After watching the backs of the last Corsairs vanish from view and listening to the cheering villagers, Legolas now offered his help to anyone who needed it, whether it was a wounded man or a group trying to put out flames that still burned near their homes. From what he could see around him, the village had not taken much damage, despite the fierceness of the Corsairs' attack. What saddened him the most were the dead bodies now gathered in the clearing. He gazed at every face with sorrow for the ill fate that they encountered.
Dírhavel was telling one of his men to run to the caves and tell the women the joyous news, when he noticed the Elf looking intently at the bodies. He sent the messenger on his way and stood by the noble creature.
"You haven't seen death before?" he asked, for he was aware that the Firstborn were immortal beings, never touched by the burden of time no matter the number of years that passed by.
"I have seen much death, during the War of the Ring and many other battles. That does not mean I understand it though," said Legolas softly. And it was true. Had these people been warriors, then he felt their deaths would have been the fate destined for them, fighting and clinging to their swords. But they were only villagers. Their lives should have been spent among those they loved, growing old beside their wives, raising their young, the plough and the shovel the only thing that their hands would wield.
Dírhavel nodded, understanding what was on the Elf's mind. "Our love for our village has always been a powerful weapon in fighting against whatever foes attacked us. It was not always enough, but it was and will be ever-present, unlike swords and bows."
"And I am sure that, because of it, your village will never fall," replied Legolas, a small smile tugging on his lips, feeling his respect for the elderly man grow as they spoke, as well as his hopes for the race of Men.
"I have to admit I was rather unsure at times during this battle," confessed Dírhavel. "I thank you on behalf of my family and the entire village for your aid, which you offered unasked for and without hesitation."
Legolas bowed his head courteously. "We only did what we felt should have been done, nothing more, nothing less, I assure you. And Gimli will agree with me on that," he said modestly. It was then that he realised something was amiss. He looked around apprehensively.
"What's the matter?" asked Dírhavel, not understanding what had alarmed Legolas.
"Have you seen my friend, the dwarf? He was to meet me after the battle."
The grey-haired Man looked around too, puzzled. "No, I haven't. In fact, I haven't seen him at all since you first came," he admitted. "Peleg!" he cried to one of his men.
"Aye, sir?" answered the militiaman.
"Did you see the Dwarf at all?"
"He was chasing the Corsairs away when I last saw him, sir. I thought that he had come back by now."
"Well, he didn't. Do you remember where he was going?"
"He was heading for the river, sir. That way," replied the villager, pointing in the right direction.
Legolas frowned. "He does not care for the water. I must find him. Thank you for your help."
"I'll gather the rest of my men and help you," said Dírhavel.
"I'm sure there is no need, but I appreciate your help," was the Elf's grateful answer; and he hurried ahead to find his comrade. Soon, he found himself in a clearing beside the river. There was no sign of the Dwarf.
"Gimli!" shouted Legolas, his keen eyes looking frantically around. "Gimli!" he called out again.
There was no answer, an improbable event since Gimli should have answered his call. It meant that, for some reason, Gimli couldn't answer him back. Could it be that he was hurt then? Or… worse? He refused to think on that possibility and continued to think of alternatives, though some part of his mind noted that if Gimli had been killed, he would have found his body somewhere nearby.
Gimli, I swear to you, if you are only trying for revenge for my jesting at the river…, Legolas thought in choking frustration, even though a part of him wished that this were indeed a mere – if tasteless – trick of the Dwarf. However, as the moments passed, that slight hope grew smaller and his worries only multiplied.
"Gimli, answer me!!!" Legolas shouted again, feeling his heart contracting. Such was his distraction, that he did not sense a pair of dark brown eyes watching his every move.
Erthang still watched the strange creature as it continued shouting, feeling his own frustration growing. He wanted the Elf to leave as quickly as possible so that he could continue with his own search for his comrades. They couldn't be too far away. After all, he couldn't have been unconscious for too long, could he?
His throbbing head reminded him once more of his impact with the rock provided by one of the villagers. His hand felt again the deep gash near his temple and he quickly held back a hiss of pain. He knew that he had to tend the injury, but he had nothing with which to do so. Besides, he could bear the pain; he was a Corsair, after all. His main concern now was to find his captain and the rest of the crewmembers: the people that he had come to think himself a part of so very long ago.
"Oh, no… Gimli!" the Elf cried again.
Erthang's eyes locked again on the Firstborn, who was now holding in his hands an axe that he had picked up off the ground. The brightness of intelligence clear in Erthang's eyes was replaced by the frost of cold-heartedness; for he realised now that, if he was to find his comrades, he would have to do away with whatever stood on his path, even if it meant killing one of the Eldar. He was actually quite nervous about that option, since he had been told how dangerous such creatures could prove. He had heard of a single Elf killing about fifty of his own people and even taking over a ship on his own, unaided, when the Númenóreans attacked the city of Umbar during the War. His captain's ship had been away from that destruction, but the tale reached his ears nevertheless. Although he didn't know how much of it was true, it still served as an important lesson: Elves were not to be trifled with.
Just then, he saw the blond creature crouching down, his eyes clearly scanning the ground before him. Erthang understood at that moment that the Elf was still looking for whomever he was calling out to, which meant that he would be too distracted to expect any attack from behind. He waited patiently for a few more moments; then, as soon as the Elf had completely turned his back on him, he unsheathed his sword and, swiftly but stealthily, made his move against Legolas.
Despite of all the stories Erthang had heard about the Elves, none had warned him about their incredible sense of hearing or their cat-like reflexes. For this one had clearly heard somebody hurrying toward him quite clearly and so turned around in a heartbeat, using the end of the axe to knock the sword away from his attacker's hand. Erthang didn't allow himself to be daunted in the least, though. He charged against the Elf once more in an attempt to tackle him.
In a flash, the Elf grabbed him by the waist and pushed him down instead, his silver blades already in his hands before the Man landed on the ground. Erthang quickly rolled onto his feet, his hands now reaching for the knives that were attached at his cloth belt. He threw them against the Elf at great speed, but the Elf simply parried them skilfully and lunged against him, forcing him to the ground once more.
"Where is he?" the Elf then asked, his knives resting on his neck.
But Erthang didn't mean to be put off that easily. Being in his twentieth year of life, he was full of energy and a stubborn desire to not give up even when the fight was in vain. So, not caring for the knives that threatened to cut his skin, he grabbed some dirt and threw it in the face of the Elf, stunning him long enough to kick him in the stomach and push him away, knocking the knives out of his hands. Before the Elf had enough time to compose himself and wipe the dirt from his eyes, he found himself threatened by yet another of Erthang's weapons: a small crossbow.
Legolas froze instantly. His face didn't betray any emotion, but within him he knew that it might be time for Mandos to claim him, for he was aware that he would never be able to avoid the projectile, despite his Elven speed. He clenched his hands into fists and waited for the Corsair to strike.
The Corsair didn't shoot, however, something that puzzled Legolas. He looked at his adversary's eyes and saw hesitation. He couldn't understand what was going on in the latter's mind. He didn't wish him dead then, but only prisoner? Could that be what happened to Gimli, too? That would surely explain why he found only his friend's axe.
"What are you waiting for? If you are not to kill me, then take me to your ship!" he said in the hopes that, if he were taken aboard, he would be able to find Gimli there. An insane plan, but it was the best he had for the present, considering that his options were quite limited.
That, for some reason, seemed to surprise the Corsair, because he stared at him in disbelief. And then, the man did another oddity. He started stepping back, his crossbow always aimed at Legolas's chest.
If Legolas was puzzled before, he was certainly confused now. What was the Corsair trying to do? It was then that the thought occurred to him: nobody had joined the Corsair yet, nor did the young Man try to call out for anybody either. And then Legolas finally understood what had happened. The Corsair was probably left for dead and the rest had already sailed away on the ship, not caring for his fate - which meant that Gimli was gone, too. Legolas knew now that he had to get himself out of his predicament and go after the ship. But how was that supposed to be done?
Just then, he saw something slithering near the Man's right foot. His keen eyes instantly recognised the creature for what it was.
"There is a snake behind you."
The Corsair glared at Legolas threateningly, clearly showing that he didn't intend to fall for such a ruse. He just took another step back, bringing himself closer to the snake. Legolas shook his head.
"I am not lying. There is a snake behind you," he said again calmly.
The young Man only sneered. He stepped back once more, his heel brushing against the snake. Startled by the touch, the creature bit deeply into the Corsair's ankle. The Corsair screamed in pain, his hands accidentally triggering the crossbow, but sending the arrow in a harmless direction.
Legolas seized the opportunity and, after grabbing both his blades and the axe, he quickly ran away, feeling that there was nothing left for him to do but try to find Gimli. And yet, he soon found himself slowing his pace and turning around to see the Corsair slip as he tried to fight off the snake, hitting hard on the ground and rendering himself unconscious. Legolas stood hesitant for a few moments, his eyes locked on the still form. Gimli was in danger, but what about the Man? He had seen the snake quite well and recognised its kind. Its poisoned fangs would kill any victim swiftly if left unaided.
He stood still for a few more moments, knowing that he had to make up his mind quickly, and yet uncertain as to what to do. In the end, with one last glance at the river, he hurried to the poisoned Corsair, hoping that his decision wouldn't cost Gimli's life.
"Set course for North! And let me not catch any of you slacken!" growled the captain to his men. The crewmembers did immediately as they were told and then Sador (for that was his name, though his men would never address him as that) turned to his second-in-command.
"Bring the Dwarf to me."
Ramandur inclined his head in obedience and went on his errand. Sador leaned on the wooden rail of the ship, gazing at the crystal clear waters of the river Anduin as they reflected the golden rays of the sun. For more than thirty years he had been sailing these waters and he had come to know them well; they always took him to the richest towns, where he and his men could avail themselves of what they pleased, or to the poorest villages whenever he was in need of apt pupils: children who he rescued from their lives of poverty and personally trained, turning them to efficient soldiers for their personal war against the people of Gondor, and who obeyed his command without hesitation. This small force was his pride, for they were well known even among their fellow Corsairs for their ruthlessness in the destruction and pain they left behind wherever they went.
And yet, he now felt that, after so many years aboard the ship, he still had gained too little to quench his thirst for wealth. It was true that he scattered whatever riches he gained in low pleasures, like all his men did, but he couldn't do away with those either. Now his one wish would be to find such great treasures that would suffice him for the remainder of his days, without having to suffer himself to command a ship ever again. He had grown tired of sailing and, moreover, difficult days were approaching. The King of Gondor had destroyed almost all the ships of Umbar and the towns and houses of the realm were too well-protected now. Whatever threat the Corsairs could be perceived as was no more. He was one of the last of the Corsairs that remained, and he still intended to make the most out of it. So he actually considered it fortunate to capture the Dwarf. The treasures that these creatures held were the greatest that one could possibly imagine, every stone they mined out and worked on bigger and more valuable than the last. If he could lay his hands on even a quarter of that wealth, then he would lead a very happy life indeed.
"Captain," he heard Ramandur saying, cutting him off from his pleasant musings. He saw the Dwarf forced on his knees, his hands and legs still bound, glaring at both Men with unhidden loathing.
"You hate it being here, don't you, Dwarf?" asked Sador with a smirk. "Don't worry, you won't have to stay forever… as long as you answer my questions."
Gimli remained silent.
"I know of your kind. I know of your love for anything valuable and how you strive for years on end to shape all your treasures to what they are. I'll do anything to get my hands on anything that will content my heart as well. I simply use other means."
"Your means are called murdering and stealing in my parts!" growled Gimli scornfully, but that only caused Sador to chuckle softly.
"In this case it doesn't have to be either," the captain corrected him. "Tell me to which clan you belong; what's their wealth; and, after we make a small but profitable trading – your life for a sufficient fee – I'll let you go and you won't hear from me again."
"Like I'll ever tell you!" exclaimed Gimli.
Just then, he felt a sharp blow on his back.
"Thank you, Ramandur," said Sador, as his right-hand man placed his club back on his belt. He faced the Dwarf once more, his face calm, but his eyes reflecting his annoyance at the defiant answer he had received. "Are you ready to reconsider?"
"What I'll reconsider is how I'll kill you if I get my hands on you!" shouted Gimli, beside himself with wrath now.
That earned him another painful hit, this time on the back of his head.
Gimli shook off his light-headedness quickly and darted his full-of-anger eyes on the captain, who was now regarding his captive with the superiority he felt he had over him.
"Do you persist? Just tell me what I want to hear and Ramandur will stop at once."
"You can beat me to death for all I care, but I'll still say nothing!" cried the Dwarf.
Ramandur was about to strike the impudent captive with his club again, when Sador stopped him by raising his hand. The second-in-command looked at his captain troubled, as the latter commanded one of the crew to take Gimli back to the lower decks. With that done, Sador leaned towards his right-hand officer confidentially.
"Make sure he doesn't get any food or drink for the remainder of the day. Tomorrow at dawn, bring him before me again. We'll see then just how brave he'll be," he said, grinning.
Ramandur grinned back, and went to see that all would be arranged accordingly. As for Sador, he walked slowly towards the prow, making plans with his mind. He believed the Dwarf when he said that he wouldn't talk if they beat him. So he was aware that he had to break him first to get the information he wanted and get the wealth he so desired. It would simply take him more time, a sacrifice he was willing to make if he was to be rewarded so sweetly in the end. Smiling slightly, he stood at the bow, thinking of all the treasures that would soon become his.
Gimli's eyes adjusted quickly to the darkness of the storeroom he was shoved into. He looked at the rats that eyed him curiously and then at the small puddle of water that had formed by the ship's hull, wetting his armour.
Apparently the schooner, or whatever they call these dratted things, isn't in the best shape, thought the Dwarf, rolling his eyes. Despite his bonds, he pushed himself on his knees and moved himself with difficulty away from the puddle, towards a crack in the beams from where he could take a glimpse of the outside world and feel his heart lifted, if only a little. Even though he had spent most of his life mining in Erebor, the kind of darkness to which he was enclosed now dampened his spirits to no end. At least in his homeland he was free and among his people, whereas now he was alone, tied up and held by fiends who were ready to slit his throat at the first opportunity.
He winced as he felt his back throbbing from the hits he received. The Corsairs weren't merciful in their punishment, that was clear. Yet Gimli had no choice but remain silent as to the whereabouts of his homeland. If he told them of Erebor, the Corsairs would realise that they would never be able to reach it by boat; which also meant that their captive would be of no more use and so they would execute him.
It was then that his mind strayed to Legolas, his companion and best of friends that he had been fortunate to have the last few years, and his heart sank even lower than before. Did the Elf find out what had happened to him? Was he looking for him? And even if he was, how would he be able to find him? The only thing that made him still hope was the faith he had in Legolas. Gimli knew that his comrade would do anything within his power to find him and help him, in spite of whatever difficulties chanced to be laid before him.
"Well," murmured the Dwarf, "if the Valar will have it, Legolas, I hope you'll find me soon. I don't know how long these crooks will put up with me, but I don't plan on going easy on them!"
He closed his eyes and rested his head against the beams, chanting a song that he used to sing whenever he was mining, trying not to listen to the sound of the water as the ship still sailed onwards.
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.