2. Little Cabin in the Woods
“Father, do you think we can stop yet? We have been riding for four days straight. At this rate, the horses will not last much longer.”
“Nonsense,” replied the older, but not much older-looking, elf, “The horses are fine.”
“Lord Thranduil,” a weary voice came from behind them, “My brother and I are grateful for your kind invitation to accompany you on this venture, but it seems to me that if the dwarves have not followed us by now, they are not going to. Besides-”
“We are going the wrong direction,” finished another voice that sounded much like the other, but laced with aggravation.
Elladan gave his brother a chastising glance, but continued speaking to the blond elf. “If you thought the dwarves would miss it, why did you take it?”
The irritated older elf sighed in exasperation. “Because it was there. I thought young people were supposed to be spontaneous.”
“Spontaneity does not equal indiscretion,” Elrohir said before he had time to think better of it.
Thranduil turned to him, his anger flared. He opened his mouth for some retort, but was interrupted.
“Father, look!” Legolas said, pointing to a small cabin hidden away in this strange wood, “Perhaps whoever lives there will show us hospitality.”
Reluctantly, Thranduil agreed and the four elves approached the cabin. As they neared, it became evident that this dwelling was not well kept up and they began to doubt whether anyone even lived there.
Legolas was the first to dismount and stealthily approach the doorway. Not intentionally stealthy, of course, but in the usual way of elves, his footsteps made no noise as he trod. As he heard the others dismount behind him, he knocked boldly on the cracked wooden door.
It swung open.
He glanced back uncertainly at the others, hesitating before moving again. Thranduil strode forward, stepping before his son into the doorway.
“Is anyone here?” he barked, “I am King Thranduil of Mirkwood. With me are my son and the sons of Elrond. We require lodging for the night. Will you assist us?”
There was no answer. Legolas poked his head in, took a look around, then looked at his dad. “It seems no one is home.”
The twins come up behind them and look in, also. “It looks as if no one has lived here for some time,” Elladan suggested.
They stood there, looking back and forth at each other for a moment. Finally, Thranduil declared, “Then there is no harm in making use of it for tonight. Legolas, Elrohir, see to the horses. Elladan, we shall inspect this house more closely.”
They went about the house. It was very dirty and looked as if no one had dusted in years. There were even some cobwebs in the corners and behind the furniture. It was very cluttered, with rugged chairs and tables and even a rack of different bladed weapons. These were the only things that showed any signs of recent use. Thranduil walked to the fireplace, running his fingers over the mantle. “His tinderbox is empty,” he observed, “But then again, it is summer.”
Elladan wandered back toward the kitchen area. It was fairly unremarkable, except that it, too, was rather cluttered. He went to the counter, where a few dishes were out. There were still scraps of food on them. Surprised, he noted that the food was not dried out. It could have been prepared that morning. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a flash of color.
On the wall near the window was a small sheet of wood. In the middle of it was a nail. Impaled on it was a large, beautiful butterfly. Elladan blinked and grimaced at the sight of the dead insect. Such violence inflicted upon such beauty. It pained him.
He went back into the main room, where he saw Thranduil coming out of another room just as the other two elves came through the front door.
“It seems we were mistaken,” the king told the others, “That bed was recently slept in, and the man’s clothes on the floor still reek of sweat.”
“The food in the kitchen was fresh, as well,” Elladan added.
Inside the house for the first time, Legolas looked worried. “There is something about this house. It unsettles me.”
“I do not doubt it,” Elladan added, “There’s a butterfly nailed to the wall in the kitchen.”
This didn’t put the others any more at ease. “Elrohir,” Thranduil said, “Go get the horses. It seems they will have to wait longer for rest.”
Elrohir let out a barely-audible sigh, but obeyed. Within seconds, he ran back in. “Someone is coming!”
“He’ll see us leaving,” Legolas said, “We should present ourselves and apologize for entering his home.”
“I wouldn’t recommend it,” Elrohir told him, “He was carrying a large sword...and a dwarf.”
The other three looked at him with concerned looks, about as close as elves can get to befuddlement. Finally, Elladan asked, “What?”
Thranduil went to the window. Pulling back the dusty curtain a couple inches, he peered out. A few hundred yards off, a large, dirty man was tromping through the wood. He carried a huge, worn, ugly sword slung in a sheath over his shoulder. Over one arm hung a very dead dwarf. The dwarf wore the armor of a warrior, but the man himself had not a mark on him. It there had been a fight, it was a very one-sided one.
The elf stepped back from the window. “It seems the dwarves were following us, after all. This man probably picked one off as it trailed us. We should thank him.” Legolas gave him a dirty look that he didn’t see. Before the others could say anything, Thranduil flung the door wide and marched out.
“Father, wait,” Legolas blurt out, but he was too late. He followed Thranduil out while the twins stayed inside for the moment, watching.
Thranduil continued his march toward the man, yelling out, “Good evening, friend! I am sorry for trespassing. We thought the house abandoned.”
The man just smiled oddly, “That’s all right. I don’t mind.”
Something about this made the elves a bit nervous. Thranduil smiled and called to him, “Was that dwarf giving you some trouble?”
The man smirked again, “Nope.”
Thranduil’s false smile fell and he asked, “Then why did you kill it?”
The man was only a few dozen feet away as he answered, “I just wanted to.”
Thranduil’s eyes widened and he took a step back, saying, “Legolas...”
Instantly, Legolas’s bow was drawn and an arrow pulled back. He let it fly. It dropped to the ground after a few pitiful feet. He looked in shock at his bow. Something was wrong with it. Seeing this, Thranduil led the way back inside.
Once there, they closed and barred the door. Thranduil looked irritatedly at his son. “Is your bowstring loose?”
His son looked back at him the same way. His voice was thick with barely-concealed sarcasm. “It would seem so. It appears someone sat on it.”
“Oh, and I suppose that’s my fault?” Thranduil replied, not even trying to conceal his sarcasm. “And who left it precariously balanced on my log when he went to relieve himself?”
“We do not have time for this,” Elladan told them forcefully.
“You’re right,” Legolas said returning to a more normal demeanor, “We must find a way out. This man is mad.”
As the others worked on blocking the door and windows, and the man outside tried to bang his way in, Elrohir headed for the stairs. After a few seconds, he raced back down them, his eyes wide and his voice strained. “He’s got orcs in his attic!”
“What?” Thranduil demanded.
“Orc...heads! On plaques!” Elrohir expounded, “But not just orcs. Deer, wargs, everything. Even, something that looked like,” his voice showed just the barest hint of fear, “part of a dragon.” They were all stunned at this news.
“Now a dwarf,” Elladan finally muttered.
“He’s a hunter,” Legolas supplied the obvious answer. He squinted uneasily, “That look in his eyes. That smile. I believe he wishes to add some elves to his collection, since we wandered so willingly into his lair.”
Elladan’s eyes flashed defiantly, “Why are we cowering here like trapped rabbits? He is only a man! Any one of us could easily defeat him.”
“He killed that dwarf without breaking a sweat,” Thranduil said, “And those were no rabbits your brother saw up there. Whatever this man is, I am certain he is not a man.”
A loud cracking interrupted their conversations, and the great sword plunged through the door.
“Quick,” Thranduil ordered, “upstairs.”
They rushed up the stairs just as the man burst through the front door. Elrohir peeked through a crack in the attic door as the other three turned to the rest of the room. In the very dim light that came through a small window at the back, they could see the horrors Elrohir had described, and they gaped. Elladan, who had nearly wept at the sight of the pinned butterfly, nearly vomited at what he saw now. Heads, stuffed bodies, antlers, horns, and pieces of things they could not even identify littered the room. The smell of death filled their nostrils.
Elrohir whispered to them, “He is headed this way. He’s attempting to light a candle. Wait...his candle is missing its wick, so he tossed it aside.” For a moment, the elves breath easier, until Elrohir said, “He’s picking up a torch and heading this way. I think he knows we’re up here.”
“Can he see well,” Legolas asked, “Is it lit?”
“No,” Elrohir answered, “His torch is definitely not lit. And...now it is.”
Elladan muttered something under his breath.
“No, we are not lost,” Thranduil told him, “We simply have to find a way out before he reaches the door.”
“In about six seconds,” Elrohir added.
Legolas scanned the room quickly and his eyes settled on the small window. “Through there,” he told them, “It’s our only chance.”
After a brief, disbelieving look at the size of the hole, the others realized he was right. They rushed toward it and Legolas dived out without hardly stopping. Thranduil was next, but it took him longer as he was a bit wider in the shoulders than his son. Elrohir scampered through just as the doorknob was being forced.
He plummeted the twelve feet to the ground, rolling and spryly springing back up. He ran to where the other two were untying the horses and they mounted. They were just about to run off when Legolas looked around and mentioned, “We’re one man short of a company.”
Panicked, Elrohir drove the horse to just beneath the window and called up in a loud whisper, “Elladan! Come on!” All he heard was scuffling and something being knocked over. Fearing the worst, he stood on the horse’s back, then leapt from it to grab the windowsill. He pulled himself up and looked in.
Elladan lurched toward him, nearly head-butting him in the process. His leg was caught by the large man, who laughed heartily. Elrohir grabbed his brother’s arms, set his feet against the wall, and pushed off with all his might. Elladan slipped through the window and they both tumbled to the ground.
Before the man could even get to the window, they were on their horses and the four elves dashed off into the wood. The man came to the door, but didn’t bother to chase them. Looking very disappointed, he trudged back into his house, hauling the dwarf corpse in with him.
When they decided they were probably far enough away to slow down a bit, Legolas glanced back, then shared a look with Elladan beside him. He smiled ironically and said, “Well, he was a few hobbits short of a quest, wasn’t he?”
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.