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And Winter Came...

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The proper definition of a man, is an animal that writes letters.”

― Lewis Carroll 

 

 

The Woodland Realm, 2nd of January, 2942, T.A.

 

That first night after Bard left, Thranduil was asleep in his chambers, when he felt something shake his arm. He opened his eyes and blinked several times, and in the soft orange glow in of the fireplace was a sad little girl, sniffling as she clutched her doll and stuffed elk.

“Tilda? What is it, Tithen Pen? Are you hurt, or ill?

She screwed her face up and started crying in earnest, so he quickly gathered her into his long arms. “Tell me what is the matter, and I shall try to make it better.”

Tilda hid her face in Thranduil’s neck. “I want m-my Da!”

He rubbed her back. “I know, Hênig, I miss him as well. Did you have a bad dream?”

“No. I w-woke up, and then I remembered Da w-went away!” She began to cry again, as her arms tightened around his neck. “I want him to come back!”

“I am sorry you feel so sad. We must try to be brave, and rely on each other, while your Da works to get Dale ready for your people.  When you return, it will look much better, will it not?" He pulled her away from his shoulder, and looked into her face, and stroked her hair. “But I think that is small comfort for a little girl, who has never been away from her Da.” He hugged her again, and continued to rub her back soothingly, until she had begun to settle down.

“Did you know, when Legolas was small, he had bad dreams, and would often sleep with my wife and me? Would it make you feel better if you stayed with me, tonight?”

Tilda, still hiccupping, said, “Yes, p-please. I don’t want to be b-by myself, and S-Sigrid is asleep.”

 

 

“Do you need to visit the necessary, before you go back to sleep?”

“Could you come with me? Things look scary here in the dark.” She started to cry again.

“Shh… Shh…” he rubbed her back. “I understand, Tithen Pen. This is a new place, and shadows can seem frightening at night until you get used to them,” he told her as he stood up with her in his arms. “Here, let me put Charlotte and Daisy down, and they can wait for us, all right?” She nodded, as she handed him the toys, and then he carried her to the necessary. “We could leave a lamp burning in your common room at night. Would that help?”

She nodded, still hiccupping.

He lit the lamp for her in their necessary room, then waited outside for her take to care of business, before he carried her back to his chambers and settled her in Bard’s side of the bed. He tucked an extra quilt around her, then went around to the other side and crawled in, sitting against the headboard. Still sniffling, she leaned against him, clutching her toys tight.

“I just really miss my Da.” She whispered, sadly.

Thranduil stroked her head. “I understand how you feel, Tilda, I miss him, too. Perhaps we can help each other, when we are sad. I can make you feel better when you miss him too much, and when I feel lonely, you can help me. What do you think about that?”

“How can I help you?” Tilda asked.

“Well, if I tell you when I am sad, you can give me a hug, or draw me a picture, or you could tell me a story.”

“Me, tell you a story?”

“Certainly. You have known your Da longer than I have, and you could tell me stories about when you lived in Laketown, with your brother and your sister. I would like that very much.”

“Maybe you could tell me stories of when Legolas and Tauriel were little.” Tilda offered. “Or when you were little with your Mam and Da.”

“I could do that. Shall I tell you of the time, when I was small, and my friend Feren and I tried to ride my father's warhorse?”

“You mean, Feren who works with you and Da? You knew him when you were little?”

“Oh, yes! Feren is my oldest friend. That is why he helped your Da and me get married.  Feren’s father worked for my father, King Oropher.”

Tilda thought about this. “So, he must be old, too. But not as old as Auntie Hil.”

The Elvenking laughed. “I am afraid he is much, much older than your Auntie Hil. And when we were young, we got into quite a bit of trouble together.”

“You did? Like ride your Da’s horse when you weren’t supposed to?”

“Indeed. We had our own, smaller horses, but we liked to pretend we were fierce warriors, and we often wondered what it was like to ride those enormous horses into battle. Those beasts are especially strong, and trained to protect our fathers in combat.”

“Like your Elk did? I heard he was mean.”

“Bara-Maethor was only mean to those who wanted to hurt me. My father’s horse was the same way. He could be scary to those who want to harm us, but he was kind and gentle to me, when I would feed him an apple or a carrot."

“Was he smart?”

Thranduil nodded. “He was very smart. Galvorn did not tolerate foolish young Elflings who went sneaking around behind their parents’ back. That day, we rode him because I did not want to practice my sword work, and even worse," Thranduil made a face. "I told a lie."

"You lied?  Da and Auntie Hil call it 'fibbing,' and that's bad."

"'Fibbing' is a good word, is it not?  And, yes, it is a very bad thing to do.  It got me into a lot of trouble that day.  Shall I tell you that story?”

The little girl nodded.

“Close your eyes and settle back, and I will begin.”

She did, so, he did.

It was late summer, and Thranduil and Feren had just finished in the practice yard with their wooden swords. The Prince was furious. Feren had beaten him! Again!

He kicked open the gate, and stomped out of the practice arena.

“Thranduil! What is the matter with you?”

He whipped around toward the other Elfling. “YOU are NOT supposed to beat me!”

“I will BEAT you at anything I want!" said an outraged Feren, who stuck his finger in Thranduil's face. "YOU cannot tell ME what to do!”

This incensed the young Prince. “I can so! My father is the King and you will do everything I say!”

“I will not, and you cannot make me! Just because you are lousy with swords, does not mean you can take it out on me!”

“I am NOT bad with swords!”

Feren laughed. “Then why I did I win? Three times! Princes are not supposed to be sore losers. If you would practice like you are supposed to, I would not beat you! Three times! But you do not, so I did! Three times! Ha Ha!”

Thranduil couldn't stand the idea of Feren making fun of him, so he had to think of something.  “Well... I did not practice because…"  A thought popped into his head, and was out of his mouth before he knew it.  "I was busy riding Galvorn!”

“You were not! You are lying!”

The blonde Elfling drew himself up to his fullest height, stuck his nose in the air, and said, “I was, too!  It is not my fault that your Ada will not let you ride his horse.  But I can ride Galvorn anytime I want!”

Feren narrowed his eyes, and crossed his arms. “Prove it.”

Thranduil was not expecting that. “What?”

“You heard me. If you can ride the King’s warhorse, I want to see you do it." 

“I... cannot ride him right now, because he is out grazing.”

“So, go get him. He likes you when you bring him apples. Let me see you ride him. Otherwise,” Feren grinned evilly, “I will ask your father about it!"

Gulping, Thranduil said, “Fine! I will! But only if you ride him, too! Or are you scared?”

The prince was hoping Feren would be frightened, so they could just forget the whole thing.

No such luck.

Feren stomped towards the barns. “I am not afraid, you are! Let us go.”

They made their way into the barn and, as it turned out, Galvorn was not in the paddock as Thranduil had claimed; he was in his stall. They managed to get a saddle and bridle on him, while the great horse waited patiently, biding his time.  The horse’s calmness and cooperation eased the Elflings' trepidation.   Feeling emboldened by their success so far, they began to laugh together and look forward to their big adventure.  They were going to be true warriors!

They led him into the paddock and stopped by the fence, so they could use it to leap into the saddle, with Thranduil in front. Thranduil took the reins, and they were off!  They rode around the paddock a few times, feeling bolder with each step. Then they took him to the center, so they could pretend to wave their swords and fight off the terrible Orcs.  

But when Thranduil rode him  over to the gate and unlatched it, Galvorn had had enough of this foolishness, and saw his chance.  He reared up, tossing the boys onto the ground. They landed hard on their behinds, bewildered, then got up and started to brush themselves off.  But, the horse wasn’t finished teaching them a lesson. He neighed, then turned and backed up toward them.

Thranduil and Feren ran for their lives, but Galvorn managed to get them each in their hind ends several times, and the last kick sent Thranduil flying and screaming through the air, only to land, face-first, in to a pile of manure.

At this last part of the story, Tilda began to giggle, and so did Thranduil.

“What happened then?” she asked.

“The horse went through the open gate, and ran to the barracks where our Adars were.”

“I’ll be they were mad.”

“Well, they were not pleased." he smiled. "We had to stand at attention while our Adars shouted at us.  To make matters worse, I had to take a bath, which I did not like to do.”

Tilda giggled again. “Your bottom must have really hurt."

“It certainly did!" Thranduil laughed.  My Naneth took us to the Healer, to make sure we were all right.  I was bruised all over my bottom and so was Feren, but our Adars would not allow the Healers to help. They said the pain would teach us a lesson.”

“Did it?”

“Yes.  We could not sit down for days.  In addition, Feren and I had to polish every single piece of tack in that barn, and clean out the all horse stalls for a week.”

"Did you ever do it again?"

"Would you have?" He smiled down at her.

Tilda shook her head, then yawned.

He kissed her on her hair and asked, “Do you feel better now, Tithen Pen?”

"Mmm-hmm." She yawned again, and snuggled down.  “Good night, Thrandool.”

He sat for a long time and watched her sleep, smiling, before he finally drifted off himself.

 

The next morning after breakfast, Thranduil came into the common area of the children’s apartment, and found the children sitting on the couches, rather morosely. School was not scheduled to start until tomorrow, so the day stretched before them, empty and lonely.

Tilda was holding Charlotte, and was still a bit weepy from last night, Bain was brooding and had a sour look on his face, and Sigrid looked listless.  No one was happy, but Thranduil had a plan to remedy that.

“Children, do you remember when I promised a gift, if you behaved well during the ride here?”

They looked at him and nodded.

“Can you tell me whether you did, or not?”

Tilda thought about it. “I tried to be good. I listened to stories, and, when we had to move into a different wagon so Sigrid could help with Rhian, I didn’t make a fuss. I slept some, too. I don’t know what Bain did; he had to go into another wagon, and I know Sigrid was good, because she was helping.”

Thranduil agreed that Tilda had done her best. “What about you, Bain?”

“I was with my friend, Rhys. We listened to stories too, but then we played cards, before we fell asleep. There was another boy that started to make noise and jump around, but we kept telling him to stop it.”

Thranduil crossed his arms. “I believe you have done well, and have earned your gift. Would you like me to give it to you, now?”

“Yes!” was heard from Tilda. Sigrid nodded, but Bain looked skeptical and grumpy.

“Where is it?” Tilda asked, she got up to look around him and behind him. “Is it in your chambers?”

“No, it is not. I must take you to it.”

“Now?” Bain asked, frowning.

“Yes, now. Please get your coats, and dress warmly children, we need to go outside,”

They bundled up in their wraps, and Thranduil made sure Tilda’s hat and mittens were on snugly, before he ducked into his chambers for his fur-lined cloak.  One he fastened it, Tilda looked up at him with her arms raised, so he picked her up and made their way out the side door toward the barns, with Tilda on his hip.

“We already saw the barns!” Bain complained.

Sigrid jabbed her brother. “Don’t be rude!”

“Sorry.” Bain mumbled.

Thranduil saw from his side glance that the boy looked very unhappy, and was doing his best to keep his composure as he surreptitiously wiped his eye.

Thranduil stopped, put Tilda down and put his hand on Bain’s shoulder. “I do understand, Bain,” he said gently.  “We all feel unhappy because we miss your Da, and sometimes it can make us feel disagreeable, yes? But that does not give anyone an excuse to take it out others.  Is this what your Da tells you?”

The boy looked at him apologetically, and nodded. “Da said to be brave, but...  lt’s hard, sometimes.”

“I confess I am having the same dilemma.”  He gave Bain an encouraging smile.  “Let us see what we shall find, yes?  You may feel a bit better."

They entered the large building and were greeted by an Elf who was currently trimming the hooves of a lovely brown mare. They watched, as the Elf spoke softly to her, while he performed his task. The children asked if the horse could understand him, and Thranduil explained how Elves and animals communicated, in a unique way. “There are words in our ancient language of Quenya, that we use, and if you like, I will teach them to you. Is that something you would wish?”

“Is this what you wanted to show us?” Sigrid asked.

“No, but I am glad you find it interesting.” They watched and waited while the Elven farrier carefully trimmed the horse’s feet, then stroked the mare’s neck and spoke to her, as if he was thanking her for her patience. The Mare turned her head to him and whinnied in response, as the Elf smiled and took an apple for her out of his pocket and rewarded her with it, before he untied her and led her back to her stall.

When the Elf approached the group, he saluted. “Suilad, Aran nîn,” the Elf said to Thranduil, who returned the greeting. Then he turned to the children.

“Sigrid, Bain and Tilda, I would like to introduce you to Falarion, one of our Farriers here in the Woodland Realm.”

“What’s a Farrier?” Tilda asked.

“A Farrier, Hênig, is a person who cares for the feet of horses. It is an important job, for we depend upon our horses, a great deal. It is essential that the feet of these animals be kept healthy and trimmed, otherwise they can suffer from injury or disease, and often may not survive. Falarion, here, is in charge of all the horses in the barns of my Palace, and is kept very busy. He also looks after the hooves of my Elk, should they need care.” Thranduil smiled. “He will also be your riding instructor this winter.”  

The Elvenking gestured, “Falarion, may I introduce Princess Sigrid, Prince Bain, and Princess Tilda, the children of Bard, King of Dale, who will be spending the winter with us, along with the rest of our Palace guests.” Each child curtsied or bowed politely in return. Thranduil rewarded them with an approving smile and nod; he was pleased with their good manners; even Bain made a good effort.

The Elven Farrier bowed to the children, saluted, said, “Ni veren an dhe ngovaned.”

Bain asked, “Are we going to ride horses today?” looking rather hopeful.

Thranduil shook his head, “Not today, Bain, although Falarion will be giving you  riding lessons in the indoor arena, this winter. You have not had much experience with horses during your time in Laketown, but you all must learn the skill of not only riding well, but to care for your horse and tack.”

“What’s a ‘Tack?’” Tilda asked.

“’Tack’ is your bridle, saddle and all other parts needed to ride your horse.” Thranduil answered her, “Just as it is important to care for your own armor and weapons, you must learn to care for the equipment used to ride. In both cases, neglect of these things can be dangerous. But that is not the reason I brought you here today.”

“What are we supposed to see?”

Thranduil explained. “As you know, many of the Elves from the Woodland Realm lost their lives in the Battle of the Five Armies. Some of them had pets that were left behind. These animals are very sad, and we need to find them new homes. I was hoping you children could help.”

He turned and led them down the long corridor of box stalls to the next-to-last one on the right, and slid the door open. There, sitting in the straw, was a beautiful black-and-white sheep dog.

“Look! It’s so pretty!” Tilda said.

Bain stepped forward, as the dog’s tail thumped on the ground. “Is it a boy or a girl? What kind of dog is it?”

“She is a Tirhûtaw, children, and a female. Falarion tells me her name is Esta. She belonged to one of my Archers, and used to help her owner’s family manage their sheep. She has been pining, and does not eat well, and Falarion has suggested that perhaps you children understood her sadness, as you also miss your Da.  Do you think you could help her?”

All three children nodded eagerly. As instructed by the Elvenking, they approached her slowly and offered to let her smell the back of their hands, for a few moments, until the dog felt comfortable. Soon, the three of them were sitting cross-legged in the straw, while Esta greeted each of them with a quick lick to their cheeks, then offered her paw to Bain.

He laughed and shook it. “I like her! Will she have to stay in the barn, though?”

Tilda looked worried, “No wonder she was so sad! She’s all by herself here!”

The Elvenking smiled. “You need not worry, Tithen Pen. Esta has been staying with Falarion in his home, until we could find her a place. He only brought her to his work today, so you could meet her.”

“Oh, good.” The little girl looked relieved. Then she asked, “Where are the other dogs that lost their masters?”

“They are staying with other members of my Army. Many have decided to keep them, but there are some that still need good homes.”

Sigrid looked confused. “Ada, you said Esta belonged to one of your soldiers, and helped with the sheep? Was your Archer a farmer, too?”

“Yes, and no, Iellig. The soldier was one of my excellent Archers, and her husband raised sheep. Unfortunately, when his wife died, he missed her too much, and sailed to Valinor to be with his family that had gone before him. Falarion promised him he would look after Esta and find her a family.”

“That’s sad.” Bain said.

“It is, yes, but when we find ways to help those who are sad, it makes us feel better, does it not? Would you like to help Esta?"

His question was answered with an enthusiastic yes. “I am glad. Shall we take her back to the Palace, to her new home?” The children got up, to leave, and Thranduil looked at the dog and said, “Tulë, Esta.” The dog obediently got up, and followed them at Thranduil’s left side.

“What did you say, Ada?” Sigrid asked.

“We train all our animals with Quenyan words, as you saw with our horses. ‘Tulë’ means to ‘Come,’ ‘Harë…’”

Esta immediately stopped and sat down.

Tilda giggled. “Means ‘sit,’ right?”

Thranduil smiled, “As you can obviously see. I shall teach you all Quenyan commands today, but only after we get to the Palace, yes? Otherwise, it may take a long time to get there.”

The little girl took the Elvenking’s hand, and said, “I wish Da had something to keep him company. He must miss us a lot.”

Thranduil smiled down at her, but said nothing.

Sigrid noticed his sly grin. “What?” she asked.

“I believe I shall let your father and Tauriel tell you.  In the meantime, you will want to make sure your letters to everyone in Dale will be ready this week.  The supply wagons will be leaving in five days."

They all agreed, and happily made their way to the Royal Wing, with Esta following obediently behind. 

 

***************

 

Dale, 4th of January, 2942, T.A.

Bard tried to sleep, but he couldn’t quiet his mind, as was so often his problem. He also was away from his husband, which made matters worse.

Seven years. For seven years he had a bed to himself and learned how to sleep alone. Now, after just a few weeks of sharing Thranduil’s bed, he could hardly stand the nights without him!

Shit… He punched his pillow, and rolled over again, looking over at the huge dog, next to him. Thangon was sprawled on his back, legs splayed. His head was stretched back, and his tongue lolled out of the side of his mouth. The dog was ridiculous.

He was also snoring. Bard shook his head. He still couldn’t decide whether or not Thranduil was playing a prank on him, but either way, winter with his new roommate would be interesting.

The Bowman got out of bed, and reached for his thick robe and slippers, to ward off the chill in the air. He went over and put some wood on the fire, then looked back at the bed. The dog hadn’t moved, but was yipping in his sleep, dreaming, and his paws moved slightly as if he was running.

Bard rolled his eyes, muttering, then opened the door and went out into the corridor, headed to the kitchens to get something to snack on.

He was passing Tauriel’s room, when he saw her door slightly open, and her lamp lit. He knocked a few times. “Tauriel?”

“Come in, Bard.”

“What are you doing up? Can’t you sleep, either?”

Tauriel was sitting in her chair by the fireplace, in a cream-colored robe.  Her grey tabby cat was sitting on the arm of the chair, purring.

“Did I wake you?” Tauriel asked, concerned.

Bard laughed, and walked over to pet Farien, her cat. “How could you possibly wake me, if you don’t make a sound? No, you didn’t. I have this trouble a lot, and that great bloody beast in my room is busy sawing down trees!”

The Elf smiled. “I like him. He’ll be good company for us this winter. But, I confess, it is hard not to miss the children. They kept me occupied after Kili died.”

“And, now you don’t have anything to distract you.” Bard took the other chair and looked at her, as she nodded. “I’m sorry, Tauriel.”

“I do miss him. We never even said words of love to each other. There was no time. But I loved him.”

“And he loved you.”

“May I ask you something, Bard?”

“Sure. Anything.” Bard assured her.

“When did you get over losing your wife?”

Bard huffed a little. “I’ll let you know.”

At her confused look, he explained. “I still love her. My love for Thranduil does not overshadow it, or make it disappear. I’d never want it to. My time with her is over, but I've got memories that I'll always cherish. I still miss her terribly sometimes, and that won’t change, but now, when I think of her, I smile. Most of it just took some time, and yes, Thranduil helped some. That’s the great thing about love, isn’t it? There’s always a way to make room for more.”

“Do you ever speak of your memories to Thranduil?” She was curious.

“Yes, I do. Not every spouse is comfortable with that, so I’m lucky. And he talks about Mírelen with me. She is part of him, and of Legolas, so I want to know about her. He feels the same about my Mattie.”

“I wish Elves were like Men. I find myself a little jealous of Ada. I loved Kili, and what we had was so brief, and amounted to so little, but I will always treasure it…”

“But you want more, someday.” Bard sympathized.

“I do not know, but if I did, is that wrong?” Tauriel asked.

“No, love, it isn’t.  But I wouldn’t worry about that now. Take some to think about him. Spend time with the Dwarves, like we suggested.  Listen to them speak of him; get to know him. Face your grief, Tauriel; don’t run away from it. Your Ada suffered terribly from doing that, and I don’t want to see you make the same mistake. Thranduil learned the hard way, that you can’t avoid it, and if you try, you’ll never get past it.” He tilted his head and smiled. “You know you can come and talk to me whenever you need. I know what you’re going through, and if I can help, I’d be happy to.”

Tauriel nodded, then said, “I am happy you and Ada are together.”

“Me, too. Everything seemed to work together somehow, and here we all are. We're all connected now, for reasons only the Valar seems to know, but I’m happy you’re here.”

The grey cat climbed into Tauriel’s lap, and curled up to go to sleep. “I only wish Legolas could be here to join us, but I do not know if it will ever happen,” she added sadly.

“I know you miss him, but his leaving was not your fault.”

“I hurt him. I did not want to, but...” Tauriel sighed.

“I know you didn’t mean to.  So does Thranduil. Eventually, this will blow over, and resolve itself, in some way. Your Ada told you, his leaving wasn’t all about you.”

“He did, but I still feel terrible. I know Ada wants to make things right with Legolas, and so do I.”

“But you have nothing to ‘make right,’ Tauriel. You did nothing to Legolas, except be his best friend, and your wonderful self.” He grinned at her, before he became serious, again. “I suggest you leave well enough alone with Legolas, at least for now.  He’ll come around when he feels he’s ready.”

The young Elf, smiled at him, “I thank you. But I wish things were different.”

“I’m sorry, love. But be patient, and try to have hope.”

Then Bard changed the subject. “Would you tell me what was it like, growing up with Thranduil? He’s told me, but I’d like to know from your point of view.”

Tauriel sat back in her chair, and stroked the cat. “I barely remember my birth parents. All I remember of my village, is the smell of smoke, and arms reaching to lift me from the cellar. I was frightened, and crying.”

“I’m glad that’s all you remember.” Bard shuddered. “I can’t imagine what they went through.”

She smiled, “I do remember being held by Thranduil, and thinking how pretty his hair and his eyes were. I felt his cheek to see if it was as soft as it looked, and he looked surprised. I wasn’t afraid, because I knew he would take care of me. I  rode through the forest, sitting high up on a horse, in front of Ada. He didn’t say anything, but I felt strong arms, and his cloak wrapped around me. It smelled of lavender and spices, and I remember thinking how much I liked it.”

“That’s how Thranduil smells; you’re right.”

She looked into the fire. “My memories of living in the Palace, was much like that first day. He did not say much, but when he was around, I felt safe and protected. He was never unkind to me, as a child; he was just…distant. It was Galion and Legolas who were openly affectionate with me, but Ada was always there, even if he was in the background. It was only after I was grown, that I realized how sad he was inside.”

Bard mused. “He’s so open now, I find it hard to picture him as anything else.”

“I think he had an easier time with me, than with Legolas. He had long reached his majority, and was already a part of the Guard, when I came to the Palace, so I do not know the details between them, but to me, he wasn’t as cold and remote as he believes. Whenever I woke in the night, crying, it was Ada who came to sit with me, until I fell asleep again. I needed him to help me feel better.”  She looked over at Bard, “I think, sometimes, he came to see me when he had a bad dream. Maybe we needed each other.”

“That’s true, Tauriel. He needed you just as much as you needed him. He still does.” Bard looked at her thoughtfully. “Would you answer something, honestly?”

“Certainly.”

“When you see Thranduil with my children, especially Tilda, does it bother you, that he couldn’t be that way with you? Do you feel like you missed out on anything?”

Tauriel considered this question. “I do not think so. As a child, I did feel loved, Bard. Yes, I would have liked things to be different, but only because I knew Ada couldn’t be the way he wanted to be. You must understand, that to my mind, Galion is my other parent, and I look up to him in many ways. I loved them both, and I never wanted for anything. My childhood was not a sad one.”

She looked down, at Farien, and rubbed her behind the ear. The tabby closed her eyes and leaned into her touch, purring in ecstasy.  “Ada is mistaken if he believes I felt neglected. I knew he cared about me; he just had difficulty showing it. He deeply regrets what he missed out on, with Legolas and me, so I am happy he has your children. He has a chance to have fun, and find joy in being a parent.” Tauriel laughed. “It is not hard to see why Ada loves them. I do, as well.”

“Aye, my Sea Monsters tend to grow on you, don’t they? They kept me going for a long time.”

Tauriel giggled. “It is funny to see how Tilda has enslaved him.”

Bard laughed. “’Slave’ is the right word! He’s so fierce and terrifying in Battle, yet one little pout from her, and he’s mush! It’s hilarious! Do you remember how he was that day she tripped, scraped her knee, and started to cry?”

Tauriel threw her head back and laughed, “I have only ever seen him move that fast in combat! And you…”

“What about me?” Bard put his hand on his chest, pretending to be wounded.

Tauriel pointed at him, giggling, “When Tilda lost her tooth, I never saw anyone’s face turn green so fast!”

“Aye, I know. What about the time we had to explain to him about ‘courses?’ Did Sigrid tell you what happened after you all went to bed? I think it hit him, how much he didn’t know about human children, and was scared to death of breaking them, or something!”

Tauriel nodded, and was still laughing. “Lady Hilda and Sigrid were mad at me, because I never had them!”

“Well, can you blame them?”

“No, I cannot!” Tauriel put her hands over her face, her shoulders shaking with laughter.

“We are a ridiculous bunch, aren’t we?” Bard shrugged his shoulders. “I remember when I first saw Thranduil in Dale.” He laughed. “He was such an arrogant bastard, I wanted to kick him in the teeth, and look where we are today. Whoddathunk?”

“Things worked out for the best. I think, somehow, I am supposed to be here. This is where I belong; I feel good about it. I miss the Palace and the forest, of course, but this is exciting, with Dale so new and all the things it can become.” She snuggled the cat, as Farien purred.

Bard smiled. “Your Ada loves you very much. I think he’d be glad to hear how you really felt growing up with him. Maybe you could put that in a letter.”

The Elleth nodded. “You are right; I will.”

“I’m glad we can be friends, Tauriel. We’re all a part of something special. When Legolas is ready, he’ll be welcome, too. Life in Dale won’t be easy, and we’ll struggle a lot before things get better, but I’m glad you’ll be here with us. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Tauriel looked down, shyly. “I did not know any Men before I left the Woodland Realm. I had always thought we would be too different to understand each other.” She looked back up at the Bard and smiled. “I am glad to know I was wrong.”

Bard returned her smile, then got up. “Me too. Now, what do you say we go into the kitchen and scare up something to eat? I’m hungry, and I’ll bet the dog could use a snack, once that big monster realizes I’m gone.” Bard got up and grabbed her hand. “Come on, then. And after, we’ve both got to get some sleep.”

They went into the hallway. Bard sighed, at the closed door to the children’s rooms. “I know one thing we’re going to do right away; get some noise in this place. I can’t stand those empty rooms.”

“I agree. It is too quiet and lonely.”

“First thing tomorrow, I’ll fix that, but right now, I’m starving. Come on.”

Together, they made their way to the kitchens for a snack, with Tauriel’s meowing cat following behind, hoping for a snack herself.

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Tithen Pen – Little One
Hênig – My child
Galvorn – “Black Steel” (Black metal)
Iellig – My daughter
Tirhûtaw – sheep dog (lit. “wool guard dog”)
Suilad, Aran nîn – Greetings, my King
Ni veren an dhe ngovaned – I am happy to meet you
Tulë, Esta – Come, Esta (Quenya)
Farien – the name of Tauriel’s cat means “Huntress”
Thangon – A variation of Thangail, “Great Shield,” the dog Thranduil gave to Bard.