A/N: The usual: thanks to my reviewers and the various peole who help me with writing/editing, and I don’t own Middle Earth, as I should think is abundantly clear.
Chapter Fifteen: The King and Queen of Doriath
What bloody man is this? He can report
As seemeth by his plight, of the revolt
The newest state.
—William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Taurion, Elsir, and I stood in front of a large carved archway that had to lead into the throne room.
With Elsir taking the lead again we walked through into a hall teeming with light and color. The carvings on the walls were even more delicate and ornate than those in the corridor, and gold and silver lamps lit the chamber with a bright but gentle glow. The hall itself was enormous, and filled with Elves dressed in court garments of crimson and clear blue, leaf-green and gold and violet, and other colors flickering at the corners of my vision that I did not have time to name.
There was an open pathway down the center of the hall, and at its end, perhps fifty yards distant, was a raised dais. There was a chair set on the right side, empty. But in the center, on two thrones, the King and Queen of Doriath were seated. As Elsir and Taurion and I stood at the foot of the hall I had a brief chance to study them.
Elwe Singollo was tall, I could see that even while he was sitting. He had silver hair, pulled back beneath a slender golden crown, and steel-gray eyes. Though he had the youth of the Eldar he looked both ancient and formidable.
The Queen, beside him, almost cannot be described. Even from far away she had a slight radiance, her skin almost translucent with the power that was in her, belying the Elf-form she bore. Her hair was long and dark, and though like her husband she was ageless, in some indefinable way her being as a Maia, one of the Ainur, the first children of Iluvatar, was clearly to be seen.
Behind them, on the farthest wall, was a massive tapestry depicting Telperion and Laurelin at the mingling of the lights. I had never seen the Two Trees, but Amme and Atar had told me and Linedhel and Calien of them many times.
Elsir glanced at me, and he stepped forward, motioning for me and Taurion to follow. I took a deep breath and did so. Elsir dropped back so that he and Taurion walked on either side of me. Emeryk, who had remained quietly on my shoulder this whole time, croaked softly.
A hush fell on the gathered Elves as we drew nearer to the dais. I knew what they must see, a travelworn, black-haired, black-clad daughter of the Exiles, raven on shoulder, being escorted before their King and Queen. I stood out, I realized with an odd bitter wryness, like a ragged black raven myself in a flock of songbirds.
As we walked on I caught the expressions of many different faces: curiousity, hotility, wariness, or simple, uncomplicated puzzlement. I ignored them all and continued on, concentrating on keeping my expression unreadable and holding myself together.
And then at last we reached the end of the hall. Elsir and Taurion halted. I glanced at Taurion, and he gave me a nod and a very quick smile. I took another deep breath, stepped forward, and knelt before the thrones. “My lord. My lady.”
Elwe Singollo motioned for me to rise. “What tidings do you bear, Indil of Gondolin?” His voice was clear and commanding.
“My lord,” I swallowed hard, placing a tight rein on the emotion threatening to shake my voice, “Gondolin has fallen.”
There was silence in the hall. I looked about, and saw shock on almost all the faces around me. Taurion stood with his head slightly bent and eyes closed, a look of pain crossing his face.
Then the Queen Melian, whose expression had remained serene and unshaken, spoke. “How and when, Indil of Gondolin, did this happen?”
I looked up and met her gaze. I could see an ancient light of wisdom in her eyes, and knew that my heart was being read by one whose thoughts and knowledge were as far beyond me as the stars. “I cannot exactly say, my lady,” I replied. “I was not there to witness my city’s fall. But from the ruins I would say that it was destroyed in the last year, most likely in the summer.”
“Why were you not there?” the king asked, his voice suddenly sharp.
There was no point in evasion. “I was captured by servants of the Enemy,” I said quietly. “I only escaped in time to find the ruins of my home.”
Elwe Singollo made a gesture, and suddenly three guards who had been in the shadows stepped forward, each with an arrow in a taut bow trained on me. The king spoke.. “How do we know this is not a ploy of Morgoth, sending you into our midst?
I dug my fingernails into my palms, willing myself to remain calm. “Because, my lord, if it were so I would not speak openly to you of capture, nor show you this.” Without truly thinking why, I pulled up my sleeve and held out my right hand, palm up. The Iron Crown was visible to all.
I murmur ran through the the hall, and Singollo looked at me, eyes hard. “That is no proof of your good faith, Exile.”
Behind me I heard Taurion step forward, perhaps to support my claim, but did not look back at him as Melian placed a hand on her husband’s arm. She glanced at me, and once again I felt her clear gaze sifting through my loyalties and longings. “Peace, my lord,” she said softly, turning to the king. “This maiden is worthy of trust. She is no servant of Morgoth.”
Elwe motioned again, abruptly, and the archers lowered their bows. The Queen continued. “Indil of Gondolin, there is no doubt far more that you can tell. If you would present yourself at the lesser court at noon on the morrow?”
I looked up, and met her eyes for only a moment before dropping my gaze. She could see the bloodstains marking me, I knew. “Yes, my lady. Of course.” I bowed.
She gave me an odd, slender smile, full of knowledge and wisdom and sorrow. Elwe Singollo merely nodded, and I knew that I was dismissed. However, Melian put in a last word, not to me, but Taurion. “Escort the lady Indil – ” I looked up in suprise at that title ” – to a room in the messengers’ wing.” She turned to Elsir as well. “There is no need for her to be guarded.”
He, Taurion, and I all gave a final bow, and left the hall, not, to my relief, through the far entrance, but a smaller side door. The moment we were out Emeryk shifted and croaked loudly. He had remained still and almost silent, something he did not seem to enjoy.
I let out a soft sigh. That was over. Praise Eru. Now I just had to get through tomorrow’s audience.
Elsir coughed. I think he did not quite know what to say, after learning why, after all, I had come to Doriath. “Good luck, Morien. I’m sorry.” He clapped me on the shoulder and departed as Emeryk gave a soft caw of farewell. I reached up and stroked his head. He nibbled my ear lightly, and I lifted him down to perch on my wrist.
Taurion looked up at me quickly. “The messangers’ rooms are on the upper levels. Come.”
We did not speak again as he led me through the many twisting passages of Menegroth, which I would have been helplessly lost in, until we reached the higher levels. I was not sure whether the unnumbered connecting halls compromised a palace or a city, or perhaps both.
Finally I broke the silence. “I couldn’t tell you before, Taurion…..I’m sorry.”
“I understand,” he said quietly, not looking at me. “I didn’t see why you would come, not if….I’m sorry, Indil. It’s my fault.”
I stopped and looked at him in surprise. “What?”
“I told you to go home,” he answered softly, still avoiding my gaze by looking at the floor, which was rather difficult as he was almost a head taller than me. “If I hadn’t, you would not have gone to find it ruined. Valar, Morien, when I think of seeing that, after what you’d hoped for….I’m sorry,” he finished, almost inaudibly. “I should never have tried to convince you.”
“Taurion.” I waited until he finally looked up and met my eyes. “Yes, it was horrible, and yes, it hurt, and yes, it shattered all the things I’d been foolish enough to hope for. But I would have learned of it’s fall eventually, somehow, and there is nothing you could do about that. And I think it was the best thing that could have happened – I had to let go. What I really wanted was to go back to the past, and that simply cannot be done. And so I let it go, and I have at least a measure of peace. I am once again in your debt, Taurion.” And that was a long speech for me.
He placed a hand on my shoulder. “I would still feel easier if you had found your home. But if you truly feel that I have done you no wrong – ” the shadow of a smile slipped across his features ” – I shall just have to try to believe you.”
Well, all reviewers get e-cookies! Chocolate, chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal raisin…..the varieties are endless….Questions/comments/complaints/concerns/threats-about-what-will-happen-to me-if-I’m-not-nicer-to-my-characters are all welcome.