May the Valar Protect Them: 22. Deceit

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22. Deceit

Tathiel served breakfast to Tal-Elmar and Hazad, then settling Legolas in her lap began to feed him bites of egg and ham. She listened to the conversation between the two men as they discussed their plans for the harvest but kept her attention focused on Legolas as he talked to her over the conversation.

“We will be starting with Old Ginnel’s fields, then over to Guryn and working southward,” Hazad was saying. “We’ll be one of the last done this year.”

“Well, we were first last year,” Tal-Elmar replied agreeably. “Will you be in the south field today, father?”

“We can head out there as soon as you finish eating,” Hazad answered.

“I’ll drive Tathiel into town first to see Balwyn, then join you,” Tal-Elmar rose to leave as he spoke.

“I think Sarn and Balwyn can get by without Tathiel now,” Hazad answered. “There is plenty to be done around here.”

Tathiel turned in response to that comment, looking first at Hazad before turning quickly to Tal-Elmar. Legolas continued his stream of conversation.

“The sheep said baa baaa and the rooster cock-a-dooooooooodle doo but Leges not cared.”

“I would like to check Balwyn one more time,” Tathiel said to Tal-Elmar.

“Not today,” Hazad answered. “Next time you go you will bring the girls home. They will be needed for the harvest.”

“Cow moooooooooed an’ Leges patted nose.”

Tathiel turned to Tal-Elmar expectantly, “Help how in the harvest?”

“All the children Tinánia’s age help in the fields. Little hard work won’t hurt her,” Hazad grunted as he stood. “Other one can help as we need.”

Legolas had started banging his spoon on the table as he talked.

“Will Guryn, Nurnan or Patel be there?” Tathiel asked.

“Of course. Everyone helps. Are you not listening?” Hazad scowled at her.

Tathiel turned slightly and took the spoon from Legolas’ hands.

“Tinánia is scared of them. She cannot be out working in the field with them,” Tathiel said quietly.

“You forget your place, daughter,” Hazad’s voice was cold. “You do not tell me who will do what and who will not.”

Legolas was now hitting his hands on the table, his voice punctuating every thud with a squeak..

Tathiel stood, facing Hazad, unintentionally forcing him to look up at her. “We will all help, but I will not have Tinánia near them after what they did to her.”

“Father, I am sure Tinánia can help here by the house,” Tal-Elmar attempted to intervene.

Hazad stopped his son with a hand to his chest. “Be off, Tal-Elmar. I will deal with this.”

“No Father,” Tal-Elmar replied.

“No?” Hazad turned his anger to his youngest son.

“No,” Tal-Elmar repeated. “You gave Tathiel to me. She is mine. I will deal with her.”

“Do not push me, my son,” Hazad growled.

The three adults were not paying attention to Legolas, so he turned back to his plate of food and began instead to play with his eggs. He picked up a finger full and threw them at the table. He bounced and wiggled, enjoying himself and unmindful of the conversation around him. He spread the egg with his finger, squishing it into the pattern of the wood and filling the little whorls and cracks.

“I am not pushing you, Father,” Tal-Elmar replied. “You have made this my family. I am responsible for it. I will determine where and how Tathiel and the children will help.”

Hazad slammed his hand down on the table, still facing his son. He felt something squish between his fingers. He raised his hand, turning his palm up and seeing sticky bits of egg stuck to his hand. He glared at Legolas, who had looked up at him when he struck the table, and then at the bits of egg stuck all over the table

“Stop it!” he yelled at the child. He started to reach for Legolas and Tathiel stepped in his way.

“I will clean it up,” she said, touching Hazad on the arm.

Legolas’ eyes widened as he saw Hazad turn and backhand Tathiel across the face, knocking her to the floor. Hazad then turned to the table, and taking it in both hands flipped it over, knocking Legolas to the ground, the table landing on top of him and the bench he had been sitting on.

“Legolas!” Tathiel cried. She rose to her knees, about to pull the table up, when Hazad kicked her, catching her in the abdomen and knocking her to the ground again.

Tal-Elmar dove for his father as he saw his father raise his booted foot; too late to stop the kick but he knocked his father to the ground as well.

“Father! Stop!” Tal-Elmar held him down, straddling him as Hazad railed against him.

“Get off of me!”

“Father, you will not hit her again! What kind of man hits a woman and knocks a child over?” Tal-Elmar had never seen his father behave thus.

“She will obey me!” Hazad shouted.

Tathiel lay curled on the ground, struggling for air as she fought against the pain that surged through her. It was Legolas’ cries that brought her attention back to the present. She struggled to her knees and crawled to the table, setting it upright.

Legolas sat on the floor, tears running down his cheeks as he sobbed. He held his arms out to Tathiel and she gathered him close. He clung to her, choking and gasping as he struggled for air, in fear and pain. Tathiel rocked him on the floor, speaking soothing words in his ear until at last he began to quiet. She looked to where she had last seen Hazad, and saw Tal-Elmar escorting him outside, their voices still raised as Hazad threatened what he would do if she did not learn to obey him without question. It was the words that followed that wrought fear in her heart.

“We are selling those girls! They are not to stay here again. Nurnan can have the older to wife if he wishes and the younger can be sold. I will not tolerate this ……” Hazad’s voice faded from the house.

She pulled back from Legolas, and tipped up his chin with her fingers. He looked as sad as any child could, his tear-stained face and puffy eyes contrasting sharply by the dark bruise on the left side of his head and face. She kissed his forehead, then placed one hand on his brow and concentrated on chasing the fear from his mind. He relaxed under her touch, and she was able to lay him down in her lap. She removed his tunic and felt his torso and back, then ran hands up and down his legs and arms. He winced and withdrew from her touch when she touched his right calf. A bruise was forming there as well, across a deep indentation in the flesh. She felt the leg gently, feeling no fractures, but the bruising and swelling indicated injury to the soft tissues and stress to the bone.

Tathiel raised herself to her knees, a small cry escaping her as the pain in her abdomen flared again. She waited a moment, steadying her own breathing, before standing. She moved stiffly to the basin of water, and wetting a cloth wrapped it around Legolas’ bruised leg.

Legolas had his eyes closed, cuddled in her arms, his hand holding tightly to her hair and tunic, and his thumb in his mouth. He still hiccupped small sobs. She walked slowly to the bedroom; closing and latching the door behind her, knowing that it would not stop someone intent on coming inside.

She lay down on the bed and felt Legolas fumbling with her tunic. She opened it and let him snuggle to her breast. She cuddled him until he slept, the exhaustion of the crying overcoming him.

As she lay there, thoughts came unbidden. She had never injured another living person in her life, and she thought back to the dagger that Rawien had given to her in the cave. She had not thought herself capable of using it. She considered Hazad’s rage, and the fury with which he had dumped the table on top of Legolas, and hit and kicked her. Anger boiled in her and she knew she would kill him if he ever touched one of the children again.

She stroked Legolas’ hair, then his face, feeling the soft skin of his cheek against her breast as he gently suckled on and off in his sleep. She gazed at him, then thought of Tinánia and Eärundra. The picture that came to her mind was of Tinánia being assaulted by the brothers of Tal-Elmar. She saw the fear and terror in her eyes; felt the pain with her. Tathiel shook her head, clearing the terrible image from her mind. She knew then she could take the lives of the children if it meant sparing them such torture.

Tathiel knew she could no longer wait for help to find her. Hazad would return and would hurt them again. He would turn the ellyth over to be tortured and abused.

Tathiel sat up slowly, and walked to the window. She could see the field in the distance, and Hazad and Tal-Elmar at work there. She laid the sleeping exhausted child down on the bed and tied her tunic. She picked up her pack from where it had sat these many weeks in the corner of the room, and she quickly packed clothing for her and Legolas; her medicine chest; swaddling and toys for Legolas, and his wolf pelt. She attached her bedroll to it, and made sure the straps for the carrier were secure. She went next to the kitchen and packed what foodstuffs she could, taking also her daggers and the knife and axe the Watcher had given them. Tal-Elmar had left them out recently, with the other tools.

In the room that Tinánia and Eärundra had recently shared she took their packs and bedrolls, and Tinánia’s bow and quiver. The rest of their clothing they had with them in town. She stuffed the wolf pelts into their packs, as it would be cold soon.

She quickly inventoried all she had packed and looked around the home one last time. She hung Tinánia and Eärundra’s packs from straps off of her own. It was quite heavy, but she knew she could manage it for at least the trip to town. She then picked up Legolas, and peered out the front door. She dared not leave via the door, as it was visible from the field.

She crossed back to the kitchen and silently opened the window. She dropped the pack out first, and then crawled out herself with Legolas, landing lightly on her feet. She shouldered the pack again, and with a light foot blended into the trees behind the house. She left no trail visible to mortals, and began the several mile journey into town.

The store and home of Sarn and Balwyn had a small garden, stable, and outbuildings set behind it in a small yard. Beyond the yard the trees grew thick, and Tathiel rested here. Legolas had awakened in pain and irritable, and she had given him a small dose of medication to numb the pain. The bruises on his leg and face had darkened, and when he had asked to be set down to walk he had fallen, whimpering from the pain in his leg. He contented himself with lying in Tathiel’s arms and holding his beloved woolf.

“Zad bad man,” Legolas said suddenly, his little hand reaching up to touch the bruises on Tathiel’s face.

“Shhh…tithen min,” she quieted him with a whisper. “We are watching for Tinánia and Eärundra and we do not want anyone to know we are here. Like the hiding game we play sometimes, you have to be absolutely quiet so no can hear us.”

Legolas nodded solemnly. He had learned to play the quiet game, and knew how to be silent and still. For short periods of time anyway.

The medication soon made him drowsy, and Tathiel watched as heavy eyelids finally slid shut and his breathing grew deep and even.

They had been waiting only about a half hour when Tinánia appeared in the yard. Tathiel gave a low birdcall, and Tinánia froze. She looked into the wood, but made no move. A second call followed and she answered it in turn. She finished the errand she had come outside to attend and returned into the house. A few minutes later she reappeared with Eärundra, both with small bundles of clothing and a package as well. They walked silently into the woods, leaving no trail and disturbing nothing in their wake. They walked only a few minutes into the woods, out of sight of the houses, before they saw Tathiel sitting with Legolas beneath the tree.

Eärundra dropped to her knees and carefully hugged Tathiel, careful of the bruises on her face. Tinánia stood still for a moment, finally kneeling as well. She ran her hands over Legolas’ hair, and looked him over carefully, noting the bruises. She then turned to Tathiel and gently embraced her as well.

“Did Hazad do this?” she whispered.

Tathiel nodded, stroking Tinánia’s hair softly. She sensed the child’s fear, and sought to dispel it.

“He struck and kicked me, and then dumped the table over on Legolas. Tal-Elmar dragged him outside, and we escaped out the back window,” she whispered back. “We are not injured more seriously.”

Tinánia met her gaze solidly and nodded. She reached for her pack, and quickly packed it and Eärundra’s with their clothing. She opened the package and held it for Tathiel to see. It was filled with a type of waybread used by men; dried meat and fruit, nuts and a handful of coins.

Tathiel touched it gently. “Where did this come from?”

“Sarn gave it to me after we had been here for a few days,” Tinánia explained. “He said that if we ever had to leave in a hurry to take this. If it was gone, he would know we had attempted to escape.”

Tears gathered in Tathiel’s eyes as she considered the kindness of this man. She wiped them away and watched as Tinánia quickly stowed it away in her pack.

“Sarn also said that if we were to attempt to escape, we should head south, and then head west around the sea. He said we would run into fewer people and run less risk of being caught.”

Tinánia helped Eärundra get her pack on and then did the same. She watched, concerned, as Tathiel got stiffly to her feet. Tathiel chose to carry Legolas in her arms again; not wanting the pack to jar him or for him to wake scared, without her to hold on to.

The three walkers slipped away silently into the woods.

***

The town of Dorwinia sat on the northern bay of the Sea of Rhûn, its waters fed by the River Carnen. The main trade of Dorwinia was in wine; a favorite of King Thranduil of the Woodland Realm in Mirkwood. The town boasted a central market square, numerous shops and taverns; and was surrounded by vineyards. Elves were an uncommon sight in the city, but some of the very traders that brought the wines to Laketown and directly into the realm of the wood elves recognized the party of warriors that camped on their western border.

Dol Guldur was directly west of Dorwinia, and the evil that had come from the east had shadowed the city for several years. The vineyards were tended well, but borders of protection had been built around the fertile fields. Increasing reports of orc attacks and skirmishes with the Easterlings had caused the city to set up its own defenses and militia to counter these threats.

So it was that Rawien and his warriors were met north of the city by a small band of militiamen. Elves had never been a threat to the men of Rhûn, and the two parties met for friendly parley. After introductions and pleasantries, the leader of the men asked the purpose of the elves visiting Dorwinia.

“We seek a caravan that left Karan this spring,” Rawien answered cautiously. “One adult elf and three children of our people may have been with that party.”

The man did not answer immediately, but whispered to the one next to him and word spread quickly among the militia.

“It seems an extremely odd occurrence,” the man finally replied, “that a small caravan of men that passed through here in the summer made a point of saying that a an elven woman and children had been seen heading south with men of the Haradrim.”

The party of warriors remained motionless and essentially expressionless before the men, yet their emotions ranged from relief that they were indeed on the right trail, to anger and indignation that Tathiel and the children were in the hands of such a cruel race of men.

Rawien was puzzled by the man’s choice of words, though.

“Odd in what way?” he inquired.

“The men made sure that his words were heard by many, as if he expected someone to be asking about them,” the man replied. “Elves traveling in a party of men would indeed be an unusual sight, but hardly worthy of being spread throughout every tavern and shop in the city.”

The militiamen continued murmuring amongst themselves and another stepped forward.

“The men who spread the story were part of a larger caravan that they were rejoining somewhere near the sea. This was overheard in the tavern, but not told to us directly. We did not inquire where they were from or why they had such information.”

“Have the Haradrim been seen in this area?” Galithon spoke up.

The leader nodded. “They were seen south of the sea, north of the Ash Mountains. It is possible they were as far north as Dorwinia, as they also purchase wine from our growers on occasion.”

“We wish to set up camp here, on the outskirts of the city,” Rawien informed the leader. “Might we find you on the morrow if we have questions?”

“Camp as you wish,” the leader replied, “but at your own risk. We have had increasing problems with orcs, although not normally this close to the town. You may find us at the city hall, if needed.”

Rawien thanked the man, and after the men had departed and were out of hearing range, council was taken.

“Your decision to come south, despite the lack of evidence, was sound Captain,” Galithon clapped Rawien on the back. “We now know they were brought this way.”

“They were not brought through Dorwinia, however,” Rawien said grimly. He pulled his map out from a pocket in his tunic. “The caravan split south of where the Celduin joins the Carnen. We followed them as far as this approximate juncture, where we were waylaid by orcs. We do not know where the caravan crossed the Carnen, because of the increased usage of the roads. They may have met the Haradrim at any point here in South Rhûn.”

“Assuming they had Tathiel, Tinánia, Eärundra, and Legolas,” Ethiwen interrupted.

Rawien watched her for a moment, reflecting on her words.

“They may have been taken in the other caravan,” Rawien pondered aloud. “In which case, the plan may have been to give them to the Haradrim but this group may not know if the task was accomplished.”

“Or perhaps the other caravan has them, and never intended to give them to anyone,” Ethiwen replied. “In which case this information about the Haradrim is only a decoy tactic to send us in the wrong direction.”

“That assumes that the men from the caravan knew we were following them.” Galithon pointed out. “I am not sure that they would have taken Tathiel and the children unless they thought our people were alone.”

“Then what would be the incentive for these men to spread the tale around town?” Ethiwen asked.

“Perhaps the men were fighting over them, and that is why they split?” Meren joined the discussion. “They may be trying only to mislead each other.”

“In which case they could still be here in some village near the sea, or they could be farther south with the Haradrim,” Bellion summed up all their thoughts.

“We are in the same situation as we were in Karan,” Sadron added. “We came south on a gut feeling. What is the gut feeling here?”

Everyone was silent.

“I do not know,” Rawien finally sighed. “Let us set up camp and consider it this night. We will decide in the morning the course we will take.”

***

Ethiwen chose a spot on the western edge of the camp to stand watch; Galithon partnered with her, his position on the other side of the camp. They walked the perimeter, eyes and ears ever vigilant, against any signs of orcs. They had been slowed and delayed on numerous occasions by orc attacks as they came south, and Ethiwen wondered if the caravans faced similar harassment.

“What are you thinking?” Galithon whispered softly to her as he came near on his circuit.

“That they are months ahead of us, primarily,” Ethiwen answered, her eyes never leaving the horizon. “I wonder if they faced the attacks of the orcs, as we have. I wonder about the fate of elves in the hands of the Haradrim, who we know have been in league with shadow.”

“What is your mother’s heart telling you?”

Ethiwen paused, considering her answer before speaking.

“I think they are near Rhûn,” she answered. “I do not think they are with the Haradrim.”

Galithon laughed softly. Ethiwen still did not turn to him, and she knew he also faced the darkness beyond them.

“What is your council?” she asked

“I agree with you,” Galithon answered. “While it is plausible that these men of Rhûn met up with the Haradrim, why would they make the fact so well known in the city? It is a case of too much protest.”

“There are many farms and villages near Rhûn. It will take us time to search,” Ethiwen said softly. “Is it too much to hope that someone will have seen them?”

“We always have hope,” Galithon replied. “There is always hope.”

***

Rawien and Galithon returned from the city with supplies and a hand-drawn map showing the locations of the villages and farms of Rhûn. Orc sightings and reports of attacks were less on the eastern shores of the sea, and for this reason the group decided to split up by day, watching individual farms and small villages, before returning together in the evenings. Rawien decided they would not ask questions, as the fear remained that the one that held them might receive word of this and hide or move them. The villagers were more tight-lipped and less apt to provide help to outsiders if it might bring danger or ruin to one of their own, the militia leader had explained to them. Dorwinia was unusual in having had dealings with the elves; other peoples of Rhûn would not likely offer them aid.

The elves began their search of the lands north of the sea in early fall. The process was slow, and it was near the winter solstice when they came to the small village of Solte near the southeastern edge of the forest.

“There is a wagon coming up the main road,” Laerion whispered from his position in the trees. “There is a man and a woman in the cart.”

“Traveling for solstice celebrations, I imagine,” Sadron returned.

The elves remained hidden and silent from their positions in the forest. As was their method, they set half the party to the trees to watch the comings and goings of the occupants of the village. They would call to each other in birdcalls known to all elves of Mirkwood. Tathiel, Tinánia and Eärundra would know the call, and the warriors listened hopefully each time for an answering trill. Come night, they would come close to the houses and barns, inspecting at close range as human vision did not perceive them in the darkness.

A call was heard and Laerion answered, his call indicating nothing was found. The wagon stopped and the man stood in the wagon seat, turning full circle as he looked around.

“What is he looking for?” Laerion whispered.

“I think he heard our call,” Sadron replied.

The two young warriors looked at each other and grinned. Perhaps the man was a bird lover, and thought he heard a favorite song.

Sadron trilled the call to watch, and then sitting back on the branch of the tree, he waited and watched the man.

Sarn looked at Balwyn and she smiled at him. At her feet, tucked into layers of warm blankets and packed with heating irons, their twins lay sleeping.

“It sounds as Tinánia did when she demonstrated for us,” Balwyn answered his unspoken question. “You have answered many a bird call without results, my husband. Go ahead and try. Some day fortune may shine upon us.”

Sarn smiled and putting his fingers to his lips, he did the best imitation of the call Tinánia had taught them some months before.

There was silence and Sarn sat down, his head bowed. Balwyn put her arm around his shoulders, and kissed his cheek. “We will keep trying…”

Her words were silenced by a return call. Sarn raised his head in surprise and again answered the call. Another response, this time closer, caused him to turn to the woods.

“Do you see someone?” Sarn whispered to his wife. “There, by that tree,” he pointed.

The figure stepped forward slightly, and beckoned him forward. Sarn encouraged the horses forward, and they drove further into the woods. Another trilling call stopped him, and he turned the brake on the wagon and sat still, waiting.

Three tall elven warriors appeared in front of him with nary a sound. He had not seen them approach and caught his breath in surprise. He stared at them in surprise, finally recovering enough to speak.

“You have come for them,” he said simply.

Another warrior materialized, this one a female, followed quickly by several more. Balwyn jumped in alarm as she sensed someone near her side, and saw another female elf. Her hand fluttered over her heart, her eyes wide as she stared at this creature.

“You…you look like Tinánia,” she murmured.

A male elf slipped quickly to the side of the female elf, before she could speak.

“You are a friend to them?” the male elf asked cautiously.

“We were a friend to them,” Sarn replied. “Would that you could have come sooner.”

The female elf’s eyes widened in alarm, although none of the others reacted to this statement.

“You are cold,” the male elf said, looking at Balwyn. “You must get your little ones inside. Is there a place we can talk?”

“We are heading home, to Agar,” Sarn replied. “It is several miles. If you come, we will tell you all that we know.”

Sarn told the male elf where their home was located, and that they could approach from the woods, as he suspected that is how the children had left. The elves disappeared into the woods, then, as if they had never been there.

“Balwyn, look,” Sarn pointed at the ground. “They left no footprints.”

Balwyn smiled. “I think that may explain why we did not find any trace of Tinánia and Eärundra.”

Sarn spurred the horses forward, and they arrived at their home several hours later. Balwyn took the babies inside while Sarn unhitched the wagon and stabled the horses. He had rubbed them down and was throwing feed in their stalls when he turned, and before him stood the male elf. He gasped again, and the elf smiled.

“I apologize for startling you,” the elf said simply.

“I am Sarn,” Sarn introduced himself.

“I am Rawien, captain to King Thranduil of the Woodland Realm of elves in Mirkwood.”

Sarn nodded to him, noticing several other elves in the barn as well.

“Please, will you come inside?” Sarn asked. “ My wife, Balwyn, will have part of the tale to tell as well.”

He led the elves to the house and three entered with him. He looked back into the yard, but could not see the rest. He looked at the captain.

“They will stand guard in the forest,” Rawien answered the unanswered question.

“Surely they must be cold,” Sarn protested, opening the door once more.

“The cold does not affect them greatly,” Rawien answered, guiding the man gently back inside.

Sarn led the three inside to the main family area. Balwyn was there, blanket over her shoulder, nursing one of the twins. She immediately removed the infant and started lacing up her gown under the cloth, but the female elf motioned for her to continue.

“The little ones must eat. Do not let us disturb them or you,” she said softly.

Balwyn smiled, the memory of Tathiel nursing her son while teaching her to nurse her infants coming to mind.

“Tathiel delivered them,” she said softly.

“I am Ethiwen. This is Galithon and Rawien. We are from the Woodland Realm in Mirkwood.”

“You are searching for them, aren’t you?” Balwyn asked.

Ethiwen smiled grimly. “For more than a year we have been searching for them.”

Balwyn gasped, her eyes widening. “Where were they before here? Surely Hazad did not have them in the north, did he?”

“Please,” Rawien interrupted gently. “Start at the beginning and tell us all you know.”

So Sarn began the story, of how Tal-Elmar had brought the elves into the store one day that fall. Balwyn interrupted, explaining how Tathiel had helped her with the pain she was having at the end of the pregnancy. Sarn picked up the story with how Tal-Elmar’s brothers had harassed the children and Tal-Elmar had taken them home. He continued, telling how he had gone to find Tathiel when Balwyn began her childbirth and complications set in. He had interrupted an argument in the house, and Tathiel has brought all the children with her when she came to help Balwyn.

“She saved my life and the babies,” Balwyn told them soberly. “Our midwife would not have been able to do what Tathiel did.”

“We learned that Tal-Elmar’s brothers had attacked Tinánia in the barn that afternoon, and Tathiel fought them off. That is what the fight was about that night; Tathiel would not come without the children and Hazad refused to let them go. They feared he would give Tinánia to one of his other sons,” Sarn explained.

Ethiwen started at this, but Galithon laid a gentle restraining hand on her arm.

“We would have helped them regardless,” Balwyn continued, “but especially so after Tathiel helped us. We offered to have Tinánia and Eärundra stay here with us, where Sarn could better protect them.”

“I ask all the travelers who come through if they have seen elves; and when I travel for goods I check with other storekeepers. Unfortunately, we received no news of your arrival.”

“Tal-Elmar brought Tathiel everyday to see the girls and to look in on me,’ Balwyn said. “Then, one day, Tinánia went out back on an errand and that was the last we saw of her or Eärundra.”

“We had made up a packet of traveling food, and some monies and other necessities. We told Tinánia to take it if they ever had to leave in haste; that is how we would know they had attempted an escape,” Sarn said softly.

“Hazad was furious when he found them gone,” Balwyn continued. “He stormed in here in anger, looking for the girls. We told him we did not know where they had gone; they had just disappeared. Tal-Elmar was with him, and Hazad struck him, punched him right in the face.”

“Apparently that morning Hazad had insisted that the girls had to come home and work in the fields for the harvest. Tathiel did not want them anywhere near Hazad’s brother or sons, as they had tried to hurt Tinánia. Tal-Elmar sided with Tathiel, and Hazad blamed him for her escaping,” Sarn shook his head in disbelief. “Tal-Elmar is the finest of all that man’s sons. Hazad’s mother was a captive of war. A beautiful woman as he described her. He decided he would provide a beautiful foreign wife for his favorite son. Hazad claims Tal-Elmar took her to wife and she accepted it.”

Rawien’s eyes narrowed at his, his fist clenching spontaneously.

“Did he?”

Sarn looked up in surprise, “Did he what?”

“Take her to wife?” Rawien’s voice was low.

“He pretended to,” Sarn explained quickly. “Tal-Elmar asked me for help the day our babies were born. He said that he was trying to find a way to help them, and had convinced Tathiel to act, at least, as if she were his wife. Tal-Elmar swore to me that though they shared the same bed, he never touched her.”

Rawien drew in a deep breath, willing himself to calm and relax. He saw that his demeanor had caused both Sarn and his wife to withdraw slightly from him.

“My apologies,” he said quietly.

“Is Tathiel your wife?” Balwyn asked innocently

Galithon chuckled quietly, stopping himself when all eyes were drawn to him.

“No, she is not,” Rawien answered after piercing Galithon with his eyes.

“Tinánia and Eärundra are my children, though,” Ethiwen offered after Rawien gave her permission with a nod.

“They are yours! We thought all the children belonged to Tathiel,” Balwyn was surprised. “Does she have other children than Legolas?”

The elves were silent; Ethiwen and Galithon waiting on Rawien to answer the question.

“You have been most helpful to us, and we thank you for your kindness to Tathiel and the children,” Rawien said. “I can tell you more of who they are, but I would not wish this information to be known, as it could place them in more danger.”

Sarn nodded. “ Hazad, his brother Guryn, and his sons have been searching for Tathiel since they escaped. They are not here.”

“Legolas is not Tathiel’s son. He is the son of King Thranduil of the Woodland Realm in Mirkwood. His wife was murdered, and Tathiel and the three children kidnapped a year and a half ago. Tathiel is trained as a healer and was apparently able to induce milk that she might feed the child.”

“Who is Tathiel, then?” Balwyn asked, confused.

“Tathiel was an attendant to the Queen.”

“It is a good thing Hazad did not know the children were not hers,” Sarn said. “He would have killed or sold them. He only kept them because it was the only control he had over Tathiel.”

“Tathiel is very clever,” Galithon answered, as if that explained everything.

“We told Tinánia that if they should try to escape, they should head south and then west around the sea. I told her it was the more dangerous route, but they would not encounter as many people and would have more opportunity to hide. They left here two months ago.”

“Hazad, on the other hand, we told that she would likely head north from here,” Balwyn smiled.

“We will continue south this night on the route you have suggested. Words are inadequate to express our gratitude for your help to them,” Rawien said solemnly, bowing slightly to Sarn.

Ethiwen hugged Balwyn, “Thank you for taking care of my girls.”

Sarn watched as the elves slipped out the back door, and into the quiet and darkness of the night. The blended into the shadows, and were gone so quickly he wondered if they had become invisible.

He never saw another elf, but five years later a delivery arrived with a simple note of thank you, sealed with an ornate oak leaf. The beautifully carved bow and quiver of arrows was treasured by his son throughout his life. The small bag of treasure provided for their family into the next generation.

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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