The Moth & The Flame

BY : Avaloyuru
Category: +Third Age > Slash - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 2384
Disclaimer: I do not own any copyright to the Tolkien/Middle-Earth Fandom, nor his canon characters or languages. I do not receive any form of compensation for this fanfiction. Original characters are my property.

Unaware that Elvändéruil has already left the palace, Ráerû makes his way back from Lake Town to tell him what he has learned.  Old feelings begin to stir within Thranduil as he senses the threat he has felt is growing stronger.

~*~     ~*~     ~*~     ~*~     ~*~     ~*~

Adjusting the strap of his shoulder bag to a more comfortable position, Ráerû lifted his face slightly to catch the soft breeze as he gazed into the forest.  The sights, sounds and smells of the forest were relaxing as the barge moved slowly up river toward the outpost, a much welcome difference to that of the inn and the hustle and bustle of the crowded wharf in Lake Town.  An amused smile curled his lips as he watched two squirrels playfully chase each other up and around the wide girth of a walnut tree.  He could see patches of color dotting the forest floor as more spring flowers began to bloom, spreading their petals toward the warm shafts of the early afternoon sun.

“A beautiful view is it not?”  A deep but quiet voice interrupted his reverie, he stiffened slightly as he recognized it immediately.

“Yes it is hîr vuin. (My Lord)  It is sad so many trees had to be removed during the thinning.”  Ráerû replied, forcing a friendly smile as he turned toward Lord Ortäuré.  “But I understand it was necessary to help the forest and make travel along the river safer.”

“You may forego the formalities.”  Lord Ortäuré said quietly, turning his own gaze toward the forest but not before he paused a moment to meet the guarded expression on the healers face.  “How are things with the sickness in Lake Town?  I understand Lord Fládëithnôr has summoned his healers’ back to the Grey Mountains.”  He asked, feigning interest as he continued to stare out into the forest yet he watched the young healer with caution.

“He has.”  Ráerû replied quietly as he grasped the railing of the barge.  “There are still many in the healing tents, mostly the older ones who are having the most difficulty recovering.”

“I find the timing of his withdrawal interesting as there still seems to be a steady flow of our own healers through Lake Town.”  Lord Ortäuré commented almost absently.  “I gives me cause for concern.”

“There is nothing to be concerned about.  All we can do now is wait.”  Ráerû stated, struggling to remain calm.  “The medicines are working very well, the sickness has been contained.  Some of our healers have been there since the beginning and their families look for word from them.”

“So you are playing messenger?”  The lord asked pointedly as he turned, pinioning the young healer with a hard gaze.

“I guess you could say I drew the short straw.”  Ráerû chuckled to hide his nervousness and shrugged as if it were no matter to him.  “The king meets with Jôsidëáh regularly on the progress so he keeps sending one of us to collect the reports.  I guess it was my turn to be the courier.”

“Yes, I see.”  Lord Ortäuré said quietly, turning back to the view of the forest.  “The king has expressed his concern for the welfare of the people and looks forward to things returning to normal.”  He added, casting the young healer a smile that did not reach his eyes as he turned away from him and moved to the front of the barge.

Normal?”  He thought ironically to himself as he leaned forward, grasping the railing as if to steady himself, his thoughts turning to his father and the distressing situation at hand.

For centuries following the death of his mother, he had watched his fathers’ bitterness toward King Oropher brew and slowly consume him.  Those same bitter feelings had turned to King Thranduil.  Things were moving too fast and he was more than uncomfortable with his fathers’ sudden desire to actually sit on the throne.  As did many among the elves of the Woodland Realm, he had once again begun to feel the shifting in the nature of things.  The evil that had entrenched itself in Dol Guldur was growing, and much to his fathers’ chagrin, Thranduil now sought guidance more often from his Chief March Warden than he did from his council.

Orophers’ arrogance had been his weakness, dealing with Thranduil was different.  He was far stronger in his convictions than any of them would have thought, controlling him had proven difficult if not impossible.  While Oropher shunned others and sought only to retreat from the outside world, his son managed to protect the realm while forging alliances that would never have been possible under his father’s rule.  Where his father held onto old biases, Thranduil spent centuries living in the forest amongst the Silvan elves before the death of his father and was considered by the majority to be one of them in heart and mind.

If Thranduil had a weakness, it was his son.  Impetuous like his grandfather, the young princes’ recklessness in the wake of the Battle in the Shadow of the Lonely Mountain had set in motion the very thing his father feared most.  His pale blue eyes darkened as he continued to gaze out into the forest, yet he saw none of it.  Forsaking the hereditary oath would sever all Sindar ties to the throne, destroying any perceived notions his father may have had in attaining that goal.  The fate of the young elleth (elf maiden) now lay in his hands and the weight of it burdened him to his very fäë (soul).

~*~     ~*~     ~*~     ~*~     ~*~     ~*~

“You need to calm yourself.”  Galion stated firmly, arching a brow at him as he refused to back down from the kings’ icy stare.

“Calm myself?!”  Thranduil exclaimed, his long silvery blonde tresses flying about his shoulders as he turned on his heels to resume his pacing before the grand hearth in his private chambers.  “I cannot!  Damn it Galion, she has openly defied me!”  He continued his rant, his thoughts quickly running through the reports he had received earlier from Captain Lárasarnë.

“You were still...”

“I do not care!”  Thranduil nearly shouted, his deep voice reverberating throughout the room as he turned back toward him.  “I believe I was quite clear.  She was to report to me for instructions before she set out.”  He stated angrily, ignoring the sardonic expression on Galions’ face as he only stared back at him, completely unperturbed by his ranting.

“Thranduil...”

“Something is afoot.”  Thranduil stated, his gaze turning inward as he walked toward his wine cupboard.  Ignoring the disapproving glance from Galion as he strode passed him.  “I have felt it for quite some time.  It has only grown stronger since our return from Erebor.  The threat to this kingdom lies not beyond our southern borders of Emyn-nu-Orod, (Notes*) it is a sickness that has festered far too long within my own halls.”

“What are you talking about?”  Galion asked, a deep frown creasing his brow as his calm façade began to crumble.

“I have yet to put a face to it.”  Thranduil said quietly as he walked back to the hearth.  “The spirit of the forest is restless and I fear it has little to do with the threat in Dol Guldur.”  He added, his tone taking on an eerie sense of foreboding.

“Thranduil?”  Galion pressed him, concern now radiating from him as he stepped closer to him.

“You are right, I have been preoccupied.”  Thranduil commented, his expression softening only somewhat as he turned to look at him.  “But not so much that I am blinded to my adversaries.”   He continued more firmly as he sank down into the comfort of his favorite chair.

“No.”  He sighed heavily as he stared unseeing into the flames, his thoughts turning unbidden to the last time he had faced the Lord of Mordor.  Visibly shaking himself, he took another drink from his goblet before turning back toward Galion.

“If I doubted her abilities I would not have appointed her to the position.  She is quite capable of handling herself in the forest.  I chose Elvändéruil and the guards specifically to protect her from those who would seek to harm me.”  He added as he lifted the goblet to his lips, taking a longer drink this time.

“No one would be foolish enough...”

“To harm me?”  Thranduil interrupted him, a slow knowing smile curled one corner of his lips as he arched a brow curiously at him.  “Not my person, no.”  He said quietly as he turned back to the flames.  “I knew abandoning the oath would anger certain Sindar houses, those that still cling to the old ways.  It would seem I have unwittingly stirred a nest of vipers.  In my efforts to appease her I fear I have put her in danger.”

“What do we do now?”  Galion asked quietly, concern etched deeply into his normally calm features as he watched the play of emotions chase themselves within the depths of the kings’ eyes.

“Find Lieutenant Vanyë.  Tell him to report to me in my private study.”  He stated, pushing himself up from the chair.  “I have been tolerant too long.”  He added as if to himself as he strode passed him toward the smaller entrance within his personal chambers to his private study.

Closing the door behind him, Thranduil paused briefly to gaze at the painting above the small hearth.  A gift from Lord Fládëithnôr, he found a small degree of comfort in the soft smile and sapphire eyes of the face that was said to be that of his mother, Háleärgiliäth.  The comfort he felt was short lived as the pain of the past, though dulled with time was always present as was the longing that would never be fulfilled for the mother of whom he had no memory.

Setting the goblet on the corner of his desk as he seated himself behind it and opened the side drawer to retrieve a sheet of parchment.  Quickly penning his instructions to Aldalómë, he folded it neatly and sealed with his mark.  Setting it aside, he gathered Captain Lárasarnë’s reports for further review as he waited for Lieutenant Vanyë.

“Come.”  He stated, looking up from the report as Thalieth knocked softly on the door from the antechamber beyond his personal chambers.

“Lieutenant Vanyë is here to see you hîr vuin.” (My Lord)  The guard informed him quietly as he nodded respectfully toward him.

“Send him in Thalieth.”  He replied, laying the report aside as he leaned back in his chair.

“You wanted to see me hîr vuin?” (My Lord) Lieutenant Vanyë asked as the guard ushered him quickly into the small room.

“Yes, please, sit down.”  Thranduil told him as he picked up his goblet, watching the officer as he took a long drink from it.

“Please, relax.”  Thranduil added quietly as he set the goblet aside, smiling slightly in an attempt to help the young officer feel less threatened.  “I understand you have only just returned from the outpost.”  He continued as Vanyë cautiously lowered himself into the chair.

“Yes hîr vuin, (My Lord) two days ago.”  Vanyë stated as he fidgeted slightly with the cuff of his uniform.  “Myself and Lieutenant Tháëdrâs, we were with March Warden Macilvoronhûr in the south post.”

“I have received only one report.”  Thranduil stated thoughtfully as he leaned forward, folding his arms on his desk.  “The patrols have discovered several more of the traps.  Captain Lárasarnë reports they appear to have been destroyed, I find this interesting.”  He continued, mindful of his tone as he noted the stress on the young officers’ face and his stiff posture.

Ayë hîr vuin (Yes my Lord), it is true they have.”  Vanyë said anxiously, shifting slightly in the chair.  “Chief March Warden Aldalómë was quite distressed about it but he did not explain.  He pulled us out of the south, splitting the troops between the north and east outposts and will be returning to the palace himself, I presume within the next day or two at the latest.  I am sure he will have a full report for you on his arrival.”

“And what about you?”  Thranduil pressed him, allowing himself to smile a little more warmly at him.

Hîr vuin?” (My Lord)  Vanyë asked as his eyes widened slightly, unsure what the king was asking of him.

“What about you?  Surely you have an opinion.”  Thranduil stated, tilting his head slightly as he looked at him curiously.

“Well hîr vuin, (My Lord) may I speak freely?”  He asked, swallowing against a suddenly very dry throat.

“Certainly, I would prefer it.”  Thranduil told him, only mildly amused at the young officers’ obvious discomfort at being in his presence.  “Contrary to what you may believe Vanyë, I value the opinions of all of my officers.  Now please, relax. Tell me what you think.”

Ayë hîr vuin.” (Yes my Lord)  Vanyë replied, straightening his shoulders slightly as he leaned forward a little.  “It is the manner they were destroyed.”  He began, his tone only a little more confident.  “These were not destroyed by an animal.”  He stated more firmly, a frown creasing his brow as his gaze turned inward.  “I have seen traps destroyed by the shelob (spiders), they are simply broken and scattered about.  With these it was different.  It is as if someone wanted to hide the fact that they were ever there.”

“This is very interesting.”  Thranduil said quietly as he leaned back in his chair, his own thoughts turning to his years amongst the forest patrols.  Most of those traps at that time were set closer to the eastern borders by Northmen and destroyed by Beorn and his people.  Even then there was no care taken to hide the fact they were destroying them, if anything they wanted it to be known.

“You have done well Vanyë.”  Thranduil stated, smiling warmly at the officer as he rose to his feet.  “I had intended to ask you to deliver a message to Aldalómë.  Since he will be here soon I do not see the need.”

“Thank you hîr vuin. (My Lord)  Vanyë stated, his face beaming as he stood up.  “Do you need anything else?”  He asked quietly as he studied the kings’ face, not really sure why as there were only a few that could read his expressions.

“No, you may go.”  He told him, smiling to himself as the young officer nodded respectfully and quickly made his exit.

~*~     ~*~     ~*~     ~*~     ~*~     ~*~

Moving slowly toward the outpost at the Vale of the Forked Pass, the Patrol Commander and her guards paused only briefly at the watch posts as they encountered them.  Their acceptance of her new position helped her relax somewhat as they continued toward the South Outpost.  It was to be their first stop as they circled around heading north, stopping at the Center Outpost, then to the River Outpost in the far north near the Forest River.  If all went well, they would be back at the palace in just over a weeks’ time. 

Although she was glad to be back in the forest, Tauriel found herself torn as she struggled to reconcile herself with the enormity of the changes that had befallen her life in less than a turning (year).  Only last spring she had walked carefree beneath the boughs of these trees with Legolas, content to be nothing more than a Captain in the Patrols.  However, that Tauriel seemed like someone else, a stranger to her as she deftly guided her mount through the meadow toward the darker, more densely overgrown part of the forest only a few leagues away.

Departing at first light from the stables had stirred the sweet memory of her first outing in the forest with Thranduil following her return to the Woodland Realm.  He had been so relaxed and much more like the King she remembered from her childhood.  She felt a slight heat creep into her cheeks as she recalled the feel of his fingers softly caressing her hip beneath the riding cloak and the feel of his warm breath on her cheek as he leaned closer to her.

Shaking herself mentally, her instincts taking over, her sharp eyes scanned the forest around her, noting the positions of her guards as they moved into a search formation.  The gentle breeze carried with it the subtle yet distinct foul smell of what lay before them as they moved closer to the edge of the forest still heavily inhabited with shelob (spiders).  The outpost itself lay only a half a league along the narrow path that now visible in the distance like the gaping mouth of a dark cave.

“The path has been widened enough for our mounts to travel side by side.”  Elvändéruil said quietly as he guided his mount closer to her.  “The larger shelob (spiders) and nests are farther south, mostly on the eastern foothills of the Emyn-nu-Orod (Notes*).  The smaller ones are less interested in larger groups, especially mounted patrols.”

“I still prefer being on foot.”  She replied, turning her attention toward him.  “I can move faster and hide more easily if it comes to that.”

“True.”  He chuckled, yet his gaze remained focused on the thicker forest ahead of them.  “They are necessary for this mission as we have too much ground to cover to do so on foot.”

“At least the thinning seems to have driven them back.”  She sighed as Côrnäith and Gráthgör moved in front of them to lead the way into the forest while Häëmir and Tërÿani followed them onto the path.

They fell silent as they entered the eerie gloom of the thicker part of the forest, where the light of the sun never touched forest floor.  The only sound to be heard was the soft thud of the horses’ hooves against the hard dirt path.  The stench of decay wafted about them, seemingly from all directions as there was no breeze, only an unnatural shifting as if something moved passed them yet there was nothing.

Frowning deeply as Côrnäith held up his fist and pulled his mount to a halt in front her, Tauriel turned quickly to Elvändéruil who signaled for her to remain silent as he kneed his mount closer to Côrnäith.

“Something does not feel right.”  He whispered, turned toward Elvändéruil.  “It is too quiet and there is no smoke from the chimney.”

“They may just be out on patrol but we need to be careful.”  Elvändéruil whispered and turned back toward Tauriel and the other two guards, giving them the signal to wait.

“No!”  Tërÿani hissed through clenched teeth, grabbing the bridle of her mount as she started forward to follow them.

Glaring at him for a moment before turning to watch as the others crept cautiously forward into the small clearing surrounding the small wooden structure that served as an outpost for the forest patrols.  The silence did seem more than strange as there was usually one or two team members that remained at the outpost to burn the Seccuia root in the hearth to keep the shelob (spiders) at bay.  Shifting uncomfortably as they disappeared from her sight, Tauriel felt her stomach tighten as she stared toward the clearing.

“Run!”

Yanking on the bridle of her mount as he heard Elvändéruil’s scream, Tërÿani felt a sharp pain hit his shoulder then spread quickly down his back as he pulled hard on the reins of his mount.  “Get down and move!”  He yelled at her as he kicked his mount into a gallop back down the path.

“Damn it!”  Häëmir cursed loudly as they drew their swords, facing off against three riders racing toward them.

~*~     ~*~     ~*~     ~*~     ~*~     ~*~

End Notes:

Emyn-nu-Orod = Elven name for the Mirkwood Mountains

Seccuia = A bark covered root that releases a smell that is irritating to the shelob (spiders)

Thanks for reading!  Comments are always welcome!



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