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Be Careful What you Ask For  by Nilmandra

Written for daw the minstrel’s birthday, with her characters. I would have obtained her permission, but Eilian showed up at my door and I figured that was good enough. Happy Birthday, daw!

Thanks to Gwyn and Karri for ideas and beta reading. The premise for the story came from one of Karri’s challenges. I have another scenario worked out for Legolas in my Mirkwood world.

Be Careful What You Ask For

“What is that?” asked Gelmir.

Eilian dropped from the tree into the leaf litter below, landing silently on the cushioned ground. He edged closer to the small beech Gelmir was watching intently.

“Incredible,” he whispered. He waved for Gelmir to join him. “Do you have any food left?”

Gelmir pulled a strip of dried venison from his trouser pocket and handed it to him. Eilian took it and broke off a small piece, then looked around for a stick he could use. He found one, then took out his knife and sharpened the end. He impaled the bit of meat on the stick.

He slowly maneuvered the stick so that the meat was right in front of the creature. It lifted its head, its bright eyes focusing on Eilian. “Hungry!” it cried.

Eilian jumped back so fast he landed on Gelmir’s foot, and they both toppled to the forest floor. Eilian rolled and leapt to his feet, and took a step back to the beech.

“It spoke!” cried Gelmir in a loud whisper.

“It is hungry,” replied Eilian. He grabbed his stick and extended it toward the creature again. The spider reached out with one of its legs, touching the meat, then with a small squeal, ate it right from the stick.

Eilian put the rest of the dried meat on to the stick and extended it again, and the spider moved quickly, taking the meat and eating it. Then it let out a long sigh and settled back down on the branch, content.

“That is the biggest spider I’ve ever seen,” said Gelmir. “And I’ve never heard one speak.”

“It is way too small to be a giant spider like my adar and brother speak about,” replied Eilian. “And much too tame.” He nearly jumped as an awful thought came to him. “Do you see any others? They live in colonies.”

“No others,” said the spider mournfully. “Lost, lost, lost.”

Eilian still looked carefully around the trees, but he didn’t see any others either. He turned his attention back to the spider. “So if it is not a giant spider, what is it? Have you ever heard of any other ones speaking?”

Gelmir shook his head. “No.” He peered up into the canopy of leaves, trying to see the sun’s position. “We went too far, Eilian. We had better leave, or we will be very late.”

Eilian scowled. Just when they found something interesting, it was time to leave. “Have you ever touched a hairy spider?”

Gelmir twisted his mouth in disgust. “No, why would you want to?”

“To see what they feel like,” answered Eilian. Gelmir could be so uncurious.

“Most spiders have venom, Eilian. My adar says it is unlikely anyone would ever get poisoned from a small spider, but that thing is hardly small.”

Eilian held up his hand and stretched out his fingers. “It is not much bigger than my hand.”

“Do not be foolish,” replied Gelmir.

“Do not sound like my adar,” retorted Eilian. He grinned at Gelmir’s expression. “It might not let me touch it anyway.”

He moved closer to the tree, then leapt on to a low branch adjacent to the one where the spider sat. As he moved closer, he heard a low hissing noise. He stopped as a twinge of fear passed through him.

“I am not going to hurt you,” he told it softly.

“More meat. Fresh meat!” said the spider. It sounded like a whiney child at first, but the tone was a little demanding by the end.

“I don’t have any more meat,” said Eilian. He edged closer, but stopped when he heard the low throated hissing again.

“Eilian, come on. We need to go,” came Gelmir’s voice from below.

Eilian reached out his hand slowly toward the spider. It rose up on its legs, backing up a step, then hissing again. Its red eyes flashed. He jerked his hand back. Keeping his eye on the spider, he backed up and then jumped back down by Gelmir.

“We better go,” he agreed.

Gelmir rolled his eyes. They jumped back up into the tree they had been in when they had seen the spider and then leapt to the one beyond it.

Eilian stopped abruptly at the third tree, holding his hand out to Gelmir. “Listen.”

They heard a faint crying sound. It began to grow stronger, and they watched in amazement as the spider ran along the branch on the tree behind them. “Go one more,” instructed Eilian. They both leapt to the next tree and waited.

The spider followed.

“Hungry!” it cried.

Eilian plopped down on the branch, watching as the spider came closer and closer.

“Why are you following us?” he asked when the spider was about six feet away.

“Hungry,” it whimpered.

Eilian looked at Gelmir, who shrugged. “What kind of spider can’t feed itself?” asked Gelmir.

“We could put it on our flet,” said Eilian suddenly. “No one goes there but us, so our parents would not learn of it.” He turned to the spider. “We have a long way to go and we must go fast. If we take you with us, we will have to carry you.”

You will have to carry it,” hissed Gelmir.

“You cannot bite,” warned Eilian.

The spider trembled but came closer. It stopped within a foot of Eilian. He reached down and touched one finger to the spider’s back, feeling the prickly hair. Then he drew his hand back.

“Put it in your pack,” advised Gelmir.

Eilian sighed in relief. He wasn’t sure he wanted to hold the thing in his arms, but it could fit in his leather pack easily enough. He slipped it off his back, transferred his possessions to Gelmir’s pack, and then held the opening wide before the spider.

“Crawl in here and I will carry you in this,” directed Eilian.

The spider scurried back a step, then another one when Eilian stepped forward. It worried and whined but when Eilian reached over it with a stick and gently tapped its back, it dove into the pack. Eilian picked it up and felt the outside, but he could feel only a lump.

“Be good and stay quiet,” he told it. “Do not bite me!”

He heard only a small squeak in response. After a moment’s hesitation he put the pack back on his back and followed Gelmir.

* * *

“Stay here. I will bring you some food later,” said Eilian.

The spider seemed to miss the warmth of the pack, and it looked around the small treehouse timidly. It burrowed into some leaf debris next to a large limb and stayed there. Eilian nodded, satisfied, then took off toward home.

He flew past the guards, nodding at their greetings, and raced down the hall to the family quarters. He ran to his chamber, dumped his pack, splashed water on his face and washed his hands, then dashed to the dining room. He brushed his hands down his tunic, drying them off and straightening his clothing at the same time, then pushed open the door.

His father, mother and brother were in the middle of their meal. All three looked at him, but he focused on his mother. She rose.

“Eilian! Did you have a good day? Come sit down and eat,” she said as she hugged him and then pulled back his chair.

Eilian looked at his father, waiting for permission to sit. Thranduil nodded slightly, and Eilian sat down. He was very hungry, and was glad when his mother began fixing his plate before he could even determine what was on the table.

“We went further than we intended,” explained Eilian, watching his father from under his eyelashes, “and that is why we are late. But it was a very good day for exploring. And we stayed near the river path, as we promised.”

Eilian was glad when his parents and brother resumed their conversation and no questions were asked of him. He was thinking about the spider as he ate. He needed to bring some food back to it. Meat, most likely. It was too big to want to eat insects, like smaller spiders did. He looked from under lowered lids around the table. No one was paying him any attention. He quickly slipped a piece of venison off his plate and into his napkin.

He slowed eating, hoping his family would all retire to the sitting room, but instead wine was brought to the dining room and served. He chewed slowly, thinking of some excuse to go out again. An idea occurred to him, and he swallowed and then finished his cup of water.

“Naneth, I forgot to return something to Gelmir. I will run it to him and then come back,” he said as he stood. “May I be excused?”

His father frowned. “He needs this thing tonight? You will see him tomorrow.”

“I do not want him to think he has lost it, or be scolded if he cannot find it,” improvised Eilian.

“Go then, but come right back,” instructed Thranduil.

Eilian dashed from the room, the napkin wrapped meat held tightly in his hand. He ran to his chamber, then out of the palace and to the abandoned flet that he and Gelmir had taken over that summer. He was leaping on to the wooden platform when he heard the hissing, and nearly fell off backwards.

“I have food,” he said.

The spider eased out of the leaves, and Eilian looked up to see the large silvery spider web that clung to the main trunk of the tree, the platform and the large branch adjacent to it. The setting sun glinted through it, making it shimmer and sparkle. He wanted to see it up close, but the spider had taken several wary steps toward him. Pulling the venison from his pocket, he was placing it down on the floor before the spider when it pounced on it, just missing his hand.

“Be careful!” he scolded, jumping back a step.

The spider hissed and made a clacking noise as it quickly ate the food. Then it sighed and dragged itself back to its nest, for Eilian could see it had indeed made one. Curious, he went over to look more closely at the web. He could see something caught in it, and he reached to touch it, to see what it was.

“No!” cried the spider. “My meat!”

Eilian pulled his hand away, then a sickening feeling came over him as he realized what he had seen. The something caught in the web was the small squirrel who lived in their tree and visited them daily, chattering at them, hiding their things, and even sharing his nuts when he was feeling generous.

“I have to help the squirrel get free!” he said, stepping again toward the web.

The spider rushed at him, hissing. “Mine!”

Eilian stepped back again, then anger filled him. He pulled his knife from his boot and swung at the web, cutting the little creature free. The spider shrieked and hissed, grasping at his leg, trying to stop him. He raised his leg and shook the spider free.

“Stop that!” he cried. He pulled another strip of venison from his pocket and threw it at the spider. “Eat that!”

The spider scurried to the meat, devouring the morsel like it was starving. Eilian pulled the thick strands of web free from the squirrel, but the squirrel did not move. He wiped a tear from his cheek, then rubbed his nose and face on his tunic sleeve. He looked down at the spider, horrified that he had brought it on to his flet.

He knew life was uncertain for all forest creatures. Hawks swooped in, taking birds and rabbits and squirrels. And the Elves hunted for their own needs. But he had not thought that a creature he was providing food to would kill a forest creature visiting his flet.

He decided he would bury the squirrel. He couldn’t bear to watch the spider eat it.

He climbed down, carefully laying the squirrel’s body aside while he looked for a suitable spot to bury it. He had just dug out a shallow grave and turned to pick up the corpse, when he saw large boots in front of him. He looked up, then sat back on his heels to look all the way up. It was a strange elf he had not seen before. The elf did not smile, and Eilian stepped back a pace.

The elf had a bow and quiver on his back and a large knife tucked into his belt. He wore a long leather jerkin and vambraces without markings. Eilian did not think he was a warrior of the woodland realm, since he did not have any emblems on his clothing. He looked up again at the elf, whose hair was pulled back into one braid. He did not wear warrior’s braids either. He had piercing eyes that made Eilian wonder if he could see right through him.

“What happened to him?” asked the elf. He squatted down next to Eilian.

“This was the tree he lived in. I found him in it, dead, so I am burying him,” explained Eilian.

“The squirrel is not dead.” He carefully picked up the furry body, picking off a strand of webbing. He looked at it curiously, then at Eilian.

Eilian was stunned. “How can he be alive?”

“Perhaps he fell and was stunned,” theorized the elf. “He must have thought whatever spider’s web he ran into was stronger than it really was.”

Eilian’s stomach fluttered as the elf’s gaze lingered on him. A movement from the squirrel drew his attention away. “Look, he is waking up.”

The squirrel gradually came to awareness. The elf held him until he was alert and chattering, then released him. The squirrel ran for his tree, climbed about half way up, then made a loud noise and raced down, leaping to the ground and racing into the forest.

“My adar is waiting for me,” said Eilian suddenly as he saw the elf glance upward into the tree canopy. “Thank you!” he called as he turned and ran for home.

* * *

The next morning, Eilian waited for Gelmir at the base of the tree. He had been hungry himself and managed to save only a small portion of his breakfast. He really didn’t think the spider needed to eat again already.

“Eilian!” called Gelmir as he ran to him. “Is it up there?”

“Yes, do you have any food?”

Gelmir grinned and nodded, pulling a chunk of meat from a small cloth sack.

“Eww!” said Eilian, holding his nose. “That stinks!”

“I know,” replied Gelmir gleefully. “My adar said he missed a trap and the bait spoiled. I told him I would bury it.” He shoved it back in the sack. “Let us go see it.”

They shimmied up the tree, Eilian motioning for Gelmir to look carefully before jumping on to the platform. He did not see the spider. The landed silently, and Eilian took a stick, poking carefully at the nest of leaves. The spider was not there.

Gelmir slung the bag over his shoulder as he looked around. “Where did it go? Maybe a hawk caught it.”

Eilian turned to answer just as something dropped from the tree above them, landing on Gelmir’s back.

“Ai!” cried Gelmir as he jumped and flung the bag aside, then brushed at the thing clinging to him. He grabbed the spider with both hands and flung it away from him.

“Ai!” cried Eilian as the spider hit him on the chest and clung to him fiercely. He swatted at it, trying to knock it from him without having to touch it.

“Nasty!” cried the spider. It pinched at Eilian’s skin through his tunic and then dropped to the ground. It scurried at Gelmir, who flung the bag at the spider and stepped back to the edge of the platform.

The spider tore open the bag and pulled out the spoiled meat. It poked at it with one long leg and then turned it over and around with several of its front legs. “Nasty meat,” it hissed at Gelmir. Then it tore off a piece of flesh and stuffed it in its mouth. Eilian could it hear it hissing and grunting as ripped the meat apart. He ran over to Gelmir, then pulled up his tunic and stretched, trying to see what it did to him.

“Did it bite you?” asked Gelmir, keeping one eye on the spider.

“I think it just pinched me,” said Eilian finally. “It scratched me. Look.”

Eilian had a long red mark on his side, but no blood. He thought if it had bit or stung him, it would hurt much more.

“Eilian, that thing grew overnight.”

Eilian looked at the spider more carefully. He held out his hand and spread his finger, comparing it to the spider, as he had done the day before. He thought Gelmir might be right. He smoothed his tunic down, then slide to the floor, sitting cross legged with his back against the trunk. “Gelmir, I think we made a big mistake. This spider is more than it seems.”

Gelmir crossed his feet and folded himself gracefully down into a sitting position beside Eilian. “I wonder how much we can tame it. If it is going to attack us when we bring it food, then perhaps not very much.”

The spider had finished devouring the rotten meat and lay down, splaying its legs out from its engorged belly. It clicked its legs together and partially closed its eyes, but Eilian could see it watching them from red slits.

He stood and pulled the bits of food he had brought from a napkin in his pocket. He impaled it on a stick, making sure the spider could see it, and held it out to it. He kept it just out of reach and then began to move slowly away. The spider followed. He stopped and raised the stick, hoping the spider would stop and sit back on its hind legs.

The spider leapt at the stick, ripping it from Eilian’s hands. It tore the food from it and gulped it down, then sent the stick skittering off the edge of the flet.

“We need to take it back where we found it,” said Eilian with a frown. “I do not think my naneth would be happy I brought it here.”

Gelmir looked up as a rumble sounded above them. “Rain coming,” he said. “Maybe tomorrow we can take it back.”

They ran for Gelmir’s family’s cottage as fat raindrops began to fall.

* * *

Eilian rolled over on to his back and closed his eyes, listening to the steady pounding of rain as it echoed through the stone chambers. For three days it had rained steadily. He knew his adar and Ithilden were concerned of flooding somewhere, but he had not heard where. He only knew they had sent elves out to check on it.

He had managed to get food to the spider only once. The spider had seemed much bigger, and it had hissed and snapped at him. He had flung the meat at it and left as soon as he could. He hoped Gelmir would manage to feed it today.

He heard voices in the corridor. He slid to the floor and opened his door, peering down the long hall of the family quarters. A guard had come and awakened his father and Ithilden, because he saw them both leave their chambers and hurry down the hall. He waited until there was no one in the hall and then followed them.

“There is flooding here and here, my lord,” said the elf as he tapped at different spots on the map.

Eilian could see a large parchment spread across his father’s desk. His brother was leaning over it, as were two other elves he did not know.

“The villagers have fled to their neighbors. Several cottages were washed away. The path is impassable here at the bend in the river, a league north of here.”

Eilian caught his breath. He knew where they were talking about! He and Gelmir had found the spider just beyond the bend and north of that village. If the path was not passable, they might have a difficult time returning the spider to where they found it. They had traveled through the trees, but in several places were forced to the ground.

He needed to talk to Gelmir.

He returned to his chamber and dressed, then went to breakfast. It was just him and his naneth, and he grinned at her when he saw that she had piled extra seed cakes on his plate.

“Good morning, Eilian,” she greeted him, smoothing back his hair and kissing his forehead.

“Good morning, Naneth,” he replied, but he was eyeing those seed cakes.

“The rain continues,” she told him as he popped the first morsel into his mouth. “What will you do today, with lessons cancelled?’

“May I go to Gelmir’s cottage, Naneth?”

“For the morning. Then invite Gelmir back here for the afternoon,” she suggested.

“Naneth, what is the biggest spider you have seen?”

His mother nearly dropped her spoon. “I have seen hideous spiders nearly as big as you, Eilian. Why ever do you ask?”

“Not giant spiders. Regular spiders. How big do they get?”

“The biggest regular spider I have seen is about the size of your spoon,” she told him. “Excluding their legs. They are beneficial creatures, though I do not like them in my rooms.”

Eilian looked down at his spoon. He swallowed hard as a thought of how much bigger his spider was than the little rounded hollow before him. A little niggling thought entered his mind. What if his spider was not a regular spider?

He tucked some food into his pocket, then put on his cloak and went out into the rain.

He skipped over puddles, remembering his mother’s admonition not to track mud into Gelmir’s home. Before he would go there, though, he would stop and check on his spider. He climbed up to his flet, approaching with the caution that was becoming second nature. The spider was in its nest, watching him.

“I brought you food. Take it nice,” he warned.

The spider came out slowly. “Hungry,” it whined. But it waited this time until Eilian had set the food before it and stepped back. “Want fresh meat.”

“This is all I have. If you are hungry, you will eat it,” he said firmly, a giggle escaping him as he realized he sounded like his adar.

The spider took the food back to its nest and ate it more slowly. Eilian smiled. Perhaps it was becoming tame.

* * *

“Eilian, it is not going to fit in your pack,” observed Gelmir.

Eilian looked over his shoulder at his friend, who was keeping as much distance between himself and the spider as possible, and then back at the spider.

“It has doubled in size,” continued Gelmir. “Maybe even tripled. Hard to tell when it is in its nest like that.”

Eilian sighed. Tripled or quadrupled, he would say. Perhaps he would have to use a game bag. He wondered how heavy the spider was. He might have to carry it a long way.

“Maybe it will follow us back to its home.”

“Everyone would see it,” replied Eilian absently. “For some reason I do not think my adar would be very happy.”

Gelmir crept a little closer. “Well, at least it’s not one of the evil giant spiders. It’s just a really big regular spider.”

Eilian wasn’t so sure about that anymore. He had gone to the library and found a scroll detailing some of the fights with the giant spiders. Someone had painted pictures of the spiders, and while they did look bigger and more menacing, they also looked very much like his spider. He was just fortunate this one was nice.

“Does your adar have a game bag?” he asked.

“Yes. I will go get it,” replied Gelmir. Eilian knew there was no way Gelmir would stay on the flet with the spider. Gelmir disappeared over the edge of the flet.

Eilian sank to the floor, his legs crossed beneath him. He knew he should tell the spider that he was going to have to take it back into the forest. It had devoured the food Eilian had brought and was now watching him drowsily through one half opened eye.

Before Eilian could decide what to say, Gelmir returned. He handed Eilian the bag and then moved back to the edge of the flet. Eilian crawled a little closer to the spider.

“Little spider, I need you to come into the bag. I am going to take you to a new home, out in the forest,” he coaxed.

The spider opened all of its eyes. Its hair bristled out as it got warily to its feet.

“Tithen-lhing stay here. Eilian feed,” it answered.

Eilian grinned. “You said my name!”

“Like Eilian. Eilian-nana,” wheedled the spider.

“I am not your nana,” sighed Eilian. “I have told you that.” He edged forward. “Get into the bag now.”

The spider hissed. “No! Bad elf! Tricksy.”

Eilian sat back on his heels. He had not taught the spider those words. “Bad spider!” he answered firmly. “Now get in the bag so I can carry you.”

The spider hissed and scurried away from him. Eilian took a deep breath and took a step forward. He realized the bag was shaking in his hands and he gripped the bag tighter to stop them. “Gelmir, bring me a stick.”

He heard Gelmir moving behind him and he glanced back at him once, but a rustling sounds drew his attention right back to the spider. It had climbed partially on to a branch of the tree. He did not like the spider in that position. It looked like it might jump.

“Here,” whispered Gelmir, tapping Eilian on the arm with the stick.

“Move over to my left side and hold the stick out in front of you. Herd it to me,” answered Eilian. His voice did not sound scared, he thought proudly.

Gelmir stopped tapping him, but did not move.

“Go!” hissed Eilian. I can’t do both things myself.”

Gelmir planted one foot behind him and leaned back, while extending the stick forward as far as he could reach. Eilian rolled his eyes. “Gelmir!”

Gelmir grinned sheepishly and began moving to the spider. It backed up a few paces, its legs making the clicking noise Eilian had come to associate with it. He moved forward a few steps. The spider turned and hissed at him, and Gelmir used that opportunity to take a few more steps towards it. The spider hissed and charged at him, and Gelmir jumped back a pace or two. The stick made him feel bolder, though, and he waited only a moment before starting toward the spider again.

“Nasty elf!” cried the spider, and to Eilan’s horror, it charged. Hissing and snapping, its feet clicking wildly, it attacked the stick Gelmir held. Gelmir dropped it, but the spider did not stop. It charged after him.

“Stop!” cried Eilian. He ran forward and was just reaching for the stick when he heard the barely perceptible noise of feet landing next to him. He spun around in fear. The elf he had seen the day he had found the squirrel was there!

“Get away!” cried Gelmir. He leapt on to a tree branch, kicking at the spider as it lunged up at him.

Eilian forgot about the elf. He turned to help Gelmir. He heard a grunt from behind him and then an arm caught him around his midsection and lifted him from the ground. He cried out in surprise.

The spider turned at the sound. “Eilian-nana!” it cried. It leapt toward him, hissing and clicking, and Eilian felt it brush against his legs. He cried out, lifting his legs, and found them grabbed by the elf, who somersaulted him head over heels on to shoulder. The elf spun around and then Eilian heard a piercing shriek. He lifted his head and pressed his hands against the elf’s chest so he could raise his upper body enough to see what was happening.

The spider lay belly up on the floor of the flet in a puddle of its own blood, a large knife protruding from its thorax. Eilian just stared at it. Then he was spun again and suddenly Gelmir’s shirt collar was held firmly by the elf’s other hand.

“Are there more?” he asked. When neither answered, he shook them slightly. “Did you see any others?”

“No,” answered Eilian when he realized Gelmir was too petrified to speak. ‘Just that one.”

The elf released Gelmir and then Eilian was flipped down to stand on his feet. The elf walked between them to the spider, yanking his knife free. He wiped the blood off with a large leaf he plucked from the tree.

Eilian noticed then that the elf’s eyes had not once stopped looking around. He was searching the trees, as if he thought there was something to be afraid of. “There are not any more,” he repeated.

Piercing eyes met his. “How do you know this, child?”

Eilian straightened his spine and met the glare, despite the shaking he felt inside. “Because it was alone. We never saw any other spiders.”

The elf frowned. “Where did you first see the spider?” he finally asked.

“We heard it crying in a tree. It was hungry,” replied Eilian.

“So what did you do?”

“We fed it. But then when we left, it followed us,” added Gelmir helpfully.

A look of incredulity spread across the elf’s face. He opened his mouth to speak, closed it, and then said, “What do you mean, it followed you?”

Eilian looked from the dead spider to the elf as his heart sank into his stomach. “It wanted more food, so it followed us through the trees. It couldn’t keep up and was crying . . .”

“And?” prompted the elf.

“. . . so I put it in my pack and brought it home,” finished Eilian lamely.

The elf did not move. He looked from Eilian to Gelmir, who nodded, and then back to Eilian.

“Child, you are not big enough to have carried this spider,” he said sternly.

“It was much smaller then,” replied Eilian. His voice sounded small, but he didn’t think he could make it bigger.

“Then? When was ‘then’?”

“A few weeks ago,” said Gelmir when Eilian found he couldn’t get any more words out of his mouth. “But then the rains came and the path was flooded, and we found him near the bend in the river, so we couldn’t take him back until now.”

The elf sat down on a tree branch. He beckoned them to come near to him. Eilian went reluctantly, but Gelmir walked right up to the elf. “What is your name?” he asked.

“Gelmir,” said Gelmir.

“Eilian,” said Eilian in a low voice.

“Eilian?” replied the elf. A deep chuckle escaped him, a laugh that meant he was not really amused, but amazed, and not in a good way. “Eilian-nana? That is what the spider called you, was it not?”

Eilian stood up straight. “I was not its mother. It only learned my name today. I told it not to call me nana.”

The elf began to laugh, then stopped. “What did you two think you were doing, bringing a giant spider right into the stronghold of the king?”

Gelmir’s eyes opened wide and Eilian closed his, as he realized his worst fear, the thing that had just occurred to him in the last few days, was true.

“You did not know that it was a giant spider?” asked the elf incredulously.

“It was not very giant,” said Gelmir in a quivering voice. “We thought it was just a big regular spider. And it was hungry and sad.”

The elf blew out a long exasperated breath. “It is a baby giant spider. How large was it when you found it?”

Eilian held out his hand and stretched out his fingers. The elf lowered his face to his hand and rubbed his nose. “So you have been feeding it this whole time?”

“It was very hungry,” replied Eilian defensively. “But it was better toward the end. It was not hissing or snapping at me when I came up here.”

“Your naneths are going to faint when they hear about this,” moaned the elf. He looked up and glared at them. “How is it you two young fools have managed to stay alive this long?”

Eilian bristled. “We are not fools.” He shrank back under the elf’s glare.

“I will send someone to dispose of the spider while I take you two home. Then I must see the king and Ithilden about this. If a baby spider was found, there was a colony not far away. They need to know.”

Eilian hung his head. “Do you have to tell my adar?”

The elf did not even answer. He stood and motioned for them to go. Gelmir walked as wide a berth around the spider as he could, but Eilian walked right up to it. He squatted down, instinctively knowing he shouldn’t touch the blood. “Tithen-lhing,” he murmured.

“Pen-i-um,” replied the elf. “They are evil. It would eventually have killed someone.”

Eilian felt a lump rise in his throat. He followed Gelmir off the flet, and they stood and waited while the elf directed a warrior up the flet with instructions to dispose of the body and clean the blood. Then he asked which of them lived closer, and Gelmir led them to his cottage.

“Beliond!” cried Gelmir’s father as they opened the door. “I heard you had returned. Many years have passed, old friend. You have met my son, I see.”

“I have,” replied Beliond. “And Gelmir is why I am here.”

He quickly told the story of the spider. Eilian shrank against the cottage wall as Gelmir’s father and mother fussed over him. They did not seem angry at all, merely thankful. Eilian could only hope his father would react so well.

“Come, show me to your home,” said Beliond as they walked away from Gelmir’s cottage.

Eilian reluctantly walked to the palace. Beliond did not speak, merely slowed his pace to match Eilian’s. When Eilian slowed too much to suit the elf, he felt a nudge on his shoulder and a slight push made him speed up. They were past all the cottages and walking to the entrance where the guards stood when one of the guards called out, “Hello, Captain! Hello, Eilian! Have you begun training this one so soon?”

Eilian waved and grinned at the guards, his morose mood lifting at once. He glanced up at Beliond to see the gruff elf looking at him with somewhat of a twinkle in his eyes. He smiled cautiously. Beliond’s hand came down on his head. “I cannot wait to train this one,” he answered.

Eilian knew his father would be in court at this time of day. He knew better than to interrupt, and instead turned to Beliond. “I do not have permission to interrupt my adar when he is in court.”

Beliond raised a brow at him. “I need no such permission.” He nodded to the guards, who opened the door and ushered them in. Eilian felt Beliond’s firm hand on his shoulder, guiding him forward. The king saw them and nodded slightly, acknowledging their presence. He finished the business he was attending to, then called them forward.

Beliond bowed a short polite bow, and Eilian did the same. He itched to run to his father, but Thranduil kept his hands at his sides and his eyes on Beliond.

“My lord,” began Beliond, but his lips twitched and he stilled his face into an impassive mask before continuing. “I have need to speak to you and Ithilden about a matter of safety to the realm, but the same concern involves this child, whom I believe is your son.”

Thranduil’s eyes flicked to Eilian. With a wave of his hand, he sent someone for Ithilden. Then his eyes narrowed as he looked more closely at Eilian. “What is on your clothing, Eilian,” he asked suddenly.

Eilian glanced down, lifting his feet and looking at his trousers and shoes. Dark spots dotted them. He trembled.

“Spider blood,” he said, the words sour in his mouth.

His wish was granted then, for Thranduil took two quick steps forward, picked him up and set him on the high table that ran along the wall. “Are you injured?” asked his father, while running his hands over Eilian’s arms and legs.

Eilian would normally have disliked such attention, but he suddenly did feel foolish and scared. “I am not,” he answered. His voice squeaked.

Before he could continue, Ithilden entered the Hall. He strode forward, clasping Beliond’s hand before noting Eilian. Thranduil pointed to the blood spots on his clothing. Ithilden’s eyes widened.

“A spider, on the flet the children use for play,” Beliond informed them. “Eilian and Gelmir found it near the river bend and brought it home. They were feeding it and trying to tame it. It was a baby, a fast growing baby. They were not aware it was a giant spider.”

Eilian had felt his father’s hand tighten almost painfully on his shoulder as Beliond spoke, and both Ithilden and Thranduil were giving him looks that indicated they did think he was foolish. But as Beliond explained what happened, his father’s face softened.

“I am sorry, Adar,” whispered Eilian. “I thought it was just a big regular spider. Well, until it kept growing and growing. I was trying to get it into a bag so I could take it back where we found it when the spider turned on us and Beliond came.”

Eilian waited for the scolding he was sure was to come.

“I have sent guards to remove the carcass and the Home Guard to scour the area. I would imagine the floods will have washed away any sign of the spiders having been there,” said Beliond.

“Eilian! What were you thinking?” began Ithilden.

“Many years have passed since last we had an encounter with the giant spiders,” interrupted Thranduil. He raised a brow at Ithilden. “I have not felt such fear since you were a child.”

To Eilian’s surprise, Ithilden blushed and closed his mouth. Beliond chuckled, but Thranduil wrapped an arm around Eilian, holding him against his side.

“What is it with your sons and spiders, Thranduil?” asked Beliond. “If you have any more progeny, please warn me so I can prepare myself for the inevitable encounter.”

Eilian felt very safe in the crook of his father’s arm. He did not know what the elf Beliond was talking about, but it was about more than him. He looked up at his father, to see his response to Beliond’s words.

A strange gleam came into Thranduil’s eyes. “That is a wonderful idea, Beliond. I will ensure you have adequate notice to prepare for such a duty.”

Eilian looked back at Beliond, who suddenly seemed to regret his words. He was frowning and looking at Eilian’s father suspiciously. He scowled at Eilian. “No more pet spiders, Thranduilion. You are a brave fool, but I think you will grow to be a brave warrior.” He turned to Ithilden. “Come, I want to go to the area myself and see what the Home Guard has found.”

He gave another short polite bow to Thranduil, then turned on his heel and was gone. Eilian decided this must be an important elf, because he did not wait to be excused and told Ithilden what to do. His brother followed, laughing. Eilian looked up at his father.

“Let us go find you some clean clothes, Eilian. Then we must tell your naneth.”

Eilian was more than old enough to do both on his own, but this one time he decided he was glad to have his father accompany him. What he did not know was that outside the palace, the Home Guard was mobilized in a way it had not been for hundreds of years. Patrols were being organized to search west, north and south of where the spider had been found. This was not the first sign that evil might be returning, but it was the closest evil had come to their home and people. The elves knew too well the threat spiders posed to the most vulnerable among them. Eilian would quickly forget the danger he had been in. His father and brother never would.

The end.

Tithen-lhing = little spider

Pen-i-um = one who is evil

A/N: Yep, there are author’s notes even when it is not my world. Beliond, as all of Daw’s fans know well, becomes Legolas’s keeper. What is making Ithilden blush is daw’s birthday present from last year (Ithilden’s Begetting Day). I’d tell you what happened, but heck, go read it if you want to know. :>)

In this story, Eilian and Gelmir are about 25 years (picture precocious 12 year olds). They have grown up during the Watchful Peace, but it is about to end. Legolas is not yet born.



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