Story Downloaded from Open Scrolls Archive (http://www.openscrolls.net)

Title: Interrupted Journeys: Part Four--Journeys of Discovery (#2135)
Author: ellisk
Chapters: 20

Archive: Tolkien
Category: Lord of the Rings
Description: As we look back on the journey of our life, certain moments stand out as ones that defined the course of that journey. At the time, we rarely recognize their significance, but at the end of the journey they become clear. These are the incidents that defined the lives of Thranduil Oropherion and Legolas Thranduilion throughout the Third and Fourth Ages as they contemplate their life together from the shores of Valinor. Part Four: The Woodland Realm through the eyes of elflings. 2006 MEFA Third Place (Drama, Incomplete) 2009 MEFA Second Place (Longer Works, General)
Published: 08 Aug 2005
Updated: 01 Feb 2009
Warnings: none
Type: General
Characters: Legolas;Thranduil


Chapter 1 - Lessons

AN: This is a continuation of a series of stories titled Interrupted Journeys. Part One (New Journeys), Part Two (Journeys Perforce) and Part Three (Journeys Begin) have already been posted. It should not be necessary to read those parts of the series to understand this story, though you might understand the characters a bit better if you did. The series as a whole covers a lot of ground: Thranduil's first years as king, his decision to move his people north to the stronghold, the birth of Legolas and his youth all the way to their journeys to Valinor in the Fourth Age. Some parts may be more interesting to some people than others.

This part of the story is about Legolas's youth until he comes of age. Most of the chapters stand alone and are only vaguely related. Most of the chapters are very 'fluffy' until Legolas gets nearer adulthood.

Any Sindarin used is translated at the end of each chapter. I am not an elf so if you see something incorrect please tell me and I will fix it.

I hope you enjoy this part of Interrupted Journeys.

Chapter 1: Lessons

“We are going to get in trouble for this,” Eirienil warned as Galithil and Legolas seized her wrists and dragged her to the library door. They looked cautiously in both directions down the corridor before slipping out of the room.

Berior tagged along happily behind them, a smile on his lips and his eyes bright but focused on the end of the corridor. Legolas glanced at him and stifled a laugh. His cousin was obviously already seeing visions of green grass and tall trees and Legolas understood that all too well. It was finally spring after a very long winter and the elflings were finding it more difficult than normal to concentrate on their lessons.

When Eirienil continued to resist being pulled along the corridor, Legolas turned his eyes to her and sighed at her scowling expression. Her voice had already been loud enough to be heard all the way to the Gates. If she continued to argue, they would be discovered. Normally, he enjoyed his cousin’s company, since they shared a great number of interests in common, but she was only two years older then he and all too often she behaved as if she were in charge. That rankled Legolas and he knew it simply infuriated Galithil.

“We will only be in trouble if we get caught,” Galithil echoed Legolas’s thoughts, whispering through clenched teeth and turning momentarily to glare at Eirienil. “And we will only get caught if someone hears you. So do not talk so loudly.”

Eirienil planted her feet and twisted free of her cousins’ grasp. Then she grabbed Legolas and Galithil’s sleeves to prevent them from creeping further along the corridor. “We are going to be caught the moment Master Rodonon returns to the library and notices we are gone,” she said firmly. “We are going to be caught as soon as we try to walk through the Gates. The guards know we are supposed to be in lessons.”

Galithil rolled his eyes. “The Palace Guard is not informed of elflings’ study schedules, Eirienil. They have far more important things to concern themselves with,” he insisted. “All we have to do is walk past them as if nothing is wrong and we will be free in the forest. Once we are there, Rodonon cannot ‘catch’ us.”

Berior nodded. “He never comes out of the library. He certainly will not pursue us into the trees,” he added, obviously unable to understand why their tutor preferred his stuffy old scrolls to the forest.

Legolas snorted softly at Berior’s tone but remained focused on persuading Eirienil to go with them. “Once outside, we can go find out what the secret is that Tulus told Berior awaits us in the barn,” he reminded her, knowing the existence of that secret had been eating away at Eirienil’s sense of curiosity as much as his own since Berior had mentioned it at the beginning of their morning lesson.

Eirienil released her cousins’ tunics and held up her hands for a moment in dramatic resignation before putting them on her hips. “Do as you wish,” she said, shaking her head, “but I am not going. You will come to understand the flaw in your logic as soon as you return from the forest and walk into the family dining room for the evening meal.”

As Legolas, Galithil and Berior exchanged concerned glances in response to that prediction, Eirienil raised one eyebrow and nodded meaningfully.

Galithil immediately frowned. “You think you know everything but you are just afraid of your adar,” he said challengingly. Her father, Golwon, was by far the strictest parent in the family.

Eirienil nodded unashamedly. “Yes I am, and you should show the same sense. Even your adars will not approve of us leaving our lessons without permission,” she said looking at Galithil and Berior. Berior’s father, Celonhael, was very indulgent but even more so was Galithil’s father, Aradunnon. He was the king’s younger brother and had a reputation for being a troublemaker himself. Berior and Galithil got away with much more than Eirienil did. She turned her gaze on Legolas. “And your adar is not going to react any better than mine,” she threatened.

Legolas pressed his lips together and remained silent but he could not deny that she was right. His father could be every bit as indulgent as either Celonhael or Aradunnon in many ways, but he had little tolerance for breaking rules. And as much as Legolas wanted to ignore that they were indeed breaking a rule, he could not.

Galithil frowned at Legolas’s wavering expression. “Legolas, do not listen to her. If you do not come, Berior will not either. He always does what you do. And I do not want to go alone. It will be boring then,” he pleaded.

Legolas sighed. “She is right, Galithil. We would be better off just finishing the maps Rodonon told us to draw so he will dismiss us. Then we can go visit Tulus in the barn and play in the forest until evening meal.”

Galithil’s mouth twisted in a disappointed scowl and he drew a sharp breath to make a retort, but a deep voice from the end of the corridor ended the argument once and for all.

“What do you think you are doing?” it demanded with an irate tinge.

The children flinched and turned wide eyes in the direction of the voice to see Thranduil and Rodonon standing at the library door. They had been so involved in their argument that they had not heard the king and their tutor approach from the other end of the hall. Grouped together, crouched down slightly and pressed against the wall, Legolas realized that he and his cousins must look like mice caught in a trap. And so they were. They stared at Thranduil silently.

Thranduil narrowed his eyes at the children. “Get your materials from the library and go back to the family quarters. Finish the maps you were assigned to draw in your parents’ rooms while you wait for us to come speak to you. You may not leave if you finish them before we arrive. Understood?”

“Yes, uncle,” three small voices chorused. Even Galithil’s tone was respectful in the face of Thranduil’s obvious anger.

“Yes, ada,” Legolas said with his cousins, looking down.

“Get moving,” Thranduil ordered.

The four elflings quickly scampered around Thranduil and Rodonon, gathered their papers from the table in the library and ran back to the family quarters without saying a word.

*~*~*

Legolas loosed a loud sigh and continued to pace aimlessly around his parents’ room. He had finished the map hours ago. After inspecting the room for anything interesting to occupy his time and finding only his mother’s books of poetry and the books his father referenced while doing his work at night, Legolas had returned to the map and added more details to it than his tutor had assigned simply for something to do. Now that he had made the map as complete as possible, Legolas was reduced to stalking around the room again.

He knew his father had sent he and his cousins to their parents’ rooms instead of their own rooms specifically because there were plenty of toys in each of the elflings’ rooms and they were being punished.

With another loud sigh, Legolas flung himself into the padded chair his father normally occupied and stared at the wall opposite it. Being confined to this room was certainly an effective punishment, he thought, sighing yet again.

His eyes wandered the room, roaming over the mural his father had painted on the largest wall. It was a field of summer wild flowers shaded by a large oak tree. He tore his gaze from it in frustration—the painting was a poor substitution for a real green glade, which was where Legolas longed to be. He looked at his father’s sword and bow in their place on the wall. He had long since learned not to touch those. His eyes followed the wall to fall on his father’s desk, his mother’s dressing table and their wardrobes. As a very small child, when he stayed in this room with his parents, Legolas had enjoyed looking at the small treasures in the unlocked drawers of those places, but that no longer held any interest for him. He knew their contents well.

Thinking that, Legolas’s attention turned to the trunk that sat at the end of his parents’ bed. He had asked once what was kept in that trunk and the answer had only fueled his curiosity—keepsakes his father would not be parted from. Legolas always wanted to know more, but Thranduil said he would show him the items in that trunk when he was old enough to understand them.

Legolas shifted in the chair to better study the trunk’s carved wooden planks, dark and worn with great age. Exploring its contents would certainly be an interesting way to pass the time, though if he were caught, he would be in even more trouble. Legolas stared thoughtfully at the trunk. His father had never specifically told him that he was forbidden to open it, but Legolas knew that the promise to share its secrets with him later implied that he was expected to respect his father’s privacy now.

Of course, that promise and implied expectation had been made nearly ten years ago. He was older now, Legolas reasoned.

After moment’s hesitation, the elfling hopped out of the large chair and padded silently to the trunk. With a glance at the outer door of his parents’ room, Legolas tried the lid. It lifted without resistance—the trunk was not locked.

Legolas let the lid close without opening it fully but he did not move. Everything that children were strictly forbidden to explore in the stronghold was securely locked. Legolas and his cousins had discovered that when trying to explore some of the rooms in the lower levels of the caverns. Legolas glanced again at the door. His father would be working for several more hours before he would have time to come speak to errant elflings—plenty of time to inspect the contents of this trunk without anyone having to know.

“I will only peek,” Legolas said softly to himself as he slowly lifted the heavy lid of the trunk. “I will not touch anything.”

A musty smell arose from the trunk as it opened, making Legolas wrinkle his nose as he let the lid of the trunk fall back against the foot of his parents’ bed. Inside the trunk was a neatly packed assortment of pouches and boxes and items wrapped in cloth. Legolas frowned. He could not really tell what anything was. He ran one finger along a long, thin, flat object wrapped in a silk cloth. It was hard and cold under his touch. Hooking his finger under it, he lifted it slightly. It was fairly heavy.

Brow furrowing slightly, Legolas lifted the long package from the trunk and settled himself on the floor with it. There, he carefully unwrapped it and his eyes widened. It was a knife with an intricately carved bone handle and a gleaming, long blade. Grasping the handle in his right hand and supporting the blade carefully with his left, he picked it up and studied it. Even his inexperienced eyes could tell the blade had been repaired several times but it still held a dangerous edge. Legolas was tempted to stand and swing the weapon as he had seen the warriors on the practice fields swing their swords, but he remembered the punishment for playing with his father’s sword and he imagined that punishment would be doubled for doing the same with this cherished treasure. Leaving it unwrapped, he knelt to look back into the trunk.

Next he pulled out a few of the pouches that were nearest the top. Slipping the drawstring on the first, Legolas saw a faded silk cloth that appeared to have once been dark. He pulled it from the pouch and unrolled it. It was a banner similar to the ones that hung outside his father’s throne room but with stars embroidered on it in blue and silver thread.

Without any idea whose banner that might be or why his father had it, Legolas reached for another pouch. This one contained several silk hair ribbons and pressed flowers preserved with wax. Legolas shook his head scornfully and put the pouch aside, unable to imagine why his father considered an elleth’s hair ribbons worthy to keep.

He picked up the last pouch. It was the heaviest. When he opened it and turned it over to spill its contents, two small cubes of wood with designs carved on them fell into his hand. Legolas smiled to himself. He had seen boxes like these before—they appeared to be solid wood, but would swing open if one pressed in the right spot. Only a few moments fumbling caused the first box to pop open. In it was a plain silver ring. Legolas inspected it for a moment before beginning to work on the other box. When it opened, he found it also contained a silver ring, but this one was more familiar—it was carved with leaves like the rings that his father and mother wore. Legolas frowned slightly, and set the ring aside, wondering why his father had a third copy of that piece of jewelry.

Legolas looked at the items scattered around him and still lying in the trunk. “It might be more interesting to look at these things when ada can explain what they are,” he said out loud to no one. Then he spotted the corner of a book sticking out from under its cloth covering. He reached for that, wondering if the books in this trunk were as boring as the books on the shelves in his parents’ room.

Letting the cloth fall to his lap, Legolas opened the book.

“Adar and I completed the bow and we are going hunting with it tomorrow,” said the first line on the page. It was written with an obviously hurried hand, as if the person had been excited.

Legolas’s eyes widened and he focused on the handwriting, recognizing it as his father’s. He quickly closed the book—a journal. This is too personal, he thought, staring at its cover. Then he glanced at the items laid out around him and wondered if he could discover the meanings of any of these objects between the pages of that journal. He opened it again and looked at the writing without reading the words—it was not the strong, sure hand that Legolas knew from his father’s correspondence but rather a childish version of the same script. Legolas fingered the brittle paper.

“Ada must have been very young when he wrote this. My age, maybe,” he whispered. He was so enthralled by the idea of learning about his father as an elfling that he held his breath as he stared at the book.

Then he turned and leaned back against the trunk. “I will skip over any parts that are too personal,” he promised himself, turning to the first page of the journal.

*~*~*

The fingers of Legolas’s left hand flipped absently over the pages of the journal—a solid inch of pages that had been turned as he read. He was so engrossed in his reading that he did not hear the latch on the chamber door click or see his parents walk into the room.

“Is this what you were sent to this room to do, Legolas?” Thranduil’s voice cut through the silence in the room suddenly.

Legolas started and looked up to see his father towering over him, arms folded across his chest. Legolas’s heart began to beat quickly and he looked at his mother, standing behind his father. Her mouth was open slightly and her eyes were wide with dismay as she looked at Legolas surrounded by the objects from the trunk. She was obviously alarmed and concerned and that made Legolas breath a little faster.

Putting the book aside, he jumped to his feet and faced his father. “I am sorry, ada. I was bored,” he said quietly, not really hoping that excuse would appease his father’s wrath.

Thranduil’s frown deepened. “Boredom seems to be causing you all manner of trouble today, Legolas,” he replied. “First leaving your lessons without Master Rodonon’s permission and now looking through this trunk without mine. Perhaps your lessons are not keeping you busy enough.”

Legolas’s brow drew together. “I had the map done hours ago, ada and it has more on it than Master Rodonon asked for. Our lessons keep us busy but drawing maps of the forest is not as interesting as being in the forest on a day like today. Neither is being trapped in here.”

As he spoke, especially the last sentence, Legolas cringed inwardly. He knew his words would only anger his father further and, knowing that, he did not entirely understand why he said them. But before he could stop himself, they were out. Now he looked up to see his father’s expression hardening.

To his relief, his mother spoke before his father could reply. “As we expected,” Lindomiel said softly into her husband’s ear. “And how many plants were you and Ninglor required to describe that day, Thranduil?” she added in an even softer voice.

That question made absolutely no sense to Legolas and he wondered if he had heard it correctly as he looked between his parents. To the child’s amazement, his father’s tense stance relaxed slightly and he turned to smile ruefully at Lindomiel. Then he loosed a quiet, calming breath and looked at the items on the floor. Legolas blinked in surprise when his father sat on the floor next to the trunk and Lindomiel settled herself beside him.

“Your naneth is referring to a time when I was even younger than you. My cousin and I slipped out of the library where we were working on a lesson describing plants to go swimming in the river against my adar’s expressed wishes,” Thranduil explained as he sat. “She is trying to remind me that I once succumbed to the same temptation that you experienced today, in hopes that her reminder will inspire me to rein in my temper,” he added. Legolas was certain that he heard a hint of amusement in his father’s voice. He glanced at his mother and could plainly tell that she was hiding a smile. Legolas’s eyes were drawn back to his father when he scowled again. “Of course, that incident happened long before I wrote well enough to be interested in a journal, so you would not have read about it,” Thranduil concluded, his tone now decidedly icy.

Still standing, Legolas bit his lip and looked down. “I apologize for not respecting your privacy, adar. I was bored waiting for you but I knew when I opened the trunk that I should not. I knew when I opened the journal that it was personal.” He looked back at his father. “But it was so interesting…much better than the books in the library,” he said quickly. Then he paused. “Still, I should not have read it. I apologize.”

Thranduil patted the ground next to him. “Come discuss with me why you felt compelled to escape your lessons today, Legolas,” he said. “And why they are so uninteresting to you. I must admit that I am disappointed that you were so determined to flee a task that I would have found very interesting. You know how much I like maps—seeing one that you drew of this forest, in particular, would have made me very happy. And I know you are drawing the map so that you could better understand the lessons Master Rodonon is giving you about the history of the forest in the First Age. Surely you like those stories.”

Looking down to hide his surprise at his father’s suddenly calm mood, Legolas hastily sat. “It is not that I dislike the maps or the stories. I would only prefer to learn about them when it is not such a pretty day,” he said earnestly. “The trees are all waking up from their winter nap and we want to be with them,” he paused and sighed. “More than we want to draw maps of them or hear stories about them.”

Again, Legolas would have sworn that he saw a smile tugging at his father’s lips, though his voice was stern. “If you had simply complied with your responsibilities this morning, you would be outdoors playing now, ion nin,” Thranduil responded.

Legolas nodded. “I know that, ada. I did say that we should stay and finish the lessons right before you caught us. We…well, Eirienil and I for certain, were going to go back to the library.”

Thranduil also nodded. “I heard you say that, Legolas,” he said. “I am much less angry with you than I would be if I had not heard you reach that conclusion. But you did not reach it on your own. It was Eirienil that made you see the wisdom in returning to the library, was it not?”

“Yes, ada,” Legolas admitted. “But Tulus told Berior that there is a surprise for us in the barn. We were curious to see what it is—even Eirienil was tempted,” he added in a slightly whining voice.

Thranduil raised his eyebrows. “And what have we said in the past about curiosity?”

Legolas frowned. “That it is good to be curious but there is a time and place for everything,” he said with frustration. “I know that, ada. I did say we should go back to our lessons in the end.”

“But then you also opened this trunk, though I have told you I would discuss its contents with you when I felt you were old enough,” Thranduil replied, picking up the knife and looking at Legolas forbiddingly.

“I did not play with it, ada. I only looked at it,” Legolas said nervously.

“I believe that, Legolas,” Thranduil replied. “Because I trust you to tell me the truth and because I think you would have injured yourself if you had played with it.” He put the knife down and gestured at the other items on the floor. “Do you know what any of this is, ion nin?”

Legolas shook his head. “Will you tell me about some of them, ada?” he pleaded.

To his surprise, Thranduil nodded. “I will. Both because if I do not, I am certain you will sneak back in here to look at them again to try to figure out their significance and because I hope discussing them with you will help you think of your lessons as slightly less boring.”

Legolas’s eyebrows rose involuntarily in response. “What does any of this have to do with my lessons, ada?”

Thranduil smiled. “You are learning the history of our people, Legolas. This is all part of that history.” He picked up the box with the engraved ring. “I will definitely explain to you what this is but I do not think we have time for me to tell you the stories of all these items. Pick one other and we will save the rest for another time.”

Legolas frowned and looked at all the items around him. Then he pointed at the knife. “Tell me about that,” he said.

Thranduil smirked. His expression betrayed that he had expected Legolas to choose the knife.

“Very well, but this weapon has a very long series of stories associated with it. I will tell you an overview now and then I will tell you the details of the stories as you learn about the time surrounding them in your lessons.” He paused and looked at the knife. “The first person to wield this knife was my naneth’s daeradar, Malaewon. He used it in the First Battle of the Wars of Beleriand—a series of battles, five of them very large, that were fought against the Orcs of Morgoth. Lord Malaewon died in that battle defending the King of the Nandor, Denethor, who also died,” Thranduil said solemnly, causing Legolas to look at him with wide eyes.

“We are learning about King Denethor in our lessons now,” he said. “He was king of the Nandor after his father Lenwë was killed by Orcs. I did not know he died too.”

“He did,” Thranduil responded softly. “You will learn that King Denethor led as many of the Nandor that would follow him west to Beleriand seeking the protection of the High King there. And he died aiding the High King in the defense of Beleriand. He died before I was born, but my adar and daeradar always told me that lord Denethor was a very valiant warrior and a great king of his people.”

“Daeradar knew King Denethor?” Legolas asked.

Thranduil nodded. “Of course. Denethor was my daeradar’s cousin on his naneth’s side.”

Legolas silently stared at his father, absorbing that information as Thranduil looked back at the knife and continued his story.

“The second person to wield this knife was my naneth,” Thranduil said as Legolas listened intently. “It was given to her by her father, who received it when his father died. She fought the dwarves that invaded Menegroth with it. I also used it to defend Menegroth when it was destroyed, becoming the third person to wield it. Later, I fought with it during the first battle of the war against Sauron that ended the Second Age.”

“You only used it in the first battle of that war?” Legolas asked.

Thranduil nodded and Legolas saw a deep sadness in his eyes. “You know my adar is in Mandos. It was in that battle that he died. After his death, I took up his sword and I have fought with it ever since.”

Legolas’s eyes darted to the sword on the wall. “That was daeradar’s sword before it was yours,” he asked.

Again Thranduil nodded. “I remember seeing it in his hand all too many time as he used it to protect me, our family and our people. Like this knife, that sword was also forged in Beleriand in the forges in Menegroth and my adar wielded it in the First Battle of the Wars of Beleriand and in the defense of Menegroth. These weapons have faithfully served our family to fight Morgoth’s minions since his foul creatures first defiled Middle Earth.”

Legolas tore his gaze from the sword to look back at his father. “And they still do,” he added quietly.

Thranduil returned Legolas’s gaze gravely. “Yes, they do. Your uncle Aradunnon and cousin Dolgailon fight Orcs in this forest. You have not seen me go to battle yet, but you eventually will. And when you and your cousins are older, it is very possible that you will accompany me or your uncles into battle. We will find a way to destroy Sauron and his servants once and for all, but that time has not come yet. Until it does, we continue to fight. For now, it is important that you learn the history of these events and the history of your people so that you understand why we fight.”

Thranduil paused and took off the mithril ring that he wore. Holding it and the one that had been in the trunk in the palm of his hand, he continued, his voice very serious.

“This is why it is important to me that you take your lessons very seriously so that you have a thorough understanding of the history of the Silvan and the Sindar. Do you know what these rings are?”

Legolas shook his head. “I know you always wear the one and nana has one like it. The gold rings are your wedding rings but I do not know what the silver ones are. I thought they were just jewelry.”

“No, ion nin, they are not just jewelry,” Thranduil said, taking his ring and handing it to Legolas. “Like that sword, I received this ring upon my adar’s death. He made it, along with the ring your naneth wears and this one,” he said holding up the ring that Legolas had found in the trunk. “They are a symbol of our family’s place in this kingdom. Look closely at the leaves engraved on the ring.”

Legolas looked at his father for a moment longer with a puzzled expression and then turned his attention to the ring, turning it around in his hand. Finally he stopped and squinted at it more closely. “Does it say something?” he asked quietly. Then his eyes widened. “It does. It says Aran o Eryn Galen.” He looked at his mother. “Nana, does yours say Bereth?” he asked excitedly.

Lindomiel smiled. “Yes, it does. Your daernana Dieneryn gave it to me on the day ada and I were married.”

Legolas looked at the ring that Thranduil still held, the one that had been in the trunk. “What does that one say, ada?”

“It is the ring my adar gave me when he became King of these people. I wore it for almost three millennia, serving my adar and the people of this forest. It says ‘Ernil o Eryn Galen.’ When adar died and the people of this forest made me their King, I put this ring aside for my son. When you come of age, if you have shown that you can serve the people of this realm, then this ring will be yours.” He handed the ring to Legolas, who turned it around to read the runes engraved amongst the leaves. “To earn that ring, you must be properly educated about the people you will serve,” Thranduil added meaningfully.

Legolas tried, but failed, to stifle a sigh. “I know that, ada. I told you that I do not mind my lessons.”

Thranduil frowned. “Mind your tone, elfling,” he warned.

Legolas pressed his lips together and looked down. “I apologize, adar. I know we should not have left the library without permission and I should not have opened this trunk without permission.” He looked up nervously. “Are we restricted to our rooms?” he asked, trying to keep his voice even though he could not entirely hide his sorrow over being banned from the forest. His breath caught when his parents shook their heads.

“No, Legolas, we will not restrict you to your room,” Thranduil said softly, smiling as the elfling’s face lit up with relief and amazement.

“We realize the winter was long and you need to spend time in the forest,” Lindomiel continued. “But we also want you to understand the importance of your history and geography lessons and we want you to enjoy them, not merely endure them.”

Legolas’s tried to keep his face neutral in response to that expectation, though he did not see how it might be accomplished. He noted the smirk had returned to his father’s face.

“Your uncles and I discussed how we should best respond to your attempt to escape your lesson today with your tutor. He is going to introduce you several people that have lived in this forest since King Lenwë’s reign. We want you to spend some time with those elves and learn some stories from them—ones that you do not already know from the minstrels’ songs and ones that interest you. Then you are going to take those stories to the minstrels and help them make new songs for the Spring Festival. You elflings are going to help the minstrels introduce the new songs and you can explain why you like them then. Do you understand what we want you to do?”

Legolas nodded. That ‘punishment’ was not very terrible at all. “That might be fun,” he replied. “I do like hearing stories. It is just that you tell them so much better than Master Rodonon, ada,” he said quietly.

Thranduil and Lindomiel both laughed openly at that causing Legolas to look at them sharply.

“I am not certain if you should tell him that or not, Legolas,” Thranduil finally said, still chuckling. “On the one hand, Rodonon was my tutor too and it might lend him a sense of hope that, given time, all elflings do eventually learn. On the other hand, he was a scholar and minstrel trained by Daeron in Elu Thingol’s court. I think he might be insulted to hear that I, poor student of history that I was, tell stories better than he does.”

Legolas shrugged. “Well you do.”

Lindomiel laughed and drew Legolas onto her lap. “Do you think the stories your adar tells are better because he tells them from his own memories?” she suggested. “Do you think you like them because they are stories about him, rather than about someone you do not know?”

Legolas thought about that for a moment. “It is more interesting to hear how ada saw things in person and to hear stories about things I can see, like this knife.”

Lindomiel nodded. “Well, then you should like speaking to the elves Master Rodonon is arranging for you to meet. Their stories will be much like ada’s,” she said, earning a smile from Legolas.

With that, Thranduil began gathering the items from the trunk, still laughing softly. “We have two more issues to deal with, ion nin,” he said.

Legolas looked at the trunk guiltily. “I am sorry I opened the trunk, ada. I promise I will not look in it again.”

Thranduil was closing the wooden boxes containing the rings and placing them back in their pouch. He paused and focused on his son. “There is nothing in this chest, or indeed in this entire forest, that I will not share with you, Legolas. When you are old enough. I am not angry with you for looking in this trunk. But I would be very hurt if anything in it were damaged or lost.”

Legolas looked at the hair ribbons and unconsciously raised one eyebrow. “I will not open it again, ada, unless you are with me. I promise,” he said firmly.

“If you promise, then I expect that you will keep that promise and there is nothing else we need say about the trunk,” Thranduil replied, looking at his son’s expression.

Legolas looked up at him. “Will you just tell me what these other thing are? Not their whole story, just what they are?”

Thranduil smiled indulgently. “The other ring,” he said, placing the pouch that held it back in the trunk, “is the betrothal ring I gave your naneth. When two people are betrothed, they give each other silver rings. When they are married, they exchange gold rings and give back the silver rings.”

Legolas nodded, looking again at the gold ring on his father’s finger.

“This,” Thranduil continued, folding the banner and putting it back in its pouch, “is a banner of the High King in Beleriand. My adar took it as we escaped the stronghold when it was destroyed.”

He paused and picked up the hair ribbon and flower. Legolas noted that his mother was grinning broadly.

“Yes, and what is that, meleth?” she asked, amusement in her voice.

Thranduil looked at her innocently. “This is the ribbon that you took from your hair to make me a crown of flowers on the day of our betrothal ceremony and this is one of the flowers from that crown,” he said matter-of-factly. Then he leaned over to kiss her cheek.

Legolas shook his head.

“I am sure you think me as silly as your naneth does, Legolas, but one day you will understand why I keep such things.”

Legolas regarded his father doubtfully but remained silent as he closed the trunk.

Then Thranduil focused on him seriously. “One more issue, Legolas,” he said sternly.

Legolas straightened slightly.

“You and Galithil were wrong to try to persuade Eirienil to do something that she knew was wrong. Worse still, you pulled her along after you against her will. You both owe her an apology. She and your uncle Golwon will be waiting in the sitting room to hear it.”

Rebellion flared in Legolas’s eyes before he could smother it. He knew arguing with his father was not smart at this moment. He also knew Golwon would likely impose some further punishment on he and Galithil that Thranduil would support. Resignedly, he preceded his parents to the family sitting room.

*~*~*

Thranduil and Lindomiel settled near the fireplace and watched silently as Legolas and Galithil approached Eirienil to make their apology. The rest of the family sat around them.

“How did Galithil handle himself when speaking to you?” Thranduil asked his brother quietly as his nephew made a most insincere apology.

Aradunnon frowned as he watched his son. “Not much better than he is handling himself now. I am trying to remember how difficult it is to be an elfling after a long winter, but I am finding it challenging. What about Legolas?”

Thranduil smirked. “There were a few instances where he might have spoken more wisely,” he replied. Then he paused for affect. “And when we came into the room to speak to him, he was rummaging through my trunk. Reading one of my journals, in fact.”

Aradunnon’s eyebrows rose and he looked over at his brother. “Curiosity will lead him into trouble one day if it has not already. Did he mention to you what Tulus told them?”

Thranduil nodded. “He did.”

Aradunnon shook his head. “Galithil claimed that was why they were so anxious to leave their lessons. I might believe that with your son, but not mine—he will leave lessons given any excuse.”

“They are young and they have many lessons to learn about life,” Lindomiel soothed. “They will learn to control their urges to give into curiosity.” She raised her eyebrows delicately. “Though I have less faith in them learning to curb their impulse to speak their minds. Sharp tongues seem to be a family trait.”

As Thranduil and Aradunnon turned to stare at her with wide eyes, her father, Amglaur, and Thranduil’s mother, Dieneryn, laughed.

Amglaur nodded, chuckling. “From what I have seen, the acorn has not fallen far from the oak with either of Oropher’s grandsons.”

Thranduil and Aradunnon scowled as their family continued laughing.

*~*~*

Adar/ada--Father/dad

Naneth/nana--Mother/mum

ion nin --my son


Chapter 2 - Creatures of the forest

Chapter 2: Creatures of the forest

Tulus frowned as he lifted the heavy plank that secured the barn door. Normally, all was very quiet when he arrived in the morning to prepare the horses for the patrols, but today the king’s hunting dogs were barking madly and he could hear the horses stamping and snorting as well. He drew his knife and swung the door open slowly, prepared to meet whatever creature it was that had somehow slipped into the barn and was now threatening its inhabitants.

As the light from the door fell across the interior of the barn, Tulus saw nothing but the dogs gathered around the empty stall that one of the female dogs was using as a nest for her litter. The puppies, he realized, were yipping frantically. Tulus rushed towards the stall—they were only a few weeks old and not nearly coordinated enough to defend themselves from even the smallest of predators. As he ran the few steps to the back of the barn, he registered another noise that he did not normally hear in the mornings—giggling.

Coming to stand in front of the empty stall amidst the barking dogs, Tulus found six elflings sitting on the barn floor, half buried in straw and puppies. They froze and fell silent seeing him tower above them, knife in hand. Only the puppies continued their game, completely oblivious to the newcomer’s presence.

Tulus let out a long breath and quickly sheathed the knife. Putting his hands on his hips, he tried to look sternly at the children despite the temptation to laugh at the scene before him.

“What are you children doing out here so early and how did you get into the locked barn?” he demanded firmly. A smile tugged more insistently at his lips when five pairs of eyes turned from him to the blonde elfling in the middle of their group.

Legolas scowled at his cousins and friends briefly before looking up at Tulus. “We do not have any lessons today, Tulus. Nana said we could spend the day in the forest as long as we do not stray too far or come home late for the evening meal.”

“We are having lunch in my cottage,” Legolas’s friend, Brethil, added helpfully. The other children nodded.

Tulus lost his battle not to smile in response to their earnestly innocent expressions. “That does not explain what you are doing in the barn. The door was closed. Surely it was not open when you arrived in the yard, and as much noise as you were making, no one could have mistakenly closed you in here,” he said

Legolas shook his head. “We could not lift the plank across the door, so we came in the same way the dogs do,” he said pointing to a gaping hole in the dirt under the back wall of the stall.

Tulus blinked at it and then turned to glare at the mother dog, who was gazing up at him placidly. “Your handy work again,” he sighed. “I have filled that hole three times. The last time with rocks.”

Legolas’s cousin, Berior, nodded. “Yes, some of those rocks were heavy. It took all three of us to move one of them,” he said looking between Legolas and their other cousin, Galithil.

Tulus’s jaw fell open slightly as Legolas and Galithil cringed. “You three opened that hole back up?” he asked incredulously, his voice rising.

Legolas and Galithil cast their youngest cousin a scathing look as Berior’s eyes widened in response to Tulus’s tone. Legolas did not look back at Tulus, knowing Berior’s admission would earn them trouble. Galithil, on the other hand, lifted his chin and looked at Tulus unflinchingly.

“Without it, the dogs cannot come and go from the barn,” he explained. Potential for trouble never made him pause.

Tulus put his hands on his hips again and glared at Galithil a moment. “With it, the puppies can wonder out of the barn and into danger. Not to mention that predators can get into the barn and harm the puppies or the horses,” he replied, this time with a truly serious voice.

“But the dogs need to hunt and get water,” Legolas’s oldest cousin, Eirienil, said in a soft, obviously concerned voice, stroking her hand down the length of the mother dog’s soft coat.

Tulus sighed. “There is an entire tub of water in the barn,” he said, pointing at a trough. “And I have been feeding the dogs all winter with kitchen scraps from the stronghold and from my own traps. You do not need to worry about the king’s dogs. They are very well cared for,” he said as reassuringly as he could.

The children looked at the muscular hunting dogs around them appraisingly. They certainly appeared well cared for.

“We will not open the hole again, Tulus,” Legolas promised quietly.

Tulus nodded. “Good. And do I have to ask your adars to convince you to put the stones back or will you volunteer to do it?” he asked, fixing them with an expectant look.

Six little heads shook. “There is no need to say anything to adar,” Legolas said quickly.

“We will put the rocks back. Today,” Eirienil added. Like Thranduil, her father was strict and she very much wanted to avoid trouble with him—a fact that Tulus had counted upon.

“I thought you might,” he said with a smirk, nodding at the children and turning to get to work. The sound of straw rustling told him that the children had jumped up and were following him out of the stall. That was confirmed when two little elleth appeared on either side of him.

“Can we help with the warrior’s horses?” asked Eirienil’s friend Aewen, as they skipped next to Tulus. Aewen’s father, Dollion, was the captain of the Palace Guard. One of the horses was his to use when he had to go to the outskirts of capital or meet with the officers of the Path Guard. Dollion occasionally led his horse, with Aewen on its back, around the barnyard, so she had grown very attached to it.

Tulus paused and raised his eyebrows. “When I was a child, caring for the warriors horses was a punishment,” he said, laughing lightly. “You want to help me?”

Eirienil and Aewen nodded earnestly. “We like to braid their tails and manes,” the ellyth replied.

Still standing in the stall with the puppies, Galithil rolled his eyes. “War horses do not like to have ribbons braided into their tails,” he said disgustedly.

“You do not need to help us braid them then,” Eirienil replied airily, without so much as glancing back at him. “You can bath them. You like making a muddy mess doing that. Aewen and I can brush them and braid their manes when you are done and Tulus can see to their tack.”

Tulus shook his head and began opening the horses’ stalls. “If the kings’ son, nieces and nephews want to help in the barn, who am I to stop them. But I think your naneths will expect you to come home respectably clean and dry as well as on time for the evening meal,” he warned, still laughing.

“We have all day to dry off,” said Legolas, setting the puppy in his arms down next to its mother and heading off to help haul buckets of water and brushes. The puppy leapt after him, nipping at his heals for attention. Legolas picked it up and, after nuzzling its soft but dusty fur against his face, he put it back with its mother again and held his hand in front of its face. “You stay there,” he ordered. “The horses are too big for you to play around.”

Tulus found himself laughing and shaking his head again when the puppy reluctantly settled against its mother and watched Legolas leave the stall. The elfling had a smudge of dirt from the puppy’s fur on his cheek. Ordinarily Tulus would offer to wipe it off, but he suspected that smudge would be comparatively unnoticeable by the time the horses were standing ready for their riders.

*~*~*

Late that afternoon found the children playing in a sunny glade—the boys’ clothing was stained where the mud that had splashed on it had finally dried and flaked off; the girls’ hair was loose since their ribbons now decorated horses’ manes. They had helped Tulus with the horses and then played with the puppies until the tiny little creatures had collapsed from exhaustion.

After that, the children had followed their usual routine when free in the forest. First, they climbed upstream along the bank of the river where the tree roots and boulders made a challenging obstacle course for elflings. Once they reached the border of the area where they were allowed to play, they crossed the river, jumping from rock to rock protruding from the water. This was something that they were not permitted to do, but they did it regularly anyway. Once one the other side of the river, they moved through the familiar trees to the hills behind the stronghold and explored the small caves in them. Finally, they came all the way around the back of the stronghold to a glade on its eastern side near the Path where they often played with their friends.

Eirienil and Aewen sat at the foot of a large oak, contentedly playing a game with colored stones. Legolas, Berior and Brethil had climbed fairly high into the oak tree and were leaning against its wide trunk, focused on a pair of osprey building a characteristically flimsy nest nearby.

Only Galithil was still restless. Slumped against a large rock on one side of the Path, he was idly shooting pebbles at a smaller rock on the other side of the Path with a slingshot. He loosed a long sigh as a pebble ricocheted off the rock and plunked into the soft grass.

“When are we going to do something?” he whined, looking up into the tree at his cousins. “I cannot believe that you are still watching those birds.”

“They are not just birds,” Berior replied without taking his eyes off the male osprey. It had just flown in with another claw-full of sticks and it was tucking them into the nest. He and Legolas had made a bet about how big a stick the osprey could carry and still fly.

“They are hawks,” Legolas agreed, his tone implying that he thought that was reason enough to watch the sleek black and white birds at length.

Galithil rolled his eyes. “Fish hawks!” he scoffed. “In two months we will not be able to come anywhere near this glade because of them. It will reek from the dead fish they drop from their messy old nest. And I have had enough fish this winter to last until the end of Arda,” he declared irritably, referring to the fact that the winter had been long and harsh, leading to a shortage of game. Fish had been a staple at both lunch and dinner for the last few weeks and the osprey were likely the only beings in the capital that still enjoyed eating them. Galithil sent another pebble flying at the rock. Then his expression brightened and he jumped up. “We have been sitting here long enough. Let’s go see if we can get a few rabbits or maybe even a duck with our slingshots. That would make a better dinner than fish if we can shoot them and bring them to the kitchen soon enough,” he said with an excited voice.

That suggestion earned him an immediate glare from Eirienil and Aewen.

“You could not kill a rabbit with that slingshot,” Eirienil said disdainfully.

“And you should not shoot at an animal unless you are certain you can make a clean kill,” Aewen added firmly.

Galithil ignored them. He had not intended to include them in the hunt anyway. Instead he looked expectantly at Legolas, Berior and Brethil, waiting for them to come down from the tree. Much to his annoyance, they only returned his gaze skeptically.

“I do not think adar would be pleased to even find out we have the slingshots, much less that we tried to hunt with them,” Legolas said, shaking his head. “He said we were too young to hunt.”

Galithil scowled. “Uncle said we were too young to learn to hunt with bows,” he corrected. “Anastor and Noruil have killed rabbits with their slingshots and I think everyone would be pleased if we brought some better game home for dinner.”

“Anastor and Noruil are not the elflings you should be emulating,” Eirienil said sagely, repeating a phrase she had heard her father and uncles say countless times.

“And we are not as good with the slingshots as they are,” Brethil added. “I think our adars would be furious if they found out we injured an animal but did not manage to kill it.”

“Besides, we want to see if the female osprey accepts the nest the male has been building,” Berior concluded, turning his attention back to the osprey.

Galithil looked at Legolas pleadingly and was disappointed when he only leaned back against the trunk.

“Sorry, Galithil,” Legolas said quietly, looking down at his cousin. “But we were in trouble only a few weeks ago for leaving our lessons and adar is tense because of the shortage of food. I do not want to anger him again, else we may spend the entire spring in our rooms.” With that, he also looked back at the osprey.

Galithil muttered a mild curse, slid back down the rock and slouched against it. He shot a pebble at the small rock across the Path with enough force that it bounced half way back to him.

Aewen frowned. “Your language and that slingshot are two habits you have learned from Anastor and Noruil that are going to land you in trouble,” she said.

Galithil scowled and tossed a pebble at her in response. It landed in the middle of the ellyth’s game, scattering the stones. Ignoring their angered exclamations, Galithil returned to shooting anything he could reach at his target.

A large pile of stones had collected around the target on the Path and Galithil was almost ready to try hunting rabbits alone by the time his cousins stirred again.

“Look,” Brethil said excitedly. “I think the male must be done. The female is flying over to the nest.

Hopeful that his cousins might finally be willing to do something interesting, Galithil watched the female osprey soar gracefully over their heads and land on the nest next to the male. She prodded the tangle of sticks he had constructed with her hooked beak. After a moment of inspection, she began shoving at it with her talons. It split in half and plummeted to the ground with a crash as she flew back to her original perch. The male osprey seemed to glare at her before flying off to collect more sticks and begin the process again.

Legolas, Berior and Brethil giggled, their hands covering their mouths in an attempt to stifle their laughter and not scare away the female.

“I guess the nest was not satisfactory,” Legolas said between laughs.

“Shh,” hissed Galithil, from the ground.

Legolas’s brow furrowed and he looked down at his cousin to determine why he had ordered them so rudely to be quiet, intending to reply in an equally rude manner.

He remained silent when he saw that Galithil, along with Eirienil and Aewen, had stood. They were half turned towards the tree, poised to leap into it, while scanning the ferns around them.

“What is it?” Berior asked, his voice a whisper.

Galithil shook his head. “Something moved in the brush when the nest fell,” he whispered back, still studying the undergrowth. The sound of something moving in it could still be heard.

“We are right next to the Path and the trees do not seem concerned,” Berior observed. “I doubt it could be anything too threatening.”

Legolas shook his head. “Do not take any chances. It could be a boar or some sort of animal that the trees would see as a normal presence. Come up with us until we know what it is.”

The ellyth did not hesitate to take his advice. They jumped up nimbly, catching a low branch and climbing quickly to the same height as Legolas. Galithil, however, remained on the ground next to the trunk.

“Galithil, come into the tree,” Legolas called insistently. “From here you will be able to see whatever it is,” he added when his cousin still did not move.

Before Galithil could respond, the rustling amongst the ferns grew louder, causing all the elflings to tense and Galithil to take another involuntary step towards the tree. Everyone squealed when a brown shape jumped from the undergrowth and into the open glade.

Galithil looked at it with alarm for a moment before loosing a long breath.

“It is only a rabbit,” he said, openly relieved.

The rabbit stared at the elflings nervously as they slipped from the tree to the ground, but it did not retreat into to ferns. The debris from the rejected nest had frightened it from its hiding place and it did not appear to know what to do.

“It is a terribly thin rabbit,” Aewen observed, looking at it worriedly.

Galithil nodded and knelt down, reaching towards it. The rabbit skittered back to the edge of the ferns.

“I think it heard you talking about hunting,” Legolas said as the rabbit stared with doleful eyes at the slingshot, now forgotten, in Galithil’s hand. Galithil hastily tucked it in his pocket, while Legolas knelt down next to his cousin and also reached out his hand.

“Come here little rabbit. We will not eat you,” he promised.

The rabbit twitched its nose at him but did not retreat any further. Slowly, Legolas crawled forward. The rabbit’s gaze shifted back and forth between the elfling and the ferns where the broken nest lay but it still did not move. Speaking softly, Legolas continued to creep towards the rabbit until he reached it. When he did, he softly stroked his hand over its trembling form.

“It is nothing but bones,” Legolas whispered.

Aewen and Eirienil looked at it sadly. “The harsh winter was difficult for all the forest’s creatures,” Aewen said.

When the rabbit did not flinch from his touch, Legolas picked it up, cradling it in his arms. It did not struggle.

“The poor little thing,” Eirienil exclaimed, coming to stand next to Legolas. She stroked the rabbit’s soft ears. Then her brow furrowed and she looked accusingly at Galithil. “Its leg is injured. You hit it with a rock and that is why it came out of the brush”

The elflings looked at the leg Eirienil indicated. It had blood crusted in the fur and several small wounds.

Galithil shook his head, looking guiltily at the rabbit, but Berior spoke up in his defense.

“It looks like something nearly caught it,” he said. “Those are bites, not an injury from a rock.”

“We should take it back to the stronghold,” Legolas said softly. “It is hurt and starving. It needs help.”

The other elflings looked at him silently for a moment before Aewen said what they all were thinking. “I do not think the guards will let us take a rabbit into the stronghold,” she replied doubtfully.

“Then we will hide him,” Legolas said resolutely. “It came to us for help—otherwise it would be trying to escape—so we should help it. We can hide it in my room until it recovers from its wounds and eats enough to be strong.”

With shrugs and nods and concerned glances at the rabbit, children agreed to that plan. Holding the rabbit close, Legolas started back to the Gates at a fast trot, his cousins and friends behind him.

*~*~*

Thranduil sat on the grass in the barnyard with a stick in his hand and surrounded by growling little, black puppies, their tails wagging madly. Against his leg lay a shaggy, black hunting dog, her head resting on Thranduil’s thigh. Her eyes followed her offspring carefully, but she was otherwise completely content. Several other dogs barked for their master’s attention behind him, too wary of the mother dog’s protective watch over her young to approach more closely.

Thranduil wrenched the stick from the teeth of the puppy that currently held it and threw it to the other side of the yard. Nine little puppies stumbled after it as fast as their uncoordinated legs would carry them. To his side Thranduil heard his advisors, Celonhael and Golwon, laughing softly. Thranduil turned and looked at them.

“You will appreciate them when we go hunting this fall,” he said with dramatic dignity, despite the fact that little, muddy paw prints covered his leggings and tunic.

Celonhael and Golwon made an effort to respond seriously.

“Yes, my lord. They have already shown promise as fine retrievers,” Golwon said, looking at the pack of puppies. Two of them were proudly but unsteadily carrying the stick back to the king, one end in each puppy’s mouth, while their mates tried to jump on them and steal it. Golwon’s eyes were bright with amusement.

Celonhael shook his head slightly. “Do not forget, my lord, that you promised to trade some of the hunting dogs to the Men this year.”

Thranduil frowned at him as the puppies all clamored onto his lap. Several put their paws on his chest or shoulders to try to lick his face and the others shoved their noses under his hands so he would pet them. The two carrying the stick dropped it and looked at him expectantly, waiting for their praise.

“This is the first litter this spring, Celonhael. I do not have to trade any of these dogs,” Thranduil responded, pulling a puppy into his arms. It panted at him, its eyes bright with excitement and Thranduil’s frown deepened. “I think I will regret promising the Men any of them. I do not like trading my dogs. I cannot imagine how you convinced me to do it. And remember, I told them that if none of the dogs are willing to go with them, then there will be no trade.”

Before Celonhael could respond, another voice sounded from the barn doors. “It is not my affair, my lord, but I hope you do not intend to give away that puppy,” it said.

Thranduil and his advisors turned to see Tulus leading one of the king’s stallions from the barn. He had a handful of brushes in his arms and clearly intended to work off some of the horse’s loose, scruffy winter coat. The horse appeared eager to enjoy this treat—it walked straight to the place where it was normally groomed and stamped its hooves impatiently.

Thranduil raised an eyebrow. “Do you have a particular affection for this dog, Tulus?” he asked, amusement and curiosity in his voice as he set the puppy on the ground.

Tulus smiled. “Not I, my lord. Legolas has grown very fond of that puppy and she is fond of him. I think it would hurt them both to be separated.”

Thranduil laughed out loud. “Those children are determined to make pets of all my hunting dogs. And you, Tulus, are encouraging them. I know you told my son and his cousins about the puppies the morning they were born.” He paused for affect. “I know this because they tried to sneak out of their lessons early to come see them.”

Tulus looked at the king apprehensively. “That was certainly not my intent, my lord. I only thought they would enjoy the puppies…”

“I know that, Tulus,” Thranduil interrupted, still smiling. “And you were correct, of course. But when all my dogs are fat and spoiled and refuse to hunt this fall, I think I will send you to flush the quail and fetch the ducks.”

Tulus grinned in response to that threat and turned back to his work.

As he did, the sight of six elflings scampering across the bridge towards the Gates caught his attention. Legolas was hunched over and had something bundled under his tunic. Tulus looked at the king and his advisors to see if they had noticed the children. They had and were watching them as well.

“Speak of trouble and it shall appear,” said Celonhael, chuckling softly to himself as he watched his son, Berior, hurrying after Legolas. “They are clearly up to something.”

Golwon scowled at his daughter’s disappearing back when the children ignored the door guards’ orders to stop, dodged past them and ran into the stronghold. From the barnyard, the guards’ frustrated exclamations could just barely be heard.

Thranduil shook his head. “They should obey the guards,” he said mildly. “But we cannot yet say for certain that they are guilty of anything.”

Tulus, an experienced father of an adult son, stared at Thranduil and remained silent only with great effort. Celonhael, also an experienced father, did not bother to offer the king the same courtesy. Instead he laughed out loud.

“Really, my lord? And how times was the object that you smuggled into Menegroth under your tunic something that you expected to be allowed to keep?”

Tulus’s eyes widened in amusement at that question and he quickly looked down to hide his expression. Thranduil smirked at him before turning to Celonhael with an exaggeratedly innocent expression. “I never carried anything into Menegroth that I was not allowed to have,” he said.

Celonhael nodded. “Yes, because the guards always stopped you before you could commit your misdeeds.”

Thranduil stood. “True,” he admitted easily. “Come. Let us see what sort of contraband my son is trying to hide in the stronghold,” he said heading out of the barnyard, ignoring the yipping puppies’ protests at the sudden end of their game.

*~*~*

As Legolas, his cousins and friends scurried through the corridors of the stronghold, Galithil and Berior broke off from their group and ran towards the kitchen to steal greens for the rabbit to eat. The others followed Legolas to his room. Still huddled over the bundle in his tunic, Legolas dashed down the hall in the family quarters and ran into his room. Eirienil, Aewen and Brethil followed and slammed the door shut behind them.

Drinking wine in the family sitting room, Legolas’s adult cousin, Dolgailon, and his wife, Arthiel, looked at each other and raised their eyebrows. Dolgailon stood and stepped into the corridor to eye his cousin’s closed door warily.

“That certainly has all the earmarks of mischief. What do you suppose they had?” he asked, as Arthiel joined him in the hallway.

She shook her head. “If Legolas is anything like you, he probably has a snake or some revolting insect that young ellyn commonly use to terrorize ellyth,” she replied, amusement in her voice.

Dolgailon grinned. “I doubt it. That was a fairly large, squirming bundle—too big for a snake or insect. And Eirienil and Aewen were with him—they would not be if he had a snake.” He paused and again eyed Legolas’s door. “Do you think we should intervene?”

Arthiel nodded. “If you can persuade them to remove whatever it is before their adars see it, you might save the family a good deal of discord this evening,” she replied.

Dolgailon frowned and looked up and down the corridor and towards the entrance to the family quarters. “Speaking of discord, where is my brother? It is impossible for me to believe he is not involved in this.”

Arthiel laughed. “Perhaps he is somewhere else creating mischief on his own.”

“Well, I think it is safe to assume he is creating mischief,” Dolgailon said as he walked the few steps to Legolas’s door. “Why adar agrees to entire days without lessons, I cannot imagine. Galithil needs structure.”

Arthiel rolled her eyes. “You are too structured, meleth. You need a mischievous little brother to add some chaos to your life.”

Dolgailon smirked at her. “I have a mischievous little brother, three cousins, their young friends and you—all of whom are determined to drive me to distraction. And you wonder why I will not agree to having children of our own,” he said dramatically as he knocked on Legolas’s door. He entered without waiting for permission.

When the doors opened, Legolas, Brethil, Eirienil and Aewen were crouched around a dresser drawer sitting on the floor—its contents had been dumped unceremoniously next to the dresser. Hearing someone enter, the children jumped up and stood shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the drawer, looking at Dolgailon and Arthiel with wide, guilty eyes.

Legolas frowned when he saw his older cousin and his wife. “You should wait to be invited before you come into someone’s room, Dolgailon,” he said crossly.

Dolgailon snorted. “You should not try to hide your misdeeds under your tunic and in your room. What do you have there?” he asked, taking a step forward.

The elflings moved closer together as Legolas glared at his older cousin defiantly. “That is not your business, Dolgailon,” he said. “We are not doing anything wrong.”

“Then you should be able to show me what it is,” Dolgailon replied calmly, ignoring his cousin’s rising ire.

When the children did not move or respond, Arthiel took a step towards them and knelt on the floor to speak to them eye-to-eye. “We are only trying to help you,” she said gently. “Do you really think lord Thranduil and lady Lindomiel will not discover whatever it is you children are hiding? Maybe we can help you think of a more appropriate place for it.”

Legolas looked between the adults hesitantly and then glanced at Brethil. Brethil regarded his sister, Arthiel, suspiciously and then shrugged in response to Legolas’s implied question. Before any of the children could speak, however, the mystery revealed itself.

With a few scraping noises and a soft thud, the rabbit half climbed and half hopped out of the drawer and gazed up at the elves surrounding it, twitching its ears nervously.

Arthiel laughed. “A rabbit! How did you manage to catch a rabbit?” she exclaimed.

“We did not catch it,” Eirienil answered. “It came to us.”

Dolgailon and Arthiel leveled a doubtful look at the children.

“It did!” Legolas insisted. “It is injured and hungry. We brought it home to feed it and put medicine on its leg.”

Brethil nodded. “We are going to keep it in Legolas’s drawer,” he added, pointing to the empty drawer.

Arthiel frowned. “It does not appear that he liked the drawer,” she observed, watching as the rabbit hopped about on the floor, beginning to explore.

Dolgailon shook his head and sighed. “Legolas, rabbits are not pets. You cannot keep him. Uncle will never permit it.”

“But he needs help,” a determined voice said from behind them. It was Galithil, returning with food pilfered from the kitchen. Berior was with him.

Dolgailon glanced at the greens in his brother’s hand and sighed again. “And I had a glimmer of hope that you might not be involved in this,” he said tiredly, scowling as his brother tossed the greens on the floor. The rabbit twitched its nose in their direction and then began to nibble at them eagerly.

Arthiel laid a restraining hand on her husband’s arm and faced the children. “If you want to help the rabbit, then you must think about how best to do that. Perhaps if you have a plan to present to your adars by the time they arrive, they will be willing to listen to it. Otherwise, I think it is most likely that they will discover your secret and insist you remove it.”

Looking with concern at the rabbit, the children nodded.

“You are a forester, Arthiel,” Legolas said with a pleading tone. “You know what the rabbit needs. Will you help us?”

Arthiel smiled and settled herself on the floor. “I am only studying with a forester, but I will try to help you. I think you should start by considering where you can keep the rabbit that will not frighten him too much,” she began. “I do not think your room is the best place.”

*~*~*

The sun was setting behind the tops of the trees when Legolas, his cousins and their parents emerged from the stronghold, crossed the bridge over the river and entered the public garden along side it. After much discussion, the children had agreed to release the rabbit in the garden after cleaning its leg with a salve and giving it the greens. Here, the rabbit would be able to return to the forest if it wished, but the adults had conceded to allow the children to leave it daily bowls of cut greens as long as it continued to eat them, if only in hopes that the rabbit would not decimate the flowers and herbs in the garden.

Thranduil and Lindomiel sat on a bench and the other adults seated themselves around them. The children sat on the ground taking turns petting the rabbit and saying their good-byes. When Legolas finally put it down on the ground in front of him, Lindomiel and Thranduil smiled when the rabbit hastily backed up and pressed itself against his leg while cautiously inspecting this new environment. Legolas silently stroked its fur until it made a tentative hop away from him. All the children watched sadly as the rabbit finally dashed into the hedge along the garden wall.

“It will be happy and safe here,” Thranduil said quietly in response to their glum expressions.

“We know, ada,” Legolas replied. “And we know the rabbit did not want to be a pet. But he was so friendly. I hate to see him go.”

Lindomiel reached for Legolas and drew him onto her lap. “The rabbit trusted you to help him and you have proven that its trust was justified. You children should be very proud of yourselves,” she said, kissing his forehead.

Thranduil nodded. “I could not be more pleased with the way you handled this situation—you showed your love for this forest both by bringing the rabbit here to help it and by agreeing to let it go back to its home once you had,” he said, hoping the praise would lighten their disappointment a little.

They smiled at him weakly as they listened to the rabbit rustling in the bushes. Eirienil carried a wooden bowl of greens and placed it next to the where the rabbit had entered the hedge.

“I hope he keeps taking the greens so we will still see him,” she said sadly.

“I imagine some creature be willing to take advantage of such an easy meal,” Lindomiel said, looking ruefully at the greens that her staff had worked hard to find and gather despite the early spring frosts.

When the sounds of the rabbit settling amongst the bushes finally faded, the adults stood.

“Shall we go enjoy our own dinner?” Lindomiel suggested softly.

Galithil sighed and his shoulders slumped as he idled towards the garden gate. “Fish, no doubt,” he said under his breath.

Lindomiel nodded and laughed. “And without the salad that I had planned,” she added.

Galithil’s face brightened slightly. “That is good,” he exclaimed, causing his parents to shake their heads.

As the family exited the garden, the children saw Tulus securing the animals in the barnyard for the night. They waved at him and he waved back. The movement attracted the attention of the dogs milling about the barn. Seeing Thranduil, they ran towards him, barking. Taking up their elders’ call, the puppies began to yip and follow them. As Thranduil reached down to pet the dogs clamoring around him, the children ran forward to pick up the puppies. Their frolicking silliness quickly drove away the sadness caused by releasing the rabbit.

Thranduil smiled when one of the puppies ran straight to Legolas.

“The dogs make better pets,” Berior observed as one nearly knocked him down dashing about and trying to draw the elves into a game.

Legolas grinned. “They like to be pets,” he said, picking up the puppy and cuddling it.

Thranduil looked at his son seriously. “They choose to be our companions and to hunt with us. We could not force them to do so, even if we wished to. Like all creatures, they have their own free will.”

Legolas nodded absently as the puppy licked his face.

“I think that one has chosen Legolas as her companion,” Lindomiel observed in a soft voice, while watching her son play with the puppy.

“Indeed,” Thranduil agreed with an amused smile.

Legolas sighed. “We know they are ada’s hunting dogs,” he said resignedly. “Tulus has already warned us not to grow too attached to them.”

Thranduil reached to scratch the puppy’s neck, but it continued licking Legolas’s chin. “Perhaps this dog will prefer to hunt with you, Legolas,” he said.

Legolas and his cousins looked at Thranduil.

“We do not know how to hunt, ada,” Legolas replied with a confused expression.

Thranduil nodded. “You are still too young to use a bow, as we have already discussed, but your uncles and I had already agreed to begin teaching you to track game this summer and fall.” The children exchanged excited looked in response to that announcement. “And you can help me train this year’s puppies to hunt if you would like and if they are willing to learn from you. I am rather certain at least this one will like that.”

The children nodded their heads eagerly.

“I would love to help you with the dogs, ada,” Legolas said, hugging the puppy more tightly against him.

“Good,” he said, smiling, and turned to the other parents. “That way we might still have dogs willing to hunt with someone,” he joked as the puppies continued to ignore him and play with the children.

*~*~*

AN: Sorry for the delay in updating. Real life has been hectic, but I am very determined to get back to a regular updating schedule now.

*~*~*

Naneth/nana—Mother/mum

Adar/ada—Father/dad

Ellon/ellyn—male elf(ves)

Elleth/ellyth—female elf(ves)

Meleth (nin)—(My) love


Chapter 3 - Mischief and Moonbows--Part One

Chapter 3: Mischief and Moonbows--Part One

Galithil opened the door to his room, slipped out into the hall and silently closed the door. The guard at the main entrance to the family quarters smiled at him as the elfling glanced up and down the quiet corridor. The sounds of servants moving about in the dining room were only beginning to stir to life and the only other person Galithil saw was the maid lighting the lamps in the hall.

He looked at his cousin’s door—no light came from under it.

“I will light Legolas’s lamps,” he offered when the maid also turned to smile at him.

She responded by looking at him sidelong and raising one eyebrow, but the twitch of her lips betrayed her amusement.

Confident that he could win her over, Galithil’s eyes widened innocently. “I know how to be careful with the lamps,” he insisted in a sincere voice. “I do not want to burn my own home down.”

The maid laughed as she extracted another faggot from the pocket of her apron, lit it from the torch she was carrying and handed it to Galithil. “You may be the only person alive capable of burning down a mountain,” she replied. Then she fixed him with a playfully reproachful expression. “And we both know you are only offering to light your cousin’s lamps for me because you think that will be a particularly rude and novel manner to awaken him this morning.”

Galithil grinned at her as he reached to open Legolas’s door. “True,” he admitted easily as he skipped into his cousin’s room.

Giggling softly, Galithil dashed from lamp to lamp, quickly lighting every one. He bit his lip to stifle a laugh when his cousin growled sleepily, rolled onto his side to face the wall and pulled his blanket over his head. Galithil tossed the faggot in Legolas’s fireplace and jumped on his bed. He finally did laugh out loud in response to Legolas’s surprised exclamation.

“What are you doing?” Legolas snapped, hastily scooting away from Galithil on the bed. His cousin was now shaking him insistently. “I am awake,” he said irritably through a yawn while slapping at Galithil’s hands. Looking up at Galithil hovering over him, he frowned at his cousin’s excited and amused expression. “You are not very funny, Galithil,” he added in a tired voice.

Galithil’s enthusiasm was not dimmed in the least. “Today is Brethil’s begetting day. We need to know if the weather is fair before we speak to our adars at breakfast. Come to the Gates with me,” he demanded eagerly.

That brought Legolas more fully awake. He threw off the covers and climbed out of the bed. “Give me a minute to get dressed,” he said, trotting quickly to his bathing chamber to wash his face.

“Hurry,” Galithil prodded. He was never one to waste time with things like bathing if more exciting prospects were at hand.

Legolas washed quickly and pulled on the leggings and tunic that Galithil brought him. He was still fastening his tunic when they opened his door and stepped into the hall. Despite his abbreviated bath, by the time they emerged from his room, the servants in the dining room were singing and the sounds of plates being set on the table could already be heard.

Legolas scowled. “We do not have time to go all the way to the Gates. Nana will be coming to call us to morning meal soon. We can go into the garden to see what the weather is like,” he suggested, veering in the direction of the family sitting room.

In the back of the sitting room was a door that led to the Queen’s private garden. The garden was planted on a ledge on the mountain and accessible only from the family quarters. In the summer and fall it was normally a riot of flowers and herbs. Even in the winter, when the plants were withered and the trees bare, Legolas loved the garden for the old beech that grew in its center. It was his favorite tree—a place where he often sat or played with his cousins and the place where all the private family celebrations took place.

Galithil sighed and followed him. “Sometimes I wish that we lived in a cottage in the forest like Berior and Brethil,” Galithil complained as they trotted to the back of the sitting room.

Legolas nodded and opened the door to the garden. The warm, spring air and bright morning sun flooded into the sitting room and brought wide smiles to both elflings’ faces.

“It is a beautiful morning and there is not a single cloud in the east,” Galithil declared. “It should be fair weather all day. There is no reason for our parents to refuse to let us go.”

Legolas cast a warning look at his cousin. “Nonetheless, we have to ask carefully. Ada, often has reasons for not letting us do things that we never expected. Let me ask, as we planned,” Legolas cautioned.

But Galithil was not listening. Instead, his eyes were fixed on the beech tree in the center of the garden. He loosed a quiet giggle and quickly covered his mouth with his hand to stifle it. “At least it seems your adar will be in a good mood when you ask him,” he said without looking away from the beech.

Legolas followed his cousin’s gaze. Under the beech, on a bench, he could see his mother and father. He knew that they made a habit of watching the sunrise together in the garden, so their presence was not surprising. This morning, however, despite the fact that they were partially obscured by the trunk of the beech, Legolas could plainly see that his mother was sitting on his father’s lap and that they were kissing. He wrinkled his nose and reached for his cousin’s arm.

“He will not be in a good mood if he catches you spying on him kissing nana, so come on,” he said softly, pulling Galithil towards the door.

A few minutes later, everyone in the dining room stood as Thranduil and Lindomiel entered the room and took their places at the table. Galithil’s giggles and amused expression earned him a swift kick under the table from Legolas.

Thranduil smiled at his nephew but studied him curiously while beginning to serve himself some porridge. “You seem to be in unusually high spirits this morning, Galithil,” he said with a glance at Galithil’s father, Aradunnon. “Is it possible that you have already been into some sort of mischief this early?” he asked.

Legolas shot a warning glare at his cousin.

Aradunnon did not miss it. “Indeed, ion nin. Where were you this morning? You had already left your room when we came to waken you.”

Galithil smiled innocently at his father. “I went to wake up Legolas,” he responded happily.

Lindomiel and Galithil’s mother, Amoneth, exchanged an amused glance. “And that likely explains Legolas’s scowl as well as Galithil’s grin,” Amoneth said softly.

Legolas’s scowl deepened when his grandparents and uncles laughed quietly and shook their heads.

“Today is Brethil’s begetting day,” he said coolly, without looking at anyone in particular. “He is having a party after our lessons and we are all going.” He paused. “Assuming Galithil can manage to temper his excitement long enough to finish his lessons and be dismissed on time,” he added airily.

The adults laughed again when Galithil narrowed his eyes angrily at his cousin.

“Your naneth had reminded me of Brethil’s begetting day this morning as well, Legolas,” Thranduil said, trying to intervene before an argument erupted at the breakfast table. “I am going riding this afternoon and I will stop by Brethil’s cottage to wish him a merry day.” Thranduil looked over at Galithil’s older brother, Dolgailon, and his wife, Arthiel. “Your brother is a wonderful elfling, Arthiel,” he said warmly. “I always enjoy seeing him.”

Arthiel smiled. “My adar would be very pleased to hear that,” she said.

Thranduil was about to respond when he noticed the hopeful expression on Legolas’s face that his comment had obviously elicited. The child was looking at him intently. Thranduil raised his eyebrows and returned his son’s gaze, waiting for him to speak.

Legolas looked at him carefully. “In addition to inviting us all to his party, Brethil invited Galithil, Berior and I to spend the night in his cottage,” he said.

Thranduil’s questioning gaze grew suspicious. “You have spent the night in your cousin’s cottage several times,” he observed. “What is so special about this invitation that you would put off informing me of it until today?”

Legolas hesitated. “Master Crithad said that we could all camp in his yard if the weather was fair,” he finally responded steadily, without looking away from his father.

The adults at the table glanced at each other with surprise.

“Master Crithad intends to allow you to sleep in his yard?” Thranduil repeated.

Legolas and Galithil nodded. “Please, ada, can we do it?” Legolas begged.

“We have camped in the forest before,” Galithl added. “By the river. And this will be right in Brethil’s yard.”

Thranduil looked at Galithil sternly. “You have camped with your adar and I. Once,” he corrected. “And we had a good number of guards with us. Camping in Master Crithad’s yard with only his supervision for four elflings is entirely different.”

“We will behave, ada,” Legolas pleaded softly. “We like to sleep amongst the trees under the stars.”

Legolas and Galithil watched silently as their mothers stirred in response to that comment. The children knew very well it was the sort of argument that moved them.

Thranduil frowned and focused on his breakfast. “I think your uncles and I will have to discuss this further before we can decide if you may camp in Master Crithad’s yard,” he pronounced quietly, ignoring the children’s disappointed expressions. Instead he turned to Arthiel. “I trust your adar, my dear. I simply want to think about whether I have the same amount of faith in these elflings that he apparently does. Also, I would like to hear the report from the Palace Guard before I allow my son to sleep unguarded in the forest. And I do not think it would be right for Aradunnon and I to make a decision about Legolas and Galithil without hearing Celonhael’s opinion on Berior camping in the forest first.” He looked back at the children. “We will stop by Master Crithad’s cottage to speak to Brethil while we are riding this afternoon and we will tell you then if you may stay,” he said with finality.

Legolas and Galithil were wise enough not to argue.

*~*~*

“This is from Galithil, Berior and I,” Legolas said, handing a large, cloth pouch to Brethil. Brethil’s parents, sister and brother-in-law all cooed appropriately as he took the pouch with a grin. His eyes widened slightly at its weight. “And from daerada,” Legolas added. “Since he was the one that made it for us to give to you.”

Brethil looked over at Amglaur, who had escorted Legolas and his cousins to Brethil’s cottage and now sat off to the side so as to not interfere with the children’s celebration. Then he slipped the tie on the pouch and let its contents spill into his lap. His surprised gasp was echoed by his parents. “It is the pieces to play Orthor!” he exclaimed, picking up one of the little archers that Amglaur had carved and inspecting it with a delighted smile. It was unpainted.

“We helped Amglaur make the game by painting the orcs and the other ugly pieces,” Galithil explained. “He thought you would like to paint the warriors yourself. But if you do not, we will finish it for you.”

Brethil shook his head. “Lord Amglaur is right. I do want to paint them.” He looked at Legolas’s grandfather with sincere appreciation. “Thank you so much for carving these for me,” he said a little breathlessly.

“Indeed,” Crithad said solemnly. “I know precisely how much work carving all the pieces for that game would be. I would never have time for such a thing, but Brethil does love to play with the set you made for Legolas. And he will love painting his own pieces.”

Brethil, who was already organizing all the pieces into their respective categories—archers, swordsmen, cavalry, pikemen and the opposing enemy forces—nodded enthusiastically. Though he was still quite young, he helped his father, a wood and stone worker, to do simple finishing work in his workshop and he enjoyed such tasks greatly.

Amglaur smiled indulgently and nodded at Crithad. “I do not have your talent for carving, I am certain, but am happy to do it. I find I have far more idle time in my son-in-law’s court than I did in my brother Amroth’s in Lorien. Of course, I am here to enjoy my grandson’s childhood, so that is rather the point.”

Brethil and his cousins lay down on their stomachs on the cottage floor and began arranging the pieces into a simple battle formation. “Maybe we can combine your pieces and our pieces and fight a really big war,” Galithil suggested.

Arthiel laughed. “You could fight the entire War of Wrath with that many pieces.”

Berior’s eyes lit up at that idea. “That might be fun,” he replied, looking at his cousins. “Doing real battles, I mean.” Of all their lessons, Berior most enjoyed history.

Legolas and Galithil scowled at him.

“If you so much as think that around Master Rodonon, we will make you pay,” Galithil threatened.

Legolas nodded. “It would be just like Master Rodonon to take a perfectly fun game like Orthor and make it into a lesson. Next thing you know, we will be fighting every battle in the history of Middle-earth with the Orthor pieces.”

Galithil shuddered. “And having to draw the maps for the battle fields,” he added.

Behind them, Amglaur shook his head. “You have stacks of maps of imaginary places that you have spent hours drawing to conduct play battles. Why would re-creating real ones be so horrible?” he asked.

“Because then it would be a lesson, not a game,” Legolas replied, as if the answer were the most obvious thing in the world.

Before any of the adults could respond, they were interrupted by the sound of horses approaching on the path that led to Crithad’s cottage.

“That is ada,” Legolas said, pushing himself up off the floor. “I hope he decided to let us stay tonight.”

The adults in the room stood also as Thranduil approached the door of the cottage with Aradunnon and Celonhael.

“Welcome, my lord,” Crithad said, bowing to Thranduil.

Thranduil smiled and nodded to Crithad and his wife, Merileth, in greeting before striding over to where the children stood in a tight group. He bent to kiss Legolas on the head and then crouched in front of Brethil to speak to him eye-to-eye.

“I hope you are having a wonderful begetting day, pen neth,” he said, smiling warmly.

Brethil nodded. “I am, lord Thranduil. Did you see the Orthor pieces Legolas’s daeradar made for me?” he asked with excitement and pride.

Thranduil paused to look at them. “I confess, I did know that the children had asked him to make these and I had seen some of them. I know how much you enjoy this game so I expect you like this gift.”

Brethil nodded again.

“Well, I have another surprise for you,” Thranduil said standing and taking Brethil’s hand to lead him to the cottage door. “I think you also enjoy horses and mine happens to be in your yard. He would be happy to give you a ride if you would like.”

Brethil loosed an excited squeal and then looked at his father. “Can I ride him, ada?”

Crithad laughed. “If the king’s horse is so bold as to agree to bear you, ion nin, you may ride him,” he said. Then he looked at Brethil seriously. “But when you ride on a horse’s back you do not squirm around or swing your legs. You do not want to hurt the horse when he is kind enough to allow you to ride him.”

“I will be still, ada,” Brethil promised.

“Then let us see to some rides,” Celonhael said, picking Brethil up, carrying him outdoors and swinging him onto the king’s tall stallion. Legolas and his cousins ran outdoors after him.

Crithad and Merileth approached the king. “Thank you, my lord,” Crithad said, smiling at the excitement in his son’s eyes as he sat upon the stallion. “This will certainly be a day that Brethil will not soon forget. I can never repay your generosity to my children.”

Thranduil shook his head. “Your family is part of mine now, Crithad, and mine is part of yours,” he said, drawing Arthiel to his side. “And that pleases me greatly because Arthiel has done wonders for my nephew, I could not hope for a better friend than Brethil for my son and I could never repay you for all that you have done in the service of this realm with your contributions to the construction of the stronghold.”

Crithad looked down, smiling. “Thank you, my lord,” he repeated. “I am honored.” Then he looked back at Thranduil ruefully. “But I fear I owe you an apology. I should have come to you myself about the idea of allowing the children to camp in the yard tonight.”

Hearing that comment, Legolas and his cousins turned from watching Celonhael lead Brethil on Thranduil’s horse. Hope arose in their hearts when Thranduil waved his hand dismissively, a sign that he was not angry.

“The children should have asked us for permission when the invitation was issued,” he said sternly, perfectly aware that they were staring at him, eager for his answer. “But no matter. Aradunnon and I simply did not want to grant Legolas and Galithil permission without speaking to Celonhael first. You are a braver elf than I if you are willing to try to manage this group by yourself. But then I have noticed that they behave much better for others than they do for their own adars,” he concluded wryly.

Galithil snorted. “That is because the punishment for misbehaving publicly is usually double the punishment for misbehaving at home,” he said under his breath.

Legolas shoved his cousin when Thranduil and Aradunnon raised their eyebrows. “Then may we stay tonight, ada,” he asked quietly, hoping to distract them.

Thranduil nodded. “Yes you may,” he replied, smiling at the children’s relieved expressions. “I expect you to obey, Master Crithad and be on your best behavior.”

Three heads nodded. “We will, ada,” Legolas replied.

*~*~*

“…and suddenly the elves realized that they had wandered too far,” Crithad’s deep voice intoned. The children, sitting on blankets in the yard, stared at him with wide eyes and held their breath. The flickering firelight caused shadows to dance across Crithad's face as he continued. “For they heard the horn of the hunter and saw a shadow pass over the stars above them. It is said that the last thing they saw was the form of his dark horse amongst the trees, but no one knows for certain because no one who ever saw the horse or heard the horn ever returned to tell the tale,” he concluded dramatically.

“I do not think that is an appropriate story for children their age,” Merileth said with a stern voice, stepping out of the cottage and into the yard. Her sudden interruption made the children jump and turn towards her with alarm. She raised a displeased eyebrow and glared at her husband as she placed a tray of treats on the ground in the center of their blankets.

Brethil’s face lit with delight. “Apples!” he exclaimed, immediately forgetting the spooky story his father had been telling.

“Baked in honey and spices, just as you like them,” Arthiel said from behind her mother. “This is my gift to you, muindor nin. And you should thank the queen for it as well the next time you see her, because it was she that allowed me to take the last of the store of apples for your begetting day.”

Brethil smiled at his older sister as he reached for one of the forks on the tray. “This is the best day ever,” he said quietly. “I will thank her tomorrow,” he promised, popping a slice of apple into his mouth and gesturing for his cousins to join him.

Merileth bent and kissed her son’s head. “Enjoy your treat and then all of you should settle down to sleep. It is late.” She looked at her husband. “No more stories like that one or you will be dealing with nightmares tonight,” she warned.

The children watched Merileth and Arthiel return to the cottage, where the ellyth had been banished, and then looked back at Crithad.

“We were not afraid,” Galithil said stoutly. “We know that story anyway.”

Crithad raised his eyebrows. “Do you indeed?” he responded, trying to conceal his amusement and doubt.

Legolas nodded. “Master Rodonon has already taught us about the Years of the Trees all the way through to the beginning of the Great Journey. We are learning about lord Lenwë now,” he confirmed, matter-of-factly.

“We know the hunter was truly Tauron. And his horse, should we ever see it, is not shadowy but rather bright white in the daylight and silver at night,” Berior said. “And the shadow that made elves disappear if they wandered at night was not Tauron but rather Morgoth,” he added in a whisper.

Brethil looked at them enviously. If their lessons included stories like this one, for the first time he was forced to admit that he was jealous of the time they were required to dedicate to them.

Crithad only nodded, looking duly impressed. “Well, you are very learned young elves then, I see. I will not be able to frighten you with simple stories.” Then he paused and looked at them with a mischievous gleam in his eye. “Has Master Rodonon told you the story of how Luthien disguised herself as the vampire Thuringwethil to help Beren steal a Silmaril from Morgoth’s crown?” he asked in a low voice.

The children’s eyes widened again and they shook their heads.

“Perhaps you would like to hear that story then?” he asked.

They nodded silently, drawing a little closer to the light of the lantern.

Crithad smiled and drew a breath to begin when a voice from the porch sounded angrily.

“No more stories!” Merileth commanded. “Unless you intend to explain to the king why his son and nephews suddenly cannot sleep through the night.” She glared at Crithad a moment longer before turning to go back into the cottage. “Telling children stories about Morgoth and his minions!” she muttered under her breath as she went.

Crithad looked at her guiltily. “Well, your mother has spoken, Brethil, and we both know what that means. We will obey her,” he said, ruffling his son’s hair. “She is right that it is late. Maybe we should try to go to sleep.”

The children’s expressions held an odd mixture of disappointment and relief that they would not be hearing about the vampire Thuringwethil and the perils of stealing from Morgoth.

“After we finish the apples,” Brethil said, looking earnestly at his father.

Crithad smiled. “Of course after you finish them,” he said, lying down on his blanket and adjusting the second blanket he had folded as a pillow.

As he did, the children huddled together to finish their treat, whisper about the stories Crithad had told them and speculate about the existence of vampires.

Hours later, the moon was high in the sky and the sound of Crithad’s steady breathing was drowned by the chirping of frogs and crickets, but the elflings were still not asleep. Instead, they were sitting on their blankets, whispering and giggling. The plate that had held the apples might have passed for freshly washed, it had been scraped so thoroughly clean.

The elflings’ whispers fell silent when they heard soft, scurrying footfalls on the path that led by the cottage. They looked at each other and then at the still sleeping form of Crithad with wide eyes.

“It is just an animal,” Berior whispered reasonably.

They were quiet for a moment, listening.

“It sounds like a person,” Legolas said, looking again at Brethil’s father. He had not stirred. “Do you think we should wake him to find out who it is?” he asked softly.

Galithil shook his head. “It is probably only the guards uncle undoubtedly set on Master Crithad’s cottage since we are sleeping out here,” he said disgustedly. But he also eyed the darkness tensely.

Memories of Crithad’s stories made their hearts beat a little faster.

“If it is guards, then something is wrong, because they are coming closer,” Legolas finally said.

The children listened again. There was no denying it—the footsteps were coming towards them on the path.

“I do not think it is the guards,” Berior said, his voice shaking slightly. “They would approach directly. Whoever or what ever it is on the path is being cautious.”

The children looked at each other nervously as they realized that was true. The noise advanced a few steps and then paused before continuing tentatively.

Brethil frowned and drew a breath to call out to his father just as a dark figure emerged from the trees. The elflings gasped as one at the sight of it. Then their expressions grew angry. Standing at the edge of the yard, hands over their mouths and shoulders shaking in laughter were Anastor and Noruil—two elflings their own age who they almost never played with.

“What are you doing here?” Brethil demanded in an irate voice that seemed to echo through the forest.

Anastor and Noruil stopped laughing and glared at him. “Keep your voice down,” Anastor whispered, glancing at Crithad. He stirred but did not awaken. Seeing that, Anastor returned to laughing softly. “You should have seen the look on your faces as we approached,” he declared, amusement in his voice. “You must have thought orcs were coming down the path.”

Galithil’s eyes narrowed. “What are you doing here?” he repeated Brethil’s question with clipped tones.

Anastor and Noruil smirked at him a moment and then adopted identical, innocent expressions. “We are simply walking in the forest amongst the cottages. It is a public path, is it not?” Noruil replied flippantly.

Legolas and his cousins snorted softly.

“It is, but we do not see many people walking on it at this time of night,” Brethil responded. “Especially elflings,” he added meaningfully.

Galithil nodded. “Are you lost? Should we awaken Master Crithad to escort you home?” he taunted.

Anastor and Noruil glared at him. “We do not need Brethil’s adar or anyone else to look after us. But given how frightened of our approach you were, you obviously do. So we will leave him to protect you and go on our way,” Anastor answered with a sneer as he and Noruil moved to continue on the path.

“Your cottages are in the opposite direction,” Legolas whispered after them. “I think you need Master Crithad to help you find your way home,” he said firmly. Unlike his cousins, Legolas’s voice was not mocking. It was simply serious and it made the other elflings stop and look back at him, fearing that he would indeed awaken Brethil’s father.

“We know where we are going and we do not need Master Crithad,” Noruil countered crossly.

“I find that hard to believe since you are in the forest alone, at night and obviously without your parents permission. If they knew where you were, you would not be so concerned about awakening Brethil’s adar,” Legolas responded coolly.

Anastor glowered at him for a moment. Then his expression became calculating. “It is none of your affair what we are doing, Legolas, but I will tell you despite your nosiness because we are friends and it might interest you.”

Legolas’s raised his eyebrows both at the assertion that he and Anastor were friends and at the idea that whatever mischief they were making might interest him. But he remained silent and Anastor took that as encouragement.

“We are going to the hills behind the stronghold to see the moonbow,” Anastor finished with a dramatically mysterious air.

Legolas regarded him scornfully. “Moonbow? And what precisely is that supposed to be?”

Noruil’s eyes widened with sincere surprise. “You have never heard of the moonbow?” he asked incredulously, laughter threatening to return to his voice.

“It is real, Legolas,” Brethil intervened, whispering to Legolas before he could reply. “One of the waterfalls in the hills behind the stronghold has a moonbow in it when it is flowing heavily and when the moon is full. I heard Dollion telling ada about it once.”

“But what is a moonbow?” Berior asked, unable to conceal his curiosity. Legolas also looked at Brethil inquisitively.

“It is like a rainbow, but you can only see it at night because the moon makes it,” Brethil responded.

Anastor looked at Legolas and his cousins. “I would invite you to come look at it with us, but you are probably too afraid,” he said disdainfully, starting to turn away and motioning for Noruil to follow him.

Galithil snorted. “I am not afraid and I want to see it. I will come with you,” he said, standing.

Legolas and Brethil’s eyes widened. Legolas stood and caught Galithil’s arm to stop him. “We cannot leave the yard,” he said firmly. Brethil glanced at his father and nodded vigorously.

Galithil scowled and leaned into Legolas’s face to whisper in a very low voice. “No one told us we could not leave the yard and the hills behind the stronghold are well within the area where we are allowed to play. I am not going to let Anastor and Noruil think I am too afraid to go with them. And besides, the moonbow sounds pretty.” He took a step back and looked at Legolas levelly. “It sounds like something you would be interested in seeing.”

Legolas returned his cousin’s gaze evenly. “It is. But we cannot leave the yard. We can ask our adars to take us to see it some other time.”

“You can only see it on the night of the full moon,” Anastor intervened. “And usually only when the melted snow and spring rains make the waterfall heavy. If you do not come tonight, you will have to wait until next month when the moon is full again. If there is still enough water in the waterfall then.”

Galithil looked at Legolas intensely.

To everyone’s surprise, Berior also stood. “I want to see it too,” he declared.

Galithil smiled at him before turning back to Legolas. “Uncle may not have time to take us to see it,” he whispered heatedly. “And even if he did, next month might be too late. Who knows when we might see it if we do not go now.”

“Then we should ask Master Crithad to go with us,” Legolas argued, but his tone was clearly wavering.

Galithil shook his head. “Master Crithad is not going to take us anywhere without asking your adar first. We should go with Anastor and Noruil. We will be back long before Master Crithad awakens and we will get to see the moonbow.”

Legolas hesitated and looked at Brethil, who returned his gaze with wide, nervous eyes. Legolas sighed and looked down. “I would like to see it too,” he admitted softly. “But I do not want to cause Brethil trouble or anger Master Crithad.” He paused and then turned to Brethil. “It is Brethil’s begetting day and his house. Let him decide if we should go.”

Brethil looked up at the other three elflings who were standing and ready to follow Anastor and Noruil. “I do want to see it,” he began uncertainly. Then he glanced at his father.

“Then we should go,” Berior urged in a whisper. “It sounds pretty and it will be perfectly safe. Ada has taken me for walks along the river instead of to listen to the minstrels on the green many times in the evening after supper. This will be no different from that. And we will be back before your adar knows we are gone, so he will have nothing to worry about.”

Galithil nodded eagerly.

With another glance at his father, Brethil stood. “As long as we go quickly. I do not want ada to be worried,” he whispered.

With that, the children were off, running down the path after Anastor and Noruil.

*~*~*

Adar/ada--Father/dad

Naneth/nana--Mother/mum

Pen neth--young one

Daeradar--Grandfather

Muindor nin--My brother

Elleth/ellyth--Female elf/elves

AN: Tauron (Lord of the Forest) is the Sindarin name for Oromë, the hunter. Much of Crithad's story is paraphrased from The Silmarillion / Chapter 3: Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor.


Chapter 4 - Mischief and Moonbows--Part Two

Chapter 4: Mischief and Moonbows--Part Two

Legolas and his cousins followed Anastor and Noruil along a rushing stream that descended one of the tall hills behind the stronghold. As he scrambled over tree roots and rocks, ascending the gentle slope of the mountain, Legolas could not deny that his heart thrilled in response to the magic that was the forest at night.

For some time now, he and his cousins had been deemed old enough to remain on the green after nightfall during festivals. Legolas had always thought the splendor of those celebrations was a product of the sparkling torchlight, the music and the dancing elves or the excitement of the games and contests. He always assumed that after the torches were quenched, the minstrels stopped playing and the elves retired to their cottages, the sleeping forest would be enveloped in a blanket of silence, but now he was learning it was not so.

Though the darkness muted its colors, the forest was every bit as vibrant at night as during the day. The trees around him hummed a contented night song that the stream beside him echoed. Chirping frogs, clicking and buzzing insects and the whistles and calls of a chorus of birds completed the melody. Animals that Legolas had never seen before scurried out of his path to hide in the underbrush and peer at him, as unaccustomed to elflings as he was to them. His attention flitted from side to side to study them. Little gray and brown furry creatures rustled in the leaves, the yellow eyes of some predator shone in the shadows, and a large, curious owl glided silently from branch to branch above them, watching them intently. As Legolas looked up to meet its piercing gaze, he marveled at the silvery beauty of the moonlight flickering in the tree leaves.

“We are almost there,” Anastor whispered excitedly.

Legolas glanced at him and could not deny another reason why his heart beat so quickly: he knew perfectly well what would happen if Crithad should awaken to find them gone. Galithil never worried about disobeying his father, no matter his displeasure, and Berior’s father never displayed a temper provided the children’s misadventures did not result in injury. But Legolas did not like causing trouble with his father and he had no doubt that trouble would arise like a dragon robbed of part of his hoard if Thranduil learned his son and nephews were missing.

These disturbing thoughts were driven from his mind, when Anastor and Noruil came to a stop in front of him and Legolas registered the rushing sound of the waterfall. Looking towards it, his eyes widened in wonder and he drew a long breath.

At the foot of the waterfall, a misty spray arose where the water plummeted from the cliff and churned in the stream below. This was a favorite play spot for the elflings and Legolas knew that in the sunlight the mist glowed golden. Now he saw that at night it sparkled like a field of silver stars. But most breathtaking of all, where a shaft of moonlight found its way to the base of the waterfall through the dense foliage above, a glittering, bright arch of color leapt up from the mist and climbed into the forest to fade amongst the trees.

“It is beautiful,” Berior whispered as the owl came to perch above their heads in a tall oak.

Brethril only nodded wordlessly as he stared at the dancing colors, all the more vivid in contrast with the night shadows.

“Surely you agree this was worth coming to see, Legolas,” Galithil prodded as he also gazed with amazement at the moonbow.

“I do,” Legolas whispered, enthralled by the sight of the violet, green, yellow and red arch gleaming before him, but even more so by the sound of the water. Many times he and his friends had played next to this waterfall, and he had enjoyed its song. But tonight he almost felt as if he could hear the echo of the Music of the Ainur in its rushing water.

“Let’s climb on top of it,” Anastor called excitedly, heading towards to base of the cliff.

Legolas and his cousins blinked and looked over to see Noruil nod and follow him. Legolas gaped at them. Climbing the waterfall was dangerous in the light of day—the rocks were wet and slippery with moss and the climb was steep. Climbing it in the dark was nothing short of insane.

“You cannot climb it,” he protested. “You will fall and hurt yourself. Besides, from that angle, I doubt you will be able to see the moonbow. The sun has to be behind you for you to see a rainbow and I imagine it is the same with the moon for a moonbow,” he said, pointing to the full moon behind them.

Anastor laughed as Noruil cast them a sneering look. “We do not care about the stupid moonbow,” Anastor said. “We came here to dive off the cliff. Ada would not let us when we were swimming here this afternoon.”

Legolas’s jaw dropped. “The only thing stupider than climbing up that cliff at night would be diving off it into the pool,” he blurted. He had been taught to be more polite, so he would have regretted the harshness of his words if not for Noruil’s reply.

“If you are a coward, that would not surprise us. You do not have to come with us. Just stay down here and look at the moonbow.”

Legolas felt his face flush with anger, but when Galithil took a step forward, Legolas grabbed his arm firmly. “Do not do it, Galithil,” he said.

Brethil nodded urgently. “We could never explain to my adar how you got wet. Please do not follow them,” he pleaded.

Galithil looked at Brethil and sighed, but he did not move to follow Anastor and Noruil, so Legolas released his arm.

At that moment, the owl above them hooted loudly, causing the children to jump. Galithil scowled. Legolas and Berior turned a rueful look on it.

“Even the owl knows this is not wise,” Legolas whispered.

The owl was glaring at Anastor and Noruil, who were half way up the cliff. It hooted again, sending a haunting call into the darkness.

When another owl answered with two long hoots, Legolas and Berior smiled and squinted into the dark branches, hoping to spot their new friend’s mate. Anastor and Noruil stopped climbing and looked into the forest as well, but with alarmed rather than pleased expressions.

“Thranduil’s patrols!” Anastor whispered, beginning to pick his way hurriedly back down the cliff.

“We have to get out of here,” Noruil added, close on his heals.

All the children’s eyes widened at that announcement. Legolas stared at Anastor, though not entirely in response to what Anastor had said, but rather to how he had said it. He had never heard anyone, neither his friends, nor their parents, nor even his own uncles, refer to his father as simply ‘Thranduil.’ And he had certainly never heard anyone refer to him in the disgusted tone of voice Anastor had just used. However, he thought with mounting panic as he and his cousins waited for Anastor and Noruil to descend the cliff, that tone of voice might be justified if they were caught here, alone, at night by the patrols. His father would be furious and Legolas would certainly be disgusted with himself. Indeed, he already was.

“How do you know a patrol is coming?” he asked, as Noruil jumped to the ground, landing next to him.

Without pausing to answer, Anastor and Noruil ran past Legolas, following the stream back towards the river.

Legolas and his cousins looked at one another silently for a moment and then ran after them.

Galilthil, who was slightly older than any of the other elflings and already noticeably taller, caught up to Anastor and Noruil easily. “How do you know a patrol is coming?” he asked, repeating Legolas’s question in a demanding, almost threatening, voice.

“Shhh,” Noruil hissed, glancing over at him as they ran. “They are adults. Do you think they will have trouble tracking us? There is no need to make it easier for them by making so much noise that they can follow your voice alone.”

Galithil glared at Noruil and drew a breath to argue with him. Anastor intervened.

“The patrols use a call that sounds like an owl but their call has two notes. The real owl’s is always three or more,” he whispered in answer to Galithil’s question, trying to forestall more noise. As if to confirm his claim, something hooted twice, much closer to them than the first call had been.

Anastor and Noruil ran faster.

When they reached where the stream joined the river, rather than turning to follow the river upstream to where rocks made a relatively easy path across it, Anastor and Noruil leapt into an ancient tree that over hung the river. Legolas stopped at its feet, his cousins piling up behind him, and looked at the other children as if they were mad.

“You cannot hope to hide from the patrols in a tree!” he exclaimed in an incredulous whisper. “They are smart enough to find you there.”

Anastor and Noruil did not pause to answer him, nor did they conceal themselves amongst the leaves. Instead, Anastor began climbing out along one of the lower and thickest branches.

Galithil took a step towards the bank of the river to stand underneath them. “What are you doing?” he whispered urgently. “That branch will not hold your weight if you go out much further. You will fall into the river,” he warned.

All four children gasped when Anastor leapt from the branch, which was beginning to bend dangerously close to the breaking point. His hands just barely closed around another branch on a tree on the far side of the river. As Anastor scrambled onto that branch, Noruil began climbing out to make the same leap.

“You had better hurry,” Anastor called, gesturing for Legolas and his cousins to climb the tree.

Even Galithil shook his head.

“We are not doing that,” Legolas replied as Noruil launched himself into the air. He caught the branch on the opposite bank with one hand and loosed an involuntary cry as he struggled to hold on and pull himself up. Another owl hoot answered him, now very near.

Anastor again waved for them to climb into the tree. When Noruil reached his side, panting heavily, Anastor shook his head once and leapt to the ground on the opposite bank. “If you will not jump, then you will be caught. You will never reach the stones in time to cross that way,” he declared as he and Noruil turned and ran away from the river.

Legolas and his cousins looked uncertainly between the tree, the opposite bank of the river and the forest behind them, which concealed the approaching warriors.

“I cannot make that jump,” Berior whispered, eyes wide. Brethil nodded his agreement.

Legolas glared at Anastor and Noruil as they disappeared in the darkness. “I would rather be caught than try that anyway,” he replied. “Our adars will not kill us but the river might if we fall in. Come. We will try to make it to the rocks.”

They dashed along the riverbank, heedless of the noise they made crashing through the undergrowth and over the roots and rocks. Behind them they heard voices—one was saying that someone had crossed in the trees since the branches had torn leaves; another was saying that someone else was obviously still on this side of the river because they were leaving a plan trail along the bank. After a few moments of muffled conversation, the children heard footsteps pursuing them and voices calling for them to stop before they were injured.

But they had reached the rocks. Galithil took Berior’s hand and quickly began picking his way across the river, steadying his smaller cousin as they went. Galithil’s legs were long and the crossing was easy for him. After them, Legolas and Brethil went together. Though Legolas was a year older than Brethil, he was not much bigger. For them, the crossing was more of a challenge.

The rocks were far enough apart to force the elflings to jump from one to another. The children were agile, but the rocks were wet, with slippery spots where algae and moss grew on them. Crossing the river this way was always an exciting adventure in the daytime. That night, when they went to the waterfall with Anastor and Noruil, Legolas had not thought the crossing in the dark had been so much an adventure as it was foolishness, and he had considered turning back to Brethil’s cottage then. Now, as he jumped from rock to rock pursued by the patrol, he wished that he had turned back before. It was with a great sigh of relief that he landed safely on the last rock, nearest the opposite shore, avoiding a large patch of slick moss. He had only one more jump to join Galithil and Berior on the bank.

Brethil hurried to follow him, anxious to reach the safety of his yard. In his haste, he did not wait for Legolas to extend a steadying hand before he jumped to join him on the last rock. He also did not notice the slippery spot that Legolas had avoided nor did Legolas have time to warn him.

As soon as his foot hit the moss, it slipped from under him. Arms flailing, he began to fall backwards. With an alarmed cry, Legolas automatically reached out and caught Brethil’s wrist, but the moment he did, he realized he would not be able to prevent his cousin from falling in the water. He braced himself to at least prevent the swift current from pulling his wrist from his grasp. Suddenly, another hand caught Brethil’s other arm. Legolas turned to see Galithil balanced precariously next to him, one foot on the rock and the other on the bank. Together, they pulled Brethil to his feet on the rock. Pausing only a moment to exchange a frightened and thankful look, they quickly jumped off the rock to the riverbank.

Relieved to be past the greatest obstacle to their escape, the elflings ran out from the cover of the trees without pause and dashed across the green. As they disappeared into the forest on its far side, Legolas glanced behind them and saw the warriors crossing the river on the rocks. Breathing a sigh of relief, he silently slid into the shadows and followed his cousins along the stone path that led to Brethil’s cottage.

Reaching Brethil’s yard, the four elflings ran to where their blankets were spread on the ground and flung themselves onto them, grateful to have apparently escaped the patrols. It was immediately apparent that they were not safe yet, however. Their panting and scampering feet had been enough to awaken Crithad. All four elflings held their breath as he quickly sat up and looked about with alarm, first searching the yard and then the trees surrounding it for the creature that had made the noise that awakened him. When he finally looked at the elflings, who were staring at him with round eyes, he drew a sharp, surprised breath in response to their expressions.

“Is something wrong? Did you see something?” he asked, drawing closer to them and studying their faces.

They looked from him to each other and then quickly down or away into the woods, avoiding his eyes. Crithad frowned when he noticed they were all breathing heavily. “Did something frighten you?” he pressed with concern in his voice.

At that moment the hoot of one of the warriors sounded in the distance. The children looked towards the sound involuntarily, their eyes widening further as they realized that the patrol was still pursuing them.

Misunderstanding the reason for their obvious panic, Crithad sighed. “That is only one of the king’s patrols. They use a call similar to an owl’s at night to communicate and keep track of each other. It is nothing to fear,” he said soothingly.

The children remained silent and again looked down.

Crithad gathered Brethil against him with one arm and stroked the other children’s cheeks or hair sympathetically. “Perhaps your naneth was right, Brethil. Those stories were not a very good idea. I am so sorry that I frightened you with them,” he said, rubbing his son’s back softly.

Tucked in his father’s arms, Brethil exchanged a surprised and guilty look with his friends in response to the assumption his father had made. Legolas, Galithil and Berior bit their lips and stared fixedly at the ground. Brethil squirmed uncomfortably, but along with the others, he remained quiet.

Crithad’s concern grew with their continued silence. “Do you want to spend the rest of the night inside?” he asked softly.

Still without speaking, the elflings glanced into the forest towards the sound of the approaching patrol. Then they nodded and hastily stood to gather their blankets.

As they all entered the cottage, another owl call sounded, closer to Crithad’s yard.

*~*~*

Seated in her traditional place at one of the tables in the library, Eirienil studied her cousins suspiciously. That they had returned on time from their adventure at Brethil’s cottage was odd enough in her mind. Normally, their parents had to send someone to fetch them, usually drag them, to lessons after such nights. And the fact that they were completely quiet—focused resolutely on the arithmetic problems Rodonon had assigned them—made Eirienil certain that something was amiss.

“I still do not think it is fair that Brethil invited only you to camp in his yard with him last night,” she said, in an attempt to draw them into talking.

“You are an elleth,” Galithil replied disdainfully without looking up from his work. His tone implied that was the only explanation necessary.

Eirienil glared at him “I camped with you when our adars took us to the river last fall,” she countered. “And they let me try to start the fire, not any of you.”

Galithil scowled and drew a sharp breath to voice his opinion of her presence on that occasion as well.

Legolas shot him an irate look and spoke before Galithil could begin an argument. “You would not have enjoyed it anyway, Eirienil. We did not do anything that you like.”

Berior nodded in agreement as he finished the first page of his problems and pushed it aside with a flourish. He was the youngest of the four, so his work was considerably easier than that of his cousins. “That is true. We played Orthor from after dinner until sunset.”

Eirienil wrinkled her nose at that.

Galithil smirked at her. “And when it was dark, Master Crithad told us stories about the Shadow that stole elves from the forests around Cuiviénen,” he said dramatically.

Eirienil turned back to her work coolly. “We already know those stories,” she replied calmly, refusing to allow Galithil to goad her into the type of reaction she knew he wanted.

“Yes, but we have not learned about the vampire Thuringwethil yet,” he added and smiled when she glanced at him nervously.

Berior frowned. “And we still have not, because Brethil’s nana would not let his ada tell us that story,” he said firmly, meeting Galithil’s betrayed gaze evenly. He did not like to tease Eirienil. “You would have liked the moonbow though, Eirienil,” he said, turning to her with an eager smile, obviously prepared to elaborate.

When both Legolas and Galithil kicked him under the table, Berior jumped and returned their warning glares crossly.

Eirienil raised her eyebrows. “What moonbow?” she asked primly, allowing herself a brief, satisfied smile before turning an expectant gaze on Legolas and Galithil. She knew she had found the reason for their odd behavior.

Legolas looked at Galithil nervously, pressing his lips into a thin line.

Galithil looked down to hide a grimace. “We learned about moonbows too,” he replied dismissively with exaggerated boredom before turning back to his lesson. Legolas did the same, ignoring Eirienil’s openly doubtful gaze.

“What did you learn about moonbows?” she asked, looking at Berior. He was the most likely source of information, but given Legolas and Galithil’s reaction to the topic, he had returned his focus to his lesson and was counting on his fingers, pretending not to notice her.

“I think the question should be, ‘what did you learn about multiplication?” a deep voice said from behind them. Rodonon had returned from wandering amongst the shelves in the library and was carrying a large stack of scrolls. “We are working on mathematics at the moment, are we not?” he asked, placing the scrolls on his own desk rather than the table in front of the elflings.

The children looked relieved that the scrolls did not appear to be for them.

“Berior told me that they learned something about moonbows last night and now he will not say anything else about them,” Eirienil reported, stubbornly refusing to abandon the topic, much to her cousins’ obvious chagrin. “What is a moonbow, Master Rodonon?”

Rodonon sighed softly before joining his pupils at the table. “A moonbow is the same as a rainbow, but the light of the moon produces it rather than the light of the sun,” he replied, holding out his hand for the arithmetic problems. The four elflings slid their papers down the table to him.

Eirienil smiled as she did. “Rainbows are beautiful. I wish we could see them more often,” she said wistfully as Rodonon looked over their work.

He was pleasantly surprised to see a great deal more of it done than he had expected since they were talking rather than working when he returned. Given that, he decided that dedicating a moment to moonbows might not be undeserved. “They are more than just beautiful,” he replied. “It is a blessing to see a rainbow or a moonbow. Do you children know why?”

Eirienil shook her head, but to Rodonon’s increasing surprise, the ellyn looked at him with even greater interest.

“Rainbows are made by Ulmo’s rain at the bidding of Yavanna,” he explained. “She uses them to bring colors to the plants and flowers. When you glimpse a rainbow, you are seeing Yavanna performing her sacred work bringing beauty and life to Arda.”

Eirienil appeared appropriately awed by that explanation, but even more so were the ellyn.

“What about moonbows? Are they made by Yavanna and Ulmo too?” Legolas asked.

Rodonon nodded. “There are flowers in the forest that bloom only at night. Moonbows bring them their color,” he replied. Then he brightened, as if remembering something. “Most often we see moonbows and rainbows after a rain shower, but sometimes we can see can see them form in the mist of a waterfall or swiftly running river. There is often a moonbow in one of the waterfalls in the hills behind the stronghold. I will ask your adars if I may take you to see it tonight if you would like,” he offered, pleased to see his pupils so interested in any subject.

To his disappointment, Legolas frowned and shook his head. “But last night was the full moon and you can only see the moonbow in the full moon,” he replied.

Rodonon raised his eyebrows. “Who told you that, Legolas?” he asked.

Legolas chewed his lip for a moment. “One of the elflings at Brethil’s cottage told us about the moonbow in the waterfall,” Legolas admitted reluctantly. “He said it would only appear on the night of a full moon and only when the waterfall was heavy.”

Rodonon laughed lightly. “It would certainly be most brilliant under those conditions, but you could see it perfectly well tonight, the night after the full moon. The moon will still be very bright.” Rodonon’s laughter faded when Legolas, Galithil and Berior exchanged an angry look. “I am sure the child who told you it could only be seen the night of the full moon was simply mistaken,” he added softly.

Legolas and his cousins did not respond.

“Would you like to go see it tonight?” he asked, studying them closely.

“Yes, please!” Eirienil replied, leaning forward and nodding eagerly.

Rodonon was puzzled when the ellyn only nodded in a very subdued manner.

*~*~*

“It is very worrisome that the Men lost their winter grain crop to the winter’s deep freezes,” Thranduil’s steward, Hallion, said gravely while exchanging a troubled glance with Celonhael, who had just reported this information.

“Indeed,” Golwon responded. “We have nearly exhausted the supply we obtained from them last fall and now they will have none for themselves, much less a surplus to trade with us this spring.” He turned to Thranduil. “Some of the village leaders have expressed concerns to me regarding the portions of bread we are supplying as it is. I had hoped to be able to report better news to them soon.”

Celonhael looked at Golwon sympathetically. “It does not appear you will be able to do that,” he said quietly.

Thranduil listened to this exchange without comment.

“Does Lindomiel know this yet, Celonhael?” Dieneryn asked. She helped the queen manage the king’s household and knew this was information Lindomiel would need to hear.

Celonhael shook his head. “The elves we sent to Dale had just returned before this meeting. I only spoke with them briefly and this was the most important news they learned on their trip.”

Dieneryn sighed. “I will tell her this afternoon then. She will not be pleased. She was telling me only yesterday that the grain is not the only supply we are short on after the long winter.”

Thranduil turned to his mother. “Tell Lindomiel that I would like a report on the supplies remaining in our stores and whatever information she has regarding how soon we can expect to begin to gather more from the forest. The trees protect the forest floor, so we are not so affected by the frosts as the Men are on the open plains. Surely we can expect to see the return of greens and better hunting soon.” He paused to study his mother’s concerned expression a moment. “Do you think Lindomiel could join us tomorrow afternoon to make that report?”

Dieneryn nodded. “I expect she could make it now if you called her,” she responded. “But I will tell her that you want her to attend the afternoon council tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” Thranduil said, turning to Hallion to signal him to move on to the next order of business.

A knock sounded on the office door and the guard opened it.

“Lord Aradunnon and Dollion would like to speak to you, my lord,” he announced.

Thranduil nodded and the guard admitted his brother and the captain of the Palace Guard. The king looked at his brother with raised eyebrows. Aradunnon, the realm’s troop commander, hated being confined in meetings and he normally used any excuse to avoid attending the afternoon council, so Thranduil was surprised to see him appear now without a direct order to bring him. Thranduil’s curious expression turned to one of concern when he saw the openly furious look on his brother’s face.

“What has happened,” he asked, looking now at Dollion, who appeared nervous. Thranduil frowned. Aradunnon and Dollion had been very close friends since Aradunnon was a child. He could not imagine what had happened between them that had made Aradunnon angry, Dollion anxious and that merited his intervention.

“Tell the king what you told me,” Aradunnon ordered sharply.

Thranduil looked at Dollion expectantly as the captain hesitated, glancing between Thranduil and his councilors.

“I have more information about the youths that have been sneaking around the stronghold at night, my lord,” Dollion began. “My warriors got a plain look at one of the children last night.”

Thranduil glanced at Aradunnon with some confusion at his brother’s anger. “That is good news,” he responded. “The sooner we discover their identities, the sooner we can let their parents know they have been wandering at night. I am sure that will put an end to the distractions the Palace Guard has been forced to endure because of them.”

Dollion tried to hide a grimace and Thranduil’s eyebrows climbed as Aradunnon scowled. “Tell him,” he growled.

“The child my warriors saw was Legolas, my lord,” Dollion said softly, looking at the floor.

Thranduil stared silently at Dollion for a moment. Then his brows drew together and expression matched Aradunnon’s. “What?” he exclaimed, his voice rising dangerously. He stood and turned to Aradunnon, glaring at him. “Would you care to explain to me how Legolas could be getting past the guards that stand at the door to our chambers and the guards at the Gates to get into the forest at night, commander?”

Dollion shook his head and answered before Aradunnon could respond. “I spoke to every guard that has stood at either of those posts since the last snow, my lord. They all swore to me that there is no possible way Legolas could be leaving the stronghold at night.”

Aradunnon nodded. “I do not think our children are the ones that have been plaguing the patrols this spring, but they were certainly doing so last night. I spoke to the warriors that saw the children myself. They were certain the elfling they saw was Legolas and I believe them.” He paused. “They must have taken advantage of sleeping in Crithad’s cottage last night to sneak into the forest.” He glanced at Celonhael, whose eyes were wide with dismay. “And if Legolas was there, it is a safe bet that Galithil and Berior were as well.” He sighed, obviously struggling to rein in his anger. “Perhaps they can tell us who the other children are that have been roaming at night. I certainly hope Brethil is not one of them. Crithad will be horrified.”

Thranduil’s eyes narrowed. “Not as horrified as those children are going to be when I get hold of them,” he said in a low voice.

Dieneryn stood and placed a hand on her son’s arm. “Perhaps I should go find Lindomiel, Amoneth and Ollwen,” she suggested quietly.

Thranduil smiled at her wryly. “Having the children’s mothers here might prove to be very wise, naneth,” he replied. “I think I will go find my son and his cousins and bring them back here.” He glanced between Celonhael and Aradunnon. “Would you care to join me?”

Hallion winced slightly in response to the angrily enthusiastic nod Aradunnon gave his brother. He stood as well. “I am sure Amglaur could fetch them,” he said hastily, casting a meaningful look at Dieneryn, who nodded. “We should finish our work here before they arrive so you are free to deal with them, my lord.” He turned to Aradunnon. “Do you have the evening reports from the patrols? Did you hear from the captain of the western patrol about orcs near the Forest Gate?”

Aradunnon glared at his brother’s steward, but he did seat himself at the table as Dieneryn left the room with Dollion. “You may distract me momentarily, Hallion, but in the long run, it will do no good. I intend to see to it that Galithil remembers my response to this misadventure for a very long time.”

Hallion felt a pang of sympathy for his ‘nephews’ when he saw Thranduil’s grim nod of agreement.

*~*~*

Legolas and his cousins sat in a glade with Brethil painting the Orthor figures that Amglaur had made for Brethil’s begetting day. Rather than chattering as they worked, they were unusually quiet.

Brethil sighed as he placed a completed piece down on the ground to dry. Legolas looked at him uncomfortably.

"Your adar did not suspect anything about last night, did he Brethil?" he asked.

Brethil shook his head. "No, but I still feel badly about deceiving him." He glanced up at Legolas ruefully. "He has apologized for frightening us with the stories three times," he said, looking back down to study the new little archer in his hand. "It is not right to let ada continue thinking he did something wrong just to hide what we did."

Legolas put aside the figure he was painting and nodded. "In our lessons this morning, Eirienil knew something had happened. It was very difficult to avoid telling her."

"I do not understand why we did not tell her," Berior said irritably, rubbing his shin where his cousins had kicked him. "She would love the moonbow. And what is the point of seeing something pretty if we cannot talk about it with anyone?"

"Eirienil would tell Master Rodonon and our parents," Galithil answered sharply. "She cannot keep a secret."

"And neither should we if it means we must lie to do so," Legolas responded in a soft voice without looking at his cousin.

"We are not lying," Galithil said, though he did not sound entirely certain of his own words. "We told Master Rodonon and Eirienil that another elfling told us about the moonbow and that is true."

"It is part of the truth," Brethil said dejectedly.

"And ada says a half truth is a whole lie," Legolas added. "He would be angrier at us for lying to Brethil's adar than he would be that we went to see the moonbow in the first place."

Galithil bit his lip and looked down. He knew he could not deny that. And he knew that whereas his own father might be more lenient in some areas than his uncle, his expectation for honesty was not one of those areas.

"I wish we had not gone to see the moonbow," Brethil moaned, leaning back against a tree and letting the archer fall to his lap.

Berior nodded. "It is worse than you know. We sneaked away to see it for no good reason. It is not true that it is there only on the night of the full moon. Master Rodonon told us that the moonbow will be there tonight too and he is going to ask our parents if we can go see it."

Brethil looked up at Berior, surprised. "Do you think Anastor and Noruil knew that?" he asked.

Legolas scowled. "I do," he replied bitterly. "I think they wanted us to come with them so we could not awaken your adar and tell him they were in the forest. And I think they wanted to see if they could frighten us."

"If we go tonight, we are going to have to pretend that we have never seen the moonbow,” Berior said. “I do not want to do that."

"Neither do I," Legolas agreed.

Galithil's brows drew together. "Our parents are going to be very suspicious if we tell them that we do not want to go," he said, his voice rising slightly with concern.

Legolas looked at him evenly. "I think we should tell them that we have already been to see it," he said steadily. “Otherwise we going to have to tell a series of lies and we will be in even more trouble when we are eventually caught.”

Galithil's eyes widened and he appeared ready to protest. Then he deflated, shoulders slumping and eyes turning to the ground. "You are right,” he conceded quietly. “I will do it if the rest of you want to."

Legolas looked at Berior, who nodded quickly. Then he looked at Brethil. He was obviously nervous, but he nodded also. "I think we should tell my adar first," he suggested.

Legolas stood and the others followed him. They gathered up the Orthor pieces and headed towards Brethil’s cottage.

*~*~*

Adar/ada--Father/dad

Naneth/nana--Mother/mum

Daeradar/daerdad--Grandfather/granddad

Elleth/Ellyth--Female elf/elves

Ellon/Ellyn-- Male elf/elves


Chapter 5 - Mischief and Moonbows--Part Three

Chapter 5 : Mischief and Moonbows--Part Three

The children walked down the path that led to Brethil’s cottage. Instead of chattering happily, their expressions were somber and their eyes were fixed on the ground before them. As they approached where the forest opened up into Brethil’s yard, they came to a stop and glanced at each other nervously.

“I have never seen your adar angry,” Berior said timidly to Brethil.

Brethil grimaced. “I have never seen him really angry either, but I think we are about to,” he replied in a rueful voice.

Galithil placed a sympathetic hand on his friend’s shoulder. “We have to tell our parents before Master Rodonon takes us to see the moonbow tonight, but we do not have to tell them that you went with us. If you do not want to tell your adar, we will not get you in trouble.”

Legolas and Berior nodded.

Brethil looked at Galithil appreciatively but shook his head. “You do not want to have to pretend that you have never seen the moonbow and I do not want to pretend that the stories frightened us. I have to tell him.” He paused and looked towards the end of the path. “And I want to get it over with,” he said resolutely, resuming the march to his yard. Legolas and his cousins followed him.

When they emerged from the forest, Crithad was standing in front of his cottage speaking to Amglaur. They both wore very serious expressions. Seeing them, the children’s determined strides faltered and they stumbled to a halt, looking up at the adults apprehensively. Rather than running to greet his grandfather as he normally would, Legolas studiously avoided his gaze.

"You saved me the trouble of going to find you," Crithad said, looking between Amglaur and the children. His eyes settled on Legolas. "Your daeradar just arrived. He says your adars want to speak to you."

"We will come in a moment, daerada," Legolas said quietly, still without looking up.

"We were on our way there anyway," Berior added.

"But we have to tell my adar something first," Brethil concluded.

Amglaur’s brow creased and he drew a breath to inform them that they were going immediately.

Crithad raised his eyebrows and looked at the children with concern, also preparing to tell them to go along with Amlgaur without argument.

But Brethil did not give either adult the chance to interrupt. Having worked up the courage to make his confession, he wanted to do it before his nerve failed him.

"Ada, we were not frightened because of the stories you told us last night," he said hurriedly. "We were not really frightened at all. We were acting the way we were because we went to the hills behind the stronghold to look at the moonbow in the big waterfall and we were almost caught by the patrols and we ran back here. The noise that woke you up was us running back into the yard."

Crithad's concerned expression swiftly changed to one of disbelief and then shocked anger. He stared down at his son for a long moment and then knelt on the ground in front of him, grasping him by both shoulders.

"You did what?" he asked, voice rising in pitch and volume, causing Brethil to automatically shrink back as far as his father’s grasp allowed. “Do you have any idea how dangerous…? Of course you do—you know perfectly well that dangerous animals come out at night to search for food.” He gave Brethil a light shake. “Tell me how you could do something so stupid as to go into the forest at night alone!”

Confronted with his father’s obvious anger, Brethil's courage deserted him and he found he could only silently stare back at his flashing eyes, tears coming to his own.

"It was not Brethil's fault, Master Crithad," Galithil said, stepping forward. "I was the first to suggest we go. Brethil did not want to do it."

"That is true," Legolas agreed, coming to stand next to his cousin. "We all wanted to go except Brethil. He only went because the three of us did."

Crithad stared at Legolas and his cousins with angered disbelief.

"We are sorry," Legolas whispered, feeling tears come to his own eyes.

Crithad took a deep breath in an effort to respond to the child’s apology calmly. “You are very lucky you did not run into any sort of trouble,” he said. Then he sighed. “Not that you have avoided trouble entirely—you are certainly in a great deal of it now.”

Brethil drew a shuddering breath and looked down in an attempt to hide his tears.

Crithad scowled and released his grip on his son’s shoulders. “I am very angry, Brethil.” His eyes swept over the other elflings. “With all of you. I cannot imagine how you could do something so foolish.” He paused and continued in as calm a tone as he could muster. “But I am pleased that you told me. Honesty is very important.”

The children only nodded in response.

Amglaur crouched beside Crithad to speak to the elflings. "I assume you intend to make the same confession to your adars?" he asked softly, addressing Legolas and his cousins. Again, they nodded. "I think that would be very wise.”

Legolas finally glanced up at him, hearing the sympathy in his voice.

Amglaur looked back at his grandson evenly. “You will help yourself further if you show your parents that you completely understand what you have done wrong. Was going into the forest alone your only misdeed?"

They shook their heads.

"Letting Master Crithad believe we had been frightened by the stories he told us to hide what we had done was the same as lying to him," Legolas said, looking regretfully at his friend's adar. The tears in Legolas’s eyes stung in earnest when Crithad nodded with a clearly disappointed expression

"Yes, it was," Amglaur replied with a gentle voice. “But as he said, it helps that you have been honest now.” Then he paused and waited for them to continue. When they offered nothing more, he raised his eyebrows. "Do you understand that you betrayed your parents’ trust in you and worst still, you betrayed Master Crithad's trust while a guest in his home? When he invited you to camp in his yard, he believed you would behave in a responsible manner. When your parents permitted you to stay, they believed the same. You failed their trust."

All four elflings squirmed in response to that.

"We are sorry," Legolas repeated and his cousins echoed him, their voices truly miserable this time.

Crithad sat back on his heals and studied them for a moment. Then he stood and reached for Brethil's hand. "Come," he said quietly. "Your adars are not going to be any happier to hear this confession if they are made to wait for it," he said, starting off towards the path that led to the stronghold.

Amglaur stood as well and stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. "I was sent for these three," he said, indicating Legolas and his cousins. "You need not come," he continued, looking with pity at Brethil.

Crithad shook his head. "They stood with Brethil. He will stand with them," he replied and suppressed a smile when Brethil tried to put on a brave face and nodded. Crithad stroked his son's hair briefly in approval. Then he looked at Amglaur ruefully. "And I cannot believe that the king will not wish to speak to me when he finds out what happened while his son and nephews were in my care."

Legolas looked up, his eyes widening. "You did not do anything wrong, Master Crithad. This was our fault."

Crithad looked at him solemnly. "We will see, Legolas, but I think we had better go speak to your adars,” he replied, turning to lead the way to the path.

*~*~*

Thranduil silently accepted the goblet of wine that Lindomiel offered him, but his eyes did not move from the door of the family sitting room. He sipped the wine, oblivious to the presence of his family gathered around him. Now that he had recovered from the initial shock of hearing that his son was the elfling seen by the patrols, Thranduil found he could not turn his thoughts from all that might have happened while Legolas was wandering the forest—thoughts that sent his heart racing, which in turn caused his anger to rise again. He was aware of Lindomiel watching him as she seated herself next to Amoneth, Galithil’s mother, but he ignored her gaze.

“They are fine, Thranduil,” she reassured him in a soft voice. Outwardly, Thranduil’s expression appeared stern, but she could easily read the lines of concern in his features and the tension in his posture. “We would know if any of them had been injured. Crithad and Merileth would not have missed such a thing, and even if they had, Rodonon would have noticed during their lessons.”

Thranduil frowned and he looked at her sidelong. “Rodonon did mention to me that they were behaving oddly this morning. He said they were unusually quiet. Normally after an evening with their friends they are much more unruly during their lessons.”

Lindomiel sighed. “I am not surprised that they were behaving a little strangely after doing something so dangerous. They are likely a little worried about being caught in such a misdeed.”

To their left, Thranduil’s brother, Aradunnon, loosed a bitter snort. “Well, caught they are and before I am finished with him, Galithil may wish that he had some minor injury to inspire my pity.”

“Aradunnon!” Amoneth exclaimed with dismay, letting her embroidery fall to her lap as she stared at her husband.

Aradunnon’s expression hardened. “This is the latest in a long series of misbehaviors, Amoneth. I have reached the end of my tolerance—this was not a mistake, it was outright defiance. There is no question that they understand wandering in the forest is not allowed—else they would not have run from the patrols. Yet they chose to violate our trust and that of their host to endanger themselves. Then they hid their actions. This type of behavior must be stopped before Galithil and his cousins are seriously injured doing something equally foolish— and before they earn a reputation that they cannot escape.”

Lips pressed together, Amoneth glared at Aradunnon for a moment and then turned her attention back to her embroidery. “I do not deny that they deserve a punishment they will not soon forget,” she said tightly, eyes on her needle. “But I think that saying they will wish they had some injury to distract you is a terribly foolish way to tempt fate.”

Aradunnon scowled, but did not argue.

“Try to remember that elflings do not have an adult’s wisdom or knowledge of the world, ion nin,” Dieneryn said after a moment’s silence. She was sitting with Lindomiel and Amoneth sewing. “It is a parent’s job to teach them, not simply punish them.”

Aradunnon turned to her with wide eyes. “By the time Dolgailon reached Galithil’s age, he had already learned that disobeying me to go into the forest at night constituted poor judgment, naneth,” he said, pointing at his adult son, who sat in a far corner of the room with his wife, Arthiel. “Galithil knows that too—unlike his brother, he simply does not care.”

Much to his irritation, his mother only smiled at him. “All parents who raise one child seem to think that raising a second will be a similar experience. But every child is unique, ion nin. Just as you and your brother presented your adar and I with very different challenges, so will Galithil be very different from Dolgailon—and the lessons you must teach them will be different. You must accept that.”

Aradunnon sighed. “I will try to remember that, nana. And I understand that we must teach the children why this behavior is unacceptable. I simply think the lesson should be a very memorable one because this is very serious—the children consciously chose to disobey us.”

“And I agree with that,” Thranduil said decisively before anyone else could respond. “Best to make it very clear right now that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated.”

The room fell silent for a moment as the ladies studied Thranduil’s determined expression, knowing it meant he would not be moved. Aradunnon nodded at him appreciatively.

“I do not disagree that this is a serious incident,” Celonhael finally said quietly, breaking the silence, “but I think we should give them a chance to speak—listen to them before we decide what their punishment will be.” His wife, Ollwen, sitting next to him with her hand in his, nodded her agreement.

Thranduil’s brow knit and he turned to Celonhael sharply. “What do you expect that they might say to justify risking their lives by going into the forest at night, Celonhael?” he replied.

Recognizing the futility of arguing with either Thranduil or Aradunnon in their current moods, Celonhael sighed but otherwise remained silent. When Ollwen looked at him with concern, he drew his wife closer to him with an arm around her shoulders.

“You give criminals in your court an opportunity to speak, Thranduil. Surely you will show your own son the same courtesy,” Hallion said from where he sat to the side of the room, drinking wine with Dolgailon. Thranduil’s steward was also his much older cousin, who Thranduil had long respected. As such, Hallion was the only person in the family that could successfully argue with Thranduil once his mind was made up—largely because he was the only person who dared to try.

Thranduil shot his steward an irate glare, but was stunned to silence when he saw Hallion looking at him, eyes bright with amusement. Thranduil turned to him fully. “If you find something entertaining about the children’s behavior, Hallion, please share it with me, for the news that my son spent the night wandering about defenseless in the forest is nothing short of terrifying in my mind,” he said with a forbidding tone.

Hallion’s amusement did not fade. “I do not think the children’s behavior was humorous in the least, Thranduil,” he replied evenly. “But they are not injured. Equally importantly, they are obedient children at heart, who do not like to inspire your displeasure. I trust that they are going to learn from this experience and not repeat it. Because I believe that, I am able to appreciate certain memories: such as young Oropher leading his friends to explore the forest Nivrim and you rushing into battles in Menegroth before you were even of age….”

Lindomiel was nodding and smiling. “I went with my friends as a child to explore along the river. We were ‘missing’ for days. Ada was so angry with us, but we had a wonderful time—so many fascinating things to see,” she interjected.

Hallion grinned at her and then looked back at Thranduil. “If Legolas went exploring right behind the stronghold, I would say such an activity seems to be a family trait. But his misbehavior pales in comparison with his sire and grandsire’s. Let that knowledge temper your judgment, Thranduil.”

Thranduil continued to glare at Hallion for a long moment before he looked back towards the sitting room door. “If this type of behavior is a family trait, all the more reason to put a stop to it now,” he replied, but his tone was wry, not angry.

Further conversation was cut off when the door to the family quarters opened and the sound of the elflings’ footsteps were heard in the hall. Thranduil and Aradunnon focused on the door to the sitting room.

Amglaur was the first to appear in the doorway. With a nod to Thranduil, he stood to one side, allowing the children to pass into the room. They entered slowly, scanning the room for their parents anxiously. Galithil and Berior stopped just inside the door as they registered their father’s expressions—Celonhael studied his son with obvious concern while Aradunnon fixed his son with a glare stern enough to bring even Galithil up short. Legolas followed his cousins into the room and he blinked at his father’s obviously angry countenance, not expecting to see it until after they had made their confession.

Before Legolas had time to process what his father and uncles’ appearance could mean, Crithad and Brethil entered the sitting room as well. In response, Thranduil’s expression turned briefly to one of surprise before he automatically composed his face in more neutral lines and stood to greet his unexpected guest.

“Master Crithad,” he said, acknowledging Crithad’s bow with a nod of his head. He looked down at Brethil and tried to smile at him. The child looked at him with round, guilty eyes. Thranduil raised his eyebrows and looked back at Crithad. “I did not expect lord Amglaur to bring you as well,” he said, confusion evident in his tone.

Crithad returned his gaze evenly. “The children, Brethil included, have something to say to you, my lord,” he replied.

Thranduil studied at him silently for a moment and then turned his eyes back to his son and nephews, looking at them expectantly rather than angrily in his surprise.

Berior and Galithil both remained silent, eyes turning to Legolas. With a quiet sigh, Legolas looked up at his father. “Ada, last night, after Master Crithad went to sleep, we left his yard and went to see the moonbow in the waterfall behind the stronghold. And when we woke Master Crithad upon returning to the yard, we let him think that we had been frightened by noises in the forest and the stories he had told us. We know that was the same as lying to him.” He paused and glanced at Amglaur. “Daerada said that we violated your trust and Master Crithad’s by what we did and we understand that now.” He paused again and looked down, continuing in a small voice. “We are sorry for that and we did not want to continue lying to you, so we decided we had to tell you what happened.”

Thranduil stared at the children a moment, stunned by this turn of events.

“A moonbow!” Celonhael exclaimed before Thranduil had time to react. “You went into the forest alone, at night to see a moonbow!” He looked at Berior incredulously. “That is what this was about? Could you not ask me to take you to see the moonbow? Do you imagine that I would have refused? Why would you risk the trouble you must have known you would be in—not to mention the dangers in the forest—to go alone to see something I would have been delighted to take you to see?”

The children looked at Celonhael with a mixture of regret and alarm at how angry he appeared. Celonhael was always the parent they counted upon to remain calm.

“Rodonon told me he discussed the moonbow with them in their lessons today. He said that they had some strange idea that it only appeared on nights of the full moon in the spring when the waterfall is heavy,” Thranduil said quietly when the children did not speak. “Is that why you went last night?”

They nodded and looked down.

“Do not be upset, ada,” Berior pleaded, obviously distressed by his father’s reaction. “Nothing happened to us. We were near the river and right behind the stronghold. It is perfectly safe there—we walk there often after dinner.” His expression brightened slightly. “But it was even more beautiful later at night. There were all sorts of animals that I have never seen and…” he drifted off when he noticed both his parents staring at him, obviously shocked.

“Berior!” Celonhael exclaimed, reaching to draw his son closer. “When you and I walk along the river in the evenings, you are safe because I am armed and we are followed by guards. What you did last night was very dangerous. Surely you understand that. At night, there are wolves hunting and boars foraging for food—as you said, all sorts of animals that do not come out during the day because they are wary of the activity of the elves.” He fixed his son with a serious look. “Four unarmed elflings would be easy prey for such animals.” He hesitated a moment and then continued. “Not to mention the fact that there are other, more fell creatures that only come out at night.”

The children shifted nervously in response to that reminder.

“Not near the stronghold,” Galithil said, though his voice was more questioning than argumentative.

“Yes, near the stronghold,” Aradunnon responded firmly. “Sometimes spiders are seen near here. And craftier creatures might try to approach the stronghold as well—you and Legolas should know that very well…”

“Enough, Aradunnon,” Amoneth intervened when Galithil and Legolas’s eyes grew wide, remembering the time when they were infants that dark Men did attack within leagues of the stronghold.

Aradunnon glanced at her apologetically. “That is why we have patrols. And that is why you are not allowed in the forest at night,” he concluded quietly.

The children remained silent, looking at the ground.

After a moment, Lindomiel leaned forward to draw her son’s attention. “Related to the issue of how dangerous this was, I would like to know how you got to the other side of the river to follow the stream up the mountain to the waterfall. I know that during the day the guards by the gate occasionally ignore elflings sneaking across the bridge to play in the caves in the hills. But I find it very difficult to believe the night watch would ignore such activities.”

The children grimaced, knowing the answer to this question would only cause them more trouble.

“We never try to sneak past the guards, nana. We normally cross the river by jumping across stones upstream from the stronghold,” Legolas admitted quietly.

The ladies, who had not been present in Thranduil’s office to hear Aradunnon relay the details of the patrol’s report, all gasped at that revelation.

“Do you have any idea how dangerous that is, Legolas?” Lindomiel asked with a dismayed voice. “Even during the day, when you could quickly find help if one of you slipped, you could easily drown before anyone could pull you from the current. At night, who would have helped you if you had fallen into the river?”

Legolas had no answer for that question, so he looked down to avoid seeing the concern in his mother’s eyes.

“We have never fallen before,” Galithil contested softly. “It is really very easy to cross there.” Seeing anger flare in his father’s eyes again, Gailthil thought better of pursuing that argument. He pressed his lips together and fell silent.

While Galithil was speaking, Legolas and Berior glanced guiltily at Brethil. Brethil stared at his shoes and held his breath.

Thranduil’s did not miss this suspicious behavior and he narrowed his eyes at them. “Brethil, do you have something to add to this story?” he demanded in a stern voice.

Crithad frowned when his son squirmed under Thranduil’s harsh glare. The child had no experience with Thranduil in any but happy circumstances, so he was plainly unprepared to suddenly find himself the focus of his intense stare. Crithad reached to place a reassuring hand on his son’s shoulder and his eyebrows rose when Brethil jumped slightly in response.

“I slipped but I did not fall in,” he blurted. Brethil’s sister, Arthiel, gasped and Crithad’s hand tightened on his son’s shoulder. Brethil glanced at Arthiel sorrowfully and then turned to look at his father’s now pale face. “Legolas and Galithil made sure I did not fall,” he continued in a soft voice. “None of us have ever slipped before, but last night we were hurrying because the patrol was chasing us.”

Thranduil closed his eyes.

When he opened them, Aradunnon had knelt in front of the children and was looking at them intensely. “The patrol was following you to keep you safe—they only wanted to see you safely back home. You should not have run from them, much less done something so dangerous as hurrying across those slick rocks.” He sighed and sat back on his heels. Lindomiel’s question had brought up a point he very much wanted to address. The patrols had reported they found signs that at least one of the children had crossed the river by jumping through the trees. Of all the children, Galithil was the only one daring enough to try something that reckless and that thought made Aradunnon’s blood freeze. He looked at Galithil, trying to speak evenly. “All of you went across on the rocks?” he asked. “None of you crossed the river any other way?”

The children looked at each other sidelong and shook their heads.

Aradunnon scowled and reached for his son’s chin, turning his face towards his. “You began this well. Do not lie now. I know that one of you crossed the river in the trees and I believe it was you, Galithil.”

All the children looked at Gailthil with wide eyes. He drew a long breath. “I crossed the river on the rocks along with Brethil, Berior and Legolas, both coming and going from the waterfall,” Galithil replied firmly. “None of us crossed in the trees.”

Aradunnon regarded his son narrowly. “You are not lying but you are not telling the whole truth either,” he said slowly.

Galithil stared at him but said nothing more.

“Who else went with you to look at the moonbow?” Thranduil demanded as Aradunnon continued to study the children.

Brows knit, all four children looked stubbornly at the ground.

Thranduil sighed. “Did someone else go with you? Someone who fled the guard by jumping over the river in the trees?” he asked in a softer voice.

The children did not respond or even look up at him.

“Legolas, answer your adar,” Lindomiel said, her tone commanding and dismayed at the same time.

Legolas looked up at her, knowing the consequences of not complying, but clearly unwilling to tell on Anastor and Noruil.

Lindomiel frowned sadly. “Legolas, you are not betraying a friend by telling us. You are keeping him safe. What if he jumps across the river again and falls in? How will you feel if he is injured or even killed because you kept silent? Is it not better to tell us?”

Struggling with that dilemma, Legolas looked back down. He did not care for Anastor and Noruil, particularly after they had tricked he and his cousins into going with them to the moonbow. Even so, telling on another elfling was something he was not willing to do. But neither did he wish to see them injured and he could easily believe they would be after everything he had seen them do the night before.

Aradunnon scowled. “Who ever the children with you were, they have been wandering in the forest at night a good deal,” he said conversationally. “The patrols have reported seeing them or signs of them nearly every night this spring. It is only a matter of time before they are hurt. Or before something truly dangerous gets past the patrols and threatens everyone in the capital because the guards are distracted searching for elflings. Either way, the consequences will be much more serious than a parent’s punishment.”

All the children squirmed, but they remained silent.

Thranduil frowned. “I am disappointed. You showed good judgment by telling us what happened last night. It is a pity your good judgment does not extend to keeping your friends safe.” Thranduil paused to allow the elflings to speak if any would. When they did not, he continued in a stern voice. “I have one more question for you before we decide what we are going to do about this incident.” The children looked at him nervously. “Did you have this little adventure planned when you asked for permission to stay in Crithad’s yard?” he asked in a deceptively soft voice.

It did not fool Legolas. He knew they would have been in much greater trouble if the answer to that question were affirmative. He immediately shook his head along with his cousins.

“No ada. We did not even know about the moonbow until…” he drifted off when he realized that he was about to say, ‘until Anastor and Noruil told us about it.’

“Until these elflings whose identities you will not reveal told you it was there,” Thranduil finished for him. “I suppose they were the ones that told you it only appeared during the full moon?”

Legolas looked down, nodding.

Thranduil sighed. “So in addition to being foolish enough to wander the forest at night, these children helpfully misinform other children. That is encouraging,” he said sarcastically.

Legolas snorted. “I think they told us that to trick us into going with them because I threatened to wake up Master Crithad when they made fun of us for being afraid of the noises they made on the path.”

Galithil nodded his agreement. “They said we were not brave enough to go with them to see it,” he added angrily.

Thranduil’s eyebrows climbed in response to that revelation. “So these children that you are so eager to protect did more than simply tell you about the moonbow. They tricked and goaded you into going with them?” he asked, his tone both angry and clearly disappointed.

Legolas and Galithil winced. “I suppose so, ada,” Legolas replied.

Thranduil shook his head incredulously. “You allowed children who were teasing you to convince you to do something that you knew was wrong. Are you not in the least ashamed of that, Legolas?”

Legolas bit his lip. “Yes, ada,” he replied quietly. “I am.”

Thranduil glared at them a moment. “So let us make sure we understand this properly: last night, after promising us that you would behave appropriately while guests in Master Crithad’s home, you left his yard—something you have admitted you knew was wrong—to go look at a moonbow because some children who are obviously of poor character, since they were teasing you, told you it would only be visible last night. Is that correct?”

Faces screwing up with shame and an effort not to cry, the children nodded.

“Well, I think we have a thorough enough understanding of this situation. If you are certain that you do not want to tell us who your ‘friends’ were,” Thranduil’s tone was openly disdainful, “you may go back to your rooms while we decide how we are going to respond to this.”

Legolas, Galithil and Berior studied their parents, aunts and uncles and grandparents assembled in the sitting room for a moment and tried not to cry in response to the disappointment and anger they saw in their eyes. Then they turned to leave the room. As they did, Legolas’s gaze fell on Brethil. His friend was looking between the other elflings, his father and the door. He was obviously anxious to leave himself. Instead of following Berior and Galithil to the door, Legolas walked over to his friend.

“I am sorry we ruined your begetting day by dragging you into this, Brethil,” he said quietly. Then he looked up a Crithad. “And we truly are sorry that we betrayed your trust, Master Crithad,” he whispered.

Crithad drew his hand soothingly down Legolas’s hair. “I forgive you, Legolas. Your cousins and Brethil too. That does not mean that there will be no consequences for your actions, but I do forgive you.” Legolas smiled at him weakly. “Go to your room as your adar ordered,” Crithad said, giving Legolas a light shove on his shoulder.

Legolas nodded, gave Brethil one last sad look and followed his cousins from the room.

Crithad turned to Thranduil, who was still watching his son disappear in the hallway. “The children confessed this to me and apologized for it just as lord Amglaur arrived to bring them here. I thought I had best come with them and apologize for not doing a better job keeping track of them last night, my lord,” Crithad said softly.

Thranduil’s looked quickly back at his guest and he made an effort to face him with a pleasant expression.

“Nonsense, Crithad. This is no fault of yours. If you are to blame for falling asleep, then I am equally to blame for not setting a guard on your yard. I trusted them as you did. I am pleased they at least apologized to you and I add my apologies to theirs. They know better than to behave this way.”

Crithad smiled. “They are children. Exciting adventures sometimes override their better judgment. That is the nature of childhood.” He stood. “By your leave, my lord. Merileth is undoubtedly wondering what has happened to Brethil and I. We still have to tell her about this incident.”

Thranduil stood as well and nodded as Arthiel came forward to embrace her younger brother before he left. For once he did not resist her attentions. On the contrary, he buried his face against her neck, all too happy to accept her sympathy knowing that nothing pleasant awaited him once he returned to his cottage. When she released him, Crithad said his farewells and led his son from the room.

Once they were alone, Thranduil sank tiredly back into his seat. “We certainly had the discussion you wanted, Celonhael. Now what are we going to do with these children?”

*~*~*

Legolas sat cross-legged on his parents’ bed with his back against the wall, waiting for them to come pronounce his punishment. He had been waiting for several hours at least—his rumbling stomach told him that it had to be past dinnertime. Normally he would be nearly expired from boredom, but this time the lack of entertaining materials in his parents’ room did not even enter his mind. The amount of trouble he was in was more than enough to occupy his thoughts.

His mother, grandmother and aunts’ alarmed expressions when he and his cousins confessed to crossing the river on the stones; Arthiel’s gasp and Crithad’s pallor when the children were pressed to tell the complete story and divulged that Brethil had nearly fallen into the river; his father’s openly disappointed expression when they admitted they were goaded into going into the forest—all these memories made Legolas squirm uncomfortably as they rolled in his mind.

Thusly occupied, Legolas jumped when the door to his parents’ chambers finally clicked opened and they walked in. Legolas jumped off the bed and stood beside it, studying his parents nervously as they crossed the sitting room and entered the bedchambers. Lindomiel looked at him sadly, which made his heart twist within him. His father’s face, however, was unreadable.

Looking up at his impassive expression, Legolas’s heart beat even faster. He wished to see any emotion there that he could identify, so that he could gauge the degree of his father’s anger. When Thranduil seated himself on a chair by the fireplace in the room, still regarding him silently, Legolas grimaced and looked down, twining his fingers in the hem of his tunic. He tensed when he heard Thranduil draw a breath to speak.

“I am pleased that, in the end, you recognized what you had done wrong and came forward yourself,” Thranduil said with an overly calm voice. “And I am pleased that you apologized to Master Crithad without being asked to do so.”

Legolas bit his lip and remained silent. The impending ‘but’ hung heavily in the air.

“But there are certain behaviors that are simply intolerable, Legolas. Any form of deception is one of them. I know that you understand that,” he said and paused for Legolas to respond.

“I do, ada. We knew it was wrong to let Master Crithad think we were frightened and to let Master Rodonon take us to see the moonbow as if we had never seen it. That is why we decided to admit what we did,” he said in a soft voice.

Thranduil nodded. “As I said, I am pleased with that decision.”

He paused again and Legolas looked at him, hopeful that his positive words were a sign of his mood, but Thranduil continued, still in a stern voice.

“Disobedience is another behavior that I will not tolerate. You admitted that you knew going into the forest was wrong. Please explain to me how you could consciously choose to do something you knew was wrong, because I do not understand that.”

Legolas answered hesitantly with his gaze on the floor. “I do not have a reason, adar. I simply made the wrong choice and I know that, he said softly. When he finished speaking, he looked at his father and was surprised to see him nodding approvingly.

“I am further pleased that you recognize there is no excuse for your actions and you did not try to make one,” he said. Then he shook his head. “I expect better of you, Legolas. Even if it were true that the moonbow only appeared one night of every year, would it not have been wiser to tell me that you wanted to see it next year?”

Legolas frowned. “Yes, but a year is a very long time, ada,” he began.

Thranduil’s eyes widened. “No, it is not, Legolas,” he replied, sharply.

“A year is a very long time when you have lived less than twenty of them rather than several thousand,” Lindomiel intervened in a soft voice. Thranduil scowled at her, but she was looking at Legolas and ignored him. “Most of the rules we make for you, Legolas, are designed to keep you safe. You cannot defy them. Doing so could lead to much worse fates than simply whatever punishment your adar and I might impose upon you for disobedience. Do you think waiting a year would be better than injuring yourself or your cousins, ion nin?” she asked gently.

Legolas nodded. “Yes, nana. I understand that now,” he said, knowing better than to argue.

“But I do not think you understand what was, in my mind, the most serious mistake you made,” Thranduil said, fixing Legolas with a stern gaze. The child looked up at him nervously as Thranduil continued. “You had a choice: you could refuse to do something that you knew was wrong or you could endanger yourself by allowing someone who was not even treating you with respect lead you into unwise behavior. You chose to be led. That disappoints me greatly, Legolas. Do you understand why?”

“Because I chose to do the wrong thing?” he answered uncertainly. That seemed the obvious answer to him, but he had already admitted to that.

“Certainly that disappoints me, Legolas, but that is not the only problem. I am most disappointed that you allowed yourself and your cousins to be led by a child of obviously questionable character into behavior that you know is wrong,” he said in a very serious voice. “I am the leader of our people, Legolas, and I expect you to be a leader as well. At the very least, I expect you not to follow those that do not merit your allegiance.”

Legolas frowned and remained silent, thinking about what his father had said. Thranduil allowed him the time to do so.

Finally Legolas looked up, studying his father cautiously. He was not sure how he would react to being contradicted, but he did not agree with what he had said. “I admit they tricked us into going with them by saying the moonbow could only be seen last night, but that does not mean I ‘followed’ them to see it. I was curious about it and I wanted to see it; I was not simply following them. And I do not think I could have ‘led’ my cousins to do anything different than what they chose to do.”

Much to Legolas’s relief, Thranduil only nodded and responded to his argument seriously. “You said that the children you went with ‘tricked’ you. How do you suppose someone can lead another person to wrong behavior?”

Legolas frowned. “By trickery?” he replied.

Thranduil nodded. “Which worked on you in this case. Regardless of whether these children knew the moonbow can be seen most nights or not, they told you about it, knowing it would appeal to you, in order to persuade you to make a bad decision. They led you to wrong behavior through persuasive words that moved you past all reason. Is that not true?”

Legolas nodded ruefully. “Yes, it is.”

Thranduil smiled for a moment before growing serious again. “So what I am asking you to do is to think before you act and do not do something that you know is wrong, regardless of how appealing someone else’s words make it appear. Listen to yourself, Legolas. Do you understand that?”

Legolas nodded. “Yes, ada. I do.”

Thranduil appeared satisfied. “As for leading your cousins, what do you suppose Galithil, Berior and Brethil would have done if you had refused to go to see the moonbow? Would they have gone without you?”

Legolas shook his head. “They would not have gone if I had not,” he admitted. “But not because they follow me; just because we always do things together or not at all.”

Thranduil nodded once, acknowledging that argument. “But still, Legolas, if that is so, is it not true that you each have the responsibility to think about the others before making decisions that could endanger all of you?”

Legolas looked down and sighed. “Yes, ada, it does.”

“And that is leadership, Legolas. Thinking about how your decisions will affect those around you and making the choice that will benefit or protect the group is the beginning of good leadership—and that is what I expect of you. Do you understand?”

“Yes, ada,” Legolas said quietly.

Thranduil reached over and drew Legolas into his arms. “I think your cousins, especially Berior, but even Galithil to some extent, look to you more often than you realize, Legolas. I want you to live up to the trust they put in you better than you did last night.”

That comment made Legolas frown sadly. He reached up and wrapped his arms around his father’s neck and pressed his face against his chest. Thranduil held him for a moment and then spoke again.

“I want you to live up to the trust I place in you better than you did last night,” he continued. “You said that you understand you betrayed my trust and Master Crithad’s. That is true and you will have to earn it back. Do you understand that?”

Legolas pulled away slightly to look at his father cautiously, sensing that there was more to his words. “Yes, ada, I understand that,” he replied.

Thranduil nodded in a business-like manner. “Good. Until you do earn our trust again, you may not go outside the stronghold unsupervised.”

Legolas’s chewed his lip as he realized his father was finally addressing the matter of his punishment. “Then we are restricted to our rooms? For how long?” he asked in as respectful a voice as he could muster. That was a most hated punishment.

Thranduil raised his eyebrows and looked at Legolas in a way that made the child’s eyes widen in apprehension.

“Restricted to your rooms? I did not say that, Legolas,” Thranduil said evenly. “It was a punishment that your uncles and I considered, and it may be one that Galithil and Berior receive. We agreed that punishment would be used depending on how sincerely repentant you and you cousins appeared to be and how well you appeared to understand what you did wrong. I feel that you managed this conversation fairly well, so I have decided that you may avoid being restricted to your room.”

Legolas frowned. “Then what do you mean when you say we may not go outside the stronghold unsupervised?”

“I mean exactly that, Legolas. You are not allowed in the forest without supervision. You must have an adult with you anytime you are outside the stronghold until I am convinced that I can trust you to behave within the parameters that we have established.”

Legolas stared at his father in confusion. “What is the difference between that and being restricted to our rooms? We will still not be able to play in the forest or visit our friends.”

“As long as their parents are present, you may visit your friends’ cottages, but someone will have to escort you to them. And you may go into the forest with your naneth and aunts when they are working there. Otherwise, you must remain inside the stronghold.”

“As we did when we were infants?” Legolas exclaimed incredulously, beginning to grasp the implication of what his father was saying.

Thranduil nodded, without reacting to his son’s tone. “And as for the duration of this punishment, it is indefinite—it will continue until you regain our trust, however long that takes.”

Legolas stared at his father, mouth agape.

“Such is the consequence of violating someone’s trust, Legolas,” Thranduil said calmly. “You must earn it again. And believe me, that will not be an easy process or a short one. Simply be thankful that I am willing to allow you to earn my trust again, ion nin. Often when we lose someone’s trust, we can never regain it no matter how we try.”

Brow drawn taught and fists clenched with frustration, Legolas struggled to respond respectfully. “But ada, how can we earn your trust if we cannot even go into the forest. We cannot do anything to earn it or violate it.”

To Legolas’s increasing irritation, his father smiled. “You are earning it now because you are speaking to me in a largely appropriate manner, though I can tell you would like to be shouting at me.”

Legolas snorted and looked away. “I am not stupid. I do not want to be restricted to my room for a month in addition everything else.” He sighed and his stance relaxed a bit. “And I know we deserve to be punished for what we did, but I do not understand how this punishment will work.”

Lindomiel reached out and stroked her hand soothingly down her son’s hair, smiling sympathetically. “When you were very young, you had to hold my hand when ever we walked in the forest so that you could not run headlong into danger. Eventually, I saw that you had learned what was safe and what was not because you did not pull at my hand to run straight towards danger at every turn. So you were allowed to run where you liked as long as I could see you. You still had much to learn and you still got into trouble before I could stop you. When I found that rarely happened, we allowed you to play on the green alone. My point is, we gave you enough room to make mistakes and watched you carefully in case you did. This will work the same way. When you are with your aunts and I in the forest, there will still be many things you will see that you will want to investigate. We will be watching to see if you make good judgments or not.”

Legolas frowned. “Well, it is easy to make a good judgment when your naneth is two steps behind you,” he said wryly.

Lindomiel laughed. “Then perhaps that practice will help you make a habit of making good judgments.”

Legolas pressed his lips together and looked down. “It will,” he said softly.

Thranduil gathered Legolas in his arms again and placed a kiss on his head. “I hope so, Legolas. As we said before, we make rules for you to keep you safe. If anything had happened to you last night, your naneth and I would have never survived it. You are the most precious thing in the world to me.”

Legolas put his arms around his father’s waist and rested his cheek against his chest, thankful that the conversation was over. “I love you too, ada,” he said softly, earning a quiet laugh and another kiss from his father.

“There is a tray with food in your room, Legolas,” Lindomiel said, also leaning over to kiss her son. “After you eat, I think you should get ready for bed. It is late.”

Legolas looked at his parents. “Will you come tell me a story, ada?” he begged hopefully.

Thranduil smiled. Legolas was old enough for a good many privileges, but hearing a story at bedtime was a childhood treat he would not soon outgrow, it appeared. “I am sorry, Legolas,” he said with sincere regret when his son’s face fell. “Your uncles and I spent too much time dealing with your little adventure and I still have a good deal of work to finish tonight. I am afraid I have to go back to my office.”

Legolas nodded stoically. “Can I come say goodnight before I go to sleep,” he asked in a small voice.

“Of course you can,” Thranduil said, placing a final kiss on his son’s head before he stood.

*~*~*

Dressed in his nightshirt, Legolas padded softly down the hall to his father’s office, opened the door and slipped inside. Once there, he frowned in disappointment. His father was not there. He stepped further into the room to better peer around shelves and tables and desks to no avail. He was about to leave when he saw the tapestry behind his father’s desk stir as if blown in a breeze.

Eyes brightening, Legolas ran to the tapestry and peeked behind it. The secret door hidden behind it stood partially open. The door led to his mother’s garden on the ledge of the mountain. Legolas could smell the fresh green scents of the herbs and flowers and feel the cool night air.

Uncertain if he was allowed to go even in the garden at night under the circumstances, Legolas stepped just outside and poked his head around the door to look for his father. His eyes widened at what he saw there—sitting on the bench under the beech in the garden’s center was his father, reading a stack of papers in the bright moonlight. Next to him, perched on the back of the bench, sat a large, brown owl. Thranduil was absently scratching the feathers on its neck and the owl’s eyes were half-closed in pleasure.

Seeing movement by the door, the owl swung his head around and opened its eyes fully, to fix them upon the elfling. Legolas and the owl stared at one another silently for a moment before the owl opened its hooked beak and loosed a plaintive hoot. Startled, Thranduil looked up from his papers and followed the owl’s gaze to find Legolas pressed against the garden door.

He ran one hand down the owl’s back before it flew into the beech while holding the other out in invitation to his son. Still looking at the owl in the tree, Legolas ran over to the bench and climbed into his father’s lap.

“Are you ready for bed, guren?” Thranduil asked, gathering him closer.

Legolas nodded without taking his eyes off the owl. It watched him lazily. “Is that your owl, ada?” he asked curiously.

Thranduil smiled. “That owl is his own being, Legolas, but he consents to visit with me occasionally.” Thranduil looked at his son meaningfully. “He lives in the hills around the stronghold and knows a good many things about what goes on there. Because of friends like this owl, there are very few things that go on in this forest that are secret from me.”

Legolas’s gaze shifted from the owl to his father. “Was daerada looking for us because you already knew we went to the waterfall last night?”

Thranduil only nodded.

Legolas thought about that for a moment and then, looking at the owl and the moon, his thoughts drifted back to his adventure the previous night. “The forest is beautiful at night,” he whispered. “Did Eirienil go with uncle Golwon and Master Rodonon to see the moonbow tonight?”

“I think so,” Thranduil responded neutrally.

Legolas smiled. “She will love it. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen,” he said softly.

Thranduil stroked a hand down his son’s hair. “There are many beautiful things to see in the world, guren, and many ages to see them all. I know that is hard to understand at your age.” He smiled ruefully. “I suppose I worry about you as I do because I remember some of the poor judgments I made at your age. Your daeradar and uncles are fond of reminding me that you come by your curiosity and impulsiveness honestly.”

Legolas’s eyes widened with interest and Thranduil laughed.

“I am certain your daeradar will eventually tell you all manner of terrible stories about my youth, ion nin. And about my adar’s, since both your daeradars were friends as children. I only hope that he waits until you are older to undermine your respect for me and my adar.”

Legolas frowned. “I will always respect you, ada,” he said seriously. Then his eyes lit impishly. “But I would like to know what sort of trouble you and daerada Oropher caused. And if daerada Amglaur can tell stories about what daerada Oropher did, that means he was there to take part.”

Thranduil laughed at that analysis. “You be sure to remind daerada of that when he tells you those stories, ion nin,” he said. Then he grew serious and held Legolas a little closer. “Please believe me when I tell you that I do not enjoy punishing you, guren. The world contains many beautiful things, but it contains many ugly ones the likes of which you cannot yet even fathom. I do not want you to learn about those things the same way I was forced to.”

Legolas studied his father intently for a moment in response to the intensity of his voice. Then he looked down again. “I do understand that, ada. And I am sorry I went to the waterfall. I promise that I will make more effort to pay attention to my better judgment.”

Thranduil kissed Legolas’s head. “And I will hold you to that promise, Legolas,” he said solemnly, but there was something sad in his eyes that made Legolas wonder about the stories his daeradar might tell.


*~*~*

Adar/ada--Father/dad

Naneth/nana--Mother/mum

Daeradar/daerada--Granfather/grandad

Ion nin--My son

Guren--My heart


Chapter 6 - Discoveries

Chapter 6: Discoveries

Singing as they worked, one of the ellyth in the palace laundry opened the valve that allowed water to rush into the washing vats while another poured soap flakes into the water. A third, the youngest, stooped over to grasp a large basket of linen in an attempt to tip its contents into the soapy water.

She quickly made a grunting sound and let go of the basket, straightening again to stand over it with her hands on her hips.

“They must have stuffed all the household linen for the last year into this basket,” she declared when the other ellyth stopped singing to look at her, shaking their heads with amusement. She scowled at them. “One of you help me lift it and you will see how heavy it is,” she said.

The older ellyth laughed lightly. “You grow lazier as the days grow longer,” one said as she bent to help with the basket. She looked up at her friend with a teasing expression. “I think you are simply anxious to spend more time with your new husband in the forest now that spring is here.”

The younger elleth let her hands slip from her hips as a smile claimed her lips. “That is certainly true,” she replied, also bending to help dump the basket into the vat. Between them, they easily lifted it, inverting it over the vat.

As soon as they did, a high-pitched squeal arose from within the basket. Startled, the ellyth dropped it and jumped back. The linen tumbled out to hit the water with an unnaturally loud splash that was immediately followed by sounds of spluttering and more splashing.

The laundresses only needed a moment to realize what had happened. They quickly reached into the vats and pulled aside the cloth to reveal Legolas and Galithil, rubbing water and soap from their eyes, shaking their heads and drawing gasping breaths as they tried to keep their heads above the water.

The two older ellyth immediately grabbed their tunics and hauled them from the vats.

“Are you injured?” one asked, wrapping the children in towels that she pulled from a stack ready to be returned to the family chambers.

Galithil pushed the hair from his eyes and shook his head. Legolas did the same while wringing water from his tunic. The disgusted glare faded from their eyes as they recovered from their unexpected surprise.

“This would be a fun place to swim,” Galithil said, looking at Legolas. “Those vats are definitely big enough.”

Legolas nodded, now grinning. Before he could reply, the youngest laundress loosed a short laugh. “You will not think it so fine a place to swim if the queen catches you doing it,” she said.

One of the older ellyth smiled. “You would not be speaking from experience, would you?” she asked, with a knowing gleam in her eye. Then she looked at Galithil and Legolas sternly as she could. “What are you two doing in the laundry? You should be outdoors playing on a lovely spring day like today.”

Galithil’s eyes narrowed and the corner of his mouth turned down. “I agree, but our adars said we cannot go outside without supervision since we snuck away from Master Crithad’s yard to look at the moonbow. No one can go outside with us today, so we must stay in the stronghold.”

The ellyth looked at each other with raised eyebrows. “Evidence that even the king can make a bad judgment occasionally,” one said softly. “Who would think it is a good idea to keep children inside, depriving them of the opportunity to exhaust themselves in the forest?”

Galithil nodded appreciatively. “Maybe you should tell him that,” he suggested hopefully. “And my adar too.”

The ellyth laughed. “I do not think so,” the laundress replied. “And I also do not think you should be playing in the laundry baskets. What were you doing in there?”

Galithil and Legolas grinned. “Playing hide and seek with Berior and Eirienil. They are probably still trying to find us. They will never think to look for us here,” Galithil replied.

The laundresses shook their heads, smiling. “Indeed not, since you are not allowed to be in here,” one said. “You had better go back to your rooms and change before you go back to your game. And this time stay where you are supposed to be. Your parents will only be angrier with you if they catch you someplace forbidden.”

Galithil and Legolas nodded with a failing attempt to appear contrite and trotted out of the laundry.

*~*~*

Not long afterwards, Legolas, Eirienil and Berior were scurrying as silently as they could out of the stronghold entry hall, while Galithil counted to one hundred with his face buried in his arms facing a wall. Glancing back at his cousin to make sure he still had his eyes covered, Legolas motioned for Eirienil and Berior to duck into a narrow corridor that led from the entry hall directly to the private areas of the stronghold. It was not a passage that the children were prohibited to enter, but since it led mostly to meeting rooms, offices and storage rooms, they rarely used it. For the purposes of hide and seek, however, Legolas thought it would be an ideal location—one Galithil would not quickly think to search and one full of places to hide even if he did.

Recognizing Legolas’s plan, his cousins grinned excitedly and followed him, slipping silently through the door and shutting it quietly, careful not to make any telltale noise that Galithil might hear.

Once inside, Eirienil and Berior hurried along the dimly lit corridor, intent upon reaching a good hiding place. Legolas ran after them, looking from side to side at the doors that lined the walls. Eirienil pulled at one. Finding it locked, she moved on to the next. On the other side of the corridor, Legolas did the same. The third door that Eirienil tried opened and she went inside it. Legolas shook his head at her.

“Do not use the first one you find open. If Galithil looks here and finds it empty, he is more likely to give up,” he whispered.

As Eirienil nodded and closed the door to look for another open room, Legolas saw Berior walk behind a tapestry that hung from the ceiling to the floor and press himself experimentally against the wall. Legolas and Eirienil rolled their eyes at the obvious bulge Berior’s form made and at his protruding toes.

“This will certainly not do,” Legolas said sticking his head behind the tapestry with a laugh. “I can see your feet, for one thing,” he explained in response to Berior’s doubtful expression.

When Berior only turned his feet to the side and flattened himself more snuggly against the wall, Legolas snorted and flattened himself against the wall as well, intending to suggest that Berior step from behind the tapestry to see how poor a hiding place it was. As soon as he touched the wall, however, he pulled away from it with a frown and turned towards it. Studying its surface, he tentatively ran his hand across it.

“This is a terrible place to hide. Come out of here,” Eirienil said impatiently, also sticking her head behind the tapestry and motioning for the ellyn to follow her.

Berior sighed and pushed the tapestry aside to move from behind it, but Legolas did not follow. Instead, he reached out and caught his cousin’s sleeve.

“Does this wall not seem…odd to you?” he whispered.

Berior turned back to look at Legolas with a confused expression.

Eirienil scowled at him. “Galithil is going to find us if we do not hide soon,” she warned.

“I think there is a door here,” Legolas continued as if he had not heard her, still studying the wall.

Eirienil raised her eyebrows. “That is a wall, Legolas, not a door. You really do need to pay better attention in lessons if you do not understand that.”

That comment caused Legolas to turn a smirk on her. “I think it is a door like the one in ada’s office—the secret one that leads to the garden,” he replied with exaggerated patience.

Eirienil and Berior both touched the wall in response. Berior shook his head. “But there is no seam. How could there be a door here?” he whispered.

Legolas shrugged. “There is no way to tell there is a door in ada’s office either until it opens,” he answered. “Even the Great Gates close without a seam between them. Uncle Aradunnon told me once that it was magic.”

The three children looked at each other in silence a moment. They all had heard that story.

“But what makes you think there is a door here?” Eirienil finally asked a little anxiously while peering into the shadows behind Legolas at the entrance to the corridor to make sure she could not see Galithil.

Legolas shook his head slowly. “The wall here is the same as in ada’s office. It is…warmer, somehow. More alive. Does it not seem different to you?”

“It seems like a wall to me, Legolas,” Eirienil said, but Berior now had both his hands and his cheek pressed against it.

“It is different,” he said with certainty in his voice, looking at Legolas. “Do you think we can make it open?”

Legolas looked at the wall doubtfully. “I do not know how the door in ada’s office opens. He always opens it if we are going into the garden that way.”

Eirienil frowned. “All he does is push on it. And the Gates open if you push on them too. You are leaning against that wall, Legolas. If it were going to open, it would have done so by now.”

Legolas scowled and he turned fully towards the wall, pressing his hand against it purposefully. At once, the wall shifted, allowing a crack of light to shine through from the other side. At the same moment, Berior and Eirienil jumped as a hand fell on each of their shoulders.

“I found you all,” Galithil’s voice boomed. “It is not smart to stay together and this tapestry was a really foolish place to hide,” he said, laughing at his cousins’ startled expressions.

“Shhh,” Legolas hissed.

Galithil looked over to glare at his cousin, but his gaze fell upon the wall and his eyes widened. “What is that?” he whispered staring at the shaft of light.

“We found a secret door,” Legolas whispered in reply.

“Where does it go?” Galithil asked, leaning forward to peek through the crack.

“We do not know yet,” Berior replied, also edging forward and pushing the door open just wide enough for an elfling to squeeze through. Immediately they heard the muffled sound of voices on the other side.

“Maybe we should not go in,” Eirienil said softly, grabbing Berior’s arm as he started through the opening. “Secret doors typically lead to private places.”

Galithil looked at her incredulously. “Only you would find a secret door and then not go through it, Eirienil,” he said disgustedly. He poked his head through the opening. “The only thing I can see is another tapestry,” he reported. Then he looked again at his cousins. “If we go in, we will be hidden until we figure out where we are. We can go back if we have to, but I want to know where it goes.”

Legolas and Berior nodded. “We will leave it open and just peek around the tapestry to find out what room it is,” Legolas said, stepping across the threshold of the door. When Eirienil still looked at them skeptically, he sighed. “We are inside the stronghold, Eirienil. We live here. How dangerous or private could it possibly be?”

With that, the ellyn squeezed through the door. Reluctantly, Eirienil followed.

On the other side, the children found themselves standing in a very similar environment—between a tapestry and the wall. As Galithil and Berior studied the back weave of the tapestry, trying to make out the design and determine if they recognized it, Legolas focused on the murmur of a gruff voice speaking Westron. The tapestry muffled the voice, which seemed to emanate from several feet away. It was gravely and deep—too difficult for Legolas to understand, given that he had only started to learn Westron, but it sounded angry and pleading at the same time. Legolas frowned, unable to imagine who the speaker could be.

When the person stopped speaking and another, much more familiar voice responded, Galithil and Berior froze in their inspection of the tapestry, Eirienil gasped softly, and Legolas covered his mouth with his hand to stop himself from doing the same.

“Allow me to make certain that I understand what you are saying,” Thranduil said, also speaking Westron. His voice was mere feet away from the children.

Legolas and Eirienil locked eyes, exchanging an alarmed look. “The Great Hall,” Legolas mouthed silently.

Eirienil nodded and, with Berior, began backing silently towards the door. Their jaws fell open when, instead of following, Galithil laid down on the stone floor on his stomach to peek under the fringes of the tapestry. Legolas nudged him with his foot and gestured for him to get up but Galithil looked back at his cousin and shook his head with excitement in his eyes.

“Dwarves,” he mouthed.

Legolas stopped in the door’s threshold and stared at Galithil. Glancing through the door to where Eirienil and Berior had already retreated into the corridor, he hesitated only a moment before lying next to his cousin and pulling the fringe of the tapestry aside slightly with one finger to better peek into the room. He had never seen a dwarf and the opportunity was irresistible.

Between the legs of the throne, his father’s legs and the legs of another elf positioned next to the king on the dais—Legolas assumed that would be Hallion, the king’s steward—Legolas could see several elven warriors standing in front of the throne. His view was narrow, limited by the space between the floor and the bottom of the tapestry, but he could see they were armed with swords and their clothes were travel-worn. They were from one of the border patrols, he realized. He also thought he recognized that one amongst them was his uncle, Galithil’s father, Aradunnon. But the most interesting sight, partially obscured by the legs and elves and angle of the view, was the hood and graying beard of a stout creature. Holding his breath, Legolas shifted to try to get a better look at the dwarf as his father spoke.

“My patrols came upon you and your party several leagues north of the Forest Road just as you were attacked by the orcs that they were tracking. They were able to drive the orcs away in time to save your life, but the others in your party were killed. Taking pity on your loss, the captain of that patrol offered to escort you to the edge of the forest, but you insisted on coming to the stronghold to speak to me. Now you are asking me for restitution for the loss of your travel companions. Is that correct?”

Legolas saw the dwarf’s beard dip, indicating he had nodded once.

Thranduil remained silent a moment. “Please explain to me why I should owe you any sort of restitution,” he finally said in a very calm voice.

The dwarf’s hand tightened around his walking staff. “You are responsible for the safety of this forest and those in it, are you not?” he demanded crossly.

“Indeed I am,” Thranduil responded in a patient voice that Legolas recognized all too well. It was one he used when he already knew more than you would want him to know. Legolas squinted through the fringes of the tapestry at the dwarf, feeling sorry for him as his father continued speaking. “That is why we require travelers to stay on the Road—so we know where they are and can keep them safe. I believe we already noted that you were not found on the Road, but rather in the forest.”

“We were lost,” the dwarf responded angrily. “Is the punishment for being lost in your realm a sentence of death?”

“Clearly you have learned that death can be the result of wandering off the Road,” Thranduil responded with a hard tone, allowing a bit of his own irritation to show. “Though not through any intentional action or lack of action on my part. I cannot keep people safe if I am unaware of their presence or if they are not where I expect them to be.”

The dwarf made an irate noise.

Legolas cringed and willed him to remain silent for his own good. Arguing never led to a pleasant ending.

Thranduil merely raised his voice to speak over the dwarf’s protest. “I was not aware of your presence in the forest since you did not make it known either by communicating with the border guards or by paying the toll to travel across the Road. Nor did you stay on the Road. I cannot be held responsible for those choices since I had nothing to do with them. I owe you nothing, Master Dwarf. Nonetheless, I will offer you my sympathy and regret for your loss and an escort to your own lands since allowing you to travel alone would certainly result in your death.” He paused. “I will send a message with that escort to lord Durin, reminding him to encourage his people to remain on the Road while traveling through the forest.” He paused again. “And to pay the toll for using the Road.”

“The generosity of the elves has ever been legendary amongst my people,” the dwarf replied with heavy sarcasm. “Keep your escort and I will make my own report to lord Durin regarding travel through your lands,” he said shortly and then turned to leave.

Legolas and Galithil watched as the dwarf stood, facing the warriors that surrounded him, waiting for them to part and allow him to pass. When they did not move, he half turned, glaring back at Thranduil.

The room was silent a moment before Thranduil continued as if the dwarf had neither done nor said anything. Again, his tone was overly calm “Tell me Master Dwarf, have you made the journey across the Forest Road before?”

“Many times,” the dwarf responded impatiently.

“Hmm,” Thranduil murmured thoughtfully. “That is odd. My warriors told me that that they found you without nearly enough water or supplies to make the entire journey to the River Running. Experienced travelers would know the streams that once flowed near the Road from the mountains are now fouled and that I forbid travelers to hunt in the woods along the Road. How can you explain that lack of preparation, Master Dwarf?” he asked, his voice silky.

The dwarf’s feet shuffled. “I owe you no explanations,” he responded haughtily. “My travel plans and preparations are my own business, not yours.”

“Perhaps,” Thranduil replied softly. “My warriors also tell me that your party was armed heavily with bows rather than swords or axes. That is rather strange armament for a party of dwarves, it is not?”

The dwarf did not answer.

“Unusual for a traveling party, but not a hunting party, perhaps,” Thranduil added into the silence.

The dwarf still remained silent as Legolas and Galithil glanced at each other, both excitement and concern in their eyes. As young as they were, they knew perfectly well that foreigners were not allowed to hunt in the forest.

“You bear the symbols of lord Durin’s House, so I assume you are kin to him,” Thranduil said quietly. “My only question for you before my warriors escort you back to your home is this: will lord Durin be angry to hear that you were hunting in the Woodland Realm or will he be angry to hear that you were caught doing so?”

The dwarf snorted. “He will be angry to hear that his cousins were killed in your realm and that you did nothing…that you reacted scornfully with accusations against me,” he replied.

“I have expressed my sincere regret for your loss, Master Dwarf, but if you were hunting in my forest, that violates my laws. I have a right to know it. I will certainly question you since you came to speak to me of your own volition. Indeed I cannot imagine why you were so foolish as to demand to be brought to my court. Most people who have committed a crime in my forest would be anxious to escape such a fate. They would not request it.”

“I am not a criminal. I am Durin’s nephew,” the dwarf responded, now openly furious.

“We will see,” Thranduil responded coolly. “My warriors will escort you back to Khazad-dûm, where they will seek an audience with lord Durin to inform him of the details of this incident. They will ask him if your party had been sent to hunt in this forest with his blessing. I am anxious to receive his reply, because if that is the manner in which he intends to treat with me, such news will certainly affect your people’s travels through this forest in the future. But I doubt that is what I will find. I think that lord Durin sent your party to the forest not for travel, but rather to speak with me about hunting rights. I think you and your fellows took it upon yourselves to hunt before asking for the permission you were sent to obtain.” He paused. “My warriors also told me that you searched frantically through the ruins of your camp once the orcs were driven away. I think you were searching for the payment lord Durin entrusted you to use to negotiate hunting rights with me—payment that you intended to keep, that the orcs stole and that you hoped to recover by asking me for restitution.”

The dwarf took a step forward and pointed his walking stick aggressively at Thranduil. “I am no thief!” he said, enraged. “I am Narin, son of Fron, the King’s brother. I will not listen to these insults. If my brother, his son and I chose to make certain the hunting in this forest was worth the sum our King sent to bargain with, we were certainly wise to do so—Sindarin kings have been known to cheat our people in the past and given your utterly callous attitude towards the deaths of the King’s family and the insults you have issued against us, I have no doubt that your character is as poor as your ancestors’. May you meet the same end as they.”

Legolas and Galithil glanced at each other, not understanding all of the dwarf’s heated words. They did clearly understand the dwarf’s tone, however, and they gasped at the implication of his last words, especially when his hand moved to caress the small axe that hung on his belt.

They had only just noticed that gesture when the ringing sound of swords being drawn from their sheaths echoed through the room. Faster than the elflings’ eyes could follow, the guards standing to the side of the dais positioned themselves between the dwarf and the throne, swords at the ready. Aradunnon, standing amongst the warriors that had escorted the dwarf into the stronghold, had also drawn his sword—its blade now rested against the dwarf’s throat.

Forgetting the consequences of being caught, the children lifted the tapestry and poked their heads under it to better see into the Great Hall. As the guards reacted to the dwarf’s threat, Thranduil and Hallion had moved as well—Hallion stepped in front of the king as Thranduil stood. Legolas saw the glint of a knife in his father’s hand and he held his breath.

“Enough,” Thranduil’s voice boomed through the Hall, holding his guards and warriors from further action. When all eyes turned towards the king’s voice, the children shrank back, hiding once again behind the tapestry. “You are grief stricken, Master Dwarf, after the death of your brother and his son. I understand all too well the pain of losing family to the orcs and for that reason I have dealt with your violation of my borders mercifully. Nevertheless, you would be wise to not try my patience with another word lest you force me to remind you of the fates of those dwarves that brought lord Thingol to the end you wished upon me.”

The dwarf glared at Thranduil and drew a sharp breath to reply.

“Are you representing your King faithfully?” Thranduil interrupted. “Did lord Durin send you to start a war with the Woodland Realm by threatening its King after poaching game in the forest?”

Legolas and Galithil saw the dwarf raise his chin haughtily and his posture remained tense, but he held his silence and moved his hands away from his weapons.

Thranduil nodded as Hallion again moved to his side. The guards and warriors did not alter their stances, however. Only Aradunnon lowered his sword at a gesture from Thranduil.

“Arrange to take him back to his home,” Thranduil ordered, glancing between Aradunnon and Hallion. “Send enough warriors to make sure he arrives safely and send with them someone to speak to lord Durin concerning this incident. Perhaps Celonhael.”

With that, the warriors began to lead the dwarf from the room. Legolas watched him go, hoping for a better look at him, but the warriors surrounded the dwarf and their much taller forms blocked him from view.

Galithil tugged at his cousin’s sleeve. “If we hurry, we can return to the entry hall and see him before they remove him from the stronghold,” he whispered, pushing himself up.

Legolas nodded and followed swiftly, scrambling through the door and into the corridor where his cousins had already retreated and were waiting nervously. Pulling the hidden door closed, he and Galithil pushed Berior and Eirienil in front of them, towards the door that led into the entry hall. They emerged through it just as the dwarf was led out of the Great Hall.

The children stared at the dwarf, studying with open amazement his long beard, heavy stature and strange dress and weaponry, while the warriors discussed how best to deal with him until Aradunnon gave them their orders. They listened with a mixture of horror and pity as the dwarf protested his treatment, alternating between mourning his family and cursing elves in general and Thranduil in particular. Fortunately much of the language was lost on the elflings, who were not likely to ever learn such vocabulary from their tutor. Finally the dwarf lapsed back into Khuzdul, which drew Legolas a few careful steps closer to listen to the gruff sounds of that completely unfamiliar tongue. Soon after, the guards led their charge from the stronghold. When they did, the children followed at a safe distance, going as far as the landing just outside the gates and watching silently until the dwarf disappeared entirely from view.

*~*~*

Later that evening, the sun was low in the sky but the children still sat on the stone pillars of the bridge that spanned the river talking quietly and looking into the forest where the dwarf had been led away.

“I do not think Uncle was very angry until the dwarf said that about ‘Sindarin kings’ cheating dwarves in the past,” Galithil was saying. He glanced at Eirienil. “Are you certain you cannot think of what he was referring to?”

Clearly disappointed with herself, Eirienil shook her head.

Legolas did not notice her response. He was laughing at Galithil. “You simply do not know how to recognize anger unless it is screaming in your face, Galithil. Ada was angry. Very angry. Long before the dwarf said anything about Sindarin kings. But he was trying to get more information from the dwarf to try to figure out if he should be angry only at him or at his King as well.” Legolas sighed. “I wish Master Rodonon would teach us more about the world today and less about things that happened three Ages ago.”

Eirienil and Berior laughed. “If he did that you would never understand what the dwarf meant,” Berior replied. “You said Uncle mentioned Elu Thingol. He was the King of Doriath during the First Age—three Ages ago.”

Legolas scowled at Berior. “I know that much,” he said disgustedly. “I do remember what Master Rodonon has taught us about the Great Journey.”

“Well, we will never figure it out sitting here,” Eirienil interrupted their argument smoothly. “I think we should go to the library and look it up.”

Galithil looked at her with an alarmed expression. “Elu Thingol lived for thousands of years. We could read for days and not figure out what the dwarf meant. I think we should just ask Master Rodonon tomorrow in lessons.”

Eirienil rolled her eyes. “You do that,” she said. “But you had better think of some explanation for why you know what the dwarf said to Uncle Thranduil in his throne room. I do not think what you overheard is going to be a topic of discussion at dinner tonight. I also think we would be imprisoned in our rooms until we came of age if Uncle finds out we were spying on him.”

Galithil frowned in response to that argument, unable to deny Eirienil was right. He slumped back against the pillar. “We may have to look it up,” he admitted quietly.

“Then we should go do it,” Eirienil said, hopping up. When she turned to walk back through the Gates, she froze.

Following her gaze, her cousins’ breath caught in their throats. Their fathers and Hallion were marching swiftly towards the Gates, bows in hand. It was not the weapons that concerned the children as much as the sudden realization that they were outside the stronghold, where they were not allowed to be. Not far outside—just on the landing outside the Gates—but outside just the same. They jumped up and stepped inside the Gates, looking guiltily at their fathers.

To their relief, the adults did not seem to notice them. They were engaged in a quiet but clearly intense debate as they walked.

Legolas silently watched their approach. His father’s mouth was set in determined lines and his gaze was fixed ahead of him as he made brief replies to the comments his steward and the commander of his military murmured in his ears. Shoulders squared, Thranduil strode through the entry hall with a strength of bearing that made Legolas look at him with wide eyes. Along with his cousins, Legolas often waited for their parents to emerge from the Great Hall in the evenings, looking forward to greeting them. But this evening, as the elves in the entry hall parted to make way for them and bowed as they passed, Legolas saw not his father and uncles but the King of the Woodland Realm and his council.

Thranduil and his advisors reached the Gates, still intently focused on their conversation and the children stood aside with the Gate guards. As the guards bowed, Legolas and his cousins found themselves automatically doing the same.

When Thranduil glanced to the side to acknowledge the guards with a nod, he finally noticed the children and he stopped short, looking at his son with amusement in his eyes.

“Fair evening, ion nin,” he said, reaching with his free hand to caress his son’s cheek. Aradunnon ruffled Galithil’s hair as Golwon kissed his daughter’s forehead and Celonhael reached to pick up his son—Berior did not yet consider himself too old for such displays.

“Fair evening, adar,” Legolas replied, a smile lighting his face as Thranduil’s serious expression melted away.

“What are you children doing by the Gates?” Aradunnon asked, looking at Galithil suspiciously.

Galithil gazed up at his father innocently. “We were not outside, ada. We were only on the landing. We wanted to get a better look at the dwarf. We have never seen a dwarf before,” he explained earnestly.

The adults exchanged a concerned glance.

“And did you see him?” Celonhael asked neutrally.

The children nodded solemnly.

“He did not seem very happy,” Berior observed.

Thranduil snorted. “He was not and he is not likely to be any happier anytime soon.” He looked at the children seriously. “If anything you saw or heard troubled you, we can discuss it after dinner if you would like.” He smirked and his tone grew wry. “The dwarf did not make us particularly happy either, so before I can calmly discuss anything related to him, I am going to work off a bit off tension at the archery range.”

The children looked at Thranduil excitedly.

“Can we go with you, ada?” Legolas asked, his voice bordering on pleading. Watching their parents practice archery was a favorite activity.

“We have not been able to go outside all day since nana and Aunt Lindomiel were busy,” Galithil added.

Thranduil hesitated for only a moment before he nodded and led Legolas through the Gates with a hand on his shoulder. “You must promise to stay behind us when we shoot,” he said sternly, but he smiled at Legolas as he turned his bow over to his son’s outstretched hands. Legolas traced the carvings on it with his fingers as he had a hundred times before while carrying it for his father.

“But we can get your arrows for you when you are finished shooting and it is safe?” Legolas asked, skipping next to his father to match his long strides. .

Thranduil chuckled at his enthusiasm.

“Yes, you may, Legolas,” he replied. “And you and your cousins can also keep score for us. Uncle Aradunnon seems to think his archery skills now surpass mine, so it is time for me to put my little brother in his place,” Thranduil replied, laughing when both Aradunnon and Galithil glared at him.

Shifting the bow so he could carry it with one hand, Legolas reached with the other for his father’s hand. “You will win, ada,” he said confidently, casting a playful look at his cousin and uncle and laughing when Galithil’s eyes narrowed.

*~*~*

Late that night, Legolas looked up from the heavy book balanced precariously on his lap when the door to his room flew open without warning. He scowled at the intruder—Galithil—knowing his displeasure would be thoroughly ignored. When it was, he sighed and put aside the book, motioning for his cousin to join him. Galithil did without hesitation, or need of the invitation, climbing onto Legolas’s bed and sitting on it cross-legged. He glanced at the book and then frowned at Legolas.

“What are you reading?” he asked with dramatic disdain.

“The account of how the dwarves attacked Menegroth,” he replied quietly.

Earlier that evening in the family sitting room, the children had spoken with their parents about the dwarf and what they had heard him say in the entry hall. During that conversation, Galithil took advantage of the opportunity to ask about parts of the discussion they had heard in the Great Hall, allowing his father and uncles to assume the dwarf had repeated his insults in the entry hall. When Galithil asked about Elu Thingol, Dieneryn had briefly explained that dwarves working in Menegroth’s smithies had wrongly accused Thingol of failing to pay them for work they had done and they had killed the King in his own halls. Her story had only left Legolas even more curious, so after dinner he had gone to the library.

Galithil now looked at the book with interest. “Can I read it after you?”

Legolas shook his head. “I promised it to Eirienil next, but I will tell it to you.”

Galithil nodded, preferring that option. He propped himself up on Legolas’s pillows, making himself comfortable. “That dwarf was fascinating. I am so glad you found the door or we would never have seen him,” he commented.

Legolas frowned, glancing at the book. “I am happy we saw him, but I am not sure I would describe dwarves as fascinating,” he replied softly.

Galithil looked at him sharply. “Legolas, he was amazing! I have never seen anyone argue with Uncle Thranduil like that. And I would have loved to see one of his axes.”

Legolas snorted. “I hope you do not intend to follow the dwarf’s example—you already get in enough trouble.” He paused and then continued in a more serious voice. “And I doubt Elu Thingol found dwarven axes particularly interesting.”

Galithil shrugged. “Daernana said that was a long time ago and a whole different clan of dwarves,” he said dismissively. “Besides, your nana likes dwarves,” he added when Legolas said nothing. “She tells all sorts of stories about when she lived here with them while the stronghold was being built.”

“True,” Legolas replied.

Ignoring his cousin’s unenthusiastic response, Galithil turned to him with a mischievous expression. “Knowing that door is there is going to be so useful. Just think about it: now when we know someone interesting is meeting with Uncle, we can hide back there and listen. Your adar is exciting when he is angry…”

Legolas laughed incredulously. “As long as he is not angry with us…”

“When everyone drew their swords—you cannot deny that was exciting,” Galithil continued without acknowledging Legolas’s interruption. “Ada had his sword right at the dwarf’s throat and the dwarf did not even flinch! And I cannot imagine where Uncle got that knife…”

“He carries it in his boot,” Legolas said. “I have seen it there.”

Galithil still did not stop. “I wonder if your adar is as good at throwing knives as my naneth. I have never seen Uncle throw knives, though I cannot deny he did beat ada on the archery range today.” He paused and focused again on Legolas with a look so intense it made Legolas sit back and look at his cousin warily. “And there must be more doors like that. I think we should search for them, since we are trapped in the stronghold anyway.”

Legolas grinned and shook his head. “Sometimes I wonder if you are mad,” he said when Galithil finally paused for breath.

Galithil crossed his arms over his chest and scowled. “Tell me that you did not find the dwarf interesting.”

“I did,” Legolas admitted, still laughing.

“And tell me you did not think it was exciting when the warriors and guards drew their swords.”

“Exciting and a little frightening,” Legolas replied. When Galithil’s scowl deepened, he held up his hands. “But I definitely agree the door will be a good way to see things our adars would normally not let us see and I do agree it would be fun to look for more secret doors,” he added to forestall more arguments.

Galithil nodded once. “Good,” he said with a satisfied tone. The contrast between it and the scheming gleam in his eyes made Legolas giggle and shake his head again, wondering if they would get into even more trouble while restricted to the stronghold than they had when free to roam the forest.

*~*~*

elleth/ellyth--Female elf/elves

adar/ada--father/dad

naneth/nana--mother/mum

ion nin-my son

AN: Sorry for the long delay in updates. I was sick, but I am better now. Thanks for continuing to read. :-)


Chapter 7 - Ents and Elven Princes

Chapter 7: Ents and Elven Princes

Hearing the stout knock on his bedroom door, Dolgailon raised his eyebrows and looked at his wife. Arthiel was sitting in front of her mirror, just tying off the ribbons that held her braids in place. In response to his silent question, she smiled sympathetically and shrugged, indicating she did not mind if he admitted the rather insistent visitor, who was already knocking again. With a sigh, Dolgailon strode to the door and opened it. Given the urgency of the knocks, he expected to see his father waiting to speak to him before he left for the training fields or, worse still, a messenger delivering some unwanted news. Instead, two elflings pushed past him and into his room.

“Fair morning, Dolgailon,” Legolas said cheerily.

Galithil only reached up and tugged on one of his brother’s braids while smiling impishly at him. Dolgailon smirked and joined in the ritual game by wrapping an arm around Galithil’s chest and pulling him backwards, half embracing him and half wrestling with him.

“Fair morning, indeed,” Arthiel responded, laughing at her husband’s behavior. When Dolgailon released his younger brother, Arthiel held out her arms and the elflings trotted over to receive a hug and kiss on the forehead.

Trying not to squirm too obviously, Galithil stepped away from her as quickly as he politely could. When he did, he immediately focused on the way she had arranged her hair—it was pulled back firmly into one long braid down her back and then looped up. After studying that a moment, he glanced at the simple dress she had chosen to wear.

“Are you going into the forest with Master Ruscil today?” he asked hopefully.

“Can we come?” Legolas added, his voice rising in pitch excitedly.

Arthiel drew her brows together slightly in response to their eager expressions. “I am sorry. I am going with Master Ruscil, but we are going all the way to the eastern border to look at a grove of trees that the villagers report have some sort of deformation on their leaves. We are staying for several days. I do not think your adars would let you come.”

The elflings’ faces fell.

“But nana and aunt Lindomiel are going to spend the day inside to supervise preparations for the Spring Festival,” Galithil said with a whining tone. “The stupid festival is still weeks away, but it is taking all their time.”

Legolas nodded. “They have been working on it forever, so we have not spent any time in the forest. Everyone is too busy to go out with us.”

“And there is nothing to do inside. We tried to explore the caves, but the guards will not let us go anywhere interesting and all the doors are locked,” Galithil concluded.

Dolgailon ruffled his brother’s hair with one hand as he reached for his sword with the other. “Do not forget that your own actions put you in this situation,” he said mildly. “And how well you bear the punishment will partially determine how long it will last—adar told you that. So I recommend that you keep your complaints to yourself.”

Galithil cast a scathing look at his brother and let out a long breath. “But we have behaved!” he protested. “For an entire month! I cannot do this for much longer.”

Dolgailon and Arthiel looked at each other, unable to conceal their amusement.

“You cannot behave for longer than a month, Galithil?” Arthiel asked, laughing again.

Galithil scowled. “You know what I mean,” he replied sullenly.

Dolgailon shook his head, worried that his younger brother’s attitude might try their father’s temper even further. He fixed Galithil with a serious look and spoke to him firmly. “You do not know how lucky you are—I was nearly twice your age when the beautiful spring weather first tempted me to sneak out of the stronghold at night. I was restricted to my room for a month and not allowed to do many activities with my friends until well into the next winter. I think you had better resign yourselves to remaining under adult supervision for a long time.”

Legolas and Galithil’s eyes widened at the idea that Dolgailon had ever misbehaved, but their jaws fell open when he described the punishment he had received.

“You do not really think ada will continue this punishment until winter, do you?” Legolas asked with an alarmed tone.

“He cannot,” Galithil replied with a mixture of panic and false bravado. “No punishment lasts that long.”

Dolgailon laughed. “When you have made a poor judgment and have to prove yourself capable of making better ones, the punishment can indeed last a very long time. And this is a punishment both adar and Uncle Thranduil are famous for.” He paused. “Do you know why I am in the capital rather than commanding the patrols in the south as I did for hundreds of years?”

Arthiel made a small noise, drawing Legolas and Galithil's attention. Her gaze was fixed on her husband. The children glanced at her forbidding expression and then turned back to Dolgailon, shaking their heads.

“Because as captain of the patrols, I made a poor judgment. As a consequence, I must remain in the capital until the troop commander and king trust me to make better ones,” Dolgailon responded dramatically, ignoring his wife’s frown.

“But you have been in the capital since I was born!” Galithil exclaimed.

“Since the year before you were born,” Dolgailon corrected, clearly amused by his brother and cousin’s obvious horror.

Galithil closed his eyes. “You are the most trustworthy person in the entire family,” he moaned. “You never do anything wrong. Ada and Uncle Thranduil will not let us out of their sight until the next Age!”

Arthiel shook her head, scowling reprovingly at Dolgailon as he turned his face to hide a smirk. “I do not think it will be as bad as all that,” she said, reaching out to stroke Galithil’s hair. “Before I leave this morning, I can ask my naneth if you can spend the afternoon with my brother Brethil in our cottage. At least then you could play in the yard,” she suggested.

Legolas and Galithil looked down.

“I think your parents are still angry with us for sneaking away that night,” Legolas said without looking up.

Galithil nodded. “They seem…different. So quiet and serious.”

Arthiel laughed lightly. “I am sure that is only your guilty consciences at work. I know nana and ada were disappointed with what you did, but they are not angry with you. You are still perfectly welcome to play with Brethil,” she said reassuringly.

Legolas and Galithil did not appear to be convinced, however. After a moment’s silence, Galithil looked pleadingly at his brother. “Can we come with you today,” he asked, picking up Dolgailon’s knives from the dressing table and handing them to him as he finished adjusting his sword.

Dolgailon took them quickly. “I am afraid not, Galithil. You are not allowed on the training fields and that is where I will be all day. Besides, adar said last night that Rodonon plans to have you listen to more of the elders’ stories this morning and then work with the minstrels this afternoon to begin composing songs from them.” He looked at Galithil meaningfully. “I believe that will conclude another punishment, at least once you help the minstrels sing the songs at the Spring Festival.”

Galithil folded his arms across his chest. “The Festival will be on the green. If we must sing during it, at least we have the promise of spending a few moments in the forest then,” he replied with a bitter tone.

“Unless it rains,” Legolas interjected. “Then the Festival will be in the Great Hall.”

That reminder caused Galithil to groan.

Dolgailon sighed. “You brought this on yourself, Galithil,” he said seriously. “As I said before, the better you bear it, the sooner you will convince adar to end it.”

Legolas bit his lip in response to his older cousin’s stern tone and remained silent.

Galithil did not show the same restraint. “You are mean, Dolgailon!” he exclaimed. “You like seeing us bored and miserable because you are so boring yourself.” With that, he pushed past his older brother, flung open the door to his room with a bang and stormed away.

Eyes wide, Legolas looked at Dolgailon and Arthiel a moment and then ran after his cousin.

Dolgailon watched them flee, shaking his head. His eyebrows rose when he noticed Arthiel scowling at him.

“What did I do?” he asked incredulously. “I am not the one behaving like a two year old.”

Arthiel rolled her eyes. “Galithil is a child, Dolgailon. And he is your brother, not your son. He needs you to support him, not criticize him. Brothers are supposed to stand up for one another.”

Dolgailon snorted softly. “What would you have me do? Galithil would not be the only one in trouble if adar caught him on the training field. And Legolas! Uncle does not like to see the forty-six year old participants of the training program practicing there. Can you imagine what he would do if he found out I took his son to watch them train?”

Arthiel sighed. “I am not suggesting you take them to the training fields with you, but you could appear to take their side by offering to speak to their parents. For example, I intend to mention this conversation to Lindomiel before the morning meal and suggest that she ask Master Rodonon to arrange for them to listen to the elders today on the green. ‘Lessons outside are always better than lessons in the library.’ I have heard the children say that many times.” Arthiel stood. “And I intend to ask Lindomiel if lord Amglaur has been playing with them outdoors. After all, he does not have many responsibilities here other than to entertain the children. I think rather than accompanying lord Thranduil on the hunts for the game that will be served at the Festival, lord Amglaur should spend more time playing with the children.” Arthiel placed a light kiss on Dolgailon’s cheek as she moved to exit the room.

Dolgailon followed her with a smirk. “I suspect that you know that such a comment will only provoke an argument between lord Amglaur and lord Thranduil regarding the proper rearing of elflings versus a daeradar’s duties. I think you like to incite trouble between Uncle and Aunt Lindomiel’s adar.”

Arthiel looked back at him with wide, overly innocent eyes. “Who would be so foolish as to provoke the King and the Prince of Lorien?” she asked, her tone mischievous.

*~*~*

Later that morning, Legolas sat nestled against the trunk of an old beech with his head resting on his grandfather’s shoulder. Eirienil sat on Amglaur’s other side, tucked in the crook of his arm. Beside them, Berior and Galithil sat on either side of their tutor, Rodonon, also leaning against the broad trunk of a beech. Along with several other children that had wandered by and joined them, the four elflings were listening intently to the stories of a group of the eldest citizens in the capital.

“We have since heard that the elves in the West called it the Time of the Trees,” one of the elders was saying solemnly, “but we called it the Great Darkness,” he concluded with an edge of sadness in his voice.

Another nodded. “It was a time when the peace and beauty we knew in the forest and along the Vales of the Great River came to an end and we were forced to make weapons for war rather than for hunting as we began to see more and more evil creatures.”

Galithil leaned forward slightly. “What evil creatures? Did you fight many battles?” he asked. The stories he enjoyed most were the ones his father told about the defense the forest.

The older elf regarded him disapprovingly, causing Galithil to frown.

“Orcs mostly,” the elder replied with a serious tone. “They swarmed over the land, clad in iron. Our bows could not penetrate their armor and many of our kin died, or worse still, were captured.”

“But the orcs were not the worst creatures,” another interrupted. “They were evil, true enough, and bent on destroying all that was green, but the Men were the greater threat. They did not stop at destruction. They desired dominion. And they were much more cunning in their quest to achieve it than were the orcs. Men are the enemy that I fear the most,” he concluded and received nods of agreement from most of the company.

“I do not think Men are worse than Orcs,” Eirienil said firmly. “All Orcs are evil, but some Men are our friends, so Men cannot justly be compared to Orcs.”

This argument was met with scowls from many of the elves present, but one elleth reached out and stroked Eirienil’s hair. “You are quite right,” she said, ignoring the murmurings of ‘Men are not to be trusted’ mumbled by many of the others. “And not all the creatures we met in those times were evil. Some were wonderful—the Hobbits for example.”

“What are Hobbits?” Legolas asked, glancing at Galithil. He had leaned back against the tree behind him and, instead of minding the lesson, his attention was now focused on two other elflings standing at the edge of the gathering—Anastor and Noruil.

Anastor’s twin sister, Maidhien, had dragged her brother and his friend to join the group of children listening to the stories. Galithil remained bitter that Anastor and Noruil had tricked he and his cousins into following them to see the moonbow, but their mere presence was not what inspired him to glare at them now. Noruil, Anastor and Maidhien had arrived on the green each carrying a small bow and a quiver of arrows. Galithil, Legolas and Berior had exchanged a stunned look when they noticed the weapons, and that reaction had elicited a haughty smirk from Noruil and Anastor. Ever since, Galithil had been torn between glowering at them openly and casting surreptitious, envious glances at their bows. Legolas knew that his cousin’s lack of attention to their lesson would lead to trouble, but Galithil did not seem to care. With a sigh, Legolas looked back at the elleth, who was already in the middle of her story about hobbits.

“It was a simple vase, little more than a pot, really, but the hobbit lass seemed fascinated by its shape and decoration,” Tavoren said, with amusement brightening her eyes and voice. “I remember her studying the flowers that I had carved and painted on it—she said she had never seen their like and she thought they were beautiful.”

Her gaze seemed to turn back to ages past.

“Of course she would not know those flowers. I remember them growing in the white sand on the shores of the Helcar and I have never seen them anywhere else, though I have lived in many places. I love them and their memory is dear to me, so I use them to decorate many things.” She pulled a ribbon loose from her hair. “Here they are,” she said, handing the ribbon to Eirienil. “I embroidered them on this just as I remember them. They were a vibrant blue as beautiful as the sea and they were shaped like the stars under whose light they grew.” She shook her head, returning to the present. “But the Hobbits—that is what you asked me to describe—they were delightful creatures in general. Very anxious to learn from us, or at least this particular group of them was.” She paused, thinking. “They called themselves Fallohides, if my memory serves.”

Legolas saw Rodonon and some of the other elves nod their heads in confirmation.

“The Fallohides were much less secretive than the other clans of Hobbits that we occasionally met,” Tavoren continued. “They preferred hunting to farming, so they came into the forest often. But this Hobbit that I met that day stands out in my memory because she was so different. She had married a Fallohide, but was from another clan herself. It was apparently very unusual for Hobbits to marry into different clans and I understood why after meeting her. She seemed horrified that her husband was so anxious to go into the deep woods and utterly panicked when he so easily spoke to the Elves when we made our presence known to them. She hid behind him and his brothers, even when we invited them into my cottage, and only opened up a bit when she saw the flowers on that vase.” Tavoren shrugged. “So I gave it to her and over the years that I knew her, I taught her to make similar pottery. We became good friends.” Her voice grew softer. “I have mourned the passing of very few mortals as I mourned hers and I was sorry when her descendents moved across the mountains.”

Tavoren paused. Seeing the sadness and lack of understanding on the children’s faces, she purposefully lightened her tone. “But that Hobbit lass’s family was known for their pottery for all the generations that I knew them and I like to think that I had little to do with their success,” she concluded with a smile. Then she nodded thoughtfully. “Hobbits are good people. Naturally honest, hard-working, brave. And every one of them I met, no matter their clan, loved and respected the forest and living things. You cannot say that about many creatures aside from Elves. Of all the peoples that I have met in my wanderings, it is the Hobbits that I think I miss the most.”

As Tavoren spoke, Eirienil handed her ribbon to Legolas after she finished studying the flowers on it. He squinted at the embroidery while running the silken fabric between his fingers. Then he passed it on to Galithil. His cousin took the ribbon absently and gave it to Berior without glancing at it.

Legolas stared at him a moment before turning back to Tavoren. “Why do we not see the Hobbits anymore?” he asked, only partially to distract Rodonon’s attention from Galithil’s rudeness. Their tutor was glaring at Galithil for his lack of attention, but Legolas loved stories about strange races.

“They were very secretive,” Tavoren answered when Rodonon did not speak. “We did not see them much at all. But they moved west over the mountains about the same time the Elves moved north to this stronghold—when the Shadow came.”

From the corner of his eye, Legolas saw Anastor and Noruil scowl in response to that answer.

Noruil tugged on Maidhien’s sleeve as her brother leaned over to speak into her ear.

“Can we leave now? We have better things to do than listen to children’s stories” Anastor whispered none too quietly, fingering the fletching of an arrow.

Maidhien shook her head and remained seated on the ground. “Leave if you wish, but I am staying. I want to see if there will be more stories. I like them,” she replied.

Anastor’s scowl deepened. “I am not leaving my sister in this company alone,” Legolas heard him say while glaring at Galithil. Legolas looked at his cousin, concerned that he had been up to some mischief, but Galithil was now slouched against the tree, staring sullenly at his lap. The voice of their tutor brought Legolas’s attention back to their lesson.

“Most of the Hobbits live now in a land in Eriador granted to them only a few hundred years ago by the Mannish King Argeleb II of Arthedain,” he was saying in the same tone he used when lecturing, “though some of them have returned east over the mountains and dwell near the Anduin again. That is how we learned where their cousins live now. But they are not of the clan that mixed with the Elves, so I rarely hear that our kin in the south have contact with them.”

Eriador was a land of legend and Arthedain a completely unknown kingdom to most of the children present, but Legolas and his cousins nodded in acknowledgement of their tutor’s explanation. They had drawn many maps of Eriador and so knew these names well. Seeing Rodonon note the curious expressions on the other children’s faces, Legolas and his cousins shifted nervously, fearing their tutor might be inspired to launch into an even lengthier explanation. They much preferred Tavoren’s stories.

Tavoren did not miss their concern.

“Speaking of friends we once knew from our wanderings, “ she intervened, directing a smile at the children though she was addressing Rodonon, “do you ever hear of the Ents? They are another people that I miss greatly.”

Rodonon shook his head, but Legolas’s expression brightened.

“I know a story about the Ents,” he volunteered eagerly. “My nana likes to tell it to me and she made a tapestry for my room with Ents on it. The story is about an Elven prince that wandered away and got lost and was found by Ents. They kept him safe until his adar came and found him. Then the Ents and the Elves were friends ever after.” He looked up at Amglaur. “Of course, nana tells it better—like a proper story. She said you told it to her when she was little and it was her favorite story.”

Amglaur smiled indulgently. “I did and it was, but unlike the stories you have heard today about King Lenwë’s time, that story is only a fable.”

Legolas’s face fell.

“But the Ents are real,” he added hastily in response to his grandson’s disappointment.

Tavoren and the other elders around them raised their eyebrows.

“Begging your pardon, my lord, but I do not think the story is a fable, if Legolas is referring to the one that I know,” said a voice from the side of their group.

Legolas looked towards it hopefully and smiled when he saw Tulus.

Amglaur looked towards him as well, his expression frosty. The one and only time that Amglaur had ever spoken with Tulus was on the day that Thranduil dismissed the former guard from his service for comments he had made about Lindomiel. Amglaur had been present, along with Thranduil, to overhear all that had been said and his memory was long.

For his part, Tulus was very aware of the animosity Amglaur still felt towards him, and he did not deny him his right to it. That was why he had not yet drawn closer to the group of storytellers, though Rodonon had invited him to participate as one of the eldest elves in the capital.

Legolas, however, knew nothing of Tulus’s history. In his experience, Tulus was simply another elf that worked in the stables—one who often indulged the children by allowing them to play with the horses and hunting dogs. So Legolas treated him with the same love that he showed any of the adults he cared for. Now he looked at Tulus eagerly, his expression encouraging him to continue.

“The prince in question was lord Denethor,” Tulus said in a soft voice, smiling at Legolas’s intense interest. “He was King Lenwë’s son. Lord Denethor was very young at the time—no more than twenty or so, I would say. At that time, we lived much further south and closer with our kin that now live in Lothlorien. Whereas many of us loved the waters of the Anduin, young lord Denethor always, even as a child, was most drawn to the trees and so he often played amongst them. One day he went into the forest to explore, but he did not return for the evening meal.”

Galithil snorted. “I bet he was in trouble for that,” he interjected wryly.

“King Lenwë was frantic, that is certain,” Tulus replied, looking at Galithil knowingly. “There are many dangers in the forest that a child so young could not contend with—predators, dangerous terrain,” he enumerated. Then he glanced at Anastor and Noruil. “And no child so young would carry weapons or know how to provide himself with food or shelter, so it was important that we find him quickly.” He turned back to Legolas. “I was with the guards that accompanied the King when he searched for his son. We found Denethor almost a week later many leagues to the south with the Ents. How a child could travel such a distance so quickly, we never understood. And what the Ents could have fed him, we never knew, but he was perfectly hale after all that time,” he said, laughing ruefully at the memory. “King Lenwë was so grateful to the Ents for keeping his son safe, that he invited them to remain in his lands and set aside an area to the south of Greenwood the Great solely for them. When the Darkness descended upon the North, the Entwives made beautiful gardens there that the Elves were invited to walk in and enjoy…until the Evil One destroyed them,” Tulus concluded.

Tavoren nodded. “I remember those gardens. I enjoyed wandering in their orchards. And the friendship between the Ents and Elves was very close for a long time. When I followed lord Denethor to Beleriand, we had the help and protection of the Ents while crossing Eriador. And once we arrived, the Ents came and went freely in our lands in Ossiriand.”

Rodonon had listened to this story with as much interest as the elflings, for he had learned the fable of the lost Elven prince from Lindomiel, but never knew the story was true. When Tulus and Tavoren stopped speaking, he looked over at Amglaur. “We did know that Lord Denethor and the Nandor had the friendship of the Ents in Ossiriand,” he said quietly. “And the Nandor did call on them in times of need, such as when Beren asked for their help against the dwarves that attacked Menegroth.”

Amglaur nodded. “Indeed, that friendship seems to have endured even until the Sindar came east. One of the first meetings my brother Amdir had as King of Lorien was with an Ent. They discussed the borders of Lorien and the Ents’ forest, but Amdir said the Ent had made it clear that the Sindar were welcome to walk in their forest and we had nothing to fear from them walking in ours. It was during that meeting that Amdir heard the story of the Elven prince. He said it took them an entire day to recount it and from its tone, Amdir assumed it was meant as a parable. We never knew it was historical fact.” He turned to Tulus. “Thank you for sharing that story, Tulus,” he said politely, though his voice was cool.

Tulus remained silent, replying only with a bow.

Legolas turned about fully to look at his grandfather, obviously anxious to ask some question, but he was forestalled when Eirienil’s friend, Aewen, spoke up first.

“My nana sings stories she learned from her daernana about lord Lenwë, and I know he fell defending the forest from orcs long before the rising of the Moon. But she rarely sings of lord Denethor.” She paused and looked at Tavoren, continuing with a questioning tone. “She says it was wrong of lord Denethor to leave the forest and when she says that, ada is always very quiet.”

Tavoren pressed her lips together and glanced around at the other elders before answering. “Not all the elves in the forest agreed with lord Denethor’s decision to cross the mountains and search for safety with lord Elwë in Beleriand. Your naneth’s family, I remember, remained in Rhovanion and retreated into the forest for protection from the orcs,” she responded in a very neutral voice.

Aewen looked ready to ask another question, but another voice interrupted her.

“The trees protected the elves from the orcs when one cowardly prince failed to defend them and now that the orcs and Shadow have returned, we again fail to defend ourselves and the forest,” Noruil recited bitterly.

Everyone present turned to look at him where he stood leaning against a tree. Next to him, Anastor nodded in agreement. Maidhien blushed and looked down at her lap, but Anastor and Noruil only stared back at the adults evenly.

In response to Noruil’s implied criticism, Galithil’s eyes narrowed and he sat up straighter. “My adar and brother, along with all the warriors in this realm, fight the Shadow every day, Noruil,” he said, his tone challenging either elfling to dispute that assertion.

Legolas also leaned forward angrily. “And lord Denethor was no coward. My adar told me that he died in the First Battle of the Wars of Beleriand and he was a brave warrior.”

“If he died in battle, it should have been in defense of this forest and his people, not of Beleriand and the Sindar,” Anastor retorted.

“Lord Denethor was defending his lands and people,” Tavoren said, interrupting the argument. “He died defending Ossiriand and the Nandor from the orcs—orcs that would have passed over the Ered Luin and eventually into Rhovanion if he had not helped to defeat them. He was a great king,” she said firmly.

“I believe he was a great king,” Tulus said softly. “But it is fair to say that many believe he should have stayed in Rhovanion to defend this forest rather than fleeing to Beleriand.”

Tavoren’s brow knit and she drew a breath to respond, but as she began, she noticed Aewen looking at her with wide eyes. Legolas and his cousins also watched her expectantly. She loosed a long breath and looked down. “The elves that followed Denethor will always see him as a hero and those that remained in the forest have a different view. This has been a source of argument for millennia—I doubt that we will resolve the disagreement today,” she finally said calmly.

“But it makes an excellent topic for debate,” Rodonon interjected, with a pleased expression. Legolas and his cousins turned to look at him apprehensively. “Before we move on in our studies, I would like for you to discuss lord Denethor’s decision to go to Beleriand. We will debate this in, say, one week. That should give you enough time to prepare,” he said, ignoring his pupils’ sighs and mumblings.

“Sorry,” Aewen said quietly, looking apologetically at her friends. “I did not mean to earn you more work.”

Legolas shrugged. “Debating is more interesting than listening to a lecture,” he said softly.

Rodonon did not seem to hear this interchange. “But today,” he continued, “you must meet with the minstrels to make songs from the elders’ stories for the Spring Festival. Do all of you think you have a story you would like to make into a song?”

Legolas and his cousins nodded dutifully, though they did not want this particular part of the lesson to end.

“Then I will take you back to the stronghold for midday meal and afterwards we will meet back here with the minstrels to make your songs.” He smiled at the other children. “You are all welcome to join us and help if you would like.”

Most of the elflings nodded eagerly. Much to Noruil and Anastor’s dismay, Maidhien returned Rodonon’s smile shyly, nodding along with the others.

Rodonon stood, signaling for his charges to follow him, and along with Amglaur, they all headed towards the gates of the stronghold.

Legolas took his grandfather’s hand as they walked. “Are there still Ents near Lothlorien?” he asked, eagerly returning to the topic that had interested him the most.

“To the best of my knowledge, there are indeed still Ents in the forest south of Lothlorien,” Amglaur responded.

Legolas’s grip on his grandfather’s hand tightened. “Did you see them? Did you go with your brother Amdir to speak with them? What are they like?”

Amglaur bit back his laughter in response to his grandson’s rapid-fire questions. “It has been a very long time since anyone has seen an Ent—since the beginning of this Age, I would think. And no, I never met one. I stayed in Lorien once we reached it and never traveled further south to their forest or east to their gardens.”

Legolas stared up at him silently for a moment. “You could have spoken to an Ent and you did not do it?” he finally asked. His tone made his opinion of missing such an opportunity obvious.

Amglaur did laugh this time. “I had just traveled across all of Eriador after fleeing Beleriand. I had no desire to travel further, pen neth. And after we settled, I had duties to attend to—I was the King’s brother.”

Tavoren, who was walking with them along the path to her own cottage, shook her head and smiled. “And there is a difference between the Sindar and the Silvan. My friends and I always resisted duty’s call much more easily than the call of the songs we heard in the Ents’ gardens. I spent whole seasons there listening to the Ents’ songs and enjoying the scents of the flowers.”

Amglaur frowned when Legolas and his cousins looked at her brightly and nodded, easily identifying with Tavoren’s perspective.

She only smiled more broadly in response to Amglaur’s disapproval. “I suppose that is why it is good that we have a Sindarin king to make certain that important tasks are accomplished,” she offered.

Amglaur raised an eyebrow, but remained silent.

Not caring in the least at the moment about the responsibilities of a Sindarin king, Legolas turned back to his grandfather and clutched the sleeve of his tunic. “I want to go to Lothlorien and meet an Ent. Will you and nana take me there?”

Amglaur laughed lightly at his grandson’s expression. “You are far too young to make such a long, perilous trip now, but when you are older, I promise you that I will take you to Lothlorien. I want you to meet my nephew Amroth and see the place where your naneth grew up. You will love Lothlorien—the trees there are very different…”

Legolas nodded impatiently. “They hold their golden leaves all through winter until new, green ones appear in the spring,” he interrupted. “Nana has told me about Lothlorien. But…”

“And I will arrange for you to meet an Ent when we go,” Amglaur assured him quickly, chuckling quietly.

“And us too, lord Amglaur?” Berior asked as Eirienil nodded.

“Yes, when you are older and the choice to make such a journey is yours, I will escort you all to Lothlorien.”

Legolas stopped in front of the bridge over the river, blocking his grandfather’s path. “That is a promise, daerada,” he specified.

Straight-faced, Amglaur looked down at the elfling before him. “Yes it is, Legolas,” he replied solemnly.

Legolas nodded and turned to dash across the bridge with his cousins, chattering with them excitedly. He did not miss the fact that his grandfather’s eyes danced with mirth when he answered. Nor did Tavoren’s sympathetic smile escape his notice as he waved goodbye to her. But he did not care if the adults thought he was amusing—at that moment all he cared about was the fact that he had secured a promise to go see an Ent. He could hardly wait to tell his father and mother.

*~*~*

Adar/ada--Father/dad

Naneth/nana--Mother/mum

Elleth/ellyth--Female elf(ves)

Daeradar--Grandfather


Chapter 8 - Expectations--Part One

Chapter 8: Expectations--Part One

Legolas awakened in the unhurried manner of youth, slowly becoming aware of the household stirring around him—voices speaking quietly in the outer hall as the morning guards relieved the evening ones, a servant entering his room to light the lamps and check the fire in the fireplace, the kitchen maids singing as they set the table for breakfast, rustling in his parents’ room next door. Legolas took a deep breath, yawned and stretched. Then he burrowed further under his soft, wool blanket.

Ordinarily, the smell of freshly baked bread and breakfast meats were what finally drew him from the warm cocoon of his bed, but the winter had been harsh and the supplies of flour and meat were exhausted. Only porridge awaited him this morning—the same porridge they had been eating for breakfast for several weeks. Made of acorns and walnuts, which could always be counted upon to be found in abundance in the forest, and served hot with a bit of honey, it had a pleasant enough sweet, nutty flavor. Even so, Legolas was sick of it and he knew his cousins were too. That, combined with the fact that he and his cousins were still not permitted to leave the stronghold without supervision, left him very unmotivated to rush from his bed.

After procrastinating several more minutes, he finally swung his legs over the side of the bed with a sigh and padded quietly to the bath to wash. He was lazily drawing a comb through his hair when he heard the latch on the door to his parents’ chambers click. Legolas looked in the direction of the sound for a moment, debating with himself. Then he dashed out of the bathroom to snatch up the clothing that his mother had laid out for him the night before, quickly jumping into the leggings. Then he pulled his nightshirt over his head, tossing it aside without noticing that it fell half on his bed and half on the floor, and replaced it with the shirt and tunic. Still fastening them, he raced out his door and across the hall into the family sitting room.

Legolas knew where his parents were going—they always watched the sunrise together in his mother’s garden. He rarely awoke early enough to join them, but since he had today, and since he could not look forward to a nice breakfast, he wanted to enjoy some time with them before his lessons. Besides, he rarely passed up on a chance to spend time in that special place.

In the back of the sitting room, the garden door stood open, allowing the warm spring air into the caves. As Legolas entered the garden, the sun’s first faint pink rays were climbing over the horizon. He saw his parents sitting on the bench under the old beech tree in the center of the garden. Delicate green leaves were beginning to appear on its branches.

Normally his mother and father sat silently watching the sun rise. Occasionally, and to his dismay, Legolas had come into the garden to find his mother on his father’s lap or to find them kissing. Today, however, they were speaking animatedly, the glow of the sunrise completely ignored.

“There is nothing I can do about the fact that we have had three late freezes, Thranduil,” Lindomiel was saying with an unusual hint of annoyance in her voice that made Legolas stop where he was.

“I am well aware of that, Lindomiel,” Thranduil replied. His voice sounded tired to Legolas’s ears, despite the fact that it was morning. “But the hunting is still very poor, even further south, and I am not sure if naneth had time to mention this to you yet, but Celonhael confirmed the rumors that the Men lost their spring grain crop in the heavy snows, so we will not be able to count on trading for any supplies from the east. In fact, the Men will likely be coming to me soon about hunting. So, if you can give me any good news that I can pass on to the village leaders in my meeting with them this afternoon, it would be most welcome.”

Still unnoticed in the archway of the garden door, Legolas saw his mother frown. “The sweet birch sap will be running soon, if it is not already,” she offered, her voice now as tired as Thranduil’s. “While we are in that part of the forest collecting the sap, we can harvest some bark to make into flour, but that will yield no more than a few weeks supply of bread without damaging the trees.” She sighed. “I have been reluctant to dig up the cattail roots to make into flour since that means we will not have their shoots to eat or their pollen for flour in the summer—and the flour from their pollen is much more rich than that from their roots. But if the Men lost their grain too, I suppose we have no choice. Thankfully the cattails reproduce quickly.”

Thranduil appeared pleased by that decision. “Do you think you might see to the cattails today?” he asked quietly.

Lindomiel looked at Thranduil sidelong. “I know you are desperate to give the villagers some good news if you have been reduced to that tone, meleth,” she said, leaning over to kiss him lightly on the lips.

Thranduil smiled in response. “A good ruler knows how to manage the people who serve him, Lindomiel, and ordering you to do something never gets me anywhere, so I am willing to try pleading.”

Lindomiel laughed out loud at that. “So you think you are ‘managing’ me, do you?” she teased playfully. “In that case, just to spite you, I might not bother to look for the asparagus, chickweed, dandelions, and watercress that we hope have tried to sprout since the last freeze as I had planned to do today.”

Legolas watched as his father’s eyes lit. “Do you think you might find some greens? That would be a wonderful addition to fish and nuts.”

Legolas scowled, not certain that he agreed with that assessment. The greens his mother had mentioned were not amongst his favorite foods.

Lindomiel continued laughing softly. “Yes, I am almost certain we can finally find some greens since we have gone several weeks since the last freeze. It is only a matter of finding enough people to help gather them. Galion is coordinating that and we are going out today. I will ask Amoneth to see to the cattails. If you had not spent so much time trying to ‘manage’ our conversation this morning, meleth, you might have learned my plans for the day much sooner.”

Thranduil smirked and pulled her closer to him for another kiss. As he did, he finally noticed Legolas in the doorway.

Raising his eyebrows slightly, Thranduil motioned for his son to join them. The child trotted over to his parents, studying them carefully. He was fairly certain that they were not truly angry or arguing, as he had initially feared—at least they had not been before they saw him standing in the doorway—but his father’s face had taken on the unreadable expression that Legolas had long since learned indicated he was displeased about something. Fortunately, his mother greeted him with her usual enthusiasm.

“Why are you up so early?” Lindomiel exclaimed as she pulled Legolas onto her lap and kissed his forehead.

Legolas would ordinarily squirm when confronted with such treatment. He was far too old, in his opinion, to sit on his mother’s lap, but his father was still looking at him sharply and had said nothing in greeting, so Legolas accepted the embrace without protest.

He shrugged. The truth of the matter was that he had awakened because he was a little hungry, but that did not seem to be the right thing to say given the conversation he had just witnessed. “I just woke up,” he finally answered. “I heard you leave your room, and I knew you were going into the garden, so I followed. I wanted to come sit out here too and enjoy the spring morning before I go to lessons.”

“It is easier to ‘enjoy the spring morning’ from this bench than from the shadows of the doorway,” Thranduil said coolly.

Legolas saw his mother scowl, but Thranduil pretended not to notice her, fixing his gaze instead on Legolas and waiting for him to respond.

Legolas knew that meant he would not escape at least some scolding. He looked down. “I am sorry, ada. You were speaking…arguing, it seemed when I came out the door. I did not think I should interrupt the conversation, but I did not mean to eavesdrop. I was only trying to determine if I should leave or not.”

Thranduil turned Legolas to face him with a finger under his chin. “There are some conversations that you should not hear, Legolas. If I am speaking to someone, you make sure that I know you are present—I will tell you if you may stay. We have discussed this before.”

Legolas struggled not to roll his eyes. “Yes, ada. I remember, but you and nana were only discussing the fact that there is no bread or meat. Everyone is eating porridge in the mornings, so everyone already knows that. It is hardly as secret as the contents of the treasury might be.”

Thranduil’s eyes narrowed slightly.

“It is no secret that supplies are short, Legolas,” Lindomiel intervened with a warning glance to her husband, “but it is your adar’s place and not anyone else’s to communicate how that shortage will be managed to the villagers. Therefore it concerns him that overheard conversations might be repeated in inappropriate settings.”

Legolas turned in his mother’s lap to look at her. “I understand that I am not allowed to repeat what ada says, nana,” he said sincerely.

“I would also not like to have it repeated that your naneth and I were ‘arguing’ over this topic, Legolas,” Thranduil continued sternly.

Legolas sighed and looked away. “I know, ada,” he said, casting about in his mind for some way to distract his father from this lecture. He looked back at his mother hopefully when he thought of one. “Can I help you gather the greens today, nana?” he asked. Since their adventure to see the moonbow had resulted in the curtailment of so many of their privileges, Legolas and his cousins had to seize any opportunity to go into the forest when their parents, aunts and uncles or grandparents had duties to perform there. If they would be able to spend time amongst the trees while participating in this task, the greens might be more palatable.

Easily recognizing his motivation, Lindomiel smirked. “Yes you can,” she replied, hugging him closer and laughing softly when Legolas beamed at her happily. “I hoped you and your cousins would help. Do you think Galithil and Berior will be interested in going with us as well?”

Legolas nodded. “I think we all will be happy gathering greens if it means getting out of the stronghold.”

Thranduil laughed shortly and shook his head. “You and you cousins have been behaving well recently, Legolas. The best way to end this punishment is to continue to do so.”

Legolas looked at his father innocently. “Even Galithil cannot get in trouble when we have to stay within sight of adults,” he said.

Thranduil and Lindomiel exchanged an amused but doubtful expression. “You may be underestimating your cousin, ion nin,” Thranduil responded, laughing lightly. “Time will tell, but for his sake, I hope you are correct.”

*~*~*

“Perhaps Anastor and Noruil will pick greens with us,” Galithil said excitedly to Legolas as they pushed their spoons around in their porridge.

As they always did when the children mentioned Anastor and Noruil, the adults at the dining room table quieted to listen to the conversation.

Without noticing the attention they had drawn, Legolas made a sour face. “Why would that be a good thing?” he asked.

“They might bring the bows they got for their begetting days,” Galithil replied.

Hearing that, Thranduil and Aradunnon immediately frowned. Even Lindomiel and Amoneth looked at their sons worriedly.

“You may not play anywhere near those children if they are shooting those bows,” Thranduil interrupted in his most forbidding tone of voice. “And if I find out that you shoot them yourselves, you will be very sorry,”

Aradunnon nodded. “That would be a very good way to find yourself confined to your rooms,” he added. “This time until you are old enough to have a bow yourself.” Then he fixed Galithil with a suspicious glare. “And how did you know about the bows? Neither your naneth nor Arthiel have mentioned that you have played with Anastor or Noruil recently—not while they were supervising you, at any rate.”

Galithil scowled at his father. “We saw them when we were with Master Rodonon listening to the elders' stories. Brethil, Aewen and some other children were there along with Anastor and Noruil.”

Galithil's tone was enough to make Legolas cringe. “We only saw the bows, ada. We did not play with them,” Legolas said quickly, looking nervously at his father, who was studying him intensely.

But Galithil continued speaking to his father without pause. “Anastor and Noruil are younger than us. Why can they have bows but we cannot?”

Aradunnon put his silverware down and turned to face his son fully. “Anastor and Noruil are not old enough to be responsible with those bows or even strong enough to use them properly. If their parents choose to make decisions that endanger their children, that does not require me to follow their poor example. We have promised all of you that you will be given bows for your twentieth begetting days.” He paused for emphasis. “Unless you give us some reason to doubt that even at that age you will not be mature enough for such a responsibility.”

As Galithil and Aradunnon continued to glare at one another, Arthiel leaned towards Legolas. “Please tell me that my brother has not played with Anastor and Noruil’s bows,” she whispered.

The worry in her eyes made Legolas look down. “Brethil is not even speaking to Anastor and Noruil,” he responded quietly. “As for the bows, I think he agrees with uncle Aradunnon that their parents are…” Legolas stopped himself from referring to the adults as ‘stupid,’ though that was the term Brethil had privately used to describe them. “That they do not know their sons as well as they might,” he concluded.

Thranduil snorted upon hearing Legolas’s words. “The problem is not that they do not know their children. The problem is that they are not much more intelligent than their children,” he said under his breath, though everyone present heard him.

“Thranduil!” Lindomiel exclaimed disapprovingly. “Legolas just showed better judgment and more respect than you did.”

Arradunnon waved his hand. “So Legolas can be a diplomat in his father’s court when he comes of age,” he said dismissively. “But whether you phrase it politely or directly, the fact is that Dolwen and Dannenion are fools to allow Noruil and Anastor to carry bows at their age, and I want Galithil to understand and acknowledge that,” he said, looking at his son expectantly.

Galithil smirked. “That they are all fools? Well, I acknowledge that,” he said readily. His expression grew more serious when his father’s scowl deepened. “I just do not think it is fair that they should have bows when we are older and do not…”

“Life is not always fair, Galithil,” Aradunnon interrupted, but his son did not pause.

“…so I was going to ask if we could just have lessons. Not be allowed to carry bows,” he emphasized when Aradunnon drew a breath to interrupt him. “Not even be allowed to have them except during lessons. I just would like to learn how to shoot on the archery range.”

“No, Galithil,” Aradunnon responded firmly. “When you are twenty, we will show you how to make a bow and teach you to use it to hunt. We promised to begin teaching you to track this year, but that is all. All things in their time and that is final.” He paused. “Now promise me that you will not lay hands on anyone’s bow until you are twenty.”

Galithil sighed and looked at his porridge. “I promise,” he said resentfully, scooping up a large mouthful and grimacing because it was cold.

Lindomiel looked around the table silently for a moment before placing her napkin beside her plate. “I think it is time for the children to go to their lessons,” she said, standing.

Everyone at the table rose as she did.

“I will walk them to the library,” Dolgailon volunteered, reaching for his brother’s hand. Galithil tried to twist free of his grasp, but Dolgailon’s grip only tightened. “I am due on the training field in a few moments. We are taking some of the third-years into the forest for a drill today.”

Lindomiel studied Dolgailon and Galithil for a moment before smiling and bending over to place a kiss on Legolas’s head. “Arthiel and I will come meet you after your lessons so you can come with us to pick greens,” she said.

With a nod to Aradunnon, Dolgailon led his brother and cousin from the dining room, setting a quick pace out of the family quarters and towards the library. Before they reached it, he stopped and crouched on the ground, positioning Galithil and Legolas in front of him, against the stone wall. He fixed Galithil with a stern expression.

“I could not find my knife this morning,” he said with no preamble. “The conversation at the breakfast table makes me wonder if either of you know where it might be?”

Legolas’s eyes widened and he glanced at Galithil before answering. “I have not been in your family’s suite in several days, Dolgailon. I could not have touched it unless you lost it somewhere else. And if you did, I have not seen it.”

Dolgailon nodded. He had not taken his eyes from his brother.

Galithil scowled. “I have not been in your room, Dolgailon,” he said, looking down.

Dolgailon frowned. “Very well. Perhaps I left it in the armory yesterday.” He forced Galithil to look at him with a finger under his chin. “Weapons are not toys, muindor nin. If adar catches you with a bow or a knife, you will earn a punishment you will never forget. Assuming you do not injure yourself first. Please promise me you will not make such a mistake. You have been wearing adar’s patience recently. You would be wise to behave for a while.”

Galithil pulled away from his brother’s grip. “I already promised ada. I do not have to promise you. And I know weapons are not toys.”

Dolgailon sighed. “You do not have to promise me anything, Galithil, that is true. I only wanted to make sure that you did not have my knife because it is a dangerous weapon and you could be hurt playing with it.” He grasped Galithil’s chin again, this time holding it firmly. “You should be thankful I did not ask you this in front of adar. If I find out you lied to me, I will not show you that courtesy again.” He paused and continued in a softer voice. “ You are going through a stage where you do not care about adar’s approval, and I think that is normal, though you are a bit young for it. Regardless, while you go through this stage, you might keep in mind that in very few years, you will want more than just archery lessons. You will want to join the warrior training. Warriors are neither reckless nor disobedient, Galithil.”

Galithil made a face. “I do not think I would want to be a warrior under your command, Dolgailon, or ada’s,” he declared defiantly. “You are both too bossy.”

Dolgailon laughed and released his brother’s chin. “I am sorry, Galithil, but captains, along with adars and sometimes older brothers, are ‘bossy’ by their very definition.” He grew more serious. “But you will want to be a warrior. Perhaps you should think about how the young warriors behave and compare your own behavior to theirs. I think they would be a better example than friends like Anastor and Noruil.”

“Anastor and Noruil are not my friends,” Galithil responded coldly.

“Well that is a bit of good news then,” Dolgailon said, standing. “We should get you to the library before Master Rodonon has reason to be angry with you.”

“If he is, it is your fault,” Galithil muttered, following behind his brother, with his arms crossed over his chest.

Legolas looked at him with concern, earning himself a black look as well.

*~*~*

“I cannot believe we have to spend the entire day cutting dandelion leaves,” Noruil groaned, sitting back on his heels and wiping his muddy hands on his leggings. “I could be practicing with my new bow,” he added in a voice that was just a little too loud.

Legolas, Berior and Galithil turned their attention away from the dandelions they were plucking to glare at the other elfling. Galithil dramatically rolled his eyes, causing Legolas and Berior to giggle quietly. Next to them, their friend Brethil stifled a snort. Even their very proper cousin Eirienil and her friend Aewen ducked their heads to hide a smirk. All of the children had enviously studied the quivers and bows that Anastor and Noruil conspicuously carried when they had first arrived to help gather greens, but their superior attitudes had quickly dampened the other children’s interest.

Anastor pointedly ignored them, plopping down on his backside and leaning back to look up into the trees. “I agree. Picking greens is for ellyth and children, not those that could hunt to provide food,” he said, fingering the fletching on an arrow that he pulled from his quiver. “How much longer do we have to do this?” he called to his mother, who was on the far side of the glade with the other adults.

“I hope his naneth tells him to leave now,” Galithil whispered loudly enough for all the elflings present to hear. Noruil and Anastor glared at Galithil, while most of the other children snickered. Only Anastor’s twin sister, Maidhien, did not laugh. She only stared at Galithil silently.

“No one else is going to provide us with food, Anastor,” his mother replied without looking up from her work. “You are going to stay right here and help me gather our share of these greens.”

Anastor glowered resentfully at his mother before tugging at a dandelion, pulling it from the ground roots and all and tossing it carelessly into his basket.

“We are not gathering the roots this early, Anastor,” Galithil scolded. “Just the leaves. Be careful not to be wasteful.”

“Do not tell me what to do,” Anastor snapped in return.

Galithil’s brows drew together and he opened his mouth to respond, but Brethil cut him off.

“My sister is glaring at us,” he whispered in warning.

Galithil and his cousins looked quickly to the other side of the clearing at Brethil’s sister, Arthiel. She was indeed watching her younger brother and his friends closely.

“She will tell Dolgailon that we misbehaved and Dolgailon will tell our fathers,” Berior said nervously.

Galithil frowned. “Dolgailon would not tell on us,” he said defensively. “And besides, we have done nothing wrong.”

“Let us keep it that way,” Legolas said quietly. Bent over a patch of dandelions, he peered through his hair to look at his mother. Lindomiel was also studying the children closely.

With a sigh, Galithil turned his back on Noruil and Anastor, and focused on the task at hand.

A few moments later, Arthiel and Lindomiel climbed to their feet, still looking at the elflings.

“We can all use a break,” Arthiel declared. “And we should not take more dandelion leaves in this glade. I think we would do best to walk further east along the river to find another sunny area with more greens.”

At that suggestion, everyone stood, the ladies shaking out their skirts and the children chattering happily. Only Noruil and Anastor’s mothers remained where they were, looking at Arthiel with surprise.

“There are many more dandelions in this area,” Anastor’s mother, Eregeth, said sharply with a stern frown. “There is no point in going even further down the river to find more until we have gathered all these.”

Arthiel’s eyebrows rose slightly at Eregeth’s aggressive tone. “The dandelion leaves will be sweet and provide food for many more weeks, Eregeth,” she responded, keeping her tone even out of respect for her elder. “We do not want to harvest them all now.”

Noruil’s mother, Lalfien, glared at Arthiel as well. “We need food now, not in a few weeks. We should gather all the greens that are available,” she argued.

Legolas and his cousins looked between the adults with obvious confusion. Every time they had helped gather food, especially in the spring and summer, they had always been cautioned not to gather so much as to deprive the animals that also depended on the plants or so much as to prevent the propagation of more plants for the next season.

Arthiel was also obviously surprised by Lalfien and Eregeth’s objections, because she made no answer, instead simply staring at them. Lindomiel responded in a gentle but firm voice.

“Perhaps when you lived in the south, there were so many places to find food that you could afford to wholly deplete some of them, Lalfien. Or perhaps your village was so small that it could move often to follow the available food supplies. But too many people live in the capital to permit us to harvest from the forest so recklessly. And the capital cannot move as easily as a village if food supplies are exhausted. So we must be more careful.” She paused for emphasis. “That means will be moving on to the next glade now.”

Eregeth and Lalfien narrowed their eyes at Arthiel and Lindomiel, but they did not argue further. Instead, they picked up their baskets and marched without another word eastward along the river. Noruil, Anastor and Maidhien hurried to follow them. Arthiel sighed as she watched their backs recede and the other adults in the clearing remained silent, some shaking their heads, but otherwise not interfering.

“There is a really big sunny patch only a short walk from here, nana,” Legolas volunteered into the silence. “Remember the one that had asparagus in it last year? New shoots should be growing on the old stalks by now.”

Lindomiel and Arthiel smiled at Legolas.

“That is a brave suggestion, pen neth, knowing how much you dislike asparagus,” Arthiel replied, ruffling Legolas’s hair.

Behind Arthiel’s back, Galithil and Berior stared at their cousin as if he had lost his mind.

Lindomiel nodded. “Your adar will be very pleased by how helpful you have been,” she added as she began to walk towards the clearing Legolas had mentioned.

Arthiel smirked as Legolas responded to his cousins’ expressions by making a face at them. “We will indeed go to that glade next, Legolas. You elflings may lead the way if you wish.”

Hearing that, Eirienil, Aewen and the other children happily broke into a run and dashed down the path. Legolas, Galithil and Berior followed them with their eyes as they disappeared amongst the trees. Only Brethil loyally stayed with his friends.

“You may go with them,” Lindomiel said softly, smiling when Legolas turned to her with cautious excitement in his eyes.

“Ada said we had to stay with adults,” he reminded her.

Lindomiel nodded. “And so you will. Go ahead with your friends. We will be right behind you.”

Galithil did not wait to be told again. With a whoop, he ran after the others. Legolas, Berior and Brethil paused long enough to flash a grin at Lindomiel before they followed him.

Lindomiel and Arthiel exchanged pleased smiles, ignoring their guard’s annoyed frown as half of his charges disappeared from his sight.

*~*~*

Racing down the path, Galithil crashed into the underbrush to its side, dodging by Lalfien and Eregeth. He did not slow a bit when they admonished him to be more careful. Indeed he laughed in response when the same reprimand, in even stronger language, was shouted at Legolas, Berior and Brethil after they also darted to either side of them. Galithil was simply happy to be free amongst the trees—the momentary exhilaration of jumping through the ferns and annoying the elleth was a great joy after weeks of confinement.

When he burst into the clearing where they intended to gather asparagus, his brow furrowed in confusion. Only Noruil, Anastor and Maidhien were present, but he had not passed the other children on the path. Noruil and Anastor were hastily but clumsily stringing their bows. Galithil took a hesitant step towards them. He did not like them one bit, he had promised not to touch their bows, and his father had made it perfectly clear that he was not to even be around them when they shot them—but despite all that, the temptation to join them was strong. Debating with himself whether he should go forward or turn his back on them, his brow furrowed further when he saw Noruil and Anastor’s hands were shaking and Madhien was looking at them with wide eyes.

“Come into the trees,” he heard Eirienil’s whispered voice order sharply as Legolas, Berior and Brethil reached the clearing as well.

Spinning around, he saw Eirienil, Aewen and the other children in the branches of a young oak. At the same time, he heard Legolas gasp and saw Brethil leap without hesitation into the tree. Turning and following his cousin’s gaze, Galithil saw several wild sows rooting amongst the asparagus. He froze involuntarily when he saw the boar with them staring at Anastor and Noruil, his head lowed aggressively.

Legolas reached over and pulled at the sleeve of Galithil’s tunic silently as Berior began to back slowly towards the tree that sheltered the other children. Eyes on the boar, Galithil backed towards the tree as well. When the noise of an arrow sliding free of its quiver made the boar turn towards the center of the clearing, Galithil stopped and stared at Noruil and Anastor.

“What are you doing?” he asked in an incredulous whisper as Noruil fit the arrow against his bowstring.

“It is called hunting,” Noruil responded mockingly. “That boar will make a much better dinner than those asparagus it is trampling.”

Galithil glanced at Legolas, his jaw slightly agape. They both stood at the foot of the oak.

Legolas shook his head. “Have you lost your mind?” he asked. “Even if you could hit the boar from this distance, you cannot kill it with that bow. Even with an adult bow, it would take several shots to kill a boar. If you shoot at him, asparagus will not be all he tramples—he will charge you.”

Anastor glowered at him. “You cannot tell us what to do, Legolas. Go into the trees with the ellyth. Noruil and I will shoot the boar and sows.”

Legolas and Galithil both took a step forward to argue with him further, freezing when the boar snorted and tossed its head, brandishing its tusks threateningly.

“Come into the trees,” Eirienil and Aewen repeated in unison, panic tinging their voices.

“Just because they are stupid, does not mean you must be as well,” Aewen added.

Eirienil nodded. “Do not make the mistake of following them into trouble twice.” Though her male cousins would not confirm it, she had concluded that it was Anastor and Noruil that they had followed to see the moonbow, primarily because all their other friends swore they had never gone into the forest at night.

Legolas hesitated a moment longer and then jumped up, catching a low branch on the tree and pulling himself up. Galithil stood to the side of the tree and gestured for Maidhien to climb it. Seeing that, Anastor glared at him and caught his sister’s arm. Galithil stared at him. “She is not armed or part of your hunt. Let her come into the tree with the other ellyth,” he said, mimicking what Anastor had said earlier.

Anastor scowled. “You do not tell my sister what to do anymore than Legolas tells me what to do. Go hide in your tree.”

Galithil looked at Maidhien, who had not moved and was staring fixedly at the ground. He shook his head. “If I ever have a sister, I hope I treat her with more care,” he said derisively. Then he followed Legolas, swinging into the tree’s protective branches.

The children watched with horrified amazement as Anastor and Noruil drew their bows and aimed at the boar. Understanding that clear threat, it snorted angrily and charged towards them several steps in warning. With frightened yelps, Anastor and Noruil released their arrows. To the surprise of everyone in the tree, their aim was true and the arrows struck their target—one bounced off the boar’s thick skull, leaving only a gash on its forehead, and the other grazed its tough hide. Neither penetrated.

Squealing furiously, the boar lowered its head and charged full speed at the children.

Anastor and Noruil dropped their bows, turned and ran towards the trees. Screaming, Maidhien followed them. The ellyn reached the trees first and leapt up, scaling into the branches to safety without pause. Directly behind them, Maidhien grabbed the lowest branch of the oak and placed her foot on a knot on its trunk to help push herself up.

Her hand slipped and she fell backwards onto the soft grass at the foot of the tree as all the children gasped. Raising her head, she saw the boar mere feet away and bearing down on her swiftly. With a terrified whimper, she threw herself flat on the ground and covered her head with her arms.

*~*~*

Naneth/nana-Mother/mum

Adar/ada--Father/dad

Meleth nin--My love

Muindor nin--My brother

Elleth/ellyth--Female elf(ves)

Ellon/ellyn--Male elf(ves)


Chapter 9 - Expectations--Part Two

Chapter 9: Expectations--Part Two

“This is absurd!” Lalfien exclaimed as she stalked down the path to the next clearing. “We have gone for weeks without bread or meat other than fish. We have been subsisting on nuts because Thranduil can provide nothing more. Now that we finally have greens, we cannot pick them.”

Beside her, Eregeth nodded and murmured a response.

The other ellyth that had been helping to gather greens that morning could hear most of their complaints as they followed well behind them. Arthiel and Lindomiel ignored them, speaking quietly between themselves about their plans to harvest the sweet birch sap. The rest of the ellyth frowned and put their heads together.

“The nerve of Eregeth to tell her son that he had to help gather dandelion greens because ‘no one else will provide them food.’ Where do they think the bread and meat they ate all winter came from? The skies?” one elleth said contemptuously.

“They have lived in the capital for nearly twenty years now. They know perfectly well that what we gather is shared with everyone, whether their daily tasks allowed them to take part in the gathering or not,” another agreed. “I am tired of their complaints. Perhaps in their village people starved if they did not take part in the gathering, but if that is the case, it is the fault of their own husbands’ mismanagement. Dolwon and Dannenion were village leaders you know, before the king brought them here.”

A third nodded knowingly. “The king must be holding them here as punishment for the mismanagement of their villages. What else? To listen to them talk, it is clear they know nothing of how to run a village.”

“I do not care what led to them being held here. I only wish they would go back to the south. Or to the western border or, better still, out of the forest altogether,” the first elleth said. “They contribute nothing positive, so I would prefer to see them gone.” She looked at Lindomiel. “Do you think you could convince the king to send them away?” she asked in a tone of voice that Lindomiel could not pretend to ignore. All the other ellyth turned to her as well.

Lindomiel returned their gaze impassively and drew a breath to respond that she had little influence over court decisions. Before she could speak, the ellyth heard a pair of frightened squeals followed by the screams and yells of several children. By the time the snorts of a boar reached their ears, they had already broken into a run towards the clearing where the children were awaiting them. Lindomiel’s guard, Hurion, was in the lead, calling a signal that would alert any other warriors that might be in the vicinity to come to their aid.

*~*~*

As Lindomiel rushed into the clearing, her attention was immediately drawn to its far end by the noise of several sows and their young crashing into the underbrush, but the thundering sound of a boar’s charge accompanied by his furious squeals left no doubt in her mind that not all the danger had fled with the sows. She spun around, following the line of boar’s charge and scanned for the children. Their frightened cries drew her eyes immediately to the young oak where they had sheltered. Peering through its leaves, Lindomiel released the breath she was holding when she saw Legolas and his cousins perched on its low branches with the other children.

A heartbeat later, her mind registered the fact that many of the children, including Legolas, were leaning down from the tree, stretching their hands towards the ground. Focusing on that, she realized they were shouting at someone to get up. Heart in her throat, Lindomiel’s eyes darted to the ground below the tree and she saw Maidhien face down on the ground, her arms over her head.

Lindomiel’s eyes flashed towards the child’s mother, Eregeth—she had fallen to her knees while struggling to pull away from the restraining grasps of the other ellyth who were trying to prevent her from running across the boar’s charge to pick up her daughter. For a split second, Lindomiel considered dashing forward herself, but it would have been a fruitless effort. Even an elf could not have outraced the boar to the tree. She would have likely been run down herself and worse still she would have blocked their best hope of stopping the boar’s charge—a well-placed arrow.

The sound of bending wood pulled Lindomiel’s gaze to her guard. He had reached full draw on his bow and Lindomiel turned to him in time to watch his arrow leap from his bowstring and fly towards its target. The clearing fell eerily silent as everyone—the adults and children—held their breath, waiting to see if one arrow would fell the boar. The arrow struck the boar behind its shoulder blades, wedging itself deep in its body. The boar screeched in pain, staggered to its side and then righted itself.

“Come here!” Hurion snarled, hoping to divert the boar’s attention, as he slid another arrow from his quiver and fit it against his bowstring. The ellyth began clapping their hands and shouting as well in an effort to draw the boar away from the tree.

The boar swung its head in the direction of the adults, snorting menacingly, but it stubbornly did not turn away from its original victim. Stumbling slightly, but even further enraged, it resumed its course towards the tree without ever completely faltering in its forward motion.

Most of the children, now panicked, began to shout again for Maidhien to get up. Lindomiel saw Legolas look swiftly between Maidhien, the guard taking aim at the boar, and the boar itself, which was again gathering momentum in its charge. She gasped and began to rush forward when Legolas exchanged a determined look with his cousins and then leapt from the safety of the branch to the ground below. Berior followed him.

A bruising grasp on her upper arm stopped Lindomiel from running towards the tree. Focused entirely on Legolas, who, along with Berior, was hauling Maidhien to her feet and pulling her behind the tree, Lindomiel angrily tried to shake off the hand. When she failed, she turned, intending to demand the person release her. Her jaw dropped when she realized it was Hurion holding her back, his bow idle at his side in his other hand.

“Have you lost your mind?” she yelled. “Shoot the boar!”

“I cannot, my lady,” he answered and Lindomiel was aware that he was saying something else about not allowing all of his charges to rush into danger, but she did not really hear him. Her attention had been drawn back to the tree when the boar again loosed a surprised and agonized scream. She immediately realized why the guard could not take another shot—Galithil was hanging onto the boar, one hand grasping the arrow in its side, the other grasping something that he had driven into the boar’s other flank.

As Legolas and Berior lifted Maidhien within the reach of her brother and the other children straining to pull her into the tree, Galithil struggled to wrap his legs around the boar’s broad body in an attempt to remain on its back, out of the reach of its dangerous tusks. The boar bucked wildly, shaking Galithil so that his legs flailed in the air, but he did not lose his grip on the weapons in the boar’s flanks. Just as Legolas and Berior were scrambling back into the branches, Maidhien finally safe next to her brother, the boar raced to the tree and scraped against it, trying to free itself of the arrow. Galithil was forced to let go of the arrow, lest his arm be crushed between the boar and the tree. Pressing against the boar’s side in a vain attempt to pin it against the tree, he raised his other hand and Lindomiel saw the silvery glint of a knife. He raised his arm above his head and plunged the knife back down again, causing the boar to squeal and twist about in pain.

Watching this in horror, Lindomiel realized that she was still pulling against her guard’s grasp. Tearing her eyes away from her nephew for a moment, she turned to Hurion and forced herself to take a step back.

“I will stay here, I promise. Go help him.”

The guard nodded and released her arm, reaching for his sword. As he moved forward, Lindomiel heard Galithil cry out. The boar had turned sharply, raking its tusks along its side, to dislodge the knife. Galithil grunted in pain when the beast’s tusks drove into his side. The boar flung him to the ground and turned to charge him. Before it could, another figure dropped from the tree.

Terror caused every muscle in Lindomiel’s body to tense when her peripheral vision registered a blonde figure drop onto the boar. Fearing to see Legolas hanging from the boar’s back, she spun back towards the tree. Instead, she saw a sword flash in the light before it was driven between the boar’s shoulder blades and into the ground below, pinning it securely. The beast loosed one last squeal of pain and collapsed.

For a moment, everyone in the clearing was immobile, starring at the boar. Then Eregeth ran forward, gathering her daughter and son into an embrace after they leapt from the tree. The other parents did the same, quickly inspecting their children for injuries before pulling them into their arms. A group of young warriors descended from the trees along with the children. As Lindomiel held Legolas and Berior, she recognized the warriors as the third-year trainees that Dolgailon had mentioned would be taking part in a training exercise that morning. It was only then that Lindomiel realized Dolgailon was holding his brother as Arthiel inspected his wound. It was he that had had killed the boar.

*~*~*

Aradunnon and Amoneth rushed into the infirmary, followed by Thranduil and the rest of the family, just as Nestoreth was placing the last stitch in Galithil’s side. Aradunnon took in the sight of his youngest son on the healer’s cot, his face buried against Arthiel’s shoulder. Dolgailon sat to one side of his wife, stroking his younger brother’s hair with one hand. Galithil’s grip on Dolgailon’s other hand relaxed as Nestoreth finished her work. Legolas, Berior and Brethil sat clustered together on Arthiel’s other side, watching with wide eyes as Nestoreth covered Galithil’s wound with a bandage. Eirienil occupied a stool next to the cot, fingering the sash of her dress and staring helplessly at her cousin.

“What happened?” Aradunnon asked. The grief in his voice caused Galithil to lift his tear-streaked face from Arthiel’s shoulder. Seeing the adults, he held out his arms to his mother, a gesture that only deepened his parents’ concern, since Galithil had long since declared himself far too old for cuddling. Amoneth rushed forward to hold him, her skirts still damp from gathering cattail roots at the river.

“It was a boar, ada,” Galithil answered as he settled into his mother’s arms. His voice was hoarse.

Aradunnon frowned sadly, glancing at Galithil’s blood-stained shirt and tunic, which lay on the cot behind him. “Yes, guren, I gathered that,” he said gently. “I was asking how you came to be gored by it,” he continued, turning to Hurion.

The guard straightened reflexively.

“It is not his fault,” Lindomiel and the children said in unison.

Aradunnon raised his eyebrows, obviously waiting for an explanation.

Lindomiel spoke first. “I let the children go ahead of us to a clearing where we intended to gather asparagus. I knew there was only one guard with us, but we were right behind them and I could not imagine that any danger might befall them before we arrived. I should have asked Hurion to go with the children.”

Aradunnon shook his head as Hurion looked at her uncomfortably. “That would have been no solution,” he said softly, “but providing adequate guard it is something we can discuss with Conuiön later.” He turned back to Galithil, kneeling down next to the cot. “So the boar charged you when you entered the clearing?” he asked sympathetically. He blinked in surprise when Galithil looked down and shook his head. “Please do not tell me that you provoked a boar,” he said, astonishment causing the pitch of his voice to rise.

“Galithil did not provoke it. Anastor and Noruil did,” Eirienil answered bitterly before her cousins could respond.

All the adults in the room, none of whom had yet heard the complete story in their rush to get Galithil to the healer, turned to Eirienil. The children quickly related how Anastor and Noruil had refused to climb into the trees and instead had shot at the boar.

“But if you were all in the tree, I still do not understand how Galithil came to be gored,” Thranduil said, when the children paused in their narrative. His eyes widened when Legolas, Berior and Galithil looked at their parents with a mixture of nervousness and resolve.

“We jumped back down from the tree,” Legolas said, returning his father’s gaze evenly. “We know it is a rule that we should go into the trees and stay there if we see anything dangerous in the forest and we did. But Maidhien fell when she tried to climb up…” he began.

“…We shouted at her to get up, and when Hurion got to the clearing we waited as long as we could for him to help her, but his arrow did not stop the boar…” Berior interrupted.

“…and it was about to trample her,” Galithil added. “Hurion did not have time for another shot…”

“…and another shot might not have stopped the boar anyway since the first one did not. No one else had time to reach her and we would not watch Maidhien get hurt,” Legolas concluded, glancing at his cousins. “We talked about it while waiting for Nestoreth and we decided that even though we know it was dangerous, we are not sorry we did it because we did save Maidhien from getting trampled and we would do it again, even if it did break a rule.” As he said that, somewhat breathlessly, he folded his arms across his chest and looked unflinchingly between his father and uncle’s stunned gazes.

“In their defense,” Hurion said softly, “though they do not have the experience to back up their judgment that I could not have taken down the boar, it is correct, none-the-less. The little girl would certainly have been hurt if they had not shoved her into the tree.”

The children looked at Hurion gratefully for a moment before looking back up at their fathers with the same nervous but resolute expressions.

Aradunnon let out a long breath and stroked his hand down Galithil’s hair. “Galithil, you cannot imagine how terrified I was when the guards found me and told me that you had been gored by a boar. And even after seeing that you are not badly hurt, I am still sick that you are injured at all,” he said, wiping tears from Galithil’s cheeks with his thumb. “But I am not angry with you or your cousins fro helping Maidhien. On the contrary, I am very proud of your bravery.”

Galithil’s eyes widened and, despite his discomfort, he sat up a little straighter. “You think I was brave, ada? I expected you to say it was stupid to jump out of a tree onto a boar.”

Aradunnon’s mouth fell open slightly. “You jumped onto the boar?” he asked, looking up at Lindomiel and Hurion.

Galithil nodded reluctantly in response to his father’s reaction.

“We would not have had time to get Maidhien into the tree if Galithil had not jumped on the boar and stabbed it,” Berior said, regarding his cousin admiringly.

Aradunnon’s eyes darted back to his son. “Stabbed the boar?” he quoted. “With what?”

“Dolgailon’s knife,” Galithil answered with a quiet voice. “He left it lying in the sitting room in our chambers last night. I took it and lied to him this morning when he asked if I had it.”

Dolgailon shifted where he sat next to his brother and his brows drew together. “He did not lie, precisely,” he intervened. “I did not handle that conversation as well as I might have.” He looked at his father, drawing his gaze. “It is my fault for being so careless with my weapons, adar.”

Aradunnon sighed. “Do you agree with your brother, Galithil?” he asked softly.

Galithil cast an appreciative look at Dolgailon before looking down and shaking his head. “No, ada. I knew it was wrong to take the knife and even more wrong to not answer Dolgailon honestly when he asked me about it,” he admitted, notably deflated from his earlier cautious hope that he had not incurred his father’s wrath once again.

To his surprise, Aradunnon only leaned over and kissed his forehead. “We can discuss the knife later, when you are feeling better. For now, the only thing you need to understand is that yes, I am very proud of you for helping Maidhien.” He looked over at Legolas and Berior. “I am proud of all of you.”

“Indeed,” Thranduil and Celonhael agreed, smiling at their sons.

“So we are not in trouble?” Legolas asked, surprise in his voice.

“No, Legolas,” Thranduil replied, sitting and pulling his son onto his lap. “You broke a rule. That is true. But some circumstances require us to break rules or otherwise take actions that ordinarily would not seem wise—learning how to make those types of judgments is part of becoming an adult. In this case, it sounds as if you and your cousins considered your options as well as you could, given the dire nature of the situation, and you could not find any way to prevent injury other than the course of action that you chose. We cannot fault you for that. On the contrary, I agree with your uncle that you were very brave, and I am extremely proud of you.”

Legolas, Berior and Galithil exchanged bright, relieved smiles.

“Now is not really the time to talk about any of this, though” Aradunnon said while carefully lifting Galithil from his wife’s lap. “We are going to take you back to your own bed, and Nestoreth is going to make you some nice tea to help you sleep. When you wake up, your side will feel much better and then we can discuss this a little more,” he said soothingly, but Galithil’s face screwed up in disgust.

“I do not want to drink that nasty tea. My side does not hurt much at all. And if we are not in trouble, we would rather talk about the boar” he pleaded, looking to his cousins for support as Aradunnon carried him from the room.

*~*~*

“You can speak to him further if you wish, but I think Galithil has been punished enough already,” Amoneth said, looking at her son propped up in his bed. Galithil had flatly refused to drink the tea and was now shifting uncomfortably every few seconds despite the soft pillows that surrounded him. His cousins were with him on the bed, sitting as still as possible and engaged in a game to distract him. The adults were gathered in Aradunnon’s sitting room, watching the children through Galithil’s open bedroom door.

Arthiel nodded her agreement. “I know there is no excuse for taking the knife and then lying about it,” she added softly, “but Galithil explained to us, while waiting for Nestoreth to clean his wound, that he took the knife because he wanted to show two of the other children that we—this family—do indeed protect this forest and provide for the elves that live in it. And given what I heard today, if I were a child hearing the same type of comments, I might have reacted similarly.”

Thranduil’s gaze shifted to Arthiel. “I think you had better elaborate on that statement, Arthiel,” he said with a carefully neutral voice.

Lindomiel sighed. “While we were gathering greens this morning, Eregeth and Lalfien implied…well, stated bluntly on more than one occasion, that we had not provided adequate food this winter,” she explained.

Amglaur frowned. “When I was with the children listening to the elders’ stories, Anastor and Noruil implied that Thranduil did not protect the southern forest. Galithil reacted quite poorly to that comment.”

“The adults with us today reacted ‘poorly’ to Lalfien and Eregeth’s accusations,” Arthiel said derisively. “They suggested that Lindomiel should persuade the king to send Lalfien and Eregeth’s families from the capital—from the forest, even.”

Thranduil’s eyebrows rose and he looked to Lindomiel for confirmation of that statement.

“They did,” Lindomiel said quietly.

Aradunnon rapped his knuckles against the arm of his chair. “Dolwon, Dannenion and their families’ inability to adapt to life in the capital is a discussion for another day. Galithil taking Dolgailon’s knife is what concerns me now.”

“I think seeing the outcome of Anastor and Noruil’s use of their bows taught Galithil the dangers of weapons in the wrong hands better than any punishment you might devise, adar,” Dolgailon suggested without looking at his father.

Aradunnon’s lips formed a thin line. “Galithil is certainly learning this lesson in a way that I would very much prefer he had not,” he replied.

Dieneryn leaned forward, catching her son’s eye. “Raising your children is your affair, ion nin, but would you mind one piece of advice from a mother who raised two children every bit as headstrong and adventurous as Galithil?”

Aradunnon’s expression softened. “I would very much appreciate your advice, nana,” he replied with an indulgent tone.

Dieneryn smiled at him. “If Galithil took the knife because he wanted to prove that he is contributing to the protection of the forest and its people, give him some way better way to do just that. Did you see your son’s face when you said you were proud of him? Give him some responsibility appropriate to his age that he could be proud of and that you can praise him for. He needs that, Aradunnon.”

Aradunnon looked at his mother, nodding thoughtfully.

“If you are considering that, adar, I have a suggestion for what you might have him do,” Dolgailon ventured. “Galithil is always begging me to let him help on the training fields. He could help by cleaning and repairing the training weapons each evening.”

“Is that not the punishment that the young warriors earn if they have done something wrong?” Arthiel asked, laughing.

Dolgailon shrugged. “Yes, and Galithil has done something wrong, so it is an appropriate job. It is hard work, but it is important, so he can be proud of it. And it will teach him to respect weapons.”

“I would want one of the warriors to account for each of the weapons every evening,” Aradunnon said. “I do not want to provide Galithil with an opportunity to steal a sword—even a wooden practice sword.”

“One of my lieutenants is responsible for accounting for all the training weapons each evening, adar. I can have Galithil report to him. He will like that—it will make him feel very adult.”

Aradunnon nodded, but amusement shined in his eyes. “Yes, it will. Very well then, but we will tell Galithil about this tomorrow. I think he should rest for tonight.”

Just as Aradunnon finished speaking, a knock sounded on the outer door of his chambers. A guard entered.

“I am sorry to disturb you, my lords,” he said quietly, in an effort not to attract the attention of the children. “But the Gate Guards are saying that a child is asking to see Galithil. Not one of his usual little friends. It is a girl—Maidhien is her name. I would not have bothered you, but she is clearly upset and seems very determined to see him. I think she needs assurance that he is not too badly injured.”

The adults glanced at each other, eyebrows raised.

“Bring her in,” Aradunnon finally said.

*~*~*

A few moments later, after another quiet knock, the outer door to Aradunnon’s chambers opened again. Aradunnon and Thranduil stood to greet their guest, but when the guard admitted Maidhien to the room, she took only a few hesitant steps inside, looking about with wide eyes and her mouth open slightly. Pressed against the open door, she did not notice the adults behind it by the fireplace. Instead her eyes were drawn to the mosaic that covered the opposite wall. Made from chips of quartz and the green gems that occurred naturally in the caves, along with stones that Amoneth had painted, it was a sparkling forest scene of trees and flowers and animals. Studying it with her back to the adults, Maidhien walked slowly towards the wall, craning her neck to follow the branches of one of the trees to where they reached onto the ceiling. Just as the guard was about to step forward to take Maidhien’s hand and lead her to her hosts, another distraction intervened.

“Maidhien!” Eirienil exclaimed, surprise making her voice higher pitched than normal.

At the sound of her name, Maidhien’s head turned sharply towards the open door of Galithil’s room. Seeing the children, she dashed towards them, never noticing Aradunnon or Thranduil, who still stood by their chairs next to the fireplace, now shaking their heads and laughing quietly.

Maidhien ran silently into Galithil’s bedroom and stopped next to his bed, her eyes darting between the children sitting with him before they settled on Galithil. He wore a nightshirt, but the bulge of the bandage on his side was plainly evident. Maidhien chewed her lip a moment while looking at it and then she turned her gaze to his face.

“Are you badly hurt?” she asked, her voice so quiet that even the children on the bed had to strain to hear her. The adults that had moved to the doorway of Galithil’s room to greet her could not hear what she had said.

Pitying her obvious distress, Galithil made an effort to smile and shook his head. “It is just a little cut,” he said stoutly. “It does not really hurt at all.”

Maidhien’s eyes narrowed as she peered at him. “Anytime my nana calls Nestoreth to look at one of Anastor’s injuries, he usually ends up in bed for several days and restricted to our cottage for several more,” she observed. Then she paused and glanced at Legolas and Berior before looking down. “I am sorry you were hurt trying to help me, Galithil, but it was very brave of you three to jump down from the tree. I thought I should thank you for it and apologize that Galithil was hurt.”

Her somber tone made Galithil frown. “There is nothing to apologize or thank us for,” he replied, looking to his cousins for support. Legolas and Berior nodded. “You only have to apologize if you do something wrong, and you just fell—that was not your fault. And we did nothing special to merit thanks. Everyone in the clearing was trying to help you—we helped you into the tree, but Hurion shot the boar and it was my brother that killed it,” he said firmly and looking directly at her so she would believe him.

Maidhien did not look up, but her brows drew together. “Ada says that it is my fault that you are injured since I fell from the tree, and he says Thranduil is going to be even angrier with us since his nephews and son were endangered because of me.”

Galithil and the other children stared at her silently, too surprised by that statement to do anything more. A voice from the doorway made them all jump.

“That is absolutely not true.”

Drawing a sharp breath, Maidhien spun around and her eyes widened when she saw the adults. Her gaze traveled swiftly up to the face of the figure that had spoken. The sight of his hands on his hips and his angry scowl made her take several hurried steps backward until she bumped into the bed. When her hands clutched its mattress and she appeared ready to scramble over it to retreat further, she saw astonishment, quickly followed by regret, replace the scowl.

Thranduil dropped to one knee and held out his arms. “I apologize for startling you, child, but there is nothing to be afraid of. Come here,” he said softly.

Maidhien shook her head and shrunk back even further against the bed.

As Thranduil looked over his shoulder at Lindomiel, who had already stepped forward to comfort Maidhien, Legolas hopped off the bed.

“Ada is not angry,” he said quietly, coming to stand on one side of her. “I think what you said surprised him because it is silly to think you were at fault for falling or that he would be angry at you or your parents for such a thing.”

Lindomiel sat on the edge of the bed on Maidhien’s other side, putting her arm around her shoulders. “Legolas is right, sweetheart,” she said, drawing the child against her. Maidhien allowed that, while still staring at Thranduil. “What about you?” Lindomiel continued smoothly, turning Maidhien to face her with a hand under her chin. “Did the boar or the fall hurt you at all?”

Maidhien shook her head. “I scraped my elbow and my hand when I fell,” she said, holding them up for inspection. “But I was not really hurt.” She looked sidelong at Lindomiel. “Just frightened.”

“That boar was awful. We were all frightened,” Eirienil agreed sympathetically as Berior nodded.

“And your brother and his friend, Noruil,” Thranduil asked, settling himself on the floor several feet from Maidhien where he had knelt. “Are they also uninjured?”

Maidhien eyed Thranduil for a moment before looking down and snuggling a little closer to Lindomiel. “Noruil is our cousin,” she corrected. “He and Anastor did not even get a scrape.”

“I am glad to hear that,” Thranduil began but fell silent when Maidhien glared at him.

“Well if anyone deserved to get hurt, they did. They shot at the boar, even after everyone told them not to” she interrupted angrily. “But ada does not care about that.”

Thranduil glanced at Lindomiel. “I do not think you truly believe your brother deserved to be hurt by the boar, do you?”

“They shot at it,” she repeated stubbornly.

“But only because they thought they could kill it and they wanted to help provide food,” Thranduil countered patiently. “They did not purposefully try to harm anyone; they simply overestimated their abilities with their bows, is that not correct?” He paused and Maidhien nodded reluctantly. “So you are not truly angry with your brother and cousin.”

Maidhien frowned. “I am angry with Anastor and Noruil because they did not even try to help me when I fell,” she retorted. Then she looked at Thranduil and continued in a softer voice. “And I am angry with ada because I do not think this is my fault so it is not fair that he is angry with me.”

Thranduil sighed and moved to sit next to Lindomiel on the bed. “When the guards came and told me that Galithil had been gored by a boar, and I knew Legolas was with him, I was very frightened until I saw that both of them would recover. And for a moment, I was angry. I wanted to know how such a thing could happen to someone I love so much. I was mostly angry with myself, thinking I should do more to keep them safe. Sometimes when parents see their children hurt or frightened, they are so upset that they do not react logically.” He paused and looked at Maidhien seriously. “It is your adar’s place and not mine to govern your family, but I feel compelled to agree with you that nothing that happened today was your fault. I am sure your adar will recognize that after he calms down a bit.”

Maidhien sighed. “I doubt it,” she said.

In response to that prediction, Lindomiel gave Maidhien a quick hug and looked at Thranduil sadly.

“Perhaps it will help when your adar realizes that I do not intend to say anything to him or your uncle about this incident,” Thranduil suggested.

Maidhien looked relieved and surprised by that. “You truly are not still angry about the boar?”

Thranduil shook his head. “No, not at all. I am proud of my son and nephews for helping you; I am thankful no one was badly injured; and I am pleased to have met you as a result of all this. My impression is that you are a very polite little girl to have come here to check on Galithil and thank him.”

Maidhien studied Thranduil for a moment. “You are not nearly as mean as ada says you are,” she finally said.

In the silence that followed that observation, Thranduil was aware of his son and nephews’ stunned and angry expressions and the carefully impassive stares of the adults around him. “Your adar and I have our differences, Maidhien, but they do not involve you, your brother or your cousin,” he finally replied neutrally. “I sincerely hope that you will give me a chance to prove to you that I am not ‘mean.’”

Maidhien did not respond to that offer, but Thranduil took comfort in the fact that instead of glaring at him, she now only regarded him shyly.

*~*~*

Thranduil gathered Legolas in his arms and held him just a little tighter and a little longer than normal. When he finally released him, he also placed a kiss on his forehead before tucking the blankets around him carefully. In response, Legolas looked at his father carefully.

“Are you certain you are not angry, ada?” he asked quietly.

Thranduil glanced at Lindomiel and smiled ruefully at his son, safe in his bed. “I am not angry, ion nin. I am still a little frightened that you were so close to such a dangerous animal. And I am having a little trouble with the thought that in very few years I will be taking you with me to hunt for boars and sending you off with the patrols to hunt for much worse things. But I am not angry. You need not worry about that.”

Legolas frowned. “Ada, I will not be a warrior for a very long time…over thirty years. And I will be big with a real bow, not the children’s bows that Anastor and Noruil had today. And you will teach me to use it…”

Thranduil smiled and smoothed Legolas’s hair. “Yes, I know, ion nin. I am trying to remember that, but as I told Maidhien today, parents do not always react logically. And despite the fact that you will not be a warrior for ‘a very log time,’” Legolas scowled when Thranduil winked at Lindomiel as he said that, “it is obvious to me that my son is growing up, and that can be difficult for parents to see.”

Legolas’s scowl melted into a pleased smile. “You think I am growing up, ada?”

“Yes, I do,” Thranduil replied. “Your behavior today showed that, I think.”

“Was our behavior good enough to prove that we can be trusted to go outside by ourselves again?” Legolas asked hopefully.

That question brought a smile to Thranduil’s lips as well. “I believe you will be an outstanding negotiator when you are older, ion nin. You have a fine sense of when to press an advantage.” He paused. “I will speak to your uncles, but I think they will agree that you and your cousins have earned your freedom.” That pronouncement was rewarded by an excited squeal and enthusiastic hug that sent the carefully tucked blankets flying off the bed. Thranduil laughed. “Was it that horrible a punishment, Legolas?” he asked, reaching again for the blankets as the child lay back against his pillows.

Legolas shrugged. “No…just boring. And long. Very long, over a month. And annoying because we did not really see any way to make it end. And at the worst time of year since it is so pretty outdoors.” He paused and looked back at his father. “Yes, it was horrible, ada, but I suppose we deserved it for sneaking into the forest at night. I will not do anything that stupid again.”

Thranduil struggled for a moment not to laugh before fixing Legolas with a serious look. “You will not let Anastor and Noruil lead you or your cousins into any such dangerous behavior again?”

Legolas returned his father’s gaze cautiously. “You knew it was Anastor and Noruil we went to the waterfall with?” he asked quietly.

“I suspected it. Now I know it,” Thranduil replied evenly.

Legolas frowned. “I feel sorry for Maidhien, but we learned our lesson all to well concerning her brother and Noruil. We do not like them and we do not want to do anything with them.”

Thranduil only nodded. “You know them better than I do, Legolas, so I will have to let you decide if Anastor and Noruil are completely unworthy of your friendship. I must confess that, knowing their parents as I do, I would not be surprised if they were. But perhaps Maidhien might enjoy spending time with you and your cousins. And perhaps that friendship might help begin to heal the rift between our families.”

Legolas looked at his father skeptically. “Perhaps,” he said, snuggling his face against his blanket.

*~*~*

“She did what?!” Dolwon exclaimed, nearly spilling his drink in his astonishment.

Dannenion only shook his head. “One of his guards escorted her home along with one of his councilor’s wives and their daughter. The little girl invited her to play with them tomorrow and Maidhien asked me if she could go.”

Dolwon snorted. “I can imagine what you said to that,” he replied.

“I told her she could go whenever she liked,” Dannenion said quietly and smiled when Dolwon stared at him in shocked silence. He shrugged. “You never know what information she might hear there. Or what we might hear if those children begin visiting our homes. It could prove to be a useful friendship in the future.”

Dolwon raised his eyebrows in response and nodded, taking another sip of his wine.

*~*~*

adar/ada--Father/dad

naneth/nana--Mother/mum

guren--my heart

elleth/ellyth--Female elf(ves)


Chapter 10 - Affectations--Part One

Chapter 10: Affectations--Part One

From his place at the head of the table, Thranduil watched his son and nephews, his eyes widening more and more with each passing moment. Legolas was sawing through the last of his asparagus as eagerly as Thranduil could ever remember him attacking this less than favorite vegetable. Across from him, his cousin Berior was devouring his fish with equal enthusiasm, having foregone his customary complaints that no other game had been served at meals throughout the entire winter. But at least Legolas and Berior appeared to be trying to maintain proper table etiquette. Galithil made absolutely no pretense in that arena at all. He was finishing his plate, stuffing food in his mouth with both hands. Thranduil glanced at Aradunnon. He was also watching the children, his shoulders shaking with repressed laughter.

Before either father could speak, Legolas swallowed the last of his asparagus, grimaced dramatically, and laid his knife and fork on the side of his plate. He looked surreptitiously towards the head of the table. Seeing his father's plate nearly full—Thranduil had long since stopped eating in order to observe the children's bizarre behavior—Legolas pulled an impatient face and flopped against the back of his chair with a sigh. That elicited a soft snort from Lindomiel, who had also abandoned the meal in favor of watching her son.

"You children seem very eager to return to the library this afternoon," she commented, clearly struggling to keep her voice even. "Does Master Rodonon have a particularly interesting lesson awaiting you after lunch?"

Legolas turned to his mother and stared at her a moment, clearly trying to determine if she had lost her mind, before composing his face in a neutral expression. "No nana. Master Rodonon told us we did not have to return to the library after lunch," he answered with a quiet voice.

Berior nodded. "He said he was finished with us for the day." The emphasis he placed on the word ‘finished’ and the accompanying sour face was clearly in imitation of their tutor’s early actions, for all the children sniggered softly.

Berior's father, Celonhael, lost his battle to remain serious and deep laughter joined the children’s higher pitched giggles.

"He said we should go tire ourselves out in the forest rather than tiring him out in the library," Galithil concluded, emboldened by the lack of negative response from the adults at the table.

Thranduil shook his head wryly, picked up his knife and fork and turned his attention back to his plate, expecting the lunch conversation to continue. Specifically, he expected Lindomiel, Amoneth and Ollwen would address the children's abominable table manners. Instead he heard only a soft thumping noise—Galithil repeatedly kicking the table leg. He looked up to find his son and nephews staring at him intently.

"Are you not hungry, ada?" Legolas inquired innocently. "You are not eating well."

Thranduil forced his expression to remain neutral as the rest of the adults at the table broke into open laughter.

He placed his knife and fork back down on his plate and regarded the children silently until Legolas looked down, frowning. "Ordinarily, I would respond to such inappropriate behavior by forbidding you to do what ever had provoked it," he began in a cool voice, causing Lindomiel and Amoneth to turn to him with reproachful glares.

Galithil loosed an incredulous cry and leaned forward, ready to protest. Before he could speak, a loud noise erupted under the table. Galithil started violently, scowled at his cousins and bit his lip. But he did remain silent as he reached a hand under the table to rub his shin. Legolas and Berior looked at Thranduil anxiously, an apology on their lips.

Thranduil raised his hand to forestall both the children and the adults at the table who appeared equally ready to revolt. "But under the circumstances, I think the best response would be to dismiss you from the table and wish you an enjoyable afternoon in the forest."

Legolas, Galithil and Berior all loosed excited whoops and leapt up from their chairs to dash towards the dining room door without another word. Eirienil, who had politely finished her lunch having sensibly taken only a small portion of fish, followed them eagerly.

"Galithil," Aradunnon called, interrupting their charge.

Reluctantly, Galithil stopped and turned to face his father.

"Do not forget that you must report to the training field this afternoon. If you are healed well enough to play in the forest, you are healed well enough to begin your work there."

Galithil broke into a broad smile. "I will not forget, adar," he promised.

Legolas and Berior looked at their cousin enviously, a fact that Thranduil did not miss.

"Legolas," he said softly, as the children once again started from the room. "I would ask a favor of you while you are outside. I will be in meetings until late in the afternoon and I have been neglecting the puppies' training. Could you and your cousins review with them what we have already taught them? Just as we did the last time you and I worked with them together?"

Legolas's face lit. "You want me to train the puppies? By myself?"

Thranduil nodded. "I think you could do that. You have worked with them several times with me."

Legolas nodded eagerly. "I can do it, adar," he affirmed.

Thranduil smiled. "Thank you, ion nin. I was concerned that the lack of regular training would encourage them to become too undisciplined. If you will work with them, that will be a great help."

Legolas grinned at his parents before the children dashed from the room.

When they disappeared, the adults at the table again dissolved into open laughter.

"The puppies! That was perfectly done, Thranduil," Lindomiel said, leaning over to place a kiss on her husband's cheek. "You made your son very happy."

Thranduil shook his head, laughing along with the others. "Sometimes I do not know how to treat him. One moment he is behaving like an orc and resorting to childish tactics...'I am not eating well.' Indeed!"

Dieneryn smiled at her son. "Since he was old enough to speak he has been quoting your own admonitions back to you. I have always thought that was very dear," she interjected.

Aradunnon nodded. "Clever, really. I wish I had thought of doing that," he said, looking at his mother with a mischievous gleam in his eyes.

"Oropher would have reacted very well to being corrected by children," Amglaur muttered under his breath.

"And at the next moment," Thranduil continued, ignoring them all, "he is anxious to be given even the smallest of responsibilities."

"It is a difficult age," Dieneryn affirmed. "They are still children, but they are beginning to show interest in the adult world. I agree with Lindomiel that you handled that well. He was very pleased to be given the privilege of training those dogs." She paused. "Just as you were always so thrilled to work with Oropher to train his horses. I confess I find it very endearing to see you employ the same methods with your son that your adar did with you."

Thranduil's eyebrows rose. “That never occurred to me,” he replied.

At the mention of Oropher’s horses, Amglaur loosed a derisive snort. "As if training those horses to race at break-neck speed taught Thranduil responsibility! Is Legolas doing something equally foolish with those dogs? Teaching them to fight wolves, perhaps?"

Thranduil scowled at his father-in-law, but it was Hallion that spoke.

"Oropher never did anything to endanger his sons," he said, glaring at Amglaur.

"Indeed not," Engwe agreed. "I remember going with Oropher to choose the horse he intended to gift to Thranduil. The horse masters were completely beside themselves before Oropher was done testing their stock's temperament. He went to great trouble to choose a horse that was gentle but would still seem to be an impressive war stallion to a child."

Celonhael nodded. "And Thranduil was adorable working with that horse. He had to stand on the barnyard fence to bathe him after running him," he said with a fond smile.

"Thranduil did love that horse," Dieneryn said. "He spent every spare moment in the barns. What was the horse’s name, Thranduil? Amlug?"

Glancing around him, Thranduil noted Lindomiel, Amoneth and Aradunnon were looking at him with bright eyes, waiting for his response. One side of his mouth quirked downward. "Yes, nana. That was his name," he responded quietly.

"Did Thranduil love his Amlug?" Aradunnon taunted with barely restrained laughter.

Thranduil glared silently at his brother a moment and then stood, bringing the rest of the family to their feet. He raised a single eyebrow and swept his gaze over them. "If we are finished reliving my childhood, perhaps we should return to the Great Hall and the governance of this realm," he suggested coolly.

"As you wish, my lord," Dieneryn said, her expression unaltered by the king’s demeanor. She reached over and patted Thranduil on his cheek. "But you will always be my son. And I will always enjoy seeing echoes of Oropher while watching my son and grandson."

Thranduil sighed and looked at his mother side-long, but was unable to resist returning her smile.

*~*~*

Legolas and his cousins burst out the gates of the stronghold as water bursts through a dam, their elated shouts drowning out the guards’ order to not run across the bridge. The elves working on the green and along the river smiled as the children’s charge was met by that of two other equally excited elflings—Brethil and Aewen—running to greet their friends from where they had been playing near the forest edge. They fell into a little group, chattering animatedly, oblivious to the presence of the nearby adults.

“I cannot believe it is true!” Aewen exclaimed, staring at Galithil with her hands on her hips. “You do something completely mad—you jump onto a boar—and your parents reward your madness by releasing you from your punishment! I cannot believe it,” she repeated.

Galithil frowned severely as Legolas and Berior tried to stifle their laughter. “My adar did not say I was mad,” he retorted, trying to stand up straighter in order to look down his nose at Aewen. “He said I was brave.”

Aewen snorted and paused before answering him, pointedly looking at how Galithil stood slightly bent over with his hand pressed against his injured side in an obvious attempt to staunch the pain caused by the exertion of running across the green. Then she shook her head. “My adar said the same thing when he heard what had happened. That only shows that nana is right and all ellyn are insane,” she concluded airily.

To her disgust, Galithil puffed up even further. “Your adar said I was brave too?” he asked, unable to conceal his pleased surprise.

Aewen rolled her eyes. “But nana said you were insane and so do I.”

Galithil waved his hand dismissively. “Your adar is the captain of the Palace Guard and my adar is the realm’s troop commander. I think they know more than your naneth or you about bravery,” he replied, still too pleased by her comment to bother being angry.

Before Aewen could respond, Galithil dramatically turned his back to her and looked across the green, scanning the forest and pretending for all the world as if Aewen did not exist. The other children giggled when Aewen loosed an insulted harrumph. That made Galithil smile broadly.

His smile faded when, still idly scanning the trees, his gaze fell on a small figure standing in the shadows, watching them. It was Maidhien. She stood next to a tall oak, the doll in her hand forgotten and dangling at her side. Galithil turned back to his playmates and nudged Eirienil.

“Go invite her to play with us,” he said, gesturing toward Maidhien.

Eirienil brows drew together and for a moment she did not move. Instead, she stared at Gailithil silently, debating with herself. Then she looked away from him and sighed before trotting slowly across the green.

The other children followed her with their eyes until they also spotted Maidhien. When they did, Brethil and Aewen turned quickly back to Galithil.

“Why would Eirienil invite her to play with us?” Aewen demanded in a whisper as the children watched the two little ellyth speaking under the trees.

Galithil only glared at Aewen in response.

“Maidhien came to visit Galithil the day the boar attacked us. To thank him,” Legolas explained quietly.

Aewen waited for Legolas to continue. When he did not, she leaned forward. “So?” she asked, voice rising slightly.

Legolas shrugged, watching Eirienil and Maidhien speak. “She seems nice enough,” he said. Then he looked back at Aewen and Brethil with a serious expression. “The way her brother acted that day…I cannot help but feel sorry for her.”

Aewen scowled. “Perhaps, but my adar would not approve of me playing with anyone from that family,” she said coolly.

“Neither would mine,” Brethil agreed, though he looked more surprised than angry when Eirienil began striding back towards them with Maidhien skipping happily along side her.

“My adar suggested that we might play with Maidhien,” Legolas replied.

That comment caused both Aewen and Brethil to stare at him. “But Legolas,” Brethil whispered, taking a step closer and looking at Legolas fixedly. “What about her brother? He has caused us enough trouble and I refuse to do anything else with him,” he said, just as Eirienil arrived with Maidhien.

“I do not want anything to do with Anastor either,” Maidhien said softly, stopping just outside the group of elflings.

Galithil frowned and stepped back next to her, widening their circle and making her part of it. “Well, there is one thing we all agree on then,” he said.

Aewen and Brethil looked at Maidhien without a word as Legolas and Berior greeted her quietly.

“So, what shall we do?” Legolas asked with forced cheerfulness after a moment of uncomfortable silence.

Galithil’s eyes lit with excitement as his attention swiftly turned to the activities he had daydreamed about throughout the last month’s lessons. “I want to go swimming in the river,” he declared.

“We are not allowed to go swimming unless our parents are with us,” Eirienil reminded him. “And we will never get their permission today. They will say the water is still too cold.”

“And they will be right,” Aewen added under her breath.

Galithil looked at the ellyth through narrowed eyes, ready to argue, but Maidhien spoke before he could reply.

“We could just catch frogs at the river instead of swimming,” she suggested. “Or even tadpoles. I saw tadpoles there already. Have you seen them yet?”

That question made all the other children turn to Maidhien sharply. Legolas and Berior looked at her with wide eyes. Eirienil and Aewen’s eyes were wide as well, but rather than appearing surprised, they were openly disgusted. They never went to the river with the ellyn if their plan was to catch frogs. That activity involved far more mud slinging and splashing through slimy water than any self-respecting elleth could tolerate in their opinion. Maidhien looked back at them with obvious confusion.

“You do not like catching frogs?” she asked, her tone making it clear that should could not imagine anyone who did not like frogs. “They are a lot of fun. You can race them or make them hop through obstacle courses. Anastor, even kept one as a pet for a long time. He made a really nice home for it in our yard out of stones. It had a little frog-sized pond in it. And he fed it crickets that he caught…”

Maidhien stopped speaking when Eirienil and Aewen’s expressions did not change.

But Galithil was looking at her with admiration. He elbowed Legolas. “I told you Aewen and Eirienil are not right,” he said with laughter in his voice. “If we cannot go swimming,” he continued, ignoring Eirienil’s cold glare, “I agree that catching frogs is just good. We should do that.”

Berior nodded eagerly and Legolas, still smirking at Galithil, nodded as well. With that, they moved off towards the river.

Eirienil and Aewen stayed where they were.

“If you come home after your first day of freedom covered in mud and soaking wet, it may well be your last day of freedom for a long while,” Eirienil’s voice rang out in warning.

Galithil spun around and glared at her. “Come off it, Eirienil! What do you want to do? Sit under a tree and practice your embroidery?” he asked, purposefully choosing the activity that she hated most. “Well, have a nice time. But the rest of us want to have some fun after being cooped up for the last month.”

Eirienil took a step towards her cousin and glared right back at him. “I want to have some fun too, Galithil. I did not have to stay inside to keep you and Legolas and Berior company for the last month. I was not being punished for doing something stupid. But to be nice, I did stay with you lot nearly every day. Or did you forget that? But I do not want to go to the river and come home filthy so our parents will have something else to be angry about.” She paused, drew a deep breath and linked arms with Aewen. “We are going to play with the puppies,” she said in a calmer voice.

Eirienil smiled when Legolas and Berior hesitated in reaction to that statement. Galithil put his hands on his hips, adopting what he would have been disgusted to realize was a nearly identical posture to Eirienil’s, preparing to dissuade his cousins from following the ellyth.

“Puppies?” Maidhien asked quietly before Galithil could speak. “You get to play with the king’s hunting dogs?” she asked a little breathlessly.

Again, all the other children stared at her.

“Of course we do,” Legolas responded. Then he laughed lightly. “Ada says we are determined to ruin them all by making pets of them. He would never admit it, but he plays with them too, so he cannot really say much to us. And today he asked us to do their training exercises with them.”

“Oh, I would love to see the hunting dogs and especially the puppies,” she said, looking hopefully towards Galithil.

He sighed and forced himself not to show his disappointment. “The puppies are fun to play with. We can go do that,” he said quietly. He did smile when Maidhien’s face lit up and she skipped to follow Eirienil and Aewen.

“Galithil likes Maidhien,” Legolas taunted in a very soft, sing-songy voice as the ellyn followed their female cousins toward the barn. Berior burst into a fit of giggles and pulled a face.

Galithil punched Legolas in the arm. “I do not!” he said firmly. “I feel sorry for her, as you said.”

“If you say so,” Legolas responded teasingly, dancing out of reach of another punch.

*~*~*

“If they are saying the sorts of things we just heard, then it seems nothing has improved,” Celonhael said, when Lindomiel, Arthiel and Amglaur concluded their statement to the king’s council regarding the comments they had heard Dolwon and Dannenion’s family’s make. Disappointment tinged his voice.

Around the table in the Great Hall, the other members of Thranduil’s council looked grim.

“What disturbs me most,” Dieneryn said, glancing at Amglaur, “what saddens me most, is that their children seem to be completely taken in by their rhetoric.”

“That is to be expected,” Aradunnon replied. “A child that young naturally adopts his parents’ viewpoints.”

The room was silent for a moment as everyone nodded.

“They will never adjust to life in the capital,” Golwon interjected into the silence, turning towards the head of the table and addressing Thranduil.

To the king’s right, Hallion shook his head. “We must give them time…” he began.

“Time!” Engwe interrupted him. “Time for what? Time to organize some new plot, this time aimed at the King himself? Time to sway others to their beliefs…”

“No one in the capital could be swayed to such beliefs,” Celonhael said firmly, cutting Engwe off.

“Hard times are difficult for all to endure,” Dieneryn said softly. “And are easily exploited by malcontents. This was a very harsh winter.”

Thranduil’s gaze shifted silently to his mother in response to that observation.

Hallion regarded her with open surprise. “What would you suggest then, my lady?” he asked.

“I would send them from the forest,” Amglaur interjected in a cold, level voice from the opposite end of the table.

All eyes turned to him.

“If they are a threat, I would prefer to keep them close, where I can know what they are doing and prevent it,” Hallion retorted, eying Amglaur with open irritation. The Prince of Lothlorien was not a member of the king’s council and Hallion did not appreciate his contribution. But Amglaur was not alone in his opinion.

“In the capital, the king provides them food and protection while they have access to information and resources they might use to plot against him,” Engwe argued. “Outside the forest, they will never again have access to cause the king harm.”

“They have lived in this forest longer than we have, Engwe. Sending them from it may foster enmity. It may strengthen their cause amongst their sympathizers, who would still be inside this forest,” Hallion replied.

“Allowing them to stay does not prevent them from building support,” Aradunnon said. “Indeed it gives them opportunity to build support and use it to act as Engwe suggested.” He looked at his brother. “I agree with Amglaur and Engwe. Send them from the forest.”

Thranduil returned Aradunnon’s gaze silently.

“After hearing what we have heard today,” Golwon stated, “I also agree. We gave them time and opportunity to find their way back to us and they flatly refuse to do so. The only response is to send them away. I do not believe there will be a great outcry amongst the villagers.”

“Here in the capital, there will not be,” Hallion replied. “But in the south, where Dolwon and Dannenion were leaders of the Silvan before any of us arrived in this forest, where times are consistently harder than they are in the capital and where the king’s authority is weakest—there such an action will have an impact. One that we cannot predict and one that might have devastating consequences on innocent lives if the villagers there withdraw themselves even further from the king.” He turned to Thranduil. “We have a duty to protect these people, not just ourselves. The situation is stable now and under our control. Sending them from the forest may spark a fire that we cannot control.”

Thranduil looked from his steward to Celonhael.

The advisor frowned and shook his head. “It is very difficult to send anyone from the forest,” he said softly. “I cannot say that I have heard reason to banish them today.”

“I have,” Dieneryn stated. Thranduil turned to her, eyebrows raised. Her expression remained firm. “They are a clear threat to this family and hence to this forest. They should be sent from it.”

“And what about their children?” Lindomiel asked, looking from her mother-in-law to her husband. “Will we banish three children? How can we do that?”

No one at the table responded to that question.

After a moment of silence, Thranduil spoke. “That is all on this topic.” He nodded to the three witnesses at the end of the table. “I appreciate the time you took to join us and relate what you heard to this council,” he said.

Lindomiel held her husband’s gaze a moment longer and then she stood, raising everyone at the table, including Thranduil, to their feet. Arthiel curtsied to Thranduil and Amglaur bowed before leaving the Great Hall along with Lindomiel.

Before his council had an opportunity to seat themselves again, Thranduil turned to his steward.

“Do we have any other business today, Hallion?” he asked.

“No, my lord,” he replied and appeared ready to say something further.

Thranduil cut him off. “That is all then,” he said, sitting down at the table and focusing on the papers before him--the next day’s petitions.

The members of his council hesitated a moment, looking at each other or at the king with some surprise. Then Celonhael bowed and turned to leave. The others followed suit, leaving the Great Hall while whispering quietly amongst themselves. All of them but Hallion. When the great oak doors of the Hall had closed, cutting off the council’s whispers, the king’s steward sat down in his place to Thranduil’s right, leaning close to him and forcing the king to look up.

Thranduil did so, eyebrows raised questioningly, apparently unaware what his steward might want.

Hallion sighed softly. “I would like to speak further to you about Dolwon and Dannenion,” he began.

Thranduil sat back in his chair and regarded him stonily. “But I clearly do not want to speak further on this topic myself, Hallion. I have heard all that I need to hear.”

“My lord,” Hallion pressed, “What real effort have we made to help Dolwon and Dannenion adjust to life in the capital?” Thranduil remained silent, now scowling in response to his steward's persistence. “None,” Hallion continued, answering his own question. “We have done nothing but hold them here against their will. Before we give up on them and take such an extreme measure as to banish them from their home, I strongly urge you to make some effort to show them the error of their way of thinking.”

Thranduil’s brow creased in exasperation. “Hallion, for the last twenty years I have treated them as I have treated anyone else in the capital—I have provided them food and a safe place to live, as Engwe pointed out. And they have found nothing but fault. The other elves convicted with them have all shown their willingness to live under my rule. Even Tulus. Dolwon and Dannenion simply refuse to do that. What do you suggest I do?”

“Make an effort to get to know them, my lord. And to let them know you…”

Thranduil waved his hand. “I said I am finished with this topic, Hallion,” he stated, picking up one of the papers on the desk to read it.

Hallion pushed the paper back down, causing Thranduil to glare at him with open irritation. “You could begin by approaching them about their sons’ wanderings at night. You intended to have someone inform them of what you discovered Anastor and Noruil were doing. Instead of sending one of the Palace Guard, go yourself. Speak to them as one father to another and show concern for their children. It might help you find common ground to heal your relationship.”

Thranduil glared at him. “So you suggest I show them concern. Perhaps I should show them the same concern they showed for my child when they conspired with Easterlings to abduct his mother?” Thranduil asked, icily.

Hallion frowned. “Is your determination to banish them the best decision for this realm, my lord, or is it motivated by personal vengeance?”

Thranduil’s eyes narrowed and anger flashed in them. “Enough, Hallion. You forget to whom you speak…”

“I do not, my lord. You are my king and I will support your decisions in all matters. With my life, if need be. But before you make a decision I am convinced will damage this realm, it is my duty to make sure you have given it full consideration. If you are responding to my suggestions with statements such as your last one, it is my duty to point out to you your bias, my lord.”

Thranduil glared at his steward a moment longer and then leaned back in his chair. “You are a courageous elf, Hallion,” he said.

Hallion let out a long, quiet breath hearing the hint of amusement in the king’s voice. “I have served the House of Oropher for three Ages of this world, my lord.”

Thranduil put the paper back down on the table. “And you have served it well,” he replied, looking at Hallion evenly. Then he sighed and closed his eyes. “If I go to Dolwon’s home and speak to him about Noruil, you cannot honestly believe he will respond well.”

“No, I do not, my lord. I believe the road to winning Dolwon and Dannenion’s trust will be a long and difficult one. But I believe it will be worthwhile in the end. You will earn an ally rather than an enemy and, whether you succeed or fail, you will garner the respect of every other elf in the capital for making the effort.”

“I do not believe I can succeed in this, Hallion,” Thranduil said softly. “I firmly believe that Dannenion is completely lost to us. Dolwon is likely lost as well.” He held up his hand when Hallion drew a breath to speak. “But I had already decided not to banish them before you cornered me despite my best efforts to end this annoying conversation.” He paused, smiling at his steward’s expression.

Hallion was looking at him with raised eyebrows. “You had already decided to let them stay?” he asked.

Thranduil nodded and turned back to the petitions. “Yes, Hallion. I prefer to have my enemies where I can watch them. And even if I did not, Lindomiel is correct. I will not send children out into the wilds. So, I will take your advice and to try to find some common ground with them, though I cannot imagine what that might be.” He sighed. “I will go to their cottages this afternoon and speak to them about their children’s wanderings at night. Perhaps that may be a start.”

*~*~*

AN: I don't know how one even begins to satisfactorily apologize for a year-long abandonment of a story, but I do apologize, sincerely.

*~*~*

adar/ada--father/dad

naneth/nana--mother/mum

ion nin--my son

elleth/ellyth--female elf (elves)

ellon/ellyn--male elf (elves)


Chapter 11 - Affectations--Part Two

Chapter 11: Affectations--Part Two

Aewen sat in the grass in the barnyard, stroking the puppy settled in her lap and looking over the stone fence Galithil and Maidhien had leapt over only moments before. She was watching the warriors of the Palace Guard returning from their duties for the afternoon in hopes of catching a glimpse of their captain, her father. It had been the arrival of those warriors that alerted Galithil that it was time for him to go to the training field.

As Aewen looked at the warriors on the green, her gaze fell upon two elflings approaching the barnyard. "Here comes trouble," she warned.

Holding off the jumping puppies, who did not see any reason to stop playing, the other children followed her gaze to see Anastor and Noruil storming towards them. Eirienil loosed a long sigh as Brethil began to grumble 'I told you so's.' All the children stood and faced the approaching elflings, puppies now clamoring around their legs.

"Where is my sister?" Anastor demanded as soon as he passed through the barnyard gate. "I heard she followed you lot off the green this afternoon."

"She did, but she is not with us now," Legolas said, not reacting to Anastor’s threatening tone.

"Where did she go?" Anastor pressed, coming to a halt right in front of Legolas and his cousins in the middle of the barnyard. The puppies began to jump on the new arrivals, expecting them to join the game, but Anastor and Noruil shoved them aside.

“I do not know for certain,” Legolas replied with a shrug.

“Well I am not leaving until someone tells me where she went. I do not approve of my sister being in the company of the likes of you lot.”

Legolas scowled at him, but before he could answer, Eirienil spoke. "This is precisely why I think doing anything with Maidhien is a bad idea," she muttered, intentionally speaking loud enough for everyone to hear her. 'These two are idiots."

Noruil and Anastor's expressions hardened even further and Noruil took a threatening step towards Eirienil.

Legolas stepped between them. "Maidhien played with us for a while, but she left with Galithil when he had to go to the training fields. I have no idea if she intended to go home or with him when he reported to lieutenant Glílavan. So if you want to find her, you should start with the training fields or your cottage. That is the only suggestion I can give you. Now leave us alone," he said firmly

Anastor and Noruil both adopted scornful scowls. "Before he 'reported' to Glílavan," Noruil quoted with a mocking tone. "What business could Galithil possibly have on the training field?" he asked, folding his arms across his chest and planting his feet firmly at shoulders width. He and Anastor did not move.

"That is not your concern," Legolas replied, turning away from Anastor and Noruil with the intention of walking away. He gestured for his cousins to follow him.

Anastor blocked his path, this time physically bumping against Legolas and shoving him back. "It is my concern if my sister is with him," he said in a low tone. "Now answer the question—why would Galithil have to go to the training field?" he repeated. Then his brow furrowed. "Wait. You said he had to go. Why did he have to go? Is he being punished?" Glee at the idea made Anastor's voice rise in pitch slightly.

Noruil also looked at Legolas with bright, wide eyes. "Or did your parents finally decide to teach you lot something about weapons so that you might be useful one day? Why does only Galithil have to go? Do your parents realize there is no hope for the rest of you?"

Eirienil and Aewen rolled their eyes and loosed an exasperated huff in response to that question.

"It is your parents that should be having doubts about their children, Anastor," Eirienil said with an angry tone. "I seem to recall it was you that shot at a boar but was unable to kill it. It was you that practically ran over your own sister to flee the attack you provoked. And it was you who sat in the tree with the ellyth while Galithil, Legolas and Berior fought the boar and saved your sister from injury. Your parents must be very ashamed of your cowardice."

That taunt caused Anastor and Noruil's faces to twist with rage. With an angry growl, Anastor shoved Eirienil hard.

Eirienil stared at Anastor, surprised by that treatment. No matter how badly she provoked her cousins, none of the ellyn had ever shoved her. As soon as the shock wore off, her eyes narrowed and her hands balled into fists. Legolas, Brethil and Berior moved to intervene, but before they could, an adult-sized hand grasped Anastor and Noruil by their collars and pulled them back.

"Have you lost your minds? Shoving an elleth?" a dismayed, angry voice cried.

All the children looked up to see Tulus standing over them, horse tack flung over his shoulder, his expression demanding an explanation. He did not release Anastor and Noruil, but instead pulled them to his side, glaring at them.

Their faces contorted in anger and they tried to twist free of his grasp. When they failed, Anastor stopped struggling and pulled himself up to his full height. "Leave it to a coward to come to the aid of other cowards. You must stick together, after all," he said, glaring at Tulus.

"You mind your tongue," Tulus growled, giving Anastor a slight shake. "If you need a lesson in how to speak respectfully to adults, I will be happy to provide it."

Legolas and his cousins looked at Tulus with wide eyes. They knew him well as a stable hand who was always willing to play with them, show them surprises or give them little treats. The elf that stood before them now was someone completely different.

Anastor pulled hard against Tulus's grip. "When I tell my adar that you threatened me Tulus..." he began, but Tulus interrupted him.

"You go tell your adar. We can go together and speak to him now, if you like. I am certain he will be pleased to find that you were fighting with Legolas and his cousins when he specifically told you to stay away from the king's son and nephews." When Anastor and Noruil looked at Tulus uncomfortably, he leaned over to look Anastor in the eye. "You mind your tongues. Understand?"

They looked at Tulus resentfully but nodded silently.

Tulus released them. "Get home. And pray I do not visit your parents tonight."

Casting a cold parting glare at Legolas and his cousins, Anastor and Noruil fled into the forest.

Tulus knelt on the ground next to Eirienil. "He did not hurt you with that shove, did he?" he asked with his normally gentle tone. All the elflings blinked at the transformation.

When Eirienil recovered herself, she frowned and shook her head. "I could fight him. He is a coward and I told him so," she replied stoutly.

"Perhaps," Tulus responded quietly, "but I doubt lord Golwon would approve if he heard his daughter was brawling on the green. And I wonder if lord Thranduil would be pleased to see members of his family fighting with the citizens of his realm."

Eirienil bit her lip. "Are you going to tell my adar?" she asked.

Tulus smiled at her. "Of course not. I do not meddle in the affairs of lord Thranduil's household." Then he looked at them seriously. "But if I might venture a piece of advice, I think perhaps you should stay on the green. You might avoid trouble that way. I doubt very much that Anastor and Noruil went home as I suggested."

"But I am going home," Aewen declared. She looked at Legolas. "Where my adar is certain to question me about this." She looked over her shoulder at the Gate Guards. They were looking straight at the children and Tulus. "There is no possibility that my adar is not going to hear about this, Legolas, even if Tulus does not tell anyone. The guards will mention what they saw in their evening report, so my adar will know about it. And so will yours. I told you we should not play with Maidhien."

Legolas grimaced and drew a long breath before he replied. Aewen's know-it-all attitude was worse than Eirienil's. And Aewen was not his family, so he found it much harder to endure from her. "The guards to do not report what they see children doing. And this was not Maidhien's fault, Aewen. She is not even here," he replied through clenched teeth.

"Her brother is trouble, just as I said he would be," she retorted before turning on her heel and marching off towards her cottage.

Legolas stared after her, jaw set angrily.

"I had better go too," Brethil said quietly. "I want to tell ada what happened before he hears about it. He will not be nearly as upset that way."

Legolas scowled. "We did not do anything wrong," he insisted, speaking to emphasize each word and looking at Brethil with exasperation.

"But we nearly got in a fight, Legolas. Ada will not like that. I have to go. See you tomorrow after lessons," he said quickly before running off.

Legolas loosed a frustrated sigh. "Those two cause more trouble than anyone else in the forest," he said, looking in the direction where Anastor and Noruil had disappeared into the tree line. "They are worse than orcs."

Berior giggled at that comment, causing Legolas to grin as well.

Tulus stood. "You are more correct than you know," he said dryly, patting Legolas on the shoulder before moving off towards the barn.

Legolas, Berior and Eirienil looked after him as he walked away.

"What do you suppose that meant," Legolas asked in a soft voice. “He sounded really serious.”

Berior shrugged. "You could probably get him to tell you. Tulus loves to tell tales," he said mildly.

Eirienil nodded. All the children knew that. "But who would want to discuss Anastor and Noruil?" she asked disdainfully. "Come on, Legolas. We should go back to the library and do the essay Master Rodonon assigned us. If we finish it, maybe our parents will let us come out on the green to watch the dancing for a while tonight. At the very least, maybe our diligence will distract them if they do hear we nearly got into a fight."

Legolas shook his head, still looking at Tulus. "I am going to finish the training exercises with the puppies and then I am going to go meet Galithil on the training field to make sure he does not run into Anastor and Noruil and start a fight himself." He looked back at Eirienil, who was regarding him skeptically. "His wound," he said, touching his side. "Galithil would not back down from a fight if they pick one and if he gets into one, he will make that injury worse. I am only going to make sure he comes home without getting in trouble."

Eirienil nodded. "Make sure you do as well," she said.

*~*~*

Galithil finished wiping the last of the practice swords and begin placing them in the racks where they were stored. He still wore the happy smile that had blossomed across his face when Glílavan assigned him this duty. Maidhien leaned against the doors of the shack that housed the equipment, watching him.

"I thought you were being punished, Galithil," she said quietly so as to not draw Glílavan's attention.

Galithil nodded. "I am," he responded, making a slight stab at the air with the sword in his hand before he set it in the rack.

"You do not look very contrite," she observed.

Galithil paused and looked at her, still smiling. "Why would I be? As punishments go, this is the best I ever had. I hope adar forgets he has given me this punishment so I can keep doing it."

Maidhien frowned. "Why?"

"I like helping the warriors," he said, a hint of pride creeping into his voice. "I can hardly wait until I am old enough to train with them. Until then, I am happy to help however adar lets me,"

Maidhien's brow furrowed more deeply. "So you want to train? Ada and my brother say that your family does not like to fight."

Galithil stopped racking the swords and turned to her. "Of course we do not like to have to fight," he said. "But my brother and father are both warriors, Maidhien. So are all my uncles, for that matter, including uncle Thranduil. They have all fought in many battles." He turned back to the swords, picking one up and clearly enjoying hefting its weight. "And so will I."

Maidhien was silent for a moment. "Then why do you not have a bow or a knife," she asked.

Galithil looked at her incredulously. "Surely the answer to that is obvious," he replied. "We are not old enough to have bows yet. Neither are your brother or cousin. They proved that when they shot at that boar. That was stupid, Maidhien, and I dare you to deny it."

Maidhien nodded in response. "I cannot deny it," she said softly. "But I do not think I am too young. I have not caused any trouble with my bow. I did not shoot at the boar. I have only shot at the targets on the range."

"Only the warriors are allowed to use the targets, Maidhien," he whispered, glancing at Glílavan. Then he frowned. "And if you ruin those targets, I am going to have to fix them."

Maidhien turned towards the targets lined up on the practice field. "Glílavan lets me practice with them," she said.

Galithil frowned. "He would not do that. He is supposed enforce the rules, not break them."

Maidhien put her hands on her hips and looked at him defiantly. "I am not lying, Galithil," she said, her voice raised.

Galithil put the sword he was holding in the rack and faced her. "I did not mean to imply that you were lying, Maidhien," he said apologetically. "Only that maybe he does not know you are using the targets," he suggested with a conciliatory tone.

"Yes, he does," she said stubbornly. Then she turned to where Glílavan sat on a bench outside the shack. "May I shoot at the targets, Glílavan?" she shouted.

Glílavan nodded and waved his hand towards the archery range without looking up from the report he was reading. "Use the last target," he said. "It was to be repaired after training tomorrow anyway."

Maidhien looked at Galithil triumphantly before trotting over to the archery range. Galithil watched her, his mouth hanging open slightly, as she took up a position half way down the range, strung her bow, nocked an arrow and sent it flying.

"Very good," Glílavan's voice floated down the range in response to the sound of the arrow sinking into the target.

Galithil snorted. The arrow had struck the edge of the target and he did not think such a shot warranted praise. The noise drew Glílavan's attention. Galithil looked down and turned back to his work, not wanting to get in more trouble.

"You may join her when you have finished putting those swords away," Glílavan offered after watching him a moment.

Galithil blinked and tried not to appear too surprised when Glílavan smiled at him. Then he hurriedly finished putting the swords in the rack.

"I cannot believe he lets you use the warrior's practice range," Galithil whispered to Maidhien as he came up next to her. He looked uncomfortably from side to side. Standing in the middle of the range was something he had always been taught was incredibly unsafe. Even though they were alone and there was no possibility they could be shot, he could not shake the feeling that being there was dangerous.

Maidhien shrugged. "I told you I was not lying," she said mildly. Then she held out her bow to Galithil. "Would you like a turn?"

Galithil's eyes widened and he looked at the bow longingly. "Ada and uncle Thranduil made my cousins and I promise that we would not play with your bows. Or even be around you when you were using them. I am not allowed," he said with obvious regret.

Maidhien did not withdraw the bow. "I will not tell on you," she said.

Galithil blinked at her and then looked again at the bow. "I cannot," he said softly. "I promised."

Maidhien let her arm drop so that the bow hung to her side. "What did you promise, exactly? Maybe we can think of a way around the promise." When he stared at her, she grinned at him. "It is obvious you really want to shoot it, Galithil. And it is not as if you are going to get hurt doing so on the archery range, is it? And that is why your adar told you not to play with our bows—he was afraid you would get hurt? As long as you do not get hurt, what is the harm?"

"I promised I would not. That is the harm," he replied.

Maidhien stared at him a moment and then shrugged her shoulders. "Have it your way," she said before nocking another arrow and sending it into the target next to its mate.

Galithil gazed at the arrows. "Of course, I promised I would not shoot Anastor or Noruil's bows. Your name was not mentioned, if I remember correctly," he commented softly, without looking at her.

She smiled and offered him the bow again. "There. You did not promise not to shoot mine."

Galithil frowned and looked at the bow. He reached towards it hesitantly before looking over his shoulder. Glílavan, he realized, was a powerful argument for not touching the bow. Galithil's eyes widened and he drew a sharp breath when he saw the lieutenant approaching them.

"Perhaps you should not, Galithil," he called, ignoring Galithil's reaction to his presence. "I understand you have a nasty wound on your side. You might tear your stitches drawing the bow."

Galithil hastily tucked his hands to his sides. "I was not going to take it," he said guiltily.

"That shows good sense," Glílavan replied. He had reached their sides and knelt on the ground next to them. "Let me see it, Maidhien. I think I can judge a bit better than either of you if the draw is enough to make Galithil's injury worse," he said, taking the bow and drawing it partially. After a moment, he nodded and thrust the bow into Galithil's hands. Galithil automatically took it and looked questioningly at the lieutenant. "It is a very weak draw," Glílavan explained in response to Galithil's expression. "So I do not think you will hurt yourself. Just draw slowly and pay attention to how your side feels. If it hurts, stop."

"But if Dolgailon or my adar finds out, they will be angry," Galithil said, trying to hand the bow back to Maidhien.

Glílavan grinned at him conspiratorially. "And if they find out that I let children use the archery range, they will be angry with me. But I see no harm in it." He reached out and ruffled Galithil's hair. "You will be in the training classes soon enough. The better you are with a bow when you start them, the easier my job is." He paused, regarding Galithil seriously. "I will not tell Dolgailon or lord Aradunnon. It will be our secret—to make your punishment a little more palatable, assuming you do a good job as you did today. Think of it as a reward for good work."

Galithil looked at him a long moment before looking down. "But I do not know how to use it," he admitted softly.

Glílavan's smile returned. "No matter. I can teach you," he said, taking the hand Galithil used to hold the bow and beginning to reposition his grip. Galithil grinned at him.

*~*~*

adar/ada--father/dad

naneth/nana--mother/mum

ellon/ellyn--male elf/elves

elleth/ellyth--female elf/elves


Chapter 12 - Affectations-- Part Three

Chapter 12: Affectations Part Three

As Thranduil, Hallion and Conuiön strode through the Great Gates, the king acknowledged the Gate Guards' bow with a jaunty salute that made them raise their eyebrows and smile. His light step as he descended the stairs to the bridge contrasted sharply with the tense posture of the captain of his guard and the concerned expression of his chief counselor.

"I will make sure you are informed when I have returned, captain," Thranduil said as he started across the bridge. He could not hide a smirk when he noticed that comment caused the Gate Guards' eyebrows to climb even higher.

Conuiön took the stairs two at a time and made several long strides to bring himself even with the king.

"I am very uncomfortable with this, my lord," he whispered into Thranduil's ear. "Please reconsider it."

Thranduil smiled but did not slow his pace. "No, Conuiön, I will not reconsider it. This discussion is going to be between fathers and fathers do not have guards marking their steps," he replied with a pleased tone.

Conuiön scowled.

Hallion hurried behind them. "Conuiön, this is an important matter. Do not complicate matters further," he whispered anxiously. Then he turned to Thranduil. “And if you do not take this conversation seriously you will complicate the situation further. Please, my lord.”

Reaching the end of the bridge, Thranduil stopped before stepping onto the green and faced his guard and steward seriously. "We have already thoroughly addressed this issue. I am going to speak to Dolwon and Dannenion rather than calling them to me and I am going alone rather than with a guard in an effort to emphasize my concern for them. This conversation will be about families, not politics,” he said looking at his guard. Then he turned to Hallion. “And I assure you, lord Hallion, I am taking this opportunity to improve our relations with Dolwon and Dannenion very seriously.” He stepped lightly off the bridge and onto the fresh spring grass and the sincere smile returned to his lips. "I feel like an elfling set free from his tutor," he said to himself. "This is the first time in an Age that I have gone anywhere without being followed by guards."

"Remember the trouble that elflings freed of their tutor often find, my lord," Conuiön called after him from the bridge.

The king answered that admonition with laughter.

As Thranduil crossed the green, the pleasant novelty of strolling across it alone was quickly overcome by renewed annoyance at the errand at hand. Speaking with Dolwon and Dannenion was never an agreeable experience. Bringing them news about their sons' mischief did not promise to improve their disposition. Thranduil could not imagine what good Hallion thought would come of this, but he did recognize the need to do something to address the situation they were causing and he admitted he could think of no other common ground he might find with them apart from fatherhood.

The path to their cottages led past the barn and Thranduil found himself looking at it longingly. "Elflings freed of their tutor," he mused with a smile. "An elfling would abandon the unpleasant task in favor of a more enjoyable one, like a nice ride." The smile faded. "In many ways it would be nice to be an elfling again," he muttered and forced himself to look away from the barn. Then he stopped and looked over at it again. "I could go for a ride after this wretched conversation. Indeed, that might be a very good idea." He veered off the path to the barnyard, intent upon informing the stable hands that he would require his horse within an hour and smiling as he imagined the look on Conuiön's face when the guard found out that he had gone for a ride alone.

As he approached the barn, Thranduil heard a familiar voice inside it.

"I do not think your lord father would approve of me discussing this topic with you, Legolas," it said.

Thranduil stopped where he was, hidden by the partially closed door. He could see through the slats of wood that formed the door, but he did not need to peek through them to identify the voice. He recognized the speaker as Tulus.

The next sound he heard was Legolas's laughter. Between the slats of wood, Thranduil could see that Legolas was following Tulus around the stalls in the barn as he worked, close on his heels. Tulus was trying to avoid his gaze.

"Why would ada mind?" Legolas asked. "I only asked you what you meant when you said that Anastor and Noruil were as much trouble as orcs. Ada would not care about your opinion of two elflings. And I want to know why you said that. Maybe it will help me understand why they are so mean all the time. My cousins and I never did anything to them."

Thranduil stifled a snort. 'Help me understand' was a common tactic Legolas used to coerce all manner of favors from his parents. The child knew that argument was nearly impossible to deny. He found himself watching to see if it would work on Tulus as well. And he found himself very curious to hear what Tulus would say about the children of his former co-conspirators.

Tulus paused in his work and look at Legolas with a deep frown. He reached down and caressed Legolas's cheek. "Child, I understand how frustrating Anastor and Noruil can be. I remember children like them when I was your age..."

Legolas raised a single eyebrow.

"I do remember my childhood, pen neth," Tulus insisted with laughter in his voice, thrusting an empty feed bucket into Legolas's arms. Legolas took it, set it outside the stall and fetched a full bucket, lifting it carefully. "For example, I remember how much trouble I was in when my adar caught me fighting with the children who annoyed me most," he continued with a meaningful tone.

Thranduil leaned closer to the barn door, watching as Legolas followed Tulus to the next stall.

He heard Legolas sigh as Tulus began tossing fresh hay into the empty stall with a pitchfork. "Ada would be furious if he saw my cousins or I fighting. I already know that," he said while kicking hay into the stall himself. "But we did not fight with them. You stopped the fight. And if you tell me why you think Anastor and Noruil are so mean to us, maybe we would understand them better and feel less inclined to fight with them in the future," he reasoned. "I know you know why they act that way, Tulus. Else you would not have said what you already said. It is only fair to tell me now. There is no reason not to."

"Except your lord father would not approve of me discussing this topic with you, Legolas," Tulus replied, repeating his earlier comment more emphatically. "And I have no intention of doing anything that might anger the king, especially where you are concerned. Ask him why they behave the way they do. He is the appropriate person to discuss such things with you."

"I cannot ask him, Tulus," Legolas said, exasperation creeping into his voice. "Ada would barely recognize Anastor and Noruil, so how could he tell me why they are so mean?"

The frown returned to Tulus's face and he responded quickly without looking at Legolas. "I assure you, child, your lord father knows precisely who Anastor and Noruil are. He has had more dealings with their parents than he ever wanted, and the acorn never falls far from the oak, as they say." Thranduil saw Tulus cringe slightly before turning his back to Legolas. "Enough of this," Tulus concluded quietly.

But Legolas was staring at Tulus intently. "What dealings has ada had with their parents?" he asked. "And why would that make him understand anything about Anastor and Noruil's behavior towards my cousins and I?"

"Enough, Legolas. Go ask your lord father about this," Tulus repeated. This time his voice was pleading.

Legolas's brow creased. "Anastor and Noruil's parents have had more dealings with ada then he wanted," Legolas quoted. "In other words, they do not get along with my adar." Legolas's eyes widened and he scurried around to stand directly in front of Tulus. "Anastor and Noruil's parents do not get along with my adar and that is why Anastor and Noruil are mean to us. Am I right?"

Tulus silently continued tossing hay into the stall.

"And if you are not willing to talk about it—if you are insisting I speak with ada about it—the reason they do not get along is not just some disagreement that people sometimes have. It is related to governance. The only reason my uncles or Master Rodonon ever refuse to explain anything to me is if it is related to governance and they think I should talk to ada. You are doing the same. Am I right?" he demanded, grabbing the handle of the pitchfork to compel Tulus to look at him.

Tulus loosed a long breath. "Yes, Legolas, you are. You are just a little too astute at drawing conclusions for your age, I would say."

Legolas grinned. "Master Rodonon says I am smart when I bother to try to be."

Tulus snorted loudly, covering the laugh that escaped Thranduil's lips.

"So what did Anastor and Noruil’s parents do to cross ada?” Legolas pressed with a quiet voice.

Outside the barn, Thranduil found himself again raising his eyebrows, this time at his son's persistence. Tulus was all too right that this was a topic he did not care to have Legolas discuss. To Thranduil’s relief, Tulus seemed to remember that himself. He leaned the pitchfork against the barn wall and put his hands on his hips.

“I have told you that you must discuss this with your adar and I mean it,” he said firmly, wincing slightly when Legolas adopted a determined expression. Tulus turned one of the empty feed buckets over and sat on it. “I will make you a deal. You stop asking me about Anastor and Noruil’s parents and I will tell you another story. A pleasant one.”

Legolas's eyes lit. “About what?” he asked, plopping down in the hay in front of Tulus.

Tulus shrugged. “How about a story like the ones the elders told you on the green that day Rodonon arranged for you to speak to them?”

Legolas's expression brightened even further. “But something more recent. I like stories from this Age.”

Tulus smiled. “I know a good story. And it is a compromise—it is not from this Age or from the First Age. It is from the Second. How does that sound?”

Legolas nodded and scooted a little closer to Tulus.

“Very well then. One night in the early part of the Second Age, I was on the very western edge of the forest with a group of warriors. It was night and we were preparing the evening watches after dinner.”

“You were a warrior, Tulus?” Legolas interrupted.

“I was,” Tulus confirmed. “I was a leader of the warriors that guarded the western forest.”

“A captain?”

Tulus nodded, smiling at Legolas's amazed expression. "Though we did not use terms like 'captain' then. We did not know any such formal structure before the Sindar arrived."

Legolas frowned. “What did you call the leaders then if you did not call them captains?”

“Just leaders,” he replied, now laughing. “Do you want to hear the story or do you want a vocabulary lesson?”

“I will be quiet. I want to hear the story,” Legolas replied, pressing his lips together.

Tulus laughed quietly at that. Outside the barn, Thranduil also listened, curious to hear what story Tulus might tell his son of the Second Age.

“As I said, we were setting watches,” Tulus continued. “I had climbed with another warrior into the trees to watch the plains. It was a night of the full moon and Ithil's light shone brightly. We had been on watch long enough to be growing bored when I noticed...I can only describe it as a glowing light on the horizon. We signaled the other warriors and waited, not understanding what it could be, but we had seen enough of Morgoth's trickery to be wary. Finally, we could make out riders. The lead rider was clad in deep blue and Ithil's light glinted off the silver stars embroidered on his cloak and off the sword he carried in his hand. His hair glinted with silver also and he was riding a white mount. He was magnificent. We thought it was Tauron himself and his huntsmen riding towards us across the plains and we were frightened."

Tulus paused and smiled at Legolas's rapt expression. Outside the barn, Thranduil laughed quietly at himself, realizing he was no less enthralled by this story than his son. He recognized who the riders would be and he was fascinated to hear Tulus’s perspective of this event.

"The huntsmen continued towards the forest. When they rode under the eaves of the trees, even when they rode directly under us, we still were not certain what we were witnessing. We had no metal work at that time. The riders' swords and the breastplates they wore—they were beyond anything we had ever seen or imagined. Beautiful and awesome. But more awesome still was the manner in which the trees reacted to their presence. By then the trees had already learned to be wary of strangers under their boughs. Despite that, they greeted these strangers with hope and no less admiration than we were feeling. And the riders responded in kind, with an obvious, deep love and appreciation for the forest."

“Who were they, Tulus?” Legolas whispered. “Was it really Tauron? Does he still ride in the forest?”

"Well, my warriors and I were whispering in the branches, trying to decide if we dared order the riders to halt. Even when they were in plain view, the only reason we doubted their leader might not be Tauron was that we could not see his horn. While we were still debating, they stopped and looked into the trees. Their leader hailed us, speaking a language we could not understand. But given the trees' response to them, we trusted he was no threat and we still half believed he was Tauron, so we came down and tried to speak with him." He paused and looked at Legolas. "Have your tutors taught you the Silvan language, Legolas?"

Legolas nodded. "Of course," he responded, obviously surprised by that question.

Tulus raised his eyebrows and tried to hide his surprise at the answer. "That is good," he said softly. "Then you know the languages have many words in common and some that are very similar..."

"Like legolas and laegolas," Legolas interrupted.

"Precisely," Tulus affirmed. "The language the strangers were speaking was Sindarin, so speaking with them was slow and frustrating, but we finally understood what we were seeing. I think we were even more amazed when we realized their true identities than we were when we thought they were Valar. Can you guess who they were yet, Legolas?”

Legolas was looking at Tulus with wide eyes. “Speaking Sindarin here in the early Second Age? Not my daeradar?” he asked incredulously. Then he laughed. “You thought my daeradar was Tauron?”

Tulus smiled. “I told you, he was an awesome figure in his armor, with his silver hair in the moon light. And we had no idea who could be approaching from that direction. This was our first reunion with any of the people that had continued across the mountains on the Great Journey.” Tulus paused and continued in a solemn voice. “He introduced himself as Oropher Cellonion. Cellon. We had not heard that name since lord Cellon split with us to follow Elwë. Lord Oropher was his son and therefore himself a descendant of our long, lost king Lenwë. A distant relative, to be a fair. A great nephew. But he had returned from far off lands, able to tell us all that had happened to the kin that we had not seen for many an Age. And moreover, he had come to seek us out. To ask us leave to bring that kin home! The very next day, the celebrations began and did not end for an entire Moon."

"Is that why you asked him to be king?" Legolas whispered, clearly awed by this view of his grandfather. “Because he was Lenwë’s great nephew and he brought your kin back here?”

Tulus shook his head. "No, that decision came much later. That night, the only matter we established was that he was not one of the Valar." Tulus looked at Legolas's wide grin and laughed himself at the memory. "I went back to Lindon with lord Oropher as a guard to escort our people home," he said proudly, pleased when Legolas's eyes widened at that. "I traveled across Eriador and saw the sea and the stone walls the Elves had built to keep it at bay. I met the strange elves living there. And I understood why your daeradar wanted so badly to leave that place to return to the forest. Why he risked traveling into an unknown land driven by the hope of finding a people and a place that he could not be sure still existed. That took courage—a courage that inspired people to follow without hesitation."

"Is that why the Silvan made him their king—because of his courage?" Legolas asked.

"No, Legolas. We admired him and all the others that returned with him for their courage. But they came here with the intention of settling in the forest, nothing more. When they arrived, they established a village of their own and your daeradar led it, but there was no talk yet of making him King." Tulus paused and grinned at Legolas. "You know, we thought you Sindar were very odd when you first arrived here. Even the Nandor who had followed lord Denethor to Beleriand had adopted some strange customs."

"What sort of customs?" Legolas asked.

"Well, the oddest one was that when they settled in their village, they built very permanent looking cottages. We did not do that, you see. We wandered through the forest and across the plains as we wished. Staying in one place seemed very odd to us. A recipe for disaster, if truth be told, for the food in that area would surely be quickly depleted. We mentioned that to lord Oropher and he told us not to worry, so we left him be. Then, they began planting things and putting food they gathered into glass bottles that they stored in pits they excavated in the ground. We could not fathom what they were doing..."

"They were just planting gardens and preserving food," Legolas said with a shrug.

Tulus nodded. "But we had never seen such things. As I said, we wandered where ever there was food. We did not grow it or preserve parts of a harvest. We thought that was a silly lot of work when it would be much easier to just move to warmer lands when winter came. But the newcomer's affairs were their own and we did not interfere." Tulus paused and looked at Legolas gravely. "But the second winter after they arrived was a very harsh winter. Snows came all the way south to the plains below the forest—they capped the black peaks of Amon Lanc. There was no food and hunting was scarce. The situation was no better in Lorien where the snows blew off the mountains and covered the forest. In times like that, our people suffered. Those times were rare, but difficult to endure. But not that time. Your daeradar rationed the food that his people had stored and shared it with us. And they showed us fishing and trapping techniques that were far superior to our own. Some of our people would likely have starved that winter if not for your daeradar and those that had followed him here." He paused again. "That was when we asked him to be our king, Our leaders met and discussed it. Some dissented. But in the end, we decided that the forest would greatly benefit from a king like him. So we asked him."

"Did Anastor and Noruil's parents dissent?" Legolas asked quietly.

"Yes, they did," Tulus answered, nodding. "They were two of the youngest of our leaders and youth does not suffer loss well. They resented any loss of the authority they had so recently gained."

"Mmmm," Legolas murmured softly and Tulus looked down at him sharply.

"You tricksy little..." he sputtered before cutting himself off. "You already knew all this. You are still only trying to get me to talk about Dolwon and Dannenion."

Legolas shook his head and looked at Tulus earnestly. "I promise that is not true. I have heard stories of daeradar's arrival in the forest. Lord Hallion told me about scouting the route here with him and daernana and ada told me about the celebrations when they returned with all the elves, but I have never heard the story told by anyone outside my family. I truly enjoyed hearing you talk about daeradar," he said sincerely. Then he looked at Tulus sidelong. "I only asked about Anastor and Noruil's parents since it seems a natural guess after you mentioned that about dissent. So is that why they do not like ada? They still resent losing their authority?" he pressed.

Tulus sighed. "That is part of it. The root of it, most likely. But you know your family has a long history here. It is much more complex than just that."

Legolas nodded. "But it explains why Anastor and Noruil always say my cousins and I are bossing them, when we are not."

Tulus raised his eyebrows and a corner of his mouth turned down. "That is possible," he said, standing. "And that is also the end of the stories. I am not clever enough to manage a conversation with a twenty year old child, so I think I had better stop before I say something I will regret."

Legolas burst out laughing. "I am almost twenty-four, Tulus. But tell me one more thing," he pleaded.

Tulus stopped and looked down at him with amusement. "What else would you like me to tell you, Legolas?"

"I am curious why you are no longer a warrior if you were a captain before," he said.

The amusement faded from Tulus's face. "That is also a very complicated story, child," he said softly.

"And a very personal question," Thranduil said, stepping around the barn door that had hidden him. He smiled when Legolas cried out with surprise and ran to him, throwing his arms around his waist. He stroked his son's hair, but looked at Tulus. "You know better than to ask such things."

Tulus frowned and looked down.

"Are you going riding, ada? Can I come?" Legolas asked, ignoring the admonition and nearly hopping at his father's side.

"I had come by the stable to ask Tulus to prepare my horse for me. I have a meeting, but after it I intend to go for a ride. And yes, you may come with me."

"I will have a horse waiting for you, my lord," Tulus said quietly, bowing in part to hide a concerned expression.

“Legolas, go find your cousins so they can come riding with us,” Thranduil said, turning him towards the barn door with a hand on his shoulder. Legolas nodded happily and trotted out into the barn yard.

“I apologize, my lord,” Tulus began, causing Legolas to stumble to a stop in the yard. He did not want Tulus to get in trouble. “I am not sure how much you heard…but, I know it is not my place to discuss these topics with Legolas,” he continued. “I tried to avoid saying anything but…”

“But Legolas is very insistent,” Thranduil interrupted Tulus’s worried ramblings. “I understand. Just as you understand that I very much prefer to tell Legolas the answers to his questions regarding you, Dolwon and Dannenion myself. And I prefer to discuss it not at all at this point in time. He is far too young as yet to understand that incident.”

Outside the barn, Legolas frowned. He looked over his shoulder to see Tulus looking down and nodding.

“But I enjoyed your story about lord Oropher’s arrival in this forest,” Thranduil continued with a lighter tone. “Did he realize you had mistaken him for Tauron? If he did, he never confessed that to me when he told me the stories of that journey.”

Legolas saw a relieved smile form on Tulus’s face as he looked up to meet Thranduil’s gaze. Legolas ran towards the stone fence surrounding the yard and jumped up onto it. His mind was still focused on Tulus and Anastor and Noruil’s parents as he headed towards the training fields to find Galithil.

*~*~*

adar/ada--father/dad

naneth/nana--mother/mum

ellon/ellyn--male elf/elves

elleth/ellyth--female elf/elves

daeradar--grandfather


Chapter 13 - Affectations--Part Four

Chapter 13: Affectations--Part Four

From the corner of his eye, Thranduil watched Legolas departing the barnyard to fetch his cousins.

“But I enjoyed your story about lord Oropher’s arrival in this forest,” he said with a light tone. Legolas leapt off the stone fence and ran into the forest, so Thranduil turned his complete attention on Tulus. “Did he realize you had mistaken him for Tauron? If he did, he never confessed that to me when he told me the stories of that journey.”

Tulus loosed a long breath, looked up and smiled at the king--a smile that transformed into a conspiratorial, almost playful, look when Tulus was convinced that Thranduil was not angry. “My lord,” he said. “You know I loved your lord father with all my heart. But you knew him far better than I, certainly. Would you have admitted to him that you mistook him for one of the Valar? Do you truly think that would have had any positive effect on his already…” Tulus appeared to search for a word, “…self-confidant nature.”

Thranduil’s eyes widened and he struggled to suppress a laugh. “Are you saying that my adar was arrogant, Tulus?” he forced out.

Tulus smiled and looked down with all apparent humility. “Arrogant? Lord Oropher? No, of course I did not say that, my lord. I said he was self-confidant.”

Thranduil laughed openly. “And beyond need for further encouragement in that trait—in other words, arrogant. I think there are a good many kings of elves and men and dwarves that would heartily agree with you, Tulus…”

Tulus raised an eyebrow in mock seriousness. “I pray you are not likening me to a dwarf or a man, my lord,” he interrupted.

“No, Tulus, not at all,” Thranduil replied, shaking his head. Tulus’s expression softened and the two elves smiled at each other for a moment. “I think I enjoyed your story about lord Oropher as much, and possibly more, than Legolas,” Thranduil continued in a quiet voice. “I rarely speak of him.” He sighed. “It is still painful to dwell on thoughts of him and I doubt that wound will ever fully heal.” He looked back at Tulus and his face brightened slightly. “But I have spoken of him twice today. Naneth mentioned him at mid-day meal when I requested that Legolas train the puppies.” Thranduil reached down and scooped up one of the dogs clamoring around his legs. It tried to lick his face. “She reminded me of how much I loved training my adar’s horses, just as Legolas loves these dogs.” Thranduil’s gaze wandered inside the barn where his own stallion stood, snorting at him and stamping its feet, demanding to be released from its stall. Lindomiel’s mare was also staring at him intently and dancing. Thranduil turned back to Tulus. “Bring the Queen and lady Amoneth’s mares into the yard as well, Tulus. Legolas and Galithil are big enough to ride by themselves. I remember very clearly the first time I rode with my adar on my own horse—it is one of my fondest memories, in truth. I think I would like to share that experience with Legolas and Galithil today.”

Tulus nodded. “I will have your horse, the ladies’ horses and Conuiön’s ready for you, my lord,” Tulus replied with a bow. “Legolas and Galithil will be thrilled.”

“You need not bring Conuiön’s horse out, Tulus,” Thranduil said. “He is not with me today.” Then he frowned suddenly, as if remembering something, and looked back at Tulus sharply. “And come to think of it, you may not need to bring out the mares either. What was this about a fight?”

Tulus’s expression shifted quickly from one of confusion over Conuiön’s absence—he glanced behind Thranduil and around the barnyard to confirm that unexpected statement—to one of concern at the mention of the fight.

“The children did not fight, my lord,” he said quickly. “I was only trying to distract Legolas by saying that about fighting. Granted, they nearly got into a fight. Anastor and Noruil were certainly trying to provoke one. And that little Eirienil is definitely her father’s daughter, no doubt about that. She has his temper and she did her share of provoking herself, calling them cowards and all. Of course, they practically called Legolas a coward first. But that was in response to Eirienil saying they were idiots. But that comment was deserved because they were behaving like idiots…” Tulus paused and frowned in response to Thranduil’s increasingly troubled expression. “But Galithil was not even here, so he is completely innocent,” Tulus continued quickly. “And Legolas handled the whole situation very admirably. He ignored their provocations and tried to walk away. Of course, he did intervene when Anastor shoved Eirienil,” Anger flared in Thranduil’s eyes at that statement and Tulus shook his head and waved his hands nervously. “But I pulled Anastor and Noruil back at that point. Nothing more happened. I scolded them and sent them home and I intend to say something to Dolwon and Dannenion about it tonight.” Tulus paused and looked earnestly at Thranduil. “But if I were Legolas’s adar, I would have been very proud of how he handled himself in this situation. Very restrained. Especially as your family goes.” Thranduil raised his eyebrows and Tulus looked down, his brows drawing together sharply. “Well, my lord, you do have a temper when provoked and so did lord Oropher. It is only the truth.” He sighed. “The point is, Legolas behaved well and certainly deserves to ride with you this afternoon,” he concluded softly.

Thranduil studied Tulus silently for a long moment. Long enough to make Tulus look up at him nervously. Then Thranduil laughed lightly and shook his head. “Thank you for setting my mind at ease about that incident, Tulus. I am pleased Legolas handled himself well.”

Tulus adopted a plainly relieved expression and merely bowed in response.

“But as for speaking to Dolwon and Dannenion, there is no need for you to do that. I am going to speak to them now about another matter. I will mention this incident to them too,” Thranduil concluded, a hint of tiredness creeping into his voice. He inclined his head to Tulus in farewell and moved to leave the barn.

“Begging your pardon, my lord,” Tulus said, following him. “You are going to speak to Dolwon and Dannenion? And you said Conuiön was not with you? One of your other guards is then? I should get one of their horses?”

Thranduil shook his head. “No, I am speaking to them alone. About their children. Father to father.” He paused and looked back at Tulus. “You cannot have missed the fact that they are still very dissatisfied with their situation. I am hoping to find some common ground with them this way.”

Tulus frowned. He appeared to want to say something, but he held his tongue instead.

Thranduil’s eyebrows rose involuntarily in response to that. “You, in contrast, have adapted very well to life in the capital, Tulus. I enjoyed our conversation,” he said, smiling. Then, he turned again to leave and this time departed the yard without further interruption.

Tulus watched him disappear on the path to Dolwon and Dannenion’s cottages, the frown still on his face.

*~*~*

Legolas ran along the path to the training fields, scanning the buildings on their outskirts for a sign of Galithil as he approached. The door to the shack where the training weapons were stored was open and Legolas could see neat rows of swords in their racks and shields hanging on the walls, but Galithil was nowhere to be seen.

The sound of arrows sinking into targets drifted towards him from the range.

“Maybe Galithil finished cleaning the weapons and is watching Dolgailon practice,” Legolas said to himself as he veered off in the direction of the range.

As soon as he rounded the shack and came into view of the archery range, he stopped and stared at the sight that greeted him—Galithil with a bow at full draw.

“Do not rush,” Glílavan said. He was kneeling on the ground next to Galithil, correcting his stance. “Follow through is important. As a beginner, you should hold your stance until the arrow reaches the target,” he said, though he did nothing to prevent Galithil from dropping his arms immediately after he released his arrow to watch it fly towards the target. It struck near several others on the bottom edge of the target.

Ignoring the lieutenant’s admonition, Galithil’s face lit up when he saw the position of the arrow. “That was better than the last one,” he exclaimed.

“Indeed it was,” Glílavan agreed, ruffling Galithil’s hair.

“One more?” Galithil pleaded, looking between Glílavan and Maidhien. Maidhien shrugged and handed him another arrow from her quiver.

Legolas strode towards his cousin as Galithil nocked the arrow. “What do you think you are doing?” he asked, finally finding his voice.

Galithil started and lost his grip on the arrow in mid draw, sending it flying awkwardly to clatter on the gravel in front of the target. But he did not even see where the arrow landed. He turned quickly and looked at Legolas with wide eyes. Legolas reached his side and looked back at him expectantly, but Galithil returned his gaze silently.

“You should know better than to surprise someone while they are practicing on the range, Legolas,” Glílavan said mildly. “That can cause dangerous accidents.”

Legolas answered without taking his eyes off his cousin. “Galithil should know better than to be ‘practicing’ anything on the range.”

Glílavan smiled at Legolas. “He and Maidhien have my permission to shoot a few arrows into the targets. I am sure Maidhien would not mind if you borrowed her bow to do the same,” he offered and Maidhien nodded her agreement. “Galithil, let Legolas have a turn with the bow.”

Legolas’s brows drew together. “I am not allowed,” he said firmly.

Galithil had not offered him the bow.

Glílavan’s smile broadened. “Galithil said that as well, but as I told him, it will be our secret. Come, you are the King’s son. It will be your duty to defend this realm. You must learn to use a bow eventually. I would be happy to give you a lesson as I did Galithil.”

In response to that comment, Legolas looked from Galithil to Glílavan. He studied the lieutenant silently for moment and then took a step back, away from him. “No, thank you.” He turned back to Galithil. “Adar sent me to find you. He wants us to wait for him in the barn.”

Glílavan shrugged and stood. “If you change your mind, I will still be happy to give you a lesson, Legolas,” he said. “Our secret, just as I promised.” He patted Galithil on the shoulder. “You have finished your work here for today, so you are dismissed. I will see you tomorrow.” With that he turned and walked back to the bench where he had been reading reports.

Galithil handed Maidhien her bow and thanked her quietly, studiously ignoring Legolas.

“Will you and your cousins be on the green again tomorrow?” she asked with a small voice, also without looking at Legolas.

Galithil nodded. “After lessons in the afternoon. Just come join us. You do not have to wait to be asked.”

Maidhien smiled at that. Waving good-bye, she skipped to the target to retrieve her arrows and then trotted along the path that led to her cottage.

Galithil watched her a moment in order to continue avoiding Legolas’s gaze.

“If Dolgailon had seen you…or worse, your adar…” Legolas began in a low voice.

Galithil turned to face Legolas with a scowl. “You are neither my brother nor my adar. I do not have to listen to you,” he said with a brave tone that did not quite make it to his eyes—they still held guilt.

“No,” Legolas replied, “but you do have to listen to Dolgailon and uncle Aradunnon. If either of them had seen…”

“Are you going to tell?” Galithil demanded.

Legolas shook his head. “No, I am not going to tell. But I cannot believe you did this. You are supposed to be here cleaning the training weapons as a punishment for taking Dolgailon’s knife and now you were using Maidhien’s bow? Your adar would restrict you to your room until you come of age.”

Galithil started down the path toward the barn. “I did not get hurt. That is all ada worries about,” he said.

Legolas followed him. “You did not get hurt, that is true…”

“And Glílavan is right, you know. Eventually we will both be warriors. The sooner we start learning how to use a bow, the better…”

Legolas shook his head incredulously. “Glílavan has no business saying what we should or should not be learning or when. You broke your promise, Galithil. We promised our adars we would not touch those bows.”

Galithil grimaced. “I think we promised not to touch Anastor and Noruil’s bows. I do not think we promised anything about Maidhien’s,” he said quietly.

Legolas stopped short and grabbed Galithil’s arm, pulling him to face him. He stared at his cousin. “You cannot believe that argument would satisfy your adar…or win back his trust. Galithil, you broke your promise to him,” he repeated forcefully. “You broke your word.”

Galithil made a face and pulled free of Legolas’s grasp. “Why does uncle want us in the barn,” he asked in order to change the subject.

Legolas frowned, but followed him. “He is going to take us riding with him.”

Galithil brightened somewhat in response to that.

*~*~*

Maidhien skipped along the path to her cottage, inventing a song about puppies as she went. When she neared the beech that sheltered her parents’ cottage, she slowed her pace. Her father and uncle Dolwon’s voices drifted amongst the trees accompanied by another voice—one she did not immediately recognize. It was only vaguely familiar. She stopped to listen and realized her father and uncle were greeting someone stiffly. When the strange voice returned their greeting, recognition struck and she ran to the end of the path to confirm her suspicions.

“No!” she yelled, interrupting her father’s invitation to his guest to sit. She ran into the yard and stopped directly in front of the king. “You promised me that you would not say anything to my adar about the boar. You promised you would not make him angrier. You promised!” she repeated, stamping her foot for emphasis.

Thranduil stared silently at the child for a moment completely taken aback by her vehemence. Maidhien was looking up at him, face flushed with anger, fists clenched at her sides. Studying her posture, Thranduil found himself wondering if the little elleth was about to kick him in the shin.

“Maidhien, this is not your affair. Go inside,” her father’s voice demanded.

Maidhien’s brow knit. She folded her arms across her chest and planted her feet, never taking her eyes off Thranduil.

“I did promise you that I was not going to speak to your adar about the boar, Maidhien, and that is not why I am here,” Thranduil said calmly. The little girl did not stop glaring at him and Thranduil found himself frowning. He glanced at Dannenion. “If your adar allows, you are welcome to stay and listen to our conversation if that is necessary to convince you that I intend to keep my promise to you,” he added.

Without waiting for her father’s permission, Maidhien plopped down on the ground where she stood, still regarding the king suspiciously.

Dannenion only sighed and seated himself on a log. Dolwon hesitated a moment before doing the same.

Thranduil looked at the three elves, now looking up at him, all with some degree of antagonism. Then he seated himself and stifled a sigh of his own.

“If you are not here about the boar, why did you want to speak to Dolwon and I?” Dannenion asked.

“Maidhien is correct that I did want to speak to you about Anastor and Noruil,” Thranduil answered in an even tone. “Along with Legolas and his cousins, they recently did something that I found rather difficult to learn about. But regardless of how disturbing it is, when I discovered what they had done, I was certain you would want to be informed, so you could speak to your children as I spoke to Legolas.”

Dannenion’s eyes narrowed in response to that statement, but Dolwon regarded the king with concern.

“Since the last snow, the night watch has reported on multiple occasions seeing children in the forest and on the mountain that houses the stronghold…” Thranduil continued.

But Dolwon cut him off. “Noruil? They saw Noruil in the forest at night?” he asked with a clearly dismayed voice, leaning forward slightly.

Thranduil nodded. “I fear one of the children was Noruil,” he said sympathetically. Then he looked at Dannenion. “And Anastor.”

Dannenion scowled. “If the guards caught Anastor in the forest, why did they not awaken my wife and I to tell us when they brought him home? Surely they did not leave him out to wander?”

“The guards never managed to catch the children. They only saw them,” Thranduil replied, but again he was cut off.

“Then how can you be certain it was my child they saw? If they were so far away that they could not apprehend him, how were they certain who they saw in the dark?” Dannenion demanded.

Dolwon nodded at Dannenion. “That is a fair question. At night from a distance it would be difficult to distinguish one child from another.”

Thranduil sighed, this time openly. “As I said, Legolas was involved as well. A little over a month ago, he and his cousins were camping in Crithad’s yard. They went with Anastor and Noruil to see the moonbow in the waterfall behind the stronghold. The guards saw them involved in some truly dangerous activities you should be aware of…”

“So it was Legolas who accused our sons?” Dannenion asked, his chin jutting out slightly.

“Legolas did not accuse…” Thranduil began.

“I say he lied,” Dannenion interrupted. “To distract attention from his own misdeeds that night. You have no evidence to prove my son is involved other than the word of a child who is guilty of the same offense and the statements of guards who were so far away that they could not possibly be certain that what they claim to have seen is true.”

When Dannenion stopped speaking, Thranduil returned his angry gaze silently for a full minute before he felt sufficiently in control of himself to respond without open aggression. “Dannenion, I cannot tolerate you accusing Legolas of lying,” he said in an overly calm voice. “What sort of a child would be so deceitful that they would tell lies designed to deflect blame from themselves? I have never heard of such a thing. Where would a child as young as our children learn such behaviors?”

Dannenion only glared at Thranduil.

“I assure you Legolas did not accuse your children to distract attention from himself,” Thranduil said, abandoning hope of accomplishing his intended goal and now focusing on simply concluding the interview. “In fact, he refused to reveal the names of the other children involved when he and his cousins confessed to me they had gone to the moonbow. I only learned who the other children were when Legolas and I were speaking about Anastor and Noruil after the incident with the boar. It was then that he finally admitted to me that they were the children that went with him that night.” Thranduil paused, but Dannenion’s expression had not changed. “This is not a trial and I did not come prepared with witnesses, but, if you would like, I can send witnesses to speak to you. When I finally learned who had gone with Legolas, I wanted to confirm that they were the same children that had been wandering at night all Spring, so I set a guard on your cottage and Dolwon’s. The guards did report catching both children sneaking from your cottages at night. They required them to return home, but did not speak to you on my orders. I thought it would be best for you to hear about this incident from a father rather than a guard.”

Dannenion glared at Thranduil silently and the king expected to be challenged to produce the witness he claimed to have. But instead of arguing further, Dannenion’s expression was suddenly thoughtful. After a moment, he turned towards his cottage. “Anastor. Come out here,” he shouted.

The child came out the door promptly, looking warily at Thranduil.

“Thranduil says you and Noruil have been in the forest at night. He said you went with Legolas to see the moonbow,” Dannenion said sternly.

Anastor looked quickly between Thranduil and his father. “That is not true. Legolas is constantly trying to start trouble with us. Just today he called me a coward and tried to pick a fight with me.”

Dannenion’s brow furrowed in response to his son’s words. “Legolas called you a coward?” he asked, voice rising.

Anastor nodded quickly.

Dannenion turned to Thranduil, his jaw clenched in anger.

“I have heard about this fight,” Thranduil responded evenly. “From Tulus. He separated you and Legolas, from what I heard. And he told me that you and Noruil initiated the fight by shoving Eirienil.” Anastor grimaced and glared at Thranduil. “But anything that might have happened this afternoon in the barnyard is irrelevant to the topic at hand—the fact that you and Noruil have been wandering the forest at night.”

“I know you have been out at night,” Maidhien interjected before her brother could argue further. “I have seen you climb out your window. And you and Noruil boasted to me about tricking Legolas and his cousins into going to the moonbow,” she accused.

Anastor glowered at her and drew a breath to respond.

“That is enough, Maidhien,” Dannenion said. “If you knew your brother was doing this, you should have told me.”

“You would not have believed me,” she answered.

“Enough,” Dannenion said sharply. Then he faced Anastor. “Thranduil said his guards caught you leaving this cottage. Recently,” he said with a questioning tone, watching his son’s reaction. Anastor’s lips pressed together in a thin line and he looked away. Dannenion scowled at his son and sighed before turning back to Thranduil.“I appreciate you bringing this to my attention. It will not happen again,” he said. Then he paused before adding, “You have my thanks.” From his tone, it was plain that the words were bitter.

Thranduil’s gaze lingered for a moment on Dannenion’s rigid posture and Anastor’s angry glare. He shook his head slightly before regarding Dannenion with as sympathetic an expression as he could muster in the face of the behavior he had just witnessed. “I know we both want to keep our children safe, so I wanted to share this information with you as soon as I was certain of it myself,” Thranduil replied neutrally.

Dannenion only nodded stiffly.

Thranduil stood. “I am sure you wish to speak to Anastor further, so I will leave you to it.” Turning, he patted Maidhien on the head, earning himself the only smile he had seen during the entire interview, and he made to leave. Dannenion had already herded Anastor inside their cottage before Thranduil reached the edge of their yard.

“Thranduil,” Dolwon’s voice called after him. “Lord Thranduil,” he amended, taking a few hesitant steps after him. Thranduil stopped and looked back to see Dolwon frowning concernedly. “You said the children had been involved in some ‘dangerous activities.’ Would you tell me what they were, specifically?” He took another step towards the king. “The guards did not see them jump over the river in the trees, did they? Noruil swore to me he would not do that again.”

Thranduil nodded, but his expression was sincerely regretful. “I am afraid so. They did see two children go through the trees over the river. Legolas and his cousins swear none of them did that and I believe them.”

Dolwon loosed an exasperated sigh. “That child is determined to kill himself. Or kill me with worry,” he said fretfully. “Why would he do such stupid things?”

Thranduil reached to put a hand on Dolwon’s shoulder. “I wish I could offer you some good advice, but I have none. I know I was ready to lock Legolas in a cell when I first heard this story.”

“May I borrow one of your cells, lord Thranduil?” Dolwon asked dryly.

Thranduil smiled sympathetically. “Shame always worked very well to restrain me—my naneth with tears in her eyes because she was so worried. Can your wife cry on cue? I think it is a requirement for motherhood.”

Dolwon smirked despite his concern. “The cell idea seems more certain to work,” he said grimly. Then he looked directly at Thranduil. “I do appreciate you telling us about this. I know it was not…pleasant,” he said glancing at Dannenion’s cottage. “It is difficult to hear that one’s child is doing such things.”

Thranduil nodded. “I understand, Dolwon. Truly,” he replied. “We all only want the best for our children. I wish I could do more than bring you bad news. If I can, please let me know.”

Dolwon’s brow drew together slightly and he looked down. “Thank you,” he said softly. “I suppose I have a difficult discussion ahead of me with Noruil and my wife—she will not like hearing this about her son. I had best go home to face it.”

“I wish you luck, Dolwon,” Thranduil replied. With a nod, he turned to leave. Behind him Dolwon started in the direction of his own cottage, but it was movement in the trees that caught Thranduil’s attention and made him pause to search their branches. As he studied them, they were perfectly still; the movement he thought he had seen absent. Raised voices from Dannenion’s cottage encouraged him to hasten his departure, but Thranduil kept an eye on the trees surrounding the path as he walked back to the barn.

*~*~*

Thranduil was still contemplating his conversation with Dannenion as he approached the barnyard, but the excited exclamations of two elflings running towards him quickly drove any unpleasant thoughts from his mind.

“Why are naneth and Aunt Amoneth’s horses in the yard too, ada?” Legolas shouted. Reaching Thranduil’s side, Legolas seized his father’s hand.

“Are they riding with us too?” Galithil asked, clasping the other and pulling Thranduil along into the barnyard.

Both children looked up at Thranduil expectantly, awaiting his response. Thranduil smiled at them, but his brow furrowed when he noticed Conuiön standing by his own horse also awaiting a response. He glared at his guard a moment and then purposefully turned his attention back to the two elflings at his side. He disentangled his hands and pulled the children against him with an arm around each of their shoulders.

“No, your naneths are not riding with us,” he said, walking them towards the horses. Without warning, and with a mischievous gleam in his eyes, he seized Legolas around the waist and swung him onto Lindomiel’s mare. “I thought you might enjoy riding their horses yourselves,” he declared, grunting a bit as he settled Legolas on the mare’s back. “You are certainly big enough. Very soon I will not be able to lift you like that,” he said with a slightly dismayed tone.

“We can ride by ourselves?” Legolas asked, looking down at his father with a grin that lit his whole face.

“Help me up too, uncle!” Galithil cried. He already had his hands planted on the back his mother’s mare and was hopping in place and patting her anxiously, but he had little hope of mounting her without assistance. Thranduil complied and ran a soothing hand down the horse’s neck to calm her response to her excited rider.

He looked over the horse’s back at his guard. “How do you come to be here, Conuiön? Or have you been with me all along?” he asked with an edge to his voice.

“I have not, my lord,” the guard replied. “You ordered me to stay in the stronghold and there I stayed. The Gate Guards brought me the message that you intended to go riding and had sent for me.”

Thranduil’s eyebrows rose. He mounted his stallion and looked around the yard as the horse danced about in anticipation. “Where is Tulus?” he asked quietly.

Conuiön shook his head and looked about as well. The children sighed loudly in response to the delay.

“Did you ask for me, my lord?” Tulus asked, coming from around the far side of the barn into the yard hurriedly.

“Uncle, let’s go,” Galithil demanded, impatiently. Reacting to his anxious squirming, Galithil’s horse was stamping its feet.

Legolas nodded enthusiastically. “Can we still ride as far as we normally do, ada? We better leave now if we are going to because I do not think Galithil and I will be able to ride as fast as we do when we are riding with you.”

“I can ride that fast,” Galithil insisted, casting his cousin a defiant look and clearly ready to attempt to prove that assertion.

Thranduil held Tulus’s gaze for a moment before focusing on his nephew. “You will not try to gallop that horse or you will ride with Conuiön. This is your first ride, so we will go slowly until you are steady. No arguments,” he said firmly when Galithil drew a breath to do just that. Thranduil turned his stallion towards the open gate and encouraged it to hold to a slow walk. Mindful of their youthful riders, the mares followed at a sedate, steady pace, twitching their ears irritably, but ignoring any efforts to encourage more speed.

*~*~*

adar/ada--father/dad

naneth/nana--mother/mum


Chapter 14 - Affectations--Part Five

Chapter 14: Affectations--Part Five

“And then, I jumped over an enormous log. It must have been this high,” Galithil exclaimed, holding his hand at waist level.

Gathered in the sitting room with their wine, Galithil's aunts and uncles made appropriately impressed noises, nodding and smiling at his enthusiasm. Amoneth tried to smile at her son, but her alarmed gaze quickly shifted to Thranduil, silently demanding an explanation.

“I think you are exaggerating just a bit, Galithil,” Thranduil said softly.

Galithil shook his head emphatically. “No I am not,” he said, his enthusiasm undiminished.

“Yes, you are,” Legolas said, laughing at his cousin. “That ‘log’ was little more than a stick. The horse hardly had to jump to step over it.”

“It was not a stick. It was certainly a branch,” Galithil insisted, scowling at his cousin.

Legolas raised his eyebrows. “You do not want to lie, do you?” he asked quietly. Galithil narrowed his eyes, but remained silent.

Amoneth, clearly relieved, drew Galithil into an embrace causing the elfling to squirm and moan. “I am very pleased you had such fun, my sweet.”

Aradunnon nodded, ruffling his son’s hair. “And I am as well. It sounds like a wonderful adventure.” He looked at his brother. “Pity I was not there to see it.”

“How many times must I apologize, muindor nin?” Thranduil groaned.

“At least one hundred more,” Aradunnon replied. “I can never recover the opportunity to see my second-born’s first ride.” He paused for dramatic effect. “How proud a moment it would have been.”

Thranduil rolled his eyes as Legolas and Galithil giggled.

Adopting an exaggeratedly put upon expression, Aradunnon appeared ready to carry on expressing his woes when the door to the family sitting room opened and a guard stepped partially into the room. “Excuse me, my lords,” he said, glancing around the room and finally focusing on Thranduil. “Your appointment is waiting for you in your office, my lord.”

Thranduil stood. “Good,” he said with a serious enough tone to cause the adults to look at him curiously. “I am saved from my brother’s theatrics,” he added with a lighter tone and a wink at Aradunnon. Then he turned his attention to Legolas. “Time for you to head to your room…” he began.

Legolas immediately frowned and Galithil put his hands on his hips. “But Eirienil and Berior are going to watch the dancing on the green,” he interrupted.

“Yes,” Thranduil agreed readily, “because while you were riding, they were completing their studies. Now they may enjoy the dancing while you finish yours,” he said, as Aradunnon nodded. When Galithil drew a breath to protest, Thranduil shook his head forbiddingly. “Do not even think about arguing with me,” he said softly. “Privileges like riding come with responsibilities like completing the work Master Rodonon sets for you. Now go.”

As Galithil and Legolas moved slowly from the family sitting room, Thranduil looked between his steward and brother. “Hallion, Aradunnon, join me in my office, please,” he requested, setting his wine goblet on the tray on the table. He bent over to place a kiss on Lindomiel’s cheek. “We will not be long. When we are finished, we will join you and Amoneth to encourage the children with their studies.”

Lindomiel stood and tiptoed to place a kiss of her own on Thranduil’s lips. “You had better,” she said, with a teasing smile. “You are responsible for getting them this worked up, so it is only fair that you should help settle them down.”

“They settle down? I must have missed that,” Aradunnon joked, as he placed his wine goblet on the tray and pulled Amoneth against him for a kiss. “I will come help too if I can see something like that.”

Amoneth slapped Aradunnon playfully on the arm as he followed Thranduil and Hallion from the room.

“Finish your studies,” he mouthed at the children. They had watched this exchange from the hallway outside the sitting room, not certain if they should giggle or appear insulted. “If you finish, I will take you to the green,” he mouthed, behind Lindomiel and Amoneth’s backs, as they herded the children to their rooms.

Legolas and Galithil’s faces lit and they smiled at Araudunnon a moment before turning and trotting willingly down the hall.

Amoneth looked suspiciously over her shoulder at her husband, but Aradunnon only winked at her as he followed Thranduil into his office and shut the door behind him.

Aradunnon frowned slightly upon entering the king’s office. Conuiön stood waiting for them, which might have been alarming in itself if it indicated Thranduil felt the need to discuss matters of the family’s personal security. But Tulus was present as well. The fact that the king had asked Conuiön to bring Tulus to speak with him put Aradunnon immediately on edge.

Thranduil sat at the head of the meeting table in his office. Hallion sat in his usual place at Thranduil’s right. Aradunnon hesitated. Since he hated attending counsel meetings, he normally sat at the opposite end of the table from Thranduil, closest to the office door and escape, but that did not seem appropriate under these circumstances, whatever they might be. So he sat across from Hallion, to his brother’s left and looked at him expectantly. Normally, Thranduil would sit at his desk if he planned to discipline Tulus in some way. Indeed, even at this late hour, discipline should be discussed in the Great Hall, from the throne. Thranduil’s office was a dramatically less formal setting and the conference table in that office seemed entirely out of place in Aradunnon’s mind.

He looked over at Conuiön and Tulus. They were also both looking expectantly at the king. Conuiön apparently had no more an idea of the purpose of this meeting than Aradunnon.

“Please take a seat,” Thranduil said, indicating the two chairs next to Hallion and Aradunnon.

Aradunnon looked back at his brother, noticing even Hallion’s brows rise almost imperceptibly in response to that invitation.

Conuiön made no pretense of hiding his surprise. He openly stared at Thranduil with obvious confusion for a long moment before glancing at Tulus and seating himself next to Hallion. Tulus watched his former captain take his place. Then he sat on the edge of the other chair. Aradunnon studied him. His posture was rigid and he was clenching his hands tightly in his lap, waiting for Thranduil to speak.

Conuiön also looked at Tulus, but his expression was more pitying. “My lord,” he said quietly, turning to Thranduil. “If you are displeased that I was waiting for you at the barn before your ride, it is with me alone that you need discuss that. I am responsible for disobeying your order to remain in the stronghold and no one else.”

Aradunnon looked between Conuiön and Thranduil with wide eyes—Thranduil had ordered Conuiön not to accompany with him on that ride? He had teased Thranduil about taking Galithil riding for the first time without him, but he would not hesitate to reprimand his brother, in private, for taking his child into the forest without guards present. Thranduil’s answer only caused Aradunnon’s confusion to rise.

“I was curious how you knew I was going for a ride,” he said mildly, looking at Tulus.

Aradunnon blinked. Conuiön should know Thranduil’s every step throughout the day.

Tulus shifted under Thranduil’s gaze and looked down in his lap. “I know you told me that you intended to speak to Dannenion and Dolwon alone, my lord,” he responded to Thranduil’s implied question with a voice that shook slightly. “But I thought certainly you did not intend to ride in the forest, at dusk, when the more dangerous animals are coming out, with the children, armed only with your knives—you were not even carrying a bow.” He looked up. “I thought surely you did not intend to take such a risk. And I thought after your conversation, you would appreciate not having to wait for someone to fetch your guard, so I sent a message to Conuiön.” He looked down again. “I apologize if I did wrong, my lord.”

Thranduil shook his head. “I admit, when I came to the barn, I did intend to enjoy a ride without Conuiön, but when I decided to take the children with me, I should have called for a guard.” He paused and regarded Tulus closely. “That explains your motivation for ignoring my order that you need not ready Conuiön’s horse and I do not deny you were right to do so. Now perhaps you will explain your motivation for following me through the trees to Dannenion’s cottage?”

Aradunnon’s eyes flew open at that request and he turned sharply to face Tulus. Conuiön’s eyes snapped to Tulus as well and any sympathy Aradunnon had seen in them before was now replaced by a guarded, suspicious glare. Even Hallion wore a shocked expression.

Tulus shifted in his chair again, looking around the table. He drew a breath to speak, but when he opened his mouth, no sound came out.

“It was you I saw in the trees, was it not?” Thranduil prompted.

Aradunnon’s brow furrowed and he glared at his brother momentarily, not understanding his soft tone. “You were spying on the king’s conversation?” Aradunnon demanded, no longer able to restrain himself.

Tulus looked at him sharply. “No! I was not spying!” he replied forcefully. He pressed his lips together a moment and when he spoke again, he had tempered his voice. “If I wanted to know what the king discussed with Dannenion and Dolwon, I would simply ask them. They would tell me even if the king had asked them not to repeat the conversation.” He looked back at Thranduil. “I did follow you,” he admitted softly. “I did it because…well, my lord, you were going alone to speak to Dannenion and Dolwon.” He glanced at Conuiön. “That simply did not seem safe to me and I thought you obviously had ordered Conuiön not to accompany you, but your orders to your guards do not apply to me.”

Aradunnon laughed. “You expect us to believe that you followed the king secretly through the trees to guard him,” he scoffed.

But Thranduil spoke over him. “What precisely did you think I needed protection from, Tulus?” he asked. “Do you believe Dannenion and Dolwon are still such a threat to me that I am in danger simply speaking with them here in the capital within sight of the stronghold?”

Tulus frowned and shook his head. “No my lord,” he said quickly. “Well, yes, possibly.” Tulus sighed and looked directly at Thranduil again. “You told me that you intended to speak to them about their children. About their children’s misbehavior. People do not like hearing others criticize their children, my lord. Such discussions can become very…emotional…passionate. What if they had lost their tempers over something you said? What if it had come to blows? I know perfectly well that you can defend yourself, my lord, but fights escalate. Accidents can happen when tempers run hot. I thought no harm could come of me simply keeping an eye on the situation, my lord. That is all. Again, if I did wrong, I sincerely beg your forgiveness.” He held Thranduil’s gaze a moment longer before looking down at his lap again.

Aradunnon looked between Conuiön, who was still regarding Tulus closely, but with an expression that seemed believing, and Hallion, who was actually smiling. His mouth fell open and he loosed a forceful breath. “You do not actually believe this, do you?” he asked, incredulously.

Tulus straightened and faced Aradunnon. “You can rightly accuse me of many wrong-doings in my past, lord Aradunnon, but lying has never been one of them,” he said with his chin raised.

Aradunnon pressed his lips together and remained silent. He could not deny that.

Thranduil nodded. “Quite true, Tulus,” he affirmed. He turned to his brother. “What makes Tulus’s explanation so unbelievable to you, commander?” Thranduil asked.

Aradunnon shook his head. “Perhaps the fact that he plotted with the two people he claims to wish to protect you from now to abduct your wife in order to drive you from your throne?”

Thranduil’s expression grew severe. “That is something you may never forgive Tulus for, Aradunnon. That is your privilege, but I do not have the same freedom to hold grudges that you might. Nor am I inclined to. If we are to contrast Tulus’s behavior with that of Dannenion and Dolwon since their arrest, I think the comparison works out strongly in Tulus’s favor…”

Aradunnon rolled his eyes towards the ceiling. “Just because he told you a story about adar today that pulled at your heart…” he began.

“You want to remember to whom you are speaking, commander,” Thranduil interrupted with a soft but clearly dangerous tone.

Aradunnon looked quickly back at Thranduil and fell silent.

“And you want to remember your place. You are a member of my counsel and I have included you in this meeting to benefit from your advice. Now if you have any solid evidence why I should suspect Tulus’s motivations were sinister—some fact that you can provide—do so now. Otherwise keep your grudges where they belong.”

Aradunnon pressed his lips together and one corner of his mouth turned downward, but he shook his head with a sigh. He spent a moment schooling his features to more respectful lines and spoke in a soft voice. “Forgive me, my lord. I have no evidence that Tulus should be suspected of any recent wrong-doing.”

Thranduil regarded his brother narrowly and then looked back at Tulus. “Nor do I,” he said, leaning back in his chair. “And that is what I wanted to discuss with you, Tulus.”

*~*~*

Legolas and Galithil lay on their stomachs, a jar of ink between them, their quills scratching away on the parchment before them. They were writing quickly, in hopes that Aradunnon would take them to the green if they finished.

Galithil squirmed a bit and glanced at his cousin. They were both trying to concentrate on their essay, but even so, the silence hung heavily between them. “So, did you persuade Tulus to tell you why he called Anastor and Noruil orcs?” he asked, with a somewhat exaggeratedly conversation tone.

Legolas nodded and did not look up from his writing. “Mmm hmm,” he murmured, his voice barely rising over the scratching of the quill.

Galithil frowned and dipped his quill into the ink so forcefully that a bit sloshed over the sides to stain the stone floor. Drips of ink trailed back to his parchment. “Fine, I do not care if you tell me or not,” he exclaimed bitterly, while scrubbing the ink on the floor and the blotches that obliterated parts of his essay.

Legolas did look up at that, if for no other reason than to avoid the spill. “We need to finish if we are going to go outside,” he said.

“Right,” Galithil replied, throwing aside the parchment he had used to wipe up his mess. He had accomplished little else but to spread the ink more thinly and over a wider surface. “It would be impossible to finish this essay and talk at the same time. We have never done anything like that before.”

Legolas sighed. “Tulus said Anastor and Noruil’s parents do not get along with my adar,” he said without pausing in his writing.

Galithil rolled his eyes. “Well, I could have told you that. Have you ever seen how they glare at uncle?”

Legolas finally looked up at his cousin. “So can you tell me why they do not like ada?” he asked, trying unsuccessfully to appear uninterested in the conversation. Galithil shook his head. Legolas grinned and laid down his quill. “Because they were village leaders when daerada came to Eryn Galen and he was made king. Dannenion and Dolwon opposed making him king.” Legolas nodded as Galithil’s jaw dropped. “Tulus says they do not like ada because they resent losing their authority.”

Galithil thought about that a moment while staring at Legolas. “And they are not even village leaders now. Everyone says uncle made them give that up and move to the capital. Did Tulus tell you why that happened?”

Legolas shook his head. “Tulus did not want to say a word about any of this—he kept saying I should talk to ada—but I intend to find out,” he said, picking up his quill again and continuing his writing with a dramatic flourish. “Every decision that ada makes in court is written in records and stored in the library. I am going to ask Eirienil to help me find the records.” He laughed. “She actually understands how Master Rodonon has all those dusty scrolls and ledgers ordered.”

Galithil giggled. “There is order to it?” he joked.

Legolas smirked at him. “And here is something else interesting: did you know that Tulus was a warrior?” Legolas nodded when Galithil looked up at him incredulously. “A captain,” he affirmed. “I asked him why he was not a warrior anymore and he changed from laughing at me to being deadly serious in a heartbeat. Then, ada came into the barn and told me not to ask personal questions.” Galithil’s eyes widened again. “That has to be a good story. I bet Tulus was wounded in the War and cannot fight anymore—one of those types of stories ada does not like for us to hear.”

“Could be,” Galithil said. “But he does not have any obvious wounds. Not like some of the elves that we know fought with daerada that lost hands or fingers.”

Legolas shrugged. “Whatever might have happened, I intend to find that out too. There has to be a record when a captain leaves military service.”

“I could ask Glílavan,” Galithil offered. “I bet he would tell us.”

Legolas’s expression soured. “I think you are in enough trouble with Glílavan as it is without looking for more.”

Galithil scowled. “Glílavan said I could do it,” he said in a whisper, looking at the open door that led to Legolas’s parent’s chambers, where Lindomiel and Amoneth’s voices could be heard.

“But our adar’s both said you cannot. And it is a rule that only warriors can use the archery range to practice. You broke a rule and you broke your word and you are not even ashamed,” Legolas said, his eyes fixed on his essay. “I would be ashamed,” he concluded in a soft voice.

Galithil frowned at his cousin, squirming again and trying to make it appear as if he were simply uncomfortable on the hard stone floor. But he said nothing.

*~*~*

In the king’s office, Hallion exchanged a smile with Thranduil when the sound of excited pleading drifted through the open office door. Aradunnon had exited the office only moments before.

“Take the children—and Lindomiel—to the green to dance, my lord. I can finish up here,” Hallion said with a pleased smile.

Thranduil laughed and shook his head when Aradunnon’s openly conspiratorial voice was heard promising to help the children secure the other adults’ permission to go to the dancing.

“I think I will have no choice but to go,” he said. Then he focused on Hallion regretfully. “I am sorry, but I must ask you to do one other thing before you join us.”

“Of course, my lord,” Hallion replied.

“I would like you to go to the library tonight and remove any documentation pertaining to Tulus, Dannenion and Dolwon. Bring it back here and lock it in my desk drawer.”

Hallion’s eyebrows rose. “I will go now, my lord, but may I ask why you want those papers in your office? Given the decisions you made tonight, removing those documents seems a little odd.”

Thranduil shook his head. “It has nothing to do with that. I mentioned in the sitting room that Tulus told Legolas a story in the barn about adar.” He paused and Hallion nodded. “Tulus told that story as a distraction because Legolas was asking him about Dolwon and Dannenion and why I do not get along with them.”

“Surely Tulus did not tell a child, and particularly Legolas, anything about what they were all involved in?” Hallion asked, his voice rising slightly.

“He tried not to, but he said enough to pique Legolas’s curiosity,” Thranduil replied. “And you know as well as I do how Legolas will react once he decides something interests him.”

Hallion nodded, smiling wryly. “I will make sure there is nothing in the library for he and his cousins to find.” He motioned towards the door with his chin. “Now you go find your son and wife. It has been a trying day.”

“That is has,” Thranduil said, smiling gratefully at his steward before turning toward the door.

He closed it behind him and Hallion soon heard Legolas and Galithil’s exclamations double in volume as they begged Thranduil to go to the green. Hallion smiled and settled himself at the table with a piece of parchment and a jar of ink to record the orders that Thranduil had issued that night before fetching the papers he was charged to retrieve from the library. As he wrote, he heard the triumphant cries of the children, some excited scurrying about and several doors opening and closing. Finally he heard the door at the end of the hall that led out of the family’s private quarters open and close, muffling Galithil’s chattering as he followed his parents to the green. After a moment, silence reigned in the king’s office and Hallion’s concentration turned fully to complete the task at hand.

When a quiet knock sounded on the office door and it opened slightly, Hallion looked up in surprise. His surprise only increased when he saw Legolas peeking at him.

“What is it, Legolas? Why did you not go with your parents and cousin to the green?” he asked, lying the quill down on the table.

“I told ada I would go out in a minute,” he said. “I wanted to ask you something.”

Hallion frowned. Legolas’s expression was far from what he would expect from a child that spent the afternoon riding and now was going to spend the evening on the green. “Well come ask me, then,” he answered, patting the chair next to him.

Legolas slipped into the room, closing the door behind himself, and trotted silently to the table. He sat next to Hallion, but instead of looking at him, he cast his gaze about as if searching for a distraction. He paused looking at the papers on the table.

“What are you writing about Tulus?” he asked, eyes fixed on a word near Hallion’s quill.

The king’s steward gathered the papers in front of him into a stack and moved them to the far side of the table. “I will have to start writing my records in Quenyan to foil the efforts of prying elflings,” he said jokingly. “Now what did you want to discuss with me?”

Legolas grinned. “Master Rodonon has begun teaching me Quenyan, so that will do you no good.”

Hallion blinked. “Why would he teach you that? Does your adar know?”

Legolas shrugged, still grinning. “He said I should learn it so I can read documents from the First Age. He said Eirienil and I are the only two of his students that have a chance of mastering it.”

Hallion laughed quietly. “I have always been pleased that you enjoy languages so, Legolas. I was a scholar of languages in the High King’s court, you know. The Dwarves even permitted me to learn a bit of their language.” He shook his head and held his hands out in front of him to forestall the onslaught he saw coming as Legolas’s eyes lit with interest in response to that comment. “But we are not going to talk about Khuzdul tonight. You did not stay in the stronghold to speak to me about that and besides,” he added when Legolas showed no signs of relenting, “I promised those Dwarves I would keep their words secret if they taught me some of them.”

Legolas deflated dramatically at that. Much more than Hallion would have expected.

“What is wrong, child?” he asked softly.

“You have to keep your promise,” Legolas said softly. Then he drew a deep breath. “I know something…I saw something. Something that someone…two, people…well three, but the one had permission…something some people were doing and they were not allowed to do it. Worse, they are not even sorry they did it, so I think…I know they are going to keep doing it. And when they get caught, it is going to be really serious trouble.” He paused. “And one of them…I feel like ada should know what he is doing.”

Hallion looked at Legolas sympathetically and resisted the urge to draw him onto his lap. He knew the child felt far too old for such attention, but it was difficult to see his normally cheery face so gravely serious. “You feel as if you should tell your adar, but it is very hard to tell on your friends at your age,” Hallion prompted.

Legolas nodded. “I said I would not tell, which is awfully close to promising I would not.”

“I would say it is the same as promising, if you said you would not,” Hallion replied.

Legolas nodded again and slouched a little in his chair.

“And perhaps that is a promise you should not have made, since it makes you complicit in their wrong-doing,” Hallion concluded.

Legolas looked back up at him with some alarm. “But you are not supposed to tell on your friends…to betray your friends.”

“Perhaps. But neither does a true friend allow those dear to him to come into trouble. And you have already said that whatever they are doing will lead to ‘serious trouble.’”

Legolas frowned and looked down.

Hallion reached out and patted Legolas’s hand consolingly. “You clearly came to me for advice, so I will give you some: you must decide if you are a better friend for keeping their secret or keeping them safe from trouble. Ask yourself if you would you prefer to bear the consequence of your friends being angry with you because you told on them or if you would prefer to bear the guilt of knowing that you failed to prevent them from coming to harm doing whatever it is that they are doing. That is a difficult decision, but you are the king’s son and you will face many such decisions in your life.” Legolas looked up at Hallion sharply. “I think since you came to speak to me, you are leaning towards making a very good choice now,” Hallion finished softly.

He raised a questioning eyebrow when Legolas remained silent, studying him intensely.

Legolas frowned seriously. “Someone else…one of the people involved in this…the one I want to tell on, said something similar to me today. He reminded me that I am the king’s son too. But when he said it, it made me feel…strange.”

Hallion remained silent, his expression encouraging Legolas to continue. So he did.

“I do not really know why it made me feel that way. I was too busy trying to get…” he cut himself off. “I just wanted to stop them from getting in trouble.” He paused thoughtfully. “When you said it just now, you were trying to make me see why I need to do something I do not want to do, but that is right. When the other person said it to me, he was using it as an argument to try to convince me to do something I know is wrong. Maybe that is why.”

Hallion blinked. “One of your cousins tried to convince you to do something wrong using ‘you are the king’s son’ as an argument? Though I doubt any of you children, even you, fully understand the significance of that phrase as yet, I think maybe you had better tell me what happened this afternoon, Legolas.”

Legolas shook his head. “No, it was not one of my cousins that said it. It was an adult,” he said, looking back at Hallion.

Hallion leaned forward. “An adult tried to persuade you to do something wrong by reminding you that you are the king’s son? Now I insist that you tell me, Legolas. What adult and what did he try to persuade you to do?”

Legolas shrugged. “I do not mind telling you this part. It is the part that bothered me most anyway,” he said. “Glílavan said that to me when trying to convince me to shoot…” again he hesitated over a name. “To shoot an arrow into the targets on the range. He said I was the king’s son and would eventually defend this realm and so I had to learn to shoot.”

Hallion sighed. “I am certain he would not know that your adar does not want you and your cousins playing with bows until you are twenty-five,” he suggested.

Legolas shook his head. “Most parents give their children bows when they turn twenty-five,” Legolas said. “And besides, I told him we are not allowed. That is when he said that about me being the king’s son and he said it would be our secret if I did shoot it.” Legolas looked directly at Hallion with a serious expression. “I know Glílavan is charged with keeping elflings and anyone else other than warriors from using the range. He is an officer and he not only failed his charge, he actively participated in violating it. I think that is wrong and I bet Dolgailon would think it was wrong too,” he concluded.

Hallion nodded slowly. “I think you are very correct,” he replied softly. “You did the right thing to tell me this, Legolas. I will discuss it with Dolgailon tomorrow. Is there anything else you want to tell me?”

Legolas looked down and squirmed uncomfortably. “I think that was the most important part. If Glílavan stops letting children use the range, the rest of the problem will work itself out,” he said, though he did not sound convinced of his own words.

Hallion turned Legolas to face him with a finger under his chin. “You must do what you think is right, Legolas,” he said.

Legolas turned his gaze to the ground as much as he could.

“Very well,” Hallion said. He drew Legolas into a quick hug. “I am very pleased you spoke to me about this, Legolas. You know you can always speak to me. Whenever you need to.”

Legolas returned the embrace and nodded. “I know. Thank you uncle Hallion,” he said. Then he pulled away, the normally cheerful expression returned to his face. “I think I will go out to the green now,” he said, hopping up from the chair.

Hallion returned his smile. “Go enjoy yourself. I hope to join you shortly.”

Legolas gave him one last, quick hug before rushing out the office door.

Hallion remained where he was, staring thoughtfully at the closed office door, listening to Legolas’s soft footsteps as he ran to the other end of the hall and out that door to join his parents and cousins on the green. Three people, Legolas said he saw. One was Glílavan and Hallion had no trouble guessing who the other two were. The trouble came in trying to decide what to do with the information.

*~*~*

Tulus leaned on the stone fence that divided the public garden from the green. He had a large mug of mulled wine in his hand and his son sat on the wall next to him. Tulus rarely participated in the festivities on the green, so Glílavan had been surprised when his father joined him tonight. But he had been surprised when Thranduil’s guards had appeared at his cottage to escort his father to the stronghold after dinner too, so he was glad for the opportunity to press his father for an explanation now.

“You heard him tell Dolwon and Dannenion about their sons’ nightly wanderings?” Glílavan asked, watching his father take a long draught of wine. “That must have been an explosive conversation,” he sniggered.

“It was relatively friendly,” Tulus responded, wiping his hand across his mouth and looking to the other side of the green where Galion was dispensing wine. “As encounters between Dannenion, Dolwon and the king go.”

“Well, then Dannenion is finally listening to good advice. We have both been telling him for years that he should make an effort where Thranduil is concerned.”

Tulus turned to look at his son. “They should make an effort,” he said seriously.

Glílavan returned his father’s gaze innocently. “I just said that, did I not?” He smiled. “I made my own sort of progress today. Aradunnon has assigned his son to clean the training weapons and Dolgailon left him in my charge. I think the child rather likes me after today. That can only have good results.”

Tulus scowled. “What did you do?” he demanded.

“Nothing,” Glílavan replied. “I did nothing worse than you do with those children. Playing with them and those dogs. Leading them about on Thranduil’s stallion.”

“What did you do?” Tulus repeated.

“I played a bit with Galithil. Nothing more.”

Tulus eyed him narrowly. “Mind how you ‘play’ with the king’s nephew. That is dangerous territory.”

Glílavan nodded. “I am always careful, adar,” he said sincerely.

An enthusiastic commotion amongst the elves on the green attracted Tulus and Glílavan’s attention. The musicians and minstrels and many of the elves dancing stopped to wave and shout greetings in the direction of the bridge. Tulus and Glílavan turned towards the stronghold in time to see Thranduil and his family emerge through the Great Gates. They watched the king silently as he crossed the bridge across the river, returning the revelers’ greetings.

Glílavan saw the king briefly catch Tulus’s eye, but he did not react to his presence.

Tulus, on the other hand, turned away. Taking his son’s arm, he steered him in the other direction from where Thranduil, Lindomiel, Aradunnon and Galithil were going to join Celonhael, Golwon and their wives and children under the trees.

Glílavan raised his eyebrows. “Had enough of the king tonight, hmm?”

Tulus nodded silently.

“He must have been furious with you for following him,” Glílavan prompted.

Tulus nodded again.

“Why did you bother to follow him? If you were that curious to know what he said to Dannenion and Dolwon, you could have just asked. They would have told you,” he said.

Tulus said nothing and continued leading his son in the direction of their cottage.

*~*~*

Dolwon and Dannenion sat under a great beech, sipping wine and watching the king’s family on the opposite side of the green. Dannenion tapped his foot in time to the minstrels’ music with a half smile on his face.

“You are in fine spirits for someone who just found out his son has spent every night this season defying his orders while endangering his life,” Dolwon observed. Then, despite the volume of the music, he leaned closer to Dannenion and lowered his voice. “For someone who was forced to endure Thranduil’s company and give him thanks for bringing such unpleasant news.”

Dannenion simply raised his eyebrows without looking away from the dancers. “Unpleasant news? I found Thranduil’s news to be quite the best I have heard in many years,” he replied.

Dolwon’s eyes widened. “Have you gone mad? Noruil and Anastor could have fallen into the river or been attacked by wolves or…”

Dannenion waved his hand. “But they were not. They are armed. Who can blame them for wanting to explore the forest at night under the stars? Is that not what young elves should be safe to do? But that is not the news that pleased me so,” he concluded with a mysterious air.

Dolwon rolled his eyes skyward. “And what news did you find so interesting?” he asked tiredly.

Dannenion turned and looked directly at his friend. “That Thranduil had to assign a guard to our cottages to confirm Anastor and Noruil were the children wandering in the forest,” he said triumphantly. When Dolwon only continued staring at him, he sighed. “Think, you fool. That means Thranduil no longer has a guard on our cottages on a regular basis. Else he would have known immediately it was our children in the forest.”

Understanding dawned. “And if he does not constantly guard us…” Dolwon began.

“We can be of far more use than we have been,” Dannenion concluded. “I have already composed a letter. I just need to get it sent south without scrutiny, but that should not be too difficult,” he said, taking another long swallow of his wine.

Dolwon frowned slightly and then sighed, returning his attention to the music.

*~*~*

AN: Sorry for the week delay. I had a long paper due for the class I am taking last week. Also, next week, instead of posting the next chapter in this story, I am going to post a chapter of Dawn of a New Age. I will come back to this story in two weeks. Thanks so much to all of you who are reading. :-)

adar/ada--father/dad

naneth/nana--mother/mum

muindor nin—my brother

daeradar--grandfather

pen neth--young one


Chapter 15 - Loyalties--Part One

Chapter 15: Loyalties—Part One

“And then there is the matter of the drill for the Fourth Years,” Langon said with a grim expression. “In the caves.”

Dolgailon smirked at the swords master. He could barely be persuaded to enter the stronghold. The training exercises conducted in the small caves that riddled the hills around the capital were nearly unbearable in his mind, though he could not deny their worth in preparing the young warriors to fight orcs in their element.

“I seem to recall it is your turn to set up the traps,” Pathon said, with a teasing tone of voice, looking at Langon with bright eyes. “I did it last time and Hebor the time before that and Tirithion the time…”

“I know,” Langon interrupted, glaring at his grinning colleague. “Glílavan had already decided how he wants to attack the different teams, so we began setting the traps today.”

Laughing at his lieutenants, Dolgailon withdrew a map of the cave system used for the drill. “We were too easy on them last time,” he said as he spread the map out on the table. “Or perhaps we are becoming too predictable. Did Glílavan design new tactics for this drill as I suggested? And some more complex traps?”

Langon nodded. “The problem with the traps is making them similar to what orcs do to kill intruders in their lairs without making them deadly,” he said. Then he looked around at his fellows with an amused smile. “I am rather certain that lord Thranduil, and possibly even lord Aradunnon, would notice and disapprove if anyone were crushed in a deadfall trap or stabbed by a trap that loosed spears.”

Pathon, Tirithion and Hebor snorted.

“But falling into hidden pits is too obvious and does not prepare the novices for what they will really see in the patrols,” Dolgailon countered, with a serious tone.

“Glílavan had an idea to solve that problem,” Langon replied. “Personally, I think it will lead to some minor injuries…”

“Or at least some soiled leggings,” Hebor interjected, laughing.

Langon cast him a disapproving look to silence him. “But it is now a much more practical drill. No doubt about that.”

Dolgailon regarded Langon with an obviously concerned expression and drew a breath to question him further, but he was interrupted by a voice coming from the open door of his office.

“It sounds as if I should be very glad I will not be required to go through this training drill,” it said.

The five officers looked up to find Hallion, the king’s steward, standing in the door with an amused smile. Dolgailon made to stand in greeting, but Hallion gestured for him to remain seated.

“I had hoped to speak to you if you were finished with your meeting, but I can wait and enjoy listening to your plans,” Hallion said stepping into the room. “If I will not disturb you,” he added before seating himself on the bench along the wall where the young warriors normally awaited their daily assignments.

Dolgailon studied Hallion a moment and then shook his head. “I am not needed to plan this drill,” he said, sliding the map towards Langon. “They were only showing me how they intended to set up the course. But I can speak to Glílavan about it when I check with him to see how Galithil is doing cleaning the training weapons.” He looked at Langon. “I will be sure to question him about the new traps. I want the drill to be realistic, but the king and troop commander are not going to tolerate injuries any better than they will fatalities.” He paused. “I will speak to you again in the morning to confirm the set up,” he concluded.

Dolgailon’s officers nodded and stood, gathering the map and their other materials. They saluted their captain and bowed to Hallion before leaving the office, still discussing the test they were charged with designing.

Dolgailon gestured towards one of the chairs that had just been vacated. “What did you need to discuss with me, Hallion?” he asked, as the door to his office closed, shutting out the voices of his officers. Dolgailon’s expression was one of concern—the king’s steward rarely had any business with the training program, so Dolgailon could not imagine what had precipitated this visit.

Hallion seated himself at the table and looked at Dolgailon silently for a long moment, causing the younger elf to frown. Hallion sighed.

“I am sorry, Dolgailon. I do not mean to worry you. This is not a grave matter. It is simply one I am not certain how best to handle and I suppose I am still debating my decision with myself.”

That caused Dolgailon’s eyebrows to rise involuntarily. Hallion was not known for indecision.

“Legolas spoke to me last night,” he finally began after drawing a long breath. “I think I have decided that what he told me is a problem that Glílavan’s captain and Galithil’s brother can best resolve.”

Dolgailon’s eyebrows climbed even higher in response to that.

*~*~*

“Why does everyone always chase me first?” Berior cried while running as hard as he could, dodging in and out amongst the trees.

“Because you are the easiest to catch,” Legolas replied, laughing. He hauled his cousin to a sudden stop by seizing his arm.

Berior glared at him. “It is not fair,” he whined as he joined hands with Legolas and together they inspected the other children, who were, by then, scattered to the far corners of the area that was ‘inbounds’ for the game. “Brethil next?” he asked, causing Brethil to crouch in anticipation of the chase.

Legolas grinned and nodded. He and Berior charged towards their victim with their hands clasped but their arms stretched as wide apart as they could reach. As they charged him, Brethil arched his back to skirt by them, avoiding being touched, and therefore caught in their ‘web,’ by mere inches. He squealed involuntarily and ducked behind a tree, laughing at his success. Legolas changed course to try again to trap him, but was jerked backwards when Berior pulled him hard in the opposite direction. He drew a sharp breath to protest—in this game the children forming the ‘web’ had to work together to win—but his complaint was drowned out by a high-pitched scream. He turned to see Aewen sporting a disappointed look and joining hands with Berior.

“Good job, Berior,” Legolas said as Berior grinned at him.

The three children spread out as far as they could while still holding hands, casting their ‘web’ as wide as possible, and they turned again to Brethil. He ran from them, laughing and seeking cover amongst the trees.

“Galithil and Maidhien are coming back,” Eirienil called from the other side of the playing area, where she was safe from the ‘web.’

Legolas, Berior and Aewen paused in their pursuit of Brethil for a moment. Turning, they saw Galithil charging towards them.

“Are you finished cleaning the training weapons, Galithil?” Eirienil asked as Galithil approached. “I hope you want to play again. We need more people for the game to be fun. And Legolas has been the Spider for three turns in a row now.”

Eirienil frowned when Galithil walked past her without even acknowledging her question. He stopped nearly toe-to-toe with Legolas. As the other children gathered around them, Legolas bit his lip and met his cousin’s gaze reluctantly.

“You did tell!” Galithil exclaimed, reacting to Legolas’s expression. “I cannot believe you told. We are supposed to be friends. We are cousins!”

Legolas grimaced, but said nothing.

His silence only angered Galithil further. “We are supposed to be friends!” he repeated, shoving Legolas hard enough to push him into the tree that Brethil had been hiding behind.

“And friends do not shove one another,” Brethil said, stepping between Legolas and Galithil. “What is wrong with you?”

Galithil’s eyes narrowed as he looked over Brethil’s shoulder at Legolas. “Legolas saw me shooting Maidhien’s bow on the archery range yesterday. Glílavan said I could do it. He even taught me how. And Legolas told Dolgailon. He told!”

Brethil and Berior looked at Legolas with wide eyes. “You did not really tell, did you Legolas?” Brethil asked disbelievingly.

“If he did tell, he did the right thing,” Eirienil said. “We promised we would not play with their bows. If Galithil did, he deserves to get in trouble.”

Galithil glared at her. “This is none of your concern, Eirienil. Besides, we promised not to play with Anastor and Noruil’s bows and I had Glílavan’s permission to use Maidhien’s.”

“If that is the excuse you plan to use with your adar, you are going to be in even more trouble than you think,” Aewen replied and Eirienil nodded.

Maidhien sighed loudly. “Well Glílavan did not deserve to get in trouble,” she said. “He was just trying to be nice to us and let us have a safe place to practice with our bows. And now Dolgailon is going to make him do night duty along side the Fifth Years as a punishment and we cannot shoot on the range anymore.”

“Good,” Legolas said quietly, speaking for the first time. Everyone turned to him, Galithil and Maidhien with angry glares. “Glílavan did deserve to get in trouble. He is an officer and he is supposed to enforce the rules, not help you break them.” He looked at Galithil. “I told on Glílavan, not you, Galithil. I did not mention your name or Maidhien’s.”

“Well Dolgailon came to talk to Glílavan and caught us shooting arrows,” Galithil began.

“Again?” Eirienil exclaimed. “You did it twice? You had to know you would be caught eventually! You cannot blame Legolas for that.”

“Be quiet, Eirienil!” Galithil shouted.

“If you got caught doing something you know you are not allowed to do, you have no right to shove Legolas around for it,” Eirienil yelled back.

“Except he would not have been caught if Legolas had not told,” Berior said quietly.

Legolas looked at Berior and Brethil, but they would not return his gaze.

For a long moment, the only sound heard was angry breathing. Then Galithil turned on his heel and stalked off in the same direction he had come from.

“Where are you going, Galithil?” Eirienil demanded.

“To enjoy my last day of freedom before Dolgailon makes me tell ada about using the bow,” he threw over his shoulder without turning back or pausing in his march away from them. “He said I have to tell him after dinner.”

All the children grimaced sympathetically in response to that.

“We could stay and play Spider,” Maidhien suggested, trotting after Galithil but looking back at the other children.

Brethil nodded and took a few steps after him. “Stay and play, Galithil. You could beat Legolas and be the Spider and that would make you feel better.”

Galithil stopped at looked back over his shoulder. He fixed Legolas with a bitter glare. “No, it would not make me feel better. I do not care to play with Legolas at all, so I would prefer to leave.”

Legolas sighed, but said nothing in reply. He merely returned Galithil’s glare until Berior nudged him with his elbow.

“Maybe you had better go play on the green, or something,” he suggested in a voice that was barely a whisper.

Legolas’s mouth fell open and he turned to stare at Berior. “You want me to leave? You will not play with me because I told on Galithil?”

Berior squirmed slightly. “Well, you should not have done that, Legolas. And I think Galithil needs us right now if he has to face his adar tonight…”

Legolas loosed an angry harrumph. After pausing to glare at Berior and Brethil until both children turned their gaze to the ground, he strode off towards the green without another word.

“That was mean, Berior,” Eirienil exclaimed. “He is not the one who did something wrong!”

Berior and Brethil looked up at her guiltily, but Galithil growled. “Yes, he is. He betrayed his friends.” Eirienil drew a breath to argue, but Galithil did not give her an opportunity to interrupt. “And I am not going to stay around to listen to your lectures, Eirienil. Adar’s will be bad enough.” With that, Galithil stormed off into the forest. Maidhien hesitated a moment and then, with a quick wave to the other children, followed after him.

Eirienil and Aewen looked at Legolas’s retreating form in one direction and then Galithil’s in the other.

“Nana is right,” Aewen said softly. “All ellyn are insane.”

Eirienil shook her head disgustedly and took Aewen’s hand. Together they stalked off in still another direction—towards Aewen’s cottage.

Now alone in the forest, Berior and Brethil looked at each other with wide eyes.

“I suppose we can go to my cottage and play Orthor,” Brethil suggested quietly.

Berior only nodded.

*~*~*

Maidhien scurried along side Galithil struggling to keep up with his angry strides as he raged deeper into the forest. Stomping along, he fancied that he made as much noise as a boar. Squirrels and birds and other small creatures looked at him with alarm and fled before him. Behind him lay a wake of silence of the sort that normally accompanied dangerous animals trekking through the forest. And that gave Galithil a perverse sense of satisfaction.

“I told you,” Maidhien said, breathless from her efforts to keep up with Galithil, “I will tell your adar that I was shooting the arrows and you were only watching. If Dolgailon says he saw you with the bow, I will say you were just holding it for me while I fixed the fletching on an arrow. He did not actually see you with the bow drawn, so that might work.”

Galithil shook his head but said nothing.

“Well,” she said, still skipping along at his side. “I can tell him that it was my fault because I talked you into trying the bow.” Her face brightened and she skipped along a little faster. “I will tell him that it is my fault because I teased you…that I said an elleth could shoot and you could not and you can say that you could not let that pass. Your adar will surely understand that and it is almost true. I was the one that talked you into shooting it.”

Galithil stopped and looked at her appreciatively. “I cannot say those things, Maidhien, and really, neither should you” he said quietly. “They are lies. I will be in trouble for breaking my word more than for shooting the bow. And if I lie, that will only make matters a hundred times worse.” His face screwed up in an angry scowl and he flopped on the ground next to a rock. “Eirienil is right,” he said, rolling his eyes skyward. “I deserve to be in trouble. I knew I should not shoot your bow…I even said I should not…but I did it anyway.” He groaned and slumped against the rock.

Maidhien knelt in front of him. “I am sorry I talked you into it,” she whispered. “Please do not be angry with me.”

Galithil’s eyes snapped to her worried face. “I am not angry with you,” he said quickly. “It is not your fault. You did not know I was not allowed. It is my fault because I just really wanted to shoot it and I did when I knew I should not.” One side of his mouth turned down and he looked away from her. “I do not know why ada is so stupid about letting my cousins and I shoot. I understand why he will not let us carry a bow yet. But why are we forbidden from shooting one with supervision?” He sighed dramatically. “Glílavan was right there with us. It is stupid to be so upset about me shooting when an officer of the training program was showing me how to do it!”

“Your parents are mean, then?” Maidhien asked quietly. “Ada says your whole family is mean.”

Galithil scowled. “No, that is not true.” He sighed again, this time more softly. “Ada is going to yell about this, though. He is probably going to restrict me to my room until the Final Battle and I will never be allowed to touch a bow or any other weapon again,” he fairly whined. Then he took a deep breath. “He is not mean. I just do not think all his rules make sense. Some make no sense at all, like not letting us shoot just because we are not yet twenty-five.” He paused. “I really do not like making ada angry, but sometimes I cannot help it. He just refuses to understand what is important to me.”

Maidhien frowned. “Shooting is really important to Anastor too, but I admit I do not understand why. He cannot hunt yet. He proved that for certain. He really is not that good with the bow, so it does not seem it would be fun for him to shoot it. But shooting it is all he wants to do.” She looked at him. “Why is it so important?”

Galithil looked at her levelly and adopted the same look Rodonon did while lecturing. He drew a breath to answer. He opened his mouth. And then he stared at her a moment, shut it again and looked away. “It just is,” he finally said, drawing his knees up to his chest and wrapping his arms around them.

Maidhien chewed her lip and they sat for a while in silence.

“So what are you going to do then?” she asked timidly once the birds had finally returned to sing around them.

“I wish I could find someplace to hide until I come of age,” he replied, picking up a stone and tossing it at a nearby trunk. “But since I cannot do that, I would settle for someplace I could hide until I think of how I am going to tell ada about this.”

Maidhien perked up and her face brightened. “I know a good place. It is my secret place. Even Anastor does not know about it. But I will show it to you. No one will find you in it until you are ready.”

Galithil rolled another rock around in the palm of his hand, but rather than throwing it, he looked at Maidhien thoughtfully. “What sort of place?” he asked.

She smiled at him, an impish, mischievous smile that made Galithil’s eyes light in anticipation despite his determination to be angry. “A cave,” she whispered.

*~*~*

adar/ada—father/dad
naneth/nana—mother/mum


Chapter 16 - Loyalties--Part Two

Chapter 16: Loyalties--Part Two

Legolas emerged slowly from the trees that lined the green, kicking a small stone in front of him as he walked. It skittered to a stop nestled in the long, spring grass. Legolas looked at it idly for a few moments. He had stormed off to the green because that was where Berior had suggested he go. He had no idea what he intended to do there.

He kicked the stone again, sending it another few feet in front of him and he followed after it. He was not at all surprised that Galithil was angry with him. He was not even surprised that Dolgailon had already confronted Galithil about using Maidhien’s bow—indeed he had expected Hallion to speak to Dolgailon quickly and he knew Dolgailon would react equally as swiftly. But Legolas was surprised by Berior and Brethil. He knew they would not approve of him telling, as he knew Eirienil would, but he never imagined that they would refuse to play with him because of it. A sick, sort of twisty feeling wormed about inside him making him very uncomfortable. He kicked the stone again, harder than he should have, sending it half away across the green.

Legolas scowled at it as it bounced to a stop. Raising his gaze from it, he looked about the green, casting about in his mind for something to do to distract himself. On one side of the green, a group of ellyth sat on the grass mending a fishing net in the shade of a tree, laughing and enjoying the beautiful spring weather. Some of the older youths that were in the training program huddled together talking animatedly near the gates to the public garden. And several couples sat in various secluded places, holding hands and whispering together.

Legolas sighed. No one for him to play with there.

The sound of barking drifted to him from the barnyard and Legolas’s expression brightened slightly. “I will go train the puppies,” he said to himself, taking a few purposeful strides toward the yard. Then thoughts of the day before when his father had given him that responsibility to match Galithil’s task of cleaning the training weapons floated through his head and he slowed to a stop, looking at the stone fence around the yard. “I do not feel very much like being ‘responsible’ anymore today,” he muttered to himself.

But still, there was nothing else to do on the green, alone.

“I can just play with them,” he said, resuming his march towards the barn.

As Legolas walked through the gates of the barnyard a tangle of puppy legs and feet and ears rushed towards him, yipping excitedly. When they reached him, they jumped on him or up to nip at his fingers and the hem of his tunic. Legolas fell to his knees with a relieved smile, catching ‘his’ puppy in his arms and snuggling it against his face while petting the others with his free hand. In a moment, he was lying on his back, puppies standing on his chest and all around him, licking his face madly.

“I wondered who from your family was in the yard,” Tulus said from the door of the barn, smiling at Legolas. “They only get that excited for you or your lord father.”

Legolas rolled over on his side to fend off the puppies and grinned at Tulus, pleased to find someone who would be nice to him.

“Hello Tulus,” he said, waving to him until a puppy pounced on his hand.

Tulus strolled over to him and sat on the ground. “Hello, Legolas,” he replied, “Where are your cousins?” he asked, looking through the gate, obviously expecting to see them.

Legolas sat up as well and all the anger and hurt he had felt since his confrontation with Galithil bubbled up. “I do not know,” he said bitterly. “Berior told me he would not play with me because…” Legolas stumbled to a stop, suddenly realizing why Tulus would be no safe refuge either. He bit his lip and looked at Tulus with wide, guilty eyes.

Tulus blinked. “Because why, pen neth?” he asked with an encouraging tone of voice.

Legolas grimaced. “I do not think I can tell you. If I do, you will only be angry with me too.”

“Legolas, I cannot imagine anything you could tell me that would make me angry with you,” Tulus said with a smile. “I am not in the habit of being cross with children. Surely you know that.”

Legolas looked at him sidelong and nodded. “But this time you will be.”

Tulus frowned. “I will not pressure you to tell me anything you do not want to tell, but if it will help you to tell me, I promise you I will not get angry.” He paused and looked at Legolas closely. “And if you still do not want to tell me, maybe I could walk with you to find your naneth. We could bring the puppy with us,” he suggested, looking at how Legolas still clutched the little black dog.

Legolas shook his head. “Puppies are not allow in the stronghold and you should not promise you will not get angry without any idea what I did. You will be angry.”

Tulus smiled at him calmly. “I still promise I will not, Legolas.”

“Even if I did something to Glílavan?” Legolas asked. “I know my adar is always very angry with anyone who hurts me.”

Tulus raised his eyebrows. “What could you have possibly done to hurt Glílavan, Legolas?” Then his eyes widened despite his efforts to control his emotions. “Were you and your cousins playing with something dangerous and Glílavan was injured?” he asked as calmly as he could.

Legolas shook his head. “No, Tulus. If I had injured Glílavan, I would have told you that and apologized,” he said solemnly.

Tulus loosed a quiet little breath. “What did happen then? I promise I will not be angry with you.”

Legolas studied Tulus for a moment and then spoke in a rush. “Glílavan and Galithil were shooting Maidhien’s bow yesterday and I saw them and Galithil is not allowed to play with bows so I told on them because I thought he was wrong to break his promise not to use her bow and not even be a little ashamed he had, so Galithil is in trouble and Glílavan is too because he should not let children on the range or let Galithil shoot when he knows he is not allowed,” he said in one breath and then watched Tulus for his reaction.

Tulus nodded matter-of-factly. “I imagine Glílavan is in trouble. You are quite correct that he should know not to play with children and weapons. He deserves what ever happens to him for doing that.” Tulus paused and smiled sadly at Legolas’s openly relieved expression. “Is your cousin very angry at you for telling on him?”

Legolas nodded and pressed his face against the puppy’s neck. Now that he had finally spoken about all that had happened, he felt a rush of emotions that he was not sure he wanted Tulus to see.

Tulus patted his shoulder. “I understand. Recently a group of friends and I did something very stupid. I was confronted about it and I decided, in order to not make matters even worse, I had to confess what we had done. My friends and I got in a great deal of serious trouble and they were very angry with me. I comforted myself with the knowledge that if I had not confessed, much worse things would certainly have happened, but it was very difficult for me for a while. Even Glílavan was angry at me.”

Legolas looked back at Tulus, debating whether to ask to hear the whole story. “Are your friends still angry with you now?” he finally decided was the most important question in his mind.

Tulus shook his head. “No. We are friends again. All things pass in time, Legolas. But life is much easier in the long run if we make the right decisions, even if they are very hard to make, in the short run.” He squeezed Legolas’s shoulder. “You did the right thing. It is just a little hard for you to see that now.”

Legolas looked across the green and saw Galithil walking towards the river with Maidhien. He looked quickly away and nodded. “I think I did, but I do not like fighting with my cousins just the same,” he said softly, snuggling the puppy.

*~*~*

Galithil followed along behind Maidhien at a slow pace, dragging the toes of his shoes in the dust as he went. Every few steps, she paused and looked back at him, waiting for him to catch up. Galithil sighed. Eirienil or Aewen would have caught on by now that he really did not want company. Indeed, they would have long since berated him for his rudeness and flounced away. Maidhien was apparently made of sterner stuff—or maybe she just did not catch on as quickly. Galithil did not yet know her well enough to determine which was the case, but he did not care. He just wanted to spend a few fun hours before he had to face his father. And entertaining ellyth was not high on his list of enjoyable activities.

She had led him to the river. Apparently the cave she wanted to show him was in the side of one of the hills surrounding the stronghold. Those hills were riddled with caves, Galithil knew. When they got to the rocks that children often used to sneak across the river, Galithil hurried his step to take Maidhien’s hand and help her across as he and his cousins always did with Eirienil and Aewen. Before he could reach her, Maidhien gathered up her skirt and leapt solidly onto the first rock. When she landed, she turned, grinned at him and motioned for him to follow.

Galithil could not help but grin back as he jumped to that same rock after she moved to the next. Maidhien, he was constantly reminded, was very different from his cousins. For one thing, they would never have suggested going to poke around in a cave, especially one in the forbidden hills that housed the stronghold.

Once on the other side of the river, Maidhien glanced at the guards by the Great Gates—they did not appear to be looking up-river—and then, hunched over, she quickly scampered into the low brush that covered the slope leading up from the river. Galithil did the same and his heart began to beat a little faster as he ducked out of the guards’ view. Begrudgingly he admitted to himself that Maidhien’s plan might not be so bad.

She led him on a path that seemed to circle right around to the northern side of the stronghold, cutting between or underneath bushes and small trees. It was not even defined enough to be a trail used by wildlife.

“How did you find this path?” Galithil called.

“I did not find it,” she said, pushing past some branches. “I made it. I am the only one that comes back here as far as I know,” she said.

Galithil believed that.

Just when he thought they might begin coming around the other side of the mountain, Maidhien stopped and slipped through a narrow gap between two dense, thorny bushes. Galithil watched her disappear and frowned when her hand reappeared, waving him through.

He did not want to admit that an elleth was willing to go where he was not, but she was considerably smaller than he, and he was certain to earn himself a good many scrapes squeezing through that thicket.

“Come on,” she called. “This is the cave.”

Galithil made a face but inspected the branches for two relatively thorn-free handholds. Pushing the branches apart, he slipped into the cave.

When he first entered, he remained in a crouching position, expecting the cave to have a low ceiling like all the others he and his cousins had found and inspected. As his eyes adjusted to the dark—barely any light penetrated the thicket of branches growing over the cave entrance—he realized there was no need to stoop. Indeed, Maidhien was standing on her tip-toes, reaching for something on a ledge well above her head. Galithil stood and looked around with wide eyes. The cave was huge. A full-grown elf could easily walk in it. In fact, Galithil guessed that five or six elves could walk abreast through it.

He was squinting, trying to see how deep it was when a sharp noise and sudden spark of light flashed from where Maidhien was standing. Within seconds, the cave was illuminated by a little, broken, but still functional , lamp that Maidhien was holding in her hand. With the other hand, she replaced the flint she had retrieved from the ledge.

Galithil blinked. “How often do you come here?” he asked. Along one wall of the cave were two unevenly sized, half rotten boards propped up on two rocks. They served as a table for several pieces of cracked pottery. Galithil also saw a ragged old doll sitting at the ‘table.’

“Often,” Maidhien replied, turning to smile at him. “My brother cannot find me when I am here.”

Galithil nodded. “I bet not,” he murmured, stepping further into the cave and beginning to inspect its walls. It was uniformly tall and wide all the way to its back, which was a good fifty paces from its entrance. “My room is not much bigger than this cave,” Galithil said quietly. “You could live in here.”

Maidhien regarded him with a raised eyebrow. “I do not think I would like to live here,” she responded as Galithil ran his hands along the wall opposite the table. “But it is a very good hiding place.”

Galithil nodded. And given how big it was, it promised to be a great place to explore. His gaze drifted to the doll and pottery—fun to explore assuming Maidhien did not expect him to play ‘tea party’ with her. He scowled. That was not going to happen. He had never stooped that low with his female cousins and he had no intention of starting now with Maidhien, no matter how much he appreciated her showing him this cave. He looked back at her to find her studying his expression.

“Most of the time when I come here, I want to be left alone. You probably want to be alone to think about how you want to deal with your adar,” she said, holding the lamp out to him.

He frowned, feeling a little guilty for his uncharitable thoughts about the doll and shook his head. “It is your cave,” he said with a smile—a sincere one, because he truly was impressed by her hiding place. “I appreciate you showing it to me. I certainly am not going to ask you to leave your own secret place.” He paused and looked at her seriously. “And I promise not to show it to anyone.”

Her face lit with a pleased smile. “Thank you, but I knew you would not.” She seized his arm and pulled him a few steps into the cave. “There are some little holes in the floor. If you crawl down this one,” she said, pointing to the ground, “it opens into a little room large enough for me to turn around in and in the back of that little room is another passage that leads back up through a second hole all the way in the back of the cave.” She looked at him appraisingly. “You could fit through there too. Try it!”

Galithil looked at the opening in the floor that Maidhien stood next to and his jaw fell open. “You climbed down there? Without knowing what was there? When you were here alone?”

She shrugged. “I lowered the lamp in and looked around first,” she said.

Galithil broke into a wide grin as he knelt on the floor and stuck his head in the hole. “If I ever have a sister, I hope she is just like you,” he said as his shoulders disappeared.

Maidhien giggled and held the lamp lower to light the little passage way. Galithil wiggled through the hole and pulled himself along on his stomach through a tight passage lined with soft, sandy soil. After he had gone several feet, it occurred to him that if he went much further, he would have no light to see by. He hesitated and squirmed around a bit, trying to determine if he could turn enough to reach the lamp if he called for Maidhien to lower it. Glancing behind him, his eyes widened when he saw the lamp on the floor of the passage just behind his feet. Maidhien was behind it, twisted at an odd angle from the descent through the hole into the passage. The hem of her skirt was up around her knees as she wriggled through.

“Move along,” she called.

Galithil stared at her a moment. If they reached a part of this little passage that he could not fit through, having her right behind him would make backing out all that much more difficult. The thought made him tense. He felt a bit trapped.

“Move!” she demanded, bringing her knees up to her chest and sliding a bit further into the passage—that position was less of a contortion than her previous one.

Galithil grimaced slightly, faced in front of him and crawled along on his elbows.

After slithering along for what must have been the equivalent of nearly ten lengths of his body, listening to Maidhien scuffle along behind him, the cave opened up. Before him was indeed a little room the size of the ones he and his cousins normally found in the sides of the hills around the stronghold. He twisted around to sit up in the opening, dangling his feet over the edge and looking into the little room for a moment before hopping down into it. Maidhien quickly followed and he turned to grin at her. He and his cousins often found holes in the floor in the caves where they played, but they almost never explored them. Eirienil normally threw a fit when he proposed such ‘insanity,’ Berior and Brethil were too afraid to go into them and Legolas often heeded Eirienil’s warnings. Galithil was more than just a little surprised to be having such an adventure with Maidhien and he intended to thank her. But when he looked at her, looking up at him with expectant excitement in her eyes, his hand flew to his mouth and a laugh nearly escaped his lips before he stifled it and tried to look at her sympathetically.

“It looks like you may have ruined the front of your dress,” he said, trying not to laugh at her.

Indeed, she was covered in the fine dust from the cave—it was ground deeply into the length of the front of her gown and her sleeves from the crawl to this room. Her face was heavily smudged with dirt too. She glanced down and swatted half-heartedly at her skirt.

“It is not so bad. I can shake it out a bit before dinner and nana will get it clean when she washes it. I have done much worse than this before. Dusty is better than muddy.”

Galithil stared at her a moment longer and then gave in to his laughter. Shaking his head, he began to explore the room.

It was small, like one of the storerooms in the lower levels of the stronghold, but not nearly so neatly hewn out of the rock. The floor was littered with limestone rocks. Looking up, Galithil saw they had fallen from the ceiling, either in one large chunk that had shattered when it fell or piece by piece. The layer of rock that formed the ceiling had large cracks in it as well. Some of the fallen stones were large, and Galithil scampered over them, quickly exploring the small space and finally coming to the back of the room, where there was indeed another little hole. It looked almost too small for Galithil to squeeze through. Maidhien followed him with the lamp.

“The passage out this way is steep,” she said, holding the lamp at its opening as he peered up into it. “You have got to pull yourself out into the main cave because there are not many footholds at the top. I was not sure I could do it the first time I tried, but I managed it.”

Galithil’s eyes lit with excitement. Past the opening, this passage was wider, but as Maidhien had said, it climbed nearly straight up. Galithil had not been aware of descending so much when crawling through the longer passage, but apparently they were indeed quite a bit deeper than the main cave. The light of Maidhien’s lamp did not reach to show the opening of this passage. A grin split Galithil’s face.

“This cave is incredible,” he exclaimed as he pulled himself into the exit passage, using one of the larger fallen rocks as a stepping stone. Once inside, climbing out was a lot like climbing a tree, Galithil thought—or what climbing up through the inside of a tree would be like. His back was pressed against the side of the cave as he reached for handholds and footholds that were strong enough to hold his weight while not shaking too many little rocks loose on Maidhien below him. She held the wire handle of the little lamp in her teeth so she had both hands free to climb. Thankfully, after climbing only a little more than the length of his body up, the light of her lamp revealed the end of the passage. Climbing a tree that short would not have been strenuous at all, but climbing that distance while confined as he was seemed quite a bit more difficult. When his fingers scrabbled for a hold on the edge of the opening into the main cave and he struggled to pull himself out, Galithil’s arms were shaking. Once he was sitting safely on the floor of the main cave, trying not to pant too obviously, Maidhien tipped the lamp over the edge next to him and grunted. Galithil heard little stones falling to the bottom of the passage as she fumbled for a foothold close enough to the top to allow her to reach the opening. Galithil grabbed her wrist and pulled her up.

“I could have done it,” she said, flopping down next to him on the cave floor. “I did it before, by myself.”

Galithil nodded. “I know. But it is polite to help,” he said dismissively, sensitive of her pride as he would have been for Legolas or Berior. Realizing that, he laughed. This was an elleth! She was filthy and had done something Eirienil would have declared completely mad and flatly refused to do. Even Legolas might have said exploring that little cave was mad.

Galithil wanted to go back to the other end and do it again!

He looked at Maidhien to suggest they should and saw her hands were shaking with exertion from the difficult climb out. So instead of speaking, he picked up the lamp and stood, looking around.

“So what is back here?” he asked, holding the lamp high to cast light over the back wall of the cave. It seemed unnaturally smooth compared to the rest of the cave. He ran his free hand over it.

Maidhien shrugged in response to his question and stood herself, shaking her skirts out before answering. “The only hole back here is really too small to climb into,” Maidhien’s voice echoed when she finally spoke. “The back of the cave is really pretty boring. Not even a ledge or anything to climb on back here.”

Galithil did not really hear her. He was studying the back wall of the cave, still running his hands over it.

“What are you looking at?” Maidhien asked. “Is there a spider or something? I can not see anything.” She came to stand next to him and leaned against the wall to stare at him with amusement when she realized he was studying nothing more interesting than the bare wall.

“You live in the stronghold so you have seen cave walls before, surely?” she asked with a teasing tone.

Galithil looked at her intently. She was leaning against the back wall and apparently found nothing unusual about it at all. He turned to face her fully.

“You do not see anything unusual about the back of the cave? It does not feel…different to you?” he asked.

Maidhien’s eyebrows rose, making her look more like Eirienil than Galithil cared for.

“Feel different? How would it feel different? It is smoother, I suppose, but maybe it is just because a sheet of rock fell from there, like the ceiling is smooth where rock has fallen.”

Galithil shook his head and placed both hands on the back wall. It seemed to pulse beneath them. An energy emanated from this spot, exactly like the stone behind the tapestry in Uncle Thranduil’s office…exactly like the place behind the tapestry in the hallway behind the Great Hall. Galithil slapped the wall excitedly as that thought registered.

“This is another secret door!” he whispered. “I told Legolas that there had to be more of them!”

Maidhien pushed herself away from the wall and stood up straight, staring at Galithil with her mouth hanging open. “A secret door? What do you mean?”

He turned back to her with bright eyes, without taking his hands off the warm stone. “Like the Great Gates. You know when they are closed you cannot see the seam between them?”

Maidhien’s mouth opened even wider as her gaze slid from Galithil to the stone beside her. “But, those are the Gates,” she said, her voice nothing more than a whisper. “This is just a cave.”

Galithil nodded excitedly. “But this cave is in the mountain that holds the stronghold. And those Gates are not the only doors like them. My cousins and I have found others. And this stone is just like the stone of all the secret doors I know of in the stronghold. It is…alive.”

Maidhien reached out hesitantly and barely brushed her fingertips against the stone she had been leaning against only moments before. “How do you open a secret door?” she whispered.

Galithil turned his concentration on the stone under his hands and shook his head slightly. “I am not sure how Legolas opened the one we found,” he replied. He tried pushing against the stone, but it did not budge. He took a step back and studied the wall, brow furrowed deeply. “All Uncle Thranduil does is put his hand on a door and it opens for him,” he said. Maidhien looked at him skeptically but Galithil placed his hand softly on the stone. “Open,” he said, with a slightly anxious tone, willing the stone to move.

To his astonishment, it did. A seam appeared and then, with a grinding groan, the stone shifted just enough for him to walk through the gap created by the movement. A stale, musty draft wafted against his face as he stared, mouth agape at the opening. He barely noticed Maidhien’s little squeal—he certainly did not see her leap back from the wall as if a dragon had just thrust his head out of the new opening. Galithil’s his eyes lit and he clapped his hands impulsively.

“It opened!” he exclaimed. Then he looked over his shoulder embarrassed that Maidhien had seen the positively absurd reaction he had just made. But she was still staring almost fearfully at the now open door. “I am being sillier than Eirienil,” he said, as he shoved the lamp through the opening. Then he snorted. “Except Eirienil would be everything but happy to see this. You should not go through secret doors,” he mimicked, as he stepped through the door. Maidhien did not follow.

The air on the other side was cooler and it smelled dusty. Holding up the lamp, Galithil could see cobwebs and spiders crawling into the shadows to escape the light. The cave went back so far that the light did not reach to its back wall.

“Whoa!” he exclaimed, taking a few more steps into the tunnel. “This is huge!” He leaned forward, squinting to try to see the back wall.

“Hello!” he called and his eyes widened when the echo of his voice answered him from very deep in the cave, repeating his greeting back to him over and over until it finally faded.

“Shhh!” Maidhien hissed, still standing away from the door and eyeing it suspiciously, as if it might slam shut at any moment. “Eirienil might be right. I am not sure we should go in there,” she whispered.

Galithil gaped at her. “You would climb through that tiny little passage that might have caved in at any moment. That might have held a dangerous animal. That you might have gotten hopelessly stuck in. But you will not walk into this hall. This,” he said, pointing into the cave in front of him, “is no different from the passages in the stronghold where I live. In fact, it has to be one of them. I bet if we follow it, we end up somewhere inside.”

“But what if the door shuts us in?” Maidhien whispered.

Galithil laughed. “Then we will open it back up. Or we will open the one that is certain to be at the other end of this hall. Come on. I want to find out where in the stronghold this leads.”

Maidhien looked for a moment as if she would refuse. Then, with a reluctant sigh, she skirted through the door, looking behind herself nervously at the heavy stone before following Galithil into the dark hall.

*~*~*

Adar/ada—father/dad

pen neth—young one

elleth—female elf

Naneth/nana—mother/mum


Chapter 17 - Loyalties--Part Three

Chapter 17: Loyalties--Part Three

“I think we have reached the end of the tunnel!” Galithil exclaimed, pointing in front of him. He dashed a few feet forward until the light of their small lamp fully illuminated what seemed to be the end of the wide passage full of spider webs and scurrying creatures. A solid wall.

Maidhien ran after Galithil, if only to stay nearer the light that he held. Since they had gone deep enough into the passage to lose sight of the open door at its other end, Maidhien had grown increasingly nervous.

“This is the end of the passage then,” she said. “We should go back. Before that door closes on us.” Her voice was pleading.

Galithil did not seem to hear her. He was running his hand slowly across the back wall of the passage. “Here!” he said, patting the wall and turning to grin at her. “This is another door, like the other.”

Maidhien made an anxious face. “Galithil, maybe we should not disturb that door,” she began.

But Galithil had already laid his palm flat against the stone. “Open,” he whispered, while nearly bouncing in place with excitement. Like the first door they had found, this one groaned as it scraped open enough for Galithil to poke his head through it.

“Galithil! You do not know where it goes!,” Maidhien whispered. “What if it goes somewhere that Thranduil might see us sneaking around? You did call this a secret door! I think Thranduil would be angry if he saw us.”

Galithil did not immediately pull his head back through the door. When he did, he was scowling. “Do not call uncle Thranduil by his name. No one does that. It is not respectful,” he said while still staring through the opening.

Maidhien rolled her eyes. “What do you want me to call him if not his name? And how is the way I address him going to matter if he catches us sneaking around?”

Galithil turned to look at her. “Most people say ‘the king’ or at least ‘lord Thranduil’ when they talk about him. And he is not going to catch us. This doorway is blocked. He could not see us standing here any better than we can see what is behind this door. Look,” he said stepping back and pulling the stone door open slightly wider.

Like the door Galithil and his cousins had found leading into the throne room, a tapestry covered this door. But when Galithil tried to push past it, he felt a solid wooden object behind it. When he tried to push on that object, it did not budge.

Maidhien took a cautious step forward and peered through the door. Convinced that no one could possibly see the open door, much less her, she stood with her hands on her hips, studying the tapestry.

“I do not think whatever is blocking it goes all the way to the floor,” she said pointing at the threshold. “There is light coming from the other side on the bottom.”

The disappointed expression fled Galithil’s face to be replaced again by an excited grin. He dove to the floor and lifted up the fringes of the tapestry. The feet and back of a large cabinet appeared. Galithil’s grin broadened as he flattened himself on the floor to squeeze under it.

“Are you mad?” Maidhien exclaimed, seizing his foot.

Galithil laughed and shook loose of her grip. “Legolas sometimes says I am,” he joked. “I just want to see where in the stronghold this is. I bet it is somewhere in the living quarters. There are no pieces of furniture this big in the storage areas that I have ever seen.”

With that he began to slide under the cabinet. Soft footsteps on the stone floor made him freeze.

“We have enough resources to purchase food supplies if need be,” Aradunnon's muffled voice said.

Galithil’s breath caught in his throat and he heard Maidhien stifle a little squeak before beginning to pull insistently on the hem of his tunic. Galithil ignored her. They were somewhere inside the living quarters given the evidence provided by his father’s presence. He flattened himself as much as possible and squirmed further forward until he could see the legs of two figures standing in the center of the room.

“But no one to purchase them from,” Thranduil’s voice replied. “Do you not recall Celonhael telling us that the Men lost their spring grain crop?”

“He also said that the Men are being supplied from Gondor,” Aradunnon shot back. “We could buy from them as well,” he argued.

Peeking from underneath the cabinet, Galithil saw his father hold up his hand when Thranduil’s eyes widened and he drew a sharp breath to speak.

“I am well aware that such purchases are much more expensive,” Aradunnon continued, forestalling the King’s argument without giving him an opportunity to voice it, “but Celonhael assured me that we could make them for a short period.”

Galithil saw Thranduil’s fists clench.

“Did he, now?” the King asked, his voice rising. “And when did it become Celonhael’s place to assure you of anything? Or your place to seek his counsel?”

Aradunnon loosed a frustrated sigh and shook his head dismissively. “My place and yours is not the issue here. Do not think to distract me, for you will not succeed. The warriors in the south need more rations. We are discussing what we must do to sustain that patrol.”

Thranduil turned away from Aradunnon. “How many elves from that patrol did we lose this winter, Commander? How many died protecting the unpopulated land south of the mountains?” he asked with a tired voice.

“Four,” Aradunnon replied swiftly.

Galithil gasped softly in response to that statement. He and his cousins were never allowed to hear any discussions related to the defense of the realm.

“And their deaths served to protect the villages just north of the mountains,” Aradunnon concluded firmly.

Thranduil sighed and turned back to face his brother. “We want the same thing, Aradunnon,” he said, with a carefully measured tone, “The safety of those villagers. I simply do not think we can keep them safe forever. They will have to move north eventually. We cannot continue to sacrifice warriors because these elves are too stubborn to face the truth.”

Galithil heard Maidhien make a soft harrumph in response to that comment. He waved his hand at her to signal for silence. The occupants of the room were too engrossed in their argument to hear anything.

“I am one of those stubborn villagers, my lord,” Aradunnon said coldly. “I do not care to lose my home in the south. I would have preferred to raise my sons there and I will fight to protect the forest there,” he said, pounding his fist against his open hand for emphasis. “And I can protect it. The only immediate problem is that the patrols in the south do not have enough warriors to hunt for food while keeping the orcs at bay since the winter was so harsh and supplies so short. I have suggested several ways you could address that.”

“And as I indicated when we discussed this during afternoon council, none of your suggestions are satisfactory, Aradunnon. We do not have enough supplies to feed them, nor will I agree to take more warriors from the other borders to send south to hunt for the patrol. There is no point in pursuing this discussion further. The warriors will have to pull back until conditions improve,” Thranduil responded. His tone made it clear he was at the end of his patience.

“As I said in council, I am not pulling the patrols further north,” Aradunnon said forcefully, his fists clenched. “That would allow the orcs to press directly against the southern-most villages—my own village being one of them. That is too close and I will not allow it.”

“If they cannot supply themselves with game while holding back the orcs, it does not appear that they are doing much good where they are. The best solution is to withdraw from the territory south of the mountains for now. Once the spring weather brings better food supplies, we can retake that territory…”

“When have we ever retaken territory lost to the orcs?” Aradunnon asked angrily. “I surrendered the Narrows, the old capital, the area south of the Forest Road and finally the Forest Road itself. The orcs will not push me one league further north. I swear it on my life, not one league further while I draw breath. Whether you support me or not.”

For a long moment, the only sound Galithil heard was his father’s angry breathing.

“What, precisely, does that mean, lord Aradunnon?” Thranduil finally asked with a soft voice. Something about it made Galithil’s breath catch in his throat.

“The warriors I have chosen are villagers from the south that are currently rotated out of that patrol,” Aradunnon responded without pause. “They are anxious to return to it. I will take them south with or without your approval and command them personally. Perhaps my presence in the south will serve to better coordinate the distribution of supplies there.”

“Tell me, Aradunnon, will you take the supplies from the stores against my orders as well? Must I set one of your warriors to guard them? Whose orders will he obey when you challenge him for access to the supplies, yours or mine?”

Aradunnon narrowed his eyes. “I will not steal from the stores if you are not willing to send food south. But I command the patrols, my lord, unless you intend to relieve me of that duty. As long as it is mine, I will hold the orcs south of the mountains. Think about what you are suggesting I do! If I withdraw the patrols, the orcs will surely move into the mountains and I will never drive them from such a position of strength. Then, instead of serving as our shield against the dangers in the south, the mountains will become a haven for the orcs to launch attacks against our villages. I will prevent that or die trying.” He looked evenly at Thranduil. “I do not wish to disobey my king, but I feel strongly enough about this decision that I will.”

Galithil stared at his father with wide eyes. To his surprise, Aradunnon grinned.

“I was an infant at the time, but I seem to recall that there was once a decision that you felt strongly enough about to lead our warriors into battle against adar’s expressed orders.”

Galithil’s mouth fell open and his gaze darted to Thranduil.

The King pressed his lips together and he glared at his brother. After a moment, he nodded once. “Indeed there was. And what you may not remember, since you were an infant at the time, is that when I returned to the forest, adar relieved me of my command of the patrols, forbade me to leave the capital for an entire yen, and then required me to work my way through the ranks in the patrols when he allowed me to return to them,” he replied evenly, pausing to draw Aradunnon’s attention “I now understand that was a very lenient response—a much more lenient response than I will be inclined to make,” he added sternly. Then he sighed. “But since I know you well enough to know that no threat will dissuade you, I will concede this much: tomorrow we will discuss with Lindomiel what portion of the supplies she feels we could safely send south. Her decision will be the final one and you will accept it.” Thranduil held up his hand and continued, ignoring the flare of stubborn defiance in Aradunnon’s eyes. “And I will not oppose you if you send some, not all, of the warriors you named south, if you still think that is the best course of action after we determine the amount of supplies we can send.” He paused and looked at his brother with concern. “But if you will ignore your king’s order to remain in the capital, perhaps you will be moved by your brother’s words: you have a young son here, Aradunnon, who needs his father’s guidance. You have very capable captains in the south. Let them do their duty while you do yours.”

Aradunnon returned Thranduil’s gaze evenly. “I am doing my duty—I am ensuring my son will still have a home when he becomes an adult.”

Thranduil sighed. “And I am doing mine—I am ensuring that all our people, not just the southern villages, have a home. We are not threatened only in the south, Aradunnon. And evil creatures are not our only enemies. Your duty is to support me.”

Aradunnon pulled a face and drew a breath to answer, but his response was interrupted by the appearance of two more sets of feet—these two partially hidden by embroidered gowns. Galithil strained to see Lindomiel and Amoneth coming into the room. When they stopped near their husbands, they wore confused frowns.

“Hallion said he thought you were speaking to Legolas and Galithil in here,” Lindomiel said, glancing around the room and then between her husband and his brother.

Thranduil shook his head. “No, we were continuing our discussion from the afternoon council.”

Lindomiel and Amoneth looked at each other. “So the children are not in here with you?” Amoneth asked.

“Certainly not,” Thranduil replied. “That was a discussion I would not have liked anyone to hear, much less Legolas and Galithil,” he said dryly. Then he registered the ladies’ concerned expressions. “Is something wrong?”

Lindomiel shook her head uncertainly. “Since you appeared to be having a private discussion in the sitting room, the family gathered in the dining room to await dinner. Everyone but you, Legolas and Galithil are there. When Amoneth and I came up from the kitchen, Hallion told us the four of you were here.”

“The children are probably still on the Green,” Aradunnon began.

But Lindomiel and Amoneth both shook their heads. “Eirienil is in the dining room with Golwon and Isteth. Like Hallion, she thought her cousins must be in here. And it is much later than they normally stay on the Green. It is time for dinner. I was coming to call everyone into the dining room,” Lindomiel said.

Thranduil and Aradunnon frowned.

“I suppose we will have to send someone to find them,” Thranduil said with a sigh. “Let us go see if Eirienil might have any idea which one of their friend’s cottages we will find them in.”

Galithil tensely watched four pairs of feet leave the family sitting room before he dared slide back under the cabinet and through the secret door. When he stood, Maidhien was looking at him with wide eyes.

Galithil snatched up the lamp from the floor and listened for a moment before pushing the door closed with a scraping thud. Its seam disappeared as the door slid into place. Galithil faced Maidhien. “If we run all the way back, I will still be late and dirty, but at least they will not have had to look for me.”

Maidhien nodded and they ran fill tilt down the secret passage.

*~*~*

“Good boy! Good puppy,” Legolas praised. He pet the little black dog enthusiastically before reaching to pick up the stick that it had dropped at his feet. He threw it again to the opposite side of the yard and the pack of puppies took off after it, yipping excitedly.

“They will certainly be good retrievers,” Tulus commented as he set down the brush he had used to groom the last of the horses the warriors had returned to the barnyard. As Legolas nodded, Tulus led the horse into the barn to its stall. When he exited the barn, the puppies were already back at Legolas’s feet, jumping on him since he had not acknowledged the stick lying on the ground. Tulus followed Legolas’s gaze towards the river. Anastor and Noruil were at the riverbank, heading towards the stones where Galithil and Maidhien had crossed earlier.

Legolas started out of the yard.

Tulus took several steps forward to follow him. “Where are you going, Legolas? Not after them, surely?”

Legolas looked back at Tulus. “Galithil is across the river. With Maidhien. Probably playing in the caves. I saw them cross it earlier. I am sure Anastor and Noruil are going to look for them there and they will start a fight with Galithil if they see him with Maidhien. Then he will be in even more trouble.”

One side of Tulus’s mouth turned down. “They will start a fight with you if they see you alone. It is not my place to tell you what to do, Legolas, but I do not think you should follow them.”

Legolas turned back to the river, where Anastor and Noruil had just disappeared into the underbrush on its opposite bank. “I will not let them see me, but I want to be there to stop the fight if they find Maidhien and Galithil. Hopefully I can find Galithil before they do. I know which caves he likes most.”

Tulus’s brows drew together sharply. “And how do you intend to stop a fight between them?” he asked, but Legolas, climbing over the stone wall that encircled the barn yard, ignored him. Tulus scowled and turned back to the barn, hurriedly moving to secure the horses. Once they were seen to, he would follow Legolas. He would be a much better deterrent to fighting.

*~*~*

The family was seated around the dining room table talking quietly when Thranduil, Aradunnon and the ladies entered the room. Everyone stood. Hallion and Dolgailon both raised their eyebrows.

“Galithil’s absence I understand,” Dolgailon said quietly, looking sympathetically at his father’s annoyed expression. “But what has Legolas done to deserve missing dinner?” he asked.

“We were not speaking with the children,” Thranduil replied, gesturing for everyone to sit. He stopped by Eirienil’s chair. The little elleth looked surprised at her uncle’s words. “Apparently they have forgotten about dinner. Can you tell us where you left them this afternoon, Eirienil, so we can send someone to fetch them?”

Eirienil glanced down the table at Hallion and Dolgailon, who also both seemed concerned by that news. Then she looked up at her father before answering Thranduil.

“I did not play with them this afternoon,” she began. “That is, we were playing…” She looked at Dolgailon. “But apparently Dolgailon saw Galithil…do something. Galithil said Legolas told on him for doing it and they had an argument and everyone went off to play in different places. I think Legolas went to the Green, but I do not know where Galithil and Maidhien went. They just headed into the forest.”

Thranduil and Aradunnon looked at Dolgailon, their expressions clearly demanding an explanation. Dolgailon straightened automatically. “I told Galithil he must confess to you what he did, adar. That is what Hallion and I assumed was causing the…discussion in the sitting room.” Dolgailon shook his head. “It never occurred to me that Galithil would try to escape speaking to you by skipping dinner. I apologize, adar. I will go find him.” Dolgailon stood, but before he could move away from the table, Eirienil spoke.

“Galithil did not intend to hide from uncle Aradunnon. He said he was going to have to speak to him before dinner,” she said, obviously feeling a little sorry for her cousin and wanting to defend him as much as she could.

“And nothing about this explains where Legolas is,” Hallion said. “I do not believe he would have missed dinner to keep Galithil company under these circumstances. He did not approve at all of what Galithil did.”

Thranduil raised his eyebrows. “You also know about this?” he asked.

Hallion nodded. “Yes, my lord. Legolas spoke to me about it last night. He was not sure what to do. And I spoke to Dolgailon about what Legolas told me.”

“And what is ‘it’ that my son has done?” Aradunnon demanded.

“He shot Maidhien’s bow on the practice range,” Dolgailon replied quietly.

Aradunnon’s mouth fell open in angry astonishment, but Hallion held up his hand. “There is really quite a bit more to it than that,” he interrupted, “but the matter at hand is to locate the children. Like Eirienil and Dolgailon, I do not believe it makes sense that they are hiding.” He paused, choosing his words carefully. “If they stormed off into the forest thoughtlessly, the most likely explanation for their absence is that they are lost. We need to look for them.”

Lindomiel and Amoneth looked at Hallion with wide eyes in response to that suggestion. Thranduil looked at him as well, with a carefully neutral expression.

“Hallion is correct,” he said calmly, after a long moment. “We need to concentrate on finding them. Hallion, please inform Conuiön that they are missing and have him meet me at the Gates. Aradunnon, tell Dollion and have him order the Palace Guard to look for them. I am going to speak to the Gate Guards—Eirienil said Legolas headed to the Green. If that is so, they should have seen him. And they may have seen Galithil at some point as well.”

“We are coming with you, Thranduil,” Lindomiel said and Amoneth nodded.

Thranduil looked at his wife a moment, considering, and then obviously decided that was a battle he did not want to fight. “Perhaps you should go to Celonhael’s cottage. They may be there, or Berior might know where they have gone. At any rate, I am sure Celonhael will wish to help us look for them. You go with them Dolgailon and we will all meet at the Gates.”

*~*~*

Sitting in the grass in front of the little cottage he shared with his son, Tulus watched the path that approached his yard as he twisted hairs into a new bowstring. He could hear several people approaching hurriedly. Given that the only two people who normally visited him, Dolwon and Dannenion, were seated next to him separating and rubbing oil on more hairs to add to the bowstring, he could not imagine who it might be on the path. Glílavan, on the other hand, stood with a smile, and Tulus relaxed slightly. The approaching people could very well be his son’s fellow warriors coming to invite him to the Green.

When the king and most of his family came into view, Glílavan’s smile was replaced by a look of concern that was mirrored on Tulus’s face as he stood. Dolwon and Dannenion sighed heavily and got slowly to their feet as Tulus and Glílavan bowed to Thranduil.

“Tulus, I understand from the Gate Guards that Legolas spent the late afternoon in the barnyard?” Thranduil began with no preamble whatsoever.

Tulus’s brow furrowed slightly, but he nodded. “Yes, my lord. He was playing with the puppies and then training them,” he responded, looking at the tense faces surrounding him. His brows drew closer together. “Is something wrong?” he added, looking at Lindomiel, who was either making little effort to conceal her concern or was quite unsuccessful in her efforts if she were.

“Did you see where Legolas went when he left the barnyard?” Lindomiel asked in response.

“And did you see Galithil at all today?” Amoneth added.

Tulus looked quickly between the two ladies. “I did. Galithil and Maidhien crossed the river just as Legolas came to barnyard and Legolas followed them when…after he had played with the puppies for a while…” he glanced at Dolwon and Dannenion and sighed softly. “He followed them when Anastor and Noruil also crossed the river. He was afraid they and Galithil might fight after what happened yesterday since he was with Maidhien again.”

Tulus’s words caused a storm.

“They crossed the river?” Thranduil and Aradunnon both exclaimed in unison.

“There will not be any fights that my son causes,” Dannenion said taking a step forward.

“Why would they cross the river?” Lindomiel asked, her voice even more concerned than before.

“Did you see them come back across?” Amoneth asked. Then her hand flew to her mouth. “What if they fell in?” she whispered. Lindomiel looked at her with open alarm.

Conuiön’s voice cut over them all. “They did not fall into the river. The Gate Guards may ignore members of the family crossing the river…”

“Apparently they did not even see them because they did not mention seeing them cross…” Aradunnon said angrily.

“…but they would not miss Legolas and Galithil falling in or being pulled right by them downstream,” he finished curtly, with a brief glare at Aradunnon. Then turned to Tulus with an expression that brought the former guard to attention automatically. “How long ago did they go across and how long since you left the barn?”

“Galithil and Maidhien crossed just as the Palace Guard began to change shift and Legolas crossed less than an hour ago, as I was closing up the barn.” Tulus paused and glanced at Thranduil. “After I secured the barn, I followed Legolas across. I also thought a fight was fairly likely and I did not think Legolas alone could stop it. But by the time I went across, I could not find any of the children. I assumed Legolas had found Galithil and they had gone home without me seeing them—perhaps they were leaving as I was searching for them.”

“Did you look in any of the caves back there?” Arthiel asked.

Everyone looked at her, most of the adults' eyebrows rose questioningly, but Dolgailon and Glílavan’s expressions quickly filled with concern.

Arthiel shrugged in response to her husband’s reaction. “Well that is what children go back there to do, play in the caves. That is what we always did back there, Dolgailon, and we always lost track of the time since the caves are so dark,” she added, not understanding the growing horror on her husband’s face.

“What?” Conuiön demanded sharply, looking at Dolgailon. But Dolgailon had turned to Glílavan.

“Did you set a guard on the course you set up back there?” he asked.

Glílavan shook his head slightly. “I grew up in the old capital…the mountain that holds the stronghold is supposed to be off limits to everyone but warriors…I did not know children played back there,” he stammered. Then he straightened and looked at Dolgailon squarely. “I did not set a guard, captain. I am sorry.”

“Set a guard on what?” Conuiön asked with clipped tones, pulling Dolgailon to face him. Thranduil and Aradunnon also stepped closer to him, their expressions demanding an answer.

“A training course we are about to put the Fourth Years through,” Dolgailon answered. “Traps.” He grimaced when his mother gasped.

“In these caves Arthiel mentioned?” Lindomiel asked.

Dolgailon nodded.

“Well that explains where they are then,” Thranduil said calmly, though his posture was tense. “They probably sprang one of the traps. Aradunnon and I will go get them, Lindomiel. You and Amoneth take the rest of the family back to dinner. We will join you shortly.”

Everyone stood silently for a moment watching Lindomiel. She and Amoneth stared at Thranduil and then turned on their heels and marched in the direction of the river. “I am not going back to the stronghold. I am going to find my son,” she threw over her shoulder.

Thranduil frowned and turned quickly to Dolgailon fixing him with a serious look. “What sort of traps and how dangerous?” he demanded.

“The type sort orcs set,” Dolgailon answered swiftly. “I have not inspected them yet, but I did order that this course be as realistic as could be made without causing serious injury.”

Conuiön's eyes widened and he started after Lindomiel, who was already nearly to the river. “She will no better recognize such a trap than those children will. Dolgailon, go get whoever set the traps and come find us,” he ordered.

Glílavan and Dolgailon followed immediately.


Chapter 18 - Loyalties: Part Four

Loyalties: Part Four

“Lead the way to these caves, Dolgailon. Quickly,” Thranduil ordered as soon as everyone reached the northern side of the river.

Dolgailon responded by breaking into a run and heading back into the forest towards the caves with his family close on his heels. Glílavan, who knew how and where the traps had been set for the training exercise, ran ahead of him. Dolwon and Dannenion brought up the rear. The large group was strangely silent, as if everyone was holding their breath.

They had run well out of sight of the river when Lindomiel slowed and then faltered to a stop, peering intently into the trees to their right. Thranduil and Amoneth slowed their pace as well, watching her.

“I think I hear something,” she called. “Someone yelling. Over there.” She pointed east, towards the stronghold.

Hearing that, Amoneth stopped and listened as well.

“The caves are further back this way,” Dolgailon said, hesitating only long enough to look over his shoulder at his mother and aunt.

They did not respond.

Then came a sound that stopped everyone in their tracks.

“Take it back! Now!” a faint but clear voice called. It was Legolas.

“Take it back or you will regret it!” echoed another voice—Galithil’s.

Lindomiel and Amoneth exchanged a relieved glance and ran in the direction of the voices. Everyone else swung around to follow.

As they ran, a tumult arose in the distance from where the voices had originated. First a few more isolated calls, the words indistinguishable. Then the shouts grew louder at a rate much greater than warranted by the speed of the adults’ approach, building into the steady roar of a bitter argument. Just as the adults caught their first glimpse of figures moving amongst the trees, the shouts were cut off by the unmistakable sound of flesh striking flesh, punctuated by a surprised yelp. Then the noise redoubled.

When the adults drew close enough to clearly see the source of the shouts, the sight that greeted them drew them all up short. Legolas and Noruil were on the ground. Noruil was on his back, his arms over his face. Legolas knelt next to him, pummeling him with both fists. Galithil stood over them, holding Anastor in a bear hug, struggling to keep him back.

“Wallop him, Legolas!” Galithil shouted, as Noruil grunted incoherently, Anastor yelled to be turned loose and Maidhien begged them all to stop fighting. The newly arrived adults went unnoticed.

Thranduil stared completely dumbstruck at this spectacle for a long moment. Then, jaw and fists clenched, he stepped into the fray, seized Legolas by the collar of his tunic, and pulled him off the other boy. At the same time, Aradunnon separated Galithil and Anastor.

Both Legolas and Galithil loosed an angry yell and struggled to pull away from the restraining hands on their tunics until they realized it was their fathers handling them thusly. Then they ceased resisting. Galithil looked up at his father and uncle with wide eyes. Panting hard, Legolas, only glanced at his father before turning to glare at Noruil. Noruil had scrambled up and his expression when he saw the king was one of open fear. He brushed off his father’s attempt to inspect his bleeding lip and made to run from the clearing. Only Dolwon’s hand closing over his arm held him in place. Dolwon glared at the king, his expression demanding satisfaction.

Thranduil did not notice. He only had eyes for his son.

“Legolas, explain to me what I just saw,” he demanded with an openly angry voice.

In response, Legolas’s attention snapped back to his father. He sucked in a sharp breath, but instead of speaking, he looked mutely up at Thranduil, his mouth open slightly.

Thranduil’s brow drew together sharply when Legolas did not answer him and he was about to repeat his request when a hand fell softly on his arm. Thranduil saw Legolas bite his lip as his gaze shifted to his mother. But he still did not respond.

The hand on Thranduil’s arm grasped him more firmly.

Thranduil glanced at Lindomiel. Her face was a carefully neutral mask, but her eyes held a warning. Slowly Thranduil realized everyone else present was staring at him—that he was making a public display of his anger, something he never did and something that had obviously shocked Legolas. With effort, he relaxed, trying to take the anger out of his stance. In response, Legolas drew another breath and tried again.

“Noruil said…something,” he whispered. “I shoved him.”

“You struck him,” Thranduil corrected, his tone still quite a bit sharper than he intended.

Legolas looked down and nodded.

“Noruil deserved it,” Galithil cut in.

Legolas looked at his cousin sidelong and shook his head.

“Nothing Noruil could have said warrants this behavior,” Thranduil said. He glared at Legolas and Galithil, but neither child met his gaze. He loosed a long, hopefully calming breath. “Apologize,” he demanded.

Legolas’s jaw clenched and he remained silent, glaring at Noruil for so long that Thranduil was about to repeat his order when Legolas finally spoke. “I apologize for hitting you, Noruil,” he said curtly.

Noruil and Anastor simply stared at Legolas. Dolwon and Dannenion both frowned, obviously about to argue that apologies were not sufficient. And Thranduil was about to respond to the fact that he was not impressed with the tone of the one he just heard.

But Maidhien spoke before anyone else. “What about, Noruil? Is he in trouble too? He provoked the fight on purpose,” she said, boldly staring at the king.

Legolas glared a warning at her, but she ignored him and focused instead on Thranduil, her expression expectant.

Thranduil tried not to scowl. Maidhien’s question was an honest one and, from what he had seen of her interactions with her family, he pitied her. He did not want to direct his anger at Legolas towards her. “That is not my place to decide, Maidhien,” he said as gently as he could manage. “Noruil is your uncle’s responsibility as Legolas is mine. Provoked or not, Legolas knows better than to fight.”

Maidhien frowned. “But anyone gets angry when people call their adar mean names and Noruil called you a domineering, penurious tyrant.”

Thranduil’s eyes widened before he could stifle his response to that revelation.

The clearing fell silent. Thranduil saw Legolas wince and look at him regretfully. Galithil turned again to look at Noruil through narrowed eyes. Aradunnon, Lindomiel and Amoneth tried to maintain the most neutral expressions they could muster. Thranduil did not trust himself to look at Dolwon and Dannenion, but he could see from the corner of his eyes that Noruil was again struggling to escape from his father’s grasp, while Anastor was glaring at his sister.

Maidhien continued speaking, oblivious to the reaction she had just caused. “I do not know all those words, but I know enough to know that was not nice. My naneth told me it is not polite to call mean names.”

Everyone in the clearing remained silent, waiting for Thranduil’s response.

When he did not immediately speak, Maidhien’s brows drew together. “What do penurious and tyrant mean?” she asked into the silence.

Thranduil raised an eyebrow and finally looked over at Noruil and Dolwon. Noruil was red. His father had paled and he was looking at Thranduil with the same worried, guilty expression Legolas and Galithil had worn only moments before. “Perhaps you would like to explain the meanings of those words, Noruil,” Thranduil suggested softly.

When the king addressed him, Noruil froze and his gaze darted from Thranduil to his father and then to the ground. “I do not know what they mean precisely. I heard…someone say them…” he responded haltingly.

Thranduil’s eyebrow climbed higher. He turned to Noruil’s father and held his gaze for a long moment until Dolwon shifted uncomfortably. Then Thranduil looked back at Maidhien. “A penurious person is a miserly one. A greedy person. And a tyrant is an unjust ruler who abuses his subjects,” he explained quietly.

The little elleth’s jaw fell open and her eyes darted to Noruil. “That is horrible, Noruil,” she whispered. “I think you should be the one to apologize.”

Thranduil put a comforting hand on Maidhien’s shoulder. “Your cousin did not understand what he was saying, Maidhien. I would argue that it was foolish of him to use words that he did not understand—doing so incurs the risk of inciting reactions that are stronger than expected, as he saw. But I would not want anyone to learn that lesson in the way Noruil just did.”

“Noruil deserves what he got,” Maidhien replied firmly. “He was trying to pick a fight—both he and Anastor have been trying for ages—so Noruil only got what he asked for.”

Thranduil turned a cool gaze on Dolwon and Dannenion. “Indeed it is difficult to respond in a tempered manner to someone who endlessly spoils for a fight.”

Dolwon pressed his lips together and quickly looked down. Dannenion’s brow furrowed, but he held his tongue.

“Does anything more remain to be said regarding our children’s behavior this evening?” Thranduil asked Dolwon softly.

Dolwon shook his head without looking up.

Thranduil nodded. “Very well. We have found our children. Let us return to our suppers.”

As Thranduil turned to leave, Dolwon bowed awkwardly and released his grasp on Noruil’s arm. The child darted off towards the river, followed by Anastor. Their parents and Maidhien followed after them quickly, all with furious expressions, but for different reasons. Thranduil turned to follow a slightly different path, steering Legolas to walk in front of him with a hand on his shoulder. Aradunnon did the same with Galithil.

*~*~*

“Domineering, penurious tyrant!” a furious voice boomed.

Two children looked up at their father defiantly in response.

“You say it all the time, ada. Why should we not say it if you do?” Anastor said, his tone accusing.

“I did not say it,” Maidhien said, hands on her hips, her chin held high. “You cannot be angry with me. It is not fair!”

Dannenion ignored her, staring instead at his son and shaking his head. “I am not stupid enough to say it to his face!” he yelled, pointing off in the direction of the stronghold.

“We did not say it to Thranduil. We said it to Legolas,” Anastor retorted.

“’We’ did not say it at all,” Maidhien corrected. “You and Noruil said it.”

“Saying it to Legolas is the same thing as saying it to Thranduil,” Dannenion’s voice drowned out his daughter’s. “Do you want to see us thrown out of our homes? Out of the forest? Because that is the sort of thing Thranduil will do—he will turn us all out into the wilds where we have no hope of survival.”

Anastor’s eyes widened at that declaration.

Maidhien frowned.

“I do not think he would do that,” she said firmly. “He is not nearly as mean as you say he is.”

Dannenion’s furious gaze swung on his daughter. “You know Thranduil is forcing us to stay in the capital. He is keeping us from helping our people—our own family—in our village in the south, while he refuses to do anything for them either. You have seen the letters, so you know how they have all starved this winter. Just as we did. It is impossible to defend Thranduil’s actions.”

Maidhien’s frown deepened as she thought about what she had heard Thranduil say to his brother about the southern villages that afternoon. She had been angry when she heard him say the villages could not be protected forever. But she was angrier still with her parents now that she had learned the meaning of some of the words she regularly heard applied to the king. So she felt more inclined to defend him than defer to them.

“His duty is to protect the entire forest, not just one part of it,” she responded, repeating the argument she had heard the king make to his brother.

“Well, since the entire forest is starving, from the capital to the southern-most villages, I would say he is neglecting the entire forest and not protecting any part of it,” Dannenion shot back.

“Everyone is starving. Even the Men. They lost…food…crops,” she stammered, struggling to remember what she had heard, but determined to argue. “Thra…. the king,” she corrected herself, “cannot control the winter weather. It is not fair to judge him for what the winter snows did any more than it was fair of you to be angry at me because Anastor shot the boar.”

Knowing the depth of her parents’ hatred of Thranduil, Maidhien expected her father to explode upon hearing her continued defense of him. Instead, his anger seemed to deflate and he studied her closely.

“Where did you hear such things? How would you know what is happening in Mannish lands?” he asked quietly.

Maidhien looked at her father sidelong. She had listened her whole life to her father’s rants against Thranduil. She suddenly felt as sorry for Thranduil as she felt for herself every time her father punished her for something Anastor did. She wanted so much to tell her father that he was wrong. She wanted to repeat everything she heard and from whom she had heard it so he had to believe her.

But then she thought about how she had heard it—she thought about the secret doors—and something made her remain silent.

“I did not know the Men lost crops. You had to have heard that in the stronghold from someone in Thranduil’s family,” Dannenion prompted. “I thought you spent the whole day playing in caves.” He looked at her dress. “You certainly look as if you have.” His brow furrowed. “But we found you right next to the stronghold, not anywhere near the caves behind it. How were you in the stronghold to hear about the state of Mannish affairs and behind the stronghold fighting with Legolas at the same time?”

“I was not fighting with Legolas. He is my friend,” she retorted, anger overcoming her decision to say no more. Anastor snorted and she narrowed her eyes at him.

“Maidhien has a secret cave somewhere near where you found us,” he interjected. “She was in it with Galithil, or so she says. But when we saw them, Galithil told us his adar was looking for him to come to dinner, so Maidhien must be lying about being in the cave. If she had been in a cave, they could not have known that Aradunnon and Thranduil were out looking for Legolas and Galithil. And it was certainly true they were, so the part about being in the cave must be the lie.”

Maidhien glared at her brother, but Dannenion prevented her from answering him. “A secret cave?” he repeated with a soft voice. “Where is this secret cave? Near the stronghold, is it?” he asked, watching Maidhien carefully.

She pressed her lips together and returned her father’s gaze silently.

*~*~*

In his family’s rooms in the stronghold, standing before his parents, Galithil struggled not to squirm. “Ada, I was going to come and find you to tell you what I had done but…” he stumbled to a halt and looked away, biting his lip.

“But you and those children were playing in the caves and you were having such fun that you lost track of time,” Aradunnon finished for him.

Galithil grimaced. “I was only playing with Maidhien, not Noruil and Anastor, but I cannot deny we lost track of time,” he said softly, thinking of all he had found in Maidhien’s cave—and all he had heard his father and uncle say. That made him remember something else. “But I did not forget what I was supposed to speak to you about. Dolgailon told me to spend my time until dinner thinking about why I broke my word. I did do that,” he offered.

Aradunnon raised his eyebrows and leaned back in his chair. “If you think you can give me a good reason to break your word, by all means I would like to hear that.”

Galithil sighed quietly. “Not a good reason to break my word. And not an excuse. I know there is neither a reason nor an excuse. But I can explain why I did it.”

“Very well, why did you do it?”

“Because I want to learn to fight. I want to defend this forest and fight the Shadow…”

Aradunnon held up his hand. “Stop right there, Galithil. I know you want to learn to fight. And you had better want to defend this realm because that is the role you have been born into. But do not tell me that is why you shot the bow. You shot it because you wanted to. Nothing more. You want a bow because your friends have one and you refuse to accept the fact that I will not permit you to have one until you reach a responsible age. This has nothing to do with fighting the Shadow. If you had the slightest idea what that statement means, you would be ashamed to stand here and use it as an excuse…”

Galithil’s hands clenched into fists and he took a step forward. “First of all, Noruil and Anastor are not my friends, and second, I know precisely what it means to fight the Shadow, adar…”

Aradunnon loosed an angry breath. “Be silent. You have no idea what the Shadow even is. Claiming that you do is absurd, not to mention insulting to the warriors that sacrifice, sometimes their very lives, to fight the Shadow you refer to so lightly…”

“Warriors like Himion and Candirith, adar?” Galithil cut in. Aradunnon fell silent at those names and Amoneth gave a little gasp, her eyes darting to her husband. “I remember their sacrifice to the Shadow very clearly,” Galithil continued bitterly. “I remember that I watched Himion step in front of an arrow aimed at aunt Lindomiel. I saw nana fight Dark Men with Himion’s sword and I hid in a cave and listened to nana and aunt Lindomiel beg those men not to kill Candirith. And I remember their screams when the men did kill him and then dragged them off. Do not tell me that I know nothing of the Shadow, adar. I have seen it.” In the stunned silence that followed that speech, Galithil took a deep, steadying breath before continuing. “And I remember living in the South. I remember traveling there and not understanding why the trees’ song had suddenly become so sad. Or understanding why they were so twisted and bare and black. I remember not being able to play in front of our cottage because orcs might come, so I played in a talan. And when I asked why the adults were always watching the trees rather than my games, I remember being told that it was important to keep an eye out for spiders in the trees. We did not live in that cottage for long, but I remember it was your home. I remember it is where you keep the bow you and daeradar made together and the silver rings you and nana exchanged. That is the home it is too dangerous for you to raise me in. I remember it. And I want to fight for it, as I see you and Dolgailon doing every day. I know I cannot do that now, but I can begin to learn. Only you will not let me because of some arbitrary age that I must first obtain.”

Aradunnon’s expression hardened. “I will not let you because you have proven repeatedly that you cannot be trusted. You stole your brother’s knife and you broke your word…”

“I stole Dolgailon’s knife. I admit that was wrong. But I did not take it to play with it…to make a game of throwing it or something stupid like that. And I shot the bow, but I did not shoot wildly at some squirrel in a tree or a duck in the river.” He paused for emphasis. “Or at a boar I had no hope of killing after everyone warned me of the danger. I shot it because Glílavan offered to show me how, under supervision, on the target range. I could have spent the afternoon shooting it in the forest with Maidhien, but I did not. I only ever asked to learn to shoot on the range with you.”

“And I told you I would teach you when you are twenty-five…”

Galithil stamped his foot in frustration. “And when I am twenty-five, if I behave as recklessly with a bow as Anastor does with his, will you still let me keep it just because I am twenty-five? It is an arbitrary number, adar, and this means so much to me.” He took a deep breath and continued in a softer voice. “That is why I broke my word. It truly does mean so much to me, Glílavan offered to show me how to shoot and I could not have been hurt doing it under his supervision, so I gave in to temptation. I regret that I broke my word, but I will not stop begging you to teach me to use a bow. And I do not understand why you will not even consider it.”

Aradunnon and Galithil stared at one another silently for a long moment. Then Aradunnon loosed a long breath and looked away.

“Very well, Galithil,” he finally said. “I need to think about what you have said and everything that has happened. Go to your room. I will speak to you when I have sorted this out.”

Fists still clenched unconsciously, Galithil marched silently off to his room.

*~*~*

“He told me he did it because he wanted to fight the Shadow,” Aradunnon said with a much quieter tone than Thranduil had expected his brother to manage after speaking to Galithil about his misdeeds. He saw how Aradunnon grasped the goblet in his hand. He had watched him drain that goblet with an alarming and completely uncharacteristic vehemence. Aradunnon enjoyed his wine. Thranduil had never seen him use it as a means to avoid feeling something. That is why he did not scoff at the excuse his nephew had given—there was clearly more to this story than Aradunnon had yet revealed.

“Galithil would expect that is an excuse you might accept,” he suggested, his tone encouraging Aradunnon to continue.

Amoneth shook her head, drawing Thranduil’s attention. He blinked when he saw tears in her eyes. “Aradunnon said Galithil did not understand what the Shadow was and Galithil told us he had seen it. He reminded us of Himion and Candirith.”

Lindomiel, already holding Amoneth’s hand, tightened her grasp reflexively upon hearing that. A little cry escaped Arthiel’s lips and Dolgailon put his arm around her. Dieneryn closed her eyes.

Aradunnon shook his head. “I did not have any idea how to respond to that. I expected to discuss disobedience with him. The importance of trust and keeping one’s word. It never occurred to me that Galithil even remembered that day. Or living in the south—he mentioned that too. I certainly did not think he thought about it. That it…still affected him.”

“Of course it does, Aradunnon.” Thranduil said softly. “No one forgets the first time they see death, much less such a violent, unexpected death.”

Amglaur and Dieneryn looked at Thranduil sadly. They both knew exactly why Thranduil understood Galithil so well in this instance. Focused on his brother, Thranduil did not notice their gaze.

Aradunnon looked up at his brother. “I do not know how to handle that. What do you say when a child of the age that he should be playing tricks on his cousins and escaping his tutor explains to you in completely convincing terms that he understands what evil is? That he understands it and wants to fight it?”

“If he really understands what he is saying, then I think you must acknowledge his unfortunate maturity by teaching him what he needs to know to respond appropriately for his age—and part of what he needs to know is that we respect his desire and need to defend himself and his family,” Lindomiel whispered.

“But that is the problem,” Aradunnon said, his voice rising. “He is not mature…he stole a knife. He broke his word not to shoot that bow…”

“He is dealing as well as he knows how with an issue that is, as you said, far beyond his years, Aradunnon,” Dieneryn interrupted. “He has chosen inappropriate ways to deal with his fears. Teach him better ways.”

Amoneth nodded at her mother-in-law. “I fear I agree. And I agree with Galithil that twenty-five is an arbitrary age. Brethil is younger than Galithil by a year and he is already helping his father in his workshop…”

“I would be happy to teach Galithil to carve, Amoneth,” Aradunnon interrupted bitterly. “Or to teach him any other trade. Galithil wants to learn to shoot a bow—not in order to hunt and provide for his family, but to kill orcs and spiders. That is very different than a child learning to take up his father’s trade.”

“Killing orcs and spiders is the trade Galithil’s father practices,” Thranduil said. “Like his father, Galithil wants to defend his home. He understands what that involves and is willing to do whatever is necessary to accomplish it,” he continued, looking at his brother meaningfully. “Given our conversation this afternoon, I think that feeling is something you can understand, Aradunnon.” He sighed and looked down at the wine in his goblet. “You know how much it pains me to say this…you know very well this is the furthest thing from what I wanted for my son…but I agree with Lindomiel and Amoneth. By not acknowledging what our children have already experienced…by not acknowledging what they see and hear everyday in our household…we leave them without the knowledge or ability to deal with the world they live in. I would not be opposed to teaching them how to shoot and allowing them to practice under our supervision on the range.” He sighed. “And I think they should have some responsibilities to go with that privilege. Ones that will help them better understand what they see and hear in our household. If they understand, they will make better decisions.”

Aradunnon closed his eyes. “That sounds like an argument I would make. Indeed, I always imagined our roles in this discussion would be reversed—that I would be arguing that Galithil and Legolas were ready to begin training and you would be resisting that they should start down that path so early. I do not disagree with anything that has been suggested. This was simply so disturbing to hear. When I was Galithil’s age, I was putting spiders in your bed, Thranduil, and then begging you to take me to the caves to play at adventuring.”

“The caves in Aman Lanc?” Thranduil asked, referring to the mountain now known by both Men and Elves alike as Dol Guldur, the mountain where they all suspected Sauron slept, gathering his power. “Times have changed since you were a child.”

Aradunnon opened his eyes and looked at his older brother grimly. “That much is certain. What do you propose we do with them?”

*~*~*

Legolas paced from in front of the fireplace in his room, to his bed, to the door that led to the hallway and back to the fireplace, alternating between berating himself for his stupidity and worrying about what his parents intended for him. Thranduil still had not come to speak to him. He and Galithil had been ordered straight to their rooms as soon as they had entered the stronghold. Legolas estimated that dinner must long be over, but he had not heard a sound in the hallway. Briefly, he heard Galithil speaking with his father across the hall and marveled at his cousin’s nerve to raise his voice to his father after what he had done. And that only reminded him that what he had done was every bit as bad as what Galithil had done. His father must be well and truly angry with him if he was waiting this long to speak to him.

Legolas had just begun the circuit from the fireplace to the bed again when he heard the latch on the hallway door click. He spun around and blinked when he saw Hallion entering the room and not his parents. He looked at him questioningly.

“Your adar asked me to bring you to his office, Legolas,” Hallion said, holding the door open and standing aside for Legolas to precede him into the hallway.

Legolas’s eyes widened even further. “Why his office?” he asked without moving.

“He will explain, Legolas,” Hallion replied.

Legolas studied Hallion for a moment and then slipped past him through the door. He padded softly down the hallway to his father’s office. The door was slightly ajar, but Hallion reached to open it fully as they approached. Legolas paused just inside the door. His father was seated at the head of the meeting table in the office. He was not alone. Legolas had expected to see his mother in the office, and she was there—seated to Thranduil’s right at the table. But Uncle Aradunnon, Dolgailon, daernana and the head of Thranduil’s personal guard, Conuiön, also sat at the table.

Legolas stared at them. He and his cousins often confessed their misdeeds in the presence of the entire family. Since they usually got in trouble together, telling all the parents what had happened together was easier. Not to mention they could all draw courage from one another that way. But no confession was needed in this case. Everyone present had seen what Legolas had done. Stomach tightening, Legolas supposed since everyone had seen him, he should probably apologize in front of everyone. Still, his father’s office seemed an unusual place for apologies.

Focused on his thoughts, Legolas started slightly when Hallion closed the door behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder to guide him to the table. He left him standing next to the chair immediately to his father’s right, between his father and mother.

“I am sorry, adar,” Legolas said as Hallion seated himself to Thranduil’s left. “I know fighting with Noruil was wrong. He and his cousin have tried to pick a fight with Galithil and I before and I swear we have ignored them. I should have this time, but I lost my temper. It will not happen again.”

A faint smile formed on Thranduil’s lips and Legolas stared it, completely confused.

Thranduil patted the seat next to him. “Sit down, ion nin,” he said softly.

Legolas looked down to hide his astonishment and quickly seated himself between his parents, glancing surreptitiously around the table as he did. His father’s voice drew his attention back to the head of the table.

“I take it that, unlike Maidhien, you were perfectly familiar with all those words that Noruil applied to me?” Thranduil asked gravely.

Legolas nodded. “I was. As we were walking back to the stronghold I felt a little better that Noruil did not really understand what he had said, and that naturally made me feel worse because I hit him for saying something he did not even understand.” He looked up at his father. “But if Noruil was repeating what he heard, that is actually even worse—that means his adar or uncle said those things. How can an adult be that…ignorant?” he asked. Then he frowned. “Penurious! I did not see meat on our table this winter, but I helped pack the stores we sent to the villages. And I do not even know how to respond to…” he cut himself off, unwilling to even say ‘tyrant’ and realizing that getting angry again would not help his case. “I am sorry I hit, Noruil, though,” he finished, looking down again.

“I understand your anger, Legolas. It is still very difficult for me to listen to anyone criticize my adar for actions that I privately acknowledge warrant criticism. You do not know enough about Dolwon and Dannenion to understand why they say the things they do.”

Legolas’s head snapped up. “Nothing you tell me about Dolwon and Dannenion will make me understand why they would say such things about you, adar. And I do not believe I reacted much differently than anyone else in this forest would have reacted.” He paused again to rein in his tone. “Though I do not intend that to try to justify what I did.”

Thranduil smiled. “I see that you understand it was wrong to hit Noruil. This time we shall agree that the shock of hearing your adar referred to as a domineering, penurious, tyrant was too great to bear. And we shall make sure that you learn what you need to know in order to better to handle yourself in Anastor and Noruil’s presence in the future.”

Legolas stared at his father hope creeping into his expression. “Then you are not absolutely furious with me?”

“Yes, I am furious,” he said, though the smile was still on his face. “I simply cannot deny that you were sorely provoked and I cannot say for certain that my anger does not stem, at least in part, from exactly what you reacted to. So I think it is best to leave this incident with your promise that you will try not to fight with Noruil and Anastor again—which I feel certain I can count on, since they have failed to provoke you numerous times in the past as you pointed out.”

Legolas’s jaw dropped. “No punishment at all?” he exclaimed. “I could not even imagine what the punishment for fighting was going to be.”

“Do I have your promise, Legolas?” Thranduil asked, resisting the urge to laugh at his son’s incredulity.

“Yes, adar,” Legolas responded quickly. “I will try to avoid fighting with them. I do not want to fight with them and I truly do not understand why they are so determined to provoke a fight.”

“That is what we are here to discuss,” Thranduil answered softly, directing his gaze at the others around the table.

Legolas looked at his uncle, cousin, daernaneth and naneth as well and he frowned. Caught up in apologizing to his father, he had almost forgotten the presence of the rest of his family. They all wore serious expressions and were focused on Thranduil. Legolas’s frown deepened and he sat up a little straighter in his chair before looking back at his father.

“I have asked you to join me this evening to discuss two matters,” Thranduil continued. “First, I intend to share with Legolas information that might help him better understand our situation involving Dolwon and Dannenion. Then, Legolas has some information to share with us regarding Glílavan.”

Legolas’s brow furrowed. He was not certain what information he was supposed to have about Glílavan. Especially any information that would cause one side of Dolgailon’s mouth to quirk down as it just had. Before he could study his cousin’s response, Thranduil had turned fully to Legolas.

“The matter we are about to discuss is confidential. Confidential means that you can discuss it with no one outside this room under any circumstances. And if you do discuss it with someone in this room, you must do so in an environment where you are certain not to be overheard. Do you understand?”

Legolas’s eyes widened slightly at his father’s serious tone. “Yes, adar,” he replied quietly.

Thranduil nodded. “I trust that you do.” He paused and regarded Legolas grimly. “There is no easy way to discuss matters such as this one, so I will be direct.”

With that he nodded to Hallion, who pushed a large tome across the table until it sat open in front of Legolas. Legolas glanced at it, noticing that it was bound in green-dyed leather. That meant it was a legal document—Eirienil had managed to instill that much understanding of the library’s organization in him.

“Read the part that I have marked, Legolas,” Hallion said.

Leaning forward, Legolas read. It was a court record. He leaned at little closer to the book when he read the names of parties charged in the proceeding—Dolwon and Dannenion. He audibly gasped when he read the charge and his eyes darted to his father. Then he looked back to the page and read one more word. Guilty.

“Dolwon and Dannenion are guilty of treason?” he exclaimed, looking at Thranduil’s placid expression.

When Thranduil did not immediately respond, Legolas’s eyes darted back down to the book and he scanned quickly to see if any details were included—he only found ‘plotting to overthrow the Throne of Eryn Galen’ and the sentence of indefinite confinement in the capital. Legolas stared at his father, mouth open partially, his expression demanding an explanation. “What does that mean? How, precisely, does one ‘plot to overthrow the Throne of Eryn Galen?’”

“Dolwon and Dannenion, along with several other people, attempted to convince others in their villages that I had broken my oath to the people of this forest and failed to protect them from the Shadow,” Thranduil answered.

Legolas’s brow furrowed. “That is sedition, not treason,” he said.

Thranduil raised his eyebrows. “I admit I did not expect you to know the difference.”

Legolas scowled at his father. “I do pay attention to Master Rodonon,” he replied.

“Apparently so,” Thranduil said softly. He regarded Legolas silently for a moment before glancing at Lindomiel. His mother, Legolas realized, was rigidly tense and staring at Thranduil. “There was some violence against this family involved. I do not intend to share those details with you. They are not necessary to your understanding of my relationship with Dolwon and Dannenion.”

Legolas blinked. “Your ‘relationship?’ With two people who used violence to try to overthrow you?” he asked, voice rising. “My understanding of that relationship? What I do not understand is why they are still living freely in this forest if they are guilty of treason. That is mad!”

“Well said,” Aradunnon said under his breath.

Legolas turned to look at him.

Hallion did as well, glaring a warning at him while clearing his throat. Then he addressed Legolas. “One does not normally accuse the king of madness in his own council chambers,” he said quietly.

Legolas bit his lip and looked back at his father, but Thranduil replied to Legolas’s comment as if he had heard nothing.

“The full council and I discussed that very question only yesterday in response to comments Lindomiel and Arthiel heard while gathering greens. I listened to the arguments regarding the threat some members of the council feel Dolwon and Dannenion still represent, but I decided to uphold my original decision not to banish them for three reasons: first, I feel it is safest to keep them close to me, where I can watch their activities. Second I cannot banish their children into the wilds. That is unthinkable. And third, I am always hesitant to force any Silvan elf to leave this forest. Eryn Galen was their home long before it was mine. I would prefer to bring them, and anyone who might sympathize with them, back to us as cooperative members of this society, not drive them from it and make a permanent enemy.”

“What if you cannot accomplish that?” Legolas asked, now with a quiet, respectful tone. “I mean, ‘domineering, penurious, tyrant.’ I do not see that comment as a promising sign of progress towards your goal.” He put one hand in the book to hold his place and flipped it closed to look at the date on the spine. When he saw it, his eyes widened again. “If after over twenty years, they are still saying such things…” he drifted off, leaving the implied question hanging in the air.

Thranduil nodded once. “What we heard today was not encouraging. I concede that. Lord Hallion and I have discussed ways that I might reach out to Dolwon and Dannenion in the past. We will repeat that conversation tomorrow. Tonight I am more interested in how you might use this knowledge.”

Legolas’s brow furrowed and, for a moment, he appeared ready to continue arguing about Dolwon and Dannenion. Then he made an effort to control his expression. “Well, it does not help to ‘bring them back to us’ if I fight with them,” he began.

“Indeed not,” Thranduil said, though a smile softened the words.

“But I do not know what else I can do, adar,” Legolas finished.

Thranduil shook his head. “Nothing. I only expect you to keep in mind what is at stake when dealing with Dolwon, Dannenion and their families and try to let that knowledge inform your actions. Make decisions where they are concerned that improve, or least do not damage, my relations with them.”

Legolas loosed a quiet breath. “I will try, adar.”

Thranduil nodded. “Then the second topic I wanted to address in this meeting was the matter of what Glílavan did or said to you yesterday. I am not clear which it was. Lord Hallion said it was troubling and suggested we should address it. Could you please inform the Council?”

Legolas looked up and saw everyone at the table was now focused on him. He shifted slightly in his chair before responding. “Do you mean what I discussed with Uncle Hallion about Galithil and Maidhien’s bow and Glílavan?” he asked, looking at Hallion rather than his father. Hallion nodded.

Legolas frowned slightly. “I saw Glílavan showing Galithil how to shoot Maidhien’s bow and he offered to show me. When I told him I was not allowed, he tried to convince me to do it anyway—he said it would be our secret and that as the king’s son I should be able to defend the forest. He said he made the same promise to Galithil. That made me uncomfortable. I thought it was wrong for an officer to not only fail to enforce the rules, but to actively participate in breaking them and then try to persuade someone else to break them and keep secrets about it.”

“I think you are quite right,” Thranduil began, but Aradunnon cut him off.

“Glílavan said what?” he roared, causing Legolas to involuntarily sit back in his chair in surprise. But Aradunnon was speaking to Thranduil and did not notice. “Glílavan is not going to use my son to…”

“Enough, Aradunnon,” Thranduil warned.

Aradunnon clenched his jaw and glared at Thranduil a long moment. “I want him dismissed.” He turned to Dolgailon. “Dismiss him tomorrow,” he ordered flatly.

Dolgailon stiffened. “I will not,” he replied firmly. “You are reacting as a father. Separate family matters from military ones, commander. Glílavan violated a policy prohibiting the use of the practice range by anyone other than warriors—that is a military matter and he has received an appropriate punishment given nature of the violation. Offering to keep Galithil’s secret…that may have been foolish, but Glílavan is not a father. He never even had younger siblings. He saw how much Galithil wanted to shoot the bow, did not understand how angry you would be for letting him, and made an offer to make Galithil more at ease…to make him happy. He told me he felt sorry for Galithil after his first day of punishment cleaning the training weapons and he wanted to do something nice for him. That is a mistake, not a military matter. Or a political one.”

Aradunnon shook his head. “I do not understand why you insist on being so naïve concerning Glílavan when your judgments about people are normally so good. Do you forget what you sensed about his truthfulness after you questioned him concerning his role in…”

“Enough, Aradunnon,” Thranduil interrupted again.

Aradunnon sighed in frustration. “How do you expect me to react?” he asked, angrily.

Thranduil ignored him and addressed Legolas. “You were present, Legolas. What is your judgment? Do you believe Glílavan only offered to let Galithil shoot to make him feel better after the first day of his punishment?” he asked quietly.

Legolas laughed. “Galithil did not need to be made to feel better. Cleaning the training weapons is no punishment to him. He talked all day about how excited he was to do it.” Then he shrugged. “Besides, he made the same offer to me and I did not need cheering up.”

“Regardless, this is a family matter, not a military one,” Dolgailon repeated.

“How did you feel when Glílavan was speaking to you, Legolas?” Hallion asked, ignoring Dolgailon’s comment.

Legolas frowned. “I felt strange. No one has ever tried to convince me to do something I had just said I was forbidden to do. No adult anyway. In fact, the only child that ever did that was Anastor when he was trying to convince us to go see the moonbow.” Saying that, Legolas glanced at Aradunnon thoughtfully.

“Would it be fair to say that you felt Glílavan’s offer was a manipulation, Legolas?” Hallion asked softly.

Legolas turned sharply back to him. “Yes. That is exactly what it was,” he responded, obviously just realizing it himself. “Offering to share a secret and reminding me I am the king’s son, all to convince me to do something I had already told him plainly I would not do.” His eyes narrowed and he looked back at Aradunnon.

Aradunnon did not see him. He was looking at his eldest son expectantly.

Dolgailon’s expression hardened. “I am sorry. I stand by what I have said in the past. Present me with evidence, true evidence, not feelings, and I will believe you. Until then, I will not dismiss an outstanding officer for no good reason.”

Aradunnon’s jaw dropped. “I cannot think of a better reason than…”

“For the third time, Aradunnon, enough,” Thranduil interrupted.

“Than treason,” Legolas said quietly, watching Aradunnon carefully. He need not have bothered. Aradunnon made no effort to hide his reaction.

He nodded and pointed to Legolas. “A child not even half way to his majority can see this, Dolgailon. Why do you refuse? Glílavan is intentionally manipulating your brother. How can you allow that?”

“We agreed that we would limit our conversation in Legolas’s presence to facts and not speculation, Aradunnon,” Thranduil interjected, his voice now raised angrily.

“He drew his own conclusion,” Aradunnon responded. “The point of Legolas’s presence is to give him the information he needs to make informed decisions about his interactions with people who may be a danger to him and this realm. If Glílavan is targeting our children, then the only way we can eliminate them as targets is to make them aware of the danger they are in.”

Lindomiel leaned forward, glaring angrily at Aradunnon. To Legolas’s surprise, given the tension around the table, his father only nodded once.

“Conceded,” Thranduil he replied calmly.

Dolgailon blew out a frustrated breath. “Except that we do not know that Glílavan is ‘targeting’ anyone, or ever has. There is no evidence. Glílavan was my mentor when I became a warrior. He probably feels some connection to Galithil because of that. I do not believe he would use a child…”

Aradunnon drew an angry breath, preparing to speak—to remind his son that Dolwon, Dannenion and their accomplices had done exactly that previously. They had used defenseless women and children to attempt to drive Thranduil from his throne.

“Enough!” both Lindomiel and Thranduil said at once, staring forbiddingly at Aradunnon.

Aradunnon glared back at them both a moment. Then he looked up at the ceiling, clearly trying to rein in his anger. “I am unwilling to remove you as captain, Dolgailon, so I am forced to respect your command of your officers. But I insist that someone else supervise Galithil. As his father, I do not want Glílavan near him. You will obey me in that. Galithil is not one of your warriors yet. He is my son and I will command who he interacts with.”

Dolgailon nodded. “I will supervise him myself,” he said calmly. “And I do keep an eye on Glílavan.”

Aradunnon nodded stiffly.

“Think about what Legolas has shared with us, Dolgailon,” Thranduil said.

“I will. Indeed, I intend to confront Glílavan about it. As Galithil’s brother and Legolas’s cousin and Glílavan’s friend.”

“Good,” Thranduil replied. “I would feel better if Glílavan is put on notice that Legolas and Galithil will not be easy targets for a plot. And I will be interested to hear your honest impression of how he reacts.”

Dolgailon pressed his lips together and replied only by inclining his head.

Thranduil turned to Legolas, who was looking between his uncle and cousin with wide eyes.

“As you continue to attend council meeting,” he began, drawing Legolas’s gaze, “you will find that the members of my council that are currently present express their opinions with complete freedom, in private. In the presence of the full council, I encourage more restraint.”

“Though he often does not get it,” Aradunnon said dryly and with a frank smirk.

Legolas’s eyes lit with amusement. His uncle’s ability to move instantly between fury and jokes was a regular source of entertainment and amazement for the family.

Hallion sighed. “We are trying to teach the child,” he said disapprovingly.

“In public,” Thranduil continued without acknowledging Aradunnon’s laughter, “this council supports me without question,” he said firmly. “Do you understand?”

Legolas had long known that no one in the family contradicted his father publicly. That statement was nothing new to him. It was another that had captured his complete attention. “As I continue to attend council meetings?” he repeated.

Thranduil nodded. “Your uncle and I have agreed that you and Galithil are mature enough to assume some duties related to the governance of this realm. We intend to invite you to some meetings and court proceedings in lieu of your lessons when the subject matter is appropriate, so that you may learn how they function.”

Legolas’s eyes widened with pleased surprise.

“And your cousin convinced Aradunnon that he should be permitted to learn to use a bow, only on the practice range and under supervision.”

Legolas’s jaw dropped at that and he leaned forward, staring at his father.

“You are a year younger than Galithil, but your naneth and I have agreed you may participate in these lessons as well, if you wish.”

“You cannot be serious!” Legolas exclaimed. A delighted, slightly incredulous, expression lit his face.

“Am I to take it that you would like to participate in these lessons?” Thranduil asked with an amused smile.

Legolas laughed. “Yes, adar. I would,” he said, grinning from ear to ear.

*~*~*

Galithil lay perfectly still under his bedcovers, listening to the noises in his parents’ and brother’s bedrooms, waiting for them to quiet down so he could sneak over to Legolas’s bedchamber. They had not been able to talk at all that night and there was so much to talk about!

Galithil absolutely could not believe his luck that his father had believed his explanation of why he had shot Maidhien’s bow. Better than believing it, he truly honored it by promising to teach him to shoot. Tomorrow afternoon and his first lesson could not come soon enough.

“I will never be able to sit through lessons in the library,” he whispered to himself, grinning broadly. For a moment, he imagined idly staring at his arithmetic problems without seeing a thing on the pages and he giggled quietly.

Then he frowned. “Ada will not continue the archery lessons if Master Rodonon tells him I am not studying,” he thought with a sigh. “That will be hard.” He adopted a determined expression, “But I will do those stupid lessons and do them well, if it means ada will continue the archery lessons,” he whispered out loud. He smiled at that. Ada would be proud if he did well on both the arithmetic and the archery lessons. It might be nice to make ada happy instead of angry for once.

Thinking of his father forced his thoughts back to the scene he had witnessed in the family sitting room earlier that afternoon.

“Legolas is going to fall over when I tell him that his adar led troops into battle against daeradar Oropher’s orders,” Galithil thought, giggling again. And surely Legolas would be able to persuade Eirienil to help them find a reference to the details of that incident in the library. Galithil’s curiosity regarding that story burned so intensely, he almost wanted to try to sneak to the library to start looking tonight.

Maybe there is a secret passage that leads to the library. Galithil smiled again. Going with Maidhien to that cave was the best thing he had ever done! That passage was amazing. And it led from the sitting room to the forest! The potential uses of that door were limitless! He could not wait to show it to Legolas.

Then Galithil frowned again. How could he show Legolas the passage without showing him Maidhien’s cave? And how could he tell what he had heard without explaining about the passage? He had promised Maidhien not to tell anyone about her cave. And Legolas was already mad at him for breaking one promise. If he broke another and Legolas found out—and he certainly would find out eventually—his cousin might never trust him again.

But that cave! How could he not tell?

Galithil fidgeted under his bedcovers, squirming to tell someone about the cave and uncle Thranduil. Then with a resigned sigh, he rolled over and purposefully buried his face in his pillow, willing himself to sleep. He had been very lucky today. His father had forgiven him for a very serious mistake and even trusted him with more responsibilities.

“I am not going to betray ada’s trust, or anyone else’s,” he said firmly. “I am going to show ada that I deserve the chance he gave me today. No matter how difficult it is.” He nodded, pleased with how virtuous he was being. “I can try to talk Maidhien into letting me tell Legolas about the cave, and if she will not let me, it is certainly fun to play with her in it. So I will have to be satisfied with that.”

*~*~*

Legolas tossed back the covers on his bed. Exhaling heavily, he gave up his attempt to sleep and propped himself up against his pillows. For a moment he considered lighting a lamp, but he immediately dismissed that idea. His parents might see it and he did not want them to know he was still awake. He did not want to give the impression that the evening’s events had upset him or been too much for him. He feared his father might rescind his promise to include he and his cousins in more council meetings when the topics were ‘appropriate.’ He was not upset, after all. He just had so much to think about.

Anastor and Noruil had always been hateful and he had long wondered why. Never did he ever imagine it was because their parents hated his so much that they had attempted to ‘overthrow the Throne of Eryn Galen.’ Legolas could not get that phrase out of his thoughts. He very much wanted to know what the ‘violence involved’ that his father admitted to had been. But he knew the details would be in the pages of the green book Hallion had shown him and he saw Hallion lock that book in his father’s desk drawer as he was leaving the office. No chance of getting it from there.

Legolas frowned. Dolwon and Dannenion had committed treason twenty years ago. And given the ensuing conversation about Glílavan, uncle Aradunnon clearly thought the lieutenant had been involved. Staring at the ceiling above his bed, Legolas thought about that. Glílavan was Dolgailon’s friend and had been since his cousin had begun his military service. “Hard to believe Dolgailon would not know if Glílavan was a traitor,” he thought. Then his brows drew together as he remembered how very uncomfortable Glílavan had made him. They furrowed even more deeply as his thoughts turned to even more worrisome matters.

When he and Tulus were discussing how difficult it had been to tell on Galithil, Tulus had said that he and his friends had done something bad and he had to confess to it. Tulus was friends with Dolwon and Dannenion. He was the only friend they had in the capital.

“I wonder if Tulus suspected the treason Dolwon and Dannenion were plotting and told on them and got in trouble himself because his son was also suspected,” Legolas thought, feeling a great surge of pity for Tulus. “I wonder if that is why he is no longer a warrior. That would be too sad,” he thought with a long sigh.

He looked at his door. “I cannot believe Galithil has not come in here yet. I would really like to talk to him about this,” he thought, still staring at the door. “He probably thinks I am still angry at him. Or maybe he is angry at me still.” He shook his head and glared at the door with narrowed eyes. “If you are getting archery lessons for breaking your word and you are still angry at me, you can just stay that way. You have nothing to be angry about,” he said to the door. Then he grimaced. “Maybe I should go talk to him,” he thought and he swung his legs over the edge of his bed. Then he froze.

‘Confidential means that you can discuss it with no one outside this room under any circumstances,’ he heard his father’s voice say.

“Maybe I am not allowed to talk with Galithil about Dolwon and Dannenion.” That thought made Legolas frown. “If ada and uncle Aradunnon had wanted him to know, he would have been in ada’s office…or ada would have specified I could tell my cousins.”

Legolas flopped back on his bed with his arms crossed over his chest.

“I really do not like not being able to talk to Galithil about this at all,” he said to himself. “Perhaps I should try to convince ada to let me tell.” Then images of Galithil yelling at him to ‘wallop’ Noruil rushed into his mind and he shook his head. “Anastor already wants to fight with us. If Galithil knew what their parents did, there would be no controlling his temper.” Legolas smirked. “Galithil is not known for restraint,” he said sagely. “Better he does not know and I do my best to prevent fights as I always have,” he decided.

But tomorrow he would enjoy hearing how Galithil persuaded their fathers to give them archery lessons.

*~*~*

adar/ada--father/dad

naneth/nana--mother/mum

daernaneth--grandmother

elleth--female elf


Chapter 19 - Consequences

Chapter 19: Consequences

Legolas stood beside his bed and slowly finished closing the fastenings of his tunic. Then he clenched and unclenched his fists, shook both hands, and rubbed the bruises on his knuckles that he had earned fighting with Noruil. With a grimace, he picked up his nightshirt from the bed, balled it up and tossed it into the laundry basket. His gaze drifted towards his closed door. More worrisome than sore knuckles from the fight with Noruil was the fight he had with Galithil. It was nearly time for breakfast--long past the time Galithil normally burst into his room in the morning--but Legolas still had not spoken to his cousin since Galithil had stormed off the day before, angry at Legolas's 'betrayal.' He turned his back to the door and grasped the sheet and quilt on his bed, roughly yanking them into place.

"I am not the one who did something wrong," he said and his voice echoed faintly in the empty bed chamber.

At that moment, the door to his room swung open and Legolas spun around. The hopeful, half-apologetic look on his face faded when Eirienil and Berior ran towards him.

"Is it true?" Eirienil demanded, not stopping until she was nearly toe-to-toe with him. Berior skid to a halt behind her, looking at Legolas with wide, bright eyes.

"Is what true?" Legolas asked, turning his back to them both and pretending to straighten the bedclothes.

Eirienil seized his wrist and pulled him back around. Still holding his wrist, she and Berior stared at the bruises on Legolas's knuckles until he twisted his hand from her grasp and stuck it behind his back.

She looked from his hand to his face. "It is true. You did fight him. I cannot believe you did that."

In contrast to her grim expression, Berior was grinning widely at him.

Legolas looked down, not certain whether Eirienil's disapproval or Berior's obvious approval disturbed him more.

You must be in so much trouble," Eirienil added in a whisper. "Why did you do it, Legolas? After all the times he has provoked us, why let him push you into a fight this time?"

"You have no room to talk," Legolas responded without looking at her. "You would have hit him that day in the barnyard if Tulus had not stopped you,"

"I am not so certain that I am criticizing you," Eirienil replied. "I do not deny there have been many times that I wanted to wallop him. I am just curious what made you finally do it."

Legolas glanced up at her before looking back at his feet. "I do not really want to talk about it," he mumbled.

Eirienil and Berior loosed irate exclamations in protest, but before either child could voice any argument to persuade Legolas to tell the story, Galithil spoke from behind them. "Noruil called Uncle Thranduil a tyrant. Legolas gave them a chance to take it back, but they would not, so they deserved what they got," he said.

Eirienil and Berior turned to stare at Galithil in response to that revelation. Legolas glared at him. Galithil looked back at him and spread his hands wide. "What? I am not calling Uncle a tyrant. I am only repeating what Noruil said and agreeing that you had every right to hit him." He focused on Eirienil and Berior again. "Noruil did not just say tyrant. He said domineering, penurious tyrant."

Legolas put his hands on his hips, but none of the other children noticed him. Berior's eyes widened even further and Eirienil hurumphed loudly. "I am shocked they even know such words. They always struck me as rather stupid," she said, looking down her nose at Galithil.

He broke into a grin. "That is the funniest part. Maidhien asked what those words meant. Uncle said that Noruil should explain it since he was the one that had said it, and so then Noruil had to admit he does not even know what the words he used mean. He is so stupid that he was using an insult he did not even understand," he concluded, laughing. Eirienil shook her head and Berior giggled.

"Enough," Legolas said, stepping between them. "What Noruil said is not funny, whether he understood it or not. It is even less funny since he did not, because that means he heard it somewhere else. From an adult."

"Their parents, no doubt," Eirienil said. "No surprise there. We have all heard them criticize Uncle Thranduil and Aunt Lindomiel and everyone else for that matter." Then she fixed Legolas with a sympathetic look. "But I agree it is not funny that you should get in trouble for teaching them the lesson they have long had coming. What is your punishment? It must be bad. Uncle Thranduil barely spoke at dinner last night and he was clenching his jaw so tightly every time I dared look at him that I was surprised he ever managed to chew any food."

That observation elicited another giggle from Berior.

Legolas glanced at him and then looked back at his feet. "No punishment," he said softly. "Ada asked me to promise I would try not to fight with them again."

Eirienil leaned forward. "You cannot be serious!" she exclaimed, her voice high-pitched.

Berior was shaking his head. "We were speculating whether you would be restricted to your room for a year or if it would be all the way until you came of age. Or if you would spend the rest of your life helping in the infirmary like when you shoved Galithil. Or..."

"Ada said that we could agree that the shock of hearing him called such things was 'too great to bear,'" Legolas interrupted, not willing to listen to Berior's litany of possible punishments--all of which he had already spent enough time contemplating himself. Instead, he was looking at Galithil, who had been glaring at him since he declared the name-calling 'not funny' and who was now glaring especially hard since he said he had not been punished.

"Unbelievable," Eirienil said, shaking her head.

"It is not so unbelievable," an adult voice said from the doorway. The children turned to see Aradunnon leaning against the door and grinning. "I have heard stories about Thranduil fighting with his share of people, in particular Noldorin elves in Lindon, who criticized our adar." Then he laughed. "For that matter, I saw Thranduil knock a Noldorin lieutenant to the ground after he criticized our adar's actions on the Dagorlad. I think Thranduil just did not have the heart to punish something he was guilty of himself," he said.

"And I think Uncle Thranduil might knock you to the ground for telling such tales, adar," said Dolgailon, who stood behind his father in the hallway.

Aradunnon turned and glared at him.

Dolgailon, who was clearly as amused as Eirienil and Berior, appeared quite pleased by that reaction. "It is time for breakfast," he continued. "We had better all go to the dining room."

Eirienil and Berior ran out of Legolas’s room and flanked Aradunnon, laughing and clamoring for him to tell the story of Thranduil and the Noldorin lieutenant. Dolgailon looked at his father with a 'you are in trouble now' expression, but Aradunnon happily began relating the tale as they walked down the hall to the dining room.

Rather than following them, Legolas hung back, remaining in his room and looking steadily at his cousin. In response, Galithil glanced at his father to confirm he was too focused on telling stories to notice they had not followed. Then he turned to Legolas and returned his gaze silently.

“So are you still angry with me?” Legolas asked, his posture stiff.

Galithil stared at him for a moment longer. “Yes,” he answered, bitterly. Then a slight smile lit his eyes. “But not as much since I did not really get in trouble either.”

Legolas frowned and drew a breath to tell his cousin he was lucky and that it was his own fault if he did get in trouble. But before he could blurt out what he was thinking, he closed his mouth and looked down. No point in arguing further. “What in all of Arda did you tell your adar to convince him to give us archery lessons,” he asked instead when he looked back at Galithil.

Galithil grinned and took a step closer to Legolas. “I told him that I only wanted to learn to defend this realm like he does.”

A scornful laugh escaped Legolas's lips despite his intent to avoid further antagonizing his cousin. “You cannot be serious! He could not possibly be so foolish as to fall for that.”

Galithil drew himself taller. “It is true,” he replied and crossed his arms over his chest when Legolas continued to look at him doubtfully. “How is me wanting to learn to fight like my adar and brother different from you wanting to learn all those stupid languages like Aunt Lindomiel? Or worse! How is it different from you willingly reading all those stupid history books about daeradar and Lenwe and Denethor and who knows who else?”

Legolas sighed. “Well, maybe. But I still cannot believe Uncle Aradunnon believed it.”

Galithil shrugged. “He did not believe it at first. He told me I did not even know what I was talking about, but I reminded him of Himion and Candirith."

Legolas looked at Galithil sharply in response to those names. "What do they have to do with it?"

"Their death was certainly the work of the the Shadow and we saw it. So we know what the Shadow is. We..." he paused. "I," he said firmly, "know exactly what it is that the warriors fight and I want to help fight it however I can."

Legolas studied his cousin silently for a long moment. He remembered Himion and Candirith's deaths every bit as well as Galithil did, but he doubted that meant either of them really knew anything about what the warriors did on a daily basis. And even if it did, that had nothing to do with the real issue in Legolas's mind--Galithil breaking his word. Nothing unless you counted the fact that warriors had to be trustworthy and trustworthy people did not break their word. He shook his head.

"Well, the archery lessons will be fun," Legolas said quietly, as he moved to leave the room. "But adar mentioned to me that along with adult privileges come adult responsibilities. I am a little worried to find out what that will mean." Legolas glanced back to see Galithil frown.

"Adults have more fun than we do. It might not mean anything too horrible," Galithil responded. Then he skipped forward to catch up with Legolas. "Maybe it means our adars will take us on the hunt for the festival," he said. "That is an important adult responsibility and they must be getting ready to leave any day now. The festival is very soon." He gave Legolas an excited shove. "And they promised a while ago to teach us to track. What better time to teach us than during the hunt? Maybe they will take us."

Legolas looked at his cousin levelly as they walked out of his room until Galithil rolled his eyes and deflated a little.

"Your adar is too creative. It could mean anything," he admitted, pulling Legolas's door shut behind them.


*~*~*

The sound of quills scraping across parchment was punctuated by a long, breathy sigh. Legolas glanced to his left. Galithil was twirling the quill in his hand between his thumb and index finger and staring miserably at the stack of correspondence in front of him. He seemed to feel Legolas looking at him. "So much for no punishment," he whispered dejectedly.

"So much for going hunting with them, you mean," Legolas whispered back. "I think this is more the sort of 'adult responsibilities' they had in mind to earn the privilege of the archery lessons."

Legolas had barely finished speaking when he felt a soft leather slipper kick his shin under the table. He turned to glare at Eirienil, who was seated across from him busily copying her stack of documents. As he did, he spotted her mother, Isteth, looking at both he and Galithil coolly. He quickly went back to copying.

Isteth stood and walked the length of the table to stand behind Legolas and Galithil. She watched them write for a moment and then reached down and took Galithil's paper from him. "It must be legible to be of value," she whispered. "Without ink blotches obscuring every other word. Please copy that letter again. Neatly, this time."

Legolas dared a glance at his cousin. Galithil's jaw was tightly clenched, but the only reply he made was a muttered, 'Yes ma'am.' Everyone knew Eirienil's parents were not to be argued with. Besides, Isteth was the Chief Scribe and as such she had the right to correct their work. Legolas saw her nod at the much more carefully drawn runes that Galithil was forming on his fresh piece of parchment. "One more copy each after the ones you are doing now and then you may leave for the day," she said as she returned to where she had been seated before, working on her own copying. Galithil broke into a broad smile and leaned closer to his work in concentration.

Legolas finished the copy he was making and put it on the stack of completed copies, placing a blotter on top of it. Then he reached for the next letter in the stack that remained to be copied and scanned it quickly. With a smile, he pushed it towards Galithil. "You do this one," he whispered.

Galithil frowned. "Why? Is it long?" Legolas watched with a grin as his cousin looked at the letter. Written in Thranduil's hand, it was an order describing the distribution of newly acquired swords to the troops in the border patrols. Galithil's expression brightened. "Swords?" he whispered, pulling the letter closer and reading it more carefully.

"I told you this was not a punishment...that it might be interesting," Legolas said.

Galithil was too pleased by the contents of the letter to even be properly angry at his cousin's 'I told you so.'

The sound of quills again whispered in the hall as all three children focused on completing their work. Legolas was almost finished with his last copy and Eirienil was helping her mother bind the copies--a task she was only just learning--when an angry voice echoed in the hall from near the throne where Thranduil was speaking with Hallion and Aradunnon.

"Domineering, penurious tyrant!" Thranduil quoted, voice rising with each word. "You cannot believe that I will let such an accusation pass unchallenged."

Legolas and Galithil both stopped writing and looked at the King.

Hallion responded in the same quiet voice they had been speaking in all along. Legolas and Galithil could barely make out his words.

"We had this same conversation only two days ago, my lord. What would you do with them? You cannot exile their children."

"We can exile only them--allow their wives and children to stay if they wish," Aradunnon replied.

Hallion looked between the King and his brother clearly dismayed. "You cannot believe that they will leave their wives and children here or that Eregeth and Lalfien would be willing to be separated from their husbands."

"That would be their own choice then," Aradunnon replied.

"But the King would be no less responsible for the consequences," Hallion countered. "The way to address this is to regain their loyalty..."

"That has worked well so far," Aradunnon interrupted, with open sarcasm.

"Little real effort has been made," Hallion responded, exasperation creeping into his voice.

"Enough," Thranduil intervened. "There is no possibility that I will leave this unanswered, lord Hallion, I am willing to listen to criticism intended to benefit this realm, but Dolwon and Dannenion's words are not meant to offer advice, but rather to stir unrest. And that I will not tolerate." He paused and looked at Hallion. "I want both Dolwon and Dannenion brought to me. Along with their wives. Tomorrow."

Hallion pressed his lips together worriedly. "To what end, my lord?" he began.

"That will be determined by their attitude, lord Hallion," Thranduil responded. "Inform them tonight that they are to speak with me tomorrow morning."

Hallion bowed in acknowledgment of the command. "At least wait until after the hunt for the Festival, my lord. Until after tempers have cooled a bit..."

"Tomorrow, Hallion," Thranduil repeated. "I will not show even the slightest hesitation in dealing with this."

"Yes, my lord," Hallion replied softly.

Galithil nudged Legolas and was giggling softly when he turned to him. "We will have to be especially careful tomorrow when doing the copying," Galithil whispered. "I want to still be here to see that conversation. It will be as exciting as the dwarves were."

Legolas shook his head and returned to his copying.

"Hurry up," Eirienil whispered as she walked past them with a stack of copies on her way to store them in the library.

"We will see you on the Green in a few minutes," Galithil whispered in reply. "See if you can find Maidhien while you are waiting for us. I want to be sure she did not get in trouble for what happened yesterday,"

Eirienil frowned, but nodded in agreement, hurrying towards the doors of the Hall.

*~*~*

Legolas and Galithil ran along the path towards Dannenion's cottage, looking for Eirienil and their other friends, since none of the children were on the Green when they were released from their copying work. As they approached Dannenion's yard, they heard his voice drowning out the forest sounds. "It is tyranny to allow people to starve while you hold feasts. It is tyranny to allow people to be slaughtered by orcs and spiders while you live safely in a palace. It is tyranny..."

"The King does not 'allow' any of those things," Eirienil spoke over him heatedly as Legolas and Galithil strode into the yard. They were greeted by a nervous look from Maidhien. Anastor and Noruil both leveled cold glares at them and took a step closer to their adars, and consequently towards Legolas and Galithil. In response, Galithil balled his fists. Legolas stopped several paces from where Dannenion and Eirienil were faced off and put his arm out to his side to stop Galithil from advancing any further.

"Eirienil, do not argue. Come play on the Green," he called.

Eirienil either ignored him or else she truly did not hear him over Dannenion's continued argument.

"You are a child. You know nothing of what Thranduil allows," he was shouting. "I," he pointed to himself, "I know, despite Thranduil's efforts to keep me from the truth. I still have regular letters from my kin in the south. Orcs raided their village three times this winter alone..."

"Any intelligent person would move their village to a safer location then," Eirienil cut him off. "I have never heard of orcs anywhere near the capital."

"Enough, Eirienil," Legolas said, this time in a louder voice. But, again, no one acknowledged him except Maidhien, who nodded her head in agreement while looking pleadingly at Eirienil.

"Because people like my kin fight to keep the orcs away from the capital," Dannenion countered, also ignoring Legolas. "They fight to keep the southern forest safe while the King refuses to send troops to help them. Or even food to sustain their strength in the battle. If it were not for the villagers living in the south, the orcs would be at our doorsteps."

"Eirienil, we should just leave," Legolas said, reaching out to pull at her sleeve.

As he did, Eirienil took a step towards Dannenion with her hands on her hips, avoiding Legolas's attempt to pull her from the argument. "I think the warriors in the border patrol do more to keep the orcs at bay than villagers do..."

"The border patrols!" Dannenion scoffed. "They can barely feed themselves, much less hold back the orcs and spiders. Thranduil does not even feed the warriors he puts in harms way..."

"That is a lie," Eirienil yelled, completely losing her temper.

"It is what my kin in the south tell me," Dannenion responded. "I can show you the letter where my cousin tells of giving all his fish catch for three days to one patrol because they were hungry and had been provided nothing."

"It was an abnormally long, cold winter," Galithil said in a quiet voice, stepping forward to stand next to Eirienil. "No one had enough food. We were on short rations in the capital, all the villages were and the patrols were too. Even the Men and the Dwarves are short on food. The Men lost crops and the patrols arrested Dwarves who were poaching. The King and my adar provided as well as can be expected under the circumstances for both the warriors and the villages."

"Yet in just over a week the King," Dannenion nearly snarled the title, "will hold a feast. A feast that will spend enough food to feed the patrols for weeks...to feed villages for months. It is a disgraceful waste and the clearest example of tyranny that you could ask for. How can he justify wasting all that food? He cannot possibly justify it. He simply wants it. So he does as he pleases and may the villages and patrols starve."

Eirienil and Galithil had no response to that argument. They glared at Dannenion, breathing hard. The other children looked between Eirienil, Galithil and the adults with wide eyes. After a moment's silence, Anastor and Noruil snorted with laughter.

"You have no argument against that, Legolas? You were so quick to defend Thranduil last night. Are you going to hit my adar since you have no better argument against what he said?" Anastor asked mockingly.

Legolas looked at him silently for a moment and made a conscious effort to unball his fists, which he had apparently closed during Dannenion's last little speech. Then he took a deep breath and looked at Dannenion. "I am not going to argue at all. It is not my place and I have no knowledge of the basis for the King's decisions, since he does not discuss such matters with children. Master Rodonnon says only fools will argue topics they know nothing about. If Dannenion wants to know why the King makes the decisions he does, he should ask the King."

"Fools?!" Dannenion exclaimed, stepping forward and grabbing Legolas by the arm. "Are you calling me a fool?" he demanded. "I know more about these topics than you or your little cousins."

Legolas heard blood pounding in his ears and could not decide if it was fear or fury that motivated it. "Let me go, Dannenion," he said in a very low voice. At the edge of his senses, he was aware of Galithil indignantly demanding that Dannenion let his cousin go and of Eirienil pulling at Dannenion's wrist. Berior and Brethil also stepped towards Dannenion from where they had been watching the argument.

Dannenion's grip only tightened, causing Legolas's eyes to narrow and his chin to rise as he met Dannenion's cold gaze with a glare of his own. But before either Legolas or Dannenion could say another word, Dolwon pushed Eirienil aside, seized Dannenion's wrist roughly and shook loose his grasp.

"Have you lost your mind?" Dolwon asked with an openly panicked expression, his gaze darting to the trees. "That is the King's son. If one of the guards sees you, you will be lucky if you are only arrested."

"No one calls me a fool," Dannenion snapped, pulling away from Dolwon's grasp.

"I did not call you a fool," Legolas responded. "I said I would be a fool to argue with you since I know nothing of the subject. If you want to speak of it, better to speak with the King than with children. You might learn something that helps you understand the King's decisions. And you might have advice the King would benefit from hearing. He will listen, if you speak to him."

"Hmph!" snorted Dannenion, still glaring at Legolas. But he said nothing more.

Ignoring Dannenion's glare, Legolas turned from him to his cousins. "Now will you come on?" he asked, pulling at Eirienil and Galithil's sleeves. They, along with Berior, Brethil and Aewen, quickly and silently moved to follow Legolas from the yard. Maidhien cast a nervous glance at her father and then scampered after Legolas as well. Galithil motioned for her to catch up and she quickly ran to his side. From the corner of his eye, Legolas saw Anastor and Noruil start after them and he tensed involuntarily, preparing for more of a fight. But Dolwon caught his son by the arm and pulled him in the opposite direction towards their cottage, despite Noruil's loud protests. Dannenion snapped his fingers, arresting Anastor's movement. When Legolas glanced over his shoulder, Anastor was glaring at him, but he had stayed by his father's side.

Legolas and his cousins walked in silence until they reached the Green. Then Legolas stopped and looked back into the forest in the direction of Dannenion's cottage. "You should not argue with him," he said quietly.

Eirienil's jaw dropped, drawing Legolas's gaze back to his immediate surroundings. "Not argue with him? And let him say your adar is a tyrant? I most certainly will not. And neither should you!" she began, anger making her voice rise with each phrase.

Legolas drew a breath to answer her, but Galithil beat him to it. "There was no argument against what Dannenion said," he said. "Legolas was clever to divert the debate as he did."

Legolas frowned. "It was not a diversion. There is an argument against what Dannenion said, else adar would not have a feast—he would send more supplies to the warriors. We just do not know what the argument is, nor is it our place to make it. That is why I told him to speak to adar and why we should not argue with Maidhien's parents."

Galithil shook his head. "I heard adar and uncle Thranduil arguing yesterday. Ada was asking Uncle to send more warriors or more supplies south and Uncle said there were none of either to send. Ada was as angry as Dannenion was about it."

Maidhien nodded her head in agreement.

Legolas glanced at her. "None of this is for us to discuss here," he said, but Eirienil spoke over him.

"If the King said there was none of either to send, then there is not and that is the end of it," she said, replying to Galithil, but looking at Maidhien. "The King does all he can to protect the forest."

"Then you do have to wonder how he will manage the feast if he cannot send more food to the warriors," Maidhien said nervously.

Galithil nodded. "True," he agreed in a quiet voice.

Legolas's frown deepened. "You should not eavesdrop on Adar's conversations. You should not repeat what you hear him say. And you obviously misunderstood what you heard," he said in clipped tones.

Galithil shook his head. "I did not misunderstand. Ada was asking Uncle for more supplies for the southern border patrol, just as Dannenion said they needed. And Uncle said there were not any to send. And Ada said Uncle Celonhael said there were funds to buy some."

"And that is when the King said it did not matter if there were funds, because the Men lost their crops too, so there is not anything to buy," Maidhien chimed in.

Legolas turned to stare at her, but Galithil only nodded and continued telling the story.

"And so Ada said he wanted to take troops from the other border patrols to hunt for the southern border patrol. And Uncle said no. And Ada said he would send them with or without Uncle's permission and Uncle was very angry. He asked Ada if he would take supplies from the stores against orders as well. And Ada said he would not, but he would send the warriors to hunt."

"And then he said that about Thranduil leading troops off somewhere against the King's orders when Oropher was king. Where did he say Thranduil took the troops, Galithil?" Maidhien added.

Legolas looked from Maidhien to Galithil, who was grinning broadly and nodding. "He did not say where, but Ada did said your adar took troops into battle against Daeradar Oropher's orders. Uncle said Daeradar took away his rank when he returned," he said, giggling. "He implied he would do worse to my adar if he takes the troops south against orders as he threatened."

Legolas stared at Galithil for a long moment and then glanced at his cousins, who were staring at Galithil with varying degrees of shock, amusement and doubt, obviously ready to start speculating about the details of that story. Legolas forestalled the conversation. "First of all, my adar would not have disobeyed Daeradar when he was king..." he began.

"He did, Legolas," Galithil interjected, still giggling.

"Second of all, your adar will not disobey mine..."

"He sounded as if he might," Maidhien said.


Legolas shot a glare at her. "Third of all, Adar has reasons for not sending more warriors or supplies south and for having the feast despite short supplies. But those reasons are not something we should be discussing publicly and you know it."

Galithil's expression grew more serious in response to that.

"And fourth of all, how could you hear all this yesterday when you and Maidhien were playing in the caves all afternoon. I saw you cross the river and you went back across with me." He paused and looked at Maidhien. "And how could Maidhien hear anything my adar and your adar were discussing?"

"I am not lying about it, Legolas," Galithil exclaimed, taking an angry step towards him.

Maidhien did as well. "He is not lying," she echoed forcefully.

Legolas crossed his arms across his chest and looked at Galithil through narrowed eyes.

"It is none of your business how we heard them talking," Galithil said. "We did and that is what we heard. My ada disagrees so strongly with yours over this decision that he is willing to disobey him. So I think Dannenion probably has the truth of the argument that Uncle should send more supplies to the south."

Legolas continued to glare at Galithil, his posture tense. Galithil returned his glare defiantly until Maidhien stepped between them, twisting the sash on her dress between her fingers.

"Galithil is telling the truth about what we heard, but I agree with Legolas about not talking about it anymore. I do not want to argue," she said timidly.

Neither Legolas nor Galithil moved.

"Maidhien is right," Brethil said, pulling Legolas's arm to turn him away from Galithil. "First about Galithil using the bow and now this. You should not fight anymore."

"Maybe this is not the place for any part of this discussion, Legolas," Eirienil added in a whisper. "Just forget about it."

Legolas looked at her silently a moment. Then he drew a long breath and let it out slowly. "Probably true. What game do you want to play?" he asked, turning to Maidhien and making an effort to sound normal.

"Can we play Spider again?" she begged. "That was so much fun. My brother and cousin never played that with me before."

With a final glance at Legolas, Galithil tapped Maidhien on the shoulder. "Maidhien is the spider!" he called, dashing away from her. Looking relieved, Berior and Brethil ran in the opposite direction. Maidhien ran after them, squealing with excitement.

"It is not our affair to concern ourselves over," Eirienil said softly to Legolas as they also danced out of Maidhien's reach.

"I know," he said, but his expression was still stern.

~*~*~

Thranduil strode swiftly down the corridor, following Hallion. Both carried tall stacks of books, ledgers and loose papers. They were headed towards the library to store them. The day had been long and Thranduil wanted nothing more than to retire to his own chambers. But Aradunnon dogged their steps. The topic he wanted to debate--Dolwon and Dannenion--was the reason the day had seemed so long, and therefore it was the last thing Thranduil wanted to continue to discuss.

"I honestly do not understand why you feel so compelled to pursue conversations that I have clearly concluded," Thranduil said without looking at his brother. Perhaps his tone, which was openly disgusted, would communicate what his actions apparently had not. He had, after all, already resorted to helping Hallion carry books and papers in a vain attempt to escape Aradunnon's presence and end this discussion. Aradunnon had only taken a part of Hallion's heavy load as an excuse to follow them.

"Possibly because I have been utterly confused by some of the decisions you have made recently," Aradunnon countered, never one to be put off by any effort on his older brother's part to put him in his place, at least not in private.

Thranduil looked straight ahead and quickened his pace. He made no reply. There was no point in making one, since he had no intention of saying anything different than what he had already said in the family meeting when he thoroughly described the decision that Aradunnon was so intent upon questioning.

Aradunnon matched Thranduil's strides, coming up along side him to fix him with an intent glare. "Thranduil, you cannot possibly believe that bringing Dolwon and Dannenion into this stronghold on a daily basis will have any positive consequences," he said.

Thranduil's jaw tightened slightly, but that was the only response he made.

Aradunnon took two long strides and cut off his brother's march, stepping directly in front of him so abruptly that Thranduil collided with him, causing books to cascade to the floor. "This is a decision that directly affects me, Thranduil," he said, standing toe-to-toe with his brother and glaring at him over the books that remained in his arms. "My wife and son were targets, and may still be targets, of Dolwon and Dannenion's treachery. As an injured party, I have a right to a voice in how they are dealt with."

Thranduil leaned forward and spoke in a low voice. "You have stated your opinion that I should banish them. I heard you. But after speaking with them this afternoon, I decided that I have the greatest hope of regaining their loyalty if they serve Golwon. That way they can directly see what this family does to serve the best interests of this forest."

"The only thing they hope to see is the inner workings of this stronghold in the interest of planning another attempt..."

"You cannot prove that," Hallion interrupted. He shoved the books that both Aradunnon and the King had dropped into Aradunnon's arms, causing him to take a step back. "Dolwon came of his own will to speak to the King. He came before I sent word that he was required to come. And he brought Noruil with him. Both offered an apology..."

"A sincere one, no doubt," Aradunnon interjected, shifting the tall stack of books in his arms to better face off with Hallion.

"Noruil's apology was indeed thin on repentance and Dolwon's lacked it entirely. But they came freely and Dolwon spoke honestly with the King about his concerns. Not long after Dolwon left, Dannenion came and spoke in a like manner. If they oppose the King's rule because they believe he does not serve this forest as well as he might, what better way to correct that belief than by giving them a chance to see all that is done to serve this forest, while serving it themselves? And what better way to keep a close watch on them and limit their time to stir dissent? This is the course of action I have been recommending for years. Give it a chance to work, Aradunnon."

Aradunnon drew a breath to reply but Thranduil interrupted him with a hand on his shoulder. "I must find a way to make Dolwon and Dannenion part of this realm again, or I will have to banish them, and that is something I do not want to do," he said softly, making a supreme effort to govern his tone. Arguing rarely swayed Aradunnon, but reasoning often did. "I have made my decision on this issue and I told them both that this is the last opportunity I will give them. I am aware of the potential dangers involved in allowing them in the stronghold, and I intend to limit their movements and interactions as much as possible. Your part in that, as troop commander, is to manage the guards that we will use to watch them. If you want to consult with me regarding what we must do to best reduce their ability to exploit this situation, I will discuss that with you. But I will discuss nothing more. Now, will you support me or not?"

Aradunnon frowned and blew out a long breath. "Of course I will support you. But I do not have any faith that asking them to serve Golwon will have any more positive affect than forcing them to live in the capital for the last twenty years has."

"I have some hope for Dolwon," Thranduil said, taking a few of the books from Aradunnon's stack and continuing towards the library. Aradunnon and Hallion followed. "But much less for Dannenion, if I am to be honest."

"Perhaps if Dolwon can be won over, he can help sway Dannenion," Hallion suggested.

"Perhaps," Thranduil replied. "It will be a difficult road, in any case."

Aradunnon nodded. "Indeed. And I am glad to have as little to do with it as possible. Better Golwon than me."

Thranduil looked at his brother sidelong, his expression wry. "Golwon is more than capable of managing difficult personalities, since he is such a difficult personality himself."

Aradunnon laughed.

"Of course, you are more and more like him each day, it seems, given your recent behavior," Thranduil added, his tone mild, but his expression fairly serious.

"I apologize, Thranduil," Aradunnon replied, making little effort to conceal a smirk.

"Today is a day for sincere apologies, it seems," Thranduil said.

Aradunnon groaned. "Oh! When I begin to be likened to Dolwon, I think I really must protest," he said, still laughing, as they turned the corner into the corridor that ended at the library. A soft light glowed at the end of the hallway.

"I wonder what Rodonnon could be doing in the library so late at night," Hallion commented.

"I suppose we can take some perverse comfort in the fact that someone is having as long a day as we are," Thranduil replied dryly.

As they drew closer, they heard voices that were too high pitched to be adults.

"The children?" Thranduil asked, looking at Hallion and Aradunnon with some surprise.

"I certainly cannot imagine what they are studying at this late hour," Aradunnon said.

"Here!" a very excited voice boomed from the library. Now that they were closer, there was no doubt the speaker was Galithil. "Here it is!" he said. Now a thump echoed in the corridor. "Read this! Right here," Galithil commanded. The thump had clearly been a book falling heavily onto a wooden table.

"Whose hand is that?" Eirienil's voice could be heard saying as the adults approached the library door. "I have never seen that writing before."

"I do not know, but Galithil is right!" Legolas said. He sounded horrified.

"It means nothing," Eirienil said swiftly. "Just because you were right about the battle does not mean you are right about the Festival."

"It proves that I was telling the truth about what I heard--about both the battle and the Festival," Galithil replied.

"This only proves anything about the battle," Eirienil countered.

The adults stepped through the library door. Legolas was sitting at a table strewn with open books. Galithil and Eirienil flanked him on either side, faced off and arguing over his head. Legolas was bent over the large tome that Galithil had apparently thrust in front of him, reading swiftly and paying no heed to his cousins' arguments.

"I confess myself to be rather disturbed to hear that Galithil must prove the honesty of anything he has said," Aradunnon said from the doorway, frowning at Eirienil.

Startled, the children jumped. Legolas half turned in the chair and looked at his father and uncles with wide eyes, his finger slipping from the line of writing he had been reading. Still staring at his father, he groped for a piece of parchment and dragged it over the page of the book, covering the writing. At the same time, Eirienil and Galithil stepped closer to Legolas, as if to block the adults' view of the table. Eirienil met Aradunnon's stern gaze, bit her lower lip and said nothing. Galithil looked at his father as if he had just been caught with a knife or bow in his hand. Thranduil frowned. All the children looked as if they had just been caught doing something forbidden and he could not imagine what that could be, since they were in the library.

"What are you children reading that is so much more interesting than dancing on the Green?" Thranduil asked, as he, Aradunnon and Hallion placed the materials they had been carrying on the table. Hallion picked up one of the books the children had been reading. It was blue-bound, a history book. Some of the other books on the table were also histories. Others, including the one Legolas had so carefully covered, were green-bound legal records.

At Thranduil's question, Eirienil and Galithil looked at Legolas with very serious expressions, clearly expecting him to answer. Legolas grimaced slightly, straightened in his chair, and looked up at his father with a resolute expression.

"Ada, may I ask you about something? Something about governance?" he asked, rather than answering his father's question.

Eirienil's gaze snapped to Legolas, her eyes again as wide as they had been when the adults had surprised them moments before. Galithil gave his cousin what he obviously assumed to be a subtle shove with his shoulder and was also looking at him incredulously.

Thranduil raised an eyebrow. Given the number of books on the table, fairly extensive research had apparently prompted this question, so he was curious to hear it, especially since Galithil and Eirienil obviously thought it such a poor idea to ask it. Thranduil turned the same impassive expression that he normally wore in court on the most unexpected figure of his young son. "You may ask," he said, moving to seat himself at the table and signaling Aradunnon and Hallion to do the same. Galithil and Eirienil scurried out of his way to stand behind Legolas. "And after you ask it, I will decide if it is a topic that I feel you are ready to discuss," he finished, leaning back in the chair and looking at his son expectantly.

Legolas sighed and looked down. When he faced his father again, he appeared as if he were about to confess to some misdeed. "Ada, if there has been so little food this winter...if it is true that the patrols and villages have been as short on food as we were, is it wrong to use up so much food for the Spring Festival? It seems as if it would be better to distribute food to the warriors and villages before using it for a festival." He spoke quickly, in a soft voice, and as he did, he watched his father's expression anxiously, clearly concerned by the reaction his question might arouse. Eirienil and Galithil looked as if they wished they were anywhere but there.

Therefore, Thranduil maintained as neutral an expression as he could. "That is a good question, ion nin," he responded evenly, managing to largely conceal his surprise when Legolas slumped slightly in his chair in obvious relief. "It is one I ask myself every time the Spring Festival approaches after a winter that was harsh or when food is scarce."

Legolas leaned forward. "You do?"

"You do?" Galithil echoed behind him, all his previous nervousness erased by an expression of utter surprise.

"Of course," Thranduil replied, gesturing in the direction of the chairs around the table. Without taking their eyes off him, Galithil and Eirienil scrambled into the chairs closest to them. "Indeed, I normally have to be convinced by Hallion, Golwon, Celonhael and Lindomiel to hold the festival under such conditions." He turned to Galithil. "Your adar and Engwe, in contrast, normally argue strongly in favor of sending supplies to the warriors."

Legolas glanced at Galithil and Aradunnon. Then he turned back to his father. "Why do naneth and uncles Hallion, Golwon and Celonhael argue for the festival? Why is holding it more important than supplying the patrols as uncle Aradunnon, and you, it seems, would prefer to do?" he asked.

"Supplying the warriors is obviously important. But you tell me, Legolas, how would you feel if, after this long and difficult winter, I cancelled the festival?" Thranduil asked.

"I would be disappointed, of course. Spring Festival is my favorite festival..."

"It is everyone's favorite festival," Hallion interjected quietly.

Legolas turned to Hallion. "True, but is a favorite festival more important than ensuring that the warriors are well enough supplied to defend us?"

"Well said, Legolas," Aradunnon muttered.

Hallion looked to Thranduil and, at the king's nod, he answered. "The patrols are adequately, if not not ideally supplied. But, is the forest worth defending if the people are not happy in it?" he replied. "What are we defending if not the people's right to live according to their nature? Merrymaking is part of the very nature of these people. I doubt the King could cancel the festival, even if he tried. If he chose not to participate in it, the people would still gather, make merry and feast on the food that they could put together themselves. And they would not understand why their King did not see fit to join them."

Legolas looked from Hallion to his father.

Thranduil nodded. "That is true beyond doubt. The Spring Festival raises the spirit of the people, and that is especially important after a difficult winter. It is as necessary as supplying the patrols." He paused to draw Legolas's full attention. "And do not fear that I leave the patrols under-supplied. We will bring down enough game during the hunt, and prepare enough bread and other food stuffs, to send the warriors what they need. Winter has ended and Spring provides--that is what we celebrate, what we give thanks for, during the Festival, after all." He leaned back and looked at all the children. "Does that answer your question?"

"What if the warriors could not be supplied adequately? What if they needed more?" Galithil asked.

"Then less food would be used for the Festival and more sent to the patrols," Thranduil answered. "But you should ask your adar if he feels I send enough."

Galithil looked at his father, who remained silent, his lips pressed tightly together, but his expression otherwise completely neutral.

"He will tell you," Thranduil continued, "that I do not send enough and that he does not agree with all my decisions of this nature. It is his duty to advocate for the troops he commands, as it is Eirienil's father's duty to advocate for the villages. Her adar will tell you that I do not send enough food and supplies to them. Berior's adar tells me I spend too much purchasing supplies for both the warriors and the villagers from the Men. It is my duty to listen to all of them and balance their advice into decisions that will best serve everyone in this realm."

"So, in the end, since there is not enough to give everyone all of what they want, they all get something, but none of them are completely happy," Eirienil observed, speaking to no one in particular. "That must be frustrating."

"Quite," Thranduil said with a smile. "It is often most unsatisfying, but it is the best we can do, so we settle for it, remembering that all things, both pleasant and unpleasant, eventually pass--years of hardship give way to years of plenty, which in turn also fade."

The children made no response to that, so after a moment's pause, Thranduil voiced his own question. "May I ask what has prompted your concern for the health of our warriors?" he asked, with a glance to Aradunnon. He was fairly certain he already knew the answer. Because of that, the children's reaction surprised him. They tensed and again looked to Legolas. He, in turn, looked at his father sidelong.

"Something Dannenion said," he admitted after a long pause. "He said it was wrong to waste food on the Festival while the patrols went hungry. We know the patrols do not go hungry," he added quickly. "Well, not entirely, anyway. But..." Legolas appeared ready to say more, but he cut himself off and remained silent instead, no longer meeting his father's gaze.

With that unspoken confession, Thranduil finally understood. "But what Dannenion said about wasting food while the patrols went hungry made some sense to you and you found that troubling," he finished for him with a quiet voice.

Legolas looked up and drew a breath, clearly intending to deny that statement. But instead, he closed his mouth without speaking, pressed his lips together and the guilty expression returned to his face.

Thranduil smiled sadly and leaned forward to lay his hand on his shoulder. "I understand," he said softly. "These are not easy decisions for me to make. I do not expect them to be easy decisions for everyone to understand." He looked at Legolas's cousins. "I do not even expect everyone to agree with them. Your adars often do not agree with me. But I do expect everyone who serves me to support the decisions I make once they are made. Your adars always do that."

"Sending troops south against your orders does not sound like support to me," Eirienil said quietly, looking at the table rather than the adults.

Galithil shot her a scathing glare. Aradunnon's jaw dropped and he stared at her as well.

Now it was Thranduil's turn to tense. "Your adar told you about that, did he?" he asked, addressing Galithil. He could not keep the anger out of his tone.

Both Galithil and Aradunnon shook their heads. "I overheard him speaking," Galithil said quickly.

Thranduil looked towards the ceiling. "I should have guessed. Normally I would scold you for eavesdropping on conversations that are not your affair, but your adar was almost certainly having this conversation in a tone of voice you could not have hoped to avoid hearing unless you left the stronghold, so I suppose I can hardly blame you."

"That is not true, my lord," Aradunnon interrupted. "I never spoke of this to anyone but you and I would not have."

Thranduil ignored him, continuing to address Galithil instead with a serious expression. "If your adar chooses to disobey me, I will remove him from command of the warriors and give that command to your brother. While I have no doubt that your brother would make an excellent troop commander, losing Aradunnon's experience would be very damaging to this realm. I am confident that knowledge will lead your adar to make the right choice."

Aradunnon nodded. "I admit that I did suggest to the King that I would send the troops south despite his orders that they remain with their regular patrols, but I only did that to impress upon him how serious I felt the situation was. I was certain that if he and I spoke further about supplying the warriors in the south, we could find an adequate solution and we did. I would not disobey the King, Galithil. I certainly do not want any of you to think I would do such a thing, much less do so lightly."

Galithil looked between his adar and Thranduil and made no response, though he looked as if he wanted to. Legolas leaned forward in his chair slightly, biting his lower lip and looking at his father intently. He was also obviously debating with himself whether he should speak. When he opened his mouth and drew a breath, Eirienil kicked him under the table.

"No, Legolas," she whispered.

Thranduil looked her, eyebrows raised. "There is nothing you cannot ask me," he replied, "There may be questions I will not answer, since you are yet very young, but all I will do is tell you that you are too young."

Legolas glanced at Eirienil, who still shook her head. Then he drew a deep breath and looked back at his father. "Did you know that daeradar would remove you as troop commander when you took warriors to..." he shoved the paper off the book in front of him and scanned the page quickly, "...to Gwathló to fight with some King named Gil-galad and Men? Were you not worried what affect your disobedience would have on the realm when you did it?"

Thranduil stared at Legolas in silence for a long moment, vaguely aware that Aradunnon and Hallion were looking at him tensely. Then, still without speaking, his gaze shifted to the green-bound book Legolas had been reading. He reached for it and pulled it in front of him. The page it was open to was written in Oropher's hand. He had been so angry at Thranduil, that he had recorded all the proceedings surrounding this incident himself, to ensure everything was detailed exactly as he intended it. Thranduil remembered that very well. He looked back at the children, who again were watching him anxiously. He took a deep breath and released it slowly.

"This is something I cannot possibly explain to you," he said, hoping his voice was calm. "Not now. You simply do not know enough about the situation...about who Sauron is and what he was responsible for throughout the First and Second Ages and who he was attacking..."

Legolas gestured to the book. "It says he was attacking your cousin, Celeborn, in Ost-in Edhil. That was your argument in defense of your actions. But daeradar said he was attacking Noldor kingdoms and kingdoms of Men that were not our concern," he interrupted. "If one of the kingdoms under attack was a kingdom of Elves, why would daeradar not come to their aid? Even if they were Men, you aid the Mannish villages near the forest, so why would daeradar not help them?"

Thranduil looked at his son's very earnest and obviously confused expression, and found himself at a loss for words.

"Those are very complicated questions, Legolas," Hallion intervened softly. "And not ones that can be answered without a deep understanding of who the Noldor and Mannish kingdoms were, as your adar said. You will study this soon enough with Master Rodonnon and understand it better then. For now, know that your adar did what he thought was best." He moved to stand. "Come, enough of this...."

Legolas frowned and remained seated, glaring at Hallion with a stubborn expression that Thranduil recognized only too well.

"I will try to answer him," he said quietly. Hallion sat back down slowly and the children turned to Thranduil with wide eyes. Thranduil looked at them for a long moment. "At the time, Sauron was at war with all of Eriador," he began. "He had attacked and destroyed Ost-in-Edhil. My adar refused to go to their aid because their lord, Celebrimbor, had earlier usurped the rightful rule of my cousin Celeborn." Thranduil paused and his jaw tightened. "Adar also refused to aid them because Celebrimbor was the grandson of an elf named Feanor, whose people are cursed by the Valar due to the violent acts they committed in order to retrieve three gems that Feanor had made. Adar moved us all here to Eryn Galen to avoid becoming entangled in that curse by living their lands. He certainly did not want to fight a war along side them--especially since that war was being fought over rings that Celebrimbor and his people had made. I, on the other hand, felt Sauron should be defeated before he could turn his attentions to this forest. I felt we should unite to destroy him for the good of all Middle Earth, even if it meant bringing great peril, even the curse of the Valar, upon myself and the warriors of this realm. And I still feel justified in thinking that. Sauron only barely escaped Gwathló. If we had more warriors in the final battle of that war, even a few more, we might have defeated Sauron there and if we had, we never would have suffered the War of the Last Alliance, or the evils that this forest sees now." He paused and looked at Legolas seriously. "I knew then, and I admit now, that disobeying my King was wrong, but I judged that the potential good that might come of it--the destruction of Sauron--outweighed the wrongdoing."

Legolas studied his father, his mouth slightly agape and brows furrowed, absorbing what he had said. "But," he finally said, "a person cannot disobey the King simply because he judges his own decision the better one and the situation to warrant it. That would lead to complete disorder."

"Absolutely true," Thranduil said, a faint smile now tugging at his lips. "There were many, many times that I did not agree with my adar's decisions. But, with the exception of that one time, I always obeyed his orders. Now that I am King, I rule this realm very differently from the way he ruled it, for that is now my right. And my council does not always agree with my decisions, as we have already discussed. Despite that, no one on my council has yet to disobey my rule." He glanced at Aradunnon. "I never truly believed your uncle Aradunnon would do so now. The stakes are not so high as to warrant such an action and he knows that in his heart. He would not risk the damage that might be done by depriving this realm of such an outstanding troop commander."

"You were your adar's troop commander," Legolas asked. "Do you believe your attempt to defeat Sauron outweighed the damage that was done to the realm when you were demoted upon your return?"

"No," Thranduil admitted. "We did not defeat Sauron. We only drove him back to Mordor, where he was able to rebuild his army and his strength. But Engwe, who served as troop commander after I was demoted, believed Sauron was no longer any threat. Thinking the forest safe, he let the army decline. I would not have made that mistake. So the result of my disobedience was that the realm was weakened. "

"If your actions weakened this realm, how can you still believe they were justified?" Legolas asked.

"Because they had the potential to free all of Middle Earth--something much greater than just this realm--of terrible evil."

"So if disobedience has the potential to accomplish a significantly greater good, it is justified?" Galithil asked.

"Such situations are very rare," Thranduil answered. "The person making the decision must be willing to accept the consequences of their disobedience--and those consequences might be dire. That said, yes. I do believe that."

"But it takes a long lifetime of experience to recognize such a situation," Aradunnon added, looking sternly at his son.

Galithil nodded with uncharacteristic meekness and none of the children said anything else.

"Come," Hallion said quietly. Without giving them any opportunity to protest, he stood and gestured for the children to do the same. "That is enough questions for this evening. It is late and I think you have enough to think about. Put these books in their proper places and we will go back to the family quarters."

Legolas and his cousins stood and began gathering the books. As they did, Thranduil leveled an angry glare on his brother.

"I beg your pardon, my lord," Aradunnon said, and unlike his earlier apology, this time his tone held sincere regret. "I swear to you, I did not discuss these topics with anyone but you and I would never do so. I cannot imagine how Galithil could have heard us speaking. I thought the children were outdoors at the time."

"We will confine all further discussion not suitable for young ears to the Great Hall," Thranduil answered coolly. "Is that clear, Aradunnon?"

"Yes, it is," Aradunnon answered.

~*~*~

Lindomiel sorted through the dresser drawers in Legolas's room, holding up shirts and discarding them, until she found one that had been recently made. She took that along with a tunic and pair of leggings and laid them over the back of a chair for Legolas to wear the next day.

"I shall have to make you more shirts again soon," she said. "Most of these will be too small for you now. As soon as the Festival is over, I will start on them," she said, turning towards Legolas's bed. Her son had climbed into it and was pulling the blanket over himself. He did not appear to have heard her, for he did not have the disgusted look that normally darkened his expression at the prospect of standing still for a clothes fitting. He did appear to be very serious, with his brows furrowed and his lips turned down in a slight frown. Lindomiel looked at Thranduil and saw her husband was also apparently deep in his own thoughts.

"You are both quiet tonight," she commented, raising her voice slightly in an effort to draw their attention.

Neither Legolas nor his father responded. Legolas merely snuggled against his pillow, still frowning.

"Thranduil," she called, stepping to stand directly in front of him.

His eyes focused on her immediately and filled with contrition. "I beg your pardon, Lindomiel. My mind was wandering. What did you say?" he asked.

Lindomiel sighed and moved to stand next to Legolas's bed. "I understand why you are preoccupied, Thranduil. I know you have had a difficult day, given the decisions you made regarding Dolwon and Dannenion," she said, tucking the blanket around Legolas and drawing his attention. "But I certainly wonder what has made Legolas so serious." She looked down at him. "Are you in some sort of trouble?" she asked sympathetically.

Legolas shook his head and sat up against the headboard of his bed, tossing back the covers and undoing his mother's efforts to tuck him in. "No. At least I do not think so." He looked at his father.

"Of course you are not," Thranduil replied.

Legolas smiled. "Ada and I were just talking about something Dannenion said to my cousins and I," he said in explanation to his mother. Then he turned back to Thranduil. "What decisions did you make about him today, ada?"

Thranduil sat on Legolas's bed. "Dolwon and Dannenion came to speak to me today. About what their children said about me yesterday," he explained. "We agreed that they will try to learn more about the service our family does for this realm by serving themselves, along side us. Beginning tomorrow, Dolwon and Dannenion will be working with Golwon."

Legolas stared at his father, obviously shocked. "Poor Golwon!" he exclaimed in a quiet voice. "They are so ill-mannered. I would not like to work with them." Then he looked sharply at his father. "Galithil and I will not have to copy for Golwon if they are in his office, will we?"

"No," Thranduil answered firmly. "You will have no contact with them at all."

"Good," Legolas said, slumping against the headboard.

Lindomiel studied her son closely. "I take it that whatever Dannenion said to you today bothered you?"

Legolas nodded. "But ada explained it, so it does not matter."

Lindomiel smiled at both her son and husband. "Well, I am very pleased to hear that," she said, kissing Legolas on the forehead and then Thranduil on the cheek. Thranduil smirked at her. She straightened and focused on Legolas. "Tomorrow, aunt Amoneth and I will begin making the cakes for the Festival. You and your cousins can help if you like. And invite Aewen and Brethil."

A smile lit Legolas's face. "Can we invite Maidhien too? Galithil will want to ask her and I am sure she would love to help."

Lindomiel's brows rose slightly, but she nodded. "If you think she would like to help, she certainly may."

Legolas laughed. "Who would not like to help make cakes? If you help make them, you get to eat some."

"And pilfer some of the ingredients, like sugar and nuts," Lindomiel added, also laughing.

Legolas did not even bother to appear contrite. "And if we are to begin helping with the preparations for the festival, we cannot be in the library doing lessons," Legolas reminded her with a hopeful tone.

"I will tell Master Rodonnon tomorrow that it is time for you and your cousins have a break from lessons in order to help prepare for the festival," she said. Then she leaned over to give Legolas one last hug before heading to the rooms she shared with Thranduil.

Thranduil leaned over to kiss Legolas goodnight as well, but when he straightened, Legolas caught his hand and held him in place on his bed. He remained silent until Lindomiel was all the way into her own bedroom. Then he looked up at his father.

"May I ask one more question, adar? On the topic we were discussing earlier?" Legolas asked.

"I much prefer for you to go to sleep thinking about cakes for the Festival," Thranduil said softly, "But you may ask your question," he added in response to his son's disappointed expression.

Legolas smiled his thanks before looking at him more solemnly. "If you believed so firmly that defeating Sauron was so important that you disobeyed your adar's orders, why do you not take all the warriors in all the patrols south to defeat him now? I know you believe it is Sauron in the south of this forest. I have heard you say that when talking about the Shadow. Danennion says that you should drive the orcs from the south. How do you know that he is not right and that you are not making the same mistake your adar did during the war in Eriador?"

"You seem to have had a very interesting conversation with Dannenion today," Thranduil observed coolly. Then he mastered his tone answered his son's question. "I know that I am not making the same mistake my adar did because I have tested Sauron's strength in the south. Before I moved the capital north, we tried numerous times to drive the orcs from our lands. I led several of those battles personally, so I know I do not have the power to destroy him alone. Since I cannot defeat Sauron wholly, I must ensure that I do not so severely deplete my resources that I can no longer hold him at bay or contribute to the battle that will finally defeat him. For never doubt, I will have a part in his downfall, and thus avenge my adar and so many others of my family and friends that he destroyed. When you begin to learn about commanding battle, you will learn that patience--waiting for the appropriate advantage--can mean the difference between victory and utter defeat."

"How do you recognize that advantage? Why did daeradar not recognize that fighting Sauron during the war in Eriador was the right time to fight him?"

"That is the problem, ion nin. Real battles are not like in Orthor, where you can plainly see the strength of the enemy's pieces on the board. It is not always easy to know when the time is ripe to attack an enemy, even if one has well placed spies and..." Thranduil hesitated and then waved himself to a stop entirely. "Battle tactics are something you will learn at a much later age. Not now," he said firmly. "For now, trust that your uncles and I keep a close watch for the appropriate opportunity and we have many allies that are doing the same."

Legolas drew a breath to reply, but just as quickly bit off his response. "I do trust that, ada," he said instead. "And thank you. For answering our questions." He grinned up at his father. "Though I do not know why you suddenly decided to do it, I really enjoy discussing these things with you. It is far more interesting than Rodonnon's lessons."

Thranduil laughed and caressed Legolas's cheek. "These are worthy questions, ion nin. I see the importance of answering them rather than allowing them to fester unanswered in your mind. As for why I suddenly decided to allow such questions, you may thank your naneth for that. She was raised for life in court, and raised very well for such a life, given how well prepared she was to be this realm's Queen, despite how young she was when she took on those duties. She said if you were old enough to articulate the questions, you were old enough to understand the answers. So, I followed her advice on this matter."

"Then I will thank her too."

"Be sure you do," Thranduil replied, smiling. "Now it is time for you to get some rest," he said, gesturing for Legolas to lie back down in his bed. Legolas squirmed under the covers and Thranduil tucked them around him. With great relief, he extinguished the lamps in Legolas's room and passed into his own.

He walked across the sitting room and into the bed chambers silently. As he walked, he shed his formal robe, tossing it on a chair, and the shirt underneath, draping it on another chair. Sitting on the bed, he reached to tug off his boots without bothering to unlace them.

Soft hands slipped around his waist.

"This was not a day I will remember with fondness," he said quietly, closing his eyes as he leaned into Lindomiel's embrace.

"That is likely true. But I believe it was a day that Legolas will remember fondly," she replied. "Did you see how pleased he was when he told me you had 'explained' things."

Thranduil chuckled. "I did. And he thanked me. When I mentioned it was you that persuaded me to be more open with him, he told me he would thank you." He loosed a long, tired sigh. "I have rarely been asked such difficult questions. I have a new respect for Rodonnon."

Lindomiel laughed. "But better that you answer his questions than someone else."

"That is certainly true," Thranduil replied solemnly.

~*~*~

AN: Himion and Candirith were guards that died defending Legolas, Galithil and their mothers from Easterlings in Journeys Begin.

Adar/ada - Father/dad

Naneth/nana - Mother/mum

ion nin - my son


Chapter 20 - Spring Festival

<b>Chapter 20: Spring Festival</b>

Stars began to twinkle into view in the darkening sky above the Green and the golden sparks of fireflies mirrored their glittering light in the shadows beneath the trees. Elves on the Green gathered around Galion, who was dispensing wine from a barrel, or danced and sang with the minstrels. A cacophony of musical instruments, songs, conversations and laughter echoed across the Green as the Woodelves awaited the arrival of their King to begin the Spring Festival. When the musicians trumpeted the royal family's emergence from the stronghold, the noise quieted down for a moment, only to be replaced by cheers.

Maidhien bounced on her toes, craning her neck this way and that, trying to catch a glimpse of the King between the forest of tall adults around her. Next to her, Galithil and her other friends stood completely forgotten. Unable able to see properly, Maidhien clamored up to stand on the long bench behind the table.

"Ooo, Galithil, your nana's dress is so pretty!" she exclaimed.

"Stop her before she climbs onto the table," Aewen said.

Galithil turned to scowl at Aewen, but her father, Dollion, placed a hand on his daughter's shoulder. "Let Maidhien be," he admonished quietly.

Maidhien had not noticed any part of this interchange. She was still staring at the procession behind the King as they took their places at the High Table. Her mouth was open slightly and she covered it with one hand, as if to contain her excitement. "Oh, and Legolas, your adar has flowers instead of berries in his crown tonight," she declared, pointing at the King.

"He always changes for Spring Festival," Legolas replied, smiling at her in amusement, but Maidhien did not hear him either.

"And look, there is your brother, Galithil," she said, now pointing at Dolgailon. "Why does he sit with Thranduil..."

"Lord Thranduil," Dollion corrected.

"...and you and Legolas do not?" Maidhien finished. She still had not taken her eyes off the King and his family

"Because we are too young to sit at the High Table," Galithil answered her. "The only thing I like being too young for," he added under his breath, with a grin. Legolas laughed.

"Everything just sparkles!" Maidhien said, breathlessly.

Everyone at the High Table had seated themselves except the King, indicating everyone else should sit as well. When the elves around her began to sit, Maidhien looked at Galithil. When he sat, she hopped down from the bench and knelt on it, in order to have a better view of the High Table.

Aewen rolled her eyes. "Honestly, you would think she had never been to a festival before," she said to Eirienil as the King began addressing his subjects assembled at the lower tables.

Eirienil shook her head quickly and cast her friend a disapproving look.

Maidhien turned her attention from studying the gowns worn by the ladies at the High Table to glance at Aewen. "But I have not been to a festival before," she said, turning back to the High Table. "Ada does not like them."

Aewen stared at her in response to that. Brethil and Berior turned to her as well. "Never?" Brethil asked, his voice rising a little too loudly in his surprise. Several nearby elves glanced away from the High Table to look at them. Brethil's father, Crithad, cleared his throat and arched an eyebrow in warning. Brethil mouthed an apology, but still looked at Maidhien incredulously.

Maidhien shrugged. "No, never. Ada and Nana do not approve of the festivals," she said, gesturing towards a table far at the back of the Green, where her brother sat with her parents, aunt, uncle and cousin. "Ada said we were only going to this festival because Golwon ordered him to go and Ada has to do what Golwon tells him to do now." She leaned her elbows on the table and propped her chin in her hands to listen as the King finished speaking. "I am so glad we came," she said when the musicians began to play again. "This is absolutely amazing. I wish..." But she did not voice her wish. Instead, her voice trailed off and she sat up straight, her gaze focused behind the High Table. "Oh my!" she exclaimed, in barely a whisper. "Look at that food!" She pointed to where a long line of elves carrying the first course of the banquet had begun to bring out platters laden with food.

"Everyone understands that you are excited, Maidhien," Brethil's mother, Merileth, said gently, "but try to remember that most of the time, we do not point. It is considered poor manners."

Maidhien glanced at her and pulled her hand back to cover her mouth again as she stared in awe at the food now being laid out on the table before her. She was blissfully unaware of Legolas and Galithil's smirks or Brethil and Aewen's parents smiling at her.

*~*~*

Noruil reached into his pocket to touch the napkin he had stuffed inside it. It was still there. He felt the shapes made by the sugar candies wrapped in the napkin and patted them gently before making sure for the thousandth time that they were well tucked, deep inside his pocket where they could not possibly fall out. When the festival had first begun, it initially seemed it would be every bit as horrible as uncle Dannenion had said it would be, what with the foolish way everyone was made to dress and be still and sit quietly at the table. And when Thranduil had started talking about hard Winters giving way to Springs of plenty, Noruil could not keep from rolling his eyes right along with his uncle and father and cousin.

But, the food was good, he conceded readily. Nana had never made boar and venison and pheasant all for the same meal. And he wished she would ask someone how to make the sauces that came with those dishes, because they were more flavorful than anything he had ever tasted! But when the elves bringing out the platters of food carried out the the first subtlety--the first of three and then a separate dessert too--it was all Noruil could do to keep himself from sweeping the whole thing onto his plate and devouring it all himself. A whole little hunting scene made of hardened sugar--one for each table! His mother had commented under her breath that each table's subtlety probably used up a hundred tree's worth of sap to boil down enough sugar. Noruil could not care less how much sap was used. Never, not once in his life, had he ever had candy made of sugar and it was the most delicious thing ever. It melted in his mouth as he sucked on it and the flavor was better than a thousand strawberries. When the other adults at their table gave him and Anastor their portions of the candy, Noruil could not believe his luck and he did not even mind the way they smiled at him as if he were a baby. He had enough candy stowed away in his napkin to last well into summer if he rationed it carefully, and that was exactly what he intended to do. That plan made him think of something else.

"Ada?"

"Hmm?" Dolwon replied, focused on the minstrels.

Noruil rolled his eyes in response to his father's absent expression and ardently hoped that, since dessert had been served, this would also be the last round of singing. Singing was simply stupid, and the fact that Legolas's cousins had performed in this latest round of singing only made it worse. "Is there a festival in summer too?"

Dolwon nodded. "First Fruits," he replied without taking his eyes off the entertainers.

"Are we going to it too?"

Again Dolwon nodded. "I imagine Golwon will expect us to go to all the festivals."

Noruil smiled. Maybe he could make the candy last until that festival and then there would be more candy at that one. Still smiling at that idea, he used his finger to scrape up the last bit of custard from the dessert bowl in front of him. His mother smacked his hand and said something about manners, but he ignored her. He was too happy to worry about manners.

"Oh no," he heard Anastor mutter.

Noruil looked up from his dessert bowl. His uncle Dannenion was hiding a grimace behind his napkin as he pretended to wipe his mouth. His father sat with a completely neutral expression on his face, still watching the minstrels. Anastor was openly glaring in the same direction. Noruil soon understood his cousin's disgust. That was Legolas singing.

<i>Denethor, the forest's child,
was born in the starlit Wild,
over him the forest song held sway,
and merrily led him away,</i>

Noruil sighed. "He is going to sing that stupid story Tulus told about the Ents," he whispered to his cousin.

Anastor nodded. "I hope it is short," he whispered back. "I am tired of sitting here."

Noruil nodded in response to that. So was he. Unless there was going to be more food, he was ready to get up and play. There were archery targets set up some distance down the lawn and Noruil hoped anyone would be allowed to shoot at them and not just the adults. Noruil turned his head to look at archery targets and as he did, his gaze swept over the High Table. And it stuck there. Noruil stared at Thranduil. He was clapping along with the song Legolas was singing and he was looking at his son with a ridiculous smile on his face.

Noruil frowned.

"I would die of embarrassment if Ada ever made us do anything like that," Anastor whispered in his ear. "And then made it worse by fawning all over us like Thranduil is doing. But Legolas is actually enjoying himself!" he concluded with a revolted tone.

Noruil's frown deepened. Ada had never 'fawned' over him in such a manner, that was certain. His eyes narrowed as he glared at Legolas.

"Indeed!" he heard his uncle whisper. "Singing about Denethor! Not courteous at all! I, for one, do not want to hear songs about a prince who abandoned his people."

Hearing that, Noruil shrank a bit closer to the table and some of the merriment he had felt earlier slipped away. He looked at his custard bowl to see if there was anything left in it to scrape out. To his surprise, from the corner of his eye, he saw the elf seated on his father's other side nod.

"Denethor is indeed not a pleasant topic in everyone's mind," he said quietly. "But this is a song about him as a child. And it was composed by a child. Legolas has probably learned very little about Denethor as an adult."

"He may even admire Denethor," the elf's wife added. "Remember, the Sindar all remember him fondly because he brought news from Eryn Galen to them in Beleriand. And no matter what you think of Denethor leaving the forest, we have him to thank for Oropher coming back to it. If Denethor had not gone to Belariand, Oropher might never have thought to come back across the mountains."

The husband held up his flagon. "True. Whatever evil befell us when Denethor left, he did that much good." He took a long drink from his cup.

Noruil tensed, expecting that comment would inspire an explosion from his uncle. His shoulders slumped a bit in relief when he saw Dannenion had maintained an unreadable expression. His father, on the other hand, had apparently missed the entire conversation. He was still watching the minstrels and was actually tapping his foot! Noruil turned to fully stare at his father and as he did, he saw Thranduil rise from the High Table and take Lindomiel onto the lawn. After a moment, other elves at other tables began to get up to dance.

Noruil held his breath and looked at his father, hoping he would release them from the table. He blinked when his father stood and held out his hand to his mother. Lalfien stared at his hand a moment and then her gaze moved from it to his face. Dolwon was smiling down at her.

"Come! It has been too long since we have danced," he said, reaching for her hand and pulling her to her feet.

"Ada, can we go play?" Noruil called as father...well, it could only be described as skipping, Noruil thought making a face... as his father skipped off to the dancing area.

Dolwon nodded and gestured for him to follow him to the dancing area.

Noruil placed both hands on the edge of the table, as if to prevent someone from dragging him over it. "I am not going to dance," he said.

"Me either," Anastor echoed. "Ada, can we go get our bows and shoot at the targets?"

Dannenion nodded without looking at his son. He was watching Dolwon and Lalfien.

*~*~*

Anastor stood with his back to the other children, arms crossed over his chest. He was looking out over the Green so that he would not have to look at the archery target. The shot he had just made was not as good as Noruil's had been. On the border between the second and third rings of the target, he was not even sure it would be good enough to beat his sister. That thought made him scowl and grind his teeth as he listened to Legolas and Galithil give her advice.

"Hold your left elbow higher. Level with your wrist," Legolas called.

"Remember to hold your stance once you release," Galithil added.

"As if you know how to shoot," Anastor interjected, looking over his shoulder at them. "You are not even competing."

"There is no point in us competing," Legolas said calmly. "We have only had two lessons from our adars and you have had your bows for months, so there is no doubt you would be better than us."

"But keeping your elbow up and holding your draw is what our adars told us during our lessons, and Maidhien does not do either, so we might as well help her," Galithil added.

Anastor cast him a scathing glare before turning back around, mimicking 'we have only had two lessons' quietly to himself while making a face as he did. They are not even ashamed that they could not win the contest, he thought. That was what Anastor hated most about Legolas. He was always so...reasonable and annoying!

"I do not have any idea why you like to play with them, Maidhien," he said out loud, still with his back to her. "They do not do anything interesting."

Maidhien ignored him--an immensely irritating trick she had learned from Legolas and his cousins. In his peripheral vision, Anastor saw his sister position herself and draw her bow. She lifted her elbow, slowly loosed a long breath and released her arrow. She even took Galithil's advice and left her bow in place in front of her, with her left hand against her jaw, which was something Anastor had never seen her bother with before. She dropped the bow to clap her hands when her arrow sunk into the target, so Anastor did not even bother to look where the arrow had hit. It was obvious her shot had been better than his and Noruil's.

"That is my best shot ever!" she exclaimed, beaming at Galithil and his cousins as they also applauded her. "I beat you, Anastor," she added with a gloating tone, turning to face him.

Anastor turned just enough to make a face at her. "Eirienil still has her turn," he reminded her.

Maidhien shrugged. "It suits me if she beats you too," she mocked.

"She is going to beat <i>you</i>," Anastor said, turning fully and taking a step towards his sister.

Maidhien smiled, which only made Anastor clench his fists. "And if she does, that shot will also beat you, so it will be a good one." She stepped back off the mark they had been shooting from and winked at Eirienil.

Eirienil stepped forward and lined herself up to take her shot as Anastor continued to glare at his sister. At the sound of her bow twanging, Anastor looked at the target. Eirienil's arrow hit inside its center. Noruil groaned.

Maidhien, in contrast, squealed with delight and clapped her hands. "You won again! You are so good!"

"Thank you," Eirienil said a little bashfully, but with a broad smile. "Nana is a good teacher," she added, looking at her mother, Isteth, who had been supervising their little contest.

"I heard that you shot a deer during the hunt for the feast," Maidhien interrupted, speaking to Eirienil's mother and looking at her excitedly for confirmation.

That made Anastor pause. He raised his eyebrows and looked at Isteth incredulously.

Isteth only smiled and nodded. "Go on and get your arrows. I think I hear the warriors coming and we must let them use the targets for their games now."

"Can we stay and watch them shoot?" Maidhien asked, skipping towards the targets. Then she paused and turned to look at Legolas and Galithil. "Will your adars compete?" she asked excitedly.

Anastor sighed--having to watch Thranduil shoot would ruin an otherwise perfectly good game--and followed the other children slowly and silently to the targets to retrieve his arrows.

"Ada does not usually play festival games," he heard Legolas respond.

"Too ashamed to lose them in front of everyone here," Anastor said under his breath as he approached the targets.

Noruil poked him in the side and gestured towards the approaching warriors. "Look, Anastor," he said. "They have spears too."

Anastor's face lit hopefully. "We always get caught spying on the warriors when they train with spears, since they always only do that right in the middle of the training grounds. This could be fun to watch!"

"What is so special about spears?" Galithil asked. "They are easy to use. The first weapon all the warriors are trained to use."

Anastor paused with his hand grasping one of his arrows and he turned his head from the warriors to look at Galithil disdainfully. "You do not know any more about fighting with spears than you do about archery," he said, giving his arrow a hard tug. He imagined he was tweaking Galithil's nose rather than pulling the arrow free.

"I know spears require less steel to make than swords and less skill to use than swords or bows, so that is why the patrols and village guards have more spears to fight with than swords," Galithil responded heatedly. "And I know that someone inexperienced with weapons can best defend themselves with a spear because it takes so little training to use."

"But offensively, they are better used as thrusting weapons than throwing weapons, unless you are fighting from a fortification," Eirienil added.

Anastor stared at her and she shrugged.

"Have you never played Orthor? If you throw a spear at your enemy on an open field, another enemy can pick it up and use it against you."

"What is Orthor?" Anastor asked, despite himself.

Galithil stopped pulling arrows out of the targets entirely and turned to face Anastor. "You have never played Orthor?" he exclaimed. "It is the best game ever. There are archers and pikemen and calvary and infantry and you can play on any map you can invent so your war can be on any terrain..."

"But it is only play, like with an elleth's dolls," Anastor interrupted, trying to sound uninterested, though he almost thought that game might be worth learning more about. That small feeling was squashed when Galithil laughed.

"Well since you are so interested in the spears, but you are too good to play Orthor, maybe you would like to play a match of pole and hoop with us," Galithil challenged.

Anastor felt his temper rise when Legolas and Eirienil smirked.

"What is that game?" Maidhien asked, always too eager to play foolish games with Legolas and his cousins.

Galithil grinned. "All of us would have a pole, like a spear. One of us rolls a hoop with netting on it and we all take turns throwing the poles through the hoop, trying to get the pole through the center of the netting. And there are two ways to determine who wins. One is just by counting points. Whoever gets twelve points first wins. Or you can play where two people throw at the same time and if one person gets the pole through the center of the netting and the other does not, the person who did not loses their pole to the person that did. You play until one person has all the poles."

"That game would be too easy to be fun," Anastor said scornfully.

"You have never played it?" Galithil asked, with a scheming expression.

Anastor studied him through narrowed eyes as he shook his head.

"It is not so easy," Galithil said. "I bet we could beat you."

"You could not," Anastor sneered.

"Prove it," Galithil replied. "We always play that game at festivals, so we have the hoop and enough poles for all of us over by the tables."

"Very well," Anastor answered back quickly, unwilling to back down and certain he could beat Galithil and Legolas. He had never seen them do anything that required skill. "Go get them. Noruil and I will play one game with you to show you how stupid you are being and then we are going to watch the warriors do something that takes real skill."

"Go get the poles and hoop, Berior," Galithil said without looking at his cousin. Instead, he was looking straight at Anastor with a mocking expression that made Anastor want to hit him. "If you think this game is going to be so easy and takes no skill," Galithil said as Berior sprinted off, "maybe we should have a little bet on the outcome."

"Galithil!" Legolas exclaimed, spinning around to face him. "Ada gets mad at your adar and brother for gambling and they are adults. He will kill us if he catches us doing it."

Anastor broke into a broad grin. "Agreed," he said immediately, laughing at Legolas's furious expression.

"You have nothing of value to bet," Legolas reminded them. "Neither of you do."

"Then the loser has to do a dare then," Anastor suggested. "If Noruil, Maidhien and I win, Galithil has to jump off the cliff into the pool where the moonbow is."

"I do not want to play on your team, Anastor!" Maidhien protested.

Engrossed in placing the bet, everyone ignored her.

"Agreed," Galithil said so readily that Anastor felt a twinge of nerves. "If Legolas, Eirienil and I win you have to..."

"You have to leave my cousins and I alone if you cannot be nice to us," Legolas interrupted.

Galithil scowled at him. "No, Legolas, I am not wasting the bet."

"And I am not watching you dare them to do something stupid where they might get hurt. That is not funny and it will only get us in even more trouble than if we are only caught betting. That is the bet or..." he hesitated, not sure what to threaten.

"Or what? You will go tell your adar like you did when I shot Maidhien's bow?" Galithil asked, bitterly.

"What?" Anastor fairly yelled, leaning forward in amazement. "You told on your own cousin! You are worse than I ever imagined!" He laughed when Legolas cast a betrayed look at Galithil, who did appear a little guilty.

"No," Legolas said quietly. "Or I will play so badly that you cannot possibly beat them and you have to make that stupid jump," he said, finishing his threat.

Anastor looked at Galithil with a delighted look.

"You would not do that!" Galthil said, studying his cousin warily.

"Yes I will," Legolas retorted coolly.

Anastor was openly laughing as Galithil crossed his arms across his chest. "Fine, if we win, you and Noruil have to be nice to my cousins and I," Galithil said.

Anastor sobered slightly. "Leave you alone, not be nice to you," he corrected, with a smirk. "That is what Legolas said."

"Well, I am changing it a bit," Galithil said.

"Very well, but if both Noruil and I have to be nice to you if you win, then both you and Legolas have to jump if we win."

Galithil looked at Legolas. Anastor did as well, with a mocking expression, certain Legolas would not agree.

Legolas sighed. "Agreed," he said quietly.

Anastor blinked. "It is going to be so funny to see you jump, Legolas, That cliff is really tall and you were too scared to even climb up it the night we went to see the moonbow," he said in a low voice that he hoped was frightening.

"Idiot," Eirienil said, shaking her head. "Do you think Legolas would have agreed to do something that stupid if he did not know he could win? You should be thanking him for preventing Galithil from making you do something stupid, not making fun of him."

Anastor glared at her silently. Legolas and his cousins were not going to beat him at any game, he said to himself firmly. A moment later, when Berior ran back with the poles and hoop, Anastor snatched a pole from his hands. "This is your 'spear?'" he asked, inspecting it scornfully. "It is blunt at both ends."

"It is for throwing through the hoop, not at targets," Galithil replied. "Berior, you roll the hoop. Legolas, Eirienil and I have a bet with them," he added.

Berior looked between Galithil and Anastor with wide eyes as Anastor hefted his pole.

"I can show you how to hold it," Galithil offered, looking at Anastor's fist closed tightly near the front of the spear.

Anastor cast him a sneering look. "I think I know how to hold a stick, Galithil," he said. "Just roll the target."

Galithil glanced at his cousins and laughed quietly, causing Anastor's eyes to narrow. With a shrug, Galithil signaled for Berior to roll the hoop along the grass. "Start out with a slow roll, Berior, " he said.

Anastor watched the hoop roll, so slowly it almost wobbled, and snorted. It would be easy to hit the target if Berior rolled it that slowly. He heaved his pole towards the hoop, but his mouth fell open and he felt his face burn when the pole bounced off the ground several feet short of the target.

Noruil and Maidhien also missed and, to Anastor's horror, Legolas, Galithil and Eirienil easily tossed their spears through the still rolling hoop as it passed them.

Anastor turned to stomp away. "You tricked us. You are cheating. We are not playing anymore," he declared.

"Do not be a bad sport, Anastor," Berior called after him. "If you let one of us show you how to throw, you will do much better."

Anastor wheeled around to face him. "I do not need you to show me how to do anything," he answered back sharply.

"Apparently you do," Galithil replied. Anastor's hands balled into fists before he registered that Galithil's tone had been even, not mocking. "Everyone has to be shown how the first time they do something," he continued when Anastor said nothing.

"Maidhien cannot do it either, Anastor," Berior said. "Maybe you can just watch us show her."

Anastor glared at him, but he did not leave either. Instead he watched as Legolas and Galithil showed Maidhien how to hold and throw her spear. When they were done, Galithil nodded to Berior, who had retrieved the hoop, and he rolled it slowly. Maidhien threw her spear when the hoop passed in front of her. It did not go through the hoop, but she was close.

"Let me try again!" she yelled, running to pick up her spear. When Berior rolled the hoop again, she got her spear through it. Everyone but Anastor clapped.

"Ask Anastor if he wants to try," Legolas whispered to her as she hefted her spear again.

"Why not ask me yourself?" Anastor snapped.

Legolas sighed and turned to face him. "Because it is impossible for me to say anything that does not make you angry."

"So then why even ask me to play in the first place?"

"I did not ask you to play!" Legolas said, losing his temper. "It was you and Galithil that wanted to bet on it! So here we are. Either play it or not."

Anastor glared at him a long moment and then stepped forward to snatch up his pole from the grass. "Roll the stupid hoop," he demanded and Berior rolled it automatically, not accustomed to anyone speaking to him so sharply. "But the bet is off because you cheated."

Anastor threw his spear, trying to remember in his anger everything Galithil and Legolas told his sister. Loose grip, level shaft, step forward with opposite foot. He threw. The spear went right through the hoop! He was still staring at it, pleased with himself, when he realized Legolas and his cousins were applauding him. He looked over at them, expecting to see mocking expressions. When they all appeared sincerely pleased, Anastor just stared at them.

"That was really good, especially for only your second try," Galithil said. "I bet you will be really good if you play a little."

Anastor frowned and looked down. "Noruil, you go get your spear and take a turn," he said quietly.

*~*~*

The moon was high in the sky and the barrels in the serving area empty, but many elves, including the King's family, continued dancing or singing or gaming on the Green in front of the stronghold, not ready to stop celebrating the end of a very difficult winter. Anastor and Noruil could hear the noise of the merrymaking through the window in Noruil's room.

Noruil tossed the embroidered tunic his mother had made him wear to the Festival into the laundry basket in his room. As he did, Anastor was tucking a blanket over the old mattress he always slept on when he spent the night in Noruil's cottage. He glanced at the discarded clothes.

"Stupid fancy tunics," he said quietly.

Noruil nodded. "I do not like wearing clothes I cannot even play in properly." He was quiet for a moment as Anastor fluffed the pillow he had brought from his own cottage and arranged it on the old mattress. "But the food was good and there was a lot of it," he ventured.

Anastor nodded. "I hid some of the sugar candy and kept it," he said showing his cousin a bulge in his tunic pocket.

Noruil grinned. "So did I," he said, lifting the mattress on his bed to reveal where he had hidden the napkin full of candies he had protected so carefully the entire evening. Then he looked at his cousin cautiously. "And I did not think the game Legolas and Galithil showed us was entirely stupid. But it would be more fun with a properly sharpened spear," he added quickly.

To his surprise, Anastor only nodded again. "It was a good game. I sure would like to get my hands on one of those real spears that the warriors used for their contest. That would be fun to play with."

"Maybe we could steal one from the storage shack on the training field tonight," Noruil suggested.

Anastor shook his head. "Ada said Thranduil has guards watching our cottages to make sure we do not sneak out at night anymore. And he said I would really regret it if Thranduil came to speak to him about me again."

Noruil slumped back against the headboard of his bed. Then he looked back at his cousin. "Maybe Glílavan will give us an old one."

Anastor shrugged. "We can ask, but I doubt it. He never even gives us arrows."

Noruil thought for a moment again. "Maybe we could persuade Galithil to get one for us. He is cleaning the weapons now, so he could maybe hide one for us where we could get it after dinner but before dark. We could say will will share it with him if he helps us get it."

Anastor raised his eyebrows. "That might work. Galithil is not as bad as the rest of that lot."

Noruil looked at Anastor sharply and then quickly assumed a thoughtful expression to hide his surprise when Anastor glanced up at him. "I suppose not," he answered.

"At least he wants to learn to be a warrior, it seems," Anastor said as he pulled the old blanket over himself.

Noruil only nodded.

*~*~*

Legolas, Galithil and Eirienil walked slowly through the quiet halls of the stronghold, wishing they could stay longer on the Green, but not foolish enough to argue.

"They are unbearable," Eirienil said as the door to the family quarters closed behind them. "Well, maybe not Maidhien," she added with a sidelong glance at Galithil. "I admit I rather enjoy playing with her. She is always so happy to do anything we like to do, it is hard not to like her. But her brother and cousin are horrible."

Legolas nodded.

"They were good at throwing the spears. And I bet they would like Orthor if we showed it to them," Galithil said. "They might not be too bad if we gave them a chance."

"If we gave them a chance?" Legolas exclaimed, turning to look incredulously at Galithil as they stopped where the hall to Eirienil's quarters split from the one that led to Legolas and Galithil's rooms. "We always give them a chance. They never give us one. We have never been the ones to pick a fight."

"I thought you said Uncle told you we should try to be nice to them because he is trying to improve his relations with their parents," Galithil shot back.

Legolas shook his head. "I said that Adar asked me not to provoke them. Playing with them is a far different thing from not provoking them."

Galithil sighed. "I just think they might be nice, like Maidhien, if they had time to figure out we were going to be nice to them. I mean, look at how Maidhien reacted to everything at the Festival. And to everything she does with us. It is as if she never did anything fun in her life or had any friends to do anything with. I imagine her brother and cousin must never have had any friends or done anything fun either. It is sad really and I feel sorry for them." Then he grinned. "Besides, you cannot deny it would be nice to have some real competition when we play games like throwing the spears. Berior and Brethil are both too young to play those games very well yet."

Eirienil put her hands on her hips. "I beat you both at pole and hoop. And I beat Anastor and Noruil at the archery contest. Am I not good competition?"

"You are an elleth. You do not count," Galithil said without looking at her.

"Hmmph!" Eirienil exclaimed. And she turned to trounce down the hall to her room without a backward look.

Legolas giggled quietly and pulled his cousin along the hall to their own rooms. "I will not refuse to play with them if they want to play with us. Which is easy to promise, because I cannot believe they ever will want to do anything with us. Just looking at me seems to make Anastor angry." He fixed Galithil with a serious look. "But I will not do anything stupid with them."

Galithil shrugged. "When have we ever done anything stupid?" he asked with a grin as he pulled open the door to his family's suite.

Legolas rolled his eyes and pulled open his own. "Drag your mattress over and camp in my room?" he suggested.

Galithil nodded eagerly and dashed into his room to get his mattress and pillow.

*~*~*

Adar/ada - Father/dad
Naneth/nana - Mother/mum

AN: I am ending Journeys of Discovery with this chapter. I have several other vignettes featuring young Legolas that stand alone, better than they fit in this story, so I decided I would post those separately. The main story will continue in Interrupted Journeys: Part Five--Journeys in Mirkwood.

I want to thank everyone who has stuck with this story so far. I appreciate everyone who reads (and especially reviews) very much and I hope you continue to enjoy.
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Printed from Open Scrolls Archive (http://www.openscrolls.net) on Wed May 22, 2019 6:40 pm