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When Shadow Touches Home  by daw the minstrel

Disclaimer: I borrow characters and settings from Tolkien but they belong to him. I gain no profit from their use other than the enriched imaginative life that I assume he intended me to gain.

Many thanks to Nilmandra for beta reading this chapter.


7. Going Home

Legolas crawled into the cave and crouched next to Annael. "Shhh!" commanded Turgon. "I hear the enemy nearby."

Legolas listened, but all he could hear was Annael's nana in the kitchen. He knew she was making bread because he could smell it. His stomach grumbled. Ada had made him eat four spoonfuls of the stew that had been put in front of him at mid-day, but he had not wanted anything more then.

Annael's nana was moving pans around with a metallic clink. "I hear their swords," Turgon proclaimed. "We should attack."

Annael's eyes grew wide. "Not really," he protested.

Turgon turned to him in disgust. "We are playing," he said, stressing the last word. He turned back and once again assumed his Orc expression. "Legolas, scout to see if the enemy is in sight."

Legolas picked up a corner of the blanket that they had dragged from Annael's bed into the sitting room and draped over three chairs to form their cave. He peered cautiously out and then ducked back in. "No one is there," he whispered and then giggled in excitement. He quickly put his hand over his mouth because, while he had never seen an Orc, he knew that they did not giggle.

"Get ready," Turgon ordered, and the three of them tensed. "Now!" shouted Turgon.

They erupted from the cave and ran out the sitting room door and down the hall to the kitchen, screaming all the way. They thundered into the room and surrounded Annael's nana, who looked at them with a rather strained smile. "Goodness," she said, "have the Orcs come again?"

"It is only us, Nana," Annael cried in glee. "Did you hear us coming?"

She laughed. "Yes, I did," she said. "Perhaps the three of you should try creeping up on your foe very, very quietly. Remember how Ada said that warriors have to be able to do that, so you should practice?"

Legolas had a sudden thought. "We should not be Orcs any more," he said. "We should be warriors like Eilian."

"Like my ada!" Annael agreed enthusiastically.

Turgon smiled. "I am getting a warrior's sword for my begetting day." Annael's nana shut her eyes for a moment.

"Remember to sneak up on me," she cautioned them as they started back toward the sitting room. Then she called, "Wait a moment, Legolas. Your shoe is untied." She crouched before him and tugged at the laces on his left shoe. She looked up at him and smiled. "There you are, sweetling."

He smiled slowly back at her. He liked Annael's nana and in truth did not mind Ada's new rule that he could only play with Turgon at Annael's cottage or in the palace. He did not even mind that freezing rain had driven them inside today. The inside of Annael's cottage was always warm and fragrant. He ran after his friends.

"This is a tent now, not a cave," he told Turgon and Annael when he crept back under the blanket. "My ada is a warrior, and he has a tent sometimes."

"Your ada is king," Turgon frowned.

"Yes, but he is a warrior too," Legolas insisted. "Everyone in my family is a warrior, and I will be one too. Orcs will run away from me." He was very pleased by this idea.

"Is my nana an Orc now?" Annael asked doubtfully.

Turgon looked at him pityingly. "We are playing," he repeated.

"We should protect Annael's nana from the Orcs," Legolas said seriously. "That is what warriors do."

Turgon sighed. "Very well," he said. "We will sneak into hiding places and guard her." They tiptoed out of the tent and took up positions in the hall. Legolas hid under a table.

Annael's nana came to the kitchen doorway. "If there are any mighty warriors hiding here, they should come into the kitchen for bread and jam now," she called. Legolas suddenly found that he wanted some of the good- smelling bread, and he jumped out from his hiding place so quickly that he hit his head on the sharp edge of the table. He put his hand to his head and tried not to cry.

"Did you hurt yourself, elfling?" Annael's nana asked sympathetically. She bent and kissed the place he had bumped. "Is that better?" she asked. He tested the spot judiciously and then nodded. Annael's nana had very powerful kisses. "Good," she said and led them to the table.

They scrambled into their places. Their plates each held a thick slice of bread, and a knife and glass of milk stood at each place. Annael's nana put a jar of strawberry jam in the middle of the table. She always remembered that they liked to put the jam on the bread themselves.

Turgon had the jam first and then passed it to Legolas. Legolas felt a little sorry for Annael, who had to go last because it was his cottage and that was only polite. He scooped a knifeful of the translucent red stuff onto his bread and spread it carefully so that it reached to the edges on all sides. He took another knifeful and then passed the jar to the patiently waiting Annael while he built up the thick layer of jam on his own bread. Sometimes, he only played with the jam and did not eat the bread, but today, he put the knife down, raised the bread, and took a large, sweet bite. As he sat contentedly chewing, some of the jam slid off his bread and onto his tunic. He scraped it carefully onto his finger and then sucked it off. He looked up to find Annael's nana watching him with a smile on her face. He did not know why she was smiling, but he smiled back at her.


"My lord," the Elf argued, "our Adar intended that jewel to belong to me. He told me so when he decided to sail west."

"You have no proof of that," said his brother in exasperation.

Thranduil slapped his hand down on the arm of his chair. "Enough!" he said. "I have heard enough. So far as I can see, neither one of you has any proof of what your adar's intentions were. The only thing that you have demonstrated with any certainty is that this argument is unseemly. I would admonish you to recall that you are of one family and that this trinket is trivial compared to that, but I do not think you would listen to me." The two Elves standing before him in the Great Hall both held their tongues, but they also both continued to look obstinate.

"I therefore declare that you shall share ownership of your adar's jewel," Thranduil went on. "You will trade possession of it for a month at a time. Neither of you may dispose of the jewel without the consent of the other."

The quarreling brothers both looked dismayed at his ruling, but they apparently knew better than to continue to argue. They bowed and left the hall, not looking at one another and keeping as much distance between them as they could.

"That is the last piece of business, my lord," his advisor told him, much to Thranduil's relief. He rose and started toward his own chamber, intending to rest before evening meal. Legolas was awakening him less often in the night, but he still was not sleeping well. He kept rolling over and finding empty space.

As he left the hall, he met Nimloth, wrapped in her cloak and just leaving the palace. "Good afternoon, my lord," she greeted him. "I was just going to fetch Legolas from Annael's."

"I will do it," Thranduil volunteered. Perhaps some outdoor exercise would be as useful as resting in dispelling his fatigue, he thought. Moreover, Eilian had been after him to spend more time with Legolas. He thought that Eilian was inclined to be too forgiving of Legolas's misbehavior, probably because he wanted his own misdeeds to be forgiven too. The two of them had quarreled over the subject of Legolas often enough now that Thranduil had forbidden Eilian's raising the subject again. But Thranduil had to agree that he had been spending less time than he would have liked with his youngest son, as the pressure of the Realm's needs continued to grow.

"Are you sure, my lord?" Nimloth asked.

"Yes," he answered. "Why do you not go home? I can manage Legolas for the rest of today." Gratefully, she started toward her own cottage while Thranduil fetched his cloak and started toward Annael's. He would take Legolas to his office, he thought, and write a letter to Ithilden while the child worked on the lesson he had refused to finish with his tutor that morning.

He strode through the chilly autumn afternoon, finding that he enjoyed the smell of the woods and river from which he had been shut away all day. The rain had stopped and, though the path was a bit muddy, the walk was still a pleasant one. It would be a clear, starry night, he thought. He felt a familiar stab of grief that Lorellin would not be there to share it with him.

The door of Annael's cottage was opened by his mother, who was wiping her hands on her apron. She had undoubtedly been expecting Nimloth and was surprised to find her king on her doorstep. "My lord," she gasped and then recovered herself. "Come in. Legolas is in the kitchen." She led him down the little hall to the kitchen doorway.

He stood in the doorway for a moment taking in the sight of his son holding a half eaten piece of jam-laden bread. Jam was also smeared on his face and appeared to be running down his chin. He was laughing at Annael and Turgon, who both had glasses of milk raised to their mouths and were blowing bubbles in them.

"Stop that, you two," Annael's mother reproved them lightly. "And you should stand up because the king is here."

Legolas looked up and saw him. "Ada!" he cried, jumping to his feet and running to throw his arms around Thranduil.

"Legolas, wait until I wipe your hands and face," Annael's mother said in dismay.

Thranduil laughed. "Too late," he said, examining the jam stains on the fine wool of his cloak. She made the effort anyway, using a wet cloth to wash the jam from his son.

"Are you walking me home, Ada?" Legolas asked, his delight at the idea obvious.

"Yes, I am, but perhaps you want to finish your bread first," Thranduil suggested. From the looks of him, Legolas was enjoying the jam, and the last thing Thranduil wanted was to stop him from eating.

"I have had enough," Legolas declared, to his father's disappointment.

"It is his third slice, my lord," Annael's mother said gently, observing the look on the king's face. Thranduil sent her a quick, grateful glance.

"Where is your cloak?" he asked Legolas, who ran to get it from Annael's room. Thranduil fastened it under the elfling's chin and then bent to whisper in his ear. "What do you say?"

Legolas turned to Annael's mother. "Thank you," he said. "I had a lovely time." Thranduil suppressed a surprised snort. It was the phrase Lorellin had always used when they had been guests at formal parties. "Goodbye," Legolas called to his friends. "I will see you tomorrow." And he skipped happily toward the door.

Annael's mother walked toward the door with them. "I am sorry about the jam on your cloak, my lord," she apologized.

He turned toward her. "There is no need to apologize," he told her. "Rather, I thank you for your care of my son." He smiled at her warmly, and she responded in kind and then closed the door behind them.

Legolas took his hand as they started up the path. "We played Orcs again," he said. Thranduil braced himself for some new outrage. "But then we decided to be warriors like Eilian," Legolas went on. Thranduil contemplated the implications of that and put them aside for the moment, grateful that at least Legolas had rejected his Orc role. He hoped that was a permanent state of affairs.

"Ada," Legolas asked excitedly, "can we go and see if there is ice on the pond? It is on the way home."

Thranduil raised one eyebrow. The pond was on the way home only if one took an extremely long way around. "The ice will certainly not be thick enough yet for anyone to walk on," he told his son, worried about misadventures on the ice.

"But please can we go and look?" Legolas begged.

Thranduil hesitated. By rights, he should take Legolas home to complete his unfinished lessons. But he suddenly remembered an occasion on which Lorellin had dragged him away from work to go with her and Legolas to see if the forget-me-nots had bloomed yet. How long had it been since he had done something playful? he wondered.

"Very well," he said. "But if we do, do you promise to finish your lessons as soon as we get home?"

"I promise," Legolas said, a little too promptly for his father's liking. Thranduil resisted the tug on his hand by which Legolas was trying to draw him down the path that would take them toward the pond.

"A promise is a serious thing, Legolas," he warned. "Be sure you mean what you say before you give one."

Legolas stopped pulling on his hand for a moment and appeared to be considering. "I promise I will do the lessons," he said more soberly.

"Good," said Thranduil, with an approving smile. "Let us go and inspect the pond."

They walked among pale birches whose yellow leaves had already fallen, crossed the path that led to Thranduil's stables, and finally came to the pond. A light skin of ice had begun to form in the last two days, but it had not covered the whole pond and was, as yet, only a hint of the thick covering that would form as winter closed in. Legolas immediately began picking up sticks of various sizes and tossing them out onto the ice to see if it would hold them. Thranduil stood watching his small son play, rejoicing in the pleasure the child was taking in the moment and glad that he had agreed to make the side trip to the pond.

The sound of approaching horses drew his eyes to the path. A group of warriors came into sight, and to his surprise, he recognized Ithilden at their head. Upon seeing his father, Ithilden raised his hand to halt his warriors and flashed a grin at Thranduil. Then he turned and said something to the aide next to him. Thranduil realized that one of the warriors was Maltanaur and that, although he rode on his own, he was obviously hurt, for he was hunched over and Elves kept close to him on either side as if to be sure that he did not tumble from his horse. He started to walk rapidly toward the group, just as the other warriors rode off toward the infirmary and Ithilden began walking his horse toward him.

"Ithilden!" shouted Legolas, who had suddenly become aware of the warriors. He ran toward his older brother with his arms raised. "Lift me up," he commanded. He was usually allowed to ride in front of his father and brothers if he came upon them riding toward home. Ithilden reached a hand down and Thranduil bent to boost Legolas onto the horse in front of his brother.

"Wait!" said Legolas suddenly. "I am walking home with Ada." He frowned, obviously torn.

Ithilden laughed. "Are you? We cannot disrupt that then." He slid from the horse and into his father's embrace.

"I am very glad to see you, in-nn," Thranduil said, keeping his arms around Ithilden for a second longer than usual. He had not needed the sight of the wounded Maltanaur to remind him that Ithilden had been in a very dangerous place.

"And I you, Adar," his oldest son told him. Perhaps Ithilden too had been feeling the danger, Thranduil thought, for he looked unusually grateful for Thranduil's greeting

Then his oldest son scooped his little brother up and set him on the horse's back. "You ride my horse, little one, and Ada and I will both walk with you." Legolas's face lit up and he dug his hands into the horse's mane. Ithilden whispered in the animal's ear and the horse snorted gently and began to walk docilely along with Thranduil on one side and Ithilden on the other, keeping a hand on his neck.

"How is Maltanaur?" Thranduil asked, trying to keep his question vague enough that Legolas would not be disturbed.

"Not too bad, I think," Ithilden answered. "He has a deep cut. He needs a healer and some time to rest, but then he should be fine." Legolas was ignoring them and gabbling happily to Ithilden's horse who was twisting his ears in response.

"How long do you plan to be home?" Thranduil asked.

Ithilden hesitated. "I am not sure," he said. "I need to talk to you about recruiting and arming more warriors." Thranduil nodded. Ithilden's dispatches had already made it clear that they needed to create some plan to expand the Realm's forces. They had reached the stables, and Thranduil lifted a reluctant Legolas down from the horse which was now being fussed over by one of the stablemasters.

"Tell Ada he needs to get you a pony," Ithilden murmured in the child's ear just loudly enough for Thranduil to hear, and Legolas turned to his father excitedly.

"I do need a pony, Ada," he cried. "A warrior should have a horse."

"We will talk about it," Thranduil told him, shooting a reproving look at Ithilden, who laughed and looked completely unrepentant. They started toward the palace, with Legolas running ahead.

"He is big enough for a pony, you know," Ithilden said mildly.

"Yes, I believe you are right," Thranduil admitted. "I have been so busy that I have not had time to notice."

"I have news, too, Adar," Ithilden said in a more serious tone. "I have drawn the Southern Patrol back north of the Dwarf Road. I have concluded that you were right: the road is a lost cause."

"I think that is a wise decision," Thranduil nodded, watching Legolas drop a stick off the upstream side of the bridge leading to the palace and then run to the downstream side to see it emerge.

"Also," Ithilden said, stopping to be sure they were still out of Legolas's hearing, "I received word two days ago of Orcs attacking and burning a homestead about twenty leagues southwest of here." His eyes on Thranduil's face were anxious. "There were no survivors."

"Who lived there?" Thranduil asked, wondering if his son's concern meant that the slain Elves were dear to him personally rather than in the way that all of his people were dear.

"An Elf named Voniel and his family."

Thranduil searched his memory and recalled an independent minded forester who had been one of the earliest to move far from the palace after Sauron had been driven from Dol Guldur. He had not even wanted to live with a group of others in a settlement as Celuwen's family did. "I am sorry," Thranduil sighed. "I am afraid that the homesteaders are going to have to move closer to the palace, however. It is unreasonable of them to think that we can possibly protect them all with things as they are."

Ithilden blinked at him. "You think it cannot be done," he said, as if he were confirming something.

Thranduil was puzzled. "I think not," he agreed. "No one could do more than you and your warriors are doing, and even you cannot stop the spread of danger."

Ithilden drew a deep breath.

"Ada! Ithilden! Look at me!" called Legolas.

They turned to see him crouching on the bridge's handrail. When they looked at him, he let go of the handrail, stood up, and ran along the rail. One of the guards from the palace doors had moved within reach of him, but he was sure-footed enough that there seemed no danger of his plunging into the river. He grinned at them in triumph.

"Time to get down now," Thranduil called and strode toward him. He knew that Legolas was as sure-footed as all Wood-Elves were, but he still flinched at seeing him in any sort of danger. He would have to watch himself, he thought. It would be very easy to become over protective of this last child.

The three of them walked together into the palace and entered the family's private quarters where they met Eilian just coming from his chamber. "Ithilden," he said in surprise. He hesitated for a second, and Thranduil could see the cautious look on Ithilden's face. Thranduil had forgotten that these two had evidently parted on bad terms. Then Eilian walked toward them and clasped his brother's arm. "It is good to see you," he said and drew him close.

Ithilden visibly relaxed. "You look well. I hear good things about your performance in the Home Guard."

Eilian smiled at him blandly, and Thranduil groaned inwardly. So Eilian was still harboring hopes of escape from the Home Guard. Ithilden could deal with him, Thranduil thought, but a family quarrel was probably on the horizon.

Thranduil's gaze settled on Legolas, who was tugging at the closure on his cloak. Thranduil moved to help him unfasten it and the handed it and his own jam-smeared cloak to a servant who cautiously inspected the stains. Thranduil considered the child for a moment. He wanted to get as much information as he could from Ithilden before evening meal, but the conversation was one for which he did not want Legolas to be present.

"Legolas," he said, "you go to the library with Eilian and finish your lessons. Ithilden and I need to talk a little."

Legolas opened his mouth to protest and shut it again. Thranduil smiled to himself. He could almost see his youngest son recalling his promise. Eilian made a face and took Legolas's hand. "Come along, brat," he said. "We elflings will go do lessons while the grown ups talk." Thranduil threw him a sharp look but he appeared to be joking.

"Do warriors have to add numbers?" Legolas could be heard asking plaintively, as the two of them disappeared into the library. Thranduil did not hear Eilian's answer. He hoped it was yes.

"Go and get rid of your weapons and cloak," he told Ithilden, "and then come to my office. We have time to talk."

In his office, Thranduil set wine to warm near the fire so they would be able to ward off the late afternoon chill. He turned when his son entered the room. He had something unpleasant to say before the two of them sat and discussed what Ithilden had seen in the last few weeks.

"Before you begin your report," Thranduil said sternly, "there is one thing I wish to say. You had no right to countermand my orders that Maltanaur should stay with Eilian. He should have come home when Eilian did."

There was a moment's silence. "I judged that he would be useful where he was, and as it happens, he saved my life," Ithilden answered evenly.

Thranduil regarded him with dismay and then moved forward to embrace him. "Then I am most grateful to him, in-nn," he said, knowing that his voice had suddenly gotten husky, "for I could not have born to lose you."

To his surprise, his tall, serious son actually rested his head on Thranduil's shoulder for a moment. "Adar," he said, "you cannot imagine how happy I am to be home." He drew a deep breath and then suddenly smiled at his father. "As it happens, however, I have decided that you are right about Maltanaur, and I intend to assign him to serve next to Eilian from now on." He picked up the wine, poured some for both Thranduil and himself, and, at his father's invitation, sat down with his wine in his hand and a very satisfied look on his face.


Eilian took Celuwen's hand as the door to her uncle's cottage closed behind them. They began to walk toward the palace. It was growing too cold to spend much time out of doors at night, and he wanted more privacy than the shadows of the trees provided anyway. Her uncle's cottage was always crowded, but he suspected that by now, his family's sitting room would be empty. Thranduil had been getting ready to put Legolas to bed when Eilian had left to get Celuwen, and he and Ithilden would probably talk in his father's sitting room afterwards so that he would hear Legolas if he awoke with a nightmare. Eilian had briefly considered taking her to his own chamber, but he had no separate sitting room and his father would be livid if he thought that Eilian had compromised Celuwen's honor in any way.

They passed a group of Elves going in the other direction. "Hello, Eilian," called a feminine voice.

He waved in the general direction of the voice but said nothing. A small smile appeared on Celuwen's face. "Is that someone I should know about?" she asked.

He thought for a moment and then grinned. "No," he said blithely. She laughed.

"Eilian," she said, her voice growing more serious, "we have heard a rumor that I want to ask you about."

"Yes?" he was surprised.

"They say that warriors who returned with Ithilden today are talking of a homestead being burned. Is that true?" She was clearly worried.

"I do not know," he answered slowly. "Ithilden would probably not tell me directly about something like that. He would tell Deler, and Deler would tell us warriors tomorrow morning when the day's patrols were being assembled."

Her brow was furrowed. "They say it was Voniel's home," she said. "I know those Elves. That homestead is not far from the settlement, and they sometimes come to trade. And my adar is still there, you know."

Eilian's hand tightened its grip on hers. "That settlement is a dangerous place," he told her emphatically.

She raised her eyebrows at him. "All of the Woodland Realm is dangerous," she said simply. "But we cannot let that drive us from the woods."

He bit his tongue. He did not want to argue with her about this, and, so far as he knew, she had no plans to return to the settlement anyway. He wished he knew what her plans were though. For that matter, he wished he knew what his plans were. With Ithilden home, he could begin maneuvering for a return to the Southern Patrol, which he knew he wanted. But he also wanted Celuwen in every possible way and had begun to fantasize that they might be able to be bonded even if he did return south. Visits home would be unimaginably sweet with her waiting there for him. He drew her arm through his and kept his eyes on the narrow path they trod.


Thank you to all reviewers, whether at,, or my email. I love hearing your reactions to the chapters.

Wild Iris: Maltanaur's sacrifice did touch Ithilden, but it does not seem to have made him desire the brave warrior's permanent company!

Karen: Ithilden is having a hard time seeing Eilian straight. Even Thranduil has that problem, I think, although in some ways, Eilian's brother and father know him better than anyone else does.

Kay: Thranduil tries to teach Legolas that promises are serious. For Celuwen's sake, I hope he taught Eilian that too.

TreeHugger: Legolas is trying to wise up in his own kid-specific way, which is an enormous amount of fun to write about. I can see why you like to write about the Tricksy Trio.

TigerLily: I picture Ithilden as self-confident to the point of arrogance. I think cockiness is probably a common Elven vice.

Karri: Eilian is still very young by Elven standards. I think he has a way to go before he convinces his father and older brother than he is a fully trustworthy adult.

Naneth: I missed Legolas and Thranduil in the last chapter too, so in this one, there's lots of them. It's a delicate business trying to make the characters of Eilian and Ithilden grow to be what appears in my other stories set later in Legolas's life.

Bryn: You *think* Eilian has kept his shirt intact but he is being pretty discreet. ;-) One of the most enjoyable things to try to write is a scene where the characters are oblivious but the readers understand. I love it when it comes off.

JustMe: Ithilden is such a big brother! What a pain it is for Eilian that he's also the commanding officer. Adar and the brat are making some progress too, I think.

Lamiel: I'm actually a little self-conscious about all OC chapters and am happy when I get to one like this one. But it's also true that I love my OCs. I'm just not sure how a chapter about them would stand up to the arguments about what constitutes fan fiction.

Feanen: Thank you. I hope you like this chapter too.

PokethePenguin: Legolas is gradually learning to enjoy life again, but he's not completely out of the woods yet. He's an elf and they feel deeply.

Alice: I think Celuwen is very smart and strong too. She could probably manage Eilian quite nicely if events would ever allow them some peaceful time together.

Veryawen: I think you're perceptive to say that Eilian seems lonely. He keeps busy so he doesn't always notice. And he's an affectionate guy, witness his treatment of Legolas, so it's sad.

Dot: Ithilden is, not surprisingly, coming to his sensible self. Thank goodness. An amok Ithilden is a scary thing. He is not usually one to let his feelings run away with him. Now Eilian can do that, which is both what makes him loving to the brat and a scary person to be courting Celuwen.

Caz-baz: Brothers are probably genetically programmed to kill sisters! And I think Celuwen is very good for Eilian.

Erunyauve: I think the elves of Greenwood have had a terrible time watching the shadow rise and fall and rise again. It must be dreadful to think you've defeated evil, only to have it sweeping over you again and feel helpless to stop it.

Fadesintothewest: Romance is probably not going to be entirely smooth, but, the Valar willing, life is long for an elf.

Tapetum Lucidum: "Please don't kill him." Why do you people suspect me? I haven't killed anyone (except bad guys) since Turgon!

Orangeblossom Took: Legolas seriously needs to have someone from his family spend large amounts of time with him. In the meantime, Annael's nana is nice to be around!

JastaElf: I loved writing the stuff about Ithilden coming quietly to pieces. He's so controlled that it was tough, but I was pleased by how it turned out.

Gwyn: You're scaring me, talking about Legolas having to harden in order to heal. I think his family is about ready to give him some attention, now that some of them have started to heal a little themselves.

Bluebonnet: I think it must have been a shock for Ithilden to admit that so much is out of his control. And not to worry, Eilian is never going to be completely without that reckless streak.

Nilmandra: I'm working on Legolas and Thranduil, but it's not easy! Actually, I'm finding it harder to write about healing than about the turmoil they've been in.

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