My Aragon Stories
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Journey's End: 5. Letting Go
On the trail he had had to share her only with a tiny elfling who thought of her as his nana. This simply made them a threesome, for the elfling went where she did. Now, though, duties called them both. He seldom saw her throughout the day, and only occasionally in the evening. They had not shared a meal together in weeks, nor had he held her in his arms with nothing more pressing to do than watch the stars.
He took her gloved hand in his own, and drew it to his lips as they slowly walked along the path. He remembered the words he had shared with Galithon, his promise to go slow, to give her time to recover from the incredible journey she had taken. But he did not wish to go slow, not anymore. He wanted to bind with her, body to body and feä to feä - to be part of her and have her be part of him, for all eternity.
Yet while she seemed to want to be with him, he felt that she had withdrawn from him too.
He had not become the lead captain of all Thranduil's forces by casually waiting for whatever opportunity happened his way. Perhaps it was time for action, time to press his wishes to be with her.
"Rawien?" He was so deep in his own thoughts that the sound of her voice surprised him. He stopped walking and she turned to face him. "Do you wish to have children one day?"
He looked long into her eyes before answering, sensing the depths of meaning behind the question. He took her face in his hands, pushing back her hood slightly. His thumb gently caressed her cheek and she leaned into his hand.
"Having a child will be a decision we will have to make together, at a time when we both feel it is right to do so," he answered carefully.
She lowered her eyes, guarding her emotions from him. "But do you not wish for an heir, for a son to carry on your line?"
"Perhaps I would wish for a daughter, one as beautiful and loving as her mother, a daughter that I might treasure and love second only to her nana?" he replied teasingly.
"So you do wish for children," Tathiel raised tear-filled eyes to his.
"The only one I wish for right now is you," Rawien replied slowly. He lowered his lips to hers and kissed her tenderly. She responded to his touch, her arms winding around his neck as she relaxed in his embrace. He kissed her at length, slowly and gently, savoring her taste, then moved to kiss away each tear that still shone on her cheeks, each eyelid that sheltered the tears. "I love you, Tathiel. I want to be with you. I want you to be my wife and I want to be your husband."
"I want those things too," she whispered.
"Then why the tears, meleth-nín?" Rawien drew her head to his shoulder, the warmth of her breath caressing his neck.
"I am afraid," Tathiel answered softly.
"Afraid of what?"
"Afraid I may be unable to be all the things a wife should be," she replied, the pain in her voice obvious.
"Tathiel, I want you for my wife. I care not for anyone else's ideas of what a wife should be. I want you, just as you are. And I want you soon," Rawien answered boldly.
Tathiel could hear the need in his voice, could feel it in the sudden tension of his body. She pulled back from him slightly, so she could again see his eyes. The passion visible in them startled and thrilled her. She pressed herself tightly against him as she pulled his head down to hers, kissing him hungrily and passionately. Somehow, in his arms like this, all her doubts melted away.
Rawien smiled inwardly. Yes, bold was a good thing.
* * *
Thranduil paced in the hall outside of his daughter's chamber. The patrol would leave at sun-up, and he needed to see her before she left - he needed to make sure she knew how much he loved her.
She had been busy with duties during most of the day, and he had not been able to speak more than a greeting to her since the dinner two nights before, when he had learned she would be leaving on her first patrol. He had spent a busy day reviewing the message from Lothlórien with his advisors, yet he had thought of her often, wishing to clear the air between them. He did not want her to leave believing that her father thought her incapable of the task facing her.
Her door opened and she stepped out.
"Adar?" Elenath seemed surprised, and a sudden fear rose in her that he would stop her.
Thranduil took the pack from her hand, and set it down next to her. Holding both her hands in his, he looked her up and down, even turning her around to inspect the back of her uniform.
"I think you will do," he said brusquely.
"Ada?" Thranduil felt a smile tug at his lips at the confusion on her face. He suppressed the smile.
He stepped to her, straightening her collar over the winter cloak she wore and smoothing out a wrinkle from the sleeve. He caught her chin in his hand. "I am proud of you, Elenath. Serve well and come home safely."
"Ada!" Elenath flung her arms around his neck, hugging him tight.
Thranduil wrapped his arms about her, wishing he did not have to let go, wishing she could just play at being a warrior and never leave the safety of the realm. "I love you, sell-nín."
"I love you too, Ada," she replied, a bright smile on her face. "Oh, Ada, I thought you were not going to let me go," she confessed.
"Do not tempt me," Thranduil replied gravely, one eyebrow raised in that manner unique to him. He allowed himself a brief smile at the sudden panic in her face. "But you no longer belong just to me. You are grown, with the responsibilities of an adult."
They were interrupted by noise in the hallway, and turning Thranduil had to smile as Elumeril rushed at her sister, her older brothers close behind. Tathiel appeared last, a sleeping Legolas in her arms.
"Elenath, I will miss you!" Elumeril hugged her.
Thranduil stepped back as all of his children took their turn saying goodbye, giving final hugs and kisses, well wishes and advice, until Bregolas finally grabbed the pack sitting forgotten on the floor.
"It is time to go, Elenath. You do not want to be late for your first mission," Bregolas wrapped his arm about her shoulders and squeezed her close as he began to lead her to the palace entrance.
Elenath stopped and turned back to her father and siblings.
"Ada, can we say goodbye here?" she asked, blushing. "There are only two novices leaving with this patrol, and I don't want the other warriors noticing me because my whole family comes to see me off."
Thranduil smiled wickedly. "Miss an opportunity to embarrass my daughter? Elenath….."
He hugged her once last time, kissing her on both cheeks, and let Bregolas lead her out to join the patrol.
But father and siblings stood in the cold, hidden in the darkness of the entry to the palace, where they watched until the patrol had left the gates and were out of sight.
Bregolas joined them a few minutes later, and he eyed his father quizzically. He took the blanket wrapped Legolas from his father's arms and cuddled the still-sleeping elfling close as they entered.
"You know who leads the patrol?"
Thranduil snorted. "Of course. It was unfortunate that Aranu was needed to help write the reports on orc activity in the south, but Galithon will do well."
Bregolas burst out laughing, nearly waking the elfling. "Aye, Adar. I am sure that is why you sent Galithon."
Thranduil cocked an eyebrow at his eldest son's impudence, then turned adroitly on his heel to slip an arm about Elumeril's shoulders and lead her to breakfast.
Bregolas looked down at the bundle in his arms. "You know, he will do the same to you. Just you wait."
* * *
Thranduil sat at the head of the large table, his advisors and captains seated along the sides. He read to them parts of the missive from Lothlórien, allowing the words to sink in before speaking himself.
"The Wise plan to meet to discuss the threat of Dol Guldur," Thranduil began, a slight contempt in his voice caught by most at the table. "I have been invited to represent the elves of this realm and provide what information I can on the shadow again covering our lands. Whether we consider it fortuitous or not, all present at this table have first hand knowledge of the evil that returned two summers ago. Information obtained at such high cost should not be wasted. I will attend the White Council and present what information we have. This danger is closest to us, but will eventually affect all who live in Middle-Earth, just as it did in the time of my father. We shall do our part to fight the shadow and aid others who wish to do the same."
He paused, looking at each face. He considered what knowledge each had. Rawien and Galithon had the same information; he truly did not need them both for this purpose. Aranu had unique information from his southern tracking to Dol Guldur. He need not tell that he preferred the paternal Galithon to watch over his daughter.
As Thranduil continued, asking each captain to write out all they had heard, saw, speculated or considered about the return of shadow, in the back of his mind rested the memory of his wife and a son slain, and another son taken. Shadow had taken much from him, and these captains had restored to him that which they could - a son regained. He thought of Lathron's words, of the vision of Legolas grown and serving in some great battle. He hoped that Shadow would be routed long before his smallest elfling was of an age to fight.
"When you have completed this task, Urithral, Bregolas and Rawien will compile a report that I will present to the White Council this summer."
Urithral stayed after the captains had been dismissed. "Who do you think has taken up residence in Dol Guldur?"
Thranduil pondered the question. "Sauron did not die at Dagorlad. Whether he has gained strength to return, or these are his Nazgûl blazing a path ahead of him, I know not. Perhaps Mithrandir will come before summer. The musings of the wizard might prove interesting."
As the King and his chief advisor departed the small room used for such briefings into the corridor that led back to the Great Hall, they both caught the faint shouts and laughter of elflings playing in the pool.
"I suppose we might find a way to dampen the sound from that cavern, should the volume become bothersome," Urithral mused.
"Perhaps," Thranduil answered absently. "I am sure the craftsmen could address the problem."
Both unconsciously slowed their walk to listen to the voices they had missed for two years, each thinking the same thought: it would be forever before they would wish for the sound of those precious voices to be silenced.
* * *
Thranduil returned to the family quarters, anticipating a quiet evening with his children. He entered the sitting room to find Lathron waiting for him.
"Adar, I would like you to meet Nathlhê," Lathron introduced the young she-elf who rose and bowed to the king. "Nathlhê is a weaver. She has taught many an elfling and has brought samples of her work for you to examine."
Thranduil nodded to the elleth and moved to examine the tapestries she had brought with her. She had laid them across the table and chair backs, and he found himself examining each with great interest.
"This is of the entrance to the east garden," he murmured. "And this is the Great Hall at the Summer Solstice many summers ago. I recall the special decorations Narawen had made, for the flowers were especially spectacular that spring."
"Yes, my lord," Nathlhê replied shyly. "This is a better sample of that festival. Here is Lady Narawen under the arbor she decorated, with Elumeril at her side. The scene was so beautiful I had to capture it. Elumeril was very young; I am not sure she would recognize herself in this work."
"Perhaps not," Thranduil answered. "But her father does."
"These are works completed by my students," Nathlhê handed him works of lesser quality, but still showing great beauty.
"Lathron has explained to you what we are seeking?" Thranduil asked.
"Yes, my Lord. You seek someone to teach Elumeril," Nathlhê replied. "I would very much like to work with your daughter."
A sudden squeal from the corridor drew his attention and he heard Legolas' voice raised in distress.
"Lathron will work out details with you, Nathlhê. I hope you find Elumeril an apt pupil. We believe she has some talent with color and an eye for beauty, and will enjoy whatever you may teach her," Thranduil finished as the squeal rose to a scream. "Please excuse me."
Nathlhê bit her cheek that she might not laugh in front of the king or the prince. She breathed in deeply as soon as the king departed, but the laughter escaped her when Lathron began to smile.
"That is Legolas, my baby brother. I am sure you will hear more of him during your time with Elumeril."
* * *
"No, Tafiel stay!' Legolas was crying now, great gulping sobs interspersed with his pleas.
Meriwen was attempting to take him from Tathiel, who looked nearly as distressed as Legolas. Rawien stood behind her, impassive outwardly, but inwardly tense, for there was nothing he could do to ease the discomfort of the child or Tathiel.
"Legolas, I will return and tuck you into bed," Tathiel explained, most of her words drowned out by sobs.
"Tafiel stay with Legles!" Legolas managed one more shriek as he kicked and pushed at Meriwen.
Thranduil watched the scene unfolding in front of him for a moment, before quietly walking up to the group. He took the struggling elfling from Meriwen.
"No, No, No!" Legolas felt new hands take him, hands that were not Tathiel's.
"Legolas," Thranduil spoke calmly into the elfling's ear.
Legolas opened his eyes and quit fighting as soon as he heard that familiar voice, then flung himself at his father. "Ada make Tafiel stay! Tafiel stay, Rawen stay. . .," he sobbed.
Thranduil smiled at the couple, noting Tathiel's look of regret as she fought over what to do.
"My lord, I can stay…"Tathiel began.
Thranduil shook his head, cutting her off, as he comforted his son. "He will recover, Tathiel. Go to dinner with Rawien. You can tuck this little one in later," he smiled reassuringly.
Thranduil nearly laughed at Rawien's look of utter relief that his evening was not ruined and waved them out the door. Legolas continued to sob in his arms, crying for his 'Tafiel'.
"Meriwen, will you bring me some cider for Legolas to drink?" Thranduil asked the maid kindly.
"Yes, my lord," Meriwen went off hurriedly, glad for a task she could easily complete.
Thranduil took Legolas to his room and sat in the rocking chair, Legolas cradled to his chest. He let the child cry until he could cry no more, the sobs turning to little hiccups, and then finally quieting.
"Ada, Tafiel gone," Legolas added once more for good measure, his voice hoarse.
"Tathiel and Rawien are having dinner together, alone," Thranduil confirmed.
"Legles miss Tafiel."
"I know you do, ion-nín."
Legolas was quiet for a few moments, the rocking soothing him. He had grasped one of his ada's hands, and was playing with the fingers, rubbing the nails and bending each of the joints in turn.
"Ada tell me a story?" Legolas asked.
Thranduil cuddled the little one closer and settled himself comfortably, his hand still in the possession of his son. "Once upon a time there was an elfling who wished to be a great hunter…."
"Was it Bregles?"
"Hmm…I think it was…. the elfling Bregolas wished to be a mighty hunter…."
* * *
"Legolas is fine, Tathiel," Rawien said, squeezing her hand in reassurance. "He is with his father."
"I know. I just didn't expect him to react quite like that," Tathiel gave him an apologetic look.
"He just wasn't ready to be left with Meriwen," Rawien counseled. "He has stayed with his father and siblings when you've been away before."
"He left me, though; I have never left him before," Tathiel said miserably.
"Thranduil will manage," Rawien reminded her. He took a deep breath, then said bravely, "Legolas needs to become part of his family, which mean you will have to let go of him some, so they might have more of him."
Tathiel looked at him with huge tears rolling down her cheeks, and he moved to sit next to her, pulling her into his lap. Her sobs tore at his heart, and all he could was hold her close and let her cry.
* * *
It was late in the evening when Thranduil left the family sitting room. In the corridor he saw Rawien kissing Tathiel goodnight, and he waited until his captain had finished and walked to where he stood waiting.
"How long did she cry for?" Thranduil asked.
"Through dinner, then on and off for the rest of the evening," Rawien answered. "Legolas?"
"Solid for a long while after she left, then after dinner and again at bedtime," Thranduil answered with a sigh.
The two old warriors exchanged knowing glances, the wisdom of many ages present in their eyes. Rawien bowed silently to his king and departed to his own quarters.
Thranduil entered his own chamber, closing the door silently behind him. As he removed his outer robes he noted the new wall hanging above the table near the bed. It was the tapestry he had admired earlier, with Narawen and Elumeril standing under the arbor at the Summer Festival.
"Nathlhê left it for you." Thranduil did not turn at the sound of Lathron's voice. He heard the footsteps approach, and then his son's hand was on his shoulder. "Elumeril was very taken with her. They start tomorrow."
Thranduil reached up and covered his son's hand with his own, squeezing gently. "Good night, Lathron."
"Good night, Ada."
Lathron quietly withdrew from the room, a smile on his face as he realized his father was back at the summer festival, hearing the music of Narawen's laugh as she strolled hand in hand with the little elleth at her side.
* * *
Ithil was high in the sky when Legolas awoke. He slipped from his bed, woolf in hand, and padded through the door into Tathiel's room. He climbed up on to her bed, and crawled under the covers. She was lying on her side, her back to him. He pulled on her shoulder, trying to make her roll over. She partially woke, and her hand touched him as she rolled on to her back. She pulled him close, spooning him into her arms as she rolled on to her other side. Legolas snuggled into her arms, and slipped back into elven dreams.
* * * * *
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