24. The Wood and the Valley
Beta: Anarithilien. Thank you for finding the time for this in your very very busy life.
(I'm not sure if anyone is still reading over here? I'm happy to keep posting if anyone wants me to, but otherwise I sort of feel the updates clog up the newest posts box for other writers and I can be found at www. eviction. esteliel.de or the dreaded Pit of ffnet, which I still like I'm afraid. It's a friendly site and you can post art work so all the art gifts people have sent can be found there.)
Chapter 23: The Wood and the Valley
in the Wood....
Dameron watched carefully as the two figures approached the edge of the Wood. He stood easily on the high branches of an oak tree and leaned against the bole, listening to the whisper of the leaves and aware of the small black squirrel that was watching him as he was watching the newcomers. Slowly the figures became clearer and Dameron saw that there were two riders.
The lightest whisper of leaves announced the arrival of Aerglin.
'They are not short or heavy enough for Men,' the younger Elf said, leaning forward to see them the better. Dameron glanced at him sideways; these youngsters had no patience.
'They are Elves,' he said because in spite of his annoyance, it was fleeting and he liked Aerglin. He had a good attitude and was an even better archer than Dameron himself.
'Are they from the Valley?' Aerglin asked.
Dameron did not reply. He could see that the Elves were clad in green and brown, and there was only one party that had gone West in years.
Gradually the figures approached close enough for Dameron to see his fears confirmed. He knew Galadhon well and Alagos only by acquiantance, but there was no third rider. The foreboding gripped them both and Dameron turned to Aerglin to see the same grim concern on the other's face.
'Go to the stronghold and give the news to the King,' he said. He glanced at Aerglin's pale face. 'Just go. You do not have to say more than what you have seen. It is for others to tell what happened.' He gave the younger Elf a gentle push. 'Go on. It may not be what you think,' he added kindly, remembering that Aerglin had been that same group that had lost Anglach, Celdir and Naurion. They had not recovered from that yet and already it looked as if Legolas too was lost.
He did not wish to think what it would do to the King, or to his other sons. And all knew that Nauriel had wished this upon Thranduil. He had not been there but it had spread through the companies of warriors who understood less a mother's grief and more the soldier's superstition. He listened to Aerglin passing silently through the wide branches of oak and beech, and the murmur of voices as he passed their own small company. Then he waited for Brethil to join him. It was not long.
'Is it true?' his lieutenant said quietly, breathlessly. 'Legolas is not with them?' He shaded his eyes with his long hand and gazed towards the two riders. 'I will escort them back to the palace,' he said. He looked at Dameron and frowned. 'I cannot think the worse. Surely we cannot have lost Legolas? Not so soon after Anglach and Celdir?'
Dameron regarded him for a moment. 'Do not speak it, Brethil, for you may bring it upon us.' He turned his gaze back to the road that wound its way towards them and the two riders who were now entering the Wood. 'But let us pray that there is more to the tale than appears.'
He leapt lightly down from the trees and jogged towards the two riders.
Galadhon had been dreading this moment ever since Legolas insisted he go on alone over the Mountains. He had rehearsed how he would tell Thranduil the news. But suddenly none of it seemed plausible. And as they entered the King's hall, he could see the worry in the King's eyes, the small lines of tension about his mouth, the way he tapped his fingers against the arm of his carved throne, the firelight flashed in the great ruby ring he always wore. Upon his head was a crown of holly, and ivy wound up his staff. But his face was anything but jovial or festive.
Galion as usual hovered solicitously at his elbow but worry gnawed at his face as well. Galadhon took a deep breath and cupped Alagos' elbow for the messenger looked ready to fall to his knees and beg for his life.
Alagos began to make his customary, obsequiously low bow when Thranduil snapped his fingers and barked, 'Tell me where is my son.'
'My lord,' Galadhon began breathlessly when hurried footsteps sounded in the corridor behind them and he turned slightly to see, to his great relief, it was Thalos who entered the hall. But Thalos did not nod or smile reassuringly. He only stared at Galadhon expectantly. No help there then, Galadhon thought, and took a breath. 'My lord, he has crossed the Mountains and has, I hope, arrived in Imladris.'
He was aware of the Elves crowding at the doorway, straining to see though they did not enter the hall. It was as if Thranduil's growing unease and fury were a tangible thing that kept them back.
'You hope?' Thranduil said coldly. He looked obliquely at Galadhon and never had the King's eyes seemed so cold. Alagos squeaked and sank to his knees and Galadhon thought he might well do the same for if he did not, his legs would give way. Behind him, the crowd was utterly silent.
'I am sure that he would have arrived in Imladris by now, my lord. We waited in Beorn's house until Alagos was well enough to ride...' The King's hard green gaze swung now to Alagos.
'What happened?' he said and if his voice was cold before, now it dropped to the temperature of the North wind on Erebor. 'Tell me where he is and how it was that you two return and yet my son does not.'
Galadhon heard Alagos gulp and the messenger clasped his hands together as if pleading and Galadhon was glad it was Alagos and not he who had caused this. 'My lord king, it was a terrible accident!' Alagos cried out and Thranduil shot to his feet.
'Alagos was injured, my lord,' Galadhon interrupted, wondering how in the Wood Alagos had survived this long as the King's messenger. 'But both Legolas and I escaped. He is unharmed. Legolas insisted that it was he who took the message to Elr...'
'My son insisted? And you of course were unable to resist.'
It was not a sneer, thought Galadhon later. It was too cold for that. And too hard. And far too terrifying for a sneer. A statement that made it seem to Galadhon that he had somehow allowed himself to be beguiled into cowardice. Worse, that he had somehow encouraged Legolas to take the risk he himself was not willing to take.
'My lord...' Alagos protested faintly.
'Be silent.' Thranduil's eyes were cold green. Hard. Ice. And his mouth a thin line.He turned back to Galadhon. 'You left him where?'
Galadhon suddenly realised how very, very bad this was. How very, very bad it all sounded. He swallowed, thinking he would rather be in the South right now, surrounded by Orcs. At least he knew how to fight those. 'We had begun our ascent but the path had been turned and the way marks scattered. Certainly goblins by the signs of the fires left. And bones.' Oh Varda, what was he saying? How much worse could it be? He was admitting he had abandoned Legolas to his fate! 'We lost our way twice and then rocks fell upon us as we slept. Alagos broke his leg and Legolas insisted it was he who took the message. He said it was his task and I...' He stopped. It sounded even worse now that he was saying it. 'I believed him.' It sounded weaker and weaker every time he opened his mouth, he thought. He should have never allowed it. He should have insisted that he go instead of Legolas. He should have...
'My lord, we had no choice.' When Alagos spoke Galadhon wanted to kick him. And it had exactly the wrong effect on Thranduil.
'There is always a choice.' The King shifted suddenly. His cloak of holly green spread about him as if he were the Wood itself pronouncing. 'Why did you not go instead?'
'My lord, I tried to persuade him to return with us. But he was set upon it.' Galadhon turned to Alagos in appeal but the King's Messenger was useless and had prostrated himself on the floor now. He gave Alagos a contemptuous look for it was Alagos' fault they were here and Legolas...well, he hoped he was on his way home. 'My lord, Legolas felt it was his task...and so did I. It was in the Song,' he said more firmly than he felt.
'That is true, my lord.' Thalos suddenly intervened. He leaned over his father and rested his hand comfortingly on his father's shoulder, Thranduil stilled. 'It is in your heart too, my lord. It is why you sent him,'' Thalos said softly.
'What can you know of a father's heart!' Thranduil turned and snapped at his middle son as if he could not stop himself. Thalos went to pull his hand back from his father's shoulder but Thranduil clutched at it and held onto him. Their eyes met though neither spoke.
Galadhon looked away for it seemed such a private moment with the King so suddenly vulnerable. Then he remembered Nauriel's curse; to wish the King would know what it was to lose a son. It was an evil thing whatever her pain and loss, Galadhon thought.
Without relinquishing his hold upon his second son, Thranduil glanced sideways at Galion and inclined his head slightly. 'Ready my horse.'
'Oh? And is this a pleasure ride onto the plains, my lord? Or more a mountainous trek?'
Galadhon was not the only one to gasp at Galion's temerity and Thranduil 's eyes narrowed.
'And do you plan to take anyone with you?' Galion continued drily, approaching the carved throne. He sketched an almost insolent bow as if he had barely remembered to whom he spoke. But Galion had come over the mountains with Oropher. Galion had been his best friend and servant. They had come together from Doriath it was said, Menegroth. It was Galion to whom Thranduil always turned, who had wiped his nose, his arse and his tears, as Galion himself said, hauled him out of scrapes and battles and held him when Oropher died, when they lost the Queen. He alone might approach Thranduil with impunity, thought Galadhon. 'Are you going on your own?' Galion continued with feigned deference. 'Or do you plan to leave the Wood with twenty fewer warriors?' He came to stand beside the throne so that the King would have to look up.
Thranduil made a noise between a growl and a snarl that would have had most men running, but Galion tapped him lightly as if he were a recalcitrant dog. 'Let it be. I will go.' Thranduil 's eyes flew open and he jerked his head back from Galion's hand.
'I will go with him, my lord.' Thalos added, and his bright green eyes fixed upon the furious King now. 'The High Pass will be snowy but I can pass it on foot. With Galion and Galadhon with me there are three of us to bring my little brother home.'
'There are goblins upon the Mountains, and especially near the Pass. Galadhon said the paths had been turned. That means they guard the path!' Thranduil said irritably, but there was a tremor of fear in his voice. Galadhon suddenly felt not the anger of a thwarted king, but the real fear of a father for his sons. And as a father himself, his heart was stirred.
'My lord,' he said, taking a step forwards. 'I had always intended to return once I had brought Alagos back. I would have left him with Beorn if I could.' He threw a look at Alagos who had managed to pull himself together a little and was on one knee- his healing leg stretched out behind him. 'But I felt I would need reinforcements in case anything had befallen Legolas.'
'Galadhon can show me the path, Adar. And we are Elves. We can evade the Goblins.'
Thranduil rose to his feet now and reached out to Thalos as if he could protect him though Thalos was the same height and a warrior for centuries in the South. 'Orcs have been moving towards the Mountains. And crebain have been gathering high up. A battle has been or is about to be fought.' He put his hands on Thalos' shoulders and cradled him in his gaze. 'I do not want you travelling the Mountains now and in the Winter. If Legolas has indeed reached Imladris, and I pray with all my heart that he has, I trust and hope that Elrond will not permit him to return across the Mountains on his own and in winter with such numbers of Orcs gathering.'
Galadhon shifted uncomfortably; it felt intrusive to be standing here listening to what was no longer a state matter but a family discussing their youngest.
'My lord,' he said hesitantly and both Thranduil and Thalos turned to him. Thalos had Thranduil's penetrating gaze and with both now turned to him, he felt an uncomfortable heat. But he owed Legolas this for it was known that his family, seeing their youngest as the most foolhardy and in need of protection, did not always see him as the leader and warrior that he really was. So he said firmly, 'My lords, Legolas will not return in the mid-winter with goblins mustering. He is an impressive warrior and was very in command of us. I intend to go and seek him out whatever others may do my lord, for he is my friend and I swore to him I would follow him though he bid me not to. But I do not think he is a fool.'
Galadhon swallowed but he was determined to hold his ground, and even more, to cross the mountains to meet up with Legolas and escort him home.
Thranduil turned and held his gaze for a long moment, studied him and Galadhon forced himself to keep his eyes on the King's. At last, Thranduil seemed satisfied and slid his gaze to Galion.
'Galadhon, you will go. But not on your own either. Take a couple of others with you. In case there is another accident,' he said drily. 'Thalos, you will not go. Nor you, Galion.' He inclined his head to Galadhon and ignored the protest that came from Galion. 'If I cannot go, neither can you,' he said shortly, and it was over.
Galadhon knew his retreat was undignified but he did not care. Perhaps it had not been as bad as he feared, after all he was free to leave on his own legs, but it had been a painful interview. And not because he feared the King, but because of the stark fear in a father's eyes, and the knowledge of what happened to Elves captured by goblins. They had all seen it more than enough.
He half dragged Alagos from the Throne room, and shoved the messenger out of the door amongst the whispering crowds. 'Go home,' he said irritably for Alagos had been utterly useless. But he softened then, for he saw that Alagos was truly terrified. 'Your wife will be pleased you are home.' He watched the man stumble away and then turned for his own home in the trees to tell his own wife, his own sons that he was away across the Hithaeglir to find his friend and bring him home.
When everyone else had gone, Thalos moved and slid his hand down his father's arm comfortingly. 'Surely the great eagles will watch over him?' he asked quietly, as much for his father's reassurance as to give his.
'They did not watch over your mother,' Thranduil snapped bitterly and Thalos stepped back, feeling the roil of angry emotions swirl about the king. His own were less fierce, a deeper pain, a slower sorrow. 'Thalos,' Thranduil said and when he looked up he saw his father's eyes were softened and full of pain and anxiety. 'Forgive me. I spoke cruelly. It is my fear.' He sighed and then said wryly, 'You know what he is like.'
Thalos smiled slightly. 'Galadhon is right. I do not think he is quite the child we think, father. He has survived the South for many years and led his own troops often enough. Let us trust in hope.'
It sounded weak even to him but he had nothing else to give so he sat on the step by his father's throne and leaned his head against his knee while Galion fussed about Thranduil and the King allowed it, for they all needed comfort.
As it happened, Galadhon was thwarted yet again in his second attempt to cross the Hithaeglir, but this time it was for a more agreeable reason.
Galadhon had left the edge of the Wood with three companions, Ceredir, Silarôs and Anglareb, leaving their horses this time with their escort and travelling beyond the Wood on foot. After five days of travel they were in sight of the foothills of the Hithaeglir. Ahead heavy snow clouds lay over the mountains, and the peaks were shrouded. A flock of black birds was speeding over the plains and Silarôs, only recently returned to duty, had shaded his eyes with his hand and squinted against the winter sunlight.
'That is crebain,' he had said. 'So many cannot herald any good surely?'
Galadhon winced. Silarôs always had the keenest sight and now he too could see the scattered shapes like black cinders on the wind. 'The King had word of a great battle between Orcs and the Valley. They must be feasting well upon their erstwhile allies.' There was no question that any Elvish casualties would be taken back to Imladris. Unless their casualties were great indeed.
Above them then an eagle called and he looked up. The bird was high and moving fast. Shading his eyes with his hands, Galadhon gazed after it and gasped as it suddenly wheeled above them and plummeted. It had shot towards them and he cried aloud.
'Ware eagle!' His companions ducked their heads and crouched to the ground and Galadhon saw that Silarôs had drawn his bow and an arrow notched. 'Hold!' he cried for he remembered the eagles at Erebor and how they had so carefully borne Thorin Oakenshield from the battlefield and how they had gathered protectively about Thranduil.
Later he was glad that he did for the eagle suddenly pulled out of its dive and flapped its wings against its own fall, beating the air until it hovered above them. Galadhon slowly pushed himself to his feet, shoving Silarôs' bow to the ground.
'Lord Eagle,' he said for it could only be one of the great eagles of the Mountains. 'We are honored that you come to us. Do you have news for I am sure that you need no assistance, much though we owe you?'
If eagles could snort this one would, he thought for it regarded him with a sharp and beady eye. 'Elves of the Wood,' it lisped in a sharp, staccato voice. 'What brings you here to the foothills of the Hithaeglir?'
Galadhon stepped closer. 'We are grateful for news, lord Eagle. We seek our friend, the son of Thranduil, Aran of the Wood. With your bright sharp eye, might you have seen him?'
The eagle cocked his head on one side and regarded Galadhon with its sharp raptor's eye. 'One of your kind passed over the Mountains but a month since? He travelled with you until the rocks fell and you turned back. He now dwells in the Valley with the lord of that land, Elrond Halfelven.'
There was a cry of relief and delight from his companions and Galadhon felt the tension he had lived with since Legolas had turned and waved to him before striding swiftly up the steep mountain track and disappeared into the Hithaeglir, ease from his chest, He felt like sinking to his knees and offering up a prayer to Elbereth. 'Aran Thranduil will bless you for this, my lord,' Galadhon finally was able to speak. 'Ceredir, go swiftly and take the news to the Wood. Aran Thranduil will bless you too, Ceredir.'
The eagle ruffled its feathers so they lifted slightly on the breeze. 'My good Elves, I was on my way with a message from Mithrandir himself for your King. Perhaps you will take it for me?'
'Ceredir, take the message from my lord,' Galadhon said, trying to suppress his curiosity and Ceredir stood forward, expecting to see a message tied to the eagle's leg or some such thing.
Instead the eagle turned its yellow eye upon the Elf and said, 'Very well. This is what Mithrandir bid me tell your King: Legolas is well. He has given me your message. I regard your duty to me not yet discharged and ask a boon of you.' The eagle flexed one foot and its talons stretched out like blades. 'I was to listen to the King's reply and then tell him this: I ask that Legolas stay in my service for a little longer. I will see him safe across the Mountains if you agree though I cannot guarantee when you will see him again.'
Galadhon looked at Ceredir blankly. Relieved as he was that Legolas was safe, he could see the same look of panic and fear in the faces of his companions. None of them would wish to give this news to the King and Galadhon thought he had already just escaped with his skin. He tilted his head and looked guilelessly at the Eagle
'My lord Eagle,' he began. 'The Aran Thranduil is most worried about his son and it will be many days before we can bring this news to him. He will, I know, see himself in your debt should you take this message to him yourself for on your wide wings, you could reach him before nightfall and he will sleep a night of peace knowing his child is safe.'
The eagle watched him with shrewd, sharp eyes but did not speak. He was aware too that his companions watched equally shrewdly and with calculated approval. Jerkily the eagle cocked its head. 'If it soothes the heart of the Elvenking, I will take the message myself. If it soothes the troubled hearts of his warriors, who fear to give him such news, then I account myself fortunate to be able to render such service,' it said formally and Galadhon swore there was a glint in its eye that was not its ferocity but humour. 'I will add too, for your comfort,' and there was definitely a glint in its eye now,' that Mithrandir guessed you might be following and bid any search group return to the King. He will ensure Legolas' passage over the Mountains.'
Galadhon looked at his companions. 'Then should we return as Mithrandir bids?'
They looked at each other. They had been charged by Thranduil to ensure Legolas' safety. But now here was assurance from Mithrandir no less, that he would see Legolas over the Mountains. They were torn, for warriors could never truly be spared from the Wood.
'The King will not be pleased,' Silarôs observed and cast a look over his shoulder at the towering peaks, shrouded in cloud and snow. 'But Mithrandir says he needs his services and will see him safe himself over the mountains.'
'Do you think he will take the High Pass so late in the year if Caradhras is open?' Galadhon asked his companions thoughtfully. 'If I were Mithrandir I would not seek a route north if I could take a southern route. We might well arrive in Imladris to find him gone.'
The eagle cocked its head again and ruffled its feathers importantly. 'South they will go, Elves of the Wood. 'I could give one of you a place on my back and you can deliver the message to the King if you wish.'
Galadhon gave the bird a dirty look. It was enjoying this far too much; it was a bird. It wasn't supposed to have a sense of humour. Perhaps this was just a messenger bird, like Alagos and not one of the Great Eagles who had come to their aid at Erebor after all.
'No. We would not dream of taking your place. May the wind always speed you to far off places and distant lands,' Galadhon said drily, hoping the wind would give it a good swat as it returned.
'And the wind always up your arse,' Silarôs muttered but the eagle was clearly too lofty to pay attention or chose to ignore it and spreading its huge wings, it leapt into the air and with a piercing cry that hurt their ears for good measure, it swept off into the thermals and within moments, was speeding swiftly towards the dark line of trees that showed the edge of Mirkwood.
'So. We go homewards,' said Galadhon without real enthusiasm.
'What do you think the King will say?' asked Aglareb nervously for he was very young and had little to do with with King. Yet he had asked to go on this mission for Legolas had been his patrol leader in the East Bite and Aglareb had told Galadhon that it was Legolas who had got him through his first encounter with the Nazgûl.
'The King... will be pleased that Legolas is safe,' Galadhon began hesitantly, thinking it through. 'But he will be furious he has not returned.'
'Furious,' echoed Aglareb with wide eyes.
'He will be that,' echoed Silarôs rubbing his arm which had just recovered. 'Right glad am I that it is not I who has to report to him, Galadhon.' He turned his gaze too on Galadhon, who felt uncomfortably hot right then.
'Come, it is not Galadhon who has decided to keep hold of Legolas,' protested Ceredir and he came to stand beside Galadhon supportively. 'We should all tell the King together.'
Silarôs looked worried, and Aglareb's eyes were even wider and his mouth dropped open a little then. 'Tell the King?' he whispered. 'Tell him that Legolas is in Imladris? With Elrond Halfelven? And Mithrandir?' He stared at Galadhon. 'And that he isn't with us? And he sent...'
'Yes alright, Aglareb,' snapped Galadhon wishing it was just him and Ceredir. At least last time he could blame Alagos. 'Anyway, its the eagle that will give him the message.'
'Yes, but he wont be angry with an eagle,' Aglareb was still aghast.
'Close your mouth Aglareb, you look like a goblin,' Silarôs said in amusement, watching Galadhon out of the corner of his eye with a slight smirk. 'He wont be angry with us. He'll be angry with Legolas. And Mithrandir.'
Galadhon thought for a while. Yes. He would be angry with Legolas for delaying his return. But he would be furious with Mithrandir. He smiled to himself. He knew now what he had to say.
In the Valley...
In Imladris, Pippin was happy. Well, as much as he could be with the threat of Gloom and Imminent Death hanging over the Valley. But it was a lovely wintery day and here in Rivendell it was easy to forget that Mordor was anything more than a fairytale to frighten naughty Hobbit children into bed. He hummed as he went from one room to another. It was even more convenient that Frodo had been moved to these spacious chambers because they were quite close to Pippin's new friends, Legolas the Elf and Gimli the Dwarf.
He beamed. Having an Elf and Dwarf for a friend put him well ahead of Merry, who was becoming a bit too sensible for Pippin's liking. He liked Legolas in particular for having a quite Hobbit-like appetite when he was awake. Limnauth had told Pippin that Legolas was recovering from a very nasty poison that would make him very tired for a bit. She had looked a little misty-eyed when she said this and Pippin thought he had a good idea why for several maidens had peeked in on Legolas as he slept, only to be shooed away by Heredir who was the chief healer it seemed and rather formidable. He had told Limnauth to concentrate too.
Pippin tapped the two apples in his packet that he had purloined from the kitchen to share with his new friend. He peered round the open door of the ward in which Legolas was kept. Not kept, he corrected himself. But Legolas had complained how bored he was so Pippin thought that must be how Legolas felt.
But the Elf was not in his bed!
Pippin went quickly into the room and looked about. The bed was made and smooth as if no one had ever been in it. The windows were closed tightly against the winter; Legolas always had them open, even when the cold North wind had swept into the Valley, bringing the smell of snow on the high mountains. Although it never seemed to snow here in Rivendell, Pippin thought.
And the chair was empty. So Gimli was not here either.
Pippin plonked himself down on the edge of the empty bed and sighed. Perhaps Legolas had gone home. But Pippin thought he had not been the sort of person to not have bid farewell.
'Pippin!' a bright voice cried from the garden.
Pippin scrambled to his feet and pressed his nose against the glass of the window.
The Elf waved at him cheerfully and smiled widely. That was more like it, thought Pippin.
'Are you allowed out then?' he called as he threw open the window.
Legolas' face fell. 'Not really. They would have me cooped up until Spring,' he said but then he looked at Pippin and that smile spread across his face again. 'But I have persuaded Limnauth that I will recover more quickly if I am allowed to go into the garden. She has said only if Merry would come with me. I think it is in case I fall over or stub my toe,' he added brightly.
Merry! Pippin almost pouted, but he loved Merry. And he didn't mind sharing Legolas.
'When Sam and Frodo said they would come as well, they almost threw me into the garden they were so pleased!' Legolas laughed and threw a glance at Merry.
Pippin felt a momentary twinge of something in his chest but he didn't really know what it was except it made him feel horrible. And there was that slight buzzing in his ears again. He pushed it away impatiently. 'I'll be there in a second,' he called. Legolas nodded and Pippin hurried down the elegant sweep of stairs and out into the gardens below the healing rooms.
Pippin bounced into the garden where he saw that Frodo was sitting carefully on a stone bench and Sam was fussing around him patting and plumping up cushions while Merry sat back with his hands behind his head and puffed on his pipe, blowing smoke rings. Legolas was sitting on the damp grass, leaning against a tree with his long legs stretched out in front of him and a sweet smile on his face as he watched Sam. He looked up as Pippin trotted up and his smile widened.
'See,' he waved his hand expansively, 'a host of Hobbits.'
'I believe the collective noun is a comfort,' Merry observed complacently. 'But it is a terror of Tooks,' he added with a deceptively cool look at Pippin.
'Well in that case it's a bug...'
'A baggage of Brandybucks,' Frodo interrupted quickly with a shocked but rather amused look and Pippin was so pleased that Frodo was smiling that he forgot he was going to get back at Merry and determined to amuse Frodo. And Legolas of course, for both had been injured by the Nazgûl. 'Ooh- that reminds me,' he said without really thinking it through, 'Legolas , you haven't told us yet how you fought the Nazg...ow!' He glared at Merry who had just kicked him. 'What was that for?'
'Legolas might want to talk about something else.' Merry glared at him in a way that Pippin knew from past experience was meant to be meaningful but he could not for the life of him think what it was that Merry was being meaningful about. Merry tutted and then added, 'Legolas might not want to talk about it.' He jerked his head towards Frodo even though he was talking about Legolas and that mystified Pippin even more.
He felt a little tangled up in that so he shook himself and asked politely, 'Legolas, do you mind telling us?'
Legolas looked from one Hobbit to the other and his face showed no trace of concern but no trace of interest either- it was actually very difficult to tell anything. 'I did not fight the Nazgûl,' he said. 'Not really. Not like you did on Amon Sul. All I did was run until I could run no more and then ...well...' He looked away.
Frodo stirred then, and Sam glared at Pippin, and Merry tutted and Pippin was confused. 'What did I say?' Pippin demanded, opening his hands out in plea. 'All I did...'
'All you did is upset everyone two seconds after you arrived,' snapped Merry and Pippin felt a bubble of misery well up in his chest and horribly he thought he might cry. He let his chin drop and bit his lip.
Then he felt the lightest, most fleeting touch on his arm and glanced up miserably. It was Legolas and the Elf was looking at him in kind concern. Legolas' eyes were very green, Pippin realised, and flecked with gold.
'I do not mind Pippin asking me,' Legolas said kindly and then turned back to Pippin. 'But I was not brave. We were running away as I told you. It is just that there was nowhere to run in truth. But you, you stayed and faced not one but many of them. You faced the Witch King of Angmar,' he said and he sounded genuinely awed.
'Well, I don't know about faced them,' Pippin said, feeling a bit more cheerful. 'We didn't have much choice either because they had surrounded us and we couldn't go anyway. And anyway, Frodo was there and they were after him. We couldn't just leave him.'
Pippin glanced at Frodo's pale face and smiled brightly. 'Anyway, Sam wouldn't have left Frodo and Sam makes the best ever sausages.'
'He does,' agreed Merry and it seemed that Pippin was forgiven. 'You must know, Legolas, sausages are very difficult to get just right. Sam gets them done just enough without being burnt.'
When Legolas turned to Sam, the gardener blushed furiously and ducked his head. 'I have never had sausages,' Legolas said and Sam looked up in astonishment.
'Why! Don't you have sausages in Mirkwood, Mister Legolas? Well I don't know. What do you eat out there? I suppose spiders and wolves?' Merry nodded in agreement and Pippin wondered what spider tasted like. He thought they might not taste very nice.
'We certainly do not eat wolves!' Legolas said shocked and Frodo winced.
'Of course they don't,' protested Frodo in a tight voice 'Don't you remember Bilbo's description of the wonderful feasts in the Elvenking's halls?'
'Of course. Begging your pardon, Mister Legolas. I just thought... well I don't rightly know what I thought.'
'But we do eat spiders,' Legolas said brightly. 'But I would very much like the recipe for sausages to see if we can't make sausages out of them. It is quite tasteless meat and rather sparse. They live on the black squirrels and Orcs if they can catch them so they don't taste very nice.'
Pippin stared at Legolas in awe. The Elves of Mirkwood ate spiders. Did they roast them slowly on the spit like you did with pork he wondered.
'And Orc is really disgusting.' Legolas continued. 'Of course they eat anything. But they are gristly and fatty. You have to be really hungry for that.'
Pippin knew he was staring because Merry and Sam were too, their eyes wide.
'I think Bilbo may have tried spider pie when he was in the Wood,' said Frodo seriously. 'But I think I remember him saying he was put off by all the little legs hanging out.'
'Oh really?' Legolas looked politely surprised. 'But that is a great delicacy. If Galion leaves the legs hanging out that is usually for the King himself. He likes nothing better than a spider leg.'
Pippin imagined an Elf, probably a bit like Elrond, tucking into a spider leg, crunching it up with relish and licking his fingers. 'What does it taste like?' he asked in awe.
'Chicken,' said Legolas.
'Pork,' said Frodo at the same time. He grinned. 'That's what Bilbo said.'
Their horrified delight was broken then by an Elf calling to them, and when they looked up, he gave a wave. Pippin had seen the Elf around Rivendell and knew he worked in the kitchens and around the House, because he was kind to Pippin and often made sure the Hobbits had extra pies, cakes, apples, pastries. Pippin smiled and waved back. Then he turned to Merry.
'Berensul probably has some extras for us. Shall I ask him if he knows how to make Spider pie?'
'He will not know,' Legolas said a little tersely, thought Pippin. And then when he saw Legolas' face, he thought perhaps it was more regret than terseness. Because his eyes were a little sad. Legolas rose to his feet gracefully and looked down at the Hobbits. 'Farewell my friends. I will see you perhaps in the Hall of Fire? There is to be story-telling tonight I hear and I wish to enjoy myself before I leave.'
Pippin opened his mouth to ask Legolas if he would have his supper with them that evening but the Elf turned so quickly to leave that Pippin was left sitting there with his mouth open. He shut it quickly before anyone saw.
'Is Legolas avoiding Berensul?' asked Frodo softly, for their companion had taken the path opposite to Berensul's and now Berensul had diverted away from the Hobbits and followed Legolas, who walked more quickly perhaps, thought Pippin, than was strictly polite.
It was useless anyway, he saw, for Berensul - who knew this place much better than Legolas - disappeared behind a hedge and then re-emerged in front of Legolas, his hand held out as if beseeching. Legolas must have given up by then because his head went down a little and then he followed Berensul as if resigned.
'Perhaps Berensul has been sent to take Legolas back to bed,' Pippin wondered aloud. 'He was only supposed to be out for a little while but he looked perfectly fine to me.'
'But he has dark circles under his eyes, Pip,' Frodo answered softly. 'And he dreams....I have heard him cry out.'
Pippin was upset to hear that and glanced at Merry, but Merry was looking at Frodo with a strange expression on his face so Pippin followed his gaze and saw that the dark circles he had not noticed on Legolas, were under Frodo's eyes more noticeably, and he looked pale and drawn still.
'Enough of this doom and despair!' he cried. 'Come Sam, give us one of your songs - perhaps one about a gardener for his true love? A rose perhaps?' he added mischievously and nudged Merry and Frodo laughed kindly.
'Don't tease Sam,' he said gently. 'I will sing you a song instead. About Farmer Maggot and his mushrooms.'
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.