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Chapter 2: New Arrivals
The men and women in Dale’s courtyard all bustled about their daily affairs, fetching water, scrubbing their stalls and arranging their wares for sale in the market. As Dolgailon walked with his elders, he attempted to remember the serious nature of his mission in Dale. He tried to focus on finding more indications that any of the men in Dale might be under the sway of men from the East. But his eyes were irresistibly drawn to the strange products in the merchants’ stalls. An old woman sat huddled in a cloak in one stall, irritably directing a haggard-looking young girl to lay out colorful woolen cloth. Next to another stall were stacks of wooden crates containing fowl that clucked away, legitimately nervous as a large man sharpened a bright knife. Dolgailon winced at the thoughtless manner in which the man’s equally stout wife efficiently snapped the necks of the struggling geese that she extracted from the crates. Other merchants had already set up their products and the attractive smell of fresh vegetables and herbs and exotic spices overpowered the less pleasant odor produced by the livestock and its slaughter. Dolgailon glanced here and there in response to the voices of the merchants as they eagerly shouted descriptions of the quality of their wares, hopeful of turning a profit in the morning market.
Dolgailon rarely interacted with Men in his patrols in the south and he had only visited the neighboring Mannish towns twice before when he was still very young. He looked curiously at the citizens in the market and marveled at their variety. Most were flaxen haired but their similarities ended there. Some were slender, others as broad shouldered and formidable as a stone wall and others were round as an apple. Some had smooth faces, others were bearded and a few were wrinkled and grizzled with hair as white as snow or as grey as ash. Dolgailon would not have called any of them 'fair,' but at the same time he could not deny that they were richly beautiful in their diversity. He knew his aunt loved Dale and he thought he understood why as he studied its people and sights.
As the elves passed, the clamor in the marketplace lessened as men fell silent and stared. Many looked away under Dolgailon’s curious gaze, causing the young elf to frown. Others rushed forward to show the obviously wealthy strangers their goods. Lindomiel, Celonhael and Hallion had dealt with many generations of Men in the Mannish Kingdom of Rhovanion. They were accustomed to the reaction their presence evoked, so they always paused to speak to the folk that greeted them despite the fact that their current task was not to make purchases but rather to speak to the Lord of Dale. Invariably, the courage these men showed was rewarded by promises to buy at least some items and they returned to their stalls pleased.
As the elves proceeded towards the Great Hall, Dolgailon's sharp ears heard murmurs arise through the market that the lady visitor was the Elvenqueen herself. In response to those rumours, the elderly men and women nodded. Dolgailon imagined that they had seen her in the town before many years ago. As this news spread, the merchants in the courtyard continued to stare even as the elves climbed up the stairs and strode though the wide, open doors of the Great Hall to stand in the antechamber as the Mannish guards announced them.
“The Queen of the Woodland Realm, Prince Dolgailon, Lord Hallion and Lord Celonhael,” the guard at the door of the Hall called and he stood aside with a bow to allow the noble elves to pass into the chamber. The Elven guards stayed with their Mannish counterparts in the antechamber, giving the men in the courtyard a continued reason to stare.
The Lord of Dale stood and came forward to great them. He addressed Lindomiel first. “You honor us with your presence, my lady,” Lord Fengel said in greeting, bowing over her hand.
Fengel had been Lord of Dale for ten years since his father, a cousin of Prince Marhari, died. Since Marhari’s son and heir, Marhwini, led so many of their people west, those that remained in the east had turned more and more to Dale for leadership. Fengel had inherited the rule of an increasingly powerful city. He met his responsibilities admirably but, like most Men in Rhovanion, he was still not entirely comfortable dealing with Elves.
When he straightened, Lindomiel smiled at him. “It is always my pleasure to travel here. I very much enjoy visiting your lovely city,” she replied warmly and with obvious sincerity.
Dolgailon raised his eyebrows in reaction to Fengel’s response. The Lord of Dale looked at his aunt respectfully, almost reverently, and sucked in a short, nervous breath. He smiled at the Queen a moment longer and then turned to Dolgailon. “I do not believe we have ever met,” he said with a questioning tone, offering Dolgailon a polite bow.
Dolgailon bowed in return. “Indeed not. The last time I was in Dale was nearly four hundred years ago,” he said.
Fengel blinked at that and looked down under Dolgailon’s penetrating gaze. “You are King Thranduil’s son?” he finally asked, making an obvious effort to meet the young Elf’s eyes.
“I am not. I am his nephew. Lord Aradunnon is my father.”
“The King and I do not have any children as yet,” Lindomiel added with dramatic wistfulness.
“A pity, I am sure, my lady,” Fengel responded, smiling at her warmly now. Then he nodded a greeting to Celonhael and Hallion. “Please sit down,” he said, indicating a table where another Man sat surrounded by papers. He had been attempting to quickly gather them up. The Man stood and bowed deeply at their approach. “My steward told me to expect to discuss tolls and some trade issues with you.” Fengel continued, loosing a forced laugh. “I suspected King Thranduil intended to raise the tolls on the Forest Road. He must be raising them indeed if all of you are required for the negotiations. I admit I am somewhat surprised to see Lord Hallion and Prince Dolgailon here,” he fished.
Lindomiel glanced to Dolgailon, remaining silent and allowing him to address the reason he had come. Dolgailon straightened in his seat. He was certain the older elves could see his slight nervousness but hoped the men would not recognize it. “The Elvenking has sent me to inform you of an incident that took place in one of your southern villages,” Dolgailon began with no preamble.
Fengel frowned in surprise. “In one of my villages? And what news can you bring me of my villages?”
Dolgailon forced his expression to remain neutral. “A group of seventeen Dark Men attacked one of the Elvenking’s eastern villages over a fortnight ago. They killed a guard, injured several elves and stole some goods.” Fengel’s expression revealed his shock but Dolgailon did not pause. “They fled the forest pursued by my patrol. We followed them into the plains to arrest them before they could do equal damage to your nearby villages." He paused for emphasis. "We were very surprised when one such village offered them aid.”
Fengel’s eyes widened angrily. “None of my people would ever attack any village in the Woodland Realm," he said sharply.
Dolgailon looked at him evenly. "I said not so," he began, but Fengel interrupted him again.
"That is well. We value our alliance with your people greatly,” he said firmly.
Dolgailon nodded. “The Elvenking has instructed me to inform you that he is certain that your loyal citizens do value our alliance and honor it. As does he. Unfortunately, it appears the occupants of this particular village may not have been entirely loyal to Dale, for they were clearly allied with the Dark Men. That is what I was sent to inform you.”
Fengel glanced at his steward. They did not appear surprised or alarmed by that suggestion. Merely angry.
Dolgailon’s eyebrows rose. “Is it possible that some of your villagers may have formed new alliances, lord Fengel?” he pressed, concerned by Fengel's response.
Fengel looked back at him, plainly trying to rein in his anger. He ignored Dolgailon’s question and asked his own. “Can you tell me which village you believe is succoring these Easterlings so that we can confirm this treason?”
Dolgailon gazed at him levelly. “I can describe the location of the village. However you will not find the Easterlings in it.”
Fengel’s steward snorted derisively. “The Easterlings would not have left just because some elves saw them. The Easterlings do not fear you or your King.”
Dolgailon’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Any men who attack the Woodland Realm will learn, as this group did, to fear my King’s warriors,” he snapped. To his left he saw Hallion tense.
Fengel frowned. “May I ask what that means?”
Dolgailon sighed quietly knowing that he could have presented this information more delicately if he had held his tongue. “When the Easterlings resisted our attempt to arrest them, a fight ensued. I do not deny that my troops loosed the first arrow. None of your villagers were injured but the Easterlings are all dead.”
Fengel allowed his dismay to show plainly on his face.
His steward openly raged. “Since when is it the place of the Elvenking’s warriors to mete out justice in the lands of the Lord of Dale?” he demanded angrily.
Dolgailon replied calmly. “I do not claim that it is. The elf that initiated the fight has been dismissed and as their captain I have also been disciplined. Part of that discipline was to come here and answer to you for my warriors’ actions. But the fact remains that the men we attacked had no place in your village, as you already so adamantly pointed out. They might have done harm to your innocent citizens if they had been allowed to escape.”
“How do we know that? How do we know that the men you killed were not innocent citizens? How can you be sure of that?” the steward demanded.
Fengel raised his hand to silence his steward and spoke before Dolgailon or Hallion could reply. “If the Prince of the Woodland Realm tells me that these men shed blood in the villages of the Elvenking then his word is all the proof I need that they are criminals whoever they may be. I learned from my father and from my own interactions to trust and respect the Woodelves. Besides, anyone who is not blind can tell the difference between one of our people and the Men of Rhûn. I imagine even elves can make that distinction amongst the races of men. The Easterlings would have received no protection from me. If I had caught them, I would have turned them over to the Elvenking to answer for their crimes in his lands and it is no concern of mine what sentence the Elvenking imposes. Indeed death would be the one I would have prefered.”
He paused and focused on Hallion and Dolgailon before continuing.
“You may tell your King that I understand how this happened. You naturally assumed you were acting in an emerging situation for the safety of your allies and we appreciate your concern.”
Almost imperceptibly, Dogailon relaxed. Hallion inclined his head in acknowledgement of Fengel’s words.
The Lord of Dale continued in a sterner voice. “Now that you have seen that such goodwill can lead you into very complex situations, I expect that the Elvenking’s warriors will refrain from pursuing Men across our borders. You need not doubt that anyone who passes through my lands to violate the borders of the Woodland Realm will be returned to the Elvenking for justice. It would best report such incursions into the forest to me and leave pursuing criminals in my lands to my troops.”
Dolgailon nodded solemnly. “Indeed my King told me in no uncertain terms that is what he would have preferred to do in this situation,” he confirmed. “And that is most certainly how any future encounters will be managed.”
Fengel’s harsh countenance melted suddenly and he laughed involuntarily at that response. “I do not doubt your King's respect for our borders, so it is easy for me to accept how this happened. And knowing his position on such matters, I would not have wished to be you, Lord Dolgailon, when you reported this incident to him. I have spoken with the Elvenking only once and I after that meeting I was exceedingly thankful that my steward or councilors are normally responsible for traveling to Mirkwood to negotiate trade. He is frightening and even more so when he is angry, I am sure.”
Dolgailon blinked and glanced at his older companions. They were all struggling not to laugh. Dolgailon snorted softly and looked down. “The King is a strong ruler,” he replied neutrally.
“No doubt,” Fengel said, still laughing quietly. “I am thankful he is my ally and not my enemy.” With that he grew more serious. “I do ask that you point out the location of this village on a map before you leave so that we can deal with the citizens who aided our enemies,” he said with a cold tone. Then he looked at Dolgailon thoughtfully. “Our law requires two witnesses to convict a man of treason…”
“And witnesses are hard to find,” the steward muttered bitterly.
The elves raised their eyebrows and looked at him.
Fengel scowled but returned his gaze to Dolgailon. “Would you and one of the other Elven warriors that saw my villagers aiding the Easterlings return here to testify to what you saw? I would very much like to make a strong example of these traitors.”
Dolgailon glanced at Hallion. “I will be serving the King in our capital for some time. With his permission, I could return here once you arrest the villagers, I suppose. And my guard could serve as the second witness. He saw everything I did and he speaks Westron well enough to testify before your court.”
Fengel nodded with a grimly satisfied expression. “Very good.” Then he sat back in his chair, turned to Lindomiel and smiled. “Amongst Men it is not seemly to discuss such harsh topics in the presence of ladies. I feel compelled to apologize that you had to hear this conversation, my lady.” Before Lindomiel could respond, he grinned at her. “But since you came to Dale in person rather than sending for samples of this year’s goods, I assume that my steward is correct and King Thranduil does want to renegotiate the tolls. If that is the case, I fear you will subjected to another harsh conversation for I have no intention of paying more.”
Lindomiel returned his smile serenely. “Then it seems we will have something of an argument on our hands because your steward is indeed correct. The King has sent me to inform you of new tolls,” she began.
Dolgailon could not hide the laughter that lit his eyes when he saw Fengel’s response to his aunt’s softly spoken declaration. The Lord of Dale frowned stubbornly, folded his arms over his chest and adopted a determined look. But even Dolgailon could see the hopelessness in the recesses of Fengel’s eyes. Apparently the Man was well aware of the difficulties presented by debating with Elves, and Lindomiel in particular.
Thranduil sat alone in the family sitting room with only a goblet of wine in his hands, no petitions or reports, and allowed his thoughts to wander. It had been a quieter than normal evening since half of the family—Lindomiel, Celonhael, Hallion and Dolgailon—were in Dale. They had been gone for over a week and were due back to the stronghold soon. In addition to their absence, Golwon and his wife were on the lawn, teaching their daughter the minstrel's songs. Thus, the only other members of the family present were Engwe and Dieneryn. They were playing a game of strategy on a table near the fireplace and woe be unto the person, even the king, that disturbed their concentration. So Thranduil sat quietly alone, enjoying his wine and thinking about his family in Dale and the idea of children that seemed to surround him of late.
They had not been in the sitting room long when they heard a commotion in the hall at the entrance to the family quarters. Thranduil glanced at Engwe and Dieneryn. They all had tensed upon hearing the guards’ raised voices but their concern quickly melted to happy smiles as they recognized the cause for the disturbance. They stood as two travel worn figures passed into the room.
“Aradunnon! Amoneth!” Thranduil exclaimed delightedly, striding forward and sweeping his brother into a strong embrace. Amoneth and Dieneryn smiled indulgently as the two siblings clapped each other a little too strongly on the back, grinning all the while. When Thranduil finally released his brother, he leaned over to place a kiss on Amoneth’s cheek while Aradunnon greeted their mother.
“What has brought you both to the capital?” Dieneryn asked, pouring her son and daughter-in-law a goblet of wine. They handed their travel-stained cloaks to a servant and sat gratefully on the cushions by the fireplace. Thranduil, Engwe and Dieneryn settled next to them.
Aradunnon grinned mischievously at his brother as he answered his mother’s question. “Thranduil has abducted my son and is holding him prisoner here. I had to come to the capital if I wish to see him, it seems.”
Thranduil’s eyebrows arched and he returned his brother’s playful look. “I have, in writing, your permission to discipline Dolgailon for attacking the Mannish village as I saw fit. Keeping him here is what I chose to do,” he retorted.
“Live and learn,” Aradunnon replied with a dismissive shrug. “That is what I get for allowing my temper to rule me and leaving such a decision to you. I will not make that mistake again.” He smirked at Thranduil for a moment and then looked at him more seriously. “I saw Dollion on the way into the stronghold. He mentioned that Dolgailon is in Dale.”
Thranduil nodded. “Do not be concerned. Hallion went with him. And Lindomiel and Celonhael. I did instruct all of them to allow Dolgailon to handle the discussion about the Easterlings unless he seemed to lose control of the situation. And I briefed him on how I thought it should be managed. It will be good experience for him and I think the Lord of Dale will be angrier with his citizens for allying with his enemies than he will be with our warriors for killing those enemies. After he has a few moments to think about it.”
Aradunnon drew a deep breath and sighed. “Yes. That occurred to me. After I had already sent Dolgailon to the capital.” He looked at his brother wryly. “Did you react any better to the news than I? Dolgailon seemed very…concerned to speak to you.”
Thranduil smiled. “Dolgailon managed that conversation exactly as I would have expected—he was completely forthright and made it clear that he understood the import of what he had done and was willing to rectify the situation as required. You should be proud of your son. As difficult as it is for me to acknowledge it, Dolgailon is no longer a child. He is very much a leader in his own right.” He paused and laughed lightly. “But to address your true concern, I did not react too badly, I do not believe.”
Dieneryn shook her head, also smiling. “You were very calm,” she confirmed.
Engwe raised his eyebrows disdainfully. “Indeed,” he said coolly.
Aradunnon had relaxed slightly upon hearing Thranduil and Dieneryn’s words. He immediately scowled at Engwe, however, catching the disapproval in his uncle’s voice. “Dolgailon made a bad judgment and he has been disciplined for it. I do not want to hear that you have interfered with that discipline, Uncle,” he said firmly. “Dolgailon is my son. Not yours.”
Everyone present tried to smother a smile. Aradunnon often conflicted with his son. Dolgailon had very clear ideas on how he should best lead his life and did not follow his father’s advice nearly as regularly as Aradunnon would prefer. But if anyone crossed either father or son, they could expect to face a very formidable, united front.
Engwe returned Aradunnon’s irate glare coolly. “Thank the Valar for that,” he replied.
Dieneryn frowned as Aradunnon drew a sharp breath to reply. “Enough of that,” she interrupted with a stern look at Aradunnon and Engwe. Then she turned back to her son. “How long can we expect to enjoy your company in the capital, ion nin?” she asked with a hopeful expression.
Aradunnon’s face lightened and he glanced at Amoneth while reaching for her hand. “We plan to stay a long while, nana,” he responded simply.
Thranduil’s eyebrows climbed. “Is that so?” he asked, voice rising slightly in surprise. “Not that I am displeased by that announcement. I said to Dolgailon that I wished I could find I way to bring you back to the stronghold. May I ask what has made you decide to stay when nearly a millennium of begging on my part has not?”
The grin returned to Aradunnon’s face. Thranduil smiled automatically in response to it. So often these days when he spoke to his brother he saw only the burdened face of the realm’s troop commander. This glimpse of the impish brother he knew so well warmed his heart.
“I told you, Thranduil, you made that choice for me. You are keeping my son in the capital so Amoneth and I decided this would be a good opportunity to spend time with him ourselves. We rarely see each other since he became a captain and must spend all his time in field command. And of course we want to spend some time with Eirienil as she grows into the fine young lady we expect Golwon's daughter to be.”
Amoneth laughed lightly at this last. She and Aradunnon pitied any children that had to endure the stern Golwon as their father.
Dieneryn gave Aradunnon a brief, disapproving glare in response to his disrepect before allowing her eyes to light with happiness at the idea of Aradunnon staying in the capital while 'Eirienil grew up.' That seemed to promise a lengthy stay. “That is wonderful, Aradunnon. Do you think you can manage the patrols from here for a few months? Maybe even a few years?” she asked hopefully.
Aradunnon nodded. “I have arranged to do so for a while.” He glanced again at Amoneth and squeezed her hand. “For fifty-one years, specifically,” he added meaningfully.
Dieneryn’s eyes widened and Engwe looked back at his nephew sharply. Thranduil stared at his brother. “Fifty-one years?” he repeated.
Amoneth nodded excitedly. “We have decided to have another child,” she confirmed, unable to hold back any longer. “We had been discussing it for the last few years and now seems to be the perfect time. Dolgailon will be in the capital for a while. Our child and Golwon’s can grow up together. Aradunnon has strong captains in the patrols so he can afford to be in the capital.” She drifted off as Dieneryn pulled her into an embrace.
“Are you already…?”
Amoneth nodded and Dieneryn’s smiled broadened as she pulled Amoneth closer. “That is wonderful, Amoneth. Perhaps you will have a daughter.”
Amoneth nodded again, now enthusiastically. Releasing Amoneth and sitting back, Dieneryn laughed at Aradunnon’s somewhat panicked reaction to her suggestion. Aradunnon would have no idea what to do with a daughter but he had all too clear a memory of what he had done with other Elves’ daughters. The thought alarmed him.
Engwe looked sadly at Amoneth for a moment before leaning forward to embrace her as well. As he leaned back, he kissed her cheek. “Congratulations, pen neth.” He grasped Aradunnon’s hand. “Congratulations to both of you. I am very happy for you.”
Aradunnon smiled. He knew the topic of children was very difficult for his uncle. “Thank you, Uncle,” he replied with a quiet voice.
All eyes turned to Thranduil who was still staring at his brother.
“Have you nothing to say, muindor nin?” Aradunnon asked, eyes widening at Thranduil’s expression.
Thranduil shook his head slightly. “Congratulations,” he said quietly and with a forced smile.
Aradunnon studied his brother but chose to remain silent. Amoneth was too busy chattering with her mother-in-law to have noticed Thranduil’s tepid response. He did not want to confront his brother and spoil his wife’s mood.
It was very late and most of the household had retired. The servants had long since returned to their own quarters or flets in the forest. Dieneryn and Amoneth had gone to the queen’s rooms to talk about babies. Only Thranduil, Engwe and Aradunnon remained in the family sitting room. Their conversation had fallen off and they sat quietly, staring absently at the dying fire in the hearth.
Finally Aradunnon’s heavy sigh broke the silence. Thranduil looked at him with raised eyebrows and Aradunnon laughed self-consciously. “I was merely wishing that Dolgailon was here,” he explained. “I was far angrier with him than I should have been over the incident with the Men and I see him so infrequently.” He sighed again. “I miss my son and I very much desire to spend more time with him.”
Engwe looked away immediately in response to that speech. Thranduil looked piercingly at his brother for a moment before looking away as well.
Aradunnon frowned. “Uncle Engwe’s attitude I well understand, Thranduil, but yours I do not. Please tell me why you have reacted as you did to that statement and to our announcement about the baby,” he demanded. His tone was irate.
Thranduil’s brow knit but he did not look up. “Your choices are your own, Aradunnon. Your family is your own to govern and it is not my place to judge you.” Thranduil looked at his brother. “But I admit that I do not understand this decision. How can you think that now is an appropriate time to have another child?”
Aradunnon stiffened. “I am aware of the difficulties in the south and east and I assure you, Thranduil, I can manage the patrols from the capital…” he began but his brother’s expression silenced him.
“I trust your command of the patrols, Aradunnon,” Thranduil interrupted. “That is not my concern. On the contrary, as I said earlier, I would very much prefer for your entire family to live in the stronghold. I am very happy to have my troop commander and brother here in the capital.”
Aradunnon stared at Thranduil a moment, obviously lost. “Then why do you think this is an inappropriate time for Amoneth and I to have another child? It truly seems perfect to me. I can visit with Dolgailon while we are both in the capital. I can be here as Golwon’s child grows up. My child will have a cousin his or her own age. What else could I ask for?”
Thranduil drew a deep breath before speaking in an effort to do so softly. “Did you not just say that you miss the son that you already have? That you do not have the time with him that you would like because both you and he are dedicated to fighting the Enemy in the South? Does it not concern you to bring another child into such a life?”
Aradunnon’s eyes widened and then swiftly narrowed. “I hope you are not suggesting that I have been a poor adar to Dolgailon…”
Thranduil held up his hands in a conciliatory gesture. “Of course not, muindor nin. I know that you are an excellent adar and that Dolgailon loves you as you love him. Have I not said a thousand times that he is a wonderful child?”
Aradunnon’s expression changed very little. “If you are not saying that I am a poor adar and if you believe my son is ‘wonderful,’ then what is your complaint, Thranduil?”
Thranduil pressed his lips tightly shut, shook his head and looked away, uncharacteristically unwilling to join an argument.
Aradunnon was surprised when Engwe responded instead of his brother.
“Thranduil finds himself under pressure from many sides in the family to have a child himself. And it is not a decision he feels ready to make,” their Uncle said quietly.
Aradunnon’s eyebrows rose when Thranduil did not challenge that assertion. “I see,” he replied after a moment. Then he laid a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “Thranduil I do not want to add to the pressure that is obviously making you uncomfortable. Only you and Lindomiel can decide when the time will be right for you to have children. I will only say this: when Amoneth and I decided to have Dolgailon, I was concerned, perhaps for the same reasons that you are now. I saw the Shadow and the fell creatures in the south and I worried about keeping my child safe and happy. I knew how dangerous my duties are and I worried about leaving him without an adar. I doubted my decision until the moment I first held Dolgailon but I never doubted it afterwards. My son is dearer to me and makes me happier than anything else that I can name. There is no doubt in my mind that I want another child now.”
Engwe nodded solemnly in agreement. Thranduil and Aradunnon tried to conceal their surprise at that and he smiled sadly. “There truly is wizardry involved when one holds a baby in one's arms," he said in a soft voice. He was silent for a moment before he turned to Thranduil with a wry smirk. "Beware Thranduil. Do not allow Eirienil and Aradunnon's child to lure you down dangerous paths. I speak from experience for I certainly fell into that trap. It was your birth and Oropher’s constant declarations of the joys of parenthood that led Ormeril and I to conceive Ninglor.” His smile brightened. “I think you may have been the first baby I ever held and I will not forget it. It was on your Naming Day that your adar began his campaign to convince me to have a child.”
“I am so happy to have all of you here to help Dieneryn and I welcome our son to our family.” Oropher began, reciting the ritual words that opened the Naming Ceremony. As he did, he glanced at his mother and father, Doroniel and Cellon, and his wife’s parents, Malthoron and Desseglad. They sat on either side of he and Dieneryn in the domed garden alcove. Dieneryn’s brothers with their wives and Oropher’s brother, Engwe, with his wife, Ormeril, surrounded them on the garden benches.
Oropher felt the eyes of his family upon him, waiting for him to continue. He paused a moment to stroke the cheek of the baby bundled in a blanket in Dieneryn’s arms. The baby responded by cooing and grasping at his fingers with tiny hands. That brought a delighted smile to Oropher’s face and he focused on his family to continue the ceremony.
“It is certain that the more love this child receives in his life, the more love he will be able to give to others. The more people to whom this child relates, the more balanced and rich his growth will be. Your presence today is appreciated, as will be your interest and involvement in the years ahead. Today, Dieneryn and I present to you our son, who we promise before all of you to love and guide and protect. His name is Thranduil.”
The elves around Oropher frowned slightly. Even Dieneryn appeared to struggle with the name. Oropher laughed to himself watching his family try to figure what the name could mean. After a moment, Dieneryn looked at her husband with a single raised eyebrow and everyone else in the family watched them intently, knowing that only she exerted enough influence to pry an explanation from him. Oropher smiled and promptly leaned over to whisper something in Dieneryn’s ear. In response, her eyes widened and she blushed. Oropher laughed, now openly.
That was all Malthoron was willing to tolerate. He scowled at his son-in-law. “Oropher, you are consistent, I will grant you that. Only you would be so perverse as to give your son a name that no one else can understand. It has a pretty sound but what does it mean?” he demanded flatly.
Oropher only grinned at his father-in-law. “I will leave that to you to puzzle over, I think,” he replied with a mischievous tone.
Malthoron’s mouth screwed up angrily. He admired his son-in-law for many reasons and loved him since he made Dieneryn very happy. But he did not doubt that Oropher, with his wild escapades, was a bad influence on his daughter, who had been a serious and successful artist before her marriage. Oropher could be the single most annoying Elf in all of Doriath. Possibly all of Beleriand. He drew a breath to respond.
Dieneryn cut off her father’s retort with a wave. “Please leave it, ada. The explanation will only require another explanation. It is not worth the trouble.” She turned to her husband. “You must still name our son’s daidodhron, Oropher,” she reminded in a quiet voice.
Oropher leaned over and kissed Dieneryn on the cheek, amusement still dancing in his eyes. Then he reached to take the cooing baby into his arms and looked at his brother. “Engwe, if you are willing, I ask you to be Thranduil’s daidodhron.” As he spoke, he placed the bundle into Engwe’s lap and smiled slightly at his brother’s panicked expression as he struggled to gain a secure hold on the squirming child.
Dieneryn smiled as well. “And Ormeril, if you are willing, I ask you to be Thranduil’s daidodhril,” she added.
Ormeril looked at her husband delightedly, immensely enjoying the sight of the baby in his arms. Engwe shook his head with a wry smile and he turned to his older brother. “I am honored, Oropher,” he said and then added in a softer voice, meant only for Oropher’s ears, “though you might have mentioned this to me before this very moment.”
Oropher smirked at him.
Engwe smirked back and then looked at the baby in his arms. He was gazing up at him curiously and waving his arms and legs. Engwe tickled a tiny bare foot with his little finger and elicited a delighted squeal. He laughed and faced his brother. “I am very willing, muindor nin. I promise to help you love and guide and protect your son and to care for him as my own should you be unable to do so.”
Ormeril nodded eagerly. “I also, Dieneryn. I promise to help you love and guide and protect your son and to care for him as my own should you be unable to do so. He is wonderful. You are so very blessed.”
Dieneryn smiled. “Perhaps you will soon be equally blessed,” she said with a meaningful look at Engwe.
Engwe looked helplessly at his wife as she began to tease Thranduil, waving a flower from her hair in front of his face and watching as little hands tried desperately to catch the dancing bloom. Then he turned an exasperated glare on his brother. “You did this on purpose, Oropher.”
Oropher only raised his eyebrows innocently.
Engwe shook his head. “Oropher was so pleased with himself when Ormeril and I announced the next year that we were having a child. He cheerfully took the credit for pushing us to that decision.” Engwe snorted. “And he had. I would never have decided to have a child so soon in our marriage.” He paused a moment and then continued in a low voice. “In truth, I am very thankful. If we had waited, Ormeril and I might never have had a child.”
The room remained silent for a long moment before Thranduil spoke.
“I cannot imagine how you must miss Ninglor and Ormeril amongst all this talk of children,” he said softly, looking at his uncle sympathetically. “I find myself missing Ninglor myself. Even now I can still say that he was the closest friend I ever had. I know your grief must be many times my own, but I want you to know that I think about him often too. Especially now, with all the talk of children about.”
Engwe sighed and looked away. When he spoke, his voice was strained. “Ninglor loved you dearly, Thranduil. Naturally you were close. You were nearly the same age. I always knew that his death hurt you terribly. You and he were like twins. And of course you actually saw him….” He paused for control. When he continued his voice was even rougher. “I do miss him. Desperately. I pray that he and Ormeril will not choose to stay forever with Mandos.”
Thranduil closed his eyes. That same prayer applied to far too many loved ones. And was the reason Thranduil found the decision to have children in these dark times so difficult.
Ion nin--My son
Pen neth--Young one
Muindor nin--My brother
Daidodhron/Daidodhril--I made this up. "Taid" means "second" and "odhron/odhril" mean "male/female parent." I intend for these words to mean 'godfather/mother' in the sense of someone who would be named responsible for a child if their parents could no longer care for them.
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