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The Tide of Times  by daw the minstrel

I borrow characters and situations from Tolkien but they are his. I draw no profit other than the enriched imaginative life that I assume he intended me to gain.

Many thanks to Nilmandra for beta reading this for me.

AN:  The chapter alert for the previous chapter did not work, so if you rely on it, you may have missed that chapter.  If you go to, you can get notices sent to you for free that always work.

We go back to the White Council in this chapter, so I’d like to take this opportunity here to say that we don’t know if Thranduil was a member of the Council.  The Council was formed in 2463 TA.  We are told that it consisted of Mithrandir, Elrond, Galadriel, Cirdan, Saruman and other lords of the Eldar.  I am assuming that Thranduil was one of those lords.  Meetings are recorded in 2851, 2941, and 2953.  My story is set in 2530, so this meeting is my creation.


3.  Friends and Enemies

“The Dúnedain patrols have seen Orcs in all the places I have marked,” Elrond said, indicating the map of the Misty Mountains that was spread out on the table around which the White Council was gathered.  “The red markers indicate large groups; the black markers indicate smaller ones.”

Thranduil scanned the map with interest, mentally comparing what it showed to the intelligence he had from Ithilden’s scouts. Elrond’s information was far more complete, he noted, which was not surprising given both that Imladris lay in the mountains’ shadow and that Ithilden had had his best scouts concentrating on gathering news of Dol Guldur.  He would get one of his aides to make a copy of this map today after the Council had dispersed.

“How sure are you of the accuracy of the Men’s reports?” Thranduil asked.

Next to Elrond, Glorfindel raised an eyebrow, apparently offended by Thranduil’s tone, but Elrond answered calmly. “I am quite sure. My sons were members of most of the hunting parties.”

As Thranduil watched, something flickered momentarily in Elrond’s face, and then disappeared, leaving only his customary composure. So that was where the sons of Elrond were, Thranduil thought, turning the fact over in his mind to look for any implications it might yield.  So far as he knew, Elladan and Elrohir had not ridden on such hunts with Men when Thranduil had attended the first White Council meeting here almost seventy years ago.  He was reasonably certain of this because Ithilden had spent time with the twins and would have told him if they had been riding with war parties.

He looked at the map again and considered the number of patrols that must have been necessary to supply this much information in six months. Thranduil’s previous observations of Elrond’s warriors had suggested that they were well-trained but functioned primarily as a defense for Imladris rather than seeking out trouble beyond the sheltered valley.  Yet now Elrond was apparently allowing his sons to spend what was surely almost all of their time away from home hunting Orcs with Men.  What did the change mean?

From under half-lowered eyelids, he glanced again at Elrond’s shuttered face and thought of Celebrían and the unhappiness he had seen in Arwen’s face when she had sat next to him at evening meal.  Then he recalled his own sons’ behavior after their mother’s death.  Perhaps Elrond was not the one who had changed. Sometimes what one ‘allowed’ one’s grown sons to do made very little difference.

“If the Orcs’ numbers continue to grow at this rate,” Mithrandir observed with a frown, “it will soon become impossible to cross the mountains.”

“The end of travel across the mountains would divide our forces in an unfortunate manner,” murmured Galadriel.

“Orcs have always lived in the mountains,” Curunír responded somewhat impatiently. “Surely it was not this that led you to insist we all travel for weeks in order to meet.”

Thranduil noted, not for the first time, that Curunír was even less willing than he was to give ready acceptance to Galadriel’s judgments.  Thus, he wanted to sympathize with Curunír, but the wizard’s skepticism seemed to extend also to Elrond and even to Mithrandir. In truth, Curunír was beginning to annoy Thranduil.

“Orcs may always have been in the mountains,” Thranduil put in, “but the enemy has not always been at Dol Guldur, and certainly his reach has not always extended as far into the forest as it does now.”

“Have you information for us, Thranduil?” Elrond asked, as the attention of the entire Council turned toward him.

“I have,” said Thranduil grimly. “When I received word that this Council would meet again, I sent scouts further south than my warriors usually go. They did not go all the way to Dol Guldur, but two of them managed to creep within three leagues of the place.”  He did not say that one of the two had been his son Eilian or that the other scout had not returned from the mission.  Nor did he say that, although Eilian had returned with no wounds to his body, he had spent weeks afterwards in a dark despair brought on by what he had seen and even more by spending too much time with the Shadow working on his mind and heart.

“They report that the trees are twisted and dying, even ten leagues north of the place,” Thranduil went on. “We fight the giant spiders even close to my stronghold, but their webs choke almost all other life from the forest there. Even the Orcs are forced to drive the spiders back so they can move about, but move about they do.  My scouts found them on the march in large numbers. Indeed, I believe that Dol Guldur controls the Orcs in the Misty Mountains, as much as anyone can control Orcs.” Thranduil paused to scan the somber faces around the table. “It would be to all our advantages to drive the enemy away from Dol Guldur, as was done once before.”  He watched their reaction. It was to argue for this course that he had come to Imladris.

There was a moment of silence and then Curunír asked, “Drive the enemy out to go where? There would be no point to simply shifting the burden from the realms of Elves to those of Men.  Gondor suffers already from constant attacks from Orcs by land and from Corsairs by sea.  Her soldiers manage to defend her borders for now, but I do not think we should take any action that would add to her burden.  We need a permanent solution, and I do not believe we know yet what that would be.”

Thranduil glanced around the table and saw reluctant agreement on the faces of many.  Anger flooded him and he gripped the arms of his chair so hard that he felt splinters being driven under his nails.  These people behaved as if they had all the time in Arda to take action, but the Shadow was devouring his realm now.

From across the table, Radagast spoke quietly. “The forest creatures suffer,” he mourned.

A wave of despair suddenly replaced Thranduil’s anger. If Radagast was his strongest ally, then there was very little hope indeed that his people’s plight would ease any time soon.


“They are coming!” Elrál reported, his eyes gleaming with excitement.

“Good,” Legolas told his lieutenant and found, to his surprise, that he actually did welcome the approach of Annael’s team of attackers. At least all the waiting will be over, he thought. He glanced around him at the group of novices he was captaining.  “Stick to our plans,” he admonished them. “The other team beat us in the fall exercise, and I have no intention of losing to them again. Take up your positions.”

They scattered in response to his order, and he felt once again both the satisfaction and the weight of command. He too moved into position, high in a large oak that was clustered with others at the top of a rise that dropped away sharply on one side and was guarded by a wide stream on the other.  Knowing that Annael was uncannily good at tracking, Legolas and Elrál had chosen the position with care and a certain amount of daring that had made the novice master raise his eyebrows when they told him their plans.

“That is a risky choice,” Lómilad had observed, and the two of them had grinned at him.

“Annael will never expect us to use the same site he used in the fall,” Legolas had explained.

“Besides,” Elrál had been unable to resist crowing, “we can cover our tracks by wading up the stream for much of the way there.”

And their strategy had worked.  The attacking team had taken two and a half days to find them, meaning that Legolas’s team had already held their position for more than half the time they needed to in order to win the war game.  Annael must be furious, Legolas thought, grinning to himself at the picture of his normally even-tempered friend’s reaction to being out-foxed.

He glanced around to be sure that his novice warriors were all in position.  He was particularly concerned about Galor, who was participating in a war game for the first time, having become a novice only three months earlier. Galor was willing enough, but tended to daydream and get distracted, particularly during periods of waiting. Legolas hoped that he would be more focused once the battle started.  Legolas had positioned him next to Elrál off to the far left and now could see his lieutenant speaking quietly to the younger novice, who was nodding earnestly. Then they all settled in to wait in absolute stillness and watch the trees that stretched away below them.

They had waited for no more than half an hour before a slight movement in the branches caught Legolas’s eye. Then he had a quick glimpse of an archer leaping from one tree to another. The attackers were approaching slowly, he thought. They must still be uncertain we are here.  He felt an almost unbearable urge to give the order to shoot. Wait, he admonished himself, and held his urge to action in check for one minute and then another.  Now! he thought, and sounded the signal.

As one, his group rose to their feet and loosed blunted arrows down at the targets they could glimpse through the leaves. To Legolas’s glee, two of the attacking novices dropped from the trees to the ground, having already been ‘killed.’  Perhaps his team would win the game by ‘killing’ two-thirds of the attackers and would not have to hold their position until sundown tomorrow.

Almost immediately answering arrows came flying toward them, but Legolas knew from his experience in trying to attack Annael’s team in the fall that the upward angle the other team was now forced to use made it fiendishly difficult to hit one’s target and shortened an archer’s range.  His own team continued to shoot, and the attackers hastily retreated.  Legolas made a quick check of his warriors and found to his relief that they were all unharmed.

From experience in previous war games, Legolas knew what the contest would now be like and indeed the rest of the afternoon passed as he would have predicted.  Annael’s team repeatedly attempted to approach them from angles that might be safe, and from their positions on the rise, his team drove them back. The hardest part of his team’s task was to keep their attention from wandering during long periods of waiting, but even Galor managed to stay focused on the trees below them and dodge incoming arrows while getting off several good shots of his own.

Legolas spent most of his time in his elevated command post making sure that his troops knew which way danger lay. By the end of the day, he had lost only one of his warriors while he had seen at least two more of the attackers fall.

As always, the coming of darkness brought an end to activity, and the novice masters who had been watching from the sidelines move in to make sure that all was well and then withdrew to their separate campsite where they would set the ‘dead’ novices to cooking the evening meal for everyone and keeping watch on the edge of the battleground.  Legolas’s team moved to the tiny clearing they were using as a campsite.

“We have to hang on for only one more day,” Legolas encouraged them happily.  They smiled back at him, obviously tired from the strain of the long afternoon, but happy to be on the verge of victory.  They had not liked losing in the fall any more than Legolas had.

He paused next to where Galor lay, gazing up at the night sky. After waiting a moment to be acknowledged, he realized that Galor had not noticed his approach.

“Wake up!” he said in exasperation.

The youngster jumped, focused on Legolas, and then sat up. “Sorry,” he mumbled, a flush creeping up his neck.

Legolas drew a calming breath and then said, “You did well today. Perform like that again tomorrow, and you will have had a very good first war game.”

“Thank you,” Galor answered, smiling shyly, and Legolas went on to sit next to Elrál.

“I just told Galor he did well,” Legolas murmured. “I hope that was true.”

Elrál grinned.  “Yes, he managed to pay attention which is really his only problem.” He glanced over to where Galor was leaning against a tree and singing softly to himself. “He is a Wood-elf,” Elrál said simply.

Legolas smiled. They were all Wood-elves, but he knew what Elrál meant.  Galor was probably so attuned to the song of Arda that other matters intruded on his consciousness only with difficulty.  Legolas had seen enough new novices by now to know that Galor might settle down and become a useful warrior, if only because the assault of the enemy on the forest would disturb him deeply.  On the other hand, he might never adjust.  Legolas knew that he would be asked to assess each of his team members when the exercise was over, and he was paying particularly close attention to this dreamy newcomer.

He and Elrál sat in silence for a few moments, listening, like Galor, to the night song of the forest. “So,” Elrál finally said, “are you looking forward to serving in the Home Guard?”

Legolas blinked in surprise. “I am not going into the Home Guard. I am going to join the Southern Patrol.”

Elrál looked surprised in his turn. “But I thought - ,” he began. “That is, Synia said - .” He broke off again.  “I must have misunderstood,” he finally finished.

“What did Synia say?” Legolas asked, beginning to feel apprehensive.

Elrál hesitated. “She said you were going into the Home Guard. And really, Legolas, that made sense because Ithilden always does post the new warriors there. And she seemed to imply - .” He stopped again.

Legolas was now looking him full in the face, apprehension shading into alarm at Elrál’s obvious embarrassment. “Imply what?” he demanded.

“I thought she implied that you and she had reached an understanding so that you would want to be in the Home Guard,” Elrál responded reluctantly. “As I said, I must have misunderstood.”

Legolas could feel the heat creeping up his neck and into his face.  “We have no understanding,” he said stiffly, realizing as he said it that it was only too true.  He and Synia had apparently failed to understand one another at all.

He lay back, wrapped his blanket around him, and tried to look as if he were going to sleep. But in his head, he kept seeing himself and Synia at Annael’s coming-of-age feast.  Surely he had not misled her.  He had been so careful to tell her what his plans were. But when he thought about it, she had not acted as if she expected him to leave. How could he not have realized that? he wondered.  But even as he raised the question, he knew the answer and felt himself flushing again.  He had been enjoying himself far too much to think beyond the immediate moment.

With an effort, he pushed all thoughts of the maiden from his mind. He would deal with Synia later. For now, he needed to sleep and then tomorrow he must keep his attention focused on the war game. But despite his resolve, it was long before he drifted away to walk the path of Elven dreams.

He woke in the morning feeling groggy, but he flung cold water from the stream over his head and then set about getting ready for the final day of the novice exercise.  Once his group had all eaten, he called them together for a brief meeting. “We will use the same strategy we used yesterday,” he told them.  “All you have to do is keep alert, so that they do not creep up on us.” Then he sent them to their posts and took up his own.

The attacking team took their time coming. At least it seemed that way to Legolas, who controlled his impatience only with difficulty. Concentrate, he reminded himself, and even as he did so, he caught a glimpse of a tiny flutter of leaves in the trees off to the left below him.  His shout of warning came at the same time that arrows flew toward them, and just as he drew his own bow, he saw Elrál lower his bow and drop from the tree to the ground, signaling that he had been hit and was now out of the game.

Legolas loosed his arrow, as did the others around him, and the attackers fell back, but a call from Legolas’s right told him that more of Annael’s group were now approaching from that direction.  He looked but could see only one attacker, who was ducking behind shelter even as Legolas saw him. He was frantically searching for another target when a sudden thought made him look left again. His heart leapt into his throat as he saw movement in several trees.

“There!” he shouted. “Look out, Galor!” Galor had been standing with his bow lowered, watching the action on the other side of the rise and had been caught completely unaware by the attackers coming up behind him.  Even as Legolas watched, a blunted arrow struck him in the back. He looked startled and then dismayed, and then he dropped to the ground. The other defending novices were now sending arrows raining down on the attackers who had gotten far too close, and under the arrows’ relentless fall, they were finally forced to withdraw.

A few moments later, just as Legolas had finished rearranging his forces, a sharp whistle pierced the air and all of them turned toward its source. The novice masters were signaling to both groups that the game was over.  We have won, Legolas realized suddenly.  We must have taken out enough of Annael’s forces to win. After a second of silence, the novices around him broke into an exultant cheer and Legolas found himself grinning. They had won.

Both groups now emerged from the trees and began to gather around Lómilad. Bow in hand and a rueful expression on his face, Annael approached Legolas and grasped his forearm. “Congratulations,” he said a little dryly.  “You are more devious than I would have believed.”

Legolas grinned. “Thank you,” he said.  Annael laughed.

Lómilad approached. “Congratulation, Legolas. It was a near thing though.  What happened to your left flank?”

From the corner of his eye, Legolas could see Galor looking unhappy and bracing himself for Legolas’s answer.  He looked squarely at Lómilad.  “I failed to deploy my forces properly,” he answered.

Lómilad nodded. “I will expect a report tomorrow,” he said and went to speak to Annael, who was now congratulating Elrál.  Legolas turned and found himself face to face with Galor.

“Why did you do that?” Galor asked. “That was my fault. I was not paying enough attention and they nearly overran us.”

Legolas shook his head. “It was my fault,” he corrected.  “I should have known what was happening. Moreover, as soon as Elrál was hit, I should have sent someone more experienced to stand with you. I failed to support you properly and you were ‘killed’ as a result.  The blame is mine.”

Galor hesitated and then seemed to accept Legolas’s explanation.  “Thank you,” he said simply. Then, as Legolas was starting to turn away, Galor caught his arm and added awkwardly.  “I just want to say that I admire the way you live up to your responsibilities, Legolas. There were times in the last few days when I let myself get distracted by the pleasure of being in the forest, but watching you reminded me that there are things I should do, even if they are not what I enjoy doing.” Then he walked off, leaving Legolas standing with his mouth open.

Galor’s words echoed in his head: “There are things I should do, even if they are not what I enjoy doing.”  He grimaced and then turned to finish exchanging polite congratulations with the other team.


As always, an enormous thank you to all those who are reading this story and especially to those who encourage me with reviews.

Frodo3791:  I love seeing Ithilden with his family. He deserves to have people love him. But I think he has quite a lot of responsibility right now, including his son.

Wild Iris:  Elven sexuality is hard to make sense of.  I am happy with the more active sex lives that other authors give Elves, but seem to be stuck with this one for mine.  I have concluded that their depth of attachment would determine the depth of physical desire, but that physical desire was real too.

Luin: There are only so many baths I can have Thranduil take!  Eilian will be in this story but not for a little while yet. And I have to agree with you that Annael has always been the more mature of the two. I think Legolas’s maturation is complicated by his loss of his mother and the pressured position he lives in as the king’s son.

Legolas4me:  Legolas did back off from Synia, even when he was enjoying kissing her, so he’s not completely irresponsible, thank goodness.

Fadesintothewest: I am working on making Legolas and Annael look older in this story than they did in “One Year.”  They are an interesting pair, I think.  Annael is probably a more “normal” Elf, but then, a normal Elf would not have gone on the quest.

Lera:  In all truth, I don’t like Synia much either.  I think she’s predatory. But then, I may be overprotective of Legolas.

Lamiel:  I am so glad you liked the coming of age ceremony.  I am sappy enough that I actually made myself cry.  How’s that for an involved author? You and Luin should get together on the Thranduil/bath topic.

Alice:  Sinnarn amused me. I think he is his Uncle Eilian all over again and his parents are going to have a long, harrowing effort to see him through to adulthood.

Dot:  I too think that Legolas is mistaken to think of adulthood as “free.” Surely he has only to look at Ithilden, weighed down with responsibility, to know that that’s wrong.  I like Tonduil too. I do worry that I have too many OCs and that anyone new to my stories must be reeling trying to keep them all sorted out.

Tapetum Lucidum:  You are so nice to do that long review all over again!  Ithilden can really do a nice imitation of his father, which must come in handy. And while Legolas thinks he told Synia what his plans were, I doubt if she told him hers!

Bryn:  You are so right.  Ithilden should enjoy Sinnarn now because once he hits adolescence, he and his son are going to be at odds.  Ithilden is used to having people obey him. Eilian will be along eventually.

Jebb:  Glad you liked the coming of age ceremony.  I made myself teary eyed writing it.  I can only imagine what Annael’s mother must have felt.

Nelsonia:  Synia is a problem, I think.  She wants more from Legolas than he is willing to give.

Lady Berenice:  Ithilden is a great crown prince. Thranduil is lucky to have him, as is Mirkwood in general.

Nikki1:  Glad you liked the chapter.  Curious is good!

Camp6311:  I liked writing about Thranduil in a different setting too. I had to rework that scene several times to figure out for myself what the tone of it should be because, as you say, we don’t see him out of his own realm and interacting with peers much.

French Pony:  Actually, the concealed weapons scene reminded me of the scene in Esgaroth in the movie “The Two Towers.” The door warden tells Aragorn, Legolas, and Mithrandir that they have to leave their weapons and they all spend about three minutes disarming, pulling out knives, swords, bows, and Valar knows what else.  I thought it was funny.

Antigone Q:  I think that Annael is ready to bond.  He has the model of his parents in front of him and they seem to me to be a really nice couple.

Nilmandra:  Legolas knew he and Synia needed to get back to the ceremony.  He can be honorable, even when temptation is near.

JastaElf:  I’m sure that Thranduil will tell you that Eilian and Sinnarn are just like wife’s troublesome uncle!  Not his side of the family, oh no.  No rash, independent, curious folks there!

Brenda G:  I figured that Legolas could put the brakes on physical intimacy with Synia because he is an elf, and physical and emotional closeness go together for him.  She cares for him more than he does for her, which happens.  I wrote on the plane both going and coming!

Just Me:  I think there is a clear contrast between Annael and Beliniel and Legolas and Synia.  Annael and Beliniel are in sync and are ready to bond.  Legolas is definitely not, even though Synia would like it.

LKK:  Legolas did not behave well when he disappeared with Synia.  His father would be horrified if he knew.

Strange Blaze:  When Annael’s mother had to pull Legolas’s head down to kiss him, I thought of another scene I had written when she kisses the top of his head because he has bumped it.  It was such a nice contrast.

Feanen:  Sinnarn is cute but he’s a handful!

The Karenator:  I made myself cry a little when I wrote the coming of age ceremony too. I think all us parents feel like that.  Ithilden is wonderfully capable and Thranduil should be grateful for his presence.

Tigerlily713:  Legolas tries to be honest with himself, and I think you’re right.  When he can admit his own feelings and then act accordingly, he’s admirable.

Naneth:  The coming of age ceremony was satisfying to write.  I was pleased by how it came out and I’m glad that other people liked it too.

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