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Story of Legolas and Enóreth, The: 10. The Final Battle
Legolas met no more obstacles along the way. More than ever the fortress seemed deserted. Whether they had fled or were simply forgotten about, the hundreds of orcs once at Finrond's command were gone. And for Legolas, that was perfectly all right. He had reached the Final Chapter. So long as the end was in sight, he would take his advantages and face his hardships and ask no questions about them.
The further Legolas went down the passageway, the more cautious he became. At every step the darkness grew heavier and the stillness more menacing. Soon he was moving carefully through a black tunnel filled with a haze of smoke. The dull red outline of a doorway appeared at the end. He crept to this doorway and listened. There was the crackle of a fire and something bubbling – otherwise, silence. Touching the hilt of his knife, he quickly stepped inside.
He found himself on a high narrow balcony that ran the length of the wall. From this vantage point he could look down on the entire chamber. The room was (small surprise) dimly lit. A worn red carpet covered the floor and bizarre pieces of furniture stood in the corners. In the centre of the floor there was a raised dais, and on this dais was a black iron pedestal and a crystal ball. A cauldron of some reeking potion boiled in the fireplace. A long table held all manner of flasks and vials, and bunches of dried herbs hung from the balcony railing. It was without a doubt the lair of an evil wizard.
But there was no evil wizard to be found. The only creature in the room was a scraggly mongrel dog. He sprang up from beneath the table and capered about when Legolas appeared. "You've come, you've come!" he cried in ecstasy. "Oh, this is so exciting!"
"Yes, I have come," said Legolas dubiously. "But the villain would appear to be absent."
"Yep," said the dog, wagging away. "He vanished for a minute. He does that sometimes. Just goes up in a puff of smoke, like – poof! It's weird."
"I see," said Legolas. "So." And he waited for the Guide to continue.
The dog cocked his head, and a vacant look crossed his face. "So what?"
Legolas restrained a sigh. "When will he return, and what am I to do?"
"Oh!" said the dog eagerly. "He'll be here, he'll be right back! This is the location of the great final battle, yes it is!"
"Very well. What are my instructions?"
The dog sat down to scratch at a flea. "It's simple. You ... just a second ... ooh, that itches ... grrrr .... Oh, sorry. What was I saying?"
"Oh yeah! Right. Okay. What you've got to do is...." The dog trailed off and started sniffing the air. "Mmm, what's that smell? Kind of an earthy grassy breezy smell? Is that you? Oh, I like Elves! They always smell so pretty! Haldir smells like those mallorn trees, and Arwen, she smells like strawberries, and—"
"By the stars!" exclaimed Legolas, "it is no wonder that hounds are seldom permitted to speak! Answer me and then be silent, if you wish to avoid an arrow to the hindquarters."
"Hey now, you don't need to get violent. I'm just doing my job, and it isn't my fault if you—" Then Legolas pretended to reach for his quiver, and the dog yipped and hid under the table. "All right! Okay! Geez! You have to defeat the wizard! Defeat Finrond and end the Story!"
That was all Legolas needed to hear. A dry smile curled his lips, and he raised his voice until it rang through the chamber. "Then this mighty sorcerer will deign to show himself in my presence? Or perhaps he is afraid!"
Barely had the echo of his words died away when a sudden gale buffeted the fortress like an angry giant. A panel of the window swung against the wall and shattered, and as the wind howled into the room the fire sputtered and went out. The floor below was plunged into shadow. Then, slowly, the crystal ball began to glow with a cold blue light.
All of this took about five minutes. Legolas was patient.
At last the light of the crystal burst into blinding radiance. The room was engulfed in a whirlwind. It spun faster and faster, drawing into itself until it was a glowing column of smoke. The light winked out, and when Legolas looked again the column was gone. In its place stood Finrond, his arms raised, his eyes flashing, his hair and robes billowing around him.
And to think, all Legolas had done was walk through the door!
"Infidel!" bellowed Finrond. "You dare to defy me? Come, then – come forward and face devastation!
"I shall," said Legolas grandly, "and the devastation shall be your own!" For this, of course, is the way you speak to a run-of-the-mill evil villain when you need time to think.
"You are too late," said Finrond. "Enóreth is cursed forever, and the Fellowship is doomed! Victory is mine!"
"Nay, you speak too quickly. The maiden's curse is broken. And by my bow, you shall never lay a hand upon her again!"
Finrond responded with scorn. "Ha! So you've broken my curse, have you? A small setback, nothing more! Neither your bow nor any weapon wielded by any hand can harm me! Your struggles are in vain! Surrender!"
"Death first!" declared Legolas.
"Then death you shall have!" Finrond cried. Lightning flashed across the window, followed by a crack of thunder. "Thou miserable fool! Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards!"
This dialogue could have gone on for several hours if Legolas had let it. But time was dragging in his eagerness to be away, and he could hide his derision for only so long. He dropped his majestic stance and laughed. "For they are subtle and quick to anger," he said mockingly. "Pretty words indeed! If you will not uphold your end of the bargain, why should I?"
The wizard howled with rage; for quick to anger he was, even if other details had been neglected. He flung out his hand and his magicks sprang forth in tongues of flame. Legolas darted to one side and was unharmed. Again did Finrond unleash his fury in sparks and smoke toward the balcony. Again and easily did Legolas avoid it. The wizard's power was as dazzling as fireworks on a summer night and almost as dangerous.
That got old rather quickly, as you can imagine. Legolas had soon had enough. He sprang over the railing and dropped to the ground floor, on his feet and nimble as a cat. Then, drawing an arrow from his quiver, he advanced upon his enemy. Seeing the elven warrior in all his fury, wondrous fair and terrible to behold, even Finrond the Purple hesitated. And who could blame him! Very few derivative fantasy characters would have kept their confidence, facing a bona fide son of Thranduil with his ire up.
"This ends now," said Legolas in a low voice. Deadly intent gleamed in his eyes.
Finrond scrambled to regain his aplomb. "Ha!" he cried, and lifted his staff aloft. A fiery red light enveloped him. "No living being shall hinder me! For I am the conqueror of worlds, mightier than Sauron himself, trained to mastery in the arts of Dark—"
"Silence!" Legolas roared. The wizard was taken aback. Slowly, deliberately, Legolas bent his bow and let the arrow fly. Finrond swept up his arm with a whirl of long robes. The arrow burned to ashes in the air.
"There!" said Finrond, triumphant (and quite relieved). He sprang to the dais and stood there wrapped in a flame so intense that Legolas was forced to draw back. "So much for the strength of the Elves! And now I shall crush you, you pathetic weakling! Prepare to meet your doom!!! BWAH-HAHAH—Agh! Ugh! Gyuh!"
He staggered back, clutching at his wounded breast. In his spite, he had committed the crucial and oft-overlooked error of laughing maliciously before he was sure of his victory. And Legolas, anticipating just such a mistake, had fired off three arrows while Finrond was not paying attention.
Finrond had never in his life been so dumbfounded. "You ... you shot me, you little wanker!"
Legolas did not bother to reply. Another arrow soared and struck home, and Finrond went floundering against the wall, gasping and raging in impotent fury. Meanwhile, the dog was leaping about in great excitement. "Ooo, that musta hurt!" he yapped gleefully. "The head! Shoot him in the head!"
And Legolas very well could have if he had wanted to. The wizard's power had been broken by his wounds, and not even the fiercest of his spells could do harm. Yet Legolas was troubled, and long before his quiver was empty he laid the bow aside. This was far too easy. More to the point, it was not working. Skewered with arrows though he was, Finrond lived; the Story showed no sign of ending. Legolas called to the Guide: "What am I missing?"
"Oh! Oh, I know this one!" The dog sat down and thought very hard, thumping his tail against the floor. "Wait, don't tell me! You, um ... drat, what was it...!"
"Any time now," muttered Legolas.
Finally the Guide sprang to his feet. "I've got it!" he cried. "The necklace! You have to use the necklace!"
"Then let it be done," said Legolas grimly, "and this burden lifted from me." He drew Enóreth's necklace from his tunic and strode forward.
The moment of doom had come. Finrond gazed up at Legolas as he approached and saw his own destruction. Fear then smote the wizard as it never had before, and flinging himself on his face he made one final plea for his life. "Mercy, mercy, I beg!" cried he. "Do not strike me down when I lie broken at your feet! I will do anything you ask!"
It may have been pity that stopped Legolas in that moment, for he knew that Finrond was even more a slave to the Story than he himself. Or perhaps some intuition came to him, foreboding that there were details yet unaccounted for. Whatever the cause, Legolas lowered the necklace and gazed sternly upon his foe. "You surrender yourself to my will?" he demanded. "You swear to do exactly as I say?"
Finrond nodded vigorously.
"Then leave," said Legolas. "Banish yourself from this place and never return."
"I will!" gasped the wizard. "And I release Enóreth from her servitude! She is free!"
Legolas blinked; he had forgotten all about her for a moment. "Oh," he said. "Enóreth. Right. Very well, you are free to go."
Finrond staggered to his feet with an ingratiating smile. "You are indeed generous!" he said. "My deepest thanks, noble prince, for your...."
"Enough of this," said Legolas tiredly. "I had no desire to fight this battle, and I want nothing more to do with any of you. Be gone from my sight!" And he turned away to leave the Story behind forever.
Yet there was more to come. In the malice of Finrond's heart no true gratitude could be stirred, and it goaded him to be thus cast aside, stripped of all dignity and disregarded. He gazed upon Legolas and knew that a brighter world awaited the Elf at the Story's end, a world with depth and purpose, in which legends were cherished and lived on through the passage of time. Despair and hatred swept over him at the thought. With a snarl, he drew a knife from within his robes and lunged forward.
But Legolas was already whirling to counter the attack, for he had been in this Story far too long not to expect such an age-old cliché. Dodging the blow, he unfurled the necklace and swung it down with all his strength. The heavy diamond chain snapped like a whip around the handle of the knife. There it tangled, and a quick snapping motion jerked the weapon from Finrond's grip. Legolas did not waste another moment. He grasped the knife with both hands, lifted it high, and plunged it through Finrond's heart all the way to the hilt.
"Eewww," said the dog cringing. "There goes this Story's PG rating."
Legolas drew out the blade as Finrond fell, intending to cut off his head just to be safe. But the moment he did, a very strange thing happened. The wizard's eyes became as blank and white as eggshells and his skin paled to a dreadful waxen hue. He did not bleed as a mortal would, nor did he burn away as evil wizards have been known to do. (And no, he did not go up in steam wailing "I'm melting! Melting!" Even this Story has its limits.) Instead, he merely crumbled. Once defeated, robbed of the Author's interest, his body was no more than a half-formed lump of clay moulded by childish fingers. It sagged to a heap on the floor amid purple robes and clumps of hair, and there it oozed with an unpleasant smell. Legolas gazed at it in disgust, then threw the knife point-downward into the mess with a flick of his wrist. The broken necklace dangled listlessly from the handle. The law of the Story had been satisfied.
"It is over," said Legolas.
The dog whined nervously. "Oh no," he said cowering, "it isn't over, it isn't, not yet!"
Legolas turned on him in anger. "Not yet!" he exclaimed. "I have done all you asked! What more do you want of me?"
But the Guide seemed too frightened to answer. All at once he looked to the door, scrambled about in great haste, and darted out of the chamber with his tail between his legs. Legolas called after him, but it was too late; he was off and running. And now there were footsteps approaching. Prancing footsteps.
His heart sank, and he lowered his head. "Yes, Enóreth."
The maiden stepped into view. She leaned against the doorframe, breathing in dainty gasps with her hand to her throat. Her red hair tumbled around her in a riot of carefully-tousled curls. "Is he..." she asked tremulously, "is he dead?"
Something about her voice put Legolas on edge. "Yes," he said, eyeing her. "Finrond is dead. You are free."
Enóreth started to cry. "Oh, I was so lost – so alone!" she whimpered. "I had nothing worth living for until you came! You have saved me!" She stumbled toward him and put out her arms. "Oh, Legolas! My love! my love!"
Legolas drew back with a stab of panic in his heart. All the signs of a Dramatic Kissing Scene (leading to heaven only knows what else) were making themselves known. Too late he looked about him for a means of escape, but a relentless grip fell upon his limbs and rooted him to the spot. "No," he whispered miserably. "No, please...."
But the Forces would not be persuaded, and only redoubled their influence. Legolas was driven forward. Enóreth was but a step away; her hands reached, claw-like, for his head; he would be entangled in her embrace like a fly in a spider's web. Closing his eyes in despair, he felt her icy fingers against his face and prepared himself for the worst...
... then sat upright with a ragged gasp. All at once, the gloomy chamber had disappeared from his sight. In its place were the walls and ceiling of a comfortable white room. Legolas was reclining on a couch, and a damp cloth had been placed upon his forehead. Enóreth was nowhere to be found.
"Well hello there!" said a voice. "I was wondering when you were going to snap out of it."
Legolas looked to the speaker. "You!" he cried sharply. But in his voice rang a note of relief so earnest it was closer to a cry of joy. Seated in a chair beside him was the Secretary, keeper of the Fan Fiction realm. Rather plain, oddly dressed, and a bit too perky for her own good – but to Legolas she seemed an angel.
"Is it finished?" he said desperately. "Tell me, I beg you, have I reached the end?"
"You have reached The End," said the Secretary cheerfully. "So you can stop shaking like a leaf, Legolas, it's over. She's gone."
Legolas shuddered again in spite of himself. His heart still pounded from the fright. "I thought I was doomed," he said. "It was dreadful – she was about to...."
"Oh, I don't doubt she was," the Secretary replied, and gestured with a copy of the manuscript. She flipped through it, reading idly as she spoke. "That particular Scene goes on for a good several pages, but we managed to pull you out a little early. I daresay you've been through enough without...." A paragraph caught her attention; her eyebrows shot up. "My goodness!"
"What is it?" Legolas asked, then immediately added, "No! No, do not tell me. I need only be grateful to have escaped such a fate."
The Secretary chuckled and laid the pages aside. "Well, it's all behind you now. You've completed your Story, and you're going home." Then she pulled a stern face and wagged her finger at him. "By the way, I should be very upset with you. That's not what the Author meant with the necklace idea and you know it."
"Bah," scoffed Legolas. "If the Author refuses to write more clearly than that, it is no concern of mine."
"Well, you've probably got a point there," she replied with a grin. "And off the record, that was really very clever. I'm impressed!"
Legolas sighed and rubbed his aching brow. "And I am exhausted," he said. "Please tell me I shall be left alone for a good while after this."
"Don't worry; you've more than covered your duties for the next two months. And I don't think the Forces will be too eager to deal with you again, after all the stunts you pulled. Here," she said, and placed a fresh cloth and a small leather flask on the table. "Lord Elrond sent up some of that miruvor liquor from Imladris. He said it's to help renew your heart and mind. Personally, I think he guessed you'd be needing a better taste in your mouth."
Even so small a word and gesture came as a blessing to Legolas. He gazed at the flask in a reverie. More than a token of friendship, it was a memory of Middle-earth, her history, her peoples noble and brave. Never had his world seemed so beautiful to him, or so worthy a cause to protect. "When may I return?" he asked softly.
The Secretary gave him an understanding look. "Soon," she said. "It will take time for the effects of the Story to wear off, but only a little. You've always been quick to recover, you know. Perhaps the Stories are harder for you than for most, but you always succeed and make it home stronger and wiser than before. Although, of course," she added with a smile, "you aren't aware of it by the time you get back."
Legolas could not help but smile in his turn. Already the Story was beginning to fade from his mind, as mist before the morning sun. He felt drowsy and content. "Thank you," he said. "Come what may, I hope to remember your kindness when we meet again."
The Secretary blushed and laughed, quite unsure of what to do with herself at such a compliment. "Oh dear, it's nothing, nothing at all. You're quite welcome, I'm sure," she said bashfully, and patted his shoulder. Then she got to her feet and composed herself, and a touch of gravity filled her expression. "Now get some rest. You have a long day's chase ahead of you."
With that she walked out of the room and closed the door. Legolas gratefully accepted the comforts she had left him, and soon he was very much his old self again. Soothed by the warming liquor and the blessed silence of the Lounge, he lay back and fell at once into a deep sleep.
Coming Up: Epilogue
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