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Interrupted Journeys: Part 7 The course of love  by elliska

AN: This is a continuation of a series of stories titled Interrupted Journeys. Parts One through Seven have already been posted. It should not be necessary to read those parts of the series to understand this story, though you might understand the characters a bit better if you did.

This part of the story is set in Legolas's childhood. He and his cousins and friends are at the age when they are trying to figure out ellyth. Poor things. ;-)

Think not you can direct the course of love,

for love, if it finds you worthy, 

directs your course.

Gibran Kahlil Gibran

Chapter One: Flirtations and frustrations

TA 1981

Legolas pivoted on his left foot, half-voiding Galithil's attack and half-deflecting his cousin's practice blade with a hanging guard. It was not an elegant move. It certainly was not one that would earn Langon's praise. But it did have the virtue of preventing another bruise. Moreover, it should leave him in a good position for a counter attack regardless of where Galithil's charge left him. Legolas gathered himself and began to swing his sword in a cutting arch, aiming at Galithil's exposed shoulder.

Laughter--giggling really--from the far edge of the training field caught Legolas's attention and he glanced in its direction. Then he scowled. The giggling elleth was not Maidhien, as Legolas had expected it to be. Maidhien often watched he and Galithil train and she teased Galithil whenever he made a misstep. That happened rarely enough. But Maidhien was not laughing at Galithil now. Eirienil was giggling in response to something the First Year she currently favored was saying. That was bad enough. Neither Legolas nor Galithil liked that particular First Year.  But to make matters worse, Aewen was with Eirienil and she was giggling too. The First Year's friend, another First Year, was grinning at her. 

Legolas started to turn his attention back to his attack, but then he froze and glared at the ellyth and the First Years even harder. First Year Number Two had his hand on Aewen's waist. It looked like he was trying to lure her off somewhere.

The ellyth were supposed to be waiting for Galithil, Berior and Legolas to finish their sword practice. They were supposed to go swimming after it and Legolas had been looking forward to that swim all afternoon. If the First Years dragged Aewen and Eirienil off, he was going to be...well he was not really sure. Angry? Jealous? Both? Probably both.


Before he knew what happened, Legolas found himself on his knees, practice sword on the ground in front of him, clutching his calf where Galithil had struck him full force.

"Well that serves you right!" Langon's voice boomed from above him, speaking over Galithil's apology.

Legolas winced. The upcoming lecture was going to be far more painful than the blow Galithil had dealt him. Especially since he could not deny that he deserved it. With effort, he picked up his practice sword and straightened to face Langon. He could not help but favor his still throbbing leg, placing no weight on it at all. He also could not help but notice that the giggling and chatter on the edge of the training field had fallen silent. Perfect, Legolas thought. The only thing better than facing the sword master's temper was doing so publicly, with the First Years and the ellyth watching.

"One," Langon began, holding up a finger, "watch your range. Either close on your opponent or stay outside. Two," he continued, his voice rising a level, "Stay on balance. Either void the attack or block it. If you were on balance, you could have properly voided that attack. Three, if you had to block, you chose the correct block, but why did you not follow through. Tell me that, Legolas. Why did you not finish your follow through."

Legolas's throat convulsed. He knew perfectly well that Langon already knew he had been distracted. And he knew exactly how much trouble he was in for allowing that. He steeled himself and met the sword master's glare directly. "I was distracted, Master Langon," he said, serving up the expected response as respectfully as he could.

Langon gave him a shove that forced him to stumble back on his sore leg. It cramped painfully, but Legolas knew better than to react. Instead, he drew a long breath to steady himself for Langon's continued lecture.

"Distractions will get you killed," he yelled. "If Galithil had been an orc, the least that would have happened is that you would have lost a leg. And if, by the grace of the Valar, the orc that took your leg did not finish you off with another blow, such a wound might kill you anyway. Focus! And if you are, as yet, too young to focus, do not come onto my training field until you can manage it. Do you understand that?"

"Yes, Master Langon. I understand. It will not happen again," Legolas replied, trying to look very serious. Langon threatened on a regular basis to stop training he and his cousins. He had been ordered to train them by the King, despite the fact that they were all too young to join the training program, but Legolas, Galithil and Berior all had concluded long ago that Langon was just the type to not bother to obey Thranduil if it suited him better not to. They did not care to be in the center of that sort of conflict. And they truly wanted the sword lessons. So they strove to stay on Langon's good side, at least as much as anyone could.

Langon scowled at him. "Take five laps around the field. The lot of you. Then get out of my sight for the day."

With that he snatched their practice swords away from them and stalked off towards the weapons shed.

Legolas grimaced. "Sorry," he said quietly, as he and his cousins jogged off towards the edge of the field to make their laps.
Galithil and Berior only shrugged.

"I have had enough of Langon for today anyway," Galithil responded. He made sure to speak quietly enough that Langon had no hope of overhearing him. "I am ready to go swimming. And we do not have to practice again until after the festival. By then Langon will have forgotten about this."

"That will not make him less cross," Berior responded. "He always finds something to be cross about."

Legolas agreed with that assessment, but at the moment he did not care. He only hoped the five laps would help loosen up his sore calf.

Aewen and Eirienil put their hands on their hips as Legolas and his cousins jogged past them without stopping. Anastor, Noruil and Brethil, who were also waiting with them, rolled their eyes skyward at the added delay.

"Five laps and then we can go swimming," Berior called back to them.

Legolas's back stiffened involuntarily when the First Years laughed.


"Stop! Stop it! Turn me loose!" Aewen and Eirienil squealed between giggles and gasped breathes. Their pleas were nearly drowned by the splashing of water.

Much to the younger ellyn's disgust, Eirienil's First Year and his friend had invited themselves along to go swimming and now one of them was holding Eirienil and Aewen tightly against himself in chest deep water, arms about their waists, while the other splashed them wildly. The ellyth were writhing this way and that, trying to escape without much real effort. Both First Years were grinning broadly. Especially the one currently holding the ellyth.

Legolas and Berior stood to one side of this spectacle watching it silently. Anastor and Noruil stood to their other side, watching with narrowed eyes. Legolas had suspected for some time that Anastor fancied Eirienil, though he could never persuade him to admit it. But here was certain proof of it. Galithil was holding Maidhien on his lap in the hot spring only a short distance away and Anastor had not even noticed. He was too busy fuming over the First Years. That was almost enough to make Legolas forget how much he was fuming himself. At least he had a chance with Aewen. They had been friends since their early childhood, and all this summer they had been dancing closer and closer to becoming more than just friends. Anastor did not have the slightest hope of ever winning Eirienil, not even if he somehow managed to single-handedly save the forest one day.

"Here!" Anastor finally exclaimed. "Enough of that. You will drown them!" He reached for Eirienil's arm and pulled her away from the First Year.

She looked at him coolly for a brief moment and then floated over to the First Year that had been splashing them. He offered her an arm and she took it with a smile, moving much closer to him than she would have done if her father had been present.

Aewen also took advantage of the opportunity to free herself, but instead of taking the arm that the other First Year offered her, she ignored him and swam over to Legolas.  Pretending to hide behind him, she put her arms about his neck. "Save us, Legolas," she begged playfully, still giggling.

From the corner of his eyes, Legolas could tell that she was grinning at the other First Year, but for once he did not care. Indeed, he did not have much thought for anything else other than how soft Aewen felt, pressed against him as she was.

Berior raised an eyebrow and gave Legolas a knowing smirk.

Legolas pointedly ignored him and focused on the good fortune given to him. "We should go sit in the hot spring for a while," he suggested, turning enough to slip an arm around Aewen's waist to hold her against him. To his delight, she nodded and left her arms around his neck as he half-swam, half-walked in the direction of the pool.

"Yes, I think Galithil and Maidhien need a chaperon," Eirienil added, a little too loudly.

That comment had the desired effect, causing Anastor to look away from her, spinning his head instead towards the pool.

"Mind your behavior with my sister," he demanded, pointing at Galithil as everyone swam towards them.

Maidhien shook her head and moved out of Galithil's lap, but not by much. A thin piece of cloth might have fit between them.

"You keep them in line, Anastor," Berior teased.

Anastor looked as if he intended to say more, but he lost his chance when Maidhien stood up and began to climb out of the pool. Legolas automatically averted his gaze and as he did, he saw Eirienil and Aewen scowl at Maidhien's boldness.

"It is really time to dry off and go home for dinner," Maidhien declared, heading towards the screen of bushes where the ellyth normally stood to ring out their shifts.

"Maidhien!" Legolas called after her. He glanced up in her direction as he spoke, and noticed that Galithil was frankly watching her. So were the First Years. He frowned. "We still have a few moments to sit and talk," he said, obviously hoping she would come back. He had not yet released Aewen and she had not made any effort to pull away.

"You spoil my fun and I will spoil yours," Maidhien retorted as she slipped behind the bushes.

Aewen loosed a dramatic sigh and pulled away from Legolas. "It does not matter if we go home now. We will have from now until the festival to..." she hesitated, as if searching for a word. "To talk," she finally concluded with a look that Legolas hoped he was reading correctly--one that seemed to imply she might like to sit with him a do a bit more than talk. Then she fixed him with a stern look. "No lessons, right? And no more training? Not until after the festival?"

"Yes," Legolas confirmed with a nod. "We are free until after the festival."

"And you can still go camping?" Aewen pressed. She had asked about this everyday since they had all won their parents' permission to go on the camping trip. The repetition might have annoyed Legolas if anyone else had nagged him so. His cousins were certainly annoyed, if their exasperated expressions were any indication. But Legolas saw her constant questioning as a sign that she wanted to spend time with him. And that was certainly good.

"Yes," Galithil fairly growled as he hauled himself out of the pool. "For the last time, we are going camping. Tomorrow. For pity sake stop asking about it."

Berior, Anastor and Noruil moved to follow him, but Legolas lingered in the water, still enjoying Aewen's closeness.

"You and your parents are going camping?" Eirienil's First Year asked, emphasizing the word 'parents.' "I would not have thought the King and his advisors would have time to go camping, what with the festival in a few days and all their other duties."

Legolas glared at him. "We are going by ourselves," he answered coolly.

"To the forest's edge," Aewen added, excitedly. "The King is letting us take some horses from the training program, since you will not be using them this week, and with horses, we can easily make it to the forest's edge."

The First Year raised both eyebrows.

"We are taking the horses, but we are not going all the way to the forest's edge," Galithil corrected, looking down at them from the riverbank.

"But we have six whole days to camp. We can make it to the forest edge and back," Aewen argued, taking a few steps toward the bank. "It would be an adventure. And our parents need not know about it."

"But our guards will know," Galithil retorted. "And even if we could somehow convince them to let us go and not tell our parents..."

"Which you could not," Tulus and Colloth's voices said in unison from somewhere in the trees above them. Aewen quickly ducked back down in the water until it covered her up to her chin.

"...there is no possibility that the Eastern Patrol and the Path Guard would not notice how far we went," Galithil continued. "They would report it to their captains, who would report it to Dolgailon, who would report it to our parents. It is not going to happen, Aewen, so put it out of your head or we will not take you camping."

That threat made Aewen stand again, her hands on her hips. "You cannot stop me from going where ever I please, Galithil," she declared.

"And that is why we must be able to trust that you will not do something stupid like bolt off on a horse to the forest edge," he countered calmly.

Aewen loosed a frustrated noise and glared at him.

"Aewen is going," Legolas said quietly, coming to stand beside her. "And she will stay with us. Now stop arguing." He cast his cousin a warning look to silence him.

Galithil turned his back to them both.

"Come on," Legolas said quietly, taking Aewen's arm to help her up the bank. "Let's go dry off."

Everyone climbed up the bank but Aewen. She caught Legolas's arm, holding him back.

"Make Tulus and Colloth come out of the trees," she whispered.

Legolas fought not to roll his eyes. She had no problem with he and his cousins seeing her in her shift. She did not even seem to mind those First Years seeing her. But Tulus and Colloth always had to stay where she could see they had their backs fully turned. He drew a breath to call to them, but they both leapt to the ground next to Galithil before he could speak. They pointedly turned their backs to the river and began speaking with Galithil. Lecturing him, no doubt, despite his earlier assurance that they had no intention of going to the forest's edge. Legolas escorted Aewen the rest of the way out of the river and she hurried off with Eirienil to the screen of bushes to dry off her shift. Legolas preferred the way it clung to her when it was wet.

"I wonder if Glilivan would let us take a few days off before the festival so we could go camping with you," Eirienil's First Year said, mostly to himself. "He might not mind."

Leoglas stifled a snort. He knew exactly what Glilivan's response to a trainee asking for time off would be. "I think you should definitely ask him," he responded, nodding his encouragement.


Legolas turned over the page he had just finished reading and added it to the stack of papers to his left. He straightened the stack automatically while continuing to read the next page. The Eastern Patrol's daily report had been particularly long for the last few days. Legolas knew perfectly well that was because they had been ordered to do extra patrols since he and his cousins and friends were going camping tomorrow. That was just fine with Legolas, so long as they did not find any evidence of orcs or spiders or men or dwarves or anything else to report to his father. He finished the last page of the report and picked up his quill to write a summary of it. There was nothing to write but a list of the places the warriors had patrolled and the statement that they had seen nothing to report--just what both Legolas and his father wanted to hear.

The door to Thranduil's office opened and the guard admitted a warrior. 

Legolas and Galithil both stopped writing and looked over at him. Thranduil and Hallion looked up from their work as well, greeting him.

"I have just come from the border, my lord. My fellows and I were to meet with the Men delivering supplies to the eastern edge of the Path. We met them, and they had the supplies, but they said that they expected payment with this shipment. They refuse to turn their goods over to us without payment, but no one has sent us any coins to pay them with," the warrior explained. "My lieutenant sent me for instructions."

Galithil grinned and nudged Legolas under the table with his foot. He derived a twisted sort of delight at seeing his uncle's temper when it was directed at Men or Dwarves.

And Thranduil did not disappoint. "We agreed to pay them after their last delivery, not their first," he responded through a clenched jaw.

The warrior straightened his tunic and then ran his hands down its front. "I do not know anything about that, my lord. I only know what the Men told me. They said they want paid now, " he repeated, shifting from foot to foot as he spoke.

Thranduil frowned severely, but before he could say more, Hallion stepped between him and the warrior. "Thank you for delivering their message. Tell your lieutenant that we will send someone to manage the Men," he said quietly and he gestured towards the door with his chin.

The warrior smiled at him gratefully, sketched a quick bow and all but fled the room.

Thranduil watched him leave with a scowl. "Who do you propose we send to 'manage' the Men?" he asked the moment the office door closed again. "And how shall we 'manage' them?" I am not paying for goods until they are delivered."

"Of course not, my lord," Hallion responded. "They should be delivering half of what we contracted to purchase, so we will deliver half their payment. If they do not like that, then they can keep their goods."

Thranduil shook his head and seemed prepared to say more.

"But they are delivering the salt," Legolas interrupted. "Nana will need that after the festival to salt the boars and deer that we do not eat during the festival. So that the meat will be ready for the winter stores."

Hallion shrugged. "There is more than one spice trader in Esgaroth," he replied.

"Still, who will we send, Hallion?" Thranduil repeated. "If we send the half payment with one of the warriors and the Men refuse to take it--and you know they will--we will have that warrior back here asking for more coins or more instructions. We need someone who can negotiate with the Men and there is no one to send. Lindomiel is in the north, managing the berry harvest. She will not be back for at least two more days. Celonhael, Golwon, Engwe and Amglaur have all gone on the hunt for the festival. Dolgailon is visiting the Western border and will not be back until the festival. Limmiel and Arthiel are needed here to manage the preparations for the festival until Lindomiel returns. I cannot possibly spare you. And if you think I am going myself, you are mistaken."

Hallion smiled at that. "It would serve the Men right for demanding to alter our bargain," he commented under his breath. Then he grew more serious. "Isteth or Ollwen could probably be spared from the preparations from the festival," he said.

Golwon and Celonhael's wives were the only members of the family that Thranduil had not already mentioned.

Thranduil shook his head. "They have never dealt with Men. Or with trade."

"And Men have an odd attitude towards dealing with ellyth under the best of circumstances," Hallion agreed. Then he turned towards Legolas. "How did you know what the Men were delivering, Legolas?" he asked quietly.

"It was in the Eastern Patrol's report that I summarized yesterday. The captain mentioned he had dispatched some warriors and a lieutenant to meet the Men. And it was mentioned in nana's kitchen order from last month. I copied that order too," he replied.

"So you are familiar with the quantities we are expecting? And the price?" Hallion asked.

Legolas nodded and his eyes widened slightly as he recognized the reason for Hallion's questions. Galithil gave him another nudge under the table. He was trying to conceal it, but he looked plainly excited. Legolas turned his father. Fortunately, Thranduil was shaking his head again.

"Legolas is still a child, Hallion. I am not sending children to negotiate trade agreements."

Legolas loosed the breath he had been holding. Under any other circumstances, he would be bitterly disappointed with his father's decision. But in this case, he did not want anything to get in the way of his camping trip.

"Legolas is every bit as close to adulthood as many of the messengers the Men of Esgaroth and Dale send to us," Hallion countered.

"They are also children," Thranduil interrupted.

"But old enough to serve their realms in the eyes of Men," Hallion retorted. "So they will think nothing of Legolas's age, if they even recognize he is under age. Moreover, Legolas could not be mistaken for anyone but the Elvenking's son. The Men will think twice before arguing with him over the half payment. If the Men try to refuse the half payment, they will have no doubt Legolas has the authority to cancel the agreement altogether and send them back to Esgaroth with nothing."

"And if it comes to that, I do not want Legolas going into Esgaroth to buy salt from some other trader. He has never been to Esgaroth and he simply does not have the skill as yet to negotiate such an agreement."

"Of course not, my lord. By the time it comes to that, if it does, Lindomiel will be back from the northern villages and she can go herself. But if we send Legolas now and the Men accept the half payment, by the time Lindomiel gets back to the capital, the salt will be waiting for her." Hallion paused. "Your choice is Isteth, Ollwen, Legolas or myself, my lord," he prompted when the King did not argue further. "And Legolas--along with Tulus and Colloth--was already prepared to travel east to camp with his friends. It would only be a short detour in his plans."

Thranduil studied Legolas for a long moment. "Very well," he finally said. "Tulus and Colloth will be there, after all. Legolas may take the half payment to the forest border and try to convince the Men to take it. Your naneth would prefer that they do accept it, Legolas. For some reason she prefers dealing with these spice traders, though at the moment I cannot imagine why, so do make your best effort to convince them to take the payment." He paused for emphasis. "If they will not take it, send them back to Esgaroth, but do not go there yourself. Your naneth is more knowledgeable about the traders in Esgaroth than anyone else. She will choose the new one."

Legolas stared at his father silently with his mouth partially open. "Can Isteth not go?" he finally said.

That earned him a hard kick in the shin and an astonished glare from Galithil. Thranduil's expression was not much different.

"I beg your pardon, Legolas?" he replied softly.

Legolas had no difficulty recognizing that tone. Realizing his mistake too late, he quickly tried to think of some response that he might give that was both the truth and something that might appease his father.

"I would have thought you would be pleased to have this duty," Hallion said when Legolas did not immediately speak.

Legolas slumped a little. There was nothing for it. "I would." He hesitated again. "Normally," he continued. "But we have planned this camping trip for a long time," he finally admitted. From the corner of his eye, he saw Galithil cringe and shake his head.

Thranduil frowned. "You said yourself that we need the salt to preserve meat for the winter stores. You obviously recognize the significance of this purchase," he said.

Legolas was certain he heard sympathy in his father's voice. He also heard resolve.

"Your friends can go with you to the forest border, if their parents allow it," Thranduil continued. "And after you deliver the payment to the Men, you may certainly still camp until the festival begins. I do not normally ask you to perform such duties, but at the moment I have no one else to ask, as you just heard. I need for you to do this."

Legolas nodded. "I will take the payment, adar," he affirmed, but he was not entirely able to conceal his disappointment.

That earned him a scowl from his father and a somewhat confused look from Hallion. Legolas did not care. Right now he was only concerned with how he was going to explain this change in plans to Aewen.

Elleth/Ellyth -- Female elf/elves

Ellon/Ellyn -- Male elf/elves

Adar/ada -- Father/dad

Naneth/nana -- Mother/mum


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