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The Scruff Factor  by JastaElf

Author’s Note:

This silly little tale was spawned by two comments made on the Henneth-Annun archive’s e-mail list. During a discussion on the movie-Aragorn’s "scruffiness", it was determined that Numenorean royalty must have a scruff factor built into their genetics, and that in preparation for the four whole minutes during the LOTR movie in which Aragorn appears in good, whole clothing and well-shaven, (even if his hair DOES need brushing...) he must have been waylaid by Elves and forcibly neatened in preparation for the Council of Elrond.

Someone else then commented on Arwen sneaking up on him while he’s athelas-hunting, and the look of half-amused, half-resigned annoyance when her sword touched his jaw... sez our correspondant, he gave off the air of having been one-time-too-many snuck up on by Elves, during his years in Rivendell.

(huge grin) Well... I had a plot bunny bite me on one ankle, and a Nuzgûl ride forth to drag me down to the pit by the other.... and this story is the result. It is unashamedly rated PG (there might be some slightly naughty suggestions somewhere....), and is dedicated to the Henneth Annun crowd with deep affection -- most especially to Meg and Laura, purveyors of fine plotbunnies since TA 23. (Or something like that.)

Ladies, this one's for you….



Part the First: In Which a Ranger is Caught Off His Guard

It had been a while since Aragorn, son of Arathorn, known to the Elves as Estel, to Men Strider, and to Elrond Peredhil as foster-son, had been in Rivendell during the daylight hours, for more than a few short rotations of the clock. Of course, there were no clocks in Rivendell, but that was beside the point. It was a beautiful day late in summer; wisps of white cloud floated in a perfect azure sky, the reassuringly regular sound of the Bruinen could be heard babbling counterpoint to the thousands of homely sounds that made up the daily life of Rivendell, and of course, there was Elfsong everywhere.

As he wandered through the place that had played host to his boyhood, Aragorn Strider Estel Elrondion realized a kind of retroactive homesickness. Having arrived in such a hurry, under such anxious circumstances, he had not had much time to reflect on how good it was to be here at all. He had missed the songs of his Elven kin, and had missed the Firstborn beauty of the Last Homely House. Out in the wilds, wandering all about Middle-Earth on one Rangerly concern after another, protecting other beings, hunting down still others, and visiting, always just visiting, Aragorn was finally back in the one place he could call home--and realizing how much he had missed it, hurt in that good homesick way, even though he was no longer absent.

What an extremely Elvish thought, he decided, and grinned to consider it. Sticking hands in pockets of his over-tunic, he strolled along the ivy-hung pathways that led in, around and through the trees and other flora, idly making his way wherever his feet might take him. As he walked, he whistled a cheery tune.

The three Hobbits who had accompanied him hither were over at the House of Healing, watching over the fourth of their number, the grievously wounded Ringbearer, young Frodo Baggins. Frodo was, in his turn, under the capable care of Aragorn’s august foster-father, Lord Elrond, Master of Rivendell; Elrond was a renowned healer, and if anyone could rescue the Morgul-stabbed perian, it was he. And so, until the convening of the Council that Elrond had summoned, Aragorn was off-duty. Off duty, and home in the bargain... not a bad deal, all things being considered as equal.

As he strolled along, Aragorn realized his stomach was growling a complaint against emptiness. The Ranger glanced skyward, considering; given the angle of the sun, it was very nearly time for the noon meal. If he sent his feet in direction of the House, he knew the servants would be about to lay out a private meal for Elrond’s family and guests; he knew he had best arrive smartly, because if he did not, and the Hobbits were convinced away from Frodo’s bedside by the smell of food, there would be little left for a hungry son of the valley. Yes, decidedly time to head back for dinner....

"Estel! Mae govannen, nîn mellon!"

Aragorn turned at the sound of a familiar voice, and saw an ethereally lovely blond male Elf hurrying toward him. Recognizing Lindir, a member of Lord Elrond’s staff and extended household, Aragorn shortened his stride to let the other catch up--and was taken aback to find himself enveloped in a long-armed, surprisingly strong embrace of several heartbeats’ duration. During said embrace, Lindir went on at great length, in rather elegant language even for an Elf, about how wonderful it was to have him home again, and wasn’t it just dreadful about the poor young Ringbearer, and how could anyone have stuck such a child with a job like this anyway, and on and on....

"Lindir, please, I--it’s good to see you too," Aragorn managed to wheeze out, and worked his way out of Lindir’s rather strong arms. He gripped the Elf by both shoulders and gave him a friendly shake. "I’ve been gone so long--it is good to be home. Is it almost time for dinner?"

"Oh yes, of course, of course!" Lindir said, smiling cheerfully, though his nose became somewhat unhappy at the scent of the air about the Ranger. "Umm, come along then--I’ll make certain there is someone to draw you a bath and bring you clean clothes."

Aragorn knew a moment’s confusion. "Bath?"

Lindir’s smooth, high brow furrowed just briefly, like a breeze over otherwise still water. "Well--yes, Estel," he murmured, dipping his chin in embarrassment. "I mean--I just thought perhaps--"

"Lindir, I’m so hungry I could eat an Orc," Aragorn chuckled, putting one arm through the other’s and leading the Elf toward the House. "I’ll wash my hands, I promise you--but if we don’t get to the table before the Hobbits do, we’ll be in the kitchen before tea begging Cook for something to tide us over. Trust me when I tell you this!"

Lindir suffered himself to be led along, wrinkling his nose in distress. Was it possible Estel could not tell how--err--high his person smelled? Months in the wilderness, keeping company with the Valar knew what sorts of creatures--and of course his senses, while exemplary for a Man, were nothing compared to those of Elves....

Lindir felt an extended moment of absolute horror at the concept of Aragorn sitting down to table with the Family in his present state, and almost said something to that effect. But then he decided it was not his place to do anything more than offer the suggestion he had already offered. Lindir was a minstrel of the highest order, and a key member of Lord Elrond’s household; he was learning diplomacy after all these years, and congratulated himself on winning this battle to curb his tongue.

But he did pause in the doorway to the dining room, to suggest to the young servant on duty that rose water be added to the basin used for hand-washing--and that a separate basin be used after Lord Estel had washed his hands....

The servant sniffed delicately at the air after Aragorn had breezed on by, and wondered briefly who the scruffy-looking person could be, all in dusty black, unshaven and decidedly unwashed. Two and two were added together, and the sum total was Dunedán; the servant sighed lightly and went to fetch clean water, arriving back at his post just in time for the decorous arrival of certain members of Lord Elrond’s family.

"What’s this, a Ranger caught off his guard?" a merry voice said in Aragorn’s ear, as a butter knife found its way to the region of his throat. Aragorn sighed in a distinctly put-upon manner, and knocked the offending article away.

"Stick it where the sun shineth not, Elrohir," he retorted, looking up and back into the grinning face of one of his foster-brothers. Elrohir laughed at him, taking a seat alongside; he was the younger of the twin sons of Elrond, and possessed of a wickedly learned sense of humour.

"Arwen told us all about it, after Father took poor Frodo off to be cared for," he announced, snapping his napkin open and draping it across his lap. "I daresay the look on your face when she caught you was nothing less than precious."

"Precious. Right. I wish you wouldn’t use that word...."

"Oh yes, that Gollum thing," said the elder brother, Elladan, taking a seat just opposite Aragorn. "We’d heard you found him, and delivered him to Mirkwood. Why Mirkwood, for heaven’s sake? If I were going to try and help anything recover, Mirkwood is the last place I’d take it!"

"I think Gandalf just wanted the creature kept close," Aragorn grumbled, reaching for one of the fragrant rolls, fresh from the oven. He tore the yeasty thing open and happily inhaled its delicious odour, before slathering it with butter and wild clover honey. "King Thranduil does, after all, have extensive caverns below the palace; perfect place for the godsforsaken scraplet, if you ask me."

"Oh quite so, something needs safe keeping, and you hand it over to a soft-heart like Legolas," Elladan scoffed, laughing. "Give him a week, and he’ll have the creature wearing flowers in its hair and dancing in the sunshine with Elven maidens!"

Aragorn mumbled something unintelligible through the mouthful of bread; his brothers stared at him, taking far smaller bites and trying not to laugh at him again. "What did you say?" Elrohir asked, finally.

Aragorn swallowed, and had a sip of wine. "I said, Gollum doesn’t have any hair. And anyway, Legolas won’t have to take care of the creature. He’s a prince."

"Hah. It is exactly for that reason that he will think it his duty, " Elladan retorted. "And with his deep love of caves and enclosed spaces, Legolas is exactly the right sort of person to guard this Gollum."

That was a fairly mean-spirited thing to suggest, and Aragorn told him so in no uncertain terms. Legolas Thranduilion, the youngest Prince of Mirkwood, had a powerful dislike of caves--and for that matter, enclosed spaces--that was very well known to the sons of Elrond, though they did not perhaps understand all the whys and wherefores of it. Enough, then, to simply state that Legolas was primarily raised by Silvan Elves, and had absorbed from them a deep love of things green and growing. Caves, and creatures like Gollum, did not foster such a love.

"Well, in any case, if there is an Elf in all Ennor whom this creature is likely to love, it will be Thranduil’s fair princelet," Elladan said, trying to redeem himself. "All he need do is sing to Gollum and climb trees with him--and Gollum will become a model of delight and civility."

This made all three of them laugh, if for no other reason than that it made a pretty picture: wizened little Smeagol, with his strange, insinuating way of speech and the obnoxious swallowing sound that gave him his name, sitting up a tree in dark old Mirkwood, singing along with the golden-haired, blue-eyed, handsome Prince who was a dear friend of them all.

"Speaking of climbing trees," Elrohir said, trying not to be too obvious, "you--err--seem to have been in the wild for quite some time, Estel."

Aragorn nodded, his mouth being full with the remainder of his roll, and one hand already reaching for another. Elladan sighed and pushed the honey pot closer, so that perhaps at least the table cloth would not suffer.

"Mmmph-murrm," the Heir of Isildur said, sounding emphatic. The twins looked at one another behind his back; Elrohir shrugged, and refilled the Man’s goblet.

"Swallow," he commanded. "then speak. We understood none of that."

Aragorn did as bidden, and swallowed. The wine was a particularly fine vintage.


"Harad. Not exactly sure where it is made, but Lord Cirdan sent it from the Havens for Adar’s conception anniversary. Now then, what did you say when you had your mouth full?"

"I said, Yes, I’ve been away for too long. It is good to be home!"

"Ah. Yes." Elladan helped himself to thin slices of roasted venison when the servants brought a platter, and took a generous helping of the winter asparagus, also a product of the Havens. He reflected happily that having a friend like Cirdan was a very nice thing, indeed. "Estel, I know that out in the wilds, one need not--err--neaten oneself up very often, but--"

"Hobbits," Estel said, just before he began wolfing down a small mountain of venison that had become heaped on his own plate in a trice. He nodded pleasantly to the servant who held out a steaming, fragrant pitcher of whipped horseradish, and allowed her to place a goodly dollop beside the meat on his plate. The Twins exchanged another look, and Elrohir shuddered.

"I am simply not understanding this conversation," he sighed, and far more decorously filled his own plate, nodding thanks to the servant--and grinned understanding as every server managed to depart rather rapidly for the rest of the tables.

"I was in the wild with four Hobbits from Bree onward, chased by Nazgûl--and this right on top of departing Mirkwood," Aragorn announced, rather too rapidly for clarity, but at least he swallowed first. "I’m sorry I did not take time to bathe, but after being with the periannath, I was all too well aware of the fact that I would have to get here and eat swiftly, if there was to be any food left at all." He turned wide, amazed eyes on his Elven brothers. "You would not believe how much they can eat--or how quickly!"

"Or often," Elrohir murmured, grinning. At Aragorn’s interrogative grunt, he elaborated: "Estel, food was sent up to the House of Healing, as the Hobbits did not wish to leave young Frodo’s side. Even for food."

"Enough was sent there to feed an army," Elladan added, delicately dabbing at his mouth with a pristine napkin. Aragorn simply stared at him; smiling wryly, the elder twin nodded. "Yes, grubby one, the periannath are dining elsewhere. You need not have feared going unfed for their presence here--at least, not until supper time."

Aragorn had the grace to blush. His brothers had the grace to limit their hilarity to decorous sniggers, not outright shouts of amusement.

"Eat more slowly, child," Elladan suggested. "At least you will not look like a Warg, even if you smell like one."


(Some days later, on the eve of the Many Meetings and the Council of Elrond...)


Imladris was beginning to fill up like the Havens after Dagorlad, and it was becoming a matter of great effort to find any place in which there was peace and quiet. Still, once in a while Aragorn and Arwen actually did manage to sneak away to their favorite bridge near the waterfall. To be truthful though, it was necessary to find the means of keeping the Twins occupied if there was to be any peace there, either. Elladan and Elrohir had long since figured out that Baby Sister and her Ranger liked to snuggle there, and they saw it as their noblest duty to do what brothers have done since the dawn of time: disrupt the occasion whenever they thought they might get away with it.

But Aragorn was more than a fair shot with bow and arrow, and Arwen had learned to throw knives half an Age ago out of self defense. Lord Elrond, wisely determining that he would need both his sons in one piece if Imladris was to be properly guarded in the near future (without running poor Glorfindel and Erestor ragged should said twins become incapacitated), saw to it his sons were kept busy greeting the new arrivals: Dwarves, Men, and Elves alike. So it was, that Ranger and Lady finally managed some quality hugs and kisses, there in the misty romantic venue of their beloved bridge.

So it was, also, that the lovers managed to miss the arrival of the fair Prince of Mirkwood, Legolas, Greenleaf, the youngest son of King Thranduil. He arrived in the company of two of his father’s Sindarin subjects, nearly as blond as Legolas himself but not nearly so devastatingly easy on the eyes. If Arwen was the fairest female of her generation, Legolas was the fairest of the males--but by the time he had finished being over-enthusiastically greeted by Men of Gondor, various Hobbits, many of the currently unattached Elven population of Imladris and far too many of the attached Elven populace as well, the youngest Mirkwood royal was in no mood at all to be hugged, sung to, pounced on, or told in lyrical terms about the beauty of any part of him.


The fair young archer looked up, blood and murder in his lovely blue eyes, and narrowed said eyes at the daunting sight of Elrond’s twin sons coming down the stairs toward him in the small courtyard of the Lord’s private residence. They were smiling (seldom a good thing) and the glint of devilry was in their grey eyes (never a good thing!), and Legolas was unamused to see they were even walking in step with one another.

I do believe they do that just to peeve me, thought the son of Thranduil. Legolas gave a quiet sigh, relieved at least that the crowd around him drifted back politely at the arrival of the Twins, leaving them to greet the newcomer in relative quiet.

"Elladan. Elrohir. How nice to see you again."

The Twins grinned at the weary flatness of his tone.

"Legolas, dear Legolas," Elladan said, taking the Prince by his right arm. "Mae-what-you-call-your-Govannen, dear and glorious neth ernil of Mirkwood! Too long has it been since you graced Imladris with your fair beauty!"

"I shall hurt you for that," Legolas said pleasantly, one dark eyebrow curving upward happily at the thought. Elladan laughed, while Elrohir moved in on Legolas from the left.

"Does he not say just the dearest things?" the younger twin exclaimed, just a little too brightly. "I am so glad your father sent you as his representative to this Council. We were so afraid he would come himself, and we would not have half the fun we always have with you!"

Legolas shuddered delicately at the thought of his regal, old-fashioned, and short-tempered sire being tag-teamed into compromising positions by two handsome, lookalike, over-stimulated Noldor lordlings, and rolled his eyes.

"Will you two please let me be?" he pleaded, trying to break their hold as they led him up the stairs into the House. "I’ve been on the road for days with companions that were not in a chatting mood, there were Wargs and spiders everywhere, and I cannot be entirely certain the bite that nasty little Smeagol gave me hasn’t become vilely infected. I stink unto the very heavens, an offense to the noses of Firstborn and Valar alike, and I want a bath before I even think about going to pay my respects to your father, since the way I am right now, it would be disrespectful in the extreme to go anywhere near him!"

This heartfelt expostulation contained more words and emotion than the generally reserved Legolas usually uttered inside of a week, which fact alone had the Twins looking behind him at one another in bemused confusion. Apparently days on the road under duress had left Legolas in need of companionship as well; he seemed to have stored up a great deal of chat, though the sons of Elrond could see he had not come alone. Still, looking at the close-mouthed Sindar nobles who had ridden along with their prince, perhaps it made sense after all. Under his outward reserve, Legolas was actually a rather merry companion--old enough to have gained experience in combat and a fine-tuned sense of diplomatic finesse, while remaining young enough to have a wicked sense of humour, an easily-tickled sense of the ridiculous, and a lovely singing voice in a rich, clear tenor. Being stuck for days in the darkness that was Mirkwood with two uppity-looking Elves who looked as if they’d been sucking lemons for luncheon, well, that would be enough to drag down anyone’s merriment.

Fortunately the Twins knew precisely how to fix this.

"Estel’s home," Elladan said insinuatingly, trying not to grin as the three of them took the salute of a guard at the main entryway and kept going. Legolas had yet to notice he had naturally fallen into step with the brothers. "He showed up with four periannath, one of them old Bilbo’s nephew. The little folk were hungry--"

"They’re periannath," Legolas commented, as if such were to be expected.

"Just so," Elrohir put in. "And therefore hungry. Except for the one bearing Isildur’s Ring--he had a Morgul fragment in him and I’m sure he wasn’t pondering the menu in the slightest."

"Isildur’s Ring?" Legolas repeated, halting rather precipitously in the dimness of the corridor, and nearly toppling all three of them to the floor. His voice had risen about half an octave; he cleared his throat, wincing at the undignified squeak. "Not--the Ring. The One Ring? A perian has it?"

"The very same," Elladan continued, and hauled Legolas along in the direction of his customary guest chambers. "Bilbo’s nephew has it. Frodo, son of Drogo."

"Sounds Dwarvish," Legolas sniffed, curling his lip.

"Well, speaking of Dwarves, Bilbo apparently had the Ring with him when he and those Dwarves visited your father’s dungeons..."

"Cellars," Legolas said with perilous emphasis, as if this were something of a sore point with him. The Twins affected bland looks of interest, though their eyes glittered.

"Come again?" Elrohir asked, innocent as the day is long in summer. Legolas did not buy it for even half a second, and narrowed those lovely blue eyes of his.

"We haven’t any dungeons. They are cellars."

"Whatever. Cellars with bloody big thick doors on them, and padlocks as big as Orc fists."

"Says who?"

"Bilbo. And we all know he would never exaggerate." Elladan brought them up short in front of the light, airy guest chamber in which Legolas usually stayed when visiting Imladris, despite the fact that he seldom actually slept here. "Anyway, it is neither here nor there. The Dwarves call them dungeons as well, and one of the delegation from the Lonely Mountain is--"

He paused for dramatic effect; Legolas gave him his "Thranduil Look," which on he for whom it was named generally forecast hell and damnation, while on Legolas it just made one think of kittens with their backs up in the face of very large and unruly badgers. Elladan snickered.

"Glóin. One of the Mirkwood Dungeon Dwarves."

"Cellar Dwarves, brother," Elrohir said, with wicked innocence. Elladan snapped his fingers as if he had forgotten--which of course he had not--and leaned forward very close to Legolas' face, to grin at the scowl on that fair visage.

"Cellar Dwarves, right. And Glóin has brought a son of his, as well. Perhaps they were hoping Thranduil would come himself, and felt they would need--erm--a fall-back plan."

The princely kitten rolled his eyes and sagged against the doorpost. Several words not generally found in the vocabulary of well-bred young Princes (and Legolas was more well-bred than most) came sighing out of his mouth, in Avari no less, which impressed the daylights out of the overly-learned Twins, and he looked as if he might cheerfully like to prang his forehead on the wall beside him. Several times.

"I was hoping I could just tell Elrond what has happened, take a nap, and bugger off home again," he sighed at last. "When did matters become this complicated? Why is Estel home? And why are there Dwarves at Council?"

"Oh, it’s not just Dwarves. Mithrandir’s here, and a lot of rather impressive looking Men from one place or another, including Denethor’s eldest from Gondor," Elrohir said, kicking open the door and hauling the exhausted Prince into the chamber.

Elladan went and got Legolas a nice glass of wine and pushed him into a comfortable armchair, while Elrohir continued on into the bathing chamber and began utilizing one of those fantastic perquisites of residing in Imladris: the engineering that made running and heated water possible almost on demand. Though, the younger twin pondered, it was probably just as well Legolas was obsessively neat, and annoyingly good at staying that way for the most part, and hence did his bathing at odd hours. With Imladris so full of an unaccustomed number of guests, hot water--indeed, water at all--might well be at a premium come nightfall.

For his part Legolas sat back to relax, and tried to remember if he had ever met Denethor’s son. He had met the Steward of Gondor himself, once many years ago before he even was Steward, but sons, no. It cannot be a good thing, that the Heir of the Steward of Gondor is here at the same time as Estel… The Prince rested his head back against the softness of the chair and sighed.

"And Estel is home...why?" he asked, not really wanting to run into his dear friend after the recent debacle in Mirkwood. Telling Elrond what had happened was going to be bad enough. Telling him in front of, as Thranduil might say, "bloody sodding Dwarves," was even worse. But Mithrandir? AND Estel? Grand, just grand....

"Mithrandir asked him to go fetch the Ringbearer in Bree," Elladan said, pouring a glass of wine for himself and perching on the balcony railing just behind Legolas. The Prince’s pale brow furrowed briefly in confusion.

"Before or after the bit about Úlairi?" Legolas asked, unable to suppress a shudder. Elladan leaned forward to look at him closely, then shrugged and continued, trying to sound blasé.

"Before. And where did you get Úlairi? No one mentioned the Nine."

"Elrohir said Morgul fragment." Legolas glanced around the carved back of the chair, a puckish look on his face. He was beginning to relax, Úlairi all aside, and was getting therefore somewhat ironic. "Now, unless the Rangers of the North have begun carrying odd weaponry moreso than usual, Morgul generally suggests--"

"I like you better when you’re quiet," Elladan said with a smirk. Legolas saluted him with his cup, and drained it.

"Legolas? Bubbles or oil?" Elrohir asked, his disembodied voice floating in from the other room. Legolas grinned, looking rather intrigued.

"Oh, umm--oil, probably. Bubbles aren’t any fun alone."

"We could fix that...."

"Not before supper, you couldn’t." Legolas chuckled softly, and went to refill his glass. "Are Estel and Arwen spending quality time together?"

"Can you not guess?" Elladan grumped good-naturedly. "Father set us to greeting people as Sons of the House or some such diplomatic twaddle, and Estel got that silly romantic look he gets sometimes. Next thing we know, Arwen’s off to change her dress for the tenth time in an hour, and they both disappear toward ‘that Bridge’ with stars in their eyes."

"And how does Estel look? Well? He seemed tired, when I saw him last some weeks ago."


Legolas cocked one eyebrow. "Come again?"

"He looked scruffy, and smelled worse." Elladan gave a self-righteous sniff. "I mean really, has the Man no room in his pack for shaving soap? He keeps his daggers sharp enough to not need a razor, and sponges are malleable, so it isn’t as if they take up a lot of space. And a comb. Anyone has room for a comb!"

Legolas snickered shamelessly. Every time he had had any occasion to travel with Estel out in the wild, he had evinced similar complaints. They could undergo precisely the same conditions, and yet arrive at their destination as diametric opposites: Legolas with every hair neatly in place, smelling as fresh as daisies, immaculately clean down to his toenails; Aragorn with a face full of stubble beneath a ragged mop of wild hair, with more pong to his person than a wet wolfhound in high summer humidity. It was their favorite thing about which to tease one another, Aragorn convinced Elves stayed tidy by unfair use of magic, and Legolas absolutely certain Men attracted sweat and dirt through some mystical genetic fault.

"He’s just--being manly," the Prince said, trying valiantly to maintain a straight face.

"He’s not manly, he’s messy," Elrohir grumbled, coming back from the bathing room. "Not that he can help it, mind you; it is a Numenorean royal trait."

Elladan joined Legolas in the sputter of laughter that escaped them both.

"Trait?" Legolas repeated. "How so? I mean, Arathorn did not need to shave; he wore a beard! And a most becoming one, I might add."

"True enough," Elrohir agreed equably. "But he did tend to become a tad--scruffy--if left to his own devices, and they all have--how to put this delicately--a rather high--umm--bouquet about themselves. All the ones I can remember, I remember best olfactorily."

"In other words, they stank," Elladan put in bluntly. "Where you, Legolas, always seem redolent of a bright spring day in the forest, with notes of citrus and honeysuckle, and Elrohir manages, for the most part, a charming air of spice and sandalwood, Estel and his forebears always smell like a wet bearskin rug that was tossed into the clothespress. Or at least, they do so far as they have made themselves known in Imladris over the centuries."

The look of amused disgust that crossed Legolas’ patrician features sent Elrohir into a torrent of laughter, such that he had to lean up against the wall and hold his sides.

" ‘Notes of citrus and honeysuckle’?" the Prince repeated on a disbelieving note, eyebrows climbing. "You sound like my father describing wine. And as for Estel’s--ahh--pong, it is not that bad. Come now, be fair, it is a manly, honest sort of smell, and has its own interesting notes, as you say. I do not see Arwen running away every time he gets near her!"

"Arwen has odd notions," her eldest brother sniffed with disdain.

Elrohir managed to right himself, still snickering; he sketched a deep bow, one arm almost sweeping the floor. "Speaking of the need to wash away the grime of the trail, fair Prince of Mirkwood, your bath is prepared. Elladan--is there any more of that?"

His brother handed him a goblet. With typical Elven lack of prudishness, they followed Legolas into the bathing chamber, amused at the alacrity with which the youngster shed his clothing and dove into the deep, oversized tub, which was more accurately a pool. Kept warm by means of a thermal spring that ran under the House, it was a wonderfully relaxing place for a good long soak, of which fact Legolas intended to take full advantage. When he surfaced, dripping water and grinning like anything, Elladan handed him his cup once more, and the Twins made themselves comfortable on a handy bench along the wall.

"Is Estel going to--you know, dress up--for the Council?" Legolas asked, taking a sip before reaching for the pot of soap and a washcloth. "Or will we be treated to another round of ‘Rugged, Mysterious Dunedán’ so he can be all rebellious and manly in black?"

The Twins had not considered this, and flared their nostrils at one another.

"Euww, I hope not," Elrohir growled.

"Ai, Valar!" Elladan swore, and drained his goblet. "No, no, that will never do. I mean, he dressed up for Arwen today, but that’s--well, romantic stuff. Romantic is not the right note for the Council session."

Legolas laughed brightly, so amused at the thought that he slid right down the side of the bathing pool and submerged underwater, bubbles of mirth floating back up to the surface as he rinsed the soap out of his hair.

"No, I do not think romantic is the right note, either," he said, when he had managed to pull back upright. "We need something more--I do not know, something--regal. Yes, that’s it--regal!"

Elladan snorted. "Estel does not do regal," he retorted. "You’re daydreaming, Legolas."

The Prince chuckled. Finishing his ablutions, Legolas leaned back and closed his eyes, luxuriating in the feel of the hot water around sore muscles. "He could be made to ‘do’ regal," he murmured speculatively. At meeting utter silence from the Twins, he opened one eye and glanced sidewise. "With the right persuasion, of course."

Elrohir shook his dark head in decisive negation. "He would never allow it."

"Persuasion of that level of force is not legal in Imladris," Elladan added.

Legolas just looked pensive. Then he dipped his chin and gazed at them, half-lidded, from beneath drawn-down brows. The Twins looked at him, then at each other. They knew of old what it meant, when the Jewel of Mirkwood got ‘that look’ on him. Orcs and Uruk-hai had died painfully in the face of that look. Diplomats who had convinced themselves they were dealing with an amateur, learned otherwise. Archers who thought themselves the fastest draw in Ennor had lost large sums and priceless possessions when the blue-eyed son of Thranduil affected utter, evil innocence and asked if they would like to ‘place a little wager’....

"Legolas," Elladan said, in tones of great sweetness, "just exactly what are you thinking?"

"I am thinking," the Prince replied gently, "that there is persuasion--and then there is Persuasion." His smile deepened, showing straight white teeth. "I am thinking that there is no reason why the Heir of Isildur need know anything of what we have planned, before he absolutely has to know." He contrived somehow to look utterly guileless as he rose up from the pool and wrapped a soft towel about himself, coming to stand dripping before the Twins. "I have a Plan," he announced, in such a way that the sons of Elrond could actually hear the capital letter.

"And--that plan would be--?" Elladan asked. Legolas smiled. It was amazing how much pure devilry could be ladled over a smile on such a sweet face.

"Come with me--I shall tell you while I dress for supper."

TBC… heaven help us… (snicker)


Úlairi: Elvish word for the Nazgûl, "Nazgûl" being a word in the Black Speech and therefore not generally used by polite Elves. (Elladan, Elrohir, and Aragorn were not being polite in Chapter One…)


Author Notes:

Wow, thanks for all the lovely reviews! I'm glad you're amused by the lighter side of me…. (grin) Let's see:

Cheysuli: thanks for your kind words!

PuterPatty: My plotbunnies thank you for the gourmet greens. (grin) I hope you are happier now that Legolas has made his appearance…. Things just seem to happen when that Elf is around! Oh, and the Twins don't mean to be mean, they're just drawn that way. (or something like that.)

Forestsilver: Glad you're enjoying it. Forced to bathe?? Aragorn?? Nah. Well… maybe…. (grin)

Arabiasil: Thanks for your kind words, also. May you continue to enjoy!


Jocelyn: Glad to have you among the readers! I love your stuff… So-- Ithilien, Thundera, Littlefish, and Cassia's stories are tormenting you?? I have a solution. (evil grin) Go read "Dark Leaf." No really, it's a light, fluffy tale of angst, suspense, torment, and stuff… (grin) As for this work, the Hobbits, all of them, will appear in the next chapter. After all, it will be dinner time….

Nancing Elf: (dancing about pointing) Made ya snort, made ya snort… (hee hee hee…) that's payback for all the times you've made ME snort. (grin) More Dark Leaf soon. No really!

Shauna: Lindir has a very diplomatic sense of propriety. (snicker) And he held his breath. He's fine now, complete recovery.

Alliwantisanelfforchristmas: So Leggy has discovered e-Bay? Be afraid… does this mean I oughtn't to send you the URLs I have for wood bows and handmade arrows?? (grin) Glad the two of you are enjoying this, and yes, Legolas, *everybody* loves you. Lord knows I do…

Annakas: I would personally *love* to be teased by Elves…

Klose: I hope you're feeling better! Always glad to do my part. (grin)

AfterEver: Thanks for the referral! Glad you like the story, and yes, I do try to hand out good grammar and spelling with the fun. AND the angst.

Celandine Brandybuck: Hmm, forcibly shaven… now there's a thought…. Ah, but those who put a razor to the throat of a Ranger must needs take what they get… (grin)

Legolas' sweetie: here here here here here here here here here here you go! (grin)

Wild Iris: Delayed gratification being such a feature of the rest of his life, I guess Aragorn just doesn't want to wait when it comes to dinner. Must be something about hanging with Hobbits… I hadn't thought of Dark Leaf per se in connection to Legolas' dislike of caves and enclosed spaces, but several folks brought it up, and it kinda makes sense. They did let him out once in a while, but not nearly often enough…


Eledhwen: Behold the next chapter. Maybe Ch. 3 will be out before Hallowe'en! There's a thought….

Irena: Thank you, my dear! Umm, by now the new Dark Leaf chapter should be out… I'll shoot my feet if it isn't. Argh!

TreeHugger: You write just the greatest reviews, I swear… (grin) And yes, I cannot write something with NO angst at all… imagine having a wonderful meal cooked and served by Elves, in a wonderful Elven hall in Imladris--and you have to sit next to an unwashed Estel. Euwww… And I think you're right about the dirty ears, though his brothers did eventually get through to him. (grin)

Witzend: Yes, it does look as if Legolas has recovered. I would hope so; at this point in his existence, Dol Guldur is about 400 years in his past, and he's had a lot of adventures, and a lot of love, to help him deal. My sympathies on your proximity to unhygienic persons; I have to deal with it from time to time myself. (shudder)

Madeleine541: Glad you liked the butter knife gambit. (grin) Elrohir is such a card….

fliewatuet: I'm glad this Aragorn Bath tale caught your attention! Thanks for not back-buttoning. (grin) The idea of Cirdan having access to neat foodstuffs, etc. comes from his locale and occupation; seafaring peoples always have the cool stuff, and generally share with friends. I've seen it in several good stories, too. We all seem to be collecting a general shared mindset about Tolkien fics…

LOTR lover: I hope things are developing as you like!

DagmarJung: I see you have the Heir of Isildur living in your computer room! Legolas steals the keyboard from me a lot, but not nearly as often as Thranduil does. (whacks the king's knuckles as he reaches for my M&Ms…) Please tell Aragorn that I think he will be pleased with what happens later on… (grin of foreshadowing, no saving throw…)

Hagar the Horrible: I think you are Hagar the Nice for your kind words! Dark Leaf has a new chapter, and there will be another soon. I hope.

Wistful: The Twins know that Legolas endured 18 years of torment at the hands of the denizens of Dol Guldur, and based on what they know for certain happened to their mother, they have a pretty good idea of some of those "gory details." This is their way of coping, not only with what happened to Celebrian, but also with what happened to Legolas--and to Elrond through Legolas. They really don't mean to be mean. (grin)

Evil Old Woman: Aww now, you KNOW I'm a sucker for silver tabby kitties…. No fair! (grin)

Arabella Thorne: Never a dull moment in Elrond's dining hall. (grin) glad you're enjoying it!!

JMac: Glad you're enjoying! I hope they pretty much remain in character; but with this crowd you just never know... (grin)

Soledad: Always glad to see you--and yes, Lindir is here just for you!! I am very fond of the Minstrel, as you know... Yes, several folks have been affected by the concept of Leggy and Gollum up a tree. (snrt!) I'm sure Legs would like to forget the whole thing...

Jenolas: Yes, the Elves do have a wicked sense of humour--and centuries in which to develop same, Valar help us... I like scruff on Aragorn too. Boromir even looks good after a day or two. It's the Manly thing to do! (grin)

Anna (and Vidla, of course!) I swear there will be more Dark Leaf Real Soon Now (c. Jasta). I hope you'll both enjoy this new chapter here, and look for Dark Leaf soon. SOON!!

Shiral: Welcome to the madness that is Folks, Shiral is a dear friend of mine, and a very fine writer; I hope she will be soon posting stuff here as well! Sorry I've been so distant; hopefully that will change soon. Glad you're enjoying the tale--and yes, it has been WAY too long since there was a Deryni update. (throwing self on sword) PLEASE forgive me...

Silver-Kalan: we're glad you're here! The Twins ain't done with Little Human Brother yet... (snicker)

Tremano: put DOWN the cattle prod and step AWAY from the Jasta.... (grin) The Kitten-King says Meow back to Pippin, and begs that you not harm his source of King-Chow....

Jay of Lasgalen: (grin) I'll send you cleaners' money soon, just after I get a job. Yes, the mood here is VERY different... and such change will be needed when you see the next Dark Leaf chapter. SOON. As for Gollum, I'm hearing strains from that old hippie song: "flowers in her hair, flowers everywhere...." Except, Gollum would probably EAT them...

Daphne: Hope the next chapter met your expectations! (grin)

estelcontar: I'm sorry I don't update more often; hopefully that will change. As you can see, it is a constant refrain in my reviews. (prostrating self) Forgive me... I'm not worthy...

Bryn: KUMBAYA??? (falling on floor laughing hilariously) Oh dear.... I wonder, if you toast marshmallows and put them between pieces of lembas, are those Middle-Earth versions of S'mores??? (trying unsuccessfully to banish the image of Legolas and Gollum linking arms and swaying by the campfire...) I'm glad this story tickles you. Will we see more of the Daisy Ent soon?? (grin)

Coming up next: Part the Third, in which Legolas puts his plans into motion, and Arwen has Ideas of Her Own™… which is to say nothing of any notions Aragorn himself may possess….

Elrond Peredhil glanced beyond the doorway into his thankfully massive dining hall, the more formal one used for just such occasions as this, when for whatever reason, half of Ennor had found its way to his hospitality. Everywhere, almost as far as even the eyes of Elves could see, there were people: Dwarves, Elves, Men of one tribe or another, and a sprinkling of Hobbits for good measure. All of them were dressed in their better clothes, with many a family heirloom worn at throat or on hand, or (as was often the case with nobly-born Elves) atop the head. In some cases, the person himself (or herself) was the ornament: Olórin Mithrandir "Flame of Anor" Gandalf Tharkun etcetera had never needed much by way of heirlooms to stand out as precisely what he was, a very powerful Maia of the Istari. Elrond narrowed his eyes at the wizard as he sat among the chatting Hobbits, and was pleased to notice he seemed far more rested than he had been before.

A bath and a change of robes, after a good long rest and some healing, is always a happy thing, Elrond thought, and smiled to consider how fatherly his ancient friend seemed there among the cheery periannath. And speaking of baths…

He could not help it; his fatherly eye was drawn toward the two of his children--one born, one fostered--whom he could see within the hall, the Twins not having made their entrance as of yet. Arwen, as always, was a feast for the eyes: her dark, lush waterfall of raven hair falling in waves about her lissome form, which was clad in a fetching gown of deep Imladris blue velvet, tastefully accented with silver embroidery and a cloth-of-mithril shawl that had once belonged to Elrond's wife Celebrían. The Lord of Imladris smiled fondly, thinking what a delightful blend of both parents the Evenstar was, and what a pleasant whole the combination made.

And then there was Estel….

Elrond's piercing grey eyes narrowed just the smallest bit further, and he passed a critical gaze over his foster-son. Aragorn had clearly chosen to opt for the Rugged, Manly Ranger look this evening, but at least it was a much-neatened "Rugged, Manly Ranger Goes to a Posh Dinner" sort of ensemble. He was closely shaven, his beard neatly trimmed, and the thick dark hair hanging to his shoulders had been washed and combed. His outfit was not quite Dúnedan and not exactly Elvish, but a rather pleasant combination of the two, with every conceivable shade of black layered one atop the other, the fabrics making the statements of difference between them all. A silk undertunic and velvet leggings were overlain by what looked to be an over-tunic of some rich damasked brocade. Overall there was a long, sleeveless coat of sorts, too short to be a robe in the sense an Elf might understand such a garment, but still giving a distinct, Rangerly kind of appearance to the whole ensemble. It was made of sueded leather and had interesting, subtle embroidery in an understated gold, that looked rather Silvan to Elrond's discriminating eye. Perhaps a gift from young Legolas?

Well, never mind; it was the quirky sort of outfit the folk of Imladris had come to expect from their Estel, and among the visitors for the Council, they would see precisely what they expected to see: a Ranger of the North, neatened up for the occasion. Elrond sighed, supposing it was the best they could expect from him for the nonce. Perhaps if the Throne of Gondor ever found a way to fit back into Estel's plans, something a little more fitting could be forced onto his person.

Coronations, Elrond thought, smiling. He preferred not to think too much about the concept of weddings just yet--one thing at a time!--even if he was certain Arwen pondered little else but, these days.

He knew without looking who was behind him, waiting to be acknowledged. Raising one expressive eyebrow, Elrond commented:

"I know I heard young Thranduilion's voice earlier. I do not see him, nor do I see the Twins."

There was a smothered, decorous snigger from his left: Erestor. A snort of amusement from his right: Glorfindel. From their reactions he knew they had heard what he had, drifting over the open balconies of his library that afternoon as the son of Thranduil and his dour entourage arrived from Mirkwood. It was Legolas's curse to have been born much as Arwen had, possessed of a devastating combination of parental beauty, though in his case it was as if the brightest summer day had come to rest with all its loveliness upon his person, where the Evenstar (as her name implied) was the mysterious enchantment of a long summer's night. Elrond had clearly heard the paeans of praise and expostulations of admiration that had come from all sorts of persons, upon the youngster's arrival--and he had heard, as had his ever-observant friends now grinning behind him, the grimly polite, ever-decreasing civility in the responses from the youngest Prince of Mirkwood.

"Fortunately," said Glorfindel softly, "the princelet has his mother's patience overlain atop Thranduil's temperament. Otherwise we might have had blood to mop up this noon."

"Blood," Erestor repeated solemnly in a polite murmur, though Elrond knew his eyes would be almost watering with the effort not to laugh. "Very messy, hard to get out of slate. I'd not have liked that."

"And Legolas would have been simply devastated at the breach of courtesy shown by such bloodshed," Glorfindel said, the decorousness of his tone completely undone by the untoward snort that then escaped him, causing Erestor to actually chuckle. Elrond fought the urge to bat them both about the head and shoulders, and settled for massaging the bridge of his nose against the merest twinge of impending headache. It was going to be a long, long Council session, he could certainly see that.

"When all our guests have departed, in whatever condition, I want one of you to remind me I owe you both a beating," Elrond said quietly, in his "Lord of Imladris--herald of the High King" voice. They each took the hint and murmured apologies, but Elrond had known them both for a very long time and could still hear the underlying mirth in their tones. He made a mental note to get them for this later, then turned to face his advisors. Elrond was just in time to catch them schooling their faces toward the solemnity required by two such highly placed members of the Household.

Yes. A very, very long Council session.

"Well." Elrond cleared his throat and straightened. "I do not think we can delay the start of dinner any longer; the Hobbits look hungry."

"Which is to say they look normal," Glorfindel supplied helpfully, elbowing Erestor. Elrond lifted an eyebrow at both of them, even though he knew it would have very little effect. That eyebrow might quell Elflings, Men of Gondor, Dwarves, and occasionally Orcs--but Erestor was a master of calmness, not likely to be ruffled by much of anything short of an Orc invasion. Glorfindel, of course, was a law unto himself, and could remember Elrond when he was quite nearly still an Elfling, arguing over brotherly things with his own twin Elros. That was a very long time ago indeed. No eyebrow would ever overcome that, even if it were wielded by Celeborn of Doriath.

Even if it were wielded by Galadriel, Elrond thought, and managed just barely to suppress a shudder. At least Glorfindel generally had the grace to acknowledge the meaning behind a quirked eyebrow, even if it did not cause him to back down by main force.

"As I was saying," Elrond went on warningly, and the scapegrace lords had the decency to look slightly less amused. "The Twins will doubtless sneak in as they generally do, and young Legolas will have to endure what he has brought upon himself: a late and rather public entrance into an overcrowded dining hall. I daresay, however, that he will be in a somewhat better mood than he was when he first arrived." He glanced hopefully down the hallway; upon seeing no sign of his sons or the Prince of Mirkwood, Elrond sighed. "All right, let us go in and get this over with."

They made their entrance, accepted the accolades of the assemblage, and made their way to the high table. Elrond prefaced with a few mercifully short, appropriate remarks of welcome, then bade them all enjoy the meal. The musicians began to play light, lyrical musics apropos of the occasion, and the servers moved forth from the kitchens like the well-regimented force they were. The hum of conversation was joined by the civilized clink of crystal and the homey sounds of shared dinnertime enjoyment. The little clutch of Hobbits, still minus young Baggins, appeared particularly relieved to see the food, and even Bilbo managed to consume in a perilously short amount of time far more than one might expect of a creature of his great age.

Not too long afterwards, Elrond heard a murmur of awe and delight from the tables nearest the broad stairs of the main entrance, and glanced that way without breaking his conversation with Gandalf.

"Ah, the children have arrived," the wizard said, with a shameless grin. "There is a sight to raise one's hat to, for certain. Samwise, if ever you wanted to see Elves of the finest sort, now would be your opportunity!"

The round-faced, stoutly-built young Hobbit so addressed, Samwise Gamgee, looked up from a well-laden plate at the sound of his name. He smiled at the wizard, his gaze sliding sidewise in the direction Gandalf gestured--and his mouth fell open in astonishment.

"Now there's an eye-opener, no mistake!" he breathed, in tones nearing stunned worship. Elrond could just imagine what had brought that on, and turned around for more than just a cursory glance. Only many, many years of fatherhood kept him from reacting beyond an appreciative smirk, and the comment:

"Well, they took their time, did they not?"

His guests, on the other hand, were more than happy to react--and in some cases over-react--to the sight that awaited them on the stairs. The Twins, as was generally the case when they were up to something, had dressed completely alike: Imladris blue velvet over-robes, gorgeously embroidered in silver and gold, worn over matching evening robes of heavy slubbed silk in a shade of sky blue that rather neatly matched the eyes of a certain princeling. They were flanking said princeling in the bargain, which only cemented in their father's mind the notion that Something Was Up. But whatever it might be was rendered quite well worth the price (and with the Twins, there was always a price…) by the appearance of their companion.

Always mindful of the fact that he was his father's son, even if his tastes were dramatically less flashy than Thranduil's, Prince Legolas was decked out as every inch a royal Elf of ancient and high lineage.

Make that furlong, Elrond thought in stunned appreciation. An inch is far too short a measurement!

From the mithril circlet (cunningly wrought to depict oak and ash leaves intertwined with a decorous hint of thorn and perfect little acorns) atop his golden head to the form-hugging soft leather boots about his well-turned ankles and feet, the youngster who was sufficiently shamefast to describe himself as a 'simple Wood-Elf' looked absolutely anything but.

Sindarin to the eye-teeth, Legolas was a princely picture of perfection in a deep green velvet over-robe with sleeves that swept the floor, turned back into deep cuffs to show the gorgeous pattern of re-embroidered damask, all acanthus leaves and intricate knotwork. Beneath this he wore a tailored short tunic of leaf green silk, also beautifully decorated and set with a tasteful number of perfect pearls and green and white gemstones. The leggings were softest silk and black as night, while the shirt beneath was of a sky blue so close to the colour of the Twins' robes, there was simply no way it could have been an accident. He cut, as his father would most assuredly have said had he been present, an astonishingly delectable figure--and yet he somehow contrived to look as innocent as new snow, as if he had absolutely no idea the effect he was having on the gathering.

"I thought you said he hated late and public entrances," Glorfindel murmured sidelong to Elrond. The Lord rolled his eyes indulgently.

"No, I said he brought it on himself. Though I will admit, normally he dislikes such things intensely."

Glóin of Erebor almost choked on his wine; his son Gimli, a redoubtable Dwarven warrior if ever there was one, looked up in surprise at such a sound coming from his sire, and turned to see what the matter could be.

It was several heartbeats before he could close his mouth. And several more beyond that, before he could speak. Seated at the end of the table beside Erestor, Boromir of Gondor also looked up--and was caught like a bird in a Mirkwood spider web, staring with his eyes wide in bemused shock. Legolas gave them a brilliant smile, and moved on into the dining hall with the Twins cheerfully by his side; they came to stand before Elrond and bowed deeply.

"I beg your pardon for my tardiness, Lord Elrond," the Mirkwood vision announced in his quiet, lyrical voice. "I bring you greetings from my lord father Thranduil Oropherion, King of Greenwood the Great, known in these dark times as Mirkwood."

Elrond inclined his dark head regally to acknowledge the greeting, and was a little surprised to see Legolas pointedly glance in Estel's direction before continuing: "I would have come straightway to pay my respects, but the rigors of travel on the roads at this time of year left me in a state not befitting decent company. I did not wish to give even the smallest hint of disrespect, and thus sought instead to mend my appearance before daring to put myself before you."

It was Thranduil-esque to the iota, and Elrond could not help the fact that his brows rose in amusement. For someone who rarely strung more than two sentences together inside of an hour, this was the second major speechification young Legolas had uttered within the Lord of Imladris' powerful hearing.

"I completely approve of the amendment to your--err--appearance," Elrond said at last, noting that when Legolas blushed, it was most becoming. He gave each of his sons a cursory glance, equally amused at the expressions of innocence on their matched faces. "And it was most considerate of you to make that amendment in advance of bringing me your father's felicitations."

He heard a strange cough to his left, and wondered if Estel was quite all right; knowing Arwen probably had him well in hand, however, Elrond simply made a gesture in that general direction, where seats awaited the two sons of the household and their charming Wood-Elf guest.

"Do join us, fair Prince of Mirkwood, and avail yourself of the hospitality of Imladris. I am most pleased to have you beneath this roof once more."

Legolas bowed with singular grace, and followed the Twins to the indicated seats at Elrond's table. He gave a nod of friendly greeting to Arwen as he passed, and quirked one dark eyebrow at Aragorn, as if in appreciation of his turn-out. The quirk made him look just the slightest bit more like his father, which unaccountably caused a shiver to run up Aragorn's spine. Thranduil was, after all, a rather imposing and occasionally scary Elf-Lord, as one might expect from the being who had kept Mirkwood free and nominally under Elven control for thousands of years without recourse to a Ring of Power. No mean feat that, and Aragorn appreciated it more than most, having had many an occasion to pass through Thranduil's realm over the years.

He was also well aware that the adorable princelet who now sat to his left through the machinations of Elrohir (whose seat it ordinarily would have been) was one of Thranduil's first lines of defense in the matter of keeping Mirkwood safe. Let others stare and wonder if this porcelain doll of an Elf might break if a good, stiff wind came up; Aragorn knew it was far more likely that if anything blown into the environs by such a wind chose to be disobliging, the princelet could turn in a heartbeat into a killing machine of nerve-wracking skill and speed. Feeling the need coming on for a good militant discussion of Orc-killing techniques, Aragorn turned in his seat and grinned at his old friend.

"Aren't you lovely tonight," he murmured, pinching up a fold of the green velvet. "You look like your Ada. I thought Glóin was going to lose his composure at the sight of you."

"Is that what it's called?" Legolas wondered with an innocent twinkle, glancing behind those to his right to where the Dwarf-Lord's broad back could be seen beyond Elrond, encased in finely-tooled leather and suede. "There's a reason I look like my Ada. This is his robe--or was, he's more into moss greens this year."

Aragorn snickered. Thranduil was noted for being extremely fond of appearances, though to be fair, he was also equally noted for being able to keenly see beneath them. His son was often hard-put to get anything over on the old Elf, that was for certain. And getting things over on people was one of Legolas's more finely honed abilities….

"So, how fares everything in Mirkwood these days?" he asked, and genteelly thanked the hovering servant before ladling gravy over his meat from the proffered bowl. "Quiet, I hope? Save for the curious sound of a certain creature swallowing curiously?"

Blushing oddly, Legolas ignored him, choosing instead to lean behind Aragorn to fondly greet the waiting Evenstar. He kissed her slender hand and murmured brotherly sweet nothings at her in Quenya, which was extremely gallant of him, given how his father looked askance at such maunderings. If nothing else, it enabled him to bypass Aragorn's inquiry, save to say in swift passing that all was well at home, thank you, and wasn't it kind of him to ask?

"Where did you get that damask?" Arwen purred appreciatively, fingering the deep turnback cuffs of Legolas's robe. He grinned at her.

"Out of my father's clothespress. But I suspect it was originally made somewhere far West of here, if you catch my drift." Legolas tipped his fair head toward Aragorn's broad back. "Estel's looking rather lovely tonight himself--your doing?"

"I do know how to clean up and dress for nice occasions, you know," Aragorn retorted through Arwen's giggles, without turning around. "And it is not precisely polite of you two to carry on like that behind my back."

"Yes, he knows how," Elladan grumbled from their left at the other end of the table. "He simply does not often indulge in the knowledge."

"I do when there's need," Aragorn protested, but was forestalled from further complaint by the arrival of a servitor with a platter full of plump game hens stuffed with pecans and wild rice. Elladan gave a decorous sniff of disdain.

"The hell you say. Estel, please, forbear--this is me, your eldest brother. Your protestations are as dust in the wind."

"Oh, that's good," Elrohir said with a snicker, helping himself to a roll and passing the basket along. "May I use that next time? Because we know there will be a next time."

"Not if you lot do not begin showing nicer manners," Elrond put in warningly from the centre of the table, without apparently breaking stride in any of several conversations he was tracking--and managed to put the comment in, thank you very much, in his elegant Quenya, to spare the younger members of his household from prying ears of guests. "I brought two of you into this world, I retain the option to take you back out of it."

"My father uses that line on me and my brother all the time," Legolas observed with a merry chuckle, from the midst of the family. "Only, he is not quite so polite about it."

"Nor would he be likely to spare our feelings with Quenya," Elrohir chuckled. "Here, Legolas, try one of these stuffed squash--they're absolutely delightful, the spice mix is not to be believed."

And so dinner went on, as Elven dinners will, with a very great deal of delectable food and equally delicious conversation. Afterwards the musicians moved on to playing songs one could sing along with if so inclined--and it seemed most folk were, as quite a gathering took place over in the gallery corner where they had set up earlier. Under pretense of wanting a breath of fresh air, the Twins and Legolas managed to maneuver it so that Aragorn and Arwen were caught up in their general move toward one of the several balconies. Arwen twigged almost instantly that something was going on, and placed herself smoothly between her Estel and harm's way--until she realized that both brothers were here, as well as Legolas. How to protect him while still leaving two directions uncovered?

She solved the problem by making certain Aragorn sat up against the balcony wall--and then placed herself decorously across his lap, a sweet smile of great dignity decorating her lovely face. Legolas cocked an eyebrow at her and grinned, choosing only to take up a place between the couple and the Twins; this earned him looks of gratitude from the Evenstar and snorts of amusement from her devilish older brothers.

"What a lovely evening," Elrohir said brightly, as Legolas poured fresh glasses of cordial for all of them from the decanter he had snagged on the way outside. "Whatever shall we talk about?"

"I know!" Elladan said, raising one finger pedantically. "We shall discuss wardrobe."

"Having new furniture made?" Aragorn asked innocently. Legolas almost choked on his miruvor.

"I do not think he means furniture," the prince murmured, dabbing delicately at his chin with a pocket square of fine silk. "I believe he speaks of clothing."


"Yes." Legolas somehow managed that 'driven snow' expression he did so well. "You know: as in, 'the habiliments of princes, the wardrobe of great men and heroes.' That sort of thing."

"Isn't that from The Númenóriad?" the Ranger asked, perking up. Surely now the discussion would turn to more militant things, even if there was a lady present. Legolas sighed, rolling his eyes.

"As it happens, yes--but that is beside the point. I believe Elrohir is trying to introduce the subject of what one wears."

"Elladan is," said the owner of that name, skewing his mouth sidewise in amusement at the confusion betwixt himself and his twin. "But that is neither here nor there."

"Or perhaps, neither here--" Elrohir pointed down toward his own feet, where he perched on the balcony railing where the wall ended and delicate-looking wrought iron took up the decorative theme--"nor there." He pointed to Elladan, who just looked annoyed. Amused, but annoyed. "But I daresay that is beside the point."

"How much farther are we going to stretch this metaphor, before we have to put it out of its misery?" Arwen asked rather archly, doing a very fine imitation of Elrond with her own lovely eyebrows. She glanced at Elladan meaningfully. "Why exactly are we discussing wardrobe, brother mine?"

"Oh good, your turn to claim him," Elrohir said with a grin, earning himself a poke from Aragorn.

"I dressed up for dinner," Aragorn said with a hint of steel in his tone. "Really, it's all very well for the two of you to cozen and bedevil me no end about cleanliness and habiliments and such--you're Elves, and we all know the Firstborn use unfair access to magic in order to stay tidy. I have no such access, so you'll pardon me if I feel altogether righteous tonight."

"He shaved and everything," Arwen added, rubbing one hand on the unbearded part of her beloved's sculpted cheek. The expression in her eyes would have ignited war banners miles away, and the answering light in Aragorn's grey eyes was nothing short of incendiary as well. Legolas cleared his throat.

"Save that for later on, you two," he advised, his blue eyes gleaming with merriment. "Estel, we are all aware that you dressed for dinner. And may I say, you did a fine job--at least in my humble opinion."

"Humble? In that get-up?" Aragorn retorted, gesturing at the prince's regal attire. Legolas struck a pose; there was a sound from within the hall that could possibly have been breaking crockery. They all turned and looked--to find a flustered pair of servants, one male, one female, staring in admiration at the Mirkwood vision before them. At their feet were a broken platter and an utterly smashed pitcher, both of which appeared to have been mercifully empty.

"Ooops," Legolas apologised, blushing faintly. Elrohir just barely caught himself before falling backward off the railing.

"Hate it when that happens," Elladan said, smirking shamelessly. "Elrohir, contain yourself."

While Elrohir levered himself back into position and looked about aimlessly for something in which to contain himself, Aragorn found himself squared off with Elladan, who had his "son-of-Elrond-and-I-mean-business!" look firmly in place.

"See here now, pen-neth, it is time you realized you're all grown up," the elder twin announced. "This Rangerly habit of yours is all very well and good--but you are no longer a Manling, for all your youth, and I daresay I am not the only one who would like to see you tricked out in something far more appropriate to your station when Council convenes in a day or so. Am I not right?"

He turned pointedly to include his twin and Legolas in the declaration. Elrohir only nodded solemnly, giving Aragorn much the same look as Elladan; in tandem it was daunting indeed. Legolas merely looked like a deer caught in the sudden flash of an Istari's staff, in an otherwise dark and drear forest.

"I think he looks quite masterful," Arwen protested, rising to poke her brother in the chest. On her, the businesslike facial expression became something that bespoke feminine mysteries far more powerful than any Lore-Master, no matter who he might be: the lovely Evenstar ducked her chin and narrowed her blue eyes at Elladan, giving him her own "grand-daughter-of-Galadriel-and-don't-you-forget-it!" look. "You should learn when and where to pick your battles, lend Balrog!"

A distressed but curiously amused noise came out of Legolas then, rather like someone attempting to suppress a sneeze when their mouth is full, but Arwen was not finished. She rounded on Elrohir, who was beginning to laugh uproariously; the train of her gown swung like the tail of an angry cat.

"And while we are at it, tithen Môrroch, let us not hear anything out of you either!" she growled. "Pots of honey or no, I will remind you that the pair of you have not always been known for your own sartorial splendour!"

"That was an accident!" Elrohir exclaimed, the very picture of wounded innocence. "And anyway, you were the merest baby Elfling back then--and celair-heneb, here, wasn't even a twinkle in Varda's right eye, so you may cease from staring at me as if I've just turned green, tithen ernil!"

This last was addressed to Legolas, who had already boggled at the epessë of "brilliant eyes", and was simply bristling at being called a princelet yet again.

"Gripe not to me, einior Adar," the son of Thranduil exclaimed, a distinct glint coming into those brilliant eyes. "Just because I was not there does not mean I have not heard the tale. My father tells it with great relish from time to time--and with quite a few flourishes, I might add. It is a very popular tale in his halls!" He glanced sidelong at Aragorn with not a little humour. "I was not there, you see--but Thranduil was. And there was something about a spoiled tunic of his owing to the contents of that honey pot!"

"What honey pot?" Aragorn asked, intrigued. Legolas winked, laying a finger aside his nose.

"Tell you later."

"The hell you will," Elladan growled. "Whose side are you on, anyway?"

"Why--my own," Legolas announced, as if that should be obvious to the veriest dunce.

"We are straying leagues away from the mainstream of this evening's symposium," Elrohir felt constrained to point out, making placatory noises at his siblings and their guest. Cheerfully ignoring the various looks of bemused annoyance from the gathering, he went blithely onward: "I do believe we were discussing Estel's choice of clothing. 'Rugged Manly Dúnadan' is all right for taverns in Gondor or Bree, and maybe even out in the wild--but here you are a son of the House, and should dress accordingly."

There. It was said. All Ennor paused for breath, waiting to see what would be the outcome.

Aragorn coughed politely behind one hand. "Gods forfend I should disagree with those so very much my elder," he said gently, with just the tiniest hint of disobligement in his eyes, "but I completely and utterly disagree. Nevertheless--I do thank you for your concern."

Arwen gave her brothers a "so there!" sort of look, and sat down with great decorousness in her previous place on Aragorn's lap, arranging her beaded skirts about her slender little feet. Legolas displayed a sudden, rather intense interest in the architecture somewhere along the roofline of the dining hall, affecting an expression that spoke of deep Elven amazement that he could possibly have reached so great an age as he had without ever realizing how rivetingly fascinating that roofline was--after all the many times he had been here, too, and missed noticing it every time, can you imagine that!

"You--what?" Elladan queried, the slightest ruffle of confusion creasing his brow.

"I disagree with your assessment of how I ought to dress for tomorrow," Aragorn elaborated kindly. "And your assessment as well," he added, glancing sidelong at Elrohir, just in case he might somehow have confused which twin had made the comment. As they both looked similarly perplexed, this was entirely a possibility.

"And just why, pray tell, do you disagree?" Elrohir purred, deciding it was well past time to go on the offensive. "Are you ashamed of us?"

"Valar know I am," Arwen whispered, batting her eyelashes. Elrohir sneered with internecine affection.

"Unimpressed, tithen muinthel. Get over yourself." She merely stuck out her tongue.

"Stop it, both of you," Aragorn commanded, putting a bit of a bark behind the words. "I am neither ashamed of this House, nor even particularly ashamed of any of you, despite the behavior you are now exhibiting. Heaven knows someone around here ought to be mature."

"Oh, very good," Legolas murmured admiringly, still examining the roofline, the hint of a grin curving his mouth.

"Then why do you insist on shaming us with this silly tendency to dress like the rag-picker's illegitimate stepchild?" Elladan demanded, pinching up a fold of Aragorn's over-robe. Legolas turned then, fire in his eye.

"Excuse me," he growled. "That particular garment was a gift. From me."

Aragorn managed not to smirk, at only the Valar knew what price. Elladan had the grace to blush, albeit faintly. "Oh."

"Well, never mind the individual pieces," Elrohir put in, trying to salvage the moment. "Even you, Legolas, must admit that in the main Estel dresses somewhat below the salt. And it is not something of which I am particularly fond, for it is not one of his more amusing habits. Can you not reason with him?"

"I should like to hear his explanation," Legolas said with kind patience. "He has, after all, been trying to explain for at least the last several moments. Can you not hear him out?"

"You could, you know," Aragorn said, putting on a look of dogged mannerliness that was completely belied by the twinkle in his eye. Elladan swatted him.

"Do not make eyes at me, bratling," he commanded with affectionate sharpness. "I had that particular look down, aye, and the delivery too, long before your thirdfather was out of leading-strings. Pray though, do tell us why you insist on dressing like some wandering Danwaith--ai, avo garo, Greenleaf, I'm older than you and far more experienced!"

"Youth and cunning will overcome age and experience every time," Legolas growled cheerfully, having managed to move fairly smartly and silently to take Elladan by the front of his robe. "Danwaith my eye… any idiot can see that is purely Vanyar embroidery on Estel's over-robe, and particularly nicely done work, too!"

"Which brings us back to the question," Aragorn said somewhat pointedly, slipping calmly in between to separate the two Elves. "Elladan, Elrohir, you are just being difficult. You know as well as anyone else I am proud of my association with this House. But especially at this Council meeting, under duress and difficulty as it is, with much depending on cooperation--do you honestly think it would serve anyone's needs if I come across looking overly Elvish? Really, now. And with the eldest son of the Steward of Gondor present, too!"

"Don't let's get started on that," Legolas pleaded, making a show of smoothing down Elladan's rumpled over-robe, and tweaking the elder Elf on the chin when he glanced down to see what the prince was doing. "We'll be here all night, and the discussion could get acrimonious."

"As opposed to whatever this has been," Arwen put in mildly, and with great ladylike dignity ignored the round of catcalls.

"If no one minds, I do intend to dress properly," Aragorn finished, drawing himself up to his full height. "You won't have a single complaint, I assure you. But I do intend to dress like the Man that I am."

"King of Gondor?" Elrohir could not help putting in. Legolas held his breath, but Aragorn took neither offense nor lost his patience.

"No, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, sometime Ranger and upper-class gentleman-about-Ennor," said he for whom the epithets were most fit. "And now, if you will excuse us, I do believe my Lady and I have some catching up to do."

"For what?" Elladan demanded to know. "You've spent every spare moment with each other since you came home, Estel. No fair--especially with Legolas just having arrived."

Legolas contrived to look hurt, but spoiled it by grinning. "And you claim to be my friend," he sighed. "I'm either stuck with the Twins, or I must go back into the Hall of Fire and sit with Cellar Dwarves all night."

"Cellar Dwarves?"

"Long story."

"Ah." Aragorn glanced at the Twins, then back at Legolas. "Sorry, tithen ernil. I love you dearly, but you are no Arwen. Do feel free to come help me pick out a tunic to wear on Council day, though--see you around!"

Thus in triumph he sailed back through the Hall and away, with Arwen floating victoriously on his arm. Elrohir cleared his throat.

"Looks like you’re stuck with us," he said, swallowing a grin. Legolas scowled affectionately.

"Well, I think that went well," he murmured, and glanced back to where Aragorn and Arwen could be seen disappearing out the other door into the long autumnal darkness beyond. "My Plan is working perfectly."

"What Plan?" Elladan grumbled, and drained his cup of miruvor. "The most we got out of him in concession is allowing you to pick his tunic for him. What a marvelous plan."

"Silly boy," Legolas chuckled. "Little do you realize! Did you not mark how the assumption was all on you two? Not a smitch of suspicion rests on my golden head, thank you very much, and he himself gave me leave to pick his clothes."

A look came into those calculating blue eyes, then, and it occurred to Elrohir that Sauron himself might have access to such an expression when plotting something dire and terrible. "Nothing is suspected," said the youngest Prince of Mirkwood, staring off the way Aragorn had gone. "Everything is right on schedule."

The Twins exchanged a significant look, right eyebrows curving upward in mute testimony to their paternal heritage.

"What in the name of the Valar have we unleashed here?" Elrohir asked, just a little nervously. Elladan gave a shrug of disdain, but his eyes were wary.

"I have an awful feeling I know precisely what we have unleashed," he replied, "and I think we will wait a long time in Mandos's Halls before we are forgiven for this. Legolas--I feel I needs must ask. What are you going to do to our brother?"

The son of Thranduil shortened his gaze back to the present time and place, and put on a look of unalloyed innocence.

"Absolutely nothing," he said, and there showed nary a hint of dissembling that either of the Twins (past masters at dissembling if ever there were such a thing!) could see. "Why do you ask?"

Having so spoken, Legolas turned on his booted heel and headed back into the Hall, leaving by a different staircase, heading back toward the living levels of the House. He was unaware of the stares of admiration that followed his departure, and was so focused on his task that he failed to even take note of old Glóin choking on his pipeweed, having taken a particularly healthy inhale on his pipe just before the son of the Elven-king breezed on by looking perilously like his father in the teeth of a good plot.

"Should we follow him?" Elrohir asked.

"Do Balrogs relieve themselves in the deep-delved places of Ennor?" Elladan asked puckishly, before suiting suggestion to action and heading off in Legolas's wake. Elrohir's brow creased in disgusted amusement.

"I certainly hope they do it there," he remarked as he hurried after his brother. "Forests do have a tendency to burn, after all, and such a thing could quickly kill many a good old tree!"

His twin's words floated back to him in tones of fond exasperation: "Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to go to Adar's library and look up rhetorical in a good dictionary!"

"Oh," Elrohir murmured, glad the evening dimness hid his blush.



pen-neth= young one
lend Balrog= sweet Balrog, nickname fastened on Elladan by Elrond in childhood, after a "certain incident" not related here. Yet.
tithen Môrroch= dark little horse, Elrond's nickname for Elrohir
celair-heneb= brilliant-eyed (M-e equivalent of bright eyes…)
tithen ernil= little prince= princelet
epessë= an "after-name" or byname given to certain Elves. ;-)
einior Adar= elder father, usually an epithet of honour. ;-)
tithen muinthel= little sister
Danwaith= an old name for the Nandor Elves, meant as a fond slap at Legolas's choice of garment for Aragorn…
avo garo=don't do it!

The Númenóriad does not exist, I made it up, as well as the quote. The only poetic quote I could find in Bartlett's containing the word 'wardrobe' came from Shakespeare, and did not fit the conversation. But if it did exist, it would be an epic poem, along the lines of Beowulf and that ilk, and would be about--uhh--the Númenóreans.

Thank Bill Cosby for childhood memories of what Elrond says to his family... "I brought you into this world, I can take you back out! Don't make no difference to me, I can make another one looks just like you!" (snicker) Except Elrond already did, and they're both sitting there... :-)

The next morning dawned clear and crystalline, the sort of day that brings joy to one's heart as the last gasp of summer comes unexpected in the midst of autumn. The sun shone through trees still well-laden with the brightly coloured leaves of the season; the air was crisp and clean, almost as intoxicating as a cask of very old and gently kept Dorwinion wine, and the sky above Imladris was a blue to rival the eyes of Legolas. Having stayed up rather late basking in the glory of the Evenstar's company, stunned and amused to discover that the Twins had been nowhere in evidence the entire time either, Aragorn decided to sleep in. This was a rare and singular experience for one accustomed to rising well before Dawn traced her rosy fingers across the horizon. So, as he lazed in bed watching the early morning path of Anor across the floor in between catnaps, Aragorn was rather enjoying life.

"You really must stop this letting down of your guard, Dúnadan," a soft voice purred very close to his ear, stirring the hair. Aragorn froze, recognizing the voice all too well, and wondering where the knife would fall this time.

"Not very sporting of you," he growled, glancing as far as his eyes would permit in each direction without actually moving his head, just in case. There came a delighted laugh.

"Sporting! I like that!" was the cheery reply. "Estel, I have sat here since two hours before sunrise watching you sleep, and you never once even so much as realized! You have awakened, stretched, made all manner of rude noise with your body; stared about the chamber, scratched, yawned, and gone back to sleep. When you rolled over an hour ago I was certain you would notice me! And yet nothing. Flat nothing! And you want sporting?"

"You know," the Ranger grumbled disobligingly, "Elladan is right. You are more likeable when you're quiet."

Legolas Thranduilion only laughed again, a pleasant enough sound, and stepped down from his perch atop the headboard of Aragorn's bed. "Get over yourself, Rugged Manly Ranger," he suggested with a grin. "I made enough noise to wake the blessed dead, and you simply did not hear it."

"Huh. I'm home in the nearest thing that passes for my own bed," Aragorn pointed out, trying to rescue his reputation. "Am I supposed to be on my guard?"

"Always," Legolas said seriously, rifling through the clothespress. "What if I had been an Orc?"

"You would be easily the fairest Orc ever to sneak successfully past the guards of Imladris," the Ranger announced with pardonable over-dramatism, striking a pose as he sat up and untangled himself from the coverlets. He laughed when a soft silken robe struck him full in the face. "In fact, you would be the only Orc ever to sneak successfully past the guards of Imladris."

"There is always a first time, pen-neth."

Privately Aragorn agreed with him, but opted to say nothing on that score. "So, why exactly were you watching me sleep and--other things for the last several hours, pray tell?"

"I have my reasons." Legolas piled up several articles of clothing on a handy chair: clean undergarments, black leggings, a pristine silver-grey shirt of Elven styling, and a simple but elegantly tailored tunic of deep Imladris blue, fashioned out of a cut velvet that was probably older than Aragorn by several decades. "Come with me--we have much to do."

The Ranger shrugged into his robe and worked completely free of the covers, to sit rather blearily on the edge of the bed. "I'm not really in the mood to do much of anything beyond have a late breakfast and find some comfortable place from which to sightsee," he murmured around a yawn. "Please, I beg of you, spare me any Elven adventures! Every time I go anywhere with you or my brothers there is always hell to pay."

Legolas gave a cursory glance about the chamber. "No brothers here."

"How may I be certain?" Aragorn asked with fond snappishness. "For all I know, they're hiding behind the curtains or somesuch."

"They probably will wish they were," Legolas said, trying not to sound too Elvish before his friend had fully awakened. Aragorn eyed him in bemusement, but the son of Thranduil simply smiled. He possessed a very nice smile, when he chose to make use of it; Legolas had been gifted by good genetics with a singularly lovely mouth, bow-shaped as any good archer should have, with a full lower lip and nice dimples. He did his best to use them all to their utmost effect now. "Never you mind. I know you cannot think before noon when you sleep past the rising of the sun. Come--the bathing pool should be about full by now."

"Please stop using Elven wiles on me," Aragorn commanded, his tone perilously close to a whine, save that he spoiled it completely by yawning hugely in the middle of the sentence. "I am not awake."

"Perfect. Just as it should be," Legolas announced with a wicked upcurve of his lips and a devastating display of dimples. "Just trust me!"

"Spiders in Mirkwood say that, don't they. Just before they eat you."

Legolas just laughed and hauled Aragorn off the bed by main force, manhandling him into the next chamber. The bathing pool, which had slowly been filling over the last hour or so with the most musical of trickles, was indeed at just about the perfect depth--and the water gave off an inviting steaminess, heated as it was in the cool of a mid-autumnal morning.

"Here, get in," Legolas ordered, stripping the robe peremptorily off his friend and pushing Aragorn into the water without so much as a by-your-leave. Fortunately the drains on the floor took care of the overflow.


"Oh hush, it isn't as if there is depth enough to drown." Legolas knelt alongside and dunked Aragorn beneath the surface with embarrassing ease. The Ranger came up spitting water and invective, the sum total of which essentially came down to a brief but pithy insistence that Legolas's immediate ancestors might not have been legitimately married. The Elven prince raised one questioning eyebrow.

"My my, it is a good thing my father is not here to debate that with you," he chuckled. "Never mind, all will be well in the end." With unerring aim Legolas lobbed a handful of rich, fragrant soap at the Ranger, hitting him dead centre in the chest just at the base of his throat. "Scrub up now, we haven't all day."

"Hurting you is going to be fun," Aragorn grumbled, but did as he was told. He had seen this kind of cheery focus on Legolas before; realizing he was wet, naked, and at the mercy of an Elven lunatic, he opted to save his life by being obedient.

For the moment, at least.


Elladan sighed for perhaps the eighteenth time in the last twenty minutes or so, as the all-too-Human part of his blood (well-diluted though it was with Elven factors, at this point!) waited impatiently for his twin to stop re-checking the meagre clue they had just discovered. They had been at the task of attempting to track Legolas for the entire night, bypassing many other far more amusing things they could have done, and the Twins were beginning to get testy.

"You do not know where he has gone."

Elrohir ignored him, making quite a show out of gently running his fingertips over the grass. He was absolutely certain he had seen the infinitesimal press of an Elven footprint here. He just knew he had. And if his brother would simply shut up, he was certain he could find it. Therefore he decided to say so.

"If you would simply shut up, I am certain I can find it," he announced with a noticeable level of pique to his tone. Elladan gave an inelegant snort of laughter and spread his arms to either side in entreaty to the Powers that Be, tipping his head back to stare at the sky.

"Find what, pray tell?" he demanded. "You have been staring at this patch of ground for the last far too many minutes, and we are still entirely in the dark as to where one single flipping Wood-Elf can have gone!"

Elrohir responded with a suggestion that his brother attempt to fold himself into a position Elladan was certain could not actually be accomplished, and place his head in an orifice where it was not, so far as Elladan could figure, supposed to be placed. He made this suggestion rather loudly to boot, and Elladan turned bright crimson with embarrassment when he heard someone clear his throat not very far away.

"I beg your pardon, my lords--but--do you need any--err--assistance?"

The Twins turned as mirror-images of each other and stared. Standing there on the pathway that led from the river back through Elrond's extensive gardens toward the House were no less than seven Dwarves, all dressed in their Dwarvish best, hair neatly and intricately braided. He who had spoken was no one less than the redoubtable Glóin himself; he looked about as imposing and regal as a Dwarf can possibly look, with his wonderfully lined faced framed by all that impressive white, bushy hair. The expression of fascinated, bemused interest on his aged face would have done credit to Elrond himself, had Elrond ever been that short and stout, and--well--Dwarvish. He was clearly waiting for an answer, as were the other six who stood with him: his son Gimli, and five of the several retainers who had accompanied them from the environs of the mountains, or joined them from elsewhere.

None of them looked particularly sympathetic concerning the embarrassment of the sons of Elrond. In fact, they all--Gimli especially--looked rather unnecessarily amused by the entire scene.

"Assistance?" Elladan managed to say, in a rather undignified squeak. He cleared his throat. "I beg your pardon."

"You have it, of course," Glóin informed him in a majestically rumbled bass, to the snickered amusement of the others. He quelled them with a look that would have stopped a cave troll in full heated charge, and turned his white head back toward the blushing Twins. "As far as I have ever been able to tell, the position to which you refer is not a physical possibility. At least--for a Dwarf." Glóin tilted his head sidewise in a nerve-wrackingly Elvish kind of way, and smiled very faintly. "Though, I have heard that Elves are more--how do you say--supple."

"We would be very happy to assist you in attaining such a position," Gimli added with great politesse and gravity. "If, that is, you actually wish to attain it."

Decorous sniggers of amusement punctuated this announcement, but father and son remained impeturbable. Elrohir sighed, marvelling at how difficult it is to read expression in such dark eyes as Dwarves seemed to possess.

"It was merely a suggestion, Master Glóin," he managed at last to say without too much hemming or hawing. "You know--of the sort that brothers will occasionally make to their siblings. From--time to time."

"I see," Glóin rumbled, in a way that left no doubt at all that he did, indeed, see far more than either of the Twins would have him do. "Is it my understanding also that you have mislaid a Wood-Elf?"

More snickers; Gimli glanced back over his shoulder and harrumphed, which brought instantaneous silence. The Twins glanced significantly at one another, not needing verbal discussion to realize they were both wishing they could be very young again for just the merest short amount of time: say, the amount needed to wreak terrible Elfling vengeance on a smart-mouthed Naugrim. Such things being way out of range of dignified adult Elves, however, they knew they would have to be content with just their memories.

Until we find the son of Thranduil, of course, Elladan thought, and was mightily cheered by the concept.

"We do seem to have mis-located the Prince of Mirkwood, yes," the elder Twin admitted, taking Elrohir firmly by the bicep and hauling him to his feet. "We were tracking him, you see--"

"Yes, it's--a sort of game," Elrohir supplied helpfully. "We do it all the time."

"All the time," Glóin repeated, one bushy white eyebrow climbing over those undefinedly deep brown eyes. The Twins nodded in unison; Elrohir flushed deeper, wondering if they would ever get out of the habit of such tandem motions.

"Absolutely," Elladan said.

"Whenever he visits," Elrohir finished.

"And the son of Thranduil has managed to elude you."


"To the point where you are suggesting your brother perform impossible physical feats and delve his head into interesting locations."

"A brother's jest, good Master Dwarf."

"A brother's jest," Glóin repeated. Elladan wondered if the aged Naugrim was going to repeat everything they said. And in such an annoyingly arrogant tone, to boot!

"Yes. A brother's jest."

"Probably some Elvish custom of which we know naught," Gimli suggested, his dark gaze skirting back toward their aides and assistants in such a way as to cause another rumble of amusement from the onlookers. In that second the Twins cordially hated him, which seemed to please Gimli all the more.

"Doubtless," Glóin replied grandly, and waved one hand at the sons of Elrond. "Do carry on then with your--tracking. And your jesting. We will not detain you."

As they headed off, Gimli Glóinsson had one last parting salvo: "Should we find your princelet, shall we tell him where he might find you? And in what condition?"

"Do feel free, Master Gimli," Elladan called cheerfully, his eyes snapping with anger. "If you should happen to find him."

A chorus of Dwarven amusement greeted this declaration, and the stout, redoubtable party disappeared around a corner in the path. Elladan sighed.

"Well, that was more fun that a barrel of Wargs," he grumbled, bringing up a hand to swat his brother on the shoulder. "We would have found Legolas long since, had you bothered to do as I suggested earlier!"

"What? Looking words up in Adar's dictionaries is going to help us find Legolas? What twaddle!" Elrohir's eyes were glittering with amusement, a fact Elladan wholly neglected to catch; internecine strife might have become the rule of the day had not Elrohir suddenly uttered a cry of triumph. "Ai! Look! I've found it!"

"What?" Elladan grumbled. "The dictionary?"

"No! Look!" And he pointed. His brother stared, then narrowed his eyes; a smirk crept across his mouth.

"Oh, dear Legolas, this is what you get for being so picky about how your hair looks," the elder Twin crowed, picking up the item his brother had found. It was a small hair-catch, fashioned of mithril into the cunning shape of a squirrel. If one looked very closely it would be seen that there were two tiny blue crystals for its eyes, and the creature was clutching a bow in its forepaws. Elrohir leaned his dark head on his brother's shoulder and eyed the elegant thing.

"He'll be very upset to have lost it," the younger Twin murmured, his grin belying the sympathy in his tone. Elladan gave another of his signature snorts.

"He hasn't lost it," he retorted. "We have it safe, right here." He dropped the catch into a pocket and patted it. "Come on. There's bound to be a footprint somewhere in the dew. What would he have been doing here?"

"Singing," Elrohir growled. "I know. I heard him just before dawn. Lovely thing to wake up to--if one is in the mood to awaken."

"Which I take it you were not?"

"Not at that hour."

"Heh." Several more moments tripped by to the tune of Elven heartbeats, then: "Ah-hah! There!"

Elladan pointed to where the tinest slip of a line could be seen in the moss on a log--as if someone had used said log as a take-off point for a leap up into the trees. The two brothers Peredhil looked upward for a long moment in silence.

"I don't suppose you're very good at talking to trees," Elrohir murmured after a moment. Elladan blew out an annoyed breath.

"No. I'll never admit this where Grandsire can hear me, but I've always considered tree-talking to be just the veriest little wee bit odd."

Elrohir snickered. "Alas, me too."

"Besides, they'd never tell us a thing," Elladan sighed, and patted the trunk of the venerable beech beside which they found themselves. "You know there isn't a tree in Imladris that Legolas hasn't made love to over the centuries--they think he is the be-all and the end-all."

Elrohir stared hard at the beech in silence, trying his level best to banish the peculiar image that went through his mind at the words "Legolas" and "made love to" in the context of trees. He was not very successful until Elladan, surmising what those thoughts might be, smacked him in the back of the head.

"Stop that this instant!" he said in his best Elrond imitation. Being an obedient son, Elrohir of course did as he was told. Elrond's voice of command worked no matter who was actually uttering the words, so long as they sounded even remotely like the Lord of Imladris. Elladan was rather nerve-wrackingly good at it, and had been so for years; there were still tales told in the guard houses of the son passing himself verbally off as the father to amusing results.

While his brother was wrestling with trees, love, and obedience, Elladan continued looking for some sort of hint as to where Legolas might have gone. Throughout the night their mood had gone from one of smug confidence to complete and utter annoyance; the very thought that a princelet less than half their age could have somehow managed to elude them for the entire time was galling, to say the least. That he had had a look in his eye, when last they saw him, that bespoke trial and tribulation for their younger brother--well, that added a certain piquant sense of urgency to the concept of finding him.

"It is not as if there are all that many places he could have gone," Elladan grumbled aloud. "I mean, blessed Varda! He's just one Wood-Elf!"

"Actually, if you wish to be technical, he's very little of that at all," Elrohir said, raising a finger. "Thranduil is half Vanyar and half Doriathrin, while Legolas's mother was Sindarin and--"

"And Doriathrin is what?" Elladan asked, in a self-righteously irritated tone that would have curled the bark on an oak tree at a hundred paces. Elrohir looked bemused.

"Well, I suppose it is somewhat Wood-Elvish--"

"You suppose." Elladan made a rude noise, his eyes continuing all the while to scan the trees, the grass, even the rocks, looking for some hint as to where they should go next. "And do you suppose that, should you ever be discussing the finer points of Elven genealogy with Grandsire--a Prince of Doriath, need I remind you!--he will convince himself to refrain from cutting off your sidelock braids and stuffing them down your throat?"

"He would never!" Elrohir exclaimed in horror, unable to even conceive of Celeborn, Lord of Lórien, doing such a thing. Elladan laughed shortly.

"That you know," he finished dramatically. "He has not always been the nice old Elf he is now."

Suddenly he straightened. "Hah!"

One hand shot out into the verge; when he pulled it back, there was a scrap of thread held tightly between two fingers. "Thranduilion," he announced at the top of his lungs, "gerin le si!"

He pointed off toward the south-east--the general direction of the bridge and waterfall--and the Twins disappeared into the morning, cheered at having once again regained the trail.


Lord Elrond looked up from the manuscript over which he and Gandalf were musing.

"What in the name of Arda was that?" he asked. Glorfindel glanced sidelong from his place on the balcony, on the second level of the library. He was grinning, having easily heard that to which Elrond referred; all of Imladris could well have heard it too, as the acoustics were rather excellent throughout the valley.

"I do believe it was Elladan," the Lord of Gondolin drawled cheerfully. "Further, I believe he said--and I quote--'Thranduilion, gerin le si!' Or--words to that effect."

Gandalf took his pipe from between his teeth--a pipe that was not lit, out of deference to Elven sensibilities--and raised an eyebrow at the master of the house. "Should we be worried, do you think?"

"Likely not," Elrond said with a firm shake of his head. "I have heard that particular pronouncement too many times over the years to have even the littlest doubt as to the outcome."

"Last time," Glorfindel said with an agreeable nod, "we found both the Twins side by side in a net."

"A net, you say?" murmured Gandalf, in tones of amused surprise. Glorfindel chuckled.

"Oh yes. In a dear old oak tree, way out in the forest. Isn't that right, my lord?"

"Rather high up in a dear old oak tree, if memory serves," Elrond commented dryly. Gandalf allowed a bark of laughter to escape his lips.

"I see! And where, may one ask, was young Thranduilion?"

"Slightly higher up the same dear old oak tree," Glorfindel announced, spluttering with laughter at the recollection. "Sitting back in the branches, laughing like a loon and singing a delightfully rude song about a Dwarf, a Ranger, and three maidens from Bree."

"All the while utterly ignoring my sons--which was no mean feat in itself, considering how loudly profane they were being," Elrond added, making a note in the manuscript's margin in his elegant Tengwar. Gandalf laughed, delighted.

"And here I thought this was going to be a boring Council session!" he chortled. Elrond and Glorfindel gave him much the same look, a fond, bemused, knowing sort of look usually leveled upon messily misbehaving, mud-bedecked Elflings who show up precipitously in the doorways of feast halls during formal dinners. Which, come to think of it, had happened an inordinate number of times in this very place, over the centuries....

"A Council session it most assuredly will be," Elrond said sagely, cocking one dark eyebrow over sardonic grey eyes. "Boring, however, has long since gone on holiday and left the region. Really, Mithrandir! Aragorn is home for the first time in a quarter century and more; both the Twins are home, Arwen is in residence for a change, Thranduil sends to the session Ennor's most adorable hooligan since Maglor, and the One Ring has surfaced in the hands of the Hobbits--and you expected boring?"

"Wherever did my mind go," Gandalf murmured flatly, eyes twinkling.

"Doubtless to the same place wheresoever Boring went on holiday," Glorfindel supplied helpfully, and settled back down at his spot for a most excellent seat from which to observe the mayhem he fully expected to commence any moment now.


"What in the name of Arda was that?" asked Lord Silinde of Mirkwood, one of the Sindarin nobles who had accompanied the son of their king to Imladris for Council. His compatriot, Lord Galdor, had been seated in a corner going back over the scroll of instructions their King had given them upon departure from Mirkwood; however, he too had looked up in startlement at the loud cry coming from the gardens.

"It--sounded rather--unsettling, whatever it was," he murmured, trying to be diplomatic. Silinde was in no such frame of mind though; private instruction had been given him by the Elven-king, dire words indeed, including phrases such as "We place Our son's life and safety in your hands" and "We would be most wroth were aught to befall Our child", and other regal comments made to freeze one's blood in one's veins. Not that Silinde, a warrior and diplomat of great age and experience, was not generally up to the task of protecting a single young Elf--far from it! But when that single Elf was Legolas, who not only had a penchant for finding trouble, but also possessed a rather cheerful delight in calling it out rather than tiptoeing away like a sensible person, the task became somewhat wildly problematic. To have heard what he feared he had heard was not the way to keep his ample breakfast happily settled in his system.

"I did not ask how it sounded," Silinde announced tersely now, swivelling in his chair to fix a baleful eye upon Galdor. "I asked what it was. In short, what did you hear?"

Galdor's face remained impassive--of what other use were centuries of training, if he could not accomplish that much?--but inwardly he wished he could blow raspberries at his friend. Silinde's hearing was just as good as Galdor's own, and they both knew all too well what they had just heard. Sighing just this side of audible, Galdor said:

"I believe the phrase was 'Thranduilion, gerin le si!' Though--perhaps I was mistaken."

"No," Silinde said tensely. "I heard the same thing. Come--we must find out what is going on down there."

Galdor hung back, far less than enthusiastic. He too had partaken of an ample breakfast, and chasing King Thranduil's sweet-faced, dangerous offspring through the unfamiliar territories of Imladris was simply not on his morning agenda. "It is likely nothing!" he demurred, making little ineffectual gestures of calming. "You know how the pen-neth is. He is probably up to some devilry with Lord Elrond's sons."

"All the more reason to check things out," Silinde intoned, striking a pose in the doorway. "Consider this, Galdor. Prince Legolas. The Lords Elladan and Elrohir. The three of them together. Alone." He gave a decorous shudder. "Unsupervised!"

"You make them sound like the merest little Elflings!" Galdor complained, sighing gustily as he reached for his over-robe. By the Valar, if Silinde was going to make him traipse all over Imladris supervising the Prince, at least one of them was going to do it properly dressed!

"Would that they were," Silinde grumbled darkly as they departed. "Then at least I would still be able to take a belt to their backsides!"

As if you were ever able before, even when they were Elflings! Galdor thought glumly, and followed Silinde out into the morning.


"What in the name of Arda was that?"

Arwen had just come sailing into Aragorn's bedchamber with a breakfast tray when her brother's over-loud declaration made itself known to all and sundry. She found Legolas putting the finishing touches on Aragorn's preparations for the day, as he mopped shaving soap from the throat and cheeks of the Ranger. The fair-haired Prince smiled cheerfully at her.

"Nothing important, I daresay," he told her, and came to take the tray. Leaning in to give her a peck on the cheek, he added: "Sounded like a bunch of squirrels fighting over acorns."

"It did not," Aragorn retorted. "Even my hearing could pick out the difference there. It was Elrohir, blathering 'Thranduilion, gerin le si!' like a rank amateur idiot."

"It was Elladan," the Evenstar pointed out, coming to give him a good-morning kiss that warmed the entire corner of the chamber like a campfire. "But never mind. Just details."

"Life is in the details," Aragorn complained, blushing faintly at the mistake. She kissed him again, just because she could.

"I will have you remind me of that at some later time," she purred. "When there aren't young eyes around to be sullied."

Legolas almost tripped over his own feet and rolled on the floor, so hard did he laugh at this declaration. "Young eyes!" he hooted. "I like that!"

"So do I," Arwen announced, smirking at him. "And though my soul has been awaiting Estel's appearance for centuries, I must say the wait has been eased by the lovely view from Mirkwood these past five hundred years!"

Legolas bowed gallantly over her hand, then gave each of them a steaming mug of tea perfectly prepared.

"She's being kind," Aragorn said, making a face at the Prince. "We all know you haven't hit five hundred yet."

"Nuts to you too, O seventy-year-old Dúnadan," Legolas said, elegantly sticking out his tongue before settling cross-legged on the floor. They drank their tea and ate scones in companionable silence for several moments, Aragorn and Arwen sweetening theirs with kisses while Legolas simply chuckled at them and used honey like any sensible Elf. Then, some minutes into the pleasant quiet, he set down his mug and rolled on one side, laughing uproariously.

"What?" Arwen asked, amused but puzzled. Legolas rolled further and got gracefully to his feet, striking a menacing pose in imitation of what he supposed a certain someone might have done down in the garden.

"Thranduilion, gerin le si!" he intoned softly.

This time all three of them laughed, the sound of it wafting cheerfully over the balcony and into the beauty of the morning.


"What in the name of Arda was that?" Elrohir asked, glancing back toward the House as Elladan finished knotting a rope around an unamused willow tree above the Bruinen, preparatory to the two of them using it to descend. Elladan made a scoffing sound.

"Getting deaf in our old age?" he asked scornfully. "It was simply people laughing. People do that, you know!"

"But it sounded like Legolas," his brother complained. Elladan paused in his work and stared at Elrohir.

"Legolas. One Elf, singular. That laughter was clearly people, plural, finding something amusing. Really, brother, please do use your head! Think before you speak!"

"And the concept of Legolas laughing with others about something does not concern you?" Elrohir demanded, hands on hips. "When we have spent the whole night looking for him without success?"

Elladan put down his end of the rope and turned fully to stare at his brother. He waited, listening, and sure enough, the laughter sounded again; Elladan gave a crow of triumph.

"That was not Legolas," he announced. "I've heard that laugh before. It was Glorfindel. And Arwen. And maybe Estel, though it could also have been Mithrandir, they have similar laughter. Legolas is not back at the House, brother! I would stake my reputation as a tracker upon that much."

"You may have to," Elrohir commented dryly. "You do realize that!"

"Hah," Elladan grunted with complete conviction, and picked up the rope. "Come now. I want to know exactly where Legolas went last night, and what he did--the why can come later."

"It will," Elrohir predicted darkly, fetching a heavy sigh as he made to follow. "One way or another, I am certain it will!"



Heh heh heh.... Sorry it took so long, folks. Hope it was worth the wait! Things are rapidly drawing to a close here! Next time: All interested parties meet at the Council of Elrond, and explanations of a sort are made.



pen-neth = young one
Naugrim = Sindarin for Dwarf
Thranduilion, gerin le si! = Son of Thranduil, I have you now!

Author's Note:

Sorry for the long delay, folks! Writing humour is not easy when your life is behaving bizarrely. But here at last is the long-awaited Next Scruff Chapter™!! And yes, the spelling of Counsel is intentional, and I freely admit to snitching the idea (if not the execution) from Jocelyn's "A Little Nudge Out the Door." If you want to know what I mean, go look; it's over on (smile) Special thanks to my beta, al!


There was feasting and merriment that evening in the halls of the House of Elrond, for young Frodo Baggins was determined by the Master Healer himself to be safe, clearly out of harm's way for the moment. The last of the expected arrivals had shown up for the great Council called by Elrond on behalf of the Free Peoples of Middle-earth, and as far as the Elves were concerned, that called for a feast at least as grand as the ones held on prior nights for other groups of visitors.

Aragorn and Arwen, both gorgeously turned out in beautiful matching outfits of silvered damask and black velvet, joined Lord Elrond and his senior household folk at the high table, along with Mithrandir, Glóin and Gimli, the five Hobbits, Boromir of Gondor, and numerous other folk--Men, Elves, and Dwarves alike. Legolas Thranduilion, of course, took his now-accustomed seat next to Aragorn, and was sporting yet a second handsomely tailored robe, this one of a fine brown slubbed silk with deep, mithril-piped trim of moss-green velvet, the whole accented with tasteful but lush accents of silvery Elven embroidery in patterns unique to the House of Oropher. With everyone else wearing their best and finest, it was an amazingly glittering gathering--a brave show of force calculated, should the Great Eye indeed be turned toward Rivendell, to make Sauron the Deceiver think twice about even conceptualizing a plan to take on such folk.

Curiously absent, however, were the two sons of the House. Elladan and Elrohir were nowhere in evidence by the time Elrond simply gave up on the likelihood of them appearing and gave orders for the servants to set forth the lavish banquet. Nor, oddly enough, had they shown up by the time dessert was served--and Lindir, in particular, was crestfallen, for the centerpiece of the sweets table was something he himself had labored on for much of the day. It was a beautiful confection of puff pastries, sweet biscuits cut into fantastical shapes, and the whole decorated most cunningly with many different flavours and colours of icing, so that looking at it from even close-to, one would have to admit it was the very model of Elrond's Last Homely House, nestled into a Bruinen Valley made of cake and more decorative icing, with a little river of gelatin in between, complete with whipped-cream rapids. Ah well, no matter; the perianneth were more than appreciative enough to make up for two missing young Elf-lords, and Lindir seemed mollified by the many admiring rounds of applause he received just before the servitors began whispering amongst themselves as to how precisely one went about serving a very large edible house....

"Where, exactly, are my sons?" Elrond murmured to Glorfindel, who happily accepted a slice of bridge and embankment from one of the servants. The Lord of Gondolin glanced over to where Glóin was now tucking into a sizeable portion of the food-depicted edge of Elrond's private gardens.

"Right about there, the last time I saw them--about where Glóin's fork is," he said helpfully. Elrond stared rather owlishly at the plate in front of his seniormost Dwarvish guest, then turned and stared for good measure at Glorfindel, just as his chief-of-staff delicately took a piece of spun-sugar bridge from his plate and popped it in his mouth. Shaking himself slightly--I need to get out more, I can clearly see that, he thought--Elrond sighed.

"And what, pray tell, was so pressing in the gardens that they would forego dinner? Especially with so many important visitors extant?" he asked, knowing in his heart of hearts that he would dread the answer. Unaccountably--at least to Elrond's mind--Arwen burstinto a torrent of giggles; Aragorn exchanged a look brimful of mirth with an equally amused Legolas, who caught Elrond's eye very briefly and looked away.

Was that a snort? Did I actually hear the son of Thranduil snort?

"Is there something you three would like to tell me?" Elrond asked patiently in Quenya, but with a sliver of underlying steel in his tone. The three glanced between themselves again; Arwen gave him a placid, blinking smile and shook her head.

"I do not believe so, nín Adar," she murmured gently in her melodious voice, and demurely took a forkful of the library porch.

"Did you have something you needed to tell Lord Elrond, Legolas?" Aragorn asked, his voice under marvelous control even for a Ranger. Legolas's blue eyes widened to a level of almost annoyingly impossible innocence, and he blinked several times, slowly and deliberately.

"Nothing I would like to broach until the Council tomorrow," he said, bland as a Billikin. "In fact, I haven't a doubt in all Ennor that it can wait until then. Or longer." He gave Aragorn one of those smiles that could seize a Man's heart out of his chest. "Was there something you wished to share with his Lordship, Estel?"

"Why, no. No, I do not believe there was, nín mellon."

"I know where your sons are, Lord Elrond," Glóin put in from the other side of Glorfindel, who sat as usual to Elrond's right. He did not, of course, understand a lick of Quenya--but he had overheard the prior request to know the whereabouts of his sons, and he caught the many levels of meaning to the interaction between Aragorn, Arwen, and the son of Thranduil as only someone could who had encountered the Twins the previous afternoon. "At least, if what your sons told me is in fact the clue to the riddle."

Elrond felt a prickle between his shoulder blades that generally signalled one of three things: a mental communication from his august mother-in-law, an enemy blade about to be inserted between said shoulder blades with attitude, or the advent of some piece of information decidedly in the category of over-sharing. As Glóin did not even slightly resemble Galadriel, and nothing had occurred so far as Elrond knew to make himself an enemy of the aged Naugrim, he sighed and steeled himself for the third possibility. Glóin plus Twins just could not be a happy equation any way you put it. But the smile he managed to ladle onto his face before turning politely to face Glóin was sufficiently genuine that even Glorfindel was impressed.

"My sons are extremely fond of riddles," he said, and patently ignored the smothered snort of amusement from Legolas back to his left. "What exactly was the nature of the one they shared with you, Lord Glóin?"

Glóin proceeded, with the occasional helpful aside from Gimli, to regale the table with the details of their encounter with the Twins that morning in Elrond's gardens. Being a rather thorough creature, he of course omitted no detail--for one can never tell what an Elf will or will not find to be a pertinent fact, therefore it is best to be precise. Legolas fought an increasingly futile battle with his own sangfroid to the point where he ended up dropping his napkin on purpose so he could disappear under the table for the briefest of moments. When he surfaced, he seemed calm enough, though his eyes glittered with unshed tears of amusement.

"... and then they informed us--to our utter astonishment of course!--that hunting Wood-Elves is something they do every chance they get!" Glóin was saying as Legolas sat back up straight and tried to breathe normally. "Why, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I thought they were always hunting Orcs!"

Aragorn lost it at about that moment, and made the error of attempting to cover his laughter by coughing decorously. The cough became real, however, and Arwen, giggling helplessly, only made it worse when she pressed a goblet of water into his hands--and he tried to swallow and breathe at the same time. Elrond pointedly ignored all three of them, managing to rather neatly convince himself he had never managed to make the acquaintance of these three bizarre strangers at his very own High Table--all the while making a mental note to have them beaten within an inch of their ability to sit for a week, which would be a particularly amusing punishment for the two who absolutely had to be at Council in the morning.

Of course, they'll only enjoy it just to annoy me, Elrond grumbled inwardly. Perhaps I shall make them cook for the Hobbits instead....

"Do you have any idea, Lord Glóin, where my sons might be at this moment?" the Lord of Imladris asked, wonderfully calm, as if he were requesting the Dwarf to pass the strawberries. Glóin shared an indecipherable look with Gimli, who harrumphed into his tankard and shot a significant grin at the Prince of Mirkwood.

"As they were tracking that youngster over there," Glóin rumbled at an unnecessarily loud level, jerking a thumb toward Legolas, "I would recommend you inquire of the son of Thranduil where he has been of late--and work backwards from this very spot." He managed rather impressively to make the Elven-king's very name sound like a cross between an unmentionable disease and a spate of bad weather in Esgaroth, which was no mean feat considering how mellifluous a name it was, all things being considered.

Legolas gave him a look that was uniquely Thranduilion: innocent, affronted, devastated, and painfully amused, all in one. Elrond and Glóin gave the young Prince much the same stare of disbelieving appreciation; but not for nothing was Legolas his father's son. It went without saying that he would rise to the occasion.

"Good my lords, I cannot begin to fathom of what it is you speak," Legolas murmured genteelly, pressing his right hand (complete with damask napkin) to his heart as if he had been mortally stricken and yet realized it was his royal obligation to make some sort of appropriate speech before expiring of shame. He gave Glóin a sorrowing look of affectionate regard that would have brought a lesser Being to its knees sobbing for forgiveness at the very concept of wronging so dear and charming a creature. "If Lord Elladan and Lord Elrohir were seeking me, they had but to inquire of the servants--or find one of my Mirkwood advisors," he continued, bearing down as he noticed Glóin beginning to crack. "I cannot comprehend how anyone would think anything less than that they were simply conducting a very thorough search, in order to ascertain that a guest in their father's home was safe and sound. In fact, I am sure it could not possibly be anything more than that."

He ducked his chin slightly and actually had the temerity to bat his eyes; Elrond did not know whether to hug him or slap him. However, Glóin blinked as if he had been blindsided by an entire southbound flight of the Great Eagles of Manwë. He opened his mouth to say something--and it was very clear from the blank look in his eyes that he had not the merest idea of what he was going to say--but no matter, as nothing came out. Legolas tilted his head slightly to one side and leaned forward slightly.

"Lord Glóin?" he murmured kindly. "Are you well?"

"I--uhh--yes. That is, I mean--I--believe so." Glóin gave a pretty impressive harrumph himself, and took the mug his son pressed into his hands. "I am certain you are right, youngster. Doubtless the Twins will track you here--uhh, search for you diligently--and arrive here at any minute."

"Doubtless," Legolas said with deferent politesse.

"Let's not overdo it," Aragorn whispered so softly that only Elven ears could hear. Driven snow was in the look Legolas levered upon him, direct and disconcertingly innocent.

"I haven't the slightest idea what you could possibly mean," the Prince lied through his straight white teeth. Aragorn skewed his mouth sidewise in a disobliging grin, giving him a 'later for you!' kind of look in return.

Elrond strove mightily and eventually mastered a desire to drop his forehead forcefully--several times--down onto the table. Such demonstrations were just never helpful.

He glanced to his left: Legolas had nodded with great civility to the elder Dwarf and was now calmly continuing with his dessert, while Aragorn and Arwen followed his example. To his right: Glorfindel was decorously offering to refill Glóin's tankard, which the Dwarf was only to happy to let him do. Everyone else was studiously avoiding Elrond's eyes, and had apparently opted instead to give great praise to Lindir for the dessert.

Probably the best thing in the long run,

  the Elven Lord thought, sighing inwardly. This will be a LONG dinner. Even when it is over, it will be a long dinner....


"Had you asked me, I'd have long since pointed out the lateness of the hour."

The speaker was Elrohir Elrondion; his tone was liberally laced with smug civility as he addressed his twin brother. Elladan was examining the signs he thought he had discovered at the foot of a straight old oak tree, tall and fine, with many skyward-stretching branches. Said Elladan made a wonderfully casual show of pretending he had shared his mother's womb with naught but water, therefore of course there was no non-rooted being to whom he could possibly be speaking. Elrohir cleared his throat meaningfully.

"I would further have expressed the opinion that dinner is long since underway," the younger twin said, just a bit louder. "Since all expected guests have arrived, I have no doubt the meal is nothing short of sumptuous."

Elladan stared hard at the oak, and patted its trunk.

"I think it shall rain tonight, my rooted friend," he murmured. "After the recent dry spells, you would doubtless appreciate a good steady drink--is that not so?"

"I would appreciate a good drink of wine," Elrohir grumbled, sitting down on a handy boulder. "Doubtless the wine at dinner tonight is exquisite."

"I think the Mirkwood folk went hunting last eve, and on into the early hours," Elladan pointedly informed the oak. "That is surely where the Prince has gone. You know which prince I mean, of course?"

The oak shivered its branches with delight, and Elladan chuckled. "Yes, I see that you do. Well, I smelled venison cooking a while ago, so I am now certain of my thoughts."

He whispered, but of course Elrohir heard perfectly. Reaching over, he poked his brother in the hip. "Stop ignoring me. It is excessively rude."

"What a lovely evening to go a-hunting the wild Thranduilion," Elladan announced to the sky. "Such a rare creature, even moreso here than in Mirkwood. There are two of them there, I hear--but of course not a breeding pair, for they come of the same sire and dam."

Elrohir tackled him to the ground in a fit of pique.

"Ai!" observed Elladan, feigning surprise.

"I said, stop ignoring me!" Elrohir exploded, introducing the flat of his hand to the side of his twin's head. "Why can you not simply face it? You have no earthly idea whither Legolas has gone. We might as well give up, go home, have dinner--"

"And not bother to find out what that one-sixteenth Moriquendi lunatic of an archer has done with poor Estel?" Elladan snapped, executing a neat roll and ending up seated across his brother's body. Elrohir stared up at him in Elrond-like annoyance.

"We put that one-sixteenth Moriquendi lunatic up to this, if you will scruple to recall," he growled right back. "Do not scowl at me, you know it to be so! And anyway, Estel is a grown Man, a Ranger--quite capable of defending himself. A fact, I might point out, that we have generally been in the habit of ignoring over the last few years."

"Twaddle," Elladan retorted elegantly.

"Nothing of the sort. Estel is very capable--

"No, twaddle that we've been ignoring his capabilities. We know them perfectly well--we simply choose to act otherwise, as we know how amusing he can be when riled." Elladan showed his teeth in a charming, if somewhat feral, smile. "As, I might remind you, is dear Legolas. And we have not successfully maneuvered him into a good fireworks display in easily the better part of a quarter-century."

Elrohir glanced to one side where a young coney jumped out of the brush and hopped away, annoyed at their noisy disturbance of his evening graze. "Given what happened last time we provoked him so, I would have thought riling Legolas was near the top of your standing list of things better left to Glorfindel."

"Nay, for we made Glorfindel cope with him last time; fair's fair," Elladan riposted, grinning. "Mayhap it is Erestor's turn?"

"But I like Erestor!"

"All right then--Arwen can deal with him. We know Legolas is a complete fool for her--all she has to do is cock one eyebrow, and he's done for." Elladan rolled off his twin and helped him up. "Come now, admit it. It would be amusing to see how much progress the lovely celair-heneb has made with his 'fell Elf-Lord' lessons. With a teacher like Thranduil, eventually Legolas should prove to be a great deal of fun!"

"You have an odd idea of fun," Elrohir snorted. His brother grinned, scoffing at him.

"It has taken you this long to figure that out?"

They stared at one another for a long, silent moment. More rabbits bounced about their feet, then sped off into the underbrush; Elladan suddenly just could not help it; he began to laugh. Eventually Elrohir gave up and joined him; they stood there, clinging to one another, laughing like fools. The rabbits, taking them for such, merely looked disgusted and disappeared as quickly as they could.

"Look you now," Elladan said, still chortling, as he regained the power of speech. "I think I do know where he went."


"No, Mithrandir's pet dog!"

"Didn't know he had one."


The younger twin grinned evilly. "I knew you meant Legolas. I just could not resist. I'm not a complete idiot, you know!"

Elladan patted him on the cheek, rather harder than he needed to. "Nay, you are but a partial idiot--for completion would suggest you have all your wits, however few, always about your person," he jibed. Elrohir stuck his elegant nose into the air.

"I am not the one who cannot finish my sentences," he countered. His brother stared.


"You started to say you knew whither Legolas has gone--and never finished. We do need to find him, if you insist on locating Estel."

"Do we?"

Elrohir blinked. "Do we not?"

"Nay. Not necessarily." Elladan held up a long forefinger. "I, for one, do not believe our blue-eyed little leaf is even still with Estel."

"Your fingers are longer than mine," Elrohir complained mildly, staring owlishly at his brother's hand. He cleared his throat. "Well then--where would he be, if not with Estel?"

"Who knows? Eating dinner perhaps, or having another bath while everyone else eats. You know how he loves hot water."

"As do I," Elrohir sighed wistfully. "So then--where shall we find Estel?"

"I believe we shall find him behind the waterfall," Elladan announced, perhaps a little over-dramatically. Elrohir threw up his arms, amused and annoyed all in one.

"Which waterfall, of the numerous we have in Imladris?" he demanded. Elladan wiggled his eyebrows.

"The waterfall," he said with emphasis. "The one that runs the fastest and coldest--and is therefore perfect for a quick clean-up."

"And... Legolas will have left him there... for what reason? To make him hate water even more than he apparently already does?"

But he was speaking to his brother's back, for Elladan had already started off in the direction of 'the waterfall'. Hurrying to catch up, the younger twin called out:

"And how would he have kept him there? Tied him up? I don't know about this, Elladan! It is extremely unlike Legolas to do such a thing. Elladan? Brother!"

There was no response as the elder twin marched grimly on. Sighing, Elrohir accepted the kindly sympathy of a willow tree he passed as he followed gamely on.

"No one ever listens to me," he griped disconsolately. "I do not know why I bother to give counsel, when none will ever receive it!"


Arwen linked her arms through that of Legolas and of Aragorn and led the two of them off to the balcony outside the dining hall--the very same balcony where they had chatted with the Twins the other night.

"It is so peaceful this evening!" she murmured, taking a deep breath of the cool, fragrant autumnal evening. "I wonder, do you suppose it has anything to do with a distinct lack of brothers about the place?"

"Oh, I don't know about that," Aragorn chuckled, glancing across at Legolas. "I occasionally have brotherly feelings for our fair guest from Mirkwood, and believe there is reason to think he might return such affections."

"Well, but I think she means the twins," Legolas said, his eyes brimming with mirth. "After all, I haven't tormented you with pranks and tricks since--oh, at least ten years ago!"

"That nonsense this morning was not meant to count, I take it?" the Dúnadan enquired politely. Arwen looked at them both in calculation.

"What nonsense this morning?"

"Oh, nothing," Legolas murmured, staring up into the night sky and grinning privately. "But do let me suggest that after you two are wedded, you manage each night to fall asleep before he comes to bed. He is not a quiet sleeper."

"Planning on us being childless?" Aragorn grumbled. Legolas laughed outright.

"Such relations need not only take place at night, Estel!" he protested. "Nor need they be confined to beds! Really--you are lacking in imagination for one raised by Elves!"

"You have my permission to stop now," Aragorn retorted.

"Oh, your permission!" Legolas hooted with amusement. "Estel, you simply must come to Mirkwood with me after the Council is over. We will overcome your Noldor upbringing, and see to it that the Evenstar of the Elves has a happy, dare I even say blissful, wedded life!"

Aragorn turned several shades of pink and red, but fortunately Arwen had pity on him.

"Legolas Thranduilion, if you do not cease tormenting my Estel this instant I shall tie your braids into very bad knots and dip them in pine pitch!" she threatened, advancing on the much-younger prince. "Do not force me to hurt you!"

"I can defend myself," Aragorn insisted, but the two Elves were ignoring him completely, as was their wont when a good pretend argument was in the offing. Undaunted in the slightest by her grim demeanor, Legolas went nose-to-nose with Undomiel and laughed in her pretty face.

"You do that, tithen muinthel, and I will knock you on your shapely rump over by the manure pile," he retorted. "Do not tell me I cannot do it either, for it has been accomplished before!"

"Tithen?" she repeated. "Who exactly are you having the temerity to call tithen, my little pen-neth? I changed your clouts for you the first time you visited in Imladris, and do not forget it!"

"That is a kettle of fish I do not wish to dip into," Legolas chuckled. "Nearly every Elf in Ennor is older than me, and most of them are far too fond of reminding me of this fact! But I do think it a low blow, to speak of baby clouts."

"I do not even wish to consider you as an infant," Aragorn said, shivering. "I daresay you were a gorgeous, delightful, charming little hellion who always got his way. And for some reason, that terrifies me."

"Oh, but he was adorable!" Arwen protested, mercurially changing that quickly to come to Legolas's defense. "And he was not a hellion at all! Well--at least not all the time."

Legolas grinned shamelessly. "I do believe there was an extended period during which I could have been said to be both a hellion AND not entirely wrapped too tightly," he put in wryly. "But that is neither here nor there." He glanced out over the balcony into the darkness of the gardens. "I am becoming somewhat concerned for the twins, however. Having them out of sight for this long is not a good idea."

"Worried?" Aragorn teased. Legolas nodded.

"It is the prudent thing to be."

"Oh, they have probably long since given up," Arwen retorted, taking each of them by the arm once more to continue their stroll. "They have probably bathed and gone into the kitchens to find something left over from the delightful dinner they just missed. I daresay we shall see them in the Hall of Fire shortly."

Legolas and Aragorn shared a significant look over her head--she was tall for a female, but not as tall as the two of them--and many a thought was communicated in that single glance. Neither of them had the slightest delusion that the twins could have given up so easily--nor, as Legolas possessed very specific information concerning their merry chase, was the Prince of Mirkwood likely to believe his friends had simply surrendered. It was not in their nature--especially not where Legolas was concerned.

"I have no doubt they will surface again soon," Aragorn said comfortingly. Legolas chuckled again, deeper this time, more portentously.

"Surface," he murmured, glancing off toward a certain waterfall. "What an interesting word...."


"I hate to say this," Elrohir said, the expression on his face giving the exact opposite impression from the words he spoke, "but I told you so."

Elladan stood in the river, sodden as a rainy day, up to his thighs in cold water and muddy from the churned-up bottom of the Bruinen here below the great waterfall. The look he gave his twin would have stopped an Orc in full charge, or an Uruk-hai on its mating run; but Elrohir only burst out laughing.

"I told you they were not here!" he laughed, holding his gut and bending over in helpless loud amusement. "I told you Legolas would not be here, nor would Estel; I told you he's probably home having dinner, and I daresay that is right where we shall find him! Them! Whatever! The important thing is, I told you so!"

"Thank you for pointing that out," Elladan said, in a flat deadly tone that any enemy of Elrond would have recognized instantly. "Now will you help me out of here?"

"I told you so, and you did not heed me," Elrohir continued, pointing and chortling. "Now who is the fool?"

"Elrohir. Give me your hand and help me out. I'm past my ankles in muck."

"Thranduilion, gerin le si!" Elrohir exclaimed, doing a scathingly accurate imitation of his brother's tone and stance upon the previous morning. "You are such a prat!"

Elladan stared at him with the same patient calm an assassin might display while observing his intended target. "All right, I am a prat," he agreed, still in that Doom-laden Elrond voice. "I am a prat, and you were right. You gave me excellent counsel, and I heeded you not. Is there anything else you would like me to say?" His voice began to rise with considerable ire, and there was a dangerous glint in his grey eyes. "Or are you going to give me a hand out of this damned river?"

"Oh, all right, you needn't act like a baby," Elrohir chuckled, moving closer and extending a hand. "Here--let's get you out of there. I'll even let you have my cloak, since you have been so magnanimous as to recognize that I am right for a change."

He should have seen it coming, of course. In after hours, as he contemplated this night and its ramifications (though by now it was nearly dawn, so long had they been at this idiotic errand!), that one fact would be a ray of shining obviousness to Elrohir: he should have seen it coming. But until Elladan was seen (and felt) to be pulling back rather than attempting to use that brotherly hand to lever forward... until Elrohir actually looked into his sibling's eyes and realized the glint of danger was actually one of devilry, it never occurred to him that his cold, wet, muddy brother would wish to do anything other than get out of the river and head back to the House to get warm and dry and clean....

"AI!! Elladan!!!"

There followed a terrific splash; both twins ended up in the river then, one on his backside (Elladan) and the other face-down (Elrohir, something else he should have seen coming). Sputtering and cursing, Elrohir fought free of his brother's hold and tackled him in the water.

"You misbegotten son of an Orc's nightmare encounter with a Warg!" the younger twin raged. He reached down into the river and came up with a handful of mud, dark and rich and rocky; Elladan's eyes widened.


But it was too late. Elladan took the mud dead-centre to the face, up the nose and in his mouth. Spitting and furious, he ducked Elrohir into the water and gave him a personal introduction to the mud's locale of origin, first-hand (which is, of course, always the best and most empirical method of observation, after all...).

Because they were both already wet, and tired, and silly with weariness and hunger, the incident went on far, far longer than it needed to. By the time they both finally made it to the riverbank, they looked and smelled quite thoroughly dreadful; all they could do was laugh, which of course they did.

"And we wanted Estel to clean up!" Elladan hooted, laying back on the sward and roaring with laughter. Elrohir stretched out beside him, likewise laughing.

"At least there are no Naugrim here this time!" he exclaimed, which set them both off again. At length, sodden and mucky, they decided it truly was time to give up and head home to face whatever amusement Estel was likely to dole out upon them--and justly so, they agreed.

Breakfast was over for all but the household's most slugabed denizens by the time the sons of Elrond made it home that cool morning. As they approached the Last Homely House, they heard the bell that signalled all major events, the better to assist in regulating those who lived and visited there. The Twins stopped in their squishy wet tracks and stared at one another in dismay.

"Father's Council!" they exclaimed at almost exactly the same moment and in the same tone.

"That is the quarter-hour warning bell!" Elrohir elaborated in stunned horror. "We will never be ready in time!"

"And we certainly cannot attend looking like this!" Elladan complained, throwing down his sodden cloak and accoutrements. "Father would kill us, and rightly so!"

"Why yes," said an all-too-familiar voice above them from the entry stairs. The twins froze. "Yes, indeed I would...."

They turned, mirror-imaging each other, to stare sheepishly up at their lord father. Elrond of Imladris stood at the top of those stairs, flanked by Erestor and Glorfindel....



Heh heh heh....



perianneth = Hobbits
Naugrim = Sindarin for the race of Dwarves
nín mellon = my friend
nín Adar = my father
celair-heneb = brilliant-eyed (M-e equivalent of bright eyes...)
tithen muinthel = little sister
Thranduilion, gerin le si! = son of Thranduil, I have you now!

Author's Note:

I wish to profoundly apologize for the length of time it has taken me to update, nay to complete, this little tale of silliness and rampant Elvish insanity. Real Life™ hit me in a big way; the job I did at last find turned out to be one of Those Sorts of Jobs™ that so often crop up in the software and systems engineering world: VERY Busy and Needful of Attention. Then there were Real World commitments of time, and the end result was that I was at my desk by 6:30 in the morning, often getting home rather late, and then having to tend to Everything Else in Life before dropping into bed as heavily as the righteous dead at about 10 PM in order to start all over again.

But here at last is the Sixth and Final Chapter of The Scruff Factor, for which you have all waited so patiently since April... as always, many thanks to my fearless beta, al. More fic will be coming on the heels of this, including an update of "Dark Leaf" on the Other Site mentioned in my author bio, but please don't look for DL 16 until its birth is announced, for it will be long and dark and angsty, and is not quite finished yet.

Thanks for waiting; now please buckle yourselves into the restraining devices, and remember that the Elves in the overhead compartments can be used as flotation devices, should we have to forcibly make a landing over open water. Thank you for flying Gwaihir Airlines, and have a great trip! (grin)


Scruff Factor, Part the Sixth: The Return of the Prince



Earlier, in Rivendell....


Silinde of Mirkwood was not having a good morning. Oh, he considered himself as good a tracker as the next Elf--as long as the next Elf was not the finest of King Thranduil's foresters--but tracking Prince Legolas through a strange venue was not his idea of a good time. He had had good times--fine meals with excellent wines; a day of horseback riding on a fine mount through the loveliness of Greenwood the Great; hours spent in the company of his lover; you name it, he had had good times, and knew one when he experienced one.

This was not a good time. And Galdor was not making it any better.

Ever since the two of them had heard Elladan's outcry of Thranduilion, gerin le si! the previous evening, Silinde and Galdor had been roaming about Imladris--in the dark, mind you, never a happy idea when one has not the slightest idea of where, precisely, one might be going!--and had yet to discover hide nor hair of the Prince they had been sent to protect and keep out of trouble. King Thranduil had been specific--most nerve-wrackingly specific, in point of fact--that he would be rendering his advisors into the most unenviable and painful of physically impossible configurations should any harm befall the adorable bundle of innocence that was his youngest son.

Innocent my eye, Silinde thought darkly, turning to glare as Galdor came slipping down the riverbank behind him yet again, nearly toppling them both into the water. That Elfling is about as innocent as Thranduil was at that age, and we all know how innocent he was...

A sudden and terrible thought occurred to Silinde. Galdor was only able to avoid ploughing into his back by a swift and graceful turn at the last moment, when the other stopped dead in his tracks, staring off into the distance.

"What is it?" Galdor demanded. Silinde turned eyes filled with horror upon his compatriot.

"He did this to get back at us, you know," Silinde announced, poking Galdor in the chest with one long, pale finger. "For all those times when he got into trouble and we did not, because we were behaving and minding our keepers as Elflings ought--"

Galdor looked confused. "I beg your pardon," he murmured, stepping decorously away from Silinde just in case the Elf went entirely mad, right here in the middle of Imladris. "Who, he? I mean, of whom are we speaking? Who did what to get back at us?"

"Thranduil, of course," Silinde practically snarled. "He knows it is about as likely for Prince Legolas to stay out of trouble as it is for roosters to actually make Anor rise, which is to say, impossible and rather feathery to boot. He sent us here with instructions to keep his Elfling out of trouble to get back at us! It has to be so."

"Why?" Galdor demanded. "Because you say so? And anyway, Legolas is not an Elfling. He is nearly five hundred years old, well past his majority, and a fine young warrior in the bargain. Roosters simply do not enter into it. Not in the slightest."

Silinde looked at him as if he had just sprouted feathers out of his forehead. "This should be clear to the veriest dunce," he announced.

Galdor snorted. "Which would explain why it is clear to you," he shot back, and turned with great majesty to head back toward Elrond's house. Silinde had little recourse but to follow, grumbling all the way. They eventually found themselves outside the door to their Prince's guest chamber--from which, to their amazement, the sound of laughter and splashing could be heard issuing forth.

"He's been here all along?" Galdor exclaimed, stunned. Silinde shook his head decisively.

"Of course not. We checked right after dinner--"

"We missed dinner," Galdor was at some pains to point out, and with a great deal of asperity. "We have been wandering Imladris all night, 'doing our duty' as you said. And now we discover that the youngster was right here all along--now he's clearly having a bath with someone or other for company--"

They stared at one another in sudden shock, mutual antipathy disappearing precipitously in the face of what might be happening within. A passer-by would have been able to read it in their wide-open, stunned eyes: their young, unwed, impressionable Prince was in his bathing chamber with someone, splashing about and laughing! In Imladris, no less, under the roof of Elrond, a Noldor lord of great power and prosperity-- a Noldor, dear and blessed Valar, a Noldor, and everyone knew what sorts of things went on in Noldor households....

It did not occur to either of them to knock. As one they charged into the chamber; as one they stared in mounting dismay at the sight of clothing--male and female clothing at that!--flung every which way across the floor-- a bed that looked as if Orcs had been rampaging on it, with coverlets, sheets and pillows flung every which way-- and from within, out of the bath chamber, the sounds of infernal splashing, giggling, and male laughter.

"Prince Legolas? Your highness--are you all right?" Silinde shouted, in tones of great dismay and concern. Silence fell with a great whacking thud in the next room, closely followed by a smothered giggle, as if someone were covering their mouth. Moments later a rather significantly damp Legolas poked his disordered blond head around the doorpost. He stared with regal disdain at the two councilors.

"Can I help you?" he demanded, in singularly icy tones that would have done his father credit on a particularly bad day. Both Elves swallowed audibly; Galdor actually went so far as to bow, hand to heart, as deeply as he would have done had Thranduil himself been present.

"Your majesty--ahh, err, highness, I--umm--beg your pardon for the interruption," he murmured, scarcely daring to look up. "But we were concerned for your welfare, you see--"

"For what reason?"

Galdor blinked. Silinde swallowed again.

"For--what reason, your highness? I fear I do not understand--"

"For what reason," Legolas repeated, frostily enough that one might begin looking for ice crystals on the pleasant autumnal air, "were you concerned for my welfare?"

The two glanced sidelong at one another. "Uhh--well, we--did not see you at dinner," Silinde began, wincing as he remembered they had not been at dinner to be able to see him. Legolas clearly remembered as well, and narrowed his eyes at them.

"I am a guest in the House of Elrond," he informed them, stalking forth from the bathing chamber, clad only in leggings--damp ones at that--and looking nerve-wrackingly regal for all his dishabille. "I am here as a representative of my lord father and you somehow think my welfare would be under threat? I am shocked, do you hear me? Shocked and dismayed, that you two--of all Elves!--would think such a thing. You have known me all my life, my lords, and know I would never do anything that would call into question my father's honour. I demand your apology this instant!"

"But your highness!" Silinde protested. "I--that is to say, we--heard giggling in there!" And he leveled a slightly trembling hand toward the looming Portal to Perdition that was the bathing chamber. Legolas looked down his regal nose at them and laughed scornfully.

"Of course you heard giggling in there. It is a bathing chamber, and one frequently has cause to giggle in bathing chambers." He pointed toward the door through which they had just burst with such vigour. "Now get out of here and get dressed for the Council. We have barely two hours before it begins!"

They hesitated, staring at one another in astounded confusion. Legolas upped the ante, taking a deep breath and bringing forth an impressive Thranduil-like bellow:


Galvanized into action, Silinde and Galdor beat a hasty retreat, only just barely remembering to bow before disappearing into the corridor. The door slammed shut; Legolas stood there for a moment longer, staring angry-eyed at the offending space, then he huffed in piqued amusement and dusted his hands together.

"There. That's that!" he exclaimed, and went back into the bathing chamber.

Waiting for him, clinging to one another and smothering giggles and snorts, were Arwen and Aragorn. The would-be King of Gondor was garbed only in a towel, to which he clung for dear life; Arwen wore a simple house-gown, which clung to her in all the best ways, as it was quite entirely wet. The chamber itself told the rest of the story: a half-filled bathing pool bedecked with fast-fading bubbles, and much water that ought to have been in the pool was instead puddled all over the floor. Wet towels and washing cloths were all over the place in little sodden heaps, and just about everything that had been on a shelf or a windowsill was on the floor in varying stages of wholeness. Legolas leaned against the doorpost and raised an eyebrow at the chortling couple.

"I'm afraid I enjoyed that a bit too much," he confessed. "Channeling Ada is actually rather amusing!"

"And you do it so well!" Arwen informed him, dissolving once more into hilarity. She attempted to draw herself up to full height, but only partly succeeded; clinging to Aragorn's dripping arm, she said through snorted giggles, "One frequently has cause to giggle in bathing chambers!" Then she completely lost her dignity, collapsing to the floor in a sopping little heap of her own, laughing uproariously.

"Yes, what was that?" Aragorn insisted, laughing as he attempted to keep a hold on his towel and help Arwen up at the same time. He ended up on the floor beside her for his pains, and both of them dangled their feet into the cooling water of the pool. "How exactly does one come to frequently have cause to giggle in bathing chambers, Legolas?"

"When one has pulled off a masterful coup upon two friends who really ought to know better by now, of course," Legolas informed them equably, and ducked back out of the chamber for a pair of unsullied towels, miraculously still dry. He tossed one to each of them. "I speak of the Twins, of course, not of you two."

"Oh, of course," Arwen giggled, and buried her face in the towel, choking back torrents of amusement. "They're going to hunt you down like a dog after this!"

"Considering the job they've done hunting me down so far," Legolas scoffed, "it would be less than accurate of me to say I am trembling in my boots."

He turned to Aragorn with a sweeping bow. "Would your majesty care to come see the clothing we've picked out for you?" he asked deferentially, eyes glinting with devilry. He took a wet towel right in the face, but it was all part of the Plan: the better to lull Aragorn into a false sense of security, and thus have a greater chance of actually getting him cleaned up for the Council meeting. One entirely trashed bathing chamber and a single towel to the face was more than price enough to pay for such a thing!

"I wonder where they are now," Aragorn said, as he hauled himself up onto his feet and graciously assisted Arwen to rise as well. Legolas bowed them out of the chamber and followed at leisure, grinning.

"I daresay they'll show up eventually," he murmured. "Come now, sit down so I can give you a shave and trim your beard. We really do only have about two hours."

"But I shaved yesterday!" Aragorn complained, glancing aside from where Arwen was showing him the handsome clothes laid out on Legolas's bed. The prince gave him a look that would have made Sauron cringe; the Ranger-King of Gondor put up placating hands and backed away. "All right, all right--I'll shave again, just promise you won't kill me!"

"I promise nothing," Legolas said, and advanced on him with razor in hand.


Later, elsewhere in Rivendell....


Elrond of Imladris stared down at his filthy, sodden sons.

"Yes, indeed I believe I would kill you both, and that right cheerfully," Elrond growled. "Fifteen minutes until Council begins, and you two show up like this? What have you been up to? What is the meaning of this? Answer me!"

Twin looks of despair and frozen astonishment were instantly enshrined upon the matched faces of Elladan and Elrohir Elrondion as they gazed upward. They were shocked by the extent to which good fortune had deserted them, such that (of ALL beings!) they should come to be met in this less-than-enviable state by the triple threat of Elrond, Glorfindel, and Erestor. The trio on the stairs, for their part, gazed back in silence, waiting for a response to Elrond's testy commentary.

The silence protracted painfully. Elrond's annoyed calm remained as undisturbed as the imperturbable vault of heaven, whilst Erestor and Glorfindel surveyed the matched set of wreckage before them with varying degrees of amusement and patrician disgust. (Well, truth be told, the amusement was mostly on Glorfindel's part, whilst the disgust was Erestor's purview--but then, they had been honing those skills a great deal longer than the Twins had been alive.) The sound of dripping mud and mucky water only made things worse.

"Well?" Elrond asked at long last, in tones of deep parental sarcasm, also honed over an Age and more. "Any last excuses before I remit you to Mandos?"

"Well--uhh--nín hîr--"

"You see, Adar, we--"

"One at a time, if you please," Elrond cut in rather evenly. The Twins stared at him in dismay, then turned and stared at one another. Something passed between them, and they turned in unison to look upward at the trio, with perfectly matched expressions of bemused, ruptured innocence.

"It was Legolas, Ada," Elladan announced, aggrieved beyond bearing. His lower lip quivered slightly. "He caused this mess!" Elrohir nodded vehemently in agreement, scattering daubs of mud everywhere from the ends of his dark locks. Glorfindel snorted in disdain; behind Elrond, Erestor held out a hand to the golden-haired seneschal.

"Your forfeit, if you please," he murmured, deadpan and yet quite smug. Glorfindel sighed and handed over the required item, a pouch of softest deerskin gorgeously beaded and embroidered in muted colours highlighted by threads of gold and mithril. The Twins looked shocked and annoyed.

"You were wagering on us?" Elrohir demanded, eyes narrowing dangerously. "Why, pray tell? And to what end?"

"If I understand them aright," Elrond said, in a quiet, ironic drawl that clearly meant serious trouble, "they were wagering on whether you would admit your own fault in the nonsense that has been practiced in my halls these past several days--or whether you would attempt to shunt the blame onto some other person. I believe you can figure out the rest from there."

"Oh," Elrohir commented, and had the grace to blush. Elladan, on the other hand, was in no such mood of surrender; he braced his mud-bedecked feet and placed hands on hips, a brief expression of disgust crossing his face as his hands contacted soiled, soggy suede on both sides.

"Well--as far as I am concerned, it was the fault of Legolas," he exploded in righteous wrath. "From the moment he arrived here his only thought was to get poor Estel out of his clothes and into hot water--"

"Elladan," Elrohir exclaimed warningly, eyes widening as he realized just how such a declaration might be taken. But his elder Twin was, as they say, on a roll; stopping him now would have been about as easy as attempting to prevent empty wine barrels from sailing down the ramp toward the river in the undercroft of King Thranduil's caverns, and probably about as painful. With a sense of familiar foreboding, the younger brother stepped back a pace and paid out enough rope that Elladan might metaphorically hang himself.

"And why, pray tell, would Legolas wish to get Estel out of his clothes?" Elrond asked evenly, his luminous grey eyes narrowing in a way that had, from time to time over the centuries, made Orcs and Uruk-hai decide to slit their own throats and save themselves the trouble.

"Because Númenorean royalty have a scruff factor built into their genetics," Elladan huffed, unmindful of the looks of astonishment this announcement received, "and anyway, Estel almost never remembers there are more important things than snogging on the Bridge, and there are visitors here from Gondor, and he really ought to look as if he is royalty, even if he isn't acknowledging it, because it is just shameful the way he shows up everywhere unbathed and messy and unshaven and looking as if he slept with a cave troll!"

Elrond's mind had temporarily taken a quick trip sidewise down That Road at the concept of Estel and anyone snogging on the Bridge, especially given that, under the circumstances, the Lord of Imladris had a far too accurate idea of who the focus of that snogging might be. However, as he pondered these things and kept them in his suddenly rapidly-beating heart, Erestor and Glorfindel had not missed the remainder of the rant. Glorfindel was doubled over laughing, his fair face pink with the effort to breathe; Erestor looked as if he might like to commit some similar act, but was just too dignified to give in. Elrohir just covered his face with both soiled hands and shook his head from relative safety.

"Of the three sons of Elrond whom I have seen this day," the steward said with pardonable pique, "Estel is not the one I would have accused of sleeping with a cave troll. You two, on the other hand...."

Erestor did not need to finish the comment, nor did anyone else, for both Twins suddenly found the damp and soiled floor between their collective feet to be much easier to look upon. Glorfindel, on the other hand, was not planning on letting either Elf off quite so easily.

"Estel looks every inch the king he is and of a right ought to be," the seneschal hooted, taking in great gulps of breath to steady himself from the gales of amusement. "It is his brothers who look as if they not only slept with cave trolls, but possibly snogged them as well, in the mud somewhere near a river, where the ground is particularly mossy and pungent! Do you two realize there are barely ten minutes until your father's Council begins?"

"Where, one might add, the fate of Ennor will be discussed?" Erestor added, shaking his head sadly. "You cannot possibly think to show up there, looking as you do here!"

"No, they shall not," Elrond growled, and turned with a sweep of his handsome burgundy over-robe to head back inside and lead that self-same Council. "I want the two of you to go get into the bathtub this instant, and I do not wish to see either of you until you are far more presentable than you are at the moment. Is that clear? Do you understand me?"

Chastened, Elrohir nodded and murmured a shamefast "Yes, Adar." Elladan grumbled something under his breath. Elrond paused mid-step and turned, looking far more dangerous than either son had seen him look in quite some time. Their matched gulps were almost audible.

"Excuse me, Elladan? I did not quite catch that."

Elladan blushed crimson, staring at the ground. "It was unworthy of me, nín Adar," he muttered, in hopes he would not be called upon the repeat the comment. Elrond curved an annoyed eyebrow at him.

"And that unworthy comment was--?"

Elladan sighed. "I said, Legolas is a doe-eyed little Moriquendi git," he said, sounding distinctly put-upon. "And I said I'm going to get him for this."

"Legolas is barely any Moriquendi at all," Erestor sniffed. "His lord father is half Vanyar and half Sindar, and his mother--"

"Thank you, Erestor, that will do," Elrond said flatly.

"But Adar, you don't understand!" Elladan exclaimed, setting his feet right back into it, even as Elrohir simply gave up and headed toward the house, carefully choosing a way that would not have him encountering every summoned member of Elrond's Council as he went to clean up. "All we wanted was for Estel to clean up so he wouldn't look scruffy for your Council! Legolas got all odd and started talking about Plans, and you know how he can get, talking so that you can actually hear the capital letters in things--and then he maneuvered us into taking the fall for it, by getting us to mention his messiness--"

"Legolas's messiness?" Glorfindel exclaimed, as if such were a totally foreign concept (which of course it was). Elladan looked as if he wished he could explode on the spot.

"No, Estel's messiness! Really--Adar, if you had seen the look in his eyes, you would have known he wasn't sane--"

"I think I am miscalled," came a comment from off to one side, in tones of lilting pain and innocence. Elladan turned and leveled a finger at the speaker.

"You! You--you--"

"Doe-eyed Moriquendi git," finished Legolas Thranduilion, and came down the steps to stand next to Lord Elrond. His blue eyes, wide with astonishment, were all but brimming with embarrassment and pain--and a peculiarly devilish amusement, though he was careful to keep that well hidden from the imposing and annoyed Elf-Lord beside him. "Was that not the pejorative you pinned onto me? Elladan, I--I barely know what to think. You wound me, my friend, truly you do! I scarce know what to say."

Beside himself, Elladan stared at the Mirkwood Prince in open-mouthed, bemused astonishment. Legolas had clearly opted for the "Studly Wayfarer" look in preparation for the Council session, for he wore much the same outfit in which he had arrived the other day (though there was absolutely no doubt in Elladan's mind that said outfit had been cleaned within an inch of its life since then). The boots were immaculately brushed, and the leggings clung lovingly to every curve of Legolas's calves; the hem of his neatly tailored suede over-tunic peeked out from beneath the handsome cloak, shifting from a grayish-fawn to a curious overtone of silvery blue in the sunlight whenever the Prince moved. The hair of his head was immaculately combed and braided with the sidelock braids of a Mirkwood warrior, and the neat plait signifying his relationship to the House of Oropher hung down the back of his head in perfect order.

His face, of course, was the picture of wounded sweetness....

But what dropped Elladan's jaw in amazement was the vision of courtly, Manly regality standing beside him. From the top of his washed and combed hair (every strand perfectly in place, with a neat and comely curl just slightly threading throughout), to the immaculately trimmed beard, to the silken black velvet and mithril-embellished damask of his tunic, to the perfectly fitted leggings and the handsomely turned boots, Estel--no, Aragorn, son of Arathorn!--was turned out in a manner perfectly befitting a Human King of Gondor-in-exile, yet with a style and flair that bespoke his Elven heritage in a manner calculated toward understatement. The outfit had the marks of Legolas all over it, though Elladan suspected the Prince had gotten some of his ideas from a certain deeply prejudiced sister.

Aragorn, bless his heart, was completely guileless; one hand came up to the neck of the handsome tunic, and he stared at his brother in dismay. "Is something wrong?" he asked anxiously. "Do you not like this choice of attire? Legolas and Arwen both said--"

"Oh yes, I daresay they did," Elladan growled, casting a very Elrondesque look of 'later for you!' at the Mirkwood Prince. Driven snow could not possible have looked as untouched and innocent as Legolas appeared in that instant, and Elladan could have sworn he batted his dark lashes. "Nay, Estel, the outfit is perfect. You look--astonishingly well-groomed and every inch a masterful Man. My congratulations."

Aragorn glanced sidelong at Legolas and grinned. "Thank you, nín mellon," he murmured. "I could not have done it without you and Arwen."

"Oh, you probably could have done," Legolas murmured graciously. "But I was glad to assist. You are entirely welcome!"

Elrond crooked a finger at Prince and Ranger. "Come along, you two--we do not want to keep everyone else waiting," he said, in his best command tones. "Elladan--go clean up. Now." He swept regally past and disappeared into the House, heading for the place appointed for the Council meeting; Erestor and Glorfindel followed in his wake, the seneschal pausing to wink conspiratorially at Legolas as he passed. Elladan did not miss the interplay; he stalked up the stairs toward the Prince of Mirkwood, and death was in his eye. It complimented rather well the twigs and mud and dirt in his hair....

"You tricked me, Danwaith!" the elder Twin growled, leveling a finger at Legolas. The Prince gazed guilelessly at him.

"I never did anything of the sort, you cloth-eared idiot," Legolas scoffed with a grin. "I neither said nor did anything that I did not tell you straight out I would do. If you chose to not hear me, then how is that my fault?"

"Neither said nor did"-- Elladan looked as if he were ready to have some sort of stroke. "How--what--you cannot say that!"

"I just did," Legolas pointed out, smiling sweetly. Then he leaned in toward the elder Elf, challenge leaking from every pore of him. "Tell me one thing--just one!--that I said I would do, or said I would not do, then failed to keep my word."

"You said you had a Plan to neaten up Estel, so he would not be all scruffy for the Council!" Elladan accused.

"So I did," Legolas agreed cheerfully. He placed one hand on Aragorn's shoulder, and gestured expansively with the other. "And so I have done; just look at him! Is he not clean, neat, tidy even, and dressed every inch as one would expect a King to be? Is he not, then?"

The Ranger struck an heroic pose, one hand fisted on his hip, the other clutching at the hilt of his battle-tested sword. Elladan swore harshly in Khuzdûl, something he and others of his generation had happily copied from their elders as just exactly the right language in which one could curse and make every nuance of the annoyance understood (although Thranduil Oropherion had long since insisted his language of choice for such things was Rohirric, and if one swore fast enough and angrily enough in it, it was impressive...). There was no way around it: he had to admit Legolas had come through with flying colours in terms of Aragorn's appearance.

"Well--but--then what was all that nonsense about you having a Plan, and everything was going exactly as you wished it?" Elladan growled. Legolas was at some pains not to laugh in his face.

"Were you intellectually present at the conversation we all had after dinner last night?" he asked, chortling. "You even went so far as to ask me whose side I was on--do you recall what I replied?"

"I do," Aragorn said with a grin. Elladan scowled at him.

"I do not know," he snarled. "Something about--"

He paused, face blank, and stared at Legolas as if he were seeing him for the very first time ever, and had no idea what to make of the apparition before him. The terrace conversation replayed itself for several moments in his mind's ear; he was oblivious to the fact that Legolas and Aragorn both, eyes glittering with barely-checked amusement, were tracking the memories as they played out across their comrade's face....

"Silly boy," Legolas chuckled. "Little do you realize! Did you not mark how the assumption was all on you two? Not a smitch of suspicion rests on my golden head, thank you very much, and he himself gave me leave to pick his clothes."

A look came into those calculating blue eyes, then, and it occurred to Elrohir that Sauron himself might have access to such an expression when plotting something dire and terrible. "Nothing is suspected," said the youngest Prince of Mirkwood, staring off the way Aragorn had gone. "Everything is right on schedule."

"What in the name of the Valar have we unleashed here?" Elrohir asked, just a little nervously. Elladan gave a shrug of disdain, but his eyes were wary.

"I have an awful feeling I know precisely what we have unleashed," he replied, "and I think we will wait a long time in Mandos's Halls before we are forgiven for this. Legolas--I feel I needs must ask. What are you going to do to our brother?"

The son of Thranduil shortened his gaze back to the present time and place, and put on a look of unalloyed innocence. "Absolutely nothing," he said, and there showed nary a hint of dissembling that either of the Twins (past masters at dissembling if ever there were such a thing!) could see. "Why do you ask?"

"What are you going to do to our brother?" Elladan repeated, as if he walked in a dream.

"Absolutely nothing," Legolas said, giving him exactly the same response he had given at that time. "And absolutely nothing, at least in terms of what you were worried I might do, is precisely what I have done. I appealed to his better nature and got him to both bathe and shave twice in the same round of the sun; with Arwen's assistance I convinced him that he should dress like a Man and a King of Men but not overdo it, and not completely set aside his connection to the Firstborn."

The look on the younger Elf's face was pure, devilish smugness. "And the answer to my former question, nín mellon, is this: I am on my own side. Which I do believe I told you at the time, straight out and with no hint of dishonesty."

"And--the point of all this was--what?"

"To keep you and Elrohir out of Aragorn's hair--quite literally--until Arwen and I could repair his appearance," Legolas admitted without a second's hesitation. "And I think you must admit we succeeded rather admirably!"

Elladan raised his eyes to those of the Prince; one eyebrow curved up in ironic salute. "You misbegotten little Moriquendi git," he said, in tones approaching amused reverence.

"Excuse me, that was 'doe-eyed little Moriquendi git'," Aragorn pointed out, and placed a hand under Legolas's nearer elbow. "Come along then, Greenleaf; there is a world to be saved, and you and I need to be there."

Legolas grinned at him, and cast a glance back over one shoulder as they departed.



"You realize I fully expect you and Elrohir to retaliate, at some point," the Prince said, and had the temerity to wink at him.

Elladan fumed, but there was little help to be had for it: Legolas had gotten them fair and square (well, square at any rate, 'fair' was still a matter for discussion...) and there was no way out of it. He watched as Legolas and Aragorn disappeared back into the House; Elladan disconsolately shouldered his belongings and tromped after them, following Elrohir's muddy footprints toward the same aim of avoiding any councilors (especially the Naugrim!) along the way.

"Retaliate," he grumbled aloud to himself, blissfully unaware of the stares he was receiving from the servants as he passed. "I'll give him 'retaliate'--sweet-faced little Elfling that he is..."

But as he tromped, a nerve-wracking thought came to him: what if that was precisely what Legolas wanted to have happen? The Valar knew, he had more than proven over the last several days that he was as sneaky, tricky, and dangerous as ever his sire had been--if not moreso. What if Legolas wanted the Twins to retaliate because he had some further trap laid out for them, to further humiliate them? Suppose he had planned this all along, revenge for any of a number of small (but amusing) annoyances they had practiced on him over the centuries? Suppose--

"Suppose he has no such plan at all, but merely wants us to think he does!" Elladan exclaimed, slipping over to a balcony to glare down at the assemblage of Elrond's Council. He caught sight of Legolas, seated there as calm as you please a few chairs down from Mithrandir, smiling almost paternally at the handsome Ranger across the circle from him as the last latecomers arrived to take their places.

"Tricky little Wood-Elf," the elder Twin muttered, narrowing his eyes at the Mirkwood Prince. "You just wait until I figure out which way you'll jump with this--trap? No trap, just intellectual warfare? Just you wait--I'll figure it out! And then I'll have you right where I want you!"

Just at that moment, something said by young Baggins made Legolas laugh brightly, the pleasant sound carrying on the air as if in response to Elladan's expostulation. Growling and tracking mud, the son of Elrond disappeared into the connecting corridor and headed for his bedchamber for a change of clothes.

He slipped a hand into the pouch at his waist, in the attempt to see if any of his other belongings had suffered major damage. Fingers connected with something small and hard; Elladan drew forth the little mithril hair ornament shaped like a blue-eyed squirrel, and suddenly his lips curled into a grin. The beginnings of a Plan of his own were taking shape in his fertile imagination....

"Thranduilion, gerin le si!" Elladan murmured, this time careful to keep his voice down. "I'll get you yet...."



(Yes, there will be an epilogue. Who will win? Will the Twins get revenge, or will Legolas be already waiting for them around that corner when they turn it? Tune in soon and see...)


'Thranduilion, gerin le si!' = Son of Thranduil, I have you now! (A remark made in an earlier chapter, which Elladan has already had numerous occasions to regret...)
Adar = Father
Ada = Daddy
Danwaith= an old name for the Nandor Elves
Naugrim = Sindarin term for the Dwarves as a race

Scruff Factor, the Epilogue:


Elf Eye for the King Guy, or

A Squirrely Evening in Old Imladris

Later that same evening....

The Hall of Fire was not entirely a happy place on the evening following Lord Elrond's astonishing Council session.  Of course everyone was present--mostly because it seemed as if that were the proper thing to do, all things being considered as equal.  This made for a VERY crowded Hall, full of tense people of one race or another, all anxious over the upcoming Quest and those chosen to represent each group among the Free Peoples.  That was reason enough for Prince Legolas Thranduilion, Estel Aragorn Strider Thorongil Dúnadan “Hey You!” Elessar son of Arathorn, Arwen the Evenstar, and her erstwhile brothers Elladan and Elrohir Elrondion to make their way back out onto the fateful balcony where they had been the previous night, before a Great Many Things Had Happened.  Or something like that.

Legolas was in a perilously good mood, given that he had promised to go tromping about the wilds of Ennor with a motley band of adventurers--one of them bearing the infamous One Ring of Sauron, no less--and all without having said a thing to his august father.  He had absolutely no doubt Silinde and Galdor were sitting in their rooms at this very moment trying to figure out how to accomplish this task themselves without having said august Elven-king hand them their Elfhoods and attached dangly bits on mithril salvers.  But to Legolas's way of thinking it was a good couple of months before they were due to set out--more than time enough to find the right words to wheedle Ada.

Arwen Undómiel and Aragorn (etcetera) were in each other's company, and therefore were about as happy as two beings could possibly be.  The Twins, on the other hand, were doing an intricate dance of silent, smirking I told you sos and equally silent, scowling shut UP Elrohir!s, and so were not really very happy at all.  Legolas decided it was his duty to fix this.



"Are you still fuming over last night and this morning?" the Prince asked, affecting driven-snow innocence as only he could do. 

Elladan, his appearance dramatically mended from the disasters of earlier in the day, dipped his chin and gazed with calm disdain upon the younger Elf.  His expression clearly broadcast that it would amuse him greatly to dismember the son of Thranduil by slow degrees and re-assemble him backwards, just because he could, but that it would require WAY too much effort to do so.  Given that Elladan was once again meticulously garbed as a proper Elf-Lord, he did indeed look quite formidable.  He wore a handsome robe of several different weights and textures of silk, all in variants of Imladris blue.  A gorgeously embroidered cincture of black velvet was tucked about his trim waist, and was echoed in the sleeveless over-robe of midnight-blue velvet lined in sky blue, the whole decorated with exquisite burn-out work edged in mithril piping and probably worth the ransom of an entire Gondorian village.  With his carefully-groomed hair now restored to its shining, raven-wing-black perfection of braids, mithril beads and discreetly braided-in ribbons, he was almost a rival for Elrond himself.

"Fuming?  Heavens no, dear Legolas, I am doing nothing of the sort," he murmured, his voice flat and expressionless, clearly conveying the contents of his thoughts in a way nothing else could do.  Legolas raised both eyebrows and widened his blue eyes, blinking slowly with all the guile of a sweet little fawn in the forest.  Perched as he was on the wrought-iron railing of the balcony, knees drawn up, arms wrapped around those knees, and clad as he was, he looked easily half his age--a mere two hundred and fifty if he was an hour-- and Elladan was sure he was doing it on purpose.

The formal dining robe—a handsome confection of moss-green silk noile, backed with an ancient and incredibly tasteful wool challis woven in Silvan patterns older than Legolas's father by some years--had been shed upon departing from the hall, leaving the lithe youngster clad only in a full-cut shirt of softest silk the colour of fresh cream, with the most cunning little mithril hook-clasps the Royal Family's favourite craftsmaster could fashion.  It was cinched about his slender waist with a loose belt of beautifully carved leather dyed green to match the robe, with knotwork clearly based on Rohirric designs but with Elvish flair.  There was also a pair of emerald-coloured leggings that lovingly hugged every curve of the Prince's well-turned legs, and a pair of soft house-boots, suede of an earthy chocolate brown embroidered with Elven designs in gold and mithril threads, completed the ensemble.  But rather than looking every inch an emissary of his Elven-lord as he had at dinner, Legolas now gave the appearance of having escaped Thranduil's nursery.

"Do you honestly think that's going to work, Celair-Heneb?" Elladan asked now, leaning forward with arms crossed athwart his broad chest and addressing the adorable youngster with amused annoyance.  Legolas contrived somehow to look several degrees more harmless by the simple metric of tilting his head slightly, like a startled bird on a branch.

"Do I think what is going to work?"

"This."  Elladan waved an imperious hand at the whole of Legolas: attire, facial expression, posture and all.  "I mean really, just look at you!"

Legolas brought one slender, long-fingered hand up to the centre of his chest as if he were checking to make certain his garment was properly closed.  He glanced down at himself then back up at Elladan in some confusion.

"What?" he implored.  "Did I spill something on my shirt at dinner?  How very like you not to bother tellling me!"

Elrohir snickered; Arwen and Aragorn affected to ignore all of them, but their eyes were suspiciously bright as they glanced away.  Elladan scoffed.

"Give it up, Legolas, my sweet-faced little Danwaith," he growled with pleasant menace.  "We're on to you, Elrohir and me."

Legolas turned the full force of his innocent demeanor on Elrohir, who, to be fair, had hardly ever been able to resist such blandishments ever since Legolas was an abominably cute toddler in leading strings.  The younger twin put up both hands to ward off the attack, laughing cheerfully.

"Don't involve me in this," he begged.  "I gave up.  I've surrendered.  Name whatever forfeit you wish, Legolas--even if you want your silly little squirrel hair-clasp back, you can have it.  I've had done with trying to work around you--you're just too fast and too good."

"Squirrel--hair clasp?" Legolas repeated, and the hand on his chest moved swiftly up to the end of his kin-braid at the back of his head.  Finding something else there, the Prince's expression faded to one of astonished concern--then he narrowed his lovely blue eyes at Elladan.  "I would very much like to have that back," he purred in a dangerous tone. 

Elladan chuckled.  "I daresay you would, pen-tithen, I daresay you would!  But that is the price little Elflings must pay, who sneak out at night to bedevil their elders!" 

He held up the very object of their discussion between thumb and forefinger: Legolas's cunning little mithril squirrel hair clasp, sapphire chips for eyes, holding a miniscule bow and arrow in its forepaws.

"I have it right here, safe and sound," the elder Twin jeered happily.  "In order to retrieve it you will have to find it after I have hidden it."

"Oh, that's rotten," Arwen protested at last, glancing up from Aragorn's lap.  "Legolas's naneth had that made for his tenth begetting day--you know how much it means to him!  Give it back, you great sore-loser bully!"

Elladan gave a snort of disdain.  "I do not think so," he huffed.  "After what this doe-eyed Danwaith has put me through over the last two turns of the sun, I think it only fair that I get some of my own back again."

"Some of our own, you mean," Elrohir suggested.  His brother looked down his patrician nose at him and shook his head.

"I seem to recall that you have surrendered."


"You have no part in the vengeance," Elladan announced, pardonably ponderous.  Legolas turned a twinkling look of devilry on Aragorn and Arwen.

"He sounds like Feänor when he does that, does he not?  Yet he cannot even repeat his own words correctly."  His announcement was interrupted by a yank at the back of his shirt, and the sensation of being hauled off the railing to dangle some inches off the ground.  The Prince of the Greenwood uttered a slightly less than dignified "eeep!" and did not even bother to try turning to view his assailant.  "Elladan--put me down."

"What do you mean, I cannot even repeat my own words?" Elladan demanded, very close to his ear. 

Legolas laughed cheerfully.  "It's 'doe-eyed Moriquendi git', not 'doe-eyed Danwaith'," the younger Elf mocked.  "And in any case, the son of Elrond has not been born that can out-fox a son of Thranduil.  Learn that to your everlasting dismay and deal with it."

"Ai!  Elladan, you have got to let me in on this!" Elrohir exclaimed, coming around to bracket Legolas between himself and his twin until the Sindar looked a bit like the filling of a Noldor sandwich.  "You heard this insult!  We must have our vengeance upon him!"

"There will be no vengeance-taking in Adar's house with all these distinguished guests about the place," Arwen insisted, rising to place hands on hips.  "It would just not look well to the visitors if there were suddenly to be Elven blood spilled all over the place."

"Such faith you have in my ability to survive," Legolas retorted, squirming just enough that Elladan decided to let him down onto his own two feet again.

Arwen smirked.  "Who said I felt it would be your blood, pen-neth?"

"Oh, that's cruel," Aragorn murmured, but he snickered as he spoke.  Elladan lowered Legolas to the pavement; he was tall, but the Twins were slightly taller.  Bracketing him now, they gazed down at him with amused disdain.

“We will hide the clasp—in a perfectly safe place, you may rest assured!—and you will have to find it,” Elladan announced.  “Once you have done so, we will consider all axes buried, as the Dwarves might say.  No more pranks, no more tricks, no more hiding—and no more nonsense.  But we will endeavor to make certain Estel remains a neat and tidy King-In-Exile for the duration.  Agreed?”

“Duration?” Aragorn growled, coming to stand next to his beloved.  “Last I heard, we had no plans to depart much before Yule-day.”

All of the Elves—Arwen included—gazed at him in astonished pique.  Aragorn looked startled, realizing precisely how his words might have been taken.  He also realized that in a heartbeat he had created a united front among his Elven kindred—not necessarily a good thing, given the topic under discussion.  He held his hands out before himself and endeavoured to look placating.

“I do not wish to imply I would consider going two months without bathing,” he exclaimed soothingly, going to the heart of the matter as was his wont.  “In point of fact, I would like to remind you all that I am quite happy to bathe often when I am home!”

“Often?” Arwen repeated, quirking an eyebrow in a way that left no doubt in anyone’s mind whose daughter she was.  “You call once or twice a week often?”

Aragorn was not above a bit of subterfuge if it meant taking himself out of the immediate limelight.  He spread his hands to either side, palms up, and gave her his most earnest expression—a look he had perfected many years before when barely as high as Elladan’s left knee.

“This is not about bathing, my love,” he told her forthrightly.  “I will bathe as often as needs be.  This matter at hand, however, is about the honour of the House of Elrond.  I cannot stand by as our brothers wreak havoc on diplomatic matters between us and the Greenwood by running off with heirlooms.  In fact, I’m all for tackling them right this very second and restoring unto Legolas that which is his!”

He looked every inch as if he might just do that, too.  Elladan stepped back a pace, narrowing his eyes; Elrohir actually moved one hand to his hip, where a sword usually rested, and seemed surprised not to find the weapon present.  Blood might have been spilled that very moment, if by no other means than some foolish accident, had Legolas himself not spoken up.

“Nay, Estel, give over,” the prince murmured in a thoughtful tone, taking the measure of each Twin in turn with his eyes—eyes that suddenly seemed much older than they had been mere moments before.  “All is well, sidhe.  I will agree to this piece of folderol.”

“You will?” Elladan replied, turning on him like a cat after its own tail.  “Splendid!  I look forward to the chase!”

His brother, however, did not look quite so sanguine.  “Why?” he asked, putting out a hand to restrain Elladan, looking rather strongly at Legolas.  The prince stared back as if Elrohir had just that second turned bright blue.

“Come again?”

“It is a simple enough question even for a bratling Sindar babe,” Elrohir retorted with a grin, baring his teeth.  “Why do you agree to this task that you deem naught but folderol?  You are mighty quick to agree, it beseems.”

“Why are we suddenly speaking as if we were in some ancient tale of the Valar?” Legolas wondered, dipping his chin and gazing at the Twins with eyes gone half-lidded.  “If you absolutely must know, it is because I have no doubt in my entire being—in my ancestral memory even!—that I will best you both.  You have proven to be utterly clueless trackers, spending far too much time squabbling betwixt yourselves, ignoring every sign left to point the way—and getting yourselves completely besmirched and embarrassed in the bargain.”  As he spoke he moved closer to the two, so that by the time he delivered his final flick of the gauntlet Legolas was nearly chest-to-chest with both of the sons of Elrond.  “The Thranduilion has not been born who cannot elude you—we proved that much last night.  Now today we shall prove that you cannot hide my most prized possession adequately enough to prevent my finding it!  Why, I swear I should thank you for the opportunity.”

He gave a disdainful sniff that would have done his father proud and stared down his nose at the Twins.  “Besides,” he fired off, “we have also proven that Arwen and I have much better fashion sense than you.  So there.”

Elladan and Elrohir looked positively incensed.  They stared, first at Legolas then at one another, momentarily speechless.  Then the younger Twin found his voice.

“That was perhaps the cruelest salvo of all!” Elrohir growled.  “How could you!  You—you—Wood-Elf, you!  The day has not dawned, no, not in all the long history of the Elves, when a mere slip of a Sindar could claim supremacy over us in such a matter!”

“Rest assured this hair clasp will be so well hidden, it won’t be found until the end of the Age!” Elladan added, scowling darkly.  “Say namarië  to your little squirrel, Thranduilion!”

Together they tromped off in a perfect pet, matched expressions of thunderous annoyance on their handsome faces.  A long silence reigned in their wake.  Aragorn and Arwen looked surreptitiously at each other sidelong, wondering whether they ought to intervene—and if so, how… wondering if they should speak—and if so, to say… what?  They gazed anxiously at Legolas who stood there, arms limp at his sides, simply watching the Twins disappear back into the House.

The silence protracted.

Finally Arwen lost her patience.  Placing a cautious hand on Legolas’s silk-clad arm, she murmured, “Please, dear friend, say something!  Your silence is unnerving!”

Legolas turned slowly and looked at her unblinkingly for a very long moment.  Then one elegant dark eyebrow curved eloquently upward over his left eye and he gave a disobliging smile.

“That will be as nothing when compared to my actions for the rest of this night, fair one,” he said gently, though there was steel underlaying his tones.  “Believe me when I tell you that no one in Imladris will be able to credit what I am about to do.  Believe it.”

Then Legolas too stalked away, his strides long and silent, the very picture of purpose and focus.  Arwen stared, her mouth slightly open, watching him go—and was gratified to see a similar look of shock on Aragorn’s face.

“We must do something!” she exclaimed, wringing her fine hands in the fragile loveliness of her pendant sleeves.  “Three very angry, focused Elven warriors loose in my father’s realm?  We cannot just allow this to happen!”

“I agree,” Aragorn told her, taking her in his arms to give her comfort.  “I think at the very least we should alert Lord Elrond—and perhaps Glorfindel as well.  For it is certain the two of us cannot keep track of all three of them alone.  Come!  We haven’t a moment to lose—and all this chaos must be kept from the guests, for things are fraught enough without them thinking there is a rift in Elrond’s House!”

Hand in hand they hurried off the balcony, back into the Hall in search of assistance.  They did not see the wide, staring, startled eyes that watched their flight—nor did they see Gimli, son of Glóin, stride off in the opposite direction post-haste, eager to tell his father what he had seen and heard….


Elrond’s brow furrowed in concentration and just the slightest little hint of dismay.  The urge to rub the bridge of his nose had come back with a vengeance.

“Let me see if I have all the facts here,” he murmured, taking a deep, quiet, cleansing breath.  “The Twins somehow managed to get their hands on an heirloom belonging to Legolas—and they are going to hide it somewhere in my realm and make said Legolas go after it—for what?  Because they are upset over being unable to successfully ascertain that Legolas was in the House all night, not wandering all over Imladris as they were?”

“Basically,” Aragorn said, trying virtuously not to smirk.

“Exactly,” Arwen agreed, smirking quite openly and pleased that it should be so.  Erestor, standing behind and a little to the left of Elrond’s chair, had to pretend sudden and absorbing interest in the pattern of stars and little forest creatures painted onto the ceiling of the library, lest he break out in untoward amusement.  To the right, crouched beside the Lord’s chair, Glorfindel did not even bother to hide how vastly funny he was finding the whole matter.  Even Mithrandir, who was over by the exterior doors smoking thoughtfully on his pipe, seemed to have just the veriest little bit of a twinkle in his blue eyes.

For his part, Elrond was Officially Not Amused.

“I will put a stop to this at once,” he announced, and half-rose.  “I cannot have my sons and their dear friend slaughtering one another over a hair-clasp, no matter how well beloved.”

He seemed surprised to find Glorfindel’s hand on his arm, effectively holding him down into the chair.  Elrond lifted an eyebrow at the golden warrior.  “Yes?”

“No,” Glorfindel said gently, laughing as he shook his head.  “The situation has gone beyond that which can be simply settled by a command that it be so.”

“Oh,” Elrond said levelly, “I do not know about that!  I have stopped larger garboils than this one simply by saying ‘Enough!’  As you should well know!”

Glorfindel had the temerity to grin and nod.  He did indeed know, all too well—as did Erestor, who decorously shuddered at the very thought—though there was a perfectly visible twinkle in his eyes as well.  There was no one in Imladris, beyond a guest or three without cause to stay there for long, who had not at some point experienced Elrond’s unique, amazing ability.  He could shut down almost any kind of outburst, explosion or hysterical fit simply by raising his eyebrow—or, when the situation was especially loud and difficult, raising his voice to a conversational level and saying “Stop that this instant.”  Glorfindel was ready, in fact, to swear he had seen four Uruk-hai and three Mordor archer Orcs do precisely that at Dagorlad—and Elrond had not even been speaking directly to them.

He had in fact been speaking to Thranduil… but that is a story for another day.

“But it cannot be so in this case, my dear lord,” the Balrog Slayer said now, rising to his full height to punctuate his pronouncement.  Elrond’s eyebrow climbed a tad higher.

“And why, pray tell, would that be so?” he inquired.  Glorfindel raised an eyebrow of his own, careful to do so on the opposite side from Elrond’s, lest the room be out of balance somehow.

“Because it will solve nothing,” he murmured, and almost—almost!—snickered.  “Like plastering a bandage and much padding over an infected wound, it would simply allow the situation to fester until such time as none of us—by which I mean elders, you, my lord, and Erestor and myself—are around to smack the combatants in the head to make them desist.  I think we have learned, if nothing else over the centuries, that neither your sons nor Legolas will allow blood to be shed anywhere that the others can see—and they are all so proud, it is unlikely any horrific screams of pain or anger will be uttered anywhere that someone else might hear.”

“Ah—so you think they will be quieter because there are guests?” Elrond asked archly.

Glorfindel shrugged elegantly.  “We can hope,” he suggested.

Elrond actually snorted.  “I might also hope that Curunír will suddenly dance around the corner dressed as a rabbit, distributing flowers and candy to deserving Elflings,” he retorted scathingly, “but I somehow very much doubt there is any likelihood of that occurring!”

He glanced about at the various expressions of shocked astonishment that met this particular visual, and snorted again.  “I think we can assume the nonsense will become fairly loud, based on a single phrase heard last night.  Let me see now, how did that go?  Ah yes: 'Thranduilion, gerin le si!' That was it!”

There was no arguing with him on that point, so no one even attempted to do so.  Arwen giggled behind her hand, turning to examine a nonexistent snag in the shoulder of Aragorn’s tunic, and the Ranger had a sudden need to cough.  But Glorfindel soldiered on, as was his wont.

“I still think it is best we let them work this out,” he said pointedly.  “Legolas will, I have no doubt, find his squirrel—and hopefully he will not injure the Twins too badly.”

“You assume my sons will not be in position to injure him, I see,” Elrond replied pointedly.  Glorfindel did not even so much as wince; he merely nodded.

“I happen to know you did not choose Legolas to accompany the Ringbearer because he would improve the scenery all around him—though I know he will,” the warrior finished sharply, grinning at both Mithrandir and Aragorn.  “I have eyes in my head and have been happily using them since that child came of age, believe me.  But I have also watched him fight and shoot—and I know the son of Thranduil is one extremely dangerous Elf!”

“You have also watched the Twins,” Aragorn reminded him.  “And presumably myself as well!”

“Oh yes, indeed I have,” Glorfindel agreed.  “And I know what sets off each and every one of you.  So I repeat: Legolas will find the squirrel.  All will be well.”

“How, precisely, do you know this thing?” Elrond demanded.  Glorfindel’s grin widened.

“Because, my lord—sometimes, a squirrel is just a squirrel!”

“And some people have squirrels in their brains,” Erestor noted helpfully from behind the chair, as he examined his cuticles and kept his thoughts mostly to himself.  Elrond uttered a light sigh.

“Very well—let it play out as it will,” he murmured, almost sounding put-upon.  “Eru knows, everything else around here seems to do so, frequently and with startling regularity!  But I will most emphatically not condone anything that leads to bandages and stitches, do you all understand me?”

There was a ragged chorus of “Yes, my lord!” and “Perfectly!” and “oh of course, Ada!”  Elrond gave a harrumph that reminded Erestor of Gil-galad.

“Does anyone know where the Twins are, just now?”

“No, my lord.”

“Unfortunately not, Ada!”

“Umm… no.”

“I see.”  Elrond’s eyes narrowed.  “I take it that likewise, there is no one capable of uttering the phrase 'Thranduilion, gerin le si!' with any sort of accuracy either?”

“No, my lord.”

“Err… afraid not, Ada.”

“Umm… no.”

“Splendid.”  Elrond exchanged glances with Mithrandir, who raised his grey-clad shoulders in a shrug.  “Well then!  Glorfindel—you go find the Twins.  Just—keep an eye on them, if you please.”

“Right, my lord!”  Glorfindel bowed and headed out of the chamber.  Elrond turned to Aragorn and Arwen. 

“You two—find Legolas.  I do not care what it takes, but I want him kept as far distant as practical from your brothers.  Is that clear?”

“As crystal,” Aragorn said, hurrying out with Arwen in tow.

“What about me?” Erestor asked, not entirely without trepidation.  Elrond scowled and bared his teeth.

“I want you to find Silinde and Galdor—and make absolutely, completely, utterly certain they do not catch wind, not the tiniest breath of a hint, of anything that is happening concerning their princeling.”  Elrond rose up from his chair, stalking like a panther.  Erestor, who was no slouch as either a diplomat or a warrior, nevertheless stepped back a pace.  Then he stepped back another, just in case.  “I do not care if you have to lock yourself in the pantry with them and coat them in flour and herbs—just make certain they do not know where Legolas is, what is going on, or that anything even remotely like an heirloom is involved.  Is that clear?”

Erestor closed his eyes and shook his head, trying to get rid of several unpleasant visuals all at the same time.  “I hear and obey, my lord.  But by the Valar—you’ll owe me for this one!”

“Yes, yes, whatever,” Elrond said,  all but pushing his friend and advisor out the door.  He shut the portal firmly behind Erestor; leaning on that door, the Lord of Imladris stared at Mithrandir. 

Mithrandir stared back.

Then they both burst out laughing—and Mithrandir poured the drinks.


The rest of the evening was nothing short of quietly, decorously chaotic, as people attempted to do Elrond’s will and keep track of the three younger Elven Lords, lest they bring one another to some kind of harm with various forms of mayhem.  Glorfindel saw where the mithril squirrel was secreted but kept his own counsel for the sake of the game; he knew that, if the unlikely happened and Legolas could not actually locate his heirloom, he himself could easily go back and fetch it to keep peace between the two realms.  He also saw the Twins climb a tree nearby and settle in to wait, hoping to see a certain princely archer running madly about in search of his precious hair clasp.  Arwen and Aragorn spent several fruitless hours trying to actually locate Legolas himself—but they spent the time to good effect.  Arwen learned even more about tracking from her beloved Ranger—a skill that never went to waste in these dark and dangerous times—and of course, with few others about as the wine and song still flowed in the Hall of Fire, there were many opportunities for the odd snog or clutch behind some friendly tree.  All in all, it was a lovely winter’s evening for a stroll through Imladris.

Elrond and Mithrandir rejoined their guests and compatriots in the Hall, enjoying the peace of the evening.  Lindir was in superb voice, and his staff of musicians and bards were at the peak of their art.  Someone would occasionally ask where the Prince of Mirkwood might be, as he was reputed to have a lovely singing voice as well, and curiously enough it was Glóin of Erebor who asked archly where the Twins might be, as surely the sons of the House were accustomed to helping entertain guests….  But Elrond deterred all discussion with cleverly worded comments (or occasionally the lack thereof!) and so the evening passed.

Along about dawn, with nearly everyone gone to bed except Mithrandir and Elrond, the Hall became a very quiet place indeed.  Lost in their thoughts, the two—Maia and Lore-Master/Ringbearer—gazed silently into the dying fire and enjoyed the companionable lack of fuss, the pervading, lovely peace of Imladris.  The sounds of the Bruinen, rocketing past its banks in riverly fury through the Vale, was distant and curiously lulling.  The several waterfalls within sound of the House did their part to send all thoughts of worry or chaos far away, as well.  A gentle breeze combed through the treetops, and as Minuial approached various birds awakened to greet the return of the sun with bursts of song and twitters of busy-ness.

A door opened down at the other end of the Hall; both looked up to see who had joined them in the pre-dawn hour.  For the first time in a very, very long time, both Mithrandir and Elrond stared, mouths agape, as the literal last person they might have expected came through that door—dressed utterly unlike what they would have speculated upon, had it occurred to them so to speculate.

“Good morning, my lord—Mithrandir,” Legolas said, yawning expansively into his words and begging their pardon.  He snagged an apple from a bowl on the table as he passed and shined its smooth skin on the lapel of his robe.  He looked as if he had just risen from a soothing night’s sleep.

“Legolas?” Elrond murmured, somewhat beyond shocked.

The prince curled up on the settee nearby and gazed at him with sleepy cheer.  “My lord?”

Elrond’s eyebrow obediently fell into its expected routine.  “Did you—umm—have a pleasant rest last night?” the Lord asked, struggling for words.  “We did not see you in the Hall.”

“No, I fear not—and I apologize,” the youngster replied, blushing becomingly.  “I had other things on my mind last night.”  At Mithrandir’s muttered “I can just imagine!” the prince was at some pains to seem puzzled.  “I beg your pardon, Mithrandir?”

The wizard stared at him.  Then for good measure, he stared at Elrond.  Then he looked back at Legolas.  “Where are the Twins?” he demanded, as usual changing the subject—but not really.

Legolas contrived to look taken aback.  “I’m quite sure I haven’t the faintest notion,” he replied.  “Is this a riddle?  What happens if I guess correctly?  I love riddles!”

Mithrandir’s own bushy eyebrows climbed high on his noble forehead.  “You—do not know where Elladan and Elrohir can be?”

“No.”  Legolas tilted his head slightly to the right.  “Should I?”

“We were under the impression they were looking for you,” Elrond supplied helpfully from his chair.  He was a tad disconcerted when Legolas only laughed.

“Oh no, my lord—that was the night before last!” he chuckled, and bit into his apple.  “They did not manage to find me, of course, but never you mind.  It all turned out for the best.”  He smiled dazzlingly.  “They do clean up nicely, do they not?”

“Why yes,” Elrond agreed, unable to think of anything else clever to say.  “As does Estel.”

“Yes, indeed he does.”  Legolas showed his dimples to devastating effect.  “So—why would I be looking for them tonight?  Today,” he amended, glancing toward the east and the growing light of dawn.  “Are they lost?  How curious—they live here, yes?”

“Thranduilion, stop that,” Mithrandir growled, not quite as effectively as the Voice of Elrond, but quite strongly for all that.  “We know what happened last evening—we know about the hair clasp your naneth gave you, and we know about the Twins hiding it.  Indeed, we know about all of it.  You were supposed to go looking for the thing last night!”  A sudden thought struck him and he slapped his knee in high good humour.  “You found it, didn’t you!  By Eru, I knew you would!  And left the Twins out there somewhere, I’ll wager, thinking any second they’ll see you go by in a dither because you’d lost your heirloom!  You young devil!”

Legolas listened in silence, then allowed a very Thranduil-like lopsided smirk to touch his lips.  “Are you quite finished?” he asked with ironic politesse.

“But—but—“ Mithrandir fumbled.  Elrond leaned out of his chair, suddenly inspired to ask:

“Legolas.  Where have you been all night?”

The prince looked down at his comfortable robe, the soft linen of his nightshirt, the tips of his house slippers peeking out from under his thighs as he sat there curled up on the settee.  For half a moment he considered saying, heavy on the sarcasm, why, I’ve been wading in the Dead Marshes my lord, isn’t it obvious??  But he had not gotten to be nearly five hundred years old by smarting off to lords of Elrond’s stature, so he settled for a rather pointed look at his attire and a quiet, politely voiced response:  “I retired early, my lord, and read a book about Lothlórien.  Then I slept quite peacefully until about half an hour ago—when my empty stomach drove me forth to forage for breakfast.  Why do you ask?”

“Blessed Elbereth,” Mithrandir murmured, and began to chuckle.  Elrond actually allowed himself to smile.

“I see,” he said, and suddenly, he quite clearly did.  “Do my sons know this?”

“I could not say, my lord,” Legolas replied with gentle courtesy, the brilliant blue of his eyes glittering with amusement.  “Nor could I say if Aragorn and the lovely Arwen know.  But it was a delightful book, and a very comfortable bed—for both of which you have my complete thanks!”

The two elders might have said more, but at that moment the door came open again—far more precipitously and noisily.  Erestor exploded into the chamber; behind him were Silinde and Galdor.  None of them were dressed fetchingly in their sleeping clothes, and apparently none of them wanted an apple—though Elrond was a good host and did ask.  Erestor, looking extremely harried and utterly unamused, waved his arms about and exclaimed:

“Someone must find Legolas this instant!  I weary unto the utmost of dealing with these pernicious Sindar!”

The two pernicious Sindar in question—for it was indeed of Silinde and Galdor that Erestor spoke—gave him pretty evenly matched stares of complete acrimony.

“You have your nerve!” Silinde growled, fists balled up at his sides.  “You knew all night that our poor young prince was in the hands of those rough-housing boys—“

“Rough-housing!” Erestor bellowed.  “The very idea!  My young lords do NOT rough-house!  There are not two more polite, well-spoken young Elves in all Ennor!  There are mothers and fathers lining up all over the place to ask for their hands in marriage for their daughters!  There is nothing you can say to convince me that Elladan and Elrohir are not absolutely without fault!  There is—LEGOLAS??“

He paused at Elrond’s disbelieving exclamation of “What are you on about?” and glanced that way—when his gaze fell on the lovely sight of a certain person on the settee.  The Certain Person raised a hand and waggled his fingers in a gesture of hello.

“’Morning, Master Erestor,” the Prince said disingenuously.  “How are you this day?”

“I’m f-f-flabbergasted!” Erestor retorted, unable to make his mouth say ‘fine’ when he so clearly was not.  “Legolas—pardon my asking, but what are you doing here?”

“Eating an apple?” the princely archer asked, affecting that innocent look, even as his eyes practically watered with the effort not to laugh.  “Chatting with my host, and with Mithrandir?”

“Your highness!” Galdor exclaimed, as he and Silinde stared.  “What—“

“Do not ask me what am I doing here,” Legolas shot back, going from merry to Thranduilion all in one fell swoop without stopping for the roundabout.  “We have been over that already.  What in Eru’s blessed name is this all about??”

As if drawn by the very question, there came a sound of several voices from the corridor—Arwen’s dulcet tones, the cool purr of Aragorn; Glorfindel, voice raised (somewhat curiously) in song; the Twins, laughing angrily and sounding somewhat snappish, like bears who have missed their winter’s nap—and one Dwarven voice, if not more.  Legolas bit his lip and smirked, sitting up decorously to arrange his robe more neatly about his person; arrayed there on the settee, his straight back and golden hair making him appear every inch a royal personage, he looked entirely ready to happily take on the world.  Elrond almost laughed, having figured out what was afoot—but he was more than willing to let the masque play itself out for his amusement.

“Come in, all of you—is it not a lovely morning?” he called.  Silence fell with a thud in the hallway; then everyone began to speak at the same time, and they all attempted to come through the doorway in the same fashion.  Glóin and his son Gimli, being shorter, slipped under the elbows of taller beings and made it through first—only to approach Elrond somewhat hurriedly.

“You must allow my son to speak, Elrond!” Glóin exclaimed, shoving Gimli forward.  “He has heard something you needs must know—or there will be bloodshed in your halls this morning!”

Gimli just looked horribly embarrassed and harrumphed a great deal.  The Twins boiled into the room right after the Dwarves, claiming right of way by dint of knowing the room so well; Glorfindel was right behind them, snickering indecorously.  Arwen and Aragorn came last, hand in hand and smiling way too much.

Just as Gimli found his voice to begin telling Elrond what he had chanced—completely accidentally, of course!—to overhear, the Twins both began talking at once.  Silinde tried to shush them, Galdor tried to shush him, and Erestor commenced to tell anyone willing to listen that he was tired of these shenanigans.  Legolas smothered a laugh and re-arranged his face to look innocent—but it was too late.  Dwarves, Twins and Balrog Slayer, they had all caught sight of him—Arwen and Aragorn had too, but they did not seem either surprised or annoyed.

“What is he doing here?” Elladan demanded, pointing.  Elrond slapped his hand lightly.

“Do not point.  It is rude.”

“But—Legolas is here, Adar!” Elrohir exclaimed. 

“I was aware of that,” Elrond replied with withering calm.  “But thank you.  You know how I depend on you and your brother to be my eyes and ears in the realm.”

“Would someone please  tell me what is going on?” Erestor shouted over all the noise.  “If I recall, we were most explicitly told that there was all sorts of badness about to happen!  Yet here sits Legolas in his night-clothes, and everyone else is in an uproar!”

“Well—not exactly everyone,” Mithrandir muttered good-naturedly, winking at Legolas.  The prince blushed becomingly and looked away, grinning.

“Look, you lot,” Gimli suddenly expostulated, unnerved by the noise.  “It was entirely unintentional, but I happened to hear that one there—“ he leveled a finger at the Prince of Mirkwood—“tell the Lady, here, that he was going to shed blood because someone had taken his little trinket.  Not, of course, that there isn’t a history of that sort of thing where he comes from!”

“No, you look, Naugrim,” Silinde snarled, waving an annoyed finger under Gimli’s nose.  “I won’t go over this with you again!  We have all decided there will be no mention of the past in terms of Dwarf-Elf relations during this Council, now haven’t we?”

“Stop it!” Legolas bellowed, sounding so entirely like his father that both of Thranduil’s watch-dogs dropped to their knees and bowed their heads.  “We will not be solving any of that here and now, so let us not even get into it.  Galdor—Silinde—do get up off the floor.”

As they did so, their faces red, Legolas rose up, stalked past them and glared down at the younger Dwarf.  “What I actually said, Master Dwarf, was that no one in Imladris will be able to credit what I was about to do.  It would appear that I was eminently successful in that regard!”  He smiled at the couple in the corner.  “Lady Arwen mentioned blood—but did so quite facetiously.  Anything else, I suspect, became a miscommunication because of other factors.”

He turned regally to give those other factors a hard look, but a grin lurked in his expression—making Factor Number One scowl and Factor Number Two sigh, lifting shoulders in a shrug.

“I believe I told you this would happen,” Elrohir said wearily, almost chuckling.  “I knew he was too quick to agree to the search!”

“Let us not start that again,” Elladan growled, and turned on Legolas.  The prince stood his ground, allowing the elder Twin to come almost nose to nose with him.  Then Legolas snickered.

“We’ve been here before,” he said, and snickered again. 

“That is neither here nor there,” Elladan retorted, not even looking at Elrohir as he reached to unerringly cuff him in the shoulder, eliciting a muffled ‘Heia!’ from the younger Twin, who had indeed—as always—been looking ‘here’ and ‘there’ in mime behind Elladan.  “You were supposed to retrieve your hair clasp, Danwaith.  You said you agreed to do it.  What do you have to say for yourself?”

“Why—nothing, beyond that I have done as I said I would do,” Legolas replied virtuously.  “I am, after all, an Elf of my word!”

“What??” Elrohir exclaimed, just as surprised as his brother.  Even Arwen and Aragorn stopped smiling at one another to come closer, the better to comprehend this strange utterance.  “But—we never saw you!  You couldn’t have done!  We watched and waited—“

Legolas turned slowly and looked at him, at first blankly, then with dawning merriment.  “You sat up that tree all night?” he asked—and burst out laughing.  “Ai!  I would have given much to see that!  The two loveliest ravens nesting in all Imladris, I swear!”

“But you never came!” Elladan shouted, waving his arms about in unwitting imitation of Erestor’s motions a short while before.  “That’s the whole point—you did not retrieve your hair clasp!  How then are you an Elf of your word?”

In response, Legolas reached into the pocket of his robe and drew forth something small.  Deftly, he reached behind his own head and swiftly braided his golden hair; then he closed the braid with that something, and turned about to show it off.  It glittered in the dawn light: Mithril with little winking chips of sapphire.  Without a doubt it was the squirrel hair clasp.

That is how I am an Elf of my word,” he said, pardonably smug as he grinned over one shoulder at the Twins and the rest of the startled company (save for Elrond, Glorfindel and Mithrandir, who of course—as always—had figured it out first).

“How—what—when—“ Aragorn sputtered.  But it was Glóin who suddenly brayed with laughter and slapped his thighs.

“You young devil!” the Dwarf-lord exclaimed, delighted.  Legolas bowed deeply, which made Glóin laugh even harder.  “What a good trick!  Most excellent!”  Glóin turned and smirked at the still-bemused among them.  “There were two clasps!” he announced, spreading his arms out to either side.  “I daresay that he did retrieve his clasp—from his pack or his chamber, it matters not which!  You lot never specified—and if you’d bothered to ask us, we could have told you never to put anything past a Mirkwood Elf!”

Legolas’s nostrils flared and his smile was not quite genuine; he very much disliked hearing his home mis-named so, regardless of its current condition.  But he was more than happy to allow the old Dwarf his moment; the gaping mouths of the Twins made it all worth it.

“Indeed,” he said instead, and smiled more normally at Elladan and Elrohir.  “You did not specify which clasp; the one you hid is a fair copy, this in my braid is the original.  I never part with it, either by accident or design.  It is precious to me!”

“Then it was a trick!” Elladan snarled. 

Elrohir, too tired to be angry, started to chuckle and could not stop.  “How many do you own?” he asked through his laughter.   “Copies, I mean?”

Legolas smirked.  “Several.  Let’s leave it at that.”

“But—how did the Twins get the copy, then?” Erestor asked, confused.  Legolas started to laugh, his mood infected by Elrohir’s.

“Well—it was a ruse from the other night, Master Erestor,” he sputtered through his amusement.  “I left it where they found it, because it very nearly did slip out of my hair when I passed by in my effort to mislead them so Aragorn and Arwen could have a little peaceful time together.  It seemed the sort of accidental thing that a tracker might find, were he fortunate.  Knowing as they do how I prize my dear naneth’s  gift, they could never have guessed it was not the genuine clasp—and so it seemed the perfect thing to make them think they were still on my trail!”

“I will get you back for this, Thranduilion, you just wait and see,” Elladan growled, starting back toward him across the short distance until Elrohir seized him and hauled him toward the door.  “I do not know how, or when, or where—but watch your back, Danwaith!  Ai!!”

“’Night, Adar—‘night, everyone!” Elrohir called, laughing as he dragged his brother away.  “Face it, Elladan—he’s bested us!  Twice in the same week to boot!”

“Just remember what we decided last night!” Legolas called after them.  “All axes buried, no more shenanigans, and we endeavor to make certain Estel remains neat and tidy for the duration!”

Aragorn blushed crimson, for there were several more people in the room now than had been in on that particular portion of the discussion last evening.  Glorfindel hooted with laughter, nearly doubling over.

“It isn’t your fault, Estel,” he exclaimed.  “After all, even Elladan knows you have a genetic scruff factor that gives mess an advantage!”

Aragorn shuffled his feet and stared at the floor, avoiding everyone’s eyes.  Outside of the chamber, Elladan’s tone was clear, even if his words faded into the tapestries along the corridor as they disappeared toward their bedchambers; clearly this was not yet over for the eldest of Elrond’s sons.  Legolas chuckled, shaking his head; Gimli eyed him in silence, then harrumphed.

“Yes, Master Dwarf?”

“Well—it was a good trick,” Gimli admitted somewhat grumpily.  He had been taken in by it all himself, and was rather at some pains not to have that fact come to light; Elven eyes glittered at him from all sides, but he chose to believe they had all been headed off.  “If those two come along when we head to Mordor, mayhap I shall have to assist in watching your back!”

“No one watches my prince’s back-end,” Galdor growled.  Everyone turned and stared at him; Galdor blushed.  “That—did not come out as intended,” he admitted, and stared at the floor.  Arwen came, laughing heartily, and kissed Legolas on the cheek.

“I’ll watch his back-end any time I want to,” she announced, and pressed his wrist.  “Nicely played, dear friend—but believe me when I tell you, they will be out for vengeance for this!  The other day was bad enough.  You know they hate to be tricked—and you got them SO well!”

“I’ll be careful,” Legolas promised, and kissed her forehead.  “You and Estel had better get some sleep now—if you were up all night too!”

“We were,” Aragorn admitted, clasping forearms with Legolas before moving to lead Arwen back to her chambers.  “Way past time for bed now, though!”

“Separately,” Erestor said warningly, to save Elrond from having to say it. 

The Ranger looked virtuous and innocent—and pulled both off nearly as well as Legolas.  “Well—of course separately!” he replied, as if anything else was utterly absurd.  They both bowed to Elrond—and then they too were gone.

Silinde and Galdor made their excuses and likewise disappeared; the Dwarves were next, laughing and murmuring to themselves in Khuzdul as they turned the corner out of the Hall.  Erestor was not far behind, though he pointedly went in the very opposite direction lest he have to spend the smallest iota of time longer in their company.  Elrond raised an eyebrow and made a mental note to ask how the evening had gone, later on when Erestor had put some distance between himself and the experience.

That left Legolas, Mithrandir, Elrond and Glorfindel.  The warrior lord of Gondolin was shaking his head and grinning at their princely guest; Legolas raised his shoulders in a shrug and smiled, then bowed to his host.

“I shall venture to the kitchens for a good, substantial breakfast,” he said, “for I shall have to spend my day with my father’s advisors—they still have not figured out how to inform King Thranduil of my joining the Fellowship.”

“It will require some diplomacy, no doubt,” Elrond said wryly. 

Legolas laughed.  “That would be one word for it!” he agreed.  Then, bidding them all a good day, the prince wandered off in search of sustenance.  Mithrandir sucked on his unlit pipe and gazed contemplatively at Glorfindel.

“What amuses you then, my friend?” he asked. 

Glorfindel laughed merrily.  “Oh, I was just thinking,” he told them, “how all this began when it was decided Estel must look kingly—but not too much so, and clean, though not burdensomely so, and sufficiently Elvish in attire as to speak to his alliance with this House, but not so unlike a Man that he would unwittingly annoy the Humans from Gondor.  What a business!  How very Elvish of the young ones, to draw it out into such a pother!”

“Sometimes,” Elrond said, winking at Mithrandir, “a Ranger is just a Ranger—and a squirrel is just a squirrel!”

Amid their laughter, Mithrandir said, “Right!  Who’s on for breakfast, then!”

It was, all things considered, a very fine start to a lovely winter’s day.

The End

Author’s Note:

Well!  Finished at last…. I do apologize for how long it took!  The chapter title of "Elf Eye for the King Guy" is courtesy of Jamie, father of those two fine young writers, Kingmaker and Nevalkarion.  The mention of Legolas as the filling in a Noldor sandwich is dedicated to the estimable Ithilien, who was the first to use the term.  And yes… for those of you who sense a sequel, there will indeed be a Return of the Scruff.  It will take place during the festivities surrounding a Certain Coronation and Wedding in a Certain Human Kingdom Not Very Far Away… but it won’t be started until way later this year, as “Dark Leaf” and some other promised projects come first in the great List of Intended Fics.  Thanks for all your patience, and I hope to hear from you all in Reviews!!  Oh look, is that a review link down there??  *grin*  So long ‘til next time….


celair-heneb= basically “bright-eyes”, an epithet levelled at Legolas

Danwaith= an old name for the Nandor Elves

pen-tithen= little one

naneth= Mother

adar = Father

Ada = Daddy

pen-neth= young one

sidhe= peace

namarië= farewell, in Quenya

Curunír =Sindarin for Saruman

'Thranduilion, gerin le si!' = Son of Thranduil, I have you now!  (A remark made in an earlier chapter, which Elladan utterly regrets at this point…)

Minuial=the period shortly before dawn when the sky is beginning to lighten toward sunrise

Naugrim = Sindarin term for the Dwarves as a race—not very nice, means “stunted ones”



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