Legolas Greenleaf crouched over the fresh tracks before him, studying them carefully. The small prints were his second unexpected find of the day; the first had been the orc prints they overlaid. Few of those fell creatures had escaped Erebor, and most that had were hidden in the deepest of holes. Yet, all the same, he found himself on the trail of an orc party.
And it would seem I do not hunt them alone,
he observed, an amused smile gracing his fair features. Rising, he continued quickly but noiselessly along the path the orcs – and the mortal child – had taken.
“Too young to go hunting in the mountains! I am not too young," said a sulky voice carried to Legolas’s ears on the light breeze. “I will kill so many orcs without them, the minstrels will write new songs about ‘Estel the Mighty Slayer of Orcs'. Nay, not Estel…” The small voice paused as its owner deliberated, and then it announced, “They shall name me ‘Aragorn the Mighty Orc Slayer!’”
A noisy little hunter! He will soon find himself the prey if he keeps it up,
Legolas surmised silently. Frowning in disapproval, he pressed forward even faster to intercept the lad.
Estel soon came into view. He had ceased his grumbling and stood with eyes closed, intently focused, listening for his prey. Legolas shook his head in renewed amusement. The lad knows how to play the part, if naught else,
Still in listening pose, Estel turned toward the elf. It was not possible that the lad had heard him, but Legolas reflexively lit, with graceful ease, into the branches above. Estel completed a slow circle without pause, and Legolas silently exhaled.
The boy lingered another moment and then stepped, crouched and silent, in the direction the orcs had gone. Legolas’s lips quirked with startled approval.
My young hunter has a fine sense of smell, at least,
he thought. Curious to see if Estel had any skill with the small bow he carried, Legolas decided not to interfere, yet. There were only six orcs. He could take them swiftly enough to prevent harm from befalling the lad should the sight of them not turn him from his quest.
As Legolas closed the distance between him and Estel, the lad abruptly halted, much too near the orcs for the elf’s comfort. Nocking an arrow, he watched Estel peer intently through the foliage. Legolas raised his bow as the lad nocked an arrow and took aim. Estel’s dart missed its mark, but the elven arrow did not. The boy grinned in self-congratulations and, puffed up with confidence, stood his ground as the orcs angrily turned his direction.
Estel loosed two more arrows in quick succession. Matching his timing, but with greater force, Legolas felled the two targets and swiftly readied another shaft. The remaining orcs howled with fury, advancing toward the child. For a moment Legolas thought that he would turn and flee, but he did not. Estel hastily loosed another arrow. It simply tumbled to the ground, but he noticed only that his target fell.
Legolas smiled and shook his head incredulously, but it was time for the game to end. Loosing one arrow in time with the lad, he quickly nocked a second and shifted toward the final orc. Mere feet from the boy, it raised its crude scimitar and howled.
Estel scrambled backward and threw up an arm to block his face, cringing away from the mortal blow he expected. When the orc fell dead at his feet with an arrow planted firmly in its chest, his eyes widened and his jaw dropped. He spun to find the archer and, after a moment or two, spied the elf amongst the branches.
Recognizing Legolas, he fell back onto one knee, bowing awkwardly. His brothers had told him of the son of Thranduil when the Wood-elf represented his father at the great Council last summer. The brief glimpse, magnified by his brothers’ stories of the elf’s skill and valor, had made an indelible impression.
Barely stifling a chuckle, Legolas feigned a proper amount of sobriety and acknowledged the bow.
“Well done,” he said. “I am honored to stand before you…Aragorn the Mighty Orc Slayer.”
Estel grinned, thinking that he was indeed ‘Aragorn the Mighty Orc Slayer.’ Then realization dawned. His expression dropping into a frown, he said, “I missed, did I not? It was you who killed the orcs…all of them.”
“Your attempt was nonetheless valiant. I am honored to have been of assistance,” Legolas replied with a grin, but then sobered as distant movement caught his eye. “We must now flee.”
Estel frowned, uncertain he wanted to face more orcs. Seeing the expression, Legolas lightened his own.
“Do not fear. It is not orcs I see, merely your brothers,” he said and chuckled as Estel blanched, though he understood. He’d had enough over-protectiveness inflicted upon him during his long life to sympathize with the lad quivering before him. “It is possible your adventure may be looked upon with slightly less disfavor should you manage to find your way home without their aid.”
Estel’s brow furrowed.
“But I will not manage that…I have lost the way,” he reluctantly admitted, dropping his gaze.
“Never mind. I think you would not manage to evade your brothers without the aid of longer legs anyway,” Legolas said with a smile.
Estel nodded, but did not lift his gaze.
“Do not grieve. None but you and I shall know my part in your song of valor,” said Legolas sympathetically.
His head flying up, Estel gaped at the elf and then grinned conspiratorially.
“Come now, hop up. We must be off,” Legolas instructed. Turning toward the Valley, he trusted that the sight of his arrows strewn amongst the orcs would comfort the twins until he could return to tell them of Estel’s fate.
Glimpsing the form of his young foster son dashing toward the courtyard, Elrond nearly melted with relief and then smiled approvingly. He and Glorfindel had only just returned from searching for the lad. They had found no trace of him and hoped for better news from Elladan and Elrohir. His elder sons had left no word, though. Nor were they anywhere in sight, yet there was Estel. Elrond felt a tickle of pride that the lad had managed to find his own way home seemingly unscathed.
A familiar presence distracted Elrond as he turned to meet the boy. Scanning the tree line, he found whom he sought. Crouched on a thickly leafed branch, Legolas was so well camouflaged that even as master of Imladris, Elrond would not have spotted the Wood-elf had he not felt him.
Elrond grinned, delighted by the Wood-elf’s arrival. Thranduil had sent word that his son intended to pay a visit to a friend left in Rivendell the previous summer to recover from a grave injury received while escorting the prince to the Council. Concerned by a dimness of his son’s spirit, the King had asked Elrond to convince Legolas to stay awhile.
When the Wood-elf abruptly turned and disappeared into the trees, Elrond’s smile fell away and his brow creased in bewilderment. Pondering the departure, he strode quickly out into the courtyard. Estel rocketed into his arms, and Elrond hugged him tightly. The lad would need to be suitably punished for his rare display of reckless disobedience, but Gilraen would do an adequate job of that. For the moment, Elrond wanted to savor the feel of the boy in his arms. Estel returned the hug, but then squirmed from his grasp. Planting himself before Elrond, he stood straight and tall, as if to say, “See, I am big enough to take care of myself.”
Elrond suddenly comprehended why Legolas had not wished his presence known and a smile crossed his features. Mirkwood’s young prince was fiercely loyal to those he called friend -- the sort of ally Estel would need on the difficult road that awaited him. Perhaps this conspiracy would lay the foundation for just such a relationship to develop.
A/N #1:This story takes place in the spring of 2942 Third Age. The battle referred to is the Battle of Five Armies from "The Hobbit" which was fought in early winter of 2941 Third Age. The Council referred to is the Third White Council, held in late summer of 2941 Third Age.
A/N #2: Estel intends ‘Aragorn’ to mean ‘valorous lord’. Whether Estel knew the name ‘Aragorn’ belonged to him, or thought he was inventing an original name and was influenced by a vague memory, I leave for the reader to judge.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.