The green shod feet of the fleeing young elf beat an almost silent tattoo along the forest floor. He ran as fast as he could. His breath came in ragged gasps. He risked a quick look back and saw only trees and fern waving gently in the breeze. He was not fooled, he knew they were there and they were gaining on him. He pressed a hand to his side briefly as pain flared causing his breath to hitch. His endurance was almost at an end. He had run too fast and too far, but he could not stop now.
Suddenly he skidded to a stop. The object of his pursuit was in front of him. Hanging from the massive branch of a great tree was a slim circlet of gold. A single gem decorated the front. He leapt forward desperately, fingers stretching to their goal. As he did he heard a sound from above and a heavy body dropped on his back.
All the air rushed out of him as he hit the ground heavily. He grunted and rolled, trying to dislodge the weight that crushed him. His attacker rolled with him and straddled him expertly. The larger elf caught his hands and pinned them above his head, grinding his wrists to the ground. Their faces were inches apart and their breathing was loud in the silence.
"Yield." he demanded.
"Never!" ground out the youth breathlessly.
Two more elves dropped lightly to the ground and stood on either side of the victor.
"What shall we do with him?" asked one tilting his head to the side.
"What we always do to him." Replied the other, kneeling with a leer on his face.
The captured elf's eyes suddenly went wide as he realized what was about to happen. With an undignified shriek he began to struggle but his captors swarmed over him as their hands found all his vulnerable spots. They tickled him unmercifully.
Laughter filled the forest as the three elves tickled their youngest brother till he started to gasp for air.
"Stop, stop." He wheezed, entirely out of breath.
Revail the oldest lifted a red faced Legolas to his feet. Yalie pounded him on the back as he gasped for air. Calad fanned his hot face, peering at him in concern.
"Okay now?" asked Calad after Legolas had regained a normal colour.
"Yes." He replied, still a bit breathless and promptly fell to the ground, his eyes rolling back in his head.
"Legolas, Legolas!" Revail dropped to his knees at his brother's side in concern.
Legolas' eyes fluttered weakly and Revail leaned over him to check his pulse. He was unprepared when two booted feet caught him in the chest and flipped him head over heels. He sailed through the air and to land with a solid thud on the ground.
Laughter rang out again as Legolas nimbly jumped to his feet and bowed low to his fallen sibling.
"He got you good there Revail." Laughed Yalie.
Revail gained his feet and dusted the worst of the dirt from his clothing. He bowed back to his youngest brother acknowledging defeat.
They settled down under a large oak to rest. Legolas lay with his head propped on Yalie's legs. Calad settled back against the tree trunk. Revail did likewise and was soon asleep. The four had been released early from one of their father's tedious meetings. The discussion had meandered from the escalating price of wine, to trade agreements, to the state of the larder to the threat of Dol Gudur and then to the latest activities of the spiders.
As the eldest Revail was supposed to be in attendance, but in a sudden fit of peevishness Thranduil had insisted that all of them be present. Legolas had yawned for the fifth time and gotten a sharp kick from Calad when his father suddenly dismissed them all with a noticeable twinkle in his eye. Of course their exuberance had soon turned to playful mischief and as usual Legolas was the main target. Being the youngest he was always the target. The three had grown up for many centuries as a tight knit until before he had arrived and they cheerfully reminded him of it constantly. Yet for all their ribbing, they loved him fiercely.
They had been devastated when Legolas had been taken by orcs years ago. They had never stopped looking for him and had taken to hunting groups of orcs going to and from Dol Gudur. Many an orc had been 'interrogated' before being beheaded savagely. Yalie especially had led these forays. As he idly plaited and re-plaited the ends of Legolas' hair, he looked incapable of such anger. Legolas never knew this.
Calad at last stood and stretched, he untied the circlet from the tree and nudged Legolas and Revail with his toe. Yalie looked up at him.
"Let's start back. It's getting late and our eight legged friends will be out soon to hunt for supper." He put out a hand to pull Revail to his feet and placed the circlet on Legolas' head as he sat up.
They made it back to the underground palace just as the dinner bell sounded. Four hungry elves noisily hustled into the dining hall. They were greeted by the sight of surprised guests and an irate king. There was a chilling silence as Thranduil looked them over one by one. They suddenly became aware of their dishevelled state. Their clothes were dirty and their face smudged with dirt. Their hair was full of leaves and Calad's leggings were torn. Legolas guiltily reached up to straighten his circlet which was askew and Revail pushed back his tangled hair that hung in disarray.
"I think," Said Thranduil icily, "that the princes would rather eat in the kitchen, since they obviously are not prepared for dining this evening."
"Yes father." Answered Revail meekly and he bowed low, his circlet glinting in the bright lights, before turning to flee. As luck would have it the circlet Legolas wore fell off his head as he bowed and clanging harshly rolled straight to the feet of the king.
Legolas watched it roll with morbid fascination. It hit Thranduil's boot and he snatched it up quickly before it bounced again. Legolas' horrified stare travelled from his father's boot to his hands which rested on the table to his face which was thunderous. He swallowed, hard. Before the king could speak Calad yanked Legolas by the collar and hustled him out of sight. They both missed the King's sudden grin which he quickly hid as he turned back to his guests.
"Young ones." he said blithely.
His guests murmured in sympathy.
The four elves ate in guilty silence at the long table in the hot kitchen.
"He is going to kill us." Yalie said quietly. "Did you see his face?"
"No, he will imprison us for the next yen." Said Revail gloomily, knowing his father was quite capable of it.
"No, he will exile us and then have us executed." Calad said.
Legolas said nothing. He played with his silver fork and pushed his food around the plate. Yalie noticed and nudged Revail who turned to his younger brother with a frown. "Don't worry Legolas, it won't be that bad, we were just being silly. You know ada's temper fizzles quickly."
Legolas barely looked up. His stomach was in knots. He kept seeing the circlet roll and hit his father's feet. He groaned.
"How were we supposed to know those pompous asses were staying for dinner anyway?' asked Calad carelessly
The door was suddenly flung open. The young elves jumped.
"What was that Calad?" asked Thranduil in a deceptively mild tone.
"N… nothing father." Calad whispered.
The lecture such as it was, was delivered in such a blistering tone that soon the young elves at the table were pale faced and sat with downcast eyes. Thranduil dismissed them one by one and they fled to the safety of their rooms. That is all but Legolas, who sat with bowed head waiting, clenching and unclenching his hands nervously. He wondered why his father hadn't sent him off like the others. Thranduil sat next to him and quietly placed the circlet on the table between them. Legolas looked up then to see his father's eyes filled with wry humour.
"I am sorry ada so sorry." He whispered.
Thranduil hugged his youngest and said. "No harm done pen neth, Calad was right. They are pompous asses, all of them. Did them good to get shaken up a little." Thranduil's laughter rumbled in his throat. Legolas looked up at his father and smiled. It was not such a bad day after all.