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Spring Awakenings  by daw the minstrel

I borrow characters and setting from Tolkien. I gain no profit from their use other than the enriched imaginative life I believe he intended me to gain.

Many thanks to Nilmandra for beta reading this chapter.


13.  Family Matters

Legolas pulled the book down from the library shelf and checked to be sure it was the one he wanted.  It was a book of tales of the First Age that he had heard the first time when he was very small and Eilian had read them to him.  He must have been learning to read himself at the time, because he remembered his brother coaxing him to read some of the passages out loud too.  As that memory came back to him, he was surprised by a sudden sense of loss.

What is wrong with me? he wondered, but even as he asked himself the question, he knew the answer:  He had always assumed without doubt that he was the person whom Eilian held most dear, and now he knew he no longer was. This will never do, he thought in dismay.  He gave himself a resolute shake and then went out the door and started down the hallway.  He turned the corner that would take him to the door leaving the family’s quarters and found Celuwen, coming out of Eilian’s chamber and settling her cloak around her shoulders.

“Are you going out?” he asked.

Startled, she spun to face him and then smiled when she saw who it was. “Yes, I am. I have an errand to which I must attend.”

“I was planning to settle into a tree and read, but if you will let me, I will walk with you.”  He was glad of this chance to talk to Celuwen, not so much because he had anything in particular to say as because she was now important to someone who had always been important to him.  It mattered to him a great deal that she should make Eilian happy, and for Eilian’s sake, he wanted to be on good terms with her.  He was not certain he had made a good impression on her the two times they had previously met: Once he had been an injured youth who was far more concerned about his dignity than her feelings, and the other time he had been an elfling who was jealous of the maiden who had drawn Eilian’s attention away from him. And maybe that is what I still am, he thought ruefully.

“I would welcome your company,” she said.  As they left the palace, she directed their steps toward a path that led along the river, and he remembered that she had lived near the palace for most of her childhood. He glanced at her and then offered her his arm, and she smiled and took it, leaning on it lightly.  For some reason, she looked frail to him, although he could not quite put his finger on what might be wrong with her.  Perhaps she had been injured in some way.

“I am sorry I told your brothers something you did not want them to know, Legolas,” she said contritely. “I should have known better, but I have no brothers of my own and did not even think about the delight they would take in teasing you.”

He smiled wryly. “They would have found something else to tease me about,” he assured her.  “If you do not know it already, I am afraid you will soon learn that your husband in particular can be merciless.  Ithilden holds back sometimes, at least with me.  I think he worries that he should not be teasing one of the warriors he commands.”

She frowned. “Things are more complicated in your family than in most.”

“They are,” he agreed, noting without comment that she had said ‘your family’ rather than ‘our.’  They walked along in silence for a moment, while he marveled at the way spring had crept further into the trees here during the short time he had been away.

“Do you think that your adar is very angry with Eilian and me?” Celuwen asked, breaking his reverie.

He hesitated.  “I do not think he is angry with you at all,” he said cautiously. “Perhaps you should ask Eilian if Adar is angry with him.”

“I did. He evaded the question, but I can see that he is unhappy, and I think it is because he is at odds with your adar.”

Legolas sighed.  “They will make up their quarrel. They always do.”

She was silent for a moment. “I think your adar is too hard on Eilian sometimes,” she said soberly. “I know Eilian can be provoking, but he has sacrificed a great deal in the service of the realm, and it hurts him when your adar does not seem to value him.”

“Adar values him,” Legolas protested. “He loves him.  He just thinks that Eilian sometimes acts without thinking of the consequences.”

Celuwen grimaced a little. “I suppose he does act impulsively sometimes, but he is also warm, and brave, and generous, and I do not always think your adar values that enough.”

Legolas found that he could not argue with her.  In truth, he rather agreed with her.

They walked along quietly.  Then she steered them off the path they were on and down a smaller one.  At the end of this path lay the home of a goldsmith, and he was pleased when he suddenly realized what her errand must be.  “Are you going to buy a ring for Eilian?” he asked, picturing his brother’s ringless hand as he had seen it at mid-day meal.

She nodded, smiling to herself.  “Eilian does not know,” she said. She grinned at Legolas. “He goes among Men sometimes, and I think he needs to be wearing such a ring when the pretty girls come around. Do you not agree?”

Legolas laughed and then thought of the simple way she had been living.  “You do not have to do this, you know,” he said. “Adar would certainly allow you to take a suitable ring from his storeroom.”

“No,” she said firmly. “I want this to be from me, and I can afford it.”  He blushed a little at the way she had apparently read his mind.

They paused outside the cottage.  “You do not have to come in with me,” she said and then stretched to kiss his cheek.  “Go and enjoy the bit of your leave that is left. But I am happy to have talked to you a little, Legolas. I know how dear you are to Eilian, and I want us to be friends and more than friends if we can.”  She hesitated and then gave him a tentative smile.  “I hope you can be happier to have me in Eilian’s life now than you were the first time we met.  As I recall, you threw a tantrum and kicked Eilian’s shins.”

Legolas laughed. “No tantrums this time,” he promised.  “I am too glad to see Eilian so happy. And if I kicked him now, he would knock me flat on my back in the dirt.”

She laughed in response.  Then she knocked on the cottage door, explained her business to the goldsmith, and disappeared inside. Legolas stared after her for a moment, and then slowly smiled and went on his way to find a friendly tree.


“So far as I know, that is everything,” Galivion said, tapping the list detailing the trades that Crydus had admitted making with the Elves in the settlement.  “The timber would seem to be most problematic, although he and Anyr both swore that the Men never cut living trees.”

“I hope for both their sakes they are telling the truth,” Thranduil said grimly.  “But no matter where the wood comes from, they need to be paying tariffs and abiding by trade agreements we have made.”

“Of course,” Galivion agreed.  “Do you plan to try to collect what would have been owed on these already accomplished trades?”

Thranduil considered the question. He and Galivion were in the small council chamber behind the Great Hall.  “I suppose that would be difficult to do,” he finally said.  “Neither group appears to have much to spare.  I wonder if we can use my forgiveness to get them to promise to behave better in the future.”

“I think we might be able to do that,” Galivion said.  “They were in reasonably cooperative moods when we left them.  Anyr and Crydus both liked Legolas,” he added, with a smile.  “Your son did very well for a novice diplomat, my lord.”

Thranduil tried to keep the satisfied smile off his face but knew he failed to do so.  “I gathered as much from the report he gave me in the Great Hall,” he said placidly and then returned his attention to the matter at hand. “You can wait until the day after tomorrow to return to the settlement to deal with them,” he said.  “I would like my advisers to be present for the feast tomorrow night. I expect that some of the Elves from my new daughter’s settlement will be there.”  He could feel the black mood that had come home with Eilian sweeping over him again.  “I may need your counsel on dealing with them.”

Galivion nodded without comment.  It had not escaped Thranduil’s notice that everyone around him firmly intended to stay out of the quarrel between him and his second son. 

“There is one other matter, my lord,” Galivion said, his tone growing sharp.  Thranduil raised an eyebrow inquiringly.  “One of the guards who accompanied us behaved most inappropriately,” Galivion said indignantly.  “He was rude to the Men, but far worse, he did not seem to comprehend that your son was in charge of this mission and should have been treated as your representative.  He was disrespectful to Lord Legolas.”

Thranduil sat back with his eyes narrowed.  He knew that his sons sometimes had a difficult course to navigate, and that matters had been particularly slippery for Ithilden and to a lesser extent Eilian before they had become officers with authority that came from their own roles rather than their positions as his sons.  Ithilden’s status as his heir had made people sometimes obsequious and sometimes determined to show they were unimpressed.  His oldest son had had a hard time even having simple friendships.

Eilian’s more gregarious temperament and lowered likelihood of ever ruling had made his course a slightly easier one.  His second son made friends easily, Thranduil had to admit, angry as he still was with Eilian.  Of course, his impatience also meant that he sometimes inadvertently insulted people, and when he was younger, he had driven those in authority over him mad.

Legolas’s route had seemed to lie between those of his two older brothers.  He had close friends and got along easily with most of those with whom he came in contact, although he tended to be reserved with those he did not know well.  And, Thranduil decided, his concern here lay with his son, not with the disrespectful warrior.

“How did Legolas manage?” he asked Galivion.

“He behaved with far more patience and dignity than I would have been able to do,” Galivion answered promptly.

Thranduil nodded, gratified again by Galivion’s praise of his youngest.  “Tell Ithilden what happened,” he said, dismissing his adviser. “He will take care of the matter.”  The king had complete faith that Ithilden would make the warrior in question rue the day he had been conceived.  Galivion apparently shared his faith, for he wore a satisfied smile as he bowed and took his leave.

“My lord,” said one of his attendants, “Beliond is here to see you.”

Thranduil groaned to himself as Beliond pushed his way past the attendant and entered the room before the king had had a chance to grant -- or deny -- him entry. He strongly suspected that Beliond intended to make him be the one to rue a day, this day probably.  He could see the attendant smothering a smile as he left the room, closing the door behind him.

Thranduil did not invite Beliond to sit, but the warrior was evidently too agitated to mind, for he stood with his chin thrust out aggressively, waiting for permission to speak.  “Did you have something you wished to say to me, Beliond?”  Thranduil asked wearily.  He might as well get this over with.

“I have something I wish to ask,” Beliond replied. “When did you dismiss me from my post as Legolas’s bodyguard?”

Thranduil scowled.  Really, Beliond was sometimes too much.  “You know very well I have not dismissed you from that post,” he said frigidly.

“Then why did you send him on a mission without me?” Beliond demanded.  “I can only do my job if you will allow it, my lord.  Legolas was managing the thieves quite well on his own. There were only two after all, and he is a Wood-elf warrior, but I shudder to think what could have happened if there had been more of them.”

Thranduil had suddenly come alert and sat bolt upright in his chair. “What thieves?” he demanded, torn between concern that Legolas had evidently been in danger and irritation that his son had not told him about any thieves.

Beliond blinked. “The thieves who were trying to steal the food from the settlement,” he said. “The Men who were going to sell it in Esgaroth.”

“Tell me about these thieves,” Thranduil demanded.

“They were Men,” Beliond shrugged.  “Legolas sent them to be dealt with in Esgaroth.  He pushed them around a bit first,” he added with a satisfied smile. “There is more of you in him than I had thought.”

Thranduil became aware that he was staring at Beliond with his mouth slightly open. He snapped it fiercely shut.  “I take it I do not need to be concerned about these thieves returning to the settlement?”

“I doubt it,” Beliond agreed.  “I am still concerned that you sent Legolas on this mission without me, however, my lord, and I want your promise that you will not do something like this again.  Against all odds, I have become attached to the impudent cub and would not want anything to happen to him.”  He lifted his chin at Thranduil as he waited for the promise he had demanded.

Thranduil drew a deep breath and readied himself to put his son’s bodyguard in his place, but as he looked at the belligerent face before him, he suddenly saw the anxious lines around the eyes.  Beliond was frightened, he realized.  He was telling the truth when he said he was attached to his charge, and he was afraid that something would happen to Legolas if he let him out of his sight. It was a fear that Thranduil understood, for his own version of the same fear was what had led him to appoint a bodyguard for his son in the first place.  Touched by Beliond’s concern, Thranduil hesitated, and then, to his own surprise, said, “I promise you I will not do so again.”

Beliond visibly relaxed. “Thank you, my lord,” he said.  “Have you further need of me?”

Thranduil leaned back helplessly and shook his head.  Beliond was completely incorrigible. And also completely loyal to Legolas, he thought with a small smile.

Beliond paused at the door and turned back for a moment.  “From what I have heard since we got home, I gather that you are displeased with Eilian, and I would certainly make his life unpleasant for a while if he were mine, but I rather like what I have heard of his wife.”  Then he was gone, leaving Thranduil gaping and exasperated.

And then suddenly, he laughed, relaxing for what seemed like the first time all day, aside from when Eilian and Ithilden had been teasing Legolas at mid-day meal.  Thranduil had enjoyed having his sons all home at once, safe and sound and joking with one another as he had so often heard them do.  He picked up the list of illicit trades that Galivion had given him and tapped it lightly on the table as his thoughts wandered from Legolas to Eilian.  He sighed. What was he going to do about Eilian?

At that day’s morning meal, when Thranduil had first realized the full extent of Eilian’s unconsidered actions, he had been so angry he had scarcely been able wait until he had Eilian alone before letting his son feel the weight of his displeasure. The hastiness of the bonding alone had infuriated him. It spoke of disrespect for him and even for his other sons and Alfirin. Thranduil had no objections to Celuwen. Indeed, he thought she would be good for Eilian and had spoken truly when he said he thought that Eilian could not have chosen better. But bonding was irrevocable, and it affected not just the two people who were being married, but everyone in both houses.  It should be done with all solemnity and with both families present to support and rejoice with the newly married pair.

And then it had become apparent that Eilian and Celuwen had not only married without ceremony, but actually without her parents’ permission, and because of Sólith’s influence with his settlement’s leader, that could have serious consequences. Thranduil doubted very much if the impromptu bonding had been Celuwen’s idea, and he had been incensed beyond measure with Eilian.  If Ithilden had not interrupted their confrontation that morning, Thranduil knew he would have said and possibly done things he would have regretted later.  For a moment, he wondered if Ithilden had interrupted them on purpose.  Ithilden had an unruly son of his own and knew how quickly scalding words could bubble forth.

And when he thought about it, of course, he knew that it was not only Ithilden’s entrance that had stopped him.  His own words about Lorellin had shocked him into silence before Ithilden had even knocked on his door.  Alone now in his council chamber, he cautiously examined what he had heard himself say: “Explain to me how your mind works, Eilian, because you frustrate and confuse me!  You are so like your naneth at times that it frightens me!”

And for a moment, he saw again the dark-haired, slender form of his wife, her hand raised in gay farewell as she set off on the visit to her family from which she had not returned alive.  He saw her running barefoot along a tree branch and then leaping daringly to one just within reach, laughing at the gasp of dismay he had not been able to suppress.  He saw her dancing with an elfling in the snow, as she had been doing the first time he laid eyes on her and lost his heart in the instant.  He had loved the way she embraced life without holding back and had been made a happier person when he followed after her.  And then her foolish bravery had killed her.  Even now, years after she had died, his heart contracted with a pain so overwhelming that the hand holding the list of trade offenses trembled slightly.  He sucked air into a chest that felt paralyzed by sorrow.

And what had this to do with Eilian? he asked himself and knew the answer at once. Eilian was his mother’s true child.  He was generous, impatient, brave, and eager for any adventure life might choose to bring him.  And Thranduil was frightened beyond bearing that one day he would make the kind of unconsidered choice his mother had made.  Why could he not see the need for more caution in almost everything he did? Thranduil thought, anger flaring again at his own helplessness. Surely there must be something he could do, some penalty he could exact that would encourage his son to check his tendency to rashness, to be more patient and careful.  And Eilian must be brought to recognize and acknowledge the problems he had created for his family and his king.

Thranduil rubbed his temple wearily. He would wait until the morrow to decide the consequences of Eilian’s actions.  He would not act in haste.  He rose, gathering papers that he would give the attendant on his way out.  He had time to ride now and the exercise would help him to regain his balance before he joined his family for wine and a few moment of ease before their evening meal.


Eilian rose to his feet when his father came into the family’s sitting room, eyeing Thranduil anxiously to see what kind of mood he was in.  All day, he had been waiting to be summoned to his father’s presence so that Thranduil could finish saying exactly what he though of Eilian’s actions, but the peremptory invitation had not come.  His father was apparently biding his time. Eilian was not sure what he thought about that.  He had never been good at waiting. Thranduil poured himself a cup of wine and waved them all to their seats.  Celuwen slipped her hand into Eilian’s and leaned against him as they sat back down on the padded bench a little distance from the fire.  Grateful for her silent support, Eilian dropped a small kiss on the top of her head, and she looked up at him and smiled, lightening his heart considerably.

“Beliond came to see me today, Legolas,” Thranduil said.

Legolas grinned.  “He told me he would.  Did he threaten you with dire consequences if you ever again let me go out of the palace without him?”  Eilian laughed at the image and rather suspected from the look on Thranduil’s face that Beliond might have done just that.

“More or less,” said Thranduil dryly.  “He also told me something you had not, which was that two Men had attempted to steal some of the food we had sent to the settlement.”

Legolas immediately looked guilty. “I am sorry, Adar. I would have told you, but after everything else that had happened, the thieves seemed almost incidental.  They were not really connected to the settlement or the Men’s village either.”

“Mannish thieves got into the settlement and stole food?” Ithilden asked incredulously.

Legolas grinned at him. “Anyr did not set any guards on it.”  Ithilden’s jaw dropped at this news.

“No, that would not occur to Anyr,” Celuwen put in with a tolerant smile.  “He believes that everyone else is as good as he is.”

“He believes in a dream world!” said Legolas emphatically. “What Anyr needs is for someone with some sense to tell him how to organize his settlement. I actually suggested that the Men guard the food in return to having access to a flet in which to store the game they brought down.”

“And I will wager Anyr accepted the idea,” Celuwen said. “He is not always prudent, but he is happy to cooperate with other people, and he gets along well with Men.  He is open to help from others and open to helping them too, and that is important in the settlements because they are so far from help from the palace.  The leader of my settlement always liked Anyr for that reason, but he knew that Anyr was not always wise enough to realize that someone might try to take advantage of him.”

Legolas rolled his eyes.  “Anyr is not always wise enough to realize that the wet spot on his head has been caused by the rain falling on it.”  They all laughed, including Celuwen.

Eilian suddenly noticed that his father had brought his keen gaze to rest on Celluwen.  Thranduil’s face was thoughtful as he eyed his new daughter-in-law.  What is he planning now? Eilian worried.  Then his father’s gaze rested briefly on him too, making Eilian hold his breath. He could not read his father’s face at all tonight.  Thranduil turned to Legolas, and he began questioning him about the Men who would be guarding the food.

Eilian stroked his wife’s hair, enjoying its scent and wishing rather wistfully that his father could simply be happy for him. He knew he exasperated Thranduil, but surely his father could understand that he could not have walked away from Celuwen no matter what her father wanted.


Ithilden banked the fire and set the screen carefully before the fireplace before he followed Alfirin into their sleeping chamber.  She had already donned a night dress and sat on the bed brushing her hair. He dropped into a chair and wearily pulled off his shoes.  “I must say it has been a long day,” he said.

She smiled at him, revealing the dimple that had been one of the first things about her that had charmed him.  “It is often a long day when Eilian comes home, but he rather outdid himself this time.”

Ithilden laughed.  “I am glad to see you smiling about this,” he said. “I was not sure how you would like their bonding without any ceremony.”

“I do not like it,” she said promptly. “They need the blessing of their families, which is why we are having the ceremony tomorrow. You can see how hard this change is on Celuwen already, and she still has no real idea of what living in the palace is like.  I love Eilian. You know I do. But he can be thoughtless sometimes.” She brushed at her hair with such energy that it crackled.

Ithilden pulled his tunic over his head and then began to unbraid his own hair.  “Let me do that,” Alfirin said and hopped off the bed to stand behind him and begin working his braids free from their tight weave.  “Is your adar very angry with Eilian?” she asked.

“Yes,” said Ithilden briefly.  He had no intention of telling her about the scene he had walked in on in Thranduil’s office.  Her fingers raked through his thick hair, loosening it gently, and then began to massage his scalp, making him moan softly in appreciation.

“Is this going to make complications for you too?” Alfirin asked.

“It might,” he sighed. “But that is for another day, when Eilian is a warrior under my command, and not a brother whom I love.”  Or not only a brother, he thought.  He knew how hard it was to separate the parts of his life cleanly.  He reached up, caught her wrists, and drew her around to sit on his lap.  “Do you want to know what I thought when I walked in on the two of them this morning?”  He had not had much time alone with Alfirin that day, but he had had enough to describe the scene in Eilian’s bedchamber.  Her eyes had widened, and she had given a shocked little giggle as much at Ithilden’s position as at that of the pair in the bed.

“Yes,” she breathed, as his mouth brushed hers.

“I thought, Ah, my brother! You do not know what happiness the Valar have seen fit to drop in your arms.”  And he put one hand behind her head and kissed her long and deep.

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