Legolas peeked out from behind the tree. He sniffled as his eyes searched the surroundings. His left cheek was still wet with tears, so he wiped them away with his shirt-sleeve. He felt like such a coward. The only thing he was good at was running away. When Nuinrūnion had teased him about not being able to handle a sword, he had just started to cry. As usual. Then they had all started chasing him, calling him all sorts of rude names. As usual.
Seeing as there were no one in sight, he sighed with relief and came out from behind the tree where he had been hiding for the past hour. It seemed like they had given up on their search for him and gone back to playing with their weapons. It was a tradition that when reaching their fifteenth winter, elven-boys would be given their first weapon. Legolas was only nine winters and the youngest elfling in the group of young boys in Mirkwood but they still teased him because he was not able to fight. Especially his older brother Nuinrūnion. He had just reached the fifteen and as his first weapon, their father, Thranduil, had given him a 30 inch long hunting-knife, shaped as a half-moon. Legolas had been green with envy and Nuinrūnion had enjoyed every second of it.
The day was still young, but Legolas was already feeling exhausted. Slowly, he followed the path back to the palace. But he didn't feel like going inside. Nuinrūnion was, fortunally, nowhere to be found nor were any of the other youngsters around, so he dared crossing the open terrain, dashing trough one of the gates that led to the backside of the palace where the grass was a little higher, the trees a little bigger and the landscape more wild. It was his favourite spot in the entire Kingdom of Mirkwood. He sat down under his tree at the pond, at the same spot as always. When he felt more lonely than usual, this place was his hide-out.
He laid down on his stomach, and peeked down into the pond. He could see his reflection mirrored in the clear, cold water, studying it. He did not look like the other children or his brother at all. His skin had always been a little paler, he had always been a little thinner, a little smaller. His hair had always been more silverish. His facial features were smoother than Nunrūnion's, who has inherited their fathers square jaw, golden hair and brown eyes. Legolas' eyes were saphire-blue like his mothers, Eldaliaywen, who had sailed over the seas to the undying land right after giving birth to him, his cheekbones equally as high, his face shaped just like hers.
But Legolas' youth had never lacked of love. At least not from his father. Thranduil had worked so hard to make sure that both of his sons had had a safe and careless childhood. But he often favoured Legolas more than Nunrūnion, perhaps because he looked so much like his darling wife. And that only made Nunrūnion's impression of Legolas being small and defendless stronger.
"Weakling", he whispered angrily to his own reflection. Then he plunged his small hand down in the water, causing it to become blurry and unclear. Suddenly he heard a warm and slightly amused voice behind him. He swirled around.
"Tell me, dear son...what did your reflection do to you, since you believe it to deserve such a crude treatment?" Thranduil chuckled.
Legolas's face became red right up to his ears. "Nothing, father. Nothing at all" he answered weakly and looked down into the ground.
Thranduil's smile faded, as he realized that his youngest son was in an unhappy mood. Then he sat down beside him and put a big arm around his small shoulders.
"Has your brother been teasing you again?" he asked in a low voice.
"I might have known..." Thranduil mumbled, feeling shameful over his eldest. He would have to talk to him in capitalized letters after supper.
But then Legolas suddenly turned his head, a frightened look in his big eyes. "Please, do not punish him father!"
Thranduil arched an eyebrow. "Why not, my child?"
Legolas looked down again. "It would only make it worse" he whispered.
Thranduils' heart ached at the sight of his youngest sitting there, shoulders hanging and various strands of hair in a tangle. Legolas had always possessed the heart of a dreamer, not the mind of a warrior. And being the son of a king, that could not be easy.
"As you wish" he said after a few seconds. "But will you at at least tell me the reason for your brother tormenting you?"
"He says that I am weak. That I have no fighting skills and that I will never learn to be a swordsman. And he is right. I can barely even lift a sword, let alone swing it."
Legolas kept looking down. To admit this to his father, the father that he wanted so badly to be proud of him, was an even greater humiliation.
"And this is what is bothering you?" Thranduil almost sighed with relief. "My dear son, why is it so important for you to become a swordsman? There are many other ways to defend yourself than by blade. And some of them are just as effective, if not better!" he chuckled and gave Legolas a little nudge.
Legolas looked up, his interest awoken. "Really?"
"Yes, my dear son. Speaking of which...I almost forgot why I was looking for you!"
Thranduil got up and stretched out his hand.
"There is something that I would like to show you."
Legolas looked around. He had never been in this part of the palace before. The hall was dark, the only light came from the sunrays that fell trough four very large windows in the southern end where his father stood.
"Legolas", he called out. "Come here."
Legolas obeyed and quickly ran down to the end. There was a small stand of granite, in the middle of one of the sunrays. It was covered in a blue cloth with tiny, fine borders of silver.
"Now" Thranduil said, "I know that you have yet a few winters until your fifteenth but I decided that I wanted to give this to you now anyway."
Then he pulled the clothing aside. Legolas eyes grew so huge that for a few seconds, Thranduil feared that they would actually fall out.
On the stand laid the most magnificent weapon Legolas had ever seen in his short life. It was a bow. A somewhat large bow of smooth, dark wood with tiny threads and elven runes of silver weaved into it, that reflected the early-morning sunlight. Next to it was a quiver of the same type of wood and with matching silver runes. It contained ten long arrows with heads of silver, each one a beautiful masterpiece in Legolas's eyes.
"And...and this is mine?" he whispered breathlessly.
"Yes, this is yours. On one condition!" Thranduil answered, nodding.
Legolos teared his eyes away from the bow.
"What is that, father?" he asked curiously.
"It's more like two conditions" Thranduil continued. He put a hand of Legolas' left shoulder. "Firstly, never tell your self that you are less worth than your brother or anyone else again. I love you, you are my son and you could not make me more proud of you."
Legolas could feel his eyes water once again but he was determined not to cry. "And the other condition?"
He could see a smile forming on Thranduils lips. "The second condition is, that if you are going to shoot with that bow, you better learn to shoot well!". And at thatm, he turned around and left the hall with a small chuckle.
Legolas stood there for a few minutes. He took a small step forward and locked his small fingers around the bow and lifted it. It was as light as a feather. He weighed it in his hand for a second. Then he smiled.