The Third Bow

They made their first stop for the night in the foothills of the Misty Mountains as the path climbed towards the pass before dropping down towards the plain of the Anduin. Long lush grass grew at the side of the track, and a small stream trickled past moss-covered boulders on the edge of the great pine forest.

As the guards set up camp, Thranduil called Legolas to him. "Falassion and Teiglin are going hunting – would you like to join them? See what you can catch for our supper."

Legolas nodded. "Of course – there should be rabbits, and maybe some deer. I will get my bow." He turned, but Thranduil stopped him.

"Wait. Would you like to use this instead?" He held out the third bow Minastir and Ciryatan had made.

Legolas's face was a perfect picture of stunned surprise. His eyes were wide, and his mouth hung open in a gasp of astonishment. Rooted to the spot, he made no move to take the bow, but merely stared at it in disbelief.

Thranduil smiled. "Of course, if you do not want it I can keep it myself," he suggested. "This will have a greater draw than you are used to – it will take time to become accustomed to it. Perhaps you should keep the old …"

"No!" Legolas interrupted. "No. I mean …" He took the bow from Thranduil, turning it in his hands. The wood was stained with a dark dye, but a pattern of beech leaves was carved along its length, picked out in green. He ran his fingers along the bow, feeling the smoothness of the wood and tracing the pattern of leaves and tenrils of ivy. "This is a little shorter than the ones you gave Elladan and Elrohir," he noted with approval. "It will be much better to use in the trees – theirs would be too long." He drew the string back, sighting down an imaginary arrow, and released it. "Perfect," he breathed. "It would be impossible to miss with this."

Thranduil smiled again, delighted at Legolas's reaction. "Try these," he said, handing him a matching quiver filled with new arrows fletched in green.

Legolas slung the quiver on his back, and reached over his shoulder for an arrow. He frowned as the leaf he aimed at quivered but did not fall, and fired again. This time the leaf fell, an arrow placed neatly through the centre.

Still clutching the bow in one hand he spun around and hugged Thranduil. "Thank you, Ada – thank you so much!" he cried. "It's – it's …" He halted, lost for words.

Thranduil returned the embrace and ruffled his hair. "I am glad you like it, elfling. Now go and practise – and do not forget supper!"

Legolas nodded. "I know!" He darted after the guards, then glanced back at Thranduil. "I will make you proud, father," he vowed, then dashed off again. "Falassion, Teiglin – wait for me!

Thranduil watched him go. "You always do, child," he whispered. "You always do."

The End