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Fair Game

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Legolas strapped on his quiver, took up his bow, and strode into the forest. He was hunting alone this day, a very important hunt, and he knew he had to be both stealthy and accurate.

The chill of winter still lingered among the trees and Legolas breathed deeply, filling his lungs with the bracingly fresh air as he moved onward. The sky was gray and threatened snow, but none marked the ground and the going was easy. Legolas' garments, the brown and gray of the late winter forest, hid him and blended with his surroundings. Even his golden hair paled in the feeble light that filtered down through the threadbare canopy.

He cast about for a trail. The litter of leaves covering the forest floor, seemingly undisturbed at first glance, yielded a wealth of clues to his trained eye, and he stooped to study them closely. A smile spread over his face as he realized the direction he needed to go, and he stood and continued on. Several times rabbits and birds presented tempting targets, but the adolescent Elf was after larger game and he let them pass unmolested.

Soon, more caution was necessary as he could tell he was rapidly closing the gap. Legolas hunched lower, hugging the cover of the trees so that he would be even more difficult to see, He inched forward, still following the trail, now knowing for certain where it would lead him. He knew he must keep his pace deliberate and careful. It was essential that his quarry's sharp senses not detect his approach until it was too late to escape. His own sharp senses were on heightened alert as he neared the spot, a small clearing up ahead.

The sound of splashing told him his prey was taking advantage of the early hour to visit the hot spring the Elves often used for bathing. Peering from behind a tree, he saw he had been right as she stepped daintily from the water.

Momentarily overcome by her beauty, Legolas froze, nearly forgetting why he had come. Her body glistened enticingly, the water flowing from her long, black hair, down her comely body and shapely legs. Legolas' heart quickened and he shook himself, drawing back a bit so she would not see him standing there staring, and also so he could make his shot.

Drawing the arrow with only a wisp of sound, he made sure the note was securely tied, lined up his shot with the utmost care, and loosed the arrow. It flew with speed and precision, striking the tree in front of the elleth with a resounding thump.

The Elf maiden looked at the arrow in amazement, her hand flying to her bosom, her eyes searching the trees for the shooter but, of course, failing to find him, for Legolas had already slipped away, disappearing into the forest as swiftly and silently as a phantom. The maiden saw the token tied to the arrow and tugged the string loose. She unrolled the small piece of parchment and read the words there, a tear of joy glistening in her eye as she snatched up her clothing, threw them on, and ran home.

That night, Legolas brushed out his hair, put on his finest evening attire and repaired to the great hall. Heart beating fast, he watched for the elleth, taking up a place in the back that commanded a view of the doors. When she finally arrived, he nearly fainted with relief.

After a moment, his friend, Olvar, also entered the hall and Legolas watched as he and the elleth, Norui, caught each others eye for the first time. A pretty blush rose to her cheek, and an answering blush painted the cheeks of her swain as he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it chastely. Legolas could see that in her other hand she still clutched the small note he had delivered to her that morning.

The young Elf could not stop smiling, his happiness for Olvar and the maiden shining in his eyes. Pretending he had not witnessed their exchange, he slipped discreetly in with the crowd filtering into the hall for the evening's entertainment. Unless he missed his guess, this night's entertainment would include a love pledge made by a pair of blissful young sweethearts.