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There had been many shake-ups in Aman since Aegnor and Arwen had left Mandos. As though their release had begun the cogs and gears of time and change once more. Finwë, who had been staying with his son, Fëanor, grandsons and great-grandson, had gone on a bit of a traveling binge so he could visit his other sons and their kin. Eventually, he made his way back to his former home of Tirion and had been shocked by the welcome he’d received.
Ultimately, that had turned into a reunion with his wife and the abdication of his daughter who wanted nothing more than to return to her husband's home in Valmar so they could be near their children. So began the second reign of King Finwë. And with the reign of the Three Queens at an end, Nerdanel finally made the trek to her husband's realm and found herself warmly welcomed by her sons who had missed her.
She’d also found a very cordial and friendly Fëanor who welcomed her with none of the recriminations he’d flung at her the last time they’d seen each other. Not sure what to expect she took nothing for granted and respectfully requested he grant her time with their sons. He’d grinned and brushed aside her formality and invited her to explore where she willed and visit whom she pleased.
Pleasantly surprised by the change she saw in him, she’d become even more surprised at some of the tales her sons’ shared with her. Especially the ones that involved her husband’s brother, Fingolfin. And they were quite adamant that most of the changes in their father’s character was wholly due to the dubious influence of Fingolfin. When questioned as to how this had come about, she’d gotten a lot of hand-waving and prevaricating answers that usually boiled down to, “Oh, you know. Mandos.” Still, it was curious and she liked what she was seeing in her husband and was intrigued. Perhaps someday…..?
~Home of Melodic Musings~
Aegnor and Arwen had been settled in their home for forlorn elves for several years and it hadn’t taken as long to build as they’d thought. For one thing, both of them had many connections that expedited things that would normally take decades - because why not? They had forever. And Arwen’s friendship with both Legolas and Gimli - along with several Hobbits - gained them those little touches that make a house a home. Even if it was to be more like a boarding house.
Built like a rather large and rambling garden cottage, the main building was set up more or less as Rivendell had been, with a communal dining area and a lounge that wasn’t quite the hall of fire, though treated as one. But it was cozy, all the same, with a fire burning at all times. There were even guest rooms aplenty, if that was their desire. But they also had dozens of smaller cottages around the main building, along the lakeshore and even some a bit more remote for those who desired solitude.
They were technically within the borders of the Gardens of Lórien, a land of not only beautiful and soothing gardens, but also a land of silver willows. And they had attracted some of the very kinds of people they were seeking to cater to. Heartbroken people with sorrows upon their fëar. How could they not? Especially when the proprietors were two who were rather famous for loving mortals, which was just begging for a broken heart!
But for the most part, it was old friends and kin who stayed in their establishment, which had the warm charm of a beloved family home. Everyone was welcome and treated as cherished members of their family.
One morning Aegnor had come in with his usual bundle of wood to feed the fire in their lounge, just as Arwen liked it. She insisted it gave a homey feel to the place and for some reason the hall did indeed need the fire as it was always cool, even in summertime. Stacking the wood, he said conversationally, “So, have you heard the latest scandal?” he asked with a smirk.
“No, of course not. You know I don’t like to listen to gossip.”
“I would have thought this one would have piqued your curiosity - especially since it involves people you were probably acquainted with in Endor.”
“I can’t imagine who remains that I would have known.” she frowned.
“Tis concerning the king of the woodland realm. I thought perhaps you’d have met him.”
“Oh! Of course I have. King Thranduil was an ally during the long war years and a great friend. What of him? Has he finally sailed? That will please his family immensely.”
“Not only has he sailed with the last of his Woodelves, but he apparently also brought a gaggle of both Hobbits and Dwarves along with him.”
This did interest Arwen and she looked up from her stitching with wide eyes, “He didn’t.”
“He has indeed. And Olórin has been sent to get a handle on the situation.”
“Oh dear! I’m not sure he would like that. King Thranduil, that is. They’ve butted heads in the past.”
Frowning, Aegnor asked, “He butted heads with one of the maiar? That does not show him to be of good character.”
“Oh, please, Aegnor!” she huffed, “You’ve met Olórin. Tell me he’s the run of the mill maiar. Besides, I can’t say King Thranduil didn’t have cause to be annoyed with him. Olórin vexed him on several occasions and it seemed he went out of his way to tweak the king. But tell me what else you have heard.”
“Well, this king is insisting that bringing Hobbits and dwarves but not delivering them to the mainland doesn’t violate the spirit of the Valar’s ban on mortals stepping foot on Aman. And he cited Elenna as legal precedent.”
Arwen laughed merrily at this news and Aegnor regarded her curiously, as she said, “That would be King Thranduil all over. And I fear the Valar will lose this battle of Wills for I don’t believe there is a creature alive who can out-stubborn our King Thranduil.”
“You’re not painting a very good picture of him, you know.”
“I paint an eccentric picture of an ellon born in Doriath and driven out of his home time and time again. He would be a weak elf indeed if he didn’t dig his heels in and say enough!”
“Well, I suppose a king of all people would choose a legalistic approach to rebellion. I suppose he will be joining King Thingol up north?” he asked, referring to Fairinor - Land of the Released - or as the Noldor called it, Sindanórië - Land of the Grey Ones - located just to their north, and south of Fëanor's Realm of Orehtelë, where King Thingol had resettled his people after the Great Release of the 2nd Age.
“I don’t know, truly. He’s kin to Thingol, but he’s been king probably longer than any, save Ingwë. If he resettles the Hobbits and Dwarves on the outer islands, he may choose to do the same if he finds one that pleases him. Then his kin can rejoin him if they choose. I imagine his wife will join him. Of his sons and daughter I have no notion for I haven’t had any word on them. Though, if any would know, it would be Legolas.”
“I thought Legolas was his only child.”
“Oh no. Legolas wasn’t even his first born. His eldest brother fell at Dagorlad and his younger brother was wounded by spider venom when those foul beasts infested their forest. Then the king insisted that the queen sail, taking Legolas’ elder sister and the youngest son with her. Legolas stayed and found himself heir of a sort, when he’d been happily secure as a middle child and not burdened with responsibility. If you knew him you’d see that would explain everything about him.”
“I’m surprised they didn’t have you betrothed to one of those sons as one of the few ellyths in the remaining noble houses.”
“So am I and King Thranduil’s sons are very handsome. I'm also surprised one of my brothers wasn’t betrothed to his daughter, who is also very beautiful. But things worked out the way they would.”
“Would you consider it now?”
“No. I’ve already been married. Besides, I’m sure they’re all wed now anyway. I know the eldest, Belegon, had married and even had children. His wife and children sailed with the queen. People often think King Thranduil has little to no family, but that’s not true. His family is actually quite large. Which is why I’m not surprised that he sailed. I’m just surprised it took him so long.”
“Well, he sailed by himself with none of the Falathrim to aid him. And he arrived with a huge fleet of ships. I suppose he’s been busy building ships.”
Laughing, Arwen said, “You’re probably right. King Thranduil never does anything in half measures. He’s rather grandiose. Larger than life, if you get my meaning. And if he brought Hobbits and Dwarves with him he somehow was sure he’d be allowed to….” and then her eyes widened, “Oh! How silly of me. Of course he knew he’d be allowed. He’s had the Istari wizard, Radagast with him for ages! I’ll just bet he also brought him along with him! There’s no way the straight road would be closed to a maia!”
“Now he actually sounds interesting. Do you think there’s any chance he might come visiting?” Aegnor asked, grinning.
“You never know. He might stop by if he heads to Fairinor. Oh! I simply must write to Legolas! I’m dreadfully behind in my correspondence!” she exclaimed as she hurried off to scratch up a note, much to Aegnor’s amusement.
~Tol Kimbalaer - Isle at Song’s Edge~
The Eastern Sea of Tol Eressëa were peppered by myriad islands, formerly called the Enchanted Isles as they’d been originally positioned there to deter the Noldor from attempting to return to Aman. But since the sundering from Arda, the Falmari had begun exploring them and treated them as their private playgrounds. The thing about them was they’d been mostly left alone long enough that most were island paradises. Many were even quite substantial - large, in fact - and could support fairly large populations.
With that in mind, Olórin found himself aboard ship, something he never thought he’d have to endure again, and heading to the largest of these islands. And the closer they got the larger the island became. For all intents and purposes, they could all settle right here, Olórin mused, and then wondered when Elrond would emerge from below decks. Apparently ships and his constitution had an uneasy acquaintanceship.
As the Falmari ship approached, he could see that a proper pier had been established long ago. Olórin hoped they’d gotten permission from the Falmari if they planned to establish themselves here. In fact, this bothered him so much he went to see the captain to ask that very question.
The captain's response surprised him, “Of course he has permission. He is Teleri - our kin. He is welcome here.”
Olórin thanked the elf and walked thoughtfully away. His response hadn’t been rude, but he’d definitely felt the ellon had been offended by his question. As though he should have known better. And perhaps he should have. He had to admit he’d spent very little time with elves other than the Noldor during his time in Middle Earth.
Elrond finally made his appearance, a bit green around the gills, but seeming no worse for wear. They departed the ship and began to take in their surroundings and were rather surprised to find a well established and bustling port city. Even more surprising was they then beheld an ellon, well known to them in the person of Círdan.
Holding out his arms in welcome, a grin on his face, saying, “Welcome to Tol Kimbalaer, my friends.”
“Círdan! Oh, it’s good to see you, old friend!” Elrond exclaimed, embracing the shipwright, well pleased and relieved by his steadying presence.
“Well met, Círdan! Do you know, I had no idea people had spread out to these islands. Truly, I hadn’t thought them habitable at all.” Olórin said in wonder, adding, “I suppose you know why we’ve arrived”’
“Indeed. I imagine everyone knows at this point. Leave it to our King Thranduil to stir up a hornets nest. I can’t say I fault his motivations on this score.”
“What besides self indulgence would motivate him?” Elrond frowned.
Raising a brow, Círdan said, “Thranduil is a lot of things, but self indulgent isn’t one of them.” He then indicated they should follow him and he set off at a quick pace into the town square and then sharply left where he led them to a large coastal manor home, much like the one he’d enjoyed in Mithlond.
After his household staff settled them and they freshened up, Círdan had a message sent to the former king of Eryn Lasgalen, who promptly arrived with an unmasked Radagast - now Aiwendil - and both were shown into Círdan’s study and already enjoying a tipple of wine as Elrond and Olórin arrived to join them.
“Ah! Aiwendil. I’m very glad to see you. I had wondered what became of you.” Olórin smiled, adding, “And King Thranduil! Stirring things up as usual, I see.”
“Still as insufferable as ever, eh Mithrandir. What a surprise.” the king replied, rolling his eyes at the former wizard and focusing on Elrond, raised his glass and said, “Well met Elrond. I hear glad tidings have found you. I share your joy in the return of your daughter.”
“Thank you, Thranduil. And I’m happy to see you’ve finally taken ship. I just didn’t realize you’d be bringing so many with you.”
“Ah, right to the point. Very well. I brought them because they were both on the verge of being wiped out. I thought this would be a shame.”
“And I recalled these islands surrounding Tol Eressëa and the prohibition of the Númenóreans. So I figured we could resettle them as long as we respected that prohibition.” Aiwendil added.
“You didn’t plan on moving them to the mainland after a suitable period of time?” Olórin asked.
“No. Of course not. But I’m surprised you would think either group wishes to have extended contact with elves. I assure you they don't and only wish to be left to themselves. I see no reason why they can’t do that here.” Aiwendil said, frowning.
“Indeed, both groups wish to be left alone, though they don’t seem to mind sharing this land with a bunch of wild-woodelves. And I hope we might be able to tempt them with mutually beneficial trade.” Thranduil said.
“Tell me, are there any of the Shepherds here?” Aiwendil asked.
“Yes. I believe they are all here. Why do you ask?” Olórin asked.
“I think some should be asked if they would resettle to these islands for a spell.” his fellow maia said.
“Why do you think? To teach forest and cultivation husbandry. Or wifery, in the case of the cultivation.”
“But if they need to be taught…” Olórin began.
“If the answer is no, just say so.” Thranduil interrupted, adding, “The purpose of the request is to teach them how to thrive on these islands. Lands different than they are used to. If you will not even attempt to help then stand aside and we will do it ourselves.”
Olórin frowned and looked about to say something, when Círdan interjected and said, “I’m sure the Falmari and my Falathrim would be happy to assist them in any way we can. Luckily this island has many rivers full of fish. I believe the Periannath are proficient fishermen?”
“They are. And trade has already begun between the two groups as the dwarves are very good at cultivating mushrooms. Something Hobbits value greatly.”
Círdan nodded and said, “As the lord of this island - the only Island the Valar allowed me to reach in all my long years of service - I’ve already granted asylum to these refugees. Unless you can give me a good reason the Valar wishes these people to be sent back to die, I consider the matter closed.”
Elrond was torn. He wished to be respectful to the Valar, but since coming here he’d found himself in a legal argument with the Valar over their decision to exile his parents to a life sentence of isolation. Never to see any of their kin ever again. That had been their reward for daring to seek help in the First Age. When he learned of this he’d felt shame at all the years he and his brother had been angry at their parents for abandoning them.
And it had only been recently that he’d learned of their ultimate fate and that his parents still thought them dead and only hoped they’d been re-embodied in all these ages. Círdan had once pointed out the direction where his mother’s island and her Tower of Pearl. An Island with a peak so high it pierced the Ilman layer of the atmosphere where his father’s ship had been set. He had been in nonstop supplication ever since, to no avail, so far. And he made a decision.
“I will aid you and all those here in any way I can.” he said to the astonishment of all present.
All except Thranduil. If he was surprised he had the poise to cover it well, “Thank you, Elrond. I haven’t always agreed with your counsel or decisions, but I know your heart is earnest and your intentions pure.”
To which, Elrond said quickly, “I’m sorry for allowing Legolas to accompany the Quest. I had no idea he’d be affected by the Sea Longing. I would never have sundered you from the last of your kin on those shores, I swear it.”
Smiling gently, Thranduil said, “I know it. And he wouldn’t have volunteered if he thought that would be his undoing. Being killed in battle is one thing, but to be tormented into sailing wasn’t part of his calculations. But it has all worked out well in the end.”
And Elrond grinned, saying, “And these circumstances allow you to keep your word to never step foot in Aman, eh, old friend?” and then added, “Have they all joined you yet?”
Smiling, Thranduil nodded, “They have! And have been multiplying in the interim! And Legolas is quite happy to have been reunited with his wife and children. And has discovered himself a grandfather, as well. Gimli is glad to have his own people around him and the Hobbits are delighted to be with theirs. It is nice to see them all content and settled, once more.”
“Oh that is joyous news. I’d love to see them again. And to meet the others.”
“Even I haven’t met them all, I think.” the former king said dryly causing the peredhel to laugh light heartedly.
“I feel as though I am missing a great deal of what is being said here!” Olórin exclaimed.
“You are, but that is your own fault.” Aiwendil said in amusement and refusing to enlighten him on what he was missing.
Círdan then said, “It is settled, then! We will stay here and be settled with the dwarves and hobbits. If they decide they wish to have a place to themselves we can explore the surrounding islands and see if one suits them. Though this island is large enough and has all that we could ask for. The dwarves can delve in the rocky cliffs, the hobbits can make any sort of homes they’d like in the interior and the Woodelves have plenty of woods to make them happy.” and lifting his glass, added, “Agreed?”
And all but Olórin raised theirs with an “Agreed!” in turn.
When all looked at the former wizard, he sighed and said, “Very well. Agreed.” then added, “Well, I’ve always said it is good to have a hobbit or two about the place and now I’m granted a gaggle of them. This actually makes me happy to know there will always be Hobbits….and the dwarves, of course!” and then he brightened, saying, “I say! Perhaps they’ve brought pipeweed?! I have really missed that. Everything is better with pipeweed!”
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