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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.



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