2. Whose Idea Was This Anyway?
“Thank you,” said Minuial from where she was packing the last of her bags.
Thranduil stood in the doorway of their chamber. “Still determined to go through with it, I see.” The elven queen merely laughed. He walked over to her. “I wish you would at least consider taking more guards. Dwarves are bad enough, but Moria--” he broke off, shaking his head as she turned to fix him with a stern expression. “Very well. I surrender.”
Minuial tossed aside the bag and turned to face her husband. “You should have more faith in people, my lord. Our realm is surrounded by men and dwarves; if this visit can ease our relations with them then it must be for the better. And what better way to prove sincerity in our intentions than to brave the dangers of Moria with them as they try again to reclaim it?”
“Because…” Thranduil replied in a patient voice than never failed to irritate her. “It…is…dangerous! We are speaking of Moria, not some pleasant little hobbit hole. Even if Durin’s Bane has left it, the place is one of the most orc-infested caves in Middle Earth.”
“The last reports from the dwarves there have been favorable, husband,” Minuial said forcefully. “And were you not so blinded by prejudice, you would not resist my efforts!” Thranduil drew back indignantly. She went on in a calmer tone, “THINK, Thranduil. Whatever your ill opinion of the dwarves as a race, admit they have enough self-preservation not to endanger themselves by endangering me. They know your temper as well as I,” her blue eyes twinkled. “They know well what would befall them if they allowed any harm to come to me.”
Aware that he had been outmaneuvered, Thranduil smiled. “And I shall impress that point still more with a long list of dire threats when you go.” His wife chuckled. The elven king glanced out the window from their chamber, high in the trees. “At least Legolas and his friends are still amusing themselves on the bridge. It will make him less difficult to find when it is time to bid you farewell.”
“Leave them be until then. Let them enjoy themselves. I’ll not be away that long.”
“Wait until the guards turn their backs. If they see us go in, they’ll catch us before we get anywhere!”
Legolas, Tathar, Merilin, and Candrochon pretended to keep playing on the bridge to avoid arousing the suspicion of the palace guards. Some little time later, another group of warriors came out to relieve the sentries. “Now!” hissed Candrochon, and by the time the new sentinels had taken their places, the four elflings were long gone.
“You know, it’s not so bad,” remarked Tathar as he and Legolas led the way into the old part of the palace. He took a torch down from the wall and waved it about. “The air is a bit musty, but not as bad as I thought.”
Legolas wrinkled his nose, looking around. “I still prefer the open air. Well, Tathar, now what?”
Merilin put her hands on her hips and glared at Tathar. “You DO know where these supposed treasure rooms are, don’t you?”
“Of course, clunk-head! It is obvious! They’d keep the treasure really deep in the cave, so we have to go farther.”
Tathar smirked at her in the light of the torch. “Unless, of course, you’re scared.”
With an exasperated sigh, Candrochon grabbed a torch of his own. “Let’s away, before someone comes looking for us!”
Keeping close together with their two torches, the company walked deeper into the elven king’s halls. “I can’t believe my father used to live here!” Legolas remarked.
“And his father,” added Merilin. “My mother remembers when there was hardly any outer palace at all.”
“Ugh!” Candrochon shuddered. “Imagine, living under stone all the time! Are we elves or dwarves?”
“Thank the Valar for the queen,” agreed Merilin. “But for her, we might still be living in this place.”
“But then again we would be used to it,” said Tathar, pointing his torch down a side corridor. “All in all, I don’t think it so bad.”
“Well, you’ve always been rather dwarvish,” said Legolas. Tathar made “mad eyebrows” at him.
(Giggle!) “Come on.”
For a long stretch in the main tunnel, torches lined the walls, and the air was fairly clean. Side corridors branching off were less well-lit, but some led to store rooms, and light coming down others revealed them to be exits. The hall slanted down, but not steeply, and the light from the main entrance soon dimmed around the bends. Legolas suddenly noticed that Candrochon and Merilin had moved very close to him and Tathar. The princeling giggled, “I think someone must be scared!”
“Awww, it’s all right, Legolas, hold Tathar’s hand if you’re scared,” Merilin shot back, but Legolas and Tathar just grinned at each other as the other two moved quickly back.
They came to another side corridor that was far better-lit than the others. “I wonder what’s down there?” Candrochon said with a curious frown. “That tunnel is almost as big as this one.”
Legolas glanced back toward the main entrance, mentally counting the doors. “Ooh, let’s go and see,” he exclaimed, grabbing Tathar’s torch and walking down the side.
“The treasure would not be this close to the entrance,” protested Merilin, but she and the others followed.
“I know,” said Legolas. “But my brother Berensul grew up in these caves, and he told me a little about them. If I’m right…” they came upon a pair of massive wooden doors. “I AM right! This is the great hall, where the elven kings of old held court! My grandfather too!”
“What big doors,” sighed Merilin in wonder. Indeed, the corridors and now this entrance were far larger than anything in the outer palace, since it was far easier to build large living spaces upon the ground than in the trees. “I wish we could go look inside. The hall must be very big.”
Candrochon attempted to push the doors open, with no luck. “They must be sealed. We may not be able to get into the treasure rooms either.”
Tathar also touched the crack between the doors, and noted the lack of handles. “They must open for the inside, or maybe there’s a switch somewhere.” They looked about, but spotted nothing. “But the treasure rooms wouldn’t draw attention to themselves by having doors like these. We might be able to get in there.”
Disappointed, Legolas shrugged. “Oh well. If we’re to hunt down this treasure, we’d best be going before someone misses us.” As they turned away, he absently patted the smooth wood, feeling strangely familiar with the knowledge that his father, his grandather, and their fathers before had once spent many hours of the day within that great room.
There was a soft “Thump,” and the elflings leapt backward in surprise as the doors swung inward of their own accord. Legolas yelped, Merilin squeaked, and Tathar and Candrochon nearly dropped their torches as the huge doors opened on a great yawning darkness. “Wow,” whispered Merilin.
“How by the Valar did you DO that?” hissed Candrochon in astonishment, staring at the black maw.
“I don’t know!” Legolas replied, equally dumbfounded.
Pointing his torch at the darkness, Tathar frowned thoughtfully. “I do. My father told me about the old palace once…the gates and the doors to the great hall are magic. No one can come in or out without the blessing of the king. The doors know his voice and his touch, but if he orders them closed, even a battering ram couldn’t open them.”
“That must be it,” gasped Merilin, grabbing Legolas’s arm in excitement.
“But I’m not the king!” Legolas protested.
“No, but you’re his son,” said Candrochon, understanding. “His blood. I bet if you had said out loud that you wanted the doors to open, they would have.”
“Should we walk inside? I’d like to see how big it is,” said Tathar.
“It’s too dark,” said Merilin. “We couldn’t see anything.” She peered into the blackness, which seemed to swallow up their torches. “It might be a hole, for all we know.”
“Wait! I have an idea!” Tathar exclaimed. He grinned at Merilin and Candrochon, then grabbed Legolas and flung him through the doors.
“Hey! What are you--AAAAAHHHH!!” Legolas shrieked as he tumbled into the darkness. This floor also slanted down, more sharply than the outside corridor, but he was able to catch himself after rolling a ways. He raised his head toward the scant light coming from the doorway and opened his mouth to scald Tathar with some very un-princely words, when, with a soft “whoosh”, braziers throughout the hall suddenly burst into flame. Furious words died on his lips, and the youngest prince of Mirkwood stared around him in awe. “Elbereth!” he whispered.
His companions were equally flabbergasted, standing in the doorway and taking in the incredible size of the hall. Ornately-carved wooden benches lined the walls, with the great aisle in between where Legolas sat. Hundreds of elves could fill this hall. Pillars hewn of living stone came down from the high-vaulted ceiling, and at the front of the room was a slightly-raised surface, which Legolas suspected had housed the throne of the elven kings of old. That throne now sat in the much-smaller audience hall within the tree palace.
Tathar, Merilin, and Candrochon slowly ventured into the hall, gaping at the hugeness of the room. Never had any of them seen a place so grand. Looking at the rows of benches, Candrochon remarked, “When do you think there would have been enough elves to fill such a room?”
“During a Gathering, maybe,” said Legolas, walking slowly to the place where the thrones had stood and looking around. A little shiver ran through him, and he could imagine clearly the great hall long ago, filled with elves, the heralds at the door, and an elven king and queen (bearing a striking resemblance to his father and mother) presiding over the court of Mirkwood. Though the realm and wealth of Thranduil was great, the elders often said it was nothing compared to the days of old. Legolas longed to have lived in such grand times.
“Well? Shall we go treasure-seeking now?” Tathar said eagerly.
Legolas shook his head in disgust. “You truly are a dwarf.” But he turned away from the dais and started back down the center aisle. Though it had been thousands of years since the court of Mirkwood had been held here, the place did not seem quite empty. It seemed to echo softly with the spirits of those great elves long-gone, and the memories of the greatest Elder days that they had taken with them. Moreover, it seemed to whisper directly to Legolas, as though acknowledging him as their son. At last, Legolas followed his friends, but paused in the doorway as they went on. Turning back to stare at the hall, the home of his ancestors, he whispered softly, “Goodbye.” Almost as if they had heard him, the braziers flickered out one by one, cloaking the room in darkness once again. Then Legolas stepped back out into the corridor, and the doors swung closed with a soft “thump.”
His friends looked curiously at him as he stood briefly staring at the doors, then Merilin asked softly, “Ready?”
Shaking himself out of the odd mood of that room, Legolas turned to them and grinned, “Let’s away!”
Taking up the lead again, Tathar easily enough found the way back to the main tunnel, and down they went. It really was not so unpleasant at least in the outer corridor, for it was wide and high, and the air still flowed freely. Soon the company began to skip, and Tathar began to sing, quickly joined by the others:
“The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”
Thus they traveled down the dark hallway, and it was really not unpleasant at all. The song was a tune that Tathar’s father Alagos had heard Mirkwood’s warrior captain Beleryn singing last year when he came back from traveling west of the Misty Mountains. Alagos was a great collector of the lore and songs of all races, and had demanded that Beleryn sing it again and again until he had it all noted down. Apparently, Beleryn had heard it in a hobbit village in the Shire.
Soon the main corridor split into two, and the elflings came to a halt. “Now what?” asked Candrochon, glancing around nervously. He suddenly wished they had each carried a torch, for they had only the two, and it was now very dark.
Tathar walked up to each forbidding opening, pointing his torch at them thoughtfully. At length, he gestured to the right passage, “That way.”
“How do you know?” demanded Merilin.
As Tathar started down into the darkness, the others exchanged extremely dubious looks before hurrying to catch up with them. It was dark enough without one torch-bearer getting away from them. But still, Legolas looked at Merilin and Candrochon and muttered, “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.”
The passage split again some time later, and then again. Tathar led them down the twists and turns with an air of great confidence--a sure sign to the others that he had absolutely no idea where he was going. They felt they had been walking for hours. The tunnels were now much more narrow, and the air was far staler. “We’ve been wandering through here forever!” complained Candrochon.
“Are you certain you know where we are, Tathar?” Legolas asked pointedly as they came to yet another branching corridor.
“Positive! I have a perfect sense of direction!” Tathar snapped, checking out each of the corridor openings in turn. “The treasure chambers must be the deepest ones so they are the hardest to get to!”
“Wonderful! So we have to stay down here even longer to get to this reported treasure!”
“If you’re scared, Candrochon, you can always go back up!”
“I’m not scared, Legolas!”
“Shh! Be quiet, you two!”
“Peace, Merilin, no one will hear us,” Legolas said dismissively, though his mind was conjuring up vague images of all sorts of unseen horrors creeping through the darkness just beyond their torchlight. “There is no one down here at all…what was that?!”
“I heard something!”
“Pfft, you’re mad, Legolas,” Tathar said, going to examine another corridor.
Candrochon waved his torch about, looking for any sign of trouble. Rolling his eyes, he said, “I don’t see any--AAAAIIIIII!!!! There’s something swooping down! Help! RUN!!!” In a desperate attempt to find his way back out of the death trap they had suddenly found themselves in, he bolted back the way they had come. Not wanting to lose the light, Legolas and Merilin sprinted after him.
They tore frantically through the winding corridors, sprinting down side passages without stopping to look for their footprints or any other guide, screaming at Candrochon to slow down and not leave them in the darkness. At last, Legolas caught up and all but dragged Candrochon to a stop.
(Gasp! Pant!) “For pity’s sake, Candrochon, it was just a bat!”
(Pant!) “They say--they say--the bats that live in caves suck blood!” (Whimper!)
“Will you stop it, Merilin!?” Legolas snapped and glanced around, trying to get his bearings. His heart lurched. “Ahhh, where’s Tathar?”
Candrochon and Merilin froze, then looked desperately about. Candrochon pointed his torch at arm’s length as he moved cautiously toward other passages, trying to find some sign of their friend.
Merilin and Legolas nervously stayed where they were, peering through the darkness in search of the other torch. “He was here a minute ago…I can’t see him! I can’t see anything! What’s happened?! Where‘s the light?”
“Aii! What…” Candrochon’s sheepish voice floated back to them out of the blackness, “I don’t suppose anyone brought some flint and steel with us?”
“Oh curse the Valar, what now?” Merilin said in disgust.
“Tathar! Where are you?!” Legolas shouted into the dark. “We’re lost! The torch has gone out!”
(Shiver) “Maybe--maybe we should just wait until someone comes and finds us,” suggested Merilin.
Candrochon‘s voice was suddenly directly in Legolas’s ear. “Legolas?”
When Tathar had seen the dark object swooping toward him from the ceiling, he had instinctively dashed in the opposite direction, down the corridor whose entrance he had been inspecting. He could hear his friends shrieking, but the squeaks of whatever hideous demon it was were much closer, and he kept running. He pelted down several more corridors before the bloodthirsty shrieks died away, and then he stood alone in the light of his torch, panting and trembling from his near-death experience.
When at last he caught his breath, Tathar looked around and called out, “Legolas?” His voice only echoed strangely. He must have run very deep underground indeed! “Legolas! HELLO! CAN ANYONE HEAR ME?!?! LEGOLAS!! Ohhhh… HEEELLLLLPPP!!!”
Deep in another part of the caverns, panicked little voices were sliced through the blackness, terrified, and thinking only of survival:
“I canNOT believe you dropped the torch, Candrochon!”
“It was not my fault, Merilin! With all your talk of bloodsucking monsters and such, I would say it is yours!”
“Bah! You cannot blame me for everything, you little coward! You would have run from your own shadow--”
“SHHH! I am trying to listen! Tathar may be hurt somewhere and all you two can do is quarrel!”
“You cannot see any better than the rest of us in this dark, Legolas!”
“Nay, but I could hear if you would keep quiet!”
(Whimper!) “Do you suppose the bat got him?”
“I still say this is all Merilin’s fault. Ow!”
“Shh! Listen! Did you hear that?”
From the distance, they thought they heard calls for help. “TATHAR!!! WE’RE COMIIIINNNNGGG!!!” Grabbing his friends’ hands, for they would surely lose each other in the darkness, Legolas sprinted blindly down the corridor.
(Pant! Gasp!) “Legolas, do you still hear him?”
“Just keep going, Mer, we’ll find him!”
“Wait! Slow down--aah!” (Thud!)
“Ahhh, we seem to have run into a wall.”
“Oh, great, just great! Get OFF me, Candrochon!”
Pat pat! Scratch! “Was this wall here before?”
“No, Legolas, it walked here after we went by the first time! How do we even know where we’re going?”
“I can’t see a thing!” (Shiver) “This isn’t like the forest at night!”
“That’s because there’s no moon underground, you stupid jibwick!”
“Move over, Merilin.” (Shuffle! Scuff! Thump!) “How by the Valar are we going to get out of here?”
“Well, Legolas, if you hadn’t been so insistent on trying to grope around in the dark, we’d have been better off where we were!”
“And how do you know that, Lady Goblin?”
(Sniffle!) “I want to go home!”
“Oh, stop it, Candrochon! That won’t help!”
“It wasn’t me!”
“Have done, you two! If something down here doesn’t eat us, you’ll kill each other!”
Then there was silence. “Legolas?”
“What’s down here that could eat us?”
All was in readiness for the delegation of Mirkwood, led by the elven queen, to depart on a mission of friendship to the latest dwarf undertaking in Moria. The guard was essembled, the bags packed, the horses laden, only was thing was missing: the queen.
Crown Prince Berensul, the eldest of Thranduil and Minuial’s children, came from the archery field to where his parents waited just within the palace foyer. “None of the captains or novice masters have seen him, Father.”
Minuial, clad to travel in a dark blue riding habit, came out of the palace, her own searching having also come up empty. King Thranduil gave a disgusted shake of his head. “How like Legolas to disappear when we are on a schedule.” To his wife, he murmured, “Perhaps you should depart as planned before it grows too dark. Then that child might learn his lesson.”
Minuial seemed to consider the idea for a moment, then smiled and shook her head. “Have a little more patience, husband, he is but twenty-two. Such antics are the way of all children, and to leave without saying goodbye would punish him for more than he deserves. We would both regret it after a week.” She turned to Berensul, “Continue looking for him.”
With a bemused expression, the crown prince said, “We have already tried every one of their usual hiding places.”
“We are speaking of Legolas, are we not? I suggest you try the places they’ve not yet been found hiding.” Berensul laughed, and obeyed his mother’s order.
Berensul and several of the palace guards made a fruitless search of the corridors, chambers, and outside grounds, finding no sign of the missing elflings. Shaking his head in dismay, the elven king’s heir remarked, “Those four do have a propensity to get themselves lost, but this is ridiculous. Where could they have got to?”
The captain of the palace guard glanced across the green to the entrance to the inner palace within the cave. “Could they have wandered into the inner palace, my lord?”
“In the cave? I think not, Langcyll, they are all terrified of it.”
“Perhaps they became bored with the game they were playing on the bridge.”
“Still, I cannot imagine Legolas entering a cave, no matter how bored he was,” Berensul said doubtfully.
Langcyll smiled slyly. “Not even after the fright he, Lady Merilin, and Candrochon gave their friend Tathar this morning? I imagine Tathar, seeking a little revenge, might have goaded them into it, hoping to give them a fright of their own.”
The other searchers paused, considering this. Berensul smiled slowly and turned to the guards. “Fetch us some torches, friends. Let us explore the ancient halls of our fathers.”
“HELLOOOOOOOO!!!” With his lone torch bobbing in the gloom of the caves, Tathar darted from one corridor to another, throwing open every door that he happened upon, only to find more darkness. How much longer could these caves possibly go on? “HELLO?!?! CAN ANYONE HEAR ME?!?!?!”
Out of breath, he stopped and glared up at his flickering torch. “This really is not fair. They were supposed to be the scared ones, especially after that mean trick they played on me.” He stomped on down the tunnel, “And now I’m lost down here. They’ve probably already found their way out! And they’ll laugh at me! Assuming they find me. Assuming I don’t get eaten. By something. There’s probably a big spider nest, or orcs, or wargs, or Lady Narmeril lurking down here in wait. And of COURSE, they had to run away and leave me alone with the bat! Some friends they are! Hmph!”
He pointed his torch down another side corridor only to find more of the same--long dark walls. “You’d think they could at least have decorated a little more down here! Maybe then I would know which tunnel was which.” He scowled up at his torch again, thinking for a minute. “And considering that there could be orcs or wargs or spiders or…Lady Narmeril…I guess it’s not the smartest thing in the world for me to be TALKING TO MYSELF!!!”
The tunnel echoed, “MYSELF, MYSELF, MYSELF…” at him.
Tathar scowled into its depths, “Don’t you talk back to me!” He started walking faster, still scared, still lost, and worst of all, getting incredibly bored. “I’m starting to wish I would run into orcs. Or spiders. Or wargs, just…not Lady Narmeril. I cannot imagine how Mer puts up with her. I’d have shoved her into the Enchanted River if she were my mother, or fed her to Smaug. Then again, if he were smart, he would spit her out.”
The tunnels truly were becoming insufferably repetitive. For each side corridor he discovered, the light of the torch simply revealed more of the same: dark. Dark walls, dark floors, dark ceilings, dark doors-- *Wait a minute. Dark doors? I haven’t seen any doors down this far before!*
There were indeed doors, plain, heavy stone doors set into the side of this new corridor. He walked cautiously up to one of them and rapped its heavy bulk with his knuckles. No magic hummed, no sign that they concealed any more wondrous chambers like the throne room. “Pfft. Typical. I’ve probably found the dungeons.” Just out of curiosity, he lifted the metal handle and shoved hard. The stone was heavy, but the hinges were surprisingly well-oiled for a deep, forgotten cave, and the door swung inward, revealing…more darkness. “I wonder what’s in here. Pfft, probably Sauron, with my luck,” he muttered, but walked inside just the same. After all, this was the first change in scenery he had found in several hours.
There was a soft “whoosh” similar to the sound they had heard in the throne room as the braziers burst to life. Here, dozens of torches lining the walls suddenly filled the chamber with light. A light that reflected off the contents of the room, and illuminated Tathar’s face with a distinctly golden hue.
“Where do you suppose Tathar is?” Legolas mused, stretching his hands out into the impenetrable blackness as they walked down the hall.
Behind him, holding his right shoulder tightly, Merilin whispered, “Do you suppose something ate him?”
“He probably ran into a wall and broke his head,” Candrochon muttered, clinging to Legolas’s left shoulder.
“If he’s any smarter than you, Cand, he didn’t drop his torch,” Legolas snapped. “So he’s probably already found his way out of here!”
(Whimper!) “Do you think we ever will?”
“Don’t know, Merilin, but they’ve got to come looking for us eventually. Oh, dragon dung! My mother is supposed to be leaving for Moria this afternoon! They’ll have my hide if I delay her!”
(Sigh) “Still, at least it won’t be so long until we are missed. How long have we been down here?”
“I don’t know, Cand, but it’s got to be a few hours.”
“It seems like weeks!”
“Oh, enough--” (Thump!) “Ow!”
“I just found another wall. Here…turn, slowly--ow! Don’t push, Merilin! Left or right?”
“I can’t tell which. Left.”
“If you’re wrong, Merilin, and we get lost, it will all be your fault.”
“Shut your cave, Candrochon!”
“Will you two jibwicks be quiet? If someone does come looking for us, we wouldn’t be able to hear them! Wait, stop--” (Clink!) “Ow.”
“Clink? What did you hit, Legolas?”
Rub, rub. Pat, pat. “It feels like…bars. Iron bars. It’s--” Creeeeaaakkkk! “Look out! AAAAHHHH!!”
(Slip! Slide!) “Aaahh!”
“Eeeehhh!” (Shuffle! Shuffle! Scuff!)
“Ai!” (Thump) “Ow!”
(Rustle, shuffle, thump!) “Get off me! You’re crushing me!”
Brush, brush. Pat, pat. “Candrochon! Keep your hands to yourself!”
“I just wanted to be sure nothing was broken, Mer!”
“You were not hitting my bones!”
“Now where are we, Legolas?”
Legolas reached out and groped around in the darkness. The floor was dirtier than before, and the walls rather damp. “It smells much worse, wherever we are.”
“I was touching…bars. Metal bars, but they moved and you two pushed me through.”
“We didn’t do it on PURPOSE!”
“Phew, it does smell rather rank in here, doesn’t it?”
“That’s because you’re standing right next to Candrochon.” (Thump!) “Ow!”
“Legolas, I think perhaps we should go back the way we came. The smell of this place does not bode well.”
“For once, wisdom from the mouth of a she-elf!” Whack! “Ow!”
“Stop it, you two! Follow me! We’ll just turn riiiight arooooouuund, the way we came--” (Clink!) “Ow!”
“What? What is it? Why did you clink again?”
“Don’t panic, Cand, we’ve found the bars again. Now we just have to push them back out--” (Scritch!) Legolas pushed the bars, but found solid resistance this time. He shoved harder. (Scuff!) He braced himself against the bars and pushed with all his might. “Rrrrggghhh!”
The bars creaked a little, but did not give way. Legolas stepped back. “Legolas?” whispered Merilin’s voice from the darkness behind him.
“Ahh, the bars won’t move.”
“Maybe it was a different spot we came through,” suggested Candrochon.
(Shuffle, shuffle!) Pat. Push. (Creak!) (Clink!) Shove! (Grunt!) “I…grrrhhhgg…can’t…mmmph!…find any spot that will move again!” Legolas exclaimed, panic entering his voice.
Kick! (Clang!) “Ow. Nor can I.”
Then there was a long silence. (Whimper!) “Legolas?”
“Are we in the dungeons?”
More silence. “Where else would they have iron bars?”
“Stop it, Candrochon, you’re--” sniffle!-- “only making things worse!”
(Shuffle, shuffle) Pat, pat. Thump. “There’s a bench here, and a bed…we are in the dungeons.”
“How did the door shut on us then?!”
“Maybe…” (Sniffle!) “Maybe it’s magic like the throne room doors, and it just closes on anyone who’s not a guard!”
“You mean…we’re trapped in here?”
RATTLE RATTLE RATTLE!!! CLANG CLANG CLANG!!! “HEEEEEEELLLLLPPPP!!!”
The first of the queen’s search party had no trouble finding the small footprints of four little explorers who were NOT supposed to be in the inner halls. But the crown prince was troubled when the prints suddenly divided, one set leading off in one direction, and three more in another. “Oh dear. One of them was separated.” He handed a torch quickly to Alagion. “Hurry and find the straggler. They must be frightened.” The elf quickly led several searchers down the tunnel.
Alagion, with Eregdos and Narbeleth, two of the palace guards, hurriedly followed the footprints and began calling out into the darkness, hoping to draw out whichever elfling had been separated from the other three. “Poor thing, they must be frightened out of their wits by now!”
“HELLO?!” came a startled cry from down the passage.
“Tathar?” shouted Alagion. “Keep calling, we are coming!”
The sound of running feet could be heard along with the elfling’s shouts, and soon Tathar burst around a corner at a dead run, plowing into the son of Langcyll. “Oh Alagion!” He threw his arms around the artisan’s knees. “I was lost and by myself and alone and I got chased by a bat and it was dark and awful and boring! I thought something would eat me!”
Laughing, Alagion knelt and managed to pry the child’s grip from his legs. “Peace, little one, it is all over. And there is nothing down here that could eat you.”
“What about orcs and wargs and Lady Narmeril and spiders and--”
“Hush!” exclaimed Eregdos, trying to stifle his own laughter. “Come, Alagion , let us get this one back into the sun where he belongs. By the Valar, whatever were you four thinking?”
“It wasn’t my fault! Candrochon put us up to it!”
When their attempts to break out of the prison proved fruitless, the three remaining elflings sat upon the bench in the cell. “This is all your fault!”
“It is not!”
“It’s Tathar’s fault!”
“Don’t say that, Candrochon, he could be hurt!”
“It would serve him right!” Bonk! “Ow!”
(Whimper!) “I want to go home!”
Sigh. “Someone will find us.”
“Unless they think we’d never come into the cave--ow! What was that for, Legolas?”
“I’m scared enough as it is, Merilin, stop making it worse!”
“Candrochon’s scared more than both of us!”
(Gasp!) “Who’s there?!”
“I heard something!”
“Stop it, Legolas, you’re just trying to scare us.” (Sniffle!)
“No, Merilin, I did hear something. Someone’s coming!”
“I don’t hear anything--wait! It’s a footstep!”
“See, Candrochon hears it too--it’s an elf! HELLO!! HELLO, we’re down here!!!”
“Shhh! Legolas, what if it isn’t, what if it’s something else--”
“I don’t care, I want to get out of these dungeons before we starve or die or something else comes and eats us--HELLOOOOO!! Can you hear me!?” RATTLE RATTLE RATTLE!!! CLANG CLANG CLANG!!!
“Who is down here?”
“Berensul?! Berensul, it’s me, it’s Legolas! Help! We’re lost!”
“Calm down, Legolas, we are coming.” The bobbing light of torches in the dungeon was the most beautiful sight the trapped elflings had ever seen. The crown prince and his searchers came upon the three in a cell that had swung closed too tightly for them, and quickly opened it. “Ah, there you are--oomph! It’s all right, you are safe now. Let go of my legs and we will have you out of here.”
“Stop crying, it is all right. Tathar cannot be far from you, and there are other searchers looking. Peace, all three of you, we will find Tathar.” Berensul jerked his head at the others and picked up his youngest brother. Legolas was normally too big to be carried, but he and his friends were clearly hysterical.
“What if the bat got him?!”
“Was it a very big bat, Merilin?” he asked in amusement, turning to face the little girl now held in Langcyll’s arms.
“It would be a very big bat indeed that would be able to carry off even an elf as small as Tathar. Now, let us be off and we will have you out of these caves in no time--whatever possessed you to come down here?”
“Tathar said there was treasure!”
“Do not believe everything your friends say, Candrochon.” (Sigh.) “There are enough elves besotted with treasure without adding any more from this generation. Spend your time on other pursuits. Come, let us return to the land of the living.”
“Am I in trouble?”
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.