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Interrupted Journeys: Part Three--Journeys Begin

Chapter 12: Loss

by ellisk

“Daernana will like these, nana,” Legolas exclaimed, dashing down the hill into a small clearing in the trees. He fell to his knees on the ground and excitedly waved his mother to his side.

Lindomiel glanced at Amoneth, grinning, and walked into the bright sun where Legolas was stroking the tiny yellow clusters of blooms of a plant growing in the soft grass. When she saw it, Lindomiel’s eyes widened and she called to Amoneth and Galithil.

“Do you know what that plant is, Legolas?” she asked, kneeling next to him.

He looked up at her, shaking his head. “But it is pretty,” he said with a smile. “I bet these flowers make a pretty yellow dye.”

Lindomiel smiled back at Legolas. Every morning she and Amoneth took their sons with them into the forest where the children could play while their mothers accomplished whatever task their daily duties required of them. Today they were helping to gather plants that the artisans in the palace would use to dye the fabrics soon due from the western villages. Lindomiel and Dieneryn also used the dyes in their weaving. They had enjoyed a long ride to a relatively unpopulated area of the forest that had a wide variety of plants growing in a wide gully. That gully also had numerous small caves that the children liked to play in and that was why Lindomiel and Amoneth had decided to look for plants there.

“Oh Lindomiel!” Amoneth exclaimed as she joined her friend.

Lindomiel nodded with a wide grin. Then she turned back to her son. “Legolas, if you do not know what a plant is, then you should not touch it. What if that plant were poisonous?” She laughed quietly as Legolas hastily pulled his hands back and looked at her with wide eyes.

“Is it, nana?” he asked with a quietly nervous little voice. Earlier in the summer he had discovered the perils of particular varieties of sumac and it was an experience no one in the family wished to repeat, least of all Legolas.

“No, Legolas. This plant is not poisonous and you were correct that daernana will be absolutely thrilled that we found it. But since you cannot call it by name, you should not touch it,” she said gently.

Legolas scowled at his mother. “You scared me, nana,” he said reproachfully.

Lindomiel laughed and ruffled his hair. “Well, you scared me first. I could not see what plant you were playing with and I do not want you as miserable as you were after the sumac. But this plant, Legolas, is very valuable. This is woad. In the plains just a little further south, where it is sunny and the winters are milder, it is a terrible weed. It chokes out the grasses. But it almost never grows in the forest or this far north.”

She took her knife and dug around the base of the plant, removing it carefully from the ground. Then she took a cloth, spilled a little water on it from the skin she carried so the children had something to drink after they played, and wrapped the damp cloth around the little root ball she had extracted.

“We want to make sure this plant lives so we can plant it in the garden. One plant will not make enough dye, but the flowers from this one will give us enough seeds for dozens of plants next year.” She handed the woad to Legolas, placing his hands so they held the cloth around its roots. “Can you take care of this plant for me, Legolas?”

He nodded, the pride of being entrusted with the valuable plant driving away his anger at the scare his mother had given him. “Why is this plant so special, nana? Lots of plants make yellow dye.”

Amoneth and Lindomiel laughed shortly. “Yes they do, Legolas,” Amoneth said. “But woad makes a deep blue dye. There is only one other plant that makes such rich blue dye and it grows far, far to the south. It is extremely rare and expensive. We can make blues from elderberries, whortleberries, chicory leaves or blue bottle flowers, but the berries are more valuable as foods and the colors are not nearly as nice. Chicory is also more valuable as a food or medicine, especially since it does not grow well in the forest. And blue bottle cannot be made colorfast. But woad is a deep blue, colorfast dye. Your daernana has not had any nice blue dye for many years, so she will be very pleased with you for finding this stray plant.”

Legolas beamed at that.

As they spoke, Lindomiel was aware of the guards with them studying the woods on the northern rise of the little clearing. She stood, wiping her knife against the skirt of her gown to clean the dirt from it and looking in the same direction. The forest around them, she suddenly noticed, was very quiet.

“We need to leave, my lady,” Himion said softly. “Back to the horses. Now.”

Lindomiel’s heart began to race but she nodded silently, leaning over slightly to guide Legolas southward towards the Path. To her left, Amoneth picked up Galithil to climb more quickly from the gully. The guards followed them, still half turned to look behind them as they hurried their charges forward.

Lindomiel was reaching to pick Legolas up as well when she felt him start in reaction to a strange sound that she quickly recognized was the twang of a bowstring. Legolas looked over his shoulder towards the noise as Lindomiel involuntarily loosed a little shriek hearing the arrows hit their targets. Before she could react, the weight of her guard slammed into her, knocking her to the ground. She felt a sharp pain in her back and the world around her became a blur of motion.

Lindomiel raised her head to see Legolas staring wide-eyed and mouth agape at her and the guard on top of her.

Amoneth put Galithil on his feet on the ground next to Legolas.

“Run children. Run as fast as you can to the Path. Now,” she said urgently.

As Amoneth spoke, Lindomiel felt the weight of the guard roll off her, accompanied by a tearing pain, and she heard the sound of screaming voices and charging feet explode behind her. Amoneth pulled her up with one hand as she drew the sword from the scabbard of the fallen guard with the other. An arrow was in his back and its point protruded from his chest. Lindomiel felt something sticky running down her side. She ran her hand over it and realized it was blood.

The clang of swords and a rough grip on her arm tore her eyes from her bloodied hand to the fight erupting around her.

“Nana!” she heard Legolas yell, as one of the men pulled her around to face him. The children were still standing, rooted to the spot in horror as men swarmed into the clearing.

“Run Legolas. Run,” she shouted while instinctively slashing out at the man grasping her arm with the knife she still held in her hand. His grip on her loosened as blood spurted across her dress. Struggling to take in the scene, Lindomiel saw a dozen men before her. The remaining guard, Candirith, stood in front of the ladies, attempting to hold the men back. Amoneth stood at his flank, clumsily wielding the sword she had taken. Clumsily but affectively—a man fell under her blade as Lindomiel watched.

“Which one is the queen?” a voice shouted in Westron.

“Take ‘em both,” another replied. “We’ll figure it out later. And get them children too.”

Lindomiel slashed at another man rushing towards her. He staggered, clutching his face, blinded—the blade had fallen across his eye. Lindomiel turned.

“Run to those little caves and hide in one. Right now!” she yelled.

She felt an arm grab her around the waist, hard leather pressing into her back as she was pulled against a reeking body. Legolas stared into his mother’s eyes, horror and terror in his own, as Lindomiel stabbed down, burying her knife in the man’s thigh. The man swore, tightening his grip on her and groping with his free hand for the knife. As she struggled to free herself, another man moved past her, reaching for the children. Galithil screamed and shrank back against his cousin as the man’s hand descended towards them. Lindomiel tore the knife from her captor’s leg and threw it. It buried itself in the man’s neck and he fell at the children’s feet.

“Run!” Lindomiel screamed again.

Legolas and Galithil turned and ran.

*~*~*

Thranduil and Aradunnon were already mounted on their horses when Conuiön, Tureden and Hallion ran into the stable yard. They reached wordlessly for the weapons that Hallion carried and strapped them on as the guards mounted their horses.

“I called for Colloth, Galuauth and Pendurion as well, my lord. They should be here shortly,” Conuiön said.

Thranduil did not spare him a glance. “They will catch up to us,” he said, urging his horse forward, towards the gate in the yard. Reacting to the anxiety of his rider, Thranduil’s war stallion snorted eagerly and lurched forward.

Conuiön quickly nudged his horse and it stepped forward blocking the king from leaving the yard. “We are waiting, my lord,” he said firmly. “Four of us will be little help if there are more Men in the forest.”

Thranduil glared at his guard. “How many accompanied my wife and son this morning, Conuiön?”

Conuiön’s mouth formed a hard line. “Two,” he admitted.

“Also very little aid if men attacked her as they did lord Fengel,” he replied coldly. “Now stand out of my way.”

“I already sent messengers to the patrols with all the information I had about the attack on lord Fengel and the queen’s location. They are already looking for her. We need to wait for the rest of the guards and discuss how we can narrow this search down, my lord,” Conuiön said without moving.

Thranduil drew a deep breath and glared at his guard silently. He could not argue that.

Conuiön sighed quietly and nodded. “The guards escorting her this morning only reported to me that they were accompanying the queen, lady Amoneth and the children west along the Path. Does anyone have any more specific information?”

Thranduil shook his head. “She told me this morning that she intended to look for plants for dyes,” he said and looked over at his brother. “Do you know where they go for such things?”

Aradunnon shook his head. “Nana would know,” he replied. Then his already grim expression clouded further. “Assuming she did not go with them,” he added.

Thranduil closed his eyes.

“She did not,” Conuiön intervened. “Lady Dieneryn is in the laundry this morning—if they are looking for plants, she must be overseeing the preparation of the mordents.” Conuiön turned to Hallion and looked at him expectantly.

The steward nodded. “I will ask her where Lindomiel and Amoneth might have gone,” he said, turning to run back to the stronghold. At that moment the three guards ran into the yard along with Lindomiel’s father, Amglaur. He was pale and Thranduil saw unconcealed fear in his eyes when he looked up at him.

“Do we know where to look for them?” Colloth asked as the stable hand hurried forward with his horse.

Conuiön shook his head. “Only that they went looking for plants for dyes. Lord Hallion is going to ask lady Dieneryn where they normally do that.”

Galuauth, already mounted, brought his horse up next to Thranduil. “The queen prefers to look in the ravine where the small caves are. The tansies and broomtops that she likes for the green dye both grow there.”

Aradunnon nodded. “That makes sense. The children love to play in the caves.”

Thranduil looked at Galuauth. “If we find no sign of them there, do you know where else they gather plants for dyes?”

The guard nodded. “Yes, my lord. I have escorted both your lady wife and mother many times on this errand. But in the last two years, since the children were born, they went there. The children like the area, as lord Aradunnon indicated.”

“Very well. We will go to the ravine first,” Thranduil said firmly, maneuvering his horse past Conuiön.

*~*~*

Lord Fengel and his small traveling party rode east slowly, returning to the stronghold with injured, but fortunately no dead. Though not injured himself and anxious to deliver his news about the Wainriders to his cousin, Forthwini, Fengel had decided it would not be wise to continue his journey that day. Three of his five traveling companions were wounded. The stress of traveling would not speed their recovery, nor was it safe to travel with so few able bodies to protect them. Besides that, one of the elves that Thranduil had sent to escort them from the forest was amongst the injured. He could not return alone and his fellow warrior had ridden ahead of them at full speed to inform the king of the attack. So Fengel retraced the steps of his earlier merry departure, now considerably more alert for signs of danger.

He tensed when the guard riding at the head of their party held up a hand. He turned and pointed down a little side trail off the Path.

“There are horses in the forest. Riderless. Four of them,” he said quietly, pulling his horse to a full halt and scanning the forest around them narrowly.

Fengel drew his sword and the only other fully able-bodied guard in their party strung his bow.

The injured elven warrior raised his head and squinted into the forest where the guard had pointed. “I see them. I believe those are Elvish horses. Men ride with more tack than that,” he pointed out.

Fengel frowned and urged his horse forward so he was able to look down the trail and see the horses better. “But where are their riders?” he whispered after studying them a moment. He focused on the front guard. “Go look around in that area--see if you can find their riders or catch the horses,” he said.

“Take care,” the elf warned. “There is no immediate danger but something evil passed this way.”

Fengel looked at the warrior sharply. “And how do you conclude that?” he demanded, tightening his grip on the hilt of his sword and holding out his hand to signal his guard to wait.

“The trees. They witnessed something that disturbed them and their song reflects that. It is…mournful,” he replied.

Fengel’s mouth quirked downwards and he sighed. “Go carefully,” he said to the guard, who was staring doubtfully at the Elven warrior.

The guard dismounted and, with furtive glances in each direction off the path, cautiously approached the horses. They snorted nervously at his approach, dancing back as he reached out his hand, but they did not bolt. After talking to them soothingly for several moments, the guard gave up.

“They are not going to run, but they will not let me get too close either. They are stubborn beasts. Loyal to someone,” he laughed appreciatively. “The headstall on two of them is decorated with square studs engraved with a tree. An oak, I think. The other two bear the same markings but the oak is flanked by two arrows, just so,” he said, holding two fingers up in a V shape.

The Elven guard drew a sharp breath. “Then those are not any of the patrol’s horses. The first symbol you described is used by the royal family. The second is used exclusively by their personal guards, not the regular patrols,” he said.

Fengel frowned, gazing concernedly at the horses. “You said ‘there is no immediate danger.’ How certain of that are you?”

The guard was silent for a moment. “Fairly certain,” he finally answered. “The forest creatures are quieter than I would expect but not silent—cautious, not frightened. That is likely in response to your presence.” He looked at Fengel. “If someone will help me down from this horse, I want to see if I can find any signs to explain why the king’s horses are alone in the forest.”

Fengel shook his head. “You are staying right where you are,” he ordered brusquely. “You are in no condition to do anything more than sit there. You,” he said, addressing the guard that had tried to catch the horses, “come with me. We are going to have a look around. We will stay within sight of the path,” he said, drawing a dagger with his left hand. His right still held his sword.

Fengel and the guard walked slowly down the trail towards the loose horses, searching the forest on either side of it. They had drawn near enough to the horses to cause the jittery animals to stomp nervously when Fengel stopped and gestured with his sword towards a spot on the side of the trail.

“Someone has been cutting plants here,” he said softly.

They searched a bit more and found several other patches of plants that had been cut, making a trail that led back into the trees.

“What have you found?” the elf called.

“Someone has been cutting plants here recently,” Fengel replied.

“The queens—both lord Thranduil’s lady wife and mother—come here to gather plants for dyes in the summer,” the elf said. He had long served to guard the Elf Path and knew the activities that happened along it well.

Fengel’s frown deepened. “I do not like this,” he said to no one in particular. Then he turned to the elf. “What will I find if I go back into the forest a bit? There appears to be a clearing a good way back there.”

The elf nodded. “There is. A ravine. Rather large—we use it for training drills for the young warriors to teach them to shoot on hilly terrain. There are a lot of small caves in it. I imagine the earth there collapsed at some point but it is stable now. Leading out to that area, the land is flat and well forested with little undergrowth. It is mostly young beech trees.”

Fengel smiled in response to that last detail, wondering what it would mean to one of the elf’s fellow warriors. “And those beeches do not tell you that anyone strange is nearby?” he asked, a hint of mirth in his voice.

The elf cast him an impassive look. “Only you and your men, my lord,” he replied dryly. Then his expression became serious. “But I definitely think something has happened here. Recently.”

Fengel sighed. “I am going back as far as that low area that you mentioned,” he said. “You listen to the trees and for any signal from your fellow warriors. I do not care to have an arrow planted in my chest for wandering off the Path, but I do not need the trees to tell me something is not right here.” Signaling his guard to follow, Fengel walked cautiously deeper into the forest.

He followed a zigzagging path amongst the trees where he saw plants had been cut. It led as far as the top of the little valley. Fengel and his guard glanced at each other. The grass in the clearing was trampled and the ground scarred by many feet. Fengel could easily read the signs of a battle on the ground below, but the elf had said warriors trained here. Walking into the gully, especially if it had caves in it, was just not smart when he knew dangerous enemies were at large somewhere in the forest.

Then he saw his guard tense. “Look at the far edge of the clearing. Amongst that tall grass there are some stones—the opening of one of those caves. What is that sticking out? It is hidden by the way the grasses have been bent.”

Fengel swallowed. “It is a boot.” He scanned the tree line carefully along the rim of the gully. “We are going down there,” he said, beginning to pick his way quickly down the slope.

They descended into the ravine cautiously and went straight to the boot they had spotted from above. Fengel closed his eyes when they came in full view of it. Two Elven bodies were stuffed into the little cave at unnatural angles. Fengel and the guard each took a foot and pulled, laying the bodies properly on the soft grass. When they were able to see them, it was clear that there was no need to check for signs of life.

“We will go back and get two blankets from our supplies,” Fengel said softly. “If we can catch two of their horses, we can take them back with us. If not, we can at least cover these poor fellows properly until someone can come back for them. I do not think our remaining horses can carry any more weight.”

“Should we look in the other caves for the riders of the other two horses, my lord?” the guard asked, looking hesitantly at Fengel. “These are obviously the guards. Where are their masters?” He paused. “Or, Valar forbid, mistresses, if what the elf said was right and the Elvenking’s womenfolk come looking for plants out here.”

Fengel grimaced but nodded and they began to search the ground for more caves.

They moved around the clearing systematically checking the cave openings silently. They soon found the bodies of five men similarly stuffed into the small caves or behind rocks and covered with grass. As they were approaching the last of the caves on the southern edge of the ravine, Fengel saw his guard jump back from the cave he had leaned down to inspect. Fengel turned swiftly, readying his sword as the guard spun to look at his lord.

“There is something alive in there. It moved,” he said, pointing his sword toward the small opening.

Fengel shook his head. “Be careful. That opening is too small for a person. It must be some animal’s home.”

The guard frowned. “You must be right, my lord,” he said doubtfully, crouching down to look into the cave. He poked his sword at it, embarrassed to have been startled by a forest animal.

That action elicited a little whimper from the cave.

Fengel and the guard exchanged an alarmed look.

“That was no animal,” Fengel said. He leveled his sword at the small hole in the ground and knelt in front of it, squinting into the darkness inside. Two small, frightened faces looked back at him. Fengel dropped his sword. “Valar!” he exclaimed. “There are children in here. It is Legolas and Galithil.”

The guard’s eyes widened. “The Elvenking’s son? And his brother’s son?”

Fengel nodded but he was focused on the elflings. “Come here, children,” he called gently, frowning when they only stared at him with wide eyes. “Come Legolas, Galithil, do you not recognize me? I am Fengel. You know me. Come out of that hole,” he coaxed.

They only huddled together, looking up at him suspiciously.

“Can you reach them, my lord?” the guard asked.

Fengel nodded. “Probably, but they are terrified and I can imagine why. I do not want to make it worse by pulling them unwillingly from their hiding spot. Go ask how I tell them that I will not hurt them and to come out of the cave,” he ordered.

The guard shook his head slowly. “I do not think I should leave you alone, my lord,” he said.

Fengel turned bodily and glared at his guard. “Go ask right now,” he said, keeping his voice cheerful so as to avoid further frightening the children. His expression left no doubt that the guard would regret not complying.

As the other man reluctantly climbed back out of the ravine, Fengel turned back to the elflings. “Come out, children. I will not hurt you. I can take you back home.” Fengel searched in his mind for any words he knew in Elvish that might be soothing. “I can take you to your adar and nana,” he said but his blood ran cold when the children sniffled at the word ‘nana.’ “Do you want to sing a song?” he asked quickly and began to quietly sing the song he had taught them at the feast.

A few moments later, his guard came running back down the embankment. He knelt on the ground next to Fengel. “Come here is ‘tolo sí.’ I cannot remember the ‘I will not hurt you’ part. It is too difficult,” the guard said hastily.

Fengel turned his head and scowled at the guard. “Well, ‘I will not hurt you’ was the important part, was it not? They know I want them to come out,” he said with some irritation. Fengel took a deep breath and reached his hand into the cave. “Tolo sí, Legolas. I promise I only want to help you.” To his great relief, Legolas eyed him a moment longer and then slowly took his hand. Fengel did not move. “Tolo sí,” he repeated in an encouraging voice. Legolas, followed slowly by Galithil, crawled out into the sun and looked at him fearfully.

Fengel’s eyes filled with sadness. The contrast between their current expressions and the ones he remembered as he sang with them on the green was almost overwhelming. He pulled them against his chest, one in each arm, placing a kiss on both their dirty heads. “Oh you poor things. What did you see here?” he asked softly.

The elflings immediately collapsed into tears and clutched his tunic in relief. Fengel rubbed their backs and made soothing sounds for a moment. Then he stood, lifting them in his arms. “I am going to take you back to the stronghold,” he said and kept up a quiet monologue in a soothing voice as he carried them from the ravine.

Their arrival back at the Path inspired a flurry of rapid Elvish when the children saw the Elven guard. Fengel frowned as their small fingers dug into his arms and tears continued to stream down their cheeks, but the elf spoke to them calmly and by the time the frantic conversation ended, the elflings had stopped crying and had relaxed marginally in Fengel’s arms. He found little comfort in that since the guard’s posture had stiffened considerably, though he was obviously trying to conceal it.

“They said they were gathering plants with their mothers when men attacked them. They saw part of the fight before they ran into a cave to hide. They saw one of the guards shot with an arrow. The other was already injured but still fighting when they fled.”

Fengel nodded. “We found the guard’s bodies and five Easterlings. No signs of the elf women,” he answered quietly.

“We must get back to the stronghold with all speed to report this to one of the officers there,” the elf said.

Fengel nodded. “I intend to do just that. These children need to be somewhere they feel safe,” he said turning and handing them to one of his guards. They whimpered nervously again in response until Fengel mounted his horse and gestured for the guard to lift them up in front of his saddle. “One of you with me, the other stay back with the wounded,” he said, looking at his guards. They appeared uncomfortable with that order but his tone brooked no argument. Fengel looked at the elf. “Tell them I am taking them to the stronghold and that we are going to ride there quickly. I do not want them to think I am carrying them off.” As soon as the Elven warrior finished speaking and two little faces looked up at him nodding to show their understanding, Fengel kicked his horse, urging it to a canter and then a gallop when he was certain he could balance the children securely in front of him.

*~*~*

Thranduil, Aradunnon, Amglaur and their guards moved along the Path as quickly as they dared. Haste was clearly needed, but they did not want to miss any sign that indicated Lindomiel, Amoneth and the children had veered off the Path at some location other than the one they intended to search. Both Thranduil and Aradunnon rode silently, listening intently to the forest and the bond they still felt to their wives and children. That connection told them their family was still alive but through it they could also clearly feel their terror.

“Two horses approach from the west riding fast,” Conuiön called from his position in the front of their search party.

Thranduil and Aradunnon’s eyes were already trained on the Path before them, their bows in their hands. It was extremely doubtful that two lone enemies would ride straight down the Elf Path. The approaching riders were most likely members of the Path Guard returning to the stronghold with a report. But no one was taking any chances.

As the riders came into sight, Thranduil and Aradunnon exchanged a look that held both deep relief and grave concern and then urged their horses forward to meet the riders—lord Fengel, a Mannish guard and two elflings.

“Ada!” the children both cried when they recognized their fathers. They immediately began scrambling to climb over to their fathers as soon as the horses were near enough to suggest the possibility.

Thranduil looked at Fengel wordlessly as he enfolded Legolas in his arms, laying his cheek against the top of the child’s head and pulling him tightly against him. Then he pulled him back slightly, running his hands over him, searching for any signs of injury, before kissing him on the forehead and wiping his tear stained cheeks gently. Aradunnon did the same with Galithil and the children clung to their father’s tunics breathing hard, on the verge of crying again and obviously not certain if their ordeal was over.

“You are safe, Legolas,” Thranduil crooned softly as the child clung to him. “Ada is here. Everything is fine.”

Legolas raised his head from his father’s tunic and looked up at him with tear-filled eyes. “No it is not, ada. Some men tried to hurt us and they did hurt nana and Aunt Amoneth and we do not know where they are,” Legolas whispered as Galithil nodded his agreement.

The adults exchanged worried glances before Thranduil looked at Legolas calmly. “Can you tell us anything about what happened this morning, ion nin?” he asked.

They nodded.

“We were gathering plants,” Galithil began, his face pressed against his father’s tunic.

“And Himion said we needed to leave,” Legolas interrupted. “So we started back to the horses.”

“And an arrow came out of the trees and I saw it hit Himion in the back and he knocked Aunt Lindomiel down because he was right behind her when it hit him,” Galithil continued.

Legolas looked up at his father with wide, frightened eyes. “Nana was hurt. She was bleeding,” he said quietly. Thranduil drew in a quiet breath but forced himself not to otherwise react to that statement. Instead he stroked a soothing hand down his son’s hair.

“At first I thought someone was hunting and did it by accident,” Galithil continued. But there was another arrow and I think it was supposed to hit Candirith but it did not. Then about 12 men came running towards us yelling and angry. It was no accident that they hit Himion with an arrow. They did it on purpose,” Galithil said with horrified confusion. “Nana pushed Himion and took his sword and she and Candirith fought with the men.”

That caused Aradunnon and Thranduil to look at each other grimly over their sons’ heads as Legolas continued the narrative with a breathless voice.

“And Aunt Amoneth pulled nana up and a man tried to get her but she cut him with a knife and another man tried and she cut him and then she turned to tell us to run again and another man did grab her so she stuck the knife in his leg.”

“And another man tried to grab us…” Galithil said in a shaking voice.

“But nana took the knife from the man’s leg and threw it at the man trying to get us and he fell down,” Legolas paused and he looked at Thranduil frowning deeply. “But then nana did not have the knife anymore,” he concluded quietly.

Thranduil felt his heart contract in response to his son’s obvious concern that his mother no longer had a weapon.

“And we ran and hid in one of the caves,” Galithil continued.

Legolas nodded. “And there was a lot of shouting and we could hear them still fighting and then it was quiet. They must have gone away. We peeked out and we could not see nana or Aunt Amoneth.”

“And we were too afraid to come out of the cave until lord Fengel came,” Galithil whispered.

“He had and elf with him. He was injured—he said he fought with men today too—but he told us lord Fengel promised to take us back to the stronghold,” Legolas said, leaning his cheek against his father’s chest again, completely exhausted.

“Can we go home, ada? Is nana there?” Galithil asked.

“Yes, ion nin. You are going back to the stronghold,” Aradunnon said, brushing a kiss on his son’s hair.

“Indeed you are,” Thranduil confirmed, rubbing Legolas’s back. The child’s breath still came in gasps. “Nana and Aunt Amoneth are not there yet but Uncle Aradunnon and I are going to look for them.”

Legolas’s brows knit and he looked up at his father. “Nana is not still with the men, is she? They were horrible.”

“I do not know Legolas,” Thranduil replied. “But I am looking for her and so are Conuiön and the rest of these guards and many others. Just as we were looking for you and we found you. I am very thankful to lord Fengel for helping…for bringing you here.”

Legolas and Galithil nodded.

“Lord Fengel is nice,” Galithil said, looking at him and smiling weakly.

Fengel returned the smile, though with obvious concern. He did not need to understand Elvish to know what was being related.

Thranduil tilted Legolas’s chin up. “Legolas you said you hid in a cave. One of the caves in that ravine where nana likes to find plants for her weaving?” he asked gently.

Legolas nodded and then pulled away from his father. “I am supposed to give this to daernana,” he said holding out a crushed little plant. Thranduil had noticed it but had not deemed it important enough to question why his son clutched it. “Nana said it was valuable and she wanted to plant it in the garden. It is woad. It makes a blue dye, not a yellow one.”

Thranduil looked at the plant and could not suppress a short, almost hysterical laugh at the absurdity of Legolas clinging to it despite all he had been through.

“Daernana will be extremely glad to see you, Galithil and your plant, Legolas,” he said, smiling at his son. “And it is very important that you told us where you were with nana. That is going to make finding her much easier. I appreciate that very much,” he replied.

Legolas and Galithil again smiled weakly at their fathers.

Thranduil turned to the lieutenant of his guard. “Take the children home, Tureden. We will return when we have found Lindomiel and Amoneth,” he said quietly, putting his hands around his son’s waist to lift him to Tureden’s horse. Aradunnon was doing the same, handing Galithil to Pendurion.

“No!” Legolas protested the moment he understood what was happening. He seized his fathers braid, preventing Tureden from moving him.

Galithil clutched his father’s tunic with both hands. “We want to stay with you,” he said with a tremor in his voice.

Thranduil and Aradunnon looked at each other helplessly as Thranduil tried to free his hair from Legolas’s grasp. “Are you not tired and ready to go home, ion nin,” he asked gently. “Daernana can take her plant and you can have a nice hot bath and some lunch…”

“I cannot take a bath without you there, ada. Who will comb my hair?” Legolas demanded. “You have to come home too.”

“We are going to be home soon,” Aradunnon assured them. “We are just going to find your naneths first. And we need to do that quickly.”

“We want to stay with you,” Legolas repeated, twining a different strand of his father’s hair around his hand as soon as Thranduil freed the other.

“Legolas,” Thranduil began sternly, but a gentler voice interrupted him.

“What if I took you home, Legolas?” Amglaur offered, holding out his arms. “Will you come home with me? We will not take a bath until ada comes back. And we will stop in the kitchen on the way back to your room to get some of the tarts they made for dinner. You and Galithil can have some with your lunch. Would you like that?”

Legolas and Galithil looked at Amglaur measuringly.

“Can we plant nana’s plant?” Legolas asked.

“Of course we will. Daernana and I will help you,” Amglaur promised.

Thranduil eased his son into his grandfather’s arms and slowly pried his fingers open to free his hair. “Go with daeradar, Legolas. I will be home as soon as I can.”

Legolas frowned tearfully. “And nana with you?”

Thranduil drew a deep breath to answer with a steady voice. “We are looking for nana, Legolas,” Thranduil replied.

Legolas’s frown deepened at that answer but Amglaur was already turning his horse.

“Come back with my daughter, Thranduil,” Amglaur said in Westron, glaring at Thranduil over Legolas’s head.

Thranduil nodded grimly and watched as Amglaur and the guards rode away with his son and nephew.

AN: Sorry for leaving you hanging. I decided this chapter was too long posted in one chunk so I split it in half.

*~*~*

Naneth/nana—Mother/mum
Adar/ada—Father/dad
Daeradar/daernaneth—Grandfather/grandmother
Ion nin—My son

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Chapter name
Loss
Created
30 Apr 2005
Last Edited
30 Apr 2005
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361
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6431