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Interrupted Journeys: Part 7 The course of love  by elliska

See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love!

Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet Act III, scene iii

Chapter Two: To kill your joys with love

Legolas, Galithil, Berior and Eirienil jogged across the Green and into the forest on the path that led to Anastor's cottage. Legolas should have been excited--both at the prospect of the camping trip and the meeting with the Men--but he was not. Quite the opposite. In fact, he was so worried about Aewen's reaction to their change in plans that he wished there was a way to comply with his father's request while not telling the others about it at all. As they approached the cottage, he sighed and tried to derive some pleasure from the one amusing sight he was likely to see this morning--two additional members of the morning work detail, chopping firewood for use in the stronghold: Eirienil's First Year and First Year Number Two. They had obviously taken Legolas's advice and asked for time off from the training program. At least they would not able to do more to spoil this trip for Legolas.

Legolas and his cousins were the last of the children to arrive at Anastor's cottage, just as Legolas had intended. Explaining what his father was requiring him to do and listening to his friends' complaints was something he wanted to get over with all at once, not repeat with each new group of arrivals. Everyone, including Dannenion, who was sitting on the cottage steps helping Anastor hurriedly finish fletching arrows to take on their trip, turned at the sound of their arrival.

"It is about time!" Anastor exclaimed, hands on his hips. "We thought you would never come. We should hurry. By dusk, I want to be where we saw those tracks the last time we went hunting. The huge ones. I want to try for that buck again this trip."

Legolas looked away from Anastor and gathered himself to explain why they would not be that far north of the Path, at least not tonight.

"What?" Anastor asked, before he could speak. "Let me guess. You have different plans and, of course, we will all do want you want. As always."

Legolas scowled at that, but still could not find the words to tell them about the Men, especially since Aewen was now looking at him warily.

"What is wrong, Legolas?" Brethil asked.

"And what is in the little bag?" Noruil added, eying the purse tied to Legolas's belt. It jingled.

The answer to that question was as good a way to start this conversation as any, Legolas decided. "Gold coins," he responded bluntly.

The other children laughed until they noticed Legolas appeared serious.

"What is going on?" Maidhien demanded, looking at Galithil.

Galithil grinned at her. "We have to go to the border. To pay some Men for a delivery they are making."

"So you cannot camp?" Aewen asked.

Her disappointed exclamation was almost drowned out by the other children's questions.

"Can we see the coins?" Noruil asked, taking a step towards Legolas.

"Men!" Anastor cried at the same time.

"All the way to the border?" Brethil asked, speaking over all of them. "We agreed we would not go that far. My adar would never have given permission if we had told him we were gong that far."

Legolas looked at Dannenion, the one parent present, and was grateful they had chosen to gather at his cottage for their departure. Dannenion never cared much what Anastor and Maidhien did. His response to the fact that they were going to the forest border was simply to shake his head and continue fletching arrows. Brethil was right. If they had been speaking in front of his father, they would have been in for at least an hour of convincing him that they would be safe traveling that far since Colloth and Tulus were with them. Brethil normally won all such debates with a well-placed usage of the argument 'Well, the King judges it is safe for Legolas and Galithil to go.' And Legolas was certain that the same argument would have won Crithad over this morning. But then Crithad would have sent them to Aewen's cottage to secure her father's permission as well and the whole scene would have been repeated, wasting even more of their precious camping time. It was bad enough to argue about it once with his friends now.

"Only I have to go all the way to the border," Legolas replied, answering Brethil's question in an effort to avoid facing Aewen for just a little longer. "Adar has sent me to make payment to the Men because there is no one else to send. But you do not have to go all the way with me. We could set up our camp where we were planning on setting it up anyway and I could just leave for a bit, go deal with the Men, and then come back. It need not affect everyone else's trip at all."

"We are going all the way to the border with you, Legolas," Anastor replied excitedly. And Noruil nodded.

Legolas frowned. Men who were expecting full payment and were about to receive half payment would be bad enough without Anastor and Noruil to complicate matters.

"You stay away from those Men," Dannenion interjected, pointing an arrow at Anastor and then swiveling it to point at Noruil. "Tricky, unpredictable, treacherous lot they all are and I do not want you anywhere near them,"

Anastor and Noruil nodded innocently in response and their expressions made Legolas shake his head. The same look would have prompted Thranduil to lock up anyone he saw wearing it. But Legolas was grateful for Dannenion's words at any rate. Tulus and Colloth would take his statement as an order to keep Anastor and Noruil away from the Men and that could only be good.

"The point of the trip was to have fun together," Aewen finally piped up. "I do not want to be anywhere near Men. And my adar would not want me anywhere near them either. Legolas, you promised you would be able to just spend time with us, without lessons and training and other duties."

Legolas frowned. He had promised that. Problem was that he only realized now that it was the sort of promise he could not really keep. "Dealing with the Men should not take much time from our trip," he tried to assure her, not really expecting her to be much appeased.

"You were the one who wanted to go all the way to the border yesterday," Noruil interrupted to add. "Here is our chance. Tulus and Colloth have orders to take us there. We can go and not be in trouble at all."

Aewen contemplated that silently.

It was a good argument after all. Precisely the one Legolas had been planning to use. Although he had intended to deliver it a bit more politely.

"We have orders to take the King's son to the border so that he might represent this realm in trade matters with the Men," Tulus cut over any remaining argument. All the children looked at him and then at Legolas. Legolas returned his guard's gaze fixedly, trying to ignore Anastor and Noruil's snorts and Maidhien and Brethil's wide-eyed stares. Aewen, he noticed, was not looking at him at all. "I do not have orders to take the lot of you anywhere at all, so do nothing to interfere with Legolas's business. Understood?"

"Of course, Tulus," Anastor hastened to answer. As he spoke, he sidled up next to Legolas and gave a sharp tug on the purse on his belt.

Legolas had expected that. The purse was tied very securely.

"I will go get the horses," Aewen said quietly. She glanced at Eirienil and walked towards the barn without another word. Eirienil looked apologetically at Legolas and followed her friend, mouthing the phrase 'I will try to calm her down' as she went.

"She will come around, Legolas. You will see," Galithil reassured him. "Once she sees we are still going to have fun. And once she gets all the way to the forest edge. That will be exciting."

Legolas shrugged. There was nothing he could do about it.

"Maybe we can impress her with our hunting," Brethil suggested.

Maidhien laughed out loud at that. "Ellyth are not impressed by rabbits skewered on arrows Brethil."

Brethil glared at her and turned his back to her.

Galithil grinned. "Maybe find her some flowers, Legolas," Galithil suggested. "She would probably be more impressed with flowers than a dead rabbit, that is true."

Maidhien took Galithil's hand. "Yes, flowers are very nice," she agreed.

Dannenion was fitting the arrows he had fletched into Anastor's quiver during that exchange. When Maidhien took Galithil's hand, Dannenion's face contorted into an angry scowl and he drew a breath to speak. To order Galithil to keep his hands off his daughter, as he always did if he caught them anywhere near each other. But he cut himself off suddenly and glanced over to the window in Maidhien's room. Legolas followed his gaze. There was a vase of flowers on the window sill. Legolas looked at the vase more closely. It was one of Tavoren's vases. One of the style of vases that she made for the King's family. Legolas looked from the vase to Galithil.

So did Dannenion. Then he stalked over to the window and snatched the vase from the sill.

"Put that back!" Maidhien shouted, rushing over and making a grab for the vase.

Dannenion evaded her easily and thrust the vase in Galithil's face. He did it forcefully enough to earn Colloth's attention. The guard went to stand directly next to his charge. "Did you give these to Maidhien?" Dannenion demanded.

"No, he did not," Maidhien answered quickly, making another grab for the vase.

Dannenion held it above his head, out of her reach.

Galithil pressed his lips together and said nothing, so Dannenion repeated his question. "You answer me! Are you responsible for these flowers?"

"Yes, I am," Galithil responded, looking apologetically at Maidhien.

Dannenion's eyes narrowed and he turned the vase over sharply, dumping the flowers at Galithil's feet. Then he took a step closer to Galithil, stepping on the flowers and grinding them into the grass as he did. "I told you over a thousand times that you are not welcome to court my daughter..." he began. And that was true. Legolas had been present to hear such an argument at least one thousand times. Yet Galithil had never been deterred.

Dannenion was poised to continue yelling when he noticed some folded papers that had fallen from the vase with the flowers. They were damp now, splashed by the water that had been in the lower portion of the vase. Apparently the papers had been stuffed higher up in the neck of the vase, above the water. Maidhien and Galithil both tried to grab them, but Dannenion got to them first.

"Those are mine," Maidhien protested, grabbing the one her father was unfolding and managing to tear a bit of it away from him.

Galithil, in the meantime, took a step back, away from Dannenion. His face was grim, lips drawn in a tight line, gaze fixed straight forward.

It was not until Dannenion's fist convulsed around the papers that Legolas caught on to what they must be--love letters! Legolas fervently prayed that Galithil had had the good sense to not put anything too compromising into a letter. Then he blinked and studied his cousin more closely.  What compromising things had he done to mention in a letter!

Colloth had apparently figured out what the papers were as well. Or, at the very least, several yen of serving as a guard had taught him to recognize danger when he saw it. He stepped forward, the better to shield Galithil from Dannenion's gathering rage.

"What is the meaning of this!" Dannenion shouted, waving the fragment of the letter he had scanned in Galithil's face.

It occurred to Legolas that it was a pity that Dannenion could read.

Colloth moved to grasp Dannenion's arm, but Galithil stepped forward and shook his head. "This needs to be dealt with, Colloth," he said quietly.

"No, Galithil," Maidhien said, trying to step between him and her father.

Dannenion grabbed her arm and pulled her aside so sharply that even Legolas instinctively took a step forward in her defense.

"Leave her out of this, Dannenion," Galithil said softly. "This is between you and me. I love her and I am courting her. That cannot come as such a surprise to you. Please explain to me why you object so strongly..."

That was the beginning of a proper little speech. Legolas recognized it as well rehearsed, even if Dannenion might not know Galithil well enough to do the same. And under the right circumstances, it might have had the hope of initiating a dialogue. But there was no possibility it would do so today.

Dannenion shook the letter in his closed fist in Galithil's face. "You stay away from my daughter. You are not welcome to court her. You never will be. No member of your family is welcome to become part of my family. Ever. Get out of my yard." Then he turned to Maidhien. "Get in the cottage," he ordered, dragging her in that direction, by the arm that he still had not released. "You are not going anywhere with him."

Maidhien tried to protest, but in vain. She was pulled, fighting every step of the way, into the cottage. The door slammed behind her. Voices could still be plainly heard through the door all the way in the yard.

Galithil took a step towards the cottage.

Both Colloth and Anastor stopped him with a hand on each shoulder.

"She should not have to face that alone. I am as much a party to it as she is, and if Dannenion is going to treat someone in that manner, better he take it out on me than her," he argued.

"He will only yell," Anastor said. To Legolas's astonishment, he was not berating Galithil as he normally did about his sister. "She is good at yelling back at him. She can take it. But if you go in there, it will fuel his anger and make him yell all the longer. Let him get it out of his system."

Galithil looked doubtfully at the cottage door.

"He will yell for a while and then put her in her room and she will leave through the window. She always does. You know that," Anastor said, still holding on to Galithil's shoulder.

"Yes, and it is me she usually comes to. I am not going camping," Galithil replied.

"Of course you are. And so is she. As soon as she escapes. She will expect you to be with us. Not here in the capital," Anastor replied.

Galithil looked at him for a long moment and turned his gaze to the cottage door. Finally he relented and moved to pick up his pack and bow.

"Do you truly think she will follow us, Anastor?" Colloth asked, and Legolas understood why. If she did, and Dannenion followed her and found her with Galithil, he might be angry enough to do something more than yell at that point.

Anastor shrugged. "Yes. And then when she comes back, she will be restricted to her room until winter and she will have to climb through her window whenever she wants to do anything with us. It is nothing we have not done before. We should get out of the yard before Adar comes back out."

Colloth and Tulus exchanged a glance, but they neither did nor said anything as the children filed quietly towards the barn to get their horses.

*~*~*

"I am a member of this court. I am entitled to see him if I wish. Now you let me in there, curse you!" a voice shouted from the hall. At the same time, the door to the office flew open.

Normally, if the door to his office burst open in such a manner, Thranduil would already be standing, knife in his hand, ready to face whoever had forced his way in. Normally, Hallion would be standing in front of him, knife also drawn. Normally, the guard at the door would be throwing himself on any such attacker, no matter how badly injured he already was. But everyone had already recognized Dannenion in one of his rages. Thranduil and Hallion had not even lifted their eyes from their reading. And the guard stood, sighing loudly, in the open doorway.

"My apologies, my lord. He would not stop," he said.

Still reading, Thranduil simply waved his hand and the guard closed the door.

Dannenion's fist slammed down on the paper Thranduil was reading. "You look at this!" he demanded. "You look at this and tell me the meaning of it! And then you can explain to me where he has carried off my daughter and what you intend to do about it!"

"Remove your fist from in front of my face, Dannenion, or I will remove your fist from the end of your arm," Thranduil replied. The calmness of his voice took some of the sting from his threat, but his brow furrowed angrily when the fist only waved closer yet to his nose, the paper in it all but hitting him.

"Look at what your foster son has done, Thranduil! Now I mean it! I will not tolerate this. I demand that you do something about him!" Dannenion continued.

Thranduil leaned back and then stood, looking at Dannenion for the first time since he had burst into the office. The sight of him made Thranduil pause. These were not Dannenion's typical histronics. He was well and truly angry.

"What, precisely, do you believe Galithil has done?" he asked, reaching for the paper that was still fluttering around his face.

Dannenion's agitated breathing was the only sound in the room as Thranduil read. A poem. A fairly decently composed one at that, even if the subject was well worn. It compared an elleth to a flower. He read on. It did include a rather unfortunate verse likening the elleth's skin to the softness of flower petals. Yes, Thranduil could see how that line might anger the father of a daughter just a bit. He had a passing thought that he was glad to have a son. He reached the end of the letter and frowned. "Meet me by the waterfall tonight," is how the poem ended. And it was undeniably written in Galithil's hand. Well, this confrontation was long in the making. Better slay this dragon now rather than later.

Thranduil looked up to meet Dannenion's gaze evenly. "It surely does not come as a surprise to you that our children are courting?" he asked, offering Dannenion the poem.

Dannenion snatched from his hands and gaped at him, his mouth opening and closing and only blowing out incoherent puffs of air. "You knew this was happening and you did nothing? You knew and you did not see fit to tell me?" he finally managed to ask.

Thranduil sat back down at the meeting table and gestured for Dannenion to join him. "Dannenion, they are constantly together. Hardly to be separated. You could scarcely argue Galithil has conducted a secret affair with your daughter."

Dannenion's fist slammed down upon the table hard enough to make the ink jar slosh ink. "I have told him repeatedly to stay away from my daughter, and this is how he obeys me?"

"This is how he obeys his heart," Thranduil replied. "And your daughter's heart, apparently, if she saw fit to keep the letter rather then burn it, or return it to him."

"Your foster son is not welcome to court my daughter. You make that plain to him," Dannenion demanded. And he turned to leave the room.

"I have made it plain to him that I feel it will be difficult to win your consent," Thranduil answered his retreating back. "Though I do require him to win it before he may marry her."

Dannenion froze with his hand on the door knob. He turned, his mouth again popping open and closed. "You cannot possibly approve of such a...an unsuitable match."

Thranduil raised his eyebrows. "I think they are very well matched. Both of them are very bold and direct. Maidhien thinks a bit more carefully before diving into a situation than Galithil does, but frankly, Galithil is more knowledgeable about most situations. So between the two of them, they might make a good decision or two. And they share a good many interests--Maidhien's desire to be a forester, for example. Galithil would do that himself if he did not have other responsibilities. But Arthiel has agreed to apprentice Maidhien..." Thranduil drifted off when it became apparent from Dannenion's expression that this was all news to him. "You did not know that Maidhien was working with Arthiel and Master Ruscuil?"

Dannenion frowned and shook his head. "And it is irrelevant if she is," he said, stalking back over to the table. "Common interests aside, my daughter has no place in your family. The very idea is absurd."

"I admit, I had some reservations initially, though none stemmed from Maidhien. I have always liked her, from the moment I met her. Your family's history with mine is certainly an issue. Galithil recognized that as well and expressed proper concern over it..."

"What does Galithil know about our history?" Dannenion interrupted.

"Everything I know about it," Thranduil replied smoothly. He enjoyed watching Dannenion's jaw drop this time. "But Galithil and I agree that Maidhien has nothing to do with your past crimes, since she was not even born at the time. And she has never displayed any disloyalty to me. In fact, she and I get on very well. If she had not been so interested in forestry, I would have invited her to work with Rodonon."

"My daughter is not serving in a Sindarin court!" Dannenion exclaimed. Then he pressed his lips together and drew himself up, as if expecting a reprimand.

Something about the vehemence of that statement took Thranduil back to a previous Age. He heard his father's voice booming in the Hall of another court. "My son is not serving kinslayers in a Noldorin court!" Did Dannenion look at him in the same way his father had looked at the Noldor? If so, that was a barrier that might never be overcome. "Sit down, Dannenion," he ordered, keeping his voice carefully quiet.

Dannenion dragged a chair away from the table and threw himself into it, never taking his eyes off Thranduil.

"You have served a Sindarin court for the last fifteen years. You have done so in the hopes that you would learn that same Sindarin court consistently responds in good faith and to the best of its ability to serve this forest. Now tell me truly, once and for all, is there any hope that you will learn that lesson?"

Dannenion lifted his chin and returned Thranduil's gaze defiantly. "And if I answer no, will my family and I be banished from this forest? Will you take Maidhien from me and give her to Galithil?"

Thranduil's eyes narrowed. "What do you think the answer to that is, Dannenion?"

Dannenion glared at him a moment longer. "Do I think you would banish me and my family if I did not serve this court as you expected? In the blink of an eye you would do it." Then he loosed a breath and relaxed a bit. "But do I think you would take my daughter from me by force? No, I confess I do not believe that."

Thranduil shook his head. "Well I suppose I must accept that as progress then," he said under his breath. Then he turned a level glare on Dannenion. "Would I banish you in the blink of an eye? I would indeed if I thought you were a threat to this forest, and to be perfectly frank, I would count myself blessed to be rid of your constant, tiring acrimony. I will give my life in the defense of this forest, Dannenion. That is what I am trying to make you see and you simply refuse to see it. Will I allow Galithil to force himself upon your daughter without your consent? No. In fact, as I already told you, I have informed both Galithil and Maidhien that I will consent to nothing until they have won your consent. But if you think you can keep them apart forever, I suggest you take a closer look at them. Do you think I want you as a member of my family? Do not be a fool. But I would rather that then watch Galithil fade away from an undeniable love that I made impossible for him. I love my foster son too much to allow that. My expectation is that you love your daughter too much as well."

Dannenion leaned forward. "I love this forest enough to commit treason to protect it, as you well know. But I will leave this forest and never look back, taking my daughter with me, before I will see her married to Galithil."

"Then I recommend you take her to Aman, where she might find the pity of Nienna to ease her grief," Thranduil replied.

Dannenion's only response to that was to glare at Thranduil for a long moment. "What do you intend to do about the fact that Galithil has carried her off? he finally asked.

Thranduil did not even bother to stop himself from rolling his eyes as he picked up the paper he had been reading before this distraction. "What do you mean, he carried her off? All the children have gone camping together."

"I forbade her to go when I found this letter," Dannenion shot back. "But when I went to speak to her..."

"Yell at her," Thranduil corrected quietly.

"...further," Dannenion's eyes narrowed even more, "she was gone from her room."

"Your daughter's disobedience is not my concern, Dannenion. Manage it as you will," Thranduil replied, without looking up from his letter.

Dannenion hurumphed and stood to stalk from the room.

*~*~*

"What is this?" the lieutenant asked, standing to face the struggling figure that two of his warriors were dragging before him. It stank, but not enough to be an orc. Not that his warriors would give an orc any quarter to begin with. It must be a Man. The figure's bearded face, when he finally managed to look up at him, confirmed that guess. A Man from Esgaroth, he appeared to be. A wealthy merchant, from the looks of his cloth. And he was spitting like wet a cat.

"You have no right to detain me," the Man began.

One of the warriors cuffed him on the back of the head hard enough to silence him. His expression made it clear that he had already heard that statement enough times to not want to hear it again.

"I have every right to detain and question anyone who is trespassing in this forest," the lieutenant replied coldly. "In fact, that is my duty as one of the Elvenking's warriors. Perhaps you would like me to take you to him so he can clarify matters for you? Or perhaps you would prefer for me to return you to the Master of Esgaroth with a charge of trespassing in the Woodland Realm. I assure you, in my experience, the Master will not take that charge lightly."

The Man looked up at him and then quickly looked away. His gaze fell on another warrior that had come to stand behind the officer and then on several warriors in the trees, all openly armed and watching this interchange closely. He obviously found no comfort in either place.  He finally settled his gaze on the forest floor and remained silent, ceasing his struggles against the warriors holding him.

The lieutenant nodded once. "Now explain to me why you are trespassing in the Woodland Realm," he ordered calmly.

The Man's jaw clenched. After a pause, he managed an answer, still without looking up. "I am searching for the man that murdered my son-in-law. He came into this forest and I intend to find him. You have no right to interfere with justice."

That caught the lieutenant's attention. "You claim there is a murderer in this forest?"

The Man glanced up, nodding. "He broke into my son-in-law's house and ran him through with his own sword. Then, the witnesses say, he fled straight down the road to this forest. I intend to avenge my son-in-law at any cost."

The lieutenant's brow furrowed. The only travelers on the Forest Path in the last week were the spice traders, camped and awaiting their payment at the forest's edge. None of them had left their group. The lieutenant studied the Man closely. Something about him looked...wrong. Not entirely truthful.

He crossed his arms across his chest and gestured east towards the forest border. "Escort him to the border of the forest and let him go," he ordered the warriors holding the Man.

The Man looked up and held the lieutenant's gaze this time, angrily. He appeared ready to protest, but the lieutenant did not give him the opportunity.

"If there is a man wandering in the forest, we have a much better chance of finding him than you do," the lieutenant explained reasonably. "If this murderer is here, we will find him and bring him to the Master in Esgaroth. I suggest you remain with the Master and seek justice from him."

For a moment, he thought the Man would argue, but in the end he seemed to think better of it. "As you wish," he finally said, quietly. "If your warriors kill the man, it will be no loss. Be sure to tell them that."

The lieutenant's face contorted in a scowl. "We are not in the habit of executing trespassers without trial. A fact for which you should be grateful," he responded disdainfully. And he gestured for the warriors to remove the man before he could say more, while signaling for still more of his warriors to begin searching for this supposed murderer. 

*~*~*
Adar/ada -- Father/dad

Elleth/ellyth -- Female elf/elves





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