Disclaimer: My name's not Tolkien and since I've borrowed my dad's laptop today, I don't even own the computer I'm typing on.
Author's Note: I didn't intend to start posting this for a while, but the first chapter has been done and waiting for months, and I finally decided I couldn't resist. It's meant to be a series of one-shots rather than a multi-chapter story, so updates mayn't be more often than once a month or so, if that.
This is set immediately after Many Meetings, with a young Estel who does not yet know his heritage.
Many thanks to my wonderful beta, Calenlass, for advice, suggestions and patience with questions. *hugs*
Summary: On the advice of Glorfindel and his brothers, a young Estel has decided to spend a winter in Mirkwood learning archery and getting better acquainted with Legolas and Thranduil. He learns that the Elves of the Woodland Realm are both very different from and very similar to the ones he knows.
Warnings: None, except for the usual fluff, and maybe some angst if the opportunity presents itself.
Chapter I: Daughter of Men
I have heard the name, of course. I have heard a great deal about you, as well... Not because you are Thranduil's son, but because there are many here in Imladris who are fond of you.
Let me tell you at once that I mean no offence, Thranduilion. I am sure you are both the brave Elven warrior of the twins' stories and the gentle woodland prince of Glorfindel's reminiscences. But I am mother to a young man whose admiration for you is unmistakable, whose affection and loyalty, I think you will soon realize, are not easily shaken once bestowed. I must ask myself a different question. Will you be a good friend to my son?
I know you far better now than I did when I first saw you riding through those gates. I must confess I did not notice you then; I had eyes only for my Estel.
Over the past few weeks I have noticed you. At first I found you a little alarming, almost fey, like the Wood-elves who haunt the forest around the Last Homely House, singing their jolly but uncannily perceptive songs and laughing unseen among the oaks and beeches.
I realize now that the Imladris I know is an Imladris still mourning the absence of its mistress, who sailed across the Sea so long ago that I did not even imagine that memories of her would still haunt the valley. But you knew Imladris when the Lady Celebrían still dwelt in Middle-earth. It may be that your presence has restored some of the cheer of that happier time.
So, you see, Thranduilion, I have nothing against you. I believe that you are kind and genuinely fond of my son; if I did not, I would not ask this of you.
I have no fears for Estel's physical well-being while he is in your care. Lord Elrond tells me he has told you of Estel's lineage and of the need for both caution and secrecy. He assures me that you will guard my son with your life. He promises me that while he and Thranduil have their differences, he has great faith in the kindness of the Elven-king – especially when his son is involved.
I trust Elrond, and so I trust you – I trust that you will do all that is in your power to ensure my Estel's safety and comfort. But I must ask you a question.
What does the son of the Elven-king of the Woodland Realm know of Men?
My son knows so little of his own race that it saddens me immeasurably. He has been brought up among the Elves of Imladris. He knows about nobility and courage and the heroes who died in defence of Gondolin. He knows, thanks to Lord Elrond's peredhel blood, about Túor and Beren. And through his knowledge of them, through the books in the library and the songs in the Hall of Fire, he thinks he knows Men.
Túor and Beren! They were great men, no doubt, and it honours me to be of their race, but... How do I explain this in terms an Elf would understand? It is like hearing the Lay of Leithian and thinking you know all there is to learn about the Sindar.
I want my son to be King, Thranduilion, but I also want him to be a good king. It is said that your father is a good king, so I believe you know what I mean. He must know his people: not only the valiant warriors who hold Gondor against the minions of the Enemy, but also the craftsmen and the innkeepers, the smiths and the farmers... He must know of valour that poets might never consider worthy of renown.
He has grown up hearing of the choice of Tinúviel who gave up her life's grace; I want him to be able to appreciate the less exalted sacrifices of peasant-girls and farriers' daughters.
I have heard that your father's realm, for all its darkness and the evil that has been wrought upon it, is a merrier place than Imladris. I am glad of it; I like the thought of Estel laughing with young Elven archers beneath the elms of Greenwood. It seems to me that there is too little laughter in Imladris now: even the Wood-elves seem fewer and graver than they once did.
I would not have you believe I do not appreciate what Lord Elrond has done for us – I do. But I have lived all my life among Men, who, without the centuries stretching endlessly before them, must find joy even in the darkest of times or not at all.
There is something I must tell you, Legolas, and I trust you will never let Elrond know of it. During one of those feasts for which your realm is famous, should you manage to get Estel drunk on your father's Dorwinion, I will not complain. Just ensure that he does not make too much of a fool of himself.
Estel is thrilled at the thought of learning archery from the Elves whose prowess even Glorfindel praises (although never, to my knowledge, in their hearing) and I am grateful to you and your father for giving him such joy. I do not expect he will ever be as skilled as the finest Elven bowmen, but I am sure he will be proficient by mortal accounting. I do not doubt that it will serve him well in whatever battles he must face in the future.
Of course I will be pleased if you manage to make an archer of him, but I will be better pleased if you manage to show him your realm, from your father's stronghold to the smallest forest settlement.
Elves, I have noticed, frequently think of the Dúnedain as a distinct race, halfway between Men and Eldar. While it is true that we have Elven blood, we are not Elves, Legolas. We are Men.
I do not believe I have explained myself very well.
I am asking you, Thranduilion, as any mother would, to take care of my son. I am asking you to teach him what he cannot learn in a place like Imladris. I am asking you to introduce him to Elves who have not slain Balrogs, to show him that great deeds do not become less if minstrels in the Hall of Fire do not sing of them.
Strange as it may seem, I am asking an Elven prince to teach my son how to be a Man.
With a small smile, Legolas folded up Gilraen's letter and tucked it into his pack. He leaned back against the trunk of an oak, murmuring a soft greeting to the tree.
"What was that?" a sleepy voice asked.
The Elf glanced at Estel, who was spreading his blankets nearby.
"Just a note from Imladris, penneth. Go to sleep. I am told by Lord Elrond that Men need much sleep, and we have far to travel before we reach home."
Peredhel – Half-Elf
Penneth – Young one
There'll be more action in later chapters - and they'll be longer, too. ;-)
What did you think? Good? Bad? Should absolutely not be continued? Please review!