“Are they following us?” Eärundra asked as she ran, not daring to turn around.
Tinánia had her bow in hand, an arrow ready as she brought up the rear.
“I think they have given up pursuit,” Tinánia called softly. “The sounds are fading.”
The sun rose above the level of the trees, bathing the hills with light which, reflecting off the snow, was nearly blinding in its intensity. Tathiel led the children for many hours through the hills, turning north again once she felt they had put several leagues between themselves and the orcs. They maintained a rapid pace, their breaths growing short in the cold air, leaving no air for speaking.
“Stop!” Tathiel said finally, as the ellyth lagged further behind her, motioning to some rocks under a canopy of bare tree branches.
Packs were dropped without ceremony to the ground, and the tired ellyth slumped on the rocks. They were tired, hungry, cold and shaken from the morning attack.
Tathiel sat down with Legolas, her arms aching, and stretched her back and neck. Legolas was asleep despite the cold, his head resting on her shoulder and his cold fingers clutching her tunic. She took a moment and studied Tinánia and Eärundra. They both appeared drawn, and neither made a move to drink from their water skins or reach for their food stores.
Tathiel felt close to despair. The hard days of travel, especially when they had moved at night, combined with the cold and lack of nourishing food was taking a toll on the children. Now the fear and fright of the morning, with the anguish at having killed, had pushed Tinánia and Eärundra into both mental and physical exhaustion. Orcs were everywhere. They had seen evidence of them or heard them nearly every day for weeks. Now bands were crossing paths, and Tathiel wondered if the morning’s confrontation was only the first of many more to come. The further north they had come, the more numerous the orcs were. Yet what other direction could they go? They could not return south; the Sea was to their east, and heading west through the hills added untold danger. She did not know how many leagues they would need to travel west until they came to the forest; she also now feared that the forest was where these orcs might be heading. Had shadow indeed returned? Tathiel bowed her head, resting her cheek on Legolas’ head and furry cloak.
They sat for some minutes, the air cooling the sweat upon their skin until all were shivering. Tathiel felt a tug on her hair, and looked into blue lips and chattering teeth.
“Tafiel, I c-c-cold,” Legolas stuttered the words, his stiff fingers brushing against her cheek.
Tears spilled from Tathiel’s eyes as she hugged him close. Clutching him with one arm, she released her bedroll from the straps that held it to her pack, and laid it out on the snow covered ground. She pulled the spare blanket and wolf pelt out of the pack, and wrapped him up in all of it. She then moved to Tinánia and Eärundra and, loosing their blankets, laid them out and helped the shivering ellyth wrap themselves in the cold wool.
With a few hours of daylight remaining, Tathiel decided a fire was a necessity and with bare hands she dug the packed snow from the ground near the rocks until she reached hard ground. Gathering tinder from the dead branches of the trees, she managed to light a fire. Fortunately, there was dead wood nearby and it was cold enough that the wood was not wet.
The fire blazed, and as small bodies warmed Tathiel pulled rations from her pack. She found the waybread and the tiny bits of fruit, but not the dried meat. She quickly searched Tinánia’s and Eärundra’s packs, but found none there either.
Fear welled in her as her mind quickly retraced their steps of the early morning. She had been soaking the hard meat for Legolas. When they had fled in the morning, she had not remembered to pack the meat. It sat on the edge of the fire ring in the cave and likely provided the orcs with breakfast that morning.
Tathiel felt her heart sink. The waybread was not as nourishing as lembas, nor did it provide the essential nutrition that the elvish waybread did. Even on reduced rations they would not last on what they had for more than a few days.
The children had all fallen asleep in the warmth of the fire and blankets, and she gently shook Tinánia and Eärundra awake.
“Here, drink some water and eat of the waybread,” Tathiel said, handing portions to each.
The ellyth took what was given them without question and ate without speaking. Tathiel ate some of the bread herself and drank of the water, then woke Legolas.
“Legolas, are you hungry? Wake, nin tithen caun,” she coaxed him.
“Leges hungry,” he agreed tiredly and nursed when Tathiel promised him some fruit afterwards.
The sun had fallen behind the treetops when Tathiel doused the remnants of the fire and roused the children once again. Tinánia and Eärundra had revived some with the rest and helped roll the bedding and blankets back into their packs.
“Will there be more orcs tonight, Tathiel?” Eärundra asked cautiously.
Tathiel sighed, then smiled. “There may be, Eärundra. We will hide from them; but if one or two find us we will manage them again.”
Eärundra smiled at that, then frowned, “I did not like killing it, but at the same time I am glad I stuck the knife in it.”
“Me too,” Tinánia agreed. “I am glad they are dead, and I would shoot them again if I had too, but I did not like it.”
“No elf likes killing any living thing without need,” Tathiel explained. “The orcs would have killed us. Sometimes we must defend ourselves; this was one of those times. I am very proud of you both. I do not know if I have ever heard of ellyth of your tender years helping save their own lives and the life of the son of the king from orcs.”
Tinánia and Eärundra grinned at each other and with renewed energy shouldered their packs and followed Tathiel.
“Are we going to travel all night?” Tinánia asked.
“If we can find a sheltered spot we will hide for the night,” Tathiel replied. “I do not know if we hide better by moving when they move or by staying still.”
The elves continued north, moving quietly and listening for the telltale noise of orcs. Twice they heard sounds of orcs; once they hid in the hollow of a dead tree overhanging a ravine and the second time they climbed into the trees, packs and all, and watched as the orcs passed below them. By the time morning came, the children were again exhausted and fell asleep on the cold ground as Tathiel built up a fire.
“Legles going to see Ada soon,” Tathiel woke from her brief nap to Legolas whispering in her ear as he played with her hair, cuddled in the warmth of the blankets and her body.
Tathiel rolled to her side to face him. “I hope you will see your Ada very soon, nín caun,” she whispered back. “Did you dream of your Ada?”
Legolas nodded. “Lafron say Ada waiting for Legles to come home.”
Tathiel propped herself up on her elbow, and stroked the fine blonde hair, tucking several wayward strands behind the tiny leaf-shaped ear.
“What else did Lathron say?” she asked him.
“Lafron said we have pretty trees an sleep in warm bed an Legles eat fruit an play,” Legolas rushed the words out with a smile. The smile faded, and he looked at her with solemn eyes. “Tummy hurt.”
Tathiel found a few slivers of dried fruit, and softened them with water.
“Hannon le,” he said politely before eating the tiny bits.
“You are welcome, nin tithen caun,” she replied, wishing fervently she had more to give him.
Sitting up, Tathiel rummaged through the packs and pulled out the waybread. She ate a small piece and followed it with some water. Waking the ellyth, she encouraged them to eat a whole piece each and drink of their water. She had found a tiny spring earlier in the day and refilled the skins. The clear fresh water was an improvement over melted snow, and Tinánia and Eärundra drank thirstily.
Tathiel scanned the landscape, noting the barren hills that stretched before them to the north and west. The landscape did not look promising for finding shelter. To the east were more trees, and the ground was flatter as the hills gave way to the gentle slope near the sea. There were more caves and sheltered areas in the trees. She had not seen any deer or rabbits high in the hills either. They also were more plentiful at the lower elevations.
Orcs seemed plentiful wherever they went.
“We will freeze or starve in these hills,” she murmured to herself, “and there will be orcs either way.”
That decision made, Tathiel led them that night in a northeasterly direction back toward the sea. The pace was slow as the winds increased from the north, and the cold air stung their eyes and faces. Once orcs nearly stumbled upon them, the whistling of the wind covering the noise of their approach. They made it only a league that whole night; instead spending much of it huddled in what shelter they could find from the wind and traveling orcs.
Three nights later, they had reached more level ground nearer the sea. The cold was nearly unbearable, and even the orcs were subdued. Tathiel chose a spot after dawn that third morning; a cleft in the hill, with some protection from the northern winds. She managed a fire with some effort, and the four elves huddled together against the frozen hillside. The snow was not deep, the northern lip of the cleft effectively shielding the hollow from much accumulation. Tathiel split the remaining piece of waybread three ways, and the ellyth chewed in silence. Legolas nursed quietly, and Tathiel wondered how long she could produce milk without proper nourishment herself.
“We will rest a few hours and then see if we can catch a rabbit,” Tathiel yawned.
Tinánia nodded before drifting into sleep.
The sun had nearly set when Tathiel awoke. The fire had long since burned itself out, and the wind had picked up again. She sat up quickly, and then leaned back against the cave wall as a wave of dizziness washed over her. Closing her eyes for a moment, she oriented herself and then sat up slowly. Legolas had crawled almost completely inside her tunic, and was wrapped warmly against her body. At her side Tinánia and Eärundra were spooned together in deep sleep, their eyes shuttered and deeply burrowed in their blankets.
Tathiel was disentangling Legolas from her clothing when she heard a noise above her head. She immediately stilled and slowly moved her hand near Legolas’ mouth in case he were to wake and speak.
Above her she heard the unmistakable sounds of orcs on the move. Several had passed by on the road above them when they suddenly stopped. Tathiel held her breath. The fire had burned out, but the smell lingered as they had not doused it with snow or covered the small pit. An orc called out, and sound resumed but the sounds were not of the march continuing.
Tathiel heard movement on either side of them and saw shadows spreading out the embankment below them. She reached for her dagger, her fingers trembling. She looked at the three sleeping children. They were so exhausted that even the noise had not woken them.
She would not let the orcs take them alive.
She unsheathed the dagger and stared at the blade, quickly lowering it so that the moonlight would not reflect off it and give away their position.
Gripping the blade tightly in her hand, she felt tears begin to trickle down her face. She held her breath, and struggled to gain control of her emotions. She heard a call above her, and the orcs below turned and began to run up the hill. Yellow eyes gleamed in the moonlight, and she heard the grunts and strains of exertion as the first orcs regained level ground. An orc racing up the hill veered slightly north as he rushed to regain his position, and Tathiel heard increased sounds of agitation above her.
The orc nearly tripped over the fire pit, and as he cursed and turned to look up, he saw the elves. His shrill cry pierced the night, and Tinánia, Eärundra and Legolas woke with a start. The orc saw the dagger in Tathiel’s hand, and he dove for her just as she lowered the blade to Legolas’ throat.
He knocked the knife from her hand, and rolled her and Legolas over on to the ellyth. Eärundra screamed as the orc grabbed her leg and began to drag her down the hill. Tathiel had nearly regained the dagger when orcs appeared all around them. A large orc drew his long knife and jumped down from the hill, landing right next to the tangled elves. Tathiel curled her body over the children and cried out, waiting for the knife to strike, when a battle cry rent the night.
The orc with the long knife fell down the hill, an arrow passing through his neck. Two orcs fell over the hollow, landing at their feet, also dead by arrow. A battle ensued around them, and Tathiel pulled Eärundra back up under her, and they cowered under the blankets. Around them they could hear the twang of bows, the clash of iron against iron and the cries of battle. Horrific screams of dying animals pierced the night, and Tathiel went rigid when she heard the call to protect the horses.
The call was in Sindarin.
Tinánia and Eärundra heard it as well, and they clutched at Tathiel.
“Elves have come,” Tinánia whispered, joy mixing with the fear in her voice.
Tathiel sat up slightly, and saw the ground below them littered with dead orcs. She looked up and saw an elven warrior above her in hand to hand combat with an orc. The warrior swung one last time, dispatching the orc and then the warrior leaned over the hollow.
Eärundra and Tinánia looked up in time to see the elf peering down at them.
“NANA!” Eärundra screamed; Tinánia’s voice quickly joining hers. “NANA!”
If ever a warrior were to receive reward or payment for a hard and long fight, there was none greater than the sound of a missing child reunited with her mother after a prolonged absence. As Ethiwen tumbled into the hollow to hug her daughters, Galithon and Rawien exchanged smiles and renewed their fight with increased vigor. With their backs to the hollow in the hill below them, they protected that position with their lives. The orcs also renewed their fight, seeking to strike at the weaknesses of the elven war party – their horses and the young ones they were protecting.
The orcs continued to come, severely outnumbering the elves, and the fight was long and bloody. Ethiwen found herself on her feet, fighting orcs that approached them on the flank. As she cut the first down with her sword, and turned to swing at the second, she saw an arrow protruding from his chest. She cut him down, and saw a third approaching slightly above her position. She dove, thrusting her sword forward and tripping him. The orc landed on his face, and Tathiel stabbed her long knife into its neck.
With the attackers vanquished, at least for a moment, Ethiwen turned to see her oldest kneeling with a bow in hand, arrow notched; and Tathiel armed with a knife. Eärundra crouched behind them, Legolas on her knee, a dagger in her hand. She would have smiled at the sight, except she knew that such positions came from experience and her anger flared as she considered those responsible for placing her children in the situation to have to learn such things.
She leaped back on to the level ground, and took position at Galithon’s left. She could see Bellion and Meren firing at orcs retreating into the hills; Lachthoniel finishing an orc as he stood guard over Elunell, who knelt next to the fallen Sadron, and Laerion and Varandil beyond the horses.
Ethiwen slid back down the embankment, and gathered her daughters in her arms again.
“It is over,” she whispered in their ears. “It is over.”
Tathiel held Legolas close, her eyes closed as tears of relief finally spilled from her. She felt strong arms encircle her, and opening her eyes she saw Rawien before her. His large hand cupped her cheek, and a thumb brushed away the tear rolling down her cheek. She felt safe in that moment; safe as she had not felt since leaving home. Rawien swung her up in his arms, and carried her up the embankment to level ground. Ethiwen followed them, a daughter on each arm.
Rawien set Tathiel on her feet, Legolas still clutched in her arms. He was shocked at how light and thin she felt, how he could feel the sharp angles of bones. They walked to the area by the horses, where Varandil was tending the injured. Soft cries of joy went up as the warriors beheld the four lost ones, and they were quickly drawn into the group amidst laughter and tears.
“I see you forgot to move again,” Rawien knelt down next to Sadron, grasping the young warrior’s wrist.
“I have been a bit of slow learner on this trip,” Sadron managed a weak smile.
Rawien looked to Varandil. “How long?”
Varandil smiled grimly at Sadron. “If I sedate him we can go now.”
Rawien looked at the bandages on Sadron’s thigh and the dressings to the long slash down his abdomen.
“We cannot stay here. The orcs will be back, and soon.”
“He will ride with me,” Varandil said, already repacking his supplies. “All of the other injuries are minor.”
Rawien rose and joined Laerion and Lachthoniel as they prepared the horses. The orcs had killed two horses and a third was injured.
“Will she make it?” Rawien asked, rubbing the mare on the nose. She nickered, butting her head into his hand, wondering why he was asking them and not her.
“She will make it, but not with a rider,” Lachthoniel answered. She whinnied at him, and tossed her head but agreed she could not carry a rider.
Galithon joined Rawien as the horses were loaded.
“Varandil and Sadron together, Ethiwen takes Eärundra, and I think Elunell should take Tinánia,” Galithon stated. “Take Tathiel and Legolas with you. They are all so weak I do not think that Tathiel or Tinánia could sit a horse this night.”
Rawien nodded as Galithon confirmed his own thoughts. They lifted Sadron up to Varandil, as the others prepared to mount. He watched as Ethiwen lifted Eärundra to her horse, and then Tinánia to sit with Elunell. Tinánia hesitated to let go of her mother, and tears streamed from her eyes as her mother whispered softly to her.
“We will stay right next to them,” Elunell whispered in Tinánia’s ear as she gently pulled the child’s hand from her mother’s tunic. “Your Nana will not be far from you.”
Rawien touched Tathiel on the arm. “Come, you and Legolas shall ride with me.”
Tathiel’s eyes brimmed with tears again, and she stumbled in weariness. Rawien steadied her, and asked, “Will Legolas let me carry him?”
He reached for the child, and was surprised when a small fist struck him in the chest.
“Bad man!” Legolas exclaimed. “No hurt Tafiel!”
“Shhh, Legolas,” Tathiel pressed him close. “His name is Rawien, and he is a good elf, not a bad man. He will not hurt us.”
Legolas glared at Rawien for a moment, considering this information. His eyelids were drooping, and the dark rings under his eyes were testimony to his weariness. Turning his back on Rawien, he wrapped his arms around Tathiel’s neck, locking his hands together, and tucked his head under her chin.
Rawien smiled at Tathiel, then gently lifted her and Legolas in his arms, placing her on his horse, and mounting behind her. Galithon tossed him a blanket, and he wrapped it around Tathiel, covering Legolas completely. With the four double riders in the middle, the group moved swiftly into the night.
“Shall we stop here for the day?” Galithon motioned to the clearing before them.
Rawien shifted his arm about Tathiel, settling her more comfortably against his chest. He had pulled her from her position astride the horse to a sidesaddle position during the night. It was slightly more precarious to ride sleeping this way, but far more comfortable when strong arms were available to hold the sleeping one in place. Tathiel had slept deeply, not even stirring during the night’s march. Yet he noted that her grasp on the child never relaxed.
Rawien nodded as he guided his horse to the spot Galithon pointed out. The others followed, and the change in motion and sounds of voices roused Legolas from his sleep. He pulled the blanket down from over his head, and found himself looking at the same elf who had tried to pick him up earlier.
“Good morning, Legolas,” Rawien said softly to him.
Legolas didn’t answer right away. He did remember Tathiel saying that this was not a bad man, but he was not in the mood to be friendly quite yet. He crossed his arms over his little chest, and eyed the tall elf sharply.
Rawien met his gaze solidly, neither speaking nor looking away.
Legolas looked away first, eyeing Tathiel and wondering if he should wake her. Without turning his head, he peered back at the elf. To his discomfort, the elf was still watching him. He finally sighed.
Rawien smiled. “Are you hungry, pen-neth?”
Legolas tugged on the ties of Tathiel’s tunic. “Fruit gone,” he sighed sadly.
Rawien clearly heard the rumble coming from the little one’s stomach, and wondered how long it had been since they had eaten.
Another urge had come upon Legolas, though, temporarily causing him to forget his hunger. He eyed the big elf cautiously.
“Legles down, please,” he requested.
Galithon had been watching the scene with amusement, and he walked over and held out his arms to Legolas. Legolas pulled himself back tight against Tathiel, small fingers twining in her hair and the ties of her tunic. He stared dubiously at Galithon.
“Elf?” he asked hopefully.
“Yes, elf,” Galithon replied.
When Legolas still would not allow Galithon to lift him, Rawien instead lifted him and Tathiel in the air, slid his leg over the horse and then dropped to the ground with them both still cradled in his arms. He laid Tathiel down on the blankets Meren had spread on the ground and then held out his hand to Legolas.
Legolas carefully disentangled himself from Tathiel, and stood. He looked at the hand held out to him and finally slipped his fingers into the big ones. Rawien allowed himself to be led to edge of the clearing and watched amused as the tiny elfling relieved himself. He took care of his own needs and found himself under close scrutiny by the little elf. When he had finished, Legolas fell into step next to him as they walked back to the camp. He fought to keep a straight face as he saw Legolas trying to match his stride, mimicking the way he walked.
Legolas dove on top of Tathiel, waking her with his hugs and kisses. She glanced quickly around at that activity about her, and breathed deeply, closing her eyes, relief washing over her as she realized that they were indeed rescued; it was not a dream.
She hugged Legolas close. “Good morning, nin tithen caun,” she whispered in his ear as he squeezed her. “When did you wake up?”
“Elf not bad man helped us off horse an Legles not wet an Legles is hungry,” he tugged on her tunic ties. “Fruit gone,” he repeated his earlier statement with sadness.
“I am sorry, tithen min, but the fruit is gone,” Tathiel felt tears burning her eyes. She did not think anything could tear more deeply at her heart than the look of a hungry child. She smiled at him, though, “You are not wet? You are becoming such a big elfling!” She hugged him again.
Tathiel looked up when the shadow of another fell over her, and she smiled as Rawien sat down next to her. He tucked her hair behind her ear, his fingers softly caressing her cheek. She let him assist her as she pulled herself into a sitting position.
“Meren and Laerion are hunting rabbits. We will hopefully have fresh meat in a little while.”
Legolas had finally untied Tathiel’s tunic when she did not do so herself, and Tathiel found herself blushing slightly. She settled Legolas in place, and pulled a blanket over him. He deftly reached up with his free hand and tugged it back down. He wanted to keep an eye on the big elf.
Tears stung her eyes again. “Fresh meat will be good. The children are very hungry……..” her voice broke off.
Rawien moved closer to her, pulling her to lean against his chest and wrapping his arms around her and Legolas. He pulled the blankets around them all, laughing when a small arm shot up and thrust the blanket back from his face again. Legolas sat up at the sound of the laughter, and peered over Tathiel’s shoulder at the big elf now sitting behind her.
“I have a little bit of fruit that Legolas can have after he finishes nursing,” Rawien said to Tathiel, not looking at Legolas.
His eyes twinkled as the small body slipped back down and resumed eating. Tathiel had to bite her lip to keep from laughing.
She leaned her head back against Rawien’s shoulder and closed her eyes, enjoying the warmth and feel of his body against hers. She felt warm and comfortable and safe. Tears slipped from her eyes again, and she let them fall. Months of pent up emotion; months of having to be strong for the little ones had caught up with her and she could not have stopped the flood of grief that slipped from her even if she had tried.
Rawien held her, his hand stroking her hair as she relaxed in his care and love. For he knew it was love; he felt complete with his arms wrapped around her. There was much he wished to say; much he wished to ask her. First, though, the four needed warmth, food, water, and reassurance.
Tathiel fell asleep again, and Rawien did not move until the small blonde head popped up and bright blue eyes stared at him. He smiled as he saw the little one trying to decide if he would ask for that which he heard awaited him.
“Would you like some fruit?” Rawien finally asked him.
Rawien reached into the pouch beside him, and pulled out a few pieces of fruit. He handed them to the elfling, who took them carefully.
“Hannon le,” Legolas remembered to say after the first piece was already in his mouth.
“You are welcome,” Rawien smiled at him.
Across the camp, Ethiwen sat with an arm around each daughter as they slowly ate of the lembas she had given them. She found herself watching every move they made; every nuance of emotion that fluttered across their faces; and she could hardly bear to be parted physically from them. They had just awoken, and few words had been said. Ethiwen wanted to know and hear from them all that had happened, every thought they had had and every emotion they had felt. She wished to chase away any shadows of fear that still hovered over them, and there was little she would not give to see the shadows disappear from beneath their eyes.
Eärundra looked up, and saw Legolas watching her from his position in Tathiel’s arms. She smiled and beckoned to him, and he rose slowly, looking back to the big elf. Rawien motioned for him to go, and he took a few steps forward reaching the middle of the camp, and then stopped when he realized there were big elves all about him. Most were watching him with amused and loving glances. He stole one glance back at Tathiel, but she was yet asleep. He looked forward to Tinánia and Eärundra, who were sitting with a big she-elf. Suddenly feeling very much unsure of himself, a frown appeared on his little face and his hands twisted in his tunic. Eärundra and Tinánia immediately sensed his discomfort, and they arose together. Legolas saw them stand, and since they were blocking the big she-elf from his vision, he was no longer afraid and flew to his ellyth.
When Tathiel next awoke she found herself still wrapped in Rawien’s embrace. He stirred as she moved, and she sat upright, looking for Legolas. Rawien pointed near the campfire, and she turned to see Legolas standing with a chunk of lembas in hand next to Tinánia. Meren was holding woolf as Legolas spoke to her between bites. Lachthoniel was roasting rabbit, and she watched as he cut a slice into tiny pieces. He seated himself by Meren, and gaining Legolas’ attention began to coax him with the morsels. Tinánia took the first and gave it to Legolas, and in no time he was eating readily from Lachthoniel’s hand.
“I was worried he would be shy since he had never seen a male elf,” Tathiel laughed.
“You explained to him last night that ‘Elf not bad man’. He has asked each one of us if we are an elf,” Rawien laughed. “Come, you must eat something. I understand you have not eaten much in nearly a week.”
Tathiel stood and stretched, shaking her head. “Our supplies were already low the morning we were attacked by orcs. In our escape the meat, as poor as it was, was left behind. The waybread of men is not sustaining, and we have suffered hunger,” she explained.
Rawien and Tathiel joined the others at the campfire; Legolas racing to Tathiel with a small shout of “Tafiel awake!” as he flung himself into her arms.
“Oniel give Legles rabbit meat an Meren lembas an she like woolf and Nania and Rundra’s Nana is here an Sadron hurt and,” Legolas stopped, finally pointing at Bellion, “he has big bow but likes Nania’s bow an Legles not hungry anymore.”
The elves gathered around the campfire, and even those on watch listened in awe as Tathiel, Tinánia and Eärundra, with occasional commentary by Legolas, told their tale beginning with what happened in the cave as they saw Narawen and Alagos murdered and stretching to their capture and march across the iron hills; the obstinate dwarf; their subsequent escape when Tathiel drugged the men; their flight eastward in the hope of confusing any following them; the rockslide; Eärundra’s severe injuries and how Tinánia took charge; the wolf attack and the Watcher. They had to stop at this point to admire the wolf pelts and the gifts they received from the watcher, including the finely carved toys he gave to Legolas and the intricately designed fine bow he made for Tinánia. Tinánia even demonstrated her prowess by firing a few arrows at designated targets while Tathiel explained to Varandil how she treated Eärundra’s badly broken bones.
The story moved on to their trek out of the hills to Karan, and how they sent the messenger to King Thranduil, but were attacked that night in their campsite and taken to Agar by Hazad. Legolas was muttering ‘bad man’ under his breath when Hazad’s name was mentioned causing the adult elves to laugh. They told of the attack of Guryn on Tathiel and Legolas, and how the caravan split; of Hazad’s plans to marry Tathiel to his son Tal-Elmar; how Tinánia was attacked in the barn by Tal-Elmar’s wicked brothers and how Tinánia and Eärundra came to stay with Sarn and Balwyn and finally of the events that led Tathiel to escape once again. Legolas was encouraged to add his story and the group was treated to an excited run down of the barnyard animals ‘cow mooooeed and Legles not scared and chickens and cockadooooodledoo roosters and feeding baa-baa lambs’ before he frowned and hugged Tathiel explaining how ‘bad man hurt Legles and hurt Tafiel’.
Tathiel finished the story with their flight south around the Sea of Rhûn – the orcs they dodged on a constant basis; the day they shared the cave with orcs which brought groans of disgust from all three children; the attack the next day and how Eärundra killed the orc attacking Tathiel and Tinánia escaped with Legolas, then shot another orc off the cliff with her arrows. Tathiel explained how she forgot the food behind in their flight, and they had battled cold, hunger, and exhaustion.
“We were only going to rest a short while, then try hunting for some food that day,” Tathiel explained. She hung her head, “I fell asleep, and we slept the day away. When we woke it was dark, and the orcs were on us.”
“We heard the band of orcs and their excitement at having found something,” Galithon said. “The orc that stumbled upon you shouted that he had found elf younglings, and we knew it was you. We pushed the horses hard and into the midst of battle. There were nearly 80 orcs in that band.”
“I was worried when the four of you slept so soundly on the rest of the night’s ride,” Varandil added. “We ran into small orc patrols twice more that night and not once did you rouse. Hunger, cold and exhaustion had taken their toll on you. You obviously had not slept in many days.”
Tathiel was silent for a moment. She reached into her boot and pulled out her dagger. Rawien recognized it immediately as the one he had given her in the cave.
“As we were attacked I started to use this, and was terrified I was too late. Then you came, and I realized what I had nearly done……” her voice trailed off as her hand began to shake, then her whole body trembled.
Rawien wrapped his arms around her again, joined by Ethiwen and Varandil as they comforted her. Each adult present knew what she spoke of; the questioning look in the eyes of the children suggested they did not. Elunell distracted the ellyth by asking them again about the Watcher and how he helped them.
Rawien drew back from Tathiel slightly, and cupping her face in both his hands, forcing her eyes to meet his, he said those words again.
“It is over.”
Author’s note:ellyth = elf maidens
nin tithen caun = my little prince
tithen min = little one
pen-neth = young one
hannon le = thank you