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Chapter 15 ~ Restore VIII
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . .” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1
Spring was come again, coaxing new life from the landscape after a long winter. The mountains no longer wore their white caps of snow and the valleys were transformed beneath their lush new carpet of green with sprays of rampant wildflowers. A fresh wind swept over the peaks and across the haven, rustling through the trees thick with new leaves.
“Do you think they will ever come back?”
Thranduil subtly turned his gaze aside to where Noruvion lay a short stone’s throw away from him, lackadaisically sprawled on the green banks of the mountain stream rushing swiftly past them. He looked but could not turn his head, for Galadhmir was not yet finished cutting his hair. “I trust that is not despair I hear, my friend,” he said, his voice almost drowned in the sharp splash that was young Amroth once again hurling a spear after a fish.
“Merely curiosity,” Noruvion assured him easily. “And concern.”
He did not look very concerned, and Thranduil allowed himself a hint of a smile. “Who am I to say?” he answered him at last, rather helplessly. “Father could tell me nothing when he left us, and of course I have heard not a word of them since.”
“Hold still,” Galadhmir complained, tugging back on his hair, “unless you would like me to just chop it off and be done."
Amroth was again standing stock-still in the shallows of the running stream, his leggings rolled up to his knees, a slender fishing spear in his hand. He had noticeably grown in the past years, and now was determined in his efforts to master some of the skills of his father’s people. He was understandably frustrated by this point, wet and draggled and without a single success to show for all his efforts. His persistence was endearing, but Thranduil knew the boy would never catch anything if he did not relax.
“Even so,” Noruvion went on, hitching himself up on his elbow in the grass, “do you not begin to wonder? Fifty years I might have expected, even twice fifty – but two hundred?”
Thranduil sighed. He of course could still vividly remember the days that had seen his father’s presence in their house, but those memories were distant now, as Balar and Sirion were distant. “Of course I wonder,” he said. “A day does not go by that I do not wonder. But whatever the reason may be, we cannot do any more than we are.” He paused. That answer seemed unsatisfactory and inadequate, but there was nothing more he could say. “You need not worry,” he smiled; “my father will look after yours.”
Noruvion laughed, idly playing with a twig. “I never doubted that,” he said.
There was an abrupt splash as Amroth loosed another attempt, missed, and then jabbed about in the churning water in blind fury.
“You will never have any success if you are not patient,” Thranduil lectured him gently. “I told you, the fish is – ”
“ – is not where it seems!” Amroth finished testily. “Yes, I know!”
“Calm yourself,” he said then, more a command than a suggestion. “Come and sit down for a bit before your wrath warns away every fish within three leagues upstream.”
“No. I will catch one.”
Thranduil just smiled and would have shaken his head had he been able. Very well, Amroth could learn the hard way if he must, and experience was indeed the best teacher. He remembered his own early attempts, though it seemed ironic now to remember it had been Celeborn who had given him his first lesson in the waters of the Esgalduin.
He ran a hand roughly through his hair when Galadhmir had completed his handiwork. Amroth struck again with yet another loud splash, but apparently with no better luck. Thranduil could see he was angry, but he merely watched as the boy stormed out of the stream, retrieved his bow, and after a moment took careful aim at the next unfortunate carried along in the current. The arrow flew sharply into the water and a wounded thrashing was obscured by the splash of Amroth’s own swift reentry. Soon, in grim triumph, he produced a skewered trout.
Thranduil laughed heartily, for he really could not help himself.
“Then you do it!” Amroth challenged him, fed up with the whole affair for one day.
“What?” Thranduil asked, recovering somewhat of his composure but unable to banish the broad smile. “And come out a draggled rat, like you?”
Incensed to the point of rowdy retaliation, Amroth threw his fish to the bank behind him and slung a great sparkling spray of cold water at his obnoxious cousin on the opposite shore.
Thranduil turned away but still received most of the intended deluge. The game was on now.
Amroth immediately bounded out of the stream away from him. Thranduil lunged forward in pursuit, but sprawled in the mud at the bank courtesy of Noruvion’s deliberately out-thrust leg. He caught himself on his hands though they sank well past his wrists into the silt. Tearing free of the mire, he immediately rounded on his friend-turned-traitor, surging toward him like a mountain lion. Noruvion had no time to pick himself up from the grass before Thranduil was upon him with rambunctious fury, both of them laughing uproariously as it became an earnest fight to throw one another into the water. They wrestled farther toward the edge of the bank, where Amroth took shameless advantage of the situation to throw more cold water over Thranduil’s face as he was momentarily pinned to the ground.
Rolling through the mud, Thranduil at last hefted a laughing and writhing Noruvion to the bank where he granted him a solid dunking. Then he threw him entirely into the rushing waters, and Noruvion presently reemerged at the opposite bank, still sputtering with the ridiculous fun of it all.
Thoroughly begrimed but still unvanquished, Thranduil turned back to Amroth as a bit of unfinished business, a vengeful gleam in his smile. The boy turned to again scramble laughing from the water, but Thranduil bounded after him with a terrific roaring splash, surged after him up the bank, grabbed at a foot but missed, then followed into the trees. It was a short chase, and though Amroth defended himself admirably, the boy truly had no chance. Thranduil caught him in both muddy hands and dragged him back to the stream despite the incessant protestations and peals of childish laughter. The little imp received his just deserts in the end, much the same fate that had been granted to Noruvion, except that Thranduil left him laughing and dripping on the grass of the bank.
“Do you feel better now?” Galadhmir finally asked from the opposite bank where they had left him, the only pristine one left among them.
“I do,” Thranduil said with a smile and a nod. He knew he looked a fright, but he did not care. Beside him, Amroth had developed an acute case of the hiccups, which was only making him laugh the more.
Again and again the passing seasons changed the landscape of Lindon. Years came and went as they always had, one after the other, day after day, and life went on. Now Lord Celeborn was at last returning to his own lands.
“Farewell, again, Thranduil,” he said, addressing him in particular after he had taken his leave of the others of the family, banners and pennons billowing and snapping in the springtime breeze. “I trust it will not be an unbearable breadth of years before we meet again.”
“Perhaps,” Thranduil answered, neither unduly hopeful nor pessimistic. But unless his father intended to travel the route through Celeborn’s domain as they passed eastward someday, he expected it to be quite some time before they saw one another again. But that was now the way of his kin, ever scattered.
“In any event, you will be ever welcome in my halls, Thranduil,” Celeborn assured him, “and you need not hesitate to come alone if and when you will.”
“Yes, please come,” Amroth smiled. “I shall hardly know what to do with myself without you.”
Thranduil merely smiled in return. Amroth was no longer a child, entering his promising adolescence now. Even if he never did see him again, a possibility he was not yet prepared to admit, Thranduil would always count himself indebted to Celeborn for allowing him to share his son’s childhood, stringing together the broken house of Elu as well as they might. “I shall come when I may,” he promised.
The young stallion that stood at Amroth’s side was his farewell gift, one of the many spirited colts Laegolas had sired, for the boy had long ago outgrown the old pony Celebrindal. Practical gifts always were the best.
“We shall be glad to have you when you do,” Celeborn said. “In the meantime I wish you and your father all the best in your own endeavor, and I do not doubt that someday we shall be hearing a great deal about you all. Argeleb,” he called, turning with a sharp snap of his fingers. “I will not be outdone in giving gifts,” he smiled as one of his great wolves pushed its way through the crowd to stand beside its master, dark grey and white, frosted with silver. “He is young yet, and will serve you well. And I am certain you will make good use of him.”
It was not long then before the entire party was mounted at last and began winding its way along the eastward roads behind their lord and lady, farewells given time and again, good wishes expressed, promises made. Thranduil looked after Celeborn for a time, but longer after Amroth, who seemed more loath than ever to finally leave him.
When at last the others had disappeared behind the bend, Thranduil turned to admire the dog Celeborn had left with him. Argeleb still gazed after his former lord with intriguingly mismatched eyes of blue and brown, plainly yearning to follow but obedient to the end. But Thranduil coaxed some acknowledgment out of him after a moment, and then the great hound did not seem too dispirited by his change of fortune. He was absolutely magnificent, and Thranduil imagined the name of Silver King was certainly not an accident. Celeborn plainly bore them no ill will.
The difficulty may still stand, but at least it had not irremediably sundered them.
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