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As they were waiting for their slices of pie, Dar and Cani importuned their adar, demanding to know how it was that he was part of the Warrior Society.
“You never told us,” Dar said accusingly.
“It was not relevant,” Vorondur replied calmly. “When you were alive, we were living among people who barely had the concept of warfare except for the occasional skirmish against one or two of the neighboring tribes and you may recall that our very presence among them kept the tribes quiescent, especially after what I did to them the first time one of the tribes attacked our village. This was when you were still a baby so you wouldn’t remember. Now Cani and I fought in a couple of the wars between the Greeks and Persians, but there was nothing like our Warrior Society among the Greeks. We simply showed up for the battle as did everyone else.”
The two brothers gave their adar wondering looks. “What did you do… when the village was attacked?” Dar asked. “I remember how respectful, even fearful, everyone was of you and that the headman, Tangaroa, always consulted you whenever there was a problem that needed to be solved.”
“What I did is also immaterial,” Vorondur replied firmly. “Suffice to say that I put the fear of God in them, to borrow a phrase common among the Mortals of this day. Now, eat your pie.”
Nielluin, in the meantime, was importuning Finrod with her own questions. “What about Gary and Gwyn? They’re warriors. Shouldn’t they be initiated into the Warrior Society? Maybe we can have a blooding ceremony for them when they come for the Fourth of July.”
Finrod smiled upon his niece. “Child, I doubt if either one would see the point.”
“But they’re warriors! They should be initiated. Everyone else is!”
“Not everyone, my dear,” Amarië said with a light laugh, taking the elleth’s arm and leading her away, giving Finrod a knowing smile which he returned. “Your Gary, as you call him, is indeed a warrior, as is his brother. Anyone with eyes can see that, but neither one grew up in an elven society so they have no expectations about our customs.”
“It’s just not fair though,” Nielluin protested.
“Well, perhaps when they come up to visit your uncle will ask them if they wish to join. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled by the invitation.”
“Do you think so, Aunt?” Nielluin asked hopefully.
“Of that I have no doubt. Now have some pie.”
Glorfindel and Daeron were speaking to Eönwë as the three stood eating their pie. “Are you really eating that or just pretending?” Glorfindel couldn’t help asking as he watched the Maia apparently enjoying the dessert, even going so far as to praise the cooks.
Daeron looked a little shocked at Glorfindel’s question, but Eönwë gave him a wide smile. “You’re forgetting what every Mortal child of high school age knows, Glorfindel, that all matter is energy and I am pure energy. What you see here is merely a mask that I don for your benefit, and while I am not fully incarnate, I can still experience the universe through the five physical senses to which you mirroanwi are limited. So, yes, I am indeed enjoying this delicious pie and yes, it is being consumed and converted into pure energy on which I draw sustenance.”
“So how many senses do you have?” Daeron asked in curiosity.
“In my natural form?” Eönwë asked and when Daeron nodded he shrugged. “It’s rather hard to describe as you have no frame of reference. You incarnates gather information about the world around you and within you through your senses, your brain interpreting what your eyes, ears, nose, tongue and other parts of your body tell you and that information comes to you in discrete parts, I suppose you could say. For instance, your eyes provide information that your ears do not and vice versa.” Both ellyn nodded in understanding.
“At any rate,” Eönwë continued, “your brain, which is truly a marvel, is capable of taking the different bits of information from your various sense organs, synthesizing them into a coherent whole, and you experience the universe around you as a whole. With us, when we are in our natural forms, all that information comes to us at once without any mediation. In my natural form, I really do not have eyes as such. I do not have to turn around, for instance, to see what is behind me because there is no ‘behind’ or ‘front’ for me. I ‘see’ the universe in a panoramic, three-hundred-sixty-degree manner and my mind is able to process all that information without me going insane.” He gave them a bright smile as the two just stared at him in wonder.
“But when you’re incarnate?” Glorfindel finally asked.
“Then we are limited in the same manner as you are,” Eönwë answered, “and let me tell you that for us, it is like you putting blinkers on your head so you can only see what’s immediately before you and stuffing your ears with cotton so every sound is muffled and donning thick gloves so you can’t feel anything.”
“That has to be… frightening,” Daeron said faintly.
Eönwë shrugged. “Which is why most of us prefer to remain disincarnate or just manifesting a fana that is solid enough to interact with you, as I am doing now, but what you are seeing is merely a small fraction of my actual being. The rest of me is… larger.”
“How large?” Glorfindel couldn’t help asking.
Eönwë gave him an amused look. “Large enough.” He handed him his now empty plate. “Great pie. Thanks. Well, I must be off.” He gave them a deep sigh of regret which they knew was feigned. “Places to go, people to annoy. You know how it is.”
Both ellyn laughed. “Oh, yes, indeed,” Daeron said. Eönwë gave them a brief bow and then he simply wasn’t there. The two incarnates sighed almost as one, staring at the spot where the Maia had been.
“Why do I always feel slightly bereft whenever any of them leave?” Daeron asked, looking troubled.
Glorfindel gave him a hug and a brief kiss on the forehead. “Perhaps it is because while they are in our presence we are that much closer to the Source of all our being. They bring with them an ancient light from before the first star ever to blaze in the heavens.”
Daeron gave him a surprised look. “We’re getting rather philosophical in our old age, aren’t we?”
“You wish,” Glorfindel retorted and the minstrel laughed.
Monday morning, bright and early, the Elves who were volunteering their time to help out at Elf Camp were at Elf Academy to welcome the children who arrived around eight with their parents. True to his word, Daeron had washed his hair and refused to rebraid it, saying that, since none of the other ellyn braided their hair, he shouldn’t have to either. No one argued with him about it.
It took about an hour to get through the registration and assigning the children to various classrooms which had been transformed with tables and chairs suitable for each age group where they were given instructions on a variety of subjects, from Sindarin to sword-making, though all weapons were boffer weapons for safety reasons. There were even more traditional arts-and-crafts, such as finger painting for the little ones and working with clay or papier-mâché for the older children.
Nor were the Elves the only instructors. There were several Mortals, mostly teachers or stay-at-home moms, helping out as well. The program was highly structured with everyone knowing what they would be doing at all times. Lunch was served in the cafeteria and afterwards, the little ones were escorted to the physical education building where they donned foam-rubber helmets and armor and wielded their newly made swords with the Elves teaching them simple moves. Glorfindel helped out there, calmly and patiently giving the children instructions and even the most restless of them paid strict attention to him. The other adults could tell that the children were in absolute awe of him and hung on his every word. A boffer tournament was planned for the last day of the camp, but until then, the children were given instructions on proper use of weapons and tournament etiquette.
Older children were given lessons in woodcraft with the Elves taking them into the woods bordering the college. Daeron had devised a scavenger hunt that they would go on at the end of the week that would involve them having to use what they’d been taught about tracking and such in order to find the clues and the prize.
Nielluin helped out as well, putting into practice all which that she had learned in her classes and she proved a big help to Daeron, keeping things organized. Daeron actually did very little. Even a month after the shooting he was still feeling weak, though he was improving every day. His healers warned him not to overtax himself.
“I know you’ve been looking forward to this,” Vardamir told him, “but we don’t need you collapsing in the middle of it all and frightening the children, now do we?”
So Daeron acquiesced and contented himself with wandering the halls and slipping into classrooms now and then and observing the controlled chaos that children of all ages seemed to engender whatever their activities. He especially loved being around the youngest and when he stepped into their classroom, which was being run by Eirien and a Mortal kindergarten teacher named Claire Bettinger, the children all stopped what they were doing and swarmed around him begging him for a story. He gave the two women an apologetic look. Eirien just smiled knowingly and offered him a chair while Claire chivvied the children to sit quietly on the colorful mats that had been brought in for the children’s use. Daeron waited for a few minutes until they were all settled before speaking.
“So, what story would you like to hear?” he asked.
“I wanna hear about a printheth,” one little moppet lisped, her two front teeth missing.
“A dragon,” one of the little boys declared and all the other little boys and even some of the girls nodded.
“Ah, well, let me see what I can come up with, shall we?” Daeron said with a fond smile and at the enthusiastic nods of the children he began. “Well, once upon a time in a far-away land called Beleriand there lived a beautiful princess named Lúthien….”
Afterwards, while the kindergarten teacher was handing out the children’s midmorning snack of orange juice and muffins, Eirien said to Daeron, “An interesting mix of truth and fantasy.”
Daeron shrugged. “They don’t need to know that, not yet at any rate. For them, they just want to be told stories where good conquers evil and dragons are put in their place. It is how they learn to take control over their world. Fairy tales tell them what they already suspect, that dragons (both literal and metaphorical ones) are for real, but they also teach them that dragons are not to be feared but dealt with in a proper manner. The problem, of course, is that the adults have all forgotten that fairy tales were not originally written for the children but for them, which is why most have forgotten how to slay the dragons in their lives.”
Eirien nodded and Claire, who had overheard the conversation, had a wondering look. Daeron excused himself then and continued on his way, deciding to check in with one of the older groups being run by Cennanion and Alphwen where he found the youngsters busy learning the fine art of calligraphy and illumination, copying out a text in Sindarin on sheets of vellum and illustrating it. When he read the text, he raised an eyebrow in disbelief and gave Cennanion an enquiring look.
“Are you trying to embarrass me, mellon nín?” he asked softly.
Cennanion shrugged and smiled. “Alphwen picked out the text,” he said in defense.
“That’s right, blame me,” the elleth said with a sniff. “Actually, I asked Finrod and he was the one to suggest this section of the Lay of Leithian where Beren stumbles upon you and Lúthien.”
“Not one of my finer moments,” Daeron said sadly.
“Hey, we all screw up,” Cennanion protested, “and, in the end, things turned out well enough, didn’t it?”
“How do you figure that?” Daeron demanded.
The ellon shrugged. “You’re here, aren’t you? I don’t think this place would run half as well as it does without you, to tell you the truth. You have a real gift.”
“Thank you,” Daeron said with all humility. Alphwen gave him a hug and he left them to continue with the class, staying just long enough to admire the children’s handiwork and praising them for their efforts. When he left, he made his way to his office where he sat for the longest time, thinking about all the mistakes of the past he had made and wondering what his life might be like now if he hadn’t done what he did.
“More than likely, I would have died in Doriath,” he said to himself. “I’m not sure if that wouldn’t have been better.” Then he sighed deeply and glancing at the clock realized he needed to get back to monitoring the halls. It was almost time for lunch and he had already warned the others that he would call each class separately to the cafeteria starting with the youngest.
Putting aside his morose feelings he left the office, running into Melyanna who had come searching for him. She had been helping out in one of the classes and had worried when Daeron hadn’t shown up as he had promised to check on how she was getting on with her class of ten-year-olds. She had left the Mortal teacher who was helping her to handle the class while she went to find Daeron.
“Are you all right, my love?” she asked with some concern.
“I am now,” he responded with a smile, taking her into his embrace and they exchanged kisses. “Come, help me with the lunch detail. We’ll let the little ones get settled in their own corner first before we allow the older students to invade the cafeteria.”
She chuckled and they made their way to the first classroom arm-in-arm.
By the end of the first day, all the Elves who had helped out with Elf Camp were exhausted.
“You weren’t kidding about those children running us ragged,” Glorfindel declared to Daeron as he sat down to dinner. “And this is only the first day!”
“It gets better, I promise,” Daeron said with a smile. “Do you still want to pursue a career in childcare, Nielluin?”
“Oh yes!” the elleth exclaimed. “Now more than ever.”
Finrod smiled at his niece in approval. “I am glad to hear it,” he said, then turned to Glorfindel. “Do you feel ready to begin training? I think we both need to start getting back into it. I met Jud von Frank earlier when he stopped at the bookstore and he told me that the SCA group is coming along nicely, but they have no one to teach them sword fighting, though a number of people have decided to do fencing instead. As it is, there’s no one to act as a marshal and that is something for which they need to be certified. I told him I would talk to you about it.”
Glorfindel nodded. “We need to speak to Gwyn and Gareth about that, find out what the procedures are for being marshals and perhaps getting some specs for the armor. As I recall, there was a wide variety of armor types rather than a single style when we witnessed that demo in Fairbanks. Apparently fighters wear the type of armor their persona would have typically worn in the day. We need to find out what the rules are. We can certainly help with the making of armor and swords and any other weapons. That wouldn’t be a problem. Now as for you and me, well, I have no objections. I’m healed enough and so are you. We’d best get started before we both grow soft and flabby.”
Everyone chuckled at that. “I doubt that will ever happen, gwador,” Finrod said. “Very well, perhaps we can arrange something in the evenings. Can we borrow one of the gyms for our own workouts, do you think?”
“I don’t see a problem with that,” Glorfindel said. “I’ll check with the college admin and see what is available. Now that it’s summer, there won’t be evening classes anyway and no sports so the phys. ed. building should be free for our use. But let’s wait until Elf Camp is done with.”
“Fine by me,” Finrod said.
“What about the rest of us?” Barahir asked. “If you are training, we should as well.” Several of the other ellyn nodded.
“I’ll see what I can do,” Glorfindel promised and they had to content themselves with that.
The rest of the week went by quickly enough and, as Daeron promised, it did get better. By midweek the Elves were thoroughly enjoying themselves with the children who responded in kind, joining in the activities planned for them with great enthusiasm. Saturday would be the last day of camp and there were only two planned activities: the boffer tournament and the scavenger hunt in the morning followed by a cookout. The parents of the campers joined them to cheer on the youngsters.
Glorfindel, along with several of the other ellyn donned light armor and took turns fighting and dying as the little ones attacked with great enthusiasm if not with any measure of skill or finesse. There was much laughter and cheering among the spectators and it was obvious that everyone was enjoying themselves.
While the tournament was going on, the older children were happily hunting for clues in the scavenger hunt, moving through the woods in teams, nor had the Elves made it easy for them. Some of them even participated, acting as one of the clues, for the children had to find them as they hid in the woods and they had to ask the right questions, always in Sindarin, before they were offered the necessary clues. Even the trees became involved in the game as the Elves had them randomly block the way the children could go, forcing them to go in other directions, but they were very careful to keep track of all the children, making sure that none became unduly lost or frightened. In the end, the children exited the woods in triumph with a team of two girls and a boy having found the ‘treasure’ which turned out to be a bag of commemorative gold coins, enough so each child attending the camp could have one. The coins were stamped in Sindarin with the words ‘Elf Camp’ and the year.
“Not real gold,” Daeron assured one of the parents during the cookout, “and you will see that it has a small hole so you can string it for Lisa to wear.” He smiled fondly at the twelve-year-old who was happily munching on a hot dog while she and her friends rehashed the fun they had had in finding and figuring out the clues.
Later, when the last Mortal had left and the Elves were cleaning up, Glorfindel said to Daeron, “That was certainly a lot of fun and a lot of work. I can understand why you’re taking a two-week break between sessions.”
“Do you think you will want to help out in the next session?” Daeron asked.
“I’ll have to see how things are going. Even if I’m not able to help out during the week, I will make it a point to be there for the last day and help out with the boffer tournament.” He flashed Daeron a bright smile. “I enjoyed myself very much and I didn’t mind dying over and over again, either.”
Daeron chuckled. “I’m glad to hear it, mellon nîn, very glad indeed.”
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