"Lord Elrond," Khánh said quietly after she stared at the Lord of Imladris for a good, long minute.
"Is there perhaps another elf by that name that is to be my patient? There must be because there is no way- "
"It is exactly what you think," Elrond confirmed.
"You mean to tell me that the Fëanáro I am thinking of – one who had been nothing but a legend from my childhood, is right here with us in Arda Remade?" She asked skeptically.
"Yes. I am aware this is quite a shock for you, Lady Khánh," He began again.
"Oh, it is much more than a shock I assure you, my lord," She snapped; her heart thundering in her chest.
"You are setting me up, a lowly mortal, to heal and put up with a murderer. A kinslayer of your kind!"
"My lady, allow me to explain- "
"It is no wonder you did not want this job nor any other elf for that matter. You manipulated me…"
"Child, no! Calm yourself," Elrond interjected with a raise of his voice that shut Khánh up.
"I am the foster son of Makalaurë Fëanorian; Fëanor's second eldest son. We know him and are aware of what he is and is not capable of. Believe me, lady, we would not have allowed anyone near the man unless we were certain they would not come to harm at all. We would have taken the position in assisting him ourselves. But like I said, no one else would do it because of, well, his infamous temperament and reputation. I am needed back at Imladris and you advertised noting of your availability."
Elrond raised up a hand up to Khánh, signaling to let him finish speaking.
"Peace, little one. Here in Arda Remade, no one and I mean Eldar, men or anyone else are given leave to do anything evil or mischievous. You are completely safe, we promise. And if you do run into any trouble whatsoever, we have assigned maids and guards to Enedduin to be at your service. You can call upon my sons or Fëanor's own any time."
"Fëanor's sons are here?" Khánh whispered.
"Indeed," Elrond smiled, finishing up his tea.
"Fëanor himself is not currently at Enedduin right now. He will return from his trip in whatever days. But Maedhros, my foster father Maglor live right by if you go out the back door and turn to the house on your left. I would not bother with Celegorm, Caranthir or Curufin. You may find that they are not too friendly towards the Secondborn."
Khánh was not surprised. There were not too many Elves that were genuinely friendly toward them.
"Now then," Elrond uncrossed his legs and stood up. "Let us take a little tour around the estate, the castle and then I will show you to your room. Are we in agreement?"
Elrond proved to be most learned and knowledgeable as he guided Khánh around the main house, the garden, the porch and connected buildings. He was not just content with directing her where the basic locations such as where the kitchen, washrooms, break rooms, and bedrooms were. For every painting on the wall or sculpture ornate, Elrond had to showcase the history behind the creation too.
The acres of land holding Formenos was a vast one that stretched over fifty kilometers long and thirty-five kilometers wide. Unlike the pristine, white perfection of Tirion, Formenos was all Earthy grey stones and bricks.
The garden was left to grow on its own mostly without Elven touch to mimic the nature produced by Lady Yavanna.
Every single mansion connected to the main house.
Elrond did not go into specifics about who lived where, but informed that Fëanor's two eldest sons occupied the house shaped like a dome surrounded by spears with the curved, stone bridge crossing to the main house.
Once the two were outside on the pathway towards the surrounding, deep forests behind the estate, Elrond led Khánh into the area of Enedduin.
The castle had the most sturdy and pragmatic structure she had ever seen. While the natural landscapes here were much more haunting and mysterious, it was no less beautiful.
The majority of the trees present were oak and willow. The rest were snowy mountains and a crystalline lake.
Elrond took out a ring of keys from his sleeve and unlocked one of the two wooden doors.
"Lord Fëanor provided these keys for me because I am one of the few people he trusts," Elrond said as they went inside.
It was dark, but it was clean and well kept. The floors had curiously red carpeting. Just like in the main houses, sculptures of the Valar and Elves were tastefully adorned in strategic locations.
"I told Candirion about these potted plants," Elrond clicked his tongue in annoyance and picked up a clay pot holding dead orchid flowers inside.
"Even if Lord Fëanor is temporarily gone, we always keep the castle decent and ready for him for one does not know when he will return most days and grow dissatisfied."
"Does he leave often?" The more Khánh learned about Formenos, Enedduin and its inhabitants, the more she found herself more inquiring about the master of the castle.
"Fëanor? Oh yes. He is quite unpredictable in his comings and goings."
Khánh wondered at that. She was trying to make head and tail of the same legendary mad elf she had only heard stories and songs about to the master of Enedduin whom is going to be her newest patient.
"What is he like on a personal level? When I came here, I thought you would be the lord of this castle?"
"Me?" Elrond let out an exclamation of amusement. "Heavens no, child. No, I am just the temporary housekeeper here."
"Fëanor can be difficult as you can imagine. His method and demeanor can be rather…Unconventional to some, but I have observed that he is always fair to those he deem worthy and that includes servants and yes, the Edain."
Elrond glanced back at Khánh before looking down at the dead white orchids.
"He is not a happy man, Lady Khánh. Ever since his father, King Finwë, remarried after his late wife passed away in Arda Before – His father's murder by Melkor, Fëanor had never been the same."
Khánh did not understand nor did she want to. This was a man – no. A mighty elf who had it all; wealth, title, loving parents, loving wife, beauty, talents and sons who adored him.
She was a plain nobody, no money, no prospects, grew up in an abusive household and no family of her own in both Arda Before and Arda After.
And this man was upset his father remarried a good, beautiful woman and declared war over stolen jewels of all things?
As far as Khánh was concerned, Fëanor was simply a spoiled and coddled royal who grew up with a mithril spoon in his mouth. In fact, he reminded her of the insufferable Gondorian nobles she sometimes witnessed in the Arda Before. She was not entirely sure they ever disappeared in Arda Remade.
"This is your room."
Elrond opened the door to a room that was furnished simply but looked extremely homey.
There was a bed with thick quilts, cushions, a little wooden wardrobe, a modest vanity table with a mirror and all the basic toiletries, but this was much more than she had ever owned in her life.
"It is rather small compared to our other available rooms," Elrond commented. "But I am sure you will not want the bigger chambers this castle has upstairs on the second level. They are very dreary. If this castle had ghosts…"
He gave Khánh a knowing look.
"That would be its haunt."
Khánh stepped into the room and looked at all the humble contents that were given to her to use and live in.
Tears sprung into her eyes when her fingers felt the silken bedding.
"What is the matter, Lady Khánh?" Elrond voiced; his brows furrowed in concern.
Khánh wiped a tear away quickly.
"It's nothing, Master Elrond. This room is perfect. I will treasure this act of kindness forever," Khánh promised softly.
The master of Imladris looked at Khánh strangely and smiled gently. With that, Elrond bid her goodnight.
Sunlight streaming through the open window splashing warmly on her face woke her up the next morning. It was one of the few times where she woke up with a thrill to start the day, particularly because she remembered where she was and it was not at Woodcreek school.
Sounds of birds signaling to rise permeated the still air and Khánh smiled as she laid in bed, savoring and absorbing this beautiful moment of her day.
But soon, she happily rose, got dressed in one of the plain, woolen, brown dresses she brought. She cleaned her teeth with the tooth powder placed in a jar for her. After washing her face, she looked at herself in the mirror. Once more, she saw an unimpressive face, but she could attempt to neaten her short, dark hair a bit with a comb.
Of course, Khánh ought to get ready for her new patient and start setting up her healing room, but it should not be too brazen to wish to explore Formenos and fascinating Enedduin a little bit more.
She left her chambers to stroll down the long hall. The castle was large. It had many rooms, stairs and turns. There was nothing primeval about it. Lord Elrond could try to keep the place looking spotless, but there was something about how the castle was built and furnished that looked…Tantalizingly barbaric.
The colors were either a scandalous red or it was rustic.
Khánh was mortified to find out some of the statues and paintings were in the nude for all eyes to see.
She found a way that led outside. During the daytime, the view of the lake and forest was much clearer and glittering. Laurelin and Arien made the flickering lights above the water sparkle brilliantly.
She remembered the trail that went from Enedduin to the residences of the main houses.
Enjoying the sight before, something interesting caught her attention from the smaller building behind the bigger ones.
A long, red scarf (or was it a shawl?) hung curiously down the window dancing in the winds. She thought she saw movement behind the blurred up glass but was not able to make out anything else.
"Ah, Lady Khánh. You are up early," It was Elladan. He was not in the armor he wore yesterday, but he was dressed for a day's riding; his horse was with him.
"I hope you slept well."
"Yes, I did. I was anxious to meet the rest of the Fëanorians," She replied, smiling shyly.
"Ah yes. Well you won't have to wait long," He chuckled and took her arm.
"Does one of the them hang about in that room?" Khánh pointed to the window where the red scarf swung. Only this time, there was no scarf.
Very curious indeed.
"Oh goodness, no," Elladan shook his head and cleared his throat. "That part of this estate belongs to…Well pay no mind to it. I am sure no one was there."
"Oh. I thought I saw someone at the window," She said idly as they walked to the main entrance at the front.
Elladan grew uncomfortable and shifted uneasily.
"There is only Erien; the maid there. She does the laundry."
"Watch out!" Another male voice from a few feet away warned hastily. Before Khánh could react, something squirmy with claws fell underneath the collar of her dress at the back of her neck. She screamed and ducked down, covering her head.
"What's the matter?" Elladan quickly demanded.
The squirming creature escaped and scurried away in fright; it was a squirrel.
"I did say watch out, you foolish woman," The angry male voice spoke again.
"Celegorm. Please do not speak to a lady like that. This is Lady Khánh," Elladan snapped.
"It is your fault you let the animals loose."
"Quiet, son of Peredhil," Was the quick retort.
A tall, blonde elf that looked to spend most of his time in dirt instead of polite society, came towards them with a scowl.
"Err, nice to meet you," Khánh, who was still flabbergasted from the encounter, tried to start on the right foot with this angry fair person. "You must be one of Lord Fëanor's sons?"
Celegorm looked at her up and down with a slight sneer.
"And you must be Atar's new healer. I did not think they would bring such an ugly mortal here to serve someone as great as Atar."
Khánh's face and ears flushed.
"Celegorm," Elladan growled. He looked like he was about to maul the other male elf.
"Apologize to Lady Khánh."
"And why would I do that?" The blonde Fëanorian jeered and went back into the house.
Khánh knew not to take comments like these personally at this point. But being insulted for her looks stirred the same painful memories of her childhood when adults and schoolboys thought it was alright to throw hurtful words like "plain," "ugly" and "exotic" at her like it was the done thing to do.
"Lady Khánh, I deeply apologize for Celegorm's behavior," Elladan sighed, contrite. "He had always been one of Fëanor's more difficult sons to deal with. My adopted father, his older brothers, was not all that fond of him either."
"I hope the other sons of Fëanor besides Celegorm is nice. But given their history, I am not holding on to hope."
At that Elladan laughed and escorted Khánh to breakfast.
At the breakfast table were the twins, the blonde, disagreeable jerk earlier – Celegorm, Lord Elrond and two other Elves she did not recognized. One of them was excessively tall and had the most striking red hair. Interestingly, he was the first elf she had seen with so much scars and damage on his otherwise handsome face. He did not seem to mind her rude stare and smiled graciously at her. She flushed and looked away.
Next to the redhead was a slightly shorter, dark-haired elf. He, too, had a gentle aura about him and Lord Elrond seemed to hold him in respect and affection a great deal.
"Lady Khánh, you have already met my sons and my daughter, Arwen. May I introduce you to," Elrond gestured to the redhead. "Maedhros. He is like a dear uncle to me. You will notice some here call him by his mother-name, Maitimo."
Maedhros was the comely eldest son of Fëanor's brood of seven. She remembered that now.
Maedhros brought his left hand to his chest and inclined his head at Khánh.
Then she understood.
Of course. He had no right hand anymore.
"Well met, my lady. We thank you for coming here and taking on the task of caring for our father. It will not be an easy job."
Khánh nodded. Everyone was telling her similar things and she had just agreed to work for the reputable Fëanor whom she was not aware inhabited this Arda until now.
She wondered if it was too late to back off from the job.
"And this is my long loved and lost friend whom I still consider my Atar in every way but blood," Elrond regarded the gentle, dark-haired elf with a fond look. "Maglor."
"You give me too much credit, Elrond," Maglor replied, smiling back whilst taking a sip of his watered wine. He bowed courteously to Khánh.
"These two men are the ones you should come to for guide and help other than the servants," Elrond instructed her.
"Certainly. Come to us for anything at all, Lady Khánh. We know our terrible father more than anyone else here," Maglor agreed gravely.
"Both of you, try not to make her bolt out on us already on the first day," Elrohir requested with a sardonic roll of his eyes.
Khánh laughed and the others joined in. For the time being, everything felt good.
(Back at Enedduin Castle)
"Here is where your office will be," Maedhros opened up to a large room with many open windows and all sorts of plants and herbs. It looked like a lovely green house more than a medical chamber.
There were two patient beds on each side of the white walls. Garlic, onions and thyme hung in strings from the ceiling and shelves.
"Everything had been set up for you, but I trust you have brought whatever you personally require of your own?" Maedhros asked, lighting the candles with one hand.
"Yes, of course," Khánh affirmed, holding up her bag.
"Good," Maedhros smiled. "Will you be needing anything? Have any questions you want to ask before I go back to my library?"
Khánh thought about it. She already knew the answer but wanted to ask again.
"When will I meet Fëanor?"
Maedhros sighed and looked out the window into the plains of grass.
"I honestly could not tell you, Lady Khánh. My Atar comes and goes as he pleases. His returns are sporadic and never forewarned."
Khánh looked down at her twiddling fingers, disappointed. "I understand. Thank you anyway."
As the red-headed eldest left, Khánh took out all the supplies she brought with her in her pack and stocked the room. Then she rearranged the furniture and herbs here and there to her tastes until satisfactory.
Nodding, Khánh left the room to explore the Enedduin Castle.
Elrond told her some time ago that if she went back down to the first floor where the pantry room was, the door on the right led to the master of the castle's office room.
She had never dared to go inside. The servants were on their break so this was Khánh's only chance to sneak a peek.
Inside the spacious room were walls, tables and chairs of an interesting black color of lacquered wood.
The black table was in the back center and behind it was a luxurious chair covered in leather and brass décor.
There were indiscernible pieces of metals and jewelry scattered about the hard floor. In a corner was a fireplace that was covered with soot and debris. In front of the fire were tools and objects dedicated to smithery.
All that, Khánh somewhat expected of the great Fëanáro.
What really caught her eyes yet were the foreign and diverse collections hanging from the walls and sitting on the table. There were maps of all the regions in Arda, not just of Elven cities but mortals, dwarven, Hobbits…
There were fossilized species of spiders and birds that could be found in her own native country and its surrounding countries.
She was fascinated. The master of the house was an individual always hungry for knowledge, she could tell.
But like all things, change was always interesting at first until it became the norm.
Khánh found herself quickly settling into Enedduin in a few days. The excitement of meeting Elrond and his family dwindled the more she got to know them. Elrond was always civil and wise if not a bit dull. He came and went and was mostly in his study, content to be working most of his days until supper. Maedhros was kind, but distant and she sensed a disturbance in him that would not be shared. Maglor was gentle, but always distracted. She would converse with him and just as she thought the conversation would be stimulating or continue to greater heights, Maglor would have that blank look in his eyes the very next moment and then retreat to occupy himself with his harp much to her private irritation.
For herself, she spent most of her days reshuffling her medical chamber even if it clearly did not need it. Elrond invited her to explore their large library as she wished so on other days, that was where she spent on the other side of the room as not to disturb Maedhros from his scholarly works. Some days, she amused by attempting to learn Quenyan or Sindarin with little success. She was past the age where absorbing a new language was easy and could only pick up random vocabulary her brain remembered based on actual conversations.
At times, she rewarded herself by going outside for walks and enjoying the fresh air.
She saw the red scarf again when she was outside dawdling from the main house one day.
But she had not questioned about it again since she felt the apparently intruding inquiry would be unwelcomed.
"Khánh, won't you come in for tea?" Elrond called from the open, sitting room.
"No. Thank you," Khánh called back. "Lord Elrond, I am going for a bit of a walk. I will not be back until supper."
It was one of those rare, cloudy days. Not quite heavy enough to rain and not light enough for Laurelin and sun.
She had wandered far outside of Formenos by now.
Fog covered the trees and permeated the air; its mists sprinkled coolly on Khánh's brown cheeks.
It was not just the beauty that captivated Khánh in this Elven home. There was a sense of peace she found and even if she were no Elven beauty, she still felt like she was part of it all.
Bending down to retie her boot lace, she heard a disturbance in the distance, interrupting her whimsical reverie; the sound of a big dog howling and a horse running at a fast speed. First, it was a large white dog (or wolf?) that ran past her. Khánh scrambled to her feet to get out of the way for the rider to pass by.
As she looked up, she could not determine clearly, but she caught the rider, whom appeared to be male, glance her way briefly.
Just as she was about to move on after her startle, Khánh heard a sliding crash and the pained yell of both the man and horse.
It appeared that his big, black stallion had slipped on the leftover rain puddles after amounted exhaustion of a long travel.
The horse had been spooked by the fall and left to hide in the near forest.
The man which she could now make out as an elf was stumbling to get up – his movements more rigid and stunted than the usual graceful elves she saw.
The big and alarming white wolf came over to the fallen man and made some strange, nasally sounds she could not understand. The greatness of the canine creature and its gleaming, snow fur marked it as no ordinary dog or wolf for that matter. It looked like a mythical beast from the Folklore scrolls she read about.
"Quiet, Huan," The Elven man snapped and then muttered to himself. "Damn it."
Resting his side against a life-sized boulder, he was able to help himself up on one leg.
He wore a rain cloak and hood, but Khánh had a glimpse of pointed ears beneath the shadow of satin, black hair.
After some consideration, she rushed over to him.
"Are you injured, sir?"
After all, it was the polite thing to do to help strangers who had fallen off their horse right?
It was not every day one encounters this sort of mishappening.
"Get away from me," The man told her irritably without a glance. "Witch."
"You have done enough damage," He hopped away from her on one leg to where his horse was.
Pushing away her annoyance at his rudeness aside, Khánh continued. She wanted to be useful and was in the mood for being on equal footing with a man as well as an elf for once.
"I cannot think of leaving you until I see that you are fit to mount your horse, sir," She spoke matter of fact.
The hint of impudence in her voice caught his attention then. The elf peered closer at her curiously but was still peeved. That was when she got to see his face which was scarred to heavens and ghostly fair in skin tone, but it was one of if not the most beautiful faces she had ever seen. It put the Tinúviel Nightingale to shame.
The beautiful face was coupled with a pair of the most piercing grey eyes studying her, not missing a single speck or detail.
He shook the rain and mud off his cloak.
"You should be at home yourself, Firieth. Where do you live?"
"At Enedduin Castle," Khánh answered automatically before she could stop herself.
His ink-black eyebrows rose and he looked at her all the more curious. Normally, Khánh was not always at ease with the Firstborn. She was not used to dealing with such refinement or severity on the regular for it had been her experience that charming and attractive people shunned and wanted nothing to do with her. In return, she spurned and avoided them back.
This man here was beyond beautiful than any elf. He would have sent Khánh running for the hills at first glance, but his miserly demeanor in addition to his effort to be entirely charmless amused Khánh. She was at ease with him.
"If you need help, I can fetch a servant from Enedduin," Khánh continued. "It is not far from here. The dreary castle is just below this hill by the lake."
"The servants! Dreary! You say you live at the Enedduin Castle. Do you mean the castle where you pass through Formenos into the Green woods?"
"Yes, sir." So, he did know of this residence.
"Whose castle is it?" He lifted his leg. The elf move closer to her.
Khánh felt pleasingly smart enough to answer him.
Lord Fëanor's of course."
"And do you know of this Lord Fëanor?" The grey eyes that peered down on to hers glinted a little and she shuddered.
"No…I have not seen him."
"So, he does not currently reside in the place then?"
"Not now, no."
"Would you be able to tell me where he is?" He asked again.
"No, sir. I cannot," Khánh tried not to sigh.
The dark elf examined her insolently again.
"You are not a servant at those halls, however. I can see that you are – "
He observed the shorn, dark-brown hair that was loose above her shoulders, the oriental face, the unkempt, woolen brown dress underneath a cotton, black cloak and muddied, ripped boots. The outfit was not exquisite enough to be a lady's maid let alone someone of higher status.
"I am an herbal healer," She informed. "Assistant healer."
"Ah! The assistant healer – the Valar take me if I had forgotten. The healer!"
Once again, he did not make sense and Khánh was under the eccentric elf's sharp scrutiny. Finally, he made a move to do something about his current predicament and let out a guttural hiss of pain.
"I am not particularly inclined to want charity from whatever or whomever is at Enedduin. But you may assist me if you would be so kind," He relented with a grunt.
Khánh bobbed her head eagerly.
"Do you not have a staff that I could use as a stick?" He inquired.
"No, sir," She shook her head. He sighed with a nod.
"Why don't you go get my horse's bridle and bring him to me then?"
Khánh hesitated. The black horse looked at her with a cautious, unfriendly gaze and its mass was so much bigger than hers'.
"You are not afraid, are you?" Came the deep, amused voice.
At gentle taunt, Khánh's fire flared up. Taking a deep breath, she moved to the stallion. The horse instantly made an unhappy sound and backed away with a swish of its long tail.
Using much effort and all her strength, she tried to seize the bridle with little success.
After a while, the man laughed from behind. She looked back at him in shock.
"I see. No mind then, Lady. The beast will never be brought to the fire so the fire must be aided to come to the beast. I must beg your help if you will come here, Lady."
Khánh came and he laid a heavy, muscled arm over her shoulder.
"Excuse me. Necessity compels me to make you useful."
The elf leaned on her with some struggle and they limped towards the horse until they were close enough for him to get a hold of his ride.
Once the elf snatched the bridle, he expertly straddled the beast until he sat, secured on the leather saddle. Khánh could not help noticing his hands were shaking terribly even though it was one of his legs that had taken injury.
"Now then," He pulled his cloak's hood over his head.
"Make haste and return back to Enedduin Castle before the residents there worry over you. It may be Arda Remade here, but who knows what danger lurks beyond these dark woods."
He smiled a little wryly before tipping his head at her.
"Until then, Lady Khánh."
And before she could gather her wits, elf, horse and wolf had already disappeared into the mists.
Khánh was dissatisfied. The most interesting person she had met so far was already gone. At that moment, something as trivial as him allowing her to help him as an equal had been one of the most liberating feelings she had ever experienced. For how far he was better than her in every conceivable way, he had not sneered down at her or if he did, did not outrightly show it.
She lingered at the same spot where she conversed with the dark elf and his vivid grey eyes that shone like Silmarils.
If she returned back to Enedduin, it would still be an enthralling place for her, but she found Lord Elrond and even the eldest sons of Fëanor rather lackluster. The El twins could only provide so much amusement before they had to ride back to Imladris for their business and work. Celegorm and the rest had vanished and wanted nothing to do with someone like her. Maedhros and Maglor would be their usual vacant but kind selves towards her.
She'd spend her days in her office, preparing potions and medicine for a mythical elf that would probably never show up.
And then before she knew it, Khánh had to find a new situation for herself.
But that was when she stopped and remembered something amiss. She had never told that stranger elf her name.
And he had called her Lady Khánh.
Author's Notes: Thank you so much to guest and Lady Silverfrost for reviewing on Fanfiction. Thank you to the two guests and OctaviaMadness for reviewing on AO3. You all are gems.
Names and Vocabulary
Makalaurë – Maglor
Maitimo – Maedhros
Firstborn/Eldar - Elves
Edain/Secondborn – Humans
Peredhil – Half-Elven
Atar – Father
Firieth – Mortal Woman
Tinúviel – Lúthien