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Interrupted Journeys: Part Four--Journeys of Discovery

Chapter 18: Loyalties: Part Four

by ellisk

Loyalties: Part Four

“Lead the way to these caves, Dolgailon. Quickly,” Thranduil ordered as soon as everyone reached the northern side of the river.

Dolgailon responded by breaking into a run and heading back into the forest towards the caves with his family close on his heels. Glílavan, who knew how and where the traps had been set for the training exercise, ran ahead of him. Dolwon and Dannenion brought up the rear. The large group was strangely silent, as if everyone was holding their breath.

They had run well out of sight of the river when Lindomiel slowed and then faltered to a stop, peering intently into the trees to their right. Thranduil and Amoneth slowed their pace as well, watching her.

“I think I hear something,” she called. “Someone yelling. Over there.” She pointed east, towards the stronghold.

Hearing that, Amoneth stopped and listened as well.

“The caves are further back this way,” Dolgailon said, hesitating only long enough to look over his shoulder at his mother and aunt.

They did not respond.

Then came a sound that stopped everyone in their tracks.

“Take it back! Now!” a faint but clear voice called. It was Legolas.

“Take it back or you will regret it!” echoed another voice—Galithil’s.

Lindomiel and Amoneth exchanged a relieved glance and ran in the direction of the voices. Everyone else swung around to follow.

As they ran, a tumult arose in the distance from where the voices had originated. First a few more isolated calls, the words indistinguishable. Then the shouts grew louder at a rate much greater than warranted by the speed of the adults’ approach, building into the steady roar of a bitter argument. Just as the adults caught their first glimpse of figures moving amongst the trees, the shouts were cut off by the unmistakable sound of flesh striking flesh, punctuated by a surprised yelp. Then the noise redoubled.

When the adults drew close enough to clearly see the source of the shouts, the sight that greeted them drew them all up short. Legolas and Noruil were on the ground. Noruil was on his back, his arms over his face. Legolas knelt next to him, pummeling him with both fists. Galithil stood over them, holding Anastor in a bear hug, struggling to keep him back.

“Wallop him, Legolas!” Galithil shouted, as Noruil grunted incoherently, Anastor yelled to be turned loose and Maidhien begged them all to stop fighting. The newly arrived adults went unnoticed.

Thranduil stared completely dumbstruck at this spectacle for a long moment. Then, jaw and fists clenched, he stepped into the fray, seized Legolas by the collar of his tunic, and pulled him off the other boy. At the same time, Aradunnon separated Galithil and Anastor.

Both Legolas and Galithil loosed an angry yell and struggled to pull away from the restraining hands on their tunics until they realized it was their fathers handling them thusly. Then they ceased resisting. Galithil looked up at his father and uncle with wide eyes. Panting hard, Legolas, only glanced at his father before turning to glare at Noruil. Noruil had scrambled up and his expression when he saw the king was one of open fear. He brushed off his father’s attempt to inspect his bleeding lip and made to run from the clearing. Only Dolwon’s hand closing over his arm held him in place. Dolwon glared at the king, his expression demanding satisfaction.

Thranduil did not notice. He only had eyes for his son.

“Legolas, explain to me what I just saw,” he demanded with an openly angry voice.

In response, Legolas’s attention snapped back to his father. He sucked in a sharp breath, but instead of speaking, he looked mutely up at Thranduil, his mouth open slightly.

Thranduil’s brow drew together sharply when Legolas did not answer him and he was about to repeat his request when a hand fell softly on his arm. Thranduil saw Legolas bite his lip as his gaze shifted to his mother. But he still did not respond.

The hand on Thranduil’s arm grasped him more firmly.

Thranduil glanced at Lindomiel. Her face was a carefully neutral mask, but her eyes held a warning. Slowly Thranduil realized everyone else present was staring at him—that he was making a public display of his anger, something he never did and something that had obviously shocked Legolas. With effort, he relaxed, trying to take the anger out of his stance. In response, Legolas drew another breath and tried again.

“Noruil said…something,” he whispered. “I shoved him.”

“You struck him,” Thranduil corrected, his tone still quite a bit sharper than he intended.

Legolas looked down and nodded.

“Noruil deserved it,” Galithil cut in.

Legolas looked at his cousin sidelong and shook his head.

“Nothing Noruil could have said warrants this behavior,” Thranduil said. He glared at Legolas and Galithil, but neither child met his gaze. He loosed a long, hopefully calming breath. “Apologize,” he demanded.

Legolas’s jaw clenched and he remained silent, glaring at Noruil for so long that Thranduil was about to repeat his order when Legolas finally spoke. “I apologize for hitting you, Noruil,” he said curtly.

Noruil and Anastor simply stared at Legolas. Dolwon and Dannenion both frowned, obviously about to argue that apologies were not sufficient. And Thranduil was about to respond to the fact that he was not impressed with the tone of the one he just heard.

But Maidhien spoke before anyone else. “What about, Noruil? Is he in trouble too? He provoked the fight on purpose,” she said, boldly staring at the king.

Legolas glared a warning at her, but she ignored him and focused instead on Thranduil, her expression expectant.

Thranduil tried not to scowl. Maidhien’s question was an honest one and, from what he had seen of her interactions with her family, he pitied her. He did not want to direct his anger at Legolas towards her. “That is not my place to decide, Maidhien,” he said as gently as he could manage. “Noruil is your uncle’s responsibility as Legolas is mine. Provoked or not, Legolas knows better than to fight.”

Maidhien frowned. “But anyone gets angry when people call their adar mean names and Noruil called you a domineering, penurious tyrant.”

Thranduil’s eyes widened before he could stifle his response to that revelation.

The clearing fell silent. Thranduil saw Legolas wince and look at him regretfully. Galithil turned again to look at Noruil through narrowed eyes. Aradunnon, Lindomiel and Amoneth tried to maintain the most neutral expressions they could muster. Thranduil did not trust himself to look at Dolwon and Dannenion, but he could see from the corner of his eyes that Noruil was again struggling to escape from his father’s grasp, while Anastor was glaring at his sister.

Maidhien continued speaking, oblivious to the reaction she had just caused. “I do not know all those words, but I know enough to know that was not nice. My naneth told me it is not polite to call mean names.”

Everyone in the clearing remained silent, waiting for Thranduil’s response.

When he did not immediately speak, Maidhien’s brows drew together. “What do penurious and tyrant mean?” she asked into the silence.

Thranduil raised an eyebrow and finally looked over at Noruil and Dolwon. Noruil was red. His father had paled and he was looking at Thranduil with the same worried, guilty expression Legolas and Galithil had worn only moments before. “Perhaps you would like to explain the meanings of those words, Noruil,” Thranduil suggested softly.

When the king addressed him, Noruil froze and his gaze darted from Thranduil to his father and then to the ground. “I do not know what they mean precisely. I heard…someone say them…” he responded haltingly.

Thranduil’s eyebrow climbed higher. He turned to Noruil’s father and held his gaze for a long moment until Dolwon shifted uncomfortably. Then Thranduil looked back at Maidhien. “A penurious person is a miserly one. A greedy person. And a tyrant is an unjust ruler who abuses his subjects,” he explained quietly.

The little elleth’s jaw fell open and her eyes darted to Noruil. “That is horrible, Noruil,” she whispered. “I think you should be the one to apologize.”

Thranduil put a comforting hand on Maidhien’s shoulder. “Your cousin did not understand what he was saying, Maidhien. I would argue that it was foolish of him to use words that he did not understand—doing so incurs the risk of inciting reactions that are stronger than expected, as he saw. But I would not want anyone to learn that lesson in the way Noruil just did.”

“Noruil deserves what he got,” Maidhien replied firmly. “He was trying to pick a fight—both he and Anastor have been trying for ages—so Noruil only got what he asked for.”

Thranduil turned a cool gaze on Dolwon and Dannenion. “Indeed it is difficult to respond in a tempered manner to someone who endlessly spoils for a fight.”

Dolwon pressed his lips together and quickly looked down. Dannenion’s brow furrowed, but he held his tongue.

“Does anything more remain to be said regarding our children’s behavior this evening?” Thranduil asked Dolwon softly.

Dolwon shook his head without looking up.

Thranduil nodded. “Very well. We have found our children. Let us return to our suppers.”

As Thranduil turned to leave, Dolwon bowed awkwardly and released his grasp on Noruil’s arm. The child darted off towards the river, followed by Anastor. Their parents and Maidhien followed after them quickly, all with furious expressions, but for different reasons. Thranduil turned to follow a slightly different path, steering Legolas to walk in front of him with a hand on his shoulder. Aradunnon did the same with Galithil.

*~*~*

“Domineering, penurious tyrant!” a furious voice boomed.

Two children looked up at their father defiantly in response.

“You say it all the time, ada. Why should we not say it if you do?” Anastor said, his tone accusing.

“I did not say it,” Maidhien said, hands on her hips, her chin held high. “You cannot be angry with me. It is not fair!”

Dannenion ignored her, staring instead at his son and shaking his head. “I am not stupid enough to say it to his face!” he yelled, pointing off in the direction of the stronghold.

“We did not say it to Thranduil. We said it to Legolas,” Anastor retorted.

“’We’ did not say it at all,” Maidhien corrected. “You and Noruil said it.”

“Saying it to Legolas is the same thing as saying it to Thranduil,” Dannenion’s voice drowned out his daughter’s. “Do you want to see us thrown out of our homes? Out of the forest? Because that is the sort of thing Thranduil will do—he will turn us all out into the wilds where we have no hope of survival.”

Anastor’s eyes widened at that declaration.

Maidhien frowned.

“I do not think he would do that,” she said firmly. “He is not nearly as mean as you say he is.”

Dannenion’s furious gaze swung on his daughter. “You know Thranduil is forcing us to stay in the capital. He is keeping us from helping our people—our own family—in our village in the south, while he refuses to do anything for them either. You have seen the letters, so you know how they have all starved this winter. Just as we did. It is impossible to defend Thranduil’s actions.”

Maidhien’s frown deepened as she thought about what she had heard Thranduil say to his brother about the southern villages that afternoon. She had been angry when she heard him say the villages could not be protected forever. But she was angrier still with her parents now that she had learned the meaning of some of the words she regularly heard applied to the king. So she felt more inclined to defend him than defer to them.

“His duty is to protect the entire forest, not just one part of it,” she responded, repeating the argument she had heard the king make to his brother.

“Well, since the entire forest is starving, from the capital to the southern-most villages, I would say he is neglecting the entire forest and not protecting any part of it,” Dannenion shot back.

“Everyone is starving. Even the Men. They lost…food…crops,” she stammered, struggling to remember what she had heard, but determined to argue. “Thra…. the king,” she corrected herself, “cannot control the winter weather. It is not fair to judge him for what the winter snows did any more than it was fair of you to be angry at me because Anastor shot the boar.”

Knowing the depth of her parents’ hatred of Thranduil, Maidhien expected her father to explode upon hearing her continued defense of him. Instead, his anger seemed to deflate and he studied her closely.

“Where did you hear such things? How would you know what is happening in Mannish lands?” he asked quietly.

Maidhien looked at her father sidelong. She had listened her whole life to her father’s rants against Thranduil. She suddenly felt as sorry for Thranduil as she felt for herself every time her father punished her for something Anastor did. She wanted so much to tell her father that he was wrong. She wanted to repeat everything she heard and from whom she had heard it so he had to believe her.

But then she thought about how she had heard it—she thought about the secret doors—and something made her remain silent.

“I did not know the Men lost crops. You had to have heard that in the stronghold from someone in Thranduil’s family,” Dannenion prompted. “I thought you spent the whole day playing in caves.” He looked at her dress. “You certainly look as if you have.” His brow furrowed. “But we found you right next to the stronghold, not anywhere near the caves behind it. How were you in the stronghold to hear about the state of Mannish affairs and behind the stronghold fighting with Legolas at the same time?”

“I was not fighting with Legolas. He is my friend,” she retorted, anger overcoming her decision to say no more. Anastor snorted and she narrowed her eyes at him.

“Maidhien has a secret cave somewhere near where you found us,” he interjected. “She was in it with Galithil, or so she says. But when we saw them, Galithil told us his adar was looking for him to come to dinner, so Maidhien must be lying about being in the cave. If she had been in a cave, they could not have known that Aradunnon and Thranduil were out looking for Legolas and Galithil. And it was certainly true they were, so the part about being in the cave must be the lie.”

Maidhien glared at her brother, but Dannenion prevented her from answering him. “A secret cave?” he repeated with a soft voice. “Where is this secret cave? Near the stronghold, is it?” he asked, watching Maidhien carefully.

She pressed her lips together and returned her father’s gaze silently.

*~*~*

In his family’s rooms in the stronghold, standing before his parents, Galithil struggled not to squirm. “Ada, I was going to come and find you to tell you what I had done but…” he stumbled to a halt and looked away, biting his lip.

“But you and those children were playing in the caves and you were having such fun that you lost track of time,” Aradunnon finished for him.

Galithil grimaced. “I was only playing with Maidhien, not Noruil and Anastor, but I cannot deny we lost track of time,” he said softly, thinking of all he had found in Maidhien’s cave—and all he had heard his father and uncle say. That made him remember something else. “But I did not forget what I was supposed to speak to you about. Dolgailon told me to spend my time until dinner thinking about why I broke my word. I did do that,” he offered.

Aradunnon raised his eyebrows and leaned back in his chair. “If you think you can give me a good reason to break your word, by all means I would like to hear that.”

Galithil sighed quietly. “Not a good reason to break my word. And not an excuse. I know there is neither a reason nor an excuse. But I can explain why I did it.”

“Very well, why did you do it?”

“Because I want to learn to fight. I want to defend this forest and fight the Shadow…”

Aradunnon held up his hand. “Stop right there, Galithil. I know you want to learn to fight. And you had better want to defend this realm because that is the role you have been born into. But do not tell me that is why you shot the bow. You shot it because you wanted to. Nothing more. You want a bow because your friends have one and you refuse to accept the fact that I will not permit you to have one until you reach a responsible age. This has nothing to do with fighting the Shadow. If you had the slightest idea what that statement means, you would be ashamed to stand here and use it as an excuse…”

Galithil’s hands clenched into fists and he took a step forward. “First of all, Noruil and Anastor are not my friends, and second, I know precisely what it means to fight the Shadow, adar…”

Aradunnon loosed an angry breath. “Be silent. You have no idea what the Shadow even is. Claiming that you do is absurd, not to mention insulting to the warriors that sacrifice, sometimes their very lives, to fight the Shadow you refer to so lightly…”

“Warriors like Himion and Candirith, adar?” Galithil cut in. Aradunnon fell silent at those names and Amoneth gave a little gasp, her eyes darting to her husband. “I remember their sacrifice to the Shadow very clearly,” Galithil continued bitterly. “I remember that I watched Himion step in front of an arrow aimed at aunt Lindomiel. I saw nana fight Dark Men with Himion’s sword and I hid in a cave and listened to nana and aunt Lindomiel beg those men not to kill Candirith. And I remember their screams when the men did kill him and then dragged them off. Do not tell me that I know nothing of the Shadow, adar. I have seen it.” In the stunned silence that followed that speech, Galithil took a deep, steadying breath before continuing. “And I remember living in the South. I remember traveling there and not understanding why the trees’ song had suddenly become so sad. Or understanding why they were so twisted and bare and black. I remember not being able to play in front of our cottage because orcs might come, so I played in a talan. And when I asked why the adults were always watching the trees rather than my games, I remember being told that it was important to keep an eye out for spiders in the trees. We did not live in that cottage for long, but I remember it was your home. I remember it is where you keep the bow you and daeradar made together and the silver rings you and nana exchanged. That is the home it is too dangerous for you to raise me in. I remember it. And I want to fight for it, as I see you and Dolgailon doing every day. I know I cannot do that now, but I can begin to learn. Only you will not let me because of some arbitrary age that I must first obtain.”

Aradunnon’s expression hardened. “I will not let you because you have proven repeatedly that you cannot be trusted. You stole your brother’s knife and you broke your word…”

“I stole Dolgailon’s knife. I admit that was wrong. But I did not take it to play with it…to make a game of throwing it or something stupid like that. And I shot the bow, but I did not shoot wildly at some squirrel in a tree or a duck in the river.” He paused for emphasis. “Or at a boar I had no hope of killing after everyone warned me of the danger. I shot it because Glílavan offered to show me how, under supervision, on the target range. I could have spent the afternoon shooting it in the forest with Maidhien, but I did not. I only ever asked to learn to shoot on the range with you.”

“And I told you I would teach you when you are twenty-five…”

Galithil stamped his foot in frustration. “And when I am twenty-five, if I behave as recklessly with a bow as Anastor does with his, will you still let me keep it just because I am twenty-five? It is an arbitrary number, adar, and this means so much to me.” He took a deep breath and continued in a softer voice. “That is why I broke my word. It truly does mean so much to me, Glílavan offered to show me how to shoot and I could not have been hurt doing it under his supervision, so I gave in to temptation. I regret that I broke my word, but I will not stop begging you to teach me to use a bow. And I do not understand why you will not even consider it.”

Aradunnon and Galithil stared at one another silently for a long moment. Then Aradunnon loosed a long breath and looked away.

“Very well, Galithil,” he finally said. “I need to think about what you have said and everything that has happened. Go to your room. I will speak to you when I have sorted this out.”

Fists still clenched unconsciously, Galithil marched silently off to his room.

*~*~*

“He told me he did it because he wanted to fight the Shadow,” Aradunnon said with a much quieter tone than Thranduil had expected his brother to manage after speaking to Galithil about his misdeeds. He saw how Aradunnon grasped the goblet in his hand. He had watched him drain that goblet with an alarming and completely uncharacteristic vehemence. Aradunnon enjoyed his wine. Thranduil had never seen him use it as a means to avoid feeling something. That is why he did not scoff at the excuse his nephew had given—there was clearly more to this story than Aradunnon had yet revealed.

“Galithil would expect that is an excuse you might accept,” he suggested, his tone encouraging Aradunnon to continue.

Amoneth shook her head, drawing Thranduil’s attention. He blinked when he saw tears in her eyes. “Aradunnon said Galithil did not understand what the Shadow was and Galithil told us he had seen it. He reminded us of Himion and Candirith.”

Lindomiel, already holding Amoneth’s hand, tightened her grasp reflexively upon hearing that. A little cry escaped Arthiel’s lips and Dolgailon put his arm around her. Dieneryn closed her eyes.

Aradunnon shook his head. “I did not have any idea how to respond to that. I expected to discuss disobedience with him. The importance of trust and keeping one’s word. It never occurred to me that Galithil even remembered that day. Or living in the south—he mentioned that too. I certainly did not think he thought about it. That it…still affected him.”

“Of course it does, Aradunnon.” Thranduil said softly. “No one forgets the first time they see death, much less such a violent, unexpected death.”

Amglaur and Dieneryn looked at Thranduil sadly. They both knew exactly why Thranduil understood Galithil so well in this instance. Focused on his brother, Thranduil did not notice their gaze.

Aradunnon looked up at his brother. “I do not know how to handle that. What do you say when a child of the age that he should be playing tricks on his cousins and escaping his tutor explains to you in completely convincing terms that he understands what evil is? That he understands it and wants to fight it?”

“If he really understands what he is saying, then I think you must acknowledge his unfortunate maturity by teaching him what he needs to know to respond appropriately for his age—and part of what he needs to know is that we respect his desire and need to defend himself and his family,” Lindomiel whispered.

“But that is the problem,” Aradunnon said, his voice rising. “He is not mature…he stole a knife. He broke his word not to shoot that bow…”

“He is dealing as well as he knows how with an issue that is, as you said, far beyond his years, Aradunnon,” Dieneryn interrupted. “He has chosen inappropriate ways to deal with his fears. Teach him better ways.”

Amoneth nodded at her mother-in-law. “I fear I agree. And I agree with Galithil that twenty-five is an arbitrary age. Brethil is younger than Galithil by a year and he is already helping his father in his workshop…”

“I would be happy to teach Galithil to carve, Amoneth,” Aradunnon interrupted bitterly. “Or to teach him any other trade. Galithil wants to learn to shoot a bow—not in order to hunt and provide for his family, but to kill orcs and spiders. That is very different than a child learning to take up his father’s trade.”

“Killing orcs and spiders is the trade Galithil’s father practices,” Thranduil said. “Like his father, Galithil wants to defend his home. He understands what that involves and is willing to do whatever is necessary to accomplish it,” he continued, looking at his brother meaningfully. “Given our conversation this afternoon, I think that feeling is something you can understand, Aradunnon.” He sighed and looked down at the wine in his goblet. “You know how much it pains me to say this…you know very well this is the furthest thing from what I wanted for my son…but I agree with Lindomiel and Amoneth. By not acknowledging what our children have already experienced…by not acknowledging what they see and hear everyday in our household…we leave them without the knowledge or ability to deal with the world they live in. I would not be opposed to teaching them how to shoot and allowing them to practice under our supervision on the range.” He sighed. “And I think they should have some responsibilities to go with that privilege. Ones that will help them better understand what they see and hear in our household. If they understand, they will make better decisions.”

Aradunnon closed his eyes. “That sounds like an argument I would make. Indeed, I always imagined our roles in this discussion would be reversed—that I would be arguing that Galithil and Legolas were ready to begin training and you would be resisting that they should start down that path so early. I do not disagree with anything that has been suggested. This was simply so disturbing to hear. When I was Galithil’s age, I was putting spiders in your bed, Thranduil, and then begging you to take me to the caves to play at adventuring.”

“The caves in Aman Lanc?” Thranduil asked, referring to the mountain now known by both Men and Elves alike as Dol Guldur, the mountain where they all suspected Sauron slept, gathering his power. “Times have changed since you were a child.”

Aradunnon opened his eyes and looked at his older brother grimly. “That much is certain. What do you propose we do with them?”

*~*~*

Legolas paced from in front of the fireplace in his room, to his bed, to the door that led to the hallway and back to the fireplace, alternating between berating himself for his stupidity and worrying about what his parents intended for him. Thranduil still had not come to speak to him. He and Galithil had been ordered straight to their rooms as soon as they had entered the stronghold. Legolas estimated that dinner must long be over, but he had not heard a sound in the hallway. Briefly, he heard Galithil speaking with his father across the hall and marveled at his cousin’s nerve to raise his voice to his father after what he had done. And that only reminded him that what he had done was every bit as bad as what Galithil had done. His father must be well and truly angry with him if he was waiting this long to speak to him.

Legolas had just begun the circuit from the fireplace to the bed again when he heard the latch on the hallway door click. He spun around and blinked when he saw Hallion entering the room and not his parents. He looked at him questioningly.

“Your adar asked me to bring you to his office, Legolas,” Hallion said, holding the door open and standing aside for Legolas to precede him into the hallway.

Legolas’s eyes widened even further. “Why his office?” he asked without moving.

“He will explain, Legolas,” Hallion replied.

Legolas studied Hallion for a moment and then slipped past him through the door. He padded softly down the hallway to his father’s office. The door was slightly ajar, but Hallion reached to open it fully as they approached. Legolas paused just inside the door. His father was seated at the head of the meeting table in the office. He was not alone. Legolas had expected to see his mother in the office, and she was there—seated to Thranduil’s right at the table. But Uncle Aradunnon, Dolgailon, daernana and the head of Thranduil’s personal guard, Conuiön, also sat at the table.

Legolas stared at them. He and his cousins often confessed their misdeeds in the presence of the entire family. Since they usually got in trouble together, telling all the parents what had happened together was easier. Not to mention they could all draw courage from one another that way. But no confession was needed in this case. Everyone present had seen what Legolas had done. Stomach tightening, Legolas supposed since everyone had seen him, he should probably apologize in front of everyone. Still, his father’s office seemed an unusual place for apologies.

Focused on his thoughts, Legolas started slightly when Hallion closed the door behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder to guide him to the table. He left him standing next to the chair immediately to his father’s right, between his father and mother.

“I am sorry, adar,” Legolas said as Hallion seated himself to Thranduil’s left. “I know fighting with Noruil was wrong. He and his cousin have tried to pick a fight with Galithil and I before and I swear we have ignored them. I should have this time, but I lost my temper. It will not happen again.”

A faint smile formed on Thranduil’s lips and Legolas stared it, completely confused.

Thranduil patted the seat next to him. “Sit down, ion nin,” he said softly.

Legolas looked down to hide his astonishment and quickly seated himself between his parents, glancing surreptitiously around the table as he did. His father’s voice drew his attention back to the head of the table.

“I take it that, unlike Maidhien, you were perfectly familiar with all those words that Noruil applied to me?” Thranduil asked gravely.

Legolas nodded. “I was. As we were walking back to the stronghold I felt a little better that Noruil did not really understand what he had said, and that naturally made me feel worse because I hit him for saying something he did not even understand.” He looked up at his father. “But if Noruil was repeating what he heard, that is actually even worse—that means his adar or uncle said those things. How can an adult be that…ignorant?” he asked. Then he frowned. “Penurious! I did not see meat on our table this winter, but I helped pack the stores we sent to the villages. And I do not even know how to respond to…” he cut himself off, unwilling to even say ‘tyrant’ and realizing that getting angry again would not help his case. “I am sorry I hit, Noruil, though,” he finished, looking down again.

“I understand your anger, Legolas. It is still very difficult for me to listen to anyone criticize my adar for actions that I privately acknowledge warrant criticism. You do not know enough about Dolwon and Dannenion to understand why they say the things they do.”

Legolas’s head snapped up. “Nothing you tell me about Dolwon and Dannenion will make me understand why they would say such things about you, adar. And I do not believe I reacted much differently than anyone else in this forest would have reacted.” He paused again to rein in his tone. “Though I do not intend that to try to justify what I did.”

Thranduil smiled. “I see that you understand it was wrong to hit Noruil. This time we shall agree that the shock of hearing your adar referred to as a domineering, penurious, tyrant was too great to bear. And we shall make sure that you learn what you need to know in order to better to handle yourself in Anastor and Noruil’s presence in the future.”

Legolas stared at his father hope creeping into his expression. “Then you are not absolutely furious with me?”

“Yes, I am furious,” he said, though the smile was still on his face. “I simply cannot deny that you were sorely provoked and I cannot say for certain that my anger does not stem, at least in part, from exactly what you reacted to. So I think it is best to leave this incident with your promise that you will try not to fight with Noruil and Anastor again—which I feel certain I can count on, since they have failed to provoke you numerous times in the past as you pointed out.”

Legolas’s jaw dropped. “No punishment at all?” he exclaimed. “I could not even imagine what the punishment for fighting was going to be.”

“Do I have your promise, Legolas?” Thranduil asked, resisting the urge to laugh at his son’s incredulity.

“Yes, adar,” Legolas responded quickly. “I will try to avoid fighting with them. I do not want to fight with them and I truly do not understand why they are so determined to provoke a fight.”

“That is what we are here to discuss,” Thranduil answered softly, directing his gaze at the others around the table.

Legolas looked at his uncle, cousin, daernaneth and naneth as well and he frowned. Caught up in apologizing to his father, he had almost forgotten the presence of the rest of his family. They all wore serious expressions and were focused on Thranduil. Legolas’s frown deepened and he sat up a little straighter in his chair before looking back at his father.

“I have asked you to join me this evening to discuss two matters,” Thranduil continued. “First, I intend to share with Legolas information that might help him better understand our situation involving Dolwon and Dannenion. Then, Legolas has some information to share with us regarding Glílavan.”

Legolas’s brow furrowed. He was not certain what information he was supposed to have about Glílavan. Especially any information that would cause one side of Dolgailon’s mouth to quirk down as it just had. Before he could study his cousin’s response, Thranduil had turned fully to Legolas.

“The matter we are about to discuss is confidential. Confidential means that you can discuss it with no one outside this room under any circumstances. And if you do discuss it with someone in this room, you must do so in an environment where you are certain not to be overheard. Do you understand?”

Legolas’s eyes widened slightly at his father’s serious tone. “Yes, adar,” he replied quietly.

Thranduil nodded. “I trust that you do.” He paused and regarded Legolas grimly. “There is no easy way to discuss matters such as this one, so I will be direct.”

With that he nodded to Hallion, who pushed a large tome across the table until it sat open in front of Legolas. Legolas glanced at it, noticing that it was bound in green-dyed leather. That meant it was a legal document—Eirienil had managed to instill that much understanding of the library’s organization in him.

“Read the part that I have marked, Legolas,” Hallion said.

Leaning forward, Legolas read. It was a court record. He leaned at little closer to the book when he read the names of parties charged in the proceeding—Dolwon and Dannenion. He audibly gasped when he read the charge and his eyes darted to his father. Then he looked back to the page and read one more word. Guilty.

“Dolwon and Dannenion are guilty of treason?” he exclaimed, looking at Thranduil’s placid expression.

When Thranduil did not immediately respond, Legolas’s eyes darted back down to the book and he scanned quickly to see if any details were included—he only found ‘plotting to overthrow the Throne of Eryn Galen’ and the sentence of indefinite confinement in the capital. Legolas stared at his father, mouth open partially, his expression demanding an explanation. “What does that mean? How, precisely, does one ‘plot to overthrow the Throne of Eryn Galen?’”

“Dolwon and Dannenion, along with several other people, attempted to convince others in their villages that I had broken my oath to the people of this forest and failed to protect them from the Shadow,” Thranduil answered.

Legolas’s brow furrowed. “That is sedition, not treason,” he said.

Thranduil raised his eyebrows. “I admit I did not expect you to know the difference.”

Legolas scowled at his father. “I do pay attention to Master Rodonon,” he replied.

“Apparently so,” Thranduil said softly. He regarded Legolas silently for a moment before glancing at Lindomiel. His mother, Legolas realized, was rigidly tense and staring at Thranduil. “There was some violence against this family involved. I do not intend to share those details with you. They are not necessary to your understanding of my relationship with Dolwon and Dannenion.”

Legolas blinked. “Your ‘relationship?’ With two people who used violence to try to overthrow you?” he asked, voice rising. “My understanding of that relationship? What I do not understand is why they are still living freely in this forest if they are guilty of treason. That is mad!”

“Well said,” Aradunnon said under his breath.

Legolas turned to look at him.

Hallion did as well, glaring a warning at him while clearing his throat. Then he addressed Legolas. “One does not normally accuse the king of madness in his own council chambers,” he said quietly.

Legolas bit his lip and looked back at his father, but Thranduil replied to Legolas’s comment as if he had heard nothing.

“The full council and I discussed that very question only yesterday in response to comments Lindomiel and Arthiel heard while gathering greens. I listened to the arguments regarding the threat some members of the council feel Dolwon and Dannenion still represent, but I decided to uphold my original decision not to banish them for three reasons: first, I feel it is safest to keep them close to me, where I can watch their activities. Second I cannot banish their children into the wilds. That is unthinkable. And third, I am always hesitant to force any Silvan elf to leave this forest. Eryn Galen was their home long before it was mine. I would prefer to bring them, and anyone who might sympathize with them, back to us as cooperative members of this society, not drive them from it and make a permanent enemy.”

“What if you cannot accomplish that?” Legolas asked, now with a quiet, respectful tone. “I mean, ‘domineering, penurious, tyrant.’ I do not see that comment as a promising sign of progress towards your goal.” He put one hand in the book to hold his place and flipped it closed to look at the date on the spine. When he saw it, his eyes widened again. “If after over twenty years, they are still saying such things…” he drifted off, leaving the implied question hanging in the air.

Thranduil nodded once. “What we heard today was not encouraging. I concede that. Lord Hallion and I have discussed ways that I might reach out to Dolwon and Dannenion in the past. We will repeat that conversation tomorrow. Tonight I am more interested in how you might use this knowledge.”

Legolas’s brow furrowed and, for a moment, he appeared ready to continue arguing about Dolwon and Dannenion. Then he made an effort to control his expression. “Well, it does not help to ‘bring them back to us’ if I fight with them,” he began.

“Indeed not,” Thranduil said, though a smile softened the words.

“But I do not know what else I can do, adar,” Legolas finished.

Thranduil shook his head. “Nothing. I only expect you to keep in mind what is at stake when dealing with Dolwon, Dannenion and their families and try to let that knowledge inform your actions. Make decisions where they are concerned that improve, or least do not damage, my relations with them.”

Legolas loosed a quiet breath. “I will try, adar.”

Thranduil nodded. “Then the second topic I wanted to address in this meeting was the matter of what Glílavan did or said to you yesterday. I am not clear which it was. Lord Hallion said it was troubling and suggested we should address it. Could you please inform the Council?”

Legolas looked up and saw everyone at the table was now focused on him. He shifted slightly in his chair before responding. “Do you mean what I discussed with Uncle Hallion about Galithil and Maidhien’s bow and Glílavan?” he asked, looking at Hallion rather than his father. Hallion nodded.

Legolas frowned slightly. “I saw Glílavan showing Galithil how to shoot Maidhien’s bow and he offered to show me. When I told him I was not allowed, he tried to convince me to do it anyway—he said it would be our secret and that as the king’s son I should be able to defend the forest. He said he made the same promise to Galithil. That made me uncomfortable. I thought it was wrong for an officer to not only fail to enforce the rules, but to actively participate in breaking them and then try to persuade someone else to break them and keep secrets about it.”

“I think you are quite right,” Thranduil began, but Aradunnon cut him off.

“Glílavan said what?” he roared, causing Legolas to involuntarily sit back in his chair in surprise. But Aradunnon was speaking to Thranduil and did not notice. “Glílavan is not going to use my son to…”

“Enough, Aradunnon,” Thranduil warned.

Aradunnon clenched his jaw and glared at Thranduil a long moment. “I want him dismissed.” He turned to Dolgailon. “Dismiss him tomorrow,” he ordered flatly.

Dolgailon stiffened. “I will not,” he replied firmly. “You are reacting as a father. Separate family matters from military ones, commander. Glílavan violated a policy prohibiting the use of the practice range by anyone other than warriors—that is a military matter and he has received an appropriate punishment given nature of the violation. Offering to keep Galithil’s secret…that may have been foolish, but Glílavan is not a father. He never even had younger siblings. He saw how much Galithil wanted to shoot the bow, did not understand how angry you would be for letting him, and made an offer to make Galithil more at ease…to make him happy. He told me he felt sorry for Galithil after his first day of punishment cleaning the training weapons and he wanted to do something nice for him. That is a mistake, not a military matter. Or a political one.”

Aradunnon shook his head. “I do not understand why you insist on being so naïve concerning Glílavan when your judgments about people are normally so good. Do you forget what you sensed about his truthfulness after you questioned him concerning his role in…”

“Enough, Aradunnon,” Thranduil interrupted again.

Aradunnon sighed in frustration. “How do you expect me to react?” he asked, angrily.

Thranduil ignored him and addressed Legolas. “You were present, Legolas. What is your judgment? Do you believe Glílavan only offered to let Galithil shoot to make him feel better after the first day of his punishment?” he asked quietly.

Legolas laughed. “Galithil did not need to be made to feel better. Cleaning the training weapons is no punishment to him. He talked all day about how excited he was to do it.” Then he shrugged. “Besides, he made the same offer to me and I did not need cheering up.”

“Regardless, this is a family matter, not a military one,” Dolgailon repeated.

“How did you feel when Glílavan was speaking to you, Legolas?” Hallion asked, ignoring Dolgailon’s comment.

Legolas frowned. “I felt strange. No one has ever tried to convince me to do something I had just said I was forbidden to do. No adult anyway. In fact, the only child that ever did that was Anastor when he was trying to convince us to go see the moonbow.” Saying that, Legolas glanced at Aradunnon thoughtfully.

“Would it be fair to say that you felt Glílavan’s offer was a manipulation, Legolas?” Hallion asked softly.

Legolas turned sharply back to him. “Yes. That is exactly what it was,” he responded, obviously just realizing it himself. “Offering to share a secret and reminding me I am the king’s son, all to convince me to do something I had already told him plainly I would not do.” His eyes narrowed and he looked back at Aradunnon.

Aradunnon did not see him. He was looking at his eldest son expectantly.

Dolgailon’s expression hardened. “I am sorry. I stand by what I have said in the past. Present me with evidence, true evidence, not feelings, and I will believe you. Until then, I will not dismiss an outstanding officer for no good reason.”

Aradunnon’s jaw dropped. “I cannot think of a better reason than…”

“For the third time, Aradunnon, enough,” Thranduil interrupted.

“Than treason,” Legolas said quietly, watching Aradunnon carefully. He need not have bothered. Aradunnon made no effort to hide his reaction.

He nodded and pointed to Legolas. “A child not even half way to his majority can see this, Dolgailon. Why do you refuse? Glílavan is intentionally manipulating your brother. How can you allow that?”

“We agreed that we would limit our conversation in Legolas’s presence to facts and not speculation, Aradunnon,” Thranduil interjected, his voice now raised angrily.

“He drew his own conclusion,” Aradunnon responded. “The point of Legolas’s presence is to give him the information he needs to make informed decisions about his interactions with people who may be a danger to him and this realm. If Glílavan is targeting our children, then the only way we can eliminate them as targets is to make them aware of the danger they are in.”

Lindomiel leaned forward, glaring angrily at Aradunnon. To Legolas’s surprise, given the tension around the table, his father only nodded once.

“Conceded,” Thranduil he replied calmly.

Dolgailon blew out a frustrated breath. “Except that we do not know that Glílavan is ‘targeting’ anyone, or ever has. There is no evidence. Glílavan was my mentor when I became a warrior. He probably feels some connection to Galithil because of that. I do not believe he would use a child…”

Aradunnon drew an angry breath, preparing to speak—to remind his son that Dolwon, Dannenion and their accomplices had done exactly that previously. They had used defenseless women and children to attempt to drive Thranduil from his throne.

“Enough!” both Lindomiel and Thranduil said at once, staring forbiddingly at Aradunnon.

Aradunnon glared back at them both a moment. Then he looked up at the ceiling, clearly trying to rein in his anger. “I am unwilling to remove you as captain, Dolgailon, so I am forced to respect your command of your officers. But I insist that someone else supervise Galithil. As his father, I do not want Glílavan near him. You will obey me in that. Galithil is not one of your warriors yet. He is my son and I will command who he interacts with.”

Dolgailon nodded. “I will supervise him myself,” he said calmly. “And I do keep an eye on Glílavan.”

Aradunnon nodded stiffly.

“Think about what Legolas has shared with us, Dolgailon,” Thranduil said.

“I will. Indeed, I intend to confront Glílavan about it. As Galithil’s brother and Legolas’s cousin and Glílavan’s friend.”

“Good,” Thranduil replied. “I would feel better if Glílavan is put on notice that Legolas and Galithil will not be easy targets for a plot. And I will be interested to hear your honest impression of how he reacts.”

Dolgailon pressed his lips together and replied only by inclining his head.

Thranduil turned to Legolas, who was looking between his uncle and cousin with wide eyes.

“As you continue to attend council meeting,” he began, drawing Legolas’s gaze, “you will find that the members of my council that are currently present express their opinions with complete freedom, in private. In the presence of the full council, I encourage more restraint.”

“Though he often does not get it,” Aradunnon said dryly and with a frank smirk.

Legolas’s eyes lit with amusement. His uncle’s ability to move instantly between fury and jokes was a regular source of entertainment and amazement for the family.

Hallion sighed. “We are trying to teach the child,” he said disapprovingly.

“In public,” Thranduil continued without acknowledging Aradunnon’s laughter, “this council supports me without question,” he said firmly. “Do you understand?”

Legolas had long known that no one in the family contradicted his father publicly. That statement was nothing new to him. It was another that had captured his complete attention. “As I continue to attend council meetings?” he repeated.

Thranduil nodded. “Your uncle and I have agreed that you and Galithil are mature enough to assume some duties related to the governance of this realm. We intend to invite you to some meetings and court proceedings in lieu of your lessons when the subject matter is appropriate, so that you may learn how they function.”

Legolas’s eyes widened with pleased surprise.

“And your cousin convinced Aradunnon that he should be permitted to learn to use a bow, only on the practice range and under supervision.”

Legolas’s jaw dropped at that and he leaned forward, staring at his father.

“You are a year younger than Galithil, but your naneth and I have agreed you may participate in these lessons as well, if you wish.”

“You cannot be serious!” Legolas exclaimed. A delighted, slightly incredulous, expression lit his face.

“Am I to take it that you would like to participate in these lessons?” Thranduil asked with an amused smile.

Legolas laughed. “Yes, adar. I would,” he said, grinning from ear to ear.

*~*~*

Galithil lay perfectly still under his bedcovers, listening to the noises in his parents’ and brother’s bedrooms, waiting for them to quiet down so he could sneak over to Legolas’s bedchamber. They had not been able to talk at all that night and there was so much to talk about!

Galithil absolutely could not believe his luck that his father had believed his explanation of why he had shot Maidhien’s bow. Better than believing it, he truly honored it by promising to teach him to shoot. Tomorrow afternoon and his first lesson could not come soon enough.

“I will never be able to sit through lessons in the library,” he whispered to himself, grinning broadly. For a moment, he imagined idly staring at his arithmetic problems without seeing a thing on the pages and he giggled quietly.

Then he frowned. “Ada will not continue the archery lessons if Master Rodonon tells him I am not studying,” he thought with a sigh. “That will be hard.” He adopted a determined expression, “But I will do those stupid lessons and do them well, if it means ada will continue the archery lessons,” he whispered out loud. He smiled at that. Ada would be proud if he did well on both the arithmetic and the archery lessons. It might be nice to make ada happy instead of angry for once.

Thinking of his father forced his thoughts back to the scene he had witnessed in the family sitting room earlier that afternoon.

“Legolas is going to fall over when I tell him that his adar led troops into battle against daeradar Oropher’s orders,” Galithil thought, giggling again. And surely Legolas would be able to persuade Eirienil to help them find a reference to the details of that incident in the library. Galithil’s curiosity regarding that story burned so intensely, he almost wanted to try to sneak to the library to start looking tonight.

Maybe there is a secret passage that leads to the library. Galithil smiled again. Going with Maidhien to that cave was the best thing he had ever done! That passage was amazing. And it led from the sitting room to the forest! The potential uses of that door were limitless! He could not wait to show it to Legolas.

Then Galithil frowned again. How could he show Legolas the passage without showing him Maidhien’s cave? And how could he tell what he had heard without explaining about the passage? He had promised Maidhien not to tell anyone about her cave. And Legolas was already mad at him for breaking one promise. If he broke another and Legolas found out—and he certainly would find out eventually—his cousin might never trust him again.

But that cave! How could he not tell?

Galithil fidgeted under his bedcovers, squirming to tell someone about the cave and uncle Thranduil. Then with a resigned sigh, he rolled over and purposefully buried his face in his pillow, willing himself to sleep. He had been very lucky today. His father had forgiven him for a very serious mistake and even trusted him with more responsibilities.

“I am not going to betray ada’s trust, or anyone else’s,” he said firmly. “I am going to show ada that I deserve the chance he gave me today. No matter how difficult it is.” He nodded, pleased with how virtuous he was being. “I can try to talk Maidhien into letting me tell Legolas about the cave, and if she will not let me, it is certainly fun to play with her in it. So I will have to be satisfied with that.”

*~*~*

Legolas tossed back the covers on his bed. Exhaling heavily, he gave up his attempt to sleep and propped himself up against his pillows. For a moment he considered lighting a lamp, but he immediately dismissed that idea. His parents might see it and he did not want them to know he was still awake. He did not want to give the impression that the evening’s events had upset him or been too much for him. He feared his father might rescind his promise to include he and his cousins in more council meetings when the topics were ‘appropriate.’ He was not upset, after all. He just had so much to think about.

Anastor and Noruil had always been hateful and he had long wondered why. Never did he ever imagine it was because their parents hated his so much that they had attempted to ‘overthrow the Throne of Eryn Galen.’ Legolas could not get that phrase out of his thoughts. He very much wanted to know what the ‘violence involved’ that his father admitted to had been. But he knew the details would be in the pages of the green book Hallion had shown him and he saw Hallion lock that book in his father’s desk drawer as he was leaving the office. No chance of getting it from there.

Legolas frowned. Dolwon and Dannenion had committed treason twenty years ago. And given the ensuing conversation about Glílavan, uncle Aradunnon clearly thought the lieutenant had been involved. Staring at the ceiling above his bed, Legolas thought about that. Glílavan was Dolgailon’s friend and had been since his cousin had begun his military service. “Hard to believe Dolgailon would not know if Glílavan was a traitor,” he thought. Then his brows drew together as he remembered how very uncomfortable Glílavan had made him. They furrowed even more deeply as his thoughts turned to even more worrisome matters.

When he and Tulus were discussing how difficult it had been to tell on Galithil, Tulus had said that he and his friends had done something bad and he had to confess to it. Tulus was friends with Dolwon and Dannenion. He was the only friend they had in the capital.

“I wonder if Tulus suspected the treason Dolwon and Dannenion were plotting and told on them and got in trouble himself because his son was also suspected,” Legolas thought, feeling a great surge of pity for Tulus. “I wonder if that is why he is no longer a warrior. That would be too sad,” he thought with a long sigh.

He looked at his door. “I cannot believe Galithil has not come in here yet. I would really like to talk to him about this,” he thought, still staring at the door. “He probably thinks I am still angry at him. Or maybe he is angry at me still.” He shook his head and glared at the door with narrowed eyes. “If you are getting archery lessons for breaking your word and you are still angry at me, you can just stay that way. You have nothing to be angry about,” he said to the door. Then he grimaced. “Maybe I should go talk to him,” he thought and he swung his legs over the edge of his bed. Then he froze.

‘Confidential means that you can discuss it with no one outside this room under any circumstances,’ he heard his father’s voice say.

“Maybe I am not allowed to talk with Galithil about Dolwon and Dannenion.” That thought made Legolas frown. “If ada and uncle Aradunnon had wanted him to know, he would have been in ada’s office…or ada would have specified I could tell my cousins.”

Legolas flopped back on his bed with his arms crossed over his chest.

“I really do not like not being able to talk to Galithil about this at all,” he said to himself. “Perhaps I should try to convince ada to let me tell.” Then images of Galithil yelling at him to ‘wallop’ Noruil rushed into his mind and he shook his head. “Anastor already wants to fight with us. If Galithil knew what their parents did, there would be no controlling his temper.” Legolas smirked. “Galithil is not known for restraint,” he said sagely. “Better he does not know and I do my best to prevent fights as I always have,” he decided.

But tomorrow he would enjoy hearing how Galithil persuaded their fathers to give them archery lessons.

*~*~*

adar/ada--father/dad

naneth/nana--mother/mum

daernaneth--grandmother

elleth--female elf

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Chapter name
Loyalties: Part Four
Created
21 Jan 2008
Last Edited
21 Jan 2008
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400
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9958