1. Chapter I
In which a start is made, a battle fought and shelter sought*******
The scene that greeted the two travellers was not a welcome one. "What are they doing here?" The question was asked with a strong degree of frustration and Gimli looked at Legolas, his companion, with some surprise.
The two of them had been travelling together for some time now. They had left Minas Tirith after the wedding of Aragorn and Arwen. So far they had travelled to Edoras and then the Glittering Caves where Gimli planned to start a colony. They had gone deeply into Fangorn, where Gimli had unwillingly admitted he was impressed, although that was before they were attacked by Wargs, and then passed through the Gap of Rohan and up to Rivendell.
As they had travelled they had seen much of the devastation caused by the War and so they were glad to reach the sanctuary of The Last Homely House. They had spent a while there, recovering from the journey and allowing Legolas to tell the Elves of his plans for a colony in Ithilien, before travelling on. They had passed over the Misty Mountains and were now travelling along the Old Forest Road, planning to cross the River Running and arrive in the Elven realm of Mirkwood via Lake-town. That was until they met this obstacle.
Just off the path in the slight valley before them was a group of orcs. From this distance Gimli could not see how many there were but it was not a small group and they seemed to have bedded down for the day, it now being late morning, although the day was very overcast. Gimli and Legolas had already been told of how the Elves from Lórien had come to Mirkwood to join the fight and how Dol Goldur had been destroyed, but it looked like a remnant of the denizens of that tower still remained. And if these Orcs crossed the River Running they would find the small farms and homes of men, who would not be able to fight a group of orcs like this. Which meant Gimli and Legolas would have to.
"How many are there?" Gimli asked Legolas quietly, ignoring the frustration in his friend’s tone. Legolas had been subdued and downcast since they had left Rivendell and entered Mirkwood, seeing the devastation that had been caused, his voice that had often been lifted up in song was silent and he only spoke if Gimli asked a direct question. Gimli had simply offered his friend silent support, he knew Legolas would speak of his sorrow when he was ready. But Gimli also suspected that Legolas was not altogether unhappy that he would have the chance to personally deal with some of the intruders who had dared attack his home.
"There are seventeen, most are asleep. I believe three are attempting to hold a watch", Legolas turned with a bright glint in his eye, "Do you feel like exercising your axe, Master Dwarf?"
"I think that would be acceptable, Master Elf", Gimli smiled in anticipation. "How much closer can we get before they notice us?"
"A good way, the wind will not betray our scent to them. Arod can remain safely hidden here. If we move to that copse of trees", here Legolas gestured to his left, "I believe my bow will be able to cut this group down to size".
"Leave some for me", Gimli grumbled and was just able to hear Legolas’ merry laugh as, with a word to Arod, he made his way towards the trees from which they would attack.
The first two Orcs fell without a sound to Legolas’ arrows but the third was just able to raise a shout before it’s life was cut down as well. But that roar was enough. The Orcs were quickly on their feet and it only took two more arrows from Legolas before the Orcs had identified where the attack was coming from and with a roar they charged. The number of trees meant that Legolas’ aim was obscured but another three Orcs still fell dead before Legolas had to resort to his knives and Gimli was given a chance to use his axe. They stood apart, their fighting styles too different for them to fight effectively back-to-back but close enough that help was at hand if needed. Nine was a manageable number for these two warriors and Gimli waited for the four or five who would attack him.
But when the Orcs saw Legolas a cry went up, "Ilid! Ilid!" and seven of the Orcs headed for the Elf. The remaining two, the smallest of the lot, were the only ones that aimed towards Gimli. More than a little offended by this, Gimli waded into the attack. The first Orc did not even have the chance to make a strike, two sweeps of Gimli’s axe and it was dead. The other proved slightly more able, but its ungainly weapon was smashed by Gimli’s axe and it’s skull soon followed suit.
Gimli turned, expecting another to attack but saw that they were still concentrated on Legolas. They had surrounded him, all attempting to attack him, and although one lay dead on the floor the six remaining crowded Legolas, giving him time to do naught but defend himself. Legolas almost seemed to dance as he spun around, his knives glittering as he warded off the blows of the Orcs. With a rather feral grin Gimli decided it was time to teach these Orcs a lesson about ignoring dwarves. He cried out his challenge, "Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!" and waded into the battle again. The Orcs were caught off-guard and quickly Gimli dispatched two of them. A fair fight once more they each dealt with two of the remaining four.
Gimli caught his breath in the sudden quiet of the clearing. Bodies lay piled around them and already the stench was quite foul. He turned to his companion and noticed that Legolas was examining his left arm with a grimace. He hurried over, "You took a blow?"
"Glancing only. It is minor", Legolas tried to placate the dwarf and keep his arm out of view.
Gimli simply snorted at that response, the Elf would have said the same if the arm was cut to the bone. "If it is so minor you won’t mind me looking at it. Come, let me see. I have no wish to remain here all day arguing the point".
Legolas sighed and contemplated continuing the argument but he knew Gimli would not go on until the wound was treated. He moved away from the bodies and let out a whistle to call Arod to them, for they would need the medicines and bandages in their packs. He sat down on the grass and mutely held the arm out for Gimli to examine as Arod came trotting up. Gimli held the proffered arm gently and winced for his friend. The cut was just above the elbow, short but fairly deep. Gimli wasted no time as he cleaned the wound and placed a poultice of herbs on the wound before carefully wrapping a bandage around it. "You took the wound as you killed the first Orc, didn’t you?"
"The ninth one you mean?" Legolas retorted quickly. "But yes. With that many even the moment it took to place a killing blow left me exposed". He continued before Gimli could make a reply to that, "Come, we should stack the bodies together, although we cannot burn them here".
The two moved about the task with practised ease and soon the clearing began to cease resembling quite so much a battleground. Gimli barely concentrated on the task as he thought back to the battle, for he believed he had found the answer to a question that had plagued him for some time but which he had never been able to put into words.
During their game in the defence of Helm’s Deep Legolas had quickly taken a commanding lead with his bow. And yet when they were separated Gimli had killed well over a dozen orcs while Legolas had taken just four more. The orcs’ behaviour in this battle went a long way to explaining that. When the orcs had seen an elf they had simply charged, only the ones who could not see a way to the Elf had attacked Gimli. Thus Legolas had only the time for defence, attacking would leave him too vulnerable to the others. Gimli tried to remember if this behaviour had been evident at the battle of Pelennor Fields or the fights leading up to that battle, but there the orcs had pressed so hard and there had been so many it was impossible to tell.
Gimli decided it was time to find the answer to this question. "You didn’t leave me enough", he complained to the Elf as they finished their task.
A smile quirked Legolas’ lips, "Six was not enough?"
"No, it was not. Although it appeared only two had the bravery to attack a dwarf", he said, placing a note of pride in his voice as Legolas helped him back onto Arod.
Legolas laughed at that, "Ae, this dwarven pride. I took note, Fangon, even if you did not, that only the smallest two chose to fight you. Perhaps the others simply mistook you for a shrub?"
Gimli growled at the name and that jest, "I took four down in the time it took you to kill one. That reminds me of a game we played once. Which, if you recall, I won".
Legolas nodded once, turning serious as he caught both the reference to Helm’s Deep and the question that lay behind it. "They hate us, mellon nín". He said, managing to answer Gimli’s unspoken question without actually doing so, an ability which Gimli considered to be one of the most irritating things about elves. Along with their ability to walk on snow and not feel the cold. And the slight glow they gave off in the dark. And… Gimli cut himself off; he did not have all day to repeat to himself all the irritating things about elves. Instead he simply prodded his companion to continue, "And?"
"The orcs remember in a way", Legolas said, struggling to find the words as he lightly mounted Arod and they continued on their way. "They remember that they were made from us, but they can never be us and they hate us all the more for it". He sighed. "When they see an elf, recognise our scent, they care not for plans or strategy they simply wish to capture, torture or kill".
"Thus they attacked you with no attention to the dangerous companion by your side".
"Indeed, Master Dwarf, one might say they overlooked you."
And with that jibe their conversation turned to less serious matters as they headed towards the ford of the River Running. As they travelled Gimli noticed his friend tilting his head towards the sky on more than one occasion and after they had crossed the ford and turned north towards Lake-town, he felt moved to ask, "What is it in the sky that worries you? Are we to have rain?"
"I think it might be more than rain. The trees whisper a faint warning, the sky is very heavy and the wind begins to rise. A storm is about to be unleashed and it will be harsh. I do not think we will reach Lake-town before it breaks and it would not be wise to be without shelter when it does. If we head west towards the mountains of Mirkwood I believe we should come across a farm or home and hopefully find shelter there. Failing that we must try to find a cave, we should not linger".
A word to Arod was enough for the horse to pick up its pace. Gimli shook his head at that, Arod seemed to understand more Elvish that Gimli had so far managed to pick up but he remained silent but began to search for any signs of dwelling, although he was under no allusions that he would see such before his companion. He had learned to trust Legolas’ instincts and if the Elf was sufficiently worried that he would contemplate a cave, Gimli would worry too. He knew the storms in the region around his home could be fierce, although his concerns had always centred on the chance of floods or mudslides in the mines that were his home. Being out in the open had not been a problem he had had to consider.
Even as he began to consider the problem an ominous rumble of thunder sounded and a sudden whip of wind sent a chill straight through him.
Author’s note: My interpretation of Legolas age, as around 750, and his family are my own and cannot be backed up by cannon although there are some wonderfully erudite essays on the subject, which support my views. My use of geography – distances and name-places – is hopefully correct but if anyone notes any glaring errors please tell me, the same goes for my Sindarin. I hope you enjoy the fic, all feedback, especially constructive criticism is very welcome and appreciated.
Translations: (the language is Sindarin unless otherwise marked)
Ilid – ‘elf’ (Black Speech)
Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu – 'Axes of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you! (Dwarfish)
fangon – ‘bearded one’ (a dwarf)
mellon nín - ‘my friend’
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.