The ominous rumbling of thunder did nothing to stop Legolas from pressing ahead.
"Legolas, stop this instant!" Caeriel's bossiness was starting to get on his nerves, and he turned about to see that Esendri was ready to explode, his face dark and menacing.
"Yes, Caeriel?" he said, the impatience in his voice not quite hidden. "Do you not realise that the heavens are about to open, and that we will be soaked through if we do not seek shelter right now?"
To his surprise, Esendri beamed in delight at her words.
"The plan is to camp out on a plateau about fifteen miles east from where we stand, which means about four hours of walking through rain and mud," Esendri said, drawing a smile from Legolas, who realised what he was up to. "Does it not sound like fun? Did I mention too that this part of the woods is full of bears? Legolas and I are planning to tame one tonight. Hopefully, if we are very lucky, we will be able to achieve this without any broken bones!"
Esendri's evil grin grew wider as the girl blanched at his words.
"Bears?" she asked, voice quivering.
"Ai! Let us not linger, for they await us!" Esendri started walking, beckoning for his companions to follow him. "Plus, the rain might do Master Legolas a bit of good in rendering his face a shade lighter!"
About ten minutes later, the Elflings were huddled under a large bough at Caeriel's insistence, watching their surroundings morosely as the rain came down in sheets. Esendri rolled his eyes at Legolas, who winked and waited for him to act.
"Lass, Caeriel, this will not do. Hiding under a tree is hardly going to draw out the bears, do you not think?"
"Indeed, Sen. I suggest we carry on!" Legolas said, thoroughly bored of watching more rain come pouring down.
To their dismay, Caeriel's face grew darker than the sky and she scrunched up her nose.
"I say we stay put. You will kill yourselves out there!"
"It has never killed me before, and will not do so now!" Esendri said, before jumping out of the tree and walking away.
Legolas went after him.
"Who does she think she is?" Esendri cried. His hair was clinging to his face, partially covering it, giving a hilarious impression. "Being older than us does not give her the authority to command us!"
Legolas stifled a giggle and settled for a sheepish smile. "I fear you may have been correct when you advised against taking her along. Mayhap I should go and tell her that we will carry on whether she wants to or not!"
"You do that, Legolas! Although she does not have to know that she is right about the storm being too strong for us to camp out on the plateau, and neither does she have to know it is only ten minutes away!"
Legolas giggled and returned to Caeriel, who tried hard not to seem as if she had been looking out for their return.
"Caeriel, it is with great regret that I inform you of our decision to press on. It is up to you to follow," he said, leaning against the branch.
Perhaps not to his surprise, Caeriel exploded. "Are you both insane?" she screamed, before taking off in the opposite direction.
"Success!" Legolas grinned as he returned to Esendri, where he was given a congratulatory thump on the back.
"What now?" Esendri said.
"That shelter we were under seemed like it could comfortably accommodate two till the storm clears!"
Unfortunately for the Elflings, the storm raged on, and worked itself up into a greater frenzy, and it was only with the cracking of dawn that the downpour eased into a sodden drizzle.
Caeriel awoke, unaware that she had been dozing just some five hundred yards away from where Legolas and Esendri still slumbered, feeling more alone than she had ever been. If only Lithroleah had followed them! He seemed to have more sense than the two of them put together, and would never have gotten her into this mess!
She slid down the tree, noting that her dress was ruined. For all her tough talk, she was afraid, hungry, and lost. Tears sprang to her eyes as took a few tentative steps in one direction, only to backtrack as she heard something crashing through the undergrowth not far away.
Fear and confusion spread through her, as she remembered Esendri's words about the area being frequented by bears. Here she was, exhausted and unarmed, faced with what sounded like ten thousand bears crashing through the forest, all headed in her direction, and there was nowhere to go.
As if to fan her fears further, whatever was in the undergrowth seemed to be moving towards her. Panic rose in her, and she took flight.
Turning around, she crashed into a hard body, screaming as she came up to face a strange creature. More of them appeared on either side of him, and she screamed again and tried to run, as the Dwarves closed in on her.
All of a sudden, two small figures dropped down from above, loud war cries piercing the air. Caeriel looked up and saw that Legolas and Esendri had come to her aid. The Dwarves were caught unawares by their sudden appearance, and the Elves managed to sink their knives into a Dwarf each.
It did not take the Dwarves long to regroup, however, and Legolas and Esendri were pinned down by tough and strong hands. They fought hard against their captors, shouting loud threats at them, kicking and thrashing about with all their might, but to no avail.
"Well, well, what have we here?" the leader said. He was an old Dwarf, but there was a power in his voice that caused them both to look straight at him, even though their command of the common tongue of the Westron was only enough for them to understand half of what was being said.
"Three little Elflings, separated from the bunch. What might they be doing here?" the Dwarf said, bending over to inspect them. "Not very much to look at. It is the first time I have come across such little Elves."
A string of Sindarin and Nandorin curses filled the air, causing even Esendri and Caeriel to raise their eyebrows at the colourful language that was erupting from Legolas's mouth. If not for their situation, Esendri might even have laughed out loud at the thought of what Thranduil would have said had he heard such words coming out from Legolas. He too wondered where Legolas had learnt those words, but managed to stop himself from asking him out loud.
Even though the Dwarf did not understand it, the meaning was clear enough, and he harrumphed.
"Ferocious too, aren't they. Take them with us!"
Once the injured Dwarves had been seen to, the three were bundled up. Their limbs were bound, and they were hoisted up onto the backs of the Dwarves before the host moved off, Legolas screaming and struggling at every step, even managing to draw blood from the Dwarf who tried to pick him up by biting down hard on his finger.
The leader lost his temper and landed a hard blow on Legolas's temple in return, causing him to lose his bearings and stop fighting.
Legolas saw stars, and hot humiliation rose in him. To be treated this way by a Dwarf! The Elves would never stand for their invading of the forest first, and then treating their Prince in such a manner! Still, he fell silent and allowed himself to be carried along by the Dwarf, while he hatched his plan.
Loud, long moans and groans soon escaped his lips. When there was no response, he increased them, until the leader called for the Elves to be put down. Legolas made use of the opportunity to curl up into a ball on the ground, as the confused Dwarves tried asking him what the matter was. He did not answer, and instead continued to lie there, moaning in agony.
The finally came up to him, and pushed at him with a finger. There was no response.
"Ha naeg! Ha naeg" Legolas cried. He tried to struggle to his feet, and fell forward onto the leader, continuing to shout in pain while he collapsed onto the stout figure in front of him.
The Dwarf tried to get Legolas off him, and was pleased to hear his screams lessening. He turned away and addressed some of his men in his own tongue.
Legolas suddenly lurched forward at Dwarf who held Esendri, a glittering knife in his bound hands. The Dwarf was shocked and was forced to relinquish his grip upon Esendri, who fell to the ground. Legolas cut the ropes that bound his hands and feet, and thrust the knife stolen from the leader into Esendri's hands.
"The vine!" he screamed. "Inform my father of what has happened!"
Stunned though he was, Esendri reacted, and swung himself up into the trees using the vine, only to find that his leg being held by a Dwarf. Legolas knelt down, clenching his fists around the blades of grass and summoned the magic. The foliage around him started shaking in rage, startling the Dwarves more. The one who was about to drag Esendri down from the tree let go, and Esendri was away.
I will rescue you, Legolas, he promised.
The leader rushed over to Legolas, and dragged him to his feet, breaking the contact with the grass, causing the loud rustling of leaves to die down.
"What devilry was that!" he exclaimed, half in fear. When a smile replaced itself on Legolas's defiant lips, he realised that he had been taken in as he looked down at his own empty knife scabbard. A mad rage filled him at his humbling at the hands of one so small, and a punch was directed at Legolas's eye, splitting his flesh above the eyebrow.
Legolas lashed out, knowing very well that there would be no escape for him. His efforts earned him a kick in the stomach and a big blow to the side of the head, and the world turned black.
Sindarin Translations: Ha naeg - it's painful!
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.