The rest of the past day
"What did you say?"
Legolas could not have feared more for Niphredil's life when his father's voice grew cold.
"I merely wished to see the Elvenking of Greenwood the Great in all his splendor."
Legolas could not have been more taken aback when Niphredil referred to Mirkwood by its former name, back in its days of glory.
"Long has it been since these woods have been hailed as such. Who are you?"
It seemed his father felt similarly, if not more so.
"I might ask you the same. Yours is not the voice of Oropher. I merely wish to see who has taken his place."
Legolas could not have been more caught off guard when Niphredil knew the name of his grandsire.
"You knew my father. His voice."
And his father had definitely felt more so, judging by how he had reacted in the way he had, capturing Niphredil's arm in what had to be a painful grip.
"Ah, so it is you, Thranduil. Forgive me for not recognizing your voice. You have matured."
But Legolas was proven wrong when Niphredil, smiling serenely, had looked up at Thranduil… fondly?
No, these surprises were not from Niphredil; Niphredil was the young elf, not yet quite comfortable in her own skin. This one was the one that had briefly arisen when he had asked for her name – the ageless one. But Niphredil had been herself when she had come up with her name with the meaning Snowdrop.
But Legolas had never felt more betrayed when the not-Niphredil tucked her dark, thick locks behind a rounded ear. Of mankind.
He finally snapped.
"You are not of elvenkind!"
And his father had snapped back. "She is far older and wiser than we! She was present at the creation of Arda and is Nurundil, sole chosen satar of Mandos!"
But by now, the original Niphredil had returned; Legolas could tell, even though she was still pretending to be the ageless one. Probably because the ageless one held sway over his father, and the original was desperate to wash off the spider blood.
He could not tell which one to direct his fury at: his father or the ageless not-Niphredil. So he decided to direct it at both.
But he realized the trigger that caused the ageless one to retreat and bring the original back seemed to be amongst something his father had last said. The ageless not-Niphredil had not seemed to retreat at the mention of age – why would she? The greater the age, the greater the influence and respect. Her presence at the creation of Arda had come as a shock, yes, but would the creation of the world be such a shameful thing? No, that had not been the key either.
So it had to be her title of 'Nurundil, satar of Mandos'.
But as Niphredil was leaving with the guards and he about to follow, the king had commanded, "Stay, Legolas. I have yet more questions for you."
It was with great reluctance he stayed behind. He could tell from Niphredil's gait that she was reluctant to leave him as well. Though he felt gratified by that, it did not lessen his anger toward her counterpart, the not-Niphredil – Nurundil.
"Did I not expressly order you that you were not to go out?"
Thranduil, who had forcibly separated him from Niphredil, was now circling around Legolas like a bird of prey, eying him dangerously. But Legolas did not shrink back. He had brought Niphredil here, and it would be he who would stand guard over her.
So it was rather testily that Legolas reminded his father, "'Tis been near sixty years I have last gone out on patrol – " He didn't even need to have Niphredil on his mind to be annoyed about that.
"Answer the question, Legolas." Thranduil interrupted.
"Yes, you have, Father." The way the king kept him under his thumb tested the borders between irritation and anger. But far be it for Legolas to show his father his emotions. He kept his face a blank mask.
"Next, just how did you come across Lady Nurundil?"
By now, Legolas was having a hard time trying not to eye his father resentfully. His father only paid attention to things he cared for, and apparently wounded elven maidens did not count among them.
"Niphredil," Legolas reminded his father, "was facing a whole colony of spiders alone." Legolas was sorely tempted to add on, 'As I told you when we first came in.'
Thranduil paused mid-step and frowned. "Strange…"
That single word piqued Legolas' attention. "What is it that you find strange?"
Thranduil's lips thinned as he returned his focus back on his son. "Strange, Legolas, as I thought I was the one asking questions." He resumed circling around Legolas. "How long have you been sneaking out?"
Legolas had believed his self to be honorable enough to tell the truth, but upon facing the possibility of being encaged in the palace longer, he lied smoothly, "This is my first."
Immediately knowing it was a lie, Thranduil sighed deeply. "Legolas, I know you better than you think; I too, once stood in your shoes, but think from my perspective for a moment."
The perspective of an overprotective father. Seeking to punish his son for want of a bit of freedom. Legolas felt no Arda-shattering revelations. After a moment of silence, Legolas prompted, "And?"
Looking at his son in a most displeased manner, Thranduil said, "If you ever have a son, I hope he turns out just like you."
Legolas scoffed, "There is a saying among Menn, that the apple does not fall far from the tree. "
Not understanding what the saying precisely meant but well aware it was no compliment to him, Thranduil grit his teeth.
"Since this is technically," the king shot a significant look toward his son, "your first offense, and you have brought Lady Nurun – Niphredil here safely, your punishment will be light." Thranduil paused, as if thinking of tedious tasks that needed doing. "Ah, yes. Since you are the one that brought her here, get Lady Niphredil caught up with the times. It has been over six millennia since she has last dwelt on Arda." He reminded Legolas. "She will be more familiar with Quenya than Sindarin. Furthermore, she will believe that *Adûnaic is still the Common Speech. Inform her that Westron has taken its place for some three millennia, and teach it to her, if you can. That will be your punishment."
[*Adûnaic: as you might have guessed, the common language that preceded Westron.]
Unable to believe his luck, Legolas could barely keep himself from skipping out of the stone circle.
He had not been forced to stay inside the palace for any longer. He had a chance to unearth the strange powers Niphredil possessed. And he also would have a chance to uncover why young Niphredil and the ageless Nurundil shared a body.
"Legolas." Though already halfway across the bridge, Legolas automatically turned to face the king, his father. "Take care not to fall in love." His father's face was serious.
Confused and uncomfortable at the unexpected turn the topic had taken, Legolas merely bowed in agreement and started off again.
Why on Arda would he fall in love? In times like these, most of all? Legolas' face darkened as his thoughts wandered to the creature called Gollum that Estel had brought prisoner to Mirkwood some years ago.
But the unrelated topic of love (love? Legolas shook his head to his self) was not issue at hand. No, Legolas' goal, be it short term (months, possibly years) or long term (a few decades, possibly centuries) was discovering the truth behind the mystery Niphredil presented.
First things first, he would find her chambers; easily done as the location was given to him by a guard.
Next, Legolas thought, heading in the direction the guard had pointed him, he needed to prioritize. Did he want to figure out her powers or the issue of the shared body first?
He figured he should tackle the latter of the two issues first. Which was daunting, considering how one personality was reckless and naïve, and while the was tranquil but, considering how she had tricked the king into revealing his face and doing precisely what she wanted, manipulative. (Niphredil's 'manipulation' of the king to allow her to bathe did not count, as it did no harm.)
But Legolas had walked faster than he had realized, as he had already arrived at the suite reserved for elven guests held in highest esteem, where the guards had led Niphredil.
Having long let himself into the suite, Legolas was starting to think he'd come too early; he'd seen how crusted with blood Niphredil had been; it would take a long time to get to clean from that, when he heard the splashing of a body emerging from the baths.
When she emerged from the bathing room, she was not wearing the dress the servants would have no doubt given her. Instead, she somehow had acquired a soldier's uniform… except it was in her size. Which was not possible, even with all the elvish seamstresses' skill and speed. And he'd been standing guard of the door the whole time.
It had to be her mysterious powers, which puzzled Legolas further and further. So the elder branch was not just a weapon? It could perform other, less aggressive (he hesitated to refer to them as 'mundane') tasks as well?
Standing unnoticed in the doorway, Legolas almost felt like a voyeur. Niphredil – it was obvious it was she from the way she carried herself – was completely unaware of his presence as she paced back and forth. Her hair hung free around her waist, a little tamer now that it wet, but still not brushed. Indeed, it looked like a brush would be of little help with hair such as hers.
Legolas briefly wondered if his fingers would have any better luck with untangling her thick, dark locks… He abruptly shook the thought off.
His true goal was to discern whether the ageless Nurundil could be provoked into an appearance.
While Niphredil paced, she murmured to herself something about… a-kro-man-tue-la… a finger on her left hand ticked.
Elves. Something about ha-uce elves… Then Silvan, and Ñoldors. Why did she not list the Sindar? But another finger ticked.
Something about a king. His father, Legolas presumed. A third finger ticked.
The fourth finger tick was about kings as well. Maybe his grandsire?
The thumb came out at… was that dismay that he saw?… of her age. Had she been unaware of her true age? Then again, this was Niphredil. She did seem a bit… lost. Perhaps she had lost part of her memories.
A finger from her other hand came out, as well as a single word. Nurundil. Niphredil stopped her movement altogether. She stood as still as stone.
This furthered Legolas' suspicions that 'Nurundil' was indeed the key word.
Suddenly Niphredil sighed and looked around. Her eyes landed on the hwandorn chair and she approached it. Carefully, probably thinking that it would have the solidity of oak, Niphredil perched herself on the chair and was promptly swallowed by it.
Now that she was seated, Legolas thought there would be no better time to speak up.
"It is made of a tree called hwandorn."
Tired and slightly surprised green eyes turned to look at him. "Literally a tree of sponge, then."
The green in the uniform made her eyes look almost luminous, Legolas distantly thought. Meanwhile, the forefront, warrior part of Legolas' mind steered himself for the possible disaster that would take place after he said the 'key word'. 'Prepare thyself, Legolas,' he thought to himself.
"Forgive me my insubordination, Lady Nurundil, I – "
It seemed that the title 'Nurundil' was indeed the key word, for before Legolas could blink, Niphredil or the ageless not-Niphredil – he could not tell the difference now – was hissing in his face. "Do not. Call me by that name."
Legolas had prepared himself, but the extent of her wrath astonished him.
Suddenly, he could tell it was Niphredil who seemed alarmed at her – if indeed they were her own – actions. Stepping back and closing her eyes, she whispered, "Forgive me, Prince Legolas. But I would rather you call me Niphredil."
Legolas picked up right where she left off. "As I prefer Legolas."
Having confirmed that Nurundil was a key word to the dual personality, Legolas casually commented on Niphredil's attire. Anything she said – or did not say – could be a clue to her powers. "Was the dress not to your liking, Lady Niphredil?"
Niphredil's eyes rolled up to the stars and she sighed. Perhaps it was the 'lady' title? "I prefer more practical clothing. The attire I am most used to are robes, and I find a dress undesirable. Also please, just Niphredil. I am no lady." The bitter smile on her face alerted Legolas to some secret meaning that only she understood.
"We could provide you with robes." It was hardly proper for a maiden to tromp around in breeches, after all. And Legolas did want to somewhat apologize for antagonizing Niphredil, even though he did not regret doing the same to the ageless Nurundil.
Niphredil's lips twitched at his offer as if she found it amusing. "I am comfortable as I am now." After a moment, she asked out of nowhere, "Can we not be seron?"
Legolas almost choked. He had to update Niphredil on the meaning of that particular vocabulary word. Feeling rather warm in the face, he started, "Niphredil, I do not quite think you know what being 'seron' entails."
She frowned, reminding Legolas slightly of a frustrated child. "What does it entail?"
Though his face heated up further, Legolas tried to word it as diplomatically as possible. "I have heard from my father the king that you are more familiar with Quenya. In Sindarin, however, 'Seron' can also mean 'lover.'"
Legolas could practically hear the cogs in Niphedril's head turning and her face turned red as well. She cleared her throat and attempted to say stoutly, "Right, so is there something less… intimate?"
There was an easy solution for that. For a lot of the time, Niphredil seemed lost, akin to a boat afloat in the water with no rudder; she needed an anchor, a compass. In a strange world that had moved on without her, she needed a friend.
"We can be 'mellon'. Sindarin for friends."
For the first time Legolas had met her, Niphredil's face alit with a genuine smile. It made her glow, enhancing her inherent beauty.
With that delighted smile, she held out a hand. It reminded Legolas of a mannish tradition, but it couldn't be… did she want him to kiss it? But it wasn't at the right angle, and did not match with what he had observed of Niphredil's personality thus far…
Upon seeing Legolas' uncertain look, Niphredil elucidated, "It is tradition when friends meet. We shake hands."
…So it was the mannish tradition. Smiling wryly, Legolas replied, "I know of clasping hands. But 'tis a tradition among men, my lady." He was further amused when Niphredil pursed her lips and far from withdrawing her hand, instead stuck it out further. Humoring her, Legolas did exactly as the menn when they greeted each other.
Though Niphredil seemed taken aback at the force with which he clasped her forearm, Legolas himself was rather surprised when Niphredil in turn tightened her hold on his. By the Entlords, her grip was strong for a maiden.
"And I seem to remember asking you to call me Niphredil, not 'my lady'."
So that was what the hold had tightened for. "All the better if it irks you, my lady."
After a moment of stiffness, Niphredil let Legolas' forearm go. "Why not we talk more about each other, friend?" Niphredil motioned for Legolas to sit. "I seem to recall receiving an apology, for a natural reaction. Why the apology?"
Because that 'natural reaction' had been entirely unwarranted. Legolas was supposedly one of the younger (youngest, actually), more progressive of the Silvan elves. But surprise after surprise had led to an outburst.
Unaware of his thoughts, Niphredil continued, "You would not have led me back to Greenwood had you known I was not an elf." She caught his eye and hastily added as if fearing his ire, "The deception was not intentional, I assure you. But the manner in which I reacted to your apology, unwarranted in the first place, warrants an apology from me."
'It was only disguised as an apology…' Legolas thought miserably. But he could not say the real reason behind his utterance of the title 'Nurundil' before her. So he created half-truths, hoping to Elbereth one day that he would be able to tell her the whole truth.
But what was the meaning of 'Nurundil,' to trigger such a significant reaction from the being before him? "I must admit I am not quite as familiar with Quenya as I would like, Niphredil. May I ask what it means? I am aware that the suffix '–ndil' means friend…"
Bitterly, Niphredil said, "It means 'Death's Friend'."
Legolas sharply drew in a breath and Niphredil hurried to assure him, "I have merely seen death too many times for my liking, I suppose."
Niphredil's felt too young a spirit to have to feel the need to assure him, Legolas thought with dismay.
Apparently feeling that the atmosphere was too heavy, Niphredil hastily changed the subject. "Well, I doubt the Elven Prince himself would have come all the way here merely to goad and apologize to me, so I suppose you have another reason for this visit?"
An opportunity to delve into Niphredil's backstory had come, and Legolas gladly took it. "Yes, I actually came to ask where you'd gone, if you had not sailed." Legolas would find out Niphredil's story and her hurts, so he could attempt to heal them.
For the briefest moment, Niphredil looked uncertain, and at long last, it was the ageless Nurundil who answered.
"Legolas, though we may be friends now," Legolas thought spitefully that the day he sailed would pass before he and Nurundil would be friends, "I am afraid I cannot tell you just a portion of my past without revealing the whole of it. It must be all or nothing; it would be unfair to both you and I otherwise." Ageless, green eyes burned into Legolas' own. "When I am ready, I will tell you. Pray do not ask me before then."
'So in the end, when Nurundil herself is prepared, she'll tell me.' Legolas thought as he slowly nodded. 'Is Niphredil in agreement with this? Or does she herself not know the whole story? She did say that she didn't remember all of her past back on the way to the palace.'
Niphredil emerged once more, and she looked even more tired.
"You look exhausted. Mayhap you should rest?"
"Yes, that is a good idea."
Rising from his chair, Legolas said, "You need not see me out, Niphredil."
A slight smile twisted Niphredil's lips. "Nonsense. Of course I would see a friend out. Especially if he's a prince."
Legolas playfully made a face at the last sentence. Bidding Niphredil good night (though the sun had yet to set) he walked back to his own rooms.
Legolas' day had not turned out at all as he'd expected. It did not seem as if the rest of completion of his house arrest sentence would be as boring as the last sixty years had been. He'd made a 'young' friend, whose ageless self he had already learnt to be wary of.
Of Deer and Dreams
Harry picked moodily at his breakfast. It wasn't because the food didn't look good; on the contrary, the food looked delicious. It was the company.
Breakfast was to be with family. With Ginny. With his visiting sons and Lily. His now grown grandkids. His hyperactive great-grandkids.
Not a solemn affair among stiff-necked warrior elves and certainly not in his dreamscape.
The night before, Harry'd had a vivid dream:
Harry ran alongside a herd of deer. Surprisingly, he was able to keep up. One stag galloped beside him, and he was reminded of his patronus, and furthermore of dad's animagus form. And he imagined the doe galloping beside him would be his mum…
Reflexively, Harry turned his head forward and felt himself smile at the woman who ran, or rather, danced at the forefront of the herd of the deer trailing after her.
The dancer grabbed the stalk of a sapling and deliberately swung around with a grace that Harry couldn't even hope to muster as she waited for him to catch up.
With a brilliant smile, she asked, "Are you tired already, Sataressë? Have you already forgotten the song of fleet feet?"
Harry hadn't a clue as to what she was on about, but suddenly, the woman was singing a beautiful, sprightly tune, and Harry found himself singing with her in a beautiful harmony, and he immediately felt lighthearted and more energetic.
Smiling at her once more, Harry found himself saying, "What would I ever do without you, Nessa?"
'Nessa,' smiling and dancing around, hummed, "Plod around, I suppose. Slaving away all day for grouchy old Námo…"
All of Harry's good humor evaporated, as did the smile on his face. Nessa seemed to realize she had crossed a line and added, "Not that I'm saying gathering and scattering souls is tedious, but as you are Námo's sole companion, being fleet of feet does help the job get done, does it not?"
Harry felt his face soften. This dancer lady – Nessa – felt so much like the sister he'd never had…
And he woke.
To his dreamscape. Or nightmare-scape, depending on how you looked at it.
Somewhat unnerved at the thought of a dream within a dream, Harry swung his legs off the sofa. But that dream had felt more like a memory… the memory of his dream-self, who apparently answered to the name Sataressë.
Dolefully, Harry looked at his small, bare feet. Feminine. He then looked over the rest of himself; all his wounds from the previous day had healed, and he didn't feel the least bit sore. Then again, this was a drea –
His thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door.
Harry went over to the door and opened it to reveal Legolas, resplendent in silver-grey robes. He made Harry feel extremely plebeian, still rumpled in last night's clothes. Not to mention the tangled mess of his currently ridiculously long hair.
Legolas opened his mouth, only to shut it, staring openly at Harry's rather unsightly state. Though it couldn't be more unsightly than yesterday's blood bath.
So Harry spoke first. "Did the stars shine brightly on you yester eve?" What? What was that he had he just said? Sometimes the strangest phrases seemed to tumble out of Harry's mouth, like the Ron Syndrome, but… coked up. From what Harry could discern, it seemed like a strange way to ask if one 'had a good night'.
However, Legolas did not seem to find it strange at all. "Yes, brightly indeed. And of you, Niphredil?"
Harry hesitated. He didn't want to seem rude, but… "The room… it didn't have a bed." He rubbed the back of his neck, embarrassed.
Legolas seemed bemused at first; then understanding dawned on his face. "You require sleep." He seemed rather astonished, and it was voiced in a rather questioning statement.
Harry couldn't believe what he had just heard. What, were elves of Arda such perfect beings that not only were they all beautiful and had superhuman abilities, but they didn't even need sleep?
Correctly interpreting Harry's feelings by the rather disgruntled expression on his face, Legolas added, "At times, us elves are in want of rest, as well."
This didn't appease Harry one bit, as he knew Legolas was just saying it to be polite. But Legolas had already moved past that topic, and was presenting Harry with folded velvet. Bemused, Harry took what he expected were clothes.
Harry didn't know what Legolas was asking before the elven prince basically invaded his room and ushered him into the washroom to get changed.
Putting on the robes in the washroom, Harry discovered with a sigh that they dragged on the floor, trailing after him some half-meter or so. After some consideration, he silently charmed the ends to repel dirt. He had no desire to be a walking dust mop, thank you very much.
Harry avoided looking at the mirror until the last second.
But as he reluctantly checked his appearance in the full size mirror, his jaw very nearly dropped open. The mirror showed a woman more beautiful than a veela, but to think that mirror reflected him made him sure he was dreaming. Of course, his hair was still a bird's nest – more of a bird's palace, at this length – trust the dream to get his less important, more troublesome traits right.
The dark green velvet robe was grand, edged in intricate gold stitches that depicted leaves and various flora. It was, however, a bit too reminiscent of a dress for Harry's liking.
But despite it all, he would honestly have asked the woman in the mirror to the Yule Ball over Fleur and Cho Chang combined (and maybe Ginny, he hadn't known her that well then), had the woman in the mirror been available back then. Did that make him a narcissist?
But there was another pressing problem: the neckline of the 'robe' sloped a little too low and loosely. As a young man, he may have surreptitiously appreciated it; as a middle-aged man, he probably looked away from it; as an old gramp, he disapproved of it. He hadn't even approved of his daughter wearing necklines even half this low; showing this much cleavage was ridiculous! And he had thought the elves were respectable folk!
Gritting his teeth, Harry used magic to tighten the velvet and raise the neckline a bit, just enough that less than a quarter of cleavage was showing. It rather nauseated him to think that the cleavage was his own. They wouldn't notice the change, right? After all, the robes dragged on the floor, so they couldn't possibly have gotten his measurements right. They hadn't even bleeding measured him. He stowed the Elder Wand in the fold of his robes.
Harry emerged from the washroom in his slightly altered robe only to find Legolas wielding a hairbrush.
"You look very fair in those robes, Niphredil. But your hair is of a completely different matter. Brushes, my lady, are meant to be used."
Harry hadn't used a hairbrush in years. And by years, he meant decades. He hadn't bothered to use one after Ginny demanded that he cut his Sirius-tribute hair. Not that decades would mean much to these Elven folk, who apparently lived over six thousand years, probably more.
"Most every creation was meant to be used some way or another. But not all of these creations actually work, as you will find with that hairbrush, Prince Legolas." Harry grouchily parried.
Although Harry's hair didn't generally agree with hairbrushes, Legolas (with somewhat strained patience) tamed Harry's tangles and even managed two braids from above his ears much like his own, but thicker. But there was nothing to be done about his bangs.
So it was a slightly dissatisfied Legolas and a significantly disagreeable Harry that entered the room in which the Silvan elves residing in the palace dined.
Upon seeing Legolas and Harry, the elves suddenly came to a hush, almost every head turned to the two.
Legolas led them to the king's table, where Thranduil was eating.
"Legolas." He seemed to hesitate before he referred to Harry. "…Niphredil." For a moment, Harry had honestly thought that the king was going to call him 'Lady Nurundil'. Seeing how he had reacted after Legolas had called him that, Harry dreaded to think how he or Sataressë would react to being addressed so by the king. "I hope the stars shined brightly on you yester eve?"
Letting out a noncommittal sound, Harry sat down.
And here was, still in his dream, shifting food around on his plate, breaking fast with bloody elves. Not even house elves, but bloody perfect, beautiful, and elegant elves.
"Is the food not to your taste, my lady?" An elf across from him asked, and Harry was startled out of his thoughts.
"Oh, the food is fine, thank you." Nobody spoke after that, and Harry himself did not dare start a conversation; he had long learnt that the dream, despite being his, was way over his head. He had also learnt that the best hope of deterring the demented version of the Ron Syndrome was simply to keep his mouth shut.
After the most painfully silent breakfast Harry had since his school years, Legolas beckoned for him to follow.
"Where are we going?" Harry asked as Legolas swept ahead of him. He strangely seemed a bit tense. Perhaps he was displeased that he was stuck babysitting Harry?
"The tome room. You have some six millennia of catching up to do, and I am to assist you."
Harry supposed that 'tome room' was their version of saying 'library'. And six millennia sounded very daunting, but Harry knew that his self had way more to 'catch up' on. He would, probably, have to learn how to read. How would he explain that to Legolas? Maybe his dream-self – Sataressë – would help him.
However, once Harry stepped into it, he realized the 'tome room' could hardly be considered to a library: it was literally just one room, with a single oak table in the centre. Though packed with large books, and every tall wall was covered with them, one room would hardly be Hermione's version of a library, and could not even begin to compare with the Hogwarts library. Harry strongly suspected that it didn't have a single fictional book. Did all elves live like this?
First thing in the lineup of 'catching up' was not a history tome, but a few sheaves of parchment instead. Spreading and smoothing one out, Legolas said, "This is a map of the Second Age."
Harry had to put on a poker face, as he did not recognize anything. There was something that looked like mangled Africa, India and a deformed Europe… but not much else. They were all labeled, which Harry could miraculously read, but they were all names, that didn't sound familiar to Harry at all. But he located Eryn Calen, Greenwood, where they were currently located.
Legolas spread a second scroll which turned out to be a map as well, but it much more convoluted, with a lot more labels. "And this is a map of the age we live in now."
Though Harry was not well versed in maps, he could tell one thing. There was significantly less landmass in the second map. And he distinctly felt that a part of him – his dream-self, Sataressë – was deeply disturbed, and she, in her shock, came out to control Harry's body.
"Where have Aman and Tol Eressëa gone? And what of Númenor?"
Legolas' tenseness became obvious, and his face hardened. "Ilúvatar made the world round and removed the Grey Havens from Arda."
"And Númenor?" Sataressë demanded.
"Ilúvatar saw Númenor fit to be drowned." Legolas said in clipped tones.
Imagining a whole civilization underwater, Harry thought it sounded a bit like Atlantis. Honestly, it seemed like a fairytale. He was living – dreaming, he reminded himself – in a warped fairytale.
Taking the silence as an unasked question, Legolas said, "Many Númenóreans came to resent Elros' decision to become mortal and resented us elves as well. When the 25th king of Númenor, Ar-Pharazôn sailed west, set upon conquering Valinor, Ilúvatar himself changed Arda."
"So all of Elros' descendants are dead." Sataressë stated as she sat down, her numbness spilling over to Harry as well.
Legolas corrected her. "Not so, my lady. A Númenórean named Ilendil and his followers remained faithful to Elvenkind and reached Middle Earth before Númenor sank."
"So there are yet Dúnedain left upon Arda." Sataressë closed her eyes in relief.
"But we are getting ahead of ourselves. 'Twas almost three millennia after you left. Yet this all started five-hundred years into the Second Age."
"What happened?" Sataressë's voice was quiet, her eyes still closed.
"'Twas little more than a century after your disappearance that the Dark Lord Sauron returned."
At the words 'Dark Lord,' Harry's eyes flew open. But only for a brief moment, as Sataressë seemed to find the return of this Sauron alarming, as well. "Did you just say the name 'Sauron'?" Sataressë whispered.
Legolas said, "You heard correctly, my lady."
Sataressë's eyes narrowed. "He pled for mercy, and Eönwë let him go. He could have captured him… but he allowed Sauron to flee. And I am sure that Sauron wrought much evil upon Middle Earth. I am unsure if I desire to hear what he has done."
Legolas too, sat down before the maps. "I was not yet born for his deception, but I hear he came in a fair form under the false name of Annatar, Lord of Gifts."
"…and he befriended the elves?"
"That is correct. You are wise indeed, my lady."
Harry distantly noted that Legolas was calling him 'my lady' without a trace of humor or teasing, but he was much more focused on this 'Sauron'.
Fair form; Tom Riddle's handsome form.
Deception; Tom Riddle's specialty.
Dark Lord; Dark Lord.
It seemed that Harry had been craving adventures (though not necessarily suicidal) indeed, if the blood pounding in his ears was of any indication. For the first time in decades, Harry was truly excited.
So he fought to take back control of his body, his auror side wanting to grill Legolas of Sauron's history, capabilities, power, to get to work on how his mind worked. But a voice whispered in the back of Harry's mind, Patience, Niphredil. You will get your turn. You are not yet aware of Sauron's history, while I am.
"Nothing comes without a price. What did Sauron give, and to what end?"
"Knowledge in arts and magic. He taught elven smiths how to forge rings of power."
Able to tell that 'rings of power' needed to be capitalized, Sataressë asked, "How many Rings of Power were forged in total?"
"Twenty, nineteen of them by elven-smiths of Eregion."
Legolas pointed at the map of the Second Age. "Mayhap this map was created after you left, my lady, but 'tis here, south of Imladris."
"Imladris…" Harry could tell that Sataressë was unfamiliar with that queerly named city as well. "…I see. And the twentieth ring?" Harry thought that Sataressë probably already suspected what had happened, but just wanted to make sure.
"Sauron forged it in secret."
It was Sataressë's heart that was beating loudly now. "And were these twenty rings all scattered amongst the elves?" Despite her desperation, her voice remained calm.
Legolas answered with a hint of grim humor, though where the humor lay Harry could not see for the life of him. "There is a song, my lady, of the Rings of Power."
"Would you sing it for me, Legolas?"
With a voice as clear as bells, Legolas sang, "Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie."
"Legolas, tell me that the rings belonging to the elves were not tainted by Sauron." Three. A lot better than twenty.
"They were not, my lady. 'Tis said that Celebrimbor forged them without Sauron's influence."
"Ah. Fëanor's granchild." She shook her head.
The three rings that had been forged for the elf lords were Nenya, Vilya, and Narya. All three Rings' current wielders' whereabouts were unknown.
And so it went: Sataressë discovering just how much of Arda had changed in the six millennia of her absence, and Harry mixing up names and struggling to catch up. However, it was far better than History of Magic by Professor Binns and time flew by in a flash, with them skipping lunch without knowing it.
But by the end, Sataressë too, seemed to grow weary of reacting to new information. So she 'abandoned ship' and left Harry to it when they both discovered that Adûnaic had been replaced by Westron and to function properly outside of the woods, one had to know how to speak the Common Tongue. Harry hadn't a clue as to what Adûnaic was like, so he probably had a better chance at learning it.
"So how does one go about learning a new language?" Harry asked, folding his arms.
Legolas seemed to have looked forward to this part of the lesson, as he perked up. "Well, Niphredil – "
"Oh? You're not going to use 'my lady' anymore?" Harry cocked an eyebrow as he interrupted.
For the briefest moment Legolas seemed the slightest bit uncomfortable, before he just shrugged. "It seemed appropriate to refer to you as 'my lady' at the time, as your existence stretches back to the creation of Arda."
Rolling his eyes, Harry muttered to himself in English, "No matter what world, elves are flighty…"
Legolas gave him a sidelong look. "Do you know dwarvish?"
Harry strongly suspected that Sataressë did, but he merely said sternly, "The number of languages under my belt, young prince, are none of your concern."
"Ah, but my lady, you forget that I am also your friend."
"Friends don't refer to each other by titles, my prince."
"Well, they might in this case."
"Let us just get on with the learning, Legolas."
"Indeed. You are wise, Niphredil."
"You said that already."
So they started with simple words and greetings in Westron.
Come dinner, Harry was cursing Legolas, Sataressë, himself, and whoever had given him this unbreakable dream potion.
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