Size: Approx 126K
The forest was dark and quiet. A mist rose from the damp soil casting an eerie remnant to the tall trees. The trees of the forest stood here since the beginning of time. Growing ever taller as there branches tangled together finally cutting off the sun. For the past couple of decades an evil had began to rise and the forest was no longer a safe place to be. Fell beast and other more evil denizens now wandered in the ancient forest. No birds dwelled here and the only sound was the groaning of the great trees as there boughs blew in the wind high above. Yet there was life in the forest as dark furred squirrels foraged along the woodland floor. But even they were absent. Something evil was astir and even the most hardy of animals avoided the area. The silence of the forest was suddenly ended as a great beast ran among the trees. The animal ran as if pursued by something. It ran around the trunk of a great tree and stopped suddenly. The beast raised its head and saw something it hated. It gave a cry and charged. One of its ancient enemies, the Eldar, stood there. The archer calmly reached behind him to grab an arrow as the beast charged. Lightening fast four arrows were shot towards the beast. Two found their marks in the beasts eyes as the last two stuck in the great maw as the animal roared. The beast was dead but the momentum from the charge made it stop scant inches from the archer.
"Be at ease Himdel." The archer replied as he stepped from around the beast.
"You take to many risks my prince," Himdel scowled.
"What risk?" the prince laughed as he studied the beast.
"King Thranduil would not take kindly to us if we brought you back dead, Legolas."
"You worry as much as your brother, Lindon," Legolas said as he continued to study the beast. "It appears the orcs are breeding swifter wargs."
"Yes," Lindon agreed as he came closer. "Wolves breed with other foul beast out of Barad-dur."
"They are getting bolder to come so close to the area we patrol," Himdel commented.
"We must tell my father," Legolas said. "Maybe he'll agree to let a hunting party go deeper into the Greenwood."
"Greenwood no longer," Lindon reminded him. "Mirkwood our forest is called now."
"Only the Edain in their ignorance call it so," Legolas said hotly. "To me the forest shall always be the Greenwood."
Lindon shook his head as the prince walked away. Legolas had always been rash and the past 1,000 years hadn't changed him. He was considered young among the Eldar and his moods were often forgiven. Legolas had no patience for the other races of Middle Earth. Too many times he'd seen men and dwarves betray their alliances to the elves. Here in the Greenwood they seldom came and he preferred it that way. The only outsider to visit King Thranduil's realm was Mithrandir. He would come with tidings of the outside world and Legolas would get the urge to wander. He was always dissuaded to leave be his father saying he was needed to guard the realm. Legolas knew this wasnt true. There were plenty of elves in the kingdom to guard their borders. Some, even he was to admit, were better archers then he. This time he would convince his father to push patrols deeper into the woods.
"No, I forbid it," Thranduil said from his throne.
"But father the beasts grow bolder ever day," Legolas argued. "We must hunt them at their source."
"Why should we waste our lives hunting this growing evil," Thranduil said. "The others do not stir themselves at the peril. In Lothlorien they weave their spells and the border is secure. While the blood of our people is spilled to protect ours."
"Let me got to Rivendell," Legolas begged. "I will ask Lord Elrond for help."
"No, you are needed here."
"Always the same answer! I love our forest truly but I wish to go out in the world."
Legolas stormed off leaving his father with Lindon and Himdel. "Tell me, old friends, is it as bad as my son says."
"The orcs are breeding deadlier and more foul things than we have seen before," Lindon said. "Legolas only wishes for his people to be safe."
"As do I," Thranduil sighed. "It would appear my son is right. We must warn Elrond of what is happening. Mithrandir was worried things would get worse as Barad-dur grew again."
"Mithrandir is seldom wrong," Himdel said. "The Dark Lords power is growing and our forest is becoming most foul."
"I will think on this," Thranduil said. "Do as you have always done. Keep my son safe."
"A task that is becoming much harder," Lindon smiled.
"Yes my son the risk taker. Do your best."
They watched as Thranduil left his throne and walked from the room. The two brothers left in search of their impetuous charge.
Legolas stood at the edge of the river and watched as barrels of wine and other goods floated by on their way to Laketown. They still depended on trade with men for some of the things they needed. Once or twice he had been sent to pick up their supplies from the town in the middle of the lake but found the Edain to be a noisy lot. Legolas reached down and picked up a handful of pebbles. He began to throw them at the barrels for target practice.
"One would think you would get tired of watching me," Legolas commented as he threw another rock.
"You can be troublesome," Lindon said as he stepped out of the trees. "On occasion."
"The King must think I will do something rash."
"Your reputation works to foster his beliefs," Himdel smiled.
"I know," Legolas conceded. "I wish to see different places. I have lived in this forest most of my life."
"You have been outside this realm," Lindon reminded him.
"During war, yes. I wish to see how the other lands have fared. Are they being maligned by the powers of evil like we are?"
"I hear in Gondor the Stewards still keeps guard on Mordor," Himdel said. "The men of Gondor have ever been vigilant."
"I would like to see the white tower of Ecthelion," Legolas mused. "And hear the sliver trumpets."
"Perhaps one day you shall," Lindon said. "But come it is time we found our beds. Tomorrow we patrol the southern border."
Legolas gazed down the river one last time before turning and following his guardians. They were more than his guardians they were his friends. In the beginning he'd resent the fact that his father sent the twins to guard him. He'd done everything to make them go to his father and beg to be released from their duty. Except nothing he did worked. They were incredibly patient and forgave him all his petty pranks. As he followed them back to the hall Legolas smiled. Twins were rare and considered blessed. He was glad they were his friends.
Legolas sat high in a tree watching the southern border. This was the most dangerous area along their realm. The dark menace of Sauron's minions held sway over the southern portion of the great Greenwood. Legolas had to admit the Edain name for this area of the forest fit. Mirkwood it was called and he feared it would remain as such. The trees were covered in a heavy moss that hung from the branches like a beard. No animals would dare to cross the border unless their hearts were evil. Today nothing stirred in the forest and their watch was uneventful.
"Legolas," Himdel called from the tree next to him.
Legolas turn to see what he wanted. His friend was hard to see unless you knew where to look. Their remnants blended with the bark of the tree and Himdel had leaves in his blond hair. Legolas was dressed the same in shades of gray and green with leaves entwined in his blond braids. His face was also painted in the pattern of the barks of the tree.
"What is it?"
"Lindon has our lunch."
Legolas stood up and nimbly ran along the branch he was on then jumped across the gap to Himdel. Himdel just shook his head and Legolas smiled. They were high in the branches of the ancient trees and a fall of one hundred feet or more could kill. The branches were thick and easily held the weight of the elves. Himdel lead the way to his brother on a more secure path than the one Legolas chose. Legolas had keen eyesight and spotted Lindon two trees over.
"I'll race you," Legolas challenged and sprinted away.
Himdel asked Illuvitar for strength as he raced after his prince. Legolas lightly sprinted across the branches and jumped the gaps. Himdel followed him easily but noticed Legolas had veered off the right path. Ahead was a large gap to the tree Lindon was on and he feared he knew what Legolas was about to attempt. He tried to close the gap between them but Legolas was too fast. He watched as the branch ended and Legolas began his leap.
Lindon looked up to at the call of his brother to see Legolas jumping towards him. The gap was wide but he could see Legolas would make it with room to spare. The prince landed on the branch and began to walk the rest of the way to Lindon. He saw the look on his friends face and knew Himdel had attempted to follow him. He turned to see Himdel in the middle of the jump but knew he wouldnt make it. Legolas quickly pulled the coiled rope from around his shoulders and tied it to the branch. He jumped towards Himdel and caught him in mid air. They came to an abrupt stop as the harness hooked to the rope stopped their fall. The sudden stop drove the breath from Legolas's lungs and he was barely able to keep his hold on Himdel. His friend saw the pain in Legolas's eyes and quickly took hold of the rope and began to climb. As he was climbing his brother was pulling them up. Once he was on the branch he joined his brother and they quickly pulled the gasping prince on to the branch.
"Are you hurt?" Lindon asked in concern. Legolas just shook his head no as he continued to pull air into his lungs. "You are lucky. And you, my brother, are just as lucky."
"I truly thought I could make it," Himdel said. "I forget Legolas can leap like a squirrel."
"Yes but he can not fly like Elwing wife of Earendil."
"We were perfectly safe," Legolas said now that he could breath. "Besides the watch has been dull. We needed the excitement."
"I prefer less excitement," Lindon said. "Come."
They followed him to where the great branch met the tree and they sat down to eat. Legolas leaned against the trunk and looked up. He could see the sun shinning above the canopy of leaves and knew its light would never each the forest floor. Legolas finished his lunch and walk around to the south side of the tree stepping lightly from branch to branch. He gazed to the south and he could see Dol-Guldur in the distance. The Nazgul ruled their now and none dared to approach. The thought of the Nazgul made Legolas think of the last Alliance of Elves and men and their battle against Sauron and the Ring. If only Isildur had cast the Ring into Mount Doom Sauron would have been destroyed. But the lure of the Ring had snared Isildur and he kept it. Legolas sighed as he came back and sat with his friends.
"What troubles you so?" Himdel asked.
"Was just thinking about Isildur," Legolas said. "If he had only cast the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom."
"Dont judge Isildur too harshly," Lindon said. "Lord Elrond held his father Elendil in high regard."
"It is said men are week," Legolas said. "The Nine were easily corrupted by the rings they were given."
"They were kings who wished for power," Lindon said. "Sauron the deceiver knew what he was doing when he gave the rings to them. They were easily ensnared."
"And now that Isildur is dead these many years the Ring is still missing," Legolas said.
"And may it stay missing," Himdel said. "For if he recovers it we will know never ending darkness."
"But I fear the Ring will not stay lost forever," Legolas predicted ominously.
Lindon did not doubt Legolas words. The ring had a will of its own and when the time was right it would be found again. "Come we can do nothing about the finding of the Ring. Let us patrol further along."
Legolas shook off the foreboding and followed the brothers. As he walked along the branches his gaze was turned to Dol-Guldor. The tower soared above the trees and he could see movement along the battlements. Nazgul werent the only inhabitants of Dol-Guldor it would seem.
The patrol of the southern border had been quiet. The minions of the dark lord knew that this border was well guarded and usually tried to penetrate their defense somewhere else. Legolas walked back to the city with his friends trying to figure out another way to convince his father to let him leave. He truly didn't wish to go behind his fathers back and leave without permission but if came to that he would. King Thranduil's city was below ground. Great halls and dwellings had been carved from the living earth. The Silvan Elves were considered rustic and crude by the Noldor Elves. The underground city was very different from the dwellings in Lothlorien that were built high in the Mallorn trees. The King's hall was at the center of the city and the three friends headed there to give their report. As they got closer they could see the door warders in their ceremonial armor standing guard. Legolas smiled remembering his time as a warder. They were required to stand as statues and just watch. Thranduil quickly realized his son had no patience for the position and released him from his duty. They walked between the warders and stepped inside. Legolas led the twins down the hall to the throne room. As they stepped inside Legolas looked around in surprise. The King was there with his counselors.
"Ah, Legolas, we've been waiting for you," Thranduil said. "How was your patrol."
"Uneventful," Legolas answered. "But something stirs in Dol-Guldor. I saw them walking along the parapet but could not determine what they were."
"Keen is the eyesight of Legolas if he could see to Dol-Guldor," said Martial the kings chancellor.
"So the dark lord is increasing his forces," commented another councilor. "Your request seems justified."
"What's going on, father?"
"I've decided to grant your request," Thranduil began. "You will be sent to Imladris with the information of the Dark Lords movements."
"I will leave right away," Legolas said.
"You shall leave tomorrow," Thranduil said curbing his sons eagerness. "Tonight I will write letters for you to carry to Lord Elrond. You may go now."
"As you command," Legolas said.
The three friends stepped back and raised their right hands to their chest and bowed. Legolas led them out of the room with a spring to his steps.
"So you have received your wish," Lindon said.
"Yes," Legolas cried. "I would leave now if I could."
"It is late," Himdel commented. "Better to leave in the morning."
"Where's your sense of adventure!" Legolas cried.
"We had plenty in our youth," Lindon smiled.
"You will both journey with me?" Legolas asked.
"If it is your fathers wish then yes," Himdel answered.
"It is well. I shall leave you now so I can prepare."
The twins watched as Legolas departed. Himdel turned to his brother and saw a frown on his face.
"What is it brother?"
"I fear this journey will not be easy for the prince."
Early the next morning Legolas got dressed to leave. He pulled on gray leggings then stepped into his leather boots. A silk tunic in silvery green was donned next. Over that was a leather tunic in green, grays and brown with silver etchings in the shape of vines along the shoulder and arms. Last he buckled on his leather bracers. He grabbed his cloak, bow and arrow, and knives as he left hid room. He hurried down the hall to where his father was waiting. He wasn't surprised to find the twins waiting for him. They entered together to find the king waiting for them.
"These are the messages for Elrond," Thranduil said as he handed a packet of letter to his son. "He will know what to do with the information."
"Yes, father." Legolas took the packet and handed it to Lindon.
"Safe journey," Thranduil said as he gripped his son's forearm. "Safe home, all of you."
They bowed and left the king to fetch the horses. Lindon gave the letters back to Legolas and he put them inside his leather tunic. As they walked Legolas fasten the cloak around his neck. He made sure his knives were secure before he strapped the quiver on his back. The horses were kept in an open area not far from the city. The night before each of them had packed a bag with provisions and left it at the stable. They would travel light and live of the land for the most part. They arrived at the stable and gathered the bags. Legolas swung his over his shoulder so as not to interfere with his quiver. They left the stable and walked out to a pasture. All the horses were let out together to run free with no fences to keep them in. Legolas whistle and a distinctive pattern and a horse neighed in the distance. The twins did the same and three horses could be seen running towards them. A gray came to Legolas and butted his head against his shoulder.
"Good morning, Grifalia" Legolas said as he rubbed his nose. "Are you ready for an adventure?"
The horse nodded his head and Legolas swung onto his back. Neither saddle nor bridle was required to ride since the elves could talk to all good beasts. Legolas waited while Himdel argued with his black before he mounted. Lindon suggested he should take a horse that was less troublesome but Himdel refused.
"Are we ready?" Legolas asked and they nodded. "Then let us be off. Noro leem!"
Grifalia sprang away at these words running easily across the pasture. The other horses followed running close behind.
Four days later Legolas and his friends camped at the base of the Misty Mountains. It was still early but they decided they would try to pass through the mountains in the dark. Legolas sat tending the fire thinking back on the past four days. While traveling along the elves path from his fathers kingdom they had been watched by the spiders that dwelled along the path. The spiders didnt usually bother travelers in a group. They preferred easier prey. Legolas wanted to go after them but Lindon had curbed his wraith reminding him they were on another mission. Legolas hated the fact that his beloved forest was become a place of evil. The Silvan Elves didnt have someone like Galadriel to weave her enchantments to protect the forest. They relied on their own skills at hunting and fighting to protect what was theirs. Himdel returned from the forest with a brace of rabbits and placed them next to the fire. Lindon was taking care of the horses and he noticed Legolas was sitting quietly starring at nothing. Himdel began to skin the rabbits trying not to disturb him.
"Do you think Lord Elrond will be able to help?" Legolas asked turning to Himdel.
"Im sure he can," Himdel answered.
"But will he?" Legolas said standing. "Its been so long since I was there last."
"For the presentation of Arwen," Himdel smiled. "I remember as Im sure Lord Elrond does as well."
"I was hoping he would have forgotten," Legolas frowned.
"How could he forget," Lindon laughed as he walked over to the fire. "You fell off his roof and into the pond at the ceremony."
"Father was furious," Legolas sighed.
"You were a boy," Lindon said gripping the princes shoulder. "Elrond wasnt angry and neither was Celebrian."
"I saw the Lady Galadriel smiling as they fished you out of the pond," Himdel said. "What were you doing on the roof anyway you never did say?"
"I was following a bird," Legolas mumbled.
"It was one I had never seen before," Legolas said defending him.
"Im sure it was," Lindon said. "You were a very curious child. Always wanting to know everything about all the animals. Always following them wherever they went."
Legolas said nothing as they continued preparing their supper. As the sun began to set behind the Misty Mountains Legolas became uneasy. The animals of the forest were settling down for the night but the ones that came awake at this time were absent. Legolass keen eyesight could only penetrate so far into the depths of the forest. As he watched a familiar sound came to his exceptional hearing.
"Orcs!" Legolas yelled as he grabbed his bow.
The three friends stood back to back as they heard the horses scream in pain and terror. Legolas would have gone to them but the twins held him where he was. Suddenly their camp was surrounded by two dozen Orcs. The enemy quickly surrounded them and attacked without mercy. Orcs had a deep hatred for elves and would try to kill them on sight. Many years before when Elves first appeared on Arda some had been captured by Melkor, one of the Valar. He was evil and corrupted everything he touched. He hated the Children of Illuvitar. The Elves he captured he tortured and corrupted until they became Orcs to be a mockery of the Elves. Legolas shot his bow with lightening speed but there were too many of their ancient foe. He felled five before he was hit in the shoulder by an arrow. The force of the shot knocked him into Lindon and they both fell. That was all the opening the Orcs needed to charge forward. Lindon scrambled to his feet and stood over Legolas. Himdel stood side by side with his brother as the Orcs overwhelmed them. Legolas tried to get up but something slammed into the back of his head and he remembered no more.
Legolas was drawn back to consciousness by a nagging pain in his shoulder and head. He tried to move his right arm but couldnt. This annoyed him and he forced his eyes open to see what was going on. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom he was sorry he was awake. Being a captive of the Orcs was never a good thing. Especially if you were one of the Eldar. Legolas looked around the camp trying to find the twins. He saw four cook fires with large haunches being cooked. Now he knew what happened to the horses. Legolas silently grieved for his lost companion as he continued to search the camp. His field of view was limited since he was tied standing to a tree. The arrow was still in his shoulder and Legolas grimaced as he tried to look to the left. He couldnt help cry out when he saw Lindon and Himdel hanging upside down from the branch of a tree. The brothers had been stripped of theirs clothes and beaten. Lindon was missing his ears as well as his right hand. Himdel had been flayed and their wasnt a strip of flesh left on his body. Legolas knew they were dead and screamed his rage. They grief of the twins death was all consuming and Legolas never heard the Orcs approach. He knew they were there when they started to beat him. Legolas just hoped he would find a swift death so he could meet the twins in the Halls of Mandos.
Legolas wasnt sure how long hed been unconscious the second time. He just knew he didnt want to wake again. If he wished he could will himself to death but that would be the coward's way out. He wanted to avenge the death of his friends. To do that he needed to escape. Legolas forced his eyes open. Unfortunately he could barely open the left one it was swollen so bad. It was still mid of night and Legolas knew hed only been unconscious for a few hours.
"So it awakes," said a guttural voice from his blind side. "I told them you strong."
Legolas didnt say anything he just stared at the Orc with his good eye. This seemed to make the Orc nervous and he stepped back. Legolas started to sing. The Orc stepped back and grabbed a bow. He took aim and shot at Legolas. The arrow entered his left thigh but he didnt stop singing. The Orc screamed in rage and shot again. The arrow entered just below the elfs ribs on the right side. Legolas cried out then was silent.
Two riders crossed the Old Ford and headed for the gap leading to Rivendell through the Misty Mountains. It was unusual for men to be traveling at night but the two riders had confidence in their ability to protect themselves. One rider was an old man. He was dressed all in gray with a peaked hat. His flowing white hair and beard blew in the wind as they rode. He was Gandalf the gray one of the Astari. His companion was a young man with shoulder length dark hair and blue eyes. They rode towards the forest when suddenly Gandalf pulled his horse to a stop.
"Do you hear anything?" Gandalf asked.
The young man listened and thought he heard faint singing. As he strained to hear the singing stopped and was replaced by a familiar sound.
Gandalf spurred his horse forward and the young man followed. He couldnt believe the Orcs were getting bold enough that they were camping along the Imladris Pass. They rode through the tress and the young man saw a clearing ahead. Campfires were lit and he could see the Orcs. Gandalf charged through the camp scattering the Orcs with his fireworks. The young man drew his sword and cut down any Orc that came into reach. His blood lust was roused and he reveled in the killings. He would have run down the fleeing Orcs but Gandalfs call brought him back. He rode back to camp and finally got a good look at what was there.
"Quickly, Aragorn, help me," Gandalf called. "This one is still alive."
Aragorn jumped from his horse and ran to where Gandalf was trying to cut someone down from the tree. He took the limp body in his arms as Gandalf cut the ropes. Aragorn wasnt surprised to see it was an Elf. The long blood hair was matted with blood and Aragorn couldnt believe he was still alive. The elf was grievously hurt with three arrows sticking in his body and numerous other hurts. When Gandalf finally had the ropes cute Aragorn carried the Elf over to the fire. Gandalf took off his cloak and spread by the fire. They carefully laid the Elf down.
"It cant be," Gandalf said as he took a look at the Elf. He pushed the matted hair from the elfs face and sighed. "Legolas."
"Who is he?" Aragorn asked as he cheeked the Elf for other injuries.
"This is King Thranduils son, Legolas," Gandalf explained as he placed his hand on the elves fore head.
Aragorn watched as Gandalf leaned down and whispered into the Elfs ear. The wizard was calling to the Elf telling him to come back to the light. Aragorn knew they would have to take care of the Elfs wounds and quickly looked around the camp for anything they could use. As Gandalf did what he could Aragorn scavenged cloaks and blankets to use as bandages. They were filthy pieces left by the Orcs but they had no choice. As he searched he came across the remains of the horses the elf was riding, except there was more than one horse. Aragorn looked frantically around but didnt see anyone else. Perhaps Legolas was leading packhorses, but to where? Aragorn continued to search the camp. That was when he found the other two elves. The mutilation done to both of them caused Aragorn to lose the contents of his stomach. He knew the Orcs hated elves but he never knew how much. When his stomach was empty Aragorn turned back to the elves. He was surprised to see they looked exactly alike. He knew he could do nothing for them and returned to Gandalf.
"There are two others," Aragorn said as he dropped his bundle by the fire. "Theyre dead. I think theyre twins."
"Twins," Gandalf said in surprise.
"Legolas is wandering far but I can tell he doesnt wish to leave this world yet," Gandalf said. "We need Athelas. Then we have to remove those arrows and do whatever else we can."
"Ill get the Athelas."
"Where are the other two elves?"
Aragorn pointed across the way and Gandalf went to take a look. Twins were rare amongst the elves and Gandalf feared he knew who they were. As he stepped around the tree his fears were confirmed. He knelt down and closed the identically blue eyes of the two brothers, the guardians of the prince. Gandalf stepped back and raised his staff. He murmured an incantation and the area around the brothers burst into flame.
Aragorn looked up as he heard the wizard chanting. He was surprised when he called fire to burn the two elves. He continued to look for the plants they needed. When he gathered what he thought they would need he returned to the clearing. Gandalf was kneeling next to the Elf. The byre of the elves was only smoldering now and Aragorn shook his head sadly.
"Who were they?"
"The twins, Himdel and Lindon, the princes guardians," Gandalf answered as he checked the arrow in Legolas side.
"Ive never seen twins," Aragorn said as he joined him by the elf.
"And you never will again," Gandalf said sadly. "For they were the last."
They worked through what was left of the night trying to mend Legolass many hurts. Finally by dawn Gandalf was satisfied they had done all they could and sent Aragorn off to get some rest. Aragorn knew the Elf was badly hurt and knew they would have to get him to Elrond as soon as possible. He voiced his concerns to Gandalf but the wizard said they would wait a few hours. They were both tired and the fate of the elf was out of their hands. They could heal his physical body but Legolas would have to make the decision to return on his own.
Aragorn was abruptly awoken as a scream ripped through the camp. The warrior grabbed his sword and jumped up to face his foe. There was nothing in the area and Aragorn turned to Gandalf. The wizard was struggling with the elf trying to hold him down. Aragorn quickly moved to help. He placed his sword within reached as he grasped the elf's legs. Gandalf began to chant and after a short time Legolas quieted. Aragorn couldnt believe how pale the elf was. He reached up to touch the elf's hand and gasped. Legolas's hand was like ice.
"We must move quickly," Gandalf said as he finished the spell. "We must get him to Rivendell."
"What has happened?"
"We don't have time for questions," Gandalf said angrily. "Get the horses."
Aragorn didn't question the wizard. He knew Gandalf wasn't angry with him. They had left the horses tacked and all that was needed was for their girths to be tightened. Aragorn turned to lead the horses to Gandalf and was surprised to find the wizard standing there with the elf. Legolas was thrust into Aragorn's arms as Gandalf grabbed the reins of his horse and mounted. Aragorn sensed the urgency in Gandalf and quickly passed the unconscious elf up to the wizard. Once Legolas was settled Aragorn sheathed his sword and mounted. Before he was even in the saddle Gandalf spurred his horse forward.
"What is it Gandalf?" Aragorn shouted over the rush of the wind.
"The Orcs had poison on their arrows," Gandalf yelled back. "I tried to stop its spread but my healing skills are limited. We must get him to Elrond as quick as possible."
"We'll never make it if we push the horses at this pace," Aragorn said. "We are a days ride from Rivendell."
"We have no choice," Gandalf said and began another spell.
Aragorn knew Gandalf was placing spells of endurance on the horses but he feared it wouldn't help. In the end they would kill the horses before they ever reached the House of Elrond.
The miles flew passed and Aragorn lost track of time. It felt like they had been in the saddles forever. His horse was running next to Gandalf's when he saw his companions horse stumble. Aragorn reached up and grabbed the others reins. The horse righted itself and kept going.
"We can't keep this up," Aragorn called.
"Just a little further," Gandalf called.
Aragorn looked around and was surprised to see they were about twenty miles from Rivendell. He knew where Gandalf was heading. Up ahead was a lookout where they could change horses. Gandalf slowed the horses as two elves stepped out of the trees to challenge them.
"Hail, Mendel," Gandalf called recognizing one of the elves.
"Mithrandir, I can see your errand is urgent," Mendel said as he took the reins of Gandalf's winded horses.
"Most urgent," Gandalf said. "We need fresh horses."
"What is this?" the other elf asked as he reached up for Gandalf's burden.
"The prince of Mirkwood," Gandalf said as he handed Legolas to the elf. "He was tortured by the Orcs."
"Come, Aragorn, help me ready the horses," Mendel said to Gandalf's companion.
Aragorn followed Mendel to where the horses were kept. There were ten horses in a hidden pen and Aragorn knew the others elves were keeping watch. Mendel whistled and two horses separated from the others.
"There is no tack for our steeds," Mendel said.
"We need none," Aragorn said.
They brought the fresh horses back to where Gandalf was waiting. Two more elves had arrived to care for the horses they had ridden hard.
"Take good care of them," Aragorn said as he swung up on the back of his new horse. "They served us well."
"Fear not, Aragorn," Mendel said. "They will be well taken care of."
Aragorn waited while Gandalf mounted. Once the wizard was settled he waited for them to pass Legolas to him. The elf holding Legolas handed him to the wizard.
"He is far, far away."
"Yes but he has not passed yet," Gandalf said as he took a tight grip on Legolas.
"Elrond will call him back," Mendel said. "But only if that is the Princes wish. A message has been sent ahead. They will be waiting for you."
Gandalf nodded and urged the horse forward. The horse eagerly began to run taking the quickest course home. Aragorn's horse followed and he waved good bye to the sentries. The last twenty miles to the House of Elrond flew by. As they came around a bend in the trail the beautiful Elven City was revealed. Perched between several waterfalls the pale walls of the city glistened in the sunlight. Aragorn felt a feeling of peacefulness surrounded him as they rode down to the city. This was the home of his youth. The place he had grown up in. They crossed the last bridge that led into the city. As they pulled the horses to a stop Elves came to hold the horses. Aragorn jumped from his mount and took Legolas from Gandalf. As Gandalf passed the unconscious elf down the blanket fell away from his face and Aragorn gasped. Legolas's face was the color of marble. The purple bruises and swollen eye stuck out angrily against his ghostly pallor.
Aragorn looked up at the outburst and saw Lord Elrond moving quickly towards him. The ruler of Rivendell reached out his hands and placed them on either side of Legolas's face. Aragorn held the elf as he listened to Elrond call Legolas back to the light. Elrond called for several minutes but Aragorn couldn't tell if it was working. Finally Elrond finished and turned his piercing blue eyes on Aragorn.
Elrond's command could not be ignored and Aragorn followed him into the house. Aragorn had no time to admire the beautifully worked wood of the interior of the house as he followed close behind Elrond. Aragorn knew where they were going. Elrond was taking them to the main area of the house to one of the rooms over looking the falls. As they rushed through the house Aragorn saw a familiar face. Her dark hair and blue eyes reflected happiness at the site of him but was quickly replaced when she saw the burden he carried. Elrond opened the door to the room he sought and beckoned Aragorn to enter. Gandalf had also followed and stepped into the room. Aragorn placed Legolas on the bed and stepped back. Elrond moved next to the bed and pulled the cloak from Legolas. Aragorn heard a gasp behind him and turned to look.
"Ah, daughter," Elrond said. "I will need water from the well."
"Yes father," she said and turned to go.
The elf maid turned to leave and caught Aragorn's eye. A silent message passed between the two of them as she left to do her fathers bidding.
"You'll have time to be with Arwen later," Gandalf said. "Help us now."
Aragorn bowed his head in shame at the reprimand and moved next to the bed to help. They removed the crude bandages from the wounds and Elrond gave them a closer look.
"The Orcs poison has gone deep," Elrond said. "But I sense it is not Legolas's time to depart."
"As did I," Gandalf agreed. "He still has duties yet unfinished."
Arwen returned with the water, fresh bandages and several plants. Aragorn recognized all of them as have healing properties. She placed the pitcher on the table close to the bed then fetched a basin. She held the basin as her father poured the water into it. Aragorn handed Elrond the Athelas and he crushed it into the water as he began to speak. The scent of the Athelas filled the room and everyone was at peace. Elrond took the basin from Arwen and sat on the bed next to Legolas. Elrond continued to chant as he placed a cloth into the water and pulled it out. He took the rag and began to clean the arrow wound in Legolas's side. As soon as the cloth touched the wound Legolas writhed in pain.
"Hold his legs!" Gandalf commanded Aragorn.
Aragorn did as he was told while Gandalf pinned Legolas's shoulders to the bed. Arwen took the basin from her father and stood close to him so he could rewet the rag as needed.
"What is wrong?" Aragorn asked.
"Elrond draws the poison from the wounds," Gandalf said.
Aragorn watched as Elrond drew the black poison from the wound. After several minutes the wound began to bleed bright red blood. Elrond nodded in satisfaction and ended his chant. Legolas stopped struggling and lay panting on the bed. Arwen handed her father a clean cloth as Elrond threw the other rag with the cloak. He dipped the new rag in the water then began to wipe away the blood.
"Himdel! Lindon!" Legolas cried.
"The twins?" Elrond asked looking at Gandalf.
"You know they would never be far from their charge," Gandalf said.
"But they are not here now," Elrond observed as he continued to clean the wound. "So they have departed."
"Yes," Gandalf said.
"They will be sorely missed," Elrond sighed. "They were great warriors."
"And better friends," Gandalf said. "I just hope Legolas can deal with their passing."
"We will have to wait and see," Elrond said. "Are we ready for the next wound?"
For the next two hours they tended the many wounds of the prince. Legolas cried out and fought each time the poison was drawn from the wounds. He spoke mostly in an Elven tongue Aragorn was unfamiliar with. Gandalf said the Silvan elves had a language of their own that was seldom heard outside their halls. It was Sindaran but with different inflections and accents. As Legolas talked Aragorn recognized more and more words. Aragorn was surprised when he realized what Legolas was mumbling about.
"He was at the Battle of Fornost?" Aragorn asked.
"Yes," Elrond said. "The battle to rid the north of the Witch King of Angmar."
It always amazed Aragorn the longevity of the elves. He knew Legolas was considered young amongst the elves when compared with Elrond or the Lady Galadriel.
"He was barely 120 years old when he came to Rivendell for the presentation of Arwen," Gandalf said.
"Yes he made quite and impression," Elrond smiled as he finished wrapping the last of the bandages around Legolas's thigh.
"Why what happened?" Aragorn asked.
"As I was just about to present Arwen, Legolas fell from the roof and landed in the pond," Elrond explained.
"This is the one I have heard about since I was a child?" Arwen asked and Elrond nodded.
"What was he doing on the roof?" Aragorn asked.
"He would not tell us," Elrond answered. "I remember King Thranduil was not happy."
"Thranduil has always been hard to please," Gandalf said gruffly. "Legolas, thankfully is not like his father."
"Yes," Elrond agreed as he stood. "I have done everything I can for now. Tomorrow I will come again and try to call him back."
Elrond held out his hand to Arwen and she went with her father. As they left the room she turned back to look at Aragorn.
"Why does he not approve?" Aragorn asked angrily as they departed.
"You ask much of him," Gandalf said. "He does not wish to give up his only daughter to a wandering ranger."
"But yet that is all I have to offer."
"We both know that isn't true. You chose the life of an exile but I fear you won't be able to hide behind that forever."
"What do you see Gandalf?"
"I am no seer," Gandalf laughed. "But I know things have begun to stir that would better if they didn't."
"Can you tell me more of him?" Aragorn asked as he glanced down at Legolas.
"There is not much to tell," Gandalf said. "The elves of Mirkwood are a secretive lot. They seldom become involved with the affairs of men or other elves. They are not overly fond of the Elves of Lothlorien or Rivendell."
"You know the histories of the elves," Gandalf said. "The Noldor that returned over the sea pushed the Sindar elves from the land they loved. King Thranduil's father was one of them. During the Last alliance of Men and Elves against the might of Sauron many of the Silvan elves were killed. Thranduil's father was one of them."
"But many elves and men were lost in that battle," Aragorn said confused.
"But a greater number of the elves of Mirkwood were lost," Gandalf said. "Thranduil was now king and after the war returned to Mirkwood with only a third of the elves he started with."
"Why so few?"
"The elves of Mirkwood are great fighters but they have no armor to speak of," Gandalf said. "They rely on cunning and speed."
"What was he doing outside Mirkwood?" Aragorn asked as he glanced at the sleeping elf.
"Legolas has always been curious of the outside world," Gandalf said. "King Thranduil kept him close to home."
"Something must have happened," Aragorn said.
"Yes," Gandalf said as he pulled the covers higher over Legolas. "Now we have to wait until he can tell us."
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