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Chapter 14: Realizations
Tulus sat on his hearth, preparing the rabbits he had removed from his traps and tossing their meat into a pot over the fire. He looked up from his work when a shadow fell across the open door of his cottage. Recognizing the figure on his doorstep, he stood hastily and bowed as much to hide his expression as to offer respect.
“My lord Aradunnon,” he said in as polite and neutral a voice as he could muster in his surprise. “Please come in.”
Aradunnon acknowledged Tulus’s greeting with a nod and stepped into the small cottage, seating himself in the chair Tulus had indicated. His guard, Colloth, lingered in the doorway. Tulus noted Colloth scanning the room, his eyes falling briefly on the knife on the hearth and Tulus’s sword and bow by the door. With a quiet sigh, Tulus moved away from both objects.
He remained standing and turned his attention to his guest, studying him surreptitiously while his mind raced. Dolgailon had frankly told him two weeks earlier that his father and the king suspected him of involvement with the Easterlings. Tulus believed that he had convinced his young friend that they were mistaken, but Aradunnon’s presence seemed to indicate otherwise.
“What can I do for you, my lord?” Tulus asked when Aradunnon did not speak. Then another thought much worse than any associated with the Easterlings occurred to him and he looked at Aradunnon with fear in his eyes. “Surely nothing could happen to Glílavan while he is training new warriors in the capital?” he asked, the words tumbling forth rapidly.
Aradunnon looked at Tulus narrowly for a moment. “No, Tulus. When I left the capital, Glílavan was perfectly fine. He was preparing to lead the second-years on a tracking exercise,” he finally answered with a calm voice.
Tulus let out a long breath. “Good,” he said quietly. Then he looked at the floor with embarrassment. “Perhaps it is selfish of me when there is so much danger in the south and east, but I was very pleased when Glílavan told me you had assigned him to a duty in the capital. I know he enjoyed serving in the south, but I think he needs some time elsewhere,” he continued in an even quieter voice.
Again Aradunnon studied Tulus closely before responding. “You must miss not having him near, however.”
Tulus’s brows knit and he returned Aradunnon’s intense scrutiny with a cautious but steady gaze of his own. Given his stern demeanor and the fact that he had not yet asked him to sit, Tulus did not understand why Aradunnon had pursued this topic of conversation. This was clearly not a social visit. “I saw Glílavan very infrequently when he was in the patrols so there is little difference except that I worry about him less in the capital,” he answered slowly. Despite his confusion, Tulus smiled as he spoke about his son. “But he is a good son. He writes me as often as he can. I must say that I very much look forward to the sight of the king’s couriers these days.”
Aradunnon merely raised his eyebrows and nodded. “Tell me, Tulus, I have had very little opportunity to speak to your son—what does he tell you about living in the capital? He has served in the patrols since before the Shadow began to spread. The capital must seem strange to him.”
Tulus’s frown returned. “He has said very little about the environment in the capital, to be honest. He writes mostly about his duties in the training program and about the people in it. He seems happy in his new position. He has always liked working with younger warriors and under your son in particular.” Tulus paused and looked directly at Aradunnon. “But I sincerely doubt you traveled three days to visit old friends and discuss my son with me. Lord Dolgailon told me that I am suspected of having dealings with the Easterlings as our village leader did. I assume that is why you are here.”
Aradunnon’s eyebrows rose. “Very well,” he said coolly. “Yes I am here to discuss your dealings with the Easterlings. Yours and your son’s.”
Tulus looked at Aradunnon sharply. “As I told lord Dolgailon, I have never spoken to an Easterling,” he said firmly. Then he straightened his shoulders and fixed Aradunnon with an angry glare. “And if my son has ever spoken to an Easterling, it was while serving in the patrols. Clearly there is no way he could encounter one in the capital. Neither of us were involved in Dolwon’s trade with the Easterlings. I admit that I was aware Dolwon acquired some weapons for the village guards through such dealings but I was not one of those guards. I have always had my own weapons. Even if I did not, I would not fight with a sword obtained from the same enemy I may face in battle.”
“Why did you not report his actions to the patrols?” Aradunnon asked.
Tulus scowled. “In the southern part of the realm, far from the aid of the palace, we often engage in minor trade with neighboring realms and travelers. I thought it was foolish to trade with Easterlings, but I am not the leader of this village.”
“It was not only foolish to deal with enemies of this realm. It was treason, Tulus,” Aradunnon replied.
Tulus scowled. “And I understand Dolwon and the neighboring village leader, Dannenion, were held in the palace for a year while the king investigated their deeds and they will be required to live under guard in the capital until the king is convinced he can trust them. They have answered for their crime. If you believe I have committed a crime, arrest me and tell me what it is,” Tulus said coldly.
Aradunnon regarded Tulus silently for a moment. “I have been in the south for several days, Tulus, and here in your village since early this morning. I have spoken with many of your fellow villagers. All of them tell me that you and a group of your friends have been very vocal regarding your disapproval of the king’s rule. A good many of the statements repeated to me bordered on sedition. And that, Tulus, is a crime. One I can readily believe you would commit knowing how you spoke of the queen in the past. Should I arrest you for sedition, Tulus?”
Tulus frowned but looked down and replied in a soft voice. “I have never made a secret of the fact that I do not care for you or the king. I accept the king’s reasoning for dismissing me but not yours for barring me from the patrols—at least not permanently. I was a warrior in this forest long before your family ever knew it existed. I served lord Oropher faithfully for millennia. I love my home and I want to defend it. Moreover, I believe that your refusal to promote my son, when he has not received a single reprimand in two millennia of service, is nothing but unjust. As for the king, like many others that live in the south, I do not agree with all of lord Thranduil’s decisions—especially those that surrender more of this forest to the orcs. I am open in expressing that disapproval and I do not deny that.” He paused for emphasis and his tone hardened. “Before the Sindar came east, the Silvan were allowed to have and discuss differing opinions. Does lord Thranduil intend to forbid that now?”
Aradunnon’s eyes narrowed. “You are entitled to your own beliefs, Tulus. And I invite you to discuss them—if you can think of any reasonable action I might take to reclaim the forest south of the Forest Road, please tell me what it is and I will happily implement it.” He paused and Tulus remained silent. “I thought not,” Aradunnon continued, nodding grimly. “And the fact is that you have gone beyond expressing your disagreement with the king’s decisions and you have progressed to trying to convince others that the king is not fit to rule. Is that not true, Tulus?”
Tulus glared at Aradunnon for a long moment, lips pressed tightly together. He was not anxious for his actions to come to light and not simply because they were a crime. It had been a long time since he had agreed with many of the statements he had made in the past. But asked directly, he would not lie. “It is true,” he confessed in a quiet voice.
Aradunnon nodded slowly. “Very wise, Tulus. Will you show yourself to be equally wise and cooperate with me regarding your dealings with the Easterlings?”
Tulus shook his head. “I have had no dealings with the Easterlings,” he replied firmly.
Aradunnon scowled. “Many people in this village have told me that you and Dolwon worked very closely together, Tulus. They suspect you were involved with Dolwon’s interactions with the Easterlings. If you disagree with the king strongly enough, I can easily believe you would turn to someone else for alliances…”
“I have traded with the Northmen,” Tulus interrupted firmly. “And even the dwarves that pass on the Forest Road. Everyone in this village has. But I have never dealt with the Easterlings. They are the servants of the Enemy. To ally with them is to ally with him. I will have no part in it.”
“Then you were not associated with the group of elves that recently arranged for the Easterlings to assassinate the queen?” Aradunnon asked directly, watching Tulus closely.
Tulus’s jaw dropped at that question. “Assassinate? You are accusing me of attempting to kill an elf? An elleth?” he exclaimed, gaping at Aradunnon. “I suppose you think that because the queen was involved in the incident that led to my dismissal, I am seeking revenge against her. By killing her? Well, either you are insane or you think I am. Or perhaps both are true.” Then he paused, frowning, and looked at Aradunnon. “Latest attempt? I had heard the Path Guard killed men that threatened the queen several years ago. Has something else happened?”
Aradunnon studied Tulus carefully. “Yes. The queen, Legolas, my lady wife and my son were attacked a little over a week ago.”
Tulus shook his head. “Dolgailon? But he is in the south. I just saw him two weeks ago…” he trailed off in confusion.
“Not Dolgailon. My youngest, Galithil.”
Tulus’s eyes widened dramatically. “But he, and Legolas too for that matter, are infants. What happened?” he asked. “Surely they are all uninjured? Any different news would have already reached us.”
“The children escaped during the attack and hid. The queen and my wife were taken by the men and we found them just as the men were about to kill them. They were injured but they will recover. The guards with them, Himion and Candirith, were killed,” Aradunnon reported in a calm voice.
Tulus stared at Aradunnon a moment before closing his eyes. “Valar!” he exclaimed in a strangled voice. He walked unsteadily to a chair and collapsed into it, burying his face in his hands. Aradunnon remained quiet, watching Tulus’s reaction.
“Candirith was the son of one of my wife’s brothers,” Tulus whispered into the silence. “I remember his naming ceremony. It was I that encouraged him to follow lord Oropher to Mordor and remain in lord Thranduil’s service after we returned to the forest. He was the only member of my wife’s family to survive that war. His adar died with the king.” He paused. “How is Candirith’s wife?” he asked without looking up. His voice was thick with emotion.
“She is doing as well as can be expected. I did not know that Candirith was your nephew, Tulus….” Aradunnon began.
Tulus snorted derisively. “Obviously not. Else you would have undoubtedly dismissed him from the Guard as well,” he said bitterly in a low voice.
Aradunnon shook his head. “Else I would not have told you of his death so bluntly,” he corrected gently.
Tulus turned toward Aradunnon. He had stood and was leaning over him with concern. Tulus straightened and looked up at him with grief in his eyes. “Even if he were not my nephew, I served with those guards, my lord. I have known most of them my entire life, though I have not spoken to them in millennia. Do you think I would be unaffected to hear of their deaths?”
“I am sorry, Tulus,” Aradunnon said softly.
Tulus shook his head and looked away. “Did you speak to Candirith before he died? Was his wife able to speak to him?” he asked.
Aradunnon looked down as well and spoke in a gentle voice. “He was dead when we found him.” He hesitated. “The details of his death are disturbing. I will tell you if you wish to hear.”
Tulus’s brow knit. “Tell me,” he replied, voice rough.
“The men executed him after he surrendered,” Aradunnon replied.
Tulus closed his eyes again and was silent for a long moment. “Other than Glílavan, Candirith was the only family I had on this side of the sea,” he said quietly opening his eyes and staring into the empty space in front of him. “He would not see me or even accept letters from me after…. I had not spoken to him for a very long time. I wish there were something I could do for his wife. We were once friends,” he concluded in a whisper. “What about Himion? He died as well?” he continued a moment later in a slightly stronger voice.
“He was killed by an arrow when the men launched their attack. The arrow struck the queen as well,” Aradunnon said.
“But she survived?” Tulus asked, looking back at Aradunnon.
“He did his duty,” Tulus said softly. Then he took a deep breath and stood, facing Aradunnon resolutely. “I had absolutely no knowledge of this, my lord. I was not involved in planning it. Candirith is my family. Himion was a dear friend before I was dismissed. And I am no kinslayer.”
Aradunnon nodded solemnly. “I believe you, Tulus,” he said sincerely. “But I also believe you have knowledge of the elves that did plan this. I want you to tell me what you know before more of our people are killed.”
Tulus held Aradunnon’s gaze silently for a long moment. Then he looked down and nodded.
Conuiön and Tureden entered the throne room and approached the meeting table occupied by the king and his full council. Coming to stand at the end of the table, they bowed.
“You called for us, my lord?” Conuiön asked, tensing slightly in response to the somber mood that hung heavily over the room.
Thranduil nodded gravely. “Sit down. We have a report from lord Aradunnon to discuss. You will be interested in its contents.”
Conuiön glanced at the paper in the king’s hand as he and Tureden seated themselves at the end of the table.
“Aradunnon spoke to the new leaders in Dolwon and Dannenion’s villages,” the king began in a quiet voice. “He also spoke to all the citizens in those villages. This report describes those conversations. I will give it you Conuiön,” he said passing it to his guard. “I have already sent word to Aradunnon informing him which people I want to speak to personally. You may wish to add to the list. Feel free to do so.”
“Thank you, my lord,” Conuiön replied, eyeing the letter.
Thranduil looked at his guard a moment and then his gaze swept over the other members of the council. “The information Aradunnon obtained is far more serious than any I expected. Hallion and I have spent the morning discussing it and we have decided on a course of action. The purpose of this meeting is to inform you what we have learned and how I intend to handle it. No part of this conversation is to be repeated to anyone outside this room. Is that clear?”
Everyone nodded, studying Thranduil and Hallion with concern.
Thranduil took a deep breath and looked at the table before turning his gaze resolutely back to his council. “We assumed any elves involved in passing information to the Easterlings did so in exchange for aid or products of some type. We assumed it was the men they dealt with that found lord Fengel and the queen to be valuable targets. We were not correct. The information Aradunnon has obtained indicates that a group of elves in the south is unsatisfied with my rule and is intent on removing me. The attack on Lindomiel was motivated by that goal.”
Thranduil’s council stared at him for a moment in stunned silence and then glanced at each other. Finally Dieneryn turned to Thranduil and Hallion who both wore inscrutable expressions.
“How large is this group of elves, Thranduil?” she asked quietly.
“We believe that it is no larger than a dozen or so, mostly the guards in Dannenion and Dolwon’s villages. Dolwon and Dannenion were involved as well. We suspected they were never entirely truthful with us and this explains why,” Thranduil replied.
“Have all the parties involved been arrested, my lord?” Conuiön asked, looking intently at Thranduil.
Thranduil frowned. “Most are being escorted to the capital. They are the people I indicated earlier that I wished to speak to personally,” he replied quietly.
Everyone turned sharply to Thranduil in response to that answer.
“You wish to speak to them, Thranduil?” Engwe repeated, voice rising. “What, beyond speaking, do you intend to do with them?”
Thranduil turned his frown on his uncle. “That depends greatly on how they respond to me, Engwe.”
Engwe snorted and stared at Thranduil. “How they respond to you? They plotted with Easterlings to kill your wife in order to overthrow your rule and you want to see how they respond to you? Do you plan on arming yourself in anticipation of their response, Thranduil?”
Thranduil fixed Engwe with a cold glare. “What would you have me do, Engwe? Shall I execute them as Men do?” he asked with obvious sarcasm. “I thought I shocked you when I referred to the way Turgon managed Eöl.”
Engwe returned the king’s gaze disdainfully. “Of course I am not suggesting that you execute them, Thranduil. But you were perfectly willing to imply to Dolwon and Dannenion that you might react to threats against your family in such a way if they could be proven. Now we apparently have the proof and you want to talk with the elves guilty of plotting to kill your wife to overthrow your rule. Surely you intend to respond to this with more than a simple conversation.”
“Dolwon and Dannenion were lying to me, Engwe. They needed to be encouraged to tell the truth,” Thranduil retorted. His tone, restrained until now, took on a dangerous edge. “And I thought I was dealing with elves that had traded with our enemies for some sort of personal gain. If I had suspected they were allying themselves with the Easterlings to remove me, I would have handled the situation with more care. There has to be a reason why these villagers were driven to such extreme actions. Elves do not normally resort to kinslaying because they are dissatisfied with some political decision. Even in Ost-in-Edhil, when Celebrimbor’s people displaced Celeborn, they did not do so by assassinating him or attempting to assassinate his wife.”
Hallion looked down. “Of course, the Valar help the being—elf, man, dragon, balrog—that threatens lady Galadriel,” he said under his breath.
Thranduil spared a moment to smirk at his steward before continuing. “The point is, I want to know why they felt it was necessary to pursue the path they chose. Did they not know they could approach me with their concerns? Did they not feel comfortable doing so? Did they feel I would not respond to them? Did they approach me and I did not respond? Unless I banish them, I must find a way to bring them back inside this society and to do that I must understand what caused this. I am extremely hesitant to banish them unless they are completely lost to us. The Silvan have lived in this forest for far longer than I. I do not care to build resentment by turning them from their home. And I prefer to keep my enemies where I can watch them. So yes, Engwe, I intend to speak to everyone involved at length. I assure you, there will be consequences for their actions, but not ones that will serve to fuel whatever drove them to turn away from us if I can possibly avoid it.”
Engwe looked at Thranduil doubtfully but remained silent.
When no one else spoke, Conuiön looked at the king with concern. “My lord, you said most of the parties involved are being escorted to the capital. Not all?”
Thranduil shook his head. “Unfortunately no. Aradunnon is remaining in the south to try to find two people that seem to have disappeared—an ellon and an elleth. The ellon is already well known to us—it is Fuilin.”
Conuiön and Tureden nodded grimly hearing that name. Dieneryn and Engwe looked at Thranduil with concern, obviously recognizing the name.
Celonhael and Golwon, however, were plainly confused.
“Forgive me, my lord,” Celonhael said. “I do not think I know that name.”
Golwon glanced at him and nodded, looking to Thranduil for an explanation.
“I suppose you might not. You were not involved in dealing with him,” Thranduil replied. “Briefly, we arrested Fuilin and some of his family for dealing with men nearly a millennium ago when we were preparing to move the capital north. They protested the move and helped some Woodsmen in the Narrows enter the forest to hunt in exchange for promises of aid against the orcs. Moreover, Fuilin approached Amoneth in an attempt to ply her for information she might have heard from Aradunnon regarding troop movements.”
“Just as the person that planned this attack against the queen clearly was well informed regarding troop movements,” Golwon said softly.
Thranduil nodded. “Precisely. You can see why I am not overly surprised by this information. The fact that Fuilin has disappeared is only further evidence in my mind that he is a central figure in this plot.” He paused and looked at the letter in Conuiön’s hands. “The other person Aradunnon is searching for is an elleth and we are fairly certain that she is the one our prisoner named. Several villagers have stated that she purchased items from the Northmen using jewels just as our prisoner said his captain had been paid in jewels for the first attempt on the queen.” He looked at his family around the table. “Her name is completely unfamiliar to me however, which strikes me as very unusual, especially since the villagers insist that she is Sindarin not Silvan.”
Everyone at the table raised their eyebrows at that. They all knew everyone that had traveled east with Oropher.
“What is the name, my lord?” Dieneryn asked.
“Manadhien,” Thranduil replied.
Nearly everyone in the room responded similarly to that announcement, shrugging and shaking their heads without recognition. Only Dieneryn reacted differently. Her brow knit and she stared at nothing for a moment. Then she looked at Hallion.
“Hallion what the Quenyan equivalent of ‘manadh?’ Do you know?” she asked softly.
Thranduil’s expression soured in response to his mother’s question.
Engwe grimaced dramatically. “It is manar, if we must endure that language,” he intervened with a disgusted tone. “I would prefer that we do not. Why could you possibly be interested in that?”
Hallion ignored Engwe. Instead he responded to Dieneryn’s question with an alarmed tone. “I think that is one translation. Is ‘marto’ not another?”
Thranduil’s irritation increased. “Why must we be subjected to vocabulary lessons in the Forbidden Tongue? I have no more desire to hear that language than did the High King. Possibly less.”
“This is one language lesson I think you should apply yourself to, Thranduil,” Dieneryn replied firmly. “If Manadhien is not a familiar name, perhaps Marti is?”
Thranduil, Conuiön and Tureden’s eyes all darted to Dieneryn. Then Thranduil turned to his uncle. “Could Manadhien be a Sindarization of Marti?”
Engwe drew a quiet breath and nodded. “I think so,” he replied seriously, the derision gone from his tone. “I always thought Marti was an unusual name. I assumed it was based on some Silvan word I did not know. It could be Quenyan. I thought I remembered hearing the name Manarindë amongst the Exiles, which is why I remember the word ‘manar,’ but I can see Marti as another variation meaning the same thing. I never imagined Quenya to be the origin of Marti’s name.”
Thranduil let out a long breath. “If she uses a Quenyan name, she must be Noldorin. That would explain why the Silvan do not recognize her as one of their own and why we do not either. Regardless of the origin of the name and person, if this Manadhien and Marti are the same person, that would be very serious news indeed,” he said quietly. “It would explain why the queen and not I was targeted by the men. That is certain.” He turned to Conuiön. “I thought you were confident that she had left the forest. I thought you searched for her thoroughly.”
“We did, my lord,” he replied. “My guards and the patrols all searched for her for nearly a yén. We even sent messages to Lorien, Imladris and Mithlond. How she could have remained in the forest and escaped those searches, I cannot imagine.”
“She could have left and returned when it was safer,” Hallion suggested as everyone exchanged worried glances.
Conuion scowled and stood. “By your leave, my lord, I do not want any delay in informing Colloth of our suspicions. I am not comfortable with the idea of lord Aradunnon being near Marti while he is unaware of her presence. I intend to send Tureden with a few more guards to help him search for her and I would like your leave to ask lord Aradunnon for the help of the southern and eastern patrols.”
“I doubt you will need my permission to use the patrols when Aradunnon learns who he is looking for,” Thranduil replied. “And I want the guard on Lindomiel doubled in response to this information as well. But before you leave, there is one more person named in this report that might interest you.”
Conuiön looked at the king silently for a moment, his posture tense. “Lord Aradunnon has confirmed that Tulus is involved,” he guessed in a quiet voice.
To the guard’s surprise, Thranduil shook his head. “Aradunnon seems convinced Tulus was a pawn at best. Apparently he cooperated when he was questioned. Unfortunately, he was not able to provide any more information than the other villagers. Nevertheless, he is one of the people I have asked Aradunnon to send to me. I thought you should know he will be arriving within the week and I intend to question him further.”
Conuiön frowned. “I think I will stand guard in the throne room personally that day,” he replied.
Thranduil walked down the dimly lit corridor of the family chambers, past the deserted sitting room, with his eyes fixed on the door to his private chamber. A full day of dealing with Aradunnon’s news had left him more exhausted than he had felt after many a battle…and as dispirited as he felt after fighting a loosing one.
Reaching the door, he opened it quietly. It was late and he expected Legolas and possibly even Lindomiel would be asleep. The lights in the sitting room were extinguished so he crossed it silently to the partially open door to the bed chambers. As he slipped into the room, he saw two still forms on the bed. To his surprise, they stirred as soon as he fully entered the room and a little blonde head popped out from the bed covers.
“Ada,” Legolas exclaimed, his tired voice a ghost of its normal excitement when greeting his father. The child struggled to throw off the bed covers and stand on the bed, holding out his arms.
Behind him, Lindomiel pulled herself up and helped him.
Thranduil looked at the sight before him and could not help but laugh. Legolas stood unsteadily on the bed, his hair tussled and desperately trying to stay awake long enough for his father to reach the bed and wish him goodnight.
Thranduil walked straight to him and enveloped his son in his arms. “What are you doing up so late?” he whispered as the child wrapped his arms around his father’s neck.
“Waiting for you, ada,” Legolas replied sleepily, snuggling his face against his father’s neck.
“He would not sleep. He was determined. I have never seen such a valiant fight against any enemy,” Lindomiel added with an indulgent smile.
Legolas only responded by tightening his arms around his father’s neck.
Thranduil sighed and shook his head, pulling Legolas into his lap and holding him against his chest. He placed a kiss on his son’s head. “Well I am here now,” he said in a soothing voice. “It is time for bed,” he whispered, swaying slowly to lull his son to sleep in his arms. After a moment, he closed his own eyes and reveled in the simple pleasure of holding his son.
“Where were you ada?” Legolas whispered just as his parents thought he might have fallen asleep.
Thranduil looked down and drew a finger across his son’s cheek. “I was working in my office. Sometimes I have to work late and you should not exhaust yourself waiting for me. I am certain nana told you to go to sleep.”
A little frown formed on Legolas’s face. “I was afraid you had gone like uncle Aradunnon,” he said with a voice that trembled slightly.
Thranduil’s brow knit at that statement. His concern deepened when he glanced at Lindomiel.
“Galithil was upset too, Thranduil. I think you should be certain to see him in the morning to reassure him that you are still here,” she said quietly.
Thranduil tightened his arms around his son. “Legolas, I would never go anywhere without saying goodbye to you first. I was working on something very important tonight and I simply could not stop until I was finished, but I should have come to see both you and your cousin to bed. I am sorry,” he said kissing Legolas on the top of his head. Then he looked at Lindomiel. “Why did you not bring them to my office if they were upset?” he asked, looking at her with a frown.
“I was going to,” Lindomiel responded quietly, “but daernana said that you should not be disturbed. She said that whatever you were working on was very serious.”
Legolas looked up at his father with wide eyes. “What happened, ada? Did more men come?”
Thranduil looked at Lindomiel with dismay.
“No, Legolas,” Thranduil said firmly. “There are no more men. This is a very large forest and there are many elves in it and sometimes I simply have a great deal of work to do to make sure everyone has what they need. Just because I am working late does not mean that something bad has happened. You do not need to worry about such things.”
“But uncle Aradunnon went away because of the men and so did Dolgailon,” Legolas said, his concern obviously not diminished.
“Uncle Aradunnon and your cousin are both warriors, Legolas. Captains. Your uncle commands every warrior in this forest. That is a very important duty. Sometimes he has to go talk to the warriors that live in other villages in person but he will come back as soon as he can. He is only doing a normal part of his duty. It is nothing to be worried about.”
Legolas frowned and clutched the fabric of his father’s robe in his fists. “You are king, ada, and that is important. Do you have to go do things like that?”
Thranduil sighed quietly. “Sometimes, Legolas. And sometimes nana goes to speak to Lord Fengel in Dale. Sometimes uncle Celonhael and uncle Golwon go to visit Mannish towns or other villages in the forest. And when you are older, you will certainly have duties that take you away from home. It is normal to miss people when they go away, but it is nothing to worry about. And you will see that it is very nice when they come home. Try to look forward to that.”
Legolas brightened a little. “Arthiel said you will have a festival on the green when Dolgailon comes home. She said you did the last time.”
Thranduil laughed quietly. “Yes, I did. And if you and Galithil want to have one when Dolgailon and Aradunnon come home this time, then we will have one. And you can help your naneths plan it. Would you like that?”
Legolas nodded, smiling contentedly at that promise.
Thranduil smiled in return. “That is what I want to see,” he said, pinching Legolas’s nose and making him squirm and giggle. Thranduil laid Legolas on the bed and pulled the covers over him, leaning over to kiss his forehead. “I look forward every evening to leaving my office and seeing the smile you always have for me, Legolas,” he said, lying next to his son on top of the covers and pulling him against him. “It brightens the room like the sun itself and, no matter how difficult my day has been, seeing you makes it better. That may be the most important duty in the whole realm and it is one only you and your nana can perform.”
Legolas laughed. “You are being silly, ada. Smiling is not a duty. Everyone smiles.”
“Everyone does smile, my heart, but only your smile and your nana’s can right anything that is wrong in my world because only the two of you are that special to me. I am very sorry that I disappointed you by not coming to see you to bed.”
“It is all right, ada,” Legolas said with laughter still in his voice. Then he looked at Thranduil with bright eyes. “Do you want to hear the story nana and I made?”
Thranduil’s eyebrows went up with amusement. “You and nana made a story?”
Lindomiel smirked at her husband. “Since I cannot tell stories as well as you, ada,” she began with a dramatically insulted tone. The fact that neither Legolas or Galithil were satisfied with their mothers’ stories was fodder for many jokes in the household. “Legolas agreed to make up a story with me while we were waiting for you. We took turns telling parts of it.”
Legolas nodded enthusiastically. “It was funny. It was about dwarves and they came to help make a stronghold for elves and the king of the elves did not really like the dwarves but the dwarves were clever and…” Legolas drifted off in response to his father’s expression.
Thranduil had raised one eyebrow and was looking at Lindomiel indignantly. Lindomiel giggled quietly.
“It was a wonderful story,” she said with as straight a face as she could muster. “Legolas tell your adar what the king did when the dwarves….”
“I do not want to know,” Thranduil interrupted firmly and Lindomiel’s eyes sparkled. He glared at her playfully for a moment before looking down at his son. “I will tell you a proper story Legolas and then you must to go to sleep.”
The somewhat confused expression on Legolas’s face was replaced by an excited grin and he looked at his father expectantly.
Thranduil smirked at Lindomiel before beginning. “Be thankful that he does not like stories about princesses,” he quipped.
Legolas wrinkled his nose and shook his head, causing Lindomiel to giggle again.
Once Thranduil began his story and Legolas snuggled against his pillow, oblivious to any world other than the one created by his father’s deep voice, Lindomiel turned a steady gaze on her husband. Thranduil frowned and focused resolutely on Legolas. Despite his best efforts to ignore his wife’s demanding gaze, he knew once Legolas drifted asleep, Lindomiel would expect an explanation. He was simply not prepared to supply one. Marti was not a topic he had ever wanted to readdress with his wife. And he was determined to avoid doing so now, at least until he had confirmed his suspicions.
Sorry for the delay in this update. I had a lot of extra curricular activities last weekend and I was buried at work this week. Again. I also decided to split this chapter as well (it was 25 pages and that was too much). So that required a little rewriting. The next chapter will be up on Sunday and the Epilogue on Wednesday. I appreciate folks sticking with me through the delays.
meleth nin—my love
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