Elrond watched the joyful reunion with a smile. He had not seen Thranduil look so ecstatic for a very long time, since before Telparian’s death. Not since – he sighed, remembering. It had been the day Telparian and Thranduil had told him they were expecting another child, a daughter this time. Lissuin. He turned away, not wanting the sad memory to blight the delight of the moment.
Instead, his gaze found his own sons, who had greeted one another gladly and were now deep in conversation. He crossed to them, and placed an arm around their shoulders, drawing them both close. Thranduil and Legolas had both believed the other dead, an unimaginable torture. Silently, he thanked the Valar that Elladan and Elrohir were safe and well. With their usual empathy, the twins had followed his thoughts, and were watching the reunion themselves. “I’m so glad they’re both here,” Elrohir said softly. “I felt so helpless, when Legolas realised Thranduil was still missing.”
After the joyous reunion and excited, incoherent explanations that followed, it was some time before they began to exchange their news. Peneldur requested a formal report from all those involved, and even Estella had been persuaded to join the group. Gradually all those there told their tales. Thranduil spoke first, telling of his grim, semi-conscious struggle in the lake waters, his fading awareness and strength. Then Estella took up the tale, describing how she had come across him after Tayla’s alert. “Then Elemas carried him back to our hut, and we just looked after him.” She spoke casually, as if it was an everyday occurrence.
“You did indeed,” said Thranduil quietly. “And you have my undying thanks for what you did.” Legolas regarded his father expressionlessly. Inwardly, his thoughts were a turmoil of what could have happened, of what had so nearly happened.
Impulsively, he reached across the arm of his chair and touched his father’s arm. “I’m glad they found you when they did,” he murmured softly.
“So am I, elfling. So am I.” Thranduil returned the caress, stroking his son’s head gently. “And now, will you tell me what you have been doing?”
By the time first Legolas, then Elrond and Elrohir had finished their stories, it was just a few hours before dawn, and Bregor’s house and hall were silent. The last of the searchers, even Peneldur, sought their beds for a few precious hours’ sleep before their desperate search – with hope growing ever fainter – resumed. Those remaining, though exhausted, were too elated to sleep, but eventually Elrond shepherded Elladan and Elrohir towards the room the three shared for what remained of the night. “Rest,” he instructed them firmly. “We must at least try to rest. Tomorrow will be another long day.”
Rammas was to take his mother to the rooms he shared with another of the fishermen, down by the docks. “Lady Estella,” Thranduil reminded her as they left. “I would speak with you again before you return to your home. May I see you tomorrow?”
Smiling, she nodded her agreement. “Yes, of course. And I’m glad you found your son. He looks like a good boy – and so like you! His mother must be very proud of him.”
Thranduil gave her a sad smile. “His mother died long ago, when Legolas was just a child. But yes, I think she would have been proud of him. Very proud, as I am.”
It was late, very late before Thranduil and Legolas at last left Bregor’s hall. Finally alone, father and son returned to the room they had shared on their arrival in Esgaroth. As Thranduil opened the door, a wave of heat hit him. The room felt like a furnace. Soberly, he turned to his son. “I know why it is so hot in here. Do you still feel cold?”
“I did, but not any more. But it is too hot to sleep here. If I open the shutters – ” Legolas crossed to the window, pulling open the window, and thrusting the shutters outward – “it will soon cool down. We can go outside.” He looked up at his father. “I want to talk to you,” he added.
Outside on the walkway surrounding the town, it was silent apart from a few voices from those still wakeful, and the water lapping at the wooden piles which supported Esgaroth. “Tell me again what happened to you,” Legolas asked. “Everything. The lady – Estella – seemed very kind.”
“She was,” Thranduil said. “Kindness itself. She had no reason to take me in, a strange elf, especially as they had heard rather wild tales of the terrifying Elvenking. I must find out where these tales come from,” he added. “She and her husband cared for me, fed me. They are so poor, they had very little – but what they did have, they shared. They even used the last of their firewood to keep me warm, and dry my clothes.” He fell silent, recalling the incredible generosity of the family, and the way in which the wind had whistled between cracks and gaps in the log walls in the little sleeping chamber. The roof had leaked as well, he had noticed, and dark stains of damp had marked the walls. Repairs had been made, but apparently insufficient to withstand the storm’s violence.
“The people here have been just as helpful,” Legolas explained. “The search parties they sent out – it made no difference who they were searching for, their own fishermen, or you, or me – and both Peneldur and Bregor told me that they would continue to search until everyone who was missing was found.”
Thranduil nodded. “I would like to help them in some way,” he mused. “Estella especially, but the people here as well. The storm did so much damage – surely there is something we can do?”
Legolas gave his father a sidelong glance. “There’s something I should tell you. I have already promised aid. I said we would provide wood and material to help rebuild the docks and the fleet, and provide labour as well. I – I had to do something. Peneldur had told me just how widespread the damage was, and I realised it was not just me, not just us, who was affected. I felt so helpless – it was the only thing I could think of.” He stopped, and turned to Thranduil. “Did I do the right thing?” he asked anxiously. “I told them that – that if you came back, you would honour that promise. Will you?”
“If I came back?” Thranduil echoed.
Legolas nodded, his eyes suddenly blurring with tears. “By that time, I – I thought you were lost. And I knew I should have been glad that you and mother were together again, and Lissuin, but all I could think about was how scared I felt, and how alone I was.” He stopped, feeling foolish to be so close to tears now, when he had been reunited with his father, when he had resisted for so long. He was no child! The feel of his father’s arms around him shattered his resolve, and his tears began to fall. He leaned into the embrace, noticing with faint surprise that he could no longer lean his head against his father’s chest, but was nearly at eye level with him. His slight sense of shame for his weakness vanished as he realised that Thranduil was also crying.
“I am so proud of you, little one,” Thranduil whispered. “You were so brave. At a time like that, your first thought was for others. You will make a fine King one day – but I hope that day will not come too soon!”
Legolas gave a shaky laugh. “So do I,” he agreed fervently.
“And you know that I will always keep any pledge that you make. Especially that one. I trust your judgement, and you did well. I shall send word to Tionel in the morning. Now come, little one, it is already tomorrow. We have a long day ahead of us; we should rest.”
Legolas nodded his agreement, but made no attempt to move away from the rail. He stared out across the darkness of the lake, north, towards Erebor, much as he had done earlier that night. Then, he had felt such deep, black despair. Now – he smiled suddenly, joy flooding though him again. Now his father was safe. Now the lake did not appear black and deadly; he could see how it glittered with the reflected brilliance of starlight. And yet … “Father? What about the two men who are missing? Do you think they could still be alive?”
Thranduil considered the possibility. “Who knows? If they were in the water, I do not see how it is possible. But if they made it to shore, if they were found by someone like Estella, then yes. And remember, there is always hope. And I will have the warriors continue to search with Bregor’s men until we know. Now come.”
Together, they returned to the room, now thankfully much cooler, and retired to bed for what little remained of the night. Much to his surprise, Legolas slid into dreams almost immediately, but Thranduil stayed awake as the room gradually lightened and dawn broke over the lake. He gazed unblinkingly at Legolas, marvelling at the wondrous gift of the Valar, who had given his son back to him.
Shortly after dawn, the search parties and rescuers assembled in Bregor’s hall again, before they were dispatched to hunt for the two remaining fishermen. There was a ragged cheer from the men as they learned that Thranduil had returned, but hope was fading that the others would be found alive. The first groups had already been dispatched on their searches, and the final parties were gathered around the map to be shown their areas, when a commotion broke out as the door burst open. A messenger burst in, tired and dishevelled, panting for breath.
“My lord Bregor! There’s news, I think.” He stopped, gasping, until he could speak again. All those in the hall had turned, and were listening intently. “Fire. We saw fire, away on the eastern shore. It seems too far from any villages to be hunting parties, so it could be a signal.” He paused again, then began to elaborate.
“We called a halt last night, stopped when it were too dark to see. We lit a fire for warmth, and not long after, one of the elves with us said she could see flames in the distance. I couldn’t see nothing myself, it was too far away, but the other one – her ma – agreed. So I left the others to carry on, and came back here. We’ll need to take a boat across the lake, but I think we’ve found at least one alive. Who’s missing? Has anyone been found yet?” The man looked expectantly at the Master, and at Peneldur.
Elladan and Elrohir exchanged a grin at the news. Arwen had evidently played her own part in the search, and done it well.
Peneldur seized the man’s arm, and dragged him across to the map. “Brant, is it? Well done. See if you can show me where you’d got to, and where they saw the fire.”
Brant studied the map, muttering to himself. “Well, we’d got further than I thought we would. Here, I’d say. And I think the fire must’ve been about there.” He pointed to a spot well to the south, not far from the waterfalls where the lake ended. “I must say, I thought it were a mistake, taking two women with us, even two such good-looking ones; but they could ride as well as any man, and didn’t complain, neither. Not even when we stopped, and they had to bed down on the ground with the rest of us. And to be fair, it was them what saw the flames.”
The twins exchanged another grin, storing away this description of their mother and sister. Peneldur cuffed the messenger lightly. “Watch your mouth, Brant! Remember where you are!”
Brant glanced around the room, noticing for the first time the elves regarding him with varying amounts of disapproval, and the men, watching with broad grins. The news that another survivor had in all likelihood been found, together with Brant’s anecdotes, buoyed their spirits. He smiled suddenly at his audience and bowed. “Your pardon, sirs,” he said to Elrond, and the other elves in general. “I meant no disrespect to – to the ladies. Very fair they were too, both of ‘em!””
“You speak of my wife and daughter,” Elrond informed him.
“Our mother,” Elladan joined in.
“Our sister,” added Elrohir in the same breath.
Legolas was tempted to join in too. Perhaps he could claim that Arwen was his betrothed? However a glare from his father, who clearly guessed his intent, stopped him.
“Ah,” murmured Brant. “And may I say, how very gracious and valiant they are?” He turned to Peneldur. “I’ll meet you down by the docks. I think maybe I’ll be taking that boat myself!” He slipped out of the door without meeting Elrond’s stare.
Peneldur gazed after him, shaking his head. “I’m sorry about that, Lord Elrond,” he said. “He’s a good man, but he opens his mouth without thinking at times. I hope you didn’t take no offence.”
Elrond suppressed a smile. “There was no offence offered. In fact, I fully intend to tell my wife – and my daughter – of his comments. I think they would be most amused.”
The final rescue parties were dismissed, and the room emptied. As the western shore had already been searched, the remaining boats were sent out across the lake, to search areas that had been missed the previous day, either because of lack of man-power, or because the crews had returned to Esgaroth with news.
Determined to repay, in some small way, the efforts of the searchers on their own behalf, both Thranduil and Legolas went with them, as did Elrond and Elrohir. Elladan agreed to remain at Bregor’s hall and coordinate the rescue efforts, collating the information so far received. It was most interesting to be able to study a map on such a large scale – and gave him great pleasure to be able to mark, with a green peg, the spot where Estella told him she had found Thranduil.
“Three survivors, two dead. And what of the other two, I wonder? Do you think we will be able to place another green marker down here?” he asked her, indicating the spot where Brant had reported the fire.
“I hope so,” she agreed fervently. “Gundor’s a good fellow, he looked after my son when he first joined the fleet. And the other lad, Tomas, he and Ram shared rooms for a while. Someone must have made that fire your sister saw! I wonder which of them it is?”
The day dragged. Elladan studied the map with interest, and then, to pass the time, wrote an account of his own search the day before, as Peneldur had requested, then added Estella’s description of how she had found Thranduil and subsequently journeyed south with him. In addition, he reported what Elrohir had told him of where and how they had found Legolas.
Finally, one of the search parties returned. The first to arrive was the group he had been with: Thranduil’s guards, Hathol and Galdor; and the two warriors from Esgaroth. They had ridden far to the north, where the mouth of the Celduin met the lake, and had been able to go no further. They had found nothing apart from a few fragments of wreckage. They returned to make their report, rather dispirited, but were elated when Elladan told them that Legolas was safe and well. The searched area, and the location of the debris, were marked.
Shortly after, Celebrían and Arwen returned, equally empty handed, but with the news that in daylight, two figures had clearly been seen on the eastern shore of the lake. It seemed that the last of the missing fishermen had been located.
“But what about the others?” Arwen demanded. “What about Legolas, and Thranduil? Is there any sign of them?” Her expression was deeply worried. She had always been very fond of Thranduil, and regarded Legolas as yet another brother.
Elladan nodded joyfully. “Yes, they’re safe, both of them!” he told her. “Father and El fished Legolas out of the lake yesterday, and Estella here found Thranduil on a mud bank. But they’re not here – they went out to look for the other two men.”
“Oh, thank the Valar!” murmured Celebrían softly. “I have been so worried about them both.”
Finally, at dusk, Brant returned. He had taken a boat south to the point where the flames had been sighted. And there, miraculously, both the missing fishermen had been found, safe and well, eating fish cooked over their signal fire.
Elladan turned to the map. He was about to place the final two pins when he stopped. “Arwen, Mother! You do it!” he told them. “You were the ones who saw the signal fire, and the two fishermen. Put these pins here.” Quickly, he explained the significance of the pegs as Arwen and Celebrían placed the final markers.
“And that’s the last of them,” announced Bregor with deep satisfaction. “Everyone’s accounted for. It’s time to bring the search parties back home.”
“How will you do that?” asked Elladan
“We have a signal. Come and see.”
Intrigued, Elladan, Celebrían and Arwen followed Bregor out onto the walkway to a wide area near the ruined docks. A large horn stood there, and one of the men stepped forward to blow it. A low, mournful noise issued forth, thundering and rumbling across the lake as it echoed off the water. It was deafening, and such a deep note that the boards of the walkway seemed to vibrate beneath their feet.
“No matter where they are, they’ll hear that! They’ll know it’s time to return,” explained Bregor. “Most of the searchers are over on the eastern shore, so they’ll take a while to get back. But tomorrow, when everyone is safely back, and rested, we will celebrate. This was a disaster, but it could have been so much worse.”
As the evening wore on, all the search parties gradually arrived back in Esgaroth. Towards , another group arrived, elves wearing the colours of Lasgalen. Their leader stepped into the hall, saluting Bregor in a perfunctory way. Lines of grief and distress were clearly visible on his face as his gaze swept the hall. But then his eyes fell on Thranduil, standing next to Legolas, and it was as if a ray of sunlight had broken through a raincloud.
Mindful of protocol in such a public place, he bowed low. “Your majesty, it is a joy to us to see you return!” But then, regardless of protocol, he stepped forward and clasped Thranduil’s forearm. “Thank the Valar you and Legolas are safe!” he murmured.
“Thank you, Tionel. I must admit, I did not expect to see you here – as Steward, I thought I had left you in charge of Lasgalen?” But Thranduil was smiling as he embraced his friend. “I am glad you are here – I have much for you to arrange.” He drew Tionel aside, and very quietly, began to issue his instructions.
At length he finished. Tionel looked a little surprised, but nodded in agreement. “Of course, my Lord. I will see to it at once!” He saluted crisply, and left the hall.
Ignoring his son’s questioning expression, Thranduil then turned to Arwen. “Lady Arwen, I wonder if I may ask your advice?”
She looked rather surprised, but nodded her agreement. “My advice? Of course, my Lord. How can I help you?”
“I have little knowledge of young girls.” A fleeting expression of sadness crossed his face. “So I ask your help in this matter. What gift should I choose for of maiden of – perhaps ten years? I was thinking of a doll, perhaps.”
“A doll?” Arwen echoed. She shook her head firmly. “No, lord Thranduil. Not unless you wish to insult her, make her think you regard her as a child. I would suggest a scarf, or a shawl, maybe ribbons for her hair. Something to make her feel like a lady. I can help you choose, if you would like.”
“Father?” Legolas could not contain his curiosity. “What are you planning? What did you say to Tionel?”
Thranduil smiled, rather secretively. “I was simply arranging for some gifts. Some mid-winter gifts. You will see shortly.”Stories > First > Previous > Next