25. The Bear, the Rangers, and Their Wardrobe
Eastern Scouting Party:
Orimhedil- male Elf warrior from Rivendell
Barin- male Dwarf from the Lonely Mountain
*Mithlaf- Legolas’ horse
Glóin- Father of Gimli
The House of Oropher:
Lhûn- Eldest living son of Thranduil. Heir of Mirkwood
Calengaladh- 2nd (living) son of Thranduil
Mallos- 3rd (living) son of Thranduil
Tuilë- daughter and 4th (living) child of Thranduil
It was quite unnerving to attend trial while the very gallows from which you will hang are being constructed outside the door. Boromir found himself wondering why the town had even bothered to give him a trial.
As things stood, he was accused and pre-convicted of destroying the Last Bridge, rampaging the town, burning down the Singing Mûmak—Fenadoch’s oldest establishment, Sorcery in the Degree of Infatuation (of which Boromir did not quite understand, but suspected Mysian had something to do with the matter), serving the Dark Lord, and leading the Black Riders’ charge through Fenadoch. Several of the townsfolk had also accused him of bringing bad dreams, and one elderly lady was convinced he had slain her cat.
Then came the stories.
One farmer had seen him perch on the window ledge of the Singing Mûmak and transform himself into a great black dragon. He had then breathed fire into the room, which eventually led to the demise of the tavern.
Boromir tried to remind the townsfolk that they had been the ones to set the Singing Mûmak on fire, but he was apparently forbidden to speak.
One of the men who had charged the Rangers’ door with Mysian claimed to have stabbed Boromir no less than fifteen times, yet Boromir had not a scratch on him. Boromir had wretched the spear from his hands, the man insisted, and then sang a strange chant over it. The spear transformed into a dead fish, and the man had brought the fish to prove it.
All townsfolk in the building had gasped in horror at the sight of the eyeless, dead fish. Boromir had, of course, taken the eyes of the fish and put them into his own head.
The man of Gondor was by this time so disgusted that he sarcastically puffed out his cheeks and wiggled his hands behind his ears in the manner of a fish. Several women fainted from sheer terror.
The judge reached a verdict within five minutes of the trial’s completion. Thus, when he was sentenced to hang, Boromir had already begun to plot whom his wraith would haunt. First, he would haunt the Fish Story Peasant, then the Black Dragon Farmer. Then there would be the judge, the old cat lady… And Aragorn. Aragorn and his mighty Rangers, who had all fled and left him in the hands of the rabid townsfolk. Boromir scowled, deciding he would terrorize the Heir of Isildur for the rest of his days. When Aragorn passed away, he would move on to any of the man’s descendants.
And while he was busy spooking Fenadoch he might as well give the serving maiden Mysian a few scares.
He shot a quick glance towards the rosy-cheeked maiden, who sat calmly amongst the other peasants. Though she did not believe him to be the son of Denethor, Boromir suspected she was beginning to doubt his affiliation with Sauron. If only he could speak with her…
The frayed rope bonds chafed against his hands. The bailiff chuckled as he slipped the noose over Boromir’s head. The shoddy wooden platform wobbled precariously as the bailiff jauntily strode to the side. Boromir traced the outline of the trapdoor-styled floor with his eyes. When the floor was released, there would be nothing left to hold him in place but the rope.
He closed his eyes and gulped, acutely aware that these were his last minutes on Middle-earth. ‘Strange,’ he thought. ‘I always envisioned myself being slain on the battlefield.’ Yet here he was, the son of Denethor Steward of Gondor, about to be hung like a common thief by a rabble of country zealots. There was no glory to be found in such a demise; no honor. In fact, it was rather embarrassing. ‘I hope the Elves are kind enough to tell Father and Faramir I died with a sword in my hand, inflicting much damage on the enemy.’
Elves… Elrond. He quickly made a mental note to haunt the Elf lord as well.
The townsfolk were shouting and catcalling, but he felt oddly removed from the scene. Faces leered and smirked; mouths opened and closed as words were flung at him. He heard nothing.
As the bailiff began to speak, and the bloodthirsty crowd continued to roar, Boromir sought out Mysian’s face. She stood watching him with what Boromir believed to be a touch of sympathy, but for the most part remained impassive. Boromir sighed. He was going to die alone and surrounded by enemies.
The bailiff paused as someone began pointing in the direction of the town gates and screaming. Boromir felt a ripple of alarm wash over the crowd and looked bleakly to Fenadoch’s entrance. At least being situated on the platform gave him a clear view.
A ragged cry of relief caught in his throat: Aragorn had arrived.
The Rangers and their fierce steeds charged into the town, cloaks snapping and billowing behind them as though the fabric contained a life of its own. The townspeople were sent into panic: women screamed, children cried, and men grabbed whatever weapons they could.
Boromir groaned. It was small wonder Fenadoch had mistaken them for the Nazgûl. ‘Why,’ he thought, ‘could they not have chosen a different color for their garb? A nice green or royal purple, perhaps?
Unfortunately, his ruminations were cut short. The man of Gondor suddenly discovered there was no solid ground beneath his feet.
* * *
Legolas, his face pinched and white, tightly gripped his injured leg. His shoulder was still numb, his head was throbbing, and the world had yet to cease spinning. White hot flashes of pain seared up his thigh, contrasting sickeningly with the bone chilling cold he could not seem to rid himself of. The young Elf felt the warm slickness of blood spill over his hands despite his best efforts to staunch the flow.
He suspected he would have passed out long ago had it not been for the sheer, scalding fury lacing through his veins.
He narrowed his eyes in warning as Gimli took a hesitant step forward. The Dwarf wisely stopped.
Legolas continued to glare as Gimli made pretense of scouring the area. Leaving Legolas to fend for himself was somewhat out of the question; especially considering Gimli was to blame for the Elf’s current condition.
A dark figure loomed from behind in the driving snow. The flustered Dwarf, desperately seeking to escape the piercing eyes of Legolas, did not notice.
Legolas held his tongue, hoping whatever it was would pounce and rip the lowly Dwarf to shreds.
Being the object of an Elven glare was akin to having thousands of tiny needles poking a body all over. It was immensely uncomfortable, to say the least.
Gimli turned abruptly, deciding the skin on his back was thicker and better adept at dealing with such looks. His face met the snow-covered body directly behind him. With a muffled cry of surprise, the Dwarf fell heavily into the snow and landed on his backside.
“My apologies, son of Glóin. I thought you knew I approached from behind.” Glorfindel’s concerned face peered down at him. Relief washed over Gimli like a wave.
The snow-covered Elf lord still breathed in exertion from the skirmish. His cheeks were flushed and his bright eyes had yet to lose the reckless gleam of battle. He gracefully extended a hand and offered it to the Dwarf. Gimli gratefully accepted and grunted in surprise as he was quickly hauled to his feet.
“I am afraid I lost sight of Orimhedil and your kin,” said the golden-haired Elf. He squinted into the snow. “I believe all fared well.” He turned his attention back to Gimli and gave the Dwarf a wry smile. “It would appear not all luck has abandoned us. There were naught more than ten Wargs. If we—“ Glorfindel cut himself off and blinked in puzzlement. “Gimli, is that Legolas’ bow you hold within your hand?”
Gimli wished he had thought to drop the bow.
Glorfindel frowned. “Where is Legolas?”
His grey eyes slid past Gimli and rested on the silently bleeding form of Legolas, who had learned long ago it was better to be seen than heard. Such methods generally produced more shock in authority figures and led to greater punishments for the perpetrators.
It was quite by accident that Legolas discovered the method. When he had been fifteen, his sister Tuilë took it upon herself to cut the Elfling’s hair. Alas, Mirkwood’s youngest prince could not be made to sit still for prolonged periods of time, and the resulting trim was nothing short of a disaster.
Legolas, as he was but a child, gave no thought to his appearance. He had been thrilled to finally escape his sister’s clutches and saw no need to go screaming to his father—a tactic he always employed when dealing with the cruelties of his older brothers.
The evening meal had been a memorable one.
Legolas, as he had been taught, solemnly walked into the dining room and stood by his chair in preparation for the arrival of Thranduil. There had been several gasps from the servants. Old Galion nearly dropped the pitcher of wine he held. Tuilë had gone quite pale, whereas Mallos’ jaw dropped in shock, Calengaladh made a strange choking sound, and Lhûn had raised an eyebrow and shot Tuilë a very un-amused look.
Legolas would often use the reactions of Lhûn to predict the reactions of Thranduil. Lhûn, as he was the eldest and heir of Mirkwood, was the most alike to Thranduil in action and disposition. Legolas found it most convenient (and far less dangerous) to first test his limits with Lhûn. If Lhûn allowed a certain escapade or action to slip by, chances were Thranduil would too. It did not always work as such, but for the most part it kept Legolas from facing the permanent wrath of Thranduil.
Lhûn’s gaze suggested Tuilë was headed for trouble, indeed.
When at last Thranduil arrived, the atmosphere had grown so tense the Elven-king immediately suspected something was amiss. He questioningly looked to each of his children, and when at last his eyes fell upon Legolas…
Tuilë’s punishment lasted until Mirkwood’s youngest prince regained a full head of hair.
Legolas had carefully stored the incident away, somewhat intrigued by the effect his lack of reaction had caused. He did not wish for Tuilë to be punished, but his brothers were another matter all together.
Thus, the next time Mallos and Calengaladh left him tied and hanging from a beech tree by the cord of his bowstring (they had told him it was the only way he would ever grow as tall as they and he foolishly believed them), he patiently waited until the search party found him. It was a full day before the frantic group discovered the Elfling, as Mallos and Calengaladh had forgotten which tree they left him in. Rumor had it that even Thranduil had joined the search, and the whole kingdom was in uproar over the missing prince.
The Elven-king had been none-too-pleased to learn his youngest son was found quietly dangling from the branches of a massive beech tree, and was even more displeased that Legolas had been there all night.
Calengaladh and Mallos were ordered to dangle themselves from the same tree for a day, and then banned from any form of archery for a full year. Both had been furious.
Lhûn, on the other hand, had been quite amused by the whole affair. The eldest and youngest sons of Thranduil had never been particularly close, as their ages were so far apart and their interaction usually consisted of Legolas pulling a foolhardy stunt while Lhûn did his best not to throttle the young Elf. Looking back, Legolas supposed it was the first time his antics were not directed towards Lhûn, which allowed his brother to view him as more than just a nerve-snapping Elfling. Following the incident, Lhûn began to treat his littlest brother with a bit of affection. He flatly refused, however, to take Legolas on any prolonged journey or scouting mission, claiming, “His antics would drive me to madness. Being strung from a tree would be the least of his worries.”
Gimli had hoped the others might not notice the arrow protruding from the Elf’s thigh. It was a futile wish, he knew, but he could not help himself.
Unfortunately, one would have to be blind in order to miss the shaft, and the Elven eyes of Glorfindel were anything but. Gimli’s skin crawled as those eyes traveled from the feathered arrow to the bow in his hands. He decided he ought to start explaining himself before the Elf lord struck him down.
“There was a Warg,” he rumbled, “I dropped my axe and found the bow, Warg jumped over knocked we fell backwards,” he vaguely realized his words had stopped making sense and hoped Glorfindel would be able to pick out the important ones. “Flipped arrow accident shot.” The Elf lord had not yet moved, and Gimli grew more concerned, having come to recognize the danger of a still Elf. He threw out more words in vain and hoped the Elf would respond. Even Glorfindel’s eyes had ceased to blink—a dire sign indeed as he tended to blink quite a bit. “Leg arrow bow Elf snow…” He trailed off miserably.
“He has shot me.” Deeming the time right to put an end to his noble suffering, Legolas offered further explanation of the situation.
Glorfindel was not in the habit of wishing for death. He had already died once, and that was enough for him. Yet at that moment, he suddenly found himself desiring such a thing. He wanted the mountain rock to open and swallow him up. Or perhaps a lightening bolt courtesy of the Valar. Maybe an icicle would snap from some rocky overhang, or a Balrog would appear around the path and require the Elf lord to play martyr. He supposed there was always the option of throwing himself down the mountain, but he did not relish the feel of falling through the air. Though at this point, he was willing to try almost anything if it meant escaping the frozen nightmare he now inhabited.
‘Legolas is bleeding,’ his mind reminded him. Thousands of years of battle experience instinctively took over.
“Gimli,” he ordered as he approached the fallen Elf. “Please fetch Orimhedil.” His voice sounded remarkably calm and collected given his inner thoughts: The group was trapped inside an icy tomb, and even if they were to get out, what then? They could either trek back to Imladris in defeat and meet countless numbers of orcs and whatever other beasts were on the loose, or continue their suicidal journey to the High Pass and face more dark creatures and fickle weather. Legolas’ injury only added to their growing troubles. There was no telling what sort of beasts would be attracted by the scent of blood, and the group was in no condition to make fast getaways. ‘At least Legolas is awake,’ he thought. ‘Though he still looks far too pale and shaky.’
He took off his cloak and draped it about the younger Elf’s shoulders, then placed his hands over Legolas’ in further effort to staunch the flow of blood. “If Orimhedil has his pack, we shall remove the arrow before we attempt to escape this place. If not, I am afraid we must wait until we locate the horses.” He sighed. “It appears they were smarter than we, and most of our supplies are in their packs.”
Legolas grimaced and spoke through clenched teeth. “Leave it.”
Glorfindel blinked. “Pardon? Leave what? The arrow?” He snorted. “Legolas, I am not leaving the arrow in your leg. Why in Elbereth’s name would you want such a thing?”
Glorfindel rolled his eyes towards the snowy heavens and shook his head in exasperation, wondering what sort of daft reasoning the Elf followed. “Thranduilion, you are by far the oddest Elf I have known. And,” he added, “perhaps the most infuriating. I am not about to let you travel back to Mirkwood with an arrow protruding from your leg just so that your father may see it.”
Midway through his sour jest, Glorfindel noticed the look on Legolas’ face suggested those were his exact intentions.
Fortunately for Legolas, Orimhedil stepped out of the whirling snow, provision sack in hand. Gimli reluctantly followed him.
“Master Gimli tells me you require—“ The Rivendell Elf furrowed his brow when he caught sight of Legolas’ injury. “I assumed someone was maimed by a Warg. Legolas, how did you manage to shoot yourself?”
“I did not shoot myself,” Legolas snapped, straightening in indignation. Glorfindel quickly placed a hand on his shoulder and forced him to be still.
Orimhedil knelt down beside the two Elves and began rummaging through his pack. “The arrow is not from the Wargs, for they cannot shoot and have no riders. Your arrows are the only ones fletched with green.” The dark-haired Elf started pointedly at Legolas. “Though I admit, you have managed skewer yourself at the strangest angle.”
“It was that fool of a Dwarf who shot me!”
“Legolas,” warned Glorfindel.
Orimhedil’s hand paused midway between his pack and passing Glorfindel a roll of gauze. He turned to Gimli with raised eyebrows. “Son of Glóin, did you truly shoot the Prince of Mirkwood?”
“I did not intend to shoot him,” Gimli quickly replied. Where were his father and Barin? He was feeling uncomfortably outnumbered, and doubted even Glorfindel would do much to protect him. The Elf lord seemed to have reached his limit, though he was keeping a remarkable pretense of serenity. “There was a Warg, and it was about to pounce.”
Legolas glowered. “Then perhaps you should have shot the Warg, Master Stub.”
“I tried.” Gimli glared back as best he could.
“Then what became of this Warg?” Orimhedil asked. Three pairs of bright Elven eyes turned to Gimli in curiosity, though two held an arguably murderous gleam.
Gimli cleared his throat and wiped his frozen and running nose across the back of his hand. “Ahem, well, I believe it ran away.”
“It ran away?” Orimhedil snorted in disbelief, his breath hanging momentarily in the cold air. Even Glorfindel looked somewhat skeptic.
Legolas again adopted the tactic of being seen and not heard. After all, it is not wise to interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. And the Dwarf was digging itself into a fine little hole as far as he was concerned.
Gimli knew he sounded utterly ridiculous. Legolas could, of course, back the Dwarf’s claim, for he had witnessed the scene as well. However, the Elf seemed far more content to sit bleeding in the snow and watch as Gimli made a fool of himself.
“It leapt at me, and as we fell backwards I accidentally loosed the arrow.”
“It was then that he shot me,” Legolas helpfully supplied.
Gimli paused before continuing, deciding he liked the Elf better unconscious. “When it saw that I had accidentally—“ he made sure to glance at Legolas, “—shot the Elf, the Warg grew distressed and just left. I have no explanation for its actions.”
Orimhedil shook his head and produced several leaves of athelas from a small leather pouch. Gimli might as well have told him the Warg sprouted wings and flew off to Rivendell.
“Perhaps,” Glorfindel said slowly, “the beast was unsure if you were friend or foe, and instead chose to leave the situation.”
Orimhedil’s head bobbed as he examined the arrow wound. “There is a grain of truth to that. In days past Dwarves often aligned with the darker powers.”
Gimli bristled. “We did not ‘often’ join them. We were tricked or forced to join them.”
“Yet you do not deny this fact.” Orimhedil gave the tender skin around the wound a gentle prod, eliciting a hiss from Legolas. “My apologies,” he murmured. Legolas offered him a wan grin.
“You have twisted my words and those of history as well!”
“Gimli,” said Glorfindel, “I believe it would be most beneficial if you sought out Barin and your father.” He bade Legolas bite down on a piece of his leather quiver strap and then tightly restrained the Mirkwood Elf by the shoulders.
Gimli trundled off into the snow as Orimhedil simultaneously snapped the arrow in half and swiftly pulled it out. The Dwarf winced at Legolas’ muffled groan in spite of himself.
Escaping the prison of rock and ice proved to be less difficult than Glorfindel anticipated. Barin and Glóin piled the fallen Warg bodies atop one another, and the company was able to more or less climb out of their icy shelter. The horses, being of good Elvish quality, had not strayed far.
It was put to a vote whether they should turn back or continue onward. In the end, it was decided they would press on to the High Pass. “We are too close to turn back,” Glóin had said. “And we are long overdue for a bit of good luck.”
Glorfindel was of the opinion that Good Luck had fled to warmer and less hostile environments, but kept his thoughts to himself.
It was just after midday when the eastern scouting party at last reached the High Pass. Snow had ceased to fall, but the bitter winds howled and raged with such force that even the Elves were affected. An eerie scream was produced as it whistled between the peaks. At times the keening would grow so voice-like and high that the company was forced to stop their ears. The Elvish mounts grew skittish and fearful.
A biting sun smiled coldly upon them, causing the frozen topmost layer of snow to sparkle like tiny shards of glass. Jagged black rocks seemed to absorb the sun’s rays and contrasted starkly with the white snow and stretches of blue sky. Great blackened cliffs rose steeply on either side of the group as they plodded forth. Odd rumbles coupled with unexpected avalanches left them tense and on edge. Too often would a large rock come barreling down the mountainside, seeming to bring half the cliff with it. “Giants,” Glóin said, his voice gone hoarse with nerves. “They find sport in tossing the rocks about.”
Barin made a frightened gurgling sound and pulled the hood tighter around his beardless face.
“Mayhap they will leave us be?” Orimhedil managed to keep his voice from shaking as he clung to his steed. The poor horse was in as bad a state as his rider.
Legolas nodded and spoke with false bravado. “If they do not notice us we shall be fine.” The cold was causing his thigh to grow tight and cramped. Having to straddle the steed Mithlaf’s back pulled and tore at the wound. He was not sure he would be able to hang on if the horse moved any faster, and attempting to walk was simply out of the question. Oddly enough, his shoulder did not ache as before and he felt more awake as time went by. ‘I suppose whatever it was that ailed me has run its course,’ he thought. Still, he could feel Glorfindel watching him as though he might topple over any minute.
Telltale rumbles shook the cliffs on either side of them. The horses and Dwarves snorted in alarm. “Faster,” Glorfindel snapped, his face taut and grim.
Legolas instinctively looked to the mountainside and immediately wished he hadn’t. Great clouds of snow hung suspended in the air. A deceptively slow wave of snow and rock began to build and ripple atop the cliffs. His cry of alarm mingled with Orimhedil’s.
“FLY!” cried Glorfindel. “Fly quickly!”
Elvish mounts squealed in terror as the ground began to quake. The three Dwarves floundered desperately in the snow. Orimhedil and Legolas each grabbed the Dwarf closest to them. It vaguely registered to Legolas that the writhing, cursing creature he held by the collar was Gimli. However, as the Elf’s primary concerns were to avoid being buried and stay atop Mithlaf, he could have cared less.
The hooves of Mithlaf thrashed and tore through snow as the mountains toppled on either side. Legolas cried out as sharp pain stabbed through his injured leg. He clung to Mithlaf for dear life, terrified at the possibility of being buried alive. He still held Gimli by the collar, though the Dwarf was heavy as a boulder. Gimli flailed and choked, trying to avoid Mithlaf’s flinty hooves as the panicked horse lunged forward.
They shot out of the Pass as though Morgoth himself snapped at their heels. The instant they cleared the canyon, Mithlaf stumbled and pitched forward, sending Gimli and Legolas tumbling into the snow. Legolas jerked aside as the body of Orimhedil landed next to him with a dull thump.
The company lay gasping on the ground for several moments, each thanking the Valar he was still intact.
Orimhedil rolled over with a slight moan. “Ai, we shall have a tale to tell when we reach Mirkwood.”
“Or the Lonely Mountain,” added Barin with a grunt.
Gimli sat up, massaging his throat. If he was never again able to draw a full breath of air, Legolas was solely to blame.
The son of Gloin started in alarm when he noticed their company was short one Dwarf.
The only response was the distant rumble of falling rock.
Legolas and Orimhedil quickly sat up and shot one another worried glances.
They were again greeted with silence.
Orimhedil leapt to his feet and started back towards the avalanche. Gimli was immediately behind him. Legolas pushed himself up and limped after the two as best he could. Their dismayed cries reverberated throughout the mountains.
At Barin’s shriek, Legolas, Orimhedil, and Gimli turned.
A massive bear, the largest any had ever seen, was charging up the slope. The remaining members of the ragtag company immediately drew their weapons. ‘This cannot possibly get any worse,’ Legolas thought wildly as he nocked an arrow.
I have some good news for those of you concerned over the well-being of Boromir (a.k.a. “Borofara,” or my personal favorite, “Boz,”): Aralanthiriel has graciously offered to care for him in his current state of need. He’ll be as good as new.
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.