The darkening of hearts

Behind the facade

Maedhros had just finished discussing their departure when he heard some commotion coming from the near by garden. He felt a sudden rush of worry, the voices sounded so upset and he feared that something was wrong. He excused himself and walked towards the source of the noise, rather fast. When he reached the garden he stopped dead in his tracks, a gasp escaped him before he ran forth, kneeling by Lerina's side. She was unconscious and bloody and it was rather apparent that something rather brutal had happened for her eyes were bruised and she appeared to have fractured her cheekbone.

Two healers had arrived just before him and they were in obvious shock, violence was almost unheard of among the elves and this spoke of unleashed rage. "What happened?!"

He heard the tremble in his own voice, grasped her hand to comfort her but also to let the others see what they were expecting to see, the affection of a newly wedded husband. The healers were trying to stop the bleeding and she had a nasty bruise around her neck and there was blood in her long silvery hair. " A servant found her, on the ground. Just minutes ago!"

Maedhros almost growled, she had an expression of confused pain on her face and he didn't understand this at all. Why would anyone attack her? Oh there were plenty of jealous nissi around but the bruises on her neck came from a hand, much larger than that of any female. He stared at the healers, pleadingly. " Is she okay?"

The most experienced of the healers looked as if she didn't really want to answer. " Ah, my lord, it is too early to say that yet. She has a huge bump on her head and I fear a concussion. And there are fractures my lord, nasty ones"

He swallowed hard. "Who did this to her?"

The others assembled just shrugged and looked down and he got back up, with his height he towered above all others there and he felt a surge of rage rushing through his body. " Well, let it be known that the one guilty of this will be found and punished"

The healers lifted Lerina onto a stretcher and she was carried off to a room that lay in a separate part of the palace. Elves do not get sick but injuries did happen from time to time, in special during training or sports and the healers were skilled and they had lots of experience with such things. But this was new to them, to willfully hurt someone was a thing they had never encountered. Maedhros felt sick, he shouldn't have left her! She was so small and fragile and he knew that his family was a target for much rage. Not everybody approved of the fact that Fëanor was Finwë's favorite son and heir to the throne, they believed that Fingolfin was better suited. And then they had those with the directly opposite idea too. The political life of Tirion could sometimes be compared with a maze! If you didn't know what you were doing you would get lost pretty fast.

Lerina was washed and they rubbed some ointments onto her head wound and her eye and her bruises. The healer guaranteed that she wouldn't have any scars but he felt furious still. Why? Why had this peaceful and gentle being been attacked thus? It had happened fast, and with some force too. She hadn't tried to defend herself but there were deep scratches on her cheeks that indicated that the culprits they were seeking were both a female and a male too.

Lerina groaned and her head moved and he was there in a flash, grasping her hand. She didn't open her eyes and she appeared to be terribly dizzy and in pain. The healer was there that very instant with a cup. " My lady, drink this, it will ease the pain and help you sleep. It is for the better."

She just gasped and he felt desperate, squeezed her hand. " Who did this to you little one? Tell me!"

She whimpered, her voice barely audible. "They…they called me…a whore…a slut…disowned me…"

Maedhros tilted his head, what? Why in heavens name would anyone… He got it, her parents, who else could disown her? The healer made her drink and she sobbed and fell back into his arms. He stared at the nis who removed the cup and looked angry. " Did you understand this?"

The nis nodded. " Her mother is living the life of the self righteous isn't she? Oh I have heard rumors of her piety and haughty ways, beats the queen that one. I bet they ordered the sheets to be hung out on display"

Maedhros felt the need to do a face palm. Of course, that idiotic old vanyarin custom of displaying the sheets after the wedding night so that everybody could see that the bride had been a virgin. And there had naturally been no blood on their sheets. Nobody did that anymore but her mother apparently wanted it done and the servants hadn't been thinking and had followed her orders. It wasn't their fault, so he couldn't blame them but the damage was done. His reputation came back to haunt them now, nobody would believe that he hadn't touched her, they would believe that Lerina had been with someone else before she got wedded, that she hadn't been a pure maiden. Of course her parents had lost it, but that didn't justify harming the poor girl.

He felt himself shiver and he hid his face within his hands, what now? Rumors would spread and even if he made a statement and told everybody that he didn't sleep with her nobody would believe him. They would think that he said this only to protect her. Oh Eru what a mess! The vanyar would be worst, they would snigger and gloat and she would be seen as a whore, as a nis unworthy of him. He stared at the healer. " Bring her to our chamber as soon as possible, we have to leave tomorrow."

The two nissi bowed and the oldest one cocked her head. "She cannot ride then my lord, she will need a carriage."

Maedhros sighed and felt the need to throw something at the wall, why did everything seemingly go to hell right now? "That will be arranged."

He couldn't bare to look at her pale face and left, walked towards their chambers with swift steps, he was stopped by Maglor and Celegorm. Both looked confused. " Nelyo? Is it true that someone has attacked Lerina?"

The disbelief in his brother's voice was great and he sighed and tried to calm himself, stared at Celegorm's wide eyes. " Yes, she was attacked, by her own parents!"

Maglor gasped and went pale. "What?! Eru! Why?"

Maedhros had problems swallowing. "Her mother demanded the sheets hung out on display, for everyone to see. And since I'm not some sick pervert who loves to force myself onto others the sheets were without blood. Apparently they both are convinced that she has fooled them and slept with someone before we got wedded."

Celegorm made a scoffing noise. " Are you serious? Who the hell would have gotten close to her? Her mother has been watching her every move her entire life!"

Maedhros groaned. " I know, she hasn't lived brothers, just existed. I do pity her poor soul, and now it will only get worse."

Maglor bit his teeth together. " Alright, time to do some damage control, I know just the right people to talk to."

Celegorm looked angry. " So do I, but what will you do now Nelyo?"

Maedhros took a deep breath. " I will talk to atar, and make sure that they are punished for this. I will demand that they are hit where it hurts the most, in their ambitions. They can forget about being part of the court"

Maglor petted his shoulder. " Way to go, we will make sure that the noldor at least knows that you are a honorable ner who wanted to wait until she has gotten used to you."

Celegorm nodded. " Aye, and that her mother is a calculating bitch never to be trusted."

He had to grin. " Thank you brother's, drag their reputation into the mud please"

Both grinned and started walking with haste. " You bet!"

Maedhros brazed himself, then he turned around and walked back to his father's office. Fëanor hadn't hear the news yet, he didn't allow any others than his family to disturb him while he was working and he looked up and frowned, a bit confused as to why his son returned so fast. " Yes Nelyo? What is it?"

Maedhros sat down, his eyes were dark with rage and Fëanor realized that something had happened, something bad. " Atar, Lerina's parents attacked her while I was here, talking to you. Apparently they accused her of having slept with someone before her wedding since there was no blood on the sheets that cow of a mother demanded that everybody was to see!"

Fêanor gasped and blinked, his face a bit pale. " What? Is she hurt?"

Maedhros growled. " They hit her atar, and her mother must have clawed at her face for she had huge sores, and a nasty bump in her head and bruises and a broken cheekbone. She is a mess!"

Fêanor sat down, he had never looked that shocked before. He would never do anything like that to his son's. Ever! Yes, sometimes they did disappoint him but using violence? He would rather die. "Will she be okay?"

Maedhros nodded. " Eventually yes, but she has probably gotten the shock of a lifetime and her reputation will be completely ruined now!"

Fëanor sighed. " Nelyo, you should have…"

Maedhros interrupted him. "What? Fucked her? Have you even taken a look at the nis you forced me to wed? She is a child Ata, a child! If I was to touch her I would harm her, she isn't capable of laying with anyone yet, let alone someone…someone like me!"

Fêanor leaned against his desk, a bit shocked. " Eru, I know, I know. You are not exactly…small! So what now?"

Maedhros ran a hand through his thick red hair. " If she wakes up we leave tomorrow, as planned. I want to get her out of here, away from the rumors."

Fëanor nodded slowly. " A wise decision son, do spend your time with her, get to know her."

Maedhros sighed. " Ata, we are only married on paper, and there will never be anything more than that. You know this"

Fëanor sighed and stared at the papers in front of him. " Nelyo, I am truly sorry, but I still believe that what I did is for the best. "

Maedhros just made a vague gesture. " I know, I have to get back in case she wakes up, tell the others will you?"

His father nodded and grasped a jug of wine. " I will son."

Maedhros turned in the door. " And ata? Make them pay!"

Fêanor grinned, a rather vicious grin. " I will, they can forget about coming to court after this."

Maedhros ran back to his rooms and he was intercepted by Fingon who looked rather shocked and in disbelief. "Is it true?"

He could only nod. "Yes, it is true, all of it"

Fingon gasped and his gaze flickered, he looked as if he wanted to embrace his lover but he didn't dare to, there were too many people in the palace who would see them. " Melkor's nuts! That is insane, are they mad?"

Maedhros nodded. " Apparently yes, very much so I would say. Their reputation is more important than their child."

Fingon hissed. " Oh I wish I could…nevermind. Such awful people should never be allowed into the palace again. Who does something like that to their own child?"

There was something almost pleading in Fingon's melodic voice and Maedhros just sent him a sad smile. " Someone consumed by their own greed and hunger for power."

Fingon bit his lower lip. " If I ever was to have any offspring I would never treat them thus, ever!"

Maedhros smiled, a bittersweet smile. " I know, you would make a terrific father."

They both knew that never would happen, they had bound themselves to each other and since both were ner there would be no heirs to any of them.

Maedhros petted Fingon's shoulder, a friendly and innocent gesture if someone was to see them. " I have to go now, I have to see how she is doing."

Fingon smiled, a pale smile. " Of course, I will see you later, and…and I am sorry for this, I truly am. I will pray for her recovery."

Maedhros felt strangely moved by those words, why he didn't really know but Fingon had a huge heart and maybe this meant that the relationship between his wife and his lover didn't need to be a strained one after all. " Thank you!"

He just nodded again and walked, before he did something stupid. He wanted to hug Fingon and seek comfort in his embrace but he couldn't do it, not here and now. The rooms were silent when he entered, one of the healers was present still and sat by the bed onto which Lerina had been placed. They had put a thick and warm nightgown onto her and the blood was gone but her bruises were still there. He felt his heart ache from the sight, she was so tiny, so innocent in all this and they had caused her pain and probably a great deal of fear as well. The healer got onto her feet and bowed. " My lord, she is asleep, and she is healing well. There is no danger now, but she will be sore and have a headache and I sense that her fëa is very distraught."

Maedhros sighed and grasped a chair and a blanket, sat down next to the bed. " Go fetch me some food and wine, I will sit by her side until she is alright again."

The nis smiled, a very knowing smile, she probably believed that this was a real marriage, based upon mutual love and understanding. " Of course my lord, if there is any change then do send for us, do not hesitate"

He smiled at the nis and sat down. " I won't, believe me"

He knew that the medicine they had given Lerina was strong, she would sleep for a long while and he needed to calm down and think things through rationally. He was just so enraged on her behalf, and he felt such pity. To have your own family turn on you like a pack of rabid dogs, it was a nightmare. And he also felt a sort of possessiveness. He didn't want her, but now that he had to accept her as a part of his life he didn't want to see her hurt. No, he didn't own her in any way but he regarded her as family, as a friend, and her trust had moved him greatly. He owed her safety and protection, a better life. And he would give her that, no matter what.

Lerina woke up very slowly, and she felt utterly confused at first for she couldn't remember having gone to bed. Then she remembered and gasped, feeling how a terrible sensation of grief and dread ascended upon her. They had called her such terrible names, and why? Immediately there was a hand there, big and warm and it held hers so gently. " Sshhh, easy, I am here. You are safe"

Lerina recognized his scent and his voice, her right eye was swollen shut and the left one almost as bad. She couldn't see at all and her face hurt so bad. She whimpered. "I…I am so sorry"

Maedhros caressed the small hand gently, oh by the valar, she did look terrible. " Sorry for what? Lerina little one, this wasn't your fault, you have done nothing wrong."

She sobbed. " But…they said I was…a whore, and …I had ruined their honor and…"

Maedhros almost growled in real rage but restrained himself, he could not show her his anger for she would believe that it was aimed at her. " No, absolutely not Lerina, listen to me. It was they who were wrong, who hurt you. "

She whimpered again, the slender body was trembling and he gently sat down next to her, pulled her into his arms. She let him do it, somehow she trusted him enough to allow him to touch her and he rocked her gently in his arms. "But…why…why did they say…"

Maedhros sighed. " Your mother asked for the sheets from our bed to be hung out, it is a very old Vanyarin tradition and one few if any follow these days."

She looked confused. " And?"

He cringed, oh Eru, she was so innocent. " Lerina, uh, when a nis…when a nis makes love the first time there is usually some blood, and since there was no blood on the sheets your mother believed that…that you no longer were pure when I took you to bed"

Lerina swallowed. " Oh, I…I didn't think of that"

Maedhros sighed and held her hand. " I was a fool little one, I should have guesses that your mother would do that, I should have cut a finger or something and made it look as if I did deflower you. Then everything would have been fine, but I didn't know she would follow such a forgotten practice."

Lerina blushed in spite of her bruised face. " It is…okay. Just…don't let them hurt me again"

He almost whimpered, it broke his heart to hear that fear in her voice. " Oh little one, I will keep you safe, worry not. They will never be allowed to go near you again."

She relaxed against him. " We will leave yes?"

He nodded. " Tomorrow morning. You have to recover first."

She sighed, trembled ever so slightly against him. " I…I was so afraid, I thought atar would kill me. He was so angry!"

Maedhros nodded. " I understand, but worry not. They have been banned from court as we speak, my father has given the order."

She made a weird sound. " Oh, that will make them angry"

Maedhros grinned. " I do most certainly hope so!"

He let his fingers glide through her silvery hair, marveling at the amazing color. He had never seen anyone with that shade of silver before, dark, like polished steel. " Rest now little one, tomorrow we will go home, and this will be but a memory."

She smiled, a rather tired and swift smile and her body seemed to relax even more, her head was tilted towards his chest and he realized that she had fallen asleep. It made his heart swell to know that she already trusted him thus but it also made him feel a bit guilty. Whatever her feelings were, she would never own his love, just some faint affection and it wasn't fair. But if she one day did meet the one who would complete her soul he wouldn't stand in her way. He would let her love freely and to hell with what everyone else said about it.

It was uncomfortable sitting there like that but he endured, he just had to. It was all a part of the game he now was playing. After a while he too dozed off and they didn't awake until the bell that signaled dinner was chiming. Maedhros was hungry and he gently shook her awake, kissed her brow like he would his brothers. " Are you hungry little one?"

She yawned and cringed in pain. " Ow, oh, I…I am not sure. What…what sort of food can I have?"

He got up, his ass had fallen asleep and was numb and his legs felt alien to him. He grimaced and tried to shake himself awake again. " Whatever you like Lerina, what is your favorite food?"

She tried to open her eyes but couldn't yet. " Honey cakes, and those small cookies with nuts in them, oh, and those sweet grapes that grows to the south, But mother won't let me have such food, she thinks it will make me fat"

He sighed, a deep sigh. " Lerina, forget about her alright? She isn't here, if you want honey cakes then honey cakes you will have"

He petted her shoulder. " You are way too thin already, you can eat as much as you like"

She held her breath. " Really? Is that true?"

He squeezed her hand. " Yes, have you ever had the stew my grand father's chef makes?"

She shook her head. " No, never!"

He smiled widely. " I will go and get us some food, stew, cakes and fruit too. We can have a small feast here on our own."

She appeared to like the idea, nodded eagerly. " Yes, oh yes."

Then her face changed, she touched the bandages with shaking hands. " N…Nelyo? Do…do I look…repulsive?"

Her voice small and thin and he held her hand again. " No Lerina, you are hurt and swollen yes, but you will be okay in a few days, trust me. You will be as lovely as ever."

She relaxed, tried to smile. Now he was her safe harbor, the one she trusted. It was such a responsibility and he knew that she had to be the most vulnerable nis he had ever met. He hurried to the kitchen and returned a short time after with a tray filled with all sorts of treats and two bowls of stew. Her nose shivered and she licked her lips. " That…that smells delicious"

He chuckled. " It does, and now, let me feed you."

She scoffed. " I can use a spoon you know!"

He petted her cheek. "Yes, but you cannot see much yet now can you? Let me spoil you a little, you deserve it."

She bit her lower lip. " Oh…okay then."

He placed the tray in front of them and started feeding her small portions of stew and she ate eagerly. The wine he had brought wasn't strong so they could drink quite a lot of it and it was sweet and fruity and she liked it a lot. He encouraged her to tell him more of herself and he was shocked by how little she really had to tell, or rather, how small normally indifferent situations to her had become grand events. He had never believed that eldar could treat their own in such a way? And why? To please the valar? Oh for Eru's sake, they didn't care! All they cared about was the great song, and to keep the elves safe in Aman. Fëanor sometimes grunted something about the valar manipulating and using them and Maedhros was willing to agree with his sire.

But Lerina was a firm believer or at least she pretended to be, he sensed doubt in her, great doubt too but she didn't dare to do anything about it. Her mother had choked her, quite literally. Lerina had never been allowed to grow up and mature and he feared that she soon would have to face a reality that was way harsher and harder than the one she was used to. She was like a lamb in a pack of wolves and he didn't know if he would be able to protect her. She would have to toughen up quite a lot or she would be treated like crap.

But for now things were acceptable, she was eating and he fed her some cakes and she giggled and ate from his hand and he felt a strange sort of affection. It wasn't anything carnal, he didn't desire her, but he felt how his fea was greatly affected by her helplessness. To him she was a child and he had always been protective of the young ones, no wonder really with six younger brothers. Then she burped and giggled and had to lay back, completely stuffed. She did hiccup and laugh. " Mother never let me eat until I was really full, she said it wasn't becoming."

Maedhros sighed. " Like I have said before, forget about her. You've earned it dear."

She took a sip of wine and sighed. " I wish we could leave now, I do not want to linger here."

He grasped her hand. " I know, neither do I but worry not, before long we will be on our way"

She smiled and pulled the blankets closer, grasped an apple and started nibbling at it, just to savor the sweet taste. " I want to put it all behind me Nelyo, like a deer fleeing from the hunters. I want to wake up somewhere else and see that it is all a new world, that everything has changed."

Maedhros squeezed her hand gently. " I understand, believe me, nobody will harm you again."

She just smiled and he got up and removed the tray. He could see that she was sleepy again and it was good. Sleeping would help her heal. Before long her breath became slow and deep and he stretched and left the room, ventured out into the garden and watched the light from the trees starting to mingle. He stood there when his mother suddenly appeared in the doorway, she looked worried. " How is she?"

Nerdanel's voice was concerned and he turned around and let her embrace him. She only reached his chest and he could sense that she was very upset. Nerdanel was good at hiding her feelings, unless she was arguing with her husband. Lately they had done that a lot and it had left a feeling of unease within them all. "Sleeping, she ate a lot and then she got tired again. Ammë, her own mother had been starving her!"

Nerdanel scoffed, she looked angry. "Oh yes, I did see that, poor thing. Those vanyar obviously believe that you have to deny yourself every possible joy in order to please the valar, food included."

Maedhros sighed. " She looks like a child, I couldn't touch her even if I wanted to. It would have been wrong"

Nerdanel caressed her son's cheek. " Do not blame yourself Nelyo, you did nothing wrong. Blame her sough of a mother. By the way, both have been removed from the palace, by Finwë's guards. Your grandfather was fuming when he heard of this."

Maedhros giggled when he heard his mother's words. " Oh I bet he was, and …she?"

Nerdanel sighed. "The queen was no less appalled, I think she detests those idiotic rules just as much as we do, but she cannot openly break them."

Maedhros leaned against a pedestal with a statue on it, it was supposed to look like the lady Vaire but the sculptor wasn't very good or he had had a very bad day when he made it for it made the vala look like some strange twisted creature. "I try to accept the way those vanyar live but it is hard, so very hard. I cannot say I understand them at all."

Nerdanel took a deep breath. " Neither do I, but I think they are afraid in some ways, and then they try to appease that which they fear by pretending as though they can influence it."

He snorted. " As if they really do care?"

Nerdanel shrugged. " Let us not discuss that now, you leave tomorrow?"

He nodded and felt like fidgeting with his sleeves. " Yes, as early as possible."

Nerdanel leaned against her son, took a deep breath. " Good, very good. "

He tilted his head. " Why are you saying this?"

She lifted her face towards him." Because she shouldn't stay here even a minute longer than needed, the rumors are already flying son"

Maedhros groaned and felt like throwing that stupid statue into the fountain or something, just to vent his feelings." Oh damnation, what are they saying?"

Nerdanel sat down on a bench and he followed her, hesitantly. He didn't really want to know but he had to be prepared so that he could protect Lerina. "Well, your brothers are eagerly trying to counteract the worst by spreading rumors of their own but I am afraid it is a lost cause."

He hid his face in his hands. " Right, spit it out, how bad is it?"

Nerdanel grasped his hand. " Nasty, ridiculous and utterly repulsive, all at once. "

He sighed. " That bad?"

She nodded. " Oh yes, some claim that they have seen her on the streets working as a whore, some even claim that she has slept with her own brother, others that she has been in bed with all of the servants of her parent's home."

She bit her lower lip. " It all boils down to this Nelyo, since you are known to be a very vigorous lover they all think she must have….had quite a few lovers, since she didn't bleed."

He groaned and hit the bench, hard. It hurt his hand but the pain sort of calmed him down, helped him focus. " She's the one to blame ha? Nobody questions me!"

She shook her head. " You are a heir to the throne, many believe that your grandfather will let the title of high king go to you instead of your father, just to calm everybody down."

He snorted and made a nasty grimace. " Well, I will never be king, that is for darn certain, oh poor Lerina, it will break her if she hears this."

Nerdanel nodded. " Absolutely, so stay in these chambers until it is time to leave and don't let her speak with anyone. Nelyo, both of you will be expected to attend to feasts and gatherings here, to be active and visible. She needs to learn how to ignore all the bullshit they will toss at her."

Maedhros closed his eyes. " I know, I will see if I can help her."

Nerdanel got to her feet, touched his hair lovingly. " That is great Nelyo. I wish things were different."

He smiled, a bitter smile. " So do I, but…uh…you and atar, are you two…alright?"

She looked away, took a deep breath. " No son, we are not alright. Have a good night"

Maedhros felt his heart drop, he knew that his parents were having problems but he hadn't really believed that they were serious. After all, his parents were bonded, they ought to live in harmony didn't they? He got back up and returned to the chamber where Lerina slept. She was still asleep so he found some servants and gave the last orders regarding the next morning. He ate his own stew which was cold by now and took a long bath. It helped him relax but he still couldn't chase away the feeling of something bothering him, right on the edge of his mind, slipping away like an eel every time he tried to grasp onto it.

He went to bed and Lerina was sleeping like a log, a deep healing sleep. Her bruises were already fading and he hoped that the swelling would be gone too by the morning. She reminded him of a wounded animal and he felt how rage once more filled him. How did those two even dare to call themselves parents? He swore that if he was to meet them again he would tell them exactly what he felt about them and to hell with the consequences. When he finally fell asleep he was restless and his sleep was constantly disturbed.

The golden light that streamed through the curtains was soft and warm but he blinked and wished that it could be gone. He had a headache and he felt tired, as if he had done hard work. He missed Fingon, missed his scent and his warm embrace but knew that he would have to wait before he could meet his lover again. Lerina was waking up and she did look better but the bruises and sores were still visible. He saw that she could open her eyes now and she tried to smile. He got up and reached out to help her get out of the bed. " Come now, you need to bathe and get ready. It is quite a long journey and we have to leave soon."

She obediently got up and yawned, the bath was adjacent to the sleeping chambers and there was a pool with hot water in it and lots of soaps and perfumes. " Do you think you can manage on your own or do you think I should call for some maids to help you?"

She shook her head. " I can manage, please."

He nodded " Very well then, bathe while I order breakfast"

She held her breath for a moment. "Do…do you think I could…ah…get more of those cookies?"

Her voice revealed that she was afraid she was crossing some invisible line by asking the question and he wanted to embrace her and tell her that it was alright. "Of course you can, I will ask them to add many cookies to our tray."

She smiled, a genuine smile of joy and he felt how the compassion made his heart swell within his chest. To her a few cookies was enough to cause great joy, how poor her life had been until now.

Some servants brought several trays of food and Maedhros bathed as soon as she was done. She put on a dress in deep green velvet and it made her look very immature but it was lovely. He helped her braid her hair and she giggled and braided him in return. When they both had eaten and were dressed he didn't see any reason to linger and told the servants to bring forth the carriage. It was still early and very few elves up and about so there was little chance of her meeting anyone. They walked down the halls towards the entrance, their luggage had already been sent ahead of them and the carriage was a light one, made to transport a few people, not heavy cargo. Two lovely dapple gray horses was hitched up to it and they were chewing their bits, eager to go. Lerina stood there waiting to enter the carriage when two maids passed by, they didn't even look at her but one of them hissed at her as they walked by with their heads held high. "Harlot"

Lerina jerked and stared at them but they just continued walking, as if she wasn't even there. She felt a strange pain in her chest, wanted to sob. If this was what she had to face whenever she visited the palace then she would never leave her new home again. Maedhros finished giving the driver the last instructions and helped her into the carriage She didn't want to tell him of the two maids, she didn't want to upset him and soon they would be gone from this terrible place. The driver was turning the carriage around when a rider entered the courtyard, he wore a messenger uniform and was one of the elves who made a living from being a sort of postal service, delivering letters or small packages. He rode over to the carriage and the driver had to stop his horses. Maedhros stared at the ner with narrow eyes. "Yes?"

The ner bowed his head and looked a bit shell shocked, he probably hadn't expected coming face to face with one of the royal family. " My lord, I have a letter for Lady Lerina?"

Lerina frowned. "For me? From who?"

The ner pulled a letter out of his bag. " I do not know."

Maedhros sent her a warning glance but she ignored it, it was just a letter. She opened it and let out a sigh of relief, she recognized the handwriting of her sister's oldest daughter, a nis almost her own age. Saeriel was well known for having the handwriting of a drunk and she was very outspoken and she went her own ways. Lerina's mother refused to acknowledge the nis at all.

Maedhros looked curious and Lerina hurried to read the few words written across the piece of parchment. "Lerina, dear aunt. The family is in an uproar, you mother hysterical and your father refuses to speak to anyone. Your name must never be mentioned again but I don't give a fuck. You are still a maiden aren't you? I bet your husband is caring and compassionate and that he wouldn't want to consummate the wedding so soon. But your mother is an idiot, yes, I am not ashamed to say that. Your father has interrogated every male servant they have and even some of the females and everybody is scared of him. I wish you all the best aunt, but do never return home. I have no idea of what they will do to you if you do. Your niece Saeriel."

Maedhros told the driver to continue and the horses started trotting again. " So at least you have one family member who isn't a jerk?"

Lerina giggled. " Oh Saeriel is wonderful, she gives a damn about the rules, and she is too strong to be subdued."

Maedhros petted her hair. " I bet you can be just as strong, just you wait and see. Tonight we will arrive at your new home and everything will change, everything will be fine."

She grinned, nodded with joy sparkling in her eyes. " Yes, everything will be fine!"

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