26. Chapter Twenty-Six
Legolas turned to Haldirriel, furiously holding her arm as he whispered, "Go back to Lórien and bring reinforcements. We cannot kill this many, and Yrch, with the number we have."
"I understand," she swallowed hard. She took his face in her hand, crunching his cheeks together until his lips pursed, then kissed him hard and long, with no passion, just in case, just for remembrance. "I will return."
"Be safe. Take Mahtan with you. Be swift." He turned and looked once more upon the cavern, then turned back and discovered her gone. "Elbereth be with us all," he whispered.
He motioned and his company drew their swords. Just as they were beginning their charge, Elladan and Elrohir appeared at the cavern's entrance. Without a word, they drew their own swords and their company behind them followed as the Peredhil ran forward, screams of anger and passion flooding the cave.
Gimli stood next to Legolas. "You were not going to let me share in the fun?"
Torn by the gratitude that filled his heart upon seeing his friend, and the fear that filled his gut as he looked upon the contents of the cavern, Legolas sighed. "This will not be pretty, but I am glad you are here."
For a moment, Gimli was concerned; Legolas was... frightened? Nay, it could not be. "Ah! What's a wee spider bite between friends?"
Legolas laughed out loud. "We should follow Haldir's brothers. They are going to be in desperate straits in a matter of moments. I cannot understand why they did not wait."
"I sent her back to Lórien. We will need reinforcements once we clean out this mess."
"Now that sounds more like the Legolas I know. We'll have them 'cleaned out' quickly, then we can go back for a good pipe."
Legolas laughed as he lunged forward, the first of the spiders attacking the Elves at the entrance. "You forget. I will not smoke that foul weed."
Gimli's hands threw a number of his smaller axes and effectively stilled the first onslaught. "That'll teach you to respect a Dwarf!" he shouted at the hoard. A breath's pause and the spiders attacked again. Gimli pulled both axes from his back and wielded them in practiced, deadly fashion.
Elves joined them from behind. "Send for the others!" Legolas shouted.
"Haldirriel already told us of this cavern and the rest of the company is converging as we speak. We should have all one hundred warriors here in a moment."
Legolas turned to see who spoke. "Gelmir! It is good to have you with us!"
The Elf had not a moment to reply. It seemed the spiders had realized the small number of their attackers and jumped upon the closest Elf, who happened to be Gelmir. Within a moment, the Elf lay poisoned and helpless on the floor of the cave.
Legolas screamed and cut off one leg then another. Gimli had retrieved two of his axes and threw one into the creature's eye. It screeched and died, twitching. The two friends nodded to each other, then quickly turned and continued their defense. Gelmir had been correct; within moments, almost all one hundred of their company streamed into the gaping cavern.
Taking a moment to determine their offensive, Legolas looked up. He closed his eyes for a moment in horror. He steadied himself, then called out, "Gimli! Look!" The Elf pointed to the walls. They were covered in shrouds. Elves neatly wrapped and hung from the ceiling. At the very back was a writhing wall, covered with Elves manacled to the rock.
Legolas groaned. "Haldirriel's brother is, hopefully, one upon the back wall," he shouted to Gimli. "The Elves in the shrouds have probably started liquefying." He shuddered at the thought.
"Why are they there and not cocooned?" Gimli shouted back.
"I know not." But as he spoke, he noted a dozen or more Yrch running in from the back of the cavern. Releasing the prisoners, they shoved them towards the back tunnel, not giving the Elves time to regain some strength in their legs. "They are slaves," Legolas choked. "To work the tunnels."
"I know not." He shuddered as one of the hairy legs of the great beast he was battling pulled his feet out from under him.
"Legolas!" Gimli jumped over the spider he had just relieved of two legs and slammed an axe into the back of the spider that was nearly upon his friend. "Be more careful, Elf. I cannot always watch your back!"
A choked laugh answered him.
Gimli offered a hand and pulled Legolas up. "Reminds me of the Hornburg!" he chortled. "If I remember correctly, I won... Mahal's hammer, they are fast for the size of them!"
Legolas had not time to speak as he watched the spider bear down on the Dwarf; there seemed no end to them. Absently, he wondered how long they had battled, but the sudden stirring of hope in his heart almost caused him to drop his guard. He was just able to save Gimli from a nasty bite from a particular large creature. He saw an Elf fall before him and shouted out, "Your bows are useless here. Use your knives! Use your swords!"
"Should have had spider training," Gimli growled. "They're falling like flies." He had to stifle a bitter laugh. They would soon be flies caught in the spiders' webs if the Elves of Lórien didn't change their battle tactics.
Only a moment, though it felt more like an hour, he saw one, then two, then three, throw down their great bows and draw knives and swords. "Now!" he bellowed, "that's my axe!" But the Elf that had pulled it out of the eye of one of the nasty beasts used it well on a spider that had almost bitten Legolas. He decided to let the Elf keep it, for the nonce.
"Gimli, Gimli. I feel Haldir; he is near."
Gimli swore as he saw Legolas' face - the Elf had forgotten the battle in his need to find his bond-mate. Gimli watched as Legolas looked from side to side. "Watch your back, Elf! Watch - Balrog's piss," he shouted and lunged, placing himself between the Elf and the spider. He felt the bite on his unprotected side and cried out.
"Gimli," Legolas' voice was but a croak of raw pain. "Gimli." He ran to his fallen friend and pulled him closer to a wall. He swiped with his arm and removed the nearest cobwebs. "Gimli," he knelt at the Dwarf's side.
"I can't watch your back now, Elf. I've tough skin. I will wake, I promise you," he managed a wry smile, "eventually."
Legolas nodded, knowing the truth in the Dwarf's words. If they survived this battle, Gimli would live. He stood and ran, screaming, into the fray. There were still a large number of the creatures bearing down on the company of Elves, but he could see they were making headway. 'Have to put Haldir out of my thoughts. Must focus.' Spider fluids covered his blades. He took a moment and wiped them on his leggings. The laundress would not be pleased!
A/N - 1) The Elvish equivalent of the term Half-elven is Peredhel (singular) or Peredhil (plural). The element per means "half." The word edhel means "Elf"; the plural is edhil. http://www.tuckborough.net/elrond.html; 2) Two quick quotes from the Silmarillion: Ch. 2: Of Aulë and Yavanna: 1) Mahal's (Aulë's) hammer. 'Then Aulë took up a great hammer to smite the Dwarves; and he wept. But Ilúvatar had compassion upon Aulë and his desire, because of his humility; and the Dwarves shrank from the hammer and were afraid, and they bowed down their heads and begged for mercy.' 2) Ibid. 'For they say that Aulë the Maker, whom they call Mahal, cares for them...' 3) Some nasty stuff about spiders: Spiders can only eat their food in liquid form. For this purpose predigestion is carried out both internally and externally to liquefy the tissues of their prey. Some spiders do this by spitting up digestive juices onto prey while chewing it with their chelicerae. The resulting liquefied "soup" is then sucked up by the spider. Dense combs of hairs around the mouth filter out solids while the spider ingests the liquids. Undigested or uneaten parts of the prey are later discarded. Some spiders do not chew their food, but inject digestive fluids from their stomachs directly into the body of the prey to liquefy the inner tissues and organs. The spider then sucks out the liquefied tissues, eventually leaving the empty outer exoskeleton of the prey. Many spiders will store prey temporarily. Web-building spiders that have made a shroud of silk to quiet their envenomed prey's death struggles will often leave them in these shrouds and then consume them later. Although spider predatory technique is diverse, as soon as a spider makes contact with its prey, it will usually bite it. Spiders bite their prey...for two reasons: 1) inflict mechanical damage, which, in the case of a spider that is as large as or larger than its prey, can be severe. 2) inject venom via their hollow fangs. Many genera, such as the widow spiders, inject neurotoxins that can spread through the prey's entire body and interfere with vital body functions. Other genera inject venom that produces tissue damage at the bite location. In the larger victims that do not die from these attacks, painful lesions over a wide area can remain for an extended time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider; 4) Spider bites... in the Hobbit, the Dwarves recover fairly quickly from the bites and poison of the Mirkwood spiders. I know some authors make the poison more deadly; however, I prefer to go with Tolkien on this. 4a) 'To the fattest of these bundles the spider went--"It is poor old Bombur, I'll bet," thought Bilbo - and nipped hard at the nose that stuck out. There was a muffled yelp inside, and a toe shot up and kicked the spider straight and hard. There was life in Bombur still. There was a noise like the kicking of a flabby football, and the enraged spider fell off the branch, only catching itself with its own thread just in time.' The Hobbit: Ch. 8: Flies and Spiders. 4b) Ibid. 'Somehow or other Fili was got on to the branch, and then he did his best to help the hobbit, although he was feeling very sick and ill from spider-poison, and from hanging most of the night and the next day wound round and round with only his nose to breathe through. It took him ages to get the beastly stuff out of his eyes and eyebrows, and as for his beard, he had to cut most of it off.'
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