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Disclaimer: This story is non-profit and written for purely entertainment purposes. All recognized characters and places are property of J.R.R. Tolkien and New Line Cinema. I own nothing but my name.
Grimbeorn- the Carrock
~ Western Scouting Party~
Malbeorn- a veteran Ranger
Rowgond- a young Ranger from Hollin
~ House of Oropher (living members) ~
Lhûn- Thranduil’s eldest child. Heir of Mirkwood
Calengaladh- Thranduil’s 2nd son
Mallos- Thranduil’s 3rd son
Tuilë- Thranduil’s 4th child. Daughter
Legolas- Thranduil’s 5th child
~ Chapter 26: Lost and Found ~
Yellow stars exploded before Boromir’s eyes as he writhed from the taut rope. He clawed feebly at the choking noose. It would not give. He frantically tried to draw a breath, but only succeeded in managing a panicked choke.
The pain was excruciating. The rope burned like fire, sending tongues of pain up through his jaw. His eyes bulged from the pressure.
The yellow stars exploded more intensely in a darkening green haze. Boromir felt his legs and arms jerk of their own accord. His fingers and toes clenched and unclenched as shock waves ripped through his body.
Then the yellow stars fizzled out and the green haze faded to blissful darkness.
* * *
The Rangers swept through Fenadoch like a black tide, roaring with such fury even a Balrog would pause for thought. Cold mud sprayed from beneath the hooves of their galloping mounts. Townsfolk were bowled over left and right as the company battered them aside.
“ELENDIL!” Aragorn sent a peasant man flying with a two-handed sweep of his sheathed blade. Enraged villagers swarmed from every angle, seeking to drag him from the saddle. Aragorn dealt them vicious blows amidst his cry of battle.
“I am—“ WHACK “—Aragorn! Son of—“ THUD “—Arathorn! And am called Heir of—“ CRUNCH “Elessar—“ WHUMP, THUD “—the Elfstone!” CRACK “Dúnadan—“ grunt “—the heir of Isildur!”
Charging recklessly at Aragorn’s side, sheathed sword whirling and fists flying, Halbarad began howling out a lineage of his own. Though the giddy rush of battle went to the man’s head, and he instead roared the ancestry of his horse between frenzied blows.
“Rohdimm—“ THUNK “—sired by Dimmor—“ CHINK “—sired by Flaesûl!”
Young Rowgond was completely carried away. He simply screamed the first sounds that sprang to his tongue, regardless of whether or not they were actual words. The stout blonde Ranger wielded his mace like a madman, swiping townsfolk off their feet with its bound iron handle.
Malbeorn ducked before he was clipped by one of Rowgond’s wild swings. Growling, he wretched a shovel from an attacking old peddler and sent the man sprawling with a stirruped kick to the chest.
They continued their furious charge through Fenadoch. Villagers fell back, not wanting to be cut down by the barreling Rangers and their iron-shod mounts.
Aragorn was grateful the town housed no archers. His triumph, however, was short-lived. The resourceful people of Fenadoch, realizing they could not meet the Black Riders at close range, took to throwing all manner of debris.
Malbeorn snarled as several rotten tomatoes and a soggy head of lettuce found their mark. Two more tomatoes hit his mount on the neck. The horse balked and squealed in protest.
Halbarad shielded his face with an arm while the angered townsfolk pelted him with eggs. “For the love of Valar,” the man swore, “Those things HURT!” A well-placed egg cracked against the side of his head, splattering down his face. The Ranger yelped and lifted his arm higher, only to be hit by two more: one in the jaw and one on the collarbone.
“The lousy fiends are throwing rocks!” Rowgond snarled and pitched forward as a stone hit him square between the shoulder blades. He twisted around with bared teeth, in the hopes of finding the slinger. An apple cracked him on the bridge of his nose. His steed sat back on its haunches and screamed as an apple smacked into the horse’s chest, emitting a hollow thump.
Aragorn furiously tried to wipe the pitch from his face and succeeded only in smearing it. The town carpenter had managed to dump a bucket of warm tar on him from the rooftop.
He cast a glance over his shoulder, intending to somehow charge back into the melee and cut Boromir from the gallows.
The rope was already severed. Boromir had been rescued.
With a cry of relief, cut short by a rock that bit into his shoulder, Aragorn let Roheryn take the lead. The horse thundered out of Fenadoch like a madbeast.
It was a bedraggled group of Rangers that met within the tangled ring of ash, oak, and thorn. They sat atop their mounts amidst dripping leaves and muddy earth, silently cursing every known thing in creation. Did the Valar purposely seek to punish them?
Rotten tomato dripped from Malbeorn’s face. Bits of wilted lettuce clung to his short beard and cloak. He made no move to wipe it off, seeming content to send scathing glares in the direction of the others.
Halbarad looked as though he had fought an army of snails and lost. Slimy egg yolk, only beginning to harden, covered him from head to toe. Angry welts were already forming where the eggs came into contact with his body.
Rowgond’s nose was swollen to twice its normal size. The young Ranger could barely keep his eyes open.
The sticky mass that was Aragorn found he was literally glued into the saddle. Even water would not wash away the pitch. Soap might have helped, but none of them carried it.
The Heir of Isildur attempted to keep his voice as even as possible. “I assumed, as the rope was severed and Boromir no longer hanging from it, that one of you had cut him down.”
“And I assumed,” said Halbarad, his voice equally strained, “since you were charging out of that demon-filled town and Boromir was no longer hanging, you had cut him down.”
Aragorn angrily clenched Roheryn’s reins, only to discover himself unable to let them go. Now he was stuck to both saddle and reins. “Obviously, that was not the case.”
“Obviously.” Halbarad seethed as he picked off pieces of eggshell from his sleeve.
“If I do not have Boromir, and you do not have Boromir,” Aragorn could not prevent the anger from shaking his voice, “and neither Malbeorn nor Rowgond has Boromir… Then where is he?” He felt like screaming, not to mention his fingers were itching to grab one of his companions by the throat. Halbarad’s throat in particular.
Halbarad clenched his teeth. “Is it not the duty of our brave and fearless leader to know such things?”
“I thing the person who camb up with the pland should doe zuch a thing.” Rowgond’s nose bobbled as he glared at Malbeorn. It took the others a few moments to decipher his stuffy accusation.
The grizzled Ranger scowled. “No blame lies here for your incompetence! You cannot act with stealth, you cannot form a decent plan—“ he threw up his tomato-stained hands in disdain, “—you cannot even act when there is no plan!” Leaning over the shoulder of his greying horse, the veteran Ranger spat in disgust.
“Pardon me,” said Halbarad, “but I would like to remind you all that I did have a plan.”
“Id was a stooped pland!”
Halbarad twisted viciously in the saddle, causing his steed to snort and stomp its forefoot. “And speaking of stupid, listen to yourself, Rowgond!”
The blonde Ranger flushed angrily. “Ad leasd I do nod sbmell like rodden eggs. Even wid this doze I can sbmell you.”
“Enough!” cried Aragorn. He unsuccessfully tried to free his hands from the reins. Roheryn grew confused by his rider’s tugs and sidestepped nervously. “This will not aide us in finding Boromir. I do not care who sounds worse or smells worse or looks worse.” It vaguely crossed his mind that he, covered as he was in sticky black pitch, must look terrible. “We MUST find Boromir.”
“Indeed,” muttered Halbarad. “I, for one, am at a loss as to what we would say to Lord Elrond when explaining how we managed to lose a hanging man.”
“We did not lose him,” Aragorn snapped.
“We are back do where we sdarded.” Rowgond gingerly touched his plumb-sized nose. “Dow whad?”
* * *
Boromir arched his back and groaned. Where was he?
Brittle, sweet-smelling sticks poked him all over. ‘Hay,’ his mind identified. His eyes fluttered open and he groaned again. His neck felt as though… ‘As though I have been hanging from it.’
It was difficult to see, for the only light in the place came from small tin lanterns, which hung from the rafters. Boromir squinted in the dim glow, concluding he was in some sort of stable. Silence draped over the building like a heavy velvet curtain—more soothing than unpleasant. The air was slightly damp and Boromir discovered himself somewhat chilled. Still, if being cold was the only thing he could complain about, his situation was much improved.
Soft munching and muffled huffs reached his ears, indicating the presence of horses. Had he ended up in a Rohirric version of the Afterlife? ‘Nay,’ he thought with a grimace, ‘if I were dead, I do not think my neck would be so sore.’ He reached up to touch the bruised flesh and was surprised when his hand instead met wet cloth.
A lantern was flashed before his face. He winced at the unexpected light. “It is a poultice of dock leaves. They will help your circulation and reduce bruising.”
The voice made Boromir’s stomach drop. He instinctively raised his hands to cover his nose, lest Mysian feel the need to punch him yet again.
The tin lantern was moved away. Boromir warily eyed the serving maiden as she handed the lamp to toothless Thorad. She turned and knelt down next to him. Boromir recoiled. What did the cherub-faced witch have in store for him this time?
* * *
Mallos sat in the bare elm branches, one leg folded underneath him while the other dangled below. He jiggled his foot while nervously twirling an arrow between slender fingers.
“Mallos, will you kindly cease? You are making me nervous.”
The dark-haired son of Thranduil stilled his foot and looked up in the direction of the ill-tempered voice. Calengaladh’s icy grey eyes glared back at him. Mallos returned the arrow to its quiver and resignedly looked to the mountain trail. The small party of seven had been camped at the bottom of the Misty Mountains for a week.
“Do you see anything?” he asked, despite the fact Calengaladh was a mere three branches above him.
“Do you?” came the reply. Mallos remained silent.
The two brothers had been born a mere twenty years apart, Calengaladh being the elder. They seldom traveled without each other, yet were different as birch and pine. Calengaladh’s ire was easily roused, and he had the propensity to lash out at those around him. Still, he possessed remarkable leadership qualities despite his quick temper and fiery tongue. Mallos often played the role of buffer between Calengaladh and the object of his wrath. Far more levelheaded than the rest of his siblings, Mirkwood’s third prince lent a calm and soothing presence to the notoriously rash House of Oropher. He was, however, occasionally prone to fits of nervousness.
Calengaladh had inherited Thranduil’s golden locks whereas Mallos bore the same chestnut hair as their Silvan mother. Both possessed the Elven-king’s grey eyes, and had Mallos been slightly taller he could have easily passed as one of the Noldor.
Thranduil’s dark-haired son pulled out another arrow and toyed with it, feeling the need to keep his hands busy. He could feel Calengaladh’s annoyance, but calmly ignored it. His brother was far too temperamental as it was.
The two brothers waited in silence, staring bleakly at the same trail they had watched for days.
Twenty or so woodsmen mulled on the ground beneath them, talking quietly amongst themselves in peculiar, clipped accents. “They speak as the chopping of axe against wood,” Girithron, one of the Mirkwood warriors, remarked when the two groups first met.
“I cannot believe him,” Mallos finally exploded, snapping the arrow in two. “One must wonder if he truly seeks to test the limits of his immortality!” He threw the broken shaft in disgust. Several woodsmen eyed the trees warily before retreating to stand in small clusters. Necessity called for the two races to combine forces; neither made any effort to further the relationship.
It was by mere chance the two parties came together. The woodsmen sought to halt raiding orcs and Wargs, and had sworn to protect the mountain paths lest any more of their kindred fall prey to Sauron’s minions. As the woodsmen and seven Mirkwood warriors shared a common enemy, it was far more practical for both groups to declare a hasty alliance with the other.
Calengaladh mildly plucked at his bowstring while Mallos continued to rant. “One must wonder what possessed Legolas to send the escort back without him. Does he intend to journey back by himself? He is already in enough trouble as it is for sneaking off to Esgaroth when My Lord strictly forbade it.” Mallos swatted at a dead elm leaf in frustration. “Was that not why he was sent to deliver news of Gollum’s escape in the first place? Father hoped it would do him a bit of good to shoulder responsibility for a change.”
“Nay,” answered Calengaladh with a dry chuckle, “The King was most likely hoping Legolas would have to face the wrath of Elrond for a change. I fear our younger brother has grown somewhat immune to Father’s ire this past decade.” The five other Mirkwood Elves in their party laughed softly in agreement. Mirkwood’s youngest prince had a special knack for driving Thranduil, and many others, to wits’ end. “Do not fret,” the golden-haired prince continued. “Lord Elrond would never allow Legolas to journey back by himself.” It secretly amused Calengaladh to see his soft-spoken brother so irate. Mallos possessed Thranduil’s volatile streak as they all did, but rarely did it surface.
When the Mirkwood delegation returned minus one—and arguably its most important—member, Thranduil was livid. Then Taurmil, one of the king’s advisors and the Elf who acted as Legolas’ second, had related news of the Ring. One of the Pherianneth, the Elf said, not unlike Bilbo Baggins—famed elvellon and Burgler, had offered to take the ring to Fire. Taurmil supposed the hobbit would be accompanied by others, and it was rumored Lord Elrond wished for each Race to have a representative.
Thranduil grew strangely silent at this news. Those present saw a momentary flicker of some unfamiliar emotion in his grey eyes, oddly reminiscent of fear, and his face took an unnatural pallor. He swiftly ordered Calengaladh and Mallos to take with them five Elves and await Legolas’ return at the base of the Misty Mountains. If Mirkwood’s youngest prince had not returned within three weeks, they were to travel to Imladris and fetch him.
Lhûn later found the Elven-king passed out in his study, half a barrel of Dale wine at his side. It was then that Mallos began to worry: the wine of Dale was good for no other purpose than to drink oneself into oblivion. A year after the fall of Smaug the men of Dale, seeking to follow in the footsteps of their Dorwinian counterparts, attempted to brew a vintage of their own. Unfortunately, they knew nothing of the business. Fermentation, aging, specialty grapes, and which types of wood produced what flavors were utterly lost upon them. The resulting product was akin to drinking liquid fire. It was also strangely gritty and had a peculiar aftertaste not unlike swamp water (or so Legolas claimed—and as Calengaladh had once forced him to drink water from the marshes, no one argued).
Thranduil had purchased five barrels out of politeness. Three were discreetly dumped into the Forest River; one had been liberated by Mirkwood’s Captain Daelir and was used for disciplinary means. The whereabouts of the last barrel were until that day unknown.
“If some ill should befall him, Father will have our heads!” Mallos frowned at the worn mountain path and began twitching his foot again.
“Correction, my dear brother,” Calengaladh smoothly replied. “He shall have your head. Was it not you who helped convince the King he ought to send Legolas?”
Mallos nodded glumly. He had argued in Legolas’ favor, feeling sympathetic for his younger brother. Following the death of the Queen, Thranduil was hard-pressed to let his children leave the realm. The oppression did not sit well with Legolas. Nonetheless, Thranduil was seldom swayed; the death of his wife had been the last straw. Already had he lost two children in earlier battles. He swore he would lose no more.
There had been two before Lhûn: Orodil and Simbelmynë. Simbelmynë’s beauty and kindness was said to rival even that of Elbereth, and Orodil had been both fierce and fair to look upon. They were brave warriors, strong in body and soul. But both had perished in the Last Alliance. A healer, Simbelmynë was felled by an arrow to the throat when the Healers’ Tents were ambushed; Orodil met his end at Dagorlad. His body still lay trapped in the Dead Marshes with the rest of the fallen.
Calengaladh and Mallos had been too young to fight, having cut their warrior’s teeth at Dol Guldur with the sons of Elrond. Neither had the heart to ask Thranduil or Lhûn exactly what befell their lost siblings. Tuilë and Legolas relied on the reverent whispers of those around them, as Tuilë barely remembered her older brother and sister and Legolas had never met them at all.
“The Carrock returns.” Othon, a handsome Elf with hair the color of polished mahogany, stretched a long arm and pointed to the hills. It was well known the Silvan Elf was madly in love with Mirkwood’s princess, and she with him. Unfortunately, the fair warrior was terrified of Thranduil. He had yet to propose to Tuilë for fear of the Elven-king’s reaction. Calengaladh had informed him the previous evening that while Thranduil did hate him and would never think Othon good enough for his daughter, Othon had better propose soon. “Thirty years is a long time to carry on a love affair,” the golden-haired prince said. “Father grows impatient. It would be in your best interest to marry my sister before he forces you to.” Calengaladh crossed his arms over his chest and shot the Elf a no-nonsense look. “And trust me, Othon. He will force you.”
The poor archer grew quite pale and fled to the treetops, mumbling something about needing to re-wax his bowstring. “He does not hate you, Othon,” Mallos had called after the terrified Elf. “At least… Not as much as he first did!”
The Elves sprang lightly to the ground and joined the woodsmen as Grimbeorn strode into camp.
“What news have you, my friend?” asked Mallos.
The large man paused to accept a water skin from one of the woodsmen. “There is a small company attempting the Pass.” He bit off the water skin’s cap and spit it into his hand. “Though I couldn’t tell you what sort of party they be. There were tall ones on horses and short ones in the snow—Dwarves I’m guessing. They must be traveling with a few Men.” He shrugged apologetically before lifting the skin to his lips and guzzling loudly.
Disappointment flickered across Mallos’ face. “Then I suppose we can do naught but continue to wait.”
Grimbeorn lowered the flask and popped the cap back on. “I’d understand if you Elves stay behind.” He tossed the water skin back to a woodsman. “But that company’s bound to run into trouble, if they haven’t already. The weather’s cruel and beasts roaming the mountains are even crueler. I promised Radagast I would watch over the Pass, and Grimbeorn keeps his word.”
The woodsmen, having already sworn to keep the mountain trail safe as well, began gathering their supplies in preparation for departure. Calengaladh shifted the quiver across his shoulder and frowned at the mountains. Grey clouds brooded atop them, concealing their bare peaks from even elven eyes. ‘Snow,’ the Elf thought darkly. ‘And quite a bit at that.’ The seven Mirkwood warriors were already far from their lands, and he was reluctant to take them further.
He could feel the eyes of the other Elves as they patiently awaited his decision. ‘What business of ours is it if Dwarves and Men become trapped on the mountain? None, none at all.’ And yet, what if the Men had brothers awaiting their safe return? What if they were Men like Bard II? Calengaladh rather liked the man. The Elf sighed. ‘Ai, I shall regret this…’
“Listen to the mountains!” Grimbeorn put a paw to his mouth to shield his words from the howling wind. The Carrock had changed himself into bear form to better cope with the weather.
A great crack echoed from the Pass above, sounding as though the mountain had split to the earth’s very core. Elves and woodsmen gripped their weapons and huddled together as clouds of snow and ice rained down on them.
“Grimbeorn!” Calengaladh coughed as he took in a shockingly cold breath of air. “Grimbeorn! It is unwise to go any further! We must turn back.”
“Aye,” shouted Ulyss, leader of the woodsmen. “We’ll all be buried! Whatever company attempted the Pass is probably crushed.” Several of his men, sniffling and raising arms to shield their faces from the arctic blast, cried out in agreement.
Grimbeorn hefted a large chunk of snow at the uneasy group and roared with laughter. “Come, you thin-blooded creatures. A little snow never hurt anyone.” He shook flakes from his greying black fur and charged up the path, bellowing in delight.
“A lunatic, that one,” Othon muttered in his own tongue. “Mad as the twisted trees rooted in these rocks.” The other Elves murmured in agreement.
Calengaladh readjusted his quiver and set his jaw in determination.
“Ai-oi!” Grimbeorn’s cry sounded strangely foreign as the wind whisked it down the rocky trail. “Found ‘em! Elves and Dwarves!”
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