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In the Pines

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Aegnor hands his brother the drinking horn of Edain beer with a hidden grimace, wiping his hand on the tartan wrap across his shoulders, then frowns at the stain on the green and yellow fabric. He goes to ask the matron of the house about adding the garment to the laundry, as it was a gift from Boron’s wife and thus one of the first gifts that Aegnor received from a member of Bëor’s family, holding for him a particular sentimental value.

Angrod hides his own smile and turns to Belegor to inquire after the reason behind this impromptu and boisterous party. The brother of the Lord of Ladros replies in a more than mildly inebriated voice that the engagement between his oldest son and a woman with very annoying and parsimonious parents has been annulled, to which Angrod replies he did not know that an annulment to an engagement was a cause for a celebration. Belegor laughs, jostling the drinking horn in Angrod’s grip, and says, ‘It would be if you knew these potential in-laws!“

At this point Aegnor returns to interrupt the conversation with an even more pained expression on his face to ask if Belegor knows about the men outside trying to steal his cattle.

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“Do you think we have not courage?” Boron asks Lord Finrod, when the elven king warns of the dangers of Dorthonion, of its proximity to Thangorodium. “Do you think we chose not to fight against Morgoth, that he is not the avowed enemy of our race? That the harms he has done to us and our families is somehow less than those he did to the Noldor, and we have less cause or motivation to bring war to him, to stand against him?”

“Well, you certainly have more conviction than many of my cousins,” interjects Lord Finrod’s brother with a sardonic smile. “If Lord Boron and any of his people that wish to join him want to move up to our lands, Dorthonion has land for their choosing. It is not as if we have many men or homes on the land as it is, or warriors to patrol it. I will not gainsay anyone willing to fight, not when our efforts to encourage anyone beside Uncle Fingolfin have fallen on defective ears.”

King Finrod makes a strange little expression that starts as a glare but transforms into a huff, as if he cannot decide which part of his brother’s statement to rebut first and if any are worth the effort to deign a response.

Boromir has a odd moment of empathy, seeing the elven lords not as mighty figures but as a pair of bickering brothers, and wonders if his father was ever embarrassed by Belegor and him sniping to each other over family. Then again, his arguments with Bereg have shamed the family enough. He glances to his father, who is nodding vigorously at Lord Angrod with a particularly stubborn set to his jaws and remembers that this is how the situation started, that Boromir’s cousin was foolish enough to play into the enemy’s hands. The Dark Lord up in Thangorodrim did not desire Bëor’s people allied with the elves or anywhere in this new land, and Boromir cannot think of a better reason to do anything than defying the Master of Lies. And, staring at his father, Boromir knows the surest way to prod anyone in his family to avow a task is to impinge upon their courage or imply they are forbidden.

“The Master of Lies will hunt us anywhere we live, and his emissaries in disguise have already tried to come among us in Estolad. This is an old trick of which my father and the Wisewomen of our tribe long recognize. But the servants of the Dark Lord fear the power of you elven lords and your ability to perceive their seemings of deceit.”

“Imperfectly,” interrupts the Lord Finrod.

“Yet you have the power of the mind we do not,” counters Boromir’s father.

“And it would be harder for a disguised sorcerer of the enemy to sneak into Dorthonion, if there are so few people that live there to begin with, and few visitors,” Boromir adds, hoping he sounds intelligent and adds value to this weighty conversation. Often he feels as if he is but a callous seventeen instead of twenty seven, but he knows he has a point, so crowded has Estolad become with new arrivals from the East trickling in each month. Amlach’s doppelganger could pretend to be him because no one knew that Imlach’s son had not joined the pressing crowd. Few there knew Amlach intimately to know if his words were those of his mind or true manner. Bereg had derided Boromir for being too trusting of the elves, but Boromir holds that it is his younger cousin that was naive. The elves can do what the People of Bëor cannot and are willing to give what they need. Land, as much and more than can be had in the overrun settlement of Estolad, and the chance to fight against the true enemy of his people are not gifts to be tossed aside. Boromir can not fathom what Bereg hopes to find by returning to where Grandfather Baran fled from, but he knows Bereg will not find it. There are three tribes of men, whom the elves are now calling Edain, who have entered Beleriand because the unknown on the western side of the Blue Mountains was a better prospect than what they had.

Boromir thinks he has much in common with the spirit of his forefather Bëor, for the appeal of a new land to explore and the hope it offers fills him with a desire to sing. Boromir desires a life of greatness, in the manner that truly matters, of leaving the world better than he found it, and standing firm against the Master of Lies is the greatest calling he sees.

The elven king clears his throat in the manner of over-corrective older brothers everywhere -which makes Boromir feel even more strangely elative to know he shares a trait with Nóm himself - and smirks as only an older brother to an younger sibling facing their comeuppance can. “What about the swamp?”

Lord Angrod grimaces, and Boromir’s father shifts his eyes between the faces of the two elven lords.

“Are those the fens I’ve heard of?”

“And the only way to enter Dorthonion from Tol Sirion, unless you take the long way around from the Pass of Aglon,” states Lord Finrod. “I’m sure you remember Lady Haleth’s stories of leading large groups of Edain through unwelcoming terrain, and you are very familiar with those fens, aren’t you, Brother?”

Angrod scowls and folds his hands in front of him, but before he can retort, Boron laughs.

“I fear no swamp. We shall take that route, for I wish to see your city of Nargothrond again and the white tower you have built on the river.”

All the elves gathered around observing this conversation make appalled faces, and Boromir blushes, praying his father has not made an over-bold and foolish promise. This conversation was to prove they had more sense than Bereg.

“We’ll go through the swamp,” Boron states firmly, the declaration tied to the decision to move to Dorthonion itself, and he will budge on neither. Finrod and Angrod look as if they wish to argue, and both pairs of bright eyes land on Boromir.

The young man swallows and rubs at his beard under their scrutiny. “As my father says,” he says and prays he does not sound foolish.

King Finrod mutters something under his breath that sounds like ice, but Lord Angrod smiles brightly. Perhaps too brightly, for his cheer seems false, but he clasps Boromir’s arm with a warm hand. “Do not fret; my brother and I will help your people through the Fen of Serech, carry you all if we must.”

Boromir has a bad feeling about this. 

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Barahir falls in love with her when they are both ten, and she shows up for beginning lessons on how to hold a shield in a tunic that is too small over a pair of too-big trousers stuffed into the tops of her boots and rolled thrice at the waist as to not fall off her skinny hips. She brings her own shield, painted bright green. Lessons on holding sticks are saved until next month’s instruction, and they must train for at least one full planting season before sticks are exchanged for dull pieces of metal. Barahir doesn’t realize what he feels for Emeldir is love until years later as she holds a green shield above his body to protect him from arrows, his own shield shattered at their feet. “We were taught to use our shield to protect our heart,” she tells him later. “That is exactly what I was doing.”

Barahir sulks off into the woods to find a moss-covered stone to sit on and attempt to compose heartfelt love songs to match the suave poetry of how Emeldir declared her feelings. Eventually he gives up and trudges back to her house, feeling as if he had returned to the awkward days when his beard first grew in. She meets his eyes with the same cool aplomb he envies and admires, and for a second Barahir worries he misunderstood her declaration. “Dagnir is leading a party down into the plains to hunt for enemy spies. You are the first warrior I want by my side,” he tells her. Emeldir nods. Then, before his courage deserts him, Barahir blurts out. “I want to fight by your side.”

Emeldir blinks slowly. “You said that.”

“I mean it! I mean, what I also meant was I want to be by your side. Always. I love you. I think I always have.”

Emeldir thinks he is ridiculous, and stubborn, and oblivious, and beloved.