Disclaimer: Alas, I don't own anyone that you recognize.
Summary: A very young Legolas sets out to find the giant spiders that are threatening his woodland home, but the little elfling has no idea what he'll soon be facing.
A/N: In this story, Legolas is the equivalent of seven in human years.
A FIRST ENCOUNTER
by White Wolf
The door to Thranduil's office had not been completely closed, when Pathendir, one of Mirkwood's senior patrol captains, had entered to make his report to the king. The few inches of open space allowed the voices inside to carry easily to the listening ears of the king's youngest son.
The small prince knew better than to listen in on any of the grown-up conversations that he was not directly involved in. He had been admonished often enough to be very clear on the matter.
The reports that came in from the patrols were usually discussed behind closed doors, and he was not yet bold enough to risk putting his ear against the wood to listen. However, this door had been left ajar, and this provided an opportunity that was just too tempting for a curious elfling to ignore.
Even a child as young as Legolas could rationalize. His, at this moment, was that as a prince of the realm, albeit a very small one, he should know everything that went on in his woodland home. How else could he help his people, if he was kept from knowing all that affected them? He knew his father and older brother would definitely disagree.
It was hard to keep all knowledge of the evils that plagued Mirkwood from the littlest prince, but Thranduil tried very hard to keep his curious son from learning the full extent of the Shadow and the darkness that it was spreading toward them from Dol Guldur in the south.
Legolas was hoping that by eavesdropping now he would find out some details about what was happening in the forest. He waited with barely suppressed impatience, as Pathendir began his report.
"My lord, we came upon a nest of spiders only fifteen miles from here."
Thranduil's head came up sharply. "Fifteen miles?" he repeated with undisguised alarm. "I have never known them to establish a nest so close to the palace."
"Nor have I, my lord." The captain almost flinched at the expression on the king's face. "Not only were they close, but it was the largest nest we have ever found north of the Old Forest Road."
The air in the office suddenly seemed to thicken and become almost too stuffy to breathe. Even standing in the hall, Legolas could sense a change in the mood inside.
"Was anyone hurt?" the king asked with concern.
"A few scratches, but there were no serious injuries and no bites this time."
Relieved, Thranduil began to study the written report that the captain had handed him when he first walked in. The king always read every word in every report he was given, but he also liked to hear first hand from his captains, not only what they found but how things seemed to them. Patrolling the forest in these dark times had sharpened the warriors' sense of evil beyond what was typical for the Firstborn.
"I see there were well over two dozen of the creatures in the nest."
"Aye, my lord. They were all killed. The nest itself was destroyed, as well as the nearby webs."
"Did you sense the presence of more spiders in the surrounding area?" the king asked, his deep blue-gray eyes looking directly into Pathendir's.
The captain took a long, slow breath before answering. He wanted so much tell his king no, but couldn't. Finally, he answered, "There was a strong feeling that we would find more of them, but search as we did, we were not able to spot any nor did we see physical signs that they were there. I am sorry, my lord."
The wave of an elegant hand dismissed any reason for apology. "All of you that patrol our realm sacrifice much and do far more for us than most could even imagine. I know what it is like to lead a patrol and not know from one moment to the next what danger may lie in wait."
Pathendir had not known Thranduil as a warrior prince, but his father had fought with the future king, and the captain had heard many stories of Thranduil's bravery and prowess in battle.
Pathendir's attention instantly returned to the subject at hand. "I dispatched another patrol to check the area where the nest had been. Hopefully, if there are more spiders, they will find what we could not."
The king nodded and then frowned. "I regret that we do not have enough warriors to stay ahead of all the perils the Shadow sends out to try and overtake us. It seems we no sooner take care of one threat than two others appear."
"The warriors are always more than willing to do what they can to protect our home."
"Aye, that is true, and your sacrifices are much appreciated. I just wish that none of you had to work so hard."
There had been many times when a patrol had come home weary, wounded and bearing the bodies of those who had been killed fulfilling their duty. And more often than not, the patrols that left to go back out into the forest were not as rested as they should have been.
Pathendir had no reply for that, since he knew from experience how hard a warrior's life was. He simply stood quietly as Thranduil finished reading the report.
Then the elder elf inhaled and exhaled a long breath before looking up. "The report of your activities and observations are as thorough as usual, Pathendir," Thranduil told the captain. "And as usual, I am most grateful for your dedication. You and your warriors deserve a rest with your families." The words were heartfelt, but he knew as well as Pathendir did, that this patrol would be leaving again all too soon.
Thranduil nodded his head in dismissal.
Legolas had been enthralled during the conversation between his father and the patrol captain. It was while they were discussing the shortage of warriors to defend Mirkwood that Legolas had begun thinking about the problem.
The elfling couldn't see either of the people inside the office, but his father's last words were a clear indication that Pathendir would be leaving almost immediately. Realizing he would have only a moment to get clear, Legolas turned and scampered down the hall. Reaching the nearest doorway, he quickly entered it, just as Pathendir exited the office.
The room Legolas found himself in was the library, and as it turned out, that was the exact place he needed to be. He wanted to find out more about the giant spiders that lived in the forest.
He knew exactly which of the large books in the library he needed to look at, because he had seen just where his oldest brother, Balardoron, had put it the last time he had read it. The older prince had made sure it was on one of the highest shelves, since he knew that his father did not want Legolas looking at the drawings of the horrid creatures.
Heights did not bother elves, of course, so climbing up to the shelf that held the book did not cause the elfling a moment's hesitation. Knowing how much trouble he would be in should he be caught did but only for a few seconds. Then he crawled up the shelves like one of the spiders he sought to read about.
Climbing up had been easy, however, getting back down with the large book was another matter.
Legolas was afraid that if he dropped the book to the floor, it would make a noise loud enough to attract attention, and that was the last thing he wanted to happen. He also didn't want to cause the tome any damage. Both his family and his teachers had always instilled in him a great love of books. They revealed history and opened up the outside world.
Legolas put the book under his left arm and used only his legs and right arm to maneuver himself back down to the floor. Success.
Sitting down right where he was, the little prince crossed his legs. Placing the large book in his lap, he began turning the pages. It took only a few moments to find what he was looking for.
The elfling scrunched up his face, when he finally gazed upon the drawing of one of the giant spiders of Mirkwood. It was ugly. It had a large head with big, bulging eyes that seemed to look right through him. As with all spiders, it had eight legs. These were long and hairy, and in the middle they were jointed and came to points high above its black, bulbous body. Most frightening of all were the two curved fangs that protruded from the corners of its mouth.
Legolas was a bright child and understood that the drawings found in books were just small pictures meant to represent various animals, buildings, trees, flowers, and so forth. However, he had never seen one of the giant spiders, so he had no idea how big they really were.
He placed his small hand over the drawing and was dismayed to see that the creature's legs, head and most of its body were sticking out on all sides. All of the spiders he had ever seen were smaller than his hand. So if this spider was that much bigger than the ones he knew, the giant spiders of Mirkwood must be at least as big as frogs or - and his eyes got very big in realization - as big as a kitten or a puppy.
The book slammed shut with a whoosh. These spiders were so big! No wonder the warriors had so much trouble with them. Yet, the elfling was not daunted, at least not completely. He straightened his shoulders. He was a prince, after all, so he would have to do his duty to his people and aid the warrior patrols in eliminating these disgusting creatures from the forest. Facing orcs and wargs and other fell beings of the Shadow were beyond his abilities, but spiders he could fight!
After replacing the book on the shelf and climbing back down, Legolas made his way to his room. He had some plans to make.
It was early afternoon by the time Legolas had gathered all of the supplies that he thought he would need and put them into a small pack. The most important item was a small sword that his brother, Balardoron, had given him the year before.
Legolas had gone to the dining room and had the mid-day meal with his father, his brother and his sister-in-law. He did his best not to appear too excited or eager to leave the table. It would not do for his family to become too suspicious.
The meal had gone just as he had hoped. When he returned to his room, he carefully lay out his lesson book, pen and several sheets of paper. He hated deceiving whoever might find them, thinking, as he hoped, that they would believe he was merely taking a break from his lessons.
When Legolas reached the doorway, he turned back. "Forgive me, Ada," he said to the empty room. "But you will be proud of me when I kill the spiders that have come too close to us."
With a nod of his head, the little prince closed his door and crept out into the hall. No one appeared to be in this wing of the palace, so he slipped quietly down the corridor toward the main doors. The few servants he met gave him a nod of respect but no one questioned him.
When he reached the front doors, Legolas smiled at the guards and walked right past them, as they bowed their heads toward their youngest prince. He then came to a stop at the bottom of the stairway, as the thought suddenly struck him: How was he going to get past the guards at the main gates? All of them knew quite well that he was not allowed out of the palace grounds unless an adult was with him.
The elfling was too young yet to understand the concept of planning ahead. He had decided what he wanted to do, and to him all that was left was simply to go and do it, never realizing he would need to figure out how he was going to do it.
He knew he couldn't get through the main gates by himself, and just continuing to stand where he was would soon draw attention. Thinking quickly, he turned to the side, giving the impression that he was headed for the garden to play.
He sat down by the garden gate out of the sight of the front door guards. He thought and thought, but nothing came to him. It was a good twenty minutes later, when a solution to his dilemma presented itself.
Legolas saw a group of elves on the palace grounds several yards from where he sat. It looked to be several families with at least eight children among them. There were also three wagons with a pair of horses pulling each one. It was a large group that could easily hide the presence of one small elfling.
The elves had stopped to say goodbye to friends that had gathered before they returned to their village several miles northwest of the palace.
It was an easy task for Legolas to slip in among the elflings and march out right under the noses of the gate guards when the elves left.
There were four warriors sent to guard the travelers, but Legolas didn't know any of them, so he figured they wouldn't know him. It was a chance he had to take, since there didn't seem to be any other way to get into the forest.
None of the children seemed to care that a stranger had joined them. It was one more person to play with, so none of them said anything to any of the adults.
It was only a small twinge that invaded Legolas's mind, when he soon found himself in the forest and moving away from the palace. The twinge vanished, as he thought once more about how proud his family would be when he told them they would no longer have to worry about the giant spiders.
As the families moved farther into the forest, Legolas played with the other children. He was so caught up in the games they were engaged in that for a while he completely forgot why he was there.
When Legolas heard one of the children mention seeing a small spider crawling on the pathway and stopped to watch it,
the little prince suddenly remembered his mission to find the giant spiders. He had to get free of these elves without them seeing him leave.
Less than a hundred yards farther on, the path curved to the left, and Legolas took that opportunity to slip behind a tree. By the time the elves and wagons were out of sight, Legolas had made his way into the thick trees to the right.
Once alone, Legolas stood under the trees and looked around him. The spiders were to be found south of the palace according to comments he had heard from time to time.
Due to both his lessons and his inherent ability to know which way was which, he knew he had been traveling in the wrong direction. So it was with single-minded determination that the little elven prince now turned and headed south.