1. Love Comes In At The Eye
Legolas felt the impact and saw a spreading purple stain on the white fabric of his sleeve. He muttered an obscure Silvan word for feces, barely audible even to his own ears above the roar of the South Fork of the Bruinen. This, being said by an elf, might have been a simple statement of fact. However, under these particular circumstances, it was more like an expletive.
This was not his first visit to Imladris. He had accompanied his elders on envoys to the House of Elrond many times before and was well known to the folk there. However, this was the first time he had come alone and on his own business. Always, Legolas had been in awe of the cultured atmosphere of Rivendell and its peredhel lord, and he was painfully aware of what might be perceived as his own inexperience in diplomatic matters. It simply would not do for him to appear before Master Elrond as a Silvan rustic decked in bird droppings.
To his further annoyance, he took a second hit, this time on the knee of his trousers, and immediately after, another large purple stain appeared on the neck of his grey horse. The animal began to dance sideways, more in response to the mood of its rider than from any fright at being struck, and Legolas heard laughter. This was no bird. Birds do not fire from the side, nor do they take amusement in their handiwork. He turned to see a small boy crouched at the edge of the river with a fistful of ripe berries in his hand.
Another berry caught Legolas dead between the eyes.
"Why, you little runagate, do you think that is funny? Is this the way the elves of Rivendell teach their children to welcome visitors?" He slid off his horse and stormed down the riverbank.
At the sight of the charging elf, the smile faded from the child's face, and he took a step back, tossing the remainder of his berries into the river.
"Look out, you little fool, those rocks are slippery, " Legolas warned. Too late to heed, the boy lost his footing and fell into the water.
Legolas gritted his teeth and was tempted to curse again. He had half a mind to let the brat find his own way out of the river, but the current was swift and it was not in the nature of any of the First Born to risk harm to a child. He quickly shed his cloak and quiver and dove in after the boy.
The chill waters of the Bruinen, born from the meltwater of the glacier on the far mountains above the Valley, cut him like a knife, despite the warmth of the summer day. He gasped from the shock. The treacherous currents threw him more than once against sharp rocks and nearly sucked him under, as he and the boy were swept downstream. Grabbing the boy by the collar, he swam to the bank. Exhausted, cold and gulping in air, they lay on the rocky shore. The boy's dripping mop of dark hair no longer obscured his ears.
"You are no child of the First Born!" Legolas exclaimed. "What are you doing among the folk at Rivendell?"
"I live there, of course," the boy replied, unchastened by his near drowning in the cold water.
"With your parents?" Legolas asked, his curiosity piqued by mention of Edain living at the House of Elrond.
"With my mother. My father is dead. They tell me he was killed by orcs, and little else. I don't remember him at all."
"Well, that would account for your lack of manners," he grumbled. "A father would have taken you in hand before now."
"Do you have a father?" the boy responded boldly.
"Indeed, I do have a father. One who taught me not to throw berries at strangers. But this is none of your concern, young . . .?"
"Estel," the boy answered. "They call me Estel."
"Estel," said Legolas. "In that case, I 'hope' you will give me no further trouble as I return you to Elrond's house and to your mother." He stalked back upstream to where his horse stood waiting, retrieved his weapons and cloak, and threw them over the front of his saddle. He mounted and reached down for the boy. "Come, get up behind me."
"I'm all wet. Aren't you afraid I'll spoil your fine saddle blanket?"
Legolas merely looked down in disgust at his dripping garments and the spreading wet stain on his saddle. "You might as well make it a clean sweep." He jerked his head in a backward gesture that left no room for refusal and kept his hand out. The boy took it and swung up.
Soon, the soggy pair were cantering over the bridge into Rivendell. Legolas stared straight ahead, ignoring the barely suppressed grin of the sentry and the tinkling female laughter that drifted from a gallery overlooking the courtyard. This was hardly the dignified arrival he had hoped for. He was met in the courtyard by a black-haired elf who was, to his relief, well known to him.
"Welcome, Legolas of Mirkwood, son of Thranduil," said his host with exaggerated courtesy.
"Mae govannen, Elladan, son of Elrond of Imladris" Legolas replied, with equal gravity.
With the formalities out of the way, Elladan's amusement seemed to get the better of him. He stepped back as if to take in the full effect, and Legolas realized he must look a sight, with hair ends dripping, soaked garments, telltale purple stains on horse and clothing, and the lad peeking out from behind his back. "You look terrible. I see you've met Estel. What has he done this time?"
Legolas smiled weakly in response. Before he could say anything, a woman appeared from a doorway. Like the boy, she was dark haired, and she seemed to be little more than a girl herself. Her face bore a look of concern that turned into fright when she saw the boy.
"Estel, what happened?"
"I fell in the river, Mama. He pulled me out." Hopping down from the horse, the boy ran to her as if he had not a care in the world, leaving Legolas to dismount more slowly, unable to tear his eyes away from the woman.
"Legolas? Are you unwell? You seem a bit distracted." Elladan's voice brought him around and reminded him to breathe as the woman ushered her son off with a brief backward glance of relief and gratitude.
"Who was that lady?" Legolas asked softly, embarrassed to have been caught gaping at a woman in the public courtyard as if he were an infatuated Elven-youth of forty-nine rather than a nominally dignified prince of the House of Oropher. "She is exquisite -- as beautiful as any elleth."
"She should be, " Elladan replied. "She is kin. All the Dúnedain are, but this lady more than most."
"Dúnedain?" said Legolas, thunderstruck, oblivious to the groom that came to claim his horse and lead it off to the stables.
"Yes. The Lady Gilraen is the widow of a Dúnadan chieftain, and that boy is her son. Legolas, my young friend, you have no idea whom you just fished out of the waters of the Bruinen, have you? I imagine you will be quite the hero with my father when he finds out you saved our young Hope."
Dúnadan chieftan? Hope? "Oh . . . Oh my!" said Legolas, suddenly understanding Elladan's cryptic words. "Then, pray tell, why is the child left to run free like some ill-bred orc?"
"He does not know who he is. He will be told of his lineage in time."
"I suppose there is a kind of wisdom in that," Legolas said, as he followed his host up a path to one of the main buildings. "He already seems to think quite highly of himself, without knowing that he is descended from kings."
Elladan laughed. "He has a spirit, that one. I pity the man or elf that would try to quench it. He will need every bit of that fire before the end comes. For now, we let him enjoy what childhood he can. This is my father's decree and that of Mithrandir."
"Wizards," Legolas snorted. "Then who are you and I to question? I warn you, though, Elladan, you may think he is adorable now, but wait until he grows up and starts lording it over you. You will not find it so amusing then."
They had arrived at a wing of guest chambers. "My father has been informed of your arrival, and he wishes to speak with you as soon as possible. I don't suppose you brought a change of clothing with you?"
Legolas sighed. "No, Elladan, I did not. I did not expect to stay long, and the swim came as a complete surprise. You can be sure I will remedy that oversight in the future, especially with your young fosterling in residence."
"I will lend you some of my garments, and I'll see if the grooms can get the berry stains off your horse. I fear the shirt is a dead loss. Oh, and one more thing . . . Legolas, would you like some towels?"
* * *
Legolas had just finished changing into dry trousers and shirt when a familiar head popped into view over his windowsill, followed quickly by the rest of the boy. Legolas stifled a groan. "Mind that you do not knock my clothes off the railing. I need them dry for tomorrow."
"What are you doing?" Estel enquired brightly.
"At the moment," Legolas replied, "I am drying my hair. You see, I went into the river and got wet, and I cannot go before Master Elrond with it dripping, now can I? Especially not all over this fine borrowed velvet jacket of Elladan's."
"That belongs to Elrohir." said the boy matter-of-factly. "See, it has the blue embroidery around the collar. Elladan wears green. Everyone knows that."
"Is that their fashion now?" said Legolas evenly. "Then, when I see Elrohir I shall be sure to thank him for the generosity of his brother." After several centuries of the twins' 'unique' sense of humor, the pranks barely registered anymore. No doubt this was where Estel had learned that throwing things at guests was funny. The child-rearing theories at Rivendell were strange by Mirkwood standards, or so Legolas thought.
He bent forward from the waist and toweled off his hair. Shaking it out, he ran a comb through it and began to rebraid it.
Estel wandered over to Legolas's bow and quiver and began to examine the matched bone handled knives, earning himself a scowl. "Why do you knot your side hair that way? The men here at Rivendell don't do that."
"It is to keep it out of my face when I am fighting. If you had ever caught your hair in your own bowstring you would understand the wisdom in this."
The boys ears seemed to prick up at the mention of combat. "Do you fight?"
"Only when I have to."
"Do you fight orcs?"
"Again, only when I must."
At this, Estel looked disappointed. "I hate orcs. If I were big like you, or like Elladan and Elrohir, I would fight them every chance I got."
"I am not exactly fond of orcs myself. And no, you would not. Fighting orcs is nowhere near as enjoyable as you seem to think."
"When you're done knotting your hair, are you going to shave your face?" the boy asked brightly.
Legolas looked surprised. "Of course not. Why would I have a need to shave?"
"I thought that since you wear your hair funny, you might need to shave your face as well, being a Wood-elf. You are the first I have seen."
"No matter how quaint and rustic the elves of Imladris may find us, the folk of my realm do not have to shave our faces," Legolas said, frowning slightly. He continued, under his breath, "Funny hair indeed!"
"My mother tells me that when I am grown to be a man, I will have to shave my face or wear a beard," Estel replied gravely. "I think I will have to wear a beard, because I have never watched a man shave his face. I would probably cut myself."
"We must all hope THAT never happens," Legolas muttered, as he finished with his hair and began to fasten the closures of the borrowed garment.
Estel left off examining the bow and quiver. He wandered over to the bed and flopped down on his stomach, cupping his chin in his hands and regarding Legolas with curious grey eyes. "Are you going to put on your crown now?"
"No. A crown would be overdressing just to have a friendly meeting with Master Elrond. Besides, what makes you think I even have a crown?."
"Elladan tells me you are a prince, so of course you would have a crown. I wish I were a prince," Estel said, with a sigh.
"Elladan has too loose a tongue by far," Legolas said darkly, "and as far as being a prince is concerned, you might find that it is a highly overrated position. Some princes discover that they have to try twice as hard as any common elf to prove their worth, and they are still thought to be coddled lackwits."
"When will you become king?"
Legolas gave the boy a sharp look. "Never, I hope."
"But, why not? It's good to be the king!"
"You have no idea of which you speak, Estel. First, why would I wish for the passing of my father? And second, to be a king bears a great responsibility. Any mistake or lack of wisdom on a ruler's part can mean disaster for the entire realm. I have no desire for such a burden."
At this, the lad fell silent. The respite, however, was brief.
"I turned seven years old at my last birthday. How old are you, Legolas?"
"It is not considered polite to ask an elf his age. By the reckoning of my people, I am young. By the reckoning of yours, I am old. The exact figure is of no consequence," Legolas replied airily.
"Are you embarrassed that your people think you are young?"
"Estel, I must ready myself and you are distracting me." said Legolas somewhat peevishly. "Can you not go play with the other children?"
"There are no children my age at Rivendell," Estel replied sadly. "Not the children of elves nor of men."
"Ah," said Legolas, beginning to feel slightly more sympathetic to the boy. "When I was a child in Mirkwood, there were no others either. There are so few born to us now. My father says it is because our folk have grown old in this world and our time is passing. Perhaps this is a weariness that the White Shores of Aman will cure. I am in no hurry to learn, though, for I am still in love with life and with the lands of my home. I have not had my fill of them yet, and I will not see them fall into shadow. That is why I am here."
* * *
"You have acquired a shadow," Elrond observed, as a footman ushered Legolas into his study.
Legolas turned and saw Estel trotting boldly through the doorway behind him. The lad had followed him all the way from his room, peppering him with questions about anything and everything. He pointed a slender forefinger in the boy's direction. "Stay"
Elrond broke in gently. "Estel, I would like to speak to my guest in private. Please give us leave for a while." The boy fell back reluctantly as the Elven attendants shut the door.
"He seems to like you." Elrond said with amusement.
"May Elbereth have mercy on anyone he does not like," Legolas said.
"I'm quite fond of him myself," Elrond replied. "He reminds me of another earnest young fellow who used to haunt the footsteps of my own sons whenever his father brought him here to visit, but this little one has much less diversion in his life. He is clever and he is curious, but lonely and so, he is bored. A mother's love is a fine thing, but it is not everything to a small boy. It is only natural he seeks the company and approval of older males. Arathorn's loss was a tragedy to us all, not the least to Estel."
Legolas inclined his head, acknowledging the older man's gentle rebuke. He looked up to see the ghost of a smile tugging at the corners of Elrond's mouth. "You pulled him out of the river, Legolas. I would gladly give you leave to throw him back in if he weren't so important to us.
"Now, come, Legolas," Elrond continued, "do not stand on ceremony. Take a chair and have a glass of wine with me. It's Old Winyards, 2929, an excellent vintage. It is always good to speak with the son of an old friend. It has been many years since we saw you here at Imladris."
"Twenty-seven, to be precise, since I came with my father and Galion. That was in the year that the winter came early and the waters of the Anduin froze solid. The snows almost caught us in the High Pass on our way home. I have never forgotten nor has poor Galion. After that trip, he insisted that he would no longer travel abroad and threatened to retire and go live in the flets with his granddaughter unless he was given another position. He is butler now, and Fefelas is my father's valet."
"Galion was esquire to your father at The Dagorlad, so I would say he has earned some peace and comfort," Elrond said. "Tell me then, is the fickleness of the late autumn weather the reason why we see you in summer when the berries are full ripe?"
"Partly," said Legolas, finding a chair next to the window. Below, the trees of Rivendell spread over green hillsides, and the waters of the Bruinen beyond filled the air with a rushing sound.
"Then tell me, how is your father? And how are the affairs of the folk of Mirkwood?"
Legolas stood and began to pace. The wine and the refined comforts of Elrond's chamber did little to soothe his uneasy sense of purpose. "My lord, may I speak candidly?"
"For the past three years, I have been with my father's scouting patrols in the south of Mirkwood near the territory of the Necromancer. I have been within sight of Dol Guldur itself, though I went in stealth."
Legolas paused and took a breath to steady himself. The memory of Dol Guldur still filled him with an inexplicable dread. "Master Elrond, the power of the Necromancer grows. The orcs are more numerous. The Old Forest road is no longer safe for travel. The orcs are taking captives. Most they kill, but others go into the dungeons of Dol Guldur. Of those, a scant few come out again, changed, becoming spies for the Necromancer. They cannot be trusted, for by whatever art, they serve a new master."
"You have seen this?" asked Elrond, knitting his brows.
"To my sorrow, I have," Legolas answered. "Last year, one of our company was taken by the orcs. After some weeks he returned telling us he had escaped, and we welcomed him back. Not long after, I awoke to find his dagger at my throat. He forced me nearly to kill him before I could subdue him. We kept him close for a time. We tried to heal him, and we questioned him to find out what had turned him thus. Our kindness was to no avail. He willed himself to die."
Legolas shook his head to rid it of the painful memory. "The elf was a seasoned warrior of several thousand springs. If this could be done to him, what of others? I see others going out into the world of men. Who knows what mischief they could wreak?
"Some months past, we noticed that the orcs began to search along the Anduin, near the fields of the Gladden. We could not tell what they were looking for, but their very numbers have made the river impassable, and that route to Lothlorien and further south is now cut off. Master Elrond, it grows grim. The White Council must be informed." Legolas paused to rein his emotions in. If anyone understood the dangers of orcs, it would be Elrond.
If the older man had taken any offense to Legolas's tone, he gave no sign of it. "What does your father say, Legolas?"
"My father says that Mirkwood has not the strength to drive the Necromancer out on our own, and indeed, we have not. He suggested I bring the information to you, Master Elrond, and so I have done."
It was Elrond's turn to stand. He turned to run his fingers along the fine carvings of his shelves and along the spines of the books they held. "Mithrandir paid a visit to the dungeons of Dol Guldur some years ago, although he did not care to share the details of that visit with me. The White Council already knows of the tidings of the Necromancer. At the moment, they are strangely reluctant to take any action."
"With all due respect, my lord, they must be strongly advised to reconsider. I have a great fear that this Necromancer is far more than an upstart mage with a large army of orc lackeys at his bidding. Surely Mithrandir sees this."
"I think Mithrandir sees it. It is Curunir who is reluctant," Elrond replied, his face and tone carefully neutral. "Who can understand the reasoning of the Istari? They will do what they will do. And when they do it, we may yet find ourselves the pawns in their great battles. Thank you, Legolas. I will convey your message."
At that, the interview was over.
Outside Elrond's door, Estel waited. "Did Elrond listen to you? He never listens to me. I think this is because I am young and have no beard. You have no beard and he doesn't listen to you either."
"No beard. I think you may be closer to the mark than you realize," Legolas muttered as he headed down a hall and out a door, the boy trailing after him.
"I think you should have worn your crown. Perhaps Master Elrond would have listened to you if you had."
"My father says a crown impresses others just once, and then you are on your own. I'm still saving it up," Legolas replied, almost forgetting he was talking to a child. Although, he thought, if this were not the occasion for being taken seriously, he did not know what that occasion might be.
"Well, I should have worn a crown if I had one," Estel piped up. "And if I had one, it would be a big heavy one with jewels."
"How nice. That sounds quite tasteful."
"Does your crown have jewels, Legolas?"
"Of course not. Mine is just a mithril band, like the one you see on Master Elrond, only plainer. I don't even like wearing it, really, it makes me look like a girl. Look, are we going to start this game of twenty riddles all over again? I have not the heart for it right now. In fact, I have had about all of this day I can take."
"That's too bad," said Estel with an air of innocent disappointment, "because my mother would like a word with you. She wants to thank you, I think."
The Legolas's eyes narrowed. "And you waited until now to tell me this?" If he was not mistaken, there had been a sly glint in the boy's eyes. "Never mind, this is something I have the heart for. Show me the way."
* * * * * * *
Author's Note: This story was my first written. It is Movieverse, but for a reason. Ultimately, Legolas, in this story arc, will volunteer for the Ring Quest rather than being appointed by Elrond.
I found this deviation from the book to be psychologically interesting, and I wished to explore it. In all other cases, I try to stick as close to Book canon as I can.
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.