Title: Returning Home

Rating: G

Date: May 30, 2006

Summary: After yet another winter being in Mirkwood, Haldir returns home to his family.

Timeframe: Approximately six years after Pirate. The twins are ten, Nethin is going on six.

Note: Hey all! This is a very short chapter to kind of get us all back into the lives of Haldir and Ashk. It's very narrative, so you've been warned. The summary for the next chapter is at the bottom.

Returning Home

Haldir

The air of spring had come again. The sweet scent of blossoming flowers and trees swept like a river through the forest of Galadriel. And as my steady troop and I entered its borders once again, it was this which greeted us.

Above, in the flets of the guardsmen, the watchful eyes of Galadhrim gazed at us in silence, knowing of our return once again from Mirkwood. My gaze flickered, finding the steady stare of Warden Louith. He nodded to me in silence.

Our horses were quiet as we moved down the trails of the Golden Wood. I halted, standing aside as the troop passed me. Several Galadhrim were asleep as they rode, once again among safe and content borders for the first time in months. To bring up the rear, I couldn't help but to chuckle, my youngest brother swaying with his horse's strides. I would have woken him had I not known the sleep he'd deprived himself of to be at my side in Mirkwood, even if I had not asked.

I followed some ways behind, watching as we passed the steady flow of creeks, fords, and small waterfalls. The trees seemed to grow ever brighter as we moved deeper into the wood. Ancient limbs covered the starry sky overhead, and the soft sound of the forest tried to ease my muscles…And yet failed. Too long had I been in Mirkwood for the silence to ease me now.

Sounds of battles passed, the Orcish cry of our enemy, the fallen comrades I was forced to walk past returned to me. Unburied grief for this last turn to Mirkwood rose in me, knowing the names of each of my fallen soldiers and the names of their families…

I closed my eyes, shoving the thoughts away. In the plains of my mind, I drug forth the worn thoughts of my own family; the giggling laughter of my children - the smile of my wife. How long had this kept me company in the trees of Mirkwood? I knew the letters my wife had sent me were safely folded among my things. They too were worn as I had read them often, and by them I was somehow with my growing children the months I'd been absent this year – their ninth and fifth years.

Onduras had broken his favorite toy last month. He was quite upset about it, so said his mother. She had done her best, but my eldest son had only told her it was his favorite because I had given it to him. It was a gift from Elrond's lovely Rivendell when he was only five…I smiled, knowing a similar toy bow was also packed among my things for my boy.

My daughter, Ana, returned to her studies with the Lady Galadriel after a summer of the Lady's absence. My daughter's gifts seemed to be more stable, Ashk had written. My wife was thrilled that the second phase of waking up with a herd of one animal or another in our home was over with…I couldn't say I wasn't a little happy I'd missed that. I shuddered remembering the full year of finding birds, lizards, cats, or any other animal in my daughter's room when she was little more than a tike.

But, alas, Ana had caused quite the spectacle in Celebruim not long ago when she had entered a corral of rowdy stallions. Properly, she had them as obedient as her very own dog – Pirate – within a few moments…Long after the heart-jarring shock of her mother.

And Nethin, my youngest, had become quite the adventurer since I'd left. His brother and sister were known for their imaginations and constant quests…Apparently, Nethin had joined the duo as of late. Ashk, however, had expressed her pure agony over his childhood quests. He had somehow climbed his way into a tree nearly two months ago, carrying himself dangerously high off the ground. Luckily, Orophin had been in the city and it was my brother to pluck my son from the branches of the ancient wood. And, although others had been quite awestruck at Nethin's talents, Ashk was less than thrilled.

Ashk had told me everything that had happened since I left. Pirate had taken a liking to sleeping on my side of the bed – I promptly ordered the sheets to be washed before I returned. Black had broken out of the corrals twice in the past month; Ashk said she would fix it…I dreaded to know what she had done.

And, also, the cat had taken a habit of leaving gifts at the door every morning.

I chuckled to myself, opening my eyes. I had once been accused of leading a dull, bland life…And yet now, I knew no one who could say such a thing to me. My family was, well, unconventional at times but always the joy of my life.

A nightly breeze passed and the fresh scent of a nearby garden swirled. I smiled, and it was soon after when the great gates of Caras Galadhon greeted us. Gently, they opened, baring the city held behind them. Six months had passed, and I was almost home.

"March Warden," Ferevellon called to me from the front of the formation. He motioned me to him and I held back a sigh.

It was later, after the joyful dispersing of my troop that I left Kali in the brigade stables, and Rumil and I walked the paths of our childhood city once again. My brother looked at me blearily, his hand resting on my shoulder briefly before he veered away. I stopped long enough to look up at the flet he went to. I remembered years before when I too had lived in that flet with my brothers. Some of those years were better left forgotten…

No one was out in the late night as I walked down the paths of the city towards my home. I glanced around, seeing no one but troopmen moving to their own homes. I smiled as a young guardsman ran by me, ready to return to his young wife.

I, on the other hand, carried myself at a walk…For as long as I could, anyway. By the time I reached the bottom of the stairs leading upward to my home, I took them two at a time.

I opened the door, closing it behind me in a rush. I shed my cloak, walking in silence to the hallway past the kitchen. I paused, looking at several paintings on the table. They were children's paintings and I glanced over them briefly, immediately knowing which picture belonged to which child.

A movement down the hall caught my attention. I left the kitchener to peek inside each door to my childrens' rooms. Nethin was curled under his blankets, and I shook my head as I saw he was sucking on his thumb. Past the door across the hall, my daughter was sleeping silently with Moss dutifully tucked against her side. Crossing the hall yet again, I looked inside the next room to see my eldest son, Onduras. The Elfling was hopelessly sprawled over his blankets at the oddest angle.

Finally, I backed away to turn down the hall. Gently, I opened the door and entered. Inside, the large bed was only holding the company of a white, huge, furry dog. Pirate – his massive size taking up most my side of the bed. It had been nearly six years since the family debate on whether to keep him or not, and I hated to admit that ever since he had been a loyal companion to each of us. And yet, I frowned as I saw that his head was resting comfortably on my pillow.

I moved forward to shoo him off the bed, but the open doors of the balcony made me pause. I looked out only for the drapes to swirl in the breeze. I barely caught sight of her and, as if I had not seen her in years, my heart jumped.

When I pushed aside the drapes, stepping onto the balcony, I smiled. A cool breeze passed again, and Ashk turned as if she'd heard a noise behind her. Her hair was tussled to one side, her face pale in the night. Her eyes were sleepy as she looked at me, and I smiled to see she was wrapped in one of my old tunics. Yet, the moment she laid eyes on me, a glamorous sparkle flared in that dark gaze.

"Haldir!" she barely had time to whisper my name before I was to her, my arms pulling her to me. I kissed her, the woman who was my wife, the way I'd dreamed of kissing her for months. Her cold hands framed my face and a brief shiver trembled down her body crushed against mine.

I pulled from her only when we were both breathless. And, so like Ashk, she laughed. Her hands roamed my face, passing over my shoulders as if to feel that I was truly there with her.

"When did you come home?" she whispered.

"Not long ago." My hands swept over her hair, pushing it away from her beautiful face. "I missed you."

"I missed you," she echoed only when I pulled away from the kiss I branded her with. I smiled, my forehead resting against hers in the nightlight.

She smiled at me. "I'd say we should go to bed…But, we have company."

I bent slightly, catching her knees from behind and scooping her into my arms. "We won't for long."

That night, Pirate slept in the common room.

Ashk – Morning

"Don't even think about it!" I warned, smacking Rumil's hand with my spoon. He looked at me, disappointed, as he drew his hand away from the cooking breakfast. I pointed at him with the spoon. "You can wait."

"Ashk," Rumil whined, "I'm hungry!"

"Me too!" Nethin cried, clumsily running to his uncle's side. Rumil immediately pulled him into his arms. My brother-in-law gave me a look. "You see? Your child is hungry. He's starving. He's wasting away."

There was a crash in the common room and we both took a moment to look. Ana was laughing hysterically as her father and brother rough-housed. Pirate was desperately waiting his turn, sitting obediently beside Ana as he whined and shifted.

"Ah ha!" Rumil swiped a piece of potato off the skillet and popped it in his mouth.

"Rumil!"

An instant later, Rumil spit it out. "Hot!"

"Well, see? It serves you right," I told him seriously as he put my son down only to dart to the pitcher of juice on the table. I shook my head.

"Back, Orc!" Onduras shouted, swinging his brand new toy sword around wildly. Haldir narrowly avoided its swing only to grab out son, rolling on the floor with him making – what I assumed – Orcish noises.

The front door opened as a pounding knock thumped on it. Pirate immediately jumped up, barking as he raced for the door.

"You're late!" I shouted, not bothering to see who it was. Only two people entered the home of Haldir without first knocking; his two brothers.

"Our apologies!" Orophin called back. An instant later, I heard a feminine giggle and I turned to see Litia had come with him. I smiled – the two had been nearly inseparable all winter.

"Uncle Orophin!" Ana cried, leaping from the sofa to run to her disputed favorite uncle. I glanced into the common room only to see Haldir stand up, his two sons hanging off of him. With Ana – almost too big to be scooped up as her Uncles and father always did – safely in Orophin's arms, the two brothers greeted each other again after six months of absence.

Rumil entered from the hall, returning from the wash room, only to see his brother. "You're late!" he shouted over all the racket. Litia came to my side, kissing my cheek and telling me they had brought something for breakfast. I only smiled at her before my eyes darted back to the three brothers. The children chased each other away and the three stood among each other.

Litia sighed, leaning on the counter next to me. "An interesting three, hm?"

I laughed. "Oh, to say the least."

Haldir glanced at me, catching my eyes, his smile tilting into a brief secret passing between us. I grinned, turning away as my cheeks reddened.

Breakfast moved on as loud as ever. Though my husband and I sat at opposite ends of the table, he continued to send silent looks my way. Half way through the meal, Nethin just couldn't take it anymore and had to sit in his father's lap. It was an adorable sight, not that it made it easy for Haldir to eat.

I glanced to one side of the table where my two eldest sat. Then, I looked to the other opposite side to my brothers-in-law and Litia were. I smiled, looking up to see Haldir across the table, staring at me.

Nearly ten years had passed since my first sight of Haldir…A decade of my life had become devoted to my family – and what a wonder, this family of mine…

----

Well, there's the first, introductory installment. Like I said, just to get us all caught up a bit. Obviously, throughout the series we'll have to jump around through years, so bam! There went about five years or so.

The next chapter – untitled as of yet – will be up by Monday, June 5th. We'll start getting back into the real stories. Here's the summary

Onduras gets a little too curious about his father's things – someone gets hurt. Is he going to tell his parents, least of all his father?

Thanks again for all your support, everyone! I know this chapter was very bland, but I figured it would be better than throwing everyone into "Hey, look! They're ten!" Hope to see you all Monday – or sooner, you know me…heh!

-Jo

Untitled Chapter: June 5th