital.” He grinned. “And I imagine Legolas would like those words. I think they mean cake and toy—the trade items that were important to me at the time.”

Thranduil continued to laugh. “Let us not repeat those words or we will have a riot on our hands when neither item is produced,” he began before an insistent tug on his robe drew his attention back to Legolas.

“What are you saying, ada? And…” Legolas frowned, “what are you saying it with?”

Thranduil caressed Legolas’s cheek and smiled at the other elflings that were still staring at him, ignoring the other adults’ stifled laughter. “I am speaking Westron with lord Fengel. He does not speak Elvish and I do not speak his language but we both speak Westron. Most people do so they can all communicate no matter where they are from.”

Legolas and his cousins looked at Thranduil, amazed by that idea.

“But he just told me his name and where he is from,” Legolas said, sounding a little confused.

“That was all of our language he knows…” Thranduil began before Legolas’s eyes lit.

“Ada, I want to learn Westron. Why does Fengel not learn Elvish?”

Thranduil put a finger over Legolas’s mouth to interrupt the flood of questions and demands that was certain to follow. “You will learn Westron, Legolas. When you are older, you will learn many things in your lessons and Westron will definitely be one of them. And lord Fengel probably does not have time to learn Elvish…”

Legolas’s eyebrows went up. “Lord Fengel?” he repeated. “Is he the Lord of Dale?” Thranduil nodded. “Why does he not have time to learn Elvish. It is not hard to learn. I learned it and I am only two…”

Thranduil could not help but laugh at that. “Lord Fengel learned his own language very quickly too since that is the only language his parents spoke to him. Learning a second language takes a little more time…”

“Will I go to Dale to learn Westron?”

Thranduil shook his head. “No, you will not…”

“But if I could learn it faster there because I would hear it all the time…”

“Enough, Legolas. It is rude to speak a language others do not understand. Lord Fengel hears us saying his name and the name of his city and he wonders what we are saying about him.”

Legolas looked at Fengel with concern. “But I cannot speak Westron,” he said with a slight whine.

Fengel by this time had raised his eyebrows, making Legolas worry that he was indeed insulted. Lindomiel intervened.

“The king is trying to explain to our son that you speak a different language in Dale and Legolas wants to learn it. Immediately,” she said, looking at her son with an amused smile when he audibly gasped.

“Nana speaks Westron too?” Legolas exclaimed.

Thranduil nodded. “Your naneth was raised to live in court. Most people raised for that sort of life learn Westron,” he answered. Then he looked back at Fengel. “I am sorry, lord Fengel. But he is fascinated by the new language. He will grow bored with it soon enough and go off to dance or play games with his cousins.”

“I am not certain, my lord,” said Dieneryn. She was also smiling at her grandson as he intently listened to the adults speak. “Perhaps this will be one way in which your son takes after his mother instead of you. You were terrible with languages. It took threats of sending you to live in a Mannish town to coerce you to study. Legolas is volunteering to go to Dale.”

Thranduil cast his mother a warning look but Fengel smiled enthusiastically. “When he is old enough to travel, he will be welcome to study languages in Dale. And I can teach him and his cousins a little Westron and my language tonight,” Fengel offered, smiling at the children. “We can make a game of it. They are truly delightful.”

Recognizing Fengel’s tone of voice—realizing they had just been made an offer—the elflings looked questioningly at their parents.

“What did he just say, nana?” Legolas asked quietly, turning to the parent most likely to indulge his question.

Lindomiel answered Fengel instead of her son. “I warn you, lord Fengel. You will never escape them once you submit yourself to their mercy.”

Fengel shook his head and laughed. “I will teach them a children’s song with animal names and what the animals do. It is simple enough and I can draw the animals and act out the swimming and running and flying to teach them what the words mean.”

Thranduil snorted. “They will like that. I daresay the entire populace will enjoy seeing the Lord of Dale pretend to fly like a bird.”

Fengel raised an eyebrow teasingly at his peer. “Once they have learned the song, I imagine they will want to sing it with their parents,” he threatened playfully.

Understanding the adults’ mood, if not their words, the children looked excitedly at their parents as Fengel asked his aid to bring him a pen, ink and paper.

Separate from the festivities on the lawn, two elves sat quietly, side by side under a tree watching the king, his family and his guests with quiet fury.

“The southern villages suffer for supplies in the winter while the king has a feast for the Lord of Dale,” Dolwon whispered bitterly.

Dannenion nodded. “He accuses us of nothing short of treason and will not permit us to leave the capital because we traded for a few weapons to defend our village, but when he invites them into the forest it is cause for celebration. He wastes valuable resources guarding our village to make sure no one speaks to men while his son is singing with them,” he replied resentfully.

“It is disgraceful,” Dolwon growled. “But it will not be so for much longer.”

Dannenion nodded. “Being in the capital has its benefits,” he said calmly.

*~*~*

Thranduil sat on his throne in the Great Hall listening to a village leader from the western forest. He was arguing that his people deserved a better return for the flax they harvest from where it grows naturally in the grasslands on the edge of the forest. The Men that lived in the plains harvested the flax as well, but the elves had greater skill processing it into fine cloth. Thranduil traded that cloth to the Men in Dale and Esgaroth for wool. It was an important petition but the king was having trouble focusing on it. Something nagged at the back of his mind.

“With more of my people joining the patrols, my lord, we do not have time to gather and process the flax as well as prepare properly for winter. Either you must help us by providing a larger share of supplies or we will not be able to continue sending the same amount of cloth,” he said.

“That is likely not an exaggeration, my lord,” Hallion whispered quietly in Thranduil’s ear. “At least five elves in the training program come from Nandoril’s village.”

Thranduil frowned and motioned for Golwon. “Can we give him what he is asking for without depriving any of the other villages?” he asked softly as his advisor stepped forward. The cloth was a valuable trading commodity that he was hesitant to do without.

Golwon nodded. “This year, my lord, but only because this has been a particularly bountiful year. I cannot guarantee we will be able to continue giving them so much in future years.”

Thranduil sigh and turned back to the elf. He was about to order Golwon to provide the village with the supplies they requested when the doors to the Great Hall burst open and Aradunnon strode into the room.

“I must speak to you immediately, my lord. It is of utmost importance,” he said, coming to stand next to Nandoril. The village leader stared at him with wide eyes.

Thranduil motioned for the guards at the back of the room. “Lord Golwon will see to the provisions you have requested and speak to you further about this matter,” he said calmly.

With a glance between Thranduil and Aradunnon, Golwon and one of the guards escorted Nandoril from the Hall.

Aradunnon walked directly to Thranduil as the other guard closed the doors of the Hall. “I have just received word from the Path Guard that lord Fengel’s traveling party was attacked by Men,” he said with no preamble.

Thranduil’s eyes widened. “Where? He only left the stronghold this morning. He could not be more than four leagues from here by now.”

“He was not. He was attacked on the Path about an hour ago. My information is still very rough but I understand that lord Fengel survived the attack.”

Hallion stepped forward, looking at Aradunnon and Thranduil nervously. “Forgive the interruption, my lord, but has Conuiön received news of this attack?”

Aradunnon frowned. “I have sent messengers to inform the rest of the officers in the Path Guard and the Palace Guard. I have not informed Conuiön yet.”

Thranduil turned towards his steward, suddenly unable to breath. “Why do you ask that, Hallion?”

“Do Lindomiel and Amoneth not take the children riding westward along the Path in the mornings, my lord?”

Thranduil stared at his steward for a moment and then began to walk swiftly towards the doors of the Hall. “Bring my sword and bow, Hallion. To the stable. Tell Conuiön and Tureden to meet me there,” he ordered without slowing his gate.

AN: Tulus, Glilivan's father, was dismissed as a member of Thranduil's Guard in Interrupted Journeys: New Journeys (the first story). He was dismissed for an incident involving Lindomiel.


*~*~*

Elleth –Female elf

Ion nin—My son

Adar/ada—Father/dad

Naneth/nana—Mother/mum

Mellon nin—My friend

Yen/yeni—An Elven measurement of time—144 years (singular and plural)

Mae govannen—Well met.

Man eneth dîn, ada?—What is his name, dad?

Pedo ten—Speak to him.

Man eneth lín?—What is your name.

A mas dorthach?—And where are you from?

Fengel i eneth nín a dorthon vi Dale.—My name is Fengel and I am from Dale.

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Friend or foe
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24 Apr 2005
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