Only the Owl Saw it All

By Levade

Short note: this is AU. The ages of the characters are off, so to be safe and satisfy canon requirements that are pretty darn clear, it's AU. Written for G-fic Group Yule Exhchange. Another of those oh-so-silly fics.

The owl peered curiously at the strange creature staggering about its
woodland territory, golden eyes large in the dark of the night. Wind
ruffled the grey feathers, and it hooted softly, offering a bit of
encouragement for the furless, featherless being that shivered in the
cold. Instead the creature gave a start and looked around wildly
before running forward. Branches, whipped up by the wind into a
frenzy of movement caught at the young creature, snaring its hair and
clothing and it cried out before striking out to fend off its

"Hoooo," soothed the owl. It is but the wind, featherless
. No elf then, for the creature showed no understanding of
owl-speak, struggling until it freed itself of the branches to
stagger off, deeper into the forest.

Ruffling its feathers, the owl blinked. No others but the Elves came
this far into the forest. What could the creature be then? A
rustling in the pine needles snared the owl's attention and it
swiveled its head, watching. Waiting. A very foolish mouse ran out
from under the raised root of a gnarled old pine, whiskers quivering
as it tested the night air. Father Mouse had told it not to go out
on a windy night such as this for other creatures used the wind to
cover their own noises, but the youngster had scoffed and twitched
his very fine tail before darting outside to take a look.

He smelled a toadstool nearby, probably a very delicious one and his
whiskers quivered in excitement. Wouldn't Father Mouse be impressed
with him bringing that home! Branches danced in the wind, the pines
groaned as they swayed, and the wind whispered as it wound through
the branches, telling of storms coming with the promise of rain.
Nothing of danger though, and so the young mouse darted forward.

Owl dropped from the branches above, silent as it floated over the
branches, closer and closer to the ground, and swooped in to grasp
the foolish young mouse in its talons. Its younglings would feed
well tonight!

"That river is freezing!"

"Come, Estel. It's not even winter yet!"

Glaring at his companion who appeared as unruffled and composed as
ever, the young man scrubbed at his hair with what had been a dry
shirt. Nothing in his very heavy, soaked pack was dry now. "You
just had to go that way, didn't you?" He grimaced and mocked in a
lilting voice, "It's easier, Estel. Trust me, Estel."

"It is!"

The protestation was lost largely because the blasted elf was
grinning, blue eyes dancing with amusement. "You have a wretched
sense of humor, son of Thranduil."

"Ai, Estel." Legolas reached out to clasp a sodden
shoulder. "Peace. Come, I know of a good spot not far from here we
can make camp and I shall build a fire. Once you are warm your sense
of humor might return."

"You realize our food was lost to the river."

"Some creature will be appreciative." The blond elf, dry as a bone,
nary a hair out of place, shrugged. "We came out here to hunt."

"Not in the middle of the night!"

Eyes widening, Legolas tried and failed to curb a grin and danced
back as his companion growled and made a grab for him. "Now, Estel…."

"Blast you, Legolas, if I am wet then you shall be as well!" The
young man knew better. He'd been raised amongst the elves, sheltered
in a haven known as Rivendell. Raised as one of them, he knew very
well just how quick and light of foot the lithe beings were.

Dancing back, Legolas held up his hands, "Estel, I would not—"

The warning was lost in a flurry of curses that would have gotten the
young man's behind tanned had his elders heard them. Human eyes,
never as sharp as the Firstborn, were at a double disadvantage in the
dark and it was that combination that led to Estel's downfall –

"Estel!" Legolas reached out to grab his friend, ducking under
windmilling arms, only to find his hands full of the tunic the young
man had been using to dry his hair. Eyes wide, the elf watched his
human companion tumble back down the steep river bank straight into
the shallows of the river. A splash and more cursing told him all he
needed to know. Holding back his laughter as his truly sodden friend
rose from the river, dripping, Legolas held out the semi-dry
tunic. "I saved your shirt for you!"

Legolas gave a shout of laughter as Estel surged up the riverbank,
and whirled to run. "Here, you'll need it!"

"Legolas!" Reaching the top of the bank, Estel staggered, caught his
balance and stumbled again as his own tunic flew into his face. He
yanked it away and glared upwards. Sure enough, his nimble friend
had taken to the trees where he stood on a branch as nonchalantly as
if on one of the walkways of Rivendell. A deep breath and the young
man shot one last glare at his friend. Elves. You just couldn't win
sometimes. "Ai…just show me this supposed campsite, if you will."

A bow and the elf leaped down to land lightly, though well-away from
the human. "This way. A fire will warm you soon enough, my friend!"

Hefting his cold, wet pack on his back, Estel rolled his eyes as the
elf began to sing to the trees, regardless that all but the pines
were dormant and ready for winter. At least it wasn't snowing.
Watching his friend walk atop the snow while he slogged through would
have been utterly the last straw. Ah well, it wouldn't be the first
night he'd spent cold and hungry, nor probably the last, and it could
have been worse.

The twin sons of Elrond might have joined them, and then…. Then
Estel never would hear the end of this hunting trip.

He told himself stories to try and forget how cold he was. Huddling
against a tree, cloak wrapped tightly around his body, he shivered
and laughed. "A…and then B..Boromir said, 'Ah, but you should have
seen the horse that came in second!'"

Stars, but he wished his brother was with him! Why had he not
listened? Of course; he had wanted to prove to Boromir that he
wasn't the skinny, scrawny runt. Not that his brother said such
things, but Faramir heard it plenty of times from others. His own
father compared the brothers at every chance, and never was it
favorable for Faramir.

But he adored his brother. Faramir looked up to him and tried to do
anything he could to get a smile, and warm the sometimes cool grey
eyes. It wasn't really all that hard. His brother was far better at
the things that made a man a good soldier: riding, fighting,
commanding. Boromir had a natural air of command and his men would
do anything for him. He was not cruel, but he did expect a great
deal of them.

And Faramir had doubtless just let him in for the biggest
disappointment of his life. Getting lost on a hunting trip! How
pathetic was that? This after his father had finally agreed, albeit
reluctantly, to let him accompany Boromir.

Father would never let him go anywhere ever again.

It was enough that he almost let the wind, the cold of the night and
the loneliness of the surroundings take him. Why not? Who would
miss him?

Boromir. Yes, his brother would mourn.

Gandalf? Maybe. The Wizard did consider Faramir a student of
considerable talent.

Lothíriel and her brothers. His Uncle Imrahil.

Not his father. No, his father would be free of an unwanted, useless

Sighing, Faramir pushed himself to his feet and grit his teeth. He
wouldn't give up! He'd prove his father wrong, show him that he was
just as good as… Well, maybe not that good, but he would show him.

He would show him that he was more than just a weak child who loved
learning. He would show Denethor that he was a fighter.

"It is a bit small for you." Legolas ignored the dirty look shot his
direction and continued cleaning the brace of rabbits he had flushed
out of their burrow. "But it is dry."

Seated in front of a ring of rocks, a pit with a fire in the middle,
Estel held his hands out to warm them and winced as the tunic pulled
at his shoulders. He was not yet fully-grown and already his
shoulders had more width to them than the elf's. "Thank you."

"You are welcome, Estel." Legolas murmured a thanks to the woods for
the gift of the rabbits and set up a spit over the fire. Sitting
back on his haunches, he smiled at his friend. "The smoke seeks to
favor you."

Waving away the grey cloud, the young man blinked as the smoke stung
his eyes. "Lucky me," he replied with a wry smile.

Turning the spit carefully, Legolas looked up. "Halbarad will be
happy to see you recovered."

"Aye." His cousin had fared only a bit better when the bridge had
collapsed in the flood, and come away with a broken
collarbone. "Adar…Elrond said I would be clear to ride on patrols
again by Yule." Estel was yet coming to grips with his true
heritage: Aragorn, son of Arathorn. He was Chieftan of the Dúnedain
and heir of Isildur, though up until his eighteenth birthday he had
been Estel, foster son of Elrond Eärendilion. It was a heavy weight
to bear; one Elrond had sought to help him with for as long as

He was a hunted man and would be all of his life.

Unless he … No, he would not think of that. Not now. Not yet.

"Peace, Estel."

The man looked up as a light hand fell upon his shoulder and squeezed
gently. "Have not I been a friend to you since you were more of a
child than you are now?"

A joke between them. To an Elf, a man of Estel's age was not even
fully-grown. Not yet an adult. "You have, Legolas." He reached out
to grip the elf's shoulder. "Though at times, like in the river
today, I question why I trust you so much."

Sitting back with a grin, Legolas shook his head. "So that you will
have someone to care for you in your dottering age?"

Estel's reply froze on his lips as the elf rose, drew his dagger and
pivoted to face away from the fire in one graceful, smooth move.
Legolas' hearing was far sharper than his own and with the wind
making the trees shift and groan, the man wasn't sure what his friend
could have heard.

Legolas stepped soundlessly forward and gestured to the side. Estel
nodded and crept off, his own dagger in his hand. The woods were
usually safe, Glorfindel sent patrols out to be certain, and checked
the Redhorn Pass himself, without fail. The attack on Celebrían
weighed heavily upon the Captain of Rivendell's guard, even years
later. Orcs still roamed these mountains, and sometimes, though far
more rare, wolves.

A cry somewhere in the darkness ahead told Estel this was no Orc or
beast and he ran forward. "Legolas, over here!" It was a young boy,
maybe nine years old, and he wasn't moving. Feeling carefully along
the boy's arms and legs, Estel grunted as the elf knelt next to
him. "His ankle is caught in that root. Broken, or badly twisted I

The elf bent closer, curious as to what a young boy was doing so far
from any settlement Legolas knew of. "Where could he have come from?"

"A band of hunters, trappers, or people travelling over the pass
before the snows block the way." Freeing the boy's ankle, Estel
lifted him carefully and rose. "Let's get him back and get him
warm. He's shivering."

Legolas followed, glancing around to see if there were any others
with the boy. It seemed impossible to him that such a young human
could be out so far on his own. Sheathing his dagger, he went to the
pile of wood he had collected and put more on the fire, checking the
rabbit as well.

"Sprained." Estel had the boy's boot off and looked grim as he
gently probed the bones. "Though not as badly as it could have
been." He rose and walked towards the river.

"Do not fall in again, Estel," Legolas called, unable to resist. "I
am running out of dry clothing!" The boy stirred and he walked over
to kneel next to him. "Shhh…easy, young one. You are safe."

A groan and the boy opened grey eyes to blink upwards. He stared
before reaching up to rub his eyes. "Am I dead?"

"No." Legolas smiled but put a hand on the boy's shoulder to keep
him from moving. "You need to be still. Your ankle was injured in a

Faramir knew he shouldn't stare, it was rude, but never had he seen
so fair a being. "You're an Elf."

Hand to his heart, Legolas inclined his head. "I am Legolas."

"I…" He might as well be honest. Gandalf said elves could tell if
you were lying. "My name is Faramir."

"Well met, Faramir. And this is my scruffy companion, Estel."

An older human male walked up and knelt, his brow furrowed. He held
several thin branches in his hands. "Awake, I see, and already the
elf is filling your ears with nonsense."

Offering a tentative smile, he wasn't sure what to think of these
two, Faramir noted the dark hair and grey eyes of the man. If this
wasn't one of the famed Rangers of the North he would …eat one of
those sticks! "Yes, milord. I mean, no, milord, he..he isn't –"

Legolas laughed merrily and returned to the fire to turn the
rabbit. "His name is Estel and he's very good at healing. You're
quite fortunate we found you. Wolves roam these forests."

"Indeed." Looking a bit grim, Estel softened his expression as he
saw the boy stare out at the night with an alarmed look. "Be easy,
young one. Nothing will harm you while we're here." He bent and
measured the branches along the boy's leg. "What is your name?"

"Faramir." He noticed the man pause and gulped as the intent grey
gaze held his.

"Son of Denethor?"


"What are you doing so far from home, Faramir?" Estel motioned to
the elf. "Legolas, if you would help? Faramir, I am going to have
to bind this ankle and it will likely hurt."

Eyes widening as the elf came to sit behind him and took his
shoulders in a firm grip, Faramir licked his lips. "I…I was with a
hunting party with my brother. We became separated." He whimpered
as the man tied the first piece of rag around the ankle, binding the
splints in place. "I saw a buck and wanted to prove to Boromir that
I could be just as brave but then I…I don't know. I thought I knew
which way I had gone, chasing the deer, but everything looked so much
alike and when I stopped running it was getting dark." He bit his
lip hard to keep from crying out as Estel tied the rest of the strips
in place.

"He'll be looking for you."

"We can go looking for him in the morning," Legolas offered. "A
group of humans should not be hard to find."

Ignoring the elf's grin, Estel made certain the bindings weren't too
tight, and that Faramir could feel his toes before he sat
back. "Rest easy, Faramir. We'll care for you until we find your

"Thank you."

It was clear to the man the boy was in pain and he turned to rummage
through his wet pack. Some things, the more precious of his
belongings, he carried wrapped in oilskin, to protect them. "Let's
get some water and mix a bit of this in. It will ease the pain."

A short time later, Faramir sat propped against a pack, eyes half-
closed. Whatever the man had given him it was making him sleepy.
The pain in his ankle was but a dull ache now. He blinked as the elf
knelt and held out a large leaf with meat on it. "Eat and regain
your strength, youngling. It's rabbit."

He wasn't hungry but Faramir obediently took it and found it far
better than he expected. "Lord Legolas…are your people …do they live

"No." Legolas ate neatly, ignoring Estel who was gnawing on a bone
to get to the last tasty bits. "My home is to the east of the Misty
Mountains, in the forests of Mirkwood."


Estel smiled to himself. The boy was clearly fascinated by his elven

"Do the Rangers ride so far as this?"

"No." He waved a rabbit bone around, indicating the woods. "These
lands are patrolled by Lord Elrond's guards." Leaving off just where
the Rangers roamed. It would be better for the boy if he didn't
know. The less for him to tell his father who doubtless was curious
about his neighbors to the north.

"Oh." Faramir looked about owlishly as if expecting more elves to
magically appear from the woods. The medication was making him
sleepy as was the warmth of the fire. He was safe and warm. He
could rest. Nothing would get him tonight. "Do you ….think…."
Head slumping to one side, Faramir was asleep, mid-sentence.

Estel scooted over and eased the boy down, folding Legolas' cloak for
a pillow. Gently brushing back the boy's black hair, he felt his
forehead. "No fever, thankfully. He's a strong lad."

"You know his father."

He could barely hear the elf's soft question over the whoosh of the
wind through the tree tops. "Yes." Estel looked up, wry smile
curling his lips. "Denethor is the Steward of Gondor."

"Ah…" Comprehension lit the bright blue eyes. "I would expect the
two sons rode with quite a large escort then. They are far from

"I imagine so." So where were they? Estel sighed. "We will find
them in the morning."

"Get some rest, Estel. I will keep watch." Legolas stood and
gathered his bow and quiver before walking to the edge of the camp
where the light did not affect his vision. He walked around the
camp, humming to himself, sharp hearing having no problems picking up
even something so soft as an owl flying silently overhead.

Estel rolled himself into his cloak and smiled as his Elven friend
began to softly sing a song of praise to the Star-kindler. Sleep
crept up on him and pulled him down into its soft depths before the
song had even reached the second stanza.

In the end it had been easy to find the company of Men. They had
followed Faramir's tracks as soon as it was daylilght and the two
groups met around mid-day.

Legolas stood proud and unyielding, pale hair shining in the grey
light of day, gathering more than a few curious looks as Estel
carried Faramir forward.

"Faramir!" A man, much younger than Estel, jumped off his horse and
ran forward. "What happened? Is he –"

"I am fine, brother!" Embarrassed by all the attention, Faramir was
quick to assure his brother. "I got lost chasing a buck and these
two found me and helped me."

Grey eyes met grey eyes as Boromir stared hard at Estel, almost as if
seeking for something in the features that were so very familiar. So
very Gondorian. "Did they? Then they have my thanks."

Almost smiling at the clear tone of command in the young man's voice,
Estel handed the boy over to his brother and held a hand to his heart
as he bowed his head. "He had fallen not far from our camp. My
companion heard his cry and we brought him to our camp for the night."

"My thanks…"


Legolas inclined his head as the man's gaze fell on him, not
speaking. Let them think what they would; it mattered little to him,
Men's opinions. Though he did find it amusing that the boy's brother
seemed to find Estel something of a threat. Ai…Men. They lived so
short a time and lost so much of what they knew in the end.

"Thank you both." Faramir offered a shy smile. "Boromir, could we
not offer them a bit of hospitality for what they have done?"

Seeming taken aback at his brother pointing out his rude manners,
Boromir nodded. "Yes, of course. Please, be welcome."

"My thanks, but we must be on our way." Estel inclined his
head. "Safe journey to you, Faramir. Lord Boromir."

"And you, both of you!" The boy seemed reluctant to see them go but
smiled when Legolas put his hand to his heart and bowed before

"So you had an adventure, little brother." Boromir frowned at the
splint. "We must get you home and have father's healer look at your

"I am sorry, Boromir." Faramir bowed his head, staring at his dirty,
ripped tunic. "I…I didn't mean to get lost or ruin your trip."

"You have not ruined it, little one." Handing his brother to the man
holding his horse, Boromir mounted then reached to take his brother
up before him. "Come, ride with me and rest easy. I am just
relieved we found you."

"Father will strap me when…" The strong arms tightened around him
and Faramir leaned back against his brother's chest. What must it be
like to be the favoured son? He would never know, but at least his
brother loved him.

"I will deal with father, Faramir. Do not worry."

It was useless to argue and so Faramir nodded. "I met an elf,
Boromir! He was very nice." His brother's chuckle rumbled from his

Listening to his little brother chatter away, Boromir thought it had
to be the sweetest music he'd heard all day.

"Do you think he recognized you?"

"As a Ranger? Perhaps."

"Ai, you Men."

"What does that mean?" Estel recognized the distraction for what it
was. "I could easily say just as much for Elves."

"What? That we bathe and do not wipe our food on our clothing?"

A snort; Elves were known for fastidious natures. "You, my
princeling, are by far the worst of the lot. You even carry a comb!"

"Yes, I can see how that would be considered offensive by you, Estel."

"I still say I can take down a stag before you even pull your bow."

"Now I know that you are delirious, Estel. Did you hit your head
when you fell in the river?"

And far above in the trees, an owl watched with bright golden eyes,
hoo-hoo'ing in amusement for the ways of humans and elves.

A/N: my thanks to Holly for reading and encouraging me after so long. Peace, Levade