Login

Lost Password?

Create New Account

Interrupted Journeys: Part Four--Journeys of Discovery

Chapter 2: Creatures of the forest

by ellisk

Chapter 2: Creatures of the forest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*~*~*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Shh,” hissed Galithil, from the ground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It is nothing but bones,” Legolas whispered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*~*~*

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

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

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

Celonhael and Golwon made an effort to respond seriously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*~*~*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dolgailon and Arthiel leveled a doubtful look at the children.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking with concern at the rabbit, the children nodded.

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

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

*~*~*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legolas nodded absently as the puppy licked his face.

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

“Indeed,” Thranduil agreed with an amused smile.

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

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

Legolas and his cousins looked at Thranduil.

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

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

The children nodded their heads eagerly.

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

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

*~*~*

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

*~*~*

Naneth/nana—Mother/mum

Adar/ada—Father/dad

Ellon/ellyn—male elf(ves)

Elleth/ellyth—female elf(ves)

Meleth (nin)—(My) love

Chapters

Jump to chapter

Chapter name
Creatures of the forest
Created
19 Sep 2005
Last Edited
19 Sep 2005
Hits
306
Words
6440