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Interrupted Journeys: Part Four--Journeys of Discovery

Chapter 10: Affectations--Part One

by ellisk

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)

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Affectations--Part One
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16 Mar 2007
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