Too late to go in peace
He dreams about a bird, white and beautiful, spreading its wings to fly. It soars into the air, far above the clouds, leaving behind blood and madness. The bird is alone. Only the ocean waits beneath, many miles below. The bird flies and flies until it gets tired. It lands on a beautiful ship, which has white sails and a foreign symbol. A sailor with golden hair takes up the bird, recognizing it. Cradling it in his hands and crying tears, when the bird changes into a black-haired woman. They hold each other, despairing and with a beautiful light trapped between their bodies.
The woman whispers, "Did we do the right thing?"
Eluréd craned his head, trying to take in everything at once as they enter Doriath. Mother has told them a lot about the great kingdom she was born in, telling her sons stories every night. Yet ever since his sister had been born, her focus had shifted. Perhaps Eluréd might have resented Elwing for hogging mother's attention, but like his twin he had latched onto their uncle Celeborn.
"You live here?" Eluréd wants to know, twisting his head until he can look his uncle in the eye.
It’s not easy, since he's sitting in front of his uncle, on top of his great horse, for the journey was too long to use ponies. Not that Eluréd minded, thank you very much. Riding was taxing and it's a joy to ride with his uncle. It means he could ask him question any time.
"Yes, I live here, little one. Though Menegroth is still a few days away. We have just crossed the border and Doriath is far bigger than your home," Celeborn responds with an amused expression on his face.
Like everyone else, he had heard the news that Dior and Nimloth's union brought forth two healthy boys quite soon after their marriage. But until he laid eyes on the twins, Celeborn hadn't been inclined to believe it. In all his time, he can't remember a tale of two babes born at once and he has a lot of respect for his niece for having gone through this. Since Nimloth just gave birth again and her daughter demanded all her attention, especially on a journey like this, Celeborn is happy to spend time with the twins.
The two open-minded and curious boys had been endlessly excited to go on an adventure. The reason behind the journey was something they hadn't grasped yet, and Celeborn preferred to keep it that way, at least for a while. Elurín and Eluréd were princes now, heirs to the Kingdom of Doriath. Duty would come soon enough.
They cry his name, when Dior and his family enter the city. Every Elf of Doriath is assembled, many sitting on tree branches and singing sons of praises. They are eager in a way that makes Dior suspicious. He's not Luthien, but he has inherited some of her powers. Sensing the underlying fear and the thick tension in the crowd is not that difficult, but he wonders where it comes from. How truly happy most Sindar are to see him, the way they bow deep and how relieved they are when he finds a few kind words for each and every single one, makes obvious how deeply shaken his new people are.
Of course, many of them don't have any kind of experience with death or violence. Few have ever ventured outside of their kingdom, aside from those who have kin in the Falas. Their Queen always made sure that they were protected, untouched by the rising shadows outside. It is understandable that the return of a Prince has become their symbol of hope, especially after the brutal murder of their King in his own home.
"We must not disappoint them," Dior mumbles to his wife as they approach Menegroth, leaning over to ensure that their conversation remains private. "They're anxious."
While he has visited Doriath before, Nimloth is more familiar with it. Their wedding had been held there, in a grand feast that brought Thingol and his daughter together one last time. Of course, their conversations had been more polite than heartfelt, and his father made sure to keep away from the King altogether.
Beren's age had been a surprise for most Lathrim, who were largely unfamiliar with the ways of the Race of Men. With memories of a young man who boldly claimed the hand of the princess, and the hero who fought and died to defend Doriath from a great beast of Angband, seeing his father with white hair came as a shock. But they warmed up to him again after a while.
It was Luthien who the Sindar avoided. Luthien, who no longer possessed the great beauty she had famous for, who tired quickly and refused to sing, because her throat couldn't form the notes anymore.
There's a reason why his mother moved away from Doriath and from her stories it hadn't been just about marrying a mortal. No, her former friends and people, who long praised her beauty, had shunned her for becoming one herself.
"I've never regretted it," Luthien had said on the journey back to Tol Galen, after she bade farewell to her father, knowing it would probably the last time they saw each other. "I've spent wonderful years with my husband and was gifted with a beautiful, healthy son. If the price for that is aching joints and wrinkles in my face, I'll pay it gladly."
Yet Dior's hope of still having many years with his mother had been thoroughly destroyed. Reclaiming the Silmaril from the Dwarves and losing her husband because of it had been too much for his frail mother.
Dior sighs. Not for the first time, the weight of the Silmaril around his neck feels uncomfortable.
Mistaking his reaction, Nimloth leans over and puts Elwing into his arms.
"Have no fear, husband,” she says. “We're going to make it through this. With our return to Doriath, there's not a soul within this Kingdom who wouldn't help you with your kingship. Just enjoy yourself for now, we're finally home."
"You're right," Dior answers and kisses his beloved and beautiful wife, before he turns his attention to his daughter.
Elwing is awake and her small hands reach for the jewel around his neck. For her it's just a shiny toy, unaware of the blood and the sacrifices it has already demanded. Thinking that the jewel has to be good for something, Dior wears it openly, whenever he holds court or goes out in public. His parents fought hard to claim it from Morgoth and he doesn't want that story to be forgotten.
The Sindar call him fair, wise, and regal. Dior doesn't disagree with them, because it makes settling disputes much easier.
In the following months, Dior learns that Kingship is less tiring than he thought it would be. The people of Doriath are friendly enough, but they have certain traditions, expectations they uphold. Given how they cling to them, searching for familiarity in uneasy times, Dior indulges them. That includes exchanging riding and hunting with his sons with lessons about history, singing and language.
Elurín and Eluréd miss being able to storm through the forest the entire day, but the argument that the boys are safe here in Doriath and don't need to learn how to use a practice sword just yet is a solid one. Besides, Menegroth is a huge city that holds something new and exciting for his boys every day. There's no rush, and Dior learns a lot about his new people by listening to the twin's chatter.
Elwing is still too small to accompany them, but the place holds enough distraction for her. With enough servants around her to keep her fed and safe, Nimloth has stopped worrying about her youngest and starts focusing on supporting her husband more and more.
It's not perfect and Dior still misses Tol Galen, but one evening Elwing squeals 'Ada' when he picks her up and suddenly missing his parents doesn't matter so much anymore.
His inner peace is shattered the first night Dior dreams. It's not the first time in his life, and in the past he has often sought counsel from his mother what they could mean. Luthien always told him that she never possessed the talent for prophetic dreams and sent her child to Doriath.
Melian explained in great detail how it works, hearing the songs that are yet unwritten. Sometimes they never come to pass, sometimes the details are different.
"Keep them for yourself, grandson," Melian said, cradling his cheek. "Ponder the future in your head and don't scare your loved ones unnecessarily. Warning them about a possible peril might do more harm than good, especially if your words end up distracting them."
Dior remembers nodding and going Luthien with questions, when he returned to Tol Galen. Luthien smiled and told him that she wouldn't want to know if he ever dreamed her death. Yet in the end Dior didn't dream and the loss of his parents caught him by surprise.
Though in hindsight, seeing red flowers about stones might have been warning enough, had he considered the images more closely.
It's not a surprise when Dior finds himself in a mundane setting. His dreams very rarely feature great battles or important events. Sometimes it would be more helpful if he did, instead of seeing muddy boots and a tired wanderer, as happened when Túrin left Doriath. He knew his grandfather's ward well enough to grieve his death thanks to the friendship they shared whenever Dior visited Doriath, but he could rarely make sense of the dreams he received.
Blond strands of hair on a broken comb laying in a ruin, a dying stag with white fur and a woman with a mask are difficult to decipher without a greater picture to go by. Sometimes Dior never learns what the dreams mean. Later he figured out that he dreamed about Túrin's life, seeing Beleg's death and the fate of Finduilias, but he didn't understand the implications until he had a content to go by.
Like this time, when he finds himself standing in a clearing. In front of him is a small gathering of hunters, sitting around a fire. They're laughing and teasing each other. A black haired ellon starts poking a red-haired elf beside him, distracting him until an ellon further left with silver hair can steal the meat from the plate. When the theft is noticed, revenge is taken. Dior chuckles, when the silver haired ellon is buried beneath his friend with a war-cry, struggling against tickling hands until he's crying for mercy.
"Atar," the ellon beneath the large elf cries.
The next words Dior doesn't understand, but he can imagine it's something along the lines of 'make him stop'. The conversation that follows, makes Dior realize that the Elves are speaking Quenya. A language he has never been allowed to learn. In this moment Dior is saddened by the fact, because he'd like to know what the Elf is saying, who's bringing order to the unruly band of boys with a single raised eyebrow.
The image is a picture of happiness and Dior can't help but smile as the antics continue. He recognizes most of them from his own boys. Elurín and Eluréd are like this as well. Prodding, fighting, teasing, and inseparable. With a picture like this, it's difficult to imagine that there's a force in the world capable of tearing them apart.
Dior can't explain the tears or the incredible amount of sadness he feels, when he wakes up the next day. Whatever meaning the dream carried, it's forgotten thanks to the messenger that arrives in the afternoon, carrying a letter and a banner with an eight-pointed star.
It wasn't custom to let outsiders into Doriath, but there's messengers have always been an execption and fell under the protection of the guest right. Of course he was watched anyway, but the Fëanorians had been clever enough to send someone with mixed blood, ensuring that the courier wasn't harrassed too much. The Lathrim couldn't insult an Elf, who mostly looked like one of their own.
From that day on, Dior's sleep remains uneasy and filled with dreams and images he doesn't remember during the day, yet fill his heart with dread nonetheless.
Nimloth watches her husband enter the room, face ashen and eyes are filled with pain. The daughter of Galathil puts down her work and pours Dior a cup of tea as he collapses on a chair.
"What did the letter say?" Nimloth asks, stomping down her unease. "Are the Noldor asking for military assistance again?"
In the last centuries there have been only a handful of exchanges between King Elu Thingol and the Kinslayers. Often the letters are written by the eldest son, describing in great detail the amount of forces Morgoth is currently amassing. Her uncle and King always claimed this as deference to his authority. She had read some of those letters herself, for they were always discussed in great detail before the King sent the obligatory non-descriptive answer, polite but vacant of any kind significance. In her opinion the letters always held a certain kind of anger. A demand to act, but Thingol never rose to the challenge.
She didn't have an opinion back then, not one she would voice in front of her relatives and she doesn't want to have one right now.
"The House of Fëanor demands the Silmaril that is on our possession," Dior sighs and hides his face in his hands.
"H-how dare they?" she stutters before her fear gets buried by outrage. "The jewel is an heirloom of your house. Your parents claimed it from Morgoth. How did they find out about it anyway?"
Her husband snorts, still not looking at her. "My father wasn't subtle when he attacked the Khazad. Some survived the revenge our people extracted for murdering my grandfather and sought refuge among the Fëanorians, knowing that the confirmation of their jewel in our hands would buy them a few more nights under Elbereth’s stars."
The Queen murmurs an ugly curse, hate rising in her chest, because Thingol had filled the role of a doting grandfather since her own died long before she had been born. When she thinks about what these stunted greedy creatures have done to her family, she wished she could crush them beneath the heel of her boot. Of course they'd ally themselves with Kinslayers.
"Neither the Dwarves nor the Noldor have any right to the jewel," Nimloth proclaims. "It brought hope and peace to our people. They deserve that much after the horrible wolfish beast of Angband attacked our kingdom, killed our warriors and stole Luthien's spirit. We despaired back then and only the jewel calmed the nerves and brought us joy again. But losing our great King Thingol is the worst of all tragedies we've faced so far and no kinslaying monster is going to take away our light."
"That's exactly what your father told me just three hours ago," Dior says, finally looking at his wife.
Nimloth misses how tense and unhappy he looks.
"There's no harm in quoting true words spoken by the wise," Nimloth proclaims, swiping her sweaty hands on her dress and resolving to go back to her work now. For her, the matter is finished. "A firm refusal by a steady and wiser hand is all that these Golodh have earned."
"Of course, you're right," Dior answers quietly, but Nimloth doesn't hear him.
She's already focusing on other things, like bathing Elwing and putting her unruly boys to bed. It escapes her notice how weary her husband looks with his hands folded in his lap and black strands of hair falling into his face like a curtain.
Long after his wife has left, but with her voice still carrying through the rooms as she lectures Elurín and Eluréd, Dior sighs again.
"I hope you're right, my love. I hope you're right."
Most share Nimloth's opinion, but there are enough voices in his council who share Dior's doubts. Unlike Lord Galadhon, his grandfather's nephew and chosen regent after Thingol's violent death, who hasn't left Doriath in centuries, his brother Oropher spends more time outside the realm.
Usually he lives near Ossiriand, and only travelled with Dior to Doriath to support him in the wake of the death of his parents. Since Oropher frequently visited him in Tol Galen, becoming the older brother Dior never had, he takes great care to listen to him. His friend is more experienced in regards of the battles that rage outside the Kingdom and has dealt with the Noldor in the past.
"Be careful, Dior. Despite the blood on their hands, I've learned that the Fëanorians are honorable," Dior remembers the words they spoke in private, "I don't know all of them, but the twin sons of Fëanor have been valuable allies in the past. My personal opinion aside, I can't deny that they've fought bravely against the Black Enemy in the past and they lost a lot in the attempts of pushing the orcs back. Trust me when I tell you that wouldn't have had such a peaceful childhood without them."
Deep down in his heart, Dior knows that Oropher is right. He was just a babe, when the North was overrun and the majority of the Noldorin realms were lost. Nargothrond is a different matter. Luthien told him a lot about the beautiful city, praised Finrod's ideas and the architecture no matter the reason why she was forced to reside there. The news that the city has been taken, their residents enslaved and slaughter hit him hard, but no matter how much Dior pleaded, his grandfather refused to send an army.
'Matters beyond the girdle don't concern us,' he had said and unfortunately the majority of the Sindar in Doriath agreed with him.
Dior's nights remain uneasy and his sleeps gets interrupted by confusing dreams.
Seven days ago they received a letter from the House of Fëanor, demanding the Silmaril that is in possession. Of course, such a request, no matter how politely worded, caused turmoil in the Kingdom of Doriath.
Since he has lived in Tol Galen his entire life and ascended the throne just two years ago, most of the Lords have their own opinion what should happen now. Day in, day out they discussed the possibilities and were still no closer to an answer yet. It's a relief to have some time for himself, even if it's just a few hours of sleep.
His wife has already gone to bed when Dior finally joins her. She doesn't move as he climbs under the covers, and he refrains from kissing her good-night for fear of waking her. Though Nimloth wouldn't mind, Dior has noticed that his wife had been happier in Tol Galen. The home of his childhood had been small, but peaceful and well-protected. Surrounded by forests and rivers, he experienced wonderful years with his parents.
They're gone now, Dior thinks and blinks the tears away.
It's still difficult to grasp it at times. Thankfully he has duties to distract him.
Soul weary with worry, Dior lays down and closes his eyes.
"You were my greatest joy," Luthien says, looking at something lying on her lap.
Dior shakes his head in confusion, not sure what is happening to him.
They're in Tol Galen, he recognizes the arch of the windows and the stars outside of the window. Yet this does not feel like a dream. The wood beneath his hand is real, just like his mother's lovely smile, when she turns to greet him. Her beautiful onceblack hair is almost white now and there are wrinkles around her eyes.
Luthien looks old, but not frail as Dior remembers her in the last weeks of her life.
"Mother," Dior says, unsure what he is to do. The sight reminds him how much he has missed her.
Every day of his new life in Doriath he misses her gentle counsel, her patience. Just as he misses his father's laugh, his deep voice, and the weight of his hand on his shoulder.
"My son," Luthien speaks as if she just laid eyes on the greatest treasure. She opens her arms to hug him. "Oh, I've missed you so much."
"Naneth," Dior murmurs and inhales deeply. It cannot be a dream, not with his mother so alive, smelling of flowers as she always did. "I missed you too. Everyone has gone insane in your absence. I long for the days, where we lived all together in Tol Galen."
Luthien's eyes shine with sadness as Dior says the words, kneeling in front of her in order to put his hand into hers, as they used to do. His heart swells, forgetting the heaviness of the crown and the troubles he inherited with it.
"I know, and I fear the burden you carry now is partly my fault. Had I not opened the gates as the messengers came, Beren would have never gone to fight the Dwarves."
"But it's not your fault," Dior argues, clearly remembering that day. His boys had been excited. Tol Galen didn't receive visitors very often and seeing their uncle Celeborn again had been a great joy for them. Regardless of the news he carried…
"You could not have known beforehand that a simple cut received on the battlefield would fester and claim father's life so quickly."
Luthien shakes her head, despairing over her own foolishness.
"The danger remained. Neither of us wished to believe that old age would catch up to us. We were fine on our little island of peace, where we never had to fear danger and peril," she says, lowering her head. She truly looks like an old widow now, with little resemblance to the beautiful princess she once was.
"Beren insisted on reclaiming the Silmaril, arguing that we went through too much trouble to let the dwarves steal it. But I knew nothing good would come of it."
With these words Luthien returns to staring at the thing in her lap again.
Dior follows her gaze and jerks back when he notices a dark piece of coal, wrapped in a bloodied cloth. The cloth is the blanket his mother wove for the birth of Elurín and Eluréd, as ecstatic as Dior himself when Nimloth announced that she was expecting a child. When it became clear that it would not be one child but two, a rare miracle the Eldar are seldom blessed with, Luthien made sure the blanket was big enough for both children to be wrapped up in.
It grieves the young man to see a precious heirloom of his mother ruined, for he knows that bloodstains cannot be washed out of fine silk.
Dior wants to ask what happened, longing to know if his boys are fine, when he recognizes the black piece of coal for what it truly is.
"Is that the Silmaril?" he cries out, ready to demand an answer from his mother.
Luthien only smiles and fades away like morning mist under the rising sun. Just like she did in life, after Beren died and she lost her will to live.
A few days later Dior finds himself near the tombs.
The Sindar don't often experience death, because Queen Melian kept the borders safe for a long time. The very few who died anyway were brought back and preserved, entombed in coffins and buried beneath the roots of the trees. Dior doesn't know if his people believe that their loved ones are just going to wake up one day and climb out of their temporary resting place to join the living again. The Edain burn their dead, or so Beren has told him. Just like the Noldor.
When Dior asked why that was the case, his father answered, "For practical reasons, I guess. If you keep the bodies around, you have to fear that their graves will be disturbed by Orcs. Besides, with their soul gone, you don't have use for a cold, rotting body anymore."
It makes sense, in a way, but Dior is grateful that they rarely had to go through funeral rites. Not until his parents died. Some members of the household had argued that they should be preserved, to turn Tol Galen in their final resting place. Yet as their son, Dior couldn't refuse Beren's and Luthien's final wish. With the death of her husband, his mother had known she wouldn't last long. With a spell she wrapped Beren in a white blanket and asked to be burned on a pyre with him, when the time finally came.
'I want to go with him. I chose this life, when I pleaded before Námo,' his mother laid down the rules in a firm voice. 'I don't belong to the Eldar anymore, my son. I'm one of the Edain and with my choice to die as one of them, my body should go into the wind.'
Luthien loved Beren, Dior never doubted that. His mother never feared death, not after standing before Námo himself. Not as long as she knew Beren was at her side. But Dior suspected she feared what Thingol would do with her body after her mortal death. Father and daughter never spoke much to each other after Luthien left Doriath, yet even so Dior could see the love in Thingol's eyes when he spoke of his princess - though always in past tense, as if the woman living in Ossiriand wasn't the same girl, the same beautiful princess he was so proud of.
Once, Dior dreamed of a white flower. Plucked and dead, but put beneath glass in order to preserve the beauty as much as possible. It hadn't taken much to translate the meaning and Dior still shuddered at the thought of doing the same to his mother.
He finds the sight of King Thingol disturbing enough, laying on fine silk, dressed in regal attire with enough gems decorating his hair to make the cave gleam in thousand colors. It's a wondrous sight. One for legends, and Dior knows artists who would give their left arm to be able to catch their King's resting place on paper. Yet no one ever visits. The tomb is freely accessible to the public, yet the doors don't even have guards despite the riches buried here.
Not because the Sindar hold the tombs as sacred. No, they act as if they don't exist. People look away, when they walk by. They avoid mentioning the act of dying in conversations and take no record of the last moments their fallen loves had to go through, no matter how heroic or gruesome it may have been.
There's a chance that the Fëanorians have a more detailed description of Thingol's death through the tales of the Dwarves than Dior himself, because apparently two years aren't enough to get a single soul speak about it.
Breathing becomes easier, when Dior leaves the tombs. It's a grand and yet eerie place. One he doesn't wish to visit again any time soon. Whatever this is, he's not sure if it's the best way to grieve. Beren often talked about King Finrod, who faced great opposition for aiding him in an insane quest. His father felt guilty, for invoking a debt that led to the King's death and perhaps even to the fall of his beloved city.
"I'll never forgot him. Nor his companions, who all died the same gruesome death," Beren said late one evening, when he couldn't sleep because of the nightmares and didn't wish to trouble his wife. "I want to believe that it was luck and not fate that lead to my survival. Sauron was interested in taking down the Elf Lord who opposed him. As a man, I was unimportant. Had your mother not come to free me, I'd have died in that dungeon. Starved and forgotten."
Despite many expectations, neither of his parents spoke often about the feat they became famous for, because both paid dearly for it. Yet they made sure their son learned the truth from them and not from a song composed by a stranger. His letters he learned for instance by writing down the names of Finrod and his loyal companions. In his youth he copied his mother's drawings of the places they saw, drawing Nargothrond, Minas Tirith and even parts of Angband.
In Tol Galen, the Lay of Luthien was nothing more than a tale. An object of lessons, but never something his parents deemed important. Not when Beren would tease his wife, and laugh when she went after him with a pillow.
A voice called out, demanding his attention.
"My King, I've been searching for you."
Dior raises his head, surprised to see Celeborn approaching him.
"What can I do for you?" Dior asks.
"The messenger is about to leave and I was sent to collect you. It would be appropriate for you to see him off," Celeborn says, gently putting a hand on Dior's shoulder to guide him in the right direction.
Not for the first time, Dior notices how much taller Celeborn is compared to him. That's the common case with most Elves, since he inherited Beren's height and the features of his mother. He has gotten used to it, but Celeborn is the only one besides his grandfather, who makes him feel small- probably due to the fact that Celeborn presents everything that Dior strives to be.
"I'm coming," Dior says and hides his annoyance, because in the end Lord Galadhon wrote most of the letter, going so far to dictate Dior what he should write and what phrases he should avoid. As the oldest and most experienced member of the royal family, Dior listened to him, since Galathon had ruled over the Lathrim in the past, like when his uncle went missing for three hundred years and his own father Elmo was lost.
Dior chafs under it, but he knows it's foolish to going against Galathon's council this early in his reign. Especially if his only motivation is spite, a handful of second thoughts and a sense of uncertainty that keeps him awake at night.
They walk in silence and Dior is grateful that Celeborn doesn't ask what he was doing near the tombs. Celeborn rarely speaks his mind and often holds his opinion close to his chest. So very unlike Oropher, who is outspoken and never hesitates to put the sharpness of his tongue to good use. His friend's temper is famous and has often surfaced in the last days, arguing that the Fëanorians won't take such a blunt refusal of their demands lightly. As much as Dior agrees with Oropher's words, a part of him wishes it had been Celeborn who was speaking them.
His cousin is far more composed, calm and always thinks twice before he opens his mouth to say thing. His wife admires him, and sometimes Dior wonders if Celeborn holds a grudge over not being the one to ascend the throne after Thingol's death. Since his grandfather only had a daughter who refused to marry for centuries, Lord Celeborn had been raised as a Prince and Thingol's heir. His hope remains that they're going to be friends one day.
"May I ask you a question, Lord Celeborn?" Dior asks as they walk quietly.
The fallen leaves break beneath his feet. Autumn has come and soon his Kingdom will disappear beneath the snow.
"Of course, my King. I'm glad to give you counsel," Celeborn responds. He has his hands clasped behind his back, waiting for Dior to speak as they make their way through the forest.
"Have we done the right thing?" Dior looks at his cousin, staring him in the eyes, determined to get an honest answer rather than a polite one. "Did I rule wisely by listening to the wishes of people? I know little about the Noldor or their pride. You have married one and I greatly regret that your wife is not here now, because I'm interested in what she would have to say."
For Lady Galadriel is proud of her heritage and the blood that flows in her veins. Yet she found friends in Doriath, a husband even and earned Thingol's gruding respect. Dior honestly wished to ask her about her experiences. How did she deal with the hesitation, the second-guessing and the covert glances covered with suspicion?
Yet the words seem to take Celeborn by surprise and it's the first open emotion besides carefully hidden grief that Dior witnesses his cousin displaying in public.
The tall Sindar takes a deep breath before he says, "I've asked myself the same, my King. Galadriel is a wise woman who was friends with your mother and a student of Melian. Far more, she knew the hearts of the Noldor, for they remain her people no matter how many centuries she has lived in Doriath by now."
"She's with King Gil-galad, correct?" Dior wants to know.
After the Fall of Nargothrond, Doriath had lost its main source of information about what happens outside the borders. Dior had the sentries doubled, but with the destruction of the Kingdoms in the North Elves and Men alike have fled south already and they bear little and often contradicting news. Some claim Gil-galad is King of the Noldor, who lives with Círdan on the Isle of Balar.Others argue that the crown went to Fingon's brother, who lives in a hidden Kingdom in the mountains. As ruler of many concerned citizens, Dior hates the situation. He doesn't know enough about the Noldor, not even who should he approach with his questions.
"Yes, and I miss her dearly, letters are hardly enough," Celeborn nods, openly showing the longing in his face. "Imagine my grief, when she left my side as Fingon sent his son to Círdan. She claimed that Doriath was well defended and that it's her duty to care for the last child born of Fingolfin's line. Her intentions to return as soon as the boy was old enough were destroyed when Morgoth burned down Hithlum and Fingon died on the battlefield."
"I'm confident that you'll be reunited one day," Dior offers his condolences. "My mother portrayed your wife as a strong elleth and I can't imagine a challenge she cannot master, if Luthien held her in such high esteem."
Celeborn's following laugh is a beautiful sound, something his cousin should definitely do more often. Yet as quick as it came, it disappears again.
"Such words are a great honor, my King," Celeborn says, looking a bit more high-spirited than before. "To answer your first question, I believe my wife would have counselled you to wait. Speak with the Fëanorians personally, perhaps. I regret that I could not move my father to wait, but the loss of his uncle hit him hard and I fear he found a way to lay the blame on the Golodh."
"Perhaps there's a better path. A wiser choice." Dior laments, bowing his head and looking at his hands. "But it's too late now. Instead of reacting immediately, I balked at the thought of going forward, when the demand reached my hands. My hesitation to be the voice of authority has led to many arguments and it appears that my own council has overruled me."
"They're testing you," Celeborn agrees, before he corrects himself. "We’ve been testing you and I apologize for that. Elu's murder is still fresh in our memories and it takes time to get used to following someone else when you have known only one King for thousands of years. It's unfortunate that your rule must face such a difficult subject this early, but I promise you that we'll face the future together."
"Thank you, Lord Celeborn."
Dior is happy that the conversation brought him a little closer to his cousin. He's optimistic that they'll be friends one day. Celeborn will eventually stop treating him in the stiff formal manner that he probably used with Thingol, but that is going to take time. Yet as they wave the messenger off, little Elwing bouncing on his shoulders, Dior can't shake the feeling that time is something they don't have.
For the dreams keep coming, even if they don't make any sense.
This time the perspective is strange. Dior can't move and all he can see is the floor, as if he's pinned to the ground, though he can still hear what's going on around him.
It's loud. Metal meets metal. Screams fill the air and the sound of people running through the hall is the one most prominent. Fighting, searching for family or just a way out. Dior tries to say something, but it hurts to breathe.
Heavy boots move into his line of vision. They're dirty, just like the cape and the black pants. Covered with mud from the rain and splattered with a darker substance that is probably blood.
"You monster," a female voice screams. It sounds familiar, but Dior can't quite place it. "You come into my home, murder my people and expect me to surrender? I won't go quietly."
"Didn't expect you to, Queen of Doriath," an ellon answers and moves his gleaming sword so that Dior is directly looking at the sharp edge. "But I'll allow your servant to grab the child and leave. Think of me what you want, but I have a son. We are not on speaking terms right now, but I clearly remember the days when he was as small and helpless as your daughter. I haven't fallen so low that I'm killing infants now."
The woman, who has spoken earlier sobs in grief.
She bends and hugs the bundle at the other side of the room. Dior can't hear whatever she's whispering to the child, but it must be words of encouragement. Then the elleth kisses her child one last time before a servant takes it up and runs past the opponents. Past Dior, who lies on the ground and can't move. He imagines that the girl carries something important, for any kind of color disappears with her.
Before he fades away, he hears the ellon speak one last time.
"Remember, Nimloth, every minute I spend in here with you I can't spend out there, searching for the Silmaril and killing any of your people trying to resist me."
"Murderer!" Nimloth spits.
A sword is drawn from its sheath.
"Yes," the voice adds, soft but cruel. "And you'll have to become one in order to stop me."
It's the last thing Dior hears before he loses consciousness.
About the Author
Mangacrack came in contact with Tolkien through the PJ Movies and inhaled the books soon after. Writes actively in the Tolkien Fandom since 2012. Started with drabbles and has evolved to stories of considerable length, since she loves messed up characters, anything that even resembles a Fëanorian, and Worldbuilding.
Pen and user name is mangacrack, to be found on Archive of our Own, Fanfiction.net, Live Journal (and various german hosters, because the author hasn't changed the user name since 2004.)