Voices in the hallway draw closer and closer. Luthien’s heart beats slightly faster than normal; the only outward sign of any nervousness is in the slight clench and quick relaxation of her hands on the wine tray she holds.
A group of Elves bursts through the door, decidedly un-Elf like in their decorum. They are arguing heatedly as they seat themselves around the table. Thranduil takes his seat at the head of the assembly, absently motioning for Luthien to serve them as he does so.
Now that she is closer him, she can see the details she missed while watching Thranduil from the back of the Audience Chamber.
She seems intent on pouring the wine, smoothly, carefully, as if she had done it every day in her life. But as the wine trickles into the goblets the words fill her ears, and it is only by chance that the liquid finds its way into the glasses as her attention wavers in shock.
“…the borders are clear. When shall we march, Sire?”
Thranduil considered for a moment, studying the goblet in his hand. “We will march on Lothlorien at the next full moon,” he said, meeting the eyes of every Elf seated around him, one after the other.
Yet it is not his words that cause Luthien’s hand to tremble, and spill a drop of wine onto the table top. Annoyed, Thranduil looks up at her.
“I am sorry, my Lord,” she murmurs, quickly cleaning up the small mess. His eyes linger on her face for a moment more before turning back to his commanders, yet her gaze doesn’t stray from his forehead.
Thranduil is wearing a crown. Of beautiful Elvish craftsmanship, intricately swirling across his noble forehead. Not unusual, in and of itself. When Vorladien and Legolas journeyed to Imladris, she had seen Lord Elrond wearing one that was quite similar. But Thranduil’s is made, not of gold or mithril, but of iron…
Abruptly Thranduil rises, causing the other Elves to hastily scramble to their feet. With an incline of his head, Thranduil turns and leaves the small chamber, followed in ranking order by his councillors.
They are marching on Lorien. They are going to war. Elves against Elves…
Leaving the tray on the table, she walks out into the now-empty hall. Distracted, she walks down another hallway, her quick steps at odds with the sluggishness of her mind. War. The word has not yet sunken in. Her feet move faster and faster, running away from the shadows that now seem to lurk around every corner.
How do I get out of here…?
Turning a corner, she slams into someone, her momentum not allowing for a sudden stop. Wincing, she looks up into Thranduil’s face.
“My lady?” he asks, the ice in his voice not entirely masked by the considerate words. I gulp, searching for some excuse. There isn’t one, I think, there is no excuse for smashing headlong into a king.
His eyes are colder than his voice, if that is at all possible. Everything about him is cold.
I look away. What can I do? I am sure where this ice comes from, although I do not know how I know.
His hand grips my arm suddenly, so hard that I am sure he will leave bruises. “Please, lady, tell me what ails you,” he is saying, leaning closer menacingly.
“My Lord…” my voice is barely a whisper, and I curse it for failing me when I need it most. Before I can stop myself, I raise a hand to his face, caressing his cheek and pushing his hair back as if I were a lover. The tip of my finger touches his diadem.
Unbelieveable pain shoots up my arm, and I wrench myself out of his grasp. The world begins to spin around me, flooding my senses with pain, with memories. I can feel my carefully held illusion shatter, revealing my true form to the one person from whom, above all, I wanted to escape discovery. It hurts. From far away I her a scream, and as the world fades to black, I wonder if its myself I hear.
Thranduil stares in astonishment at the woman at his feet. In the space of a few seconds her hair has darkened from the radient blonde of his people to a dark, soft brown. A moment ago he couldn’t have recalled her face, and now he wondered how he could have missed such distinctive features. Frowning, he lifts her into his arms and carries her down the hallway. He would interrogate her when she woke. Until then, he had more pressing matters to attend to.
Luthien flickered in and out of consciousness for two days. The maidens who stood as her attendants and guards exchanged worried glances over her bed- Elves didn’t take sick, but it was not unknown for them to die of broken hearts, and Luthien’s delusional behavior was eerily similar to that of one who had suffered some great blow to the heart.
Towards evening on the second day, she had finally fallen into a deep, heavy sleep. Shaking their heads, her wardens extinguished the lights and left her.
In the darkness Luthien’s pale eyes sprang open, staring into the shadows of the ceiling.
She felt heavy, empty. No emotion flickered across her face.
I can remember everything now.
My mother, Melian, a Maia, my father, Thingol, king of Doriath, a realm so great that Mirkwood is but a shadow of it.
My beloved Beren; a mortal whose fate I chose to share. Our quest, our adventures, our life together. I can see the other lives I have lived, although those images are shadowed and veiled. Yet I know that he was ever by my side.
Memory is the greatest gift and the greatest curse, I tell the ceiling. It has no wisdom to impart to me.
My right hand is still numb from the touch of Thranduil’s crown. I smile bitterly. No, not Thranduil’s crown.
How he came by this artifact I am not sure. There is no dobut in my mind that it was placed convieniently in his path by one of Sauron’s agents. Although his Master is locked into the Abyss, I know that the Dark Lord is not above using such a tool to undermine the strength of his enemies. After all, why waste resources to destroy your opponents, if you can get them to destroy each other?
A sudden thought slams like lightning into my head.
I swing my legs over the side of the bed. I must warn them. Thranduil’s army is leaving Mirkwood at the next full moon- how long does it take to walk to Lothlorien? A week, with a full army? I have to get back there in time. They must know that Thranduil is not in his right mind, and has become a puppet of the Dark Lord.
They have locked the door, but it is a simple mechanism, opened with a word of magic. The corridor outside of the room is empty, stretching out in either direction. I have no idea how to get out of this underground city.
A torch directly across from me wavers in a draft, and I head left down the hallway, following the source of the draft. An iffy plan, but the only one I’ve got.
Thankfully I don’t have far to go. A deepset window looks out into an empty garden, and I crawl through it, glad to be once more in the night air, grinning as I make a dash for the woods.
My horse is still in the clearing where I left her, slightly antsy but otherwise unharmed and well-rested. I slip the bridle over her head and mount, wheeling her out of the trees and back onto the road, pushing her toward Lothlorien at a full gallop.
I must warn them in time!