Friends Are for Such a Time as This – Part V
* * *
The battle in the woods progressed quietly, and in the favor of the Elves; the Orcs fell swift and heavy under the trees. Elladan smiled grimly as yet another of his arrows pierced the throat of one of the foul creatures.
"All of the Orcs to the north have been wiped out," announced one approaching Rivendell warrior. "No more approach from that direction."
"But a few remain to the east," added another Elf, wiping Orcish blood off his sword. "We go now to retrieve what arrows we can."
"Good," Elladan answered shortly. "Send for the others and ask them to return to camp. Was anyone wounded?"
"Mannólë's face was grazed by an un-poisoned arrow, but otherwise everyone has emerged unscathed," explained one as the other replied, "No, all were spared."
"Very good," Elladan did not bother to suppress the smile that came to his face at the news. "Hurry and gather everyone."
But even as Elladan so instructed the Elves, there was a slight sound in the branches nearby. All three Elves swiveled toward the noise, raising swords and bows.
"Do not shoot!" exclaimed a soft Elven voice, and then they saw the intruder, for he stepped into easy view. It was a wood-Elf, his clothes cut and tailored in the fashion of the Mirkwood Elves; at the sight, the Rivendell Elves relaxed their fighting stances.
The Wood-Elf's quiver was empty, but his knife bore Orc-blood; as he stepped into view he bowed slightly, as best he could from his precarious perch atop the slim branch. "Forgive me for intruding. My name is Encirith, and I hail from Greenwood. One of my companions, a warrior named Airelond, has already encountered your party; there are two more of us, and they journey to your camp." Here he smiled briefly. "We meant to ask your aid in fighting these Orcs, for they encountered us early in the night, but it seems you have aided us without our asking. I thank you on behalf of our scouting party."
"A star shines upon the hour of our meeting," Elladan said, slightly surprised. "Our enemy is yours, and far be it from me to fail to honor the treaty between Mirkwood and Rivendell, even if unknowingly. But you seem rather far from Mirkwood for a scouting party."
"Indeed we are, but the story is somewhat long and Orcs remain in these foothills," Encirith replied, again bowing slightly. "Please allow me to ask for sanctuary at your camp when the danger has passed, and I will tell you the story then."
"There is no need to be so formal," Elladan dismissed the issue. "You and your companions are welcome at our campfires, as the Elves of Mirkwood always are. "Come with me. We shall hunt down the last of the Orcs together, if it suits you." He smiled.
"That suits me well," smiled the Mirkwood Elf.
* * *
The Rivendell camp was completely deserted.
Glirhuin perched in a tree at the edge of the clearing where the Rivendell Elves had made camp and frowned slightly. It seemed foolish to him to leave a camp entirely unguarded; what if a contingent of Orcs approached from the south unexpectedly and ravaged the camp? Then again, he supposed, leaving only a token guard to defend against a large number of Orcs would be relatively hopeless.
Legolas would be arriving at the camp soon, in all likelihood; taking this into account, Glirhuin settled down to wait. After all, his quiver was nearly empty, and the shallow wound in his side needed to be checked, although it did not cause him excessive pain. There was no need to go seeking out trouble.
* * *
Glirhuin could not have known it, but Legolas might have appreciated the companionship of a fellow Elf to scout for danger in the trees above. As it was, he was trapped on the ground with the child in his care. His eyes darted this way and that, searching out anything that moved in the distance; he kept an arrow nocked on the string of his bow. He was not nervous, but neither was he comfortable.
To hurry with the boy meant to lose stealth, for although the boy could travel with remarkable silence for one so young, he could only do so slowly. Short of carrying the boy over his shoulder, Legolas could think of no way to carry on both quietly and quickly, so instead they traveled rather noisily but with haste.
"What is your name, child?" Legolas asked at length, aiding the boy as he climbed over a particularly large fallen tree.
"Estel," the boy answered.
An odd name for a child of Men, Legolas could not help but think. "My name is Legolas, and I am pleased to meet you, although it is unfortunate we do so in such strenuous circumstances. Do you speak Sindarin?"
"I do," Estel answered after a moment; his reply was in the Elvish language, and the dialect was that of Elves living west of the Misty Mountains. Legolas smiled slightly to hear the Rivendell Sindarin on the child's tongue. "Elrond has taught me both Elvish and Westron. He says that both shall be useful to me."
"Indeed they will," Legolas agreed, again slightly surprised by the answer Estel gave. He heard a sound to the left of them and he paused, silent for a moment, placing a hand on Estel's shoulder to cause the boy to halt. But when there was no further sound, the Mirkwood prince relaxed. It was not the nature of goblins and Orcs to sneak, and the breeze sometimes made the trees rustle their branches. "How came you to be lost in the woods?"
The boy's cheeks tinged faintly pink. "That …"
* * *
"I hear voices," said Novhoth.
Elrohir had become as still as a statue, listening as well. "I too hear voices," he murmured, "but I cannot yet make out what they are saying."
"Let us follow them," suggested Morereg. "At worst the voice will belong to Orcs, and we are more than enough for them!"
Elrohir merely nodded, and with that the three hurried into the woods, traveling north and east.
* * *
Only Shagrat remained of that sorry band of Orcs that had stumbled upon the child, and he remained only because he had become separated from the group as they ran. When he came upon the three dead Orcs in the clearing, he spat upon their bodies. "Serves you right!" he snarled. "Serves you right for breaking poor Shagrat's nose!"
But now, without a leader, Shagrat did not know what he wished to do. He considered this for a while, and finally decided that he was not in the mood to be shot. He would beat a hasty retreat, back to the caves in the mountains where he would be safe from the sun and the Elves crawling all over these woods.
Unfortunately, he was not entirely certain which way the Misty Mountains were.
He picked a direction at random and plowed onwards, mumbling about horrible luck and nasty Elves.
* * *
Legolas did not suppress the growing smile on his face as Estel related the embarrassing story of how he had come to be lost in the woods. Although he was amused, in truth he was also sympathetic; he understood the boy's frustration with the supposed overprotective efforts of his family. It was strange to Legolas that Estel considered Lord Elrond as his father and the Lord's sons as his brothers, but then, it was strange that a Man was being raised in a house of Elves. He supposed he could ask Elladan and Elrohir himself once they were at the camp; according to Estel, they had traveled out as members of the Rivendell hunting party.
"By now Elrohir must have found me out," Estel concluded, his voice betraying his misery at the thought. "I must have upset him badly."
Legolas gave his best reassuring smile. "I am certain all will be well as soon as he sees you again."
"I hope you are right," the boy conceded slowly. He glanced up at Legolas with an imploring gaze. "Will we be there soon?"
"We shall," the Mirkwood Elf responded, clapping the boy on the shoulder. "We shall indeed." But at that moment, he knew he heard something that was not natural; it sounded as if the dry leaves on the ground were being shifted, but the breeze did not blow. "Get down!" he hissed to Estel, pushing the boy with a firm hand until he was kneeling on the ground. He then drew his last arrow taut, pointing it towards the sound.
He had only one shot, but it was all he would need.
"Ai! Ho, Elf!"
With those words, his opponent appeared.
* * *
"Ai! Ho, Elf!"
Estel jerked up his head at the voice, staring intently. Above him, his savior Elf shifted his grip on the arrow strung upon his bow, about to release.
But it was no Orc voice that called those words.
"Legolas, do not shoot!" Estel cried, grasping the Mirkwood Elf by the knee. "That is Elrohir's voice!"
He realized suddenly that even as he spoke Legolas was relaxing his bow again, the slightest signs of relief upon his face. "Ho, Rivendell!" he called. "Is that Lord Elrohir I see?"
"It is indeed," replied the dark-haired Elven lord, stepping forward and into Estel's line of sight. His gaze immediately went to Estel. "I believe there is something in your possession that I have been searching for, Prince Legolas."
Estel raised his eyebrows at the word 'prince' and turned astonished eyes upon the Wood-Elf. But Legolas only glanced at him, and his smile was cryptic. "It is my pleasure to return that something, my friend." He ushered Estel forward.
Before Estel even had a chance to move, he found himself swept into a warm and loving hug from Elrohir. "Oh, Estel, you frightened me so," he whispered as he lifted the boy off his feet.
"I am sorry," Estel answered, and he was. He had never been sorrier for anything in his life, he realized suddenly. He clutched the Elf's shirt as he returned the desperate hug. "I know I did wrongly, and I am so, so sorry … Please forgive me."
"You have come back to me safe and sound, and that is all that matters," Elrohir murmured, finally drawing back to gaze upon the boy. "You are forgiven." But as his gaze fell to Estel's shirt, a surprised look came to him. "Estel, I thought you were—"
"Estel is well," Legolas interrupted from behind Estel. "He is covered in the blood of a wolf, which he killed himself. You should be proud of the boy."
Elrohir looked wonderingly on Estel, and the boy was about to explain when Elrohir and Legolas both looked up sharply. "Behind me," Elrohir ordered, drawing his sword as Legolas barked, "Stay down!" and again notched his arrow.
This is getting somewhat repetitive, Estel could not stop the thought as he drew his own sword and crouched behind Elrohir.
* * *
Shagrat crept along, keeping his short bow trained before him, prepared to shoot anything that moved. He did not want to die; if he encountered an Elf, he would kill it before it could kill him.
He heard voices; with a shout, he jumped out and attacked, releasing his arrow and reaching for another as he did so.
* * *
The Orcish arrow whizzed out before Legolas had quite registered that the Orc who had appeared carried such a weapon. He leapt aside; fortunately, the creature had not aimed well, and its shot went wide of not only himself, but Elrohir and Estel as well.
In the clear, Legolas trained his arrow on the Orc's forehead while the mutilated thing re-notched an arrow to its bow.
Two arrows from two directions – above and before – slammed into the shameful creature's head. It died instantly, falling back and crumpling to the ground, its bow and arrow slipping from its hand.
Elrohir visibly relaxed. "Morereg," he said simply, sheathing his sword. Estel, clearly emulating his 'brother', slid his dagger back into its scabbard with a similar, smooth motion.
Legolas started forward instinctively, but even as he moved a Rivendell Elf dropped out of the trees. "Well shot," the Elf said cordially, and it was clear that the Elf was Morereg.
"Yours, too, was an excellent shot," Legolas replied, bowing slightly in deference.
"Nay, mine was cheap. An easy target that Orc made," Morereg answered. "And it matters not. I have been informed by Novhoth that Elladan is returning to camp as we speak, Elrohir. Shall we go, then?"
Elrohir smiled. "We would not want to worry him, would we, Estel?" he asked, looking down at the boy.
Estel colored. "No, we would not," Estel agreed.
"Then to camp we go," the Elf lord said firmly.
* * *
Glirhuin sat straight when he heard approaching voices speaking in Sindarin, but it took him only a moment to determine the dialect was not Eastern. Nonetheless, he jumped down from his perch and waited calmly for the arrival of the Rivendell Elves.
Glirhuin had been on many a trip to Rivendell in his several thousand years of life, and when the first of the Elves stepped into the camp, he immediately recognized Lord Elladan, son of Lord Elrond. He bowed accordingly. "Lord Elladan," he said before the Elf could speak. "My name is Glirhuin of Greenwood, and I—"
"Yes, Glirhuin, he knows," said an amused, familiar voice, and Glirhuin lifted his head to look upon Encirith. "I have already told him."
Elladan's face was broken by a smile. "Well met, Glirhuin of Mirkwood," he said. "I understand that Airelond of Mirkwood and Prince Legolas son of Thranduil will be joining us shortly."
But as he spoke he lifted his head and looked about the camp, and his face grew grim. "Where is Elrohir?" he murmured, mostly, it seemed, to himself.
"I have not seen him, and I have been sitting here some twenty minutes hence," Glirhuin felt compelled to respond.
Elladan merely looked at him, and his face was etched with concern. "I left him here with a young Man named Estel in his care. They would not have simply left camp."
An awkward silence ensued, for although Elladan stated that they would not have left camp, that was apparently the case. There was nothing to indicate that either Elrohir or Estel had been taken forcefully.
"Something is wrong," Elladan said, and behind him Encirith nodded in agreement, but neither Glirhuin nor Encirith, nor any of the Rivendell Elves that arrived thereafter, had an answer for the puzzle. Elladan grew more and more worried as time passed; when the last of the Elves excepting those with Elrohir had returned, and the Mirkwood scouts excepting Legolas had been united, he began to pace. "Where could they have gone?" he murmured as he paced. "What could have drawn them away? Why did Elrohir take Estel with him into danger?"
"Because Estel walked into danger all on his own," replied Elrohir, stepping into the clearing with Estel close on his heels. Morereg, Novhoth, and Legolas followed soon after.
A cheer went up from all the Elves present, and faster than the mortal eye could see, Elladan crossed the camp and embraced both his twin and the child with him. "Thank Elbereth you have both emerged safe," the eldest Elf sighed, unwilling to let them go. "I greatly feared all had gone ill with you, and I had lost you both in a single night."
"Nay, brother; our foul premonitions have come to naught, and I am sorely grateful for that," Elrohir replied, his voice somewhat muffled by Elladan's shoulder.
"We had some near chances," Estel added, hugging the Elf back.
"You shall have to tell me all about it as we pack you up to send you home," Elladan replied as he finally pulled away, turning his mind back to business. "It must be quite a story, for you to return with so much blood on your clothes."
"It is," Estel agreed with enthusiasm, nodding his head quickly. "It is shocking."
"Or so declares Legolas," Elrohir said in a whisper, gesturing to where the Mirkwood prince conversed with his fellow scouts.
Elladan smiled. "It is good to see him again, as well," he said as if remembering something, his voice trailing off into nothingness.
Suddenly he turned on Estel. "Wait; did not Elrohir say something about you walking into danger all on your own?"
Estel's cheeks again betrayed him, and he smiled shyly.
"He shall have to tell you that story as he is packing, for it ties in with how he obtained the red dye for his clothes," Elrohir said in a teasing manner.
"I shall," Estel agreed. "I should begin to pack immediately."
Elladan raised an eyebrow at the boy's words. "What brought on this change of heart, Estel?" he asked, seeing the child's eagerness to return to Imladris.
"You were right, Elladan," Estel replied thoughtfully after a moment or two had passed. "The day will come when I will wish I did not have quite so many adventures. And for me, today is that day. I am ready to go home."
Elladan could not repress his smile. "And I am glad to hear it, Estel," he said soothingly, smoothing the boy's dark unruly hair. "For I would not have liked to tie you to the saddle for the ride back to Rivendell!"
Estel stuck out his tongue childishly. Elladan and Elrohir both laughed, relieved and happy at once.
* * *
There remained still several hours before dawn, and in short order Estel had put his belongings away and settled down to sleep for the remainder of the night.
Legolas had settled in the low branches of a tree, not far from where Elladan and Elrohir now stood. Glirhuin's wound was being seen to; Encirith and Airelond were now singing softly but merrily with the Rivendell Elves, laughing as they exchanged supplies. The Elves of Imladris were more than willing to give their Silvan brethren whatever they required, and provided them with a new supply of arrows and food.
"I am glad to see all ended well," Legolas observed, hanging one leg off the branch where he sat and swinging it as he sharpened his white knife.
"As am I," agreed Elladan.
"I believe all here would agree with you, Legolas," added Elrohir. He looked up at the prince of Mirkwood. "I wish to thank you again for taking care of Estel."
"You would have done naught differently if our positions had been reversed," Legolas dismissed the matter. "I am only glad that I was in the right place at the right time."
"Still, I am grateful," Elrohir conceded.
For a short time they were silent, content to enjoy one another's company as they listened to their companions sing. It was Elladan who spoke first. "I believe Estel admires you, Legolas Greenleaf," he said with a slight smile. "He has told me you draw the bow even faster than I."
"And you know it to be true," Legolas replied, a cheeky grin coming to his face. "The Silvan Elves have always been superior to the Noldorin in woodcraft, not the least of which is the bow!"
"We shall see," Elladan replied cryptically. But here he paused, and Elrohir spoke up. "We travel to Mirkwood, Legolas. Will you travel with us?"
"As that is my destination also, I would be pleased to do so. But it does not appear your young companion will be traveling with you." Legolas looked towards Estel. "Where goes he?"
"Back to Imladris, at the command of our father," replied Elrohir, his gaze also upon the boy. "We will send several good warriors with him, but Elbereth help them if he finds his taste for adventure again along the way! He is a wily one."
"You taught him well," observed Elladan, nudging his brother. "He moves so silently that he escaped the notice of our entire camp!"
"I did not expect him to apply his lessons in stealth in such a manner," Elrohir responded in turn, his manner affronted.
"It will behoove him to know such woodcraft," Legolas interrupted their banter and changing the mood of the conversation. "If I mistake not his appearance, that boy has kin among the Dunedaín."
"So he does," acknowledged Elladan after a moment of silent consideration.
"How came he to live under your roof, considering Lord Elrond as a father and you as his brothers?" Legolas asked innocently.
He did not think anything suspicious about the question, and he was thus surprised to see Elladan and Elrohir exchange glances, communicating silently with their eyes. At length Elladan responded, "Legolas, I am sorry, but that is not for us to reveal."
"Upon that subject we can say no more," Elrohir added gravely. "I can only tell you that Estel is well-named, and all will be revealed in good time. Please keep this in confidence, my friend."
Legolas saw that they were disturbed by the question, and he stilled his curiosity. He placed his hand over his heart. "I am sorry to have upset you. I swear upon my honor that I will make no mention of this conversation."
"Thank you," Elladan and Elrohir spoke in near unison, and they smiled at one another, relief in their faces. Legolas smiled as well, laying the questions aside for years to come.
* * *
The next morning Estel sat astride his mount, ready to return to Rivendell with his Elven escort. However, before he left he asked, "Might I speak to Prince Legolas before I go?" he asked Elrohir, who was holding the reins of his mount.
"I am right here," Legolas replied, and Estel turned to see Legolas standing on the other side of the horse's neck. He stroked the horse's mane, and Estel's mount whickered gratefully at the proffered affection. "There is no need for you to call me 'prince'. We are not in my father's court," he said warmly, a smile upon his fair face.
"But Elrohir called you—" Estel began before Legolas put a finger to his lips.
"Nay, Elrohir teased me," Legolas replied, mischief dancing in his grey eyes. "Nor do I call him Lord Elrohir, except in jest or in times when formality is called for. What is it you wished to speak to me about? Surely it was not my title."
Estel smiled shyly and sat straight upon his mount. "Thank you, Legolas, for rescuing me last night. I am in your debt."
"Think nothing of it, and the debt is forgiven," Legolas replied in turn. "There is much ahead of you in your young life, and you should not be burdened by such things as debt. After all, that is what friends do; they help one another. And I would consider you a friend as I consider your brothers friends, if that is all right with you."
"Thank you," Estel repeated, doubly grateful. "I wish to be your friend as well."
Legolas just smiled again.
"You are even faster than Elladan with your bow," Estel said after a moment, feeling rather awkward as he spoke.
But Legolas did not seem to notice his unease. "I would feel insulted if I were not. Elladan is rather slow at the draw," Legolas laughed.
"Do not let this wily wood-Elf tell you lies!" cried Elladan from where he was restringing his bow, but he smiled and laughed as he spoke.
"I would like very much to learn to be that fast with my bow," Estel confessed to the Mirkwood Elf.
Legolas' smile softened into a look of affection that Estel had not seen before except on the faces of Elladan and Elrohir. "Then when I come to visit Rivendell, I shall have to teach you that skill. Would you like that, Estel?"
"I would," Estel exclaimed eagerly. "Again, thank you!"
"You are very welcome," Legolas replied, patting Estel's knee. "I will see you soon, even as Men reckon it, if I am able."
"I will look forward to it," Estel said with a bright smile.
* * *
Author's Notes: Yaaay! It's done! *wipes sweat off her brow*
*sighs looking over the last chapter* It's long, and I don't like this last chapter. It's all right, I suppose … trying to tie a lot of things together at once was difficult. I'll probably come back at some later date and revise it.
I don't see how Legolas can possibly have been back and forth from Imladris without having met and befriended the twin sons of Elrond. It just seems unlikely, as both are of similar status: they are the sons of the lords of their respective realms. As a result, I portray their relationship as a friendly one.
As usual, I wrote this story on a whim and I find it very highly unlikely that any scenario of this sort unfolded. I just thought it would be fun to write a short story about Legolas encountering Estel as a child, and then I got completely caught up in getting them to even meet each other, and … well, it stretched. J I hope you enjoyed it despite my general failure to do what I wanted!
Feedback is always appreciated, as usual. Many thanks to all those that read this story and reviewed in the past! They greatly encouraged me; indeed, they're the reason this fic was ever finished!
PLEASE REVIEW!! ^_____________________^x
Farewell. Until we meet again—