Family by Zhie

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"And now, we are going to play 'Family'," announced Artanis.

Thranduil scrunched his nose. "I do not want to play that."

Artanis smiled wickedly. "You said if I played 'Slay the Dragon', you would play whatever I wanted next."

"I did not say that," Thranduil corrected her. "HE said that. Go play family with HIM." Thranduil turned to walk away.

"I will tell everyone you are too afraid to play with me!" shouted Artanis. "I will take everyone you are scared of me!"

"Do not care!" shouted Thranduil back.

"If you play family with us, we will play 'King of the Pirates' with you, and you can be the pirate king!" yelled Ecthelion. "You can even take Artanis as your hostage and make her walk the plank!" Artanis shot a very unhappy look at Ecthelion while Thranduil paused to consider this. The youngest elfling's back was facing them, so he did not see Ecthelion gesture to Artanis that she would not really be made to walk the plank.

"Fine. But I am not playing the baby again," said Thranduil as he came back.

"But you are the littlest one!" Artanis ran in front of him as he turned around to leave again. "Fine. You can be the cat."

"I do not want to be the cat."

"Then you can be the baby," said Artanis.

"I will be the cat," Thranduil said quickly. "Ecthelion can be the baby."

"I am the father, because I am taller," Ecthelion said matter-of-factly, stretching himself up as Thranduil made an attempt to appear taller.

"And I am the mother," Artanis added, in case Thranduil might develop any ideas to try to take this position away from her.

"Well, I definitely do not want to be the baby, then," mumbled the blond elfling.

"What?" called Artanis.

Thranduil cleared his throat and let out a rather loud, "Mee-yew!" and then found a comfortable patch of sun to sit in so that he could properly ignore his 'family'.

"Good kitty," said Artanis, patting Thranduil's head as she walked by. She missed the silent hissing and his display of trying to swipe her with his claw that he made. "I need a baby, though," she said, walking over to Ecthelion and batting her eyes. Ecthelion merely shrugged.

From his sunny spot in the garden of the local farmer, their favorite place to place in the spring when the flowers were blooming and the trees were freshly filled out with green leaves, Thranduil grinned and said slyly, "I can tell you all about how to get one!"

"How?" both Artanis and Ecthelion asked. Thranduil motioned the pair over, standing up with great excitement. He began to speak to them in a low voice, using gestures when he thought it necessary to explain things better. Both of the other elflings managed a range of emotions, from shock to amusement to disgust until suddenly Artanis slapped Thranduil across the cheek.

"Thranduil, you are disgusting," Ecthelion said, stepping away from the younger elfling.

"That was just... rude. And... nasty. And... yuck! Thranduil, everyone knows babies are a gift from the Valar. There are most certainly not made how you are suggesting. You are too dirty to be the cat. Cats are nice, clean animals."

"Well, I am not going to be the baby!" he shouted, rubbing his cheek. "You are not a very good mother!"

"There is no possible way I would want you to be my child. You can be the dog, and sleep outside," Artanis said, pointing to an imaginary boundary beyond the tree.

"You are both stupid," Thranduil said as he walked to his new mark and sat down.

"Did you say something?" called Ecthelion, who had been moving in the opposite direction.

"Arr-rarrff. Woof. Woof. Woof. Bark. Bark," replied Thranduil with very little enthusiasm.

"I know! We can use Thranduil's cloak in a bundle for the baby!" announced Artanis.

"No." Thranduil said firmly.

Artanis crossed her arms and approached him, narrowing her eyes. "Then you have to be the baby and the dog."

Thranduil immediately handed over his cape before situating himself on his back in the grass to look at clouds.

"Now, while you go and hunt, I will feed the baby." Artanis sat down after wadding the cloak into an awkward bundle. Ecthelion picked up one of their wooden swords from the grass and went about the garden swinging at the air, and decapitating a few of the taller flowers. Thranduil decided not to ask what he was supposed to do, and simply remained in the grass, watching the clouds.

A little while later, Artanis announced that it was time to rock the baby while Ecthelion guarded the house, which, from Thranduil's point of view, simply looked the same as when Ecthelion was hunting and Artanis was feeding the baby. It was when Artanis set the baby on the ground, saying he was in his cradle and needed to be sung to, that Ecthelion stopped what he was doing and dumped the sword on the ground. He came to stand nearby while Artanis began an off-key lullaby that was much too high for her range.

So, Thranduil, the family dog, howled along, not wanting to be left out.

Ecthelion rolled his eyes. "Thranduil, you are so immature. I am going home." He jogged to his sword and picked it up. "Call me to play when you grow up," he added as he headed through the garden gate.

Huffing and stomping her foot, Artanis gave Thranduil a rather nasty look. "Thanks a lot. You always have to ruin everything."

"Me? You always make me play the stupid stuff," he said. "Did you even think that maybe I would not do this if I got to do something fun and play the father once in a while?"

"You are too young!" argued Artanis. "My mother says you would not make a suitable husband anyhow."

"What?" Thranduil stood up and gave her an odd look. "That was not what we were playing, though."

"Nevermind. You just do not get it," sighed Artanis, walking to the gate. "Maybe when you grow up, like Ecthelion said." Artanis shut the gate and ran after the older elfling.

Retrieving his cape from the ground, Thranduil finally shouted, "Well... you are both stupid for not knowing where elflings come from!"

"Thranduil?"

The elfling jumped at the sound of his name. Swallowing, he walked in the direction of the voice, to the porch where the farmer was sitting on a bench. He wondered if he had seen everything that had happened. "Yes, sir?"

"Thranduil, I do not think they can hear you. They are much too far down the road," Erestor told him.

"Yes, sir." Thranduil bit his lip and planned to leave, clutching his cloak to his chest, but the farmer spoke again.

"Just because they said those things, they are not stupid. They are only misinformed," explained Erestor. He patted the empty part of the bench and reached over to a table to pour another glass of lemonade for his little guest. Thranduil clambered up the stairs, dragging his cape behind him and leaving it in a pile on the top step. "You should feel blessed that your parents have imparted upon you the knowledge they have."

"Even where babies come from even if no one believes me?" asked Thranduil before drinking half of the glass of lemonade.

"Yes... even that," smiled Erestor, and they continued to talk and watch the clouds make different shapes for the rest of the afternoon. He would not admit it until later, but talking with Erestor and drinking lemonade was far better, in Thranduil's mind, than being the pirate king.

Even if he had been able to get Artanis to walk the plank.




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