It was a beautiful, crisp winter morning in Gondor. The White City gleamed like a jewel amidst a lush carpet of the purest fresh-fallen snow. In the west,the Ered Nimrais rose majestically up to meet the bluest sky, and the mighty Anduin bore ever swiftly to the sea.
Fields that had coloured red and black with spilt blood not so long ago were painted a pristine white, as if trying to obliterate the memory of the recent past. Long would those sorrows endure, yet in the purity of that moment, one could almost forget and lose oneself in the joy of the quiet morning. Peace had settled upon the land and somewhere, a lone little bird took up a sweet call.
On the outskirts of the seven-tiered citadel, three figures were taking a leisurely stroll just beyond the last wall.
"All is well, Aragorn. Our supplies are plentiful and will last us the winter and beyond. Next spring will yield the most brilliant display of new life that the forests have seen in years, much thanks to our friends the Elves!"
At that, Faramir looked over his shoulder fondly at one of his companions, Legolas, who responded with a brilliant smile of his own.
Together over the last year, elves and men had worked tirelessly alongside one another to restore the beauty of Ithilien. The elven settlement was only a few hours ride north of the human one and the two lords of Ithilien had become close friends, united by worthy purpose and love for the forest. Initially, Faramir had been in awe of the ethereal nobility of the elves but as he had gotten to know Legolas and others from the various elven realms, he had been touched by the purity and subtle grace inherent to their race. This trip had been long-awaited and only yesterday had they ridden up to Minas Tirith to celebrate Yule with Aragorn and his queen, the lady Arwen.
Aragorn smiled. "This news gladdens my heart greatly. But not as much as having two of my dearest friends with me today!"
The conversation drifted to other topics, both light and more mundane as their feet led them further from the city. They found themselves standing atop a rather steep embankment some several hundred yards from the last wall, though well within view of the city. Three sets of footprints followed behind them; two sunk deep into the soft snow, the third leaving only the faintest of indents.
They stared out over the valley that lay before them, entranced by the beauty of it. Mount Mindolluin lay ahead with its peak dusted white, some distance across the Anduin. The three stood in silent contemplation for a short while, merely enjoying each other's company. Then Legolas turned to the other two with an impious glint in his eye and a wicked grin on his face.
"I have an idea," he announced.
Aragorn raised an eyebrow and glanced at his long-standing friend of many years, the tentative beginnings of a smile curving his lips. He had heard, and experienced first-hand, some of these ideas before. He recalled every prank and misadventure he had been party to in his youth in Imladris where a certain Wood-elf had been chief instigator. Those delicate features and wide, innocent sapphire eyes hid a devious little prankster who more often than not got away with murder. There were few indeed who could resist the wiles of this enchanting son of Thranduil. Together with Elrond's twin sons, Elladan and Elrohir, the four of them had left a trail of destruction and many raised eyebrows in their wake. Aragorn sent a silent prayer of thanks to the Valar that his brothers were not with them at this present moment.
"Don't give me that look, Estel! I'm not going to burn down your pretty city!" gasped Legolas, hand over heart in mock distress. He narrowed his eyes and glanced back at his friend, grinning madly. "At least I don't intend to."
Faramir stood between the two in silent amusement. This was a side he had not yet glimpsed in the elf. He knew the regal elf prince, the charming host and gracious leader. But this playful side, he was infinitely curious about.
Aragorn shook his head and exhaled a long-suffering sigh. To be honest, he missed his childhood days with the twins and Legolas. He missed the carefree abandon and endless stream of pranks concocted purely for their gleeful pleasure on a hot summer's day. But he was King now, his face lined with many sorrows and responsibilities he had not had then. Still, this could prove entertaining.
He gave his friend a paternal smile of wry amusement, reminiscent of the very same one that Elrond used to bestow upon his wayward sons. He chuckled inwardly at the comparison.
Seeing this as a sign of approval, Legolas' face lit up with a brilliant smile once more.
"Wait here. I shall return shortly."
Faramir turned to Aragorn.
"What is he doing?"
"Ahh, now if I knew, I am not so sure I would still be standing here, calmly awaiting his return."
Faramir's eyes widened at the admission from Aragorn but the king made no further comment and with that, they watched as the elf scampered over the snow and up the hill heading for the wall.
Legolas approached a side gate guarded by a handful of soldiers who bid the elf a polite greeting.
They recognised him as one of the Nine and friend of the King. Their eyes shone unabashedly in wonderment and admiration. Legolas did not hesitate to use this to his advantage. Turning on the charm he approached the youngest looking soldier, who had dark curls and slate coloured eyes, nervously gaping at the elf.
"Good morning! I have a favour I need to ask of you, master..."
"Master Darcyn, I have need of your shield for a little while. Would you be so kind as to lend it to me? I shall return it to you shortly."
"My shield? Uh... I...I suppose... but please bring it back!"
Darcyn flushed at his daring. Legolas merely rewarded him with another of his radiant smiles. The young man bit his lip in a shy grin.
Back at the embankment..."What is he doing?!" Faramir repeated. Aragorn merely shrugged. They looked on from afar as Legolas similarly relieved two others of their round, shiny bronze shields and returned in leaps and bounds across the snow exuding childish gleefulness. Upon reaching them once more, he gave them each a shield. His enthusiastic "Shall we?" was met with confused stares.
"Oh don't tell me you have NEVER tried this before?"
With a grin, he turned to face the slope before them.
Aragorn, King of Gondor and Faramir, Prince of Ithilien watched, mouths agape as the normally sedate elf-prince took a few steps back, before proceeding to launch himself down the steep slope of the embankment, head-first atop the round shield, yelling loudly as he picked up immense speed. Their stunned silence continued as they watched the prince come to a jarring halt at the bottom of the slope, flip over and land in a most undignified fashion on the soft snow, sprawled out in a tangle of limbs.
For a moment there, Aragorn panicked at the thought of his friend seriously injured. But the sound of tinkling silver laughter reached his ears and Legolas sat up and turned around to look at them standing at the top of the embankment, his face flushed with excitement and snow flakes clinging to wisps of golden hair.
"Well, aren't you coming?!" came the taunt.
Faramir and Aragorn turned to each other grinning, picked their jaws off the ground and launched themselves down the slope after Legolas...one loud, unkingly war-whoop later the three of them were lying flat on their backs at the bottom of the slope, giggling like besotted maidens.
"I wonder what Adar would say right now."
"I don't think I want your father to see us right now, Legolas."
More giggling ensued.
"Shall we try that again?"
... If anything, that beautiful winter morning was one the guards at the gate remembered for a very, very long time.
Note: I couldn't resist! It's just some random silliness I came up with after seeing Boromir's shield in the first movie...therefore I make no claims regarding the feasibility of making it down a hill on said shield so listen up kids...Don't try this at home!