Teitho Prompt: "When I Was Your Age...!"

Summary: Sometimes, even in relatively peaceful times and relatively peaceful places, accidents happen. Characters: Mainly Legolas, Aragorn, Elladan and Elrohir.

Disclaimer: This was written purely for pleasure. Not one Elf (unfortunately) is mine.

Many thanks to my wonderful beta, Calenlass, for comments, suggestions, and patience with questions.

Thanks also to Silivren Tinu, whose fic Worth the Pain started the plot bunnies that led to this story.

Rating: PG


A Chapter of Accidents

Mirkwood, around Year 2200 of the Third Age

"Peace, Elfling?" Elrohir demanded, staring at Legolas. "Peace? This is how you dress in what you call a time of peace?"

"No," Legolas said, sliding his bow back into its sheath. "This how I dress in what we call the Watchful Peace. In any case," he went on, feigning an injured tone, "I would have thought that when you were meeting me for the first time in close to a decade you would greet me with something other than criticism of my attire."

"Forgive us, my prince," Elladan said smoothly, slipping off his horse and executing a graceful bow. "We forgot ourselves."

"We are honoured to stand in your presence," Elrohir supplied, dismounting in his turn. "We cannot express our gratitude that Prince Legolas himself should have come all the way to the borders of his realm to receive us. We apologize most humbly if –"

He deftly ducked the knife that was flung at him.

"You are jumpy," Legolas said, smirking. "That would have gone a foot over your head, at least."

"Really? Your aim has deteriorated that much?"

"If you worked as much on your aim as you do on your wit, you might actually be capable of hitting an oliphaunt at ten feet," Legolas retorted companionably.

"I do not work at my wit. It comes naturally, like your terrible bowmanship."

"When you two have finished arguing," Elladan said, rolling his eyes, "we can set up camp. It is almost dusk. Watchful Peace or not, I do not think we should travel after dark."


Rivendell, Year 2950 of the Third Age

Estel looked around the hall. The setting seemed perfect. His mother was perusing a letter from one of her kinswomen in Eriador. Elrond and Erestor were poring over an old book. Glorfindel was whetting his sword. His brothers and Legolas were having a heated argument over the outcome of a decades-old bet.

He cleared his throat.

"Ada?"

The silence that greeted his words was absolute. Even Legolas and the twins stopped squabbling as seven pairs of suspicious eyes were raised to meet his. Everyone who knew him at all well had learnt by now to recognize a certain innocent note in his voice.

"No," Elrond said decisively.

"But you do not even know what I want yet!"

"I know you want something foolish and dangerous."

"That is not fair," Estel protested. Deciding on Legolas as the likeliest source of support, he dropped into a chair beside the archer. "You cannot refuse without listening to me!"

"Of course I can," Elrond said. "It saves time for everyone."

Estel turned pleading grey eyes on Legolas. The young Elf sighed.

"Please hear him out, hîr nîn. If you do not, he will cast accusing glances in my direction for the rest of the evening. I want to be able to savour winning the wager without a disappointed child glaring at me."

"Disappointed child?" Estel demanded.

"Winning the wager?" Elladan growled, leaning across Elrohir to prod at the Elf-prince's arm with the tip of his practice sword, earning a glare from Elrond. "Do not worry, Ada, it is a blunted blade. You seem to have forgotten the terms of the wager, Legolas."

"I believe Estel has something to ask Lord Elrond."

"Ask, Estel," Elrond grumbled. "I daresay my answer will not change."

"I want to go hunting in the forest."

For a moment nobody spoke. Then Legolas said, "Is that all? You need not have made such a production of it. We can go hunting."

"No, you do not understand, gwador nîn. I want to go hunting. Alone."

Once again, there was utter silence, and this time it went on for several seconds as the Elves and Gilraen exchanged exasperated glances.

"I must have misheard you, Estel," Elrond finally said. "Did you just say you wished to go hunting alone?"

"Yes, Ada."

"No, Estel."

"Legolas," Estel appealed, turning to his friend.

"No, penneth," Legolas said firmly. "There is no point looking at me like that. I agree with your father in this. You cannot go hunting alone. It is too dangerous."

"You rode all the way from your home to Rivendell alone."

"That is different," Elrond pointed out. "You have not even finished your weapons training, Estel. The trees will not be able to warn you of approaching danger as they do Legolas."

"But –"

"No."

"We never argued with Ada or King Thranduil this much, did we?" Elrohir whispered to Elladan and Legolas. "Certainly not to obtain permission to do something so foolish."

Estel, overhearing the remark, flushed, but had to laugh when Legolas shot him a consoling grin and said, "No, because I do not believe we ever bothered to obtain permission. We just did foolish things without leave. That does not mean you should follow our example, Estel. We were exceedingly ill-behaved in our youth, and Middle-earth was a safer place."

"Your youth," Glorfindel snorted. "You speak as though you were as old as Círdan, Elfling."


Mirkwood, around Year 2200 of the Third Age

"What is down that road?"

Legolas followed the direction of Elladan's pointing finger.

"Some fairly low cliffs, caves, a stream. Nothing particularly noteworthy. Further on it forks, and the southern road cuts south of the Elf-path. The northern one leads to the stronghold by a more winding route than the one we are taking. It was dangerous once, but it is safe enough now. The patrols use it often."

"I have never used it," Elrohir said, tugging his horse around. "Legolas?"

The Elf-prince hesitated.

"It will add several hours to our ride... We will have to spend the night in the forest and go on in the morning."

"Why not?" Elladan urged. "As you said yourself, the forest is reasonably safe now, especially this far north of the Elf-path. Your father will not worry. We arrived a few days early anyway... In all likelihood, he will never even know."

"Never believe that," Legolas said. "Ada knows everything. And even if he does not know, he simply stares at me until I give in and tell him."

"Come, Legolas," Elrohir said. "It is only a detour. I do not know why you always sound so responsible when we are in Eryn Galen. Perhaps it is something to do with your being the warrior prince of the Woodland Realm –"

"Brave young commander of the archers –"

"Royal duties, and the burden of your birth –"

"Do not be absurd!" Legolas protested. "I am not being – that is – oh, very well, let us go. I have not been in trouble with Ada for weeks. It was beginning to get monotonous."

"You see, Dan? I always knew our little Elfling could not really have grown up."

"Of course not. He is still leading us into trouble."

"And you," Legolas said, scowling, "are still following. Please note now that I refuse to be blamed for this later. You want to take that road. I am not forcing you to do it. You will not claim later that I forced you to do it."

"But it is so much more convenient to blame you for things, Elfling," Elladan said earnestly. "Nobody gets quite so angry when they think it is your fault."


Rivendell, Year 2950 of the Third Age

"Estel."

At the door to his room, the young man turned. Legolas was watching him, arms crossed, an expression too knowing in his blue eyes.

"Do not do it."

"I am not going to do anything," Estel replied, affecting a light tone. "I am going to bed."

"It will not work, penneth," Legolas said, amusement tingeing his voice. "I have climbed down from my balcony in the dead of night too often not to recognize a foolish man-child who is intent on doing the same thing."

"If you did it –"

"I told you, penneth, Middle-earth was not so beset then. If you truly wish it, we will go hunting. You must not go alone."

Estel hesitated a moment before bowing his head in acquiescence.

"All right, Elfling. I will not go alone. Are you satisfied now?"

"Not really," Legolas replied, watching him carefully and refraining from commenting on being addressed as 'Elfling' by a very young man. "Why do you even want to go hunting alone, Estel? I did not know our company was so taxing that you should be driven to seek such profound solitude."

"You do not realize that I am an adult," Estel complained. "Except Nana, and she always gives in to Lord Elrond's judgement in these matters. But the rest of you... You measure time in Elven years and think I am still a child who is too young to be given a bow –"

"Not in the least bit. I counted a bare double handful of summers when Elrohir made me my first practice bow."

"You know what I mean!" the young man said. "You think I am a child who has through the use of some sorcery or witchcraft grown tall enough to look you in the eye. I am not a child, Legolas. I must prove myself! Were I living with my mother's people, I would have been a warrior by now."

"I hope not, gwador nîn," Legolas murmured. "You will see war soon enough, Estel, and I suspect you will not find it as exciting as you think. Go to sleep, penneth."

He watched Estel go into his room and shut the door. Then, with a tiny shake of his head, the Elf went to another door further down the corridor, knocked, and pushed it open.

"Elladan, I think he is planning to slip off in the night."


Mirkwood, around Year 2200 of the Third Age

"Ro, look out!"

Elrohir registered the warning a moment too late. He slipped, felt the ground rush past him with heart-stopping rapidity, and finally came to a halt with a jarring thump.

"Ro!"

Elrohir looked up. Elladan and Legolas were several feet above him, peering anxiously down the nearly sheer rock wall along which he had fallen.

"Ro, are you all right?"

"I think so." Elrohir paused to assess his body. The most pressing injury seemed to be in his right ankle, which ached, but he found that it was able to take his weight when he pushed himself to his feet, although the pain intensified greatly. "Only some minor scrapes, and I think I have sprained my ankle."

The anxiety vanished from his companions' faces, to be replaced by a mixture of mirth and exasperation.

"What ails you?" Legolas demanded. "I warned you there were cliffs along this road!"

"I was not expecting one to turn up beneath my feet without warning!"

"If you had not been wandering around aimlessly without paying the slightest attention to what was before you, you would have seen it! It is hard to miss a looming cliff!"

"Can you get back up if we lower a rope to you?" Elladan enquired, "Or will one of us have to come down and rescue you from the consequences of your inattention?"

"I think one of you will have to help me," Elrohir said reluctantly. "I can walk, but I do not think I can climb without aid."

"I do not know if you should climb at all," Legolas said. "Even with our help the climb will be difficult... You might make it worse, and we have a long way to go. I do not want to think about what Ada will say if you have to be carried into the stronghold. I will not hear the end of it for months."

"What can we do?" Elladan asked. "Is there a way to rejoin the road from where Ro is?"

"Yes... This road slopes downward a little further on. If we climb down and if Ro can manage to walk, it should take us no more than an hour to reach this road again. It is a confusing path, but I know it well enough. The problem will be getting the horses down. They cannot manage this."

"Perhaps if we tied a rope around him and hauled him up? He has the use of his arms, so he can keep from bumping into the rocks –"

"I am not deaf!" Elrohir snapped. "You can stop talking over my head –"

"But, Ro, we are over your head."

"And nobody is hauling me up! I can climb!"

"You will do nothing of the kind," Elladan said. "Legolas is right. We cannot risk letting you damage your ankle further. Legolas, how far is it along this path to the place where it would meet the one below?"

"Not far," the young archer said. "Less than five minutes' ride. It is a straight road."

"That should not be a problem, then... We can just lead the horses around that way, and Ro need not walk at all. Ro, you wait there for us. We are coming."


Rivendell, Year 2950 of the Third Age

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Legolas murmured in a voice almost too soft even for Elven ears. "Why do we not just stop him?"

"If we stop him, he will only keep trying," Elrohir pointed out. "Do you remember how often you tried to sneak off in the night? And, for that matter, during the day? This way, we will be able to ensure that he gets into no serious trouble, he will be able to 'prove himself', and we will not have to deal with this madness again."

The three young Elves, concealed in the branches of one of the trees on the wooded slopes surrounding the Last Homely House, watched as the young man led his horse across the grass to them, fondly imagining that none of the guards had noticed him, blissfully unaware that the guards were looking away only because they had been warned to do so by Elladan.

"And we have a brilliant plan," the older twin added now. "What better choice than the Prince of the Woodland Realm to act as Estel's forward scout through the forest? The trees will tell you enough about the path he is taking that you can remain several yards ahead of him without his being any the wiser. If there is any danger, you will signal. Elrohir will stay level with him and I will stay behind him as rearguard."

"Even Ada thought it was a good plan," Elrohir confirmed. "The most we will have to worry about is that he might fall off his horse or catch cold or something like that."

"I do not like this," Legolas muttered as he leapt silently up onto one of the higher branches of the tree, raced lightly along it, and swung himself into the next tree without more than the merest rustling of the leaves to mark his passage.

A few minutes later, Estel, still leading horse by the bridle, slipped into the forest. Elrohir, with a grin at his brother and a fervent hope that Legolas was not plotting with the trees to prepare some unpleasant surprises for him, disappeared into the foliage. Elladan only waited long enough for the trees to tell him which path Estel had taken before he, too, began to move through them as noiselessly as he could.


Mirkwood, around Year 2200 of the Third Age

Elrohir was waiting with an expression of distinct impatience when Elladan and Legolas finally reached him. He was about to comment on their lateness when he saw that Legolas looked, for him, distinctly dishevelled, with several small tears in his tunic and cloak.

"What happened?"

"Nothing," Legolas growled, dismounting and helping Elrohir to his feet. "Nothing at all. We mounted, we rode, and we are here."

"You are late."

"There were unexpected obstacles."

"Unexpected obstacles?" Elrohir said in disbelief, as Elladan and Legolas helped him mount. "In the forest? In your home?"

"There were no obstacles," Elladan said, with a wicked grin. "Our Elfling, Ro – our wise and sensible Elfling, whom some misguided fool has appointed commander of Greenwood's archers –"

"I will tell Ada you called him a misguided fool," Legolas threatened.

"Whom some sensible and level-headed Elf, in a rare moment of folly, has appointed commander of Greenwood's archers – oh, but you are diverting me from the point, tithen pen. Our Elfling, Ro, fell out... of... a... tree."

"I did not fall!" Legolas snarled. "I jumped down and misjudged the height."

"You fell, Elfling."

"I landed on my feet!"

"After having knocked your head on a stout branch on the way down."

"I did not see it."

"Like Ro did not see the cliff? Do not worry," Elladan added, seeing the concerned glance Elrohir cast in the direction of the younger Elf. "It was only a small cut and it stopped bleeding at once. I do not believe he even has a concussion."

Elrohir grinned, and could not resist saying, "But what will your father say when he hears you fell out of a tree, Elfling?"

"I did not fall out of a tree."

"That will not work, Legolas. I saw you." Elladan replied.

"I did not fall out of a tree."

"You fell out of a tree."

Legolas let loose a torrent of mingled Sindarin and Quenya that made his friends collapse into helpless laughter.

"That will do no good, tithen pen," Elrohir choked, when finally he could speak. "You fell out of a tree."


Rivendell, Year 2950 of the Third Age

Estel dismounted and looked at the stream cautiously. Normally, he would not attempt to cross it in the dark, but he wanted to be as far away from Rivendell as possible before his absence was noted in the morning.

It was a shallow stream, although swift, and he knew that the sensible course would be to doff his boots, roll up his breeches, and wade across – or, better yet, to get on horseback and ride across. He was stayed from either of these courses, however, by the thought of being able to go home and tell his brothers and Legolas how skillfully he had leapt from stone to stone to cross the stream without getting so much as a toe wet.

Directing his horse with a whispered word to cross and wait for him on the opposite bank, Estel jumped onto the first of a series of stepping-stones that seemed to form an easy path across the water.

When he landed with both feet on the stone and not even a moment's uncertainty, he grinned in the darkness and did not pause even for a second before he stepped onto the next. By the time he reached the middle of the stream his confidence had grown, and he did not realize the stones were becoming lower and more slippery –

Until, with a splash, he was sitting in the stream beside one of the stones with water lapping around his chest.

Estel took a moment to thank the Valar that his brothers and Legolas had not seen him fall. He did not believe they would ever stop teasing him about it if they found out. He looked around for his horse, and saw it standing precisely where it had been, eyeing him with what on an Elf or a Man would have been amusement.

Estel scowled.

"It was not my fault," he told the horse.

"No, but now you are wet and cold and you will probably become ill. You truly are foolish, penneth."

The young man jumped at the sound of the voice and scrambled to his feet, getting himself even wetter in the process. He had drawn his sword and taken position to defend himself before he spotted the amused Noldo standing in the shadows on the far bank.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded, not wanting to admit that the lack of light made it impossible for him to tell which of his foster-brothers he was addressing. If it was too dark for him to identify an Elf he had known from babyhood, it was definitely too dark for him to attempt to cross unfamiliar streams on slippery stepping-stones... At least, he was sure that was how everyone in Rivendell would see it.

"We followed you," the Elf said calmly. "We knew you would run into trouble."

"We? Who else is here?"

"Dan and Legolas, of course... And you should be grateful there is nobody else. Ada was willing to send Glorfindel and a dozen warriors but we persuaded him that the three of us could protect you from Orcs... We assumed, of course, that you were old enough not to trip over your own feet and fall in a stream."

"I can protect myself from Orcs, Ro!"

"I do not see how," Elrohir replied with a mischievous grin. "It would appear that you cannot even protect yourself from running water. Here is Elladan."

Estel turned around just in time to see the young Elf-lord drop lightly to the ground on the opposite bank.

"Why is he still in the water?" Elladan demanded, scowling at Elrohir. "I know he has no sense, but you should have taken him out. It is a cold night. You know perfectly well he catches all those strange Mannish ailments. And where is that half-witted Sinda?"

"I am here," came Legolas' voice from over Estel's head. The young man looked up in some alarm and saw that the branches of the trees lining the banks met over the centre of the stream. He squinted, but he could make out no more than foliage until, with a soft thump and the smallest of splashes, Legolas was standing beside him in the stream.

"I notice neither of you has removed him from the water," the archer said, pulling Estel to his feet. "Have you caught cold, penneth?"

"We cannot tell so soon," Elrohir said, rolling his eyes. "And he is still in the water."

"But now he is standing in it, not sitting," Legolas responded.

"He can as well stand out of it," suggested Elladan.

With a shrug, and ignoring Estel's insistence that he was capable of climbing up the bank on his own, Legolas led the young man up to the high ground beside Elrohir.


Mirkwood, around Year 2200 of the Third Age

"I always knew the two of you were irresponsible children," Elladan said, a smug grin on his face, "but I never imagined that it was this bad. Who would have thought that you would both get yourselves injured on a simple ride through the forest?"

"I am not injured," Legolas growled.

"And I only have a sprained ankle," Elrohir protested. "That does not count as an injury."

"Legolas, you fell out of a tree, and, Elrohir, you failed to see a cliff that was right before your eyes. It is clear to me that the two of you are not yet old enough to be let out without nursemaids."

"Aye," Elrohir answered, with a conspiratorial glance at the Elf-prince. "What you say is true. We will likely never live it down. But have you considered, muindor, what will happen when we finally reach the stronghold? You are, as you have rightly said no less than seventeen times in the past hour, the oldest, most experienced, and most responsible of the three of us. You, therefore, should have been keeping us safe from our own folly. Who was it who permitted Legolas to travel through the trees instead of riding his horse?"

"Permitted?" Elladan demanded furiously. "Stupid disobedient Elfling –"

"And who was it," Legolas went on with an innocent smile, "who allowed Ro to go wandering dreamily away when we broke camp in the morning?"

"Since you are the oldest –"

"The wisest –"

"The most sensible –"

"The most practical –"

"The –"

"All right," Elladan bellowed. "You have made your point. If you will refrain from trying to persuade the King that this was my fault in any way, I will say no more about your foolishness."


Rivendell, Year 2950 of the Third Age

"We have to go back."

"No!" Estel protested. "I am perfectly fine! I did not even get hurt when I fell."

"That is not the point, penneth," Elrohir said. "Winter will be upon us soon. You are thoroughly wet and cold – do not try to deny it, Estel! You are shivering! You cannot spend the night outdoors in this cold. You will become ill."

"Legolas," Estel pleaded, turning to the Elf-prince.

Legolas looked at him sympathetically, but he still shook his head.

"No, tithen pen. Your brothers are right. We cannot risk letting you catch cold... Catch cold," he repeated, shaking his head. "Strange mortal illnesses! You must go back."

"We can manage it the same way," Elladan said. "Legolas, you go ahead as forward scout, and I will follow behind them."

"Forward scout?" Estel sputtered. "You were my forward scout?"

"Aye. It was at Legolas' suggestion that we asked the trees to guide you away from the southern path. Apparently the recent rain has made it treacherous –"

"How could trees guide me away from the southern path? I chose the northern one!"

"Yes, but did you not notice how much more inviting it looked?"

"I do not need anybody to lead me by the hand," Estel growled. "I am not a child! And I am not going back home!"

"Estel," Elladan said seriously, "there are three of us, and we have all been warriors for a very long time. It would be easiest if you came home of you own volition, but if we must tie you hand and foot and put you on your horse, we will."


Mirkwood, around Year 2200 of the Third Age

Legolas and the twins had tried to creep from the stables to the Elf-prince's room unnoticed, but with Legolas' dishevelled state and Elrohir needing to be helped up the stairs, it had proven impossible. They had been spotted and hustled to the healers.

Now, several minutes later, Elladan and a much-neater Legolas were standing apprehensively before Thranduil with Elrohir, comfortable but no less nervous, seated between them.

"Do I even want to know what happened?" the Elven-king enquired.

"Of course not, Ada," Legolas said promptly. "It is not an interesting story at all. We could tell you instead of the last time we went to –"

"That was a rhetorical question, Legolas."

There was silence for some time, before Elladan reluctantly said, "We had a couple of... accidents."

"Oh?"

"Small accidents," Legolas added.

Thranduil waited. The young Elves exchanged agonized glances. Finally Legolas, staring at his feet, mumbled, "We took the long way around."

Still Thranduil waited. Accustomed to being stared down by Elrond, Glorfindel and Celebrían, the three ellyn facing him managed to maintain their composure through the simple expedient of looking away.

Elrohir was the first to lose his nerve. With a sigh, he admitted, "I... I fell... off... one of the... cliffs."

Thranduil stared at him.

"How? They are nearly impossible to fall off unless you are walking around blindfolded." He paused. "You were not doing that, were you?"

"Ada!" Legolas said. "As if we would!"

"I would put nothing past the three of you."

"We were not doing that, my king," Elrohir said quickly. "I was lost in thought and I... failed... to notice it."

"Very good," Thranduil said dryly. "What else?"

"Nothing," Legolas said firmly, before either of the others could respond. Thranduil turned inscrutable blue eyes on him. "Truly, my king, nothing."

"They tell me you returned with your cloak and tunic torn and –"

"Nothing, my king."

"Legolas."

The young Elf flushed scarlet, and he would have stepped behind Elrohir or Elladan if he could have done so unobtrusively. He fidgeted under his father's unrelenting gaze, and finally burst out, "Ifelloutofatree."

"Say that again," Thranduil ordered, "and say it so that I can understand it."

Looking at the twins for help, and receiving only commiserating smiles, Legolas said, "I fell... out of... a... tree."


Rivendell, Year 2950 of the Third Age

"It is just as well that you brought him home," Lord Elrond said, placing a steaming cup before his foster-son. "Drink that, penneth. He would certainly have caught cold if he had been outdoors in this weather after a drenching."

"It is well past midnight, Ada," Estel complained. "I was out half the night in any case, and I am not ill."

"I will believe that if you are still well in the morning. Drink the potion."

"It smells foul."

"I know. It is meant to discourage you from attempting such a thing in future." He shook his head. "Really, Estel, slipping out at night to go hunting? I thought you had more sense than your brothers and Legolas."

"I would not have gone far. Besides, they followed me."

"You should be glad they did. If they had not volunteered, I would have sent some of the warriors after you. That you would truly not have liked."

"I am not a child!"

"Because sensible adults fall into streams in the forest when they should be safe in their beds?"

"I would not have fallen if – if –"

Elrohir laughed.

"Try as hard as you please, penneth. You will not be able to blame that on us."

Estel scowled.

Lord Elrond, with a slight smile, got to his feet.

"The three of you I charge to ensure that he goes to bed. There is no need to worry Lady Gilraen. She can hear of this in the morning."

Estel heaved a sigh of relief as the Elf-lord left the room. He turned to his brothers and his friend, a jest ready on his lips. At the sight of Elladan's grim countenance, however, he fell silent, failing entirely to notice the amused glance passing between Elrohir and Legolas.


Mirkwood, around Year 2200 of the Third Age

"I must confess, I am uncertain whether I should send you to your rooms to get some rest or to Thorontur to join the Elflings in weapons training for the rest of the season." Legolas and Elrohir coloured, and even Elladan looked ill-at-ease.

"It was only a moment's inattention, my king," Elrohir mumbled. "It will not happen again."

"I should hope not," the Elven-king snapped. "A moment's inattention could cost you all your lives. You have been warriors long enough to know that!"

"But the trees would have warned us if there had been any danger, Ada."

"And that is a reason to let your guard down and fall out of trees like a stone-blind Dwarf?"

"One tree. I fell out of one tree, and I did not really fall, I jumped and misjudged the distance to the ground."

"And the number of branches you would encounter on the way down," Elladan put in. When Legolas glared at him, he added, "I am only stating facts! You will note, my king, that I did not fall off cliffs or out of trees."

"You were never near cliffs or trees to begin with," Elrohir pointed out. "You were sitting safely on your horse –"

"Like a sensible Elf?" Thranduil asked. Elrohir reddened, and Elladan smirked. "I do not know how the three of you manage to get into such ridiculous scrapes when you are together. Legolas is normally a capable young warrior, and I am told that the two of you are skilled swordsmen. Yet when you are together you manage, on a simple ride down a peaceful road, to get into more trouble than the most irresponsible Elflings!"

The young Elves looked shifty. Thranduil suppressed an urge to laugh at the sight of their sheepish expressions.

"I do not believe I ever did such absurd things even as a child, leave alone when I was a warrior! Falling out of trees, Legolas?" Legolas mumbled something incomprehensible; he ignored it and went on. "I will, of course, have to consult Elrond and Celebrían to be certain, but I am fairly sure that none of us ever fell off a cliff because we failed to see it! Elves were more sensible when I was young."

With a shake of his head, the Elven-king got to his feet.

"You may go now. If the three of you stay out of trouble for the next few days, I may consider not throwing you all in the dungeon."

The young Elves made haste to scramble out, Elladan and Legolas supporting Elrohir with a hand under each of his arms to make him hurry. As soon as they were out the door, Elladan turned to his companions with a grimace.

"Never will I tell anybody that I was more sensible when I was young," he vowed.

"You will not be able to, gwador nîn," Legolas chuckled. "It would be a blatant untruth."

"I am not the one who fell out of a tree."

"I can still go back in and persuade Ada that you were being negligent in your duties as the only responsible Elf in the vicinity," Legolas warned him.

Elladan scowled at the younger Elf, who laughed merrily and led the way off down the corridor.


Rivendell, Year 2950 of the Third Age

"... And to run away in the middle of the night! Were you out of your mind, Estel?"

"You used to do it!" the young man protested.

"Yes, nearly three thousand years ago," Elladan snapped. "When Sauron had been newly defeated and Middle-earth was safe!"

"I am not a child!"

"Apparently you are! And a worse fool than any other child I have known! What possessed you to try to jump across the stream like an utter idiot –"

"There were stepping-stones!"

"Which you could not possibly have seen clearly in the dark, or you would have known the ones in the middle were small and slippery. Honestly, Estel, when we were young we had more sense! Legolas, make that face again and I shall slay you where you stand, I swear it."

Estel glanced at his friend, and saw the Elf-prince biting his lip in what looked like an attempt to suppress his laughter. Elrohir was doing the same thing, although he was doing a better job of concealing it. Estel bit back his fury at the sight of the young Elves laughing, as it appeared to him, at his misadventures.

"I am going to bed," he announced, stalking out.

Barely had he reached his own room when he heard swift footsteps behind him. He turned to see Legolas hurrying down the corridor.

"I do not want to talk," he snapped as the Elf reached him.

"What is wrong, tithen pen?"

"I am not little!"

Legolas looked startled.

"Is that what is upsetting you, Estel? Nobody means anything by it... Your brothers still address me in that fashion, and I stopped being little centuries ago!"

"You and Ro were laughing at me!"

"Laughing at – oh, but you could not have known! We were not laughing at you, Estel." Legolas pushed Estel's door open and gave the young man and light shove into the room. "We were laughing at Elladan."

"Why?" Estel asked suspiciously, pulling Legolas into the room and shutting the door.

Legolas seemed to consider his answer.

"Some time ago," the Elf-prince said at last, "your brothers and I had a couple of... accidents... on a journey through the forest. My father reacted in much the same way as Elladan did just now, except that he went on at far greater length. At the end of it, Elladan swore never to tell anybody how much more sensible he was in his youth... Which, as you know, he just did."

"Why did you follow me?" the young man demanded.

"We meant no insult to you, Estel. We only wanted to be sure you would be safe." Legolas laid a hand on his young friend's shoulder. "We care for you, penneth. We would not see you hurt."

"That is not fair! You risk your lives all the time! In those months I spent with you learning archery, you returned from patrols more than once dripping blood all over the floor and you refused to take as much rest as the healers wanted. Your father was worried, too, but he did not send minders after you to see to your safety. When Elladan and Elrohir ride out Ada sends nobody after them!"

"Estel, when I was younger my father used to worry far more than he does now. If I was more than an hour late returning from a patrol he drove everyone mad. It took a long time, but eventually he learnt to accept that I had to do some things. You must give us some time to get used to the idea that you have grown up, penneth."

Estel considered the Elf's words. At last, with a nod and a small grin, he said, "Legolas?"

"Yes?"

"When I am older, I will never, never tell anyone that I was more sensible when I was young."

And then Estel stared at his friend, wondering why that simple statement was sending Legolas into helpless laughter.


Minas Tirith, Year 25 of the Fourth Age

"You did what?" Aragorn yelped.

"It was not far, Ada," the child responded, shrinking back against the legs of the Elf standing behind him. "And I was going to come straight back."

"But that was dangerous, Eldarion! What if you had gotten lost, or if you had found trouble? You were very lucky that Legolas happened to be riding in and that he saw you. You could have been killed!"

"Estel," Legolas began pacifically, but he cut himself off when Aragorn glared at him.

"This is partly your fault, you know," the King of Gondor said acidly. "If you did not go out of your way to indulge his most ridiculous whims – where do you think you are going, Eldarion?"

The child, who had been attempting to sidle out of sight, dived behind Legolas. He clutched a handful of the Elf's cloak and peered out from behind his legs, trying to gauge his father's mood. To his relief, Aragorn was smiling at the sight of his firstborn hiding behind his best friend.

"Very well, my son... Since it appears that I will have to contend with a valiant Elven warrior if I want to discipline you, I will let it go this time. But, truly, when I was young, I had far more sense than this." He paused to glare at the Elf, whose eyes were suddenly sparkling with mirth. "My aim may not be as good as yours, Legolas, but if you laugh you will find that I am capable of hitting an Elf at ten feet."


Sindarin Translations

Ada – Dad/Daddy
Hîr nîn – My lord
Gwador nîn – My (sworn) brother
Penneth – Young one
Muindor – Brother
Nana – Mum/Mummy
Tithen pen – Little one


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