In the forest of Mirkwood, a fierce battle rages between the Wood-Elves who dwell there, and the invading orcs from the mountains. All is confusion and chaos, and nobody knows who to trust. In R...
Oh, and a huge thank you to my amazing beta, GreenWoodElleth.
The evening air was crisp and cool. The trees were decked in the first green buds of spring, and a small stream gurgled nearby. Birds twittered merrily. However, the youth sitting by the stream was oblivious to the beauty surrounding him. He tossed another rock into the water, scowling at the ripples it had created.
Estel was bored. Several days ago, Rivendell had received news of some conflict in Mirkwood. His foster brothers, Elladan and Elrohir, had set out immediately for the forest, along with most of the other Elvish warriors. He had begged to be allowed to go too, but Elrond had said he was too young, and refused. At fifteen years of age, he thought himself quite mature enough to fight, but nobody would listen to him. Also, he was desperately curious about the Wood-Elves. He had heard much about them from his brothers, but had never met one himself. But despite all his best efforts the party had left Rivendell without him, and he was left at home to pass the time alone.
From the road not far off, he heard the sound of horses approaching. His curiosity immediately piqued, he raced down towards the house, just in time to see his brothers riding in. What were they doing back already? The party should not have even reached the forest yet.
He rushed towards them, then stopped dead in his tracks. In front of Elladan, slumped in the saddle and barely half conscious, was a strange Elf. He was clad in green and brown, though his clothes were torn and bloodied, and his blonde hair concealed his face from Estel's sight. There was no doubt in his mind that this was a Wood-Elf.
He stared at his brothers, hoping for some sign of what was going on. Their faces were grim, their attention focused on this blonde Elf. They helped him off the horse gently, and began leading him towards the house. He stumbled several times, and Estel saw Elladan and Elrohir exchange worried glances.
Suddenly, Elrohir turned and saw his younger brother watching them. "Estel!" he cried. "Go and fetch father." Estel looked at them blankly. "Now!"
Estel quickly hurried inside, and went straight to the library. "Father?" he called, entering the large room. His Elrond was sitting at the table, poring over a large book. He looked up when his foster son entered.
"Estel? What is it?" Elrond asked, looking wearily at Estel.
"Elladan and Elrohir are back," he told him quickly. "There is a stranger with them; a Wood-Elf, I think. He is injured."
Elrond looked momentarily surprised and concerned, then he got quickly to his feet and strode out of the library and around the corner. Estel sighed resignedly. Clearly, nobody intended to tell him anything that night. He made his way back outside, to pass the rest of the evening tossing stones into the stream.
When it grew dark, Estel returned to the house. When he passed the library, he heard muffled voices coming from inside. He hesitated for a moment, but curiosity got the better of him. He pressed his ear to the door and listened intently.
"Where did you find him?" Elrond was asking.
"In an orc stronghold not far from the pass," Elrohir hissed. "He was unconscious when we got there. We nearly mistook him for dead."
"How does he fare now?" Asked Elladan.
"He is sleeping. I tended his wounds as best as I could, then gave him a drug to put him to sleep. I am confident he will be alright."
Elrohir sighed in frustration. "What could they possibly want with him, though?"
"There are two possibilities, as I see it," Elrond replied calmly. "It is unlikely they would have kept him for sport. It is possible that they wanted him for a ransom, but that does not seem probable. I think they wanted information. He could have told them much about Mirkwood's defenses. Incidentally, did he tell them anything?" His voice remained casual, but Estel could detect a note of anxiety.
"I am afraid you will have to ask him when he wakes," suggested Elladan. "But in the meantime, let us go and eat. He will not wake for several hours at least, and I doubt he will be strong enough for much conversation when he does."
Estel heard them get to their feet and come towards the door. Realizing he was about to be caught eavesdropping, he leapt up and raced back around the corner. He sat down quickly on a bench, trying to look as though he had been there for some time.
Elladan and Elrohir came around the corner, and smiled faintly when they saw the young boy.
"Hello, little brother!" Elrohir greeted, embracing him briefly. "How have you been keeping?"
"Very well, thank you," he responded. "Who was the other Elf?"
Elladan and Elrohir exchanged glances. It was Elladan who answered him.
"That," he replied, "is Legolas. He is the son of king Thranduil."
"What happened to him? He looked very ill earlier."
Elrohir tensed. "He...ran into a spot of trouble with some orcs. We found him imprisoned in their stronghold."
Estel nodded, though the answer had been far too brief for his liking. What sort of trouble had he run into?"
Elladan sighed wearily. "Come, little brother. Will you join us for dinner?"
Estel followed them, his mind still buzzing with questions. From what he had overheard, there was a lot more to this business than what his brothers were telling him. He pushed his curiosity aside, and tried to relax and enjoy his time with them. There would be plenty of time to answer these questions soon enough.
The next couple of days passed uneventfully. Elrond and the twins spent much time in the healing ward, tending to the injured Elf. Estel gleaned what information he could by eavesdropping on their conversations, but could not discover anything that made sense to him.
One evening, he made his way to the dining room for dinner, as he always did. To his astonishment, the blonde Elf was seated at the long table with Elladan and Elrohir. Even to Estel's eyes he looked exhausted, and there was a sort of stiffness to his movements. The three were talking quietly. The twins looked up, and saw their little
brother paused in the door way.
"Come and join us, Estel!" Called Elrohir. He walked shyly over to the table and sat beside his brother, trying hard not to stare at the stranger.
"Estel, this is Legolas," Elladan introduced. "Legolas, our foster brother, Estel."
He looked up at the strange Elf. Legolas smiled faintly in greeting, but Estel noticed a flicker of mistrust in his clear blue eyes. For a moment, an awkward silence fell over the group. Then Elrond entered the hall, and sat down at the head of the table.
"How do you feel this evening, Legolas?" He asked.
"I am well, thank you, my lord," the other Elf replied. Estel raised his eyebrows. Legolas looked anything but well. He had improved since his arrival in Rivendell, but he was still uncommonly pale and weary.
"You do not look well," he said with a shrug. The Elves all turned to stare at him, and he flushed red. The twins and Elrond looked rather awkward, but Legolas looked almost amused.
"Why, thank you, young one." He said, raising an eyebrow. "But I assure you I am fine."
The rest of the meal passed quietly, with little conversation. Eventually, Elrond took his leave, and the twins soon followed. Estel made to leave as well, but he paused when he noticed that Legolas had not moved. Quickly making up his mind, he went and sat back down beside the Elf.
"May I join you?" he asked awkwardly.
"Certainly, if you wish. I warn you though, I am dull company."
Estel was unsure what to say. "You are from Mirkwood, then?" he asked after a short pause. "What's it like there?"
Legolas smiled again. "I could not do it justice," he said. "To strangers, it is a dark, evil place. But it is beautiful as well. You should visit us there one day, when you are older." Estel scowled slightly, and he paused. "Have I said something to offend you?" He looked bemused at his companion's sudden change of humor.
"No," he sighed. "It's just that people are always telling me I am too young to do what I want."
"How old are you?" The Elf asked.
"Fifteen," he replied. "Honestly, I am not a child any more." He frowned again as Legolas gave a very un-Elvish snort.
"I apologize," he said quickly when he saw Estel's face. "It is just that you remind me so much of myself when I was your age. I was always so eager to grow up. Now, I would rather go back to being a child." He paused, seeming to feel he had said too much. "I will return to my chamber now," he muttered quickly. "Thank you for your company." He rose quickly, wincing slightly as his hand flew to his side. Then he turned, and left the room.
Estel stared after him for a moment, a little confused. Then he got to his feet, and made his way back to his own room. All the questions he had been repressing for days flooded now to the front of his mind, and it was many hours before he finally found sleep.
His hands were bound above his head with iron shackles. He could feel himself trembling. Blood ran freely down his back from the lashing he had received. His body was bruised and aching, and every breath was painful. On the corner of his eye he could see an orc approaching, holding something in his hand. The creature halted in front of him, and he could see that it was a brand, glowing red hot. His eyes widened in horror and fear. The orc leered down at him
"Do you know what this is, Elf?" he taunted. He glared up at the foul beast, trying to look defiant despite the wild fear that was welling up in him.
"We don't have to do this, Elf. All you have to do is say the word, and I will stop. All your pain can go away, if you just tell me what I want to know."
"I have nothing to tell you!" He snarled, raising his chin proudly. He was determined not to show any sign of weakness to his tormentor, regardless of the pain he felt.
The orc chuckled, delighting in the anguish of the captive. The brand came lower, hovering inches above the exposed flesh of his side.
Blinding pain overwhelmed him as the brand made contact with his skin. He could smell the sickening scent of burnt flesh. The orc pressed it harder against his side. He screamed...
Legolas jolted awake, sitting bolt upright in his bed. Sweat poured down his brow, and he was trembling uncontrollably. His hand moved down to the inflamed mark on his side, and he winced in pain as his fingers brushed the tender wound.
He started as the door creaked open. Elladan stepped into the room. He was dressed in his night clothes, and carrying a candle. His eyes fell on the distressed Elf, and a look of concern flitted across his features.
"Are you alright, Legolas? I thought I heard you cry out..."
Legolas shook his head. "Just a nightmare," he murmured.
Elladan made no move to go. Instead, he came and sat down at the end of the bed. He and Legolas had been friends for many years, and he hated seeing him in such a state.
"Do you wish to talk about it? You know you can confide in me, mellon-nin."
Legolas smiled wanly. "Do not worry about me," he reassured his friend. "All I need is sleep."
Elladan realized Legolas was dodging the question, but did not push the subject. "Would you like something to help you sleep?" he offered instead.
Legolas grimaced. "I hate that stuff. It makes me feel half-dead the next morning."
Elladan nodded. "I know. When I was a child, father used to drug me whenever I had trouble sleeping. I've never been able to take it since."
Legolas laughed lightly. "He has been looking for an opportunity to drug me ever since he first met me. I am sure he has enjoyed the past few days immensely."
Elladan smiled. He had hoped to distract his friend from whatever nightmare he had just had, and it seemed to be working well. Legolas looked more relaxed already, though his face was still paler than it should have been.
"I had best leave now," he stated. "Sleep well, mellon-nin." He turned and walked gracefully out of the room, closing the door behind him. He returned to his bed and lay tossing and turning for nearly an hour, before he too fell asleep.
A/N: Please review, everybody! Reviews make my day, and encourage me to write.