It had been a very small Rhohirrim settlement on the western edges of Rohan.
When Prince Thengel and his Riders rode through now, after the attack of the Wild Men, there was nothing left but the charred ruins of a few dwellings, the townspeople having either fled or been killed.
“We’ll find only death in this place, Highness,” said the sole Elf among them, steely gray eyes taking in the destruction as he swept back loose strands of long blond hair with one hand. The faint scar on the left side of his face where he had long ago been mauled by an Orc tightened and became more evident with his tension.
“The Dunlendings are long gone.”
Before Thengel was able to form a response, a call came from one of their companions, searching through the rubble of what had been the village’s only inn. “My Prince, Lord Feredir, there’s someone under here.”
In a few minutes the men had uncovered what appeared to be part of a table and looked at one another in surprise at their discovery.
Huddled in fear beneath the dust and broken wood was a small Elf-child, of about the Human equivalent of an eight or nine year old, fair-haired, with striking pale blue eyes.
“Ha mae, Tithen Pen” Feredir soothed in Elvish reaching a hand out to the boy. "Tula sino’me tulco.”
The Elfling did not move or show any sign that he understood.
“How do you suppose he got here?” asked the Prince, squatting down next to Feredir.
The Elf Lord did not miss how the Elfling’s eyes immediately darted in Thengel’s direction, as he spoke in the Common tongue.
“Do you speak Westron then, Child?” asked the warrior softly. He smiled and opened his arms. “I promise, you’re safe now. Those other Men are gone.”
Tentatively, the boy inched forward until he was close enough to reach the outstretched hand and two strong arms wrapped around his suddenly shaking form.
“They’re all dead, aren’t they?” mumbled the frightened Elfling burying his face in his rescuer’s shoulder. “Master said to lock the door and hide...I could hear...they killed everyone...”
“Your master was the keeper of the inn...?” He looked into the small face and smoothed the boy’s dust covered hair. “What’s your name?”
The boy nodded, wiping at his eyes. “Benain.”
Little blond one, someone had had a rather poor imagination, he thought, though the name did suit him.
“And your parents...were they here...?”
“I don’t have any...Master bought me when I was little...” he stuttered, again resting his head on the other Elf’s shoulder, small hands clutching tightly at his cloak.
The warrior frowned and looked up at his Human companions.
“It is true slavery is supposed to be outlawed in Rohan,” replied the Prince regretfully, “but I fear there are always unscrupulous men. And my father takes little real interest in curving such hateful practices.
“Come on,” he said standing up, “I think we had best leave this place and camp elsewhere where we can better tend to the child. He’s been through enough.”
The warrior nodded silently following his friend, the boy still in his arms.
“You know,” observed one of their companions, draping his own cloak around the child’s thin shoulders, who trustingly seemed to be nodding off, “he looks a bit like your Ithilhen. One could easily take them for kin.”
“It’s not obvious at first glance, but I think he’s a half-Elf.” The Mirkwood warrior gently brushed aside blond locks to reveal a small ear, its tip less pronounced than that of a full Elf’s.
“I wonder where he came from.” The Man mused aloud, taking the dozing boy, as Feredir mounted his horse.
“I shall send a message to Rivendell,” said the Elf Lord, settling the child in his arms again. “Lord Elrond may know of any children gone missing from Elven lands in the past few years,”
Unconsciously nestling closer to the elder Elf, it did not take long for the boy’s eyes to glaze over and his breathing to confirm he had fallen asleep.
“He seems to have taken to you fairly quick,” said the other with a grin, as he climbed on his own steed.
It rather surprised the seasoned warrior; that a child reared under such circumstances should give his trust so freely or perhaps it was only tiredness and the aftermath of the shock that had finally overcome him.
That anyone could enslave a child, he thought. It was appalling and made the parent in him seethe. And he wondered what manner of Man had been this innkeeper that he would buy a child slave...
They had been riding awhile when he noticed a pair of bright blue eyes watching him curiously.
“What is it, Tithen Pen?”
The boy bit his lower lip anxiously before admitting with childish wonder. “I have never seen another Elf before...”
"...and am I quite as frightening as the tales Men tell?" The warrior raised an eyebrow and smiled kindly.
He frowned at the serious look on the child’s innocent face. “But you must have seen some Elves before..."
The boy shook his head and looked away again, obviously not wanting to speak anymore on that subject.
“Where are we going?” he asked, rubbing at his eyes tiredly.
“We are riding to Edoras. And I suppose you’ll be staying with my wife and I for the time being...”
Benain merely nodded, accepting the answer, but the warrior could see the child's eyes light up at his words.
"May I sleep awhile?" he asked cautiously after a minute.
“You don’t need to ask for permission to sleep, if you’re tired, Little One.
“You are no longer to be anyone’s servant, do you understand?”
The boy did not look entirely convinced but nodded again.
Wrapping the cloak closer around the child, he began humming an ancient Silvan tune he remembered distantly from his earliest memories, when he and his ontani lived in a small Woodelf settlement among his sire's people...
But he quickly pulled himself from those thoughts and the old pain of their loss, looking down at the exhausted Elfling, his thumb in his mouth now, who had easily fallen into a deep sleep again, soothed by the soft melody.
He and Alatariel had spoken many times of someday having another child, he thought, perhaps he ought not to question the designs of the Valar...
And there was something unaccountably familiar about this boy...something he could not point to, but he could not entirely put from his mind.
Dunlendings / Wild men of Dunland, living to the west of Rohan
Ha mae / It’s all right (Literally: well or good)
Tithen pen / little one
Tula sino’me tulco / (Q.) We(’ve) come (here) to help
Ontani / (Q.) parents (In this case, Feredir’s Adar and Sire.)
Feredir - Elvish word meaning hunter.
Thengel (who in my story is a friend of Feredir) was the son of Fengel, an extremely unpopular King of Rohan. Thengel, like everyone else, did not get along with King Fengel and eventually left Rohan, spending many years in the service of the Steward of Gondor and returning home only after his father’s death to become King. He became the father of King Theoden and grandfather of Eowyn, Eomer and Theodred.
Benain / Little blond one. (Old name of unknown origin. (Though in Quenya, “Ven” means greenness, which really is a fitting name for a child of Legolas isn’t it...?) Yes, he’s Legolas son, though more on that later...)