4. The Best Laid Plans
For Suzanne who has been kind enough to email.
It's also posted at ffnet and www.e-fiction.esteliel.de and will soon be up on Archive of Our Own. 9 chapters posted on the first two sites. If you are enjoying this, it's always nice to get a comment in the comment box.
BETA: FAbulous Anarithilien
Thranduil sends Legolas to bear witness to the price paid by the Woodelves of Gollum's escape, but in Imladris Legolas will meet his destiny, Elrohir, Son of Thunder.
Warningsfor later chapters: violence and slash.
Travelling times and distances estimated according to MeARA, the OrginalCompany. Walking distances calculated using .com, estimated height and walking speed.
Timeline for Chapter 4 and 5:
7th October: Leave for Imladris
14th-15th: Reach the Old Ford and set off on the trail to the High Pass.
16-18th: Return to the Old Ford- although a descent, the circumstances would make travelling much slower.
19-20th: Back at the start of the High Pass
23rd: Descent into Rivendell
24th: Arrives in Rivendell
25th: The Council of Elrond
Chapter 4: The Best Laid Plans
It was late and the stars were bright above the trees. Frost drifted in the air for it was October and the oak and beech leaves had turned gold and red in the Wood, their song deep and settled towards sleep. Legolas did not linger though for he had been called by Galion to go to the King's chambers. He had said it emphatically so that Legolas knew this was not his father but his King. Galion had not gone with him but settled comfortably on Legolas' own flet while Legolas himself climbed down and walked towards the stronghold. He met Laersul as he crossed the bridge and stood before the open doors of the King's palace and stronghold.
At Legolas' enquiring glance, Laersul shrugged and said, 'You have as much idea as I.'
'Is Thalos back from Dale? Perhaps that is why?' Legolas suggested and Laersul nodded briefly. Thranduil had been restless since he had gone, even telling Laersul that he, Thranduil, should have gone himself and it was not a criticism of Thalos but a measure of his disquiet.
'He returned earlier, Galion told me,' said Laersul following Legolas through the great stone doors. 'Perhaps there is news from Dale.'
The doors of the stronghold slid closed silently, smoothly and not even a crack showed when it had shut. Within, torches flared and sputtered, casting long shadows, catching the glitter of quartz and veins of minerals in the stone walls.
Laersul threw his arm over Legolas' shoulder companionably. 'Have you seen much of Miriel since the feast?' he asked. 'Or Lossar?' he added with a little more curiosity, giving his brother a sideways glance.
Legolas laughed and said without rancour, 'Probably less than you have seen of Theliel. You have been very elusive and missed several hunts.' He raised an eyebrow at the slight flush that crept over his normally unruffled older brother's cheeks. 'Are you in love, Laersul?' he asked surprised, and pleased, for he loved his older brother and would like nothing more than his happiness.
Laersul dropped his arm back to his side and looked down thoughtfully. 'I have not felt like this about anyone else, it is true,' he replied slowly. 'And I have known her all my life. It is strange to suddenly realise that the person you used to play with in the river mud, is someone you feel such...desire for,' he blurted out and Legolas laughed. 'No, I mean...it is more. I feel...' He laughed softly, almost as if he were alone. 'I suppose I mean yes.'
Legolas pulled his brother against him and squeezed him affectionately and Laersul looked at him a little shyly. 'Don't tell anyone yet, please?'
'I have to consider what is in my own best interests I am afraid,' Legolas teased, delighted. 'If I know then Thalos knows, and if Thalos knows Galion knows, and if Galion knows, and Thranduil does not know but I know, and someone else tells him first and he knows that I know he will not be pleased.' He stepped to one side to let Laersul go through a doorway into the passage that led to the King's chambers, and then said, as if he had considered all this very carefully. 'Whereas if I tell him, he will be pleased for you and pleased with me. Of course, you could support me in case he is going to change his mind about sending me to Imladris. He has said nothing since and I am sure he only said I could go in a weak moment,' he added gloomily.
They saw that the door to the King's chambers was slightly open and orange light sliced the darkness. Both hastened their steps as if summoned to be quick.
Laersul pulled Legolas back for a second. 'Promise you will not say and I will promise you my support.'
Legolas grinned. 'I would not say anything anyway,' he said.
Laersul smiled back. 'And I have already told him you should go' He pushed past then with a grin at Legolas' astonishment.
The draught caught at the torches as they entered and the flames flared, casting great shadows of the pillars that had been carved like trees. Thalos was already there, leaning nonchalantly against one of the pillars so he looked for a moment as he had in the Wood at the feast, thought Legolas. He gave his brother a warm smile in greeting and Thalos nodded but his face was serious and concerned. Alagos, the King's Messenger was there but also Galadhon, who had accompanied Thalos on the hunt for Gollum. He looked wide-eyed and a little overwhelmed and Laersul smiled slightly at him and nodded reassurance. But Legolas felt a flutter of anxiety, for Thranduil would not hesitate to change his mind if he thought it in the best interests of the Wood and he may well have thought better of sending Legolas. Surely the only reason for Galadhon's presence would be that he was to go with Alagos? He felt himself slump slightly. Legolas knew Galadhon well, having fought with him in the South as well as Erebor. They had hunted together and he was Thalos' friend besides; Galadhon would make a good emissary for the Wood, he told himself, and tried to be generous.
Thranduil himself was leaning over the table with the map. The firelight caught on the strong bones of his face, casting a shadow of his lashes on his cheek and stroking his golden hair. He glanced up at his two sons as they stopped before him; his enquiring gaze lingered a little longer on Laersul as if he had noticed something different. Laersul blushed like a maid and Thranduil discreetly looked away, but his eyes were soft.
Having already decided he was about to be disappointed, Legolas pulled up a stool and slumped opposite his father. He leaned his elbow on the table and sighed, resting his cheek against his hand. He waited for a moment and then reached across the map to trace the jagged line that looked like small teeth and represented the Hithaeglir. He felt sure now that he would never see those great mountains, never come to Imladris and his heart gave a strange somersault as if he had missed his chance at something beyond his comprehension, beyond his experience, like part of his soul was missing and could not be recovered.
But this was fanciful surely and he shook himself slightly; he did not have the gift that Thalos had, or their father's deep comprehension of the Wood.
Laersul came to stand next to him and leaned over to move the inkstand to one side and to fix the clasps on the edges of the had barely moved and remained deep in thought, leaning still against the carved pillar. Galadhon went to stand beside him and only then did he stir slightly.
Thranduil rose to his feet then and let his deep-green eyes rest on each one of them as if weighing his worth. Legolas lifted his eyes to his father's and half-smiled, steeling himself for disappointment, instead he felt his father's affection and love and concern envelop him.
At last Thranduil turned his attention back to the map. He was brief then, and to the point, as was his way. No one was surprised, except perhaps Galadhon. 'A message must be taken over the Mountains to Mithrandir in Imladris,' said Thranduil. 'He must know that his creature, Gollum, has escaped and disappeared into the southern range, near to Moria.'
Legolas followed the line that had been drawn from the edge of the Wood to the mountains and then dotted towards Moria. He felt a light prickle down his spine at the thought of the Black Pit, but he would never see it, he told himself. Even if he were still to take the message, to bear witness to Smeagol's escape, his journey would not take him that far South.
'I want him to know the decision to abandon the search was not taken lightly,' Thranduil continued. 'He entrusted us with this creature, and I would have him know that we have done everything.'
'I am ready to leave within the hour, my lord,' Alagos said, standing tall, his bright eyes glittering in the half-lit room. He eyed Galadhon with disdain. 'And with respect to Galadhon,' he said without any respect whatsoever, 'I have not needed a guard before.'
'No, you have not,' Thranduil replied seriously and Legolas slumped slightly further. He knew it, that look in his father's eyes had been apologetic but determined, and Legolas had been right about why Galadhon was there; he would be going as the witness, for he had tracked Gollum as far as was possible and he would be so much better.
'But the way is changed since last you travelled to Imladris, Alagos,' Thranduil said and Legolas was aware that his gaze rested briefly upon Legolas himself and he sighed, steeling himself and determined to be gracious. 'It may well be impassable now, for in the years since the Battle of Erebor goblins have been creeping back into the mountains and the Nazgul are abroad; I know not where those dreadful servants of the Shadow are, though I have my suspicions. And that is the reason you must make haste and I send others with you to ensure the message reaches him. ' Thranduil paused and glanced at Thalos so Legolas thought they must have spent more time privately discussing this. 'There are rumours too of things worse than goblins. Shepherds and the woodmen tell tales of a blood-sucking creature that leaves corpses desiccated and skeletal, their hands outstretched as if pleading.' He looked thoughtfully into the fire. 'That may be Gollum for these were the rumours when he first came out of the Mountains hunting Mr Baggins.' His face hardened then and he looked up. 'The Nine are abroad and searching. I do not want them to find any Elves. And I would warn Master Baggins too if I could.'
He turned then to Legolas and his green eyes gleamed. 'Tell them in Imladris that we still hold out in the Woodland Realm with no help,' he said with that cold hardness he sometimes had, that made even the air still. He did not take his eyes from Legolas. 'Tell them that we still fight the Shadow though they are safe for now...but that as I told the White Council many, many times before, Sauron moves. His hand is in this...if they do not already know.'
Legolas lifted his gaze to meet his father's bright fire. He felt a sudden lance of the Elvenking's own determined hope that kept him standing strong and resolute against the Shadow whatever may come, and excited pride surged through him for Thranduil smiled gently then and Legolas knew he would be going after all. From the corner of his eye he saw that Galadhon and Alagos shot each other a sharp glance.
'Legolas is going with me?' Alagos asked and Legolas tried not to be offended at the look of horror on his face.
'And Galadhon.' It was Thalos who spoke now and all eyes turned to him. 'We need to be sure that Mithrandir knows what happened and we cannot risk our messages going awry.' Legolas glanced at Laersul whose face was smooth and showed nothing, so he wondered if Laersul too had been part of the discussion.
'Legolas and I will make sure the goblins don't get you, Alagos,' said Galadhon and grinned at Legolas. Alagos bristled.
'Legolas is quite capable of guarding Alagos as well,' Thranduil agreed smoothly. 'However he is going as the witness to the Orcs raid on us and Gollum's escape. Alagos, you are the King's messenger as always. You will give the messages, letters, greetings and Legolas will tell the tale of our hardship and endurance against the Shadow.' And if Thranduil was anxious at the idea, he tried hard not to show it. 'Galadhon, you will also be able to tell them about the search for Gollum.'
He looked around at the assembled Elves and then finally let his gaze settle on the outspread map. 'It is a long and dangerous journey,' he said softly. 'You must all study the route carefully for any one of you may fall. The last time you travelled it, Alagos, you reported that Goblin Town was abandoned after the Battle of Erebor. Since the Shadow has grown once again in the Wood, goblins have crept back into the Mountains and the road is no longer safe. I would rather we did not have to make this journey at all but my heart tells me it must be done and done swiftly. May the Valar keep you safe.' He looked at Legolas then. 'And hurry back to me.'
After Alagos and Galadhon had gone and only the sons of Thranduil were left, they were quiet together and spoke in soft voices of the journey. Then quietly Thalos and Laersul withdrew, and as Legolas too rose to leave Thranduil put his hand on Legolas' arm. Thalos smiled at him sadly and Laersul paused for a moment and then leaned over and kissed the top of Legolas' head.
'Be safe, little brother.'
At that, Thalos turned as if the moment weighed upon him but it was not Legolas he stared at but Laersul, and his eyes were wide with fear.
Laersul though was unaware, and Thalos followed Laersul quickly and was reaching out to him as they stepped through the door. For a moment Legolas felt a sudden urge to run after them and pull Laersul back, as if it were the last time he would see him. He shook himself. Surely it was merely the sense of danger that affected them so? He looked at his father but he had turned away, so Legolas let the thought drift away.
There was only Thranduil now and Legolas. Legolas was about to bid his father goodnight for he did not know if there was more his father wished to say to him. Smoke spiraled thinly from the candles and Thranduil lifted his hands to his own neck and took something from it. He approached Legolas now and lifted his chin like he was still a child.
'I want you to wear this, Legolas.' He pressed something small and hard into his palm and Legolas looked down.
A thin mithril chain looped over his fingers and a tiny oak leaf pendant, beautifully wrought in gold was strung upon it. Legolas' lips parted as he looked down. It was always worn around Thranduil's neck, closest to his skin, closest to his heart.
'You know then that I am always with you. And I am always proud of you...' He swallowed as if he could not speak the next words easily. 'Your mother would be as well. She is always with you too.'
Legolas felt overwhelmed and suddenly it did not matter how old he was; he threw his arms about his father and was pulled close.
'Come back to me, Legolas. Swiftly and safe.'
It was before daybreak that they set off. The stars were just thinning in the sky and their breath smoked in the cold air. Legolas was nervous and excited, wanting to be off so there was no more waiting around. He had not slept much the night before, for both Thalos and Laersul had come to his flet to bid him farewell. He had still been packing and repacking his kit with nervous excitement when Galion had arrived and told him he was worse than a maid before a feast. Galion had taken over and sent Legolas off to restring his bow and load his quiver. But this was different from the usual preparations for a journey. This was exciting; no grim Tower awaited him as it would in the South. Instead he was going to Imladris, a place of legends. He imagined himself walking up the slender spiraling paths and over delicate bridges that crisscrossed waterfalls and rivers...casually bumping into Glorfindel, or the Sons of Elrond.
He laughed at himself, he was like some novice warrior or love-struck maid. But he did hope to meet those heroes and the great Elf-lords whose names were sung in ballads.
When Galion called him to tell him that Alagos and Galadhon were ready, he led his dapple-grey mare, Gwilileth the Tenth, out into the cold morning. She caught his excitement and danced and threw her head up, nostrils flaring and ears pricked. Legolas thought he must look the same and tried to settle himself as well as his horse. Alagos was already mounted and waiting serenely as if he were going for a stroll but Galadhon looked as wide-eyed and excited as Legolas. His family did not attend and nor did Legolas' for all had said their farewells and it was only the three of them...and Galion, who wished to annoy Alagos.
'Make sure Alagos does not fall off,' he said to Galadhon and Legolas as they mounted. Alagos glared at Galion.
'I have never fallen off!' he declared irritably.
'That is not what your wife says,' Galion shot back ignoring Alagos' protests.
'Come Alagos! Ignore him,' Legolas said, pushing Gwilileth between them before they came to blows. 'Galion, leave him be.' He leaned down and said to Galion, 'Please. I have to ride with him and you will antagonize him before we have even left.'
Galion's green eyes gleamed and he said, 'I warn you, Legolas, he is the most arrogant and self-important Elf I have ever met. And I have met a few! I am merely putting him in his place for you.'
'Thank you but I think I can do that myself if I need to. I have learned from a master.' He reached down and clasped Galion's shoulder. 'Look after them for me, Galion. I know it is only a few weeks but...it feels like more stretches ahead of me.'
'We will all be here waiting for you,' Galion patted his hand reassuringly. 'Just make sure you do everything you need to and bring honour upon the House of Oropher as you always do.' His smile was heartfelt and trusting and then he added, 'Don't go to any councils though, or make any treaties or negotiations and whatever you do, don't prick* Elrond.'
Legolas heard Alagos' gasp in horror at Galion's parting shot but he straightened and turned Gwilileth and rode quickly out of the courtyard. He did not look back.
They made good progress through the Wood and onto the plains of Rhovanion. In the far distance Legolas saw the long silver ribbon that was the River Celebrant winding its way over the meadows and marshes of the foothills of the Hithaeglir. When he saw the distant hills, Legolas asked Galadhon excitedly if those were the Hithaeglir. Galadhon smiled kindly and told him those were merely the foothills and Alagos snorted derisively.
'There, look up. You can see just in between the clouds the shoulders of the Hithaeglir,' he said and Legolas had to gasp when he saw the high jagged teeth that soared up and up and even then he could not see the peaks but just had an impression of the impossible heights. Alagos seemed satisfied with Legolas' reaction and Legolas had to admit that he viewed Alagos with a little more respect, knowing that he had crossed these mountains many times and on his own. But it didn't last long.
The King's Messenger, as he styled himself pompously, made good use of the seven days travelling through the forest and over the plains of Rhovanion to tell Galadhon and Legolas all the things they could and could not do in Imladris. And Legolas found himself thinking that rarely had Galion been so completely right about another Elf as he was about Alagos. He was so full of his own importance that he and Galadhon had to work hard not to roll their eyes or tease him by telling him they would be doing exactly the opposite of what he advised.
No wonder Oropher wanted to escape the Noldor, Legolas thought. He and Galadhon could hardly believe some of the things Alagos told them but he remembered a book in the library called "The Laws and Customs of the Elves.' It was a Noldor book and he and Anglach had sniggered and giggled over it when they were children...It hurt to think upon that now.
When Legolas told Galadhon that Alagos merely spoke of what was in the book, Galadhon could not believe it and he and Legolas had a fine time teasing Alagos with plans to upset the stuffy Noldor and seduce all their maids and men. But for Legolas it was half-hearted for he thought now of Anglach. He recalled too that Anglach had dreamed of going to Imladris and meeting Glorfindel and he resolved that he would find Glorfindel and make sure he knew at least that Anglach had existed, that he had admired Glorfindel, for what young Elf of the Wood did not? And he should know that Anglach had also lost his life defending his people, just like Glorfindel. And that the enemy was still the enemy whether a demon of shadow and flame or just plain nasty orcs. It didn't matter how great the enemy if you laid down your life to save others, Legolas mentally told an imagined Glorfindel with whom he was dreaming of strolling casually down some leafy path in Imladris... And of course the glorious legendary warrior was captivated by the strange Elf in green and brown from the Wood, thought Legolas dreamily... He planned how he might upset the Laws and Customs in the most satisfying way for all concerned...
The journey was so uneventful as to be almost dull. The company was strained and Galadhon and Alagos at times almost snarled at each other. Legolas most often was the peacemaker and stood between them at least once. At least whilst they were riding they could string out and give each other space, but once at the Old Ford they turned the horses loose to forage and run free until their return. Then began the climb into the Hithaeglir and the thin trail that wound up and up, twisting steeply between the trees and rocks, arduous and relentless.
Now that they had begun the trail into the Mountains, Alagos became quieter and more tense, and finally Galadhon ceased his relentless teasing and Alagos his relentless pomposity. Galadhon was the best tracker amongst them but Alagos knew the way and now they were forced to work together, Legolas was amused to see how well they got on in fact. The way-stones were not reliable and Alagos warned them that goblins moved them about or laid false trails to lure unwary travellers to their death.
By the end of the first day of the climb, and the first week of their journey, the moon was a thin crescent, but the moonlight was too thin for even the elves to continue their journey at night and they found a flat shelf of granite slightly above the path and a useful overhang gave a little shelter. But the night was calm and young pine saplings grew in the thin soil between the rocks.
'We will camp here,' said Alagos, but he would not let Galadhon light a fire and they only ate lembas and what Legolas foraged amongst the junipers and whortleberries. Whilst they ate, Alagos insisted again that each one of them study the map and memorize the trail. 'As the King said,' he intoned soberly and Galadhon and Legolas rolled their eyes at each other. 'You never know what might befall any or each of us. And it betides us well to prepare for all events.'
'He didn't say that,' Galadhon interrupted. 'He said, it's always a good idea for more than one of you to know the way...And anyway, it is a long time since this map was made and we all know that the land changes and paths with it. There is nothing to say this road even exists anymore.'
'I will take the first watch if you like,' Legolas intervened before it came to blows and his companions settled down, bickering quietly until they both fell asleep and Legolas was alone under the stars and the immense sky.
Galadhon had taken over the watch and Legolas was dreaming of leaping over bonfires, and tumbling amongst the soft maidens but the smoke from the bonfire was suddenly roaring over him and smoke filled the air, choking him. There was a shout and he awoke suddenly, hands scrabbling to find his knives, his bow but he could not move, pinned down, he thought panicked and struggling. Something must have fallen on him for there was crushing pain and the roar was not a fire but rock, boulders pounding about them and the air was full of dust and noise. He tried to shout for Galadhon but found his throat full of dust and the land was sliding and crumbling around them; he felt himself tilt and roll and slide uncontrollably, and his fingers grappled uselessly in the grit and hard rock and then suddenly his back hit something hard and all the air was knocked out him. Small stones and rubble and grit piled on top of him, crushed him, rolled over his legs and arms and shoulders and he tried to free his hands to protect his head but the rocks slid and poured and buried him...and suddenly stopped.
He shook his head and punched his arms free, thrusting away the gravel and small stones so he could breath but his lungs filled with dust. Coughing, he blinked and shook his head again. The air was white with dust and he narrowed his eyes against it and pulled himself out, slowly, easing his arms, then his torso and finally his legs, free.
'Galadhon!' he tried to cry out but dust filled his mouth and he coughed instead. He dragged himself out of the rubble and crawled over the rocks, coughing and bruised and with his eyes closed to stop the dust from getting into them. The overhang beneath which they had sheltered, had collapsed and taken the shelf with it. The pine sapling had been torn up and its thin little branches showed darkly against the white dust and rockfall. Incredibly, his bow was undamaged and his knives still safely stowed in their harness.
He heard a moan then and scrambled over the rockfall towards the sound only to find Galadhon already there and sound, and lifting rocks carefully from where Alagos lay, his legs still half buried.
'Legolas! I am so relieved to see you. I could not find you, I could not even hear your song.'
Legolas blinked; had he blacked out? He had not realised it, but he reassured Galadhon and helped him lift each rock carefully from their companion. It was hard work for his limbs felt heavy and bruised but they dared not stop for even a moment for now the mountains were silent and dark. Goblins were likely close to the path, even though they were not high up yet and had not entered the High Pass.
With two of them, it was quick work even though both were bruised, Legolas perhaps more than Galadhon. But soon they were able to lift Alagos carefully from the rubble. Thranduil had said the mountains were treacherous, thought Legolas glumly looking down at Alagos' pale, pain-filled face.
'His leg is broken,' Galadhon was squatting beside Alagos and looking at the twisted limb. 'He won't be able to walk and I cannot see us carrying him over the mountains.' Galadhon looked up the track that wound steeply upwards winding between the great crags and granite boulders. 'We will have to go back.'
'I do not see that we have a choice,' Legolas said uncertainly. But as he spoke, he felt a slight tremble in his heart and he thought of Thranduil's sudden urgency that they should get to Imladris. Until now he had not caught it, but something tugged him.
'Go on...' Alagos ground out between gritted teeth. 'Find me somewhere and go on. I will be mended by the time you return.'
Galadhon made a noise, 'You will mended by a gang of goblins and we will find a pile of bones and goblins dancing about throwing your skull around.'
Legolas winced but the image was not far from the ones in his own mind. Now looking down at Alagos face, white and clenched in pain, he found himself in an absolute dilemma. They could not leave him here, clearly; Galadhon was right. Goblins would find him quick as lightning and when they returned, they would indeed find only his bones. But the thought of trailing all the way back down the mountains, retracing their same steps back to the Wood and the King, was more than he could bear, not simply because of the failure, or the prospect of having this task taken from him, but because something compelled him onwards, drew him with urgency.
High above an eagle called, as if too urging him on. It suddenly folded its wings and plummeted downwards, only to hit a current of warm air, soaring upwards again as if wanting him to follow... He found himself caught by the gleam of its wings, golden in the sunlight.
Galadhon looked up from where he knelt beside Alagos. 'There is nothing we can use as a splint or litter,' he frowned. 'We will have to carry him, perhaps our cloaks can make a sort of sling.' He stood up then and unfastened his cloak and Legolas immediately did the same. 'The nearest place is Beorn's. It is downhill I suppose and perhaps we can make that in a few days if the going is good...although with your great lumping weight, Alagos, it may take us as long as a week.'
Alagos merely groaned, loudly although Legolas thought he was making more of it than strictly necessary. 'A week, and then another week at least for me to mend before we can return here. We will be delayed by a month or more! What will the King say?'
'The King will say that you are a great oaf for being so clumsy and not leaping out of the way when I told you,' scolded Galadhon but he sounded worried too.
Legolas looked behind him, the way they had come up the trail. Already they had travelled two full days and were a good way up into the mountains. Returning would seriously delay them.
'The King was most insistent that we reach Imladris quickly. The Nine are abroad and searching,' Alagos moaned and Legolas chewed his lip for Alagos was right. 'Mithrandir needs to know. He needs to know too of Gollum's escape or the King would never have sent you, Legolas.' Alagos pushed himself up onto one elbow and clawed at Legolas' leg.
Legolas looked down at Alagos with smothered irritation and tried discreetly to pull away.
'You must go on, Legolas. You must take the message. It is more important than me!' Alagos added dramatically.
Legolas finally succeeded in pushing him off gently but exchanged a glance with Galadhon. 'He is right,' he sighed. 'I will help you take Alagos back down the mountain. But Thranduil did charge us with delivering this and I will have to go on.'
'We have to be swift' Galadhon nodded and Legolas was surprised at how quickly he agreed that they would continue and not return to Thranduil's halls. 'There is something that urges me too,' Galadhon said. 'But I do not intend to leave you to travel on your own, Legolas. Not only Thranduil, but Thalos, and Laersul would kill me. And Galion would have me on a spit. So we will take Alagos to Beorn, or leave him somewhere where only the wolves can eat him and not goblins. He will only make them sick and then they will be angry when we return. The horses will not be far and I will come with you then.'
Legolas did not answer for his heart urged him onwards and he resented the delay they would face even with him helping Alagos back down the mountain. With Alagos injured it might take up to seven days. He unclasped his cloak and tied the corners to Galadhon's. They carefully lifted Alagos onto it and each picked up two corners.
At the end of the third full day of carrying a moaning, suffering Alagos, they were almost at the foothills of the mountains and the long river gleamed in the sunlight and Legolas suddenly realised they had not seen the sun for days until now, all the time they had been in the mountains. The air was easier and warmer, insects buzzed softly on the late Autumn sunshine and the tall grass waved in a light breeze from the south. But instead of the relief he thought he would feel, Legolas had felt a rising sense of anxiety with every step that took him down the path back and now he felt the Song...it was discordant and had been growing more so with every step. It had taken so long to retrace their steps for Alagos had truly been in pain and they had stopped often to give him respite.
Both he and Galadhon paused and found themselves looking at each other in understanding and even Alagos was quiet.
'You feel it too?' he asked, knowing that Galadhon was sensitive to the Song, had always been when they were in the South of the Wood, or when Orcs were nearby.
'Suddenly. But it has grown upon you these last two days?' Galadhon peered at Legolas strangely. 'I wonder why you have felt it more strongly.'
For that Legolas had no answer but he turned and looked back up the trail that twisted its way back up into the Mountains. 'I do not know...just that I feel...I must go on.'
Galadhon nodded and put his hand on Legolas' shoulder. 'It is a long journey before we reach Beorn even with the horses and Alagos riding...' He paused and looked at Legolas with concern. 'It is dangerous. Be careful. You know there are goblins up there and worse.'
'And you could get lost,' added Alagos for good measure. 'There are ice giants up there too and when the storms strike they come out of nowhere and there can be trolls and...'
'I will miss your cheerfulness,' interrupted Legolas. 'But how will you manage Alagos?' he asked Galadhon, who grinned above Alagos' head so he did not see.
'Badly I fear. He will get bumped and bruised and I will probably drop him on his head, not that that will matter greatly. But if I can carry him at least to the Old Ford, the horses may yet linger. Then we can go to Beorn and I will send messages to the King that because of Alagos' careless blunder, his youngest and stupidest has travelled over the mountains on his own. He will kill Alagos of course and if he catches up with me he may merely flay alive slowly and rub salt onto my bleeding sores. I, of course, will be following you as soon as I may.'
Both Alagos and Legolas protested then, Legolas because he didn't like being referred to as the youngest and certainly not the stupidest. 'How old do I have to be before that couple of hundred years stops being relevant?' he demanded.
Alagos was moaning quietly under his breath, 'He will kill me, he will kill me.'
But Galadhon ignored both of them and reached into Alagos' tunic and pulled out the map.
'You will need this,' he said unrolling it and holding it open. 'Are you sure about the way? Are you sure you cannot wait a few more days?'
'It will not be a few more days though, will it?' Legolas said grimly. 'It has taken us three days to get back here, and to return to the place where we were is another two or one perhaps with fair weather - that's four days at least even now. Another day or two to the Old Ford if we are carrying Alagos, and then we have yet to find somewhere to leave him...' He did not finish. They all knew what he had to do and none of them felt easy about it.
'I will follow you,' said Galadhon, 'when I rid myself of this burden.'
'No. It would only place you in danger when there needs to be only one of us.' Legolas suddenly found he could not bear the idea of Galadhon following him alone. It made him think of Naurion and he could not bear it if Galadhon was lost in trying to protect or help him. 'Please. Promise me you will not. By the time you get back here I hope to be in Imladris and I will return with the next train or group of travellers. There may well by Dwarves going to Erebor.' He did not relish the idea of travelling with Dwarves but if it would ease Galadhon, he would.
Galadhon ran his hands over his hair in anxiety. 'I cannot just let you go, Legolas. Thalos would never forgive me and I would not forgive myself.'
'And he would not forgive me if you were lost and I would not forgive myself either. Galadhon, please. I feel...somehow it needs to be me. There is something waiting for me on the other side of the Mountains.' He met Galadhon's anxious eyes and leaned slightly towards him. 'I know you feel this is right,' he said. 'And I feel there is great need to hurry, as if I will miss something important otherwise.'
Suddenly Galadhon dropped his gaze and shifted. 'Thalos said that too,' he murmured.
Legolas went still. 'Thalos said that?'
'Yes.' Galadhon looked at him again. 'He said that it was your destiny. He told your father.'
Legolas smiled slightly. It reassured him, for surely if it were his destiny there was someone looking after him and would make sure he arrived sound and with his skin whole. 'I am going,' he said more decisively. 'Tell Thalos thank you. And my father - tell him not to kill either of you. I have become used to you.' He leaned down and patted Alagos on the shoulder. 'Even you, Alagos,' he said kindly.
'Be careful, Legolas. I have become fond of you too,' said Alagos. 'But everything they say about you is true.'
Legolas snorted with laughter then. 'I did not seduce you,' he said looking down at him sideways and lifting an eyebrow slightly. 'So it is not all true.'
'No,' Alagos smiled 'It is not all true. But you are a true Woodelf.' And he said it as a compliment so Legolas smiled.
'Are you two finished?' Galadhon said with mock petulance,' or shall I withdraw to give you privacy?' Then he pulled Legolas into a hug and said quietly, 'Be safe, Legolas. Thranduil will have my hide but Thalos' heart will break if anything happens to you.'
'Nothing will happen,' Legolas said with a certainty that seemed to come from outside him. He looked up at the sky for an eagle called high, high above in the cold blue sky. 'Look! The Eagles will watch over me.'
'Even better if they came and let you climb upon their back and flew you there!' Galadhon replied.
He left them resting carefully on a flat topped rise that he had scouted carefully before he left. They would take their time now and Galadhon would be able to ease Alagos down to the flat lands below. Legolas took one last look before he left.
'Don't forget,' Alagos called after him, 'Don't do anything but give the message. Don't enter into any negotiations, don't go to any council...'
Legolas did not look back but waved his hand dismissively.
'Don't seduce any Imladrian warriors,' Galadhon called merrily, 'And don't proposition the Evenstar. Or Elrond!' he called after him. 'But if Glorfindel is there, do everything you can to get him into your bed! And remember every detail to tell me when you come back...'
'Don't forget to bow to Elrond and Erestor. And demand a room worthy of your station...' Alagos was still calling to him when he took one last look and waved.
Their voices trailed away and melted into the silence of the mountains and Legolas was on his own in the Misty Mountains.
*prick - Galion uses this as a Silvan slang. He would have used the word to imply pricking with a sharp point, to stab, and by extension to treat with scorn or insult. (Hiswelókë Sindarin Dictionary.)
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.