15. Shadows in the Golden Wood
*How very strange,* he thought. Orcs were not renowned for their intelligence or common sense, and they had a tendency to attack in the exact same manner over and over again, making it easy for the elves to defeat them. When they spotted a foe, they also tended to attack straightaway, without waiting for reinforcements or bothering to hatch a plan. So it struck Rúmil as quite odd that the dark beasts he could see in the distance were simply observing the watchers in the forest. *I hope for the sake of us all that these foul creatures have not developed any sort of battle sense, or we shall all face new troubles.*
But the first rays of the sun prevented him from further observing this odd behavior, for with a shriek that Rúmil heard only faintly in the distance, the creatures vanished. Rúmil frowned to himself, puzzling over this new development, and looked at the sky. In another hour, he would be relieved, and he planned to take this strange observation to Haldir’s attention at once.
Faron, Galithil, and Nathron were breaking their fast with several warriors of Lórien when Legolas arrived with Limloeth and Orthelian. “We had begun to wonder if you were going to sleep all day,” Galithil remarked.
One of the Lórien warriors gestured for Legolas to be seated, and only after settling next to Haldir did he reply, “We have not had such leisure for some time, and I for one intend to enjoy it.”
“Pay her no heed, Legolas, she only arrived a minute before you did,” said Nathron, shooting a wicked grin at Galithil, who glared at him in turn.
Faron grinned at them both, and winked at Legolas, who grinned back. Seated beside the Galadhrim, fair-haired Legolas looked still more like he belonged in Lórien rather than Mirkwood. Limloeth seated herself next to her brother, “Has Lord Celeborn made any indication of Lórien’s plan for joining Mirkwood and Imladris in arms?”
Taking a slice of bread, Haldir replied, “Nay, with Langcyll and Glorfindel still at the camp, Lord Celeborn has not yet heard their report. He will wait at least until then to decide how to act.”
Orthelian paused from eating and looked at the four visiting warriors. “Are the mountains as bad as we have heard?”
The talk around the table ceased as the warriors of Lórien waited for an answer. Nathron slowly nodded. “The scourge of Sauron seems to have infected all Middle Earth. Orcs and wargs around every bend. It began as little more than a curiously large number, but for the past six weeks, we’d been embattled from dusk to dawn every night.”
Several of the Lórien warriors looked grave, and Limloeth shuddered. Just then, the elves heard the sound of a lone horse approaching. Haldir rose, and all the other warriors turned to look; it was Rúmil. “We must speak, Haldir.”
“There has been trouble?” asked Legolas.
“Perhaps. You shall hear of it soon, but now I must speak with my brother.” Haldir left the table and walked into the trees with Rúmil.
“Rúmil was on border watch this morning,” murmured Orthelian. “He was to be relieved an hour past dawn.”
Faron frowned, and turning back to the table, saw Legolas had stopped with a piece of fruit halfway to his mouth. The son of Thranduil looked ill. “Legolas?” Faron asked.
Legolas blinked. “What?”
“You looked troubled.”
With a little shake of his head, Faron’s friend answered, “Nay, it is nothing. I am merely tired.”
It was not an outright lie; Faron too felt the lingering ache of fatigue in his body and bones, but he had known Legolas too long to think that mere weariness was all that ailed him. But there was no point in persisting if Legolas chose not to be explicit, so he shrugged it off and continued eating. He did not notice Limloeth giving a surreptitious sideways glance at her youngest brother from the corner of her eyes. If he had, he would have realized that the princess of Mirkwood too saw through Legolas’s casual reply. And that she perhaps knew better than Faron what was troubling her brother.
“And they were merely watching?” Haldir asked incredulously, his brow furrowed with concern.
His brother Rúmil nodded. “Only for a few moments just before the dawn did they reveal themselves to me. But since the beginning of my watch, I felt that I was being observed. I believed at first that it was merely a warg or some solitary beast who feared coming closer, but now I suspect they watched us all night.”
The Lórien archer felt deeply disturbed. “What is happening here?” Neither he nor his brother could come up with a satisfactory answer, and at last Haldir said, “I shall report this to Lord Celeborn.”
“What will he say, do you think?” asked Rúmil.
“I do not know. Speak nothing of this for now,” Haldir told his brother. “Let us grant our guests some respite from the shadow.”
When Haldir went before Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel, he knew that his brother’s report troubled them. Though both looked as serene as ever, many centuries in their service had taught Haldir to read the small, nearly indiscernible signs of vexation. For Celeborn, it was the faintest furrowing of the brows, and Galadriel’s dazzling eyes seemed to dim slightly, betraying their unease. “Now the shadow encroaches our realm,” Galadriel murmured at length, her eyes downcast.
“Its power grows strong, but it cannot yet threaten us,” Celeborn said to her. It seemed to Haldir that Celeborn was trying to reassure Galadriel, which was odd, because it was she who normally spoke of hope. Now Galadriel seemed the one disheartened.
Returning her attention to Haldir, Galadriel said, “We must be ever on our guard, Haldir. Caution your watchers never to relax their vigilance.”
Haldir bowed deeply to her. “It shall be so, my lady.” Receiving their nods of dismissal, he departed, wishing he could now and then come before his Lord and Lady bearing something other than ill tidings. It seemed there had been nothing but ill news to report for the past three hundred years, and Haldir tired of it already. It grieved him deep in his heart to see Galadriel’s eyes darken with sorrow so often.
*The only comfort I can seem to offer her is the unflinching dedication of my warriors and myself,* he thought as he returned to the ground of the forest. *These days it seems not enough. Would that I had more power to dispel this shadow.*
The Lady Galadriel walked to the wide window of her dwelling after Haldir had gone, staring down to the forest floor. Through the gaps in the trees, she could just see the warriors breakfasting in the open beneath the golden canopy. None of them noticed her gaze, save one. Legolas happened to glance up, and his eyes inadvertently met hers. The young elf did not move, but stared at Galadriel with combined curiosity and awe until she moved from the window. She stepped back at last so that she could no longer see his face. *So very young to bear such weight. Were he and all his generation born only to see the world come to darkness? It is a cruel destiny, to be one of a few upon whom the fate of us all shall rest. Even the Mirror gave him no comprehension of what the future holds for him.*
Celeborn, standing just as he had been since Haldir had left, watched his wife, sensing her troubled thoughts. “The Enemy’s power grows,” he said quietly.
“It does,” said Galadriel, looking again out the window.
“You have sensed it?”
She nodded grimly. “He is seeking it, my love. I perceive him and his mind, more with each passing day. Ever he gropes to see me and my thought. For now, at least, our power shall repel him. But if the Enemy should find what he seeks…”
“He shall not, my love. All our power shall be bent to prevent it. The realms of the elves and Middle Earth shall not fall to him again,” Celeborn said, walking to her side and taking her hand. He did not go to the window, but knew of whom Galadriel had been reflecting. “You spoke to the son of Thranduil last night.” It was not a question.
“I did,” she answered, her own heart troubled by the darkness the young elf had seen. “Even that which the Mirror showed to him shall not be warning enough for the darkness he will face.”
“It cannot be avoided,” Celeborn told her. “Many will face great fear, sorrow, and death before the end, but only through sacrifice will Middle Earth be rid of evil. His shall be no different.”
“Nay,” Galadriel said softly. “A few will face far more than most, and give far more. All the realms and races of Middle Earth are imperiled by the shadow, and a very few from each race shall find themselves at the center of the quest to destroy it.” She turned to face her husband, feeling a sense of dread as though she were pronouncing a death sentence. “Fate has chosen Legolas of Mirkwood to stand for all the elves of Middle Earth, when the time calls all races together to combat the forces of darkness.”
Celeborn bowed his head, understanding now the particular interest Galadriel had had in the prince since his arrival. Celeborn had not the power of Galadriel, but his perception was greater than other elves. “There has always been little point in arguing with destiny. We shall all face struggle and woe before our time is done.”
Another premonition pricked Galadriel’s mind, and the Lady of Lórien turned her face toward the western border. Her eyes distant and seeing, Galadriel whispered, “The struggle shall began sooner than we realized.”
Several days later…
Elladan, Elrohir, and Glorfindel rode into Caras Galadhon to be greeted by the cheers of their fellow warriors and the elves of Lórien. The sons of Elrond, nearly fully-recovered from their respective wounds, dismounted their horses and made a great show of scraping and bowing graciously to the assembled elves, as Glorfindel laughed at them. Faron led the charge of warriors to clasp arms with his kinsmen. “We were beginning to think you two would never mend.”
Clapping the youngest Imladris warrior on the back, Elladan replied quickly, “It took Elrohir some time to recover.” Then he had to duck to avoid being clouted and the others laughed.
The elves of Mirkwood joined them along with the warriors of Lórien. “Langcyll and the others did not come with you?” asked Legolas, looking about.
“Nay, Elunen is still recovering from her injuries,” Glorfindel told him. “But I do not expect they will be more than a day or two behind us.” Reading the other warrior’s expression, the captain of Imladris thought, *The separation will do you good as well, young Legolas. I am glad to have extracted that promise from Langcyll when I did. Time for you to stand on your own two feet.*
Glorfindel turned his attention to Haldir as the warrior captain of Lórien approached. “I am glad to see you, Glorfindel. You think it will not be long before Langcyll joins us?”
“Nay,” Glorfindel replied. “All of his company save Elunen are now fit to travel, but they chose to wait until she was well. She will most likely be able to ride tomorrow.”
Haldir nodded. “Then in the mean time, Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel wished to see you as soon as you and the sons of Elrond arrived.”
“Lead on, then. Come, boys,” Glorfindel ordered Elladan and Elrohir, who had been about to begin astonishing several maids of Lórien with tales of their adventures.
With apologetic waves and promises to return, the sons of Elrond followed Glorfindel and Haldir to the dwelling of Galadriel.
Legolas felt somewhat guilty for leaving the others, but there was a place he had desired to go ever since his arrival, and he felt he could wait no longer. Shortly after Glorfindel and the twins returned from giving their report to Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel, the attention of everyone was focused enough upon them that Legolas was able to slip away without being noticed. Being among so many fair-haired elves, Legolas had noted how much less attention was paid to him (and relished every moment of it.) In this instance, none paid any heed to another fair head disappearing into the trees as the sun went down.
A few days before, Limloeth had told Legolas how to reach the Nimrodel from Caras Galadhon. Several of his friends from Lórien had offered to show Legolas, but the elf felt a strange desire to go alone. The truth was, he had yearned for a chance to be alone with his thoughts ever since that first night in Caras Galadhon, when he had looked into Galadriel’s Mirror.
Riding through the darkening wood on Lanthir’s back, Legolas pondered what he had seen, and the Lady’s words. *I have done nothing but ponder it all since then, and can make no more sense of it now than I could when I first saw it.*
The eyes of Lanthir were as keen as his rider’s in the dark, and the elven horse too seemed to have an instinctive awareness of their destination. Legolas hardly needed to guide him, and it was not long before elf and horse heard the musical flowing of Nimrodel ahead of them. Legolas dismounted and turned Lanthir loose, electing to walk the last few paces to the riverbank.
There was no moon, but starlight danced across the water’s rippling, foaming surface. Breathing deeply in the misty night air, Legolas walked slowly along the edge, enjoying the song of river and forest. He did not bother to keep track of either the distance or the time that passed, and felt no qualm about it. He could not remember a time he had felt so at peace.
Following a bend in the river, Legolas found a place where the stream slowed and grew deeper, and the trees hung gracefully over it, letting their longest branches brush its bubbling surface. Shedding his tunic and shoes, he climbed upon a rock and dove in, plunging deep before coming again to the surface. The water was cold, but its touch was clean, and soon Legolas felt that the stain of battle and fatigue of travel was being washed from him.
Thus he swam for some time, as long as the river remained deep enough to permit it, sometimes diving down to its bed, startling the fish, and other times paddling and floating along the surface, listening to the sweet voice of Nimrodel. At last, he felt the current speeding up as he approached the falls and climbed out of the water, shaking his head, and feeling as though he had taken a long, luxurious rest, rather than a vigorous swim. As he looked back up the bank the way he had come, the only question in his mind was whether to walk back to where he had left his clothes or to swim back upstream.
*I have not swum against current in years,* he thought idly, tossing a stone into the water. *Still, my wound is healed and I am fit; it has been long since I enjoyed a good swim.*
With that thought, he walked into the water again and began paddling back upriver. Diving down again and holding his breath, Legolas opened his eyes and gazed at the riverbed below him. No clogging scum or grime coated the bed of Nimrodel; the riverbed was lined with pebbles, shells, and gracefully waving plants, populated by fish, probably marveling at their good luck to live in such a place. Few predators fished here--other than the elves, that is, and they took no more fish than they needed.
As Legolas bobbed back down after filling his lungs again, a glimmer beneath him caught his eye. Diving closer to the bottom, he discovered a softly-gleaming object in the shallow part of the riverbed, uncovered by sand. It was a pearl. A round, white pearl, nestled against the base of a green kelp. Legolas picked it up and popped to the surface, standing and letting the river flow around him. Rolling the pure white gem with his fingertips, his perplexity soon melted, and a smile came to his lips. He plunged back under the water and returned the pearl to the base of the plant where he had found it, then swam on. *How I wish you were here to see this place, Tathar.*
Legolas swam along the surface then, until he reached the bend close to where the river turned fast and shallow again, and where he had left his clothes. Rounding that final turn, he swam to the bank and climbed from the water with regret, but full of peace. *Ah, Nimrodel, the legends do not exaggerate. I rather think they fail to do you justice.*
He found his clothes where he had left them in the shadow of a large, fallen tree limb, and had finished drying and dressing himself when he heard footsteps approaching stealthily. But the sounds were loud enough to tell him that these were not elves, but rather intruders, trying with little success to conceal the noise of their passage through the forest. Legolas slid noiselessly out of sight under the thick branches and watched.
Orcs, two or three of them, were creeping through the brush above the riverbank opposite him. Legolas felt white-hot fury course through him at this foul invasion into Galadriel’s sacred realm. But he was only one, and caution stayed his hand from making use of his bow. Instead, he watched.
The fell creatures of Mordor seemed almost like scouts, surveying the land they planned to invade. But this was odd, because orcs seldom, if ever, resorted to that kind of technique. From all Legolas had seen and all his elder comrades had told him, the most strategy orc armies ever used was charging headlong without bothering with reconnaissance. *This is an ill turn, if along with their increasing number, these beasts are growing smarter.*
His powerful eyesight kept the orcs within his view for some distance, and they were still well within earshot of him when another sound reached his ears. The orcs froze, and Legolas recognized the soft footfalls of an unsuspecting elf, wandering the forest--and heading straight to where the orcs were now hiding in the undergrowth. His hand was forced. Leaping from the cover of the brush, Legolas took aim with his bow to where he knew the fell creatures had hidden, and let an arrow fly. The struck creature’s scream of pain was deafening, and a startled gasp told Legolas that the other elf had now been warned. The orcs instinctively looked back in the direction from which the arrow had come, and saw the lone elf standing on the riverbank. With screeches of challenge, the two remaining creatures charged at Legolas, and found themselves almost instantly felled by his bow.
Splashing across the shallow part of the river, Legolas came upon the carcasses of the three orcs and eyed them with distaste before retrieving his arrows. A faint rustling in the brush startled him, and he looked up to see a she-elf of Lórien coming towards him, staring in disbelief at the orcs. Raising her eyes to meet his, she demanded, “How did this foulness manage to breach our land?”
“I know not,” replied Legolas.
“Were you not on the watch?” she asked him.
Legolas realized she was mistaking him for one of her own relations and smiled, “Nay, I am not of this land, Lady.”
The maiden blinked and looked at him more closely. Legolas was wearing a silver tunic gifted to him from his new brother-in-law, rather than his usual Mirkwood colors, and it took her a moment to recognize him as one of her northern kindred. She at last connected his classically Lórien features with what she knew of the elves of Mirkwood and laughed, “Forgive me, my lord, you look so like one of my brethren that I did not recognize you.”
Laughing in his turn, Legolas replied, “No apologies are necessary, Lady; this was an unexpected meeting.” Glancing about with a frown, he asked her, “Were you walking alone?”
“I was,” the maiden sighed, gazing at the dead orcs. “Until tonight, none of us has ever seen the need for such concern within the borders of Lórien.”
With a sigh of his own, Legolas looked around him, “It seems there is a need now. We should return to Caras Galadhon and inform the captain of the watch.”
The maiden agreed, and Legolas whistled for Lanthir. The horse bounded up, and Legolas mounted with the maiden in front of him, then they set off. “I am Gaeriel, daughter of Maethor of Lórien,” she told him. “I presume you are Legolas, son of Thranduil.”
“I am, my lady,” Legolas replied respectfully. He knew Maethor was among the highest noble elves in Lórien, not far below Galadriel and Celeborn, and his wife Lady Idhren was a ranking elf of Imladris. It was all he could do not to cringe at the thought of the remarks he would hear when he rode into Caras Galadhon with one of the highest ranking ladies in all the elven realms in front of him, but it could not be helped.
Before the silence could become uncomfortable, Lady Gaeriel said, “I had heard of the troubles your war party faced in the mountains. I suppose we should not be surprised the creatures of Mordor are now aiming to attack Lothlórien.”
Legolas nodded, “Not surprised, perhaps, but it is galling nonetheless.”
“Orcs and spiders penetrated Mirkwood centuries ago.”
Defensively, he answered, “Mirkwood is much larger than Lórien, Lady, and the shadow fell directly over great expanses of it. Even all the warrior companies of Middle Earth could not cover that ground, at least not without abandoning the rest of their realms.”
“I meant no slight against Mirkwood or its people, my lord. It is simply fact, although cruel. Mirkwood is all but taken, Imladris is plagued more and more with each passing year, and now the borders of Lórien have been breached. Soon there will be no safe place in Middle Earth,” Gaeriel’s voice was sad.
Her voice echoed the warrior’s feelings, and he said gravely, “A fitting portent of the return of the Enemy.” He felt the Lady of Lórien stiffen in front of him, and she turned wide hazel eyes to meet his, dismayed by his words. They spoke little more for the rest of the ride.
The arrival and report from Prince Legolas and Lady Gaeriel set all of Lórien into a hue and cry. Lanterns that had been extinguished at that late hour were lit again, elves ran to and fro, and all of Caras Galadhon was ablaze with light. Warriors were mustered and charged off into the wood on patrol for more foul intruders, and Legolas joined the fit members of his company returning to the camp where Langcyll and the remaining warriors of Mirkwood had stayed. Legolas glanced over his shoulder as he and his companions rode away, in time to see the Lady Gaeriel vanishing into one of the larger trees, her auburn hair changing silver light to gold. He turned back to see Faron grinning at him. “What?” he demanded.
With a disgusting leer, his friend drawled, “I wondered where you had disappeared to after dinner. I did not know you and Lady Gaeriel had been introduced!”
“We only met after encountering the orcs,” Legolas growled.
“Indeed?” said Glorfindel with feigned incredulity in his voice. Legolas glared at the Imladris captain, then at Elladan and Elrohir as they began to nudge each other and wink at the others. The entire company was soon enjoying a good laugh at the prince of Mirkwood’s expense.
“Was Lady Gaeriel not offered to you during the Gathering?” Galithil asked sweetly.
Legolas gritted his teeth and did not answer, but Faron told her (loudly), “Nay, it is safe to say that Gaeriel, daughter of Maethor, is one of the few ladies in Middle Earth whose prospects might be higher than Legolas. Eregolf offered for her and was refused.”
That startled Legolas, and Nathron whistled in astonishment. “Eregolf may not be a prince, but nor is he lacking in noble blood. Did Maethor refuse, or Gaeriel herself?”
“I know not.” Legolas began breathing a sigh of relief that the company’s attention was turned away from him, but found he was too soon, for Faron began grinning again, “Perhaps after tonight, her inclinations might be toward marrying outside her own realm--”
“Enough!” Legolas practically barked.
“You are blushing, Legolas!”
When they reached the campsite and were reunited with the rest of the company, they learned that a large party of orcs had been seen in the low hills just beyond Lórien. “Watching again?” Legolas asked Orophin.
“Yea. And there has been more than one group tonight. At first it seemed that they were just advancing and falling back, but now I believe there are different bands coming onto the ridge for a peek at our borders,” Haldir’s brother told the younger elf.
“They mean to launch a full-scale attack,” Glorfindel said. It was more an expectation than a question.
“I fear so,” said Orophin. “They must realize that the power of Lady Galadriel will prevent them from getting far within our woods undetected, so they try instead a head-on assault.”
Several of the company shuddered. An orc assault upon Lothlórien. It seemed inconceivable. “What shall we do?” Fanfirith asked Glorfindel and Orophin.
“We are to join the reinforcements fortifying the border,” said Glorfindel. “They know we are aware of them, yet still they come. They must have a very large force to try and threaten us.”
Orophin nodded as he led them to join the border guards, “We expect their attack no later than dusk tonight. We have that much time to prepare.”
Reunited at last, the company rode together to the border with Orophin. “How is your side, Elunen?” Legolas enquired.
“It is well,” the warrioress answered, stretching her torso to demonstrate. “I have been ready to rejoin the rest of you for two days, but Langcyll insisted on waiting longer.”
They heard the captain of Mirkwood chuckle. “I know of none who make more difficult patients, except perhaps you, Legolas.”
The younger warrior smiled sheepishly (he knew it to be true.) Unfortunately, Faron chose that moment to announce to their newly-arrived companions that Legolas had ridden into Caras Galadhon with a handsome lady of Lórien on his horse. Whistles, snickers, and raised eyebrows were instantly directed at Legolas, who in turn directed a fierce scowl at Faron. “I could not very well let her walk back when there were orcs on the prowl, Faron, and I’ll thank you to cease this ridiculous gossiping,” he said curtly.
Unintimidated, his friend just grinned. Looking away, Legolas shook his head in disgust. *One of these days, I shall have my share of laughter at his expense.*
A large company of warriors were already at the border nearest the mountains when the company of Langcyll and Glorfindel arrived. The sun was well overhead by then, and Haldir was returning with a scouting party from the foothills. “We dared not venture too close to Moria or into the caves,” he told the assembled defenders. “But we did see signs of many orcs in the area. We also heard them when we came close to the caverns.”
“How many will there be, do you think?” Langcyll asked in a foreboding tone.
Haldir turned and faced the hills again, gleaming green, yellow, and brown in the late autumn sun. It would not be cool enough tonight to slow the orcs down. Answering Langcyll question, he said grimly, “I fear we will be facing as many as an entire legion. An army to be sure, and more organized than most marauding bands we have been encountering for the past millennia.”
“We shall have to be more organized in our defense, then,” said Glorfindel.
Another group of riders came from Caras Galadhon then, carrying weapons and supplies. Haldir sighed. *After the Last Alliance, I had hoped never again to be fighting this way. War and patrol parties are a necessity in their own right, but this sort of regimented, methodical bloodshed is abhorrent to our people.* But his patrol had seen the warning signs of the massing orcs, and knew the vile beasts would be coming for his land whether his people found wholesale slaughter distasteful or not.
Turning to the visiting captains, and his fellow Lórien warriors, Haldir said, “I agree. Each of the captains shall command a unit of warriors in the defense, and we shall form brigades to protect each stretch of the border. They outnumber us at least five to one, perhaps more. The beasts of Sauron must not penetrate Lothlórien.” Glancing up at the sun, he announced, “We have four, perhaps five hours until full dark.”
And so the elves were mustered in the defense of Lothlórien. Langcyll, Glorfindel, Haldir, Rúmil, and Orthelian divided command of the warriors into five divisions. Langcyll took all of his Mirkwood warriors and several dozen Lórien warriors, bringing his unit to fifty. Each of the other captains commanded a group of the same number.
Haldir noticed that although he had in effect given an equal rank to each of the five, the other four commanders still deferred to him, acknowledging him as still the ranking warrior of this realm, and first in charge of its defense. *Tonight we shall know whether I am worthy of this command,* the captain of Lórien thought grimly.
As the sun continued its careless arc across the sky, the defenders of Lórien worked furiously to prepare for a head-on assault. Limloeth of Mirkwood was knocking dead branches from the trees to prevent accidental falls in the heat of battle. From her vantage point in the division under the command of Rúmil, she could just see her husband Orthelian commanding the division on her right, and her brother Legolas under the command of Langcyll on her left.
The princess shuddered, knocking loose another dangerous dead limb and absently patting the bole of the tree she was in. She was the second of Thranduil of Mirkwood’s children, and she and her elder brother Berensul had fought in the Last Alliance with their father, in the battle on the slopes of Mount Doom where their grandfather and many of their kin had been slain. The deja-vu of this approaching battle made Limloeth, like Haldir, slightly nauseated with tension and horrific memory. *As we marched home with Father, bearing the dead and wounded bodies of so many of our kindred, I asked only one thing of fate: that I should never see such a battle again. How bitter that even that simple prayer went unanswered.*
Beneath her on the ground, elves were being given extra quivers of arrows, swords, and spears by the continuous stream of supply parties that rode out from Caras Galadhon. Like every other elf in Middle Earth, Limloeth revered the Golden Wood and the City of Light. The thought of the foul creatures of Sauron tramping through the woods of Lothlórien was too dreadful to picture.
More warriors were rigging a line of sharpened posts pointing out of the trees. Limloeth smiled grimly to herself. The orcs would find Lórien turned into a nest of wooden thorns by the time they attacked. *They shall soon learn the folly of their boldness,* she told herself resolutely. *No beast of Sauron shall cross into my land while I or any of my kindred still draw breath.*
The sun was sinking lower, and the elves were speeding their work. Legolas looked over his shoulder into the darkening forest. Well back into the trees, he could see healers readying their herbs, bandages, and tools on hastily-erected flets in the trees. Langcyll brushed past him on his way to the front, and Legolas caught his arm, gesturing at the healers. “Most of us were too weak to climb when we were seriously wounded.”
Langcyll looked back as well, and told Legolas, “See if something can be rigged to lift our wounded into the trees. They will not be safe upon the ground while the battle is being fought.”
Legolas nodded and darted away. With the help of several hastily-recruited warriors and healers, he rigged litters with ropes to lift them up to the flets and talans where the injured would be safe. Testing one by riding it into the tree, Legolas felt his stomach turn at the sight of the piles of herbs and bandages. *Never has there been such certainty of serious casualties. They look as though they are preparing for a massacre.*
Dropping down from the flet, Legolas was satisfied that the wounded would be safely evacuated to the treetops, and returned to the front. The sun was now behind the mountains, and the sky was red. The warriors at the front were quiet, and Legolas could hear distant orc shrieks. *Again, they will charge straight for us the minute the light has vanished.*
Red flags waved from each division, including Langcyll’s. The captain ordered the best archers into the trees, Legolas and Faron included. “Do not shoot until you have a good aim,” Langcyll warned the archers. “Do not waste arrows, for they have a massive advantage in numbers.”
The sun was all but gone as Legolas took up his perch in the V of a sturdy tree limb, only just above the heads of the warriors on the ground, but where he had a clear view of the approach to the forest. Looking to his right, he saw his sister Limloeth in another tree. Their eyes met, and her anxiety was visible as she raised a hand in a silent blessing. Legolas responded in kind. *Do not be afraid for me, sister. I can take care of myself.* He smiled at her and she grinned back, they both knew she had mothered him for far too long for two years’ separation to break the habit. Limloeth would always fret over Legolas. His attention returned to his own division as Langcyll waved a white flag, indicating his division’s readiness.
The last rays of light vanished, turning the sky behind the dark hills royal blue. Upon the ridge in the hills, Legolas saw a line of darkness appear, as massive numbers of orcs began gathering in preparation to charge the realm of Galadriel. Langcyll was just below him. Without looking up at the young warrior, the captain said, “There, Legolas, now you see before you an orc army. A shade different from the bands we have fought before.”
“You fought many such armies and survived,” replied Legolas, not taking his eyes from the growing shadow over the hills. “You turned them back before, and we shall tonight.”
Orophin was beside Langcyll. “My brother estimated correctly. There are at least a thousand, perhaps two or three thousand.”
“Assuming they have no reinforcements waiting still in the caves,” Elunen said.
“Make ready, all of you,” Langcyll ordered. The warriors braced themselves. A single shriek filled the air followed by the beat of drums. “Here they come!”
From thousands of orc throats came a collective battle cry so loud that it all but deafened the waiting elves. Then the sound of the drums was practically drowned out by the thundering of feet as the legion poured over the hills like a flood of slimy black water. Legolas steadied himself on his perch and readied an arrow, waiting for the instant when an orc would come into his line of fire. *You shall not take us, or this land. Not while I live, or any of us.*
He could have fired randomly into the mass and probably strike true every time, but he had no intention of being careless with his arrows. But he did not have long to wait, soon he could distinguish the foul creatures from one another, and wasted no time sighting one and shooting. The orc dropped, tripping up several of its comrades, and by the time the first of them rose again, Legolas had felled six more.
A rain of elven arrows decimated the first line of orc attackers, but the creatures pressed on. They still had considerable ground to cover before reaching the trees. They had their shields raised, but the moon was full and rising fast, so superior elven eyes found every gap in their defenses.
Still they came, charging at the borders of Lórien. And their shields were presenting a problem for the archers, for it prevented them from increasing their rate of shooting. “Spear-bearers, make ready!” Langcyll bellowed over the din of charging orcs and whistling arrows.
Legolas sat back on his branch and waited as the warriors below turned their spears to javelins. On Langcyll’s command, a deadly cloud of spears sailed through the air onto the orcs charging the warriors. The hard, strong metal spearheads pierced right through the orc shields and felled many of them. The rest found themselves unprotected and were met by a new hail of elven arrows.
And still they came, closer with every second. It seemed to Legolas that the nearly three hundred elven warriors on the border were barely making a dent in this multitude. And the orcs were nearly upon them. The elves were spreading out into the trees, aware that hand-to-hand combat was imminent. Legolas stood upon his branch, continuing to aim and shoot as the first orcs rushed headlong into the pointy-edged wooden fence the elves had erected.
The momentum of the army’s charge was so powerful that the hundreds of orcs in the front of the legion were unable to slow in time, nor did they have the space to clamber over the barricades. Instead, they were driven helplessly forward by the force of their own companions’ headlong charge, and impaled by the dozens upon the stakes. Had Legolas not been painfully aware of the brutal battle about to take place, he would have laughed. The utter lack of strategy or battle-sense in orcs was a long-running joke among elves and indeed all free races of Middle Earth, a joke that had been told as long as the orcs themselves had existed.
But now the weight of dead and still-pressing orcs was breaking the barricade down. Legolas knew there was no longer any point in saving his arrows; he would be fighting on the ground in seconds and there would be no space for shooting. He emptied his last quiver into the orcs crawling over the bodies of their fellows, and readied himself to jump.
The first orcs gained the top of the pile of broken wood and dead bodies, and leapt toward the waiting elf warriors. Three charged Langcyll at once, and Legolas chose that moment to jump, taking two of them down with the weight of his body. He embedded one knife in the neck of each and scrambled to his feet in time to see Langcyll dispatch the third. “Spread out!” Langcyll yelled at him. “We must not press too close!”
The elves backed away several yards from the barricades as the orcs poured over, then ran to meet the new charge. Seeing the other elves in front of him dashing into the fray, Legolas wondered, *How many of us shall be dead when the sun rises?* Drawing his Lórien-crafted sword (a gift from Haldir) in one hand and one of his knives in another, Legolas whirled into action. There was no longer time to think, only to act.
They came, seemingly from all directions, though Legolas knew that he was facing them and two capable elves flanked him, but it seemed that orcs were all around. Sweeping his sword, he beheaded one, then ducked beneath the blow of another, slashing his knife through its throat, only to turn and be forced to dodge the swipe of a third. An inconsequential swipe of an orcish dagger licked across his arm as he drove his knife into a random orc throat, and swung his sword in the other direction parrying a sword blow from another orc. He spun back, but this one was a better fighter than the first few, and it took Legolas several blows to get past the creature’s defenses and dispatch it, running it clean through.
Wrenching his sword free, the elf warrior staggered and looked around, feeling slightly disoriented. All about him were fighting bodies beneath the trees, as far as his eyes could see. Orc screeches, elf challenges, and cries of pain from both deafened him. There were so many around Legolas that he could scarcely tell which direction the main force was coming from anymore. With a shake of his head, he plunged back into battle, surging forward to meet another wave of orcs.
Elladan slung his brother Elrohir’s arm over his shoulder and half-dragged, half-carried him deeper into the forest to where the healers were treating the wounded. Glorfindel and three elves of Lórien were covering them until they cleared the battle, and Elladan grunted at his twin, “Our wounds only just healed and you go and get yourself stabbed again. I cannot take my eyes off you for a second!”
In a shaky but cheerful voice, Elrohir answered, “After your fine lack of self-defense in our last battle, I was distracted by the necessity of looking after you. If I could trust you to take care of yourself, I could pay more attention to my own foes.”
Elladan would have answered, but his younger twin hissed in pain then, one hand moving involuntarily to the deep and nasty stab wound in his hip. The injury was bleeding profusely, and cursing with gritted teeth, Elladan quickened his pace. Just as they finally reached the healers’ post, and several ran to meet them, the pain became too much, and Elrohir went limp. Elladan did not falter, but swept his brother into his arms and broke into a run. The healers hurried to his side, examining the wound. “I do not think he is in mortal danger, but the bleeding must be stopped,” he panted.
“Quickly,” the healer helped Elladan stretch out his unconscious twin upon the litter on the ground, then someone dropped a roll of bandages from the trees. The healer hastily tied off the wound to halt the bleeding, and waved up into the tree. Elladan blinked in surprise as four elves on the flet above pulled ropes from the branches and hoisted the litter up to them.
Elladan knew he should return to the battle, but he climbed quickly up to look as the healers put a better dressing on the wound. “Well?”
“It is not terribly serious, Lord Elladan,” the healer reported. “The knife struck the hip bone, and he will not have the use of his legs for a few days, but the bleeding is under control. He will recover completely.”
A half-gasp, half-sob of relief escaped the son of Elrond. Gripping the healer’s shoulder, Elladan managed to say, “My deepest thanks. I must return now.”
“Take care, warrior and kinsman,” the healer said. “We shall look after Lord Elrohir.”
Nodding quickly and stooping to gently touch his brother’s shoulder, the Imladris warrior forced himself to descend from the tree. Turning back towards the sounds of battle, he passed many wounded elves staggering or being carried toward the healers’ post. Among them, he saw Galithil of Mirkwood, Orophin of Lórien, and Maethor of Lórien, along with many, many others who passed swiftly by. *We are losing many of our people,* he thought frantically as he began to sprint faster back to the battle. *If we are not taking at least three times as many orcs, we are done for.*
Langcyll of Mirkwood was also returning from the healer post after carrying a wounded Lórien elf from his division there. Bursting back into the melee, he feared what he might find. Whirling his sword and spear at any black beast that came too close, he also cast his eyes about for his warriors. Orophin had taken an arrow through the shoulder (it must have been pure chance that an orc happened to hit him in this fracas) and assured Langcyll that he could reach the healers himself. Galithil had also fallen, and one of the others had carried her toward safety.
There was Elunen, spearing orcs as they jumped over the barricades until her spear looked like a meat-stick, and Glanaur and Fanfirith back-to-back, sword-fighting with helmeted orcs. There was Nathron pinning an orc to a tree with his sword and...where was Legolas?
Dodging, then parrying an attack from an orcish spear, Langcyll looked desperately around. There were orcs and elves fighting in every direction, but with so many fair Lórien elves about, it was impossible to pick out Legolas in the chaos. Langcyll’s experience warned him not to call out for the prince; Legolas would take it as a warning of danger and might be distracted–which amid this madness might prove fatal. Langcyll dared not, and Glorfindel’s words to him came back again.
*I must cease this line of thought. Glorfindel was right. I must pay attention to the welfare of all my warriors and myself,* the captain of Mirkwood told himself firmly, forcing himself to focus on his own fight. *After all,* he reminded himself, *Legolas may be the youngest, but he has swiftly become one of the best, and I think will soon be the best of all my warriors. He will be fine.
*He must be.*
*By the Valar, they are everywhere!* Legolas could not be sure whether it was ten minutes or ten hours that had passed since the sun had set, and still the orcs came. He was cut, bruised, and bloody from head to toe, his clothes torn, his hair wet and streaked with sweat and dirt. His body ached, throbbed, and stung from the numerous small wounds he had received.
He was in the middle of a fierce sword battle with an especially quick orc, who also bore a shield while Legolas did not. Dodging and parrying hard blows, Legolas retreated backwards just as another orc behind him was shot down by a fellow warrior. The creature fell directly behind Legolas, and the prince was unable to cease his hasty steps backwards in time. He stumbled over the carcass, falling helplessly backwards, and the sword flew from his hand. The orc leapt forward for the kill, and Legolas hastily scuttled back more on the ground, having no time to rise. Even as the orc raised its sword to deliver a death blow and Legolas flinched, a shriek went up from all around. It was the warning of the orcs–the sun was coming back. The attacking orc faltered, and Legolas rolled aside, grabbed a discarded knife from the ground and hurled it with deadly accuracy into the creature’s head.
Fighting off growing weariness, the elf sprang to his feet, knowing the orcs’ only hope was now to retreat back to the mountains or attempt (foolishly) to go deeper into Lórien to escape the sun. Surely they would...but they did not retreat. This meant that they knew the battle would end with their defeat--or rather, massacre--if they did not get past the elves and into the deep woods. Retrieving his sword and knife, Legolas readied himself for a still-harder charge, that would now be borne of desperation.
The orcs did not disappoint him. Two of them flung themselves at Legolas so hard that all three combatants were nearly thrown to the ground. Legolas spitted one with his sword and had a deal of difficulty freeing his hand to gut the other with his long knife. All around him, the press of panicked but determined orcs was pushing the elven warriors back, but though the defense lines bent, they did not break. Legolas was still facing west, the direction from whence the orcs were coming, so he had no way of seeing how close the sun was to rising. An elf’s cry of pain caught his attention and he turned to see a dark-haired she-elf wearing Lórien colors fall under a blow from an orc sword. His heart leapt to his throat. It was Limloeth.
“No--” Legolas beheaded four orcs in his race to his sister’s side.
Limloeth was semiconscious, blood gushing from a deep wound in her abdomen. Legolas sensed rather than consciously saw several warriors come to protective positions around him, but did not bother looking to see who they were. “Legolas, get her out of here!” He did recognize Orthelian’s voice, and the panic in it.
As he pressed hard on the wound to stop the bleeding, Legolas held his sister against him, and he trembled helplessly. “You will be all right, Lim,” he whispered repeatedly, keeping the pressure on her injury.
“Legolas?” she raised pain-filled eyes to his face and let her head drop to his shoulder again. Squeezing her eyes shut against the pain, she said, “I do not think it is so bad. I’ve had worse.”
Choking back a sob, Legolas asked her, “Can you keep your hand over it? I must get you to the healers.”
Limloeth nodded and took the blood-soaked piece of cloth Legolas had been using, and held it against her own wound. The youngest prince of Mirkwood swept his one living sister into his arms and carried her swiftly through the forest. A great howl went up behind him, and he heard voices cry, “Look out!”
His arms were full; there was no way Legolas could aid the warriors at this time. But facing east, he saw light through the treetops as the orcs managed to break through the warriors in their efforts to escape the sun. Looking back, Legolas saw at least a dozen orcs bearing straight toward him, prepared to kill both him and Limloeth to make their escape. He ran, wincing as Limloeth’s breath caught with pain, but he had to stay ahead of the orcs. Other warriors were rushing the creatures, trying to stop them, but the orcs knew they were out of time.
“Put me down, Legolas,” his sister pleaded. “They’re almost upon you!”
“No!” Legolas snapped. He could not be certain that he could protect her against so many, and he would never leave her.
All at once, a great light appeared in front of him in a blinding flash, and a strange force knocked him backwards, off balance. Dropping to his knees, Legolas laid Limloeth swiftly down, drew his knives, and whirled to attack the approaching orcs, but to his astonishment, they had fallen as well, and lay dead where they had dropped. Turning back in confusion, Legolas froze.
The Lady Galadriel was standing not far away, an otherworldly look in her eyes, and glowing with a brilliance even greater than normal. Legolas knelt again beside Limloeth, partly to see to her wound but also because he did not think his legs would support him if he continued to look upon Galadriel. Limloeth remained conscious and coherent, but she also was struck dumb.
Galadriel’s eyes surveyed the scene of the battle, where orc corpses lay in great heaps, and elves stared about in confusion, wondering why the creatures had suddenly dropped dead. When she spoke, the eyes of every one were upon her, for there was a fierceness in her voice and her face, “The creatures of the Enemy will hesitate to attack our borders with such impunity again.”
Sitting up with her brother’s anxious help, Limloeth fought past her own pain and asked, “Is it over, my lady?”
The hard, fierce eyes became soft and sad, and Galadriel turned her gaze to the wounded warrioress. Slowly she nodded, but then, in a quiet voice that somehow carried to be heard by all, the Lady Galadriel added grimly, “Until the next time.”
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.