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Interrupted Journeys: Part Four--Journeys of Discovery

Chapter 6: Discoveries

by ellisk

Chapter 6: Discoveries

Singing as they worked, one of the ellyth in the palace laundry opened the valve that allowed water to rush into the washing vats while another poured soap flakes into the water. A third, the youngest, stooped over to grasp a large basket of linen in an attempt to tip its contents into the soapy water.

She quickly made a grunting sound and let go of the basket, straightening again to stand over it with her hands on her hips.

“They must have stuffed all the household linen for the last year into this basket,” she declared when the other ellyth stopped singing to look at her, shaking their heads with amusement. She scowled at them. “One of you help me lift it and you will see how heavy it is,” she said.

The older ellyth laughed lightly. “You grow lazier as the days grow longer,” one said as she bent to help with the basket. She looked up at her friend with a teasing expression. “I think you are simply anxious to spend more time with your new husband in the forest now that spring is here.”

The younger elleth let her hands slip from her hips as a smile claimed her lips. “That is certainly true,” she replied, also bending to help dump the basket into the vat. Between them, they easily lifted it, inverting it over the vat.

As soon as they did, a high-pitched squeal arose from within the basket. Startled, the ellyth dropped it and jumped back. The linen tumbled out to hit the water with an unnaturally loud splash that was immediately followed by sounds of spluttering and more splashing.

The laundresses only needed a moment to realize what had happened. They quickly reached into the vats and pulled aside the cloth to reveal Legolas and Galithil, rubbing water and soap from their eyes, shaking their heads and drawing gasping breaths as they tried to keep their heads above the water.

The two older ellyth immediately grabbed their tunics and hauled them from the vats.

“Are you injured?” one asked, wrapping the children in towels that she pulled from a stack ready to be returned to the family chambers.

Galithil pushed the hair from his eyes and shook his head. Legolas did the same while wringing water from his tunic. The disgusted glare faded from their eyes as they recovered from their unexpected surprise.

“This would be a fun place to swim,” Galithil said, looking at Legolas. “Those vats are definitely big enough.”

Legolas nodded, now grinning. Before he could reply, the youngest laundress loosed a short laugh. “You will not think it so fine a place to swim if the queen catches you doing it,” she said.

One of the older ellyth smiled. “You would not be speaking from experience, would you?” she asked, with a knowing gleam in her eye. Then she looked at Galithil and Legolas sternly as she could. “What are you two doing in the laundry? You should be outdoors playing on a lovely spring day like today.”

Galithil’s eyes narrowed and the corner of his mouth turned down. “I agree, but our adars said we cannot go outside without supervision since we snuck away from Master Crithad’s yard to look at the moonbow. No one can go outside with us today, so we must stay in the stronghold.”

The ellyth looked at each other with raised eyebrows. “Evidence that even the king can make a bad judgment occasionally,” one said softly. “Who would think it is a good idea to keep children inside, depriving them of the opportunity to exhaust themselves in the forest?”

Galithil nodded appreciatively. “Maybe you should tell him that,” he suggested hopefully. “And my adar too.”

The ellyth laughed. “I do not think so,” the laundress replied. “And I also do not think you should be playing in the laundry baskets. What were you doing in there?”

Galithil and Legolas grinned. “Playing hide and seek with Berior and Eirienil. They are probably still trying to find us. They will never think to look for us here,” Galithil replied.

The laundresses shook their heads, smiling. “Indeed not, since you are not allowed to be in here,” one said. “You had better go back to your rooms and change before you go back to your game. And this time stay where you are supposed to be. Your parents will only be angrier with you if they catch you someplace forbidden.”

Galithil and Legolas nodded with a failing attempt to appear contrite and trotted out of the laundry.

*~*~*

Not long afterwards, Legolas, Eirienil and Berior were scurrying as silently as they could out of the stronghold entry hall, while Galithil counted to one hundred with his face buried in his arms facing a wall. Glancing back at his cousin to make sure he still had his eyes covered, Legolas motioned for Eirienil and Berior to duck into a narrow corridor that led from the entry hall directly to the private areas of the stronghold. It was not a passage that the children were prohibited to enter, but since it led mostly to meeting rooms, offices and storage rooms, they rarely used it. For the purposes of hide and seek, however, Legolas thought it would be an ideal location—one Galithil would not quickly think to search and one full of places to hide even if he did.

Recognizing Legolas’s plan, his cousins grinned excitedly and followed him, slipping silently through the door and shutting it quietly, careful not to make any telltale noise that Galithil might hear.

Once inside, Eirienil and Berior hurried along the dimly lit corridor, intent upon reaching a good hiding place. Legolas ran after them, looking from side to side at the doors that lined the walls. Eirienil pulled at one. Finding it locked, she moved on to the next. On the other side of the corridor, Legolas did the same. The third door that Eirienil tried opened and she went inside it. Legolas shook his head at her.

“Do not use the first one you find open. If Galithil looks here and finds it empty, he is more likely to give up,” he whispered.

As Eirienil nodded and closed the door to look for another open room, Legolas saw Berior walk behind a tapestry that hung from the ceiling to the floor and press himself experimentally against the wall. Legolas and Eirienil rolled their eyes at the obvious bulge Berior’s form made and at his protruding toes.

“This will certainly not do,” Legolas said sticking his head behind the tapestry with a laugh. “I can see your feet, for one thing,” he explained in response to Berior’s doubtful expression.

When Berior only turned his feet to the side and flattened himself more snuggly against the wall, Legolas snorted and flattened himself against the wall as well, intending to suggest that Berior step from behind the tapestry to see how poor a hiding place it was. As soon as he touched the wall, however, he pulled away from it with a frown and turned towards it. Studying its surface, he tentatively ran his hand across it.

“This is a terrible place to hide. Come out of here,” Eirienil said impatiently, also sticking her head behind the tapestry and motioning for the ellyn to follow her.

Berior sighed and pushed the tapestry aside to move from behind it, but Legolas did not follow. Instead, he reached out and caught his cousin’s sleeve.

“Does this wall not seem…odd to you?” he whispered.

Berior turned back to look at Legolas with a confused expression.

Eirienil scowled at him. “Galithil is going to find us if we do not hide soon,” she warned.

“I think there is a door here,” Legolas continued as if he had not heard her, still studying the wall.

Eirienil raised her eyebrows. “That is a wall, Legolas, not a door. You really do need to pay better attention in lessons if you do not understand that.”

That comment caused Legolas to turn a smirk on her. “I think it is a door like the one in ada’s office—the secret one that leads to the garden,” he replied with exaggerated patience.

Eirienil and Berior both touched the wall in response. Berior shook his head. “But there is no seam. How could there be a door here?” he whispered.

Legolas shrugged. “There is no way to tell there is a door in ada’s office either until it opens,” he answered. “Even the Great Gates close without a seam between them. Uncle Aradunnon told me once that it was magic.”

The three children looked at each other in silence a moment. They all had heard that story.

“But what makes you think there is a door here?” Eirienil finally asked a little anxiously while peering into the shadows behind Legolas at the entrance to the corridor to make sure she could not see Galithil.

Legolas shook his head slowly. “The wall here is the same as in ada’s office. It is…warmer, somehow. More alive. Does it not seem different to you?”

“It seems like a wall to me, Legolas,” Eirienil said, but Berior now had both his hands and his cheek pressed against it.

“It is different,” he said with certainty in his voice, looking at Legolas. “Do you think we can make it open?”

Legolas looked at the wall doubtfully. “I do not know how the door in ada’s office opens. He always opens it if we are going into the garden that way.”

Eirienil frowned. “All he does is push on it. And the Gates open if you push on them too. You are leaning against that wall, Legolas. If it were going to open, it would have done so by now.”

Legolas scowled and he turned fully towards the wall, pressing his hand against it purposefully. At once, the wall shifted, allowing a crack of light to shine through from the other side. At the same moment, Berior and Eirienil jumped as a hand fell on each of their shoulders.

“I found you all,” Galithil’s voice boomed. “It is not smart to stay together and this tapestry was a really foolish place to hide,” he said, laughing at his cousins’ startled expressions.

“Shhh,” Legolas hissed.

Galithil looked over to glare at his cousin, but his gaze fell upon the wall and his eyes widened. “What is that?” he whispered staring at the shaft of light.

“We found a secret door,” Legolas whispered in reply.

“Where does it go?” Galithil asked, leaning forward to peek through the crack.

“We do not know yet,” Berior replied, also edging forward and pushing the door open just wide enough for an elfling to squeeze through. Immediately they heard the muffled sound of voices on the other side.

“Maybe we should not go in,” Eirienil said softly, grabbing Berior’s arm as he started through the opening. “Secret doors typically lead to private places.”

Galithil looked at her incredulously. “Only you would find a secret door and then not go through it, Eirienil,” he said disgustedly. He poked his head through the opening. “The only thing I can see is another tapestry,” he reported. Then he looked again at his cousins. “If we go in, we will be hidden until we figure out where we are. We can go back if we have to, but I want to know where it goes.”

Legolas and Berior nodded. “We will leave it open and just peek around the tapestry to find out what room it is,” Legolas said, stepping across the threshold of the door. When Eirienil still looked at them skeptically, he sighed. “We are inside the stronghold, Eirienil. We live here. How dangerous or private could it possibly be?”

With that, the ellyn squeezed through the door. Reluctantly, Eirienil followed.

On the other side, the children found themselves standing in a very similar environment—between a tapestry and the wall. As Galithil and Berior studied the back weave of the tapestry, trying to make out the design and determine if they recognized it, Legolas focused on the murmur of a gruff voice speaking Westron. The tapestry muffled the voice, which seemed to emanate from several feet away. It was gravely and deep—too difficult for Legolas to understand, given that he had only started to learn Westron, but it sounded angry and pleading at the same time. Legolas frowned, unable to imagine who the speaker could be.

When the person stopped speaking and another, much more familiar voice responded, Galithil and Berior froze in their inspection of the tapestry, Eirienil gasped softly, and Legolas covered his mouth with his hand to stop himself from doing the same.

“Allow me to make certain that I understand what you are saying,” Thranduil said, also speaking Westron. His voice was mere feet away from the children.

Legolas and Eirienil locked eyes, exchanging an alarmed look. “The Great Hall,” Legolas mouthed silently.

Eirienil nodded and, with Berior, began backing silently towards the door. Their jaws fell open when, instead of following, Galithil laid down on the stone floor on his stomach to peek under the fringes of the tapestry. Legolas nudged him with his foot and gestured for him to get up but Galithil looked back at his cousin and shook his head with excitement in his eyes.

“Dwarves,” he mouthed.

Legolas stopped in the door’s threshold and stared at Galithil. Glancing through the door to where Eirienil and Berior had already retreated into the corridor, he hesitated only a moment before lying next to his cousin and pulling the fringe of the tapestry aside slightly with one finger to better peek into the room. He had never seen a dwarf and the opportunity was irresistible.

Between the legs of the throne, his father’s legs and the legs of another elf positioned next to the king on the dais—Legolas assumed that would be Hallion, the king’s steward—Legolas could see several elven warriors standing in front of the throne. His view was narrow, limited by the space between the floor and the bottom of the tapestry, but he could see they were armed with swords and their clothes were travel-worn. They were from one of the border patrols, he realized. He also thought he recognized that one amongst them was his uncle, Galithil’s father, Aradunnon. But the most interesting sight, partially obscured by the legs and elves and angle of the view, was the hood and graying beard of a stout creature. Holding his breath, Legolas shifted to try to get a better look at the dwarf as his father spoke.

“My patrols came upon you and your party several leagues north of the Forest Road just as you were attacked by the orcs that they were tracking. They were able to drive the orcs away in time to save your life, but the others in your party were killed. Taking pity on your loss, the captain of that patrol offered to escort you to the edge of the forest, but you insisted on coming to the stronghold to speak to me. Now you are asking me for restitution for the loss of your travel companions. Is that correct?”

Legolas saw the dwarf’s beard dip, indicating he had nodded once.

Thranduil remained silent a moment. “Please explain to me why I should owe you any sort of restitution,” he finally said in a very calm voice.

The dwarf’s hand tightened around his walking staff. “You are responsible for the safety of this forest and those in it, are you not?” he demanded crossly.

“Indeed I am,” Thranduil responded in a patient voice that Legolas recognized all too well. It was one he used when he already knew more than you would want him to know. Legolas squinted through the fringes of the tapestry at the dwarf, feeling sorry for him as his father continued speaking. “That is why we require travelers to stay on the Road—so we know where they are and can keep them safe. I believe we already noted that you were not found on the Road, but rather in the forest.”

“We were lost,” the dwarf responded angrily. “Is the punishment for being lost in your realm a sentence of death?”

“Clearly you have learned that death can be the result of wandering off the Road,” Thranduil responded with a hard tone, allowing a bit of his own irritation to show. “Though not through any intentional action or lack of action on my part. I cannot keep people safe if I am unaware of their presence or if they are not where I expect them to be.”

The dwarf made an irate noise.

Legolas cringed and willed him to remain silent for his own good. Arguing never led to a pleasant ending.

Thranduil merely raised his voice to speak over the dwarf’s protest. “I was not aware of your presence in the forest since you did not make it known either by communicating with the border guards or by paying the toll to travel across the Road. Nor did you stay on the Road. I cannot be held responsible for those choices since I had nothing to do with them. I owe you nothing, Master Dwarf. Nonetheless, I will offer you my sympathy and regret for your loss and an escort to your own lands since allowing you to travel alone would certainly result in your death.” He paused. “I will send a message with that escort to lord Durin, reminding him to encourage his people to remain on the Road while traveling through the forest.” He paused again. “And to pay the toll for using the Road.”

“The generosity of the elves has ever been legendary amongst my people,” the dwarf replied with heavy sarcasm. “Keep your escort and I will make my own report to lord Durin regarding travel through your lands,” he said shortly and then turned to leave.

Legolas and Galithil watched as the dwarf stood, facing the warriors that surrounded him, waiting for them to part and allow him to pass. When they did not move, he half turned, glaring back at Thranduil.

The room was silent a moment before Thranduil continued as if the dwarf had neither done nor said anything. Again, his tone was overly calm “Tell me Master Dwarf, have you made the journey across the Forest Road before?”

“Many times,” the dwarf responded impatiently.

“Hmm,” Thranduil murmured thoughtfully. “That is odd. My warriors told me that that they found you without nearly enough water or supplies to make the entire journey to the River Running. Experienced travelers would know the streams that once flowed near the Road from the mountains are now fouled and that I forbid travelers to hunt in the woods along the Road. How can you explain that lack of preparation, Master Dwarf?” he asked, his voice silky.

The dwarf’s feet shuffled. “I owe you no explanations,” he responded haughtily. “My travel plans and preparations are my own business, not yours.”

“Perhaps,” Thranduil replied softly. “My warriors also tell me that your party was armed heavily with bows rather than swords or axes. That is rather strange armament for a party of dwarves, it is not?”

The dwarf did not answer.

“Unusual for a traveling party, but not a hunting party, perhaps,” Thranduil added into the silence.

The dwarf still remained silent as Legolas and Galithil glanced at each other, both excitement and concern in their eyes. As young as they were, they knew perfectly well that foreigners were not allowed to hunt in the forest.

“You bear the symbols of lord Durin’s House, so I assume you are kin to him,” Thranduil said quietly. “My only question for you before my warriors escort you back to your home is this: will lord Durin be angry to hear that you were hunting in the Woodland Realm or will he be angry to hear that you were caught doing so?”

The dwarf snorted. “He will be angry to hear that his cousins were killed in your realm and that you did nothing…that you reacted scornfully with accusations against me,” he replied.

“I have expressed my sincere regret for your loss, Master Dwarf, but if you were hunting in my forest, that violates my laws. I have a right to know it. I will certainly question you since you came to speak to me of your own volition. Indeed I cannot imagine why you were so foolish as to demand to be brought to my court. Most people who have committed a crime in my forest would be anxious to escape such a fate. They would not request it.”

“I am not a criminal. I am Durin’s nephew,” the dwarf responded, now openly furious.

“We will see,” Thranduil responded coolly. “My warriors will escort you back to Khazad-dûm, where they will seek an audience with lord Durin to inform him of the details of this incident. They will ask him if your party had been sent to hunt in this forest with his blessing. I am anxious to receive his reply, because if that is the manner in which he intends to treat with me, such news will certainly affect your people’s travels through this forest in the future. But I doubt that is what I will find. I think that lord Durin sent your party to the forest not for travel, but rather to speak with me about hunting rights. I think you and your fellows took it upon yourselves to hunt before asking for the permission you were sent to obtain.” He paused. “My warriors also told me that you searched frantically through the ruins of your camp once the orcs were driven away. I think you were searching for the payment lord Durin entrusted you to use to negotiate hunting rights with me—payment that you intended to keep, that the orcs stole and that you hoped to recover by asking me for restitution.”

The dwarf took a step forward and pointed his walking stick aggressively at Thranduil. “I am no thief!” he said, enraged. “I am Narin, son of Fron, the King’s brother. I will not listen to these insults. If my brother, his son and I chose to make certain the hunting in this forest was worth the sum our King sent to bargain with, we were certainly wise to do so—Sindarin kings have been known to cheat our people in the past and given your utterly callous attitude towards the deaths of the King’s family and the insults you have issued against us, I have no doubt that your character is as poor as your ancestors’. May you meet the same end as they.”

Legolas and Galithil glanced at each other, not understanding all of the dwarf’s heated words. They did clearly understand the dwarf’s tone, however, and they gasped at the implication of his last words, especially when his hand moved to caress the small axe that hung on his belt.

They had only just noticed that gesture when the ringing sound of swords being drawn from their sheaths echoed through the room. Faster than the elflings’ eyes could follow, the guards standing to the side of the dais positioned themselves between the dwarf and the throne, swords at the ready. Aradunnon, standing amongst the warriors that had escorted the dwarf into the stronghold, had also drawn his sword—its blade now rested against the dwarf’s throat.

Forgetting the consequences of being caught, the children lifted the tapestry and poked their heads under it to better see into the Great Hall. As the guards reacted to the dwarf’s threat, Thranduil and Hallion had moved as well—Hallion stepped in front of the king as Thranduil stood. Legolas saw the glint of a knife in his father’s hand and he held his breath.

“Enough,” Thranduil’s voice boomed through the Hall, holding his guards and warriors from further action. When all eyes turned towards the king’s voice, the children shrank back, hiding once again behind the tapestry. “You are grief stricken, Master Dwarf, after the death of your brother and his son. I understand all too well the pain of losing family to the orcs and for that reason I have dealt with your violation of my borders mercifully. Nevertheless, you would be wise to not try my patience with another word lest you force me to remind you of the fates of those dwarves that brought lord Thingol to the end you wished upon me.”

The dwarf glared at Thranduil and drew a sharp breath to reply.

“Are you representing your King faithfully?” Thranduil interrupted. “Did lord Durin send you to start a war with the Woodland Realm by threatening its King after poaching game in the forest?”

Legolas and Galithil saw the dwarf raise his chin haughtily and his posture remained tense, but he held his silence and moved his hands away from his weapons.

Thranduil nodded as Hallion again moved to his side. The guards and warriors did not alter their stances, however. Only Aradunnon lowered his sword at a gesture from Thranduil.

“Arrange to take him back to his home,” Thranduil ordered, glancing between Aradunnon and Hallion. “Send enough warriors to make sure he arrives safely and send with them someone to speak to lord Durin concerning this incident. Perhaps Celonhael.”

With that, the warriors began to lead the dwarf from the room. Legolas watched him go, hoping for a better look at him, but the warriors surrounded the dwarf and their much taller forms blocked him from view.

Galithil tugged at his cousin’s sleeve. “If we hurry, we can return to the entry hall and see him before they remove him from the stronghold,” he whispered, pushing himself up.

Legolas nodded and followed swiftly, scrambling through the door and into the corridor where his cousins had already retreated and were waiting nervously. Pulling the hidden door closed, he and Galithil pushed Berior and Eirienil in front of them, towards the door that led into the entry hall. They emerged through it just as the dwarf was led out of the Great Hall.

The children stared at the dwarf, studying with open amazement his long beard, heavy stature and strange dress and weaponry, while the warriors discussed how best to deal with him until Aradunnon gave them their orders. They listened with a mixture of horror and pity as the dwarf protested his treatment, alternating between mourning his family and cursing elves in general and Thranduil in particular. Fortunately much of the language was lost on the elflings, who were not likely to ever learn such vocabulary from their tutor. Finally the dwarf lapsed back into Khuzdul, which drew Legolas a few careful steps closer to listen to the gruff sounds of that completely unfamiliar tongue. Soon after, the guards led their charge from the stronghold. When they did, the children followed at a safe distance, going as far as the landing just outside the gates and watching silently until the dwarf disappeared entirely from view.

*~*~*

Later that evening, the sun was low in the sky but the children still sat on the stone pillars of the bridge that spanned the river talking quietly and looking into the forest where the dwarf had been led away.

“I do not think Uncle was very angry until the dwarf said that about ‘Sindarin kings’ cheating dwarves in the past,” Galithil was saying. He glanced at Eirienil. “Are you certain you cannot think of what he was referring to?”

Clearly disappointed with herself, Eirienil shook her head.

Legolas did not notice her response. He was laughing at Galithil. “You simply do not know how to recognize anger unless it is screaming in your face, Galithil. Ada was angry. Very angry. Long before the dwarf said anything about Sindarin kings. But he was trying to get more information from the dwarf to try to figure out if he should be angry only at him or at his King as well.” Legolas sighed. “I wish Master Rodonon would teach us more about the world today and less about things that happened three Ages ago.”

Eirienil and Berior laughed. “If he did that you would never understand what the dwarf meant,” Berior replied. “You said Uncle mentioned Elu Thingol. He was the King of Doriath during the First Age—three Ages ago.”

Legolas scowled at Berior. “I know that much,” he said disgustedly. “I do remember what Master Rodonon has taught us about the Great Journey.”

“Well, we will never figure it out sitting here,” Eirienil interrupted their argument smoothly. “I think we should go to the library and look it up.”

Galithil looked at her with an alarmed expression. “Elu Thingol lived for thousands of years. We could read for days and not figure out what the dwarf meant. I think we should just ask Master Rodonon tomorrow in lessons.”

Eirienil rolled her eyes. “You do that,” she said. “But you had better think of some explanation for why you know what the dwarf said to Uncle Thranduil in his throne room. I do not think what you overheard is going to be a topic of discussion at dinner tonight. I also think we would be imprisoned in our rooms until we came of age if Uncle finds out we were spying on him.”

Galithil frowned in response to that argument, unable to deny Eirienil was right. He slumped back against the pillar. “We may have to look it up,” he admitted quietly.

“Then we should go do it,” Eirienil said, hopping up. When she turned to walk back through the Gates, she froze.

Following her gaze, her cousins’ breath caught in their throats. Their fathers and Hallion were marching swiftly towards the Gates, bows in hand. It was not the weapons that concerned the children as much as the sudden realization that they were outside the stronghold, where they were not allowed to be. Not far outside—just on the landing outside the Gates—but outside just the same. They jumped up and stepped inside the Gates, looking guiltily at their fathers.

To their relief, the adults did not seem to notice them. They were engaged in a quiet but clearly intense debate as they walked.

Legolas silently watched their approach. His father’s mouth was set in determined lines and his gaze was fixed ahead of him as he made brief replies to the comments his steward and the commander of his military murmured in his ears. Shoulders squared, Thranduil strode through the entry hall with a strength of bearing that made Legolas look at him with wide eyes. Along with his cousins, Legolas often waited for their parents to emerge from the Great Hall in the evenings, looking forward to greeting them. But this evening, as the elves in the entry hall parted to make way for them and bowed as they passed, Legolas saw not his father and uncles but the King of the Woodland Realm and his council.

Thranduil and his advisors reached the Gates, still intently focused on their conversation and the children stood aside with the Gate guards. As the guards bowed, Legolas and his cousins found themselves automatically doing the same.

When Thranduil glanced to the side to acknowledge the guards with a nod, he finally noticed the children and he stopped short, looking at his son with amusement in his eyes.

“Fair evening, ion nin,” he said, reaching with his free hand to caress his son’s cheek. Aradunnon ruffled Galithil’s hair as Golwon kissed his daughter’s forehead and Celonhael reached to pick up his son—Berior did not yet consider himself too old for such displays.

“Fair evening, adar,” Legolas replied, a smile lighting his face as Thranduil’s serious expression melted away.

“What are you children doing by the Gates?” Aradunnon asked, looking at Galithil suspiciously.

Galithil gazed up at his father innocently. “We were not outside, ada. We were only on the landing. We wanted to get a better look at the dwarf. We have never seen a dwarf before,” he explained earnestly.

The adults exchanged a concerned glance.

“And did you see him?” Celonhael asked neutrally.

The children nodded solemnly.

“He did not seem very happy,” Berior observed.

Thranduil snorted. “He was not and he is not likely to be any happier anytime soon.” He looked at the children seriously. “If anything you saw or heard troubled you, we can discuss it after dinner if you would like.” He smirked and his tone grew wry. “The dwarf did not make us particularly happy either, so before I can calmly discuss anything related to him, I am going to work off a bit off tension at the archery range.”

The children looked at Thranduil excitedly.

“Can we go with you, ada?” Legolas asked, his voice bordering on pleading. Watching their parents practice archery was a favorite activity.

“We have not been able to go outside all day since nana and Aunt Lindomiel were busy,” Galithil added.

Thranduil hesitated for only a moment before he nodded and led Legolas through the Gates with a hand on his shoulder. “You must promise to stay behind us when we shoot,” he said sternly, but he smiled at Legolas as he turned his bow over to his son’s outstretched hands. Legolas traced the carvings on it with his fingers as he had a hundred times before while carrying it for his father.

“But we can get your arrows for you when you are finished shooting and it is safe?” Legolas asked, skipping next to his father to match his long strides. .

Thranduil chuckled at his enthusiasm.

“Yes, you may, Legolas,” he replied. “And you and your cousins can also keep score for us. Uncle Aradunnon seems to think his archery skills now surpass mine, so it is time for me to put my little brother in his place,” Thranduil replied, laughing when both Aradunnon and Galithil glared at him.

Shifting the bow so he could carry it with one hand, Legolas reached with the other for his father’s hand. “You will win, ada,” he said confidently, casting a playful look at his cousin and uncle and laughing when Galithil’s eyes narrowed.

*~*~*

Late that night, Legolas looked up from the heavy book balanced precariously on his lap when the door to his room flew open without warning. He scowled at the intruder—Galithil—knowing his displeasure would be thoroughly ignored. When it was, he sighed and put aside the book, motioning for his cousin to join him. Galithil did without hesitation, or need of the invitation, climbing onto Legolas’s bed and sitting on it cross-legged. He glanced at the book and then frowned at Legolas.

“What are you reading?” he asked with dramatic disdain.

“The account of how the dwarves attacked Menegroth,” he replied quietly.

Earlier that evening in the family sitting room, the children had spoken with their parents about the dwarf and what they had heard him say in the entry hall. During that conversation, Galithil took advantage of the opportunity to ask about parts of the discussion they had heard in the Great Hall, allowing his father and uncles to assume the dwarf had repeated his insults in the entry hall. When Galithil asked about Elu Thingol, Dieneryn had briefly explained that dwarves working in Menegroth’s smithies had wrongly accused Thingol of failing to pay them for work they had done and they had killed the King in his own halls. Her story had only left Legolas even more curious, so after dinner he had gone to the library.

Galithil now looked at the book with interest. “Can I read it after you?”

Legolas shook his head. “I promised it to Eirienil next, but I will tell it to you.”

Galithil nodded, preferring that option. He propped himself up on Legolas’s pillows, making himself comfortable. “That dwarf was fascinating. I am so glad you found the door or we would never have seen him,” he commented.

Legolas frowned, glancing at the book. “I am happy we saw him, but I am not sure I would describe dwarves as fascinating,” he replied softly.

Galithil looked at him sharply. “Legolas, he was amazing! I have never seen anyone argue with Uncle Thranduil like that. And I would have loved to see one of his axes.”

Legolas snorted. “I hope you do not intend to follow the dwarf’s example—you already get in enough trouble.” He paused and then continued in a more serious voice. “And I doubt Elu Thingol found dwarven axes particularly interesting.”

Galithil shrugged. “Daernana said that was a long time ago and a whole different clan of dwarves,” he said dismissively. “Besides, your nana likes dwarves,” he added when Legolas said nothing. “She tells all sorts of stories about when she lived here with them while the stronghold was being built.”

“True,” Legolas replied.

Ignoring his cousin’s unenthusiastic response, Galithil turned to him with a mischievous expression. “Knowing that door is there is going to be so useful. Just think about it: now when we know someone interesting is meeting with Uncle, we can hide back there and listen. Your adar is exciting when he is angry…”

Legolas laughed incredulously. “As long as he is not angry with us…”

“When everyone drew their swords—you cannot deny that was exciting,” Galithil continued without acknowledging Legolas’s interruption. “Ada had his sword right at the dwarf’s throat and the dwarf did not even flinch! And I cannot imagine where Uncle got that knife…”

“He carries it in his boot,” Legolas said. “I have seen it there.”

Galithil still did not stop. “I wonder if your adar is as good at throwing knives as my naneth. I have never seen Uncle throw knives, though I cannot deny he did beat ada on the archery range today.” He paused and focused again on Legolas with a look so intense it made Legolas sit back and look at his cousin warily. “And there must be more doors like that. I think we should search for them, since we are trapped in the stronghold anyway.”

Legolas grinned and shook his head. “Sometimes I wonder if you are mad,” he said when Galithil finally paused for breath.

Galithil crossed his arms over his chest and scowled. “Tell me that you did not find the dwarf interesting.”

“I did,” Legolas admitted, still laughing.

“And tell me you did not think it was exciting when the warriors and guards drew their swords.”

“Exciting and a little frightening,” Legolas replied. When Galithil’s scowl deepened, he held up his hands. “But I definitely agree the door will be a good way to see things our adars would normally not let us see and I do agree it would be fun to look for more secret doors,” he added to forestall more arguments.

Galithil nodded once. “Good,” he said with a satisfied tone. The contrast between it and the scheming gleam in his eyes made Legolas giggle and shake his head again, wondering if they would get into even more trouble while restricted to the stronghold than they had when free to roam the forest.

*~*~*

elleth/ellyth--Female elf/elves

adar/ada--father/dad

naneth/nana--mother/mum

ion nin-my son

AN: Sorry for the long delay in updates. I was sick, but I am better now. Thanks for continuing to read. Smile smiley face

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Discoveries
Created
05 Dec 2005
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05 Dec 2005
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