Stories of Arda Home Page
About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search

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.


4. The Young Lord

Legolas handed his pack and bow to the servant who would stow them on his horse, looked around his chamber to see if he had forgotten anything, and then went out into the hall and down it to the door leading into the palace’s public rooms.  In the antechamber before the Great Doors, he found Galivion waiting.  “Mae govannen, my lord,” the advisor greeted him.  His eyes flicked quickly up and down over Legolas’s appearance, and Legolas thought he read approval in the other’s face.  In his role as his father’s representative, he had dressed carefully this morning, eschewing his usual tunic and leggings for loose black trousers, a long silk shirt, and a surcoat with ornate silver buttons.  The bottoms of the trouser legs and his cloak would all be covered in mud by the time they reached the flooded settlement, but if Thranduil wanted the settlers to see a king’s son, then a king’s son was what they would see.

“Mae govannen,” Legolas returned, and then the two of them waited in silence.  They had spent the previous afternoon together, sorting through food supplies, and Galivion had taken the opportunity to tell Legolas far more than he had ever thought it possible to know about how these central stores of food had been gathered and the principles upon which they were now being distributed.

“The king is determined that we will not be caught short like this again,” Galivion had said.  “We are working on a plan to have a constantly renewed stockpile of food that will be large enough to last through a winter like this one or a siege, for that matter, if such a dreadful thing should ever come upon us. We have always stored some food, but the shortages this winter have made us realize that we have not kept enough.”

Legolas had nodded and taken in all that he could.  Galivion would be with him to answer any difficult questions, but the extent of his own knowledge was likely to be taken as a sign of the king’s concern for his people.  He was determined not to fail in the trust his father had placed in him by assigning him to lead this mission.

He was aware now of being slightly nervous.  I will feel better once we are under way, he thought, and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Fortunately, he and Galivion did not have to wait long before the king emerged from the hallway from which Legolas had just come.  Legolas put his hand over his heart and saluted, as did Galivion. Thranduil nodded his head to Galivion and then turned cool blue eyes appraisingly on Legolas, who was instantly glad he had taken trouble over his appearance. His father smiled approvingly, and then came forward to embrace him and hold him close for a moment.  “I have every faith that you will do as well with this task as you have with everything else I have ever asked you to do, Legolas,” Thranduil murmured in his ear and then released him.

“Thank you, my lord,” Legolas said, with a flush of pleasure. “I will do my best.” He had very seldom been able to disguise his feelings from his father and had apparently not succeeded in hiding his apprehensions today either.

Thranduil patted him on the shoulder and, with no further ado, led them out into the early morning light and descended the stairs toward where the rest of the relief party waited. Legolas kept a careful step behind him on his right, and Galivion walked a further step behind on the king’s left.

At the foot of the steps, grooms held his horse and Galivion’s, along with three pack horses laden with supplies.  Legolas’s eyes went from them to Annael, standing ready with his own horse. His friend saluted Thranduil and then flashed a grin at Legolas, who once again mentally thanked Ithilden for including Annael in this party. They would at least have some time to talk as they rode.

Then Legolas caught sight of the other warrior waiting with Annael and could not suppress a quick breath of dismay.  The other Elf turned at the sound.  “Hello, Legolas,” said Tinár.  “You are certainly dressed up today.”  He pointed to Legolas’s bow, which was hung with his packs on his horse’s back. “I see you are still using that hickory bow.  I am surprised you have not switched to one made of yew.” From the corner of his eye, Legolas could see Annael looking amused, but Galivion stepped in immediately, radiating disapproval.

“Are all your packs here, my lord?” he inquired, scowling in Tinár’s direction.

“Yes, they are,” Legolas said.

“Then we await your pleasure,” he said, and Legolas took the hint and leapt onto his horse’s back as the others in the party also mounted.  As if eager to be off, his horse pranced a little under him when he turned again to face his father.

Thranduil saluted the whole party. “Go and take the concern of your king to our hungry people,” he said.  His gaze lingered for a moment on Legolas, and then he stepped back.

“Thank you, my lord.  We will.”  Legolas returned his father’s salute, gratifyingly aware once again of the trust that Thranduil had placed in him. Then, feeling as if he had somehow slipped into the wrong position in line, he led the party away from Thranduil’s stronghold.

The path they followed was the one that Thranduil’s people used to go to Esgaroth.  It followed the Forest River eastward, into the pale face of the sun, which was slowly climbing above the treetops.   There were dark clouds behind them, and Legolas worried that there would soon be more rain, an aggravation of their woes that the Elves in the settlement did not need.   The river he now rode beside was still high and fast, and its water ran brown with dirt it had picked up from runoff and flooding further upstream.

For a while, Legolas rode next to Galivion, with Annael and Tinár trailing behind, trading off leading the pack horses and serving as the company’s guard.  Once they were out of the territory of the Home Guard, Legolas too strung his bow and carried it in his hand.  He had been a warrior for too many years not to feel responsible for the safety of any party he was with, even if he was acting now as Thranduil’s son.  Galivion glanced at the weapon, but made no comment.  Legolas was sure Galivion carried a weapon about him somewhere, but it was not visible.  A dagger in his boot would be Legolas’s guess.

After an hour or so of riding, he looked back to see that Annael had charge of the pack horses, and he dropped back toward his friend.  “Tinár, why do you not ride with Galivion for a while?” he invited.

Tinár’s face brightened.  He clearly liked the idea of leading the party. “I have been in this part of the forest frequently,” he said.  “I am very familiar with the path.”  He urged his horse forward and took up a place next to Thranduil’s advisor, who threw an unhappy glance back at Legolas.

Legolas grinned at Galivion and then turned to mutter to Annael. “Tinár?”  They both had served with the self-absorbed Tinár before.

Annael laughed softly.  “Our captain decided he could spare him.”

Legolas spluttered.  “I will wager he did.”

“Ah well,” Annael conceded, “Tinár is good with a bow.”

“Just not as good as he thinks he is,” Legolas snorted.

They both laughed and then Legolas asked Annael about the addition he was planning to build to his family’s cottage once the weather grew a little warmer, and they rode for a while chatting easily like the old friends they were.

As they drew nearer to the settlement, the banks of the river grew lower, and there was evidence of the water having recently been over its edges. They had to pick their way carefully around uprooted bushes and small trees, and the path had been washed away with the river bank in places.  Legolas noted where the gaps in the path were so he could pass the information along to his father. The horses were soon muddy past their knees and, as Legolas had anticipated, he and his companions were well spattered too.

The sun was high overhead when they finally spotted the first flet, well up in an oak tree.  And it was a good thing the flet was placed high because the evidence of flooding here was everywhere.  Water still stood in pools, and as they rode on a short distance, they found a cottage with its door standing open and mud staining its walls to a height of two feet and more.   Near the cottage, an adult Elf and a half grown youth were using axes to cut up a small tree that had fallen on the cottage roof when too much soil had been washed away from its shallow roots.  They straightened up when the riders approached them.  As they approached the cottage, Legolas somewhat self-consciously urged his horse past Tinár, who actually seemed about to speak.  Legolas threw him a cool glance that apparently startled him for he closed his mouth again.  Legolas turned to face the two Elves on the ground.

“Mae govannen,” said the adult.

Legolas drew himself as erect as he could and took a deep breath. It was time for him to begin doing what he had been sent here to do. “Mae govannen,” he replied, sliding from his horse.  He took a step toward them and found that he had to ignore the way his boots stuck in the mud that squelched under foot.  So much for dignity, he thought.

“I am Legolas Thranduilion,” he introduced himself. He gestured toward their pack horses. “On behalf of the king, we have brought you food to replace that which you lost.  Where might we find Anyr?”  His father’s advisors had told him that Anyr was the leader of this settlement.

The Elf’s face brightened.  “You are most welcome, my friends.”  He turned toward the youngster.  “Run and fetch Anyr. He will want to greet these visitors.” As the youth ran off, he turned back toward them and then started toward the pack horses. “Can I help you unload the supplies? I can show you the flet we plan to use to store them.  We have children who would have gone hungry tonight had you not arrived.”

Legolas hesitated.  Of course the Elf would want the food made available as soon as possible, but Legolas wanted Anyr to see the food while it was still grouped as assistance from the king rather than scattered onto the plates of many Elves where it might simply seem like their due.  Moreover, the task that Thranduil had set for Legolas made it crucial for him to talk to the settlement’s leader as soon as possible.  He and Galivion needed to make sure that these Elves understood that Thranduil had sent as much help as he could.  There must be no opportunity for resentment to flower.

“I would wish to place these goods in the hands of Anyr himself, as a token of the king’s respect,” he finally said.  From the corner of his eye, he could see Galivion’s shoulders drop slightly, as if he was relaxing a little.

“Of course,” the settlement Elf answered. “Here he is now.”  The youth he had sent to fetch Anyr now came trotting back with a tall adult striding in his wake.

The adult came forward to greet Legolas.  “Mae govannen,” he said fervently.  “You are well met indeed, my lord. I am Anyr, the leader of these hungry people.”

Legolas inclined his head, noting that the youth had wasted no time in informing Anyr of who Legolas was.  Thranduil had apparently been right to believe that the settlement Elves would read his sending one of his sons as a significant gesture.

“We have brought all that we could,” Legolas said.  “If you like, these warriors can take the pack horses closer to your storage flet.  And then, Galivion and I beg audience with you to talk about your needs.”

“I would be only too glad to speak with you, my lord,” Anyr replied. He turned to the two Elves whom they had first met. “Nelad, will you and your son show these good people where to take the supplies and see that they are properly stored?”

“With pleasure,” Nelad assured him and turned to where Annael waited with the pack horses.  “This way,” he bid, and Legolas gestured for Annael to follow him.

“Yes, my lord,” Annael said easily.

“You may go and help put the supplies away too, Tinár,” Legolas said, trying to sound as natural as he could.  He had never given an order to either of these fellow warriors before.  “And please take care of my horse and Galivion’s too, while we speak to Anyr.” Galivion dismounted, and Annael called to his horse and Legolas’s and moved off immediately, but Tinár hesitated.

“Surely it is not a good idea for Galivion to be left without a guard, Legolas,” he said. “He is unarmed.”

From the corner of his eyes, Legolas could see Anyr stiffen.  “We are among friends here,” Legolas said, a trifle sharply.  “You may go now.”  Tinár hesitated for a moment, but when Galivion glared at him too, he led his own horse slowly off in the direction taken by Annael and Nelad and his son.

Looking mollified, Anyr motioned for Legolas and Galivion to follow him.  “We will go to my flet,” he told them and began to lead them through the trees.  Legolas spotted a number of flets overhead, although none of them seemed to be occupied at the moment, and they also passed several badly damaged cottages.

“Do your people live in both cottages and flets, then?” he asked.  Near Thranduil’s stronghold, Elves lived in both kinds of dwellings, although the flet dwellers normally moved to cottages during the Woodland Realm’s harsh winters.

“We prefer to live in cottages in the winter,” Anyr answered, confirming Legolas’s surmise.  “But when we saw the snows this winter, we knew the river would be high once it melted, so we moved anything we deemed necessary to flets as spring drew near.”  The noise of running water had risen as they walked along, and through the trees, Legolas could now see that they had drawn near to the river again.  Its banks were still submerged beneath the lapping muddy water, but he could see the ends of wooden posts and broken boards emerging to suggest that dock had once stood on this site.

Anyr paused for a moment to contemplate the scene. “We will have to rebuild the dock,” he said.  “It is necessary if we want to go on trading with the Lake-men.” He resumed walking, and Legolas and Galivion exchanged quick glances.  From Galivion’s startled look, Legolas suspected that Thranduil was unaware of the trade between the settlers and the Lake-men.  His father normally regulated trade with the Lake-men by means of agreements, and the Elves charged the Men a toll for using the waterways that they guarded and kept passable.  Legolas doubted that any toll was being collected here.  Thranduil would not be happy about unauthorized dealing.  Legolas was grateful that it would be Thranduil’s advisors and not him who would have to contend with the king when he found out about it.

Their path now veered away from the river and climbed slightly to an area the waters had evidently not reached, for the omnipresent mud was absent here.  And suddenly, a squeal of childish laughter made all three Elves look through the trees off to their left.  “Do it again, Tuilinn!” shouted a child’s high voice.

In a clearing amidst the trees, Legolas now saw a group of ten or so small children jumping up and down in excitement.  An elf maiden who seemed to have charge of them was laughing, as she held aloft the frame of a fishing net that was missing its mesh.  “Are you ready?” she inquired.

“Yes! Yes!”

She dipped the frame in a flat pan of frothy water and then swung it into the air and waved it back and forth with such vigor that a lock of her curly brown hair came loose from the clasp that held it away from her face.  Rainbow tinted soap bubbles flew off, and the little ones ran about trying to catch them in their clapping hands.

Legolas smiled at the sight and was about to set off after Anyr again, when something about one of the children caught his eye. He looked sharply and saw to his surprise that he had been right: Although the child wore Elvish clothing, he was of the race of Men. Moreover, now that he looked, he could see that several other children were also the children of Men.  He hastened to catch up with Anyr and Galivion, who had already moved on.

“You have Mannish children in your care here?” he asked.

Anyr looked back at him. “Yes, they are from the Men’s village that is just beyond the forest edge.  The flood devastated their fields and homes.  Indeed most of us are there today, helping to build shelters for them.  We have kept the children here so they will be out of the way.  It would not do to have any of them fall in the river while it is so high and fast.”  He smiled a little condescendingly.  “The Men did not seem to realize that the river needs space to live too.  They built walls to try to keep it out, but the river wanted to wander this year and would not be kept at bay.”

Legolas turned this cooperation between Men and the settlers over in his mind and tried to guess how his father would react to it.  He did not see how Thranduil could object, but his father was sometimes reluctant to have Men influence the affairs of his people.

“This is my flet,” Anyr said, pointing to one in a birch tree. The three of them climbed through the branches and emerged on a platform with a pallet and a small box of Anyr’s belongings off to one side.  A tarp was folded along one edge of the flet, ready to be pulled up and attached to the branches if its occupant needed shelter from bad weather.  Anyr folded his legs and sank to the floor, and Galivion and Legolas followed his example.

“I would offer you refreshments, but we have none,” Anyr said cheerfully.  “Thanks to you, we will soon be having a meal however.”

“Thanks to the king,” Legolas corrected, with a smile.  He hesitated. He had been planning the words he would use for this explanation during the morning’s ride, but he knew that his task was a delicate one, and the care with which he gave Anyr his news might determine its success or failure.

“Anyr,” he began, “the king bade me tell you how grieved he is at what your people have suffered.”

Anyr shrugged. “The river is a difficult neighbor sometime,” he said, “but since it cannot adjust to our ways, we must adjust to its.”

Legolas could not help thinking that in this case it was the Elves who lived near Thranduil’s stronghold who had been asked to adjust to the damage the river caused.  “Indeed,” he murmured.  “This has been a difficult winter for all the king’s people, and we all have had to adjust to what Arda has sent us.”  Anyr nodded in response, and Legolas could sense Galivion shifting his weight slightly as he waited for Legolas to deliver the bad news.

“When word that you had lost your food supplies reached King Thranduil,” Legolas went on, “he sent Galivion and me to take from the food that was in store as much as we could to bring to you so that your children might not go hungry. And he charged us to do so in such a way that the children who lived near the king’s stronghold also had enough to eat, for they too are dear to his heart.”

Anyr had now focused sharply on Legolas’s face.  He evidently heard some sort of warning in his tone.

“The stores were small,” Legolas went on, “but we knew your need and decided that we could ask the adults who depend on those stores to take less from them.  We also asked the Home Guard to send some of their warriors to hunt so that more of the stored food could be sent to you.”

Anyr nodded, a little stiffly.

“In short,” Legolas finished, “we did all that we could, for the king values the people of this settlement.  I am pleased that with our efforts, despite our own very short supplies, we were able to bring you two-thirds of what you asked the king to send.”  He held his breath and waited for Anyr’s reaction.

Anyr sat in silence for a moment.  “You tell me that Thranduil did not have enough in his vast stores that he could send us enough food to last us the few weeks until the forest begins to give us more of its bounty again?”  His tone was faintly disbelieving.

“I am telling you that,” Legolas asserted firmly.  “Galivion will tell you the same. He has been in charge of the central food stores that were established this winter. He can tell you to the last carrot and strip of dried venison exactly what the king had on hand.  He can also tell you how many people those stores must feed in the area around the caverns.   The Elves there eat sparingly and will eat more sparingly still that they might give some of what little they have to you.  I eat at the king’s table, Anyr, and I tell you that the king himself has little food on his plate sometimes.”

He looked earnestly into Anyr’s face.  The settlement leader’s eyes bored into his for a moment, and then suddenly Anyr sighed and looked away.  “If we must make do, then we must make do,” he said a little grudgingly.

Legolas felt the tension in his back ease slightly. “If there is any other way in which my father, the king, can help you, he charged me to learn of it and take word to him,” he said.

Anyr shook his head. “We can manage on our own quite nicely. We asked for what we needed, and if the king cannot provide it, then we need nothing else.”

Legolas could not help feeling exasperated.  A word of thanks would not have come amiss, he thought. Anyr was not hostile, but he was not particularly grateful either.  He seemed to take the aid Thranduil had struggled to give his people as no more than their due. And in a way, Legolas supposed it was their due. They were his father’s people, after all, and it was Thranduil’s role to serve them.

“Anyr!” called a voice from beneath the beech tree. They all looked down. The youth whom they had first seen cutting up the fallen tree stood there.  “My adar has taken some of the food to the children,” he called. “He bid me fetch you and our guests to come and eat too.”

Anyr rose, and Legolas and Galivion followed suit.  As Anyr disappeared over the edge of the flet, Galivion caught Legolas’s arm. “You did well,” he murmured, and then went after their host.  Legolas raised a skeptical eyebrow but could not help being gratified.  Then he climbed to the ground and followed Anyr back to the clearing where they had seen the children playing.

Nelad and his son were already there, and Annael and Tinár were just arriving.  Tinár paused on the edge of the clearing. “I brushed down your horse, Legolas,” he said, somewhat sulkily.  “You can take care of mine on the way home.”

Galivion seized Tinár’s arm and jerked him back out of the clearing.  Tinár looked startled by the strength of the advisor’s grasp.  Annael glanced back but kept on walking.  Legolas could not move without walking around Galivion and Tinár, so he stopped where he was.  “On this mission, you will address the son of your king as ‘my lord,’” Galivion snapped.  “And you will take care of his horse and anything else he needs tended to while he does the task he was sent here to do.”

“Legolas does not mind if I call him by name,” Tinár protested, trying unsuccessfully to shake himself free. “We have been fellow warriors.”

“You are not fellow warriors now,” Galivion told him. “It is important that these Elves see him as the representative of Thranduil himself, and I will not have you making it more difficult for them to keep that in mind.”  He released Tinár, who rubbed his arm resentfully, and then, with a scowl at Legolas, turned to enter the clearing.

Galivion resettled his cloak on his shoulders.  “Come, my lord,” he said with dignity, and led a bemused Legolas into the area where the maiden whom the child had called Tuilinn appeared to be portioning out a stew that had been quickly concocted of dried meat and vegetables.  The children were digging in with almost animal relish.

Legolas accepted a bowl from the maiden’s hand but allowed her to put only one ladleful of the stew in it.  “I am not hungry,” he told her.  She leveled large grey eyes at him, and he suddenly felt like one of the elflings she had been tending who had stretched the truth a little. “Really,” he protested.  She raised a delicate eyebrow and then turned to tend to a child who had called to her. For a second, he stood and watched her as she bent to listen to the little one, her hands absently catching at the hair that kept falling forward into her face.  Then he suddenly became aware that he was eyeing the curve of her backside, and shook himself into diplomatic mode again.  I have been isolated among warriors too long, he thought in exasperation.  I am evidently ready to pounce on the first pretty maiden I see.

He wanted to sit next to Annael, but he reluctantly went to eat next to Anyr, who had Galivion on his other side. “When the river is within its banks, this must be a beautiful spot,” he offered, and Anyr rose happily to the bait and began to praise the loveliness of the area.

Legolas listened with half an ear, watching Tuilinn, who had seated herself not far away with an elfling on her lap.  “You must eat the carrots, too,” she was coaxing, but the child had pressed his lips together and was resisting her efforts.  Legolas smiled slightly to himself, recalling his sister-in-law dealing with his stubborn nephew at a similar age.  The children will be fed, he thought, and that makes this all worthwhile.

He focused on the maiden again, and it occurred to him that he had not seen her eating yet.  He rose, took the few steps toward where the maiden sat, and scooped the child from her lap.  “What is your name, little one?” he asked.

The child looked at him with big eyes.  “Ródien,” he answered.

From behind him, he could hear Galivion talking to Anyr.  “Legolas has just returned from the south where our warriors have spent a cold and hungry winter,” he was saying. “The needs are great all over the realm.”  The maiden’s eyes flicked momentarily to Galivion and then back to Legolas.

“This one is destined to be a warrior, Tuilinn,” Legolas told her hastily.  “He should come and eat with me.”  He reached out his hand, and she put the bowl with the few lone carrots in it.  He glanced at her.  “And perhaps you would like to have your hands free to eat too, mistress,” he said.  She gave him a smile of immeasurable sweetness.  She was really quite pretty, he thought.

“Thank you,” she told him, rising again. “I believe I will take advantage of the opportunity.”

Legolas carried Ródien to his seat near Anyr, who was watching him with a small smile on his face.  “Now, Ródien,” he said, “look at these quarrelsome carrots. I think they are enemy carrots and need to be destroyed. What do you think?”  The child giggled and leaned back in Legolas’s lap.  “Perhaps they could be chopped up by your horrible big teeth,” Legolas suggested.  Ródien looked at him slyly from the corner of his eye, but made no move to open his mouth.

“Or perhaps not,” Legolas conceded.

Anyr laughed.  “You surely do not expect to win all of your battles, my lord,” he said with good humor, and Legolas relaxed and watched Tuilinn return to her place with a small bowl of the stew.  Things were going well, he thought. His father should be pleased.


AN:  I’m leaving early Tuesday for a business trip to San Antonio and won’t be back until Sunday, so the next chapter won’t be posted for a while. Sorry.  :-)


<< Back

Next >>

Leave Review
Home     Search     Chapter List