Stories of Arda Home Page
About Us News Resources Login Become a member Help Search

A Light in May  by Antigone Q

Legolas rested in the swaying branches of the beech, and closed his eyes to better appreciate the scent of Narcissus flowers and feel the caress of the cool, mild breeze. He was glad to finally be out of his room, as pleasant as Elrond's house may have been. He had never cared much for being indoors, and the tree was a good place to think.

He was pondering whether he ought to go home, since he could not lead the search party any farther astray now. Thranduil would not be happy about Legolas' part in leading his brother's pursuers on a fool's errand, but there was, after all, no crime in walking to Imladris, even if he had taken rather a long way around.

The branches held Legolas gently, rocking him as he mulled over the possibilities, and each tree of the valley whispered that Imladris was a place of peace.

Legolas could have stayed that way for a long time, but in the midst of his rest his sharp ears caught the sound of footsteps coming closer. He turned his head and looked down to see a strange procession coming into the glade below. Estel came in front, running, then bouncing in place for a few seconds, then running again. Behind him was an Elf in forest-colored clothes with a rook on his shoulder, and behind them stepped a tiny fox cub, sniffing in circles after every step.

In the middle of the glade, the Elf with the crow took something out of the front pocket of his tunic, then scooped up the little fox and deposited it within the folds of his cloak. Legolas leaned farther over to see what was happening.

On the ground, the Elf let Estel move closer to see the creature held in his hands: a lively little field mouse.

"This is a good place," Estel’s tall friend said. "Close your eyes." The Elf walked very quietly a few paces away and bent down to release the soft gray mouse back into the grass. The crow flapped its wings in annoyance. "Keep them closed."

Estel shifted from one foot to the other impatiently, his eyes still screwed tightly closed. "I am not looking, Elladan. Is it gone yet?"

The Elf called Elladan stroked the head of the large crow that sat on his shoulder and stooped down to get a better look at the mouse fast disappearing through the brush. "A moment longer… Now! You may open your eyes!"

Estel opened his eyes. He looked first at Elladan, who stood with the crow on his shoulder and a pair of black fox eyes peeking over a bulge in his cloak.

Estel walked first nearer to Elladan's well-used boots and studied the earth beside them, then went down on his knees and scrutinized the raw earth between the leaves and pine needles and grass.

"This is hard," Estel said, intent on looking for signs of the little creature.

Elladan watched the boy search for a few minutes. "Do you need help in order to get started?" he asked.

Estel shook his head. "No, I will be able to do it. Let me look."

Legolas watched with interest from his tree. In truth, he was not sure to what extent Men were capable of tracking animals as Elves were, and he feared Elladan might have given Estel an impossible task. He knew the Rangers of the north often tracked remarkably well - given their limited eyesight - but he had never asked about or tested their limits. He wondered if Elladan had trouble assessing, at times, when he should stop treating Estel like an Elfling and accept that the boy had reached his potential as a Man.

Just as Legolas had decided that Estel was not able to find the mouse, after all, Estel surprised him by exclaiming, "I see it,Elladan! I see a part of the print of the mouse's toes!"

"Very good!" Elladan praised. "Now, can you tell which direction it went?"

Estel scooted along on his knees, looking carefully, and pointed. "In that direction. And Elladan, look! Here is another place where his tail touched the ground!"

"You are doing well. Do you think you can follow it?"

Estel nodded, once again sliding along the muddy earth. "I see the path." He looked up at Elladan again. "I do not think I can track it quietly, Elladan. If I am on my knees, I will make noise, but if I stand I will not be able to see so well."

Legolas noted that the boy, at least, seemed to know his own limitations.

Elladan, apparently, was used to accomadating the abilities of the boy, and said, "You need only follow the mouse as far as you can. We will save 'quietly' for a different exercise."

With great concentration and slowness, Estel began to lead Elladan across the glade. For the next fifteen minutes, Estel made his way toward the brush where the field mouse had disappeared.

"I found it!" Estel cried, beginning to crawl under the brambles to find the mouse.

"That is enough for today," Elladan said, putting a hand on the Estel's shoulder to stop him going farther. "Father will be surprised enough at the state of your clothes without you ripping them in the bushes as well."

Estel himself seemed surprised as he looked down at himself and noticed his shoes and leggings were covered in mud and decorated with an occasional wet leaf. "I did not notice. Do you think Papa will mind?"

Elladan smiled. "Not if it does not mark his floors. Come, let us go find Elrohir. You can tell him how very well you did today before you begin your geography lesson. I am very proud of you for finishing such a difficult task: a mouse is not any easy thing to track…What are you doing, Estel?"

Estel was on his hands and knees again. "I found something else! Look!"

Elladan came close to Estel and glanced down. "Many Elves walk in the glade."

"I am going to follow these tracks, too."

Elladan smiled indulgently. "If you like." He took out the small fox from a pocket in his cloak. The fox, once on the ground, again began to poke his nose at everything close by, and followed the Elladan as he began to move. The crow squawked jealously, and Elladan reached into his pocket to bring out a treat for it.

From his perch in the tree, Legolas watched with amusement as Estel carefully found the bowed grass where he had stepped on his way to the beech. Legolas had not been trying to hide his prints today, of course, but he was still impressed by the child’s abilities. The group on the ground came closer and closer until Estel abruptly stopped at the foot of the tree.

"They end here," Estel said, pointing at the foot of the tree.

"So it seems," Elladan replied, gazing upward.

Legolas gave Elladan a jaunty wave, and Elladan smiled back.

Estel focused on the ground for a few seconds, thinking hard, and then followed Elladan's gaze to Legolas. He jumped up and down with delight.

"Legolas! Greetings! What are you doing up there?"

"Greetings, Estel. I was only enjoying being in a tree again, and thinking. Who is your friend?"

"This is Elladan, son of Elrond. Elladan, this is my friend Legolas, son of Th- Th-"

"Thranduil," supplied Legolas.

"Son of Thranduil," finished Estel.

"Prince Legolas of Mirkwood? I had heard you had come, though I have not seen you." Elladan stroked the head of his crow thoughtfully.

"No, you would not," Legolas replied. "For your father had ordered me to stay abed these past few days." The restriction had ostensibly been for his ankle, but Legolas knew he could have been up and around with crutches long before this. He suspected Elrond had known how very much Legolas had needed the rest.

"I tracked a mouse today!" Estel said proudly.

"So I saw," Legolas said. "I am very impressed. Following such a small creature is not easy without Elvish eyes."

"I have very sharp eyes, don't I, Elladan?"

"Aye," agreed Elladan. "And now, Estel, I am sorry to make you say good-by so soon, but Elrohir will be waiting for you by the river."

Estel pouted. "But I don't want to go yet. I am talking to Legolas."

Elladan leaned against the beech. "Yet you don't want to disappoint Elrohir, who is expecting you," he pointed out.

Estel lowered his brows and scowled, and for a moment Legolas thought he would work himself into a temper. Instead, the little boy said at last, "Then I want Legolas to come and play with me while I do my maps."

Legolas sent a questioning look to Elladan.

"Elrohir will not mind that," Elladan confirmed. "But Legolas may have other plans for his afternoon than playing at geography with little boys."

"No, I will come," Legolas said. Estel had come to his room with cheerful conversation every day since his arrival, and Legolas had begun to enjoy his company. Besides, Legolas thought, no matter how much he mused it would not make his decisions any easier. He swung lightly down from the tree, careful to favor the stronger foot, and he followed boy, Elf, fox and crow as they all set off toward Elrond's house.

They passed the main bridge, and Legolas chuckled to himself as he saw that Ilothuir, whom Legolas knew from her assistance to Elrond in the Hall of Healing, was indeed standing on the bridge with a dark-haired Elf, whose face Legolas could not see. The two stood very close, with fingers interlaced. They seemed deep in conversation, oblivious to the world around them - until Ilothuir caught sight of Legolas, Elladan, and Estel. Apparently embarrassed, she took her lover by the hand and led him away, probably to somewhere more private.

"Legolas!" came a call behind him.

Legolas sighed as Lindir caught up with them. He tried to smile at his father's advisor, for he really had nothing against him, but he had known this moment would come and had not been looking forward to it.

"You two go on. I will follow soon," Legolas promised. He turned back to Lindir. "My greetings, Lindir. Is there something I can help you with?"

Lindir shook his head. "No, I only wanted to tell you that Nordheth has gone back out of the valley and over the pass to tell the rest of the camp to go back to Mirkwood. Those who came with us will tell the king that Laegyrn is not here, and that you were injured but are now well, and that Nordheth and I have volunteered to stay here with you. If you wish to return to Mirkwood soon, we will be happy to escort you."

Legolas' eyebrows shot up. "Do I need a guard now, too? Tell me what I have done to warrant one!"

Lindir looked away. "You do not understand. We stay here for your protection, not only as a guard. There were those who would accuse you of aiding your brother's escape, even in Mirkwood, and now that you have led half a dozen scouts astray it can only seem the more likely."

Legolas gave a noncommittal shrug, half agreeing with the other Elf. "You are saying that there are those in Mirkwood who will be angry."

"You cannot deny there has been a great deal of tension at home lately," Lindir answered.

Legolas nodded, a wry smile playing on his lips. "True. So tell me, Counselor Lindir, what will you do if I do not choose to go back with you to Mirkwood for the time being?"

Lindir hesitated. "The courier and I will remain here with you. King Thranduil will not wish us to lose track of you, but we will not force you to come with us unless he sends word that he wishes you to return home."

Legolas snorted. It would take nearly a month for the riders to return to King Thranduil and then come again to Imladris with the king's orders. "You might well guess that he wishes me brought back to him."

For the first time during their conversation, Lindir smiled. "I might well guess. But I will not." He laid a hand on Legolas arm. "I have known you since childhood, Legolas, and your brother as well. I would not wish ill for either of you."

Legolas blinked in surprise. "I thank you, Lindir. That is… unexpected. And very kind."

"Legolas!" called a childish voice from somewhere not far down the river.

"I will go now," Legolas said. "Elrond's foster son seems to want me at a geography lesson. But Lindir, I - am grateful to you, for giving me the choice."

Still smiling, Lindir bowed and turned away.

Legolas was surprised to see that the geography lesson was not indoors, but beside the riverbank. Estel made happy introductions to Elrohir, who was a mirror image of Elladan in face and form, but was much less quiet.

Then Estel took Legolas by the hand and tugged him to an area a few feet away where the earth was mostly bare. A map of the lands from Lindon to the Iron hills, and as far south as Gondor, lay drawn out in the sand near where the river passed. Smooth piles of rocks had been carefully placed for mountains, and twigs and pine needles abounded where the forested lands lay. Roads had been traced out, and rivers were shallow channels in the earth.

Legolas was taken aback. He had never known a child to be taught the lay of the land in any way other than maps on parchment coupled with solid study.

"Can he truly learn anything from this?" Legolas asked Elrohir in wonderment.

"Oh, aye," affirmed Elrohir. "If you lay out before him a well-drawn map, he knows every pass and town is, and names each."

From a box beside him, Estel was already unpacking little carved pieces of wood apparently meant to designate towns or cities. When he finished he went to Legolas. "Let me show you! Here are the Misty Mountains, and the Anduin River flows this way, and this is our river, called Bruinen, or Loudwater. We live just here - this is Imladris. And here is Mirkwood, where you are from. The Great Forest is in the shape of a fish with its head cut off, see?"

"I had not noticed that before," Legolas said, laughing. "But it is so." Getting into the spirit of the game, he reached over for a small rock and nestled it among the twigs. "That shall mark the caves of my father, Thranduil."

"And today we are building Rohan," Estel said enthusiastically. "And when we are finished, I will pretend to ride my horse there, and Elrohir will tell me everything we see."

"Ingenious," murmured Legolas, walking around what would have been the Bay of Belfalas. "Much better than sitting inside and copying."

"There will be some of that, too, later," Elrohir said. "But for now, this is enough." He winked at Legolas. "Would you care to help us build the White Mountains?"

"Aye, gladly," said Legolas, for Estel clearly expected him to participate in this venture. He knelt down, trying not to disturb Gondor as he did so.

"Well!" came a disgusted voice a few minutes later. "The son of King Thranduil, kneeling in the dirt and playing with stones. I'm sure your father would be proud, Legolas."

Legolas turned and gazed upward at the Elf standing behind him, barely suppressing a groan. If he had had to count on his fingers the very last people he wanted to see just now, Medlin would have been in the top three.

Estel looked up from his work, irritated. In his imaginings he had been riding a tall white horse through the gap of Rohan and over a lush green plain on his way to Gondor. He had not quite decided what he was going to do once he arrived in Gondor, but he was annoyed to be interrupted, just the same.

A dark-haired Elf, short for his race, stood a few feet away. He dropped a bulky canvas bag to the ground and scowled at Legolas as if Legolas had done something extremely irksome. It was plain by the expression on Legolas' face that he did not like the stranger very much.

"Well met, Medlin," Legolas said without enthusiasm. "I am surprised to see you here. I thought you were camped outside the valley with the others."

"No doubt you did," said the new Elf in a cold voice.

Estel took satisfaction in the mischievous little wind that blew just then, shaking pink blossoms from a nearby tree and carrying them in a small, circular storm around the grumpy Elf. Several flew neatly into his hair, and many danced right in front of his nose, causing the stranger to snort.

"I am surprised to see you, too, as you might imagine," continued Medlin, waving his hand at the teasing blossoms as he might wave away a swarm of flies. "Nordheth made her way back to camp this morning to tell us all the story. You must have thought your deception very amusing. Had I any say in the matter, I and the rest of the tracking party would be taking you home today, willingly or no. But Nordheth says that she and Lindir will wait for word from your father as to his wishes."

"Lindir has decided the matter, yes," said Legolas evenly, standing and brushing off his knees. He folded his arms and eyed at the other Elf. "He knows my father well. No doubt he knows best."

"Faugh," spat Medlin. "Lindir is a fool." He added, "You were foolish also, Legolas. You should not have kept us all chasing nothing these past months."

Estel's eyes grew round. He had never heard one Elf speak so rudely to another - not on purpose. Elrohir seemed dismayed as well, and he stepped forward hastily, placing himself partly in front of Legolas.

"Medlin, was it? My greetings to you. I am Elrohir, son of Elrond, and I am at your service." Elrohir's tone was friendly and his smile welcoming.

Almost everyone fell subject to Elrohir's agreeable nature right away, but Medlin scowled.

"I am Medlin, servant of Thranduil. I thank you for your greetings." Estel thought that Medlin did not sound as if he really was thankful at all.

"I had heard from Lindir that the scouting party was going back to Mirkwood today," Elrohir said pleasantly. "You are not planning to go with them?"

If possible, Medlin looked more wrathful. "No, I am not. If Lindir is feeling softhearted and Nordheth unusually lazy, I, for one, am still the king's loyal subject. I intend on staying here and making full sure that Legolas does not wander off again and cause yet more harm."

Estel pictured Medlin as the evil king Ar-Pharazôn, and found that it was not a difficult image to conjure. Nor was it difficult for him to imagine Medlin, as evil king Ar-Pharazôn, sinking ever so slowly into the sea with that same scowl affixed to his face.

Legolas' mouth was in a tight line, but all he said was, "I see. My father is lucky, then, to have such a subject."

"Well then!" Elrohir said easily. "Since you will be staying with us, Medlin, allow me to offer you the hospitality of Lord Elrond. May I help you find a room in our household? Unless you would rather stay in the guest cottage?"

Estel guessed that, despite Elrohir's friendliness, Elrohir hoped the strange Elf would not choose to stay in the house. Estel certainly hoped he would not.

Medlin snorted. "Would that you had offered all of the camp that same hospitality when we reached the valley! Yes, I will take a room in the house, if that is where Legolas stays, and I will take a room as close to his as possible, so that I might keep my eye on him."

Legolas opened his mouth in angry objection, but Elrohir spoke first in calm, placating tones that reminded Estel of his papa. "Lindir did not ask that we offer hospitality to the Elves camped above, or we would have given it. We will see to your comfort, Medlin, but I do not know which of the guest rooms are still available, as we have had many visitors of late. Come, I will show you which rooms you may choose from, so that you can put away your gear and be at ease."

Medlin might have denied Elrohir's invitation, but Elrohir picked up Medlin's pack and turned to lead the way to the main house.

Medlin started to follow, then turned to Legolas. "I will be watching you, whatever new tricks you try."

Cutting off any reply, Elrohir spoke quickly. "Medlin, I have just thought: perhaps I should send some supplies to go back with the others from your camp. Would you be so kind as to help me in choosing what might be most needed?" As Elrohir spoke, he moved towards the path, still carrying Medlin's baggage. Over his shoulder he said, "I think we are done for the day, Estel. You may do as you like until the evening meal."

Estel nodded silently, feeling subdued by Medlin's antagonism. He watched as Elrohir and the unpleasant newcomer made their way to Elrond's house, and then turned to Legolas.

"Medlin was not very nice to you," Estel said indignantly.

Legolas gave a tired sigh. "No, he was not, was he? But he has been asked to deal with some difficult matters of late, so perhaps I should not hold too much against him."

Estel stretched and stood, beginning to pack away his little towns and figures. "If my papa heard me talk to anyone that way, I would be having a very long Thinking Time. And Medlin is a grown-up, so he should know better."

Legolas laughed. "Perhaps Medlin's papa was not as conscientious as yours." He changed the subject. "The weather is beginning to be warm. I have heard that the late spring festival, Nost-na-Lothion, is celebrated in Imladris. Will you be at the festival next week?"

Legolas had unwittingly touched on a sore subject with Estel. The little boy scuffed the ground with his shoe. "Papa says the festival will be very late at night and I will not be allowed to stay awake so long. Again." Estel kicked at the dirt once more and displaced a portion of the White Mountains that he had just finished building.

Legolas gave Estel a sympathetic smile. "I see. Well, no doubt you will be allowed to attend in a year or two. I have never been to Nost-na-Lothion, either, for it is not a tradition we carry on in the Great Forest. We have other festivals, of course."

"I want to go this year," Estel groused. "But I cannot argue with Papa, I guess."

Legolas patted Estel's shoulder in a conciliatory gesture. "That is very wise of you - when I was your age I would have screamed and stomped until I was hoarse when I wanted something I could not have."

Estel gave Legolas a dubious glance. "Elf children do not throw temper tantrums," he said uncertainly.

Legolas chuckled. "Oh, Estel, I do not know who has told you such things, but Elflings do indeed throw temper tantrums, as my mother and father would tell you." He paused, shaking his head as if at some half-forgotten memory. "Though Elflings are usually better behaved than children of Men or Dwarves, I was a very ill-behaved child indeed." Apologetically he added, "I do not mean you, of course. You are very well-mannered."

"Yes," said Estel gloomily, "Erestor says the same." Estel had once heard Erestor say he was "abnormally well-behaved, especially for a mortal child."

Estel was growing worried about all these passing comments. He had played with few children near his own age and had little basis for comparison: nearly everyone he knew was literally hundreds of times older than he. Would most children really throw tantrums to try and obtain an invitation to a night festival?

Estel was about to ask Legolas what he thought, but when he saw his expression Estel asked instead, "Are you well?" For Legolas was very pale.

Estel followed Legolas' gaze. He did not see anything but Calen-Glad and Ilothuir coming around the bend in the path. The couple and Legolas were all staring at one another with what seemed to be dismay. Then, without saying a word, Calen-glad turned and fled, and Ilothuir paused only a moment before following him.

"Will you excuse me, young friend?" Legolas said in a strangled voice. "I think I must see your father's apprentices about something." He hurried off, leaving Estel to wonder what made adults' behavior so inexplicably strange.


<< Back

Next >>

Leave Review
Home     Search     Chapter List