Stories of Arda Home Page
About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search
swiss replica watches replica watches uk Replica Rolex DateJust Watches

Fire and Shadow  by daw the minstrel

I borrow characters and settings from Tolkien, but they are his, not mine. I gain only the enriched imaginative life that I assume he intended me to gain.

Many thanks to Nilmandra for beta reading this chapter. 


2.  A New Lieutenant

His leg hurt and something was on it that kept him from moving it.  A rock!  Yes, that was it.  A rock had fallen on his leg.  He had to get loose. He had to get to the cave, but he could not breathe. The fire was searing his lungs.  No, that was not right.  He was not in the cave, but he needed to get there.  He had to help them! He tried to reach toward his leg to push the rock away, but his lungs burned again.

“Leave the splint alone!” said Ithilden’s voice sharply, and strong hands grasped his wrists.

He had not known that Ithilden was on this mission and was relieved to realize he was here. Ithilden would take care of things, just as he always did. But why was he holding Legolas down? Surely he could see that they needed to get to the cave right away.  Legolas struggled to free his wrists, but the grip on them tightened.

“Wake up,” Ithilden commanded.  “You are dreaming again.”

Legolas’s eyes suddenly snapped into focus to find his oldest brother bending over him, with a firm hold on his wrists.  Just behind Ithilden, Legolas could see Sinnarn, looking alarmed.  Legolas looked from one to the other and suddenly realized that he was in his own bed. With his heart still pounding wildly, he collapsed back against the pillow and Ithilden released him.

Ithilden stood looking at him for a minute and then turned to Sinnarn.  “You need to go now. You have things you are supposed to be doing.  You may see him this evening.”

“Yes, Adar,” said Sinnarn meekly.

Legolas recognized the submissive tone.  Sinnarn was in some kind of trouble and was trying to keep from annoying Ithilden further.  He moved his left leg restlessly.  It was throbbing painfully.  The door opened, and he turned his head to see his nephew leave the room.  Ithilden settled into a chair next to his bed.  “What has Sinnarn done now?” he asked and realized only when he heard the croak in his voice that he was thirsty.

“Just what you know,” Ithilden said.  Legolas frowned and looked at the ceiling. What could Ithilden be talking about?  He seemed to think that Legolas already knew what Sinnarn had done, so Legolas concluded that whatever it was had happened when he and Sinnarn had been on patrol together, but he could not think of any such occurrence.

Ithilden stood and reached for a cup of water on the table next to the bed.  “You sound as if you could use this,” he said and helped Legolas to raise his head enough to drink.  “Are you hungry?” he asked, easing him back onto the pillow.  “I can send for food.”

Legolas thought for a moment.  “Perhaps,” he said doubtfully.  In truth, he felt too weak to crave for anything much, and the pain in his leg left little room for other physical sensations.  Ithilden went out into the hallway for a moment and then came back in and sat down again.

“Food is on its way,” he said and then smiled. “Adar will be sorry he missed your being awake.  Since you were brought home, his advisors have had to make do with me, but he finally had to meet with them this morning.  He will undoubtedly be back as soon as he can.”   He hesitated.  “He is worried because you do not seem to be sleeping well.”  He paused again.  “Do you want to talk about your dream?” he asked gently.

Legolas frowned at him, puzzled.  Had he been dreaming?  He could not remember.  “No,” he said cautiously.  “Adar is just doing what he always does.  You know that he fusses endlessly when one of us is hurt.”  Ithilden looked disappointed, but he did not press the matter.

Suddenly, Legolas remembered the conversation he had had with his father.  “Sinnarn was injured!” he cried.

Ithilden nodded but then hastened to reassure him.  “His burns have already healed.”

“I am sorry he was hurt,” Legolas told him.  “I feel as if it was my fault.”  At the moment, he could not quite remember what had happened with the dragon, but he did not want to admit that to his brother.  If Ithilden, or even worse, Thranduil, thought he was having memory problems, they would not let him out of bed much less back out on patrol.  Legolas did not relish the thought of being confined to his chamber.

“Based on what Eilian says, I think you could have used better judgment at the start,” said Ithilden, looking serious, “but you certainly should not blame yourself for what Sinnarn and Amdir did. My son can usually make quite enough trouble on his own, and when he is with Amdir, problems are almost bound to occur.  Of course, as your captain, Eilian will eventually decide if your offense is serious enough to require disciplining.” 

Legolas looked away at that piece of news.  Eilian might actually have to discipline him?  In his years as a warrior, Legolas had occasionally managed to annoy his captain enough to merit a sharp word or extra time doing clean up, but he had never been subjected to formal discipline.  What had he done?  In growing alarm, he realized that he could not recall anything at all about the mission he had just been on.

There was a knock on the door and a servant brought in a tray with a bowl of soup and some fruit.  Ithilden took it, put it on the table, and then helped Legolas to sit up.  Pain suddenly stabbed him in the side, surprising him enough that he gasped.  He held completely still for a moment, and it abated.

Ithilden eased him back against the headboard.  “Can you feed yourself?” he asked doubtfully.  “Or would you like me to help you?”

“I can do it,” Legolas scowled, and his brother moved the tray onto his lap.  He stared at the fruit for a moment and then decided that the soup might be easier to get down.  With determination, he grasped the spoon and began, a little shakily, to feed himself.  As he did so, he searched his mind, thinking about the snatches of conversation that he could recall.  He put the spoon down.  “What about Beliond?” he asked.

Ithilden made a face.  “He is still in the infirmary,” he admitted reluctantly.  “The healers have finally decided that he will recover, but in his case, it is going to take a little more time.  His arms were burned rather badly.”

Legolas was appalled by the news.  Beliond was the experienced warrior whom Thranduil had selected to serve as Legolas’s body guard when he first became a warrior.  Thranduil had appointed such guards for each of his sons, although Ithilden had reassigned his, a warrior named Nithron, as soon as he became troop commander and had the power to do so.  Then when Sinnarn had become a warrior, Thranduil and Ithilden had apparently agreed between them that Nithron would guard Thranduil’s grandson.  Legolas had fought with Beliond by his side for a number of years now and had developed much respect and no little affection for him.  News of Beliond’s injuries distressed him deeply, and again he felt a stab of guilt whose source he did not fully understand.

Ithilden was eying his face closely, and he shifted uncomfortably.  Ithilden was shrewd and had commanded warriors for many years.  It was very difficult to fool him.  Legolas lowered his eyes to the tray of food, willed his brother to talk about something else, and was pleasantly surprised when the Valar seemed to grant his wish.

“Did I ever tell you about how I first came to know Beliond?” Ithilden asked, leaning back in his chair.  Legolas shook his head.  “Your keeper was captain of the Southern Patrol when I was first assigned there,” Ithilden told him, rousing Legolas’s curiosity.  “And then, as now, the Dwarves were on the move.”  Despite all the time they had spent together, Beliond seldom talked about himself and Legolas knew little of his history. “I was about your age,” Ithilden added, smiling to himself.

“And Adar allowed you to be posted south?” Legolas asked in surprise.   For years, Legolas had wanted to go to the south and fight under Eilian’s command there, but his father and brothers had all made it clear that he would have to have a great deal more experience before they would allow it.  He was sometimes bothered by the fact that Eilian had joined the Southern Patrol when he was younger than Legolas was now.  Indeed by the time he was Legolas’s age, he had been the patrol’s captain.  Occasionally, Legolas wondered if he had somehow shown himself to be less capable than Eilian, but he had dismissed the thought, deciding that Eilian was simply very well suited to the unpredictable hunting the south required.  But if Ithilden too had been sent there young, perhaps there was something to his suspicion.  Of course, at the moment, he did feel somehow incompetent.  He simply did not know why.

Ithilden looked at him sharply.  “Things were not as bad there then as they are now,” he assured Legolas, “and even with that I think that Adar and Naneth had quite a disagreement when Adar decided to send me there, although I do not think he made the decision lightly.  He was commanding the troops himself then, you know.”

“I did not know that,” Legolas said. “Tell me about it.”  He was always eager for tales of the life of his family before he was born and particularly for those about his mother, who had been killed when he was small.

“If you eat, and then drink all of your medicine, I will,” Ithilden responded, and Legolas obediently lifted a spoonful of soup to his lips.



About 600 years before

Made wary by the tense voices of his parents within, Ithilden paused with his hand raised to knock on the slightly open door of his father’s office.   With a start, he realized that his mother and father were arguing, something they almost never did.

“He is too young,” Lorellin asserted heatedly.  “You ask too much of him!”

“I ask a great deal, it is true, but no more than he is capable of doing,” Thranduil said defensively.  “Moreover, you and I talked about this.  We agreed that, given who he is, he needs to get a wide view of all of the realm’s military operations, and also some experience of command.”

“But not yet!” Lorellin cried.  “He is already too serious.  It breaks my heart to see him with such heavy responsibility so soon.  Is he to have no youth at all?”

“I would leave him free from care if I could, Lorellin.  You know that I would.  But I have no choice.  I need his help.  Moreover, I trust him to stand up to whatever I ask of him. Ithilden is strong.  Surely you can see that.”

Shocked, Ithilden stood frozen in place.  They were talking about him, arguing about him.  What in Arda was this about?  Suddenly realizing that he was eavesdropping, he drew a deep breath and knocked on the door. There was a second’s silence and then his father called, “Come in.”

He walked self-consciously into the office, aware from the heat in his face that he was slightly flushed.  From where they stood near Thranduil’s desk, both of his parents turned to look at him.  “Good afternoon, Naneth. The guard said you wanted to see me, Adar,” he said, knowing that he sounded stiff.

Lorellin made a small sound and turned away, presumably so that Ithilden would not see the distress on her face.  Thranduil sighed.  “Yes, I did, iôn-nín.”  He caught his wife by the shoulders and kissed her brow.  “It will be all right, my love,” he murmured.  She leaned against him for a moment, and Ithilden felt as if he were intruding on a private scene.

Lorellin turned toward Ithilden.  “You heard us,” she declared flatly, and he nodded, heat rising into his face again at the idea that he had been listening at the door.  She drew near to smooth his tunic over his chest.  “Never doubt that I have every bit as much faith in you as your adar does, Ithilden.  My fear is not that you will fail to live up to our expectations, but that you will expect too much from yourself and leave no room in your life for play or for joy.  You are a Wood-elf, not simply the son of their king.”

Ithilden bent to kiss her cheek.  “I will be fine, Naneth.  I know that you think I am too serious, but I am happy the way I am.”  She raised one eyebrow, and he protested, “Truly, I am.”  She smiled a little sadly and then left the room, closing the door quietly behind her.

With his face impassive, Thranduil sat behind his desk and motioned Ithilden into the chair in front of it.  “I have an assignment for you, Ithilden.”

Ithilden sat down and prepared to listen.  He was but newly returned from six months with the northern Border Patrol and had been uncertain of what his father might have in store for him next.  During the last two years, Thranduil had sent him to several different postings for only a few months each, and this was his first indication of what his next placement might be.

His father seemed to brace himself.  “I am sending you to the Southern Patrol, Ithilden. Moreover, I am appointing you as the patrol’s lieutenant.”

Ithilden blinked.  While the Southern Patrol was a dangerous posting, he was confident that he could do as well there as he had done in all his other assignments.  He was startled, however, by the news that Thranduil was promoting him to serve as one of the patrol’s officers.  With characteristic coolness, he reflected on the new responsibility for only a second before he nodded.  I can do that, he thought with a little rush of satisfaction.

Thranduil was watching him with a small smile on his face.  “I am sure you will do very well as an officer,” he said, as if he had read his son’s thoughts.

Ithilden smiled back at him.  “When do I leave?” he asked.

“Tomorrow,” Thranduil replied, startling Ithilden again.  His face was serious now. “In addition to news of your appointment, I have a dispatch for you to take to Beliond, but I want to talk with you about what the dispatch will contain.”  Thranduil picked up the jeweled dagger he used as a letter opener and began to toy with it.  “I have received a report that the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm are on the move.  Most of them are apparently fleeing north toward the Grey Mountains.”  He looked gravely at Ithilden.  “I say ‘fleeing’ because they are evidently frightened although I have not been able to learn what it is that has disturbed them.”

Ithilden could feel himself tensing slightly at Thranduil’s account.  What could have been terrifying enough to drive the Dwarves away from the rich mithril deposits in Khazad-dûm?  He considered for a moment and then looked up to see his father watching him expectantly.  “Do you think something has happened at Dol Guldur to frighten them?”

Thranduil leaned back in his chair, evidently pleased by Ithilden’s guess.  “I am indeed wondering if that is what has happened, and I am asking the Southern Patrol to scout closer to Dol Guldur than they usually do and see what they can find out.  You will not approach the place too nearly, mind,” Thranduil said warningly, “but even from a distance, it should be possible to determine if the feeling of the woods has changed.”

Ithilden nodded.  Thranduil’s people ordinarily stayed as far away from their former home as possible.  Even warriors did not draw near, and no one was certain just what evil thing dwelt there, although it was generally believed to be one of the Nazgûl.

“I have already sent word to Nithron that the two of you will be leaving in the morning,” Thranduil continued.  Ithilden nodded again.  His body guard would probably not be pleased that Ithilden was being sent into a dangerous area because that would make his job harder, but he would never hint at that in any way to the king.

Thranduil rose, indicating that their talk was at an end and drawing Ithilden to his feet too.  “I know you will have packing to do, so I will not keep you.”  For a moment, his face looked bleak, and Ithilden suddenly realized how difficult it must have been for Thranduil to decide to send him south.   He was his parents’ only child, and despite the high expectations that his father in particular had always set for him, they tended to be fiercely protective.  Indeed, Ithilden thought that his father did not always realize the contradiction involved in his demand that Ithilden stay safe but do well as a warrior.  He suspected that his mother understood the strain of his situation only too well and worried about it.

“I will not disappoint you, Adar,” Ithilden promised.  “You can trust me to do this and come home safely again.”

Thranduil sighed.  “Of course, I trust you.  Still, I ask you to take care, iôn-nín.  You are precious to both your naneth and me.”  He came around the desk to embrace his son, and for a moment, Ithilden allowed himself to take pleasure in his father’s obvious affection.  Then he drew away and placed his hand over his heart in formal salute.

“Go,” Thranduil said.  He smiled a little wryly.  “I believe I am expected to go and speak to your naneth now.”  Ithilden smiled back and then left to begin gathering his belongings.

At evening meal, they all studiously avoided talking about his new posting.  Clearly not wanting to burden him with her worries, his mother was determinedly cheerful, and at the end, his father raised her hand to his lips in gratitude.  The next morning, his parents came to see him off in what was obviously a painful moment for both of them.

“Take care of him,” Thranduil said to Nithron, who stood nearby waiting with their horses and gear.

“Yes, my lord. I always do,” Nithron answered stolidly.  He and Thranduil were old friends and had served together at Dagorlad.

“Be careful, iôn-nín,” Lorellin murmured as she embraced Ithilden.  She pulled away a little and gently patted his cheek.  “Remember to take all chances for joy,” she admonished.  He smiled, kissed her brow, and turned to mount his horse.  He raised his hand in farewell, and then he and Nithron began the long ride south.

Once they entered the deeper parts of the forest, they both took their bows in hand, ready for any trouble that might come, but they rode at an unhurried pace, for while Thranduil wanted the Southern Patrol to scout Dol Guldur, having it done a day sooner would make little difference.

“You will need to be careful around Beliond,” Nithron began, in a routine that was familiar to Ithilden.  Nithron was responsible for training him, as well as guarding him, and Ithilden was only too sure that he would have much advice to give about the new responsibility that Ithilden was assuming.  He tended to be a perfectionist, and took any opportunity he could to counsel Ithilden on how to improve his performance.  “Beliond dislikes training young warriors, and if he thinks you are not up to your duties as his lieutenant, he will have small use for you, no matter who you are.”

Ithilden bit his tongue to keep from replying to the suggestion that he would trade on his position as the king’s son to avoid criticism of poor work.  It was, after all, quite true that if he were not Thranduil’s son, he would not have been promoted so soon.  “I have much to learn about command,” he said evenly, “but I see no reason I cannot learn it.”

Nithron nodded and then launched into a description of what Ithilden could expect to find in the woods around Dol Guldur.  Despite his annoyance with his mentor, Ithilden paid close attention.  He was enough of a perfectionist himself that he would not pass up an opportunity to glean valuable information.

The ride took three days, and as they rode, the forest around them gradually darkened.  The trees began to murmur uneasily, the deer became scarcer, and while they saw no giant spiders, they saw the remnants of their webs and nests on several occasions.  Late on the third afternoon, they approached the Southern Patrol’s current camp site.  Both of them were alert for signs of the sentries that they knew would be there, but it was Ithilden who first noticed the Elf overhead.

“Mae govannen,” he called, and the sentry dropped lightly to the ground in front of them.

“Mae govannen, Ithilden,” he answered, and Ithilden recognized Suldur a warrior he had served with in a different patrol two years ago.  Suldur nodded to Nithron too.

“Where can we find Beliond?” Ithilden asked and the sentry pointed in the right direction.

“Are you joining us?” he asked.

“I am your new lieutenant,” Ithilden responded.

Suldur’s eyebrow went up.  “I welcome you indeed, then,” he said and gave a small smile.  “Beliond will be interested to hear that.”

Ithilden felt a moment’s trepidation and was grateful for the warning Nithron had given him. “I expect he will,” he said dryly, and then he and Nithron rode off in the direction Suldur had indicated.

They emerged from the trees into a small clearing.  About a dozen warriors were spread about the camp, some of them dozing and others gathered around the campfire, drinking tea and tending the rabbits that were roasting on a spit there.  They all turned to look curiously when Ithilden and Nithron appeared.  “Over there,” murmured Nithron under his breath, and Ithilden looked to see an older Elf who had stood and was obviously awaiting their approach.  “I will take care of the horse,” Nithron went on, and Ithilden nodded.  They both slid to the ground, and Nithron took their mounts in hand, leaving Ithilden to approach Beliond alone.

“Mae govannen, Captain,” he said, saluting respectfully and then handing his dispatches to the other Elf.

Beliond skimmed them quickly and then looked up with a completely shuttered face.  “Your first tour of duty as an officer?” he asked, and there was no mistaking the skepticism in his voice.

“Yes, Captain.”  Ithilden opted for saying as little as he could, believing that his actions would be the only thing to which Beliond was likely to attend in any case.  Beliond looked at him steadily and then shrugged.  He would wait to pass judgment.

“Do you know what is in these dispatches?” Beliond asked.  Ithilden nodded.  “Go and stow your gear and then come back to talk about what plans we might make,” the captain said.  “We might as well begin scouting tonight.”

Pleased that they would be in action quickly, Ithilden nodded and went to do as he had been told.  As he went, he scanned the warriors around him, recognizing at least two thirds of them from the many different postings he had had in the last two years.  Most of them called out or waved as he passed, and he returned the greetings, cataloging as he did so the strengths and weaknesses of these Elves.

He met Nithron coming back into the camp site from the place where the patrol members left their horses and took his gear from Nithron’s left shoulder.  The two of them dropped their belongings in a likely spot, and Ithilden paused only long enough to retrieve a second dagger from his pack and store it in his boot before he turned to go back to Beliond.

“You know many of my warriors,” Beliond observed, and Ithilden nodded.  He assumed that Beliond had been watching him as he made his way across the camp.  “Do you know Anilith?” Beliond asked. “He is new to the patrol.”

“I know him,” said Ithilden cautiously.  Anilith had been in his last year as a novice when Ithilden had started his novice training.  Ithilden’s memory of him was not particularly good.  Anilith and another novice had tampered with the spare bowstrings of the opposing team when the novices had engaged in their spring war games.  The novice masters had discovered the sabotage and reacted strongly, as well they might.  A warrior never interfered with the weapons of one of his companions; too many lives depended on the soundness of a bow or a sword.  The masters had demanded a confession and the other culprit had stepped forward but Anilith had not.  Every novice on the team had known who the guilty parties were, but no one had told the masters that Anilith too was involved.  The other novice had been kept back for a year, while Anilith had gone on to pledge his faith as a warrior that very spring.  Ithilden did not trust him. So far as he was concerned, Anilith was too likely to think of his own success rather than that of the whole patrol.

“I have been thinking about how to carry out this scouting mission,” Beliond went on, his eyes never leaving Ithilden’s face. “Would you recommend placing him in charge of one of the groups?”

Ithilden hesitated.  Anilith could have changed since his days as a novice and Ithilden did not want to discredit him with his captain.  On the other hand, if he had not changed, then the success of the mission should not rely on him.  “I would not,” he finally said, meeting Beliond’s gaze, but he offered no explanation.  If Beliond asked him for one, he would provide it, but he would not volunteer it.

Beliond’s face seemed to relax slightly, and to Ithilden’s satisfaction, there was a glint of what looked like the beginnings of approval in the captain’s face.



Legolas was growing extremely sleepy, but he laughed softly at this vision of the first meeting of his brother and his keeper.  “Beliond did not know what he was getting,” he declared loyally.  “You probably turned out to be the best lieutenant he ever had.”

Ithilden smiled oddly.  “Everyone makes mistakes, Legolas,” he said and rose to take the tray from Legolas’s lap and help him lie down again.  “I will tell you more about my mistakes another time,” he said.  “You need to sleep now.  If I let you overtire yourself, Adar will have my head.”

Legolas wanted to ask Ithilden what he was talking about, but he was far too tired.  He wondered if there had been some sort of sleeping draught in the medicine he had drunk a few minutes before and concluded that there probably had been, but he found he did not care.  The pain in his leg was lessening, and he was floating blissfully away.

<< Back

Next >>

Leave Review
Home     Search     Chapter List