|A dark and stormy night
||[Jul. 15th, 2006|01:01 pm]
Twenty Rings Fanfic Community
Title: A Dark and Stormy Night
Theme: Set 1, theme 3: Night
Genre: general, possibly a bit of humour?
Pairing: Thranduil/OFC, not specifically referred to
Summary: Legolas discovers that seven-year-olds aren't the only people who experience fear.
"Mithadan is frightened."
Eluial had been lying in the contented drowse that exists between wakefulness and dreams, listening to the persistent beating of rain upon the roof. As soon, however, as she heard the voice, to her left and a little below her head, she sprang back into full awareness. Even had she not instinctively recognised his presence there could be no mistaking that clear, sweet treble, plaintive and just a little worried.
She sat up and reached down, wrapping her arms around the small, warm body standing by the bed and swinging it in between the sheets, moving over to make room between herself and Thranduil. Legolas curled up beside her, fitting himself comfortably into the curve between her body and arm.
"He is frightened of the storm, is he?" Eluial asked seriously. She felt the movement of his head as he nodded, and tightened her embrace just a little. The room was illuminated by a sudden flash of blindingly bright light, and in its stark glow Eluial could see her son's little pale face, set with determination not to show fear. Only a slight stiffening of his body against hers betrayed him as the thunder rolled around the palace, and he clutched reflexively at the stuffed animal lying on the coverings. A moment later she felt something moving: Mithadan was "walking" up the bed toward her, no doubt seeking comfort.
"Mithadan wants a hug, Nana," Legolas hinted, waving his toy in Eluial's face. She accepted him gravely and kissed his fraying nose.
Mithadan had once been recognisable as a horse, with floppy legs and a woollen mane and tail. She had sewn him during the long, dark months of her pregnancy and he had been Legolas' favourite toy since his earliest infancy. They had shared a cradle when the animal was almost as large as the baby; Legolas had chewed the horse's ears off while he was teething; the two had been on many messy adventures in the forest together and were acknowledged by the entire palace staff to be, as Legolas claimed, "best friends". While small Elves can be washed and brushed after a pitched battle on the lawns, however, small stuffed animals are not so easily mended and Mithadan was now scruffy and shapeless, darned in many places and worn thin where Legolas' fingers had gripped him. Having lost most of his mane and tail he no longer bore any resemblance to a horse, but Legolas' affection was unabated. By his adoring family the little prince's nurseries had been filled with more toys than any child could have wished for; cupboards had been stacked with miniature musical instruments of Silvan craftsmanship; Elrond's folk had sent delicately carved figures of Elves and horses and dogs; boxes overflowed with balls and ingenious puzzles. North from Gondor had come—rather tactlessly, Eluial considered, however often she was told that games of war were common and popular among the children of Men—perfect replicas of sword and spear and bow, while on the topmost shelf, out of Legolas' sight, had been carefully placed the set of beautifully formed model ships that Círdan had commissioned for his youngest kinsman. Thranduil often glanced about the room at the toys that had for months not been touched save by the maids who dusted them, and laughed in exasperation, but Eluial observed Legolas' loyalty to the one faded toy with secret pride.
"And what about you?" Eluial asked, tucking the toy beneath the covers. "Are you frightened of the storm, too?"
He looked up at her thoughtfully.
"Not really, Nana. I like lying in my bed and listening to the rain sweep against the windows, and to the wind—it goes whoo-oo-oo!"
At that Eluial began to laugh, but Legolas reached up and pressed a small, soft hand against her mouth.
"You'll wake Ada, and then he'll be grumpy," he reminded her seriously.
Struck by a sudden, overwhelming sense of her love for her little boy, Eluial gathered him in her arms and buried her face in his silken, soap-scented hair.
"Yes, he will, won't he, my darling? We must be very quiet, then," she murmured. Legolas nodded and squirmed a little, shifting position until he was comfortable once more. Again the thunder crashed, but this time Legolas lay still, perfectly content in his mother's embrace.
"What of that?" she asked gently, running her fingers through his hair. Legolas sighed.
"Not now, Nana," he assured her, before his inherent truthfulness got the better of his wish to appear bravely untroubled and he added slowly, "But before…when I was on my own…I was a little frightened, I s'pose."
Glancing up, he assured her hastily, "Only a little small bit, Naneth, and soon—soon I won't be afraid at all!"
Pain twisted within her at the sight of his concerned face, upturned to hers so eagerly.
"Oh, tithen-lass! You do know, do you not, that it is no—no crime to be afraid?"
Legolas smiled; a curious, private little smile it was and it made Eluial think suddenly of her own mother.
"Perhaps not for ellyth, Nana—but of course I think you are very brave. But for warriors and kings—they shouldn't ever be afraid, Nana, you know, and I mean to be a very brave, strong warrior, just like my Ada and daeredair."
Horrified, Eluial lifted him onto her lap, the better to meet his gaze directly.
"Who told you that, dearest?"
He gazed at her for a moment, not seeming to understand, before his face cleared and he replied, almost indignantly, "No-one, Nana! I just knew it, of course. All our family did very brave, important things, so they were not afraid, and I—I don't want to be the only one who has no courage, Nana!" he concluded, expression distressed and eyes glittering with the tears that he refused to let fall. For several long seconds she remained silent, wondering how best to comfort him.
"Legolas," she began slowly. "You are right in saying that your forefathers had great courage, and it is right that you desire it also, but that does not mean that you must never fear."
Once again the tousled golden head tipped back and he looked up at her, curiosity and hope mingling in his grey eyes.
"Sometimes it is even wise to be afraid," Eluial whispered, mindful of her husband's sleeping form at her side. "Think of the whirlpool west of the river—all the children are forbidden to walk near it, for if you were swept into that water, you would not be able to escape. Are you afraid of it?"
"No," Legolas said calmly. "Not at all, Nana."
"Perhaps not now, but if you were standing on the bank, looking down into the swirling water—then would you be?"
He frowned, concentrating on the question.
"I wouldn't be afraid of the water just because it was there, the way—the way I am of the thunder…but I might be frightened of falling in."
"Good!" Eluial exclaimed softly, pleased that her son had so quickly understood her meaning. "That is a wise fear, Legolas: it is not being blindly scared of some imagined idea, but rather you have faced something, understood the danger and recognised that you could be harmed—and so are right to fear it. Not to live in dread of what might happen to you, of course, for it is wrong to allow our live to be consumed by fear, but to respect the power of the water and avoid unnecessary risks."
"So…it is right to be afraid of things that can hurt us, Nana?"
"Ye-e-es," she answered slowly, guessing the nature of his next question.
"But yrch and toryg—they can hurt, they can kill people, you know, Nana, but Ada and all the archers and warriors still went to Dagorlad to fight them…"
"That is true, iôn tithen nín. But in that case, it was necessary to carry on and go to battle as though they were not afraid, because they could not allow the wicked creatures of Sauron to continue unchecked. It is very complicated, but as you grow older you will see that some dangers should be avoided, but others must be faced."
Meeting Legolas' gaze, Eluial reflected ruefully that she had only succeeded in confusing him entirely, but his expression was thoughtful.
"So…sometimes it is a good thing to be afraid, because it stops us from doing stupid things?"
"Well, that is the general idea, yes."
"And sometimes we have to be afraid, but carry on anyway?"
"That is right; I am glad you understand," she answered, wondering what strange connection his active brain would next produce.
Somewhere in the distant parts of the palace, a door slammed loudly, caught in the heavy wind.
"And the people like Ada, who do the things, even though they are afraid…are they being brave?"
"Even braver than those who have no fear, because those who are afraid understand the danger and yet are willing to face it. You see, Legolas," she said quietly, brushing the hair back from his forehead, "courage is not the absence of fear, but the knowledge that something else is more important than fear."
He met her eyes steadily, the unwavering grey gaze seeming to search her face for further explanation—and even her mind, she thought suddenly, promptly dismissing the idea. But there could be no denying that his child's face had suddenly, incongruously reminded her of another, though his young, innocent eyes held little mystery or sorrow.
At last he broke the connection between them and nestled down in her arms, her own little Legolas once more.
"I think I understand, Nana," he said, face clearing and sweet treble more cheerful. "But which kind of fear is being frightened of thunder—like Mithadan and I are?"
Unseen, Eluial smiled, then rested her chin gently on the top of his soft, golden head.
"I think that may be a third kind," she began, but Legolas abruptly squirmed from her embrace and burrowed beneath the bedcovers, surfacing several seconds later with strands of bright hair falling in his eyes, his nightshirt tangled around his knees and Mithadan trailing after him by one frayed leg.
"He needs to hear it, too, you see, Nana," Legolas explained, settling again and perching the toy on top of the blankets, facing them at a slight angle "so he can see us properly," Legolas informed his mother.
"Well," Eluial recommenced quietly, "sometimes we are scared of things of which we need not be, or things that other people perhaps do not find frightening."
Legolas' face grew grave once more.
"So Mithadan does have a silly fear," he said, as despondently as a seven year old can. "I thought so."
"No, not silly at all!" Eluial hastened to reassure him. "The things we are afraid of are very serious to us, but quite often, as we grow older, we stop being afraid and forget that we ever were so."
"Then we will not always be frightened?" he asked hopefully. "I have had my seventh begetting day already, and Mithadan is almost as old as I—do we still have time to stop being scared?"
"Oh, yes, darling! Seven is not really very old at all, not compared with—well, with how long your Ada and I have lived, for example."
"But it is as old as I have ever been, Nana," Legolas remarked seriously, smoothing Mithadan's worn nose.
"That is true, but I hope that you will one day be thousands of years old, and then you will understand that seven is only the very beginning."
"And when I'm—when I'm thousands, will I not be afraid of the silly things?" he asked, eyes widening as though the very idea of such a vast number was too much to grasp.
"Perhaps. Probably. But some Elves—very brave Elves—keep their fears for a long time, even after they have done very courageous deeds."
"Yes, Legolas, truly."
"Brave people you have met?"
A sparkle lit behind her eyes as she replied, somewhat mischievously, "Oh, yes—and brave people you have met, also."
Once again Legolas was on the move; sensing that a story was ahead, he pulled himself up to the top of the great bed and perched himself comfortably among the pillows, his back against the headboard and one small, bare foot resting by his father's shoulder. Shivering a little in the chilly air, he reached down and dragged one of the blankets up to wrap about himself.
"Tell me, Nana?" he cajoled, hair tumbling about his face, eyes wide and ingenuous, face a picture of beautiful, childish appeal that Eluial could not resist.
"Very well," she agreed, smiling down at him. Casting her mind back across the Ages, a smile curved her lips at the images memory had preserved.
"What would you say of someone who was afraid of trees?"
Legolas stared at her incredulously. "No-one can be, can they, Nana? Trees are wonderful, and they love us, and being frightened of them is just—just stupid, is it not?"
Eluial nodded. "So you think, because you have been blessed with a fair forest home, and have the blood of Elves of the woods. But when I was young and lived in a city of stone, there was a prince who, when he was very young, was terrified of trees. Not just of those whose hearts are black, but of any tree whose leaves danced in the wind that blew over the hill and along the streets."
Legolas' face was filled with mingled amusement and disbelief. "Didn't he understand about trees?" he demanded.
"No; his naneth was of the Golodhrim, you see, not the people of the woods."
"And he grew up to be a brave Elf?" he asked uncertainly.
"A very brave Elf," Eluial confirmed. "Many tales are told and songs sung of his great journeys, and in time he came to save the whole world."
"And he was afraid of trees?" Legolas demanded in a disbelieving and rather scornful treble.
Eluial nodded. "Although he did stop being so, when he grew a little older and we had lived for a time in a land with many trees."
"That is much more foolish than thunder," her son remarked with considerable satisfaction.
"Perhaps," Eluial answered softly, "but you must be careful not to hold others in contempt because they fear something that you do not—the little boy of whom I speak was never, never frightened of storms, and he used to laugh when the thunder crashed."
She smiled slightly, in wistful remembrance, but Legolas was frowning in thought.
"So I must not laugh at him, even though it is so stupid to be frightened of trees—because he would think I was stupid for being afraid of thunder?"
"Something like that," his mother agreed.
For a moment Legolas sat still, considering this, before a more pressing question drove the matter temporarily from his mind.
“Nana, who was he?”
Her son’s understandable curiosity has been from the beginning, Eluial reflected, the inevitable flaw in this means of reassuring and distracting him. Long dead or departed though were many of those of whom she had thought, in Middle-earth there yet remained Elves of power—Elves whom she held in esteem—who might not be greatly amused on hearing a small boy announce to all and sundry the childish fears and failings of themselves or their kin. She looked thoughtfully at Legolas for several moments, therefore, before asking,
“Will you promise not to tell anyone, or talk to anyone about what I have told you?”
His face lit up at the prospect of a secret, but then he frowned.
“Not even Mithadan?”
Eluial’s lips twitched. “Well, as long as you speak very quietly. But not any of your other friends, sweetheart, you understand?”
About to nod his agreement, Legolas paused. “But what about Ada, and Daernana? They are my friends, but they are grown up, and Ada already knows about it all.”
“What makes you say that?” Eluial asked with considerable interest.
“Ada knows everything, Nana, did you not know?” he answered, earnest and surprised.
“Oh, of course,” she agreed, hiding a smile. She had privately formed the opinion, long ago, that it was a very good thing for the sake of the peace of Arda that her husband did not know quite everything there was to know, particularly about their kinswoman Lady Galadriel, as they had eventually learned to call her. Eluial’s reversion to the name the Lady had used on her arrival in Beleriand as a princess of the Golodhrim had been accidental; she suspected that in Thranduil’s case the persistent lapses of an otherwise extraordinarily accurate memory might have been intentional. Having rapidly revised the list of tales appropriate for Legolas’ (and his father’s) ears, she revised her earlier request.
“Very well; will you promise then not to speak to anyone about any of what I tell you now, unless you have first received my permission to do so?”
Legolas nodded eagerly, hugging Mithadan to himself and bestowing another funny little smile upon his mother.
For a moment more she gazed down at him in silence, her own lips twitching upward at the memory.
"He was Eärendil, prince of Gondolin."
Confusion, amusement and sheer mischievous delight created a curious expression as they mingled on Legolas' small features.
"Eärendil!" he exclaimed, mindful to keep his voice low. "Eärendil, who sailed to Dor Rodyn, and fought Ancalagon, and bears the Silmaril?"
"The very same," Eluial confirmed, rightly interpreting the glee on her son's face: if Eärendil the Mariner, brave and fair, beloved of the Eldar, the Flammifer of Westernesse, had once been fearful child enough to be scared by trees, surely there was hope even for a small boy with an aversion to thunder.
"Who else?" he demanded, cantering Mithadan down to his mother's knee and back.
"Well," she went on thoughtfully, "you have heard me speak of Glorfindel, have you not?"
Legolas nodded. "Glorfindel of the Golden Flower, who slew the Balrog and saved the Gondolindrim," he repeated in a singsong voice.
"Yes. He was one of the greatest heroes of the First Age, a glorious and noble prince and a mighty warrior—yet even he was not without fear. Can you guess what he fled from?"
With his brows drawn together and an incongruously severe frown upon his lips, the latent resemblance between her ellon and his paternal ancestors became clear, and Eluial was tempted to reach out and smooth the wrinkles from his little forehead. They cleared of their own accord, however, as Legolas announced, with considerable satisfaction,
"I think he was probably afraid of bonfires." Eluial was aware that her own brows had risen. "And why do you say that?"
"Because if he was afraid of fire, then it would make fighting the Balrog an even braver thing—it would be like me going out in the thunder!"
"Which would be an extremely bad idea," Eluial hastily interposed. "That is a very clever theory, but I never knew of Glorfindel possessing such a fear."
"What was it, then?" Legolas demanded eagerly, catching up some strands of hair from her shoulder and twisting them between his fingers.
"Well, one day, when I was a very small girl indeed—"
"Smaller than I am?"
"Yes, a little smaller, Legolas, but you should not interrupt. I found a little white mouse hiding in one of the big clothes presses in our house, and decided to adopt her. I had a little box with air holes, and I put food in every day; my mother used to wonder what I was doing, for I did not tell anyone about my new friend. She became so tame that I could open the box and she would run up my finger to sit on my hand. I called her Ninquëlótë—Nimloth," she translated. "One day Glorfindel and my uncle Egalmoth and a couple of other lords had come to visit my father, and I decided that Ninquë deserved an outing from my room and a view of the great princes."
Legolas grinned, obviously guessing the direction of this tale.
"I slipped into the chamber my father used for such meetings, but was spotted almost at once. My uncle came over and swung me up in his arms the way he often did—and I dropped the box in which Ninquë lived, so that the lid flew off. She was terrified, poor thing, and went scurrying across the floor, directly towards the table where the other Elves were sitting; rather an unfortunate choice, as it turned out."
Clapping his palms together enthusiastically, Legolas hissed, "Nana, Nana, I can guess! Your mouse ran up Glorfindel's robes!"
Eluial allowed a grin of her own. "Yes. He was always exceptionally well dressed, with impeccable taste in robes, and Ninquë seemed to approve; she shot straight up his leg. It was what happened next that was most amusing, however, for instead of striking at her, as I was terrified he would, Glorfindel leapt up, sprang with astonishing athleticism onto his chair and began yelling at the rest of us, demanding to know where the—ah—stupid creature had gone. It took him several seconds to realise where she actually was."
Legolas' eyes were lit and his imagination had obviously produced a vivid depiction of the scene, for he buried his face in his hands, and rocked with suppressed mirth…in much the same way as she had done at the time, once the initial phase of shocked silence had worn off.
"What happened, Nana?"
Perhaps it would be best to edit out the near-hyperventilation that Glorfindel experienced once he realised the mouse was somewhere in his clothing. And the terribly useful reaction of my father, who seemed to spend the next five minutes in a helpless heap of quivering mirth on the floor. And the fact that by the end of his frantic search for the "creature of Morgoth", Glorfindel had stripped to his leggings…I was too young to sufficiently appreciate that event, alas.
"Well, Ecthelion persuaded him down from the chair, and eventually Egalmoth found poor Ninquë, clinging in complete fear to the lining of his robe. Once I had got her back in her box, and Glorfindel had more or less recovered, we were all threatened with extremely dire consequences, should we ever tell anyone what had happened."
"Oh. Should you have told me, then?" Legolas inquired, the concern in his face only a marginal emotion compared with the glee. Eluial sighed.
"It is a very long time indeed since Glorfindel walked in Arda, so I doubt he will ever come to wreak revenge upon us. All the same, Legolas, do not tell anyone."
He patted Mithadan's mane and nodded happily, his face crinkling with poorly disguised tiredness.
"Now, do you think you could go to sleep again, little one?" she asked hopefully, for the night was growing old and there had been no thunder for several moments. Legolas frowned. "I don't think so, Nana. Perhaps if you told me one more?" He gazed up at her again, eyes bright and appealing—his own childish version of the expression that had so often in the years since Sirion caused her to curse the Elmoionnath, or whatever Power decreed they should possess such irresistible charm.
"Very well, but only quickly, for you are tired—I saw you yawn—and ought to rest before tomorrow."
Her son smiled, pleased but rather too unsurprised to be entirely flattering. Intelligent enough not to risk his promised tale by attempting to assert his alertness, he snuggled back into the gap between herself and Thranduil, his body warm against her side, awaiting the tale.
Again her mind scanned quickly through the possibilities. That old legend of Finrod and the…no. He is sure to journey east of the Mountains soon, so neither would it do to speak of Elrond after that first hunt—or the second, though that is a tale worth telling. My cousin and the Man? Possibly not yet. Oh…"
"There is a lady," Eluial recommenced softly. "A lady of great power and beauty, whose eyes see loveliness in the most barren places of the earth, and at whose touch green things grow. She is mistress of flowers and trees and of flowing water, and wide are the lands that have been cultivated beneath her care. Strange though it may seem for a gardener, however…"
Her voice trailed off as Legolas' body became a dead weight against her shoulder, his head slipping back against the pillow and his eyes tightly closed. Eluial smiled, and gently settled him more comfortably in the bed, before lying down again herself, contentedly listening to the soft breathing of her husband and her child and to the beating of the rain on the windows and the pavements outside. Gradually she lost awareness of time, her mind sinking back into the hazy places where strange dreams walked.
Rain on grass…shoots pushing through the soil…fields of maize with great scarlet poppies…
"So you knew about Galadriel and her…little problem?"
The words were quiet and merged with her thoughts, fitting the image of the golden fields so well that for a moment she was unsure if they had actually been spoken. Blinking and propping herself on an elbow, she gazed across the bed to where Thranduil lay, eyes closed, face immobile, body perfectly still. To her eyes and senses, however, it was clear that he was awake, so she fell back to the pillows with a slightly disgruntled sigh.
"You waited until I was almost asleep," she accused in a whisper. Silence. "I know you are awake, Thranduil, and you know I know it, so do not play innocent."
At last the corner of his mouth quivered, and he rolled onto his side, opening eyes that were bright and not in the least sleepy. Eluial's resolution to be stern was almost immediately broken down at the sight of his hair—by day so immaculate—tousled and falling in all directions. She smiled, and reached across to tug her fingers through the tar-brush.
"You are a mess, Aran Thranduil."
"Hmm. And how did I become such a mess, Bereth Eluial? I seem to recall you played a leading role in the destruction of my meticulously crafted image…"
He grinned up at her, prompting her to pull the strands in her hand rather more strongly than was necessary; an action that in turn provoked him to catch hold of her arm and pull her towards him.
"Quiet!" Eluial warned, gesturing to the sleeping child between them. Grimacing at his son and heir, Thranduil let go and lay back against the pillow, watching her. She frowned suddenly, remembering the words that had on this occasion drawn her back from sleep.
"What do you mean, so I knew about Galadriel and her little problem? How do you know?" she demanded. His teasing grin grew increasingly mischievous.
"Oh, I have known for an Age, at least."
"The same way that you do, I suspect: yours was not the only family that held lands in Lindon. I was in a neighbouring field on the memorable occasion when Galadriel came out to inspect Gil-galad's barley crop, and encountered her nemesis."
"And you never said anything?"
"No," Thranduil replied smugly. "After observing her frantic and panicked—not to mention hysterical—reaction, we decided that some pieces of information are too good to be kept a secret—and some pieces of information are too good to be publicised…until the opportune moment."
Eluial groaned softly. "We? There were others?"
"They are also very discreet, I assure you, as proved by the fact that we have all lasted three thousand years without breathing a word of the matter—despite undergoing, on certain occasions, severe temptation to do so."
He grimaced briefly, and Eluial was reminded of some of the events and encounters with Galadriel that had no doubt provided that temptation.
"You, on the other hand, were going to place that dangerous and valuable knowledge in the hands of our son, had he not obligingly fallen asleep!" Thranduil went on teasingly.
"I very carefully mentioned no names, as you may recall. For just how long were you awake?" she added curiously.
"Long enough." His grin had returned, with interest. "Glorfindel and mice…who would have guessed? Does Círdan know?"
"Not as far as I know, but Egalmoth may have told him," she replied, curling up in preparation for another attempt at sleep. "Goodnight, Thranduil."
For a while, the room was once again quiet; this time it was Eluial's sleepy voice that broke the peace.
When the opportune moment arises, I want to be present."
Thranduil smiled. "I would not dream of allowing you to miss the occasion, my dear."
Another sleep-inducing hush was followed by a drowsy feminine laugh.
"Wha' is it?"
"Nothing," Eluial explained through a yawn. "Only imagining…Galadriel's face…when she discovers that… you know that she is terrified… of scarecrows!"
tithen-lass —little leaf
iôn tithen nín —my little son
Eluial's line about courage and fear is, of course, by Ambrose Redmoon. I love it too much not to use it.
The ideas for Galadriel and Glorfindel's fears belong to the_mad_hobbit, who came up with them when I was asking for suggestions. Thanks, Rach!