12. A Rainy Day
Aragorn wiped a hand across his weathered face, brushing away the moisture that had collected there. He shrugged his shoulders in discomfort as drops of water seeped through his soaked clothing and began to trickle down his back. His wet hair clung to his face, and he kept blinking away the drops of water that flowed down into his eyes. He wondered wryly if he looked as much the drowned rat as he felt. Not exactly the way he had wished to enter the city, but there was nothing to be done about it now.
Behind him, the army continued to plod on steadily, despite the miserable conditions of the weather. The horses walked with bowed heads, their hooves splashing through the puddles of mud the only sound dimly heard over the rain. The soldiers all sat hunched in their saddles wet, cold, and miserable. However, they were still making good time, and Aragorn hoped to reach the city in little less than three hours.
The army had stuck mostly to the deep ravines winding beneath the tall hills that surrounded them on all sides. This position inhibited their view of what lay before them; however, it protected them from the harsh winds that would have caused travel to become a nightmare, instead of just uncomfortable. Aragorn knew that he could trust the scouts to bring any warning of a waiting ambush, so he was not terribly worried about not being able to see past the tall hills.
Now, however, Aragorn found the hills beginning to thin out, and he realized they must be nearing the level plains directly in front of the city. This meant that they were actually closer to the city than he had expected. This was welcome news; although he knew that it was this part of the journey that would be the most difficult, for once they left the tall hills behind, they would have no protection against the driving rain.
He wondered how Legolas fared in this weather, and his hand unconsciously tightened around the bow he still held in his left hand. The elf should be nearing the city by now if he hadn’t run into any trouble along the way. Aragorn quickly shoved this line of thought to the back of his mind. He reminded himself that Legolas was no child wandering lost in the wilderness. The elf knew perfectly well how to take care of himself! Even without his bow, Legolas was hardly defenseless. Aragorn had seen the elf defend himself using no weapon but that of his body, and Legolas also had his sharp senses to warn him of any possible threat long before it reached him.
Despite these thoughts, Aragorn could not keep a worried frown from his face. If Legolas could make the mistake of leaving his bow behind, what would keep him from making some other, more fatal mistake?
Aragorn sighed, once more brushing water from his face. There was nothing he could do for his friend, and neither he nor Legolas gained anything from his worry.
At first, he had wanted to send someone out after the elf, perhaps even go himself, but he quickly realized it would be pointless. Arwen was right; Legolas could very easily keep from being found if the elf wanted to. Aragorn was perhaps the only one with enough skill to track him, but even he would have found it impossible in this rain, and besides, his place was here, with his men.
A muffled voice at his back drew his attention, and he turned slightly so that he could hear Gimli above the sound of the rain. “I apologize, friend Gimli, but you will have to repeat yourself, for I was lost in thought.”
Aragorn could feel Gimli shrug slightly against his back.
“I do not like these mountains,” Gimli repeated grumpily. “They are far too dark even when the sun is shining brightly, and on a day like this they appear positively evil!”
Aragorn glanced to his right where the mountains towered above the surrounding hills. He found that he had to agree with Gimli, the mountains did look evil. The low rain clouds clung to the rocky slopes, casting the mountain in a dark haze. Shadows seemed to cling to every part of them, as they loomed high above the army’s head.
“I thought you liked mountains, Gimli.” Aragorn said lightly, pulling his eyes away from the dark slopes. “At least I would hope so, seeing as you live in one. Unless, of course, you have decided to give up the mountains and go live with Legolas in the woods.”
Gimli grunted loudly and decided to ignore Aragorn’s last comment. “Just because I live in ONE Mountain, doesn’t mean I like them all! I’ll have you know that the Lonely Mountain is much nicer than this dark pile of rocks!”
“So say you,” Aragorn shot back, “but I have heard many tales of your mountain, and most of them are not bright and cheery.”
“Tales told by elves, more likely than not,” Gimli snorted. “They know nothing about our mountain and I would think that you would know better than to listen to every little thing you hear from them!”
Aragorn chuckled softly, the sound lost to the storm. “So you would say that the elves judge the Lonely Mountain because they do not know enough about it?”
“Definitely,” Gimli responded emphatically.
“And what do we truly know about these mountains?” Aragorn asked quickly. “Except that evil lies in wait somewhere deep in their depths.”
“Isn’t that enough?” Gimli growled deeply.
“I intend upon learning more,” Aragorn stated, his voice becoming low and quiet. “Especially since I have a strong feeling that it is within these mountains that our destination finally lies.”
Gimli grunted once more and cast a silent and apprehensive look towards the towering peaks of the Ered Nimrais. “I thought we were going to remain in Calembel and let Malek come to us.”
“That is the original plan,” Aragorn replied, “but as long as we remain in the city, we will be playing on Malek’s battlefield with his rules. Eventually, we will need to take our own battle to him, driving him from his hole and destroying him.”
“That is the part that I like,” Gimli said excitedly, running his hand over the shaft of his axe. “When do we intend to do that?”
“First, we must learn more about him, such as the number of orcs he has managed to gather to himself. Also, where exactly it is that he is hiding in that ‘pile of rocks’ as you called it.”
“And how do we find that out?” Gimli asked curiously.
“Gandalf and I have discussed this a little, but now is not the time to speak of it. We must wait until we reach the city and can all gather together to formulate our plans.”
“You are beginning to sound like Gandalf!” Gimli grumbled loudly. “I shall wait, but I hope that you have come up with better plans then I myself have been able too.”
Aragorn had no reply to this, so he remained silent, peering ahead into the storm and trying to ignore his cold and wet state. Gimli continued to shift uncomfortably at his back, and every now and then Aragorn heard the dwarf muttering to himself, the majority of it sounding like curses. Aragorn did not know whether Gimli was cursing the weather or something else, although he had a sneaking suspicion of what was bothering him. Gimli didn’t even seem to be noticing the rain that ran in virtual streams down his rough face and into his long beard. He kept shifting and peering around Aragorn, as if in search of something, and his muttering was growing louder.
“Legolas will be fine, Gimli,” Aragorn said gently, after putting up with the dwarf’s restlessness for several more minutes. “He knows how to take care of himself.” This was exactly what he had been attempting to tell himself all morning, but he found that saying it aloud seemed to make him feel a little more like believing it.
“He’d better be fine,” Gimli mumbled, “so I can kill him when he returns!”
Aragorn was about to respond to this when Roheryn stepped from the sheltering hills onto the long plain leading up to the city. Without the high hills as protection, the full force of the storm hit him like a sharp blow, knocking all air from his lungs. He lowered his head against the wind and driving rain and pushed Roheryn into a faster walk. Behind him, the rest of the army also picked up their pace.
“Just remember what I said about finding the right time and place,” he told the dwarf sternly after he had managed to regain his breath. “He will be expecting us to confront him.”
“Yes,” Gimli said against his back, and then the dwarf surprisingly began to chuckle. “I think you are right. We shouldn’t say one word to him until later! Let him stew awhile!”
Aragorn thought about this for a while, then shook his head. “I am not sure that will work.”
“Oh, it will work,” Gimli replied, a note of cunning in his voice.
Aragorn merely shrugged, and several long minutes of silence followed until a small voice at his side drew Aragorn’s attention.
“Are we almost there yet?” Pippin asked through chattering teeth, looking up at Aragorn with a hopeful expression. The four hobbits, along with Gandalf and Arwen had been riding a few lengths behind Roheryn, but now they moved up alongside him. Faramir was riding back near the end of the army.
Aragorn smiled down at the hobbit and shook his head. “Only a few more hours, my small friend, and then you will be warm and dry. I promise.”
“I don’t think I will ever be dry again,” Merry piped in from the other side of Aragorn, “let alone warm! This weather is sinking into my very bones.”
“I am sure that once you are seated in front of a roaring fire, drinking ale and eating a fine meal, you will change your mind,” Gimli stated from behind Aragorn.
“A fine meal,” Sam said somewhat dreamily from the other side of Merry. “Now won’t that be nice, Mr. Frodo. No more of this travel rations we have been forced to choke down this last week, no sireee.
“A nice portion of roast with baked potatoes sounds nice,” Frodo said wistfully. “Do you think they’ll have something like that?”
“Sure, Mr. Frodo,” Sam answered jovially, despite the rain pounding against his small head. “And if they don’t, I will find the kitchen and make you up something nice myself. I know of a really good recipe for stew that I have been dying to try out.”
“Does it have potatoes and carrots in it?” Pippin called out excitedly.
“And little green beans and celery?” Merry added.
“You can’t forget meat!” Frodo called out. “Will it have soft, juicy meat in it, Sam?”
“Of course,” Sam answered all of them, “but what makes it really special is the mushrooms!”
“Mushrooms!” the other three exclaimed, Merry actually licking his lips.
Aragorn exchanged an amused look with Arwen. The hobbits seemed to have completely forgotten about everything around them, including the driving rain. Pippin’s hood had even slipped from his head, yet the hobbit seemed completely unaware as he listened hungrily to Sam describing his stew.
“…And then the old Gaffer discovered a whole new way to roast them and collect the juice afterward to use….”
“Can we stop talking about food,” Gimli interrupted grumpily. “I will remind you that some of us didn’t get breakfast this morning!”
“That was your own fault,” Merry pointed out seriously. “You weren’t hungry, remember?”
Gimli muttered something beneath his breath, and the hobbits prepared to continue their discussion, but something caught Pippin’s eye.
“Hey, Aragorn,” the hobbit called out, “is that the Ciril River up ahead.”
Aragorn turned to peer through the rain in the direction the hobbit was pointing. He could barely make out the thin silver line of a river winding lazily to the left of where they marched.
“No,” he answered the hobbit. “This is one of several smaller rivers that run from the mountains; the river Ciril is much larger.”
“Oh,” the hobbit answered. “How do the rivers get past the mountains?”
“They flow right through them,” Aragorn answered. “Through underground tunnels or passageways.”
“Oh,” the hobbit repeated, looking away from the river and apparently losing interest.
“I think the rain may be dying down a bit,” Sam commented hopefully, looking up into the sky.
“Perhaps,” Arwen said lightly from the other side of the hobbits, “but whatever respite we may have will be brief. This weather will continue all day, and the night promises to be starless and wet.”
“This may work in our favor, or against us,” Aragorn sighed. “If Malek decides to attack us tonight, he will have the cover of complete darkness in his favor. Without the light of the sky to aid us, we will have to depend upon the fire pits along the wall, and they may be hard to light with all this moisture.”
“My, aren’t we all full of light and cheer this morning,” Sam said sarcastically.
Aragorn smiled slightly at him. “There is also the chance that Malek will decide not to venture an attack in this weather. We can always hope.”
“I would not count on this.” Gandalf spoke up quietly for the first time. “Malek does not strike me as a patient creature. He will wish to begin his little game as soon as possible. Such a little thing as rain will not keep him from us. But until such a time, we can only wait and see.”
“I hate waiting,” Frodo mumbled quietly, unknowingly speaking aloud the thoughts of all the others.
‘Wait…wait….just a little closer,’ Legolas repeated over and over silently in his mind. He knelt quietly in the rain, listening to the approaching footsteps. He tried to guess the nature of his attackers, as well as how many he would be forced to face.
He knew it was not orcs creeping up on him, for he would have smelled the foul creatures long before they managed to get this close. Nor could orcs be as stealthy and quiet as this. He guessed that it was men he was dealing with. Most likely some bandits who had come to loot whatever they might from the destroyed town, and had found him and thought him easy prey.
He could not easily guess how many were behind him, the sound of the rain muffling the sound of their footsteps, but he knew there were enough to give him a fight.
Legolas continued to kneel silently, outwardly appearing completely unaware of anything out of the ordinary. Shielded by his body, his right hand gripped the hilt of one of his knives, then slowly and quietly drew it from its sheath. His body appeared relaxed and unconcerned, yet every muscle was tense and ready to spring into action. He felt a familiar fire burning in his veins, along with the expectant anticipation he always got before a battle.
Behind him, the footsteps paused briefly, and then one continued forward alone.
‘They are sending one of their member to sneak up behind me and undoubtedly knock me senseless,’ Legolas smiled at the tactic. ‘Just a little bit closer…’
The footsteps paused almost directly behind him. There was a brief moment of complete silence but for the rain, and then Legolas was moving.
Fast as lightning, he flung himself upright and to the side, twisting neatly and gracefully away from where he had previously been kneeling. His timing was perfect, for just as he moved, the cloaked figure behind him began to swing downward with a heavy club.
The man let out a startled yell as his prey was suddenly gone from beneath his blow. He stumbled forward, off balance, and Legolas never gave him a chance to gain his feet. Swinging back in as fast as he had dodged, he slammed his elbow into the back of the unsuspecting man’s neck. The cloaked figure dropped like a stone, face forward into the mud, where he lay unmoving.
Legolas did not stick around to watch the fall. Once more, he was already moving. He spun and leapt in the direction he had heard the other footfalls, his knife extended.
A half a dozen men in light armor and holding short swords stood in a half circle in front of him, their eyes just beginning to widen in shock. Legolas did not give them a chance to recover. He used his slight frame to knock the nearest man off balance, then grabbed his arm and swung him into the companion standing next to him. Both went down in the mud in a tangled heap of arms and legs.
With a yell, the next man attacked, leaping over his fallen companions and rushing toward Legolas with sword arm raised. Legolas watched him calmly, then almost lazily swept up his own knife to parry the blow as he sidestepped gracefully, the man’s momentum sending him careening past to slam painfully against a partially collapsed wall. The man slid to the ground with a groan, blood pouring from his broken nose.
‘Four down and three to go,’ Legolas thought brightly, facing the last three standing members of his attackers.
The last three men were being much more careful, having seen the ease with which Legolas had dealt with their companions. They were not rushing mindlessly to attack, but were spreading out, attempting to flank him, and giving the other members of their party a chance to regain their feet.
Already, the two Legolas had first knocked into the mud were struggling to their feet, and Legolas knew that if he waited for them all to flank him and attack at once, he would have a much harder fight.
Instead of waiting, he struck out, leaping forward and slashing at one attacker with his knife. The man leapt back, swinging his own sword outward. Legolas had been hoping for the move. He ducked beneath the blade and grabbed the man’s outstretched arm, twisting it hard and causing the man to drop his blade with a gasp. The elf’s other hand moved up lightning quick as he reversed his knife and slammed the hilt against the man’s temple. This one fell as lifelessly as Legolas’s first victim had only moments earlier.
Legolas knew he didn’t have much time. The two he had knocked down had regained their feet, and now four men rushed toward him, hoping to overcome him by attacking all at once.
Legolas scooped up the fallen sword of the man at his feet and braced himself to meet their rush, sword held in one hand, long knife in the other. They met in a loud clash of steel and flying sparks, Legolas’ sword arm a blur of movement that seemed to parry each blow the last second before it reached him. The men broke up briefly, completely encircling him before rushing back in for the attack.
Legolas had an important advantage, however. He was light-footed and graceful on the wet and slippery ground, where as the men continued to slip and slide in the mud. Legolas pressed this advantage, pushing his attack every time one of them slipped or lost their balance.
He leapt forward and kneed one man sharply in the groin. His victim doubled over in pain, his sword arm dropping limply to his side, but before Legolas could finish the job the next man attacked from behind. Legolas ducked, then dropped completely to the ground and swept his feet out in an arc that caught his attacker just behind his knees, toppling him forward into the mud.
Legolas leapt up and danced away, freeing himself from the circle of attackers. He moved swiftly over to a section of wall that remained standing, placing his back in the corner and forcing his attackers to come at him from only two directions.
They hesitated, obviously considering the best way to get at him. Legolas used the small break to catch his breath, and he was just about to step forward and force the confrontation once more when…
Legolas jerked away from the spot where an arrow had embedded itself deeply in the wood a few inches from his head. He cursed softly at this new and unwelcome development. He glanced briefly past the men flanking him, and wondered if he hadn’t just maneuvered himself into a death trap. All the men had to do now was keep him in the corner until their archer managed to pin him with an arrow. Then it would all be over.
He glanced in the direction the arrow had come from and saw a small figure standing on a pile of rubble a few yards off, fumbling to fit yet another arrow to the string. ‘Well at least it isn’t a very competent archer,’ Legolas thought wryly, ‘if he managed to miss me standing that close.’ This thought did little to comfort him. Competent archer or not, it would only be a matter of time before one of the arrows struck home.
The men flanking him seemed to have come to the same conclusion. They no longer pressed their attack, but merely formed a half circle, holding him captive in his little corner until their archer could finish the job.
Legolas cursed once more, then glanced up, a slow idea forming.
He dodged to the side as yet another arrow smashed into the wood near where he stood. The wall was obviously the remains of what used to be a long hallway. To his right, the wall only ran a couple of feet before it collapsed into rumble; but on his left, the majority of it was left standing, running for several yards, clear up to the base of the pile of rocks upon which the archer now stood.
Without a second thought, Legolas leapt upward, using the same move he had used several weeks earlier to escape the band of orcs. He lightly caught the rim of the wall and pulled himself up, praying the weak structure would be able to hold even his light weight. The four men let out a yell and leapt forward, but they were once again too slow. Legolas raced along the top of the wall, feeling it shift and groan beneath him. However, he moved so swiftly, and his steps were so light that it did nothing more than complain slightly.
The archer was just beginning to place a third arrow to the string, and he looked up startled, just as Legolas launched himself from the end of the wall. The two went down hard, a high yell coming from his victim as Legolas rolled on top of him. He drew back a fist, intent upon knocking the hapless man unconscious, but he froze when he got his first glimpse of the archer.
Dirty blond hair fell recklessly around a small face that looked up at him from large, terrified, green eyes. Legolas realized with shock that he was sitting on the chest of a boy who could be no older than ten years. He had no time to ponder this, for he could already hear the sound of the other men racing toward him.
He jumped to his feet, yanking the bow from the boy’s limp hands before flipping him unceremoniously onto his belly and grabbing the quiver of arrows from his back. He jumped away, throwing off the hood of his cloak to free his vision and spinning to meet the approaching men, an arrow already notched to the bow. He only took a second to find his target, and then he lifted the bow and shot off four arrows in quick succession.
The four men running towards him skidded to a halt, their mouths dropping open as four arrows hit the ground inches in front of them. A gasp came from behind Legolas, but he ignored it, stringing yet another arrow in his bow and pointing it at the four men.
“Don’t move,” he ordered quietly, “or the next ones won’t miss.”
The four men stood gaping at him, weapons fallen limply at their sides, eyes wide in wonder.
“Drop your weapons,” Legolas commanded, still holding the arrow taught against the bowstring. The weapon felt small and strange in his hand compared to his long bow, but he still held it expertly, not doubting that he could kill the four men before they had taken five steps.
The men looked doubtfully at him, then behind him, obviously trying to figure out what to do next. Legolas could see their thoughts mirrored in their faces. They didn’t want to give up the fight, but they somehow knew they would die if they didn’t obey him. He heard the shifting behind him as the boy rose to his feet, his breath coming out in harsh gasps.
“The order not to move goes for you as well, boy,” Legolas said sternly without even turning his head. He heard another gasp, then the shifting stopped as the boy stood perfectly still.
Legolas kept his gaze and attention focused on the four men before him. “I said drop your weapons,” he said once more, a dangerous note entering his voice. “I will not ask you again.”
Legolas stared at the men as they continued to shift restlessly, eyeing one another. He tensed, preparing to release the arrow…
“Stop!” A loud voice called out desperately. “Please stop! Ralin, Talor, Korin, Matz, do as he says! Drop your weapons!”
Legolas jerked slightly at this new voice. He turned his head slightly, trying to get sight of the owner of the voice without taking his eyes off the four men before him.
It did not take him long to find the new visitor. The man stood upon a small pile of rocks, almost directly to the right of Legolas and only a few yards away. He was tall and well built, with sandy blond hair and a moustache. He wore the same armor as the men that had attacked Legolas and a short sword hung from his belt. He held his arms out and away from his body in a sign of surrender, as he watched Legolas with intense brown eyes.
Legolas did not like this situation one bit! He was now surrounded on three different sides, and he was finding it difficult to watch everyone at once. To make matter worse, the rain continued to pound down upon him, and without his hood for protection the water ran down his face and into his eyes, blurring his vision. Yet with no free hands, he could merely squint and try to ignore it. He backed up a few steps, shifting his body slightly so that he could focus his attention on one party, while still being able to watch the other from the corner of his eye. He could still sense the boy behind and slightly to the right of him, yet he decided he would have to count the child as a lesser danger and ignore him for the time being.
"Please," the man called out once more, hands still spread out from his body. "We mean you no harm!"
"You have a funny way of showing it," Legolas answered dryly, still keeping most of his attention upon the four men directly in front of him. They had dropped their weapons on the new arrival’s command, but Legolas was not about to let his guard down.
"Yes," the man replied seriously. "And for that I must apologize. This must be a big misunderstanding, for my men would never have attacked a High One knowingly."
Legolas's startled gaze flew back to the tall man once more. It had been a long time since he had heard the honorary title of respect for the elves.
"Who are you," he demanded evenly, "and what do you know of my people?"
"I am Captain Kenson Brantz," the man replied immediately. "My men and I are escorts for the boats that carry goods and supplies down the river."
"Merchant guards?" Legolas interjected sharply.
The man bowed, hands still outstretched. "We are known by many names, my lord. Merchant guards is only one of them. As to what I know of your people…, unfortunately very little. I have had the honor of dealing with a few of the High Ones during my work, but not very often, for your kind does not trade with man much."
"Why did your men attack me?" Legolas asked, deciding to cut directly to the point. He still held the bow high and ready and he had not relaxed his stance an inch.
"My men did not know who you were," the Captain replied plainly, as if that explained everything. “We were riding upstream toward Calembel, returning from one of our trade missions, when we saw the ruins of the town. This place was still standing only two months ago when we first left Calembel, and from the looks of it, the damage was done recently."
The man paused, eyeing Legolas carefully for anything he might give away. Legolas carefully kept his face blank as he waited for the man to continue.
"When we reached the edge of town, I knew that something dreadful must have happened. I split up my men and sent them in search of any clue as to what had happened here. I can only guess that they found you and tried to take matters into their own hands."
"It is as the captain has said," one of the four men broke in suddenly. "We had no idea who you were. We just saw you kneeling there and we didn't know what to think. We were all sort of spooked, as you might understand, and decided the easiest thing to do would be to knock you out and take you to the captain for questioning. We were not expecting you to....resist....quite so forcefully."
"A wise soldier always expects the unexpected," Legolas stated firmly.
"A lesson well taught, my lord," Kenson replied with a hint of amusement. He looked to where his four men stood frozen in front of Legolas, and then his eyes traveled to the three other men still lying motionless in the mud. He shook his head slightly, "and one I expect they will not be forgetting anytime soon! But I still can only beg for your forgiveness, and perhaps your understanding. My men had no way of knowing if you may have played a part in this," he motioned to the burned out houses around them.
"And what do you think now?" Legolas asked pointedly.
"That you could have had nothing to do with it," Kenson replied without hesitation. "I may not know much of the High Ones, but I do know that."
Legolas studied the man closely, searching for any hint of falsehood. He had a strong feeling that Kenson was telling the truth. For some odd reason, the Captain reminded Legolas of Faramir, and he found it impossible to dislike him. His senses had never lead him wrong before, so he decided to trust them once more.
The four men let out audible sighs of relief when he lowered the bow. The captain also seemed to relax, lowering his arms to his side, but still keeping his hand far from his sword hilt.
"You may see to your companions now," Legolas said lightly, trying to put them more at ease. Captain Kenson nodded at his men, and they turned to go and see to their fallen comrades.
Legolas turned, his attention going for the first time to the boy who had stood silent and still behind him. He found the child staring open mouthed at him, awe and curiosity filling his small face.
"And what part do you play in all this?" Legolas asked somewhat sternly.
The boy flushed and dropped his eyes, shifting uncomfortably. "I am with them," he finally muttered softly. "I heard the fighting and came to help. I didn't know who you were either." He lifted his eyes, meeting Legolas's gaze once more, his eyes shining with barely concealed excitement.
"He is my son," Captain Kenson said proudly, taking a few steps forward before stopping, obviously unsure of what to do or say next.
Legolas nodded, then turned back to the child. "And what is your name?" he asked gently.
"Dar," the boy answered without hesitation.
"Well, Dar, if I give you your bow back, will you promise not to shoot at me any more," Legolas asked seriously, but with a hint of amusement in his voice.
The boy’s eyes widened and he nodded his head so hard that Legolas thought his neck would break. He reached forward and took the proffered bow, still staring at Legolas in awe.
"You are quite handy with that thing," Legolas continued, as he reached down and retrieved his knife from where he had dropped it earlier. He sheathed it carefully, still watching the boy. "How old are you?" he asked.
"I'm nine," Dar answered proudly. "I've been practicing for a long time." The boy paused, and his eyes were practically dancing with curiosity. "Are you really an elf? I have heard all about them, but I have never seen one. How fast can you shoot? Can you teach me how to shoot like that? Did it take you very long to learn?"
Legolas was slightly taken aback by the string of questions, but Kenson stepped forward and laid a hand on his son's shoulder, cutting off the line of questions.
"Yes, I am truly an elf. My name is Legolas, and it probably took me a thousand years to learn to shoot like that." Legolas smiled down at the boy’s complete look of disbelief, then he turned his gaze up to the Captain’s. "You said that you and your men were headed to Calembel?" he questioned evenly.
Kenson nodded. "Yes, my lord. My men and I have been traveling the last two weeks, and we are anxious to be home."
"Did you see anything strange on your journey up the river?" Legolas continued to question him.
Kenson let out a grunt and looked about him at the destroyed village and his men who were just beginning to regain consciousness. "Depends on what you consider strange," he answered wryly.
"Any large sets of tracks or prints that you could not explain?"
Kenson shook his head, studying Legolas closely. "No," he said quietly, "though I must admit we were not looking very closely. As I said before, we were just anxious to get home."
Legolas nodded, and peered up into the sky, trying to judge how much time had been lost to him.
"Do you know who, or what, did this?" Kenson asked, once more motioning to the ruined houses around him.
Legolas glanced at him and several seconds of silence passed before he nodded slowly. "Orcs," he said simply in answer to the man's question.
Kenson let out a loud gasp and opened his mouth, then closed it again. He looked about the ruins again, a sick expression crossing his face. "The mayor at Calembel must be told of this immediately," he said quietly. "There are other towns nearby who will need protection against the same thing happening to them."
"I am afraid that Calembel will need to be seeing to its own protection very shortly," Legolas answered smoothly.
Captain Kenson shook his head. "But Calembel is a large city, with high walls. There would need to be hundreds of orcs to dare an attack on it."
Legolas merely looked at him, and a light of understanding began to dawn in the captain's eyes.
"I ride as a scout for the army of Minas Tirith that rides to Calembel even as we speak," Legolas explained gently. "I am supposed to meet them before the city, and I am afraid I have already wasted too much time here."
Kenson was just beginning to realize the seriousness of the situation, and he met Legolas's gaze without hesitation. "I ask, my lord, that you allow my men and I to ride with you to the city."
Legolas nodded slowly. "How many men do you have?"
"There are three more who wait with the horses at the edge of town. Besides them, there is just us." he motioned to the seven men behind them, all of whom were on their feet now, even if a few of them wobbled slightly.
Legolas nodded again. "If you can keep up, you may ride with me. But I warn you that I will be going swiftly."
Kenson was quick to assure him that they would be able to keep up. He sent two men to go and fetch the others, and then he looked around him, obviously confused. "Will you be needing a horse, my lord?" he asked carefully.
Legolas shook his head and laughed. "No, I brought my own mount." He whistled sharply, and a few minutes later Shandarell galloped up, obviously displeased at having to enter the ruined town. He snorted and thrust his head forcefully against Legolas's chest, almost knocking him down.
"Let's get started," Legolas said, easily swinging onto the horse’s back. "We have a long ride ahead of us."
The rain was starting to lessen two hours later, as Legolas, followed by the captain and his men, left the riverside and crossed toward the city. They met the army on the flat plains before the south end of the city.
Legolas waited quietly on Shandarell's back as the army crossed the last few paces toward them. He was beginning to feel slightly sick as he tried to prepare for the unavoidable meeting with Gimli and Aragorn.
He could see the dwarf, perched behind the king's back, and he knew the wet weather would not have helped to ease his friend’s temper. He doubted this reunion would be very pretty.
Beside him, he heard Kenson hiss something. Glancing to his right, he found the man staring at him in disbelief. "The king!" the man whispered sharply. "You did not tell me the army was led by the king!"
Legolas shrugged and turned back to watching Aragorn's approach. He had much more serious things on his mind at the moment.
"This is more serious than I thought," Kenson muttered under his breath.
Aragorn raised his hand, ordering the army to stop; then urged Roheryn forward to meet Legolas. The elf found himself growing tenser the closer they approached. He fought desperately to keep calm, but his stomach was beginning to do flips inside his chest. He shook his head and tried to force the feelings down, reminding himself firmly that he had faced armies of orcs before without getting this nervous.
Aragorn had reached him now, and Legolas tried to force his mind to the task at hand. The king called out a greeting, and Legolas responded, risking a quick glance at Gimli.
The dwarf didn't look angry, but Legolas knew that did not necessarily mean anything. He yanked his attention back to Aragorn, just as the king reached out his arm toward him. Legolas realized with a flush that Aragorn held his bow and quiver in his hand.
He took the weapons, waiting for the reprimand and lecture he was sure was coming next, but Aragorn only turned his gaze toward the others riding with him. "I take it your scouting mission went well?" the king asked calmly, not a hint of reprimand in his voice.
"Fine," Legolas answered, darting his eyes back to Gimli. The dwarf still did not look angry; in fact, he smiled at Legolas!
Warning bells began to go off in Legolas's head, and it took an effort to draw his eyes back to Aragorn, as the man spoke to him once more.
"Are you going to introduce us to your companions?" Aragorn asked, his voice still completely quiet and calm.
Legolas could only nod dumbly, wondering what his two friends were up to. He had expected them to tear into him the minute they saw him, but instead, they were acting as if nothing had happened at all!
"This is Captain Kenson and his men. We met along the river." He decided it was best not to bring up the circumstances they had met under, and Kenson looked relieved that he hadn't. The captain bowed low to Aragorn; quite a feat, since he was still mounted.
"My lord," Kenson said lightly, his voice filled with respect. "I and my men are completely at your service, and you may direct us however you please."
Aragorn smiled at the man, raising an eyebrow at Legolas, who was still sitting tensely to the side. "Do you know what it is that we face?" he asked plainly, and Kenson nodded.
"Legolas has told me a little, although I still seem to be facing surprises every time I turn around." Kenson gave Legolas a sharp look, but the elf was paying him no mind.
Aragorn laughed! He actually laughed, and Legolas's eyes narrowed. "You and your men will be welcome. You may not be many, but I assure you that every helping hand will be needed."
"Aragorn," Gimli spoke up for the first time, and Legolas jumped slightly at the sound, but the dwarf was not even looking at him. "From the looks of this wall, I fear we have much work ahead of us this afternoon. Perhaps we should be going, instead of sitting here in the rain chatting."
Kenson stared at the dwarf, undoubtedly wondering who he was to be able to speak to the king in such a manner.
"You are right, my friend, as usual! Let us be going then." Aragorn turned Roheryn, signaling the army forward once more.
Legolas just sat on Shandarell and watched them go until Aragorn called to him. With a jerk, he kicked Shandarell after them, a stunned look on his face. Gimli had not said one word to him!
The rain seemed to echo Legolas's own mood, as he joined his friends and rode through the gates into the city of Calembel.
"They have reached the city, my lord," the orc captain reported, groveling at the feet of Malek.
Malek looked down at him, an evil smile filling his face. He considered killing the orc captain in celebration. Whenever he got excited the blood lust would fill him, and he was very excited at the moment. All his plans were falling into place beautifully.
As if sensing his danger, the orc at his feet began to twist and moan. Malek watched him for a few seconds before he reached out with a clawed foot and roughly pushed the orc away. He certainly hoped that the members of this so-called 'fellowship' would show more bravery when they were placed before him. It would make breaking and killing them so much more fun if they resisted.
He flicked his tongue out in anticipation of that moment, and then turned to his captains. "Do you understand all your orders?" he demanded, and they quickly nodded. He knew that they did not understand, but they would obey, and that was all that mattered.
He looked toward the distant opening of the cave to the outside world and growled deep in his throat.
"Soon," he whispered to himself. "Very soon!"
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.