Disclaimer: I don't own The Lord of the Rings or any of its characters. I only own Leûra, Aearion, Undûme, Cassiopeia, Balanidhren, Aefaradien and any other original characters – so no stealing. However, I don't own Cuiviénen. That place belongs to J. R. R. Tolkien, but the stories of it in Chapter 1 and 2 are all mine.
Chapter 1: Old Friends
"Undûme, I warn you!"
I suspected he was here, but I did not know until I heard his voice. Lord Elrond comes here, weary and smeared in ash, carrying the black stains of Orc and Goblin blood on his armor. The Lord of Imladris is shouting, pleading, to my father, Undûme, Lord of Cuiviénen. The land which I shall rule over is home to all Elves, the cradle of our lives. It was in the Years of the Trees that we Elves awoke from the Sea of Helcar. Though some have gone and moved West, formed their own lands to safeguard, my ilk has stayed in the East, secluded and masters of the Drakes. This land has fallen on dark times because of one foul monster, Sauron the Deceiver.
How a spirit of Eru Ilúvatar, an Ainu, could fall from grace is a horror I hoped to never witness.
"Listen to me now or you will perish!"
My fingers twitch around the hilt of my sword as I watch Lord Elrond chase Ada. I wish I could seal my heart to the Half-elf's words, but I know the truth. My king has all but abandoned his people to the battlefronts, doing nothing as they die. He cares not for he has not witnessed the horrors of this war as I have. I've walked these pristine halls, the stench of death clinging to my armor, the wails of my fallen brethren ringing in my ears, all while the king haunts his study, wasting away into nothing. Where once was life and joy there is now nothing but cold indifference. Eyes that used to beam with pride at the sight of the city now glaze over like glass and sneer with disgust.
"No, you listen, Lord Elrond," Ada sneers at the Master of Imladris. I cannot stop myself from cringing. Fool. "I will not be fooled into joining an alliance with Men! Men are weak and they are greedy knaves!"
"You are misguided, my old friend. Your vision of the truth is hazy."
He isn't wrong, I think solemnly. I recently managed to steal away into Ada's study and was appalled to find him speaking to a palantír. How it came into his possession worries me almost as much as whom I believe he was speaking to: Sauron. I have watched him slowly go mad, grow cruel and unjust towards his people, until he reaches the point where he no longer recognizes his true friends, barely recognizes his family. But what can I do? He is mad but he is my father. All that I am came from him!
"My vision is clear. I see the truth well, old friend, and I know that you are only trying to betray me!" Elrond sighs disgustedly at this. It was all too obvious that his friend is truly gone if he thinks that he would betray him. "Yes, I know that you conspired with the other races. You betrayed me, Elrond! You wish to see me dead and my bloodline fall!"
"You speak nonsense! Sauron's army will destroy you, Undûme! He will kill you andyour family! Your city will be destroyed! Why can you not see that?"
A hand suddenly rested on my shoulder causing me to whip, hand firmly clutching the hilt of my sword. The gentle smile of my mother graces her ill face and put my heart at peaceful ease. The only reason she would be out of her chamber in her condition, mere days from bringing my sibling into the world, would be because of the argument I have been listening to. It doesn't surprise me at all that she has heard them. After all, I had only just been in the library reviewing maps, three halls away, and been drawn to the fight between the once brotherly men.
"Sauron is more powerful than you realize, Elrond. He is strong. He will protect me; shelter my race from the coming darkness," the king raves as if being in the pocket of the Dark Lord is something to be proud of. "I have seen it," he whispers, leaning into Elrond's right ear. If I could see Lord Elrond's face, I know that his eyes would be wide with the same horror as mine.
"Undûme, please," Elrond gently pleads as he watches the mad Elf back away from him, smiling thinly. "Please, tell me you didn't join with him." Elrond sighs, head hanging low. I can tell that he isn't angry but disappointed, just as I am.
"I have, and it will be my city's greatest accomplishment," he rants joyfully, turning to his throne and stares at our lengthy family tree engraved in the wall behind it.
"You fool!" Elrond shouts and grabs my father's arm, forcing him to look at him. "He will kill you when he has finished with you!"
"Maybe so, but at least then my legacy will be safe," he states proudly. Gritting my teeth shamefully, I can no longer stand to listen. As soon as I turn away my weary mother, once I am certain that she is gone, I make my way to the two Lords.
"No! Cassiopeia, Aearion, and your unborn child will all die when he's finished with you!" Ada doesn't seem to be listening to him. He simply turns to face the tree again with a smile. "Then you leave me no choice, old friend," he says solemnly. Elrond unsheathes his sword and raises it above his own head. My heart freezes. He's going to kill Ada! Afraid and angry, my slow pace quickly transforms into a run as I unsheathe my own sword, clashing with Elrond's just before his stroke falls.
"I think you should leave now, Lord Elrond," I advise with conviction yet desperate for his own safety. If he does not leave, I cannot be held responsible for mine or my father's actions.
"Aearion, you know not what you do," he warns as we push our swords away from one another.
"No, he does. My son knows exactly where his loyalties lie," Ada states conceitedly, placing a hand around my shoulder as I sheathe my sword. "And they are not with you. Leave, Elrond. Leave my realm or die." Elrond sighs, shaking his head, and turns away from us with regret written all over his face.
My heart goes out to the man that has always been a second father to me. I love him dearly, and it certainly pains me to turn him away; neither of us even bowed to each other as he left. Ada soon leaves my side as well; wandering to his private study where I am certain that cursed stone rests. With nothing else to do, with the army home for a well-deserved rest, I decide to check on Naneth and maybe apologize to Lord Elrond. Moving down the hall, I see the Half-Elvin Lord step out into the light of my decaying city, once ruled by a just and fair king but now by a heartless dictator. But, before I even have the chance to speak, I see Elrond joined by another.
"Why must you come at such dark times, Elrond?"
It is my Naneth, my Queen, Cassiopeia. She is staring out into the city, face blank and beautifully pale. Even fully swelled with child, she looks as beautiful as ever.
"Why must you stay here when you know that you could come with me to Imladris and be safe?" he returns whilst walking towards her. Deciding to be respectful, I keep out of sight and listen instead. This is wrong, I know, but what they don't know cannot hurt them, right? My mother's hands rest on her fully-grown stomach as Elrond's gaze burns into her, but she still does not look at him. "Your husband has been corrupted by the enemy. You know this just as you know that Sauron will betray him. Why do you sit aside and do nothing?"
"Nothing?" she gasps wisely, finally looking at him. "Who do you think summoned you here?" The elder lord bows his head, understanding now: Naneth is just as worried and fearful as Elrond and I are, though she conceals her fears much better than us. "Elrond, I wish I could go with you, but my place is here with my husband, my son, and my people."
"Cassiopeia, you are as wise as Galadriel. Surely you must know the dangers of staying here?"
"I do, but I must stay just as you must go." I watch carefully as she smiles up at him and caresses his cheek, cleaning some of the ash away. I feel a twitch in my heart. He is a friend, yes, but why would she be so tender with him? The way she gazes upon him, it is as if he were a lover but that is not possible…right? "Go, before it is too late."
Retracting her hand, she turns and leaves him to come back inside. As she passes me, I see tears fall from her eyes and, when I look outside, I see Elrond hurry out of the city on his steed. The Drakes roar overhead, a sign of respect and homage to him, as he rides out of the wrought iron gates, pushing his horse as fast as he can. Back to the battlefield or Imladris, I do not know but I desperately wish Naneth, myself and our people could follow.
Aearion: son of the sea
P.S.: Three pages total.