AN: This is a continuation of a series of stories titled Interrupted Journeys. Parts One through Five have already been posted. In particular, this is a continuation of Interrupted Journeys: Journeys in Mirkwood. You might understand this story a bit better if you read that first.
This part of the story is set in Legolas's childhood, when he is 35.
Any Sindarin used is translated at the end of each chapter.
I hope you enjoy this part of Interrupted Journeys.
Chapter One: Grief
Third Age 1975
Eyes closed and nestled securely in the arms of the great beech, Legolas allowed the cheerful morning songs of the trees, birds and other little creatures in his mother's garden to wash over him. He breathed deeply the fresh, cleansing smell of green leaves, herbs, and wildflowers flowers carried by the soft breeze. Mingled with the forest scents were the smell of hearth fires and roast meats as the elves in the capital awakened to another summer morning. Amongst it all, Legolas should have felt warmly wrapped in the sense of home that he was so accustomed to. But he did not. Over the last few days, he had found it much easier to ignore the throbbing of his wound than the insistent memories of the events that caused it. It was nearly impossible for him to lose himself in the forest's song as he once easily could.
The problem was, the peaceful beauty of the forest around the stronghold no longer seemed entirely real to him. It no longer seemed like the whole truth.
Legolas found his thoughts continuously turning back to the forest in the south. The gnarled, black trees, the oppressive, black mist that hung in the air, the smells of rot and decay, not to mention the smell of the orcs and the sight of their grotesque bodies and weapons. The whole atmosphere in the south was desperate. The elves there clung to a pitiful life as they struggled to hold at bay the evil that constantly threatened to choke off their harsh existence once and for all. And with Uncle Aradunnon and Aunt Amoneth's deaths, the fact that sometimes, for some elves, the struggle was lost, was all too horribly real.
For as long as Legolas could remember, Aradunnon and Dolgailon had fought the 'we cannot lose anymore territory' argument against Engwe and Thranduil. Legolas had always been certain his father must surely be right when he insisted that Aradunnon pull the warriors back. But after seeing with his own eyes how the trees in the south mustered their remaining hope when the King had walked amongst them, Legolas could not imagine how his father justified that sort of decision. If more warriors were needed, there were plenty of elves in the capital that were perfectly capable of being warriors. The King should send them to defend the forest.
Legolas cringed at that thought. It sounded like something Anastor, or worse still, Dannenion might say. Trying to turn away from that treasonous line of thinking, Legolas allowed his gaze to wonder around the garden, seeking distraction, and his attention was drawn to the open door to the stronghold.
"I want you both to help me tell Thranduil. It will be easier for him to hear it if you are both there to remind him that you will remain. That he will still have your support," Dieneryn was saying. Her voice sounded dull. As if she were not really focused on her own words.
Legolas jumped from the beech to the bench beneath it and then to the ground as Engwe and Amglaur escorted Dieneryn into the garden. He smiled and called 'fair morning' to them. They did not respond. Amglaur and Engwe's faces remained grim as they led Dieneryn to the bench.
"We will help you tell Thranduil in a few weeks," Amglaur replied. "After things have settled down a bit."
"And after you have had time to give this decision due thought," Engwe added. He sounded disapproving. Amglaur shot him a glare.
"No, I want to leave quickly," Dieneryn replied, leaning back against the beech and closing her eyes. The taught lines that grief had drawn on her face relaxed marginally. Legolas studied her. The sunlight seemed to shine through her as she rested in the beech's embrace. "I cannot go to Belfalas. Passing Dol Guldur would be far too dangerous. So I will have to go to Mithlond and that is a much longer journey. Summer is almost over. If I want to reach it by winter, I must leave quickly."
"Perhaps it would be best to wait until spring, in that case," Amglaur suggested.
"Mithlond!" Legolas exclaimed, taking a step towards his uncle and grandparents. "Why would you want to go all the way to Mithlond, daernana? We do not trade or have any sort of relations at all with Cirdan."
The three adults looked at him as if they only just realized he was there.
"I cannot stay," Dieneryn began, her voice heavy with sorrow and regret. But Amglaur stepped between her and Legolas.
"Go and fetch your daernaneth a nice hot tea from the kitchen, Legolas," Amglaur ordered, with a much sharper tone than Legolas was accustomed to hearing from his grandfather. "They have not yet brought anything to the dining room. And maybe get her some of whatever they have ready for breakfast. Anything hot."
Legolas looked around his grandfather to peer at his grandmother, realization dawning. His eyes widened despite his best effort to hide his alarm.
"Go on, Legolas," Amglaur urged, turning Legolas towards the door to the stronghold with a firm hand on his forearm. He leaned over to whisper in his ear. "Maybe ask for cider instead of tea, if they have any. Or mulled wine."
Legolas nodded and did as he was bid, rushing into the stronghold. He walked quickly through the family sitting room, his mind racing. Daernaneth could not possibly mean that she intended to go West. She stayed when Daeradar Oropher had been killed. Why would she leave now? She was a member of the Ruling Council. And she helped Naneth manage the household. She was too important to leave. Legolas's breath came more quickly as he dodged around the little table that normally held tea or wine and snacks for the family in the sitting room. It was indeed empty. What would Adar do if Daernaneth left? Legolas did not think that Daeradar Amglaur or Uncle Engwe's presence would console Adar much if his naneth sailed West. He knew their presence would not be enough for him if, Valar forbid, his own naneth sailed. Emerging from the sitting room and bursting into the corridor, Legolas stumbled to a halt when he glimpsed the closed door to his Uncle Aradunnon's suite. What would Galithil do if Daernaneth sailed? He was already blaming himself for so much. Losing Daernaneth would be too much for him.
The doors to the family quarters opened and two of the ellyth that worked in the kitchens came through them carrying baskets of table linens and silverware. Legolas turned to them.
"Daeradar wants someone to bring Daernana some tea, or some cider or mulled wine, to the garden. And something hot to eat," he said to them. Then he grimaced apologetically in response to his tone and his lack of courtesy for not greeting them or at least saying 'please' and 'thank you.'
But they did not seem to mind. Concern immediately clouded both their faces and they nodded. One of the ellyth handed her basket to the other. "We are running late today. I will fetch her something," she said, and hurried back out the doors to the kitchen.
Legolas slumped a little in relief. "Thank you," he called after her.
The other elleth shifted the baskets she caried to one hand and used the other to pat him on the shoulder as she passed him to continue to the dining room. Legolas watched her go, not sure what to do now that Daernanth's tea was taken care of. He wanted to speak to someone about what Daernaneth was going to do. Someone needed to talk her out of it.
"Excuse me," he said to the maid as she was about to disappear into the dining room, "do you know where my naneth is?"
She leaned around the doorway, nodding. "After she came to the kitchen to give us the day's menu, she told us she needed to spend some time in her workshop this morning."
"Thank you," Legolas said, turning toward the doors that the other elleth had just exited through.
Legolas rushed out of the family quarters, hoping he had not been too abrupt with the guard at the doors as he raced by him. Winding though the corridors, he managed to restrain himself to a very fast walk until he reached the one that led to his mother and grandmother's workshop and the seamstress's workshops. Knowing no one would be in this hall at this early hour, except apparently his mother, who would not scold him for running, he sprinted down the dark corridor until he came to a door with light coming from under it. Then he stopped and tried to compose himself enough that his mother would not be too worried. He pulled down the hem of his tunic, took a few deep breaths and opened the door.
His mother's workshop was dimly lit. Only one lamp flickered over a loom near the back of the room. Legolas frowned. That was not one of his mother's looms. But she sat behind it, pressing the weft of a complex weave down using a held held beater. She was concentrating intently, which struck Legolas as odd. Weaving was something she normally did completely effortlessly. The light above her shimmered on her face in a very unusual way.
"Nana?" Legolas called softly, afraid he would startle her.
She looked up sharply, dropping the beater and wiping her hand across her cheeks swiftly. A smile lit her face, but it was not like her normal smile.
"Legolas, what are you doing her," she asked, beckoning him over to her with one hand while rubbing the other on the skirt of her dress.
Legolas stared at her without moving. "Nana, were you crying?"
Her smiled dimmed even more. "I am afraid I was," she admitted, pulling him into an embrace as he dragged a stool next to hers behind the loom. "I did not think I would have any company this morning, since I told the ladies that weave with your daernaneth and I that we wanted to be left alone in the workshop for the next few days."
Legolas's brows furrowed as he looked at the fabric his mother was weaving. This was Aunt Amoneth's loom, he realized. "I am sorry, nana. Do you want me to leave?" he asked, making to stand.
"Of course not," she responded and Legolas was relieved to see her smile made it to her eyes this time. She turned back to the loom and picked up the weft threads. "I am trying to finish this piece that your aunt was doing for the Men in Dale. Fortunately it is the last length of this weave that we promised them this year. It was your aunt's specialty. None of the rest of us really knew how she did this pattern. It took me a whole morning studying it to figure it out, but I think I have it. Or at least well enough to finish this piece. What do you think?"
Legolas glanced at the fabric. It looked fine to him. "It looks perfect," he said with what he hoped was an encouraging tone.
His mother leaned over and kissed his cheek. "Well, it is certainly good enough for Mannish sensibilities. It is a pity really. The Men truly loved this pattern. They paid well for it and we will not be able to provide it anymore..." Her voice nearly broke and she trailed off, looking fixedly at the loom. Then she wiped the back of her hand across her cheek again and straightened her posture. "What brings you here this morning, Legolas?" she asked looking back at him, the smile again brightening her face.
Legolas hesitated. Perhaps Nana was not the best person to burden with the news of Daernaneth. But looking around the workshop, Legolas knew his naneth needed Daernana to help finish all the cloth they traded with the Men. And Legolas knew the time to deliver that fabric, in exchange for the goods the Men shared from their harvest, was fast approaching. So he looked at his mother and then back at the loom, trying to find a gentle way to tell her what he had heard. But he could not think of any. "I heard Daeradar and Uncle Engwe talking to Daernana," he began in a quiet voice. "Daernana said she wants to leave for Mithlond quickly, to arrive there before winter." Legolas watched his mother's eyes widen. "There can only be one reason she wants to go there," Legolas concluded.
Lindomiel remained silent for a long moment before her expression changed from shocked to determined--the same expression she used when explaining to Galuon, the stubborn kitchen clerk, that he would do something in a particular way. Then, she quietly gathered her weaving materials from her lap and arranged them neatly on the table by the loom.
"You were right to come and tell me this, Legolas," she said calmly as she stood. She put her arm around his shoulders and gave him a brief hug. "I am very disappointed with your daeradar for not telling me himself. He should have, but he is trying to protect me, which is silly. I will speak to your daernana, never fear. And help her see that she cannot leave us." The smile returned to her face. "I have a surprise for her this morning. And one for your adar. I sent a messenger to Dale and explained some of what has happened to lord Fengel."
Legolas looked at his mother, not certain his father would approve of that. She did not seem to notice. Instead, she began leading him from the room, arm still around his shoulders.
"I asked him to send me some apples, if they already have some, and some butter. It is a bit earlier than he would normally send them, and we do not have any of our trade items ready to send in exchange, but I thought there was no harm in asking. This morning the messenger came back with a barrel of apples and another of pears, along with the butter. So I asked the kitchen to fix the turnovers your daernaneth likes. And Crithad and Dollion went hunting and killed a boar. So we have made the sausages your adar loves. We will have both at breakfast. I am hoping that helps a bit."
Legolas felt a bit guilty, given the seriousness of his daernaneth's situation, but the idea of the apple pies and pork sausages made his mouth water and he could help but smile. To his surprise, his mother looked delighted by his reaction.
"There you are. That is better. Keep that nice smile for your daernaneth. It will help her to see it. And if you and your cousins can spend a bit of time with her, that would be even better. It might seem silly to you, but there is something wonderful...refreshing being around you children."
Legolas tried not to roll his eyes as he looked sidelong at his mother.
"I know. It would be a tremendous help to me if you and your cousins could plant the dill seeds for me today. I simply do not have time and they need to be planted. If you could persuade daernaneth to go into the garden and help you, it would do her some good. Will you try that?"
"Of course, nana," Legolas said. He did not want to make matters worse by admitting it, but he was more than just a little worried, not only about his daernaneth, but now about his naneth as well. Anything he could do to cheer either of them up, even a bit, he was very happy to do.
"Lindomiel needs the help, Arthiel. Daernaneth is not able to do anything right now. And Lindomiel... you know my naneth might as well have been her sister, as close as they were. But Lindomiel is too busy to take any sort of break to properly mourn her. There is no one else to do the household duties. She only wants you to help her a bit until Daernaneth is recovered."
Galithil stood with his back pressed against the closed door to his room, his eyes tightly shut. He would have put his hands over his ears if he thought doing so would block out the sounds of his brother's discussion with his wife in the next room, but he knew it would not.
"I know Lindomiel is mourning Amoneth, Dolgailon. So am I," Artheil answered. "And I know there is no one else to help her, since your daernaneth is mourning your adar. And I know I have no choice but to help Lindomiel. But let us be clear on one point: Lindomiel does not need just a little help. Your naneth was Lindomiel's full partner in the management of this household. They split those duties fairly evenly and that is a large responsibility--one that I know nothing about and one that I honestly have no desire to learn anything about. I want you to support me in persuading Lindomiel that she will need to train someone else to help her with these duties eventually."
There was a long silence after that statement and Galithil could almost see his brother's lips pressed together and his brows drawn in disapproval. "When you married me, certain duties came along with those marriage vows, Arthiel..." Dolgailon began, with a very gentle tone.
Galithil spun around, yanked open the door to his room, and marched out into the sitting room. "Fair morning," he muttered without looking at either his brother or his sister-in-law. Dolgailon was not destined to have a fair morning if he intended to remind Arthiel of her duties to the realm. Arthiel had very firm ideas of her own about how she could best serve this realm. She was a forester and an increasingly accomplished one. She had persuaded her father to allow her to leave his woodworking shop to pursue that ambition and she had not abandoned it when she married Dolgailon. Galithil did not think Dolgailon had any hope of changing her mind now. And the ensuing debate, which was certain to be replete with reminders of his mother and father's death, was something Galithil simply could not bear to hear. He could not imagine how Dolgailon could bear to argue it.
"Fair morning, Galithil," both Dolgailon and Arthiel said to his back as he stalked past them. "How are you this morning?" Dolgailon added.
"As well as can be expected," Galithil answered as he pulled open the door to the outer hall. That was a phrase he had heard Uncle Thranduil use recently. One that Galithil had decided fit the way he felt very well. He was as well as he could be after disobeying his father to do something he knew was stupid that resulted in his father's death, cousin's injury, and grave injury to one of his best adult friends who was only trying to protect him. That is to say, he was not well at all.
Ignoring whatever his brother said to him in response, Galithil stepped into the hallway and closed the door to his family's chambers behind him as politely as he could. The door snicked closed softly and he could not hear anything else from the rooms behind it.
"That is good," Galithil said quietly, both because Dolgailon's argument about duty had been firmly silenced and because he had managed to behave in at least a marginally acceptable manner until he had been able to escape the company of others. Doing that was more and more of a challenge of late.
Galithil stood with his back to this door and thought about what he should do. It was still a while until breakfast, apparently. He could hear the servants only now beginning to lay the table. Normally, he would go into his cousin's room and awaken him. Galithil flinched away from that thought. Legolas had slept later than usual since they had returned to the stronghold. He had denied it, but Galithil knew he was having trouble sleeping, probably due to his wound. Galithil looked down the hall towards the family sitting room. Uncle Engwe, Daernaneth and Amglaur's voices floated softly from that room. Galithil did not want to go there. And that meant he could not go into the garden either, unless he went through Uncle Thranduil's office. A glance to that door, at the end of the hall, showed that Uncle Thranduil was already working--the King's guards stood outside the office, rather than outside Uncle Thranduil's private chambers.
Galithil contemplated that. He would never consider interrupting the King's work just to barge through his office to go to the garden. But he very much wanted to interrupt Uncle Thranduil for something else this morning. They had been home from Selwon's village for three days now, and still no one had spoken to him about how irresponsible...just plain stupid...he had been. Normally, he and Legolas would approach their fathers to apologize for any misdeed without being prompted, but Legolas was still recovering from his injury and Galithil did not want to rush him. But he could not stand the waiting much longer. He wanted to apologize. He was ready to hear Uncle Thranduil tell him how reckless he had been. He actually wanted to be punished. He hoped that paying for what he did might help alleviate even the smallest amount of the guilt he felt.
"Nothing that happened was Legolas's fault," Galithil whispered to himself, turning towards his uncle's office. "He really does not have anything to apologize for. He only needs to explain to Uncle Thranduil that he followed me to stop me." Galithil nodded once and started walking towards the King's office. "No need to wait for Legolas to help me make the apology that I owe. I should do it myself."
Galithil walked straight to Thranduil's office and, without acknowledging the guards at the door and without asking their permission, he walked between them, reached for the handle, and opened the door.
"Galithil!" one of the guards exclaimed, automatically putting his arm out to block Galithil's path.
Galithil ducked under it and stepped fully into the office. "Uncle, may I speak to you?" he asked in response to Thranduil's somewhat startled expression. He watched as the King glanced at the tall stack of papers to his left and then at the paper under his right hand.
"Of course, Galithil. Have a seat," he responded after only a slight hesitation, pointing to a chair with the quill in his hand. He laid the quill on the blotter and waved his left hand to dismiss the anxious guard that had followed Galithil into the office.
"I will take these papers to the Great Hall and finish working on them there," Hallion said quietly, gathering up the papers in front of him on the conference table and reaching for the stack next to Thranduil.
"If you have time, Uncle Hallion, I would like you to stay," Galithil interrupted him as he came to stand in front of Thranduil's desk. He did not take the offered seat. "I owe you an apology as much as I owe one to Uncle Thranduil."
Hallion and Thranduil exchanged a look that appeared to be a mixture of surprise and concern.
"Are you ready to talk about why you and Legolas went south, Galithil?" Thranduil asked.
Galithil clenched his jaw. Uncle Thranduil's tone was too gentle. It should be angry. "I am. I want to," he said quickly. "But Legolas did not go south. I mean, he went, but he did not come with Anastor, Noruil and I. He only came after us to stop us when no one...." Galithil cut himself off. He was going to say , 'When no one would believe him that I had gone south,' but then he remembered that Hallion felt guilty about that. Galithil wanted to apologize to Hallion for betraying his trust. He did not want to make matters worse by reminding him that he felt guilty. "When no one else could come after us," he finished, hoping he had covered his mistake smoothly enough.
This was hard. Much harder than Galithil had realized. His admiration for the way Legolas handled the apologies he so frequently made for himself and his cousins went up a few more notches.
"So Legolas does not deserve to be in any trouble for this, Uncle Thranduil. Everything that happened was entirely my fault. After I asked Adar if I could go south with him and he said it would be too dangerous, I promised that would not go. But I broke my word to Adar; I betrayed Uncle Hallion's trust that I would behave properly while he was taking care of us in Adar's absence; I did something stupid for selfish reasons; and my selfishness endangered not only Legolas and his daeradar when they had to come look for me, but also all the warriors in Selwon's village and the village itself when resources were diverted from the battle to protect Legolas and I. I have no excuse for what I did, because there could not possibly be one." He paused and looked down. "I know it was stupid and dangerous. I even told Anastor and Noruil that they were stupid when they told me their plans to go, and I made Maidhien promise she would not go with them." He screwed his eyes shut as a thought occurred to him. "Thank the Valar she did not try to come with Legolas. He would have never been able to stop her if she had been determined to go along. She is the reason...." He hesitated and looked sidelong at his uncle. "Maidhien is the reason I went," he almost whispered. This was the most difficult part to admit and his uncle's openly surprised and confused expression was not helping. Galithil looked at his boots to avoid seeing it. "The night before Adar left to go south, when he and I were coming in from the Green, he said he wanted to ask me a question. Maidhien had joined me to watch Adar's archery contest with Dollion...and Adar said something about Maidhien sitting under my cloak with me in the Men's camp...I guess he thought...I mean, he wanted to ask me if...." Galithil fell silent, not really certain how to describe what his father had asked him.
"He asked if you care for Maidhien?" Thranduil asked.
Galithil recognized his uncle's tone--it was the one he used in court when he was surprised, but did not want to show it. Galithil nodded, grateful that he had not had to say it. "I told him I had never thought about it. That I did not 'care for her' at all. She and I are friends, just like she and Legolas are friends or she and Eirienil are friends." Galithil sighed, and rolled his eyes to look at the ceiling. "Then Adar said something about ellyth noticing ellyn long before ellyn notice ellyth and to be careful of Maidhien's feelings because I could never reciprocate them." Saying that, Galithil looked back at Thranduil. "Because Maidhien could never be a suitable member of this family."
Thranduil stiffened and Hallion tried, but failed, to stifle a groan.
"Your adar told you that, did he?" Thranduil asked.
Galithil nodded again, trying to decide what, exactly, had finally made his uncle angry. "I told him it did not matter, because I do not care for her that way. But afterwards, I was talking to Legolas about what Adar said and Legolas said that I do fancy Maidhien. He said that Barad said I fancy her! And then I saw Maidhien the next day...the next few days.... By the time Anastor and Noruil left to follow their parents to Selwon's village, I realized that maybe I do care for Maidhien a little bit." That admission had cost him, so he again resorted to studying his boots as he hurriedly continued his explanation. "I know Maidhien's Adar has done something to earn arrest here in the capital. And I know it must be bad, because Legolas knows what it is, but he has always said he could not tell me. He said that he gave his word not to discuss it." Galithil was surprised to see, from the corner of his eyes, that Thranduil's eyebrows openly rose in response to that statement. "But I could not imagine what could be so bad that Adar thought Maidhien must be punished for it too. And when Legolas found out you were sending Dannenion south alone, he said you would not do that unless you thought you could catch him at something." Thranduil's eyebrows climbed even higher. "And I thought if I could find out what Dannenion did, maybe I would know enough to convince Adar that Maidhien could be part of this family. So that is why I went south with Anastor and Noruil. To spy on their parents and try to find out what they had done. I thought it would be worth whatever punishment Adar gave me for going south if I could just find out why Maidhien is so unsuitable. I was completely wrong. It was not worth it. I should have just asked you what Maidhien's parents did. Adar said I could ask you. But he said that several times before and then we never did ask. And you did not include me when you told Legolas, so I was afraid you would not tell me." Thranduil drew a breath to speak. "I realize that if you would not tell me," Galithil rushed to finish, "I should have accepted that there must be a reason for that. I was not thinking. I behaved like a fool and I regret it more than I can even begin to explain to you. I will do anything you require as a punishment as best as I can without any complaints, because I know I deserve it. I deserve what ever it is and more, because there is nothing I can do to make amends for the trouble I have caused this time."
There was a long silence. Galithil looked back up in response to a rustling noise. Uncle Thranduil was standing up. He came around from behind his desk and pulled Galithil into an embrace. Galithil had to bite down hard on the inside of his cheeks to keep from breaking down in tears. He refused to do anything to make it appear that he wanted or needed sympathy.
"Your adar would be very proud of your honesty and your thorough understanding of the situation, Galithil," Thranduil began.
That was too much. Galithil could not repress a sob that made his whole body convulse.
"And so am I. We need not say anything more of this," Thranduil finished, holding him even more tightly for a moment. Then Galithil found himself being pulled down to sit in one of the chairs in front of his uncle's desk. Thranduil sat next to him in the other chair and Hallion came to lean against the desk itself. They remained quiet as Galithil brushed the tears from his eyes and took a few calming breaths.
"Treason," Thranduil said, as Galithil wiped his hands on his leggings.
Galithil looked up, startled. He knew he had behaved recklessly and even endangered the whole village, but he did not see how his uncle could label his actions as treason.
"Dannenion and Dolwon were convicted of treason," Thranduil explained. "They employed violence against members of this family in an attempt to overthrow my rule."
"You cannot be serious!" Galithil blurted, almost forgetting the reason he had come to speak to his uncle in the shock of that news. "What violence? Surely not against you. They could not have attacked you!"
"Not me," Uncle Thranduil answered with a calmness that Galithil knew he would never have been capable of if he were discussing someone that threatened anyone he loved. "They first plotted to abduct and hold hostage your brother and Aunt Lindomiel. Then, when that failed, they made another attempt against your naneth and your Aunt Lindomiel. They rightly guessed that I would be very hard pressed to refuse any demands they made of me when those lives were held in the balance."
Galithil's jaw fell open even wider as he processed all the implications of that statement.
"Legolas only knows that they were convicted of treason and that there was some violence against this family involved. He was too young at the time that I discussed this with him for me to be more detailed than that. I may talk with you both about this in even more detail very soon, but until then, you are free to tell Legolas what I just shared with you. But this information is not for public discussion. I am trying to make Dannenion and Dolwon part of our community again. If everyone in the capital knew what they did...."
"No one would want them in the capital at all," Galithil said under his breath. "They would not want them anywhere in the forest."
"Precisely. I require your word that you will not discuss this outside our family," Thranduil said.
"You have it," Galithil responded promptly. "I promise I will not speak of this to anyone but Legolas."
"I trust that," Thranduil replied. Then his expression softened. "And one final issue. You and Maidhien have many years ahead of you to think about it, but since the subject has arisen, I will take advantage of this opportunity to say this much: Maidhien is a fine young lady, despite who her parents are. Assuming she never does anything to change my opinion of her, I would not stand in the way of your happiness if she were the elleth you chose."
Galithil looked up at his uncle. "Truly?"
"Yes," Thranduil answered with a single nod.
Galithil felt near tears again. As relieved as he was to hear that his uncle would accept Maidhien, his apparently easy acceptance underscored the pointlessness of everything that had happened. Before he had much time to think about that distressing development, Thranduil stood. Galithil quickly shoved himself out of the chair he was sitting in to stand as well. Thranduil put an arm around his shoulders and steered him towards the door. "Breakfast must be nearly ready. Go ahead to the dining room and tell Lindomiel I will be there in a moment." he suggested.
Galithil did not move. "What is my punishment, Uncle? Other than being restricted to my room. That is obvious."
Thranduil shook his head. "You are not restricted to your room or to the stronghold."
"I am not?"
"No," Thranduil said placing a hand on each of Galithil's shoulders and turning him to face him. He looked at Galithil with such sympathy that Galithil wanted to look away. But he was determined not to. He wanted to show his uncle that he would face any punishment bravely. "I am well aware of what a difficult time this is for you Galithil. I lost my adar similarly to the way you lost yours, and like you, I saw him die." It took every bit of courage that Galithil had not to squirm away in response to that. Thranduil squeezed his shoulders briefly. "I do not think keeping you in the stronghold would be in your best interest. Your Aunt Lindomiel and your brother agree with me. Honestly, what you have already suffered is far, far worse than anything...."
Galithil's brows drew sharply together and he shook off his uncle's grasp on his shoulders to take a step back and face him squarely. He saw the direction Thranduil was going in, and he did not like it one bit. "I want a punishment, Uncle," he interrupted. "I deserve one."
Thranduil frowned sadly. "You feel guilty for what has happened. Because Legolas and Tulus were injured. Because you disobeyed your adar and now he is gone and you cannot fix things with him. That is understandable, Galithil. The problem is, no punishment is going to change or fix any of those things. Learning from your mistake and not making it again--that is what you must do now."
"I deserve a punishment," Galithil repeated.
"There will be some consequences for your actions, though I have not yet decided precisely what they will be," Thranduil conceded. "Right now, you need to concentrate on healing and that is what I want you to do. Heal and become the type of elf your adar will be proud of when you face him again one day."
"That is exactly what Maidhien told me too," Galithil responded softly. "But I do not know how to do that, Uncle. I do not know how to heal after everything that happened."
"Your brother and cousins and friends and Aunt Lindomiel and I will all help you however we can, Galithil. I promise."
Galithil looked down. He did not see how anyone in the family could bear to look at him, much less help him, after everything he had done.
Legolas propped his chin on his elbow and opened the large, blue-bound history book he had removed from the library. With a sigh, he idly skimmed the pages of the book. It told the history of King Thingol's death in Menegroth. Legolas had read this history before. Indeed, he and Galithil read and thoroughly discussed it many years ago, the first time they saw a dwarf in Thranduil's court. But they had not been foolish enough to admit that to Master Rodonon when he assigned them time to prepare their analysis of the mistakes Thingol had made with the dwarves. If they had, Rodonon would have requested to hear their thoughts immediately and then he would have moved on to the next lesson, assigning them something they would have to concentrate on. Legolas did not feel much like concentrating on rhetoric lessons and he doubted his cousin did either.
At the moment, Galithil had an excuse to not study. He was on the training field cleaning the training weapons--a chore that he was responsible for and one that he greatly enjoyed doing. That left Legolas alone in his room. He had tried to amuse himself by pulling out his drawing materials and by poking around the pieces of a strategy game. But neither pastime held his attention, so he decided to at least glance through the text of his lesson to refresh his memory of the details of the incident. It was better than just sitting. And it was definitely better than going to the Green. Anastor and Noruil were there.
Legolas's eyes were already losing focus on the text of the book when the door to his room swung open. Legolas looked up and his spirits rose when Galithil came into view, scanned the room, broke into a grin and rushed towards the table where Legolas sat. He flung himself into the chair across from Legolas and looked at the blue-bound book. The sight of it brought a deep frown to his face.
"You must still be in a lot of pain if you decided to stay in your room to do lessons that we are already prepared for rather than go out on the Green with Eirienil and Berior," he said.
Legolas flipped the book shut. "No. Just bored. Eirienil, Berior and Brethil are with Anastor and Noruil. I do not much want to see them. I have managed this long to avoid hearing them call me a coward for hiding in a tree behind Tulus and I want to continue avoiding that conversation. At least until this cut is healed and I can fight back. Because I swear I will wallop which ever of them says that to me, no matter how angry it makes Adar."
Galithil tried and failed to stifle a snort.
Legolas grinned back at him. "Why are you not cleaning the training weapons? You could not possibly be done already."
The mischievous expression that Galithil wore into the room flashed across his face again. He looked down and quickly stifled it. For a moment, Galithil appeared to debate with himself. Then he looked up, straight at Legolas, with an obvious effort to maintain a somber expression. "I was on the training field and something happened...well, I found something out and I know I should probably not think it is funny, but I do. I just cannot help it."
"What?" Legolas asked, leaning forward slightly.
That was all the encouragement Galithil needed. The grin spread across his face again. "It seems," he explained with an airy tone. His amusement clearly showed through it. "That I am not needed to clean the training weapons for the next few weeks, possibly longer. The Fifth Year that was standing guard at the Gates on the day that you left...the one that would not believe you when you said I had left and did not report it when you followed me..." Galithil paused and Legolas nodded to show he knew who his cousin was referring to. "That Fifth Year is going to be cleaning the training weapons until he has had enough time to think about making better judgments," he concluded, obviously trying not to laugh outloud.
Legolas did not bother to show the same restraint. "Hah!" he exclaimed with clear satisfaction. "Good and serves him right, the fool."
Galithil leaned over the table. "And Dolgailon told him, right in front of me, that he has to repeat the entire course on properly keeping watch," he said, holding up one finger to begin enumerating the guard's punishments. "He cannot do anymore guard duty or overnight patrols until he completes the course again," he continued, holding up a second finger. "And," he held up a third finger, "that means he will finish the training program at least a year later than he should have finished. At which point Dolgailon will make a final determination of whether he is fit to join patrols," he finished gleefully.
"Good!" Legolas repeated. "He deserves it. If he did not see you leave the stronghold, which is bad enough, he should have at least told someone when I left. I made no secret of it. I rode right across the Green, for pity's sake. I cannot imagine why you would have hesitated to think this is funny. It definitely is."
Galithil looked down and the somber expression returned to his face. "It seems...wrong somehow to be laughing about anything. I do not want Dolgailon or Daernaneth or your adar...or anyone...to think that I do not grieve Adar and Naneth's loss...that I do not regret what I did. Or that I do not have the proper respect for their grief."
Legolas looked at his cousin steadily, thinking about that. "I understand that," he finally said. "But I do not think it would enter anyone's mind, even for a moment, that you do not grieve the loss of your parents. I think most people are glad to see you finding a moment of happiness amongst the pain you are feeling." He paused for Galithil's attention. "And as far as respecting others' grief, again, I understand, but I want you to know that you can act any way you want around me. Laugh if you feel like it and cry if you need to. You do not need to worry about what I will think about you."
Galithil looked down. "Thank you," he replied softly. In the silence that followed, he picked up Legolas's quill, studied its nib for a moment and then pulled out his knife to trim it.
Legolas watched him. "I owe you an apology," he said after Galithil had cut a few slivers from the quill's nib.
That caused Galithil to look at him with raised eyebrows. "Whatever for?"
"I never tried to understand why you always argue with my adar and yours about learning to hunt or getting a knife or bow or whatever weapon you are trying to persuade them to give us," Legolas explained quietly. "I always thought you just wanted the weapon to show it off. Now that I have seen the southern forest, I understand what you mean when you say that you want to fight what is happening there."
Galithil nodded and turned his attention back to the nib, "It is even worse there now than I remembered it. They need more warriors and I will be glad to be one of them. The moment I come of age."
"Agreed," Legolas replied. "Your adar was right about sending more warriors. It was horrible in Selwon's village. They need more help. The forest in the south needs protection before it fails entirely."
Galithil brows went up again. He was obviously surprised by what Legolas had said--the complete opposite of the support he normally always gave to the King's decisions.
Legolas looked away from his cousin. He already felt very uncomfortable for disagreeing so strongly with his adar's governance and he realized, after he voiced his opinion, that any reply Galithil made--whether to agree or disagree--would make him feel even more disloyal.
Galithil clearly read his discomfort. He continued trimming the nib and said nothing. After another long silence, he stopped fiddling with the quill and turned to Legolas. "I should tell you that I spoke to your adar this morning. About what happened. About going south."
"I know," Legolas replied. "He caught me after court this morning and asked me if I was ready to speak to him also. That was why I was late to lessons."
Galithil frowned. "I did not intend to...I mean, I did not want to rush you or to leave you to face your adar alone.... It just seemed to me that I should speak to your adar by myself because you had nothing to apologize for. You were only trying to stop me. And I told your adar that."
"I know. I am not angry about it. Adar was amazingly 'not angry' too. He only asked me if I thought I had handled the situation as well as I could have. Obviously, I said 'no' and he enumerated what I might have done more intelligently. Such as to ask for Daeradar or Crithad's help to persuade Uncle Hallion that you had gone. I admitted that I was a bit panicked by the time I had determined you were certainly gone and I did not think of that."
"I wish you had. I nearly die every time I think about how close you came to being killed."
Legolas rolled his eyes and leaned back in his chair. "Adar said the same thing. I would rather get hit squarely by another arrow than see again the expression he had on his face when he said that. He did not try to hide at all how frightened he was. He told me he could barely breath when he was told I had been shot."
Galithil nodded. "That is true. I was the one who told him. I thought he might pass out."
Legolas's brow furrowed and he changed the subject again. " He told me that we had suffered enough and he was not going to restrict us to the stronghold or..." he paused and glanced at his cousin. "...well, anything else. He implied he was not going to punish us at all. He only told me to give him back the long knife I took from him," he said, gesturing to the mantle where it still sat in its sheath. "I told him I would give it to him this evening. What did he say to you?"
"The same," Galithil answered. Then he put the quill down, tossed his knife on the table and leaned forward again with a bright expression. "He also told me what Danennion and Dolwon did. Because I told him I went south to spy on them. So I know they are convicted of treason. He told me some details about their crime that he did not tell you because he said you were too young when he spoke to you about all this. But he said I could tell you and that he might tell us even more."
"What did he tell you?" Legolas asked, leaning forward himself.
Before Galithil could respond, there was a rush of footsteps and voices in the corridor outside Legolas's room.
"Goodness!" exclaimed one of the guards at the entrance to the family quarters.
"Sorry," Eirienil's voice said.
"Sorry," Maidhien echoed her.
Legolas tensed and pushed himself out of his chair just as Anastor and Noruil, closely followed by Berior and Brethil, charged into his room.
"I told you they would be in here," Anastor said, walking straight to the table where Galithil still sat and seating himself next to him without waiting for an invitation. "What they are doing cooped up indoors is anyone's guess."
"Is that your punishment? Are you restricted to your rooms?" Noruil asked as he came to stand behind his cousin.
Eirienil looked apologetically at Legolas.
Legolas shrugged to show her that he knew it was not her fault but. "No," he answered shortly, watching as Anastor made a grab for Galithil's knife, which was still lying on the table. Anastor glared at Galithil when he quickly snatched it up and shoved it in the sheath on his belt.
Deprived of the knife, Anastor tugged the book at the end of the table towards him by its cover. He opened it and frowned at the pages, flipping through them by shoving them with the heel of his hand.
Legolas winced. "Be careful! That is very old."
"So is this, I bet," Noruil said with an admiring tone. He was standing next to the fireplace and Legolas felt a surge of panic when he looked over at him. He was inspecting the long knife.
"Be careful!" Legolas repeated, as Noruil pulled the knife fully from its sheath and brandished it at an imaginary opponent.
Anastor jumped up from the table with an excited exclamation and was pulling the knife from his cousin's hands before Legolas could open his mouth to protest.
"Put it back," Legolas demanded, following after him.
Anastor ignored him. "This is a really good knife," he said, waving it in front of him. "Very light and well balanced. Nice reach, too, for a long knife." He made a sweeping cut in front of him. It was enough to make Legolas jump back. Anastor and Noruil laughed at that.
Legolas clenched his jaw and snatched the knife's sheath from Noruil's hands. "Put it back. Now!" he repeated, holding the open end of the sheath towards Anastor.
Anastor smacked the sheath away as if it were a sword and leveled the long knife's blade a few inches from Legolas's chest. "Make me," he replied, wearing the smirk that Legolas had, on numerous occasions, fantasized about about removing from Anastor's face with a good punch.
Legolas made no effort to prevent his hands from balling into fists now, but he did automatically step back and to the side several inches. "That is really stupid, Anastor," he said when the knife tracked his movements, remaining leveled at him.
As he spoke, a chair scraped across the stone floor and rattled as it nearly toppled. Legolas looked over his shoulder to see Galithil charging towards them. Legolas started to shake his head to signal his cousin to stay out of it. This was already a dangerous enough situation without Galithil's temper adding to it. But before Legolas could say anything more, a sound from the hallway caused all the children to look towards Legolas's open doorway. The sight Legolas saw there froze him in place.
Thranduil stood framed by the doorway with an openly horrified expression on his face. The sound they had heard was apparently Conuion snapping his fingers. In the time it took Legolas to blink, the captain of his father's guard appeared next to him and the two guards at the end of the hall had taken Conuion's place next to Thranduil. When they looked into the room and saw the knife pointed at Legolas, they immediately stepped in front of the King. Conuion grasped the hilt of the long knife with his left hand and twisted the weapon downward so forcefully that Anastor cried out as he hastily released it. Legolas's mouth fell open slightly when he saw Conuion's right hand grasped the hilt of the sword on his belt.
"Take it easy!" Anastor protested, shaking his wrist.
"He was only fooling around," Legolas added quickly. "He meant no harm."
Conuion turned to him and grabbed the long knife's sheath from his hands. "This is not a toy, Legolas. This is a weapon," he snapped as he thrust the knife into its sheath.
Legolas made no reply to that. The fact that he had just been caught apparently playing with the weapon he had stolen from his father was not lost on him. He glanced at the doorway. His father still stood there immobile, either too shocked or too angry to speak. Neither boded well. Legolas's heart beat so quickly that he felt a little sick.
"Legolas knows it is not a toy," Anastor said, disdainfully.
Legolas looked pleadingly at Anastor, hoping to silence this unexpected defense. The last thing he needed was for Anastor to make matters worse.
"He used it to protect Tulus from the orcs that would have killed him," Anastor continued.
Legolas's gaze darted involuntarily to his father, afraid to see his reaction to that revelation. Thus far, they had managed to avoid speaking of the details of their involvement in the battle. That detail was certain to shock Thranduil. And in fact, his eyes had widened at Anastor's words.
"And Galithil used Tulus's sword," Noruil added. "We have been trying to tell you both how impressed we were with that, but the two of you have been locked up in your rooms."
"I suppose they will be locked up even longer now," Anastor continued, now facing Thranduil and speaking with the bitter tone he used whenever he referred to or addressed the King. "Even though they did not do anything wrong. We were not playing with the knife. We were only looking at it and everyone overreacted. But I supposed that should not be a surprise. Legolas's family always overreacts to everything."
Legolas turned a glare on Anastor. It was true that he did not do anything wrong. This was, as usual, Anastor and Noruil's fault. And despite the fact that Anastor's words were the closest he had ever come to standing up for Legolas, it was extremely unlikely that they would do him any good, given the manner of their delivery.
"Shut up, Anastor." Maidhien whispered fiercely.
To Legolas's relief--and surprise--his father smiled at her. Stepping between the guards that still stood in front of him, he patted Maidhien on the cheek as he crossed into the room. "I appreciate you explaining that you were not playing with the knife, Anastor," he said with a quiet tone. "Your handling of it could have easily been misinterpreted as play. Or worse. Surely you can understand how...disturbing it was to walk by Legolas's room and see you pointing the knife at him."
Anastor faced Thranduil, openly exasperated, his hands on his hips. "Do not be stupid," he scoffed. Legolas closed his eyes and groaned, but Anastor continued without pause. "Obviously I would not have really jabbed him with it. Noruil and I might like to tease Legolas a bit, but we would never do anything like that. You must be a fool to think..."
"Please be quiet, Anastor," Legolas finally interrupted. "Or at least mind your tone."
Anastor cast Legolas a disgusted glare. "I am trying to stick up for you."
Legolas smiled at him sourly in response. "Thank you, but please stop now."
Anastor rolled his eyes and shook his head, but he did remain silent.
Legolas turned to his father. "I apologize, adar," he said quickly. He started to explain that he had not been the one to take out the knife, but he found himself not completely willing to blame Anastor, even though it was his fault, after he did try to stand up for him. That hesitation surprised Legolas and left him at a loss for how to continue, so he looked at his father mutely.
"Me too," Anastor muttered, still looking at the ceiling.
It was the poorest excuse for an apology that Legolas had ever heard--one that, had he uttered it, would have earned him more, rather than less, trouble. But since it was the first apology he thought Anastor was likely to have ever offered willingly, it was definitely an improvement, if only his father would be able to recognize that. Somehow Legolas doubted he would.
"I accept both of your apologies," Thranduil replied, to Legolas's unconcealed astonishment. The look on his face made his father smile again. "I trust I will not see either of you playing with weapons again?" he asked, holding out his hand for the knife. Conuion turned it over to him, still scowling at Legolas and Anastor.
"No adar," Legolas answered immediately.
"No," Anastor agreed, this time studying his boot as he scuffled it around on the floor.
"Good," Thranduil responded. And to Legolas's amazement, he made an effort to smile at both Anastor and Noruil.
Noruil took his expression as encouragement. "I was just asking Legolas if that knife was old. It looks old," he said to Thranduil, eyeing the sheath and obviously hoping Thranduil would let them look at it again.
"It is," Thranduil responded. He made no move to unsheath the kinfe. "It was made for my naneth's daeradar in Menegroth's forges during the First Age. He died defending King Denethor with it and it passed to my naneth. She used it to fight the dwarves and elves that invaded Menegroth. She gave it to me after I lost my sword when the Noldor attacked us in Sirion, and I fought with it until the war against Sauron."
Legolas looked at his father with surprise. He knew he had also fought the dwarves and Noldor in Menegroth and he had always assumed that he had fought with that knife, since he had fought on the Dagorlad with it. He did not know his father had wielded his own sword in Menegroth. After all, during those battles, he had only been a little older than Legolas was now.
Anastor and Noruil were also surprised by Thranduil's words, but for different reasons. "Elves invaded Menegroth? Noldor attacked you in Sirion? I thought Menegroth was a city of elves and the Noldor were elves. You cannot be saying that you fought battles against other elves!" Anastor said.
"That cannot be true and it is a terrible thing to say!" Noruil agreed.
"It really is," Maidhien whispered from where she stood near the door, both her hands covering her mouth.
Thranduil frowned in response to her expression and held out his arm. Maidhien came over to him and gratefully allowed him to put his arm around her shoulder and draw her against him. "I take it that your adars taught you nothing about Beleriand, then?" he asked with a more gentle tone.
Maidhien shook her head. "He says that we only need to know the history of this forest."
"Well, in Beleriand, in the First Age, I fear that elves did fight two battles against other elves," he replied. "I saw them both with my own eyes. I fought in them."
Anastor stared at Thranduil with his mouth open.
"You attacked other elves?" Noruil asked, still completely disbelieving.
"No," Thranduil answered quickly. "They attacked us. We defended ourselves."
"Will you tell us the story?" Anastor begged, showing the most enthusiasm he ever had for anything Thranduil said.
"No, thank you for your interest," Thranduil replied. Legolas frowned along with Anastor and Noruil. He had long wanted to hear his father's version of those tales. "But those are memories I do not care to relive. Legolas, you know those stories, I believe?"
Legolas nodded. "Yes, adar. We read them with Master Rodonon."
Thranduil turned back to Anastor. "Legolas can tell you about it properly then." Legolas recognized that phrasing implied he was not to glorify those battles, but describe them as the atrocities that they were. He doubted Anastor and Noruil would recognize the difference. "I will leave you to it," he said, giving Maidhien's shoulders a squeeze before moving to leave the room.
Legolas hesitated a moment and than took a step to follow his father. "Adar, you were not much older than Galithil and I when you fought the dwarves in Menegroth. And you were obviously well enough trained for the battle and you had your own sword, apparently. So that means you were training with weapons at our age. Can Galithil and I train also?"
From the corner of his eyes, Legolas saw Galithil turn and stare at him.
"No, you may not," Thranduil answered without pause, as he turned to leave the room.
Legolas frowned at his father's back as he disappeared through the doorway.
"You did not honestly think that would work, did you?" Galithil asked softly after they heard Thranduil's office door open and shut.
Legolas shrugged. "Well he just said he fought with his own sword in Menegroth. He was our age then."
Galithil laughed. "You will never convince your adar to allow us to train with a sword before we are old enough to enter the training program, just like everyone else. And even then--not all parents allow their children to enter it until they come of age and it is their own choice to make. I bet Uncle Thranduil will be one of those parents."
"Almost certainly," Anastor agreed. "He does not value the warriors. He believes in pulling back villages and letting the forest fall to the Shadow," Anastor said.
Legolas turned to him, fists clenched. He was in no mood to hear Anastor say that.
Anastor, as usual, did not seem to notice or care about the reaction he caused. "You could spy on the warriors on the training field with us," he rushed to suggest, gesturing at Noruil and Galithil. "We spy on them and then practice what we see."
Noruil nodded enthusiastically. "The more people we have to practice with us, the better it would be. You should come with us, Legolas."
Legolas looked between them, hardly able to believe he was considering that suggestion.
"Do not do it, Legolas," Galithil's voice said in his ear.
Legolas raised his eyebrows and looked at his cousin. Galithil was going to play the voice of restraint?
"Adar caught me watching with them once," he continued. "He said he would not allow me to join the training program until I came of age if he caught me again. I have not gone with them since, because I am sure he truly meant it. And he said it in front of Dolgailon. You know Dolgailon would enforce Adar's wish if he caught us."
Legolas forced a laugh. "I would not do it. Adar would be furious, and we have surely pushed our luck with him enough for the rest of the Age," he replied, trying to return his cousin's serious gaze unflinchingly.