Legolas dismounted, relieved the sinister and gloomy atmosphere of the Amon Lanc lay well behind. They had everybody through the Narrow of the Greenwood and the hardiest were halfway to the old Forest Road not too far from the dwelling of that strange but kindly wizard Radagast at Rhosgobel. It would take a while before the last of his kin would reach the natural barrier of the Mountains of the Great Greenwood. Ninety leagues in a dense forest were a challenging experience with such a trek, especially for the families who had young elflings. Many of the babes were in a terrible state, unhealthy, subdued and weakened by the shadow. The healers were completely powerless against this strange ailing that seemed to suck their feas from the little bodies.
But while a few had seen the urgency in the Princes' plea' to give up their homes and move from the capital of Amon Lanc to another and healthier part of the great woodland realm, most insisted to drag manifold belongings and possessions with them. Even over the well-trodden forest paths that allowed small carriages to go hither and thither between the Amon Lanc and his father's beloved miniature replica of his ancient home Menegroth, the march would take at least three full moons.
'T'is strange that one day all of us would feel happy with King Thranduil's curious fancy caverns on the banks of the Enchanted River!' Thirion mused, as he too dismounted and joined Legolas on foot. The Captain remembered still how Thranduil, then still the Heir to the Great Greenwood had discovered those caverns on the Eastern Borders of his father's realm and taken to explore them recklessly with an old childhood friend from Doriath, who would occasionally visit and was not afraid of dark places under the earth.
Oropher's subjects, in those days almost exclusively Nandorin and Avari, had been terrified by the young prince's idea to crawl around inside a mountain. But Haldir had often humoured his friend and when his duties allowed him to slip away from Hollin, he'd cross through the Dwarven realm of Khazad-Dum for a couple of weeks. Thirion himself had seen the caverns only later, after Oropher's death on the Dagorlad.
The King saw nothing wrong with his son's taste for adventure, but he barely accepted that Thranduil would wander off with Haldir. When the two had met at Elu Thingol's court in Doriath as elflings, they had immediately formed a friendship, being of the same age and having a liking for similar past times.
But to Oropher Celeborn's foster son had always been 'that grubby, parentless stray' and his opinion of Haldir never changed, not even after the elfling had grown into a warrior and captain of great renown; not even on the day, when Gil-Galad had entrusted him with the entire Elven cavalry that rode with the Last Alliance!
But since Oropher would not authorize any of his warriors to fraternize with his heir and indulge in his adventuring, he bowed ever grudgingly to Haldir as his son's companion of choice.
The caverns had been Thranduil's joy until the drama of the Last Alliance and the Dagorlad came to happen. After the prince's return from that horrible struggle to claim his fallen father's throne, his attitude towards the underground labyrinth changed entirely. He copied Thingol and brought dwarves from the Lonely Mountains to enlarge and transform what nature had created. He also engaged a huge body of his own subjects in the construction works. For even if the Nandorin did not like to go underground, they were still skilful craftsmen and able to work good stone to perfection.
Often had it then appeared to Thirion, that Thranduil's efforts to reproduce a miniature of Menegroth were driven by a panic reaction to the destructions and losses in the great war against Sauron. They had carved out an impressive system of tunnels, lower and upper halls, cellars, a protected gateway and even un underground harbour, where the Enchanted River disappeared within the mountain. And not even cells for prisoners were forgotten...just in case.
And while his King dutifully maintained his father's capital Amon Lanc as the chief city of the Great Greenwood, he indulged himself in lengthy stays in his miniature-Menegroth, attracting even some of his Sylvan subjects towards the new stronghold. These elves establish themselves in the region that bordered with Dale and the county of Laketown. First, all they had felt from this change in ruling style was an enhanced traffic of goods between the Sylvan folk and the men of Dale. Next friendly relations between the elves and the second born were established and finally the ties with the Dwarven folk from Durin's tribe, dwelling in close by Erebor.
Today Thranduil's Captain had the curious feeling, that his King had been possessed with a great farsightedness some thousand years ago, when he had undertaken the building of his underground stronghold and the forming of alliances and friendships on the other side of their eastern boarders.
The King's caverns, also much smaller in size then the Doriath original, were able to shelter the largest part of his people seep under the earth in time of distress. And Greenwood could call upon its neighbours to support them against foes and evil-doers... But would this suffice to combat the shadow that had befallen the Amon Lanc and was reaching out to suck their strength and life force from them? Was this a foe one that could be fought with sword and bow, or from deep caverns under a mountain or would they entrap themselves in their secret keep and slowly perish?
Legolas seemed to read Thirion's thoughts. He was the youngest of his King's sons, but nonetheless possessed great wisdom and farsightedness. And having grown up completely untainted by his grandfather Oropher's prejudiced attitude towards the Sylvan elves, whom he never considered the equals of his own Sinda kin, he was deeply enrooted in the Great Greenwood.
'I believe we made the right choice, Thirion!' Legolas said humbly, 'Nobody, not even my adar, understands what has befallen the Amon Lanc. T'is better to retreat from our capital for a while, bring our people to safety and then go to investigate the issue with battle-hardened and experienced warriors. It is a most curious evil that lingers there. Something very old and very, very dangerous. Yrch and goblins I have known all my life and I understand their nasty ways and darkness. They are foul, but not particularly clever and most certainly not very brave, when confronted with a band of determined elves. They have always come into our realm, trying to do mischief and destroy things fair and bright. But it was never.....' He hesitated for a moment,'...t'was never so organized, so determined. They were just ramshackle, petty thieves and murderers, left-overs from another age, seeking vengeance on those who had bested them.'
Thirion nodded. These were almost Haldir's words from his missive: The Captain of Lothlorien, much experienced in dealing with creatures of shadow and evil and well acquainted with Sauron's armies until the destruction of the Great Deceiver on the slopes of Mount Doom had also stated, that the marauders destroyed by his wardens off the Greenwood borders in a ravine close to the Redhorn Gate had been extremely determined and organized in a way....He shuddered inwardly: In a way, they had been organized while Morgoth's Captain and his Nine Black Riders had been at the height of their evil power and a doom to all good folks in Aman.
Silraen blushed when another good citizen of Caras Galadhon gave her a friendly greeting and addressed her as 'Lady Silraen'. She pulled the wicker basket she carried a bit closer to her hip, gave the good elf a most charming smile and accelerated her pace. Haldir had been gone for ten days now and she was trying to fall back into that lonely, but nonetheless comfortable routine that always marked their forced separations.
Although nobody in the forest realm knew the true mission that was the cause of their Captain's sudden disappearance, Celeborn had made it public, that she would stay in Laurelindórean and soon become his foster-son's wife. With Haldir hardly through the city gates, the silver lord had launched himself in a frenzy of organisation for the upcoming festivity. While Silraen had once more taken to her chosen profession and continued the task for which Anysse had made her come over from Rivendell, Celeborn had sprinted over to the Lothlorien weavers and commissioned recklessly lavish tissues for her wedding gown.
She chuckled softly. The silver lord had been deprived of this fatherly pleasure, when Celebrian had taken Elrond as her spouse. The Master of Rivendell had insisted on handling everything himself and to Celeborn's great horror, the wedding had actually taken place in his heaven and not in the Golden Wood.
But Haldir was absent and therefore completely defenceless against the subtle machinations of his enthusiastic foster-father. She was sure that the poor elf would not even be given the choice of colour for his own tunic! So much the better, she thought: Haldir seemed to have the most extensive wardrobe of military attire in all of Aman, going from greyish warden tunic to dark grey buckskin riding trousers and back again, with a smart twinkle of chain mail and some well-worn pieces of Elven armour. The single spot of colour she had ever seen on Haldir were the blood red cloak and sash of the Captain of Lothlorien. As far as she knew, her beloved did not own one single civilian garment. She was sure that he would try to wed her in his uniform!
Silraen answered another friendly greeting from another friendly citizen of Caras Galadhon. She had to stop letting her beloved distract her even while he was leagues away: There was the reorganization of the apothecary for the Wardens' House of Healing to think about.
Already before she came from Rivendell, Anysse had had lengthy discussions with the healers of the Wardens, who seemed a bit too determined to rough up their charges returning with bruises, cuts, broken bones and occasional arrows from the fences. It did not do any harm to a warrior, if his necessary treatment was slightly less painful and a bit more comfortable then the actual Laurelindórean standard!
And Silraen had had a stand-off on this issue with her soon-to-be father in law Celeborn a couple of days ago: The silver lord had not see any wrong in these methods and even proudly displayed several rather impressive scars of his own, testimony to the rough and ready treatment administered in Laurelindórean. She shook her head and murmured that all of Elrond's soldiery would have started a second kinslaying in Imladris, if ever the Lord or any of the other healers of the heaven would have attempted to set a broken bone without a good draught of painkilling poppy extract from her apothecary....well; not all of them perhaps!
She chuckled softly and remembered how she had witnessed Glorfindel after an in habitual and very humiliating fall from the back of a slightly rowdy young horse hitting his dislocated shoulder back in place against the stable walls. Rough, but efficient. And while the rusticate hero of Gondolin and Captain of Rivendell had only been a bit pale around his fair nose, she had almost fainted! But Glorfindel was -as Celebrian liked to point out - one of these completely mad first-age ellons, as were Celeborn and Haldir and could not be counted as your average warrior.
Anyhow; Glorfindel was completely crazy and none but Elrond himself could approach the normally gentle and polite ellon with healing draughts, bandages or needles. He had scared more healers witless than an enraged warg!
Continuing her musing on Laurelindórean's rough and ready health care for warriors, she took the forest path leading to her dwelling. The wicker basket contained 'embellishments' and she wondered what her Captain would say on his return.
While the Lady of the Golden Wood had convinced Silraen that maintaining her lodgings in one of the guest talans of Caras Galadhon was a farce that did not even work with the city's youngest elflings, Celebrian had found herself a new vocation as chief troublemaker. And Lord Elrond's Lady had found a faithful ally in the Lord of the Golden Wood himself, who -driven by his enthusiasm about the Rivendell addition to his merry tribe - had ordered a good amount of quality wood and commissioned Gelmir, one of the craftiest carpenters of Laurelindórean. Silraen had not been contrary to bring her books and apothecary equipment to the talan that already contained her clothes and womanly necessaries, but she doubted, that Haldir's lofty and rather large home in the crown of one of the highest mellyrn of Caras Galadhon really needed an additional floor and four more chambers. But it made Celeborn happy to mess around in their affairs and Celebrian's enthusiasm was overwhelming and thus she had bowed her fair head and meekly accepted the good offices of her future family.
She had only been a little bit surprised...no, rather worried, when a visiting Galadriel had looked at her with a hint of sadness in her eyes. But Celebrian had hushed Silraen and told her that her naneth had had the same look, when she had accepted Elrond's pledge.
'She is always dotting like a hen over Haldir!' The Lady of Rivendell had told her in a conspirator voice. 'I am not entirely sure that she knows, he's no longer a sweet, little elfling!'
Silraen tarried an instant on the stairs watching Gelmir and his workers. It had taken them hardly five days to finish the structure of the new floor and were starting on the details. She wondered, why in Eru's name two grown-up elves would need such a highly sophisticate balustrade on their balcony. Haldir could climb a Mallorn in his sleep and as far as she knew, he never fell out of trees and she was no mean climber either and gifted with an excellent sense of equilibrium. It looked nice, nonetheless and really gave her Captain's sober and solid dwelling a lighter touch. Perhaps Galadriel intended to gift them with one of her famed climbing roses for the wedding, a present that appealed much to Silraen, for the rosebuds had a wonderful healing power, calming even the most troubled elf or elfling.
'Elfling!' She pursed her lips and threw a suspicious glance at the balustrade. This looked exactly the same as the adornment on Rumil's and Anysse's talan including the small portico, that could not be opened by tiny adventurer hands from the inside. 'Celeborn of Doriath', she sizzled,'...you are a meddler in the affairs of grown-up elves, aren't you!'
Her soon-to-be father in law - renowned tactician and warrior- was preparing the terrain. But he seemingly did not count with the two grown-up elves in question! So this was the direction from where the winds were blowing: The silver lord was seriously thinking that she and Haldir had nothing better to do then provide him within a nick of time with a brood of grandchildren. Silraen took a few steps upwards and parked her wicker basket safely on an intermediary platform. She gave good Gelmir her most convincing good-elleth smile. 'Pray Master, would it be great trouble for you to hang the portico higher?' She asked sweetly, hoping that the craftsman would not see the twinkle of mischief in her eyes.
Gelmir swung lightly from the ladder on which he was perched and jumped with the surefootedness of his profession down onto the intermediary platform. Swapping his hands and brow with a tissue, he nodded courteously to Silraen. 'Lady, well met!' He greeted her.' I would advise against it, for the little ones could crawl out and fall from the tree. It is dangerous, you see. But I can make you a higher portico if you like or add some carved panes on top of this one.'
Silraen patted his hand congenially and shook her hand. 'Nay, Master Gelmir. Do not trouble yourself. T'is well.' She decided that she would have some serious words with Celeborn rather soon. He seemed to forget, that she and Haldir had pretty demanding jobs to do and were perhaps a bit old and settled in their own ways to disturb the peace and quite of their lives with a noisy brace of younglings.
They had been quite good at avoiding this little predicament for almost a thousand years, although their relationship was far from chaste and knowing her Captain rather well, she was convinced that he'd continue like that for the next thousand or so, less she'd express other desires. Silraen bade Gelmir, who seemed keen to return to his work a fond farewell and carried her wicker basket up to the talan.
It had been a very demanding day between her students, the apothecary, the Herbal Gardens and the plotting silver lord. She threw the wicker basket a disdainful look and decided that their windows could live another day with Haldir's sober unadorned cotton hangings.
Stirring the little fire in the iron oven, she put the tea kettle on and chose from her beloved's well-furnished store cupboard a tasty mix of rose hip, orange blossom and jasmine. She'd also merited a sweet treat. When she dwelled in the Golden Wood, Haldir always kept a generous stock of wonderful, home made cookies and although it was clear that with him absent, she'd be obliged to ration the item a bit, she decided that it would do no harm to take two of the little ones with the delicious raspberry jam inside.
Silraen carried her snack of tea and cake outside onto the veranda and dropped contently into her favourite chair.
'I hope, I do not intrude!'
Galadriel had stepped so lightly that Silraen did not realize she had a visitor until the Lady of the Golden Wood stood in front of her.
'No, My Lady! I was just sitting down with fresh tea and a snack. Would you like some?' The younger elleth asked cordially.
'T'is Galadriel, dear child ...or 'naneth', if you will do me this honour.' The Lady replied, folding her tall, slender body onto a softly cushioned and very comfortable chaise-longue, that was usually Haldir's favourite, when he had had enough of sleeping rough on the platforms along the fences.
Silraen blushed. She had known the Lady for ages and had always been treated with great cordiality in the household of the rulers of Laurelindórean, but she knew, that it would take some time to grow accustomed to this familiarity. It was not easy to overcome the old habit and suddenly address the lady of the Light as 'naneth'.
Galadriel laughed with mirth, a mischievous sparkle in her eyes, so young and yet so old and all-knowing. 'Has my exuberant husband made decisions over your head, Dear?' She pointed a long, slender finger at the elfling-safe portico.
Silraen nodded, serving the Lady some tea and offering her one of the filled cakes. 'He tries very hard, Naneth!' The word took a bit of time to come, but it finally came and it sounded right.
'Do not let you impress by his overbearing attitude. He'll calm down with time and accept your decisions with good humour...alas, the wound of Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen being born in Rivendell is still slightly sore. He loves little ones dearly and would have challenged my father's six, if I'd not have put the foot down.'
While the Lady had spoken with humour, there was nonetheless a slight hint of worry in her eyes. Silraen, being a perceptive elleth realized this immediately. She looked at the Lady of the Golden Wood, pondering her words. Galadriel's sorrowful look from the other day, so nonchalantly brushed away by Celebrian, returned to her memory. She set down her tea cup and straightened slightly in her chair. It was no hazard, that the Lady had chosen to pay her this visit with the Lord Celeborn somewhere taking care of his regular business and Celebrian off to a childhood friend at the other end of the city. The timing was perfect for a tranquil four-eyes!
'Something bothers you, Naneth!' Silraen decided it was better to talk straight and get on and over with it.
She felt in her heart that this was linked to the suspicions Mithrandir had voiced and to his request for Haldir accompanying him on his search after the curious 'Shadow'. And it was also closely linked with her and with Haldir, although it had nothing to do with Galadriel not approving of their union or being contrary to seeing them together for good.
For almost one thousand years, since her very first visit to the Golden Wood, when her Captain had made his claim clear to everybody, who was willing to see and to listen, Galadriel had been encouraging both to pursue and deepen the relationship. Silraen knew that the Lady wished for her foster son's personal happiness and had often been critical, when Haldir denied himself the comfort and solace of love for the sake of duty.
Galadriel looked at the elleth. It did not take her highly developed skills to read in the minds of others to comprehend Silraen's thoughts. She had not only accepted but approved Haldir's choice from the very beginning and she had been much more capable then Celeborn to understand the reasons for his lengthy and prudent courting of the elleth. She had been able to comprehend, that one who had been bound to duty and service from the moment he'd been strong enough to wield a blade in full armour, felt troubled by the idea to impose his chosen path in life upon another being that was dear to his heart.
Haldir had seen too much grief and sorrow from loss and understood the relativity of the immortality of the first-born. Elves mated for life and the loss of one led inexorably to the fading of the other, lest he or she would depart from the shores of Aman and sail into the West. And while Celeborn and Elrond had had a choice to lay down their swords and take to a less dangerous path in life, he had not...never had.
The Lady of Lothlorien gave a small sigh: Before she had even seen Celeborn's elfling , she had learned from her mentor Mélian what Elu Thingol had understood with his perceptiveness and farsightedness. Elu had known the other one, who had Haldir's eyes and when Celeborn had brought his elfling to Doriath he had seen, what no other elf in Aman would have seen.
It was not within the youngling's soul that the had spied a glimpse of that other elf, but in his eyes and features. Elu's words to Celeborn had not been a prophecy, but a simple statement of fact and also it was not Haldir's choice or fault, the doom of the Valar could not be undone....not for him and not for her who had brazenly left Valěnor without the permission of the Powers in pursuit of her pride and ambition.
And while the Silver Tree, who had shared Thingol's words with her, was convinced that everything his granduncle said related to the fact that he had bound himself to her and was thus entangled in the Doom of the Valar in the same sense, the one he had chosen for a son was entangled by that choice, she knew that Haldir fell under the terrible prophecy of Mandos by the simple fact of who his true father was.
'Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valěnor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains. On the House of Feanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also. Their Oath shall drive them, and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever. Ye have spilled the blood of your kindred unrighteously and have stained the land of Aman. For blood ye shall render blood, and beyond Aman ye shall dwell in Death's shadow. For though Eru appointed ye to die not in Eä, and no sickness may assail you, yet slain ye may be, and slain ye shall be: by weapon and by torment and by grief; and your houseless spirits shall come then to Mandos. There long shall ye abide and yearn for your bodies, and find little pity though all whom ye have slain should entreat for you. And those that endure in Middle-earth and come not to Mandos shall grow weary of the world as with a great burden, and shall wane, and become as shadows of regret before the younger race that cometh after. The Valar have spoken.'
Galadriel knew well the true name of Haldir's 'Nana', who had laboured so hard to find a way out of the Iron Hell of Angband in order to return the little one to his Elven kin, for she, the daughter of Boromir of the House of Beor had loved one of the Elven kin herself, although he departed from motives of wisdom, as he felt his coming death...Galadriel's elder brother Aegnor! And she had known his true father who often visited her during the Siege of Angband, when she was grieving for her fallen beloved, to converse with her on the matters of Elves and Men. Andreth she was called by her kin, but Finrod had given her the epesse 'Saelind' -'Wise Heart' in the Elven tongue.
She had been taken with many others from the House of Beor, when Morgoth broke the siege of his fortress, some ten years prior to the birth of Haldir and she had been there, in the Hells of Iron, when the one, whom her brother Barahir had saved at the Dagor Bragollach came to Angband with Beren, Barahir's son to fulfil his oath.
Galadriel did not know if Saelind had been witness to the battle of magic between her eldest brother and Sauron, but she was sure that the sister of Barahir would have sought out her friend and his eleven companions of misery the very moment, they had been taken down to their terrible prison.
Galadriel imagined how Finrod - exhausted from his terrible battle with Sauron and the endless torments in that place of dread and sorrow, where he was imprisoned for three long years - might have found solace and oblivion in the arms of another desperate, captive. His eyes veiled with despair and pain may have seen the face of his beloved Amarie in that face.
She assumed that Saelind, after Finrod's death and realizing that this companion of misery carried his child, had taken that elleth under her protection. And when she died delivering her brother's child, Saelind had gathered all her remaining strength and cunning in order to bring the last living remainder of what had been her friend Finrod to safety.
But such knowledge she would not reveal to Silraen, for she had not even revealed it to her beloved Celeborn or to Haldir himself. She had only gifted her brother's son with Finrod's fine Noldorin blade 'Alcarinque', that he had long ago left in her keeping, when Elu Thingol had reprimanded him for a kinslaying he had never been part of.
Something deep in her heart had wished for the Fair Child to possess at least one thing that once had been his true father's. But in her long life she had learned, that sometimes it was better if certain things remained unspoken, for saying them aloud would only accelerate and force the wheel of destiny. And the vision she had had in her mirror proved that her decision had been wise and just and the best thing for all concerned.
But there was something she could do without challenging the will of the greater Powers. She could delay the doom that lay upon her brother's child, whom she had raised and loved as her own. She could give him and his beloved time together, before the inevitable would happen.
And so she spoke to Silraen!