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Story of Legolas and Enóreth, The: 9. Desperate Measures
Legolas had escaped the dungeon and so had achieved the next Chapter. But his difficulties had only just begun, for he was on his own and did not know the way. The twisting corridors and narrow staircases all looked the same, and they were as dank and unpleasant as the dungeon itself. The only differences were the torches set in random alcoves, sputtering and throwing crazy shadows all about. Legolas chose a corridor that seemed to lead upward and inward, and broke into a run. An echoing silence filled every corner of the passage; it seemed he was completely alone in the place.
But the fortress was not empty, as he was soon to discover. Rounding a corner, he found himself waist-to-nose with an orc.
Legolas stood at ready. The threat was not to be taken lightly; the orc wielded a cruel scimitar and was of a shrewd and dangerous breed. But unarmed though he was, Legolas proved to be too much of a terror for one orc to handle. It scrambled away, digging its claws into the floor, and sprang in the other direction to go for help.
Legolas thought quickly. An orc discovering him moments after he escaped the dungeon could hardly be a coincidence. Indeed, it seemed just the kind of foreseeable plot twist so often employed by such a Story. No doubt Legolas was meant to use the necklace to overcome it.
What sufficed in one situation would suffice in another. He drew the chain taut between his hands, caught the orc by the neck, and throttled the creature to death. Then he caught up its weapon and moved on. If not appeased, the Story was stunned into silence. By the letter of the law Legolas had done nothing wrong.
The passage went up a stairway, which ended in a cavernous atrium at the centre of the fortress. From this room a half-dozen doors opened in all directions. Legolas examined each of them and found them to be unlocked. One would lead him to Finrond; the others meant further delay. He hesitated. Would he rely on luck a little while longer, or would he wait to see if the Story would send him guidance?
Suddenly his senses tingled, and he sprang back a step. An arrow whistled by and struck the wall within an inch of his face. Clutching the necklace in one hand and the scimitar in the other, Legolas turned to meet his attacker.
It was Enóreth. And her evil side had been brought forth, if the skin-tight black leather garments she wore were any indication.
"You!" she snarled.
"Oh bother," Legolas muttered.
Enóreth bent her bow again, and only by his agility did he save himself from certain death. By reflex he gathered himself to spring, but he knew that fighting would be useless. Already he could sense the Forces closing in, ready to hinder his efforts the moment he raised a hand against her. He dropped the scimitar and darted aside to the shelter of a pillar. Arrows rattled around his hiding place like a hailstorm.
"Well I don't know what to tell you, kiddo," came a hoarse voice from above. "It's not supposed to be going like this at all!"
Legolas looked up. There was a window high in the opposite wall, and perched on the sill was a kindly old crow, flapping her tattered wings in confusion.
"There has been a change in plans," said Legolas.
"I can see that!" the crow replied, dodging a wayward arrow. "Dear heaven, how you've complicated things!"
A piercing battle cry and a fresh attack from Enóreth made speech impossible for a moment. Legolas cast about for some way to fight or flee, but found nothing. "What must I do?" he asked the Guide. "Speak! Quickly!"
"I'm telling you I have no idea!" said the crow in dismay. "She was supposed to be released from her curse by the magic of the necklace. Now that you've broken it...." She trailed off into nervous fretting. "Oh, they must be furious with you! Whatever shall we do if the Story never ends!"
"It will end," said Legolas firmly.
"How?!" the Guide wailed.
Legolas was beginning to feel worried and therefore rather impatient. "I will find a way," he hissed, "if you will just be quiet and let me think!"
The crow obliged. But Legolas had only seconds to pull himself together, for Enóreth would not be thus ignored. "Come out!" she demanded. "Come out and face me, thou coward, so that I might pummel thee mercilessly!" And she started forward, determined to do battle with him if it took all evening.
"Aie-yie," said the crow. "Legolas, whatever you're going to do you'd better do it now!" She spoke as a last despairing gesture, for in truth she was quite hopeless. Never before in her service as a Guide had a Story gone so far beyond her control.
But good fortune was with Legolas even yet. Right at the critical moment he made a risky but intelligent judgement: the Story was powerful, but it was not all-powerful. Though it favoured Enóreth in all things, there was also a good deal of admiration given to Legolas himself; for why else would he have been chosen for such a Story? Perhaps, if he could not resist the Forces, he could bend them to his will.
Hiding the necklace in his tunic, Legolas closed his eyes. Calmness fell over him and an air of reverence tinted his voice as he spoke: "Enóreth? Enóreth, why are you doing this?"
This quiet, innocent question seemed to come as a shock to her. She halted and frowned, fearing some trick. "Do you still cower and hide like the dog you are?" she cried, taking aim. "Show yourself and surrender!"
Even greater was her surprise when Legolas obeyed. Slowly he emerged from behind the pillar and stepped into plain sight – and what a sight he was! Gentle concern warmed the flawless contours of his face and his hair spilled long and loose over his shoulders. In response, the clouds outside rolled away and a beam of silver moonlight shone on him from the window. The effect was very pretty, and for a moment Enóreth hesitated.
"Oh," Legolas breathed mournfully. "What has he done to you?"
Enóreth became confused. Her gaze moved from Legolas to the bow in her hands and back again. "I think," she said, "that I am supposed to shoot you. Yes, that must be it...."
"Daro, melethril," he said, and in his words lay all the beauty of every song he had ever sang beneath the stars. "Renech nin, Brennil o Cúran? Tiro nin; lasto beth nin.... Look at me; hear my voice. You know who I am – you are the only one who truly does."
"Oh, do you really mean that?" cried Enóreth, melting a little.
"Well well well," the crow remarked, pleasantly surprised. "Our boy's getting good!"
Legolas inched toward the maiden and put out his hand. A few more moments, a handful of steps, and she would be within his grasp. "The bond between us is greater than any curse," he murmured, watching her carefully. "Cast away the darkness and come to me! You would not wish me harm."
He was manipulative, and the Forces knew it. They struggled in every ebb and flow of their being to control themselves. But such poetic speech – and in the true elvish tongue, no less – was far too alluring to resist. Something seemed to yield to the romance of the moment. A drowsy smile spread over Enóreth's face and her bow drooped in her grasp. Legolas breathed a sigh of relief and reached to take the weapon away.
Too soon, too soon! the curse was yet in place! "No ... no!" Enóreth cried suddenly, shaking herself. "The Dark Warrior has love for no one!"
Seeing his mistake, Legolas hastily withdrew his hand. But the damage was done; the sway of his voice had faltered. Enóreth's eyes grew cold. "You seek to entice me with your pathetic devotion!" she sneered. "Well, it won't work! Prepare to look upon the face of Pure Evil, you stupid nancing girlie-boy!"
At that moment Legolas could have shaken her until her teeth rattled in her head, but he restrained himself with a mighty effort. If Enóreth attacked him now he would be lost. Bewitching her was his only hope. "Wait!" he said. "My darling, listen to me!"
But she would not listen, and romantic words were no longer enough. She grabbed his arm in a death grip, and the Forces swooped in to squash his audacity once and for all. There was nothing for it. Steeling himself, Legolas wrenched his arm free, grabbed Enóreth by the shoulders, and kissed her square on the mouth.
This was far from pleasant for him; the kisses these Stories demanded were usually of the long messy variety. Nevertheless he held fast, determined to see it through. Finally, when he could not bear it a moment longer, he released her and stepped back. He was cringing in disgust, mortified, weary, and feeling slightly ill – but in the end, victorious. Enóreth stood before him as one struck senseless. For what seemed eternity she swayed, her lips moving soundlessly. Then she swooned and fell forward with a sigh, ready to be caught in his loving embrace.
Legolas sidestepped. She hit the floor with a thud.
"Legolas!" the crow scolded, though she could not quite keep the amusement from her voice. "You're supposed to catch her when she does that!"
"And be recaptured as I sit here and brood over her?" Legolas shot back, kneeling to bereave Enóreth of her weapons. "Forgive me, but I honestly do not have the time."
"Fair enough!" laughed the crow. "Well, that's one obstacle down. I suggest you hurry. Finrond is up next, and he won't be happy."
Springing to his feet, Legolas slung Enóreth's bow and quiver onto his back and slipped her knife into his belt. They were a bit small and hopelessly over-decorated, but they would do. "How do I find him?" he asked.
"That way," said the Guide, flapping in the direction of a doorway leading to a flight of stairs. "You were meant to have a few redundant orc battles and get heroically wounded along the way, but I daresay you'll be able to do as you please for a while after a kiss like that."
"Well, that is one benefit," said Legolas with a grimace. "Peh. I will be tasting honey for days!"
"Small price to pay, if you ask me." The crow spread her wings and flew to the window, cawing as she went. "Well done! Go now, and good luck to you!"
Legolas needed no further encouragement. With bounding strides he flew up the steps to a narrow wooden door and a long passageway. The staircase continued upward to other landings and other doors, but he paid them no mind. Something told him that it did not matter which door he chose as long as he headed in the right general direction, for the layout of Finrond's fortress had not been very thoroughly designed. And even if that had not been so, the distant rumble and fume of Finrond's lair pointed the way quite nicely. Swiftly he ran, his feet barely making a sound against the stones. His head was clear and the blood rushed strong through his veins. The end of the Story was near at hand if only he could master it, and Legolas had a plan.
Coming Up: The conclusion, in which Legolas cracks open a big frosty can o' Whupass.
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