Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire: 37. East Meets West

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37. East Meets West

Dew clung heavily to the forests Mirkwood, capturing the soft light of dawn in tiny beads upon leaf blade and root. ‘It shall be warm and clear this day,’ Thranduil thought absently. ‘A fine day for travel.’

The Elven-king stood tall amidst the silvered beeches of his realm, bright eyes trained ever westward.

“They have been beyond our sight nigh an hour,” came a clear voice at his side.

Thranduil continued to gaze into the endless forest. “I am aware of this.”

Silence ensued, broken only by distant strains of birdsong. Thranduil sensed the other’s hesitation.

“Adar,” Calengaladh quietly began, “Legolas is bound by no oath. He may return to us yet.”

A barely perceptible sigh escaped the Elven-king’s lips. “Nay, Calengaladh. He is bound by his heart, as is Lhûn. And that is stronger than any oath or pledge will ever be.”

“Then let us look forward to his safe return after he has completed his mission.”

Thranduil’s face grew shadowed, if not somewhat remorseful. “Never again will Legolas as we know him now walk beneath these eaves.”

After a heavy pause, Calengaladh chuckled wryly. “I fear I know naught how to bring comfort in the face of such bleakness. Mallos is far better at this than I.”

Thranduil glanced at his golden-haired son in slight amusement. “It is bad form for the ruler to admit his shortcomings.”

“One might instead call it stubbornness,” replied Calengaladh with a small quirk of the lips.

“Never,” answered Thranduil.

Calengaladh was relieved to see a genuine smile cross his father’s face, no matter how fleeting it might be. Casting a westward glance in spite of himself, the golden-haired prince retreated beneath the autumn canopy of beech. “My Lord,” he called softly. “Taurmil wishes to revise the Dorwinian drafts, and there is the matter of feeding the refugees.” He paused. “You are needed.”

Thus did Thranduil bid his youngest son silent farewell. And though Legolas’ journey was not spoken of in the year to follow—for the Fellowship’s quest was to remain secret—ever did the King’s thoughts remain at Legolas’ side.

* * *

The King’s own guard escorted Glorfindel, Gimli, Orimhedil, Lhûn, and Legolas to the Forest Gate. If the realm seemed darker and the trees more melancholy, naught was spoken of it. One Elf of Mirkwood would never return, and perhaps similar fate awaited a second.

After the initial shock wore off, Legolas had taken his eldest brother’s decision to depart West with quiet, albeit saddened, acceptance. Thranduil rightly suspected it had been Lhûn’s choice of words—that he “felt within his heart he must go,”—which swayed the youngest prince.

Lhûn exchanged fond farewell with the King’s soldiers and rode proudly into the rolling brown fields stretched before them. Unlike Legolas, he did not look back.

‘I have wandered over every branch and beneath every leaf for countless years,’ he thought as the trees swayed mournfully. ‘Ever shall the Greenwood grow tall and fair within my heart. I need no parting glance or words of sorrow.’

The company traveled swiftly in the days that followed. Autumn was overtaken by Winter, and the sky remained grey and distant for a majority of the journey. Snow softly dusted the land as they reached Grimbeorn’s pastures. They were not surprised to find the Carrock absent, though it was with much disappointment on Gimli’s part that he was not allowed to return his pony.

“You are now able to ride her without aid,” said Glorfindel, “and long are we overdue in Imladris. Keep the pony with you for now, Master Dwarf. She will hasten our journey.”

Thin layers of ice had begun to form at the very edge of the Ford, though the rushing waters would prevent it from freezing over even at winter’s height. The company crossed with relative ease—save minor incident involving Gimli and a flock of migratory geese—and continued on.

By the end of the week the Misty Mountains, half-robed in their namesake mist, loomed ahead. Snow fell constantly, but did not stick, and arctic winds promised of frigid days to come. The few frost-coated leaves clinging stubbornly to their trees shivered violently; the land resigned itself to the dreary browns and slate greys of winter.

Signs of the Enemy were ever apparent—most of them familiar, some disturbingly not—and the company engaged in several skirmishes with wolves and trolls along the way. Glorfindel was thankful Gimli and Legolas seemed to have reached an unspoken truce, leaving the company to rest and regroup during the rare moments of less perilous travel. Legolas did not stray far from Lhûn’s side, whereas Gimli’s concentration was bent on keeping his mischievous pony under control.

The two exchanged no words, and generally avoided one another as much as was possible. Every so often Elf and Dwarf would meet eyes, and the flashes of uncomfortable recollection followed by stifled disdain did not go unnoticed by Glorfindel. But the Elf lord did not complain. After all, Legolas and Gimli did not have to become friends; they merely had to put up with one another.

At last they reached the High Pass. Snow fell thick and fierce, and the stinging wind shrieked as it scraped over jagged black boulders. Orimhedil relinquished a pouch of silver coins to a grim-faced woodsman guard, while Gimli took to loud mutterings of tolls and taxes.

“Beware,” the guard warned in muffled tones, so bundled in winter clothing he more resembled a mound of fabric. “The Pass isn’t as manned this week. Many have gone over to the western side to await the attack.”

“Attack?” Glorfindel asked.

The toll guard nodded and quickly recounted the plans of Rivendell.

Glorfindel’s smooth brow furrowed in concern. “Slingshots, you say?” That did not sound like something from the mind of Elrond or Erestor.

Lhûn grimaced. “I am not sure charging the Enemy is the wisest decision. The consequences of such actions are far too unpredictable.”

The bundled mound that was the woodsman shrugged. “I didn’t make the plan, I only follow it.”

Bidding the toll man swift thanks, they plunged through the treacherous Pass with grim resolve. The journey was harrowing as the last: the giants were active, the weather was fierce, and the mountain itself seemed weary of travelers. Though nearly bested by a small avalanche, the company nonetheless toiled on.

It was with no small relief when at last they cleared the High Pass. The drained company swiftly descended the wintry peaks into warmer, mist-shrouded slopes below.

“At this rate, we shall reach Imladris’ borders by the evening,” Glorfindel announced with visible relief.

* * *

Their trek came to an abrupt halt when a strange blast pierced the evening air with bold authority. The entire party straightened. “What was that?” asked Orimhedil.

Glorfindel shook his head. “I know not. Strange, it sounded as though some manner of horn…”

Legolas peered into the growing darkness. “Was it call of friend or foe, I wonder?”

To that, the golden-haired captain of Imladris had no answer.

“I recall such a sound,” Lhûn said slowly, eyes growing distant as he sifted through years of memories. A second blast perforated the gloam. His eyes narrowed. “Yes, yes I am positive I have heard that call before, though long it has been...”

Gimli shifted impatiently atop his steed. If there were orcs to be killed, they shouldn’t be standing around reminiscing.

“The House of Vorondacil,* Men under command of Elendil, would often sound their horns before riding to battle.” A small frown graced Lhûn’s face. “Greenwood’s forces joined them upon the fields but once or twice, yet still do I remember their calls. Though skilled in battle as far as Men go, I believe they were known for their clamor above all else. Often did my brother Orodil write to me—“ A pained expression flickered across his face, and he abruptly checked his words.

The others waited for him to continue, but he did not. Legolas suppressed a sigh of disappointment. He knew too little of his famed brother Orodil, as the deceased prince was seldom spoken of.

“House of Vorondacil?” Glorfindel’s golden eyebrows knit together in thought. “Which later became the House of Hurin… the ruling Stewards…” He blinked and straightened in the saddle. “The Steward’s son was present at Council.”

“But he traveled west with Aragorn,” Legolas argued. “He cannot be upon these hills.”

“Undoubtedly some battle rages,” Orimhedil commented, head tilted slightly to one side as he listened into the night.

The party grew silent, ears picking up the faint sounds of chaos below.

A low and impatient rumble erupted from Gimli’s barreled chest. “You lot can stand here and recite history or contemplate the journeys of Men all night. I am going to aid our comrades.”

With that, the Dwarf tugged on the reins of his fat pony and kicked her flanks.

He succeeded in making the animal complete a full circle. “No! Argh—dumb beast! Go forward.”

He tugged upon the reins a second time. The pony half-reared. Legolas and Lhûn exchanged amused glances. “Lord Glorfindel,” bellowed the Dwarf, “how do I make it go forward?”

“Gimli,” the Elf lord calmly replied, “you send her too many signals. She is confused.”

“Durin’s beard!” The Dwarf slid awkwardly from the saddle. “My own two legs are more useful than that confounded beast’s four.”

Axe aloft, he disappeared into the eaves with far more speed than the Elves accredited his kind. After the initial shock of the Dwarf’s actions wore off, Glorfindel sprang from his steed and sprinted after the son of Glóin. Orimhedil, Legolas, and Lhûn were not far behind.

“Ho, orcs!” The Dwarf’s cries thundered throughout the mist-laden forest. “Come taste the steel of Dwarven axe—it is a treat you’ll not soon forget!”

“This is madness!” Lhûn leapt to the tree branches, darting through leaf and mist. “I do not even wish to fight!”

Legolas grinned as he bounded past his brother, bright eyes gleaming at the prospect of battle. “It shall be your last ere you depart, I suggest you enjoy it while you can. Hurry! Let us not allow the Dwarf to slay all our quarry.”

Lhûn groaned and muttered some impressive Silvan curses under his breath. ‘It is not a game, Legolas. One day you shall realize this.’

Oddly enough, Lhûn was happy he would not be around to witness that day.

The smell of orc grew more prominent as the small company charged down the steep hillside. Glorfindel felt the blood surge and boil beneath his calm exterior. Reserved Elf lord vanished and was replaced by full-fledged Noldor Warrior.

He had journeyed with Gimli and Legolas for a month. Someone was going to pay for this.

The final brilliant rays of sun extinguished, yet the sky remained clear and bright in the moonlight. Black bodies soared overhead, their shrieks of dismay trailing after them and coming to abrupt halt upon meeting earth or tree.

“Slingshots! The slingshots have worked!” Orimhedil laughed in triumph. “Imladris is saved!”

“The Enemy approaches,” Lhûn called from the trees, voice void of any mirth. He swiftly readied his bow.

At his brother’s side Legolas was quick to do the same, expert eye peering through pearly mist and discerning the approaching forms. Orimhedil hastened to reach Glorfindel.

“Circle to the right,” ordered Lhûn, falling into years of practiced command. “I shall take the left. Remain in the canopy above the mist. Glorfindel and Orimhedil will not stray from the Dwarf; let us provide them with cover.”

Legolas offered a sharp nod in reply, and the two Mirkwood Elves quickly parted.

Glorfindel moved lightly, blade sweeping side to side in precise two-handed arcs as he hewed down any dark creatures in his path. The ease at which he did so surprised even himself. The orcs meeting him seemed to do so out of pure accident. ‘They are fleeing,’ he realized, dispatching another foul beast with a flick of the wrist. He was an unexpected obstacle in their dash to safety.

Twin growls of surprise erupted from an Orkish duo upon finding themselves face-to-face with the golden-haired Elf lord. Glorfindel quickly swung upward and parried the orc who drew first, blades meeting in a resounding clash of mithril upon steel.

The second orc barely had time to reach for his sword before he fell, transfixed by a gold-fletched arrow to the forehead. Glorfindel’s foe met a similar fate, a green-fletched shaft suddenly sprouting from his neck.

The Elf lord lifted one hand in swift thanks before driving forward; words of gratitude could be spared for a later time.

Legolas quickly sighted one of three orcs about to meet Orimhedil. Targets must be chosen carefully. He and Lhûn had not enough arrows between them to eliminate an entire Orkish army, and if the enemy was not killed immediately, there posed an even greater threat of wounded orcs lying concealed within the mist.

Orimhedil and Glorfindel converged with the squat form of Gimli amidst the swirling vapors. The Dwarf swung at fleeing orcs as one might hack small saplings, felling Sauron’s minions with single, heavy blows.

‘His skills certainly lack in refinement,’ thought Legolas with slight disdain, unwilling to admit it yet grudgingly impressed nonetheless. The Dwarf had managed to give him a few noteworthy punches, now that he thought about it, but that was beside the point.

He rapidly nocked an arrow, bowstring singing at its release. The shaft flew straight and true; the orc intending to blindside the Dwarf dropped like a stone.

“Gimli!” Glorfindel stood back-to-back with Orimhedil, leaving his left side slightly exposed. Green and gold fletched arrows flew from a tree at his left, courtesy of the two Mirkwood archers. “Son of Glóin—do not chase after the Enemy! Remain with us!”

Seeing the wisdom of the Elf’s orders, Gimli grudgingly complied. Swiping at passing orcs, he slowly backed his way towards the two Rivendell Elves.

An arrow-pierced body fell heavily at the edge of his peripheral vision. Gimli disguised his jump of shock as a duck, dropping to his knees and swinging at a passing orc’s ankles. The creature crumpled with a yowl of anguish, cut short as Gimli drove his axe into the beast’s chest.

Panting, he lunged to his feet and continued his retreat, until he stood at the head of a triangular formation with Glorfindel and Orimhedil.

He was going to pretend he never saw that green-fletched arrow protruding from the orc’s neck. And if the Elf ever brought it up…

Gimli growled and sent yet another orc into blissful oblivion.

Piercing eagle cries shattered the crystalline sky above, and the tide of orcs gradually ebbed. The young Windlords were too large to dive into the forest eaves, but the terror they instilled within the orcs drove the dark beasts onward.

The small company stood alert, blood still burning with the rush of battle.

“I believe there are stragglers ahead,” said Glorfindel, pale face alive and flushed with exuberance. “The Woodsmen and Beornings await those who have passed us, but let us make sure none of the remaining Enemy is left unscathed.”

At the Imladris captain’s lead, the party once again moved to strike within the darkened forest.

* * *

Aragorn drove his sword into the midsection of an unfortunate orc, gritting his teeth as the creature released a sickening scream and sank to its knees. He freed his sword with a vicious yank. ‘We have fared surprisingly well thus far.’

As far as he could tell, he had sustained only minor nicks and bruises, the thick mist was lifting a bit, and the orcs appeared to be thinning. Mayhap luck would favor he and Boromir for once.

He whirled, sensing rather than hearing his opponent, and found himself swiftly disarmed and lifted effortlessly off the ground by the front of his tunic. “Never shall you foul Imladris’ fair borders,” his captor snarled.

Aragorn choked and attempted to wrest himself free of the iron grasp. “Glorfindel?” he managed to wheeze, just as the Elf lord made move to run him through.

The golden-haired Elf stopped short.

“ 'S me, ‘rgo’n!” Aragorn writhed and desperately hit the Elf lord’s fist, hoping Glorfindel would release him before he choked to death.

Glorfindel’s battle-lit eyes narrowed and regarded him quizzically. He blinked. “Aragorn? Aragorn?” He instantly released the man. “By the Light of Valinor, what has happened to you?”

Aragorn winced and greedily sucked in air. “Pitch, and—,” his brow furrowed as he noticed the Elf lord’s burnt locks. “What has happened to you?”

Glorfindel’s normally calm visage darkened for a brief moment.

“Aragorn?”

Aragorn looked around Glorfindel and identified the owner of the second voice. “Legolas.”

Puzzled amusement flashed across the Elf’s face as he sheathed his hunting knife and bounded over an errant orc body. “Were you not supposed to travel west? And what in the name of Eru are you covered in?”

“It is a complicated matter that I—Legolas, your eyebrows…” He scrutinized the archer’s face. “Is that a split lip?”

The Elf lifted his chin with an air of indifference, though Aragorn thought he detected a faint blush. Yes, Legolas’ bottom lip was definitely swollen and puckered. “A tale of little importance,” said the Elf. “I shall not bore you with its dull details.”

Gimli, wiping gore from his axe blade with a worn buckskin cloth, emitted a loud snort. Aragorn glanced at the Dwarf, whose beard was significantly shorter and somewhat singed since their last meeting. The black eye was a new addition as well. Both Elf and Dwarf, Aragorn noted, were making a point not to look at one other.

Glorfindel released an exasperated sigh. “Aragorn, where is the rest of your company? I see you have the son of Denethor at your side, but I sense no others.” He blinked and shook his golden head. “And what are you doing on this side of Imladris?”

“Circumstances forced us to part ways,” said Aragorn. “And then Boromir and I had a most unfortunate meeting with the orcs…” He trailed off and shuddered at the memory of his last sleeping arrangement.

“It almost appears as though you attempted to join them, son of Arathorn,” spoke a smooth and somewhat disdainful voice.

Aragorn turned and bowed stiffly upon recognizing Lhûn. “My lord prince. A star shines on the hour of our meeting.”

Lhûn stiffly bobbed his head in acknowledgement. “And may your paths be forever green, Estel. It is good to see you again.”

Aragorn didn’t quite believe him. The House of Oropher, with the exception of Legolas, generally tolerated him as one did the giant moths of Mirkwood: a pest or nuisance that could not be completely done away with, and so must be endured.

Then again, Aragorn never had made a particularly good impression upon the Wood-Elves. His first visit resulted in the near-death of Mallos, and his last involved a severely bedraggled showing, complete with one howling Gollum in tow. Only Legolas seemed to enjoy the uproar.

Lhûn’s silvery eyes traveled over the tarred Ranger, flickering in distaste. Legolas tactfully positioned himself in front of Aragorn. “The hour grows late,” said the younger Elf with a calm smile, feigning ignorance while he shielded the man. “And though the night is clear and the stars merry, I would rather we spend it beneath Lord Elrond’s friendly eaves.”

“A wise suggestion, Thranduilion—and one we shall heed.” Glorfindel offered Thranduil’s youngest son a ghost of a smile. ‘Well done, Legolas.’ Legolas serenely inclined his head in return.

Gimli hoisted his axe over one shoulder and began trundling down the hill, heedless of the many Orkish bodies underfoot. “Then why do we stand here? Lead the way! I have spent enough time wandering cursed woods. I would much sooner sit before the warmth of a fire than beneath the frosty trees.”

Something flared within Legolas. Perhaps it was a culmination of recent events: the difficult journey, the words exchanged with his father, the departure of Lhûn, the forest blight, the constant battle of wills with Gimli—he could not say. All he knew was that the Dwarf’s words seemed particularly insulting to Mirkwood. “Indeed,” he sharply replied, finding himself overwhelmingly weary of the Dwarf’s presence. “For we would not have you freeze to death, or perhaps flattened by a ‘cursed’ tree’s unfortunate topple.”

The Unspoken Truce vanished. Snide comments and retorts, long held at bay, were quickly released on either side.

“And it would be a shame were some fist were to accidentally meet your face.”

“Nay, Dwarf. I do not think that likely. Those who would try to are far too stunted and cannot reach such lofty heights. In truth, I am more concerned over the fate of my ankles.”

“Legolas,” Lhûn snapped in the two Elves’ native tongue, “cease arguing with it.”

Glorfindel placed a hand upon Aragorn’s shoulder and smiled mirthlessly. “They rest in your hands now.” He gave the man a quick pat. “You have my deepest sympathies.”

Night sky stretched smooth and clear above them, the moon and stars bathing the land in soft glow. Boromir felt strangely out of place. Sighing, he glanced to the heavens and tried to ignore the squabbling Elf and Dwarf. He could not remember the stars ever shining so brightly in Gondor. And was it his imagination, or were the Elves glowing too?

His shoulder twitched.

‘If orcs can fall from the sky, I suppose Elves can glow as well.’

It had been a strange day, and an even stranger month.

* * *

Dry eaves moved quietly in the night wind. Autumn somehow seemed less bitter inside the Elven realm. Elrond’s brow furrowed in concentration, sensing the Enemy’s shadow as it slowly withdrew and slid back to darker corners.

“Put me down!”

Elrond opened his eyes and turned to look across the courtyard. He barely suppressed a laugh at the sight of Erestor, balancing one hobbit on each hip as one would a small child.

“I said,” Merry repeated in vexation, “put me down!”

“I will not have you running back into the fray,” Erestor replied, bouncing the hobbit on his hip.

Elrond disguised his laugh as a cough.

“My Lord?” Erestor stopped mid-bounce while Merry growled and writhed. “Is all well?”

“Yes, Erestor.” Elrond nodded, corners of his mouth twitching. “Erestor, do put the hobbits down.”

“Of course, My Lord.” Erestor acknowledged the dark-haired Elf with a pert nod and gently released the hobbits.

Pippin yelped in surprise when the advisor absently straightened his vest.

“The battle appeared to favor our forces,” said Erestor, reaching out to smooth Merry’s crumpled collar.

“Don’t you dare,” the hobbit growled. He jerked backwards and swiped at the Elf’s slender hand.

Erestor pursed his lips and straightened indignantly. Elrond again coughed.

“The battle is won—for now,” Elrond replied, mood growing somber. “But there will be many more, I fear. Not all shall end so fortunately.”

“But this one has,” cried Pippin. “And that is good enough for me!”

Elrond smiled kindly at the hobbit.

“It is for now, Pippin,” Merry gently corrected, catching a glimpse of underlying sadness in the Elf lord’s gaze. “Come on, let’s go see what Sam and Bilbo have been up to! I’m sure they’ll love to hear our tale.” Pulling at his cousin’s hand, Merry led the younger hobbit off into the night.

“Such a merry folk,” Erestor wistfully commented, watching the two hobbits as they laughed and retreated into the guest quarters. His face grew somber. “Such sacrifices they will make. It grieves me to no end.”

Elrond made no reply. ‘Yes, my old friend. I feel guilt even more so than you.’

“But they are perhaps stronger than even we,” Erestor continued, expecting the other’s silence, “in their own peculiar way.” A gentle smile lit the Elf’s fair face. “I can think of no others better fit for the task at hand. But come—enough of my dreary words! We have just won a battle, have we not? A celebration is in order, for it is not every day we repel the forces of Sauron.”

Elrond could not disagree, and the two Elves retreated to the main hall as songs of victory began to swell above Imladris’ sleepy boughs.

“Should my sons inquire,” said Elrond, “I was present at the very front lines.”

Erestor bobbed his head. “And I at your side, My Lord.”

“We fought well.”

“Brilliantly, if I may say so.”

“Quite.”

Small lanterns flared to life throughout the realm, dancing in darkness and moonlight like tiny fireflies. Laughter rang clear and strong; melodies both old and new rose to greet the stars.

Elrond’s realm shone bright with merriment, and for a small while, the Enemy was but a forgotten shadow.

The day is done,

The battle won,

And now I bid adieu!

But do not cry,

Or shout, or sigh:

For now we start anew!

********

The House of Vorondacil-- Boromir’s family is from the House of Hurin. However, as this House isn’t mentioned until after they take over the throne, they were probably known by a different name during the Last Alliance.


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.

Story Information

Author: bryn

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: Humor

Rating: General

Last Updated: 10/01/03

Original Post: 08/13/02

Go to Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire overview

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