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We Were Young Once ~ I  by Conquistadora

EDLEDHRON

Chapter 13 ~ Restore VI



“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”  ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8



Lindon sprang to vibrant life in what was then reckoned the three-hundred-sixtieth year of the Second Age.  The Lord and Lady of Eriador came that summer to call upon the High King.  Gil-galad spared no expense to welcome them, and bright banners flew from every roof and window in the haven, a myriad of colors beneath the clear sky.  The road to the palace was strewn with full blossoms and lined with lords and commons alike anticipating the passing of the noble entourage and their long-sundered brethren.  They would see one another more often now that the roads between Lindon and Eriador were also firmly established.



It had been several eventful centuries since Thranduil had last seen his father’s cousin, to say the least.  Now he, too, stood among the crowds at the roadside, not certain whether to await their brief reunion with anticipation or apprehension.  Likewise, he was at once disappointed and thankful that his father was still absent.  It was not that he expected Oropher to be immediately ill-disposed toward Celeborn, but the fact remained that his dear father simply could not resist an argument when the opportunity arose.



With the usual fanfare and the joyful roar of the crowd behind him, Gil-galad rode out to greet his elder peers and ceremoniously escort them into his city.  As is the case with most great events, there was not much to be seen for a long while until the entourage eventually wound its way near them.  Amid the enthusiastic noise there at last came Gil-galad again, beside him the Lord Celeborn and his golden Lady, beside her a bright young Elfling astride a tall pony of his own, all followed by a banner-bearing throng of Eriadorian Elves.



Thranduil regarded them seriously as they drew nearer, silent amid the wild adulation.  He saw his kinsman now through eyes that no longer belonged to the young and naive boy he had been.  Even so, he knew Celeborn to be little different now from the formidable but not humorless cousin he had known in an age that now seemed very long ago.  



Celeborn had still not shunned the old noble gray of Doriath, he saw.  It seemed his Lady’s influence upon him was not so complete as Oropher had feared it would be.  Nerwen herself had changed little, except that her face was now that of a mother, softer but wiser.  The flowing white of her gown caught and scattered the full sunlight, diffusing it through artfully placed gems in the shape of six pointed stars on her mantle.  At that moment Celeborn’s epithet “Galadriel” seemed well bestowed.  But it was the child riding beside her that Thranduil found most intriguing.  He was the most difficult of them to take in at a glance, a marked combination of his parents.  The mother’s influence was plain to see: the way he sat his horse, his pale hair tending toward a marked touch of gold, the way he carried himself manifesting the echoed pride of a race apart.  But beneath it all he could see the Sindarin spirit chafing beneath the constraints of decorum, a brilliant smile that could at any moment break through the affected bearing of a prince, the flash in his eyes.  Thranduil could well see the child’s barely contained excitement at what was probably his first real journey away from home, welcomed like royalty into the city of the High King. 



He felt the boy’s wandering gaze fall upon him in turn as it had upon everyone else.  Thranduil did not expect to be recognized, but did give the little one a knowing smile as he passed.  Doubtless they would meet soon enough.



The boy’s little face brightened like a firefly as though he had been combing the crowd for him all along.  He tugged back on his pony’s caparisoned reins, calling to his father.  “Ada!  Ada, wait!  I found them!  Ada!”  The whole entourage began to fall out of step as he attempted to stop them.  “See, see!” the little one continued, smiling back at Thranduil and his mother.  “Just like you said!”



“Very well, Amroth; hush,” Celeborn interposed, checking the flood of young and eager triumph, reaching down to goad his son’s pony forward once more.  “I am certain you will be properly introduced later.”  He looked at Thranduil as they passed as if for some reassurance that he was not making empty promises.  Thranduil waved pleasantly, after which Celeborn discreetly pointed toward the palace.  Even after all this time, it seemed they had not lost their ability to read one another.



Thranduil could not have stopped smiling if he tried.  The world no longer seemed like such a bleak place after all.







The customary festivities that would have accompanied the noble family’s arrival were foregone that day in expectation of the annual Midsummer’s Festival to be held later that week.  The majority of the spectators then did not linger long before returning to their homes or to whatever occupation awaited them in the course of the magnificent preparations planned for that year.  The Midsummer holidays were always a great and eagerly anticipated event, but they were to be even more extravagant that year in honor of Lady Nerwen, the king’s kinswoman. 



He really should start naming her Galadriel, Thranduil thought to himself as he bounded up the front stairs of the house and held the door for his mother and sisters.  That, at least, seemed to be how she preferred to be known in those days, which he decided was a good sign.



The crowd of them dispersed among the many rooms of the house, the ladies retreating to go change out of their gowns lest they dirty them in the kitchen, all the while chattering about how perfectly darling young Amroth was. 



“So, that was the infamous Cousin Celeborn,” Anárion observed passively, lifting a drowsy cat from the chair so he could sit down.  “He does not seem so bad.”



“He is not,” Galadhmir explained, taking up his feline friend.  “It is Adar Oropher who exacerbates the trouble.”



But Thranduil was not listening.  He strode purposefully back to his own room, entering to find sunlight pouring in through the open window with a lazy summer breeze.  He scooped yet another cat from his bureau and tossed her onto his bed before thrusting his way into his wardrobe. 



It did not take him long to pick something.  He discarded his parade attire and replaced it with an impressive outfit of Doriath gray and a deep summer green.  The thin silver highlights had been a daring extravagance, reminiscent of the old days.  The green sash under his belt had been a gift from Illuiniel, carefully monogrammed with his initial.  She had smiled and said she remembered seeing Aran Thingol wearing one much like it.  She was right, and needless to say, Thranduil wore it proudly.



“You may keep your opinions to yourself,” he sneered good-naturedly back to the cat who narrowed her yellow eyes at him.  He scooped her up and carried her out with him lest she stay and claw the drapes. 



“Galadh,” he said as he passed through the sitting room, dropping the cat into his brother’s lap; “yours, I believe.”



“Thranduil!” Lóriel protested from the kitchen, seeing him leaving.  “You are going already?  They have not had a chance even to be settled yet!  Can you not wait a few hours more?”



“Why?” he called back.  “Perhaps I can make myself useful.”



He was outside in a moment, taking the stairs two at a time in the bright warmth of the sun overhead, the air alive with the scent of the sea and of flowers in full bloom.  He took the path to the stables at a smooth run over the flagstones he and Galadhmir had placed years before.  He passed through the shaded dark of the stable building where he paused only long enough to take up his stallion’s bridle, emerging again into the sun in the trampled green paddock beyond. 



“Cúron!” he called, giving a shrill whistle.  The tallest amid their modest herd of three brought up his head at once, the light flashing over his mane.  Thranduil held up the glinting bridle and the horse came running with an eager squeal.  He was a bright silver gray with a crescent moon on his brow and three brilliant white feet.  He was not quite one of those thoroughbred Noldorin steeds, but he had been sired by one, no less than Gil-galad’s own charger, Arvegil Aglareb.  A spectacularly extravagant mount, Cúron had been the gift of both his mother and Serataron.



Cúron pranced to a stop beside him, nudging him eagerly with a velvet nose.  Slipping the bridle over the proud face and behind the pricked ears, Thranduil leapt astride, enjoying the familiar surge of raw power beneath him as the great horse gathered his strength.  He could have easily walked the distance himself, but could not yet resist any excuse to indulge in the pure joy of riding.



At his cue, Cúron pranced about in place, pawing at the ground, eager to be gone.  In no great hurry now that he was enjoying himself, Thranduil turned him back in a wide turn about the paddock at a gentle canter before turning him again and building to a thundering gallop.  A running jump took them over the fence and then down the open road into Lindon.








The city was still full of bustling traffic, the new crowds of Eriadorian Elves only adding to the general confusion, glad though everyone was to have them.  It required no small amount of patience for Thranduil to slowly pick his way through the streets on horseback, and he was not the only one making such an attempt.  It was a matter of dodging carts, pedestrians, and the occasional dog, skirting laundry, doorsteps, and strings of brightly colored pennons in the process of being affixed to the faces of the houses and shops.            



The crush thinned a bit nearer the palace grounds and within the bounds of the great courtyard, the host of Eriador forming more disciplined columns winding to and from the stables that lay just behind and below the palace itself.  That seat of Gil-galad’s realm rose majestically over the roofs of the city, gleaming white in the afternoon sun.  It was the guardian of the shore from its foundation upon the low ridge of the mountains overlooking the sea, palace and lighthouse both.  The right side of the road that looped around the grounds toward the royal stables was clogged with many coming and going, laden with crates and packs to be carried inside; but on the left side, usually reserved for those employed among the horses, the passing crowd was considerably lighter.  Thranduil turned Cúron that way at a smooth trot past the fountain and over the familiar cobblestones, presuming upon an old privilege but at least not adding to the congestion at the other side. 



Through one gate and then another, at last Thranduil gained the entryway with the others and then rode on through the dim and vaulted corridors toward his favorite wing.  The whole place smelled strongly of horse, for almost every stall was occupied.  All the available windows were thrown open to admit streaming rays of sun into that shaded interior.  Hay was carried and troughs were filled, saddles were put away and worn mounts groomed, all to the fair echoing roar of Elvish voices. 



“Luinheled!” Thranduil called over the incessant noise, rounding the last bend and looking for a glimpse of his old master.  “Come now; do not tell me you have lost yourself in the confusion.”



“I certainly have not!” the other answered at once, appearing in a stall with a smile bright enough to outshine the lamps.  “Suilad, Thranduil!  Too long has it been since last I saw you here.”



“Duty calls,” Thranduil said simply as he dismounted, “and most often it seems to call elsewhere.  But today I have kinsmen to call on, and would be so grateful if you could find a place to accommodate my horse for a few hours.”



“Well,” Luinheled mused, glancing around, “we have little enough space in this wing, but I could put him in with her again.”



Thranduil nodded.  “That will do.  I will have him out of your way before tonight, my friend.”  He turned then and took his leave, knowing the young stallion would still be perfectly content to again share a stall with Gilaer, his dam.



Up the palace steps he went, two at a time, the royal edifice so familiar he felt almost as though he lived there himself.  The great doors stood open to allow an easier entry to those carrying various impedimenta.  Thranduil stood aside for a moment to let two such burdened servants pass him, both sharing the weight of a large chest with two smaller ones perched atop it.  By some miracle they had managed the stairs, but now almost dropped it across the threshold.



“Hold it there!” Thranduil barked, reflexively catching a falling box.  “Put it down, put it down.”



They were only too glad to do so, and indeed could do little else in spite of themselves.  “Our thanks to you, my lord,” one of them said in the accented Sindarin of Eriador, rather abashed and a bit short of breath as he relieved Thranduil of the box, “and our apologies.”



Thranduil looked them over, intrigued.  Plain-dressed, courteous but plain-spoken, dark-haired and rather slight by comparison, they were not of Beleriand.  They were instead from the lands east of what was now Eriador, akin perhaps to those clans his father had gone to find beyond the Hithaeglir.  They were fascinating.



“Where are you going with all this?” he asked instead.



“To the quarters of the Lord and Lady,” they answered promptly, looking dutifully up at him.



“I thought as much.”  Seeing an impatient jam forming behind them now that they were blocking one of the doors, Thranduil took hold of the chest and with an effort dragged it inside.  “I am going that way as well,” he said amiably, “so I am sure we shall all arrive sooner in the end if you take this, and you take this, and lead the way.”  He assigned each of them one of the smaller boxes and was determined to carry the larger one himself.  After all, he had promised to make himself useful.



“But, my lord!” the other protested.



“It is nothing,” Thranduil insisted.  “You have made a valiant effort already, and I doubt Lord Celeborn would wish you to kill yourselves on the stairway.  Go on, there are others behind.”



They went, uncomplaining but plainly uncomfortable.  Meanwhile, Thranduil gathered his legs beneath him and hefted the big chest from the floor.  It was heavy, he granted them that.



The continuous flow of traffic both up and down the stairways continued more or less unabated, those descending on the left and those ascending on the right.  Up and around the stairs led them until at last they set foot on level ground in the grand and spacious corridor that accommodated the King and whatever noble guests he chose to entertain.  The west wing was greatly sought after by virtue of its clear view of the harbor and the sea.   Thranduil had been privileged enough that his presence there was not uncommon, though he did not deliberately frequent the area.  He glanced upward again to the vaulted azure ceilings, adorned with sharp silver stars.  Gulls in flight were skillfully painted in soft but lifelike clarity where that ceiling met the wall, high above the crests of the doors.  There was a new air of excitement about the place, an air of flustered activity, of a new presence. 



Soon they neared the open doors most frequented by those who busily came and went.  Miscellaneous names and instructions were called by many voices to the accompaniment of the usual bump and shuffle of unpacking.  The two laden servants ahead of him slipped inside, handed their burdens to their fellows and then slipped out again.  Thranduil made his entry when they had gone and offered his best smile as the lord himself turned to face him. “Welcome to Lindon, Cousin Celeborn.”



He saw the other’s eyes light upon seeing him, but he knew Celeborn too well to expect an overtly enthusiastic greeting.  “Prompt as always, Thranduil,” he smiled, easily relieving him of the chest he carried.  “But ceremony never was your passion, was it?”



There was a glad squeal behind him, and young Amroth came bounding over the clutter.  “Cousin Thranduil! You brought it! You brought it!”



“His things,” Celeborn explained.  “He has been waiting for them, and rather impatiently.”  He turned and handed the chest to two other ready Elves with instructions to leave it in the child’s room.  “Amroth, go and help unpack it.”



“No,” Amroth objected, taking firm hold of the sash trailing from Thranduil’s belt, giving it a few tugs for good measure.  “I want to stay.  You said I would like him.”



Celeborn could not argue that.  “I am sure you will,” he said, though Thranduil detected a wry note in his voice.  “But go on; you will see more than enough of him in time.  First I would like to speak with him without you changing the subject at every other word.  Go attend your things.”



Amroth obeyed eventually, petulantly, his young heart gravely disappointed.



Celeborn looked after him, a stern brow arched.  “He is already fond of you,” he said then, melting again into a contented smile as he led the way into the next room, away from most of the ongoing activity.  “But you always were a creature of extremes.  People either love you or cannot abide the sight of you.”



“I am relieved then to see you are among the former,” Thranduil replied cheekily.



Celeborn turned as though he resented the presumption, but then conceded the point.  “Very well.  No, I cannot help myself.  Some things will never change, I suppose.”  From there he passed the open threshold onto the balcony overlooking the sea.  “Other things have changed since last I saw you,” Celeborn continued, turning back to face him.  “You are taller now, of course, and I notice you have fleshed out more.  The years have built some brawn on you, Thranduil; what have you been up to?”



Thranduil felt his smile become rather humorless.  “A great deal of carpentry and masonry,” he said, taking a seat beside the potted greenery as Celeborn did the same across from him.   “Father can be a difficult taskmaster, I am sure you can imagine.  Our little home on the bluff did not build itself.”



“He made you to learn the hard ways, did he?” Celeborn observed.  “Left to his own devices, Oropher would sooner starve than beg favors from anyone.”  He fell into thoughtful silence for a moment, his face unreadable.  “For that, at least, I can still admire him.” 



A great wolfish hound came stalking out to find them, considered the stranger with a critical eye before it lay dutifully at its master’s feet, its coat tipped with a silver gleam in the sun.



Thranduil had not openly shared his father’s animosity toward their cousin’s unorthodox marriage, but out of filial loyalty he had not spoken against him.  Distant kin or not, he still found Galadriel slightly unnerving.  But if Celeborn loved her enough to so intimately share whatever her fate may be, that was Celeborn’s affair. 



“I shall tell you plainly, Thranduil,” the other went on; “I heard rumor of your father when he passed through Eriador, and in many ways I knew I would be grateful to find him absent here.  I know what his reception of me would have been.  I know where his complaint truly lies, but for that he has all but disowned me.”



“You know he regrets it as much as you do,” Thranduil said. 



“I know he does,” Celeborn agreed, his sedate voice betraying a touch of disappointed disgust.  “But he will not recant it.  He will stand by what he said.”



Of course he would.  Oropher was not a man of apologies, nor was he ever eager to forgive or forget anything.  While perilous Cousin Nerwen remained a factor, as now she would ever be, no full reconciliation would be possible.  And that was maddening.



“But of you I had greater expectations,” Celeborn confessed.  “I did hope to speak with you alone at least once without the shadow of Oropher looming over you, influencing your every word.  You always did have a mind of your own, and I took some small hope in recalling that you never openly stood against me of your own will.”



“No,” Thranduil agreed.  “Nor will I.  But I must go where my father leads.”



Celeborn said nothing, though the intensity of his gaze made it plain that he deliberately held back what he was tempted to say.  They had already turned their separate ways, and were too far gone to find the common ground they had once shared when Celeborn had been younger and Thranduil was but a child.  It was difficult to be completely frank with each other, despite their reputations to the contrary. 



“And just where is your father leading you now?” Celeborn asked at last, turning the course of the conversation.  “Why has he left you for the east, and when do you expect his return?”



Thranduil let a quiet bark of laughter escape him.  “I am sure you may guess well enough why he has gone,” he said.  “He will not stay aloof on the hill and play at lordship forever.  In fact it was partly you and your lady who inspired him to look farther east, and he intends to take us beyond even the mountains.  As to the time of his return, he made no promise.”



“There are people enough beyond those mountains,” Celeborn mused, keeping the majority of his thoughts to himself.  “I do not expect he will be disappointed.  But I understand you have been diligent yourself in his stead.  One Lord Serataron has told me what an invaluable help you have been in all his recent endeavors.”



“He has spoken to you already?” Thranduil asked, almost incredulous.  In retrospect he knew he should have expected Serataron to waste no time in making the acquaintance of another celebrated Sindarin prince.



“He has,” Celeborn smiled, “and I have already arranged a change in your duties if you will oblige me.”



“Yes?”  Things certainly progressed quickly when Celeborn was concerned. 



“My son has had few enough of his Sindarin kin about him in these first years.  You have matured a great deal, Thranduil, as I had hoped you would, and to see you now in full form has brought me a joy I did not expect to feel again.  Amroth could learn much from you, much that would otherwise be lost as the living memory of Doriath fades.  I want you to be an influence for him while we linger here, another example for him to look to.”



“You want me to be the boy’s keeper?” 



“To put it bluntly, yes,” Celeborn smiled.  “I am sure it would be best for both of you to be better acquainted before we part again.  I see in you what I would like him to be.  Someday you will father little ones yourself, so the familiarity will do you good.”



“And what of your wife?” Thranduil asked pointedly, though the idea of looking after such a young and incorrigibly enthusiastic cousin was somehow strangely appealing.  “What does she think of this extraordinary arrangement?”



“I have yet to find out,” Celeborn confessed, “but I have allowed her to go her own way so often, it is high time I insisted upon a wish of my own.  Will you do this much for me?”



Thranduil sighed, but at last he smiled in return.  So, the grievances of the past about which they could do nothing would be forgotten in the face of more immediate concerns.  So be it, if that was the best they could do.  “Of course, I will,” he said.  “I would not like to disappoint him.”



He was rewarded with an ecstatic squeal from the open door behind them, and in a moment Amroth was tugging at his sleeve.  “Thranduil, you will come and play with me?  I want you to come every day!  Will you take me to the beach?  Please?  I have my own horse!  His name is Celebrindal.  Can I go riding with you?  Can we go climb in the mountains?  Can I come to your house?  It is so different here.  I want to go to the beach!  Can we?  Can we now, please?”



“Amroth, contain yourself,” Celeborn admonished, but by now he had been forgotten.



“Certainly we can,” Thranduil assured the boy, finding the young smile infectious.  “That is, if your father will let you go.”



“Yes, go on,” Celeborn sighed, seeing the transfer of authority had been effected, and with great success.  “It would perhaps be best to have him out of the way for a few hours.”



“Come on, come on!” Amroth effervesced, pulling his newly discovered cousin to his feet, eager to be gone.  “I want to show you my room, and then we can go!  I want you to show me the birds and how to build in the sand!”



Thranduil obliged him, for there was little else he could do.  But they had hardly passed the threshold when he stopped short and drew himself up, unmoved by Amroth’s continued protestations. 



“Nana,” the boy complained, sensing another dull adult conversation building.



Thranduil paid him no mind as he stood toe to toe with Lady Galadriel.  She regarded him with the same gentle passivity, not openly hostile by any means, but not exactly delighted by the prospect of enjoying his company for an extended period of time.  How much she knew or suspected of his predispositions would remain a mystery, but now there was much he could recognize in her profound eyes, things even Celeborn was blessed not to wholly understand.  He saw and knew the old shadows of the Kinslayings, the dreadful stigma that had first estranged her from her relations in Doriath, a shadow he now shared.  More than that, he knew she recognized the same in him, and there was something in her demeanor that told him she no longer regarded him as a boy.



“Well met again, Oropherion,” she smiled sedately, as pleasant as he could wish.  “A pity it is that you must go before we chanced to speak, but may I inquire where you and Amroth are bound?”



“They are going out for a few hours,” Celeborn explained for him.  “I want Amroth to make the most of this time we spend here, and Thranduil has graciously accepted the responsibility.”



“Responsibility?”  By now Galadriel had looked beyond him to her husband, her perfect brows betraying her discomfiture. 



“Of looking after the boy,” Celeborn said over the noise of Amroth’s renewed insistence that they go to the beach.  “Amroth has a good deal yet to learn and small opportunity to be taught.  This, love, is one of the best such opportunities I can imagine.”



Thranduil could see an immediate protest on the Lady’s lips, but she was unable to voice it politely.  He needed no more encouragement to take his leave, for Celeborn gave him a bit of a shove and Amroth was already pulling his arm away.  “Excuse me, my lady,” he said, bowing away graciously.  “I am sure we shall meet again before very long.”



“Good day, Thranduil,” she returned, her warm voice bereft of some measure of its former cheer.



It was Menegroth all over again.








If Amroth had wanted to stay at the harbor, he would have asked to see the ships.  But Thranduil correctly guessed that an interest in organized seafaring was not the object of this particular outing.  Here, farther along the open white beaches, he watched his young kinsman scamper through the sand, still in giddy awe of the vast sea itself, the roaring waves, the keening gulls overhead.  Thranduil remembered the first time he had seen it.  The circumstances had not been half so lighthearted then, but the sentiment had been the same.  Cúron pranced freely in the shallows a stone’s throw away, seeming to enjoy the experience as much as Amroth did. 



Thranduil was content merely to watch as he idly walked along the sand, Amroth and Cúron proceeding with him in their own roundabout way.  Children were still a wonder to him, for they were too few and grew too quickly.  For that, he was glad to have Celeborn’s son brought to him as a boy.  Despite the great disparity of years between them, they were of the same generation of Thingol’s house, and to his knowledge the only two that remained.  Such a near relation should not grow up a stranger. 



In his right hand he carried Amroth’s shoes, discarded long ago, letting them hang loosely on two fingers.  He smiled as the boy ran up and down the shoreline, little bare feet slapping through the encroaching surf, leggings rolled up to his knees, stooping now and then to pick up the occasional shell or to poke at a crab before it burrowed away from him into the wet sand.  



Tiring at last of his own aimless pursuits, Amroth turned and ran back up the beach to take Thranduil’s free hand and walk with him.  “I like it here,” he pronounced, watching the horse rollicking ahead of them.  “It is so big and open.” 



“It was not always that way,” Thranduil said.  “Once these mountains were the boundary of Beleriand, and as far into the east as any of us cared to wander.  But now the old realms are destroyed and the sea has taken them.  East has become west.”



He assumed he was merely echoing what the boy had already heard from his parents.  Such a monumental fact as that could hardly be ignored.



“Why were they destroyed?”



Why?  Taken a bit off his guard, Thranduil found a simple answer.  “Because the Valar came to conquer Morgoth.”



“Why did they want to conquer Morgoth?”



What kind of a question was that?  “Because he was bringing evil to all of Ennor.”



“Why?”



“Because he was evil.”



“How come?”



Rather exasperated by this point, Thranduil merely stopped and turned on him.  “Did your father not teach you anything?” he demanded.



Amroth looked up at him with an impish grin.  Both annoyed and amused at once, Thranduil lunged for him.  Amroth dodged, laughing wildly, but was not quick enough.  Thranduil caught him after a brief and furious chase, instinctively sweeping the boy up onto his hip.  The position came naturally enough, and Amroth gladly wrapped his short arm as far as he could around his shoulders, perfectly content to stay there as they continued along the beach. 



After a few quiet moments, the youngster turned to scrutinize him again, looking closely at his eyes.  “You look like Ada with Nana’s hair,” he stated candidly.  “Will I be as big as you someday?”



“Perhaps.”  Amroth would likely enough be heir to his parents’ stature, as he himself had been, but Thranduil was unsure exactly how much of their size was dependent on heredity and how much came of the rich atmospheres of Valinor and Doriath, now lost to following generations. 



“I hope so.  You are already more fun than Tatharas.”



“Tatharas?”



“The one who always looked after me before.  He worries too much.”



Thranduil tried not to laugh, imagining the plight of whatever Eriadorian Elf had been charged with keeping the rambunctious young lord.  Such a position of trust would make almost anyone overcautious. 



“Will you come ride with me, Thranduil?” Amroth asked.  “I like Cúron, and Ada won’t let me ride by myself.”



“You will have to ask your mother,” Thranduil answered.  It was nothing to him, but despite Celeborn’s insistence, he did not want to wholly dismiss Galadriel’s voice in the matter.  After all, standing between her and her son would be the surest way to make an enemy of her.



“Must I?” Amroth complained.  “Nana might say no.”



More than likely, Thranduil thought wryly, setting the boy back down on the sand.  He suspected that Celeborn’s purpose in throwing them together this way was diametrically opposed to Galadriel’s preferences in that regard.  She probably dreaded the infamous influence Celeborn sought from him.  But such were the difficulties of raising a child, especially with such a mixed heritage as this one. 



“You will come back tomorrow, won’t you?” Amroth asked then, taking firm hold of his hand, ready to plead with him if he should refuse.



Thranduil turned to meet his young and earnest gaze, and he could see that already Amroth thought the world of him.  His concern was touching, especially considering the fact that he had only just met him a few hours ago.  Plainly Amroth saw in him everything he dreamed of being, someone who would not be simply another authority figure, but rather a playmate, an elder brother to roughhouse with.  Here was someone who would not nag him about keeping his shoes clean and his collar buttoned, whose primary concerns would not be tedious book lessons and bedtimes.  He may be disappointed in a few of those considerations, but it was true for the most part.



Thranduil could not help smiling down at him, already irremediably fond of him as well.  “Of course, I will,” he assured him.  “Your father made certain I would have nothing better to do.  Now, go see if you can find something nice to bring to your mother when you go home.”



Amroth beamed up at him and then took off at a run over the sand.  If he stopped to look, Thranduil knew he would probably find one of the many small spiraled shells that turned up from time to time. 



He could already tell that this would be one of the most enjoyable responsibilities he had ever taken.









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