The darkening of hearts

Forest fury

Chapter 14: Forest fury

Ariniel had never been that scared, or that angry. She had been busy with some nuts when she had heard a sound behind her and she hadn’t reacted since she thought it was her husband. But it wasn’t, and a hard knock to her head the last thing she had felt before darkness took her. She had woken up hanging over a pack horse like some bag of flour and she was tied up and felt horrible. Her head did ache, she was nauseous and knew she had a concussion or something like that. But the worst shock was seeing who her abductors were, her own grandfather and the one he had tried to make her mother marry. She didn’t know what to do, and she realized that they were going to use her as a hostage. Ariniel swore to herself that she would prove to be the worst hostage ever, she would escape for these two were obviously not able to understand that a female in fact can be both cunning and strong.

She held her eyes closed, tried to pretend to be unconscious still and before long she did realize that they were heading south, into the woods. Were they nuts? It wouldn’t last long before they had every avarin elf in the area hot at their heels and did they really think they could outrun the natives of this land? She was almost amused but only almost. The position made her ribs hurt and she was feeling nauseous still, and the horse she was tied too had a very uncomfortable trot indeed. Oh when she got out of this mess she was gonna beat Costaro’s ass so hard he wouldn’t be able to sit for a month, if ever! Calpon was silent most of the time, almost sulking and she realized that he wasn’t all that loyal to Costaro at all, he would flee if they ran into trouble and she had to grin. There is no such thing as loyalty among thieves then, good to know.

The terrain was easy to travel through, smooth slopes with open beech forest and some bushes and they did make good speed but it was rather clear that Costaro had no idea of how to find his way through the wilderness. He was making errors all the time and failed to read the terrain right. Ariniel would have laughed if she could. Calpon had to guide them most of the time, he seemed to have at least a miniscule understanding of how to navigate. She couldn’t pretend to be unconscious anymore so she made a few groans just to let them know that she was coming too and she blinked her eyes as if she had just woken up. They swallowed the tiny deception with hook line and sinker and she was pulled up so she could sit on the horse but her hands were tied to the saddle and she couldn’t get loose.

Ariniel was a noldo by birth but she had spent many years among the forest elves and she did realize that something was off. The birds did sound rather agitated and some blue tits flew straight by her ear, making some rather odd sounds. She had to grin, of course the forest elves had warned the very land of this crime, the forest would help her for sure. When she thought about it she could see that the bushes deliberately caused them problems by letting branches and twigs snag on the horses manes and tails and roots were in the way all the time. Before long they would have a whole horde of angry avarin elves there and Ariniel felt pretty confident that they would give these two hell.

After a few hours they did stop to rest the horses, the poor animals were starving and sweaty and Ariniel was appalled by the lack of concern these two showed. They had probably never taken care of a horse themselves, servants had most likely done that sort of work for them. The two didn’t speak to her at all, they just ignored her like she was a piece of meat and she felt anger burn within, she was tied to the stem of a willow tree and felt that the tree too felt rather shocked by this. Some branches came slowly crawling, trying to untie her knots but they were too tight and the tree probably didn’t know how to untie knots anyhow.

Instead it obviously entertained itself by sticking its roots up here and there, making the two neri trip all the time. Ariniel was hungry and thirsty and more so, she needed to pee. She tried to look as fragile and non threatening as possible, held her eyes lowered and her voice soft. “Excuse me, I need to…do my business”

Calpon made a grimace and untied her but held a firm grip on the rope and he took her to some bushes by a small stream. “Here, do it quick”

He turned around and she felt her ears burn with embarrassment. He wasn’t looking alright, but he did hear now didn’t he? She crouched down and got her skirts out of the way, it felt divine emptying her bladder and she let out a sigh of relief. Then she did notice something in the water, it was a piece of wood that slowly drifted by and on it was a tiny knife. She leaned forth quickly and grabbed the knife, stuffed it into her stocking and knew that they were being watched already. Great! Calpon just gave her an annoyed glance and almost dragged her back and Costaro was swearing all the time. “We have no food, I am hungry”

Calpon sneered. “We cannot stop for all that long, we need to get going. They could be chasing us already”

Costaro looked less than pleased and Ariniel got an idea, a wild one too. She was after all a healer, and she knew the herbs and plants of the woods very well. As the two males stood there arguing about whether or not they ought to be resting any longer she bent down and picked up a huge leaf from the thicket. This plant was very common and she knew it rather well too. She pretended to ignore the two completely as she quickly got rid of most of the leaf itself and concentrated upon the stem. It was thick as her index finger and rather long and it did look a bit like celery. This was a game of chance but if it worked, oh Eru, that would be so perfect. She took a bite out of the stem, careful to start at the upper end which was pale green. It made a crunchy sound and it did smell delicious too. The two turned around and saw her standing there with the stem in her hand and she was chewing away with glee. “What is that?!”

It was an order more than a question and she pretended to be a bit scared by the hard tone of voice. “ Ah…it is a local plant, a wild vegetable. Many use it for food”

Both Calpon and Costaro grasped some of the leaves and ripped the plant apart, they both were hungry and did eat with glee, and made some very messy sounds too. Ariniel ate a little more, then she tossed the stem away and pretended to be full, she even managed to burp a little. The two ate the whole stem and she grinned to herself. Vengeance would be hers for sure, and it would be wonderful. It was true that many used the plant as a vegetable, but they would cook it first. If you ate the older parts of the stem raw it would give you a case of diarrhea unlike any other imaginable. Ariniel did use tiny pieces of this plant as a medicine for people with constipation, a few grams were usually enough. This would be so much fun.

She saw that both the males did finish the meal with some berries, they were completely safe to eat but she pretended not to see it. Later on she could blame the whole mess on the berries. She was hoisted back onto the horse and pressed her lips together hard. There was no way in hell she was gonna let these two get away, she just hoped that the avarin elves would make themselves known soon. It got dark and they still moved on, and now the horses were really tired and they were getting closer to the river. Ariniel knew of it naturally enough, but Costaro and Calpon didn’t and swore when they realized that it was too wide to be crossed without a boat. So they started following it and that was when the elves following them chose to make their presence known. Suddenly there was fire visible among the trees, and shouts were heard and Costaro swore so bad it was a wonder he didn’t catch fire there and then.

He grasped his saddle and spurred the poor horse and Calpon did the same, the pack horse Ariniel was tied too was not very fast and it stumbled and rolled its eyes, close to collapse. As they rode through the dark woods at breakneck speed Ariniel did see that the plant had started to work. Calpon grasped his stomach with a terrified expression on his face and moaned and Costaro was wide eyed and pale. Before long Ariniel heard a very tell-tale sound of someone just letting go, it was no way you could hold that sort of a reaction in and she was pleased to see that Costaro’s immaculate blue robes and pants turned brown. Calpon let out a howl of pain and humiliation and his pants too became very soiled. She did see that it actually dripped off the saddle and she had to hide a vicious grin. They couldn’t stop, the pursuers were right behind them and Ariniel wasn’t even shocked when a tall avarin warrior suddenly emerged from a tree and cut the lead rope to her horse. The poor animal stopped immediately, gasping for air and she was cut loose and helped down. The two just rode on, desperate to escape. She hadn’t even needed the knife they had given her, and it would have been hard to get at too with her hands tied.

Ariniel recognized the ellon who had freed her, it was a friend of her husband and she hugged him and felt herself calm down. “Arandur, is he alright?”

The warrior nodded. “He is, they just knocked him out, he is waiting for you back home. The main group is waiting to intercept the two bastards.”

Ariniel let out a sigh of relief. “Oh thank goodness, I hope they chase them for a long time though, they deserve it”

She was helped onto a new horse and she felt very relieved knowing she was safe, but she wanted to get back to see if her husband really was alright , and she also wanted to check on Alciel and Nerdanel. They rode rather fast back, following a way faster and easier road, she knew they would be back home by sunrise.

Costaro and Calpon were desperate, they had no doubt that the wood elves would exact a very painful vengeance upon them if they were caught and so they rode like two maniacs through the woods. The river sort of blocked them and there was just one way to go and in their panic they didn’t realize that they were being herded in the direction the avarin elves wanted. Suddenly Costaro’s horse collapsed and threw him into a heap of leaves and he rolled and got up again, panting and swearing, sweat running off him and he started to run. Costaro had never been an athlete, he had barely had any interest in physical effort at all and so he was in a lousy shape for an elf. Calpon just rode on and he hissed a curse and tried to find his way through the maze of fallen trees and dense bushes.

Calpon didn’t make it far before his horse too fell and he jumped off it and started running too, the first thing he did encounter was a deep ditch filled with mud and he heard the cheers and calls of the elves in pursuit and got out on his own, sheer panic gave him quite a lot of strength. Costaro was sure that the wood elves would kill him if they got hold of him and he whimpered with fear and tried to find a way out of this mess. There were at least a hundred chasing him and he didn’t have time to find somewhere to hide. Calpon almost collided with him and they ran together, cursing each other and trying to get ahead of the other. Both were a mess, covered in mud, their own bodily waste and twigs and leaves. They did stink too and they still had the diarrhea problem, which didn’t make running any easier.

At last they reached an open field near the river and Costaro let out a yelp, in front of them were a huge group of mounted warriors, they were armed and arrows were aimed at him and Calpon and Costaro was convinced that this was it, he would die there! He threw himself down, wailing and begging for mercy like a kid and Calpon threw himself into the river and had to be fished out by a less than pleased Beleg who just pulled the noldo out by his braid and then smacked him across the ass with the flat of his blade for good measure.

Costaro saw that Lerina was there and he tried to plead with her, to see if he could make her soften up but the result was a very unexpected one. Lerina jumped down off the mare and walked over to her father, he was kneeling in the grass, looking horrible and if things weren’t as they actually were she may have felt some pity for him. Now she felt naught but a deep and intense despise bordering on downright hatred. She had never been one to use violence, had always been humble and demure but now that part of her personality was erased. She hissed like an angry cat and Mablung followed her, just to make sure that she didn’t kill her own father. She was actually trembling with anger and her eyes were almost glowing,, he had never seen her looking that awesome! The rage did transform her completely and Costaro just sat there, gaping. Was this his previously so obedient daughter? She turned her head and looked at Mablung. “Your knife!”

He swallowed. “Don’t do anything you will regret my love!”

She just grasped the knife from its sheath on his hip and Costaro made a yelp, convinced that she would slit his throat there and then. Instead she grasped his long thick black braid and cut it at its base, Costaro let out a whimper and she tossed the braid over to one of the avarin warriors. Being forced to have a haircut like that was extremely humiliating for an elf, and Lerina wasn’t done yet. “Who the fuck do you think you are ha? Trying to force someone into an unwanted marriage, conspiring against the king, and kidnapping? Oh I bet Manwê will have so much fun finding a suitable punishment!”

She used the sharp knife with a lot of power but very little technique and two burly avarin warriors held Costaro’s arms. She shaved his head but let some tufts remain here and there and it did make the elf look extremely odd. None had ever seen a bald elf before and the warriors were bawling with laughter. Calpon sat there soaking wet and sobbing and he seemed to be afraid that he would suffer the same fate. Beleg grinned. “ We have them now, let us return and when we have rested both will be sent to Tirion, for a proper trial”

Costaro moaned, being brought in front of everybody like this was humiliating to say the least. He would rather lose his head there and then. Two of the warriors emerged from the forest. “Both of their horses are dead, one had broken a leg and we had to put it down and the other was dead already, its heart hadn’t been able to take the strain”

Mablung looked like a thundercloud and the other warriors there grumbled and mumbled in anger. “I think we will let these evil doers return to the village on foot or what? To make them better appreciate a good steed.”

Beleg grasped Costaro and pulled him up, then he gave a signal and the warriors stripped the two neri completely. Costaro shrieked and trashed but Calpon seemed to be in a sort of shock and didn’t resist at all. Lerina couldn’t look at her father, the very sight made her feel sick so she turned to the mare she had ridden and Mablung understood and helped her get back up. The two culprits were tied up like a ham ready for the oven and pulled after the horses. It didn’t last long before their naked feet were cut and bleeding and filled with pine needles and splinters. Calpon was crying like an infant by now but Costaro tried desperately to maintain some of his dignity. Too bad the plant still was doing its infernal job for without pants on they couldn’t hide the problem at all.

The avarin warriors were squeezing their noses and making faces and Mablung shook his head in disbelief. “ I have come across sweeter smelling orcs, believe it or not. What in the name of Eru have they been eating?”

Lerina felt an odd sensation within her chest, like a huge load had been lifted off her, she felt very relieved and yet agitated, like the adrenaline yet hadn’t had a possibility to leave her completely. Mablung sat behind her like before and he held her tightly. “You are shivering my dear, what is it?”

She swallowed. “ I feel…I don’t know, I am relieved it is over but at the same time, I just cannot believe it, and I feel strung out, restless, irritable”

Mablung chuckled. “Oh I understand, most feel that way when they have seen action for the first time, it takes time to wind down again, But I promise you, I will help you when we get back home, I know exactly the perfect method to make you relax again”

Lerina did look as if she was in doubt but she knew he was way more wise than anybody could have guessed and she trusted him completely. The journey was long and they didn’t get back until high noon. By then the two neri had been hoisted up onto a horse each since they were unable to walk any further and both were more or less unconscious. They were shut into a pig sty and put under heavy guard. The warriors were singing and cheering and Lerina ran to the house and was immediately embraced by Ariniel who by now had made sure that both her husband and their guests were comfortable and both well fed and bathed. There was quite a lot of tears for a while and Alciel was still fuming with anger and Lerina was afraid that she would go too far in her lust for vengeance so she prohibited her from entering the house where the two were held.

Everybody were fed and Lerina took a long bath and then she returned to their room and Mablung did massage her until she felt almost boneless and then he made love to her until she forgot where she ended and he started. Afterwards she slept like the dead and Mablung was glad they had managed to save Ariniel and the others without the loss of lives.

The next day a carriage was found and the two culprits placed in it, still naked and covered with things from the pig sty. As the carriage was driven through the village some of the elves assembled there showed their anger by tossing stuff at the two and that included the contents of not a few chamberpots. Lerina and Mablung and some of the more prominent wood elves were to follow the two to Tirion and Ariniel and her husband did also want to come. Ariniel would testify and Alciel and Nerdanel still had problems coping with the things which had happened. The twins and Argon and Orodreth were helping them a lot and Lerina was glad the two had some family able to make them forget about the horrors.

It was a huge group which left the village and Lerina had put on her best clothes and Mablung had a sort of uniform which made him look very intimidating, It was a copy of the clothes a marchwarden of Doriath would wear and Beleg had a similar outfit. They both looked like officers and wore blades and bow and the rest of the warriors following them were heavily armed as well. If the two tried anything funny they would end up looking like porcupines for sure.

At the end of the day they did catch up with the group lead by Finwê, they were travelling very slowly because of the wounded elves and they didn’t have a carriage so a slow walk was the speed they would be satisfied with. Now the wounded were placed in the carriage with the two kidnappers and so they could speed up and Finwê was hissing with anger when Lerina told of their deeds. She knew that the high king would make a very public display of this, he had already sent fast riders ahead to prepare and to apprehend the other conspirators and Lerina felt a sort of satisfaction knowing that they all would lose everything. The journey did take some days in spite of the carriage and they made camp in the woods and in some villages on the way. Each night Mablung made her forget about her doubts and her anger and she had to admit that she was getting pretty eager. She wanted him constantly and he was in a similar state and everybody were making jokes about newly weds but Lerina just ignored them. She was too happy and in love to care.

But her mood did drop again as they approached Tirion, she feared the reactions she would face for she knew that she wasn’t forgotten and many would still regard her as a promiscuous female and her new marriage would be doubted too. She was glad Mablung was there to support her, or else she would have been seriously worried. The city was in an uproar by now, many had gathered from the surrounding areas to watch the trial and to see what the valar and the high king decided to do and king Ingwê and king Olwê had arrived too. Lerina and Mablung had gotten some very nice rooms within the palace and luckily none of the servants did treat them with anything but the outmost respect. Lerina found that clothes had been prepared and she did accept that she had to look her best for the trial. Alciel and Nerdanel had rooms right by them and Lerina had to make sure that Ariniel and her husband too got to stay close by. She felt a knot of nervous energy building up, the arrest and trial of these criminals would be like a cleansing of some sorts, the last of the venom Morgoth managed to spread would be purged from their society or at least, that was what she hoped to happen.

The trial would be in two days and everybody were so busy with the preparations and Lerina and the others just relaxed and tried to come to terms with everything which had happened. The evening before the trial a servant knocked on the door with an apologetic expression on her face. “My lady, there is somewhere here to meet you”

Lerina frowned, who could that be? She nodded. “Do let them inn then”

She sat in a couch with some embroideries and didn’t anticipate any visits and she cocked her head and was a bit puzzled until the door went up and two elves entered the room. She gaped, blinked, couldn’t quite understand what she was seeing until the male finally spoke, his voice a bit hoarse and shivering. “Lerina, it is…good to see you!”

She let out a squeak, then she got up and threw herself forwards, embraced them both. “Fingon, Saeriel, oh Eru, you have been allowed to return from the halls?!”

Both nodded and she had to step back and look at them. They did look like before but something had yet changed, their expressions. There was sadness in their eyes now, and more wisdom than before. She had to swallow hard. “Gods, I never thought I would see you again, how…how do you fare?”

Fingon sat down, he smiled, a very sad smile. “Not too bad, we are healed but you know, memories cannot be erased that easily.”

Lerina stared at Saeriel. “Are you…you know, still married?”

Saeriel shook her head. “No Lerina, the marriage bonds were broken when we died. We have met our son though, and he will return too soon. He will live with Fingon for a while”

Lerina frowned. “So, what are you to do?”

Saeriel had to laugh. “ I found that I do have a talent for pottery believe it or not, I am going to move to Valmar and start making exclusive table wear. I learned some very nice techniques, and yes, I have met someone too, a very nice half teleri who makes my heart do somersaults each time I see him”

Lerina took a deep breath. “Oh that is wonderful, but…Maedhros?”

Fingon answered. “He is still waiting to be re-embodied, he was too traumatized for Namò to fix easily. I will be waiting for him and when he does return we will go to the mountains and live there until he is able to return to society. I fear that may take some millennia though. He is a mess”

Lerina swallowed hard. “Fingon, does he know that I…”

Fingon smiled and petted her shoulder. “ Yes, he does know that you are truly married now, and he is very happy on your behalf. I think that news sort of helped him heal quite a lot, he did always feel guilty about the way you were treated back in the years of the trees”

Lerina sighed. “Oh I am glad he knows, I did love him in a way, as a brother perhaps, Are you here for the trial?”

Saeriel nodded. “Yes, I wanted to see you and I also needed to return to Tirion just once, to start all over again so to speak. “

Lerina made a grimace. “Have you had any contact with the rest of the family?”

Saeriel scoffed. “Are you nuts? Of course not, to them I am a lost case, I would rather be invited to an orcs yule dinner”

Lerina felt curious but she couldn’t quite form the question. Saeriel nodded. “Yes, I was killed by orcs, but I died swiftly, didn’t really have time to understand anything before I was hauled before Namò. I just felt sad I didn’t get to see how well our son did rule his realm”

Lerina had to hug them again, feeling a whole lot better. It was as if some missing part of her had returned at last. After a while Mablung returned to the rooms and everybody were introduced and they spent the evening sitting there telling stories. Lerina did see that Saeriel had a hard time coping with Ariniel, after all, the elleth was her daughter but that secret had to stay just that way and Lerina knew she didn’t have to fear that Saeriel would have a slip of the tongue. She was too smart for that.

That evening Lerina slept better than in a long time and Mablung was thrilled to have learned that many of his fallen brothers from Doriath were due to return soon, including their king Thingol. The next morning the streets were absolutely packed with elves and some of the royal guard had been commandeered to keep the crowd under control. Lerina and the others were lead to the large courtyard through the basement of the palace which stretched far and wide under the entire huge building complex. The stands were filled already before sunrise and many ran around with buckets of water and food so none would collapse. Lerina had put on a very pretty green velvet gown and she had put her hair up. Alciel and Ariniel both wore some rather dark dresses and both looked absolutely furious. Lerina had to grin, her daughter really proved her metal now.

The trial started with one of the maiar of Manwê explaining the crimes to the crowd. Everybody did shut up but the atmosphere was nothing short of murderous. Then Finwê did appear and he confirmed that these were the crimes which had been committed and then the culprits were brought forth. That made the crowd go haywire, nobody had been allowed to carry weapons into the courtyard but now rotten eggs, tomatoes and other disgusting things did rain over the accused. All had been shaved and Lerina saw that her mother was spared this humiliation. She had after all just been an obedient wife and some would have reacted if a woman had been treated thus. She and some other females also part of the conspiracy were kept in a sort of cage and they all wore some very simple grey wool dresses and looked miserable.

Lerina had to come forth and testify and she did so with bravado. She told the crowd everything, how her father had tried to force her into yet another unwanted marriage and when she was done many who had believed her to be a dubious character had changed their mind. Ariniel too came forth with Alciel and the two nissi managed to move many to tears. Belegornith too had arrived that morning to testify and many stared at her since she came wearing what an avari usually wore on a hot day, a loincloth, boots and body paint. When everybody had told their stories most of the first part of the day had gone by, and there was a break before the sentences were announced.

Lerina didn’t feel any sort of emotions whatsoever, she felt empty, blank almost. She couldn’t have cared less about her father’s destiny, she was done with him, in every possible manner. In her eyes he was the past now, he could rot in the halls for eternity for all she cared.

When the break was over Manwê made a grand entrance followed by the lady Varda and some maiar. The crowd was silent and the high king of the valar did look a bit like a thundercloud. He was angry, everybody could see that. He did ask for the females to be brought forth first, their punishments were hard but not cruel. Most of them were sentenced to serve the lady Vairê for the next age and Lerina’s mother was sentenced to serve as a chamber maid to the maia Melian who would form a new court now that her husband were to return. He would form a new kingdom in the forests right west of the Pelori mountains and any sinda interested would be welcome there. Lerina had to snigger, her mother, a servant! Maybe that would teach her to be a wee bit more humble?

Then it was the neri and since Costaro were among the ones starting the conspiracy he was among the last to be dragged forth. Namò was there too and he had already forcefully pulled the fear out of the hroa of some of the accused. The bodies were removed and everybody could see that Costaro and his fellow conspirators were convinced that they too would be sharing that same fate. Finwê stepped forth and he did look every bit like the king he had always been. He was majestic and proud and he stared at the leaders with steel in his eyes. “These creeps have broken our laws, spread the filth of morgoth even after he has been banished. They are a shame, an abomination, the lord Namò has decided that the halls are unable to transform these souls back to normal elves”

He held his hands high. “Their fate will be to be reborn among the second born, as slaves and beggars, and continue thus until the remaking of the world. An endless cycle of rebirth, and misery.”

Many gasped, it was a terrible punishment but the high king was understood by most. These elves had been undermining the very foundation of their society and that could not be forgiven. Lerina didn’t even watch as her father’s fëa was ripped away and she just felt a sort of freedom knowing he was gone. The bodies were burned that very afternoon and for the first time in years Lerina knew that the future would be bright.

They returned to the woods and she continued to pick nuts but after some years Saeriel suggested that they started a business together. Saeriel had changed from ceramics to glass and made tiny very elegant bottles and Lerina and Ariniel started making perfume. Before long they were making a lot of money. Elu Thingol returned and established a kingdom in the woods, it grew and became rather magnificent and Lerina and Ariniel and her husband followed Mablung when he was called back into service. He was the leader of the hunters there now and couldn’t have been happier. More and more elves did return from the halls or from middle earth and the last ships arrived. Lerina soon met Maglor who had been more or less dragged back to Aman by a reborn Gil Galad, and then Maedhros too returned and the torn families were gradually brought together again. Celebrimbor returned together with his father, Celegorm and Caranthir and it seemed as if the stay in the halls had grinded some of the edges off them, they were all way more mellow now. The only one who didn’t return yet was Fêanor and Lerina heard from some maiar that he was way too stubborn to regret any of his deeds.

Alciel worked as a mad to improve her father’s reputation, she did in fact manage to make even the teleri feel that it had been Morgoth who was behind it all, and that her father had been an innocent victim of his lies. Her tireless campaign was only brought to an end when she met a certain Sindarin prince and fell head over heels in love. They wed so fast everybody considered it a scandal and Nerdanel wept when Alciel one day came sauntering into her mother’s gallery, telling she was with child.

That the sindar elves of Middle earth had arrived in Aman caused some problems, for Thranduil refused to let go of the title of king and so they suddenly had two Sindarin realms, one in the north which belonged to Elu and one in the south which belonged to the former king of Mirkwood. That his son now was married to a noldo was something he had a hard time accepting until he met Alciel and was swept off his feet by her sheer energy and charisma. Mablung often accompanied his king on meetings with Thranduil and had to admit that he had to drag both neri back to their chambers by their feet more than once when they had gotten so drunk they were more or less unconscious. Lerina and Ariniel became very popular within the courts, their perfumes were sought after by all and as peace and quiet descended over the blessed realm the past became like a bleak dream, half forgotten. Saeriel and her husband discovered a method to make crystal jewelry out of glass and Lerina often teased her friend with her newfound vanity.

Fingon and Maedhros did show up every now and then, at first Maedhros was shy and nervous and there were dark shadows in his eyes but he did gradually heal and finally he was almost his old self again. Saeriel and Ariniel both had their first child the same year, Saeriel had a gorgeous boy and Ariniel gave birth to a small girl with red hair and dark eyes. Alciel had already gotten a girl who was so alike Legolas everybody was a bit shocked. Lerina felt an odd emptiness seeing their happiness. She and Mablung had been married for many long years now, and yet nothing had happened. They were as passionate as ever and she could barely go a day without his touch, she started to fear that she was barren after all. Then one evening she happened to pass by the lady Melian in one of the corridors of new Doriath and she felt a bit odd as the maia almost touched her. She didn’t think anything of it, and that night Mablung returned from a hunt which had taken two whole weeks and he was starved for attention and extremely passionate.

The next morning Lerina woke up and she immediately knew that she no longer was alone in her own body, she let out a shriek and she almost scared her beloved out of his skin. Then they both wept, and laughed and wept some more and it soon become clear that Lerina was carrying twins. She got heavy and was struggling but she never complained. She tried to avoid revealing that this was her first birth, Ariniel had never been told the truth but now her daughter came forth and told Lerina that she had known all along. One of the many nissi helping them out after the darkening had told her the truth but Ariniel had never cared about it. To her Lerina was mom, no matter if Saeriel had been the one to give birth to her. That made Lerina burst out into tears and so they both wept a bit before they were surprised by Nerdanel and Alciel who had brought some cake. Lerina feared that she would look like a hippo before this was over.

Lerina didn’t allow anyone in the birthing chamber except from the midwife and Mablung, and Nerdanel. The auburn haired elleth had become like the mother she never really had had and she appreciated her support and wisdom. Lerina was small and frail and the babies large, for a while there was some real drama and her life was in jeopardy but the midwife managed to turn one of the babies just in the nick of time and things did turn out well. She gave birth to two boys, both with her silvery grey hair but with Mablungs rather dark complexion and with eyes of green and gold. Mablung was deeply fascinated by them and would sit by the crib most of the time and Lerina had to almost fight him to be allowed to hold them. She used a long time to recover and the midwife did tell her that she never would conceive again, the birth had been too hard on her and the damages too great. But she had two gorgeous children to raise now and soon the two became very fond friends of the kids of Ariniel and Saeriel, and when Alciel suddenly decided to give her own father a run for his money when it came to fecundity the realm was almost flooded with young ones and boisterous ones at that. Alciel did stop at number nine, by then Legolas had made a drunken confession to his father that he was considering doing something drastic to prevent becoming a father yet again. He had had enough and Thranduil had just laughed and told him to suck it up and that he did a good job expanding the family line. Oropher too was reborn by now and he did agree heartily. Lerina saw him and Thranduil in the main chamber of the palace, laughing like elflings while Legolas did look like a beaten ellon, with that many small ones in the house there was no chance of having a good night’s sleep.

On a very windy autumn afternoon yet another elf left the halls, and Nerdanel went to meet her husband. He had perhaps become a bit more humble and he had regretted his deeds but he was still as ingenious as ever and many did stay clear of his forge for he came up with ideas so outrageous not even Aûle himself understood them. Lerina had forgiven him for having arranged her first marriage, and he did develop a new method of extracting the essence of flowers which created some grand new perfumes. Lerina was happy now, and content and with her family around her the days of the darkening had become naught but a faded memory, Things were as they ought to be, and she was where she was supposed to be too. In the arms of her beloved, with a bright future ahead of her. There would never again be a darkening and never again would she be the one sacrificed for the sake of influence or wealth. She had become someone of both status and knowledge and soon she started teaching others how to make perfumes and medicine too. She had never imagined herself being able to give lessons, had someone told her this on the day of her first marriage she would have believed that person to be delusional. Her sons became famous hunters and both married into Alciel and Legolas family, much to Lerina’s delight. One day there would be a need for weapons and warriors yet again but that day was yet far far away in the future and her happiness complete. As Mablung said, there had never been a person who deserved it more.

The end.

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