The moon had risen washing the stark landscape in silver. Across the river valley a small pony trudged through the thickening snow, head bowed, the steam of its breath a small banner wafting over the slumped dark form of its rider, who now sported a nearly obliterating coat of snow.
With a shout, the four elves thundered towards the lone traveler.
Arwen sputtered and spit out the miruvor her father had tried to get her to swallow again. With a deep gasp, which made her cough, Arwen opened her eyes. Her vision was immediately filled with the deep, dark storm colored eyes of her father, eyes that began to warm with a glow of love as he saw her finally stir. "A-ada."
"Shhh my little sparrow. Shhh." He bent and kissed her on the forehead and Arwen felt something warm and wet touch her cheek. Smiling she wanted to sleep more because this was a nice dream. But she was propped up, deep in the folds of her father's fur cloak. A lantern fell on her face and she blinked back the brightness as she realized it was her Daeradar holding it. "Arwen my heart." He bent and kissed her too, his other hand reaching out and taking both her hands briefly, sending warmth through her. Her brothers were next. Wiping the place where Elrohir had laid his warm lips making a silly noise against her skin, which he did usually when he tickled her, she shook her head and said slowly, "This was a nice dream until you did that, Elrohir." A strange, choked laugh greeted her words. But the enveloping warmth of her father was making her sleepy again. "Ada, I am sorry I missed Yule. I am sorry I did not fix the broken presents. And Legolas---- sleigh ride----" Here she yawned again,"---sorry."
Her father let sleep take her as he quickly mounted his stallion. With a shout, Elrond and Celeborn took off in a dead run, letting the twins, as planned, to tend to the tired pony.
Arwen woke to sharp pain. She sat in her parents bathing tub with her mother pouring the hot spring water over her forehead. Standing next to Celebrian, her father was chaffing her feet. "Ow! Ada! Nana! Stop it!" Tears filled her eyes. "It hurts! Owwwww."
Galadriel sitting beside the bathing pool in a simple shift held a pile of fluffy towels ready. The room was filled with a clean sharp herbal scent wafting from a wide bowl steaming nearby.
Arwen struggled, feeling painful and numb at the same time. She wanted to get away from her parents. Her hands and feet were all pins and needles. Celebrian held on to her firmly as Elrond continued to move his chaffing from her feet up to her calves, pouring his healing energy into her body.
Finally her father, tired himself, climbed slowly from the bathing pool and gratefully took a towel Galadriel held out to him. "Do you want me to continue the rubbing Elrond?' Celebrian looked up at her wet husband.
"I think we have all done enough for now. As terrible as it sounds, her shouts of pain are strong, indicating to me her circulation has improved immensely."
Celebrian finally settling her daughter comfortable against her, took one of her flailing hands and began to methodically massage her fingers. "Nana, oh Nana." She turned her face against her mother's wet skin and her tears mingled with the steam. "I am so sorry."
"Shh my love, we will discuss the whys and wherefores later. For now we must make sure not the tiniest part of you is frozen."
Celebrian moved from massaging Arwen's fingers to tickling her side. Gratified when her daughter began to laugh, she looked up at Elrond. Dry and in a long robe tied about his waist, he nodded and looked to Galadriel who nodded as well. Celebrian rose out of the water and her husband took his now squirming daughter while her mother handed her a thick towel.
Leaving the she elves to dry off and dress, Elrond cuddled his daughter close. As he strode to her room, he bent and rubbed noses with her. She could not take her eyes off her father's face.
When he lay her down in her bed, she held out her arms to him before he could go away. As he leaned close to her she whispered. "Ada, I am sorry. I have ruined Yule for every one. Poor Legolas did not get his sleigh ride and-and all my presents are broken. I was so angry and... impressed." A sob caught in her throat. "And so no one gets a present from me." Elrond slid on to his daughter bed and curled around her. He was in no mood to correct her language use.
His voice, thick with emotion, whispered into her hair. "That you are all right Arwen is gift enough. Shh, do not worry and do not be depressed about your gifts. We are all glad this winter night to share in your safe return to us, my love." His arms tightened around her. Several minutes passed as the elf lord just held Arwen close. Swallowing, as her sobs faded off, Arwen whispered. "I am all right Ada. Is Celebloth all right too?" She hastily wiped her eyes. Elrond slowly slid back off the bed and stood at her side. As he did so, Galadriel and Celebrian entered the bedroom and silently joined him. "Celebloth is now back in her stall. Your brothers and Cerwal are making sure she has taken no lasting hurt. And my love, Yule is not ruined. There are still a few hours until the Candle Ceremony. I am going to let you sleep for an hour or so."
Celebrian spoke up her arm around her mother's waist. "I will come and get you dressed in time, sweetheart."
"We both shall, Arwen" Galadriel added.
Nodding, she looked to her father. He smiled and then turned to go to her wardrobe where he pulled out a clean nightdress. Getting her dressed, he lay her back down. Looking at the other two, Celebrian and Galadriel bent and kissed the little she elf and then with another smile, Elrond lay his hand on his daughter's forehead and her eyes drifted close in sleep.
Pulling up the quilt, the three elves turned and left the room.
As they passed Legolas' room, he stuck his head out. "My lord, my ladies. How is Arwen? Is she all right? Will she miss Yule?'
The three went over to him and Elrond bent and picked the prince up. "She has not missed it young Legolas and she shall be fine with a little sleep. You shall not miss it either." The three adults entered the room and Elrond laid the prince back in bed. "We will come for you in a few hours Legolas. Will you be all right until then?" Elrond looked about the room and said with a laugh, "It looks as though you have been keeping yourself quite occupied."
"Yes my lord." Legolas grinned at the elf lord. He then looked at Galadriel and Celebrian and bowed as deeply to them as he could. With smiles the three elves left. Legolas sighed in relief. He still had some time! Hopefully Fehlast would return soon.
Arwen woke slowly and sat up. Her night candle burned at her bedside. She yawned and stretched and was about to go back to sleep when she noticed she was not alone. Her father sat in the dark at her bedside beyond the light of the candle, only the warm sparkle of his eyes catching the dancing flame. He leaned forward, balancing his elbows across his knees. "Are you all right my Unodmiel?"
She yawned again and winced slightly at the faint tingling in her toes. "My toes still feel a bit funny."
Her father came to her side, stripped the blanket down and then took a small foot in his hand and poured more of his healing warmth into it. A minute later he did the same with her other foot. "Thank you Ada. That is much better."
"Are you ready to get dressed and join us for the Candle Ceremony?"
"Yes Ada." Arwen sighed heavily reminded once again about her lack of gifts and then got out of bed before her father could help her. Lighting the candelabra on the table, they woke the little red and blue bird, who chirped an inquiry. While Arwen got out her deep blue velvet gown her mother had made her for this Yule, Elrond went to the little bird, humming quietly. In a moment, the bird hopped up onto his finger. The bird dipped once and began to sing a lovely series of trills. Elrond smiling set the bird gently down on a hawthorn branch and turned to Arwen, who had been watching him, an idea lighting her face.
As the elf lord did the lacing up her back, Arwen said breathlessly, "Ada, I just got an idea! Perhaps the little red and blue bird might make a good Yule gift for Prince Legolas!" She twisted around to make her point, but her father gently straightened her out. As he finished the last lace, she said excitedly. "The little red and blue bird can keep him company on his way home, so he won't be lonely. Can you teach him to sing so the bird will come to him?"
Elrond smiled as he went to the wardrobe to look for Arwen's slippers. "Perhaps."
Just then, there was a knock and Celebrian peeked around the door. She opened it wider to allow Galadriel to come in who was holding a formally dressed Prince Legolas.
"Arwen, you are all right! You are not frozen!"
"I assured you little Prince, did I not?" Galadriel said with a smile.
"Yes, my lady, but I thought you were just being polite."
Galadriel laughed and hugged Legolas. "Oh no Legolas Thranduilion, I would not be polite about my granddaughter's health!"
The adults all laughed. Celebrian joined her husband and took Arwen in hand to do her hair. Galadriel whispering softly set Legolas down and with only a slight limp, he came and stood before her, a bit shyly. Without a word, he suddenly brought his hand from around his back and held out a small silver circlet. "For you Arwen, Happy Yule."
Arwen took the circlet slowly, mouth open. She then spun to run to her father. "Ada! I can be formal now! Just like a princess!"
Legolas limped over to her, putting a small hand on the circle of silver in Arwen's. "This is an extra circlet Arwen, one I have had since I was a very small elf. This one," he touched the interlocking circles of mithril on his brow. "This one my Adar gave me before I left for the Grey Havens. He told me it was for my first official visit as my Father's repre--presenter of his kingdom."
"Representative, I believe you meant to say." Galadriel said softly.
"Ye-yes my lady. Representive."
All the adults smiled and did not correct him.
Arwen could barely contain herself as her mother finished doing her hair and adding the circlet to her tresses.
When she was done, Elrond picked up Arwen, as Galadriel picked up Legolas. "I think we are ready to go to the Hall of Fire now and begin the Candle Ceremony. It is almost midnight."
"And we do not want to be late," Arwen said excitedly.
As they left, Arwen and Elrond were last. He stayed Arwen's hand, as she was about to shut her door behind them. "Leave it open Arwen."
"All right." Clinging to her father with her arms now around his neck, Arwen gave it no more thought.
The walk to the Hall of Fire was filled with elves coming up to Arwen and her father saying how glad they were that the elfling had been found and she was all right. She excitedly pointed out her new circlet and everyone was duly impressed.
As the family entered the Hall, Celeborn and the twins made their way through the crowd and all three elves gave Arwen hugs and kisses.
Arwen embarrassed by all the attention was relieved when everyone took their place by the huge fireplace at the north end of the Hall of Fire. Galadriel handed Legolas to Celebrian. From the candle that had been lit from the flame of the previous log and kept burning all year, Celeborn and Galadriel together took the specially made candle, lit it from the old fire and carefully set it to the Yule log. Arwen watched in rapt attention, as did the others until the Yule log ignited. A huge shout went up. Then Celeborn handed the candle to Elrond and he and his family and Legolas went out on the nearby terrace. Each elf lit a candle set in holders along the stone balustrade. When Legolas had lit the last one, all stepped back and began to sing. The song was picked up by all the voices in the Valley, spreading like a choral blessing through the night. Arwen sat up in her father's arms, mesmerized by the singing and the way all the candles ignited, like stars come to earth. In a few minutes, the whole Valley was awash in warm candle glow.
The elves on the terrace added their voices to the beautiful singing, Arwen adding her high soprano to her father's tenor. As she sang the little elf felt her heart fill with warmth and gladness. Yule was sitting in the circle of her father's arms, surrounded by family and a new friend. This "flinging of their souls against the dark," was what Yule was about.
When the singing slowly faded off, silver fireworks given to the elves by the great wizard Mithrandir were shot off from the edges of the Valley and for a few minutes the Valley WAS filled with stars. Arwen and Legolas clapped their hands and squealed with delight.
Finally, the Candle Ceremony was finished, and the elves all moved back into the Hall of Fire where warm cider and meads and many kinds of sweets and fruits were laid out on tables along the walls. Elrond and his family sat on a small dais where a low table stood before their chairs, covered with gifts to them from members of the Household. The family's gifts to others were behind the carved chairs the adults sat in and were handed out as they sat and talked.
Arwen sighed deeply as she took a small cup of warm cider. She eyed Legolas who was sitting in the chair next to her on Celebrian's lap eating a small pastry. He leaned over to talk to Arwen, Celebrian automatically adjusting her arms so he could while maintaining her conversation with Glorfindel.
"Arwen, this is a really nice Yule festival! The food is really good."
Arwen let her glass of mead drop to her lap and she stared at the gifts on the table before them. "It would be a perfect Yule if I had not broken everything, if I had not rode Celebloth until we got completely lost, if I----"
Her words petered off as she suddenly noticed her gifts lay in a neat row on the table amongst the other offerings.
Scrambling off her father's lap, she went around the table and stopped in front of her presents. She picked up the swan she had made for her mother. The wing was fixed! Only if you looked very carefully could you see the crack. She put it down and then lifted her father's broach, now as shiny and pointed as she had made it, before stepping on it. One after another, Arwen examined her gifts. They had all been repaired and very cleverly so the breakage was not noticeable. Grinning at Legolas, Arwen took the starburst brooch to her father.
"Why, what is this Arwen?"
"My Yule gift! It is not broken! None of them are! Legolas fixed them all!"
Elrond looked over at the young prince, who blushing dipped his head. "I had help, my lord. Fehlast and my lord Glorfindel were very helpful. Arwen has been so sad about her broken presents."
Arwen ran up to Legolas and crushing his pastry between them, she hugged him fiercely. "Thank you Legolas. I am so glad you are here. You are the best Yule gift ever. Better than the circlet." Soundly kissing the embarrassed elfling, Arwen turned to the table, gathering her gifts. She went about giving them out. Legolas had even fixed the handwriting sample she had made for her grandparents by getting the ink blotted up and carefully and scrupulously following Arwen's own handwriting.
Elrond, watching all this, noticed the slump of the prince's shoulders as he watched Arwen happily giving her Yule gifts. Pitching his voice just so it could be heard above the hum of conversation, the elf lord began to whistle in an unusual manner.
Arwen, returning from giving her brothers their candlesticks, paused when she saw Legolas' sad expression. Without a thought, she scrambled into her mother's lap and Celebrian made room for her, stopping to give her a kiss on the head as she continued her conversation with her father who had taken the chair to her left.
"Legolas, oh Legolas, do not be sad." She put her arms around Legolas who hastily wiped his eyes.
"I wish my Ada was here. I miss him. I miss our Hall." The little prince buried his face in Arwen's shoulder and unable to think of anything to say, Arwen just hugged her friend.
"Arwen. Legolas." Elrond's soft voice commanded them to look towards him. The two elflings sat up and Legolas eyes grew big as the elf lord bent over the children and offered the little red and blue bird to Legolas. Singing happily on the forefinger of Elrond, Legolas tentatively held out his forefinger and the bird quickly hopped to his hand. With wonder in his eyes, the young prince brought the little bird close to his face and was delighted when it gently pulled at a strand of his hair.
"I have found out this little one has indeed come from Far Harad and undoubtedly got lost in winter storms which brought him here. He is called an antruin and is quite the singer. I shall teach you how to call him to you." Elrond put a hand to Legolas head. "Happy Yule Legolas Thranduilion. May the Light ever keep Darkness from your heart."
Celebrian added as she once again adjusted him comfortably in her lap. 'Happy Yule indeed Legolas." She kissed him, which made him wiggle some and the little bird chirp in question.
Celeborn standing nearby with a fond expression on his face, picked up his granddaughter saying, "I have not had the pleasure of your company this evening, princess. Your grandmother and I would like to have you to ourselves for a while." He paused to smile at Legolas. "And perhaps we can discuss a sleigh ride in the morning."
Arwen, her heart full, felt herself being lifted into her grandfather's embrace. But before she left she said quietly, "Happy Yule Legolas."
"Happy Yule, Arwen."
I think I shall end this little tale here. This winter story went on a bit longer than I had initially planned, but I enjoyed writing it. I hope your Holidays were wonderful and May the Light ever keep Darkness from your Hearts! Happy Yule, indeed! And Happy New Year!