Sáralissë - Part One: Chapter One

Disclaimer: I own nothing of Lord of the Rings; it all belongs to the amazing and brilliant Professor Tolkien. Movie elements belong to the equally amazing Mr. Jackson and Co. However, I do lay claim to my OC and several minor non-canon characters.

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« Author's Preface »

Hello.

This is technically my first fanfic and my first time posting it here at tolkienonline.com. I'm kinda nervous... hehe.

I think you could call this an AU fic, but I hope you won't find it completely out of context to the point beyond recognition of Tolkien's world. Above all, I hope you will enjoy it. Feel free to comment and express your opinion about what you liked or didn't like or if anything is confusing. =)

A very special thank you and hugs to my beta, Calenórë!

Thank you and enjoy!

» tingilairë

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Sáralissë

Part 1.1

by » tingilairë

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--Rivendell | III 2620

It was quiet. Too quiet. Elrond set his quill down and frowned lightly. From his seat at his desk, he turned his head to the window, listening for a familiar sound. But he only heard the light rustle of the wind tousling the rusty, red-gold leaves of his beloved Imladris. The sun was set low behind the surrounding mountains, creating a splendid fusion of pinks and purples and oranges that reflected in the clouds overhead. Elrond watched as the last bit of the sun disappeared behind the mountains, bidding the day farewell and heralding the evening to come, before he rose form his seat to discover the whereabouts of his children. He sauntered down the halls of his home, not concerned about the unwonted lack of activity from his brood, only curious as to what they were up to otherwise.

It was comforting to have the children--his children--all together at home, he thought. It was not always so. The twins divided their time between home and riding with the Rangers. Elrond did not blame them--there was not much for them to do in Imladris anyway. Elrond had all the help he needed from Erestor, his trusted advisor, and Glorfindel, Imladris' most exclusive Elven lord. Still, he did not want his sons to feel underappreciated, and included them in whatever business he had concerning Imladris. His elder daughter spent much of her time in Lothlórien with her grandparents, particularly after Celebrían departed. It was probably best for her. She and the Lady of Lorien drew comfort from one another and as the granddaughter of the Lady of Light, she was given special duties among the Yavannildi.

In truth, though, it had been rather lonely when they were gone. At times, when all was quiet, he thought he could hear their childish singing or their laughter, pearling like tiny silver bells outside in the garden. But, the sounds always dissipated, fluttering like a flock of sparrows into the wind. He would chuckle lightly and remind himself that they were not little children anymore. No, not Celebrían's children. And as much as he wanted to protect him and have them close after their worse nightmare had come to life, he had been advised to allow them the space they needed. After all, they were grown up now.

But, after a trying period of highs and lows, the joy of children's laughter could be heard in his household once again. The addition of his youngest child to the family had brought him newfound joy, despite more personal loss. Elrond had been nervous at how his elder three would react--they were grown now and could understand well the conditions surrounding this child's existence. A child brought into being through his union with another woman. But not just another woman, oh no. It was much more complicated than that, he thought ruefully. And yet again his children had surprised him and welcomed this little girl with open arms; even Elladan, who had had his doubts in the beginning. They had come together as a family, however unconventional their situation was.

And that is how he found them now--a family. It was late in the afternoon, just before the evening meal, and the children of Elrond, Master of Imladris, were gathered together in a large, open room and engaged in various activities. Lord Elrond paused in the doorway and watched his children, smiling fondly as his they went about their business unaware that their father was secretly spying on them. He sighed contentedly. They were the one thing in life that brought him sheer, unadulterated joy.

The eldest, Elladan, was sitting at the far end of the room, polishing an old helmet. Elrond supposed the ladies found him devilishly handsome with his dark hair and grey eyes that sometimes reflected green from the surroundings. Compared to Elrohir, Elladan had always been the more outgoing twin: gregarious, bold, and amiable on a non-personal basis. Like his brother and sister, the brutal attack and sad departure of their mother had left a lasting effect on Elladan, although perhaps a more negative effect than Elrond had initially thought. Elladan had always been close with his mother and after she left, he became more belligerent, impulsive, and disregarding. He was an angry young man driven by aggressive energy. Elrond remembered how the twins soon allied themselves with the Rangers of the Dúnedain, vengefully hunting Orcs wherever they could find them. He was horrified when they returned from their first slaughter, Elladan covered in Orc blood, the bloodlust evident in his wild eyes. Even Elrohir, who was also bent on seeing justice done, was shocked at his brother's rage. Thankfully, his fury had subsided over time but Elladan could still be fiery in temperament when provoked.

It was funny how opposite they were and yet it wasn't all that ironic. Like many twins, they were two parts of a whole, balancing each other out. Despite their differences, there would be a sense of emptiness in their lives if either of them were gone. Of course, Elrond knew this very well. He himself was a twin and he was deeply crushed when Elros had decided to live the mortal life. And, when Elros had departed the earth, a part of Elrond went with him and Elrond knew that he would never feel quite as whole as he once did. His own twins were a bit different though. Whereas Elrond and Elros had been inseparable in their youth, Elladan and Elrohir seemed to manage just as well when they were on their own. It was just an aspect of their polarity.

Elrohir, the younger twin, was busy painting away on a blank canvas. Amid the fluid strokes, Elrond could already see that his son was painting one of his favorite subjects: his siblings. He had to admit that Elrohir's talent was superb. He had a way of capturing the moment and the emotion, making it come alive from the canvas. His work was beautiful. This one was immensely different from his brother. Physically, of course, they looked very much alike: Elrohir was perhaps more gaunt and delicate compared to his brother and his grey eyes tended to reflect more blue. But in character and temperament, one would never have guessed they were twins. Elrohir was of the scholarly type; observant, insightful, and wise beyond his years. He was generally calm and reserved and emotionally steady. Many times, he was the family mediator, usually seeing the big picture and being the voice of reason. Elrond was not certain if it was Celebrían's attack and subsequent departure that caused Elrohir to become so serious, or if his placid son would have taken on such a demeanor regardless. One thing was certain though: Elrohir adored his little sister immensely.

Elrond's eyes shifted over to his youngest child who sat on the floor gazing at the illustrations in her storybook. She made quite the pretty picture, with her waves of dark brown hair and large eyes. Strange eyes. One dark blue, the other deep green. The fact that she was the last living memory of the love of his life endeared her to him especially and although he didn't like to admit it, he was terribly overprotective of her. After her mother passed away, leaving him to raise their daughter without her, he did not think he could do it. He did not think he had the strength to raise another child when his others were already grown to adulthood. But he had managed and truly, her upbringing was a collective effort of her older siblings as well. She was a wonderfully precocious child, curious, observant, and questioning. She ran around the house like a puppy, petted and spoiled. Elrond found he couldn't help himself; he had been indulgent with all his children.

Then there was Arwen, ah, his beautiful Arwen. Even from a young age, Elrond and Celebrían knew their daughter would be beautiful. Even his youngest, who he reckoned would grow up to be beautiful in her own right was no comparison to Arwen. She truly was Lúthien incarnate, the greatest beauty of her time. And Elrond knew that it was not only her physical beauty, but her inner beauty that made her shine all the brighter. He remembered how worried he had been about Arwen after Celebrían's attack. Would she be traumatized after seeing her mother injured so brutally? he kept wondering. He had kept a close eye on her, but all she was concerned about was the wellbeing of her mother. And to Elrond's surprise, Arwen showed amazing resilience. She was able to see the hopeful side, a trait he found particularly astounding. A trait she had inherited from her mother.

Elrond marveled at how his children complemented each other. Arwen, with her nurturing nature, did wonders at soothing Elladan's temper; they both gave each other a sense of being needed and appreciated. Young Ereselle fascinated Elrohir, bringing out a vibrant side to him that sometimes betrayed his serious nature; Elrohir provided her with an outlet for knowledge.

He lingered a while longer in the doorway, then exited quietly, returning to his study. On the way back, he paused in the doorway of another room; this one cold and empty save for a few wooden chests in the corner. He had bypassed this room many a time, never really giving it a thought when he did. But, he knew all too well what was in there. A rusting crown, a tarnished scepter, a broken sword, all entrusted to him as a kingdom crumbled under the writhing hand of darkness. For Elrond had in his possession the heirlooms of Arnor, given to him in the last days of the fading kingdom by those few remaining who fled the evil grasp. Among these heirlooms were the Shards of Narsil, the Blade that cut the Ring from Sauron's Hand. Elrond closed his eyes as if in pain. The surge of memories swelled up and threatened to overwhelm him with appalling detail. All the death and destruction. His King, Gil-galad, slain. A great victory with a heavy price to pay. The War of the Last Alliance.

I should display them, he thought to himself. They should be given the honor that they deserve, especially since The Last Homely House was a refuge to the Chieftains of the Dúnedain. Certainly they would want the honor of seeing their heirlooms kept respectfully, not in a corner collecting dust. Those frightful days were over; it was time for him to come to terms.

A thought occurred to him. Perhaps he would ask Elrohir to paint that very moment upon one of the walls, to commemorate such a great victory over the forces of evil. It was, after all, one of the greatest victories of their times. Yes. The far wall could be his canvas and the entire room could be opened up more, the heirlooms displayed around the room with the Shards in the center. It could prove to be a rather extensive investment, he realized, as Elrohir would want to put more of his paintings on display. Arwen might have a few tapestries she would like to put up. Elladan would suggest that other weaponry be displayed as well. And Ereselle would think of something she could contribute in time. Elrond felt a tinge of excitement at the prospect of starting this project and he was eager to begin drawing plans.

Unexpectedly, an anguished cry from the other room ripped through his thoughts. It was Ereselle's scream, of that he was certain. Dear Eru, what is wrong? he wondered. She had been perfectly content just a moment ago. He realized that children often cried for no apparent reason and Ereselle had certainly had her share of temper tantrums. But this sounded different. This was a cry of great fear and distress. Elrond rushed back to see what was wrong and burst into the room, his heart pounding, eyes searching for his daughter. "What happened?" he demanded.

"I don't know," Arwen answered, staring wide-eyed at the sobbing child in her lap. "She began wailing all of a sudden."

"A bad dream, perhaps?" Elrohir suggested. He glanced back ruefully upon his ruined painting. The sudden outcry from his sister had caused him such unexpected alarm that he had run a streak of green paint across the length of the canvas, rendering it useless.

"No, I don't think so. She was wide awake," Arwen said, wiping the tears from her sister's cheeks with a delicate hand.

"Are you sure?" Elrond asked, taking his young daughter into his arms. She was terribly flushed, as if with fever. She wrapped he arms around his neck and buried her face in his shoulder.

"I'm certain," Arwen insisted. "I had her seated in my lap and I was reading to her when she suddenly began to cry."

"Well, why don't you ask her what happened?" Elladan said brusquely, stating the obvious.

Elrond frowned disapprovingly at his son, but did as he suggested. He sat her down. "Ereselle, precious. Come now, dry your tears and tell me what happened," he coaxed.

She looked at him with large eyes. "It saw me... it was looking at me," she said, her voice barely audible.

"What was?" he asked gently, so as not to make the child anxious.

"The Eye! The large, red Eye!" she said, becoming more distraught. She fidgeted anxiously on the stool and turned her head, looking back and forth between her brothers and sister desperately. They watched her, concerned but intrigued.

"What happened? What did it do?" Elrond pressed on, wanting to find out more.

"It was flaming... on fire. Coming closer and closer and...and...no!" she said, becoming very upset now. She held tight to Elrond as he stroked her back comfortingly. There was no point in distressing her further.

"All right, all right. No more. We'll go down and get you something to eat," he said, looking at her with deep concern. If this was a dream, it was no ordinary dream. "You frightened me terribly, you know?" he told her gently.

She raised her head from his should and looked him in the eye. "I did?" she said in amazement. He nodded his head as he wiped the tears from her cheeks. "I'm sorry, ada," she said, lowering her head to rest on his shoulder once more. He exited the room with his young daughter in tow, leaving the other three to sit there, bewildered and strangely disturbed by the entire episode.

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-- Rivendell | III 2851

"Ereselle, you're fidgeting again. Hold still, please," Arwen pleaded as she ran a brush through her sister's hair. She sighed and shook her head disapprovingly. "How you've gotten your hair so knotted is beyond me."

"I was only trying to braid it," the little girl explained, wincing as Arwen struggled to pull the brush through the tangled mass. "Now tell me, what's going on today? Why must I be so--ow!" Arwen gave a little gasp as she gaped at the brush and the clumps of brown hair clinging to it. It was a mighty good thing that Ereselle had a lot of it.

"We've guests arriving today," Arwen said, consentrating on pulling the strands of hair free from the brush. "The Istari, Curunír and Mithrandir; Lord Círdan, from Mithlond; Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel; and perhaps Thranduil from Mirkwood."

Ereselle sat forward, her eyes lighting up. "You mean I finally get to meet your grandparents?" she asked excitedly. "I finally get to see them, the Lord and Lady of Lothlórien! Wait... but why all the other guests?"

"That, my dear, is nothing you need to concern yourself about," Arwen said in a tone that told Ereselle not to pursue the matter further. "

* * * * * * * * * *

Later that day, as Ereselle walked down the many corridors of her home, she spotted her father greeting a handsome looking couple outside. The man was silver-haired and had a kind, friendly face. She saw her father take the man's hand, speaking warmly. The woman looked on, her face remaining emotionless, but she was remarkably beautiful nonetheless. Excitement grew within Ereselle as she came to realize that this must be the Lord and Lady of Lothlórien, for they shone with a seemingly ethereal aura. Ereselle decided that she must get a closer look. With her stomach fluttering with tiny butterflies, she came forward and grasped Elrond's hand, looking up shyly at the two Elves before her.

"Galadriel, mae govannen," her father replied graciously, taking the Lady's delicate hand.

"Elrond," she acknowledged, her voice soft but rather curt.

As Ereselle laid eyes on this woman, it dawned on her why Arwen was so beautiful. She came from a long line of beautiful women and here was proof. Her eyes sparkled with twinkling lights and her hair was a beautiful amalgam of silver and gold. She was every bit as graceful and regal as Ereselle had imagined the Lady of Lothlórien would be and she found herself entranced immediately, like a moth to a flame. One thing Ereselle did notice, and that she found a bit strange, was that Galadriel never once smiled as she greeted Elrond. In truth, she did not seem too pleased to be in Imladris at all.

Elrond had been anxiously awaiting--or perhaps dreading--this day. Galadriel would meet Ereselle for the first time. What would she think? He hoped it would not be too disappointing for his daughter. Ereselle had been eager to meet both guardians of Lothlórien, but she was especially keen on meeting Galadriel, whom she had heard so much of through history and legend. He squeezed Ereselle's hand lightly. Gesturing to his daughter, he said, "This is--" but was suddenly cut off in mid-sentence by the Lady herself.

"If you'll excuse me, Elrond. It's been a long journey and I feel the need to retire," Galadriel interrupted, not even glancing at Ereselle as she walked towards the house.

That was unexpected. Elrond was crestfallen. She hadn't even bothered to look at Ereselle. He stared, dumbfounded for a moment before the anger flared up and settled in. What was he to tell Ereselle? How could he explain to his daughter that Galadriel would make no efforts to acknowledge her existence? The perplexity of it angered him further.

Ereselle frowned and looked up questioningly at Elrond. "Ada?" she said quizzically. As he turned to her, the frown on his brow disappeared and Elrond gave her a sympathetic look. He felt sorry for her as she watched Galadriel walk up the stairs and into the house, the expression on her face struggling, as she was not sure whether to be hurt or offended by Galadriel's ignorance.

Celeborn watched his wife uneasily as she walked into the house. He cleared his throat. "Ah, yes," he said, his tone apologetic. He turned to Ereselle and smiled kindly. "It is a pleasure to finally meet you, Ereselle. We've heard much about you; your brothers and sister speak of nothing else." Ereselle smiled, relieved that Celeborn seemed to be much more pleasant than his wife.

Celeborn exchanged an amused look with Elrond. "I've brought another guest with us. This is Haldir," he said, ushering forth a young, light-haired boy about Ereselle's age. He looked up at Elrond before bowing courteously. "We've taken Haldir under our tutelage. He's shown great potential and we have hopes to groom him as the marchwarden of our lands."

"Ah, excellent notion. I'm sure you will make a wonderful marchwarden, Haldir," said Elrond. He looked at Ereselle. "My pet, why don't you take Haldir and give him the grand tour." Ereselle nodded and looked expectantly at Haldir, who remained stationary. He looked up at Celeborn, his face seeming to ask `Do I have to?' Celeborn scowled lightly and pushed him forward.

There was a moment of silence as the two lords watched the children head off. Celeborn raised an eyebrow at Elrond. "Well, you certainly gave him enough encouragement. He's not the marchwarden yet, you know," he said lightly.

At this, Elrond let out a long sigh of relief. He felt as if he had been holding his breath for ages. His shoulders sagged slightly. "Does he live with you in Caras Galadhon?" he asked, to make conversation.

"Yes, Galadriel thought it best that he come and live within Caras Galadhon," Celeborn replied pleasantly. "It would be easier to train him and have him study if her were under our direct tutelage. It was difficult to convince his family to let him go, but in the end, they consented. He has two younger brothers who I daresay might prove to be competition for him one day. Galadriel has her eye on them, too."

Elrond smiled thinly, but he wasn't really paying attention. He turned his attention to the house and shook his head. "That did not go well," he muttered, feeling snubbed and defeated.

"She is the way she is," Celeborn said in the tone of a man who knew his wife all too well. "It may not seem like it, but the events surrounding Celebrían were not that long ago; for both of us, but especially for Galadriel. It still weighs raw and heavy in her thoughts."

"Even so, she should not direct the bitterness of what happened to her daughter upon my own," Elrond replied bitterly.

"Do not be too upset, Elrond," Celeborn said sympathetically, putting his hand on his shoulder and directing him into the house. "Give her some time to warm up to Ereselle. I'm sure she will find that she is a delightful little girl."

* * * * * * * * * *

Ereselle took Haldir through the compound, pointing out what and where everything was with an almost mechanical pedantry. They were now in the gallery where the heirlooms of Arnor were kept and she went through and showed Haldir everything, from the scene Elrohir had painted on the wall to the Shards of Narsil on a pedestal in the center of the room. Haldir had remained quiet throughout the tour. Occasionally, he would look at something intently, but for the most part he seemed disinterested. Ereselle had the feeling that he was trying to hide his awe and curiosity behind a facade of apathy.

But something else was biting at her thoughts. The convening of so many of the Wise and the clandestine nature of the importance and meaning of such a gathering was perplexing to Ereselle. Being unable to pry answers from her brothers and sister only made her curiosity bubble over even more. She glanced at Haldir who was studying Elrohir's mural, recognition and a seeming appreciation displayed on his face. They hadn't said much to each other, but she decided to ask. "Haldir, do you know why you're here?" she asked, hoping that perhaps he had a clue as to what was taking place.

Haldir turned to her, startled. He registered her question in his mind and shook his head. "No, I'm just here to accompany my Lord and Lady," he stated. "If I'm going to be Marchwarden, I'll have to know where other places are located," he added matter-of-factly.

Ereselle nodded, hiding her disappointment. She waited a few moments, but couldn't help herself. "Well, why do you think you're here?"

"I don't know," he said, faintly annoyed by her questions. "I do as I'm told. Why are you so interested anyway? Obviously there is a reason why we were not told."

"Yes, but what is that reason? Why are there so many of the Wise fathered here today? Why have they all gone into my father's study and shut the doors? Doesn't it pull at your curiosity just a little?" she pried, hoping she could spark the tiniest interest in him.

Haldir looked at her blankly. "No."

Ereselle looked at him skeptically. So far, he had proved to be a rather dull boy with a haughty air about him. "You mean to tell me that you don't wonder why Lord Círdan has come all the way from the Grey Havens instead of making sure the boats are ready to take those who wish to depart to Valinor? You haven't given a thought as to why Thranduil would come all this way from the north?"

"Thranduil?" Haldir repeated, light sparking in his eyes. "You mean that silly old king who lives underneath the ground in dark, dreary caverns built by Dwarves, hoarding his treasure and his wine?" he said, raising an eyebrow.

"That's not a very nice thing to say, Haldir," Ereselle reprimanded. Where had he heard such things? Well, at leas she had his interest now.

"But it's true," Haldir retorted.

"And how would you know?"

"Everyone knows that. He rarely leaves his caverns and he has more riches than you can imagine and he's always greedy for more. They saw he's even tamed the Spiders that roam his land." Haldir explained this all with an enthusiasm that he had not previously displayed before and for a moment he had Ereselle drawn in. She thought about it. Was there really a king like that, who could tame the Spiders of Mirkwood? She had heard tales about the Spiders. Horrible, frightening creatures whose bite could paralyze and even kill. But it all seemed to be an exaggeration, and although this too tugged at her curiosity, Ereselle could not be bothered to wonder about it. There were more immediate matters at hand.

"Come," she said, exiting the room and turning down one of the open hallways.

"Where are you going?" Haldir asked, but she did not answer. He watched her go for a moment before deciding to follow. He followed her until she stopped in front of two large, closed doors. Elrond's study. "We cannot go in there!" Haldir exclaimed.

"No, of course we can't," she said thoughtfully. She turned around and made her way outside. Confused, Haldir followed. Outside, he found her reaching up for a tree branch. She jumped up and grabbed one, hoisting her legs up around the branch before swinging upright.

"What are you doing?" Haldir asked.

Ereselle held a finger to her mouth to quiet him. "Shh, not so loud. Don't you want to know what's going on?"

He looked doubtful. "No... well, yes. But we can't."

"Why not?" Ereselle asked challengingly.

"Because... because it's none of our business. Whatever it is doesn't concern us."

Ereselle realized that this boy had no real sense of adventure. He was much too trained to do exactly as he was told. "How do you know? Perhaps they are in there right now, planning to marry you to a troll. Wouldn't you want to know?" she said, jesting half-heartedly. She laughed to herself, thinking that if Haldir had been ordered to marry a troll upon Galadriel and Celeborn's wishes, he just might do so. Haldir frowned. "You don't have to come up here if you don't want to," she said with a sigh, finally giving up. She began to climb once more, with increasing difficulty due to her dress. Nevertheless, she continued on until she was about fifteen feet off the ground.

"Come down now," he pleaded. "You can show me around some more. You can take me to the gardens... or... the library! You have a library, don't you?"

Ereselle just ignored him and settled herself between the branches for the best view. From her vantage point, she could clearly see the participants. All of the guests were present and so were the most important and noble citizens of Imladris, including her brothers and sister; Erestor, her father's friend and advisor; and Glorfindel, one of the highest Elven lords in the land. The discussion was being held in Quenya, a language Ereselle had limited understanding of.

The tree branch began to shake suddenly and Ereselle grabbed another nearby branch to steady herself. Haldir's head appeared from below and he pulled himself up to join here. Ereselle threw him a smug look but he ignored it and turned his attention to the Council.

The head of the Istari, whom the Elves called Curunír, stood up to address the rest of the Council members. Ereselle wrinkled her nose in mild distaste. He was an elderly man, with a long, drawn face, a beak-like nose, and angular features. His eyebrows came down heavily upon his eyelids, which gave the illusion that he was always looking down upon others. His countenance held none of the soft kindness and humble wisdom of his fellow wizard, Mithrandir; this wizard had a look of dangerous cunning.

"Is the White Council ready to commence?" Curunír asked. The others nodded their heads in consent.

Elrond looked around, his brows furrowed. "Thranduil is not in attendance?"

Mithrandir spoke up. "No, he has declined to come. Thranduil rarely leaves his realm and wishes to have little dealings with the outside world. Nevertheless, it is pity that he is not here for our meeting today concerns the immediate safety of his realm and his people."

"And this is the reason you have called for a meeting?" Erestor asked.

Mithrandir nodded. "As you know, activity of a dark nature has been brewing in Dol Guldur for a long time. At first we thought it to be the work of one of the Nazgúl... the Ulairi. But I fear that it is far worse than we ever imagined." Mithrandir paused, looking as if he might not continue.

"Yes," Glorfindel pressed him. "And what have you discovered?"

Ereselle glanced at Curunír, who had remained quiet since the beginning and quite purposefully so, it seemed. But she noticed that even though he sat back and watched the discussion with a cool, unreadable countenance, he appeared to be bothered by the fact that Mithrandir had taken hold of the discussion.

Mithrandir took a deep breath before continuing. "I have gone into Dol Guldur several times within the past years and the last time I was there was not more than a year ago. It was then that I discovered that Thráin, the Dwarven king-in-exile, had been taken prisoner within the fortress. In his captivity, the last of the Seven Rings had been stripped from him. Only then did I realize that his captor was none other than Sauron." Several of the council members gasped quietly. The others looked stunned. "Yes, Sauron has returned. He is gathering all the Rings to him and seeks news of the One."

A heavy silence followed.

"What is to be done?" Galadriel said, her velvety voice breaking the silence.

"I would urge an attack on Dol Guldur as soon as possible," answered Mithrandir bluntly. "The sooner, the better."

Curunír looked as if he might say something, but then thought better of it. His face was stern, set in straight lines, but he looked anxious.

"What say the rest of you?" Mithrandir said, looking at the others.

"An attack would mean the uses of our Lorien forces. We are limited in the number of troops we have. I personally would prefer not to engage in war, seeing as our lands border Mirkwood and consequently Dol Guldur," Galadriel said. She turned to her husband. "Celeborn?"

"The forces of Lorien would be few," he admitted. "Mithrandir, we do not know much else about Sauron's resurgence. How many legions does he have? What are his defenses? How powerful is he?"

"They say he appears only as a red, lidless eye stationed high atop his tower. He has not regained his full power yet. He needs the Ring to do so," Mithrandir offered.

At the mention of the Eye, Ereselle watched as her father stiffened and shifted in his chair uncomfortably. He appeared thoughtful before speaking his opinion. "I do not wish to engage in a battle when I do not know the strength of the enemy," Elrond said resolutely. "I will not send troops." Mithrandir's face fell. He was counting on Elrond to be his chief support, for he had fought in the War against Sauron before.

"Father, you of all people should know better!" Elladan exclaimed. "You of all people know the folly of letting opportunities slip by. You were at Isildur's side, you watched as he took the Ring, you had the chance to--"

Elrohir put a restraining hand on his twin's arm, squeezing it hard. "Elladan. Don't start," he warned darkly. Tension filled the air as Elladan looked as if he might go on anyway, but he reluctantly quieted. Elrond sat stiffly in his chair, his jaw clenched.

All eyes now fell to the Lord of the Grey Havens. "My people are peaceful people, they have no interest in engaging in war," said Círdan with a nervous laugh. His tone then grew solemn. "While your intentions are noble, Mithrandir, perhaps more time should be given to plan and accumulate."

All fell silent again. None of the Elven Lords were willing to fight. The situation did not look promising.

"Well, I agree with Mithrandir. We cannot wait too long," Glorfindel said in a clear, loud voice.

"Aye," Elladan added enthusiastically. His eyes were already burning intensely as he pictured the battle. He turned to look at his twin, his eyes questioning as Elrohir gave him a doubtful look.

"Both sides seem to have legitimate reasons for deciding whether or not to fight," Elrohir began carefully. "True, more time is needed to prepare adequately. But if we wait, Sauron's power will grow stronger and stronger and we run the risk of him finding the Ring. I think we should take him out now--quietly while we still can, before too many people become involved."

The younger Elves turned desperately to Curunír. Only he could break the deadlock. "The decision stands at five votes to five, Curunír," they said. "What do you say?"

Curunír looked at them and raised his eyebrows. "Keep in mind who you are dealing with. This is the Dark Lord Sauron. He is not one to be meddled with lightly. Yet, we cannot let this go by unnoticed and undealt with. In all truth, I would not advise against an attack, but postponement would seem a better option at the moment. Let us gather more information. I can send out agents to scout out news. If we are to do this, then we must do it with the utmost precaution and preparation."

"And what if we wait and Sauron grows more powerful than we can handle? He will wipe us out!" Elladan said heatedly.

Elrohir opened his mouth to reprimand his brother once more but Elrond held up a hand as if to say `let me handle this.' "What makes you think that we can go up against him now without being slaughtered mercilessly?" Elrond said calmly, addressing Elladan. "It does not hurt to take the time to find out what exactly we are up against."

"Could we not just send out smaller bands of troops and attack steadily in the meantime? Surely he has not regained a great amount of power."

Elrond shook his head and continued on patiently. "No, we don't really have the resources ready nor do we have that many troops to spare so casually. It's best not to guess how powerful he is. If we spend some time finding out more information on the situation, we would be much better off. We should not provoke him just yet.

"Oh, so we should let him strike the first blow?" said Elladan with angry skepticism.

"It might come to that. It could be a casualty, but it's a precaution that can do us more good than harm in the long run. It's just too early to tell anything. We'll have to let it be for now."

"What about Thranduil? This is his territory we are dealing with," Elladan began in a last attempt to sway the vote.

"Thranduil has chosen not to partake in this Council," Curunír said sternly. "His opinion is void, therefore he has no say."

The decision left none with any real satisfaction, but to Mithrandir and the younger generation of Elves it seemed that Curunír had sided with their lords. There was not much they could do. It was not worth the risk to start a skirmish if everyone did not have their hearts in it. The issue was neutralized for the moment but surely there would surely be another council before any real decisions would be made.

Curunír rose from his seat to take his leave. The Council was over. "Be on your guard," he warned, as the others got up to depart. "Orcs will be on the move to heed the call of Mordor. Increase the lookouts on the borders of your lands and do not hesitate to correspond with each other if any notable activity takes place."

Ereselle and Haldir looked at each other, befuddled and disturbed by the whole conversation. It all seemed very serious. Would there be war? One thing that particularly stood out to Ereselle was the mention of the Eye. Why did that description seen so familiar, she wondered.

"We should get down now, before someone finds us," Haldir said, breaking her conversation. He clambered his way down and waited for her at the bottom.

Swinging her legs over, Ereselle grabbed a tree branch and was about to lower herself down when, in a flash, a scene from her younger days played before her. She had been very young and was sitting on Arwen's lap one afternoon as she was reading a storybook. She remembered enjoying the story until she began to feel odd. Her head felt funny and Arwen's voice began to fade until she couldn't hear it any more. A darkness had enveloped her, turning everything black. She had become very frightened because she could not see or feel Arwen or the twins. She had reached out, hoping that someone was there. She felt that there was someone looking at her from behind. As she jerked around in fear, she beheld a red, flaming eye before her, growing bigger and brighter, coming closer and closer. A screaming filled her ears. Then, the apparition was gone as soon as it had appeared. When her surroundings returned back as they were, she found that is was she who was screaming. She felt awfully hot. Her family had asked her what was wrong, but she couldn't explain. She was too young.

The sudden memory hit her like a stone wall and she lost her hold on the branch. She fell through the air, her arms flailing, but she didn't even have time to scream before landing on an upturned tree root with appalling impact. She felt the air burst from her lips in a gasp as her back made contact with the ground. Panicking as she struggled for breath, she tried to cry out, but couldn't. Haldir had watched her as she fell and was quickly at her side.

"Are you all right?" he asked desperately. "What happened? Say something!"

But she couldn't speak. She couldn't even cry from the pain. She struggled, gasping for breath as her lungs constricted impossibly tight. Finally, she was able to draw in a breath of cool, fresh air. She gasped gratefully through her coughs and gags, and she tried to sit up to ease her breathing. Haldir told her to lie still, but it didn't matter anyway. She couldn't move, even if she had wanted to. It was as if her body weighed hundreds of pounds. Her eyes widened in fear. "Haldir... I can't... I can't move!' she cried, her voice rising with sobs and hysteria.

"What do you mean, you can't move?" He looked around urgently for someone, anyone. "Someone, help!" he called.

Ereselle closed her eyes, praying her father would come. Tears slowly slid down her cheeks, dripping down to her ears. "Ada!"

____________________


« Author's Note »

An interesting little tidbit: the color of Ereselle's eyes is a genetic condition known as heterochromia iridium--the presence of different colored eyes within a single individual.

I've put the dates in as references, so you can see how Ereselle and Legolas age in the story and how old they are at the time of certain events in LotR history. I hope no one is too confused about their approximate ages.

I'm no expert in Elvish, but I've tried to construct some Sindarin names for the various characters that I've brought into the fic. It was actually difficult to come up with names in Sindarin... mainly because I found a lot of the words difficult to put together. And, there aren't as many words in Sindarin as there are in Quenya and I had a hard time finding Sindarin dictionaries. But I didn't want to give these Middle-earth Elves Quenya names, now. Anyway, I hope these make sense.

Ereselle » lonely daughter/only daughter


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