Trolls and Oliphaunts
Imladris was busy preparing a grand feast. The entire valley was wrapped in chaos, and elves scurried about diligently, cleaning, cooking, grooming, organizing, designing – all for the honored guests who were due to arrive the next day. Males and females alike whispered enthusiastically about the leading guest; some said he was short-tempered, while others said he was suspicious. Some said he was a noble elf, and some said he was an honest elf. Some claimed that he was reckless, and still others declared that it mattered not, for the lord of the valley trusted him and invited him. This last argument was effective in quelling any debates that was about to rise.
"Whatever his temper may be, he must have very much trust in Lord Elrond," commented an elleth in the kitchen. "To send away such a small child, so that he may enjoy the presence of other elflings."
Other elves agreed. A general murmur of consent ran through the crowd, and an elf mused that it may perhaps be a diplomatic tactic. Many elves agreed with this also, but some disagreed and said it was purely out of goodwill toward Imladris and love for his elfling. The kitchen quickly divided in this matter, and soon the whole staff was debating hotly, their work forgotten, until Erestor poked his head in and commented wryly that they may do well to ask the king himself, instead of whispering among themselves in secrecy. Immediately, the elves dispersed and went back to work in embarrassed silence.
Elsewhere, in the stables, the elves were debating about the same person, though in a different manner. They were arguing about who had seen Prince Thranduil during the War.
"I swear I saw him," said an elf, grooming his horse, excitement shining in his eyes. "He was standing by King Oropher. Anyone could tell who they were by their faces. They had a dignity to them that was different. So different. Prince Thranduil was young, but I could tell."
Another elf agreed that he had also seen the elvenking in his youth. "The air around him was so vibrant, and vigorous," he commented, his eyes taking on a distant look. "I still remember his shouts and commands. He was young, but he was in every way a king."
Another elf snorted that the said elf could not have been Thranduil, for the elvenking was known for his reckless temper and distrust. Any trait associated with nobility could not match Thranduil. Several elves agreed.
Their horses forgotten, the elves were drawn to a hot debate, discussing the elvenking's character and appearance, until the stable doors burst open. Startled, they all turned toward the entrance. An elfling sped in and skidded to a halt, and looked around wildly. He was breathing fast. "Did Elladan or Elrohir come looking for me?"
The elves smiled in spite of themselves. "No, they did not. Did you wish to find them?" responded an elf by the door kindly. Legolas looked up, and vigorously shook his head.
"If they ask about me, tell them that you don't know!" The elfling took to his heels and darted back outside.
Left in a daze, the elves chuckled among themselves. "I don't know much about the woodland king," commented an elf, patting his horse, "but his child is a jewel."
General murmurs of consent spread in the stables. With a child like this, the king could not be that bad. No, not that bad at all.
Glorfindel's senses were alert as he returned to the House of Elrond. The forest paths were clear, and he had made sure to station extra patrols along the borders to greet the guests and escort them safely. He had no doubt that King Thranduil and his legendary warriors could fend for themselves, but he did not want Imladris to greet them with anything less than the warmest of friendships and hospitality. Having even a slightly flooding river, or an abandoned animal carcass in the path, would not do. He looked up toward the sky, calculating the hours it would take for the entourage to arrive. He was quite well informed about their progress; they would be here soon, perhaps tomorrow morning. Afternoon at latest. As far as security and outdoor hospitality was concerned, Imladris was ready. Though Glorfindel knew that he could not be so certain about indoors.
Glorfindel had meticulously set everything to perfection, but the inner house was bustling with a horrific din that he did not dare enter into. Elrond was managing well, with the help of his faithful advisor, but even Erestor had his limits when it came down to the uncontrollable chatter that plagued the kitchen. Glorfindel smiled, sympathy rising in his heart for his friends. They really needed a lady of the house. Preferably a lady who could control everyone and everything she came into contact with, the way she easily had the mighty Lord Elrond under her grip. He sighed. Happy thoughts, he reminded himself. Happy thoughts. Imladris and Mirkwood are bridging the rift.
As he stepped closer to the majestic halls, he could hear distant echoes of laughter. It was Elrohir. Or was it Elladan? It was too faint for him to ascertain. The laughter died away, only to be replaced by a delighted giggle of a higher pitch. Glorfindel smiled.
It had been quite a while since the elfling had arrived. And his father was coming already to bring him back. Glorfindel could not help but feel a sad tugging in his heart; the elfling had grown to be very dear to them all. It was he who brought out the childish laughter in Elladan and Elrohir again, the laughter that had died a bit too early in their years. He was a ray of sunshine upon them all, the dear babe that stood at the center of attention in Arwen's absence. And Glorfindel had not gotten to know him very well yet.
Of course, he did know him well enough. At least, well enough to wisely avoid him when he was carrying a ewer full of potions in his small arms, walking in the halls with determined concentration in his small face. And to avoid the kitchen when he was in it with the twins. And to avoid the armory when he was in that with the twins. And to avoid the library when he was in it with the twins...or to avoid him overall, when he was flanked by those adolescents-reverted-to-elflings. With a chuckle, he pushed back stray strands of hair absentmindedly. He hoped that the elfling would stay longer, and Elrond did mention that he planned to keep Thranduil in his house for as long as the king was willing. If that was possible, he would have more time to befriend the elfling. Though the child spent much time outdoors, Glorfindel was always out on patrol duty or training his guards. When winter came, he would have more time to spend indoors with the children. Yes, that would be very nice indeed...
When he entered the garden, nerves relaxed, he halted in his tracks. His senses became alert again, and he looked slowly about himself. Something was here. His keen ears picked up a faint rustling of leaves, and his gaze shot up to a tree branch overhead. But he did not have time to discern the creature on it, for it plummeted straight on top of him.
Eyes wide, Glorfindel quickly caught the blonde elfling in his arms, catching the small body before it could crash onto the ground. Round blue eyes blinked up at him. And then, a broad smile spread on the elfling's face.
"You must be Glorfindel!" he cried happily.
Glorfindel smiled. "And you must be Legolas," he replied. The elfling nodded with enthusiasm, and peered up at the older elf with awe and curiosity.
"You have blond hair!" he exclaimed in wonder. Glorfindel chuckled, the warmth of the sun spreading gently against his skin.
"Yes, Legolas. I have blond hair." He realized that the elfling was still latched onto him, and that his arms were still securely holding the child. He laughed. "Tell me, Legolas, why were you up on that tree?"
The elfling scrunched up his face. "Elladan and Elrohir said they'd teach me how to shoot moving objects if I manage to stay hidden from them for a whole day."
He blinked, puzzled, when the golden-haired elf broke into laughter. "What?"
Smiling, Glorfindel gently lowered the elfling onto the ground. It seemed that the twin sons of Elrond had finally tired of Legolas feeding them all kinds of self-made potions. He broke into soft laughter again when he saw the confused look on the elfling's face.
"I doubt they will find you," said the balrog slayer, his eyes twinkling with amusement. "But if you like, I can show you how to shoot moving objects."
The elfling nearly jumped with excitement. "Really?" he cried, his eyes glowing with joy. "I would like that!"
As the round-eyed elfling watched, Glorfindel pulled out his longbow and began to test the string. "Do you not already know how to shoot moving objects, Legolas?" he asked, his eyes on the bow as his hands expertly bent it. "You have felled an orc, have you not?"
The elfling creased his brows. "I only shot them when they were moving toward me."
Glorfindel nodded. "Ah. So you want to learn how to hunt unaware creatures from a distance." He lifted the bow and took out an arrow. No wonder this child had warrior plaits. The babe was forced to defend himself in the darkness of the forest. His gaze remained steady as he aligned the arrow to the bow.
Forgetting to nod, the elfling swallowed, eyes wide and attentive as to not miss a single movement. He was going to learn from Glorfindel! The legendary warrior who slew the shadow and flame, and returned from death! He stared in wonder and awe as the tall elf gracefully aimed at something in the distance. The arrow flew.
Legolas stared, mouth agape, at the arrow that trembled against a tree. Pressed against the tree at the arrow tip was a small leaf.
"The easiest way to start would be with falling leaves," said Glorfindel, lowering his bow. "You must calculate before you release the arrow. The arrow must fly ahead of the prey, so that the prey would move to meet it." He looked down at the elfling, who was staring with wonder. He smiled. "Since it is autumn, you have plenty of targets. All that you need to know, you already know."
Legolas quickly took out his own bow, which was strapped onto his back. He aimed an arrow carefully at a nearby tree, waiting for a leaf to fall. When a small golden leaf danced away from the branches, he let the arrow fly.
"But really, Ada, it's only for a day," whined Elrohir, as his father strode before him. "My head still hurts from that strange potion he made for me yesterday."
Elrond, walking vigorously before his twin sons, raised an eyebrow. "I made sure that the strong herbs were out of his reach, Elrohir."
Elladan, treading beside his twin, wrinkled his nose. "That doesn't mean he uses the milder herbs reasonably. My sense of balance is still thrown off thanks to his 'sleeping' potion."
Elrond raised his other eyebrow at them as he made a turn. The brothers sighed. "He still gets what he wants anyway, Ada," whined Elladan, as they followed their father into the gardens. "We promised to teach him how to shoot-"
"Ooh! I did it! I did it!"
The gleeful cries of the elfling halted them in their step. Before them, in the large open clearing of the garden, stood two blonde elves glowing with laughter. The elfling was jumping up and down wildly, hugging Glorfindel's waist, while the balrog slayer laughed and hugged him back. A small bow lay discarded among the grass.
Elrond recognized small Mirkwood arrows embedded on a nearby tree, one of them holding down a golden leaf against the trunk. Ah, so the elfling has been taking lessons on his own. He smiled.
"Well done, Legolas," he called as he made his way toward the two blonde elves.
Legolas turned, and happily threw his arms around Elrond. "I can show Ada tomorrow! I am going to practice until I can shoot bigger things!"
Laughing, Elrond patted the elfling's silky hair. "Yes, you can show him tomorrow. He will be impressed." He looked up at Glorfindel, and smiled. "You can also show him all the potions that you invented during the stay. I am sure he would be very pleased." He heard gasps of horror coming from behind his back. He smirked discreetly. Glorfindel caught this and his lips began to twitch into a smirk as well.
The twin brothers stepped closer, and Legolas noticed them for the first time. "Elladan! Elrohir!" he cried excitedly, jumping up to meet them. With a devilish smile, Elrohir swooped up the elfling in his arms and swung him playfully in the air. Legolas shrieked, and grabbing the older elf's arm, twisted the unsuspecting body onto the grass. Breath was knocked out of Elrohir as he quickly rolled away, staring incredulously at the elfling. Legolas smiled brightly, and turned back to Glorfindel.
"You're right!" he declared, eyes twinkling. "Intelligence can overpower bigger enemies." Elrond burst into laughter.
Elrohir scowled. "So I am unintelligent, am I? I'll show you unintelligent!"
Before the elfling could scramble away, the dark-haired youth pounced on the shrieking child, and the two figures soon became an intermingled lump on the grass. Piercing shrieks and giggles followed as they rolled around, struggling playfully.
Watching the romping figures wrestling on the ground, Elrond smiled. "What a child."
Glorfindel tipped his head, studying Elrond. His blue eyes pierced into the elvenlord. "You wish you could have another son, Elrond?"
The dark-haired elvenlord met the gaze of his friend. "I do wish I could have him as a son," he replied innocently.
Glorfindel held up his hands and backed away. "Whatever you do, leave me out of it. I do not plan on being sent back to the Halls of Waiting by Thranduil's hands."
Elrond chuckled in amusement. "Ah yes, I have his father to worry about. Pity."
Glorfindel snorted. He picked up the small Mirkwood bow by his feet, and fingered the dark brown wood. "Pity indeed. I have seen that elf shoot his arrows and I do not want to be at the receiving end of them."
Elrond laughed softly. "Aye, I must agree." He turned toward Elladan, who was listening with interest. "Perhaps you may see an interesting sight or two when King Thranduil arrives. He is an unparalleled warrior in his realm." He turned to smile at Glorfindel, who narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
"My ada is the mightest warrior in Mirkwood!" cried the elfling happily, still rolling with Elrohir on the grass. The three stationary elves turned to watch the romp, amused at the elfling's attention in the conversation involving his father.
"And someday-" the elfling squirmed under Elrohir's grip, "-I shall be a mighty warrior too, and slay orcs, trolls, and even oliphaunts!"
Elladan laughed softly. Elrond chuckled. "To think this little elfling will grow to slay trolls and oliphaunts."
Glorfindel smiled beside him, eyes riveted on the struggling children. "Who knows?" he mused, fingering the small bow in his hands. "Perhaps he will."
The laughter and shrieks echoed in the sunny afternoon, as the future oliphaunt-slayer of Mirkwood scampered away to escape from his enemy's headlock.