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Spring Awakenings  by daw the minstrel

I borrow characters and settings from Tolkien, but they are his, not mine. I gain only the enriched imaginative life that I assume he intended me to gain.

Many thanks to Nilmandra for beta reading this chapter. 


6.  Making Trades

Legolas could not help but eye the black storm clouds to the west as he and Galivion followed Anyr around the settlement, supposedly listening to him explain how the settlers planned to build more substantial shelters on the flets and move to them permanently.  “Living off the ground really would offer us protection from a number of dangers,” he said, and Legolas could not help but agree.  He found he rather longed to live in a tree himself.  But just now, he was worried about the possibility that rain might cause the still high river to overflow its banks again.

His concern finally drove him to interrupt Anyr, “Are you prepared for the possibility of more flooding?” Galivion grimaced slightly, and Legolas suddenly realized that he had been rude.  “I beg your pardon for interrupting,” he added hastily.

Anyr seemed to have taken no offense, however, and answered placidly.  “Oh yes. We have all our supplies on the flets. The Men’s village might be in trouble, I suppose.”

Legolas was glad that the Men’s village was not his responsibility.  These rather feckless Elven settlers had strained Thranduil’s resources quite enough.  The sound of a raised voice suddenly caught his attention, and Galivion and Anyr turned toward the noise too.

Anyr frowned.  “Pardon me,” he said and started off through the trees in the direction from which the commotion came. With a warrior’s reaction to possible trouble, Legolas put his hand to his sword hilt and followed, with Galivion trailing behind him.  And suddenly he heard another voice, not shouting but certainly speaking in an imperious tone, and he could not help but groan, for he recognized the voice of Tinár.  He, Anyr, and Galivion rounded a mass of bushes to find Tinár gripping the arm of a Man who was holding a small bundle.  Two obviously frightened children clung to his cloak, the smaller one so upset that she was in tears.

Annael stood facing Tinár and was speaking calmly as they approached. “Let us hear what he has to say,” Annael said. When he saw Legolas, he stepped back out of the way.

“What is going on here?” Anyr demanded.

Tinár turned to him.  “This Man was stealing food,” he cried in an outraged tone. “We were bringing the last of the stores, and we caught him climbing down from the flet where it is stored, and you can see for yourself that he has food in that bundle.”  And just as Tinár claimed, when Legolas looked, he could see vegetables protruding from the open top of the bundle.  Galivion’s indrawn breath told Legolas that he had seen them too.  Legolas felt a quite uncharacteristic flare of rage at this Man who had dared to help himself to these precious supplies that Thranduil had scraped together with such pain.

To Legolas’s surprise, Anyr simply laughed.  “Ethau is not stealing,” he said. “I told him he could take some of the food back to the Men’s village.”  Legolas felt his mouth drop open and saw similar shock on Galivion’s face.

Suddenly Tuilinn appeared.  As had been true earlier, her hair was coming loose and drifting in curls around her face.  “Astiaa!” she cried.  “We have been waiting for you.”  She detached the teary-eyed little girl from her father’s cloak and scooped her into her arms. “You too, Talet.  Come and play a game with us.”

“That bad Elf is hurting Papa!” cried Astiaa, flinging her arms around the maiden’s neck.

Tuilinn glanced at Tinár and then threw a reproachful glance at Legolas.  He actually felt himself flinch under her accusatory glare and, for a moment, resented it.  But then he looked at the weeping little girl and the boy, who was scarcely older but was glaring threateningly at Tinár, even though his lower lip too was trembling.

“Let the Man go, Tinár,” he ordered.  Tinár opened his mouth as if to protest, and Legolas hardened his face in a deliberate imitation of Thranduil at his most intimidating.  Tinár stared at him and then pressed his lips together and let the Man go.  Next to Legolas, Galivion shifted uncomfortably.

Tuilinn reached for the little boy’s hand and drew him to her. “See?” she comforted both of the little ones. “Your papa is safe.  We should go and play so the grown ups can talk. I think they want to do that now.”  She turned to lead them away, but as she went, she looked back over her shoulder and gave Legolas a radiant smile.  To his utter surprise, the bottom dropped out of his stomach.  He looked after her in bewilderment for a moment.   He had scarcely spoken ten words to this maiden with untidy hair.  What was wrong with him?

“My lord,” said Galivion, touching him lightly on the arm to catch his attention.  Legolas looked at him with unseeing eyes.  “You will undoubtedly want to discuss this matter and come to some understanding with Anyr as to the need to give the supplies only to the king’s people.”

With an effort, Legolas pulled himself back into the present situation.  “Indeed,” he said, turning to face Anyr. 

“The matter is really quite simple,” Anyr protested.  “There is no need for a fuss, but if you insist on talking, then we should include the Men’s leader too.”  He looked at the Man, who still stood there holding the bundle of food, with Tinár hovering a foot from his elbow.  “You may go, Ethau, but please ask Crydus if he is free to come and meet with the king’s representatives.”

“Wait!” Legolas cried.  He felt as if the situation were slipping away from his already precarious control.  “We need to speak among ourselves first.”

“Nonsense,” Anyr said briskly. “Crydus will be useful. Go on, Ethau.”

Ethau threw Tinár a scathing look and walked away, not only going to send the Men’s leader back despite Legolas’s objections, but also still clutching the bundle of food.  Legolas could feel Galivion’s tension and found that for once he sympathized with Tinár, who obviously wanted to snatch the bundle from the Man’s hands as he passed.  But short of allowing Tinár to seize Ethau, there seemed to be no way to prevent Anyr’s bidding from being carried out.  And in any case, it was not part of Legolas’s mission to annoy Anyr by contradicting his orders.  They needed to talk to Anyr in private as much as they could and as soon as they could.  “We will talk on your flet,” he said to Anyr.

“Just a moment,” Anyr said and turned to Tinár and Annael.  “Please watch for the arrival of the Men’s leader and tell him where we are,” he said. Tinár gave a tight-mouthed nod, and Annael threw Legolas a sympathetic glance and then led him off in the direction Ethau had gone.  Anyr, Legolas, and Galivion made the short walk to Anyr’s flet, and the three of them again settled on his floor just as they had that morning.

Legolas knew that there were things that desperately needed to be said before the Men’s leader arrived, but he found himself groping for words.  His father’s advisors had prepared him well to explain the amount of food that he had brought, but they had never anticipated that he would have to convince the settlers to keep the food once he delivered it.  “Anyr,” he finally began, “we have told you how scarce the king’s food supplies are and how he asked the Elves near his stronghold to reduce the amount they ate so that he might help your people. If you give this food away, he will not be able to send you more, and Elves near his stronghold will have done with less food so that Men might have something to eat.”

Anyr shrugged.  “We have helped the Men before, and of course we will help them now. How could we do otherwise?  Their children are hungry.”

Legolas grimaced, realizing that he had seen the Mannish children being fed only an hour or two ago.  In his mind’s eye, he saw again the charming scene of Tuilinn feeding and mothering the children.  And even as he pictured it, he felt the slightly dizzy sensation he had felt when she smiled at him.  He shook himself a little reproachfully.  Perhaps he had been so struck by the maiden that he had simply not thought about the fact that food Thranduil had sacrificed to provide was being given to the children of Men. The children had been only hungry children being tended by a pretty maiden.

Then he glanced at Galivion and read the dismay in the advisor’s face. He too had been present when the children were being fed and had failed to recognize what was happening right in front of him, so the maiden’s presence was not the only explanation. Galivion had been married for as long as Legolas had known him.

And of course, Legolas suddenly realized, the Mannish children had to be fed even if that had not been Thranduil’s intention.  Legolas certainly was not willing to allow them to go hungry.  Perhaps the food could be shared only with the children, who were, after all, fed in the Elven settlement. That would at least keep the supplies in the Elves’ hands, and there were not so many children that it would cause undue hardship. 

“I can understand that you might wish to feed the children, especially when they are here,” he said cautiously.  “But surely the adults should fend for themselves.  Elves are going hungry to provide this food for you, and we did not bring enough that you can afford to give it away.”

“Men are surprisingly needy creatures,” Anyr told him earnestly.  “Even the adults suffer from reduced amounts of food far more than Elves do.”  Legolas was dismayed by this argument, for he knew it to be only too true.

“Anyr!” called a voice from the ground, and Legolas looked over the edge of the flet to see a broad-shouldered Man standing below them, with Tinár and Annael just behind him.  Legolas felt a flood of panic at how swiftly the Man had arrived.  Now he would have to reassert the Elves’ sole ownership of the food with the Men’s leader present.  He was not sure he could do it, especially since Anyr had reminded him of the Men’s vulnerability.

“We will come down,” Anyr told the Man.  He looked at Legolas and Galivion.  “He would not be able to climb up here,” he explained and disappeared over the edge.

As Legolas moved to follow him, Galivion touched his arm.  “The king will not be pleased if Anyr and his people give his gift away to Men as if it had no value,” he warned in a low voice. Legolas nodded unhappily.  He knew that already.  Thranduil was not hostile to the Men who lived near the lake, but he had sent the food at least partly to bind these settlement Elves closer to his rule.  If they gave it away, they would certainly be hungry again themselves and might resent Thranduil’s failure to send them more, no matter how much Anyr protested that he understood the situation now.

And Legolas was not surprised at Galivion’s point of view either. The advisor had managed the central food supplies for Thranduil in this lean winter. He knew exactly how much had been sacrificed to feed the settlement Elves.  But Legolas still did not see how the Men could be left to starve.

For a forlorn moment, he thought about the trust his father had placed in him and the satisfaction he had taken in thinking that the mission was going well and Thranduil would be pleased.  Then he dismissed the thought of his own desire for approval.  I am in charge of this mission, he reminded himself.  I will just have to act in the way I think best and deal with the consequences when I get home. He and Galivion followed Anyr to the ground.

“This is Crydus,” Anyr told them.  “Crydus, this is Legolas, who is the son of our king, and this is Galivion, one of the king’s advisors.”

Legolas put his hand over his heart and then stretched it out to grasp the hand the Man extended.  He had seen Men before in Thranduil’s hall and recognized the form of greeting, which the Man now repeated with Galivion, who was looking decidedly uncomfortable.  He looked over the Man’s shoulder at Tinár’s angry face and decided that he did not want to talk in front of him. 

“Go and watch the river for signs it is rising,” Legolas ordered. “If it is raining upstream, we are likely to have trouble again.” With obvious reluctance to miss what was happening, Tinár obeyed.  Annael moved in a little closer and began scanning the area around them.  His observation was low key, but Legolas knew he would make sure they had privacy for this talk, and as had so often happened in their long friendship, he was grateful to Annael for his quiet support.

Legolas turned back to Crydus, rapidly trying to order his thoughts.  “Anyr tells me that he has arranged to share the food we brought for his people with you,” he said, as neutrally as he could.

“Yes,” Crydus said, with a broad smile, “and I cannot tell you how grateful we are.  When the river broke through the barrier we had built, we had time to save very few things before we had to flee.  We lost much of what little food we had.”

And suddenly, Legolas knew that he could not tell this Man that the Elves refused to help him.  There must be some way to make this at least palatable to Adar, he thought desperately.  He wondered what the Men made of the situation and decided he would try to find out.  Drawing a deep breath, he gave Crydus a rueful look. “I only wish we had been able to bring enough to satisfy the combined needs of both villages.  As it is, you will be able to feed your children well enough, but if the adults are to have enough to eat, Elves will have to go hungry, and that was not the king’s intent when he sent this food from his own sparsely filled larders.”

Crydus blinked and turned to Anyr.  “You did not tell us that, Anyr,” he said, much to Legolas’s surprise.

Anyr waved his hand airily.  “Arda will provide,” he said.

Crydus frowned.  “I am sure it will, but it would perhaps be best if we could find some way to help Arda along.”

Legolas could have wept with gratitude for the Man’s sensible attitude.  After dealing with Anyr all day, he had not expected it.  “Do you hunt?” he asked, groping for some solution.  “Game is beginning to return and perhaps you could increase the number of your hunting parties. That is what the Elves near the king’s stronghold are doing.”

“We do hunt,” Crydus acknowledged, “but we have been too busy rebuilding our houses in the last few days to do much of it.  Our families do not do so well as Elves when exposed to the early spring weather.”

“Perhaps you could make do with temporary shelters for now and hunt until the spring advances far enough to make more food available in the forest,” Legolas suggested.

Crydus pursed his lips and nodded.  “That would be wise,” he said.  “I did not realize that Anyr’s people’s supplies were so low.  I believed they had plenty, or I might have thought about hunting more before now.”

“My lord, may I speak to you?” Galivion suddenly interrupted.  Legolas had been aware of him in his peripheral vision, shifting from foot to foot and looking more and more dismayed.  He resigned himself now to being given advice that he did not want to take.

“Of course,” he said and followed Galivion to an area that was screened from view by undergrowth.

“My lord,” Galivion said, with anguish in every word, “surely you are not going to consent to Anyr’s giving away the food.”

“I cannot see that we have any choice,” Legolas argued.  He liked Galivion and would value his support and advice if the advisor could see his way clear to give it.  “Anyr will share the food, no matter what we do, so it seems to me that we must find a way to salvage as much of the situation as possible.”

Galivion bit his lip and hesitated. “Please do not think I am impugning your judgment, my lord, for you have done very well on this mission, but allow me to ask you if your argument might be affected by wanting that pretty maiden to smile at you again.  You must remember that you are not supposed to be acting on your own wishes here but are the king’s representative and should instead do as he would wish.”

Legolas stiffened. Galivion might not intend to question his judgment, but it seemed to Legolas that that was exactly what he was doing.  The fact that Legolas had also wondered about the maiden’s influence was irrelevant.  “I understand your reluctance to lose scarce resources, Galivion, but I will say again that I do not think we have any choice here.  And the maiden has nothing to do with it.”

Galivion flushed slightly and was silent for a long moment. Then he drew a deep breath. “Very well,” he said, with obvious effort.  “Then if I may give you a piece of advice, the king will not be happy about this no matter what we do, but he will be less unhappy if you are able to negotiate some sort of benefit to him or at least to the settlers from this. And you must be careful not to make any promises on Thranduil’s behalf.  I have seen him become very angry when he thought Eilian had done that. Remember that you are undoubtedly being seen as the king’s son even when you do not intend to act in that capacity.”

Legolas nodded, feeling a flood of both relief and gratitude at the assistance Galivion was now offering. “Thank you,” he said as warmly as he could.  “And if you notice something I am missing in the discussion, please join in.  I need all the help I can get.”

“You will do fine,” Galivion said.  “They will be able to tell you are sympathetic.”  He gave Legolas a wry smile.  “And in all truth, I do not know how Thranduil will react to the news that we are feeding the Mannish adults, but he would never have allowed the children to go hungry.”  Legolas smiled gratefully back, and the two of them made their way to where Anyr and Crydus were waiting.

Legolas thought for a moment about the advice that Galivion had just given him and then spoke to Crydus.  “Anyr’s people are good neighbors to you,” he observed tentatively.

“They are,” Crydus agreed without hesitation.

“The king would be pleased to know that you are also good neighbors to them,” Legolas said.  Galivion nudged him slightly, undoubtedly reminding Legolas that he was not to speak for Thranduil.  Legolas grimaced.  This diplomacy business was harder than it appeared.

Crydus suddenly looked cautious.  “What are you suggesting?”

“As I recall, Anyr told us that you have fields near your homes,” Legolas ventured, and Crydus nodded.  “You grow grain perhaps?”

“Yes,” Crydus said.  “Anyr knows that because we have sometimes traded it to him for the rights to some of the dead fall in the forest. He will not let us cut living trees, of course.”  He smiled fondly at Anyr, who looked placidly back at him.

Legolas cringed and saw Galivion doing the same thing.  “I cannot speak about that kind of trade,” Legolas said hastily, “because it is in the king’s control. I am sure Anyr has conferred with him about timber rights and trade tariffs.” He was actually sure that Anyr had done no such thing, but it did not hurt to be tactful. He glanced at Anyr, who looked both vexed and a little embarrassed.  Legolas supposed that unauthorized trading, especially of anything from the forest, would be at an end once his father heard about it.  At that point, embarrassment would be the least of Anyr’s problems.

“However,” Legolas went on carefully, “a little informal trading of present food from the Elves for future food from you might be a neighborly way to solve the current problem.  And if the Elves help you to build temporary shelters, you can send out more hunters and supplement the inadequate supplies you have.”

Crydus pursed his lips.  “I would have to consult with others,” he said. “The fields do not belong to me, and the farmers would have to consent. But I think there is a good possibility I can work things out.”

“Why do you not try to do that?” Legolas said.  “And in the meantime, I think the food we brought should stay in the settlement, at least as long as Galivion and I are here.”  Legolas knew that there was no hope of keeping the food in the Elves’ hands once he and his party left. They would have to stay as long as they could in the hopes of working out some sort of reasonable arrangement. There went the last few days of his leave, he thought regretfully.

“We will feed the children when they are here,” Legolas went on, “and if your adults are in great need, you need only to ask us for help.  Ethau took food you can have tonight. And once you have some sort of agreement on what will happen when your fields are flourishing again, other plans can be made, I am sure.”

Crydus gave him a long, level look.  “You are Thranduil’s son,” he said dryly.  “No one could doubt it.”  Legolas blinked.  The comment seemed slightly insulting to his mother but was evidently intended as a compliment.  He did not always understand Men very well.

“I will do as you suggest immediately,” Crydus said. “I should be ready to speak to you about this tomorrow.”

“We will be happy to help you build shelters,” Anyr put in.  “Will your party also be willing to assist the Men tomorrow?” he asked, turning to Legolas.  Legolas nodded, although he could not help but think that Anyr was exacting a bit of revenge in asking for his party to help.  He would have to speak severely to Tinár, he thought, if he expected him to work with Men building shelters.  He grimaced a little at the prospect. He and Tinár could very well wind up in the same patrol as fellow warriors again, and this stint as Tinár’s superior would make for complications.

“We will look forward to seeing you in our village tomorrow,” Crydus said.  “And now I will bid you good evening.”  He bowed slightly to Legolas and took his leave.

Legolas turned to Anyr.  “I trust the arrangements are acceptable?”

Anyr shrugged.  “I suppose, although really I think you are making a great fuss over nothing.  You must excuse me, though. I need to see to our own arrangements for the communal evening meal.”  And he, too, took his leave of them.

Legolas glanced over his shoulder. “Did you hear all that, Annael?”  His friend nodded.  “I think I will delegate to you the task of telling Tinár what we will be doing tomorrow,” Legolas said.

Annael laughed.  “It will be my pleasure,” he asserted.  “Do you need me any more today?”

Legolas shook his head. “I think not.  I will see you at evening meal.”  Annael saluted and went off to find Tinár, looking as if he did indeed look forward to informing his fellow warrior that he was to spend the next day building Mannish shelters.

Legolas turned to Galivion. “What do you think?” he asked.  He fervently hoped that Thranduil would be reasonably pleased with what he had done.  He valued his father’s good opinion of him, and he flinched at the idea of disappointing him.

Galivion shrugged.  “I am still not sure how the king will like it.  He will certainly be irate over the unauthorized trading that has been going on, but you did not add to that and have made it clear to Anyr that it cannot continue.  I myself think the arrangement you have suggested is a sensible one.”  He smiled at Legolas.  “And the maiden will like it too.”

Legolas laughed.  “Thank you for your advice, Galivion.  Diplomacy is amazingly stressful. I do not know how anyone can do it all the time as you do.  I believe it will be a relief to go back to battling Orcs again.”

Galivion patted his shoulder.  “I advise you to spend a little time with the maiden first.  You may find there are compensations for diplomatic missions after all.”  And smiling to himself, he left Legolas alone to follow his counsel or not, just as he chose.


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