In the Second Age... Oropher had withdrawn northward beyond the Gladden Fields. This he did to be free from the power and encroachments of the Dwarves of Moria... and also he resented the intrusions of Celeborn and Galadriel into Lorien. 'History of Galadriel and Celeborn' Appendix B: 'The Sindarin Princes of the Silvan Elves'.
"You are Prince no longer, Celeborn." Oropher threw down the chicken bone which had formed a grisly sceptre as he gestured. "What authority you had over us is gone, drowned under the sea with Doriath. You shall not tell Amdir what to do. Nor me. We are both of us Kings, and you are none." Rising, he paced into the trees, leaned an arm against a branch and his forehead against the arm. "Indeed, did he take my advice, Amdir would throw you out, unwanted, as your own country did."
Amdir tried to loosen the knot of anxiety in his chest by sighing. He bent to settle his goblet in one of the shallow pools by the riverside, where Celebrant's icy waters would keep it cool, and watched as his kinsmen tore one another apart, again. This time he could not shrug it off as their perverse way of expressing affection. This time, he knew if he did not find a way to reconcile the two, he stood to lose both.
Oropher's back was to him; long, tawny hair gleaming in Lorinand's dappled sunlight, shoulders set in disapproval beneath a jerkin of finely tooled green leather. Oropher's son, Thranduil, sat cross-legged on a low branch of yew close by, applying himself to the cheese and bread and cold meats of the picnic, yet radiating a sense of attentiveness, like a fox with its ears pricked. They were both very dear to Amdir, who had welcomed their arrival this morning with a joyful heart. Such impromptu visits were not rare, for their realm lay just across the Anduin in Southern Greenwood, and it was a matter of mere hours to travel thence to Lorinand. Yet he looked forward to their meetings as to the stars rising - a delight which did not grow wearying in repetition.
'You come seeking news of Eregion?' he had said in greeting. Surely they must have done, not only for politics' sake, but because Celeborn of Eregion was a cousin and friend, and it seemed impossible he could escape Sauron's malice. The Dark Lord had sent against him an army such as the elves had not seen since the First Age.
Once Lord of Eregion, Celeborn had been deposed by the Noldo Celebrimbor, some centuries ago. His wife and children travelled to Lorinand for refuge, and in the intervening years Amdir had learned to think of Celeborn's son, Amroth, as his own. In truth, he had been something of a substitute father to both children, since their own had stayed behind, disregarded and alone.
Folk wondered at that decision; gossiped that a marriage already under stress from unequal blood and power had finally snapped. Galadriel had washed her hands of a husband who did not come up to her hopes, some said. Others that Celeborn had finally freed himself of chasing after his wife's ambition, seized the chance to live the quiet life he preferred, away from conflict and rule.
Amdir had laughed at both rumours, for it came as no surprise to him, when the army of Eregion had joined Amroth's relieving forces - fled through Moria to safety, arrived with its snow and mithril livery tattered and spattered with black blood - to find it lead by Celeborn. At the final test, Celebrimbor had protected what he loved; his workshop and jewels. It was the Sinda Lord who took charge of bringing anyone alive out of the ruin - as doubtless he had foreseen, and stayed to do.
Just for a moment, when Oropher first caught sight of Celeborn standing in the wine-yellow sunshine of the early morning, injured and dressed in borrowed clothes - for he had brought nothing from the wreck of his land but the armour he fought in - there had been a look of such gladness on his friends' faces that Amdir had dared hope their quarrel was ended. But then... then he had found out what Oropher had really come to say, and the joy of family reunited had become this bleak press of loss.
"I see the borders of Lorinand being patrolled by your half-Noldor troops, Celeborn. I hear your council on Amdir's lips, and the words of Galadriel in his mind. I see your son in his household, and your deeds being done by his hand, and I say 'enough'! You failed in your country, be still and let him do his will in his own."
Amroth half rose, insulted on behalf of both of his fathers. Putting out a hand protectively, Amdir gentled him back into his place.
Beneath the scorn, Celeborn bent his head, the straight fall of his hair concealing for a moment his broken shield arm. He looked pale and a little fragile, Amdir thought. But then how should a man look who loses his realm once to treachery, and a second time to overwhelming defeat?
Seeing that he would not trouble to defend himself, Amdir spoke for him. "Nor do you have authority over me, Oropher. And neither shall you tell me what to do. My borders are patrolled to my liking. Or rather, since Sauron's orcs o'errun this land like a canker, I would I had thrice the numbers to set about them. To place his army in my hands for the defence of my land is the deed of a friend. And, Prince or no, I am not too proud to hearken to one who once advised Thingol."
He could feel Amroth's gratitude as clearly as the touch of sunlight, and it was as much to please the boy as to defend his kinsman that he went on. "In Lorinand there dwell many elves who came hence with Galadriel when she was deposed. And now many more have come with Celeborn. But for them - both of them - Sauron's victory against Eregion would have been complete. As it was, the Dark Lord captured rocks and a few stubborn gem-smiths without the sense to know when to run. Would you have done as much, risked as much, for a kingdom from which you had been ousted?"
"For Eregion I would have done nothing." Oropher turned back, hesitated - aware that he was the only one standing in what should have been an idyllic picture of reunited friends. Softening, he knelt, reached out for the bowl of almonds and took a handful, rejoining the harmony. "Let the Doom of the Noldor fall upon the Noldor. Justly brought upon themselves by themselves and none of my concern."
Looking across the clearing he caught Amdir's gaze, and though his words were harsh, his face spoke of concern. "I would certainly not have opened my country to their refugees as you have. Ware lest you draw their curse down on yourself! 'To evil end shall all things come, which they begin.' The Powers themselves have said it. And yes, I wish it was not so, but it is. Doom is what you welcome into your country, when you give shelter to the Kinslayers."
At that Celeborn raised his head, his eyes gleaming. The scored claw marks across his cheek which yesterday had been angrily red, today were pale as the moon. Tomorrow they would be gone, and only the inner scars would linger. "So we should be as evil in return?" he said, accusingly. "The people of Eregion were Sindar, Laegrim and Noldor mixed. Elves all, whatever their race. And had you left them to die it would have been you who was the kinslayer, not they."
Amdir sucked the air in through his teeth. Oropher was combative by nature, and Celeborn, who could be tranquil as the night, would still only take so much ere he also turned to attack. Sometimes controlling a debate between the two of them was like separating a pair of hounds fighting over the same hare - all a matter of avoiding the fangs.
"Please, let us leave that ancient argument aside," he said. "We have quarrelled over the Golodhrim often enough in the past to understand each other's minds. But this, Oropher, this I do not understand. You tell me you mean to move your kingdom away from mine..."
Taking a deep breath, he tried to prevent the hurt from seeping out into his tone. It was political, perhaps, some kingly reason he did not quite comprehend. And even if it was not, well, he was a king, and should receive rejection with dignity, not pleading. But it was hard. There were so few of his friends, his peers, left. Those who were, were all the more precious to him. "Why? Southern Greenwood is fair and free. My people and yours delight in each other's company, and I delight in yours. Why go North... unless it is some insult I have done you? If so, tell me - it was all unaware, I assure you. I would not have you depart, my brother-king, my constant reminder of Doriath, of days of youth and glory."
"No... my friend!" Diverted from fury to sorrow, Oropher brushed the hair from his face, tying it back with a twist of leather onto which two pierced pebbles had been strung; wearing the very earth of his kingdom as an ornament. His expression, thus bared, was open, regretful. "Think not that this is any of your doing. I would never..."
"Some part of our concern is the dwarves," Thranduil came to his father's defence as Amroth had to Celeborn's. Unwinding one leg, he rested his foot on the forest floor, his soft shoe and deerskin trousers the same amber-russet as the deep leaf-litter. Like Oropher, he wore the fashions of the Silvan folk, but his were scattered with gems as the fallen dew, and seemed - to Amdir's eye - more princely, less needlessly austere than his father's. "Dwarves are often seen in Lorinand. You welcome them! It makes us nervous to have them so close - only across the river. We want to put many more miles of trackless forest between ourselves and them."
"Why?" Amroth asked, sincerely puzzled. The only one of those present young enough to be so. "Durin has been a good friend to Lorinand and to Eregion. I fought beside the dwarves of Khazad-Dum only this last month, and found them valiant and trusty. A worthy people."
"So we all thought," to Amroth's confusion it was Celeborn who frowned at him for this sentiment. "We believed we could trust them. We believed they were our friends. Right up until the moment when they murdered the King and massacred us. After that... After that, how could any of us ever be sure of them again?"
"But you worked with them long in Eregion!" Amroth insisted. "And mother likes them! Nor have you, my lord Amdir, ever shown them disregard. The trade with Khazad-Dum enriches both our lands. I thought your hatred overcome long ago."
Ah, the innocence and idealism of the young! "A man who burns his hand in the flames," Amdir said gently, "will never again be deceived by their beauty. We trusted, we were betrayed, we trust no longer. For all of us, this is the truth."
"Then you understand one of the reasons why I must move my kingdom away." Oropher smiled, and it was as though the veiled sun had burst forth in glory - his joy, as with his anger, could sway the hearts of all. "The Sack of Doriath has taught me to be wary of positioning my kingdom within a day's march of a horde of heavily armed dwarves, particularly now their gaze no longer turns West to Ost-in-Edhil, but East, to Lorinand."
Celeborn eased his splinted arm into a new position, grimacing a little. "I understand it well. I know how you feel. Yet a burnt hand is no reason to deny yourself a hearth fire. As long as you do not take your eyes from them, nor turn an unwary back, as long as you do not get between them and their wealth, alliance is still possible. Your realm and Amdir's are abundant in food, but short on steel. Why not trade for coats of mail? The storm is coming. Put armour on your people's backs; put swords in their hands! Better the Stunted Ones for neighbours than Sauron."
"And there you touch the heart of it," Oropher raised his opened hand as if giving Celeborn a mighty gift; the treasure of his thoughts. "Mailshirts; longswords! You would have me turn my people into copies of the Noldor that you so love." Seeing the looks of bemusement on their faces, he shook his head, as though to organize it; tried a different way to explain the vital spirit of his policy.
"My folk dwell in the forest as Denethor did of old. They follow the ancient ways, they keep their own tongue and their own customs. Proud and free! I will not have them made into imitation Sindar, forcing my ways, my culture onto them. Let them remain untouched by our arrogance, our doom. Let them remain themselves."
He turned a righteous look upon Amdir, fierce and sure, and for all his rustic leather, the wooden beads he wore where another might wear gold, he was royal in strength and conviction. "Tell me your Silvan folk are not losing their heritage, their very identity, beneath this flood of Galadriel's countrymen. Tell me your armies do not use dwarf-made blades, are not trained by Noldor commanders, do not speak Sindarin to the exclusion of all else."
"I cannot, for it is true," Amdir said mildly, not allowing himself to feel guilty. "I came hither from Doriath with many Sindar in my train. Should they be forced to give up their customs and language? Should I? I am no more Silvan than you are, Oropher. I am of the Eluwaith and proud of it."
Oropher gave the short laugh of a man surprised by pain. "There is no Eluwaith any more!" he cried. "The Dwarves killed us, the Noldor killed us. Thingol is gone and we are destroyed! We should at least not spread that destruction, but leave the Silvan to be Silvan."
"So Nimrodel says," Amroth twined a lock of his bright golden hair about his finger and looked at it sadly. "She will not speak Sindarin, but with each year that passes there are fewer of her friends willing to speak Silvan with her. I learned it, I made a house in the trees in the manner of her people to show her I had respect for her ways. But she says we brought the wars with us. The elves of Lorinand would not need steel weapons to defend themselves, if the Eldar were not here. Sauron's gaze would turn elsewhere. It is because we arm to meet him that he sees us as a threat. So says Nimrodel. And at times I find it hard to answer her."
"She speaks for our people also," Thranduil gave his brother-prince a sudden, startling grin. "Why should we enforce Noldor or Sindar customs on a folk who have lived well enough without them since the world began? She is wise, your beloved."
"But not without cruelty, to say such things to you." Amdir said, sympathetically. He felt less approval than Thranduil of the way Nimrodel blamed Amroth for deeds and events in which he had had no part. Though the boy did everything he could to please her, she still made him unhappy.
His sympathy was ill taken. Amroth tore a chunk of bread from the loaf, as if to say he would disagree vehemently, if courtesy did not restrain him. It was Celeborn who reached out with his good hand to squeeze the young man's shoulder reassuringly. "She has every right to be what she is, to love what she loves, and to resent you trying to change her," he said quietly. "But she is wrong in this: Sauron hates us all. Noldor, Sindar, Silvan, Avari - he wants us all dead. There is no safety left in pretending to be unimportant. He may destroy what is left of the Noldor first, but afterwards he will come for us, and we must be ready."
"By making ourselves targets? Or by moving away?" Oropher settled where the roots of an oak made a shallow seat, leaning back against its living support. "The Silvan way is not to stand and fight, but simply not to be found. You know we have not force of arms to prevail over Sauron, any more than we did over Morgoth. The Sindar had Melian, the Silvan had their stealth, and so we survived. Since I have no Melian to bring them, I must learn from the Silvan and protect my people in the way that is natural to them."
"Natural?" Celeborn pulled at his sleeve. The borrowed tunic was a rich burgundy silk, stitched with seed-pearls, but it was too short, and the cuffs seemed to irk him, riding up to his elbows. "You speak of Denethor; surely you remember how many of his folk died in the battle to save Doriath. They were fearless and skilled, swift and strong, as I have no doubt your own folk of Greenwood are. They died only because they had poor weapons and no armour.
"You do not know when you may be forced to fight, as even Elu was at times, but when it comes to it, should not your folk bear steel instead of stone, longbows instead of slings, mail and not leather? One is not more natural than the other, but the second may save your life."
"A people's culture is their heart," Oropher frowned with frustration. "Their language is the very song of their soul. This Thingol knew, who chose to punish the Noldor by taking theirs away. But after language, then comes their works; their dress, their habits, the lore by which they live... It begins, perhaps, through teaching them to use Sindar weapons, and then what? They use the longbow to bring down more game; the forest suffers, the animals grow wary and scarce; we lose their trust, and we have to learn more Sindar ways to compensate. Until at last we are Silvan in name only. How can it profit my people to cut out their heart in order to save them?"
"Yet," Amdir gestured with his bitten apple, feeling accused and uneasy. "When I came here with my folk, the elves of Lorinand were eager to learn from us. They saw the Sindar in silk when they wore cloth of nettles. They saw our fields give threefold the increase of theirs; they saw people who had never been hungry, and they wanted that for themselves. What monster would I have been to have kept it from them? Everything we knew we shared with them. They are Lindar as are we, and what advantages we possess are theirs by right. Would you let a man die because the healing he needed was a Sindar art, not a Silvan?"
"Or even because it was Noldor." Celeborn agreed. "Why must we neglect any good, simply because it comes from a culture different from our own?"
"Because it is bought at too high a price," Oropher's mouth turned down in ancient bitterness. "Look what happened to the Sindar outside Doriath - those who did not follow Thingol's policy of keeping the Noldor at arms length. They forgot that the whole land once belonged to them. They learned to sing nostalgically of the Blessed Realm, which none of them had ever entered. They learned to look down on the 'moriquendi', forgetting that by their Noldor kings' reckoning they were moriquendi themselves. Or they learned to feel inferior, where once they had been lords. Yes, I would choose hunger, even death, over that. It is a worse blow to lose your self."
"And all this time," Amdir asked, the unease turning into further desolation, "you have felt I was doing this to my people here? Teaching them to feel inferior because they were not Sindar? Why have you not said so before? To say nothing and then to suddenly move away..."
Startled, Oropher held both his hands up in denial, but seemed unable to find words to answer. Again it was Thranduil who spoke for him. "It is different with the Sindar and the Silvan," he said. "We are akin. Like one brother learning from another, there's no question of who is superior - we're family. Father and I choose to learn from the Silvan; the Silvan folk choose to learn from you, it is all one. No. If that had been the problem we would have moved long ago. The trouble is..." he fell silent, then gave a small, apologetic laugh.
"The trouble is Celeborn," Oropher gave his cousin a look of strange darkness; disappointed rather than angry. "Or more precisely, his wife and the company he keeps. Do not deny that it is since Galadriel brought her Noldor household here that the Silvan tongue began to die out in your land."
"I do not deny it," Amdir struggled with his own temper. He could not afford to flare into fury too, or all hope of reconciliation would be over. But it was hard to be thus questioned and not to feel accused. "Her household speaks Quenya and Sindarin, mine speaks Sindarin and Silvan. It is inevitable therefore that all should speak Sindarin together, since it is the only tongue we all understand. I see nothing sinister in this."
"No? Nor that the army which Amroth lead to Eregion's defence was in part trained and equipped by her personal guard? Nor that everywhere in Lorinand her ideas are discussed, her power marvelled at, her beauty praised and her graciousness lauded?"
"Perhaps people just like her!" said Amroth, angrily, looking suddenly as he was - by elvish measure - very young.
"She makes herself popular because she likes to be loved," Celeborn said with a half shrug which moved only his uninjured shoulder. "You put too much meaning on a small vanity."
"Do I? The Noldor do not suffer to be lesser in any kingdom that they inhabit. They want to rule. You of all people should know that, after Celebrimbor."
Picking the cooled chalice out of the stream, Amdir watched the water flow over his fingers and softened, yielding to its example. He would not be harsh as flint and steel, allowing these words to strike sparks from him; he would be accommodating as liquid. Even if the restraint killed him. "I look at the example of Eregion," he said, "to which Galadriel and Celeborn proved themselves faithful friends in need, and count myself strengthened by their aid and council. I see no threat."
"Strengthened?" Oropher scoffed. "She courts your people, trains up troops loyal to her son. Celeborn brings his army... You have ambitious guests with their own agenda, with their own heavily armed Noldor followers; who have first hand experience of the Noldor fashion of usurping their kinsmen's thrones. Remember Nargothrond and tell me you are strengthened."
This time it was Celeborn who struggled to his feet, strode to stand over the reclined form of the king of Greenwood like a thunderbolt poised to strike. "I remember Nargothrond. I remember that it was my gwador who was deposed, and in Eregion myself. I have been wronged, I have never been guilty. I am not Curufin, and I take it ill that you would speak of me in one breath with the worst of the kinslayers."
"Why should I not?" Never one to take threat calmly, Oropher rose, teeth bared, and matched Celeborn's accusation with his own. "You married one. You serve one. Do you think Gil-galad would have sent an army to my rescue? He would have let me die, rather. You may want to become a Noldo, so you can think yourself better than the rest of us, but if so, we will treat you like one - with all the suspicion it merits."
For a moment Amdir was certain Celeborn would hit Oropher, and strike hard; he had rarely seen his kinsman quite so furious. But whether it was his famed wisdom, or merely the pain of a broken arm which did not want to be jogged, he stepped back instead, anger thrumming through him like the impact through an arrow shaft.
Buoyed by fierce energy, he strode away, into the long grass where Amdir sat. The sunlight, lengthening, moved over them both, making Celeborn's hair shine like adamant, and Amdir's brighten from pewter to true silver.
Taking comfort in the sight, Amdir told himself that some marks of birth and culture could not be denied or forgotten. Sometimes it took only a sunbeam or a still pool to remind him. Lore masters might doubt that the Sindar had been named for Thingol's silver-grey hair, but he did not. As long as that trait persisted in Middle-earth, the Eluwaith were not dead, whatever their differences.
But as he opened his mouth to point this out Celeborn turned, like a knight coming into the lists - swift and alight with righteousness. "If Galadriel is plotting to take over Lorinand, why is she in Lindon?"
"You are here," Oropher planted his feet apart, braced to meet the charge, fists clenched at his side. "You and she are like a man's right and left hands - you may occupy yourselves with separate tasks, but you are moved by the same purpose."
It was a masterful stroke; one against which Celeborn had no defence. He took the blow silently, changed the subject with a new attack. "You will not call my wife a kinslayer! She is none. Not all Noldor are so, and she is not even wholly Noldor. She is as close in kinship to Elu as I am myself."
He paced a little closer. "Furthermore, I am not, and never have been, Gil-galad's subject. But nor is he the Noldo you claim. Half Sindar, and my nephew. My people in Eregion were the same, my army the same, my household the same. Those few among my followers who are not of mixed blood are married to someone who is."
He gave the king of Greenwood a scathing look, a mirror of Oropher's earlier disappointment. "You are so like Galadriel sometimes! You want to live in the past. You want to stop time, returning to simpler certainties. But the age of Denethor is gone, and it no longer means anything to talk of Noldor or Sindar. We are one family now. All of us together
"It's called life, Oropher. Growth. And though it means we lose some things we once loved, what of it? We gain others. Would you preserve your people unchanged, as though Greenwood were an outpost of Valinor?" He laughed, mockingly. "And you accuse me of Noldor vices!"
Amdir put his head in his hands. The situation was lost. A hundred Great Years could pass before either of them forgot what had just been said, or how. He heard Oropher take in a deep breath as though physically punched, saw Thranduil come to his feet at his father's side, and Amroth's quick, despairing glance before he rose in support of his.
"You long ago forfeited the right to speak to me like this!" Oropher's eyes were narrowed, his breathing hard as he too fought his own instinctive urge to strike out. "You, whose responsibility it was to put our people first, but who chose instead to be wed to them." Even consumed in anger he hesitated over the next word, and Amdir - who had long been his friend - could sense the black grief, the sense of personal anguish, that drove him at last to say it. "Traitor!"
It would have been better swallowed. For Celeborn, who had been angry, but controlled, now lost that final restraint. "Traitor?! Have I abandoned my people's ways and language? Have I declared the Eluwaith dead, or called myself 'king' ? Have I pretended to be Silvan, when I am none? It is not I who betray Elu's memory, but you!"
"Fine!" Livid with rage, Oropher shoved his cousin hard in the chest and shouldered past him, stalking away. At the edge of the clearing, he stopped briefly to look at Amdir, a regret he could not express lurking behind the fire in his eyes. "When he and that wife of his throw you out, my friend, you will be welcome in the Greenwood. Come, Thranduil."
Thranduil paused in the centre of the clearing, like a stag caught mid leap. Above him, Lorinand's leaves glowed like beryl, and about his feet the white stars of woodland flowers unfolded in the grass. For a second, his face was doubtful, then it cleared. He turned his back and followed after his father silently.
Shocked by this sudden collapse of all his diplomacy, Amdir sat frozen for a second. A songthrush trilled among the birches, and ducks dived on the hastening stream. The westering sun shone golden in a clear blue sky, and Celeborn stood like a statue of marble among the trees. Then, tentatively, Amroth reached out to touch his father's arm.
The movement broke the spell of stillness. Celeborn gave a gasp and covered his face with his hand. Amdir rose in panic and ran to the edge of the wood, where even now grooms were bringing his guests' horses - fallow ponies with dark markings like long arrows down their back. "Oropher!"
The King of Greenwood half turned, his jaw set.
"Do not depart from me thus in insult," said Amdir, utterly abandoning his own pride. "Stay. We will try again. He meant it not. Nor did you."
For a moment he thought he would receive the hot lash of fury. Then the horse lipped at Oropher's fingers, nudged him for a treat he had not brought. Amdir passed over the half-eaten apple, still clutched like a talisman in his fist, and they stood in quietness as the beast ate from Oropher's hand.
"He makes me so... angry," said Oropher at last, with a quirk of grudging humour.
"I noticed." Amdir laughed. He rocked back on his heels and watched the stablehands spread thick saddle-blankets over the horses' backs. Oropher's guards came running from where they had been visiting friends in a nearby oak grove.
As they too greeted their mounts, made ready to ride, their king sighed, scrubbed a hand through his hair and turned a worried expression on his friend.
"I am not truly living in the past. Am I?" He fingered his saddle-blanket. It was made of jute, beaten into softness, patterned with a leaf design unique to Greenwood. "Is it so wrong to want my people to grow in their own way, at their own pace, free from Noldor scorn?"
Recognizing that this was less a question than a private thought aired accidentally in speech, Amdir said nothing. Beyond the eves of the forest, Anduin rolled in silent smoothness, and the ferry nodded sedately against its landing. Would it be needed now, Amdir wondered with a stab of sorrow, now there would be no more elves crossing between Greenwood and Lorinand?
"Ah, I am too harsh on him," Yielding to the whisper of wind through the grass, the soothing peep of small riverbirds, Oropher grew calm once more; ready to be generous. "He is so sure of his own worth; even the loss of his kingdom cannot make a dent in his pride. The contempt of the Noldor runs from him like rain from swan feathers, and thus he sees no threat in it. But we cannot all be so oblivious, and I will not have my folk learn to think of themselves as savages, as servants born."
"I understand." With Nimrodel and her followers proclaiming the same message in his own land, Amdir did understand. There were days when he too would have liked the option of going somewhere where the problem did not exist. "Is there nothing I can do to dissuade you?"
Oropher looked at him seriously. "You could send your Noldor to Lindon," he said, clearly without any expectation of success.
Which was just as well. Amdir laughed sadly. "No, I could not. I have granted them my protection. I will not be proved faithless."
"Then we must go North," Oropher finished. He put a hand on Amdir's shoulder, hesitated, then swept him up into a hug. "You will come and stay? This need not be a parting, only a farewell."
It was a relief to know that only distance would lie between them, not estrangement, but still, Amdir would rather it was not so. He returned the embrace, and for good measure walked over to hug Thranduil too. "If I had known, I would have prepared gifts for you. But go with my love, and I will bring them afterwards, when I may."
"May the leaves not fall before we meet again," said Oropher. He turned, and went away, and all his folk went with him. Amdir watched them cross the Anduin and reach the vaulted shadow of the fair trees of Greenwood. He raised a hand in farewell, saw them signal back, before the shade and dappled light welcomed them home, concealing them from his sight. Then he sighed, and went back to the one friend he had left.
The clearing was empty but for a maid, disposing of the half-eaten bread by feeding it to the ducks. Turning on his heel, Amdir strode to the great mound where Amroth's strange house, among its circle of silver-birch, swayed in the afternoon breeze.
Amroth was not there, but Celeborn was, with open saddle-bags spread before him, trying clumsily to fold blankets, padded armour, into the uncooperative leather shapes with his one usable hand. How he had climbed to the talan, Amdir did not know, but from the frown, and the swift, brutal, uncoordinated movements, he guessed it must have been painful.
"Ah, Elbereth!" he said. "Not you too!"
"How prevalent are his opinions?" Celeborn rounded on him, the mithril shirt in his hand trailing like a small waterfall to the floor. "How many of your people find them just? Is all Lorinand talking of how I mean to steal your crown?"
"You know it is not." Amdir knelt to take everything out of the bag which his kinsman had packed with such inaccurate haste. "No one believes it, not even Oropher. He said it only to enrage you - as seems to have worked."
"He is the most orc-tempered, stiff necked..." At the ruin of his packing, Celeborn dropped the mailshirt in a shimmering ring of metal and went to his knees beside it, his face bleak with a more than physical anguish. Seeing it, Amdir reached out and skimmed two fingertips across his shoulder the way, at times, he had seen Thingol do - a brisk, light gesture of comfort.
"You two used to be so close," he said quietly. "Now you are at each other's throats. What happened?"
Glancing aside, Celeborn watched the clouds through the talan door - here there was a view of fresh light on the sighing canopy of the trees; a green swell of leaves and birds, overarched by the beginnings of sunset; the amber sky bordered by mountains.
"It was just after the War of Wrath" he said. "When I was Lord over what remained of the Sindar in Lindon. Oropher came to me and urged me to turn Harlindon into a second Doriath - enclosed from the outer world, purified of Noldor influence. He saw it as the only way to retain what had been special about the Eluwaith - the only way for our civilization to survive."
He bent his head, noticed that the sling on his arm had come awry, and awkwardly, painstakingly retied it. "Oropher offered his fealty to me, as Elu's heir."
"But you are not..." Amdir began, and stopped; convinced. It made such sense!
"No. But Elrond was half Noldor, raised by the Kinslayers; loyal to Gil-galad. Whereas I was full blood Sindar and Prince of Doriath. It was..." he stirred the links of his mail contemplatively, sending lights dancing over the ceiling, filling the room with a dim, muted tinkle. "It was a fine suggestion, with much to recommend it. And only one drawback." He smiled, ironically. "A Sindar King would need a Sindar Queen."
The thin smile became a burst of hurt laughter. "Was it so wrong to choose, instead, to marry the woman I loved? With Galadriel came a new family - Gil-galad became my nephew; the Noldor my kin - and I had a duty to them, as to my own people. So in Oropher's eyes, I turned traitor. I doomed the Eluwaith to die. He has not yet forgiven me. And I know not if he ever will."
Amdir spared a moment's affectionate sympathy for the members of Thingol's house, who would let nothing come between them and love - neither kind nor death nor crown. Though Celeborn had not had to brave Morgoth for his lady's sake, it seemed his choice had not been without price. For a moment he wondered whether one day such a world-changing love would come to him, and realized that he would rather it did not. His life was as he liked it now; he had no use for such costly bliss.
"Yet neither he nor I would ever have become a King, had you made that decision," he said, and rose to hang the mithril mail back on its stand. "And our people would not now be so organized, so armed, or so well protected. I thank you, even if he cannot. He can bear a grudge with the best of us, and it is only that which makes his thoughts so unworthy."
"Unworthy?" Celeborn snorted, drew himself together to neatly kneel in the patch of sunlight which spilled through the door. "In truth he speaks more wisdom than I let myself hear. From me you are in no danger, but there are those among my troops who supported Celebrimbor's coup. I would wish to believe they had learned their lesson, but I will not gamble your realm on it."
Three days the army of Eregion had been in Lorinand, and already Amdir had seen them; the tall Amanyar with their blazing eyes. They strode about his realm as though they owned it, making 'suggestions' for where they could coppice, where they could burn charcoal; where they could build their forges. He had been made uneasy by their polite disdain, and the way they listened, politely, to everything he said, but did not appear to hear any of it. His heart sank.
"I cannot send them away, for that would be nigh on kinslaying. But I cannot keep them here and be safe," he said. "What must I do?"
Celeborn was still watching the trees, his face turned aside. It occurred to Amdir that Oropher had overestimated his cousin's invulnerability - voice and speech were the same, his opinions were the same, but every movement, every posture spoke of distress. He came to sit cross-legged beside his friend and let the warmly reassuring light fall across his own eyes.
"I dreamed of Elrond," Celeborn said thoughtfully. "He was at bay in a narrow valley between Lindon and the Mountains, with only that paltry army Gil-galad gave him. I will go to him there and take the least trusted of my Noldor with me. To the son of Earendil, the heir of Turgon, they will be loyal, I think. May they prove a boon to him, and their absence as much of one to you."
Sorrow tugged at Amdir like deep, soft mud. He had once had two friends; one who lived beyond the wide river, the other who lived only across the mountains, and in summer would frequently walk over the high pass and come to stay for a month or so. Eregion and Greenwood and Lorinand had been so close it was, indeed, like a little Doriath. Like Beleriand, born anew. Now he alone would remain. He knew not whether to feel sad for himself, or fearful for his country - a small land with no natural boundaries, whose allies had now been lost.
He should feel the second more keenly, he supposed, but he could not. It was not the menace of Mordor which filled his mind, but a more terrible threat. Swallowing down denial, demand - he had no right to ask - he said, mildly, "will you take Amroth with you?"
At last Celeborn turned to look at him. It was a gaze full of regrets, but with no uncertainty. "Take him from peace into war? Force him to part from the one he loves? Tear him from the land where he has set down roots, that he may be with a father who had no time for him in his youth?" He shook his head, still with that chill smile. "I would be glad of him, if he wished to come, but I stake my life he will not wish it."
Relief seemed very selfish, in the face of his kinsman's sacrifice, but still, overwhelmingly, it was what Amdir felt. Concern followed tardily. "You will visit him often," he said, "and always be welcome here. Oropher may think the worst, but my people of Lorinand have come to know you over the last four hundred years, and they honour and love you. As do I. The more often you walk beneath my trees, the better I shall be pleased."
Like the first bold leaves of spring after winter, Celeborn's smile changed shape, became a flash of sudden surety; of the unscathed pride Oropher had bemoaned. "Thank you," he said, "I would not be parted from him forever. Nor willingly from you, my brother, in whose face I see yet the likeness of my king.'
He looked out into the sunset again, into the West. Following his gaze, Amdir saw no longer an ending, but the moment of rest before a new day. "We will still face the future together," Celeborn said, in determined hope. "What does it matter that we do it a little further apart? When all the Noldor are returned whence they came, the scions of Doriath will still be here. We will outlast them all."
Amdir laughed, telling himself he must remember to repeat these words to Oropher, when next they met. But at the thought darkness rose up and smothered him. Death filled his nostrils like water, and he heard from afar the voice of Oropher calling out from a barren land, where his bones lay in a pit beneath the moon. Agony came over him, and numbness. Reeds pierced his body like thousands of spears.
He gasped, opened his eyes and saw the curtains move in the many windows of Amroth's house and the sky like beaten gold through the door. "You will," he said, calm and sure at last. Glad that one at least was spared. "Yes. I think you will."