3. Journey to Minas Tirith
With cat-like quickness, Legolas sprang from the bed, reaching out blindly into the darkness. His hand came into contact with cloth and flesh. Without thought, he grabbed hold and yanked back, moving his own body sideways at the same time.
There was a cry, and then a small thump, as whoever it was crashed into Legolas's bed. Legolas whirled around, his entire body tensed and ready to attack.
"My lord, my lord! It's just me, Terandu! Please my lord, I meant no harm!"
Legolas felt all the fight drain out of him. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he could make out his father's steward, lying spread eagled across his bed.
"What are you doing in my chambers unannounced?" Legolas stood over the elf, and his voice was firm. "If one of my knives had been near at hand, I could have killed you before I realized who you were. You should have knocked."
"But I did knock, my lord, several times, and then I heard a shout and thought you were in trouble. I meant no harm."
Legolas sighed. "I am sure you didn't, and if any harm was done, it was not by you. Are you hurt?" He reached down and helped the shaken elf to his feet.
"No, my lord, I am unharmed and extremely grateful that you gave up sleeping with your knives upon your return home."
Legolas smiled at the older elf, trying to hide the fact that he was still shaking from his dream. "Tell me, why have you come to wake me so early, for I feel that I have just laid down to rest."
"But that is not so, my lord," Terandu responded gravely. "It was midmorning yesterday when you retired, and you slept all that day and through the night. It is now nearing sunrise once again."
Legolas stared, aghast at the steward. "How could I have slept so long?"
Terandu shrugged. "Perhaps you are catching up on all the lost sleep during your adventures abroad."
"That is no excuse," Legolas cried. "I should have been gone hours ago!"
Terandu nodded. "Your father seems to think the same thing. He was the one who sent me to wake you."
"I will leave at once," Legolas said as he began pulling a fresh tunic over his head.
"Soon, my lord, but not until you have eaten some breakfast. It may be the last decent meal you will have for quite some time. I packed your bags lightly, for your father said you would wish to travel quickly."
For the first time, Legolas became aware of the sweet smell of baked bread and honey permeating the air. He glanced toward the table in the corner of the room, and saw a tray full of food sitting next to a small pack. His stomach rumbled loudly, reminding him of how long it had been since he had eaten.
"It seems that I owe you much, Terandu," Legolas said as he went over to the table and broke off a piece of steaming bread.
Less than an hour later, just as the sun was peeking it's giant head over the horizon, Legolas set off on his journey. He left the city swiftly and quietly, with no fanfare, for the people of Mirkwood were unaware that their prince was leaving once again.
Legolas planned on traveling southwest until he reached the river Anduin. From there, he would travel almost directly south, through the fields of Rohan, and then over the mountains into Gondor. From there, it would be a straight trek to Minas Tirith. If the weather and his strength held out, Legolas hoped to reach his destination in little over a week.
The first few days of his journey went by with no incident. Legolas passed out of Mirkwood and then reached the banks of the Anduin on the afternoon of his second day of travel. He followed the river a few miles downstream, until he reached a narrower section of the river where he could cross. Finding a large piece of driftwood, Legolas placed his pack on it to keep the contents dry, and then plunged into the icy river. Holding onto the edge of the wood with one hand, he began to swim strongly with the other towards the center of the river.
Legolas was a strong swimmer, but he did not press himself, instead allowing the river's strong current to carry him for several miles downstream. When Legolas was finally able to drag himself onto the far bank, the sun was hanging low in the afternoon sky. He rested for a few minutes on the other side, regaining his strength, and eating some of the lembas he had found in his pack, before setting off again. And so it was, that on the evening of his third day of travel, Legolas came to the borders of Rohan.
So far, his journey had been eventless, almost boring, and Legolas found himself beginning to relax. He was making good time, and expected to travel even faster through the plains of Rohan. He settled down for the night on a high hill, overlooking those very plains. From this vantage point, a person could see quite far, even without the aid of an elf's long sight. Legolas settled back against the trunk of a small tree and scanned his surroundings. First, he looked directly south, the direction he was planning to take. All he saw was rolling hills of grass all the way up to the distant mountains. A herd of horses grazed leisurely on top of one of these hills, but that was the only sign of life that Legolas could see.
He glanced west, and then suddenly jerked upright, his body tensed. Jumping to his feet, he ran to the edge of the hill. "It can not be," he said out loud, although there was nobody to hear him. Peering intently forward, he tried to focus on the objects in the distance that had caught his attention, but the setting sun sent it's bright glare across the plains, and the distance was great, even for his eyes. He stood, like a statue for several long minutes, but whatever he had seen had disappeared into the shadows of the approaching night.
Legolas finally returned to the tree, and sank down. "It can not be," he repeated once more. "Merely light and shadow playing with my eyes." And yet he could not shake the feeling of foreboding. Settling back against the tree, Legolas closed his eyes, and tried to rid his mind of the brief sight he had seen. The sight of dark, hoary, creatures, running swiftly across the land.
The vision of orcs on the plains of Rohan!
The following morning, Legolas was still unable to get over his feelings of unease. He decided that he would travel southwest, hoping to come across tracks or some other sign as to the nature of what he had seen. The new route would delay his mission, and slow him quite a bit, but if orcs were indeed running loose on the plains of Rohan, Aragorn would want to know.
After the war, most of the orc bands had been destroyed. The few that remained had gone into hiding, finding dark caves and tunnels to disappear into. None dared poke their ugly faces out of the dark holes they had climbed into. At least, that was what Legolas had thought up until the previous evening; now he was not so certain. Ever since leaving Mirkwood, he had been unable to shake the feeling that something evil was about, watching and waiting. Now the feeling only intensified, and he was determined to get to the bottom of it.
Legolas made good time that day, moving swiftly over the hills, and not stopping, even for meals. Instead, he chewed on some dried meat and lembas as he walked. He felt very little weariness, and often broke into a jog for several miles, always keeping his eyes peeled for signs that anything unusual had passed before him. The only tracks he came upon were those of horse and wild beast, and there was no sign of orcs anywhere. Legolas began to think that perhaps he had been mistaken. He hoped so, but would not believe it until he was sure.
Legolas traveled until nightfall, and then made camp, afraid to go on in case he missed something in the dark. He laid down to rest in the shadow of a large hill, and immediately fell into a light sleep. He was awakened in the middle of the night by an ominous rumble. The air had turned cold, and a brisk wind was tearing through the grassland. The smell of rain hung heavy in the air, and lightning lit up the sky to the south. Even as Legolas pulled a heavy cloak from his pack and swung it about his shoulders, the first drops of rain fell to the earth. Legolas shook his head at the ill fate. The storms of Rohan were legendary in their ferocity, and Legolas knew that any tracks would be wiped away before this storm blew through.
True to form, the storm was still raging full force come morning, and now Legolas was faced with a difficult choice. Should he continue on his southwest course, hoping to come across some sign not completely washed away by the torrential rains, or should he turn south, and thus reach Minas Tirith earlier. Legolas was torn. He was loath to give up his search, and yet despaired of finding anything. At the same time, he was also eager to get to Aragorn as soon as possible and tell him of the events at Mirkwood.
At last, Legolas turned south, and began trudging towards the mountains, the rain soaking through his cloak and chilling his skin. He ignored his discomfort, and instead focused on what he would say to Aragorn when he finally reached Minas Tirith.
The rain lasted for two days, slowing Legolas's progress and making the days uncomfortable and the nights unbearable. Legolas was extremely grateful when the sun finally broke through the clouds and the rain lessened to a drizzle and then stopped completely. The mountains separating Rohan and Gondor loomed up before him, the mists from the rain giving them an ethereal look. He was on the last leg of his journey, and expected to be within the walls of Minas Tirith in two days, if the weather didn't give him any more surprises, and the mud brought from the rain did not make the pass through the mountains impassible.
The pass was extremely muddy, and the footing unsure. Legolas's clothes were still damp, and the tall cliff faces on either side of him cast his path in shadow and kept the sun's warm rays from reaching him. It was dusk when Legolas finally came down out of the mountains into Gondor. He was tired, but not unbearably so, and decided to travel on into the night. The moon rose bright, lighting his path, as well as his spirits. The closer he drew to Minas Tirith, the lighter his feet seemed to fall and his weariness left him. He traveled several hours in the darkness, the moon rising high into the night sky, but he still felt no need to rest. His mind was traveling forward to his reunion with Aragorn. He was looking forward to seeing his friend again, despite the ill news he carried. He felt bad that he would be the bearer of ill tidings on the eve of his friends wedding, but it was unavoidable.
Legolas's thoughts were on these things, as his path led him deep into the heart of a large copse of trees. His excitement over the nearness of his destination, as well as his thoughts on what he would say to Aragorn upon his arrival, caused the elf not to pay enough attention to the path before him. If he had, perhaps he could have avoided what happened next, for suddenly, as he rounded a bend in the path, Legolas found himself face to face with a group of orcs!
The blame could not be put entirely on the elf, however, for these orcs had traveled with unnatural silence, foregoing the usual loud arguments that marked the path of their kind.
Legolas was unsure who was more surprised. The leader of the orcs, who had almost walked directly into the elf, stumbled back into his companions, letting out a loud yell.
Legolas was the first to recover from his shock, and before the orc captain could even regain his balance and untangle himself from his followers, he fell dead with one of Legolas's arrows through his heart. The rest of the orcs recovered quickly after that, and with a shout, they rushed the lone elf standing in their path. Legolas dropped several of them with his arrows before they even reached him, then had to drop his bow and draw his knives as the remainder converged upon him.
The orcs had quickly gotten over their surprise, shock being replaced by hate. They ran at the elf, howling with malicious glee, expecting to quickly overrun and destroy this single hated enemy. Their howls quickly turned to those of anger and dismay as they discovered that this elf would not die easily.
Legolas was a blur of motion, his knives sweeping through the air and dealing death to any orc who ventured too close. Soon a pile of dead orcs surrounded him, making footing dangerous, and soaking the ground with their dark blood. And yet, Legolas knew he was fighting a losing battle. There were simply too many of the dark creatures. Where one fell, another took its place, hate driving them on. They were quickly overrunning the elf with sheer number, and Legolas was tiring fast. He knew that if he did not escape soon, there would be no escape.
Legolas ducked the swing from one orc, then spun smoothly and disemboweled the creature with an upward thrust of his dagger. Jumping back, he turned, just as another of the creatures charged him. Twisting out of the way, Legolas tripped over the body of a dead orc, and momentarily lost his balance. With a howl of victory, the orc attacked again, slashing out with a long knife. Legolas blocked the blow, finally regaining his balance. He pressed forward, knocking the orc to the ground and ending its life with one blow. Yet even as he jumped back, another orc attacked from behind. Legolas whirled to meet it, then felt a flash of pain as the creature's long knife slashed deeply into his left forearm, almost causing him to drop his own knife. Keeping his grip by sheer force of will, Legolas killed that orc as well, and then looked around him. He was completely surrounded by orcs, with no escape.
Legolas looked up desperately, catching sight of a branch hanging perhaps six feet above his head. He spun, knives outstretched, and the orcs jumped back, giving him the momentary reprieve he so needed. Stooping, he snatched up his fallen bow, then sheathed his knives smoothly and jumped with all his might. His hands caught hold of the branch, and ignoring the pain in his left arm, he swung his legs, and then let go of the branch to land smoothly outside the circle of orcs.
The creatures were surprised into momentary immobility. One moment they had an elf standing in the middle of them, and the next he was gone. By the time they realized what had happened and turned, Legolas was already racing away from them through the woods. With a howl, they gave chase, but Legolas was much faster and quickly outdistanced them. He hated running from the foul creatures, but his message was too important to be lost because of a moment of carelessness. Legolas ran until he was out of sight of his pursuers, then quickly climbed a tree, gritting his teeth at the pain in his arm. He hid himself in the dense foliage, and tried to still his heavy breathing. It made little difference however, for his pursuers were making so much noise in their search for him, that Legolas could have whistled a tune without them hearing him.
He waited until they had passed under him, and then pulled the pack off his back. Rummaging through it, he brought out a clean piece of cloth, and began examining the cut on his arm. It was deep, and was bleeding heavily, the sticky wetness dripping from his fingertips onto the bole of the tree. Legolas winced as he pressed the clean cloth firmly against the wound. ‘Well, it is the least I deserve,’ he told himself firmly. ‘Perhaps it will teach me not to be so careless, especially when I carry so important a message.’
He remained the rest of the night in the tree, making sure the orcs had indeed gone before climbing down in the morning. Minas Tirith was close, just over the next ridge, and Legolas expected to reach it by mid-afternoon this very day. And yet, to the tired and wounded elf, the city seemed impossibly far. Resolutely, he adjusted his pack and bow and began the last leg of his journey.
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.