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Interrupted Journeys: Part Three--Journeys Begin

Chapter 16: Epilogue: A Special Day

by ellisk

1946 Third Age

“Galithil! Uncle Aradunnon! Aunt Amoneth!” Legolas cried, staring at them with his mouth agape a moment before he began to race down the old beech tree, leaping from branch to branch. He and Thranduil had been waiting for the rest of the family to join them in the family garden to celebrate Legolas’s fifth Begetting Day. They had expected Hallion, Engwe, Legolas’s grandparents, and Celonhael and Golwon’s families, but neither Legolas nor Thranduil knew that Aradunnon had returned from the south to the stronghold.

Thranduil was as pleased and surprised to see his brother and nephew as Legolas was, but Legolas’s descent from the tree held his full attention for the moment.

“Legolas, slow down and be careful,” Thranduil said firmly.

“Yes, Legolas,” Aradunnon agreed, though with a broad smile. “We will still be here when you reach the ground.”

Legolas slowed his pace marginally in response to the adults’ admonition but Galithil’s eager expression as he gazed up at his cousin, hopping in place at the foot of the tree only spurred him on again. The moment Legolas’s feet touched the grass, Galithil hugged him and then fell to rough-housing with him, both children giggling merrily. Within a moment, all Legolas’s cousins had rushed to join them.

Aradunnon and Amoneth, along with Lindomiel, arrived at the tree as Thranduil jumped from its lowest branch. Thranduil greeted his brother with a strong embrace and kissed Amoneth on the cheek before drawing Lindomiel to his side, her hand in his. Allowing the elflings to continue their foolishness, Thranduil looked at Aradunnon expectantly with raised eyebrows.

Aradunnon shrugged. “Surprise, Thranduil,” he replied to his brother’s implied question, the grin still on his face. “Galithil did not want to miss his cousins’ Begetting Days and Spring Festival as he did last year so I decided to bring him home. I can return south after the Festival if you wish.”

Thranduil shook his head and put his arm around his brother’s shoulder. “I am very happy to have you home, Aradunnon,” he replied, watching Galithil, Legolas, Berior and Eirienil with a smile. “Unless you have some reason to believe that you might find something new about Marti and Fuilin—and I doubt that since we have had no useful leads regarding their whereabouts for over a year—then I would prefer to have you and your family in the stronghold.”

Aradunnon also watched his son as the children scurried off several feet from their parents and huddled together, speaking in an excited whisper. “I will stay then. I am glad Amoneth brought Galithil south after we were certain the Wainriders’ attack would not endanger the Wood for it was very difficult to be separated from them when he is so young. But the south is no place to raise elflings. Besides that, I have missed Legolas, Berior and Eirienil and so has Galithil. We are happy to be back in the capital.”

Thranduil nodded once. “Excellent,” he said happily. Then he looked sidelong at his brother. “Command of the warriors is yours, of course, but I would also like to have you bring Dolgailon back to the capital and the training program now that the southeastern border is safe.”

Aradunnon smirked at his brother, knowing full well that was a politely couched command from both the head of his House and his king. “Dolgailon is already here.” he replied. “He returned with Amoneth and I but he wanted to find Arthiel before he joins us.”

“She is visiting her parents this morning,” Lindomiel added. “They will be here shortly.”

Aradunnon turned a conspiratorial smile on his brother. “You will undoubtedly be as pleased as I was to hear that Dolgailon was quite eager to come back to the stronghold when I gave him his orders to turn command of the Southern Patrol over to Talith.”

Thranduil’s eyes widened and lit with happy surprise. “That is wonderful. I had hoped that marriage might help him find some balance in his life.”

Their attention turned to the children when Legolas loosed a plainly jealous exclamation.

“We lived in a talan in the trees,” Galithil was saying in an excited voice. He had his cousins’ rapt attention.

“You lived in the trees?” Legolas repeated, half incredulously and half longingly.

Galithil nodded. “But the trees there are different. They are darker and twisty and gnarled. They do not seem as happy.” He paused dramatically. “Galasserch says that is because they are afraid of orc axes,” Galithil said with an ominous tone.

Hearing that, Thranduil’s eyebrows shot up and his eyes darted to his nephew.

Aradunnon scowled. “I do not want to hear a word about what Galasserch says,” he scolded, striding over to them and dropping to his knees to fix his son with a stern glare. “I told you that child is far too old for you to play with. And he speaks with authority of topics he knows nothing about. That nothing short of lying and it is not behavior that I will see you imitate.”

“But ada, he said he saw orcs…” Galithil began.

“Enough,” Aradunnon interrupted harshly. “Do you not have any sort of greeting for your aunt and uncle?” he said turning his son to face Thranduil and Lindomiel and giving him a little push in their direction. Then he smiled at Legolas, Berior and Eirienil. “And where is my hug? I have missed you so much,” he said holding his arms open. The children happily rushed into his embrace.

As his father fussed over his cousins, Galithil looked up at his uncle, making an effort not pout in response to his father’s scolding. “Hello, uncle,” he said in a subdued voice.

Exchanging a silent glance with Lindomiel, Thranduil reached down and lifted his nephew into his arms. “I am very happy you are home, Galithil,” Thranduil said as Lindomiel leaned over to kiss the child’s forehead. “Your aunt and I have missed you and so have your cousins.”

Galithil nodded. “I missed you too. And them,” he said leaning his cheek against Thranduil’s silk tunic and looking resentfully at his father.

Thranduil caressed his cheek. “It sounds as if you had quite an adventure in your adar’s village and you made some new friends there. I am sure you will miss them too.”

Galithil frowned. “Galasserch was the only elfling there and he is over twenty. Ada does not like him. It is more fun here with all my cousins,” he said softly.

“And we prefer having you here,” Lindomiel said, pinching the tip of Galithil’s nose and finally making him giggle again. “Legolas missed having someone to share his father’s stories with at night—after all, uncle has to tell two stories when there are two of you listening.”

Galithil looked hopefully at his uncle. “Can we still do that even though ada is home too? Maybe you can tell us one story each,” he suggested.

Legolas, who had heard his cousin’s request, nodded eagerly.

Thranduil smiled at his brother. “Your adar and I will discuss it. Maybe we will do that on nights that you have been especially good.”

Two elflings opened their mouths to protest that condition but Lindomiel distracted them.

“I think we should go join everyone else at the table to eat before all the tarts are gone,” she said teasingly. The children looked at her sharply, concerned they might really be missing that special treat.

Thranduil bit back an amused snort at their reaction. “Indeed. You know uncle Engwe and daeradar will steal all the sweets and presents too if we do not watch them,” he joked loudly enough to be heard by the adults at the table set up in the middle of the garden.

The children dashed to it as Engwe and Amglaur rolled their eyes.

*~*~*

After lunch, Dolgailon walked through the Great Gates and stepped onto the bridge, the warm, spring breeze blowing a wisp of Arthiel’s hair against his cheek. He took a deep breath and savored the clean smell of the fresh grass and the fragrant wildflowers that decorated it. In response to his obvious pleasure, Arthiel put her arm around his waist and gave him a playful squeeze.

“I am very glad that you are back,” she said, leaning closer to him as they followed the rest of the family onto the lawn.

Dolgailon placed a kiss on her cheek. “I am very glad to be back,” he said with a smile.

He watched as the elflings ran ahead of their parents, leaping off the bridge and sprinting along the riverbank to where they would play with Legolas’s Begetting Day gifts and, best of all, their parents. Then his gaze drifted idly to the nearby trees. The beech branches were covered with tender, budding leaves. His smile broadened at the sight of them.

“I have spent so much time in the south since I joined the patrols that the darkness and decay there seemed…completely normal to me. Now that I have been there again after spending time here, I think I have greater appreciation for the beauty of the forest in the capital and the sadness of it in the south.”

She turned her eyes to his face, concerned by his words, but seeing his content smile, her expression grew mischievous. “Is the beauty of the trees the only thing that you have a greater appreciation for, my lord?” she asked, her eyebrows delicately arched.

Dolgailon smirked. “No, my lady. I missed you far more than I could have ever imagined possible over the last two years,” he confessed readily. “I feel somewhat guilty to leave the warriors I once commanded in the south to return here, but if adar had offered me the choice of remaining with them or returning to lead the training program rather than simply ordering me home, I cannot deny that I would have chosen to come back here.”

Arthiel studied him a moment with raised eyebrows before leaning her head against his shoulder as they walked.

Dolgailon did not doubt that his wife understood all the implications of that declaration. She would realize that his sense of duty had warred with his love for her before allowing him to return to the capital. But Arthiel also understood duty to the forest—she had followed where her conscience led her despite how her choice disappointed her parents when she left the family profession to become a forester.

“The training of the warriors is a very important task. I have heard the king say so many times over the last years,” she said softly, offering him as much absolution as she could for his decision.

Dolgailon smiled gratefully at her but remained silent.

After a moment, an arm draped across his shoulders. Startled, Dolgailon turned quickly to see his father grinning at him.

“Iell nin, that training program has absolutely nothing to do with Dolgailon’s desire to return to the capital. Or at least I hope it does not. A young elf, married only a little over two years and separated from his bride for the majority of that time, should not be thinking about military matters. It would simply not be normal.”

Arthiel looked between Aradunnon and Dolgailon and despite her best efforts to not giggle at her father-in-law’s implication, laughter bubbled in her throat at Dolgailon’s plainly embarrassed expression. Any comment she might have contributed to tease him further was interrupted by elflings tugging insistently at the skirts of her gown.

“Come play with us,” Galithil demanded, looking up at the adults expectantly with excited eyes.

She automatically smiled at her young brother-in-law. “What are we going to play first?” she asked, winking at Dolgailon as she allowed herself to be dragged off by his brother.

Aradunnon began to follow but stopped when Dolgailon laid a hand on his shoulder. “Do you truly believe what you said, adar?” he asked quietly.

Aradunnon looked at his son sincerely. “Yes, I do, ion nin. You and I see very much eye-to-eye regarding the importance of defending this forest and I do not doubt your commitment to that duty. But Thranduil said to me once that there are many types of defeat and many types of victory and I agree with him. Focusing solely on killing orcs and spiders and other fell creatures is a defeat because in doing so you surrender yourself willingly as a thrall of the Evil One. It is his goal to enslave the world in never-ending destruction. When I see you happy in your wife’s arms…when I see Galithil, his cousins and their friends playing carefree in the forest…that is when I claim a victory over the Enemy. We fight so these elves are able to dance and sing under the stars. We are entitled to occasionally do the same.”

Dolgailon loosed a quiet sigh and nodded.

“It may help you to know that I struggled with exactly the same problem when your naneth and I were first betrothed,” his father continued, sympathetically. “I spent much more time in field command then and I had to ask your uncle to allow me to command the warriors from the capital. I was very reluctant to make that request because I felt I was shirking duty for personal pleasure. But Thranduil was all too happy to have me in the capital and in truth, after some adjustment, I found I could command the warriors better from a central location.” He paused. “I know you will miss field command, but you know the duty you are doing here is equally important—both in the training program and with our family. Come play with your little brother, ion nin. Assuring that he grows up as a happy elfling is also an important way to fight the Shadow.”

Dolgailon smiled in response to that and started to follow his father to join the game the elflings and adults had already begun when a familiar voice drifted to his ears from the stables in the yard. He stopped in mid-stride and turned toward it. Aradunnon paused as well and followed his son’s gaze. Emerging from one of the barns was Tulus.

“I will join you in a moment, adar,” Dolgailon said softly, starting towards the stables.

Aradunnon caught his arm. “Remember that Thranduil has already passed his judgment, ion nin,” he said firmly.

Dolgailon frowned. “This has nothing to do with the king’s judgment, adar,” he replied curtly and strode quickly across the lawn to the stables.

As he entered the gate and crossed the yard, he saw Tulus look up casually from his work to see who approached. When his eyes fell on Dolgailon, he tensed and turned his gaze to the ground.

“Can I help you with something, my lord?”

Dolgailon’s frown deepened in response to Tulus’s stance and formality. Glancing at the other hands in the yard, who were watching them intently, he replied in a neutral voice. “Will you come speak to me for a moment, Tulus?”

Without waiting for a reply, Dolgailon turned to walk over to the stone fence that surrounded the barns.

Tulus followed silently.

When he reached the fence, Dolgailon faced Tulus, looking at him wordlessly for a long moment. “You lied to me, Tulus,” he finally said, his voice tinged with betrayal despite his intent to speak calmly. He watched as Tulus closed his eyes.

“I am sorry, my lord,” he said softly.

Dolgailon shook his head and grasped Tulus’s arm causing him to look up with alarm. “I am not speaking to you as the king’s nephew, Tulus, I am speaking to you as a friend. One that has respected you for five hundred years. I stayed in your home when my warriors and I were on the eastern edge of our patrol range just as I stayed in my adar’s home when we were on its western edge. We have hunted together. Dined together. I have gone to you for advice. I looked up to you as I do to my own adar. And all this time you have been lying to me.”

Tulus’s brow knit and regret filled his eyes. “I was involved in this four hundred years before you were born, Dolgailon—since the king moved the stronghold north despite the southern villagers’ efforts to persuade him to put more effort into defense. I truly believed that he was wrong and that I was acting to defend the home where I have lived for three Ages of this world. By the time I met you, I had realized that what I was doing was actually harming this realm, but I had been enmeshed with these people a very long time and it was…complicated…too difficult to extricate myself.”

Dolgailon released Tulus’s arm and waved him silent. “I know all this, Tulus. I read the confession you gave my adar and the records of your testimony to the king. I know that you no longer supported this conspiracy and I know that you wanted report it to the king but were afraid to.” He paused. “Tulus, if you needed help and did not trust the king to provide it, could you not have trusted me? Or was your friendship with me false? Some sort of scheme to get closer to the king’s family?”

“Dolgailon, I love you as I love my own son…” Tulus began, his tone leaving no doubt that he was sincerely hurt by Dolgailon’s suggestion.

“Then why did you not come to me? I would have helped you, Tulus, and lives could have been saved.”

Tulus flinched at that reminder and he replied in a very soft voice. “In hindsight, I see that I should have confessed what I knew to you when you asked me about the men. Candirith and Himion might be alive if I had. But I feared the king’s judgment; I feared what would become of Glílavan if I told you that I was plotting against the king; and truthfully, I feared involving you. As yet you are beneath the notice of these people,” Tulus looked up and fixed Dolgailon with a pleading look. “Please stay that way, Dolgailon,” he said urgently. “Let the king manage this.”

Dolgailon scowled. “If you had told me five hundred years ago that you had once served on the king’s guard, were dismissed and resented the troop commander’s subsequent treatment of you, I could have helped you solve that problem then and there and you would have had no need to fear the king’s judgment, Tulus. And I am a warrior. I do not fear either this elleth or Fuilin.”

“If the captain of the southern border patrol were killed in an ambush, no one would question how that could happen. The southern patrol is full of dangers,” Tulus replied quietly. “I would fear Manadhien and Fuilin if I were a member of your family.”

Dolgailon blinked at that open threat and responded heatedly. “I earned the rank of captain, Tulus. It was not given to me because I am the king’s nephew. I am capable of defending myself, you and this realm against those that threaten it. I would have helped you and you should have trusted me to do so.”

Tulus looked down again and nodded. “I should have trusted you. I do not deny that,” he confirmed. “And I should have trusted the king. After speaking to him, I plainly saw how badly I had misjudged him. I was a coward and a fool.” He paused and looked up at Dolgailon sadly. “I do not expect you to forgive me, but I apologize just the same. I truly never meant to harm you. Or your family.”

Dolgailon nodded. “I believe that, Tulus,” he said reining in his temper and speaking with a calmer tone. “If you had not confessed to this, no amount of evidence would have convinced me that you were guilty because you have always treated me as a son. And I am relieved to hear you say that you realize you misjudged the king. He is a good ruler. He loves this forest every bit as much as he loves Legolas,” he said, looking across the green at his family playing with the elflings.

Tulus looked at them too and a slight smile lit his face. “I know,” he said, “and I am grateful to have an opportunity to begin again here in the capital.”

Dolgailon looked back at Tulus intently. “Use this opportunity well, Tulus,” he said firmly.

“I will, my lord,” he said, responding automatically to Dolgailon’s commanding tone.

Dolgailon sighed and reached over again to lay his hand on Tulus’s shoulder. “I am still speaking to you as a friend, Tulus,” he said softly. When Tulus looked at him, a glimmer of hope in his eyes, Dolgailon returned his gaze evenly. “I am hurt, Tulus. Hurt that you did not let me help you, especially after I came to you and asked you if you were involved with the men. I thought our friendship was stronger than that. But because our friendship was important to me, if the king is willing to give you another chance, I am as well.”

Tulus loosed a long breath. “I am very relieved to hear that,” he whispered. “I make you the same promise that I made the king—I will do what I can to regain your trust.”

Dolgailon nodded and was about to respond when a cheerful voice sounded behind them. “Good afternoon, Dolgailon, and welcome home. I did not know you had returned to the capital.”

Dolgailon turned to see Glílavan approaching them from the direction of the training fields. He looked at his lieutenant impassively, causing him to raise his eyebrows.

“Am I interrupting something, captain?” he asked, assuming a more respectful attitude in response to Dolgailon’s demeanor.

“Not at all, Glílavan.” Dolgailon responded, his expression still unreadable. “Indeed, I wanted to speak to you on this topic as well so I am glad you are here. Tulus testified that you had no knowledge that he was involved in this conspiracy. I would very much like to hear you confirm that for me.”

Glílavan glanced at his father before looking at Dolgailon. “I was not involved, captain,” he said decisively.

Dolgailon studied him a moment and then looked away. “Very well,” he replied quietly. He turned back to them. “Remember, I am your friend. Trust me to help you when you want help.” He focused on Tulus. “And do not forfeit this opportunity.” Then he looked at his family on the green. “I think my wife and my brother will have my hide if I do not join them. We are celebrating Legolas’s Begetting Day. If you will both excuse me, I will see you in the morning, Glílavan.”

Dolgailon nodded as Glílavan sketched a salute. Then he climbed over the stone fence and jogged across the green to join his father and uncle in the game they were playing with the children. They looked at him expectantly as he approached.

“I hope you were not too hard on Tulus,” Thranduil said quietly when Dolgailon did not speak. “I believe that he truly regrets betraying your friendship.”

Dolgailon shook his head and looked down, frowning. “I told Tulus that I remain his friend. I believe him when he says that he intends to take advantage of the opportunities offered him here in the capital.”

“Then what has upset you, ion nin? It is obvious that something has,” Aradunnon asked with concern.

Dolgailon looked at his father and Thranduil. “I have known Glílavan since I came of age. He is my closest friend in the patrols. I just asked him to tell me that he was not involved in this conspiracy and he told me he was not.” Dolgailon paused and continued in a strained voice. “He lied to me. I have no doubt that he was lying when he said that.”

The three elves exchanged an unreadable look before being interrupted by four elflings charging down the green at them.

*~*~*

The high-pitched squeals of excited children mixed with their fathers’ deeper laughter as they chased each other on the green in front of the stronghold.

“I got him this time!” Galithil yelled breathlessly.

He threw the ball in his hand as hard and fast as he could but his target dodged it with disappointing ease, laughing lightly. The target was Thranduil—currently the parent that the children very much wanted to tag. Their mothers had already been thoroughly assaulted with the ball and were now happily ‘out,’ sitting on the sidelines of the designated playing field and shouting pointers to the children to help them tag their fathers.

Berior and Legolas both ran towards the fallen ball as Thranduil put enough distance between it and himself to allow the children’s next attack to be interesting. Aradunnon, Golwon, Celonhael and Amglaur called taunts to Berior as he picked the ball up, playfully goading him into turning his attack from Thranduil to them. Berior looked sidelong at his father before resolutely turning his attention back to Thranduil. He stalked after him with a determined expression that renewed Thranduil’s laughter. Just as Berior approached within striking distance of Thranduil, he turned suddenly and threw the ball quickly at his father.

Celonhael smothered a laugh and took a small step to the side a moment too late. The ball hit him hard in the leg and flew off to the side where Eirienil caught it. She quickly turned it on her father, hitting him as well. The children screamed with delight as their mothers clapped their hands.

“I got you, ada,” Berior laughed, running over to his father.

Celonhael lifted Berior from the ground, hands around his waist, and swung him swiftly over his head. “Yes, you did, ion nin. That was a very good throw and very sneaky of you.”

“We still have ada, daerada and uncle Aradunnon to get,” Legolas called, picking up the ball. “And you are both out,” he said, looking at his uncles sternly.

Celonhael and Golwon exchanged amused glances with the remaining parents before going to sit with their wives. Legolas, meanwhile, focused on his father.

“Surround him,” he shouted to his cousins. With excited giggles, they nodded and enthusiastically complied, encircling their target.

Thranduil laughed harder as his ‘enemies’ closed in on him.

“Come closer so you can get the ball before he can get away if I miss him,” Legolas said, drawing closer to his father himself. Again his giggling cousins obeyed but Thranduil backed away from them.

As he moved to evade them, Galithil loosed a frustrated growl. “Just get him!” he cried, charging Thranduil and wrapping his arms around his leg. Yelling excitedly, Eirienil and Berior followed suit, grabbing an arm and his other leg. With a surprised exclamation, Thranduil allowed himself to be dragged to the ground. Pinned by elflings, he watched laughing helplessly as Legolas walked over to him and dropped the ball on his chest.

“You are out, ada,” Legolas giggled.

Thranduil smiled for a moment at his son’s flushed face before pulling himself to a sitting position against the combined efforts of the children to prevent him from doing so. He raised his eyebrows at Amglaur and Aradunnon who were nearly choking with laughter.

“That was, of course, cheating,” he said with an overly dignified air.

His tone and the accusation only made his brother and father-in-law laugh harder.

“It was not cheating, ada. I never touched you except with the ball. It was they that cheated,” Legolas said looking at his cousins with a broad grin.

Thranduil shook his head at that logic but before he could respond, Amglaur came over and scooped Legolas into his arms. “Ignore him, Legolas, he is out,” Amglaur assured his grandson. “Your adar just does not lose very well.”

Thranduil snorted as he stood. “Your strategy likely would have worked very quickly anyway, Legolas. That was very clever,” he said, placing a kiss on his son’s head. Legolas beamed as his father looked at Amglaur. “I suggest you try it next on your daeradar,” he said, tossing the ball to Legolas and turning to join Lindomiel where she leaned comfortably against an old beech. From the corner of his eye, he was very satisfied to see the children spreading out to surround Amglaur.

Thranduil settled himself on the ground next to Lindomiel, pulling her closer against his side and leaning into the embrace of the old beech. It hummed happily with the presence of the elflings.

“They are having a wonderful time,” Lindomiel said. “I am so happy Aradunnon, Amoneth and Galithil returned in time for this.”

Thranduil leaned over and kissed Lindomiel’s cheek. “I am having a wonderful time and I am happy they are home. Where is Dolgailon?” he asked, glancing around.

Lindomiel smiled. “He is off with Arthiel. They walked back along the river,” she replied looking towards one of the paths amongst the trees.

Thranduil raised his eyebrows, looking quickly at the path before he turned back to his wife. His eyes were bright. “Arthiel is good for him exactly as you are good for me,” he said, kissing her again, this time lightly on the lips.

Lindomiel leaned her head against his shoulder and took his hand in hers, hiding her amused reaction to that rare public indulgence.

*~*~*

Several hours later the children were still as active as before, running on the green engaged in a different game with their parents and Legolas’s new toys, when a strange figure in brown robes emerged from the trees on the path leading to the bridge. His presence caught Legolas’s attention first and soon the game on the green was forgotten as the children turned to stare at him. From this distance, he appeared more Mannish than Elvish from his dress but not really either. Silently drawing closer to Amglaur and taking his hand, Legolas watched the person now speaking to the guards at the bridge. They pointed towards the king and his family further down the green and the brown clad man began walking toward them. Legolas looked at his father by the tree line. He had stood and was wearing an expression of pleased surprise.

“Who is that, daerada?” Legolas whispered, leaning against Amglaur and stepping slightly behind his legs as the stranger bowed to Thranduil.

The other children, also standing closer to their parents, looked to Amglaur for his answer.

“If I remember correctly, and it has been a long time, I think that is a friend of lord Elrond of Imladris. His name is Radagast,” Amglaur said softly, eyeing the stranger now speaking to Thranduil.

Aradunnon nodded, lifting Galithil into his arms. “His name is Radagast,” he confirmed. “He is lord Thranduil’s friend also. The king allows him to live on the western borders of the Wood and to wander the forest freely.”

Four young pairs of young eyes moved from the brown figure to Aradunnon. Like Amglaur, he was tensely watching the scene between Thranduil and Radagast.

After a moment, Thranduil called to them.

“Come here children,” he said, waving them over to him. His tone left no doubt that Thranduil was very happy to see this odd guest.

Legolas looked between his father and the man. He had a small sack in his hand and was smiling at the children. After a moment, Legolas obeyed his father’s summons, pulling Amglaur along side him and not releasing his hand. The other children followed suit, also staying close to their parents.

When they reached Thranduil, Legolas let go of Amglaur’s hand and took his father’s, looking up at Radagast with ever widening eyes. The man had a weather worn face, long, dark, unkempt hair and a brown beard but his eyes were kind. He seemed different from Fengel in a way Legolas could not identify and did not really understand.

With a hand on Legolas’s shoulder, Thranduil introduced him. “Legolas this is Radagast. He is a friend of mine that lives in the south.” He gestured towards the other children. “Radagast, these are my nephews, Galithil and Berior, and my niece, Eirienil.”

“Mae govannen,” the children chorused quietly, tilting their chins sharply upwards to look at Radagast.

Legolas and Galithil had relaxed visibly at Thranduil’s introduction, knowing that anyone he recognized as a friend could not represent any threat. But they still stared at the tall stranger with awe at his odd appearance.

“Mae govannen,” he replied cheerfully and he knelt on the ground, his robes tangling around his legs. “Here is this better? I think we can talk more easily this way,” he said, now looking at the children eye-to-eye.

Legolas blinked and he glanced up at his father. “Does he speak Sindarin, ada?” he asked. “That was more than lord Fengel knew.”

Radagast laughed a deep, rich laugh. “Of course I speak Sindarin, Legolas. I speak many languages but the first I learned here was Sindarin,” he answered as Thranduil and the other adults settled on the ground around him.

Legolas brightened at that. He was still fascinated by the idea of learning other languages. “Many languages? Like what?” he asked, seating himself and scooting a bit closer.

Radagast smiled. “Well, I speak your language, as you see. And lord Fengel’s since I live near his kin between the forest and the mountains….”

“Do you speak Westron?” Legolas interrupted. “Ada said I am going to start learning Westron soon and lord Fengel sent me a book of his people’s children’s stories written in Westron,” he said excitedly.

Radagast looked at Thranduil, who was shaking his head in amusement at his son’s enthusiasm. “Yes, pen neth, I speak Westron too. It is a very important language. And I have brought a gift for you as well, if your adar will allow it,” he said with a smile. Then he drew forth his little sack and offered it to Thranduil. “When I sent word to Mithrandir that you had a son and I intended to come visit you, he sent me this to give to the child. He says the Periannath children he knows liked them immensely and the few elflings he has showed them to in Imladris liked them as well.” Radagast’s expression grew mischievous. “However I remember your reaction to Mithrandir’s ‘entertainment’ at lord Aradunnon’s wedding, so you may wish to inspect them first.”

All of the children looked curiously at the bag, Thranduil’s wary expression and Aradunnon’s failing effort to conceal his laughter.

“Who is Mithrandir, ada, and what entertainment did he provide for your wedding?” Galithil asked.

Aradunnon answered while Thranduil slipped the string that tied the sack closed. Many dozen small, colorful paper tubes and cones fell from it to his lap. “Mithrandir is one of Radagast’s people. He lives in Eriador across the mountains but he visited here once when we first moved to the stronghold.” Aradunnon hesitated, trying to formulate the best way to explain Mithrandir. “He is quite good with magic, especially that involving fire and smoke. He made something he called fireworks…” he shook his head, not sure how to explain that. Finally he shrugged. “They were colorful. Quite pretty, really.”

Thranduil scowled, holding one of the paper cones gingerly between two fingers and glaring at it. “It was only by the grace of the Valar that he did not set the forest ablaze with them,” he said coolly, turning his eyes to Radagast. “What does one do with these things?” he asked, holding out the cone.

“With your permission, I will show you. I think I remember how Mithrandir lit them,” Radagast responded, reaching for it.

Thranduil closed his fist around the cone. “You think you remember?”

“I remember, my lord,” Radagast said, chuckling and holding out his hand. “Not to worry.”

He took the cone that Thranduil reluctantly released and set it a good distance away from the trees on a rock. Then he walked over to where the elves were beginning to gather for the evening merrymaking. They made way for him silently, not rude to their king’s guest, but cautious of him just the same. He took a faggot from a pouch on his belt and lit it in one of the torches they were beginning to ignite. Then he went back over to the cone.

“This may seem a bit frightening at first, children,” he said gently. “But it is safe as long as you do not get too close. And pretty, as lord Aradunnon said. Do not be alarmed.”

The children shrank back into their parents’ arms as Radagast lit the paper on the top of the cone and stood back quickly. As soon as he did, blue and gold and red and green sparks spouted from the top of the cone and it emitted a shrieking whistle that rousted the birds from the trees.

As one, the children—and most of the adults on the green—started and gasped. Then everyone watched the magical display with wide eyes. The cone sparked for several minutes, changing colors as it did.

While it erupted, Radagast walked back to the trees and looked regretfully into their branches. The birds in them glared at him in a reproachful manner and scolded him with chirps that were drowned by the noise of the firecracker.

Legolas looked between the brilliant display on the lawn and Radagast under the tree, not sure which was more fascinating. The fireworks were certainly spectacular, but the birds seemed to be responding to the strange figure in brown even more than they did to his father and that surprised Legolas—all the creatures in the forest loved the king as their protector.

When a few of the smaller birds flitted down to Radagast’s hand, Legolas gasped louder than he had when the wizard had lit the cone. Eyes fixed on the birds, he silently climbed from his father’s lap and slowly crept towards Radagast. The birds turned towards him and crouched lower in Radagast’s hand, but did not fly away.

“They flew to your hand,” Legolas whispered. From the corner of his eyes he could see his mother and father watching him intently with broad smiles, but the birds held his full attention.

Radagast nodded casually. “My friend Mithrandir is good with fire. I am better with animals. They are all my friends, but especially so are the birds.” He nuzzled the little birds in his hand against his cheek. “And I am sorry, my friends, for frightening you. I should have warned you as well as the children,” he said softly.

The birds chirped bitterly at him.

Legolas’s eyes widened. “How would you warn the birds, Master Radagast?” he asked inching closer.

Radagast smiled. “You asked earlier what languages I speak. I speak to Men and Elves sometimes, but I most often speak to birds. And they speak to me. They have many languages. The crows are different from the thrushes which are different again from the eagles and these little birds but I know them all.”

Legolas stared at him, amazed.

“Legolas, come on. Uncle is going to light another firecracker,” Galithil yelled from behind him. Legolas turned to see his cousin hopping from foot to foot, a paper cylinder from the sack in his hand. A few other elflings in addition to his cousins had gathered around including Arthiel’s younger brother, Bretheril, and the captain of the Palace Guard’s daughter, Aewen. “They are your gift. He says we must wait for you to light them. Come on,” Galithil shouted.

“You may light a few without me,” Legolas replied. “A few,” he emphasized, “I will be there in a moment.”

When he turned back to Radagast, the wizard was looking at him with surprised eyes.

“I like Mithrandir’s gift very much,” he said hastily, not wanting to give offense. “But I would love it if you could ask one of those birds if it would allow me to hold it.”

Radagast’s face brightened in response to that request. A thrush still sitting in the tree sang a complex song. The wizard knelt on the ground next to Legolas, glancing up at the thrush. “I think they will sit on your hand if you hold it open and very still,” he said taking Legolas’s hand and positioning it palm up in front of him. A sparrow hopped into it willingly, much to the child’s obvious delight. “They love you, Legolas. They only know that elflings are a little unpredictable, so they are cautious of you.” He smirked at the elves eyeing him on the green. “Just as your people are a little cautious about wizards.”

Legolas looked from the bird to Radagast. “You are a wizard?” he whispered.

Radagast smiled. “That is what the men call Mithrandir and I, along with our friend Curunir.” He smiled at the child’s wide eyes. “The thrush tells me that there is a green heron by the river that he has watched you admire. I have no gift like fireworks to give to you, but I believe I could help you persuade that heron to come meet you. Would you like that?”

Legolas nodded enthusiastically.

“Very well. You go play with the fireworks for a while and then we will go find the heron before he roosts for the night.”

“Thank you, Master Radagast,” Legolas said, as the bird flitted from his hand to Radagast’s head. Legolas smiled at it a moment before running to join his cousins with Mithrandir’s fireworks.

*~*~*

Much later that night, the elflings had finally collapsed from exhaustion and lay silently in their parent’s arms under the eaves of the forest in the light of the stars. As the children drifted onto the path of Elven dreams, their family had turned to discussing news from the south with Radagast and the newly returned Aradunnon and Dolgailon.

“Though we were well prepared, we thankfully saw only a few minor incursions into the Wood by the Wainriders—mostly those were men fleeing battle and not looking for it,” Dolgailon was explaining to Radagast.

The wizard nodded. “I know lord Forthwini was very relieved to avoid more loss as I am certain you were as well.”

Aradunnon and Thranduil nodded solemnly.

“I heard the same from lord Fengel,” Thranduil added quietly.

“Gondor faired more poorly,” Dolgailon said sadly. He turned to Thranduil. “You heard, of course, that lord Ondoher and both his sons, Artamir and Faramir, fell in battle north of the Black Gate. I was wondering if you have heard anything about the new king in Gondor. Have you formed any impression of him?”

Thranduil shook his head. “Lord Fengel informed me that Ondoher had been killed in the first battle of the war, but I heard nothing about his sons. I am sorry to hear they were lost as well. But I assumed that this…” his brow furrowed and he looked at his steward, “what is his name, Hallion?”

“Eärnil, my lord,” Hallion responded, sharing a smile with Dieneryn at Thranduil’s utter disinterest in the affairs of Men.

Thranduil nodded. “Eärnil,” he repeated. “I assumed he was one of Ondoher’s sons since he is now king. Is he a brother?” he asked curiously.

Dolgailon’s looked at his uncle with surprise. He had not expected to know more about the new King of Gondor than Thranduil. “No, Uncle. He is a captain. He led the victory at the Battle of the Camp from what I heard. I assume he is descended from Gondor’s Royal House, though I do not know how.”

“Lord Forthwini told me he is a descendant of Telumehtar Umbardacil,” Radagast said quietly. “Ondoher’s daughter might have been Queen but her husband, Arvedui, King of Arthedain, laid claim to the throne and the Steward of Gondor rejected that claim.”

Thranduil shook his head. “Mannish politics are too complicated for my tastes,” he said. “But it must have been a terrible shock for the people of Gondor to suffer a war and in it lose their king and both his sons. It speaks well of them that their government transferred peacefully after such a loss.”

Hallion nodded. “It surprises me that lord Ondoher and both his sons fought against the Wainriders,” he commented. “I thought I remembered that Gondor has a law requiring the king to leave a direct heir as regent before he may lead the realm’s troops into battle.”

Thranduil raised his eyebrows and looked at his steward incredulously.

“It is a wise law,” Engwe said dryly, causing Thranduil to turn his glare on him.

“Indeed,” said a voice standing some distance away from the family in the tree line. It was Conuiön.

Thranduil looked at him and snorted. “Thankfully, I make the laws in this realm and it will be a very dark day in Arda when I agree to any law that limits my ability to defend this forest in battle. And little good the law did Gondor. Though I am curious,” he said turning his gaze back to Dolgailon and Radagast. “Do you know how both Ondoher’s sons came to be in battle with their father if they do have this law?”

Dolgailon nodded. “I heard from the men on the western border that the youngest son, Faramir, was left as regent but he went into battle in disguise.”

Engwe frowned. “He did no service to his realm with that reckless decision,” he said disdainfully.

Aradunnon and Dolgailon nodded solemnly in response.

Thranduil remained silent. Too many times as a youth in Beleriand and even as a prince in this realm he had followed his own judgment rather than obeying his father or mother’s commands. He knew any one of those choices might have led him to a similar end. And he remembered well the bitter argument he had with his father regarding which of them would stay in Greenwood to defend it when Oropher decided to join Gil-galad in Mordor. In the end, they both had gone but only one had returned.

Looking down at his son sleeping in his arms, Thranduil wondered if his father’s insistence that he remain in Greenwood had been based solely on his desire to ensure the defense of the forest should their efforts in Mordor fail.

Thranduil closed his eyes as a great wave of pity for Ondoher and his family washed over him. “I am certain Faramir made his decision based on a desire to protect his people. We cannot know all his motives and it is wrong to speak ill of the dead,” he said softly, tightening his arms around Legolas slightly and silently adding a prayer that he would never see his son in battle in Mordor.

In response, Legolas shifted in his father’s embrace. “Gondor is boring, adar. I do not even know where it is,” he said sleepily.

Thranduil blinked and, with the other adults around him, looked at Legolas with surprise.

Galithil nodded against Aradunnon’s chest. “Tell us a story, instead,” he pleaded, his voice muffled by his father’s tunic.

Aradunnon and Thranduil looked at each other, eyebrows raised, and Dolgailon turned to his father guiltily.

“I apologize, adar. I would not have mentioned this subject if I thought they were awake,” he said softly.

Oblivious to the concern of the adults, Legolas rolled onto his back to gaze up through the canopy of trees. “Tell us the story about the stars again, ada,” he said.

Thranduil drew a quiet breath, looking between Legolas and Galithil. Something in his son’s tired voice took him back in time three Ages of the world.

Thranduil’s head rested on his father’s shoulder as they lay in the tall grass. Next to them sat Dieneryn and Engwe. Nearby, Ormeril also lay in the grass with Ninglor’s head pillowed on her stomach. Engwe was playing his harp and singing softly. Earlier, they had been celebrating Thranduil’s Begetting Day by teaching the elflings various dances and songs and games. Now Thranduil and his cousin were struggling to stay awake for it was late and the stars were bright in the sky.

“Those look like a bird, ada,” Thranduil said sleepily, pointing into the night sky at a bright constellation of stars.

“That constellation is called the Eagle,” Oropher replied, stroking his son’s hair.

Thranduil propped himself up on one elbow to look at his father’s face eagerly. “Tell us the story about the stars again, ada,” he begged.

Oropher smiled at him and nodded, drawing his son closer to his side. Thranduil settled happily next to him, head now resting on his chest. He could feel the rumbling of his father’s deep voice as he spoke.

“When it was time for the Firstborn children of Ilúvatar to awaken by the Cuiviénen, the Valar took counsel and saw that the world in which we would walk was dark. And the Valar loved the Elves so Elbereth took the silver dews from the vats of Telperion, the Silver Tree. From them she kindled new, brighter stars for our comfort. Since then we have been blessed with an evening sky lit by Carnil and Luinil…”

“I know where they are, ada,” Thranduil interrupted, pointing to the Red Star and the Blue Star.

“That is right, ion nin. Do you remember the names of any other stars that Elbereth created for us?”

Thranduil nodded proudly. “There is Nénar,” he said pointing again.

“And there is Lumbar,” Ninglor added, raising his arm tiredly towards that star.

These were simple names that the elflings could manage.

“Help us find the constellations, ada,” Thranduil begged. “Where is Wilwarin?”

Oropher smiled. Thranduil had discovered the beauty of butterflies the previous Spring and was disturbed to find they were not present when the winter snows froze the flowers. Wilwarin, bright in the winter sky, reassured him that the butterflies would return, so it had become one of his favorite constellations.

“She is there,” he said tracing a group of stars with his finger. “Can you see her wings?”

The elfling nodded.

“And what is that one? With the three bright stars on his belt?” Oropher quizzed.

“Menelvalgor, the Swordsman” Thranduil answered swiftly. “And the seven stars are the Valacirca.”

Oropher reached to ruffle his son’s silvery-golden hair. “That is very good, ion nin,” he praised.

Thranduil laughed. “They are so bright that they are easy to find.”

“Bright as you are, sweetling,” Dieneryn said, leaning over to kiss her son’s forehead, which caused Thranduil to squirm closer to his father.

“Tell us a story about Menelvalgor,” Ninglor demanded. His voice sounded sleepy again.

It was not long before Oropher’s deep voice had lulled the children to sleep.


Since Thranduil had not replied to Legolas’s request, Aradunnon was now telling the children about the stars and constellations. As Thranduil listened to his brother’s voice, he looked at his mother and Engwe, wondering if they remembered that long ago Spring evening. From the expression on their faces, he could tell that they did. For a moment Thranduil marveled at the thought that these were the same stars that he had laid in his father’s arms to study in Beleriand so long ago and he felt the absence of his cousin and father acutely.

Thranduil’s eyes were drawn to the Valacirca. As a child, Menelvalgor and the Valacirca had always appeared so beautiful to him—the brightest constellations in the sky. His father never told him that Menelvalgor was a symbol of the Last Battle and Valacirca a challenge to Melkor and symbol of doom. He learned that later, when he was older.

“What does Valacirca mean, ada?” Eirienil asked, peering at the seven stars.

Thranduil forced his thoughts to the present and looked at his advisor.

“Vala refers to the Valar, of course” he responded quietly, “And a sickle is a tool. It has a blade and men use it to harvest the crops of their fields.”

“Do the Valar harvest crops in Aman, ada? Why do they not live in a forest? Are there no forests in Aman? Is that why we do not go there?” Eirienil asked rapidly.

Isteth smiled at her daughter. “I am certain there are beautiful forest full of ancient, wise trees in Aman, iell nin. But do you not love this forest? Why would you want to leave it?”

“I do not want to leave it. But what about the Elves that live in Aman? And the Valar? They need forests too. I do not see why they need sickles.”

Golwon sighed softly. “A sickle can also be a weapon,” he admitted. “Elbereth placed the Valacirca in the sky as a warning to the Evil One. To make him stay away.”

Eirienil frowned doubtfully. “Lord Thranduil and lord Aradunnon make the Evil One stay away. I think they do a better job than those stars would do,” she said firmly.

Thranduil, who had been listening to this discussion with some surprise at Golwon’s honesty, stifled a shocked snort in response to that appraisal.

“I appreciate your confidence, Eirienil,” he replied as seriously as he could, studiously ignoring the grins of his family.

Isteth gathered her daughter in her arms. “I think it is time to go to bed,” she said softly.

That pronouncement was met with tired protests from all the children but they did not resist as their parents picked them up.

“Did you enjoy your Begetting Day, Legolas,” Thranduil asked as Lindomiel and Amoneth folded the blanket the family had been sitting on and Isteth and Ollwen gathered the children’s toys.

Legolas nodded in answer to his father’s question, snuggling his face against his tunic. Then he looked over at Radagast. “Thank you for helping convince the heron to meet me, Master Radagast,” he said.

The wizard reached over and stroked Legolas’s cheek. “I am always happy to encourage kinship between my animal friends and anyone who might love them, pen neth.”

Legolas settled against his father’s tunic again as they began to walk back towards the Great Gates. The elves still dancing on the lawn smiled at the sight of the sleepy elflings as the Royal Family passed them.

“Ada?” Legolas said.

“Yes, Legolas?” Thranduil answered quietly, wanting to encourage his son to sleep, not begin to chatter.

“Since I can write all my letters, can I ask Master Rodonon to help me write to lord Fengel and Mithrandir to thank them for their presents?” he pressed.

Thranduil and Lindomiel smiled at that. “Yes, you can, Legolas. Indeed you should. You tell Rodonon what you want to say tomorrow during your writing lesson and he will help you with the words.”

“And you will send the letters with a courier?” Legolas asked.

Thranduil nodded. “The next one going to Dale and…” he hesitated and looked at Radagast.

The wizard laughed lightly. “I can have someone carry the child’s letter to Mithrandir,” he offered.

Legolas smiled contentedly. “And ada will you make me a seal with a beech tree on it for my letters?” he asked.

Thranduil saw Hallion smirk and shake his head in amusement. “Go to sleep, Legolas,” Thranduil admonished softly. “Seals are a discussion for another day.”

Legolas raised his head and looked at his father anxiously. “No, ada. You promised me you would tell me tonight why daeradar’s seal is an oak tree.”

Thranduil sighed but nodded indulgently. “I did promise that so I will tell you the story if you can stay awake for it,” he replied.

“I can stay awake,” Legolas replied, leaning his head against his father’s chest again.

Thranduil smiled and kissed his son’s hair. What the future may hold, Thranduil did not know but for that moment, all the world was perfect for both father and son.

*~*~*

AN: This is the end of New Journeys. The story will continue in Interrupted Journeys: Part Four—Journeys of Discovery. I am also going to start posting A New Dawn: First Age, which is a sort of prequel to this and tells my version of Oropher’s family and Thranduil’s youth in the First Age. It has many of the same characters as this story. I should start posting both of those stories soon.

I want to thank everyone who has stuck with this story so far. I know this last part was fairly complex, so I appreciate people staying with it. The next part is a bit lighter. I appreciate your reviews very much and I hope you continue to enjoy.

There are about 20 of you reading here on this site (at least that's how many hits I get each chapter). I might not continue to post this here because I am posting it in so many places and it's difficult to keep them all updated. If not, and you do want to keep reading, I will definitely keep posting it at Stories of Arda.

*~*~*

Adar/ada—Father/dad

Naneth/nana—Mother/mum

Daeradar/naneth—Grandfather/mother

Ion nin—My son

Iell nin--My daughter

Mae govannen—Well met

Pen neth—young one

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Epilogue: A Special Day
Created
05 Jun 2005
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05 Jun 2005
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