by Aranel Laerien
"So?" the boy asked expectantly.
Elladan pulled Elrohir aside. "Are you sure of this?" he asked.
"Why not?" Elrohir replied. "You saw the invitation too. It's the usual template and seal that Mirkwood uses. Estel's definitely not tricking us this time!"
"That is true," Elladan conceded unwilling, "but it is only half a parchment."
"Elladan, what happened to your sense of adventure?" Elrohir sounded rather exasperated.
The boy was still waiting. He was accustomed to such indecisions, but still… He folded his arms across his chest. "'Dan," he asked, "what could possibly happen?"
"Everything. Ada could be there and he would not be pleased that we snuck out."
"Well, other than that?" the boy was insistent.
Elrohir analysed their situation. "If we leave tomorrow, we'll be able to reach in time. Ada and Glorfindel have already left, so we only need slip past Erestor."
"Besides, it's a display of weaponry and combat tactics, and the whole thing's going to last almost a month!" the boy added, rather proud of those complex words.
"Exactly!" Elrohir chimed in, and turned to the boy, "Estel, let's go and pack for the journey. Even if this stubborn being is not going, I am!"
Estel squealed and ran off.
"I don't think this is a good idea," Elladan stated flatly.
"You never do."
"And I'm usually right."
Elrohir rolled his eyes, clearly having given up on his twin brother. "Whichever you wish, Estel and I are leaving. We've been cooped in here for too long."
That night, Elrohir easily obtained permission from Erestor.
"We're planning for the hunting trip to take two months at most," Elrohir said.
"And where will you hunt?" Erestor inquired.
"We will stay close to the Misty Mountains."
Elrohir tensed but recovered quickly. "Isn't that rather far?"
Erestor nodded, still watching the young elf closely.
"Is Elladan going?"
Elrohir hesitated a second, "I'm not sure."
Erestor raised an eyebrow.
"He didn't give me a definite answer," Elrohir quickly appended.
Erestor seemed to find that amusing. "Very well, you may go," he said finally.
Once out of sight, Elrohir let out the breath he had been holding and made for the kitchens to pack their supplies.
A hand clamped onto his shoulder.
"Hunting trip, isn't it?" Erestor's voice sounded menacing. "I trust you, being experienced hunters, would not require any food provisions."
"No," Elrohir replied smoothly, "of course not."
Gilraen did not even have half as many questions when he approached her earlier. Her only response had been to charge Elrohir to take care of Estel. It was as if she had known, Elrohir shook his head to clear that thought and made for his room. He had better rest well before the journey.
Before dawn, Elrohir made for the stables to prepare his mare and Estel's pony. Ever since the boy could mount a pony, he had insisted on riding alone instead of tagging behind one of the twins.
Elrohir stopped abruptly. There was someone within the stalls. No one else should be here so early.
He kept a hand on his blade and rounded the wooden compound cautiously. A horse neighed. He turned sharply, blade flying out into…
"Elladan?" he asked, curious and positively delighted.
Elladan lowered his own blade reluctantly. Elrohir had nearly cut him! He answered grumpily, "Do you think I could leave you and Estel alone in the wild?"
"There's no telling what you'll let at him," Elladan was obviously disgruntled, "But still, I do not think well of this trip"
"Yes, we all know; 'trip' is only a letter away from 'trap'," Elrohir rolled his eyes as they readied the horses.
"You never listen to advice."
"I do, but only when they're good."
A glower. "You'll regret this."
It would suffice to say that the journey was most cheerful and pleasant. There was good weather throughout – it rained only one afternoon for Estel to revel in the puddles and enjoy the squelch of mud. The twins were light-hearted, Elladan spoke lesser of his misgivings and Estel grew more excitable once there were past the Misty Mountains.
No orcs, no skirmishes of any kind, except that there were some wild animals that came too near and were promptly hunted – Erestor had sadistically guarded the kitchens after his conversation with Elrohir. They exchanged their usual banter to help time pass faster. It was then that Elrohir realised it was time for another prank on Legolas.
"Not again!" Estel had groaned. "You devious creatures had better not mix strange things into Legolas' shampoo again!"
"We could do something else," Elrohir responded promptly, "say, with his soap."
Estel pouted. "It's sadistic of you to play pranks on him."
It would seem that the young Estel had indeed built up a decent vocabulary of negative adjectives – no one knew how, but anyone could tell why.
"Isn't it sadistic when you play a prank on us, then?" Elladan countered.
"That's different! You deserved it!"
"Maybe we could tweak one of his practice arrows," Elrohir was evidently not easily derailed, "or slip something else into his bed."
"You're horribly vile!"
Elladan wondered why Estel seemed particular opposed to all the pranks they had devised for Legolas.
"Estel, think of it this way: we would not be worthy sons of Elrond if we ceased our tricks."
Estel frowned but the twins had changed the subject and were reminding him about refilling their water supply, then Elrohir said something not quite nice and somehow, they ended up wrestling one another to the ground.
So, it turned out that the journey was very safe, rather uneventful, and almost mundane. It was all too easy, as Estel had put it, and they were all pleased with their efforts.
Until they reached Mirkwood.
"Ada?" Estel asked uncertainly as he looked to see whom he had bumped into.
"Yes, it is I, Estel," Elrond smiled fondly and ruffled the boy's mud-stained hair.
"So you have come?" Glorfindel addressed all three of them most disturbingly cheerfully.
They exchanged worried glances. This was definitely not how any of them – perhaps with the exception of Elladan – could have imagined their trip to end.
"Elrond," Celeborn was saying, "we would have thought it impossible to cajole these young ones to such a long council."
Elrond and Glorfindel only exchanged satisfied smiles at the younglings' confusion. Glorfindel produced a copy of the invitation, tearing it just between the lines "… discussion of current affairs of state and defence" and "culminating in a display of weaponry and tactical skill".
Elladan, Elrohir and Estel groaned in unison. Estel was sure he had never seen this many Elf-lords laugh as hard.
At Thranduil's request, they were brought through a locked passage. There were numerous guards along the corridor that led to a locked chamber. Their escort ushered them in.
Estel could see a table in the centre, well-furnished with a feast of food. He rubbed his grumbling stomach. The light within the room was dim. He looked up and saw that the windows had been barred. When their escort shut the door behind them, he had to shut his eyes tight before he finally adjusted to the dim lighting.
Elladan was more curious at the soft beds prepared, as it seemed, for them – three empty beds. But Elrohir gravitated to the fourth, the one showing some… tousled blond hair.
"Legolas?" Estel wandered over.
The elf in the bed rubbed his eyes and turned hazily. He managed to stand, albeit with a wobble. "So you've been caught too?" he asked, speech slurring as though drugged.
Estel nodded gloomily, but as he turned to the twins, he caught them exchanging a wink. Legolas watched them warily, backing instinctively into the corner.
Perhaps, things would be more entertaining than any of them had thought.