A Harmless Hobby|
Rating: K for angst and some injuries.
Summary: Legolas develops a new hobby—one that has his Ada deciding to play ‘spy’ on his own son.
The young child stood carefully at the edge of the rushing water, skipping small stones into the midst of the tumbling rocks and limbs and watching as they were carried along in the current, clacking against the larger stepping stones that had somehow managed to survive the intense storm of the evening before. The child was not in the best of moods, for his father had not allowed him to watch the beauty of the lightning and thunder, or to feel the wind brush against his face and blow through his long, blonde hair. He loved storms but, knowing his passion for all things concerning nature, his father feared he would wander too far and receive some injury from the onslaught of the flying debris that seemed ever-present, and thus forbade him from even watching from a window or passageway, afraid that the lull of the storm would prove too strong for his little child of nature.
It just simply wasn’t fair! He did not wish to wait until he was fully grown to experience the wonders of nature, although, as he looked out over the swollen river, even he had to admit that this storm had been particularly bad. He sighed in frustration, picking up a larger rock and flinging it angrily into the muddy depths, feeling a morose sense of satisfaction when it struck with a resounding clatter against a large copse of rocks backed up against one of the stepping stones.
He had turned to make his way back to the caverns when a loud screeching sound pierced his ears. He winced and clapped his small hands up to cover his sensitive ears, turning back at once to the river where the sound seemed to have come from. He could not quite make out the noise, for he had never heard anything like it before. If not for the guttural, grating harshness of the tone, it might have sounded somewhat like the piercing wail of a baby animal. He searched with keen eyes all around the edge of the river and even in the midst of the waters, but could find no source of the noise. It continued to bounce off the small clearing near the river’s edge, however, and the child began to grow more desperate to discover the source before his ears permanently forgot their ability to hear.
Trying to pinpoint the exact location of the sound, the young blonde child’s eyes finally lit on the large copse of rocks that were jammed in the middle of the river, causing some of the water to back up higher along the river’s edge. He drew a little closer to the edge of the water, trying to ignore the persistent echoing of his father’s earlier words that had warned him from getting too close to the rushing waters. He simply must find out what the noise was, though! Suddenly, his eyes grew round with surprise and, throwing all caution to the wind, he plunged into the swirling waters at the edge.
It was a bedraggled and very soaked young one that crept slowly back to his home, his cape rolled up in his arms in a rather large and awkward bundle—one that seemed too heavy for a youth of his size to manage safely. Though Legolas knew many ways into his chambers, he knew he would need to use additional caution this time. If his Ada saw him come back in this state, he would never be allowed to leave the stronghold again–at least until his years of youth had passed him by and all thoughts of fun had fled from his mind. His Ada would be expecting him to show up promptly for dinner, and he would barely have enough time to get cleaned up and changed in time now; not to mention the fact that he must somehow deal with his hidden package before anyone could see it.
It was later in the evening—several hours after dinner—that found a tall, regal figure pacing restlessly in front of the balcony window in his personal chambers. The figure’s long, blonde hair swayed gently in the now-gentled breeze, the smell of a freshly washed world sending a soft caress through his lithe figure and soothing his anxious visage ever so slightly. He had finally dealt with all the immediate concerns from the aftermath of the violent storm last night, but another matter was pressing heavily on the wise king’s mind, that of his young son. Thranduil, the great Elvenking of Mirkwood, could manage an entire realm with just a careless wave of his hand, but his little elfling was quite a different story. Not that he could fault the child. With both Sindarin and Silvan blood in his royal veins, the child could hardly help the constant pull from all things pertaining to nature. It was just so…so…maddening sometimes!
He knew his little elf had somehow managed to commit some form of mischief earlier that day, despite his warnings to the contrary, and he much suspected a newly acquired addition to the royal family in some manner or other—though he knew not what else could possibly be left to acquire. After an entire selection of raccoons, possums, fowl of every kind, otters, mink, foxes, wolves, deer, and even the odd lion cub or two, Thranduil had thought his son had exhausted his possibilities for newly acquired pets. ‘No More Pets!’ had become the poor, overworked king’s favorite saying of late, and he used every possible opportunity to remind his little son of this fact.
Dinner had been an ‘interesting’ affair that night, to say the least. Not that his little son had been anything other than an impeccably well-behaved prince; on the contrary, he had exhibited a little ‘too’ perfect of manners, the kind that would tell any wise elf father that he should retire to his chambers and hide under his bedcovers for the next century, for his child absolutely had something up his sleeve… There was also the fact that the young elfling had sported a rather large bruise on the side of his face that extended from right under his left eye nearly to his chin.
When Thranduil had asked about the bruise, Legolas had casually brushed it off, claiming that he tripped and fell on his way back from the training grounds earlier that day due to some large branches still obscuring the pathway. Sensing the child’s obviously quelled anxiety over his father’s questions, the wise elf king had allowed the matter to rest. He did not believe it for an instant, though, and he would be a fool to think otherwise!
Legolas was up to something…
There was no doubt about it…
And his curiosity had only grown when the child had requested in a perfectly polite tone of voice to leave the table early, pleading tiredness, then proceeded to walk ever so slowly—with a decided limp that was stiffly hidden—out of the Dining Hall.
Having fulfilled his kingly duties for the evening, the father now had time to take precedence as the elder elf tried to come to some sort of conclusion as to what his child was up to. ‘What animal could possibly leave such injuries as a large bruise like that?’ he wondered as he grasped the edge of the railing and peered out into the starless night, the clouds still lingering heavily in the night sky and obscuring the peaceful jewels of nature. ‘And one that might also have the ability to injure a leg as well…?’
Thranduil had seen many millennia come and go. He had fought in countless battles…orchestrated many councils of the world’s highest and elite rulers…seen many loved ones fade from the shadow...
The horrors he had seen were enough to give one countless nightmares on end, and the guilt he felt at every pure elven life lost to the shadow would weigh on his shoulders for eternity. One would think he had seen everything there was to see in Arda now, yet he could not for the life of him figure out what manner of creature his son had caught this time…
There was only one thing to do; Thranduil, the great elven king of the wood elves, both Sindarin and Silvan alike, must lower himself to the role of spy and discover this mystery for himself! A sly smile on his handsome face and a spark of excitement shining in eyes as blue as the sea, the great elven lord finally found rest that night after forming a plan to best his small elfling. After all, ‘No Pets’ meant ‘No Pets!’
The first thing on the agenda would be to wish his son a proper good night, including the offering of a bedtime story and, of course, the typical embrace. His elfling had reached an age where he insisted he no longer needed to be ‘tucked into bed,’ so it had become the norm for Thranduil to sometimes merely wish him a good night at the evening’s dinner table, especially when visitors or trade negotiators were in attendance as they had been this evening. His elfling might possibly be a tad bit suspicious when his father arrived to wish him good night out of the blue, but he could always claim the yearning to spend a few more moments with him. All elflings knew that parents could get ‘clingy’ sometimes.
It was with this thought in mind that the rather sneaky king found himself at his elfling’s chamber door a scant few minutes later, raising one fist quickly to knock on the large, wooden entrance, then without allowing a single second to pass, proceeded to turn the doorknob and enter hastily into the darkened room, closing the door with a creak behind him. A loud thump resonated from the bed chambers beyond, a quick scuffling noise literally flew across the floor, then silence…
Curiosity aroused even more, Thranduil proceeded without preamble into the bed chambers, not bothering to shut the door behind him. Looking around with keenly assessing eyes, the wise father hid a smile at the sight of his little elfling lying abed under hastily strewn covers, making it obvious to his expert eyes that the child had been doing anything but lying abed before he so swiftly entered the room. Hands clasped casually behind his back, Thranduil strolled forward more leisurely than he had entered the room, taking time to carefully assess each and every corner of the large room out of the corner of his eye as he attempted to merely be making his way towards the bed in front of him.
A ruffled blonde head turned towards him, eyes blinking in what the elfling thought would be a sleepy manner. “Ada? What brings you here?”
Thranduil pursed his lips to hide another smile at the wide-eyed blue eyes. “I wanted to give you a proper goodnight this eve, ion nin. I found myself missing our old bedtime routines.”
Legolas’ eyes opened just a tiny bit more as he began to chew on his lower lip pensively. Thranduil caught the flicker of doubt in the beautiful eyes as several thoughts appeared to run through the little mind. Whatever the child might be thinking, however, was cast aside in his obvious delight at spending time with his father. A genuine smile of welcome flashed across the still-bruised face (Thranduil frowned inwardly at the sight) and Legolas raised up thin arms for an embrace—a request that his father immediately complied with by sitting down on the sheets and enfolding the elfling into his strong arms.
Legolas pulled back then, looking earnestly up at his father. “Does this mean a bedtime story too, Ada?” At the excitement shining so freely from the huge eyes, Thranduil felt a slight tug on his conscience—and not just because his motives tonight might be construed as being slightly less loving than they should be. He found himself wondering if the demise of the bedtime ritual had truly been his little ‘grown-up’ elfling’s decision, or if Legolas had perchance thought him to be so busy that he should not have to feel pressured at yet another item on his schedule.
Making a mental note to insist on bedtime routines from this moment on—despite any arguments from his son to the contrary—the king placed a gentle kiss on his son’s brow, grabbed the large storybook from the nightstand beside the bed, and curled up on the bed with his little son in his arms as he launched into one of Legolas’ particular favorites—The White Stag Arrives in the Forest. As he read, he continued to make a searching sweep of the room with experienced eyes. He knew the story almost from memory, having read it so often to his elfling in years prior, so it was easy to make a search without a break in the reading of the story. Despite his attempts, he could find nothing out of place in the neat room, though he had yet to explore the bathing chambers.
His elfling, however, was a different matter. Thranduil had not missed the slight wince as he had pulled him into his arms in preparation for reading the story, as though something might pain the child around his torso. As he continued to read now, the sleeve on Legolas’ warm nightshirt pulled up slightly as his father shifted both of them back against the headboard, and Thranduil’s eyes hardened at the sight of a large purple and black bruise that spread almost entirely the length of the small arm. Legolas peeked up at his father to see why there was a sudden lull in the story and saw the hard look in the elder elf’s eyes, as well as where his Ada was looking. He flushed, reaching over and tugging down the sleeve to hide the ugly mark.
Placing the book down on the bed beside him, Thranduil pulled the smaller arm gently into his own larger hands, pushing back the sleeve and lightly touching the bruising to feel for any potential breaks in the bone. Satisfied that there was apparently only deep bruising to the tissue and muscle, he turned to look into the pale face of his child, cupping the small chin in one hand. “Where did you get this?” His tone was firm, not allowing for any excuse on the part of his son.
Legolas smiled hesitantly, pulling his arm back against his chest in an attempt to remove it from his father’s sight—and attention. “I fell again…” Earnest eyes looked directly into the king’s. “I am having an extremely clumsy day today, Ada…” the lilting voice confessed with another fair smile. “It is nothing…” The elfling faltered at the grim look on his father’s face, suddenly deciding to become very interested in the bedcovers, nervous fingers playing at the edges and plucking at loose threads.
Thranduil took a deep breath; he could tell his child was not quite telling the truth, though there must be at least a little amount of truth in his story or the experienced father would be able to instantly spot the lie. He tightened his grip on the little chin. “Legolas…I need you to tell me the truth about what is going on.” He paused for a moment as the child remained carefully perusing the covers as though they were the most interesting thing in all of Middle Earth. “I hope you do remember, Legolas, that you are not allowed to have any more furry little pets in the stronghold. I am beginning to suspect that you may be involved in rescuing another creature of some type, for these bruises did not just suddenly appear, and it is no use telling me you were clumsy, for I know better!”
Ah…there was the sign he was looking for! A light red had flushed the very tip of the elfling’s pointed ears. Watching his elfling closely, the king allowed a small smile of triumph to grace his lips since the child was not looking at him. There was a pet involved in this!
Legolas looked up at him then, the same earnest and innocent expression immediately erasing the king’s smug feeling. “Oh, Ada…I assure you I do not have any more furry little pets here. I would not disobey you in such a way…!” He blinked. “No fur here…” He smiled again, once more hesitant in his actions, and Thranduil cursed his inadequacy at spying. If Legolas was not going to tell him, he would have to find out another way!
“I am glad then, ion nin, for I would hate to think you would disobey me in such a way. I am afraid that the punishment for such a disobedience would not be an easy one for you to bear.”
Huge eyes blinked again, and Thranduil could swear he saw a look of fear enter and fade in between the blink. Then, a small hand lifted up to touch the king’s fair cheek. “I love you, Ada,” the child said sweetly, leaning forward and placing a petal-soft kiss on the same cheek. “Let us forget all about pets and fur and enjoy the evening together, shan’t we?”
Thranduil had to carefully school his face at his son’s innocent words. Stumped again, and by a tiny elf no taller than his waist! He could not deny his little son the time he was so apparently yearning for, and he dropped the subject, picking the discarded book back up and continuing on with the story.
Later, when the elfling had finally fallen asleep (Thranduil had only needed to read the White Stag story a mere five times and three other stories in order to accomplish this miracle), Thranduil put his spy mode back into action and proceeded to carefully and thoroughly search the elfling’s entire suite of chambers.
An hour later—one in which the elfling had stirred restlessly no less than ten times, nearly giving the weary king a heart attack at the thought that he would be caught snooping into his son’s private things—the wise warrior king was finally forced to admit defeat. He had found a total of a few misplaced garments, a stack of arrows beside his bow, and an assortment of large, ugly rocks in one corner under the bed. There was absolutely nothing alive in this room, unless one counted the few small trees and houseplants placed along the balcony. He gave a frown of disgust at the remembrance of the rocks. Apparently his son had taken up a new hobby—that of rock collecting. Thranduil had no fondness for rocks, for that was what the dwarves delved so stupidly in. He could see the value in gemstones and beautiful rocks, but the rocks his son had gathered could not possibly be mistaken for a precious jewel or a work of art. A senseless hobby, but he supposed a harmless one at any rate, so he would leave him alone about it.
Sighing in defeat, the disappointed father placed one more kiss on his elfling’s cheek, tucked the wayward covers in once again, and left the room, discouragement abounding at the lack of success in his spying attempt. He would simply have to wait this one out, it seemed.
The next morning dawned too early for the overworked king of the Woodland Realm, especially considering he had been up half the night either ‘investigating’ or lying in bed with his mind going in circles as he tried to figure out what Legolas could possibly be hiding. Ah…the joys of fatherhood… countless nights of sleeplessness, mysteries and mischievousness abounding, and huge, doe-eyed, beautiful little elflings that exuded an aura of pure innocence but were anything but… And yet, he would not trade it for the entirety of Arda. It kept him young in spirit and reminded him that no matter how old he might be and no matter how many countless realms and rulers looked up to him as one of the wisest in Middle Earth, he still apparently had much to learn—at least when it came to the mysterious ways of small, blue-eyed elflings.
Thranduil dressed slowly, smothering back yawns as he tried to fully awaken. He had an important council meeting this morning after breakfast, so he chose a regal robe of green and brown, one that portrayed a serious demeanor and blended in with the forests outside at the same time. He opened the door into the hall and walked out, allowing the large wooden structure to click closed behind him. He would fetch his elfling this morn instead of leaving him to make his way to the Dining Hall on his own. Last night had given him sufficient cause to think his elfling was missing him, and he would not have him suffer from the lack of a parent’s company.
He had gotten halfway down the hall when a series of crashes, rumbles, and cries echoed into the hallway, coming from the distinct direction of his only son’s room. Quickening his pace to almost a dead run, the king began to wonder if an ill-timed earthquake had hit the palace, for the rumbling noises were accompanied by a shuddering of the walls outside Legolas’ door.
Throwing the door to his son’s chambers open with a resounding bang, the king stopped short at the sight of his little elfling attempting to pick himself up from the floor of his sitting room. Hearing the bang, huge blue eyes looked towards the door, opening even wider at the sight of his frantic father framing the hallway beyond.
Swallowing back his feeling of nausea, the elfling shook his head groggily, trying desperately to regain his full senses before his father came closer and started throwing questions at him—questions he so dearly did not wish to answer!
Thranduil stood stunned for a moment as he assessed his elfling. Legolas had a bleeding cut on his forehead, his bruised arm now looked decidedly cracked, and his clothing was rumpled and torn in several places, showing more scratches and bruises through the thin day tunic the child wore. Drawing in a sharp breath at the pitiful sight, the father searched the rest of the room for any sign of what had brought such harm to his little elfling. He frowned to see several shattered vases spread around the floor, along with an overturned large chair and a few bricks missing from the fireplace. The bowl of water sitting on the stand right outside the bedchambers door had been overturned as well, and water was trickling along the floor and around the broken ceramic from the vases. Could it possibly have been an earthquake? If so, why hadn’t he felt it in his own room?
He crossed the room swiftly to kneel by his little son’s side, placing a gentle hand on a shivering shoulder as Legolas attempted to fully sit up. It was then that he spied the large group of his son’s collected rocks sitting beside the doorway to Legolas’ bed chambers, on the opposite side as the water bowl was on. Strange, he thought even as he began to drift his slender fingers over Legolas’ bruised arm, I wonder why Legolas made the effort to have them moved in here…
Legolas lifted a face filled with pain and shock to meet the serious gaze of his father as Thranduil continued to assess the young one’s injuries. “S-sorry, Ada,” he said in a soft and wavering voice, “I tripped again…”
A dark eyebrow lifted at this as Thranduil looked sardonically around the wreck of a room. “I hardly think all of this happened from just a simple trip, ion nin,” He motioned to the room with his shoulder as he pulled a cloth from his pocket and wrapped the fractured arm tightly to avoid further harm.
Legolas flushed and lowered his gaze, apparently too stunned and injured to come up with a good response this time, which was most unlike his little elfling. He pulled the child gently up into his arms, embracing him softly. “Come now, little one. Let us go get you fixed up at the healer’s. We can discuss the reasons later.”
Legolas bit his lip, still refusing to meet his father’s eye, as his gaze flickered unbidden to his bedchambers door, a worried light in the pain-filled gaze. Remembering the pile of ungainly rocks near the door, Thranduil looked over at the spot where he had last seen them. Perhaps he should go ahead and let his son know what an unseemly hobby collecting ugly rocks was after all, especially if it was going to distract his son to the point of obtaining constant injuries. His eyes widened when he saw…nothing…absolutely nothing…in the corner beside the door where the pile of rocks had been just a few minutes before. There was nothing there now, and as he made a quick sweep of the rest of the room with his keen vision, he deduced that the rocks were no longer in the room at all. Yet, the door to Legolas’ bed chambers was closed still…
His features hardening, he turned back to his fretting son and lifted his chin with one hand, forcing the child to meet his gaze. “Legolas…would you care to tell me exactly where that pile of rocks went to?”
A hesitant smile graced quivering lips. “W-what rocks, Ada? You do not like rocks, remember?”
The grip on the child’s chin tightened. “I know I do not like rocks. That does not dispute the fact that there were rocks here just a few minutes ago, however…”
Innocent blue eyes blinked twice. “That is silly, Ada. Rocks cannot just get up and walk away. They are not living creatures, remember? You have always said how worthless rocks are…”
Thranduil frowned, not quite able to tell if his elfling was using sarcasm or not. “Do you have a pet in here, Legolas? I want the truth…now!”
“Adaaa…” the voice was growing stronger as Legolas’ frustration rose. “I already told you…! I do not have any “living” creatures in here!” Thranduil did not miss the slight emphasis that was placed on the word “living.” A tiny thought began to grow in his head, one that took root and was given firm wings. Settling the elfling on his hip, he rose to a standing position, proceeding into the bedchambers before Legolas could even make out what his father was intending.
“Aha!” the king cried out, a look of triumph clearly splayed across his fair features. “I knew it!”
For there, in the middle of the room, halfway between the door and the bed, was the suspicious pile of rocks. Though the pile was lying perfectly still at the moment, there was no doubt in Thranduil’s mind that something had moved them. And since it was not him, and it could not have been his little son…that left only one other possibility…
He made his way over to the unmoving pile of rocks, Legolas still placed firmly on one hip. The elfling had clutched tightly at his father’s arm as he was jostled about, and the grip tightened as Legolas saw where his father was heading, but he remained quiet. He could not stop what was happening now, so he would just have to accept the consequences, whatever they might be. He could not help but hide his head in his father’s strong shoulder as Thranduil stuck a boot out and firmly nudged the pile of rocks.
The king was not much surprised when, instead of simply rolling around like a normal pile of rocks would do, the pile made a sudden leap at his foot and landed rather heavily on the toe of his boot—though he could not quite prevent a muffled yelp of pain. He kicked the rocks harshly away and a gruff screeching sound immediately filled the room, making him gasp and attempt to cover first one of his ears, then his little son’s, as the piercing noise threatened to shatter the sensitive elven hearing.
Sighing heavily and still rubbing his ear, he nudged the rocks yet again, causing them to turn over and exposing a rather grotesque item that had some similarity to a mouth, one that was open wide as it emitted the ear-piercing noise. Above the mouth lay two odd-looking buttons that could only be eyes. The large buttons closed, then opened once more, and the sound dwindled off as the black buttons looked directly at the elven king. One more soft squawk, that sounded rather indignant, proceeded from the large mouth-hole, then that closed as well, leaving only a jagged, dark line in the rock where it was placed.
Only his son…only his adorable, innocent elfling of pureness and light… Only his son could go out and find a Stone-giant baby and drag it home to care for! No wonder the child was covered in bruises! Any baby was a handful, and one made of rocks was only meant for Stone-giant parents to care for!
Worried eyes turned to meet his own now-amused ones as he looked down at his elfling. “Ada…he was lost in the river in the storm…I had to take care of him… I couldn’t just leave him, Ada…”
Thranduil said nothing, merely looking at his child as he tried to squash the sudden and inane urge to laugh hysterically at his child’s antics.
Growing more worried at his father’s silence, the elfling moved his good arm around and started fidgeting with his father’s robe front. “It is not really a pet, Ada, for you said rocks were not alive. And besides…he doesn’t have any fur, Ada. He cannot really be a pet if he does not have any fur…!” Feeling a little bolder when he could not find any trace of anger in his father’s eyes, the elfling reached up and patted Thranduil’s cheek, a certain move that would nearly always grant him clemency. “He does not mean to be naughty, Ada. He is just a baby and gets scared sometimes. He doesn’t mean to hurt me…I can teach him as he grows a little older. He won’t be any trouble at all, Ada…” The child reached forward and placed a kiss on his father’s cheek, wrapping his one good arm around the slender neck and smiling up at him in such a charming manner that the Valar themselves would have had difficulty saying no to the child.
Thranduil saw the slight wince cross his elfling’s face as his bad arm was jostled, and the king was brought swiftly back to the present and the immediate issues. Feeling a little sorry for his young son,—for what elfling, or even grown elf, would not like to acquire such a rare treasure as a Stone-giant baby—he carried him over to the bed and sat down with the elfling carefully balanced in his lap.
“Now, Legolas,” he said gently, smoothing back ruffled blonde hair from the child’s forehead, “I can well understand the temptation, believe me. You have a creature that is rarely seen by any other living being, one that is made of myths and legends. To have it dropped so opportunely into your lap, as it were, would be difficult for anyone to resist. But, Legolas, you know we cannot keep it, penneth. Look at him…he is a creature we know nothing about, and one whom only his own parents can successfully raise.” Thranduil grasped the injured arm in his own larger hand, holding it up gently. “Look at what damage has been caused already, little one, and you have only had him just a few days, I believe?” Thranduil raised an eyebrow in question and Legolas nodded miserably, his eyes beginning to fill with moisture.
“Child, he is not going to stay a baby for long. He is going to grow…and swiftly. Before you realize it, he will be larger than the entirety of your room, and still will not be fully grown. Stone-giants are the size of small mountains. Can you truly fit a small mountain into this room?”
A small sniffle came from the elfling, and Legolas drew his good arm across his eyes to rub away the moisture before his father could see. His father smiled sadly, drawing the child closer to him. “The damage he causes will not cease, little one; it shall only grow worse as he grows, for he cannot help it. He is a creature of the rocks, and being rough is the way they spend a fun afternoon playing. What if Galion comes in here to fetch you one morn and the creature attacks him? Would you want him to get hurt as you have been, or perhaps even worse than you?”
Eyes opened wide as the elfling peered up at his father. He had not thought of that! Thranduil knew well the love he held for Galion, as well as the love and concern Galion held for the child. Sensing a dawning—albeit grudging—realization from the child, Thranduil pressed forward. “Not to mention that the creature has already lashed out at me once, and he will soon be even bigger and stronger than he is now. I would not be able to tuck you into bed at night without fearing for our lives, little one!” He smiled, amusement shining in his eyes at the wide-eyed look of disbelief on the small one’s face.
“Adaaa….” Legolas protested, “you are a brave, strong warrior! You cannot be bested by a little baby creature of any type!”
“Tell that to my aching foot!” Thranduil joked, feeling a jolt of pleasure at the clear sight of hero worship in the child’s eyes. He sighed then, pulling Legolas into an embrace once more and rubbing the thin back. “He cannot stay, little one. It is too dangerous for all of us, including you. Nor would he fare well in this type of environment.”
Legolas pulled back from the embrace, looking up at him with such sadness that the poor father nearly found himself relenting, only just managing to stop himself in time. “But, Ada, we cannot just dump him back in the river. He is just a baby! How can he fend for himself?”
A frown spread across his father’s face. “Hmmm, I suppose we shall have to somehow find out where his parents are and take him back to them. What say you to a little trip, my son?”
A tentative smile flashed upon the fair, young face. “Perhaps that might be a good idea,” he said hesitantly as he began to warm up to the idea. Besides, thought the elfling, a trip would mean more time spent with Ada, and that would take away the pain of losing his little Stone-giant baby. Time spent with Ada was worth more than anything, he figured, since the king was always so busy lately with his affairs of the realm.
Acquiescing gracefully, the child hugged his father, partly in sadness over his impending loss, partly in pain from his still untreated cuts and bruises so recently gained, and partly in excitement over the upcoming trip with his Ada.
Happy to have resolved the issue with some success, Thranduil (after making sure the Stone-giant baby would be safely secure) carted his little elf off to the healing wards, shaking his head at his son’s huge heart that had him bringing home creatures such as this.
It was a few days later that found them facing the large cliffs of Caradhras. After much research and questions asked of the scholars in Mirkwood, Thranduil had discovered the assumed site of the Stone-giant creatures, though he could not find anyone that had ever actually seen the creatures before.
The journey had been most difficult to say the least, with a squealing, crying rock baby to take care of. The horses were loath to carry such a creature, and many stops had to be made in order to transfer the baby (safely ensconced in a heavy burlap bag) onto another mount and rider.
Despite the difficulties with the Stone-giant baby, Thranduil enjoyed the trip more than he had thought he would. Legolas was still recovering from the rock baby-inflicted wounds, including his fractured arm, so was forced to ride with his father. The work-weary king had spent more time with his little one in the past few days than he could remember doing in the past few months, and he made a mental note to continue this practice when they returned home. They were able to share many stories together—Thranduil imparting his vast array of knowledge and folklore on to his child, and Legolas sharing tales about his many daily adventures, including the difficulties he was having in his studies and with making friends.
Now facing the snow-covered caps of the mountains, Thranduil found himself wishing that the journey was not coming to an end. As they reined up their mounts and the king dismounted, leaving Legolas on top of his horse, the Stone-giant baby let out a particularly loud screech—almost as though he could sense their closeness to his home.
As the end of the screech reverberated around the clearing and bounced off the walls of the majestic mountains, a large portion of the mountainside suddenly began to rumble and groan, separating from the mountain.
Fearing a rockslide, one of the younger elves with the patrol cried out.“Take cover! The mountain is coming down!” Thranduil covered a smile and held up one hand, a signal immediately obeyed by those who had started to turn their horses around. They waited and watched, attempting to calm the fidgeting horses with soft whispers and commands.
The mountainside finally separated completely from the rest of the mountain and a misshapen, gigantic figure emerged from among the settling dust and falling rocks. Looks of awe spread across the company as they began to realize what it was they were seeing. Not many were blessed with such an opportunity as to see in person a mythical legend, and whispered prayers of gratitude were gratefully uttered as the creature made its way slowly over to the group of elves.
Thranduil motioned for the current holder of the Stone-giant baby to bring the sack forward. The king himself took the sack, walked a few steps forward, and knelt down on one knee as he lowered the sack to the ground in front of the approaching Stone-giant. He tugged open the front of the bag, reaching in and patting the baby on the head, then pulling him carefully out of the sack.
Too confused to use his incredible strength, the little rock-giant blinked up at the elven king, then turned his head with a grating sound to look around at the other gathered elves. Finally, his eyes focused on the approaching creature near the mountains and he let out a squeal of obvious joy, scrambling clumsily up to what must have been feet and thumping forwards at a fast rate straight towards the oncoming creature, one that was most assuredly a parent of some kind—though the watching elves could not determine if it were the mother or the father, since rocks tended to all look the same to them.
“WAIT!” called a lilting, panic-edged small voice right beside Thranduil’s ear, and he turned in surprise to see his little elfling beside him, heading swiftly towards the rock-baby with a look of intent. The king grimaced, wondering how his little elf had gotten down from the horse; then he realized his son was heading straight towards a very big and dangerous creature and made a beeline for the child.
Grasping the struggling elfling around the waist, Thranduil held him tightly and said a silent prayer that the Valar would see fit to spare them from this rock-parent’s anger.
“Wait! Saes! I wish to say goodbye…!” tears filled the little voice, as the child looked desolately after the retreating rock-baby. The grown elves all felt their hearts drop at their little prince’s despair, wishing they could somehow remove what was making him so sad.
Surprisingly, the baby stopped for a moment, turned around…and looked straight at the grieving Legolas. The dark line in his face lifted into what some might call a semblance of a smile, and a jagged arm lifted up in what appeared to be a wave as the creature gave his own form of goodbye to the young keeper who had tried to help him.
Then, he made the rest of his way to the large creature, where he was promptly picked up in strong, grumbling arms. There were a few small rumbles and groans, then a few larger ones, as the creatures reunited and conversed in their own language. Then, the Stone-giant parent turned to face the still-watching group, looking at the elven king and the little prince. It made a gesture that was obviously the bowing of a head, and Thranduil knew they had been thanked in the creature’s own manner.
Then, it turned and rumbled away, still holding the baby in its arms. Thranduil sighed then, turning and placing a gentle kiss on his little one’s pale brow. “Perhaps you will see him again someday,” he whispered kindly to the little elf, who had silent tears streaming down his cheeks. “I have heard the Stone-giants grow slowly, so it is not unreasonable to think that he might recognize you during some journey we make through the mountains.”
Legolas managed a watery smile, then grabbed on to his father tightly, burrowing into his warm shoulder. “Let’s go home, Ada,” he whispered. So Thranduil obligingly returned to his horse and mounted with his elfling safely in his arms. They would return to the previous night’s camp to rest for the evening, for he desired to get as far away as possible from the mountains and the creatures so that his son would not feel the grief of his loss as heavily. As he led his men forward and began to sing a song—one that carried in the wind and floated back to where the Stone-giants were gathered and welcoming their returned little one back—he tightened his hold on the sleepy Legolas, wondering what crazy adventure his little elfling would have for him next time!