Rawien and Galithon approached the mine slowly, the other eight remaining hidden as before. Silence fell over the area as all stopped to watch the approaching elves. Most had never seen an elf, and the presence of two elven warriors was both awe-inspiring and terrifying. Gerick was present in the camp, as promised, and came immediately forward to greet the two.
“Rawien of the Woodland Realm,” Gerick greeted him formally. “I am glad that you have returned so quickly.”
“Gerick son of Adros,” Rawien replied. “King Thranduil bade me to express his gratitude for the assistance you have provided us. We have followed the trail to a small village two days west of here. Two men of this village acted as guides for those we seek. The trail of your tracker ended at this village. Have you word of him?”
Gerick looked troubled. “We have not heard from him. I had hoped that he might be with you or that you had brought us word that the trail had gone an unexpected direction.”
“No, my friend,” Rawien said, saddened. “We fear, then, that he has fallen. When we arrived at this village, two men came from the hills, armed, and seeking us harm. They were the guides and are no more, as I am afraid may be the fate of your friend as well. I am sorry we cannot help you look for him, but we must continue our own search.”
Gerick bowed slightly, “I thank you for the information. We shall ride out at dawn and seek his fate, for he has family here.”
Rawien and Galithon bowed in return, “Our thanks for you help and assistance. It shall not be forgotten.”
The entire meeting lasted only a few minutes in the clearing near the mine entrance. The elves disappeared into the wooded hills and were gone from sight so quickly that several of the men wondered if they had vanished into the air. Those few who witnessed the meeting told of the tale for long years to come, and none doubted them, for the King of the Woodland Realm never forgot the sacrifice of the tracker and remembered his family.
Ban woke during that first night after he had sent his son and elvish captives off to meet an eastern trading party with heart racing and his breaths short. He was sweating despite the cool of the night air, and very thirsty. He left his bed and poured himself a cup of water, drinking it slowly. He had a strong feeling of trepidation, and an overwhelming sense of fear for his son Balak. Balak had ever been headstrong and prone to foolish errors; but for all that he had been a good son and was a fine woodsman. Ban sat back on his bed, and leaned against the wall. He knew his decision to send the elves further away was ill-considered and that his own pride was to blame. His son’s inane choices, and the lack of fear in the she-elf had pushed his own restraint beyond recall. He did fear the outcome. He did not know what he could do, though, and so he covered himself back up in his bed, and drowsed fitfully until morning.
Rawien and Galithon rejoined the remainder of their party in the hills, and shared what little information they had learned. They did fear that the tracker had been killed just outside that village. This knowledge was both sickening and disheartening: while the men they tracked did not seem overly intelligent, as evidenced by the clear trail they had left behind, they also did not fear to kill those who interfered with them. This made them slightly unpredictable, and an unpredictable foe was in some ways more dangerous than the most predictable of deadly known enemies.
The elves rejoined the trail as it passed now to the north and east of the guide’s village. They kept to the trail until well after dark, finally making camp in a small sheltered clearing. Ethiwen sat by herself, a little away from the fire and the company of her fellow warriors. It had been many years since she had ridden with a war party. She had not missed it, for she had the care of her two young elflings to see to, and the training of many of the novices had been delegated to her considerable skill. On this night, however, there was nowhere else she wished to be but on this trail. She felt her heart quicken at the thought of having her daughters back in her arms. Were she at home, even in the tender embrace of her husband, she would not be so content as she was lying under the stars in these untamed hills. It felt good to be doing something. She allowed her mind to wander to Urithral as she wondered how he was faring at home, waiting. She felt the touch of his mind, and did her best to soothe it, to reassure him that the hunt was progressing well. She then turned her mind to her children. Her link with them was strong, but had never been tested so far apart. She sensed them, but little of their well-being. She turned her thoughts to them, willing her love and light to them, and hoped it would strengthen and encourage them.
Ethiwen sensed the presence of another approaching her, and opened her eyes. Galithon approached her with a share of rations. She had forgotten about eating, and she smiled at him in greeting.
“Thank you, Galithon,” she said appreciatively, taking the offering.
“You are welcome,” Galithon replied, settling down easily next to her. “How do you fare this eve?”
Ethiwen paused, “I am thankful that I am here with all of you this eve, and not home wondering what might be happening,” she answered truthfully.
Galithon smiled wryly at her. “We need no incentive to seek those missing, but we are glad you are with us. I look forward to seeing your face the moment your daughters lay eyes upon the their mother.”
Ethiwen felt the tears gathering in her eyes, and looked quickly away and to the stars, willing the droplets to stay in her eyes. She felt a warm arm encircle her and she accepted the embrace, burying her face in the tunic of the warrior who had trained her centuries before.
“I did not come to make you cry, dear one,” Galithon whispered in her ear, stroking her hair tenderly. “I hope that the picture in your mind right now is that which I just described – the look on the faces of you beloved daughters when they first see you. Hold on to that, for you know that they are clinging to the picture of their mother that they carry in their minds.
Ethiwen did not reply, and indeed, no answer was expected. Galithon held her gently as she regained control of her breathing and she relaxed. He kissed her forehead and wiped the tears from her cheeks, and then returned to the fire and conversation of the others. Ethiwen laid herself down on her bedroll, and with that image of the faces of her daughters fixed in her mind, drifted into dreams of reunion.
Bregolas and Lathron sat on the balcony of Lathron’s room, sipping from goblets of wine and watching as the sun slowly set in the western sky. They had been sitting together without speaking for some minutes, the silence companionable in a manner that occurs between those very comfortable in the presence of the other.
As brothers Bregolas and Lathron were as different as any two could be. Bregolas was confident, aggressive and commanding. He had been raised as heir to his father’s throne, never doubting that he was capable and never questioning his right to the position. He had trained as a warrior, and fought in his youth against the Orcs and spiders that had long threatened the forest of Greenwood. His father had been well pleased with his performance as warrior, and began bringing Bregolas to court as a young elf, just past his coming of age. Thranduil his father trusted him to act on his behalf, and Bregolas flourished in the praise of his sire.
Lathron was quiet and soft spoken, listening far more than speaking. He seemed to sense the feelings and needs of others; the first to compliment an accomplishment, offer an encouragement, or lend a hand. He was tenderhearted, but not thin-skinned. It mattered not to him if others thought his brothers’ temperaments were more fitting to the House of Oropher; he sought not to compete with his brothers. He had always been close to his mother, the Queen Narawen, and it was she that encouraged him to the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. It was Narawen that he spoke to about the dreams and visions that visited him unexpectedly.
Both felt the loss of their mother deeply. Bregolas grieved openly, accepting the comfort that she was in the Halls of Mandos and they would be reunited in Valinor one day. He worried, though, for others in the family. It was Narawen that had softened their father, bringing light and love to the palace and the heart of the King. Thranduil suffered the loss of his wife with dignity, yet it was obvious to his children that his heart was broken. Lathron also felt that part of his heart was missing, and he did not know if he would feel whole again. His caring spirit was always seeking to the comfort of others, and Elenath and Elumeril benefited greatly from the love and care he poured into them. Yet Bregolas feared for him, for while he saw to the needs of others, he did not speak of his own feelings or needs.
“Our brother is nearly three weeks in this world,” Bregolas stated softly.
Lathron did not respond. His eyes were closed, and he sat perfectly still, as if listening to words spoken far away.
Bregolas watched him, taking another sip of his wine. He set the cup down, and turned to face Lathron. “Lathron,” he said gently.
Lathron still did not respond. Bregolas stood and walked the few feet to his brother’s chair, sinking gracefully to his knees next to him. He reached one hand out and touched his brothers hands, clasped loosely in his lap. Lathron shifted slightly, and then clasped Bregolas’ hand to him. His eyes opened, and he met Bregolas’ gaze solidly.
“He has the eyes of our mother, and favors her,” he whispered. “He is a content child, and he is loved. He has known naught but love since his birth.”
Bregolas started to draw back from Lathron, his eyes reflecting his concern over his brother’s words. Lathron clasped his hand tighter, holding him near.
“How do you know this? Is this what someone told you?” Bregolas questioned, thinking to comments that perhaps Ethiwen or Rawien had said. He had heard no description of the infant.
“I see him,” Lathron said slowly, “in dreams. Just glimpses of him.”
Bregolas was silent. He did not doubt his brother; he just did not know what to say.
“I feel such guilt, Bregolas,” Lathron sighed, his head down, no longer meeting Bregolas’ gaze.
“Guilt for what?” Bregolas questioned.
“I had a dream prior to Naneth leaving. We were meeting in Valinor, and I had not seen her for so long. She was beautiful still, and so full of joy,” Lathron explained. “She appeared then in my vision, with danger near, but she did not seek help from me. Perhaps if I had interpreted the dreams correctly I might have warned her. I did not understand.”
Bregolas was quiet for a moment. He spoke as gently as he could, but firmly, “Lathron, what happened is no more your fault than the setting of the sun this eve or it’s rising in the morn. Father blames himself for letting them go; Rawien believes he failed them for not foreseeing the events that happened; Urithral believes he should have suspected more than Orcs were present. I am sure if I put my mind to it, I can put some blame on myself too. The only ones to blame for the deaths of our mother and brother are the ones that killed them. The only ones to blame for the captivity of our infant brother and the ellyth are the ones who have taken them. We may yet learn from this and our knowledge may prevent a similar occurrence in the future, but our new knowledge was not purchased with carelessness.”
Lathron squeezed his brother’s hand tightly, his shoulders shaking silently. Bregolas wrapped his arms around his brother, and the two sat in the dark as Lathron’s tears rolled silently down his cheeks, dampening the tunic of his brother as he finally released his sorrow.
Below the balcony, standing silently in the garden that Narawen had so loved, Thranduil listened to the confessions and grief of his sons. His own tears flowed freely, as they had each day since he had beheld the bodies of his wife and son. He wondered if the ache in his heart would ever lessen. He wondered if he would ever behold his last child, the son he had just learned would favor the mother he would not meet in this world. Despite the words of his oldest son, he wondered if he would ever feel free of the guilt, for he knew that it was upon himself that the blame ultimately rested.
Ethiwen woke suddenly, her heart beating wildly. She had heard Eärundra cry out to her. She looked around quickly, and noted the others all still resting. Elunell was on watch, and came to her, concerned.
“Ethiwen?” she inquired softly.
Ethiwen looked around again, scanning the whole of the camp and the woods and hills around them. She looked at Elunell, who was watching her closely. “Did you hear a cry? The cry of a child?” she asked her.
Elunell shook her head. “No, it has been quiet. Perhaps you had a dream?”
Ethiwen lay back down, closing her eyes and calming her breathing. “ It was Eärundra. She called to me. She was scared,” she said finally.
Elunell did not answer. She seated herself next to Ethiwen, and pulled the blanket back over her. She leaned against the rock that Ethiwen lay next to, and settled herself to finish her watch. Ethiwen smiled her gratitude, and willed herself back into rest.
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.