A Tale of Mirkwood - Chapter One - The Orc Camp

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The forest of Mirkwood was dark and evil in those wrenched times. Sauron's forces consumed it, and aspired with all their hatred might to quench the good that still walked beneath its mighty trees. Yet the forest was vast, and not all good is easily defeated.

Far into the north, past the Mirkwood Mountains, lived the Wood-elves. Noble and graceful; mighty and elegant; wise and ancient they were. Ruled by their Elven King Thranduil, he had four sons, all blissfully fair with golden hair and eyes of blue. The Elven prince's names were Haldof, Tarnil, Galamed, and Legolas. Long had the elves lived in peace and prosperity in the wood, but the Dark Lord had his own design of the fate of all who challenged his will.

Forces were growing in his darkened realm in the south, raiding only to scourge and retreat. Thranduil, stern and absolute, knew that their present course could not continue. Scouts reported a camp of goblins lay southeast past the mountains. Three attacks had these Orcs made in a fortnight, and Thranduil's pensiveness was spent. Fifty Elven warriors were chosen to lead the assault on the camp. Thranduil's four sons were amongst them.

Haldof, though born a year after Legolas, eldest of all brothers, was always one to assume command. Legolas never felt affronted, but regarded some of Haldof's decisions as rather impetuous. This attack required great planning and care. Thranduil relinquished it to his sons' control.

Elves assembled to see their noble kinsmen off. Thranduil stood amidst the clearing, stars glistening overhead. "For now part we must, yet shall meet again. May you be swift and sure in battle, and return once more." The company bowed low to their great king and moved to depart. Soft elven voices rose high into the night sky.

"Legolas, my son," Thranduil called out. Legolas turned and strode back to his father. "You will oversee all, I hope. You are my eldest son, and therefore in command."

"Yes father," Legolas said.

"Haldof I know, craves leadership, and is apt at stirring our hearts. But more so than him, you have an acute mind. Your knowledge of battle is great, and you are swift to think. He may need your guidance, but be reluctant to solicit it."

"I understand, father."

"Good," Thranduil said. His mind was put to ease. He placed a loving hand on his son's shoulder. "Be swift to return." Legolas nodded and sprung onward with the Elves heading for battle.

The band traveled throughout the night with much haste and swiftly came to the looming mountains the following nightfall. Clouds blew in from the north and laid rest over the summits. No moon could be seen through the thick haze. Nonetheless, they went onwards, resting little.

They halted briefly at the foot of the mountains to sup on the lembas they carried with them. Haldof approached his brothers and requested to have a private meeting with them.

"I think we should take the pass by Crassus. That route is by far faster, and their camp is near the exit of the trail, so says Nathuil," Haldof said, certainty in his voice.

Legolas sighed; it was as he feared. "Nay, brother," he said gently. "We ought not attempt that trail. It is known to our enemies and will be watched. The Veridis path is known only to us. It will ensure the element of surprise. They must not suspect our attack."

"You do not know it is watched. Moreover, we could handle an attack, if there was one, which I doubt." Haldof grew hot. He did not like being second judged.

"It is a risk not worth taking. If our coming were discovered, we would be trapped. Nay, it is wiser to take the Veridis path and ensnare them from behind." Legolas grew wary of this heated debate and longed for it to cease. Haldof merely nodded, but did not appear to agree.

"What say you?" he said to Tarnil and Galamed. "What is your opinion on this subject?"
Tarnil and Galamed eyed each other with silent conversation. They were the youngest of the brothers and born more than a century after Haldof and Legolas. By nature they were each tame except during the heat of battle. Neither Tarnil nor Galamed wished to join this feud, but at last, Tarnil spoke. "I think we should take the Veridis path."

Haldof nodded and turned then to Galamed. "And you?"

"I agree," Galamed answered. Haldof nodded. "As you wish, brothers," was his only reply before marching away.

With the path now chosen, they set out on it. It was a difficult ramble, which led to great distances out of their way. Haldof repeatedly gave his brothers displeased glances, but said nothing. As they rose ever higher with the mountain, a colder wind swept through.

Upon their descent, they stopped for a few hours rest and fare against the battered rock. Trees grew sparsely on the crumbling stone. The bottom of Veridis had to be met ere the sunrise or they would be exposed to their doom. At length, Galamed approached Legolas.

"I am concerned for Haldof. He has spoken to none for two days. Perhaps we should have taken the other path."

Legolas gazed deeply into his brother's eyes. They resembled his own. "The risk was too great. Do you now disagree?"

"No," said Galamed with resolution. "It simply pains me to see him thus. He envies you, you know." Legolas' eyes shone bright. "Well, naught to be done now," Galamed continued. "Shall I prepare everyone?" Legolas nodded and Galamed strode off in duty.

All were again assembled and set forth down the mountain. The bottom was reached prior to dawn and they shielded themselves with the cover of woodland. Many miles were yet between them and the Orc camp. They stopped reluctantly once during the day, and then pressed on.

The sun was waning. The air fell densely on the southern side of the mountains, and each Elf felt it. It was Legolas who finally ceased their movements.

"We are but three miles to the pass of Crassus. We shall take refuge here for the night."

They set up camp, but lit no fires. A great watch was positioned. Legolas gazed at the stars, which were peeping through the ceiling of the forest. Haldof approached and stood at his side.

"The air is foul here," Haldof said at length. He sighed and grew sad. "When I think of what was . . . " There was no need to continue. Legolas remembered all too well himself how glorious Greenwood was until the Shadow came. Then all fell dark, and evil grew. All was still dark.

"You were probably correct concerning the pass of Crassus," said Haldof, humbly. "It would have been foolish." Legolas gazed at his brother and smiled. He held out his arm, and Haldof, seeing it, grasped his forearm. They stood there momentarily, contented brothers, before joining the others.

All agreed the attack must come during daylight, as orcs by nature detest the sun and crave gloom and shadow. Legolas sent two scouts on ahead and at dawn, they returned.

"They have been dwelling in holes at the foot of the Crassus path," said Nathuil, one of the spying pair. Upon hearing this, Legolas and Haldof exchanged glances. Haldof grew abashed.

Nathuil continued. "There are many. Of those that we have slain in the fortnight past, more have arrived and in greater numbers."

"How many?" asked Legolas.

"Two hundred, perhaps more," replied Nathuil. A silence hung in the air. They were heavily outnumbered. Legolas sighed. He did not like it at all. Haldof broke the silence.

"We should attack now, and charge at them with full force."

Legolas reluctantly spoke. "Nay, that would be leaving our backs to the enemy. They could flank us."

The fires in Haldof's eyes were relit. "They will be unprepared for a fight today. As you have said, we shall have the element of surprise to aid us." He held out his arm to Legolas. "Trust me, brother." Legolas grasped Haldof's forearm and nodded in agreement. The meeting departed and Legolas sat alone. He thought of his father. "There is naught I can do," he thought to himself.

The Elves departed within minutes and approached the Orc camp with great speed. All was still and quiet in the forest, and none could hear the soft footfalls of elven feet. They approached the camp cautiously, bow raised, poised to shoot.

Suddenly, a loud clang rang out. A foul voice blared out: "Elves! We're under attack!" Orcs sprung out their holes hastily clad in black mail. Elven bows sang and many orcs were slaughtered until they came too close to shoot. Legolas pulled out his long, white blade and made full attack with the others. Goblins were falling; the battle was being won!

Suddenly, from what seemed all around them, rose a deep, bellowing noise. Boom, doom, boom, the drum rung and orcs appeared. Boom, doom! More than eighty orcs charged from behind, flanking them. The fighting momentarily ceased as Elves and Orcs stood ready. Crude laughter erupted from the Orcs, but the Elves eyed eachother confidently. Orcs attacked and arrows and blades flew. They were many and swarmed loned elves in packs of five or six. Legolas was a target. He was fighting a good fight, but his assailers were slowly driving him away from his kinsmen.

Haldof could see him being separated. "Legolas!" he cried out in desperation. He moved to go to his brother's aid when the drums sounded again, and another wave attacked. Fighting was fierce and bloody. When the clash waned, Haldof sounded for retreat. Three Elves had been slain during the battle and they were nobly carried off. They took rest a mile east of the camp. There was no sign of Legolas.

"Perhaps he's been taken," Tarnil said, worried.

Haldof thought hard, heart racing. " I saw him being dislocated from the battle. They were pushing him south."

"Surely we must search for him," Galamed said, looking forlorn.

Haldof's thoughts were clouded for a moment, in despair. "Nay," he said at last. "You must relate all to our father. Our fallen must be returned to our kinsfolk."

Tarnil was quick to rebuke. "But we cannot abandon our brother!"

"Nay, I said not so. I will go in search of Legolas. I place you both in command. You must tell our father the events of this day."

Tarnil and Galamed looked at each other with distressed brows, and relented. They were to lead the warriors over the Veridis path homeward, and Haldof went alone into the wild in search of his brother.

End of Chapter One

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