4. A father knows better
“We have been searching for you since morning, Elrond,” he said with a worried frown, “Your bed had not been slept in last night and I was worried to death!”
“Glorfindel,” Elrond stifled a yawn, “I was out in the gardens, and then overslept. Is something the matter?”
The First Age hero smiled saying, “Nothing that I cannot handle. Even the royal couple have not yet emerged from Erestor’s chambers. But if you want, you are welcome to chair today’s meeting with the Sindar nobles. They were very depressed when they found out that there was nobody to pick a fight with.”
“I think I’d rather sleep than meet them,” Elrond admitted, “But I will join you in a few minutes. I don’t want to add to your work. Already between us, it will be tough to split Erestor’s work.”
“Are you all right?” Glorfindel asked more seriously.
“Fine,” Elrond smiled at him, “I had an excellent partner in my wanderings yesterday night.”
The reborn elf looked curious but seeing that Elrond did not want to name the person, he simply nodded and left.
Elrond got into his formal robes and made his way towards the barracks slowly.
“Lord Elrond,” a clear female voice hailed him from behind.
Elrond turned and watched a tall, beautiful young woman walk towards him with stately grace. There was nothing familiar about her to Elrond. But he realized that she was of noble blood, maybe one of those from the Havens. He seldom mixed with Círdan’s people and did not know most of them.
He bowed politely as she joined him. An expression of uncertainty flashed a moment in those blue eyes before she imitated Elrond’s gesture.
“Forgive me,” Elrond said politely, “But I don’t think I have had the honour of meeting you before in Lindon’s court.”
“I apologize,” the young woman said quickly, “I did not want to wait till an official introduction,” Elrond raised an eyebrow, the lady continued flustered, “I am Anoriel of Lothlórien. My father is the King Amdir.”
Elrond bowed again and kissed her hand formally, a strange feeling of shock shot through him, he let go hastily of her hand and looked up into the young woman’s twinkling eyes.
“I beg your pardon again, My Lord,” she smiled, “We share the blood of Melian the Maia. And it has some interesting properties.”
“So we are kin,” Elrond smiled back warmly, it felt enriching to know that he still had kin left on Middle-Earth, however distantly related, “I must say that King Oropher chose well.”
The young woman blushed before saying softly, “That is what I wanted to speak about. About the Prince. I barely know anything of him. Lord Celeborn asked me to approach you. He said you are a good friend of the Prince.”
Elrond offered his arm, “Let us walk together, my Lady and I shall try to answer whatever questions you may have concerning Thranduil.”
Anoriel took the proffered arm and said quietly, “I have heard that he is a great warrior.”
“He is,” Elrond agreed, “But tell me, how is it that you have never met him before?””
“My father,” Anoriel said sullenly, “rarely takes me to courts or festivities. I haven’t met half the nobles of his court.”
Elrond felt a pang of loss as he listened to Amdir’s protectiveness of his child. Not for the first time, he reflected on his parents’ desertion of two elflings.
“Even now, he insists that I meet the Prince only for the betrothal ceremony. I know he will have only my best interests at heart. King Oropher is a honourable person and his son will be certainly so. But,” the lady paused before facing Elrond, “I wish to know what he is really like.”
Elrond smiled, “I understand, my Lady. But I must admit that explaining the enigma that is Thranduil is not an easy task,” he drew a deep breath, “He is wise, valorous and handsome. Even we Noldor admit that he is all these.”
“I have heard that the Prince is close to his father,” Anoriel observed.
“Yes,” Elrond agreed, “they are very close. Oropher raised him all alone. Thranduil never crosses any of his father’s choices. But there is no need to, I guess. Even in matters of the heart, Oropher knows who will suit his son.”
“Lord Celeborn was saying that Oropher merely wanted Maia blood in his descendants,” Anoriel said quietly, “That the King loves pure and noble bloodlines.”
Elrond laughed, “Well, Thranduil himself is a crucible of many bloodlines; Falathrim, Sindar and Eldar, if your Sylvan and Maian blood too join, then the result will be entertaining. But my Lady, I’m sure that Oropher did not agree to this alliance because of your blood. He knows his son’s heart and will not play with it. He knows probably that you are meant to be Thranduil’s mate for ever.”
Anoriel smiled, “You lighten my heart, Lord Elrond.”
“If it would not displease your father over much, I can ask Thranduil to meet you here tonight,” Elrond offered knowing that the Lady was nervous about the marriage with an unknown elf, “ Do you attend the wedding festivities tonight?”
Anoriel beamed at Elrond, “That would be wonderful! I think I may be better after meeting this enigma. And no, I will not attend the festivities,” she leaned in closer to Elrond, “I left Lórien after Ada’s procession left. He does not know that I’m here. And I would rather that my first trip away from home be allowed to continue undisturbed.”
Elrond gaped, “You mean-?”
She giggled, “Yes, my Lord, I’m staying with Lady Celebrían, my friend. Only her parents know that I’m here.”
Elrond said disbelievingly, “All of Lindon will be here tonight. I think you should wear a hood tonight if you wish to evade detection. Come an hour after sunset. I shall wait with Thranduil near the summerhouse. You are one determined young woman! How many will escort you?”
“None, do I have to expect an ambush?,” she said smiling as Elrond shook his head again, “I will wear a green hood then, for you to recognize me.”
“Are you sure that all these recent developments have not touched your head?” a certain Sindar Prince was asking Elrond dubiously.
Elrond sighed, “All right, choose not to believe me, let your bride wait in vain there…alone,” he added maliciously watching with satisfaction as Thranduil’s eyebrows shot up.
“If Amdir knows he will murder me,” Thranduil groaned, “and how will I escape from the ceremony under Ada’s eye?”
“You need to relieve yourself exactly one hour after sunset. Drink lots of water,” Elrond supplied smirking.
“It is fine for you to talk when I am risking my skin,” Thranduil mumbled, “I am in a quandary. I cannot ignore her wish and I will be in trouble, big trouble if I go there.”
“Why did you agree to the alliance when you have not even seen her?” Elrond queried curiously.
“Ada saw her,” Thranduil shrugged, “I trust his choice.”
“And love?” Elrond persisted, “If she is not your true love then?”
“She can’t be,” Thranduil shrugged again, “I prefer male company.. But I am the Crown Prince. So I have to marry and raise heirs. As you should too. With the crown comes duty, Elrond and we cannot shirk it even it seems onerous. It is not the first political marriage to happen. I suppose in that light, it is wise for her and me to atleast try to like each other. We’ll be stuck together for eternity. Might as well as enjoy it.”
Elrond dressed in warm maroon velvet robes for the evening festivities. He and Glorfindel were in charge of escorting the guests to the pavilions. Wine flowed freely and the bards sung romantic ballads. There was much gaiety and splendour as the best of Middle-Earth turned up. Glorfindel was soon trading tavern stories with the dwarf contingent, leaving an irritated Elrond to escort an equally irritated Círdan to the pavilion.
Men came from the settlements near Eregion. Elrond had to put with Glorfindel’s laughter when the youngest daughter of their leader, Aldor, remarked loudly, “You must be very old, Lord Elrond!”
Gil-Galad arrived soon after arm in arm with his aunt, Galadriel. Elrond turned away hastily from her stare and faced the next royal guest.
“Lord Elrond!” King Amdir of Lórien bowed deeply. Next to him was Celeborn. The King of Lothlórien did not look like he knew that his best friend had smuggled out his only daugher under his very nose. Celeborn winked knowingly at Elrond.
Trying to remain composed, Elrond murmured, “King Amdir, Lord Celeborn,” he hastily led them to their seats before returning to his post thinking of how excellent an actor the Silver Tree was. Maybe, he reflected, it was necessary to survive in Galadriel’s company.
“The Noldor Herald is day dreaming?” The Sindar had arrived. A very pompous and fat noble was commenting about Elrond’s lapse in attention. Elrond tried to catch Glorfindel’s attention. He needed help here. But the Balrog Slayer was busy flirting with a she-dwarf.
Taking a deep breath, Elrond bowed to the Sindar nobles graciously, “Let me escort you to your seats.”
“And who will escort our King?” the nobles sneered.
Where was Glorfindel when you needed him? Elrond silently cursed the Balrog Slayer in Dwarvish.
“Allow me to escort your King,” Gil-Galad appeared suddenly at Elrond’s side taking charge of the tense situation from a relieved Elrond. Soon Oropher was escorted by Gil-Galad merrily as if they were life long friends. The Sindar nobles followed them leaving Elrond alone with Thranduil who whispered worriedly, “Do I look all right?”
Elrond turned to look at his friend who was wearing deep green silk robes that accentuated every curve on his body. His hair was left loose except for two restraining braids above his ears. He was wearing atleast one ring per finger. A faint scent of pine lingered on him. His green eyes were slightly apprehensive.
“Have you asked such a question ever before in your life?” Elrond asked teasingly, “You seem set out to impress.”
Thranduil fidgeted, “You are right. I feel nervous like I have never felt before. Maybe,” he shrugged, “it’s because I have never had an arranged meeting before. How do I look? I wanted to wear a colour other than green. But Ada wouldn’t let me!”
Elrond grinned, “I won’t forget this day, wait until I tell this to Glorfindel!” Seeing the look on Thranduil’s face he hastily added, “You look stunning, more than usual.”
“Thank you,” Thranduil muttered before stalking away to join his father.
Still smirking, Elrond made his way to Glorfindel who was frowning very visibly at him.
“Are you trying to get my attention?” he asked the Balrog Slayer.
“Yes,” Glorfindel said irritably, “Have been waiting for you to finish talking to that spoilt princeling. Gil wants you to go fetch Erestor from his chambers.”
“Why me?” Elrond had paled considerably at the mention of Erestor’s name. He had been trying hard to ignore the hollow feeling in his heart all day. But it returned with a vengeance on hearing Erestor’s name.
Glorfindel sighed sympathetically, “He was adamant about it. Wouldn’t do to cross him. You try to keep your emotions under check. Galadriel’s watching like a hawk.” True enough the Lady of the golden wood was scrutinizing them from her position near Gil-Galad, “Now go, they are waiting for him to arrive.”
He knocked on the door of Erestor’s chambers nervously shifting from one foot to the other.
“Elrond?” Erestor’s voice asked from the other side.
“Yes,” the door opened and a slightly nervous looking Erestor beckoned him in. He was wearing deep red robes that made him look handsome and mysterious at the same time.
“Gil wanted me to fetch you,” Elrond informed him.
Erestor nodded before saying quietly, “I think I’m ready for it. Shall we?”
Elrond offered his arm and they walked silently to the gardens. When they were nearing the pavilions, Erestor said softly, “Lady Galadriel has offered her daughter’s hand for you.”
Elrond replied, “Lord Celeborn suggested it to me in one of our recent meetings.”
Before Erestor could respond, the nobles parted way for them.
“Ah!” Círdan accosted them, “He’s here! Gil!”
Gil-Galad arrived beaming and offered his right arm to Erestor. Elrond watched with increasing nausea as the happy couple climbed the raised dais and kissed lovingly to the applause of the onlookers. The bells chimed merrily, and the couple opened the ball enthusiastically. Soon most of the elves were dancing and a few were crowding the food tables. The dwarves were concentrated near the ale flagons. The men were watching the splendour of the First Born.
Thranduil was dancing with the most beautiful young woman in the gathering. Elrond made his way through the dancing throng till he reached the Sindar Prince, who looked at his father surreptiously. Oropher was dancing with a pretty young woman. Thranduil hastily pressed a light kiss on his disappointed dance partner’s lips and joined Elrond. They made their way silently to the summerhouse. It was deserted.
Elrond settled himself at the base of a fountain while Thranduil paced nervously before him.
“Stop pacing! This is one thing that even I’m sure won’t impress her,” Elrond said soothingly.
Thranduil sighed, but joined him. After a few moments, a hooded figure glided slowly towards them. Thranduil stiffened. Elrond stood up and asked softly, “Who is it?”
The hood was thrown back and the fair features of Amdir’s daughter emerged. Thranduil stood up elegantly and bowed saying, “Thranduil, son of Oropher, at your service, My Lady.”
The lady blushed slightly but bowed to the two Lords saying, “Anoriel of Lothlórien.”
Elrond stepped between them saying, “I do not wish to be an obstacle now. My prince, I will be with Lord Glorfindel. My Lady, take due caution during your stay in Lindon and do not hesitate to seek me out if you need anything.”
Elrond joined the other revellers, Gil-Galad was dancing with Galadriel. Erestor approached Elrond saying, “Why are you not dancing?”
“Erestor!” Elrond tilted his head in acknowledgement, “Why are you not dancing?”
“I was, until now. Thranduil’s sudden absence has made all the women in a tizzy. Every elf is hunted for the dances,” Erestor smiled wryly, “Glorfindel is having a great time. So is Celeborn. They don’t mind the absence of Thranduil. Speaking of which,” Erestor paused thoughtfully, “Oropher was asking me about his son’s whereabouts.”
“Well,” Elrond said smoothly, “He must have found a dalliance. Come, Erestor, grace me with a dance.”
Erestor smiled and accepted the extended hand. Together they danced for almost an hour until an anxious Amdir halted the ministrels and asked the revellers, “Has anyone seen Prince Thranduil of Greenwood?”
The elves looked at each other. Elrond tried to smooth his features into neutrality. He hated Amdir for the interruption. He had been enjoying their dance and light conversation. Erestor made a wonderful dance partner. It was a pity that Gil-Galad preferred to cavort about with women.
“My son,” a haughty yet melodic voice drawled from behind Elrond, “is indisposed.”
Amdir frowned, several of the surrounding nobles exchanged meaningful smirks.
The marchwarden of the Golden wood whispered into Amdir’s ear, “He is certainly indulging in one of his clandestine activities.”
Oropher raised an eyebrow serenely.
“The Prince was in high spirits when he left, My lord Oropher!” Amdir retorted, “I demand to see him now!”
Several of the Noldor sniggered as the Sindar nobles fought amongst themselves, a group justifying Amdir and the rest opposing him.
“Why would you want to see my son now?” Oropher asked politely, “I say he’s indisposed and that means he is indisposed.”
Gil-Galad was hurriedly approaching the two Kings as the Dwarves and the Men watched the escalating argument excitedly.
Haldir spoke up, “Then we would not find your son in bed with an elf, dwarf or man if we were to search for him?”
The sudden outcry from the surrounding crowd made Haldir realize he had crossed the limits.
Gil-Galad swiftly spoke, “Let the ministrels continue with their singing. This can be continued in a more private setting.”
“No, My Lord,” Oropher’s eyes were blazing, “The good march warden of Lórien has insulted the Crown Prince of Greenwood before all of us. And he must answer for that.”
Amdir said harshly, “There is no insult, my Lord Oropher, when the words are true. Summon the Prince.”
Elrond spoke up hastily, “The Prince was not feeling himself. I conveyed him myself to his chambers.”
Amdir said curtly, “I will not listen to a Noldor peredhel’s words! I demand better explanation.”
Gil-Galad bristled but remained silent. Erestor gripped Elrond’s palm tightly in a gesture of comfort and solace. Elrond returned the gesture though he felt he should remind Amdir that he shared Anoriel’s heritage.
Oropher said mildly, “Cousin Amdir, you are free to search for my son. But I advise you not to. Because then you may have to apologized not only to my son, Lord Herald and me, but also to your entire court who are right now defending your words.”
Amdir’s eyes narrowed as he said angrily, “What do you mean?”
Elrond was now very carefully observing Oropher. There was an aura of smugness about the King which did not bode well for the King of Lórien.