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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.  Her suggestions made it much better.


7.  Making Plans

“The settlement leader’s name is Félas,” Siondel told him as they walked toward the building that the settlers used as their public space.  His mind still on the unconscious Legolas, Eilian nodded.

He was uncertain whether to knock at the door, but did so and then, at an invitation from within, he entered, with Siondel right behind him. Two Elves sat slumped at a table to one side, their ash smeared clothing and weary postures suggesting that they had spent the day cutting trees in an effort to protect their homes.  Eilian assumed that the Elf he did not know was Félas. To his dismay, he recognized the other Elf as Sólith, Celuwen’s father.  Eilian generally tried to steer clear of Sólith, for Celuwen’s father did not believe that Eilian was likely to make his daughter happy and had made that judgment plain on a number of occasions.

Bracing himself, Eilian approached the two Elves, signaling that they should not get up.  “Mae govannen,” he greeted them politely.

“Mae govannen,” returned Félas with a slight bow of his head and gestured for them to be seated at the table.  Sólith looked stony faced and said nothing.  Eilian had not really expected anything else, although that did not make the situation any less awkward.

“We wished to ask you what plans you have for evacuating the settlement if the fire jumps the cleared space tonight,” Eilian began.  Vilmar had told him that the fire was likely to arrive near .  “If you need help that we can render, you have only to ask.”

Félas frowned.  “We have been talking to your forester, and we do not believe that evacuation will be necessary,” he said.

Eilian blinked.  What could Vilmar have told them?  Could the course of the fire have changed while he was with Legolas?  No matter.  They needed to be prepared for all eventualities.  “You know as well as I do that fire is unpredictable,” he said.

“We know,” Sólith put in, “but we have made preparations for the fire’s approach that will enable us to stay even if it crosses the cleared area.”

Eilian could scarcely believe his ears.  What was Sólith talking about?   He clamped his mouth shut, worried that he might say something intemperate and thus aggravate what was shaping up to be a more difficult discussion than he had anticipated.

Siondel glanced at him and then, evidently reading Eilian well, he spoke hastily.  “What preparations might those be?”

“We have cleared the underbrush from around our cottages and will begin dousing them with water as soon as the fire draws near,” Sólith said.   “We believe that will protect our homes even if the fire does jump the break.”

Eilian was so astounded that it took him a moment to find his voice. “You ‘believe’ it will protect your homes!” he cried.  “Are you telling me that you are willing to risk the lives of your people because you ‘believe’ this will work?”  Siondel cleared his throat in warning, and Eilian bit back the rest of what he wanted to say.  He was not here to quarrel with these Elves, and in particular, he was not here to quarrel with Celuwen’s father.

“Your own forester will tell you that this method can protect homes from fire,” Félas said rather stiffly.  He had not liked Eilian’s tone any more than Sólith had.

“It can,” Siondel put in before Eilian could speak, “but it does not always do so.  Surely you do not want to take a chance that any of your people will be killed?  The only safe course of action is to evacuate the settlement.”

“Our people are all needed here to soak the cottages down,” Félas said earnestly.  “If the fire jumps the break and we leave, there is no chance our homes will survive.”

Eilian could no longer keep silent. “Homes can be rebuilt,” he said sharply.

Sólith glared at him. “That is very easy for you to say, Eilian.  Are you going to come and help us do it?”

Again Siondel leapt into the conversation before Eilian could answer.  “The choice is yours, of course.”  He shot Eilian a quick, hard look, and Eilian knew he was speaking the truth.  Neither Eilian nor Siondel had the right to tell these people what to do.  “But at least be prepared to send away anyone who is not needed,” Siondel pleaded.

There was a moment’s silence.  “Everyone here is needed,” Félas finally said.  “We sent the children away long ago.  We do not have the luxury of extra hands.”

“You refuse to evacuate, even if the fire jumps the break?” Eilian asked incredulously.

“We do,” Sólith answered shortly. “We do not believe it will be necessary.”

Eilian stood, and Siondel too rose.  “I understand the desire to live in the forest,” Eilian said, his voice tight with the effort it took to control his temper.  “But I do not understand the willingness to sacrifice lives so that you can preserve cottages.”

“The lives of my wife and daughter are dear to me,” Sólith responded, his voice equally tight. “Unlike you, Eilian, I am with them daily, and I know and respect what matters to them.  I have no intention either of sacrificing them or of forcing them to give up what is precious to them.”

For a silent moment, the two of them glared at one another. Then, at a touch on his sleeve from Siondel, Eilian managed a minimally polite nod, spun on his heel, and went out into the darkening evening.  He heard Siondel murmuring farewell and then following him.

“That was interesting,” said Siondel dryly, after the door had closed behind him. He looked at Eilian. “You should have told me that you and Sólith disliked one another, Eilian.”  He sounded annoyed.  “I could have done this by myself, and I might have gotten further with them.”

Eilian grimaced. Siondel was probably right.  Then he shrugged; it was too late now. He looked up at the sky, where rain clouds and smoke were drifting across in front of the moon and the emerging stars. Perhaps they would be lucky, and rain would take care of the fire. They would be foolish to count on that, however.  He turned again to Siondel.  “When you go back to your camp, you might speak to Vilmar,” Eilian said.  “Find out exactly what he told them, and see if you can get him to talk some sense into them.”  Siondel nodded.

As they walked away from the building, two figures detached themselves from the shadows around a large pine tree and came toward them.  Both captains turned toward them, and in the fitful moonlight they saw that the two were Annael and one of Eilian’s warriors, an older Elf whose name was Maltanaur.  Eilian flinched a little at the sight of the latter. With darkness approaching, he knew he needed to get back to his patrol so that they could take up their watch for Orcs.  Maltanaur hung back a little, however, letting Annael approach.

Annael’s face was creased with worry as he held a worn leather pack out toward Eilian. “I brought Legolas’s pack,” he said. “I thought he might need his things.”

Eilian took the pack.  “Thank you.”

“How is he?” Annael asked anxiously.  “Can I see him?”

Eilian thought of Legolas’s pale, inert form and decided it would be far better if Annael did not see him quite yet.  He had not forgotten Annael’s assumption of guilt for the accident that had caused Legolas’s injury, and he did not want to add to the pain of his brother’s friend.

“Not just yet,” he said gently. “Tomorrow perhaps.”

“Come,” Siondel told his son. “We will return to camp.”  Reluctantly, Annael allowed himself to be drawn away.

“Siondel,” Eilian stopped him, “I want to make sure that Legolas, at least, is evacuated if the fire comes.  Can you see to it?”  He knew his voice was pleading, but he did not care.

Siondel nodded. “Of course. I will send a warrior with horses to wait near the cottage where he is being cared for. He can be brought to our camp. Vilmar says we are situated so that the fire is unlikely to come our way.”

“He may be difficult to move,” Eilian warned him, glancing quickly at Annael and trying not to say too much.  “His foot is broken.”  He did not think it necessary to mention that, so far as he knew, Legolas was still unconscious.  Siondel’s warrior would manage well enough.

“I will see to it,” Siondel reassured him and started away again, with his son at his side.

Eilian caught at his sleeve; a plan had just occurred to him and he meant to make it happen.  “Tell him to be ready to take the maiden, too,” he said.  “She is caring for Legolas.”

Siondel raised an eyebrow but nodded and said nothing.  He had once served as Eilian’s lieutenant when Eilian was temporarily commanding the Home Guard, and he knew Eilian fairly well.  It probably did not surprise him that Eilian had a maiden on his mind, although, thought Eilian, Siondel could not possibly know what this particular maiden meant to him.  Siondel and Annael set off and were almost immediately lost to sight in the murky darkness.

Maltanaur approached.  “The youngling was worried,” he commented.  “How is your brother really?”

Eilian sighed. “I am about to go and find out.  The healer was reassuring but you know how they all are. They will not really tell you anything you want to know.”

Maltanaur smiled sympathetically and patted Eilian’s shoulder. By Thranduil’s orders, he had served at Eilian’s side from the day the king’s son had first pledged his faith as a warrior.  He had been responsible for Eilian’s training and his safety and he knew his charge well.  “Do you want me to go back to the patrol by myself while you stay here?  We can let you know if anything comes up.”

Eilian hesitated for a moment, but knew what answer he had to give. “I will be a few moments,” he said, “but then I will come back with you.”  Maltanaur nodded and drifted away again to take up his post near the pine tree.

Eilian walked down the narrow path to Celuwen’s cottage and knocked at the door, which, after a short wait, she opened.   She smiled at him and, as if she had been eagerly waiting to do it, she immediately told him what he had been longing to hear. “Legolas is better, Eilian.  He woke for a little while.  He was sick, but he was coherent and he could move his legs.”

Eilian’s breath came out in a relieved sigh and he sagged against the doorframe.  “That is good news!” he said jubilantly.  He straightened and entered the room. Her mother was no where to be seen but wet laundry was hung on racks near the fire.  A pallet had been arranged on the floor in one corner of the room, and he assumed that she would sleep in here, given that the room in which Legolas lay was certainly hers.

He started toward it, but then remembered his plan and turned back to her.  “The fire should be here by ,” he told her, and she nodded soberly.  “We hope the fire break will hold it at bay, of course, and we may even get some rain, which might extinguish it.  But if the fire crosses the break, will you see to it that Legolas is evacuated to the Home Guard’s camp and go with him to care for him?  Siondel will have horses and a warrior here to help you, but you are the one I trust to see to it.”

She paused, and from the tension in her face, he knew what she was thinking.  She could be as unreasonable as her father on the subject of the settlement.  She had probably been planning to stay if the fire crossed the cleared space.  “Please,” he begged her, watching her reaction.  “I do not trust anyone else as well as I trust you.” That was true enough, but it was also true that he wanted her away from the settlement if the fire came.

Reluctantly, she nodded. “I will do it,” she promised.  “You do not need to worry about him.”  He felt a mixture of triumph and relief.  The two people here whom he cared most about would be safe, no matter what else happened.  “Thank you,” he told her and then entered Legolas’s room.

To his intense gratification, Legolas’s eyes were just fluttering open as he entered the room.  He settled himself in the chair that still sat next to the bed.  “How do you feel?” he asked, as he gently stroked his brother’s hair.  He could hear Celuwen quietly closing the door to give them some privacy.

Legolas blinked at him. “Not too bad,” he said slowly.

Eilian was certain he had just been lied to, but he decided that if Legolas was well enough to deny being sick, then that was cause for rejoicing.  “You had me worried,” he said. “Adar would have had my hide if anything had happened to you while I was supposedly on guard.”

For a moment, Legolas appeared to grope for words.  “What is happening with the fire?” he finally asked.

“It will be here by ,” Eilian told him.  “We will know then if the cleared area is wide enough.”  He smiled encouragingly. “The good news is that there are rain clouds in the distance.  Perhaps the weather will give us some help.”

Legolas frowned slightly, and Eilian suspected he was having trouble concentrating enough even to carry on a conversation.  Reluctantly, he stood up.  “You should sleep,” he said.  “I will come back tomorrow.”  Legolas made no protest, so Eilian knew he had to be tired.  He kissed his brother gently on the cheek and then went out into the sitting room.

Celuwen had just opened the front door to Maltanaur.  He looked at Eilian over her head.  “We need to go, Eilian,” he said with urgency in his voice.

Eilian kept his face impassive, but his heart quickened.  “I will be back tomorrow, Celuwen,” he told her.  “Thank you for looking after Legolas.” She nodded and closed the front door behind him.  “What is it?” he asked Maltanaur as the two of them walked rapidly toward where their horses grazed.

“Our scouts report that a large troop of Orcs is coming this way,” Maltanaur told him.  “The fire is probably driving them out of their dens too, just as it is the forest animals.”

Eilian nodded grimly.  Orcs. That was all they needed. The two of them leapt onto their horses and rode off toward where the Southern Patrol was camped, on the opposite side of the settlement from the Home Guard.


Celuwen closed the front door behind the two warriors and then leaned her forehead against it.  What was she going to do?

Trying to protect herself, she had kept him at bay for years now. She had found that if she let him visit her, she would be unhappy for weeks after he left. The only way to maintain her serenity was to ask him to stay away. But the peace created by the time apart had disappeared as if it had never existed the minute she had seen him standing in the cottage doorway.

It was not so much his flirting with every female in sight that made her back away.  She knew he kept company with many maidens when she was not around, and it was possible he would find one that he preferred to her. If that happened, she would feel pain but she would want him to be happy. But she also believed that if they bonded, he would be loyal to her, so his attention to other maidens was not what made her cautious around him.

No, her vigilance came from her belief that they were both obligated to fight the Shadow in their own ways, indeed that in these times everyone was so obligated.  And as long as she and Eilian responded to that obligation, they would both be in danger.  Moreover, Eilian was inclined to be reckless.  Under those circumstances, it would be both selfish and stupid of her to accept his pressing desire to bond.  She would not leave him desolate, and she would not be left so herself.

And yet, with a sinking feeling of despair, she knew it was already too late for her.

The sound of retching came to her from the bedchamber she had abandoned to Legolas.  He was sick again and he needed her.  This wallowing in pain was self-indulgent, she told herself sternly, and turned to go into the sick room.


His stomach more than empty, Legolas fell back on the pillow, careful to land on his side.  He had learned the hard way that his back was too sore to lie on.  Celuwen took the basin away and then returned with an empty one.

“Would you like a sip of water?” she asked.  “Just to clean your mouth a little?”

He looked at her dully, and she apparently took that as a yes, because she left the room and came back with a cup of water that she held to his lips while she supported him as best she could without pressing on his back.  “Just a sip until your stomach settles,” she admonished when he realized how good the water tasted and tried to take more.  She lowered him to the bed again, and left the room, while he lay with his eyes closed, wishing he were unconscious.

She came back, and he cracked his eyes open to watch her.  She moved with unusual grace that he found soothing to watch.  She put another basin on the chair, dipped a cloth in it, and wrung it out.  “Let me bathe your face,” she said and began to wipe gently at his face with what turned out to be a warm cloth.  The glide of the cloth over his face was the most pleasant thing he had felt since he had been hurt, and he felt pathetically grateful for it. She dried his face on a towel and then dipped her cloth in the warm water again.

“You made Eilian happy anyway,” she told him, beginning to bathe his shoulders and arms.  “He has always doted on you, you know.”  She dabbed carefully at the deep scratches on his chest and then blotted up the moisture with the towel. “Can you roll onto your stomach?” she asked.  “That bruise on your back is at a stage where warm water might feel good.”  With her help, he rolled forward and buried his face in the pillow while she bathed his back. It felt good to change his position. He had been lying in the same spot all day.

“You were very young the only other time we have met,” she went on in her low pitched voice.  “Your naneth had recently died, and Eilian was very worried about you.”  Legolas listened with interest.  His family seldom talked about the dark period immediately after his mother’s death, and he had not known that Eilian had been concerned about him.

Celuwen dried his back and then dipped her cloth again and moved the sheet to bathe his hips and legs.  He was embarrassed by the intimacy, but he had to admit that the warm water felt incredibly good.  “You hated me on sight,” Celuwen was now telling him, with humor in her voice.  “You wanted Eilian all to yourself and you had no use for me at all.  I could understand that.  Eilian is - ” she hesitated, as if seeking for the right word.  “He is the most loving person I know,” she finished simply. She reached for the towel, dried him off, and then replaced the sheet.

“Let me see if I can brush your hair without hurting the bruised spot,” she said and got a brush from the chest in the room.  She worked carefully, unbraiding his hair and then running the brush lightly through it.   She rebraided it in a single loose braid that would keep it out of his face. “There,” she said. “Do you feel better?”

He realized with surprise that he felt quite a bit better.  Even his nausea had subsided a little.  He was beginning to feel sleepy again.  “Thank you,” he said.  He looked at her curiously and then felt his eyes beginning to lose their focus.  His last waking thought was to wonder if Eilian knew that she loved him.


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