May the Valar Protect Them: 25. Gifts

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25. Gifts

Rawien and Galithon tended the horses, their eyes surreptitiously not on the horses but on the small group of elves sitting near the fire. A small tent had been constructed for privacy and warmth, and here Varandil was tending his patients.

Sadron was standing, gingerly placing weight on his injured leg and testing his ability to walk. Varandil kneeled in front of him, his fingers feeling the tension of the healing flesh and its ability to withstand movement. They saw Varandil shake his head and then help Sadron ease himself back to the ground, care being given to the healing wound that ran the length of his abdomen.

Tinánia and Eärundra sat with their Nana a few feet away from Sadron. Ethiwen helped Sadron to dress once Varandil was finished with him, and Sadron was smiling and talking to the ellyth. They both were responsive to him, speaking to him in turn, both heads nodding as they smiled at something he said.

Once Sadron was comfortably resettled on his bedroll, Varandil sat upon the ground in front of the girls, speaking to them. They appeared comfortable with him, and both allowed him to examine them. Rawien and Galithon both noted that they could count the ribs on both girls as Ethiwen helped shift their tunics upward while he listened to their heart and lungs. The ellyth were laughing, though, at some jest he made and when he was finished they stood before him and allowed him to hug them.

Ethiwen watched as her daughters sat down near Tathiel and Legolas, both of whom were again sleeping. Varandil and Ethiwen spoke for a few minutes, Ethiwen listening carefully and nodding her understanding. She then joined her daughters, and they gently woke Tathiel and then Legolas, motioning them to see Varandil.

Tathiel held Legolas’ hand and together they walked to the small enclosure. They sat down next to Sadron and spoke to him for a few moments. Legolas had his face buried in Tathiel’s neck, and it took several minutes for him to actually look at Sadron. Varandil kept his distance at first, then brought over some cream and fresh bandages. While Legolas watched, Varandil lifted Sadron’s tunic, and began to gently massage the cream into the healing edges of the wound. Sadron laughed and squirmed, evidently claiming Varandil was tickling him. Legolas finally rose from the security of Tathiel’s lap and walked closer to Sadron. He squatted down and gently touched Sadron’s stomach, pulling his finger away when Sadron jumped and laughed. Legolas laughed and touched him again. In a matter of minutes Legolas was ‘helping’ Varandil tend Sadron. He rubbed some of the cream on to Sadron and held the ends of the bandages as Varandil tied them.

“Does he have elflings?” Rawien whispered to Galithon.

“No, but does he not have a way with them?” Galithon replied. “The three elflings are skittish, understandably so, and yet within minutes with each he has established trust with them.”

Smiles on their faces, they watched as Varandil pointed to a spot on Sadron’s abdomen and then pointed at Legolas. The little elf lifted his tunic and found his own belly button. Varandil listened to Sadron’s heart, and then Legolas let him listen to his heart as well. Within just a few minutes, Varandil had managed to examine Legolas completely without the elfling experiencing any fear or discomfort. When he had finished, he pulled some bits of dried fruit from a pouch, and led Legolas over to sit with Tinánia and Eärundra. The elfling plopped down in the laps of his ellyth and slowly devoured the morsels of fruit.

Rawien caught his breath as Varandil turned his attention to Tathiel. If they had found the young ellyth thin, Tathiel was near to starvation. Varandil examined her carefully; then sat down face to face with her and began to talk. Tathiel looked distressed, and Rawien noted the sorrow in Sadron’s face as he sat too near not to hear the discussion. Varandil called Ethiwen over and she joined them, sitting down next to Tathiel, wrapping an arm around thin shoulders. They talked for some minutes; Varandil holding both of Tathiel’s hands in his own as he spoke, finally ending the interview and leaving the two she-elves alone. Varandil rose and walked towards where Rawien and Galithon stood by the horses.

Varandil stood before his captains, a troubled look upon his face. As he was considering his words, Galithon spoke.

“Let us start with Sadron. How does he fare, and what is his travel condition?”

Varandil let out a breath of relief; glad Galithon was aiding him by starting with the obvious.

“Sadron is mending well, but he still cannot bear weight upon his right leg. If we must continue this night, he will ride again with me.”

“And the children?” Galithon prompted him.

“Tinánia and Eärundra are physically tired and very thin. They need to eat regular nourishing meals and sleep in a warm bed, in a safe place and they will recover,” Varandil said. “We cannot provide those things out here, but they are very resilient. One day with their Nana and already they are acting more like normal ellyth. If we can improve their diets and help them to feel safe, it will go a long way towards their healing.”

“Legolas,” Varandil smiled and shook his head, “is amazing. He is the right size for an elfling of his age. He speaks as I would expect, and has the appropriate skills. He is more afraid of people than is normal, but that is to be expected. He is the least starved of the four. He has been hungry, but there is no emaciation. It is good that we have several months of journey ahead of us, for he will become used to male elves and will fear meeting his family less. I do not understand exactly what has happened, but he knows his family. He seems somehow to speak to his brother Lathron in dreams.”

“Lathron has long been bothered by visions and dreams,” Galithon replied, curious. “What does he tell Legolas in these visits?”

“Legolas told me the names of all his siblings, and the ellyth had only taught him the names of his sisters. He knows his Ada is waiting for him to come home; he knows he lives amongst the trees; he knows a little of what he will do when he gets home – about where he will sleep and what he will eat and play with. It is really quite amazing and wonderful to hear this stated so matter of factly by a tiny elfling. The dreams are not abnormal to him; he accepts them as just another part of his life.”

“It is a blessing indeed,” Galithon admitted. “It will make his homecoming that much smoother. I am sure the king is concerned about the difficulties they will face bringing this little one into the family he has never met.”

“Which leads us to Tathiel,” Rawien ventured. “How does she fare?”

“I am concerned about Tathiel,” Varandil admitted. “I will do my best to explain what it is I think I am seeing. As you know, when a couple chooses to conceive, the she-elf nurtures the growing elfling inside her. She in turn draws her strength from the child’s father. This bonding experience is quite natural and very strong.

“In Legolas’ case, he was born too early and his mother killed. Tathiel stepped in to fulfill the role of Nana, but she did not have a bond with the child or the child’s father. She poured forth a tremendous amount of her own energy and spirit to save him and then to nurture him. She did not have the child’s father to draw strength from, so all she gave was from herself only and there was no replenishing of that which she put forth.

“If she herself were well taken care of, this burden could be borne. They have lived for more than a year and a half in poor conditions; they have been physically taxed; underfed, without adequate rest and been in fear. All of those would drain a normal elf. In the midst of this, Tathiel has protected and cared for three children, none of whom she had a bond with. Into Legolas she has put all her spirit and energy without regard to her own well-being. She has hardly eaten in over a week, yet draws from herself to make milk that he might be nourished.

“You saw her, Rawien. I saw you watching. She is near starvation. Even this afternoon when the others ate, I cautioned her to take little and she listened because she knew. To eat now would overwhelm her system. We can gradually bring her back and restore her to health, but she must stop nursing Legolas. Yet she will not stop nursing him until she is sure we have food that he can eat that will be nourishing to him.

“She wants to return Legolas to the King whole and healthy, and she has worked and sacrificed to that end since the day the Queen died. She will not stop now.”

“What kind of food does a small elfling need? How long is a small one normally nursed?” Rawien asked.

“He needs fresh meat, fruits, and vegetables,” Varandil explained. “Lembas might get him by, but I have no experience feeding a small elfling nothing but waybread. He is of an age where an elfling is weaned; the question is whether we can provide what he needs.”

“Can they travel this night?” Galithon asked.

Varandil sighed, “They can if they must. It would be better if we could let them rest and recover before pushing them.”

“Unfortunately I doubt whether the orcs would be sympathetic to our plight and cooperate by leaving us alone,” Rawien replied dryly.

“Let us not forget what their fate would be this day had we not found them,” Galithon reminded them. “While it would be best to let them rest in a warm safe environment, this is not such a place, with or without orcs. We must go on this night. Same formation as last night.”

Rawien and Varandil both nodded in agreement. Galithon watched in some amusement as Rawien filled Tathiel’s pack and rolled up the bedrolls before informing her they would be departing at sunset. He strongly suspected that Rawien would attempt to create the environment Varandil described; indeed all of the warriors would know of Varandil’s concerns soon enough and it was likely that fresh meat would soon become abundantly available and the ellyth would not be lifting a finger to help in a campsite anytime soon.

The party of elves set out that night just before dusk with Rawien, Varandil, Ethiwen and Elunell each with their charges in the protected middle positions of the formation. The mission of these warriors had been partially fulfilled, and they approached their travel in a different manner. No longer would they engage orcs in battle, nor remain to fight with those who attacked them. They now carried precious cargo, and all of their thoughts were on delivering that cargo safely home.

Twice Laerion and Bellion encountered Orc parties while scouting the path ahead, and each time they held up the elves until the orcs had moved on. Near morning the two were attacked, and they fled away from the main party, drawing the orcs away from the elves and into the hills. Laerion and Bellion were on horse and the orcs on foot; thus they were quickly able to circle back and rejoin the party.

Laerion and Bellion found a place to set up camp after sunrise the next morning and led the elves to that position. Tathiel and Legolas had slept most of the night in Rawien’s arms; Tinánia and Eärundra had dozed on and off and were glad to get off the horses and move around.

Rawien silently handed the sleeping Tathiel and Legolas to Galithon and spread out their bedrolls near where the campfire would be built. Galithon gently laid them down there, covering them both with extra blankets and Legolas’ beloved wolf pelt.

As Rawien was arranging packs, Meren approached him. Without words, she handed him a small pouch which held all of the dried fruit she had remaining of her provision and some of her waybread. In her other hand she held a few rabbits that she had shot already that morning. She returned his silent smile of thanks, and went to skin the conies as Laerion built the fire. Elunell followed Meren, with a similar offering.

By the time Legolas and Tathiel woke, each of the warriors had donated the best of their provisions. Whether word had spread that quickly amongst the warriors, or they had simply overheard Varandil’s concerns Rawien did not know.

Legolas sat up bleary eyed, and sat still for a moment as he took in the unfamiliar surroundings. He toyed with Tathiel’s hair, rubbing it between his fingers as he looked around. Finally spotting Rawien, his face broke into a grin and he stood, walking over to the big elf. Rawien smiled at him, taking the tiny elf by the hand; they walked to the edge of he camp where a small spring had been found and together they took care of their morning needs. Legolas copied Rawien’s actions closely, splashing cold water on his face and washing his hands in the freezing water.

“The water is cold,” Rawien observed, one eyebrow raised at the little elf who sputtered as drops of water ran down chin. He dried Legolas’ face and hands with a cloth and the little elf grinned.

“Legles likes cold water, like Rawen,” he stated.

“You think I like cold water, do you?” Rawien laughed. “I like it better than no water, but a warm bath would be better, I think.”

Legolas stared at him blankly at this, and Rawien realized the child had probably had very few baths in his life.

“Are you hungry, tithen min?” Rawien asked, taking him by the hand to return to camp.

“Legles hungry,” Legolas agreed. “Tafiel sleeping.”

“Meren is cooking a rabbit for you, and I have some fruit,” Rawien enticed him.

Legolas perked up. “Fruit?”

Rawien smiled as they reached their bedrolls. He opened one of the little pouches that had been left on the bedroll, and poured out a small handful of fruit. He added to this a bit of lembas, and then set it on the blanket in front of Legolas with a small skin of fresh water.

Legolas plopped down on to the blanket before the food, and looked up at Rawien. He looked uncertain, and Rawien sat down next to him. He pulled some strips of dried meat from his pack and began to eat. Legolas watched him for a moment, then picked up the fruit and placed it in his mouth. He chewed slowly, savoring the taste before swallowing and drinking of the water that Rawien held out to him.

“Good fruit!” Legolas grinned at Rawien.

“I am glad you like it, Legolas,” Rawien replied, smoothing the child’s blond hair down with his hand.

Meren and Varandil brought over pieces of cooked rabbit for them. Meren left portions for Rawien and Legolas, while Varandil quietly added lembas and fruit to the tray he carried.

“This is what I want Tathiel to eat this morning. Not all at once, either. Do not let her choose the amount or what to eat. All of this between now and next meal. She may need to nurse; if so she may, but limit it. Keep Legolas nice and full, but not too much fruit at once or someone will need many rest stops this night or have to go back into swaddling,” Varandil smiled at Legolas.

“Legles big elf!” Legolas declared at the mere mention of swaddling.

“Legolas is a big elfling,” Rawien agreed. “Come, eat some more meat.”

Rawien waited until Legolas was done eating, and then taking a third of what Varandil had laid out for Tathiel he woke her.

“Tathiel, it is time for breakfast,” he gently shook her.

Tathiel woke with a start and would have smacked into Rawien if he had not gently restrained her by the shoulder. She quickly composed herself and then struggled against him as she looked around the camp.

“Legolas……..,” Tathiel said, twisting under Rawien’s hand.

“Legolas is fine,” Rawien replied softly. He directed her attention to where Legolas sat playing with Eärundra on her bedroll.

“He must be hungry,” Tathiel sat up, pushing her hair from her face.

Legolas saw Tathiel sit up, and jumping to his feet raced across the small distance to her. He flung himself on top of her with such energy that she would have fallen if Rawien had not braced her with his arm.

“Tafiel awake!” Legolas crowed gleefully. He hugged her, squeezing her tight and squealing when she squeezed him back.

“Are you hungry?” she whispered in his ear.

Legolas sat back in her arms, “Legles not hungry. Had meat an fruit an lembas an water an playing with Rundra and washed with Rawen.”

Tathiel looked at Rawien in surprise, then at the plate fixed for her.

“There is fresh meat again?” she asked. “The fruit we should save for Legolas, and the lembas should not be eaten at all. We should save those in case we need them later.”

“There is plenty of fruit for Legolas and enough lembas for you to have some today,” Rawien answered her, placing the tray in her hands.

“But I……,” she began.

“No argument. Varandil’s orders,” Rawien interrupted her.

Tathiel sat still, staring at the food in front of her. Her mind raced with all sorts of thoughts. Did they not understand that better planning was needed than this? They could not rely on having fresh meat every day, and surely the fruit supply would not see Legolas home. The child could not eat the dried meat or waybread of men, and she had to nurse him to maintain her milk supply in case the good provisions ran low. How could she make them see that she had to plan for him and protect him?

Rawien settled himself next to her, and taking her chin in his hand, he forced her to look at him. “For nearly two years you have been responsible and cared for the children. You are exhausted and emaciated from this burden. Trust us to take care of you and Legolas and see you safely home. Look,” he pointed to the pouches of fruit piled on his bedroll. “We have enough fruit that Legolas can have some every day, probably with every meal. We will come to Dorwinia in another month or so and can get more fruit there. Rabbits and deer are plentiful for fresh game, and we have lembas too.”

Tathiel opened her mouth to speak and then closed it again. She was trembling and close to tears, and she did not wish to cry again. That all of the warriors had given of their provisions that the rescued ones might eat of the best there was ……..

“For nearly two years you bore all the responsibility alone; now you have ten more to aid you. Let us help restore you to health and do each what we can to provide for Legolas and Eärundra and Tinánia,” Rawien whispered softly to her. He directed her eyes to where the ellyth sat with their Nana, “Ethiwen accepts what we can give because she knows us and trusts us, and because we have been with her these long months. You have relinquished the ellyth to their mother’s care, now you need to let us care for you, nín meleth.”

The tears began at this endearment, and Rawien gently embraced Tathiel, stroking her hair and whispering softly in her ear. She clung to him, accepting his strength and his love, for that was what he had offered her.

Legolas had been nibbling on the fruit throughout their conversation, but when he saw his Tathiel crying and the big elf holding her tight, he jumped to his feet and small fists flailing he struck at Rawien’s head and shoulders.

“My Tafiel!”

Rawien pulled back, ducking under the tiny fists raining ineffectual blows across his head and back. Tathiel held her arms out to Legolas, and he threw himself at her, turning and glaring at Rawien.

Tathiel found herself laughing through her tears, and Rawien joined her. Legolas did not appreciate being laughed at, and he grabbed Tathiel’s face in both hands.

“No laugh Legles!”

“I am sorry, nín tithen caun, we are not laughing at you,” she struggled to regain a straight face. She blushed, looking away from Rawien for a moment, “Tathiel likes hugs from Rawien and from Legolas.” She paused, “I have a secret for you, Legolas.”

His anger waning, Legolas wished to know the secret. He turned in her arms slightly and peeked at Rawien who watched him nonchalantly, a slight smile on his lips. He turned back to Tathiel, both hands on her face again he whispered, “What secret?”

“Rawien likes hugs, and you can squeeze him as hard as you want.”

Legolas grinned. Sometimes he had to squeeze less hard when he played with Tathiel, for she said he was too strong for her. He turned to watch Rawien who was now watching the birds in the tree.

With a little war cry, Legolas flung himself at Rawien and squeezed him as hard as he could. Rawien caught him easily and squeezed gently in return.

“Ai! He is so strong!” he called out in mock dismay.

The other warriors in camp exchanged amused smiles and watched with great satisfaction as Tathiel ate and Legolas played.

“Legolas, will you come help me, please?” Varandil called to him.

Legolas rose from Rawien’s lap and walked cautiously towards Varandil when Rawien motioned him that he could go.

“I must change the bandages on Sadron’s tummy, and you helped so well yesterday I would like your help again today,” Varandil explained as the little elf approached him.

Legolas walked up to Sadron, and squatted down next to him, soon caught up in helping ‘Vandil fix Sadron’s tummy,’ and Tathiel returned her attention to Rawien, who sat patiently next to her.

“Varandil will watch him. Sleep again,” Rawien pulled the blankets up over them both. He caught Galithon’s eye across the camp and saw the twinkle there. He held up his fingers, indicating which watch he should be woken for and Galithon nodded. He mouthed the word back ‘slowly,’ and Rawien blushed and nodded. He would go as slowly as needed. But now that he had her, he would not let her go again.

***

Lathron woke with a start, and sat up in his bed with heart racing. He calmed himself, then threw on his dressing gown and went to his brother’s room.

Bregolas had just returned from a prolonged patrol of the eastern border of Mirkwood. He had reported massive increases in spiders and orcs, as well as signs that Dol Guldur was again inhabited. Black mist hung thick and heavy across the southern reaches of the forest. He had led his war party on several forays into and around the forest, but in all the months he had been out no signs of the missing elves or Rawien’s rescue party had been discovered. The patrol had arrived home a fortnight ago, and plans were underway to send out fresh warriors.

Lathron knocked softly on Bregolas’ door, then gently opened it. Bregolas jumped at the intrusion, his senses still heightened from the weeks on patrol.

“Bregolas?” Lathron called to him softly.

“Lathron, you are fortunate my bow is so far from my bed,” Bregolas replied sleepily.

“Come, we must talk to Adar,” Lathron tossed Bregolas’ dressing gown to him.

“In the middle of the night, muindor-nín?” Bregolas groused agreeably as he slipped the robe on.

His words met empty air as Lathron had already left the room. Bregolas shrugged the robe on, and followed him with a noticeable lack of grace to their father’s chamber. Lathron had already roused Thranduil by the time he dragged himself into the room, and Thranduil smiled at the yawn of his eldest. The palace guard on duty had noted the sons rousing their father and had already sent for tea.

“Rawien and his warriors have found them,” Lathron began without ceremony. “Yesterday, I believe. I cannot tell where exactly they are, however.”

Bregolas shook the cobwebs from his head. “How do you know this? Did you have another dream?”

Lathron nodded. “Legolas’ thoughts become easier to read, and it is as if he speaks to me. Sadron is injured and Legolas ‘helped’ Varandil care for him. Rawien is there, and Meren and he speaks of the Nana of his ellyth.”

“His ellyth?” Thranduil raised an eyebrow, a smile about his lips.

“Oh yes, and his ‘Tafiel’ as well,” Lathron grinned. “Legolas is quite the possessive toddler.”

Thranduil closed his eyes and found his hands shaking. He stilled them and then felt strong hands closing over his own. He opened his eyes to Lathron and Bregolas now sitting close, one on either side.

Ada, are you well?’ Lathron asked.

“Yes, nín ion,” Thranduil smiled. “I am just……….overwhelmed at this news you deliver so casually. Legolas is found, and the ellyth and Tathiel too?” Lathron nodded. “My son is coming home, and no one will stop them this time.”

“We must send warriors to meet them,” Lathron broke in, standing again. “They have been in great danger, and were saved from certain death when the warriors found them. I cannot explain this part – Legolas seems confused by what happened when they were found. But I feel they will soon be in great danger again, Ada.”

“You can tell on this that the danger is still forthcoming?” Bregolas asked.

“I believe so,” Lathron said, wincing slightly. “I may be wrong, Ada, but I do not think so. I just sense that they will need help.”

Bregolas rose and grasped his pacing brother by the shoulder. “Then I will go,” he said simply.

Thranduil glanced from one son to the other. He had learned to trust Lathron’s visions and was pleased that Bregolas placed such faith in his younger brother.

“They are near the sea,” Lathron said. “I do not know more than that.”

Thranduil rose, still feeling somewhat shocked by this news. “Assemble the captains in the Great Hall at daybreak, Bregolas. Lathron, you and Urithral shall be present as well. Until then, both of you try to sleep.”

Lathron and Bregolas took their dismissal with grins on their faces, and left the room already planning the mission. Thranduil rose as well, and instead of returning to his own bed he slipped into the small chamber next to his own. He sat on Legolas’ little bed, and fingered the cloth of the blankets as he tried to picture in his mind the image of a tiny blonde elfling, as described to him by Lathron. It was here he spent the remainder of the night, remembering his dear Narawen and anticipating meeting their young son.

*******

Author’s note:
ellyth = elf maidens
tithen min = little one
nín tithen caun = my little prince
nín ion = my son
muinador-nín = brother mine
nín meleth = my love
Adar/Ada = father/dad
Naneth/Nana = mother/mom


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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