Prologue

The King's guard was in her house, though she did not know why, just that they were demanding to see her ears. Her mother was being restrained so all she could do was watch as they lifted her, a small child of eight years, onto the table and lifted her long thick hair away from her ears.

"So it is true," the dwarf warrior whispered under his breath so that only she could hear.

"Ellethen! Please, good sir, we have committed no crime!" her mother cried, fighting against the arms holding her back.

"This child's very existence is a crime." The look he gave the child then was filled with disgust as he lifted her from the table and carried her off, away from her mother and out the door. She fought against him with all her strength, trying to reach out, calling to her mother, to anyone.

"Stop your squealing, you filthy half breed." He jerked her roughly before handing her to one of his men.

That's when the tears started. "Momma, don't let them take me! I don't want to go, momma!"

"The king will punish them as he sees fit. Take them to him."

"That won't be necessary," a voice called from the gathering crowd. An older dwarf that she recognized as Thror's son, Thrain, approached. Her heart lifted when, behind him, she saw the young prince Thorin looking on. Even at the age of 12, he was everything a prince should be, brave, loyal and kind. He would surely stop this; he was her prince, so he had to. She looked to him, even called to him, pleading for him to look her way, to gaze upon her with those brilliant grey eyes that were so uncommon among dwarves. When they finally fell on her, she searched for some sign of understanding in them, something that told her he would fix everything. But there was nothing, only the curiosity and confusion that all children carried in them. And he turned his eyes back to his father, never giving Ellethen a second though.

The soldier carrying her released his grip and she fell to the ground hard. She fought back tears of pain, though she swore she would not let them break her. She would be brave, and this would pass.

"My Lord, this child is a-"

"I have heard enough of what she is, I would like to see for myself," Thrain knelt down and held out his hand, "To me, child."

Still fighting tears, she walked to him tentatively, stopping in front of his outstretched hand, but never taking it. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see the prince's eyes on her again.

Thrain reached up to sweep her hair away from her ear. "Such a lovely child…so fair…beautiful. It would be such a shame…" His eyes widened when he gazed upon them. She knew then that there was nothing to be done. An anger suddenly filled her such as she'd never felt before, and she pushed his hand away before turning and running back towards her mother. She didn't get far before two of the dwarf guards had their hands on her again. She screamed for her mother, kicked them and bit them, but they would not relinquish their hold on her.

Her cries struck a chord in her mother, and she took the opportunity to unsheathe one of the swords from the guards surrounding her and start swinging. She was able to bring down two of the armed guards before an arrow went through her belly, another in her chest. Her eyes went to her daughter on last time before losing all life and she was able to sound out one last thing. "Run, my beautiful girl, I love you." Then the light that Ellethen loved, the light she'd looked to for guidance and strength was vanquished. Darkness filled her, and she ran. Only once did she fall, in front of the prince, and she looked up at him one last time, dared to reach out to him, but his eyes were filled with the same disgust as the guard and he backed away from her, taking the hand of the man beside him, an older dwarf she knew to be Balin. And then he was gone, disappeared into the panicked crowd. so she kept running. She had no idea how she'd managed to escape so many guards, or how she ended up in the back of the merchant's cart on his way to Dale, but she made it, alone. And as she sat, covered, among the silks and other trade goods, she let the tears spill over, and she cried her heart out to no one, left with nothing but a shattered dream of a prince who would never come.

She lived on her own for a year, making her own way through stealing and travelling. Whatever food she found or stole, she rationed, but more often than not, even that was not enough to keep her from going hungry. She'd managed to steal a blade from a blacksmith in Dale before she left, though she did not know how to use it. She slept in trees and corners of abandoned buildings, whenever she could find them. Often times, when she came upon a fortress, she would imagine herself a princess, able to smite those who opposed her and protect the ones she loved. She dreamed that her mother was still with her, that a handsome prince with striking grey eyes would sweep her off her feet and marry her, and then she wouldn't ever have to worry about starving or hiding or outrunning orc packs again. But of course, when the dream was done, when she inevitably woke, she was alone. Days and nights passed, and the dream slipped further and further away until it was all but forgotten to her, and all that remained of it was the bitter feeling of anger, betrayal and heartache she'd felt that day. Crying herself to sleep became the only way she could fall asleep. Her dreams grew dark and terrifying, and she blamed herself more and more for what had happened to her mother. One night she took the blade to the tip of her ear and sliced at it until she could no longer bear the pain, trying with desperation to rid herself of the difference in her that had caused everything to go so wrong.

Being smaller than regular children, few ever paid her any heed until one day, quite by chance, she encountered a fellow wanderer in the woods...

It was on a particularly sunny day when she was making her usual trip down from her hideout to one of the towns when she came upon him. The cart was coming down the road, a big brown horse at the front. All she could see of the man was a long grey cloak covering him from head to feet, and the gigantic grey hat shielding his face- with the exception of his long grey beard- from her. Curiosity got the better of her as she tried to get a good look at the strange fellow, and she slipped, proceeding to slide noisily down the hill. The man stopped his cart and looked out into the woods. Ellethen stood up as quietly as she could and slid behind a tree, out of sight.

"You there!" his voice was gruff, but not hostile. Still, she dared not move.

"Are you lost? Injured? Speak, quickly now, for the wild is a dangerous place to be wandering alone."

She braved a peek around the tree, and his eyes instantly fell upon her. She was not very far away from him now, so she could see the wrinkles in his kind, worn face. His bright blue eyes spoke of years of adventures and long journeys.

"Just a child," the old man muttered quietly, "My dear, what on earth are you doing in this forest? You can come out, I am quite harmless."

She sidled out tentatively from behind the tree. "My name is Ellethen."

"Ellethen, I am Gandalf the Grey, the Wandering Wizard."

She took a few steps toward him, her interest piqued.

"Where do you come from, my child?" he asked.

"I come from Erebor. I ran away." She stood in front of him now, barely reaching his knee.

He kneeled down to look at her more directly. "And what about your mother? Don't you think she worries about you?"

No one she'd spoken to since that day had ever asked her about her mother until now. The reminder brought tears to her eyes. "No, they killed her, and they chased me away. I won't go back, please don't take me back. I'll run, I'll keep running."

Gandalf took one of her small hands in his, "No no, I won't take you back, worry not. But would you let run with you?"

She looked at him then and nodded, wiping at the escaping tears with her free hand. The old wizard smiled warmly as he took off his hat and placed it on her head. "Where are we going to go?" she asked.

He took a moment to think, muttering to himself quietly before speaking again. "Ellethen, would you like to go see the elves?"

She nodded eagerly, smiling despite herself. She'd heard about elves from her mother's stories, but had never actually seen any. Her father had been an elf, that much she knew, but her mother had always told her never to speak of that to anyone.

"Then onward to Rivendell!" He lifted her onto the cart and climbed in beside her. After a while, she climbed into the back of the cart, surrounded by what he said were fireworks, curled up with the cloak the wizard had given her, and fell into a dreamless sleep.