Novarwen kept her eyes focused on the dancing blade in front of her. Goroth’s knife was steady, and his next move was difficult to anticipate. Then again, he had always been one of the best knife fighters of their generation. Too bad he chose the other side, Novarwen thought grimly, gripping her knife tighter. In these days of danger, Mirkwood had but one penalty for the ones who betrayed the once-glorious forest. Goroth was no exception. His crime had been worse than many she had heard of – he had tried to escape and serve the Lord of Barad-dûr, and had thankfully been caught – by her. Now let’s see if I can bring him in, she thought.
He lunged. His knife scored a shallow gash in her arm, but Novarwen was lightning-fast. She blocked his next thrust, hooked the knife out of his hands, and kicked him in the chest, knocking him to the ground. Her knife was at his throat in an instant. About to give him the choice of dying here and now, by her hand, or in the presence of King Thranduil, she stopped. Something was happening to Goroth. His veins stuck out against his pale skin. They looked as though they were etched onto his skin in fire. Novarwen stared, horrified, as they became fire and leaped out to swallow the Elf. Novarwen cried out and leaped back as the hungry flames reached for her, too. She stayed out of the flames’ way, and eventually they subsided. There was no trace, not even scorched leaves, of the fact that an Elf had been burned alive on that spot. Novarwen shuddered.
This has to be reported to the king, she told herself as she collected her knife and her wits. At least Goroth can’t tell Sauron anything now. She flinched and turned her thoughts away from the sight she had just witnessed, away from Goroth.
An hour later, Novarwen stood before King Thranduil of Mirkwood. Her report was finished, and there was not a single unworried face in the entire room. Prince Legolas in particular looked very worried. Novarwen wished she had not had to give such news, but to not report this new event would have been far worse than seeing the looks on the faces of Thranduil’s council.
Suddenly the door at the far end was flung open. An Elven messenger raced up to King Thranduil and bowed. Novarwen quickly moved aside so that the messenger could speak.
“Great king,” he began, “Lord Elrond of Rivendell has sent a message to you. He is holding a Council of all races in Middle-earth to speak of…” The messenger paused, then continued, “To speak of something of great import. He desires that someone from Mirkwood come to this Council, to speak for your realm.”
Novarwen quickly stepped forward. “My lord, may I ask you to let me go?” she asked.
Irithion, a member of Thranduil’s council, looked at her and sneered. “You? A maid-Elf, a disgrace to your family – “
Novarwen glared at Irithion. “I was under the impression that I had asked King Thranduil, not you.”
Thranduil looked at Novarwen, his eyes sad. “You are needed here, Captain,” he reminded her gently.
Novarwen bit her lip to stop her protests. It was true. As the Captain of the Taurroch, the Mirkwood Riders, she could not leave. In her eagerness to go to the Council, she had forgotten her duties.
“But someone of my blood should go,” Thranduil announced. “Therefore it is my decision that my son Legolas should go to Rivendell and attend Lord Elrond’s council.” The messenger looked relieved. “He shall depart with you,” Thranduil told the messenger, “tomorrow at midday.”
The finality of his tone made it clear that the council was over. The messenger was shown to a room, and the council departed, Irithion tossing a nasty look at Novarwen. Thranduil called, “Novarwen, you stay for a moment.” Novarwen obeyed, standing before the throne.
The king sighed. “I am sorry, first of all, that you cannot go.”
“No hard feelings held,” Novarwen assured him.
“I am glad of that.” Thranduil stood up from his throne and stood in front of Novarwen. He looked wearier than she had ever seen him. “This news about Goroth’s death is…disturbing, to say the least. As you are Captain of the Taurroch, I would like you to investigate this. If Sauron can both corrupt and murder Elves, it is best that we know how as soon as we can.”
“I will,” Novarwen promised. “I’ll go to the barracks now.” She turned and was almost at the door when Thranduil called her name. She turned back around to face him.
“I am sorry you cannot go, Novarwen.”
“I’ll manage,” she replied. “Get some rest, Father.”