This chapter is especially for Mienpies and Alpha Ori- Happy Birthday, Alpha.
Beta: As always, without Anar this would be so much less.
Notes: albai: Orcish word for Elves. (not canon- my word)
Chapter 11: Phellanthir
Inevitably there was a lingering tension in the camp after the argument between Legolas and the Sons of Elrond, but Legolas told himself he did not care. He threw back his blanket and sat up. Something metallic fell out of his blanket and clinked against his knives.
Bending his head, he saw a small silver wheel, chased with bronze and with a cunning lock that he knew if pressed, tiny blades would slide soundlessly from their hidden groove. Gimli's roulette. He grinned and tossed it in the air once, and catching it between his fingers, carefully slid it into a concealed pocket in his belt.
He had been astonished by the Dwarf last night and looked over to where Gimli still slept, completely unaware it seemed of the breaking of dawn and the movement of the Elves.
Gimli was the only one still asleep. Rhawion was nowhere in sight but his weapons and blanket were left untidily near the fire, Glorfindel's great sword was leaning against a tree but of Aragorn and the Sons of Elrond there was no sign. Their horses were gone. Legolas could not say he was sorry. Elrohir had made obvious his disdain for Legolas even before the battle with the Orcs, and any admiration he had had for Elrohir Elrondion was quite gone. Instead there was a sour taste of his cruelty. Legolas did not believe it could have been Elrohir who had passed him that night in Imladris; he decided it must have been Elladan who had made him swoon.
Amron was on breakfast duty and grumpily stirring something that smelled...Legolas cocked his head to one side and tried to identify it. Herby, he decided. Fishy. If Amron was cooking, whatever it was it would be delicious.
He scooped up a couple of water skins and made his way down to the river. The air was cold and his breath misted like the smoke the Man and Dwarf were so fond, he thought.
He crouched at the edge and looked at the cloudy green-white water, wondering if it was good to drink when he felt a prickling on the back of his neck and glanced upwards. There silhouetted on the cliff above him, was a dark figure. The wind blew hard and cold up there on the cliff, swirling a sable cloak and raven-black hair. Elrohir.
Legolas wondered if Elrohir was alone up there or if Aragorn and Elladan were with him. Feeling the uncomfortable weight of Elrohir's stare, he wondered if this is how all Men felt under an elven gaze. The hairs on the back of his neck raised like hackles on a dog.
Pointedly he ignored Elrohir, and deciding not to risk the cloudy water, stood and stretched nonchalantly in the weak sunlight. He felt the gaze sharp and intent between his shoulder blades but did not look up again. Then he slowly slung the straps of the water-skins over his shoulder and returned, swinging his arms carelessly and whistling loudly. He walked back to the camp and scooped up any empty water skins he could find.
Amron saw him and pointed up a small gully. 'Water's up there. You may as well make yourself useful. It's going to be difficult enough today as it is,' he said glumly, turning back to his cooking pot to give it a stir. 'Let's hope Glorfindel sends the Brethren on their way and we aren't keeping you all apart with our blades.'
Legolas shrugged again and strode up the narrow path to find a clear spring that gurgled from the rock and into a small stream. He did not doubt his own actions; no Woodelf would have left even an Orc or Spider to suffer needlessly, no matter the hatred between them. And Laersul would never have allowed it, he thought. He wondered why Glorfindel tolerated it.
Trees shaded the spring and ferns grew around it and he listened to the insects slowly, sleepily chirring beneath the bark and in the undergrowth a blackbird hopped about, turning over the mulch of leaves in sharp jerks in search of food. He squatted beside the spring and dipped a water skin into the cold, clear water, remembering that Berensul had told him, that Elrohir Elrondion had lost all his mirth, all his love, all his joy, and relentlessly pursued vengeance... That he did not love... That for him, there was only vengeance. Legolas filled first one, then another water skin, and wondered if he or Laersul or Thalos could ever be have been the same. He remembered too the bones he had passed on his journey to Imladris, and the tattered scrap of blue cloth clutched in the hand of the Orc, the small bones.
Legolas paused, head bowed, staring unseeing at the pebbles that shifted and moved in the fast flowing water, the deep moss and ferns around the spring. And then it struck him again...
...standing amongst the twisted trees, bow taut, arrow drawn against his cheek, fingers ready to fly open...and ahead of him, a crowd of Orcs jeering and calling, too many. And suddenly between them he just glimpsed an Elf, his face white and screaming, his eyes squeezed shut, and a glint of steel caught. Naurion. There was a spear being shoved slowly, slowly into Naurion's twitching body but not quite enough to kill and his hands clasped and opened like he prayed, and the steel shaft thrust in and out like a rape...There was a clear shot...and from the corner of Legolas' eye he saw Laersul surrounded and down. without thought, without pause, he loosed the arrow and turned back...and then Naurion was gone, under a seething mass of Orcs like black beetles swarming and there was cold, freezing his scalp...
Legolas pushed himself suddenly to his feet and stood looking down into the cold clear water unseeing. Elrohir's words the night before tore their way out of his heart. 'It seems you can hit an Orc to give it mercy, but you cannot give mercy to one of your own,' he had sneered. It was true. Legolas' hand crept to his heart and plucked at the green sueded fabric of his tunic as if he could pluck out the pain and cast it away.
He moved his head as if he might free himself of the memory, shake it loose and let it fly away in the wind that murmured through the dead leaves. Turning his head, he looked North towards Imladris, knowing the borders here were unbreached, and he wondered if the brothers' cruelty had strengthened the Elves here. It was what Elrohir had said in that furious exchange the night before. 'No wonder Thranduil cannot hold his borders with such weak stomachs. They say you are more dangerous, less wise. Dangerous perhaps only to your own. Or Dwarves,' he had snarled with a glance towards Gimli who had just risen to his feet and stood braced as if against a storm. And indeed, that was how it felt, Legolas reflected; he had felt buffeted by the storm of Elrohir's rage, like a crimson wave had roiled and surged around him.
Slowly he walked back to the camp. Glorfindel was there and gave Legolas an appraising look. Legolas said nothing and simply dropped the water skins near Amron and then stooped to roll up his blanket. He mentally braced himself for the scolding he would have got from Laersul and readied himself for any punishment to be meted out, wondering if Glorfindel would make him apologise, back down, retract...
Glorfindel buckled his vambraces and slid his hands over them, smoothing the suede of his dark blue tunic that was almost grey. He looked up at Legolas as he did. 'I have asked Aragorn, Elrohir and Elladan to meet with the Dunedain. They will have to have news of the Orc camp. It bodes ill if they do not know of it.' Of the night's events however, he said nothing.
Legolas felt a strange mixture of disappointment and relief knowing that he would not be in Elrohir's company now. Glorfindel pulled his dark grey cloak over his shoulders and fastened it with a beautifully wrought brooch, a golden harp, its fine wire strings twined about with flowers and stars. Legolas glanced upwards to where the dark figure had been standing, but he had gone.
'I think today you, Legolas, will go with Gimli. Amron and Rhawion will search higher up,' Glorfindel continued, pulling the cloak about himself so the brooch was hidden. 'Search the river banks thoroughly and report back to me if you find anything or sense anything.' He stooped to pick up his great sword and buckled the heavily jeweled scabbard that Legolas would normally have thought ostentatious but which seemed only appropriate for such a warrior as Glorfindel, and then turned to Amron.
'Elrohir and Elladan will meet us further downriver at Phellanthir in a few days. We will have gone as far as we need I think. Then we will return to Imladris.'
He nodded courteously to his men and then strode off towards the river bank, great bow slung over his shoulder and sword at his hip. Clearly he was hunting alone that day.
So no scolding? Legolas thought surprised and watched Glorfindel as he disappeared amongst the willows that leaned over the river, trailed their leaves across the still water.
'No good staring after him like some love-sick girl.' Amron handed him a bowl and Legolas took it from him almost unthinking. 'He is the noblest and best amongst us. But his heart is closed. Many have tried knocking on it but closed it remains.' He smiled kindly at Legolas' astonished face. 'Don't look so shocked. Everyone knows in MIrkwood you do not keep to the Laws and Customs.' He shrugged and looked at Legolas appraisingly. 'But even you are not going to be enough to tempt him.'
Legolas was outraged. 'I am not mooning after Glorfindel! I admire him, respect him. He is the most courageous and noble Elf I have ever met!'
Amron lifted an eyebrow meaningfully and Legolas stared. Then he laughed and shook his head slightly, smiling to himself. 'I do not know myself,' he declared. 'It is true I am besotted. But not in that way, I assure you. I do not imagine he would even look at me when he could have anyone. There are such noble lords and ladies in Imladris.' He smiled ruefully.
Amron smiled back warmly and then scooped a ladleful of broth from his cooking pot and plopped it into a bowl. He handed it to Legolas and looked at him for a moment. 'Legolas, you are not at all what I had imagined. I have become quite fond of you.'
'And I have become fond of you too, Amron.' Legolas tasted the broth and smacked his lips. 'Particularly your cooking; your name will be sung in the Halls of the King.' He spooned the rich broth into his mouth.
'As I think your name will be sung in the Halls of Imladris,' Amron laughed and Legolas grimaced. 'Ah, I was not thinking of that, but do not repent your deed. It was well done and it is to my shame that it was not done by my hand.'
'Elrohir will not find to easy to forgive,' Legolas said but he was still unrepentant. 'But I will never see him again after we return to Imladris and in spite of your songs, he will forget even my name,' he said. But in spite of the relief he felt with that knowledge, he felt a sudden yawning gap in his chest as if he had lost something precious. He frowned, wondering and thought it must be homesickness.
I will be home again soon, he told himself, and what a tale I will have to tell. They will say in the Wood, he thought, Legolas was there when the Ring was uncovered. And he would tell of his joining Glorfindel in the hunt for the Nazgul. He smiled and thought he could even add a few details, his gaze drifting towards the place Glorfindel's mighty sword had leaned only minutes before.
Amron glanced up and looked fondly at Legolas as he scraped his spoon around the bowl. 'I do not think Elrohir will forget your name. And I will not.' He laughed. 'You have any number of nice trinkets to remember us by,' he said.
Legolas grinned and said nothing but wiped his bowl clean with a piece of bread.
'I hope that you have hit a losing streak.' Amron brandished the small knife Legolas had won at dice the previous evening and Amron had to borrow back to fillet the trout he had caught that morning. 'I see you have polished Master Gimli's boots. Does that mean you have admitted he slew more Orcs than you?'
Legolas chewed the last piece of bread and swallowed and Amron continued, 'I did see him with his axe. I have never seen a Dwarf in battle before. I admit, it is impressive and I am glad he is on our side.'
'I admit nothing,' said Legolas with a smile. He looked into his empty bowl and Amron dropped another dollop of stew in it. 'You can give me the rest,' said Legolas. 'Dwarves eat like birds.'
Amron laughed for he knew differently. 'You polished his boots out of kindliness then?'
Legolas laughed. 'I am a very kind person,' he said and wiped the last of his bread around his bowl as Rhawion appeared from the riverbank having completed his morning ablutions.
'Rhawion, you have missed breakfast with the hours you have spent in the river making yourself beautiful. There is no one to see you but us and the Nazgul,' Amron called to him cheerfully.
'I at least have some decent raw materials to work on, unlike some of you who only your mothers could love,' Rhawion said. He stood next to Legolas and looked at him. 'Let's see if we can't get some Mirkwood gold out of you this evening. Amron and I think you are on a losing streak. Gimli's boots are like glass!'
Amron glanced up amused. 'He is saying nothing, Rhawion. Do not waste your breath on him. But we will have plenty of chances to get our trinkets back on the way home,' he said reassuringly. 'We head for Phellanthir. Until then, lackwit-lackmoney, we have a Nazgul to find.' Amron stood and emptied the contents of the pot into two remaining bowls and thrust one at Rhawion who sat cross legged beside Legolas to eat. The other he nestled carefully in the embers of the fire to keep warm for Gimli, who still snored happily.
At the mention of Phellanthir, Rhawion made a face. 'I do not like Phellanthir,' he said grimly. 'It is a ruined and haunted place. Why do we go there?'
'It is at the end of the road, that's why. And our lord Glorfindel says so.' Amron lifted his cooking pot and checked it was empty. He scraped around it with a spoon and, clearly noticing how much Legolas appreciated his cooking, dropped the last bit into Legolas' empty bowl. 'Then back to Imladris and my lovely Felwen warming my soft bed.'
Rhawion grinned conspiratorially at Legolas; Amron talked endlessly of his Felwen, the most beautiful maiden to have ever graced Arda according to her besotted lover, with the smoothest hair, her eyes like stars or sapphires, breasts like milk and skin like honey, her tears like pearls or crystals. Rhawion had confided in Legolas that she was truly a feather-brain who dripped about the House strumming the harp with Lindir. Rhawion had also muttered some very disparaging comments about Lindir and his preferences. Legolas did not much care, but he had said that Lindir and Berensul were 'close' in a way that suggested disapproval. Legolas was hardly one to disapprove of anyone's proclivities or preferences, for he had so many himself but he wondered if the disapproval extended to himself and decided it did not, for both Rhawion and Amron were cheerful and friendly.
'What is Phellanthir?' Legolas asked instead, finishing the last bit of broth and licking his spoon clean. He really would miss Amron's cooking when he had to resort to his own meager skills on the road home. He looked inside his bowl for he would have licked that clean too but it was not worth it.
'It is at the tip of the Angle.' Rhawion told him. 'There is an old abandoned watchtower at the tip, the Arrow we call it. In the days of Eregion, it was the third city. Celebrimbor had a residence there but all that was destroyed when Eregion was taken by Sauron. Then in the time of the Kings, there was a thriving and busy port but it was abandoned and left until all that remained was the watchtower. It linked with Amon Sul. And then even that has gone. It is ruined now.'
It was then that Gimli stirred and Amron placed the last bowl beside him. He sat up and stroked his beard and scowled at the Elves who all turned to stare at him. Then he pulled his blanket about his body and climbed to his feet. He did not speak but they had become used to his ways and knew better than to speak to him or greet him until he had had a pipe and a cup of something to warm his bones. But when he finally struggled to his feet and went to pull on his shiny boots, he smiled and stroked his long, silky beard.
It took them two more days to reach Phellanthir. They kept the Bruinen close on their left now and Glorfindel drove them hard, searching in the fens and marshes, in the rushes and amongst the boulders. Often he gave the lead to Legolas and if Legolas knew there was nothing, could feel it in the air, Glorfindel listened to him and moved them on quickly as if he were driven by some purpose they did not know.
The Moon had already risen on the evening of the first day when Glorfindel took Legolas with him to climb a high tor; its great granite boulders seemed to have erupted from the land, tumbled down the slopes. They stood gazing out across the treetops to the silver ribbon that was the river. Far ahead of them on the horizon, still miles away but within a day's march, was rocky outcrop. Like teeth the ruined towers and spires rose up against the ragged sky
' That is Phellanthir,' said Glorfindel and his voice was full of regret and nostalgia. 'This was a fair place once.' He sighed. 'The third city of Eregion. The smiths here cast jewels and melted them,* swirled them through mithril and chased them with gold and silver. They built those towers and palaces fair and high.' He lifted his hand and pointed towards the ruins that were silhouetted against the evening skies. 'Celebrimbor was king in Ost-in-Edhel, the last great Noldor kingdom. Almost the last of the Fëanorians. Damn them and their pride.' But it was said with no passion or ire but unutterable sadness. Even Legolas knew the story of Fëanor, though Thranduil told it with unforgiving fire and venom.
For a moment the Moon shone on Glorfindel's face and turned him marble pale and he was so still, so lost in memory that he could have been carved from the marble he resembled. 'I failed them too. Came too late. The city was already sacked and Elrond and I could do naught but watch the smoke and flames...' An expression of inconsolable grief was on his lovely face and Legolas bowed his head. He found himself leaning towards the elven warrior who had dwelt in Gondolin, now sacked and drowned, and Legolas half-closed his eyes, listening....he could hear the screams, smell the smoke and stench of burning flesh. He saw a host of elven steeds and knights, helms gleaming in the sun as they galloped along the banks of the Bruinen to Ost-in-Edhel's aid. Too late, too late...and a glorious white horse at the front, turned. The rider lifted his visor to see better the burning city, the crumbling towers blasted and razed, saw it all with his piercing blue eyes that had seen more than any Elf living. The snap of bright pennants streaming in the wind and the pound of horses' hooves...too late, too late...
Legolas leaned towards Glorfindel, lost in memory...and was suddenly aware of the brightness of the moonlight, how deep blue was the darkening sky. He heard the land around him stretch and sigh as it turned to sleep, to winter.
The glint of moonlight on Glorfindel's hair, his lonely nobility and the awful loss ached and Legolas almost brushed against him, almost took his hand and pressed it against his heart and vowed he would never be lonely again if only...
But instead he smiled, remembering Amron's amusement at his own besotted worship. Berensul's warnings about the Noldor sensibilities returned to him and he would not for all the world wish to lose Glorfindel's good opinion of him when he had already thrown away the Sons of Thunder.
So he simply stood by whilst Glorfindel grieved for the glory of ancient days, for the House of Fëanor finally, utterly destroyed.
Even swifter then, Glorfindel drove them. He abandoned the searches on the riverbank and they simply headed straight over the Angle and towards the Arrow, Phellanthir.
Night was falling as they approached and the moon rose once again and rode above thickening clouds that tore wraith-like across the star-scattered sky. Ahead of them the stony outcrop raised itself above the woods and marshes. Tall ruined towers pierced the sky, like blackened fangs. Legolas recoiled; it was indeed a ruined and haunted place.
They did not enter the walls of the tower and set their camp at a distance from the hill upon which it stood. While Gimli laid the fire and with clever, square hands coaxed it into life, Legolas caught an unwary rabbit and as Amron crumbled herbs into boiling water, Legolas prepared the rabbit, and dropped fillets of meat into the water. Supper was a friendly affair, rabbit stew, bread and roots that Rhawion dug up with the tip of a knife and dropped into Amron's lap. Amron brushed off the mud and placed them carefully in amongst the stones of the fire and they were sweet and soft when Legolas peeled the skin off. Glorfindel had left them to scout the Tower and would take no one with him.
After they ate, Gimli pulled out his pipe and puffed quietly on the edge of the camp. He was careful to let the smoke trail off into the air. 'Over there in the Mountains is Khazad-dûm. The ancient glory of the Dwarves.' His voice was low, resonant, like the song of stone and the deep chambers beneath the earth. 'Balin is there. I hoped to have news of him 'ere we returned to Erebor. He has retaken the halls from the goblins and it will be as it was in Durin's time. The halls will be paved again with gold. The secrets of the mines will be again uncovered.'
Legolas was still and listened to the longing in his voice and thought Gimli shared the same deep emotion that pierced Glorfindel's heart.
'It was said that the gates were always open,' Amron said quietly and Legolas turned to stare, wondering if Amron might have been one who rode with Elrond and Glorfindel to Celebrimbor's aid. 'There was much trade between the Dwarves and Elves.' At this, Rhawion stirred slightly but did not speak and Amron continued, 'Narvi and Celebrimbor forged the gates together and they were a sign of their great friendship. Those were the last days of glory for our people.' He dropped his gaze back to the fire.
Legolas said nothing; he had never thought much about the Noldor until now. Thranduil was bitter and uncompromising in his belief that the Noldor had betrayed their folk, the Silvans and Sindar, had slaughtered them in Doriath and sacrificed them in Dagorlad, that their hot and furious blood had brought them nothing but doom. And only a few days ago he would have laughed in disbelief to hear that there had ever been such friendship between even a Noldor Elf and Dwarf. Now however, after only a few days in Gimli's company, though it would never happen to him, he could imagine such a friendship. He supposed too that the Noldor were a strange folk and much concerned with gold and jewels, and he supposed would have much in common with the Dwarves.
Legolas had taken the last watch the night before and expected to take the first watch, but when he went to stand on the perimeter, Glorfindel patted him on the shoulder and sent him off to sleep. When he awoke later at a noise in the night, he saw Glorfindel still on watch though the moon was high and the hour late. Glorfindel watched all night, and the next day he was quiet and alert as if he were waiting for something.
They had fled the scene of slaughter. The cruel, bright albai did not pursue them and so Ghashnik and Thrakash had fled before them as the group of murdering and blood-thirsty albai and tark hunted them relentlessly. Gimgûl had been wounded and they had abandoned him in the marshes of the river, left him to rot, and now they were here in the shadow of the old watchtower, knowing that the Gûl was here. Thrakash could feel it drawing him closer and he hurried Ghashnik for they were Lug-hai, folk of the Tower in the big forest of Búrzkik. His heart longed for the safety of the dark trees and their twisted trunks.
Now he and Ghashnik crouched at the foot of the crumbling tower and watched as two of the albai searched for them amongst the rushes at the edges of the river. The water was too deep here to cross and rushed over the rocks. They had briefly considered swimming it anyway until they felt the Gûl's comforting presence and their hearts had shouted in glee and delight. Now they waited for the albai to leave so they could find their master.
Thrakash glanced down at his heavy sabre. Its coating of venom with which he had so carefully greased the blade was still there, a slick gleam over the edge of the blade and he wished there were more of their hai so they could burst upon these two unwary albai with their ugly, bright faces. Then they could cut the red, beating hearts from their chests, watch them scream and writhe as the albai had made Bubhosh scream, impaled upon the spear. Thrakash would never forgive the albai for that. He wanted revenge.
Awareness of the Gûl grew upon them both, like a slick of oil in the mouth. It beckoned to them, gave them dreams of what they wanted, how they must find their way into the tower, to hide and wait, how the Gûl would cast a cloak of darkness about them and drive the albai onto Thrakash's waiting blade. Again, he was shown his own sabre striking them down, his talons tearing open their thin, pale chests and reaching through the meat and pulsing, pumping veins to the rich red jewel within, the beating pumping heart, to gore them with his teeth and suck the blood from the dripping heart... He felt his own heart pound and the blood leap in his veins. Be still, he told himself, be still, or they would see them with their sharp bright eyes, hear them with their wicked pointed ears so horribly similar to his own. It made him shudder to think of the whispered rumours that the Hai had been albai once until the Great One had saved the spirit of the Hai within and transformed them. And how he hated them for what they were, for what he once was....
Ghashnik had sunk to his hindquarters behind fallen stones, his mottley hide beautifully camouflaged by the ivy that slunk up the ruins of the tower. Thrakash's own hide was greyer and even better disguised here than in the trees. And he watched the albai as they searched, ever closer...
The one with the smooth, bright hair looked up suddenly as if he sensed something, its terrible sharp gaze drifted over them and he felt Ghashnik stiffen. He put his own hand lightly on his companion's shoulder to still him, to silence him and for a moment, the albai stared almost straight at them and Thrakash had to control his thumping breath in case he gave them away. But the other albai called to the first and it turned away. He felt Ghashnik breathe out in relief. Slowly, they sank back into the gloom. Deeper into the tower's ruined twisted heart. Waiting.
The albai called to one another and slowly, their trail brought them closer to the tower and then one of them looked up. Thrakash knew the darkness had been growing, he could feel it growing in power and filling him but it seemed the albai had only just realised and then saw the skies filling with clouds and thunder. And then as the first big drops splashed, they both stood together for a moment and then began to come right towards the two Orcs. He was surprised they did not realise the Orcs were there but the slick oil of the Gûl smothered the Orcs and Thrakash slowly brought up his venom-edged saber, careful not to let it catch in the light.
Knowing the Brethren and Aragorn would be joining them soon, they spent the day scouting, searching the water margins, the marshes and fens. Great trunks of ivy grew over the ruined towers and buildings, and the harbour that had once been a great wall of cleverly crafted stone and elegant quays was fallen into complete ruin. Glorfindel had forbid them enter the tower or climb the rocky outcrop upon which it was built, and none of them wished to for there was an unhealthy air about it and a strange smell, an air.
Rhawion and Legolas had drawn as close to the base of the tower as they wished and paused to search the marshy fens that had once been a shallow harbour. An old rusted anchor lay on its side amongst the rushes.
When they saw the heavy rainstorm approach from the East, Rhawion complained and insisted they take shelter in the tower although Legolas was unwilling.
'Glorfindel told us he did not want us going in there,' he said but it sounded weak even to him. 'I thought you didn't like being near the tower?'
Rhawion shrugged, 'I do not, But nor am I fool enough to stand out in the rain such as this when there is perfectly good shelter nearby. We only have to stand in one of the archways- we'll not go against Glorfindel since you are so anxious to please him.' Rhawion smiled and then added, 'If you are scared, you can stay here and I will scout.'
'I am not scared!' Legolas said before he realised that he was. There was something about the tower that repelled him, and looking towards the tower he thought for a moment he saw movement, a glint. He narrowed his eyes but there was nothing; perhaps it was merely the weak and fading sunlight on rain. After a moment, he turned back to Rhawion. 'Why don't we just make our way back to those willows?'
'Typical Woodelf! Thin skimpy trees that give no shelter or proper elven-constructed building? It's trees every time with you,' Rhawion said but he smiled as he spoke. A roll of loud thunder crashed in over the river from the mountains. He looked at Legolas. 'It is unwise to shelter near trees in a thunderstorm,' he said.
'Why ever not?' Legolas asked astonished.
'Trees can bring the lightning,' Rhawion said authoritatively and did not wait for Legolas' answer but passed him and jogged quickly towards the tower.
Legolas reached out to grab his sleeve. Something didn't feel right. That taste in his mouth was not only the lightning. That pricking of his fingertips was not only the storm.
'Rhawion!' he cried, 'Rhawion, wait.'
But Rhawion shook him off, pulled away, laughing. 'Come along, treecreeper.'
A crash of thunder rolled over the mountains and then the sky spilt apart with a lightning flash. Great drops of rain splattered his face and Rhawion grabbed his sleeve, pulling him towards the old tower. Already the wind gusted along the river bank, bent the willows and thrashed their long trailing branches, pulled at their cloaks and long hair. Legolas squinted into the wind and saw then.
'The Nazgul has been here,' he hissed, dragging Rhawion back.
'It has long gone,' Rhawion said, but he did not go deeper into the Tower.
They stood at the entrance and stared into the darkness. Coils of ivy looped, slithered like thick serpents over the stones and a dim greenish glow hung about the ruins like the luminous moss that grew in damp and dingy places in the south of the wood. Behind them, great drops of rain splashed on the broken stones and the wind blew gusts along the riverbank. Legolas squinted against the wind and rain, saw the sudden darkening of the skies, a dense cloud tinged yellow and purple like a bruise. A spike of lightning flashed over the mountains and had this been an ordinary storm, he would have laughed and dragged Rhawion out into the rain but his hair rose on the back of his neck and his fingertips prickled. He wondered if the Nazgul were coming for the last of their number. Were they riding in on the storm? Would they appear out of the lightning on huge wet black steeds and sweep their terror over the land?
He caught himself. Fear. It is only fear, he reminded himself, knowing now that indeed the Nazgul had been here recently.
'We should not go on,' he whispered and took a step back.
What madness possessed Rhawion then, he never knew for the warrior had learned to heed Legolas. But this time, he did not and shook his head, stepped in from the rain. There was a slight, soft sound to Legolas' right and he turned to look, eyes wide, hands going to his bow. Instantly he let an arrow shoot through the shadows and heard it clang uselessly against stone. He let his breath go and turned back to Rhawion.
'Come. We must go from this place.'
'You are skittish as a colt,' Rhawion said and moved within. He shifted his bow from his shoulder and leant it against the wall. 'It is dry in here and we can shelter. We won't go in any further. It is a dark and eerie place, but look how it rains!'
Legolas could hear the rain driving down and the wind roaring through the trees, the ruins above. It drew moans and whistles through the empty halls above. He hardly dared drag his eyes from the gloom, but he glanced quickly over his shoulder. A spike of lightning flashed and the mountains were sharp and jagged, black against the lightning.
'It is the storm that makes you jumpy,' Rhawion said amiably and settled himself against the wall, leaning back and stretching his long legs out in front of him.
Legolas looked at him astounded. He took two strides across to Rhawion and grasped his sleeve. 'I tell you, we need to leave. Now. A Nazgul is here. Somewhere.' He pulled Rhawion to his feet and looked around and listened. Grumbling, Rhawion snatched up his bow and glared at Legolas.
'Very well,' he said.'If it makes you happy, but there is nothing here. I am sure I would know if Nazgul were here. All I can feel is my hair prickling from the storm.'
Legolas stared at him wide -eyed. He knew then.
The smell and discordant notes were revealed to him, almost as if a veil that had cloaked them had been drawn back...whatever had shrouded them now wanted him to hear. He took a breath.
There was a smell like old, empty tombs. Nazgûl.
'Run!' he shouted.
* Reference to Spiced wine's wonderful descriptions of the Feanorian cities -Magnificat etc.
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