Legolas felt old, really old. For years now he had been fighting the evils in his home. Lately, everything was too much effort, even drawing his beloved bow. His father complained that he was too pale and didnít eat enough. Food just didnít taste good anymore. As he seemed to loose weight he got more advice from his fatherís healers about what he should eat.
When he returned from his latest patrol with an insignificant wound that took forever to heal, his father pulled him from the border patrol. There were several arguments between father and son over the younger elfís health. Finally, after a particularly heated debate, Thranduil sent his son to Imladris with an urgent message for Lord Elrond.
This errand boy mission of his only fueled the young elfís anger at his father. There were terse words said between the two as the prince left, well ahead of any escort the king could have sent with him.
The elfís lone journey over the mountains was amazingly uneventful, and even without a horse, he made excellent time.
As he left the mountain pass, sounds of fighting up ahead sent him running to see if he could help anyone. It quickly became apparent that orcs had attacked a group of men in the only open space for miles. They were a strange group and among their numbers there were two identical black haired elves. Legolas pulled his bow, and even from his great distance, he engaged the enemy.
There was great confusion at the entrance of another into the fight, the orcs panicking at this new threat. In the midst of the confusion, Legolas saw a small figure running between the foul creatures, dodging them whenever possible. It was obvious the men were trying to get to the boy, but the orcs blocked their every maneuver.
Legolas managed to get to him first, and pulled the child behind him. One of the other elves hollered, "Get the child out of here! Please take him! Run!"
The archer wanted to stay and fight, but the trembling boy did not belong on a battlefield, and he was the only one who could get the boy to safety. Feeling guilty for abandoning the fight, the elf threw his bow back onto his shoulder, lifted the child and ran into the woods on the far side of the clearing. Legolas could hear sounds of pursuit and ran as quickly as he could, finally spotting a location where his natural elven Ďmagicí would help him blend into the trees, so as to be unrecognizable to pursuing orcs. He wrapped the child under his traveling cloak and together they hid.
As soon as the pursuing orcs were out of earshot of the elf, Legolas pried the child out of his cloak, and they made their way to a cave. Darkness was falling; they would need to find uninhabited shelter for the night. The elf could only hope that the men would find them.
Legolas set the boy on the cave floor. "Iíll be right back. I need to make sure the cave is secure." As he stood up, the boy grabbed him and wouldnít let go of him. He was shivering.
Quickly, the archer pulled his tunic off and wrapped it around the boy. "I will be right back."
When he came back with firewood, he quickly put a fire together, and then went back over to the child. "Little one, come over by the fire. You need to get warm." He picked him up and cradled him in his arms. "Whatís your name?"
"Iím Legolas. Can you say that?"
"LegÖ Lega... Leggy." The child scrunched up his face, trying to say the unfamiliar word.
"Well, I suppose thatís close enough. Iíll know when youíre calling me. Come, let us get some sleep. Iíll go hunting in the morning." Slowly he stretched out pulling the child against him, making sure he was tucked into the tunic and sang him to sleep. Legolas figured he better get some sleep himself. His woodland animal friends would wake him if the danger came to close.
Legolas awoke the next morning to a loud scream. The child was pale and shaking. He was still wrapped in the elfís tunic and was looking around wild-eyed.
Next to the child, a small, black and white rat sat on its hind legs, using his front paws to pull on the elfís shirt. Legolas realized the rat must have startled the child and quickly moved to reassure him. "Itís alright little one. Old man rat is just here to help us. He and his friends were standing watch against the orcs. He came to tell us the orcs have moved away from the area, and we can move on. Old man isnít really old; we just call him that because he looks old."
Legolas stopped talking, realizing that he was chatting aimlessly to a child who probably couldnít understand him anyway.
"Come, let us go. Old Man tells me that the battlefield has been abandonded, there is no sign of you people there. Weíll try to make it to Rivendel. Itís the closest elven settlement that I know of. Perhaps Lord Elrond will know how to find your family."
As they left the cave, Legolas tossed the boy onto his hip, careful to avoid his bow and quiver. The poor boy soft shoes and although he had clothes, they were to light for this time of year. After trudging through the woods for a few hours the boy had fallen asleep. The elf gently set the boy down, being careful not to wake him. From an unseen pocket he pulled the old man rat from his pocket. "Keep watch for me little one. Iím going to get some food for the child." As the elf left the clearing, the rat called out to his fellow animals and within moments every creature in the woods was watching the child. Shortly afterwards, the elf returned with berries, roots, and two squirrels. After thanking the woodland creatures, the elf prepared lunch and gently woke the boy. He gave the child his water flask and helped him drink.
The rat poked his head out at the boy chattering at him. Now more comfortable with the creature, the boy reached out to pet him. As the afternoon ware on, Legolas realized his chest was feeling lighter, and the world seemed brighter. He noticed birds singing that he hadnít heard in years. It was amazing.
After lunch and taking care of natures other needs, the boy walked up to the elf, "Leggy up! Up!" Carefully the lifted the child back onto his hip. They made good time and toward evening, Legolas started looking for a place to spend the night.
He found a nice clearing and set the child down. Slowly gathering wood, the elf kept an eye on the child, who was up and exploring. As the child walked away from him, Legolas noticed a disturbance in the grass. With a feeling of dread, Legolas ran toward the boy. "Araglon, stop!" As the elf reached him, he swooped the child up into his arms. The elfís left leg landed right where the boy was about to step, there was a loud crack and a metal contraption clicked into place around the elfís calf, jagged metal teeth digging into flesh. Amazingly, the elf managed to set the child down before his body went limp from the pain and he slid to the ground.
The elf looked at the trap and realized he wasnít going to be able to get it open on his own. "Araglon," he said, hoping the child would understand him. "I need you to help me with this." The boy moved closer to the elf and looked closely at the black metal contraption that dug so deeply into the elfís leg. Carefully, the boy reached into the teeth and pushed the release mechanism. Legolas felt light headed from the release of pain. Quickly the blood started welling into the many puncture wounds left behind.
He slid his quiver off his back and flipped open the bottom compartment where he kept his small healing kit.
His hands were shaking as he unrolled the herb pouch, whether from pain or blood loss, he wasnít sure. Suddenly, a pair of little hands joined his with the most calming touch the elf had ever felt. He looked up to see steady grey eyes, much older than the face for which they belonged, staring back at him.
Before the elf realized what had happened, the child medicated and wrapped the wound. The elf shook his head in amazement. The child had just done a better job than most of the elven field medics Legolas had known.
This wound complicated things. He had to get the child to Rivendel, still five days away by foot, and this would now slow him even further. After much debate, the elf decided to continue on for the night, while he could stay on his feet and to get as far away from any more of these contraptions that might still be lurking around. He replaced his quiver and went to lift the child who suddenly protested. "Ara walk. Leggy hurt." The archer couldnít really argue with such logic and together the two moved out.
By morning Legolas was again carrying a sleeping child, and they had made slow progress. The wound was swollen and hot to the touch. Legolas knew he was running a fever, but he had to keep moving. He had to get the little one to his family. He knew that Lord Elrond would know how to find his family.
He laid the child down, and then sat heavily himself. His vision was swimming and the elf had to rest. As soon as he felt the ground, the boy woke up. "Leggy alright? Let me." With that the child unwrapped the wound and shook his head at the swollen leg marks. "Bad Leg. Bad Leg."
Legolas laughed, "Yes, the leg is bad."
"You rest," the boy said, raising his eyebrow. If Legolas didnít know better he would say it was a perfect imitation of Lord Elrond himself, but that couldnít be possible.
"We need to keep moving."
The elf didnít want to admit it, but his leg really did throb, and at this point he wasnít sure if he could keep moving. "Fine. We will have to hold up here until my leg is better then. After that we will move on. Come little one, let us rest. By morning, I should be ready to move on." As he sat there with the child, his body shut down.
When Legolas next awoke, he found himself laying on a soft bed under an elegant wooden roof. Looking around, he realized he was alone. His leg throbbed and his head hurt. The bright lighting in the room hurt his eyes. A noise to his left mad him look toward the door. A familiar dark head popped through the opening.
"Araglon?" he called.
The boy came running in. "Ada! Leggy wake! Leggy!"
At the happy shout, Legolas looked up and saw Lord Elrond enter the room. This was not the way he wanted to greet the elven lord, on his back, once again in the healing wing. He tried to sit up. "Stay young one. You were very ill."
"Ten days." He raised his hand, halting the archerís words. "The trap had poison on it. Although you had cleaned the wound well, the poison had to work its way out."
"I didnít clean it. My hands were shaking too badly. The little one did. He looks much like you my Lord. He had the same expression on his face when I tried to walk, as you did when I tried to stand."
"Well, he does have the hands of a healer."
Legolas thought there should be more to that remark, but his mind just couldnít grasp the thought so he asked, "How did you find us?"
From his robe pocket, Lord Elrond pulled out a small furry creature. "Your pet summoned help. The forest creatures led Elladan and Elrohir to you."
"The child, my Lord, I need your help to find his family. Iím not sure if he had anyone left. I ran from the battle with the child. There were several humans and two elves. I got to the child first. One of the elves told me to take him and run. I didnít want to leave, but the child needed to be protected. The boy might have no one left."
"Fear not, young one. You made the right choice. Everyone in that battle would have given their lives for this boy, by taking him away, you made their sacrifice meaningful. Prince Legolas of the Woodland Realm, allow me to introduce my son, Estel."
"Your son, my Lord?"
Elrond turned to the boy, "Estel, can you go tell your brothers that Legolas is awake."
"Yeah, Leggy awake!" The boy ran out of the room.
"The boy said his name was Araglon."
"Actually, he is Aragorn, son of Arathorn. Estelís father was killed during the battle you saved him from. Arathorn was a good friend of mine, and a descendant of my brother. So he is of my family. Since the day he was born, we have called him Estel. He is the last of his line, all our hope rest with him. My sons and I have decided to raise him here in Imladris. They were very close to his father, and donít wish to see him share the same fate. His mother, Gilrean will join us here."
"Oh, I see. Then heís taken care of. This is his home."
"You seem disappointed."
"Itís nothing, my Lord. Just a selfish wish that I could get to know him better. Heís such a ray of brightness."
"Did you read the missive your father sent me?"
"No, my Lord. That was a private message for you."
"Well, it seems that the healers in your realm have determined that you are suffering from acute shadow sickness. It is the reason why the poison invaded your system so well. Your father has asked me to help treat your illness. He is aware that the only true cure is rest, which you canít get as long as you are fighting the evils of your woods."
"And this is a very invasive illness. It took centuries to get you to this point, it will take you at least a few years to overcome it. Your father will miss you, but he wants his son to be well. You are the only family he has left. I think that you will have plenty of time to get to know our young charge. As I recall, you were always begging your mother for a baby brother. Now you have one."
Legolas stayed in Imladris for the next twenty years, constantly keeping in contact with his father, the time away from each other going far toward repairing the damage the Shadow had done to their relationship. It took him a long time to recover from his illness, a cure for which young Estel payed va great part.. When the time came for Estel to assume his position as Chieftain of the Dunadain, Legolas returned to his duties as Prince of the Woodland Realm.
Over the course of those twenty years they had many misadventures, and became life bound brothers. As they parted at the base of the Misty Mountains, Legolas gave Estel a long heartfelt hug, scrunched a letter in the manís hand and rode home, to see his father, whom he missed very much.
Estel waited until he could no longer see the elf, and then opened the scrap of paper.
Estel, brother of my heart,
Family is more than blood, it is the people you feel love for, the people who give you purpose and hope. You came into my life at a time of deep despair, and helped me to see light again. My family now includes you, Aragorn, son of Arathorn; Estel, son of Elrond.
You now stand as my brother. I would give my life for you. Now and for always you have my bow. Remember, you have only to ask. Until we meet next, stay well.
Many years later, Legolas would again remember his pledge to a young man named Hope, and the newest members of his Ďfamilyí, four hobbits, and a dwarf, but that is another tale, best left for another time.