12. Of Price and Worth
The last thing the young warrior saw of the ground above was Glorfindel dragging Langcyll back as more earth gave way and crumpled into the chasm. Then Legolas was caught in what seemed like a great waterfall of sand and stone that tumbled down, down, over more rock, battering his body, and he groped blindly for some purchase that would stop his fall. Faron’s hand was pulled from his grasp suddenly, and he cried out in terror even as he plummeted on, until all at once, he came to a somersaulting halt against a hard bed of rock. More rock and sand poured around him, and he instinctively put his arms over his head and curled into a ball in a feeble effort to protect himself. After what seemed like an eternity, the brutal cascade ceased.
Trembling, motionless, Legolas attempted to catch his breath and only succeeded in inhaling a mouthful of sand and dust that still hovered in the air. Gasping and coughing, he covered his mouth and nose with his sleeve, desperate to filter out the choking debris. His eyes stung and watered so that he could scarcely see. He felt the clouds of dust settling around him, and attempted another shaky breath. It was still thoroughly unpleasant, but he no longer felt that he was drowning in dirt.
That minor detail attended to, Legolas focused his attention on the rest of his body. Tentatively, he uncurled himself and though his body throbbed deeply in many places, he did not think anything was broken. It seemed a miracle. He could taste blood in his mouth and his body was covered with scrapes and bruises, his clothing torn in many places, but all things considered, he was relatively unharmed. He raised a hand to brush the sand and grit from his still-smarting eyes and found that he was still clutching the roots of the plant he’d been trying to cling to, so tightly in fact that his fingers spasmed painfully when he forced them to let it go. There were deep scratches in his other hand, and though none of the wrist bones were broken, he felt that the joint had at least popped.
*When I lost Faron…he must have been trying to hold on as hard as I was.*
Faron. Legolas sat up slowly and looked around him, but the floating dust in the air was still too thick for him to see more than a few feet in any direction. It was also darker than any place he had ever been. He could feel hard stone behind him, and the dust obscured any view over his head, so there was no telling how high or wide this cave was that he and the others had tumbled into. He nearly called out, but caught himself--he had no idea how many orcs had landed in this chasm with them, and it would not be wise to call their attention to him while still trapped alone in this place.
Legolas decided it would be best to remain where he was for the time being, and tried to concentrate on listening. Unfortunately, his head felt as though there was a gong ringing inside it, and the sounds of settling dust and rock still obscured any sounds of other living things around him.
The dust continued to settle, but it was so dark…Legolas had not the faintest idea where he was, or how far below the surface of the earth the floor of this cavern was, where Faron was, what had happened to the dwarves--*I shall go mad if I cannot see anything!!* Shuddering convulsively, Legolas drew his knees up under his chin like a frightened child. Until he was able determine more of where he was and what had happened, he could do nothing but wait.
Galithil had staggered to her feet after being thrown to safety by Legolas, and now stood next to Elunen, her hands over her mouth in mute horror. Faintly, she whispered, “We must get them out of there.”
“How?” demanded Elladan, as his brother moved a few feet closer to inspect the cave-in and cursed softly. “Tons of rock were shifted by that fall. How are we to remove such a pile?”
Seeing movement from the corner of her eye, Galithil noticed the dwarves again, talking heatedly amongst themselves, doubtlessly worried about their own comrades. She turned and met Langcyll’s anguished eyes. Without a word to the other elves, the captain of Mirkwood turned and spoke, “Master Dwarf.” Naldin of the Lonely Mountain paused and looked at Langcyll, “It seems we have both a pressing need to free our companions. I believe the dwarves may be more knowledgeable than the elves at moving stone. Have you any idea how we might reach them?”
Naldin and Sothi exchanged glances with the other dwarves, and for once there was an expression other than scorn for the elves upon their faces. For both sides, anxiety dominated every other thought. After a moment’s wordless exchange, Naldin folded his arms and said briskly, “The work will go faster if we combine our efforts.”
Anxiously, Glorfindel moved up beside Langcyll, “Say only where you would have us help, and it shall be done.”
The dwarf nodded, “We have tools to break up the rocks. It’ll have to be done by hand; we don’t dare collapse any more stone or we risk hurting our friends. It may also be possible to find another entrance to these caves. We’ll need scouts, and strong arms to move stone.”
Without hesitation, Langcyll ordered, “Glorfindel, take Elunen, Fanfirith, and Glanaur and assist the dwarves with the scouting. Galithil, Elladan, Elrohir, Nathron, and I will remain to help with reopening the hole.”
“Good!” Sothi motioned to several of the dwarves, who gathered up ropes and packs, and carried their axes, and then jerked his head at the elf scouts to follow him as he jogged off down the hillside. “Watch for any openings in the earth. Even the smallest holes can be widened if you have the proper tools.”
Langcyll watched them go, and turned back to Naldin, who was directing the remaining dwarves. They were removing hammers, chisels, and other heavy tools from their packs and marching resolutely toward the filled-in hole. “Come,” Naldin said to the elves. “Time for you wood-elves to learn the art of breaking through rock!” Taking the large hammer he’d been offered, Langcyll followed Naldin.
“Are you certain you know where we are, Tathar?”
“Positive! I have a perfect sense of direction! 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. There is no one down here at all…what was that?!”
“I heard something!”
“Pfft, you’re mad, Legolas. I don’t see any--AIIIIII!!!! There’s something swooping down! Help! RUN!!!”
(Gasp! Pant!) “For pity’s sake, Candrochon, it was just a bat!”
“They say the bats that live in caves suck blood!”
“Will you stop it, Merilin!?”
“Aaah, where’s Tathar?”
“He was here a minute ago…I can’t see him! I can’t see anything! What’s happened?! Where’s the light?”
“Tathar! Where are you?! We’re lost! The torch has gone out!”
(Shiver) “Maybe--maybe we should just wait until someone comes and finds us.”
A shuffle jerked Legolas back to the present--not that it was much of an improvement. The situation had not changed. He felt the blackness closing around him, and now he was certain there was someone--or something--nearby. The young elf’s heart was pounding so hard that he was certain whoever it was would find him easily. To make matters worse, he seemed to have lost both his quiver and his knives in the fall.
*I must not panic. I must wait and see if they reveal themselves. If it is Faron, he may call out to me. If it is an orc, I shall know very soon.* But it was all he could do not to breathe loudly as shuffles and movement provided indisputable proof that someone else had entered this earthen tomb with him.
Suddenly, there was an odd ching! and sparks flew. In a low hissss, Legolas saw a flame appear in the darkness several yards away, ignite the end of some object that looked like a tangle of roots, then with a soft sizzle, a torch head burned brightly, and…light! Gorgeous, blessed light filled the cavern, illuminating the face of a rather battered dwarf who gazed around the room and nearly dropped his torch when he spied Legolas.
Elf and dwarf stared at each other for a long moment. The dwarf found his voice first. “So. An elf survived that little rockslide, did he? I’d begun to think I was the only one left down here.”
Determined that his voice would NOT shake when he spoke, Legolas said quietly, “You’ve seen no sign of any others? Friend or foe?”
“Nay. Not a dwarf, elf, or orc to be seen in that passage,” the dwarf’s heavy features looked still more brooding and unfriendly in the dim, flickering torchlight. With a rather mean smile, he observed, “You look like you haven’t moved from the spot where you landed. What ails you, Elf--are all your kind so afraid of the dark?”
His pride stung awake, Legolas rose on reasonably steady legs so that he might look down upon this posturing little creature. “I had not a convenient torch to light my way, and I had concern enough for my comrades not to wish to step on them in the dark. You might face the same danger if I could not see where I was going.”
Sensing that he had gained the verbal upper hand, for the moment at least, Legolas changed the subject to the one of most concern. “Do you have any idea where our companions might have landed in this cave?”
“There’s more than one cave, Elfling. This entire hill is riddled with caverns, tunnels, and gaping holes. I’ve found at least one hole in the floor that goes so deep my first torch fell until it disappeared. You and I were lucky. Our friends may not have been.”
The dwarf seemed to feel little hope of finding his friends alive, but the thought of escaping this place without Faron was enough to shake Legolas to the core of his being. *I cannot go through this again I cannot go through this again I cannot go through this again I cannot--* Aloud, in a reasonably steady voice, he said, “I must find my friend, Master Dwarf. Help me if you wish, but I will tarry no longer. Have you another torch?”
“Nay, this is the last. Looks like we’re stuck with each other, but I’d like to know what happened to my friends as well, Elfling. Come, then. Let us take a look around.” Jerking his hand imperiously at Legolas, he began to explore the perimeter of the cavern. Legolas was irritated at first, then decided that this dwarf was a far more experienced navigator of caves than any elf. Biting his tongue, he followed closely.
“Now loop that rope over that edge of the rock nice and tight, Lady Elf,” one of the dwarves ordered Galithil. “Tighter now. If it slips off while we’re lifting it, it could trigger another cave-in.”
Pulling with all her strength, Galithil of Mirkwood tightened the double-loop she had made with the rope around an especially large slab of rock. The dwarves had sent the lighter elves to climb over the pile and remove all the small rocks they could easily carry, but now some large chunks had to be shifted.
“I think that is as tight as it will come,” Galithil told the dwarf, wiping sweat from her eyes and glancing about. Two of the elves and another of the dwarves were standing watch as the rest continued working, but the eastern sky was growing red, and soon there would be no chance of an orc ambush. Langcyll and Naldin had agreed that they would have perhaps this one day only to reach their companions before every orc in the Misty Mountains honed in on their position.
“All right! Make ready there! Stand well back, Lady. Don’t want you squished if that thing should fall,” the dwarf sounded almost charming as he took his position on the rope in front of Elrohir, Elladan, and two other dwarves. “Ready, ready, now!”
With great heaving and groaning, elves and dwarves pulled the rope with all their strength to haul away a slab of stone that must have weighed half a ton. The dwarves had rigged a strange frame on the north side of the hole where the ropes were slung so that the stone could be lifted into the air, then shifted safely away from the pile before being dropped onto solid ground. Langcyll was with another dwarf behind the frame, guiding the stone safely out of the way. “Lower it gently,” Naldin cautioned. With great care, the group holding the ropes lessened their grip and eased the great slab to the ground.
Galithil let out the breath she was holding, and the dwarf who had been directing them stomped his foot triumphantly. “And the first slab is safely away! That’s a good omen among my people, Lady Elf,” he said to her. “If the first stone comes away willingly, the mine will disgorge great treasure. Let’s just hope it’s the treasure dear to us all, eh?” He winked at her, and returned to the pile to pick out the next rock to be lifted.
Shaking herself out of the strange inertia that had seized her, she went to help him. “What is your name, Master Dwarf?” she asked as she helped him clear away loose stones.
“Sháin, Lady Elf, son of Tili, second cousin of Dáin, King under the Mountain. Forgot my manners in this rather nasty predicament. Should’ve asked your name.”
“I am Galithil, daughter of Eregdos of Mirkwood,” she told him.
“‘Galithil.’ ‘Galithil.’ Means ‘pale moon,’ doesn’t it?” Sháin paused and cocked his head at the warrioress with a smile. “Suits you, Lady. Bring those hammers back!” he suddenly shouted. “Got another rock here that needs breaking!”
A search of the perimeter of the cavern where Legolas had landed revealed neither a dwarf nor an elf, but several raggedy-edged passages leading out. The dwarf waved his torch at the ceiling. “No telling where the landslide has dumped our friends, but they’re not here. We’d better start searching the passages.”
Legolas quashed the urge to shudder. “Should we not be worried that there may be orcs about in these caves?”
“After that cave-in? Unlikely, Elfling. They’ll have run for their lives if they were down here when the roof started giving way. Nay, our best shot at finding our comrades is to hurry and search before the orcs do come back. Follow me,” the dwarf lowered his torch in front of him to illuminate the passage as they entered. Legolas had no choice but to follow him.
“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!”
Ahead of Legolas, the dwarf suddenly stopped. Legolas had to catch himself to avoid bumping into him. Without speaking, the dwarf knelt down, and Legolas saw a form lying prone in the dust too small to be Faron. “Take the torch,” the dwarf muttered, handing it to Legolas. He shook his companion tentatively. “Therik? Come on, Therik, wake up!”
The other dwarf groaned and stirred, then suddenly jerked upright with a grunt of challenge, balling his fists as he moved to fend off any attackers. Legolas jumped backward, and the other dwarf neatly fended off a wild swing. “Lorben? Is that you?”
“Aye, my friend, and glad to see you in one piece! I was afraid this elfling was the only other one to survive,” the first dwarf said.
Therik looked past Lorben and took in the rather ragged elf warrior holding the torch. “Hmph. Don’t know how that scrawny one could slip off a rock without breaking half the bones in his body.”
Legolas pursed his lips and said nothing. It was uncertain how long he would be trapped down here with these dwarves, and he still needed their help finding Faron. And the dwarves were still missing another one of their fellows. He was about to ask Therik if he had seen any sign of the others when noises from further down the passage caused them all to freeze. Lorben had somehow managed to keep ahold of his axe through everything, and brought it swiftly to bear as the trio gazed into the darkness beyond the torchlight.
To Legolas’s keen ears, the faint shuffles soon evolved into the sound of carefully-placed feet--too light to be either a dwarf or an orc. “Hold!” he said aloud as an intense surge of relief made him giddy. He held out a hand to restrain Lorben. “Faron?”
“Legolas?!” came an equally-relieved cry from down the passage, and the stealthy steps quickened into a limping run. Moments later, Faron of Imladris, looking bedraggled and bruised but none the worse for wear, hurried into view. The other young warrior paused on seeing the dwarves, then nodded briskly to them and went to grip Legolas’s arms.
*If these dwarves were not here, I think I should throw my arms around him,* Legolas thought, his stomach still churning with relief. “Faron, you are unharmed?” he asked aloud.
“A few bumps and scrapes, but nothing serious,” Faron took a step back and looked his friend over. “You seem to have fared all right.”
Legolas nodded wearily, then decided it was time to address the less pleasant subject. “As far as we can tell, you and I were the only ones of our party to be caught in the fall, but the dwarves are still searching for one of their companions.”
“Then, of course, we shall aid them,” Faron added blandly, but Legolas could detect a note of mirth in his voice. Turning to face the dwarves, Faron said graciously, “Well met, Master Dwarves. I am Faron of Imladris.”
Exchanging a quick glance, the dwarves evidently decided there could be no lasting harm in revealing their names. “Lorben and Therik of the Lonely Mountain.”
“Legolas of Mirkwood,” Legolas added, praying they would not be knowledgeable of the elves of Mirkwood.
Apparently, he was in luck, for the dwarves merely grunted and looked like they wanted to continue on their way. Briskly, Faron said, “Shall we continue searching for your comrade?” He received no verbal answer, but Lorben lowered his torch before him and continued into the passage.
Faron and Legolas followed him, remaining silent but relieved no end that neither of them had suffered no grievous hurt. Legolas hoped that the third missing dwarf had been as lucky, but it was more due to a desire that the dwarves not be in an ill mood as they dug their way out than any particular concern for them. Legolas had acknowledged these ill thoughts, but felt little guilt for them; he was tired, his body still throbbed (particularly his head), and above all else, he sincerely doubted that the other two dwarves had felt the slightest concern when his friend had been also missing.
“This won’t get us anywhere, Master Elf,” Sothi the dwarf told Glorfindel. “See how the sound echoes from the passage? It bends south, and we need a path under the ground bending north if we want to go even in the general direction of our missing comrades.”
Glorfindel could hear the distorted echoes of the dwarf’s words being thrown back at them from the blackness of the cave they had entered a little ways, but failed to detect anything that might indicate the direction of the passage. Seeing the dwarf’s knowing grin in the torchlight, Glorfindel smiled ruefully and admitted, “I fear I shall have to take you at your word, Sothi, son of Dwalin, for I cannot tell the difference.”
“Ah, patience, Lord Glorfindel, you’re a more willing caver than some of your friends there. Eh, Mirkwood?” Sothi grinned past Glorfindel at the four elves of Langcyll’s party, who had hung very close to the entrance and seemed decidedly reluctant to venture deeper into the cave to explore.
With a sheepish smile, Elunen folded her arms and said, “I speak for us all, Master Sothi, when I say we should be more than happy to dig halfway under this mountain if you had said we stood a chance of finding our companions. But when you did not,” she raised her hands to indicate the futility of such an unpleasant exercise.
Sothi grinned at her again, and Glorfindel found himself fighting the urge to grin as well. Being of Imladris, Glorfindel encountered dwarves on a fairly regular basis, but even a Mirkwood elf as far-traveled as Elunen had seen considerably less of them. Consequently, he could sense her surprise at the discovery that dwarves were rather witty (not to mention that they were surprisingly accomplished flirts.) “I may not be as uneasy as my Mirkwood kin inside caves, but if we’ve nothing to gain from further exploration of this one, I would venture to suggest that we move on. For the lives of all our friends may depend upon our speed.”
“Come, then,” Sothi said briskly, and Glorfindel followed him from the tunnel beside Elunen.
“I’ve seem my share of dwarves in my lifetime,” the Mirkwood warrioress murmured to Glorfindel, “but I must confess that I had forgotten how charming they could be.”
“He’s too young for you, Elunen,” Glanaur whispered to her, earning a glare in return. Just ahead of them, one of the other dwarves was muttering something to Sothi about being “besotted with pretty elf-ladies,” and got a jab in the ribs for his wit.
Glorfindel thought to himself, *Now all we need is to find Legolas, Faron, and the three missing dwarves alive and unharmed, and much will have been accomplished on this leg of the trip.*
“Ho, who goes there?” shouted a voice from down the black passage ahead of the trapped elves and dwarves.
With a startled curse, Lorben jumped backward, nearly dropping his torch, and Faron muttered to Legolas, “So much for a discreet search. At least it was worth the noise now that we’ve found our last missing dwarf.”
Sure enough, Therik the dwarf bellowed down the passage in response, throwing echoes that made the two elf warriors wince, “That you, Broni? Here! Hello!”
Moments later, Faron and Legolas heard the sound of heavy-running feet, and the third dwarf thumped into the torchlight, hurrying to greet his companions without so much as a blink at the two elves behind them. “Lorben! Therik! I was afraid you’d both been crushed by the rockslide. There were two dead orcs next to me when I came round.”
“But no live ones, that’s the important thing, eh?” Lorben said cheerfully, slapping the new arrival on the back. “We were beginning to despair of you, Broni. Glad you made it. Would’ve been a disgrace if we’d lost one of ours when both the elves survived.”
“Both?” For the first time, Broni and the other two saw fit to acknowledge Legolas and Faron’s presence again. “Hmph. I remembered a couple of elves being with us when we got caught.” He looked the two elves up and down, evidently deciding that their presence should be dealt with civilly, if nothing else. “So, Master Elves, I trust you’re enjoying your little sojourn in the dwarven realms?”
Faron had sensed long ago that Legolas’s temper was running a bit short, which was very unlike him (or perhaps he was concealing a painful injury, which would all too like him). So he responded quickly, “I think we are finding it most instructive, Master Dwarf. If our companions above are faring as well in the caves as we, soon the dwarves will be able to call on the elves whenever you are in need of our assistance.” At his elbow, he felt Legolas twitch ever-so-slightly as the prince suppressed a snicker.
The dwarf grunted (as dwarves are wont to do) and said grudgingly, “Well, you’ve survived this far, so I suppose it is a start. I am Broni, son of Fildin of the Lonely Mountain.”
“A pleasure, I am sure, Broni son of Fildin,” Faron said with a graceful bow, and decided he was rather enjoying this. “I am Faron, son of Gwaeron of Imladris.”
The newcomer grunted at him again, and was already looking to his companions when Legolas added as an afterthought, “Legolas--of Mirkwood.”
Broni paused. Faron was puzzled for only a moment when he felt Legolas stiffen beside him, then began to curse himself. *Curse me to wander in these caves for a week, why did I have to name my lineage?! I should have realized how they would react to hearing the name of Legolas’s father! Please do not let him notice, please do not let him notice--*
Their luck had run out. Lorben and Therik had ignored the elves’ failure to name their lineage when they’d introduced themselves before, but Broni had caught it. And, worse yet, he slowly turned and fixed Legolas with a stare that seemed to bore right through the younger elf. “Legolas, hmm? Of Mirkwood?” Faron felt Legolas stop breathing next to him, and looked desperately for a way to change the subject, distract Broni, anything.
But nothing came to mind, and Broni the dwarf was apparently more knowledgeable of the elves of Mirkwood than his friends--specifically when it came to the Mirkwood nobility. As Lorben and Therik also turned to stare at Legolas, Broni drawled, “And who might your father be, Legolas of Mirkwood?”
To his credit, Legolas lifted his chin and returned the dwarf’s piercing stare with an equally steady gaze. “My father is Thranduil of Mirkwood.”
Therik’s jaw dropped, and Lorben spat out a dwarvish curse that Faron understood (and knew Legolas did, for he spoke many languages of races he’d yet to meet.) Broni grinned nastily and said, “Hah! I knew it! Thought I’d seen you somewhere before, but not the same. Now I see what threw me off. You have your elven king’s eyes, Prince of Mirkwood.” It did not take elven perception to see that he intended to suggest that Legolas might have picked up other traits from his father.
*This has gone far enough,* Faron thought furiously, determined to deflect a barrage of dwarf grievances from descending on his friend’s shoulders. He said quickly, “While I’m sure our respective family lines will make a fascinating topic of discussion, I suggest we save it until we have escaped this cave and returned to our comrades. After that landslide, they are doubtlessly wondering what became of us. And we will have a difficult time if the torch should burn out.”
To his intense relief, and that of Legolas, the dwarves decided to postpone their tirade against King Thranduil and resumed their search for a plausible way out of the cave. In the flickering torchlight, Legolas shot Faron a grateful glance, his hand fingering the pouch that contained Tathar’s pearl.
(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!?”
“Who is down here?”
“Berensul?! Berensul, it’s me, it’s Legolas! Help! We’re lost!”
“Calm down, Legolas, we are coming. 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.”
“What if the bat got him?!”
“Was it a very big bat, Merilin?”
“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.”
Langcyll was helping to lower yet another boulder away from the cave-in site when he spotted Glorfindel and Sothi, along with the rest of the scouts, returning from their latest search of the mountainside. “Anything?” he asked when the stone was safely set down.
“Nay, Master Elf,” Sothi replied, looking discouraged. “What caves we did find show no signs of being connected to this one. We can look further if you like, but I don’t see much sign in the rocks that there’ll be any other entrances to that cursed cavern except the one that our unlucky friends found.”
Langcyll turned away to hide his anxiety and growing despair. The pile of great rocks and fallen dirt seemed to have no end, even as they pulled away boulder after boulder. What if the air supply into the cave below had been cut off? What if Legolas or Faron or one of the elves had been seriously wounded and lay in need of aid even as his company struggled to shift the pile above?
He spotted Galithil, standing upon yet another boulder that she was tying the ropes around, under the direction of Sháin the dwarf. She paused from her work when she noticed his gaze, raising questioning eyebrows. “How goes our progress, Galithil?” Langcyll called to her.
Instead of answering, Galithil turned to Sháin, who told Langcyll, “I know it seems an eternity, Captain Langcyll, but we’re doing well. The big blocks always wind up on top in a cave-in such as this, and soon we may find an open hole underneath that’ll lead down to our friends. Already, we’re running into more sand than stone, didn’t you notice?”
Looking down at the heap, Langcyll realized Sháin was right. The dwarf grinned, “Come, Captain of Mirkwood, it’s not time to despair yet. And with your help, the work will go faster still. Lend your Lady Galithil a hand so we can get that great stone log out of our way.”
Had Langcyll not been so anxious for the fate of the missing ones, he would have been amused by the grin that Sháin gave Galithil--and rather startled by the fact that she seemed to have fallen into the habit of grinning back. But he did take note as he joined them of how well the dwarf miner and the elf warrioress were working together.
“Keep quiet, Therik! You stomp so we wouldn’t hear an orc until we rounded a bend and walked right into him!” Lorben hissed, waving his torch at his ungainly companion.
“Psst, have a care with that torch! If it goes out, we’re done for!”
“Hold your tongue, Broni!”
Legolas and Faron exchanged exasperated glances. Legolas in particular was beginning to think he would not be able to stand another moment of these wearisome creatures’ company. Having no better method of navigating, the two elves followed closely behind the dwarves, attempting to listen over the dwarves’ racket for orcs or any other danger that might be lurking in the depths of the earth.
What seemed like several leagues ago, Legolas had pulled Tathar’s pearl from his pouch and was surreptitiously rolling it in his hand, and he began to think that the obscure comfort he felt in its smooth surface was the only thing that had prevented him from trouncing all three of the dwarves.
Ahead of them, Broni suddenly stopped and the elves caught themselves to avoid running into him. “Wonderful. This is a nice fix you’ve got us in, Lorben. Did you have any idea where you were going?”
“What?” Lorben held up the torch, its light bouncing off a solid wall of stone in their path.
Legolas could not restrain a sigh, “Another dead end.”
“Pipe down, elfling prince, we can see that for ourselves?” Lorben snapped.
“Now what?” Therik grunted.
“What do you think? Back the way we came?” Lorben said with a wave of his hand, turning and brushing past the elves. “There were other passages down here. We’ll find a way out.”
As the dwarves started back the way they had come, Legolas folded his arms and said coldly, “Perhaps we should return to the cavern where we first fell. Our comrades may be searching for us.”
The dwarves paused, gazing back at him, and exchanged a glance among themselves long enough to tell Legolas that his suggestion had merit. However, the dwarves had no intention of admitting it. “What makes you think they have not left us all for dead, prince?” demanded Broni.
Faron fired back before Legolas could, “I am sorry if your companions value your lives so little, but I can tell you that our company would not give us up, Master Dwarf, and certainly would not break off a search after less than a day. Perhaps they are working together?”
Legolas saw the dwarves’ astonished expressions at the idea, and indeed, found it hard to stifle an incredulous laugh himself. “In any case, their likely course of action would be to try to break through the caved-in earth that first opened,” he added, pressing the advantage. “So we would be well-advised to return from whence we came and see if they have had any success. This way, we shall be near enough to hear if they call to us.”
The dwarves paused, staring at each other, and Legolas doubted they would concede to the wisdom of his suggestion. So, rather than allow them time to invent some asinine alternative, he pushed past them, plucked the torch briskly from Lorben’s hand--ignoring the dwarf’s startled grunt--and led the way back down the passage. He might not be used to navigating caves, but an elf’s memory allowed him to follow the path back in the direction they had come.
“So, Moon Maiden, these two missing elves. Friends of yours?” Sháin the dwarf asked Galithil.
As she continued clearing loose stones from the latest layer of debris they had uncovered--with no end in sight--Galithil nodded soberly. “We have all come to know each other well in the time we’ve traveled together. Faron is Glorfindel’s youngest warrior, and Legolas is the youngest of Mirkwood’s company. I have known them both since they were children.”
Sháin had stopped working, and stared at her. “What’s that? The name of your fellow Mirkwood elf?”
“Le--” Galithil’s memory caught up with her, and she wanted to groan. But there it was, and there was little point in trying to evade Sháin’s question now. “His name is Legolas.”
Several of the other dwarves paused for a moment, and Galithil saw nothing but disgust on the faces of all. Naldin gestured imperiously for them to continue, but looked disdainfully at Langcyll. Resuming his work, Sháin for the first time wore a displeased expression. “Legolas, eh? Thranduil’s son?”
Galithil nodded, lifting her chin proudly in response to the contempt she heard in Sháin’s voice. “Legolas is a fine warrior, Master Dwarf. He has only just come of age, but he is courageous and steadfast beyond his years. If you do not know him, I would advise you not to hasten to judgment.”
“Hmph, wise words, as I reckon one should expect such from an elf. But whether you claim to know him yourself or not, Lady Elf, I’ve seen the darker side of your friend’s father. Many of my kin died in that battle over the Lonely Mountain,” Sháin told her grimly. Grunts of agreement from about them told Galithil that the other dwarves were now paying close attention to the conversation.
“I do not claim to know the king of my realm well, Master Dwarf,” Galithil said, straightening from her work and casting a quick gaze around her. “But I can tell you that a son is never a perfect copy of the father, and should not be judged by the father’s deeds, whatever you may think of them. Legolas deserves not your censure when you’ve yet to know him. And now perhaps we should speed our work, so you may know him sooner.”
With another--but rather thoughtful--grunt, Sháin returned to his digging. All at once, the rock he was breaking up with his pickaxe slipped and a large chunk of it fell into a suddenly-opened hole. “Ho! What have we here! Look there, Moon Maiden, we’ve found the hole again! Come look!” Sháin gestured to the gap in the ground, and the other elves and dwarves ceased digging and came to investigate.
Turning to Naldin, Langcyll asked, “Now what? We must take care not to knock any stones in upon our companions if they’re still down there.”
“Quite right, Master Elf. Let us try the simplest method first,” briskly, Naldin bent over the hole, cupped his hands over his mouth and bellowed, “HELLLOOOO!!! ANYONE DOWN THERE?!”
There was a long pause. “Let us continue then,” Glorfindel said, quashing a grin at the startled Mirkwood elves (they really knew so little of how amusing dwarves could be!) “Have a care not to knock too much debris down the hole, but the sooner we open it, the sooner we shall be able to mount another search.”
“Come then, everyone!” Sháin shouted, brandishing his pickaxe, “To work!”
“How do we know this idiot elfling hasn’t got us lost!”
Gritting his teeth, Legolas strode ahead of the dwarves and Faron, keeping his eyes on the ground and the tracks of their own feet as they headed back towards the cavern where he had landed. He did not respond to the dwarves, but Faron hurried to catch up with him and caught his arm, forcing him to slow. “Hold, Legolas,” he said very quietly. “We must not be separated.”
Legolas shot him a withering look, letting Faron know all too well how dearly he would love to be separated from these rude, blustering creatures, but waited for them to catch up. Glowering at them, Legolas said coldly, “I know the way we came,” and started walked again.
“Well, at least the elf prince can follow tracks,” (snicker) “guess that’s something.” Legolas gritted his teeth again. He was counting the seconds until he could be rid of them.
Ahead, the elves ducked under a low section of the cave ceiling, and crawled out into the cavern where Legolas had first found himself and Lorben the dwarf after the cave-in. All but slapping the torch back into Lorben’s hand, Legolas walked around the cavern, staring at the ceiling. “This must be it. See, there in the far end, the rocks are broken. That is where the landslide dropped us.” *Must it always be landslides? Why can I never be trapped by something like…a fallen tree? Or even a flood? I grow very tired of being buried.*
He fingered Tathar’s pearl in its pouch as Faron walked out ahead of him to examine the ceiling, attempting to crawl up. “Perhaps we may find a way to dislodge some of the rock. If our companies are trying to dig our way to us, this might aid them.” Faron prodded some of the obstructing stones, lodged in the high hole.
“Be careful, Far--” Legolas raised a warning hand, but suddenly, with a grinding noise, the rocks Faron had disturbed came loose and tumbled down.
“Get back!” Broni jerked Lorben and Therik to the opposite end of the cavern, but Legolas dropped the pouch and charged forward as he saw Faron tumble to the ground.
“Faron! Move!” Legolas cried, but his friend, stunned by the fall, had only time to roll onto his back as the whole section of the ceiling seemed to give way. “No--NO!” A great block of stone tumbled down, among rocks of all sizes, and crashed down directly on top of Faron. “FARON!!!” Legolas stumbled backward to avoid being buried, and a great cloud of dust obscured his view. “Faron, answer me!”
There was silence, filled only by a growing scream in the elf’s mind. *No! I cannot go through this again! No! NO!! I cannot lose Faron too! Please! NOT AGAIN!!!*
Then, like a flame to one freezing to death, a voice came from the darkness. “I…Legolas?”
“Faron?!” Legolas charged forward, kneeling to see that the rock slab had come to rest leaning against the wall, keeping Faron from being instantly killed. “Thank the Valar! Hold on!”
“Ai…” Faron’s head and torso were just visible, and one arm was free. But then Legolas saw the danger. That part of the wall had begun to crumble, and Faron was slowly being crushed. “Legolas--I can barely breath.”
“Hold on, hold on,” Legolas chanted, desperately trying to brace the rock enough for Faron to get out. Movement behind him reminded him that they were not alone. Glancing over his shoulder as he struggled to wedge his shoulder beneath the slab, he cried to the dwarves, “Why do you just stand there?! Help me free him!”
Broni folded his arms and scowled, “Many of our friends died in the battle instigated by your father, elfling. Now maybe you know how it feels!”
Groaning with the effort of bracing the rock, Legolas stared in astonishment at the dwarves. He had managed to slow its collapse with his own body, but if he went down, he and Faron would probably both be killed. “He--aii--he is of Imladris--rrgh--you vindictive troll! Faron had nothing…to do with the battle! Help him!”
Lorben had a rather odd--and rather nasty--expression on his face, as he reached into the small leather pouch he’d picked up off the ground and pulled out a large black pearl. Looking at the panicked elven prince, and his trapped friend, he drawled, “You’re the son of a greedy king, elfling. So tell me, is his life worth the price of your little pearl?”
It was utter shock more than anything that made Legolas hesitate, and he stared open-mouthed at the dwarf even as the weight of the stone continued to crush his shoulder. The malevolence of this creature seemed utterly without bounds. But as to the question itself, Legolas needed no great thought to answer. “Take it, then. Help me get him out.”
With a sickening smirk, the three dwarves quickly joined Legolas, two helping brace the stone and raise it to where Therik could pull Faron free. The minute his friend was clear, the two dwarves released the stone, and just as Legolas jerked out from beneath it, it collapsed, scoring a deep, bruised scrape in the young elf’s shoulder beneath his tunic.
Legolas scrambled to Faron’s side, and found him already attempting to sit up. “Leave off, Legolas, I am all right. Just a little bruised.”
The black pearl, Tathar’s black pearl, was sitting in the dirt on the floor of the cave where Lorben had left it. Legolas picked it up, brushing the dirt away, and stared at it.
“Tathar! Tathar! Where have you been?!”
“I might ask the same of you, Legolas!”
“We were lost in the dungeons, and it was dark and damp and awful and cold and terrible and there were bloodsucking bats and then we lost the torch! And then we got scared!”
“I was lost in the dungeons too, but I was all by myself! I was more scared than you!”
“So…that’s all? You were just in the dungeons like we were?”
“Yes, Merilin, and I was afraid too!”
“So…none of us found the treasure rooms.”
(Sigh) “No, it would seem not.”
“Are you sure you found nothing?”
“Of course! What, Legolas, would I lie to you?”
In the flicker of the torchlight, Legolas raised his eyes and met Lorben’s mockingly expectant gaze. Faron was looking at him as well. His friend sat up and put a hand on his friend’s arm. In a very soft voice, he said, “Tathar would not begrudge such a thing for your life, Legolas, you know that. It’s only a pearl.”
Lorben swaggered forward and held out his hand, and glaring coldly at him, Legolas dropped the pearl into the dwarf’s hand. “Ah, now here’s a pretty thing! So rare, pearls of such color!” Beside Legolas, Faron winced at the words as the other two dwarves turned to examine Lorben’s prize. “Such a pearl must command a very high price, eh, Prince?”
In a voice that would chill the seat of Sauron, Legolas said, “You know nothing of its worth, Dwarf.”
The dwarves laughed, apparently convinced that they had gotten the better of the prince, and just as Legolas’s temper appeared about to snap, a rattle from above made them all freeze. The elves and dwarves looked up as more rocks tumbled from the hole in the ceiling, which was beginning to widen. All at once, another large rock came down, and light came in a great beautiful stream into the chamber. “Hellooooo, down there! Anyone hear me?!”
“Naldin! Naldin! Ho, dwarves! We are here!” Therik, Lorben, and Broni rushed to the other side and stood beneath the hole, waving and shouting.
Another voice came down, fairer than the gruff dwarves voice and filled with anxiety, “Legolas? Faron? Are you there?”
“Langcyll!” Legolas cried, leaping to his feet, wincing at the pain in his shoulder. Faron was but a step behind him as they scrambled to the far wall beside the dwarves. “Langcyll, we are here! We are unharmed!”
From above, they heard another dwarves voice cry out, “They are there! They are all safe!” and a great cheer went up on the surface, of dwarven and elven voices alike.
“Hold just a moment longer, my friends, and we shall have you out,” Glorfindel’s voice called down to them, and moments later, several ropes were lowered down to the trapped dwarves and elves. “Careful, now. The rocks are still unstable.”
Langcyll was practically fidgeting as the three dwarves came up first from that earthen tomb, to be greeted by shouts and embraces from their kindred. A moment later, the rope went taut again, and Faron emerged, looking bruised, scraped, and ragged, but none the worse for wear. Elladan and Elrohir hustled him swiftly away for a closer examination, and Langcyll turned back in time to see a slender hand emerge from the blackness as the last occupant pulled himself from the cave.
“Legolas?” the captain of Mirkwood caught his youngest warrior’s hand and pulled him swiftly out of the hole. The effort overbalanced them both, and Langcyll had to catch Legolas in his arms to prevent the prince from being thrown to the ground. Perhaps only Glorfindel noticed that Langcyll’s grasp lasted longer than was necessary.
Pulling back and straightening distractedly, Legolas made a feeble attempt to dust himself off, “I am all right, sir. Neither Faron nor I were seriously hurt.”
Nodding briskly, Langcyll said, “I am greatly relieved for that, that all of you managed to escape injury.” His thoughts now under control, the captain critically looked the young elf over. Frowning, he noted the dark circles under the warrior’s eyes, and the rather translucent pallor of his skin. It had been less than twenty-four hours since the cave-in, but both Legolas and Faron appeared haggard and exhausted. *Ai, caves. Fearsome places. I had forgotten how being trapped underground would affect them. Much more time and it would have sickened both of them.*
Standing a few paces back, Langcyll told Legolas, “There is a stream not far down the hill. I suggest you clean up while there is still light left in the sky.”
“Yes, sir.” Legolas walked past him down the hill, but was nearly knocked off balance by a wild embrace from Galithil.
Langcyll could not hear the words spoken due to the clamor of the excited dwarves, but it was simple enough to translate the pantomime that passed between the two elves. Galithil was describing to Legolas how they had removed the stones with the dwarves’ help, and Legolas, though weary and battered, appeared interested until she gestured to one dwarf in particular. Then Legolas’s bright eyes darkened and he walked swiftly away toward the stream. Startled, Galithil went after him, apparently protesting something he had said. But Legolas was in no mood to debate whatever the issue was, and spoke rather brusquely to her before leaving her behind. She returned to join the others looking puzzled and troubled.
*So, it would seem Legolas did not profit from his prolonged encounter with the dwarves. Strange. I had thought being forced into such close quarters might change his mind,* Langcyll thought. *I wonder…* The warrior looked in the direction of the three formerly-trapped dwarves, who were still surrounded by their kindred, apparently telling stories of their various adventures during this episode.
One of the trapped dwarves, Lorben, was now speaking, and the others were listening with great interest. Then he said something that he apparently thought they would find amusing, and pulled a small pouch from his pocket. Langcyll did not see what was in it, but the other dwarves’ laughter suddenly ceased. The three trapped ones, Lorben, Broni, and Therik, were greatly startled to find themselves suddenly the target of accusing stares from all their company. Naldin asked a demanding question, and a very-baffled Lorben responded, only to find himself receiving a furious tirade from Sháin. Great gestures of outrage and defensiveness erupted from the company and the three trapped ones, respectively, and it seemed at first that Naldin intended to confiscate whatever it was Lorben had. But Lorben would not hear of it, and with a great gesture of utter disgust, Sháin stalked away, followed closely by Naldin, Sothi, and most of the other dwarves.
“Hmm, it seems this confinement served neither party well.” Langcyll jumped at the sound of Glorfindel’s voice just behind him.
Catching his breath, Langcyll replied, “Indeed. I wonder what transpired down there.”
“I do not…know,” Glorfindel frowned thoughtfully, as Legolas returned from the stream, wearing fresh clothes and looking calmer than before. As the two captains watched with great curiosity, Naldin the dwarf picked up Legolas’s bow and quiver, which the dwarves had found while digging, and carried them over to the prince, placing them at his feet with a deep bow. Looking startled, Legolas said something that was most likely a confused thanks, and Naldin returned to his own party looking apologetic.
Langcyll frowned in turn. Galithil was now speaking anxiously to Faron, who was being examined by Elladan and Elrohir, but they had paused on seeing what occurred between Legolas and Naldin the dwarf. Faron had appeared equally dismissive of whatever praise Galithil was offering the dwarves, but now he at least looked thoughtful, while Legolas wore a closed expression once again.
“Perhaps I should ask Legolas what happened,” Langcyll murmured thoughtfully.
He started forward, but Glorfindel suddenly spoke. “Langcyll.” He waited until the Mirkwood captain turned to face him, then walked forward to stand face-to-face with him. “One day you shall all have to return to Mirkwood. Forget not who Legolas is.”
The quiet words struck Langcyll like another avalanche. Finding his voice, he replied, “I’m sure I do not know what you mean.”
Glorfindel’s face was sympathetic; he too had been a captain and novice master for many centuries, and had trained up and led many young warriors. “Langcyll, Legolas is a prince of Mirkwood. He is Thranduil’s son.” Lowering his voice still more, he added, “Not yours.”
Langcyll stiffened sharply, then turned and walked swiftly away, his face betraying little emotion. Glorfindel watched him go, feeling a twinge of pity. He sighed quietly to himself, *Nay, I did not think you would listen to me, my friend. Not that I was ever inclined to listen to such advice when it concerned my own warriors. I might have spared myself great pain if I had listened to Elrond. I pray you will be spared that lesson, Langcyll, and never know the sorrow I felt of losing the one I thought of as my son. Such grief I had never felt, but I had no choice but to overcome it, for Faron’s sake, and my other warriors. May you never know such anguish for Legolas…as I felt for Gaerongil.*
Legolas was seated alone on a rock above the creek, feeling the warm rays of the sun on his face, and relishing them as never before after the nasty experience of the cave. He heard someone coming up behind him and saw Langcyll. “I am well,” he said immediately, half-joking at Langcyll’s nearly-constant concern for his well-being.
His captain smiled slightly and sat down beside him. “Well, yes, I am relieved no end to see. But you are troubled.”
Legolas looked away. “It is nothing important.”
Debating whether to bring the subject up, Langcyll decided to come straight out with it. “Lorben the dwarf and his friends Broni and Therik have fallen into great disfavor with their comrades. What passed between you down there?”
With a wry laugh, Legolas replied, “Disfavor? I am surprised the dwarves are not all gloating.”
“Legolas, without their help we would never have reached you,” Langcyll said sternly.
Legolas shook his head bitterly, “They would not have helped you had Faron and I been the only ones trapped. I still think them greedy and unfeeling. More than ever, not that I would sorrow greatly for the loss of any trinket.”
“The loss--” Langcyll blinked, then comprehension filled his eyes, along with sympathy. “So that was what Naldin was ranting about Lorben placing a price upon a life.”
Feeling his throat tighten, Legolas muttered, “It was only a pearl. Faron’s life was worth that and more. And he was right, Tathar…” Legolas swallowed hard, “Tathar would not begrudge it, though it does rankle me to think of anything belonging to him in a dwarf’s greedy hand.”
He felt Langcyll’s hand upon his shoulder but dared not look up. It frustrated Legolas to have so little control over himself at the thought of Tathar. Fortunately, Langcyll changed the subject. “Faron took some great bruising on his chest in the cave-in. Glorfindel had feared he might have fractured a rib, but it was not so serious. I am glad to see you safe, Legolas.” The captain rose, “But your comrades are anxious for you to rejoin them. We were all concerned for you and Faron. Come, let us return.”
Legolas quickly rose, forcing himself to dismiss the bitter thoughts that had been clouding his mind. There was no point in brooding over a lost bauble. *That is the sort of thing my father would do. The pearl was Tathar’s, but I have lost nothing of him. I should laugh. Those dwarves see only its price in terms of gold. I valued it far more than that, but that worth they shall never know, and never know what it is they have. May greed never have power over me.*
Aloud, he asked Langcyll, “How soon will we get under way?”
“At nightfall. And I am sorry if you view this with displeasure, but the dwarves will travel on the same path as us until we turn east for Lórien.” Langcyll shot him a quick, sharp look, and Legolas managed to keep a politely straight face. The captain’s mouth twitched in amusement, and they returned to the camp the elves and dwarves had set up.
“How can you impugn my honor, Naldin? I am grossly insulted!” Lorben growled, his hands on his hips.
Equally angry, Naldin, the leader of the dwarf company, glared at his comrade. “You have disgraced us, Lorben. Dwarves mine and work the gifts of the earth, we do not extort them over the threat of another’s life! You have lowered yourself to the very level of that elven king!”
“Have you forgotten that upstart elfling is the elven king’s son? Why should he matter to us?” Lorben demanded.
The other dwarves were seated about them, watching tensely. The dwarf company had moved a ways back down the trail so they could settle this matter out of earshot of the elves. Naldin replied, “I do not care if he had been the elven king himself. The honor of a dwarf is universal. I’ve half a mind to order you into their camp to apologize and return that pearl to its rightful owner.”
“Rightful--bah! Order me what you will, son of Oín, but I’ll see myself in Mordor before I apologize to that prince, OR give him anything save a good swing from my axe!” Lorben folded his arms obstinately.
Turning away with a curse, Naldin was clearly debating what to do as the other dwarves watched. It was a dilemma. He could try and force Lorben to obey him, but it would cause a dispute that would be difficult to explain when they returned to Lonely Mountain, and Naldin doubted if the dwarves there would understand the circumstances here. After all, Daín and all his folk had had enough dealings with King Thranduil that they were unlikely to be sympathetic to a slight against his son, even if it had been a grave breach of dwarf honor.
Turning back, he folded his arms himself and said, “Very well. I’ll not force you to admit your fault to the elves. But,” he pointed furiously at Lorben before the other dwarf could look too relieved, “you shall not keep that trinket. You shall turn it over to me. It will be turned over to Daín when we reach Lonely Mountain, and put into our coffers along with all our other shared treasures, and none shall know OR hear that you ever had it. OR how you came by it.” Over Lorben’s startled protest, he roared, “You WILL do as I say! Or I SHALL force you into that elf camp to bow to King Thranduil’s son! Decide now, son of Paun!”
The two dwarves locked eyes for a long moment, and it became apparent to all that Naldin was not bluffing in his threat to humiliate Lorben. With a disgusted grunt, Lorben reached inside his tunic, pulled out the pouch, and flung it to the ground at Naldin’s feet before stalking away. Naldin picked the pouch up and pulled out the pearl, examining it. Then he held it up and glared at each of the other dwarves in turn. “When we return to Lonely Mountain, NO ONE is to ever hear of how this thing came into our possession. It is incidents such as these that add to the bad blood between the elves and the dwarves. Whatever they may have done to us, that is no excuse for wrongs in return. If ANY of you disobey this order, you shall have cause to regret it!”
The other dwarves nodded hurriedly, very unsettled. Satisfied, Naldin slipped the pearl into his own tunic, to become the possession of the dwarves of Lonely Mountain.
With the setting of the sun, the warriors of Imladris and Mirkwood led their horses again down the trail. It was not long before they came upon the dwarves also on the trail. “A good evening to you, Captain Langcyll, and Lord Glorfindel,” Naldin said cheerfully.
“Good evening, Master Naldin,” replied Glorfindel.
“Are you to hunt on this trail?”
“Shall we take this way together and combine our efforts?”
“We should be most pleased by your help.”
Legolas had suspected by what his friends told him that the elves and dwarves above ground had resolved enough of their differences to work together, but now he was utterly astonished. More than anything by the fact that several dwarves immediately began talking with the elves who were not scouting ahead of the group. Legolas was relieved to be ordered to scout--Langcyll apparently decided that changing his mind was a lost cause--but as he went out ahead, he spotted one thing that shocked him still more.
One of the dwarves had fallen into step with Galithil, of all people, and the two were now talking with the cheer and ease of friends. Faron was staring at them with equal disbelief. Shaking his head to himself, Legolas rode out ahead of the party to scout for orcs. *The world is a strange place, when such different beings can be friends. Perhaps there are such trustworthy dwarves in Middle Earth, but after dealing with Lorben and his friends, I would rather not risk finding out.*
“Legolas, I want to show you something. Look, in my box.”
“What have you--Tathar! Where did you get all those? Pearls! All pearls! Did you--you were NOT in the dungeons when we got lost!”
(Snicker!) “I only found one treasure room, but as you see, it was more than enough.”
“How could you not tell me!”
“I’m telling you now! Would I keep such a thing from my best friend?”
“You stole my father’s pearls, Tathar, what will you do when they are missed? The guards know we were down there!”
“There’s little chance of that, there were so many I dug my hand into the barrel and still left it heaping full. Oh, Legolas, the dragon Smaug himself would come for Mirkwood if he knew what’s down there.”
“You may still get into trouble.”
“Come, Legolas, it will be fine. I will give you one if you promise not to tell anybody.”
“I…nay, I do not want one. Someone would find it.”
“Oh, go on, Legolas, I do not begrudge you a share of my treasure! You must take at least one! You are my best friend.”
“I need no pearls to remind me of that, Tathar.”
CHARACTER GUIDE: THE DWARF PARTY
Naldin--leader of the group, son of Óin
Sothi--second-in-command, son of Dwalin
Sháin--one of the other dwarves, (Galithil’s friend)
Lorben--one of the dwarves trapped with Legolas and Faron (he’s the one who gets the pearl)
Therik and Broni--the other two dwarves in the cave
ELVISH NAME TRANSLATIONS
Minuial--dawn--Legolas’s deceased mother
Berensul--bold wind--Legolas’s eldest brother, crown prince
Eirien--daisy--Berensul’s wife, crown princess
Limloeth--clear pool--Legolas’s second sister
Tavron--forester--Legolas’s deceased third brother
Meren--joy--Legolas’s deceased fourth sister
Lalaith--laughter--Legolas’s deceased fifth sister
Belhador--strong spearman--Legolas’s sixth brother
Legolas’s friends and fellow warriors
Eregdos--holly tree--a Mirkwood warrior
Lalven--elm tree--princess of Eryn Vorn who wanted to marry Legolas
Eregolf--thorn branch--noble elf of Lórien who wound up marrying Lalven
Warriors in Legolas’s party
Langcyll-sword bearer--captain of Mirkwood
Sadron--faithful one--Tathar’s horse
Legolas--aw, come on!
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.