Authoress: Ladya C. Maxine
Summary: see chapter one.
Disclaimer: I do not own LotR or any of its characters. Any and all unrecognizable characters belong solely to me and are not to be touched. I am not making any money off of this and I write with the sole intent to entertain.
A/N: Holy crap! An update! After more than a year! God bless you all for your patience and, who knows, maybe chapter four will be up in 2006! (Just kidding...actually, no seriously.)
"'We are most sorry, my lord. Please do not let our son's negligence ruin your evening of celebration."
Celeborn nodded and the couple walked off, tugging their reluctant child behind them to find a healer for the boy's black eye.
"I must say, your lordship, you do indeed throw interesting feasts."
The silver haired lord merely raised a fine brow at the wizard and those sitting at the table laughed lightly.
No one had been laughing upon entering the clearing to find a flailing heap of youngsters, cursing and pulling each others' hair and clothes. One mother received a rather large bruise to her cheek where her precious daughter had struck her, caught in the heat of the battle. After many threats and physical force, the adults had been able to separate the rebellious children.
"800 years ago it would have been my sons amongst them," Elrond noted, relieved the two had outgrown the rebellious attitudes they had displayed as youths.
"Speaking of your sons, where are they?" Gandalf asked, sipping his goblet of fine wine.
"As always, they became too restless with the serenity of the feast. They wish to do some night hunting and have gone to the rooms to gather there weapons."
"And what of your youngest, Elrond? I have yet to meet this Estel you speak so well of," Thranduil remarked, seated opposite the Lord of Rivendell.
"He has gone to bed. He wasn't feeling very well," Elrond said, though didn't believe the claim himself.
"I'm sorry to hear that. Have you..."
The elven king trailed off when he spied Haldir quickly making his way through the crowd to the table where the special guests were seated. The march warden's fair face was strained, something rather unusual for the usually indifferent warrior. Galadriel and Celeborn tensed, quickly picking up on his concern as he bowed before them.
"My lord and lady, I truly despise to carry forth this ill news, but orcs have passed into our borders. They move along the north, away from the city."
"They must be dealt with," Celeborn said at once, rising to stand. "Return the guests to their chambers and make sure they have escorts. Send warriors out to meet the enemy head on. They must not enter Caras Galadon, nor leave these woods still breathing."
Nodding curtly, Haldir disappeared through the crowd, his clear voice calling the warriors to him as he appointed their tasks.
"It is not often that orcs reach so deep in our woods. What of the patrol watches?" Galadriel asked her husband, her fair face puzzled.
"I fear the enemy was too overwhelming for them. I will send a troop out to find them." He turned to Elrond, Thranduil and Gandalf. "It would be best for you to return to your chambers with your families."
Elrond was about to lend his assistance when hurried footfalls caught his attention. The dark-haired being of Elrohir skidded to a stop before the elders, panting heavily. Elrond rounded the table to grasp his son by the shoulders, his worries increasing at the fearful expression on his child's face.
"Father, there are orcs in the woods!"
"We know, Elrohir. Calm down," Galadriel advised him. "Where is your brother?"
"Elladan…pant…took his horse…he…empty bed…gasp."
"Elrohir, calm down!" Elrond ordered. "Where is Elladan? Is he injured?"
"Nay! It's...gasp...It's...Estel. He is out in the forest!"
All sounds faded away around him at the words. For the longest of moments Elrond could only stand there, watching his son in disbelief.
"No...No, he's in bed," he explained softly, trying to pacify both his son and himself. "He went to sleep earlier in the evening."
"Nay, ada! His bed is untouched and the sentries say that he never returned!"
Elrond swallowed hard, fighting the growing fear as it brewed in his stomach, slowly reaching his heart. Opening his eyes, he put on a strong face for the sake of the panicking twin.
"He wouldn't wander out of the city, Elrohir. My lord..." He turned to his father-in-law who had already taken action, pulling a guard aside and addressing the situation.
"Our soldiers will find him, Elrond," Galadriel assured. "They are well trained in the art of tracking."
Elrond nodded numbly, his grip on Elrohir the only thing keeping him standing. A strong hand took hold of his upper arm as Thranduil led him to a chair, sitting him down and handing him a glass of wine.
"From what I heard of Estel, he is strong and sensible. He is no doubt safe and sound."
"Yes," Elrond took a small sip. "Yes, he is. We will find him soon enough."
Despite their confidence, they all felt an unease gnawing deep within them. The sooner Estel was found, the better.
Estel awoke with a stinging pain in his head and a persistent throb in his ribs. Shakily rising to his elbows, he shook his head, regretting it immensely when dots started to dance before his eyes. Unable to resist groaning, he sat up, crying out softly when placing pressure on his arms brought forth a lancing pain through his wrists, most noticeably his left which was badly bruised, the bone looking sickly out of place beneath the skin.
"Where am I?" he asked himself softly, looking around the dark area.
Brush and undergrowth seemed to stretch for miles in every direction. Above his head the trees formed an ever-dark canopy, blocking out the stars and moon. Looking up the steep sloop he had fallen down, he couldn't even see the top. Unknown to him it had been far longer and steeper than he had thought. He couldn't even hear any sound of the celebration. In fact, the entire wood was silent.
"Hello?" he cried out hoarsely. "Can anyone hear me?"
Nothing stirred except the wind through the leaves
Though it was very hard and painful, he managed to get to his feet, though needed to lean against a tree trunk behind him as he gasped for breath against the pain.
Looking around he shuddered. Lothlorien had looked so beautiful when he had first arrived but now the trees' towering heights and massive limbs appeared terribly imposing, even scary. Even their glow put him at ill-ease; it was as if a dark shadow had swallowed all hopes of light.
"Ada..," he whispered. "Ada, where are you?"
Stumbling, he started towards the slope of the hill. Ignoring the pain, he began to scramble up. However, the earth was too soft and his body too tired and he slipped back, gasping when his ribs and arm made painful contact with the ground. Still, he didn't give up and tried again.
After several attempts he laid panting on the forest ground.
"Don't panic. Don't panic. Remember what Elladan always says; 'No matter what, stay calm'," he told himself.
Taking a deep breath, he stood once more. He obviously couldn't climb back up, so he had to find another way. Looking around, he decided to follow the ridge until he found better ground to climb up, or maybe he would come across one of the patrols; he was going to be alright.
Feeling more at ease, though still in pain, he started walking.
The events resurfaced in his mind as he gingerly made his way over the terrain. He tried to remember the good things, hoping to use them for strength; his brothers as they wrestled about on the expansive rugs of Last Homely House, his father as he sat at the fireplace engrossed in a heavy volume, Gandalf's face lit up by the fireworks.
Bright blue eyes sparkled and for a moment he heard the chiming laugher of a young elfling.
At first he smiled too, but that memories suddenly turned bad; the elflings laughing and mocking him, the Edain children sneering and calling him a traitor, always being shunned by others.
"It doesn't matter. ada and Elladan and Elrohir love me," he comforted himself. "They will always be there for me and…"
A sudden thought struck him. A thought he had never had before.
His family was of elven blood. Elves lived forever, but they sailed the sea. He had heard his father discussing it with Glorfindel before they had left for Lothlorien. His father had said that he would too sail soon in the future, to be reunited with his wife in the Undying lands. Elladan and Elrohir would surely go with him, eager to see their mother again. And that would leave him, Estel, alone. Alone in a world where nobody accepted him.
"No, ada would never leave me."
But he himself would have to leave Rivendell when he got bigger. Grown men never stayed home. They travelled and hunted and fought in battle. But fought for whom? Where did his allegiance lie? Would he fight in the name of the elves, who had raised and care for him? Or was it time that he reclaimed the mortal blood that flowed through his body?
All happy memories were quickly shrouded in darkness of fear and doubt.
As his internal battle started, he failed to notice the small trickle of earth that had shifted from movement on the ridge. It wasn't until he caught a slight glow out of the corner of his eye did he notice the other's presence but it was too late. Two hands grabbed his shoulder and he cried out, blindly trashing to escape, the pain only frightening him more.
"Estel, calm down!"
The fair voice made him look into the wide blue eyes as the elfling supported him.
"Legolas?" he asked, doubting his eyesight. "What are you doing here?"
"Thank the Valar!" the blond breathed, so relieved to have found the boy alive that he forgot about their 'argument'. "I saw you fall and--you're bleeding!"
"What...Why did you come after me?"
Blue eyes blinked at the question.
"I was worried, of course."
"Why?" Estel pushed on, allowing the blond to examine his injuries.
"Because you're my friend. I have to admit that I doubted it myself at first but...when I saw how the others were treating you I was going to help you but then the fight started and the next thing I knew you disappeared over the ledge. I never felt so scared; I thought you were dead."
The sincerity struck him and he looked away, trying to sort out his thoughts.
"…Estel? Yesterday, when we had returned to the city, did I say something wrong?"
"I thought so...or...you said that..." He hissed when the blond prodded the broken bone, the finger immediately withdrawing with a soft apology.
"What did I say? Whatever it was I didn't mean anything bad by it."
"You didn't want to play with me anymore," Estel finally confessed. "I asked if we could play again and you said no."
Removing his outer tunic, Legolas began to wrap the boy's arm with it, his face puzzled as he worked.
"I didn't say that. I said I had things to do."
"You just said that as an excuse. You didn't want to play with me anymore, did you?"
"Of course I did! Yesterday was the most fun I had had in a long time! I don't have much time at home to play. Most of the time I have tutors and I'm not allowed outside the palace's walls without an adult and those aren't much fun. Except for ada, that is. He's usually busy with his duties but whenever he can he comes with me into the forest. He is a good climber! Even with his robes on he can climb faster than me! One time we were climbing and his crown fell off! We had to search for a long time before we found it in..." Catching on that he was rambling, he stopped himself. "Sorry, I get carried away some times."
Estel hadn't heard the last part. Instead he stared with wide eyes at the elfling before him, the words running through his mind.
Legolas jumped when the boy gasped loudly, thinking he had tied the make-shift bandage around the broken arm too harshly. The look on Estel's face made he frown slightly. It wasn't of pain, but of stunned realization.
He simply nodded, failing to see what was so shocking about it.
"I'm sorry, you highness! Forgive me!" Estel gushed, bowing his head in belated respect, the action making him miss Legolas rolling his eyes.
"Don't do that, please," Legolas said, lifting the boy's head. "It's not like I'm a king or anything."
"But you're a prince, right?"
Having finished binding the arm as best he could, the blond sat back on his heels.
"Does it matter?"
"Well, yeah. Who's your father?"
"Lord Thranduil of Mirkwood."
"The Lord Thranduil!" Estel gasped, accepting the hand that helped him to his feet.
"I prefer to call him ada," Legolas said, slinging the uninjured arm over his shoulder to support the boy.
"Wow! I've heard stories of your father, and of Mirkwood."
Tales of Mirkwood differed a lot in the outside world. Some spoke of its elven king who had the power to keep evil and darkness away from his people. Others marvelled at the legendary treasure that was said to be hidden deep in the underground labyrinths. There were also tales of the wood elves being cruel and capturing travellers and of the king whose greed was as great as Men though Estel didn't believe those; Elves would never do such things.
Looking down at the elfling's work, Estel tested the bandages and found them comfortable and his injuries less painful.
"It's just temporarily; we have to get you to a healer." Eyeing the sloop he had easily descended moments earlier, he knew climbing them wouldn't be too much of a challenge since he had elven stealth and balance. However, Estel's injuries (and heritage) denied him such privileges.
Understanding the blond's thoughtful expression, Estel pointed with his good hand in the direction in which he had begun walking. Legolas merely nodded, believing too that that was the best choice of action in this situation. Taking hold of the boy's hand, he used his keen sight to guide Estel, avoiding as much obstructions like sticks or rocks, making sure to keep the ridge on their left.
"Do you really want to be my friend, Legolas?"
Having been walking a while in silence, the question took him off guard.
"Why not? You're nice, and a lot of fun to play with."
"Really?" Estel's eyes widened at the admittance.
"Why do you ask such a question, Estel?"
Pretending to focus intently on stepping over a log, he delayed his answer for a while.
"I...don't have any friends."
Slowing their pace, the prince now walked alongside his human companion.
"What do you do all day then? Who do you play with back home?"
"My brothers…and ada…and sometimes Glorfindel, though he's often on border patrol. And Erestor lets me help him with chores after lessons."
Now it was Legolas' turn to be surprised.
"Glorfindel? The Balrog Slayer of Gondolin? You know him?"
The blond seneschal's name always got such reactions and it offered Estel some pride that he knew the warrior personally.
"He's ada's best friend and lives with us in the Last Homely House."
Legolas was quick to put two and two together, blue eyes growing wider, as did his smile of disbelieving excitement.
"Lord Elrond of Rivendell is your father!" Common sense was quick to catch up, though, and Legolas gave the boy a new look-over, studying his ears in particular. "But…if he's your father…why do you have Edain ears?"
"He's not my real father," he admitted. "He took me in after my parents..." His trail off was enough.
"They still love you." Legolas gave him an encouraging smile, somewhat sad. "My mother sailed to the Undying Lands a long time ago...but I know she still loves me. Fathers and mothers always love you, no matter what. And you're really special."
"Because you have two fathers who love you a lot. And a mother. And two brothers."
It wasn't something he had ever considered, but it made sense after all. It succeeded in bringing a smile to his face.
"I guess your right. Do you have any brothers?"
"No. I'm an only child. But ada plays with me every day so I'm never lonely. And--" His excited chatter was abruptly cut short as something caught his attention, the blue eyes scanning the dark woods around them warily.
"What is it?" Estel asked.
He didn't answer, eyes finally focusing on one particular spot, ears straining to verify his suspicions though when they did he prayed desperately that he had misheard.
"Legolas?" Estel insisted, grabbing a slender arm. "Legolas, what's out there?"
Swallowing, the blond met the wide, grey eyes.
"Orcs..." He shivered. "They are coming this way."
A/N: Wow, that certainly took one entire year to write! (rolls eyes)
Why didn't Galadriel or Celeborn detect the Orcs sooner? Who the heck cares? I just needed to get those mutated freaks into the woods. End of story.
Read & Review, please.