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Journey's End: 10. Decisions
A flash of lightening lit the room briefly, followed by a crash of thunder.
A smile crossed Thranduil's face as he thought of taking Legolas to play outside, of showing him more of the home he knew so little about. He had come home as fall turned into winter, and though he had liked the snow, there was so much more to show him and teach him as the forest awakened from its winter sleep.
The sound of the rain pounding on the cavern that was their home was as discordant music for a time, stirring the elf to wakefulness. He sat up at the sound of whimper and saw his smallest son standing in the entrance to his room, covering his ears.
"Legolas!" Thranduil called over the sound of the rain.
With a cry, the elfling continued the journey he had started, racing to the bed and the safety and comfort of his ada's arms. He flung himself at Thranduil, wrapping his arms about the strong neck and his legs about his father's middle. Another bolt of lightening and another crack of thunder, and Thranduil felt the elfling dive under the blankets and small arms and legs wrap about his legs.
Thranduil pulled the blanket up over his head and joined Legolas in his cocoon. He could feel the small body shaking, although no sound was emanating from the child. He reached down and stroked the hair of the small head and as he felt the grasp on his legs loosen, he pulled the elfling back up to his chest. One small hand grasped his tunic tightly, while the other wound its way into his hair. Another crash of thunder and the small elf buried his face into Thranduil's shoulder.
"Legolas," whispered Thranduil into the elfling's ear. "Are you scared of the storm?"
The only response was for the small body to press even tighter against him.
"Storms can sound very frightful, especially inside the cave where the noise echoes," Thranduil continued soothingly. "Your brothers were afraid of the storms when they were small too."
The trembling of the little body slowed as his interest was piqued. "Even Bregles?" asked Legolas, his voice muffled as he still had his face pressed into Ada's shoulder.
"Even Bregolas," answered Thranduil. "My father told me that when I was very small I did not like thunderstorms either."
"Were you 'fraid?" Legolas asked, relaxing his grip some and turning so his head now rested against his ada's cheek.
"I think I was, but it was so long ago, I do not remember," admitted Thranduil.
Another crash of thunder sounded, but Legolas only tensed this time. "Ada, you make storm stop," Legolas decided.
Thranduil chuckled. "The trees and the grass and the flowers all need the rain, Legolas. Soon it will grow warm, and you will be able to run and climb and play outside."
Legolas fiddled with the buttons on Ada's night tunic, as he seemed to ponder these new thoughts. He sighed and his body relaxed. "Legles stay with Ada tonight," he informed his father.
"Yes, Legolas can stay with Ada tonight," Thranduil agreed.
His child became silent and his breathing even and quiet, and soon he was fast asleep. Thranduil shifted to a more comfortable position and the elfling adjusted easily with him, but never lost hold of his ada's tunic or hair. Thranduil stroked the soft head absently as he pondered how this little elfling would also grow as he played in the sun, under the protection of the trees and his family.
Once again he felt discordance within his own spirit as he considered that he must leave the child for weeks, perhaps even a few months, to attend the council Galadriel had sent word of several months prior. Several months away from a small child he had only begun to know. Several months away from his son, after working so hard these last months to establish his relationship as father to the child. For months they had lessened his dependence on Tathiel, that she might begin her own new life. Would he destroy all that he had worked so hard for these last months? Where would Legolas go when he was in need of an anchor? Back to Tathiel? Was that fair to her? Was it right for Legolas? Perhaps he would go to his brothers. When honest with himself, Thranduil knew he did not wish that. He wanted Legolas close to all his siblings, but he was Ada. If he had wished for one of his other children to take on the parenting role, he would have established that when the child first came home.
The council was important. The information he had about activity from Dol Guldur and the east was critical to the group. It was too dangerous to bring Legolas with him. The child needed the stability of home and family about him, not the uncertainties of life on the trail. That life he knew too well already. Thranduil sighed. Being home for his young son was important and critical right now too. His burdened heart allowed for no rest, as he considered that his responsibility to his realm and his responsibility to his family were in conflict.
* * *
Tathiel slipped from Rawien's arms and rose, belting a dressing robe about herself before leaving their chambers. She made her way silently to Legolas' room, the crashes of thunder occasionally making her jump as the sound echoed off the walls of the cavern. She knew Legolas would be frightened by the storm; they had been on the trail home the previous spring and were caught in several severe thunderstorms, unable to find shelter and once Tathiel had wrapped him in her clothing and curled about him, and Rawien had protected them with his own body from the winds and rain and hail that had pelted them. Legolas had been terrified then and during each storm since.
She opened the door to see the empty bed. A fleeting fear seized her as she pushed the bedclothes out of the way and looked under the bed and in the small wardrobe that held his clothing. Her heart slowed as she realized he was not hiding in fear. Then she noticed the door to Thranduil's chamber was ajar, and she quietly slipped into the room and entered far enough to see the bed. The bed's occupant was burrowed beneath the covers. The storm quieted for a moment, and Tathiel began to silently laugh as she heard Legolas' small voice asking if someone was 'fraid', and she knew the king and his little elfling were snuggled together under the blankets. She left as silently as she had come and returned to her own apartment.
Rawien looked at her in surprise when she returned so quickly and without a toddler in tow.
"He is in his adar's bed," she whispered as she snuggled back into the arms of her husband.
Rawien smiled and kissed her. "Then another night passes where I do not need to share my wife or my bed," he said with a grin. "When the king leaves for the council, I am sure he will be here many a night seeking comfort."
"And will you be very unhappy, hervenn?" Tathiel rolled on top of him, trailing kisses down his chest, tickling the sensitive flesh of his abdomen, causing his breath to catch as he grew in want of her.
Rawien deftly flipped her on her back and rose over her. "Nay, meleth-nín, for I love the elfling too. Although, this I would miss," he answered as he claimed her mouth with his own. And, as was his intent, Tathiel quickly forgot to feel the loss of an elfling who did not need her this night as she was instead swept away by her husband.
* * *
Lathron listened as the captains gave report to the King. His face remained impassive as he listened to the stories detailing increases in spiders and orcs, particularly south of the mountains, and to the number of skirmishes the elven warriors had engaged in. Bregolas remained calm, but Lathron noted the slight twitch to his father's mouth, something that happened when his father was particularly annoyed or irritated. He found himself concentrating more on his adar's body language than on the actual reports. There was nothing new in the information being given. Lathron noted a slight change in the pitch of voice of Aranu, who had been out on the southern patrol. He seemed tense, and Lathron thought this was likely in response to the increasing irritation Thranduil was expressing through his face and body.
A slight cough caught his attention, and Lathron turned to see Urithral watching him. He silently moved to stand next to the king's chief advisor.
"I know not what is distressing Thranduil, and he will not acknowledge me," Urithral whispered quietly in Lathron's ear.
Lathron nodded his understanding, and Urithral's unspoken request that he try to gain his father's confidence after court.
Galthenin was barely into his report on the patrol to the Anduin and the western borders of Mirkwood when the king slammed his hand down on the carved arm of his chair.
"Enough!" commanded Thranduil as he rose from his seat. "Bregolas, hear the final reports and prepare a summary for me by morning." With that, he strode purposefully from the Great Hall, shedding crown and outer robes as he reached the side exit to the family chambers. The door slammed shut behind him.
The court was silent as all watched the king leave. Bregolas met Lathron's eyes and he nodded for Lathron to follow their father. Lathron slipped from the hall as he heard Bregolas resume hearing reports from his captains.
* * *
Thranduil moved swiftly and silently down the long corridors to the pool, where he could hear voices raised in laughter. He entered the cavern quietly and stood in the shadows. Ethiwen and Tathiel sat together talking, while Camnesta evaluated Eärundra. Elumeril and Tinánia were playing with Legolas, who was standing at the edge of the pool.
"Jump, Legolas!" Elumeril called.
Thranduil watched as the elfling backed up a few steps and then flung himself over the water to land near the ellyth. He came up sputtering and wrapped his arms about his sister's neck as she held him up. A huge grin covered his face.
"I jump far!" he cried. "Do it again!"
Elumeril set him on the side of the pool again, and Legolas repeated the jump, squealing in delight when he was caught by Tinánia and then tossed back to his sister. Thranduil watched the scene thoughtfully. Seeing his elfling only heightened his frustrations and concerns about the choice he must make.
Thranduil's concentration was broken as a very wet elfling came racing towards him. He held out his arms, unmindful that his tunic was soon to be quite damp, and caught up his son in an embrace.
"Ada, did you see me jump?" asked Legolas in excitement.
"I did," Thranduil answered as he brushed wet hair back from the small face.
"Ada!" called Elumeril as she tied a robe about her waist. She wrapped her arms about her father and brother and smiled. "You are done early today!"
Thranduil kissed her on the forehead and smiled in return as he saw the joy in the eyes of his youngest children. His decision suddenly became clear to him and he wondered how he could even have considered otherwise. He took the towel Elumeril handed to him and wrapped it around Legolas, and then turned to his daughter again.
"Ada?" she said hesitantly. When he smiled and nodded at her, she continued with more courage. "The rains last night brought with them the first snowdrops. Would you come with us to see them?"
"Yes," answered Thranduil without hesitation. "Get dressed while I help Legolas, and we will go out together."
The smile on Elumeril's face warmed his heart, and he laughed as she ran off to bid farewell to Tinánia and gather her clothing. He walked over to where Ethiwen and Tathiel sat to retrieve Legolas' garments.
"Tafiel! 'Meril and I go with Ada!" Legolas told her excitedly as Thranduil dressed him. Once ready he began to run for the corridor, calling over his shoulder as he went, "Tafiel come tell me good night later!"
Tathiel laughed as she called back to the child, "I will see you at bed time, Legolas!"
Thranduil smiled wordlessly at the she-elves and then followed his son out of the cavern.
* * *
Ethiwen took Tathiel's hand in her own and squeezed it. She saw the conflict in Tathiel's eyes - the joy of seeing Legolas so happy with his ada, yet sadness as he needed her less.
"Tathiel, I could use your help again, determining what healing herbs we need to gather or grow this spring," Camnesta said as he joined them, speaking of a task that Tathiel had overseen for many years. Ethiwen saw the look of satisfaction cross the healer's face as he watched Tathiel's face light up as his offer.
"I will come with you now," Tathiel replied as she rose, and they all could see her mind already at work, inventorying the usual supplies and where the best sources of each were to be found.
"Eärundra continues to make fine, steady progress," Camnesta informed Ethiwen. "She may play outside with the other ellyth, but let me know if she experiences any increase in discomfort."
Ethiwen nodded as they left and soon it was just her own two ellyth and herself left in the cavern. She waited patiently as they dressed and found her thoughts drifting to the king and his toddler. She had wondered what the king would do regarding the council Urithral had told her about. She shook her head and her eyes grew sad as she pondered the child left bereft of both parents for an extended period of time over the summer. As loved as he was by his siblings and family friends and especially his Tathiel, Ethiwen knew in her heart that Thranduil should not leave his child. She resolved to discuss the issue with her husband.
* * *
Lathron had watched his father with his two youngest siblings, and even now he trailed them at a distance as Thranduil took them each by the hand and led them out of the palace in search of the snowdrops. He could hear the excited voices of both Elumeril and Legolas, and memories of time spent with Bregolas and his adar or naneth when he was young filled him with joy. A melancholic sadness soon followed as he considered his naneth and all the joy that Elumeril already missed, and Legolas would never know, in her absence. He had his suspicions, mirrored by Bregolas, about the cause of his father's recent bursts of temper and discontent. Seeing his adar with the children only strengthened his thoughts along those lines. He returned to the Great Hall to speak with his brother.
* * *
Lathron had just placed the bottle of Dorwinion wine and three goblets on a tray when he heard his door open.
"Adar is in his study," Bregolas announced.
"Legolas is sleeping. Adar read him a story and rocked him to sleep," Lathron replied.
"Where is Tathiel?"
"She came to the sitting room and bade him good night, but Adar put him to bed again."
"Well, tithen muindor, I think your suspicions have been found to have merit," Bregolas said lightly. "Let us go speak to him."
They entered Thranduil's study to find him studying maps at his desk. He smiled when he saw them, which Lathron took for a good sign.
"Suilad, Adar," Lathron greeted him as he set the tray on the desk.
"You are sharing your bottle of the Dorwinion with us?" Thranduil asked, one brow arched.
"Yes, as fine a wine as it is, the flavor is yet enhanced when shared," returned Lathron. He grinned at his brother and father as they exchanged glances. "And I know about your little bet, mellon nín," he informed them. "I was successful, for Legolas did not seek Tathiel."
Bregolas snorted. "That is only because she came to see him first."
"That had been the plan she and I made beforehand," replied Lathron, his eyes twinkling. "I am your advisor, you know. Yet you failed to seek my opinion on the matter before betting upon it."
"Dîn! Just pour the wine," ordered Bregolas as he sank into a chair.
Lathron laughed at them both as he handed out glasses of wine. He lifted his own. "To Legolas and Tathiel. I think they have both made the transition rather well."
Thranduil and Bregolas raised their goblets to his and joined him in the toast. Thranduil was silent for a few moments, thoughtful, and then cleared his throat.
"Adar, we…" Bregolas started.
"Ion-nín, I …." Thranduil began. He stopped with Bregolas, but continued at Bregolas' nod. "I am faced with a dilemma, where the balance of serving our people and caring for my own family may be in conflict." He stood and walked around his desk, sitting in the comfortable chairs with his sons. "The timing of this council is not optimal for our family. I have been deeply grieved at the thought of leaving Legolas right now, even though I know that both of you and the rest of your siblings - and Tathiel - would all take very good care of him. He is my son and I do not wish to be apart from him. Today I decided that I would not jeopardize him or Elumeril by leaving them parentless. It is too soon after the death of your mother."
Lathron grasped his father's hand. "We do not think you should go, Adar."
"Why not?" Thranduil asked, surprised.
"For the same reasons you believe you should not go," Bregolas answered. "Orcs and spiders increase and shadow has returned, and this council is formed to discuss it. It is unlikely that any action would be immediately forthcoming from the group. The woodland realm has stood against shadow time and time again, Adar. This council does not change that. This council does not change anything for our people. We will continue to defend the forest and our homes."
"Yet your absence would change life for Legolas, and for Elumeril too, Adar," Lathron added. "Six months you have had Legolas home and forged a parent bond with him. To leave him now, we agree, is unlikely to cause him permanent harm, but it will strain him. He loves you, Adar. He has come to depend on you. After the wedding, when he slept with me and spent the day with me, he spoke of you at every turn. 'Come, Lafron, see Ada.' 'Lafron, Ada show me how, see?' 'Ada kiss me goodnight, Lafron.' I heard more 'Ada' than I did 'Tafiel'. You will lose much of that."
"Elumeril would miss you, too, Adar. She is clinging less to you now than she did, but that would return," Bregolas continued. "Right after Naneth and Alagos died, she was completely lost. You were so distant, and she clung to Lathron. But she wanted her ada, and now she has you again. She is resilient and remains very attached to Lathron - and to Nathlhê, whom she has grown close to - but she would miss you terribly, Adar."
Thranduil had begun to laugh midway through Bregolas' dissertation and as his sons fell silent, he controlled his laughter and said, "I need no convincing. I made my mind up this afternoon. I am not going. Evil has marred Middle-Earth for as long as elves have lived. These few months will not see its end, but this time is critical in the fleeting years of an elfling's childhood. We have only to decide who shall take the information we can provide and deliver it to the council."
Bregolas and Lathron exchanged sheepish grins. "Sorry, Adar. We came with prepared arguments," Lathron replied, blushing slightly.
"There is no need for apology, ion-nín. I am glad we are all of like mind," Thranduil chuckled. "Now, who shall go? Bregolas?"
"Urithral has offered to go, Adar, and I believe he may be the best to represent the Woodland Realm in your absence. He fought with you at Dagorlad, has met Elrond and Celeborn, and been present at meetings with Mithrandir."
"You do not wish to go yourself?" asked Thranduil seriously.
"I might wish it, Adar, but I am not the best one to go. To their eyes I am but a child. I have not the experience they have. Urithral does, although I wish he did not need to leave his family so soon either," answered Bregolas thoughtfully.
Thranduil was quiet for a few moments. Then he lifted his glass again. "To my sons." They finished the Dorwinion in companionable silence.
* * *
Thranduil watched as his guards escorted the visitor to the front of the Great Hall. He rose and stepped forward to meet his guest.
"King Thranduil," the elderly appearing man bowed.
"Mithrandir," Thranduil replied evenly. "What news do you bear that you seek out the elves of the forest?"
Mithrandir laughed. "Always suspicious, Thranduil. I am glad I may count on some things to never change." He noted the gleam in the elvenking's eyes and continued. "I travel to Lothlórien and the meeting of the Council. I thought we might share news and travel together. Many a year has passed since our paths have crossed."
"Many a year has passed since you have entered the Woodland Realm," Thranduil restated the facts succinctly. "Yet, you are welcome here, Mithrandir." He motioned for the escorting guards to depart and for another to take Mithrandir's pack. "Guest quarters will be prepared for you. Will you dine with my family this eve?"
"It would be my pleasure," Mithrandir bowed slightly. "Please greet Narawen for me and tell her I look forward to her company."
Many a breath in the Great Hall was drawn in and Thranduil felt as if kicked in the heart. He quickly stilled the emotions he knew were fleeting across his face and schooled his countenance into an impassive mask. He knew the wizard missed little, however.
"Narawen will not be joining us," he said brusquely. Turning on his heel, he motioned for Mithrandir to be escorted to his chambers and then left the hall.
Lathron watched his father leave and felt the same pain in his heart. He did not try to hide it from the wizard, though, and instead stepped forward to take the old man by the arm. "Please allow me to escort you to your room," he said kindly.
The wizard patted him on the arm, and looked him deeply in the eyes.
"Sorrow has befallen this land and I have unwittingly opened old wounds," the wizard sighed, his eyes filled with sadness.
"My mother and brother, Alagos, were killed nearly three years ago," Lathron confirmed as he led the grey-cloaked wizard through a nearby exit and down the corridor toward the family quarters. "I am sorry for you to learn of her death this way, for I know you were fond of her, and she of you."
"I am grieved I have caused your father such pain, and you as well," Mithrandir apologized to the young elf.
Lathron smiled sadly, but before he could reply a small blond whirlwind tackled his legs.
Lathron's sad smile changed to one of joy as he scooped the elfling up in his arms. He waved to Tathiel, and she returned to her quarters where she had been reading to Legolas when he heard his brother's voice. Lathron turned that Legolas might see Mithrandir, and smiled when he saw the elfling's eyes grow large. One small hand furiously wrapped itself in Lathron's hair, while the other clutched his tunic.
"Legolas, this is Mithrandir. Mithrandir, this is my brother, Legolas," Lathron introduced them.
"I am pleased to meet you, Legolas," Mithrandir replied with a laugh as he held his hand out to the little elf.
Legolas looked at the bearded old man and kept his hands firmly pressed against his brother's chest.
When Legolas failed to offer his hand in return, Mithrandir flicked his wrist into the long full sleeve of his robe and there suddenly appeared in his hand a shiny blue stone. Lathron watched in amusement as curiosity overcame Legolas and the hand clutching his tunic loosened and the small fingers reached down to touch the stone. With another deft flick of the wrist, the blue stone disappeared, and a red one appeared in his place.
Legolas stared at the wizard and cautiously touched the red stone. As soon as he had done so, the red stone disappeared and a yellow one took its place. Legolas smiled and touched the yellow stone, only to see a green one appear. He giggled and then wrapped his arms about his brother's neck and whispered in Lathron's ear, "Lafron, how does he do that?"
"I do not know, Legolas. Perhaps you should ask him," Lathron whispered back.
Legolas turned back to face the wizard, his eyes shining brightly and a smile on his face.
"Mifdir, how do you do that?" he asked.
Lathron snorted in laughter at Legolas' rendition of Mithrandir's name, but Mithrandir merely smiled at the elfling. "It is a secret."
Legolas reached out and touched the old man's hand. "Tell me the secret!"
"If I did that, then it would no longer be a secret," Mithrandir replied with a twinkle in his eye. "Would you like to show me my room?"
Legolas nodded and let Lathron set him on the floor. He pushed open the door to the room, then took the wizard by the hand and led him inside. "This Mifdir's room and Mifdir's bed," he pointed at the bed. "Mifdir's bath," he pointed at a side chamber. Legolas turned to Lathron. "Lafron, Mifdir eat with us?"
"Yes, Legolas, Mithrandir will eat with us. Why don't you go tell Tathiel that Mithrandir is here?" Lathron replied, mirth in his voice.
Legolas brightened at the thought of sharing news with Tathiel. He tugged on Mithrandir's sleeve. "Wash hands and come to dinner!" he directed, then ran for the door calling loudly, "Tafiel, Mifdir come to dinner!"
Mithrandir sank down on to the edge of the bed, his shoulders shaking in laughter. He motioned for Lathron to sit. "Now tell me, mellon-nín, the story of this one who is clearly the son of Narawen, yet by appearances not even three summers old and bereft of his naneth."
Lathron sat and his face grew sad. "That tale cannot be told in such a short span of time," he answered. "The least you should know is that Narawen was murdered shortly after his birth, and Alagos too, but they had the joy of seeing him and naming him. This did not occur in the forest, but east of here, and a long journey of terrible hardship befell Legolas, two young ellyth, and Tathiel, whom you know. They were only returned to us last fall."
Mithrandir smiled at the gentle elf before him. "Yet he is a winsome child and obviously much loved. I will hear more of this, if you are willing, at a later time."
Lathron smiled as he rose. "If my father so wishes. I will see you at dinner, Mithrandir." Lathron bowed slightly and departed the room.
* * *
Mithrandir entered the family dining area to see an array of familiar faces. His crinkled face added a laugh line as he smiled at the merry elves before him. The children of the king came to greet him, each in turn, and he was pleased to see other faces he knew. Tathiel was present, and the warrior captain Rawien, who had escorted him through the forest on more than one occasion; Urithral, advisor to the king, and his wife Ethiwen. Two young ellyth sat near them that he presumed to be their children. Mithrandir turned in laughter as he heard a now familiar young voice.
"Tafiel! This is Mifdir! Mifdir, make stones change!" Legolas came to him, dragging Tathiel by the hand. "Come Rawen too!"
Mithrandir had just been seated between Urithral and Bregolas when Thranduil entered the room. He started to rise, but the king motioned for them to stay seated. All did, except one small elf too young to understand all the rules of dining etiquette.
Mithrandir watched as the tiny elf flung himself at his father, who lifted him in the air and then lowered him to his chest, the child burying his head into Thranduil's neck and immediately winding a braid about his finger. He was hugged in return, and then drew back slightly, both hands on his ada's chest, the braid still firmly twined in his fist.
"Ada, Mifdir visit and eat with us and make stones change and I like him!" Legolas exclaimed in excitement. He turned and pointed at Mithrandir. "That is Mifdir!"
Thranduil enclosed the tiny hand in his own and whispered in the elfling's ear. Legolas smiled brightly and giggled, then gave up the braid and allowed his father to seat him in his usual chair. Mithrandir noted the child's chair sat between Thranduil and Lathron, and that Thranduil himself fixed the child's plate.
The wizard's wise eyes missed little that evening. He noted the matching gold rings on the hands of Tathiel and Rawien, and that the two sat with the family as family, not as servants. He took notice of the expressions in the eyes of the three young ellyth in the room, all with depths of grief and experience beyond their tender years. He noted broken pairings in siblings in the king's children - that Celebrinduil, always close to Alagos, now sat near Elenath. Elumeril, once inseparable from Elenath, and Legolas both leaned towards the nurturing Lathron, and Bregolas' eyes strayed protectively towards his father.
Mithrandir's heart and mind saw much beyond that which even the eyes of the firstborn might see. He sensed that the return of shadow was unlikely to be a coincidence in the tragedy that had occurred in Thranduil's family. He hoped they might tell him the tale later that night, but it took only a few minutes in the presence of the king and his children to know that he and Thranduil would not be traveling together to Lothlórien. The wizard knew much of the bonds that existed between parents and their elflings, and the one forged between Legolas and his ada was too tenuous to risk.
His heart and mind took in far more information than was spoken, and he engaged many in conversation, telling of his travels and the many peoples he had met and places he had seen. He noted that it was Thranduil who rose to put the elfling to bed after Legolas had been kissed and hugged and petted by all present, himself included.
Later, alone with Thranduil in the king's study, he heard what he knew to be only part of the tale of the tragedy that had befallen the Woodland Realm. It was clear the king was not prepared to tell more than he did.
"Thranduil, it would be unwise for you to travel to council. Is there another you could send in your stead?" he asked, knowing full well that Thranduil had led him to this conclusion with this question in mind.
"I will send Urithral in my place," Thranduil replied. "Bregolas shall accompany him, for though he is young, he has commanded the defense of this realm and may both learn much and offer much."
"I shall ensure that their voices are heard and heed given to their positions as your representatives," Mithrandir promised to look out for Bregolas and ensure he garnered what knowledge might be gained from the council.
* * *
It was a fine spring morning, just after sunrise, when families of the guards gathered to bid their loved ones farewell. Near the entrance to the Great Hall, Bregolas and Urithral prepared to leave their families. They hoped to be gone as little as six weeks, but were prepared for as long as twelve.
Tinánia and Eärundra were hugging their father, but their emotions were held in check. Ethiwen stood strong. Her sense of pride and duty both commanded her to support and encourage him. He would not be gone longer than many a patrol she had gone on during their marriage. She knew he wished to go, he wished to see Lothlórien and he wished to serve the realm and his king in this way.
"Return to us whole and well," she whispered in her husband's ear. "We shall be waiting for you, meleth-nín."
Bregolas was jovial as he bid his siblings farewell. His absence would be shorter than many of the scouting missions and patrols that had taken him into southern Mirkwood, and safer too. He scooped Legolas up his in arms.
"What are we, Legolas?" he asked as he tickled the elfling
"Brothers!" Legolas giggled.
"Brothers!" Bregolas agreed. "I will be back before your begetting day, with presents, tithen muindor."
Legolas grinned at his brother, just beginning to understand the concept of begetting days but having already discovered he liked presents. He pointed at Bregolas' horse, and Bregolas carried him to greet the animal.
"Bregles ride Urevo?"
"Yes, Urevio and I shall go together," replied Bregolas, as he sat his little brother up on the horse. He watched as Legolas stroked the mane and patted the horse.
"I go with Bregles on Urevo!" Legolas cried in excitement.
Thranduil plucked his elfling from the horse's back. "Not this time, pen-neth. Legolas needs to stay home and keep Ada company while Bregolas is away."
Legolas snuggled into Ada's arms and yawned, for it was early.
"Ion-nín, I am proud of you. Return quickly," Thranduil bade his son farewell.
Horses were mounted and the guards led the way through the main gate and across the bridge into the forest. The elves watched until they were gone from sight and only the trees whispered of their passing.
Lathron watched as Thranduil set Legolas down and taking him by the hand, began to walk at the child's pace around the large cave into the trees. "Would you like to see the nest of baby squirrels, Legolas?"
Lathron laughed at the sight of the tiny arm stretched as high as it could go to reach the big hand and then how his little brother tipped his head back to look up at his ada. His eyes spoke of his adoration for the big elf, his face was lit with a smile, and he did his best to mimic his father's gait and step. Lathron watched them and took in the beauty of the day and his heart was content.
Tithen muindor---------little brother
Author's Note: In the first epilogue of 'May the Valar Protect Them', I quoted Elrond as saying that Thranduil presented information to the White Council in TA 2463. As I wrote this sequel, Thranduil made it clear to me that he would not be parted from his young son for that length of time after they had just been reunited. He was rather adamant and ranted at some length about the fleeting time of an elfling's childhood and how critical it was that he be father to his son right now. The only other option was to have the Council held at Thranduil's cavern. The Silmarillion only lists the members of the Council as Mithrandir, Saruman, Elrond, Galadriel and Círdan and 'other Lords of the Eldar'. While I certainly believe Thranduil should be included and could be counted as a Lord of the Eldar - without proof he was present it seemed rather odd to have the council meeting in the Greenwood. Surely Dol Guldur would have sensed that much power present so close to it! So, I will make a tiny wording change to that epilogue to reflect that Thranduil's information was presented, but not say he presented it.
My goal for this story was to see Tathiel and Rawien married, and Thranduil's and Legolas' relationship established firmly as father and son. I think that has been accomplished and I look forward to writing about other adventures in Legolas' young life. I hope you all enjoyed the story. Thanks to all who reviewed and encouraged me.
Other stories in this series may be found here
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