20. Trial and Errors, Part I
Kudos to Denethor for being such a good sport while I poke fun at him, though the poor guy didn’t exactly have a choice.
Mysian- Barmaiden the Rangers accidentally kidnapped. Punched Boromir.
~Eastern Scouting Party~
Barin- Dwarf from the Lonely Mountain
Orimhedil- Elf warrior from Imladris
Chink! Chink! Chink! Chink!
Boromir slowly dragged his severely dented tin cup across the prison bars. He had straightened his nose back into place a few hours ago, and his eyes had finally ceased watering. Unfortunately, his nose was swelling hideously, making breathing from it impossible, and he was fairly certain the deep bruises forming underneath his eyes were not exactly flattering.
If he hit the bars with the bottom of the cup, he was rewarded with a lower metallic ring.
Chink! Clang! Chink!
Soon, the Man of Gondor had a full-blown symphony: Chink! Chink! Clang! Chink! Ping! Clang! Ping! Ping!
Boromir was thoroughly enjoying himself, despite his dismal situation. He struck up, or rather, attempted to strike up, an old Gondorian march; hitting the iron bars in different sections with alternating angles of his tin cup. He stopped somewhere amidst the line of “Gondor blades are just and true” when he noticed the glare being thrown at him by his jailor. With a sigh, he dropped the cup and sat back down onto the wooden cell bench.
He leaned his back against the stone wall and closed his eyes. The wall was cold and damp. Boromir supposed the air smelled musty and sharp, but he could not be certain, as his nose was currently not functioning properly. It felt strangely foreign and obtrusive on his face. Boromir reached up to touch it, and then thought better of the idea and dropped his hand.
‘This is quite a mess indeed,’ he mused, a phrase he had repeated to himself constantly throughout the day. There were no faults he could find in his prison: the walls were solid and held no holes; the iron bars were wrought of a good craft and showed no weakness. He had hoped the small barred window might offer some means of escape, but its bolts were secure and its bars sturdy. Boromir allowed himself to slide downward on the bench with a grunt. He sighed and stared up at the ceiling, noticing the many messages carved along his cell’s walls.
“Brewil was here. 2955 Third Age.”
“Hagan is innocent.”
“The end is near.”
“Silinrain stole my sword.”
“I saw a rat/ his name was Cor/ he could squeeze/ right through the door.”
Boromir pondered for several minutes what he should write upon the walls. It would have to be clever, that much was certain. Something that hinted at whom he was—for it must not give his true identity away. Something that proclaimed his innocence; that told of a terrible mistake. ‘A man in black sits in this cell,’ Boromir recited. ‘Innocent and… hmmmm.’ He should probably leave out the part where the mysterious man in black is punched in the face by the serving maiden.
‘Which brings me to yet another dilemma,’ he thought with a scowl that turned into a wince as sharp pain ran up the bridge of his nose. The serving maiden. ‘Mysian, was it? Yes—Mysian.’ Boromir had always been a favorite among the ladies. But this one… She hated him. It was a situation he was altogether unfamiliar with, and left him utterly baffled. All women were fond of the son of Denethor, it went against standard protocol that one should not be.
‘This must be changed,’ he decided resolutely. ‘And since it does not appear I shall be leaving this vicinity any time soon,’ he glanced about the solid room in resignation, ‘I suppose I have nothing better to do than focus on the task at hand.’
As he had no experience with women whom detested him, Boromir drew from the only source he knew: Denethor’s private stock of harlequin romance novels.
It was a little-known fact that Denethor, Twenty-sixth Steward of Gondor, was a hopeless romantic. Denethor took great pains to conceal his embarrassing secret, lest anyone discover his passion for the harlequin romances. It was true that since the death of his wife Finduilas the Steward had become steely and grim, but he had never hardened so completely as to be void all feelings of love.
Only three others knew of his fondness for the books. Of the three, Denethor was only aware of one. He had managed to coerce his captain of the Citadel Guards, Beregond, into buying the short tales for him (a task which Beregond loathed, for the shopkeepers would snicker at him behind his back as he left with armloads of the cheap books), but it was by pure accident that Boromir and Faramir had stumbled across their father’s guilty pleasure.
Boromir had been fourteen at the time, Faramir nine. The two brothers were poking around some dusty and long-forgotten chamber in Minas Tirith when they uncovered boxes and boxes of the novels. Faramir, ever the reader, immediately snatched one up and began reading its contents aloud: “…She was an orphaned girl, the most beautiful there ever was and ever will be. Yet she could remember nothing of herself due to the bump she had received on the head, courtesy of a passing army of orcs. The only clue to her past was a strange hair pin…” He had continued reading until dissolving into howling fits at the part where a brave prince rescued the girl from three thousand dragons and she collapsed into his arms.
“’She looked into his deep’… hahaha…ahem…‘his deeeeep blue-green eyes and’… hee hee hee… ‘felt herself fall into the endless depths of his soul’—HAHAHAHAHA!” Faramir laughed so hard he began snorting uncontrollably. He clutched at his sides and rolled on the floor in hysterics.
Boromir laughed, though somewhat half-heartedly. He would rather die than admit it, but he wanted to know how the story ended.
“To whom do these belong to?” Faramir asked when he had sufficiently recovered. He tossed the book carelessly back into the box and wiped away the dirt from his jerkin. “They are terrible!”
Boromir knelt before another box and blew away the dust and cobwebs. He opened it and randomly selected a book. As he flipped through it, he noticed the tales contained rough sketches: here was one of a gallant knight sparring with some strange creature; there was one of a wavy-haired princess bedecked in jewels. Boromir was fascinated. He wanted to read them all.
In the following weeks, the brothers came to realize their father frequented that particular wing of the castle quite a bit. “They belong to him!” Faramir declared gleefully. Though only nine, the youngest son of Denethor was prone to worry about issues that only adults were plagued by. He once confided to his older brother he was concerned their father “was in danger of building an insurmountable wall around himself, which enables him to shut everyone else out.” Boromir often wondered where his little brother picked up such vocabulary, as it was obviously not his own.
Thus began Boromir’s love affair with the books, and he read them whenever he could slip away unnoticed to Denethor’s dusty recluse.
Boromir recalled the stories he had read where the female characters hated the men. According to these books, for they all followed the same storyline, the female characters were actually madly in love with the men, but did not know it. ‘Therefore,’ reasoned Boromir, ‘this fair maiden must be madly in love with me.’ But how to make her realize this was true? Boromir pondered the thought for several moments. Obviously, he could not rescue her. There was nothing to rescue her from, not to mention the fact he was locked away in a prison cell. Perhaps a roving band of orcs would choose to attack the village. Then he would come bounding to the rescue: sword flashing in the sun, Horn of Gondor sounding deadly upon his lips.
He shook his head. Where would this band of orcs come from? And again, he was still locked within the cell. He also had the distinct feeling Mysian would be able to take care of herself should any orc attempt to make off with her. Boromir grimaced and felt sorry for the hapless orc foolish enough to try.
Then, as though struck by a bolt of lightening, it hit him. ‘Of course!’ he thought triumphantly. ‘I must kiss her!’ It was all so simple, why hadn’t he realized it earlier? Why, all he had to do was place a small kiss upon her lips, and the maiden would fall head over heels for him. Then she would release him from the prison cell, and they would run off together.
Boromir frowned. Running off with Mysian was not exactly what he wanted, but he supposed under the given circumstances, it was better than his current situation. Mayhap Faramir would grow to love her. She had the potential to be a nice sister-in-law.
* * *
Legolas sat in miserable silence upon his horse. Of all the horrible punishments Glorfindel could have extracted upon him, the Elf lord had done something far worse: nothing at all. He had not looked at nor spoken to Legolas since the previous night. Actually, no one was speaking to Legolas. It was as though he didn’t exist. Even Orimhedil, who usually sided with the Mirkwood Elf, would not acknowledge him.
Legolas bowed his head in shame and stared at Mithlaf’s shoulders as the horse walked onward. In his current state of exile, it seemed to be an unspoken rule that the son of Thranduil ride in the back of the company, where no one would have to look at him. This, Legolas did not mind, for his appearance left much to be desired. His eyebrows were completely burnt off and his hair hung in fried tatters around his shoulders. His face had begun to heal, and now only his nose, cheeks, and ears remained bright red and scorched. Thankfully, he wore his hair in the preferred style of most archers: pulled back at the top and plaited into small braids on either side of his head. Had they not been as such, he would have most likely lost all the hair framing his face. As had befallen Glorfindel.
Legolas raised his head and risked a glance at the captain of Imladris riding in front of him. Glorfindel’s back was rigid, and blackened spikes of what was once luxurious golden hair stuck upward from his forehead, somehow managing to defy gravity in their crispy state.
From there, Legolas allowed his eyes to slide over to the Dwarves. Their beards had been singed away to nothing more than long stubble. Poor Barin had lost his completely. It was the strangest sight Legolas had ever seen, for without their beards, Dwarves apparently resembled lumpy-faced old men.
It had taken the company a better part of the morning to convince Barin he should go on living. The de-bearded Dwarf had lain down on the frosty ground; head buried in his arms, claiming he would rather die than live with the shame of losing his beard.
“Mahal take me now!” he sobbed, voice muffled by his arms, “I cannot go on! Never again will I face my kin, for I am shamed! I am an abomination!”
Gimli, who had great blisters covering his nose, cheeks, and forehead, along with Glóin, who had similar afflictions, took their distraught comrade into the bushes and fashioned Barin’s hood around his face in a makeshift scarf. Barin’s new mask did not replace his beard, but it did save him from further embarrassment.
Legolas’ eyes flicked over to Gimli, whom he had privately begun to refer to as ‘Master Stub.’ The Elf was almost on the verge of provoking the son of Glóin, just so the Dwarf might speak to him. Anything was better than the terrible silence he was being forced to endure. He watched the Dwarf’s shoulders as Gimli marched purposefully up the rocky mountain trail. Gimli’s whole body rotated with his movements, and though his form was rather box-shaped, his upper body seemed to hold the majority of his strength. Legolas found the unbalanced distribution somewhat disgusting. A body ought to be a thing of grace and fluid movement, not a trundling boulder.
Gimli must have felt the Elf’s bright eyes watching him, for he suddenly stiffened and began to finger the handle of his axe. Legolas sighed, lowering his gaze, and stared dully at his hands. He did not deal well with guilt, and at the moment he was wallowing in it. He was still unable to bring himself to look directly at Glóin, knowing the elder Dwarf had treated him with relative acceptance since the very beginning. Legolas, in turn, had repaid his kindness by flinging the stately Dwarf into a pond and nearly roasting him on an open flame. He highly doubted, and rightly so, that Glóin would be near as friendly towards him in the immediate future.
‘How long have I been allowed to participate in the hunting parties?’ he asked himself. ‘I have been considered an adept warrior for many seasons now. But a warrior would not foolishly endanger the lives of his companions as I have. We could have been beset by Sauron’s minions while cooling our burns in the stream, or while we were salving the wounds this morning.’ He absentmindedly entwined the mane of Mithlaf in his slender fingers. His father had finally allowed him to travel to Imladris without supervision (granted, Thranduil had been trying to rid himself of his “feisty” youngest child), and Legolas had managed to ruin the journey in just about every way imaginable. He had even created trouble when there was none to be found. ‘At least,’ he thought wryly, ‘no deaths may be attributed to my embarrassing behavior… Thus far.’
He wondered what it was that caused him to attract trouble so easily. His second eldest brother Calengaladh had once accused him of craving attention as willows crave water. Legolas was beginning to suspect Calengaladh might have had a valid point. ‘Must I always be the center of attention?’ he wondered. Was he truly nothing more than Thranduil’s brat?
The young Elf clenched his fists and set his jaw in stubborn defiance. There was more, much more to him than that. And now he must prove it. ‘I shall no longer allow myself to engage in worded sparring with Master Stub,’ he decided resolutely. ‘The pranks, I shall also cease, for they have caused nothing but added peril to our journey.’
A sudden vision of Gimli, screaming in panicked terror as Legolas plucked a piece of bread roll from the Dwarf’s forehead, sprang unbidden from some pleasant corner of his mind. Legolas felt a smile tug the corners of his lips in spite of himself. ‘Nay,’ he hastily amended. ‘I shall only extract revenge upon Master Stub should he initiate conflict, therefore warranting such action. And,’ he added in afterthought, recalling scenes from the previous night’s fiasco, ‘my actions shall pertain directly to the Dwarf, and to him alone.’ Since he would no longer speak to the Dwarf lest dire need called for it, Legolas reasoned their conflict would have little chance of escalating to the proportions it had in days past.
The son of Thranduil sat up a little straighter and lifted his chin. The pangs of guilt he felt at the appearance of the eastern scouting party had not abated, but now he accepted them. ‘Mayhap it is only the twinge in my shoulder I feel.’ Legolas unconsciously rubbed the shoulder where the Orkish blade had scored him and frowned. It was not terribly deep, but was rather sore and aching. He decided to ignore it. Warriors did not indulge in the pain of their war wounds.
He dismissed his tender shoulder without a second thought and turned his attention to the foreboding land about him. The High Pass had posed a difficult path to cross when he and his small Mirkwood company scaled the heights; the eastern scouting party would most likely reach it by noon of the next day. Jagged bits of icy rock protruded skyward, as though the jaws of some fell creature lie agape and waiting. A dry and bitter wind blustered over the fanged mountains, emitting a dull whine as the frozen rock bit into it. Legolas suppressed a shudder. The wind rushing through the High Pass had howled and shrieked as though it were being tortured. It was not a sound he wished to hear again.
A few gnarled trees, so mutilated and twisted they more resembled claws, shivered contemptuously as the wind raged by. Legolas knew it was useless to speak with them, for their spirit was as grotesque as their appearance. He had attempted to do so, ignoring the warnings of Mirkwood’s captain, on the other side of the mountain when the trees had finally thinned, and was shocked to discover their jaded nature. They had openly cursed and taunted him. The slender Elf regarded the wiry abominations with heartsick pity as the company trekked by. The trees were afflicted by a darkness even the Elves could not cure.
“It shall soon snow.” Legolas jumped at the sound of Glorfindel’s voice, which broke the group’s unofficial vow of silence. He regarded the Imladris captain curiously, wondering if he, too, was now permitted to speak. As Glorfindel still did not choose to acknowledge him any manner, Legolas surmised his voice was not yet granted permission to rejoin the conversation. He remained quiet and solemn, tilting back his head and surveying the blank sky.
“It shall soon snow,” repeated the Elf lord briskly. “Be on the watch for a suitable camp.”
“One,” added Glóin as he shielded his face from the stinging wind with his hand, “that provides us with enough cover from this dratted breeze.”
“At least this ‘dratted breeze’ cools our blisters,” Gimli muttered under his breath. The keen ears of Glorfindel, Orimhedil, and Legolas heard his words quite clearly. Legolas bit his tongue.
“We cannot risk becoming trapped,” replied Glorfindel, giving no indication of having overheard the Dwarf. He narrowed his eyes and looked out across the rocky landscape.
“Trapped?” asked Gimli.
Glorfindel nodded, though his eyes continued to roam the mountainside. “Yes, Master Gimli. Trapped. If we do not choose our camp wisely, we may find ourselves snowed in.”
Orimhedil gently stroked his steed as the horse shook his head impatiently. “It is a common occurrence amongst deer of the forest,” he interjected. “They seek shelter and warmth within the confines of some thick pine glen, only to become trapped when the snow drifts and hardens. They find themselves penned in, and eventually starve or are picked off by predators.”
Legolas had mind to mention the *Fell Winter of 2911, when nearly the entire population of Mirkwood deer had fallen victim (as had two Elves) to such an instance, but then realized his comments would most likely fall upon deaf ears. The herds had sought out the protection of the trees, unwilling to leave their shelter in light of the raging blizzards. When at last their hunger drove them to face the cold, the snow had packed between the outer trees, reaching mammoth heights, and was crusted with an impenetrable layer of ice. The deer, despite their valiant efforts, could not escape.
Thranduil ordered the starving creatures to be shot out of mercy, lest they all die a slow and emaciated death of hunger and disease. On the rare wintry days when weather permitted, Legolas—who had been about 450 at the time—would spend the frigid hours traversing the tree boughs (for the ground was too treacherous to walk upon) with the rest of the Mirkwood bowmen. When a herd was discovered, the Elves would gather in the branches above them and end their lives as quickly and painlessly as possible. It was an unpleasant task, but a necessary one. When at last the snows finally gave way to an overly wet spring, the Elves were forced to go back and retrieve the thawing carcasses. Huge pyres were built at the edge of the forest, and the deer were piled upon them and burned. The smell was revolting and had lingered over Mirkwood’s eaves for weeks.
“Death in any guise would be a blessing,” moaned Barin, his thick hand gliding over his now beardless and masked face. “It would be a release from what I must now endure.”
Legolas fought the urge to roll his eyes. Yes, he felt terrible for what he had done, but Barin’s whining was beginning to erode his nerves. His sympathy towards the Dwarf had waned tremendously within the past hour.
Unfortunately, the son of Thranduil did not hide his disdain as well as he should have, and Gimli happened to notice his exasperation. “There is an old Dwarven custom,” he spoke to the group, though Legolas sensed the words were directed towards him in particular, “that states, ‘an axe for an axe; a boot for a boot.’”
Glóin grumbled to himself, but did not speak up, and Barin’s eyes suddenly alighted with a wicked gleam. “It is only fair that the Elf suffer the same fate as Barin.” Gimli crossed his arms over his chest and smiled coldly.
Legolas’ resolve to avoid arguing with the Dwarf vanished faster than a puff of smoke. “I did suffer the same fate as he,” he snapped, waving a slender hand over his burnt face. “We all did!”
“But it was by your hand—“
“Nay, it was you whom picked the—“
“Let us cut off his precious hair!” Barin roared over the two of them, reaching for his axe. “Then perhaps you will learn your lesson, Brat of Thranduil!”
“ENOUGH!” Glorfindel whirled around, eyes ablaze. “ENOUGH OF THIS!” The entire scouting party shrank back in fear. “There will be no more talk of revenge! There will be no more arguing, no more fighting, and no more petty insults! Should you even THINK of anything of the sort, I shall personally drag you down this mountain and all the way back to Imladris. Do you understand?”
Legolas, Gimli, and Barin nodded dumbly.
“GOOD,” snarled the golden-haired Elf lord, his burnt tufts of hair only adding to his menacing appearance. Fists tightly clenched, he closed his eyes for a moment and inhaled deeply. When he opened them, he had completely regained his composure. “I sense there are many dark creatures within these rocky confines. We must work together if we hope to safely cross the High Pass.”
Glóin grunted in agreement. “Let us find suitable shelter for the night,” he suggested. “Should it begin snowing too hard, the Elf or Dwarf on watch may wake the rest of the company so we do not meet the same fate as that of the deer.”
“Agreed,” replied Glorfindel, turning and urging his mount forward.
The bitter wind carried tiny, stinging snowflakes as it tore past the group. The blank sky was tinted a greyish hue and the icy mountain boulders appeared almost black in their frozen state. Hidden behind the jagged rocks, many pairs of gleaming eyes followed the eastern scouting party as they picked their way over the treacherous terrain. Night would fall soon enough; a frigid, snow-laden wind and creatures of shadow would gleefully follow.
*The Fell Winter of 2911: “The Baranduin and other rivers are frozen. White Wolves invade Eriador from the North.” – Return of the King, Appendix B: ‘The Tale of Years (Chronology of the Westlands).’ My interpretation of Legolas that he is around 550 (560) years old, and I place him as being born some time in the waning years of the Watchful Peace (2063-2460 S. A.).
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.