The Fates of Our Kin
Gunnvör looked up as the Prince of Doriath was let into her tent, trailed by the captain who had first been introduced to her by Nellas in the woods. Nellas herself was nowhere to be seen, though she had been the first to speak to them, and had continued to visit the camps and help the dwarves with the languages of these lands.
“Greetings, my lords,” she said, noting that neither elf had brought their weapons into the meeting. That struck her as strange, considering the initial distrust they had shown when the dwarves had spoken to them in the tongue of their eastern kin and the constant danger they faced from animals and tricks of the Dark in the forests. “What brings you to my camp this day?”
“A matter of grave importance,” Celeborn said, bowing low. Then he took a seat on the ground, his head below hers, as the captain echoed his movements.
The hair on the back of her neck stood on end. This was unusual for the Elves of Menegroth she had met, who had seemed incapable in their few prior meetings of in any way considering the Dwarves their true equals, let alone placing themselves beneath her.
“The fact that you have placed yourselves upon my floor suggests that well enough without your words.” She pushed the necklace she had been working on to the side, unwilling to allow any division of her attention. “What matter is so grave that you would come to my tent unarmed and place yourself in such a position?”
“A matter of honor which must be dealt with before any alliances between our peoples can be made.” Celeborn cast his eyes to his companion as he spoke.
Mablung nodded. “I am afraid it is also a matter for which there can be no real excuse, but which must be resolved. It is my wish to see our people form an alliance for the sake of fighting against the Dark, but I fear forming such under our current omissions.”
“Your words inspire naught but dread in me,” she spoke slowly, her beard dropping lower as she frowned. “Speak simply, and reveal what this issue without pretty words.”
Celeborn took a breath and looked up, meeting her eyes. “Prior to the arrival of your group of Dwarves, there was another group of dwarves that were in these lands.” He paused, and she thought of how they had seen no other dwarves, but the rumors had always said the exiles from the cities had come this way. “We thought they were animals.”
She took a sharp breath at his words. The exiles, no matter their deficiencies and crimes, were still their kin. “And what did your people do to them?”
Mablung tensed as she spoke, but Celeborn remained sitting, resolutely staring at her. “We hunted them.”
She could imagine how they had hunted them. The Sindar hunted from trees with bows and from the ground with axes, and they would have far outnumbered the exiled Dwarves. If they had not expected to be chased down and killed, it would have been easy to kill them.
“I could kill you where you sit, and no Dwarf here would see it as anything but righteous justice,” she said, her hand hovering over the knife tied to her belt.
“You could,” Celeborn replied, as Mablung tensed even more. “But you will not, no matter how much you want to.”
“Why won’t I, if you know me so well?” Gunnvör’s hand closed around the knife, and she could see Mablung ready himself to try and wrestle it away from her, before Celeborn placed his hand on Mablung’s shoulder to force him to remain seated.
“Because you know that the satisfaction you would gain from killing us is not worth bringing a war down upon your people that you could not win with the forces you have here, and you could not summon enough Dwarves from your cities before Thingol’s forces would reach here,” he said. “You know too much of duty to seek revenge, no matter how much you wish it.”
“So we are to have no recompense for our people’s deaths?” She removed her hand from her knife, though the urge to throw it at one of the elves remained.
Celeborn shook his head. “I cannot offer you sufficient recompense for their deaths, because I cannot bring them back to life. However, Thingol has agreed to offer your people and all other Dwarves unencumbered travel through his lands and any lands held by any of his kin for as long as the world lasts and the travel is not for purposes of inciting war. Furthermore, we offer both supplies of food and some of our metal ores as needed by your people.”
She slowly nodded her head. “I accept, but this does not completely repair what your people have done to mine, nor will my people quickly forgive or forget what was done to our kin.”
Celeborn bowed his head and stood, Mablung echoing his actions again. “That is understandable.”
“I have one last question before you depart,” she said, holding up her hand to stop them from leaving. “Why come to see me unarmed and tell me of their deaths, even though you could have just let them lie dead and forgotten and we likely never would have known what happened?”
“I could tell you that our honor demands it or that the truth has a way of being discovered regardless of how well hidden it seems to be. Both of those are true, and both are part of the reason we came before you,” he answered. “But the larger reason is that half of our people left to go West over the sea centuries ago, and we have had no word of them in years. If something was to happen to them, I would prefer to know the truth instead of pretty lies about their fate. Not speaking of it would only compound the guilt of having killed them, in my view.”
She stood and walked to the flap of her tent, holding it open. “You may leave.”
The elves walked out of the camp, and a few yards within the tree line were joined by other elves, who quickly gave them back their weapons as they disappeared further into the forest. Celeborn had spoken truly that the Dwarves could not have won a battle today, and they would not fight one with these Elves at any point soon.
But she would see that they were prepared for any future betrayals from their ally, beginning by letting her king know of it.