Thank you for all the kind reviews! This is the last chapter of this odd tale, and I hope you enjoy it.
Chapter Seven: One Big, Happy Family
Laerwen dashed through the forest, keeping her feet on a northern path. In her arms Arloth gurgled, but for the moment she ignored him. She knew that there were orcs north of her home, but she was not quite sure how far. She wanted to be close enough to them so they would find the orcling, but far enough so they would not find her. While she thought her Arloth was an absolute darling, she had heard many stories of orcs to make her blood run cold. The elfling was certain that, if raised by her, Arloth would be a decent orc, but as she did not have a choice she still wished for him to live as he was only a baby.
"I think this is far enough," she said uncertainly as her steps slowed to a halt. She found herself in a very dark part of the wood, a part that she imagined spiders and other fell creatures resided in. She knew that there were no spiders so far north, but Laerwen was frightened about the other beasts that lurked in the shadows.
In front of her was a rough path. She knew it was not made by elves, for she had never seen it on any maps, and while well-used, it was very unkempt. She did not know it, but she was looking at a very well-used orc trail.
"Well, Arloth, here's a path, but I don't think I just want to leave you on it, all alone," she said to the orc in her arms. He looked at her and grabbed a strand of her hair. Sighing, she untangled her hair from its grip. "No, no, love, you cannot do that anymore. I can't raise you; my father and mother forbid it." She sniffled, bringing the orc close to her. He went to grab her hair again and was successful.
As he chewed on one of the golden locks, the elf sobbed into the baby's chest. "Oh, I do not want to do this, I do not want to at all! I love you so much, Arloth, and I know you would be a very good orc if you lived in the palace. You know, you could be a wonderful warrior, or cook, or whatever you wanted to be if you lived there with me. I would take good care of you, you know that, right Arloth?" She glanced at the orc's face, ignoring the fact that it was still chewing on her hair. "You are so beautiful, and I don't want to let you go... but it is my duty as a princess. Oh, how I hate duty!" With that, she plopped down onto her knees, weeping as her charge gurgled in ignorant bliss.
There she sat awhile, ignoring her surroundings and lost in her own misery. It was this inattentive state that Aragorn and Legolas found her in.
"Laerwen!" Legolas whispered urgently as he rushed to her. The young elleth raised her head in surprise, unsightly tear tracks running down her puffy red face.
"Legolas." She ran her hand across her eyes. "What are you doing here?"
"To get you, you silly girl! Do you have any idea where you are?"
"Not exactly, but I would have found my way home well enough-"
"This is an orc-trail, and a well used one at that! Come, before-" Legolas stopped suddenly, his body tense as he heard something come down the road.
"Orcs," Aragorn hissed, his hand on his blade.
"Too many for us to handle, especially with my sister here," Legolas muttered. "We must flee. Come, Laerwen, leave the orc and let us go!"
The child nodded, and with one more kiss on his forehead, gently set the orc on the ground.
"Out of the sheet, out of it!" Legolas quickly unwrapped the orc out of the sheet, shoving it to Aragorn. "Get her out of here, up a tree, while I make this orc smell less like an elf." Aragorn nodded, grabbing Laerwen's hand before searching for a suitable tree. He found one quickly and helped Laerwen onto the first branch before scrambling up himself. Legolas quickly covered the orc in leaves and mud, smearing it all over its body so as to cover the elvish scent that orcs always seemed to notice. He left the child on the side of the road and went up the tree just in time.
Around the corner came a band of over a score of orcs, grunting to one another in their own foul tongue. In the high tree the three of them could see the scene below them. Legolas held his young sister close, keeping his hand gently over her mouth so she would not alert them with an involuntary sound.
The squeals of the orcling soon alerted the band of its presence, and one of them came forward, scimitar out. The large orc soon found the cause of the noise, and he lowered the sword. Stooping down, he grabbed the infant by the leg and held it upside down, sniffing it.
'Do not eat him... do not eat him... please do not eat him,' Legolas thought desperately to himself. That was truly the last thing Laerwen needed to see.
To his utmost relief, the orc muttered something else to the rest of the tribe, and one of the orcs came forward. It took the orcling and held him properly, and the baby gurgled and squealed once more. With that, the band moved on, and within minutes they were out of sight and hearing.
"Oh, Legolas, the baby was accepted! Perhaps it was lost by one of them," Laerwen said once they were all on the ground. "That is well; Arloth can now belong with one big, happy family."
"Big, happy family," Legolas repeated, dumbstruck.
"Most interesting description of an orc tribe, to be sure," Aragorn said with a gleam in his eye.
Legolas shook his head. "Father is going to be furious when he finds out where you have gone."
"Oh, I know," the elfling said sadly as they started their way back to their home. "And I'll accept his punishment. But I simply had to do this; I knew it was the right thing, and I am happy that Arloth is with a family now, safe and sound. I couldn't stand the thought of adar killing him in cold blood."
"What makes you believe he would have done that?" Legolas asked, startled by the revelation.
"What else would he have done?" the girl pointed out. "He wouldn't have done what I did; even if he did leave it just outside of the kingdom, he would never have gone close to the orcs' home. Just abandoning poor Arloth would have been murder in itself. I had to make sure that he was found."
"You knew that there were orc dens up there?" Aragorn glanced at her as if she were mad. "That was dangerous, and foolhardy."
"I don't care," she shot back, glaring up at the tall Ranger. "All I care is that Arloth is safe. I don't care if I am restricted to the palace for a yen; at least I know my beautiful Arloth will be fine."
Legolas rolled his eyes over her head, mouthing, 'She's hopeless.' Aragorn nodded wordlessly in agreement, and without further talk the trio made it back to Thranduil's halls without further adventure.
In the end, Laerwen was not restricted for a yen, though she was told quite strictly that she would never pull a stunt like that again. She complied with all restrictions set on her, and soon enough they were gone. As she grew older, her odd affections for the orc grew less, though she never forgot the love she once held for it.
Legolas and Aragorn went on with their own lives, accomplishing great deeds throughout the years to come. Such deeds are told in other tales.
And Arloth the orcling? Well, no one can quite say for sure what happened to him, but some like to believe that perhaps the young elf's affection for the child stayed with him as he grew, and perhaps he was not as cruel as the rest of his kind.