Word Count: 6,354
Summary: Thranduil is stirring up
old magicks on behalf of his small son. A tale of a magickal
autumnal night and day.
Disclaimer:This is a work of transformative
fan fiction; all characters and settings belong to the Estate of J.R.R.
Tolkien. The story itself is the intellectual property of the author.
No copyright infringement has been perpetrated for financial gain.
It was the old wizard’s idea, which usually meant
trouble from the get go; however, Thranduil admitted, there was not
only logic in the idea, but sound reasoning as well. And so he
had made this journey, alone, deep into the forest on behalf of his
Mithrandir had advised caution, but so far the only
foe he had faced had been the night mists curling up around Mabon’s
hooves like the souls of the dead seeking warmth and life. Usually
gift horses were suspect; tonight he would refrain from looking too
Thranduil reined his horse into the sinuously curving
turn. Not much further now.
Past the deep forest spring where wood nymphs bathed
beneath silver waterfalls in shallow bowls of moonlight. On through
the foggy bottomed hollow where pixies broke off their wrestling to
swarm up for a ride, tangling Mabon’s silky mane with their frisky
fingers. Around the glimmering Cerin Mîr, beneath which, legend
whispered, lay a king’s ransom in rare jewels, over the gentle rise
threaded through gnarled old trees, down to the guardian gate - a forest
of standing stones thrice the height of any elf in the realm.
And still he remained unchallenged. Wise counsel
to hold off this errand until the autumnal equinox.
His forest was old, sown by the hand of the Giver
of Fruits in the days before the Star Kindler had dispelled the darkness
of Cuiviénen. Some said this locale, nearly two day’s ride
north of the stronghold of Mirkwood, and difficult for most to find,
had been the ancient realm of Elu Thingol and his Maia mate, Melian.
The waves of wrath that had swallowed the unrighteous
of the island realm in the 2nd Age though, had changed the
shape of world so dramatically one could not say with impunity.
Reining in, Thranduil sat a moment, listening.
Beyond this spell-guarded threshold, even he did not dare enter without
Mabon shifted, though not restlessly. The elf
lord’s steed was the steadiest in three kingdoms, but even the steadiest
of companions would perceive the trailing finger of fear Thranduil acknowledged,
if only to himself and his horse.
He was not welcome here, but the greater burden compelled
transgression and on this night of nights, though few knew it, his safety
was assured. Blood could not be spilled during this sacred celebration.
He had been here only once previously, long ago.
Guarded, he well knew, and guided by his wife whose kinship with the
Changers had guaranteed safe passage. It had been a night such
as this, though laden with less burdensome sorrow.
Thranduil swung down, allowing the memory free rein
as he began to unbuckle, untie, and unlace the various bundles and baskets
bedecking his patient charger.
Though untroubled that his trespass angered the guardians,
he knew better than to come empty-handed. Carefully, as his wife
had done before, he began to lay out the autumnal gifts he had come
to bargain with.
He was not without power, even here deep in the domain
of unfettered magick. Earth energy pulsed like a heartbeat as
he carefully placed the first gift in the north quadrant of the hexagon;
green grapes mounded like cushions inside a Haradrim lord’s tent.
For air in the east quadrant, a row of fat, yellow squash appearing
a bit like Thranduil imagined the rotund little creatures Mithrandir
was so fond of nattering on about. And his own personal bit of
mischief, in the south quadrant, for fire, Thranduil placed several
decanters of Dorwinion, along with the more traditional pile of deep
red apples. Finally, in the west quadrant he laid out a circle
of baskets woven in blues and lavenders, their handles festooned with
ribbons of pale yellow, mint green and sunrise pink, releasing the spells
that kept the bounteous offerings of seeds and nuts and berries from
In the center of these gifts of harvest, he lit a
raft of tall, slender star anise-scented candles, as both offering and
And sat back on his heels to wait.
Thranduil settled on the side of the large bed, running
his hand over the soft coverlet of pieced leaves as he ruminated on
the many kinds of magick he had encountered in his life. He was
not accounted among the old of his realm, for a the third of his father’s
army had survived the War of the Last Alliance, and formed a large part
of his counsel, but he was old enough to have at least tangential knowledge
of even the old elemental magicks.
He would not know how to live without the deep rumblings
and grumblings of the ancient forest guardians undergirding the deepest
levels of his attunement with the natural world. Nor would it
cross his mind to consider dismissing the chitter chatter of the lively
young saplings any more than he would think of telling the merry makers
of his court to hush, though he filtered it through a thicker layer
He was one with the forest and its inhabitants in
an inexplicable way. Every tree and bush, every flower, rock and
stone, each individual leaf and blade of grass, the birds, the bees,
all the critters and creatures that crawled and flew and even spun –
they were all linked to the King of Mirkwood.
Though he had refused to attend the White Council,
he knew their work and the great magicks that had held first Morgoth’s,
and now Sauron’s devastating power, if not completely in check, at
least from devouring Middle-earth.
And then there were Mithrandir’s magickal
It was an incomplete list, for in his long life he
had experienced many more kinds of magicks than he could name.
But here, in this fire-lit chamber, protected by enchantments and magicks
deep as the carven rock ceiling and warm as the hearth flames, resided
the heart of all magick.
Leaning to plant an elbow on the other side of the
still, small form, Thranduil tucked a thumb inside the pliant curl of
fingers resting next to the blond head, and felt the heartbeat of magick
pulse through his veins.
This was the oldest of magicks; the kind that knew
neither bonds nor boundaries. It existed in every society, crossed
all populations, and welcomed practitioners of every age.
Skin to skin, connected on the most elemental of
levels as those fingers curled trustingly around his own, he stepped
gently into his son’s reverie.
He did not often have time to wake Legolas in this
manner, but they both relished the moments when it was possible.
“Bain aur, ada,” Legolas
greeted sleepily, turning to nestle his cheek into his father’s large
In the youthful, anything-is-possible mind, Thranduil
took his elfling by the hand. Together they climbed the hill to wakefulness
and sat to watch the memory of a sunrise, for there were no outside
entrances to this well-fortified chamber. This morning, Thranduil
shared the dawn he had woken to, with his wife, the morning after Legolas’
conception. It had been a morning of incomparable joy and he channeled
all of that into his son as they watched a golden sun peep over the
horizon, painting the dawn with sharp brush strokes of sunshine-hued
purple, and lavender, and pink.
“I still miss naneth a lot, ada. I wish I could
see her again.”
“Bain aur, my little leaf,”
Thranduil returned as he centered his wide awake elfling in the here
and now. “I miss her, too.”
They shared a moment of silent gratitude for the
memories that kept Nethil alive in their hearts. Thranduil would
be forever grateful for the granted Mettarë wish that had allowed Legolas
to see his mother once more. The nights in the old swan rocker
staring into the fireplace flames were growing further apart.
Legolas was beginning to live again, to find joy in adventure and exploring.
Occasionally he even got into mischief these days, though that was still
a very rare occurrence.
The resurgence of the dormant little fëa was beginning
to cause Thranduil to tremble deep in his own soul. Not because of the reawakening,
it brought him deep pleasure and satisfaction to watch his little one
emerging from the cocoon he had bound himself in, but the elf lord was
a single parent and a full-time king. And an individual who never
been easy asking for help. Healing his small son’s grief,
however, was more important than even his stubborn pride.
A twinkle lit in the elfling’s eyes. “Is
Thranduil prepared for an explosion. “Aye,
today is the day.”
He expected flying covers and princelings.
To his surprise, Legolas wriggled from beneath the quilt and crawled
into his lap rather than erupting from the bedclothes.
“You’ve been very busy, ada. I have not
seen you for days and days.”
Thranduil smiled at the strand of manipulative guilt
his son managed to thread into those two bare utterances. “Days
and days? I thought you could count better than that, for I was
certain you sat beside me at dinner just yestereve.”
The elfling tucked under his chin rolled his eyes;
Thranduil did not need to see it to know it.
“That is not what I meant,” Legolas chided, burrowing
into that place where his fëa would link him to his father’s heartbeat.
“Did the Cold return again, my leafling?” Thranduil
felt the jerky nod as he ran a gentle hand over the long night braid,
dexterously removing the leather fetter. Teasing the end free,
he ran his long fingers through the fine silk, unraveling the braid
and began to massage the little head. “Why did you not send
Rhenneth for me, or come to my bed?”
The answer, when it came - and it was slow in coming
- was uttered in a voice that sounded suspiciously akin to that of the
king’s chief seneschal. “I am no longer a child in need of
protection from the denizens of the night.”
For the space of three heartbeats, Thranduil considered
the benefits of beheading the Keeper of his Comforts.
“Galion,” he growled, catching his son beneath
the elfling’s arms and tossing him into the air, “knows next to
nothing about almost everything.”
He was rewarded by a giggle and tossed the child
“Hear me, my heart, and learn this lesson well.”
The elf lord tucked up his child again inside a warm embrace and whispered
the next words directly in the tiny tapering ear. “Nothing and
no one will ever keep me from you side should you have need of me.”
The day would come, he knew, when this one would
test the limits of his patience, if not his love. He had not needed
the signs and portents accompanying his son’s birth to know that rebellion
and revolution would follow in the wake of this child’s footsteps.
And so, daily, he worked at rooting his leafling’s
deep, intrinsic trust, so the tether that might rend the soul of the
father would hold strong in the time of testing. He had learned
this from his own father and would someday gift his son with the wisdom
It was enough, this morn, to enfold his child in
a deep embrace and kindle a small imperishable flame to keep the Cold
at bay, something his wife would have done instinctively and he should
have thought of long ago.
And he would have a word with Galion, though their
sharpness would be tempered by the blade of his own accountability.
If he had not been deep in his cups last night, he would have heard
Legolas’ distress himself.
He encouraged the warmth to encompass them both and
kissed the bright head pressed against his heart. “I will do
better about listening, too, I promise.”
“It’s better now, but I have missed you a lot, ada.”
“And I have missed you too, Legolas. Now
come!” The king tossed his heir one last time, savoring the
giggles as he caught the child and snoggled kisses into the sweet-smelling
neck before placing him squarely on his feet on the wide expanse of
whimsical Haradrim carpet covering the cold stone floor. “Go
bring me the comb and we will plait your hair like a warrior today.”
The elfling scampered across the room to drag the
stool they used for night-braiding over to the bit of driftwood cleverly
concealing drawers and the perfect assortment of hidey holes for collecting
bits and pieces of juvenile dreams. Snatching up the comb, Legolas
slithered back down the stool, pausing only long enough to grab leggings
and tunic from a half-open drawer before flying back to insert himself
between his father’s knees. “What do we do today, ada?” he inquired, holding
the comb up over his shoulder.
It was put to use on the few tangles left and once
more Thranduil sifted his fingers through the fine strands of hair,
starting the braid over the left ear. “I thought you might like
to go and visit the litter of wolf pups we ran across on our last outing.”
Legolas bounced enthusiastically. “Oh yes,
Connected as he was with all the woodland realm,
Thranduil had observed casually that it was an unusual time of year
for the whelping of pups, but stranger things had happened and he had
felt no taint in the earth surrounding the wolf den. It was a
matter of interest only in that it had been a delightful end to a day
teaching his son to track. And a rare find, for the natural wolf
packs roaming his forests normally bred deep off the game trails they
had been following that day.
Calaeron, the king’s head game keeper, had backtracked
from a large, muddy paw print at the edge of a well-concealed spring,
to a sheltered den hidden behind a tangled screen of dead vegetation
on the edge of a verdant clearing.
Until today, Thranduil had not considered that a
deeper magick might have already been at work before he had agreed to
the old wizard’s meddlesome prodding. He had thought the idea
of using a wolf pup’s form his own, but perhaps the thought had been
planted long ago and only grown to fruition in the fullness of need.
The right braid was tied off with a thin strip of
leather as well, and Thranduil patted his little one on the behind to
move him forward. “Then let us go see the wolf pups. But
first, you must dress and we will ask Duinenel for a basket of lunch
to take with us when we go to break our fast. Shall I wait for
“Nay!” Legolas clambered out of night leggings
and into day wear, using his free hand to shove at the long column of
muscle and bone that supported his tall-as-an-oak-tree ada. “Tell Duinenel
I will have berries to break my fast this morning. Porridge takes
Thranduil, obedient to the prodding, turned himself
cheerfully toward the door. “I will convey your wishes, tithen cuan.”
“Well, aren’t we the cheerful one,” Galion
intoned, separating himself from the wall supporting his unrestful contemplation
of the one hundred and forty-four studs decorating the door of the prince’s
Thranduil’s tuneful whistle faltered not, nor did
his feet, He did accept the sheaf of parchments shoved at him
as his seneschal fell in step, if less than gracefully.
“These items require your seal prior to your departure.”
This did stop Thranduil, who
was not in the habit of signing things he did not read, and his seneschal
knew it. “We had this discussion yestereve, Galion. We
have had this discussion countless
times since the birth of my son, and yet you cannot remember it even
over a small span of darkness. Should I seek counsel of Elrond
the Healer for your forgetfulness?”
Galion’s scowl suggested the king was not playing
by the rules. He said only, “They will not delay you overmuch.”
“They will not delay me at all.” Thranduil thrust
the batch of parchment back at the seneschal, letting it flutter heedlessly
from his hand when Galion did not immediately take it. If his
stride lengthened a bit more than usual as he resumed his journey toward
the kitchen, it might not have been an involuntary reaction. “If
they must be dealt with today, then you will have to accept Hithuon’s
verdict,” he floated over his shoulder, knowing, even without hearing
the indignant sputter behind him, it would spike Galion’s weaponry.
He would have replaced the seneschal long ago, but
for his unsurpassed skill at sniffing out the best wine in the land.
It was from Galion that Thranduil had learned the fine art of drinking
himself into a stupor. And Galion who had been his drinking companion
Thranduil competently squashed the flutter of renewed
guilt. Parenting was not a job he had ever imagined doing alone,
but he knew himself to be a good father, even without the old conjuror’s
frequent reinforcing of that opinion. However, he had daemons
of his own to fight since the death of his wife; he would not allow
one lapse in judgment to spawn further torment.
He stopped whistling long enough to buss his baker
and thank her for the wonderful yeasty smell of rolls drenched in cinnamon
and honey scenting the kitchen’s bustling warmth. Of all the
places he had labored over, both in the drawing up and the engineering
of his mountain fortress, the kitchens had required the most ingenuity.
There were two – the family kitchen, here close to their quarters,
and the kitchen that cranked out sustenance for the majority of those
who manned the day to day operations of the palace. Venting for
the ovens alone, not to mention the multiple stoves and fireplaces,
had required seemingly endless days of hammers clanging against chisels
reverberating throughout the entire mountain.
“Where’s the wee one?” Duinenel set a
plate of rolls next to the steaming goblet already waiting at the head
of the long trestle table. “Sit you and drink that down before
Thranduil did as he was told, and gratefully.
Duinenel’s brew was worth imbibing for itself alone, though she refused
to give it to him unless he was spending time with Legolas after a night
of wild overindulgence.
Most of the resident healers served him up some vilely
noxious brew that had him spewing his guts, in order to soothe the after
effects of said indulgence; on purpose, he was certain, to drive home
their point. They could take a few lessons from the understated
smugness of the kitchen cook, whose perceived lesser talents ran toward
Thranduil kept his own smugness to himself as he
considered the healing magick she apportioned into everything that left
her stove. She had inserted herself wil-you-nil-you into the yawning
chasm of distance separating two broken souls in those initial darks
days after Nethil’s loss. Tracking them both down regularly
and physically plunking Legolas into his lap, then sitting to make sure
they both ate enough to keep their bodies functioning. Thranduil
was certain there had been far more ingredients in the dishes she had
prepared to tempt them, than could be harvested even within Mirkwood’s
far-reaching realm. And not just things of the earth.
In the way of a good healer, she had not intruded,
just knit the brokenness of the relationship back together again with
food salves that eased both the heart and the stomach.
“Rolls!” Legolas burst into the kitchen, his
presence lighting even the darkest corners of the cavernous chamber.
Clambering up onto the bench into his place at the right hand of his
father, he chortled over the heavenly smell, drawing in deep lungfuls
of air as he grabbed his cup and took a hefty swallow of berry juice.
Thranduil met the purple fountain of spewing juice
with a handy wet cloth he had learned to keep ever present at table,
wiping off first his elfling’s face, then handing the cloth to his
“Perhaps that will teach you not to breathe and
swallow at the same time. Clean up your mess.”
Legolas, on his knees already, industriously applied
cloth to tabletop, then took it to be rinsed and wrung out in the wash
basin. “That was not very good manners, was it?” he offered
artlessly, handing the cloth back over to his father as he resumed his
Thranduil carefully hid the smile, though he let
its warmth beam toward his small companion, and raised a fatherly eyebrow.
“It was not, and I am thankful you figured that out on your own.
Did you have something else you would like to add to that?”
Legolas looked at him quizzically, small fingers
inching toward the rolls set before him, now slightly hazed in purple.
The fingers paused while he searched, perplexed, for the expected missing
words and then the small face lit with comprehension.
The lure of those rolls, however, could not be resisted.
Duinenel,” he said around his mouthful. “Thankyoufordarolbs.”
“Esteledil made your rolls, youngling, and I clean
the table every morning after your departure, since you leave behind
enough crumbs to feed half the yard birds daily.”
Legolas swallowed his mouthful at the dire look from
his father and offered obediently to stay – even though they
were in a very much rush this morning – and help clean the table.
“And thank you for the rolls, Dilly!”
Cook read the warning aright and placidly accepted
the offer of help cleaning up the table. Across the room, Esteledil,
Dilly to the young prince, acknowledged his thanks with a wave.
Thranduil mentally patted himself on the back.
Dawdling a bit over his morning medicinal, he managed
to convince his son a heaping portion of porridge might be a useful
addition to the morning menu, since there was nothing else to do but
wait for his ancient father to finish his own victuals.
Legolas eyed him askance, but complied cheerily enough
when the bowl of porridge and blackberries was set before him.
“Are you done yet?” Legolas rose
to his knees again, and then to stand on the bench, hands planted firmly
on miniscule hips.
“At last! May I have the cloth please?”
Cloth handed over, Legolas scrambled onto the table
top and on hands and knees, began to scrub madly down the length and
breadth of the table.
Fortunately Galion was not in the kitchen, for none
other had the heart to scold him for being on the table in his boots,
not even his trying-to-be stern father.
They left the kitchen hand in hand, leaving a trail
of breadcrumbs and smiles in their wake, for Legolas had insisted on
taking their morning crumbs to feed the birds so that Cook might
have time for a nice nap by the fire.
Autumn had painted the forest with its own brand
of magick as they rode out of the stable yard and into the woods.
A sharp gust of wind, the herald of winter, brought
a dancing swirl of gold and green, flame and russet, raining down on
Legolas laughed delightedly and urged his pony forward
to catch the elusive wind.
“Both hands on the reins,” Thranduil reminded
easily, keeping the stallion to an indignant walk.
“Look, ada, look!” A woven
collage of brilliant fall leaves and berries had landed with precision
on Legolas’ blond head.
“My my, the tree sprites are sharing their gifts
with you.” Behind the elfling, Thranduil lifted a hand, acknowledging
the gift tossed down by one of the scouts returning among the treetops.
“Does it look like your crown, ada? The one you
wore at the harvest festival? I wish I could see it.”
Legolas’ fat pony turned his head, Thranduil
noted, eying the elfling a bit morbidly as he bounced with enthusiasm.
“Perhaps Gedror would appreciate less bouncing
and more guidance.” Though the pony’s surefootedness made that
unnecessary for all practical purposes. “And aye, your crown
looks like a miniature replica of the one the women wove for the equinox
This, and many other questions fired at him, were
amiably answered, Thranduil relishing their time together just as much
as his son.
Almost, as the day wore on and the leagues passed
slowly beneath the horses hooves, and Legolas’ artless prattle
continued unabated, Thranduil wished for the return of the contemplative
elfling. Almost, but not quite.
Nethil had handled their son’s effervescence with
ease, and, Thranduil had to admit, a bit of shrewdness lacking in the
vast arsenal of his own cunning.
Clearly, the Mettarë visit with his mother
had begun to heal the wounds so deeply embedded in the tender fëa.
And he was marrow-deep thankful for the gift, even if it meant swallowing
his pride long enough to give thanks to the interfering popinjays who
called themselves the Rodyn.
He had noticed with relief too, that the elfling’s
song was beginning to lose its dirgey overtones, its deep roots sending
forth tentative tendrils of merry melody once more. It had lightened
his heaviest burden tremendously, for an elf lacking the power of song
was doomed to a half-life, or worse, ineffable fading.
And so they rode along in the glory of a perfect
fall day, Legolas pointing out the more flamboyant trees dressed in
burnt orange and butternut yellow, eggplant purple and the deep, shimmery
copper color of the bowls with which Rhenneth had finally coaxed
the elfling back into the kitchen. For some reason, unfathomable
to his father who preferred gems to precious metals, Legolas had an
affinity for copper.
Thranduil, in defense of both sanity and education,
instigated of a game of Spy the Sounts, telling Legolas when they were
entering into zones of coverage where he knew there were active scouts,
encouraging the youngling to point them out. So far, Legolas
had missed only one of the six they had encountered on their meandering
journey. And Thranduil had only been aware of the elf on the periphery
of his mind because he was so in tune with the whispering trees.
From that had sprung an impromptu lesson on opening
one’s mind to the natural cadence of the forest, listening to the
voices of wind and water and trees, the heart song of the Earth thrumming
with the balance of light and shadow. Thranduil purposely had
not mentioned the growing shadow in the south, creeping with slow menace,
further and further into the borders of what had once been a beautiful
Legolas had blithely informed his ada that nanneth had shown him
the old magick, and of course he could hear the trees, but he had been
busy trying to recall if they were anywhere near the turn off where
they must leave the horses and walk to the wolf den, so of course he
had missed the elf who had overtaken them from behind.
Arien rode the sky directly over their heads when
Thranduil steered them off the old game trail deeper into the woods
where he knew a band of regular scouts kept a well-stocked, deeply camouflaged
flet. It would not only challenge his elfling’s tree-climbing
abilities, it would provide another bit of adventure, for they had not
been out visiting flets since well before Nethil’s death.
This close to the wolf pups though, the elfling could
barely sit still long enough to eat the cooked fowl and grapes Duinenel
had provided. When he could not be persuaded to even try the treat
of sweet crème layered between thick slabs of dense cake, Thranduil
repacked their noon day refreshment and followed his son’s rapid descent
from the top of their sylvan bower to the lowest limb.
Legolas would have launched from there onto his pony
had not his father clamped a hand in the back of his tunic. “That
is a long leap, my son. Your pony could perhaps accommodate so
light a feather as you, but the ground would not be so accommodating
to little limbs if you misjudge the leap. And anyway, there is
a better way.”
Bending gracefully to grasp the sturdy limb, still
a good three yards above the ground, the king swung down, hung from
his hands for a moment grinning up at the small face peering down at
him, then dropped the few feet left, landing lightly.
The elfling’s eyes widened in delight. Bending
as his father had done, Legolas positioned his hand’s similarly and
swung down, except the supple leather of his miniature knee boots clung
to the tree bark so he somersaulted in a circle once before kicking
out his feet and letting go. Shrieking with glee, he flew through
the air just like the falling leaves, to land safely in his father’s
arms, where he was promptly deposited on the back of his sturdy steed.
Clearly he wished to do it again, but the urgency
of the wolf pups won out and with a last longing look over his shoulder
at the gently undulating tree limb, Legolas clicked at his pony to catch
up with his father’s already moving charger.
It was not far to the turn off, only a couple of
leagues, and they covered the distance at a trot, tethering the horses
in the shade of a venerable old beech. It was another half hour
walk deeper into the woods to find the den, but that distance, too,
The colorful carpet of fallen leaves beneath their
feet absorbed the soft footfalls as father and son crept toward the
outer edge of the small clearing. The den was a little cave made
of fallen longs and forest detritus on the west edge of the clearing,
directly across from their approach.
The clearing was one of those natural forest glades,
probably cleared at some point by fire, that had nurtured the seeds
deposited by birds and other animals passing through. They approached
noiselessly from downwind, catching glimpses through the trees, of the
wrangling brood. Belly down in the grass, Legolas shimmed up on his
elbows beside his father.
A bright shaft of sunlight illuminated the clearing,
gleaming off the fur of a dozen pups gamboling about, flattening the
deep grass, yipping and nipping as they rampaged wildly, bowling each
over and landing in panting heaps of energy and fur.
“The mother knows we’re here,” Legolas whispered,
propping his elbows in the grass and his chin in his hand as he watched
the wolf raise her head to stare at their hidden shapes.
“Aye, she would.” Even if he hadn’t warned
her. “The pack will not be far away.”
They watched in silence for a long time, Thranduil
watching his child watch the antics of the lone white female pup.
She was a lively thing, in the thick of every mock battle, pulling and
chewing and growling as hardily as her brothers, and far less daintily
than her sisters. She was adventurous, too, her circular path
widening with each bit of ground gained, refusing to be herded back
to the center of the clearing by any of her larger siblings. Until
she broke away to circle the outer perimeter of the tree-ringed glade.
Her loping perambulations brought her within touching distance of their
Legolas stopped breathing as the quivering black
nose pushed further and further up the very slight incline, until elfling
and wolfing were eye to eye.
Thranduil felt no fear in his child, only a faint
worry that the puppy would be chastised for its boldness.
The wolf pup sniffed, hesitantly at first, then licked
inquisitively, slurping a long pink tongue over a small human nose.
Legolas held still as a statue until a definitive head butt invited
him to play. “May I, ada,” he breathed in
an awestruck whisper.
“Of course, but you should ask permission from
her mother, too.”
Legolas pushed himself very slowly to his hands and
knees, then sat back on his heels. The wolf pup pounced, grabbing
a bit of tunic in an attempt to drag him down into the clearing with
the other younglings.
“I would never harm your babies, little mother,”
Legolas said softly, opening his hands in entreaty. “Will you
let me play with them?”
Thranduil sat up to watch as wolf and elfing tumbled
head over heels straight into the middle of the rambunctious pack of
puppies. Legolas was at once one of them, his delighted laughter
adding a further sheen of brightness to the autumn afternoon.
Thranduil made a mental note to be sure and thank
the ring of warriors undoubtedly holding back a rush of spiders, for
such joy would bring the black creatures scurrying from their nests
in search of prey faster than the time it took to rub two legs together.
This area had been searched and researched for spider
infestations, then kept guarded for the last moon cycle, against any
hidden nests that might have spawned in the meantime.
And once again, he had to hand it to Mithrandir.
He should have remembered Legolas’ affinity for animals sooner
than the old grey wanderer, though he would gladly set aside the case
of Dorwinion the wizard had set as his price for softening up Annanis.
The old crone, who might have appeared as a Hadrim
war lord or a witchy, siren elleth, had driven a hard
bargain for the indefinite services of her many times removed great
grandchild, and then informed him - after payment had been exchanged
- that the child still had the right of refusal. It was the way
of their people. She did the haggling, but none were constrained
to agree to her bargains. It was a risk one took in seeking out
Thranduil had been incensed, for he had paid the
contract price with a particularly lovely white gem full of fire and
ice, its magickal worth far greater than its value in currency.
And then he had recalled Mithrandir’s sly inference that no old crone
worth her salt could remain unaffected by the story of the quiet little
princeling refinding his voice and song, reclaiming his mischievous
inheritance and in desperate need of a fearsome guardian.
The Changelings had never been known for their honesty,
nor was faith something Thranduil practiced regularly. He still
did not know if the bargain he had struck would hold, though it was
clear there was an affinity between his son and the wolf pup already.
He let them play uninterrupted until Arien’s slide
toward the treetops began in earnest. Thanking the wolf mother
for her tolerance, he called his son to begin their journey home.
From the bottom of a heap of exhausted puppies, one
small elfling scrambled to the surface, calling his own thanks to the
mother as he scampered to his father’s side.
“Come, my little leaf, I should have called you
sooner, for it is late now, and the trip home still long.” Thranduil
swung his son up on his shoulders and turned them both to take a last
long at the puppies dragging themselves over to dinner.
“They are so beautiful,” Legolas remarked.
“And so much fun, ada.”
Thranduil reminded himself, yet again, to ask Rhenneth
to begin the process of reintegrating Legolas into his old play circles.
Obviously his reblossoming son needed the companionship of children
his own age again.
He was a little bit surprised and a lot pleased that
the little bit of faith he had managed to retain through the long ages
of fighting for survival was rewarded as they reached the edge of the
woods and their patient steeds. Tossing his son up on the back
of the pony, he caught a flash of white out of the corner of his eye.
Hushing the gentle murmur of the trees, lest they
spoil the surprise, he mounted his own charger and turned them toward
Legolas relived every moment of his afternoon as
an honorary litter mate, each charge and retreat, every nip and tickle,
every lick and sniff he had given or received. And then, as the
evening cooled and the smell of cooking fires had begun to scent the
night air, his patter had begun to trail off.
Thranduil had shifted his sleepy son over to his
horse and turned the pony loose to find its own way back to the stables.
“Ada?” a sleepy elfling
rubbed at bleary eyes as Thranduil tucked his son into bed much later
“Legolas?” the king reflected, matching the serious
“I had such fun today, riding and climbing and
spying and playing with the puppies. But most off all, I liked
being with you.”
“For me, too, my little leaf, having you all to
myself, was the best part of the live long day.” He would not
share that the ride had reminded him of a time when the great wood had
been green and growing at all points of the compass, and that the memories
of his courtship and betrothal haunted him now. He bent and kissed
the tip of the small nose. “I will make sure Galion clears my
schedule so we can do this again soon.”
“Ada?” the sleepy voice
“Legolas?” Thranduil repeated.
“Ada, I think Aiollda followed
“She said her name is Aiollada.” Legolas yawned
and snuggled deeper into the feather mattress. “She says she
will watch over me and keep me safe, even when you are in your cups.”
“Aiollda,” Thranduil repeated, squinching
his eyes as though his morning headache had returned.
A Changling’s word is bond, a silvery feminine voice said in his head. An engaging pup that follows
you home. That was what you desired, aye?
Thranduil made no answer, but he wondered, as he
dimmed the brilliance of the Fëanorian lamps down to the softness of
a glowworm, if he had won the bargain … or not.