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Story of Legolas and Enóreth, The: 7. Romance and Danger
Time passed, and all the world became shrouded in a soft mist. Light seemed to reach for him in the stillness, setting the air aglow in colours of sapphire and pearl, and the arms of the wind bore him forward across a shining sea. Soon the mist rolled away to reveal the forms of two great Trees. One gleamed with silver, for each of its many blooms gave forth a light only dimly remembered in the light of the Moon. The other held clusters of flowers that overflowed with warmth and brilliance greater than fire. Dew fell as nourishing rain from their branches, the glory of gold and silver mingling gently in the air of an enchanted twilight....
All of which faded from Legolas' sight in the blink of an eye. He drew in a breath, sat up straight, and dropped back grumbling to himself. Something had disturbed his sleep while the dark of night yet covered the world, and waking from such a vision to be greeted by chilly air and watery stars was depressing. He looked about and discovered a great horned owl sitting on a branch nearby, staring at him with eyes as round as saucers.
"What now?" said Legolas.
The owl ruffled his feathers. "Well, to start with, you're sitting in my spot."
Legolas muttered an apology and moved one branch over. The owl hopped across and settled himself into the nook with a satisfied grunt.
"Thanks for keeping it warm, anyhow," he said. "On your toes, Master Elf. Moon Lady is having a nightmare."
Legolas looked below. Sure enough, Enóreth lay tossing and whimpering in the tangled folds of her cloak. From her face she seemed haunted by horrifying visions, though not horrifying enough to spoil the picturesque qualities of tumbled hair and heaving bosom.
"You'd better go down there and wake her up," said the Guide. "Just a guess, but I think she'll be needing a hug."
"It is only a dream," Legolas replied stubbornly. "She will wake of her own accord soon enough."
"Oh you think so, do you?" said the owl with a sly smile (as much as owls can smile). "See here mate, it's quite up to you whether you go down there or not. But if you don't, not only will she pitch and moan indefinitely but the sun will put off rising too. And then I'll get irate because I've had a busy night and it's past my bedtime, and then you'll be stuck up a tree in perpetual four-thirty-in-the-morning with a grumpy owl. I don't know about you, but I can certainly think of things I'd rather be doing."
Legolas could hardly argue with that. With a final glower in the Guide's direction he swung down through the branches and dropped to Enóreth's side, and it must be confessed he was none too gentle in waking her up.
"Oh, Legolas!" Enóreth sobbed when her gaze fell upon him. "Thank heaven it's you! I thought Finrond had captured me, and...."
"There there," said Legolas, trying to be soothing. "It was a dream, nothing more. I will take watch and keep you safe. Go back to sleep."
She shivered. "I dare not!" she said. "Not with such ghastly visions to haunt me! Woe, woe is me," and she covered her face daintily with her hands, "I am so afraid!"
"Understandable!" he replied. "Clearly you want time in solitude to recover from such a fright. I'll just go for a walk and—"
"Nooo!" she wailed, clinging to his ankle. "Don't leave me here all alone!"
"All right, all right, I won't," said Legolas grumpily, hopping about on one foot and trying to shake her off. It was hardly a graceful manoeuvre, but you try maintaining your dignity with a grown woman wrapped around your leg. "I said, I won't! Unhand me, would you?"
She let go reluctantly and sniffled, gazing at him with her huge blue eyes. "Won't you just hold me for a bit? Please?"
He restrained a frown, but he really should have known that it would come to this in the end. "Very well," he said with a sigh, and sat down beside her. He opened his arms a little stiffly, hoping to keep some sort of distance.
Of course, Enóreth would have none of that. She flung herself against him and hugged him so tightly that he gasped for breath, and it did not seem that she intended to let go any time soon either. Resigned that he would have to wait this out until sunrise, he shifted her weight against his shoulder and gave her head an awkward pat. Each strand of her hair was like a thread of finest silk and therefore had the maddening tendency to cling to his fingers.
"Oh! That's better," she said after a time. She gave him a squeeze and nuzzled against his neck. "What a horrible dream it was! Trapped by a relentless evil creature with no soul! Can anyone comprehend such torment?"
"I have some idea," wheezed Legolas.
Enóreth beamed at him. "Oh, of course you'd understand. You're such a darling compassionate person. That is my comfort, you know. If I must endure all the cruelty of Finrond's evil power, at least I have you here to endure it with me!"
Legolas managed some muffled noise in response. Silence fell. The grey veil of dawn began to creep into the eastern sky, bringing with it a measure of hope. Perhaps when the first birds broke into song Enóreth would be in the mood to wander off and join them.
Right when it seemed that she was loosening her hold on him, she cuddled closer (if that were possible) and gazed intently into his eyes. "Legolas?" said she.
"Yes?" he replied with some trepidation. He really did not like the way she was toying with the fastenings of his tunic.
"If I asked something of you, something very special, would you do it for me?"
He swallowed, not sure how to respond. He certainly did not want to consent, but how much worse would it be if he tried to refuse and goaded the Forces of the Story to seize him? Fortunately, Enóreth released him and sat up before he had to decide.
"Here," she said, and removed a necklace that she had worn beneath her cloak. She placed the heavy pendant and chain into his hand and closed his fingers around it. "I want you to have this."
Legolas held it up in the dim light. The pendant was a shining blue jewel (fifty-six carats, to be exact) shaped into a heart and set in diamonds, hung on a diamond-studded chain and fastened with an ornate clasp. He gazed at it in thinly disguised astonishment. Surely not even this Story would demand that he wear such a tacky thing!
"Well," he said blankly. "I ... thank you."
Enóreth pressed his hand fervently. "It is of great worth," she said, "and very dear to me. This I give to you, Legolas, with all my heart! For no one else would I trust so ... or love so...." Overcome with emotion, she turned her face away.
With the scant regard he had for this maiden, Legolas could only be embarrassed. Nevertheless he forced a smile and accepted her gift with as much gratitude as he could summon. He handled the necklace gingerly, unsure of what to do with it. In the end he tucked it out of sight in the cuff of his boot. ("So that I will not lose or damage it, dear Lady," he explained.)
At last the morning came. Enóreth decided to take a walk – as well she might, for her display of affection had transformed the wood into a lovely place, full of alluring hollows and dancing sunbeams. But even as the romantic mood sought to beguile him, Legolas was filled with an urgency that surpassed all other concerns. Against the morning light a great wall of rock rose up not half a mile away – at long last they had reached the cliffs! And there was the dim roar of the river in the distance! If this was indeed the land of the evil wizard, was not the Story's end drawing nigh?
For the first time in many days Legolas was filled with a dizzying hope, and he struggled to keep his composure lest he be disappointed once again. Leaving Enóreth to her own devices, he slipped away and explored the surrounding land to the fullest measure of his senses. If evil things lurked here they were excellently concealed, for Legolas could find no trace of them. Soon he was obliged to abandon his search. It was evident that the Story would not be rushed, and out of duty he would not leave Enóreth unguarded for very long. He returned to the clearing and spotted her standing in the sunlight several paces off, gathering lilies and wild roses for a garland to place in her hair. Engrossed in her work, she did not yet see him.
"Flowers again," he muttered. "Ai, she will be the death of me yet."
Legolas would quickly learn to regret that statement. Barely had the words left his lips when the Forces of the Story fell upon him stronger than ever and held him fast. At the same moment a bitter chill seized him, and he heard the sound that his heart had secretly been dreading from the moment he and Enóreth had come to this place: the rustling and growling of many loathsome creatures creeping toward them.
"Orcs!" he endeavoured to call. "On your guard, Enóreth!" But the cry froze in his throat and died away; he could make no sound to her, nor could he move. He could only stand there staring vacantly as she arranged her flowers, quite oblivious to the approaching danger.
It did not take him long to figure out what was happening, and the realisation filled him with an outrage greater than any he had ever known. He made a futile effort to subdue his will and do as he was told, but it was no use. The idea that he would be too enthralled by Enóreth's beauty to notice a troop of orcs crashing through the underbrush simply could not be endured. Furiously he struggled to master himself, but the harder he fought the more the Story gripped him. His ears told him that the foremost of the goblins were now only a stone's throw away.
"Curse this wretched tale!" he thought. "Is my life to end with such indignity?" And it certainly looked that way. Inexorably he was held, his hand trembling to reach for his bow, and still the orcs drew closer. Legolas heard the sound of cruel blades being drawn. At any moment one of those blades would be plunged into his back, and he could do nothing.
Just when it seemed that all was lost, Enóreth noticed something amiss and looked up. Her mouth dropped open and her bouquet scattered from her fingers. "Legolas!" she cried. "Behind you!"
He did not have time to dwell on the irony of her warning. In the blink of an eye she grabbed her own bow and fired a shot. Not two steps behind Legolas, an orc went down with a squawk. At the same stroke Legolas felt himself released. He lurched forward and whirled at last to face his attackers.
Enóreth ran to stand beside him. "To me! To me!" she shouted, drawing her sword and waving it about. "Now for the destruction of my home and family and the brutal slaying of my dearest foster-father the Wood Elf King, you shall die, you filth!"
The orcs gazed at her a little befuddled. Then they shrugged and plunged into the fray. Enóreth leapt into battle shrieking like a wildcat. Her stance was terrible and she wielded her sword quite ineptly, and yet at every moment another orc was chopped into mincemeat. (Perhaps this was aided by the orcs being compelled to fling themselves at her one at a time, rather than attacking all at once in sensible fashion.)
For Legolas, things were going much worse. Beside the fact that Enóreth nearly lopped his head off in her enthusiasm, he found that the Forces were not yet finished with him. A leaden stiffness was in his limbs and his once-nimble fingers felt thick and clumsy as they handled the bow. Many of his arrows glanced harmlessly aside or even missed entirely. Enóreth was far outshining him, and as the battle progressed Legolas realised that this was exactly the point.
And then, because the situation was not quite infuriating enough, Enóreth was gripped by a sudden woozy spell.
"Ohhh...." she moaned, going pale. She lifted one white hand to her brow. "Oh no! He has seen us – he calls to me! Help! Legolas, help me!"
Being up to his pointed ears in stinking slobbering orc, Legolas could only stare at her in open-mouthed disbelief. She stumbled and dropped her sword. "Can you not hear it?" she wailed. "The evil - the torment! Make ... it ... stop!"
"What in the world do you expect me to do about it?!" he exclaimed, parrying an attack as best he could. "Enóreth...!"
But his efforts were in vain. With a shuddering breath she slid to the ground and lay in a swoon at his feet. The orcs leapt and gibbered in triumph. The Lady of the Crescent Moon was struck down, and all would come to darkness and despair!
Their victory, however, would be a costly one. Enóreth was out of the fight; there was no longer need to hold the Elf in check. The very moment the orcs swarmed forward to claim their prize Legolas felt his strength return. Wrath blazed in his heart and flashed so fiercely in his eyes that his enemies were filled with dismay. Faster than sight his remaining arrows flew – five orcs were dead before they hit the ground. And before the fifth shot had found its mark, Legolas was brandishing his knife with savage speed. Seven more lay writhing in the dirt.
Yet for all his valour he knew it was hopeless. He was surrounded, and for every orc he cut down there were three to take its place. Soon he was held at bay. Defiantly he stood within their tightening circle. The largest of them, a great loathsome brute, went into a frenzy and sprang for his throat. Bright steel flashed, dark blood poured out upon the trampled ground, and the goblin was slashed in two – but Legolas' mightiest blow was also his last. In an instant they were upon him, and he was dragged to his knees. As he fell struggling beneath them, an orc raised its cudgel and brought it smashing down against the back of his head. He heard and saw no more.
Coming Up: Bondage fun with Legolas. There, are you happy now? Geez, people.
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