My Aragon Stories
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Journey's End: 4. Eärundra's Surprise
"It is a surprise, Eärundra. If I told you where we were going, it would not be a surprise," Ethiwen responded.
Giggles distracted her. "Rundra surprise!" Legolas squirmed in Tathiel's arms, twisting to look at Eärundra.
"Shh," Tathiel hushed him. "We are going to show her the surprise."
"Legles likes warm…" Tatheil clamped a hand over his mouth before he could finish. With a frustrated sigh, she motioned everyone to go on ahead and took up a position at the back of the little group.
"Tafiel, hurry!" Legolas pushed her to make her go faster.
"Legolas, a surprise means that you do not tell the person what we are going to see," Tathiel whispered. "No talking until we get there."
Legolas pressed his lips together, but thrust his body forward in the hopes of moving faster.
Eärundra was blindfolded, unaware of how many elves had joined the procession. She felt the air become cooler, as her father carried her through the passages and then she heard running water and felt a warm moistness to the air. Urithral set her down and with both hands on her shoulders, turned her in the direction he wished her to face.
"Eärundra, this was built for you, although I am afraid Legolas thinks it is his too. I hope it is both a place where you will enjoy playing and a place that will aid you in your recovery." Celebrinduil spoke as he removed her blindfold.
Eärundra opened her eyes to see a beautiful pool before her. She gasped, then moved forward immediately to feel the water. It was like bath water. She spun around.
"This is for me?" she asked in disbelief, her eyes shining.
"It was built for you," Celebrinduil confirmed. "Although," he paused as Legolas flew to him.
"Rundra and Legles pool! Rundra play!"
"Somehow I think you will have to share it," Celebrinduil finished as he picked up the errant elfling.
Eärundra was nearly speechless but regained herself enough to throw her arms about Celebrinduil's waist and hug him.
"This is beautiful!" Tinánia exclaimed, walking up to the edge. Elumeril joined her, and began to explain what her brother had done and how, and as Tinánia admired the flowers, Elumeril beamed as she explained how she had chosen them based on the conditions and to compliment the garden already in progress.
Urithral and Ethiwen were fascinated by the design, and Celebrinduil soon had a ready audience to explain the workings of the warm water pool. Camnesta was present, testing the water and questioning him about the depth and the constancy of the temperature.
Celebrinduil had set Legolas down near the shallow end of the pool as he explained how the steps were carved, and it was giggles from the ellyth that drew his attention back to little brother. In what seemed like just seconds, the child had again stripped and was already in chest deep water on the stairs. He splashed his brother and giggled.
Celebrinduil grinned and splashed him back with an admonishment. "Stay on the steps, Legolas. If you go any further without permission, I will take you back to your room and you will spend the rest of the day there."
Legolas nodded solemnly. Having been chastised once this morning, he had no intentions of making 'Duil angry with him.
A sudden splash drew their attention again, this one much too large to be Legolas, and Camnesta surfaced in the middle of the pool. "Eärundra, are you ready for your first lesson?"
Eärundra grinned and looked at her mother.
"Your naneth must come in too, so she learns what you are to do," Camnesta called. "I think perhaps Tathiel as well."
The rest of the he-elves withdrew as the she-elves quickly joined Eärundra in the pool.
* * *
Tinánia and Elumeril played with Legolas as Camnesta taught Eärundra, Ethiwen and Tathiel the exercises he wished Eärundra to do. He could feel the tightness of the muscles around the joints of her hips and legs, and as he worked on the range of motion, he could feel the catching and grinding of the hip joints. He had Tathiel and Ethiwen feel the spots of concern, and they helped massage the aching muscles.
"Camnesta, why are there no other elves who are like me?" Eärundra asked.
"Do you mean why are you the only one who has an injury that doesn't seem to have healed right?" Camnesta moved quickly to the heart of the question. Eärundra nodded at him shyly. Camnesta smiled at the child and caught her chin in his hand. "I have never in all my long years known of an elfling having an injury like you, Eärundra. I think I am most amazed that you survived it at all." He paused, as if considering his words. "It is not because you are weak that you still continue to heal, Eärundra. It is because you are strong that you are even here today."
Eärundra seemed to breathe easier, and she smiled as she paddled to the shallower end of the pool where the other children yet played.
"How have they been adjusting?" Camnesta turned to Ethiwen.
Ethiwen smiled at him. "Thank you for your words to her, Camnesta. She does feel weak - her sister is stronger physically because of what has happened and she still struggles; and somehow she believes it is her fault."
"She thrives in her archery lessons, but she remains distant with her friends. She seems so much older than they," Ethiwen explained.
Tathiel nodded. "Elumeril suffers for the change as well. She remains a child and Tinánia does not."
Camnesta smiled grimly. "Tinánia is no longer an innocent child. I know of no other elf her age who has fought orcs or wolves, or survived in the wild. I have heard she is one of the best in her archery class, though."
Ethiwen could not help but take pride in her child's accomplishments. "There she is special - she has killed orcs and the older children are impressed by that and her good aim, as well as by her beautiful bow."
The sound of running footsteps down the passageway preceded one of Camnesta's aides.
"Camnesta, there are injured arriving. One of the patrols was attacked just beyond our southern border."
Camnesta leapt from the pool, dressing quickly. "Have her come every day, if you can," he called to Ethiwen, and then he was off.
Ethiwen and Tathiel exchanged glances, concern written on both their faces. Tinánia paddled down to them, ducking under her mother's arm.
"Laerion and Sadron went out with one of the southern patrols," Tinánia said softly.
"Let us get dressed and go up to the Hall," Ethiwen replied. "We will hope that the injuries are not serious and that whoever is injured will recover quickly."
* * *
There was a flurry of activity at the entrance to the palace, and Tathiel noted three litters being carried in. Camnesta was kneeling next to one litter, examining the elf lying upon it, while barking orders to the other healers. Glancing out on to the grounds beyond the entrance, she saw one covered bier.
Bregolas and Rawien were in discussions with Aranu, who had led the patrol. Aranu was filthy, covered in what appeared to be orc blood and dirt, his cloak missing and his clothing torn in places. Tathiel handed Legolas to Elumeril, and taking a spare cloak from the wardrobe in the entrance, she walked outside to where the three elves were standing. Without interrupting them, she flung the warm cloak over Aranu's shoulders.
"My lady, I will get filth on this," Aranu protested gently, his hands reaching to remove it.
She gently batted his hands away and withdrew again to the palace.
* * *
Rawien watched Tathiel depart while still listening to Aranu's account of what the patrol had encountered. The captain had refused to come inside, for he still had the body of one of his warriors to turn over to the dead elf's family. Aranu had declined a cloak from them, but Rawien noted that he did not again try to remove the one Tathiel had covered him with.
"The party was large, and they ambushed us just south of the Old Forest Road," Aranu continued. "I cannot recall seeing orcs preying that close to the road. We killed many, but many more escaped. The road is not safe - we must rout the orcs from that area."
Bregolas nodded. "I agree, Aranu. We will organize several parties to scour the area." He saw the parents of the young warrior approaching. He took Aranu by the arm. "Come, I will stand with you."
Rawien watched from a distance as the parents kneeled next to the bier holding their son and wept. He could not hear the words that Aranu or Bregolas spoke, but he saw the father accept from Aranu's hand the sword of his son. He saw Bregolas embrace the mother. Four warriors picked up the bier, and followed the grieving parents to their home, where they would prepare to commit his feä to the care of Mandos.
He felt a gentle touch on his arm, and looking down saw Tathiel again at his side. She rested her head against his arm, wrapping both of her arms around his.
"Who was killed?" she asked hesitantly.
"Bronian," he answered. "He was young, as a novice he trained with Alagos."
Tathiel could faintly remember the young elf from the commissioning ceremony. "Who was injured?"
Rawien wrapped his arm about her shoulder and began to lead her back into the warmth of the palace. "Sadron was injured, but the wound is not life-threatening," he reassured her, knowing how attached she and Legolas had become to the young warrior. "He obtained it very bravely. The other injured warriors, Belcarach and Sador, were wounded and being surrounded by orcs. Sadron and Bronian saved them."
Tathiel felt tears welling in her eyes. "Sadron has lost too many friends in these last years."
Rawien pulled her tight against him. "The young warriors are always most at risk, no matter how well we train them, simply due to lack of experience. The peace lasted so long that we have many who have not faced this magnitude of danger." He paused for a moment. "We are stepping up training for our young warriors, starting them on border patrols and small missions."
Tathiel nodded, not fully appreciating the implications of that statement. Rawien saw her back inside, then departed to join the other captains in their planning.
* * *
Dinner was served late that evening, after Bregolas and Thranduil had returned from meetings with the captains and advisors about the latest orc incursion into territory held by the realm. As always, they did their best to leave matters of rule and safety at the door and just be a family when all were gathered for dinner.
"Elumeril, how did Eärundra like the pool?" Thranduil smiled at his youngest daughter, sitting next to Celebrinduil this night.
"She loved it, Ada," Elumeril answered. "Everyone was very impressed with the pool, and Eärundra swam and did her exercises and said she did not feel stiff afterwards."
"Elumeril picked out beautiful flowers to accent the design of the garden," Celebrinduil added. "She truly does have Naneth's eye for color and beauty. Even Elsath, who designed the layout of the garden, praised her choices."
Elumeril smiled at the compliments, and Thranduil was grateful to see a smile on the face of his little elleth again.
"Sadron hurt," Legolas announced from his place between Tathiel and Thranduil.
"Sadron will be well soon," Tathiel answered him, wiping sticky fingers with her napkin.
"Legles see Sadron and help make him better?" Legolas questioned.
Bregolas laughed. "Sadron is looking forward to it, tithen muindor, but not until Camnesta says you may visit," he answered.
"When 'Nesta says," Legolas agreed happily as he reached for another bite of his dinner.
Thranduil laughed inwardly at the agreeability of his youngest today. As soon as he had appeared this evening, Legolas had crawled quietly into his lap and cuddled against his shoulder, playing with his hair and touching his face. He had been quiet for a few moments, then whispered 'I love you, Ada,' in his father's ear before turning and seating himself comfortably, pulling one of his Ada's hands over him and wrapping both of his small hands around it, to watch the rest of his family talk.
Thranduil had smiled and wrapped both arms around the warm little body. He remembered the feeling of possessive pride he had had when his oldest was born - a claim of 'Mine' that he had heard his heart make when first gazing on the scowling face of that newborn child. With each additional child his heart had made that claim, while in the womb, but more so when he laid eyes on the small face.
He had not been able to 'claim' Legolas on his day of birth. The child had not known him on the day he came home, and Thranduil had had to restrain his emotion and his love, to allow time to build a relationship with this elfling. In the last weeks they had grown to know each other. But today, today his child had essentially claimed him.
He laughed silently at what had brought that about: a temper tantrum and some discipline. My son, he thought. You are my son.
"We leave in two days to help on the northern border, our first real mission." Elenath's words drew Thranduil's immediate attention. "There have been more problems with spiders than orcs, and some villagers are reporting increased sightings of wolves and loss of livestock."
Elenath's face shone with excitement.
Thranduil's glowered in anger.
He turned to Bregolas. "We are sending novices on patrol?"
Bregolas caught the shift in tone of his father's voice and snapped to attention. "Yes, my lord," he answered solidly. "We are inserting small groups of novices into the patrols that guard the borders, as we did many years ago when times were of similar danger."
"Why was I not informed of this?" Thranduil's voice was cold.
All conversation had stopped at the table, and all were watching the confrontation between the prince and the king.
"Changes in the novice training schedules are not in the usual reports you request to see prior to implementation, my Lord," Bregolas answered, fully seeing where this was going. He spared a glance at Elenath, and saw the flash in her eyes. "The captains and novice masters have been devising this plan for several months, for we feel the novices need more patrol experience earlier in their training, to better prepare them for full duty."
Thranduil looked around the table, his gaze finally landing on Elenath. He saw the determined look, the flash of fire indicating she knew it was because of her that her father questioned the decision.
Thranduil stood and turned to Bregolas. "We will discuss this in the morning." Then he turned and left the room.
There was silence as the door shut, and then Elenath turned to Bregolas.
"Bregolas, Adar cannot stop me from going! If the other novices are to participate in patrols, then I must too!"
"Peace, Elenath," Bregolas answered. "This discussion does not involve you, and you are not to speak of it. This matter is between the captains, myself and the king."
Elenath immediately quieted, reminded that her brother was the commander of the warriors and therefore her superior officer.
The meal was finished in silence. Lathron picked up Legolas and nodded for Tathiel to go and spend her evening as she wished. As he left the room with the toddler, everyone heard the small voice, "Ada is mad, Lafron, but Legles was good."
"Ada is not mad at you, Legolas. Let us play for a while; then I think Ada would like a good night hug from you."
* * *
Thranduil sat in the darkness, brooding. The thought of sending his daughter on patrol, into danger, angered him. He had seethed at Bregolas, irrationally believing that he had hidden this information from him. Yet he knew that it was not true.
He could not bear to lose his Elenath. Alagos was dead, now Bronian too. Two of that class of warriors gone in as many years. They would lose more, he knew this. Every parent whose child chose the defense of the realm as their profession faced this uncertainty.
"Adar?" Bregolas' voice broke the silence.
"Come in, Bregolas," Thranduil answered.
Bregolas entered with two glasses of wine in hand and handed one to his father before seating himself. They sat in companionable silence for a long while, the quiet only broken occasionally by the rise of voices from the next room.
"Elumeril and Lathron are playing with Legolas," Thranduil said simply.
Bregolas smiled at the sounds of laughter drifting through the walls to them. He finished his wine, then rose.
"Adar, would you like me to call in the captains tomorrow morning to discuss the novice training?"
Thranduil eyed his son for a moment, then shook his head. "No, Bregolas, that will not be necessary."
They were interrupted by a knock on the door from Legolas' room. Bregolas opened the door only to be greeted by a flash of white that attached to his knees momentarily, then flew to the chair and his ada.
Thranduil picked up the child and settled him in his lap. "Lafron says Legles go to bed. Tafiel with Rawen. Ada put Legles to bed?"
"Yes, I will put my Legolas to bed," Thranduil agreed. Bregolas, Lathron and Elumeril departed and the room was once again dark as Thranduil rocked Legolas to sleep. As the elfling drifted into dreams cuddled warmly to his father's chest, Thranduil's thoughts were drawn to each of his children in turn. He felt again the pain in his heart at the son he had lost, and a fierce determination rose within him to protect the ones he still had with him. He tenderly stroked the head of the son in his arms, thankful that he even had this child and could protect him. He let his thoughts rest upon his oldest daughter, and he knew he had to let her go.
He just wished it were as easily done as said.
* * * * *
Tithen muindor------little brother
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