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Chapter 5: Forgiveness
Thranduil entered the Great Hall, managing to avoid being announced and instead merely mingling among his people. He stopped to thank the searchers whom he had spent the evening with, reporting to them that Legolas was well and that he was now asleep. He moved on, greeting people from the further reaches of his realm, many of who came for the celebration and would now stay nearby until the storm abated and they could return to their homes. He finally came to a table where the two families he had asked to speak with were seated. They were subdued, their body language speaking volumes about the tension between them. They all stood, bowing, as he approached. No one else in the Great Hall had done so, for they recognized when their king dressed in common clothes and wandered among them that such formalities were unwanted. That these two families either did not know, or were nervous enough to ignore, was interesting to him.
He waved for them to sit, then pulled up a chair to sit across from them.
“Normally I would not involve myself in the affairs of children, trusting them to work out their disagreements amongst themselves. However, the things my son had asked me about his mother and brother and how they died, about Tathiel’s relationship to him, as well as my own, had led me to wonder where children are hearing such gossip,” he said calmly. As he spoke, he watched color rise in the cheeks of Abronwë’s mother. Neither she nor her son would meet his eyes. His comments were met initially by silence, and his eyes drifted finally to Abronwë’s father, who grimaced.
“My lord, I have questioned my wife and son about what Abronwë said to your son Legolas. My son has repeated things he has overheard my wife and her companions discussing, quite out of the context in which they were said. He will be disciplined for his deceit in eavesdropping on his mother, as well as his unkind words to your son,” said the elf.
Thranduil turned his gaze to Abronwë. “Look at me, child,” he commanded softly. He watched as the child’s head slowly came up, and he looked deep into his eyes, and found sadness and insecurity and fear. “When did you move here?” he asked, his voice gentle.
“In the fall,” said Abronwë. “Our village was no longer safe.”
“Were there many children in your village?” probed Thranduil.
“Me and Narthan, and three others. I was the oldest,” replied Abronwë with a defiant lift of his chin.
“Hmm…I imagine around here you are not the oldest,” said Thranduil thoughtfully. “Yet, there are not many children near Legolas’s age, so I know he was glad to meet you two.”
“He is younger than me, but his brothers have taught him things I do not know,” added Abronwë. Thranduil could hear the hurt and the envy.
“Do you have siblings?” he asked.
Abronwë’s eyes flashed. “My brother is dead! I told you, our village was not safe!”
“Abronwë!” scolded the child’s father. “You do not speak to the king so!”
Thranduil reached out and took Abronwë’s hand in his own as memory came of the death of a young forester just past his majority in a village to the southwest. “I am sorry about your brother, Abronwë. You must miss him terribly.”
Abronwë crumbled before him, tears streaming down his face. His father quickly rose and pulled his son to him, for despite his pride in being the oldest elfling, Abronwë still easily fit in his father’s arms. Abronwë’s mother leaned against her husband’s side, grief so deeply etched on her face that Thranduil thought his heart might break.
Narthan’s family had sat quietly through the exchange, though Narthan rose and began to gently rub his friend’s arm. Thranduil liked the child immediately.
“My lord,” said Narthan’s mother, “I must confess my part in this. When we moved here, we tried hard to comfort Alinniel, but you are aware of the grief of a parent who has lost a child. One of our neighbors told us the story of how you lost your own son and wife, and the terrible times your little Legolas lived through and how he finally came home to you. The story comforted her, truly it did, and it was not told as gossip. We did not know small ears were listening, or that the parts he heard could be so misconstrued.”
Thranduil smiled at her, but did not speak until Abronwë and his parents were calm. “I do indeed know the grief of losing a child, and not a day goes by that I do not look upon Legolas and think how easily I might have lost him too. Yet I am fortunate in a way that you are as well, perhaps. Those who cared for and sustained my child, those who searched tirelessly for him, and those who brought him safely home are all dear to me, and all have a claim on my son. These friends have become as dear to us as family, and I am glad that you also support and sustain each other. Especially in such dark times, we must aid each other.”
He turned to Abronwë. “Legolas is fortunate for having older brothers and sisters. He has never lost someone he was close to, so you know a grief he does not. But his heart is generous, and I know that he will share his brothers with you. They are glad he has found friends as well.”
“Will Legolas still be my friend?” choked Abronwë.
“I am sure he will, but you may speak to him yourself tomorrow. He has also learned an important lesson about not running off into the forest. Unlike you, he did not know it could be so dangerous.”
“I could teach him,” offered Abronwë. “I know about storms and bears and things.”
Thranduil smiled. “You may teach him what you know, but he is not allowed to go into the forest without an adult.”
Abronwë peered from under lowered lashes at his father and winced. “I am not either,” he admitted.
“Tomorrow we are having a smaller celebration here at the dinner hour. Please come, for I know that Legolas will enjoy seeing his friends,” invited Thranduil. “Now I shall take my leave of you, for I have a tired elfling to tuck in.”
He rose amidst their murmured thanks, and with a wave to others nearby, he returned to his own chamber.
* * *
Legolas awoke snuggled in his brother’s arms. He turned his head to look over his shoulder at Lathron’s face, then twisted so he was lying on his back. Lathron’s grip did not loosen at all. He then slipped his hand under Lathron’s and began prying up each finger in turn. Just when he thought he was free, the hand clamped back down on his. He studied Lathron’s face, trying to decide if his brother was really awake and teasing him, or if he just really did not want to let him go. Lathron could be like that sometimes.
He suddenly had an idea, and clamped his lips closed so he wouldn’t laugh. He reached his fingers up to Lathron’s ribs and began to lightly tickle him. He felt the twitch of muscles beneath his fingers, and then saw the attempt not to smile on Lathron’s face. “Lathron, you are too awake!” he cried, squirming and rolling beneath his brother’s iron grip.
“So I am,” agreed Lathron, suddenly rolling Legolas on top of him. “How are you this morning, elfling?”
“Warm,” pronounced Legolas. “Is Mithrandir here?”
Lathron looked over the bed. “Nope.”
“Not in your bed, in the palace!” corrected Legolas, folding his arms over his chest, exasperated.
“In the palace, yes,” replied Lathron. “He wanted a warm bed, so I found him one and have not seen him since.”
“Should we go wake him for breakfast?”
“No, I think he wanted to sleep. Waking Mithrandir too soon is like rousing a bear before spring. He will appear when he is ready,” replied Lathron, his eyes twinkling, for he knew Legolas was up to something.
“He had tricks and did some magic,” confided Legolas. “But he would only show us two things. He said the rest had to wait until today.” He paused. “He only sounds like a bear, Lathron. I think he does not bite.”
Lathron laughed. “I do not intend to find out, and neither should you. Now, are you hungry? You did not eat last night.”
“We ate in the snow cave. Mithrandir had food, and I had treat bags,” replied Legolas absently. He plucked at the bedcover for a moment, thinking.
“Forget it, Legolas. You are not going to rouse a wizard before he wants to be roused. Come, let us go eat. You may not be hungry, but I am,” said Lathron. He tossed Legolas in the air, then set him on the floor.
Legolas grinned back at his brother, for he never got away with anything with Lathron. Bregolas always said that Lathron read him like a book.
“Get dressed and wash your face and hands!” called Lathron as Legolas ran out the door.
* * *
Legolas skipped into the Great Hall holding Emlin’s hand, the other held by Tathiel. He scanned the room quickly, finally spotting Mithrandir sitting near his father. He had been occupied all day, first by his brothers and sisters, and then, in the afternoon, by Emlin and Tathiel, and he had had no time at all to search for the wizard. He rather suspected that had been his father’s intent when he had planned Legolas’s day.
He kept his eyes on his father, waiting for the moment when his father would meet his gaze. Finally, Thranduil’s eyes met his, and Legolas gave him his most hopeful look. For a long moment, Thranduil’s face remained impassive, but then finally he smiled and beckoned Legolas to him.
Legolas ran to him, only slowing to a proper walk when he was within a few feet. He let himself be drawn into a half embrace, leaning against his father’s knee. He was quiet, for Urithral, Tinánia ’s father, was speaking. He suddenly felt his father’s hand tighten against his side, and realized he was bouncing. Settling his feet, he smiled sheepishly at his father.
“Young Legolas, how do you fare this fine Mid-winter’s day?”
Legolas spun as he realized that Mithrandir was speaking to him. “I fare well,” he replied politely. “Did you sleep well?”
“I slept as well as one might expect for having trudged all evening in a snow storm,” replied Mithrandir, his eyes twinkling.
Legolas nodded, his fingers twisting into his tunic as he debated asking his question. He looked up at the wizard and decided he probably did not bite at all. “Mithrandir, will show us your magic today?”
Mithrandir laughed, as well as everyone else at the table. On the other side of Thranduil, Bregolas slipped a coin to Lathron, and beyond Mithrandir, Urithral passed something to Rawien. “Legolas, you are entirely predictable and only your timing is of issue,” teased the wizard. “I will show you some magic after dinner, outside, and then we will discuss how to create a bit of mystery and unpredictability about your actions, so that I might finally win a bet with your brother.”
“Yes! Magic after dinner,” he cried, bouncing on his father’s knee. He did not know what else Mithrandir was talking about, but it did not matter. He was gong to do Magic!
The cooks and those serving then appeared, and Legolas trotted off to his seat between Lathron and Tathiel. As he climbed up on to his chair, he looked at the other tables and suddenly stilled. Abronwë and Narthan were sitting at a table with what must have been their parents.
Legolas slid down to sit properly, his eyes still on the table before him. Narthan smiled and waved, but Abronwë looked away. Legolas felt that strange feeling in his stomach, the same one he had felt yesterday, and he pushed his plate away. Fear filled him; what if Abronwë said unkind things about his family again?
The sound of his name being called finally caught his attention, and then Lathron lifted him up and move him to his lap, so that he was facing his brother. Comfort filled him, and he relaxed against Lathron’s chest, closing his eyes for a moment. “I am not hungry, Lathron. May I go to my chamber?”
“Adar spoke to Abronwë and Narthan last night, after you were sleeping, and he talked with their naneths and adars too,” Lathron informed him. “Adar invited them to come tonight.”
“Oh,” was all Legolas could think to say.
“You do not have to play with them, but I think Abronwë wants to apologize to you. Abronwë and his family moved here a few months ago, after Abronwë’s older brother was killed and it was determined their village was no longer safe. I think adjusting to this new life has been hard, and in his frustration he was unkind to you. He would like another chance to be your friend,” explained Lathron gently.
“Oh,” said Legolas, compassion filling him. “Does he have other brothers?”
“No, he had only one sibling,” replied Lathron.
Legolas gripped on to Lathron’s tunic, a fear filling him as he suddenly thought what it would be like if Alagos had been his only brother.
“This venison is wonderful. Why don’t you see if you are hungry now? You do not want to miss Mithrandir’s magic, do you?” coaxed Lathron.
Legolas climbed back to his own chair, and suddenly the venison did smell good. He began to eat, occasionally looking to where his friends sat. Narthan was eating, but Abronwë was just playing with his fork. He finally looked up at Legolas, and Legolas waved.
When dinner was over and he had been excused, Legolas ran around the tables to where Narthan and Abronwë stood. He slowed and took a deep breath, and then walked up to them. “Mithrandir the wizard has magic and he is going to show it to us outside. Do you want to come watch with me?”
When their naneths nodded, both Abronwë and Narthan joined him enthusiastically, running with him to where the guards had opened the doors of the Great Hall. Mithrandir was already there, his great purple cloak sparkling under the starlight and the big pack on his back bulging.
“Over there,” he commanded gruffly, sending all the youngsters scurrying away from him.
He opened his pack and pulled out a package of some sort. Legolas held his breath, waiting to see what it was. He watched as Mithrandir did something to create a flame, and then touched that flame to the package. Suddenly, a burst of light shot from Mithrandir’s hand, rising high into the sky above the palace and erupting into a brilliant star, first red, then yellow, then green and finally white.
“Yes!” yelled Legolas, jumping up and down in excitement. He grabbed Narthan and Abronwë’s hands, making them dance with him. “He has a whole pack full, I think!”
“Do another one!” shouted Abronwë. “Tell him, Legolas, tell him to do more!”
Legolas laughed. “My brother says one does not tell a wizard to do anything, but we can try. Please, Mithrandir!” he called.
Laughter rumbled from the wizard, and he set a light to the next package, this time leaving it on the ground and stepping a few paces back from it himself. A fountain of light stretched from the ground seemingly to the stars above, and just when Legolas thought that was all there was to it, a ship glided out of the stream of light, sailing into Elbereth’s stars.
The adults began to sing, then, and Legolas found he was drifting on the music as the story telling when the star of hope had first appeared in the sky was told in verse, and how the wood elves learned of why it had come to be
Singing and dancing and watching Mithrandir’s magic filled their night, and then Lathron appeared, Abronwë’s and Narthan’s fathers beside him. Legolas did not protest when Lathron scooped him up, though he really was too old to be carried like an elfling, for he knew Lathron still liked to do it. And he was tired.
“See you tomorrow,” yawned Legolas sleepily to his friends.
“At the bridge after breakfast,” said Abronwë. “We can build a snow fort!”
Narthan waved and then their fathers escorted them out into the night, and Legolas tucked his head under Lathron’s chin. He was nearly asleep when Lathron tugged his nightshirt over his head and tucked him into bed, and as he settled beneath his warm covers, he found himself on the path of dreams. His friends appeared, and together they went off to explore in dream woods that were always safe.
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