25 June 2011 | 3953 words
Title: Moon’s Dark, Night’s End
Series: Desperate Hours
Feedback: Please use the form below.
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s
Summary: It’s a dark, moonless night in Ithilien, and something is stirring. But dawn will come.
Beta: None, but many thanks to Emma and Kaylee for letting me borrow their Greenwood OCs, and for listening patiently as I talked through different plotlines involving the Greenwood elves in the DH AU, particularly Theli, Thalion, and Legolas. Please note that several of the OCs below, including Cellillien, Teliemir, Calendir, Baeraeriel, Gwaihir, and Televegil, are descended from OC’s of Emma’s and Kaylee’s. Please also note that these are almost certainly not the elves who will be descended from Emma and Kaylee’s elven OCs in their storyline, and that their Eryn Lasgalen and Ithilien-en-Edhil, whenever they reach that point in their storyline, will be different in myriad ways.
A/N 1: This story is set about four months after Aragorn learned that Faramir was his son, and added Faramir to the succession. The action takes place to north of the hills of Emyn Arnen, in the fall, in Ithilien.
Moon’s Dark, Night’s End
Captain Beregrond awoke with a start in the darkest hour of the night. The former Captain of the Ithilien rangers, now Prince Faramir of Ithilien, son of the King, and Steward of Gondor, was sitting up beside him.
“Sir?” Inquired Corporal Dagnir, a new recruit to the White Company, the branch of Gondor’s army that patrolled Ithilien and protected its prince.
Faramir let Beregrond answer, as he got up and began slipping on his boots.
“It’s too quiet.” Beregrond told his corporal softly, “The night birds have stopped hunting, and the wolf hunt on the western slopes has gone silent.”
Corporal Dagnir blinked, “Something is wrong because…the wolves have STOPPED howling?” Dagnir, himself, had breathed a sigh of relief when that eerie chorus ended.
Legolas and the other elves with the party were also awake now, moving quietly to confer with Faramir and Beregrond.
‘I can’t feel anything,” Faramir complained softly, “But sometimes I can’t, even with yrch, since the ring was destroyed. Legolas?”
“Something hunts, the trees say.” Legolas murmured, attention half on the leaves above them, “but what, and how many, they are less clear on.”
“This position is fairly defensible,” Beregrond noted, looking to two small, still-slumbering forms. One was Faramir’s honorary nephew, thirteen year old Lord Tavan, the heir to the Stonewain Valley, and the son of Boromir’s former love Nessanie Saelasiel. The other was Beregrond’s oldest son Bergil, now fourteen years old and a student at the military academy in Minas Tirith. This camping trip into the hills outside Emyn Arnen was a special treat for them, but no one had expected it to be this exciting.
“It is.” Faramir agreed, “But we need to figure out what’s out there, to decide on the best response.” It had only been a scant few years ago that Ithilien had been invaded by Haradrim and Easterlings looking for revenge, and no one had forgotten that.
“I could scout.” Legolas offered.
Legolas’ elder foster-brother Thalion immediately objected, “Not alone.”
Nodding in agreement, Legolas surveyed his elves and Faramir’s men. Of his elves, he chose, “Baraeriel, Teliemir, and…” Legolas paused. His next choice was an elf who was, technically, suspended from Thranduil’s army, again. Dark-haired Lieutenant Baraeriel and long-time veteran Captain Teliemir, both now members of Legolas’ guard and the militia of Ithilien-en-Edhil, came to stand beside their Prince, ready to depart at a moment’s notice.
“Take Theli.” Thalion suggested firmly, “And Theli, take the spare weapons I brought for you, just in case something like this occurred.”
Theli’s dark blue eyes, willing but unconvinced, looked to his Prince.
“Adar said,” Legolas began in half-hearted objection.
“Adar didn’t mean it for times like this.” Thalion replied, no doubt in his voice. Thalion was a junior Captain in Thranduil’s army, and had been Thranduil’s fosterling for over 3,000 years.
Legolas nodded, accepting his foster-brother’s council. Theli nodded, too, and went to obey his Prince’s foster-brother and chief advisor.
Faramir, who had remained quiet as Beregrond readied the camp for fight or flight, asked, “Beregrond, who would you send with Legolas? He needs a guide who can move quickly, climb well, and who will not mind being carried by elves should the situation demand it.”
Beregrond surveyed his men, and winced. The Ithilien rangers had taken too cursed many losses during the Ring War, and the White Company was short on men who fulfilled all of those requirements, and also knew the land well enough to traverse it flawlessly as the sky moved from darkest night to pale dawn. “Corporal Kasim.” He said at last, sounding grudging.
Lieutenant Baraeriel’s blue-green eyes narrowed in disapproval, “Corporal Kasim is only twenty years old. Surely you have a man to send, rather than a boy.”
“Men age quickly.” Legolas told his older cousin, before affirming, “Kasim it is,” with an apologetic look towards Faramir and his men.
“Take Soft Wings and Snuff with you, too, Legolas.” Recommended Second Lieutenant Cellillien Veasseniel, the elven Prince’s guard and bird handler, as she handed Legolas a little owl and a common nighthawk. “They’ll fly at moon-dark night and dawning, and know this land well enough to find their way back to me and Calendir.” Legolas’s chief groom, Calendir Meluionchil, nodded as if to confirm that the birds were capable of that.
Legolas took them, handing one to Baraeriel and one to Theli as Beregrond double-checked Kasim’s armor. “Someday, Celli,” Legolas remarked with a quick grin of amusement, “You’ll have to tell me why you named this pretty nighthawk “Snuff.’”
Cellillien chuckled, “I can actually show you, after we get home.” Her face grew more serious, and she added, too softly for anyone but Thalion and Faramir to hear, “Be careful, tithen-Las.”
“Always,” Legolas promised his lost only sister’s best friend, before looking to Faramir. “Orders?” He asked his gwador’s eldest son evenly, showing respect for Faramir’s position as Prince of the land where his colony of elves had settled.
“Observe, don’t engage, unless you have to.” Faramir replied quietly, “Send a bird or an elf back to give us word, if you must follow whatever-it-is. I trust your judgment, save,” Faramir’s mouth quirked into a grin, “Do be careful. I don’t want to have to answer to your Adar or my King, should anything untoward happen to you.”
“You’d be surprised how often I hear that, yet I’ve always thought of our edair as such a pair of fluffy bunnies.” Legolas jested, before giving the signal for his small patrol to depart.
Thalion snorted at that, and grasped Theli’s arm as the party departed, “Take care of my baby brother.” He ordered.
Theli nodded, “I always have,” He agreed, as he vaulted into the trees after Legolas and the others.
Faramir looked to Thalion, bemused, “Fluffy bunnies?” He asked.
Thalion shrugged helplessly, “Legolas gets a bit adrenaline-giddy before an engagement. Always has, even when he was my daughter Calenwen’s age and the engagement in question was wheedling cookies from the kitchen.”
Over an hour passed with no word. Tavan and Bergil woke up with the sun, and the party moved to an even more defensible position, higher in the closest of the large hills, the northern most of the peaks surrounding the capital of Ithilien. Faramir sent birds and riders to Emyn Arnen and Ithilien-en-Edhil as soon as the sun was high enough in the sky. The letters requested Éowyn and Legolas’ next-most senior advisor, his cousin Gwaihir, to raise their respective militias to an alert status, and to send a larger party to relieve Faramir and Thalion.
Faramir half-listened to Thalion instructing Tavan and Bergil and some of Beregrond’s soldiers in how to make elven arrowheads, while old Sergeant Gwinfaer of the White Company constantly interrupted to explain the way that they fletched arrows in Dol Amroth. All the while, Faramir was turning over time and distance and possibilities in his mind.
“The creek nearest, it’s running deep enough to take one of the emergency boats down to the river Morgulduin?” Faramir asked Beregrond softly. Faramir had spent the time since the dawn watching the land from the hill, and down by the river was where the morning birds were not flying, where a vague sense of something-not-quite-right stirred. Absently, Faramir noted that Thalion was a more patient elf than either his foster-father or foster-brother, as Sergeant Gwinfaer was a bit prejudiced. Oh, not about elves, specifically, just about anyone not born in the south of Gondor and raised on the sea. Faramir had ended up with Gwinfaer and several other salty old sailors in the White Company because of the heavy losses Ithilien had taken in the war. And because Imrahil trusted his own men to take care of his errant nephew.
Beregrond repressed a groan, and replied, “It is, my Prince, or so your long-timers amongst the Ithilien rangers tell me. But how long the boat would last once it reached the river is uncertain, and you could only take one man with you, two at most…”
Faramir snorted softly, and grinned wryly as he affirmed, “One, only. Two and myself would swamp the boat. You have to stay, I’ll take…”
Thalion rolled his eyes, and handed the lesson over to Gwinfaer, who sighed with relief that he could finally stop the odd elf from the north from confusing the poor lads about the proper way to mate an arrowhead to an arrow shaft.
As Thalion approached him, Faramir paused, “My Lord?” He asked Thalion with quiet respect, adding, “If you have words for me, I will hear them.” And Faramir meant that. Not only was Thalion the chief advisor of the one-and-only settlement in Ithilien ruled by a foreigner Prince, he was also the foster-brother of Legolas, who was Aragorn’s gwador, and who claimed Faramir as gwador as well. Well, gwador or nephew, depending on whether Legolas was feeling himself of-an-age with Faramir, or his elder, on any given day.
Sighing, and wishing that he had his brother’s or Theli’s pithy way with words, Thalion said bluntly, “If you’re going to address me as ‘my Lord,’ young Faramir, then I am going to address you as my Prince, as you are both a Prince and my host, and the distant cousin of my wife, and my foster-family. However, that last makes you my young kinsman, and as such I believe I can speak to you as I would Legolas.”
Faramir’s eyes sparked grey fire, and Thalion reflected that Faramir was, indeed, Aragorn’s son, and Legolas’ cousin. Then the fire was controlled, and Faramir’s tone was calm and respectful, even faintly warm, as he replied, “Of course you are correct. You are my kinsman, Thalion, and I would listen to a being of your experience even were you not. But you have also stated correctly that this is my land. That means that whatever is keeping them, is my responsibility to deal with.”
“That is the most fool-headed piece of nonsense I’ve heard since Legolas turned two hundred!” Thalion snapped, then held up a hand in apology, as Faramir’s eyes widened in hurt and surprise.
Thalion counted silently to ten, searching for and finding his patience.
“My pardon, Prince Faramir,” Thalion apologized, loudly enough for anyone who had heard his insult to hear, before dropping his voice and saying quietly, “My apologies, truly, Faramir. Moments like that,” Thalion said with a guilty sigh, “are why Legolas and I had functionally stopped speaking to one another for several hundred years. But, that doesn’t change the fact that going after the party you’ve already sent, before the relief arrives, is folly. You’re not a green commander, cousin. Don’t act like one.”
Faramir’s lips tightened, and it was clear to Beregrond, who had come to know his Prince rather well over the five years since the Ring War, that Faramir was half-persuaded by the common sense. The yelling hadn’t upset Faramir too much. Faramir’s own elder brother had been quite a famous yell-er.
“Be that as it may, ‘Lion,” Faramir replied softly, “Your own Prince is out there. You did not argue when I sent him.” His mouth twitching into a rueful half-grin, Faramir added, “And not because you really believe your Adar to be a fluffy bunny.”
Snorting in amusement, Thalion agreed, “Adar is no fluffy bunny. But someone did need to go and scout. Legolas is better at that than two-thirds of Adar’s soldiers, and one of the best I’ve seen, for his age. More, he feels the wood, even this wood, as most can’t, even most elves. He was uniquely suited to go and scout, and well-protected and guided. My Adar is more…a difficult alpha wolf than anybody’s prey, but he does have a rabbit’s ability to escape to elude a predator, and so does Legolas. Adar understands, as I have finally learned, that Legolas…if you do not let him take reasonable, sane risks, he will seek out impossible ones. And, as much as Legolas is irreplaceable in our hearts, Adar has many adult heirs.” Thalion didn’t say that Faramir was a ruling Prince, or that Faramir’s father was the King. He didn’t point out that the heir to Gondor and Arnor, and the heir to Ithilien, were both tiny children. Faramir was aware of those things, Thalion knew. And being Thranduil’s foster-son had taught Thalion what not to say, sometimes. And trying his hardest to be a better brother to Legolas these past few years had taught Thalion even more.
Faramir sighed, and cursed silently. “Another half-hour.” Faramir conceded reluctantly, “Then I’ll reconsider.”
Thalion nodded, and Beregrond finally let out a sigh of relief.
Faramir chuckled, and gave his long-suffering Captain of the Guard a sympathetic look, before turning back to Thalion, who had taken a seat on his other side, “‘Lion, may I ask you a question?”
“Just about anything.” Thalion replied immediately, relief of his own making him relaxed, and willing to answer questions for Legolas’s latest human brother. Legolas had been befriending mortals since he was Corporal Kasim’s age, and they never lasted long. One of his past mistakes that Thalion was now doing his best to make right had been treating those human friends of his brother’s as less worthy of esteem, for that one flaw of being mortal, which was not their fault. Thalion could not protect Legolas from his friends’ mortality, and he’d come to finally accept that he just had to embrace this pain, and mourn with his brother when death inevitably came to claim Legolas’s mortal friends. Which didn’t mind that he couldn’t feel relieved, at having stopped this human friend from rushing out to court his death.
“You’re on the protective side, as older brothers go.” Faramir commented, accepting a flask of well-watered wine from his squire, and offering it to Thalion. “Why did you not go with Legolas?”
Thalion huffed half a laugh, and then sipped from the flask before answering, “Because our Adar has already lost more than one child in a single night, and I would not have him suffer through it again. When Eldarion is older, and a warrior himself, do your best not to have the two of you at risk in the same day, Elessarion.”
Knowing that story, and not wanting to argue again about the title Thalion’s family had bestowed on him, Faramir nodded gravely, figuring out, “And that is why you sent Theli with Legolas, instead of Televegil, Baeraeriel’s brother.” Faramir nodded towards where that elven scout, who was younger than Baeraeriel but over a century older than Legolas, was standing guard.
Thalion shook his head, “Nay. I sent Theli because he’s proven his complete willingness to follow Legolas into any fool-hearted idiocy, and his ability to pull them both through it. That aside, he’s the more-experienced scout, by several thousand years. And,” Thalion paused to grin, and Faramir stared, amazed at how young the rare smile made Legolas’ ever-serious foster-brother suddenly appear.
Then Thalion continued, “Because Theli is known to be a reckless idiot, Legolas actually listens to Theli when Theli says that something is impossible, or a bad idea. Adar does, too.” Thalion paused, “If I hadn’t had Theli with us, I would have asked Legolas and Gwaihir to send us with another elf whom I trust to watch Legolas’ back. Because I’ve lived long enough to know that anything can happen, even on a simple camping trip. And I won’t risk two siblings in the same venture, if I can avoid it.”
Faramir nodded, “That makes sense. We try to do the same, in Gondor’s armies. Though by the very end, we were fighting shoulder to shoulder, brother beside brother. We had no choice.”
Awkwardly, Thalion, who was not an elf given to easy displays of affection, reached out a hand and gently squeezed Faramir’s knee in quiet support, “You and yours held well, cousin,” he told Faramir softly. Then Thalion struggled for words, wanting to say that the sacrifice of Boromir, and the archer brothers Derufin and Duilin of the Black Root Vale, both former lieutenants of Faramir’s, would be honored for always. Not just in the lands of Men, but also o’er the sea, in the undying home of the elves. But Thalion didn’t know Faramir as well as Legolas did, did not know what words would help. And just then came the sound of a whistle from Televegil, followed seconds later by a signal from Beregrond’s scout.
Scant moments later, Legolas was again among them, Baraeriel and Teliemir at his side. “It was trolls.” He told Faramir succinctly, his eyes searching for someone else, his hands ever so gently removing a quivering, feathery form from just inside his tunic.
“Calendir,” Legolas said urgently, as the groom came back from checking their mounts, “Snuff here has broken several bones in her wing, distracting one of the trolls so that we could lead it towards a trap. Soft Wings found the first of them, and died in it’s fist, after crying the warning that we might know our danger.”
“Ai, my poor, brave bird.” Calendir said soothingly, taking Snuff ever-so-gently from Legolas, “We’ll fix you right up, we will. Theli and Lady Rian mixed me some special wine to give you, it’ll take all the pain away whilst I set your wing. ‘Tis not a bad break for such a confident flier…you’ll be back in the skies again before you know it.”
Legolas sighed, looking lost, and Thalion put a brotherly arm around his shoulder, as Cellillien assured him, “Soft Wings lost her siblings to spiders, Legolas. She would have wanted revenge against another of Sauron’s former servants, and she would not have wanted you to blame yourself.”
Legolas surprised himself by leaning into Thalion’s embrace for a moment, appreciating that Faramir gave him that grace, that his tithen-gwador was a seasoned commander who knew him well, and knew that Legolas would have reported everything immediately, had they been in any danger.
Only when Legolas had pulled himself together did Faramir ask, “What were the trolls doing here, Las?”
Legolas shook his head, smiling grimly, “You won’t believe this,” He told his friend, “But they were looking for two other trolls, whom they had heard were guarding a treasure in a cave. A hoard of gold and red-gold and great wisdom.”
Teliemir corrected quietly, “Actually, they were just looking for the treasure. They had heard that some smelly humans killed the two trolls, and hoped to find the treasure unguarded.” Teliemir, who was a very polite elf, gave Faramir an apologetic glance, as if to express his apologies for repeating what the trolls had said as they searched for the cave where the ‘treasure’ was hidden.
Thalion swore, and it was Legolas’ turn to offer his brother comfort, as Faramir blinked and asked incredulously, “Mithrellas and Rian?”
Baraeriel, who had a bandage wrapped just above her elbow and a dangerous look on her face, explained, “Probably, as I don’t know of any other trolls who were guarding anything in Ithilien. This lot of trolls aren’t looking anymore, anyway. One is stone, the other is at the bottom of a stake-covered pit with fifteen holes in him, and the last choked to death in the Morgulduin.”
“Ah.” Faramir said mildly, thinking that whoever had said that females were the gentler of any species had never met Baraeriel, or Éowyn, or Arwen, for that matter. Nodding towards Legolas and his escort, Faramir praised, “Well-done, in ridding us of them. I thank you, on Ithilien’s behalf. Theli and Kasim are proceeding at Kasim’s best pace, I trust?”
“Sort of.” Legolas answered, immediately explaining, “The trolls were wearing spoils from several villages, as if they’d looted. Kasim wanted to check and make sure that the villages they’d passed had no casualties, and that they were informed that the troll problem had been taken care of. I sent Theli with him, since Theli is a healer who does well with humans, and has a feel for the forest, besides. Just on the off-chance that any other surprises are lurking in the woods.”
“Can we go see the stone troll, Uncle Legoas?” Tavan asked, with all of a thirteen-year old unblooded boy’s excitement.
Legolas looked wearily to Faramir, who shook his head, “Nay, Tavan, not today. Next spring when you visit, though, I’ll do my best to take you to see the stone troll, then.”
As the party rode for Emyn Arnen, Thalion leaned closer to Legolas, and told him softly, “Aragorn should know, muindor. Faramir nearly left to go after you, and Captain Beregrond nearly let him.”
Legolas thought that over, his green eyes troubled. “Faramir knows this land, Thalion. It would not have been the worst of decisions.”
Thalion paused to think, old habits warring with his strong desire to keep this new peace between him and his beloved youngest foster-brother. At last, he asked Legolas wryly, “That’s a ‘leave it alone, ‘Lioin, I know these humans better than you,’ isn’t it?”
Legolas chuckled, his leaf-green eyes not completely free from doubt, but nearly so. “Aye, it is at that. Aragorn would like nothing better than to stick Faramir with a dedicated guard that he and Magordan and Ethiron had handpicked even inside Ithilien, of course. And Faramir has told his father that Araogorn would have to make that an order, for Faramir to obey it.” Legolas shrugged, “If Faramir had done something absolutely ridiculous, and Beregrond had let him, I’d tell Aragorn. I’m done keeping Faramir’s secrets from him. But this,” Legolas shrugged again, “I’d give Faramir the benefit of the doubt on this one.”
Remembering a tiny boy with gold-red hair who had once leapt between him and certain death, Thalion nodded his acquiescence. “You’re my Prince,” He told his brother. “But I will remind you of what you have said, should the need arise.”
Legolas smiled back at Thalion, genuine affection and appreciation in his eyes, “Of course you will. That’s a chief advisor’s job, isn’t it? And,” Legolas paused, “An elder brother’s, as well.”
Thalion remembered an older boy, almost a man, who had come on the heels of the younger Faramir to stand between Thalion and the enemies who would otherwise have killed him. Then he glanced briefly at Tavan, who still wore the arrowhead that Thalion had given to a much younger Boromir, one night three decades ago, not that far from here. “Yes.” Thalion agreed with Legolas, pledging silently to watch out for Boromir’s younger brother, and Boromir’s heart-son, as well as his own dear brother Legolas.
NB: Please do not distribute (by any means, including email) or repost this story (including translations) without the author's prior permission. [ more ]
Enjoyed this story? Then be sure to let the author know by posting a comment at http://www.faramirfiction.com/Fiction/moons-dark-nights-end. Positive feedback is what keeps authors writing more stories!
Thank the author
The following people read the story, enjoyed it, and would like to thank the author: