Burning Bright - Part 3

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'Burning Bright'

 

3. Decisions

Ost-in-Edhil


The cavern under the House of the Mirdain was silent except for the soft hiss and crackle of the forge and the occasional rustle of cloth. Once more Galadriel stood encircled by elves, but this time they could offer moral support only, nothing more. Previously there had been so many minor rings that she suspected half the population of Ost-in-Edhil had access to one, but they were open windows through which Sauron could watch their actions at will and most had already been destroyed.  Making use of them was out of the question.

Celebrimbor was still dressed for the forge, his hair bound back loosely from his face with gold cords. There were dark lines beneath his eyes and his mouth was grim; he looked and sounded exhausted. “This will be our greatest venture,” he said in a voice barely louder than the sounds from his forge. “Tolfaen, Galadriel and I have spent long hours discovering how best to work with the Three, and we are as prepared as the time has allowed. The threat closes in from both south and east, we can delay no longer.”

He allowed the murmurs of assent to die away before he continued. “Our work today will create a barrier around Eregion similar to the girdle Melian once raised about Doriath. Once completed, any force that comes against us will turn back in disarray, confused by mists and shifting landmarks. In this way we will also protect Lindon lying to our west.” He shot a mocking glance in Galadriel’s direction; this was his answer to her oft-expressed concerns about keeping the truth from Gil-galad. “The barrier will draw its strength from the Three, making it more potent than anything our opponent can muster. He…”

“He has power beyond measure now, increased by the new ring he wears,” Tolfaen interrupted, low-voiced. “We have all experienced it, we have all seen him in our minds, seeking to control our rings and through them, us. His strength is… terrible.”

Celebrimbor made an impatient gesture. “Terrible he may seem, just as some once thought him beautiful and wise, but he is no match for us and our determination.” They all knew he more than anyone had found Aulë’s former associate beautiful and wise, but now was not the time for blame, and Galadriel held her peace. There followed a pause while he let his words sink in, as fond of the dramatic as any of his family, then he touched her arm briefly, whether in reassurance or impatience she was unable to tell. “Begin when you are ready, Cousin,” he said, for they had agreed that although the rings were his creation, she was best qualified for the work and would lead this assault. 

They raised their hands, fingertips touching, and the Three began to shimmer, blue, red, palest yellow, the colours swirling and blending to form a rainbow glow around their wrists. The air began to tingle, tighten. Galadriel felt power stirring the hairs on the back of her neck, shivering her forearms with gooseflesh. The light grew until they could see the map of Eregion picked out on the floor, detailing its mountains, its rivers, every possible breach that would need to be closed, hidden, held. Galadriel looked down at it, into it, and the ring seemed to look with her, reaching out and beyond, its energy twining about her, drawing her into a nexus of unimaginable potency.

Nenya was easier to join with this time, thanks to Celebrimbor’s reluctant agreement to let them practice focusing their innate strength and skill through his cherished prisms of power. For long moments it was like trying to find her seat on a spirited horse, but then she was flying free as a falcon, the chamber dropping away around her, shed like so much cumbersome clothing. A semblance of her ‘self’ clad as though in shimmering purple carried the bright-burning focus of her will, while her physical body remained behind, awaiting her return. 

She looked down on the land from her bird’s eye vantage, seeing it in strange colours: soft blue where the elves lived, gently pulsing orange for the dwarves, the rivers swirling silver-green, the mountains dark and strong. The lines that formed the boundaries of Eregion hung over this view as though etched on the land itself in pulsing silver. Their task was to follow these guidelines and form an impenetrable wall of confusion and mist as Melian had done in Doriath when the world was younger and greener and herself a mere student at the feet of the great enchantress. Galadriel reached out, her will one with the power of Nenya, and together they began the work of raising and building walls of iridescent light, flickering shadow. 

The mountain passes were simple, a matter of closing the road to sight, blending it in with the rock and making a gateway open only to those permitted to pass into Eregion. The river was harder, the water rushed and pushed, straining against the barrier she attempted to erect, and she bent her full will to it, shutting out all else around her. So intent was she upon the task that it was some time before she noticed the change taking place about her. Some sense of wrongness reached her at last and she looked around, to find the landscape that had lain clear before her was now overshadowed as if by heavy cloud. In the east light flickered, and she saw leaping flames with a heart of dull, unhealthy red. As she turned her attention to this new phenomenon, the river barrier shuddered and fell apart in her hands. 

Then the wind rose. At first a stuttering breeze, it grew swift and fierce, keening and buffeting at the lines of power she was trying to hold. The glamour of protection already laid across a pass quivered and began to unravel, strand upon strand unwinding under the onslaught. Mist surrounded her, thick and roiling, blocking the landscape from view.  Somewhere off in the darkness she heard a soul-chilling scream.

She barely had time to turn before tentacles of a dark that was the pure absence of light reached out from the mist and began to slide around her, mithril-strong with the metal’s cold slickness. As she struggled to evade them the screams became feral howls of agony. interspersed with words babbling, pleading for help. 

‘Tolfaen,’ she thought, trying to pinpoint the direction of his voice. Colour tinged the mist, bruise-like shades of sickly yellow, livid mauve, and the tentacles tightened, probed for weakness . She could not move, could not find Tolfaen, knew she had to help herself before she could help him. She released her grip on the barriers she had been raising and instead turned Nenya’s strength on her attacker. Warmth and pale light surrounded her and the tentacles retreated. Fleetingly she considered going ‘back’, but Tolfaen faced danger here, on this plane. Pushing through swirling fog, she headed towards his cries, the ring extending a protective circle around her.

Blue-white light flashed without warning. On and off. And on. Whimpering, she drew back. A harsh buzzing accompanied it, keeping staccato time with the brilliance, each burst like a spike being hammered through her head. Slitting her eyes against the brightness she forced herself to look around. The landscape had changed, it was grey and dry now, littered with shards of volcanic rock. She could just make out a figure lying crumpled in upon itself within a writhing tangle of tentacles. Tolfaen! 

By will alone, Galadriel pushed forward through the light and noise, her head pounding, each breath burning in her lungs. She was wholly present on this plane now and knew that if she failed, her physical body would die. She had almost reached him when she became aware of a presence in the shadows watching her. She gritted her teeth against the soft laughter she sensed rather than heard and ignored it. Reaching Tolfaen, she stretched out her hand and Nenya joined with her brother in attempting to unfurl the undulating darkness from the too-still form.

Movement. Behind her. Too close. Spinning round, she looked up into light and met dark, mocking eyes above a raised hand wearing a plain, gold ring that glowed with menace. Instinctively she raised her own hand to ward him off, and Nenya pulsed, star sheen surrounding her. White light blazed in reply, wiping out all colour and shape, and then she was falling, falling back to the cavern under the guild house with Nenya’s strength wrapped protectively about her, the only thing between herself and death. Even as she fell, she could feel and hear his fury.

She was aware of moving back into her corporeal body and then falling again. She was unconsciousness even before she struck the floor.                                                         

~*~*~*~*~


She lay on cold stone with her head cradled on someone’s lap, and a voice was talking, the words hurried, hard to follow, possibly directed at someone else, not her. She pulled away and the voice drew closer, calm but firm, tantalizingly familiar.

“No, Tanis. Lie back, lie still. Close your eyes, hush now. Shh.”

The words came from a great distance, muffled by darkness as though through layers of padding. Galadriel, who had started life as Artanis Nerwen, adored lastborn and only daughter of Finarfin, heard without understanding, knowing the voice without having a name for its owner. She tried again to move, struggling away from the darkness, and the voice became insistent.

“Be still, woman. You need rest. Don’t try and get up, there’s nothing more to be done now.”

The rings. Nenya. She reached, felt nothing, panicked. “The rings. Don’t let him take the rings. Hide them away, don’t let him…”

“They’re safe for now,” the voice reassured. She felt a hand brush her forehead, or was it the touch of lips. She couldn’t tell. “He shan’t have them. Hush.”

“Send them away. He’ll come for them, he’s coming…”

Darkness drew in, swallowed her. Time passed. This time she woke in a bed, the mattress firm, the pillows soft. She started awake, tried to sit up, and another hand on her shoulder steadied her.

“I am here, all is well. Whatever happened back there is over. You are all right, Alatáriel…”

Alatáriel. “Celeborn?”

“Shh,” he murmured, and now she could feel the warmth of his body, recognise the concern in his voice. Celeborn, her husband, father of her child, a prince of Doriath… Though Doriath was no more, of course, neither the realm nor the arts of that realm. Angry frustration flooded through her with the return of memory. 

“Melian would have known what to do.”

“Probably. As you said before though, she was fickle and might not have stayed long enough to explain.”

Celebrimbor paced into view, he must have been looking out the window. She had to bite back laughter at the unlikelihood of him being in their bedroom. Then she remembered and amusement left as though it had never been. “Tolfaen?”

He stopped at the end of the bed, leaning forward with his hands resting on the footboard. She knew the answer before he shook his head. “Fell to the ground screaming and struggling. We prevented him from clawing his throat open but we couldn’t wake him. I think his heart stopped from fear.”

“No, not fear. His spirit form was strangled, you just saw the echo.” 

She sat up, pushing her hair out of her face, heedless of it falling in golden waves around her shoulders and breast. Celeborn held a cup out to her and she took it and drank deeply. Warmed wine, flavoured with nutmeg and cinnamon bought from eastern traders whose brothers and fathers were even now marching on them with war. “The rings have to be taken to safety,” she told Celebrimbor in a no-nonsense voice. “He knows and he wants them. He’ll tear Ost-in-Edhil apart to find them.”

He came round to sit on the side of the bed, ignoring Celeborn’s frown. “It might be a little late for that now, Cousin.”

Galadriel shook her head. “Not too late, we still have time. We just need the right messenger to take them west to Ereinion. No, Brim, there’s no point in arguing,” she added before he could get a word out. “He's not just our king, he's the only one left who could hold them secure - we've buried everyone else who might withstand Sauron. Unless you know where your uncle Maglor is? I think he would give even Annatar pause.”

Celebrimbor chuckled darkly. “I’m not sure I’d trust them to my uncle, Tanis. No, if he’s really coming for them, Lindon is where they need to be. But how? Will you take them? I can’t leave the city, I have to see to the defences, prevent panic. I still believe we can hold them off, but only if we stand and fight.”

Celeborn, who had been admirably quiet up till now, said dryly, “Prevent panic? They’ve been leaving for weeks, families, little groups. Don’t you watch the movement on the road west?”

Her cousin shrugged. “I turn a blind eye to families. If I had a child I might be tempted myself.” He avoided her eyes, the memory of her request to send Celebrían to safety lay between them, something best not raised with Celeborn present.

“We need to think of now, not what’s gone before,” she said, her eyes enforcing silence. “The rings need to go west and we need a courier no one will look at twice. And he needs to go now, because when they get close enough the first thing they will do is block the ford at Tharbad.” 

“I can send soldiers…”

“And they will die,” Celeborn countered flatly with the authority of one who had fought this enemy before the sun or moon even rose. Celebrimbor nodded curtly, acknowledging his experience. 

“Lindir.” Galadriel had been giving the appearance of thinking while she sipped her wine. They both turned to stare at her. “The minstrel? Pretty boy, lovely voice, full of attitude. He has family in Lindon somewhere, and what would be more natural at a time like this than for him to take his gifts to another court?”

“You’re out of your mind,” Celebrimbor said disbelievingly. “You’d trust our most potent artefacts to a performer?”

She smiled. “Unlikely, isn’t it? Even your good friend Annatar wouldn’t think of that, would he?”

A corner of Celeborn’s mouth twitched in suppressed mirth and he refused to make eye contact with her. Celebrimbor was unimpressed. “You’re right,” he snapped. “No one would think of it because it’s insane. Have you considered the length of the road from here to Mithlond and what can go wrong? How do you expect that -- child to look after himself, let alone safeguard the rings?”

“You don’t know much about musicians, do you?” she asked over the rim of the cup. “Consider your uncle Maglor again. Very few warriors would have faced him by choice over a drawn sword. No, I think Lindir can look after himself well enough, he’s travelled into mortal lands alone and returned to tell the tale. But perhaps you’re right, perhaps we should send someone with him, someone to stay in the background and watch out for him.”

“How about Erestor?” Celeborn suggested, right on cue. They finished one another’s sentences sometimes, too, their timing impeccable.

She pretended to think about this while Celebrimbor, who had never taken to their house guest, glowered. “That could be a good idea,” she agreed, smiling brightly at Celeborn who returned look for look. She extended the smile to Celebrimbor. “I’ve been half expecting him to tell me he’s leaving – he’s a scholar these days, and he has nothing invested here. And he can give Lindir access to Ereinion, which might prove difficult otherwise. They may have fallen out, but they’ve known one another since Balar.”

Celebrimbor looked dubious. “I suppose the point about royal access is a sound one. The door would still be open to his former … assistant?”

Galadriel suppressed something suspiciously like a giggle. “Yes, Cousin, I’m quite sure he’d see his ex -- assistant. He asks after him regularly, so I assume no hard feelings.”

Among certain circles it was an open secret that Galadriel’s former aide, the exotically attractive scholar with the interesting past, had been somewhat more than an assistant to the High King. There were whispers that his departure from Lindon was linked to rumours of the High King’s impending marriage, a marriage which had not, as it transpired, taken place after all. Erestor had chosen to settle in Eregion while he researched a book on the history of Ost-in-Edhil. His sojourn had been mainly uneventful, with the exception of an unexpected detour to discuss the culture and traditions of the Vanyar with Annatar. 

“He could be a good choice to watch Lindir’s back and keep him on track,” Celeborn remarked, bringing the conversation back before it could enter the realm of gossip. “He’s handy with a knife and his reflexes are good. Used to be anyhow, and you never really lose that.”

Galadriel saw no reason to mention that Erestor practiced daily in the privacy of his room and had not lost the skills built up in the years he had spent travelling with her cousin Gildor. Not only would he keep Lindir as safe as the road allowed, he would also carry a full, unexpurgated report for Ereinion Gil-galad and could be trusted to deliver both it and the musician safely to Mithlond. 

She leaned back against her pillows sipping her wine and felt the warmth spread out and begin to loosen the tension that still knotted her body, legacy of the horror that had gone before. “I’m sure it will be enough,” she said, nodding. “It will have to be. Two elves fleeing home ahead of the storm have the best chance of passing unnoticed from here to Mithlond. Add warriors and fast horses, and you make it plain something important is in progress.”

“When?” Celebrimbor asked. “Not immediately. There are still ways we can use the Three to make the passes less accessible. I saw it earlier, before… Let the weather lift, send them when the thaw begins and the roads have a chance to clear?”

Celeborn and Galadriel exchanged glances and he gave her an infinitesimal nod. “That should be right,” she said. “It gives us time to approach Lindir, and decide how much to tell him, and for Erestor to give out that he plans an eventual return home. He knows too many people, it has to look unhurried, natural. Nothing about their leaving should seem noteworthy.”

The unspoken was accepted by all three with nods. Nothing to draw attention, nothing to let this departure seem in any way different than the many others currently taking place. Nothing to catch the eye of those who even at this late stage might be sending word east to Morgoth’s former lieutenant, the new Enemy.

 

Mithlond


“All else aside, there’s no time for you to train with our warriors,” the king said. “No time for you to get used to their ways and they to yours.”

Gil-galad sat at ease, legs stretched out before him, his feet resting on a small table he had just hooked closer for that purpose. They were enjoying the mid morning sun in Círdan’s garden while they drank Maeriel’s excellent lemon cordial and watched the seagulls swoop and flock. Glorfindel liked Círdan’s home, it put him in mind of Alqualondé and not just because of the Telerin presence. He had another taste of the cordial and reluctantly nodded. 

“Yes, I understand that. And I know we agreed my position would be advisory. But you have no idea how frustrating it is to watch preparations for war and not have a part in it, not be of use to anyone. This is what I was trained for, it’s something I do well.” The last time had been less than successful, but neither of them was going there.

Gil-galad blew out a gusty breath. “Oh no, I know exactly how you feel. Think I like sitting on my backside watching Elrond get my army battle-ready? He has no command experience, what he knows is what he picked up from watching Maedhros or listening to the rest of us swap war stories. I’m trying not to get in his way or undermine his authority but I’m biting my tongue and gritting my teeth a lot. Trouble is, some of us just can’t take to the field, not unless all else fails. Or so my Council insists.”

He was staring moodily into his glass and the last sentence ended on something rather like a growl. 

“In Your Majesty’s case of course it makes sense that you stay in Mithlond,” Glorfindel said. Well, it didn’t really, he was used to kings who led from the front, but he was starting to understand the scale of Lindon and why the councillors might feel keeping the centre safe was  imperative.  “I never realised you fought in the War of Wrath, Sire? But then, I was told barely enough to expect a High King, a kingdom and that Lord Círdan remained to vouch for my identity.”

Gil-galad glanced at him. “Just Gil-galad in private, or Gil if you like. Don’t know what was in my mother’s mind – ‘starlight’. Ereinion’s more for family, it dates back to when I was growing up on Balar. And no, we didn’t sit shivering in fear on our island, waiting for the Vanyar to rescue us. We harried Morgoth’s forces all along the coast, we followed them inland, we kept it up even when the land was being broken up and the sea came in and flooded Sirion… There were still elves living there. Eönwë apologised, said no one had told him…” 

At the sound of Maeriel’s approach, he broke off to sit up hastily and take his feet off the table. She placed a tray with sandwiches and a slice of apple pie down on it, gave him a deeply suspicious stare, and left them to talk. The king took the tray off the table and rested his feet back on it. “She’d make my life miserable if she caught me,” he admitted with a wry grin. “Have a sandwich. Why isn’t there more pie?”

Glorfindel shook his head and held up a hand.“Not for me, thanks, she knows I won’t eat mid-morning,” Since his rebirth, food seemed to have a lower priority in his life. He ate light meals, sufficient for his needs, enjoyed them, and had no impulse to snack in between. As Gil-galad got started on the pie, Glorfindel returned to the conversation. “Getting an apology was an achievement. Lord Eönwë likes to believe there is nothing he doesn’t know.” In his mind’s eye he saw again the unbending presence in his house, the perfectly ordered robes and disdainful stare.

“Yep, figured. Prig. Some of them got off in boats but there weren’t enough for everyone. There were communities hidden up in the hills, most of them died too. Dwarves and men – I have no idea of the numbers, only what we learned from the stragglers who reached Lindon later. The places you knew were all drowned, well most of them anyhow. There’s a bit of rock sticking up, small island, they say it was part of Himring. That’s about it. Anyhow - fighting. I was already fighting the enemy in my forties. They crowned me when I was about 62, no fuss, went off after a bunch of raiders that same evening.” 

At Glorfindel’s raised eyebrow, he shrugged. “Life was like that then. When we first settled here it felt strange not to be out hunting something.  but there was work to be done. Felt like I’d been fighting all my life, quite welcomed the break. Now ---- now I miss it. I listen to them drill and wish I could go join in. I used to lead the odd patrol while we were cleaning up from the war, but people got a bit upset after I took an arrow.” He grinned like a child recounting a misadventure which he believed had been worth the punishment. 

Glorfindel found he was smiling as well. The more time he spent with Gil-galad, the more he liked this junior royal who had been elevated to high station by circumstances directly related to his own death. “Orc arrows carry poison, Your Majes – Gil. I can see how it might have caused concern. Other than Arta – Galadriel and Elrond, there’s no-one else left from Finwë’s line over here, is there?”

Gil-galad shook his head. “Just them. And she’s a woman with a female child, and he’s Half-elven, the reason Eärendil never extended a claim for kingship himself, nor Idril in his name. Too many conservative voices, too much resistance at the time.”

“All the more reason for you to stay away from the front line of any conflict,” Glorfindel said, nodding. “And I suppose we have to assume conflict is on its way. Besides the fact of me being here, I mean.”

“Applies to you, too, you know,” Gil-galad said after washing down a mouthful of pie with some of the cordial. “Not about to put you in harm’s way either. Valar sent you, and even if there was time for you to get trained and ready to move out with the army. I’d have to say no. Somehow I don’t think they sent you over to get yourself killed again.”

Glorfindel snorted with laughter. “To the point. Yes, that’s true. I also have an idea if fighting needed to be done, I’d know. But still – it rankles.” It did, but his brief did not seem to include joining an army. 

“Yes, that it does.” Gil-galad raised his glass half-mockingly. “So you can sit here in the sun with me like two old mortal warriors and we’ll swap stories and watch the world get ready to tear itself apart again and regret our lost freedom.” He reached for the jug, offering it to Glorfindel before adding more cordial to his own glass. Setting it down, he began examining the sandwiches. “So. Just in case I ever get there, what’s it like in the Halls? Be good to know what to expect. We Noldor kings don’t seem to have a lot of luck – I’ve already kept my crown a fair bit longer than the last few.”

Knowing that, why haven’t you wed, sired an heir? Glorfindel wondered. He kept the question to himself for now, he knew where to go for answers. Círdan was good for matters of conduct and dress, but if he wanted real information he had fast learned to choose another direction.  

~*~*~*~*~


“Oh, there’ve been several matches that almost led to an exchange of rings – silver at least. But something always happens at the last minute – politics, power struggles, personal taste…”

In the weeks he had spent in her home, Glorfindel had never seen Maeriel idle. Today was no exception, and baking at least kept her in one place long enough for them to talk. He liked her big, comfortable kitchen with its red tile floor and long table. There was even a cat over by the hearth and one on the floor next to his chair, leg thrown back over its shoulder in one of the strange poses the animals adopted while they groomed themselves. Glorfindel had never made close acquaintance with a cat before and he rather liked their grace and unexpected friendliness. They used to be considered ill-omened, but this did not seem the consensus in Mithlond; there were several at the palace, and Elrond seemed particularly fond of them.

He was still expected eventually to cross the bay and go live in the palace complex, a series of buildings in warm gold and rosy pink stone that he could see sprawling along the waterfront almost opposite the harbour, but while his visits there were always pleasant, this quieter, more thoughtful corner of Lindon suited him better at this stage. He just needed to find the words to explain this to Gil-galad without it seeming he preferred the Shore Lord’s hospitality to that of the High King.

“So, it’s not from lack of interest then?” he asked. “I know sometimes we get too involved in our work, take longer than we should to find our soul’s mate and settle down. It just seemed less usual with a king, and I wondered.”

Maeriel looked over at him, her hands busy kneading dough. He suspected her hazel eyes missed very little, and while she talked a lot he noticed she was careful how much information she passed along. “Have you never thought of marriage yourself, my lord?” she asked now, countering his question with another.

For a moment the light seemed to change and he could almost imagine the next footfalls he heard would be Elsúrië’s. He met Maeriel’s inquiry candidly, a smile touching his lips. “Oh yes. We were promised, but then I followed Turgon here for my cousin Elenwë’s sake. When they rehoused me after, we had just enough time to talk about setting a day for our vows, then I was asked to return to aid the king. So – yes, I’ve considered it seriously, twice now. Not single through lack of trying.” He tried to make a joke of it to still the quiet ache that always seemed to accompany thoughts of her. It would ease in time, he remembered that, but never totally fade. “Elsúrië,” he added softly. “Her name’s Elsúrië.”

She reached a flour-streaked hand across the table and touched his arm gently. “She is a very fortunate lady, my lord. She must be so proud of you.”

“In between being cordially fed up with me, you mean?” he asked, and they both laughed.

“Even so,” Maeriel agreed. “It’s a woman’s lot that those we love most are often the ones we wish to shake until their teeth rattle.” She slapped the dough into a new shape, reached for her roller and began flattening it with short, quick strokes. “As you say, some of us are too busy to give thought to love and duty. The years are long, there is no need of haste, not like there is with mortal kind. But – some feel less urge to wed than others, either through interests that are best suited to the single life or because their inclination might not favour a marriage and heirs. Then – it is hard to say what would be the best course in that case.”

Glorfindel nodded slowly. Maeriel was unlikely to gossip about Gil-galad, she was easily as fond of him as he was of her. That meant what she implied was less a secret than something known to some but treated with discretion. He approached the subject obliquely. “Was there ever someone special in his life? Or… he came to the crown very young, perhaps there was no time before and it would have been contentious after?”

“Hmph.” Maeriel put aside the roller and reached for a cutter instead, a circular shape with a zigzag edge and began cutting out rounds. “The last one he seemed serious about is in Eregion, has been for decades now. He was sent to investigate when the Stranger became a cause for concern, then stayed there on the track of larger secrets. The reports come with the Lady’s letters, and that’s all I know. With the trouble that’s coming, he might be on the road already. I hope so in any event. The Lady’s fond of him, she’d not let him fall into danger if she could help it. She looks out for her own, that one.”

It hadn’t taken long to realise that when people here talked about The Lady, they meant not Varda the Lamp Kindler, but Artanis, daughter of Finwe, rebel princess in exile. His mouth twitched, trying to smile, and he stopped it firmly. “Yes she does, she always did,” he agreed smoothly. “And the king’s friend, the one she is so fond of. Can I ask his name?”

Maeriel shrugged. “Oh, you could as easily ask Elrond, they’re good friends, or were. Erestor. Black hair, light brown eyes, and an answer for everything. They met on Balar, in my herb garden, didn’t stop arguing for days. I knew where that would lead by sunset, though it took them a deal longer and years of friendship first. Some things just are what they are. King or commoner, we can’t always direct our heart’s liking for others’ convenience.”

~*~*~*~*~

Part 4

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Beta: Red Lasbelin