That night, a feast was held, in honor of the quest for the dragon’s gold and those who would leave to seek it on the morrow. The Elvenking’s hall was filled with laughter and merriment, and there was much singing and dancing. Rich delicacies were served at every table, and even though no wine barrels were opened (the King wanted his army sober and ready to march the following morning), one would have to look very hard to find a single sour face.
But there was one dark countenance, and it was that of Alduin. He’d arrived at the banquet late, due to his argument with Nenthel over being allowed to go with the King (which he had lost). Now, sore and disappointed, he sat brooding in a shadowy corner, speaking to no one.
It’s time for the last resort., he thought. Nenthel’s left me no other choice.
Despite his resolution, it still took him a while to work up the courage to get up and go to it. So for a while he just sat and watched all of Mirkwood having the time of their lives.
Well, not all of Mirkwood. Menrial was not present.
Typical., he thought. She probably doesn’t even know it’s happening.The elfmaid might be a better scout than he, hard as it was to admit, but she spent far too much time with her head in the clouds.
Alduin almost never saw her outside of scouting work. He wondered what she did with her spare hours, alone in that remote cottage with no one but her mother for company. Probably read. Or practiced climbing trees, just so she could show off her ability to reach the top faster than him when the opportunity came.
At least he had a social life. Alduin had many male friends among the younger guards and scouts, and his good looks often won him admiring glances from the court ladies. There was even one, Silara, whom he fancied bore a special favor towards him. Menrial, as far as he knew, had no friends whatsoever, and certainly no admirers.
But that had not been much consolation a few days ago, when she’d been the one to hear the thrush’s tidings, which had turned out to be so important. Alduin wanted a chance like that. He wanted to be the one in the spotlight, doing great deeds, being honored as a hero. Going with the King would give him the chance he needed.
Menrial just didn’t understand. She acted like he was a child, what with her lectures on why he should forget about going. If she were here, she would try to keep him from carrying out his plan. Come to think of it, he was glad she wasn’t here to hector him about it.
He felt a little guilty then, for thinking like that. After all, they were friends of a sort, if only from working together on a daily basis. But, he told himself, rising from his chair, I have to take some risks if I’m to get anywhere. In this case, extreme measures were necessary.
With these thoughts, Alduin left the great hall, and hurried down the passageways towards the armory. There were very few elves around, as most of them were up at the feast. As Alduin passed the guard room, he was relieved to see that those assigned to the armory were having a small celebration of their own. It eased his conscience a bit. If they were foolish enough to dip into the king’s wine despite the orders against it, they had only themselves to blame if something turned up missing the next morning.
He’d planned to fib his way into the armory by saying he needed a new knife and the scout base was all out (he’d chipped his oldest one specially for the purpose), but to his great surprise a surreptious push at the armory door revealed that it was unlocked. He could not imagine why, but the opportunity was too good to miss. After glancing around to make sure the coast was clear, Alduin stepped furtively inside.
Once there, the elf wasted no time in outfitting himself with a standard issue military uniform, complete with chain mail and a helmet. When he wore it all tomorrow morning, he would be indistinguishable from the departing troops.
And that was exactly what he wanted.