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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.


10.  Coming Home

Legolas sucked in his breath and then bit his lip to prevent any further sound from escaping him.  Gwaleniel looked up from her examination of his foot.  “I need to set this bone,” she said.  “I will give you something that will make you unconscious while I do so.”  She began searching through her bag, presumably looking for the proper herbs and then looked toward Ithilden, who was leaning against the wall watching the proceedings. “Can you send for some hot water so I can brew an herbal tea?”

Ithilden nodded and stepped out into the hall to send a servant for the hot water.   Then he returned and took up his silent watch again.  He had taken one look at Legolas being carried into the palace and started shouting for the palace healer, who was also Alfirin’s mother.  He had let Legolas out of his sight only long enough to hear a brief report from the warrior and had stayed with his brother ever since, although Legolas knew that he must have things to see to, even apart from whatever problems had been raised by Siondel’s death.

“Just go ahead and set the bone,” Legolas told the healer.  “I do not need the herbs.”  The bone was small. Surely Gwaleniel could set it quickly.  He wanted her to get on with things so that his foot could start to heal; the pain was beginning to wear on him.

And he did not like the idea of being drugged into unconsciousness again either.  He had had enough of oblivion with his head injury to start with, and then the sleeping draught that Eilian had given him had been stronger than Legolas had realized it would be.  He had been awakened by the insistent throbbing in his foot to find himself on a horse, cradled in the arms of one of the Home Guard warriors.  They had apparently been under way for some time because the day was far advanced.  Presumably Eilian had guessed how painful riding was likely to be with his injury and had tried to save him some of the agony, but Legolas was dismayed that he had not had a chance to say goodbye to his brother, who had gone back south with his patrol.

At least sleeping part of the day had left him wakeful enough to be able to sit with Annael as his friend had again stood vigil over his father’s body when they had camped for the night on the trip home.

Gwaleniel shook her head.  “No, I cannot just go ahead and set it.  The ends of the bone have been displaced.  It is not going to be easy to set.” She paused in her search of her bag and looked at him rather severely.  “Did the healer in the settlement not tell you to stay off it?  You have damaged some of the blood vessels and tissue around the bone, so that healing is going to be slower than it otherwise would have been.”

Legolas glanced over at Ithilden. He knew that his brother was less likely to be overprotective than Thranduil was, but Legolas had only to think of the sleeping draught that Eilian had given him to be reminded that everyone in his family was inclined to make his decisions for him.  And he did not like the disapproving look on his brother’s face.  Ithilden had probably concluded that the settlement healer had told Legolas to stay off the foot, and he had walked on it anyway.

“I did not walk on it deliberately,” he protested. “I fell when we were fleeing the fire.”  Ithilden’s face softened somewhat, but he said nothing.

“After I have set the bone, I will splint it and wrap your foot,” Gwaleniel told Legolas as they waited for the water.  “Then you are going to have to stay off the foot for at least a week.  If you put no weight on the foot, you can move about the palace on crutches.  I will have some sent to you. But you should not try to move about outside or anywhere where the surface is uneven. If you fell on that foot again, you could really do harm.”

A sudden thought occurred to Legolas, and he stiffened in dismay.  “I am going to Siondel’s funeral.”

She shook her head. “You are not going outside, Legolas.”

“I am going,” he repeated stubbornly. “I owe it to Annael and Elowen and to Siondel himself.”

She frowned and looked over at Ithilden, in what was obviously a silent request for support.  Legolas, too, looked at his brother.  “Ithilden, I have to go. You know I do,” Legolas pleaded.  Surely his brother would understand the obligation and affection that Legolas felt toward Annael’s family.  And even if Ithilden did not agree, Legolas vowed to himself, he would go anyway.  This decision was one he could not allow others to make for him.

Ithilden opened his mouth to speak to Gwaleniel, but then stopped and looked at Legolas.  Legolas met his eyes steadily for a moment and saw serious scrutiny there.  “You would have to be carried,” Ithilden finally said tentatively, evidently fearing that Legolas would see this as an insult to his dignity.

“I do not care,” Legolas said impatiently.  “I want to be at the funeral to support Annael and his naneth.”

Ithilden eyed him for another moment and then gave a small smile and nodded.  “I will see to it,” he said.  He looked at his mother-in-law, who had made a disapproving noise. “He will not fall,” he assured her.  “I will carry him myself.”

Reluctantly, she nodded and then accepted the jug of hot water that a servant had brought into the room and poured some carefully over the herbs she had put in a cup. After a moment, she turned back to Legolas and handed it to him.  “I expect you to drink all of it,” she said.

He grimaced, knowing immediately that the warning meant that the mixture would be foul. But he did as he was told and then reluctantly allowed himself to float away into yet another well of forgetfulness.


Ithilden scanned the crowd that had assembled in the forest clearing to bid farewell to Siondel, concluding that every Elf who lived within five leagues had gathered here in the twilight.  The body of Siondel lay on a platform over a pile of fragrant branches, with herbs and flowers scattered about him.  Annael stood nearby, with his arm around his mother.  They both looked exhausted more than anything else. On Annael’s other side, Beliniel stood, and as Ithilden watched, she quietly took his hand in hers, and he flashed her a brief smile. The three of them stood enveloped in the gathering darkness, seemingly isolated, not so much because they were physically distant from those around them, as because they were united in grief that others felt less deeply, for all the sympathy they brought.

Arrayed along one side of the platform were rows of warriors, mostly from the Home Guard who had served with and under Siondel.  They were here to honor one of their own, who had fallen as any of them could fall.  At the end of the front row, the novices were ranged, white-faced and wide-eyed. This was the first warrior’s funeral that most of them had seen, and, of course, they all knew Annael.  The reality of their futures was suggested by this ritual, and they obviously found it sobering.

Among the oldest group of novices sat Legolas, in the chair where Ithilden had placed him just moments before.  He knew that Legolas had been humiliated by having to be carried like a child, and he was proud of his brother for swallowing his own feelings in order to be of whatever comfort he could to his friend.  He was sometimes astonished by how much Legolas had grown up in the last few years. Now Legolas sat erect and sober, watching Annael.

Ithilden looked up to see the first stars opening overhead. It was time to begin.  In the role that his father would normally have played, he began to speak.  “People of the Woodland Realm, we have come to honor Siondel, son of these woods, known by us all and loved by many among us.  What words can we say about him?”  He waited to hear all those who wished to speak but knew that the first few speakers would be warriors, for everyone here knew that Siondel had belonged first to his family, and then to those with whom he had served.

There was a moment’s respectful pause, and then one of the young Home Guard warriors stepped forward.  “I speak not only for myself,” he began, “but for many of my fellow warriors who have entrusted me to make their hearts known.   Siondel was the first captain under whom most of us have served.  We came into his hands well-trained but inexperienced, and with his patient guidance, we hoped to grow into warriors who could make the realm a safer place for those we loved.  As a captain, Siondel took his own strengths and multiplied them a hundredfold by giving them to us. I was with him when he died while fighting. There was no warrior who was braver.  There is no warrior I would rather be like.”  He stepped back into the group of warriors, wiping unashamedly at his eyes.

Ithilden waited, and then, from the ranks of warriors, Maldor stepped forward.  Even in his sorrow, Ithilden could not help but be amused when every novice and many of the young warriors straightened their backs at the sight of the demanding unarmed combat master.  “Like most of those among us who are older,” Maldor said, “I knew Siondel from the day he was born, but I came to know him well only when he became a novice warrior and I aided in his training.  Like most of those we train, he learned to fight with skill.  Our task as novice masters, however, is not just to teach our students but to learn about them, to discover where their special strengths and talents lie, so that we can advise the troop commander where they might be put to best use when they finally pledge their faith as warriors.  Siondel was one in whom that strength was clear from the start: he loved his home and his family with a passion that guided his life.”

Elowen’s chin began to tremble, and Annael drew her closer to him, blinking rapidly himself.

“And so when the time came,” Maldor went on, “we novice masters told Ithilden that Siondel belonged in the Home Guard, where he would be able serve both the realm and his own heart’s desire.  He was a warrior, but what drove him was love, and that is what I will remember about him.”

Maldor returned to his place, his face impassive, and Ithilden was once again faintly amused by the startled looks that many of the novices wore.  They were seeing a side of Maldor that was usually hidden from them.  Ithilden supposed it would take only one rough training session to make them forget the Maldor who stood before them today, but it never hurt for the young to have their certainties disturbed.

He waited again, and then neighbors began to speak of Siondel’s kindness and generosity, and friends told stories of his skill as a fisherman and his enjoyment of wagering.  Finally, Ithilden waited and thought that perhaps the last who wished to speak had done so. And then he heard Legolas’s voice and turned back to where the warriors were ranged.  He had been somewhat surprised that Legolas had not spoken when the other warriors had, and he was uncertain why his brother had chosen to wait until now.

Legolas remained seated, as he had promised Ithilden he would, but he spoke clearly.  “I admired Siondel as a warrior,” he began, “but I valued him most as the father of my friend.”  Annael turned to look at Legolas, and Ithilden could see that he had lost the battle to suppress his tears.  “I saw him loving and guiding Annael, and sometimes when I was fortunate, he would treat me as if I, too, were his son.  He praised me when I did well, sheltered me when I needed a refuge, and did not hesitate to tell me when he thought I had done wrong.  I hope that he was proud of me, and I know that he was proud of Annael.”  His eyes met Annael’s, and Ithilden could see that he too was weeping.

Silence fell and Ithilden knew it was time for him to speak the ritual words.  “To our great sorrow, the fëa of Siondel, son of the Woodland Realm, has fled to the Halls of Mandos to await the fate that Iluvatar has set for him.  He has no more need for the shell before us, and we send it to the air and the winds, but we keep Siondel in our hearts.”

He took the torch that an attendant handed him and lit it from an already lit one that had been thrust in the ground.  Then he walked toward Elowen and Annael.  He handed the torch to Elowen, and Annael put his hand over hers.  Together, they reached forward and lit the pyre, releasing Siondel’s body to the fire.


Legolas dropped the book he had been trying to read onto his lap and stared gloomily into the empty fireplace.  The spring day was warm, and he longed to be out. In truth, he longed to be doing anything.  Thoughts of Siondel’s funeral strayed into his mind again.  I cannot keep sitting here thinking of death, he told himself desperately.

He grabbed for his crutches and swung to his feet.  He had become very nimble with them in the last week and moved rapidly out of his room and down the hall toward the Great Doors.  He came into the antechamber and then halted at the top of the stairs leading down from the Doors and off into the spring day.  He looked longingly at the green trees and inhaled the scent of spring.

One of the guards grinned at him.  “Beautiful day,” he said cheerily.  Legolas could have strangled him.  Suddenly, he could bear his confinement no longer.

“It is a beautiful day,” he agreed, “and I am going riding.”  Without another pause, he lowered himself carefully down the steps and then turned to go through the palace gardens and toward the path leading to the stables.


Thranduil felt his uneasiness lessening bit by bit as he drew nearer and nearer to home.  In his worry for his woods and his son, he had pushed his warriors and the horses when they first left Imladris and in a little more than a week, they had covered a distance that had taken them nearly twice as long going in the other direction.  Now, as they came within a few miles of his stronghold, Elves and horses were both weary, but he was increasingly certain that Legolas was safe and that whatever had been wrong with the forest was now set right, or at least as right as the forest could be with Shadow spreading through it.

Suddenly, Thranduil heard hoof beats on the path ahead, and the guards riding in front of him came to alert and raised the bows that they had carried in their right hands from the minute the party had entered the western edge of the forest.  They rounded a bend in the path, and there, with his own bow in hand, was Legolas, mounted on his temperamental stallion.

“Mae govannen, Legolas,” one of the guards laughed, and they all lowered their weapons.

Relief flooding his system at the sight of his son, Thranduil urged his horse forward.  Although he had come to believe that Legolas was no longer threatened, he found that he needed the reassurance that came from seeing for himself that all was well.  He ran his eyes hungrily over the slim young form before him and abruptly came to focus on his son’s right foot, which was pressed to Pilin’s side with unaccustomed awkwardness.  It was tightly bound and clearly braced by a splint.  He raised his eyes to Legolas’s face and found there a look of deep dismay.  He sighed.

Thranduil would have liked to believe that his sons were always glad to see him, but he had been a father long enough to know that, from their point of view, he occasionally appeared at inopportune moment.   “Are you supposed to be riding with your foot like that?” he demanded.

Legolas grimaced.  “No.”

“Then why are you doing it?” Thranduil asked crisply.

“I have been penned up inside the palace for a week and was about to go mad from the tedium,” Legolas declared, mutiny beginning to show in his face. “My foot has stopped hurting and the healer is going to take the splint off tomorrow.  And besides,” he said with some emphasis, “I am exceedingly unlikely to fall off my horse.”

Thranduil raised an eyebrow.  If Legolas was not supposed to be riding, it was because doing so might aggravate whatever injury lay beneath the bandaging on his foot.  Boredom was a minor irritation compared to that.  He started to sidle his horse up next to Pilin preparatory to dragging Legolas off him and onto his own horse.  Then he saw the look of alarm deepening on Legolas’s face.  Thranduil paused, considered the tender dignity of young warriors, and turned and signaled to his escort.  “You may go on,” he said.  “Tell Ithilden that we will follow.”

The captain of his guard hesitated. “My lord,” he began, but Thranduil waved off whatever he intended to say.

“You may go,” he repeated with some asperity. “We are within a league of the palace.  I believe I am still capable of dealing with whatever dangers might arise between here and home.”  With obvious reluctance, the captain saluted and then led the rest of the party off down the path.

Thranduil turned to Legolas again, his gaze determined, and Legolas looked resigned, apparently accepting his fate.  Thranduil moved his horse carefully up on Pilin’s left, next to Legolas’s uninjured foot.  Pilin pranced off.  “Steady him, Legolas,” Thranduil said irritably.  “You really need to teach this horse some better manners.”

“He has not been exercised enough in the last week,” Legolas said defensively, the unspoken “and neither have I” being clearly implied.  But he brought the horse under better control, and Thranduil reached over to grasp him around the waist and pull him to rest in his arms.

He glanced at the scowling young face.  “We will ride to the stables instead of the green,” he said, thinking that Legolas would prefer the less public arrival.

“Thank you, Adar,” said Legolas, not sounding particularly thankful.

With sudden joy, Thranduil laughed outright. The annoyance on Legolas’s face deepened, but Thranduil did not care.  After his long moments of fear, he was happy to have his child in his arms again, although he knew such a reaction was ludicrous, given that the “child” was almost as tall as he was.  He spoke softly to his horse and they trotted off toward the stables, with Pilin following behind.  “On the way, you can tell me what has been happening while I have been gone,” he told Legolas.

There was a moment’s silence, and his son’s face turned grave.  “I am glad you are home, Adar,” Legolas finally admitted and then began his story.


Ithilden blinked at the sight of Thranduil mounting the steps to the Great Doors with Legolas in his arms and a stable attendant coming behind carrying Legolas’s crutches.  They reached Ithilden and Thranduil set Legolas carefully down as the attendant handed him the crutches.  Legolas tucked the crutches under his arms.  “By your leave, Adar?” he asked rather stiffly.

“You may go,” Thranduil said and then turned to embrace Ithilden as Legolas made his way into the palace.  “I am very glad to see you, iôn-nín,” Thranduil told him, and Ithilden could not help but be gratified.

They entered the palace.  “Where did you find Legolas?” Ithilden asked in some exasperation. “He is not supposed to be out at all.”  Had he only recently been thinking that Legolas was growing up?  He would certainly have to revise that opinion if his brother was going to do something so childish as endanger his recovery by roaming around outside.

“He will not be out without permission again,” Thranduil dismissed his concern.  “But he has told me about the fire.”  He looked sober.  “I will visit Elowen and Annael later today.  Siondel is a loss to us all.”  He shook his head slightly.  “Legolas does not seem to have much sense of the settlers’ reaction to the danger they were in.  What can you tell me about them?”

They had reached Thranduil’s office and entered.  Ithilden was immeasurably relieved to have Thranduil take the seat behind the desk while he could now move to the chair in front of it.  Tomorrow, he would have only his troops to worry about, and Thranduil would take back the cares of the greater realm.

And what Ithilden wanted to know now was whether those cares would soon be eased.  “Adar, I will tell you anything I can about the settlement, but, please, let me ask you first, what action has the White Council decided to take?”

Anger flashed across his father’s face.  “The council has argued itself into doing nothing.  They neither know nor seem to care what we suffer.  We are, as always, on our own, and I have come to think that we will do better that way in any case.”

Ithilden felt as if all the air had been knocked out of him.  He had been so hopeful that the council, with all its wise and powerful members, would see the need to come to their aid.  Thranduil watched him with something like pity in his eyes.  “The council was still meeting as I left,” he said. “Mithrandir will come to tell us what occurred.”

Ithilden nodded numbly.  “Mithrandir is always welcome,” he said woodenly.

Thranduil grimaced. “Tell me about the settlement,” he directed.

Ithilden sighed.  “Are you sure you do not want to rest first?  I assume you want to know if we have any hope of getting the settlers to move, and I think you might want to recover from your trip before considering that question.”

Thranduil shook his head.  “No, I need to know what is happening with my realm.”  He leaned back in his chair, and Ithilden thought he actually looked glad to be there.  He seemed to grow stronger rather than more weary as the two of them talked.  Even in his currently dismayed state, Ithilden had to repress a smile.  In his admittedly biased opinion, the Woodland Realm was fortunate in its king.  His spirits rose slightly. Perhaps his father was right, and they would manage on their own.

He considered for a moment and then began to give an organized, concise report of what had happened in the settlement and how the settlers had reacted to it.  Thranduil listened without interrupting.  When Ithilden had finished, the king smiled.  “I cannot tell you what a pleasure it is to hear a competently given report,” he said with satisfaction.  “You are worth at least three of the people I have been listening to recently.”

Ithilden laughed.  He was beginning to get the sense that his father and the other members of the White Council might have had a rather tempestuous encounter.

The door to the room burst open, and Sinnarn came tearing in and leapt at Thranduil, who caught him at the last possible moment.  “Grandfather!” he cried.  “I heard you. I knew it was you.”  He flung his chubby arms around Thranduil’s neck.

“Sinnarn,” said Ithilden reprovingly, “you know you are not supposed to be in your grandfather’s office.” He rose and reached for his son, but Thranduil settled the child on his lap and grinned at Ithilden without repentance.

“Sinnarn and I will visit for a while,” he said.  “You go and see Alfirin.”

Ithilden could not help but laugh.  “She will not be happy that you are spoiling your grandson,” he warned.

“I believe I can withstand Alfirin’s wrath,” Thranduil said placidly.

Ithilden raised an eyebrow.  “It is overconfidence like that that does an Elf in,” he commented dryly.  Thranduil grinned.

“Naneth is scolding Uncle Legolas for going outside,” Sinnarn informed them.  “She says she will get grandmother to give him nasty medicine.”  He made a face, but his father and grandfather both laughed, and he leaned back against his grandfather’s broad chest, pleased to have been the bearer of what was evidently happy news.


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