A TALE OF MIRKWOOD - Chapter Thirty-three - The Last Stand
Osgiliath had been badly beaten but proved victorious. What was thought lost, was restored, but not without cost. Many were injured in the great battle, and even more had died. Drastic measures needed to be taken and, thus, they decided to ride to Mordor, challenging Sauron head on. Neither word nor sight of Frodo had been received, save from Faramir, brother to Boromir. Gandalf believed him still alive, however, and attempting to aid him, the army rode onward to certain death.
Mordor; foul earth and air, cold, stinking marshes and the ominous explosions from Mount Doom were their relentless companions.
"It is worse than I imagined," grumbled Gimli on the back of Legolas' horse.
"You are but on its doorstep," Legolas said, teasingly.
"Aye, and I'd be happy turning now and returning to my beloved Lonely Mountain, the rocks and the caves," he said fondly with a far-off sweetness. "There would be much masonry to be done once they open the new chambers."
"Aye, and my home do I miss as well. Spring is upon us, though no evidence is to be seen here. At home, there would be merrymaking, and feast after feast under twilight stars. Mithryn and I would dance and laugh," he said smiling before a mournful frown replaced it. "Never again shall that be," he said sadly.
Pippin listened to their conversation intently from the back of Gandalf's horse, thinking of his own home, and what he wished to enjoy once more, knowing it, too, would never be.
Sad thoughts drifted around them until the black gate had been reached, and, in the face of battle, melancholy reflections were pushed aside. They steadied their horses and hearts and prepared for death, each accepting his fate.
"I hope Aragorn is right," Gimli said, blinking at the massive, evil gate.
"Right about what? Legolas inquired.
"Frodo!" Gimli whispered. "But how could the lad sneak his way in there without its lord knowing? It seems too impossible for me to hope."
"There is always hope," Legolas said, though feeling very little hope himself.
With Aragorn's guidance, they rode out to a mid-point on the field of Cormallen; Aragorn, shouting out, demanded Sauron's surrender.
"Does he really believe Sauron will come?" Pippin whispered, but was not met with any reply save a hushing glance from Gandalf.
At once the menacing gate opened and the Lieutenant of the Tower of Barad-dûr rode out himself with a band of loathsome orcs.
Words were said, insults given, but all quickly tired of this idle preamble. The Lieutenant had one surprise in his keeping, however, a bundle of belongings, property of Frodo. This was a heavy blow, but at dire moments, Gandalf was quick to think and act. He grabbed the belongings, and bandying words with Sauron's slave once more, they turned and rode back to their soldiers.
The black gate swung wide once more, spilling out all the filth and last remaining of Sauron's army which out-maned them by ten to one. Legolas dismounted and set Gimli down where he could better wield his axe.
"Well Gimli," Legolas said, "it has been an honour fighting with you."
"The honour has been all mine, elf," Gimli replied, smiling up at his friend. Suddenly, the host of Mordor had reached them, and the combat begun.
Legolas had barely a moment to think, his enemies were so thick around him. They were no match for his skill, however, and side by side, Legolas and Gimli swung their blades slashing Orc belly and throat. The filth of Mordor was heavy, indeed, however as more and more filed out of the foul fortress, never stopping. For a moment, Legolas had begun to loose heart. "Well," he thought to himself as he slit through beast and bone, "if this is where I die, I welcome it. Much shall I miss, and if I am meant to forever dwell in the halls of Mandos, then so be it. How I shall miss my wife, though."
It was at that moment that a call blared out, clear and strong as the silver iavin of Mirkwood. "The Eagles are coming! The Eagles are coming!" Legolas' eyes immediately flew upwards to see the massive Eagles soaring rapidly toward them, screeching their threatening call to their enemy, the Orcs.
A great fear took the hosts of Mordor, and where the Eagles flew, the beasts ran in madness, desperately trying to hide from the outstretched talons, razor sharp, and skillfully grasping the foul beasts only to drop them to their deaths.
Legolas smiled up at the beautiful birds, and suddenly he noticed, the wind had changed. A strong breeze blew in from the south, catching their pennants and Legolas' breath. Immediately, a great rumble could be heard, shaking the very earth they stood upon. All ceased fighting and turned in alarming captivation toward Mount Doom. It exploded, causing a rush of molten lava to shoot up into the air, and without warning, the great tower, which Sauron himself rested upon, began to crumble, falling into a heap of rubble at its base.
A great chaos ensued in which Orcs screamed in horror and ran in madness to their deaths as the very earth they trod upon swallowed them whole. Only the earth with the army of Gondor and free-peoples of Middle Earth remained intact, allowing them to watch in awe the final destruction of Sauron.
When the rumbling had ceased and the earth became quiet, Gandalf turned to Aragorn and whispered words that were unimaginable just a short time ago.
Gimli saw this, but was too far away to hear. "What did he say, Legolas?" Gimli demanded, eager for knowledge. "What did Gandalf say?"
Unable to believe it himself, Legolas smiled and turned to his friend. "Sauron is defeated. The Ring is destroyed. We've won!"
"We've won?" Gimli repeated in disbelief. "Surely, it cannot be! Can it really be true?" Then, Gimli let out a loud, boisterous laugh, and grabbed his dear friend's hand, shaking it profusely. "Well, well, Elf, and you would have me despair! Never, say I, for I knew from the beginning this mission was not perilous! You have seen with your own eyes, not even the armies of Mordor could stop this Dwarf!"
Legolas laughed, but his humour was quickly halted.
"What is this?" Gimli asked, noticing his sorrowful face. "What would make you so aggrieved at a moment such as this?"
"I remembered what must have occurred for this event to have taken place," Legolas said, his face downcast.
"And what is that?" Gimli asked.
"Frodo and Sam," Legolas replied sadly, turning back to gaze again at the erupting mountain. "We could not hope for them to have survived such a eruption."
"Alas, for that," Gimli said dismally. "I have no mood to be merry, now."
The great company made their way back into Gondor, resting neath the sweet beech trees for a night's well deserved rest. Gandalf, however, did not go with them, as he left in search of Frodo and Sam. Little hope was there of finding two little Hobbits alive on Mount Doom, but the hope was not fruitless, for it was not terribly long before he returned on top of Gwaihir, the windlord, with Frodo and Sam snugly, and safely, grasped in his large claws.
The two Hobbits, barely alive, were quickly tended to, and their injuries looked after. It was surprising, indeed, to discover Frodo's finger missing, but the story concerning that adventure would surely have to wait until the two heros had awoken. They slept under the birch trees, and Gandalf never left them for a moment. He sat smoking his pipe, contemplating recent events with an enchanting smile upon his face. Twice had Legolas and Gimli visited them while they were still resting, anxiously wishing to speak to their friends, but left each time with the joyful knowledge that their friends, whom they had believed perished, were alive and well, and so close by.
Elladan and Elrohir sat by a rushing stream, happily listening to its bubbling water. At length, Legolas and Gimli joined them neath the tall, swaying trees. "You have chosen an ideal elvish spot, my friends," Legolas said.
"How relieving it is to know it is now safe," Elladan replied. "No more orcs, Nazgûl, or ever-watchful evil eyes."
"Aye, now I can be happy," Gimli said, sitting against the tree. "A life of peace, I wonder what that shall be like?"
"Wearisome and dull, do you think, Gimli?" Legolas inquired, smiling.
"Nay! There are Orcs enough in Moria, hiding in the cracks and crevices . Now that the Balrog is no more, we shall return to Moria and delve once again into the mines. Ahhh!" he exclaimed, smiling in happy thought of riches beyond imagination.
"I am thankful your future is not my own. How I long to view the sea!" Elrohir said, gazing out over the meadow, as the wind blew the long grass to and fro.
"And I am thankful I do not share your future, Master Elrohir," Gimli said. I dislike boats, and am happy never to set foot on one again. It is not proper for dwarves to ride in boats. However, you shall not sail for a while, yet, surely!"
"Time is shortening, indeed," Elladan said as he gazed up into the wisps of blue in the treetop filled sky. "Our time here is coming to an end, Master Gimli. Soon all of elf-kind shall sail away, never to return."
Gimli shot an anxious glance at Legolas, but his friend was silent and avoided his eyes.
"But you already know this, Gimli," Elrohir said gently. "Do you really love Elves so much that you grieve at the thought of a world without them?"
"Nay, but the parting of good friends is never a pleasure," Gimli said, stiffening.
"In that you speak the truth. However, you are mortal, and therefore, sooner or later, we must bid you farewell," Elladan said before he rose, and his brother with him. "We shall now wander a while and explore this beautiful place. Do you care to come with us?"
"Nay, I thank thee," Gimli said, shaking his head. "I wish to be near when the Hobbits awake."
"I, too," Legolas said, and the twin brothers strolled out of view.
A few moments passed in silence as Gimli glanced anxiously at his friend. "When they sail," he said at long last, "shall you sail with them?"
"Though I do desire it, for a time, I am bound here. And what of you? When dwarves take back the mines of Moria, will you go with them? I remind you of a promise you once made."
"I need no reminding, elf! A promise given by a dwarf is a promise kept. You, also, gave such a promise. Do you not recall?"
"I remember my vow," Legolas said, "and like you, shall keep my word. When Aragorn is crowned King, we shall journey onward for awhile. Fangorn Forest! How like a child I felt neath its boughs!"
"And the glittering caves! Oh, they make me weep with anticipation!"
"But not too long can we wander. I know my family worries for me, and they do not yet know what has occurred. My wife. . ." Legolas said, thinking back to her standing in the sunshine, smiling, "I miss her greatly."
"Yes, I long to see this wife of yours. Much have I heard of her beauty, though in my opinion, she cannot be as beautiful as the fair Galadriel."
"Nay, not so fair, but the most beautiful mortal I ever beheld." Legolas went on to describe, later, Mithryn's beauty and features, character and temperament. "Many stories have I to tell you of her accomplishments."
"I suppose I shall have to see her to understand," the dwarf said before closing his eyes, and falling asleep.
Haldof sat down in a huge armchair next to the hearth, a dark grimace upon his face. "I cannot excuse his behaviour, Father. He has no sense of duty or honour."
Thranduil sighed, and slowly sipped his crimson wine. "You over exaggerate, my son, surely! Naught but two times has he been late this week. I have known you to be late many times, or never appear at all."
"Father, he is allowing his private affairs to interfere with his duties to our Kingdom! Now, I understand. . ."
But the king would hear no more. With a wave of his hand, his son was suppressed. "Hush, pray, no more, Haldof. Galamed is newly married, and due to what occurred on the night of his nuptials, I have given him plenty of. . ."
Suddenly a knock sounded at the door cutting the king off. He bade the person enter, and a guard approached, a letter in his hand. "From Lord Elrond, your Majesty," he said, placing the roll of parchment in Thranduil's hand and bowing low.
"Thank you, Nalag, you may return to your duties."
The soldier bowed again, and withdrew, shutting the door behind him.
"From Elrond? What does it say?" Haldof said eagerly as Thranduil unfurled the scroll. "Does it mention Legolas?"
"I have only just received it!" Thranduil reminded him, his temper shortening.
Haldof was silenced, and sat, though not very patiently, awaiting the news. He studied his father's face intently as he read, and saw his eyes widen with surprise. It took all Haldof strength not to enquire, and, after what felt like a great length, Thranduil, smiling, rolled up the parchment and gazed at his son.
"Well?!" Haldof finally exclaimed when his patience was utterly spent.
"I have good news." Thranduil replied, dragging his son's torture on as long as possible. "Extremely good news!"
"Well?!" Haldof exclaimed ardently. "Are you going to tell me or not?"
"I would have thought that a son of mine as old as you are would perhaps by now have learnt some manners and patience. In the absence of your mother, it seems I have let you run wild."
"Father, you change the subject to no avail! Pray," he begged gently, "what did Lord Elrond have to say?"
Amused, Thranduil handed the scroll over, and Haldof took it greedily, and spread it open, thirsty for news. His eyes quickly scanned the letter before stopping and gazing up at his father in disbelief. "Can it be true? Can it possibly be true?"
"Stranger things have happened," Thranduil said, sipping his wine, quite contentedly. "So, Mithrandir is alive and well. Well, praise Eärendil for that! What a relief! I did not think we fared much hope without Mithrandir to guide the Men of the West. Our Legolas is in good hands. I can sleep well tonight knowing my dear old friend has returned to lead Gondor and Rohan!"
Haldof smiled and read the letter again, just to make sure he had not missed anything. Without warning, the door swung wide, banging the wall behind it. Mithryn stepped in, clad in her bedclothes and a cape, Haldof's staff clutched tightly in her hand.
"Why, Mithryn, what is this?" Thranduil said, rising as both he and Haldof approached her, quite alarmed. "Are you ill?"
"Nay, my Lord, I am quite well. I. . .I . . I have had a vision, my Lord," she said, quite breathless from her jolt.
"Tell me in a moment, but first you must sit by the fire," Thranduil said, ushering her into his warm chair. "I will not have you catch a chill. Now," he said, settling into Haldof's chair, "tell me what you saw, my dear."
"I know not quite where to begin, my Lord. So much was there to see, I understood little of the flashes of images, people and places. But of one thing I can be certain." She smiled, heart swelling, unsure of the right words. "It is over, my Lord. We need not worry anymore."
"What is all over?" Haldof asked.
"The war," she replied simply. "The war. . .it is over! Sauron is defeated, we've won!"
Far from jumping up in excitement, the two elves stared, unconvinced, at her, and Haldof shook his head, benevolently. "I think it was naught but a dream, Mithryn. We all want Legolas to come home."
Mithryn shook her head violently, "Nay, I know what I saw, my Lord! Do you not believe me?"
For a moment, it was painful to Thranduil to meet with her earnest, steadfast gaze. "It is not that I do not believe you, Mithryn, but it is much to ask us to believe that the worst is behind us, and that the Dark Lord is defeated."
Mithryn rose up, desperate for exoneration. "Your Majesty, I swear to you on my child, your grandchild, that I saw this! Never would I invent something like this!"
"Then I believe you, my Dear, and now we have the good fortune of looking forward to Legolas' homecoming! Now, you have been out of bed long, and it will not do for your health. Come, now! We shall discuss this again tomorrow." He motioned a guard to accompany her.
Mithryn nodded dejectedly, and made no further pleas for trust. She left, and when the door was shut, Haldof turned and whispered, "You did not truly believe her, did you, Father?"
"Nay," Thranduil replied, gently, "but I had not the heart to tell her so. Poor Mithryn! She so desperately wants to believe it."
"So do we all, Father," Haldof said, and poured wine into a tall flute, drinking it down.
End of Chapter Thirty-three