The King of Flames @katie_tran
Chapter 3

Chapter 3

(Woodcreek School)

It was a lovely, clear day with Laurelin out bright shining over Woodcreek academy. All the students and teachers were sitting around the courtyard outside for their mid-day meal, chitter and chattering about.

In their small, little school, there were a total of twenty students. All were born in Arda Remade now that people were more likely to crave birthing children again.
Because there were only twenty students, only three teachers were needed – all of which were females for their all-girls school. One teacher, Ivorwen taught music and embroidery as those were the two activities girls ought to know since young. Sharah, a well learned woman hired from the far South taught herbal history and geography.
The one in charge of educating the girls on how to actually mix the chemistry of herbs and the variety of liquids to make ointments, medicines and other medicinal products were Khánh's role. The rest of the staff were generously paid servants.

For luncheon, the students and staff members switched from their usual wooden chairs and tables to shared stone benches around a circle by firewood.
Meals cooked were modest and simple – everyone got only one course and a mug of water. The meal was the soup of the day, bread and cheese.

Once the mid-day meal came to a close, one of the servant girls went to the bench the teachers occupied and gave Ivorwen a stack of mails that had just been newly arrived.

Ivorwen thanked the servant girl and slowly went through the weeks' news and letters mainly from other schools and scholars.
When Ivorwen got to the last scroll, she picked up a parchment that looked more grandiosely designed than the rest. The paper, seal and ink looked far more elegant than any of the mails Creekwood school ever received.
She cracked the crimson seal in the shape of an insignia she did not recognized, Ivorwen opened the rolled up parchment.

A moment later, the music and embroidery teacher spoke and the atmosphere stilled.

"Professor Khánh. There seems to be a letter for you."

Khánh froze in the midst of swallowing a spoonful of broth.
She did not have to think thrice to figure out what the letter was possibly about.
Sharah, who sat on her right, looked at her curiously.

It was finally here.

Khánh did not blame either the teachers or the students' surprise. In all her time at Creekwood, she was never significant enough a person to receive mail let alone one that looked so grand.
Khánh nodded at Ivorwen in thanks, snatched the letter and quickly tucked it in her dress' pocket.

oOo

Back in her own rooms that night, Khánh sat on her wooden bed and finally allowed herself to read the letter.

She spent the better part of the day try to calm herself down whilst showing the girls how to make a poultice for minor scratches from beasts and sharp edges.
Her heart would not stop beating in her chest as her anticipation grew the more.

Last week, she had sent out advertisements of herself to be published all over academic boards far and wide. She was willing to travel greater distances if necessary. In a way, it would sort of be the kind of adventure and excitement she had craved all her life.

If someone wanted to hire her, it would be Khánh's first time exploring out of Creekwood School. Before she got ahead of herself, she took a pause.

What if the mail was completely different than what she had looked forward to?
People would not just personally go out of their way to hand out rejection letters would they?

Khánh shook her head.

It was no use mulling over what ifs. Concentrating, she began reading the neat, black script written in Westron.

'To the Lady Khánh,

I apologize for having no other titles to address the lady with for Khánh was the only name we were provided.

If Lady Khánh who advertised herself as healer and possesses the requirements of being able to treat both physical and spiritual ailments and in the position to give satisfactory references as to character and competency, a situation can be offered to her where there is but one patient, a male Firstborn of age which shall not be disclosed. The salary is forty silver coins per fortnight.

Lady Khánh is requested to send references, name, address and all particulars to the direction: "Elrond Eärendilion, Enedduin, near Formenos – shire."'

It was brief and succinct enough.

Elrond…Wait the Elrond, Lord of Rivendell? Father of Queen Arwen and in law of his majesty, King Elessar? Why would someone as great as him want to hire her? Khánh, the mere common mortal? Forty silver coins per fortnight? This sounded too pleasing to be true.

And then she focused on the word Formenos – the name of the location signed; Khánh swore she heard or read it from somewhere before. She attempted to jog her memory, but the door to her bedroom swung open rudely with a slam.
Haleth barged in without preamble.

"You are really leaving this school?" She demanded; her hazel orbs lighted with glee.

Khánh breathed out and answered: "Yes. I took your idea and advertised myself. Lo and behold, I got a response."

Haleth stilled and then grinned broadly.

"Fantastic. From whom responded to you?"

Khánh hesitated before giving the chief-woman the note.

"Here, read for yourself."

Haleth snatched the letter eagerly and quickly gave its contents a thorough scan.
Her smile quickly faded and her eyes narrowed.

"Formenos? Elrond Eärendilion? Why does Formenos sound so familiar?"

"Exactly what I was thinking," Khánh crossed her arms and pressed it against her chest.

"Lord Elrond is not a bad sort and I do respect him to a degree," Haleth began, frowning.

"But it sounds like you will be working with not just any group of Elves but the Noldor Elves. They brought nothing but trouble and misery to Arda during my youth when I lead the Haladin."

"Yes, I remember. Their stories took up entire pages in the textbooks I had to read as a child," Khánh shook her head.
"Nonetheless, this is a chance for me to finally leave Woodcreek, so I am not about to stop because of some Noldorin Elves."

Haleth nodded thoughtfully and gave Khánh a serious expression.

"For your sake, I hope you are working with every day, safe people from the House of Elrond."

Khánh gave a short laugh and brushed away the woman's worries.

"Do not fret, Haleth. I highly doubt Lord Elrond would send a mortal like me for someone important. There are much more skilled Elves for that job. Besides, it sounds like I am treating a hurt patient. What could he possibly do to me?"

oOo

"I hope you don't think me ungrateful," Khánh said as she took her traveling bag and the few items, she owned from Sharah whom walked her to the brown mare waiting.
"You were one of my first companions who showed me mercy and kindness when I was just a little student in a school full of wolves."

In a way, Sharah being an exotic, dark-skinned woman herself from foreign lands, was able to sympathize with Khánh's struggles growing up.
Sharah, being much older and wiser than many had gently guided the spirited Khánh out of trouble whenever she got into squabbles with authority and teachers handing out corporal beatings to her.

"Not at all. It was my pleasure in this life to help you and the girls find their way."

Sharah pulled Khánh into a long and warm embrace.

"You have no idea how happy you have made me in finding a new situation and doing something different for yourself to reach your potential. Even if it took until we reached this new world we currently live in."

Sharah smiled a little sadly, but her green eyes were full of pride.

"Fare thee well, my friend."

oOo

Khánh had spent the last two days training on horseback. Being the sheltered lady with little worldly experience that she was, she had to get used to being by herself on a horse.
But there were guides to lead her along the way of course.

Eventually, she did manage to be decent enough on a gentle horse, but most agreed a tamed mare would be the most safe.

Her guides to Enedduin that day were Elrond's twin sons, Elladan and Elrohir.
Elladan, kind soul that he was, consistently worried over Khánh – it was her first time ever traveling a long way from home. It would take them at least until nightfall to reach Formenos.
Elrohir filled their waterskins and gave each to the three of them.

"Make sure to take a sip once every hour to preserve your energy, but not too much so that we do not have to take frequent breaks," He reminded.

Other than said minor concerns, the twins were more than happy to escort Khánh to Enedduin.

At first, it was fine. But after an hour or so, Khánh began to feel the first signs of soreness on her back, buttocks and legs from being on the back of a horse for so long (by her standards.)
She felt ridiculous as she was riding on a gentle mare while Elladan and Elrohir looked non-plussed the whole time on their intimidating, black stallions.

Elladan had grinned and told her this was normal even for Elves. The only reason why his brother and he were so unaffected by the sores and aches of riding (other than being Elves) were because they were seasoned warriors and continuous traveling and riding was simply a way of life.

To distract Khánh from the pain and fatigue, the twins began singing and telling her stories from the Arda of old to the present of Arda Remade.
She soon learned that the mare she was riding was called Tiril for the beautiful horse had the most penetrating, brown gaze when she looked at you and nipped your fingers.
Tiril had been an excellent riding friend for Khánh. She immediately sensed Khánh's anxiety and not once did the mare try to trot at anything other than at a reasonable speed. Nor did she try to heave the woman off her back.

Khánh never really got to see the Firstborns up close ever in her life. She knew they were universally thought to be objectively beautiful people and had more grace than the average human. But whatever little chance she got to have a glimpse of Elves were far away.
She could only ever make out that they were generally quite tall, had long hair (men and women,) and an elegant bearing.
The feast she went to some time ago with Haleth and Andreth at Lord Elrond's house was the closest she had ever got to seeing the Eldar race.
Other than Queen Arwen who was beyond beautiful, naturally.

This trip to Enedduin with Elrond's twins was the closest chance Khánh ever got to truly see Elves up close.

Khánh thought they were grand looking before, but up close and personal, Khánh could see why the Edain often sung about their indescribable fairness.
It was easy to see why Beren, Aragorn, Tuor and even Andreth got infatuated the way they did.
Eru help any mortal fool enough to be left bereft for falling for one of these folks.

That would never be me, Khánh promised herself.

Khánh was most surprised by how tall Elladan and Elrohir were in person and wondered if there were taller folks of their kind. The twins easily doubled her in height. They were not just tall. They were muscled and slightly stocky.
She assumed the large portions of food they ate like how they did along this journey contributed to that.

oOo

Khánh had never felt worse physical agony in both of her lives. Perhaps she exaggerated because she would take this kind of soreness to her aunt's harsh cuffs to the ears any time.
Still, by the time they arrived to Formenos, Laurelin had shifted and Telperion had risen.
She could barely feel her legs. Once she was able to scramble off Tiril, she had promptly stumbled and fallen to the ground.

"Are you well, my lady?" Elrohir quickly reached out to her and helped her up.

"I swore I would get the hang of it by now," Khánh groaned.
"But I seem to get worse every time."

"No, you are not," Elladan said firmly. "Riding takes plenty of practice and you are, but a novice in this vigorous activity. We have been journeying the whole day. I know mortals tire easier so it's just as well we have arrived to our designated location."

"We are here? In Formenos?" Khánh asked in astonishment and quickly took in her surroundings.

This was where the Eldar resided. During their journey, Khánh finally recalled where she heard the name Formenos from. It was the name of the estate where the late and infamous Fëanor dwelled after his exile.
She doubted she would ever meet such an unpleasant Elven man in history for she was sure the Valar would never let someone who sinned as much as Fëanor did to be reborn in Arda Remade. She was curious about why Lord Elrond would send her not only here, but even further into the mountains to what she soon learned was a huge, ominous-looking castle called Enedduin. Vines and moss had grown to cover a good majority of the construction.

As they traveled through Elven territory, Khánh learned which cities and parts were called Tirion, Alqualondë and Tol Eressëa just like the rough sketches Andreth drew which she hung in her rooms.
Khánh once thought that the city of Gondor could not be beat in their white splendor. To say Khánh was wholly incorrect was a blasphemous understatement.

If Rivendell was beautiful for example, Tol Eressëa was simply heavenly.

Elven architecture was truly marvelous and one of a kind. Whomever helped build their halls, walls and sanctuary had keen eyes for details. On top of that, they knew where all the beautiful locations were for the most awe-inspiring, natural sceneries.

The thing is, however, such beauty and perfection left Khánh feeling cold.
She did not miss the way passerby elves stared her down in both mild curiosity and dare she say it, contempt.
A plain and unassuming mortal like her had no place on Elven lands.

They were not headed to Enedduin yet. The twins led her to the main house in Formenos and a young, Elven servant rushed out with a lamp to open the gates.

"My lords, Elladan and Elrohir. We are relieved to see you well and whole. I trust your journey was a smooth one?" He ignored Khánh entirely.

"All was well, Candirion. Thank you," Elladan replied, handing the younger elf their weapons and outer armor.

"Lord Elrond is waiting inside for all of you."

Khánh held her stomach. She was starving, thirsty and so tired from her ride. On top of that, the flimsy cloak made of cheap, thin material was hardly enough to keep her warm from the late, night chill.

She hoped to retire early, but she had to make her introductions to Lord Elrond first.

The main doors opened wide and a tall, Elven man stepped out serenely.
The figure was taller than the twins and Khánh recognized him as the severe Lord of Imladris.

He wore solemn, dark robes. His raven hair was long and a shining, silver circlet adorned high above his brows.
But despite the solemnity, on his face was the youthful fairness that separated the Firstborn blood from the Secondborn.

"You must be, Lady Khánh. We have briefly met in Imladris I believe," Elrond gave a brief bow and took her hand in greeting.

"Yes, we have, my lord. I have come, answering the summons in your letter and forfeited my position as teacher of Woodcreek school," She bowed in return but hers was nowhere near as graceful to her chagrin. Lord Elrond smiled and gesture inside the main halls.

"Come. It was a long journey, was it not? You must be weary and hungry," The Half-Elven put Khánh's hand over his arm and walked.

"Candirion. Do go inside and make some tea. Cut a sandwich or two for Lady Khánh if you please."

Khánh blushed and looked down. Never before had she had such fanfare and hospitality for her sake.

In a large room that was lit singularly by a fireplace, there were furniture made of the finest velvet. Elrond sat Khánh on the couch in the middle, facing the flames.
It was the most comfortable and softest chair she had ever sat on.

"Come warm yourself by the fire," Elrond went over to the cart Candirion rolled in to pour a cup of steaming, hot liquid.

"Please do not trouble yourself," Khánh spoke awkwardly, not certain how to receive such servitude.

"No, my lady. It is no trouble at all. It is the least I could do for asking you to undertake the task you are about to do," Elrond spoke quietly. He placed the tea and plate of meat sandwich in front of her.

Khánh startled.

"Whatever do you mean, Lord Elrond?"

Elrond sat down to her left and took a sip of his drink before looking back at her.

"Normally, we would not hire one of the Edain for this job," He admitted reluctantly. He looked like he was gathering his thoughts before continuing, but Khánh was not accustomed to Elven lack of facial expressions.

"My lord?"

"It was I. He originally sent for me to heal and well, assist him in matters of his business, but understand me, lady. You are aware I do not reside here in Formenos."

"Yes…" Her answer raised in a form of an inquiry. She was not sure what else to say at this moment.

"I have duties back in Imladris that I must attend to. However, you needed a job. You do not need to fear. I will pay you a visit in Enedduin once every week to see how you are faring. I have provided an ample of servants to call upon. The sons of your patient are nearby in case he attempts anything questionable on you," Elrond explained.

Khánh frowned in apprehension.

"My lord Elrond. For Arda's sake, you have not even informed me. Who in all of Mandos' seven hells is to be my patient that I am spending time with exactly?"

The master of Imladris settled back into his seat and stared straight into Khánh's disturbed, brown gaze with his own opaque greys.

"Curufinwë Fëanáro."

oOo

Author's Notes: To any who remembers, this story is going to follow the storyline of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. So yes, Elrond here is acting as Mrs. Fairfax.

Response to my precious reviewers who took their time reviewing:

To Guest from Fanfiction – Thank you for being the first critic. I will do a better job with being clear about Arda Before vs After.
True, I have a habit of info dumping, but will work on that. My issue is that I am naturally impatient and have difficulty spacing out information within the chapters because I have no guarantee that I would get to those chapters.
As for world building, my focus with this story is inter-relationships and following another already canon storyline of a classic. All my effort with world building are in my fics that have "adventure" in the genre. I can add more details to how I envision Arda Remade to be, but anymore than that would simply be unnecessary filler and info dumping.
As for not feeling the human women, I get that. But we are only a few chapters in. I can't very well make them rich and multi-dimensional immediately on the spot otherwise it would be more, like you said, info dumping. And this is from Khánh's POV. She is biased. She is not omnipresent.
I do plan on having side stories for Andreth and Haleth and how they conclude, but it has to be a gradual thing for it to be a natural progress.
So yes, I suppose they would seem flat upon the first few chapters.

Now, on to your comment about elves vs mortal angst. Technically speaking, yes. The mortals are immortal in my own interpretation of Arda Remade. But the angst comes from memories of their previous life which especially for elves and humans, take a huge toll on the spirit in the Tolkien universe.
It's not simply "oh we're immortal now, let's go ride unicorns, pick daisies and live happily ever after."
The laws, customs and culture clash between mortals and elves are still there. Different and clashing mindsets are still there. Past mistakes and regrets are still there.

That being said, if this story isn't too terrible for you, I would be appreciative of you staying and critiquing along the way so that I can improve.

Names and Vocabulary

Eldar/Firstborn – Elves

Secondborn – Mortals

Peredhil – Half-Elven

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