Lothiualmerilin gritted her teeth against the pain. "This will be over soon. Stay strong." She scoffed slightly, choosing not to answer the male lest it come out as a snarl. Now that she held the rank of Alpha, she had to bear the mark.
In the past, Gorphen would wear the scars they earned in their battle with the previous Alpha as their claim. However, as is typical in the life of a Gorphen, you never have just one battle. Soon, scars would overlap, and claims would be disputed.
As the Gorphen started to grow from one pack into four, it became obvious there needed to be a manner of distinguishing Alphas. Once they began to intermingle with other races of Middle Earth, and started to take on some of their traditions, a solution presented itself: tattoos.
The Eastern Pack were the first to implement the tradition, since they interacted with Dwarves more often than the other Packs, and Dwarves use tattoos much more extensively than other races. The Northern Pack followed, after which the Southern and Western did as well.
The Eastern Pack's Alpha once took a tattoo of a wolf inscribed with Dwarven runes facing its bearer's companions. It was worn on the left pectoral of the Alpha, over their heart. After the Pack's dispersal, the mark was used to distinguish goods, such as weapons and clothes, made by those of Gorphen descent instead.
The Western Pack's Alpha bears a tattoo of a seated wolf staring at the moon, hearkening to that Alpha's responsibility to watching over Angmar. It also represents the Pack's relationship with Imladris.
The Southern Pack's Alpha bears a snarling wolf on his right shoulder, symbolizing the Southern's tendency to be much more prone to violence, despite the Alpha's diplomatic skills. As the Pack closest to Mordor, and the Pack that has intermarried with the men of Gondor, the warrior blood of Gorphen is very much alive in this Pack.
Finally, the Northern Pack's Alpha takes a bust of a wolf whose chest fur tapers into three stars, symbolizing the three stars in the tail of Valacirca, a constellation in the night sky set by Varda. The Northern Pack is the only one to have contact with the Mirkwood and Lorien Elves, and as such have been exposed to much of their history. The tattoo is a symbol, not only of Lothiualmerilin's rank as Alpha, but of her relationship with the Elves as well. The tattoo is worn it on their right bicep, symbolizing the power and strength of the Pack.
"There." the man said in pride as he wiped the last of the blood away. "All done." Lothiualmerilin exhaled deeply, waiting until the man had finished cleaning the blood and excess ink away before rotating her shoulder. "You are marked, my Alpha."
"Thank you, my friend." Lothiualmerilin turned her head to look at her shoulder. The wolf seemed to look back at her, reminding her of her responsibilities. The stars were sharp and defined, causing a pang of pain in her heart. "It is beautiful."
"I am pleased you like it." The man's eyes dropped. "I was hurt when your father removed his mark." Lothiualmerilin sighed. Placing a hand on his shoulder, she temporarily rested her forehead on his. He sighed in relief.
"My father was not in his right mind." Lothiualmerilin smiled at him. "I swear to you: I will wear this mark till my death." He smiled back, his back straightening.
"Thank you, my Alpha." She nodded. Standing, she patted him on the shoulder before exiting the shop, dropping a bag of coins on the counter as she left. Calithilon was leaning on the doorframe, waiting for her. He smiled at her, handing her the cloak she had brought with her. Lothiualmerilin gratefully took it, gingerly placing it over her shoulders.
"Do they really hurt that much?" Calithilon asked as they walked down the street. Lothiualmerilin sighed, nodding.
"I'm going to be quite sore for a few days, I think. But it's worth it." Calithilon smiled. His sister's eyes were filled with pride and hope, something he hadn't seen in a century. "The path to reconciliation has been paved." Lothiualmerilin mounted her horse, smiling at her brother when he mounted his stallion. "Shall we?"
"Let's go." With twin smiles, the Alpha and her Beta cantered away from the Iron Hills.
"What is the meaning of this?" Dáin II stared at the man in shock. "Lothiualmerilin was here?" The Dwarf nodded, cleaning his supplies.
"A few days ago."
"What was her purpose?" The Dwarf held up a finger, silently asking his lord to wait. The redbearded Dwarf did so as the artist pulled out his sketch book. It was his custom that when he and a client decided on a tattoo, he would sketch it down to ensure he stayed true to the client's wishes.
"This." The Dwarf opened the book to a page near the back, showing it to Dáin. His brown eyes widened at the sight.
"The mark of the Alpha of the Northern Pack." The Dwarf nodded in assent. "Why did she take this mark?"
"Lothiualmerilin is the new Alpha." Dáin stared in shock at the Dwarf. "Her father was deposed nigh of a month ago."
"What is her aim?" The Dwarf smiled gently, placing his sketch book back in the book shelf.
"To rebuild the bridges her father burned." He turned, handing a few papers to Dáin. "She left these for you." Dáin took the papers, eyeing them suspiciously.
"Why would she leave me letters?" The Dwarf shrugged, leaning his muscular and tattooed arms on the counter.
"She was afraid you wouldn't receive her. She knows how much animosity is between our races because of what happened at Erebor." The Dwarf gestured to the letters with a hand. "She believed that, this way, you could decide for yourself whether or not to receive her, and neither party will be put through the embarrassment of having to turn away the other."
Dáin stared at the papers. He had only met the Nimpgorphen a few times, but he had been impressed with the way she held herself. They had sparred once, and he was amazed at her ferocity and determination. Despite her obvious pride in her upbringing, Lothiualmerilin was always cordial to him. To all of his kind.
"Well well." Dáin laughed softly, his eyes growing soft. "So Kandith has grown up." Dáin tapped the letters on his hand. "Did she tell you how to reach her?" The Dwarf shook his head.
"She said you'll know how."
"Indeed I do." Dáin sighed, clasping forearms with his brother before leaving the shop. Just as he was about to cross the threshold, he was called back.
"Will you tell him?" Dáin immediately knew who the artist was speaking of. After a moment, Dáin shook his head.
"No. If Lothiualmerilin reaches out to him, that is her choice. I will not bring them together of my own will. If they are to reconcile, they must on their own terms."
"Are you ready?" Calithilon asked softly. Lothiualmerilin breathed out shakily, shaking her head.
"How do I face them? It has been almost two centuries. What if Thranduil feels the same as Father?" The whitette swallowed thickly. "What if he hates me?" Somehow, Calithilon knew that his sister wasn't speaking of just Thranduil.
"It was Father that gave the order, not you, Merilin." The Alpha glanced nervously at her brother. He smiled comfortingly, squeezing her left shoulder in comfort. "You are Alpha. You will be fine." Lothiualmerilin breathed out, straightening her back when she inhaled.
"You're right. Thank you, Calithilon." The brunette nodded, dropping his hand from her shoulder just as they entered the forest.
They walked for a few hours. After midday, they lost the path, but Lothiualmerilin continued on. Calithilon trusted his sister's judgement; she had trained in these forests since before he was adopted into the family. She knew them better than anyone, save Legolas and the Royal Guard.
'Speaking of,' Calithilon thought wryly when Elves dropped from the canopy, arrows trained on them. Lothiualmerilin did not flinch, instead keeping the gaze of the lead Elf evenly. Calithlion immediately recognized her. "Tauriel!"
"Mankoi naa lle sinome?" She asked in her native tongue.
"We seek audience with his Majesty, Thranduil Elvenking." Lothiualmerilin replied smoothly. The guards exchanged uneasy glances; a few of them had trained with Lothiualmerilin whilst she was yet considered a pup. They knew of her strength, and feared her even then. They had little desire to cross her now that she was older and in better control of her abilities.
Tauriel stared back at Lothiualmerilin. Eventually, her eyes shifted to Calithilon. "We are unarmed." he soothed, slowly opening his cloak to prove his point. Lothiualmerilin simply shrugged her cloak from her shoulders, displaying the short-sleeved tunic she had opted to wear. Since receiving her tattoo, she had not worn a long sleeve. As such, both her mark and heavily scarred left arm were on full display.
Calithilon noticed Tauriel and several of her men stared in a mixture of shock and horror at Lothiualmerilin's arm. He had to remind himself that they had not seen her since Malrin had been slain.
"Khila amin." Tauriel finally spoke. Lothiualmerilin nodded, silently picking up her cloak and replacing it on her shoulders. The party set off on foot, as silent as they had arrived.
"Heruamin." Thranduil lifted his eyes from his lap, watching Tauriel ascend the stairs. She bowed to him. "Lothiualmerilin is here. She has requested an audience with you."
'Already? It has barely been a month.' "I will see her." Tauriel bowed again, swiftly leaving. She returned a few minutes later, Lothiualmerilin in tow. Thranduil swept his eyes over her, observing the young Gorphen for the first time in one hundred and fifty five years.
She had grown much taller than he remembered. She was now taller than Tauriel by at least two inches, barring the boots she and the Elf wore. Her silver hair now reached to her knees, and was held back from her face by two small braids. Thranduil noticed them as the same Legolas had braided into her hair when they were children. It was her arms that drew his attention the most, however.
On her right bicep glowed a black wolf, vibrant against her pale skin and moonlight hair. Thranduil felt his heart swell with a mixture of pride and distrust upon seeing the three stars that her tattoo's chest fur tapered into. 'She is trying to hold to the old ways... and old alliances.' His eyes then swept to her left arm.
From her fingers to just above her elbow was covered in a horrendous burn scar. When she turned to wave off her brother, who then paused at the top of the stairs, Thranduil saw that a small sliver of skin was unburned on the underside, but not enough for the arm to be considered unhindered. It was obvious it didn't heal well, something that stabbed Thranduil in his heart.
'The only way she could have received that burn was when the dragon took the mountain. That means she was there, and when I returned to the Greenwood... I turned my back on her as well.'
"Lothiualmerilin Silefphind." Tauriel customarily announced. Thranduil nodded, waving off the Elleth. She bowed, exchanging a glance with Lothiualmerilin before leaving. Calithilon followed her, speaking quietly to the redhead.
Lothiualmerilin dropped to her knee, bowing her head to Thranduil. "King Thranduil." She waited in painful silence for him to say something. It had been almost two centuries, but she still remembered proper etiquette: aside from greetings, one had to wait for the king to give them permission to speak.
"Creoso..." Thranduil spoke slowly. Lothiualmerilin kept her head bowed, her shoulders stiffening. "Mellonamin."
A shaky gasp escaped the Nimpgorphen. She raised her head to see Thranduil walking down the stairs, a gentle light in his eyes. "Hîr vin?" She inquired. Thranduil smiled gently, further surprising the female.
"Nae saian luume’, Lothiualmerilin." Thranduil tucked some of her hair behind her ear, tracing her jawline with his fingers. "You have grown much since I saw you last." Lothiualmerilin exhaled shakily, her lips wobbling in a tearful smile.
"Thranduil, I..." She gently covered his hand with hers. "I am so sorry. For all the pain we caused you. I am-" Thranduil shook his head, cutting her off.
"Malrin's death was a blow to us all." He exhaled softly, bringing the younger woman in a hug. "I am just grateful to see you again." Lothiualmerilin returned the embrace, inhaling his comforting scent of summer berries and warm breezes.
"Ni lassui, Thranduil." He nodded against her head, drawing back from the embrace. His eyes and hand trailed down her left arm, gently following the valleys and indentations of her skin where it had attempted to heal on its own. Lothiualmerilin softened, seeing the regret in his eyes. "I received this scar saving Dís from the dragon's fire." Thranduil lifted his eyes to hers in shock. "I could not risk anyone knowing, so I left the mountain as soon as I had ensured she was safe."
"So you reconciled with one of the Line of Durin." Thranduil placed a hand on the small of Lothiualmerilin's back, gently directing her down the stairs. Lothiualmerilin nodded, keeping pace with the king.
"Gandalf reminded me that the children should not be held accountable for the sins of their fathers." Lothiualmerilin sighed heavily. "Though, it seems I cannot help but take on the sins of my father." Thranduil gently brushed some of her hair away from her face.
"Your father's sins are not your own to carry. How you respond to them, how you aim to fix them, that is your burden." The Nimpgorphen stared up at the Elvenking. He smiled gently. "Now, there is someone else who wishes to see you." Lothiualmerilin nodded.
Soon enough, they stood outside the door to Legolas' room. Thranduil and Lothiualmerilin exhanged a glance. When he nodded, Lothiualmerilin knocked on the door. "Tula sinome." Taking a deep breath, Lothiualmerilin opened the door.
Legolas looked up from his book, his eyes widening at the sight of Lothiualmerilin entering his room. His father was behind her. Before Legolas could say anything, Thranduil flashed him a look and closed the door, leaving the two alone.
Legolas looked over the woman who had once been his best friend the same as his father did. He too noted her tattoo, burns, and, to his inner delight, her braids, but he noticed something else.
She was nervous.
Lothiualmerilin tried looking him in the eyes, but soon enough she looked away, looking around his room instead. She inhaled and exhaled shakily, obviously unsure on what to say. Legolas shut his book, slowly standing. Her silver eyes whipped back to him, and her lips parted, but nothing came out.
"You came back." Lothiualmerilin nodded, swallowing. When Legolas started walking towards her, it seems that was all that was needed to break the spell binding her tongue.
"Legolas I'm sorry. I'm so sorry for leaving you behind. I was lost, and angry, and hurt, and I forgot that Mother was loved by more than my people, and-." Her rant was cut off by a crushing embrace.
Legolas buried his head in the crook of Lothiualmerilin's neck. One hand was laced through her hair, the other wrapped firmly around her hips. When Lothiualmerilin froze, Legolas drew her closer, breathing shakily.
"Cormamin lindua ele lle, Lothiual. Amin nae dele ten' lle." Lothiualmerilin returned the embrace, nuzzling into Legolas' shoulder. "I missed you so much."
"I missed you too." The Nimpgorphen sniffled, grabbing fistfuls of his tunic; she was careful to avoid ripping it with her claws, though. "Valar I missed you so much, Legolas." Legolas nodded silently, lightly grabbing a handful of her hair. They stayed that way for a while, basking in the warmth of rekindled friendship and forgiveness.
Outside the door, Thranduil and Calithilon smiled at each other, a knowing look glimmering in their eyes.