Disclaimer: All recognizable characters belong to Tolkien, the OC's are all mine.

A/N: Random plot bunny attack! I swear I'll finish the latest chapter of 'Of a Father and Son' this week!

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The elfling peered about the clearing warily. The orcs had left just before the sun had broken through the trees and it had been very quiet since then. He crept down from his hiding place in the tree and made his way to his guard's side. Tathordil lay on his back, his eyes closed, a gaping wound in his side. The elfling shook his guard, puzzled. Why were his eyes closed and why did he not move? None of the big elves were moving. The elfling could not understand why all the big elves just lay there. Perhaps they were sleeping. His Adar [father] slept with his eyes closed every once in a while when he was very tired. The elfling was hungry, but he was tired, too after staying in the tree that Tathordil had hidden him in all night. He settled down at Tathordil's uninjured side and laid his head on the guard's chest. He was asleep in moments.

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Pannad surveyed the horrifying scene before him with apprehension. The bodies of twelve elven warriors littered the glade like broken dolls. That orcs were responsible for this obscenity was more than evident. Orcs were seldom able to best elven warriors; the elves must have been greatly outnumbered. That this had occurred so close to the settlement was doubly frightening. Several horses lay at the edge of the glade, their bodies bearing the telltale signs of being feasted upon, most likely by the orcs. A flash of something pale caught Pannad's eye and he moved cautiously toward the center of the glade. His eyes widened in dismay as he took in the sight of a young child nestled against one of the dead warriors. He gently lifted the child off the warrior and turned him onto his back.

The child's eyes were half open and he was warm to the touch. Pannad started as he realized that the little one was still breathing. He brushed the child's hair back from his face, revealing the little one's delicately pointed ears. A sigh of relief escaped him when he realized that the child was not injured, he was merely sleeping. At the slight noise, the little one stirred and his eyes focused. As he focused on the human kneeling next to him, the little elf cried out in panic and shook the shoulder of the dead warrior he had been resting next to. The human settled back onto his heels and held out his hands, palm up to show that he held no weapons. The elfling stilled, unsure of what he should do next as his efforts at waking his guard had yielded no results.

Pannad reached to his belt for his water skin. He uncorked it and poured a bit over his fingers to show the little one what the skin held. Raising it to his lips, he took a swallow before offering the skin to the elfling. The little one accepted the skin and took a cautious sip. Finding nothing amiss with the taste, he drank deeply. Water dribbled down his chin onto his tunic. The human smiled, encouraged, and took a small packet from another pouch on his belt. Opening it he removed a wafer of hardtack. He took a small bite, then broke it in half and handed the untouched half to the elfling. The little one's stomach growled audibly as he bit into the wafer and he flushed, embarrassed, but did not cease devouring the wafer. It disappeared in record time.

Pannad glanced up and noted that the others in his hunting party had checked the rest of the elves and had found no other survivors. Yarnan, his longtime friend, and two others had begun to dig a grave for the fallen elves. Pannad approved, it was the least they could do. His only worry was how the little one would react, since it was obvious that he did not understand that his kin were dead.

He turned his attention back to the elfling who was finishing his second piece of hardtack. He handed the water skin back to the little elf and was pleased to note that the little one did not flinch when his hand came in contact with Pannad's. The elfling lowered the skin, having drunk his fill, and studied Pannad curiously. The human wondered briefly if it was the first time the little one had seen someone of a race other than his own. He decided to see if the little one had indeed lost his fear and held out his hands to the little elf, asking him without words to allow the human to pick him up. The little one hesitated, and then moved cautiously toward the human. Pannad did not move, allowing the elfling to progress at his own pace. When the elfling stood close enough, Pannad slowly moved his arms around the little one and stood up, settling the elfling on his hip and patting the small back in a comforting manner.

He walked steadily away from the carnage toward his horse. The elfling suddenly squirmed and Pannad, who had four sons, quickly determined the reason and moved to the tree line to give the elfling a bit of privacy. The little one moved several paces away, glancing back over his shoulder at Pannad every step or so before shifting his clothing and heeding nature's call. Pannad kept his head turned away, respecting the youngling's privacy. He heard the rustle of clothing as the little one finished and covered himself again and turned back. The youngling was staring intently into the bushes. Pannad moved to his side quickly, fearing what might be lurking in front of him, but the elfling was quicker and darted forward. Pannad gave chase, his pace increasing when he heard the elfling scream.

He broke through the bushes, fearing that an animal had taken the child. The elfling stood several feet in front of him, eyes wide with shock as he stared at the headless torso of one of his companions. The head lay a few paces away. Pannad swiftly snatched up the child, cursing mentally at his ill choice of a location for the child to relieve himself. He turned the child around, nestling him against his shoulder and blocking the horrible sight from the little ones' eyes. Murmuring soothing nonsense, he made his way back to the glade. Yarnan met him at the tree line, concern etching his craggy features and weapon in hand. Pannad grimaced at his friend.

"'Nother body 'bout seven paces inside the trees." Yarnan's grimace matched Pannad's and he reached out to briefly rest his large hand on the elfling's head.

"Poor little blighter. No sign of a female anywheres around, so 'e might still have a mum at least. 'Ope the one in the trees weren't 'is Da." Pannad nodded, he had had the same thought.

"They must've had enough warning to 'ide 'im before they got attacked. 'E saw the whole thing, like as not. I do'en think 'e knew they were dead until just now. Let's get the dead ones buried and we'll take 'im back wi' us. Rangers're due through any day now, should be able to find out how to get word to 'is kin. It might even be the brothers. If'n they do'en know 'im, they'll know who to get word to. 'E kin stay with Allus 'n me til we find out where 'e belongs."

"Aye, that'll do 'im a bit of good. 'E'll have four females dotin' on 'im. Wonder 'ow old 'e is. Looks about the size o' your youngest." Yarnan gave the elfling a gentle pat on the back before turning back to his task.

The elfing made no move or sound through the rest of their stay in the glade. Every so often a tremor would run through the small body and Pannad would rub his back and speak softly to him until it passed. After a while, the tense limbs relaxed and his breathing became regular. Pannad heaved a relieved sigh, realizing that the little one had passed into sleep.

They packed the soil as tightly as possible over the fallen warriors and gathered up their weapons to give to the families the dead ones had left behind, as was the custom in the settlement. Pannad handed the little elf to Yarnan and mounted his horse before reaching down to take the little one back into his arms. Yarnan held his mount's reins as he settled the elfling securely against his chest. The rest of the hunting party mounted up and they made their way back to the settlement with some haste as the day was fast waning and they did not want to be caught in the wood after dark.

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Pannad reined his mount in, relaxing at last. His oldest son came out of the barn and moved swiftly to his father's side, taking the reigns from him and holding the horse steady as Pannad dismounted. It had been a hard ride, but the little one had not stirred once. His son looked questioningly at the bundle in his father's arms, but held his tongue and led the horse into the barn. Pannad continued on to the house, opening the door with one hand while cradling the elfling with the other. His wife, Allus, looked up with a smile as he entered. Her expression became one of concern as she took in the bundle in Pannad's arms.

"What happened? That isn't Tollis," she stated, naming their youngest son. Pannad shook his head and uncovered his burden's small, blond head and pointed ears. Allus gasped in shock, and then her maternal instincts took over. "Oh, the poor little lamb! What happened?" Pannad gave her a brief and sanitized version of their discovery and what the little elf had seen. As he had expected, Allus immediately swept the little elf from his arms and called for their daughters. In sort order, the women of his house had the elfling bathed, dressed in night clothing borrowed from his youngest son, and tucked into a trundle bed his children had outgrown that they placed by the fire.

After their supper, Pannad explained to the children that the little elf had likely lost at least one parent and would be staying with them until Pannad could find out who he belonged with. He was proud to see his children rise to the occasion, his youngest son Tollis solemnly declaring that he would share his clothing and toys with the elfling, and his daughters Nieve, Ammie, and Cerra declaring that they would mother the little one until he could be reunited with his family. The older boys Peraol, Jorran, and Fesel, volunteered to try to bring the little one out of his grief. Pannad and Allus shared a look of intense pride over the children's heads before Pannad broke into their planning with a dose of reality.

"'Tis happy I am that you're bein' so generous, but you need to remember that the little blighter's been through a lot and 'e might not do what you're thinkin'. Take it slow wi' 'im. I don't think 'e speaks anythin' but elf-talk, either, so you'll have to figure a way 'round that, too. To bed, now. Mornin' comes early." Good natured groans met the statement, but they filed out after dutifully kissing both parents. Allus' eyes lingered on the trundle bed for a moment before she spoke.

"You're thinking' 'e might be teched in the head after what 'e saw." Her words were not a question.

"'Tis possible. 'E didn't understand they was dead 'til 'e saw the body of the one without 'is head. He hasn't done anythin' but shiver since." Pannad hated to think of the bright little eyes he had seen dimmed, but the possibility had to be faced. Allus frowned, but her reply was neither fatalistic nor surprising.

"Young'uns is tougher than most folk make 'em out to be. I 'spect 'e'll surprise you." She moved her chair next to the hearth and took up the shirt she was mending. "I'll stay by 'im the night, in case 'e wakes and gets scared."

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Dawn had barely begun to touch the horizon when the household awoke. Pannad and his sons saw to the care of their livestock while Allus and the girls prepared the morning meal. The little elf had slept the night through without waking and was still slumbering in the trundle bed by the hearth, undisturbed by the activity around him until the smell of the porridge, eggs and sausage reached his nose. Blinking, he sat up and rubbed his eyes then froze at the sight of the unfamiliar room.

The oldest girl noticed that he was awake first and approached him slowly, smiling and speaking in soothing tones. His eyes darted from her to the other humans in the room warily. The girl took up a cup and filled it with water, careful to take a sip before handing it to him. He sampled it as he had with the water skin the day before and again finding no strangeness in the flavor, drank it down quickly. The girl held out her arms like the man had and the elfling understood that she wished to lift him. He slid haltingly from the bed into her arms. She settled him on her hip and smiled, wrinkling her nose at him. He regarded her solemnly for a moment before turning his attention to the others. There were two girls smaller than the one who held him and a taller female that resembled the other three. All of them smiled at him and spoke pleasantly in their strange tongue.

A noise from the door startled him, causing him to jerk around in the girl's arms. The human who had found him entered the dwelling followed by four other humans, one of whom was about the elfling's size. The one who had found him smiled at him and ruffled his hair as he passed the girl. The elfling shot him a puzzled look and smoothed his hair. The little human bounced excitedly and chattered at him, patting his leg. The girl who held him laughed and said something to the little human that made him bound away up the steep ladder into the upper level of the dwelling. He returned a few minutes later with a bundle under one arm. The girl took the bundle and carried the elfling through the door next to the hearth.

She set him down next to a very warm stone wall and proceeded to wash his face and hands and comb his hair. Once that was accomplished she pulled the thin gown he wore over his head and helped him into the tunic and breeches the boy had carried down the ladder. He wanted to tell her that he was a big elf and no longer needed assistance in dressing, but did not know how so he allowed her to help him.

When he was dressed she lifted him again and carried him back into the main part of the dwelling and set him at the table between herself and the smallest human. She filled a bowl with porridge and placed it before him, then handed him a spoon. A cup was placed next to the bowl. He examined the contents of the bowl, sniffing it cautiously. It smelled rather good, so he took a small bite. The porridge tasted almost as good as what he normally had at home and it disappeared rapidly. The cup proved to contain not the water he had expected, but some white substance. He sampled it and decided that he could tolerate it and drank it down. Next a plate was placed before him that held egg and some sort of meat. He ate the egg readily, but the meat tasted funny and he decided to leave it on the plate.

His attention was wandering now that his hunger was satisfied and he squirmed. The girl laughed and said something to the small human next to him. The boy crammed the last piece of the sausage on his plate in his mouth and grabbed the elfling's hand, pulling him from his seat and over to a corner where a wooden chest sat. The boy opened the chest and removed some carved wooden animals, offering half of them to the elfling. He turned the figure of a deer over in his hands, examining it minutely. It was nearly identical to one he had at home that a friend had made for him. He looked at the small human, who seemed to be waiting for something. Belatedly, the elfling realized that he was being invited to play and he set the deer on the floor and picked up a bird. He looked at it for a minute before deciding it was a sparrow and pursing his lips, he imitated a sparrow's call. The boy clapped delightedly and offered him a wolf. Warming to this game, the elfling uttered the long mournful howl of a wolf. Again the boy clapped and then handed him a squirrel. The elfling giggled and proceeded to chatter like a squirrel. A bear, fox, and mouse followed in succession and the entire family chuckled at the antics of the two.

The boy picked up a horse to hand to the little elf. As soon as he saw it, the elfling shrieked and fled to the other side of the room. He curled into a ball in the corner, shaking uncontrollably. He felt someone lift him and cradle him in their arms, speaking to him in soothing tones. A soft hand stroked his hair and dried the tears that flowed down his cheeks. The one holding him settled into a chair by the fire and began to rock him. He could hear the little human sniffling and the big one who had found him speaking softly to him.

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Nieve rocked the little elf, softly telling him that everything would be all right, that she and her family would not let anything harm him. She hoped that even though he did not understand the words, he might understand the tone of her voice and be comforted. He sobbed brokenly, calling out something that sounded like 'Ada'. Eventually he calmed, snuffling every so often. Tollis wandered over to apologize, but the elfling merely burrowed his head into Nieve's neck. Poor little thing, she thought. He had suffered so much and seen things no youngling should ever see. Her arms tightened around him and she kissed his temple.

Pannad laid a hand on his daughter's shoulder briefly before announcing that he was going to the market to see if there was any word of the rangers. After he departed, Allus chased the rest of the family, except Nieve out to play. Taking advantage of a rare opportunity to do as they pleased, the children scattered. Allus knelt by Nieve, one hand rubbing the little one's back. Slowly his head lifted and he looked at her with tear filled blue-gray eyes. She smiled at him and patted his back. He reached out and patted her face, then sat up in Nieve's lap. Allus met Nieve's eyes for a moment, and then patted her own chest.

"Allus. Allus." She patted Nieve's shoulder, "Nieve. Nieve." The elfling cocked his head for a moment then nodded. He patted Nieve.

" Nieve." He patted Allus, " Allus." He patted his chest," Legolas." He repeated it twice, slowly, to help them pronounce it properly. Allus placed her hand on his chest and repeated it. He nodded. Suddenly, he struggled to scramble off Nieve's lap. He looked around, dancing a bit. Allus quickly deduced the problem and guided him through the door by the hearth into the room behind and to a copper pot in the corner. He wrinkled his nose fastidiously, but needed to go too badly to go outside to find a more appropriate spot. After making sure that Allus had left the room, he did what was needed and scrambled back into the main room and back into Nieve's lap.

Legolas spent the rest of the day following Nieve around as she did her chores, holding on to her skirt tightly with one hand. Although he was normally a brave little elf, the recent traumas he had endured made him cling to the security that the human girl offered. Nieve paused every few minutes thorough the day to pat his back or brush his hair out of his face.

He watched her work with curiosity. To his eyes, the tasks she was performing were similar to the ones he had observed the members of his Ada's household perform. He watched Nieve prepare soup for the family's lunch, gnawing on a carrot that she had handed to him when he tugged on her skirt and pointed to it. She then made berry pies, chuckling at his obvious interest.

"'E knows what pies are, Mum. Look at 'im." Nieve grinned at the elfling's expression. Allus laughed softly.

" Aye, ain't no young'un alive as doesn't like sweets." She paused for a moment, then continued, "Reckon 'e's missin' 'is mum."

"Aye, reckon 'e is. 'E seems a sweet 'un." Nieve smiled at him again, her smile growing when he smiled tentatively back. She stooped to kiss the top of his head, a gesture that Tollis would have ducked and run from. Legolas merely accepted the affection and patted her arm in return. "Reckon 'is mum is missin' 'im somethin' fierce, too." She dusted the flour off her hands and wiped them on her apron. "Mum, would you mind puttin' the pies in fer me? I do'en want Legolas that near the 'earth and I do'en think 'e'll leave me side for long enow fer me ta put 'em in."

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Two weeks passed and the elfling grew used to the humans who were caring for him. He had nightmares and often woke in the night calling for his Ada. The humans were kind and tried to help him any way they could. He picked up quite a few of their words and could make himself understand fairly well using a combination of halting Westron and gestures. He forgave the little human and often played with him; both of them carefully avoiding the carved wooden horse that had cause his flashback the first day. He kept to the house and yard mostly, never venturing far from Nieve to whom he had formed a strong attachment.

Pannad, for his part, went almost daily to the marketplace to seek information about the expected arrival of the rangers. He worried that the little one would sicken without his kin. He simply knew so little about elves and was fearful that they would fail to recognize all of his needs. The little one had earned his respect over the last two weeks. He never complained and rarely cried unless he had had a nightmare or something had triggered a flashback. His behavior and manners spoke of a caring and disciplined upbringing. Pannad fervently hoped that the little elf had at least some family left to him.

At the beginning of the elfling's third week with his family, Pannad made his way to the marketplace. A commotion ahead of him caused his hopes to rise and he swiftly made his way through the crowd. The mere presence of rangers was not enough to cause such uproar. Pannad hoped against hope that it was the brothers, the twin elves who sometimes rode with the rangers. As he drew nearer, a smile bloomed across his face. Two tall, lithe, dark haired figures stood speaking to several of the settlement's children. As he approached, one of the brothers looked up and smiled.

"Well met, Pannad! How is your family?" the elf smiled warmly at him. He never had been able to tell them apart and replied to both.

"Fine an' feisty, thankee. I need ye help wi' somethin' though." The elves exchanged a startled look and nodded expectantly. "'Bout three weeks gone me an' Yarnan an' some others were out huntin' an' we came upon a bunch of dead elves. Orcs done it, no question." The brothers' gazes turned sharp, he had their full attention. "Anyways, there was a wee one with them. We figure they hid him before the orcs got 'em. Wasn't a scratch on the little blighter, but he saw the whole ugly thing. He's been stayin' with my family, but he needs to be wi' his own folk. I was wonderin' if ye'd mind talkin' to him and helpin' us get him home." The brothers exchanged another look, and then one of them replied.

"Of course we will help you, Pannad. You did not even need to ask. Let us get settled in and cleaned up and we will talk to him." Pannad slumped with relief.

"Thankee kindly, an' please sup wi' us. The young'uns'll be glad to see ye. "The brothers accepted readily and Pannad headed for home to inform Allus of their dinner guests.

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Elladan and Elrohir made their way down the street toward Pannad's house. The man was a long time acquaintance and they trusted his word implicitly, however unsettling it was. Reaching the family's dwelling, they knocked on the door. Allus opened the door and with a smile bade them enter. The children immediately swarmed around the twins, causing them to laugh. The twins produced presents for the children causing much commotion. Allus gently reined them in, sending them to wash up and handed each twin a mug of her excellent cider. Pannad waved them toward the chairs in front of the hearth and seated himself on the bench.

"Nieve'll bring the little one out in a bit. He's gotten a mite attached to her. He's a good 'un, real polite. Ye can tell he's been raised right." Pannad paused to take a swig of cider. "He's brave, too. Don't complain or cry unless he's had a nightmare. We figure his Da was one of the dead ones, but as we didn't see no sign of a female with 'em, we figure his Mum might still be alive." Elladan and Elrohir drained their mugs and set them on the hearth.

The door next to the hearth opened and Pannad's oldest daughter entered the main room. A small hand clutched her skirt, but the hand's owner remained out of sight behind the girl. Elladan smiled a bit and called out to the little one in Sindarin. He stopped so suddenly that he almost pulled the girl down on top of him.

"Elladan! Elrohir!" The elfling shrieked and launched himself at the brothers. Elladan overcame his shock just in time to catch the rapidly moving wood elf.

"Legolas! Sweet Eru, elfling, what happened?" Elladan wrapped the little elf in a secure embrace as the story came tumbling out of him amidst sobs. Elrohir knelt by his brother's chair, wrapping his arms about the both of them and resting his cheek on Legolas' head. They stayed that way for several minutes until Legolas' sobs quieted. Elrohir raised his head and stroked the elfling's pale locks with one hand. He met Pannad's eyes and decided that an explanation was needed.

"Legolas' family and ours have been friends for millennia. He was visiting us and left two weeks after we did. We will ride to his father's home tonight and guide him back here." Pannad's relief was palpable.

"Then his Da is still alive. Good, I was afeared that he'd died wi' the rest o' 'em." Elladan frowned a bit.

"Pannad, I think you had better tell us the whole story. His father will need to know what needs healing." Pannad winced, but nodded.

"Aye, I will but not here. Tis not a tale for young'uns or womenfolk." Elladan closed his eyes briefly and nodded his acquiescence before turning his attention back to Legolas.

"Legolas, tithen min, hush. It is all right now." Elladan soothed the elfling in his arms with the expertise of long practice. He had done the same many times for both his younger sister and Legolas himself on his frequent visits with the elfling.

The elfling sniffled a bit more then sat up in Elladan's lap and scrubbed his eyes with a fist.

" I want Ada."

"I know, tithen ernil. Elrohir and I will ride to his halls and bring him to you. We will need you to keep being a big elf and behaving courteously to Pannad and his family until we return. Can you do that?"

"No. I am going with you." The elfling's face was set in an obstinate expression more frequently seen on his sire. Elladan fixed him with a stern look.

"No, you are not. It is far too dangerous for you without a much larger escort. Your Adar will bring many warriors with him when we bring him here so that he and we can be certain that you are protected." The elfling scowled fiercely at them, reminding them again strongly of Thranduil and spoke very clearly in Westron.

"Shit."

Elladan blinked in shock and stared at Legolas. Elrohir had to look away, practically choking himself trying not to laugh. Pannad flushed.

"I swear 'e didna 'ear that one from me!"

"It hardly matters where he heard it. I do not want to be within one hundred leagues if he says that in his father's presence." Elladan pinched the bridge of his nose in a manner uncannily like HIS sire. "Legolas, that is a very impolite word. Your Adar would be shamed to hear it coming from your lips." Legolas stuck his tongue out at the dark haired elf and scrambled off his lap. Darting out of the twins' reach, he scooted behind Nieve's skirts.

"Mitho orch, Elladan!" [Go kiss an orc]

"Well, least I know 'e didna get that one from me or mine." Pannad eyed the twins with barely conceal amusement. " Tha's the most fire 'e's shown since I brung 'im 'ere."

"Legolas can be a proper hellion when he wants to. He is angry with me right now because I will not take him with us tomorrow. We may well have to truss him up to keep him from following us." Elladan was frowning in the elfling's direction. Elrohir's chuckle focused his twin's frown on him.

"Oh, that is the cauldron calling the kettle black! Neither you nor I have any room to call another 'hellion', brother, and well you know it." He smirked at Elladan, dodging a mock blow the other aimed at him. "Besides, the look on your face when he told you to go kiss an orc was priceless." Pannad snorted.

"Was that what 'e said, then? 'E's right, ya know. Yer face was priceless."

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King Thranduil was losing hope. His son had been missing for nearly four weeks. He knew that if Legolas was dead, he would no longer have the will to remain among the living. He had ordered his patrols to comb every possible path from Imladris in hopes of finding at least some sign of Legolas and his escort. For the hundredth time, Thranduil cursed himself for not accompanying his son. He had barely slept or eaten in the last four weeks and had visibly lost weight. His will alone kept him on his feet and functioning. His seneschal, Sindadur, entered his study excitement flushing his normally serene features.

"My Lord, the sons of Elrond have arrived and wish to speak to you. They said it was urgent." Thranduil nodded absently.

"Show them here, Sindadur. I have no wish to dress to meet them in the throne room." Sindadur bowed, leaving to do his king's bidding. A few minutes later, he returned with Elladan and Elrohir. Eyeing them, Thranduil decided that the matter must be urgent indeed as they had not even taken the time to wash the dust of travel from their bodies. Elladan, ever the leader, addressed him.

"King Thranduil, we have come from a small human settlement just this side of the Misty Mountains. They came upon a group of your people that had been killed by orcs about four weeks ago near their settlement. The guards had time enough to hide Legolas before the orcs attacked them and he is alive." Thranduil's head snapped up and he locked eyes with the younger elf. "He is being cared for by a family in the settlement. We left for here as soon as we found out what had happened." Elladan watched the relief wash over Thranduil's face. He looked up again, and Elladan thought he saw the shine of tears in the king's eyes. His voice, however, was steady.

"Was he injured?" Elladan shook his head.

"Not physically. He saw everything that happened to his escort." Thranduil closed his eyes and swore. When he opened them again, he fixed the twins with an intense stare.

"My thanks to you, Elladan, Elrohir. I am in your debt. Would you be so kind as to guide me to this settlement so that I may retrieve my son?" At their nods, he continued, "How long do you need before you are able to ride?"

"As soon as we eat something we will be ready to go." He nodded and turned to Sindadur, who bade the twins follow him.

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The large troop of elves would have been cause for alarm in the settlement had Elladan and Elrohir not been riding among them. The troop continued through the streets of the settlement to Pannad's home. Elladan and Elrohir dismounted, strode to the door, and knocked. Allus opened the door, her eyes going wide when she saw the large troop of elves in her yard. Elladan chuckled at her.

"Peace, Allus. Legolas' father has come to take him home." Understanding flooded her face and she smiled. Turning she called over her shoulder to the elfling. Outside she saw a tall, blond elf dismount and start toward the house. Legolas appeared at the door and the blond elf halted, his eyes locked on the elfling. Legolas caught sight of him and flew out the door.

"Ada!" he shrieked. Elladan and Elrohir grinned ear to ear as King Thranduil knelt in the dust to scoop his son up into a fierce hug.

Nieve stood in the doorway next to her mother watching her charge greet his father. Legolas was crying openly and Thranduil looked suspiciously close to doing so. He hugged his son, kissed him, dried his tears, and hugged and kissed him again not caring in the slightest who was watching. Finally, he set Legolas on his feet and held him at arm's length, looking him over minutely. Legolas squirmed and Thranduil relented, pulling the elfling into his arms again. Legolas began speaking rapidly, intent on filling his father in on all that had happened to him in the last weeks. Thranduil listened with far more patience than most would have given him credit for having, his eyes drinking in the sight of his son, hale and whole and returned to him. Eventually, Legolas ran out of words and laid his head on his father's shoulder. Thranduil stood and made his way over to the humans.

"My thanks for your kindness to my son. I am in your debt. Should you need aught, you have but to ask." Allus bobbed a quick curtsey before replying.

"Tis not necessary, milord. We're glad to've done it an' 'e was really no trouble t'all. 'E's a good lad and a brave 'un."

"All the same, my word stands." Thranduil inclined his head to the women before turning to speak to Elladan and Elrohir. The twins nodded and left quickly to return a bit later with Pannad in tow. Thranduil thanked the human and repeated his vow of assistance to him. He waved away Pannad's insistence that it was not necessary and moved to his horse. With a last look of thanks, he turned his mount toward home, his guards following closely behind and his son held close in his arms.

It was only after he departed that Pannad and Allus discovered exactly who they had sheltered for almost five weeks. Thranduil kept his word and several times over the ages his people came to the aid of the settlement until it was abandoned just before the War of the Ring.