The young ones managed the hour long trip without incident, and the twins exchanged glances as they noted the well-hidden scouts lining the route, ready to set off the alarm should the path come under attack.
As they reached the entrance to the great caves, the young ones saw just how much planning had been done, for they had to pass through five levels of defence before they finally piled into the cave. Once within, the twins marvelled at how well built and large the place was. They were greeted by sentries, and were quickly shown the way down a labyrinth of tunnels before reaching a big room. Elrohir gently set his friend down on the rugs.
Elladan noticed immediately how tense Esendri was.
"Esendri?" he asked, sitting down beside him while Elrohir followed the sentries in search of food and drink.
A small smile was thrown in his direction as the grey eyes darted around the cavern one more time.
"What ails you, my friend?"
"It is nothing. I just do not find caves the nicest places to be in - it is so devoid of life!"
The raven-haired Elf clucked sympathetically, and answered, "Indeed, I do not like it any more than you do, but in times like this, there is nought we can do but seek refuge from the storm that wages outside."
"What I do not like is us hiding here while the rest risk their lives out there!" Elrohir said as he entered, arms full of silk cushions, fruit, and bread.
"Have a drink, you look parched!" Elrohir threw a water-skin at Esendri, who shifted closer to Legolas and made to feed it to him.
"Nay, Esendri, I shall see to Legolas. Worry about yourself first!" Elrohir interrupted. He did not wait for the servant to protest, and instead raised the torso of the Elven prince and propped the unconscious Elf up against himself, before easing a few drops of water down Legolas's throat.
Legolas spluttered briefly. Elrohir beamed at the other two, and was delivered more water to the Elven prince. This time there was a response, and Legolas drank in greedily. Once he had enough, his eyes opened and came into focus.
"Elrohir?" he croaked, and Esendri was over by his side in a second.
"Legolas, how feel you?"
"Hot; and my head hurts!"
Elladan laughed out loud.
"Somehow that does not surprise me, with the amount you had to drink last night!" His comments drew black looks from both Esendri and Elrohir.
"What happened, where are we?" Legolas demanded.
"We found you unconscious at the feast site after the Orc attack," Elrohir said, hoping that by giving the most direct answer, Legolas not ask any further.
There was no such chance of that as the Elven prince again demanded to know where they were.
"The caves, do you remember them, Legolas?" Esendri answered after much deliberation.
"Why are we here? Where is Father?"
Elrohir drew in a deep breath, and gave a brief explanation of the situation.
"So Eryn Galen is indeed overrun." Legolas's was ashen, but he did not jump to his feet and demand to be let back into battle.
"The injured will be arriving soon. Our help would be required once they are brought to us."
It was then that it occurred to Esendri why Legolas was trembling.
"Does a walk outside sound good to you?" he offered.
"No thank you, Esendri, there is nothing wrong with staying in here."
Elrohir picked up the apprehension in his voice, and tightened his hand around the lithe shoulder.
"Please, Legolas, there is no need for us to stay in here any longer than we should. May I remind you that you were not reduced to a quivering heap, cowering in the darkness, the last time you were in here!" Esendri tried to lighten the atmosphere further.
The remark drew a laugh from Legolas.
"If I recall correctly, that was because someone else was in a state of blind panic, raising the dead with his screams and cries!"
"At least your father has instructed for this place to be filled with vegetation!" Esendri said, drawing the attention of the twins to the vines and vegetation that grew on the cold, rocky walls, and the tapestries and curtains that decorated the room.
Their conversation was interrupted by one of the sentries, entering to announce the arrival of the first group of injured Elves. His face lit up like the morning sun when he saw Legolas awake, and had to be stopped from fawning over his prince.
"I suppose that is our cue to start helping!" Elladan said, rising to his feet and dusting off crumbs of bread from his tunic.
"I can help!" Legolas proffered before they could tell him to rest.
Doubtful glances were cast at him, but the glint in his eyes settled the matter. He jumped up and dashed out of the room. ***
It was a despondent Thranduil that reached the caves just as the last rays of the sun vanished into the west.
"Curon does not shine tonight, the night is black indeed," he said while dismounting from his steed with the last survivors.
"Thinna elenath, nîn gur naergon sen amarth." His son stepped out from within the shadows, the beautiful eyes hooded.
"Legolas!" Thranduil stepped forward and embraced the prince, a weight lifted from his heart.
"Father, what is the situation?" The calm face and the polite tone of the Elven prince seemed to lend Thranduil some strength.
"The last defences have fallen. We were overrun by the Wargs, and Orcs will re-emerge once Anor has set. I fear we do not have the strength to take back what was ours. We need the time to regroup, and for the injured to recover."
The twitch on the face of Legolas was the only emotion he allowed himself to show. Thranduil waited patiently for him to speak.
"I hate them."
His father was startled by the forcefulness of the words, and the loathing in his voice. The king did not speak as Legolas started trembling like a leaf in the wind. He reached out and scooped his younger son into his arms, making calming noises, and taking him aside from where they would have some privacy.
"Caeriel lies poisoned by the spiders. They do not know if she will make it. "
The monarch closed his eyes and looked away, as his own memories of how he had watched his wife be consumed by her injuries and leave him forever. It seemed only yesterday that her fair hands were kneading his weary shoulders, working away the strains of a day's riding.
"I could do nothing as Eryn Galen was overrun, only to hide in a cave!" Legolas was almost shouting.
"You must understand, ion-nîn, that there is another path for you."
"But Eryn Galen is my home!"
"As is Middle-Earth. I have spoken to Glorfindel, and you are to leave in the morn. Hopefully the Orcs will be too busy with their plunder to notice your company departing. It is essential you leave for the north as quickly as time will allow it.
"My lord," Glorfindel called from a distance. "Your urgent attention is required."
Thranduil planted a kiss on the forehead of his son before leaving.
Glorfindel walked up to where Legolas was still standing.
"I have examined Caeriel. She will survive," Glorfindel said. When he received nothing more than a polite nod, he decided to press on.
"Look at me, Legolas," he commanded, voice powerful and compelling, and the Elven prince found himself obeying.
"Hatred is not the answer. Elrohir told me everything. Even the trees were not spared. They lie dead, as does everything within a half-mile radius of the feast grounds."
"I could not stop myself."
"Then do not start it, Legolas. I know it is difficult. You might not realise this, but that was only a small display of your true powers. I do not wish you to use them so lightly again. Have all your lessons with your ada and I been for nought?"
Legolas did not answer, guilt rising in him.
"Your mother's death would have been in vain if you continue down this path. She died with the dream of you growing up in a world that she loved so. It is why we have to destroy the gem, for her, for the free peoples of Middle-Earth.
"I want you to promise me, on your mother's name, that you will not use your magic again until you have learnt to control it properly. It is something that I cannot risk. The journey ahead will be trying enough without you giving away our whereabouts. All of us felt it last night, and Esendri was almost killed by it. The next time you feel the temptation to wield it, remember that he will die should you unleash its full power."
The tears that came were held back forcefully, and the Elven prince stuck out his chin, before agreeing to what the other sought.
"Tomorrow, we journey to the north."
Curon - moon
Thinna elenath, nîn gur naergon sen amarth - Stars fade, my heart laments this fate
Anor - sun
Ion-nîn - my son
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.