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Interrupted Journeys: Part Three--Journeys Begin

Chapter 6: Bound by Fate

by ellisk

Thranduil and Lindomiel walked into the family dining room hand-in-hand, arriving much later than they ordinarily did. Everyone but Hallion already sat around the table, chatting and enjoying the tea, fruit and bread that was always available in the mornings before the meal was served. In response to the king’s entrance, the family stood and momentarily turned away from their conversation to greet him. Their casual courtesies quickly became raised eyebrows and amused stares when they actually focused on the king and queen.

“Fair morning,” Thranduil said, returning their greetings with a light voice as he sat and motioned for them to do the same. He laughed inwardly at the attention now silently fixed upon he and his wife. Thranduil was perfectly aware that he had a silly grin on his face but he found that he could not help it. After spending the entire previous night conceiving his first child, he was still in an indescribably blissful mood.

“Fair morning, Thranduil,” Dieneryn replied, studying her son and then Lindomiel carefully.

Under his mother’s scrutiny, Thranduil glanced at Lindomiel and saw she also wore a bright smile and her eyes positively shone with anticipation. Looking at her, Thranduil felt his breath catch. Her smile had always completely captivated him. But today it was different somehow—warmer, more tender, more adoring—very similar to Dieneryn’s smile when she spoke of her sons, he suddenly realized. It was a mother’s smile. Looking at her, Thranduil drew a deep breath as his heart filled with an entirely new emotion. This was his wife, who he loved more than life itself. She was also now the mother of his child. He squeezed her hand, which he still held in his lap under the table, and she met his loving gaze with her own.

Aradunnon interrupted their silent interchange by leaning forward to draw his brother’s attention. “Thranduil, you have not looked this foolish since you began courting Lindomiel. Confess. What is the cause of this absurd expression you and Lindomiel share this morning?”

Thranduil chuckled softly and slowly turned to his brother with a dramatically tolerant smirk. “One day, Aradunnon, I am going to grow tired of your impudence. And behaving this way in the presence of the entire family! Have you no fear that you are a bad influence on your own son?”

Dolgailon bowed his head over his plate to hide his reaction to his uncle and father’s banter. Everyone knew their relationship amused the younger elf.

Aradunnon shook his head, grinning broadly, but refusing to be distracted. “Dolgailon is an adult and thankfully does perfectly well despite who his father is. You, on the other hand, obviously have an announcement to make. And it must be a fairly impressive one given your bizarre behavior. Come, tell us what it is.”

All eyes were now focused curiously on the king.

In response, Thranduil only raised his eyebrows and affected an innocent air. “Perhaps I do have an announcement. But if I do, it must wait until the entire family is here.” He motioned towards the empty seat at the table. “Where is Hallion? Does anyone know?”

There was a moment of silence as everyone looked at one another questioningly. Finally, Dolgailon frowned slightly and spoke.

“Some men arrived at the gates at first light. The guards told Hallion you could not be disturbed and so he is meeting with them in the Great Hall,” he supplied in a quiet voice.

Thranduil’s expression immediately became more serious. “How do you know this? Did you get any sense of the men’s business?”

Dolgailon quickly shook his head. “I was not involved in such matters at all, uncle. I simply saw the men at the Gate this morning and overheard the Gate Guards’ conversation with your guards. Later when I was coming in to morning meal I saw Hallion in the Great Hall with them. All I can say is that there were two men and their discussion with Hallion appeared very calm. They were sitting at a table and speaking quietly, nothing more.”

Thranduil’s frown only deepened. “Well, I supposed Hallion will inform us of what our guests want during the morning briefing,” he replied quietly, but everyone could easily hear the tinge of displeasure in his voice. Unexpected Mannish visitors rarely brought good news.

Aradunnon’s knuckles rapped on the table, drawing Thranduil’s attention again. His brother’s eyes were still bright and playful. “Then you have no excuse to keep us in suspense, Thranduil. What is your news?” he demanded, enunciating each word of his question.

As Thranduil smiled at Aradunnon, in the back of his mind he marveled at how easily he again slipped into a teasing mood. “Perhaps I will wait until evening meal when Hallion is present to make my announcement just to spite you, Aradunnon,” he began.

Lindomiel’s laughter interrupted him. “You most certainly will not,” she exclaimed with an exasperated tone. Her expression made it clear that she knew Thranduil would do exactly as he threatened if he thought it would torture his younger brother.

Everyone at the table reacted with varying degrees of amusement to Lindomiel’s obvious impatience and Thranduil smiled at her indulgently. “Very well, my lady,” he said, raising her hand, which he still held, to his lips. “Would you like to tell them?”

Lindomiel nodded quickly, her excitement clearly rising at the suggestion, and then turned to the family. “We are expecting our first child,” she said softly.

There was a moment of silence as everyone processed that momentous news before they rushed from their places to embrace Lindomiel and congratulate Thranduil. Dieneryn pulled both her son and Lindomiel into an embrace, leaving one arm around Lindomiel’s waist as she released them and using the other to caress her son’s cheek. Lindomiel was immediately surrounded by the ellyth in the family while Aradunnon put an arm around his brother’s shoulder and Engwe clasped his hand, looking at him with a very paternal air.

“Congratulations, Thranduil,” he said in a quiet, sincere voice, brimming with emotion. “I am so happy for you. So pleased that you will soon be a father.”

“So am I,” Aradunnon exclaimed. “I suppose that I am forced to admit that this news is an adequate excuse for arriving late to morning meal and behaving so ridiculously.”

Thranduil looked at Aradunnon sidelong with a playfully irate glare, causing his brother to laugh outright.

“Congratulations, muindor nin,” Aradunnon finally said, speaking now with complete sincerity. “I too am very happy for you and quite pleased with the idea that our children will grow up together.”

Thranduil shook his head, laughing quietly. “Thank you both,” he replied looking between them before focusing on his brother. “And I freely admit that I am ‘behaving ridiculously’ this morning. I am much more…I do not quite know how to describe it…excited, thrilled, incredibly happy but nervous as well. I cannot tear my thoughts from the baby and as I think about everything I will do with him or her…everything he or she must be taught…I find myself both greatly looking forward to it all and very daunted by the idea of being responsible for this new life.”

Aradunnon and Engwe nodded knowingly.

“I remember very well how delightful it was to see the world through Ninglor’s eyes as I explained or did new things with him,” Engwe said softly. “I cannot remember happier times in my life than those I spent teaching my son.”

“And it is no different the second time,” Aradunnon said. “I am just as impatient to see my second son as I was to see my first. Just as thrilled and scared and simply awestruck as I was when we were expecting Dolgailon. Parenthood is quite an adventure.”

Dolgailon laughed involuntarily at that. “Uncle, you are responsible for an entire kingdom. I am confident that you will manage one son or daughter well enough.”

Thranduil looked at Dolgailon with a rueful smile. “I hope you are right. But managing a kingdom suddenly seems very easy to me compared to raising a child. The kingdom’s needs are very specific—distribution of supplies, defense—concrete matters. I am responsible for helping to form the character of this child. That seems much more difficult.”

Engwe suddenly adopted his typical superior smirk. “I would not concern myself overmuch, Thranduil. After all, a good portion of a child’s character must be simply innate and beyond the influence of its parents. Look at how Dolgailon turned out. He is respectable, completely unlike his father.”

Aradunnon frowned good-naturedly at his uncle as Dolgailon, who was quite accustomed to this comparison, laughed lightly.

Thranduil smirked at them both and decided to avenge himself of some of his brother’s earlier teasing. “If that is true, it may work out for the best or the worst and again we can use Aradunnon as an example—I remember that Adar strove valiantly to raise Aradunnon properly and to this day he is still a complete rogue.”

Aradunnon raised his hand to silence them. “Enough from both of you,” he commanded firmly, shaking his head. He looked over at his son. “You can see plainly the joys of brotherhood. Be thankful you are the elder for that appears to be advantageous.”

All four ellyn laughed at that observation as they turned their attentions to Lindomiel and the ellyth fussing over her.

*~*~*

Morning meal lasted considerably longer than normal as the family enjoyed discussing the children that would soon bless their home. When everyone finally left the dining room to begin their day’s work, Dolgailon walked quietly with his father to the office they shared, thankful to be going to his regular duties rather than the king’s council meeting as he had the day before.

His mood became suddenly wistful as he realized he had just looked upon the work he did in the stronghold as his ‘regular duty.’ He missed his patrol, friends and home in the southern part of the realm and he felt several aspects of his new duties, including attending council meetings, were far more stressful than commanding a patrol in the southern forest. Nevertheless, throughout the winter he had been pleasantly surprised to find that he had enjoyed working with his father and Engwe more than he had expected he would. Learning about the management of the realm’s overall defense was interesting and made this ‘punishment’ much less painful than it might have been.

Dolgailon looked over at his father inquisitively as they walked. Aradunnon was studying him intently.

“Do you have something you wish to say, ada?” Dolgailon finally asked when his father did not speak. He expected his father was curious about his suddenly melancholy expression.

Aradunnon remained silent a moment longer. Then he looked away with an overly casual air. Dolgailon immediately tensed, recognizing his father’s intent to broach some personal topic. “I was simply curious how you came to ‘overhear’ the Gate Guards speaking with the king’s guards about the men. Especially if they arrived at first light. And why you were in a position to see Hallion speaking with them in the Great Hall,” Aradunnon replied.

Dolgailon frowned and then quickly adopted a neutral expression, no longer looking at his father. “I happened to be speaking to the captain’s son, Delethil, this morning while his father was dealing with the men,” he replied evasively, perfectly aware that his response answered none of his father’s questions.

Aradunnon looked over at Dolgailon. “Hmm, Delethil. He was a friend of yours when you were growing up here, I recall. Since his father Dollion and I are such good friends, I was always pleased you and Delethil grew close. But I wonder how you came to be speaking to him at first light. It seems an odd time for conversations. And you must have been speaking by the Gate if you later passed by the Great Hall to see Hallion with the men.”

Dolgailon raised his eyebrows and looked challengingly at his father. “I am over five hundred years old, adar. I believe my affairs are my own to manage and you have allowed me outside after dark unsupervised since I was forty.”

Aradunnon nodded and shrugged. Dolgailon could see that his father had not expected to be able to draw him into the conversation he wanted to have so easily. He knew it often annoyed his father that he so closely resembled his uncle. In addition to their fundamentally serious natures, Thranduil and Dolgailon were both extremely private people, guarding the secrets of their hearts very closely. But Aradunnon clearly intended to discuss something with his son regardless, for he now chose to pursue a more direct route.

“Of course your affairs are your own, Dolgailon.” He paused and continued in a quiet voice. “However young members of the Path Guard like Delethil are not the only elves who enjoy the games, drinking and company of maidens by the Oak.”

Dolgailon looked at his father sharply.

“I have been known to enjoy them myself. So does your naneth. However, your uncle strongly disapproves of the activities that go on there. You may wish to consider that.” He paused again for emphasis. “You may also wish to consider how Crithad would react if he found his daughter there. That particular gathering of elves has a very bad reputation and Crithad is a fairly conservative elf. Much like your uncle.”

Now just outside the office, Dolgailon stopped and caught his father’s sleeve, preventing him from entering the office where his assistant would be awaiting them. “May I ask how you heard that I was at the Oak last night? Have you or uncle set spies on me?” he asked with an angry and clearly embarrassed tone.

Aradunnon laughed. “Not at all, ion nin. I was there myself with your naneth. Though we did not stay nearly as late as you apparently did if you and Delethil were near the Gates when the men arrived at first light.”

Dolgailon’s jaw dropped slightly and he stared silently at his father.

Aradunnon turned and strode into the office with a grin on his face. Dolgailon followed silently. Nodding to the assistant as he pursued his father to the inner office rather than going to his own desk. Aradunnon looked at his son with amusement as he closed the office door. “Of course you were far too…occupied with Arthiel to notice your parent’s presence,” he added.

Dolgailon felt his face burning.

Aradunnon finally took pity and addressed the point of the conversation. “Surely you have heard enough about my past to know that I do not disapprove of anything I might have seen you doing last night. On the contrary, unlike your uncle, I wholeheartedly approve of a few evenings spent in the company of a lovely maiden or the elves at the Oak. The games there can be a bit raucous, but it is still honest fun.” He paused and spoke in a more serious voice. “Just do not forget who you are when you are there.”

Dolgailon laughed wryly in response. “You are the orc calling the spider evil, ada. Of all the members of this family that might bring embarrassment to our House, I am the least of uncle’s worries. I do not think I could achieve the same reputation you have earned with those elves if I dedicated every night for the rest of my life to gaming and drinking and…other activities at the Oak.”

Aradunnon laughed blithely. “You are certainly correct, ion nin. I have never seen you there, however, and I thought it my duty to say something. But in truth, Dolgailon, your naneth and I are sincerely pleased to see you having a little fun during your stay in the capital. It is healthy. We very much enjoy seeing our son as happy as we saw you last night.” He paused and looked carefully at Dolgailon, obviously preparing to push further into his son’s personal life than he was welcome. “And Arthiel is a fine maiden, Dolgailon. Crithad’s family is one I greatly respect. I truly approve of your choice, ion nin,” he said in a serious tone.

Dolgailon looked down, brow furrowed, and sighed softly. “I have made no choice, ada. I care for Arthiel. And she cares for me. But we have discussed my duties and the life she would be brought into. Neither of us are certain that we wish for our relationship to develop further.”

Aradunnon’s eyes widened as laughed lightly. “Then what was she doing in your arms all evening last night, ion nin?”

Dolgailon drew a deep breath, pressed his lips together and looked away. “I have done nothing improper with Arthiel, ada,” he said firmly.

Adradunnon shook his head and smiled. “I do not doubt that, Dolgailon. I was only teasing you.” Then he sobered and looked intensely at his son. “You are the king’s nephew and you owe your service to this realm. You do not owe your entire life to this realm. If you love Arthiel, do not think that it is impossible to serve the realm and have a wife as well. I suffered under that same delusion for nearly a millennium and almost drove your naneth from me because of it. I would not want to see my son make the same mistake if I can prevent it. That is all I will say, ion nin. I know you are capable of managing your own life but I am your adar and sometimes I cannot restrain myself from offering advice.”

Dolgailon looked at his father ruefully. “I value your advice, adar,” he said quietly. “I will think about it. And discuss it with Arthiel.” Then he laughed wryly. “And I will have to remember to look for you from now on when I allow her to drag me to the Oak—it was her idea to go there, I will have you know.”

Aradunnon’s eyes widened and he grinned at his son. “Then I approve of her all the more. And when you see me there, join me. We would make a formidable pair in the archery contests,” he suggested teasingly, eliciting fresh laughter from his son.

Their merriment was interrupted by a soft knock on the inner office door. It opened partially and Aradunnon’s assistant poked his head in with an apologetic expression. “Excuse me, my lords. A message just came from the king. He would like you both to join him in the Great Hall,” he said quietly.

Aradunnon nodded his acknowledgement and the assistant withdrew, leaving Dolgailon and his father looking at each other with concern. Dolgailon sighed and turned towards the door.

“I do not care for anymore confrontations with uncle for a very long time. I wonder why he wants to see us both,” the younger elf said in a tired voice.

Aradunnon snorted. “You made a good showing in yesterday’s council meeting, ion nin. I had planned on sending you in my place on a regular basis,” he replied.

Dolgailon closed his eyes briefly, a light smile on his lips at his father’s continued teasing. He was certain that threat could be nothing but a joke. “You would not dare and uncle would never allow it,” he protested weakly as they left the office.

Aradunnon smirked. “Thranduil would not care. Obviously arguing with you is not worse or better than arguing with me. So it would make no difference to him.”

Dolgailon looked at his father sidelong. “Nana would not allow it,” he countered with a quietly triumphant tone.

Aradunnon glanced at his son and laughed, draping an arm over his shoulder. “You may have me there. Of the three of us, your naneth has the least love for attending the king’s council meetings. She may not permit me to abuse our son so cruelly,” he quipped.

Dolgailon and Aradunnon walked the short distance from the troop commander’s office to the Great Hall and entered as the guards at the door announced them. Dolgailon’s expression remained outwardly unchanged but his mind began to race when he saw his uncle and Hallion were still meeting with the men. Along with his father, he seated himself at the table at the king’s invitation and tensed when the king focused on him with an openly displeased expression.

“It seems that Lord Fengel’s men have managed to arrest a group of villagers that they believe are those responsible for harboring the Easterlings. He requests that you and some other member of your patrol return to Dale to identify them,” the king said quietly in a voice all the family knew he used to conceal stronger emotions.

Dolgailon glanced at the men and then looked back at Thranduil, remaining silent. He remembered his uncle had not approved of his willingness to become involved in Mannish justice and he had no desire to gainsay the King in the presence of Men.

Thranduil scowled. “I do not intend to make a habit of interfering in the affairs of our neighboring kingdoms,” he began coolly. “But since we are already involved in this affair, as I have been reminded,” he said with a cool glare to the Men. They shifted uncomfortably and looked down. “I will allow you to go testify in Lord Fengel’s court. Along with your guard, Galudiron.” He paused and looked back at the men. “Lord Aradunnon and Lord Hallion will also go,” he added firmly.

*~*~*

Three days travel later found Dolgailon, Aradunnon and Hallion standing to the right of Lord Fengel where he sat on a raised dais in the Great Hall in Dale. He had greeted them warmly when they arrived the night before, had seen to their comfort generously and had seemed grimly anxious to address the issue at hand—the treason of his villagers. Dolgailon had formed a very positive impression of this Mannish lord during his last visit to Dale and he did not fully agree with his uncle’s reservations about his involvement in this proceeding. Identifying the men in the village was all Dolgailon was here to do and that seemed straightforward enough in his opinion.

Despite his belief that his uncle over estimated the potential for difficulties, Dolgailon could not deny that tension was quite high while they waited for the accused to be brought into the hall. But that was surely to be expected. After all, they were present to discuss charges of treason and that was no light matter in the court of any race. The young elf had listened with some surprise the night before their departure as Thranduil and Hallion had briefed him on what to expect of Mannish justice. The process amongst Men and Elves was largely the same. But when Thranduil began to explain the possible outcomes, Dolgailon had not been able to conceal his shock that the accused would be executed if convicted, nor his utter horror when Thranduil described as delicately as possible how they would likely be executed. Given the circumstances, Dolgailon thought the atmosphere in the room was quite understandable.

Understandable or not, the four body guards that had accompanied them on this visit had pointedly refused to remain in the back of the room with their Mannish counterparts as they had during Dolgailon’s last visit. Instead, after openly inspecting every exit from the Hall, they none too subtly surrounded their charges at the foot of the dais. Dolgailon could plainly read that his father’s guard, Colloth, and his own, Galudiron, were most uncomfortable with the fact that two fully armed Mannish guards stood at every exit. In response to his guard’s reactions, which long years of experience had taught him to trust, Dolgailon also automatically evaluated the avenues of escape from the room.

As he studied the room, Dolgailon looked at the other men present in Fengel’s court. The steward he had met when he last came to Dale. He stood, arms crossed on his chest and brow puckered, behind his lord on the dais with two other men that Dolgailon assumed were also advisors. He thought he remembered seeing one in the Great Hall negotiating with Thranduil once. While Fengel’s dealings with the elves were warm, many of the other men seemed much more reserved. The advisors had studied the Elves momentarily when they entered the Hall and had kept their eyes on the floor since. Dolgailon reluctantly admitted to himself that one of his uncle’s concerns—that some men would not trust the elves’ involvement in their affairs or might even resent it—appeared to be true. As he thought about that, he realized he should not be too surprised. After all, he knew men were not completely welcome or trusted in his uncle’s kingdom either.

Finally, a side door opened and a group of ragged Men were brought into the Hall. Their guards brought them to stand opposite the elves at the foot of the dais. There they were made to kneel before Lord Fengel. Dolgailon’s eyes narrowed slightly as one of the men, who he recognized as the leader of the village, glared at him. He could feel the hatred in the man’s gaze.

“You have been accused of treason,” Fengel’s steward began. “Of treating with the sworn enemies of our Lord and harboring them in your village. Today we will hear the witnesses against you and Lord Fengel will decide your fates.” The steward then looked at Dolgailon coolly. “Are these the men who you saw hiding Wainriders in their village, my lord?”

Dolgailon studied each of the men carefully. Knowing that they might be executed at his word, he did not wish to include any of them in his statement unless he was certain that he remembered seeing them in the village actively fighting with the men that had attacked the Elvish village. He saw Galudiron looking at them carefully as well. Finally he turned to Fengel.

“This is not all of them, my lord. Two that I remember are not present. But every man here did fight to protect the Easterlings that we pursued to their village,” he said.

The men began to protest but Fengel’s steward spoke over them, looking at Galudiron. “What say you?”

Galudiron nodded. “These are the men we saw fighting to protect the Easterlings that attacked our village,” he replied in accented but perfectly clear Westron.

Fengel’s eyes had already narrowed and the men looked at him pleadingly.

“Please, my lord,” the one that had glared at Dolgailon said in a wheedling tone. “Are we not to be allowed to speak in our defense?”

Fengel gazed at them a moment. Then, looking down at them coldly, he spoke in a soft voice that reminded Dolgailon of Thranduil at his most furious. “Speak,” he said simply.

The man looked over at the elves. “Surely these are not the only witnesses against us, my lord? Elves?” he said derisively. “They are not your subjects. They have taken no oath to you. They are lying and there is no reason for them not to for they are not bound to you in any way. I swear to you, on my life, none of these men with me have ever broken their oaths to live within our laws nor have I broken my oath of fealty to you.”

Fengel nodded slowly. “Your life is indeed at issue here,” he said coolly and then continued in a sterner voice. “Lord Dolgailon is the Elvenking’s nephew, a lord in his court and a commander in his army. He is an allied lord in our land. I do not need an oath from my peer to trust his word. His station and actions over the course of the five hundred years of his life guarantee his honor.” Fengel looked at the men scornfully. “And what reason does he have to falsely accuse random men of treason?”

The hateful look returned to the man’s eyes as he glanced at Dolgailon. “Those two elves lie to cover their own misdeeds. They attacked our village and killed our people—your subjects, my lord—and now they are claiming they killed Easterlings to escape your vengeance.”

Dogailon’s eyes narrowed at the man momentarily before he looked to Fengel for leave to speak. At the same time, Fengel’s steward took a step forward and placed a hand on his lord’s shoulder. Ignoring him, Fengel nodded his permission to Dolgailon.

“You know already, Lord Fengel, that we did indeed pursue Easterlings that attacked one of our villages to this man’s village where we did fight them—but only when this man refused to turn them over to us.”

“That is a lie,” the man blurted, not waiting for Fengel to acknowledge his right to speak. “The men they attacked were not Easterlings. They were men of our village, my lord. They had gone to the Elves to trade with them, were attacked in the elven village and fled back to me for protection.”

Dolgailon opened his mouth to respond to that but Fengel spoke first.

“Who authorized trade between you and your Elvish neighbors? Not I,” he demanded.

The man put his hands together in an imploring manner. “My lord, we often engage in minor trade with the neighboring Elvish villages. I willingly confess to that and I am solely responsible for allowing it. I take responsibility for my village’s actions in that disobedience. But that was our only transgression when we were met with the Elvenking’s harsh justice for violating his borders and breaking our trade agreements. I swear, my lord. Our people were only trading with the Elvish village when this elf and his warriors attacked them, pursued them to our village and killed them.”

The steward leaned forward and whispered into Fengel’s ear. His words were clearly not intended for all to hear, but Elven hearing did not misplace them. “You see, my lord. I told you. I will not argue with you that this was a mistake, if you prefer to believe that, but…”

Dolgailon’s brow furrowed and he watched his father and the guards shift uncomfortably. These lies and their potential consequences if they were believed were a perfect example of Thranduil’s beliefs regarding the unpredictability of Mannish justice. Hearing the accused’s lie angered Dolgailon but did not surprise him. A man guilty of treason and facing death would say anything if it might save his life. But hearing the steward’s whispered accusations was both infuriating and worrisome, for his word presumably carried weight with the Lord of Dale. Dolgailon saw Hallion draw a breath to speak but he was not yet ready to turn this argument over to his uncle’s steward. He took a step forward and forestalled Hallion’s intervention, looking between the man and Fengel’s steward.

“If your villagers come into the Elvenking’s forest to trade at the point of a sword or an arrow; if they come and kill elves as part of their trade missions; if they come bearing the tokens of the Wainriders but are, despite that, simple villagers, then I will admit that I made a misjudgment and I will leave it to my King to determine if he would permit this manner of trade to continue. Is that indeed how you conduct trade? For I can bring an entire village of elves here to testify that Easterlings threatened them with weapons and killed a guard. I can bring my entire patrol here to testify we chased those Easterlings to your village where you refused to turn them over to us, ” he retorted heatedly.

Fengel waved both his steward and Dolgailon silent, focusing on the men. “So you are claiming that the Elvenking’s warriors attacked your villagers, either mistakenly, believing them to be Easterlings, or on purpose, knowing who they were, to stop unauthorized trade and protect their borders. And then the Elvenking sent Lord Dolgailon to me, to tell me lies and cover their actions. Lies that would result in the deaths of more of my people if I believe them. That is what you are suggesting?”

“Yes, my lord. That is what happened. I swear it. He wants us executed because that would eliminate the witnesses to his attack against your people,” the man answered.

Dolgailon drew a breath to speak, but obeyed Fengel’s signal to remain silent with obvious reluctance. Fengel was focused intently on the men.

“I want to be clear—the men that the Elvenking’s warriors killed were your own men? Men sworn to you? Your allies?” Fengel asked again.

“Yes, my lord. They were. And your subjects, my lord,” he emphasized.

Fengel nodded and turned his head to speak to one of the advisors on the dais. That advisor hurried off as Fengel turned back to Dolgailon with one eyebrow raised. Dolgailon frowned, angered by the man’s insistence that he had wrongly accused the village and Fengel’s apparent willingness to consider that claim. Fengel, however, seemed unconcerned, even satisfied, by this turn of events. “So, Lord Dolgailon,” he said idly, “can you prove the men you killed were Easterlings?”

Dolgailon’s frown deepened. “As I already said, my lord, an entire village of elves can testify that men with dark hair and swarthy skin invaded their village, stole their supplies and attacked them, injuring many and killing a guard. They would also testify that I led a patrol out of the forest pursuing those men as they fled. My entire patrol will testify the same and that we killed those men in this man’s village where they were sheltering. These men were not your subjects, my lord, unless you are now admitting men from the east to your service.”

Fengel looked at the accused. “Must I hold you here while I ask the Elvenking to send an entire village and patrol to me? Or while I send someone to them to gather evidence? Do you really think I will truly find enough evidence to convince me that my peer is capable of such dishonorable acts? I do not believe that. If you confess to me, I will be much more merciful than if you continue to lie to me.”

The man shook his head. “My lord, there likely were Wainriders in the Elven village. We see them there often. And, knowing their nature, they may well have attacked their Elven allies. They may have even been in the same village my men were in, causing my men to be confused with theirs. I can bring you dozens of guards from many villages along our borders, not just my own, that will testify that they see Easterlings go into the Great Forest, my lord. And come out unscathed. A few have seen Easterlings and Elves speaking under the eaves of the forest. Even the guards from your cousin’s village will testify to that, my lord. I discussed it with him only a few months past. He was to bring it to your attention when you next meet. But, I swear, my lord, it was my men these elves pursued back to my village and it was my men they killed. Neither I nor anyone in my village is associated with Easterlings, my lord.”

Dolgailon glanced at Hallion and his father. If villagers could be found to bear witness to what the man had claimed, that meant either his words were true or he had a great many more allies than those charged with him now. In either case, that news was alarming.

Fengel simply shook his head and continued his questioning. “If you were so unjustly attacked by the Elvenking’s warriors, why have you not come to me for redress? Do you not trust my protection?”

“Your men did arrest us on our way to you, my lord. We were coming north…”

“You were perhaps four leagues north of your village and ten east of it when you were found. And it has been five months since Lord Dolgailon informed me of this attack. How could he come speak to me so much more quickly than you?”

“He has horses, I assume, my lord. We were on foot, traveling through the snows of winter. With women and children. And recovering from our injuries ourselves. And before we left, we had to attend to our dead.”

Fengel saw his aide returning and he turned narrowed eyes to the men. “Indeed. Women and children. And that is what makes this difficult for me. Tell me, are your wives and sons lying, oath-breaking traitors as you are? Must I execute women and children today as well?” he asked coldly as he took a ledger and a package wrapped in cloth from the aid. As the men’s eyes widened in response Fengel’s words, the Lord of Dale focused on Dolgailon. “How many men did you kill in the village, Lord Dolgailon?” he asked curtly.

Dolgailon’s brows drew together as he considered the question. He glanced at Galudiron. “I would say fifteen. We pursued seventeen from the forest, killed two before we reached the village and I am certain none escaped us. But I had no chance to count the dead. We withdrew from the village once the Easterlings were eliminated. We did not wish to continue fighting with your villagers.”

Galudiron nodded his agreement.

Fengel turned back to the men. “Would you agree? Did he kill fifteen of your villagers?”

“At least, my lord,” the man nodded.

Fengel’s eyes narrowed. “I am holding fourteen families from your village and a total of eighteen adult men.” He held open the ledger that the aide had brought him. “According to these records, the last time you paid the tribute due from your village, I received an amount due from twenty men. The last time I supplied your village I sent goods for fourteen families. And here you are before me—eighteen adult men, only two short of what I expected. Dolgailon’s warriors could not have killed too many of you yet he admits to killing fifteen and you agree.” Now Fengel allowed his anger to show in his eyes. “I sent my men to your village. They found the burned bodies of fifteen adult men. Exactly the number of Easterlings Lord Dolgailon said he killed. They found them in a pile at the edge of the village. This is how your bury your beloved dead?”

“The ground was frozen…” the man began weakly. For the first time, his voice wavered and he sounded nervous.

“The ground here had not frozen here when Lord Dolgailon came to speak to me but it had frozen further south?” Fengel interrupted scornfully. “And tell me, how did these come to be found amongst the burned bodies of your beloved dead?” Fengel flung open the cloth wrapped package, casting burnt leather and metal tokens on the floor in front of the men. They bore decorative markings characteristic of the Men from Rhûn.

The men on their knees looked up at Fengel fearfully. “Perhaps the bodies your men found were not those of our kin…” he began.

“Enough,” Fengel said, waving his hand to silence him. “I am no fool. I am aware of what occurs in my own realm. I have suspected you and your village of disloyalty for a very long time. I do not require the testimony of Elves—you have confessed to your crimes yourself. You said the men Lord Dolgailon attacked were your own. That you had to dispose of their bodies. You just said you burned them. The only bodies we found in your village were those of my enemies. And you just admitted to recognizing that these tokens are those of the enemy. You were not unaware of who these men were. These fifteen burned Easterlings are the men you have been calling your allies and family throughout these proceedings.”

He paused and stood, clearly ready to pronounce his judgment.

“Based on your own testimony, I find you guilty of consorting with the enemies of this realm. Because you have lied to me, I can only conclude that your dealings with these Easterlings were malicious; something you needed to keep hidden from me and not merely trade because you were hungry or deceived as to their identities. Therefore, I find no reason to offer you mercy. I sentence all of you men before me to death. Tomorrow at noon you will be publicly hung—and you may consider that a mercy for our laws allow me to do much worse. As for your womenfolk and children, I will withhold my judgment on them until I speak to them specifically.” He turned to the guards that stood to the side of the room. “Remove these men from my sight,” he ordered coldly.

The Elves and Mannish advisors watched silently as the men were pulled from the room. Some went quietly but most struggled, speaking over one another, begging Fengel to listen to them, claiming they had no knowledge of what their leader had done, pleading for mercy. Dolgailon looked at them and felt a mixture of disgust at their disloyalty and pity for their foolishness and for the fate they faced.

When they had been taken from the Hall, Hallion stepped forward, drawing Fengel’s eyes from the prisoners. “My lord, may I ask a boon of you?” he asked softly. His tone was very similar to the one he used to address Thranduil.

“What would you ask of me, Lord Hallion?” Fengel replied tiredly, returning to his seat.

“I would very much like to speak with these men before they die, in hopes that they might give us more information about the claim they made that the Easterlings have been seen in the Elvenking’s forest,” he replied.

Fengel frowned. “You do not believe him, do you?”

“I simply think it is wise to investigate such claims,” Hallion responded, looking at Fengel evenly.

Fengel smiled at him bitterly. “If my realm can be a target of the Easterlings’ attempts to stir dissent, why not yours, hmmm? My father always taught me to think of Elves as above such things.”

Hallion looked at Fengel sadly. “I have lived a very long time, Lord Fengel. I have come to believe that every being holds something so dear that they would do anything to obtain it…or protect it. That is true not only of Men and Dwarves but of Elves as well.”

Fengel lips drew together grimly. “Indeed, I recall my tutors teaching me something about jewels that you Elves left the Undying Lands to pursue.”

Hallion nodded once, a patient expression on his face that impressed Dolgailon. He did not think the old Sindarin Elf would like hearing any of his people likened to Fëanor. “I sincerely doubt that any Elf in the forest would be swayed by the promise of jewels. I do believe they might be betrayed by promises of aid or weapons to fight the Shadow in the south. Having heard what I did today, I am obligated to gather as much information about this possibility for my Lord as I might. I hope you will allow me to speak to those men before you carry out your sentence tomorrow.”

Fengel nodded automatically. “Of course I will, Lord Hallion. I appreciate the aid Lord Thranduil and Lord Dolgailon have given me in this matter. Anything I can do to help you prove or disprove these accusations, I am happy to do. I will, for example, call my cousin to visit me and discuss if he and his warriors have truly seen Easterlings near your borders. He lives in the old capital between the forest and the Celduin. If there are Easterlings there, I would like to know about it myself.”

“Indeed,” Hallion replied, looking at Fengel steadily. “As would I.”

*~*~*

News traveled swiftly in the Woodland Realm and tidings as joyous as the conception of the beloved king and queen’s first child were no exception. Indeed word of this blessed event swept through the forest as if borne on the spring breeze, inspiring celebrations in every village. Not long after the announcement was made, gifts, lovingly crafted, began to arrive at the stronghold—carved wooden toys, woven blankets, pillows embroidered with baby animals. Thranduil and Lindomiel were sincerely touched by the love that the people showed their child.

But not everyone received the news with gladness in their hearts.

Deep in the southern reaches of the realm, a slender figure sat alone on a cushioned chair outside the door of her cottage. It was a plain little patio, bereft of decorative bushes or pots with flowers or even plantings of herbs as the other cottages in the village were adorned. A soft light from a single torch illuminated her face and glinted off her raven hair. She was the only silent inhabitant of her village amidst the revelers celebrating the news that had reached them that day. No one was surprised by her aloofness. She rarely joined in any of the festivities.

The Silvan who did not know her well, and that was nearly everyone in the village, were not offended by her detachment. It was not their way to meddle in the affairs of their neighbors. But they did think her odd. She lived on the far southern edge of the little community in a cottage that was larger than anyone thought was strictly necessary since she lived alone without kin of any sort. She wore a plain gold ring, but on her left index finger, not her right, and all could read in her eyes that she was yet a maiden. She did have occasional visitors from other villages, but their company did not justify the need for such an elaborate home since they never stayed with her. She did not even make up for her indifference to her fellow elves with an abiding love for the trees or animals or arts. Indeed, she never took notice of the forest around and apparently practiced no profession. With no family or love of the forest holding her here, no one could fathom her reason to live in this dangerous region of the realm.

But she was quiet and caused no trouble. She asked for very little from the community and paid well for what she did take. She even cheerfully contributed gems and gold to purchase weapons for the village guards from the dwarves that passed on the Forest Road. Many of the guards were her friends. In exchange for those gifts, which contributed to everyone’s safety, the villagers did not begrudge her solitude if that was what she desired.

Tonight she watched the elves dancing and inventing songs to praise the king and queen with a bitter glare while her mind wandered through bygone days. Better days. Days before her fate was tied to the House of Oropher.

Sitting amongst the blossoming trees with the rest of her family, some distant and some close, Manarindë smiled. She was well pleased that her cousin, Celebrimbor, had invited her to accompany him to this gathering of powerful elf lords. Even if it did force her to suffer the primitive, woodland atmosphere in Celeborn’s home, situated near the shores of Lake Nenuial. The soothing sound of the water lapping on the rocks and the gentle breeze carrying the fragrant scent of the flowers only emphasized in her mind that they were half a day’s travel from the civilization of the city and court. But they had traveled here to discuss important matters with Celeborn at his invitation and she was thrilled to be party to the planning.

Manarindë looked enviously at Galadriel, seated under a flowering tree. Its drooping branches covered in large yellow blooms, rivaled the golden beauty of her hair. She sat silently as her husband talked of inconsequential things with his guests. Manarindë could not understand Galadriel. She was the daughter of the House of Finarfin, the most powerful elleth in all of Middle-Earth, and she had married this…moriquend. That had made absolutely no sense to Manarindë initially but now it seemed to demonstrate great foresight. Celeborn had arisen to a position of great influence since the loss of Beleriand. He was now a high-ranking Lord in Eriador and Galadriel was his consort. No doubt the power behind him, Manarindë thought. Marrying beneath herself had not turned out badly for Galadriel and no denying it, though Manarindë could not imagine herself ever being so desperate as to resort to such tactics herself.

Celeborn’s servants soon escorted another group of guests to the garden patio and Manarindë’s smile faded at the sight of them—Oropher and his brother Engwe along with Amdir and his brother Amglaur. She remembered them well and knew they were Celeborn’s kin and friends from the days of glory in Menegroth. She had no desire to be in their presence though she did draw some satisfaction from Oropher’s reaction to Celebrimbor.

The Sindarin lords halted upon seeing Celeborn’s other guests and stared between the Noldor and Celeborn with astonishment as the servants departed. Their shock quickly turned to anger and they eyed Celebrimbor and his party with open disgust. In response, Celebrimbor stood. Celeborn quickly rose to greet his cousins and forestall an immediate attack.

As Celeborn positioned himself between his Noldorin and Sindarin guests, Manarindë laughed inwardly at the absurd display. How these Sindar could continue thinking themselves so superior when they held no positions of authority at any level, she could not imagine. Yet here was Oropher, standing in Celeborn and Celebrimbor’s presence as if he still commanded respect when, in fact, he commanded nothing but a small household of mismatched refugees from Menegroth, half of whom were barely related to him and all of whom clung to him like leeches. And he was foolish enough to allow it. They were nothing more than a ragtag assembly of nobodies who, after 700 years, had not found anyone to entrust them with any position of responsibility—worse than cats rummaging through the trash in the city streets in her mind. He could not be here for the same reason Celebrimbor had been invited. She wondered, with some pleasure, if Oropher had finally come to his cousin Celeborn to beg for aid. After the way he had behaved towards her when she first arrived in Beleriand, she would be pleased to be witness to that event.

But Celeborn’s next words, an effort to encourage Oropher and Celebrimbor to take their seats, dispelled that hope.

“I invited you both here, at the request of the High King, because we all have common goals that the King feels would be best accomplished if we work together,” Celeborn stated, not missing the disdainful look that Oropher cast him.

“What could Celebrimbor Curufinion, grandson of Fëanor, and I possibly have in common?” Oropher asked derisively.

Celeborn sighed as Celebrimbor responded to Oropher’s tone by glaring at him with an intentionally patronizing smirk. Celeborn responded quickly, hoping to at least focus the argument that was certain to ensue on a worthwhile topic. “You both wish to move east,” he answered.

All the elves in both Oropher and Celebrimbor’s parties stared at each other for a moment before turning angrily to Celeborn. Celebrimbor began his protests first.

“I have already laid claim to the land west of the mountains. The High King has granted my petition to establish a settlement there…”

“The King granted you permission to settle there and asked you to come speak to me about it,” Celeborn interrupted firmly. “The purpose of this conversation is for me to inform you of the details of the High King’s decision on that matter.” He looked at Oropher. “But Oropher’s plans need not interfere with yours.”

Oropher scowled. “Indeed not. We will have the mountains to separate us. I informed Gil-galad that I am moving my household east of the mountains to join the Silvan living in the forest and plains there. Amdir intends to do the same.” Oropher looked back at Celeborn. “As I indicated in my letter to you on this subject, I had hoped to convince you to join us.” He glanced at Celebrimbor. “Please come. Do not allow yourself to be ensnared any further by the curse that hangs over the Noldor, cousin,” he concluded in a sincerely pleading voice.

Galadriel laughed quietly, but it was a bitter laugh. “I thought you advised my lord husband that he had already submitted himself to the curse of the Noldor by marrying me,” she said in a soft voice.

Oropher looked at her coldly. “Note that I did not invite you to accompany us,” he replied.

Celeborn’s mouth formed a hard line as Galadriel continued laughing. “I did notice that, Oropher,” he said dryly. “And you know very well what my reaction to such an invitation would be. But it so happens that my lady wife and I are also interested in moving east. When I discussed this with the High King, he asked Galadriel and I to take any elves interested in establishing a new realm,” he paused and looked at Celebrimbor, “including your followers, Celebrimbor, east to do so. He will help to provide the necessary supplies initially.” Celeborn paused and reached out to grasp Oropher’s shoulder with one hand and Amdir’s with the other. “I would truly value your support and that of your Houses. I would very much like for you to join us.”

The three Sindarin elves ignored the furious glares of Celebrimbor’s company as they prepared to object to this turn of events.

Oropher’s brows knit and he shook his head slightly, looking sadly at his cousin. “Celeborn, had you proposed this sooner, when we first lost Beleriand…if you were suggesting that we take the Sindar and establish a realm of our own…I would have followed you. I told you years ago that I would support you if you claimed the title of High King since Thingol’s descendant has chosen to serve the Noldor. But that is not what you plan with this venture. This will be a Noldorin settlement full of Gil-galad’s people and recognizing him as High King. That is precisely the environment I am trying to protect my family from. I cannot join you.”

Celeborn sighed, but did not appear surprised. He turned to Amdir. “What of you, mellon nin? Will you aid me with this settlement or are you also determined to go further east?”

Amdir smiled sadly. “I am glad to hear that you intend to move west of the mountains and will still be nearby, Celeborn. Leaving friends like you behind will be the most difficult part of this move. But no, I intend to go across the mountains with Oropher. We met the elves there and they were very welcoming of their long sundered kin. We immediately felt kinship with their way of life in the forests and the vales of the Great River. It is a lifestyle I sorely miss. I want to join them. I want my son to know a life amongst the trees as I did in Neldoreth.” He glanced at the Noldor behind Celeborn. “And I want him to live amongst his own people. The Silvan elves’ culture is much more closely related to ours than anything we experience here.”

Celebrimbor stepped forward, angrily interposing himself amongst the Sindarin elves. “And that is just as well, for I would not welcome your presence,” he said, looking disdainfully at Oropher and Amdir. Then he focused on Celeborn, eyes narrow and leaning forward aggressively. “I scouted this territory, Celeborn. I petitioned the King to settle it. I will decide who joins my people to live in it.”

Celeborn shook his head calmly. “You scouted it and the High King asked me to convey his appreciation to you. He has granted your petition to take your family to settle it.” He paused for emphasis. “And he has asked Galadriel and I to manage the settlement. The High King himself asked me to try to persuade Oropher and Amdir to remain west of the mountains. He will have the final say regarding who goes east and you will obey your King,” Celeborn said with finality. Then he turned back to Oropher, again ignoring Celebrimbor’s furious astonishment. “He values you, Oropher, even when you have refused to work with him. And you also Amdir. I cannot understand your attitude. Gil-galad is no Fëanor. He is a reasonable and just King. Elu Thingol welcomed some of the Noldor—including those of Gil-galad’s line—even after learning of their deeds in Alqualondë. Why can you not do the same and work with us? Why isolate yourself in the Wilderlands? Why can you not see that strength lies in working together?”

Before Oropher or Amdir could reply, another voice spoke from behind them. “To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass,’” it intoned solemnly, quoting the Doom of Námo Mandos laid upon the followers of Fëanor when they departed Valinor.

Celeborn, Oropher and Amdir turned to face Amglaur. Engwe stood beside him nodding gravely.

Celebrimbor snorted. “You still give credence to that? The people doomed by that curse have all long since met their fates,” he said contemptuously.

“Not all of them,” Galadriel said quietly. “I am not the only person in this company so cursed,” she said, looking amongst Celebrimbor’s people. “Oropher and Amdir are right to fear that curse for I have seen it fulfilled too many times now. Surely the fates of Nargothrond and Gondolin are proof of that.” She stood and joined her husband. “But I cannot hide myself in fear of that curse, Oropher. I still must act in the world with hope that in the long term my deeds can overcome that curse and benefit Arda. You must not hide from that curse either—your strength will be needed.” She paused and fixed him with a penetrating gaze. “ Celeborn and I wish to move east because we feel that evil is rising there. Something powerful enough to be one of Morgoth’s servants. Something that I foresee will threaten us all. Surely even you and I can find common ground fighting that evil.”

Oropher frowned at that, clearly troubled by her words. But he was set in his beliefs. “We may agree that the evils that Morgoth left in this world must be destroyed, but even so, I will not tie my fate to yours by uniting with you in any endeavor. We might one day fight the same enemy, but we will do so separately...”

“Then I pray our lack of unity will not be our downfall,” she interrupted softly.

He paused and frowned with frustration. “I firmly believe my ‘downfall’ would reach me sooner were I to tie my fate to yours.” He looked back at Celeborn. “Look at what happened to Elu Thingol. You pointed out that he allied himself with some of the Noldor. He did, indeed. And becoming involved with them, allowing himself to be seduced as they were by a Silmaril, his actions led to his own death and the downfall of his realm. I will not follow Elu Thingol’s example, Celeborn. The best course of action is to shun any contact with the Exiled and their way of life.” He grasped Celeborn with a hand on both his shoulders. “You will meet the same end as Elu Thingol if you continue to associate with these people. Do not fall into this trap, cousin,” he begged. Then he looked at Galadriel distrustfully. “And I do not believe that you go east solely to save the world from Morgoth’s minions. You go east for the same reason that brought you east from Valinor—to find a realm to rule as your own. Celebrimbor desires the same. That is obvious. You seek power and dominion. Well, may you find it, but never over me. I will not join you and I certainly will not serve you.”

Celeborn opened his mouth to counter Oropher’s accusation, but Celebrimbor pushed by him to stand directly in front of Oropher. “I would not take one such as you for a servant, Oropher. You are a coward and a fool. Only a coward would repeatedly refuse the positions the High King has offered you. I seek power and dominion? You say that as if it were an evil thing. Why should I—a descendant of kings—look upon all this open land and not desire a realm of my own? You make accusations against me because you lack the courage to fulfill the role you were born to yourself. You are a disgrace to your House.”

Oropher leaned into Celebrimbor’s face, his hands balled into fists, and spoke with a frighteningly calm voice. “I am not the fool, Celebrimbor. You are. Nor is it my House that is disgraced. Your adar’s people left Valinor inspired by a madman who sought his own glorification. He manipulated their unwillingness to serve the Valar in Aman and led them to horrific acts that the Valar cursed. Fleeing that doom, they betrayed their own allies and came back to Middle-Earth. Once here, they formed kingdoms in imitation of what they forsook, hoping to recreate paradise so that they might have dominion over it. The result of all these evil deeds was that their efforts failed utterly and everyone who became embroiled with them, including Elu Thingol, was destroyed.”

“Those are deeds of the ancient past, Oropher,” Celebrimbor retorted hotly.

Oropher sneered. “Only one as young as you would call those deeds ancient. It is not even a millennium later and you are repeating your adar’s mistakes. When I ‘accuse’ you of seeking a realm to rule as your own, I do so because you, like your daeradar, are seeking your own glory and riches. That, in my mind, is indeed evil, Celebrimbor. Your people misunderstand the nature of leadership. When you seek power, that power is an end in itself—your ultimate goal. But positions of ‘power,’ as you see them, are positions of service. A ruler serves his people, he does not seek dominion over them as you do. I do not suffer from the same delusions nor will I be drawn into them. I have not accepted the positions that Gil-galad has offered me for one reason only: I will not serve the Noldor who slaughtered my kin in Alqualondë and who killed my king and kin in Menegroth and Sirion. Nor will I tie my fate to theirs. I would much rather join the Silvan.” He looked at Celeborn. “Mark the words of the Doom of Namo Mandos, Celeborn. They will haunt you if you take people such as Celebrimbor into your service. I will not entangle myself in that fate and I strongly recommend that you do not either. But the choice is yours.”


Such hypocrites, she thought. Oropher, his sons and all of their kin were nothing but the worst sort of frauds. Claiming he did not seek power! No sooner had they come east than the Silvan had ‘asked’ them to lead them. She was certain Oropher manipulated these pathetic beings to name him their King. That was why Oropher had journeyed here rather than taking a lesser position in Eregion. Only the Silvan would be so foolish and and she knew that all too well.

She was pulled from her thoughts of the distant past when she saw the movement of someone approaching her. It was one of the village guards. One of her few close friends. He sat on the ground near her, leaning against a tree.

“Well,” he said softly. “This news signals the end of our current plans, I think. We cannot touch her now.”

She turned to him sharply, brows drawn together and eyes narrowed. “I see no reason to alter our plans at all,” she snapped.

The guard’s eyes widened. “There is a child involved now. We cannot harm an innocent child by depriving it of its mother.”

Her frown deepened. “Is that not what Oropher, Thranduil and their ruinous reigns did to your child? His mother was driven to Aman by the grief brought down upon her when all her kin were killed fighting in that absurd war. How many other children suffered thusly? And for what? Look at the forest around you,” she said, sweeping her arm in a gesture that encompassed the twisted, decaying trees. “What is Thranduil doing to protect us? Nothing. He is having children in the safety of his idyllic little palace. It is not to be born! I know that you, of all people, see that.”

The guard looked away and remained silent. Those were the arguments that Manadhien had used for nearly two millennia to gain his loyalty and aid in her plans to remove Thranduil. In the years when the Shadow first began to spread, he heartily believed her words, as did many others. But words alone had not been enough to turn the majority of the populace, or even a significant portion of it, from their king. And recently, her arguments seemed much less convincing even to his ears in the face of her increasingly outrageous schemes. He found himself fearing what she would try next. Especially now.

*~*~*

Elleth/ellyth--Female elf/elves

Ellon/ellyn--Male elf/elves

Adar/ada--Father/dad

Naneth/nana--Mother/mum

ion nin--my son

muindor nin--my brother

mellon nin--my friend

AN: I apologize for the delay in posting this chapter. I seriously injured myself at work and I have not had the concentration to give a good final edit to this chapter--maybe I still don't but I didn't want to delay posting it any longer. Smile smiley face I hope I will be able to return to posting every weekend from here out.

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Bound by Fate
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19 Mar 2005
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19 Mar 2005
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