The young ones ran and ran, finally collapsing with helpless giggles when they felt their lungs were on the brink of bursting.
Lying back on the soft mossy ground, Legolas could not help but beam as he felt the sun's warm rays falling on his face. Closing his eyes, he waited for his breath to return.
"Master, you are in such trouble!" Esendri eventually managed to gasp.
Another fit of giggles ran through Legolas, who was reliving the enraged shouts and threats that had erupted from his tutor as the branches sprang up and closed around his arm, and imagining the look that surely would have been on his face. Esendri spoke the truth, but he was past caring about such mundane matters. No, not when there was such brilliant weather, and such adventure to be found under the bright sun.
"Which is why I fully intend to stay out for a few days. By that time, my father would have had a few days to worry over my disappearance, and would most definitely be relieved beyond measure when I returned, all thoughts of punishment long banished!" Legolas announced confidently.
"Ai, Master, we would be able to stay awake all night under the stars!" The servant too had picked up on the excitement of their latest adventure. They would be living among the forest beasts and birds, surviving off the woods, like real Hunters!
"It is a pity I had not the time to bring my bow!" Legolas exclaimed and sat up, absently twirling his ink-spotted golden locks as he spoke. "Maybe we can make one?"
"Make a bow?"
"Yes, it is easy to procure wood from the forest, my dear Esendri! The wood of the oak should work, for it is supple enough!" was the authoritative answer.
"And string?" Esendri demanded, slightly cross at the prince's haughty tone.
To his consternation, Legolas produced some bowstrings from his pocket, perfectly viable albeit stained black in places by the earlier misadventure. The servant muttered a brief complaint, but was soon spluttering away as Legolas launched himself onto him, temporarily winding the smaller Elf by landing hard on his stomach. He beat feebly at his master, but failed to dislodge him.
Legolas decided against any further torment, and instead rose and jumped aside, squealing with mirth before dashing off into the foliage.
"I shall beat you one day, Legolas!" Esendri shouted, and promptly gave chase.
Eventually both ran out of steam and collapsed in a pile of arms and legs, absolutely elated by their newfound freedom. It was wondrous indeed to be out and about on a day such as this, and both planned to make full use of the glorious weather. They had come to a part of the woods not frequented by wood Elves, and that was ideal for their purposes.
"Look, Esendri, the very branch we seek!" Legolas pointed up ahead, and the servant's attention was drawn to a branch peeking out from under a tree that had fallen in the previous night's storm. "It is still fresh!"
Legolas quickly jumped up and ran over. He attempted to drag the branch out from under the heavy tree, but found that it was pinned tightly to the ground. Try as he might, he could not get the trunk to move even an inch. Esendri laughed at his red face, but was quickly over at his side when the blond Elf cast him a glowering look.
Much to their annoyance, the fallen tree refused to budge in spite of their efforts. When even hurling their entire bodies at it did not cause anything more than a tremble, Esendri was ready to give up.
"Master, will not another branch from the fallen tree, or even any other do? It is useless to try further!"
Dismay filled the servant when the blue eyes narrowed. Esendri recognised that look too well as his master setting his mind on something. Wild boars would not be able to drag him away from the matter ere it was complete.
"I shall have that branch and no other," Legolas stated firmly, his mind already whirring into action. His face lit up as he spotted something in the distance, and quickly ran over to it.
"Look, Esendri!" He pointed now to a pile of excrement. "Bears in the area!"
The servant rolled his eyes. Fawns and birds were one thing, but bears were another. Both Elves had managed to communicate with the tamer inhabitants of the forest, but bears were way out of their league. While they had wrestled with many a cub before, fully-grown bears, like that indicated by the droppings, were honestly best avoided. It was just like his master to go for a head-on confrontation with something that much larger and more powerful than himself.
"How should we lure it out?" Legolas voiced his thoughts aloud.
"Mayhap you should smear its scent all over yourself. With your current frightful state, you could easily pass off as a cub, I should think!" Esendri muttered darkly at his friend, who was now deep in thought.
Legolas paced the area, eyes scanning his surroundings, before they finally lit up, a plan already quickly taking shape.
"Come, Esendri!" He ran over to his servant and took his hand, dragging the unwilling one along.
"Where head we now, Master?" Esendri practically wailed.
"Hush, Esendri, trust me and keep up! Hurry!"
The Sindarin prince found what he sought after a fifteen minute search, and happily looked up into the trees, his face flushed and excited. Esendri baulked at the sight, past memories coming back all at once.
"No, Legolas, not again! Have you not forgotten the last time we tried it?"
"I shall proceed with or without your approval. If you are not up to it, I suggest you return to the safety of the palace grounds!" Legolas replied with contempt, already starting to scale the tree with characteristic agility.
Scrambling madly after Legolas, Esendri called, "Your father will have me banished from Lasgalen if he knew I failed to stop you in this mad endeavour!"
"Then he shall not find out about it!" Legolas answered somewhere higher up.
As always, the smaller Elf was torn between his enjoyment of danger and the commands of his king, although this time the former was now taking over, and all reason was soon abandoned as the thrill of adventure rushed through his thin body.
In a few moments, Legolas had reached his prize, and beamed as he saw thick syrup dripping out of form the large beehive that was a buzz of activity. Their last attempt at a similar exploit had ended in disaster, with the pair finding themselves in the houses of healing for the better part of a week, totally covered in nasty stings, and the unpleasantness of it all was enough to bring back a wince or two. That little encounter, however, only further strengthened the prince's desire to triumph over the bees someday; and it would be today, he told himself resolutely.
Esendri too had now reached the hive, and winked as he produced a thin stick, causing a wicked glint to appear in his master's eyes.
"I will be the diversion, this time!" he mouthed, indicating that Legolas take cover.
In response, the other nodded eagerly before retreating into the leaves, heart beating wildly with excitement.
When he saw that the prince was sufficiently hidden, Esendri looked about first, before plunging the stick into the very heart of the nest. A loud cry escaped him, as he quickly bounced down the trees, making his escape.
Legolas watched as the stick went into the hive, and the almost instantaneous counter-attack launched by the bees. He hoped that Esendri had managed to escape in time, for the swarm that went after him was thick and furious. However now was not the time to be deliberating, and he quickly reached into the relatively unguarded hive and made off with a few large honeycombs before the remaining few insects had any idea what hit them.
He, too, went crashing down the tree, falling more than climbing, and took off like the wind, running in a random direction. His flight, however, proved to be unnecessary, as he turned and found that the bees had instead chosen to remain at the hive to guard against further intruders. Dropping his pace, he then found his bearings and headed back to the site of the fallen tree, a certain smugness in his step at having finally defeated the insects.
Once he arrived, Legolas quickly stuffed the honeycombs through a tiny hole into the hollow of a trunk the fallen tree was blocking. He had noticed it earlier and thus thought up the plan.
The Elven prince was sitting high upon a branch and licking his sticky fingers when Esendri returned, relatively unscathed, save for a few minor cuts and bruises sustained in his wild flight.
"Esendri!" Legolas called, delighted at seeing his friend safe, although he knew he would have felt it had the other been in any sort of danger, as the pair had an unusual bond between them.
Joining his master on the branch, Esendri beamed and started eating the berries he held in his hands, after Legolas refused the offer.
"A good thing I noticed the pool nearby on our way, where I promptly hid until the bees left!" the servant laughed. "I see you succeeded! But did you not leave some for me?"
Legolas winked and produced a honeycomb, promptly handing it over. He did not mention that he himself had not had one, for the servant would surely insist on him taking this. His friend deserved the treat for his part in the venture, for it was clear that he had risked getting himself stung by the horrid insects for his master's sake.
"What do you plan to do now, Legolas?" Esendri asked, after he managed to unstick his teeth from the lovely syrup that now filled his mouth.
In answer, the prince pointed out the small hole blocked by the fallen trunk. A broad smile spread across his face as the plan dawned upon him. "Ingenious!" Esendri breathed, in awe of his master's plan.
"Now we wait!" Legolas pronounced, and began playing with a nearby leaf, watching a caterpillar crawling across it, while Esendri busied himself with the honeycomb, licking the syrup as it ran down his hands.
The afternoon wore on, and the heat of the sun started to send the little ones into a drowsy stupor. It was not long before Legolas fell asleep, nodding away precariously in his perch high above the ground, and and surely to have fallen off if not for his position firmly wedged on the branch.
A loud cracking roused him from his slumber, and his eyes quickly focused. A quick look told him that Esendri too had fallen asleep and was now stirring. Both younglings peered down and to their delight, saw a brown figure lumbering about through the leaves. Their bear had been drawn by the scent of the honeycombs, and had decided to search them down, for honey was bears' favourite snack.
With bated breath, both waited and watched as the bear finally came to the base of the tree, and eagerly sniffed at the hole. A frustrated growl escaped as it realised that the honey was out of reach. It pawed furiously at the hole, even tried biting at it, but it was no use. The smell was now driving it crazy, and the bear decided to go for broke.
Just as Legolas had anticipated, the intelligent creature had discovered that the entrance to its treat was blocked by the fallen trunk. Much to the delight of the friends, the bear batted tentatively at the trunk, before exerting a little more strength. When that did not work, it pawed at it, seemingly to decide whether it was worth the effort. Luckily for the Elves, the bear decided in their favour, and started pushing the trunk with concerted effort, filling the air with much grunting.
In minutes, the fallen tree was out of the way, and the beast attacked the hidden prize with gusto. Legolas almost squealed in excitement at the success of his plan, and was slithering down the tree, throwing all caution to the wind.
His movements were not unnoticed by the bear, which abruptly spun around, half a honeycomb still stuck in its mouth, eyes wild and startled. It hesitated, clearly shocked by the appearance of the strange Elfling before him, covered in black splotches. Legolas now paused too, and backed away slowly, movements deliberated, afraid of startling the beast further.
A large twig hit the bear's head from behind, and it snarled, whipping about, forgetting about the Elven prince before him. Seizing the chance, Legolas grabbed the large branch with both hands and had bounded up the tree to safety by the time the beast recovered and launched itself in his direction.
Esendri cheered loudly, and the frustrated roars of the bear were left behind as the young Elves made the break to safety for the third time that day, bounding through the trees lightly.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.