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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.
AN: The author alert at ff.net did not work for chapter 9, I think. So if you rely on it, you may have missed that chapter.
Eilian rode with his bow in his hand, as did Gelmir on his left and Maltanaur just behind him. There had been some desultory chatter as they had left home, but they had all shifted into guarded alertness automatically once they had entered the deeper parts of the forest. Eilian felt every one of his senses stretch to maximum alertness, and as the potential for danger increased, his body sang with the knowledge of his own aliveness. At the front of the line of warriors, Ithilden raised his hand to call a temporary halt. Eilian could see him consulting with Elorfin, who pointed off toward the west.
“I still cannot believe that you managed to talk Ithilden into letting us come on this mission,” Gelmir commented softly.
Eilian smiled slightly, still scanning the woods around them. “I had nothing to do with it. He must have changed his mind about me on his own.” He was feeling deeply grateful to his brother today. It must have been difficult for him, he thought.
Gelmir grinned. “As well he should. You have been behaving yourself admirably since that night in the grove. I blame Celuwen.” Eilian laughed.
Ithilden raised his arm again and they were back in motion. They rode until late in the afternoon and were picking their way through a dense growth of trees when an Elf dropped down from a branch and landed in front of them. “Welcome back, captain,” he greeted Elorfin.
“Mae govannen,” Elorfin greeted him. “It is good to be back.” They advanced into the campsite, dismounted, and began to sort themselves out. Eilian stored his gear next to Gelmir’s and looked curiously around at the Border Patrol camp. He had never served in the Border Patrol, but he knew most of these warriors nonetheless.
“Eilian,” one of them now greeted him. “What brings you here, with reinforcements and the troop commander, no less?”
“Hello, Galorion,” Eilian clasped arms with the Elf. “I think you are about to find out.”
Ithilden stood in the center of the camp and without his having to call for attention, everyone present focused on him. How does he do that? Eilian wondered but gave his attention as Ithilden began to speak. “Mae govannen, fellow warriors. I come to you today to ask you to undertake a mission for the next week or two that will be dangerous but not beyond the ability of this group, who have protected the borders of the Realm with such zeal and skill. Elorfin tells me that you have met an increased number of Orcs in recent weeks.” He grinned at them, and Eilian was suddenly reminded of an animal baring its teeth. “I think it is time we put a stop to that. Do you not agree?”
He glanced around. To a one, the warriors in the campsite wore looks that echoed Ithilden’s. Eilian blinked. He had never seen Ithilden getting troops ready for battle before, and he had to admit he was impressed.
“We will send out scouts as soon as darkness approaches,” Ithilden went on. “Sleep now. Tonight we will start to take this part of the Realm back into our own hands.” And he put his hand over his heart and saluted them. Every warrior in the camp returned the salute.
Like the warriors around him, Eilian dropped down onto his bedroll and stretched out. Ithilden was right, of course; he should sleep, but he found that he was too keyed up. He had forgotten how exhilarating it was to know that he was about to rush to the edge of safety, reach over it, and draw back at the last second, with those that he loved a little more secure because he had done so. Deliberately, he slowed his breathing and relaxed his taut muscles. Against all odds, he slept.
He woke to the sound of people beginning to stir again in the camp. He stretched and then sat up. To one side, he could see Ithilden and Elorfin. Ithilden had drawn out his battered map, and the two of them now looked at it.
Gelmir stirred next to him. “What does Ithilden have on that map, anyway?”
“Information on which you can be sure he is basing plans,” Eilian answered. “My brother places a great deal of trust in plans.”
“Do the Orcs know that?” Gelmir asked doubtfully.
Eilian glanced at Ithilden’s serious face, visible in profile. “It does not do to underestimate Ithilden,” he said. “Plans or no plans, I suspect that any Orcs that have encountered him have regretted it.”
“That I believe,” Gelmir agreed. The two of them got to their feet and wandered toward the campfire, where dishes of stew were being distributed. Eilian took some and ate because he knew he needed to rather than because he was hungry. He could feel his excitement beginning to rise again.
Ithilden looked up and scanned the campsite. “Gelmir,” he called. Gelmir started toward him. Ithilden scanned further and summoned three other warriors. Eilian blinked. What was going on? He watched as his brother and Elorfin conferred with the small group. The four warriors broke into pairs and went to gather their weapons.
“What is happening?” Eilian asked Gelmir.
Gelmir looked apologetic. “We are being sent out to scout,” he said. Then he shouldered his bow and ran to join the Elf with whom he had been partnered. They leapt into the trees and were gone.
Eilian stood stock still, hardly able to believe what had just happened. He whirled and started toward Ithilden, who had turned to confer again with Elorfin, only to find Maltanaur blocking his way. “Not now,” he said in a voice pitched only for Eilian’s ears.
Eilian tried to push past him. “Did you see that?” he demanded. “What does he think he is doing?”
Maltanaur kept himself firmly planted between Eilian and his goal. “He thinks he is commanding this mission, and he also undoubtedly thinks that warriors who serve under him should not approach him in public to tell him that they disagree with his decisions. In case it has not occurred to you, that would include you.”
Eilian snorted. “You know that particular decision had nothing to do with me being a warrior serving under him and everything to do with me being his ‘irresponsible’ younger brother who needs to be ‘protected’ from his own rashness.” His voice was bitter even to his own ears.
“That may be,” Maltanaur agreed, “and you may want to talk to him, but now is not the time. And when you do it, do it in private. Unless, of course,” he added, “you want to prove him right about your rashness.”
Looking over Maltanaur’s shoulder, Eilian could see his brother brooding quietly over his map. His face was shuttered and unapproachable, and abruptly, Eilian remembered the weight of responsibility under which he had seen Ithilden struggling when they had argued in the south. Reluctantly, he stepped back. “Very well,” he said. “I will bide my time, but this is not the end of the matter.” He went back to his bedroll, flung himself on it, and tried to remind himself that there were better targets for his anger at the moment than Ithilden.
Time passed with agonizing slowness, and the excitement he had been feeling made itself known now as edginess. A full three hours passed before one of the scouting teams returned with nothing to show for their search. Eilian held his tongue with difficulty. He could not help but feel that if he had been scouting, he would have found something. So far as he could tell, few other Elves could listen to the forest the way he could. It had occasionally occurred to him that this was one of the consequences of being Thranduil’s son, for he knew that his father had a mystical connection to his woods, but Eilian had never voiced that theory to anyone.
Eilian had just begun to give up hope of seeing any action this night when Gelmir and his partner came sprinting back into the campsite, excitement written plain on their faces. Around him, warriors immediately began to stir. Grabbing his bow, Eilian leapt to his feet and moved with the others toward Ithilden in time to hear Gelmir’s report. “We found a large band. About seventy, I would say, half of them archers.” He glanced at the other scout, who nodded confirmation. “They are east about two leagues, going northwest.”
“Show me on the map,” Ithilden ordered. Gelmir paused a moment and then pointed. Ithilden smiled grimly. “Good,” he said. “There is a nice ridge running perpendicular to the direction they are taking.” He looked up. “I want us moving out in two waves,” he said. “The first wave should get far enough ahead that the Orcs will pass between them and the second wave. Then we drive the Orcs toward the ridge, picking off as many as we can along the way. You,” he indicated a group of half a dozen or so warriors, “go around and get on top of the ridge so that when the Orcs come up against it, you are ready for them. Our objective is to kill all of them. Even one or two can do a lot of damage to one of the homesteads. Any questions?” No one spoke. These were experienced warriors who needed little guidance, and they were away into the trees within a very short time.
Eilian was assigned to the first group, led by Elorfin, and, with Maltanaur by his side, he leapt through the branches until the captain signaled a halt. Eilian liked Ithilden’s plan and now that they were about to engage the enemy, his resentment of his brother’s highhandedness had faded, and he could once again feel his excitement rising and his focus narrowing so that all of his attention was on this moment.
The group spread out and settled down to wait, with Eilian near Elorfin at the point they believed the Orcs would pass first. Suddenly, Eilian tensed and glanced back slightly over his left shoulder. And he knew as certainly as if he had seen them that the Orcs’ course had shifted so that they would now pass behind this group of Elves unless they moved quickly. He glanced at Elorfin and found that the captain was watching him. Urgently, Eilian pointed behind them. Elorfin hesitated for only a second before giving a series of bird signals and then rising to lead his group to another position some distance further on. Here they waited only briefly before they heard the unmistakable sound of Orcs moving through the woods. Then the beasts began to appear, first singly and in pairs, and then in a mass swarming below them.
Eilian’s hand tightened on his bow where an arrow was already nocked, but he made no move. At this end of the line of Elves, Elorfin would wait until he was sure that the whole group had passed into range before he would signal for the attack to begin. Just when Eilian thought he would burst from the tension, Elorfin sounded the bird call and the Elves rose and began to fire. Eilian was relieved to see arrows raining onto the Orcs from the trees opposite too, for that meant that the other group had heard and understood Elorfin’s command to move their lines.
As he had been trained to do, Eilian aimed first for any Orc archer within sight. Then he began firing at their swordsmen, who were no match for Elven archers in the trees but who could work terrible harm to a place like Celuwen’s settlement. Gradually, the Elves closed ranks behind the Orcs and began to drive them forward. As he began to move after them, Eilian caught sight of an Orc archer who had taken up a position behind some rocks that seemed impervious to the assaults of his fellow warriors. He began to circle around behind the rocks to see if he could get an angle on the archer and suddenly, from the corner of his eye, he saw one of the Elves on the other side of the battlefield fall to the ground. He immediately realized that the fallen warrior was Gelmir.
Eilian froze. For a second, he considered jumping to the ground and trying to hack his way through the Orc swordsmen to reach his friend, but with painful certainty, he recognized the idea for the ill-advised impulse that it was. He had a sudden vision of Legolas weeping in his father’s stables and then of Celuwen, and with every ounce of self-control he possessed, he held his position. To his immense relief, Ithilden suddenly appeared, directing two Elven warriors from Gelmir’s group who were now on the ground seizing him, with two more archers standing in the trees over them, firing arrows to keep the Orcs away. The Elves on the ground vanished into the trees again, with Gelmir between them. Ithilden looked up and their eyes met briefly before he turned to call another order to his troops.
Eilian resumed circling toward the Orc archer who was wreaking such havoc. With patient care, he slipped among the branches until he found himself looking down through a gap in the rocks at the Orc, who was just drawing his bow again. Eilian fired an arrow through the gap and into the back of the Orc’s neck. He waited only long enough to be sure his target would fall before moving forward in pursuit of the Orc’s now fleeing comrades.
The remaining Orcs had reached the ridge, where they should have been cringing away from arrows flying at them from above. Instead, they had their backs to the ridge and were making a stand, seemingly with impunity. With a sinking heart, Eilian realized that the Elves who had been ordered to take up a position atop the ridge had not heard the signals indicating that the Orcs’ course had changed.
The two groups of Elves had now merged, and Ithilden was suddenly next to him. “Go around to the right,” he ordered. “We need to surround them and stop them from slipping away.” Eilian nodded and began to work his way toward his right, dodging Orc arrows as he went and firing back when he could.
Maltanaur had now caught up with him and grabbed at his sleeve. “The one sheltering behind that fallen tree looks to be their leader,” he said, and indeed the Orc he was indicating did seem to be calling orders, as well as emerging from cover occasionally to take a shot at the Elves. As he did so now, Maltanaur drew and fired, but at this distance, it was easy for the Orc to see the incoming arrow and dodge. Several other Orcs surrounded the leader, evidently guarding him. They now launched arrows at Maltanaur, and he and Eilian quickly changed position.
“Keep watch for me,” Eilian told him. “I will see if I can lure him out.” He rose and took aim at one of the guards, making sure that the Orcs saw him. Then he ducked for cover, moved a few yards to his left and repeated the action, aiming for the same guard, but not releasing the arrow. His breath was coming fast. This maneuver was effective but dangerous because it required him to narrow his focus and thus made him vulnerable to arrows from Orcs he was ignoring. Maltanaur’s job was to protect him by firing enough arrows that the other Orcs could not take a good shot at him, but they both needed to concentrate on what they were doing. A flicker of movement from the Orc leader caught his eye, and for the third time, he stood and aimed at the guard. Then he swiveled at the waist and loosed his arrow at the Orc leader.
“Got him!” Maltanaur cried and, wasting no time, they both jumped out of the way of the arrows the guards were now sending their way. In their new position, Maltanaur slapped Eilian on the back and laughed. “You see? Patience pays,” he crowed.
Eilian laughed too and then turned his attention back to the Orcs. Suddenly he became aware of a new element in the battle. Arrows were raining down on the Orcs from overhead. The Elves on the ridge had apparently heard the fight and were now joining in. Within minutes, the battle was over, and Elves were moving to the ground to check on their victims, tend their own wounded, and retrieve their arrows.
Eilian was unable to find Gelmir among the wounded at the battlefield, for he had been among the first to be moved back to their camp. He found his friend lying near the fire with his leg being bandaged by another warrior. “How bad is it?” Eilian demanded.
“Not very,” Gelmir answered, rather more weakly that Eilian would have liked. “The arrow lodged in my calf. Now that it is out, I think the worst is over.” Eilian grimaced. He had had an arrow removed from a wound more than once and had never found the experience pleasant. Gelmir’s eyes were slipping out of focus, and Eilian realized he must have been given a sleeping draught. He patted his friend’s shoulder and then went to his bedroll to shed his weapons and fling himself down on his blanket in exhaustion.
“Good work tonight,” Ithilden called from the center of the camp. “Sleep well. You have earned it.” Eilian watched his brother through narrowed eyes. Now that the excitement of battle was over, he recalled his resentment of Ithilden’s treatment of him. Tomorrow he would speak to his brother. They had wasted several hours tonight waiting for scouts to find something. He had no intention of letting that happen again.
Eilian ate the dried venison with one eye on Ithilden, who was talking to Elorfin. As soon as Elorfin walked away, he swallowed the last of his tea and then walked toward his brother. “May I speak to you?” he asked, conscious of the fact that, despite his best efforts, his voice sounded challenging.
Ithilden studied him, his face impassive. “Perhaps it would be best if we walked off a bit?” he asked, and Eilian nodded. The two of them strolled into the woods, staying within the sentry line but moving out of view of the others in the camp.
Eilian opened his mouth to begin but Ithilden forestalled him. “Elorfin and Maltanaur have both approached me to tell me how well you fought last night,” he said. He looked off into the trees. “I was, quite frankly, a bit concerned about the maneuver you carried out against that Orc leader near the end of the battle. It seemed unnecessarily risky to me, but Maltanaur reminded me that it is taught to novices and pointed out that you carried it out with exemplary care.” He grimaced. “Has it occurred to you that your keeper is occasionally rude?” he asked, looking back at Eilian, with dry humor in his grey eyes.
Eilian found it difficult to respond with equal lightness. “Ithilden, why did you not send me as a scout last night?”
Ithilden sobered. “It is not your place to question my decisions,” he responded brusquely.
“It is my place,” Eilian insisted angrily, “when it is obvious that you are acting as my brother rather than as my commanding office and that your doing so cost us time last night.”
“I have no idea what you mean,” Ithilden snapped, “and I suggest you guard your tongue.”
Eilian took a deep breath and tried to make his tone of voice as respectful as he could. “Ithilden, when Legolas begged you to keep me home, you said it would be wrong to keep me safe when other warriors were taking risks. Do you really believe that, or was that just talk? Do you really think I am not able to be careful? Was I careless last night?” They stared into one another’s eyes.
“My lord?” said a tentative voice. They turned to find Elorfin standing nearby. “You said you wanted to speak to the wounded before they were sent home. They are ready to go now.” Ithilden nodded once and set out after him immediately, leaving Eilian in frustrated solitude.
He returned to camp to find Gelmir napping on the next bedroll, his wound having been judged insufficiently serious to require transport home, although it was going to render him unable to fight for a night or two. He turned his head as Eilian lay down next to him, intending to rest while he could. “You are wearing your ‘I have been arguing with Ithilden again’ look,” he observed. “Did it do any good?”
Eilian snorted. “Does it ever?”
Gelmir thought. “Once when were about forty, you talked him out of telling your adar that we had been out all night. That is the last successful argument I remember you having with him. Also the first,” he added.
Eilian grinned reluctantly and lay down. He tried to rest but he could not keep his eyes from Ithilden as he moved around the camp, eating, talking to warriors, consulting his map. He had always respected Ithilden’s abilities as a commander and his respect had increased when he saw his brother in action on the previous night. And he had always trusted in Ithilden’s sense of fairness and desire to do the right thing. His brother was responsible to a fault. Eilian found it hard to believe that Ithilden would persist in his misguided judgment and treatment of him. He waited.
Gradually the day wore on. Eilian could see Ithilden and Elorfin conferring, and then watched as Elorfin approached two warriors on the other side of the camp. They were obviously being sent to scout, for they were gathering their weapons. “Very well,” Ithilden’s voice startled him, and he looked to see his brother standing next to him. He climbed hastily to his feet. “Take Maltanaur with you and scout west of here,” Ithilden told him. “Stay away no more than three hours.” They regarded one another in silence.
“Thank you,” Eilian finally said. “You will not regret it.”
“I trust not,” Ithilden said. “You were right. I have heard from your various captains that you are an outstanding scout. You clearly should be scouting for us. I have not always been sufficiently willing to trust in the ability of others of late.” He smiled wryly and then clasped Eilian’s forearm and drew him close for a moment before walking away.
“Is Arda ending now?” Gelmir asked plaintively. “Surely that conversation was one of the signs.”
“Shut up and sleep,” Eilian told him as he strapped on his quiver, seized his bow, and joined Maltanaur. The two of them were gone no more than half an hour before Eilian spotted a band of thirty or so Orcs. When they ran back into camp, Ithilden stood waiting for them.
“I should have known you would turn out to be good at this,” he told Eilian rather sadly. “You never were content to be good at the safe thing.” He ran his hand over his tightly braided hair. “I suppose I am going to have to let you do it.” And he walked away to organize their battle plans.
They spent ten more days on the mission. True to his word, Ithilden sent Eilian with the scouts every night. Some nights, both sets of scouts found Orcs and the patrol attacked the nearer group first, tended to their wounded, and then went after other group. Some nights, Ithilden sent the scouts out again after they had dealt with the first band they found. When they could no longer find Orcs in one area, they moved camp and took up the hunt again.
At the end of ten day, Ithilden declared the mission a success. For the present, the area was as free of Orcs as any part of the Woodland Realm could be. No promises could be made for a month or even a week from the present, but they had done what they could. Ithilden said goodbye to Elorfin and left for home with the warriors who belonged by rights to the Home Guard.
The returning warriors took a roundabout course home, for Ithilden wanted to talk to every homesteader he could, tell them of the situation, and advise them to be ready to move closer to Thranduil’s stronghold. On the evening of the second day, they rode into the settlement where Celuwen’s family lived. Eilian looked about him curiously. The name “settlement” had led him to expect that the cottages would be close together. Instead, they were so widely scattered that when you stood near one, you could not see any other. Flets were evident in many of the trees, but they were not in use at this time of the year. They dismounted before a somewhat larger building that Eilian knew from Celuwen was probably the common space. Three Elves came out the building, and Eilian recognized one of them as Sólith, Celuwen’s father. “Mae govannen,” Ithilden greeted them politely.
“Mae govannen, my lord,” one of the Elves responded. “What brings you here?” Eilian was conscious of Sólith’s unfriendly eyes on him and nodded respectfully at him.
“Can we speak inside?” Ithilden asked. “I have important matters to discuss with you if you are willing.”
The Elf gestured toward the doorway. “Can we do anything for your warriors?” he asked.
Ithilden glanced back at the dozen Elves and their horses. “We would be grateful if you would allow us to camp here tonight.”
“Of course,” the other Elf answered and then they and Ithilden disappeared through the door.
Gelmir grinned at Eilian. “Sólith seems less vulnerable to your charms than Celuwen does,” he observed.
Eilian snorted. “Does your leg hurt? Perhaps you would like some of that foul tasting tea.” Gelmir laughed and the two of them tended to their horses and then found a grassy area for their bedrolls. Ithilden’s conference with the three Elves from the settlement lasted at least an hour, and when he emerged from the doorway, the look on his face suggested it had not been successful. He was accompanied by one of their hosts, however, and the two of them went to the only cottage in sight. Ithilden was evidently going to spend the night indoors.
Eilian was just contemplating the differences between a warrior’s lot and that of a troop commander, when Sólith approached him. Eilian came to his feet immediately. “Mae govannen, Sólith,” he said respectfully.
“Hello, Eilian. I would like to speak with you if you have a few moments.” Sólith glanced at Gelmir, who blinked back at him.
“I need to go talk to someone over there,” he said weakly and walked away, glancing back over his shoulder to make a face at Eilian.
Sólith wasted no time in getting to the point. “I am told that you and my daughter have been keeping company again.”
“Indeed, we have,” Eilian answered cautiously.
Sólith eyed him steadily. “I will be frank and say that I am not entirely pleased by that. My memories of you are not good, Eilian.”
Eilian flushed. “I would be the last one to deny that Celuwen deserves better than me,” he said through stiff lips.
Sólith grimaced. “I know you were young when I last saw you, but at that time, there were few Elves who seemed to me to be less likely to make my daughter happy. You were careless of your own well being. You drank too much wine at feasts and wagered for high stakes. I recall your once losing a horse in some trivial bet and never turning a hair. I assumed you knew there were plenty more where that came from in your adar’s stables.”
“I was young and stupid, and I no longer gamble for high stakes,” Elian said vehemently. Indeed the incident with the horse and the resulting scenes with his parents had cured him of that particular fault. Shame still flooded him when he recalled the words his father had spoken and even more those spoken by his mother.
Sólith went on as if he had not spoken. “A pretty maiden never walked past you but that you turned to look at her and more often than not to follow her. I do not say you ever crossed the line into dishonor. Your parents brought you up much too well for that, but you also never troubled to correct the behaviors that gave pain to my daughter.”
Eilian scarcely knew how to defend himself against this onslaught. “I will admit that I was foolish,” he said finally, “but I have grown up considerably since then. I learn slowly but I do learn.”
Sólith looked around. “If you have been spending time with Celuwen, you know how much this settlement means to her. For her, living here is not just a personal satisfaction; it is a way to hold back the Shadow.” He looked at Eilian. “If you bond with Celuwen, are you planning to leave the ranks of the warriors and come to live here?”
Eilian’s mouth fell open. Such a course of action had never occurred to him. “I do not see how I could do that,” he answered defensively. “My duty is to the defense of my adar’s Realm.”
“Then what did you intend to do?” Sólith went on mercilessly. “I would not wish for Celuwen to become some trivial decoration to a warrior’s leave time and live her life alone.”
For a moment, Eilian could not answer. What did he intend to do? he suddenly asked himself, but he pushed the question aside. “Celuwen would always be decorative,” he answered, “but she could never be trivial.”
Sólith looked at him steadily and then sighed. “I trust my daughter,” he said. “Celuwen is intelligent and cautious. If she decides she wants you, then I will not stand in her way. The betrothal year should give you both time to be sure of your course.”
Eilian felt himself relax. Sólith would not stand in their way. That was what mattered after all. “Thank you,” he said. “You must believe me when I tell you I would never hurt Celuwen.”
Sólith smiled for the first time, but the smile did not reach his eyes. “I hope not,” he said simply and turned to walk away.
Ithilden stood in the doorway of the cottage watching Sólith and Eilian in what was obviously a tense conversation. At length, Sólith walked away into the woods, presumably to return to his own cottage. Eilian stood looking after him for a moment and then slowly lowered himself to his bedroll. To Ithilden’s eyes, it was obvious that his brother was unhappy.
He could see Gelmir parting from a group of warriors and going toward Eilian. He moved quickly forward and grasped Gelmir’s arm. “Let me,” he ordered, and Gelmir immediately backed toward his friends. Ithilden suppressed a smile. He was well aware of the effect he had on Gelmir.
Eilian lay with his arm flung over his eyes. Ithilden settled on Gelmir’s bedroll. “I take it that conversation did not go well,” he observed.
Eilian jumped. He had obviously assumed that it was Gelmir who had sat next to him. He looked at Ithilden and then looked up through the trees. “My bad deeds have come home to roost, I am afraid. But he says he will not stand in our way,” he added. “And that is all that matters.”
Ithilden picked up a twig and began to play with it. “Are you planning to bond with Celuwen then?”
Eilian smiled slightly. “If she will have me.”
Ithilden considered this. “Then I should leave you in the Home Guard?” he asked tentatively.
Eilian turned his head quickly toward him. “No!” he exclaimed. He sat up. “Are you considering reassigning me?”
Ithilden nodded. “Elorfin actually asked for you to be assigned to his Border Patrol. He says you are wasted in the Home Guard. But I thought you would probably prefer to return to the Southern Patrol.”
Eilian blinked. “I would prefer that,” he said eagerly.
Ithilden smiled at him quizzically. “What about Celuwen?”
“We will work it out,” Eilian maintained stoutly.
Ithilden sighed. He loved his impulsive, intuitive younger brother, but Eilian often exasperated him with his blind faith that all could be worked out to his own satisfaction. “I hope so,” he said. He rose and started to leave but then turned back. “By the way, I have decided to send Maltanaur with you wherever you are assigned.”
Eilian grinned at him. “You cannot manage him, can you?” he asked.
Ithilden laughed. “No, I cannot,” he acknowledged and started toward a night’s sleep in a bed.
Thank you again to all reviewers. I think I can finish this story in one more chapter, but we’ll see.
Lamiel: Yes, I think things are starting to mend, but there are going to be some scars, I’m afraid.
Frodo3791: I’m glad someone likes my battle scenes. I find them hard to write. I would far rather write about families squabbling than Orcs and Elves shooting arrows at one another! But that seems to be rather essential in Tolkien. ;-)
Nelsonia: As I told you via email, “real characters” is a tremendous compliment, and I thank you for it.
Caz-baz: Legolas would certainly like a pony, and I think Ada is about ready to give him one.
Judy: Eilian is hoping to get hugs from Celuwen, I think. Hmm. Where is the fun in that? I mean, fun for me, not them.
Karri: Thranduil is really being a good ada now. He loves his sons and the feeling is mutual, I think.
Bluebonnet: It is tough on Legolas to know that he is powerless to stop his brothers from doing something that he has reason to know is dangerous. Poor baby.
Ana: Thank you so much. That Legolas seems like a real kid to you is very gratifying. I hope you continue to read and enjoy my stories.
Alice: The palace guards did kind of blow it, but I’ll bet their kids can go out the front door and play by themselves, so it probably seemed reasonable that Legolas could.
Dot: What a great review you write. I had trouble working out Ithilden’s attitude here. He takes Eilian on this mission because Deler sends him, but at first, he doesn’t have much faith in his brother. And yet, he’s ready to see the good in him too. So I tried to make it seem that he did.
Tapetum Lucidum: You really don’t trust poor Celuwen! You’re right, of course, that there can’t be a happy ending, at least not now.
Brenda G: It makes me sad too to think of Legolas without his mother so young. As you say, the other two had her present when they were growing up. And I like the idea that Legolas is loved “deliberately.” His family all see him as someone they can unconditionally dote on. Well, maybe Ada is less unconditional than Eilian is!
Philomena: I’m glad you like it. Legolas is a cute kid. But then, you probably expected that. ;-)
Karenator: I thought the Elven horses would probably come back immediately when called. And you’re right. All families should be so loving.
Gwyn: To me, Ithilden is an admirable character. He would do anything to protect those he loves and he takes his responsibility seriously. And however hard he is on anyone else, he is far harder on himself.
Coolio02: There are few better endings than “I love you.”
JustMe: Legolas is determined even now when it comes to keeping his loved ones safe. He will be a good warrior some day. And I have to say, the powerful kisses of Annael’s nana made me smile too. Annael is lucky!
Nilmandra: Thank you for your help in making that stable scene better. Heck, in making almost all the scenes better!
JastaElf: I like your insight into the helplessness of a youngest child watching the older ones go off to do things that seem exciting and scary. Poor Legolas!
Sekhet: You know what? As I worked on this story, I could see how I could set up lots of things for the later stories. “Teenage” Legolas resents being seen as his family’s baby and having them stop talking about serious matters when he enters the room? Well, you can see that he IS his family’s baby and they got in the habit of not talking about serious matters long ago. They look at him and they see the Legolas in this story.
LKK: I have to admit that my OCs have gotten away from me. It’s hard to write young Legolas stories without them because we know so little about Legolas’s childhood, so at first they were just necessary pieces for realism. Then they jumped off the page at me and started walking around. What can I do? ;-)
Feanen: Thank you. I appreciate your letting me know that you are still reading and enjoying.
TreeHugger: Ithilden is a serious person. Too serious. He needs to loosen up. I am glad you like the ending. I did too. “I love you” should end all stories!
Naneth: Legolas may not be able to swing a sword but he can still try to protect them! Hence the horses.
Levade: I think frustration is a very apt word for what Legolas must be feeling. Plus terror, probably, given the situation. I am a middle child, so my sympathies are all with Eilian.
Elemmire: I am glad you liked it! Little Legolas is sweet. I love him.
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