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Thranduil's Begetting Day  by daw the minstrel

Many thanks to Nilmandra for beta reading this chapter for me.

Chapter 3.  The Best Laid Plans

Maltanaur made his way along the path toward the cave.  He had no idea what the boys had seen here earlier, but he did not like what he had overheard in the stables.  If Eman of Esgaroth was up to something, Maltanaur did not want his grandson and Thranduil’s “checking” on it.  The two of them got into enough trouble as it was, and now they seemed to have drawn Calith’s son into their antics.  None of them should be anywhere near this cave if trouble was brewing there.

He emerged from the trees into the area in front of the cave and stopped short.  The door was padlocked.  He had never seen a lock on this door before.  Indeed, he had seldom seen a lock anywhere in the Woodland Realm.  He walked toward the door and fingered the lock.  What was going on here?  What could Eman have put in this cave that needed to be locked up?

He thought for a moment about how he might be able to answer his question.  Then he set off into the woods again.  He needed to get past this lock, and he knew of only one person who could make that happen.


Alfirin dropped her embroidery into her lap and looked around the garden where Ithilden’s female relatives chattered happily in a glow of well-being after a very fine mid-day meal.  Everything was going so well.  She had hoped to give her father-in-law an unforgettable begetting day, and she thought she was entitled to believe he was getting just that.

“How long will Legolas be home on leave?” asked Aunt Glilan from her place on the bench next to Alfirin.

“He will be here another three days yet,” Alfirin said.

Seated on the other side of her, Iseniel frowned and thrust her embroidery needle through the tapestry she was working with what seemed to Alfirin to be unnecessary force.  She laid the tapestry down on the bench beside her.  “If you do not mind, Glilan, I think I will go for a stroll.”

“Go ahead, my dear,” Glilan beamed.  Iseniel rose and set off down the garden path.  “Such a beautiful garden,” Glilan said.  “I remember Lorellin planting those roses.”

“They are lovely,” Alfirin agreed.  “Perhaps we should picnic out here tomorrow. Adar would like that.”

Aunt Glilan’s eyes widened.  “Not here!  On that little island up the river.  You know the one. It has an ash grove in the center.  Thranduil and Lorellin used to paddle up the river and picnic there all the time before their sons were born.  I am sure Thranduil would enjoy going there again.  And it would be so romantic for the young people.”

Alfirin thought she knew exactly which young people Glilan was talking about, and she doubted that Legolas would see the romance in the situation.  But she did think her father-in-law would like the idea of a picnic on the island.  “That is a good idea, Aunt Glilan. I will ask Ithilden to have someone check on the boats. We have not used them yet this spring.”

“Excellent,” Glilan said.

Alfirin rose and went in search of her husband.  After the mid-day meal, he had gone to Thranduil’s council chamber with his father, some advisors, and the Men of Dale and Esgaroth.  The discussion must have been over, though, for she found him just leaving the palace to go to his office.  When she told him what she wanted, he smiled.  “I have not been to that island in years.  What a good idea.  I will ask Calith to check on the boats.”

“Thank you,” Alfirin said.  “How did things go with the Men?  Is your adar pleased?”

Ithilden grimaced.  “They are difficult. I think Adar is ready to smack them both.  They are all going riding, and I hope the exercise will help settle their tempers.”  He kissed her cheek and set off to the warrior training area while Alfirin returned to the garden.


“I saw Eman along here earlier,” Beliond said.  “I was following Helad and did not have time to learn what Eman was doing, but now that I think of it, I am almost certain I heard the door to the cave slam shut shortly before Eman appeared.”  He scowled.  “Thranduil should never let more than one Man near the stronghold at a time.  I cannot be expected to be everywhere.”

Maltanaur ordinarily found Beliond’s suspicion of Men amusing, but just now he was concerned about what Eman might have locked away in the cave and felt no inclination to smile at all.

They approached the cave in which the boats were stored.  Beliond bent over the lock and frowned.  “Are you sure the Man put this here?  It looks to be of Elven make.  Indeed, it looks like the locks Thranduil has in the palace storeroom.”

“That makes no sense,” Maltanaur said.  “Unless Thranduil had this cave locked for some reason and Eman was snooping around to find out what was in it.”

“I heard the door slam,” Beliond said.  “Eman must have been in here, but how did he get in?”

“I suppose he could have picked the lock,” Maltanaur said.

“You really have to be suspicious of a Man who would do such a thing,” Beliond said. He pulled his dagger out of his boot and set to work picking the lock.  It sprang free, and he pulled the door open.

The two of them paused in the doorway and looked at one another.  “Do you smell that?” Maltanaur asked.

“Yes.  Come. We need to investigate.” Beliond led the way into the cave and Maltanaur followed.  The door swung shut behind them.


Calith strolled along the path, happy to be out of the office and in the woods on such a fine spring day.  Ithilden had been apologetic about sending him on this errand, but everyone else had already left to enjoy the king’s begetting day celebration.  Calith would just check on the boats and report what he found, and then he too would be free.  Perhaps his wife could be persuaded to take a long stroll in the woods.  He felt a warm tingle at the thought.

He drew near the cave entrance and stopped.  What was a padlock doing on the cave door?  It was unlocked, but who had put it there in the first place?  Something was not right.  He rested his hand on the hilt of his belt knife and pulled the door open.

The sound of voices came faintly from the rear of the cave.  “Who is there?” he called.

A pause and then, “Calith?  Is that you?  It is Maltanaur. Come and see what you make of what Beliond and I have found.”

Calith let go of his knife and started into the cave.  Something foul must have crept in here and died, he thought, as the door swung shut behind him.  He made his way past the line of boats to find Maltanaur and Beliond near a pile of rocks against one wall.  Beliond was crouched down, looking at something on the floor, while Maltanaur stood as far to the opposite side of the cave as he could get.  Calith recognized the multi-colored sack Helad of Dale had given Thranduil the previous night.

The stench was stronger here.  Calith breathed through his mouth.  “Is that odor coming from the sack?  What is in it?”

“Rilliums,” Maltanaur said.  “Have you never eaten them?”

“No,” Calith said around the air going in and out.  “My naneth always said it was too easy to undercook them and poison yourself.”  Saliva poured into his mouth, trying to wash away the bite of the fumes passing through it.

Maltanaur grimaced.  “My wife says the same thing, but Thranduil likes them.”

“The only reason he ate them was that he wanted to defy Oropher and prove how daring he was,” Beliond said.  “Surely he stopped doing it once he became king.”

Calith blinked at him.  He did not think he had ever heard anyone speak quite so bluntly about the king.   But then Beliond, Maltanaur, and Thranduil had been friends in their youth.  The two bodyguards probably knew many things about the king that he would not choose to share with his sons, for instance.

“Did Helad give the rilliums to Thranduil last night then?” Calith asked.

“He must have,” Maltanaur said.

Beliond’s eyes narrowed.  “Helad must have found out Thranduil likes them and hopes he poisons himself.”

“I thought you heard Eman coming out of this cave,” Maltanaur said.

“I did.” Beliond frowned.  “I followed Helad all morning, and he never was in here.”

“Thranduil gave the rilliums to Sinnarn to put away last night,” Calith said.  “How would either Man have gotten hold of them again?”

Maltanaur inhaled sharply and then coughed.  “Sinnarn and Calylad were the ones I heard talking about Eman and this cave,” he wheezed.  “Nalden was with them too.  Could they have put the rilliums in here?”

Calith cringed. He had served as Ithilden’s aide for centuries.  He liked and respected him.  But his own son’s admiration of Ithilden’s made him very nervous.  Sinnarn was far too much like his Uncle Eilian for Calith’s comfort.  “Why would they do that?” he asked, but he knew the question was weak.  The boys would do it because it somehow struck them as a good idea even though no one else followed their logic.  What in Arda were they up to?


Nalden hurried along the path.  The games on the Green would start soon, and he did not want to miss them, but he had promised Sinnarn to keep an eye on the cave, and he wanted to show Sinnarn he could be trusted.  As he hurried up to the cave entrance, he was shocked to see that the padlock hung loose from the door handle.  He must not have fastened it correctly.  He put the free end of the lock’s loop through the protruding curve of the door clasp and shoved the lock home.  Then he gave it a light tug. There. All tight.  Pleased with himself, he scrambled up the river bank and leapt into an oak.  He would return to the Green through the trees. That would be much faster than walking.


Beliond pulled the bag’s laces tight and stood up.  He put a hand under the flimsy bag’s bottom but jerked it quickly away again.  Juice from the rilliums had soaked through. If Thranduil could tolerate the smell of these things, then so could he, but there was no point in getting the juice all over his hand. After all, he might touch someone else afterwards, and they might not be as tough as he was.  “Whoever stored the rilliums here, we cannot leave them.  They are too dangerous, and I am still not convinced the Men had nothing to do with their presence.  Come.”

Calith and Maltanaur followed him toward the cave entrance, keeping a distance between him and them.  They were far too fussy, Beliond thought.  A little smell never hurt anyone.  Still, the air outside would be fresher.   He increased his pace toward the door and gave it a shove.

It jerked under his hand but failed to open.  He shoved again, harder this time, but the door continued to defy him.

“What is the matter?” Maltanaur asked.  “Is it stuck?”

Calith made a sound in his throat as if he were going to spit.  “Let me help.”  He moved up next to Beliond and they both pushed.  The door stayed closed, but Beliond heard a metallic rattle.  An unbelievable thought occurred to him.

“Could someone have come along and locked us in?” he asked.

“Surely not,” Maltanaur said with something like panic in his voice.  He leapt forward to pound on the door with his fists.  “Hey!  Anyone!  We are in here!”  Calith joined in pounding and shouting, and after a moment, Beliond threw dignity to the wind and did likewise.

As he did so, the sack of rilliums swung in his hand and slapped wetly against the door.  Beliond heard a soft tearing sound.  The weight of the bag suddenly lessened as something splatted against the floor.

Beliond had sometimes been in thunderstorms where the lightning blinded him and the thunder assaulted his ears.  The stench that now filled the cave did the same sort of thing to his nose.  If a dozen possums had become trapped under a cottage and died and sprouted mushrooms for six months, they would smell like this. 

Maltanaur swore and Calith leaned one hand against the cave wall and vomited.  Beliond started on what he liked to think of as a strategic, if rapid, retreat away from the area just inside the door.  As he did so, he stepped in something very, very slippery.  His feet shot out from under him, and he sat down hard with the stink rising almost visibly all around him.

He could not believe it. Someone had left the rilliums in the cave and closed it with a padlock that they must have known he would pick.  Then the bastards had been heartless enough to lock them all in.  As he sat there, one thought became clear in Beliond’s mind.

Someone was going to pay.


Legolas strolled along the path, staying a careful distance away from Iseniel and trying desperately to think of some way to tell her he was not interested in her.  She too was silent and appeared to be thinking.  He had to come up with some way to put her off before she said something romantic and the situation grew even more awkward.

She drew a deep breath.  “Legolas,” she began, but he cut her off.

“What a glorious spring day,” he babbled.  “It makes me feel like singing.”  He braced himself to put into the effect the desperate stratagem that was the only one to occur to him.  He opened him mouth and began to sing.  More or less.  Mostly less.

The song he chose was one he had heard in an inn where he and Beliond had spent part of a night when they were in Dale the previous year.  Legolas was not sure he understood everything about the song, but the Men in the inn had found it very amusing, which meant Iseniel probably would not, particularly given the way Legolas strained to sing it.  He had to concentrate hard, but he aimed to be just off key with at least half the notes.  Judging from the look on Iseniel’s face, he thought he succeeded.

“Why in Arda are you caterwauling like that?” asked a familiar voice.

With a sigh of relief that quickly turned to embarrassment, Legolas spun to find Eilian just behind them, a wide grin splitting his face.  “Do you need me?” Legolas asked.  He held his breath and hoped Eilian would understand his tone.

Eilian’s eyes flitted from him to Iseniel and back again.  For a heartbeat, he seemed to waver, but then he took pity.  “Yes, I do.  Sorry to interrupt whatever it is you are doing.”

“That is quite all right,” Iseniel said with a haste that was nearly indecent.  “I must be going anyway.”  She hastened back along the path and was soon lost to sight.

“I take it you are trying to discourage her interest in you?” Eilian asked.


“You could just tell her that you like her as a friend,” Eilian said.  His eyes danced.  He knew perfectly well what response “liking as a friend” would probably evoke.

Legolas shuddered.  “I do not want to hurt her feelings, and Aunt Glilan would be disappointed.  It would be much better if Iseniel were the one to decide this is a bad idea.”

“You are growing devious, brat,” Eilian said approvingly.  “I will have to remember that.  Have you seen Maltanaur or Calith?”

Legolas blinked at the abrupt change of topic.  “No.”

“A little while ago, Maltanaur’s wife sent Calylad to ask me if I knew where he was, which I do not.  And Ithilden seems to have mislaid Calith too.  He sent him to check on the condition of the boats in the storage cave, but that was nearly three hours ago, and he is not back yet.”

“Have you been to the cave?”

“No, I was just on my way there when that noise you were making attracted my attention, as it undoubtedly attracted the attention of every dog between here and the Lonely Mountain.  They are all probably howling in response.”

“I was desperate,” Legolas said.  “If you like, I will go with you to check the cave.”

“Meaning you do not want to chance running into Aunt Glilan or Iseniel again,” Eilian said.  “A wise decision.  Come along then.”  They made their way along the path to the boat storage cave.

“Why is it locked?” Legolas asked.  “Did Ithilden order that?”

“Not that I know of,” Eilian said.

They both jumped back as someone began pounding on inside of the door.  “Eilian?  Is that you?” called Maltanaur’s voice.

For a moment, Eilian simply gaped at the door.  “Yes.  Why are you locked in the cave?”

“Get the key, you imbecile!” shouted Beliond.  “Some villain lured us in here with rilliums and then locked the door.”

Legolas looked at Eilian, who was plainly struggling for self control.  Abruptly, Eilian let out a whoop of laughter.  He doubled over with mirth, and to his dismay, Legolas could not help joining him.  The two of the howled, clutched hold of one another, and collapsed on the grass.

“You are in there with rilliums?” Legolas finally managed to gasp.

“I am glad you find this amusing,” Beliond said, his voice thickly laced with threat.

Legolas sobered.  “I do not suppose Calith is in there with you too?”

“I am,” Calith’s voice said.  “And I would appreciate it if you would find a key for the lock.  If one cannot be found, get the smith to come and saw through the metal.”

Legolas and Eilian climbed to their feet, Eilian still giving way to occasional puffs of laughter.  They bent their heads together over the lock.

“It looks like one of Adar’s,” Eilian said.  “I will run back to the palace and see if I can find a key.”

“No need,” Legolas said.  He drew his dagger from his boot and wiggled the tip into the lock.

Eilian looked impressed.  “Are you picking the lock? Where did you learn to do that?”

Legolas shot him a grin.  “If you think I will teach you to do it, think again.”

Footsteps sounds behind them, and Legolas glanced over his shoulder to see Sinnarn, Calylad, and Nalden approaching.  At that moment, he felt the lock give way, and he pulled it free and flung the door open.

A reek like a live thing jumped out of the cave and slammed into them all.  Legolas clapped his hand to his face and backed away.  Beliond, Maltanaur, and Calith stumbled gasping out the cave.  Beliond’s clothes were smeared with some sort of putrid muck.  Glistening black lumps were scattered across the cave’s floor just inside the doorway.

“My rilliums!” Sinnarn cried.

“Your rilliums?” Beliond echoed.  He froze in place, glaring at Sinnarn.

“Yes, I was going to give them to Grandfather and now you have ruined them!”

With a roar, Beliond grabbed a rillium and flung it at Sinnarn.  It splatted against Sinnarn’s chest, making him reel back, brushing frantically at the slime on his chest as if he were trying to drive away a swarm of bees.  Behind him, Nalden’s eyes grew huge.

“Beliond!” cried Calith.  “Get hold of yourself!”

Legolas could not help it.  The look on his nephew’s face was so horrified that despite the smell, he once again bent over laughing.  Next to him, Eilian did the same thing.  Then he felt something smack against his shoulder.  It stank like a thousand unwashed Men crammed sweating into a room where ale was served.  He looked up to find Sinnarn just loosing a rillium in Eilian’s direction.  It hit Eilian on the forehead.

“To Mordor with this!” cried Eilian.  Legolas was already moving.  He and Eilian dove for handfuls of the rilliums and turned simultaneously to pelt their nephew.  Calith hastily grabbed his son and dragged him from the battlefield.  Legolas caught a glimpse of Calylad and Maltanaur standing well to one side, laughing like fools.

Legolas took a second rillium, and in a fit of daring beyond anything he had ever imagined himself to possess, he threw it to hit Beliond on one shoulder.  As if in slow motion, his keeper turned to him with his eyebrows lowered and fire in his gaze.

Legolas, Eilian, Beliond, and Sinnarn were shoving at one another in the cave doorway, trying to grab more missiles, when an authoritative voice said, “What is going on here?”

For a heartbeat, Legolas froze.  He exchanged a wide-eyed look with Eilian.  Then the two of them backed away from the cave entrance to look up at the top of the river bank where a party of riders had paused to watch them.  Most of the party, including the two Men, had moved away from the edge with their hands over their noses, but one tall figure stood glaring down at them.

“Mae govannen, Adar,” Legolas said weakly.

Thranduil ran his gaze over Legolas, Eilian, Sinnarn, and Beliond, who stood in a bedraggled line.  To Legolas’s utter amazement, Thranduil’s mouth twitched in what looked suspiciously like an attempt to avoid laughing.  “Would I be correct in thinking you are throwing rilliums at one another?”

“I got them for you for your begetting day, Grandfather,” Sinnarn cried.  “And now they are all ruined.”

“That was very thoughtful of you, child,” Thranduil said, smiling at Sinnarn.  Eilian elbowed Legolas and rolled his eyes.  Legolas could not help but agree with the unspoken message.  As far as their father was concerned, Sinnarn could do no wrong.  Thranduil looked them all over again.  “I advise you all to bathe well before you go home,” he said and turned away.

The sound of his laughter bubbled over the riverbank as he disappeared.


Legolas climbed the steps to the palace, ignoring the way the guards were eyeing his dripping clothes.  He was sure he had washed all of the rilliums off in the river, but he could not shake the notion that he still reeked.  When he entered the family quarters, he met Iseniel just coming out of the sitting room.  He suppressed a groan.

She looked started at his dripping state, but then she pulled herself erect, glanced over her shoulder as if to make sure the hallway was empty and came toward him with a determined look on her face.  About three yards away, she stopped, wrinkled her nose, and took a pace backward.   “Legolas, I have something I want to say to you.”

He put his hands up to stop her.  His patience with this maiden was at an end.  “Iseniel, please, before you go on, I have something to say to you too, something I should have told you from the start.  You are very nice, and I like you, but I am not interested in a romance just now.”

Her mouth fell open.  “A romance?” she squeaked. “You think I want to engage in a romance with you?  Are you mad?  I have tried to be kind, but I must be honest.  I would not be interested in you if you were the last Elf in Arda.  I can only thank Eru I have someone sensible at home who loves me, even if Glilan does not approve of him.  I approve of him and that is what matters.  You will have to excuse me if I avoid you for the rest of this visit.”

She spun on her heel and marched down the hall to turn into the corridor where the guest rooms were located, leaving him staring after her opening and closing his mouth in a manner he suddenly realized probably made him look like a fish.


Thranduil leaned back in the comfortable chair in his private sitting room, sipping wine, and occasionally chuckling to himself as he recalled the sight of his sons, grandson, and Beliond throwing rilliums at one another.  A knock sounded at his door.  “Come,” he called.

Ithilden entered the room. Thranduil waved him into the chair opposite and held up the flagon of wine inquiringly.  “Yes, please,” Ithilden said. Thranduil poured a cup and handed it to him.

“What did you do with Eman and Helad?” Thranduil asked.  “I thought you were going to try to help them come to better terms.”

Ithilden grinned.  “I found them drinking ale together in a corner of the Great Hall.  I suspect their mutual horror at the scene near the cave has driven them into one another’s good graces.”

“I hope so,” Thranduil said.  “How is Alfirin?”

“She is lying down with a cold cloth on her head,” Ithilden said.  “She had to burn the clothes Sinnarn was wearing.  She asked me to apologize to you.  She wanted to give you an unforgettable begetting day and she fears things got out of hand.”

Thranduil laughed.  “I suppose I will have to speak to Legolas and Eilian about setting a good example for him.  Eilian seems to have deceived Eman in some way.  The Man kept asking me about stablehands.  Moreover, Legolas has upset Glilan.  I should do something about that too.  But not now.  Just now, I am enjoying my begetting day.   The gift from Dale was worthwhile on its own, of course, and I cannot remember when I last laughed so hard.  I think you may tell Alfirin that this is one I will never forget, just as she promised.”

The End

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