Of a Father and Son
For Xander
The autumn air was crisp as the group of riders journeyed over the Misty Mountains. King Thranduil was making an extremely rare visit to Imladris for a council with Lord Elrond, under the guise of attending a Fall festival that was being held at the half-elven Lord's home. Accompanying the King was his only son and heir, Prince Legolas, and a company of Mirkwood's finest warriors. Neither the king nor the prince were dressed in such a way to distinguish them from the other members of the group, Legolas as much because he preferred dressing simply as to conceal anything , and Thraduil to conceal his identity from possible enemies. The elves were wary, even during the daytime while passing through the mountains, as orcs and other foul things were known to inhabit such areas. The sun was still fairly high in the sky as the company emerged from the pass on the Imladris side of the mountains, and they did not tarry, but hastened to put as much distance between the pass and themselves as they could before sunset. Far too many travelers had made the mistake of camping too close to the mountains and had lived only long enough to regret it.

Thranduil's eyes swept the company and the surrounding forest as restlessly as any of his guardsmen. Wood-elves by their very nature were alert and suspicious of their surroundings, especially if they wished to survive long in Mirkwood, and their king was a survivor indeed. His eyes finally came to rest on his son, and he could not have hidden the gleam of pride that shone in them had he wished to. Legolas was the light of his father's life, even when he seemed bent on prematurely aging the elder elf with the scrapes he frequently got himself into, either alone or with Elrond's twin sons Elladan and Elrohir, and Elrond's human foster-son Estel. Legolas had been home for almost a year, and Thraduil could see his restlessness, and loneliness for his friends. Although his demeanor seemed calm and unruffled, to one who knew him as well as his father did, Legolas was fairly buzzing with excitement and anticipation. Thranduil allowed himself a small smile as he addressed his heir. "Legolas, we will be in Imladris in less than two days! Honestly , one would think you were mortal with the lack of patience you have!" Wide silver-blue eyes met amused grey ones with a start, and Legolas blushed profusely at his Adar's amused observation. He grinned sheepishly at his father, then schooled his features into an impassive mask, stilling the fingers that had been plucking at the hem of his tunic with nervous energy. " My apologies, Ada." Thranduil merely chuckled in response, earning a half-hearted glare from his still blushing offspring. Both father and son returned to scanning the forest for possible threats.

The sun was just slipping below the horizon when the company stopped to allow their horses a chance to rest and graze. Water flasks and lembas were passed and shared, but no fire was kindled as they were still too close to the mountains for such comforts. Scouts were dispatched to assess the best path for the next leg of the journey. As darkness fell, the elves became even more vigilant, knowing that the night was the preferred hunting time of the fouler creatures inhabiting their world. Before long, the scouts returned bearing news of a human settlement in the vicinity, but thankfully no sign of wargs or orcs in the lands ahead of the company. Plans were made to skirt a safe distance around the settlement, and fresh scouts were sent on the group's back trail to ensure that no attack would catch them unaware from behind. Only moments had passed when the scouts returned in haste, " Orcs, my King, a large force! At least four for every warrior here!" The scout reported breathlessly. Thranduil scowled, his fair countence registering anger and annoyance, " Have they discovered our presence, or are they merely looking for something to destroy?" "My King, I believe they are ignorant of us for the moment," replied the scout, " but that will not last. They will certainly find evidence of our mounts' passing." Thranduil swore under his breath before making his decision, " To the trees, then. Our best chance lies in surprising them." The horses were loosed, and driven ahead as the company took to the trees readying their arrows.