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Interrupted Journeys: Part Four--Journeys of Discovery

Chapter 5: Mischief and Moonbows--Part Three

by ellisk

Chapter 5 : Mischief and Moonbows--Part Three

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

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

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

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

Legolas and Berior nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crithad stared at Legolas and his cousins with angered disbelief.

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

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

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

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

The children only nodded in response.

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

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

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

They shook their heads.

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

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

All four elflings squirmed in response to that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

*~*~*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aradunnon scowled, but did not argue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They nodded and looked down.

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

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

The children shifted nervously in response to that reminder.

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

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

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

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

The children remained silent, looking at the ground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thranduil closed his eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

Galithil stared at him but said nothing more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the children squirmed, but they remained silent.

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

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

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

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

Legolas looked down, nodding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*~*~*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legolas frowned. “By trickery?” he replied.

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

Legolas nodded ruefully. “Yes, it is.”

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

Legolas nodded. “Yes, ada. I do.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, ada,” Legolas said quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legolas stared at his father, mouth agape.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*~*~*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thranduil only nodded.

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

“I think so,” Thranduil responded neutrally.

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

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

Legolas’s eyes widened with interest and Thranduil laughed.

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

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

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

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

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


*~*~*

Adar/ada--Father/dad

Naneth/nana--Mother/mum

Daeradar/daerada--Granfather/grandad

Ion nin--My son

Guren--My heart

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Mischief and Moonbows--Part Three
Created
24 Oct 2005
Last Edited
24 Oct 2005
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