Chapter 8 - Building Bridges
Legolas spent the rest of that day dealing with the inevitable consequences of his absence from Lasgalen. There was Court business he could not avoid - it was only fair to share the burden with his father when he was home - and he spent some time with Mithrandir. He had known the wizard for a very long time, but had not had the opportunity to talk about mutual friends for several years. He wanted to know all the news from Elrond and Rivendell, and about Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen. He was also curious to find out about what the wizard knew about Aragorn - he seemed such a contradiction, there was much the man had not said. But it would not be long now before he travelled to Imladris himself, and could see Elrond and his children again. By evening, most of the urgent business had been dealt with.
Most of the elves of Lasgalen gathered in the Great Hall that evening for the mid-week feast. Sometimes, not many would attend, on other occasions it seemed as if the whole of Lasgalen was present.
Tonight the hall was full. Long tables ran down the length of the hall, full of families enjoying the food, music and song. Another table crossed the top of the hall, slightly elevated on a dais. Here Thranduil sat, with Legolas, and Alfiel and Tirnan as army commanders, Tionel, Tirana and the senior healers, and other members of the royal household.
The mid-week feast was a time when by tradition news and gossip was exchanged, betrothals declared, and official announcements made.
Towards the end of the feast, Legolas got to his feet. He waited until relative silence fell before he spoke. He started by paying tribute to Eléntia, Elthan and Math'rin, then moved on to other news.
"There is also a promotion to be made - a rise in rank from warrior to captain." He paused, looking to his right and at the tables down the hall. Tirnan, talking quietly to Tirana beside him, broke off. As second in command, he would normally be consulted over promotions. Perhaps Legolas and Alfiel had discussed it on their trip to Dol Guldur, and forgotten to tell him on their return. They had, after all, had other things on their minds at the time.
"This warrior has proved her worth through courage in battle, skill in weapons, quick thinking, loyalty and compassion." He caught Alfiel's eye and looked away, suppressing a grin.
"Approach, Captain Taniquel." Out of the corner of his eye Legolas saw Tirnan choke on his wine. He flashed a triumphant grin at Alfiel. They had deliberately omitted to tell Tirnan about this promotion, wanting to watch his reaction. It was even better than they had hoped. As Tirnan recovered he sent a murderous glare towards Legolas.
Taniquel, looking astounded, walked forward to face Legolas. As he pinned the captain's insignia on the shoulder of her tunic she leaned towards him, and muttered: "You devil, why didn't you give me any warning?"
When Legolas had fastened the badge she bowed low. As she straightened she glanced sideways at Tirnan, still red-faced. She murmured, very softly, "We'll get you for this, don't worry!" More formally, loudly this time, she added "Thank you, Lord Commander." As she returned to her seat she was applauded, and the other captains stood, stamping their feet in a welcome to their ranks.
The four continued a private celebration long into the night. Taniquel was so jubilant she swiftly forgave Legolas and Alfiel, and Tirnan was equally pleased for her. The announcement had lightened everyone's spirits considerably after the dark events they had experienced, and this, too, was what life in Lasgalen was about. It was not all the evil place many imagined it to be.
Two days after Taniquel's promotion she rode with Tirnan and Legolas to inspect one of the outposts. These were small stores of weapons secreted at several locations throughout the forest, used by elves caught unawares by orc attacks, or to replenish their arrows. It was vital that these stocks were kept provisioned at all times. It was a task generally undertaken by trainees or those on report, but occasionally the captains would conduct spot checks for themselves.
They came to a point where their route crossed the Forest River. There were several crossing points along the river, either stepping stones, bridges, or rope walkways. At this point the river was too deep for crossing stones, too wide for a bridge. It formed a wide, deep pool, popular for swimming, where many elflings took their first swimming lessons in this safe water, before progressing to swifter, more dangerous stretches of the river.
Two ropes crossed the water, one five feet above the surface, the other at shoulder height to the first. Tirnan crossed first, and inspected the bindings. As Legolas followed him across, Tirnan called a warning.
"Be careful, the ropes look like they're fraying!"
It was true, they were - Tirnan had made sure of it. A swift cut with his knife left the walkway supported by a few strands. Legolas felt the bridge lurch, and looked up just as the lower rope gave way. He made a wild grab at the other rope, hanging inelegantly by one hand, suspended several feet above the water. By now he had seen the knife in Tirnan's hand. He slung his bow over his shoulder, seized the rope with his free hand, and began to move, hand over hand, towards Taniquel, who was nearest. He flung a glance over his shoulder at Tirnan, standing there, knife poised.
"Don't you dare! Tirnan, stop it, I'm going to f......."
The second rope broke then, and with a mighty splash Legolas plunged into the pool. He surfaced with a gasp, blinking water out of his eyes, to see both Tirnan and Taniquel helpless with laughter. He swam towards Taniquel, debating whether to grab her and pull her into the water with him. Guessing his intention, she backed out of range hurriedly.
He pulled himself out onto the bank. He was soaked, hair lank and dripping, clothes sodden. He unbuckled his quiver, removed the arrows, and tipped it upside down. Water poured out, together with a small, silvery fish. Legolas carefully retrieved it from the grass, and dropped it back into the pool, then turned to glare at Tirnan. "What is this? Conspiracy? Treason, at the very least!" He paused then, and added with a laugh: "Just how do you intend to get back over here without getting wet yourself?"
Judging by the look of consternation on Tirnan's face, he'd not thought of that. Legolas sighed. "What kind of conspiracy is this, anyway? I would expect a plot against my life to be better planned that that!"
"It was Alfiel's fault," called Tirnan. "He should have reminded me about the other rope!"
"Alfiel was involved?" echoed Legolas. "I was right! High treason, conspiracy, collusion. I'm sure I can find a charge for all three of you for this!"
Taniquel looked at Tirnan and shook her head sadly. "It's as well one of us can think." She turned, reached behind a tree, and produced a coil of rope. "I thought we might need this."
Swiftly, she tied one end around the tree nearest the river, and then threw the coil across to Tirnan. Looking slightly shame-faced, he tied off the end, made another knot higher up, and threw the rope back across to Taniquel. Very soon, the rope walkway was back in place. Legolas watched the procedure, trying very hard to maintain a stern expression. When the bridge was completed he gave a nod of approval. "At least the two of you know how to build bridges." He let the ambiguous comment stand, then turned to head back to Lasgalen.
As he passed the Great Hall, on his way to his own rooms to change, the doors opened and Thranduil came out. He looked at his son in amazement. "Havens, boy, you're soaked! You look like you fell in the river! What happened?"
Legolas gave a helpless look at Tirnan and Taniquel. "The ropes on some of the walkways are - frayed. I think they need to be checked." He turned to Taniquel. "Captain, would you see that all the walkways over the river are examined? I would hate to see anyone else fall in."
She shot a dirty look at Tirnan - it had been his idea, after all - but Thranduil was looking at her expectantly. She nodded. "Of course, Sir."
Thranduil turned to go then, but Legolas added, loudly enough to be sure his father heard: "Perhaps Tirnan would go with you. To show you the ropes, you could say." He could have sworn he heard a snort of laughter as Thranduil left. "If you hurry, it should only take you a couple of days to check all the bridges."
He would probably send a few of the trainees to finish the job later that day - if he remembered - but saw no need to tell Tirnan or Taniquel of that for the moment. He would let them think they had a long job ahead.
Author's Notes:THANK YOU to everyone who's reviewed, especially Treehugger, Jocelyn, Bainpeth, ccg, Little My, LegolasGirl 66, Raider314, Zan, wellduh, Ecri, Artemisa, Aria, amlugwen, Enigma Jade, JastaElf and anyone else I missed.
Also to Treehugger (again!), Envinyatar, Bainpeth and Vikster for putting me on their favourites list!!!!
I hope you liked this story. The next instalment, 'Good Troll Hunting' , is well on the way to completion, and the first chapter will be posted soon.