Esendri had gotten lost in his haste to reach the palace in double time, and only managed to find the palace long after the sun had set.
He stumbled into Felnor's study, breathing hard and a sorry sight.
"Esendri, come to collect your punishment, have you? Has your master decided to surrender himself yet? His mother is quite beside herself with worry for him. In case he has failed to realise, he has been gone for more than a day!"
"Nay, Lord Felnor!" Esendri cried, "Legolas and Caeriel have been taken captive!"
Felnor leapt to his feet, knocking his chair over.
Esendri took a few gulps of air before answering.
"We were on the eastern edge of the forest when a party of Dwarves us. They did not say who they were or what their intentions were. It was only through Legolas' efforts that I managed to escape their clutches!"
"Calm down, Esendri, you will do Legolas no good in this state. I need you to summon Prince Dethronir to the King's study, and by no accounts allow the Queen to find out about what has befallen Legolas!"
Esendri nodded and was off like the wind, knocking over a few maids in his haste, but did not stop to apologise.
It was not long before he made his way to the King's study with Dethronir, who had let out a sigh of resignation and his shoulders to slump when he heard of the latest mess his younger brother had gotten himself into.
Thranduil was upon Esendri in a second as he entered the room.
"Pray tell, Esendri, what is this madness that has befallen you? Taking off from a lesson, and staying out the whole night? Have you any idea how frantic the Queen is with worry?"
Esendri fell to his knees. "My apologies, my Lord, it is entirely my fault, do not blame Legolas!"
Thranduil and Felnor exchanged glances. They would have to be obtuse indeed to buy his story.
"He has managed to land himself in the hands of Dwarves?" Thranduil said, after he had fought down his own panic and composed himself to be able to speak.
"Perhaps we should leave him in their hands for a while; they deserve each other!" Dethronir muttered under his breath, earning a venomous glare from Esendri.
Thranduil did not rebuke him, acknowledging the half-truth of his words.
"The Dwarves are bold indeed, taking Legolas captive! I wonder what their motives could be?"
"Your Majesty, every minute lost is one in which Master Legolas suffers unnecessarily!" Esendri said, unable to control his growing impatience any further.
Thranduil looked at him and thought for a while before he spoke.
"You will not understand the workings behind this, Esendri. While we have no love for the Dwarves, to attack their party and rescue Legolas will not do. It will be an act of war, and that, I cannot allow!"
"But it was they who struck the first blow, taking us captive!"
"Hush, Esendri, do not pretend to understand it while you clearly do not!" Dethronir said, causing him to blush. Why did Dethronir always have to make him feel so inadequate?
"He does speak some truth, Dethronir," Thranduil said, "We ride out in search of Legolas and the Dwarves!
"Ready the steeds, take ten of your best men along,"
Both Felnor and Dethronir took their leave, acknowledging their orders.
Once Esendri was left alone with the king, he looked at the ground, knowing that there was business Thranduil wanted with him.
"My Lord - " he said, only to be cut off with a wave of the hand.
"I do not wish to hear any more apologies, for I am certain that you would have done everything in your power to keep him safe. It is I who should be extending my apologies to you instead, for the trouble Legolas has brought upon you time and again!" Thranduil said, causing Esendri to baulk in disbelief. The King was apologising - to him!
"It is my duty, and one that I take on gladly!"
It was then that someone pushed aside the silk that separated the study from the King's chambers, and a female Elf cloaked in hunting garb stepped in, her golden hair tied back loosely, graceful presence filling the room.
"I shall ride with you, my Lord," she said.
"Linn, you need not do so!" he said, only to be transfixed by the determination in her usually gentle eyes.
"Legolas is my son a, and I would not suffer to wait behind these walls for news of him! Esendri shall ride with me!"
"Very well, so be it!" Thranduil gave in with nary a struggle, before he left to instruct his servants to prepare another horse for Tuilinniel.
Left alone with the Queen, Esendri tried to smile, but found that his throat constricted, and his eyes grew moist. Tuilinniel stepped up and scooped him into an embrace, stroking his trembling frame and whispering words of comfort.
"Do not fear for Legolas, for does your heart not tell you he is well?" Her calming presence had a soothing effect on the Esendri, who stopped his trembling. He looked up into her eyes, only to be met with kindness and affection. How could he feel anything but peace in her presence?
In spite of her outward appearance, Tuilinniel felt anything but calm. She was filled with worry, but centuries of practice had taught her to maintain an air of serene encouragement in the face of danger.
"Come, let us get you a change of clothes before we ride out." She let go of Esendri and took his hand, leading him back to his own room, where she waited for him to change out of his ruined clothes.
Esendri was about to leave when he remembered something, and turned red, before beckoning for Tuilinniel to enter Legolas's room next to his own. She looked about it hesitantly, as Legolas was fiercely protective of his own domain. There were times when he refused entry to any but Esendri, as was the case for the last week. The room was kept tidy and clean, toys put away, books stacked on the shelves. In one corner lay some half-made wooden carvings, and the only thing out of place was a wooden flute lying in the middle of the floor. Esendri returned, face flushed, clutching a bottle.
Without explanation, he walked over to a wicker basket by Legolas' bed, and removed the cloth draped over it. Tuilinniel gasped as Esendri picked up a little creature, cradling it close, and offering the bottle to it. The wet nose sniffed a few times, before the cub started to suck, squeaking with happiness as it swallowed the milk.
"We found him alone, abandoned in the forest, and had to take him in! Legolas was worried that his father would yell, so we never told anyone about it!"
A small smile lit up Tuilinniel's face, and she tried hard to hide her amusement. Thranduil had put his foot down when Legolas had brought a bird into the nursery that had almost blinded him when he was five. Since then, he had been forbidden to bring any animals from the forest back into the palace.
"Look, he is starving!" Esendri said, "Lass thinks it will only be a week ere he be ready to be weaned!"
"Tell me, Esendri, that this is the first time you have come across an abandoned cub! I did wonder why he asked me for a basket and refused to say what it was for!"
Esendri turned red, and muttered a brief apology under his breath. He finished feeding the cub, and tucked the small creature back into the basket, stroking its face one last time before he stood up and faced Tuilinniel.
"Please do not make me throw him out, for he will die should he be left alone!"
"It shall be our little secret," she said, smiling.
"Now we are ready to head off in search of Lass!" Esendri said, reaching up and taking Tuilinniel's hand, dragging her across the large room.
"The fox-cub has been fed, but what about the little Elf?" said Tuilinniel, leading him towards the kitchens, where she instructed a packed basket be made for both him and the missing young Elves.
Once ready, they rushed to the stables, where the rest were waiting.
"Esendri needs to eat," Tuilinniel said. "As do Caeriel and Legolas."
"Very well." Thranduil did not argue, but was eager to start. "We ride in search of the Dwarves!"
The party mounted their steeds and left, taking their instructions from Esendri, who rode with Tuilinniel, eating as they picked up their pace through the forest.
It was a while before Esendri managed to find the site of the scuffle, for he had taken a roundabout way both times. The sky was brightening, and the Elves were grim as they surveyed the site.
"There were more than thirty of them, my Lord," Felnor said, after a brief consultation with his lead tracker.
"What business have they this far deep in our lands, for it has been long since Dwarves have dared venture uninhibited into Eryn Galen?" Dethronir said, voicing the question on everybody's minds.
Thranduil looked grave. "We still have a chance of catching up with them if we hurry!"
"Father, is it wise to take them back by force?"
Thranduil did not answer.
"Your brother may be suffering in their hands!" Tuilinniel said.
Dethronir lowered his head and held his peace, and the Elves started off again.
Following the trail through the trees, the party soon came across the spot where Esendri had made his escape. He did a brief recounting of how Legolas had helped him escape, leaving out the details about the magic. Dethronir remained stony-faced, eyes sweeping about the area with increased vigilance. He dismounted and walked over to the spot where Legolas had knelt and summoned the magic, and ran his bare hand through the grass. He then stood up, fixed Esendri with a peculiar glance, before resuming his place without a word.
It was another couple of hours before the party broke through the canopy and were faced with the sight of a huge, rocky plain.
"The trail gets murky here, for we are unable to track them over bare rock," Felnor said.
"Galdin," Thranduil said. "Come, we shall ride to their colony and demand the release of my son!"
Esendri was filled with excitement. The search for Legolas was over, and the Dwarves would be made to pay for their imprudence!
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.