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A/N: Thanks to Ellynn for patiently sorting through the garden to find the weeds and pluck them out! ((hugs))
And there is a little battle violence in this chapter. Hope you all enjoy this as much as I enjoy writing it! :-)
Ch. 11 - Following the path where it leads
After more than a week of traveling and following a nearly imperceptible trail, Legolas crouched down examining what appeared to be half a footprint left by something or someone that was clearly not an Elf. It was not a heavy indenture which meant that it most likely was not an Orc.
“Gollum, I think!” Legolas stated. “What say you?” He looked at Navedir, who was the best tracker among them. Navedir looked at the partially obscured track, examining it closely.
“I think it may be,” he sighed. “But it is an old print. I’m not sure how much we can glean from it.”
Legolas tried to hide his disappointment. He sighed.
“We must try! What can you tell?”
Navedir was about to make reply when Erthion approached very softly making the sign for silence and to fall back. Both immediately fell silent and all three soundlessly moved to where Vivelle was by the horses. She stood holding their reins and softly whispering a song of calming to the horses. Erthion’s eyes and slight nod of his head directed them to the clearing where Legolas saw three Orcs tramping through the wood. The foul creatures suddenly stopped and started to examine the very print that Legolas had found.
They heard disgruntled voices say, “Accursed creature! We help it to escape and then it scarpers on us. Filthy maggot!”
“The master’s gonna be none too pleased about this!”
“It wasn’t my fault,” said the first voice, “Filthy little bastard. We help him to escape. Kill two accursed Elves to do it and he legs it!”
Erthion looked at Legolas after the last words were uttered and he saw the red mist descend upon the young prince. Like his father, rage took the form of a deadly calm stealing across Legolas’ fair features. Blue eyes turned to ice as he looked at his three warriors and silently signaled what the attack plans were. The Orcs, by their very words, had signed their own death warrants.
They advanced silently, bows drawn. On Legolas’ signal, bowstrings sang as arrows found their mark. Orcs screams blunted as the shafts imbedded themselves in throats cutting off any sound save that of gurgling blood. Second flight found the heart. Legolas placed an arrow in the shoulder of one of the Orcs and Vivelle’s scarlet and white fletched arrow sprouted from his stomach like an oddly stemmed flower. This had been done purposefully.
The four Elves stalked out of the woods into the clearing. Erthion and Navedir checked to make certain the orcs were properly dead and then retrieved their arrows, checking them for damage, then cleaning and storing them in their quivers again. They converged on the one Orc that had been left alive. The one that Legolas hovered over, his white knives in hand.
“Who is your Master?” he shouted in a slightly manic voice.
The Orc leveled a look at him.
“Who do you think?” He burbled and coughed more.
“Why did you help Gollum escape?” he demanded in a near unrecognizable voice filled with sorrow and rage. The Orc gave a burbling sound somewhere between a laugh and a cough before saying.
“Because we could. His ‘guards’ died so easil-.”
The sentence was never finished.
“Their names were Maethon and Eithediriel!” At that Legolas took his white knives and with a crisscross action sliced open the Orc’s throat.
“And they are avenged!” Legolas whispered hoarsely as tears he was not even aware he was shedding, tumbled down his cheeks and he fell to his knees.
Vivelle looked at her prince. The healer in her longed to heal his pain, but in her heart, she knew Legolas had been right. Some pain one simply had to learn to live with. So, instead she knelt by the Orc and extracted her arrow from the stomach of the foul creature. She cleaned the arrow on nearby grass and then placed it on the earth, nestling it amid the soil. She closed her eyes and said softly, both open hands hovering over her arrow, almost but not quite touching it:
“Varda of the unseen stars above and the blessed Arda upon which we stand. Please purify my arrow and cleanse my fëa for the life I helped take today.” She repeated the words in a soft chant. As both healer and warrior, Vivelle’s fëa was charged by the two opposite poles, the saving and the taking of life. One diminished the other. At times of need she acted as warrior in the necessary taking of life, but after such necessity had ended, she asked forgiveness of Arda so her abilities as healer were not dimmed. It was a precarious balance within.
Legolas heard the healer’s chant and somehow, he felt refreshed as well, as his battle lust was being sluiced away and his soul was cleansed of its rage, leaving him with only the sorrow. Vivelle finished her chanting and opened her eyes. They were clear and bright. She reached out a comforting hand to her friend touching a hand still clenching one of his knives and she smiled.
“Clean your knives, my prince,” she gently admonished.
Legolas looked down at the knives still clutched in his hands and saw that Orc blood was smeared across the bright and delicately etched blades. He wiped the blood off across the grimy tunic that clothed the Orc. He then wiped the blades across a patch of grass near the Orc carcass to clean them of any residual befoulment. He stood.
“We leave the carcasses to the Forest. It will know how to deal with them. At first light we will make haste to Sadron. We are closer to him than to the King’s Halls. If there are still orcs hunting Gollum, we will need reinforcements and I can tell Sadron what we have learned.” Legolas’ voice was full of grim determination.
Legolas awoke at first light feeling refreshed in spirit. He was perched in a tree where he had bedded down for the night. He had fallen asleep as the tree cradled him, singing softly a song to calm his wounded spirit.
Deep within his heart he spoke to the spirit within the tree, “Thank you, mellon nin, for the peaceful night’s sleep.” Within his mind came the deep resonant voice.
“You are welcome young one. You are loved and you are protected.”
Legolas paused, touched by the sentiment and then he dropped down noiselessly to the forest floor. He looked up and saw Erthion and Vivelle sleeping; she fit perfectly within the crook of Erthion’s arm. Viewing their closeness, a pang of envy heavy with remembrance hit Legolas; he had found that someone that fit within the crook of his arm long ago. But she had been taken from him. Legolas shut down that thought immediately and buried it away where it could not hurt him. He realized with a flash how much that action showed he was his father’s son and with that thought a small seed of understanding unknowingly took root in his heart. Legolas heard an almost noiseless “thwump” behind him.
“Shall we make ready to leave, Legolas?” Navedir inquired and Legolas silently thanked him for pulling him out of his unwanted reverie. Legolas turned around.
“Yes, we should make haste and if we do, we should reach my brother by midday, day after next.” Legolas went to see to the horses.
Navedir stood at the foot of the tree chosen by Erthion.
“Up and meet the morning, you lazy lovebirds!”
Legolas’ heart rose when the entrance of his brother’s stronghold in the Mountains of Mirkwood came into view. It would only look like a clearing in the woods at the foot of the mountains if one did not know what they were looking for. A tributary of the Forbidden River flowed in front of the entrance. If one was to attempt the ford straight on, then the river would work its magic upon the unknowing and all memory would be lost for a time, if not permanently. The ford needed to be crossed at a diagonal and only then did the river give up its power over those that crossed it.
Coming in at the diagonal Legolas guided Lhegrin onto the far riverbank. The guard at the entrance took one look at who was coming across the ford and at first he did not believe it, but he quickly rallied and drop a knee.
“Prince Legolas, it is indeed an honour that you are here! Is the King far behind? We were not notified that he was coming,” Fendir said, then saw Erthion, Vivelle and Navedir coming up. “Such a small entourage…” Legolas pulled Fendir from his knee.
“The King is not coming,” Legolas informed the confused Elf. He paused and then realized the guard’s confusion. Legolas never went anywhere without the King and certainly not without body retainers. He hid his emotions however and said, cheerily placing his hand on Fendir’s shoulder, “And we are not an entourage. Fendir, can you tell me where my brother is? We have need to speak with him.”
Sadron deftly grabbed an arrow from his quiver and gracefully placed it and pulled the bowstring till the nock of the arrow just grazed his lips. He stilled his breath and let fly the arrow.
“In the black! Big brother, you might just become as good as me with a little more practice.”
Sadron turned around and there stood his little brother with a smug look on his face. “Save me from the arrogance of youth!” He placed his quiver and bow on their pegs and embraced his brother. “Legolas!” He looked to his side and saw Erthion, Vivelle and Navedir, who all quickly bowed.
“Save your bows for Adar nin! They are not necessary here in the southern wilds!”
All three straightened and smiled.
“Let us convene back in my study,” Sadron said, “where we can be more comfortable.”
Legolas interjected, “This isn’t a social call, brother.”
Sadron pinned his little brother with a knowing look.
“I know.” Sadron unstrung his bow and handed his equipment to his waiting squire. “Thank you, Faron. Can you have some wine and bread and cheese sent to my study immediately, please.”
“Yes, my lord. Right away!” Faron placed his hand on his heart, bowed and left to complete his errands.
Sadron turned to his brother. “Shall we?”
Legolas nodded wordlessly though questions whirled in his mind. He looked at his three companions as they looked at him . All followed Sadron; all wondering what had been said and by whom.
As they settled into Sadron’s study, he looked at Legolas as he handed him a goblet of wine.
“I am sorry for having created an air of mystery, but the situation was not for everyone’s ears.”
Legolas held the wine goblet and bit his lower lip at the corner. “Just what do you understand the situation to be?”
Sadron handed Navedir his goblet and then said plainly, “Celebren wrote to tell me what had happened between you and Adar.”
“I see. He should not have done that,” Legolas said somewhat churlishly as he sat down somewhat disconsolately upon a carved wooden chair.
Sadron watched his little brother for a few moments before speaking in a somewhat stern voice.
“In terms of the greater picture, he had every right to inform me of what actions he was taking,” Sadron then spoke a little more softly. “In more personal terms, he was concerned. As you had said in the letter you wrote to Adar, he knew you would probably be headed in my direction. He wanted me to understand the situation. Do you wish to read his letter?” Sadron finished earnestly.
Legolas had a strained look on his face. He shook his head.
“No. I am sorry, Sadron. I should not have spoken as I did.” He fell silent. Sadron could see the internal battle going on within his younger brother. He gave him time to sort his thoughts. He handed Vivelle and Erthion goblets of wine as he waited for Legolas to collect his thoughts.
“One minute I was giving my report,” Legolas started. He contemplated the red wine in the silver goblet almost as if he could see the scene play itself out in the reflected surface of the liquid. “The next, I was shouting at him that he didn’t trust me and the next he was dismissing me from his presence. The look in his eyes was so cold. I will never forget that look.” He looked up, his blue eyes haunted. He downed the wine as if the action to do away with its reflecting image would do away with his memories as well.
Sadron turned to the others. “I am assuming you have already heard most of this.”
Erthion nodded. “Most of it. Vivelle would not let him get a league distant from the King’s Halls without getting from him the full story.”
Sadron smiled and then said, “Can I ask that you give Legolas and I a moment alone?”
“Of course,” Erthion confirmed. The three bowed to both, hand on heart. Vivelle moved to where Legolas was sitting and touched his hand briefly and then departed with the other two.
Legolas looked questioningly at his brother. “Sadron, what is it? What couldn’t you say in front of them?”
Sadron walked over to his desk and used a key to open a locked box and withdrew something.
“It isn’t what I couldn’t say in front of them. It is what you might want to be alone with.” He handed him a letter. With a flash of recognition Legolas saw his father’s personal seal. He took the letter and as he slowly broke the sealing wax, he heard the gentle but unmistakable swish of the heavy curtain as Sadron took his leave. Legolas’ heart clenched as he saw the first words written in his father’s strong hand.
My dearest son…
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