May the Valar Protect Them: 3. Laketown

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3. Laketown

Naneth, will we be having lembas to eat?” Elumeril’s question elicited a smile from her mother and groans from the warriors.

“Elves always travel with lembas, tithen min, but I do not think we will need them on this short trip,” Narawen replied. “Are you dissatisfied with the food packed for the journey?”

Elumeril and Tinánia grinned at each other. They were riding behind the cart bearing Narawen and Tathiel – and the food. “No, Naneth. The food looks quite good.”

Narawen smiled at Tathiel. She knew how the game worked. The next question was hers to ask. “Then why are you wondering about the lembas?”

“We have been listening to the great warriors recount tales of their heroic deeds and long expeditions where they had nothing to survive on but lembas,” Elumeril explained. “We were hoping for their sake they would not have need to eat them on this journey.”

Alagos laughed and Sadron and Laerion both had the good grace to blush and lower their eyes. It was their heroic deeds and tales of hardship – meant for Alagos’ ears, as this was his first outing as a full warrior – that had been overheard by the young elleth.

“Perhaps the neth elleth would care to try the lembas?” Alagos teased his young sister and her friend. “Do you wish to pretend you are warriors, traveling home after days of fighting Orcs and spiders?”

Tinánia nudged Elumeril. This was exactly what they wanted: to pretend they were on an adventure. “Well…..,” Elumeril thought quickly, “perhaps that would be a good experience for us, so we might know if we wished to become warriors when we come of age.”

Narawen laughed out loud. She had easily guessed where this conversation was heading. “ What do you think, Tathiel, have we enough lembas to spare two growing elleth?”

“Yes, my lady, I am sure we can spare it,” Tathiel answered agreeably.

“Do you also have need of weapons?” Narawen knew a good adventure needed proper armament.

“Yes, Naneth,” Elumeril answered excitedly, forgetting all subtleness now that she had her mother’s permission to play the game.

“Good. When we make camp for the evening, I believe that our heroic warriors would very much enjoy helping you fashion bows and arrows, and I believe we have some small daggers in the cart that you might carry,” Narawen’s eyes twinkled as she saw warriors rolling their eyes, helpless to disagree with their queen.

So went the first day of the adventure – a perfect day by all accounts. For it is a fine thing to play at being a warrior, and quite lovely to talk about fighting Orcs and spiders when you are two young elleth traveling safe ground in the company of mighty warriors.

That evening Alagos, Sadron, and Laerion helped the girls fashion bows appropriate for their size, and adapted arrows for their use. Quivers to hold the arrows were woven out of reeds from the riverbank and silver rope used to make straps to hold the quivers and arrows in place on the maiden’s backs. Small daggers in sheaths were tied about their calves, and they were taught to care for their weapons and use them safely. That evening, tents were set up along the riverbank – one for Narawen and Thranduil; another for Ethiwen, Urithral and Eärundra. A third small tent was fashioned and staked for Elumeril and Tinánia, for warriors did not sleep with their parents.

The six big warriors laid their bedrolls around the fire, and set the watches. Calardan and Tathiel also chose to sleep under the stars, and they were placed in the protective middle of the group. Rawien sat against the stump of a tree, his head tilted back watching the stars. The younger warriors were laughing and talking when Orchalthon began a song, quickly picked up by the others. The light of Eärendil flashed in the sky, and the trees whispered to them, joining in the song.

Rawien felt content; times of peace had been rare in Middle-Earth and he treasured lighthearted moments like these when watches were set because it was the proper thing to do, not because they were likely to be necessary. He wondered what life might have been like had he a wife, perhaps even children. He had not in his many centuries met a she-elf that captured his heart. His gaze turned to Tathiel and he smiled to himself. He had in many ways watched her grow up. She was not beautiful in the manner of Tinúviel or the Evenstar; but she was pleasing to behold. She had caught the Queen’s eye as a young maiden, and served in the royal household from the time of her coming of age. She was resourceful, had learned much in the healing arts, able to apply knowledge and teach it to others; she was loyal and very much loved by those who knew her. Rawien smiled; for he knew not how others determined when they were in love; for himself, he was sure that he was, though he doubted he could articulate how exactly he knew this to be true. He made a determination that night to speak with the King about Tathiel; for she lived under the protection of his household. This decision firmly in his mind, Rawien let himself drift into elvish dreams.

***
Tathiel lay awake for some time, staring at the stars and listening to the songs. She found herself watching Rawien, noting that he listened much and spoke little. The respect the other warriors carried for him was great; evidenced by his wishes being carried out immediately and without question. She knew he had fought at Dagorlad with Thranduil; had served as Captain to Oropher, Thranduil’s father, and Thranduil after Oropher’s death. He was much older than she; born in the middle of the third age she was considered young by elven standards. She had spent much of her adult life serving Queen Narawen. She had been present for the births of the Queen’s last four children, and Narawen had encouraged her to learn and practice the healing arts. Long she had watched the captain of Mirkwood. He had at times been part of the guard that escorted the healers to other realms or protected them as they searched out their herbs in unlikely places. He had never seemed to notice her, though he was always polite and considerate. Tathiel knew that all she need do is speak of her desire to know him better to Narawen, and the queen would arrange some unobtrusive way for them to meet. She had not done so, wishing instead that he would seek her out. She watched as he drifted into sleep, before wrapping herself in her cloak and doing the same.

***

The weather remained fair, and after three more leisurely days the travelers passed from the canopy of Mirkwood and skirted the Long Marshes. Laketown could be seen in the distance, an island entered only via the Great Bridge at the western edge of Long Lake. Many campsites had been erected outside the city gates; a sure sign of peaceful times that all did not need to be safely ensconced within the protective city walls and its water defenses. The Mirkwood elves chose a secluded clearing in a clump of trees to set up camp. The spot was chosen for privacy, for though the elves were known to the residents of Laketown, they preferred solitude and quiet over the bustle and noise of the city and larger camps. The camp was erected by dusk, and the elves settled in for the night with stories and song around their fire. Their fair voices could be heard at nearby campsites, and many paused and quieted to listen to the rare and beautiful music.

The carts holding samples of items the elves had for barter were repacked the following morning and taken through the gates and across the great bridge into the city proper. A marketplace had been erected around the market pool where wares could be examined and prices negotiated. The Great Hall was the site of feasts and where negotiations for raw materials and larger quantities of finished goods might occur. Calardan and Tathiel set up the cart in the marketplace with items for barter, and contact was nearly immediate with craftsman seeking elvish goods. Healers and teachers of the healing arts were always glad when the elves came to share their knowledge, for they seemed to always have new information and experience in areas that were of great benefit to the humans of Middle-Earth.

Thranduil made immediately for the Great Hall, where leaders of other delegations were gathering for a time of introduction and socialization. The traders in Dorwinian wine would be present and he hoped to quickly negotiate a good deal. Rawien followed him unobtrusively, watching his back and the surroundings. Urithral and Ethiwen, accompanied by Orchalthon, had already found the men of the iron hills, who were willing to sell them the raw materials needed for the crafting of arms and armor.

The days in the marketplace passed quickly. Tathiel held several training sessions daily, teaching local healers in the use of herbs and new healing methods. She and Calardan took turns escorting the Queen Narawen to various shops and stands. The Queen was a charming and adept negotiator; few could resist her winsome ways and the Mirkwood elves were sure to benefit greatly from the cooking utensils, fabrics, threads, domesticated animals, and other items that she skillfully obtained for a very fair price. Thranduil had often said she could talk him out of his crown, jewels and clothing, and naked he would leave, thankful for the privilege of doing business with her. This image Narawen carried with her at all times and if the King ever wondered what made her eyes sparkle and a smile creep unbidden to her lips at unusual times….well that was her little secret.

Caravans bearing bottles and barrels of the finest wines from Dorwinian were en route to Laketown via the River Celduin. Thranduil was able to negotiate a fair deal by agreeing to meet the traders at the Old Forest Road, hence saving the caravans the slower journey and falls bypass near the southern tip of Long Lake.

Urithral fared less well. He had samples of the ores that were preferred by the smiths, and the men of the iron hills had matches present, but not in the quantity needed. A messenger was sent back to the village to obtain the necessary amounts and Urithral agreed to meet them at the eastern edge of the Iron Hills. The ores were heavy, and pack animals and wagons would be rented from Laketown for the journey to the Iron Hill and back.

Thranduil’s party met each night at their campsite where they ate, made merry music and told tales. The children went into Laketown on two occasions, that they might see a city of men. While fascinated, they were glad to return to the peaceful comfort of the woods and stars. Three little ellyth had adventures and practiced their riding and weapons practice under the watchful eye of the camp guard. Narawen could scarce remember a more idyllic time. She spent hours in the shade of the trees with her needlework, fashioning garments for her new son, while watching and listening to the adventures of the little ones. When all negotiations were finished, Thranduil, Urithral, Narawen, Ethiwen and Rawien met to discuss the best way to retrieve the goods.

“I have never traveled beyond Laketown,” Narawen stated to the group. “I have heard the fields are covered in wildflowers and the sky so open that the stars seem many times their normal number.”

“I have traveled to the Iron Hills and beyond. The plains roll like waves in the sunlight, and the wildflowers are tall and many hued. It is a beautiful land,” Rawien replied.

Thranduil was thoughtful, “How many days travel to go there and back again?”

Urithral had obtained this information from the traders. “They are meeting us more than half the way. Our share of the journey is about the same as from Mirkwood to Laketown. They report that the journey is not difficult.”

“I will take two and meet the Dorwinian caravan at the Old Forest Road. My journey will be slightly shorter. I will also obtain horses and carts from Laketown, and we will travel by land from the edge of the wood to the Old Forest River. From there, we will send the barrels by river. The rest of you shall go see the fields of the East,” Thranduil smiled indulgently at the joy and sparkle in Narawen’s eyes at this news. “I will return to the palace, and determine with my fine sons the best way of moving the ore through the forest – by road or by raft.”

“My Lord, if we do not meet elves at the Long Marshes upon our return, we will continue by road,” Urithral answered, thinking of the most efficient use of the wagons.

“We are settled, then,” Thranduil finished. “Tomorrow we will obtain wagons and horses and be gone by midday.”

***

Dawn saw the camp of the elves dismantled and not long after horses and carts were brought from the city. Thranduil had considered hiring men from Laketown to drive the carts, but his own hesitation at close dealings with humans overcame the ease they might have provided, and he elected to rearrange the riders of his own group to cover the wagons. Orchalthon and Laerion would accompany him.

“Elumeril, would you like to accompany your Adar to obtain the wine?” Thranduil asked. “You may drive a cart, if you so wish.”

Elumeril’s face lit up into a smile. Spend time with Ada, alone? How could she refuse that? Being the youngest of six children (at least for now) meant that while she was much loved and received attention from all, time spent with Ada alone was a rarity.

“Yes, Ada,” she bounced to his side, tucking one hand into his, her face shining. She missed the look of sadness on Tinánia’s face, for this would bring an end to the adventures of the two little warriors.

Narawen smiled. Stubborn and pigheaded he might be at times, but Thranduil was a good husband and a good father.

“I will miss you, my husband,” she murmured as he embraced her. “You are my light and my love.”

“As you are mine,” Thranduil held her close, one hand resting gently on her belly. “I shall wait impatiently for you and this little one to be back in my arms.”

Thranduil lifted her into the cart and watched them depart eastward into the noonday sun.

*******

Author's Notes:
tithen min -----little ones
Naneth----- Mother
Ada----- Father
Neth elleth----- young elf maids
Lembas----- waybread of the elves


Elf childbearing: According to the notes of Christopher Tolkien in Morgoth’s Ring, Volume 10 of the History of Middle Earth series, “Laws and Customs of the Elders”, elf parents chose the day of the conception of their child. The child was normally born one year to the day of the conception, and the child’s age is counted not upon their birth, but their conception day.

Elves also had few children, with Fëanor having the greatest number recorded at seven. Thranduil is portrayed as wanting his due in terms of riches, and I like big families, so he is attempting to equal Fëanor. Can’t have the Noldor showing up the Sindar!

Elf Children: An elf reached physical maturity between 50-100 years of age. I have purposefully not specified exact ages for the three youngsters in this story. The older two could be in their twenties and the younger in her young teens. Elf children are wise and well spoken, but their physical maturity would be approximately that of maybe an 11-12 year old, and perhaps a 7 year old.

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

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