Hi folks, well here is my first upload, please R&R… I hope you enjoy this! Review to let me know if I should post more.

Not really an E/L pairing, because Legolas is *seriously* underaged here; I guess that would make this G-rated pre-slash, lots of angst tho, hopefully no one will get nightmares. J


The characters of Lord Tinuvil, and the Elves Saeros and Hellan, are my constructs; all the rest belong to the wonderful JRR Tolkien, who has given me about 35 years of great reading since I first picked up these books on my 10th birthday. You do the math… grin I make nothing off this tale but ego-boost, and mean it solely as homage and fun, not to infringe in any manner.

MANY thanks to Astrochick and Tyellas for their beta readings; and thanks to AJ Matthews and TreeHugger for their great writings and their encouragement! Go read the stuff of all 4 of these folks… you will love it!!

Leaf and Branch

by JastaElf

Some days were just better than others, that was all there was to that. A battle fought and won, now that could be considered a good day. A battle lost with lessons learned, harder to swallow but certainly not wasted. A good sunrise, a lovelier moonrise, and beauty or love or both in between - not a bad thing at all, that… But this day? Ai, this cannot be said to be a good day at all….

Elrond Peredhil, Lord of Imladris, pondered these thoughts and more as he stared out over the landscape, marking the familiar territory of the Vale of Anduin. Time was in short supply. A life hung in the balance - a young life, always an especial tragedy to lose by the way Elves reckoned such matters, as there were not a lot of youngsters coming into the world any more. Elrond sighed lightly and traced with one powerfully delicate fingertip the design on the horn of his saddle. If it were not a matter of life and death, the whole situation might be rather perversely amusing….

To think that, after several centuries of enmity between Imladris and Mirkwood, his people should end up joining with King Thranduil's people in common cause! Elrond and his sons had been on their way to Lothlorien to visit with the family of his wife Celebrian, a frequent enough occurrence; but the journey had been interrupted by the sounds of battle from the fringe of southern Mirkwood. A hunting party of Silvan Elves, lightly armed and not expecting such trouble, had been set upon by a large collation of Orcs led by a fierce and determined Uruk-Hai. They had put up a stiff resistance – such things were always a matter of do or die, for no Elf wanted to be taken prisoner. The sudden arrival of a troop of reinforcements from Imladris had been welcome and most timely, for things had not been going well at all from the Mirkwood standpoint.

When it had all ended the Silvan commander had been effusive in his gratitude, until his attention was distracted by the fact that no one could seem to find a member of the Mirkwood hunting party. Missing in action was the very young son of King Thranduil Oropherion – one Legolas by name – who had only recently celebrated the twenty-third anniversary of his conception, and whose first hunt had been interrupted by the Orcish forces of Shadow. Child though he was, he had been raised in the Shadow-haunted atmosphere of Mirkwood among his father's Silvan subjects, and so he had apparently made a good account of himself with his bow; arrows fletched and decorated after the manner of Thranduil's House had been found in several of the dead Orcs. His mount, a trim, moonlight-coloured pony with black points, was discovered gutted at the edge of the field, and the Elves whose business it had been to defend the young Prince in battle were quite messily dead close by. But of the child, no sign had been found.

The cause of Elrond's sigh, a tall, silver-haired Sindarin Elf by the name of Tinuvil, rode up beside the Lord of Imladris and stared out across the scene of battle with a heavy heart. He was brother by marriage to Thranduil, and since the death of his sister the Queen some few years past, had been one of those put in charge of training the Prince in the many things a noble youth needed to learn in order to survive life in his father's realm, one of the least safe Elven dwelling places in all Middle-Earth. It would have been a drastic understatement to suggest he was upset at this moment….

"He must be here somewhere," Tinuvil exclaimed without other prelude. Elrond arched an eyebrow at him.

"We have searched everywhere reasonable."

"Then we must search in unreasonable places!" the Mirkwood lord demanded anxiously, his eyes sweeping the edge of the forest. "How can I return home to Thranduil and tell him his son is taken by Shadow? It would break his heart!"

"Wounded, dead or taken, none of it is easy news for a father to hear," Elrond commented neutrally, leaving unspoken any of a hundred things he might have otherwise said, given the long and not always pleasant history between himself and Mirkwood's proud, difficult ruler. Tinuvil looked stricken; a sob welled up from deep within, and he bowed his head.

"My sister's last-born," he murmured, his voice raw with pain. "And so very like her in so many ways…"

"We cannot think about that now," Elrond told him, trying to brace the other Elf. "The child has been taken alive by the Orcs. We all know what that can mean. You must steel yourself, Tinuvil, and do a kinsman's duty by your sister's son."

"Yes." Tinuvil raised his head slowly; his grey eyes looked like melted pewter in the dimness of the overcast afternoon. "I must find him and free him if I can – or take his life if I cannot. But by Elbereth, it is hard, Peredhil! He is barely a stripling – little more than a babe yet!"

Never mind that a little stripling princelet barely has any business to be in a hunting party at the great old age of twenty-three… Elrond frowned wryly and upbraided himself for his lack of charity. He turned to glance at his old friend and most trusted captain, Glorfindel, who sighed soundlessly and shrugged, the faintest of smiles touching his lips before he looked away.

Mirkwood was not Imladris; the threats of Shadow were closer, more personal up that way. Perhaps it truly was necessary for Thranduil to teach his sons the ways of war no matter how old they were. Perhaps there was need to rear a child of so few years in the art of killing Orcs, so that he lived long enough to walk as an elder among his people. It was not for a Noldor lord to criticize a Sindarin comrade when he ruled the earthier, less cultured Silvan Elves, who had issues of their own, all separate from the concerns of their more lordly distant kin. Elrond reminded himself to be grateful for small favors, if the peace in Imladris all these long years was to be so characterized as a favor of small proportion.

Elrond looked to his left at the sound of hoof beats; his twin sons, Elladan and Elrohir, were returning with the trackers who had gone afield to try and learn more about the Orc raiders. He raised a hand to catch their attention; Tinuvil looked listlessly at the new arrivals, and turned to suggest:

"I must send a messenger to Thranduil. He will want to have some say in what we do, Peredhil."

"There isn't time to send messengers to Mirkwood," Glorfindel demurred, giving Tinuvil a look that spoke volumes of his opinion of one who would give such an order. The other drew himself up pridefully.

"My marriage-brother will want to know how things stand with his own child," Tinuvil began, but Elrohir cut him off as he reined up alongside his father.

"I don't doubt for a heartbeat King Thranduil would like to know his son has been taken by Orcs!" the younger Elf expostulated. "If I had a son, I would want to know such a thing!" He paused to breathe hard, angry and impatient. "But we dare not take the time!" he concluded.

Agreeing, his brother started to add: "The child will be dead, by the time we sit here with our thumbs up our – "

"Elladan. Elrohir." Elrond's words cut across the shouting. He did not raise his voice, but then, he did not need to. "We gain nothing by standing here debating this. If anyone is interested, I do have a suggestion."

"By all means," Tinuvil said, though his expression was troubled. Elrond felt a stir of impatience, not having the time or inclination to coddle an annoyed and worried Mirkwood lord, no matter who he might be.

"Tinuvil, it is bad enough when an adult is taken by the enemy," Elrond pointed out, trying to be patient. "We speak of a child. Young Legolas deserves all our effort to rescue him, if we can. Moreover, he is wounded, and therefore doubly in need of our aid."

He swept the battlefield with eyes the colour of a storm at sea; a deep sadness came over his expression for a moment, and then was mastered. Only those who knew him well could mark and mourn the deepening of his tone, the indefinable sense of something having touched his heart in the saddest of ways, as he gazed over the heads of the others and said, "We must never forget or forgive what Orc-kind will always be tempted to do, when they take any Elf prisoner alive. It must not come to that for the young son of Thranduil."

"What then is your suggestion, Lord Elrond?" Tinuvil asked. He was tall, even for a Sindarin Elf, and his hair was as fair as Elrond's was dark; he had a face that lent itself to handsome arrogance, but at the moment, that arrogant air was overtaken by sorrow and anxiety. Elrond shortened his gaze, returned to the present time and place, and with a glance shared his sorrow with Tinuvil.

"We must, I agree, send word to Mirkwood. A father deserves to know what is amiss with his child. For the boy's sake, however, we dare not tarry upon Thranduil's coming. We must act now. We must find where they have taken the child, and get him away."

"By the time full day was upon them, the Orcs would have gone to ground," Elladan murmured, glancing back the way they had come. "We think we know where they are, Father."

Elrond dismounted to hear their report; after a moment, Tinuvil joined him on the ground, one of the Silvan Elves coming to hold their mounts. Elladan quickly described their efforts, how they had tracked the retreating remnant of the Orc band – barely twenty of them – to the deep, dark woods at the southernmost tip of Mirkwood. All of the Great Forest had once been a single realm, the crown jewel of the Rhovanion wilderland; but in these dark days, Elves only actually lived in the northeastern corner near Ered Mithrin, that to which Thranduil's realm had been reduced by the creep of Shadow from Mordor. The southern woods were grim and foul now without the beneficial effects of the Firstborn living under its eaves; many dark and dank things dwelt there, making it a place to be avoided.

"There is an old hunter's way station in a clearing south-east of the Gladden Fields," Elladan finished, drawing a map in the dirt at his feet with a knife. "Right about here, where the forest narrows to this bit –" he carved out the strange silhouette of the region, and stuck the point of the knife in the center of the narrowed area – "is the clearing. The hut is all broken down on two sides, but there is room enough within; and the forest hovers close, which would give most of them protection from the sunlight. If not there, then nearby, for all the tracks lead in that direction."

"Any sign of the child?" Tinuvil asked quietly. Elrohir and Elladan looked at him, glanced at their father, then looked at one another once more.

"They have him prisoner, yes," Elrohir said. Tinuvil closed his eyes and looked away, his proud shoulders quivering with the effort to maintain his dignity.

"We will ride to intercept the trackers, then," Elrond commanded, "and continue the hunt. Two things must be kept ever in our minds: to grapple with them, if at all possible, while it is day – and never to forget, they will use the child to their advantage if they can. We must be prepared for any eventuality along that line. If all hope fails, better the child should die by friendly hand, quick and merciful, than tormented by Orcs – or worse yet, carried off beyond our power to assist and made into one of their foul abominations by the black arts of Mordor. The Halls of Mandos are infinitely to be wished for, rather than the bowels of Shadow."

The silence around him deepened, thrumming with emotions too powerful to track. Measuring the pain in Tinuvil's eyes as he turned, Elrond suddenly experienced an encompassing gratefulness that he had never met young Legolas of Mirkwood, did not yet know what the child even looked like, beyond assuming he likely favored his parents and their lineage – and certainly relieved he did not know what manner of soul the boy carried. Love, honour and high regard could make a warrior stumble when the object of that regard was in peril of his life. Better far that Elrond come to know the child later, when (pray the Valar it may be so, may yet come to pass!) Legolas was safe and whole once more, and the entire matter was closed in the most satisfactory of ways.

He turned and gripped Tinuvil by both shoulders, gazing into the other Elf's eyes. "Forget for the moment that we speak of your sister's child," he reasoned urgently. "Put out of your mind any picture of happier moments, for the sake of the child himself. See the outrage committed by the Orcs, and train your heart to cold anger, not hot. Only then can you bring him safely home."

"Safe?" Tinuvil repeated, his voice ragged. "You speak of the Halls of Mandos – then of bringing Legolas home safely? You cannot have it both ways, Elrond!"

"Tinuvil, you are blinded by your pain," the Lord of Imladris rebuked him, however gently. "We speak of the worst to steel us for the trials to come. If we cannot bring him alive and whole from the hand of the enemy, it were better far to take his life in mercy than leave him alive in their clutches. You know this to be true." He paused, giving the Elf-lord a brief shake to make the words sink in. "But I do not intend to fail in this deliverance. I have my reasons for not leaving anyone in the hands of Orcs."

Orders were immediately given for the bulk of the company to depart, while a few stayed behind to burn the bodies of the enemy and prepare the deceased Elves for transport home to Mirkwood; none of Elrond's companions had been killed, though some were lightly wounded, none requiring more than a quick bandaging and a check to make certain all the wounds were clean of poison. Between the Mirkwood survivors and Imladris folk, the rescue party numbered seventeen, all of them experienced hands at warfare with Orcs.

As they rode out, Elrond schooled himself to a grimmer purpose than had marked his existence lately. His days of warfare had been long gone; recent efforts had been more peaceful, keeping the history of the Firstborn in his role as Lore-Master, and governing the sanctuary of Imladris, known in the Westron tongue as Rivendell, as a place where refugees from Shadow could find safety. But recent peace did not mean Elrond Peredhil could not make war when he needed to. Not when he had been schooled in that art by the great Elven-King Gil-galad himself….

The Orcs doubtless thought themselves clever using a child as a shield, if that was their aim. Doubtless they had some notion that it would be to spit in the face of the Sindar, to take one of their young Eldar-descended kin and make of him an abomination like themselves, bound to servitude forever to the Dark, and in the dark, his young body ravaged in its eternal youth until the Valar only knew what would come forth from whatever vile pairing they might force the lad into. If they knew their prisoner was the son of Thranduil, their chief enemy and opponent, doubtless they thought some fine result could be had from holding the child hostage….

One expressive eyebrow arching upward over deep and angry eyes, the Lord of Imladris gave a mirthless smile that offered no warmth to his set features, as they rode out. It gave him the look of an ancient Elven god, something decidedly not to be trifled with except upon pain of a very great deal of death.

Doubtless, he thought, the Orcs are sadly mistaken….