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Time's Turnings  by daw the minstrel

Thanks to Nilmandra for beta reading this chapter.


11. Doing Well

Finally relieved of his post on night guard duty, Legolas hurried through the camp toward the flet where he knew that Eilian and Maltanaur had spent the night. He waved to Tynd, who was stirring the patrol’s morning porridge, but he did not stop to speak. Dawn light was sliding in among the trees, and he wanted to say goodbye to his brother. He did not think Eilian would leave without speaking to him, but Legolas did not like to keep him waiting.

Abruptly, he slowed as he came in sight of the tree in which the flet was perched. Eilian stood at its foot, talking to Todith. Legolas hovered at a short distance, not wanting to interrupt Eilian and his captain, but Todith caught sight of him and, beckoning him to approach, clasped arms with Eilian, evidently through with whatever he had to say. “Take care, Eilian,” Todith said and walked back toward the camp’s central fire, smiling at Legolas as he passed.

“Good morning, brat,” Eilian greeted him, thrusting his pack into Legolas’s arms. “I was just telling Todith that he is going to have to keep an eye on you so that you do not fall into the corrupting arms of a prostitute.” For a horrible second, Legolas feared he was serious, and then Eilian laughed and put his arm around Legolas’s shoulders to steer him toward where the horses were kept. Legolas resisted a deep desire to shove Eilian’s pack back into his stomach.

“In truth,” Eilian said, “I was telling him that you did well on this mission. You were right to judge that the spice merchant was not what he seemed. I can not say I am entirely happy you took the risk of searching his shop, but you did it sensibly, letting Beliond do what he is good at and thinking quickly on your feet.”

Legolas felt a sudden warm rush of pleasure in his brother’s approval. “Thank you.” The words felt absurdly inadequate for the satisfaction he took in Eilian’s recognition of his competence.

And then Eilian grinned and the moment passed. “I think perhaps it will not be necessary for Adar to know just what you told the men you were doing there. He might not appreciate it as much as I do.”

“Few people would,” Legolas said dryly.

Eilian laughed. “True.” In unspoken agreement, the two of them paused on the edge of the clearing where Beliond stood with his back toward them, helping Maltanaur ready his horse for the trip.

Maltanaur had a huge grin on his face as he tied a waterskin onto his horse’s back. “Tossing knives!” he exclaimed. “I should have known you would be unable to resist showing off.”

“Do you remember the time Thranduil tried to toss seven at once?” Beliond asked. “He had to do some fancy explaining to the king as to how he got that cut on his hand.” They both laughed.

Legolas became aware that his mouth had fallen open, and a glance at Eilian told him that his brother was equally astonished. Eilian’s eyes met his, and abruptly they both hooted with laughter. Beliond turned and saw them. “I trust you two are not being so disrespectful as to laugh at your adar and king,” he said gruffly.

Legolas opened his mouth to protest that Beliond and Maltanaur had just been laughing at their king but Eilian said, “Of course not,” with dignity that was only slightly marred by a subsequent snort. Legolas became aware of the amusement that still lingered in Beliond’s eyes and relaxed.

A step sounded behind them, and Legolas turned to see Tinár walking toward them, carrying two packs. He glanced at Eilian and saw his amused look fade to a grimace. To Legolas’s satisfaction and that of every other member of the Eastern Border Patrol, Tinár was finally taking his long postponed leave. That Eilian and Maltanaur were being burdened with his company for the trip home was their hard luck.

“Ah, you are both here already,” Tinár prattled glancing from Eilian to Maltanaur. “Of course, you have been away from home for only a few days, while I had to gather all the mending I have been saving to take home for my wife to do.” He started across the clearing to where his horse has lifted his head at Tinár’s approach.

“Can you not mend your own clothes?” Beliond asked, with one eyebrow raised. “I can teach you.” Having learned to mend under Beliond’s tutelage, Legolas had no doubt Beliond could teach Tinár too and that watching him do it would provide a great deal of entertainment.

Tinár shook his head. “Gewiel looks forward to doing these little things for me, and I would not want to disappoint her.”

Legolas thought that sounded unlikely. “Your wife enjoys darning your leggings?”

“Oh, yes,” said Tinár.

“She likes to sew them shut,” muttered Eilian. Legolas nearly choked on suppressed laughter and then felt how much he was going to miss Eilian after having had this chance to spend time with him on patrol. He would redouble his efforts to get Ithilden to give him that transfer, he vowed. One of these days he would join his brother’s patrol.

Eilian too must have felt the pain of imminent separation because Legolas found himself caught in his brother’s arms and clasped close. “Take care, brat,” Eilian murmured in his ear.

“You too.” The inadequate words would have to do.  There was no point in telling Eilian how much Legolas worried about him or how devastated he would be if anything disastrous happened.

Eilian released him, thumped him hard on the back, and walked to where Maltanaur and Tinár were already mounted. Beliond still stood by Maltanaur’s leg. “Goodbye, old friend,” he said.

“Goodbye, old friend,” Maltanaur echoed and then turned to grin at Legolas. “Look after him for me, Legolas.”

“I will,” Legolas laughed.

Beliond stepped away from Maltanaur’s horse with a small scowl. Eilian leapt onto his horse’s back and nudged him to where Beliond was standing. Beliond raised a hand to stop him from saying anything. “You do not need to ask. He is enough of a warrior now that my task is easier, and I begin to have some hope of succeeding. Besides, I will watch out for him if only because I would hate to see the realm lose the benefit of all that training.”

Eilian grinned. “I was just going to ask you to keep him away from the ladies of the evening.” And with a laugh and a wave, he led his small group toward home.

Beliond came to stand next to where Legolas stood, watching the place where they had vanished into the forest. “Are you coming back to the flet?” Beliond had stood night guard duty right next to Legolas, so Legolas knew that Beliond was probably tired. He should be tired too, but he felt too restless to sleep immediately.

He glanced self-consciously at Beliond. “I thought I might take some time to help my horse become more accustomed to using tack.” He braced himself for Beliond’s reaction, but his keeper was admirably restrained.

“That might be wise,” he said neutrally. He turned to walk back toward their flet but then halted. “You really did do well, Legolas,” he said and walked away, leaving a bemused Legolas fumbling for an appropriate answer to his praise.


“Come in,” Thranduil called, and Eilian strode into his father’s office and saluted. “Eilian!” Thranduil smiled a welcome and tossed his pen down. “You have been quick. Sit down and tell me how things went.” Warmed by his father’s obvious pleasure in seeing him, Eilian dropped into the chair in front of Thranduil’s desk and launched into an account of his mission.

On his way home, Eilian had speculated on whether it would be better to withhold the fact that Legolas had been one of his guards, but he had realized that Todith would almost certainly tell Ithilden whom he had sent, and that meant that Thranduil might learn that Eilian had not told him everything. That would be bad.

Of course, Eilian might be back with his patrol by then, so three months would pass before he was home again, by which time his father’s anger would be spent. Probably. But when Eilian had left on this mission, Ithilden had been talking about extending his leave, so after vacillating for a while, Eilian had decided that risking Thranduil’s wrath was not worth whatever trouble he would save by not telling him that Legolas had been on the mission.

Besides, Legolas had done well, and Eilian’s sense of fairness made him want to tell Ithilden and Thranduil so. Eilian knew that his younger brother chafed under the restrictions that Ithilden set on his service, restrictions that Thranduil probably refrained from insisting upon only because Ithilden already enforced them. Eilian had known that even before this mission, but even seeing Legolas carrying out the simple warrior’s tasks this mission had required had slightly shifted Eilian’s perceptions of his brother. Legolas was a competent young warrior. His king and his troop commander should know that.

In the long run then, he had decided to tell his father about everything except for the means by which Beliond had gotten hold of the letter and the means by which Legolas had kept the Men occupied long enough for Beliond to get away. Thus he concentrated now on giving Thranduil a report that would make it clear that the Easterlings had been discovered and that Bram still regarded the Elves as his allies.

Thranduil listened in silence, his reaction to the news about Legolas evident only in the tightening of his hands on the arms of his chair. “Bram acknowledged the falseness of the rumors?” he asked when Eilian had finished.

Thranduil considered what he had been told, the fingers of his right hand drumming on the chair arm. He looked straight at Eilian. “Did you ask Todith to send Legolas with you?”

“No, of course not.” Eilian was startled that his father would suspect him of doing such a thing. “Todith simply assigned him. He said that Legolas had been interesting in the toy makers when he met them in the woods and this was a chance for him to see more of Men.”

Thranduil frowned. “What could Todith have been thinking? He knew Men of Dale might be hostile. It was no place to send a young warrior.”

Hearing his father’s words, Eilian suddenly saw clearly how maddening even Eilian’s protectiveness might be to Legolas. He tried to think of how to phrase what he wanted to say. “Legolas is a young warrior, Adar, but he is a competent one, and he did well on this trip.” Thranduil looked as if he would speak, but Eilian pressed on, “He was polite and perceptive about the mood of the town. I was lucky to have him along.” There had been moments during this mission when Eilian would have given anything to be able to send Legolas home, but he was not going to admit that to his father.

Thranduil regarded him for a moment, and then, to Eilian’s surprise, he smiled faintly. “He did well?”

Eilian grinned at him. “He did.”

Thranduil looked down at the desk and pursed his lips. Finally, he said, “You say Beliond ‘found’ a letter?”

Eilian held his breath. “Yes.”

A long silence settled into the room, as Thranduil looked away and then back again. “Ah, yes,” he said dryly. “Beliond is good at ‘finding’ things.” He paused. “Was Legolas with him when he ‘found’ it?”

Eilian hesitated and then surrendered with a grin. “My understanding is that Legolas stood lookout. Beliond apparently refused to let him help with the ‘finding’ part.”

Thranduil snorted. “I should hope not.” He leaned forward. “I will need to write to Educ,” he said briskly, looking pleased at the prospect. “Under the circumstances, I see no reason to increase the commission he is paid for helping us buy the iron from the Dwarves.”

Recognizing his dismissal, Eilian rose. “By your leave,” he said, and when Thranduil nodded, he turned to go.

“Eilian,” his father called him back, and Eilian turned inquiringly. “You did well too,” Thranduil said and smiled.

“Thank you, Adar.” His father’s simple compliment had pleased Eilian more than he would have believed possible. He returned his father’s smile, and Thranduil waved him on his way.


Ithilden pushed open the door of his and Alfirin’s apartment, his mind still on the news that Thranduil had given him about Eilian’s trip to Dale. He was enormously relieved that the trade in iron was not going to be interrupted. He could not imagine what his warriors would do if the armorers were not able to continue making weapons. He let his mind rest for a moment on what his father had said about Legolas’s satisfactory performance as Eilian’s guard. He sighed. He might have to give in to Legolas’s request for a transfer.

Alfirin looked up from where she was sewing at the fireside. “Good evening, my love,” she smiled, lifting her face to be kissed. “How was your day?”

He took advantage of her invitation, brushing his lips against her cheek. She was soft and warm beneath his mouth. He knew that people sometimes grew tired of touching the one to whom they were bonded, but he could not imagine ever feeling that way himself. “Have you been to see your adar?” he asked. Alfirin’s father was one of Thranduil’s foresters.

“Yes. I spoke to him this afternoon. He said he would be happy with the arrangement we propose. You know he has always thought that a warrior’s life was a necessary evil.”

Ithilden nodded. He did know that. His father-in-law had never been entirely pleased by his daughter’s marriage to a warrior. “I will speak to Sinnarn now. If he does not like this plan, we will find another.” There was no point in putting off the inevitable. He and Alfirin had made their decision. Now he needed to tell their son about it in a way that would not harm him.

He went down the short hall that led to the sleeping chambers and raised his hand to knock on Sinnarn’s door. The sound of his son’s harp made him hesitate. He was glad that Sinnarn could take solace in music. He remembered comforting himself with his harp in much the same way when he had been in trouble very much like the trouble Sinnarn was in now.



“Come in,” Ithilden called, and his mother entered his room. He came to his feet from chair into which he had flung himself after his father had reprimanded him for deceiving the novice master and trying to push his case for being made a novice a year early.

Lorellin looked at him with such compassion that Ithilden wanted to snap at her and cry at the same time. “Your adar told me what happened, Ithilden.” She moved across the room and took the chair opposite his, so he sat down too.

For a moment, silence reigned. Then he could not bear it. “I have to be ready to lead Adar’s troops!” he cried passionately. “How can he hold me back like this?”

She bit her lip. “I know you are fated to lead, child.” Ithilden knew she had a hard time accepting that he was destined to carry such serious burdens, but she usually managed to do so.

“If you know that, then surely you can see why I can not behave as if I had all the time in Arda!” He heard the pleading note in his own voice. “Can you not speak to him, Naneth?”

She leaned forward a little. “Surely you do not doubt your strength and skill, Ithilden?”

Hope leapt in his heart at her admission of his abilities. “Then you agree that I am ready.”

She smiled slightly. “I do, but the question is what are you ready for?” He blew out his breath in exasperation and dropped his head against the back of his chair. She was going to lecture him.

“It is hard for me,” his mother went on, “but I do accept that you have to prepare to lead your adar’s troops and should the worst happen, the Woodland Realm.” At this, he raised his head to look at her pale face. She could not find it easy to talk about his father’s possible death, Ithilden thought, but the specter of Oropher hung heavily in the room. They sat in silence for a few seconds. Then his mother drew a deep breath and went on. “However, leading the troops or our people will take more than strength and skill, and you do not need to worry about those in any case. You have them in abundance.”

Curious in spite of himself, he asked, “What do you mean it ‘will take more’? What are you thinking about?”

“I am thinking about living with honor, about earning the respect of others, about being able to set aside your own desires to serve those of your warriors or your people. I see your adar do these things every day, and they are what I hope you will be able to do too.”

“I can do those things,” Ithilden protested, resenting her implication that he could not.

She reached to put her hand on his knee. “I know you can, but I was unhappy at what your adar told me, iôn-nín. I admit that you are obligated to become a leader by your position as the king’s son, though doing so saddens me because I wish you could have more freedom and joy in your life and fewer responsibilities. But the truth is that you have those burdens. And when you went to Lómilad, instead of living up to your position, you took advantage of it.”

He felt his face grow warm and looked down at his hands to avoid her eyes. For a second, he wished he were back in his father’s office again, suffering another tongue lashing. He had been able to be self-righteous and angry with Thranduil, but here, in his room, with his mother’s quiet voice still speaking, he felt only shame.

“I know you, Ithilden, and I know that you have it in you to make a trusted commander that everyone can rely on. You are a natural born leader, and people respond to you. But you need to spend some time thinking about how to lead in a way that will not destroy you.”

He looked at her slender hand, resting on his knee, and to his fury, he had to blink away tears. He did not trust himself to respond to her.

She seemed to hesitate and then, tentatively, she asked, “What is it that has caused this hurry, child? Is it because Anin will become a novice this year?”

He stiffened, looked up at her, and opened his mouth to make a heated denial. Then, with an honesty his father would have been proud of, he asked himself if he was indeed pushing his own case because he did not want to lose Anin – or, less creditably, be outstripped by him, particularly in the eyes of Celedë. “Anin is my friend,” he finally managed, “and I am happy for him.”

His mother smiled. “Yes, I know you are, but you will miss him too.”

“Yes.” Ithilden tucked away his thoughts about Anin – and Celedë – to take out again after his mother had left.

His mother rose, making him stand too. She drew his head down to kiss his brow, and he suddenly felt the strangeness of being taller than she was. “You are a brave, strong, intelligent person, Ithilden. Your adar and I know your worth, and so do your friends. I hope that you know it too.”

She started toward the door and then stopped, looking at where his harp lay on the bed. She had given him this particular instrument on his last begetting day, and now she turned and smiled at him. “I forgot to say that you are also my favorite harpist.”

He laughed in spite of himself, and she went out of the room, leaving him feeling much better than he had when she came in, but also leaving him much to think about.



Ithilden stood in front of Sinnarn’s door, with the memory of his mother strong in his mind. He had played the harp less often after she died, had picked it up regularly again only after he met Alfirin. What did he want here? he asked himself. Why had he thought of his mother and what she had said to him on that evening so long ago? He sighed. What he wanted was to guide his son as well as he had been guided. He hoped he was up to the task. He raised his hand and knocked on Sinnarn’s door.

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