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Battles Won  by daw the minstrel

Disclaimer:  I borrow characters and settings from Tolkien but they belong to him.  I gain no profit from their use other than the enriched imaginative life that I assume he intended me to gain.

Many thanks to Nilmandra for beta reading this chapter.

AN:  I experimented with point of view in this story, and I am now so impressed by those of you who routinely write in the first person. I am interested in knowing how you all think it works.  This will be short: only two chapters.


1.  Home

Knock, knock!  I groaned and pulled the covers up over my head. When had a woodpecker moved into the tree behind my bedroll?  Did the stupid thing not realize that I was at last warm and comfortable and, most importantly, asleep?

Knock, knock! The bird was merciless.

“Eilian?” called a small excited voice. “Eilian?  Are you awake?”

For a confused few seconds, I wondered at the bird’s question.  The birds of the Woodland Realm spoke to my father sometimes, but they had never spoken to me before.  Then a door creaked open, and I suddenly realized why I was so comfortable:  I was home, asleep in my own bed.  Or at least, I had been asleep.

Small feet tip-toed cautiously from the door toward my bed, and I had to smother a grin in my pillow.  I held absolutely still as my little brother came around the bed and leaned his arms on the mattress next to my shoulder.  “Eilian,” Legolas whispered in my ear, “are you awake?”  He had bent so close to me that his fine, blond hair tickled my face.

With a roar, I exploded from under the covers, grabbed him around the waist, dragged him onto the bed, and began to tickle him.  “No! No!” he shrieked, squirming and giggling.

“This will teach you never to creep up on a warrior!” I told him, swaddling him in the blankets and holding him immobile.

His gleeful face emerged from the covers.  “Get up, and come and eat with me, Eilian,” he commanded.

I released my hold on him.  “Now that is a fine invitation,” I told him, unable to stop myself from grinning at him.  Legolas is the only person in my life now who is always happy to see me.  I do not need to be told that even my father and older brother have days when they see me as a pain in the backside, for the most part because I sometimes am.  But Legolas still believes that I am without faults, and I do my best not to shatter his illusions. Everyone should be lucky enough to have a little brother, I think. Even grief and loss are easier to bear when someone so innocent thinks that you are a peerless warrior, a wise counselor, and all-around good fellow.

Legolas had already been in bed when I had arrived home late the previous night, so this was the first I had seen him. I was more than happy to climb out of bed and make ready to join him for morning meal. “You go and tell Ada I am coming, brat,” I instructed. “Tell him I said you needed extra honey on your porridge this morning because you want to go out and play in all the new snow that fell last night while you were sleeping.”

Legolas’s blue eyes widened, and he disentangled himself from the blanket and hopped happily off the bed.  “Hurry up!” he ordered.  “I have to go to lessons this morning.”  Legolas went to lessons nearly every morning, but for the last year or so, he had dragged his feet about doing it.  It was a pity, really.  I remember when he was excited about learning to read, but then our mother died, and he seemed to lose interest in anything that his tutor asked him to do.  Galeril had been patient at first, but the last time I was home, he had begun insisting that Legolas start working again, and trouble had been brewing in the schoolroom.

Sometimes I wished that Legolas could go without lessons for a while, but I knew that our father would never allow that.  He said that Legolas needed an education, and besides, routine was comforting for an elfling.  I just hoped that battles with Galeril were not becoming part of that ‘routine.’  I used to torment Galeril occasionally myself, but I was older than Legolas when I did it, and I would have been sorry to see my little brother follow in my wandering footsteps.

Legolas skipped out of my chamber, and I could hear him out in the hall, crying “Ada! Ada!” before he even opened the door to the dining room.  I grinned to myself and climbed out of my bed without regrets.  Some things are even better than sleeping in a warm, comfortable bed.

When I reached the door to the dining chamber, I ran into Ithilden on his way out.  My older brother frequently eats early. He commands our father’s troops and that responsibility seems to weigh him down sometimes.  He starts his workday early, ends it late, and is often called out again after he has come home.  I am grateful that the realm has Ithilden, but what is good for the realm is not necessarily good for my brother.  In my opinion, Ithilden would be happier if he occasionally said to Mordor with his duties and went off to sing and dance in the woods. What he probably needs is a nice elleth in his bed.

“I hear you are eating morning meal with Legolas,” he said with an amused look.

Through the partially opened door, I could hear Legolas chattering to our father.  “Eilian’s sword was on a table in his chamber,” he was saying.  “Do you think he killed more Orcs with it?”  I could not make out our father’s murmured reply.

Ithilden grinned at me and then went on more seriously.  “I do not like to talk business while you are on leave, but I need to speak to you about something. I have to ride out to one of the Home Guard posts this morning and will be gone until after mid-day meal, but can you come to my office in the early afternoon?”

“Of course,” I answered, although in truth I also felt a small qualm and immediately tried to remember if I had done anything that was likely to irritate Ithilden in his role as troop commander.

He eyed me and then laughed and slapped my shoulder.  “Do not worry.  So far as I know, you have been behaving yourself admirably.”  Then he went off down the hall and out the door that led from the family’s quarters.  Ithilden looks unimaginative, but he is amazingly perceptive sometimes.

I went into the dining room and was gratified by the way Legolas’s face lit up at the sight of me.  “Good morning, Adar,” I said and then dropped a kiss on the top of Legolas’s head before I went around the table to sit down.

My father gave me a benevolent look, and I knew exactly why he did.  On my last visit home, Adar had told me that while Legolas was steadily recovering from the deep sorrow which our mother’s death had caused him, at times he still brooded by himself, instead of playing with his friends as he once would have done.  Apparently, my visits raise his spirits, and for that, my father would have forgiven me for many an indiscretion.

“When my lessons are done, I am going to play in the snow with Turgon and Annael,” Legolas told me eagerly.  “Will you play with us, Eilian?  Turgon says you are too grown up to play, but you are not, are you?”

Our father grinned at me.  “I do not think Eilian is too grown up at all,” he said dryly.

I laughed. An afternoon in the snow with Legolas and his friends sounded like a promising antidote to the tour of duty I had just finished in the realm’s southern reaches.  “I have to talk to Ithilden this afternoon, but then I can play, assuming you are willing to allow Gelmir to play too.”

“Does he know how?” Legolas asked anxiously.  “Because, Eilian, some grown ups do not.”

“Oh, yes,” I assured him.  “Gelmir knows how to play.”  Adar harrumphed softly, and I grinned down at my morning meal.  Gelmir and I had both always known how to play only too well for my father’s taste.  I would laze around all morning and then play with the elfings in the afternoon. What more could a warrior on leave ask for? 


When mid-day meal was over, I wandered down to the warrior training fields, intending to see if Ithilden was back yet.  On my way, I passed the place where Legolas and his friends were playing and waved to him.  He waved cheerily back.  “Come soon!” he called, and I smiled and went on my way, warmed by his desire for my company.

My brother’s aide told me he was there and sent me into his office, where Ithilden returned my salute and invited me to have a seat.  He paused for moment as if marshaling his thoughts, and I could not stop myself from feeling apprehensive again, even though he had assured me that morning that he had not summoned me to reprimand me.  I am afraid I have had Ithilden scolding me too many times to take his approval for granted.

“Todith tells me you are doing well,” Ithilden said, and I let out my breath and relaxed.  I still had no idea what my brother wanted, but if my captain was sending good reports about me, then I certainly was not in trouble.

“Todith knows whereof he speaks,” I grinned, and Ithilden laughed but then hesitated again, still apparently groping for words to say what he had to say.

“I will simply be blunt about this,” he finally sighed.  “It is time for Sórion to be moved away from Dol Guldur for a while, and I am promoting you to replace him as Todith’s lieutenant.”

I blinked, surprise warring with hurt at his tone.  The idea of being promoted had never crossed my mind, and judging from the reluctance in Ithilden’s voice, it was not exactly an idea that he welcomed either.  “I will do my best not to disappoint you, my lord,” I said.  I knew I sounded stiff, but I could not help myself.

Ithilden looked at me sharply.  “You misunderstand me, Eilian.  I have no doubt that you will make a fine lieutenant.  According to Todith, your sense of responsibility has grown to match the courage and skill that you have always shown in battle.  And there has never been any doubt about your ability to inspire loyalty in others.”  He smiled wryly at this last, and I knew what he was talking about.  When I was a youngling, the novice masters and Adar had all frequently accused me of leading others into trouble.

“Thank you,” I said, gratified that Todith thought well of me even if Ithilden did not.

Ithilden looked exasperated.  “Eilian, I just said that I know you will be a good lieutenant.  My reluctance comes from the fact that I am sorry to have to lay this responsibility on you while you are so young. If I had enough experienced warriors, I would leave you free of the burden of command for a while longer, but I do not, and so I have to ask this of you.  I am unhappy to have to do it, but I am grateful that you are here to help me.”

I became aware that my mouth was hanging open, and I shut it.  And suddenly, I was grinning like a fool, and Ithilden was grinning back.  “I really will do my best not to disappoint you, Ithilden,” I repeated.

He rose and came around the desk as I got to my feet too.  “Congratulations,” he said, clasping my arm and then drawing me into an embrace.

Judging from the paper piled on his desk and the aide hovering in his doorway, Ithilden plainly had other work to do, so I left soon after, thinking about my new role.  I had not expected this promotion, but if Ithilden and Todith both thought I was up to it, then so did I.

As I neared the place where I had passed Legolas and his friends, I found Gelmir sitting on a bench with Legolas’s caretaker.  I bent to kiss Nimloth’s cheek.  To me, she did not look any different than she had when she had occasionally cared for me while my mother was busy, but I knew she was old enough to have watched over Ithilden too, and I did not think she liked the cold much, although, like most Elves, she could tolerate it when she had to.

“Would you like to go inside?” I asked her. “Gelmir and I will stay with Legolas and keep an eye on him.”

She raised a suspicious eyebrow at me.  “I admit I would prefer being inside by the fire, but you and Gelmir will have to be responsible, Eilian.  No foolishness!”

“Ithilden has just been telling me how responsible I have become,” I told her, trying to sound injured.

She snorted.  “Ithilden directs warriors, not elflings.”   I smothered a grin.  Her tone left no doubt as to which task she thought was harder.  She rose and gave one, last warning look that she shared between me and Gelmir. “If Legolas comes to any harm or gets in any trouble at all, it will be you two that I come after.”

“Yes, Nimloth,” we chorused submissively, and she shook her head and departed.  Gelmir and I grinned at one another and then turned to look at the elflings.

They were playing King of the Mountain on a big snowdrift.  Legolas’s wild friend Turgon had seized the high ground. “I am the king!” he shouted, pelting Legolas and Annael with snowballs as they tried to storm the hill and knock him off.  Annael charged and plowed into him so that they both rolled down the snow hill and landed in a tangle at the bottom, leaving Legolas jumping up and down at the summit shouting, “I am my ada!”

Gelmir and I both burst out laughing.  “I remember playing that,” I said, “you and I and Celuwen.” I looked at Legolas’s happy face.  It was too bad our father could not see him, I thought.  He would rejoice in how lighthearted Legolas seemed just now.

Gelmir made a face. “As I recall, Celuwen always teamed up with you. Even then, the maidens wanted to be at your side.”

I laughed. “Did your naneth never teach you that jealousy is unbecoming?” I asked with mock seriousness.  For a moment, I thought about the visit that Gelmir and I had paid to Celuwen on our way home.  Actually, I had visited her and her mother, while Gelmir got her father to show him around the settlement in which they now lived on the grounds that he was interested in moving there.  And then her mother had not objected when Celuwen and I went out for a walk.  I would have liked to visit her on our way back to our patrol too, but she had said that having me come and go so quickly was painful for her and asked me not to do it.  I had not told Gelmir that part. I will not think about it, I resolved, falling back on a tactic that had served me well over the years.

I turned to Gelmir. “Let us show these elflings what a real snowball fight looks like,” I said and ran toward the three little ones, scooping up snow as I went.  Legolas shrieked when he saw me storming up the hill toward him and flung the snowball in his hand to hit me in the ear just before I caught him up and washed his face with a handful of snow.

“Help, Eilian! Help!” cried Gelmir.  “These two are too fierce for me!”  I turned with Legolas still in my arms to see my friend ducking in mock helplessness while Turgon and Annael flung snowballs at him.  As a snowball splat against Gelmir’s head, I was struck by a sudden idea.  I rested Legolas on my hip and ran toward them.

“Wait!” I cried.  “I have a much better idea. Gelmir and I will show you a game we used to play in the snow right here along this stretch of the path.”

Annael and Turgon turned toward me, plainly curious. Gelmir looked puzzled for a minute and then groaned as the light dawned. “Eilian, you cannot be thinking of showing them how to make snow tunnels. Nimloth said she would blame us if they got into trouble.”

I grinned.  “Then we need to see to it that they do not.”  I set Legolas on his feet and led the way toward a line of fir trees that were set perhaps fifteen feet from the path.  The branches had protected the ground below from the snow, and there was a lovely deep drift just outside the edge of the sheltered area.  It was just as I had remembered it from when Gelmir and I were younglings.

I dropped to my hands and knees and began scooping snow out from a spot low in the drift.  “Everybody pick a spot,” I instructed, “not too far apart, and start digging a tunnel.  You want the tunnel to be about two feet long and wide enough for you to crawl in it.”

The elflings stood uncertainly for a moment and the Legolas dropped to his knees about a foot away from me and started enthusiastically flinging snow out behind him.  “Can we make our tunnels meet, Eilian?” he asked hopefully.

“I do not see why not,” I said, reaching over his head to make sure the drift was sound enough not to collapse on him.  “Then, when we finish our tunnels, we will make little holes so we can pop our heads out, throw a snowball at anyone walking along the path, and duck back inside so we do not get caught.”  Legolas paused in his digging and looked at me with round eyes.

“Yes!” shouted Turgon and started digging a tunnel with both hands.

Slowly, Legolas smiled.  “We will be warriors together,” he announced happily and crouched to his tunneling.  I grimaced.  I hoped not.


Disclaimer:  I borrow characters and settings from Tolkien but they belong to him.  I gain no profit from their use other than the enriched imaginative life that I assume he intended me to gain.

Many thanks to Nilmandra for beta reading this chapter.


2.  Battles

With Gelmir’s and my help, Legolas and his friends soon had tunnels with holes through which they were popping their heads like chattering squirrels.  I could not resist making my own tunnel too, which I did connect to Legolas’s, and I saw Gelmir grin at me and start hollowing out his own safe haven in the snow. It had been a long time since either one of us had surprised a passer-by on this path.

“Make your snowballs ahead of time and store them in your tunnels for when a target comes along the path,” I instructed the elfings.  They nodded excitedly and began piling snowballs into their dens.  “Get ready now. Gelmir and I will watch for targets.”  With much giggling, they scrambled into their tunnels. “Remember that you have to be quiet,” I called.

“We will,” Annael answered.  He and Turgon had connected their tunnels too. There was no chance they would be quiet.

I slithered into my own tunnel and put my head out just enough to see the path. Off to my left, I could just see the top of Gelmir’s dark head.  He was still mumbling admonitions to Turgon and Annael, whose tunnels were near his. Legolas crept next to me, and I could feel him quivering with anticipation.  A movement on the path caught my eye, and two little ellyth, about the same age as Legolas and his friends, walked sedately into sight. I smiled with satisfaction; I had not played this game for years but I still knew a juicy target when I saw one.  I drew my head down to face my excited little brother. “Miriwen and Aerlinn are coming.”

His eyes grew huge, and he scuttled back into position in his own tunnel.  I was too old to enjoy throwing snowballs at small ellyth, but I was not too old to enjoy watching my brother and his friends do it, so I once again peeked out to see what was happening. To their credit, the elflings waited until the ellyth were well within range before they began hurling snowballs at them. Predictably, Turgon broke first and flung a missile that hit Aerlinn on the shoulder.  All the work we had done to create hiding places immediately went for naught though, because the three of them then screeched at the tops of their lungs as they attacked.

The ellyth spun toward them and, taking only a second to recover from the shock and spot the heads darting in and out of sight, they grabbed handfuls of snow and tried to defend themselves.  They really had no chance, however. There was nothing wrong with their aim or their arms, but they were exposed and Legolas and his friends were well sheltered. The ellyth were powdered from head to foot with snow and the elflings were untouched when Miriwen finally cried, “Oh, leave the stupid things,” and the two of them turned and ran.

The elflings exploded from their tunnels into the space under the trees, whooping with glee and triumph.  “Victory!” cried Turgon, jumping around with his arms over his head. I am ashamed to say that both Gelmir and I were laughing so hard that we had to lean against trees to keep from falling down.

“You need more snowballs now,” I finally managed to gasp, and the three of them set to work with a will.  They plainly enjoyed this game, just as Gelmir and I had always done.  I had a sudden vision of an occasion or two when the game had concluded with an adult telling us off in no uncertain terms, but I decided not to mention that.  Legolas was having much too much fun, and in truth, so was I.

We were not yet back in our tunnels when Gelmir suddenly hissed, “Someone is coming.”  We all ducked down behind the drift and watched the path as a couple emerged walking along it hand in hand.  It was Annael’s parents.

Turgon started to edge toward his tunnel, but Annael was plainly torn, and Legolas grabbed my arm pleadingly.  “It is Annael’s nana,” he whispered urgently.  I looked at his troubled little face.  For Legolas, almost anyone’s nana was untouchable just now, and I strongly suspected that Annael’s nana in particular was dear to his heart. I reached around him and caught Turgon by the hood.

“No,” I said firmly.  “They get a pass.”

Turgon let out a squawk of protest that made Annael’s parents turn their heads toward us.  Annael and Legolas both jumped up and waved.  “Hello, Nana!  Hello, Ada!” Annael cried.

The two of them smiled benevolently as the rest of us ducked out of sight.  “Hello, sweetling,” called Annael’s mother.  “Hello, Legolas dear.  Are you both having a good time playing in the snow?”

“Yes, we are,” Annael assured her, beaming.

“That is nice,” his father called.  There was a pause as his parents presumably walked out of sight, and then he and Legolas dropped down to where the rest of us were. Legolas had a silly smile on his face that made me laugh.

“Back to your tunnels to wait,” I ordered, “and this time be quiet.”  We all crept back into hiding with our renewed supply of snowballs.  Again, I stuck my head out to keep watch, and this time, the elflings were reasonably quiet, having apparently spent some of their excitement in the attack on the ellyth.  This path had always been busy, and I did not have to wait long before another Elf came into sight.  It was Legolas’s tutor, Galeril.

I drew back and looked at Legolas. “Is someone coming?” he asked in muted excitement.

I nodded.  “It is Galeril.” 

Legolas gasped. “He made me stay late today,” he breathed, righteous fire plainly flaring in his breast.  He started back toward his own tunnel.  I thought fleetingly about Nimloth’s admonition that he was not to get into trouble, and I knew what I had to do.

“Wait!” I told him firmly, grasping his arm.  “Let me do this.”  I took a snowball in each hand, backed out of my tunnel, and then doubled over and ran along behind the drift toward Galeril until I was away from the tunnels.  I did not have time to consider my actions because I needed to launch an assault before any of the elflings could do it, so I waited until Galeril was just past me and then jumped up and threw a snowball that hit him in the back of the head.

With a gasp, he spun toward where I had risen and now stood in plain sight.  “Galeril,” I called, “are you all right?  How unfortunate that snow fell off a branch just then!”  He eyed the nearest branch, a good five feet from the path.  A sudden giggle drew both of our attentions and I turned to see Legolas peeking out of the hole in his tunnel, his face pink with suppressed glee.

“Unfortunate indeed,” said Galeril dryly.  And suddenly he laughed.  “Are you happy that Eilian is home, Legolas?” he called, and Legolas nodded wordlessly.  “Good.  You will be ready to work hard tomorrow, will you not?”  Legolas nodded again, less enthusiastically this time.  “I will see you then, elfling,” he called and went on his way, smiling to himself. From the corner of my eye, I saw Gelmir’s hand reach out and grab Turgon’s wrist as it raised a snowball from behind the line of drifts.

I ran back to the tunnels to find Gelmir shoving Turgon back into his.  He grinned at me.  “Galeril was your tutor too, was he not?”  I grinned back and nodded and then crept into my own tunnel where Legolas was waiting for me.

“Thank you,” he said, looking deeply satisfied.

I ruffled his hair. “What are brothers for?”  We settled down to wait for more prey.  The afternoon was waning, so classes were ending on the warrior training fields. Thus I was not surprised that the next person to come along was one of the novice masters on his way home.  For a second, I stared at the Elf, desire to fling a snowball warring with fear and good sense.

Legolas tugged on my cloak and I dropped down to face him, breathing hard. “Who is it?” he whispered.


“Who is that?”

“He is one of the novice masters. He taught me unarmed combat when I was a novice,” I answered.  And did it mighty roughly too, I did not add.  I had hated Maldor on sight and was in trouble because of it on a regular basis during my entire time as a novice.

“So he was like your tutor?” Legolas asked, trying to clarify matters.  He was evidently confused by my inaction.  I nodded.  Legolas did not even pause. “Let me do this,” he said grandly and slid into his own tunnel before I could stop him.

I looked after him in horror.  Legolas was only too likely to be a novice himself one of these days.  I could not fit in Legolas’s tunnel and looked out of mine just in time to see Legolas loose a snowball that caught the unarmed combat master full in the face.

Maldor spun to face the direction from which the attack had come and I ducked down and stayed down, but Legolas apparently had more nerve, for the unarmed combat master’s voice said, “It is young Legolas, I see.”

“Mae govannen, Maldor,” said Legolas politely, making me snort with laughter despite myself.

There was a pause.  “Is Eilian with you?” Maldor asked.  He had always had unfortunately acute hearing.

“Yes, he is right here,” Legolas answered.  I reminded myself to have a little talk with him later about the need for warriors to keep one another’s presence hidden from the enemy.

“Tell Eilian he should come to the training fields while he is home on leave,” Maldor’s voice continued.  “I am always happy to provide more lessons for our warriors.”

“I will,” piped Legolas and a second later he was beside me.  “Maldor says you should come and have more lessons,” he said.

I smiled at him weakly.  “Thank you, brat.”

He nodded and patted my hair. “What are brothers for?” he asked.

Maldor apparently went on his way with no further attacks. I had seen no one else looking out of their tunnel. Gelmir was probably cowering in his den with Turgon and Annael to protect him, I thought in disgust.  Maldor had once broken Gelmir’s nose during a training session.

“We have to go home soon,” I told Legolas. “It is getting late.”

“Just a few more minutes,” he pleaded.  I seldom could resist Legolas’s pleas in any case and could not bear to end his good time just yet.  So I nodded and popped back up to watch again.   The traffic on the path was likely to dwindle now, for anyone on it would be going home late.  I was just about ready to give up the hunt when two tall figures approached.  With a thrill of apprehension, I recognized my father and older brother.  I ducked down.

“It is Ada and Ithilden,” I told Legolas, whose eyes grew huge.  We stared at one another for a moment and then simultaneously grabbed for snowballs.  “Now,” I cried and burst from my hiding place as Legolas popped up beside me from his.  In a coordinated attack that would have made any warrior captain proud, we let our snowballs fly at the same instant.  Mine struck Ithilden in the stomach and, a second later, Legolas’s caught our father’s left arm.

Annael and Turgon now popped up and threw their snowballs too, although I noticed that Gelmir was still conspicuously absent.  My father and Ithilden dodged, narrowly escaping being hit a second time.   They looked at us and then at one another.  Suddenly I realized that Legolas and I had both forgotten to duck back into our shelters. I dropped down and reached my arm through the opening into Legolas’s tunnel to grope for a hold on him and pull him down too, but it was too late. Before I lost sight of Ithilden and our father, I saw them both seize handfuls of snow and come running across the drifts toward us, howling war cries as they ran.

A hand reached into my tunnel, caught hold of my ankle, and gave a hard yank.  I skidded along the slippery tube, unable to get hold of anything to stop myself from sliding out, face down, onto the ground with Ithilden on my back reaching around to shove a handful of snow into my face.  I twisted my head and failed to avoid the snow but did catch a glimpse of Adar gently tossing a loose snowball at Legolas’s back.  My little brother was shrieking with glee as Adar caught him around the waist and swung him into the air.

Then Ithilden pushed my head sideways into the snow, filling my ear with it, and I went back to trying to get him off me.  Ithilden is quite a bit bigger than I am and, squirm as I might, I could not dislodge him.  Turgon was dancing around near us, throwing snowballs at my brother, but Ithilden was laughing like a maniac and responded by pushing another handful of snow down the back of my tunic. I had seen him in battle so I knew how ruthless he could be, but I was still surprised.  I gave what I hoped was a pitiful wail.  “I surrender!”

Ithilden pushed my face down into the snow one last time and then got off me and reached a hand to help me up.  Being pinned by Ithilden does tend to knock the breath out of a person, so I was still dazed and let him pull me to my feet.  He was grinning happily.  Off to the side, I could see Gelmir standing with a sheepish look on his face. I threw him a disgusted glare, and he shrugged apologetically.

I looked over at where Adar had Legolas under one arm and Annael under the other.  He held them both upside down over a deep snow bank.  “What do you think?” he asked Ithilden.  “Shall I drop them?”

“No, Ada!” Legolas squealed.  He and Annael were both giggling, so I did not think they were too frightened of whatever Adar was threatening them with.

Ithilden grinned.  “They seem repentant. Perhaps you should be merciful.”

Adar laughed and set the two elflings down on their feet again.  He looked over his shoulder. “Gelmir,” he called, making my friend jump.

“Yes, my lord?”

“It grows late. Can you see to it that Turgon and Annael get home safely?”

“Of course.”  Gelmir hurried to obey, catching at Turgon’s cloak and beckoning to Annael.  I smothered a grin.  My father and Ithilden each made Gelmir nervous and having them both here was rattling him.  He shepherded his charges onto the path and led them away.

“Can we do this again tomorrow?” I could hear Turgon asking as they disappeared.

Adar took Legolas’s hand. “Come, my heart, we will get you home and into dry clothes and see if we can find you something hot to drink in front of the fire.”  Hand in hand, the two of them started toward the path, with Adar shortening his usual long stride and Legolas skipping happily along beside him.

“Galeril came by, Ada, and Eilian threw a snowball at him for me, and then I threw one at Eilian’s novice tutor. What was his name, Eilian?”  He looked back to where Ithilden and I were walking along together.  Our father’s gaze was turned back onto me too, although it was now dusky enough that I could not see his expression very clearly.

“Maldor,” I provided a little weakly.  Next to me, Ithilden gave a small snort.

There was a moment’s silence. Finally, Adar looked down at Legolas.  “I think that the next time you throw snowballs, you should find someone who wants to throw them back at you. That would be more fun anyway.  Galeril and Maldor should be able to walk the path without having snowballs thrown at them.  Do you not agree?”

Legolas sighed.  “Yes, but I had a very good time, Ada. Eilian is good at playing.”

We had come to the entrance to the palace and, in the light of the newly lit torches, I could see Adar smiling. “Eilian has always been good at playing,” he said and glanced back at me again. And this time, I was surprised to see something like gratitude in his face.  He led Legolas off to help him into dry clothes, and I went to my own chamber to soak in a hot tub and then dress for evening meal.

When I entered the sitting room for a glass of wine before the meal, I found Adar in his big chair near the fire, with Legolas in his lap already dressed in night clothes.  Legolas was clutching the raggedy blanket that he slept with, and Adar was helping him eat from a plate of bread and cold meat.

“Are you not going to eat evening meal with us, brat?” I asked.

Legolas shook his head. “I am too sleepy,” he announced, and I could see that for myself.  The look in his eyes was already vague, and he had leaned his head on Adar’s chest, as if he could barely hold it up.

I looked at our father. “Shall I put him to bed for you, Adar?”

He shook his head. “I will do it.  I have told the servants to delay evening meal a little.” He set the plate aside and then rose and left the room with Legolas in his arms.  Ithilden came in just then, and we sat by the fire warming ourselves with it and the wine.  At length, Adar returned and we both stood.

To my surprise, he came directly to me and embraced me.  He drew back and looked at me, seemingly amused by my confusion.  “Legolas had a good day today, Eilian, and I thank you for that.  Sometimes I forget that a gift for play is one to be treasured too.  Your naneth told me that often enough that I cannot understand why I do not remember it more often.”

Unexpected tears stung my eyes and I blinked them away.  “I had a good day today, too, Adar.  And I thank Legolas for that.” He smiled and put his arm around my shoulders and we went in to evening meal.

The End


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