May the Valar Protect Them: 20. Tal-Elmar

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20. Tal-Elmar

Hazad woke early the next morning and cared for the horses, hitching them to the wagon and preparing for an early start. He heard the elves wake and begin to move inside the wagon, and quickly moved to place food and water inside. He did not wish to chance a repeat of the previous morning.

He moved then to where his brother slept and nudged him with his foot. Guryn woke ornery, as was his wont, and growled at Hazad, swiping at the foot that had annoyed him.

“I am leaving you. I am taking four of the wagons and half the men. You can continue on the river road; I will cut cross country,” Hazad informed him calmly.

“Stupid to split up,” Guryn grunted.

“I prefer to get all my baggage home in one piece,” Hazad replied grimly.

“Elf baggage is more trouble than it is worth,” Guryn snorted. “Do what you will. Better hope we don’t run into thieves on the road. Your loss if we do.”

Hazad did not reply, instead turning on his heel and walking away. He motioned to the men he had chosen to accompany him, and they fell into formation behind his wagon. He climbed into the wagon seat, glancing briefly behind him into the wagon bed, and then set forth. He drove the horses off the main road and followed a southeasterly direction. The road might be a bit harder, but he considered it a fair trade to remove the elf from the temptation of his bad-tempered brother.

***

Legolas pulled himself upright by holding on to the crate lashed to the side of the wagon. He bounced on the balls of his feet, then turned his head to see who might be watching him. None of his ellyth was aware of this new accomplishment. A little furrow creased his brow in dismay at this lack of attention.

“Tafiel watch!” he banged the hand of his uninjured arm against the crate.

Three heads turned to look at him, and he grinned, pouring forth all charm into his most winning smile. He bounced again and stood with his hands free. He turned and saw Tathiel smiling at him, her arms outstretched. He put fourth one foot, and then another and lunged into her arms just as the wagon dipped through a low spot.

“You did it!” Tathiel exclaimed, catching him carefully so as not to bother his shoulder. “Legolas walked!”

“Leges walked!” he clapped his hands and crowed with excitement.

Tinánia and Eärundra hugged him, and took turns standing him in front of one so he could he walk to the other. Squeals of delight poured from Legolas as he was alternately hugged and encouraged as he toddled the few steps from one to the other. Finally he plopped down on his bottom, breathing heavy and smiling from ear to ear. Tathiel held her arms out to him, and he lifted his in answer. Yes, he wanted to be picked up.

She cuddled him in her arms, his head resting on her shoulder as he snuggled and rested from all his exercise. She could feel his warm breath on her neck, and the dampness of his skin from all the exertion was causing the hair at the neck and behind the ears to curl slightly. She gently tugged on his tunic and noted that the bruising of his shoulder was faded and already disappearing. Grateful for this blessing, she kissed him on the head and settled back against the boards of the wagon as he slumbered.

* * *

Nearly a month had passed since they separated from the rest of the caravan, and Tathiel was becoming as frustrated trying to entertain a child just approaching the second anniversary of his conception as the child was himself. His physical skills improved despite the long periods of confinement in the wagon, and he wished more and more to be out running in the cool grass.

“Leges hot! Want out!” Legolas accentuated his frustration by pounding his fist on the wagon lip.

After all, he could see outside. Why couldn’t he go outside?

“Legolas has to stay in,” Tathiel beckoned him to her. “Please come here, Legolas. Come play with your animals.”

Arms crossed on his chest, lower lip thrust out, he stood with legs spread apart for best stability in the rumbling wagon and gave her his most withering look. Tathiel was not impressed, however, and the eyebrow that was raised back at him caused him to relent and he walked to her on sturdy legs. He flung himself into her arms, and Tathiel embraced him, settling him down to play with his animals.

Eärundra stared listlessly out of the wagon, her chin resting in her cupped hands, elbows on the wagon lip, watching the waving grasses behind them as home moved farther and farther away. Tinánia lay on her back, staring at the sky, and humming each tune she knew over and over.

They were hot, tired of sitting in the cramped wagon, and bored.

Hazad had been much more strict with them once they had separated from his brother, as if he sensed they might try to escape once their fear diminished. He allowed them out in the morning and sometimes in the evening, but only when he or one of the men could guard them. Tathiel had asked that they be allowed to walk, but Hazad denied the request. He pushed the horses hard, despite the heat, in his desire to reach home and would not allow their walking to slow him down. On several occasions Hazad had instructed one of the men to backtrack and set fire to the grass. In the distance they would see the billowing smoke, and on one occasion the fire had nearly caught up with them before they finally crossed a small stream that acted as a firebreak. The smoke had nearly choked them, and the horses had been frantic.

Tathiel suspected he was covering his trail and hope rose in her that perhaps they were being followed. They had the same destination as his brother, after all, so he couldn’t be hiding from Guryn. She wondered about the use of fire, for surely the smoke would alert others to their presence. But, with the direction of the wind, it made following them nearly impossible. Those following on horses would find no fodder for their horses to graze upon and no wildlife to shoot for meat.

While hope remained that in time someone might find them, it would clearly not be anytime soon.

***

Rawien sat upon his horse on the river road, looking upon the smoldering ground that held no life. The grass and small trees were blackened as far as his elven eyes could see. This particular fire had jumped the road, and blackened the short expanse of grasses all the way to the edge of the river. Animals too small to swim the river had died on the banks.

“There are more fires to the east,” Galithon observed. “These are purposefully set.”

“More evidence that we are on the right trail,” Rawien replied. He reached into his pocket and withdrew a tiny baby bootie made of animal fur. While possible it belonged to someone else, the style and cut suggested elven workmanship. Whether left on purpose or by accident he did not know, but he kept it for the token it was.

“We know at least one caravan has been through the area, consistent in size to the one we were told Hazad and his people would have,” Galithon mused. “We have seen evidence of single wagons, of horses, and of people and groups of people walking. We saw the large group split and then the fires started. Assuming Tathiel and the children have not escaped and are still with the caravan, which group would you guess they are a part of?”

“That is the question, isn’t it?” Rawien responded, staring off at the horizon. “This token was left by the large caravan, which leads me to believe they were part of it until that point at least. So, we can discount all the tracks of single wagons, horses and people until that point. After that we can only guess. I remind myself that last time we guessed wrong.”

“We may guess wrong again, my friend,” Galithon warned him. “We are going on little evidence and a trail more than a fortnight cold.”

Rawien gave him a wry smile, “Thank you for the warning; though I doubt it will provide much comfort if we are.”

“So, mellon-nín, do you plan on asking the lady’s hand when we do find them?” Galithon inquired.

“How do you know the lady would welcome such attention?” Rawien answered the question with his own.

“You are blind?’ Galithon scoffed.

Rawien did not reply, but whispered to his horse who broke into a trot.

“Come, you have a trail to find,” he called over his shoulder.

Galithon threw back his head and laughed, the sound catching the attention of the elves behind them. They looked with amusement upon the two elder warriors.

“Tathiel?” Sadron inquired.

“Of course. Have you ever seen Rawien blush for any other reason?” Laerion laughed.

***

Tathiel woke with the dawn, and quietly stepped from the wagon. The morning was warm as expected of late summer. They had not stopped until after dark the night before, and she was surprised when she looked to the south to see the huge sparkling body of water.

“The Sea of Rhûn,” she said quietly.

“Aye, that it is,” Hazad smiled when Tathiel jumped at the sound of his voice.

He stood next to her and they gazed over the beautiful blue waters that stretched into the horizon. The sun was low in the east yet, just breaking through the treetops of the forest that bordered the sea.

“Agar is just to the east and a little south of the forest,” Hazad pointed into the distance. “We shall be there in another day, possibly two of travel.”

Tathiel remained silent. The beauty of the land was unquestionable; but it was a place she did not wish to be.

“You will meet my son, Tal-Elmar, then,” Hazad continued. “He will make you a fine husband. He is a good man, not like Guryn,” he sought to reassure her.

Tathiel took a deep breath, but did not look at Hazad as she spoke, “I do not wish to marry your son.”

“I know. But you will accept your place once you come to know him,” Hazad answered mildly.

“My people will come for me and the children,” Tathiel ventured cautiously, not wishing to anger Hazad but wishing very much to challenge him.

“Your people have never come this way in the lifetimes of my father or his father. They will not venture this way, nor would they be likely to find the village that is to be your home,” Hazad seemed unconcerned. He pointed at the land around the Sea of Rhûn, “Many villages and many men live around the sea; we are but one small village amidst all that you see.”

There was silence between them that seemed to stretch an eternity.

“I would not think a woman would attempt to leave alone, with three children to care for,” Hazad finally broke the silence. “She would find the way difficult; very difficult if she were alone and nearly impossible with little ones to care for. Of course life would become very harsh and restricting once she was returned. The children would likely have to be removed from her care if she could not be trusted.”

Tathiel spun and her eyes met his, fury flashing in their depths. “Do not threaten my children,” she hissed under her breath.

“Do not do anything to force my hand,” Hazad replied evenly, unmoved by her anger. “Tal-Elmar has a soft heart for children. If you are fortunate he will allow you to keep your son and raise him as his own. The girls we shall have to see about. For now they will stay with you.”

Hazad turned as he spoke these last words, and went to the horses to begin his morning work. Tathiel stayed with her eyes focused on the sea, furious, until she felt a tug on the sleeve of her tunic.

“Eärundra, good morning,” Tathiel forced a smile to her face and bent down to greet the child.

“What did he mean that we will only stay with you for now?” Eärundra asked, her eyes large and a frown on her face. “What is he going to see about?”

“Twas nothing, tithen min,” Tathiel kissed her, then placing an arm around her shoulders, led Eärundra back to the wagon. “I made him angry and he was just using strong words to make sure I listened to him.”

Eärundra allowed herself to be led, but a new fear had been planted in her heart that she would be taken from Tathiel, and perhaps even separated from her sister. She promised herself to be as well behaved as possible in front of these men that they would have no reason to do this thing.

Tinánia had also woken and busied herself with tending Legolas. Cleaned and changed, she set him in the grass and he raced on little legs to Tathiel and Eärundra, flinging his arms around Tathiel’s knees in greeting.

“GooMorning!” he said, tipping his head back and looking straight up to see Tathiel’s face.

“Good morning to you, Legolas,” she picked him up and hugged him.

He snuggled for a moment, then pushed up from her shoulder and pointed into the distance. “Big water.”

“That is the Sea of Rhûn,” Tathiel turned so they could look together.

“Sea of Roon,” Legolas agreed, nodding his head.

He squirmed out of Tathiel’s arms and ran back to the wagon, tugging on Tinánia’s tunic.

“Nania play!” he demanded.

Hazad had finished hitching the horses to the wagon, and walking around the wagon, he scooped Legolas up in his arms.

“Legolas must play in the wagon now,” he said to the stunned child.

Legolas began to wiggle and thrash as he pushed away from the man holding him, silent at first but he soon found his voice.

“TAAFFIIEEELLL!” he screamed, arms outstretched to Tathiel as she came quickly to him.

Tathiel reached for Legolas, but Hazad turned his back to her, walking with Legolas to the wagon. Legolas reached over Hazad’s shoulder, both arms outstretched to Tathiel as he cried.

“The child needs to get used to new people,” Hazad said, setting Legolas inside the wagon. “Calm down, child, and have your breakfast. We will be home in just another day or two.”

Hazad turned away from the crying child and picked Eärundra up and swung her into the wagon. She stared at him, body stiff, and once in the wagon fled to the back corner, as far from Hazad as she could get.

Tinánia ignored Hazad’s outstretched hand and climbed into the wagon herself. He turned to Tathiel.

“Would you like to ride up front with me after you have fed the child?” he asked, as if his request was an everyday offer.

“No, thank you,” Tathiel walked around him and climbed into the wagon unaided.

Hazad grabbed her arm, making her freeze on the back of the wagon although the grip was not painful.

“The sooner you accept your new life, the sooner the children will as well,…..daughter.”

Tathiel jerked her arm away from him and climbed inside the wagon.

Legolas flung himself into her arms immediately, no longer crying but in desperate need of assurance. In his entire life only three people had ever picked him up and Hazad was not one of them. Tathiel hugged him close, and he untied her tunic himself that he might nurse. She did not stop him, although she normally did not allow him to choose when and where he might nurse. He was comforted, as was she.

She did not like that he had picked up Legolas and then Eärundra, who now clung to her side.

Hazad’s words angered her. She was not his daughter, and she never would be.

***

The sea disappeared from sight as they entered a well used road through the forest. The trees did not speak to them, but whispered only among themselves. The wagons passing through neither angered nor pleased them. Tathiel sang softly to them, joined after a moment by Tinánia and Eärundra. The trees ceased their whispering and listened to the new voices, but did not answer. When the song ended, they resumed their whispering; leaves fluttering in the light breeze as they speculated upon the new voices.

The dappled shade of the forest road stifled the hot afternoon sun, and Legolas napped peacefully. Tathiel, Tinánia and Eärundra watched silent as they begin to pass small villages, seeing log homes and buildings appear in small clearings in the trees; some of the houses had small pens attached to their sides which held chickens and pigs; occasionally a cow or goat. Larger clearings had gardens planted and vegetables sprang from the soil in healthy green stalks.

They saw few people, and when faces did appear they withdrew into the darkness of the wagon. They traveled on like this for the rest of the day, with Hazad allowing them out for only a few moments that evening. They resumed early the next morning, passing out of the heavier growth of the forest into rolling green hills with scattered trees. Near midday they cam upon a small village set on the hillside. Numerous dwelling dotted the landscape, along with farmed lands and small herds of cows. Hazad drove the wagon through the farmland and trees, finally coming to the sole street of the small village that boasted several storefronts and businesses. He stopped there briefly, warning them to stay inside the wagon. He gave instructions to the men driving the other wagons and spoke with a man inside the store, then climbing aboard his wagon continued into the hillside.

He approached a log dwelling not far from the village. The house was small, but had a front porch that could be reached by climbing a few steps. To the left of the house there was a small pen with animals, and down a small hill from the house was a large garden. A sturdy barn sat behind and to the right of the house.

Hazad stopped the wagon and climbing down from the seat turned to the house.

“Tal-Elmar!” he called towards the house.

The front door opened and a young man stepped forth, wiping his hands on a towel. He saw his father and his face lit up with joy as he rushed into his father’s arms.

“Father! You are finally home! What took so long – we expected you late last fall?” questions tumbled from Tal-Elmar as he hugged his father.

“Floods and lame horses, my boy,” Hazad hugged him back. “But I am home now, and I have brought a special gift for you.”

“I am just glad you are home and safe, Father,” Tal-Elmar replied.

“You are just tired of the company of your brothers,” Hazad laughed.

“That too,” Tal-Elmar admitted. “Patel and Nurnan were not the best company through the long winter.”

Tal-Elmar approached the wagon, reaching inside before looking to release the gate at the back. He let it fall open, jumping on it and then turning to duck inside that he might help his father unload.

“Aye!’ he yelled and jumped to the ground, taking several steps back.

Inside the wagon watching him with the same surprise, but also fear, was a woman and three children.

Hazad laughed, and walking to the wagon beckoned to them.

“Tathiel, come out and meet Tal-Elmar,” Hazad called to her, his voice kind but his look indicating he expected to be obeyed.

Tathiel rose slowly, Legolas in her arms, and slowly climbed from the wagon to stand in front of Hazad and Tal-Elmar. The young man appeared dumbfounded and did not speak, but stared at her with open mouth.

“She’s an…an…elf?” he finally stuttered to his father.

“Yes she is,” Hazad confirmed. “And she is yours.”

Tal-Elmar appeared thunderstruck for a moment, then finally said, “What?”

“I brought her back with us to be your wife,” Hazad informed him.

Tal-Elmar was unable to speak, and stared first at Tathiel, then Legolas and finally into the wagon where the two girls were still sitting.

“We will deal with her children later,” Hazad said in answer to the unspoken questions in his son’s eyes.

“Father, I did not know you were looking to bring me a…..wife….” Tal-Elmar was still in shock., “ much less one with…children.”

Hazad cleared his throat, clapping his son on the back.

“We’ll work out the details later. Lets get them moved inside and this wagon unloaded. The horses are looking forward to their stalls in the stable tonight.”

Hazad grasped Tathiel firmly by the arm and escorted her into the house. Leaving her inside the front door, he went back out to retrieve Tinánia and Eärundra and then he and Tal-Elmar unloaded the wagon, piling their belongings and the household goods on the porch. Tal-Elmar took the wagon to the barn and did not return immediately.

Hazad looked at the four elves still standing where he had left them, looking both stunned and scared.

“Tal-Elmar will warm right up to you, don’t you worry about that,” he explained to Tathiel.

Her eyes grew larger as he spoke, and fire flashed in them.

“I am not interested in your son ‘warming up’ to me,” Tathiel answered. “I wish only to be allowed to leave with the children and return to our home. I do not wish to be here and I do not wish to marry your son!”

Her voice had risen some and Hazad reached out quickly, slapping her across the cheek. The blow was not hard, but enough to jerk her head to the side and leave the imprint of his hand. Hazad turned just as quickly, grabbing Tinánia’s hand and twisting her wrist.

“Do no raise your hand to me, child. You will regret it,” he growled at her.

Tinánia twisted under his grip, pain evident in her face until he released her. He turned next to Eärundra, who had moved behind Tathiel and then to Legolas.

“Put the child down,” he commanded.

Tathiel shook her head, “Leave him alone.”

Hazad reached for Legolas, and when he cried out, clinging tightly to Tathiel’s tunic, Hazad swatted him on the behind. Legolas let go, stunned, and then began to cry.

Tathiel went to reach for him, and Hazad grasped her by the hair, pulling her upright until they were face to face.

“You will obey me. You will not talk back,” Hazad instructed her. “I did not hurt the child. I expect them to obey me as they would a parent. You will ensure they do.”

He released her, but did not let her pick up Legolas. The child stood in the middle of the room, tears running down his face, utterly bewildered. He started to run to Tathiel, but Hazad stepped in front of him. He tired to step around the man, and was thwarted again. Fear and panic rose in him and he began to cry loudly, pushing at the legs that prevented him from reaching the only source of comfort he knew.

“Please, stop,” Tathiel sobbed, falling to her knees, completely undone by this man’s treatment of Legolas. “I will do as you ask. Do not torment him so, please. He is just a baby!”

Hazad smiled grimly, finally allowing the sobbing and distraught little boy past him. He had accomplished what he intended.

***

When Tal-Elmar had done all his father asked he returned to the house. He found the kitchen busy, with the elf preparing food and the older girl preparing the table. The younger girl sat on the floor holding the baby. His father was in his favorite chair with his feet up. Tal-Elmar spared the domestic scene barely a glance, instead moving quickly to his father.

“Father, I am confused,” Tal-Elmar began.

“Confused about what,” Hazad raised an eyebrow, looking quizzically at his son.

“Why you would bring an elf and expect us to marry,” Tal-Elmar explained that which he thought was obvious.

“Your grandmother was a special woman, Tal-Elmar. Very beautiful and unique; there was no one else like her. This elf reminds me of her, as you remind me of your grandmother,” he explained. “You are like my mother; you have her kindness and her spirit. I want a woman worthy of that; a woman who was like your grandmother.”

“But father, she is not a woman,” Tal-Elmar pointed out.

Hazad turned and watch Tathiel, pausing to consider his son’s concern. He had thought of this.

“I think all of their parts work like ours,” he said finally. “Legend tells of elves and men marrying, so I am sure it can be done.”

“Father, does she wish to marry me?”

“Hmmphh,” Hazad grunted. “What she wants does not matter.”

Tal-Elmar stepped back from his father, watching the elves for a moment before turning his attention back to Hazad.

“Did you steal her? Or buy her? What do you mean what she wants does not matter?”

“My son, do not question this gift. Just accept it,” Hazad waved off his questions.

“No father. I love you, you know that. But I am troubled by this. I will not marry someone who does not wish to marry me,” Tal-Elmar replied stubbornly.

Hazad sat up straight, his eyes blazing. Of all his many sons, Tal-Elmar had never challenged him. Tal-Elmar did remind him of his mother, and he did wish for this son to be happy and to have a family. A wife to make the home and bed comfortable; to provide him with sons and maybe even a daughter. Someone to help on the farm, and support his son. He decided that berating Tal-Elmar on this point was not going to help the situation.

“Then make her want to marry you,” Hazad said congenially, leaning back into this chair.

Tal-Elmar sat down, tongue tied again for a moment. He mulled this over in his mind, then asked, “What if I don’t wish to marry her?”

“You will,” Hazad assured him. “She is most beautiful, do you not agree?”

Tal-Elmar turned to the elves again, and studied them.

“What is her name?”

“Tathiel.”

Tal-Elmar watched her work in the kitchen, directing the children to help her. Yes, she was beautiful and she seemed to be a good mother.

“What about the children?”

“Up to you,” Hazad shrugged. “She might put up a real fuss if you take the baby away. He is still nursing. You could probably find homes or uses for the girls. Old Ginner has enough young ones and his wife was doing poorly last year when I left. They might like a strong one like the older girl to help out. You can marry that one off in just a few years too.”

“How old do you think Tathiel is, father? She must be much older than I. Maybe she cannot have more children.”

“Elves age differently than we do,” Hazad replied, though he knew little of which he spoke. “I am sure she can bear you a great many children.”

Tal-Elmar smiled. “We shall see. She must agree to marry me though. I will not take her by force. Mother said that grandmother was never happy; that she never loved your father. I do not want that.”

Hazad grunted again. “My mother was happy enough with the children. Tathiel will be as well.”

Tal-Elmar looked again at the elves, and noted them all standing together watching them.

“Come, father, I believe dinner is ready.”

“Yes,” Hazad replied. “A dinner we didn’t have to cook.”

They both laughed, and walking to the kitchen, seated themselves at the table.

“It is the custom of our people that you serve the men first, then you may sit and eat with us,” Hazad instructed her.

Tathiel obeyed silently, serving portions of the meat and vegetables to both men, then fixing plates for the children and finally herself. She sat down as far from the men as she could, but Hazad motioned her farther up the table.

“Your place will be next to Tal-Elmar.”

She moved herself next to Tal-Elmar without looking at him, instead turning her attention to Legolas, feeding him bits of the meat and vegetables. She did not see the reactions on the faces of the two men: Tal-Elmar smiled as she fed the baby, whispering to him as he talked and laughed to her; Hazad scowling as she ignored his son. He held the upper hand, however. He had established today that all he need do was separate her from the infant and she would obey. Hazad resumed eating and demanded no more of her that moment.

***

Evening came on that first day, and Hazad showed Tathiel the other rooms in the house. He had placed her pack in the main bedroom of the house, and she looked at him, fear in her eyes. He reached for Legolas, and she stepped back as Legolas clutched at her.

“The children sleep in the other room,” Hazad said quietly. “You will sleep here with Tal-Elmar.”

“Do not ask this of me,” Tathiel begged. “Do not take the children away from me.”

“You will sleep with Tal-Elmar and I will take the children away. You may nurse the boy, then he goes with the other two. Disobey and they will not stay here at all.”

Hazad turned and with a hand on the shoulder of both Tinánia and Eärundra led them from the room. They both turned back, but Tathiel nodded at them to go. With shaking hands, she opened her tunic, and seating herself on the bed she cuddled Legolas to her breast. He looked at her, reaching up to her face and brushing away a tear.

“Tafiel scared?” he asked.

She hugged him close, kissing his fingers. “Are you hungry, tithen caun?”

“Leges hungry,” he agreed, and settled himself to her breast.

She rocked him quietly, her body tense as she waited in fear for Hazad to return.

*******

Author’s note:
tithen min = little one
tithen caun = little prince


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.

Story Information

Author: Nilmandra

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 11/21/04

Original Post: 01/07/03

Go to May the Valar Protect Them overview

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