By Any Means Necessary
“By any means necessary, Erestor. We need this alliance,” Elrond said determinedly. His dark robes fluttered behind him as he paced his study. Long, dark hair danced restlessly on his shoulders and his lips formed a narrow line. It was completely unnecessary to keep up appearances in front of Erestor, as he was a trusted friend. “Darkness is creeping up on Mirkwood, plunging it into Shadow and corrupting the lands. Although Thranduil does not want to admit it, he needs help in defeating this evil. It is important that we reach an agreement -- an understanding.”
Erestor thoughtfully nodded his head. He had seated himself opposite the half-Elf’s desk and was trying to sort out his thoughts concerning this matter. “I understand your concern, Elrond, but do you really think Thranduil will suddenly change his mind? He has refused an alliance with Imladris these last few centuries.”
The last time a message had been sent to Mirkwood discussing a truce, Thranduil had completely ignored it. The only connection they had to the Mirkwood King was through his son, Legolas. The Prince at times visited Imladris, supplying them with minute information. Erestor was certain Thranduil didn’t know of his son’s visits, or the Sindarin Elf would have forbidden Legolas’ journeys to Imladris a long time ago.
“That is why I am sending *you*,” said Elrond firmly, locking gazes with a thoroughly flabbergasted Erestor. “You are most cunning and sly, and you might find a way to change Thranduil’s mind. He won’t speak to me, but he may grant you an audience.” Elrond was hoping against all odds that Erestor would succeed where he had failed. “We cannot lose Mirkwood to darkness.”
“Meldir, (friend) I am Noldorin, just like you are. Thranduil holds as much hatred for me as he does for you. Why would he make an exception for me?” Erestor was not convinced he could change Thranduil’s mind. “We have always known that he hates the Noldor -- especially you, Elrond, as he blames you for his father’s death.” Erestor was flattered that Elrond placed this much trust in him, but how was he supposed to achieve the impossible? But, on the other hand, he did like a challenge and convincing Thranduil to form an alliance with Imladris was the ultimate test. Could he pull it off?
“We must try, Erestor.” Worried, Elrond met his advisor’s probing gaze. Erestor was his last hope to keep Mirkwood safe. “You *must* find a way. I received a message from Celeborn and Galadriel that they are willing to support Mirkwood, if Thranduil agrees to some sort of truce. Thranduil needs to stop fighting us and ally Mirkwood with Lorien and Imladris instead. If this argument between our realms continues it will be to the benefit of Sauron; we cannot allow that to happen.”
“Do not put too much trust in my abilities, Elrond,” cautioned Erestor. “Even if I manage to gain an audience with Thranduil, he might not see the wisdom of your request and reject it.”
Elrond collapsed onto his chair and stared at Erestor in obvious misery. “Erestor, Thranduil refuses to talk with me. You are our last chance.” His chief advisor could be charming as well as cunning when his mind was set. “By any means necessary, mellon-nîn.” (My friend.)
Erestor sighed deeply, knowing better than to start another argument with the half-Elf. He would do his best and he hoped that he wouldn’t disappoint his friend. “When do you want me to leave?”
Elrond jumped to his feet and took up pacing again. He would have preferred to travel to Mirkwood himself, but Thranduil had threatened to end his life should he ever set foot in his lands. “You will leave at once. As we speak, Glorfindel is already putting together a suitable escort.”
“No escort is needed,” Erestor said, firmly shaking his head. If he was to do this, he would do it *his* way, not Elrond’s.
“But Erestor!” Elrond exclaimed. “The roads are dangerous these days!” He wondered if his chief advisor knew what dangers lurked in the darkness. When was the last time Erestor had been away from Imladris? It must have been decades ago!
Erestor smiled for the first time during their meeting. “And how come the roads are less dangerous with an escort? Guards will only draw attention; when I am alone I can move more quickly and unnoticed.” He would do this on his terms, and he hated escorts. The guards had a tendency to treat him as if he had never participated in a fight before. They would either fuss or look at him with slight contempt in their eyes. As guards they couldn’t envision living a life cooped up in a library or their Lord’s study.
“At least take Lindir with you,” pleaded Elrond. “I do not want you to go to Mirkwood alone. Someone should be with you should something go amiss.”
Erestor considered the request -- which was reasonable -- and realized he couldn’t decline. “Aye, I will take Lindir with me, but no guards. I want to travel light and fast.”
“An escort would help impress Thranduil upon your arrival,” said Elrond thoughtfully. Did Erestor truly understand whom he was up against?
Erestor shook his head. “Such an impression won’t last long. I have to find other ways to impress Thranduil.” In order to gain Thranduil’s cooperation he would have to gain the Sindarin Elf’s trust, which could prove impossible. The King would never trust a Noldorin Elf.
Impatiently, Elrond walked over to Erestor, raised his hand, and rested it on his friend’s shoulder. “We have known each other for several millennia, Erestor, and I always found your council wise. I feel confident you will find a way to convince Thranduil.”
Erestor raised an eyebrow. “I will be gone for quite a while. Convincing Thranduil won’t be easy and it will take time. I will have to win his trust first.”
“Do whatever you need and always keep in touch with me, meldir,” said Elrond, squeezing Erestor’s shoulder. “Tell Lindir to contact me at once should Thranduil take -- ah, how to phrase this delicately? -- inappropriate measures.”
“Ah, you think he will imprison me?” Erestor chuckled softly. He couldn’t help feeling amused at that prospect. “He had better not try that or he might find himself with a diplomatic incident on his hands. I have my ways of dealing with the likes of him.”
“I know you do.” Elrond didn’t know how Erestor always managed the impossible. His chief advisor had surprised him many times in the past. “Regardless, I hope you will return swiftly,” he said, reassuringly squeezing Erestor’s shoulder -- though he wasn’t sure if it was to reassure Erestor or himself.
As Erestor entered, Lindir looked up from the scroll that he was copying for Lord Elrond. At times he would assist the chief advisor and he had gained the other’s trust throughout long centuries of hard work and obvious dedication. “My Lord?” What was Erestor doing in the library at this late hour?
“Lindir? A word please?” Erestor signaled for the white-haired Elf to follow him into his office. After seating himself behind his desk, he closely watched Lindir, who now sat down opposite him. Had it been up to him, he would have traveled by himself, not getting Lindir involved in this matter, but Elrond’s orders had been clear.
Erestor continued to observe Lindir when he said, “Lord Elrond just informed me that he wants to form an alliance with Thranduil. The Shadow is creeping up on Mirkwood and we need to consolidate our strength. He asked me to negotiate a truce and he wants you to accompany me when I travel to Mirkwood. I would like to know if this is agreeable to you.”
Surprised at hearing the news, Lindir studied Erestor in return. “I must admit I would rather stay here, but I will go where I serve our Lord best.” He paused, sorting out his thoughts. This was quite unexpected. “And I do not want you to travel alone either, so aye, I will accompany you and serve you to the best of my abilities.”
Pleased with the response, Erestor nodded once. “Elrond wants us to leave tonight. You may wish to pack some of your personal belongings, but pack lightly.”
“I understand.” Lindir rose from his chair, bowed respectfully and then left to prepare for their departure.
Left alone, Erestor leaned back into the comfort of the chair and stared blindly at the wall. Thranduil was one of the most stubborn individuals on Arda! Although he had never met the Sindarin Elf, he had heard enough stories from Legolas to be apprehensive about this undertaking. /How do I convince him to cooperate?/ Sighing, Erestor hoped he would find a way to deal with Thranduil, as the King of Mirkwood would do his best to ensure this alliance was never formed.
Glorfindel didn’t like this development one bit. “This is folly.” Learning that Elrond was sending Erestor and Lindir to Mirkwood worried him, and he had told the half-Elf so. But Elrond had ignored his objections, saying it was their last chance at forming an alliance. Feeling frustrated, he decided to make himself useful, providing the two Elves with Imladris’ finest horses. He had even packed lembas and water skins into their saddlebags.
His gaze drifted to the right, where first Erestor and then Lindir appeared. Both Elves wore leggings, a tunic, cloak and riding boots. He had seen Lindir in this attire before, but as far as he remembered he had never seen Erestor without his formal robes. However, the advisor had not lost the air of authority that he usually radiated.
“Erestor, you need a proper escort!” When Elrond had told him to not bother putting together an escort he had scolded the half-Elf, who had then told him that it was at Erestor’s request. The fact that the advisor didn’t want an escort puzzled and frustrated him. Why take unnecessary risks?
Lindir smiled warmly. It was a well-known fact that Glorfindel and Erestor loved to verbally banter and the two of them had driven Lord Elrond to despair at times. He could easily tell that the real reason why Glorfindel was bantering was concern, and he felt honored that the Balrog slayer worried about him and Erestor. Glorfindel now turned to Lindir, asking him to voice his opinion on this matter. “I am sure Lord Erestor knows what he is doing,” he answered diplomatically.
But Glorfindel shook his head. “Maybe Erestor will relent if I offer to escort you personally.”
“That, meldir, would be a truly stupid thing to do,” commented Erestor in a mock frustrated voice, shaking his head at Glorfindel’s suggestion.
Glorfindel glared at Erestor. “And, pray tell me, why would that be stupid?” He wasn’t giving up yet. He had to try one more time to change the advisor’s mind. He would never forgive himself if Orcs killed Erestor and Lindir during this foolish trip to Mirkwood, when Thranduil didn’t even want to talk to them!
“Because you are needed here. Especially when I will be gone for some time. Glorfindel, Elrond needs your council.” Erestor opened the saddlebags and checked that his robes had been packed. He had selected his formal robes, made from the richest velvet in pleasing burgundy. He knew that they made him look more authoritative and he needed whatever edge he could get when dealing with Thranduil.
In the end, Glorfindel reluctantly admitted that Erestor was right, but he refused to voice that realization. Elrond did need him now that his chief advisor was leaving for Mirkwood. “You must be careful on the road. Mirkwood is a dangerous place and you don’t have any guards with you.”
“I have heard about their venomous spiders, amongst other dangerous things,” said Erestor thoughtfully, mounting his horse. “You can trust us to be very careful.”
Glorfindel reluctantly released the reins. “You had better be.” Feeling uncomfortable, he looked up at Erestor and Lindir, both mounted and ready to leave. A part of him still wished he were allowed to accompany them so he could keep them safe. Neither Erestor nor Lindir were warriors and would be hard-pressed when attacked.
“Have faith,” said Erestor, reading his friend’s discomfort clearly on his face.
“Send a message once you have safely arrived,” requested Glorfindel. “Elrond and I will continue to worry about your well-being otherwise.”
Erestor nodded once. “We will let you know.” He exchanged one last glance with Glorfindel and said his good-byes.
An ominous feeling washed through Glorfindel, as he watched them leave. He hoped Erestor could handle Thranduil.
Erestor and Lindir traveled at a comfortable speed, always careful to avoid running into Orcs or Uruk-Hai, which now roamed the lands. The closer they got to Mirkwood, the more cautious they became. Not only Saruman’s evil creatures lurked close; they also felt the chilling influence of Dol Guldur that crept closer as they approached the former Greenwood the Great.
Knowingly, Erestor met Lindir’s gaze. Both Elves would be relieved when they finally reached the relative safety of Thranduil’s talan. “We should be more careful now. Orcs, spiders and other abominations could be tracking us. We need to be vigilant.”
Lindir nodded in understanding. “I have heard many horrific tales of those venomous spiders. It is said that, although their venom cannot kill us, it can harm us greatly, even paralyze for some time. It would be best to avoid them.”
“Hopefully Thranduil’s sentries will meet with us shortly.” A messenger had preceded them, sent by Elrond to announce their arrival. The silence around them was growing heavier. Affected by the Shadow, the birds had stopped singing. Or had they left altogether?
Feeling the need for some conversation, Erestor asked, “Have you ever been to Mirkwood before, Lindir?”
“Nay, my Lord Elrond never sent me there.” Lindir glanced at Erestor curiously. “And what about you, my Lord?”
Erestor gracefully inclined his head. “I have never been here before either. Thranduil once threatened to imprison every Noldorin Elf that set foot on his lands. He even threatened to end Elrond’s life, should he ever find him on his territory. So you see I have not yet had the ‘pleasure’ of meeting Thranduil. When I had business to attend to with Mirkwood I would speak with Legolas. It is amazing how unlike father and son are. Legolas is one of the friendliest and most respectful youngsters I ever met.”
A wicked glint suddenly appeared in Erestor’s dark eyes and he chuckled softly. “Maybe I should put *you* in charge of these negotiations, Lindir. Maybe Thranduil would be inclined to talk to you, as you are a Sindarin Elf! He will shun me for my heritage. I wonder what possessed Elrond to send me here.”
Lindir knew Erestor well enough to know the chief advisor of Imladris loved a challenge. Erestor thrived on finding solutions to crisis situations; it was the very thing that made him such an excellent advisor. “I am sure you will find a way.”
“Funny, Elrond said the exact same thing.” Erestor kept up the banter to ward off the growing darkness that gathered around them. His every sense told him to turn and flee, but he never left the path and continued to head for Thranduil’s talan. “It feels as though the darkness is gaining on us.” Shadows had gathered at either side of the road, making them feel cornered.
“Do you think the spiders will use the shadows to get to us?” Ever alert, Lindir kept a close eye on their surroundings.
“Aye,” said Erestor thoughtfully, placing his hand on the hilt of his sword. It might have been centuries since he had last wielded a sword, but he still knew how to defend himself.
Seeing Erestor prepare himself for a possible confrontation, Lindir slipped his bow into his hands, ready to shoot if necessary.
Erestor knew Elrond and Glorfindel had been right to suggest an escort, but he felt more comfortable traveling alone or -- at Elrond’s request -- being accompanied by Lindir.
A screeching sound suddenly erupted from behind them, almost freezing the blood in their veins.
Bushes, drenched in shadows, suddenly released their deadly contents. The large, venomous spider that emerged headed straight toward the two Elves. The spider’s eight legs carried it swiftly, reaching for the closest of its intended victims.
Erestor immediately drew and raised his sword, ready to defend himself against the monster. The spider would put up firm resistance, but Erestor was determined to keep them safe. He would find a way to slay the nightmarish creature.
Lindir shot his first arrow, and aimed it at the spider’s head. That first arrow was quickly followed by a second, hitting the creature in one of its eyes.
Erestor silently applauded Lindir’s approach and raised his sword, eager to ensure their safe passage by taking out the monster. He aimed his blows at the creature’s head as well, hoping to blind it completely. With its eyesight gone the spider could be taken out more easily.
Unexpectedly, the tables were turned when another spider emerged from their left, joining the first in its attack. The injured spider regained its wits and launched another assault.
Erestor exchanged a quick look of worry with Lindir. The spiders had cornered them and they couldn’t possibly outrun the beasts. Their survival depended on slaying them.
Gathering his strength again, Erestor drove his heels into his horse’s sides and charged. At the same time a cloud of arrows descended over the spiders, drawing pain-filled shrieks from them. Now that the arrows were burying into their hairy bodies, they quickly turned and retreated into the darkness.
Puzzled, Erestor looked over his shoulder at Lindir, realizing very well that one Elf couldn’t possibly have released the multitude of arrows that had driven the spiders away. They had received unexpected help. A smile curled the corners of his mouth. He could only think of one Elf who would be looking out for them.
“There are Elves up in the trees,” whispered Lindir softly, uncertain what Erestor’s next move would be.
“Legolas?” Erestor spoke the name softly, but knew the addressed Elf could easily pick up on it. Sudden movement above them made the two Elves take a step back and Erestor smiled knowingly when a Woodland Elf lowered himself to the ground, leaving the safety of the tree. “Greetings, Legolas Thranduilion.” Erestor said, inclining his head in a respectful greeting.
Legolas smiled warmly, realizing both Elves were unharmed. “Erestor, you should know better than to travel without a proper escort. You are fortunate that I decided to guide you to our talan.” The blond Elf briefly hugged Erestor as he dismounted. He had found many friends in Imladris, but kept that fact hidden from his father, who would surely disapprove.
“I assume the messenger already reached your father?” Erestor sheathed his sword and then signaled for Lindir to follow them as he led his horse along the path.
“Aye, he did, and Ada was not pleased to learn that a Noldorin Elf is on his way to the royal talan.”
Erestor chuckled softly. “I have never met your father, Legolas. Is it true what they say about his temper?” He wanted to gather as much information as he could about Thranduil. Such knowledge might come in handy one day.
Legolas gave Erestor a saddened smile. “To be perfectly honest with you, I doubt my father would ever truly hurt you, Lord Elrond, or any other Elf for that matter. The threats are his way of ensuring Lord Elrond keeps his distance.”
Erestor’s eyes met Legolas’. He vividly recalled the first time Legolas had visited Imladris. Elrond and he had been apprehensive about dealing with the Prince from Mirkwood, who had traveled to the Last Homely House on official matters, speaking on behalf of his father. But Legolas had impressed them both with his kindness and intelligence.
“I won’t find myself in his dungeons then?” said Erestor jokingly.
Legolas’ sad smile remained when he shook his head. “We hardly ever use them anymore.”
Erestor realized Legolas’ potential as his ally. Maybe this was the edge he needed in order to deal with Thranduil. Allowing Legolas to guide him onto safer paths, he asked, “Do you know why I am here?”
“Aye, my father told me.” Legolas’ brow furrowed momentarily. “He does not like the idea of an alliance, and he will fight it, but deep in his heart he knows it might be the only way to keep the Shadow at bay. Lothlorien and Imladris are yet untouched by Sauron’s Shadow and Mirkwood needs their support.”
“Do you think I can convince him to agree to Elrond’s proposal?” Erestor studied Legolas closely. Legolas knew Thranduil best and his insight may prove useful.
“Maybe. My father wants what is best for Mirkwood and its residents, but the thought of working together with Elrond does not appeal to him.”
“Maybe he would consider working with me instead?”
“I doubt it,” said Legolas teasingly. “You are Noldorin as well.”
Erestor grew silent momentarily. Legolas had given him some insight into Thranduil’s character and if what Legolas said was true, the ruler realized the danger his realm was in. That might make the King more accepting of this alliance.
“His moods have been dark lately,” said Legolas in a somber tone, confiding in Erestor, whom he considered a friend. “The Shadow that is affecting the lands also takes its toll on him. He tries to fight off the vile influence, but his strength has its limits.”
Erestor nodded once. “Your father is doing his best to fight Sauron’s influence, but as long as he stands alone all his efforts will be wasted. In unison lies strength.”
Legolas agreed. “But my father won’t be that easily swayed.”
“I can try,” said Erestor determinedly. Fighting off Sauron would wear Thranduil down, emotionally and physically. He had to use Thranduil’s weakness to his advantage and make it his strength.
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