A/N: I apologize for being so late submitting this chapter. I have several pathetic excuses, but as they most likely would not appease my dear readers’ wrath I am not going to bother with them.
Chapter Fourteen: Menegroth
And I another
So weary with disasters, tugged with fortune,
That I would set my life on any chance,
To mend it or be rid on’t.
—William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Travelling swiftly it took several days reach Menegroth. The closer we drew the more I felt the watchful gaze of unseen eyes. I grew edgier and more worried with every passing league. I still did not know what to do once I had delivered the news of Gondolin’s fall the the King and Queen. The sorrow that I had kept at bay all through my journey to Doriath returned. Then I had a purpose on which to focus; a goal to reach. I was trying to start over – I had determined not to lose myself in grief, but it was hard. I did not belong here, in Doriath – did I belong anywhere? There wasn’t an answer that I could see.
Emeryk seemed to sense my anxiety, and stayed close to me, perched on my shoulder or flitting through the tree branches near to the ground. He had taken to both Elsir – who seemed to have overcome the initial, automatic wariness that most of the other Elves betrayed – and Taurion. When Elsir endeavored to get some sort of conversation started now, it was generally about my raven. What was his name? Why and how had we adopted each other?
I gave answers numbly, not really listening, and avoided the fact that I had found Emeryk in the ruins of Gondolin.
As we approached Menegroth I somehow felt that the land was mourning something. I heard no music, anywhere, which suprised me. In Gondolin the breeze had always carried at least one phrase of melody, and I would have thought it was the same in any Elven realm. The small white flowers on the forest floor – niphredil, they were called – seemed somehow faintly forlorn. But I had little time to reflect on them, as I was trying to resolve my own troubles.
It was only when we were a mere day’s travel from Menegroth that I saw any other Elves outright. They passed us on the path, or appeared in the trees. It seemed that the Sindar had adopted the custom of building arboreal homes. That was rather strange to me, but no more than I was, no doubt, to them.
Some openly watched us as we made our way by, suprise and curiosity apparant. Others simply glanced and went on, not showing open interest, but I could sense tension as they wondered who I was and why I was in their land. But no one asked or spoke aside from the occasional murmured greeting.
Until a young Elf-maid, who appeared to have been waiting on a low tree-branch, swung down from her perch. She sprinted toward us, or rather Taurion, hurtled into him, and gave him a hug that nearly knocked them both over. He hugged her back, staggering slightly. “Well met, Mothwen.” I bit my lip very hard. It reminded me, perfectly, of me and Linedhel when I was small.
Mothwen laughed. “Well met? You’ll have to say more than that, brother. Why were you called to the border?”
“Just a moment.” He put her down. “Mothwen, this is Morien, the Elf I told you about. Elsir you know, I think. Morien, this is my sister Mothwen.”
Mothwen turned to greet me, and as I saw her face clearly, something inside my chest constricted painfully. She did not look like Calien, but the innocence and laughter in her eyes was identical. I drew a deep, shaking breath and bowed. “It is an honor to meet you.”
“Not really,” she said cheerfully. “But I’m very happy to know you too. Taurion hasn’t said much, and I’d like to hear more of what happened. I think you saved his life, is that right?”
“Not exactly,” I answered; this was awkward. Mothwen looked at me expectantly, and I gathered myself enough to continue. “I just planned the escape.”
“Well, I’m glad you did,” she replied. “It would have been a pity to lose Taurion; he is my only brother, after all.” She grinned at him, and he chuckled quietly. I gave a strained smile. They were making light of it, the way families did when they had been horribly worried.
Emeryk swooped down from a tree, and landed on my shoulder, edging close to my ear. Mothwen was immediately intrigued; I suppose she was too young to have the other Elves’ suspicion. “What’s his name?”
“I see. He’s lovely.”
I lifted him down from my shoulder, containing the feelings welling inside me. “He’s quite friendly.” Emeryk pecked my finger lightly, seeming to understand and being a bit indignant.
Mothwen cautiously held out a hand, which he ignored. “Emeryk,” I said softly, “behave.” He caught the note of warning in my voice, and duly examined Mothwen’s hand before giving it the lightest of pecks. She smiled delightedly and carefully stroked his wing. Emeryk tolerated that, and then politely as he could withdrew to the trees. I bit my lip. She was so like Calien; I hated to disappoint her. “I’m sorry. It takes him a while to get used to strangers.”
“That’s all right.” Mothwen was about to say more when Taurion gently tapped her shoulder.
“Much as I hate to say it, Mothwen, we have to go. Morien has a message that needs to be delivered. I’ll see you and Ada and Naneth later.”
She sighed and nodded. “All right. I’ll let them know you’re back.” She turned, and had gone a few yards before calling over her shoulder,” You still haven’t said why you were summoned. I’ll make sure to pry the whole tale out of you later.”
Taurion laughed. “By all means.”
Calling “Farewell,” Mothwen disappeared into the trees. We set out again, and my worried mood, which had been momentarily dispelled, came back with new force. I prayed that Elwe Singollo did not know of Gondolin’s fall, and that I could hold myself together. I wasn’t sure that I could, speaking of the ruin of my home before a court of strangers.
That feeling only increased as we covered the last distance, and pinnacled sharply as we crossed the bridge over the river Esgalduin. Beyond it was a massive gate set in the rocky hill: the main entrance to Menegroth. I drew a deep breath as two guards appeared. “Why do you seek entrance to the Thousand Caves?”
The question was not directed toward me, but to Elsir, who stood slightly ahead. “This Noldorin maid bears a message for the King,” he answered. “He gave leave for her to enter the land.”
One of the guards nodded, and placed his hand at the gate’s center. He said somethig too soft and rapid for me to make out, but it sounded like a spell, or perhaps the triggering of an already set enchantment, for the heavy barrier swung open.
Elsir dropped back level with me and Taurion as we walked through the high archway. They were on either side of me, and I remembered that they were, after all, meant to be guarding me, though for my good or others’ I wasn’t sure. Most likely both.
Menegroth was beautiful I realized, as we took a corridor straight on. The pillars were carved in the shapes of trees, and the walls were hung with tapestries showing Valinor and the Making of Arda, and many other scenes that I could not name. Lamps shedding bright gold light were placed throughout, allowing no deep shadows. It was beautiful, though to me nothing could ever compare to Gondolin.
The corridor was wide, and seemed to be a main thoroughfare. Other passages, also warmly lit, opened onto it on both sides, and many Elves passed us. As before, some were curious, others guarded.
Elsir seemed to know the way, and we stayed in the large passage. It went on, curving slightly in some places but remaining level.
A few minutes later Elsir broke the silence. “We’ll reach the throneroom in a moment. Unless we’re directed otherwise, you’re to to give your message there, before the King and Queen.”
I nodded calmly, but I could feel my heart hammering as I walked steadily on, Emeryk perched upon my shoulder.
Cliffies are no suprise by now, correct? Please please please do review. I love ’em. They inspire me, as I’ve said before, to quick posting. *grins evilly* Come on now, it isn’t that hard, you just type a few words and them press the little button…..