Stories of Arda Home Page
About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search

Time's Turnings  by daw the minstrel

As always, thanks to Nilmandra for beta reading this chapter for me. Thanks to French Pony for suggesting the sword drill shown in the last part of this chapter and for checking on how well I was showing it despite my ignorance. Her suggestions were very helpful.


7. Thranduilions

Eilian walked steadily toward the other end of the hall, his eyes on the Man in the carved wooden chair on the dais. Bram was dark haired and rather grim looking, despite the deep scarlet robe he wore. Guards stood on either side of his chair, and from the corner of his eye, Eilian could see two older Men standing to one side watching him. Advisors, he assumed, probably sizing him up so as to advise Bram on whether to trust him.

Eilian stopped about ten feet from Bram and dropped to one knee, as he would have done in his father’s Great Hall. He heard Maltanaur follow suit behind him.

Bram kept them there for a moment and then signaled them to rise. “Welcome, son of Thranduil,” he said in a deep voice. “It has been long since we had a visitor from the Elvenking’s realm.”

“The time does not seem long to Elves,” Eilian answered carefully, “but eventually we found that we longed to see our neighbors again and find how they were faring.” Bram studied him from under half lowered lids. Eilian could sense his wariness and concentrated on looking as open as he could. He wanted Bram to trust him. Thranduil had shown an unexpected faith in him when he sent him on this mission, and Eilian knew that much depended on his success.

“King Thranduil sent you to me?” Bram asked.

“He did. He bade me to assure you of his respect and brotherly affection as a leader of one people to a leader of a friendly neighbor.”

Bram cocked his head skeptically to one side. “It would seem our ‘brother’ Thranduil has been able to survive quite happily without seeing the Men of Dale for some time now.”

“We have seen them, my lord, when they come to assist us in our dealings with the Dwarves of the Iron Hills. They have been invaluable to us, and we are deeply grateful to them.”

Bram lifted one eyebrow, reminding Eilian of his father. “They have helped you to arm yourselves. I find that worries me.”

Eilian found himself breathing a little quickly. Surely Bram should not be worried by the strength of the Elves. What could have alarmed Bram to such an extent? Eilian had a horrifying vision of what life would be like in this part of Arda if the fragile alliance between Elves and Men and Dwarves was broken, and then spoke with the utmost caution. “We live in a dangerous age, my lord, in which we face a common enemy. Surely our strength should comfort rather than worry you.”

Bram paused, tapping one finger on the arm of his chair, and studying Eilian’s face. Eilian met his gaze steadily for a long moment. Abruptly Bram rose. “Son of Thranduil, I beg that you will join me in a cup of wine.”

“My lord,” said one of Bram’s advisors, stepping forward hastily, “would you like me to accompany you and your guest?”

Bram smiled blandly at him. “I do not think that will be necessary. Lord Eilian and I will be able to manage on our own.”

Eilian had to hide a smile. He could hear Maltanaur shifting uneasily behind him and knew that he was just as dismayed as Bram’s advisor was. That Bram did not seem to care amused Eilian. With both of Bram’s guards and Maltanaur following behind, Bram led him through a narrow archway and down a short hall to what appeared to be a private study. A heavy desk stood under a window, and two large chairs were drawn up before a fireplace. Eilian glanced over his shoulder to see Maltanaur scanning the room from the hallway before Bram shut the door in his face.

Bram turned to Eilian, and unexpectedly, they shared a smile. Bram gestured to one of the chairs and went to a side table to pour them each some wine. Eilian carefully waited until Bram sat before he took his own chair. “How go things with the Woodland Realm?” Bram asked, taking a sip of the deep red wine.

Eilian thought quickly but could see no reason not to tell the truth. Besides, he wanted Bram to trust him, and if Bram was like Thranduil, the best way to do that was to be honest. “Much the same as they have,” he said. “We battle Orcs and spiders. We do not seem to be losing ground at the moment but we are never at a loss for a target for our weapons. How go things with the Men of Dale?”

Bram ran a finger around rim of his cup. “We see an occasional Orc raiding party, but for the most part, we have been at peace since the Easterlings were driven out of the land south of us fifty years or so ago.”

Eilian sipped his own wine. It was not as good as his father’s, he noted automatically, but it was still worth drinking. “Your people seem to be thriving. We passed through the market on our way here.”

“Goods come up the river, and the Dwarves of the Iron Hills come here to trade too. As you know,” Bram added.

“We do know, and as I said, we are grateful for your people’s help in getting us the iron we need.” Eilian hesitated. “I do not like to think that our being well armed would worry you, my lord. Elves and Men have long been allies in this part of Arda.”

Bram leaned back in his chair. “We have heard that Thranduil has little respect for men.”

Eilian froze. The problem with that statement was that it was true. Then, suddenly, he thought about Bram’s words: “we have heard,” he had said. Rumors must indeed be afloat in Dale, he thought. Not that he had doubted it after hearing about the toymakers that Legolas and Beliond had found in the woods. He brought himself back to immediate problem of telling Bram about Thranduil’s attitude toward Men. He had to be very careful in speaking for his father. Thranduil would not look kindly on Eilian making promises in his behalf. “Thranduil values his alliance with Men,” he finally said. “He has no wish to interfere in their affairs, any more than he would welcome their interference in those of the Woodland Realm, but he has fought alongside Men against the forces of darkness, and he knows that the Men of Dale have been steadfast in their hatred of the Shadow.”

That much was true. Of course, it was also true that Thranduil had seen Men serve Sauron and would probably not be surprised if even the Men of Dale were tempted into doing it.

Bram looked at him and smiled slightly. Eilian had the distinct impression that Bram knew how carefully he was picking his words. “I am happy to hear of the value that King Thranduil places on his friendship with us. As I said earlier, my people have been helping his warriors to arm themselves. If I thought that the Elves of the Woodland Realm wished us ill, then it would be foolish of me to allow that to continue, and I would not like to think I have been foolish.”

Eilian scarcely dared breathe. “I am sure you have not been foolish, my lord.” He looked straight into Bram’s dark eyes, willing him to see that he was telling the truth.

After a moment, Bram set his cup of wine aside and rose, drawing Eilian to his feet too. “We should talk more, and perhaps get to know one another better so that we may each know how to value the other. Be my guest for dinner and sleep beneath my roof this night.”

“With pleasure, my lord,” Eilian said. This invitation seemed to him to be a good sign.

“A servant will show you to a guest room.” Bram opened the door to reveal Maltanaur, looking deceptively calm. Eilian saw his keeper’s eyes sweep over him and then saw the set of his shoulders ease slightly. Bram turned to Eilian, looking amused. “Your attendant is also welcome of course. I assume he would be happiest in the room next to yours?”

Eilian grinned. “I believe he would.”

Bram beckoned to the servant. “Show our guests to room in the east hallway.” He turned to Eilian. “Where are your belongings?”

“With our horses. My attendant will fetch them.” Bram nodded and went back toward the reception room, where presumably he had other business to attend to including conferring with his advisors about Eilian’s truthfulness. The servant led Eilian and Maltanaur around a corner and down a hall to two rooms, each with a comfortable looking bed, chest, and washstand. Maltanaur went into Eilian’s room first and checked the window to see if it fastened properly. The servant who was escorting them raised an eyebrow. Eilian grinned, thanked him, and sent him on his way.

He turned back to Maltanaur. “What did you think?”

Maltanaur shrugged. “Bram is worried about something. Did he tell you anything when he had you alone?”

“Not really. I would say that he has heard rumors that we are becoming hostile to him and his people. I tried to set his mind at ease, but I believe he is still wary.” He rubbed the back of his neck, considering what Bram’s manner said more than his words. Then he raised his eyes to Maltanaur’s and smiled faintly. “I will have to see if I can charm him at dinner.”

Maltanaur laughed. “I have faith in you. Shall I go and get our packs?”

“Yes. You should probably wait to speak to Legolas and Beliond too if they are not back yet. Tell them we will be staying the night. They will have to find lodgings somewhere.” He grimaced. “Remind them that the townspeople may not all be friendly. I wish Todith had sent someone other than Legolas with us.”

Maltanaur lifted an eyebrow. “Todith must think that Legolas is up to the task or he would not have sent him. You need to show a little faith in your brother.”

“You are probably right,” Eilian said ruefully. A comforting thought struck him. “And besides, Beliond will watch him like a hawk.”

Maltanaur laughed. “That he will.” And he started back along the hallway toward the entrance to the palace.


Legolas settled onto the bench in the shade of the stunted maple tree near the water trough. If he had learned one thing during his years as a warrior, it was to relax when he had the chance. Beliond sat down next to him, and they watched the horses peacefully browsing through the grass at the edge of the courtyard.

Legolas thought about the merchant he and Beliond had seen in the market. He really would like a chance to investigate the Man further, but Beliond was unlikely to allow it. He frowned to himself. It was true that Beliond had more experience than he did, but surely he should have some say in how they went about their task.

“What do you really think about the spice merchant?” he asked abruptly. “Do you honestly think he is harmless?”

Beliond sighed. For a moment, Legolas thought he was not going to answer. Then he said, “In truth, I could not say. If it does turn out that someone is poisoning the Men’s minds against us, a spice merchant would have the perfect excuse to go back and forth to the lands that are under the sway of the enemy and carry news.”

“What is it like there?” Legolas asked. Rather to his surprise, he realized he had never before asked Beliond about his experiences as a spy.

Beliond made a face. “Like everywhere else where Men dwell under stupid and selfish rulers who keep them in line through cruelty.”

Legolas had opened his mouth to ask exactly where Beliond had been when the door opened and Maltanaur came out alone. Legolas jumped to his feet, immediately worried about Eilian. But Maltanaur’s face was placid enough. He came over to them. “We will be spending the night here. Eilian and I are staying in the palace. You two will need to make other arrangements.”

“We will camp in the woods outside of town,” Beliond said promptly.

“No! The woods are too far away,” Legolas protested. “We should stay close. What if Eilian needs us?” A thought struck him, and he could not help grinning. “We can stay in the inn that is just down the street.”

Beliond turned to him sharply. “That is a bad idea,” he declared flatly.

Legolas set his mouth determinedly. “We will be close by if we are needed and we will be able to continue taking the measure of the town’s mood,” he declared. “I am staying there. You are welcome to do likewise or not, just as you choose.”

He turned resolutely to Maltanaur, not wanting to see the outrage on Beliond’s face. Maltanaur was watching them both. Now he looked sideways at Beliond and said a little apologetically, “The inn sounds like a good idea. I would be happy to have you on hand if we need you.” Legolas grinned at him, enjoying the sound of Beliond sputtering. “Eilian and I are staying in two rooms on the ground floor,” Maltanaur went on. “They are in the back of the east wing. My window is the third from the end, and Eilian’s is the fourth. You should also be able to recognize it from the water barrel that is directly across from it against the wall of the building opposite.”

Legolas nodded. He was a little worried about leaving Eilian in the palace, but at least he would know where to find him if he had to. “We have something to tell you before we go,” he added, and he launched into a description of the herb seller. “Beliond says he has spices that are from the east,” he finished, and looked at his keeper, who in the face of the need to report what they had learned had stopped protesting about the inn and now nodded his confirmation of Legolas’s account.

Maltanaur had listened intently. “I will tell Eilian,” he said. “You two be careful.” He smiled blandly at Beliond. “Do not get raucous in the inn’s common room.” Beliond snorted and Maltanaur turned to take his and Eilian’s packs from their horses’ backs. “The guard tells me they will care for all of our horses in the king’s stables,” he said over his shoulder, “so you can leave them here.”

Legolas started forward to get his own pack, excited by the thought of a night in the inn. Beliond looked much less enthusiastic.


“He will be fine,” said the novice master, “but he will be laid up for a while. I wanted you to hear it from me.”

“Have you spoken to his parents?” Ithilden asked.

“Yes,” said Lomilad with a faint smile. “His naneth is happily fussing over him.”

Ithilden laughed. “Good. He will be glad to come back to training. Was there anything else?”

Lomilad shook his head and rose. “No. The exercise went well. We should have several good new warriors for you next month.”

“As always, I am grateful for the training that you and the weapons masters provide.”

“Thank you, my lord.” Lomilad saluted and left the office, and Ithilden’s aide came in and handed him a sheaf of reports.

“Thank you, Calith,” Ithilden said.

“The paper on top gives you the names of two Home Guard warriors who have asked for transfers, my lord,” the aide told him. “You could send either of them south more or less immediately and thus extend Lord Eilian’s leave.”

“Good.” Ithilden reached for the paper, and the aide withdrew. Ithilden looked at the names and immediately rejected the first one because the warrior was too young and inexperienced for the Southern Patrol, but the other was a possibility. He would send the young warrior elsewhere. He thought fleetingly of Legolas, who had also asked for a transfer. Perhaps he should consider sending his youngest brother north. That was also a relatively safe posting, but it would at least give Legolas some different experience under a different captain.

He wished that Legolas were not so eager for a more exciting posting. He sat for a moment looking out his window, watching Lomilad disappear in the direction of the novice training fields, and unbidden, a memory of his own youthful eagerness came back to him. He had told Alfirin about his desire to become a novice when his friend Anin did, but not about how he had tried to force the issue. Even now, that memory was painful, but he had thought of it several times in the last few days while he was trying to decide what to do with Sinnarn.



Ithilden paused and drew a deep breath. It was now or never. His father was due home any day, and if Ithilden was going to prove himself ready for novice training, he had better do it while Thranduil was away. He took one more breath and then walked the rest of the way to the field where a group of novices was assembling for a blade lesson. “Good morning, master,” he greeted Lomilad, who served as blade master as well as head novice master.

Lomilad looked up from his inspection of the practice swords. “Good morning, Ithilden. What can I do for you? Your class has an archery lesson this morning, does it not?”

“Yes,” Ithilden agreed. He steeled himself. “Did no one tell you that you were to evaluate my blade work to see if I should be admitted as a novice this year rather than next?” His heart beat so loudly he feared Lomilad might hear it.

“No,” Lomilad said, looking startled. “No one has.” He looked at Ithilden thoughtfully for a long moment, while Ithilden held his breath. “Very well,” Lomilad said slowly, and Ithilden nearly sagged with relief. He had warmed up thoroughly on his own, and he knew he was ready to give the master the best performance of which he was capable. He was sure that would be very good indeed.

Lomilad turned and called to two of the novices who were gathered nearby. Ithilden knew their names – Tarion and Elondel – but he did not know either Elf very well. They were both several years older than he was, although he was pleased to note that he was taller than either of them.

“We will do a three-person drill,” he told them and then turned to Ithilden. “Get protective gear and a practice sword.” He gestured to the equipment, and Ithilden hastened to do as he had been told and find leather armor and a helmet that fit and a sword whose balance he liked. He was so elated that his hands shook when he tried to buckle on his chestplate. He could not believe that Lomilad had agreed to test him. With what seemed like a heroic effort, he forced himself to settle down and concentrate.

The two novices were both strapping on gear too. “Do you need help with the buckle?” Tarion asked pleasantly.

“No, thank you.” Ithilden felt his face grow warm. He yanked at the strap and finally succeeded in fastening it. He picked up the sword he had chosen and walked back to Lomilad. He was unfamiliar with the drill Lomilad had named, so he assumed it was one that the novices did even though the younger students in the weapons training did not. He had thought Lomilad might ask him to battle a capable novice, but he had no idea what he would be expected to do against two of them. I am ready, he thought with determination. I can do this.

“Take your places,” Lomilad told Tarion and Elondel, and they trotted out onto the field to stand about forty feet apart, facing one another. “Stand halfway between them,” Lomilad ordered Ithilden, and, a little uncertainly, Ithilden obeyed. “When I tell you to begin, attack and hit Tarion. All hits have to be to the torso in this drill. When you have hit Tarion, immediately turn around and attack Elondel. They will parry your attacks, so you will have that to deal with.”

Ithilden nodded. That seemed simple enough.

Lomilad eyed him appraisingly. “You are competent enough with a sword that you will find this easy at first,” he said, “but as you tire, you will breathe harder and move more slowly. Your legs will burn, and your form will become sloppier.”

Ithilden stifled an impulse to protest. He knew his form was excellent, and he intended to keep it that way. He would pass this test if it took every bit of strength he had.

“No matter how tired you get, you will not stop until I tell you to,” Lomilad finished, his voice hard. “Do you understand?” Ithilden felt a little qualm but nodded. “Good.” Lomilad backed away. “Begin!” he called.

Ithilden turned and leapt toward Tarion, sweeping Tarion’s sword aside and allowing his own sword to slide along Tarion’s until it touched home. Tarion blinked. He had obviously not been expecting such an aggressive attack, and Ithilden gleefully turned to move toward Elondel. He hoped Lomilad had seen that, he thought triumphantly. The move was a flashy one, and Ithilden was proud of the speed and control that had allowed him to carry it off against the novice Tarion.

Elondel had seen what happened to Tarion and had set himself on guard, his sword raised to protect the middle of his body and his feet widely planted. Ithilden lunged at him, darting just into range, and recovering rapidly when Elondel knocked his sword aside and thrust his sword toward Ithilden’s belly. Ithilden twisted and then drove his own sword into Elondel’s ribs. Immediately, he swung back toward Tarion again.

His concentration was absolute now, and his world narrowed to the space between Tarion and Elondel. For what seemed a boundless time, he shuffled back and forth between them, breathing harder and harder and becoming more and more aware of the muscles in his legs, trembling on the edge of cramping beneath him and finally beginning to spasm. Sweat stung his eyes, but he had no time to wipe it away. And then, to his horror, even he could see that his attack was degrading. His legs were so shaky and tired that they could scarcely support him and his lunges were becoming shorter. Elondel parried his attack easily, and Ithilden found he was lucky to remember what to do to fight of the counterstrike that Elondel launched against him.

“Attack twenty more times,” called Lomilad, and to his shame, Ithilden felt a flash of relief. Doggedly, he started after Tarion, who looked so relaxed and fresh that Ithilden hated the sight of him. He tried to count to twenty in his head but lost track and nearly wept with gratitude when Lomilad finally called, “Stop.”

For a moment, he stood where he was, with sweat running down his face and his breath coming in pants. How could he have done so badly? he wondered in despair. Then he forced himself to walk on trembling legs to stand in front of the novice master. Lomilad regarded him calmly, and Ithilden dragged his sleeve across his forehead once, and then drew himself to stand erect and miserable and face the master’s judgment.

“This was an endurance drill, Ithilden,” Lomilad said after a moment. “The point of it is not to show off one’s flashy swordwork. The point is to learn to fight through your fatigue, as you might have to do in a battle. Novice training is serious business. Your own life and those of other people will depend on how well you learn your lessons here.”

Ithilden bit his lip to control his impulse to ask how he had done. If the point of the drill was to fight to exhaustion, then perhaps he had not disgraced himself so badly after all. The novice master smiled slightly. “You did well. When you fill out just a little more you are going to be unusually strong, and you are quick for someone your size.”

Ithilden let out a breath he had not known he was holding. “Will you recommend that I be admitted as a novice this year?”

“I will talk to the king when he returns,” Lomilad said. Ithilden hesitated. That was not quite what he had wanted to hear, but he suspected that it was all that Lomilad was going to say on the topic, and his suspicion was confirmed when Lomilad said, “Go on to your archery class now. Tell the master that I excused you for being late.”

All Ithilden could do was nod and obey, but he could not help feeling a knot of worry. Unless Lomilad was very certain in his assessment of Ithilden’s readiness, Thranduil was likely to insist he wait the extra year before joining the novices, and he would almost certainly object to Ithilden having maneuvered to get this trial. He went off to his class but had trouble keeping his mind on his lesson.

As it turned out, he had executed his plan just in time, because his father arrived home in time for evening meal that night. His mother was overjoyed, and they had a pleasant family evening, although Ithilden could not help feeling anxious about what Lomilad might say to his father.

The next afternoon, Thranduil summoned him as soon as he had finished his lessons.  The minute Ithilden entered his father’s office, he knew that he was in trouble. Thranduil sat rigidly erect at his desk, leaving Ithilden to stand before it with his heart in his mouth. His father wasted no time in getting to the point.

“Ithilden, did you tell the novice master that I said he was to consider accepting you as a novice this year?”

Ithilden drew a deep breath. “No, Adar. I asked him if anyone had told him he was to assess my potential for becoming a novice and he said they had not, but then he did it anyway.”

Thranduil’s face grew red. “In other words,” he said in a whip-sharp voice, “you deceived him.”

Ithilden bit his lip but judged it best to make no reply. He would wait out his father’s fury and see what Lomilad had decided.

“I am shocked that you would abuse your position as my son like that,” Thranduil hissed, breathing hard. “Never let me hear of you doing such a thing again.”

“Yes, Adar. I am sorry.” Ithilden hesitated but then pressed on. He had to know. “What did Lomilad say about my becoming a novice?”

Thranduil looked at him incredulously. “It does not matter what he said,” he cried. “What matters is what I say, and I say you will wait a year just as anyone else would. If you want extra lessons of any sort I can see to it that you have them. Indeed that is an excellent idea. You will spend an extra hour with your tutor every day for a week.”

Ithilden opened his mouth, shut it, and then could not resist saying, “You treat me like a child!”

“Far from that, I know you are not a child, and therefore you should know better! Tomorrow you will apologize to Lomilad for deceiving him. You may go to your chamber now.”

Ithilden could feel his hands shaking in fury, but he had just enough self-control to hold his tongue. He turned on his heel and fled from his father’s office.



“My lord?”

Ithilden looked up to find his aide in the doorway. “Yes, Calith?”

“Will you need me any more today?”

It dawned on Ithilden that the afternoon was drawing to a close. “No, thank you. We will take care of the rest of this tomorrow.” Calith saluted and withdrew, and Ithilden pushed the papers on his desk aside and rose and stretched. Tomorrow would be soon enough to send another warrior on his way south.

He left his office and walked along the path past the training fields, all of them empty at this hour. He had turned onto the path leading past the king’s stables to the garden when he heard a horse approaching and turned to see his father, mounted on his big stallion, obviously just returning from his afternoon ride. Thranduil turned and wave his two guards off, and they wheeled away while Thranduil slid from his horse and led him toward Ithilden. The two of them walked together toward the stables.

“How was your day?” Thranduil asked.

“One of the novices broke his leg in an accident during the war games exercise, but he will be fine.”

Thranduil’s horse shoved his head between them to nuzzle at Thranduil’s neck, and Thranduil laughed and patted him. He glanced at Ithilden. “Have you decided what to do about Sinnarn?

Ithilden grimaced. “No. He fully expects to become a novice this year, but I really am uneasy about it. He seems so irresponsible.”

Thranduil looked ahead for a moment, saying nothing. Then he said, “What does Alfirin say?”

“She says Sinnarn should not be hurried. She thinks I am demanding too much of him too soon. She says if Sinnarn wants to spend time with his friends, I should let him because he will be grown up forever, and a year or two now will make no difference.”

Thranduil smiled. “She sounds like your naneth.”

Ithilden could not help smiling too. “She does,” he agreed.

Thranduil hesitated and then said, “I kept Legolas back for six months.”

“True,” Ithilden agreed. “But there were other problems there.”

“Yes, but the delay was good for him. It gave him time to decide if he was willing to accept the discipline involved in the training and in being a warrior in general.”

Ithilden sighed. “Sinnarn would see such a delay as a punishment.”

“It would depend on how you approached it.”

Ithilden grimaced. He did not want to have to decide this matter right now. “How was your day?” he asked, changing the topic.

Thranduil shrugged. “I had another message from Educ. He is still asking for a bigger commission on the iron. I will wait to answer him until I hear how Eilian fares.”

Ithilden nodded, although he could not help feeling a bit anxious about the iron. “Eilian will manage,” he said, as much to comfort himself as to reassure his father. “I am sure he has the situation in Dale well in hand.”

“Probably,” Thranduil nodded. “We will have to wait and see.”


<< Back

Next >>

Leave Review
Home     Search     Chapter List