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Interrupted Journeys: Part 7 The course of love  by elliska

When love is not madness, it is not love.

Pedro Calderon de la Barca

Chapter Five: When love is not madness, it is not love

"Announce us to the King as soon as he is available," Legolas said to the guard at the door of the Great Hall.

They had arrived at the stronghold in the middle of petitions if the gathering of Elves in the antechamber was any indication. Those Elves moved as far away from the Men that Legolas brought with him as the space in the antechamber allowed. Some even left altogether. Legolas shrugged. No doubt they would be better off coming back another day rather than having their cases heard after Thranduil spoke to the Men about threatening his son.

While he was waiting, Legolas idly wondered how long it would take his father to realize that he should never have been in a position where Men could have threatened him to begin with. Whenever that moment came, it would be an unpleasant one indeed. Of course, the whole affair was unpleasant already. He honestly did not see any alternative to taking the men to his father--he could not have lived with himself if he had not tried to help them. But everyone was so angry at him. Aewen, his friends, and even his cousins made no effort to hide how disappointed they were that the camping trip had been ruined. And Tulus and Colloth were plainly furious with him for slipping away from the camp. They had performed their duty to him, guarding him closely in the presence of the Men on the way back to the stronghold, but they had barely spoken to him. Legolas hated that he had betrayed their trust. And he hated that he now had no choice but to bring that fact to his father's attention under most difficult circumstances. And he hated that none of his friends, except maybe Galithil and Eirienil, seemed to understand why he was doing what he was doing, and even they were being contrary.

The doors to the Great Hall opened and two Elves hurried through them, dodging, startled, around the Men when they saw them. Legolas glimpsed Hallion speaking into Thranduil's ear at the far end of the Hall, undoubtedly reminding him of the subject of the next scheduled petition. All the scribes and the assistants of the king's councilors were still in the Hall as well, working at the tables that lined both walls. Legolas had truly hoped the entire court would not be in attendance to witness this, but there was nothing he could do.

At one of the tables, Legolas saw Dannenion stand, glaring at the back of the room. He had obviously spotted Maidhien and Galithil.

Before Dannenion could move from the table, the guard at the door stepped into the Hall and announced him, as Legolas had asked. His father's head shot up when the guard called 'Lord Legolas.' He arose from his throne and stood at the top of the dais, staring at the back of the Hall almost as if he did not recognize his own son.

Legolas swallowed, trying to choke down his nervousness, and kept his gaze on the stone floor as he walked up the center aisle of the Hall to the throne, followed by the warriors escorting the men and woman and by Tulus and Colloth. His cousins and friends filed into the Hall behind him, but they huddled along the back wall to watch, not to face this with him.

By the time he had reached a spot a few paces from the foot of the dais, Legolas could feel the intensity of his father's gaze, demanding an explanation. Thranduil took a step back and to the side of his throne as he often did when Legolas spoke to him between petitions, to give him room to join him on the dais. Despite the fact that his father seemed to expect it, Legolas knew better than to take that liberty now. Instead, he stopped with everyone else at the foot of the dais and knelt on one knee. The warriors pushed their prisoners to their knees as well.

Thranduil's eyes widened. "What is this about?" he demanded, in Westron due to the presence of the Men, gesturing sharply for Legolas to stand.

Legolas did, along with Tulus and Colloth. He looked up at his father and found it difficult to speak in the face of his obvious displeasure.

"What is this about, Legolas?" Thranduil asked again, making more effort to speak calmly. Then his gaze shifted to the men. "These could not be the spice traders you negotiated with." He turned to Hallion. "I thought that was finished. That we received the salt this morning, along with a wagon axle, if I am not mistaken."

Hallion nodded. "We did, my lord," he answered quietly, eyeing Legolas with open concern.

"They are not the traders, my lord," Legolas affirmed, finally finding his voice. "They are still awaiting their axle at the forest border, as far as I know. The warriors arrested these men and this woman in the forest and..." he hesitated. "And I...asked that they be brought here rather than to the Master in Laketown."

"Why," Thranduil asked, simply.

Legolas easily recognized the irritation that short question hid. He tried not to grimace. "The reason the lieutenant agreed to bring the men here, rather than to Laketown, is because amongst their other crimes, the men, both of them, threatened me and that is a crime you should hear..."

Legolas got no further.

"My husband would not have hurt anyone," the woman blurted out. "And I do not believe my father would have either."

"I only intended to get my wife to safety," the younger man said at the same time. "I never even saw the boy and girl there until they saw me and it was too late to avoid them, else I would have."

"My daughter is not your wife, murderer!" the old man boomed.

Thranduil, his voice low and soft, was heard above them all. "What did you say, Legolas? How, precisely, did these men threaten you?" He descended the first step of the dais, glaring at the men. Even the old man fell silent and cowered back.

Definitely a mistake to start off the explanation from that point, Legolas thought to himself. Too late now. His father would hear nothing else until he heard the rest of this part of the story, so Legolas hurried to finish it. "The younger man, Sadron is his name, and I threatened one another with our knives when he was trying to steal one of the horses my cousins and I rode to the border."

Thranduil's jaw openly dropped in response to that and he looked at Tulus. The guard was looking fixedly at the tapestry behind the throne.

Legolas pressed on, fearing his courage might fail him. "Before the man and woman could leave on the horse, the warriors chased the older man to where we were. He tried to kill his daughter with an arrow, but missed her because Sadron threw her to the ground, and when the warriors tried to prevent him from making a second attempt, he turned his bow on me to make them back off."

Thranduil's gaze locked on the older man and he descended the rest of the stairs like a hawk diving on its prey. "You threatened a child so you would be allowed to kill...did I hear that correctly? You tried to kill your own child? You threatened..." he paused and looked at one of the warriors, since Tulus would not face him, "With a drawn bow?" he asked. The warrior nodded and Thranduil's face contorted with rage. He pulled the man up by the front of his tunic. "You threatened my son with a drawn bow in an attempt to kill your own daughter?"

Legolas held his breath. Before the man could speak, Thranduil's right hand closed around the hilt of the knife on his belt and he yanked it from its sheath.

"Sadron ruined her," the old man managed. Rather than raging as he had the entire march back to the stronghold, now his accusations sounded more like pleas for mercy. "He is a murderer! He killed my daughter's husband and stole her and her dowry from him."
 


"You gave my wife to the man you call her husband because he is wealthy and I am not. But Almiel is carrying my child!" the young man shot back.

Thranduil looked between the two men. The meaning of this situation was now obviously clear to him. Then his gaze fell on Legolas's friends in the back of the Hall. Legolas was turned enough to see that Maidhien had both her hands over her mouth and Aewen had turned her face to hide it against Berior's tunic. Thranduil glared at the old man a moment longer and then shoved him roughly, making him stumble back to the guards that originally held him. "Get them out of my sight," he said, still breathing heavily, "Before I do something that will be difficult for Hallion to explain to the Master of Laketown. Take the lot of them and lock them in a store room while I sort the rest of this out."

Legolas stepped forward, drawing a breath to speak. He looked first at the guards, already removing the men, and then at his father. He did not want to publicly contradict his father, but... "Separate rooms, my lord, please," he whispered, "lest they kill each other and make your judgment irrelevant."

Thranduil regarded his son coolly for a moment. "Separate store rooms," he finally called after the warriors, thrusting his knife back into its sheath as he spoke.

A deafening silence reigned over the room until the doors of the Hall closed once again.

"Adar," Legolas began, as soon as they did.

But Thranduil cut him off with a wave of his hand and went to stand in front of Tulus and Colloth, neither of whom had moved throughout the entire affair. "I have one question only," Thranduil said. "How did not only one, but two men threaten my son with deadly weapons?"

"I do not know, my lord. I was not there to see it," Tulus responded.

Legolas cringed.

"I lost track of him," Tulus continued, "and by the time I found him again, the older man was threatening to shoot him if the warriors did not allow him to shoot his daughter."

Thranduil stared at Tulus for a long moment through narrowed eyes and then he moved to seize him by the arm.

Without hesitation, Legolas rushed forward, stepping between his father and his guard. "It is not his fault, adar," he said, hands out, intending to hold his father back. "It is not his fault. I slipped out of the camp when my cousins were asleep and Tulus and Colloth were focused on trying to convince Maidhien to go back to her father's cottage. Tulus trusted that I was safely asleep, but I betrayed that trust."

Thranduil glared between Tulus, Colloth and his son. Then he took a step back. "I will deal with that later," he growled.

Legolas did not doubt that he would.

Thranduil turned on his heel and paced back to the foot of the dais. When he reached it, he spun around and faced his son. "What do you expect me to do here, Legolas? You are correct that I have the right to judge these men for attacking one of my citizens. But if I judge them guilty of knowingly attacking a member of my household, I will execute them myself for that crime. That is clearly not what you want. If, as is more likely, I judge that they attacked you not knowing who you are, while trying to steal horses, I normally send such criminals to the Master in Laketown for punishment. Sending them to Laketown is what I gather you are trying to prevent, since you 'asked' the warriors to bring them here instead of Laketown as they should have done. So, tell me, what did you have in mind for me to do with these men?"

Legolas's gaze darted around the room in response to that question. The scribes and most of the councilor's assistants were looking resolutely at their work, making an obvious effort to hear and see nothing. Isteth and Hallion were looking with some concern between father and son. Dannenion and Legolas's friends in the back of the room were also staring--most of his friends with varying degrees of nervousness or even fear in their expressions, but Dannenion appeared to be very interested in how Thranduil would judge the men. Legolas frowned and looked down. Making an even greater spectacle of this situation than it already was was not his intent.

"It is your judgement to make, my lord. I do not doubt that. But my conscience would not allow me to permit a father who had given his pregnant daughter to a man not the father of her child--who had tried, before my eyes, to kill his own daughter--to take that same daughter out of this forest without trying to help her. Especially after she begged for my help. I have no idea how resolve this, but I trust you to know better than I."

Thranduil took a deep breath and released it slowly. Then he turned and climbed back to the top of the dais. "I understand your predicament, Legolas. I admit that I do," he said softly, seating himself on his throne. "But my choices are very limited. The older man claims that the younger one has murdered a citizen of Laketown and...mistreated his daughter. I cannot allow a criminal that has been named to me to escape through my forest. To do so would show lack of respect for Laketown's laws and encourage the men of Laketown to show no respect for mine. I have no choice but to return them to Laketown. We must trust the Master in Laketown to fairly hear the whole story, including the woman's side of it, and pass judgement according to their laws." Thranduil's voice plainly revealed his doubt that this would happen.

"The woman says the Master in Laketown owes her father a substantial amount of money. She says there is no possibility he will rule against him," Legolas said quietly, daring to press his father, since he did not seem satisfied with his judgment himself.

Thranduil closed his eyes. Then he clenched his fists. "This is precisely why I despise dealing with Men," he muttered under his breath. Then he spoke more clearly. "Unless someone can offer me an alternative, I must send the men to justice in their own lands," he repeated.

Hallion came to stand next to him. "The older man and his daughter are clearly merchants of some sort in Laketown," he began.

"The old man is a userer," Legolas confirmed.

Hallion openly snorted his disapproval of that. "But the younger man did not appear to be an apprentice or merchant of any sort. His clothes did not equal the quality of even the poorest of merchants in Laketown that I have seen. Where is he from?"

"Sadron sells vegetables in Laketown," Legolas said. "Almiel told me that she met him when she went with her servants to the market to buy foodstuffs for the family meals. She said he and his father are free men with their own land near the mountain. She had hoped to live with them until her father made it impossible."

Hallion turned to Thranduil. "The younger man is the one accused of a crime. If his farm is near the mountain, then he is a subject of the Lord of Dale, not the Master in Laketown."

Thranduil looked at Hallion appraisingly. "If that is the case, I might possibly be within my rights to send him to his own lord for judgment, rather than the Master. Especially given the testimony that the Master will not be an impartial judge. Fengel would be a much fairer judge of this matter than the Master. How angry do you think Fengel will be with me for bringing this to his doorstep? And how angry do you think the Master will be with me for not simply sending them to where the crime was committed? Will this damage our trade with them?"

Hallion shook his head. "The Master will not make any threats regarding trade with the Woodland Realm. His merchants expect that trade. He will not interrupt it. No matter how much money he owes the older man, Laketown's trade with our realm is worth much more. As for Fengel, I do not doubt that he will recognize this for what it is when he hears the entire story. And Fengel can be counted upon to listen to the entire story. He will understand precisely why you made the choice you made. And he will likely know how to put pressure on the Master in Laketown to accept his ruling."

"Very well, then," Thranduil said. "Write some sort of explanation for all this--have Legolas help you draft it--and send it along with the men and the woman to Dale and let Fengel sort it out." He paused and turned to Legolas. "Does that satisfy you, Lord Legolas?" he asked.

Legolas's looked sharply at his father, not certain how to read his tone or expression. "Yes, of course it does, my lord," he replied. He was relieved when his father finally smiled at him.

"Good," Thraduil said softly and motioned for Legolas to join him on the dais. Legolas hastened to obey, and when he stood in front of his father, Thranduil looked him over closely. "You are not injured?" he finally asked, speaking so that only Legolas could hear him.

"No, adar," Legolas replied quietly.

"And neither are any of your cousins or friends?"

Legolas shook his head. "No, adar."

"Good," he repeated, Then, he stood. "I will not hear any more petitions today. Hallion, inform anyone left waiting that they will have to return tomorrow. Tulus, Colloth, come with me." He put a firm hand on Legolas' shoulder and guided him towards the doors of the Hall. He raised his hand to gesture for Galithil and Maidhien to wait for him, but the children in the back of the room were already fleeing the Hall, Galithil and Maidhien the first to leave. Dannenion was hurrying down a side aisle to pursue them.

Legolas bit his lip. That was another battle waiting to happen and his father already knew it, obviously. Dannenion probably complained to him. Legolas found himself wondering how badly he was betraying his cousin by wishing that his father would deal with Galithil first, rather than him.

*~*~*

Legolas drummed his fingers on the surface of the meeting table in his father's office while staring tensely at the pile of papers that Hallion had left there. Papers his father should be reading now rather than taking time to speak with Tulus and Colloth. Papers that would have to continue waiting for the King while he spoke to Legolas. It would have been more efficient to speak to all of them at once, Legolas thought with a sigh. At least then he would not be forced to anticipate what was certain to be a very unpleasant conversation or wonder what was happening to Tulus. That was the worst of it--that Tulus would be reprimanded for something that Legolas had caused. Legolas flinched away from that thought and looked around the room for anything he might use to distract himself.

The door to the office opened and Legolas jumped to his feet.

"You do not have to stand for me, Lord Legolas," Galithil said with a grin, slipping into the office. Maidhien followed him closely.

Legolas made a face at him and groaned silently to himself when he saw from his cousin's amused expression that his reaction had only provoked him further.

"So what do you think you are in the most trouble for?" Galithil teased. "Slipping Tulus," he began enumerating, holding up one finger. "That truly was stupid," he added seriously. Then he grinned again and held up a second finger. "Giving orders to the officers of the Eastern Patrol. Or forcing the King to deal with Men when he should not have been involved," he concluded, holding up a third finger.

"Be quiet, Galithil," Legolas muttered, turning away from his cousin. He was in no mood for joking.

Galithil laughed. "Sorry, Legolas. I should not tease you. I know I should not," he paused and then continued in a slightly more serious tone. "But I also should not be standing here, but rather over a deer in our camp. At the very least, I should have had at least a dozen more days before Maidhien and I would be forced to face her father. But instead, we are here with you today."

Legolas rolled his eyes and spun around to face Galithil. "You are worse than Anastor. You know I had no other option but to bring the men to adar, so leave me alone."

That brought Galithil up short. No one would like being compared to Anastor. He scowled. "You brought this down upon yourself when you could have avoided it so easily if you had just stayed where you were supposed to be," he retorted. "Could you not find anyplace better to kiss her than half way back to the border and hundreds of paces from the camp? That was really stupid."

Legolas glared at his cousin. He did not intend to talk about kissing Aewen, especially around Maidhien. "Do not exaggerate how far we went from the camp when adar might hear you. I am in enough trouble as it is. In case you had not noticed, I am waiting to speak to him in his office, not my room. That cannot be a good sign."

Maidhien nodded. "He is right, Galithil. He is in a lot of trouble," she said with obvious concern. "But why did you go so far away from the camp, Legolas? Was it really just to kiss Aewen? You could have just kissed her right there. Everyone was asleep, so no one would have been watching."

Legolas closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He was not discussing this. "We did not pay attention to how far we had gone. We were talking," he said as calmly as he could when the silence in the room seemed to demand a response.

"Talking!" Galithil snorted. "You did not even get a kiss for all the pains you will suffer now?" he asked incredulously.

"You want to shut up, Galithil," Legolas said, getting truly angry.

"You did not even kiss her?" Maidhien exclaimed, speaking over both of them. "Legolas, if you do not kiss her soon, she is going to give up on you. Really! You are handsome, but how long do you think someone will wait?"

Legolas's mouth fell open and he leaned forward, staring at Maidhien. He could feel his face growing hot. "I beg your pardon," he said stiffly.

Maidhien put her hands on her hips and looked down her nose at him. "Do not get haughty with me, Legolas. I am only giving you good advice. She is really getting impatient with you."

"How would you know that?" Legolas blurted, despite himself.

Maidhien shook her head incredulously. "Because you are all she ever talks about!" she exclaimed. "Honestly, Legolas, what must an elleth do to get your attention?"

Legolas gaped at Maidhien for a long moment, horrified. Then he looked at Galithil.

Galithil shook his head and waved his hands. "Not to me. Or to Berior or Brethil, I would wager. But to Eirienil and Maidhien? Well, ellyth do talk, Legolas. About ellyn. We talk about ellyth, after all. What did you expect?"

"Glorious," Legolas said under his breath, certain he was red to the tips of his fingers and toes. "Well, at least I can be certain she wants to kiss me now."

Maidhen tried to stifle a giggle. "Legolas, when an elleth spends all her time talking to you, and dancing only with you, and holding your hand whenever you walk together and looking at you as Aewen has been looking at you, you can be certain then that she wants to kiss you. Just do it."

Legolas looked at the ceiling and turned away. "Please make her be quiet, Galithil, or I swear, I might forget that she is an elleth."

From the corner of his eyes, he could see Galithil smirking, but signaling Maidhien to be quiet just the same.

"You are hopeless, Legolas," Maidhien said quietly.

Legolas looked over his shoulder at her sourly.

"You truly are," Galithil agreed with a grin.

"Indeed?" Legolas replied, going on the offensive. "Why? Because I have not yet done anything to inspire Aewen's adar to react as insanely as that old man?" he asked, pointing in the general direction of the storerooms. He arched an eyebrow when Galithil's expression became instantly serious. "You know that as soon as adar is done with me, he is going to turn on you. Dannenion practically chased you both from the Hall. He must be locked up in a storeroom himself, since he is not pounding on the doors to the family quarters demanding Maidhien. There is no way adar can avoid addressing this now, and he is not going to like that any better than dealing with Men."

"Quiet, Legolas," Galithil said warningly.

Legolas started to laugh at his cousin's sudden change in attitude until he saw Maidhien. Tears had filled her eyes.

"I told you adar was just like him, Galithil," she fretted.

Galithil glared at Legolas. "Your adar may be insane, Maidhien. I cannot deny that," he said grimly. "But he is not like that old man and he is not about to start trying to kill you or me."

"He is sending me south," Maidhien shot back. "With out you. That is close enough. And he might try to kill you. He really hates you. Even more than he hates lord Thranduil now, I would wager." She glanced at Legolas. "Sorry," she said.

Legolas shrugged. He knew Dannenion hated his father. Moreover, he knew why and therefore precisely how close to the truth Maidhien fears came. So did Galithil. They looked at one another over Maidhien's head.

"Oh my!" she whispered, reacting to their expressions. "You believe he might!" She seized Galithil's hand in both of hers. "There is absolutely no possibility I am going south and leaving you here with him."

Both Legolas and Galithil immediately shook their heads to deny they had thought any such thing, but they did not get a chance to speak.

"I am absolutely astonished with you both," Thranduil declared, standing in the doorway of the office.

Involved in their argument, none of the children had heard the door open. They looked at him now with wide eyes.

"Neither of you," Thranduil continued, "were raised to be so completely discourteous--simply heartless--as to bring an elleth to tears! And you would have to know that discussing such a thing with her would do so. I am disgusted with both of you, but especially with you, Legolas. I cannot believe you would compare Dannenion to the man you brought to my court at all, much less do so in the presence of any of his family and particularly in the presence of his daughter."

Legolas opened his mouth to defend himself, looking wordlessly from his father, who was openly furious, to Maidhien, who was looking at him apologetically. She and Galithil did start it by teasing him about Aewen. Still, tears still rimmed Maidhien's eyes. Legolas deflated with a long sigh. "I apologize, Maidhien," he said softly. "Adar is right. I could not have been more rude. I am truly sorry and I certainly do not believe there is any comparison between your adar and that insane old man."

Maidhien nodded her head without looking at him. Her gaze was instead focused mostly on the floor, but she did peek furtively once or twice at Thranduil. "It is not your fault, Legolas. We were teasing you first," she whispered.

Thranduil's scowl deepened, but it was still directed at Legolas. "You and Galithil may tease each other all you wish, but ellyth are not appropriate targets for such behavior," he said. Then he turned to Maidhien. "Come," he said gently, putting an arm around her shoulders and turning her towards the door. "We will go to the sitting room, get you something to drink and eat, and then we will plan how to manage your adar. It can be done, I am certain," he said, reassuringly.

Legolas took a step after him. "What about...?" he began, but fell silent when his father turned to glare at him.

"You can continue to wait," Thranduil replied. "Dannenion is indeed demanding Maidhien's immediate return. Three messengers from the Gates interrupted my meeting with Tulus and Colloth looking for her. I will deal with this first." He paused and looked back at his desk, gesturing to it with his free hand. "Those papers on my desk are supply requests from the villages. Summarize those while you are waiting if you need something to keep out of trouble. And you could write that explanation for Lord Fengel as well."

With that, he turned and did not look back, guiding both Galithil and Maidhien from the office.

Legolas slumped back against the meeting table. Well, he had his wish. His father was going to deal with Galithil first. Somehow, that seemed much less appealing now. He really needed to talk to Aewen.

*~*~*

After three interruptions from Dannenion, Thranduil had concluded his discussion with Tulus and Colloth hurriedly, intending to go look for Maidhien and send her straight home, despite Tulus and Colloth's warnings that she was very upset and convinced that her father intended to send her away. Thranduil did not approve of that at all, of course, but there was nothing he could do about it. Dannenion's family was his own to govern. Thranduil certainly could not hide his daughter from him. But the last thing he had expected was to find her crying. Faced with tears, all thoughts of simply sending her home fled his mind. He seated her in a comfortable chair in the family sitting room and gestured for Galithil to fetch her something from the tray of drinks and snacks always present in the room. Watching her wipe tears from her cheek while staring resolutely at the floor, Thranduil was suddenly exceedingly glad not to have a daughter.

"Now tell me what has prompted you to run off from your adar's house without his permission, Maidhien," he began gently, as Galithil handed her a plate with some fruit.

Maidhien turned a tear stained face to him. "He intends to send me to stay with a cousin of his, far in the southern part of the forest, near the mountains. I met this cousin once, and he is just like Adar. I could not bear staying there, so far from Galithil, and I will not. I will not go and no one can make me. They cannot make me." She pounded her fist on the cushioned arm of the chair to emphasize her words.

Thranduil was strongly reminded of one of the first times he spoke with Maidhien. She was convinced that he was about to break his word to her and, refusing her father's order to go inside, she stubbornly plopped down on the ground and planted herself in place to make sure Thranduil kept his word. Willful, he had thought her then. Now she appeared a hundred fold more so. Thranduil doubted Dannenion's ability to command his daughter.

"And Adar is very angry with Galithil," she continued. "What if he and Galithil cross paths after I am gone and have words and the argument gets too heated and Adar...does something? It is possible. I believe he might lose his temper so badly that he could...react more strongly than he would do if he were thinking more clearly."

Thranduil frowned. The problem was, as much as he would like to deny it to Maidhien, he believed that too. That was part of the reason Galithil and Legolas had guards at such an early age. And Thranduil found he could not lie to her. So he decided to ignore that question all together and focus on the basic problem--the fact that she would have to go home and face whatever her father's decision was. He leaned forward, intending to speak to her firmly. He tried to fix her with the same stern scowl that served so well against unruly sons and courtiers, but he was shocked to find he could not muster it in the face of Maidhien's tears. Still, he must make an effort. "Maidhien, your adar is very angry, that is true," he said, not sounding nearly as firm as he had intended. "He is demanding that Galithil return you to him. He is your adar and you must respect him..."

"Why?" Maidhien immediately interrupted. "What has he ever done to merit respect?" she asked.

Thranduil had no answer for that. There was none, in his opinion, but that did not help him resolve this situation. So he ignored that question as well and pressed on. "Or at least obey him, until you are of age," he continued. "You have only, what? Less than a dozen years until you reach your majority. Once you do, you can choose to live where ever you wish. It is not that long a time..."

"Yes it is. Without Galithil? Yes it is," she said firmly.

"Would you allow me to live for the next fifteen years in my adar's village, uncle?" Galithil interjected. "Because if you will, Maidhien will go. The village where Dannenion wants to send her is very near adar's village. If I were there, we could visit. And I could make sure Maidhien stays safe."

Thranduil leaned back in his chair, recoiling at the very thought. "You most certainly may not live in your adar's village," he replied immediately and with every bit of the firmness he intended to use in this argument.

Galithil looked at him and nodded. "Then you understand why I agree with Maidhien that she should not be made to live in the southern villages," he said.

"Of course I do, Galithil. You know I would prefer for all of those elves to move closer to the stronghold. Of course I would not like to see Maidhien go there. But it is not my place to command where she lives. Nor is it yours. Nor is it even hers. She is underage and must obey her father's wishes." He held up his hand when Maidhien moved to protest. "If you go now, peacefully, after asking for pardon for already disobeying your adar by following Galithil on the camping trip...if you and Galithil promise to obey your adar's wishes concerning your courtship, then it is likely that your adar will not make you stay with your cousin in the south very long."

"But that is not a promise I can make," Maidhien responded. "I love Galithil and I will not deny it." Tears filled her eyes again, but she sounded resolute.

"Nor will I, uncle," Galithil added.

"You may have to, at least until you come of age," Thranduil replied, but he frankly sounded regretful.

Galithil shook his head and put his arm around Maidhien. "And what if we do? What is accomplished? When we come of age, we will still want to marry and Dannenion still will not allow it. You told me I must win his consent. Given his reaction to a simple letter, do you think I will ever win it? He is willing to risk Maidhien's life to keep us apart, for pity's sake!"

Thranduil released a long breath. "I do not think Dannenion believes he is risking Maidhien's life. He refuses to believe the southern forest to too dangerous for villages," he replied, and again held up his hand for silence when Galithil drew a breath to argue. "But I admit," he pressed on, "that I doubt you can win Dannenion's consent. When he spoke to me about the letter he found, he said to me that he would not see his daughter serving a Sindarin court. He sounded just like my adar when he spoke of the Noldor. I do not think he will ever willingly allow you to marry her."

Thranduil intended to say more, but cut himself off when Maidhien's face crumbled and tears again began flowing down her cheeks.

For the briefest of moments, Thranduil considered promising them that they could marry once they came of age without Dannenion's permission, but of course he knew that was not possible.

"Then what can we do, uncle? When we are both of age and we still want to marry, what will we do? Imagine the accusations Dannenion would undoubtedly hurl at you for abusing your authority to divide his family and steal from him what he would never have given freely if Maidhien and I marry without his permission! You know that is how he will respond, and in truth, he would be within his rights to do so. We need a solution that will win Dannenion over to keep Maidhien safe now and allow us to marry later."

Thranduil pressed his lips together. He could not deny his nephew was completely correct, on all counts. But what the solution was, he could not imagine. He had never successfully turned Dannenion's resolve on any matter.

Maidhien looked between Galithil and Thranduil's very serious expressions. "Why does my adar hate you so?" she demanded quietly. "And why do Galithil and Legolas, and apparently you, feel that the idea he might threaten Galithil is believable? What did he do to earn arrest in the capital?"

Thranduil frowned deeply. Those were extremely difficult, but unfortunately very pertinent, questions. "You do not know what your adar did? He has never discussed it with you?"

She shook her head.

Thranduil hesitated. "It is not honestly my place to tell you, Maidhien," he said softly.

Her brows drew together and her chin jutted out.

Stubborn, Thranduil thought again.

"It would help her understand her adar's behavior, even as knowing helped Legolas and I understand it, uncle," Galithil prompted softly.

Thranduil sighed. "And it will frighten her, given how you and Legolas were behaving earlier," he retorted. But he had never been one to censor information. He faced Maidhien squarely. "I have asked your adar how I offended him many times and he has never directly answered me, so I can only speculate. Some of the Silvan blame my family for bringing evil with us to this forest. That is, of course, not true, but they think it just the same. Many people blame me for their losses in the War in Mordor and I do not deny they have every right to do so. I convinced my adar to enter that war and when he died, I convinced our people to continue fighting in it and I commanded them. I am directly responsible for everything that happened there and I do not deny it. Finally, some people, and certainly your adar included, blame me for the damage the Evil One has done to this forest. I will concede they have some right to do so--I have done all I could, but it has not been enough. These are the issues people normally take with me." He paused. "I have been told, though not by anyone in your family, that your adar and uncle resent my family because we arrived in this forest at the same time they had been made lords of the Silvan by the people in their villages and they felt my adar usurped their authority upon his arrival in the forest."

Maidhien nodded. "I can believe all of that. I have heard adar and Uncle Dolwon make all those complaints at some point or another." She frowned and continued in a forceful voice. "But I do not think anyone has any right to blame you if people died fighting in a war. You never forced them to go. They went willingly. And when you march to war, you must expect some people will die. And as for the forest, anyone can tell you are doing all you can. It is not fair to expect more than that and people should not criticize you for it."

Thranduil smiled at her. "I appreciate your loyalty, Maidhien, especially since you give it to me in the face of your own family's arguments against me. Still, I recognize these are evil times and I do not deny anyone their right to speak their mind about their difficulties or present their ideas to me. I have, however, been entrusted by the people of this forest to rule it and until the people as a whole withdraw their trust in me, I am obligated by my oath to them to do so. I cannot, therefore, allow small groups of elves to ignore the will of the people by trying to overthrow my rule."

Maidhien now looked at Thranduil with wide eyes.

He nodded gravely. "Your adar and uncle are guilty of treason. They plotted to overthrow my rule of this forest," he said in as gentle a voice as he could muster.

Maidhien drew a deep breath and looked down. "I had imagined many things, and that was the worst of them," she replied softly.
 
Thranduil was surprised and a little saddened that she did not seem shocked at all to hear her father's crime. It spoke volumes about her home life.

Then Maidhien looked back at Thranduil, her brows knit tightly together. "Adar did not...try to..." she struggled to make herself complete her sentence.

Thranduil relieved her of the need. "He, and the others conspiring with him, did not try to kill anyone, Maidhien," though deaths were still the result, he silently added. "He did try to abduct Legolas and Galithil's naneths, assuming he could force me to leave the forest if he threatened them."

Maidhien stared at him and her brow furrowed even further. "And that would work, too. How could it not! Legolas's naneth. His naneth! And yours," she looked at Galithil and then looked quickly away. "Adar will never allow us to marry," she said flatly. "Never. And Galithil is right." She turned to Thranduil. "You cannot possibly lend credence to adar's accusations by allowing us to marry without his consent, given all that is at stake if you do. It is impossible."

Thranduil found himself held by her gaze. He had seen many emotions in it during this discussion--mostly fear and grief and determination. Now he saw nothing. Well, almost nothing. A touch of grief in the recesses of her eyes, but otherwise emptiness. Hopelessness.

"We need only endure until we are of age. Then we will leave," Galithil said to her softly. "We could go to Lorien. Legolas's daeradar says it is even more beautiful than Eryn Galen. We will be together, your adar would not pursue us there, and if we do it alone, he will have no place to blame the King."

Thranduil's eyes shifted to Galithil and widened.

"I do not want to leave my responsibilities here, uncle. I would not if I could avoid it. But I love Maidhien. I will not allow her adar to make life impossible for her. I cannot allow it," he said. "And I will not give him more arguments against you than I can possibly avoid. It is the only solution."

Thranduil studied his nephew silently. He was a child. This is a childish threat, born of lack of understanding of both his own feelings and duties. That was Thranduil's first thought. As soon as it entered his mind, he dismissed it. Galithil was not a child--in a few years, he would be old enough to begin formal training as a warrior. Moreover, he had been aware of his duties to this realm since the day he began walking and speaking. They had not always, or even often, agreed on how Galithil might best fulfill those duties, but Thranduil could not question his nephew's determination to do so. Nor could he question Galithil's devotion to Maidhien, since nearly the moment they met. Thranduil looked back at Maidhien. She was looking at the floor. In several places the skirt of her gown was damp from where her tears had fallen on it.

"We cannot run to Lorien either, Galithil," she whispered, so low Thranduil could barely hear her. "How could I take you from the only family you have left. You have a wonderful family. You cannot leave them or abandon this realm. You could never be happy if you did that. It is impossible," she repeated. "It will never happen. We must forget about it."

Galithil looked back at Thranduil. "Uncle, how can I win Dannenion's consent? What can I possibly do?" he asked, frustration, or perhaps more accurately, desperation clear in his voice.

"Perhaps we can find something that would persuade him," he said, suddenly as determined as his nephew to find a solution, for Maidhien's sake. "But we cannot do it here. Come with me," he said, taking Maidhien's hand and pulling her to her feet. He placed her hand on his arm and covered it with his own comfortingly, leading her from the sitting room. "We will go to speak to your adar. When we do, you must be in control of yourself. Try to look repentant and at least keep quiet and let him have his say. Then we will see what we can find to make a marriage between you and Galithil seem more palatable to him."

As they walked, Thranduil laughed to himself at the absurdity of reasoning with Dannenion. Nothing moved him to reason. There was nothing he could use to bargain for his consent. Nothing short of buying his permission with my abdication, Thranduil thought. That would certainly work.  

Not likely.

Much more pleasing was the idea of finding a way to win Maidhien as a daughter while ridding the realm of Dannenion altogether. Thranduil raised an eyebrow. Getting rid of Dannenion might indeed be possible.

*~*~*





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