A New Evil - Chapter One
"Elladan! Elrohir! Your father wishes to speak with you!"
Ah, so it concerns my brothers. That explains things. It isn't their fault that they're forever being called here and there, on one diplomatic mission or another. Being the only sons of Elrond must be trying at times. I follow them, try and learn what is arising in the complicated world of elven politics.
This can't be a good sign--it looks as if they're heading to the study. Only the highest priorities are talked of in the study of Elrond. I dash ahead, reaching the door a moment before they do. Absorbed in their talk, they don't notice me.
I hide between shelves of books, tall wooden structures worn with age. They obscure my line of vision for a moment. Ah, there they are, my brothers. Elrohir is the first one I can see, his laughing eyes quelled by the solemnity of the moment. His wide mouth, normally curved up in a wry grin, is a flat line. What could have done this to my always-laughing, merry brother? Elladan, too, is different, his proud face looking sad, dark, and defeated. What has happened?
Father steps into the ring of light around the window--he has been bent over one of the oldest books in our collection, a book of tales about the beginning of creation. His ageless face is creased with lines of worry, his shoulders slightly bent, as if a weight is upon him.
"My sons," he says, placing a hand on each of their shoulders, "a great evil has... awakened."
What does he speak of? We already know of the Dark Lord Sauron, and how he has taken back the tower of Dol Guldur in Mirkwood--this is not news. Elrohir voices my thoughts.
"We know this, Father. It is Sauron you speak of, is it not?"
"It is, Elrohir, it is. But new circumstances have arisen in Mirkwood."
New circumstances? Nothing has changed in Mirkwood, or indeed in the world of Elves, since Sauron re-inhabited Dol Guldur. He has lain quiet in that tower, not bothering us.
"There has been word of a spreading shadow in the south of Mirkwood, of new evil creatures awakening, stirring. And now, this..."
He hands my brothers a letter, the parchment battered and worn thin. With the two of them leaning over it, I cannot read the words. But even if they did not block my view, I doubt that I could read it--their eyes are narrowed to squints, foreheads creased in concentration. The characters must be very small indeed to warrant such difficulty.
Thankfully, I do not need to read it. Elrohir is mumbling the words to himself, loud enough for my elf-ears to hear. For a second I consider that he might know of my presence, but I dismiss the idea--he is reading. I have no time to waste with such trivial thoughts. I strain my ears to the limits of their hearing and can easily make out his words.
"Thranduil of Mirkwood sends his messenger to Elrond of Mirkwood seeking his aid. Scouts have obtained information enough to prove that Sauron has been massing an army in the south of Mirkwood large enough to take over the woodland realm. We have not enough warriors to withstand such an attack. We ask that you send a delegation to Mirkwood with my messenger to discuss the threat of Sauron. Neither army nor reinforcements are yet asked of you, but be aware of this threat to the realm of Mirkwood and to your kin. War is coming; it is only a matter of time.
Thranduil of Mirkwood"
So this is the news, this is the pain that Father is going through--the threat of a new war. As he reads it, I see Elrohir sink, shrink, as that same weight is thrown upon his shoulders. Elladan, too, feels it, his smooth perfect face lining with the creases of one who has just aged a hundred years.
My brothers finish the letter simultaneously, and Elrohir drops it on a table as he sinks into a chair. Elladan remains standing, but his hand goes to his forehead, eyes dropped. Father looks away, not wanting to meet the eyes of his sons.
Finally Elladan breaks the silence. "What must we do, Father?"
Father flinches at the words, as if he has been dreading them. "We must do as Thranduil requests. A delegation must be sent to Mirkwood--we must address the threat of Sauron before it is too late."
Elladan immediately responds, too quickly. "I will go."
Elrohir looks up at him, a startled courage blazing in his eyes. "As will I."
Father gazes at them, a new weariness in his eyes. "I was afraid of this," he says, "I was afraid that the both of you would wish to go--"
Both my brothers are now standing side by side, twin portraits of grim determination. Even I can see that they will not be swayed in this matter. Before they can speak, Father continues.
"--and go you will, for I can see that nothing I say or do will change your minds. As soon as an escort can be found, you will depart. We can waste no more time."
Silence again reigns, though not for long. Out of a deep thought, Elrohir says that he wants no escort. "The two of us alone will be less easily spotted than a company. It is safer this way." Elladan agrees with him, as I do.
"Very well. You will leave in a days' time--long enough for you two to plan and map out your journey. Thranduil's messenger needs rest, as well. I think, though, that you would wish to visit with him..."
My brothers' eyes clear, and Elrohir's mouth twitches up into the beginnings of a smile. "It's not Bregolas! It can't be!"
Father's grim face smooths a little. "It is. Go now, visit with your friend. It may be the last safe time you have together for some time."
The twins dash out of the room, and I can hear their footsteps echoing down the hall. Bregolas is a name I recognize, as one of their best friends from Mirkwood. He visits us here often, though not on occasions so serious as this. I will have to go visit him before they leave.
"You can come out now, Dae." I come out of my trance, whirling around to meet Father's eyes. I had been totally unaware that he knew of my presence, but I was not thinking. He is an elf lord both powerful and wise--obviously he would know the whereabouts of his youngest daughter. I slowly step out from between the shelves.
"So you know. Now you know."
"Yes, Father, now I know."
"I am worried for them...the road is dangerous, and I do not like their going anywhere near Dol Guldur."
"Are you not worried for me?"
"Why would I be?" Father's eyes are puzzled.
"I am going with them." I say it as if it is the most obvious thing in the world.
"You are not." His voice is icy cold and even. When it gets like that I know I am fighting a losing battle, but even so, I press on.
"I am. I will not leave Elladan and Elrohir to battle this evil on their own!"
"You are not. They can take care of themselves, daughter. You will stay safely her with your mother and I."
"But why?" Even to me, my plead sounds like a whine. "I want to see action, I want to see Mirkwood--I want to see more than this place--" I gesture around, indicating Rivendell's mighty halls--"where I have always lived!"
"Now is not the time for the traveler within you to awaken, Dae. You will see the world, Elbereth willing, but not now. It is too dangerous--"
I open my mouth to protest, but he holds up a long hand, stopping me. "--but perhaps you and your mother will go to Lothlórien. The power of Galadriel will protect you better than I or these walls ever could."
This closes my mouth for good. Lothlórien! It is a place that I have heard talked of with reverence and love and longing, the land of my mother's kin, the heart of elvendom on earth. And Galadriel...long have I desired to meet the famed Lady of Light, the mother of my mother.
"Thank you, Father! Thank you..."
"Do not thank me, Daeril." He calls me by my full name, which frightens me. "It is a sorrow to me that I must send away the ones I love that they might be safer. Go, now, help your brothers prepare for tomorrow."
I leave the study. As I turn at the door, I look back. Father has sunk down into a carved chair, his head in his hands, looking as if all the weight of middle-earth has just fallen on his shoulders. I cannot see his face, but I know that on it is a picture of pain unimaginable, a pain for all the ages. I turn again and walk down the hall towards my brothers' chambers.