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An Invincible Summer

Chapter Text

 

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

― Albert Camus

 

City of Dale; Noon, 17th of July, 2942 T.A. 

“Let’s head over to the Long Lake Tavern, Daeron; I could go for a pint.”

Bard had taken a rare afternoon off from his duties as King, and spent it wandering around the new City and enjoying the scenery.  Life in Dale had indeed begun, and these weeks since the children returned were a frenzy of activity.  More like a scramble, really.  Much of the time, Bard was flying by the seat of his pants, as he tried to deal with the unavoidable minutiae involved in getting a new Kingdom up and running.

The battlefield that used to be called “The Field of Desolation,” had been re-named “Hope Field” in a very moving ceremony near the graves of those fallen in the Battle.  It was now home to the farmers, who carefully tended to their various new crops, with hope in their hearts and prayers for a good first harvest.

Everyone was still setting up and ironing out the small problems and foibles of their new houses:  Furniture was arranged and rearranged several times over, squeaky doors were oiled, sticky windows were rubbed with beeswax until they opened up and down, easily.  Cooking disasters gave way to good, tasty meals, as many learned to cook over the open flame in the fireplace.  Clotheslines were hung in back yards and quickly filled with clean laundry of every size and shape, to dry in the warm sun.  Folks chatted with their new neighbors through open windows, as they hung curtains and made up the beds.  The brooms (one was allotted to each house) were put to use almost constantly, and colorful braided rugs, woven over the winter, were put down the common rooms.

Every new home in Dale was set up only for the basics, and above that will serve as a means to get the economy of the country up and running as soon as possible.  Each house hold was given an allotment according to their size to finish them according to their taste.

When Bard, accompanied by his guard, Daeron, meandered into the Market, he was greeted with a few friendly waves, and “Good Afternoon, My Lord!” Bard gave them a friendly smile back, but did not want to interrupt them, as they were swamped with orders to fill for the new households.  All the merchants were overworked, but their exhaustion was not something they wanted to complain about.  Everyone was excited to see what new things were available and enjoyed exploring the shops and all the rest of the city. 

The Potter and his three sons kept their new kiln working day and night to make enough pitchers, platters, lamps and pots of every conceivable size and shape.  They were flying off the shelves as fast as he could make them, and many were waiting for their items as patiently as they could. 

The proprietor of the Basket Shop had to be treated at the Healing Hall because he’d worked his fingers bloody to keep up, so he’d hired several workers to get ahead of the orders, while he supervised them with his bandaged hands and thoroughly enjoyed their company.

The fires in the smithies worked all day long, to make pots for cooking, tea kettles, and frying pans.  They also made stove tops and oven doors, so the stonemasons could provide ovens alongside the fireplaces in Dale.

Wonderful smells came from the ovens in the Baker’s shop: loaves of fresh bread of all kinds, and pastries were on display behind a glass window (to keep the children from poking their fingers in pies.)

There was one shop that Bard made a point to visit.  Dale Fabrics was owned and operated by Lynne and Mona, former servants from Laketown who had been victimized by their deranged former employer Iola, and her sister, Ina.  Bard had intervened immediately to free them, and Thranduil helped them learn a trade.   During the winter, the women had fallen in love, and planned to marry soon.

“Lord Bard!  It’s good to see you!” Lynne smiled at him from behind the counter.  “Hi Lieutenant!  Looking after the King, as usual?”

“I am indeed, Miss Lynne.”  Daeron bowed to her.

Bard looked around.  “Can’t keep anything on the shelves, can you?”

“Too right, we can’t, and folks have been frustrated.  You can’t blame them, really.  We’ve been in touch with one of the shops in Dorwinian and bought a bunch of broadcloth from the Woodland Realm.  That should be here tomorrow, but most of that’s already spoken for.”

“Lady Hilda wanted me to stop by and ask after,” he pulled a paper out of his pocket and read aloud, ‘ticking for pillowcases.’  Do you have any of that?”

“We do, My Lord.  Orders for that has finally slowed down.  Plain white or striped?”

“She likes white.  Set aside some, and she’ll send a servant over to pick it up.” 

“How much does she need?”

“Half a bolt should do it,” Bard said. “And I’m instructed to pay up front and include the cost of the black twill she bought last week to be sent to the tailor for leggings.  Hilda said you didn’t send a bill.”

“But My Lord; we cannot charge you!  You don't—“

“Yes, we do.” Bard interrupted, kindly but firmly.  “The Royal Family are customers like every other household, and we will be charged the same rates as everyone else.”  Bard smiled, “Unless, of course, you want to argue with the Lady of the Castle yourself?”

“Very well; if you say so, Lord Bard.  You’re very kind.”

“It’s not kindness, Lynne, it’s business.  You’re not to give anything away in here, unless you give it to the poor, and you can truly spare it.”

“Thank you.” The girl smiled filled out the bill, and the money was exchanged.  She was going to say something else, but someone else came into the shop, so she curtsied to the King and went to attend them.

“We’ve been together here almost almost two months, and I still can’t believe it,” Bard stopped in the sunshine and looked up at the city around him.  “Every time I come down here, I’m surprised to find new buildings, and not scorched ruins.”

“I understand the feeling, My Lord.  I feel the same.  I had never seen the state of Dale, until we came here after Smaug was killed.”

“Really?  You didn’t come right after the Dragon came?”

Daeron shook his head.  “No, I did not.  I had returned home about three years before, and,” he sighed, “Lord Thranduil was kind in not requiring me to return, to see the ruins.”

“That was nice of him.” Bard agreed. 

They were slowly making their way to the other end of the Market Square, to the new pub Roderic and his family had opened.  Rod had spent last winter in the Thranduil’s Palace due to his injuries and been given the equipment and supplies to start brewing the dark ale folks around here were partial to, but hadn’t enjoyed since Laketown. 

“Tell me: do you think we’re doing justice to what Girion had here?”  Bard asked his Guard.

“I do.” Daeron looked around at the high buildings in the Square and smiled to see the colorful curtains hanging in the windows in the apartments above the shops.  “Also, the changes you’ve made are good ones, I think.”

“Such as?”  Bard was curious.

“The Healing Hall is in the center of Dale, rather than close to the Castle; it was a wise choice as it makes it more accessible to everyone.  You have also improved the original schools.  I think it is better to have several smaller schools for the smaller children, with a larger, central school for the older ones, plus there is room for growth.” 

“I suppose I’m optimistic, about the population becoming larger.  It’s mostly thanks to Thranduil that Dale looks so much like it used to.”

“It does feel like I am stepping into the past.” Daeron looked up at the bell tower and smiled.  “I have missed hearing the bells.”

“I’m glad we did those right away.  I’ve heard Dale was well-known for its bells, so we thought it was important to put them back up.  Everyone loves them; the Elves especially.”

“They would,” Daeron sighed.  “I am glad to be here.”

Bard put his hand on the guard’s shoulder.  “Let’s hope you have happier memories, this time around, Mellon nîn.”

Daeron smiled sadly at him, but before Bard could say anything, they had reached their destination, which was the unfinished mural along one side of the Long Lake Tavern.

“King Thranduil!”  Bard smiled up at his husband, who was up on a scaffold with several brushes and different color paints.  “The mural looks brilliant!”

“Gi suilannon, Aran Bard!” his Elf called down cheerfully.  “I am happy with the results now.  I tried to match the new colors with the old portions of the wall, but it is impossible, I am afraid.  I had to redo the entire wall.”

“That’s a better idea,” Bard agreed.  “I’d like to preserve the original, but if you can’t make the new blend in well, better to just cover it and be done with it.  Just keep the original design, if you would.”

Thranduil grinned down at him and gave him a wink. “I will do my best, My King.”

“Can’t ask for more than that.” And Bard couldn’t.  His Elf was having fun, and if it took painting the City bright purple to keep that look on his husband’s face, then so be it.  Thranduil was entitled to “play” at his favorite pastime, after so many years of loneliness.

The King of the Woodland Realm had spent nearly a thousand years in depression and despair since his wife died and had only recently found happiness again.  Since his marriage to Bard eight months ago, he’d found joy in being a part of a large, extended family, and he was a devoted and affectionate Ada to Bard’s children, as well as his foster-daughter, Tauriel. 

Thranduil planned to spend the next several decades mostly living in Dale with his family, and none of the Elves in the Woodland Realm begrudged their King this; he had more than earned it.

Roderic, the tavern owner came out to greet them, wiping his hands on his apron.  “Good afternoon, Sire! Can I get you a drink?”

“I’d love one, Rod; one of your lighter lagers, please, along with some lunch – I think we’ll eat outside this time.”

“Of course, My Lord.  What would you like?  We’ve got some nice roast beef, with that spicy mustard you like, and the missus made some rye bread this morning for sandwiches.”

“Sounds great!”  Bard called up.  “Thran, I’ll be around the corner having a lunch.  Do you want me to buy you something?”

“I would; tea for me, please.  Master Rod, do you have any of that dark brown bread left, and the soft cheese I enjoy?”

“I do, My Lord.  Coming right up.” The publican turned to the Guard, “What about you, Daeron?  What can I get you?”

“Just water to drink, please; I am on duty, but,” he looked at Rod hopefully, “Has your wife made those chicken turnovers I am so fond of?”

“Got four left, and they’re all yours.  I like to see a lad with a good appetite, but where do you put it? You’re so thin!”

Daeron laughed.  “I do not have to worry about getting fat; it is one of the perks of being an Elf.”

”Don’t say that too much around the women, lad; they’ll think you’re bragging.”

By the time Thranduil came down and washed up, Rod had brought the food and drinks.  Daeron sat with them, while Ruvyn kept watch.

“Look at you!” Bard laughed at his Elf.  “You’re having a ball!”

Thranduil laughed as he spread cheese on a slice of bread and took a bite.  “I am, Meleth nîn.  Dale was once filled with such art, as well as beautiful statues and fountains, and I want to see it again.  If this City is going to be the center of culture, then we have to make it look thus.”

“Who did the original art? Did you know him?”

“I did.  A man named Caradoc did many of them, and the statues were made by several others, but he did not paint the wall I am working on.”

“Oh?  Who did?”

Thranduil took a sip of his tea and grinned.  “I did.”

Bard threw back his head and laughed.  “You bastard! Couldn’t wait to spring that one on me, could you?”

“I like to surprise you.”

“It helps to be full of surprises.”

“And I plan to keep it that way.”  Thranduil took another bite of bread and looked down at Bard’s feet.  “Thangon is not with you.”

“He’s off with the kids.  Percy wanted to go down to Hope Field and get an update on the crops, so they all went on horseback, and took Rhys with them.  Alun’s working as many hours as I am, these days, and he doesn’t want the boy at loose ends.”

“Who else is guarding them?”

Turamarth, and the dogs.  And I told Tauriel to put Tilda in front of her.”

The Elvenking smiled wickedly.  “Tilda is not riding on her own horse?”

“Stop teasing, you.” Bard rolled his eyes. “I know the groom poked extra holes in the straps, so the Little Bean could at least reach her stirrups, but did you have to pick a full-grown horse for her?”

“Once again,” Thranduil raised his eyebrow.  “Tilda did not choose the horse; the horse chose her, and it is an Elven creature.  Blossom would look after her, even without a saddle.  Besides, as you and everyone else knows, what our Tilda really wanted was an Elk. All things considered, you should be happy with her mare.”

Bard rolled his eyes.  “I know you think I’m being an old hen…“

The Elvenking turned and asked Daeron, “Did Lord Percy consult with you about Tilda before they left?”

The Lieutenant shook his head.  “I arrived at the Castle after they were gone, but Tauriel was correct in taking her.  The fresh air and sun will do her good, but she would grow fatigued and her hands would tire from handling Blossom for an extended period of time.”  Daeron looked at Bard pointedly.  “The horse is an important part of her rehabilitation; one cannot deny that, My Lord.”

”And, when our Tilda is older...”  The Elvenking began—

”Thranduil.”

”She will be strong enough—“

”No.”

”Really Bard, I do not see why she cannot—“

”We have had this discussion.”

”But—“

”No!”

Daeron looked between the two Kings and took a drink to hide his smile. He already knew who was going to win the argument in the end. This issue wouldn’t be settled until Thranduil had his Tithen Pen in the saddle of her very own Elk. 

~o0o~ 

 

Before their children returned to Dale, Thranduil had arranged to purchase the horses they’d learned to ride in the Woodland Realm.  Their instructor, an Elf named Falarian, helped bring them into the City a few days before they arrived as a surprise. 

As much as the kids were eager to see Dale and be with their Da, Thranduil had guessed that they’d have too much time on their hands over the summer and would need something to do.  He knew Bard would be working day and night for a long while, and the day-to-day parenting would fall to him for the next several months - which he was happy to do.  When Thranduil walked them to the stables shortly after they arrived, Tilda squealed and clapped her hands with delight when she saw her palfrey playing in the paddock with the others.

Bain’s stallion, Bregolas, was black, like the Elvenking’s, but had a star on his forehead and three white socks. The animal was of a different breed than Thranduil’s and fine-boned, but Bregolas was a good choice for a novice rider and would serve the Prince well. He would be given a heavier war-horse when he reached his majority.

Sigrid had grown attached to her sweet golden mare named Mallorn, after the trees of the Golden Wood.  The horse’s mane and tail resembled the color of Thranduil’s icy tresses, and her mane and tail grew in thick and wavy.  She enjoyed combing them out and braiding them.

Tilda’s dapple-grey mare was on the smaller side - only 14 hands - and very gentle, but it was true that she still could not quite reach the stirrups without help.  Still, the horse adored the little girl and was careful and protective with her.   Tilda couldn’t pronounce the horse’s Elven name, so Falarion gave her permission to change it to “Blossom.”  Bain and Rhys snickered and started to tease her about it, but Tilda threatened to name her Petunia, and tell everyone it was their idea, which quickly shut them up.

Thranduil had even bought Beratín, the chestnut gelding Rhys had been riding, as a gift for his former ward.  Alun, Rhys’s father was touched at the gesture, and offered to repay the Elvenking for his kindness, but Thranduil insisted it was a thank-you gift for supporting their family during their times of crisis.  Beratín was fond of the boy, and no one wanted to see them parted.

~o0o~

Once their lunch was over, Thranduil finished his tea, and said a quick farewell to his husband, before climbing up the scaffold again under the watchful eyes of his guard, Ruvyn.  This Elf and his friend, Ivran normally guarded the Royal Chambers in the Palace, but since their King will be spending most of the year in Dale, they were asked to move here, to continue their duties, and the Royal Wing at the Palace was sealed off.  When Thranduil returned for one week every month, the simply went with him.

There was another, more important reason why Bard and Thranduil wanted Ruvyn and Ivran here, but the Kings had decided not to bring it up, until life in Dale had calmed down.

After Bard paid the bill (at his insistence, although Rod would not hear of charging Thranduil for his food – the mural he was working on would bring in busines, he said) the King of Dale and his Guard continued their stroll through the City.

It was wonderful to hear the voices of children playing in Dale, but Bard was glad he didn’t see many of them.  Soon after they arrived, the King had banned them from playing in the streets, and this was to be strictly enforced.  These youngsters were healthier than they had ever been, thanks to a winter full of good, nourishing food, and plenty of physical exercise, which was something on short supply from their life in Laketown.  This summer they were bouncing bundles of energy.

The problem was, they weren’t used to horses, wagons and carriages, and how fast they could go.  And after a couple of near-misses, he quickly laid down the law.

It helped a great deal that the children now had backyards, which were a delightful novelty but even that wasn’t really enough.  A month ago, Old Ben, the City Planner had met with Mistress Bronwyn and Thranduil to sketch out some areas in the parks for swings, climbing bars and such.  As a nod to the many former fisherman living in Dale, Ben even designed wooden boats for the kids to play on, and Thranduil suggested a milder, miniature version of an obstacle course that the Elves used for training and climbing. 

This was all well and good, of course, but the construction crews were still working from dawn to dusk to finish many parts of the city, so Bard had paid a visit to Feren’s house to meet with Gruffudd, Alis and Dafina’s grandfather, to see if he could find and organize volunteers to put them up, once the equipment was made.

The older man was delighted to be of use, so he rounded up his group of friends, and got to work.  The first one finished was the large playground by the school.  Bain and Rhys were happy to serve and work alongside the crews, under Gruffudd’s strict supervision.

As the King of Dale passed the schoolyard, he was happy to see children already at play.  “That’s a grand sight, isn’t it?”

“Wonderful, My Lord.”

They enjoyed watching them for a few minutes when a little boy who wasn’t watching where he was going, tripped in front of them and fell, scraping his knee. 

“Are you all right, son?” Bard ran over and bent down on one knee. 

The boy was sniffling, but trying hard not to cry.  “’M fine.”

“Well… you’re bleeding quite a bit.  Where’s your mam?”

“S-she’s at home with my baby sister.  My big brother’s over on the swings.”

“Tell you what,” Bard told him.  “My friend here, knows just what to do with scrapes like these, would you like him to help?”

“You’re a Elf!  What’s your name?”

“My name is Daeron.  What is yours?”

“Maddox.” He pointed to an older blonde boy, “That’s my brother Bowen.”

Bowen looked over and noticed Maddox sitting on the ground and came running over.  “Hey Mad! What happened?”

“I hurt my leg, and –“

“Who in Mordor are you?” the boy, who looked to be about ten, scowled at Bard, and jumped in front of Maddox with his chin out.  “What’d you do to my brother?”

Bard held his hands up.  “I did nothing, I swear.  He tripped and fell, but this Elf here is just going to fix up your brother and we’ll help you take him home, will that be all right?”

“Just keep your grubby hands off him!” Bowen narrowed his eyes, then looked over at Daeron.  “I know you; I’ve seen you at the Palace! You’re the one who teaches the older boys in swords.”

“You are correct; I did teach the weapons classes at the Palace. Who was your teacher?”

“Ivran, and he was the best!”

“Ivran is my friend, and yes, you were lucky to have him as a teacher.  Now, I need to treat your brother, as I think he has twisted his ankle.”

“Well, you’re all right, I guess, but,” he pointed his thumb a Bard.  “I don’t like the look of this one; he’s shady looking, so you’d better make sure he’s good to my brother, or you’re both in trouble!”

 

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

 

Daeron froze, wide-eyed, and looked to see Bard’s reaction.  Bard was just as surprised, but he covered his mouth to hide his smile.

“Well, I’ll just stay out of the way, then.” Bard said as serious as he could manage.  “I’m sorry if my scruffy appearance offended you.”

“Aye, you can make nice all you want, but that’s my brother, and if you lay a finger on him, you’ll be meetin’ my fists!”

Daeron quickly cleared his throat and tried to diffuse the situation. “You are a brave boy, Bowen; my name is Lieutenant Daeron, and this is –“

“He has to watch me,” Bard quickly interjected, raising his eyebrow at his Guard, with a smile in his eyes.  “I’m not allowed to go anywhere without him.”

“You’re his prisoner, aren’t you?  You must be a robber, or a pickpocket!  My Da told me about people like you,” Bowen curled his lip in disgust.  “He says a thief is no better than an Orc!”

“That much is true,” Bard agreed seriously.  “Daeron has to make sure I keep out of trouble.  It’s…  part of my sentence.”

Daeron rolled his eyes and gave the King a look, then pulled a white cloth from his pouch. “Bowen, would you please get that wet in the fountain for me?”

“All right,” The boy reluctantly agreed, “but you best keep an eye on this fella.”

“I will make sure he behaves; you have my word.”

When Bowen ran off toward the water fountain, Daeron turned to Bard and opened his mouth to say something, but the King shook his head, then spoke to Maddox.

“You have a very good big brother.”

“Aye, he takes care of me!” the small boy smiled.  “He helps Mam, too!”

“Where’s your Da, child?  What’s his name?”

“Owen,” the boy said, matter-of-factly.  “He died when the Orcs came, so it’s just us and my Mam.”

Bard froze for a moment, then he gave the boy an encouraging smile.  “I’m sorry to hear that, lad.  I’m sure your Da was a good and brave man.”

“He was.  We went to see him in the tent where the hurt people were, and he made us promise to be good.”

“And are you doing your best to do this?”

“Aye!  And Bowen helps Mam take care of me, and Sister.  Da said he’s the ‘man of the house’ now.”

Once the brother returned with the wet cloth, Daeron carefully cleaned the boy’s wound, before he smeared it with salve and covered it with a bandage.  Then he carefully moved the ankle, but the boy yelped and flinched. “Does this hurt you?”

“Uh huh,” Maddox’s lip trembled, so Bowen took his hand.

“’Twill be all right, brother.  The Elf is a great Healer.  He made Princess Tilda all better.”

“I know her!”  The little boy looked up at Daeron with something akin to hero worship. “I heard she was really, really sick!  You cured her?” 

“I helped but there were others,” the Elf told him with a smile.  “Another very good Healer was there, and King Thranduil himself.”

“King Thranduil?  He’s her Da, now, isn’t he?”

“He’s one of them,” Bard winked at Daeron.  “They tell me he’s fond of King Bard’s children, but he likes all the children.”

“King Bard is a great man!” Bowen told them.  “Too good for the likes of you!”

Daeron coughed suddenly as he stood up.  “Can you walk, young Maddox?” He held out his hand and helped the boy up.

“I’ll try,” the little dark-haired boy stood up and made a brave attempt but cried out when he put weight on it. “It’s really sore.”

Daeron asked Bowen, “Do you live nearby?”

They boys told him they lived several blocks away, so Bowen gave Daeron permission to carry young Maddox.  “You look after brother, and I’ll keep an eye on him.”  The boy gave Bard a severe look. “And no funny business, you hear?”

Bard gave Daeron a sidelong glance, “Good thing you’re here to protect them from the likes of me, Lieutenant.”

“I am only doing my duty.  Someone has to look out for these boys.”

Bard smiled, then asked Bowen.  “So, lad, what do you know about your new King?”

“I told you; he’s a great man.   He saved us from the Dragon and led my Da against the Orcs.  He’s nothing like you.”

“I’m sure he’s not; scruffy, shady characters like me wouldn’t make good Kings, would they?” Bard agreed.  “Do you know what he looks like?”

“I’ve been too busy taking care of Mam and the family, but my friend Dylan met him!”

“Oh, and what did he say about our new King?”

“Dylan says he’s taller and stronger than any Man or Elf, on Middle Earth, and he when he killed the Dragon, he didn’t even need a bow! He just threw the Black Arrow with his bare hands, right into the thing’s heart and killed it dead!”

“Dylan told you that?  Hmmm...  I heard Prince Bain helped him.”

Bowen rolled his eyes.  “Well, of course he helped him, you dolt!  Somebody had to help him carry the Black Arrow!  That thing was two rods long!”

“Oh, I doubt it was that long, lad.”

“Oh, really?”  Bowen was indignant that this criminal would dare doubt the word of his best friend Dylan. “Wanna bet?” 

Daeron snorted, but Bard gave him a look to shush him.  The King was having fun with this.

“Oh, I’m afraid prisoners aren’t allowed to gamble.”  Bard and heaved an exaggerated sigh. “Daeron here won’t let me.”

“Is that why you’re his prisoner?  I’ll bet he was taking you to the dungeon!” Bowen considered this.  “You can’t be a bad man all your life; King Bard says we need good men here, so you,” he poked Bard hard in the chest, “need to straighten yourself out!”

“Thanks for the advice; I’ll give it a lot of thought.” Bard fingered his chin. “You say you’ve been looking after your Mam?”

“Uh huh.  She had my baby sister right before we went to the big woods, and when we came back, we went right to our house; Mam had a bad cold, you see; she’s still sick.  She told me to take my brother to the playground, so she could get some rest.”

The Elf and the King of Dale gave each other a concerned look.

“How long has your mother been sick?” Daeron asked Bowen.

“Since we left the Elf’s Palace.”

“But that was a two months ago!  Could you tell me more about it?”

 She just feels tired a lot, and Sister is cranky all the time, so she doesn’t get much sleep.  And she gets headaches.”

“Bowen, are we close to your house yet?”  Bard asked.

“Aye,” the boy pointed to the second floor of a building at the end of a block. “We’re up there.”

With growing concern, the King and the Elf made their way to the to their home, and Bowen showed them to the doorway that opened up to stairs, on the second floor, but when they made to go in, the boy hesitated to let Bard pass, giving him a fierce look.

“Master Bowen,” Daeron said, quickly.  “He must come with us; I am in charge of him.”

“I promise to behave, son.” Bard gave him an encouraging smile.  “I’m hoping we can help your mother feel better.”

The boy clearly didn’t like the situation, but there was nothing to be done.  He led the way up the steps and opened the door.

“Mam!  We’re home!” he called.  “Mad got hurt but this really nice –“

A blonde woman in a robe with her hair in a braid down one shoulder came from one of the back bedrooms.  “Keep your voice down; I just got Owena to sleep, finally –“  She stopped at the sight of the Elf holding her son in his arms.  “Maddie boy!  What happened?”

The little boy gave his mother a tearful smile.  “I fell, and these nice people helped me!”

“Is there somewhere I can lay him down, Mistress?  I’d like to examine him more thoroughly.” Daeron told her.

“Of course,” she said with a worried look at her boy.  “Take him to their bedroom; it’s the first door to the left.”

Once Daeron laid the boy down, he sat and faced him.  “Now Maddox, I need you to be very still, and very quiet.  Can you do this for me?”

The little boy frowned, and his lips began to wobble, as he looked to his mother. 

“I’m right here, lamb,” she sat down on the other side of him and took his hand.  “Let’s do as the Elf says, yeah?”

“Okay,” he said in a very small voice.

Daeron looked up and saw Bard in the doorway, behind Bowen, who seemed to be blocking his way into the room, in an effort to protect his mother and brother.  Bard just gave him an encouraging nod to get on with it.

The Elf closed his eyes and took a deep breath as he put his hand on the boy’s ankle.  Soon he “saw” the bones in his lower leg, and foot, which all seemed to be in order, but the muscles and ligaments looked to be swollen and angry.  Just a sprain, then.  This was easily mended, so he began to sing and soothed the ankle as he coaxed the damaged soft tissue back into its normal state.  After a final check to make sure all was as it should be, he stopped singing and opened his eyes and smiled down at the boy.

“You got lighter,” Maddox said, “like the sun, a little bit.”

“Elves get that way, when we heal others.”

“That was a pretty song,” the little boy said.

“Thank you.  The words in it are very, very old, and they told your foot to get better.  How does it feel?” He gently manipulated the boy’s ankle. “Does this hurt?”

“Nuh uh.” Maddox yawned.

“That is very good.  I would still like you to get a bit of rest, so stay here for the rest of the day, and you should be good as new tomorrow, child.  I think it is time for your nap, is it not?"

The boy was having a hard time staying awake, so his mother pulled off his other shoe, and pulled the covers lightly over him, as they got up to leave the room. 

It was only then, that the mother had the chance to get a good look at Daeron’s companion, and her eyes got as big as saucers, and her hands flew to her mouth as she gasped loudly.

Bowen gave Bard a dirty look and ran to take his mother’s arm. “Don’t worry about him; I’m here and I won’t let –“

But Bowen was cut off in mid-sentence.  “Hush, Bowen!  Why didn’t you tell me the King of Dale was in our house?” She grabbed her robe and did a deep curtsy.  “My Lord Bard, I’m honored to greet you; welcome to our home.” 

When she stood back up, she smacked Bowen in the arm.  The boy’s facial expression mirrored his mother’s.

“You’re the King?” he croaked.  “You?”

Bard smiled, then got down on one knee so he could be eye-to-eye with the boy. “I hope you’re not too disappointed - I’m not nearly as tall or wide as the stories say, but I hope we can be friends anyway.”

Daeron covered his mouth to hide his smile, as he watched Bard hold his hand out to Bowen, who took it and they shook hands.

“I-I’m sorry, My Lord.  I –“

“You were being a brave young man and a good brother.  It’s an admirable thing to look after your mother and family like you have been doing, and I’m glad to see it.” 

“But why did you let me think you were a crook and a thief?” The boy looked genuinely hurt.

“I hope you can forgive me for that, Bowen.   I mean no harm or disrespect to you or your family, truly.  You see, I am King, so people always want to be on their best behavior around me, which is nice, but how can I know how my if people are really happy, if they do that? 

“Did my boy offend you in any way, Sire?” the mother put her arm around Bowen’s shoulder.

“Quite the opposite My Lady; Bowen is a fine lad.  People like him will help make Dale a great City.” Bard raised his eyebrows and gave the boy an encouraging smile.  “I hope you and I can be friends, yes?”

“Aye, My Lord.”  At this mother’s whispered reminder, the boy bowed low. 

“Excellent!  Now, would you like to introduce me to your mother?”

 

 

 

ELVEN TRANSLATIONS:

Gi suilannon, Aran Bard! – I greet you, King Bard! (informal)

 

NOTES:

A rod is 5.029 meters long, or 16 ½ feet, which means that according to young Bowen, King Bard threw a Black Arrow that was about 33 feet in length, or 10.058 meters! Wow!