16. Farewell to Lorien
Gritting her teeth against the pain, Limloeth replied, “Not so very bad.”
Legolas moved to pick Limloeth up again and carry her to the healers, when Galadriel raised a hand. He hesitated, and the lady glided through the trees and knelt gracefully at the prince and princess’s side. She wore a white cloak over her gown, and from she removed a thick white cloth, and a phial of some liquid. Liberally dousing the cloth with the medicine, she eased the bloodstained tunic aside and gently laid the cloth against Limloeth’s wound.
The princess flinched slightly as though anticipating great pain, but relaxed as soon as the dosed cloth came into contact with her skin. Legolas, holding her hand tightly, looked with awe at the lady, whose eyes were on the stab wound. After a moment, she took Limloeth’s hand and placed it over the cloth. “Hold it there until the wound is dressed by the healers,” she told the warrioress. “It will prevent more bleeding.” Raising her eyes to Legolas, she nodded in the direction of the healers’ post, and Legolas needed no urging to lift his sister and bear her swiftly away.
Having no need to run but walking hastily, Legolas stopped in his tracks when he came through the trees to the healers’ post. He beheld a scene certain to give him nightmares for years. Nearly twenty healers had come from Caras Galadhon and other parts of Lórien, anticipating heavy casualties in the battle on the border. But now, they were all but overwhelmed, rushing from one wounded warrior to the next, enlisting the less-injured warriors to help.
Everywhere, all over the ground, elven warriors lay bloodied, some unconscious, some gasping and groaning in pain. A moan of dismay issued from Limloeth, and Legolas felt his throat tighten until he could not breathe. A healer glanced up and saw them standing at the edge of the awful scene, “You there, what ails her?”
Finding his voice (with great effort) Legolas said, “She was stabbed.”
The frazzled, anxious healer beckoned imperiously at Legolas to bring Limloeth as he shouted for another blanket to be laid on the ground. Lifting the cloth from Galadriel to examine the wound, the healer handed Legolas some bandages. “The bleeding has stopped. Just make sure the wound is clean and put the dressing on. I must see to the others. When you’ve done that, we need all the help we can get.”
Legolas nodded hastily and set about dressing his sister’s wound. He tried to blot out the sights and sounds of suffering all around him, and his hands trembled as he worked. Limloeth’s hand suddenly closed upon his as he finished fastening a bandage. “It will be all right, Brother.”
Swallowing hard, he murmured, “How many of our people are dead, do you suppose?”
“We will not know for some time yet. But you must accept that such things happen. It is the way of all warriors,” Limloeth was weak from loss of blood and laid her head back down.
Legolas nodded, “I know.” Finishing the dressing, he squeezed her hand and said, “I must help.”
“Go, little brother. I’ll be all right.” Kissing his sister on the forehead, Legolas rose and walked away to join the effort of caring for the rest of the wounded.
To Glorfindel, the next hours were a blur of anxiety and haste, as he rushed from warrior to warrior on the ground, trying to halt bleeding, bandage cuts, splint bones, and ease pain. The elf lord rose from bandaging a nasty stab wound only to race to the side of a staggering warrior barely able to walk for a broken leg. Carrying the warrior of Lórien to a blanket, Glorfindel made him drink some olgalas draught to knock him out, then set and braced the broken bone. No sooner had he done that than another healer shouted for assistance with yet another wounded warrior.
The moans of the wounded somehow seemed louder than the battle shrieks of the orcs. Glorfindel wiped sweat and blood from his face as he dosed another warrior unconscious, but the casualties kept coming, and the healers were running out of herbs. “I had hoped never to see such a sight again,” the Imladris elf murmured to himself as he stood wearily, gazing at the injured lying all around him.
“Glorfindel? Can you ride?” one of the healers shouted.
“Yes!” he called back, hurrying to see what was needed.
The tired, beleaguered healer waved a hand helplessly at the mass of injured elves, “We must have more olgalas draught, and healing herbs. In fact, anything that can be brought from Caras Galadhon would be of use. This was far worse than we had expected.”
*Someday I should like to fight a battle that turns out not as a bad as expected,* Glorfindel thought bitterly, whistling sharply for his horse.
The ride was long and hard, but not hard enough to distract the Imladris warrior from worrying about his comrades back at the edge of the woods. His arrival at Caras Galadhon brought a multitude of anxious elves rushing from their dwellings to hear tidings of the battle. It did no good to try and evade the truth. “The orc army is defeated, but there are many casualties,” he shouted over the chorus of questions. “The assistance is urgently needed of all those with healing skills, and all the supplies that can be brought.”
Forcing himself to ignore the cries of dismay and the rush of elves darting off in all directions to respond to his call, Glorfindel dismounted, intending to go for supplies himself. Suddenly several elves crowded near him gave way, and the warrior captain turned to see Lord Celeborn coming swiftly, yet calmly, towards him. “My lord?”
“Come, Glorfindel, I require a report,” the lord of Lórien said.
“I…” Glorfindel faltered, feeling anxiety, weariness, and frustration well up inside him. *There are dozens, perhaps more than a hundred wounded warriors on the border--I cannot simply stand here in the City of Trees and make reports!*
But the Imladris warrior could see that Lord Celeborn was not to be kept waiting, and so he followed Celeborn into a pavilion on the ground to speak. No sooner had Celeborn turned to face Glorfindel than the younger elf lord began speaking hastily, his mind only half on his words, “The orcs of Sauron had perhaps an entire legion, my lord. Over a thousand to be sure. We held them back from the barricades for some time, but when they broke through, our forces sustained heavy casualties. I estimate at least one hundred are out of action, with nearly every one wounded in some form or another, and things would likely have gone worse if the Lady Galadriel had not arrived--”
“You are very agitated, Glorfindel,” said Celeborn in an infuriatingly level tone.
Without realizing he was wringing his hands, Glorfindel snapped, “How can you not be? Do you not see what is happening here? The shadow grows even as our people fade, and now the creatures of Sauron seek to slaughter us along with all the free peoples of Middle Earth--”
“Peace, elf of Imladris!” Celeborn said sharply, raising a hand to cut off the tirade. The lord of Lórien took a single step forward and placed a hand upon Glorfindel’s shoulder. “If we allow ourselves to despair, all will be lost.”
Glorfindel forced himself to be silent and catch his breath. The images of his wounded kindred at last ceased spinning through his anguished and weary mind. Raising his eyes to meet Celeborn’s, he murmured, “When the Enemy rose to might before, the Last Alliance nearly did not succeed in defeating it. Now the race of men is scattered, and the Eldar are departing Middle Earth in droves, leaving those who remain to fade into forgetfulness. If the shadow rises this time, how are we to challenge it?”
“By never giving in, as you know perfectly well, my friend,” said Celeborn. Glorfindel looked away and smiled sadly, shaking his head. In the clearing at the center of Caras Galadhon, dozens of elves carrying bundles of supplies were mounting horses and racing into the woods. When he turned back to Celeborn, the elven lord gripped his shoulder one last time and released him. “Return to the warriors, and offer them what aid you can. Remember, Glorfindel, we must maintain their hope along with their bodies if we are to survive.”
A few days later…
The sun had risen upon a grim scene at the borders of Lothlórien, the day after the attack. The orc attack had been repulsed through the efforts of the warriors, and Lady Galadriel, but at a heavy price. Eighteen warriors had been slain, and thirty more remained gravely wounded. Langcyll of Mirkwood stood upon a bridge over a creek in the center of Caras Galadhon, watching the activity of elves in the sunlight, but his heart was heavy.
By some blessed turn of fate, none of Langcyll’s company had perished in the battle, though he had lost several friends among the Lórien dead. These next few weeks would be a time of great mourning for all the elves of Middle Earth, and messangers had raced away from Lórien to the other realms about the battle and its tragic outcome.
The company of Langcyll and Glorfindel was to set out again in a few days, with several warriors of Lórien. But Langcyll now faced a dilemma. Lórien had lost two of its captains in the battle, and several seasoned warriors. Thus their strength was diminished. After the forces of Mirkwood, Imladris, and Lórien returned to the plains, the forces of Lórien had intended to sweep south into Ithilien. But having lost some of their best warriors--they would need reinforcements.
*My company has been on the move for nearly three years,* thought Langcyll. *They are travel and battle weary. But some of them, maybe many of them, may wish to join the forces of Lórien on the mission south. If we go south all the way to the borders of Mordor, we may be gone for many years more. Perhaps decades more.*
It was not as if three years was a terribly long journey by elven standards; this one had just seen more action than most. Langcyll and most of the other seasoned warriors had joined missions that had lasted as long as sixty years, traveling all throughout Middle Earth back in the days even before the Second Age. *But I cannot be certain my warriors will wish to continue after seeing so much heartache. Perhaps it would be better just to return…though some of us may find heartache at home as well.*
The captain of Mirkwood watched his company mending arrows and whetting knives with Haldir and several of his warriors. Inevitably, his eyes were drawn to the fair-haired elves, though it took him a moment to locate Legolas among all the warriors of Lórien. Langcyll was convinced that he was regaining his objectivity where the son of Thranduil was concerned--and the approving glances he was receiving from Glorfindel confirmed it--but there was no denying the way his heart had clenched during the aftermath of the battle until he had at last found Legolas, unharmed and caring for the wounded.
*He will face the greatest trial of us all when we return to Mirkwood,* the captain thought. *I wonder if he would choose to ride south instead.* Hearing footsteps behind him, Langcyll turned and nodded to Glorfindel. The captain of Imladris joined Langcyll on the bridge and said, “Haldir asked my how my warriors were faring. He wishes us to travel south with them.”
With a nod, Langcyll replied, “He has approached me on the subject as well. Have you any thoughts?”
Glorfindel shook his head. “I find I cannot make such a decision without including my warriors. What think you? Shall we ask the company?”
Without removing his eyes from the warriors in the circle, Langcyll slowly nodded. “It is a heavy decision for each. I would know all their opinions before committing us.”
“Agreed. Perhaps we should speak to them now. All of them are present.”
Langcyll did not answer, but simply started off the bridge down to where the warriors were working.
Legolas had nearly fainted with relief when he learned that none of the warriors of his company had fallen, nor had any of his close friends been slain. Though the young elf had grieved deeply for the lost warriors--and was still grieving--it was offset by his knowledge that all of his company were on the mend and Limloeth would be recovered in a few more days. Scant consolation to those who had lost friends, he thought sadly.
“--of Middle Earth, have you, Legolas?”
Blinking out of his reverie, Legolas looked up. Galithil, still walking stiffly but much improved, had asked him a question. The other elves paused from their work and grinned at him. “Daydreaming,” Elladan observed, smirking slyly.
Deliberately ignoring the son of Elrond, Legolas raised his eyebrows at Galithil, who repeated (in a disgusting drawl), “I said you still haven’t seen much of Middle Earth, have you?”
Several of the elves snickered, and with a disgusted shake of his head, Legolas replied, “Nay, I suppose I have not. I would like to see more.” He caught Haldir looking rather thoughtful, but the captain of Lórien said nothing, so he dismissed it. “But even for so little time, we’ve seen a great deal in the past three years. You have been traveling for a century and you still encountered new things,” he pointed out mildly to Galithil.
“Aye, one can travel for four millennia and still not see all there is to see in Middle Earth,” Orthelian of Lórien agreed.
Faron nudged Legolas and said slyly, “Indeed, Galithil made quite a little discovery on this trip. She made friends with a dwarf.”
Several of the Lórien elves snorted, and most of the others just laughed. Langcyll and Glorfindel, coming up just then, grinned at the Lórien warriors’ reaction. “It is true,” said Glorfindel. “We spent many weeks in close contact with a dwarven company.”
Pausing from repairing an arrowhead, Haldir looked from one warrior captain to the other and--upon realizing that they were not jesting--demanded, “Why?” as though the idea were absurd.
“We shared the same road,” Glorfindel said with a shrug, sitting down and taking out one of his knives.
Rúmil of Lórien turned questioning eyes back to Faron, “So were you merely teasing Galithil or did she truly…make friends…with a dwarf?”
“I can speak for myself,” Galithil said haughtily. Lifting her chin, she added, “And yes, I did befriend one of the dwarven company. Sháin, son of Tili, was his name. I liked him.”
Haldir and the elves of Lórien stared at Galithil as if she had sprouted a beard, but Elrohir clapped her on the shoulder. “I liked him as well, Galithil. Do not let them tease you. I liked all of the dwarves--well, almost all of them.”
Haldir returned to his arrows with a shake of his head, but Glorfindel put in, “Do not dismiss it so readily, Haldir of Lórien, I too liked some of the dwarves. They came to our aid on several occasions, and showed friendship to many of our company. Although a few of us failed to benefit from the experience of knowing them,” he added pointedly. (Legolas and Faron had been rolling their eyes at each other.)
Orthelian had noticed and grinned, “So the wholesome company of the dwarves did not sit well with you, Legolas?”
Legolas simply jerked his head at his comrades with an expression that seemed to say “They are all mad.” Several of the Lórien elves laughed and clapped him on the back. Glorfindel noticed and thought, *Legolas certainly is at home here. He does seem sometimes very much like an elf of Lórien, not that it is surprising when one remembers he is half Galadhrim.*
As he continued fastening arrowheads to shafts, Legolas commented, “Galithil received a parting token from her dwarf friend.” He himself received a fierce glare from Galithil, and merely grinned at her, retaliating from all the teasing he had endured from her.
“Do not tell me,” exclaimed Orophin. “An axe!” A great burst of laughter came from the elves as Galithil turned up her nose at them.
Elunen came to Galithil’s defense. “I too enjoyed meeting the dwarves, Orophin, and the gift Sháin gave to Galithil was a gem of considerable worth, not to mention beauty. While some of them were…less than personable, most were as merry as hobbits. Sháin in particular was more generous with his wealth than a man, Legolas, you cannot deny it.”
Legolas raised his hands defensively. “I do not. It was a fair gift.”
“So dwarves and elves can become friends,” Elrohir said persuasively. “Perhaps if we had been in their company longer, some lasting friendships would have formed between members of our races. Come, Legolas,” he urged, seeing the prince’s resistance to the idea, “you cannot think after all that that Sháin would have turned on Galithil. I tend to think he was rather taken with her.” Galithil blushed.
Legolas shook his head dismissively, “Nay, I would not make such a prediction of Sháin. Perhaps it was possible in that instance for Galithil and he to remain friends, but I still think they were a fluke of nature. Dwarves and elves are too inherently different for such a thing to happen again.”
In the dwelling atop the highest tree, Lord Celeborn noticed Lady Galadriel watching the warriors below from the window. She could, of course, hear every word that was spoken. Though Celeborn had not been actively listening, he did notice at that same moment the slow smile that crept across his wife’s face, and the way her shoulders shook gently with a silent, knowing laugh.
On the forest floor below, Glorfindel noticed Haldir looking questioningly at him, and knew the captain of Lórien wanted to know if the warriors of Imladris and Mirkwood would be accompanying his war party on a long journey south. He caught Langcyll’s eye, and the other captain nodded, turning to the warriors, “My friends, as you know the warriors of Imladris, Mirkwood, and Lórien expect to depart soon. Now there is a decision to be made.”
The other elves ceased working and looked at him expectantly, with expressions ranging from curiosity to apprehension. Langcyll went on, “The battle and the…losses of our fellow warriors have reduced the ranks of Lórien’s warriors. They must send their patrols out to protect their lands, but also their borders here at home must be protected. Because of this, Lord Haldir has asked that the warriors of Imladris and Mirkwood join the party he is assembling to ride south in pursuit of the creatures of Mordor.”
Glorfindel took in the reactions of his company. Many of the warriors exchanged glances, trying to gauge each other’s feelings on the subject. Several looked speculative, others doubtful, but Legolas…*Legolas looks as though he has been praying for just such a reprieve.* Glorfindel mentally shook his head. *You cannot evade your father forever, young prince, and it is foolish to try. Thank the Valar I spoke to Langcyll when I did.*
But to Glorfindel’s surprise, it was Galithil who spoke first, “We have only been abroad for a few years, in spite of the number of orcs. And their scourge will never vanish if we do not fight.”
Slowly, Faron nodded, “I agree.”
The rest of the warriors began nodding as well. Langcyll and Glorfindel exchanged looks, then Glorfindel turned to Haldir, “Then we are agreed. The forces of Mirkwood and Imladris will ride south with Lórien.”
Legolas was dismayed to discover that Limloeth would not yet be released by the healers to return to her duties before the company departed. She would be remaining behind, but Orthelian would be riding with the company. Legolas could see that his sister was deeply grieved by what promised to be a long separation from both her husband and her youngest brother, though she hid it well enough in public.
Dawn broke on the morning the company was to depart with unexpected beauty, the sun’s first rays sparkling off the frost that covered the grass and golden leaves, turning the frozen mist drifting in the air to a veil of diamonds among the branches. Though Legolas knew it was just as cold here as some of the winters he had endured in the mountains, for some reason he did not feel so chilled in this place. *I will be sorry to leave it.*
The company had assembled their horses in the clearing at the center of Caras Galadhon, and many of the Galadhrim watched from the trees and on the ground as they prepared to ride. Haldir was now at the front with Glorfindel and Langcyll as leader of the Lórien warriors. Several elves of Lórien were riding with them, including Haldir, Rúmil, Maethor, and Orthelian. Legolas stood aside as Orthelian made his farewell to Limloeth, but found himself feeling twinges of jealousy at suddenly having to share his only sister‘s attention.
“Would that I were fully healed,” he could hear her murmuring, her forehead pressed against Orthelian’s.
“We must not dwell upon what cannot be, my dearest,” Orthelian replied, brushing his hand over Limloeth’s dark hair.
Limloeth was struggling to hold back tears, “You will be gone so long. There has been so little time since we wed and if you should not return--”
“Hush. You mustn’t have such thoughts, Limloeth,” Orthelian stepped back and gathered his wife’s hands in his, his gray eyes hard with conviction. “I shall return to you. Your brother and I shall ride together, and we shall both return. Even fifty years is but a twinkle to us.”
Raising her eyes to the sunlight beaming down through the gold and silver branches, the princess of Mirkwood sighed, “Perhaps it seems so to you, my brave-hearted warrior, but to me the time you spend away on your missions is twice as long as the longest moment when you are with me.”
“You are a warrior as well, my love.”
“And I am your wife. Either way, my place is at your side.”
“Not this trip. Come, my beloved, let us not part with sorrow. And you must still say your goodbye to our brother.”
Valiantly recovering herself, Limloeth came to Lanthir’s side where Legolas had been discreetly waiting. With a deep sigh, she stared at him, “And now I must let you go yet again. Ai, Legolas, why ever did I encourage you to become a warrior?”
Legolas had to grin, “I could not let you and my eldest brother have all the glory in the family, Lim. But do not despair, I have taken care of myself up until now, and I will carry on just the same. It is as Orthelian said, nothing shall reach us when we ride together.”
Urgently, his sister gripped his arms, “Protect each other, Legolas. You must both return to me; I could not bear to lose you too--” she broke off, her voice failing. Legolas did not speak, but merely crushed Limloeth to him. Limloeth had been the first of the House of Thranduil to learn of the deaths of three of their siblings in the fateful orc ambush, and Legolas knew how the thought of such a thing happening again terrified her. *If ever there was a particular reason to guard my hide, that is it. And also Orthelian. I must not allow Limloeth to lose another one she loves.*
The order had come to mount up. Legolas kissed his sister’s cheeks swiftly, embraced her one last time, then mounted Lanthir. Limloeth rushed to clasp Orthelian and kissed the Lórien captain passionately before stepping back from the company. Then Orthelian mounted as well, just ahead of Legolas, and the last remaining warriors bade farewell to their friends and loved ones.
As the company prepared to ride, Legolas saw Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel standing on one of the footbridges over the creek. Lowering the hood of her white winter cloak, Galadriel raised her hand in farewell, her eyes touching each of the warriors in turn. Legolas held his breath for that brief eternity when her gaze rested upon him. *I wonder, will there ever be a day when the mere sight of the Lady Galadriel does not render me immobile?*
He was jerked out of his reverie when Haldir gave the command to ride, and saw Faron--at his side as always--also blinking himself back to reality. The two young warriors grinned knowingly at each other as they rode in the formation over the bridge to the gates of Caras Galadhon. Just as the company passed through the gates, the son of Thranduil heard that unforgettable voice in his mind again.
*Farewell, Legolas of Mirkwood. We shall meet again.*
Instinctively, Legolas twisted around in the saddle and was just able to see Galadriel, her piercing eyes focused upon him. In his mind, he heard her say, *Remember the Mirror, Legolas. Remember that which I told you. Remember.*
Then the company followed the trail around a bend into the trees, and she was gone.
Several weeks later…
The company had made camp along the banks of the great Anduin. Legolas and Faron stood with several of the other elves, laughing as the horses played in the river. “We still have yet to finish our race, Legolas,” Elrohir said to him, smiling slyly.
“By the Valar, do not start that again!” groaned Elunen. “Last time, you two brought bad luck upon us with your antics.”
“We certainly did not cause the orc raid on the plains,” Legolas protested defensively.
“Well, perhaps YOU did to avoid the fact that Elrohir was winning!”
“Go hatch a dragon egg, Faron, you could not outride a hobbit!”
“Why you yellow-haired, scruffy-looking--”
“Peace, young ones!” Glorfindel ordered, as the other captains laughed. “There will be no racing again; we have enough troubles without worrying about lame horses or reckless riders getting themselves injured.”
“We are not reckless!” Elrohir and Legolas exclaimed simultaneously, causing a roar of laughter from the entire company.
Shaking his head and wiping tears of laughter from his eyes, Langcyll said firmly, “Enough of this silly competition. Those of you not on watch, either eat or get some rest. We’ve a long journey ahead of us.”
“A messenger comes!” shouted Rúmil from where he was standing watch with Orthelian.
The rest of the elves rose to see a small company of riders coming down the plain just above the bank of the Anduin. Legolas moved to stand beside Haldir and Langcyll at the front of the group, “The messenger bears the flag of Imladris.”
Faron, Elladan, and Elrohir hurried to the front, and Legolas and the others gave way for them. “I hope they do not bear ill tidings,” murmured Glorfindel.
“I think not; I see no pain in their faces,” Haldir observed as the messanger and his escorts drew closer. “Urgency, yes, but not sorrow. The message is something else.”
It did not take the courier long to reach the company. Despite Haldir’s assurances, the elves were tense nonetheless, wondering what would have brought a message from Rivendell all the way out here with such haste. Legolas did not know any of the couriers. The message-bearer dismounted and bowed to the captains, “My greetings, warriors. I bear a message from Lord Elrond to his sons, Lords Elladan and Elrohir.”
Elladan stepped forward and took the proferred scroll, then he and Elrohir stepped aside to read it. To the relief of all, no distress showed in their faces, though they did appear puzzled. The envoy of Imladris waited. After a moment, looking regretful, the sons of Elrond rejoined the others. “I fear this company must journey on without us, Glorfindel. Our father has ordered us home.”
Glorfindel frowned. “Did he give a reason?”
“He did, but not one that we are at liberty to share,” Elrohir sighed, then smiled ruefully at the group. “We must depart at once with the envoy.”
Dismayed by the unexpected separation , the warriors quickly said their farewells. Elrohir clasped Legolas’s arm firmly, “I fear we shall have to wait to test the prowess of our mounts, Legolas.”
“Safe journey, my friend,” Legolas replied sadly. “I pray that all is well with the House of Elrond.”
“Well, yes,” Elladan assured him. “It is merely a matter that requires our presence. I shall miss you, Legolas of Mirkwood. Be well, Faron. Take care of yourselves, both of you. Until we meet again.”
“Until then,” Faron said solemnly.
With that, Elladan and Elrohir mounted and rode away with the envoy of Imladris. Elrohir took the scroll from his twin, digesting their father’s message. “‘It is something to do with Estel. I wonder if Father has told him…of his lineage.”
“I know not, my brother, but I suspect we shall soon find out.”
“How soon will we home?” Elrohir asked the leader of the guard.
“Less than three months, my lord, if we ride hard.”
“Let us ride hard then.”
Back at the company’s camp, many of the warriors were also speculating as to their own road. “We are to ride all the way to the crossings of Poros,” Orthelian was telling Legolas and several of the others.
Galithil shuddered, “I have heard many tales of Emyn Muil and the Dead Marshes, none of them pleasant.”
“We shall travel on the west side of the Anduin until we are south of Nindalf,” Langcyll told her. “Then we will cross over into North Ithilien.”
Frowning, Legolas remarked, “Surely we cannot expect to do much harm to the forces of Mordor that close to their own land.”
“That much is certain,” Glorfindel agreed, coming to sit beside them where they had built a fire on the riverbank to drive out the winter’s chill.
“Then what is our purpose?” Faron asked in confusion.
His breath a soft fog against the gray winter sky, Haldir replied, “We gauge the strength of the Enemy, young one. And though we cannot single-handedly fight the forces of Mordor back over the Mountains of Shadow, the very presence of elves is repellant to them. Come, Faron, you have seen the power of Galadriel, and Lord Elrond. It is not merely by strength of arrows and swords that our lands shall remain free. We elves in ourselves have the power of spirit to drive evil back.”
The group was encouraged by his words, but just the same, Legolas idly sketched a map into the sand of the riverbank with his finger. “Through Emyn Muil and the Dead Marshes,” he murmured.
“And that is even before we try to pass through Ithilien,” Galithil observed.
Tracing a line down the sand-map, Legolas pulled his mouth to one side, “We shall be gone a very long time if we follow this path.”
Looking at the young warrior’s rough drawing, Haldir nodded grimly, “That is our road.”
Two years later…
“Naldin, son of Óin, welcome home!” Dáin, king under the mountain, announced as the company of Naldin and Sothi entered the great hall. Turning to one of the attendants, the dwarf king ordered, “Send for Óin and Dwalin at once, and inform all my folk that the company of Naldin and Sothi have returned at last!”
Naldin and Sothi bowed to the dwarf king and the rest of the company made their greetings. “Well, well, come in, be seated! I expect you’ve many tidings for us! It won’t take long to fetch the rest of our people here, not when they here you’ve finally made it back! We were beginning to think you’d all been lost!”
“It was quite a journey, my lord,” Sháin said with feeling, and many of the other dwarves laughed.
A great feast was prepared to celebrate the homecoming, and as Dáin had predicted, it did not take long for nearly all the dwarves of Lonely Mountain to assemble in the Great Hall. When Naldin and Sothi declared that Moria was vulnerable to be taken again by the dwarves, a great cheer went up. “There!” Balin, son of Fundin, shouted over the cries, clapping Dáin on the back. “Nothing can stop us from taking back what is ours! Come, my friend, you must give me your permission to lead a force of our people back to reclaim our old realm!”
Glóin, son of Gróin, rose hesitantly. “Is that a wise choice just now, Balin? We’ve only just established a stronghold here in Lonely Mountain; it will take much of our strength in guards to secure Moria again.”
Then Óin also rose, “I do not think we need deplete our strength here, Glóin. I will go with Balin, and only those of our people who wish to fight for our oldest and greatest realm need come. And we will not take so many that Dáin and Lonely Mountain are left unprotected.”
“How many, do you think, will be needed?” asked Dáin thoughtfully.
Stroking his beard, Naldin mused, “Perhaps if we take a well-seasoned force, with the proper leaders, we will not need quite so many. Ours was a company of only twelve but we took on many orc marauders without losing a single one of our number.”
“Aye!” Sháin rose and thumped the table with his ale mug. “And what better leaders could be needed than Balin and Óin together? Two of the famed company of Thorin Oakenshield himself! They alone will send half the orcs in Middle Earth fleeing in terror!” A great roar of laughter and approval supported his words, echoing through the great stone hall along with the banging of many metal mugs--and the splashing of ale.
Ori, another of Thorin’s folk, rose then and declared, “I, too, shall join this quest!”
Over the shouts of encouragement, Dáin stood, still looking doubtful. “The orcs of Moria may not have thought it worth their while to challenge your entry too much, Naldin. I worry that once they discover your intentions of retaking Moria, they will fight with all their strength. And remember, there are older and fouler things than orcs in the deep places of the world.”
The long stone tables grew quiet again, and many nervous glances were exchanged. Slowly, Balin stood once again and said resolutely, “My lord Dáin, I intend to try. It is sickening to think of the wonder of the Northern world inhabited by the foul beasts of Sauron. Come, Dáin, we have not trained and prepared all this time for naught. Give us leave, and we will make plans for a great quest. We will carry with us new armaments and as large a force as Lonely Mountain can spare. The doors of Khazad-dum will again be opened to us.” Óin and Ori also rose, silently backing Balin’s request.
The great stone hall was silent as Dáin sat back in his stone chair at the head of the table, musing quietly. Slowly, he lifted his eyes to meet each of theirs in turn, and slowly nodded. “If you are so determined, then I will not deny permission.”
All the dwarves of Lonely Mountain rose to their feet in thunderous cheers of triumph, many shouting their allegiances to Dáin and Balin. Then Dáin raised his hands to quiet them, “But, as you say, we must first make plans. I will not permit any of my folk to embark on a hasty quest without being fully prepared.” The other dwarves nodded quickly, and Dáin sat back down, satisfied. “Come, then, let us finish our feasting and tomorrow we will begin preparing for this great quest.” With a slight sigh, he added, “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
Six years later…
Legolas scowled up at the blazing sun and wiped sweat and sand from his face. *I am beginning to miss winter in the mountains,* he thought.
The trip through Emyn Muil and the Dead Marshes had been as bad as his elders had predicted. The landscape was terrible enough in itself. As the company had moved further south, the plains had become starker, drier, with hardly a tree to be found. Emyn Muil had been an endless labyrinth of razor-sharp rocks, hard on the elves, agonizing for the horses. Alone and walking (and not hunting) the company might have made it through in a few months, but leading horses and seeking orcs, it had taken them nearly two years just to cross that seemingly-small stretch of terrain.
Nearly all of the horses had fallen lame at one point or another during the crossing--in fact, only Lanthir had managed to escape both falling on the treacherous ground or cutting his hooves on the rocks, for which Legolas was very relieved. The company had rejoiced when at last they had reached the Falls of Rauros, but their elation had been short-lived. No sooner had they passed over the last of those forlorn hills than they were set upon by a massive band of orcs and wargs.
Three of the company had been slain. Fanfirith, Nathron, and Glanaur, of the original company that had departed Mirkwood eleven years before would now never return. The company had faced a great dilemma then, of whether to continue on in spite of their decreased numbers--not to mention grief--or to turn back for home. After much consideration, they had decided to keep going.
That had been three years before. They had reached the mouths of Entwash just in time for the summer rains, and the many small streams flowing into the Anduin had overflowed their banks, trapping the company for six months with their backs to Emyn Muil until the water went back down and the land dried enough to pass over. It had still been a bitterly muddy trip, and the weather had turned cold before they were over the floodplain, making the situation still more unpleasant.
Now, the company stood on the banks of the Anduin looking over at Cair Andros, the place where the river split in two, becoming narrow enough for the company to cross over. The sandy islet in the center was dotted with a few trees, and would be just large enough for the company to rest their horses before swimming them the rest of the way across.
Beside Legolas, Faron was splashing water on his face, equally unused to such heat. “How soon do Langcyll and Glorfindel want us to finish this crossing?” his friend asked.
“Soon,” Legolas replied, seeing the two captains down near the water, trying to gauge its depth and speed. Raising his eyes to the opposite side of the river, the prince could just make out the shadow on the horizon that was the Ephel Duath range, the Mountains of Shadow, beyond which lay the land of Mordor. In spite of the sticky heat, he felt a shiver run down his spine.
Glorfindel happened to glance back and see the two youngest warriors watching him. He walked back up the sand to join them and gaze out at the distant mountains. “A foreboding sight,” he remarked.
The two nodded. Turning to Glorfindel, Legolas asked, “How far are we from Minas Tirith?”
Glorfindel walked toward the south, just past the trees, and pointed downriver. “The river bends, but we are almost directly north of the White City of Gondor. When we cross the river, we shall be in North Ithilien. We shall pass almost directly between Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul.”
Faron wrinkled his nose, “We are well into Gondor, but we have hardly seen any men.”
It was true, aside from a few scouts of Gondor and riding patrols of Rohan, the company of elves had encountered very few of this land’s native inhabitants. Glorfindel, Langcyll, and Haldir, on the other hand, had not seemed surprised. “The beasts of Sauron grew stronger with the shadow and overran this area long ago. Ithilien was once one of the fairest provinces of Gondor, but men will no longer venture there. You shall soon see why. We shall cross the river here before reaching some of the most populous of Gondor’s lands, otherwise we might see more men as we drew closer to Minas Tirith. Even so, most common men are wary of elves.”
Startled, Legolas looked at him. “Why?”
“We are strange to them, Legolas; men and elves do not interact as we once did.” With a slight smirk, Glorfindel added, “They are as wary of us as…some of us are of dwarves.” Legolas managed not to roll his eyes in disgust. *Will they ever cease goading me on the subject of dwarves?!*
Just then, Haldir and Orthelian joined them. “Langcyll thinks the horses are ready to continue,” said Haldir. “And I would like to be on the opposite bank well before sundown.”
With a brisk nod, Glorfindel called for the company to prepare to swim the horses across the last part of the river. It was the first merriment the warriors had enjoyed since before they crossed Emyn Muil. To effectively get both the horses and their supplies to the opposite bank, each rider packed their horse with what could be carried, then swam along side it.
Some had more trouble than others. “You wood elves should rename yourselves fish elves!” declared Faron as they crossed. It seemed that the two remaining elves of Imladris had the most difficulty with the swim.
Legolas and Orthelian, well ahead of him beside their horses, laughed as they stroked neatly through the water, their grip on the horses’ reins and their own supplies causing them no hindrance. “Poor little mountain elf,” Orthelian said loudly to Legolas, his breathing only slightly labored. “If he’s not on a horse, he’s lost!”
The curse that Faron was about to bestow upon Legolas’s brother-in-law was lost as a small wave broke over his head, and Legolas and Orthelian instead heard sputtering and gurgling that caused renewed laughter all around. Just ahead of them, Haldir and Langcyll gained the riverbank and turned back to assist the rest of the company from the water. “Is everyone faring all right?” Langcyll asked Legolas, giving him a hand out of the river.
“I fear Faron and Glorfindel are in danger of drowning,” Orthelian spoke up, and Langcyll grinned knowingly at Haldir.
Wringing water from his hair, Legolas grimaced, “I suppose we must build fires to dry everything off.”
“I fear so,” Haldir told him, “and it must be done before sunset so the fires do not attract orcs.”
“See to it, Legolas, Orthelian,” Langcyll ordered. Pulling faces at each other, the two did as they were bade, though not relishing the thought of adding more heat to this summer afternoon.
Once the fires had been lit, and the company was setting about getting their supplies dried, Legolas was certain he could feel steam rising from the clothes on his back. Noticing the Mirkwood elf’s discomfort, Rúmil grinned at him, “Just think, Legolas, we’ve still another two or three years of travel south at least.” He was rewarded by numerous groans from the younger elves.
“Ai, I had forgotten how much I disliked the southern summers,” Glorfindel said, fanning his face and swatting at biting insects.
“And Rúmil is right; this is nothing,” Langcyll agreed. “Remember the trip to Harad?”
Glorfindel winced as though the thought had made him physically hotter, “How could I forget? Ai, what a vicious journey that was. He speaks the truth, my friends, this is nothing compared to Harad. During the summer there, the sun beats down so that movement is impossible during the day. The land is a sea of blazing hot sand with no trees and only a few hidden lakes, closely guarded. Every drop of water is precious, and the only shelter is in tents. Even there, the heat is so great that it seems impossible to breathe and--”
By now, every elf in the company was cringing in horror. “May Harad be one land I never explore,” Legolas said fervently, closing his eyes in a mock-prayer. The others laughed.
“Fear not, Legolas, we shall still be well north of Harad when we turn for home,” Orthelian assured him, grinning. The elder elf gestured up the riverbank, “Up there is North Ithilien, that we shall pass through beginning tomorrow.”
Curiously, Legolas, Faron, and Galithil left the fires and climbed to the top of the bank. The Mountains of Shadow seemed much closer now, but it was the nearer land that caught the prince of Mirkwood’s interest. The gently rolling hills and fields and patches of forest struck Legolas with a sensation of great fairness, though it was clear that a sickness had taken this land. Everything seemed tinged with gray, and the black mountains held a definite aura of doom about them. The shadow of Sauron had taken this place, but somehow the land of Ithilien seemed to be stubbornly surviving beneath its cloud, refusing to die out completely. Though they appeared gaunt and gray, the trees lived, and though wilted and sick in appearance, the grasses still grew.
Sensing several of the other elves also joining him atop the riverbank, Legolas murmured, “The land of Ithilien has great resilience if Sauron’s shadow has not managed to destroy all life here after all this time. I think when the shadow of evil has gone, Ithilien will be a fair land again.”
Far away, unbeknownst to the company, the Lady Galadriel stood alone before her Mirror, gazing upon things that are. Specifically, she was watching them even as they embarked on the renewed journey south through Ithilien. The power of the Lady Galadriel is great, and she clearly heard the words of Legolas. With a knowing smile, she whispered, “You are wise beyond your years, young son of Thranduil. You see life and hope where others see only shadow. The Eldar are fading, but your time is just beginning.”
Seven years later…
“And here our journey ends,” declared Langcyll, pointing to the bridge spanning the narrow, fast-moving river before them. But the company was not to cross.
“The first half of it anyway,” sighed Rúmil, gazing at the dark mountains to the east.
Facing north again, Maethor of Lórien nodded, “Now we must cover all that ground yet again before we reach home.”
Turning his gaze from the rather dry, gray, cracked ground around them, Legolas asked absently, “Which?”
Looking over at him, Elunen blinked, “Which what?”
“We’ve warriors among us from Imladris, Lórien, and Mirkwood. Which of our realms shall we return to first?” Legolas elaborated.
Apparently, the question had not occurred to the other members of the company (though it had begun to occupy Legolas’s mind in recent weeks, as they drew closer to the place where they would turn back.) Thoughtfully, Haldir said, “Your people, Langcyll, have been abroad from your homes longer than the warriors of Lórien or Imladris. We will gladly accompany you to Mirkwood.”
For a split-second, Langcyll seemed to hesitate, thoughts running behind his eyes to swiftly for the rest of the company to read. Then his eyes seemed to rest upon Glorfindel when he said, “Very well, if our western kindred would be willing to travel home with us, Mirkwood would be happy to receive you.”
“Then it’s agreed,” said Glorfindel, rather briskly, as though a conflict had been avoided. What he meant by that, none of the others knew.
Galithil sighed dramatically as the company remounted their horses and turned away from the Crossings of Poros. “I shall be so glad to return home.”
“Is this the longest mission you have taken yet?” asked Faron.
“By the time we reach Mirkwood, it will be,” she replied. “Up until now I have kept homesickness at bay, but I fear it will attack with a new vengeance during these long years of travel still ahead.” Seeing the smiles of the elder warriors, she grinned, “I suppose I am still unaccustomed to being far from home.”
Maethor rode up beside them, “Be not ashamed, young Galithil, for there is not a one among us who does not long for home and family at some point of the trip. Sometimes even the shortest journeys seem to last forever.”
“Your father Eregdos was on the Lonely Mountain mission,” remarked Elunen. “I wonder how that went?”
“I know not, but I will be eager to hear the tales of those who were in Mirkwood while we were gone,” Galithil replied.
“I will simply be eager to sleep in a bed again,” sighed Faron, and the others laughed. “I miss beds more than anything else when we are abroad in the land.”
Laughing, Galithil said, “I miss feasts and games. At times it seems so hard to find merriment out here. And you, Legolas, what do you miss most?”
Thoughtfully, Legolas considered for a moment. “I miss books,” he said at last. “It is impossible to carry a book on a war party, and I cannot count the times I’ve longed for something to read.”
“Ai, I am of your mind, Legolas,” said Maethor, and several of the others nodded in agreement. “I miss books so much that I would read dwarvish.” Everyone laughed.
“And I miss the sound of the wind in tall trees. It has been fifteen years since we departed Lórien. We have not passed through anything resembling a forest.”
“I miss the light of our dwellings at night.”
“And I miss hearing the songs of our people.”
“Not to mention our families.”
Sixteen years later (thirty-four years after the war party of Langcyll left Mirkwood)…
“Shh! Don’t drop it, Faron!”
“Watch your step, Galithil!”
“Both of you, hush! You’ll wake him!”
(Giggle!) “This will be good!”
(Snicker!) “Are you ready, Langcyll?”
“Hold on…hold on…”
(Giggle!) “Shh!” (Snort!) “Faron!”
“That was not me!”
“How by any holy did you manage it, Orthelian? Legolas sleeps more lightly than any of us!”
“Only a member of his own kin could steal both his knives without waking him.”
“Pfft, do not expect me to believe that, Lórien. What did you do, slip olgalas in his water skin last night?”
“Of course, I had no intention of getting myself stabbed just for this little escapade!” (Chuckle! Giggle!)
“Are you ready now?”
“All is ready! One…two…three!”
“Wha--” Legolas flew right out of his bedroll with a shout of alarm as a bucket of water was dumped over his head. Blinded by water in his eyes, the warrior’s hands flew for his knives--which were not there. Leaping to his feet, he found himself soaking wet, facing the entire company--all of whom were helpless with laughter. Wiping his eyes in astonishment, Legolas demanded, “What is the meaning of this?!”
Doubled over and clinging to Galithil for support, Faron gasped, “Did you forget what day it is?”
Legolas just blinked in confusion, and several of the elves burst into song--commemorating the coming of age. At last, his memory caught up with him, and he groaned. Although his Warrior’s Coming of Age had been recognized officially at the Gathering thirty-four years ago, today was the true date of his birth, and now he was both officially and literally an adult elf. “I had forgotten,” he admitted sheepishly, shaking his wet head, “but obviously someone here did not.”
Shaking with laughter, Langcyll informed his youngest warrior, “Very few of us forgot, and we have been planning this since we turned north again at the Crossings of Poros.”
Legolas groaned again, and the elves just laughed harder. Before he could make his escape, he was bodily hauled to the roaring campfire where an unusually lavish meal was handed out in celebration. “Where did you get all this?” Legolas demanded, though he did not turn down a slice of fresh bread.
Grinning at the son of Thranduil, Haldir replied, “Recall you the patrol from Lórien we encountered last week? They were more than happy to spare us some of their finer rations to in honor the last prince of Mirkwood’s Second Coming of Age.” Legolas shook his head and grinned, embarrassed at being the center of the company’s attention.
“Here, Legolas,” Faron and Galithil sat on either side of him and handed him a small, handsome wooden box. “From the both of us.”
Legolas took the gift but eyed his friends suspiciously, “Knowing the both of you, I would not put it past you to rig this thing to explode.” They both giggled, but motioned vigorously for him to open it. Cautiously, Legolas lifted the top off. His breath caught.
It was a book. “Where…where did you…”
“We bartered a cloak for it when we passed through that village back in Gondor, north of Minas Tirith,” said Faron, grinning at his friend’s stunned face. “We bound it up in a thick sack to keep it safe, and it will survive in its box during what remains of the trip back to Mirkwood. We were not certain if it was one you had read before, but Galithil did not think it would matter to you if you had.”
“It most certainly would not,” laughed Legolas. “I think I have forgotten how to read!” As the others laughed, he opened the book to its first pages. It was written in Westron. “It is a legend of Númenor,” he translated. “I have not read this one before.”
Langcyll grinned at him, “Now at last you will not be volunteering for every watch!”
Orthelian playfully shouldered Galithil aside so he could sit next to his brother-in-law and hand him a wrapped parcel. “Limloeth gave me this for you in case we were not returned in time for your coming of age.”
Curiously, Legolas opened the parcel and found a set of handsome leather wrist guards similar to those worn by all the elven archers, including himself, though these looked better made than his own. Impressed, Legolas tried them on and found that they fit his arms perfectly. Raising questioning eyes to Orthelian, his kinsman said, “They belonged to your brother Tavron. He left them to any younger brother of his who might become a warrior. Limloeth kept them for you.”
Legolas felt his throat close up, and his eyes began to sting. He could only manage a quick smile at Orthelian before Galithil said loudly, “And, we also have some wine, courtesy of our friends the Lórien patrol!”
The skin was passed around and Legolas took a rather large gulp. “Don’t get drunk,” Faron warned.
Legolas passed the skin on and shot his friend a withering look, then reached over and picked up his new book. “Now we will not get a word out of him until he has finished that thing,” observed Orthelian.
Nodding, Legolas replied drolly, “At least twice.” The others laughed, but a sound beyond the cheerful noises made Legolas freeze. He raised his eyes, listening for a second, then sighed and closed the book, popping it back into its box. “Orcs.”
“To arms!” shouted Haldir, and the company leaped to their feet.
“Well done, Legolas,” Langcyll said as they yanked their bows from their saddlebags and slung on their quivers. “You heard them even before the watchers did.”
“It must be my coming of age,” Legolas answered facetiously. He looked up at the stars. “This fight will be short. The sun will be up in an hour.”
“All the same, take care. We are too close to home for losing anyone to be conscionable.”
“Is losing anyone ever conscionable?”
“Pipe down, young prince, and make ready to fight,” Langcyll briskly gripped Legolas’s shoulder as they ran to join the rest of the group near the fire. “Here they come!”
As Legolas had predicted, the battle was short-lived. There were only about thirty orcs, and the party of ten seasoned elven warriors was more than enough to finish them off. As Legolas retrieved his arrows from various orc corpses, he thought, *This reminded me of that first night after we departed Mirkwood. The fight tonight was almost as one-sided.*
He turned his face to the east as the sky began to lighten, and his breath caught upon seeing a shadow on the horizon. He stood where he was, transfixed, as the sun rose higher, and the shapeless darkness in the distance suddenly took form--trees. Many, many, tall, dark trees. Faron walked over to Legolas’s side, gazing at the great wood barely three days’ ride away. “Mirkwood,” Legolas said softly.
“You will be home soon, Legolas.”
“Yes,” Legolas murmured absently. “Home.”
ORIGINAL CHARACTER GUIDE:
Orthelian: Legolas’s brother-in-law, a captain of Lórien, husband to his sister Limloeth (also an O/C, but you know that by now. I hope.)
Maethor: High-ranking warrior captain of Lórien, father of Gaeriel (the she-elf Legolas bumped into during the last chapter.) No, there is still NO ROMANCE in this chapter! Fear not.
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.