"Are you out of your mind, Lass?" Esendri said from a few steps behind. "Your father is in a black enough mood, and I would think it best for you to lie low and instead focus your energy on regaining his favour!"
"Come on Sen, stop being such a sluggard!"
It had been two weeks since the disastrous events with the Dwarves. Two weeks of shame and guilt that Legolas would not forget easily, and it was today that he planned to rectify all of that. It had been torture, enduring the frosty treatment from his father and brother.
"You will never make it back to the palace on time!" said Esendri, as he saw they were headed for the stables.
"Which is why we shall be taking the horses!" Legolas said, grinning back at him.
"Good morning, Mellarin!" he cried, running up to the stable-master and giving him a hug.
"'Tis early to see you here, Legolas!" Mellarin was a good friend of the young ones, for they often snuck down to the stables with pleas to work with the horses, and their cheery voices and innocent eagerness were the highlight of his day.
"Father has given me the day off, and Sen and I fully intend to make the most of it! We shall therefore require two steeds!"
Mellarin did not question his motives, although he risked a frown at them. What two young Elves wanted with horses at six in the morning was anybody's guess. He smiled and headed into the stables, beckoning for them to follow him.
"I hope you know what you are doing!" he said.
"Fear not, Mellarin!" Legolas gave him a wide grin, before leaping onto the horse. He had not yet reached an age in which to be given a personal steed, and rode with any horse he came into contact with. Nissiriel, however, was one of his personal favourites.
"I fear I can only spare you Nissiriel today, Legolas."
"I doubt even Sen has put on so much weight that she can nary bear us both!" Legolas said, giggling. "We shall not linger, as there are important deeds to be done!"
It was long past midday before Esendri and Legolas reached their destination.
Legolas dismounted, the long and relentless ride taking its toll, and he tried to hide the pain from his recent injuries. This was not missed Esendri, who clucked at him.
"I see you have not yet to make a full recovery, Master!"
Legolas scowled as he tried to regain his composure. He chose to ignore the jibe, and instead turned and faced Nissiriel, telling her to follow him
"Halt, who goes there?" a gruff voice called.
"I am Legolas of the woodland realm, and wish to start negotiations with your leader!" said Legolas in a clear voice.
A short laugh escaped the sentry's throat, as he beheld the Elves before him.
"Go home to your mothers, Elves, before I make you sorry for ever setting foot here!"
Legolas pulled out a long sceptre hidden within his cloak, and held it out to the Dwarf, ignoring Esendri, who tried hard not to choke.
Ignoring Esendri's frantic movements, Legolas continued, "This is the sceptre of Nargorin, the staff of power of Eryn Galen's royal household, and I command you to bring me to your leader!"
The Dwarf's eyes widened in disbelief. An Elf barely out of his mother's womb coming as a representation of the Elven kingdom? Still, his instincts told him that the staff he wielded in his hands was precious at the very least.
They reached the entrance of the Dwarven realm, only to be greeted by the sight of Galdin himself about to embark on a hunting party.
Galdin spotted the Elves, and he choked on a breath of smoke.
"What? Got yourselves caught again have you, Elflings?"
"I am Legolas of Eryn Galen, and have come to start formal negotiations with you as a representative of my people!" Legolas said, brandishing the sceptre . "This is the sceptre of Nargorin, and while I wield it, you shall give me the full protection your people can offer! To violate this would be to engage in an act of war, and this, my people will not suffer!"
Galdin took a step forward for a closer look at the staff, ensuring that his eyes were not deceiving him. He sucked a few times on his pipe before speaking.
"What is it you wish to talk about, Elf?"
"That you take back your agreement made with my father two weeks ago to the day!"
A huge roar of laughter went out among the Dwarves, each of them louder than the next, and it was long before the mocking sound died out, as they looked at Legolas, an Elf not even their height.
"Look, Elf, I do not have the time nor the patience for your childish games. Be thankful that your father valued you enough to agree to our conditions. I doubt that he will be so generous a second time around, so I suggest you go home to him and leave us alone!"
A hot, angry flush rose in Legolas's face, and he struggled to push it down.
"I was the one you took captive, and it was I that you should have struck the bargain with!" he said, surprising the Dwarves with his composure, for he had learnt much from his father and watching court sessions.
"And what would you bargain with, little one? Your toys?" said Galdin.
It was Esendri's turn to flush red, and he would have lashed out at the rudeness of the Dwarf had Legolas not given him a silencing glare.
The laughter that broke out this time was louder and more derisive than before.
Legolas waited for the jeers to die down, before taking a deep breath.
"That none of your greatest warriors is any match for me."
"Now really, that is the most ludicrous thing next to the assertion that Elves are superior to Dwarves!" said Galdin, chuckling.
"Five days from now, at dawn, bring your greatest warriors and meet me fifteen miles east of Eryn Galen in the plains of Newarth, under the shadow of the great sycamore tree. I shall fell them in five different competitions on mutually agreed terms."
"If you should fail in any of these?"
"I shall become a slave to your people for the rest of my life!"
"You do realise that is forever!"
Legolas did not reply, and instead stuck his chin out in defiance.
"Are you serious about this, Elfling?" Galdin relented, deciding to offer him a chance to step down for Legolas was very young after all.
"You are not scared, are you?"
Galdin turned an unpleasant shade. Whether he realised it or not, Legolas had questioned the pride and honour of an entire Dwarven people, and that Galdin would never allow. He had to take up Legolas's challenge, or be humiliated and be seen as without a shed of dignity.
"Very well, the deal is set. If you win, I would gladly null the agreement made between me on your father and return the goods I hold as mine to your family. On top of that, I am willing to throw in the entire contents of my treasury in as a bonus! What guarantee would you give me as proof that I will not turn up for this meeting in vain?"
"On my word as a Silvan prince, we shall meet five days from now!"
"It's a deal!"
Legolas did not wait, and retraced his steps back towards to the forest.
"Have you gone completely insane?" Esendri shouted as soon as they were out of earshot. "Of all the things, to lay such a bet with the Dwarves! Do you not recall what they did to you the last time they lay their filthy hands on you?"
"Which is why it is ever more important that I beat them!" Legolas said, before swinging himself onto the back of the horse.
Esendri almost screamed in frustration at his stubbornness. Did Legolas not realise that he could die from it? But then again, the threat of losing his life was always one of the last reasons to hold Legolas back from doing anything.
"I have half a mind to go straight to your father, Legolas! It was bad enough that you steal his sceptre, but imagining that you can Dwarven warriors is pure madness!"
"Had I thought you would have done so, I would never have let you into it!"
Shrugging in defeat, Esendri mounted the horse, and said, "If you insist on this you might do well to rest yourself well. It is not wise to compete when you are still hurting from previous injuries!"
Legolas did not answer, knowing he had won.
"Ai, Lass, I do not even pretend to understand what goes through that thick skull of yours!" Esendri said.
"Do not try then!"
"Remember not to cry when I fail to piece you together after the Dwarves are through with you then!"
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.