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The Quest for the Silmaril

By evenstar8705

Romance / Fantasy

Chapter 1 Luthien the Fair

In the dawn of the First Age, there was a multitude of nations of a noble race of people dwelling upon the earth. Before the Second-Born, which was Mankind, a certain king's power dominated the lands of Middle-Earth, in the lost continent of Beleriand. Elwë was the original name of this powerful king, chosen from amongst his people to be one of the three leaders of his newly awakened race, whom Men would later name the Elves, though they named themselves the Eldar. Elwë and the other leaders' priority was to lead their people from Cuivienen to Valinor, in the hope that they would be protected and would no longer be pursued by Morgoth the Fallen Vala. This proved to be a false hope.

Elwë accepted his responsibility with stoic courage and dignity. The other leaders were Ingwë and Finwë. Ingwë's people were dubbed the Vanyar, for they completed the trek to Valinor and had little part in the struggles of Middle-Earth. Finwë was leader of the infamous Noldor. Elwë's was the Teleri and the largest assemblage. In fact, his flock was double the number of the Noldor and Vanyar divisions combined, and so he shared the leadership with his brother Olwë, dividing their numbers into two tribes, but their group was still so large that it was later divided yet again and again. Few of them ever reached Valinor, but contentedly ruled Beleriand instead.

The young Elwë was following behind the Noldor. The great number of his people was not such an advantage. Their going was sluggish, and the leader himself dawdled when they reached the forests. The forest was so beautiful. There was no presence of the taint of Morgoth. There was only the wind in the trees, the bubbling of the river, and the singing of countless birds.

"Those waters," he muttered under his breath. "I have never seen waters so clear."

"It would be wise not to drink it," his brother Olwë said. "I would not trust any water no matter how clean it looks. We do not know this land and Oromë warned us to be wary."

He and his brother Olwë were very much alike. They both had silvery hair, not iron gray. Their eyes were keen and silvery as well. They had high cheekbones, and a cleft in their chins. However, Olwë was more slender. He was tall, but no one could surpass Elwë's height. He towered over his brother at nine feet. He often joked with his brother that his size had intimidated everyone else and that was the reason why they chose him to lead. He was stronger and gave commands and took action while his brother was more prudent.

"Regardless of wisdom, our people will need as much water as they can get," Elwë pointed out. "Look, I will be the first to drink and if anything happens to me, you can take my place easy enough."

Before Olwë could stop him, he drank. The waters had a strange taste, but not an unpleasant one. An equal feeling washed over him. His head became clearer, and he became more aware of the birds in the trees, but he could not hear his brother's words. His lips were moving, but all he heard was a beautiful voice. It was the voice of a maiden, and yet he seemed to be the only one that heard it. Were the waters enchanted with some evil spell? He fled into the woods after the voice, losing his brother and wits.

The voice led him to the hill of Nan Elmoth, covered in flowers and surrounded by beech trees. The stars seemed to illuminate the clearing until it shone like a lamp. Here a slender figure stood clothed in black. She turned, and eyes that were nothing human or elfish met his. Her hair was black as her robes, her expression serene. Her face was oval shaped, eyes and nose narrow, and her lips red.

She was whistling to her birds, the nightingales, and after a glance paid no heed to him. It was her voice that he had heard. He had no idea who or what she was, but he was drawn to her as were her birds. She was so beautiful and he was so very young. She smiled at him as he stepped forward, but before he could reach out to touch her, she laughed and cast a cloak over his eyes. She must have cast some enchantment upon him, for he became suddenly drowsy and fell into a deep sleep.

Elwë vanished for a time. Years passed as he slept, dreaming of the maiden with the dark hair. When he awoke he was alone, or seemed to be alone. His brother Olwë had searched and searched, but he was nowhere to be found. He led a fraction of their people to Valinor. It was his solemn duty in his brother's place, but the stanch and the great majority remained waiting for Elwë to appear again. And when he woke, he heard her voice. She was there to greet him. He reached out to her, imploring to know her name.

"Begone to the Blessed Lands, Elf," she spoke, her voice was so soft and low it was almost a whisper. "This is my realm and has been so for all time. My father granted it to me and you do not belong here."

"Such a fair realm," Elwë replied. "Does it have a name?"

"Doriath."

"And do you have a name?"

"My name is Melian, and I know you, Thingol."

"My name is Elwë."

The corners of her mouth lifted in a small smile, "Your cloak is gray as your eyes. I thought it a fitting name, for the name means gray cloak."

"Who gave you this realm? You spoke of a father."

"I have the same father as you, for he is father to us all."

"Are you a Valier?"

"I am naught but an escaped fay from the gardens of Lórien. Now you should be returning to your people to continue your journey."

"I would stay with you."

She did not smile at that, "My realm is not as safe as the Blessed Lands. All of Middle-Earth, including my Doriath, is vulnerable to Morgoth. He is my Enemy, and the Eldar need not fight the Great Battles."

"You fight him alone?" Elwë was astonished.

"As alone as any Child of Ilúvatar can be."

"Let me be your fighting companion!" Elwë could not bear the thought of this fair maiden, Valier, whatever she was, fighting Morgoth alone.

"That is courageous of you, Elf."

And so Elwë returned to his people soon after, an enigmatic maiden accompanying him. He told them her name was Melian, a Maia. The Maiar were the children of the Valar, though she never revealed her parentage. She had departed from the gardens of Lórien and wandered the earth, and the people were curious about her. For a time she taught them many things about the land, gave advice and counsel. Her most diligent pupil was Elwë himself. In time, she became fond of the young Elf-King. Soon Thingol took her as his divine bride and queen. He was no longer Elwë, but Elu Thingol. He had a vision of a strong nation of Eldar, and Melian had counseled him to make a foundation that might withstand the might of their enemies, if only for a while. She warned that Morgoth had not forgotten them. So the Sindar and the kingdom of Doriath were born.

Thingol ruled the forest land of Doriath, reared from caverns underground called the Thousand Caves or the city of Menegroth. Doriath, the 'Land of the Fence,' was one of the great Three Hidden Kingdoms and the home of Thingol's people, the Sindar. It was the first of these kingdoms and well protected with a grand army of bowmen and scouts, and it remained well hidden by the forest in its earliest days. The city of Menegroth itself was hand-carved in rock deep where the river of Esgalduin flowed and fell upon the high rocks and cliffs of that region.

Thingol hired and established friendship with the race of the Naugrim of Belegost, which Men call Dwarves, to create the Thousand Caves, for the Naugrim could build or make almost anything out of rock and stone, and they were a sturdy and hard-working folk despite their gruff appearance. They were fast in friendship and quick to anger, but they delighted in nothing more than stone and metals and aided in the building. The solidarity of the Eldar and the Naugrim was astonishing.

Menegroth was a miracle of engineering.

This is the account of how Menegroth looked in the days of its glory. Before a great, rocky hill, there was hewn a bridge of stone over the river Esgalduin, and there it led to the gates that led inside the rock to passages and halls and mansions of hand carved stonework, made to resemble a stone forest, and it breathed and grew like a forest, for the rock was polished and tended to very carefully over the years. There were fountains and lamps of crystal. Flowers of span style="font-style:italic;"elanor /spanand span style="font-style:italic;"niphredil /spanstretched their way along the cave walls in sheets. The pillars of Menegroth were hewn into the likeness of beeches, stock, bough and leaf. There were basins of marble in which water from Esgalduin was channeled and flowed freely, and floors of many-colored stones. Carved figures of beasts and birds ran upon the walls or peered through the leaves of flowers and buds. There was wrought out the visions of Melian, images of the wonder and beauty of Valinor. There were hung afterward paintings made by the Queen herself, and in them, a little of the future was revealed. The Thousand Caves was indeed the fairest dwelling of any king that has ever been East of the Sea.

However, even in the dawn of time and amongst the Eldar themselves, there was strife. There was mistrust between the Noldor and Sindar. The Noldor, the wayward branch of the Eldar, grew restless in Valinor and returned to Middle-Earth, forsaking heaven and was from that day forward in exile. A certain number among them had also committed unforgivable crimes, carrying the wrath of the Valar and a curse to the rest of their kin. Many ages had passed during the Noldor's absence in Valinor, time enough for the Sindar's kingdom in Doriath to grow and swell, and all Teleri and lesser races among the Eldar acknowledged Thingol as their supreme lord. Their customs and cultures were different, even their language had become something wholly different so that few spoke the original tongue of Quenya. The Noldor was less numerous, but they were in many ways the equal of the Sindar. Their Royal House was divided between half-brothers. Morgoth had murdered Finwë but he had three children. The eldest was Fëanor, and the other sons were children from a second marriage. Fëanor and his seven sons wished nothing more than to usurp the throne from the other descendants of Finwë.

Meanwhile, Morgoth was searching for the Eldar, seeking the heirs of Finwë and Thingol alike. Finrod soon followed Thingol in suit and hired that same Naugrim and delved the underground mansions of Nargothrond once Menegroth was built. The Eldar survived for many ages in their secret kingdoms, but they were divided amongst themselves, and the Enemy was growing ever stronger. And, a new threat was upon the horizon, a threat that was long overlooked. That new danger was the Second Born, the Children of Man.

His hand was over glen and glade, for Elu Thingol possessed most of the lands of Beleriand. His people were numerous and prosperous. The Great Enemy had vanished from Middle-Earth and a Long Peace had begun. He wielded might and glories uncounted, and wealth untold; but Thingol wanted to have many sons that would become mighty lords in his kingdom. This was the time to have children. Soon the queen was with child, and Thingol was overjoyed. They were upon the hill of Esgalduin, walking under the stars, as they loved to do in the summer, when the queen saw the first signs of labor. Her handmaids had been waiting for this moment for a long while. An Elf-maiden carried her child for a full year. They lay the queen upon a bier. Thingol was led away and sat upon the grass and bowed his head to his knees.

When the child was born at last under the gleam of twilight, flowers sprang into bloom to greet the new arrival. And wherever Thingol's child went, flowers grew there in great numbers. The child was given into Thingol's arms, and the infant raised little hands to touch his face. The child was a she, but he no longer cared. She was far too beautiful to reject.

But Melian could no longer bear children. She knew so after the birth of their daughter. She wondered that they had a child at all and such a child! The baby had the eyes of her mother and taken much of her spirit. Another child might well kill Melian. She told Thingol she was sorry that she could never bear the son that he had so desperately desired. Their daughter was to be their only offspring, and Thingol rued it bitterly at first. He had wished to have many sons. Therefore, he treasured his only child and did all he could to safeguard her and keep her content.

As she grew in body, her beauty grew tenfold. Some said that when she reached maidenhood, she would be the fairest of the world. Thingol had no doubt it would be so. She was indeed the most beautiful of all Men and Elves. The like of her will not be found upon this earth again. As the stars of heaven mirrored in eternity, as the voice of clear waters, such was her loveliness and grace. Her beauty was divine, her voice unlike anything ever heard upon the face of the earth, and she was also a subtle dancer. No other names have been set before hers for her skill in song and dance, and she beguiled all hearts with the intense gaze of her eyes. That is why she was named Lúthien, which means 'the enchantress'.

The rumor of her beauty spread quickly, but few outside of her kingdom had as yet laid eyes upon her, for her father kept her near the heart of the Thousand Caves always. He coveted his daughter and feared all harm. She was the only heir to the Sindarin throne, daughter to the most powerful king among the lands East of the Sea. And over the years, Thingol grew to love her fiercely. She had given him great happiness. He could scarce be parted from her side. He loved her more than anything upon Middle-Earth. Many believe this was his greatest flaw.

As an Elvin-child, Lúthien had been clever, charming and mischievous, a horrible mix. She was also very happy, for at the time she was born, Morgoth was within his third age of his imprisonment. The child also bore a gift from her mother. The blood of the Maiar was in her veins. She was the only Half-Maia in history. But she was a child, and she loved to laugh and play tricks upon her servants and make up silly games like all young children did, and she laughed often. But some of her tricks landed her into a little more than her share of trouble.

It was near noon when Princess Lúthien awoke, though no sunlight touched her bedchamber in the Caves of Menegroth. It was in the waning years of the Age of the Trees, and only stars kept vigil in the sky. It had grown especially dark the past few weeks. Some of the Sindar murmured with apprehension, but Lúthien had never known such fear. Any day she expected the light to return.

She rose from her bed of satin and feather pillows, rubbing sleep from her eyes, and rummaged through her clothes in her dresser made of handcrafted beech wood, white as snow. She would be turning fifty today, she was half grown by the standards of her people. Elf-children did not reach physical maturity until they reached their first century and even then they were not considered fully adult until they were about two hundred years old. Even so fifty years was something to be proud of. No doubt today would be more special than her previous birthdays.

She chose a single dress and looked at it in her silver mirror, made to match her own size. She was wondering if she could put it on without another's aid when the door opened and she was greeted by the grinning face of one of her many tutors and friends, Daeron. He wore a brown challis with a pattern of stags prancing about on it, brown leather leggings, and walked barefoot. The Sindar seldom wore shoes, for the floors of the Caves were polished smooth.

"What are you doing here?" she asked with incredulous surprise.

"His majesty has summoned you," Daeron answered, giving an over elaborate bow. "I suspect that he wishes to appease you with jewels or something like that, whatever it is a young princess receives on her birthday."

"Did my Lord Father tell you what my gift is?"

"How do you expect me to know such a thing? I am not yet one of your Lord Father's counselors."

"You think I cannot read the subtle hints on your face? You know I can read you like a book."

"Thanks to our lady the Queen," Daeron moaned.

"Aha! Then you do know! Tell me!"

"You will learn what it is soon enough, but not from me. Now come."

"Let me get dressed properly first. Call my span style="font-style:italic;"nanoe/span, please."

"Call her yourself! A princess is supposed to have manners you know."

"And a councilor of the High Court should be charming," Lúthien answered. "But I will call her anyway. You wait outside for me. A princess must be modest."

Laisie came before the child could open her mouth to call her. She had a knack for sensing when she was needed. She had been the Princess' nanny since she was a babe. She wore fine white linen dyed an emerald green to match the emerald in her eyes. Even the servants of Doriath could afford luxuries. She glanced at Daeron and shook her head.

"Who gave you the privilege of being in the Princess' bower, young man? I do not believe she is to receive lessons today. Get out of here and go read a book or something."

Daeron looked a little stunned that Laisie had spoken to him and was a little afraid at the unbridled force in her voice. He backed away and gave a clumsy bow. Then he slipped out through the door.

"Why did you scare him like that?" Lúthien scolded. "He only came here to wish me a happy birthday."

"Well, I wanted to be the first to do that, Lúthien. So, who was that boy and how on earth did he sneak his way in here? A sweetheart perhaps?"

Lúthien made a face. "Daeron and I are like brother and sister. As for how he got in here, Willow let him in!"

"I shall have to reprimand her later. Hm. Brother and sister. I see the resemblance. You both love music and wild tales. It is about time you arose, young lady. The King is very anxious."

"To give me my present, of course. Do you know what it is, Laisie? Will you tell me? Please? I could not sleep for the longest time last night because I was thinking of it. I finally did fall asleep a few hours ago, so that is why it seems that I have been asleep so long."

Laisie smiled and shook her head. Then Lúthien smiled, and she had a smile that made Elves and Men run into fences. Laisie finished lacing her dress and plaited her hair.

"Make me my usual crown," Lúthien whispered. "It shall please my Lord Father."

Laisie obeyed, tying together a coronet of flowers. She set the 'crown' of niphredil flowers upon the girl and she ran out the door, laughing, and her laughter was like bells and soft rain.

"Whatever you do, do not go climbing trees again!" Laisie called after her. "You frighten the King so when you do that. Do you remember the time you were very young? You climbed into one of those big oaks and could not find your way down? You wailed for nigh an hour!"

"What oak?" Lúthien did not want to dwell on embarrassing moments right now. "Come on, Daeron!" she said, taking his hand. "You shall be my escort. I am afraid I shall burst with excitement if we remain here much longer, and we must escape Laisie's jabbering!"

"I thought her talk quite interesting. How long were you in that tree?" Daeron pressed.

"Not long," she answered stiffly.

They began walking through the halls of Menegroth, which were splendid indeed, but Daeron's eyes were drawn only to Lúthien at his side, for she was the most beautiful thing of all that walked in the Caves. She was only half-grown, and yet she had the air of a queen. She wore a dress of the softest, bluest silk with gold pins in her plaited hair. Blue was her favorite color, and she seldom strayed from it. Her crown of white flowers made her look even more fresh and young. She seemed to be the source of the light in all the Caves.

"That is a very pretty dress, Lúthien," he commented.

"It was an early present from Mablung and Beleg. And yes, it is pretty. They brought me all sorts of beautiful dresses from foreign parts. They would laugh if they heard me say that. The Laquendi are not so far away, they told me. I asked them if they would take me beyond the borders to see them, for they are our allies."

"Did the captains agree?"

"No. My Father would not allow it, even though it would have been a wonderful present indeed. I have never set foot beyond the Caves themselves."

Suddenly Lúthien let out a shrill cry. Her father swept her into his arms, and her mother stood by his side. They had been lying in wait for her in the shadows. She laughed a child's laugh.

"Ada, I will get you back for that!" she threatened playfully.

Her father was dressed splendidly, as usual. He sported scarlet silks inlaid with gold and many rings upon his fingers. Her mother wore a plainer garb, a gown of gray wool trimmed with white. She wore no jewels, but her hair was covered with a net of silver.

"Happy birthday," Melian said.

"Thank you, Mother."

To her surprise, Melian stooped down and embraced her and kissed her on the cheek. Her mother did not often like to be touched, and Lúthien wondered if it was because of what she was. After all, her mother was a Maia. Although she adored her father and certainly could give and receive affection much more from him, because Lúthien was Half-Maia, there was a bond between her and her mother that the King had no part of and could never understand.

"Come now with me," Thingol said. "We have a gift for you."

Lúthien clapped her hands together with glee and followed after her father. Melian watched them as they went and chuckled. Laisie stepped beside the queen.

"Do you think the little lass will be all right?" she asked.

Melian bowed her head and answered solemnly, "Now that Morgoth's imprisonment is at an end and no doubt is loose upon the world, the Long Peace will soon end. But my knowledge is limited in this kingdom. Nothing is certain and it would be better if Lúthien spent some time with her father."

"Is it safe to go riding into the woods? Does Thingol not know of the Darkening?"

"Whatever happens, Thingol will protect her, I am certain of that."

"Aye, my lady. Perhaps it is not my place to gossip so to his queen, but I believe Thingol is a little too protective of her. Lúthien often complains of this, though never to anyone but me."

"I know, but the strong feeling that Thingol has for her cannot be amended."

"I suppose all fathers are so. They can be gentle as lambs and as fierce as lions. I know I was so with my children, when they were still young. Ah, I know that you know this, my queen, but they grow so swiftly! Yet Thingol's flaw may be dangerous to Lúthien in the future."

"Your foreboding is near the mark, Laisie," Melian said. "I foresee the same, but it may avail to the inevitable. I know this only too well, but in despite, I wish it were not so. Lúthien is my daughter too, and I may become desperate to cling to her."

The King led his precious daughter from the Caves and stopped her suddenly. An impish smile played upon her lips. He covered her eyes with a piece of cloth. Then he led her by the hand. She clung to him, though she trusted him not to let her wander off into a pit or allow her to stumble over roots and loose stones. She loved surprises, but she could not bear this. At last, her father halted her. He kneeled so that he was at eye-level with his daughter, for he was a giant, even for one of the Eldar. He was the tallest child of Ilúvatar, and Lúthien was still a child yet! She would grow to be at least six feet. That was about the average height among her people, and her father and mother were exceptionally tall.

"May I look now?" she asked abruptly.

"Not yet. Wait only a moment longer."

Lúthien grumbled and waited. She grew impatient and was about to pull away the mask over her eyes when Thingol removed her blindfold.

"Now, my beloved," Thingol said, beaming with pride. "Look!"

Then she did look, and she saw the most beautiful white horse standing before her. Lúthien gasped in astonishment. The horse was a fiery, lovely little thing that frolicked about like a princeling. His coat was white; his hair plaited in gold. Lúthien presented herself to the colt and gave a courteous bow to show him respect. Then she slowly reached out her hand to caress him. He suffered her touch and was charmed by it. Her eyes were filled with a gleam of light, and she smiled the most luminous smile that she could muster. The horse let out a muffled whinny, and she kissed his muzzle and cooed to him.

"This is your horse," her father told her, laughing at her surprise and obvious pleasure. "Your mother and I bred him especially for you. You are big enough now to handle him, I think."

At first, Lúthien was so overjoyed that she could not speak. "Ada, he is wonderful!" she cried at last. "Thank you! Thank you, Father!"

There were not many things that Lúthien did not already have, and Thingol had wished to give her something special. He had showered her with gifts on previous birthdays, always being satisfied by her laughs and her kisses. The fact that she may not need these gifts was not relevant. She did enjoy playing with dolls and other such things occasionally, and the game of chess was a game she played often, and she was quite the master when it came to it. Very few could match her skill, for she was clever.

Perhaps there was more to it than mere cleverness. The extent of her capabilities seemed limitless, and she had many powers, if you will; however one may define it. She had the natural gift to guess and learn from expression and twisted words as all the Eldar, but she, in chess, saw the first chess-piece lay down and knew exactly what her opponent's next move would be. It was uncanny. She had a knack for such puzzle games and for seeing what others might not.

A new chessboard was what Thingol had fashioned himself for her last birthday. It was a remarkable piece of work. The pieces were carved out of wood, but of silver beech, and the characters were shaped and painted with such skill that they seemed to breathe life on their own, and Lúthien was quite fond of this gift. She challenged her mother many times to the game, for the Queen and perhaps Daeron the prodigy alone could match her skill.

Thingol had decided upon a horse for her next gift. He was tired of losing, and Lúthien adored animals. She had a way with them, but the decision took great thought. A horse could crush her underfoot like a flower in an unpredictable accident. But once he decided to give her a horse, he knew it must be special. Stallions were very strong and aggressive, but mares were skittish. Finally, he had a young colt bred to be spirited, beautiful, swift, and graceful. Melian took a hand as well by giving the horse a life far beyond its span of years by breeding it from the first herd of horses named the Mearhas, which were unlike any other.

Lúthien kissed her father, and he lifted her up onto the horse's back.

"What shall you name him?"

"Iavas!"

"Why that name?" Thingol asked curiously.

"He chose it, not I."

"What else does he say?" Thingol glanced at the horse.

He could never tell if Lúthien was simply a child pretending to be able to speak to animals or if she really could do so. The Eldar could understand animals well but not directly communicate. Melian could communicate with birds. Did her daughter have that power with all animals?

"He says that there is another horse beside him, and he does not know who he is. He demands to know his name and his purpose."

"Well," Thingol said, "his name is Mithos, and he is my horse. And we shall both be riding with you to Neldoreth. I have long prepared for today, Lúthien. Notice that there are few guards with us? I called Mablung and Beleg back some ways behind us. You and I may spend the day together in the woods riding so that you may get to know Iavas."

"Really?"

"Yes, Lúthien. Even a king has his duty to his own daughter on such a day as this!"

Lúthien bowed her head, and her eyes were shining, "Yes. I suppose they do."

"Does Iavas mind if we come along?"

Lúthien looked Iavas in the eye and answered, "He says that as long as Mithos does not bite, he will enjoy the company."

Thingol glanced at Iavas and chuckled. "Do not worry. Mithos does not bite."

"So then why are we waiting?" Lúthien cried suddenly. "Race me, Ada!"

Lúthien clucked to Iavas, and he gave a great burst of speed. Thingol called after her and leaped full upon his own horse. Mithos reared and snorted, and then he sprinted after them. All horses enjoy a good race now and then, and Mithos was a powerful horse, but Lúthien's horse was fiery and lean. Maybe he should have given her a tamer mare! She had heard her father's cry, of course, and pretended not to hear. She was unaware of any danger and she thought it thrilling and also amusing to see the all-powerful king riding behind. Thingol caught up to her, his horse puffing and sweating.

"Perhaps we should wait until you are bigger for a horse?" he asked with indignation.

"No!" Lúthien cried in horror. "Iavas asked if I would keep him forever, and I promised that I would!"

Thingol laughed. His threat was merely a bluff. She checked Iavas to a walk and rode beside her father, and they spoke together. They paused to see the falls of roaring water, and she stood in awe of the rock-walls that jutted toward the heavens. It was not often that she ventured from the Caves, and not without a myriad of guards about her. Since birth servants and guards had always surrounded her. This was to be expected of an heiress, but her father often overindulged himself in her safety. He could be quite chaffing. Today, she knew that she was being given many gifts. She had a horse, her father's undivided attention, and the gift of privacy, so precious to those with high eminence.

"Can we climb the cliffs, Ada? Or one of the trees? The trees here must be taller than any on Middle-Earth! I want to shimmy up to the top and sing and perch like a bird among the green leaves!"

"You already sing like a bird, and you would ruin your new dress."

"What good are dresses compared to fun? Even birds do not know how to fly right away. Do they wonder about it when they are babies? Do they anxiously await the day their mother knocks them from the nest, or do they dread it? Do they doubt themselves? Do they really like flying? I should ask them. I wonder… Could mother make me wings? She is a friend to all birds, why can she not give me wings?"

"Wings would be unnatural, and besides, your mother cannot give you wings."

"Oh," she sounded disappointed. "If I could climb those trees, I might be able to fly!"

She flapped her arms and squawked, no longer caring about her dignity or royal composure since she was with her beloved father and no one else. She could afford to be silly and childish. She began to whistle like a bird with extraordinary mimicry. The birds in the trees mistook her for one of their own and whistled in response. Melian had made certain her daughter had the gift of taming birds and speaking their language as well as many other schools of knowledge.

The queen was her primary teacher. It was Thingol's responsibility to teach her king craft, or in Lúthien's case, queen craft. Her other instructors included Mablung and Beleg. They taught her to sit a horse, the terminology of battle, basic combat. The last subject Thingol kept very limited. Her nanny Laisie taught her to weave, to conduct her manners, and to keep herself and her space clean. Even Daeron was included in her entourage of teachers. He would tutor her in language and penmanship. Melian taught her of birds and beasts, of singing and dancing, and other things, things that only Maiar could know.

"Well, you must not try to fly! If you fall, your life shall be forfeit, and others besides."

"Ah, but you shall be there to catch me," she said playfully. "You would not let me fall would you?"

Thingol turned away, no longer laughing and his voice carried a sting. "Do not jest about such serious things. I know my life would end at least!"

They began to speak less after his harsh rebuff. Then she saw that there were narrower paths leading away from the main trail. As they rode onward Lúthien suddenly had the impulsive desire of a little child to startle her father for laughs and avenge herself for the scare he had given her earlier. Lúthien had pride, there was no question about that, and though she was a sweet and dutiful child, she could be very rebellious at times. She was seized with temptation, whispered to Iavas, and slipped off the path while Thingol was not watching. He soon realized she was gone and called for her. Lúthien kept going, hoping he was not angry.

But the harmless prank backfired. She found herself wandering away from the boundary with Iavas becoming uneasy. He sensed something. It was not something that belonged there; something vile. He was so perturbed that he could no longer find the path, and she was miserably lost. She tried to back track, quite hopelessly, and it was beginning to grow dark. The stars seemed to be eaten up by the shadows. The forest was filled with an ominous silence. The trees that she had wanted to climb suddenly seemed like menacing giants curtaining unspeakable terrors as their green boughs turned an ashen color with a trick of lighting. She became very afraid and called desperately for her father, and she knew that he was seeking her in anguish.

Iavas heard something and perked up his ears. Lúthien began to hear sounds at last, for her ears were keen. The clamor echoed through the still forest so that it sounded eerie. She fancied that she heard the faint resonance of numerous footsteps and the clink of metal. Then she was filled with hope. Perhaps a company of her people on the hunt caused the noises?

It was not unusual for the Sindar to be found so far from Doriath. The common folk could do whatever they pleased, it seemed to her sometimes. It might even be Mablung and Beleg. They would gladly escort her back to her father, though she dreaded what they might say. They knew her well, after all, and they would certainly be angry. She had just broken the statute: No child should pass the borders unless accompanied or given special permission by an adult. The penalty was a beating. The Elves forewarned the children early and often, and Lúthien did not want to be the first child punished for it and suddenly dreaded being found.

Iavas disagreed strongly that it was friends. She spoke soothing words and said at last, "Very well, Iavas. You go and find my Father!" She slipped down and the horse bolted. She hoped he would catch Thingol's scent and lead him to her. In the meantime, she stood quite still and listened to the sounds.

She did not know that the sounds were caused by a host of Orcs. They were terrible demons come from Angband and were exploring the foreign region. In her innocence, she made toward the sounds. There came loud noises and shouts, and Lúthien cowered against the bole of a tree. The voices were harsh; certainly no one she knew had such a voice. Then through the thicket of brambles and trees came strange and hideous creatures. They were small and stocky, and they wore a strange metal she had never before seen. Each one seemed uglier than the last, and they all appeared to be male. Lúthien was disgusted and fascinated all at once.

"Hi! Halt, ya filthy laggards! HALT!" cried a harsh voice.

There was a lot of grumbling, and then there was an attentive silence.

"Why are we stopping?"

"Such a stupid question! Because I said so, addle-brain!" answered the captain, a large Orc. He must have been twice the size of his comrades. "You should never question my authority, you treacherous rebels! Have you maggots forgotten everything that you learned during training? I will report you!"

"But to whom shall you report us to? The Elves?" sneered an Orc. "They shall gladly silence the lot of us! Even you."

"Stop your grinning, or I will pull that annoying ring out of your snotty nose!"

The captain drew his scimitar. The inferior hesitated and did not draw his sword. As soon as Lúthien saw steel drawn, she quietly climbed up onto the nearest branch. The captain sneered and caught the smaller Orc by his nose ring. He hissed at him.

"Small talk, no action, I say! You must not be too bold here. We are all in danger now. I am trying to save my own skin as well as yours, though you cringing maggots do not deserve saving."

He cast the Orc to the ground and would have given him a savage kick if the others had not stepped before him and began speaking.

"We are tired and afraid, captain," said one. "We must be allowed to rest."

"These lands belong to the Elves!" he shouted. "If you stay here because you feel tired and afraid, then you will die, not that it matters! We are to carry out our duty to the Master."

"And what of the Master?" said the sneering Orc, rising from the ground. "We had not heard from him in a long age. Then he suddenly appears, claiming that he escaped from the wrath of the usurpers, and he gives us commands! I was much happier when he was supposedly gone forever."

"Is that rebel talk I hear?" said the captain.

The Orcs were silent.

"That's what I thought! These lands are full of rebels, and the Witch Queen curses the land. We cannot end our march until we have left these places for good. If orders are not enough for you, the whip will have to do."

Lúthien had just heard these monsters call her mother a witch! She was so offended that a noise of rage came from her throat. One of the Orcs showed his fangs in a grimace and looked up and saw her sitting there above him, partly concealed but visible nonetheless.

"I spy a brat child!" he cried out.

Lúthien shuffled out of sight as quickly as she could but too late. The Orcs drew out their crude knives.

"Oh no," moaned the captain, rolling his eyes. "They have found themselves a pretty little victim! We shall be delayed for hours!"

Lúthien let out a shriek as the fanged one leaped from the ground and onto the branch that was more than a ten-foot height from the ground. She began climbing upwards. The Orc climbed after her like a spider.

"Where are you going?" they called. "Are you lost? We'll take you with us!"

"What are you?" she cried as she swept aside leaves.

"Tell us your name and we will tell you ours. Are you forgetting your courtly upbringing? We can tell by your rich array that you are no pauper's child."

"Leave me alone!"

"Come!" the Orc below her reached up with his claws, and Lúthien almost fell backwards at the glassy look of them. "Don't fall," he said grimly. "It would be a pity if you fell and broke your neck before we could have our fun."

The Orcs below laughed and said, "Let's play hide and seek! You seem fleet of foot and you are small. You wouldn't find it too difficult to hide. Though we are like hounds on the scent, you would be a challenge to catch! You might even have a chance to escape!"

Lúthien let her foot down on the Orc's fingers as he climbed so that he grimaced with pain and sucked at them.

"She-Devil! You little Elvin-witch! Let me get a hold of you-"

"ADA!"

At this, the Orc ceased his grinning and stopped his pursuit for a moment, for Lúthien's voice rang through the woods. She listened for an answer and there was none. The Orc advanced again. He had her and held Lúthien out over the branches. She swallowed hard as she stared at the ground that was so far below her. She was more than thirty feet in the air, and she begged and kicked her legs and thrashed her arms.

"No! No! Let me go! Put me down! Please!"

"Well . . ." he swung her back and forth into thin air. "If you insist."

"Don't! Don't put me down!" she cried, shielding her eyes from the horrible drop and clinging to the foul smelling and hairy Orc.

"You bruised my pinkie."

The Orc flashed an evil smile and then let her go. She squealed as she fell and reached out for branches, grasping onto nothing but air or tore at leaves. The Orcs that had waited below caught her. She squirmed free of their grasp and managed to gain several paces. She dove under their legs or dodged them from the side. It was as though she had wings as she had desired, and she laughed at them, for their anger was amusing. The Orc had underestimated her speed.

Once she had outrun them, she hid and leaned against a tree to catch her breath. She giggled to herself, thinking they had lost her. Then the chief Orc that had wandered off caught hold of her from behind. He was terrifying. He lifted her inches from his face and showed her his fangs, and he muffled her screams with a thick gray hand.

"Well done, but there shall be no more hide and seek, I am afraid," he said and called to the others.

Lúthien thrashed wildly at him, and he set her upon the ground. The Orcs made a little ring about her. They tossed her about, laughing peals of laughter. Never had they found a victim so small and helpless. It was like cornering a kitten. She covered her ears, unwilling to listen to them as they began saying horrible things.

"ADA!" she screamed again.

"Go on. Scream some more, little one. Your screams may give you some comfort," said their leader, stroking her face, the most grotesque of them all.

Lúthien recoiled at the touch, but he held her firmly in place.

"Yes, you are beautiful. I must agree to that. I wonder what use that lackey Necromancer could make of you. He might want to give you to the Master, perhaps?"

She did not recognize this Necromancer he spoke of, but she knew who their master must be. It was the same one that her father had told horrible tales of. Morgoth.

"What shall we do with her?"

"Let's torture her!" said an Orc eagerly. "Maybe she knows where others are or where we can find gold."

"We do not have the proper tools!" argued one.

"Bah!" he spat. "Tools are unnecessary if you know the art of torture that I wish to use."

"Give her a few moments to run and let us hunt her, then we can let you do what you please!"

"Hunting children is no sport!" argued another. "Give me a full-grown Elf and then we can hunt them down until they weep like a child! Children are too easily frightened!"

"Shall we roast her alive? I have eaten horseflesh, but there is something better, and this young one is sweet and tender. Feel her skin!"

"Spit her or roast her and I shall make worms' meat of you," growled the captain. "She is not food or entertainment. This one is for a worthier purpose."

Lúthien bit down into one of their hands, and there came a rush of blood, but it was not red blood, but black blood! She gasped, but with the drawing of their blood, she suddenly became defiant.

"Morgoth, did you say?" she spoke with bold and proud tongue. "Do you monsters not know the meaning of that name? Fëanor gave the Prince of Darkness that name which is Enemy of the World!"

The Orc captain answered, "You shall soon learn the truth, though it may be painful for you to learn it."

She screamed, "Aye Elbereth!"

At the name of Elbereth, the Orcs fell silent and backed away, and their eyes burned with silent rage. Then they drew closer. Lúthien began to name all the Valar, and the leader clamped his monstrous hand over her mouth.

"Any more of that and we shall feed you to the fires of hell! Understood?"

Suddenly, there came the whinny of a horse, and Iavas sprang from the trees and charged at the Orcs. Lúthien knew her father could not be far off, and she grinned. The Orcs saw the horse and hesitated.

"This means she's not alone!" the captain murmured.

"Whatever you do, do it quickly!"

"My Father," she began.

"Yes? Yes? What of your father?" they pressed. "Is he here?"

Where was her father? Where was her protector?

"Father?" she called, not realizing her risk, for Orcs killed their captives rather than allow them to escape or to be rescued. "I am here! Help me, Ada!"

One of the Orcs drew his dagger and pressed it to her throat. She let out a shriek. Then the leader snatched the dagger from him and tossed it away, striking the inferior.

"No, curse you!" he hissed. "Do you know what an alarm we would raise if they found a dead child?"

Suddenly, one of the Orcs dropped dead with a dart in his throat. The others were too startled to react right away, and so Daeron sprang through the trees and cut another down from his horse and trampled a third. The survivors fled, leaving Lúthien behind and shaken.

"Daeron!" she sprang up and caught herself around his neck.

"Are you hurt?"

"No."

"What the hell were those creatures?" Daeron said. "And what are you doing here all by yourself? Do you realize you could have been killed?"

"Please do not tell anyone! Especially not my father!" she said hysterically. "Just take me back to Menegroth!"

"But those things almost-"

"Promise me! Promise me!"

He hesitated, and then said, "Very well. I will not tell him about your encounter. It will be our little secret. Let us go find him."

He mounted his horse and pulled Lúthien up beside him, and then they made towards Menegroth. Thingol came upon them before they finished their journey. He embraced his daughter and smothered her with kisses. Lúthien could no longer hold back her tears. She clung to her father, but she did not speak, and Daeron said nothing of the Orcs. She exhausted herself with tears and fell asleep. Thingol carried her home in his arms, wretched. So glad was he to have found her that he stayed any harsh words and the beating for another moment.

When they returned to the Caves, Mablung and Beleg told him that they had found a large band of evil creatures passing through Neldoreth and that something must be done about them, for they were spreading terror and mischief throughout the lands. They even had several bodies they had brought with them as evidence. Looking upon the monsters, Thingol was frightened at the thought that his young daughter had been separated from him and had been at greater risk of captivity or death than they had known. Still, Daeron was silent.

Sooner or later, the beating must come. Lúthien had broken the statute out of plain disobedience. Her nanny gave her the stick and told her to find her father. She was trembling and weeping so much so that Thingol was worried.

"It is all right," he said soothingly. "It is all right."

But Lúthien wept harder than ever. She had never realized how big and strong her father was. Thingol took the stick from her, looking very troubled and careworn. He had never expected to have to beat Lúthien, and try as he might, he did not have the heart to beat her. He told Lúthien to turn her back to him and raised the stick and broke it across his knee. Lúthien winced at the sound, expecting to feel immense pain, but the blow did not come. Thingol dropped the broken stick and raised her into his arms instead. Then he poured some cold water over a silk cloth and bathed her tear stained face.

"I was reckless, Ada. Please forgive me!" the repentance had only just begun.

Her father stroked her hair. "I forgive you, but it was partly my fault. We should not have been there with only Mablung and Beleg to guard us and so far behind that they lost us. And I was never so aware as I am now that even our realm cannot be safe from harm at all times. From now on, I shall see to it that you are under greater protection. No harm can possibly come to you here in the Caves."

"I will never cause you grief again, Ada. I promise!" the girl cried wildly.

Thingol's smile was bittersweet, "Do not make a promise so hastily, my child. All children cause their fathers some grief, but that is not all. You are my little treasure, Lúthien, and you always will be. Just promise me that you will try to be good. Oh. And pretend I punished you properly, will you? It would not do if the realm thought I was being too gentle with you."

Lúthien nodded. She left the room wiping tears from her face so that Laisie was satisfied, thinking she was still crying from the punishment. Lúthien pretended that she was unable to sit comfortably for a week so that her father could save face, and she thanked Daeron for what he had done for her as well, both saving her from the Orcs and keeping her secret.

Though Daeron was not a kinsman of the king, he was usually sought after for counsel on matters of lore, despite his youth. He was always forthright with Thingol, which was an attribute he admired, and he obeyed even the lesser rules of Doriath to the letter. It would be deemed dishonest should the king ever discover he was hiding such a secret from him. Lúthien never forgot it, and found she could trust him with other secrets. He became her constant companion. Her father found it strange at first, but as the relationship was harmless and he could find no flaw in Daeron, he benefited from the royal family's good graces ever after.

The King knew his daughter had returned safely home and had been unscathed, but he would not allow any evil to run amuck in Doriath. He summoned the council to the Great Hall. Mablung and Beleg brought in several Orc corpses for all to inspect as well as their gear.

"What exactly are these creatures, my lord?" Beleg asked. "They are in camps in the east between Celon and Gelion. We are cut off from Círdan because of them. Not only have they been felling trees, but they have also been coming upon either side of Menegroth and plundering our lands. They were more terrible than any wild beast I have encountered, and there were many."

"Aye," said the king of the Dwarves, Naglar. "The Valar has not rooted out all the evils of the North. These fell beasts dwell in the land east of the mountains too, and your ancient kindred that dwell there are flying from the plains to the hills. Also, there are wolves and creatures that walk in wolf shape."

"As you can see from their weapons and armor, they are not mindless beasts without skill," Mablung held a cruel helm in his hand. "Crude but effective. It is made of some strange metal."

"Give it here!" Naglar demanded, for Dwarves were the true masters of metal and stone. "I will melt it down in my forge and find its true properties. Whatever it is, it must come from some foreign land."

"Could you discover where?" asked a courtier.

The Dwarf King snorted, "I can bloody well try."

"We must know where they have come from and who is equipping them! Are they the Second-born of Ilúvatar? Or are they the Avari, the Eldar that refused the light?" Mablung posed the question they had all been wondering.

There was an uneasy silence. They had been warned of the coming of Men and did not know what to expect of the Second-born. The second prospect was also disturbing.

"Nay," Melian spoke, and she was held in high respect and wonder among the wise so that all were silent. "They are demons spawned in Morgoth's pits that have multiplied over the false peace. Morgoth did not create them with his own power. Only Ilúvatar has that power. They must be a blend and ruin of many creatures. Their origin may indeed be a mystery to us for all time, but it is certain that they shall cause nothing but hurt to this world."

"Is there no way to parley with them?" Celeborn, King Thingol's nephew asked. "What do we know of them? Are they not intelligent beings as we are, capable of peace?"

"We have attempted diplomacy," Mablung replied. "They are incapable of reason. Those we sent to negotiate were killed or taken. Where, we do not know."

"They must be driven from our borders," said Thingol.

"Yes, but how? There must be hundreds of them or even thousands of them!"

"War seems to be the only solution," Mablung answered.

There was a long silence. Many were shocked and afraid, for the Sindar had not needed weapons of war before. They had little store of these, for they had lived in peace for so long, for thousands of years.

"It seems we have no choice," Beleg said. "These things must be destroyed."

"Very well," Thingol sighed. "How long would it take to prepare arms?"

"With the aid of your friends the Dwarves," said Telchar, who was a dwarf, "we might delve armories for the cause."

"And my lord Denethor king of the Laquendi is willing to aid. The king is willing to fight in battle if indeed he must," said a stranger.

"I am the son of Lenwë," said the one beside the stranger. "I heard of your might and majesty and the peace of your realm. They say that the very air you breathe here is filled with laughter. I thought I should come here for aid. For this span style="font-style:italic;"Gaurhoth/span, as we call them, have filled us with fear, for we have no weapons of steel. Your friends the Dwarves speak the truth. I have brought with me a small host of my people, having led them over the mountains. We dwell in Ossiriand, though we are kin here and will aid you, Thingol, in all ways. Will you have my people as your allies?"

"Indeed, you are most welcome," said Thingol in delight. "You are of my kin and therefore I embrace you as brothers. You may dwell here in my halls in peace, son of Lenwë."

"As for your lack of arms," said Beleg, "That can be amended. The people of Doriath and the Dwarves shall set to work upon the fashioning of weapons as soon as you command it, lord."

"And who among you would oppose that command?"

"None, lord," answered the council as one.

In the time of the dimming of the Trees in Valinor, there was great disquiet. Thingol fought the Orcs on his borders, and there were rumors of Noldoli, exiled from Valinor, who sought their own lands to dominate in Middle-earth. It was a dark time, for no news came from Valinor, and there was an Enemy in the land again. Councils of war were held. The Dwarves and the Eldar then began their labor. New tunnels had to be delved in the Caves to make chambers for armories. The Elvin-smiths and the Dwarves worked through day and night, never ceasing their toil. They wrought metal like fish mail that shone like the moon upon water. Telchar made many axes, swords, shields, and helms. Elvin-smiths made some works even greater, and Thingol also had a collection of weapons that had come from Valinor itself. Soon, the armories were filled with a wealth of weapons.

The Eldar were skilled archers, swordsmen, and horsemen. An invincible cavalry was soon at hand, for the Sindar and Laquendi could understand their horses and their Elvin-archers could shoot down a sparrow from the air a league away while riding upon their horse. Blades were ready in their hilts, polished and natural to the hand. The Elves carried daggers in their shirts, though drawn blades in the hall were outlawed and the punishment for it was death. The White Bridge was checked, and all passages to Doriath were watched.

The day of battle came, and Thingol kissed Lúthien and rode with his host and the host of King Denethor to battle the Orcs of Morgoth. This was the first of the great battles of Beleriand. Melian and little Lúthien stood before the White Bridge to see the King off to battle, and the glory of the hosts as they marched past encouraged Lúthien so that she did not fear at all for her father.

The First Battle was the first of many wars that would ravage Beleriand. It was in this battle that the Sindar were forced to learn the ways of war quickly without the aid of any higher power. It was also their first taste of Morgoth's fingers and claws, his cursed race of Orcs and Wargs, creatures of wolf shape but were not the noble beasts the Eldar and the Dwarves knew. For many days the Sindar toiled, driving the Enemy back and being forced to retreat until a tragedy happened. They had driven the Orcs to their camps between the rivers and had slain many, but the Orcs had been more numerous than they had ever imagined.

"Aye Elbereth!" Thingol said. "The Orcs are well equipped for battle, and soon it shall be too dark for our archers. How many of your people have fallen, Denethor? Many of my people have been wounded, and the Orcs hack the bodies into the dust! Alas! The butchery has only just begun! They are fleeing into the woods, curse them!"

Denethor sprang with his host toward the woods to meet the Orcs. He would make them fight, for his blood boiled with wrath and his bones ached for revenge for his fallen.

"Denethor!" Thingol cried. "It could be a trap! There is another host of Orcs but my scouts are unable to find them! Let them flee!"

It was then that Thingol saw, out of the corner of his eye, a fresh host of Orcs charging into the woods from the side. This was the second host that his scouts had reported. They would be attacking Denethor on both sides. Thingol's host drew their swords and cried as one and galloped after him.

Denethor saw the Orcs, and the Orcs charged through so that he and a little band of his close kinsmen were separated from the main host. Many of the Green-Elves were outmatched. They had not the bright steel of Thingol's people. They had poor metal and the Orcs had iron. Many were slain. Denethor himself was surrounded upon the hill of Amon Ereb. He was knocked from his horse, and the Orcs formed a large ring about him that was becoming thinner and thinner. His kinsmen formed a protective ring about him, for they loved their king, but the Orcs cut them down, and their chief stepped forward, drawing his sword so that it rang. Denethor fought him sword to sword. He soon had the offense. His anger was great, and he stabbed the Orc, but the Orc's superior armor notched the blade, rendering it useless. Then he thrust his scimitar through the king.

Denethor let out a cry, and his voice echoed. His people heard his cry and were stricken. They froze in place, straining to be sure that it was their beloved king they heard. Then they despaired, and some cast their swords upon the ground and wept in grief.

Thingol came upon the rear, and he blew a horn that made the unhappy people spring to their feet. Thingol's host was with them. The sight of Thingol Gray-mantle, tallest child of Ilúvatar and also a Light Elf, was terrible to see. A light shone through him that blinded the Orcs and filled them with madness. Few returned to Angband to admit their defeat, though Thingol was too late to save Denethor.

He dismounted his horse, haggard and careworn. Denethor pulled out the scimitar, but he was mortally wounded. Thingol laid him upon a bier and began to bind his wounds. A third of his host was all that was left, and they gathered about him, weeping.

"This is my last command as your king!" he announced. "Those of you that grieve for me may return to Ossiriand. As for the rest of you that would listen to my last wish: Take Thingol Gray-mantle as your king."

The people of Denethor then either swore Thingol as their king upon the field and became Sindarin or returned to Ossiriand and remained the Laquendi. They never went to open war again, but ambushing Orcs was ever their greatest delight.

Though the Sindar had been victorious, they bought it with a great price, and Círdan's people were still hemmed away from them. The number of the Elvin-hosts had lessened to two thirds of what it had been, and that was indeed a grievous thing. Thingol withdrew his people within Neldoreth, and Melian, foreboding that evil would indeed find its way into Doriath again and destroy it, created the Girdle of Melian, an enchanted labyrinth veiled in fog, to keep out all evil. Then the years passed as happily as they had before, though the Sindar heeded time not and were more wary of danger.

Thingol did his best to shield his daughter from the horrors that befell during the war so that Lúthien did not notice a great change since the First Battle. She was closeted away. For many months she could not even leave her bower, and Thingol forbid the Sindar to speak openly of the slain or wounded. Ever afterward, she was not to leave the Caves without Mablung or Beleg, and they were often away on the outskirts of Doriath.

"Father, may I ride with Mablung and Beleg?" she asked one day.

Thingol burst out laughing and said grimly, "Have you asked them what sort of game they hunt, Lúthien? They hunt Orcs and Wargs."

"But, Father, the Girdle protects us and-"

"Danger wears many masks, my child," Thingol answered, and this became his favorite proverb though it became trite after many lectures. "There are perils in this world besides Morgoth, though of these perils you may know nothing."

Daeron found the girl moping by one of the fountains. She told him of her father's rejection, and his heart was sore for her. Then he got a bright idea. He had grown to be a clever Elf. He was writing a history of his people and had invented the Sindarin script.

"Do not cry. You do not need Mablung and Beleg. I shall be your escort!"

"You?" she laughed and wiped her tears away. "I mean no insult to you, but you are not the most ideal person as a one-man escort!"

"Then we shall sneak out."

Lúthien was aghast at this. Daeron never disobeyed a rule, let alone the command of his King, but he was willing to do so for Lúthien. They crept about the Caves giggling until they made their way to the stalls where their horses were waiting. Another child that cared for the horses was there and helped in the conspiracy. Then Lúthien stood with Daeron on the hill of Esgalduin. He began to play his pipe, and Lúthien began to sing and dance. The forest resounded in naught but their singing and their music. They repeated this routine much during the spring and summer and, occasionally, on warm autumn and winter nights, and they were never caught, though they made so much music and merrymaking that the whole forest of Esgalduin was alive with singing. The trees themselves waved their leaves about gracefully.

Eventually, Lúthien insisted that Daeron keep his musical talent a secret no longer. The enchantress herself have become spell bound by his skill. If he would become her personal minstrel and play for all the realm, she would sing and dance to his pipe. Reluctantly, he agreed. They became partners in music, performing concerts for the Sindar, much to the delight of the small folk. It was then that Lúthien was declared the greatest of singers and dancers, and Daeron was named the greatest of minstrels, even above Maglor in Nargothrond. He had already made a name for himself as a loremaster, but now his songs were sung throughout Beleriand.

But Daeron and Lúthien had also become ripe for courtship and were pursued relentlessly. It was only after Daeron took the stage that the maiden folk of Doriath realized that he was indeed handsome and began to call upon him. He was unsure how to react to the sudden attention. He kept to his books and avoided his suitors as best as he could. Lúthien, however, could not escape hers. Her duties as princess kept her always in the public eye so that she could not retreat as easily as her friend. She also noted that her audience focused upon the curves of her body rather than her movements when she danced. She put a stop to it, dancing only in private or with close friends and family and restricting her performances to vocals only and wished she could never show her face again. She was quite annoyed that her suitors were becoming a plague.

"If only there was a way to put a stop to it all," she complained to Daeron during one of their rehearsals. "I do not wish to break hearts. My father will not allow me to wed any of my suitors even if I wanted them. I have the voice of a Maia and the body of an Elf maid. Why was I born in between worlds? I am afraid sometimes that I am like my mother and am incapable of love. No. I was wrong to say that. She does love, but not like we do. What should I do?"

"I know how you feel in part," Daeron answered. "Ladies that never so much as looked at me in the past are hounding me. I cannot help but feel it is only because of my recent fame. I do not know who to trust."

"We both wish to avoid our suitors," Lúthien smiled. "Oh, and the court gossip is that you and I must be lovers. They insist that we must practice more than just music whenever we are together. You are one of the few people I trust. You are like an older brother to me and my partner in music."

That made Daeron laugh, and then he said, "Then there is our solution! If they accuse us of being lovers anyway, perhaps we should let them think so."

"What do you mean?"

"If our suitors see evidence for themselves that the two of us are lovers, that will stop them from pursuing us! No maiden would dare to compete with you, and it will dash the hopes of any lord or stable boy that pines for you."

"What kind of evidence?"

"All it should take is a few amorous glances, a brotherly kiss now and then, and the realm will be convinced! It shall be our finest act, Lúthien!"

"All pretend?"

"Of course!"

Lúthien grinned, "This could prove quite fun."

So the two played at being lovers. Whenever they were in the public eye, they held hands, whispered nonsense to each other, shared the same goblet at feasts, and danced. It was all innocent, but only they themselves knew it. It was their private joke, and they laughed as tongues began to wag and their suitors gave up hope for a while. For years they carried on the act and it became more elaborate. Half of Daeron's songs were inspired by Lúthien. She discovered her was a brilliant scholar, minstrel, and a great actor. He seemed to go out of his way to make their mock dates seem real. Before they had always been close friends. Now they seemed inseparable. They revealed their longings and secrets to each other. Almost all. Daeron began to crave more than just sisterly affection.

"Not everyone is convinced," he said. "You are still getting proposals. The small folk have ceased, but not the nobles. Simple flirtations are not enough."

"Perhaps we should stop," Lúthien suggested.

"You have never kissed any of your suitors. Neither have I. Not as lovers do. Perhaps we should practice that and kiss at the next concert. Then there will be no doubt in their minds. Only we will know better."

Lúthien hesitated. She knew that agreeing to his idea would up the stakes of their little game considerably. He seemed rather eager. But she reminded herself that Daeron was her friend. He could not feel the same for her as the other men of Doriath. She was also curious about how lovers kissed.

"Very well. A few kisses now and then should not hurt anyone," she said finally and gave him a quick peck on the lips.

"That was no proper kiss. It should be much longer. Lean into it, close your eyes..." he tried to explain.

They made several attempts. She began to blush and he began to laugh. Each time she leaned in to try a real kiss, she merely gave him a peck until he leaned to kiss her. He exerted gentle pressure and gave her a lover's kiss. Then they were both silent, struggling with mixed emotions.

"Do you think you can do that for the next concert?" he asked.

"I think so. I hope it truly does convince them."

And when the next concert came, they indeed exchanged a lingering kiss. Lúthien enjoyed the kiss itself, but she felt uneasy. Daeron's heart soared and hoped she enjoyed the kiss as much as he did.

Her father summoned her the very next day. He sat by the fire, deep in thought. Melian was across the room, tending her birds. The servants and even the guards had been sent away. Whatever her father had called her for, it was serious business. Lúthien sat beside him and kissed him, wishing as always that she could crawl into his lap as she had so often when she was little. She might have done it if her mother were not there. The queen's presence always motivated only the most dignified behavior in her daughter. She knew Thingol would never reproach her. No doubt he would welcome such tenderness but she always ached for her mother's approval. She bowed her head to her and Melian curtsied back. It was enough.

"Are you well, my little gem?" Thingol asked.

"Very well, Ada," she beamed.

"You have been keeping yourself busy, I presume? Any new suitors I should know of?"

She blushed, "None. You are the only true male in my life as always."

He smiled and squeezed her hand, pleased. Melian, it seemed, was not amused or convinced.

"What of Daeron?" she said.

"Oh, the minstrel," Thingol frowned.

"What?" Lúthien's smile faded. "You do not like Daeron?"

"He is a fine musician and quite the scholar, but young with no noble blood. Of course, blood is nothing in most cases. I must say that you deserve better."

"You think that I am in love with Daeron?"

"They say you are inseparable. It is difficult not to hear the court gossip or to deny what your mother and I have seen with our own eyes. Always slipping off to the woods alone... Promise me that you have not bonded with him."

"No!" Lúthien cried. "This is a terrible misunderstanding! It is a joke between the two of us!"

"A joke?" Melian's eyes flashed and her birds scattered. "I am afraid I have trouble understanding humor. Explain yourself!"

"We are close, but he is much more a brother to me than a lover. We have also heard the gossip and grew weary of denying the rumors since our words are ignored anyway. The people are far too interested in my doings. So we decided to play along and fuel the rumors with a little kindling. The small folk seem to love the idea and it stopped others from trying to court us. Neither of us are remotely interested in courtship. We play at being lovers as children do, that is all."

"Such play is dangerous!" Melian said with force in her voice. "You play with fire. You play with hearts and not only with Daeorn's! Stop this foolish game the moment you leave this room! I will not allow such careless behavior!"

Lúthien felt as though she had been slapped and called a harlot by her own mother. Thingol patted her hand and jumped to her defense.

"They are young, wife. They cannot possibly know what they do. Besides, our daughter is wise. This way she does not have to constantly reject every bachelor in Doriath. Soon, she will not need Daeron to play the part of lover anymore."

This was a surprise to Lúthien, "What do you mean?"

"I have been exchanging letters frequently with our ally, King Finrod. I inquired who he had named his heir. He replied that he had not yet named one and that he must give it much thought. I asked why he did not just make an heir of his own. He responded that there were few suitable maidens among his kin and so I suggested he look elsewhere. Then he asked after you."

"Me?"

"Yes. I suggested that he visit Doriath in order to see you for himself. He is making arrangements."

"Are you frightened?" Melian looked at her daughter, trying to read her.

"I do not know what to say," Lúthien answered.

"He is a king, darling, older than you but younger than I. He is quite handsome and has prowess as a warlord and a well loved and respected ruler. I could ask for no better match for my daughter."

"But why is he not married already if this is all true?"

"He loved a maiden of the Vanyar," Melian answered. "Before the Noldor fled Valinor, she refused to leave and broke her troth to the young prince."

"But he may have never stopped loving her. Father, if he were to marry me it would only be to provide him heirs and seal your alliance."

Thingol sighed, "He will not wed for procreation exclusively. That is why he wishes to court you properly first. You are free to refuse, but to do so outright would be an insult."

"When will he be here?"

"That he cannot say. It depends upon weather as well as the goings on in his own realm. Since you do not appear so eager, I shall tell him not to rush. You are full grown yet in some ways still a giddy child. Your nervousness shall pass. Who knows? Perhaps if he arrive you will love him instantly. You will at least accept a visit from him?" Thingol pressed.

"Aye. To refuse would be an insult, as you said," Lúthien said reluctantly.

"Good!" he kissed her. "I am proud of you! One day you will be as wise as your mother!"

She left the chamber and sought out Daeron. He gathered his pipe and music and led her to the woods as she had begged him to take her out of the city. He was so good that he did it without question. They crept through the 'Children's' tunnel and fled to the their usual place. He began to play, but when she tried to dance, she could not. Her heart was too heavy, it weighed her down. She tried to sing and her voice quavered and faltered. As much as she loved to listen to Daeron, her own thoughts drowned out his music. At last, she began to weep. She told Daeron all that had been said. he listened intently, his expression a perfect mask of horror and astonishment.

"The king wants you to wed a Noldoli?" he exclaimed. "But what of all his edicts forbidding them here and forbidding the use of Quenya?"

"He insists it would be a good match. But if I were to wed him, I would have to leave you and everyone else I love. I would have to leave Doriath. I often complain that Menegroth can be stifling, but it is these woods I will miss. They are a part of me, and so are the people. Perhaps my father feels I would be safer in Nargothrond somehow. Even with the security of the Girdle, he does not trust in my safety! It is all because I wandered off the day the Orcs came! And the way he talks, he would be crushed if I refused Finrod. He has his heart set on marry me to no less than a king, the only one he trusts. Would refusing Finrod hurt their alliance? I would not want to risk it. Why must I marry at all?"

Suddenly Daeron put his arms about her, "You will not have to court him or wed Finrod if you marry me on the morrow."

Despite everything, she laughed, "You can always cheer me, brother."

"I would do more than cheer you."

He kissed her, and it was not a brotherly kiss. It was even more passionate and insistent than their staged kiss. She was astonished and pulled away before he could continue.

"Daeron, what are you doing?" she demanded. "There is no one here, there is no reason for this."

"You do not understand. I love you!"

She had a sudden urge to flee. Only confusion and curiosity rooted her to the spot. She recognized the almost wild look in her friend's eyes, a look she had seen in the eyes of countless suitors but had never expected to see in his.

"How long have you felt this way?"

"How long?" he seemed uncertain. "Longer than I can remember. It began as the love of a pupil. You were my student in language, art, history, and music. But you fast became a maiden and an equal. My love grew into something else."

"So all of our play-"

"Innocent when it began, but I will not deny I took secret pleasure in it."

She was horrified, "My mother was right! I have done you a great evil allowing this. It stops now!"

"Lúthien-" he tried to grasp her in embrace again.

"No!" she dodged his advances. "This is wrong! I feel it in my bones!"

"Do not say that!"

"We must never speak of this again. This was a dream. A nightmare. Such a thing can never come to pass between us! Never!"

"But Lúthien-"

"I will tell my father!" she cried shrilly.

That stopped him. He feared Thingol and knew that the king would never approve. Moreover, Lúthien seemed resolved. She did not love him. In fact, she avoided all contact with him. She felt ashamed of their little game, especially her part. She should have known that the fairest of the world was doomed break hearts whether she willed it or not. Daeron was heartbroken. Music was his only solace for a while. It was only after he began to court other maidens that Lúthien renewed her friendship with him, which he welcomed.

Melian was not pleased, and warned her daughter, "Be wary of his feelings."

"He has assured me, he no longer has those feelings."

"Regardless, do not break his heart a second time."

Despite the peace of that realm, Middle-Earth was ever-changing and becoming more dangerous. Many ages passed and Morgoth grew in strength, and his land grew fat with slaves and monsters from the pit, and Queen Melian became anxious. The Second-Born appeared, and Thingol found sleep less easy than before.

In his dreams, he saw that he was upon the hill of Esgalduin, and his daughter was with him, dancing upon the hill. Then he saw, to his greatest horror, that a Man came to her. He spoke to Lúthien, and she took a hesitant step toward this Man, placing her hand in his. Then she vanished. This dream disturbed him greatly, and he spoke to no one of it, not even to Melian. Then King Finrod of the Noldor arrived in Doriath for a rare visit to his ally. He looked upon the king's daughter and agreed she was fair. He even brought her several gifts, which she graciously accepted. Nothing more passed between them.

Finrod told Thingol of the new race of Men that he had taken into his service. He had stumbled upon them many years ago.

But Thingol did not like this report, and he remembered his dreams and proclaimed, "Into Doriath shall no Man come while my realm lasts, not even those of the House of Bëor who serve Finrod the beloved."

Melian said nothing, but she said to Artanis, the sister of Finrod who would one day be called Galadriel, "Now the world runs on swiftly to great tidings. And one of Men, even of Bëor's house, shall indeed come, and the Girdle shall not restrain him, for doom greater than my power shall send him. The songs that shall spring from that coming shall endure when all Middle-Earth is changed."

Once Finrod was gone, Thingol called his daughter to him and told her that there was a creature she must be aware of. Her father had told her of all the monsters that the Elves had knowledge of, and she was now an adult in Elf-standards. Orcs were no longer the most feared and hated, it was Men now. Thingol filled his daughter's head with tales of the worst examples and misdeeds of humans. They had no morality of their own save that which they had adopted. Few could be called true Elf-friends so the majority was worse than Orcs. They pillaged and ravaged to satisfy their greed, snatched maids and children, and though disease and old age destroyed them and their lives were short, their numbers increased at an unprecedented rate.

The Eldar were always relatively few in number. They were incredibly slow to age, immune to disease, and yet they were not quite immortal. There was still quite a long list of fatalities they suffered including childbirth. Elf women took great risk each time they birthed and could only have one or two if they were fortunate. There were exceptions, but the Eldar remained a dwindling if not stagnant race. Most saw an untimely death upon the point of a sword. After the First Battle many of the Eldar, dismayed by their first experience of death, were discouraged from having children at all, even though Doriath was far safer than its sister kingdoms. They felt it irresponsible and cruel to have children during turbulent times. When Eldar died, they were allowed the to be reincarnated within their family over time and so variety was very limited.

Humans were migrating into Beleriand in astonishing numbers with many languages, colors, and creeds. They adapted to disease and continued to increase their birth rate. They progressed rapidly as well and understood machines and contraptions rather than Nature. In all the time the Eldar were in Arda, they made few machines. They were suspicious of technology. They were more comfortable with their simple machines and metalwork. Machines were simply time-savers, and since the Elves were given the gift of time, they perfected that which they had always known. The Eldar had no use for weapons for ages until Morgoth used them upon them and all his wretched machines caused nothing but death and torment. Sindarin children were not even allowed to touch real weapons or receive serious training until they came of age. Men were much more comfortable with warfare. Sometimes the Sindar, almost entirely ignorant of human customs, fancied they were born with a sword in their hand.

"How will I know I have met a Man?" his daughter asked.

"If you look carefully," Thingol explained, "you shall see that their ears are not pointed, but round. If you spot a male of the race, they might have grown a beard. That is always a telltale sign, but some shave their beards off. They are usually broader and bulkier of build than we are. They run amuck in the sunlight, fearing the dark of night and curse the stars because they believe that they are gods that have rejected them. They curse us too and name us witches, or worse, fairies. Promise me you will run from a Man as soon as you see him, and you shall never look him in the eyes."

"I promise, Father."

Thingol was comforted, but his daughter had strange dreams of her own. They were dreams of the Sea, a dream that terrified her and gave her joy all at once. Many of the Eldar dreamed of the Sea because they were born with a longing to pass over the sea back to Valinor to answer the original call of the Valar. But what Lúthien dreamed was no sea longing. It was something else, for she did not pine for the Sea as other Elves once did. It so distressed her that she told Daeron, but also her mother, hoping Melian could guess the meaning of the dream.

Daeron had only been confused by the dream. Melian had been evasive and said, "You have the dream so often that it cannot be ordinary. The days of peace must come to an end. But your future sings of bliss. I pray that you shall find that joy. And yet, I seem to sense a cloud hanging over your sun. The penalty of love shall fall heavily upon your head."

Little did this comfort her daughter. Instead, it only overwhelmed her because she did not understand. Then she slept, and she dreamed.

She was standing on the shore of the Sea. She was staring at the stars. They were blazing with light, much brighter than they ever could be in waking life. Perhaps they had been that bright when Varda had first cast them out into the sky. She could taste the salt and hear the crying of the gulls. The Sea was sighing and stretching out across the white sand like white hands groping for the hills. Then the waves stirred suddenly, as if being startled awake from a deep and unwanted sleep. Soft foam touched her face.

There was a boy with raven-black hair sitting upon a few rocks, drawing circles with his fingers in the sand. Suddenly he rose and began walking toward her. As he drew nearer, the stars were suddenly engulfed by a vast darkness. It became black as pitch and utterly silent. The only sound was the Sea as the waves became more violent. The sound of the ridges rose to a great cry. Then the Man clasped hands with her, and at first, she was very alarmed. He sensed her fear and squeezed her hand reassuringly. He looked at her, and his eyes were gray and sad, but keen and bright

"Do not be afraid, Tinúviel," said the boy as the darkness swept over them.

Lúthien had no idea why he called her this, but the name seemed more natural to her than her own name. And she answered, "I am not afraid."

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