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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.


11.  Looking Ahead

“Now that looks better,” said Thranduil approvingly.

Legolas grinned at him.  “The healer has just turned me loose.  You cannot imagine how good it feels to walk on my own two feet again.”

“You still need to be cautious for a while,” Thranduil warned him.  “That foot is undoubtedly not fully healed even if the bone has mended. And recovering from a blow to the head takes time.”

Legolas gritted his teeth.  Since Thranduil’s return the day before, he had hovered over Legolas far more than he should have had time to do. Thranduil had apparently been worried about him for more than a week before he arrived home, and he was having trouble believing that Legolas was really all right.  “I will be careful,” Legolas promised as patiently as he could.

“You are not planning to go out, are you?”  Thranduil asked, suddenly noticing the direction in which Legolas was going.  “Surely you should walk around for a while indoors before you attempt to move about on uneven ground.”

 “Adar, I am going to visit Annael and Elowen. I have not seen them since the funeral.  And Gwaleniel said I could go out and even return to training tomorrow.”

Thranduil hesitated and then nodded reluctantly.  “Very well.  I understand your need to visit Siondel’s family.  And I suppose if the healer has said you are ready to go back to training, then you probably are.  I will see to it that the novice masters are aware that they might have to limit what they ask you to do.”

Legolas tried to picture Maldor’s reaction to whatever message Thranduil would send.  “That will not be necessary,” he said hastily. “They already know I was injured.”

Thranduil put his long, elegant hand on the back of Legolas’s head and pulled it forward so he could kiss his son’s forehead.  “Come home in time to rest before evening meal, child.  You are not yet fully healed.”

For a moment, Legolas was tempted to protest, but then his common sense and his past experience with his father prevailed. “I will,” he said as docilely as he could, and then went on down the hallway and out of the palace.

He followed the path, reveling in the feeling of freedom that came from simply walking under the trees with no one asking him how he felt every few minutes.  His foot was stiffer and more sore than he would have admitted to his father, but the fact that it was no longer splinted and bound made him feel like rejoicing.  He sobered, however, as he stopped before a small cottage and knocked on the door.

It opened and Annael’s mother stood before him. Without a word, he wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head.  He was visited suddenly by a vivid memory of Elowen kissing the top of his own elfling head to cure the hurt after he had bumped it.  He wished with all his heart that his kiss now could mend the pain that he knew this loving Elf must be feeling.

“I am so sorry,” he said. “I would have come sooner, but you know I could not.”

She pulled away and patted his cheek.  “I know.  And I thank you for what you said about Siondel at his funeral.  Come in, Legolas.” She drew him into the hallway, shut the door behind him, and then led him into the small sitting room.  Annael sat near the window, polishing a pair of boots.  And next to him, to Legolas’s surprise and dismay, sat Synia, with a book open on her lap. She had evidently been reading to Annael and Elowen when Legolas knocked.  He had not seen her since the night they had quarreled over her assumption that they would bond.

He could feel himself blushing and was grateful when Annael got up to clasp arms with him.  Legolas accepted the warriors’ greeting and then embraced Annael as he had his mother.  He had already sorrowed with Annael on the journey home from the settlement, so he contented himself now with this silent touch.

“Sit down, and I will make some tea,” Elowen said. “Synia, you are not going yet!  Please stay.  You have been so kind to read to us. Let me at least give you some tea.”

Legolas could see Synia glance at him, hesitate, and then give in.  She resumed her seat, carefully not looking at him.  He sat down on the other side of the room, but it was small enough that he could see that she was nervously clutching and releasing a fold of her skirt. Elowen left the room and, after a moment’s silence, Synia rose again.  “I should help with the tea,” she said and hastened toward the kitchen.

Annael had been quietly watching the proceedings.  “I take it that you and Synia are no longer seeing one another,” he observed rather dryly.

Legolas grimaced. “No, we are not,” he said but offered no explanation.

Annael shrugged.  “I told Beliniel that would happen.  She was matchmaking,” he added with a small smile and then looked down at the boot in his hand as if he had never seen it before.  Abruptly, he put it down.  “I am returning to training tomorrow,” he said.  “I need to be busy again.”

Legolas nodded.  “I am returning then too.  We can work together and let one another off easily.”  He hesitated.  “Can I do anything, Annael?  Anything at all?  You know what you and your family mean to me.  If you need anything, you have only to ask.”

Annael shook his head. “There is nothing you can do other than what you are doing now.”  He smiled briefly at Legolas again.  “I have to admit that in the first few hours, you were a comfort to me even when Eilian had drugged you.”  Legolas returned the smile, although his heart twisted at the pain in his friend’s eyes.  “I am worried about my naneth though,” Annael admitted.  “Beliniel will come to see her when she can, but she is busy with her teacher’s training too.”

Elowen came back into the room, followed by Synia carrying a tray with tea and bread and butter on it.   Legolas stood up to clear space on a table.  Synia put the tray down, and Elowen began to fuss with cups and plates.

“Elowen,” Legolas said, “Alfirin asked me to inquire if she could call on you tomorrow.  She will have Sinnarn with her,” he warned, well aware that his nephew was a somewhat demanding guest.

Elowen turned to him with a smile lightening the dark hollows under her eyes. “That would be nice,” she said.  “And you need not take that tone about Sinnarn, Legolas.  He is far less trouble than some other elflings I could name used to be.”

Legolas laughed and then flushed with pleasure when he saw the grateful look that Annael sent his way.  He was sure that Alfirin would be happy to visit with Siondel’s widow.  He just needed to remember to tell her that she was expected.

There was a short knock on the front door and then someone entered without waiting for it to be answered.  “It is only me,” Beliniel’s voice called, and an instant later, she came into the room.

Annael jumped to his feet and went forward to greet her with a kiss on the cheek.  “Come and have tea,” he urged, seating her near him and getting her food and drink.  Their faces glowed slightly as they looked at one another, and watching them, Legolas felt a sudden stab of loneliness.  They would wait until Annael was ready to think of the future instead of the past, he thought, and then they would announce their betrothal.

He glanced over at Synia to see her, too, watching Annael and Beliniel with a slightly wistful look on her face.  He grimaced and then rose and set his teacup on the table.  “I must be going now,” he said.  “I promised I would be back in time to rest before evening meal.  My adar seems to want to fuss over me now because he missed doing so last week.”

They all laughed, and Legolas rejoiced in the sound.  “You need fussing over,” Elowen said, coming to kiss his cheek.  “You may tell your adar I said so.”

“I will see you tomorrow,” Annael said, not getting up from his place next to Beliniel.

“Wait, Legolas,” Synia said suddenly. “I must be going too. I will walk with you.”

He hid his dismay behind a polite façade and waited for her to retrieve her book and kiss Elowen farewell.  Elowen showed them out and closed the door behind them.  They walked in silence for a moment or two, and then suddenly Synia laughed softly. “There will be grandchildren,” she said. “Elowen will like that.”

Legolas was startled.  Annael as a father: he found himself smiling at the thought even as he marveled at it.   “Annael will be every bit as good a father as Siondel was,” he declared, certain he was right, and she nodded.  They walked on a bit more, and Legolas found himself wondering if he might use this opportunity to try to smooth over the awkwardness between them, but he could not think of what to say.

“Legolas,” Synia began abruptly, “I wanted to say that I am sorry for our misunderstanding and to tell you that you do not have to worry that I will embarrass you.  I made a mistake.  I can see that now.” She was looking straight ahead, her mouth set in a determined line.

Legolas breathed a small sigh of relief.  “I am sorry too.  I do not want there to be enmity between us, Synia.  I simply do not want to bond.”

She grimaced. “I understand,” she said a little flatly. “You do not have to belabor the point.”

“Sorry,” he murmured unhappily.

Suddenly, she turned her face to smile at him.  “You sometimes have no tact at all, Legolas. It is a good thing that you are an excellent kisser.”  He could feel color rising in his face.  She laughed and stood on tiptoe to kiss him on the cheek and then turned to go down the path toward her own home, leaving him staring after her.


Legolas stepped forward, blocked the thrust of Elrál’s practice sword, and then shifted his weight backward and drew his sword free.  He could see Elrál’s sword coming up again, and he feinted at the other novice’s side and then drew back at the last minute, tapping his sword against Elrál’s forearm.

“Enough!” called Thelion.  “That one goes to Legolas.”

Elrál groaned slightly.  “I saw that coming.  I just did not react in time.  I should have stepped on your foot.”

Legolas grinned and then dragged his sleeve across his sweaty forehead. The afternoon had grown warm.  It was the end of his first full week back at training, and he was finding that this late in the day, his foot ached.  He would be glad when they were through.

“You may take a short rest before the last bout,” Thelion directed and then walked off to the edge of the field to confer with an Elf who had stood watching them for the last hour.  Legolas had seen him for the first time the day before at the archery fields, where Penntalion had been putting them through a speed archery drill.

“Do you know who that is?” he asked Annael, who had scooped a dipper of water from the bucket that stood near the rack of practice weapons.

Annael glanced over at Thelion and the strange Elf and shook his head. “I have never seen him before.”

“He has been watching you, Legolas,” Elrál told him quietly.

Legolas frowned at him.  “What do you mean?”

“I mean he is particularly interested in you and watches closely when you take your turn at whatever we are doing.”

Legolas turned to look uneasily at Thelion and the strange Elf.  He had learned early to be wary of people who were too interested in him.  His position as Thranduil’s son meant that such people were sometimes dangerous and often nuisances.  On the other hand, he trusted the blade master, and Thelion seemed friendly with the stranger.  Indeed, even as Legolas watched, the two of them began walking together toward the novices.

As they drew near, Legolas could see that the strange Elf was older, perhaps his father’s age.  And there was something about the way he moved that marked him immediately as a warrior, probably one with a great deal of experience.

“This is Beliond,” Thelion said casually.  “He is going to take a turn sparring with Legolas.”

Legolas blinked, and the other novices slid careful looks first at Beliond and then at Legolas.  Beliond walked to the rack of practice weapons and selected one of the blunted swords.  He turned and grinned at Legolas. “Shall we?” he said, gesturing toward the field.  Legolas looked at Thelion, seeking some kind of explanation, but the sword master only shrugged.  With trepidation beginning to tickle his consciousness, Legolas picked up his own practice sword and followed Beliond.  It was not that he lacked confidence in his own ability, but rather that he had no idea what in Arda this match was all about.

He took up his guard stance, mirroring Beliond, who was still grinning at him.  They circled warily for a moment, and then Legolas began to feel out the other warrior with a series of short slashes and thrusts.  Beliond parried easily and then stepped in to swing his own sword down and back across into a horizontal movement that was meant to disembowel an opponent in a real fight.  Legolas parried, feeling the force of Beliond’s blow all the way up his arm.  Yes, indeed, he thought in dismay. This one had had much experience. He settled down grimly, nettled by the smile that still sat on his opponent’s face.

The two of them battled for what seemed like at least half an hour, and to his chagrin, Legolas eventually found himself retreating under the older warrior’s relentless attack.  Then Beliond swiped at his legs, missed, and, without a second’s pause, brought his sword up to thrust at Legolas’s face.  Legolas’s sore foot suddenly betrayed him and he fell backwards.  He rolled hastily away and was on his feet again.

With irritation beginning to shade into anger, he swung his sword as hard he could at Beliond’s midsection.  Beliond leapt backward at the last minute, and Legolas followed up his advantage, cutting and thrusting.  He felt a moment of triumph as he swung the weapon in a vicious chop at Beliond’s shoulder, but Beliond brought his sword up in a smooth diagonal sweep, sidestepped to let Legolas’s sword slide past him, and then followed with a quick thrust that tapped Legolas lightly on the shoulder.

“Enough!” called Thelion.

Beliond stepped backward, breathing heavily. “You overextended,” he said.  “You let your emotions get the better of you and made yourself far too easy to draw into a mistake.”

Legolas stood panting, glaring at this stranger who was criticizing his swordwork.  Who was this Elf?

“We are done for the day,” Thelion intervened.  He motioned toward the other novices, who had watched the bout without a sound, as confused by Beliond’s unexpected appearance as Legolas was.  “Legolas is still needed here,” he said, “but the rest of you should put the equipment away.” They hesitated, apparently curious about what would happen now between Beliond and Legolas, who still stood regarding one another.

“Now,” Thelion said firmly and the novices began gathering the practice equipment and moving it to the hut where it was stored. Thelion lingered for a moment, eying the two warriors before him and looking unexpectedly amused.  Then he picked up his own gear and walked off the field, leaving them alone.

“You are quick in both hand and eye,” Beliond began. “Your footwork is a little uncertain, but I understand that you are recovering from an injury, so I would guess that is a temporary situation.”  Legolas narrowed his eyes.  He was beginning to have an inkling of what Beliond was doing here.  “To your trainer’s credit,” Beliond went on, “you have excellent technique, and to your own credit, you fight without fear. If you can learn to control your temper, and use your anger to defeat your enemy rather than yourself, you will become an adequate swordsman.  On the other hand, you are already an archer of exceptional skill.”  He smiled blandly. “I think that you and I will get along quite well.”

Legolas drew himself up to his full height, which was, he was pleased to note, at least two inches more than Beliond’s.  He looked coolly down his nose at the older warrior. “Allow me to guess,” he said.  “You have been assigned to act as my body guard when I join the king’s forces.”

Beliond raised an eyebrow at his imperious tone. “I was told that you and your brothers used the term ‘keeper’ in referring to the role I will fill,” he answered.

Legolas drew in a deep breath.  He had known, of course, that by their father’s orders, Eilian was always accompanied by Maltanaur in his postings.  He just had never thought about the fact that he would undoubtedly be assigned a keeper of his own.  He found, to his surprise, that he was trembling with anger.  “Excuse me,” he said, and then turned and began to stride toward Ithilden’s office, leaving Beliond watching his back.

After Legolas’s rather fuzzy-minded talk with Eilian, he had gradually resigned himself to the fact that he would not be going to the Southern Patrol at any time soon.  He had, however, held onto a hope that he would be allowed to serve in one of the Border Patrols, but he had hesitated to ask Ithilden anything further about where he planned to put him.  He did not want to look as if he were nagging, and he hoped that Ithilden would recognize his exceptional skills with weapons.  Ithilden was fair-minded.  Surely he would see that Legolas could be put to better use than the Home Guard.

With Beliond’s appearance, however, he had been forcibly reminded of the extent to which his family tended to try to protect him.  He had a sudden vision of his father wanting to tell the novice masters that Legolas should be treated gently. He would not have it, he decided.  He was no longer a child; he was a warrior and he would insist on being treated like one, if not by his father, then at least by his commander.  He had no hope of winning an argument with Thranduil over Beliond, but by now he had proved himself no child on the training fields and he intended to wring an acknowledgement of that fact from Ithilden.  His future might depend on his ability to do so.

He strode into the office where one of Ithilden’s aides sat. “Is my brother here?” he demanded, starting toward the open door to the inner office.

The aide looked ready to protest, but Legolas was through the doorway before he had time to say anything.  Ithilden looked up from the dispatch he was reading, his eyebrows raised in surprise.

“I want to speak with you,” Legolas said, his voice tight with fury.

Ithilden paused and then, with his face unreadable, he put the dispatch down and silently indicated the chair in front of his desk.  Legolas lowered himself stiffly into it.  He could hear the aide quietly closing the office door.

“I have come to ask you where you intend to post me once I have joined the warrior ranks,” Legolas announced without preamble.

Ithilden leaned back in his chair.  “I have not yet decided,” he said coolly.

Legolas snorted in disbelief.  “You will excuse me if I find that hard to believe.”  Ithilden’s face hardened at his tone, but Legolas forged on anyway.  “You will not say, but you are certainly contemplating putting little brother into the Home Guard.  So what is my fate to be, Ithilden?  Will I be guarding the door of my own home with a body guard at my side?”

Ithilden had straightened in his chair. “I have told you that I have not yet decided where you are to be posted and that is the truth,” he snapped, biting off each word.  “When I have decided, I will inform you, and you, as a warrior of the Woodland Realm, will serve your king faithfully wherever I send you, which is, by the way, exactly what Annael will do, only I do not see him in here making demands.  And in speaking of these matters, I am your commanding officer, Legolas, not your older brother, and I will be addressed with respect!”

Legolas knew that he was speaking intemperately, but he found that his anger was slow in leaving nonetheless.  “You know as well as I do that no matter what the issue, you are always my brother first and my commander second,” he said heatedly.  “I have spent years working hard to learn the skills I need to face the enemy.  And I am better with a bow than many of the warriors already on patrol and at least as good with a sword. I have earned the right to have my commander treat me like a warrior, not like a child in need of protection, and I resent being denied that right because my commander is also my brother.”

Ithilden’s hand came down on the desk with a loud crack.  “Be silent!” he ordered. “On your feet and at attention!”

With obedience born of long years of novice training, Legolas rose and stood stiffly, with his hands at his side, eyes straight in front of him, and, although it was difficult, his mouth clamped closed.  The officers he dealt with rarely called their warriors to attention, but when they did, they were usually ready to do damage and it was wisest to hold one’s tongue.  He had a fleeting thought that the moment at which he should have held his tongue was probably long past, but it was too late to change that now, and he was not certain that he cared.

Ithilden rose and came around the desk to stand directly in front of Legolas, only a foot or so away.  Legolas suddenly found that his brother seemed very large.  “So you feel that you have earned the right to be treated like a warrior?” Ithilden began, his voice low and unpleasantly amused.  “Just how is it you think you have done that, Legolas?  Weapons skills are necessary for a warrior, but they are far from enough. You have seen skirmishes, but you have never faced true battle, never had Orcs’ blood running up your arm, never seen warriors cut to pieces in front of you.  I have sent warriors to do those things and, when the time comes, I will send you too, but until you show me that you can behave with discipline and some sense of what real battle is like, do not tell me that you have no need to be protected.  I protect all new warriors to the extent that I can. I would be remiss in my duties if I did not.”  He paused and studied Legolas’s face with narrowed eyes.

“And while we are on the subject of whether I treat you like an adult, let me tell you that I occasionally have moments when I marvel at how mature you have become, followed closely by moments when I wonder how you could be so irresponsible that you would ride with your foot splinted or so spoiled that you would walk into your commander’s office and behave like a petulant child.”

Legolas could feel heat flooding his face. The accusation stung. He admired Ithilden and wanted his brother’s respect, and he did not like what he was hearing.

“As it happens,” Ithilden went on, “I am your brother and your commanding officer, and in both roles, I find your behavior unacceptable.”  He paused again, his eyes boring into Legolas’s face.  Legolas stood silently under Ithilden’s scrutiny, not meeting his eyes.

“I take it that you have met Beliond,” Ithilden said finally.

“Yes, my lord,” Legolas responded as tonelessly as he could.

Ithilden relaxed slightly, sitting back against the edge of his desk. “Beliond serves directly by the orders of the king,” he said, sounding marginally sympathetic.  “He can teach you a great deal if you are wise enough to learn, and, if he is anything like Maltanaur, he will keep most of what he sees to himself, but he cannot be dismissed save by the king’s command.  Get used to his presence because neither you nor I can do anything about it.”

“Yes, my lord.”

Ithilden sighed and ran his hand over his tightly braided hair.  “Legolas, sit down.”  Legolas hesitated and then subsided into the chair, suddenly miserable.  He had not helped his cause and had probably hurt it.

Ithilden eyed him. “Believe me,” he said, “I understand your fear that you will not be allowed to go into danger.  I feared the same thing myself.”  Legolas’s eyes flicked to him in incredulity, and Ithilden smiled slightly.  “Adar was every bit as protective of me as he is of you. You must remember I was his only child at the time.  All I can promise you is that I will listen to the novice masters when they recommend a post for you and I will do my best to treat you as I treat everyone else.”

“May I speak?” Legolas asked. His brother nodded.  “Then what I ask is that you remember what I can do with weapons and give me a chance to prove myself.  I need to be a warrior, Ithilden, not just Adar’s son.”

Ithilden grimaced. “I will be as fair as I can be. That is all I can promise.”  He regarded Legolas for a long moment.  “Legolas, I know that the last few weeks have not been easy for you.  Your injury was disorienting, and you mourn for Siondel.” Legolas looked down at his hands.  “Moreover, Adar has been hovering over you without cease since he came home,” Ithilden went on.  Legolas’s eyes came up swiftly and he caught the gleam of amusement in his brother’s eyes.  “He will get over it,” Ithilden advised.

Legolas smiled slightly.  “Will it be in this age?”

Ithilden laughed.  “I think so.” He regarded Legolas for a moment. “You may go,” he said finally, and Legolas stood and put his hand over heart in formal salute, but Ithilden reached out and clasped his arm.  Legolas felt absurdly grateful for the warrior’s token.

“I will see you this evening,” he said, and then left the office, pushing past the aide who discreetly ignored him. Once outside, he paused. He was reluctant to go home just yet, and without thinking, he sought the comfort of the woods.  He walked into the nearest part of the forest, leapt into a friendly beech tree, and then began to work his way through the tree tops until he was perhaps a mile from the palace and sheltered among the leaves of an oak that overlooked one of the forest paths.  He sat leaning back into the tree’s embrace.

He wished now that he had thought more carefully before barging into his brother’s office. At least he could be sure that Ithilden would not mention the incident at home.  His brother would undoubtedly see it as part of the work that he tried to leave at the training fields.  But he knew that both he and Ithilden would be aware of it nonetheless.  There were times when he hated the way that his family ties were entangled with those of ruling and command.

He had just reluctantly concluded that it was time to go home if he wanted to bathe before evening meal when he heard someone coming along the path.  The steps were too heavy to be those of an Elf, and he put his hand on the hilt of the knife that was concealed in his boot and waited with all his senses alert.  A grey-clad figure appeared below him, and suddenly, he grinned, released his hold on his knife, and dropped to the path directly in front of the approaching figure.

“Mae govannen, Mithrandir,” he said.

The wizard started slightly and then regarded him from under bushy eyebrows.  “Why, I do believe it is young Legolas.  You have grown considerably since the last time I saw you.”

“That was a number of years ago,” Legolas reminded him with a smile.  “May I carry your pack?” he asked politely.

“Yes, you may. I find I grow weary more easily these days.”  Legolas shouldered his pack, and the two of them began to walk toward the palace.  “Let me see, you must be a warrior by now.”

“Not quite,” Legolas told him.  “The ceremony is next month.”

“Ah,” Mithrandir nodded, “and what will you do then?”

“Whatever I am told,” Legolas said resignedly.

Mithrandir smiled rather thinly.  “That is true for most of us, young one.  But you need not sound so gloomy.  I am afraid that the Woodland Realm has need of all its warriors.  If it is adventure you seek, I fear you will soon find it.”

Legolas nodded.  He did not think he needed life changing adventure to make him happy. He simply did not want to stand guard duty at the palace for the rest of his life.

They walked across the bridge and up the steps to the Great Doors.  As they entered the antechamber, Thranduil came from the Great Hall.  “Mithrandir!” he cried. “Welcome!”

“My lord,” Mithrandir bowed his head.

“Come and have wine with me,” Thranduil said. “I will have the servants prepare your room.” He glanced at Legolas.  “You look tired, Legolas,” he observed.  “Why do you not rest for a while and join us later?”

With great difficulty, Legolas suppressed his exasperation and went along the corridor toward his chamber.

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