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Interrupted Journeys: Part Four--Journeys of Discovery

Chapter 19: Consequences

by ellisk

Chapter 19: Consequences

Legolas stood beside his bed and slowly finished closing the fastenings of his tunic. Then he clenched and unclenched his fists, shook both hands, and rubbed the bruises on his knuckles that he had earned fighting with Noruil. With a grimace, he picked up his nightshirt from the bed, balled it up and tossed it into the laundry basket. His gaze drifted towards his closed door. More worrisome than sore knuckles from the fight with Noruil was the fight he had with Galithil. It was nearly time for breakfast--long past the time Galithil normally burst into his room in the morning--but Legolas still had not spoken to his cousin since Galithil had stormed off the day before, angry at Legolas's 'betrayal.' He turned his back to the door and grasped the sheet and quilt on his bed, roughly yanking them into place.

"I am not the one who did something wrong," he said and his voice echoed faintly in the empty bed chamber.

At that moment, the door to his room swung open and Legolas spun around. The hopeful, half-apologetic look on his face faded when Eirienil and Berior ran towards him.

"Is it true?" Eirienil demanded, not stopping until she was nearly toe-to-toe with him. Berior skid to a halt behind her, looking at Legolas with wide, bright eyes.

"Is what true?" Legolas asked, turning his back to them both and pretending to straighten the bedclothes.

Eirienil seized his wrist and pulled him back around. Still holding his wrist, she and Berior stared at the bruises on Legolas's knuckles until he twisted his hand from her grasp and stuck it behind his back.

She looked from his hand to his face. "It is true. You did fight him. I cannot believe you did that."

In contrast to her grim expression, Berior was grinning widely at him.

Legolas looked down, not certain whether Eirienil's disapproval or Berior's obvious approval disturbed him more.

You must be in so much trouble," Eirienil added in a whisper. "Why did you do it, Legolas? After all the times he has provoked us, why let him push you into a fight this time?"

"You have no room to talk," Legolas responded without looking at her. "You would have hit him that day in the barnyard if Tulus had not stopped you,"

"I am not so certain that I am criticizing you," Eirienil replied. "I do not deny there have been many times that I wanted to wallop him. I am just curious what made you finally do it."

Legolas glanced up at her before looking back at his feet. "I do not really want to talk about it," he mumbled.

Eirienil and Berior loosed irate exclamations in protest, but before either child could voice any argument to persuade Legolas to tell the story, Galithil spoke from behind them. "Noruil called Uncle Thranduil a tyrant. Legolas gave them a chance to take it back, but they would not, so they deserved what they got," he said.

Eirienil and Berior turned to stare at Galithil in response to that revelation. Legolas glared at him. Galithil looked back at him and spread his hands wide. "What? I am not calling Uncle a tyrant. I am only repeating what Noruil said and agreeing that you had every right to hit him." He focused on Eirienil and Berior again. "Noruil did not just say tyrant. He said domineering, penurious tyrant."

Legolas put his hands on his hips, but none of the other children noticed him. Berior's eyes widened even further and Eirienil hurumphed loudly. "I am shocked they even know such words. They always struck me as rather stupid," she said, looking down her nose at Galithil.

He broke into a grin. "That is the funniest part. Maidhien asked what those words meant. Uncle said that Noruil should explain it since he was the one that had said it, and so then Noruil had to admit he does not even know what the words he used mean. He is so stupid that he was using an insult he did not even understand," he concluded, laughing. Eirienil shook her head and Berior giggled.

"Enough," Legolas said, stepping between them. "What Noruil said is not funny, whether he understood it or not. It is even less funny since he did not, because that means he heard it somewhere else. From an adult."

"Their parents, no doubt," Eirienil said. "No surprise there. We have all heard them criticize Uncle Thranduil and Aunt Lindomiel and everyone else for that matter." Then she fixed Legolas with a sympathetic look. "But I agree it is not funny that you should get in trouble for teaching them the lesson they have long had coming. What is your punishment? It must be bad. Uncle Thranduil barely spoke at dinner last night and he was clenching his jaw so tightly every time I dared look at him that I was surprised he ever managed to chew any food."

That observation elicited another giggle from Berior.

Legolas glanced at him and then looked back at his feet. "No punishment," he said softly. "Ada asked me to promise I would try not to fight with them again."

Eirienil leaned forward. "You cannot be serious!" she exclaimed, her voice high-pitched.

Berior was shaking his head. "We were speculating whether you would be restricted to your room for a year or if it would be all the way until you came of age. Or if you would spend the rest of your life helping in the infirmary like when you shoved Galithil. Or..."

"Ada said that we could agree that the shock of hearing him called such things was 'too great to bear,'" Legolas interrupted, not willing to listen to Berior's litany of possible punishments--all of which he had already spent enough time contemplating himself. Instead, he was looking at Galithil, who had been glaring at him since he declared the name-calling 'not funny' and who was now glaring especially hard since he said he had not been punished.

"Unbelievable," Eirienil said, shaking her head.

"It is not so unbelievable," an adult voice said from the doorway. The children turned to see Aradunnon leaning against the door and grinning. "I have heard stories about Thranduil fighting with his share of people, in particular Noldorin elves in Lindon, who criticized our adar." Then he laughed. "For that matter, I saw Thranduil knock a Noldorin lieutenant to the ground after he criticized our adar's actions on the Dagorlad. I think Thranduil just did not have the heart to punish something he was guilty of himself," he said.

"And I think Uncle Thranduil might knock you to the ground for telling such tales, adar," said Dolgailon, who stood behind his father in the hallway.

Aradunnon turned and glared at him.

Dolgailon, who was clearly as amused as Eirienil and Berior, appeared quite pleased by that reaction. "It is time for breakfast," he continued. "We had better all go to the dining room."

Eirienil and Berior ran out of Legolas’s room and flanked Aradunnon, laughing and clamoring for him to tell the story of Thranduil and the Noldorin lieutenant. Dolgailon looked at his father with a 'you are in trouble now' expression, but Aradunnon happily began relating the tale as they walked down the hall to the dining room.

Rather than following them, Legolas hung back, remaining in his room and looking steadily at his cousin. In response, Galithil glanced at his father to confirm he was too focused on telling stories to notice they had not followed. Then he turned to Legolas and returned his gaze silently.

“So are you still angry with me?” Legolas asked, his posture stiff.

Galithil stared at him for a moment longer. “Yes,” he answered, bitterly. Then a slight smile lit his eyes. “But not as much since I did not really get in trouble either.”

Legolas frowned and drew a breath to tell his cousin he was lucky and that it was his own fault if he did get in trouble. But before he could blurt out what he was thinking, he closed his mouth and looked down. No point in arguing further. “What in all of Arda did you tell your adar to convince him to give us archery lessons,” he asked instead when he looked back at Galithil.

Galithil grinned and took a step closer to Legolas. “I told him that I only wanted to learn to defend this realm like he does.”

A scornful laugh escaped Legolas's lips despite his intent to avoid further antagonizing his cousin. “You cannot be serious! He could not possibly be so foolish as to fall for that.”

Galithil drew himself taller. “It is true,” he replied and crossed his arms over his chest when Legolas continued to look at him doubtfully. “How is me wanting to learn to fight like my adar and brother different from you wanting to learn all those stupid languages like Aunt Lindomiel? Or worse! How is it different from you willingly reading all those stupid history books about daeradar and Lenwe and Denethor and who knows who else?”

Legolas sighed. “Well, maybe. But I still cannot believe Uncle Aradunnon believed it.”

Galithil shrugged. “He did not believe it at first. He told me I did not even know what I was talking about, but I reminded him of Himion and Candirith."

Legolas looked at Galithil sharply in response to those names. "What do they have to do with it?"

"Their death was certainly the work of the the Shadow and we saw it. So we know what the Shadow is. We..." he paused. "I," he said firmly, "know exactly what it is that the warriors fight and I want to help fight it however I can."

Legolas studied his cousin silently for a long moment. He remembered Himion and Candirith's deaths every bit as well as Galithil did, but he doubted that meant either of them really knew anything about what the warriors did on a daily basis. And even if it did, that had nothing to do with the real issue in Legolas's mind--Galithil breaking his word. Nothing unless you counted the fact that warriors had to be trustworthy and trustworthy people did not break their word. He shook his head.

"Well, the archery lessons will be fun," Legolas said quietly, as he moved to leave the room. "But adar mentioned to me that along with adult privileges come adult responsibilities. I am a little worried to find out what that will mean." Legolas glanced back to see Galithil frown.

"Adults have more fun than we do. It might not mean anything too horrible," Galithil responded. Then he skipped forward to catch up with Legolas. "Maybe it means our adars will take us on the hunt for the festival," he said. "That is an important adult responsibility and they must be getting ready to leave any day now. The festival is very soon." He gave Legolas an excited shove. "And they promised a while ago to teach us to track. What better time to teach us than during the hunt? Maybe they will take us."

Legolas looked at his cousin levelly as they walked out of his room until Galithil rolled his eyes and deflated a little.

"Your adar is too creative. It could mean anything," he admitted, pulling Legolas's door shut behind them.


*~*~*

The sound of quills scraping across parchment was punctuated by a long, breathy sigh. Legolas glanced to his left. Galithil was twirling the quill in his hand between his thumb and index finger and staring miserably at the stack of correspondence in front of him. He seemed to feel Legolas looking at him. "So much for no punishment," he whispered dejectedly.

"So much for going hunting with them, you mean," Legolas whispered back. "I think this is more the sort of 'adult responsibilities' they had in mind to earn the privilege of the archery lessons."

Legolas had barely finished speaking when he felt a soft leather slipper kick his shin under the table. He turned to glare at Eirienil, who was seated across from him busily copying her stack of documents. As he did, he spotted her mother, Isteth, looking at both he and Galithil coolly. He quickly went back to copying.

Isteth stood and walked the length of the table to stand behind Legolas and Galithil. She watched them write for a moment and then reached down and took Galithil's paper from him. "It must be legible to be of value," she whispered. "Without ink blotches obscuring every other word. Please copy that letter again. Neatly, this time."

Legolas dared a glance at his cousin. Galithil's jaw was tightly clenched, but the only reply he made was a muttered, 'Yes ma'am.' Everyone knew Eirienil's parents were not to be argued with. Besides, Isteth was the Chief Scribe and as such she had the right to correct their work. Legolas saw her nod at the much more carefully drawn runes that Galithil was forming on his fresh piece of parchment. "One more copy each after the ones you are doing now and then you may leave for the day," she said as she returned to where she had been seated before, working on her own copying. Galithil broke into a broad smile and leaned closer to his work in concentration.

Legolas finished the copy he was making and put it on the stack of completed copies, placing a blotter on top of it. Then he reached for the next letter in the stack that remained to be copied and scanned it quickly. With a smile, he pushed it towards Galithil. "You do this one," he whispered.

Galithil frowned. "Why? Is it long?" Legolas watched with a grin as his cousin looked at the letter. Written in Thranduil's hand, it was an order describing the distribution of newly acquired swords to the troops in the border patrols. Galithil's expression brightened. "Swords?" he whispered, pulling the letter closer and reading it more carefully.

"I told you this was not a punishment...that it might be interesting," Legolas said.

Galithil was too pleased by the contents of the letter to even be properly angry at his cousin's 'I told you so.'

The sound of quills again whispered in the hall as all three children focused on completing their work. Legolas was almost finished with his last copy and Eirienil was helping her mother bind the copies--a task she was only just learning--when an angry voice echoed in the hall from near the throne where Thranduil was speaking with Hallion and Aradunnon.

"Domineering, penurious tyrant!" Thranduil quoted, voice rising with each word. "You cannot believe that I will let such an accusation pass unchallenged."

Legolas and Galithil both stopped writing and looked at the King.

Hallion responded in the same quiet voice they had been speaking in all along. Legolas and Galithil could barely make out his words.

"We had this same conversation only two days ago, my lord. What would you do with them? You cannot exile their children."

"We can exile only them--allow their wives and children to stay if they wish," Aradunnon replied.

Hallion looked between the King and his brother clearly dismayed. "You cannot believe that they will leave their wives and children here or that Eregeth and Lalfien would be willing to be separated from their husbands."

"That would be their own choice then," Aradunnon replied.

"But the King would be no less responsible for the consequences," Hallion countered. "The way to address this is to regain their loyalty..."

"That has worked well so far," Aradunnon interrupted, with open sarcasm.

"Little real effort has been made," Hallion responded, exasperation creeping into his voice.

"Enough," Thranduil intervened. "There is no possibility that I will leave this unanswered, lord Hallion, I am willing to listen to criticism intended to benefit this realm, but Dolwon and Dannenion's words are not meant to offer advice, but rather to stir unrest. And that I will not tolerate." He paused and looked at Hallion. "I want both Dolwon and Dannenion brought to me. Along with their wives. Tomorrow."

Hallion pressed his lips together worriedly. "To what end, my lord?" he began.

"That will be determined by their attitude, lord Hallion," Thranduil responded. "Inform them tonight that they are to speak with me tomorrow morning."

Hallion bowed in acknowledgment of the command. "At least wait until after the hunt for the Festival, my lord. Until after tempers have cooled a bit..."

"Tomorrow, Hallion," Thranduil repeated. "I will not show even the slightest hesitation in dealing with this."

"Yes, my lord," Hallion replied softly.

Galithil nudged Legolas and was giggling softly when he turned to him. "We will have to be especially careful tomorrow when doing the copying," Galithil whispered. "I want to still be here to see that conversation. It will be as exciting as the dwarves were."

Legolas shook his head and returned to his copying.

"Hurry up," Eirienil whispered as she walked past them with a stack of copies on her way to store them in the library.

"We will see you on the Green in a few minutes," Galithil whispered in reply. "See if you can find Maidhien while you are waiting for us. I want to be sure she did not get in trouble for what happened yesterday,"

Eirienil frowned, but nodded in agreement, hurrying towards the doors of the Hall.

*~*~*

Legolas and Galithil ran along the path towards Dannenion's cottage, looking for Eirienil and their other friends, since none of the children were on the Green when they were released from their copying work. As they approached Dannenion's yard, they heard his voice drowning out the forest sounds. "It is tyranny to allow people to starve while you hold feasts. It is tyranny to allow people to be slaughtered by orcs and spiders while you live safely in a palace. It is tyranny..."

"The King does not 'allow' any of those things," Eirienil spoke over him heatedly as Legolas and Galithil strode into the yard. They were greeted by a nervous look from Maidhien. Anastor and Noruil both leveled cold glares at them and took a step closer to their adars, and consequently towards Legolas and Galithil. In response, Galithil balled his fists. Legolas stopped several paces from where Dannenion and Eirienil were faced off and put his arm out to his side to stop Galithil from advancing any further.

"Eirienil, do not argue. Come play on the Green," he called.

Eirienil either ignored him or else she truly did not hear him over Dannenion's continued argument.

"You are a child. You know nothing of what Thranduil allows," he was shouting. "I," he pointed to himself, "I know, despite Thranduil's efforts to keep me from the truth. I still have regular letters from my kin in the south. Orcs raided their village three times this winter alone..."

"Any intelligent person would move their village to a safer location then," Eirienil cut him off. "I have never heard of orcs anywhere near the capital."

"Enough, Eirienil," Legolas said, this time in a louder voice. But, again, no one acknowledged him except Maidhien, who nodded her head in agreement while looking pleadingly at Eirienil.

"Because people like my kin fight to keep the orcs away from the capital," Dannenion countered, also ignoring Legolas. "They fight to keep the southern forest safe while the King refuses to send troops to help them. Or even food to sustain their strength in the battle. If it were not for the villagers living in the south, the orcs would be at our doorsteps."

"Eirienil, we should just leave," Legolas said, reaching out to pull at her sleeve.

As he did, Eirienil took a step towards Dannenion with her hands on her hips, avoiding Legolas's attempt to pull her from the argument. "I think the warriors in the border patrol do more to keep the orcs at bay than villagers do..."

"The border patrols!" Dannenion scoffed. "They can barely feed themselves, much less hold back the orcs and spiders. Thranduil does not even feed the warriors he puts in harms way..."

"That is a lie," Eirienil yelled, completely losing her temper.

"It is what my kin in the south tell me," Dannenion responded. "I can show you the letter where my cousin tells of giving all his fish catch for three days to one patrol because they were hungry and had been provided nothing."

"It was an abnormally long, cold winter," Galithil said in a quiet voice, stepping forward to stand next to Eirienil. "No one had enough food. We were on short rations in the capital, all the villages were and the patrols were too. Even the Men and the Dwarves are short on food. The Men lost crops and the patrols arrested Dwarves who were poaching. The King and my adar provided as well as can be expected under the circumstances for both the warriors and the villages."

"Yet in just over a week the King," Dannenion nearly snarled the title, "will hold a feast. A feast that will spend enough food to feed the patrols for weeks...to feed villages for months. It is a disgraceful waste and the clearest example of tyranny that you could ask for. How can he justify wasting all that food? He cannot possibly justify it. He simply wants it. So he does as he pleases and may the villages and patrols starve."

Eirienil and Galithil had no response to that argument. They glared at Dannenion, breathing hard. The other children looked between Eirienil, Galithil and the adults with wide eyes. After a moment's silence, Anastor and Noruil snorted with laughter.

"You have no argument against that, Legolas? You were so quick to defend Thranduil last night. Are you going to hit my adar since you have no better argument against what he said?" Anastor asked mockingly.

Legolas looked at him silently for a moment and made a conscious effort to unball his fists, which he had apparently closed during Dannenion's last little speech. Then he took a deep breath and looked at Dannenion. "I am not going to argue at all. It is not my place and I have no knowledge of the basis for the King's decisions, since he does not discuss such matters with children. Master Rodonnon says only fools will argue topics they know nothing about. If Dannenion wants to know why the King makes the decisions he does, he should ask the King."

"Fools?!" Dannenion exclaimed, stepping forward and grabbing Legolas by the arm. "Are you calling me a fool?" he demanded. "I know more about these topics than you or your little cousins."

Legolas heard blood pounding in his ears and could not decide if it was fear or fury that motivated it. "Let me go, Dannenion," he said in a very low voice. At the edge of his senses, he was aware of Galithil indignantly demanding that Dannenion let his cousin go and of Eirienil pulling at Dannenion's wrist. Berior and Brethil also stepped towards Dannenion from where they had been watching the argument.

Dannenion's grip only tightened, causing Legolas's eyes to narrow and his chin to rise as he met Dannenion's cold gaze with a glare of his own. But before either Legolas or Dannenion could say another word, Dolwon pushed Eirienil aside, seized Dannenion's wrist roughly and shook loose his grasp.

"Have you lost your mind?" Dolwon asked with an openly panicked expression, his gaze darting to the trees. "That is the King's son. If one of the guards sees you, you will be lucky if you are only arrested."

"No one calls me a fool," Dannenion snapped, pulling away from Dolwon's grasp.

"I did not call you a fool," Legolas responded. "I said I would be a fool to argue with you since I know nothing of the subject. If you want to speak of it, better to speak with the King than with children. You might learn something that helps you understand the King's decisions. And you might have advice the King would benefit from hearing. He will listen, if you speak to him."

"Hmph!" snorted Dannenion, still glaring at Legolas. But he said nothing more.

Ignoring Dannenion's glare, Legolas turned from him to his cousins. "Now will you come on?" he asked, pulling at Eirienil and Galithil's sleeves. They, along with Berior, Brethil and Aewen, quickly and silently moved to follow Legolas from the yard. Maidhien cast a nervous glance at her father and then scampered after Legolas as well. Galithil motioned for her to catch up and she quickly ran to his side. From the corner of his eye, Legolas saw Anastor and Noruil start after them and he tensed involuntarily, preparing for more of a fight. But Dolwon caught his son by the arm and pulled him in the opposite direction towards their cottage, despite Noruil's loud protests. Dannenion snapped his fingers, arresting Anastor's movement. When Legolas glanced over his shoulder, Anastor was glaring at him, but he had stayed by his father's side.

Legolas and his cousins walked in silence until they reached the Green. Then Legolas stopped and looked back into the forest in the direction of Dannenion's cottage. "You should not argue with him," he said quietly.

Eirienil's jaw dropped, drawing Legolas's gaze back to his immediate surroundings. "Not argue with him? And let him say your adar is a tyrant? I most certainly will not. And neither should you!" she began, anger making her voice rise with each phrase.

Legolas drew a breath to answer her, but Galithil beat him to it. "There was no argument against what Dannenion said," he said. "Legolas was clever to divert the debate as he did."

Legolas frowned. "It was not a diversion. There is an argument against what Dannenion said, else adar would not have a feast—he would send more supplies to the warriors. We just do not know what the argument is, nor is it our place to make it. That is why I told him to speak to adar and why we should not argue with Maidhien's parents."

Galithil shook his head. "I heard adar and uncle Thranduil arguing yesterday. Ada was asking Uncle to send more warriors or more supplies south and Uncle said there were none of either to send. Ada was as angry as Dannenion was about it."

Maidhien nodded her head in agreement.

Legolas glanced at her. "None of this is for us to discuss here," he said, but Eirienil spoke over him.

"If the King said there was none of either to send, then there is not and that is the end of it," she said, replying to Galithil, but looking at Maidhien. "The King does all he can to protect the forest."

"Then you do have to wonder how he will manage the feast if he cannot send more food to the warriors," Maidhien said nervously.

Galithil nodded. "True," he agreed in a quiet voice.

Legolas's frown deepened. "You should not eavesdrop on Adar's conversations. You should not repeat what you hear him say. And you obviously misunderstood what you heard," he said in clipped tones.

Galithil shook his head. "I did not misunderstand. Ada was asking Uncle for more supplies for the southern border patrol, just as Dannenion said they needed. And Uncle said there were not any to send. And Ada said Uncle Celonhael said there were funds to buy some."

"And that is when the King said it did not matter if there were funds, because the Men lost their crops too, so there is not anything to buy," Maidhien chimed in.

Legolas turned to stare at her, but Galithil only nodded and continued telling the story.

"And so Ada said he wanted to take troops from the other border patrols to hunt for the southern border patrol. And Uncle said no. And Ada said he would send them with or without Uncle's permission and Uncle was very angry. He asked Ada if he would take supplies from the stores against orders as well. And Ada said he would not, but he would send the warriors to hunt."

"And then he said that about Thranduil leading troops off somewhere against the King's orders when Oropher was king. Where did he say Thranduil took the troops, Galithil?" Maidhien added.

Legolas looked from Maidhien to Galithil, who was grinning broadly and nodding. "He did not say where, but Ada did said your adar took troops into battle against Daeradar Oropher's orders. Uncle said Daeradar took away his rank when he returned," he said, giggling. "He implied he would do worse to my adar if he takes the troops south against orders as he threatened."

Legolas stared at Galithil for a long moment and then glanced at his cousins, who were staring at Galithil with varying degrees of shock, amusement and doubt, obviously ready to start speculating about the details of that story. Legolas forestalled the conversation. "First of all, my adar would not have disobeyed Daeradar when he was king..." he began.

"He did, Legolas," Galithil interjected, still giggling.

"Second of all, your adar will not disobey mine..."

"He sounded as if he might," Maidhien said.


Legolas shot a glare at her. "Third of all, Adar has reasons for not sending more warriors or supplies south and for having the feast despite short supplies. But those reasons are not something we should be discussing publicly and you know it."

Galithil's expression grew more serious in response to that.

"And fourth of all, how could you hear all this yesterday when you and Maidhien were playing in the caves all afternoon. I saw you cross the river and you went back across with me." He paused and looked at Maidhien. "And how could Maidhien hear anything my adar and your adar were discussing?"

"I am not lying about it, Legolas," Galithil exclaimed, taking an angry step towards him.

Maidhien did as well. "He is not lying," she echoed forcefully.

Legolas crossed his arms across his chest and looked at Galithil through narrowed eyes.

"It is none of your business how we heard them talking," Galithil said. "We did and that is what we heard. My ada disagrees so strongly with yours over this decision that he is willing to disobey him. So I think Dannenion probably has the truth of the argument that Uncle should send more supplies to the south."

Legolas continued to glare at Galithil, his posture tense. Galithil returned his glare defiantly until Maidhien stepped between them, twisting the sash on her dress between her fingers.

"Galithil is telling the truth about what we heard, but I agree with Legolas about not talking about it anymore. I do not want to argue," she said timidly.

Neither Legolas nor Galithil moved.

"Maidhien is right," Brethil said, pulling Legolas's arm to turn him away from Galithil. "First about Galithil using the bow and now this. You should not fight anymore."

"Maybe this is not the place for any part of this discussion, Legolas," Eirienil added in a whisper. "Just forget about it."

Legolas looked at her silently a moment. Then he drew a long breath and let it out slowly. "Probably true. What game do you want to play?" he asked, turning to Maidhien and making an effort to sound normal.

"Can we play Spider again?" she begged. "That was so much fun. My brother and cousin never played that with me before."

With a final glance at Legolas, Galithil tapped Maidhien on the shoulder. "Maidhien is the spider!" he called, dashing away from her. Looking relieved, Berior and Brethil ran in the opposite direction. Maidhien ran after them, squealing with excitement.

"It is not our affair to concern ourselves over," Eirienil said softly to Legolas as they also danced out of Maidhien's reach.

"I know," he said, but his expression was still stern.

~*~*~

Thranduil strode swiftly down the corridor, following Hallion. Both carried tall stacks of books, ledgers and loose papers. They were headed towards the library to store them. The day had been long and Thranduil wanted nothing more than to retire to his own chambers. But Aradunnon dogged their steps. The topic he wanted to debate--Dolwon and Dannenion--was the reason the day had seemed so long, and therefore it was the last thing Thranduil wanted to continue to discuss.

"I honestly do not understand why you feel so compelled to pursue conversations that I have clearly concluded," Thranduil said without looking at his brother. Perhaps his tone, which was openly disgusted, would communicate what his actions apparently had not. He had, after all, already resorted to helping Hallion carry books and papers in a vain attempt to escape Aradunnon's presence and end this discussion. Aradunnon had only taken a part of Hallion's heavy load as an excuse to follow them.

"Possibly because I have been utterly confused by some of the decisions you have made recently," Aradunnon countered, never one to be put off by any effort on his older brother's part to put him in his place, at least not in private.

Thranduil looked straight ahead and quickened his pace. He made no reply. There was no point in making one, since he had no intention of saying anything different than what he had already said in the family meeting when he thoroughly described the decision that Aradunnon was so intent upon questioning.

Aradunnon matched Thranduil's strides, coming up along side him to fix him with an intent glare. "Thranduil, you cannot possibly believe that bringing Dolwon and Dannenion into this stronghold on a daily basis will have any positive consequences," he said.

Thranduil's jaw tightened slightly, but that was the only response he made.

Aradunnon took two long strides and cut off his brother's march, stepping directly in front of him so abruptly that Thranduil collided with him, causing books to cascade to the floor. "This is a decision that directly affects me, Thranduil," he said, standing toe-to-toe with his brother and glaring at him over the books that remained in his arms. "My wife and son were targets, and may still be targets, of Dolwon and Dannenion's treachery. As an injured party, I have a right to a voice in how they are dealt with."

Thranduil leaned forward and spoke in a low voice. "You have stated your opinion that I should banish them. I heard you. But after speaking with them this afternoon, I decided that I have the greatest hope of regaining their loyalty if they serve Golwon. That way they can directly see what this family does to serve the best interests of this forest."

"The only thing they hope to see is the inner workings of this stronghold in the interest of planning another attempt..."

"You cannot prove that," Hallion interrupted. He shoved the books that both Aradunnon and the King had dropped into Aradunnon's arms, causing him to take a step back. "Dolwon came of his own will to speak to the King. He came before I sent word that he was required to come. And he brought Noruil with him. Both offered an apology..."

"A sincere one, no doubt," Aradunnon interjected, shifting the tall stack of books in his arms to better face off with Hallion.

"Noruil's apology was indeed thin on repentance and Dolwon's lacked it entirely. But they came freely and Dolwon spoke honestly with the King about his concerns. Not long after Dolwon left, Dannenion came and spoke in a like manner. If they oppose the King's rule because they believe he does not serve this forest as well as he might, what better way to correct that belief than by giving them a chance to see all that is done to serve this forest, while serving it themselves? And what better way to keep a close watch on them and limit their time to stir dissent? This is the course of action I have been recommending for years. Give it a chance to work, Aradunnon."

Aradunnon drew a breath to reply but Thranduil interrupted him with a hand on his shoulder. "I must find a way to make Dolwon and Dannenion part of this realm again, or I will have to banish them, and that is something I do not want to do," he said softly, making a supreme effort to govern his tone. Arguing rarely swayed Aradunnon, but reasoning often did. "I have made my decision on this issue and I told them both that this is the last opportunity I will give them. I am aware of the potential dangers involved in allowing them in the stronghold, and I intend to limit their movements and interactions as much as possible. Your part in that, as troop commander, is to manage the guards that we will use to watch them. If you want to consult with me regarding what we must do to best reduce their ability to exploit this situation, I will discuss that with you. But I will discuss nothing more. Now, will you support me or not?"

Aradunnon frowned and blew out a long breath. "Of course I will support you. But I do not have any faith that asking them to serve Golwon will have any more positive affect than forcing them to live in the capital for the last twenty years has."

"I have some hope for Dolwon," Thranduil said, taking a few of the books from Aradunnon's stack and continuing towards the library. Aradunnon and Hallion followed. "But much less for Dannenion, if I am to be honest."

"Perhaps if Dolwon can be won over, he can help sway Dannenion," Hallion suggested.

"Perhaps," Thranduil replied. "It will be a difficult road, in any case."

Aradunnon nodded. "Indeed. And I am glad to have as little to do with it as possible. Better Golwon than me."

Thranduil looked at his brother sidelong, his expression wry. "Golwon is more than capable of managing difficult personalities, since he is such a difficult personality himself."

Aradunnon laughed.

"Of course, you are more and more like him each day, it seems, given your recent behavior," Thranduil added, his tone mild, but his expression fairly serious.

"I apologize, Thranduil," Aradunnon replied, making little effort to conceal a smirk.

"Today is a day for sincere apologies, it seems," Thranduil said.

Aradunnon groaned. "Oh! When I begin to be likened to Dolwon, I think I really must protest," he said, still laughing, as they turned the corner into the corridor that ended at the library. A soft light glowed at the end of the hallway.

"I wonder what Rodonnon could be doing in the library so late at night," Hallion commented.

"I suppose we can take some perverse comfort in the fact that someone is having as long a day as we are," Thranduil replied dryly.

As they drew closer, they heard voices that were too high pitched to be adults.

"The children?" Thranduil asked, looking at Hallion and Aradunnon with some surprise.

"I certainly cannot imagine what they are studying at this late hour," Aradunnon said.

"Here!" a very excited voice boomed from the library. Now that they were closer, there was no doubt the speaker was Galithil. "Here it is!" he said. Now a thump echoed in the corridor. "Read this! Right here," Galithil commanded. The thump had clearly been a book falling heavily onto a wooden table.

"Whose hand is that?" Eirienil's voice could be heard saying as the adults approached the library door. "I have never seen that writing before."

"I do not know, but Galithil is right!" Legolas said. He sounded horrified.

"It means nothing," Eirienil said swiftly. "Just because you were right about the battle does not mean you are right about the Festival."

"It proves that I was telling the truth about what I heard--about both the battle and the Festival," Galithil replied.

"This only proves anything about the battle," Eirienil countered.

The adults stepped through the library door. Legolas was sitting at a table strewn with open books. Galithil and Eirienil flanked him on either side, faced off and arguing over his head. Legolas was bent over the large tome that Galithil had apparently thrust in front of him, reading swiftly and paying no heed to his cousins' arguments.

"I confess myself to be rather disturbed to hear that Galithil must prove the honesty of anything he has said," Aradunnon said from the doorway, frowning at Eirienil.

Startled, the children jumped. Legolas half turned in the chair and looked at his father and uncles with wide eyes, his finger slipping from the line of writing he had been reading. Still staring at his father, he groped for a piece of parchment and dragged it over the page of the book, covering the writing. At the same time, Eirienil and Galithil stepped closer to Legolas, as if to block the adults' view of the table. Eirienil met Aradunnon's stern gaze, bit her lower lip and said nothing. Galithil looked at his father as if he had just been caught with a knife or bow in his hand. Thranduil frowned. All the children looked as if they had just been caught doing something forbidden and he could not imagine what that could be, since they were in the library.

"What are you children reading that is so much more interesting than dancing on the Green?" Thranduil asked, as he, Aradunnon and Hallion placed the materials they had been carrying on the table. Hallion picked up one of the books the children had been reading. It was blue-bound, a history book. Some of the other books on the table were also histories. Others, including the one Legolas had so carefully covered, were green-bound legal records.

At Thranduil's question, Eirienil and Galithil looked at Legolas with very serious expressions, clearly expecting him to answer. Legolas grimaced slightly, straightened in his chair, and looked up at his father with a resolute expression.

"Ada, may I ask you about something? Something about governance?" he asked, rather than answering his father's question.

Eirienil's gaze snapped to Legolas, her eyes again as wide as they had been when the adults had surprised them moments before. Galithil gave his cousin what he obviously assumed to be a subtle shove with his shoulder and was also looking at him incredulously.

Thranduil raised an eyebrow. Given the number of books on the table, fairly extensive research had apparently prompted this question, so he was curious to hear it, especially since Galithil and Eirienil obviously thought it such a poor idea to ask it. Thranduil turned the same impassive expression that he normally wore in court on the most unexpected figure of his young son. "You may ask," he said, moving to seat himself at the table and signaling Aradunnon and Hallion to do the same. Galithil and Eirienil scurried out of his way to stand behind Legolas. "And after you ask it, I will decide if it is a topic that I feel you are ready to discuss," he finished, leaning back in the chair and looking at his son expectantly.

Legolas sighed and looked down. When he faced his father again, he appeared as if he were about to confess to some misdeed. "Ada, if there has been so little food this winter...if it is true that the patrols and villages have been as short on food as we were, is it wrong to use up so much food for the Spring Festival? It seems as if it would be better to distribute food to the warriors and villages before using it for a festival." He spoke quickly, in a soft voice, and as he did, he watched his father's expression anxiously, clearly concerned by the reaction his question might arouse. Eirienil and Galithil looked as if they wished they were anywhere but there.

Therefore, Thranduil maintained as neutral an expression as he could. "That is a good question, ion nin," he responded evenly, managing to largely conceal his surprise when Legolas slumped slightly in his chair in obvious relief. "It is one I ask myself every time the Spring Festival approaches after a winter that was harsh or when food is scarce."

Legolas leaned forward. "You do?"

"You do?" Galithil echoed behind him, all his previous nervousness erased by an expression of utter surprise.

"Of course," Thranduil replied, gesturing in the direction of the chairs around the table. Without taking their eyes off him, Galithil and Eirienil scrambled into the chairs closest to them. "Indeed, I normally have to be convinced by Hallion, Golwon, Celonhael and Lindomiel to hold the festival under such conditions." He turned to Galithil. "Your adar and Engwe, in contrast, normally argue strongly in favor of sending supplies to the warriors."

Legolas glanced at Galithil and Aradunnon. Then he turned back to his father. "Why do naneth and uncles Hallion, Golwon and Celonhael argue for the festival? Why is holding it more important than supplying the patrols as uncle Aradunnon, and you, it seems, would prefer to do?" he asked.

"Supplying the warriors is obviously important. But you tell me, Legolas, how would you feel if, after this long and difficult winter, I cancelled the festival?" Thranduil asked.

"I would be disappointed, of course. Spring Festival is my favorite festival..."

"It is everyone's favorite festival," Hallion interjected quietly.

Legolas turned to Hallion. "True, but is a favorite festival more important than ensuring that the warriors are well enough supplied to defend us?"

"Well said, Legolas," Aradunnon muttered.

Hallion looked to Thranduil and, at the king's nod, he answered. "The patrols are adequately, if not not ideally supplied. But, is the forest worth defending if the people are not happy in it?" he replied. "What are we defending if not the people's right to live according to their nature? Merrymaking is part of the very nature of these people. I doubt the King could cancel the festival, even if he tried. If he chose not to participate in it, the people would still gather, make merry and feast on the food that they could put together themselves. And they would not understand why their King did not see fit to join them."

Legolas looked from Hallion to his father.

Thranduil nodded. "That is true beyond doubt. The Spring Festival raises the spirit of the people, and that is especially important after a difficult winter. It is as necessary as supplying the patrols." He paused to draw Legolas's full attention. "And do not fear that I leave the patrols under-supplied. We will bring down enough game during the hunt, and prepare enough bread and other food stuffs, to send the warriors what they need. Winter has ended and Spring provides--that is what we celebrate, what we give thanks for, during the Festival, after all." He leaned back and looked at all the children. "Does that answer your question?"

"What if the warriors could not be supplied adequately? What if they needed more?" Galithil asked.

"Then less food would be used for the Festival and more sent to the patrols," Thranduil answered. "But you should ask your adar if he feels I send enough."

Galithil looked at his father, who remained silent, his lips pressed tightly together, but his expression otherwise completely neutral.

"He will tell you," Thranduil continued, "that I do not send enough and that he does not agree with all my decisions of this nature. It is his duty to advocate for the troops he commands, as it is Eirienil's father's duty to advocate for the villages. Her adar will tell you that I do not send enough food and supplies to them. Berior's adar tells me I spend too much purchasing supplies for both the warriors and the villagers from the Men. It is my duty to listen to all of them and balance their advice into decisions that will best serve everyone in this realm."

"So, in the end, since there is not enough to give everyone all of what they want, they all get something, but none of them are completely happy," Eirienil observed, speaking to no one in particular. "That must be frustrating."

"Quite," Thranduil said with a smile. "It is often most unsatisfying, but it is the best we can do, so we settle for it, remembering that all things, both pleasant and unpleasant, eventually pass--years of hardship give way to years of plenty, which in turn also fade."

The children made no response to that, so after a moment's pause, Thranduil voiced his own question. "May I ask what has prompted your concern for the health of our warriors?" he asked, with a glance to Aradunnon. He was fairly certain he already knew the answer. Because of that, the children's reaction surprised him. They tensed and again looked to Legolas. He, in turn, looked at his father sidelong.

"Something Dannenion said," he admitted after a long pause. "He said it was wrong to waste food on the Festival while the patrols went hungry. We know the patrols do not go hungry," he added quickly. "Well, not entirely, anyway. But..." Legolas appeared ready to say more, but he cut himself off and remained silent instead, no longer meeting his father's gaze.

With that unspoken confession, Thranduil finally understood. "But what Dannenion said about wasting food while the patrols went hungry made some sense to you and you found that troubling," he finished for him with a quiet voice.

Legolas looked up and drew a breath, clearly intending to deny that statement. But instead, he closed his mouth without speaking, pressed his lips together and the guilty expression returned to his face.

Thranduil smiled sadly and leaned forward to lay his hand on his shoulder. "I understand," he said softly. "These are not easy decisions for me to make. I do not expect them to be easy decisions for everyone to understand." He looked at Legolas's cousins. "I do not even expect everyone to agree with them. Your adars often do not agree with me. But I do expect everyone who serves me to support the decisions I make once they are made. Your adars always do that."

"Sending troops south against your orders does not sound like support to me," Eirienil said quietly, looking at the table rather than the adults.

Galithil shot her a scathing glare. Aradunnon's jaw dropped and he stared at her as well.

Now it was Thranduil's turn to tense. "Your adar told you about that, did he?" he asked, addressing Galithil. He could not keep the anger out of his tone.

Both Galithil and Aradunnon shook their heads. "I overheard him speaking," Galithil said quickly.

Thranduil looked towards the ceiling. "I should have guessed. Normally I would scold you for eavesdropping on conversations that are not your affair, but your adar was almost certainly having this conversation in a tone of voice you could not have hoped to avoid hearing unless you left the stronghold, so I suppose I can hardly blame you."

"That is not true, my lord," Aradunnon interrupted. "I never spoke of this to anyone but you and I would not have."

Thranduil ignored him, continuing to address Galithil instead with a serious expression. "If your adar chooses to disobey me, I will remove him from command of the warriors and give that command to your brother. While I have no doubt that your brother would make an excellent troop commander, losing Aradunnon's experience would be very damaging to this realm. I am confident that knowledge will lead your adar to make the right choice."

Aradunnon nodded. "I admit that I did suggest to the King that I would send the troops south despite his orders that they remain with their regular patrols, but I only did that to impress upon him how serious I felt the situation was. I was certain that if he and I spoke further about supplying the warriors in the south, we could find an adequate solution and we did. I would not disobey the King, Galithil. I certainly do not want any of you to think I would do such a thing, much less do so lightly."

Galithil looked between his adar and Thranduil and made no response, though he looked as if he wanted to. Legolas leaned forward in his chair slightly, biting his lower lip and looking at his father intently. He was also obviously debating with himself whether he should speak. When he opened his mouth and drew a breath, Eirienil kicked him under the table.

"No, Legolas," she whispered.

Thranduil looked her, eyebrows raised. "There is nothing you cannot ask me," he replied, "There may be questions I will not answer, since you are yet very young, but all I will do is tell you that you are too young."

Legolas glanced at Eirienil, who still shook her head. Then he drew a deep breath and looked back at his father. "Did you know that daeradar would remove you as troop commander when you took warriors to..." he shoved the paper off the book in front of him and scanned the page quickly, "...to Gwathló to fight with some King named Gil-galad and Men? Were you not worried what affect your disobedience would have on the realm when you did it?"

Thranduil stared at Legolas in silence for a long moment, vaguely aware that Aradunnon and Hallion were looking at him tensely. Then, still without speaking, his gaze shifted to the green-bound book Legolas had been reading. He reached for it and pulled it in front of him. The page it was open to was written in Oropher's hand. He had been so angry at Thranduil, that he had recorded all the proceedings surrounding this incident himself, to ensure everything was detailed exactly as he intended it. Thranduil remembered that very well. He looked back at the children, who again were watching him anxiously. He took a deep breath and released it slowly.

"This is something I cannot possibly explain to you," he said, hoping his voice was calm. "Not now. You simply do not know enough about the situation...about who Sauron is and what he was responsible for throughout the First and Second Ages and who he was attacking..."

Legolas gestured to the book. "It says he was attacking your cousin, Celeborn, in Ost-in Edhil. That was your argument in defense of your actions. But daeradar said he was attacking Noldor kingdoms and kingdoms of Men that were not our concern," he interrupted. "If one of the kingdoms under attack was a kingdom of Elves, why would daeradar not come to their aid? Even if they were Men, you aid the Mannish villages near the forest, so why would daeradar not help them?"

Thranduil looked at his son's very earnest and obviously confused expression, and found himself at a loss for words.

"Those are very complicated questions, Legolas," Hallion intervened softly. "And not ones that can be answered without a deep understanding of who the Noldor and Mannish kingdoms were, as your adar said. You will study this soon enough with Master Rodonnon and understand it better then. For now, know that your adar did what he thought was best." He moved to stand. "Come, enough of this...."

Legolas frowned and remained seated, glaring at Hallion with a stubborn expression that Thranduil recognized only too well.

"I will try to answer him," he said quietly. Hallion sat back down slowly and the children turned to Thranduil with wide eyes. Thranduil looked at them for a long moment. "At the time, Sauron was at war with all of Eriador," he began. "He had attacked and destroyed Ost-in-Edhil. My adar refused to go to their aid because their lord, Celebrimbor, had earlier usurped the rightful rule of my cousin Celeborn." Thranduil paused and his jaw tightened. "Adar also refused to aid them because Celebrimbor was the grandson of an elf named Feanor, whose people are cursed by the Valar due to the violent acts they committed in order to retrieve three gems that Feanor had made. Adar moved us all here to Eryn Galen to avoid becoming entangled in that curse by living their lands. He certainly did not want to fight a war along side them--especially since that war was being fought over rings that Celebrimbor and his people had made. I, on the other hand, felt Sauron should be defeated before he could turn his attentions to this forest. I felt we should unite to destroy him for the good of all Middle Earth, even if it meant bringing great peril, even the curse of the Valar, upon myself and the warriors of this realm. And I still feel justified in thinking that. Sauron only barely escaped Gwathló. If we had more warriors in the final battle of that war, even a few more, we might have defeated Sauron there and if we had, we never would have suffered the War of the Last Alliance, or the evils that this forest sees now." He paused and looked at Legolas seriously. "I knew then, and I admit now, that disobeying my King was wrong, but I judged that the potential good that might come of it--the destruction of Sauron--outweighed the wrongdoing."

Legolas studied his father, his mouth slightly agape and brows furrowed, absorbing what he had said. "But," he finally said, "a person cannot disobey the King simply because he judges his own decision the better one and the situation to warrant it. That would lead to complete disorder."

"Absolutely true," Thranduil said, a faint smile now tugging at his lips. "There were many, many times that I did not agree with my adar's decisions. But, with the exception of that one time, I always obeyed his orders. Now that I am King, I rule this realm very differently from the way he ruled it, for that is now my right. And my council does not always agree with my decisions, as we have already discussed. Despite that, no one on my council has yet to disobey my rule." He glanced at Aradunnon. "I never truly believed your uncle Aradunnon would do so now. The stakes are not so high as to warrant such an action and he knows that in his heart. He would not risk the damage that might be done by depriving this realm of such an outstanding troop commander."

"You were your adar's troop commander," Legolas asked. "Do you believe your attempt to defeat Sauron outweighed the damage that was done to the realm when you were demoted upon your return?"

"No," Thranduil admitted. "We did not defeat Sauron. We only drove him back to Mordor, where he was able to rebuild his army and his strength. But Engwe, who served as troop commander after I was demoted, believed Sauron was no longer any threat. Thinking the forest safe, he let the army decline. I would not have made that mistake. So the result of my disobedience was that the realm was weakened. "

"If your actions weakened this realm, how can you still believe they were justified?" Legolas asked.

"Because they had the potential to free all of Middle Earth--something much greater than just this realm--of terrible evil."

"So if disobedience has the potential to accomplish a significantly greater good, it is justified?" Galithil asked.

"Such situations are very rare," Thranduil answered. "The person making the decision must be willing to accept the consequences of their disobedience--and those consequences might be dire. That said, yes. I do believe that."

"But it takes a long lifetime of experience to recognize such a situation," Aradunnon added, looking sternly at his son.

Galithil nodded with uncharacteristic meekness and none of the children said anything else.

"Come," Hallion said quietly. Without giving them any opportunity to protest, he stood and gestured for the children to do the same. "That is enough questions for this evening. It is late and I think you have enough to think about. Put these books in their proper places and we will go back to the family quarters."

Legolas and his cousins stood and began gathering the books. As they did, Thranduil leveled an angry glare on his brother.

"I beg your pardon, my lord," Aradunnon said, and unlike his earlier apology, this time his tone held sincere regret. "I swear to you, I did not discuss these topics with anyone but you and I would never do so. I cannot imagine how Galithil could have heard us speaking. I thought the children were outdoors at the time."

"We will confine all further discussion not suitable for young ears to the Great Hall," Thranduil answered coolly. "Is that clear, Aradunnon?"

"Yes, it is," Aradunnon answered.

~*~*~

Lindomiel sorted through the dresser drawers in Legolas's room, holding up shirts and discarding them, until she found one that had been recently made. She took that along with a tunic and pair of leggings and laid them over the back of a chair for Legolas to wear the next day.

"I shall have to make you more shirts again soon," she said. "Most of these will be too small for you now. As soon as the Festival is over, I will start on them," she said, turning towards Legolas's bed. Her son had climbed into it and was pulling the blanket over himself. He did not appear to have heard her, for he did not have the disgusted look that normally darkened his expression at the prospect of standing still for a clothes fitting. He did appear to be very serious, with his brows furrowed and his lips turned down in a slight frown. Lindomiel looked at Thranduil and saw her husband was also apparently deep in his own thoughts.

"You are both quiet tonight," she commented, raising her voice slightly in an effort to draw their attention.

Neither Legolas nor his father responded. Legolas merely snuggled against his pillow, still frowning.

"Thranduil," she called, stepping to stand directly in front of him.

His eyes focused on her immediately and filled with contrition. "I beg your pardon, Lindomiel. My mind was wandering. What did you say?" he asked.

Lindomiel sighed and moved to stand next to Legolas's bed. "I understand why you are preoccupied, Thranduil. I know you have had a difficult day, given the decisions you made regarding Dolwon and Dannenion," she said, tucking the blanket around Legolas and drawing his attention. "But I certainly wonder what has made Legolas so serious." She looked down at him. "Are you in some sort of trouble?" she asked sympathetically.

Legolas shook his head and sat up against the headboard of his bed, tossing back the covers and undoing his mother's efforts to tuck him in. "No. At least I do not think so." He looked at his father.

"Of course you are not," Thranduil replied.

Legolas smiled. "Ada and I were just talking about something Dannenion said to my cousins and I," he said in explanation to his mother. Then he turned back to Thranduil. "What decisions did you make about him today, ada?"

Thranduil sat on Legolas's bed. "Dolwon and Dannenion came to speak to me today. About what their children said about me yesterday," he explained. "We agreed that they will try to learn more about the service our family does for this realm by serving themselves, along side us. Beginning tomorrow, Dolwon and Dannenion will be working with Golwon."

Legolas stared at his father, obviously shocked. "Poor Golwon!" he exclaimed in a quiet voice. "They are so ill-mannered. I would not like to work with them." Then he looked sharply at his father. "Galithil and I will not have to copy for Golwon if they are in his office, will we?"

"No," Thranduil answered firmly. "You will have no contact with them at all."

"Good," Legolas said, slumping against the headboard.

Lindomiel studied her son closely. "I take it that whatever Dannenion said to you today bothered you?"

Legolas nodded. "But ada explained it, so it does not matter."

Lindomiel smiled at both her son and husband. "Well, I am very pleased to hear that," she said, kissing Legolas on the forehead and then Thranduil on the cheek. Thranduil smirked at her. She straightened and focused on Legolas. "Tomorrow, aunt Amoneth and I will begin making the cakes for the Festival. You and your cousins can help if you like. And invite Aewen and Brethil."

A smile lit Legolas's face. "Can we invite Maidhien too? Galithil will want to ask her and I am sure she would love to help."

Lindomiel's brows rose slightly, but she nodded. "If you think she would like to help, she certainly may."

Legolas laughed. "Who would not like to help make cakes? If you help make them, you get to eat some."

"And pilfer some of the ingredients, like sugar and nuts," Lindomiel added, also laughing.

Legolas did not even bother to appear contrite. "And if we are to begin helping with the preparations for the festival, we cannot be in the library doing lessons," Legolas reminded her with a hopeful tone.

"I will tell Master Rodonnon tomorrow that it is time for you and your cousins have a break from lessons in order to help prepare for the festival," she said. Then she leaned over to give Legolas one last hug before heading to the rooms she shared with Thranduil.

Thranduil leaned over to kiss Legolas goodnight as well, but when he straightened, Legolas caught his hand and held him in place on his bed. He remained silent until Lindomiel was all the way into her own bedroom. Then he looked up at his father.

"May I ask one more question, adar? On the topic we were discussing earlier?" Legolas asked.

"I much prefer for you to go to sleep thinking about cakes for the Festival," Thranduil said softly, "But you may ask your question," he added in response to his son's disappointed expression.

Legolas smiled his thanks before looking at him more solemnly. "If you believed so firmly that defeating Sauron was so important that you disobeyed your adar's orders, why do you not take all the warriors in all the patrols south to defeat him now? I know you believe it is Sauron in the south of this forest. I have heard you say that when talking about the Shadow. Danennion says that you should drive the orcs from the south. How do you know that he is not right and that you are not making the same mistake your adar did during the war in Eriador?"

"You seem to have had a very interesting conversation with Dannenion today," Thranduil observed coolly. Then he mastered his tone answered his son's question. "I know that I am not making the same mistake my adar did because I have tested Sauron's strength in the south. Before I moved the capital north, we tried numerous times to drive the orcs from our lands. I led several of those battles personally, so I know I do not have the power to destroy him alone. Since I cannot defeat Sauron wholly, I must ensure that I do not so severely deplete my resources that I can no longer hold him at bay or contribute to the battle that will finally defeat him. For never doubt, I will have a part in his downfall, and thus avenge my adar and so many others of my family and friends that he destroyed. When you begin to learn about commanding battle, you will learn that patience--waiting for the appropriate advantage--can mean the difference between victory and utter defeat."

"How do you recognize that advantage? Why did daeradar not recognize that fighting Sauron during the war in Eriador was the right time to fight him?"

"That is the problem, ion nin. Real battles are not like in Orthor, where you can plainly see the strength of the enemy's pieces on the board. It is not always easy to know when the time is ripe to attack an enemy, even if one has well placed spies and..." Thranduil hesitated and then waved himself to a stop entirely. "Battle tactics are something you will learn at a much later age. Not now," he said firmly. "For now, trust that your uncles and I keep a close watch for the appropriate opportunity and we have many allies that are doing the same."

Legolas drew a breath to reply, but just as quickly bit off his response. "I do trust that, ada," he said instead. "And thank you. For answering our questions." He grinned up at his father. "Though I do not know why you suddenly decided to do it, I really enjoy discussing these things with you. It is far more interesting than Rodonnon's lessons."

Thranduil laughed and caressed Legolas's cheek. "These are worthy questions, ion nin. I see the importance of answering them rather than allowing them to fester unanswered in your mind. As for why I suddenly decided to allow such questions, you may thank your naneth for that. She was raised for life in court, and raised very well for such a life, given how well prepared she was to be this realm's Queen, despite how young she was when she took on those duties. She said if you were old enough to articulate the questions, you were old enough to understand the answers. So, I followed her advice on this matter."

"Then I will thank her too."

"Be sure you do," Thranduil replied, smiling. "Now it is time for you to get some rest," he said, gesturing for Legolas to lie back down in his bed. Legolas squirmed under the covers and Thranduil tucked them around him. With great relief, he extinguished the lamps in Legolas's room and passed into his own.

He walked across the sitting room and into the bed chambers silently. As he walked, he shed his formal robe, tossing it on a chair, and the shirt underneath, draping it on another chair. Sitting on the bed, he reached to tug off his boots without bothering to unlace them.

Soft hands slipped around his waist.

"This was not a day I will remember with fondness," he said quietly, closing his eyes as he leaned into Lindomiel's embrace.

"That is likely true. But I believe it was a day that Legolas will remember fondly," she replied. "Did you see how pleased he was when he told me you had 'explained' things."

Thranduil chuckled. "I did. And he thanked me. When I mentioned it was you that persuaded me to be more open with him, he told me he would thank you." He loosed a long, tired sigh. "I have rarely been asked such difficult questions. I have a new respect for Rodonnon."

Lindomiel laughed. "But better that you answer his questions than someone else."

"That is certainly true," Thranduil replied solemnly.

~*~*~

AN: Himion and Candirith were guards that died defending Legolas, Galithil and their mothers from Easterlings in Journeys Begin.

Adar/ada - Father/dad

Naneth/nana - Mother/mum

ion nin - my son

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Consequences
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25 Jan 2009
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25 Jan 2009
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