Not dead, just insanely busy.


CHAPTER ELEVEN

Dabria stays for years, unable to find the strength she needs to leave them. She stays for Legolas. For the way that he smiles at her with innocent, large eyes. For the small hand that grasps around hers as she steadies his small bow. The ever-growing child is nearing twelve now, large enough to be more aware of his surroundings, but small enough that everyone still gets to a knee to talk to him, much to the boy's ire. The way it starts to, not necessarily fill a missing part, but add on to a part of her heart that she wasn't aware was there or aware she needed. It brings out a side of her that she has forgotten. A feeling other than bloodlust and exhaustion. A feeling that she hasn't felt in a very long time.

"Randir?"

Legolas' voice is soft, melodic and full of innocence though their name for her leaves him with a bitter ache. He glances at her over his shoulder as he tries to steady the bow in his arms. He looks at her desperately for assistance that she happily obliged to. Her smile is gentle as her feet knock his heel to guide his stance.

"Steady your feet, hinya." She gently uses a finger to guide his chin. "Never look back. Never hesitate. Be aware of your surroundings, but never look lost."

She trains him under the cover of the night, with no presence of any guards. She is, however, not blind to Thranduil's presence in the shadows, watching them carefully. Despite the shadows crossing against his face, she can see the glimpse of an unfamiliar emotion in his eyes that makes her unsettled. She meets his eyes just enough to let him know that she's aware of him before glancing away and turning her attention to Legolas.


Thranduil rarely ever attends Legolas' training, despite attending often in the past. Dabria does not question the change of schedule and she welcomes the training with no distractions, though a part of her still glances toward the treeline, always on the lookout. She should know better than to expect a distraction-free training to last long with the energetic child that is Legolas, however.

The night sky shines brightly, calling to her. She relishes in the sense of peace that it brings before turning toward Legolas to handle the situation. Despite her orders on their training always being private, Legolas is not alone. He brings with him another child. A Silvan elfling, just a smidge shorter than Legolas and appearing around the same age with her redden hair being pulled back into braids. The girl, to her credit, meets Dabria's gaze with a challenge while Legolas flutters about nervously, glancing away as he grips his bow.

"I gave you rules, hinya." Dabria's voice is gentle, but firm. A voice she has used a few times with him and each time, it makes the elfling flinch. "Do you not respect my rules?"

Legolas shifts, "-She wanted to -"

Dabria's eyebrow quivers upward and she stares him down enough that he gets the message as he stops mid-sentence and silences. "You blame another for your wrongdoing?"

Legolas takes a deep breath before steadying his feet and with shame and guilt plastered on his face, he speaks, "No, Randir. It is not her fault for my wrongdoing."

"Why did you bring her," Darbia nods toward the small girl with puffed up cheeks and spitfire in her eyes that is just daring to come out.

"No one else wanted to train a girl," Legolas states simply.

The girl mutters under her breath that her being Silvan placed just as much in part to her constant rejections. But Legolas continues, a light flush spreads across his cheeks. Dabria hides her flinch well, conflicting emotions bubbling in her chest as she debates between the bleeding heart that the situation has created and the importance of following her guidelines for training. But the little girl has these bright eyes that reach down in her chest and she can't find it in her heart to deny her. Not when she remembers being a bright young girl with ambitions that everyone kept denying her of.

"And she's my friend so I thought you could train us both together. I shouldn't have assumed, ama- Randir."

His faltering gains the startled attention of the girl, the challenging look in her eyes dispersing and being replaced with confusion as she glances between Legolas and Dabria, as if an answer may become apparent. Legolas starts to take his leave, forcing the girl to go with him, though she does protest. They don't get very far before Dabria stops them.

"Why do you leave, hinya?" Dabria calls them and the children turn to her, hopeful. "I did not say that I would not train her, just that you disobeyed my rules. Should you do so again, I will not be as merciful."

Dabria glances toward the elfling, who looks at her with wonder and excitement at the prospect of finally being trained. Dabria's smile is full of warmth as she kneels down, "What are you called, child?"

She looks up at Dabria with the best serious expression on her face that a small elfling can muster.

"Tauriel."


When Tauriel's first training session is finished, the two elfings scatter off into the night with a newfound mirth. Dabria admires their excitement, watching them depart with an amused glance. She doubts that the children will be going off to bed, though they should at this hour, but sometimes, she knows, rules can be broken. She just won't tolerate her rules being broken again. Children are less likely to know her, even Legolas still hasn't put together who she is. But it's a risk that she is not willing to take, unable to stand before many and declare who she is, not wanting others' expectations for her to be ruined. She knows how many of the elves see the Hinnorwen and knows that they would be crushed to learn just how brutal she is.

"There is no use hiding away."

Dabria's voice, light with amusement, cuts through the night air. She does not bother to look toward the silhouette that then emerges from the shadows. Thranduil does not share her amusement, his eyes more calculated and cold as he watches the children disappear into the distance as they enter the castle.

"You should not have rewarded him for disobeying you."

Thranduil's voice is a disapproving hiss, but she is immune to the venom in his words. She leans against the hilt of her weapon, her eyes tired as she finally glances toward the king. Tauriel's voice still rings in her eyes, as muttered as it was when she said. She steadies herself and refuses to back down to that disapproving look in his eyes.

"I did not reward him. I rewarded the girl," Dabria speaks carefully, as if she fears her words will be lost to him. "She has the fire of a warrior in her eyes. I would be a fool to smother it."

"And what happens when you create a wildfire that threatens to burn us all?"

Thranduil finally spares a glance toward her from the corner of his eyes. Dabria only lets out an ungraceful snort as she swings her weapon onto her shoulder, looking at him dubiously. Daring him to counter her. Thranduil finally sighs deeply at the argument that he knows he will not win, not with her stubbornness being stronger than even his.

"I suppose we could use a fire like her within the guard," Thranduil admits, "As displeasing as her friendship with my son is."

Dabria offers a thin smile, placing a hand on his shoulder. Only she would dare to treat him so nonchalantly and casually, but he does not move her nor deny it as she squeezes his shoulder.

"It is merely friendship and they are but children. Your ire would be better spent toward your true enemies, mellon."


She is not sure when she began to stay for reasons beyond the child. But there she finds herself staying for her friend. She stays for Thranduil. She tells herself that it is to honor the memory of her beloved by helping the elf that she lost her to. That Fandas would have wanted her to guide Thranduil over his grief. Fandas had changed, she knows, into a more softer, warm, and kind elf - a stark contrast to the bloodlust and angry elf she had held by the river. A change that Dabria would not have warranted in Fandas by herself; a change brought on by Thranduil. She would have not wanted Thranduil to be overtaken by the same emotions that she had been. Fandas knew that the only one capable of guiding him the right way was someone who understood what it felt like to control boiling anger in your veins and knew how to pick up broken pieces of a heart without bleeding.

But then she stays to see the softness that he desperately tries to hide, the tiredness that he shows behind closed doors. The spars that go between them in the cover of night within the woods. She stays for the political debate that flows between them over wine and the quiet stories that pass between them after having too much said wine. For the elf that stands tall as a king and looks at his son as if he is the world, who borders a fine line between warmth and cold.

She stays because she is worried about what will happen if she leaves. The darkness in the forest is growing and it pains her to think of what may happen if she were not there to protect them. She spends her freetime, between her own lessons with the child and wine, lurking about the trees and slaying anything that gets too close. Thranduil reassures his guard to not worry about the lack of attacks nor the dwindling numbers of orcs and they, bewildered and begrudgingly, accept their king's answer to not question the gift that has been given.

She hardly ever leaves for her cottage. She thinks of the weapons she has along its walls that have been untouched for too long, gathering dust and rust. But she cannot bring herself to leave, she worries that she would break Legolas' small heart. She worries that the elf that Fandas loved will lose the warmth that she adored. She worries that she will create a rift that cannot be repaired.

But she stresses over what will happen if she continues to stay. Because the longer she lingers in the castle's walls, the more she begins to see what Fandas saw. Thranduil has grown accustomed to the fact that he cannot control Dabria nor her sharp witted tongue. She dares to say that he is even beginning to enjoy the way that she refuses to falter in his presence or to talk delicately in their conversations. It worries her more that she is beginning to enjoy it.


"Hinnorwen."

She turns as Thranduil greets her, an easiness to the edges of his eyes that don't get seen by many. He doesn't falter in the orc-blood soaked cloak she wears or the mess she drags in with her scythe nor does he look at her in admiration. The legendary wonder of her name and the power she wields has long been forgotten. Dabria unbuckles her cloak, shedding it as she steps into the private quarters of what she has made into her room. Her scythe gets put along the wall before she starts to ring out her hair of blood.

"Thranduil." A ghost of a smile is on the edge of her lips. "You should know better than to wander into a woman's private quarters like a young elf just coming of age."

To his credit, Thranduil doesn't let the comment fluster him, long used to the odd way she teases with her wit and the at times crasser comments that don't hesitate to spill from her lips. Despite the way she chastises him, she pays his presence no mind as she continues to shed some of the outer layers that are drenched with blood and reek of orc. She undoes her boots first, slipping them off with ease. Unlike most of the hardened travelers Thranduil knows, her feet barely show any sign of wear - being more delicate and oddly clean. He knows that she is not of Man, nor is she elf, nor any other being. But there is something almost surreal to him seeing her skin so untouched by the years, similar yet not quite the same as an elf.

"Are you going to tell me why you are here or should I guess," Dabria continues, her words becoming a bit sharper as she rolls her shoulders with exhausted eyes. Free from her boots and most of her outwear, she seems unabashed by sitting down in front of him with a simple, thin linen undershirt and stockings nor does she seem too concerned by the dried blood that clings to her hair.

It is not the first time that Dabria has shown such a lack of decency or manners, both of which are often forgotten with hard worn travelers that have no need of it. To his ire, she has made it abundantly clear that she lacks shame, but rarely does she ever show this much lack of common sense. Undressing down to her undershirt and leggings, blood drenched or not, with company at an odd hour of the night in her own private quarters.

The intimacy does not escape the king. Though the blood does not bother him, used to the worn wars and battles that bring it, he is, to his surprise, bothered by her. When he looks at her, he still sees a warrior. A warrior that is unconcerned by the presence of a fellow veteran. It has never quite bothered him this much before.

He cannot quite place when he began to see beyond that. The exact moment that his eyes drifted away from hers and toward the soft edges of her face that form the roundness of her lips and nose. The delicate way that even the worn linen shirt she wears drapes across her as if it is too big for her frame. The darkened look in her eyes that are glancing up at him with hesitant caution now, rather than tired sarcasm.

The first time they met, he was silently star struck by meeting a legend. He saw a warrior that could never lose. Then, he only saw competition for his wife's attention. A past lover of hers that has come to haunt him. When that passed, she was a veteran with war scars, tired of the life before her. And now, he is forced with the reality that she, among all of those things, is also (dangerously so) a woman.