DISCLAIMER: I daresay the legal details of who owns which part of Tolkien's work are complex. I, unfortunately, own nothing.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is my first LOTR fic and English is not my native language, so please bear with me if the grammar is off or the details are wrong! Please review… Constructive criticism is much appreciated.
SUMMARY: This is Estel's first meeting with Legolas, and the twins are seeing their old friend after a very long time… but that's just the setting. And of course there are spiders and orcs and all manner of fell and evil creatures. Mainly action with a bit of humour, and some angst to come later on.
CHAPTER 1: Well Met in Eryn Lasgalen
The young man adjusted his cloak for the fiftieth time in half an hour.
"Relax, Estel," said the dark-haired elf riding to his left. "Thranduil does not eat people."
"He may kill them," came a voice from Estel's right. "He may kill them with – extreme impoliteness, was it, Dan?"
"Extreme impoliteness," the other agreed, laughing. "Which means that he can even scare Glorfindel, when he gets into one of his moods."
Estel groaned. This was going to be his first meeting with the elven king of Greenwood the Great, and he had hoped to make a good impression, especially since Thranduil was known to dislike men. Clearly, that was not going to happen.
"Cheer up," Elladan said. "We won't see much of Thranduil. And you'll like Legolas."
Estel thought back to the first time he had heard the name.
Estel, Elladan and Elrohir were wandering through the huge galleries in Imladris, admiring tapestries of famous battles and laughing over portraits of people they knew. Estel turned from a huge mural showing Glorfindel facing a balrog to a much smaller painting beside it.
The painting was of Elladan and Elrohir standing on either side of a strange blonde elf. The twins were identically and ceremonially dressed, wearing deep red cloaks bearing the crest of Imladris and silver circlets upon their brows. The strange elf was wearing a cloak the colour of fresh grass and the circlet he wore was in the form of a wreath of leaves worked in silver. Despite the formality of dress and pose, it was clear that the three elves in the portrait were the best of friends; they all seemed to be on the verge of laughter.
"Who's that?" Estel asked.
Elrohir came over to look.
"Why, Estel," he said, faking an injured expression, "that's me and Dan. Surely you can recognize us by now."
"And that's Legolas," Elrohir said finally. "Prince of Eryn Lasgalen."
"Yes," Elladan said. "There's another one of the three of us in Lasgalen Palace. Ada and the king had them made so that when they were tempted to declare war on each other they would remember that their children were friends."
"I didn't know we had strained relations with Mirkwood!"
"We don't, although we will if you ever call it that in front of Thranduil. He and Ada have been friends practically since they were elflings."
Estel fiddled with his cloak again.
"How long have you known Legolas?"
It was a sign of his distraction that he did not notice the glance that Elladan and Elrohir exchanged.
"For close to three thousand years," Elrohir said finally.
"Ever since he was born, in fact – we were visiting Greenwood when he was born, do you remember, Ro?"
"You should get him to give you archery lessons," Elrohir said. Then, deliberately raising his voice, he added, "That will help undo the damage Glorfindel has done to your bowmanship."
An elf with bright golden hair reined in and rode back to them.
"A little more respect for your betters, Elrohir Elrondion!" His smile belied the severity of his words. "But his suggestion is not unwise, Estel. There are no better archers in Middle Earth than the elves of Mirkwood –"
"Greenwood," another elf corrected from where he rode behind Estel.
"Greenwood, then, Erestor."
"It's all the same to me," Erestor said. "But Elrond won't thank you for precipitating a war."
Glorfindel shook his head.
"In any case, Estel, Legolas is one of the best archers I know. It would do you good to learn from him, if he is willing to teach you."
As Glorfindel rode up to the head of the column again, Estel asked, "What's he like?"
"Legolas?" Elladan said. "He is pleasant enough, if you do not offend his dignity. He is a prince, after all."
Estel, toying with his bridle strap, did not see Elrohir's suppressed grin or hear the soft snort from behind him.
"I don't know how to behave with an elven prince!"
"Just remember to bow when you meet him," Elladan said seriously.
"But you must put down your sword first," Elrohir said. "You must never bear arms in the presence of a member of the royal family, unless you are on patrol or guard duty."
"You must address him as 'Your Royal Highness'."
"If he asks you how you are, you must say…"
Legolas was on the practice fields when an elf came running to him.
"We have reports," the elf said. "The party from Rivendell is half a day's ride away."
Legolas nodded. "How many are there, Rochendilwen?"
"Ten, perhaps twelve… The trees were unclear about the number."
There was a shout from the other end of the field as one of the Archery Masters held up an apple. Legolas nodded, and he threw the apple into the air. The prince raised his bow, seized an arrow, and fired in one smooth motion. The arrow caught the apple in the middle of its downward arc.
Rochendilwen shook her head.
"You are not in the best of form today, Legolas. Are you so eager to see your friends?"
"I am eager," Legolas said with a rueful smile, "but I don't think Thorontur is going to spare me the scolding for all that."
Even as he spoke, the elf who had thrown the apple stormed up to them.
"A fine thing, Thranduilion," he grumbled. "For two thousand years I have been telling Erestor that you can outshoot the best bowman Rivendell has to offer. It would be ironic indeed if the one day you failed to hit the apple at the peak of its trajectory was the one day Erestor could observe and Glorfindel outdo."
"You would not hold one bad shot against me?"
"That depends entirely on how you shoot when Erestor is here."
"I suppose that means I can't leave the practice field?"
"Not till it's time for your patrol duty."
Legolas let out a theatrical sigh.
"What I must do for the professional pride of my teacher! Le hannon, Rochendilwen, please tell my father the news."
The elleth nodded and ran off in the direction of the palace.
"Back to work, ernil nîn," Thorontur said firmly. "If you want me to let you spend time with the young lords of Rivendell tonight."
"You are a tyrant!"
"A tyrant who intends to be obeyed. Let us have no more distractions, penneth. I am going to back off another hundred paces." He paused while Legolas groaned. "Remember that I expect you to outshoot Glorfindel himself."
As his teacher strode off down the field, Legolas selected an arrow.
Estel sat up straighter when Elladan pointed out that they were a mile away from the great oak trees that marked the entrance to Mirkwood.
"No point," Elrohir said. "Rest assured that the trees we passed on our way have already told the wood elves everything about us."
"Including the fact that you were slouching like a sack of wheat."
"I was not slouching like a sack of wheat!" Estel protested.
Elladan rolled his eyes.
"It doesn't matter, so long as you remember to stand straight when we introduce you to Legolas and Thranduil."
Estel heard a muffled grunt behind him; sure that one of the elves in the party was trying not to laugh at the thought of how big a fool the young human would make of himself, he pursed his lips and stared down at his hands.
"All right, that's enough," Erestor said suddenly. "We're nearly there."
The oak trees on either side of the path seemed to sway a little as they approached, whether in welcome or in displeasure Estel could not say. He checked his sword-belt and adjusted the bridle straps one last time.
"We are now in Eryn Lasgalen," Erestor said softly. "The realm of Thranduil Oropherion."
"Where is everything?" Estel asked, looking around. "And everybody?"
"The only buildings here are the palace, which has been carved from the mountain, and the stables and practice areas. We will reach them in some time," Glorfindel explained. "As for the elves, I do not doubt that there has been a patrol watching us from the moment we entered Eryn Lasgalen."
Estel glanced around as though expecting to see elves materializing out of the ground.
"Not there, Estel," Elladan said. He pointed at the canopy of leaves above them. "There. No doubt listening to every word we say."
There was a flash of movement in the leaves and Elladan smiled.
"What did I tell you?"
Elrohir looked up at the leafy dome, trying to discern the elves.
"I don't think it's them," he said slowly.
Glorfindel had his sword out in an instant, and the rest of them followed suit.
"Orcs?" he asked softly.
"No," Elladan said. "We would have sensed them."
They backed against each other nervously.
Then something huge and black dropped to the path before them.
"A spider," Glorfindel said, relief evident in his voice as one of the archers shot it.
"Glorfindel," Erestor said slowly, "it was not a spider."
The elves raised their weapons as dozens of the giant insects skittered through the trees to them.
Thranduil buried his face in his hands, groaning.
"What is it now?"
"Just a delegation of men from the border villages, about the trade agreement," Istuion said.
"I will see them tomorrow."
"My King, just this last audience and you will be finished – there is nothing more today."
"Nothing more today? By nightfall Glorfindel and Erestor will be quarrelling under my roof and those twin sons of Elrond's will be getting up to mischief with Legolas. I cannot take another audience if I am to deal with all that too!" He glanced out at the setting sun with a frown. "Speaking of Legolas, where is he? Surely his patrol should have returned by now."
"I would not worry, my King. Doubtless he met the Rivendell party on the way and stayed to escort them here."
"Wonderful," Thranduil muttered. "So they are already planning mischief."
"Shall I send the men in?"
The king sighed.
"Oh, very well, send them in!"
Estel was moving as fast as he could, pulling his sword from one spider and plunging it into another. He could sense that they were winning; there had been many spiders, but not nearly enough to defeat a party of twelve elves, ten of them trained warriors.
He despatched the last spider and looked around. All of them seemed to be dead; Glorfindel was sheathing his sword and the twins were climbing back on their horses.
"Let's go," Elladan said, nudging his mare with his heels. She walked forward hesitantly. One by one, the others followed, going in single file as the path narrowed.
Estel saw the movement ahead of them a second before Glorfindel shouted, "Elladan! Behind you!"
Elladan whipped around just as a monstrous spider, far larger than any of the others they had seen, dropped to the path behind him, cutting him off from the others. One of the elves fitted an arrow to his bow and fired, but it bounced off the spider's back harmlessly.
"The neck!" Glorfindel said. "You have to hit the neck!"
He raised his bow, drawn, but hesitated. Estel could see why. Although the spider's body was huge, its neck was slender, and a misfire could easily hit Elladan.
Glorfindel drew a deep breath and aimed carefully.
Before he could fire, another arrow whooshed down from the trees, landing in the centre of the spider's neck.
The beast collapsed in the middle of the path.
There was a rustling movement above them. Estel raised his bow, but Elrohir hastily held out a hand to stop him. An elf dropped from the trees to land lightly on the path, looking at Elladan.
"You always bring trouble, Elrondion."
Elladan glanced at Elrohir and Estel before he scrambled hastily off his horse.
"We are sorry you were put to such trouble, Your Highness," he said, bowing. The elf shook his head and turned, and it was then that Estel realized that it was Legolas.
"Mae govannen," the prince of Mirkwood said cheerfully. "I hope you had a good journey."
Elrohir jumped off his horse as well, prompting Estel to do the same.
"Ernil nîn," the elf said, bowing deeply. "It is an honour to see you. We are deeply in your debt."
Estel though he heard a snort behind him, but forgot everything else when Elrohir took his arm and pulled him forward.
"Your Highness, may I present my foster-brother Estel? He has not had the privilege of meeting you before."
Estel hastily bowed, and, realizing what he was doing, fumbled with the buckle of his sword-belt.
"What are you doing?" the prince asked.
"Forgive me, Your Highness," Estel said. "I forgot about my weapon. It is an honour to meet you, Your Highness."
He finally succeeded in undoing his sword-belt, and looked up to see Legolas staring at him in astonishment.
"Your Highness –"
"How long have you lived in Elrond's house?" Legolas asked.
"As long as I can remember, Your Highness. Since I was a babe."
"Fifteen years, Your Highness," Elrohir supplied. Legolas glared at him.
"Fifteen years, Estel, and you still do not know when not to believe what you are told?" Estel gaped at him. Legolas smiled. "Mae govannen, Aragorn son of Arathorn. Please call me Legolas, and do not drop your sword unless you wish to be attacked unawares. I hope you will enjoy your stay in Eryn Lasgalen." He turned to Elladan and said something in Quenya, of which Estel understood little, but when he asked Elrohir for a translation the dark-haired elf shook his head and muttered something about language unfit for interpretation.
"Do you need a ride, penneth?" Elladan asked, leaping back onto his horse. "You seem to lack one."
Legolas looked outraged.
"Penneth indeed! Take your horse, Elladan Elrondion, and ride as fast as it may carry you. We will see if I do not still reach the palace before you."
With that, he swung himself up into the trees again. Elladan, laughing, urged his mare to a canter.
Well? What do you think? Should I continue, or is it foredoomed to disaster? Please review and let me know!