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We Were Young Once ~ III  by Conquistadora

Chapter 22 ~ Winds of Ruin

There was no time now in all the woodland realm for the indulgence of grief, despair, or excessive melancholy of any sort.  Everyone applied himself tirelessly to his accustomed industry, soldiers, scouts, builders, tanners, coopers, bowyers, fletchers, armorers, smiths.  They drowned their sorrows in productivity, and eventually had achieved such a measure of success that many began to feel an unexpected tingle of optimism.

Their armories were full, their soldiers resplendent.  The bounties of the forest were gathered and hoarded by each household against leaner times to come.  Miraculously, the evils of Mirkwood seemed chastened after the great purge and troubled them little for a few years, allowing them time to prepare.  Any creatures of Dol Guldur which dared appear north of the mountains were swiftly dispatched.

The King was so pleased by their diligence that a harvest festival of special magnificence was declared to reward their labors.  Everyone welcomed the chance to forget their cares for a fortnight and enjoy a well-earned celebration.  The children among them prepared for the event with special anticipation, for it was widely declared that the best archer among them would be permitted to ride with the King when he next inspected the scouts at their southern posts.

There was no excess of gold to be spent on such frivolities, especially after the rearmament, but the wood could provide everything they would need.  It was an excellent excuse for the Galennath to reacquaint themselves with their deep silvan roots. 

The day of the festival dawned gray and overcast, but that did nothing to dampen anyone’s spirits.  The trees were ablaze with autumn color and hung with jaunty streamers and flags.  Great winter gourds had been elaborately carved into lanterns after their seeds had been harvested.  Long tables festooned with berries and strands of ivy were set in the great clearing near the royal halls, and heavy iron spits fit for the largest game were secured over open fire pits.  The music of many voices and instruments carried through the forest on the crisp morning air as the glad crowd grew, and the woodland halls resounded with the vigorous beat of drums.

A roar of merriment greeted the return of the King’s hunting party.  Three boar and two enormous stags were quickly skinned and mounted on the spits, and very soon the river valley was flooded with the fabulous aroma of roasting meat and fresh herbs.

There was much singing and dancing to many old silvan songs which had either been remembered or learned anew for the occasion.  The old tongue was not much spoken anymore even in the farthest reaches of the north, and the wild early days of Greenwood before the reign of Oropher were recalled with much nostalgia but with no regret. 

At midday, the King went to inspect the group of young archers Legolas had gathered at the range which had been prepared for them.  There were thirty-four in all, their ages apparently ranging from fifteen years to five.  They were all dressed in their best with ribbons plaited into their hair, but their flinty expressions made it clear the competition would be fierce.

“I hear we have some very keen eyes among us,” Thranduil said, smiling down at them.

“Some of the best,” Legolas confirmed.  “With their discipline I suspect each of them will be a master in time.  But sadly, there can be only one champion today.”

“Indeed,” Thranduil agreed.  “Let us see who that may be.  Archers, nock your arrows.”

All brought their small bows to bear and took careful aim at a row of apples set upon posts downrange.  Anxious parents in the crowd clasped their hands and bit their tongues. 

“Loose!” Legolas commanded.

All two dozen shafts flew with startling accuracy, and the apples were slaughtered.  Scores were tallied and the arrows retrieved.  A second row of apples was placed.

There were several varieties of the same sort of stationary target at different distances afield.  Every three rounds two competitors were eliminated.  When there were only six remaining, Legolas and the other master archers began throwing apples into the range to be shot on the fly.  Thranduil was genuinely impressed by the skill of such young children, although he supposed he had been doing much the same thing at their age.  That was so long ago it was difficult to remember.

In the end, it was a precocious girl of only eight summers who won the day with a near perfect score.  Her mother and father were clearly ecstatic, but she seemed confident enough to take her victory in stride and spared a moment to commend the skill of the older boy she had bested.

“Very impressive, young lady,” Thranduil congratulated her.  “What is your name?”

“I am Caladwen, my lord,” she said, impeccably correct in her address, and apparently reluctant to look up from his boots now that it came to it.  She did not stand even as tall as his belt. 

“You have great promise, Caladwen,” Thranduil said, dropping to his knee to better meet her gaze.  “Now, as you have won the honor of my company, you had best seek leave of your parents.  We are soon expected elsewhere.”

Caladwen looked back toward her mother and father, both of whom indicated by eager gesticulation that she should accompany the King.  She turned back to him with a smile, encouraged by his easy manner.  “I may go with you,” she confirmed.

“Excellent.”  Thranduil stood again and bid her follow as he returned to the main clearing.  “Secure your bow, dearheart.”

They arrived back at the royal table not a moment too soon.  The first portions of meat were being cut and prepared for presentation to the King and his lords, accompanied by wild mushrooms, yams and onions.  It was not very refined, but it was but unquestionably delicious.  Thranduil sat with Legolas at his right and little Caladwen at his left in the place once reserved for the Queen.  Many of her peers eyed her with obvious envy from their less exalted places on the grass.

Despite the lighthearted festivity all around them, Thranduil suddenly noticed a sour sort of apprehension growing in his mind once again, unpleasantly familiar even after the recent quiet years.  He scowled up at the sky.  The bank of heavy autumn cloud to the south had begun growing darker at an almost alarming rate.  It would be a pity to see their festival drowned for an afternoon, but he had no doubt the merrymaking would stubbornly go ahead.  The silvan Elves did not allow a bit of rain to spoil their amusements. 

“Why is your crown made of beech leaves, my lord?” Caladwen asked, startling Thranduil out of his own thoughts.  “I have always preferred maple.”

Legolas nearly choked on his food as he stifled a laugh for his father’s sake.  Even Thranduil had to admit that her temerity was not wholly unamusing.

“I believe you have attended your archery at the expense of your history, Caladwen,” he chided her gently.  He removed his crown for a moment to allow her to examine it more closely, the cold flash and fire of diamonds set amid leaves of white gold.  “They were fashioned in the likeness of beech leaves to honor Oropher, the first King of Eryn Galen.  This crown was made for him, as the one Legolas wears was once mine.”  She moved to touch it, but Thranduil swiftly replaced it on his brow.  “They are the chief heirlooms of our house, and shall be so long as the memory of Oropher endures.”

Caladwen looked thoughtful, apparently satisfied with his answer.  “They are very fine,” she allowed, “but if I should become a queen, I should still prefer maple.”

“When you are a queen, you may have whatever crown you wish,” Thranduil conceded.

After the meal, it was time to choose a champion from among the most skillful bakers in the realm.  The King and his young companion were plied with many delightful offerings including a spiral seed cake, baked apples, a honey and egg loaf with sweet wine syrup, rolled pastries filled with nut paste and glazed with honeyed wine, apple and pear tarts, honey rosewater cakes, and many other dainties.  The King was perhaps unfairly biased toward those which reminded him of the Queen’s rose gardens, but Caladwen argued tenaciously in the cause of her favorite, a honey hazelnut pastry.  After much debate, Thranduil at last relented in favor of the hazelnuts, awarding their maker an enormous uncut sapphire which had been relinquished by the riverbed.

The music of dancing and drumming renewed itself with greater exuberance, but by now Thranduil was not the only one who had noticed the sinister shift in the weather.  They were not unprepared, and the team charged with such precautions began swiftly clearing away the uneaten food to temporary shelter, erecting pavilions for those who did not care to be soaked, and tenting the bonfire wood.

The vanguard of the storm came with stiff winds as the clouds cast the wood in a premature twilight.  The air smelled damp, and deep rumbling thunder seemed to warn them off the green.

“My lord.”  Dorthaer touched Thranduil discreetly on the shoulder.  “The scouts fear this is no ordinary storm.  It began yesterday as a fume above Dol Guldur.”

Thranduil frowned.  That would explain his visceral disquiet, but indeed very little else.  “It seems rather petty, even for our unpleasant neighbor, to take such trouble to spoil our festivities with rain,” he said, genuinely puzzled.  He seized his glass and the unfinished bottle of wine and stood from the table.  “Come, Legolas, Caladwen.  I shall not give him the satisfaction of seeing me drenched.”

The King and his companions took shelter in a large woodland house which stood nearby, and they were not the only ones.  As expected, the residents were more than happy to accommodate the temporary change of venue, and the revelry continued much as it had before.  An icy rain began falling in sheets outside, but inside it was all firelight, music and laughter.  A lively dance sprang up in the center of the room with much clapping and chanting from the captive audience.  Thranduil sat Caladwen on his lap to make the most of the cramped conditions.

“One might think you wish to make me jealous,” Legolas joked, obligingly refilling his father’s glass.

“Perish the thought,” Thranduil laughed.  “Although, you had best watch yourself.  She seems spirited enough to replace you if ever you should cross me.”

Thunder exploded and rumbled through the wood, earning little more than defiant cheers and applause from the Elves.  If indeed it was a contrivance of the Necromancer, they were more determined than ever to pay it little mind.

But after an hour of torrential rain and the incessant crackle of lightning, their buoyant spirits at last began to falter along with the supply of food and wine.  Seeing tempers beginning to fray in the crowded space, a minstrel struck up a ballad on her harp, pacifying everyone for the moment with the tales of Eryn Galen in the Elder Days.  But even her fingers failed when the drumming of the rain on the roof was suddenly joined by the hard and sharp sounds of several large hailstones striking the house.

Thranduil frowned.  The storm was apparently more serious than any of them had anticipated.  Everyone jumped as a glass window shattered and a hailstone the size of a large apple rolled across the floor.  Those nearest hurried to block the rain with cloth as an enormous peal of thunder shook the ground.  It seemed their defiance had not gone unnoticed.

No one spoke.  The increasingly violent assault of the ice upon the roof planks made it difficult to hear anything else.  Another window shattered.  Thranduil shared a grim look with Legolas, and Caladwen tentatively wrapped her small arms around him.  There was nothing to do but wait.

The next moment all of them flinched as their ears congested, as if the very life breath of the room had been stolen away. 

The house blew apart and all light vanished.  There was no time to think or even to scream.  There was only the black maelstrom of rain and hail, the deafening roar of the wind and the blinding flash of lightning.  Stunned, Thranduil knew only that he was pinned against the cold roots of a tree and that he still held Caladwen crushed against his chest.  He shielded her as best he could as they were battered by hailstones.  The incredible suffocating force of the wind threatened to tear her away, but he braced for a fight.  Something clubbed him hard across the shoulder as it blew past.  Then again, across the back of his ribs.

“Enough!” he howled into the storm, his voice completely lost in the violence.

He could feel Caladwen sobbing, though he could not hear her.  Everything was slick and wet, but he could smell blood amid the broken wood and churned earth.  The worst of the onslaught soon passed them by, but they could still hear that impassive roar for several long moments as the whirlwind continued to carve its path of destruction like a malevolent finger from the depths of Dol Guldur.

Mercifully, it was not long afterward that the hail slowed and finally ceased, leaving the forest strewn with dirty ice.  The winds softened and the clouds lifted, at last allowing some pallid light to filter through.  Thranduil was almost surprised to remember that it was barely midday.  He cautiously lifted his head and found himself thirty yards from where the house had once stood, now a wreck of broken timbers and ruined furniture.

Caladwen was still crying.  “Hush, child,” Thranduil said gently.  “You must be brave if you are to be an archer of mine.  Get up if you can.”

She wriggled away from him and managed to stand, apparently not seriously hurt despite the smear of blood on her face. 

Thranduil did not know at once whether he was injured or not.  Everything hurt after his bruising by the ice.  He hauled himself up on his arms and began pushing a broken table and part of a roof off his legs. 

The moaning of the wounded and the dying began rising from the wreckage.  Thranduil surveyed the damage in silence for a moment, shocked and sickened.  The meadow was unrecognizable.  Trees were twisted and broken in a wide swath to the north and south, all structures reduced to matchsticks.  The dogs were mincing through the destruction, bedraggled and stunned.  Horses were braying.  Survivors were calling desperately for their loved ones.  Sodden festival decorations were scattered about the field and tangled in the branches.  There were bodies everywhere, most still clinging to life, but several battered to death.

“Father!” Legolas called, his voice quavering with relief and suppressed panic.  He had apparently been thrown nearby, and hurried to join them.  He was covered with mud and grime, but otherwise little the worse for wear.

“Ai, Legolas,” Thranduil sighed as his son knelt beside him, experiencing the same flood of anxious gratitude at the sight of him.  “Help me out.”

With Legolas’ assistance, Thranduil was at last able to completely free his legs and stumble upright, unbroken but not unbloodied. 

“Take her away from here,” he said, indicating Caladwen, who stood staring blankly at the field of death.  “See her safely to the palace, and roust anyone there to come and recover our wounded.”

Legolas nodded without a word, seemingly grateful to have clear instructions amid the chaos.  He took Caladwen in hand and led her quickly away.

Several others were climbing free now, and Thranduil gathered them into a coordinated rescue effort.  Horses were brought to help shift and drag away large fallen trees and branches in order to reach those who were trapped.  There were no bandages yet, but when the King began to tear strips from his undertunic for dressings and tourniquets, everyone else did likewise.  The shredded pavilions were cut into makeshift stretchers for the wounded and shrouds for the dead.  The bodies were laid in rows at the edge of the field, some covered and others not as the supply of canvas ran short.

Thranduil was no stranger to death, but the waste of the young haunted him.  He was keenly reminded of Legolas as he lifted and carried away the broken body of a small boy.  He remembered him from the archery tournament mere hours earlier, but could not recall his name.  He laid him with the other lost children, four thus far, bitterly resentful of the frailty of life and his inability to right these senseless wrongs.  He might have wept with the grieving parents had he not felt so many eyes upon him.  He was the King, and he could not afford the luxury of grief just yet.

The recovery of the victims went on until dark.  Then lanterns were hung in the broken trees and parties of searchers continued combing the wood with torches and dogs.  Thranduil was prepared to continue supervising these efforts through the night, but Linhir approached him with Dorthaer and Brilthor.

“My lord,” Linhir said grimly, “I have been inspecting the damage.  The secondary storehouses have been utterly destroyed.  Many families have lost their caches entirely.  I fear we shall be on extremely short rations this winter if a solution cannot be found.”

Thranduil growled in exasperation, but after a moment he regained his composure.  “Show me what we have in reserve,” he said.

Together they returned to the palace cellars, which were fully stocked against the lean months to come.  There were entire chambers of well-ordered sacks upon sacks of acorns, beechnuts, chestnuts, hazel and hickory nuts, barrels of apples, dried pears and berries, jars of honeycomb and great wheels of cheese.  There were extensive stores of dried game meat, boar, venison, rabbit and pheasant, as well as a generous supply of the more perishable winter vegetables, yams, turnips, onions, mushrooms, and gourds.  There was also their last supply of the precious grain they acquired from the Northmen beyond the wood.  It all seemed very impressive until Thranduil considered attempting to feed a large portion of the population with it.

“Shall we attempt to purchase more provisions before the snows?” Galadhmir asked, coming to join them.

“With what?” Thranduil asked, extremely candidly.  “The treasuries are spent, as Linhir well knows.  We bought a lovely army for ourselves, but we cannot eat our swords.” 

“We know how to endure a poor winter if we must,” Brilthor assured him, perhaps with more confidence that he genuinely felt.

“I am loath to rely upon our celebrated powers of endurance unless at the last need,” Thranduil said.  “I fear we must fall upon the mercy of our neighbors and trust that their harvests were plentiful.  Dorthaer, send messengers to Esgaroth to make inquiries.”  Esgaroth was little more than a rude fishing village of Men upon the lake beyond their eastern border, but it was what passed for a center of trade in those times.  “Linhir, see that our kitchens turn out hot meals for all involved for the duration of the recovery, and distribute such provisions as you must to those who have none.  No one need go hungry yet.”

Upstairs, the atmosphere inside the caverns was busy and confused.  The wounded had been placed in every available bed, indeed in every available open space, sheltered from the elements outside.  The healers were overwhelmed, assisted here and there by friends and family of the victims.  Thranduil found Legolas there, just returned with a search party, and snagged him by the arm.

“What of Caladwen?” he asked.

“She is here with her parents,” Legolas confirmed.  “Her father is among the wounded, but he seems to be in no danger.”

“That at least is fortunate,” Thranduil said.  “Keep alert; I shall be expecting messengers to return from Esgaroth.  Inform me the moment they arrive.”


The night passed in a blur of activity.  An exhaustive role of names had been compiled from many quarters of those who had been present within the most violent path of the storm.  Living or dead, they were all finally accounted for by first light.  Legolas and Linhir had been given the final authority there, the representative of the King and the keeper of all the most recent maps of the area.  The King himself spent the night alone at the summit of the hill in silent contention with their enemy to the south.  It was lonely work, but it was also the one task that could not be delegated.

With all the victims recovered, the monumental task of clearing away the debris now began.  Legolas rode the length and breadth of the devastation, ordering and supervising the effort.  It was slow going, separating jumbled household items from the general detritus, but they salvaged what they could.  Before noon, he was gratified to see his father riding out to join him.

“What moves in the south?” Legolas asked as the King drew up alongside him. 

“Very little,” Thranduil answered.  He looked worn, and had not yet taken the time to change his torn and soiled clothes.  Few of them had.  “He avoided my gaze, but could not escape entirely.  This effort has sapped him, and I dare to hope we may be unmolested for some time before he recovers his strength.”

“Might we dare to assault Dol Guldur itself?” Legolas suggested.  “Our army is as ready as it may ever be, and I dare say eager to fight.”

“But what is our splendid army to eat?” Thranduil asked pointedly.  “I fear any march into the south would reap much grief and precious little reward, especially with the shortages we face now.  Even weakened, we cannot know what new devilry the Necromancer may yet hold in reserve for us.  We shall defend our borders, but risk no more.”

Legolas frowned and swallowed his battle lust.  He knew his father well enough to recognize that Thranduil was angry as well, but too tired now to rage.  His judgment was cold and sober, and made perfect sense when Legolas remembered that their objective was not to conquer Dol Guldur but to outlast it.  There was not much glory in that plan, but a great deal of prudence.

Their conversation was interrupted by a runner who came sprinting towards them over the grass.

“My lords!” he said, slightly winded.  “Your messengers have returned from Esgaroth.”

“So soon?” Thranduil asked, incredulous.  “That may yet bode good or ill.  Come, Legolas.”  He turned his horse briskly back toward the boat landing, Legolas following close behind.

They arrived at the riverside just as the envoys were disembarking with some surprising companions.  Three formidable Dwarves climbed ashore after them, clad in leather armor with sufficient gold and jewels to denote some considerable rank within their own society.  They seemed to have already made comments enough to each other in their own tongue, and now waited silently to be presented to no one less than the Elvenking himself.

“My lord,” the envoy explained, “these Dwarves are traders from Erebor.  They and the others of their company have many barges loaded with grain and other provisions waiting at Esgaroth.  They have come to consider your offer.”

“Welcome, then, my lords of Erebor,” Thranduil said stiffly, perhaps considering just what sort of offer he would be able to make.  He managed to carry himself with as much gravity as ever despite his disheveled appearance.  “Come refresh yourselves, and we shall discuss terms.”

By quiet command of the King, a long table with chairs was set in the dappled sun behind the hill in full view of the ruin wrought by the storm.  The Dwarves were supplied with wine, bread, cheese, and an entire leg of the precious dry-cured boar.  They were content to enjoy their meal for a time, openly marveling at the damage done to the wood.  Rumor of their presence clearly spread like wildfire, and the Lords Anárion, Linhir, and Galadhmir gathered nearby to observe the negotiations. 

Finally, when the Dwarves had nearly carved the ham down to the bone, the most impressive one of them addressed their hosts.

“It seems your hospitality has been much underrated, Lord Thranduil,” he said with a satisfied smile.  “I am Frár, and these brutes are my brothers, Nár and Náin.  We have been told by your people that the storm yesterday left you in some difficulty.  In consideration of your plight, we are prepared to hold the goods in Lake-town for you if you can at least match what the fishermen would pay.”

Thranduil’s eyes narrowed severely.  Perhaps he had never really harbored much hope of charitable compassion from Dwarves, but all such possibility had surely vanished now.

 “We may not be in a position at present to meet your price,” the King informed him with an effort.  It was clearly difficult for him to admit the truth of their circumstances to outsiders.  “Perhaps we may yet come to some arrangement.”

“I have not made my fortune by dealing in ‘arrangements,’” Frár insisted, dismissing the notion immediately.  “Do not play coy with me, my lord.  You can either meet my price now or pay a dearer one later.  It is not our concern if you cannot protect yourselves from a bit of wind and rain.”

Thranduil was furious now, though he remained absolutely still.  Legolas had to stop himself from instinctively taking a step back.  Several tense moments passed, and then the King gave quiet and very deliberate direction to the Guardsman Lancaeron, who left immediately.

The ominous silence remained unbroken until Lancaeron returned bearing a wooden chest.  He set it heavily upon the table in front of the Dwarves and then stepped back.  They opened it and quickly took stock of its contents, gold and silver coins and a few loose gems.  Legolas swallowed hard, knowing full well that was the absolute last gasp of the fabled wealth of Lasgalen.

The hardened traders seemed unimpressed.  “A bit short yet,” Frár decreed.  “You will all be tightening your belts come midwinter after what that will fetch you.”

There was another long and uncomfortable silence.  Legolas could feel several emotions roiling hot beneath his father’s serene facade.  At last, the King spoke to Gwaelas, who by now was hovering at his shoulder.  Gwaelas immediately seemed distressed, but then he left upon his errand, obeying without question.

While they awaited Gwaelas’ return, the Dwarves availed themselves of what remained of the wine.  The cellarer turned a questioning glance upon the King who scowled and made a short and sharp motion with his hand, obviously determined that their impudent guests should not enjoy any more of his best vintage.

Gwaelas reappeared looking rather desolate and carrying a large wooden jewel box which he gave to the King.  Thranduil held it for a moment, obviously intensely reluctant to part with it.  Then he set it down upon the table and lifted the lid.

A collective gasp of dismay rose from those gathered there.  The Queen’s crown gleamed in the sunlight, ageless and perfect, a hundred white gems sparkling in their settings.  Without a word, Thranduil removed his own crown and set it down as well.  He then leveled an expectant glance upon his son.

Legolas had almost forgotten he was still wearing his own brilliant circlet.  He removed it with a sigh and placed it with the others.  Linhir, Anárion and Galadhmir, rather than wait for it to be required of them, quietly did the same.

The silence was palpable as it hung over the valley.  Even the Dwarves recognized the enormity of the gesture, and finally seemed to believe the Elves were indeed as desperate as they claimed.  Their flinty expressions softened and they took counsel among themselves for a moment.

“We have agreed,” Frár said at last.  “Your terms are acceptable.  We shall deliver the barges without delay.”

“See that you do.”  Thranduil’s expression was thunderous as he turned to take his leave.  “My people will escort you back to Esgaroth.”


The Dwarves were true to their word, and several large barges arrived in a timely manner loaded with generous supplies of spelt, oats, barley and shelling beans with bales of wheat grass for the horses and other livestock.  Thranduil watched as they were unloaded, hoping the sight of what had been so dearly bought would salve the wound.

Galadhmir found him there and offered the silent support of his company, as he had ever done.  His presence was more comforting than anything else could have been in that moment, a reminder of a family legacy far more precious than Oropher’s heirlooms. 

“It was a wrench to let them go,” Galadhmir said, knowing his thoughts, “especially hers.”

“Lindóriel would have given her jewels freely,” Thranduil insisted.  “I could do no less on her behalf.”

“She did love this place,” Galadhmir smiled, “and these people.  I always believed she felt more at home here than she ever did elsewhere.”

A swell of bittersweet melancholy came over Thranduil then, all fond memories now tainted with grief.  He almost began to say he was glad she would be spared the sorrows and hardships of Mirkwood, or that it was best that her spirit was at peace elsewhere, but he did not believe a word of it.  He still wanted her beside him, yearned for her intimate companionship each day, convinced she would have risen to their new challenges as well as any of them. 

“Perhaps she is there to gather our dead as she hoped, somewhere beyond the sunset,” Galadhmir wondered aloud.

Thranduil managed to smile at the thought.  “She would like that,” he agreed. 

Galadhmir seemed pleased by his change of mood.  “No more dreary thoughts,” he admonished his brother.  “Dol Guldur has blown itself out for a time, and you have averted a famine before it truly began.  Our situation is not nearly so grim as it might yet have been.”

“It came much nearer disaster than I would have liked,” Thranduil countered, “and it has left us utterly destitute.  It is most uncomfortable, and I am determined never to be so again.”

“I have no doubt you will put it right somehow,” Galadhmir said.  “You always do.  Now, come to supper; you have earned it.”

Thranduil obliged, leaving the unloading of the barges to those who knew the job best. 

Their halls were still functioning as both a hospital and as a shelter for those who had been rendered temporarily homeless.  Thranduil slowed their pace for a time, taking a moment to glance at each bed as they passed.  Though some injuries were indeed serious, it seemed unlikely that any more would die.  Given time and encouragement, their kind could recover from all but the most grievous wounds.

Legolas was waiting for them at table with a few others of the household.  He seemed in unexpectedly good spirits as they all stood to receive the King.

“You have just missed your little archer,” he said brightly, “but she left a gift for you.”

Thranduil rounded the table and found the endearing object in his chair — a carefully crafted circlet of green twigs woven with red berries and autumn maple leaves. 

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