Disclaimer: All recognizable characters and places belong to the esteemed J.R.R. Tolkien and Tolkien Enterprises and/or New Line Cinema. I borrow them carefully and gently, and promise to return them intact and unharmed at the end of the story. Lord Elrond assures me I will make no money on this endeavor whatsoever and I believe him.

This story occurs six years after Journey's End, when Legolas is about nine years old and the size of the cutest four year old (human) you have ever seen. The original characters are from my two earlier stories, and this story will make much more sense if you have read 'May the Valar Protect them' and 'Journey's End'. Please see Chapter 1 of Journey's End for a character list, if needed.

Thanks to daw the minstrel for beta reading this chapter.

Chapter 1: Tracking

The Woodland Realm, 2469 of the Third Age.

Legolas glided silently down the corridor, his feet barely touching the floor as he stayed close to the cavern wall. He stopped at the well known apartment door, and grinned as he opened the latch without a sound. He slipped inside the room and studied his surroundings carefully. In the sitting area, he could see a shawl that had been carelessly thrown across the back of a chair. In the eating area, a bowl of fruit had been replenished. All evidence pointed to his quarry being present in these chambers.

He continued his trek to the sleeping chamber, noting the door was ajar. He pushed on the wooden door with one hand as he used the fingers of his other hand to push on the hinge so it would not squeak. Finally able to see inside, he saw his prey with her back unwittingly turned to him. He leapt at her with a war cry, throwing his arms about her waist.

"Legolas!" cried Tathiel as she felt small arms twisting into the fabric of her tunic as he climbed up her back. She leaned forward over the bed, using it to balance herself and the elfling scaling her from behind.

"I tracked you and caught you!" crowed Legolas gleefully. He slipped off her and landed on the bed, flopping on to his back and then rolling to look at her. "You do not hear me very well."

Tathiel inhaled deeply and turned slightly to sit on the bed. Her hands moved instinctively to cover her belly, and she lightly rubbed the expanded surface.

"Legolas, you startled me," she reprimanded him.

The impudent elfling grinned unrepentantly. "You should be more aware of your surroundings," he quoted Sadron, one of his favorite warriors.

"Yes, and were I in the forest, I would be," replied Tathiel wearily. "Can you not track and hunt your brothers for a while?"

"Bregolas always hears me. Maybe Lathron, though," said Legolas seriously.

Suddenly, a blanket was thrown over his head and Legolas squealed as he fought his captor. He was lifted high into the air and then dropped on the bed, where his much larger predator pounced on him and began tickling him through the blanket. Legolas giggled and squealed until his ribs hurt.

"Stop! You win," acquiesced Legolas with a final laughing groan.

The blanket was pulled off him, rolling him across the bed, and he looked up to see Rawien grinning at him. "You should be more aware of your surroundings, elfling. I tracked and caught you easily!"

Legolas lay on his back, breathing heavily, but his ever present smile never left his face. "Rawien, I was talking to Tathiel," he argued, trying to explain why he had not been paying attention.

"You were harassing my wife, little one. I am Tathiel's protector, which makes you fair game!" replied Rawien with a final tickle of the elfling's stomach.

Rawien stood then and walked around the bed to where Tathiel still sat. He wrapped one arm about her and slipped his other arm beneath her legs, lifting and turning her to lie on the bed. "Are you well, meleth-nín?"

Tathiel turned slightly to lie on her side, sighing as she felt Rawien's strength flow into her. His hands covered hers where they rested over her belly, and she felt his communion with her and the babe growing within her. "I am well now," she answered finally, a smile on her face.

Legolas scooted over to lie close to his Tathiel, gently touching her face and then placing his small hands over her large belly. "I am sorry I startled you, Tathiel," he whispered.

Tathiel leaned down and kissed his forehead, even as her eyes drifted nearly closed. Legolas stared at her, worry in his small face, and then Rawien picked him up.

"Come, Legolas. Tathiel needs a nap, and you can only stay if you want to take a nap too!"

"No naps!" exclaimed Legolas as he squirmed from Rawien's arms and flew out the door. "Goodbye!" he called over his shoulder.

Legolas then walked slowly along the hall, making no attempt at silence, finally stopping in front of his own chamber door. He pushed the door open and walked inside, looking at the toys and books that filled low shelves on the far wall. He plopped down on his bed, staring at the ceiling and the stars that had been painted there. He really wanted to play outside, he decided. Maybe he could track a squirrel or even a deer!

A sound from the next chamber caught his attention and a slow grin spread across his face. It was probably just Meriwen, bringing up the clean clothes, but maybe it was Ada. Legolas covered his mouth to stifle the giggle that threatened to escape him. He moved stealthily to the door that separated the two rooms, and quietly flipped the latch. He slipped inside, entering far enough to see that it was indeed his ada. Barely contained excitement flowed through Legolas, and he had to press his palms against his legs to keep from jumping and making noise. He began to stalk his father, moving closer and closer to him, and just as he was about to make his leap, Thranduil turned and caught him in his arms.

"I got you!" Thranduil laughed at the look of disbelief on his youngest son's face.

"Ada!" wailed Legolas, but the grin never left his face. "One day I am going to surprise you," he promised as he hugged his father.

"When fish fly," came Thranduil's standard reply. "However, you must not track Tathiel anymore. You are startling her baby too much."

"Can her baby hear me coming?" asked Legolas.

"I do not know, but the baby certainly knows when you scare its naneth," replied Thranduil. "No more, ion-nín. Announce your presence to Tathiel in your indoor voice when you see her."

"Yes, Ada," agreed Legolas readily. There were other people to track, after all. "Ada, can I go outside and track a squirrel?"

"You may try," replied Thranduil. "But you must stay in the garden. Do not go beyond the beech tree at the far end, or the little creek to the side."

Legolas's face fell, but he knew better than to argue with his father. "Yes, Ada," he answered in a subdued tone.

"Do not look so sad. There are plenty of squirrels in the garden."

"I want to track one though, Ada. I cannot track one in the garden."

Thranduil kissed Legolas and then set him on the ground. "You may not leave the garden today, Legolas, but I will consider taking you beyond it to learn to track properly."

Legolas beamed, threw his arms about his father's legs and hugged him, and then ran out the door. "Goodbye, Ada!"

* * *

In the Misty Mountains, northeast of Imladris

Elladan slid on his belly through the mud, finally coming near enough to the edge of the cliff that he could peer over the side. A grim smile crossed his face as he watched the orcs entering the cave below. He stayed in that position for nearly a half hour, until all visible orcs had entered the cavern and he felt confident he had an accurate count. The cave was located a short way off the main trail through the High Pass, and the cliffs and tall trees shrouded the trail from sunlight except for the hours of the day when the sun was at its zenith. They had perhaps six hours to prepare for this group of orcs. Elladan silently slid away from the cliff edge and out of hearing of the cave. He heard the call of the other scout on this patrol and quickly answered. They met a quarter mile ahead, Garthon dropping from the tree he was in to stand before Elladan.

"This is one of the larger parties I have seen or heard traveling through the mountains," Elladan informed his companion. "I counted sixty, and some had surely entered the cave before I could see them. There could be seventy total."

Garthon gave a nearly silent whistle. "It must have been a smaller party, an offshoot to this one, that attacked the travelers we met two days ago."

"Then they were fortunate to have escaped alive," agreed Elladan as the two moved swiftly back to their camp.

Garthon announced their return with the pre-determined call and a few minutes later they entered the camp made by their patrol. Both Elladan and Garthon immediately found Glorfindel, their captain on this patrol, to give a report of what they found. Their body language spoke volumes, though, and soon the whole patrol was gathered around them.

"They are less than a league from here," said Elladan, kneeling to draw a rough map in the dirt. "Sixty to seventy orcs, sheltering for the day in the large cave off the main path, about here." All knew that cave, as orcs had used it for shelter before. "The cliffs on both sides of the trail provide ample hunting space." Elladan quickly sketched the cliff ridges that had vantage points over the cave and the trail.

"Good job," said Glorfindel, touching them both lightly on the shoulder as he stood. "Get cleaned up and rest."

Elladan grinned and made his way to the pool of fresh water that they had camped near. A spring fed it, and a small stream led away from it, later flowing down and joining the Bruinen. He walked a short way down the stream, and stripped off his mud covered clothing, leaving it to soak where the cold mountain water could flow over it. Then he walked in the water back up to the deeper pool and sank into the cold water. Closing his eyes, he leaned back and allowed the sun to warm his face even as the water chilled his skin. He opened his eyes when a small splash in the water caught his attention, and quickly caught the chunk of soap floating near him.

"You are filthy, brother," laughed Elrohir from the bank, where he sat with a towel and fresh clothing. "Wash your hair."

Elladan smiled his thanks, not having come prepared, for he knew his twin would follow and provide what he needed. He soaped his hair and body, and then submerged himself to rinse. As he stepped on to the bank Elrohir threw him a towel, and he quickly dried off and then dressed. He was surprised to see his bedroll lying beneath a nearby tree, with Garthon, who had not gotten so dirty, already asleep on his next to it. Elladan fought back a yawn as he realized he was tired.

"Sit," commanded Elrohir as he pushed his brother lightly. With deft fingers, he quickly braided his brother's damp hair into a single thick braid and then pushed him down. "Rest before we go to battle. I will take care of your clothing."

Elladan was asleep moments later, his head resting in the crook of his arm and a slight smile curving his lips.

* * *

Elrohir quickly washed Elladan's muddy tunic and trousers, and then laid them over a nearby bush to dry in the sun. His brother was one of the best scouts Imladris had, and he and Garthon had done exceptionally well to track the Orcs from high in the mountains to their current location. They had come from the north, from the Ettenmoors, and reports had reached Imladris from the Dúnedain that Orcs were moving south. The elves of Imladris kept the High Pass clear of danger, and Glorfindel had led their patrol north of the pass into the mountains to track this party.

Elrohir finished his tasks and moved to rejoin Glorfindel where the captain again sat near the map Elladan had drawn. His hands were busy, as usual, as he set about fletching more arrows. If Elladan was the best scout, Elrohir was the best archer, and archers would lead tonight's battle.

"Why do you think such a large party is heading south?" asked Elrohir quietly as he worked.

Glorfindel was silent for a moment, then turned to Elrohir. "They could be heading for Dol Guldur and for some reason wish to avoid the eastern shore. Perhaps the woodsmen have been resistant to their passage. They could be seeking new strongholds in the Misty Mountains, perhaps to prevent passage across them. Whatever the reason, it does not bode well for any who live or travel nearby."

"We will annihilate this group," replied Elrohir confidently.

Glorfindel grinned and plucked an arrow from the growing stack at Elrohir's side. "Do you plan on leaving any of the enemy for the rest of us?"

Elrohir grinned and answered, "Only if you draw fast."

Glorfindel laughed aloud. "Over-confident, impudent elfling. You have won a few archery contests and are now nearly unbearable."

Elrohir only smiled at the reference to elfling. Glorfindel had called him that for all of the centuries of his life, and he had long since given up protesting the moniker. Glorfindel treated him as an adult, and that was what mattered. Although Elrohir would never admit it to anyone but his twin, there was something comfortable and comforting in knowing that the adults of his childhood still watched out for him.

Glorfindel pointed down at the sketch in the dirt. "This appears to be the ridge with the best view of the cave. You will take point position here and firing will begin on your signal." Elrohir nodded, familiar with the tactic and the role he was to play.

They sat in companionable silence, listening to the quiet sounds of the twenty-five elves in their war party as they prepared for the night's battle. When two hours had passed, Elrohir rose unbidden and awakened his twin and Garthon, and the party set out to take up position for the ambush.

* * * * *

meleth-nín ----- my love
ion-nín-----------my son