How Legolas Proved His Bowmanship - Early Adventures #1
A note on the LotR canon. We do not know about Legolas's early life or family. I have taken poetic license to create the characters of his father, mother, sister and teachers. In the following fiction I have attributed material from JRR Tolkien's books, and other sources as endnotes. I hope they transferred through the cut-and-paste. I am borrowing the characters of Tolkien and promise to return them unharmed. - by Chathol-linn, Sindarin "Blade-singer" ©
How Legolas Proved His Bowmanship
"Legolas was called boisterous as a child and. now and again would be summoned to his father's chamber for chastisement." - from "Rescue of the Rowan."
On this occasion Legolas was in his twelfth year, or rather the age that would be equivalent to a mortal boy of twelve. Now they say that Elf children need little teaching and that is true. But if Legolas wished to learn, he had uncommon resources available to him. He was the son of a queen and king whose court attracted Elves of special skills and interests. The House of Thranduil was like an informal college for both adults and children, where pupil and professor delight to learn and teach, where there are few schedules and much homework and the tests really mean something.
Berendil, nicknamed the Bowmaster, was one such expert. He was in great demand. Almost every Elf learns the use of weapons and many prefer the bow. Thranduil spent many pleasurable days with his children hunting in the forests of Mirkwood and noticed early on that Legolas showed promise with the bow. So Thranduil asked Berendil to tutor Legolas and Berendil agreed. Thereafter, from the equivalent age of about nine to the day this story takes place, Legolas had school every day with the Bowmaster in the art, science and lore of the longbow.
The Bowmaster taught Legolas how to see the shape of a good longbow in the branch of a living tree. He taught him which trees provide the supplest and strongest wood for bows: the ash, hickory, hackberry, red elm and yew. He taught Legolas how to harvest the branch, peel the bark, and scrape the inner layer down to the wood. He showed Legolas the first bow he had made with his own hands and told him its strengths and weaknesses. "This is called a single bow. See how it is made of just one material?" said the Bowmaster. "It is easier to make but not as strong as the joined bow. Now look at the bow I use today. It is a joined bow, made of wood and horn, and a secret material. We will make a joined bow later."
He explained that a bow should more than just a double-hinged machine for transferring the force of the archer's drawn arm to the speeding arrow. It is a weapon for battle or the hunt, yes, and also an object of beauty in shape and design. How pleasing are the dictates of its proportion, which relate the length and strength of the bow to the height and strength of the archer. And the bow must express the ancient and laudable tradition of archery. The Bowmaster told Legolas stories about famous or feckless bowmen of legend: the mortal Robin Hood who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, Strongbow the Elf who saved the foster son of King Thingol and was slain by that same foster son , Diana of the mortals, the Maia-like sky huntress whose sigil is the bow of the crescent moon, and great Olomë the Vala. Tradition. Did Legolas understand all this? He did.
The Bowmaster guided Legolas as he carved and whittled his own first bow with a horn-handled shortknife. It was a single bow made of ash wood. Legolas called it "Greenbow" partly because it was like his own name Greenleaf and partly because it was like himself - green in years and experience.
"Strings are not the weakest part of the bow. They are the strongest, and also the easiest part of the bow to make." said the Bowmaster. He went on to explain about strings. Bowstrings, he said, have a feature called breaking strain and good archers must know this. When too much pull is put on the string it will break. The stronger the string, the greater the force ("I mean `destruction'" said Berendil) that will recoil on the archer, most commonly, the eyes. "Therefore," he cautioned, "make sure that your bowstrings are of the best fiber and spinning that can be. Have a care that you replace them before they age." He taught Legolas how to find string fibers in the forest from the tough ribs of the bowplant leaf.
The Bowmaster enlisted the skills of Legolas's sister Elwen. She taught Legolas to mix the bowplant fibers with flax, to spin the fibers into strong thread with a drop spindle, (and notwithstanding Berendil's claim of ease in making a bowstring, one does not learn to spin with a drop spindle in a day), then to plait three spun threads into a strong braided string. She took three strands of Legolas's hair and braided them to demonstrate. "This is how it should look," she said. Legolas started to object to this indignity but with three hanks of his hair buried in his sister's fists, he thought better of it. Later he decided he liked it and for the rest of his days always wore at least one elflock in his hair.
Elwen showed him how to loop the ends of the string and knots so as to fit the notches in the bow ends. "When you are ready to string your bow," she said, "the Bowmaster will show you how to use the stringing frame to keep the tension even. Remember to coat the finished string with a layer of beeswax." The Bowmaster's teaching in this matter was simple: "Never neglect your bowstrings." And Legolas never did.
The Bowmaster loved to talk about arrows. He found them beautiful for their grace, simplicity, and suitability to do their job. He took Legolas into the forest and showed him the trees whose wood yielded the best and the worst arrows. These were different from the bow wood trees. Arrow wood must be light in weight, supple enough to be worked with fletch and point, and strong enough to lodge deep in the target's body without breaking on impact.
"Arrows are like birds and are therefore loved by Manwë the Vala," said the Bowmaster. "Recall how Finrod discovered Maedhros hanging from Morgoth's precipice by one hand. Maedhros begged him to end his torment with an arrow. Finrod strung an arrow and bent his bow, and called upon Manwë. Manwë sent his eagle to carry Finrod up to Maedhros, and he cut off Maedhros's hand at the wrist and set him free. Manwë listens to birds. Some bird feathers are better than others to fletch an arrow but fortunately, the best ones come from domestic fowl, so you do not need to scout the forest for the fletching." However, they did return to the woods to find plants that yielded dyes for arrow wood. Berendil's favorite color for arrows was green - it can be made from blue woad (which is probably what Robin Hood used to produce his "Lincoln green" cloth). So Legolas Greenleaf practiced with his Greenbow and green arrows fletched with goose feathers.
The arrowheads were a different matter. The Elves have forgotten more than others will ever know about smithcraft, and the making of metal arrowheads is the smiths' domain. Dwarves and men also have this skill, and even orcs make serviceable arrowheads. None can touch the work of the Elves. The Bowmaster brought Legolas to the forges of the Elven smiths and even though Legolas did not care for this craft, he learned enough of it anyway to serve his tutelage of the bow. He also learned how to use sharp stone chips as arrowheads in a pinch: what kind of stone (flint was the most available, or obsidian was good if you could get it), what size and shape, how to sharpen it and how to attach to the arrow.
Most of all he learned to retrieve arrows. Not to conserve them in a fight (except at last need) because in a fight you risk to hesitate, but rather to go get them back from the corpses of the enemy or the prey.
"Now that you have your bow and arrows we must get you a quiver and harness," said the Bowmaster. "I will make these for you. The quiver will be light and will hold three twelves of arrows. You carry it on your back. The harness will look like mine - a strap will go over your left shoulder from the quiver, another one under your left arm, and a third under your right arm. They meet on your left breast and are joined like a belt through a metal buckle. I will see to it that the harness fits with no rubbing over your tunic." As promised, the Bowmaster produced these necessities for his young pupil. The quiver was an Elven work of art decorated by carved intertwined beech leaves, and the worked leather straps did not rub.
During all these lessons of lore and craft, Legolas did not neglect target practice. Oh, no. From the very first day he practiced with a practice bow under the guidance of the Bowmaster. Berendil began by having Legolas shoot at fixed targets, of course. Legolas shot at fixed targets from close up, to middle distance, to the furthermost range of his strength - with his Elven eyesight he could actually see further than he could shoot. He shot in the light of the morning and the afternoon. He shot in the dead of darkest night and under starlight and moonlight (his favorite). He missed his evening meals to practice in the gloom of cloudy dusk. He shot in the blinding gold light of noonday sun and the blinding white light of winter snowstorms.
During these early lessons Legolas developed a thick pad of flesh on his left forefinger, which cushioned his hand from the speeding arrow as it left the bow. The pad did not hurt and it did not look unseemly. The Bowmaster said, "Mortals often use a glove on their arrow hand to protect their flesh from this hurt, but you do not need it. If you ever cease using the bow for more than a moon's passage, the pad of flesh will disappear. Do not wear a glove. Your bow will know and obey your intent better if you use bare hands, and you will make fewer mistakes."
Legolas never wore an archer's glove in his life.
Legolas shot at fixed targets from a standing position (the easiest), a kneeling position (not bad) and sitting on the ground cross-legged. He shot his arrows from a prone position and while lying on his back. He shot while holding still, while dropping to the ground and while rising. He shot in these positions in the rain and the wind. He used his own hand-made bow, or the Bowmaster's practice bow, or the bows given him by the Bowmaster so he might learn how different bows respond to differing conditions. Legolas became proficient at shooting at fixed targets. This was good, because there was no combination of weather, light, distance, position, or bow-make that Berendil did not require mastery of, and after the first few months, he corrected mistakes by requiring a fast. Legolas rarely fasted, until -
Berendil said, "I foresee dangerous times ahead. You must learn to use your left hand too. At least it will surprise your foes and at most it may save your life in a fight if your right hand becomes damaged." So Legolas repeated all his lessons with his left hand and developed a matching pad of flesh on his right hand. This new exercise nearly drove young Legolas crazy, but he saw the wisdom of it and he wanted to be the best archer that ever lived. This thought sustained him when his left shoulder ached or he hungered for his missing meal.
Berendil reported that Legolas was a good pupil. "He has an aptitude," he would say. He told Legolas to enter the beginners' competitions. Legolas won them all.
The Bowmaster said, "Let us go to moving targets." At first it was only discs of leather suspended from tree branches swaying in the wind. These presented no difficulty to Legolas. So they began to hunt game. Soon Legolas was providing meat regularly for his family's table. In the stalking and killing of game, the Bowmaster had Huntress join them for the lessons. She was one of the dark-haired Elves and was considered especially beautiful, but what Elf isn't?
Huntress was tall and strong, the best tracker at court, and a deadly shot with the bow. She respected the game. Huntress's job was to teach the woodcraft that would bring Legolas to the target and the proper philosophy for dealing with the slaying.
"Legolas," she said, "never fit an arrow to your string if you do not mean to kill. The bow is meant to kill at need in defense or for food. Its threat is nothing less than death. Do you understand?"
At the time, Legolas did not believe that death was its exclusive purpose. He said nothing.
"You do not need to understand, yet. You need to act as if you do, however. When you find your game, you are to kill it quickly and with one shot if possible. If you can avoid frightening your prey, so much the better. Do not merely wound. But if you do, seek out the wounded animal and kill it as quickly as possible, without fail. And ask pardon for its suffering. For every animal you slay, you must at once speak words of thanks for its participation in the great circle of life. If you do not need the animal for food, or if it does not threaten, do not nock your arrow. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Huntress," said Legolas.
Huntress taught Legolas how to track game through the forest and fields. She taught him the look of the different spoor. She knew all the game animals. Her favorite was the small red deer. Her favorite hunting tunic was made from red deer hide. Her black hair was wild and beautiful against it. She taught Legolas what to expect in the rutting season and to know a early pregnant doe when he saw one.
One day deep in the forest they found a different spoor. "Legolas, look at this print."
Legolas squatted beside her and looked. "Wild boar," he said. "A big one. Moving fast."
"Which way is it going?"
"North, like us. Toward home."
"No, we are turning and going east for a while. It is the will of Thranduil. No one goes near a boar on purpose except a hunting party of six."
"Or more. With a pit trap, if I had my preference," added the Bowmaster.
"It's a good rule," said Huntress. "Once I saw a child from the village about a half-day's ride south of here. It was gored and dying. The mortals brought him to us but we could not help. The child's flesh was in ribbons. He bled to death, screaming. I will never forget it. Boars are dangerous and fast. They're many times the size of a child. They can kill a full-grown Elf easily. Legolas, you must take them seriously."
Legolas nodded. "I take all my archery lessons seriously."
"You need fighting spears to bring down a boar," said the Bowmaster. "The bow will not do it. Still, I will teach you the double arrow shot. It is useful against foes that are overly large or stubborn."
The double arrow shot involved fitting and loosing two arrows simultaneously. Legolas picked up part of the technique so quickly that he doubted its efficacy. He could almost shoot two arrows in two shots as fast as two arrows in one shot. Then he realized there was more to it. By varying the position of his fingers, he could make the arrows hit close together or up to a finger's length apart. This was a challenge. Legolas practiced making double arrow shots at a knothole in a dead tree. Putting both arrows in the knothole at once was easy. Putting an arrow on either side of the knothole with one shot was hard. Legolas practiced all his archery lessons again, this time using the double arrow technique to space the arrows.
The Bowmaster had Legolas enter the intermediate competitions and he won them all. By now the whole court was interested. The advanced archers shot against him and, one by one, Legolas defeated everyone who had not studied with the Bowmaster.
Legolas needed no teaching in how to move silently on the trail, to stay downwind, or go unseen. In the hunting of small game up to the size of the red deer, he could hold his own with the adults. Sot the four of them, Huntress, her husband, the Bowmaster and Legolas enjoyed their excursions to the forest. They could not hunt every day, however - they would over-hunt the forest and violate the rule on necessity. So the Bowmaster put Legolas on horseback on the days they didn't hunt.
"The targets will be fixed and you will move," he said. So once again Legolas went through all his lessons, this time on his horse Golden. For the first time, Legolas was unsatisfied with his progress.
"You are getting ahead of yourself," counseled the Bowmaster. "You are trying to learn to shoot and space two arrows and you are beginning your lessons on horseback. Both are hard. Learn one first and then the other." Legolas did not think that was it. Something else was wrong and he could not say what. He began to brood about it.
The boar they had detoured around in the forest continued north. He had some sentience, as did many large Middle-earth animals. In his boarish mind he thought of himself as Ruler. The humans had chased him away from their village with their specially trained trail dogs. Ruler had to be chased away because he would mate with the tame sows and draw the litters away into the woods where they would go hog wild. The mortals would have preferred to catch him and fatten him up for the table but Ruler was so big and dangerous that it was not worth the risk of losing trained dogs and men.
Being harried by trail dogs enraged Ruler. The only reason he did not kill them was that, if he stopped to fight, the catch dogs would arrive and attack while the trail dogs bayed for the hunters. He knew this from painful experience. His right ear was at that moment shredded and hurting from an encounter with a catch dog. Ruler wanted to stay and mate some more with the tame sows and then lead the piglets into the forest. He wanted to eat the rich leavings to be found around the human settlement. He would have liked another taste of child flesh. But he moved on, seething. He cursed men and dogs in piggy Black Speech as he went north.
That evening at Thranduil's hall, Legolas could be found in the room reserved for the use of the family. Thranduil originally had placed his court in the underground caverns cut out by the rushing stream. They still used the caverns in times of danger, such as the closing years of the Third Age, when he encountered Bilbo and the dwarves. Wood-elves are happier above ground, however, and the king long ago had built a larger hall on top of the caves. Here, each family member had his or her own chamber for privacy. The family room was larger. It contained no beds but tables and chairs, shelves for books, what we would call a small wine bar near the fireplace, and a large couch. Legolas was sprawled on the couch, his golden head on one armrest, arms over his head, right leg on the couch and left foot on the floor. Legolas did not sprawl like a mortal boy who can make the neatest room look like an unmade bed. He sprawled like a cat. He was meditating.
His father and mother, Thranduil and Elsila, stood across the room, arm in arm, on the balcony. Here the hall backed right up against the forest, a view infinitely more pleasing to Wood-elves than a stone cave. The stream separated the strip of lawn from the forest and provided its much-appreciated music. On the far side of the stream directly across from the balcony the Elves had made a circular clearing. They used it for singing, story telling, picnics, and as an out-of-doors classroom. Legolas could hear many voices singing there as he lay pondering the art of double arrow archery from horseback.
Elwen came in wearing her customary breeches and shirt. She greeted her mother and kissed her; she greeted her father and kissed him. She went to Legolas, pulled his hair and unceremoniously swept his left leg onto the couch. She sat herself against the other armrest stretched her legs out toward him, and pushed his feet with hers.
Legolas sat up halfway. They faced each other, booted feet to booted feet. "What are you doing?" he asked.
"Getting your attention. I did not see you at supper tonight or last night either. Is Berendil punishing you for some misfeasance on the field?"
"He is not. I was out riding Golden. Besides, the Bowmaster does not punish pupils. He requires us to perfect our flaws."
"But Berendil tells me you have not had flaws for some time."
"I feel that I am doing something wrong but I cannot tell what it is."
Thranduil began to listen to the conversation. It was his duty and delight to nurture the children as they came into their own. That his younger turned out to be a prodigy with the bow was both satisfying and fascinating. "How does he do it?" he once asked Berendil.
"Three ways. First he has superior sight and hand strength. Second, he is smart. He learns quickly and remembers everything. He lets each shot, each hunt, each lesson inform the next. That is why he practices so much - he likes having the experience to draw on. But these things can be said of most Elves' craft. Third - forgive me, my explanation does not do justice - he puts things together better than most. He uses what he knows of distance, wind, and so on to send the arrow not to where the target is, but rather where he thinks it will be. When I shoot, I aim with my eye. When Legolas shoots, he guides with his mind. That is his gift."
"When I shoot from horseback Golden is too gentle," Legolas said now. "I know her gaits too well. Her footfalls are regular. I know exactly how to, that is, how much to," he struggled to articulate his thought. Then, "I know without thinking how to adjust my shot to take her movement into account. If I don't have to think about the adjustment, I cannot get better."
"What does Berendil say?"
"He says, when I am are taller and stronger I should ride a more spirited horse." Legolas did not hide his displeasure with this recommendation. Elves develop more slowly than mortals in childhood and Legolas was years from his full growth.
>Questioning the Bowmaster!< thought Thranduil behind his guard.
"Perhaps you have reached a plateau," said Elwen. "You have not rested a day since you began studying with Berendil. He does not require that. Take tomorrow off. It may give you a fresh perspective."
"I like to practice, sister. But maybe you are right. What can we do?"
"Let us have a picnic in the clearing and then songs after sunset. We're having guests from Lothlorien tomorrow! A rider just arrived. I came to tell Mother and Father and then remembered I wanted to talk to you."
"It will be good to have them," said Queen Elsila. "I will go greet the rider. Goodnight my dear ones."
Thranduil said belatedly, "Children, get your feet off the couch. And you, daughter - stop worrying your brother."
"Then I must take my leave also," she replied with a smile. "Shall I send a page to alert our southern march wardens?"
Legolas said, "I will go. It is a fine night for riding. Goodnight, all."
The rider from Lothlorien was not the only visitor to cross Thranduil's borders that night. Ruler followed shortly after, with blood on his tusks and on his mind. His latest kill had been a half-grown wolf cub who had the bad luck to be caught off his guard. The inexperienced animal had buried its nose in a hole of cooling mud, soothing a troublesome abrasion on its muzzle. By the time he smelled the boar, it was too late to do anything but die. Ruler gored the cub from chest to underbelly and chomped the spilled guts. The cub's last breath was a scream.
Ruler's stood over the dead cub. His torn ear throbbed. He took the cub's ear in his mouth and chewed it bloody. Revenge tasted good. It wasn't a dog, but it was close enough.
Legolas left the hall with a plan. After alerting the wardens to look out for their guests he would practice some more from horseback. And he would take the Bowmaster's advice, somewhat prematurely. He would ride a more spirited horse. Say - Faeanor (Spirit of Fire), his father's.
Without thought of concealment he led Faeanor out of the stable, across the stream and past the clearing. Several Elves waved and called to him but he kept going. He wanted to accustom Faeanor to his presence before climbing on. Once mounted it was hard for Legolas to keep Faeanor at a walk. Thranduil was over six feet tall and had chosen his war horse for strength, size and spirit. Legolas, on the other hand, was the size of a smallish twelve year old boy. With Faeanor breaking into a trot at every opportunity, it was not long before he found the body of the gored cub.
He dismounted a fair distance away, remembering his woodcraft, so as not to disturb the spoor. When he was about halfway between the dead cub and Faeanor, he saw the tracks and the wounds. Then he knew. The boar.
At that moment he heard a rustling in the brush nearby. He stood still.
Ruler was there. And he was glad because Legolas was alone except for the horse. Boars cannot count of course. Still, Ruler knew about the rule of six as well as the Huntress. He could easily sense the difference between six hunters who could overpower him and five who could not. Tonight he knew there was the horse and there was one other. Not a man, no, but close enough.
Moving only his eyes, Legolas measured the distance to Faeanor. He guessed the boar was as far away from Faeanor as he was, but on the other side. He had his bow and arrows but entertained no belief they would protect him from a charging boar. His only chance was to get to Faeanor ahead of the charge and ride like lightning. He was fairly sure the big horse could outrun the boar or at least outlast him. He hoped.
Already Faeanor was beginning to dance a little, catching the scent of boar and blood.
Legolas took a deep, but very quiet breath. Then he made his move, a sudden dash for the stirrups. He bounded up like a cat and shouted "Noro lim!" And Faeanor ran like mad.
Ruler was close behind. Down the trail they flew, with Faeanor unable to pull away and Ruler unable to catch up. Legolas was in an ecstasy of fear, knowing that one wrong move or failure of balance would put him directly in the boar's path. He kept his head buried in Faeanor's mane, out of the way of whipping branches. The wind rushed through his hair as they tore through the forest, and was he enjoying this? He let Faeanor run where he would, knowing he would head for the safety of the stables. But in his panic, exhilaration and inexperience he forgot that the clearing lay between the forest and the stables, and the clearing was filled with Elves. They headed directly for it.
"Haldir, please join us in the family room" said Thranduil. "We will have a cup of wine on the balcony." Elwen poured and Thranduil served first the guest, then Elsila, Elwen and himself. The night air came through the open doors of the balcony, bringing the sound of singing from those gathered in the clearing. The four raised their wine cups in a silent salutation to the stars.
Below them, on the lawn were Huntress and her husband Galadel. Berendil had just crossed the stream by way of the slippery stones that served as a bridge - that is if you are an Elf. Anyone else would quickly slide into the water. The singers finished a poignant ann-thennath to the constellation Butterfly (our Cassiopeia). Their voices fell away before the sounds of the stream and forest.
On the lawn, Huntress said, "What is that?"
From the balcony Elwen asked, " Are there more riders, Haldir?"
Across the stream, Berendil ran toward the sound. "Something is coming."
At that moment Faeanor broke through the far edge of the clearing at a dead run, tail streaming behind and Legolas clinging to his back. They looked to crash into Berendil head-on, but Berendil crouched and Faeanor half-sprang and half-dodged over him. Berendil felt the heat of the big horse. He could have touched the hooves. On either side of him the Elves were scattering, for now Ruler was less than ten paces behind and he had come to kill.
A lone child stood frozen to a spot at Berendil's right. Berendil lunged for the child, picked her up, and threw her bodily towards the stream. Then he faced the charging boar. He had time to think, O Elbereth, thank you for your graces, while all around him he could hear the unguarded thoughts of the horrified Elves: >Halls of Mandos, Halls of Mandos.< Time slowed for him and the boar came on.
Then Legolas turned, and turned Faeanor, and began to shoot.
Berendil heard the bow singing (he always thought of that sound as "singing") and the thwppp of arrows. They whistled around his head, near to parting his hair. Then he saw a strange and marvelous sight: Ruler had somehow grown thick green bristles around his head and shoulders. He was no longer charging. He died crashing into Berendil but as a dead weight instead of a live fury.
Several things happened then. The child picked herself up from the banks of the stream and began to cry. Huntress and others ran to comfort her. Up in the family room the queen swooned and fainted for the first and only time in her long life. Thranduil barely mastered himself enough to catch her. Faeanor, tiring of such goings-on, reared up and with a mighty twitch of his hindquarters, tipped Legolas into the stream. Galadel joined Berendil, who was unhurt, and they stood looking down at the dead boar. Had we been there, we would have said things like "Will you look at that" and "I have never seen the like before." Now Elves have little inclination for such chitchat and less need, being natural telepaths. Nevertheless, after a moment Galadel said, `Will you look at that." Berendil responded, "I have never seen the like before." This is what they saw:
Legolas had loosed five arrows in four seconds after turning Faeanor around. The first had been a double arrow shot. Each arrow had pierced an eye and was instantly fatal. But the boar kept coming. Legolas had raised himself in the stirrups and shot a single arrow into the back of Ruler's neck, injuring the spinal cord (it was this arrow that nearly parted Berendil's hair). This slowed Ruler down considerably. Legalos then had sat back in the saddle, leaned over to one side, and shot another single arrow that pierced the throat from the front. Finally he leaned dangerously to the other side and placed an arrow in Ruler's ear.
Someone from the balcony jumped to the nearby trees and swung down to the lawn. It was Elwen. She ran across the stream stones to Legolas, where he still sat in the water.
"You are hurt!" she said. "You cut your hand on the rocks - it is bleeding."
Legolas held his hand in the stream to cleanse it before rising. The cut was nothing - an hour later it would be healed. A minnow in the stream drank his Elven blood from the waters and lived ten years afterwards.
Elwen strolled over to Berendil and Galadel and took a look at Ruler. "That's old Tusker," she observed. "The one who killed that child. I guess we won't be eating him."
"Legolas, every one of these shots would have been impossible for me,' said Berendil.
"My brother, I have never seen such shooting," said Elwen. "It is truly wonderful. By the way, Father wants to see you in his chamber. I think he is concerned." This was an understatement of Thranduil's actual condition.
"Yes. Will you catch and groom Faeanor for me, sister? And give him some apples for a treat. He saved my life."
"And you saved mine, " said Berendil.
"After first putting it in danger," said Legolas. "I ask your pardon."
Haldir joined the group now, having followed Elwen in her descent by the trees. When he saw the boar he shook his head. "I though both you and Berendil were for the Halls of Mandos. Probably the horse as well. This is wonderful archery, especially from the back of such a large mount. Oh, and I have a message from Thranduil. He wants ..."
"...to see me in his chamber, I know." said Legolas.
"Probably he wants to see me as well," said Berendil with a grin. "Well, Master Legolas, I will go with you."
"I am not afraid to go to my father's chamber," said Legolas, shaking off water droplets and trying to look more presentable. "But I always welcome your company, Bowmaster. Let us go."
If we were sparrows on the windowsill, we would have seen Thranduil alone in his chamber and more composed than we would be under similar circumstances. Still, he couldn't help reliving the moments when Berendil, the child and Legolas seemed like to die. The fear fed his anger. He struggled with it.
When the knock on the door sounded he said, "Come!" Legolas and Berendil entered.
"Legolas, what have you done?" said Thranduil.
>This is my blame, Thranduil,< said Berendil with guarded thought. >I was the one who put the thought in his head.<
Thranduil gave Berendil a look as rich in meaning as any mind speech and turned to Legolas.
"Father, I rode your war horse in weapons practice, because my horse is too gentle. I did not ask permission." Then he told of his finding of the dead cub and the charging of the wild boar. "I gave Faeanor his head, and he ran like the wind. I did not think of the danger in the clearing until we were there."
"You could not have guided Faeanor whether you saw the danger in time or not. You looked like a thistle on top of that horse. I foresaw three deaths tonight - yours, Berendil's and the child's. Your mother may never be the same. What will Haldir think of our state when our prince shows such disregard?"
"Thranduil," said Berendil, "Legolas saved my life, his own life, and that of the child. No one is dead, or even hurt. If he had been on Golden when he found the boar, he would not have escaped. And I have never seen such shooting. He has surpassed me."
"Nonsense. He is a child. He is not close to matching your experience and judgment, as I hope you have observed."
"In terms of experience and judgment, I am the master. In terms of placing an arrow where he intends it to go, Legolas has surpassed me and he will only get better. You had better teach him another weapon, Thranduil. He will be a warrior some day and will need a bladed weapon to go with his bow."
Thranduil's guarded thought said: >I agree, my friend. I will send him to Chathol-linn (Blade-singer, the Weaponsmistress for swords and knives) soon.<
Aloud Thranduil said wrathfully, "Leave us, Bowmaster." Berendil bowed and departed.
"Legolas, you have erred and caused us great distress. I could see you beaten for risking your neck like that, my son."
Legolas bowed. "Yours to command, My Lord Father. But I will suffer it from your hands alone, and let others beware."
Berendil caught this exchange from outside the chamber, where he lingered unashamedly.
>Excellent answer, Thranduil! I think young Legolas is growing up.<
Thranduil said, "Oh, go hence! Berendil will devise some punishment for you. Stay off my horse. And conduct yourself with more care in the future."
Legolas bowed again. "I love you, too, Father."
Thranduil watched him go. >The prowess of Legolas will serve some high purpose one day, < he thought.
1.Morgoth's Ring, JRR Tolkien, "Laws and Customs among the Eldar, Ælfwine's Preamble" re Elven development
2. Morgoth's Ring, JRR Tolkien, "Laws and Customs among the Eldar, 1st par. after Ælfwine's Preamble" re Elven development
3. The modern Our World terms for single bow and joined bow are self-bow and composite. - the author
4. The Silmarillion, JRR Tolkien, Chapter 21, "Of Turin Turambar" re Strongbow
5. The Silmarillion, JRR Tolkien, Chapter 13, "Of the Return of the Noldor" re Maehdros
6. The Foxfire Book, "Hunting, § Hogs" regarding trail dogs and catch dogs, re trail dogs and catch dogs
7. Morgoth's Ring, JRR Tolkien, "Laws and Customs among the Eldar, Ælfwine's Preamble" re Elven development