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Spring Awakenings  by daw the minstrel

I borrow characters and situations from Tolkien but they are his. I draw no profit other than the enriched imaginative life that I assume he intended me to gain.

Many thanks to Nilmandra for beta reading this for me.


1.  Home

Legolas rode through the dusky evening light toward his father’s stables.  He had been a warrior for many years now and had come home on leave countless times, but this was the first time he had been home since he had been posted to the Woodland Realm’s chaotic south, and he had never been more dazed by the contrast between the peace surrounding Thranduil’s stronghold and the ugliness he had left behind.  Elves were returning home from their day’s pursuits singing snatches of song and lingering for a moment in the cool evening of the early spring that had tentatively begun to put in an appearance after the longest winter in memory.  This is why we battle as we do, he reminded himself, so that people can live in peace like this.

“I will be leaving you now, Legolas,” Beliond said from behind him.

Legolas twisted to look at his bodyguard, who had halted his horse and now looked ready to be off.  “Why do you not come home with me for a day or two?” he asked, although he already knew what Beliond would say.

His keeper shook his head. “Thank you for the invitation, but I would rather spend some time alone in the woods.  This is good weather for camping.”

Legolas nodded. “I will see you in a week then.” Beliond raised a hand and then turned his horse and rode back toward the woods they had just left.  Legolas smiled to himself. Beliond had seen him almost to his father’s doorstep before feeling it was safe to leave him.  Legolas supposed he could understand the other Elf’s caution. Thranduil had charged him with Legolas’s safety, and Beliond had no wish to fail at that charge.

He chirped softly to his horse and rode on into the stable yard, where an attendant came running to take charge of his horse.  “Welcome home, my lord!” he cried, as Legolas slid to the ground.

“Mae govannen,” Legolas returned, pulling his packs off the horse’s back.  “I was just thinking how good it was to be home.”  He left his horse in the attendant’s capable hands and started along the path that ran through the palace gardens to the bridge leading to the Great Doors. The gardens were only just beginning to show the buds and green shoots of spring. The Forest River, which ran along one edge of the garden, had evidently flooded like just about every other waterway in the realm when the deep snows of winter had finally melted, and he found a gardener’s helper cleaning mud it had left on the high stone wall that gave the garden privacy.

“Am I less interesting than a stone wall?” asked a familiar voice, and he spun to find his brother Eilian regarding him with amusement from his seat on one of the garden benches.

“Eilian!”  He dropped his packs and pulled his brother to his feet to embrace him.  The last time he had seen Eilian, his brother had been lying on a litter, half-conscious and waiting to be carried home with a wound to the hip that would not stop bleeding because of the poison that the Orc who made it had spread on his scimitar.  The letters from home that Legolas had since received had been guarded in what they said, but it had been obvious to him that Eilian’s survival had been a near thing and that those at home had sometimes been close to despair.

Suddenly recollecting himself, Legolas drew back hastily.  “Are you allowed to stand?” he asked.  “I am sorry. I did not think.”

Eilian laughed. “Do not worry, Nana. I am allowed not only to stand but also to take walks, so long as I am careful not to alarm Adar or the healers by looking as if I might outpace an elfling.” He hugged Legolas again and then surprised him by saying, “Thank you, brat. I was not coherent enough to say so before I was sent home, but it is abundantly clear to me that I would have died had you not been with me.”

Not knowing how to respond, Legolas shrugged in embarrassment. “What are brothers for?” he asked lightly, and they both laughed.  It was a phrase they sometimes shared when they had cooperated in an action that their father might not have wholeheartedly endorsed.

Legolas picked up his packs again, and they began to walk toward the bridge.  From the corner of his eye, he watched Eilian make his way along and was pleased to see that his brother walked with only a very slight hitch to his step, one that an observer probably would not even have noticed if he had not known enough to look for it.

They emerged from the gardens and turned to cross the bridge to find Thranduil waiting for them at the top of the steps.  Legolas laughed and ran up to give a perfunctory bow and then throw his arms around his father.  “I should have known you would hear I was home before I did,” he joked.

Thranduil grasped his shoulders and held him at arm’s length. “You are too thin,” he decided.  He drew Legolas into the palace and toward the corridor where the family’s apartments were. “Would you like to come and have wine now, or would you rather bathe and rest first?”  He looked over his shoulder.  “Mind the steps, Eilian,” he said.  Legolas glanced back to see his brother make a face and had to smother a laugh.

“I had better bathe and put on clean clothes anyway,” Legolas told his father.  “I probably smell as if I have spent the last three months in the company of warriors and horses.”

Thranduil laughed.  “So you do,” he admitted.  “Take your time.  Ithilden is not home yet, and Alfirin has told the servants to wait evening meal for you.”  He left Legolas at the door to his chamber and went on to the family’s sitting room.

Eilian had followed them in and now clapped Legolas on the shoulder.  “It is good to have you home, brat,” he said.  “It seemed unnatural for you to be fighting Orcs while I was not there to protect you.”  Then he followed their father.

Legolas stood for a second looking after them.  Sometimes the sheer normalcy of home was the most shocking thing about it.  He opened the door to his familiar chamber, and almost before the door had closed behind him, he began shedding clothes to take a hot bath.  The thought very thought of it made him groan with anticipation.

An hour later, when he finally managed to pull himself out of the bath and dress for evening meal, he found his family waiting for him in the sitting room, lacking only his nephew, Sinnarn, who was away with the Northern Border Patrol.  Thranduil and Eilian remained seated, but Ithilden got up to clasp arms with him, and Alfirin planted a kiss on his cheek.  “Are you ready to eat?” his sister-in-law asked. “Or would you prefer to wait a while yet?”

“Whatever you prefer,” Legolas told her. In truth, he was hungry, but the Long Winter had brought short rations and he was cautious about admitting it, lest he look as if he were asking for more than his share.

“Come then,” she said and took his arm to lead him to the dining room. They waited for Thranduil to take his seat and then they all sat down.  Servants put rather sparsely filled plates of fish and wild mushrooms in front of them and then withdrew.  No one commented on the food supply, and Legolas was simply grateful for how excellently it had been prepared.  He could ignore the shortages for a few more weeks, he thought. Game birds were beginning to appear again, and when the flooding receded, the Elves would plant spring vegetables. They would not starve.

“Did you hear anything more about the flooding downriver today?” Ithilden asked Thranduil.  Legolas listened with interest to see what his father would say.  The Forest River could be troublesome after a winter of heavy snow.

The king shook his head.  “The area most likely to be in danger is that settlement a league or so from the forest’s edge. The river banks are low there. But you know how those settlers are. They are likely to believe they can manage on their own until they become desperate and then demand that we provide immediate help.”

Seated next to Legolas, Eilian made a wry face.  He was courting a maiden who lived in one of the settlements scattered throughout the forest and had reason to know that the settlers could be difficult.  Or rather, Legolas amended, Eilian was trying to court the maiden.  She had been refusing all contact with him, even to returning his letters unread. But Legolas knew that Eilian had recently gotten a letter from her that was more encouraging.  Indeed, he had half expected to find Eilian away from home visiting her, but perhaps his brother was not yet well enough to travel.

“Have the healers given you permission to ride yet?” he asked Eilian.

“Not yet. I will see Belówen tomorrow and intend to ask him about it then.”

Thranduil frowned.  “Do not try to do too much too soon, Eilian,” he instructed.

Eilian sighed.  “No, Adar.”

Legolas smiled down at his plate.  Eilian sounded as if he had been home and under their father’s eye for a little too long. Thranduil tended to fuss endlessly when one of them was injured.

“Have an extra piece of fish, Legolas,” said Thranduil, causing Legolas to lift his surprised gaze in time to see his father moving a piece of fish from his own plate to Legolas’s.  “I am not hungry, and you are too thin.”

Legolas opened his mouth to protest and then shut it again when he saw the set of his father’s jaw.  He looked at the fish and then raised his eyes to trade looks with Eilian.  “Has he been like this the entire time you have been home?” he asked.

“Yes,” Eilian responded gloomily.  “And it was worse for me because I was bedridden. It was like being an infant at the mercy of an overly concerned nurse.”

“You two need to show more respect,” said Thranduil severely, but no one at the table was fooled.  The king was deeply contented to have all three sons home and more or less intact. And if they wanted to tease him, that was all the better, so long as Legolas ate the fish and Eilian obeyed every stricture the healers set for him.


Eilian shifted impatiently.  He had arrived at the infirmary early this morning only to find that Belówen was busy with an elfling who had broken his wrist, and he was going to have to wait.  How much longer was the wretched healer going to be with the inconsiderate elfling?  Unable to resist, he took a tattered letter from his belt and began to read, although, in truth, he had read the letter so often that he had it memorized and did not need it before him to know what it said.

My Dearest Eilian,

I begin this letter by calling you “my dearest” and then find I do not know how to go on.

You will no doubt be surprised to hear from me, for I have told you often enough not to visit me or even write.  I had reasons to tell you to stay away, of course, sensible reasons that could not be doubted. You and I had duties that called for us to live apart in a dangerous time that could see either of us called to the Halls of Mandos at a moment’s notice.  I did not want to leave you alone for all of time and did not want to be left alone myself.  It would kill me to bond with you and then lose you, my love, and I knew it.

But I am not so sure I would have kept you away for so long if I had not also been angry. And I have been angry; I confess it.  I have always known that you liked the company of other maidens, but I had convinced myself that in seeking them out, you were only playing a game and that everyone involved knew the game’s rules.  And then I found I had not convinced myself at all.  I heard you sought the company of another, and I burned with jealousy and anger.  And when you stopped writing to me, I added despair to my anger and vowed that if you could cease to care, then so could I.

But in this terrible winter, I have been unable to stop myself from thinking of you.  I had learned to accept the fact that you throw yourself into danger as a warrior, but somehow I cannot bear to think of you as cold or hungry. How odd.

I miss you.  Whether I will be alone for all of time seems less important to me now than that I be with you for the time that I can.  I would rather risk losing you than never see you again. It is selfish of me, I know, but I cannot help it.  Indeed, I find I have no choice but to risk overwhelming grief.  I am already lost to reason.

If you have indeed ceased to care about me or have given your heart to someone else, then I do not wonder and I do not blame you.  I would never wish you to be anything but as happy and as well loved as you deserve to be.   But, Eilian, if you still care about me as you once did, then please come.  Surely we are entitled at least to see one another. Surely we have earned that.

Yours in truth, whether I wish it or not,


Eilian felt a hot flare of anger as he dwelled for a moment on Celuwen’s despair because she thought he had stopped writing her. He had written and his letters had been returned unopened, and Celuwen was not the only one who had felt despair.  And then, of course, he had stopped writing. He was reasonably sure where the blame lay for the undelivered letters.  Celuwen’s father had never liked Eilian and had done all in his power to prevent him from coming near her.

The door to the room opened and he hastily put his letter away as Belówen entered. “Let us see how you are doing,” the healer said, as Eilian slid his leggings off his left hip and shifted to lie on his right side.

He twisted his head to watch as the healer inspected the scimitar wound.  Belówen prodded the angry red mark, and Eilian flinched and then frowned impatiently.  What could possibly be taking so long?  Any fool could see that the gash that had taken so long to heal was still closed, just as it had been a week ago when Belówen had told him he might begin going out of the palace.  “You see that it has not started bleeding again,” he said. “So I should be allowed greater freedom of movement, do you not think?”

Belówen gave a noncommittal murmur and then straightened up from his examination.  Eilian pulled his leggings into place and began fastening them up. “How is the pain?” Belówen asked.  “Has it grown worse as you moved about more?”

Eilian shrugged impatiently. “The pain is nothing.”

Belówen raised a skeptical eyebrow.  “Do you need the herbs at night to sleep?”

Eilian hesitated. “Yes,” he admitted, “but no more than I did when you were insisting that I be carried everywhere.”  He knew he sounded disgusted, but he had found it humiliating to be carried from his bed to a chair in the sitting room or dining room, even when Thranduil or Ithilden had been the one to do it.  But he had been on his own two feet for three weeks now, and while that was better than being carried, he had had about enough of being limited to easy walks around the area near his father’s stronghold.  He had things he wanted to do and was eager to be about doing them.

Belówen sighed.  “The poison on the Orc’s blade was strong, Eilian, and the wound is going to be slow to heal completely.  In truth, you are lucky to still be alive.”

Eilian knew that. If Legolas had not been with him when the Orc came out of nowhere, Eilian would certainly be dead, but his younger brother had been there, and to Eilian’s mind, there was no use in dwelling on the tragedies that might have happened.  He had never seen much point in that.

“Can I ride?” Eilian asked.

Belówen grimaced and then with obvious reluctance said, “You can try it. Take someone with you the first time, in case the wound reopens and you need help getting home. If your hip pains you more afterwards, come and see me.  Otherwise I will see you in a week.”

Eilian could feel a grin spreading across his face as he slid off the examining table to stand facing the healer.  “So I am not yet fit enough to go back to my patrol?”

Belówen looked confused by Eilian’s failure to protest that he was ready to hunt Orcs, Wargs, and whatever else the Shadow bred in the southern reaches of Thranduil’s realm.  On previous occasions when he had been injured, Eilian had driven the healer to distraction by nagging him for permission to return to active duty.

“No,” Belówen responded, “you are not, and I will tell Ithilden that, so you need not go to the trouble of trying to convince him to send you anyway.”

Eilian laughed and slapped Belówen on the shoulder.  “I would never think of doing such a thing.” 

Belówen snorted. “Of course not,” he said dryly and then left the room with Eilian in his wake. The healer turned left down the infirmary hall and Eilian went right to go out into the cool spring morning.  For a moment, he closed his eyes, lifted his face to the warmth of the sun, and inhaled deeply to draw in the scent of mud and new grass.  The weather itself told him how long he had been bedridden and then confined to the palace, for when he had been carried home, the longest winter in memory had still had the Woodland Realm in its grip.  And now spring was here, with new life and new hope stirring the blood of all the forest creatures, including the Wood-elves.

With purpose in his every move, Eilian set off along the path the led back toward the palace, scanning the Elves who lingered near the various warrior training fields along the way as he did so. Finally, he spotted the person he was looking for watching an advanced archery class.  I might have known, he thought, with a small smile. At that moment, Legolas caught sight of him and came trotting toward him.

“Can you ride?” he asked.  Eilian had earlier invited Legolas to wait for him this morning, hoping that they could ride together.

“We are about to find out,” Eilian told him and with shared smiles, the two of them headed toward Thranduil’s stables.  They brought their horses out into the yard, and Eilian was aware of Legolas hovering near him as he mounted his horse for the first time in three months.  He felt a slight stiffness in his left leg as he leapt onto the animal’s back but was pleased to find that he could move well enough to both mount the horse and guide it with pressure from his thighs and soft words, just as he had always been able to do.  He grinned at his younger brother. “What are you waiting for?” he demanded and urged his horse into a trot, leaving Legolas to scramble onto his own horse and catch up.

Eilian led them into the forest, reveling in the chance to be among the trees again.  They were murmuring their spring song of awakening and seemed to him to be glad to see him again after so long an absence.  He was in no hurry just now, for he desperately wanted to prove that he could spend time on horseback without reopening his wound, and he was sensible enough to know that a slower pace would be easier on him.  So Legolas soon caught up, and the two of them rode side by side chatting companionably.

“How have things been with my patrol?” Eilian asked. Thranduil and Ithilden had refused to tell him anything about the Southern Patrol’s activities, and in truth, for a while he had been so ill that he could not ask.

Legolas turned and grinned at him, presumably amused by the way he claimed the Southern Patrol as his own property, but he answered placidly enough. “We have been busy, as usual.  The Orcs are hungry, for they feel the shortage of game as much as we do.”

Eilian grimaced and after a moment said, “You seem to have done well, Legolas.  I am proud of you.”

His brother smiled slightly and hesitated. Then he asked, “Eilian, I do not mean to pry, but are you perhaps planning to try to see Celuwen again?”

Eilian bit his lip. “How much of her letter did you read?”  He had been too ill to read his own mail and Legolas had been the one to open Celuwen’s letter.

“Not much,” Legolas responded.  “I read only enough to know I should not be reading it.”

“I am going to see her,” Eilian said soberly.  “And I will not allow her to send me away again.”

“How are you going to do that?” Legolas asked.

Eilian grinned. “I have charms for her that I do not have for you,” he said blithely.

Legolas laughed. “I suppose you do.”

“What I need,” Eilian went on, “is for you to tell Adar that I am fit to ride.”  He looked at Legolas steadily.

His brother met his gaze. “Then we had better find out if you are,” he said and urged his horse into a gallop. After a moment’s pause, Eilian could only follow.  Trust the brat to take his responsibility seriously, he thought in dismay.


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