The Golden and the Black

Friends in High Places

Tirion of the crystal stairs, streets of pearl, and lofty white spires. Mother of cities in Eldamar.

If many still esteemed it the fairest and noblest city of the Noldor, it was certainly no longer the largest of the four. Exiles had swelled the numbers at Kortirion to close to two hundred thousand, and as it was not perched on a high hill, Fingolfin’s city on Tol Eressëa had spread south and east across the hilly lands at the heart of the island, covering an area almost twice the size of Tirion. Formenos, ruled by Celebrimbor in the north, had its own stern splendour, but only sixty thousand dwelled there with him in its cool hill country. Alcarinos, hailed as the new shining jewel of Eldamar, had eighty thousand.

But ancient Tirion, high on Túna, home to a hundred and twenty thousand edhil could not be compared to any of these others. Listen very carefully, and you may yet hear it—the very stones and crystals singing still of a time of starlight and the light of Two Trees. A song it has sung for over ten thousand years.

The golden-haired prince loved that song. He could almost hear it again, as he sat on Tirion’s western wall. Or he would have, if not for the cheerful voice of his youngest cousin.

“Ango, you have not yet beheld our new amphitheatre at Kortirion!” exclaimed the tall raven-haired prince. “It seats ten thousand—and so perfect is the sound that you could hear a mouse sneeze in the middle of the arena no matter where you sit.”

“Is that where you plan to be wed, then, Arno?” said his golden-haired cousin, as politely as he was able, and skilfully stifling a yawn. He was fond enough of the youngest grandchild of Finwë, but talk of wedding music and rings and other nuptial preparations was boring the Arafinwion to tears.

“Indeed, cousin. It is the only venue able to seat the number of guests with whom we wish to share our joy.” He gazed down adoringly at the dark-haired beauty seated at his side. Her family dwelled in Tirion, and the happy couple planned to make their future home there. “And Arë and I would like to enter on the back of an eagle.”

Angrod stared at them incredulously. “And you have actually found an eagle who would consent to that?”

“Not yet. Is it too showy, do you think?”

Thoughts of heartwrenching rescues from Thangorodrim and Orodruin, noble corpses recovered after battle for burial, and epic battles with orcs and trolls and dragons flashed through Angrod’s mind. The golden-haired prince was about to say something scathing about how the eagles would probably respond to the proposed nuptial joyride, but his friendship with his cousin was saved by a commotion at the Western Gate below them.

Hastily descending to discover the cause, the prince of Tirion found a crowd gathered around two travellers just returned from Alcarinos.

Sauron revived once again, and returned to Aman!” was the murmur that had begun to spread. “Sauron and the traitor of Ondolindë rebodied!”

In a voice like thunder, the Iron Prince bellowed for peace, sharply reminded the people that Sauron’s power had been utterly destroyed in Ennor, that the Valar would not brook his return even if he had the means of it, nor was any fëa ever reborn across the ocean. Then commanding the guards at the gate to restore order in the crowd and quell the spread of rumours, the Arafinwion whisked the two travellers to the King’s House at the foot of the Mindon Eldaliéva, where they related the tale in full to the High King and his third son.

The High King seldom wore his crown except during feasts, and at the moment he was not even wearing a circlet, for he had been stargazing in his private gardens on the palace roof. And yet, though he wore only a simple white linen robe, and his bright golden hair fell loose to his waist, he looked every inch the king he had been for the past seven thousand years. He listened with calm attention to the travellers’ tale, and was not the first to speak.

“A nér reborn as a nís?” Angrod raised his eyebrows at the two travellers. “I am tempted to think, my good sirs, that you had a cup too many of my cousin’s strong wine at the festival.”

“Nay, Prince Angaráto. We were making ready to return to Tirion. We supped simply with our sister at her home, and took no part in the revelries this night.”

“And they say this traitor was reborn across the ocean—rather than stepping forth from the doors of Mandos?” King Finarfin said with wonder.

Noldóran, we know how absurd it sounds—but we relate no more than what we heard. Truly this is what is being spread abroad in Alcarinos, and its people are in disarray and much distress.”

One of the travellers hesitated ere he spoke. “There is one more thing we heard in the streets as we made our way to the pass, Noldóran.”

The king and the prince were silent as the traveller related the other rumour. “But of this, we spoke to none upon our return, heruvinya. Prince Findaráto is beloved to us all, and we know him well. We do not believe this could be true.”

“And oh, heruvinya,” the other traveller chimed in, “the hero and the traitor are said to have children.”

There was a moment of silence, then the High King spoke. “We thank you for your report of these matters, good sirs. Go in peace to your homes, but speak no more to any of these things.”

“Well!” exclaimed Angrod once the men had left. “I must find out what Turukáno’s people have been adding to their wines! Even when the Tirionrim laced their drink with dreamberry juice, last Yestarë, we had no such strange reports erupting. Once the Alcarim come to their senses on the morrow, the rumours will surely die.” Not once had Angrod spoken of his suspicions as to Glorfindel’s parentage to his father. The prince was more profoundly troubled by both the tales than he wished to show. “No one who knows Ingoldo would ever believe such a tale of him.” But they might believe it of Aikanáro. Hell, this might start people thinking.

Finarfin was gazing out of the window with his wise, far-seeing eyes, hands clasped behind his back. “It is indeed strange beyond belief. And yet I find myself unable to scoff at either story. Too oft have rumours of even so outlandish a nature proven to contain a strange grain of truth in them, no matter how small.” Across the valley, Valmar glittered at the foot of Taniquetil. Beyond it, unseen, were the forests where the rumours said a traitor and a dark lord hid with a bright hero in their thrall. The Noldóran turned his noble head to face his son. “Both stories touch the House of Finwë deeply. If true, I have a new grandson, and my brother, a new granddaughter. By Eru almighty, if true, Nolo and I have new great-grandchildren!” The thought lit his face briefly, then he sobered. “If false… where are the seeds from which these rumours first sprung?”

“Hah. I’d wager the seeds lie no deeper than a potent barrel of wine,” scoffed Angrod, trying to convince himself.

Finarfin smiled gently and turned his gleaming golden head to look out of the window again. “It would almost be a pity. The idea of new descendants is pleasing.”

Angrod almost choked. “Atar! You do not believe this valarauco slayer could possibly be a secret babe of any of your children… do you?”

The High King tapped his chin thoughtfully, and did not answer directly. “It occurs to me that I never did get to meet this hero of Ondolindë, all those years that he resided in Aman. I saw once a portrait in Turukáno’s palace. The likeness is there. Even then, I had wondered.”

Atar, which one of us could have been so heartless or feckless? To secretly spirit away one’s own flesh and blood at birth, and never acknowledge him? That would be scandalous! Reprehensible!”

“Heartless? Feckless? Such harsh words, yonya. Myriad and mysterious are the motives of the heart, and infinitely strange and tragic can be the events that unfold in Arda Marred.” He paused then added thoughtfully, “I note that Ingoldo has been all but missing from our court for five years. And it is known that Laurefindel returned to Aman five years ago.”

That was true. Finrod and Amárië had last appeared at the High King’s begetting day feast. They had gushed happily about the beauties of the wild lands south… then vanished once more three days after.

The wild lands south, where rumour said that a bewitched balrog slayer dwelled…

Angrod, suddenly deeply shaken by doubt, sought to reassure himself more than anything else. “Ingo! Impossible. Transparent as he is, he could never have fathered a child in secret. True as he is, he could never have bedded any but Amárië.”

Finarfin gravely nodded assent to his son’s words. “I know that well, yonya. And yet…”

Then something struck Angrod. Something he had waited two thousand years to ask his sister, then utterly forgotten upon her return. “Artanis knows the truth!” he exclaimed. “’Twas she who brought the babe to Turno. ’Tis she who knows the secret of Laurefindel’s birth. And yet—for the past century since her return I never thought once to ask her!”

His father received this outburst calmly. “Hmm… the mind powers of my anel are impressive, if disturbing. And for her to keep and so assiduously protect a secret as she has for thousands of years, tells us one thing. There is indeed a grain of truth in the rumour.” He surveyed the dark, star-strewn sky outside the window once more. “How the stars sing on their journey across the heavens, Ango. A beautiful night for a ride to Alcarinos.”

Angrod looked uneasy. “Atar, how will it look if the High King himself hastens to the scene in the middle of the night? In your eagerness to discover the truth about these possible descendants of yours, you announce to all that you give these tales enough credence to investigate them yourself, and without delay. Or it might look to others that you have little faith in Turukáno’s ability to quash these rumours and restore order to his city himself. He would resent that.”

“I know that, yonya. And since I have every faith in Turukáno, I am not riding there.” Finarfin serenely turned his bright head to gaze at his son. “You are.”

It was true that in their youth, the Finwëan cousins had visited each other with impunity any hour of the day or night as the fancy struck them. It would be like the old days again. Bursting with curiosity about the rumours, eager to discover what he might about this possible secret son, Angrod needed no further prompting.

Within twenty minutes, the third son of the House of Finarfin was riding west.

The King of Alcarinos rewarded his falcon with a treat which it wolfed down ravenously as it sat on its perch. Thus has the word of the Elder King vindicated the Lord of the Fountain, Turgon thought. I owe Ecthelion an apology. Then, descending from his falcons’ mews in the tower attic, Turgon returned to his high tower chamber where his lords still stood gathered in earnest talk.

“—could the Elder King have been clearer? There is naught to fear,” said Penlod.

“Indeed, it would imply that both Lómion and Laurefindel may be received back without fear into our society,” asserted Duilin.

“—‘May be’ and ‘should be’ are two different matters. How could Lómion ever live in our midst again? However cleansed he or she may be, the people’s memories of the dreadful past cannot be erased,” countered Rog.

“Ay, it would bring shadow and suspicion, distress and discord into our city. Better they remain where they are. The further the better,” asserted Egalmoth.

“I, for one, would never abide his or her setting foot in our midst ever again, no matter what the Valar say,” Galdor said darkly.

“What of the sons?” asked Salgant. “Should we not send word to Elemmakil to recall all guards at the passes? There is no harm in letting them go free.”

“After they have attacked Rauco’s men, and fled so guiltily?” retorted Galdor. “They have shown themselves dangerous and duplicitous. I say, bring them in still for questioning and for a reckoning. Since when is violence in Aman so lightly countenanced?”

The lords regarded their King.

“I desire still to have a word with these children,” said Turgon. “Find them if they may be found. Approach them with caution, but do not handle them roughly. Accord them due courtesy as my… kinsmen.” He moved towards the door. “And summon Ecthelion.”

Arman stared in perplexity at the empty stable stall.

“It was Legolas,” said the handsome bay in the stall next door. “He said Mairos was required to move.”

Arman’s perplexity deepened. He knew the bay did not speak of the son of Thranduil, but another Legolas of some fame, who had received honourable mention in the annals of the fall of Gondolin.

Legolas of the House of the Tree.

Thanking the bay, Arman left the House of the Swallow, his pack slung over his shoulder and his mind a tumult of fears and anxieties.

There was a simple reason Duilin had not been able to find Arman in his room.

On his way to the stables, Arman had felt a pang of guilt at running away in so churlish a fashion. With virtually all in the House of the Swallow at the festivities, Arman had met no one as he turned his feet to Duilin’s quarters. So it was that at the time Duilin went to the archer’s little room to find it abandoned, Arman had been sitting in the Lord of the Swallow’s study penning a letter of gratitude and apology. “…forgive me my sudden departure, herunya, and that I have imposed upon your hospitality and kindness under a false identity…” Waving the parchment to dry the ink, Arman folded the note and left it upon Duilin’s desk.

And now Mairos was gone. What did the House of the Tree want with his horse? Knowing it boded ill, Arman wondered if he should head north to the House of the Hammer to rouse Aryo first.

Instead, pulling up his hood so his face was shadowed, he cautiously crossed one of the twelve bridges over the river to the House of the Tree. The moon had set behind the western mountains, and all was silvered only with starlight, and lit by the occasional firework still blossoming in the heavens above. Arman gave a wide berth to the murmuring huddles of elves he saw, though he cast them curious glances. Thus it was that none of the rumours touched his ears ere he approached the stables of the Tree—and saw two of their men standing at the entrance. He ducked back into a niche between two pillars, for their alert, watchful poses told him they were not mere stable hands on duty. They were guarding the horses.

Arman had explored this place thoroughly on the first day Aryo had been laid up in the hall of healing. At that time, the mere existence of a fiery-haired maiden had made the House of the Tree a place magical and wondrous to his young heart. He had explored the corridors and courtyards, enraptured by the thought that her feet would have trodden them too. So it was that he knew of another way to the stables, through the courtyard of the hall of healing, and past the hall of music. There were windows on that side, and he could climb into the stables… but since he could hardly charge out of the stable doors with the horses and ride through the guards (he imagined for a brief moment the wild chase through the city streets that would ensue) he decided to go to Aryo first. Together, the two of them would figure a way out of this.

“Cúmaen,” whispered a dulcet voice that sent tingles through him.

He turned and saw her—just returned from the House of the Golden Flower. She was looking at him strangely.

“You are leaving,” she whispered, a statement, not a question.

“Yes, Nárriel. I must.”

“It is truly farewell, then?”

He hesitated. “Ná,” he said. Then, taking hold of her hand, he pulled her into a deep, shadowy recess where they had to stoop slightly, faces close, so as not to hit their heads against the elbow of a statue of Yavanna that stood there.

“There is something I want you to know,” he whispered. “Even if you hate me forever. It will sound absurd and impossible—but I swear it is true. My nostari were lords of Ondolindë. My Atar is Laurefindel of the Golden Flower. And my Amil—my Amil—is—was—is—Lóm—” It choked in his throat like dry ashes. He drew breath to say it, thinking as he did so: I want to remember this look on her face—this moment—gentle and curious and glowing—and not how she’s going to look once I tell her.

But ere he could speak it, she whispered in response, “Lómion of the Mole?” Her eyes were sorrowful but strangely soft.

His mouth dropped open. “You… know?”

“Half the kingdom knows, Cúmaen,” she said gently. “I just heard it from one of my father’s men. The King and his Lords are looking for you.” She almost smiled. “You have your father’s eyes and mouth, I think.” And perhaps more than some of his nature, she thought.

Half the kingdom knows. He stared at her in shock and horror. “Ai… this is all my fault! I have to find my brother and leave now.”

“Ah, so no friend, then, but a brother. Have you any other lies to confess?”

“None I can think of.”

“You have returned here for your horse, have you not?”

“I have.”

She reached out and brushed her fingers lightly down his cheek. “Then, Cúmaen-Arman-Truthsayer, let me do one thing for you ere we part.”

And he watched, stunned, as she strode purposefully towards the men guarding the stables. “Legolas!” she called in a clear, ringing voice. “Legolas! Halion! Hasten you now to my father at the House of the King!”

“What of the horses, Nárriel?”

“The horses matter no longer,” she said briskly. “Tarry not, but go!”

From behind Yavanna’s statue, Arman watched as the two ellyn strode past and out of the entrance to the House of the Tree.

Arman ran to Nárriel. “Will you not get into trouble for that?” he chided her. “Will not your father punish you?”

“Perhaps,” she shrugged. “It is done. Do not waste it. Quickly—get your horses and follow me.”

“Is there a safe place I can leave Mairos and Talegar? I must get my brother.”

“The orchard beyond the back gate. Go to your brother—I shall bring the horses there. I can show you little-trodden mountain paths out of the city where they will not have set any guards.”

His azure eyes were soft with a look that made her heart beat faster. “You are the most splendid girl that ever breathed in Arda.”

She smiled luminously. “Hurry. I shall wait for you by the Eagle Stone on the western edge of the peach orchard. Do you know it?”

The stone shaped like an eagle’s head was well known and Arman had heard of it in his brief week in the valley. “I shall find it. May I leave this with you?” She nodded and took the travel bag from his hand. He took her hand, kissed it, then ran into the night.

Alone, she went to the stables, and the horses nickered at her as she greeted them. She set Arman’s bag on the straw by Mairos, then paused. It would take her but a few minutes to return to her room and pack a few things, she thought. Then, when, she returned, she would lead three horses, not two, to the Eagle Stone. She would ride with them till they were out of the city…

And then? She thought no further than that, but on swift feet sped to her quarters.

Aryo and Eneldur sat on the floor of the room and gratefully sipped cups of mulled wine.

This tower room was a studio with tall windows, located high above the Lady of the Hammer’s huge workshops on the ground floor, where her large sculptures were created. A lamp sitting on the floor glowed bluish-white, irradiating the room as with moonlight.

Nerdanel sat herself on a small stool across from her guests, and regarded them with kind, thoughtful eyes. In this room, she was not the Lady of the Hammer. She was the mother of the seven sons of the greatest craftsman that ever lived, the most powerful elf Arda would ever see. Many small sculptures no higher than Aryo’s waist stood around the room. There were raw blocks of stone against one wall, and a dozen works arrayed around the chamber were still in different stages of progress. Aryo admired the finished works ranged about him. One masterpiece was a group of seven knee-high neri laughing and talking to each other, and Aryo saw the same seven faces repeated on a number of busts, statues and bas reliefs around the room. A shrine to sons lost and still longed for.

Aryo’s eyes rested on one statue in particular. He stared at the smiling nér playing a harp. So young, so beautiful… and so happy, thought Aryo.

Nerdanel followed Aryo’s gaze, then looked questioningly at him.

“I saw him once, herinya. Makalaurë Kanafinwë.”

“You did?” The mother’s face was so desperately eager, Aryo could have wept. “Where? How did he look? Was he well?”

“It was in our valley, Imladris. He went there now and again, but ever hid from us. We saw him, at last, just once, ere we sailed. He was well.” He hesitated. But so thin, so sorrowful, a shadow of himself...

“May I see him as you did?” she asked softly.

He nodded his permission, and closed his eyes as he allowed her to take the image from his mind. When he opened his eyes again, tears were flowing down her cheeks.

“I am sorry,” he said, stricken.

“Do not be,” she said. “You have given me something precious beyond price.”

“My Amil spoke to him a long while. She begged him sail with us to Aman… but he declined. He said the way was shut to him forever.”

She wept harder at that. “I spoke with Ereinion, with Artanis, with Elrond the Perelda. None, not one could tell me aught of Kano or his whereabouts for the past six millennia.” She wiped the tears from her eyes. “Hantanyel. Hantanyel, vinyamo. And I would speak further with your Amil if I may.”

Aryo gazed down at his cup. “I doubt Lord Rauco would approve of his Lady having aught to do with a traitor and her issue.”

She smiled tenderly at the mention of her lord’s name. “Lord Rauco, for all his fearsome reputation, is a kind and reasonable man. Tell me now how you ended up on the roof by my tower.”

And seething with anger at the injustice of the slurs being cast on his family, he told of why and how he had come to Alcarinos with his twin, what he had heard in the courtyard, and how he had struck Beldo then fled. Then, as she questioned further, he told his mother’s story.

“I served the Lord of the Mole for a century,” affirmed Eneldur, when Aryo’s tale was done. “He was a good lord, grim but just.”

Nerdanel nodded. “Rauco and I have sought out what few Moles we could, and spoken to them. Most think well of Lómion as you do, Eneldur, but barely dare speak it.”

Aryo ran a hand over his hair and frowned. “I regret my violence against the man of the Hammer. How badly was he hurt?”

“His nose is an interesting colour and twice its size at present,” Nerdanel said matter-of-factly. “It should be itself again in three to five days. No other hurt did he sustain but bruises.”

Aryo relaxed visibly with relief. “Eru be thanked.” He glanced at the Lady. “Why did you aid us, herinya?”

“My daughter had spoken well of you to me and Lord Rauco. Hearing the rumours, I thought of my own sons. And when I heard that you struck Beldo, I thought that if any nér had so cast a slur upon me, Tyelkormo and Carnistir would have done worse to him.” Nerdanel reached out her hand to trace the cheek and jawline of a bust sitting on the floor near her—a face fair and strong, but with a fey, wild look to the eyes. She shook her head ruefully and poured her guests another round of mulled wine. “Much though I mislike violence, I understand why you acted as you did. I did not wish to see you and your friend dragged like miscreants before the King with your hands bound behind your backs. I wished, moreover, to hear your side of the story. For millennia I have wondered what my sons’ version of history would be, as I read the records of their evil deeds writ by their victims.”

“And what do you think, now that you have heard my side of the story and my mother’s?”

Her clear eyes scrutinized his face. “That you speak truth, Arinnáro Laurefindelion, and your mother was a traitor certainly but no villain. Was. Past deeds in a past life, unforgotten but atoned for. I will help you as I may.”

Aryo set down his empty cup. “I must find my brother, herinya. We must leave, and Eneldur with us if he wishes.”

“I do wish it,” said the once-Mole.

Nerdanel nodded, but her eyes were distant. “I dream, at times, of my sons’ return from Mandos. Of Rauco and I moving to my father’s house in Tirion, and how we would be one large family once more, as when my sons were young.” She smiled wryly. “Rauco laughs when I tell him. An unlikely fantasy. Having witnessed what horror and hysteria your mother’s re-housing has stirred, even though she be a nís and amil, and no longer even the man she once was, I would wish all my sons far, far from Eldamar, deep in some forest in the south, even as your nostari now are. There, they may live at peace, undisturbed. And I would rejoice to know them free…” Rousing herself, she spoke more briskly, thinking aloud. “I have a wagon of statues, to be delivered to the palace at Tirion come morn. Mayhap I could hide you in it. But nay. There are three of you, and it would be too tight a fit.”

Aryo looked stricken. “And we would have to abandon our horses, faithful steeds we have known all our lives.”

“Then lie low here in this room for a time, till their vigilance drops. A few days, a week. Once the guards are gone from the passes, mayhap you could ride out—not all together, which would surely draw too much notice, but one by one, in the mornings when there is much traffic on the roads in and out of the city.”

“In broad daylight? That would be audacious!” exclaimed Eneldur.

“And unexpected, which is to your advantage,” said Nerdanel. “You could further disguise yourselves.”

“We could dress my brother as a nís. He would make a very pretty one,” said Aryo, and half-smiled at the thought, for the first time since things fell apart. He took another mouthful of mulled wine, then frowned again.

“What is it?” asked Eneldur.

“I was just thinking…” Aryo murmured, “if I run, would that not prove my guilt and wickedness? Would it not confirm all the ill spoken of my mother?” He sighed. “What would my father do in my place? He would never run. He would face Beldo openly, and ask forgiveness. He would go before the King, and attempt to plead my mother’s cause, and seek to have him understand.”

Eneldur looked at him as though he was insane. “Arinnáro… the King loved your father greatly. But you are not your father. What if the King be wrothful, and imprison you?”

“My nostari have no voice in this city, save mine, I owe it to them to take the risk.” He turned to Nerdanel. “Herinya, what are your thoughts?”

Nerdanel looked at him long, then smiled. “That your nostari would be both appalled at the risk you take and proud of your courage. Most willingly would I go to Turukáno with you, and add my voice to yours. No love has he for my sons or Fëanáro. But me, he respects.”

Herinya, you have my deepest gratitude,” said Aryo. “But I… I need to face the King on my own.”

“May Eru grant you favour before him, then.” Her eyes had been wandering curiously over his hair, and now she asked, “What is it that shines so bright atop your head?”

Aryo gazed at her in some bewilderment. He so hated the sight of himself with dark hair that he had assiduously avoided looking in a mirror for the past week. “What?”

She raised the lamp. “At the crown—there, along your scalp. Glimmers of gold.”

“Oh,” he said, understanding dawning. “My hair must be beginning to grow out. That is my natural colour, herinya. My brother and I thought it well to disguise ourselves.”

She looked startled at the very idea, then she chuckled. “Laurefindel’s son indeed. If that is your natural hue beneath the black, ’tis no wonder you sought to disguise it here. How did you do it?”


“Ah, of course. I have many times used walnuts to stain my wooden sculptures. The colour is strong.”

“Too strong,” Aryo said rather bitterly. “I have not felt like myself for a week.”

“Well, it seems that the time for disguises is over. And more easily will you sway the King’s heart with a golden head of hair, methinks.” There was a mischievous twinkle in her eye as she said this. Raven as his own head was, it was notable that all Turgon’s great loves were golden—his wife, his daughter, his foster grandson, his mortal law-son, and his cousin and best friend.

Aryo brightened and looked at her hopefully. “Have you any lemons, herinya?”

“A bushelful in the kitchens, just delivered from Valmar!” She laughed as she took hold of one of his locks and examined the ends by the lamplight. “Lemon juice alone will not suffice! But fortunately I have a potion that I mix with it to remove such stains from my skin and hair… Wait here, vinyamo.” She set down the lamp, and rising, she left the room.

Wearing now a riding dress, and with a light pack on her shoulder, Nárriel was running past the entrance of the House of the Tree and back to the stables when she heard a curious, gruff voice out on the street. It spoke not Quenya nor Sindarin nor any dialect she knew of. A familiar-sounding voice replied in what sounded like the same tongue, and she quickly moved towards the entrance to see the speakers.

By starlight, she saw a curious being walking past the entrance to the House of the Tree—short as a boy, but squat, broad-shouldered, and with stumpy legs. A thick growth of hair had he on his face, as Aulë or Mahtan did, but his hair was milk-white, braided with beads, and hung to his knees. He turned to the lithe elf who walked at his side, and again uttered something incomprehensible in that strange, deep, rumbling voice. Hooded in green, bow and arrows upon his back, the elf turned his head as he answered the dwarf in the same strange tongue, and when Nárriel saw, with a shock, his features by a burst of fireworks in the sky above, and heard the cadences of his voice, she had no doubt who he was.

“Cúmaen!” she cried sharply. The two, tall and short, turned to stare at her, their faces blank and puzzled. “You are quick. Where is your brother?” she said in Quenya, walking to them.

The ellon laughed, stepped towards her, and bowed courteously, but in a more rustic style than he was wont, and his clothes—where on earth had he dug up those dreadful clothes?—were not what he had worn ten minutes past. “Fair maiden,” he said in quaintly-accented rustic Sindarin. “I have not the honour of your acquaintance. You mistake me, surely, for another—”

After the first moment of astonishment, her eyes flashed with emerald fire and she almost stamped her foot at him. “What game do you play? Lies, lies and pretence again?” she snapped in Quenya.

The ellon elegantly lifted an eyebrow. In the starlight, his beautiful features were unmistakable, but his entire manner was different from what it had been just ten minutes past. His azure eyes observed her with perfect detachment, and his luminous smile, though impeccably courteous, seemed to be extending patience to a slow-witted child. He waggled a finger at her. “No speak Quenya,” he said carefully in the most atrocious Quenya she had ever heard. “Speak Sindarin. Me—Sinda. Silvan. You understand? Me no know you. Pardon—”

Rage and hurt flooded her with so much pain she could barely breathe. What effrontery! What an actor he was! Had she actually trusted and believed in him? And how could he be so cruel, so monstrous, as to openly mock and humiliate her in this fashion? Rasco was right. What a dupe, what an utter fool she had been.

“Oh, I understand,” she retorted in rapid-fire, fluent Sindarin, her voice tight with anger. “I understand that you are a monstrous cur and a fraud and rotten to the core, you mound of maggots!” And lunging forward, she aimed a strong punch at his face. As he dodged it, his hood fell back, and a mass of silken pale-golden hair was revealed. They stared at each other, equally astounded, and she lifted her hand to her mouth. A hand pushed at her elbow, and the dwarf—for she realized that was what he must be—stood between them and hurriedly spoke in comprehensible though peculiar Sindarin, “Maiden, you saw one, looks like him?” He pointed up at his companion. “Same face? We too look for him.”

She looked from the dwarf to the elf. There was no mockery in them, none. Their faces were earnest, intent. Gazing into the clear, azure eyes of the stranger, she murmured, “Are you his twin?”

“Nay, a friend.”

“What goes on here!” called a ringing voice. “Nárriel?”

And they looked round to see Galdor of the Tree bearing down on them with six men, two of whom had not long ago been guarding the stables. And seeing the blond ellon, they drew their knives—only the King’s Guard actually carried swords around anymore, and those were more of a ceremonial make than true battle swords—and the blond immediately drew a long hunting knife. The men of the Tree halted.

“’Tis poor hospitality you folk of Alcarinos show to travellers,” said the blond in Sindarin, his azure eyes flashing.

“Ay. I thought you elves in Elvenhome have laws against weapons being drawn on folk,” said the dwarf in Westron. “We come in peace,” he added in his best Sindarin, as he hefted a dangerous-looking axe at the men of the Tree.

“Son of the traitor, Cúmaen or whatever your true name may be,” said Galdor in Quenya, “Cease this foolishness. Surrender and no one need be hurt.”

Atto, he does not speak Quenya,” cried Nárriel.

“Of course he does, anelya.”

“This is not Cúmaen, Atto. Look at his hair!”

“He has duped you, anelya. Fair-haired sons, said the Lord of the Fountain. This is he.”

As this exchange was taking place, Gimli was asking his friend in Westron. “We are not actually going to fight these elves, are we?”

“We could easily take them on, but it would be an entirely wrong thing to do,” replied Legolas.

The dwarf looked mildly disappointed. “Can you understand any of their nattering?”

“A little. It is not good. Arman is in a lot of trouble.”

“Well, the lass seems to have come to her senses, and mayhap she has an idea where he might be. I’ll distract them. You talk to her.” The dwarf lowered his axe, and stepped forward with a hand raised in peace. “Good fellows!” he said in his best Sindarin. “Great misunderstanding here. War of the Ring. Ennor. You heard? Fellowship of Ring. Him Legolas, and me Gimli. Dwarf at your service.” He bowed and his magnificent beard swept the cobblestones.

“My name is Legolas, Master Dwarf,” said one of Galdor’s men skeptically. “And all the lays of the War of the Ring that I have ever heard recount that the Legolas of the Fellowship is of the Silvan folk—and not one ever described him as a blond!”

Legolas had in the meantime leaned close to Nárriel and whispered quickly in Sindarin, “Maiden, if you know where he is, I pray you, tell me now.”

She gave him a suspicious sidelong glance. “How do I know to trust you?”

“You cannot know. Either you do, or do not. I am Legolas Thranduilion and my friend’s name is Arman. Will you trust me?”

“I have done too much trusting, these past few years and past few days.”

Legolas sighed. “Very well.” Sheathing his knife, he walked forward, and opened his palms towards the men of the Tree. “I surrender, good people,” said he in Sindarin. “I am he whom you seek. I surrender.”

“Elf, have you taken leave of your senses?” roared Gimli in Westron.

“If I cannot find Arman, at least I might by this means give him a better chance to escape,” replied Legolas in Westron, wincing as Legolas of the Tree bound his hands tightly before him. “They will not search for one they have already found.”

“Ho! Any who tries to bind me shall lose a hand!” declared Gimli, brandishing his axe at the two elves approaching him with rope.

“Let the dwarf be,” commanded Galdor. In Sindarin, he spoke to Gimli. “Lay down the axe, Master Dwarf, and you shall walk unbound with us to the King’s House.”

“My friend unbound too,” insisted the dwarf, glaring at Legolas, but deciding to play along. “Relative of King, or some such, is he not?”

So Legolas and Gimli were relieved of all their weapons, and walked unfettered but flanked by the men of the Tree towards the King’s Square.

“As for you, anelya, I shall deal with you later,” was her father’s curt, angry parting shot to her.

She watched till they disappeared round a bend in the street. Alone once more, she felt a deep pang of both doubt and regret at what she had just done. Turning, she walked slowly to the stables.

Even as he climbed the stairs towards Aryo’s chamber, Arman felt it. His twin was not there. He closed his eyes and tried to feel Aryo through their link. Nothing. He walked down a long, broad hallway, softly lit by the stars that shone through the arched windows running down its length on one side, and tried to get some sense of where his twin was… yes, he was still somewhere within the House of the Hammer… but then a hard voice rang out behind him.

Aiya, Cúmaen. What is your business here?”

Arman spun around to see Rasco striding down the hallway. The Noldo’s fair face was stern, and his grey eyes glittered coldly as he eyed Arman.

Aiya, Rasco. I come to visit my friend.” And with a quick, courteous bow towards the Son of the Hammer, Arman made to hasten on his way.

“Oh, your friend.” Rasco overtook Arman and blocked his path. He raised a mocking eyebrow. “The same friend who just broke Beldo’s nose, and who has now fled like a coward and a cur?”

Arman froze. “He would not do that!” Not unless grievously provoked. Arman’s blood ran cold…

“Would he not? Son of a traitor and a villain such as he is?”

“Watch who you call a villain!” snapped Arman, his azure eyes flashing with white fire like his father’s.

“He will not get far. My father’s men will hunt him down like the vermin he is. And you, lying little wood elf—whether you be his friend or brother or traitor’s spawn—you shall come with me.”

He lunged at Arman, but the younger elf side-stepped quickly and sent him sprawling across the polished stone floor. Rasco was not without training of his own, however, and springing back swiftly onto his feet, he hurled himself upon the more slightly-built archer and brought him down.

“Rasco! I have no wish to hurt you!” cried Arman as they wrestled.

“Try your best, wood elf!” growled Rasco. “I trained with Tulkas himself!”

As had Arman’s tutor Glorfindel. The two combatants seemed to speak the same language as they grappled and danced about each other—the blows, the throws, the holds. To Rasco’s astonishment, he found his attacks countered with astonishing ease, submission holds evaded or escaped time and again. Finally, Arman slipped like an eel out of Rasco’s grasp and rolled to his feet.

“You’re good,” conceded Arman. But he was getting worried. He had never been bested in unarmed combat by anyone but his father and brother, but that had been in Ennor. Furthermore, his father always bested him, and Aryo beat him much of the time. It was bows and knives Arman excelled at, not this sport. His advantage was lightness and speed, but Rasco, like Aryo, was heavier and stronger than he. And unlike Aryo, Rasco was older, and a more experienced fighter. Arman guessed he had a history of tournaments in Eldamar. The Son of the Hammer studied his opponent well, and was—Arman could already tell—a fast learner. The same moves were not likely to work a second time against him. The longer Arman fought him, the more likely he would lose. And this was wasting time. Precious time. He should already be on his way to the Eagle Stone.

“You’re not too bad,” admitted Rasco with grudging respect. “But this is not over yet!” The Son of the Hammer lunged once again.

I don’t have time for any more of this! Arman vaulted onto a balustrade, used the intricate carvings in the masonry to climb up the exterior wall of the building, and in a moment he was on the roof.

Rasco cursed as he landed on air, and sprang after his prey, climbing with as much agility up the side of the building. Arman was lighter and quicker, but Rasco knew these buildings and this maze of roofs, gables, towers and parapets like the back of his hand. Easily, then, did he go around by another way to ambush the younger nér, and as Arman sought to climb over a parapet, Rasco hurled himself upon him from the top of a nearby gable, and grappling with each other, the two slid down towards the edge of the roof.

Down below in a courtyard, Nerdanel was speaking to two unexpected guests by a fountain. Eneldur hovered behind her, looking about nervously. She turned her head to him. “Be at ease,” she said to the once-Mole. “You are under my protection. I will not let any take you.”

“You are kind, herinya.” Her two guests made Eneldur nervous, for they were great among the quendi, he knew. Simple as their travel raiment was, he could feel their power.

“…so he has gone to the King?” said the dark-haired lord to Nerdanel. “That was well-done of him. I thank you, Haruni Nerdanel.”

“It was my pleasure. He has given me a jewel beyond price. He has given me the first news of Makalaurë in six millennia.”

The dark-haired lord smiled and clasped her hand. “My Atar will return one day, haruni. My hope endures.” He turned to his hooded companion, who had been examining the buildings around. “That is one twin accounted for.”

“And there is the other,” said Galadriel, raising a hand to point at a point high above them. Four pairs of elven eyes lifted to stare at two tiny figures on the rooftops.

“Eru have mercy,” breathed Nerdanel, turning pale. “That is Rasco.”

“And his opponent is Arman,” said Galadriel.

Haruni, how might we get up there?” asked Elrond.

“This way. Quickly.”

They ran into a stairwell, and after a breathless climb of many flights, finally burst out upon the roof.

But by then, the combatants had vanished.

The King of Alcarinos stared at the pale-haired ellon and the white-bearded dwarf that Galdor led into the Hall of Private Audience.

“Legolas Thranduilion? Gimli Gloinion?” said Turgon with a frown. “What is this, Galdor?”

“Nay, this is the son of the traitor. By his own confession.”

By his own confession? Turgon quirked an eyebrow sharply and stared piercingly at the pale-haired prince. “And is the dwarf a son of the traitor too?”

The Lord of the Tree wilted a little under the King’s withering tone. “He did name himself Gimli of the Fellowship of the Ring—”

“—of course he is Master Gimli, there being not another dwarf in all the Blessed Realm.”

“—yes, aranya. But how Master Gimli came to be in the company of the traitor’s son, we do not yet understand.”

“This is Legolas Thranduilion. I could swear—” Turgon was still staring penetratingly at Legolas, who stood much at ease with his hands lightly clasped behind his back, listening with calm interest to the flurry of Quenya. The son of Thranduil returned Turgon’s gaze solemnly. The King looked perplexed. “Strange. Very strange. You look just as he did, yet you appear older than I remember Legolas Thranduilion to be. And you are older than the son of Lómion could be.”

Legolas roughly understood Turgon was saying. Enough to bow, lay a graceful hand across his chest, and reply in his best attempt at a Quenya accent, “Arman Laurefindelion, Aran.”

Duilin at that moment came running into the hall, having been apprised that his Swallow had been taken into custody. He walked up to Legolas, peered intently at him, then pronounced, “This is not he.”

“Do not be misled by the hair, Swallow,” said Galdor. “This is his hair’s true colour.”

“His hair could be purple or blue for all I care, Tree. I know my men, and I know the boy who served in my elite squad this past week. This is not he. This nér looks almost like him, but he is not less than a yén old.”

Galdor was beginning to look doubtful. “He and the dwarf did insist, initially, that he was Legolas of the Company of the Ring.”

“Yet now he declares that he is Laurefindel’s son.” Turgon looked speculatively at the woodland prince, and Legolas looked back, wide-eyed and solemn. “Tell me, Arman Laurefindelion,” said Turgon in Quenya, “with what objective came you and your brother to this kingdom?”

Legolas understood so little of what the King had said that he decided it was best to simply smile enigmatically, and sagely utter the only word he had caught. “Ah… my brother.”

“Yes, your brother. Why are you two here?”

Legolas understood this clearly but had no idea how to reply in Quenya. Looking profoundly ruminative, he knit his brows and repeated, “You two here?”

Turgon looked at the woodland prince in exasperation, then raised an eyebrow at Galdor. “My lord Tree, did you hit him on the head before you brought him in?”

Legolas bestowed upon them an innocent smile.

It was going very much as Arman had feared it would.

He had managed to slip out of Rasco’s grip once, then raced away across the roofs, trusting to his speed to outrun his foe. Deep in his fëa as he sought his twin, he sensed vaguely where he was. So Arman ran away from the House of the Hammer, across the linked roofs, across parapets and high arches and air-bridges. Over the Houses of the Pillar and the Snow, over the House of the Swallow. Far in the distance, he saw the Temple and the King’s House. That was where he needed to go, he knew, but he did not even want to think, right now, what Aryo might be doing at the King’s House, nor what he himself would do once he got there.

Next in his path was the House of the Heavenly Arch. Ahead of him, as the sky in the east lightened, Arman saw the Pyromaster of Alcarinos standing still at the highest point of the House of the Heavenly Arch, a lithe figure in long, swirling, dark robes, his copper-coloured hair flowing in the wind. His long, slender hands were raised before him, preparing a late offering of fire to be sent up into the sky.

Then Rasco had shouted out in a ringing voice, “Curunáro! Curunáro! Stop him! Stop the villain!”

Recognizing the Son of the Hammer, but not the one who fled from him, the Pyromaster had in one graceful move spun about and flung a small projectile at the young ellon running towards him. Across the rooftops it had streaked, flaming, and finally exploded to Arman’s left in a beautiful firebird, long plumed tail streaming, wings outstretched, crested head arched. The fire did not burn or touch Arman, but it sent a shock that threw him to the side, and with a cry the younger twin had fallen hard upon the roof tiles and slid down perilously towards its edge. Even as he tried to scramble back to his feet, Rasco was upon him, and before long had him in a fairly excruciating submission hold. Arman’s head dangled over the edge of the roof, and he gazed down at the river and the city streets far below.

“Confess it, Cúmaen—what is your real name?” Rasco tightened his arm against Arman’s throat.

Arman managed to gasp through the suffocating chokehold, “Tell you… if you ask more graciously.”

“Not that your name signifies anything. What you are, villain, everyone will know now. Lying scum. Ha! if you have ever even set foot in Alalminórë, I’ll eat my hunting horn.”

Arman thought of Nárriel, waiting for him half a city away, and what she would think of him if he never showed up. “My brother and I… leave city… never return. Let me go.”

“Let you go?” Rasco laughed. “Oh, no. I have you right where I want you. And I’m going to drag you before the King, and I am going to drag you before Nárriel. And you are going to confess to her the traitor’s spawn that you are—”

“—she knows. Told her.” Arman was close to blacking out.

“Oh, did you? You told her, did you, that you are the son of Lómion the Traitor? The son of the ally of Moringotto, most evil of the quendi ever to draw breath? What then did she say?”

“Let him go, Lord Rasco,” said a soft voice. “Please.”

They both turned their heads.

Curunáro the Pyromaster was standing a short distance away from them, copper hair and dark robes whipped by the wind. His dark amber eyes were flickering with flame, and in his long, slender hands he held a small object, shaped rather like an oversized, bronze arrowhead. His last firework of the night.

And too late Rasco remembered something about Curunáro. As the small missile launched towards him he remembered it. As it exploded in a lovely shower of golden flowers before his eyes and all went white, it went through his mind.

Curunáro of the House of the Mole.

Rog strode into the hall and announced, “Aranya, there is one who seeks an audience with you.”

“Not now, Rauco,” said Turgon wearily.

Aranya, this one you want to see.”

“And what by Mahal’s hammer did he just say?” muttered thoroughly exasperated Gimli at Legolas’ elbow.

A young ellon walked in at Ecthelion’s side. Hair golden as the sun flowed down his back, still damp from its recent wash. Only if one looked closely could a number of strands and locks still be seen to be a dirty brown. No one had stopped Aryo as he walked calmly through the streets, past the fountain on the King’s Square, and up the steps of the palace. So rare was his shade of gold that many had stopped to stare at the bright, rich golden tresses of the Houses of Ingwë and Finarfin—and of the lost Lord of the Golden Flower.

Gimli and Legolas stared in shock at the elder twin, and Aryo stared back.

“Gimli! Legolas! What in Eä are you doing here?” demanded Aryo in Westron.

“Looking for you and Arman,” replied Legolas in Westron.

“Mahal’s beard, boy, why are you here? We are trying to get you two back home before you get into a mess!”

“A little late for that. Did you tell anyone else we were here?”

“Er… yes.” Gimli looked sheepish. “But not your parents, as you made me promise.”

“They think I am Arman,” said Legolas, with a nod towards Turgon and his lords. “At least, I told them I was.”

“What would possess you to do that?!”

“I hoped it would buy Arman time to get away. But with you here, there is not much point in continuing this charade, is there?”

The King and the four Lords listened to the slew of Westron, completely befuddled.

“He simply walked right up to the palace,” said Ecthelion to the King. “This is the elder son, their firstborn.”

In a ringing voice, Turgon spoke to Aryo. “Come forward, Aros!” And as the young ellon approached, the King said, “Tell us your true name.”

“I am Arinnáro Laurefindelion,” Aryo said calmly in fluent Quenya as he fell to one knee before the throne, “and I humbly plead for mercy from the King my nostari once served.”

“So I now have before me the two sons of Laurefindel and Lómion.”

Aryo turned to look at the woodland prince. “This is not my brother. This is Legolas Thranduilion.”

“I can affirm that, aranya,” said Ecthelion.

“Me—not Arman. Me Legolas,” agreed the son of Thranduil with a dazzling smile.

“Just as I said, aranya!” said Duilin.

“Where the hell is the real Arman then?” cried Galdor in exasperation.

“Where is your brother?” demanded Turgon of Aryo.

Aran, I wish I knew. I have not seen him since sunset. But I have come here of my own accord to seek forgiveness and clemency for striking Beldo of the Hammer. I deeply regret his hurt.”

“And why did you strike him, Arinnáro Laurefindelion?”

Aran, he did insult my Amil. It was wrong of me. Forgive me.”

“You may say it to Beldo yourself in a while. What was your purpose in coming to this city?”

Aryo sighed and suddenly looked very young. “All our lives, even before we could walk, our nostari told us tales of Ondolindë—”

“—and how one of them destroyed it?” Galdor cut in.

“Tree,” Turgon said warningly, and quelled Galdor with a glance. “Pray continue, Arinnáro.”

“And since our coming to Aman, we have heard many reports of Alcarinos and its brightness and beauty. We wished to behold it for ourselves, even if but for a few days. Our nostari knew naught of our coming hence. They would have forbidden it—”

“They most certainly would have,” said a well-loved voice from the door. “You are in for the most fearsome tongue lashing from your mother once you return home.”

At the door stood the Crown Prince and Princess of the Noldor. They were dressed all in white, their light-grey travelling cloaks still about their shoulders. Their golden hair, hers pale and his deep and rich, shone in the dimly lit hall, and when they smiled and approached the throne, they seemed to usher in a summer morning.

“Tyenyar,” said Turgon, stunned, rising to his feet. “What an unexpected pleasure.”

Aiya Turno,” replied Finrod with a graceful nod of his head as he and Amárië walked towards them. They greeted each of the four lords as they passed them, holding Ecthelion’s gaze a little longer.

Aryo rose from his knees, his fair face blank with shock. “Uh—C-cundu Findaráto—Cunduvessë Amárië,” he began to stammer.

And Finrod and Amárië wrapped Aryo in a wordless hug before moving forward to embrace Turgon.

Turgon looked at his cousin and the young great-nephew before him. Saw not only golden hair of the same shade, but eyes the same shade of grey—the deep grey of slate, or a stormy sky.

“My lords,” he said to others present, “allow me some time alone with my kin. Close the doors as you leave. None are to enter.” As Aryo made to leave, Turgon said, “Great-nephew. Stay.”

Once the doors were shut, Finrod said to Turgon, “Elemmakil told us the whole story as we rode in. Guards at the passes, Turno, for two young harmless néri?

“Not entirely harmless,” said Turgon. “Arinnáro here almost broke a man’s nose.”

Finrod raised an eyebrow at the young ellon. “Indyonya,” he said, “Is this true?”

“Ingo—is this your indyo?” Turgon asked Finrod, as Aryo hung his golden head in shame.

Ná,” said Finrod as though his cousin had asked him if he had already supped.

“So you are the father of…”

“Of Laurefindel? Ná.”

“And who is his mother?”

And even as Finrod opened his mouth to reply, Amárië’s musical voice cut in. “Nanyë. I am.” The Vanya, her hand on Aryo’s shoulder, spoke matter-of-factly, her voice calm and level.

Turgon stared at his cousin’s sweet consort in absolute astonishment. “That is impossible.” The physical resemblance was there, thought Turgon. Those azure eyes. But… “Amárië, you were not even there—”

“It is a long story, Turno. We shall tell it someday,” said Finrod. “For now, allow me to assure you that there is naught to fear from my law-daughter, your niece. I have spent much time in her company over the past five coranári, and if there was any whiff of Sauron about her, I assure you I would have known it from a league away.”

“That is reassuring, Ingo,” said Turgon. “As reassuring as the word sent from the Elder King.”

Finrod gently quirked an eyebrow at his cousin. “So… you have had word already from Manwë. Why then are Elemmakil and his guards at the pass, and why this interrogation of my grandson?”

“You have no idea how eventful a night it has been, Ingo. Elemmakil and his men should be receiving the word to stand down right about now. And Arinnáro was explaining to me why he and his brother have been lurking in my city under false identities and with false hair.”

“Dyed hair,” said Aryo, looking abashed.

For the first time, Turgon looked upon the young ellon with a kindly eye. “I suppose, now all is clear as daylight, that you and your brother could remain here in this palace with your grandfather as my guests—if you so wish.”

Aryo looked at Finrod uncertainly. His grandfather beamed at him, and the grandson’s face lit with a smile. “Hantanyel, Aran Turukáno. But I believe it would be best if we returned to our parents—”

Excited shouts rose suddenly from the square outside, in both Sindarin and Quenya. And turning their heads as one, they went to the windows of the hall, and lifted their faces to the sky.

Nárriel paced about by the Eagle Stone. The three horses grazed quietly nearby, and nibbled at fallen fruit from the trees of the orchard.

Her eye fell upon Arman’s pack. She knew she should not—but Rasco’s ringing accusations were in her mind. No one in their right mind would claim to be the son of a traitor were it untrue, she thought. And he confessed it to me—confessed it even though he feared I would hate him. How far would I have to go to find a heart truer than this? Still, were there any other unpleasant revelations in store? She was planning to defy her father and help this ellon and his brother escape the city. She had to be sure she was not aiding a villain. She reached out her hand to the bag…

Then withdrew it. No. She would not look through his bag. Call me a fool. I will trust him.

As she straightened, feeling a sense of triumph at her resolve, the horses began to snort and neigh excitedly. She looked up, and her green eyes widened.

Rasco regained consciousness to hear a musical murmur of voices, to see his mother’s face bent over him, lit with the early morning sun, and to find his head on her lap. He frowned, then suddenly sat bolt upright. “Where is he? The scum! the villain!”

“Shh… yonya.” Nerdanel shook her head, and looked to her right.

Rasco turned his head. On the roof behind him sat a group of five elves, talking intently. The traitor’s son, the turncoat Curunáro and Istarnië’s new apprentice—another former Mole, damn them all—and with them, a lord and a lady.

Elrond, the grandson of the King, Rasco recognized, for the lord had visited Nerdanel more than once. He was talking softly to the traitor’s son, and seemed to be tending his hurts.

The lady he had not seen before. When she turned her head and her piercing grey eyes looked into his, eyes more brilliant than his mother’s with the Light of the Trees, he felt a shock run through him. Pale was the sky over the eastern mountains, and the sun had not yet risen. The sunlight he had seen on his mother’s face, that illuminated this place, was the sun of her radiant hair, showing beneath her hood.

“Artanis, this is my son, Rasco,” said Nerdanel.

The daughter of the High King. She smiled at him, and Rasco thought he had never seen so much beauty before, and he had thought the Queen and Princess Itarillë lovely. He thought he should arise and sweep her a bow, but his body was too heavy and his head ached. He wanted to warn them against the traitor’s son, to expose his perfidy, but one look in those brilliant grey eyes and it all melted away.

“You awaken in time, Rasco,” said Princess Artanis.

“In time for what, herinya?”

Her eyes lifted to the skies. “For that.”

The King of the Eagles lived on Taniquetil with the Elder King. He was not a rare sight in Aman, for oft could he be seen winging high above, at heights where the air was too thin almost for life.

Rarely did the majestic bird ever descend upon Eldamar, for it was in the vast plains south that he chose to hunt. And even more rarely did he visit the cities of the Eldar. Yet here he was, making great circles over Alcarinos. As he descended, the vast breadth of his wings, thirty fathoms wide, took away the breath of the people, even though there were many enough who had seen him close before.

“Alae! Thorondor! Thorondor!” some cried in Sindarin, and “Ela! Sorontar! Sorontar!” others shouted in Quenya.

They watched, mesmerized, as a figure on his back became clear—Eonwë, greatest of arms in Arda, Herald of the Elder King.

Aryo was broken out of his trance by a voice in his ear as he gazed out of the window of the Hall of Private Audience. He followed his grandfather out of the hall and down the palace hallways, and out the great doors as the first light of morning broke over the mountains, just as the great eagle landed in the King’s Square.


Indyonya [Q] – my grandchild. (I think it could be elided to indya, which I used in an earlier chapter, but I think this longer form should be acceptable too. Same for pityonya and pitya, yondonya and yonya. I didn’t want to use Noldorin Quenya inyo as inyonya sounded strange to my ear and inya means “female”)

Mairos [gnomish] – mane

Nostari [Q] – parents

Tyenyar [Q] – dear kinsmen

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