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Chapter 1: Children of Dark Times
Third Age 1939
Thranduil's Ruling Council was gathered around a table in the Great Hall, with stacks of scrolls, ledgers and loose papers piled in front of them. Thranduil sat silently at the head of the table watching his wife, Lindomiel, and advisor, Celonhael. They had their heads together, quickly reading a paper that the King's steward, Hallion, had just passed them. It detailed the proposal governing Mannish trading parties crossing the Forest Road that they were scheduled to negotiate later that week in Dale.
Lindomiel had been fascinated by foreign cultures since her youth. After her marriage to Thranduil, as the lady of his house, she naturally entertained and saw to the comfort of his foreign guests. When the Woodland Realm's capital moved north and closer to the trading centers of Dale and Lake Town, she took on an increasingly active role in the realm's dealings with its Mannish neighbors.
Celonhael had been responsible for negotiating foreign trade for the Woodland Realm since Oropher first became its King. Like Lindomiel, he enjoyed interacting with Men and Dwarves and that common interest had contributed to the strong friendship he now enjoyed with the Queen.
Thranduil thoroughly approved of that 'friendship' because he had learned from experience that few mortals could withstand the combined negotiating skills of his advisor and wife.
Despite the King's confidence, Lindomiel was plainly dismayed as she read the proposal. She looked at her husband with wide eyes over the top of the papers she had been scanning.
“Thranduil, the Lord of Dale will never agree to these tolls. Never. You have nearly doubled them. How do you suggest that we justify that to him?” she asked incredulously.
To her left, Celonhael nodded and spoke without looking at either the King or Queen. “That is exactly what I asked when you first mentioned this, my lord,” he said quietly.
Engwe, the king’s uncle and military advisor, scowled at Celonhael and Lindomiel. “Since the Wainriders invaded the Northmen’s territory and so many of the Men moved to the vales of the Anduin above the Gladden Fields, they are the primary travelers on the Forest Road. If they do not wish to pay the higher tolls, they can go around the southern tip of the forest past Dol Guldur and come up the Anduin to trade with their western counterparts. If they prefer to avoid that journey, they must pay us to keep the Forest Road safe. It costs us a good deal to provide weapons and other supplies to the warriors that defend that road.”
Lindomiel narrowed her eyes at Engwe. They had never been friends. “I will remind them of that, Engwe. And when I do they will undoubtedly remind me of their recent losses on the Forest Road. I believe orcs from Dol Guldur have attacked their last four trading parties. Do I remember that correctly?” she asked coolly.
“You do, my lady” said Golwon, the King’s advisor on relations with the villagers, speaking before Thranduil or Engwe could reply. “And I am certain that after they remind you of those losses, they will argue to be permitted to use the Elf Path for their travels west. Several of the village leaders near the eastern end of the Path have mentioned to me recently that Men have approached them regarding using the Path to cross the forest. They want a safer passage, my lord. And raising tolls on the more dangerous road is only going to increase tensions between our kingdom and theirs.”
“Charging them the higher toll but to use the Elf Path might be an option, Thranduil,” Dieneryn, the king’s mother, suggested. “Then you could put less effort into defending the Road. It is becoming too dangerous to keep it open.”
Thranduil shook his head at that. “I will not lose the Forest Road,” he began firmly.
Golwon frowned and interrupted him. “Why is that Road so important to you, my lord? We have no villages near it. We do not use it ourselves. The ford over the river is all but destroyed. It is a waste of resources to hold it.”
Celonhael looked at his peer sharply. “The Dwarves and the Men do use it and pay well to do so," he replied. "But the value of holding the Forest Road is a debate for another day. Regardless of our opinions on that topic, if we can convince the Men to pay higher tolls to use the safer Elf Path—and we might be able to do that—then we still get the tolls we want. We can spend those funds however we wish,” he concluded. Celonhael was also responsible for the realm's finances. Tolls paid by travelers through the forest concerned him directly.
Thranduil glared at his council with a look intended to silence them. When he had, he drew a breath to explain how he expected to negotiate the tolls with the Lord of Dale. This time he was interrupted when the guard at the door entered the Hall. Everyone’s attention turned to the back of the room, clearly annoyed by the disruption.
“Lord Dolgailon is here and wishes to speak to you, my lord,” the guard announced.
Irate frowns turned to delighted smiles as Thranduil enthusiastically gestured for the guard to allow Dolgailon to pass and stood to greet him. Dolgailon was Thranduil’s nephew, his brother Aradunnon’s son. He saw his nephew and his brother very infrequently since they both lived in a village far to the south of the realm. Aradunnon commanded the realm’s warriors from that village and Dolgailon was one of Aradunnon’s captains in the patrols south of the mountains.
Dolgailon entered and strode swiftly to the table near the throne where the king’s council was seated. His personal guard, Galudiron, followed him into the Hall. Offering Thranduil a bow, Galudiron halted at the back of the room. Thranduil acknowledged the guard with a nod and smile and then turned fully to Dolgailon, pulling him into an embrace before he was able to offer any form of obeisance.
“Dolgailon, you are always a most welcome surprise,” he exclaimed as he released his nephew to Dieneryn, who anxiously waited to greet her first grandchild.
Dolgailon solemnly returned his grandmother’s greeting, accepting her embrace and kissing her softly on the cheek as he stood back. Next to the openly delighted smiles of the rest of the family, Dolgailon's quiet demeanor seemed strangely reserved. As always, Thranduil was struck by his nephew’s grave nature. The child, if you could still call him that, possessed absolutely none of his father and mother’s fun loving, sometimes trouble-making, personalities. Today he seemed even more subdued than normal. That coupled with Galudiron’s stiff posture as he idled in the back of the room caused Thranduil to suspect that this was not a social visit.
“Has something happened?” the king asked quietly after everyone had welcomed the youngest member of the Royal Family. As he spoke, he indicated a chair for Dolgailon to sit.
Dolgailon looked at Thranduil levelly, his steel grey eyes unreadable. “Indeed, something has happened. And you may want to withhold your offer to have me sit until you hear what it is.”
Thranduil raised his eyebrows and returned to his chair. “What do you have to tell me, Dolgailon?”
The younger elf’s expression grew even more serious. “The troop commander has sent me to the capital to report to you that I recently led my patrol across the Celduin to one of the Mannish villages in pursuit of some Easterlings that entered the forest and attacked one of our villages.”
Thranduil’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped slightly—both the news that Men had attacked a village and that Dolgailon had pursued them into the Northmen’s territory was shocking. From Dolgailon’s overly formal reference to his father Thranduil easily read that Aradunnon was displeased with his son and that caused Thranduil’s concern grow.
“I think you had better be more detailed than that, Dolgailon,” he finally said in a soft voice, aware of his council’s tense stares.
Dolgailon merely nodded once before complying. “My patrol was summoned to Nenon’s village. They had been attacked by seventeen Men who entered the forest to hunt. The villagers said they appeared to be from the East and not the Northmen’s villages. One of the village guards was killed, a good number of the villagers were injured and some supplies were stolen. The Men’s tracks were clear so we pursued them across the Celduin to a village in the Northmen’s territory. The Easterlings claimed to be allied with that village and the Mannish leader would not turn them over to us.” Dolgailon hesitated. “A fight ensued. I cannot deny that my troops started it. One of them, Suithoron, is the cousin of the guard that died in Nenon’s village. None of the Men that attacked our village survived and none of the Northmen or my troops were mortally wounded. After the fight ended, we returned to the forest.”
When Dolgailon finished speaking, a stunned silence hung over the room.
Engwe broke it. "What were you thinking? You brought a battle to the Northmen's territory? Did you intend to start a war?" he asked in an openly irate tone.
Dolgailon turned his attention from the King to Engwe, frowning deeply. "When the Men attacked our village and killed a guard, they brought war to us. If they are so foolish as to want a war, you may rest assured that I will show them the folly of that desire in no uncertain terms. I will protect the southern villages," he said with cold determination.
Thranduil knew that his nephew was wholly dedicated to the defense of the southern realm, his home. But he also knew him to be a much more conservative and reasonable captain than his recent actions and that heated response seemed to imply. He silenced his uncle with a glance and turned to address Dolgailon himself.
“Dolgailon. That was…” he paused and looked away from his nephew, still searching for the best way to approach this disturbing news. After a moment he looked back and his expression was stern. “Frankly, that was exceedingly poor judgment on a number of fronts. I expect you to know that you should not pursue criminals outside the forest without at least informing your adar or myself what you are doing. If you had, I would have sent Hallion or Celonhael with you to find a diplomatic solution to this situation.” He frowned. “And taking the dead guard’s cousin with you….” Thranduil looked at his nephew with a single raised eyebrow. The problem with that action was patently obvious, especially in hindsight. Seeing Dolgailon’s clearly regretful expression, he continued. “Engwe's question, though expressed in his typically inflamatory manner, was appropriate. Do you have any idea how the Lord of Dale is going to react when he hears my troops attacked one of his villages? That is what this appears to be—an attack.” Thranduil’s voice was quiet, taking some of the sting from his harsh words.
Dolgailon knew his uncle well enough to know his reaction had been very restrained. And for that, he was thankful. He returned the King’s gaze stoically. “I am completely aware of what the ramifications of my actions may be, my lord. I did send a messenger back to adar before we pursued the Men, telling him what we were doing and where. And it was not my intent that my troops attack the Northmen. I had thought to catch the Easterlings on the plains. When they entered the village, we pursued them to protect our allies. I never imagined the Northmen would shelter them. Seeing that turn of events, I intended to leave and wait for adar’s instructions but Suithoron attacked without orders. The Men defended themselves and the rest of my troops defended themselves in turn. But intent or not, the result is the same. I recognize that.”
Thranduil shook his head. “How did you discipline Suithoron?” he asked, turning the conversation from criticizing what could not be changed to addressing the problems still at hand.
“I did not. I knew this was a bad situation so I returned to the forest and reported to adar. He dismissed Suithoron from the patrols." Dolgailon paused and looked at Thranduil ruefully. “Adar says that this issue extends beyond his authority to manage so he sent me to you along with this,” he produced a sealed letter and held it out for Thranduil. “I think it contains his recommendations for me though I am not certain.”
Thranduil silently took the letter. Tearing the seal, he scanned the parchment and then handed it to Engwe. While Engwe read, Thranduil focused on Dolgailon. “You are correct.” He gestured to the letter. “Your adar asks me to manage this situation. He also indicates that I should decide how discipline you. He does state his recommendation—that I relieve you of your command,” he said softly and watched for Dolgailon’s reaction.
The young elf only straightened slightly and remained silent, awaiting his uncle’s decision.
Thranduil studied him a moment and then sighed. “Come sit down, Dolgailon,” he said tiredly.
Dolgailon raised his eyebrows in response to that but he seated himself in the chair the king indicated.
Thranduil looked at his nephew sadly. “Your adar was clearly angry.”
This was not the reaction Dolgailon had expected from his uncle. When the King apparently waited for a response, he looked down to hide his surprise. “Yes, he certainly was,” he replied quietly.
Thranduil smiled sympathetically. “He will calm down. Especially when he realizes that this situation can be handled. The Lord of Dale will not be pleased when we inform him that his citizens were aiding his enemies. If we present this to him carefully, his anger will turn from us to his traitorous villagers. Do not worry about your adar’s temper.”
Dolgailon looked at his uncle with a half smile. “I have seen adar’s temper before. I imagine I will see it again.” His expression grew more serious. “I was more concerned about the impact of my actions on the realm’s relations with the Men.”
Thranduil nodded. His nephew was nothing if not responsible. This mistake was not like him. Though it was not entirely Dolgailon’s fault, it could have been prevented with a little less haste and a little more thought. And that was what worried Thranduil. He had seen much older and more experienced warriors than his nephew succumb to poor judgments under the constant pressure of the Shadow. And Dolgailon had long captained a patrol in the south where the Shadow loomed heavily. That would end now.
“If Aradunnon is going to leave this decision to me, then I am going to make the one I encouraged him to make four hundred years ago when he made you an officer. You were far, far too young for that responsibility when he gave it to you.” Thranduil saw Dolgailon’s lips tighten slightly. “Do not misunderstand me, Dolgailon. You are a fine officer and warrior. But I have always felt that you joined the realm’s warriors too soon—the day you came of age, for pity’s sake. And you became an officer when you were barely over one hundred. That is too young, pen neth. You frighten me. I have never seen a child so driven or serious….”
Dolgailon scowled at that. “I will accept whatever your judgment may be, my lord, but forgive me, I am not a child. Nor have I been for five hundred years. Nearly everyone in the south joins a patrol upon coming of age. I did nothing unusual. And I am the troop commander’s son and the king’s nephew. It is to be expected that I will be an officer,” he interrupted firmly.
Thranduil smiled patiently. “Dolgailon, you are a little over five hundred. You are very young still. I was older than you when my adar became king in this forest and a millennia older than you when I became an officer in his army. Surely you do not believe that I am unaware of the dangers in the south that drive the young elves living there to join the patrols. But I never approved of your adar’s decisions concerning your assignment to the patrols in the south. No new warriors are sent to those patrols as early in their military service as you were—new warriors gain experience in the Palace Guard or the patrols that guard the Elf Path. And very few new warriors become an officer as quickly as you did…”
“Uncle, I requested those duties. The southern realm is my home. And I am a good officer…”
“I do not deny that, Dolgailon. Indeed, I already said that I thought you were. But you are too young for the command you were given in the south and that is my final word on it. I will not reduce your rank as your adar recommends.” Dolgailon blinked in surprise and relief at that. “But I do not intend to send you back to the south. You will take a leave from the patrols and work with me in the capital for a while. After that I will ask your adar to give you a command in the eastern or western border patrols,” Thranduil said with finality.
If Dolgailon was dismayed by this decision, he did not show it. Instead he merely nodded his acceptance. “May I ask in what capacity you wish me to serve in the capital, Uncle? And for how long?” he asked quietly.
Thranduil tried to smother his amusement. Dolgailon certainly had more restraint than most of the members of the House of Oropher. The king knew that if he had removed his brother from military service for one day, Aradunnon would have spent that day spitting fire like a dragon.
“I want you in the capital for several years, Dolgailon, but I will not name a specific length of time. To be perfectly frank, I am concerned about the effect the Shadow has had on you. I want you away from the south and its influence for that reason. I will determine how long you will stay in the capital based on what I see from you. As for what you will be doing here, I think I already have an idea on that. Engwe is expanding the training program for new warriors again. I want you to help him—your field experience will be useful.” Thranduil paused to make sure he had his nephew’s full attention. “That is the duty you will return to after you go with Lindomiel and Celonhael,” he glanced at his steward to draw his attention, “and Hallion to Dale to explain what happened in the south.”
Dolgailon seemed to relax somewhat. He had expected to be sent to Dale and helping with the young warriors was a punishment he could accept since it still aided the defense of the realm. “Yes, my lord,” he replied looking down.
Thranduil smiled again. “Whatever the reason, I am very glad to see you home, Dolgailon. And I am even happier to have an excuse to make you stay here. If only I could contrive some reason to bring your adar home.” Thranduil laughed lightly at his nephew’s reaction to that statement—neither Dolgailon nor his father considered the capital or the stronghold their home. “You had a long journey here. Lindomiel, go tell the servants to open Aradunnon’s suite for his son. We can discuss the trip to Dale more this evening. For now, I think we would all like to visit with Dolgailon.”
Lindomiel smiled, very clearly pleased with that surprising abandonment of duty despite the difficult negotiations she faced in Dale. She stood, drawing the rest of the council, including the king, to their feet as well, and put an arm around her nephew’s waist. “With pleasure. It is wonderful to have you here, Dolgailon. I do not suppose you could at least lure your naneth here for a few weeks? She might agree to come since you are going to be here,” she pleaded in a teasing voice and he smiled at her indulgently as he let her lead him from the Great Hall.
The rest of the council watched them leave and gathered their materials preparing to follow them to the family quarters. Thranduil simply followed his nephew and wife with his eyes, looking at them with concern.
Dieneryn laid a hand on her son’s shoulder. “I know you worry about him, Thranduil."
Thranduil sighed. "How can I not worry about him? He is a captain in the south. He spends everyday hunting orcs and spiders. Or worse still, finding them." Thranduil shook his head and looked down. "It is not the life an Elf should live, nana. Everything he has been forced to see has clearly affected him. He is so...somber."
Dieneryn frowned slightly. "You cannot control everything, Thranduil. He is Aradunnon’s son.”
“The king ought to be able to control who his patrols attack, however,” Engwe intervened coolly before Thranduil could respond.
Thranduil scowled at his uncle. “Hallion will manage that, Engwe. I am more concerned about Dolgailon. And Aradunnon.” He laughed bitterly. “And everyone in the villages near the mountains.” Then his expression turned sour. “And I thought we had finally seen the last of the Easterlings after Calimehtar defeated them on the Dagorlad. But this was the sixth incursion they made this year into the forest. If they are preparing for another attack on the Men in Rhovanion, we do not have enough warriors to defend the eastern border and maintain the same presence in the south. I do not want to see a repeat of what happened when last the Wainriders attacked the Northmen. We lost far too much ground in the south against the spiders and orcs while keeping the Men from our borders.”
Engwe nodded. “They do seem to be testing the fortifications in the east and south near Gondor if the information we have is correct. And Dolgailon said the Woodsmen sheltered the Easterlings. That is very disturbing.”
Thranduil’s mouth formed a tight line. “That is what frustrates me so when dealing with the Men. What manner of fool would ally with a group of Men so obviously touched by the Shadow? One that enslaved his own people? But these Men will do it if they see personal profit in it…”
“Not all of them, Thranduil,” Celonhael interrupted quietly.
Thranduil snorted. “Indeed not. But that is the point. Who can tell which Men will choose profit and which will treat loyally with us? I would prefer to not deal with them at all under those circumstances.”
Hallion looked at Thranduil nervously. “You recognize that is not a possibility, Thranduil. Where would we get wool or salt or…”
Thranduil waved his hand dismissively. “I know, Hallion. I must deal with them. I am aware of that. That is why I am concerned—about the Men in the east and about the effect their presence has on my people and my family in particular,” he said looking at the door Lindomiel and Dolgailon had exited through. “I do not relish the idea of sending Lindomiel or Dolgailon to treat with the Lord of Dale.”
Dieneryn laughed lightly. “I do not think you could persuade Lindomiel not to go. She loves visiting Dale.”
Thranduil rolled his eyes and smiled wryly. “If Amglaur knew what I ‘let’ his daughter do he would track me down and kill me. I am sure of it.”
Dieneryn smiled. “Amglaur had no more control over his adult daughter than you do, ion nin. Anymore than Aradunnon can control Dolgailon. Parents cannot rule their children’s lives forever.”
Thranduil grinned at his mother. “Are there times when you would like to rule your children’s lives a bit more, naneth?”
Dieneryn held up her hands. “Absolutely not, ion nin. I gave up on both you and your brother long ago,” she laughed.
Thranduil watched his wife and nephew talking together by the fire in the family sitting room. They had just returned from the green in front of the stronghold where the elves gather each night for merrymaking. Their faces were flushed and the distinctly autumn smell of fallen leaves and the smoke of wood fires clung to their clothes and hair. Lindomiel regularly joined the revelry on the green in the evenings, occasionally dragging Thranduil with her. Tonight she had asked Dolgailon to accompany her and that had pleased Thranduil well. He knew his wife would be able to draw the young elf into the dancing and gaming that he so rarely had an opportunity to enjoy since his life was dominated by patrols and battles. Now, as they sat together by the fire, snippets of conversation occasionally drifted to Thranduil’s ears as he enjoyed his wine. Lindomiel’s soft voice was teasing Dolgailon about some maiden that had shown interest in him. Dolgailon responded with a dignified glare.
Thranduil smiled. ‘The child should most certainly be thinking about maidens at his age. Not tactics, strategy and logistics,’ he thought firmly. Then he sighed quietly. Of course when Thranduil was Dolgailon’s age, the last thought on his mind had been maidens. Thranduil was not much older than his nephew when he traveled east with the others following Oropher and seeking peace. The king shook his head slightly and looked away from his wife and nephew.
As he did, his eyes fell on Golwon and his wife in another corner of the sitting room. He was holding their infant daughter, Eirienil, in his lap. Next to him was a basket of sewing materials. Isteth was embroidering a squirrel on a little silk shirt for the baby and Golwon was handing her items from the basket as she asked for them. Thranduil nearly laughed out loud. Of all his advisors, Golwon was by far the gruffest, sometimes even sterner than Thranduil’s uncle Engwe. That was why Thranduil found the sight of him doting on his new wife and daughter so completely amusing. Like all of the King’s advisors, Golwon was a distant cousin and one of the Sindarin that followed Oropher east. He had never married—Thranduil suspected that was because no elleth would tolerate his temperament—and everyone assumed that at this late stage in life Golwon would not marry. No one had believed that anything would come of the time he spent with Isteth, the daughter of one of the Silvan elves that served as a scribe in Thranduil’s court. They had been friends for several yén when Golwon finally announced his plans to marry her only a few years ago. As much as Golwon’s marriage had surprised Thranduil, his decision to have a child was even more unexpected.
War was all around Thranduil’s realm. In the east over the last yén, the Wainriders had weakened Gondor and the Northmen. Only about eighty years ago the King of Gondor, Narmacil, and the King of the Northmen, Marhari, had been slain by the Wainriders and citizens of both realms had been enslaved by them. Less than fifty years ago, Narmacil’s son, Calimehtar, rode against the Wainriders and broke their hold on the lands east of Mirkwood. But as recent events with the Easterlings had shown, that situation was hardly stable.
To the west, the once powerful Mannish kingdom of Arnor was all but destroyed. The Witch King of Angmar, the Lord of the Nazgul, had returned five hundred years ago, summoning orcs and other fell creatures to his service. Since then, he plagued the Kingdom of Arnor unceasingly. Of the three realms Arnor had split into upon the death of Eärendur, Cardolan and Rhudaur had already fallen. Arthedain, whose capital now was Fornost, was sorely diminished.
Thranduil sighed, thinking of these dark times. Would no generation of his family be granted the peace to simply marry and raise children properly?
After a few moments lost in these thoughts, Thranduil felt his mother’s presence as she seated herself next to him. Thranduil forced a smile to his lips and turned to her.
“Good evening, naneth,” he said quietly.
Dieneryn studied her son for a moment. “May I ask what has inspired such a disapproving expression, ion nin?” she finally asked.
Thranduil raised his eyebrows slightly and looked down. “Do I appear to disapprove of something, naneth?”
Dieneryn smiled and put her hand over Thranduil’s. “Yes you do. And since you are trying to avoid telling me why, I can only assume that the reason is something to be concerned about.”
Thranduil laughed lightly. “It is not, nana. I was thinking about Golwon and Isteth. How they concluded that now would be a good time to have a child, I cannot imagine. It is none of my affair, of course, and I realize that.”
Dieneryn adopted a neutral expression and she nodded. “It is often difficult to know when to have children. Your adar and I certainly believed when we decided to conceive you that we lived in a protected kingdom and that our child would be safe in Doriath,” she said, her eyes taking on the far off look of one lost in the past as she drifted back through the ages to one of her most pleasant memories.
“Oropher, stop this right now,” Dieneryn exclaimed completely breathless, ducking behind one of the pillars in the hall in an effort to elude her husband’s grasp.
Oropher only redoubled his efforts seeing that his prey was tiring. He feinted in one direction and then dove around the pillar in the other, catching Dieneryn by her upper arms and causing her to squeal involuntarily. He pushed her back against the pillar and silenced her with a kiss, which she easily accepted, melting against his body. They had been married a little less than fifty years and Dieneryn was barely over one hundred—she definitely still possessed the high spirits of youth. But Oropher, who had been born in the Time of the Trees, was far more adventurous than she ever dreamt of being. Some of the things he did simply scandalized her but the excitement he brought to her life was part of what drew her to him.
She had spent the vast majority of this evening fleeing from him through the halls in Menegroth. It was a delightful chase and she expected its aftermath to be equally satisfying, if only she could convince her husband to go back to their private chambers. Currently, they were half way there in a small, octagonal, domed hall with numerous pillars richly carved as tree trunks. Their boughs formed the arches in the ceiling. The ceiling itself was open between the arches to allow natural light into this little alcove. It held a fountain with a marble basin and a few beds of delicate flowers. Ivy climbed up the pillars and through the openings in the ceiling.
Since it was very late, the only light coming through the domed ceiling was that of the stars in the clear spring sky. The starlight twinkled, reflecting off the water in the fountain, casting a sparkling, almost magical, light to dance in the hall. A faint breeze blew in through the open ceiling carrying the scent of the flowers that grew around them.
Dieneryn tried to pull away from her husband, beginning to resist as he deepened their kiss.
“Oropher, let us go back to our chambers…where we can enjoy ourselves,” she whispered between kisses.
“I am enjoying myself very well right now,” he replied, now trailing kisses down her jaw.
“Yes, but here your pleasure must come to an end soon,” she said placing her hands on his shoulders and pushing him back firmly. “If we go back to our rooms, it need not end until morning.”
Dieneryn’s heart raced as Oropher adopted the mischievous expression she recognized well. “There is no need for anything to end here,” he said, sweeping her in one smooth motion into his arms and carrying her to a bench partially obscured by the pillars, ivy and flowering bushes in the back of the alcove. There he settled her on his lap holding her in place with his hands on her hips. “Indeed, I think I would like to begin something here,” he said meaningfully.
Dieneryn looked at him in confusion for a moment. Then her eyes widened and her mouth fell open. “Here? In the public garden? You have finally lost your mind, Oropher.”
He smiled at her and cupped her face in his hands. “It is very late, meleth. The only people about are the guards and there is nothing to guard in this garden. It is beautiful here in the starlight.” He paused and lightly traced kisses down her neck and along her jaw. Finally he entwined his fingers in her hair and whispered in her ear. “No one will come upon us hidden in this hall in the shadows of the starlight. I cannot think of a more lovely place to begin our first child’s life.”
Dieneryn pulled away from him resolutely, intending to stand up and pull him to their chambers—a far more appropriate place in her mind to conceive a child. But as she did, her eyes were captured by the light of the stars glinting off the silver in Oropher’s hair. His blue-grey eyes shone with the excitement of their playful chase and the idea he had proposed. When she said nothing, his hands went around her waist and his lips returned to her throat. Now tracing a line of kisses down to the neckline of her dress.
“Naneth,” Thranduil’s voice interrupted her reverie. Thranduil could not read his mother’s expression. It seemed at once blissfully happy and desperately sad. “I certainly did not intend to imply any sort of accusation. There was no way you could have predicted that Elu Thingol would be killed or that Melian would leave or that Dwarves and Elves would attack Menegroth,” he said softly.
“No, we could not,” she replied, focusing on him. “Neither could we have known that the Enemy was forging those cursed Rings the same year that Aradunnon was conceived or that war would soon be upon us again.” She paused and fixed him with a serious look. “And that is what I want you to think about. You did see terrible events in Menegroth and Aradunnon was forced to endure similar experiences in this very forest. Despite that, you are both wonderful people, Thranduil. I could not have imagined more perfect children than my sons. You are by far the greatest blessing ever bestowed upon me.”
Thranduil laughed lightly. “Nana,” he began to protest but Dieneryn silenced him with a serious look and continued, forcing him to acknowledge the point of her words.
“Do not deny yourself the joy of fatherhood, Thranduil. You will be a wonderful father and Lindomiel will be a wonderful mother.”
Thranduil blinked at his mother. Dolgailon’s presence normally precipitated such discussions. And now that Eirienil had been born, the topic surfaced even more frequently. He knew that everyone in the family took a great interest in when he and Lindomiel planned to have children. But though he did not blame his parents in any way for the events he experienced in his childhood, he also could not deny their impact. He would never inflict such pain on his own children if he could avoid it. It seemed clear to him that having a child when the Shadow fell so heavily over the forest was not possible.
Lindomiel crept quietly behind Thranduil where he sat in their bed chambers slowly unfastening his braids. He was obviously deep in thought so Lindomiel was surprised when he turned his eyes to her just as she was about to poke him in the ribs. Her mischievous expression immediately turned to one of playful disappointment and he laughed at her.
“You cannot sneak up on me, meleth,” he said with a self-satisfied grin.
Lindomiel smiled at him patiently. “I have many times, Thranduil. Whenever you are too deep in thought about some foolish matter,” she replied with a teasing tone. She sat next to him and moved his hands to his lap to assume the task of loosening his braids herself.
Thranduil’s eyebrows rose involuntarily. “I am normally thinking about some aspect of the governance of this realm. You think that is foolish, my lady?” he asked with mock indignation.
“Sometimes,” she said airily and laughed at his now sincere surprise. She placed a kiss on his cheek and changed the subject to the topic she suspected had him so distracted earlier. “I very much enjoy having Dolgailon here,” she said with a smile.
Thranduil looked at her and, as it often did, his breath caught as he fell under the spell of her smile. He reached to caress her cheek. “As do I. He has become a fine young elf, if a bit staid. I was glad to see you take him out to the lawn.”
Lindomiel’s smile broadened. “He danced several dances with Crithad’s daughter, Arthiel.”
Thranduil looked at his wife with interest. “I like Crithad’s family,” he replied. “They are very good people. That should definitely be encouraged.”
Lindomiel nodded as she reached for a comb. “I agree. A wife would do wonders for Dolgailon. He needs some balance in his life. Just as you did.”
Thranduil’s eyebrows rose again. “As I did?” he repeated with a playfully demanding edge to his voice.
Lindomiel’s mischievous smile broadened. “Yes, as you did," she repeated. "A more serious and driven elf I never met in my entire life. Your naneth told me that you needed a little fun in your life and she was correct.”
Thranduil stared at her a moment in surprise. ‘Serious and driven’ was exactly how Thranduil saw Dolgailon. Finally, he loosed an amused snort. “The Valar know that you have provided me a great deal of ‘fun,’ my lady,” he said with a teasing voice as he caught her chin in his hand and drew her closer to him for a kiss. When he pulled back, he looked at her earnestly. “Naneth was right. I am perfectly aware that you bring a joy to my life that was not present before I met you. I am very thankful that you are my wife.” He sighed and turned away from her. “I only hope my nephew is as lucky as I was. I want him to be happy.”
Lindomiel turned Thranduil’s face to hers with a hand against his cheek. “And you do not believe he is?” she asked.
Thranduil shook his head. “No. I do not. He is nothing like his father. He is…the captain of his troops and so little more than that.”
Lindomiel frowned. “And you are often the king of your people and little more than that. Thranduil, he is dedicated to serving this realm, as you are. As your brother is. As I am. It is easy for me to love Dolgailon because he reminds me so much of you. I do not think you need concern yourself so.”
Thranduil looked down. “Perhaps you are right. But I do worry about him. He has never seen peace. His life is so dominated by the Shadow. And so will Golwon and Isteth’s child grow up in such troubled times. I cannot imagine bringing a child into such a world as this.”
“Is that not what your parent’s did?” she asked softly. When Thranduil looked at her angrily, she placed a finger across his lips to silence him. “Unintentionally, but did they not bring both you and Aradunnon into the world at the worst of times? And they saw to it that you survived. My point is, Thranduil, we cannot know what the future holds. Evil exists in the world. We cannot predict when it will touch us nor should we allow it to control us by living our lives solely in anticipation of its strike.”
Thranduil frowned, remembering his earlier conversation with his mother and the similar argument that she had made. “Perhaps. But no elf would have a child when they can see the Shadow all around them. Despite that, Golwon did. Aradunnon did when he and Amoneth had Dolgailon. That is wrong, Lindomiel, and there is no denying it.”
Lindomeil shook her head. “Many of our people had children after we moved to the beautiful, safe forest you provided north of the mountains, Thranduil. Aradunnon and Amoneth were merely one such couple. They stayed in the stronghold until Dolgailon was of age. If he chose to leave the stronghold after he came of age, that was his right and you must respect it. And as for Golwon and Isteth, the fact is we live in dark times. There may not be a time of perfect peace in Middle Earth again since the Evil One has poisoned the world. If a couple waits for idyllic conditions to have children, I think they will never have them. I am very happy for Golwon and Isteth. I am envious, if truth be told.”
Thranduil looked at his wife. “Surely you are not suggesting that we have a child now?” he asked.
Lindomiel sighed. “I have been begging you for a child since we were married. We have waited almost two thousand years for a perfect time. I am already almost half the age nana was when she had me and she nearly faded after my birth. You are one and a half times the age my adar was and he was deeply exhausted by my birth as well. We cannot postpone having children forever, if we intend to have them.”
“Lindomiel, I want children. Very much. You know that. But I want to raise them properly. The presence of the Shadow aside, when Aradunnon and I were very young, our adar dedicated himself to us. Times were still peaceful and he could teach us to sing and ride and paint and hunt and so many other things. Since we were married, when would I have had time to give a child all the attention he or she would have deserved?”
“Perhaps you are right, Thranduil. Or perhaps you would have made the time because you wanted to. I am simply saying that I do not believe we will ever see a time of perfect peace again so it would be folly to wait for one in order to have children.” She looked at him seriously. “And in such times as these, even an Elvenking needs an heir. I want children, meleth.”
Thranduil stood and walked a few steps away. He looked angry and in that Lindomiel could see that something she said had made him think. He faced away from her for several moments and she remained silent, letting him struggle with his thoughts. When he turned back to her, she saw sadness in his eyes.
“I want a child as well, Lindomiel. But I cannot deny to you that I fear bringing a child into this dark world.”
Lindomiel stood and drew her husband into her arms, kissing him lightly. “Perhaps our child will bring light to our world, meleth,” she whispered.
He looked at her for a long moment, thinking of the light she had brought to his life. “I will consider it, Lindomiel,” he said resignedly. “For now let us concentrate on getting the mother of my future children safely to and from Dale.”
Lindomiel smiled slightly and leaned forward to kiss him again. That was more of a concession on this topic than she had ever won. She knew it was now only a matter of giving him time to warm up to the idea. And the presence of his beloved nephew would not hurt the process. Lindomiel knew how fiercely Thranduil loved his brother’s son and longed for a child of his own. Despite his fears.
pen neth--young one
ion nin--my son
Meleth (nin)--(My) love
yén--144 years (An Elven measurement of time. Elves like to measure in twelves).
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