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A Winter Tale.

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This story is No. 5 in the series "Return of The Key.". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Just over a year after Dawn/Tindómë returned to Middle Earth, through the portal between Sunnydale and Ithilien, she travels with Legolas to see his father for Mid-winter...COMPLETE.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Lord of the Rings > Dawn-Centered(Recent Donor)curiouslywombatFR181142,77863713,30826 Dec 096 May 10Yes

NOTE: This chapter is rated FR15

Chapter Eleven.

After the interlude in the orchard Rumil and Tindómë returned to the main festivities, talked, danced, ate, and drank. Now the fire was burning down and the moon had dropped behind the trees. Rumil was taking his turn keeping the drums beating. Tindómë stood, with Lithôniel and Lúthwen, watching Lúthwen’s husband as he participated in the ongoing, complex, ‘line-dancing’ which had also continued all night.

Lithôniel’s hair had many different coloured ribbons tied into it, some with their donor’s ‘mark’ on them – one had a tiny, gold, oak leaf on dark green showing that it had come from Legolas. Lúthwen, Tindómë was pleased to see, had a similar number in her hair to herself; clearly her own tally of single ellyn kissed was an acceptable number for a bound elleth. She did, still, worry about overstepping cultural boundaries by mistake.

The firelight glinted on gold amongst the couples dancing; King Thranduil with an elleth. He did look very like Legolas. Almost as if he felt Tindómë’s eyes on him the King bowed to his partner, and led her towards the threesome, asking Tindómë if she would care to partner him once more.

As they danced, Legolas approached, but waited until his father finally swung Tindómë to a halt.

“Adar…” said Legolas, shaking his head.

His hair was a golden waterfall, cascading in a series of ripples down his back; there were no ribbons left, and the only braids left were those that showed he was an archer. He grinned.

His father’s answering smile was almost as broad. “Neither Cîrdoron nor Galanthir have presented themselves to me yet…” he said, and Tindómë realised that he must be acting as judge for the two wagers!

Not only had Vaniel decided that Legolas had started the evening with more ribbons than his nephew, but he had managed to ‘lose’ them all before either Cîrdoron or Galanthir as well.

“Congratulations, my son,” King Thranduil said.

Legolas looked, slightly expectantly, at Tindómë.

“Congratulations,” she said, paused, saw that he was looking at her encouragingly, and added “atheg!”

The King gave an almost imperceptible nod; it was all right.

“Uh – how much?” Tindómë asked, curious as always.

“Well, it will certainly keep me in ribbons for both midsummer and next midwinter… and is revenge for Galanthir beating me these past two occasions in Eryn Ithil!”

Legolas looked at his father again. “May I steal your partner, Adar?”

“Do – I am sure I will find another before we start jumping the fire,” the King said, placing her hand on Legolas’ arm.

They spun out into the dancers – there did not seem to have been a time, since her first dance with King Thranduil, that there had not been couples dancing.

Legolas was clearly keeping an eye on the bonfire.

“Does your Adar jump the bonfire first, like Aragorn?” she asked him.

“No, there is no such formality. Just as no-one waits for me in Eryn Ithil, so my lord Adar does not expect anyone to await his pleasure, or his leap. He never jumps early on – he says it is the prerogative of the warriors, not those who spend much time in the stronghold! But I think, if he wished, he could jump as easily as I do.”

He smiled at her, before continuing. “Are you going to give me marks out of ten for jumping, or just for my performance earlier?”

She remembered her comment, on the night spent in Álith’s barn… “if it was you and an elleth I wouldn’t look away – I’d probably give you a score out of ten…”

“Uh – I didn’t look… honestly! I didn’t even know for sure if it was you or Cîrdoron. I guessed it was probably one of you, from what Vaniel had told me.”

He whirled her around, her feet off the ground, before continuing the conversation.

“See how little you needed to worry about being accepted, when Vaniel shows you her favourite quiet spot, so that I end up being ‘swayed by the desires of the body’ with my knees on the damp grass…”

Tindómë’s inner Dawn wanted to giggle – the very idea of such a comment from her mortal, Slayer, sister was so unimaginable as to be funny.

“Poor atheg,” she looked down, in an exaggerated fashion, at his leggings, “it is a good thing that your festive clothes are dark green…”

There was a flash of colour from the direction of the fire, he spun her around again, and then pulled her that way by the hand.

She knew now, after the years in Ithilien, that there was a meaning to fire-jumping for the Silvan Elves that was not part of the similar mortal traditions. For mortals it was a game of daring – who would jump first, or highest. Whilst the Elves did make wagers with each other, the true reason for leaping over the midwinter and midsummer bonfires was a… blessing was probably the best word Tindómë could think of… to protect the warriors.

It was mystical and had to do with the trees that gave something of themselves for the fire. Legolas had told her that he had never met a wood-elf who had lived before they began to jump the fires, and so it was a very, very, old tradition, and he knew little more. But it had been important to warriors for as long as anyone knew, and no warrior would be happy to go into battle if he had not jumped the fire at the last solstice.

Now the rhythm of the drums quickened, and ellon after ellon leapt gracefully over the remaining flames. Rumil passed the drumming on to another ellon and, as had become their usual habit, he and Orophin leapt this bonfire together, from opposite sides, occasioning much applause.

Tindómë had not seen Orophin for a few hours but now he approached her with Rumil. In his hair there remained one silver ribbon. She reached out and touched it where it glinted in his, almost equally silver, hair.

“For Lithôniel to take,” he answered her unasked question.

The elleth in question joined them as he spoke.

She glanced at Tindómë and ‘winked’, Elven style, before she spoke.

“Come then, melethron-nín, it might take you quite some time to persuade me to accept it…”

As the sun rose, pale in the wintry sky, fresh bread, teas, and fruit juices appeared on the tables; it was difficult, Tindómë thought, to be sure whether it was breakfast or supper. Some of the elves had already left – probably some to bed, others just to quieter places – mainly in pairs, or threes or fours.

Elflings began to reappear, Haldirin amongst them; the still-burning bonfire drew them like a magnet, just like all children, and soon two or three of the adult ellyn had pulled single smouldering logs away from the main fire, letting the ‘little warriors’ leap their own tiny fires.

“Look Nana, Ada! Look!” Haldirin might be the littlest of these little warriors, but he was determined to jump – and did; to applause from not only his parents but Ardoron and Vaniel, who had rejoined the festivities, and the King, amongst others.

“Well done! You will be a brave warrior when you grow up!” said an ellon.

‘I hope he doesn’t need to be,’ Tindómë thought.

The elleth, who had cared for Haldirin overnight, began to organise games for the small elflings.

“Go and rest, bathe, have some time with your husband,” she told Tindómë, “Haldirin will be fine here until you choose to return.”

“Good advice,” Rumil said, and led her back towards the doors of the stronghold.

Recognisable sounds, as they passed the not-quite-closed door to Legolas’ own rooms, explained why he had not been around when Haldirin jumped the smouldering log. Tindómë wondered whether he had left a spare ribbon in his rooms or whether this elleth, whoever she was, already had one.

When she had travelled to Minas Tirith, for the naming of Princess Gilraen (now a young adult; it seemed so long ago, and yet so recent), she had thought Legolas the most sexually reticent of the six ellyn there – or the most discreet. She had concluded, then, that that ‘Prince’ in front of his name probably made him the most reticent. Now she knew better. Amongst his own people he wasn’t even any more discreet than the next ellon.

Rumil smiled as they continued towards their own rooms.

“Do you want, meleth, or do you need to sleep?”

“Uh… both? In that order?”

………………………………………………………….

Later in the day Legolas introduced them to the elleth he had brought back to his suite; ‘an old friend’, he said. Tindómë wondered if it was the same one he had entertained in the orchard. She looked pointedly at his knees. He clearly understood; a fleeting grin crossed his face and, almost imperceptibly, he shook his head. She knew better than to ask more.

Now Tindómë stood looking at the gifts she had received; spread on a table and chair in their rooms. In a silk lined box was a necklace of silver stars, a gift from Vaniel and Ardoron; she would wear it tonight with her deep blue silk dress. The dress itself was a gift from Legolas, designed for midwinter, and it had small silver stars woven into the fabric of the under-dress and embroidered around the waist of the over-dress. There had been a joking allusion to how much the twins would like it when they next saw her, blue being the colour of Imladris. The silk shawl in blue and silver, from Cîrdoron, spoke of collusion amongst the family members…

The King’s gift was unrelated but also carefully chosen; either following his conversations with Tindómë since her arrival, or from knowledge gained previously from Legolas. It was a small book, bound in green leather embossed with oak leaves, of stories for elflings. There was a small note, loose, inside; ‘Those born as elflings would have heard these stories at their mother’s knee. Read, enjoy, and you will not be caught out. Tell them, then, to your son.’ She was really looking forward to having time to sit and digest them; it was a thoughtful gift.

Small boxes of her favourite candy – no, not candy, ‘sweetmeats’ – very like Turkish Delight, from both Galanthir and Lúthwen and her husband. In another silk-lined box was a gift with more meaning than any other; a beautiful cloak pin, from Lithôniel and her parents. Orophin told her that he had wanted to buy her one but Lithôniel’s parents had insisted, when they heard how Tindómë had lost hers rescuing their daughter, and, as he was neither betrothed nor bound to Lithôniel, they had more right.

That had earned him ‘a look’. He had answered her unvoiced question.

“Sometime, I am sure, brother-wife. In a few years. We will take time to savour what we are learning about each other first.”

“Not go dashing into things like a not-quite-elleth, eh?”

“I did not say that, little one. I did not even mean it! You are… you. And your fëa cried out so loudly to Rumil that he yearned for you to be old enough for him to court you and become bound.”

“M’kay. Put that way, the four years between my coming of age and our betrothal seems almost restrained…”

…………………………

Apart from his bow and quiver, Haldirin had new toys, sweetmeats, a fur lined cloak with matching mittens and, as he was now showing by twirling around, tiny carved acorns to put into a back-braid; a gift from Galanthir.

“Look Nana! Ada has put my hair in a proper grown-up braid with my acorns in it! Do you think Medifindel will try to eat them when we go home?”

Tindómë was sure that the friendship between Haldirin and his squirrel was as much behind the choice of acorns as was the oak being the emblem of Eryn Lasgalen.

“No. He will know they aren’t to eat; they won’t smell of acorns. But I think Galanthir carved them to remind you of Medifindel, and then to remind you of Eryn Lasgalen when we go home.”

She paused, watching him trying to see the end of his braid, “Also because they’re very smart, my beautiful little one.”

Rumil was watching him with equal amusement, but his hand gently stroked his own gift from Tindómë. She had been very worried that it would be damaged by the accident at Sarn Gebir but, miraculously, it had been so well protected that it had remained dry.

When Spike had sat with her during those nights in Sunnydale, when she had begun to fade, he had often read poetry to her; all the while swearing her to secrecy as he didn’t want to damage his image! He had pushed a small book into her bag, before the portal had finally closed, and when she had looked, a couple of days later, it had brought tears to her eyes; it was a well worn book of Shakespeare’s poetry – his own.

Over the past year Tindómë had carefully translated some into Sindarin and written them out in tengwar, then she had them bound into a book – with blank pages between so that Rumil could illustrate them. It would seem odd to many, to ask the recipient to illustrate his own gift, but Tindómë knew that doing so, as each inspired him, would bring him even greater pleasure than having them to read.

He spoke quietly; “So am I as the rich, whose blessed key
Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure…”

She felt herself blush. He had the sexiest voice…

Haldirin broke the spell, and she remembered that she needed to dress for this evening’s, indoor, formal meal.

………………………………………………………….

Dressed in formal robes, his circlet of leaves and berries back on his head, Legolas watched his ‘small sister’ and her husband over dinner. There was an almost palpable desire between them; once or twice, as her husband caught her eye, Tindómë blushed.

Legolas considered how they made him feel. Slightly envious, perhaps, but he had no wish to be anything other than a single ellon for many years to come. The ellyth he had kissed, or more, during the night had, he hoped, had as much pleasure in the encounters as he had himself. But he certainly had no urge to get more involved, and did his best to make sure that they all knew he felt no connection of the fëa with any of them.

The ‘old friend’ he had introduced to Tindómë earlier was dining at a table halfway down the hall. As his gaze fell on her she smiled and looked at him from under lowered lashes.

“Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare…”

Rumil’s voice was low, as if it was more an aside to Tindómë. Legolas wondered why something so innocuous, that seemed to be a comment on the meal, made her blush and look studiously at her plate. He would ask her, but not here; tomorrow maybe.

Looking away from the couple he realised the elleth was still looking at him, sideways, her head dipped down. Perhaps she hoped to spend the night where she had spent the morning. Best not to encourage her.

Best, in fact, to kill two birds with one arrow. He looked at Haldirin, where he sat between his mother and Vaniel, surreptitiously trying to see the back of his head in the mirrors that reflected the light back into the room.

“Haldirin? Would you like to come and spend the night in my room so that we can get up very early tomorrow and visit the stables, before breakfast, without waking Nana?”

Truth to tell he would be very happy to sit and tell the elfling stories, then watch him as he slept, and the look of gratitude from Tindómë was priceless. His ‘old friend’ would know, also, that both Legolas and his bed would be otherwise occupied, and she needs must return to her own bed at the end of the evening.

Vaniel glanced down the tables towards the elleth in question, and then back at Legolas, with a very knowing look. It was good to be back amongst his family, indeed, but little escaped them…

………………………………………………………….

Vaniel and Ardoron’s daughter made her arrival during the next night; just in time, as the doting grandfather said, to allow the use of the midwinter crowns by the Royal family at her naming.

Both parents and elfling spent the first twenty-four hours very quietly, visited only for a few brief minutes by Cîrdoron followed by the King and Legolas. Next day, however, Vaniel asked for Tindómë, Rumil and Haldirin to be amongst her visitors. Haldirin was fascinated by the tiny baby; he had never seen an elfling younger than himself before.

He wanted to know what her name was and, with a glance first towards her husband, Vaniel said she would tell him if he would keep it as a secret until the naming ceremony. This is why Haldirin and his parents were the only people, outside her immediate family, to know that the new princess of Eryn Lasgalen’s name was Rhîwen.

Rhîwen’s naming ceremony was held on the sixth night after her birth. No weeks of being hidden away for ellyth and elflings; Vaniel had already returned to family meals. As was always the case, the ceremony was simple; Ardoron and Vaniel, accompanied by the King, Cîrdoron and Legolas, stood outside the great doors of the stronghold as the first stars appeared in the sky, held the baby up so that all those who had gathered there could see her, and pronounced her name.

Elves sang, trays of sweetmeats, tiny cakes, and wine were passed to everyone assembled, and then they went back indoors. Considering how rare such naming ceremonies were (at the last one she had attended Tindómë had been one of the parents lifting the babe) they were remarkably simple, but beautiful, Tindómë thought. The only differences between this one and Haldirin’s were the crowns of winter leaves and berries adorning all those who stood at the door.

The next few days passed quietly. Rumil spent time in the stronghold library drawing, and painting, both the naming ceremony and the image of Ardoron, Vaniel, their new babe and her brother, as he had seen them together for the first time. Finally an image of King Thranduil holding the tiny elfling in front of him, their faces maybe ten or twelve inches apart, gazing into each others’ eyes. All gifts to be received with great pleasure by those featured.

Tindómë and Haldirin spent their time with Orophin and Lithôniel, or Legolas. When she told him he didn’t have to squire them around he had looked, slightly sheepishly, at his toes and then said that, not only did he truly enjoy time with both her and Haldirin, it helped reinforce the message that he was not spending time with any one particular, unbound, elleth either.

Then, one evening, she could sense excitement bubbling under Legolas’ calm exterior.

“The frost is hardening. May I return with your permission, Adar, to flood the lower practice ground?”

King Thranduil looked as if he was about to ask a question, but stopped himself. “Certainly, my son.” He paused.

Legolas looked at him. “Yes, Adar, we are sure the ground is already hard enough, and yes, we will make sure no-one ventures out as it freezes to cause ruts…”

He looked at Tindómë and rolled his eyes. “My lord Adar is biting his tongue not to ask the questions, and give the instructions, that he had asked, or tried to ask, for these last five yeni of which I am aware and doubtless many more before that.”

The King’s slight nod seemed to acknowledge the accuracy of his son’s statement.

“Uh… atheg… why are you flooding the lower practice ground?”

“Oh! It was never truly freezing in Lorien, and it is not cold for many days and nights together in Ithilien… I had forgotten. Sunny Dale was very hot too… We let the water freeze and then we take finely honed bone or horn ‘blades’ and fasten them to our feet and…”

He got no further.

“Skating? You go skating? Elo! Just you wait, atheg, just you wait!”

……………………………………………………..

And so, dear reader, we leave the Elves of Eryn Lasgalen, and their visitors from Eryn Ithil, on the ice-covered lower practice ground. The King is watching from the sidelines, his elder son, son-wife, and well wrapped infant grand-daughter beside him, watching Legolas, and Cîrdoron, compete with others to see who can spin the fastest.

Tindómë has already proved that she is a match for her ‘big brother’ at that game, and is towing her tiny son along, laughing at her usually graceful husband and husband-brother as they learn a whole new skill.

This winter trip has helped her reaffirm that this is where she belongs, amongst these people, these elves. That skating is a skill she learnt ‘in the other place’ no longer bothers her at all. Which is as it should be, and we will certainly return again, to her life in Middle Earth, some other time.

The End

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Bits of Sindarin, and things.

Atheg – ‘big brother’.
‘Swayed by the desires of the body’ – a phrase that caused the ellyn some amusement when they came across a copy of ’Lore and Customs of the Eldar’.
Melethron-nín – my lover
Fëa – soul
Tengwar – the elven alphabet
Rhîw – winter
Yeni – multiples of 144 years
Elo! – Wow!

…………………………………………
Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 52

So am I as the rich, whose blessed key
Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure,
The which he will not every hour survey,
For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure.
Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare,
Since, seldom coming, in the long year set,
Like stones of worth they thinly placed are,
Or captain jewels in the carcanet.
So is the time that keeps you as my chest,
Or as the wardrobe which the robe doth hide,
To make some special instant special blest,
By new unfolding his imprison'd pride.
Blessed are you, whose worthiness gives scope,
Being had, to triumph, being lack'd, to hope.


....................................................


The BtVS characters do not belong to me, but are used for amusement only. All rights remain the property of Mutant Enemy, Joss Whedon, and the original TV companies. The same is true of the LotR characters for whom all rights remain the property of the estate of JRR Tolkien and the companies responsible for the production of the films.

……………………………………………………………

The End

You have reached the end of "A Winter Tale.". This story is complete.

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