30. This is the House that Oropher Built
I think this may be the longest chapter yet (whew!). I apologize in advance if it drags a bit. It’s more plot-setting than anything else. Couple random points of interest: I re-read the Dwarves’ trek from Grimbeorn’s house to Thranduil’s halls in ‘The Hobbit.’ I think it took them roughly 2 weeks. I’m assuming our Elves pushed for a much faster clip, thereby cutting the journey’s time to about half that.
Things are still a bit moody, but hopefully not too dark.
CHARACTER LIST (ready?)
~ Eastern Scouting Party ~
Orimhedil- Rivendell Elf warrior
Barin- Dwarf from the Lonely Mountain
Glóin- Gimli’s dad
Glorfindel, Gimli, and Legolas
~ Mirkwood Elves of Importance ~
Othon- Archer with group under command of Legolas’ brother. Smitten with Mirkwood’s princess.
Daelir- Captain of Mirkwood’s archers. His party is part of Mirkwood’s border patrols.
~ The House of Oropher ~
Lhûn- Crown Prince of Mirkwood. Thranduil’s eldest son.
Calengaladh- Thranduil’s 2nd son. In command of group sent to fetch Legolas.
Mallos- Thranduil’s 3rd son. Also present in group sent to fetch Legolas.
Tuilë- Princess of Mirkwood, Thranduil’s 4th child. Equally smitten with the archer Othon.
Legolas- youngest child of Thranduil
Thranduil- The Elven-king himself. Ta-da!
Morning broke dull and weary as the eastern scouting party and their Wood-Elf companions bid Grimbeorn a gracious farewell. Thick mist lounged sullenly over the land, yet the group headed north towards the forest gate at a dead gallop.
Gimli and Barin, who had never ridden ponies, were completely miserable. Grimly they clung to the animals, pitching and sliding with every stride. How the beasts were controlled with reins—which were really nothing more than thin pieces of rope—was beyond Gimli.
And then there were the Mirkwood Elves, who rode with no reins whatsoever. They were showing off, of this Gimli was positive. He was also positive the newest song they delighted in singing was some mockery of Dwarven riding abilities. But, as it was sung in the Wood-Elves’ own peculiar Silvan dialect, he could make neither heads nor tails of it. Glorfindel would occasionally furrow his brow in suspicion, but even he could not decipher the words.
Gimli made up his mind never again would he ride a horse. ‘I would rather climb a tree,’ he thought, wincing as his teeth jarred together and gave him the beginnings of a headache. He felt as though he was being rattled to bits.
Thankfully, Glorfindel had enough sense to suggest the reins of Gimli and Barin’s ponies be tied to the tack of either his or Glóin’s steed. The elder Dwarf was a surprisingly competent rider, and actually seemed to enjoy riding. Then again, he did have previous experience with the sort.
On the dawn of the second day, the group reached the forest gate. Great, gnarled trees silently awaited their entrance. Eyeing the twisted boughs and vines of darkened ivy, which hung to the forest floor like leafy entrails, Gimli decided he liked Mirkwood even less than the forest outside Rivendell. And he had not even entered these woods yet.
Their journey down the winding Elf-path lasted four very nerve-wracking days. The forest was dim even at high noon, and blacker than pitch at night. The Mirkwood Elves, led by Calengaladh, appeared wholly unaffected by the gloom and muffled stillness. To the more astute observer, however, the Wood-Elves’ manner belied an intense alertness. While they did not jump at every black squirrel or immediately reach for their weapons at every strange noise (as did the Dwarves, Glorfindel, and Orimhedil), they nonetheless kept sharp observation on the surrounding woods.
The archer Othon and a second Elf were designated runners, disappearing down the narrow, meandering trail for prolonged periods and then returning to report their findings to Calengaladh. The Elves would occasionally shoot beasts that ventured too close to the path. This would have been fine except they—Calengaladh, Legolas, and Mallos in particular—gave no warning before their shots.
Glóin’s heart nearly stopped the first time Calengaladh spun and loosed an arrow directly over his head. Gimli and Barin were so shocked they forgot to hold on and fell from their ponies.
Calengaladh coolly stalked past them and yanked the arrow from the writhing spider, its legs curling into itself as it stiffened and died.
Legolas seemed to take special joy in attempting to shock Gimli from the seat of his pony. This ended when Glorfindel rather angrily asked if the spiders would actually attack them. Mallos admitted their large group was in little danger, thus ending any further spider slaying.
On noon of the fifth day, Calengaladh called the company to a halt. “We draw near the King’s halls,” he said. “The Dwarves may go no further.”
Lifting his head, he let out a sharp whistle. Gimli suddenly realized the birdsong he had heard over the past few days did not belong to the birds.
A large party of Wood-Elves materialized from the surrounding ashes and pines. Their bows and spears were held lax, though they regarded the Dwarves in suspicion.
“My lords.” Mirkwood’s captain Daelir bowed low before them. “A star shines on the hour of our meeting.” His silvery eyes widened slightly at the appearances of Legolas, Glorfindel, and Orimhedil.
Legolas sat up a little straighter and defiantly lifted his chin. Orimhedil flushed and attempted to smooth back his burnt locks. Glorfindel, deciding now as good a time as any to practice the calm patience he knew would be needed over the next few days, quietly met the captain’s gaze.
Daelir quickly averted his eyes at Calengaladh’s impatient cough. “My lords,” the wiry Elf repeated. “The Crown Prince awaits your arrival.”
“Where is the King?” Calengaladh demanded, immediately dispatching of any further formalities. Thranduil usually sent Lhûn upon errands outside his realm.
“Our scattered relations in the hills and mountains flee the Enemy. Many seek refuge in the King’s halls,” the captain replied, his dull tone suggesting he had explained this very thing to countless others. “His Majesty is personally overseeing the arrangements. He is expected to return later this evening.”
Legolas felt the uncomfortable tightening in his stomach relent, his anxiety over meeting Thranduil slightly eased. Of course it would be better to immediately get the whole ordeal over with, but none would hear him complain over a few extra hours of freedom.
“I shall lead the Dwarves towards the Lake-town settlement,” said Glorfindel. “When proper housing arrangements are finalized for Gimli, I will return.”
“The path is too dangerous to walk unescorted,” Mallos warned.
Legolas gently nudged his steed Mithlaf forward. “I shall guide them.” Knowing where the Dwarf was staying would be most… helpful.
Glorfindel started to narrow his eyes at the young Elf, then remembered his Vow of Calm. “Nay Legolas. I do not think that necessary.”
Gimli and the Dwarves rumbled in agreement. “Aye,” said Gimli. “I have no desire to be led anywhere by him.”
Legolas smoothly dismounted, wincing slightly at the stiffness in his newly healed leg. “Do you doubt my honor, Dwarf? You believe I would lead you astray?” His voice grew dangerously sweet. “I assure you I have no such intentions.”
Gimli emitted a derisive snort. “By my axe you do not.”
Legolas cocked his head to one side and raised an eyebrow. “Then you call me a liar?”
“No…” Gimli faltered. Confound that loathsome Elf.
“Ah, but you did. You specifically stated—“
“Peace, Legolas.” Calengaladh placed a restraining hand on his brother’s shoulder.
Mallos blinked. That was his job. He was supposed to be the peacemaker. He stared intently at his older brother. What was Calengaladh up to?
“I would have the healer clear your injuries,” Calengaladh said, addressing Legolas and ignoring Mallos’ piercing eyes. “I shall escort Glorfindel and the Naugrim.”
Glorfindel had the sneaking suspicion he had just been traded one evil for another. Unfortunately, he was not sure which was the lesser of the two. He sighed. Fortunately, several hundred years of Elladan and Elrohir had fine-tuned his coping abilities. ‘Desperate means call for desperate measures, I suppose.’
“I would make a request before we split ways.”
Calengaladh and Legolas both looked to Mallos, who merely shrugged. Thranduil’s dark-haired son could think of no reason to deny Glorfindel's wish.
“Speak, my Lord,” said Calengaladh.
Glorfindel furrowed his brow. “There have been several…indiscretions… over the course of our journey. I propose they be left on the trail, and that you speak no more of the matter.”
Legolas’ eyes darted furtively from Gimli to Glorfindel. “And what of the punishments?” He searched the Elf lord’s unreadable visage intently.
Glorfindel opened his hands and spread his fingers as though releasing an invisible dust. “Gone.” He frowned at both Legolas and Gimli, feeling a prick of sympathy for the rest of the Fellowship. “I deem your further travels together will be punishment enough.”
Legolas pursed his lips. The thought of Thranduil never knowing his son had nearly roasted the entire company, or that he had been shot with his own arrow by a Dwarf, was quite appeasing. Then again, so was the thought of Thranduil’s wrath over Gimli’s careless words…
“It is agreed, Lord Glorfindel.” Calengaladh inclined his head, acknowledging the Imladris captain.
Legolas’ anger flared. Who was Calengaladh to speak for him? He was perfectly capable of making his own decisions. He opened his mouth to protest, only to be silenced by Calengaladh’s increasingly tightened grip on his shoulder.
“Quiet.” Calengaladh leaned in closely as the Dwarves reluctantly agreed to Glorfindel’s proposal. “If Father does not know, it will be easier to repay the Dwarf. Adar will have no reason to suspect us, and thus we will not be watched.”
Mallos, having sidled next to his brothers, looked accusingly at Calengaladh. The faint gleam in his eyes, though, suggested he wasn’t entirely past watching the Dwarf squirm.
Glorfindel was not naïve. He was, however, marvelously adept at pretending to be. He did not miss the look exchanged between the three princes as they parted; nor did he miss Calengaladh’s fleeting yet smug grin.
‘Let them enjoy their perceived victory while they are able,’ he thought wryly. He hated being deceitful, but things must be halted before they progressed even further out of hand. Absently patting his stallion’s neck, the Captain of Imladris tried to recall the exact location of Thranduil’s study.
The others had promised to speak no word of the journey.
Glorfindel had not.
* * *
As Daelir predicted, Thranduil returned to his halls much later that evening. Cross and travel-weary, he wished to do nothing more than enjoy a warm meal and then retire to bed.
Refugees gave terrified accounts of the Enemy’s force: Wargs that disappeared into thin air, fanged black bats with bodies larger than an Elf’s fist, parties of orcs in areas there should be none. Even the spiders seemed more aggressive than usual, feeding on the expanding darkness.
The destruction to the forest outskirts had been devastating.
Thranduil closed his eyes, revisiting the tortured land. Mutilated carcasses: deer, squirrel, bird, were strewn carelessly about the wood in macabre decoration. Their blood tainted the leaf-littered soil black.
The trees were screaming. Thick, sweet-smelling sap oozed from their deeply scored trunks. Despite the Elves’ best efforts—despite his best efforts—the trees could not be healed. The flora and fauna that had survived blackened and twisted together in vile masses. The strange leafy knots warded off sun, starlight, and even sound. No laments were sung in this mockery of a forest; the Elves’ voices were either swallowed in the murk or thrown back in eerie keys that made the skin crawl.
Thranduil was sickened. Sickened and furious.
Normally, his people could simply retreat further into themselves and await the darkness to pass, secluded within their strong halls and powerful magic. One or two strong pushes kept the foul darkness at bay. This was different. This darkness was not passing, but growing and spreading. It gave Thranduil the odd sensation his kingdom was slowly being strangled.
It had been gradually building for years, he knew. But only now, as it began to stir, did he recognize the full of its dangerous potentials. Dol Guldur had cast a depthless shadow over the land, far more powerful than those he felt now. And yet, this new threat could do more damage by the sheer number of its ranks alone.
‘New and Old Shadow,’ he thought. ‘Yet the New is controlled by the Old.’
It fairly reeked of Sauron.
He absently thanked Galion as the faithful butler placed a steaming bowl of soup in front of him and silently departed.
Any further musings were interrupted by a soft knock at the dining room door. The sound echoed loudly in the empty room. Thranduil sighed in irritation. “Enter.”
The door opened, and Lhûn bowed stiffly before his father. “My Lord.”
Thranduil acknowledged the other with a slight bob of his head. “Lhûn.”
Things had been awkward between them ever since Lhûn announced his desire to depart Middle-earth’s shores the previous week.
“Speak, my son. I am weary and will not be kept long.”
“Legolas has returned,” Lhûn began, noticing the immediate flash of relief in his father’s eyes. Thranduil’s spoon trembled ever-so-slightly in his hand. “I believe he is currently in the company of Calengaladh and Mallos.”
Wiping his mouth with a napkin, Thranduil grimaced. “I shall speak with him tomorrow. His conduct merits certain repercussions, and I have not the patience nor mindset to deal with the matter now.”
Lhûn nodded, deciding not to mention Legolas’ embarrassingly singed appearance. Besides, the youngster remained mum about how it all happened. Thranduil would undoubtedly get the tale out of him somehow.
“Have you anything else to report?”
“Lord Glorfindel awaits in your study, my Lord.”
Thranduil frowned. “How long has he been kept waiting?”
“He requested an audience immediately upon his arrival at dusk.”
Thranduil massaged his temples in irritation. Pushing back his chair, the Elven-king crumpled the cloth napkin and stood. “Thank you, Lhûn. You are dismissed. I will see to Lord Glorfindel at once.”
‘Why has Glorfindel come to Mirkwood?’ he wondered, trying to ignore the nagging suspicion he would not like what the Imladris captain had to say.
* * *
Thranduil swept into his study with all the grace and regal bearing of the kings of old. Perhaps he was not of the Noldor, but Sindar bloodlines in no way diminished his power. It took him a few moments to realize the ragged, burnt Elf in front of him was the legendary Glorfindel.
Glorfindel bowed respectfully. “King Thranduil.”
Thranduil blinked, having caught himself staring. “Lord Glorfindel?”
The Captain of Imladris grimaced. “I apologize for my appearance.”
“This did not occur within my realm, I hope? What befell you?”
“Your son and a Dwarf,” Glorfindel replied. And with that, he launched headfirst into the journey that had been his personal nightmare for the past month.
One hour later, Thranduil was positive he was going to offer praise to the Valar for sparing Legolas, hug the young prince, and then personally send him to the Halls of Mandos. Maybe a Dwarf or two for good measure.
“It seems, my Lord, I owe you an apology.”
Still fuming over his son’s unacceptable behavior, Thranduil cast Glorfindel a puzzled glance. “An apology?”
Glorfindel grimaced as he nodded. “Yes, my Lord. All these years I thought you harsh for keeping Legolas in Mirkwood.”
“And?” Thranduil’s face darkened.
A wry smile graced the lips of the Imladris captain. “I now see you sought only to protect us from him.”
Thranduil chuckled. “He is rather…”
“—spirited?” Glorfindel suggested.
“You speak kindly,” Thranduil dryly replied. “I believe foolhardy and rash would better describe my son.” The Elven-king shook his head in exasperation. “Did you know Lhûn refuses to travel with him?”
Glorfindel privately thought Lhûn’s decision a wise one. He, too, had no intention of ever traveling with Legolas again.
“Still,” said Thranduil, correctly guessing Glorfindel’s line of thought, “such things come with youth. He will grow out of it, as did his siblings. In truth, it is his ridiculous stubborn streak that concerns me most.”
Glorfindel cast the king a sidelong glance, but decided Thranduil would not find the irony of his statement amusing.
“I thank you for returning my son safely to our lands.” The Elven-king’s gaze grew distant, but he shook himself, snapping back to the present. “I shall have him help construct new quarters for the refugees,” Thranduil continued, musing more so to himself than to Glorfindel. “And volunteers are always needed for the upkeep of the armory.”
First, however, the miscreant was going to send hand-written letters of apology to Glorfindel and Elrond. Elbereth only knew what the Noldor lords thought of Wood-Elves now. The elder Dwarf probably deserved some sort of reparation too. It appeared the senile creature saved Legolas’ life. And, as Thranduil recalled, the Dwarves had behaved themselves after the Battle of Five Armies.
After that, Legolas was going to sit through every single advisory council until he no longer resided in Thranduil’s realm. Without falling asleep.
‘Then perhaps I will consider letting him rejoin the patrols… in five hundred years’ time.’
Glorfindel remained silent. He had not intended to be the one to inform Thranduil of Legolas’ impending departure. The Elven-king’s wrath was like a whirlwind; completely unpredictable and capable of leveling everything in its path. Glorfindel had no desire to take the brunt of the storm.
Thranduil, who had always been particularly adept at gauging the moods around him, immediately noticed the other’s discomfort.
He paused and gazed thoughtfully at Glorfindel, as though sizing him up. “If you bear other news of importance, Lord Glorfindel, I would ask that you inform me of it.”
Glorfindel calmly met Thranduil’s sharp gaze. “I do not think it in my place to tell, my Lord.” He respectfully bowed his head. “But perhaps Legolas can better explain the matter.”
In the ensuing silence, Thranduil graciously filled two goblets of wine from a barrel stashed beside his desk. Glorfindel had the distinct impression Thranduil’s act was more out of the desire to control his temper than courtesy to his guest.
Handing Glorfindel one of the goblets, Thranduil twisted the second in his hand and stared unseeing at the flames dancing in the study’s fireplace. “I have heard, Lord Glorfindel, that Lord Elrond has chosen nine companions to journey south.”
He paused to take a sip of wine. It was then Glorfindel noticed Thranduil was gripping the glass stem so tightly his knuckles were white.
“Four Pheriannath,” said Thranduil, his face controlled and cold as stone. “Two men, the Istari Mithrandir, a Dwarf.”
He took another sip. “And an Elf.”
Glorfindel silently nodded, taking a sip from his own goblet. It was all he could do not to spit it back into the cup. It was the most disgusting vintage he had ever tasted in his life, and had the vague aftertaste of what he swore to be swamp water.
Thranduil stiffly set the wine glass atop his desk. Several drops sloshed over the rim and fell to the table, deep red slowly spreading and staining several parchments. Thranduil did not even notice.
“Legolas is needed here. Despite his moments of impudence, he is a skilled and capable warrior. Very few rival his prowess with the knife, and he is one of Mirkwood’s most gifted archers.”
“He is also needed elsewhere,” Glorfindel softly replied.
Thranduil’s jaw tightened. “Legolas is needed here,” he repeated, grey eyes flashing defiantly.
Glorfindel carefully set down his goblet next to Thranduil’s with a sigh. “My Lord, the decision has already been made. Legolas accepted the position.”
“Then it shall be un-made.” Thranduil’s fists clenched. “You will ride back to Imladris and inform Elrond he shall not have my son.”
“I cannot do that. He has already—“
“I FORBID IT!”
Thranduil’s roar echoed powerfully within the study. Candles and lamplight leapt fearfully as the Elven-king’s anger swept through the room like a stinging draft.
Glorfindel serenely waited until the last reverberation died away. He had faced Balrogs. Thranduil would not faze him. “I understand your concern—“
Thranduil’s eyes grew sharp as two chips of ice. “You cannot begin to ‘understand my concern!’ Tell me, Glorfindel, how many children have you lost over these long years? A wife? A father? A mother?”
“We have all lost someone dear to the heart, Thranduil. None have gone unscathed. You know this as well as I.”
“I know this more so than you,” snapped the king. “A father—my king, two children, and a wife have I lost thus far to this very enemy. Lhûn, my heir, will depart to the West shortly. He says he cannot bear another war.” Thranduil’s voice grew to little more than an acidic, bitter hiss. “Yet again the Enemy succeeds in tearing my family apart. And now you ask for Legolas? He is too young.” Thranduil folded his arms across his chest and glowered. “You cannot have him.”
“It is his youth that makes him so valuable,” Glorfindel replied. “A sapling will bend in the storm and spring upright once the gale has passed. Legolas’ youth will be his protection. He was meant to fulfill such a role—no other is so qualified.”
Thranduil laughed mirthlessly. “Of course my Noldor cousins would willingly send a Sindar prince to Mordor in sacrifice. And what a fine sacrifice Elrond Peredhil has chosen!”
“Legolas is not to be made a sacrifice.”
“Indeed?” Thranduil curled one lip in furious disdain. “Then why does our noble High Elf not send one of his own sons? Do not patronize me, Glorfindel. I am not so naïve as my youngest son to realize even if he does somehow survive this suicide quest, it will destroy him nonetheless. I would not see him so tainted by the darkness.”
“And yet,” Glorfindel softly remarked, “he has grown up under that very same shadow.”
Thranduil smiled a brittle smile and shook his head. “Nay, you are wrong. While he was born into Mirkwood’s dangers, he has never known true loss. He was very young when his mother died: it caused him grief but he never fully understood it. He has never known complete fear, Glorfindel. And he has never known utter despair. Middle-earth is still wondrous and new to my son. He does not see our twilight because for him it is still dawn.”
The Elven-king unleashed a furious glare upon the Elf lord. “And I will do everything in my power to keep it so.”
Glorfindel, not wishing to further provoke the volatile king, smiled sadly before bowing and turning to leave. “I do not doubt you will try, my Lord. I do not doubt you will try.”
Thranduil stood, cold and silent, until Glorfindel’s last footfalls no longer reached his ears. White-hot anger surged through him like a bolt of lightening.
He snatched his goblet and hurled it at the far wall with all the strength he could muster. It shattered, sending crimson rivulets of wine streaming to the floor.
The golden-haired Elf glowered. The timelessness of Elven life, which he had labored so carefully to preserve, lay shattered at his feet. Even worse, there was absolutely nothing he could do to mend it.
Feeling helpless, and enraged that he felt so, Thranduil angrily went in search of a broom.
He had lost too much already. Sauron would not conquer his kingdom. Sauron would not take his youngest son.
* * *
Mallos nervously plucked the string of his bow.
Calengaladh had returned at dusk, immediately calling for them to reconvene in one of the outer palace gardens. He had brought two burlap sacks with him and was fervently speaking to Legolas in hushed tones. Legolas appeared thoroughly impressed, while Calengaladh’s smug grin and gleaming eyes suggested nothing but trouble.
Mallos refused to listen to his brother’s plans, having discovered long ago the phrase “But I had no idea…” would successfully save his neck in almost any situation. However, someone did have to keep an eye on the two. And, as usual, Mallos found himself to be that someone.
This was not to say he wasn’t looking forward to witnessing whatever awaited the Dwarf.
Calengaladh had always been particularly gifted in the art of revenge. It was a talent he seldom used anymore, having sobered with age and the premature departure of his betrothed. Still, to witness his plans unfold was to witness a master. Though neither would admit it, both Legolas and Mallos envied their older brother. He could say and do what they did not dare. It was exhilarating, to a certain degree.
“We shall return in three hours’ time,” Calengaladh called, both he and Legolas poised to leap into the tree branches. “Will you be ready?”
Each brother threw a sack over his shoulder, and, Mallos noted, was armed with extra arrows and a pouch of bread and venison.
‘What could they possibly be up to?’ he mused, then quickly reminded himself he did not want to know.
* * *
Lhûn, Heir of Mirkwood and eldest living son of Thranduil, watched the river water as it rushed over the beech tree roots. The tall, golden-haired prince stood with his back to Thranduil’s halls, so silent and unmoving he might be mistaken for a beech sapling.
The Crown Prince resembled Thranduil in height and looks, though he had inherited his mother’s willowy frame—as did the rest of his siblings—and her clear, ashen-colored eyes. He was inclined to be serious and seemed to grow more so with each passing season; indeed, his siblings often made light of his morose attitude. Lhûn had seen much in the ways of darkness, though. Perhaps too much. He was stubborn and volatile as Thranduil, but was also given to thoughtful contemplation much as his brother Mallos.
Night blanketed the forest in her dark cloak, draping over and around the ashen tree trunks like velvet. ‘Then again,’ the crown prince thought somewhat cynically, ‘it is often dark within our realm.’
He removed the crown fashioned of berries and red leaves from his head with a sigh. The stars winked coldly from the sky as they pierced through the blackened night. Lhûn idly wondered if they appeared the same in Valinor.
“Is it true, my brother? Is it your intention to leave us?”
The golden-haired lord turned to the voice, finding the slender form of his sister gracefully picking her way over the tree roots.
He sighed again and toyed with the crown in his hands. “Tuilë, I am weary.” He spread his arms and gestured to the evening shadows. “I am weary of this darkness. I am weary of spiders and orcs. And I am weary of the endless battle to protect our land.”
The fair maiden pushed a plait of golden-brown hair over her shoulder and smiled sadly. “We are all weary, Lhûn.”
The two stood silently for a time, listening to the leaves’ midnight whispers and the occasional strain of song wafting from behind the palace doors.
“There is to be a war, Tuilë. It shall be unlike any Middle-earth has seen in ages.”
Mirkwood’s princess delicately trailed her fingers over the lichen-covered tree bark. She and Lhûn had always been particularly close. Mayhap it was because their deceased sister had been nearest Lhûn’s age. “So I have heard as much from those who fled the hills and mountains.” She eyed her brother resolutely. “I think it all the more reason you should remain. Mirkwood needs you more than ever.”
“Nay, I cannot face another war.” Lhûn lowered his head and closed his eyes, shoulders sagging. “Perhaps you think me a coward, but the thought of witnessing more loved ones fall… the destruction of the land we have fought so helplessly to preserve… I cannot bear it. Not again.”
“I do not doubt your courage.” Tuilë squeezed her brother’s arm in reassurance.
Lhûn absently nudged a pebble into the rushing waters with the toe of his boot.
“You miss her,” said Tuilë. “And she has patiently awaited your arrival in Elvenhome for decades.”
“Nimlasse is my wife,” Lhûn simply answered. He pushed aside the powerful yearning left by his wife’s absence and grinned somewhat cheekily at his sister. “Speaking of loved ones, where is that nervous archer of yours?” He chuckled at the blush that flamed across Tuilë’s pale cheeks.
Tuilë sniffed and tossed her head. “Ever since you made pretense of sharpening your spear blade in front of my door whilst he sought to visit me, he does not relish your presence.”
“Whatever for?” asked Lhûn, feigning great puzzlement.
Tuilë rolled her eyes. “My dear brother, I—“ She stopped abruptly and frowned, silver eyes narrowing at something in the distance.
“What is it?” Lhûn snapped his head around and reached for his long knife. He sensed no danger, but Tuilë always had been highly perceptive.
Her frown deepened. “There,” she murmured, pointing to three cloaked figures sneaking furtively to the wooden bridge. Two of them carried wriggling sacks.
Brother and sister pressed themselves against the beech trunks, midnight shadow and low branches concealing them from view.
“Why must I carry them?” one of the figures hissed, holding the shaking sack as far away from his body as possible.
Tuilë met Lhûn’s eyes.
“Because I am in charge,” responded the second sack-bearing figure. His sack was not wriggling nearly as much.
Lhûn rolled his eyes towards the heavens in exasperation. Tuilë pressed a hand to her forehead. “All hail the future Heir of Mirkwood,” she breathed, eliciting a sharp jab in the ribs from Lhûn.
The third figure froze at Tuilë’s muffled yelp. “Shhh! Did you not hear that?”
The cloaked figure that was Calengaladh snorted. "Mallos, if you are too frightened, then by all means turn back.”
Mallos gathered his cloak and squared his shoulders. “I am not,” he firmly stated. “Though I think this a terrible—“
“Yes, yes,” Legolas crossly interrupted. His sack was giving him quite a difficult time. “You think it a terrible idea. However, Calengaladh did not ask you to brood over our undertaking.”
“Mind your elders, Elfling,” came Mallos’ unnaturally sharp reply. “And you ought to be thankful at least one of us is thinking.”
Lhûn could almost hear Legolas scowl.
“Calengaladh?” Legolas gave his sack a deft punch as its inhabitants began to hiss threats at him. “How am I supposed to ride a horse with these creatures? Mithlaf will not let me near him.”
The tall figure of Calengaladh shrugged, cloak billowing out around his knees. “I am certain you will think of something, Ant es Sauron.”
The remaining squabble was lost to Lhûn and Tuilë, for the three brothers crossed the river and disappeared into the forest.
“Elbereth help us,” muttered Tuilë, shaking her golden-brown head. Calengaladh’s plots were usually carried out against Legolas. That the two had joined forces did not bode well for some unlucky victim.
“I do not even want to know of their intentions,” said Lhûn, unknowingly echoing Mallos’ earlier sentiments.
They turned back to Thranduil’s great halls, neither sibling noticing the fourth cloaked figure as it stealthily vanished into Mirkwood’s eaves.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.