10. To Kill a Dwarf
~Western Scouting Party~
Malbeorn- a veteran Ranger
Rowgond- a young Ranger from Hollin
Halbarad- * raising eyebrows * you should know this one…
Boromir- a Dwarf (aHAH were you paying attention?)
~Eastern Scouting Party~
Rithol- female Elf from Imladris
Fanlin- male Elf from Imladris
Orimhedil- male Elf from Imladris. Keeps watch with Legolas.
Barin- a token Dwarf (that’s token, not Tolkien) from the Lonely Mountain.
Glóin- Gimli’s dad!
The eastern scouting party resumed their journey when the morning sun finally cracked through the night’s encompassing shell. By midday, the land had lost almost all traces of Elvish cultivation. The group continued to follow the river as it carved through hills that grew more prominently sloped, and stopped only momentarily for a quick lunch.
*Eniamil berries, which flourished in the hilly woodlands, grew plentiful during the late fall months. Glorfindel watched as Legolas neatly ground the plump red berries to a pulp and then mixed the substance with water. ‘He knows Gimli nearly took his head off, and yet he is concerned only with making berry juice.’
Legolas dumped the bowl of sweet liquid into his canteen and turned to look at Glorfindel. He raised an eyebrow in question at the older Elf’s scrutinizing stare. Then shrugging, the prince began rummaging through a food-sack. When he found the item of his desire (‘A bread roll?’ wondered Glorfindel. ‘Surely the waybread is enough to sustain him.’), he quickly pocketed it in a small pouch about his waist.
Glorfindel continued to stare. ‘I know he is up to something,’ thought the Elf lord, for he was no fool. ‘But what?’
* * *
‘Hello, Boromir. Boromir, greetings. Hail son of Denethor!’ Aragorn silently ran over every possible greeting he could think of, yet none seemed quite fitting. He risked a glance at the proud Gondorian riding behind his left shoulder. One of them would have to break the ice soon; they had been riding together for two days now. ‘If this continues on much longer, he will think I am purposely avoiding him.’
Unbeknownst to Aragorn, Boromir was pondering exactly the same thing. ‘Aragorn, I am honored to meet you. Heir of Isildur, I greet you! How are you, Aragorn?’
When Boromir met his eyes, Aragorn offered a weak smile. Boromir returned it with one of his own, though it resembled more of a grimace. ‘I suppose that will do for now,’ Aragorn thought wryly. ‘Perhaps I should just approach him and outright say ‘Yes, Boromir, I am the Heir of Isildur. Give me the kingdom your family has held for generations because I have decided to claim it. After that, we shall be friends.’ He pursed his lips. Halbarad was rolling his eyes at him again. Aragorn wished his friend would stay out of it.
“Ahead lies the Last Bridge,” Malbeorn, a wily veteran Ranger, announced when the large wooden structure could barely be made out in the distance. The party reined in their steeds. “How shall we go about crossing?”
“Let us break for lunch,” said Aragorn. “It will give us a chance to go over our options while looking less suspicious to any that might be watching.”
The group agreed, and soon all were enjoying the noontide rations. “We have no other choice than to cross the bridge,” said Halbarad as he peeled an apple with his long knife.
“Can we not go around?” asked Rowgond. The man of Hollin was still young and had not traveled as far as the other Rangers.
Malbeorn shook his greying head. “Nay, the Greyflood* stretches all the way to the sea, and the Hoarwell* to the base of the Misty Mountains.”
“Then we must either cross the bridge or swim the Mitheithel*,” mused Aragorn as he munched on a piece of cheese.
Boromir swallowed a bite of his bread roll and decided to join the discussion. “I should think the rains have made the river much stronger.”
Halbarad nodded in agreement. “Yes, you are right. We would be washed away in no time. It is folly to even attempt such an act. I repeat: we must cross the bridge.”
“But we will be vulnerable to attack,” argued Rowgond. “You cannot tell me that a party of Rangers will go unnoticed.”
“It would seem we have no other choice,” replied Malbeorn grimly as he stroked his greying beard.
Aragorn finished his meal and stood up, brushing off his tunic and leggings. “Very well. We shall cross the bridge, as we have no other options.” The rest of group followed suit, and soon all were once again ready to go forth.
It was not long before the churning waters of the river could be heard. The heavy, invigorating scent of water hung in the air as the party approached the bridge. Just as Boromir expected, the rains had caused the river to rise dangerously. Fortunately, the bridge’s makers had foreseen such events and thus built it quite high. Constructed of sturdy wooden beams, the Last Bridge was wide enough for two drawn wagons to cross with ease.
“I believe I have spotted the first of our welcoming party,” murmured Malbeorn, his sharp eyes missing nothing. A peasant man was leaning lazily against the bridge’s high railings.
“Nay, he is fishing,” said Rowgond, noting the scruffy man’s pole and dented bucket.
“We shall see,” Malbeorn replied. “We shall see.”
The Rangers and Boromir reached the base of the structure and urged their horses on. The peasant, pausing a moment to glance at them, promptly gathered his items and retreated.
“He left.” Rowgond furrowed his brow in perplexion.
“Scout.” Malbeorn kicked his steed with his heels and took the lead.
“What?” asked Boromir.
“He was a scout. Or a spy—whichever you prefer. We should not dally here.”
The horses’ hooves clacked loudly on the wooden planks as the tensed group moved forward. Boromir noted how all unconsciously rested his hand on his weapon of choice: Aragorn and Halbarad the sword, Malbeorn the crossbow, and Rowgond the mace. Feeling the pommel of his own sword cool against his palm, Boromir restlessly looked about.
They were three quarters of the way across when the bridge suddenly emitted a loud snap. The horses started and snorted nervously. “What—“ Rowgond nervously began to ask. Whatever he intended to say was quickly drowned by the sound of splintering wood.
“The beams have been sawed!” roared Aragorn from the rear. “Ride!”
The horses, sensing the imminent danger, needed no urging on the part of their riders. With terrified whinnies, they bolted across the rapidly disintegrating bridge. “Ride!” cried Aragorn again as they desperately sought to reach stable ground. The wooden beams groaned beneath them, unable to withstand the burden of the five riders and their mounts.
Aragorn saw Malbeorn, then Halbarad and Rowgond, and then Boromir reach the opposite shore. Giving Roheryn a nudge, he tightly gripped the reins as the large stallion gave one final lunge. Just as the horse threw himself forward, the planks beneath him splintered as the final support beam on the bridge collapsed. Off balance, Roheryn leapt awkwardly and unsettled Aragorn in his saddle. The unexpected jolt caught the Ranger off-guard. Aragorn flew from the horse’s back and plunged into the raging river with a cry of dismay.
The shock of the river’s icy coldness hit him like a fist. Water roared past his ears and rushed into his nose and mouth. He was going to drown. Suddenly, before the torrential current made away with him, a pair of hands shot out of nowhere and grabbed him. Aragorn gasped as he was pulled to the surface.
Coughing and shaking, the Ranger looked to thank his rescuer. “Boromir?”
Boromir shrugged and grinned sheepishly. “I saw the last beam fall and I was closest to the water. It was mere luck that I managed to catch you as soon as you fell.”
Halbarad clapped Aragorn’s back as he began to splutter and cough again. Rowgond looked somewhat pale but no worse for the wear, and Malbeorn had managed to subdue a very skittish Roheryn. Aragorn smiled to himself when he caught the veteran Ranger’s grumbling about sprouting a few more grey hairs.
“There is no sense in waiting for our enemies to come for us,” said a very wet Aragorn as he took Roheryn’s reins from Malbeorn.
Rowgond turned to survey the non-existent Last Bridge. “How are we going to get back?”
Boromir grinned. “We can always swim.”
* * *
Legolas could not have prayed for a better opportunity than the one he currently found himself presented with. There was the Dwarf, bumbling along the riverbank and far too interested in the stones half-buried in the Bruinen’s muddy banks—completely alone.
Orimhedil, who was supposed to be keeping watch with Legolas (or, as Legolas rightly suspected, keeping watch over Legolas in Glorfindel’s absence), had nodded off and was resting most comfortably within the tree branches. ‘He will wake up the moment he senses the slightest hint of danger,’ reasoned Legolas as he regarded the sleeping Elf. Turning his head back to the Dwarf, he narrowed his eyes dangerously. ‘The sweetest revenge shall be mine, stunted one.’
Gimli picked up a large pebble and began rinsing it in the rushing waters. Behind him, a furious Elf flitted from tree to tree with the utmost stealth. In true Wood Elf fashion, Legolas melted into the forest around him, using even the tiniest leaf and shadow to his advantage. He continued on as such while Gimli walked further and further down the shoreline.
“Ah, what have we here?” muttered Gimli happily as a multicolored sedimentary rock caught his well-trained eye. He stomped over to investigate. The stone, which was nestled snugly against a large oak tree, was ribboned with hues of rose, steel, white, black, and periwinkle. “Marvelous,” whistled the Dwarf in appreciation. Placing one hand against the tree trunk for support, he knelt down to examine his treasure further.
Legolas silently walked out from the shadows and stood a good distance behind the Dwarf. Placing the ball of his foot on a brittle stick, he deliberately began grounding his boot into the earth. The dry wood crackled loudly.
Gimli stiffened when the snapping of a single branch at his back reached his ears. Still on his knees, the Dwarf rotated himself slowly. The sight that greeted his eyes was enough to make his blood run cold.
Legolas stood tall and imposing as a marble statue. He remained motionless with the exception of the foot he continued to ground slowly. His face was completely void of any emotion, save his eyes, which glittered murderously. Gimli was utterly terrified, for he had never witnessed an enraged Elf, much less been on the receiving end of that anger.
Without warning, the Elf suddenly unslung the bow from his back, nocked an arrow, and fired.
Gimli only managed to open his mouth in shock before the arrow slammed into him. The force of the blow sent him reeling back into the trunk of the oak tree. The last things he saw were a green-feathered arrow protruding from his forehead and the fair, smirking face of an Elf.
*gasp* Legolas! What have you done?!?!
*The Greyflood, Hoarwell and Mitheithel. The Greyflood branches off into two tributaries: the Hoarwell and the Loudwater. “Mitheithel” is the Elvish name for Hoarwell. Since Aragorn was raised by the elves, it is only natural that he would refer to it as such.
Eniamil berries: “Rubus eniamis. Relative of the rose family. Round, plump red fruit comprised of numerous brambles. Stands approximately two to three feet in height. Berries produced in the late fall months. Spade-shaped leaves grow in alternating configuration, appear pale glossy green in color with toothed edges. Species native to the northern climates of Middle Earth, preferring the edges of thinly forested areas and semi-loose topsoil.”
--Bryn’s Guide of Imaginary Middle-earth Species, Chapter One “You Actually Invented a Berry”, page one.
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