1. Scion of Kings
The journey to the furthest encampment in the east had taken ten days, as fast as possible considering the size of their group.
Everyone, including the High King, was covered in dirt; it had been raining for the past three days and the much-used roads had become muddy beyond recognition. Gil-galad was glad to enter the tent that had been waiting for him since word of his impending arrival had been delivered by messenger. Twenty minutes later, refreshed and wearing a clean set of clothes, he ordered his war-council into the tent and they crammed around the table, bending over the detailed maps of the area.
'There will be no trouble holding our position here, my Lord, we have three thousand forces at the ready...'
Gil-galad smiled broadly.
'And there is the little fact that Gorthaur* seems to be running away, not towards us, too.'
The commander stepped back, nodding, ready for another to take his place and be the subject of the High King's jesting.
'An additional part of the forces has been cut off by the enemy's main horde, my Lord.' Another commented, not stepping forward.
'How long ago?' Gil-galad asked, walking a little as he studied a more eastern part of the larger map, closer to Mordor.
'Three weeks, my Lord.'
Gil-galad nodded and pointed at a spot at the map.
'Am I informed correctly; the enemy's vulnerable spot is here?'
'Indeed, my Lord, but even if they are still strong enough to fight through it...'
Gil-galad waved the remarks away.
'How many do you think would be necessary to get through there and back?
There was a moment of silence as the commanders looked at each other.
'My Lord does not intend to send a group to search for them?'
'I intend to lead a group... How many men?'
'Smaller would be easier to slip through, but, of course, with a large force one has more striking power...'
'If you are quick enough, in and out, you could do it with your own escort, my Lord.' The last remark left most voices silent.
But Gil-galad nodded.
'I agree. Elrond?'
The Lord of only recently founded Imladris had been near the entrance of the tent, looking at the continuing rain outside. Yet there could be no doubt he had heard everything. When he turned around, folding his arms, his face was stern.
'I do not think it is your place to go, my Lord.'
'Your opinion is noted, thank you.' Gil-galad replied as he walked around the table, his fingers running across the map. 'I shall take anyone who wishes to come, up to the number of a hundred. And every Elf that does, will be rewarded once we return, or his house will receive honours if we do not.'
Gil-galad looked around the table at the faces of his generals.
'We will ride at dusk.'
As they left, speaking hushed if at all, Gil-galad lowered unto a chair and stared at the maps on the table, his hand to his chin.
'If you do not want to go, I understand.'
Elrond shook his head with determination.
'It would be an honour to ride with you, my Lord. If I would let you go without me, and something happened, I would not forgive myself.'
Gil-galad gave him a nod.
'Yet, I had rather you send me, and stayed here yourself.' the Halfelven offered, even if he predicted the answer already.
He watched his king shake his head.
'Not this time, meldir*, not this time...'
'I will go and see to the men, my Lord.' Elrond said softly, a touch of rejection in his voice. 'Perhaps you should get some rest in the few hours until sundown.'
As he bowed shortly and left the tent, Gil-galad sat back. This was not the time to brighten up Elrond, to tell him it was not his fault. Later, he would tell him later. He let his mind wander, peaceful but alert, ready to be on his feet within moments, if necessary.
He did not know how much time had passed, when someone entered, and Gil-galad forced himself out of his dreamy state.
It was Lord Danhelm, who had travelled with them from the palace in Lindon, and another man, unfamiliar to the High King. Danhelm nodded.
'My Lord, this is Sir Brougham, he's is one of the Númenórean commanders.'
Brougham bowed and Gil-galad looked at him.
'I seem to recall a man of your name. You fought some of the wars on the coasts of the mainland, I believe.'
With a quick movement of the canvas that served as entrance to the tent, Elrond re-entered and exchanged a quick glance with Gil-galad.
Brougham bowed again.
'Yes, my Lord. I was glad to serve my king then, as I am now.'
Gil-galad looked from Brougham to Danhelm inquiringly.
'He has volunteered to come with you...'Danhelm said, glancing at the maps.
'There are more than enough volunteers as it is, my Lord.' Elrond interrupted, as he took Gil-galad's armour out of it's storage place, even though it was more a task for an attendant, and not that of a Lord.
Gil-galad smiled as he rose from his chair.
'We need good men here, Sir Brougham. It is the same reason I will not let Danhelm come. Now if you will excuse me.'
He stepped into the more private part of the tent and took the armour from Elrond. They had gone when he returned. Elrond was bent over the maps.
'Wasn't it a Brougham who pulled back after his general was killed?' Gil-galad asked, as he fastened and sheathed his sword.
Elrond did not look up. He seemed intent on memorising the map.
'It was the same man, my Lord. I would not trust him with my horse.'
Gil-galad knew that if Elrond harboured any distrust towards a person it usually was founded. Still, he did not immediately react on it.
'If the odds are as bad as most people around here seem to think, we could have better taken him with us.' He commented, fastening his leg armour.
Elrond smiled and waited for Gil-galad to rise to his feet and don his cloak.
They nodded at each other and left together, mounting the waiting horses, joining those that stood waiting.
The party, split in three smaller groups, rode fast through the woods, praying the information they had last received on the whereabouts of the enemy was correct. It was dark, cold and wet, but Gil-galad knew that it might be in their advantage; they would not expect riders in this kind of weather. After more than four hours, the scouts that had been sent ahead began returning. Their whispers began reaching Gil-galad, who rode at the front of the centre group.
'There is an encampment in front of us; fifty, perhaps a hundred men.'
Gil-galad slowed and Elrond motioned his horse closer.
'Do we try to go around them?'
Gil-galad was silent for a moment, and was aware of the muted speech of his riders, the heavy breathing of the horses.
'This is the weak point?'
Elrond led his horse away a little, and spoke shortly to another scout, before returning.
'We have not yet passed the main army, my Lord, but the scouts say this does not seem like a fighting force. There seem to be only Men here, not orcs.'
Gil-galad nodded, more to himself than to someone else, in the darkness.
'We advance and ask questions afterwards... We cannot have them assail us at the rear later. Have twenty-five men surround the site so no one will get out and alarm others.'
Half an hour later the first group charged, word coming back quickly to the others that all was clear; most of the men surrendering without a fight.
Once in the camp, Gil-galad waited, next to his horse, as Elrond talked to the men who had questioned the prisoners. With large strides, Elrond ran back.
'They tell us there were Elvish prisoners from our lost force, but they were taken away not three hours ago.'
Gil-galad narrowed his eyes and scanned the dark edge of the woods.
'Did they say where?'
Before Elrond could answer, a warning call from the woods startled everyone.
A voice roared above all the others, and only when Gil-galad had mounted his horse and heard it again, recognised it as his own.
'Rinc! Ned-an i tawat!*'
An arrow flew alongside his head, he heard the whistling sound, and he made an evasive movement, fully aware that he would have been too late if it had been aimed centimetres to the right.
Spurring his horse he heard more following him.
It was Elrond's voice that urged him to speed up.
'Noro!* They have cut us off from the others... Go!'
They rode fast, only seven Elves, but after a furious gallop uphill Gil-galad signalled them to slow down. He stopped and waited for Elrond, his horse nervously turning in the dark night. Not even the rays of the moon penetrated the branches of the trees.
Elrond's voice was insistent when he came alongside.
'My Lord, we cannot stop, if it is discovered you are not with the larger part of our company it will only be a matter of hours before we will be pursued.'
Gil-galad took a moment to study the faces of the group. All of them, except Elrond, were members of his bodyguard.
'What do you propose?'
As Elrond spoke in a low voice, his eyes never stopped examining their surroundings.
'These woods will be crowding with orcs, if they aren't already, and we are cut off from any major force that could help us... With these horses and armour we will undoubtedly be spotted in broad daylight... We have to find a place to hide.'
Gil-galad shook his head.
'I will not hide.'
'Would you rather go back?' Elrond asked, a slight tension audible in his voice.
Gil-galad turned his horse in agitation.
'What I want to know is, were we ambushed?'
Even in the dark Gil-galad could see Elrond pressing his lips together.
'I believe we must consider the possibility.'
Gil-galad nodded, glad he wasn't the only one harbouring suspicions.
'Even if we try to hide, there is no acceptable place here. Do you agree?'
Elrond nodded reluctantly.
'What do you propose?'
'That we ride until dawn, and decide then how to go on.'
'I agree.' Elrond said as he looked at the others. 'Let us go.'
Gil-galad shifted in his saddle, as he saw the first glister of daybreak.
They had cleared the forest hours ago, reducing their tempo; the horses were beginning to tire. Upon reaching a higher part of the hilly countryside, from where they could spot riders before they themselves were, it was decided to set up camp.
As he undid his breast armour Elrond kept watchful, peering into the distance. Gil-galad joined him, stretching his limbs.
'Are we being followed?'
Elrond squinted against the rising sun.
'Strangely enough, I don't think so. They seem to have lost us.'
'That sounds terribly optimistic.'
'There is nothing optimistic about our present situation.'
'We should send out three men, see if there are villages near.' Gil-galad said as he turned around and looked into another direction. 'But first we need to rest.'
'I shall take the first watch.' Elrond offered.
There was a sound of crickets, the wind rustling through the leaves of the trees they stayed under. Elrond caught himself drifting.
'I almost... Unforgivable...' He mumbled as he moved quickly to get on his feet.
'Don't worry... Findor and Brin have already ridden out. They will be back before sundown. When Jarin comes back from his search for food we will light a fire. I think we can do that without being noticed as long as it is light.' Gil-galad answered.
'Did you rest, my Lord?' Elrond asked.
Gil-galad ignored the question. He got on his feet and looked out over the forest, the trees from which they had come half a day ago.
'We need to get back, Elrond. If we were betrayed, they might think I am dead.'
'I do not fear for that, my Lord.'
There was a shrill whistle and Gil-galad turned towards the sound immediately.
Elrond was next to him immediately.
The Elf dismounted and handed his horse to one of his colleagues, before turning towards Gil-galad and Elrond.
'There is a village of men not ten miles from here. I've brought bread and wine... They thought I was from one of the farms around here, most of them were burned or looted. I overheard them speak of a group of orcs that had prisoners with them coming near there yester-night.'
Elrond and Gil-galad looked at each other.
'They seemed reluctant to find out.'
'No one seems to be sure.'
Gil-galad walked back to the other side of the hill they were on. Elrond followed.
'What do you propose?' Elrond asked Gil-galad.
'We wait until Findor and Brin have returned and leave at sundown. If they do indeed have prisoners among them, they will be moving slowly, and we will easily catch up with them. We cannot stay here in any case. We've been here too long already.'
Elrond caught the King's eye.
'Why are you so set on finding those prisoners?'
'Because I made a promise...'
'Rinc! Ned-an i tawat!' : 'Move! Into the woods!'
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.