Elladan was struck in that instant by how much he resembled his youngest son. But Thranduil's face was hard, the look in his eyes ancient and world weary.
"Would you like some wine?" Thranduil asked them.
"Yes, my Lord," Elladan and Elrohir both said. Thranduil looked them over and smiled. "Talagan," he beckoned.
The seneschal went over to a large cabinet and poured two glasses which he gave to the twins.
"Sit," Thranduil said, gesturing with an open palm. The twins selected two chairs and sat in them while Thranduil sank onto a divan. He laid an arm along the back and crossed one leg over his knee in a relaxed manner. "Did my armorer outfit you properly for the contest tonight?" he asked.
"Yes, quite well," said Elladan.
"We have no cause to complain," said Elrohir.
"Good. Do you know why I summoned you here?"
"I expect you wish to hear about our scouting expedition to the north," said Elladan.
"You said you had something worth hearing," said Thranduil. "I would know it before we reveal it to Náin."
"Do you have a map of the region?" asked Elrohir.
"Yes, over here." Thranduil rose and pulled a large scroll from under a pile on the table. He unrolled it and placed a book on both ends.
The twins studied it. "We took this route north out of Imladris along the west side of the Misty Mountains and went over the pass here near Mount Gundabad," said Elladan running his finger along the map.
"From there we went up the River Greylin into Ered Mithrin, scrambled as best we could through these passes here and here, and emerged in the Withered Heath," Elrohir continued.
"Thence the journey went south to Esgaroth and you know the rest," Elladan finished.
"And. . .?" Thranduil queried.
"Orcs are gathering in huge numbers at Mount Gundabad and spreading out into rat holes all over Ered Mithrin," said Elrohir.
"We came upon a group of them making their way down the Forest River," said Elladan. He smiled grimly. "None of them will return to make a report to their masters."
"Good," Thranduil grunted. "I have heard this news also. Clearly the forces of darkness are moving again."
"There are worse tidings," said Elrohir. Thranduil raised an eyebrow in question.
"Rumors of dragons moving south," Elladan said. "My brother and I have seen a cold drake near the source waters of River Greylin."
"Could you lead a party back there?" Thranduil asked.
"Not willingly," said Elladan. "We were headed home to inform our father and don't wish to waste time backtracking. But yes, we know where to find its lair."
Thranduil paced back and forth, rubbing his chin with the heel of his hand. "I would guess that Náin knows of this."
"A good assumption," said Elrohir. "Náin's halls are near there. We stopped and rested there for a bit. We were treated well by his subjects, but Náin had already left to come here."
"He wants our aid," said Thranduil. "That's it. But why has he been so coy about asking?"
"Perhaps he wishes to test you?" Elladan said.
"Well, he has certainly done that," Thranduil said in exasperation. "I never had such obnoxious guests." He paused a beat. "Except perhaps you two."
Both Elrohir and Elladan laughed easily and Thranduil slowly smiled at them.
"But I want that to be in the past," Thranduil continued. "We need to work together. Do you know what the seer Rordan said of Náin's family?"
"No," said the twins.
"I only heard it recently from Náin's counselor, Thror. The seer said a dragon would destroy Náin's house and kin. We didn't take it seriously. Rordan has been wrong before and no dragons have been seen in the region, not in uncounted years."
"This is not good news considering that we have seen one," Elrohir said solemnly.
Thranduil contemplated the twins, his head cocked to one side. "Tell me, did you learn scholarship as well as the arts of war in your father's house?"
"If you ask our tutor, Erestor, we barely passed our examinations," Elrohir laughed, "and my brother is the better scholar. But yes, Father has been pleased with our skills."
Thranduil picked up the book he'd had in his hand when they first entered and held it out to Elladan. It had dark leather binding and the title embossed in gold lettering written in a flowing elvish script.
Elladan took it. "It is written in Quenya," he said, "by the scholar Morland and is titled, ‘Of Celebrimbor and the Forging of the Great Rings of Power.' I know the work as we have a copy in my father's library. It speaks of the lesser rings forged by the elven smiths of Eregion and how Sauron gathered them to himself and gave them to dwarves and men, and so hoped to ensnare them. But the dwarves did not bow to his will."
"That is correct," Thranduil said. "It is rumored that the first of these rings was given directly by Celebrimbor to Durin III and was never touched by Sauron, although he has dominion over it. Do you remember if there is a description of that ring in the ancient texts?"
"There is," said Elrohir suddenly. Both Thranduil and Elladan turned to look at him. "Well, I had to write an essay on it for Erestor once," said the younger twin, grinning. "It is made of heavy gold and stones of diamond and emerald. Its name is written on the inside in the elvish script."
Thranduil nodded thoughtfully. "Most helpful," he said. "I may need more from you before all is over and the aid of your father as well. The time has come to forge alliances."
"We are at your service, Thranduil," Elladan said.
Thranduil stepped forward and took Elladan's chin in his hand, gently turning his face side to side. "I knew your mother," he said, "long ago. I can see her fair face in yours, as well as that of your father." Elladan wondered at the softness of his voice. "I believe your coming here was not chance, but like the rolling of small pebbles that heralds an avalanche." Thranduil's tone changed to one of command. "Fight well tonight. Náin must see that the elves are not weak."
"We will do our best," said Elladan. Elrohir nodded.
"And one more thing," Thranduil said. "Behave yourselves while in my house. Understood?"
"We'll do our best," said Elrohir, but his eyes sparkled with mischief.
A moist breeze blew in from the east whipping the pennants as several hundred elves filed into the amphitheater, laughing and singing with fair, silvery voices. The sky was the deep purple of twilight and a few faint stars pricked between heavy clouds. Several elves went about lighting large torches and hoisting them up to blaze on all sides.
Standing with his brother and Elrond's sons on the sidelines, Legolas noted that their armorer had outfitted the twins well. They wore metal shoulder and breast plates over fine chain mail that reached to their knees, thick leather gloves that extended almost to the elbow and heavy boots. Metal greaves covered their shins. Their long braided black hair flowed from under their silver helms and down their backs.
Legolas and his brother Feredir were similarly dressed, but their armor shone with gold inlay. Each carried a two-handed sword.
The prince could see King Náin and King Thranduil come into the stands and climb the stairs to the covered dais on the top. They bowed stiffly to each other and then Thranduil nodded to his herald, who blew a horn. As always before a contest, the horn call caused Legolas's heart to pound in anticipation.
Feredir turned to the twins. "You have a hard fight ahead of you. The Sons of Thranduil are no weaklings."
Elrohir clapped his hand on Feredir's shoulder. "Weakness comes in many forms," he laughed. "Do your worst, Thranduilings and may the starlight shine upon your swords."
Scowling, Feredir shrugged off the twin's arm. Legolas smiled.
The herald entered the ring and proclaimed a demonstration combat between the sons of Elrond and the sons of Thranduil. Winners to be determined when one opponent clearly bested the other. King Náin and his counselors would judge.
The four faced the dais and saluted the kings with a cut of their swords through the air. They separated and squared off with each other. Two of Thranduil's guards, acting as marshals, came onto the field and drew their swords vertically between the two opponent's swords, then moved away quickly, as the contestants began circling one another.
Legolas immediately lost track of what his brother was doing as all his concentration was bent on the warrior before him. He had determined that it was Elrohir before the peredhel put on his helm. Now, for the life of him, he couldn't have told him from his twin. They circled, feinting, and then suddenly he rushed at Elrohir, landing a heavy blow that the twin countered.
"Quick to take the lead, eh, son of Thranduil?" Elrohir laughed.
Legolas moved sideways, but Elrohir was already there and swung at him. Legolas was forced to duck and swing his sword upwards, which Elrohir caught by the blade with one gloved hand and deflected.
Legolas could hear the heavy clang, clang of his brother and Elladan's swords, and out of the corner of his eye, saw them moving. Elladan seemed to be driving his brother back with a series of strong blows. He heard the crowd begin shouting encouragement to the oldest Mirkwood prince.
"Feredir, this way," Legolas called, "I'll protect your back." His brother began moving in his direction.
Legolas reflected that hand to hand combat allowed one to take the measure of an opponent; to divine his character, especially when he was hard-pressed. As Legolas had predicted, Elrohir was supple and quick, but seemed cautious. He was studying Legolas, his legs splayed, balanced, waiting for him to make a wrong move, or so it seemed.
Suddenly the twin brought his sword up from behind his back leg, swung hard overhead and landed a tremendous blow, which Legolas countered with a swing over his head, but staggered backwards in the process. The prince turned suddenly, twisting and came behind Elrohir, who managed to turn in time, but Legolas delivered a glancing blow to his shoulder plate. Sparks shot up.
Elrohir called, "You'll have to do better than that, pen vain."
Legolas nodded, breathing hard. So, Elrohir was in reality tricky and unpredictable; seemingly cautious one moment, like a lion the next. The prince crouched, holding the sword low. Then he sliced a cut diagonally across Elrohir's chest. The peredhel stepped backward just in time and caught the blow against his sword and thrust it to the side.
Elrohir grinned and licked his lips. "So close, princeling. You wield your weapon well."
"I have been drilled long and hard in these arts," said Legolas, smiling broadly.
"I could teach you even more. You would profit by the training."
"That remains to be seen, maethor nîn." Legolas replied, taking two long diagonal steps backward.
"You favor your left side," Elrohir called, feinting toward the left. "I could show you how to cure that." Immediately and unexpectedly, he sidestepped and came at Legolas from the right in a hard series of cuts, first one side, then the other, so that the Mirkwood prince was beaten back toward the side of the amphitheater. One of the peredhel's blows landed on Legolas's breast plate with a tremendous ring.
"You are a fox," Legolas said, pausing and wiping his glove across his sweaty brow.
"All is fair in love and war," said Elrohir grinning.
"Elrohir," called Elladan, "stop dancing around with that wood elf and finish him off so we can go to dinner."
"I see you are doing no better, dear brother," called Elrohir.
"That's about to change," said Elladan lightly.
Legolas heard a series of clanging blows. The crowd began roaring, including scattered boos and hisses. Legolas turned his head in time to see Elladan drive Feredir to the far side of the ring and then deliver a blow that beat Feredir to his knees. Elladan swung his sword upward, stopping inches from Feredir's neck.
Feredir glared at him. Then he slowly raised his hand. "I give," he called.
There came a deafening clap of thunder and a large drop of rain splashed on the side of Legolas's face. He felt the swish of a sword slicing by his ear. He spun and met the next blow, grabbing the tip of his sword and bracing it crosswise of Elrohir's. As Elrohir moved steadily forward, Legolas's sword was forced upwards over his head. They strained against each other until their faces were inches apart and Legolas looked into those dark-rimmed, mischievous eyes. The rain was falling harder now, hitting the ground about them and dripping off their visors.
"I want you," Elrohir whispered, his lips nearly touching the prince's. "Surrender to me. You won't be sorry."
Caught off guard, Legolas felt a ripple of desire and lost his concentration for a moment. Elrohir gave a tremendous push and Legolas staggered backwards. He fell and rolled as his opponent's sword smashed into the ground where his chest had been moments before.
The prince swung a leg out in a wide arc and caught Elrohir behind his knee, bringing him crashing to the ground. Legolas rolled over and pounced on the twin, flinging his full weight on the peredhel's chest. Elrohir's breath was forced out of his lungs and he gasped loudly. Legolas pushed his hands down on the twin's upper arms, pinning them to the ground, and feeling the battle rush of triumph.
"Now you must surrender to me," the prince said with a smirk.
"That suits me as well, ernil vain," Elrohir said.
Legolas felt the peredhel flex his hips under him, ever so slightly. Ah gods, the prince thought as a warm glow shot through him. Legolas knew he should get up, that it was unseemly to sit one more moment on his opponent; he felt he was caught in a spell.
Then Elrohir cried in a loud voice, "I give, to Thranduil's youngest son."
Legolas got up, retrieved his sword, and swept it high over his head in victory as the crowd cheered. Elrohir rose smoothly and bowed to him. Feredir and Elladan came and stood next to them. The rain was coming down in sheets now and the elves were scattering.
"I declare one victory for Mirkwood and one for Imladris," Náin cried. "It is a draw!" He turned to Thranduil. "They all fought very well. Strength, speed, and strategy," he said. "I am impressed."
Thranduil said, "Yes, Legolas acquitted himself well; Feredir usually performs better, and I have to admit, even the peredhil's skill surprised me. But I pray you, Náin, let us discuss this indoors where it is drier."
They stood with the rest of their courtiers and fled for the shelter of Thranduil's halls.
*pen vain - beautiful one
*maethor nîn - my warrior
*ernil vain - beautiful prince
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.