Hi there!

Before you say it, yes, I realise that I am a tiny bit late. I don't know if you read the announcement in my bio, so I hope that you haven't been waiting too long. I just got back from Holland on Friday, and since I haven't been writing as much as I had hoped I would, I needed some time to prepare all of this. It always takes ages to find out what little traps ff-net has devised now (just like deleting ff-net if I spell it any differently), and I really needed a day longer than I thought. Sorry about that, but don't blame me. Blame FF-net; it's more fun anyway.

But here it is now, my ... •counts on her fingerssixth story. I have to be careful, otherwise I might end up addicted or something like that... •g• I know, I know, it's too late by far. This one is my next "real" story in my ongoing nameless series about how much trouble Aragorn, Legolas & Co. can get into (we all know the answer: More than they think! •g•), as opposed to "Everlasting", which was really just a tiny little birthday gift. It is therefore easier to understand what the heck I'm talking about when you've read "To Walk In Night", the immediate prequel of this story, but it's not strictly necessary. I try to explain everything as best as I can, so you should be fine.

I'd like to thank you for all the reviews for Ch. 33 of "To Walk In Night"; they were really great and a huge encouragement. Without them and all the emails of impatient and/or irate people, who threatened me with death and dismemberment if I shouldn't start posting soon (
•pointed look at Isadora•), all this would have taken much, much longer! Thank you all very, very much!

Alright, that's all for now, I'll shut up now before you lose the rest of your patience! I hope you'll enjoy the story!

A Sea of Troubles

By: Nili

PG-13. Yes, I know that I promised to write something with another rating one day. Not today, though! •g•

Yes, sure. There are always some spoilers for something, aren't there? •g• Well, let me think. This being a sequel to "To Walk In Night", there are rather heavy spoilers for that story in here, but there will also be some smaller ones for my other stories, mainly for "An Eye For An Eye" and "Everlasting". While it would make everything a lot easier if you'd read "To Walk In Night", I don't think that it would be necessary for the other stories. It is, however, not imperative to have read any of the above; I do my best to explain everything as I go along.There are also some tiny spoilers for "The Hobbit", "The Fellowship of the Ring" and "The Return of the King". Probably also for "The Silmarillion", but that's kind of unavoidable, isn't it? But I mean tiny, so most people shouldn't even notice.

Disclaimer: I still do not own anything in Middle-earth, to my never-ending regret. Every recognisable character, setting, place, event and so on belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien and his heirs. I do not have anyone's permission to use any of the above, but I do so anyway. I'm not a very nice person, I know. The rest, however (places, characters, demon-horses, spiders etc.) belongs to me, so please don't kidnap any of my characters. They might be rather happy to get away from me, but I wouldn't like it all that much. Besides, my alter ego would have a fit! And, finally, this story was written just for fun, and I will most certainly not receive any money for it. It would be a wonderful way to earn my living, but you can't have everything, I guess, least of all vast sums of money. Please do not use any of my original characters without asking me first. Thank you.

After returning from Mirkwood and surviving the subsequent reunion with Lord Elrond, Aragorn, the twins and Legolas are hoping to enjoy the peace and rest that Rivendell has to offer. All such hopes are quickly shattered, however, when a diplomatic mission led by Lord Erestor disappears, apparently without leaving a trace. No one seems to be able - or willing - to shed any light on what has happened, and so the four of them try to find out what is going on. Caught between old feuds, greed and deep-seated resentment, they quickly realise that finding Erestor and the others just might be the least of their worries and that, once again, trouble has just found them.

This story is part of my mini-series which still doesn't have a name, poor thing. I think it will forever remain nameless. •g• Now that I think about it, though, it's not quite so small anymore, since this is my ... let's see ... sixth story now. The other five are (in chronological order)

Straight Paths
An Eye For An Eye
The Heart of Men
To Walk In Night

I had no idea there were so many by now! •g• This story takes place in the spring/early summer of III, 2954, about two weeks after "To Walk in Night".

Additional Notes:
A long time ago I decided to follow Cassia and Sio's lead and pretend that Gilraen was killed with Arathorn, something that I sometimes regret by now since I try to stick as closely to canon as I can. It wasn't because I don't like her though, no; I started this way because it was easiest. I still think it's hard to integrate her into Rivendell-life realistically, and now that I feel confident enough to have a go at writing her, it's too late. •g• I hope you - and her - will forgive me for this not so little detail.

Because of this and some other smaller things some people have told me that my whole concept is an AU, and I think they are correct, in a way. I totally ignore the fact that Aragorn's supposed to have met Arwen just after he had been told of his heritage (even though, in general, I have nothing against Aragorn/Arwen romances), and I must state here and now that I am aware of the fact that I am not Tolkien and therefore do not even begin to sound like him, something that can only be commented with "Duh!" in my opinion. I could never write as well as he does, which means that you will have to bear with me.

A small note concerning the Elvish used in this story (both Quenya and Sindarin): I am a follower of the "mellon nín" variety. If you like the undoubtedly equally correct "mellonen" better, bear with me. As far as I know, you can use both versions.

And, last but not least: It is no secret that English is not my first language. It is, in fact, my third, but that's beside the point. •g• So please, let me know when you find a blatant and horrible mistake somewhere - and you will, trust me. Some of them always manage to sneak their way into my stories no matter how hard I try. Pointing them out to me doesn't bother me at all and really helps to improve my English. Thank you!

Chapter 1

The fire was crackling and popping, casting bizarre, distorted shadows onto those sitting around the flames in a loose circle. Every time another log was added, a shower of golden-red sparks rose upwards towards the dark heavens, looking like a swarm of tiny, glittering fireflies.

To anyone who witnessed this sight on accident the scene would have appeared peaceful, relaxing or soothing, or a mixture of all three. To four of the five travellers that were staring rather morosely at the dancing flames, however, it appeared to seem neither peaceful nor relaxing, and most certainly not soothing. If the aforementioned travellers had been perfectly honest, they would have admitted that it was not really the fire that was awakening the distant, but swiftly growing feelings of doom in their hearts, but rather their surroundings.

Not that there was anything even remotely threatening or dangerous about their surroundings. Not even the most fearful and timid hobbit would have called the small hill whose edges were covered with trees, bushes, brambles and nearly impregnable undergrowth threatening or menacing. The creek that had its source in the middle of the flat-topped grassy knoll was making its way noisily and merrily down the sides of the hill, only adding to the serene picture that presented itself to the eyes of a casual observer. The trees encircling the slightly bowl-shaped top of the hill were shielding it from rain, wind and unfriendly eyes, and even a person who knew nothing about military tactics saw instantly that this was an ideal camping spot.

That was of course the reason why the five beings had chosen this hilltop for tonight's camp. Amon Siril, the so aptly named Hill of the Creek, had been considered to be a nearly perfect camping spot for a long time, and for more centuries than most people could remember it had served as such for elven hunting parties or travellers who were in need of a sheltered camp hidden from preying human, orcish or dwarven eyes.

And that, one of the four morose beings thought darkly, was also the reason why he was feeling this surprising amount of doom and dread settling onto his shoulders like an exceptionally heavy cloak. Amon Siril was known almost exclusively to the Firstborn, for almost no other race travelled this far north-east unless they absolutely had to. Even though the times were growing darker and ever more dangerous the hill was still rather often frequented by elven hunting expeditions, because of the simple reason that it was rather close to one of the elven realms that was still to be found here on Arda.

Aforementioned elven realm was not that of Lothlórien, the dark haired being continued darkly with his internal monologue while he was staring at the merrily dancing flames as if they were in any way responsible for his situation. Neither was it the Realm of King Thranduil who was ruling the vast forests of Mirkwood to the East of the Misty Mountains, and it also wasn't that of Lord Círdan the Shipwright who resided in Mithlond where his people were building the ships that were taking the Firstborn willing to leave Middle-earth once and for all to the West.

No, he thought wryly, it was of course the elven realm of Imladris, or Rivendell as Men and the other races called it. Under any other circumstances that would have been reason for joy and not for dark musings, but … well, the circumstances were anything but normal or usual. Tonight the negligible distance that separated them from the elven haven of Imladris was not exactly something he would have called fortunate or advantageous.

Next to him, another figure wearing a dark green cloak gave him a half-amused and half-annoyed look, his silver-blue eyes sparkling faintly in the firelight. The dark haired being failed to notice the attention that was being bestowed on him, so focused was he on his dark thoughts, and so the green-cloaked figure let his gaze wander over the rest of his companions with a slightly irritated flick of his head that caused a flood of pale golden hair to fall forward over one of his shoulders, hiding one pointed ear in the process.

If he had thought that his other three companions were in a more cheerful or amenable mood, he was sadly mistaken, a fact that was neither lost on him nor surprised him overly much. The four beings in whose company he had spent the past ten days had become more and more taciturn once they had crossed the mountain range of the Hithaeglir, something that he could even understand, at least in a way. Yesterday their mood had reached a new low, only to become even worse today, which, when one considered the date, was only natural. Right about now, however, his patience was beginning to give out, and he was dangerously close to reaching for his daggers and stabbing one of them, and be it only to get a reaction out of one of them.

The fair haired elf narrowed his eyes in mounting irritation as he let his gaze wander slowly over the three beings that were sitting in front of him, all of them staring glumly at the flames. It was a miracle that the fire hadn't gone out already, considering the icy-cold quality of their looks.

On a log right on the other side of the fireplace, no more than twelve feet away, sat a golden haired elf that was flanked left and right by a pair of dark haired elven twins. The brothers were wearing masks of identical moroseness that made it even harder to distinguish between the two of them, and even the small, displeased crease between their eyebrows which spoke of their ill temper was visible on both their faces. The fair haired elf didn't seem to feel any happier, even though his displeasure was not quite as obvious. None of them would have won a prize for a cheerful aura (or anything connected to cheerfulness) though, and right now the three of them were looking like especially solemn-faced undertakers more than anything else.

Taking his eyes off this rather depressing sight, the fair haired elf gave his fourth companion to his left another quick look, only to discover that his countenance had become even more grim and anxious – something that he had thought unlikely, if not completely impossible. The feeble thread that connected his mind to what was left of his patience lost even more of its integrity, and with a prayer to Varda Elentári for strength and willpower the elf forced himself to redirect his attention to the flames in front of him. He wouldn't snap and throttle one of them, he wouldn't snap and throttle one of them, he wouldn't snap and…

His inner mantra that hadn't been very successful in the first place was interrupted by a loud, heavy sigh that one of the three elves in front of him uttered in a particularly glum tone of voice, and the fragile link connecting him to his composure and longanimity disintegrated with a mental noise comparative to a snapping bowstring.

"Alright!" he exclaimed with a dark frown on his face, his eyes wide and indignant in his face. "Enough is enough! Stop it, now, or I will throttle all of you, the Valar help me!"

Three dark haired heads and a golden one turned around slowly, as if they wanted to emphasise their ludicrously bad mood, and four pairs of intense, searching eyes fixed on him, something that, under normal circumstances, might have bothered him slightly. These, however, the fair haired elf concluded irritated, were anything but normal circumstances, and he was reasonably certain that not even Lord Elrond's fabled look of impending doom, death and pain which he had quite often used on him and his friends would have impressed or bothered him right now.

"Excuse me?" one of the twins finally said, arching a dark eyebrow and fastening mildly puzzled grey eyes on the other elf. "You were saying, Legolas?"

"Exactly!" the thus addressed elf exclaimed somewhat cryptically, looking very much as if he wanted to wave his arms and jump to his feet in agitation.

The four others exchanged a quick look, an expression flickering over their faces that at least suggested that Legolas had taken temporary leave of his senses, if not completely lost his mind. After a few moments the dark haired, rather pale man next to the so obviously agitated elf smiled somewhat nervously and carefully reached out to place a hand on the elf's shoulder in a soothing gesture, concern and confusion visible in his silver eyes.

"Why don't you take a deep breath, mellon nín, and then tell us what…"

The blond elf's eyes lit up in what could only be called an unhealthy manner, and the man withdrew his hand as quickly as if the other's shoulder had been scalding hot.

"If I take a deep breath, Estel, I might gather enough of my wits to actually strangle all of you. Trust me on this."

"And," the golden haired elf across the fire began after a quick glance at the man's face, looking at Legolas with friendly, but amusedly sparkling blue eyes, "might we inquire as to what has brought you to this point, your Highness?"

"You, my Lord Glorfindel," Legolas answered straightforwardly.

Glorfindel raised both eyebrows and allowed his eyes to widen to improbable dimensions, giving the credible impression of an elf who had just received the surprise of his lifetime.
"I, my lord?" he asked, his tone of voice in stark contrast to the respectful manner of address. "Why, I am hurt! Whatever have I done to deserve your disfavour?"

"If you don't stop this charade now, I shall truly do something I would regret later, my lord," Legolas answered through obviously gritted teeth. "I was not only speaking about you, Lord Glorfindel. I was also addressing your … charges."

"Charges?" the twin sitting to Glorfindel's left asked immediately. "Did you hear that, my brothers? He called us Glorfindel's 'charges'!"

"It would appear so, Elrohir," his elven brother nodded. "I would very much like to…"

"…hear what has caused him to come to this regrettable conclusion," Elrohir finished his twin's sentence. "It appears that we have to…"

"…rectify some things. Indeed."

Aragorn merely grinned, already anticipating another of the twins' and Legolas' infamous "debates". A more appropriate term would have been "mutual insulting", at least in his opinion and that of the larger part of Rivendell's inhabitants.
"I'll happily admit to being Glorfindel's charge," he informed the two elves in what he hoped was a neutral, reasonable tone of voice. "At least until we get back home."

The twins turned slightly and gave him a look that was so cold that the young ranger unconsciously reached up to check that his ears hadn't frozen off or anything of the like. Aragorn gulped silently. So much for his neutral, reasonable tone of voice.

"That is of course your choice, Estel," Elladan told the dark haired man silkily.

"Choices have consequences," Elrohir nodded friendly.

"Sometimes even unpleasant consequences."

"Especially when you side with your brothers' enemies."

Aragorn raised his hands in a vain gesture meant to appease the two elves, once again asking himself just how this conversation had deteriorated so quickly.
"Let us not be hasty now, my brothers! The last time I read summaries of ada's council meetings, the Wood-elves of Mirkwood were, and I quote, 'friends and allies of Imladris'."

"The Wood-elves of Mirkwood: Maybe," Elrohir nodded again, appearing totally unperturbed by his human brother's words. "He: Definitely not."

"I couldn't have put it better myself," Elladan agreed smilingly.

If such a thing was even possible, Legolas' mood had even worsened while he had listened to the twins' and Aragorn's banter. Under normal circumstances, he would have enjoyed the others' teasing, but, as he had concluded several times over the past few minutes, these were no normal circumstances. All this in combination with the fact that he was in no mood to let himself be cheered up by the people who were responsible for his bad mod in the first place led to him being seriously unamused by the entire situation.

"You are absolutely right," Legolas agreed, his eyes narrowing so far that it was hard to tell whether they were even open or not. "Could we please get back to the point where I threatened to kill you?"

"Of course," Elrohir nodded amiably. "Forgive us for getting a little sidetracked, mellon nín. So, why do you want to kill us?"

The fair haired elf's eyes seemed to disappear completely under his brows that were knitted in obvious displeasure, and it seemed that he had to use all of his willpower to stop himself from physically reacting to the twin's teasing words.
"Certainly," he answered curtly after he had unclenched his teeth with some effort. "None of you can think of a reason, then?"

Aragorn smiled at his friend, innocence radiating off him in waves that were almost tangible, the exhaustion that had filled him only minutes earlier forgotten for now.

"Let me give you a small tip," Legolas replied in a tone of voice that was apparently meant to be friendly. "What have we been doing this evening?"

Aragorn traded a confused look with his brothers and the golden haired elf sitting between them, and for once all three of them appeared equally clueless.

"Travelling? Lighting a fire? Unsaddling our horses, avoiding being eaten by that thing you call a steed, collecting firewood, eating lembas…?" he finally offered, apparently not being able to see what they could possibly have done to upset the elven prince like this. They hadn't even tried to kill his horse lately, had they?

"Yes," Legolas shook his head irritated. "And no. You have done that, but that's not all you've done."

Glorfindel arched a golden eyebrow amusedly.
"And what is it we have allegedly done, young prince?"

"Brooding!" the younger elf exclaimed, his patience finally deserting him. "All of you! That's all you have been doing since we crossed the Misty Mountains! He is not going to kill you, for Manwë's sake!"

The four beings in front of him seemed to sit up a little bit straighter, and judging by the looks on their faces, they knew exactly of whom Legolas was speaking. And they also didn't appear to be sharing the prince's rather optimistic assumption.

"Just how exactly did you arrive at this conclusion?" Elrohir asked tersely. "I hate to tell you this and therefore rob you of your illusions, but I have known him for a lot longer than you have, and let me tell you one thing: He will not be amused. Besides, has one of you forgotten what day it is?"

"The first day of Ethuil," Elladan inserted glumly. "Yesterday was Yestarë . We haven't missed a New Year's Day Feast in ages. He will be furious."

"Elladan," Legolas tried to reason with the older twin, "He is your father. He is not going to kill you,"

An incredible snort interrupted the wood-elf before he could say more, uttered with so much underlying sarcasm that even Legolas was impressed. If there was one person who could convey sarcastic disbelief with a single snort, it was his father. Coupled with one of the Elvenking's fabled looks that bespoke of Thranduil's inability to fathom other people's naiveté it usually was a most impressive display indeed, and the fact that Elladan had come close to that kind of facial expression was something that very nearly awed the fair haired prince.

"I have to agree with my dear brother," the older twin finally managed to ground out between waves of incredulous chuckling. "You have no idea what you are talking about, my friend. Ada will kill us. Slowly, if we're really unlucky."

"Don't be ridiculous," Legolas shook his head. "Lord Elrond will be far too happy to see that you're all in one piece – or something like that," he added with a dark look into Aragorn's direction. "He will be too busy hugging you to kill you."

"You might be right about that, young one," Glorfindel nodded glumly. "I, however, have known my lord long enough to know that his initial euphoria will give way to remembrance soon enough. And if there is one thing I have learned, it is that Elrond Peredhil has an exceedingly good and long memory."

"You haven't even done anything!" Legolas protested rather feebly, inwardly asking himself just whom he was trying to convince of that fact. "Well," he added a moment later, "Most of you haven't, that is."

"Oh?" Aragorn arched a dark eyebrow. "How so? I disobeyed your father's orders and stole away in the night like a thief. Elladan and Elrohir did the same to follow me, and Glorfindel did not only fail to stop them, he even accompanied them! And then, to top everything off nicely, we got ourselves almost killed! Several times, I might add!"

"You don't have to say it quite so bluntly," Elrohir shuddered next to him, obviously already imagining their father's reaction.

"But it is the truth."

"What is also the truth is that, if you hadn't done what you did, I would be dead now," Legolas insisted, his eyes fixed seriously on the four solemn faces in front of him. "I would be dead or, even worse, still alive and sitting in a cell, waiting for the next time Glamir or Teonvan decided to 'have some fun' with me."

The fair haired elf's eyes wandered over his companions, suddenly dark and very serious.
"Without you, I would be at Girion's questionable mercy now, thinking about a way to end my life while I still could, and Wilderland would face open war. There is nothing you did wrong, and nothing Lord Elrond will hold against you. And you know that perfectly well, too, or all of you are fools."

Aragorn lowered his eyes after a moment, the memories of the past few weeks still far too fresh in his mind. His still healing wounds that reminded him all too clearly of all that had happened while Legolas and later also he, his brothers, Glorfindel and Legolas' friend Celylith had been prisoners of Girion and his men chose just this moment to start throbbing again – not that he would have needed such a physical reminder of their ordeal. Almost every night he was visited by dreams and visions of what might have happened, bringing to his attention how close they all had been to ending their lives in Girion's dungeons.

The young man shuddered slightly, unable to suppress the distress that stole over him at the mere thought of that man. Girion had been a descendant of the younger son of the King of Dale, who had fled the destruction of the city when Smaug had attacked Erebor and Dale more than 150 years ago. The grudge this son had held for his father and older brother had been handed down from generation to generation until it had escalated into intense hatred and an obsession to take back what the exiled lords perceived to be theirs.

Girion had been the craziest scion of that already rather crazed line, and had come by far the closest to actually succeeding. His men had captured Legolas in the hopes of gathering more information before they struck and conquered Dale and as much of Rhovanion as they could, and Aragorn was fully aware of the fact that it was only to be attributed to a rather large amount of luck that they were all still alive and – relatively speaking – well.

Aragorn closed his eyes for a moment when he realised how wrong that statement had been. They were alive, yes, but many of those who had helped them to overthrow Girion were dead, among them a young woman to whom all of them owed their lives. And not only humans had died, the man thought darkly. Galalith, one of Legolas' men who had been with him when the elven prince's patrol had been attacked, was now abiding in the Halls of Waiting, and his friend Anardir had followed him to Valinor, unable to bear the pain and grief that had filled his heart. He knew how heavily especially their fates weighed on Legolas' mind, and how desperately his friend needed to get away from these dark memories he had been unable to escape back in Mirkwood.

The man forced his thoughts away from this particular topic. None of this was something he wanted to remember at this time (or at any other time, for that matter), and besides, Legolas was right. They had behaved stupidly and most probably also rather recklessly – even though that was something he wasn't truly willing to admit, not even to himself, because he was not reckless – but if they hadn't left the palace when they had, Legolas would have died. He didn't regret what he had had to do to help his friend, not for one second, and he would do the same all over again, just like the twins and Glorfindel. He only hoped that Elrond would see it the same way.

Just because Legolas' assessment of the situation was correct it didn't mean that he was willing to openly admit that, however.
"Maybe," Aragorn answered darkly. "But now pause for just a moment, my friend, and imagine what your reaction would be if it were your father you would have to face tomorrow, not mine. What would you do?"

"Simple," Legolas answered without a moment's hesitation. "I would get up, find my horse, turn it south and hope that the Lord and the Lady of the Golden Wood were merciful enough to shelter me for an unspecified amount of time."

Elladan nodded emphatically and pretended to get ready to climb to his feet.
"Good idea. I'll get the horses; I am sure our grandmother would be happy to see us."

"Oh yes," Legolas nodded as well, a wicked sparkle in his eyes. "At least for a while. And then she'll order a few of her loyal Galadhrim to drag you back to Imladris."

"Ah yes," the older twin admitted wryly and sat back down heavily. "That too."

"Prince Legolas is right," Glorfindel interjected neutrally, suppressing a small smile that wanted to spread on his face. "Your father will understand, young ones. He is far too wise an elf not to."

"Yes," Aragorn smiled brightly. "But before that happens, he will lock us in our rooms for a few decades. With nothing but his famous tea and lembas, and that is enough to drive anybody insane."

"Maybe," Glorfindel shrugged amusedly. "I never said he would understand instantly."

"I wouldn't look so smug if I were you, Glorfindel," Elrohir warned the golden haired elf darkly. "He will lock you in your quarters too, don't forget that. And if I know him at all, he will allow Erestor to visit you once a day so that he can laugh at your misfortune and misery."

That remark shut Glorfindel up as effectively as a padded gag would have, and Aragorn was sure that he could hear a small clicking sound when the elf shut his mouth forcefully. With a half-smug and half-grateful look at his elven brother he returned his attention to the still silently fuming wood-elf next to him and gave him a small smile.
"You are right, my friend. He will not kill us, at least not instantly. Kindly excuse our … inhospitable behaviour."

"Only because we will be reaching Rivendell tomorrow," Legolas replied, appearing a little bit mollified. "And only if you promise to stop staring at the fire as if your only goal was to put it out with your icy glares."

"Is it working?" Elladan asked eagerly.


"Oh," Elrohir said for his brother, apparently crestfallen. "Alright then."

"Thank you," the fair haired prince answered, honest relief flashing to life in his eyes.

"You are most accommodating, mellon nín," Aragorn bowed his head in mock gratitude. "We will surely mention it to ada when we get back home. He might simply send you back to your father with his best wishes instead of incarcerating you with the rest of us."

"Don't think you can get rid of me so easily," Legolas replied with a small grin. "I have been at your side through many dangers, my friends. I will not abandon you now."

"You might come to regret that decision," Elladan warned the other elf.

"Maybe," Legolas smiled. "But what kind of friend would I be if I left now?"

"A smart one," the three brothers replied in unison.

The blond elf's eyes narrowed once again and he looked as if he wanted to say something rather uncomplimentary, but then a smile spread over his face even despite his best efforts. A few moments later he began to chuckle quietly, and soon laughter rang out through the camp, chasing away the dark mood. Not even Glorfindel could remain serious for long in the face of the four young ones' mirth and he allowed a large grin to spread over his face as he surveyed their smiling faces.

What would happen would happen, and they would face the Lord of Imladris' formidable wrath when it was time – tomorrow. Besides, Prince Legolas was right: Elrond wouldn't kill them, not even if they had missed the Yestarë-Feast. Would he?

"He will kill them," Isál muttered rather gleefully, his keen eyes sweeping over the forest floor beneath them that was lit by the late afternoon sun. "This time he will do it, I am completely certain about it."

"He will not," Elvynd shook his head and fastened grey eyes on his evilly grinning friend. "If he did, he would kill his heirs."

"There is still the Lady Arwen," the other elf told the dark haired captain next to him earnestly. "She would be more than capable of ruling Rivendell, even with her eyes closed and one hand tied behind her back."

"That she would be," Elvynd nodded without hesitation, with a reverent look on his face that most of Rivendell's inhabitants reserved for references to Arwen Undómiel or her grandmother, the Lady of Lórien. "Still, you can say what you want about our lord, but he is neither stupid nor reckless. He won't be willing to test the Valar's patience by starting another Kinslaying. The other clans would never let us forget it if we started such a thing not only once, but two times."

"No," Isál agreed after a few moments of silent contemplation. "Most probably not."

Elvynd leaned back against the trunk of the tree in which the two of them were sitting, a small smile on his lips when he looked at the mock disappointment on his friend's face – or at least he hoped that it was only mock disappointment. He wasn't really sure at the moment, especially when he considered the way the other's blue eyes were gleaming with something that could only be called malice. Usually Isál was a calm and sometimes even reserved elf, and the only times when he had been known to lose his temper had been when he had come face to face with orcs or other servants of the Dark One.

The dark haired captain's smile widened a bit more while he watched how the other elf returned his attention to the path beneath them. Isál was dark haired like he was, but his hair colour was a tone lighter, more like a dark brown than black. That wasn't the only thing that set him apart from the Elves of Rivendell who were mainly dark haired, grey-eyed Noldor, for his eyes were blue, of almost the exact same colour as the sky on the early evening. At least the eyes were accredited to one of his grandmothers who had been a Sinda from Doriath, who had settled at the Mouths of Sirion after Dior Eluchil's death and the subsequent destruction of Doriath in the First Age.

At least the eyes made the other look more like a Sinda than a Noldo, something that he had been told ever since he had been a young elfling. While that had been a reason for mild teasing when the two of them had been younger, it was now something that more than a fair share of Rivendell's unmarried she-elves found attractive – not that that interested the elf in question, of course, Elvynd thought distractedly. The only she-elf who was of any interest to Isál was unfortunately someone who was not very impressed by a pair of nice eyes or a slightly unusual hair colour.

Elvynd shook his head inwardly, still not entirely sure whether he should feel sorry for his friend or not. Isál had fallen in love with a certain young elf maiden more than one and a half yéni ago, something he and their friends had found hilarious then. When Isál had shown no signs of recovering from his love-struck stupor after a few decades, they had all accepted his occasional cases of decidedly weird behaviour – such as going misty-eyed without any reason, going red in the face whenever the aforementioned maiden was anywhere nearby, staring aimlessly at nothing and starting to smile stupidly at the most inopportune moments – as normal.

If one was slightly long-suffering, this arrangement worked just fine for everyone involved, and Elvynd was not an impatient elf. He was old enough to know when to simply sit back and wait for things to change that he couldn't influence anyway, but now even he was beginning to think that things were getting out of hand. He – unlike most of their mutual friends – had never believed that Isál would get over his rather hopeless infatuation with the undeniably beautiful elf maid to whom he had lost his heart, but lately it had been getting worse. Unless Isál got over his inborn shyness (and, in this case, also over his sense of self-preservation), his friend wouldn't be the only one who would go out of his mind.

Right now, however, Isál wasn't talking about the beauty and many wonderful qualities of the young she-elf in question, and had – to Elvynd's great relief – resorted to talking about the other topic that had been of interest to him lately: What Lord Elrond would or would not do when he got his hands on his wayward sons and seneschal. It was in fact an issue that was being discussed to great lengths by most of Rivendell's inhabitants, and one which Elvynd, too, had given considerable thought. He hadn't come to a definite conclusion yet, but the fact that they had missed the Yestarë-festivities was not something that bode well for their future.

The dark haired captain shook his head slightly, forcing himself to return to the present. They would see soon enough what their lord would do to the twins and the others, because they were sitting in a tree overlooking the main path that wound down into the valley of Imladris from the east. There were two other ways which his long-lost lords could take, considering that they would be coming from the direction of the Misty Mountains, but chances were that they would be taking this one. Unless, Elvynd thought wryly, they had found some trouble on the way, had nearly been killed and would drag themselves down whatever path they had found after they had escaped the den of some horrible creatures.

"They will have found some trouble by now," Isál unknowingly echoed his sentiments, his eyes not leaving the path beneath them. Elvynd couldn't quite decide whether the other elf sounded mildly gleeful or concerned. "You know they will have."

"They might have," Elvynd nodded, trying to ignore the anxiety that began to rise inside of him at his companion's words. "I don't think they have, though. They still have another day before they will be overdue. There is no need to start worrying now."

"Who said anything about worrying?" Isál asked and turned back to his friend. "I am not worried."

"You should be," Elvynd smiled at the other elf, a slightly wicked sparkle in his eyes. "Think of what Lord Elrond will do to us if we return without his sons." He paused for a moment to give his words the time to sink in properly. "Or if we return with them half-dead."

"You're right. I am worried," Isál nodded quickly, his eyes large and anxious. "Are you sure they aren't late yet? I think we should get reinforcements and go looking for them. What about ... now? Now would be good."

Elvynd grinned and shrugged, but before he could say anything, the low sound of hoofbeat began to filter through the trees, making both their heads swivel back into the direction of the path. The approaching horses were still far away and were only slowly coming closer, and not even with the aid of the afternoon sun they could see one of the animals or their riders. From the sound of it, however, the young captain was reasonably certain that they were elven horses, but not even of that he was completely sure at this distance.

"Is it them?" Isál asked next to him, squinting down at the dirt path. "Can you see them?"

Elvynd rolled his eyes at the other's back, once again astonished at his friend's sometimes rather childish attitude.
"No," he answered truthfully. "I cannot. There are trees standing in the way, you know."

"Ah yes," Isál flashed him a quick grin. "They're sometimes rather annoying, aren't they?"

"Don't let Prince Legolas or any of his subjects hear that," Elvynd advised the other elf with an answering grin. "He would not agree."

"Prince Legolas!" the other captain sighed in a mixture of exasperation and horror. "Thank the Valar that at least he is staying in that wood of his father's!"

That was something with which Elvynd agreed wholeheartedly, and so he merely nodded and returned his attention to the path. Low birdcalls sounded around them, telling them that the rest of their patrol had spotted the approaching riders as well. To most humans, dwarves or even hobbits the sounds would have seemed like nothing but birdsong, but the two elves knew far better than that and listened attentively, finally looking at each other.

"Five riders," Isál said uneasily. "Travelling light. Friendly. Three hundred yards away."

"Five," Elvynd nodded, his forehead creased in confusion. "Why five? Estel and the Lords Elladan, Elrohir and Glorfindel. That's four."

"Perhaps Lord Thranduil sent someone with them? An escort?" Isál offered hopefully.

"He wouldn't have sent only one guard with them," Elvynd shook his head. "I think that…"

What he was thinking Isál would never find out, because at this moment movements on the ground caught their eyes, drawing their attention from their conversation back to their surroundings. It took some moments until the faint movements developed into sensible patterns, and soon the two of them saw five horses appear on the path beneath them, only barely visible through the trunks of the dark, towering trees that were obscuring the road.

Elvynd squinted slightly while his eyes wandered over the sight beneath him, seriously considering whether he should pinch himself or not. There were truly five horses approaching, moving at a leisurely pace that bespoke of the riders' unwillingness to be hurried in any way. The dark haired elf recognised the lead horse immediately – there was simply only one horse he knew that was as magnificent as Lord Glorfindel's Asfaloth, even though the horse in question looked rather disgruntled, with its tail flickering from side to side and its ears moving back and forth.

The horses following the gleaming white steed weren't quite as impressive, even though they were beautiful, strong animals in their own right. The two large, grey horses belonged to the sons of his lord; they were twins, just like their masters, and it had therefore been clear ever since they had been born whose mounts they would eventually be. If there had ever been a case of animals taking after their masters, it was this one, however. All of Rivendell agreed that the two grey horses were just as stubborn and, at times, annoying as the twins, which didn't really surprise anyone, if they were honest.

There was one thing that did surprise Elvynd though, or rather two things, he decided now that his stunned brain could begin to comprehend what he was seeing. One, Estel was riding up the path, looking rather pale and exhausted, on a black horse he had never seen before, and two, the Prince of Mirkwood was bringing up the rear, sitting on his large white horse … Rashwe, yes, that was its name. It wasn't the horse that was surprising him, though – everybody knew that the Silvan prince had a soft spot for the animal which had more than once been called demon-horse, monster or even more uncharitable things – but rather the fact that it was here. It shouldn't be here. They should be here, but it shouldn't, and neither should he. Well, it could be here, that wasn't that much of a problem, but he shouldn't be here, certainly not when they were…

Elvynd realised that he was rambling, ran a suddenly slightly shaking, stiff hand over his forehead to get rid of the cold sweat that had accumulated there and grabbed the tree trunk next to his head so tightly that his knuckles showed white through the skin. By the Valar, this was not a good sign; it did in fact spell "Disaster" so clearly that he was surprised that one couldn't see the words float above the heads of the riders in fiery letters.

The first rider stopped his horse a dozen yards away from their tree, golden hair spilling over his shoulders and down his back while he turned his head from side to side. After a few moments he turned around and called for his companions to join him, and Elvynd reluctantly let go of the tree and reached out to clap his friend's back.

The gesture which had been meant to convey to Isál that they should descend the tree went unheeded, and Elvynd was already halfway down when he realised that the other elf wasn't following him. With an inward sigh Elvynd made his way back up to where Isál was standing, his eyes fixed on the five riders beneath him. Elvynd had to all but drag the nearly paralysed captain down the tree, and so their arrival next to the small group of riders was quite a bit less dignified than he would have liked.

Swallowing his relief, anxiety, joy and the growing sense of dread, Elvynd gave the four elves and the ranger in front of him a deep brow. A few moments later, when he was hopeful that he could keep a serious face, he straightened up again with a small, tentative smile.
"My lords. The Valar be praised for granting you a safe return."

"Captain Elvynd, Captain Isál," Glorfindel smiled down at the younger elves. "It is good to see the both of you." He nodded at Elvynd. "You are quite a bit away from your usual sector, aren't you? And your men, too?" he added with a poignant look at the trees around them whose crowns were covered in young, tiny bright green leaves.

"Uhm, yes, sir," Elvynd answered rather ineloquently and wrenched his eyes away from the infuriatingly emotionless face of the blond elf at the back of the small group. "Lord Elrond stationed some of the southern and northern patrols over here to make sure that you arrived … safely."

"How very … kind of him," Elladan smiled nervously. "How is our father, Elvynd?"

"He is well, my lord," the other elf answered automatically, a small, gleeful spark flickering to life inside his breast. He didn't need to be a mind-reader to see that all of the elves and/or men in front of him were scared of just how Lord Elrond would react to their arrival. "He has been very solemn lately, however, even the day before yesterday. He … well, he has been very worried."

If there was a way to say the word "worried" in a threatening, deathly way, Elvynd had found it. The sound of Oromë's horn could not have made a bigger impression on Elrond's sons and their companions, and all of them winced noticeably.

"'Worried'?" Aragorn echoed faintly, exchanging mildly horrified looks with his brothers.

"Oh, yes," Elvynd nodded evilly. "Very worried." He watched with interest how the twins and Aragorn paled until their faces had assumed the colour of freshly fallen snow, and turned to his silent friend with a wicked glint in his eyes. "Is that not correct, mellon nín?"

Isál didn't really seem to have heard what he had said, his eyes glued to the face of the Prince of Mirkwood as if his life depended on it.
"What is he doing here?" he blurted out, apparently not really realising where he was.

Legolas raised an amused eyebrow, not really knowing if he should feel offended or amused.
"Excuse me?"

Isál's eyes widened to a rather impressive size as he realised what he just said, and to whom, and a deep red colour began to creep up his face.
"Uhm, I mean…" he stuttered, obviously mortified. "What … what an unexpected surprise, your Highness! I … we … we thought you were back at your father's palace."

The prince smiled in an innocent way that caused cold shivers to run down the two captains' backs.
"I was able to convince the king to let me … accompany Lord Elrond's sons and his seneschal. Who knows what kinds of trouble they would have got themselves into otherwise?"

Isál's eyes grew even wider in sceptical astonishment and he opened his mouth as if to say something, but Elvynd's elbow that made unsubtly contact with his ribs made him fall silent almost immediately.

"We owe you and your father a great debt then," the dark haired captain smiled tensely. "Will you be returning to your woods soon, your Highness?"

"Ah," the blond elf waved dismissively, "Not really. I think I will stay for a few seasons."

"A few … seasons. Seasons. I see," Elvynd nodded with wide eyes. "I hope you'll … enjoy your stay, my lord."

"Thank you," Legolas smiled loftily. "I am sure I will."

Glorfindel chose this moment to intervene, having apparently decided that it wouldn't help anyone if he allowed the two captains' faces to freeze into masks of permanent anxiety and/or terror.

"Your men, Captain," he began, trying to redirect the two younger elves' attention to the matter at hand, "Will they be staying here or will they accompany us into the valley?"

"My men," Elvynd repeated, appearing confused for a few moments, apparently unable to take his thoughts off the – in his eyes terrifying – prospect of hosting the Prince of Mirkwood in Rivendell for a longer period of time than a few weeks. "Yes. No. I mean, my men will be accompanying us, while Captain Isál's men will remain here."

"I see," Elrohir nodded for Glorfindel. The younger twin turned slightly and looked from his brothers to Legolas and the golden haired elf, quiet joy warring with anxiety on his face. "Well, we shouldn't let them wait then, should we?"

"Definitely not," Glorfindel shook his head. "We have, after all, managed to make the journey in time and without getting involved in anything even remotely dangerous, which is probably some kind of record when travelling in the company of the four of you. It would be a shame to let that amazing feat go to waste now."

"Have you already forgotten our journey to Mirkwood, my friend?" Elladan asked incredulously while Isál and Elvynd went off to find their horses and inform their lieutenants that they would be escorting their lords and their guest to the Last Homely House. "We even made it with nearly two days to spare!"

"You, Elladan, have apparently forgotten that we were attacked by goblins in the Misty Mountains," Glorfindel retorted amusedly. "That isn't what I would call an uneventful journey!"

Elladan retorted something cheeky against which the golden haired elf protested in a mock-serious voice, but Elvynd, who was just returning with his horse and a very depressed Isál in tow, was not really listening. He automatically mounted his horse and moved it to the head of the column while Isál waited for the others to pass him so he could take up the rear, a still rather shocked expression on his face.

The twins were back. Estel was back. Lord Glorfindel was back. All that was in fact something he had hoped for, especially considering that they all seemed to be in one piece. They looked healthy enough, well, except for the young ranger who was looking quite pale, with dark rings under his eyes, which was in fact an exceptionally good thing. If Lord Elrond was lulled into a false sense of security when he laid eyes on them, he might actually get away before his lord's wrath could descend.

Elvynd was strangely comforted by that and smiled cheerfully – for exactly two and a half seconds, the exact amount of time it took him to remember that even though Lord Elrond's sons and Lord Glorfindel were back, they had brought Prince Legolas with them. Every time Prince Legolas and the sons of Elrond – whether of the elven or the human kind – were together or in fact in roughly the same area, things happened. Unpleasant things. Painful things. Things he didn't really want to witness, if he was perfectly honest.

With a last dark look at the blond elf who appeared oblivious to the glare that was directed at him Elvynd turned back around and began to guide his horse down the path, deciding to accept his fate with dignity. It was true that trouble followed the sons of Elrond and Prince Legolas wherever they went and only seemed to multiply when they were actually staying somewhere together, but it was also true that it was never boring when they were around. That was something, wasn't it?

With the horrible sinking feeling that they would soon find out whether or not that was indeed enough Elvynd spurred on his horse, and soon the seven riders had disappeared down the path and passed out of sight.

The light of the torches wound through the small town, flickering wildly in the cold evening air. From where she was standing, high above the two rivers that noisily made their way down into the valley from the hilly regions of the north, it looked as if a dragon was slowly slithering upstream, moving right and left from time to time but never straying from its goal.

She cocked her head to the side and squinted slightly, pretending that it was indeed a fire-worm that was leaving her town and not a group of men carrying torches. Even though it was gratifying to know that you ruled an entire town that did your bidding without question, it would have been incomparably more gratifying to really command a dragon.

Ah well, she shrugged as she dismissed the thought. One of these days she might be able to acquire one of these beasts, if, like the old people of this town would have said, if it was the Gods' will. With a cold smile she slowly placed her hands on the railing that encircled the spacious balcony on which she was standing. She would almost have laughed aloud. 'If it was the Gods' will', indeed. In her experience those who waited for the Gods' oh-so-merciful grace and help waited forever, or at least so long that it hardly mattered anymore if the Gods decided to grant it or not.

She would not make that mistake. Her mother had made it once, long ago, and she would be damned if she repeated her mother's mistake.

Then again, she thought calmly, her mother had always been naïve, too. Worse than that, she had been a fool. She, on the other hand, had been called many things in her life, but no one had ever called her a fool. There had been some other rather uncomplimentary expressions some – now mostly dead – people had used to describe her, but she had found them amusing rather than offending. Not amusing enough to spare the lives of the men and women who had been brave (or stupid) enough to utter these insults in the first place, however. She was, after all, no fool, and neither was she weak or possessed an exceptionally forgiving nature.

Now that she thought about it, forgiveness and kindness were two of the things she thoroughly lacked, something that hadn't ever bothered her in the slightest. After all, what were kindness and forgiveness if not other words for weakness?

She was brought out of her musings by the sound of soft footsteps that were purposefully nearing her position, and with an unwilling flick of her head she took her eyes off the torchlight that was moving up the hill to the north of the village and turned around, her dark, embroidered gown swirling around her body. As she had expected it was her seneschal, a rather small man with a sometimes downright annoyingly servile nature and long grey hair that was neatly bound back with a black velvet band.

"Yes?" she asked impatiently. "What is it, Salir?"

"Forgive my intrusion, my lady," the man said subserviently with a deep bow. "You wanted to be informed when the men were leaving. They left five minutes ago and will reach their destination in about half an hour."

"Really?" the woman raised a dark eyebrow mockingly. "I hadn't noticed! Now I know why there is a group of people moving through my town!"

"Forgive me, my lady."

"Maybe later," she answered coldly. "Has Captain Gasur reported yet?"

"Not for a while, my lady," the seneschal shook his head. "His last report…"

"…said that they were suspecting nothing. Yes, I actually read it, Salir. What about the others?"

The grey haired man kept his eyes fixed firmly on the floor, asking himself just why he hadn't simply sent one of the servants. He had always thought that his lady's husband had been bad when he had been in a bad mood, but he – as everyone else in this town – had found out over the past few years how very wrong that assumption had been. The beautiful woman standing in front of him, the faint silvery moonlight surrounding her slender figure in a way that made her appear unearthly and almost surreal, was far worse in that regard than her late husband had ever been.

"They have made sure that two smaller units of our soldiers accompany the rest of the townsmen, my lady. Not too many of course, but enough to see to it that our goals are met."

"Oh, I wouldn't worry too much about that," the young woman retorted calmly. "Even if this little … demonstration is not enough, we will come up with something that won't fail to make the desired impression. Sooner or later they will give in. They won't have any other choice."

Salir inclined his head in acquiescence, but reluctantly raised his eyes to meet his mistress' only a moment later.
"What about the Elves, my lady?"

"What about them?" the woman shrugged emotionlessly.

"The Lord of Rivendell will not stand idly by when he hears about all this, lady. He will interfere."

"He wouldn't dare!" his lady hissed, anger contorting her face. "He wouldn't dare attack us!"

"It is not his concern," the grey haired seneschal admitted slowly, careful not to say anything that might incense the young woman even further. "At least not directly. Technically, it is none of the Elves' business."

"But when has that ever stopped one of their kind?" the woman sighed softly before she took a deep breath and nodded slowly, a calm mask sliding over her face. "We will cross that bridge when we come to it. Until then, the captains are to proceed as planned." Salir bowed and nodded, and she added, "You may leave now. Make sure that nobody disturbs me tonight."

"Yes, my lady," the older man answered immediately and was about to turn around to follow his lady's command when a thought seemed to strike him, making him halt in mid-motion. He seemed to struggle with himself for a few moments, but then he finally seemed to pluck up his courage and opened his mouth. "My lady," he began haltingly, looking at the woman with imploring eyes, "Are you sure all this is really … necessary?"

The young woman in front of his cocked her head to the side and smiled sweetly, but her eyes suddenly looked as hard and cold as gems.
"If I didn't know better, I would think you were questioning my orders, Salir."

"Never, my lady!" the seneschal shook his head quickly. "I would never do that! But … but does it really have to be this way?"

"This is my town," his mistress answered coldly. "My town. I will not allow anyone to take it from me, no matter who or what they may be. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, my lady," Salir bowed his head quickly, an unreadable expression on his face. "I beg your pardon."

The young woman merely stared at him with an expressionless, cold-eyed gaze which the grey haired seneschal found hard to bear. He gave his lady a last deep bow and turned around, disappearing out of the door as quickly and silently as possible. The dark-clad woman looked after him until he had closed the dark wooden doors behind him before she turned back around and lightly placed her hands on the wrought-iron railing.

For a long time she didn't move and remained where she was, standing on the spacious platform overlooking the town like a carved, beautiful marble statue. No emotions or feelings could be gauged from her face while she stared straight ahead, apparently oblivious to anything but the dark valley spreading out beneath her feet.

Half an hour later, when thick clouds were just sliding across the moon, an eerie, red-golden light flickered over the skyline in the north-east, illuminating the darkness that lay over the lands. It disappeared almost immediately only to flare up a moment later, even stronger and brighter than before.

In a matter of minutes it had grown until it seemed to fill the entire horizon with its flickering golden light, and had anyone been there to see it, they would have noticed the bright smile that spread over the young woman's face as soon the light appeared in the darkness.


mellon nín (S.) - my friend
ada (S.) - father (daddy)
Ethuil (S.) - 'Spring', the first 'month' of the Reckoning of Rivendell. On a modern calendar, the time between the (modern) 29th of March and the (modern) 22nd of May
Yestarë (Q.) - 'First-day' or Winter Solstice; the first day of the elven year. On a modern calendar, it falls on the 28th of March
yéni (Q., pl. of yén) - elvish unit of time, equivalent to 144 solar years

I have lately been looking into all the interesting calendars Tolkien devised, and have to my shame discovered that Yestarë would (probably) not have fallen on the modern 6th of April as I had thought. Yes, I know: Tolkien states in the Tale of Years that the Elves' New Year was on the 6th of April. ("And on the day of the New Year of the Elves, Celeborn and Thranduil met in the midst of the forest; and they renamed Mirkwood
Eryn Lasgalen, the Wood of Greenleaves.") But the dates he gives us are according to the Shire Calendar, which is not directly comparable to the modern calendar: "Though actually the yestarë of New Reckoning occurred earlier than in the Calendar of Imladris, in which it corresponded more or less with Shire April 6." (The Return of the King, Appendix D). Astron (or April) 6th, however, would be the modern 28th of March, since the Shire Calendar began about ten days before our modern one. •grimaces• So, that's what I think. If you can correct me, don't hesitate to send me an email and tell me. I guess there are about a thousand loopholes in that theory. •g•

Oh, and I found an answer to that other question I asked myself in Chapter 4 of "Everlasting", namely whether or not Turgon was dark haired or would have been golden haired like his grandmother Indis. He was dark haired, though. •g• I found it when I looked up Finarfin (Fëanor's half-brother, Fingolfin's brother and therefore Turgon's uncle) in the appendix of "The Silmarillion", where it says: "Alone among the Noldorin princes he Finarfin and his descendants had golden hair, derived from his mother Indis, who was a Vanyarin Elf." Before you say it: Yes, I am a horrible freak. •g•

So, once again the stage is set. There's nothing more relaxing than a bit of foreboding, don't you think? •g• They really, really should have stayed in Mirkwood. If Elrond doesn't kill them, the new set of villains will. •evil grin• We will find out soon, since they're getting back to Rivendell in the next chapter! Yay them! I'll post either on Monday or Tuesday; I don't think I can make it any sooner, I'm sorry. I'm having an exam coming up, and really don't think that anything else than 6/7 days between chapters is feasible. Oh, and yes: Reviews are still VERY welcome. I'll even beg for them, see: Review? Please??