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Chapter 6

Pursuit of the Elusive Prey

Shrieking laughter echoed through the rooms of the Last Homely House as a small boy darted around a corner at full speed, his short legs making easy work of the sharp turn. Behind him, the tall, blond elf giving chase hit the rug before the doorway, sliding past it and across the highly-polished floor into a dark-haired elf. They both tumbled to the ground.

"Did you find him?"

"He eluded me! He went through the sitting room."

Both elves scrambled to their feet, hands assisting each other as they stood. Erestor's eyes flashed. "Shall I go around through the library and cut him off? He cannot slip through all our grasps!"

Glorfindel's brow furrowed slightly in thought. "Aye. Go and hurry. I shall continue the pursuit from behind. Perhaps Legolas or the twins will close in from the sides, and then we will have him for sure." Strategy decided, the two quickly clasped hands and grinned at each other before taking off in different directions.

The child never paused in his flight, but continued through the halls and rooms, laughing with delight as he ran. Ahead, mirror images closed in from different directions, their black hair is disarray as they converged on him. Estel kept running, and as all three came together and long arms reached for him, the boy twisted and turned in a manner that imitated a certain fighting maneuver of wood elves, slipping through and leaving his twin brothers grasping only each other. Beyond them, Estel turned another corner, giggling with glee.



Elladan and Elrohir looked at each other in shock. "He learned that from watching Legolas spar with us!" Elrohir howled in disbelief.

"Do not just stand there, brother. After him! He can not escape…not this time!" Elladan growled. The sons of Elrond quickly resumed their pursuit of the elusive prey.

Legolas watched the twins miss the boy and changed his course through the house to match that of Estel. Cutting through a room full of ladies sewing, he paused only to nod at them and politely excuse his interruption, before barreling out the far door, gold hair flying, leaving feminine whispers and giggles in his wake.

A flash of movement caught the corner of his eye, and the prince lunged, tackling what he assumed was Estel to the ground. "Got you!" he declared triumphantly.

Lindir raised a brow from his prone position under the Prince of Mirkwood. "Yes, you do. And I find I am not sure if I wish to know why."

Bright grey eyes darted to the minstrel's face. "Lindir! Forgive me! I thought you were Estel." Legolas pulled himself off the elf, and offered a hand up.

"Yes, of course," the minstrel replied as he stood. "I can understand that. We resemble each other so closely after all." The minstrel's words were spoken dryly, but his serious expression was quickly replaced with a smile. "He was headed towards the library, I believe."

"Thank you!" the prince threw over his shoulder as he tore away, leaving a bemused Lindir shaking his head.

"They will never catch him."

Estel was slowing now, his little legs growing tired though his blue-grey eyes still shone with the thrill of the chase. From different directions, five elves were closing in on him, and he made a last, mad dash for the library. He ran through the doorway with all five on his heels, and slid to a stop.

His pursuers also managed to come to a halt without trampling the child, and all eyes came to rest on the impressive form of Lord Elrond, standing before them, arms crossed and an eyebrow raised. Slowly the elf-lord lifted an arm and pointed towards an exit.

"Your bath, Estel. Now. Your mother is waiting."

"Yes, Ada," Estel said in a tiny voice. He ducked his chin respectively then looked up from under his brows at his father, his unruly dark curls hanging in disarray around his cherubic face. Elrond dropped his arm and winked at him. The child grinned and skipped happily from the room.

Elrond's eyes turned to the rather sheepish-looking, winded and bruised elves standing before him. He tilted his head questioningly. "Do you mean to tell me that five respected elf-lords could not manage to get a small, human child to his mother for his bath?"

Suddenly, everything in the room was of more interest than Lord Elrond, as all eyes looked anywhere but at the disapproving Lord of Imladris.

Glorfindel, however, quickly regained his composure and stepped forward, proudly meeting Elrond's eyes. "Nay, my lord. We were simply trying to make the experience as fun for the child as possible. Youth is so fleeting among mortals. Surely, we should encourage him to enjoy his childhood to the fullest…considering what he will one day face."

Erestor's lips twitched upwards at the Captain's words, and he came to stand beside his golden-haired friend. "Yes, it is important that he be carefree while he can, my lord. We had him heading in the right direction. It was simply a game."

Both Elrond's eyebrows lifted at his Chief Councilor's remarks. "You, Erestor? Play a child's game? And twice in one month, no less? Surely this is an age of miracles."

"Father," Elladan interjected. "Erestor played with us frequently when we were children. Why should he not do the same with our brother?"

Elrohir's brows lifted, and he smiled. "Yes, if I recall, we played a similar game, as well." The younger twin smiled at the advisor, noting the tightening of the elf's features.

"Yes, of course, we did." Erestor nodded, fighting not to frown at the horrific memories.

Elrond snorted. "You nearly drove every elf in this house insane with your games, my sons. And I will not be thrown off track by this nonsense. Between the five of you, none of you were able to catch Estel and deposit him in his quarters as Gilraen requested. If you cannot catch a four-year-old, how do you manage to kill orcs?" None missed the amused twinkle in the elf-lord's eyes. He was not going to let them live this down.

"My Lord Elrond," Legolas spoke quietly, stepping forward. "I fear this was my fault. I mentioned we could conclude the game of Hide-and-Seek that we had begun. Forgive me. I should have just taken him to his room."

Elrond nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, you should have, for now Gilraen will not have time to oversee Estel's bath herself, since she has plans to spend the evening with the ladies of the house. So I suggest all of you quickly find your way to Estel's chambers and see the child is bathed and put to bed properly, so that she may proceed with her plans."

Five faces broke into large smiles. "As you wish, Lord Elrond," Legolas replied for all of them, bowing gracefully. As a group they burst from the library, their laughter floating down the halls of the Last Homely House bringing smiles to all who heard it.

And so it was that the Lady Gilraen managed to have a delightful evening sewing with the ladies of Imladris, and a small boy fell asleep to the stories and songs of five elves piled around his room, the memory of which would remain with him for all his days.

The End

A/N - Well? What'd ya think?