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Squirrels and Mud Puddles: 1. Squirrels and Mud Puddles
“What is it?” his brother quizzed, with more curiosity than concern.
Elrohir nodded his head toward a large grey squirrel carrying what looked to be a silver bird with outstretched wings. A tiny, golden-haired elfling followed hot on its heels, too focused on the chase to notice the two mounted elves.
“Give that back!” the elfling demanded hotly, as his prey scurried across a large mud puddle and up a tall oak.
Too small to reach the oak’s lowest branch, Legolas raced up a neighboring low-branched elm and leapt across. Undaunted, the squirrel darted inside its hole and, safely out of reach, chattered at the clever little elfling.
Elrohir thought the chattering sounded distinctly like smug laughter and decided the squirrel could not be allowed to win the day. Meeting Elladan’s eyes, he saw agreement and quickly dismounted.
“You give that back or I’ll bring a hawk to this tree to eat you!” Legolas shouted as threateningly as his small voice could manage.
The squirrel promptly darted back out the hole, raced across the elfling, and bounded off his head onto a higher branch. Stunned, Legolas tumbled backward out of the tree.
“Careful, little one, it’s a long way to the ground,” Elrohir admonished, reaching the branch just in time to catch the golden-haired elfling by his tunic.
Legolas stared at the strange elf, as Elrohir settled him back on the branch. His curiosity quickly faded, though, and his expression changed into a scowl.
Realizing the little one’s attention had shifted, Elrohir twisted around to see the disgruntled squirrel shaking its fist at them. He turned back again to find the elfling’s arm stuck as far into the squirrel’s hole as it would go, his scowl deepening.
“I can’t reach it,” Legolas grumbled, sitting back on his heels in disgust.
“I’ll get it for you, little one,” Elladan offered, hopping across from a neighboring branch. The elfling’s head jerked up, his eyes growing wide as they shifted from one brother to other. He’d never seen twins. Sharing an amused grin with his brother, Elrohir lifted the little one out of the way, as Elladan thrust a long arm into the squirrel’s hole.
“Can you reach it?” Legolas asked, anxiously.
“Mmmhmmm….just about…..got it!” Elladan announced, with a delighted grin, and started to pull his arm back.
“Hmmm…,” he grunted, a moment later, as the silver bird snagged on something and refused to budge even a hair further. Elladan tugged mightily, but to no avail.
“Come on, Elladan!” Elrohir prodded impatiently, giving his new little friend a reassuring pat as Legolas’s face scrunched anxiously. “Get it out!”
“I'm trying, but…” Grunt “…it's stuck.”
“What do you mean it's stuck?"
Worn with travel, Lord Glorfindel of Imladris frowned crossly as the twins’ disgruntled voices wafted down from a large oak spreading its branches overhead. Elrond’s energetic sons had ridden ahead less than a league ago. It seemed impossible that they could have found mischief to get into in that short time. Then again, they were Elladan and Elrohir. There was a reason Elrond hadn’t let them venture into the wild without a chaperone.
Glorfindel dismounted, deciding he’d better investigate. Though not visible through the dense trees, Thranduil’s gates were within shouting distance, and he’d spent too many centuries reconciling Greenwood and Imladris to allow Elrond’s sons to undo it all by wreaking havoc before they’d even been introduced. Pausing long enough for a resigned sigh, he gingerly crossed the mud puddle and made his way up the oak.
“Got it!” Elladan exclaimed, as a final, enthusiastic tug abruptly freed the toy and his arm snapped back with unexpected force…nailing Glorfindel square in the forehead just as the elf lord popped into view. Stunned, Glorfindel toppled out of the tree. Elladan, Elrohir and Legolas stared after him, but the dense oak leaves obscured their view. Petrified, they listened to him land with a gooey splat far below.
Glorfindel sighed resignedly, again, as he peeled himself out of the mud. As grateful as he was for the softened landing, it had left him an undeniable mess. It wasn’t exactly how he preferred to be seen by King Thranduil, but there wasn’t much to be done about it. His cloak had gotten the worst of it. Without it he’d be almost presentable, so he unclasped the heavy, mud-laden burden, before slogging out of the puddle.
‘It would be easier to get a new cloak than to get this one clean,’ Glorfindel judged. Perhaps he’d just leave it.
He glanced around for his horse. Discovering that it had found a nice patch of grass to contentedly chew, Glorfindel decided to walk. The horse hadn’t really done anything to deserve being interrupted to share in his master’s misery.
Glorfindel marched silently toward the palace gates without another glance in the twins' direction. Seeing Legolas with them gave him some small degree of comfort. As much mischief as they found to get themselves into, they wouldn’t endanger an elfling. The Greenwood was safe, for the moment. Safer, in any case, than the twins if he saw them again before he’d cleaned-up, rested and generally regained his composure. Determinedly refusing to think about them till then, Glorfindel soothed his ruffled pride with thoughts of a warm bath and Thranduil’s strong wine and soft beds…and of getting the King to lock the gates before the twins arrived.
‘No, that won’t work. They have little Legolas to bargain with. Thranduil will have to let them in,’ he realized, with a deep sigh. How was it again that Elrond convinced him to accompany the twins on their sightseeing adventure?
‘Ah, that’s right, it was Celebrian.’ Glorfindel sighed yet again. She possessed too much of her mother for his good.
Hearing nothing below but the breeze fluttering through the leaves, Elrohir and Elladan exchanged glances of ‘uh-oh, we’ve done it now’, as Legolas’s eyes widened and his chin quivered. He had no idea who the ebony-haired elves were, but he liked Glorfindel. The golden-haired lord didn’t mind playing with little elflings and always told good stories.
Tossing Elladan an accusatory glare, Legolas snatched his toy out of the older elf’s hand and climbed hesitantly down the oak. He had to jump from the last branch, which was higher than his nana would have approved of, but Legolas was too worried to think about it. Reaching the ground, he found the mud puddle empty of all but a soggy cloak.
"By the Valar! The mud puddle ate Glorfindel!” Elladan exclaimed, as his feet touched the ground.
“Elladan!” Elrohir hissed under his breath, seeing Legolas’s tearful gaze move from the cloak to the twins and back to the cloak, his eyes growing larger by the second.
“Fear not, little one, the mud puddle didn’t really…,” he soothed, but it was too late. Before Elrohir could finish, Legolas turned on his heels and bolted toward the palace.
Thranduil stopped speaking mid-word as alarm that was not his own fluttered through his stomach. Forgetting to excuse himself, he fought the urge to bolt, and strode quickly, but calmly, in the direction his little one had dashed not long ago.
Nothing would dare threaten him so near my gates, his head reasoned, but failed to convince his heart.
“Glorfindel!” he exclaimed, halting as the weary-looking Noldo lord trudged into view.
“Thranduil,” Glorfindel acknowledged with a bow, attempting to appear dignified despite his bedraggled appearance.
“This is unexpected,” Thranduil commented, rather distractedly. “We’ve received no word of your coming.”
“Your pardon,” Glorfindel sighed. “In their eagerness, I fear my companions likely outpaced the messengers.”
Thranduil smiled, inattentively, his eyes scanning the forest over Glorfindel’s shoulder. Noticing, the Noldo added, “They and Legolas should not be far behind me.”
This captured the King’s attention, but before he could ask about the ‘they’ Glorfindel had entrusted with his child, his elfling’s panicked scream reached his ears, and he bolted toward it. He’d not gone a dozen feet before a tiny, quaking, golden-haired blur bounded into his arms and buried its head in his shoulder.
“Adaaa…I…we…the squirrel...Glorfindel… hit…fell… tree… mud…. aaaaate him.” The nonsensical flurry of words rushed out between tear-laden hiccups.
“Peace, Legolas, peace. I am here now; all will be well,” Thranduil comforted, tenderly rubbing his back and rocking him soothingly. Instinctively relaxing in the safety of his father’s arms, Legolas’s quivering gradually eased.
“Now, what's this all about?” the King gently questioned, raising his eyebrow at the two ebony-haired elves that had followed on his son’s heels and skidded to a halt before him.
Legolas sniffed before answering in a still shaky, now sleepy, voice, “That nasty squirrel stole my mithril eagle and those two…”
He paused long enough to shoot a scathing glare in the twins’ direction, before comfortingly burying his head back into his father’s shoulder. Frowning, Thranduil continued to soothingly caress the elfling’s back.
“…said they could get it, so they did, but they hit Lord Glorfindel…”
The quivering in his little voice increased as his body began again to tremble, slightly.
“….and he fell into the mud puddle and it aaaaaate hiiiiiim,” Legolas finished in a wail.
“Peace, Legolas,” Thranduil consoled. “Mud puddles don’t eat people.”
“But it did,” his quivering bundle insisted, raising his head just long enough pin Elladan with another accusatory glare. “He said sooooo….”
Thranduil’s eyebrow shot up again as he fixed a disapproving glare on the sons of Elrond. Elladan and Elrohir shifted uncomfortably. The golden-haired elf glared at them with all the authority of an elven lord, but even if he weren’t, the pair had the feeling that King Thranduil was going to get an earful about this. Traumatizing a tiny wood-elfling of his realm before they’d even properly introduced themselves wasn’t likely to make a good impression on the elvenking.
“Pardon, my lord, but perhaps I can be of some assistance here,” Glorfindel offered. Judiciously opting to make his presence known, he stepped up beside the King.
“Glorfindel!” Legolas’s head flew up excitedly. Glorfindel ducked his head in a slight bow, smiling reassuringly at the elfling. Bursting out of his father’s arms, Legolas flew into Glorfindel’s and wrapped his arms tightly around the Noldo’s neck.
Loosening the little one’s grasp enough to breath, Glorfindel soothed. “Be not concerned, Legolas. I am well, only a little muddy. It is nothing a nice bath won’t cure.”
Legolas sniffed and laid his little hands on each side of the big elf’s face.
“I am very glad you are well, Glorfindel,” he whispered, through an enormous grin. He threw his arms around the Noldo for another tight hug, and then stretched his arms out to his father. Settling into the comfort of the King’s arms, Legolas laid his head contentedly against his father’s shoulder.
“My apologies, Thranduil….” The King cut Glorfindel off with a wave of his hand, as the twins’ faces fell with sudden realization.
“Be at ease, my friend.” Thranduil fixed a paternal, disapproving glare upon the twins. They had yet to be introduced, but between their resemblance to their father and the rarity of elven twins, he knew who they were. “I am certain once the story has been told, it will be clear the sons of Elrond intended no harm.”
Turning toward Glorfindel, Thranduil added, “But the explanation will have to wait. This sleepy little one needs a more comfortable bed.”
Glorfindel nodded, smiling at the elfling blinking heavily in an effort to stay awake. As Thranduil excused himself and turned toward the palace gates, the elf lord fixed his stern gaze upon the twins.
Elladan and Elrohir shuffled uncomfortably, wondering how many centuries the golden-haired Noldo’s lecture would last. But to their amazement, Glorfindel simply sighed and raised his hand in a gesture of defeat before turning to follow Thranduil, muttering something about dealing with them later and baths and wine and soft beds and what he’d ever done to Galadriel to deserve this fate. The twins exchanged glances.
“What does grandmother have to do with this?” Elladan whispered. His twin shrugged.
“What fate doesn’t he deserve?” Elrohir returned. His twin shrugged.
“Let’s see if we can at least find out about the wine!” The pair agreed, following Glorfindel with a mischievous glint in their eyes.
Near enough to overhear, Glorfindel sighed, then a wicked thought crossed his mind and he quickened his pace, hoping to catch up to Thranduil before the twins reached the gate.
They don’t have Legolas anymore! He nearly sang, an equally mischievous glint lighting his eye.
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