The heavy oaken doors of the throne room were pushed open. The lissome figure of a female stepped forward. Her dress dragged slightly on the ground, though that was the only noise that she made as she strode across the stone floor. She was taller than most of the other females, and her eyes were bluer than the Silvan norm that resided in Mirkwood; though if she was of the Sindar line of Thranduil it was to be expected. Her hair was a wonder to all who looked upon her, for it was black as a raven’s wing while all of her kin possessed the fairest golden locks.
“Father,” she began as she drew nearer to Thranduil at his feasting table. “I must speak with you.”
“Lirulin!” he stated with joy. “I didn’t think I would set eyes on you for the remainder of the day. Please, take a seat.”
Lirulin smiled and sat across from her father. Her smile disappeared as she laid her slender hands on one of his. It retained the beauty of the Eldar, but it was rough and slightly calloused. She looked down at his hand and many thoughts crossed her mind. It has seen many battles, both defeats and victories. She suddenly did not feel worthy enough to question him thus. She felt as if just being in his presence should be enough to satisfy her, and because it wasn’t, a sense of guilt crept upon her.
“Lirulin?” Thranduil incited. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, I’m fine,” she began again, smiling once more and looking into his eyes. “There’s just one thing-“
“My lord!” cried a page as he stepped into the throne room. “Agarwaen the Chief of the March-wardens requests an audience. He says it is of the utmost importance and concerns the safety of your subjects.”
Thranduil cast an `I’m-sorry-but-I-have-to-take-it’ glance at Lirulin. She nodded, slightly relieved that she now had more time to gather her wits before confronting her father. Thranduil looked back up at the page and motioned for him to lead in the Chief. The page rushed back out of the throne room and soon returned with a small array of others, Agarwaen at their head.
The Chief bowed low before King Thranduil who had returned to his throne. “What disturbs you, Agarwaen?”
“‘Tis not just me, my lord,” the Chief replied. “But may my tidings disturb all.” Thranduil nodded, a motion that told Agarwaen to continue. “The fell creature that Mithrandir has entrusted to our watch has escaped.”
“Escaped?” Thranduil asked in amazement. “How?”
“Our mercy has become our bane, I fear. When the weather was fine, we allowed Sméagol to climb a tall tree that was very far parted from all the others in order for him to taste the wind that he would not have felt in lonesome dungeons beneath the earth, dungeons where we feared he would fall back into his old habits. Not more than yesterday afternoon, he refused to come down from the tree’s height. Our guards, not having a mind to climb the tree themselves, lingered there long into the night. When the sky was yet moonless and starless, Orcs of the mountains came upon them. When they came upon the rest of my company, we did not know from whence they had come, if they had already happened upon our guards. We fought them and drove them out after a long and wearisome battle nonetheless. We then discovered that the two guards given the task of watching Sméagol had been slain by the Orcs’ ambush. We guess that the Orcs were sent to recapture the creature, but he has evaded both the eyes of Mirkwood and the force of the Mountains.”
The King of Mirkwood rubbed his temples with the tips of his fingers: a motion of exasperation. As he sat on his green throne, autumn leaves crowning his brow, King Thranduil was the image of an imposing sovereign indeed.
“My lord?” the majordomo prompted.
Thranduil’s head snapped up from its slouch.
“What do you propose we do my lord?”
“Do we not have any skilled trackers?” Thranduil asked.
“Aye, we have many and they have been sent south, following the tracks of the creature,” Agarwaen answered. “They already draw nigh on Dol Goldur and I will not have them go further than that wretched fortress.”
Thranduil nodded. With a sigh, he stood from his throne and walked to an open window, his arms hanging limp at his sides. “Send for a scribe.” The page rushed out of the chamber once more. Thranduil strode across the stone floor and placed himself back on his throne.
Soon, a scribe dressed all in silver and green entered the chamber and bowed low before the King. “You summoned me, my lord?” he asked, his green eyes downcast.
“Take this down, Eämir,” Thranduil began. “`To the Lord Elrond of Imladris: King Thranduil of Mirkwood has let slip a vile and cunning creature through his nets-‘ ” Eämir looked up from his parchment, his eyebrows knit in confusion.
“My lord?” he asked.
“`During the night our guards were ambushed by Orcs and the creature Gollum evaded both his keepers and his rescuers.'” Agarwaen bowed his head.
An uncomfortable silence engulfed the hall. Lirulin sat on the edge of her seat and watched her father on his throne. He seemed to be having a mental debate with himself. She couldn’t comprehend what about, but there was something…unnerving about it.
“Who shall deliver the message, my lord?” the Chief Councilor, Elenion asked.
Thranduil eyes darted up at him. A fire was within them that Lirulin had never seen before. She guessed that that was how he looked in battle; fierce was the only word that came to her.
“It’s your job to counsel me, Elenion, not the other way around,” Thranduil snapped. His fiery eyes turned to Agarwaen, whose back immediately stiffened up. “Who is your swiftest rider?”
“That would be one named Rohir,” the Chief replied hesitantly. “Aptly named I assure you.”
“Bring this Rohir to me,” Thranduil yelled to the page, who rushed out of the chamber as if a great hound were at his heels.
More silence. Lirulin was afraid to breathe loudly, let alone talk to her father. She would have to wait. Again. Oftentimes it bothered to her that her father was a man of the state and not just her father. That’s all she needed.
The page and Rohir bustled right back into the hall. Rohir bowed low before Thranduil, just as Agarwaen had only moments before. “My lord, you requested my presence?”
“I did,” Thranduil replied. “I’ve been informed that you are the swiftest rider in my realm. Is this so?”
Rohir tried to hide a smile by looking at the ground, but Lirulin could see it, even if no one else could. “I have won many competitions-“
“And are they deservedly won, Rohir?” Thranduil interjected. His temper was flaring, everyone in his presence could see that. “Answer me yes or no.”
“Yes, my lord,” the rider replied dejectedly. “So many have told me.”
“Then in one week hence you shall ride west to Imladris,” the king stated.
“Why not today, my lord?” Elenion asked.
“We cannot be hurried,” Agarwaen replied calmly. “Orcs may still patrol portions of the wood, we cannot risk another needless death.”
“Congratulations, Agarwaen,” Thranduil started. “You have read my thoughts.”
Lirulin smiled to herself. She always knew her father had a sense of humor.
“In one week,” Thranduil continued, “most of the Orcs that fled from battle should be back in their dark caves. Until then, as Agarwaen has already stated, it is unsafe to send a rider so far into the Wild and over the mountains.”
“What of the scouting party?” Lirulin piped in. They all turned to look at her, surprised to see that the shadowy figure they had barely noticed before turned out to be the King’s foster-daughter. “With the increased danger, should they not be recalled?”
“I am willing to take on the task, my lord,” Rohir chimed.
Thranduil was still staring at Lirulin. She never ceased to amaze him. “Yes, Rohir, prepare to depart.”
With a murmured `my lord’, the Elf-rider bowed and turned to leave the chamber. The king seemed dazed, barely able to focus his eyes. Lirulin was not concerned for she knew that he was deep in his own thoughts and naught else.
She leaned further back in her chair and became shadowed once more. She did not like to have all eyes on her. When she had chimed in with her suggestion, it was like a great spotlight was on her and the rest of the room had gone black. She hated it. She resolved never to do it again.
“If that is all,” Thranduil started, looking up at Agarwaen, “then you are dismissed, along with your assemblage. And you, Elenion, shall accompany them.”
The group before him bowed and swiftly exited the hall. The page watched them leave, but did not depart himself. Thranduil waved his hand at him, signaling to him to be off. The page bowed slightly and left the King’s company.
Turning to his daughter, Thranduil smiled and asked, “Now what was it you came to talk to me about?”