Links in a Chain by Karri

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As flash of movement caught his eye, Legolas pulled his gaze away from the piece of wood at which he had been idly carving and peered southward.    His keen eyes would see what approached long before other eyes could spy him nestled within the dense leaves of the birch tree.  His bow rested beside him, and there were many arrows at the ready upon his other side.   He left them where they were; no threat could approach from that direction without first passing through the main camp, and he’d have heard that sort of commotion.  So, he let his gaze drift back down to his piece of wood and waited patiently.


Before long, a golden-haired youth appeared.  Legolas smiled as the child scanned the trees for him without success.  It morphed into a frown, though, as his seeker gave up and plopped down, with a huff, atop a large rock, apparently intent upon waiting for Legolas to appear. 


“Tch,” Legolas clucked from his hiding place.  “You should not be wandering so far from camp, child.  The lands are full of shadow and threat.  Any sort of harm could befall you.”


“No harm is going to befall me,” the child answered laughingly. “You are here to watch over me.”


“That is true enough,” Legolas agreed, solemnly.  “I am here and will watch over you.  That does not, though, prove your deed any less reckless, for you did not know as much until this moment.”


“I did know!” Eärendil countered, scowling at the affront.  


“Did you now?”  Legolas queried, as a doubtful frown warred with the amused smile tugging upon his lips.  “And how is it you knew just where to find me when I departed our camp whilst you were yet asleep?”


Eärendil shrugged, his gaze dropping to the ground, but just as Legolas became certain the child would not answer, a quiet voice replied, “I was asleep this morning, but I was awake when father took the watch last night, and I followed him.”


“Hmm,” was Legolas’s only response, but when Eärendil finally dared peek up at him, he smiled at the child.   “I see you are cunning; that will serve you well, I am certain.”


Eärendil grinned at the supposed compliment. It fell away quickly, though, as Legolas pointed back toward the main camp.


“Now scoot, child,” he insisted.  “Your parents will worry.  Be a good a good lad and cause them no grief before I return from watch, and I shall teach you a new skill and, perhaps, also, a bit of history, after supper.”


Eärendil’s grin returned.  “Yes, Legolas. I shall return at once,” he agreed and dashed off quickly, his enthusiasm earning a chuckle from his guardian. 




It had grown late by the time Legolas was relieved on watch, but he was not yet too weary to be amused by the child bouncing around his feet as he returned to camp.   He was impressed, though, when Eärendil resisted his obvious urge to rush his elder, and waited almost patiently for him to finish his supper. Legolas barked with laughter, as the child nearly pounced on him the moment he’d set down his bowl, though.   


“Oh, what is it that you are going to teach me, Legolas?” Eärendil quizzed, eagerly.  “I asked mother and father what it might be, but they could not guess.”


Legolas smiled and patted the ground beside him.  “Come, child, and you will find out.”


Eärendil plopped down with such enthusiasm that Legolas was somewhat astonished the child had not hurt himself, but Eärendil quickly settled, ready for his lesson.  Legolas patted the child’s head in approval, then pulled out the piece of wood he’d been carving while on watch and handed over the finished product.


“Oooh,” Eärendil cooed, as he studied the beautifully carved object.  He turned it in his hands several times to study it from every angle. 


“What do you think?” asked Legolas, his head quirking seriously. 


Eärendil gave the object one last inspection, before solemnly handing it back and looking up to meet Legolas’s eyes.  “It seems a lot of work to make a pretty spoon that will one day be thrown away.”


Legolas smiled, patiently, and gave the spoon a once over himself. “Yes, were it simply a spoon, that might be true,” he agreed.


“Is it not a spoon?”  asked Eärendil.


“Of sorts,” Legolas replied, cryptically.  He smiled as a deep furrow etched the child’s brow, but he did not have the heart to leave Eärendil to stew.  “It is a spoon, but it is not the sort one eats with,” he explained.


“Ooooh” Eärendil responded, as though that had explained all with clarity, but his small brow remained furrowed. 


Legolas smiled in amusement, as he pulled out two untouched pieces of wood, along with a small, spare knife.  “Shall I teach you how to carve one of your own, whilst I explain its true nature to you?  It’s a thing that might come in handy one day, when you are grown,” he asked, though he presumed the answer and was already handing over the knife and one piece of wood.


Eärendil nodded, eagerly, as he accepted the items. 


“First, you must decide what you wish to carve,” Legolas instructed.  “It does not matter so much with this spoon, as it is only a practice spoon, so to speak, but one day, it will matter very much what you choose to carve.  So, you be thoughtful with your choices.”  Eärendil nodded solemnly, earning an approving pet on the head.  “Shall I tell you the meaning of the different symbols you might choose?” 


“Yes, please,” Eärendil answered, promptly.


“All right, then, to understand the symbols, you must first understand the meaning of the spoon,” Legolas began.  “And to understand that, you need to comprehend that long ago, before Gondolin became the great city that it was, many of our people did not have gold and silver and gems by which to pledge themselves to one another, as is the custom of some. 


Eärendil nodded.  His parents had explained such gifts to him when once he’d admired his mother’s pendant and his father’s broach. 


“In those days,” Legolas continued, “it became a custom amongst some to carve these spoons for one another and give them as a gift and as a symbol of our pledge to honor one another until the ending of the world.  Thus, the symbols we choose to carve represent our hopes and desires, and should the one we choose to give the spoon not like our choices, perhaps she does not gift a spoon to us in return.   Do you understand?”


Eärendil nodded, solemnly.


“One might choose a bell as a symbol of harmony,” Legolas explained. “Or two balls in a cage to symbolize love held safe, or a bird as a symbol of freedom.”


“Freedom?” squawked Eärendil.  “That does not seem a likely symbol to woo a bride.”


Legolas laughed.  “That depends on the bride, I suppose,” he replied. “For even within a union, some freedom is still required.  Husband and wife do not become one person, after all.  They simply enter into a partnership that must allow for the needs of each.”


“I see,” Eärendil responded, though it was clear from his tone that he did not, really.


“You will someday,” Legolas stated, with a laugh.  “At least I hope you will before you have a bride of your own.”  Eärendil made a face at the thought of a bride, but Legolas simply petted him again and asked, “Shall I continue?


Eärendil nodded. 


“Let’s see…”  Legolas tapped his chin as he thought a moment, then continued on, “You might carve a gem to say you hope for wealth or good fortune, or simply carve a heart as symbol of your love.  You might carve a key and lock to indicate your intent to keep her safe.”


“That would be rather the opposite of a bird, would it not?” Eärendil asked, seriously.  “For wouldn’t it mean you meant to keep her locked away?”


“It could be seen as such, I suppose,” replied Legolas.  “But both symbols have appeared together on more than one spoon, for a desire for safety and security does not preclude a want of freedom.  It is hoped that you would choose a recipient who would understand your intent, whether it be a pledge to keep her safe or a threat of imprisonment,” he finished, with a wink, and Eärendil laughed.


“I would not mean to imprison her,” he responded. “That would not do at all.  If I carved that, it would be my sword in her defense that I meant to pledge,” Eärendil added, but then tapped his own chin as he thought a moment.  “But then, I think perhaps I would simply carve a sword…”


Legolas laughed.  “They would be your symbols to choose,” he then agreed. 


“Are there more?” Eärendil asked.


“Indeed,” Legolas answered.  “You might carve a knot to indicate your hope that your lives be eternally woven together, or perhaps simply a twisted stem.  Or there may be a symbol that is special to just you and her that others would not think to carve…” 


“Because it is the tale of the heart and mind in regards to her?”  Eärendil summarized, hesitantly.


“Indeed,” confirmed Legolas, smiling proudly at the child astuteness.   He waited a moment, as the child studied the blank canvas in his hands, and then asked, “Have you a plan for it?”


Eärendil nodded.  “I do!  And I shall begin with a tree, I think…”


“A tree?” asked Legolas.


“Yes,” confirmed Eärendil.  “It shall be a symbol of my strength and steadiness, for I hope that I shall be both when I am grown,” he explained, smiling up at Legolas.  His expression fell, though, as Legolas frowned, his head shaking slightly.  “Do you not think I shall be such when I am grown?”


Legolas quirked his lips into an apologetic half-smile and petted the child’s head.  “I think you are indeed likely to be both when you are grown,” he assured.


“Then why not a tree?” asked Eärendil, almost tearfully.


“Do not fret, child,” Legolas consoled. “I intended no insult.  It is only…” he paused, though only long enough for two taps upon his chin.  “It is only that I do not think you are fated to set your roots deeply within the soil of Middle-earth.”


Eärendil’s brow furrowed.  “Where else could they be set?”


Legolas gaze drifted up into the sky, as he searched for an answer, but finally he admitted, “I know not, child.  I only know what I feel…and what I feel is that your fate is not here.”  Eärendil frowned, and Legolas patted his back.  “Do not trouble over it.  Where your fate lies is not our topic for this night.  Shall we return to our task?”


Earendil hesitated, still troubled by Legolas’s words, but he soon pushed them aside.  His elder was busy and would not have many chances in the coming days to sit beside Eärendil and teach him.  



Eärendil had carved many spoons with many different symbols by the time he carved his last one—the one he gave to his beloved.  He had chosen his symbols with great care, just as Legolas had taught him he must.  Still, it was with wonderment that he received her answering spoon.


“Father, what is it for?” a small voice asked, as he gazed lovingly at the spoon one day.  Looking down from the tree branch on which he sat, Eärendil smiled at the twin sets of eyes peering up at him quizzically. 


“Shall I teach you all about it, while I show you how to make your own?” he asked.  He grinned as Elrond and Elros nodded eagerly.  “Come, then, mother will have supper ready soon, and we may as well begin between mouthfuls.”


Rising to his feet, he tucked the spoon into his tunic, and then held a hand out to each boy. “It seems not so long ago that learned the nature of such a spoon, myself...,” he murmured, as they walked.  “I hope I shall do as good a job in the instruction.”


“Of course you will, father,” assured Elros. “You know everything…”


Eärendil laughed, but then fell silent, remembering back to the day he’d learned about the spoons from Legolas, trying to recall all that was said. 


He’d just about sorted it out as they tucked into supper, but he waited until Elwing had seated herself beside him to begin the lesson.  “What do you think of it?” he then asked his boys, pulling the spoon out from his tunic.


“I think it’s rather fancy to eat with,” chimed in Elros.


“I think it’s not for eating with,” countered Elrond.  “For both you and mother have one, but I’ve never seen you use them.”


“Indeed, child, that is a wise observation,” Eärendil remarked.  “They are not for eating with; it is a gift to be given as a pledge to another…a beloved,” he explained. “And each of the symbols has a meaning; each is a special part of the tale of hopes and desire for a future with that beloved.”


The twins stared at him, enraptured, as he spoke, and Eärendil smiled, pleased by their attentiveness. 


“Shall I explain the meaning of each symbol to you?” he asked, and they nodded. “All right, then, you see this one…”




 “What is this, father?”  Elladan asked, holding onto the bowl of an intricately carved spoon and pointing the handle toward his father. 


“You and mother both have one; I’ve seen you gazing them,” Elrohir remarked.  “They do not seem to have a use, though.”


Elrond smiled, affectionately, at the boys, but his eyes grew pensive.  Sensing the change of mood, Elrohir’s brow furrowed.


“Should we not have asked, father?” he queried, aware even at his tender age that their father’s past had been filled with much pain and loss. 


Elrond quirked his head, thoughtfully, studying his children.  They reminded him so very often of himself and Elros, which was both pleasant and painful.


“Nay, child,” he finally answered. “I do not mind the question.  It reminds me of a time long ago, before my own father set sail into the East,” he explained, taking a seat on a long bench by the fire and waving the children over to sit beside him. 


“Eärendil, you mean,” clarified Elladan.  “I am sorry, father.  We did not mean to bring back painful memories.


Elrond petted his head. “It is painful to remember those lost to us, it is true,” he admitted.  “But there is also joy in it.”


“Still, you do not need to answer our question, father, if there is too much grief in it, and not enough joy,” assured Elrohir.  Elrond smiled and petted the child’s head. 


“I think I cannot say which will win out until I have finished the answer, so I may as well give it,” he declared, with a wink, and his boys smiled, though uncertainly.  “You see, Elros and I also wondered about a very similar spoon once and asked Eärendil about it, and his answering of our questions and his teaching of the art of its making is one of my last clear memories of him.”


The twins nodded in solemn unison, before Elrond held up the spoon Elladan had handed him.  “What do you think of it?” he began, echoing Eärendil’s words as they played in his memory…




Elrohir watched a little golden-haired child amble across the great stone bridge and up into a gnarled elm, and mused pensively.  He and Elladan had, unintentionally, greatly upset the young one upon first meeting—something which he very much regretted, and not merely because the child’s father, the great Elvenking of the Greenwood, had locked them out of his palace for the night.  They had camped many days as they journeyed from home to Thranduil’s domain, so it was no great hardship.  It had, however, prevented them from making amends to the child.  Of course, there was no guarantee making amends was even possible, at least not on this trip.  Perhaps, when he was older and could laugh more readily at the thought of a mud puddle eating the mighty Glorfindel…


“I must attempt it, at least,” Elrohir murmured to himself.  “Even if we are sent packing as a result, I cannot leave without at least apologizing.”


Steeling his resolve, Elrohir ambled up to the elm and called out, “Legolas, may I come up and speak with you?”


He could see the child quite clearly, despite the foliage, and grimaced as Legolas turned away, presenting a very a cold shoulder to him. 


“Please, Legolas, I only wish to apologize,” begged Elrohir.  “And, I hope, perhaps, we may begin again in our acquaintance.”


He peered up hopefully, but Legolas did not budge.  Elrohir tapped his chin, pondering how he might win over the child, at least enough to be allowed up the tree, and then it came to him.  Reaching into his tunic, he pulled at a piece of wood he had been idly carving during their travels. 


Holding it for a clear view, he called out, “Do you know what this is?”


Elrohir bit back a smile as Legolas’s head turned a fraction—just enough to see the object out of the corner of his eye.


“This is a very special thing,” Elrohir continued.  “My father taught me about it when I was very young…not a lot older than you are now, actually.”  He smiled as Legolas turned a little more.  “The knowledge of the craft is very ancient, you know.”


“Who taught him, then? A Feanorian?  I’ve no interest in learning about a wicked craft of the Feanorians…,” Legolas announced, even as he turned fully toward Elrohir, his eyes intently studying the object.


“Nay, it was no Feanorian,” insisted Elrohir.  “It was his own father who taught him of the craft.” 


“Eärendil!” gasped Legolas, eyes wide with wonder. 


“Indeed,” confirmed Elrohir. “And who do you think Eärendil learned it from?”


Legolas’s brow furrowed in thought a moment, before he answered, tentatively, “Tuor?”


“It is a good guess,” Elrohir replied, “but, nay, was not Tuor.” 


“Who, then?” inquired Legolas, his curiosity now fully engaged.


“It was an elf named…” Elrohir paused for dramatic effect.  “Legolas!” he finished with a grin.  “Legolas of the House of the Tree, of Gondolin, to be exact.”


The child’s eyes grew even wider.  “Truly?” he gasped.


Elrohir nodded, earnestly.  “Truly, and if you will allow me to join you in your tree, I shall gladly tell you a tale of Eärendil and Legolas of the Gondolin and the passing of the knowledge of the spoons.”


He quirked his head in question and waited, hopefully, for Legolas’s answer.  As the child patted the branch beside him, Elrohir grinned.  He bound up into the tree with one quick leap and, settling down comfortable, handed the unfinished spoon to Legolas for closer inspection. 


“What do you think of it,” Elrohir asked. 


“It’s very pretty,” Legolas answered, earning a slight bow from Elrohir in acknowledgement of the compliment.  “But it seems like a lot of work for a wooden spoon that will only be thrown away one day.”


“Were it simply a spoon, that might be true,” Elrohir agreed.


“Is it not a spoon?” queried Legolas. 


“Of sorts,” Elrohir replied, cryptically.  He smiled as a deep furrow etched the child’s brow. “It is a spoon, but it is not the sort one eats with.”


“Ooooh” Legolas responded.  “It is a symbol for something, isn’t it?  A story, of sorts?  That’s what all the little carvings are for, right?”


Elrohir laughed, impressed.  “Indeed!  You are very astute, little one.”


Legolas smiled with delight at both the compliment and the knowledge that he had figured out the spoon all on his own.


“Back in the long ago, when working gold and silver and gems was not so common as it is today, spoons such as this were carved as a gift to be given as a pledge to another…a beloved,” Elrohir explained. “And each of the carvings has a meaning; each is a special part of the tale of hopes and desires for a future with that beloved.”


Legolas grinned, once again enraptured. 


“Shall I teach you how to carve one of your own, whilst I explain the symbols of this one to you?” Elrohir asked, with a quirk of the head. 


Legolas nodded, eagerly. 


And thus, with a grin, Elrohir began…and so did a friendship that would last the ages. 


The end. 



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