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Unanswered prayers

By Nuredhel

Romance / Drama

A wolf among sheep


She felt trapped, no other expression could describe her situation. She sat in the beautiful room which was filled with flowers and stared at her own reflection as the maids were finishing her hair. They were giggling and chatting cheerfully but she wasn't able to partake in their jolly musings. She saw her own face, it was pale and her eyes looked bigger than they really were, yes she did look like some trapped animal, with the hunters approaching it. It was her wedding day and it should have been the happiest day of her life but she felt as though she was heading for her own execution rather than a wedding. Why had she agreed on this? She turned her head around, the doors were open out towards the balcony and she knew the distance from it to the stone covered yard was more than long enough to kill even an elf. She almost felt tempted, but she couldn't. Why was she so bound by duty and gratitude? So submissive? She didn't want to disappoint her parents, that was one part of the whole mess and then she knew she was in debt to him. She could not deny it, he had saved her from a fate to horrible for her to imagine and she could just cling on to the words her mother had said earlier that day and hope that they were the truth. "This is a great opportunity child, you'll be so much more than before, have so much more influence and power. It is a good thing, not something bad. He would have wanted you to become happy once more, to have a second chance at love."

She wanted to believe this but wasn't sure if she could, after all, she knew the kind of reputation he had and she knew that he had pushed this through just to solve a problem, and maybe even to pay off some sort of emotional dept.

That was all she was to him, a quick and simple solution, nothing more. He anticipated a wife who would do his bidding, provide him with a nice façade towards the other realms and make him appear as a perfect prince, obedient towards his father and his duty. She swallowed hard, closed her eyes. "Don't you cry, don't you dare crying!"

Her own voice was shivering inside of her mind, indeed she was trapped. And in a short time she would become even more trapped than before, she would be his wife and there would be no way back, not until the end of the world. The maids were finished with her braid and one placed an exquisite necklace made from mithril and pearls around her neck. It was beautiful and costly but she didn't even notice that it was there. Her own eyes were staring at her from the reflection and they were huge and even darker than before. She wasn't aware of it but she was sitting in the very same room where the events leading up to this situation had occurred a little more than a year ago. She almost jumped out of her seat when the door opened and one of the kings servants entered with a smile. "Ladies, it is time"

Chapter one: A wolf among sheep

He had been busy when the servant approached him, he didn't know the ellon and felt a bit annoyed, he was in the middle of a history lesson and didn't like being disturbed. The servant bowed and he could see that the ellon was a bit worried, there was something dark within his hazel glance and he immediately suspected the worse. "My lord, your father requires that you come to his office, right now!"

Thranduil sighed and smiled at his teacher, a scholar who had followed Oropher from Lindon and was very loyal to his house. "I guess that means that we have to finish this later."

The scholar just bowed his head and smiled pleasantly but Thranduil could see that he didn't like the intrusion more than the prince had. The servant had already left so Thranduil didn't get the chance to ask him what this was about, he sighed and straightened himself up, it could be a million things really. Oropher was demanding and he expected his son to behave as a prince was supposed to behave and be an example to follow for everybody else. Thranduil tried, he really did and Oropher was also understanding and not at all a harsh father but sometimes it was so darn hard to be a royal person. Everybody was judging him, or at least it felt that way. He had to think about everything he said and did before he even opened his mouth. It felt unnatural and the only time when he truly felt free was when he was out in the woods with his friends and could forget about his title and just be himself.

He walked towards Oropher's study, curious but also a bit worried. Oropher didn't usually ask him to show up like this, while in the middle of his lessons, it had to be something important. He knew that his father was anticipating him so he didn't bother to knock, he just walked right in and saw that Oropher was sitting behind his desk with a glass of wine in his hand and a stack of papers in front of him. He looked tired. So, this was probably some matter of state? Would he perhaps give Thranduil yet another duty from which there were no escape? He felt that he sometimes became utterly confused by all the things he already had to do. "Father, you asked for my presence?"

Oropher nodded and his smile was a bit stiff, he was normally a rather cheerful person known for his gentle personality and strange sense of humor. Some of the golodhrim would perhaps claim that Oropher was more than a little mad in some ways but he chose to follow his own path and do things his own way and Thranduil admired his father's strength. "Thranduil, I spoke with the father of a certain elleth today, he was not pleased to say the least. Does the name Mariel ring a bell?"

Thranduil felt his ears burn and he went pale. "Yes, but I swear, nothing happened that wasn't completely innocent, I didn't touch her ada!"

Oropher sighed, he got up and poured another glass of wine. Thranduil did notice that the decanter was almost empty, his father had to have been drinking rather heavily this day. Oropher took a deep breath and made a grimace. "I believe you Thran, I know that you wouldn't in any way compromise an elleth's honor. But this isn't the first time something like this has happened and you know this."

He felt himself blush, stared down at the floorboards and felt that the whole situation had become very awkward and uncomfortable. Oropher sighed again. "You are a prince Thran, not a commoner. If I wasn't the king of this realm nobody would have given a damn if you went from one elleth to the next like some butterfly crossing a meadow of flowers. Heck, most ellyn act that way at a certain age, it is normal. "

Thranduil didn't know what to say, his father was right, he had been seen way too often with different ellith but nothing serious had happened. He was always the perfect gentleelf and although he had lost his virginity he only had been with someone twice. He hoped that his father didn't know about that too. Oropher stared straight at him, the deep blue eyes were calm but there was something almost ominous within them. "I will tell you one thing Ion nin, something you may not be aware of. If someone else than you had been seen in the garden with Mariel, do you think that her father would have complained?"

Thranduil didn't really know what to say, he felt confused. "Ah, I don't know?"

Oropher rolled his eyes. "Wrong answer son, he wouldn't have raised an eyebrow! He would probably let her do whatever she pleased and cared naught about the identity of that ellon. There is one thing you need to know and that is that as a prince you are sought after, not only by the ellith themselves but by their families. You are a possible source of power son, an easy path to influence. You must have noticed how popular you are? How eager the ellith are? Do you think they would be so forward and daring towards some other young ellon? It isn't just your good looks they are after Thran, it is the title of princess they seek, not only a chance to get into your bed."

Thranduil swallowed, Oropher was right, some of the ellith were a bit too bold, made suggestions that were almost indecent and they had shocked him but he had believed that it was because the inhabitants of the great Greenwood were a bit different than the Sindar when it came to culture and traditions. To hear Oropher explain this to him actually hurt his pride and not just a little. He had thought that it was he they were after, not his title. Oropher saw the expression within his eyes and his face turned sad, almost apologetic. "I am sorry son, but it is a fact. You cannot allow this to happen again, first of all it ruins your reputation and second of all, someone may use it as Mariel's father attempted to do today. It is best for you to get married and that as soon as possible."

Thranduil just stared at his father, mouth agape and horror within his eyes. "I…I can't just marry someone?! I don't want to!"

Oropher put down his glass and his eyes turned cold again. "Thranduil, listen to me. This is serious. If we had been fortunate enough to live in a time of peace I wouldn't have cared this much, I would have let you take your time but you have to understand my concern. War is brewing and if the worst thing happens and you must take my place then you will need a wife by your side and more than that, you will need an heir. The people need to see that the house they have chosen as their leaders is strong, that the family line is unbroken."

Thranduil just whimpered, this was absolutely not what he had imagined that this conversation would be about. He swallowed hard. "But Ada, please, I am not ready to get married? I am too young!"

Oropher just shook his head. "Nonsense, most are already married at your age. If we have to lead our people into battle then I need to know that the line of succession is secured. Someone has to rule this realm in my absence and the people will feel more secure knowing that there always will be someone in charge."

Thranduil had to grasp onto the back of a chair, he felt like he had to sit down but he could not, not while his father was standing. "I…I don't know of any ellith I would want to marry, I don't really know anyone that well and shouldn't marriage be about love? About finding your one?"

Oropher sighed and his eyes got a bit softer. "Yes, it should. Unfortunately we are royal son, and we do not have that privilege. Our realm needs hope and joy and something which takes their minds away from the growing darkness. A royal wedding could be just what they need."

Thranduil almost whimpered again, he felt as if the ground underneath his feet was giving in, he was almost panting. "Ada, I can't. I really can't!"

Oropher sent him a somewhat wry grin. "Really? The rumors state that you indeed are capable of quite a performance between the sheets. I would be disappointed otherwise, we have to excel, also in such matters. But this is no joke Thran, you do need a wife. I am willing to give you one year from today"

Thranduil frowned. "One year? For what?"

Oropher smiled. "To find an elleth you think you can live with. If you haven't found someone by the end of the year I will chose an elleth of noble birth, there are lot of families of high social status with daughters ready for marriage, most of them are from Lindon and Imladris but they can adjust to our realm and its ways easily."

Thranduil bit his lower lip. "Please ada, say you meant an ennin?(long year=144 years)"

Oropher shook his head. "No, one year, twelve months, 365 days. I suggest you start looking soon, I am counting on you son, and don't make the wrong choice!"

Thranduil just stood there, staring at his father and he didn't really know what to think or feel. He had to get married? His life was indeed over!

Oropher shook his hand, almost indifferently. "You are dismissed, you may leave. And I do not want to hear of any more incidents with ellith of the…eager…type!"

Thranduil just managed to make a squeaking noise. "Yes ada"

He turned around, rushed out of the door and ran towards his private rooms, he felt almost betrayed by his own father, it hurt more than any scolding or harsh words ever could. How could Oropher do this to him? How could he put this realm in front of his own son's happiness? Didn't his own flesh and blood matter? Was he some pawn, some marionette? He had to stop and close his eyes, one of his teachers had once said that everybody were a part of this huge game of chess that the gods were playing and those in power were the pieces used to control it. He was just a chess piece, something that could be manipulated and moved as his father wanted, to achieve whatever it was that he was after. Thranduil closed his doors, ran over to the bed and threw himself down upon it. He hadn't cried since he was a child but now he felt like crying again, he had suddenly realized how little freedom he really had, and it was all because of his father's title and power. He just lay there shivering in emotional turmoil and after a few hours he slowly drifted off into an uneasy sleep.

He woke up with a start, someone was standing at the side of his bed pulling at his robe and he grunted and lifted his head slowly. It felt as though it was filled with wool and his mouth was dry. The person standing by his bed was Teren, one of his best friends. Teren was the son of one of Oropher's counsellors and he was well known for his rather untraditional approach to rules and etiquette. Thranduil could no longer count how many times Teren's weird little pranks had turned into major disasters but somehow he always came out of it all unhurt. Teren was so darn charming nobody was able to remain angry at him for more than a few minutes at the most and he knew exactly how to use that charm of his to his ultimate benefit. "Wake up, have you grown lazy?"

Thranduil yawned and felt stiff, he had fallen asleep with his clothes on and he felt cold and a bit confused, then he remembered and his mood plummeted. He groaned. "No Teren, I am not lazy, I am doomed!"

Teren frowned, his pretty face and very youthful appearance fooled many into believing that he was nowhere near reaching maturity but in fact he was a grown ellon and a very capable fighter too. "What? What is it this time, do your father want you to do an inventory of the treasury again?"

Thranduil had gotten that not very enviable task once before, and it had been so boring he almost went insane from it, it didn't get any better when Mornar, the chief of the treasury thought that he had done a miscalculation and then he had to do the whole damned thing all over again. He had been ready to murder that stiff old dusty Doriathrin nag.

Thranduil sat up, he hoped that Teren didn't see how close he had been to tears. "Worse Teren, this time I am in real trouble I fear."

Teren looked a bit nervous. "Oh crap Thran, don't tell me you have sown some wild oats?"

Thranduil hid his face in his hands, he knew he looked like an utter mess with his hair in tangles and his robes wrinkled and dirty. "No, how can you believe that about me? You know that I never go all the way with those ellith."

Teren sighed. "Well yeah, you flirt like crazy but that's it, so what's the matter then?"

Thranduil tried to gather himself, tried to look calm but he couldn't, it still hurt too much. "My father has given me one year to find a suitable wife, if I fail he will find one for me!"

Teren almost laughed but his eyes were shocked. "Damn Thran, you getting married? That will be the day the ice of the north melts."

The prince just moaned. "Then prepare for a giant flood, for there is no way out of this. My father has made up his mind and I can't make him change it. I am done for!"

Teren sat down next to him and there was compassion within his gaze but also a hint of mirth, he wouldn't be himself if he didn't see the funny side of this too. "Thran, it doesn't have to be that bad, if you find a really nice one I am sure you could be perfectly happy."

Thranduil just shrugged. "Yeah, happy! With yet another person keeping an eye on me and making demands. Oh Valar, sometimes I wish I was just an ordinary soldier or a farrier or something like that."

Teren cocked his head. "Ah come on Thran, try to look at it from a positive perspective. At least you will have someone warming your bed every night and once you are married your father will stop watching over you as if you were a toddler still. I am sure you will find the perfect elleth before long."

Thranduil got on his feet, walked over to a small table and poured himself some water, he drank greedily and felt that he needed a bath, really bad. "Oh I am sure I will, and I did indeed see a pig fly this morning. Damn it Teren, all that these ellith are after is my title, they are really like leeches and I didn't understand that until today. There are no one here I can imagine myself spending the rest of my existence with."

Teren looked as if he was thinking really hard. "You have Marta? Isn't she nice?"

Thranduil made a grimace. "She looks like a horse! And she smells like one too."

Teren grinned. "She does not but okay, you are right, she does look a bit like a horse, an underfed one. What about Olosta?"

Thranduil bit his lower lip and sighed, he turned around, stared at Teren. "No, and do you know why? That elleth has less intelligence than this piece of cheese!"

He held up a plate containing the remains of his lunch, a piece of slightly molded cheese lay on it. Teren held his hand up in front of his mouth, barely able to contain his laughter. "Darn, well, you are right about her in that perspective, she is infamous for being a bit short when it comes to wits and wisdom but she is pretty wouldn't you agree?"

Thranduil found a comb and tried to get his hair back into its usual elegant look but it was too tangled. "Ow, yes but she is so boring she would make even a balrog fall asleep."

Teren was thinking again. "Melda? Lissa? Luinell?"

Thranduil shook his head violently and almost lost his balance. "No, no and no! Those three are harpies, I am sure of it. The worse gossip spreaders within this entire realm, haven't you heard what Melda called you?"

Teren got a puzzled expression upon his fair face. "Has she called me anything? I didn't know that, what?"

Thranduil sighed and looked down at the floor. "She has apparently claimed that you didn't perform very well, from what I have heard she thought that even a rabbit would last longer than you did."

Teren went red. "Oh that…bitch! Right, don't marry that one Thran, or else you will see the end of a lovely friendship, ours!"

Thranduil tried to think, but his mind was blank. Teren got on his feet again. "Listen up, don't lose all hope just yet, remember there is to be held a huge festival in just two months, there will be elves coming from all the realms. I bet there is some nice pretty young thing among them worthy of you."

Thranduil made a grimace as if he had tasted something very disgusting. "Yeah right, I bet the only ones to show up are the kind who drools at the prospect of becoming a princess. I swear, they would gladly marry an orc if that gave them a title."

Teren made a strange sound, it sounded as if he was choking. "Maybe, so we will have to play your cards well my prince. What if the ones you fancy doesn't know who you really are?"

Thranduil turned around very slowly. "Yeah right, that is gonna be easy as pie! How the heck am I gonna conceal the fact that I am who I am?"

Teren just shrugged. "Oh we'll come up with something? Cheer up, it isn't the end of the world you know!"

Thranduil almost growled. "Oh but it is, too me it is!"

Teren went over, patted him on his shoulder. "Relax mellon, I'll have a small chat with the other's, I bet there has to be a way out of this mess, trust us."

Thranduil managed to smile but it didn't reach his eyes. "I trust you but I am not so sure that I should trust you in this."

Teren grinned. "You are hurting my feelings, what are friends for if not for helping each other out?"

Thranduil rolled his eyes, sighed. "Very well then, but I am warning you, no great plans or schemes that may end up as utter disasters, you hear me?!"

Teren shook his head, held his hands up. "No, no way, trust me Thran, it is gonna be alright you know. Go take a bath and forget about this, after all, you do have an entire year!"

Thranduil bit his teeth together so hard his jaws started hurting. A year? It was a mere blink of an eye and he waited until Teren had left the room before he grasped a book from his desk and tossed it at the wall in a fit of despair and frustration. A year, Oropher could as might as well have given him one day!

He went to the baths, the warm water of the pools helped him relax but he still had that uneasy feeling rooted deep within his chest, he had almost a sort of foreboding fear that this could turn out to become something very bad, or even dangerous. He had never had the gift of foresight but his instincts were as keen as any elf's and they told him to be aware. Things had been set in motion that could very well spell disaster for them all, he just could not comprehend how that could be. He stayed in the bath for a couple of hours, he really should have been elsewhere, doing his daily duties but he feared to face his father again, feared to lose his temper or show anyone how upset he had become.

The next day went by more or less as they usually did, nothing out of the ordinary happened and he almost managed to believe that the whole thing had been a bad dream. He went from one duty to the other, practiced his swordplay, spent some time at the archery range, went hunting a few times and had long and incredibly boring lessons in politics and tactics. He barely saw his father who was mostly busy with reports regarding the rising force of Morgoth's servant Sauron and the increase in attacks by orcs and other foul creatures. Thranduil did not worry that much about these things, he wasn't really regarded as a part of the kings council and he knew that Oropher was in some ways shielding him from the full truth. It made him worried at times but it didn't really make him frightened.

It wasn't before a couple of weeks had gone by that he started to notice something peculiar, whenever he participated in social gatherings the ellith started to act differently than before, they were not so bold, not so daring. No, they were acting more like they were very shy towards him and yet found him irresistible. Thranduil saw that even ellith with a somewhat doubtful reputation suddenly acted as the purest rose and he soon started to suspect that Teren had been a bit too careless with who he told of Thranduil's small problem. Someone had probably had a small slip of the tongue and now everybody knew that the prince was trying to find a bride. And so the ellith tried to convince him of their virtues and he felt almost smothered by the attention. He wanted to strangle Teren but at least he knew that the cat was out of the bag. He tried almost desperately to avoid the females and he even ate his dinner down in the kitchen. The head of the kitchens was an elderly elleth who had followed his father for many long years and Thranduil had almost thought of her as a sort of spare mother. Aira was a very gentle and understanding elleth and he had opened up to her and told her of the problem. She had no good advice to give this time, but she strongly suggested that he thought this through very thoroughly, he should not just chose someone to follow his father's bidding, that would be unfair both to him and the elleth he chose.

Thranduil knew this and he dreaded the upcoming festival, the palace was in an uproar and preparations were made continuously. There were no peace and quiet to be found anywhere, elves were scurrying around being busy with everything from gathering food to hanging up the best woven tapestries. Thranduil kept himself busy studying but his friends often came to visit and he tried to hide how angry he was with their recklessness, he hadn't wanted anyone to know that he was looking for a wife. By now the females were constantly bothering him and he feared that he soon would start hating them all. The worse thing wasn't that the young maidens were interested, no! The worse thing was their families, he couldn't count the number of mothers, fathers, siblings, uncles and aunts who had either come to him or just met him by coincidence within the corridors and started to speak very fondly and with much flatter about this or that elleth in their family who were just so beautiful, virtuous and perfect. He felt as though he was becoming some recluse by the time the festival started, he stayed within his rooms and he swore to himself that if he even met one more elleth who "accidentally" showed a bit too much skin he would turn to the love of males instead, at least they didn't try to flirt this shamelessly.

The festival was to honor spring and it was a joyous occasion but he did not look forward to this at all. He had to appear and he knew that Oropher probably would parade him by the daughters of several prominent elves of the other realms as though he was some sort of price. He wished for it all to be over with. At night he would lay in bed and pray the Valar to grant him invisibility for just a couple of days so that he could hide from everyone.

Oropher had given him some new clothes too, robes in some rather dark colors and they did make him look outstanding but he felt like some exotic animal on display. He hated it.

He was right, his father did parade him through the crowd, showed him off to everyone and he had to smile and pretend as though he was enjoying the conversations. He wanted to run off, into the woods with his friends. Teren and Antarar were enjoying themselves a lot, they were flirting and dancing and having a great time but Thranduil felt how his face hurt from the constant fake smile he had to wear. The music and the food was excellent and the wine even better and before he really knew it he had drunk way too much of it and was getting tipsy. The official part of the festival was over, everybody was just enjoying themselves and he felt a deep sense of relief. He really didn't have to be there any longer and so he ran back to his rooms, got out of the robes and into more informal clothing before he went into the back garden to get some fresh air.

He heard the racket from the partying through the walls and he made a grimace, it was too loud. His head felt funny and he went over to a fountain and splashed water into his face, took a deep breath of relief. It felt wonderful, he stared up at the starlight sky and knew that what he saw up there was all the beauty he would ever need. He just wished that he never would lose the joy he felt whenever he gazed up at the starlight sky. He sat down on a bench, close by some flowers which he always had favored. Their scent was a bit sweet but it had a strangely haunting quality to it that he found irresistible. He just sat there and allowed his mind to wander and he was almost asleep when he suddenly heard movement, someone was walking along the paths and he tensed up. He feared that it was Teren or someone else looking for him, trying to persuade him to partake in the merrymaking once again but it was a stranger.

An elleth came slowly walking along the path. She was staring down at the gravel at her feet and she was wearing a most unusual gown. It was almost black and made from a very heavy fabric, embroidered with dark red roses along the sleeves and neckline and it had some geometric shapes along the edge of the skirt. Thranduil had never seen anyone wearing anything like that before and he lifted his gaze and stared at her. She was indeed a stranger, he had never met her before and he surely would have noticed her because she was most unusual. She had hair the color of a ripe field of wheat and it wasn't as straight as it usually is on elves. Instead it was wavy with ringlets and it reached her calves. Thranduil raised an eyebrow in confusion, who was this elleth? She wore no jewelry but the dress had to be expensive and she moved with a sort of grace which told of noble birth. She was rather tall and elegant and her eyes appeared to be deep blue like a lake in the summer sun.

What was she doing there? She stopped by the fountain and let her hand slide through the water, she looked as if she was in deep thoughts and he didn't want to startle her. He had to look twice, she was highly unusual in many ways, her skin a bit darker than normal and her body appeared to be that of an athlete. She had muscles, and something about her reminded him of a wolf. She turned around and saw him, gasped and looked startled. He didn't know what to say so he just bowed his head a bit. She looked almost angry for being disturbed and he brazed himself for what he knew would happen when she recognized him. His friends had tried to persuade him to disguise himself but he had refused, he had also refused to meet all the ellith they had tried to convince him were the perfect match for him. She just stood there and stared at him, almost aggressively and he felt awkward, felt as though he had to do something. He got on his feet, took a few steps forward. "My lady, I am sorry if I startled you but I was just sitting here enjoying the skies."

She raised her chin, eyes blazing. Yes, they were blue, in an most amazing deep color and she had a pair of very pretty pink lips and her cheeks were rather dark, as if she was blushing. "Then go on, admire the stars. Let me not hinder you!"

Thranduil was a bit shocked by her tone, she sounded so angry. "Pray tell, have I upset you my lady? In that case I do most sincerely apologize."

She just stared at him and he was a bit fascinated by the dark fire in her eyes, this was one feisty elleth. "May I ask your name my lady?"

She crossed her arms in front of her chest, stared at him in a way that was almost a challenge. "Why should I tell you my name?"

He was shocked, nobody had spoken like that to him before, she was being far from polite. "Well, first of all you are standing in my father's garden and as my father's son I …"

She interrupted him."I know who you are, Orophers spoilt son, the one who thinks that he is irresistible."

Thranduil almost gasped, he just stared at her with his mouth wide open. Was this elleth mad? That could explain why he hadn't seen her before. He tried desperately to remain cool and to stay polite. "Yes, I am Orophers son, Prince Thranduil of Greenwood at your service."

She looked at him, from his face and down and up again. "Yeah, service indeed. I know what sort of service you would like to provide!"

He was getting angry but even more shocked. "I beg your pardon? Who are you to offer me insult within the confines of my own home?"

She raised her chin again, a proud and defiant stance. "I am known as Vanima of Imladris and I don't care who you are!"

He had never even heard of someone of that name, beautiful indeed. "With that tongue of yours young lady you should not have carried such a name, it does not suit you."

She just scoffed, turned around on her heel and then she just left, she walked away as if he wasn't even there and he gasped and stared at her in utter shock. "Hey, wait a minute, don't you dare turn your back on me! Damn it elleth!"

She was gone, and she had in fact answered with a rather obscene gesture, Thranduil just remained standing there in utter shock. Nobody had ever dared to talk to him like that let alone give him the finger! And then it struck him like an arrow from a powerful bow, she was the first elleth he had met in a very long time that hadn't tried to flirt with him, in fact she had acted as if she was disgusted by him and suddenly he desperately needed to know why, and who the heck she was who thought she could treat a prince of the Sindar in such a disrespectful way.

He was still standing there looking a bit shocked when someone else came walking by, this time it was indeed Teren and the ellon was a bit drunk, he wasn't as sure footed as he usually was and he had a silly grin that made Thranduil sigh to himself. Teren was just the way he usually was when a big party was being held. Teren stopped and raised an eyebrow. "What's the matter Thran, you look like you've seen the dark lord himself?"

Thranduil just made a grimace. "No, but I have seen something that's probably twice as hostile and three times more fierce."

Teren shook his head to clear his mind. "What are you talking about?"

Thranduil sat down again, he still felt a bit angry and more than a little annoyed by her behavior. How could she have said the things she had, she didn't really know him at all! He took a deep breath. "Teren, do you happen to know anything about an elleth by the name of Vanima? Tall, blond, wearing a strange black dress?"

Teren looked a bit confused. "No? I have never heard that name before, black dress? That's unusual?"

Thranduil clenched his teeth together until his jaw hurt. "No kidding, this mad female came walking through the garden as if she owns the place and insulted me in a most…discourteous manner!"

Teren looked shocked and a bit intrigued. "What? What happened?"

Thranduil rolled his eyes and then he started telling his good friend of the strange encounter and Teren's eyes went wide and his mouth stood open. "Damn! She must be insane or something? Did she give you the finger?!"

Thranduil sighed. "Yep, she did. She was as angry as a she dragon with thirteen pups!"

Teren grinned. "Right, I am on it Thran, I am going to find out everything about her, fear not!"

The prince cringed. "Teren, if the word discrete is in your vocabulary then please think about its meaning! I do not want to cause any problems."

Teren looked a bit nervous all of a sudden. "Thran, she insulted you, are you sure you won't do her any harm? I am not going to help you if that is the case for I am not one to get females into trouble of any kind."

Thranduil shook his head. "No, absolutely not, I just want to know who the heck she is and why she acted in such an unusual way. I have never met an elleth with such a temper before."

Teren smiled, there was a weird twinkle in his eye. "Right, then I will see what I can do, by the way, was she pretty?"

Thranduil sighed. "Yes, she was very pretty. Go ahead if you are interested but beware, I think an orc would be far more charming than that fury!"

Teren just nodded and was off, he looked very eager and Thranduil closed his eyes and took a deep breath, he had a feeling of dread. Teren would most certainly manage to turn this into a real mess, he always did. Thranduil didn't have that many he could call real friends and Teren was one of them and he didn't want to lose any of them but on the other hand, Teren could sometimes be a nuisance. He was just so overly eager to please and he rarely saw that his actions could have unimaginable consequences. Thranduil just hoped that Teren managed to get the information without letting the elleth know of what he was doing.

Vanima had walked back to the party with her chin held high and her eyes ablaze, she was so angry she was seeing red and her hands were shivering. She didn't usually act like this, she was after all no lunatic but she had a bit more temper than she ought to and she was unable to control it. This very evening, before the party her parents had told her that someone had approached them, asking for her hand in marriage. They had not told her who this was but she had her suspicions, and the very idea made her cringe. She was not going to marry that moron, never. He was too boring, too much of a softy and way too old for her. To her it didn't matter if he had a pedigree spanning back to the very first forefathers and came from a family well known for their impeccable taste and moral. And he did most certainly belong among those she saw as spoiled and weak.

Vanima had never been a spoilt child, she had several siblings and she had been born several centuries after the last one of them so she was the youngest in the family and she had never been regarded as someone important. She was almost ignored much of the time and her flaring temper was perhaps a result of this. She was a difficult person to be around but she had a lot of strength and she was both stubborn and rather smart. She loved to read and was far more learned than most females her age, she had always had a strong sense of curiosity and wanted to know as much as she possibly could about almost everything. No wonder she had driven her parents more or less in sane with her constant questions, they had left her with their nannies rather early and she had never managed to develop a good relationship with neither of them. Being of a very good family meant being privileged but also inhibited. There were so many things she could not do and she had started hating her life rather early, she idolized the avari elves who lived as one with nature and she would have run off and joined them if she had gotten the chance.

She slowed down, walked out among the elves who were partying like before and she saw that her parents were talking with some friends. They were so superficial, she did not understand them at all. To them power and wealth was everything and Vanima had never wanted any of that. To her it was almost corrupted, something which to her was a very good example of how far from their origin they had come. She walked over to a table to get something to drink, the thought of the prince she had met brought a sarcastic grin to her fair face. Yet another spoiled ellon who thought the world of himself, she knew the type. She took a glass and a tall darkhaired ellon with a gentle face approached her. She smiled at him, he was a friend of her father and one of the few people she really did like. Feanuldo was very gentle and he treated her with such respect, she was not used to that at all. To her he was almost like a kind uncle although they weren't kin at all, he was just a very close friend of the family. He had always been there for her and she trusted him, she could confide in him and tell him of her thoughts and her doubts. He agreed with many of her ideas and with her basic ideology and they had many nice conversations.

Vanima smiled at him and Feanuldo grinned and picked up a glass for himself. "I saw you leaving dear child, and I envied you. Your father is yet again bragging about those plans of his, I wish someone would throw a spell of muteness onto him, just for a few days. It would be a blessing indeed."

Vanima had to giggle, he had such a great sense of humor and Feanuldo would never stare at her in that peculiar way that made her skin crawl. He respected her and even when he did praise her beauty he did it in a way that was elegant and very decent. "Oh I think that would be wonderful, he is too fond of his own voice."

Feanuldo nodded and cocked his head. "You looked like a stormcloud when you returned, why so upset my dear?"

Vanima tossed her hair back and sighed. "I just met Oropher's son, by the fountain. He is such an insufferable idiot!"

Feanuldo raised an eyebrow, looked a bit shocked. "Really? Did you speak with him?"

She felt her cheeks starting to get red. "No, but you know the type right? Rich, spoiled, too darn good looking and very well aware of it?"

Feanuldo grinned, but there was something strange within his gaze,"Vanima, do not make the mistake of judging anyone before you truly know them, for all you know he could be a very nice person."

Vanima scoffed. "Right, I am sure he is! Haughty is what he is, and insufferable. I know what the ellith say about him"

Feanuldo made a grimace. "And what is it that they say? I have told you before that gossip never should be considered as anything but lies, you are too clever and too good to believe in such nonsense."

She blushed again, he was right but she couldn't help it. She had to believe it. "They say that he is a bit too popular among the females, he is probably bedding someone new every night."

Feanuldo shook his head. "Vanima, listen to yourself for a second. Do you think Oropher would allow this type of behavior?"

She just gulped. "Ah, no?"

Feanuldo nodded. "Exactly, I bet that most of those rumors are just the vicious kind of gossip people in the grasp of jealously are making up. He is after all the prince and very handsome, some like to hate the things they cannot have."

Vanima sighed. "So I have been wrong in my assumptions?"

Feanuldo shrugged. "Possibly yes, but on the other hand, he could be just the kind of person you fear that he is, arrogant and all."

Vanima made a grimace. "Anyway, I have no intention of speaking with him ever again just so you know it."

Feanuldo laughed and petted her shoulder. "Very well my dear, you decide who you want to be around, that is your privilege. Enjoy the evening child, I see your father waving for me to join him again, if I have to listen to more of his bragging I swear I will go slightly mad."

Vanima just giggled and he kissed her hand politely before he turned to join the others. Vanima finished her drink and walked over to one of the fires that were burning, she felt cold and wanted to be left alone. Had she really been wrong in her assumptions? Then she had been very unjust towards him and should apologize but she didn't think she had to courage to do that. After all, she was a guest there and she had probably given him the shock of a lifetime. No, she was better off forgetting about the whole damn thing.

Vanima did not know of it but eyes were watching her this evening, eyes burning with a dark flame and even darker intentions. They never left her, followed her every move with the patience of a hunter who knows that the prey is helpless to escape. A mind was making plans, everything had to be perfect but she would be his. She was the only one, so pure, so strong. He was almost licking his lips watching her, so delicate. He was rather sure that her screams would be exquisite, something very special. She had such light, such energy. It would be so joyful to corrupt and twist it, ruin it and leave it soiled and extinguished like a flame left in the rain.

She would never belong to anyone else, it was a sacred oath, such a thing of exceptional quality, so unusual and unique. She was not at all like the others, she would most certainly fight and he was looking forward to it. He hadn't faced a real challenge for many centuries now, the hunter was getting hungry once more and a more promising prey had never crossed his paths before. She would be the one, the one to fulfill his every fantasy, to make him complete, to show him the true meaning of power. Oh he would be so much stronger afterwards, more than ready to serve his master. She would be the key to unravelling his true potential, how ironic it really was. There he was, among them, walking through the crowd like a wolf among sheep and they would never know the truth. And Vanima, the beautiful one, the carrier of light. She would be the sacrifice needed, the last one. It was such a joy to see how she avoided the other ellyn, how she remained pure. No, he would not let anyone get near her, if anyone tried then he would most certainly have to interfere. But he was so much smarter than the others, they would never know about him, never. Not until it was too late. She remained standing by the fire and he smiled, a grin well hidden. Soon, soon the moment would come, soon he would be ready and so would she. A world of darkness awaited and with it power unrestrained. Yes, it would be like a dream come true!

Golodhrim: Noldo elves.

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