2. Warm Pools & Naked Elflings
He slipped quietly into the Great Hall, nodding at the herald and then continuing to his place with Thranduil's other advisors and those with reports to give. He smiled at the scene before him.
The elvenking had just returned from the midday meal with Celebrinduil's older brothers. Bregolas as eldest sat in court most days. Lathron was assigned as advisor to his brother and father, and was usually present as well. But the presence of his younger brother was a surprise. He appeared to be sound asleep, wrapped contentedly in his ada's arms. A small mop of golden hair spilled across the shoulder of the King, and the small child rested his cheek on Ada's shoulder, one hand tucked between the two bodies while the other seemed to have a firm hold on a braid of Thranduil's hair.
Thranduil remained standing near his throne, his body swaying ever so slightly as is often the wont of those who hold small children and soothe them with slight movements. Voices were kept low as reports were made and this small inner circle of the King's court all seemed to have slight grins or amused looks as they looked upon their liege and his youngest child.
Celebrinduil presented the last of the reports. Upon completion, he bowed to his father and the advisors, then leaned in to kiss his sleeping brother on the forehead.
"Thranduil, petitioners are next on the schedule," Urithral said softly.
Thranduil grimaced slightly and gently pried small fingers from his hair.
"Celebrinduil, will you take Legolas back to Tathiel when you leave?"
"Yes, Adar," Celebrinduil answered, a smile on his face as he accepted the dozing elfling. Legolas settled against him with a sigh, and all laughed quietly as tiny fingers quickly wound their way into Celebrinduil's hair.
Urithral stroked Legolas' head gently. "Tinánia said they all had to braid their hair and tie it away from their faces. He apparently used to tug quite hard."
Celebrinduil grinned at Urithral suddenly. "If all has gone well in my absence, I should have a surprise for Eärundra tomorrow."
"I have kept your project a secret," Urithral laughed. "When you are ready, I will bring her to you and you may show her yourself. I am sure she will be pleased." He paused for a moment, and the emotion in his eyes was easy to read by those who knew him well. "It is difficult to see her so stiff in this cold weather."
Celebrinduil grasped Urithral's hand and squeezed. "We will do whatever the healers recommend to help her. We all wish to see her running next summer with the other ellyth."
Urithral squeezed the proffered hand back and quickly looked away, lest his eyes speak of even greater depths of emotion. While nothing could dampen the joy he felt at having both wife and daughters safe in his arms again, the sight of his youngest's suffering tore at his heart.
Celebrinduil nodded to his father and slipped silently from the Great Hall out a side exit, bypassing all the elves gathered near the main doors. He was nearing the family quarters when he felt Legolas stir against him. He slowed his stride, and watched, bemused, as the little body stiffened and stretched, the little face nuzzling against his shoulder and then both hands coming finally to rub eyes. Bright blue eyes finally blinked fully open and one hand clung again to his tunic as the elfling looked at his surroundings. Legolas finally looked up at the one carrying him, and he stiffened for just a moment, then relaxed as he recognized his brother.
"Duil!" Legolas crowed happily.
"The sleeping elfling has awakened!" Celebrinduil tweaked the elfling on the nose. "Did you have a good elf-nap, Legolas?"
Legolas yawned. "Good nap," he agreed.
"I am going to check on my project." Celebrinduil suddenly did not wish to give up his little brother so soon. "Do you want to come see it?"
Legolas nodded. "What is it?"
"It is a surprise for Eärundra. A special pool where she can exercise and swim, even in the winter," Celebrinduil explained.
Legolas nodded agreeably, but it was clear he did not understand what a pool was. However, he did know Eärundra and had learned that most surprises were good, and that was enough for him to be interested. He found a braid of his brother's hair to play with and rubbed it absently between his fingers as Celebrinduil carried him to their destination.
The tunnel into this cavern was dark, but the cavern itself was lit by white lanterns and passages made through the ceiling to the outside, with opaque coverings used to allow in the light while keeping out some of the cool air. Already elves were hauling in dirt and plants that would thrive in such conditions and arranging them into a small garden near the pool.
Celebrinduil smiled in satisfaction at the pool. He and his craftsmen had diverted one of the springs that bubbled beneath the caverns into a pool they had carved out of the rock, large enough to swim and play in, and sealed it with a special mixture that looked like mud, but did not dissolve in water. The water overflowed the pool as a waterfall and emptied into the flow of the underground river. They had been able to locate several hot springs, and this one had the warmest water of those they had found. The temperature of the heated water could be maintained by slowing the emptying of the pool's waterfall.
The past several days had been spent filling in the pool, assessing it for leaks, emptying the water, patching the rock walls with more of their special mud and refilling the water. They had refilled the pool during the previous night and it had held throughout the day.
Celebrinduil set Legolas down near the pool, and knelt down himself to test the water temperature. It felt as warm as bath water, which is what Camnesta - the chief healer of the Kingdom - had requested.
"Stay clear of the edge, Legolas," Celebrinduil reminded Legolas, as the child looked at the water hopefully.
Legolas squatted down near Celebrinduil and stuck his hand in the water. He expected it to be cold, and a soft sigh escaped him when he discovered the warmth. He walked in Celebrinduil's shadow as his brother spoke to the elves still working on the project and inspected the work. Several times he stopped to feel the water.
"Duil, bath?" Legolas tugged on his brother's trousers.
Celebrinduil laughed and tousled the blond hair. "Not exactly a bath, Legolas. It is a pool - for swimming and playing."
Legolas waited patiently while Celebrinduil continued his inspection. He seated himself near the edge of the pool and decided his feet should be in the warm water. He removed his soft shoes and peeled off his stockings and dipped his toes in. He kicked, splashing water about and getting his own leggings wet. Several elves kept a watch on him, exchanging amused glances at this elfling clearly enjoying the water.
Legolas kicked for a few more moments, and then decided all of him should be in the water. He stood and stripped off his tunic and leggings. He stood at the edge of the pool, contemplating how he should enter the water. He finally decided jumping in was the best way, and he stepped back a few paces before running the few steps and launching himself into the water.
The little splash of elfling was quickly followed by larger splashes as Celebrinduil, alerted to Legolas' behavior by the call of a nearby elf, jumped in after him as did Elsant, another of the elves who had been keeping a watch on him.
Celebrinduil pulled Legolas up out of the water and watched as the elfling sputtered and then grinned at him.
"Water is warm!" Legolas exclaimed. "Legles bath!"
Celebrinduil laughed. "I am glad you like it, tithen muindor, but you are not big enough to play in here alone!"
The other elf was already climbing out of the water, nodding his acknowledgement to Celebrinduil's look of unspoken thanks. Celebrinduil walked to the shallower water and set the naked elfling on the edge of the pool.
"Please, Duil?" Legolas reached both arms to his brother to take him back into the water.
Celebrinduil studied the little elfling for a moment, unable to ignore the plaintive look on the little face and pleading eyes. He glanced around the cavern, noting that most of the elves working on the project had left the area. He beckoned to Elsant, who was now drying himself off with the towels they kept nearby.
"Elsant, please find Meriwen and ask for some dry clothes for yourself before you leave the palace. Will you also tell her that Legolas is with me, and ask that she send down robes and dry clothes for me as well?"
Elsant smiled and nodded, bowing slightly as he exited the cavern via the tunnel. Celebrinduil picked Legolas up and laughed as the child giggled with glee at being back in the warm water. He set him on steps carved in the shallow end of the pool. "That is the right depth for you, pen-neth." Legolas jumped up and down in the water that came to his chest, splashing and giggling.
Celebrinduil stripped off his own sodden trousers and tunic and tossed them to the side of the pool. He dove into the deeper end of the pool and swam underwater back to Legolas, coming up beneath the child and lifting him high out of the water before falling over into the deeper water, holding Legolas' head above the water as they splashed back down. Celebrinduil surfaced to screams of joy.
"Duil, do it again! Do it again!" Legolas shrieked.
Celebrinduil tossed Legolas in the air, letting him land in the water but catching him before his head went under. The child's squeals and giggles echoed in the cavern, and he wondered where else in the palace they could be heard. They had been playing for some time when a splash caught Celebrinduil's attention. He glanced around the rocks in the curve of the pool and saw Lathron surface. A broad smile spread across his face and Celebrinduil motioned him into the middle of the pool. When Lathron was situated several paces in front of Celebrinduil, Celebrinduil lifted Legolas in the air, as if to throw him up and catch him again, but this time propelled the child back and away from him. Legolas screamed in joy, but the look on his face changed to near panic as he realized he was flying away from his brother. He landed in the water and felt hands grab him and hug him close. Legolas squirmed and twisted to look at who had him now.
"Lafron! Duil, Lafron is swimming with us too!" Legolas shouted, any panic already forgotten.
Lathron winced at the shouting in his ear, and then tossed Legolas back to Celebrinduil. This game of toss-the-elfling continued for a few minutes, until one tired and breathless child collapsed in Celebrinduil's arms and held on tight.
Lathron and Celebrinduil moved to sit on the smooth rock in the shallow end of the pool, the water at the perfect depth of mid-chest. Legolas could stand on the ledge his brothers sat upon, the water coming to his chin. He walked in the water, leaning into the resistance it provided, dipping his chin into the water and blowing bubbles as he moved between the two big elves. Finally tiring completely, he wrapped his arms around Lathron's neck and elf-napped on his shoulder.
Lathron stroked the little back gently, feeling the warm wisps of breath on his neck where Legolas' head was tucked.
"I still at times cannot believe he is really home," Lathron said softly.
"I still cannot believe how big he is," Celebrinduil replied. "I think part of me expected an infant and instead he is a sturdy toddler."
"A toddler with likes and dislikes, opinions and personality, all of which we have to discover," Lathron observed. "This is much different than seeing a child from his day of birth and watching him grow."
"Already he has seen much evil," Celebrinduil added, thinking of the tale they had heard of the two years the four had been lost.
"True, but he has always been loved," Lathron answered. "It would be much worse if he had been raised by those who are not of elf-kind or by someone who did not love him. Tathiel loves him. Tinánia and Eärundra love him."
Celebrinduil smiled. Lathron always saw the good, always accentuated the positive. "This is the most time I have spent alone with him," he offered.
Lathron looked at him sheepishly. "Do you mind if I am here?" he asked, not having considered that Celebrinduil might have wished to enjoy this time alone.
"No, I am glad you are here. He is also very wearying!" Celebrinduil admitted with a laugh.
"Legolas, wearying?" A voice said from behind them.
"Bregolas! Come and relax in the warm water," invited Celebrinduil. He spotted his father entering the cavern. "Adar!" Celebrinduil stood and walked into the deeper water. With great pride he described the workings of the pool and the source of the water, his brother and father listening with great interest and carefully inspecting the design.
"I am impressed, ion-nín," Thranduil finally managed to say when Celebrinduil finished his tour. To Celebrinduil's surprise, his father stripped and dove into the deep water, surfacing in the shallow end near Lathron. Bregolas quickly followed.
Thranduil inspected the interior of the pool as he had the exterior workings, looking at the steps and ledges built in for relaxing; the rocks in the curve of the pool that provided privacy to those on either end; the slope that allowed the water to deepen gradually, and the mud that sealed the rocks to prevent leakage. He rested his hands in the waterfall that emptied the pool, watching the water trickle down the stones and return to the underground river that could only be heard from this cavern.
"I am very pleased." Thranduil squeezed Celebrinduil's shoulder as he sat down on the ledge with them. "You have shown much creativity and logic in this design."
"Thank you, Adar, but I did have much help," answered Celebrinduil truthfully.
Bregolas and Lathron noticed, as did their father, that Celebrinduil nearly glowed in the praise of those words. Thranduil wondered silently how long it had been since he had noted the work of this son.
A soft sigh garnered their attention, and Lathron pulled Legolas from his shoulder and cradled the child against his chest, submerging more of the cooling skin into the warm water. They all laughed quietly as Legolas began to move in the water, and Lathron pushed the child further from his own body, supporting him under his back, until he was floating with just his face out of the water. All of his limbs seemed to move of their own accord, and as Lathron sensed him waking he pulled the elfling back to his chest.
Elfling eyes focused on the elf holding him and he nuzzled against Lathron's chest. Lathron set the child upright, little feet planted on his thighs and Legolas bounced there for a moment. Then he saw his ada and dove at him with a squeal. Thranduil caught the elfling mid splash and hugged him.
"Ada! Duil built pool an it has warm water an I like to play here!" Legolas' words tumbled out quickly, as they did whenever he was excited and felt the need to give someone a summary of his thoughts. He paused as his father smiled at him. "It is a surprise for Eärundra!" he finished with his own knowing grin.
"This is a very nice pool," Thranduil agreed, "and I think Eärundra will like her surprise. Are you ready to get dried and dressed?"
Legolas shook his head and squirmed away from his ada, for he had seen Bregolas. "Bregles!" Legolas launched himself at his next brother.
Thranduil leaned against the rock wall, watching in amusement as his three older sons moved to the deeper water with Legolas. They pushed and pulled him through the water, occasionally tossing him between them, the air filled with their laughter and Legolas' squeals of delight. He closed his eyes and a picture formed of that same scene, but with five sons instead of four. Alagos changed the triangle to a square and took his turn in the play. Thranduil allowed that picture to fade, and the replacement image showed the joy that would happen the next day when his daughters, Ethiwen and her daughters, and Tathiel took their turn in the pool. Legolas was in this picture as well, in Tathiel's care. He was being tossed again, but this time it was his mother catching him. Thranduil's memory was perfect, and the vision of Narawen would never fade from his mind's eye. He saw her clearly, heard her laughter as she played with their youngest son. A sob nearly choked him as the feeling of overwhelming loss struck a blow to his heart. He forced his eyes to open and the scene to fade. He focused on his sons and felt his heart lighten.
"Ada, watch me!
Thranduil sat back and watched as this small child, who had turned all their lives upside down in the few weeks he had been home, made his place in the home and hearts of his family.
* * * * *
tithen muindor--- little brother
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.