How Legolas Claimed Two White-handled Longknives Conclusion - The Legend of Legolas - Early Adventures #8
***What Dreams May Come***
"In her dream Willofain saw the orphan Elf among dark trees, with terrible enemies all around. She lay bound on the ground. Above her, the Elf loomed from a high place and in his hands ..." - - "How Legolas Claimed Two White-handled Longknives Part Two"
Legolas was dreaming too, retracing his steps on the Olórë Mallë of two nights ago. As before, he walked toward Saelon's cave of prophecy. As before, Elwen and Elsila walked with him, Elwen facing forward and Elsila backward. For some reason this disturbed him. Legolas made his mind go "outer," returning to the Seen world. The pupils of his eyes resumed their waking state and he rose from his camp bed.
Change was coming; he felt it in the air. His intuition, highly developed even for an Elf, told him there might be a short respite, but very soon his world and the people in it would be different. Taking up his bow and quiver, he went to his horse Golden and sprang up on her bare back. He rode a ways from camp, wishing to leave his disquiet behind but it stayed. He dismounted, set his weapons aside, and went from under the trees to a clearing where he could see the twinkling stars, more brilliant than his diamond-tipped arrow. Lifting his face to the sky, Legolas gave quiet tribute in Quenya to Elbereth:
Holy, lovely are the works of thy hands, Kindler of the Stars.
Love of all Arda abides within the Star-Folk, my people.
Accept my thanks and my praise, O Varda.
The affirmation quieted his feä. He heard a noise behind him. He turned and said, surprised: "Blade-singer? What are you doing with my bow?"
His eyes deceived him only a second. Then by starlight he saw the person was not Blade-singer but a Mortal who held his bow, Berendil's gift, with a strung arrow. The strange Sindarin words must have startled her because she jerked, and the next thing Legolas knew, pain blossomed under his collarbone. His own green arrow jutted from his right breast.
"Oh!" he said, and then demented howls split the forest night into pieces. Zalog's Orcs had lost interest in Willofain. They had found the Elves' camp and taken them all unawares.
The Elven heroes of old, when desperate, fought with strategies like Fingon, or they went mad like Fingolfin and called Morgoth lord of slaves to his face. Given a choice, Legolas preferred strategy. It was Thranduil's favorite subject and he taught Legolas that the first thing to do was gather information about the enemy. So Legolas, with arrow still in his breast, crept upon the place of the captives. It was not good.
By the light of the camp fire he saw Zalog's Orcs. They had hung Elwen, Berendil, and Blade-singer by their arms, wrists bound to branches above them and their backs to a tree. Their feet were inches off the ground. Tûr, Bessain, and a Dwarf hung from the next tree the same. Their weapons lay in a heap nearby, unreachable.
Legolas shuddered to think what Zalog would do if he learned the identity of the Elven captives. Zalog knew him, hated him, and Legolas had been inside Zalog's mind. Legolas kept his thoughts under guard in case the link still existed, but it did no good. Zalog, who was a tall Mordor Orc bred by Sauron, grabbed Blade-singer's face with his clawed hand. He said, "I know you. I meant to kill you that night by the hall of the stinking Elf-King. Before I am done you will wish I had succeeded."
To Berendil he said, "You meant to kill me that same night," and Berendil responded, "Before I am done you will wish I had succeeded."
Zalog laughed, a grotesque sound, and picked an Elf arrow from the pile. He plunged it, not into Berendil, but into Elwen's shoulder, a mirror image of Legolas's wound. "You keep ill company, She-Elf. Are you spawn of that king, maybe? Part of the van of his army?" Elwen kept silent, wondering: what army?
"We will have good sport," Zalog promised her. "When your sire walks into my trap, I will nail him high up where he can see it all as he dies screaming."
That was enough for Legolas. Stealthy as a wild cat he withdrew. He was a Wood-Elf, taught woodcraft by Huntress. He stepped on no dry stick. No Orc marked him as he fell back to the glade where Willofain and Ibun lay hid next to Golden. In trailing Willofain through the night, Ibun had once again, luckily, wandered away from Theall and found an Elf.
Legolas said, "The Orcs hold our folk captive. They will kill them slowly for sport. Do you understand?" By starlight he saw anger burning in Ibun's cloudy eyes; fear in Willofain's.
"There are twenty-two but se can do it! Felagund of old came upon thirty Orcs, and his band killed them all."
Legolas did not add that Felagund's band had been twelve, not three, and each a seasoned warrior. Whereas his own band consisted of Willofain the Mortal, Ibun the Dwarf, and Legolas the Elf. He thought, Never again will three such companions go to rescue captives from Orcs. And of us three, only two are trained in weapons, one of the two is not right in the head and the other is wounded. Thranduil, I wish you were here!
But the nearest they had to a warrior king was himself, the warrior king's son. Legolas blessed his years of training by the likes of Blade-singer and Berendil. He thanked Berendil in his heart for making him learn to shoot left-handed, and he strove to make a plan, while blood flowed from his wound.
Legolas said "We will rescue them, but first this arrow must come out."
He could hear tears in her voice. "I did not mean to hurt you! I came to give you these knives."
Legolas said gently, "There is something you do not know, Willofain. The knives already belong to my father - given as a gift but stolen by Ibun. He did not know what he did - see his eyes?"
"I have failed in my gift-giving," she said miserably.
"No, I thank you for their return. And I give you leave to handle them. Indeed, you must, after you help with this wound. Does the arrowhead come through my back?"
"No," they told him, and he sighed. He pushed back his tunic and shirt and braced against a tree.
"Ibun must push the arrow through my body," he said, "break off the head, and pull it free. Willofain, hold me." Her heart raced to hold him. She placed her hands on him and felt the curve of his arm, the strong beat of his blood.
Legolas closed his eyes, imagining Thranduil at ease in his chamber, booted feet on the table, wine cup at hand. He was speaking of battle strategy: "You must assess terrain, numbers, weapons, surprise, and opportunistic leadership. When you command, Legolas..."
Here Legolas felt the metal arrow head tear deep into his living flesh. To Ibun's credit he was fast. The arrow pushed through the skin of his back at once. Legolas heard a crack as Ibun broke off the head. Then the wooden shaft pulled back through his body. The sun exploded behind his eyelids. Legolas did not cry out, but he left his body for a moment to deal with the Orcs who were tormenting him.
When he returned to himself, Willofain lay twelve feet away, out cold by the hand of Legolas. Ibun, stalwart as a stone, lay nearer but was unconscious also. There was blood on the rock under his head. After a time Ibun stirred and rose, shaking his head and beard. Then he amazed Legolas by speaking a language he had never heard. Legolas could see by faint light that Ibun's eyes were no longer cloudy but clear and lighted with delight as by magic.
Willofain sat up next, groaning. She said, "The arrow is out. What shall we do now?"
Legolas said, "Fight. My father says, in battle turn weakness to strength. The trees are a hindrance to us and the Orcs so we will use them for surprise and cover. We are few. We must make the Orcs think we are many. Willofain is no soldier so we will make her seem even more vulnerable. The longknives that Zalog fears are ours. Have either of you ever made a self bow?"
"Yes," they said. "They break after little use," added Willofain.
"We only need them once. We need arrows to go with them. Ibun, start making arrows. Willofain, make bows. Take the knives. I have some extra bowstring. Ibun, is there an awl in your tool bag?"
"Yes," said Ibun happily, rubbing his bruised head.
"Good! This will be dangerous, especially for Willofain. We must first separate the Orcs from the captives and then..." He spoke quickly. They got busy.
Now the night wore on, and Zalog took counsel with his lieutenants on the prisoners. "We will keep these three alive, barely, as a gift for the Elf-king," the Orc said of Elwen, Blade-singer and Berendil. "The others die sooner. They will all die hard, though. Bring whips. Pile dry tinder beneath them and keep torches near."
The danger in Legolas's plan was that the Orcs milled around the captives and their trees. They must be made to move away. But Legolas knew the camp's layout and how to place his troops.
He whispered, "Ibun, I will take you to your place. Make no Dwarfish racket. When you hear my call, watch for Willofain. Then you know what to do." He led Ibun to the east side of the Elves' camp, as silently as a falling leaf. There were six single-bows, set low to the ground among the trees. They rested on rough frames like Berendil's stringing frame for bowstrings. On each bow Legolas fitted two hand-made arrows, the points sharpened beyond expectation by use of the longknives. Ibun's awl had been at work too, making holes in the end of each arrow. Through the holes Legolas passed a fine string, barely a thread, with the ends held by Ibun. The stringed arrows pointed at one spot away from the camp fire. They would all fly at once when Ibun pulled. Maybe they would hit Orcs; certainly they would seem speeded by many archers.
Next Legolas went round to the north side of camp where Willofain sat on the ground, her wrists bound in front of her and her ankles tied loosely so she could hobble. He whispered, "When you hear my call, move out where they can see you, but go no further. Then, draw back and lay low. I will make sure they do not touch you." He hoped.
Finally he came to the west side of the clearing where Golden stood hidden. Besides his diamond arrow, Legolas had twelve more with metal heads in his quiver. He meant to use them well.
He heard a whip crack and saw through the trees an Orc raising its arm for another blow at Berendil. Elwen shouted, "Stop!" and the Orcs laughed. One twisted the arrow in her shoulder.
Now Legolas knew that if he lost his head they would surely die. Yet when he heard the crack and saw his sister bleed, his slow anger caught fire. He picked up the longknives. They felt warm and welcoming in his hands, like the clasp of a dear friend. The blades would have been too long for anyone else, but as Berendil once noted, Legolas had superior strength in his long-fingered hands. He slipped them into his quiver, mounted Golden, and uttered a harsh, un-Elf-like caw.
Willofain counted to ten, stood up, hopped forward, and gave a piercing scream.
The Orcs all turned and started toward the girl. "Why, here is Sweetmeat again," said Zalog. "We shall both eat and play well tonight." They rushed toward her and Willofain fumble backward, terrified to see countless copies of her worst nightmare reaching for her. Her foot struck a stone and she fell with a cry, senseless for the second time. But her job was done.
Ibun shook the twelve fine strings. Twelve arrows hurled from the east side of the camp, wounding six Orcs, mostly in the belly.
The remaining Orcs whirled in the direction from which the arrows came, showing their backs to Legolas. So the first three targets were easy. The Orcs forgot about Willofain then. They turned toward the warrior in the woods, going for their bows, but their opponent was Legolas Greenleaf and they may as well not have troubled.
The captives hanging in agony from their trees saw Legolas ride into the clearing from the west side. While the Orcs were still turning in his direction, he drew and loosed six more of his remaining good arrows. He moved so fast only Elvish eyes could track it. The six Orc-targets fell, leaving seven. Plus Zalog. Legolas had miscounted by one.
"You!" yelled the Orc leader.
"Do you believe in fate, Zalog?" said Legolas. "I do."
"Beware!" screamed Elwen as an Orc approached Golden from the blind side. From the east edge of camp came an answering shout that made the heart of Theall sing: "Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!" Ibun his son was speaking the ancient Dwarvish battle cry. His throwing axe was in hand, and then it was no longer in his hand and the Orc's head split like an overripe fruit.
This was no longer a night of sport for Zalog's band. Two fled the clearing. Legolas the night-sighted marked them, strung and loosed one arrow, and skewered them both through their hearts. He shot two more fleeing Orcs, leaving the quiver empty save for his diamond arrow and the longknives. Legolas pulled them out and they gleamed in the light of the camp fire. And then what happened was like the battle madness of Fingolfin and no one there, not even Blade-singer Berendil, ever saw the like again.
Legolas stood on his horse's back and raised the two knives high. "I claim these longknives! No other hands can hold them. Yet if they slay you, Zalog, still your thoughts will live inside my mind. So my test is not in killing you. It is in not killing you. I do not need the knives for that."
Under the dark trees the horse plunged at Zalog. He screamed a long wild scream of defiance and fear as Legolas leapt toward him, knives held high. No one saw his left arm move, so fast did it fly, yet Berendil saw a flash and then an Orc fell headless while one longknife buried itself nearly blade-deep in a tree. They all heard its reverberating shudder.
The second longknife flashed in flight the same, and the last Orc soldier died of a sliced neck. Its torch fell beneath the captives and the tinder began to burn.
Legolas fell on Zalog like Manwë's eagle and grappled him to the ground while Berendil, Blade-singer, and Tûr looked on horrified, thinking, >O Elbereth! Hand to hand with a Mordor Orc.<
Hand to hand it was as they rolled over and over, seeking the advantage. Their strength was equal but Zalog had talons on his hands. Legolas felt them rake his flesh as Zalog pinned him to the ground. Flames leaped toward the hanging captives. He saw Ibun hacking at their chains. As Zalog's grip tightened around his throat and the Seen world faded, Legolas located that dark part of his mind where Zalog's thoughts lived. The Orc's spirit choked Legolas as if his fëar had a throat and Zalog's thoughts, hands. >See, Zalog!< he sent unguarded to his enemy and he felt Zalog move within his mind. Pulling up his legs, he kicked into the Orc's guts while giving a great, Unseen, pull, tearing away a veil.
"A Elbereth Gilthoniel!" he shouted, and let the glory and radiance of the Valar fill his mind as a vision. He heard Zalog's scream of terror beyond anything uttered before and Legolas knew that it was not Elves that Zalog feared, nor the Valar but his own ruined terrible feä. Himself.
Zalog flung himself away from Legolas and fled in the night, wailing, to spread the fearsome legend of Legolas among the Orcs. (As did Ibun among the Dwarves, later, and Willofain among Mortals.)
Legolas stood, rejoicing in the expulsion of Zalog from his mind. He leaped towards the captives, as his wounds bled and the fire burned. Then a new voice spoke. "Legolas! Pull the longknives from the trees and cut those chains. Hurry!"
It was Queen Elsila on her white horse, with a bent bow.
"Our southern march wardens found Amdir," Elsila said. "A Silvan whom Zalog tormented. War is coming. Thranduil has gone to look for you in Wild Water Village, but I had a strong feeling you would be here. Let us leave quickly. Legolas, Elwen! To me." Her children came and stood before her. She put away the bow and placed her hands upon them.
"Legolas, your hurt is greater. I would treat your wound in town where there are clean bandages, hot water, and medicines. I did not bring my own. Climb behind me and be ready to ride hard. Berendil! Put the Dwarves on Golden and make sure they get to town."
"I will, Milady," said Berendil.
"Blade-singer, kill any Orcs that yet live. Bessain, finish putting out the fire. Keep an eye on -"
"I will not sit a-horse," said Theall.
All activity stopped. Elsila turned her horse around. She fixed Theall with a look that, had he been Ibun uncured, he would have still understood perfectly. "Mount now," she said. The silver part of her eyes turned steely.
"Better do it," advised Bessain. Berendil knelt and put his hands under the Dwarf's boot. "Hup!" he said, and Theall was on Golden, followed by Ibun. By then Elsila and Legolas were gone.
Willofain the forgotten regained herself and stood up, dazed. The last she ever saw of Legolas (although it was not the last he saw of her) was his bloodied back receding through the trees as he and Elsila headed for the Dwarf Road.
***Elwen and Willofain***
"We follow Elsila to Wild Water Village as quickly as we can," Blade-singer told the others. "But first there is the matter of the Mortal. She seems to be a prisoner. What is your will, Daughter-heir?"
Elwen's temper burned hot as Thranduil's. She did not hesitate. "Unbind her. I have words to speak." She continued in Westron as they removed the bonds. "The Dwarf told me of your doings, Girl. If you had more incompetence, or my brother less luck, he would be dead of your arrow. Moreover you endangered us all by taking what was not yours and leading the Orcs to our camp. They killed my horse. Hear me, Willofain. Leave now. Never come within sight of me or mine again, or I will not show mercy."
Now when Willofain heard Elwen's words she knew there would never be a place for her in the world of Elves, and she loved Legolas and her heart broke. But she remembered the advice of her long-dead mother who once said, when you are disappointed hold your head high.
So Willofain lifted her chin, looked Elwen in the eye, and said, "I have little in this world, Lady of Elves, save my fate to shape as best I can, and enough pride to go when I am not wanted. But I leave you with a wish for good fortune. May you never make a mistake with your weapon, Lady, and if you do, may you not regret it with so much bitterness as I." She turned on her heel and walked a long way toward Wild Water Village before she allowed herself to weep.
The Elves cast down their eyes. "Daughter of Thranduil, perhaps you were harsh," said Berendil.
"Perhaps I was, Berendil, and when you see Thranduil next you may petition him in this matter. I will abide by his decision. But Thranduil is not here, and I have declared my will."
"Yours to command, Lady," said Berendil, and they spoke no more of Willofain till another fateful night.
***Good Night, Sweet Prince***
There was a indeed brief respite before the world of Legolas changed, and it occurred next evening at the merry market fair at Wild Water Village. Master Bruno of the Swan and Cygnet was a happy man. His best, most expensive rooms were fully occupied - by Elves! - and Theall the Dwarf-lord had the next best. So overjoyed was Theall at the cure of his son that he paid the Elves' bill in gold and waited upon Legolas like a servant. Bruno was amused:
"I accept your thanks, although I did little enough for Ibun," said Legolas. "I and my family have no wish for your service."
"It is the way my people show their undying gratitude," said Theall.
"I release you from the obligation," said Legolas, hoping to sound princely.
Theall chuckled at Legolas's naïveté. "Only Aulë can do that," he explained.
Legolas grew impatient. "There is ancient enmity between our races. Ask your loremasters."
"For you we cancel all enmity. One of our Dwarf-kin shall be near you for the rest of your days on Middle-earth, Lord Legolas."
At this point Bruno intervened, saying that Thranduil called for his son, and so let Legolas get away for a while. Legolas found Thranduil sitting on the inn's front porch swing as if in his throne room, with Elsila on one side and Berendil on the other. The porch was crowded with party-goers. Bessain and Tûr were nearby, speaking with Master Bruno and Harald the mayor. Bruno wanted Bessain to head his kitchens and Harald thought Tûr would be the perfect captain of guards. They smiled and promised to think on it.
By Bruno's arrangement the Elves had a good view of the entire courtyard, which was ringed with tables and chairs (all full, and the tavern help were jumping), and filled with dancers under the colored lanterns and silver stars. The musicians' band stand was directly across from the front of the inn. Thranduil had to admit that, while they were not Elvish, the band played well - better when tipsy. Their music set feet tapping.
"Look whom Elwen has found," said Thranduil. "at the table by the steps. It is Lord Nornë, Lady Silwin, and Lady Arwen."
Legolas felt his heart beat faster. "Lady Arwen?"
"Yes, Nornë says she recently came of age, and there is a good story. But we will greet them later. I have something to tell you, Legolas. For the courage and skill you showed in the rescue of the captives, we your elders declare that you are now come of age."
His spirit soared as high as the sky. It is a wonderful moment for young Elves when they take their place among the adults. For Legolas it was doubly so, because now he could free himself of the childish oath of silence that had weighed upon him so long. He said,
"Now I have something to tell you, Father. I got myself into a coil and could not speak sooner without being foresworn. Do you remember the visit of the Lothloriens?" And he told the whole story, describing his misbehavor in detail and emphasizing the strength and bravery of Arwen and Elwen. "I don't know why I got them to swear silence with me," he ended. "It seemed a good idea at the time, but it was wrong. I have learned to be wiser, I think. What is your will of me?"
His parents and Berendil heard him out, saying nothing. Bessain however felt no need for silence.
"What, indeed! You teased your sister, injured a guest! - put yourselves in harm's way so that breaking the stated rule was your only choice, and induced all to swear oath to keep your mischief secret! March him straight to the stables, Berendil, stopping only to pick a stout switch and dust the seat of his breeches properly."
Everyone on the porch broke into laughter at this save Bessain and Legolas. Bruno murmured "Ouch."
"Bessain, do not put so much honey in your words!" Berendil implored. "Say what you mean! Legolas, be calm, for I shall do no such thing. The king just said our young hero here - he who saved our lives and cured that crazy Dwarf - is come of age. Your elders can no longer send you to the aunts and uncles, Legolas. Or had you forgotten?"
Legolas looked so crestfallen it was comical. "Well - yes, I thought..." but he stopped, because what he thought made no sense when said aloud.
"He means," said Thranduil helpfully, "that his conscience will not let him rest until your set him some penalty, or excuse him for good cause." He dabbed at his eyes. "I laugh at Bessain's indignation and not at you, my son. Yes, you were wrong to swear oath for a light reason, but since that time I find no fault in your behavior. You learned from your mistakes. Maybe the greatest harm is loss of your peace of mind."
"For one such as Legolas, that is no small loss," said Elsila. "So not all is set right."
"Very well," said Thranduil. "Hear me, Legolas. The customs are mine to set aside if I will. I say you are fully come of age. Yet I will delay the effect of your status for one hour, so that you can settle this matter with Berendil one way or another. Then he gave Berendil a look as rich in meaning as any mind speech. "It is time to put away childish things."
"Yours to command, Milord," said Berendil. "Legolas, we will continue this discussion elsewhere." The two of them left the front porch, pushing through the party-goers. As they went down the steps they came to the table where Elwen and Arwen sat. Elwen of course had been eavesdropping without shame.
"Poor Legolas," she said, catching his hand and smiling. "Perhaps you will become the first Sindar in history to be beaten for breaking the stated rule after coming of age."
He gave her his dazzling smile. "At least, ladies, they cannot say of me I disobeyed it twice." He reached out and gave her curls a good tug. So did Berendil.
"Mind your business, Elwen," he said. "Come, Legolas."
They are gone for an hour and if penalty or pardon pass between them, they never tell. But when they return, Legolas is light of heart and light of step. He wishes to dance, and he dances all night with everyone who asks, Elf and Mortal alike. His grace takes the breath of all who see him. Finally he approaches the table where his heart's desire sits with her near-kin.
"Greetings, Legolas," says Lady Silwin with a smile. "I see you have fully recovered from the clumsy fall from your horse and your reluctance to bathe."
Legolas laughs out loud. "Yes, Lady, but I am in need of many other improvements." He clasps Nornë's shoulder and bows low to Arwen: "You were right about my foolishness when we first met, Milady. Well did you name me Prince of Knaves."
Arwen's feä has two sides. We know the stubborn side. We forgive her because we also know she will have great need of strength of will in her life. Compassion is her other attribute. For this we love her. She has found how to blend strength and love, and now she is fully come of age.
"I take back that name," says she, "and call you Prince of Elves. Will you dance with me?"
They dance; he holds her in his arms. A mighty bard once called him fair of face beyond the measure of Men. But Arwen is easily the most beautiful woman there or anywhere, and when Elsila and Elwen are there, that is saying something.
Everyone meets someone they cannot have, or keep. For Willofain it is Legolas; for Arwen, Aragorn. For Mortals it is the Elves who to them are like stars - ancient and high beyond reach. For Elves it is the Mortals who, meteor-like, are born to burn, shine, and be gone.
Arwen and Legolas dance and there is a moment when, almost, she could love him. They dance and Legolas never forgets it, because the night he comes of age is the best night of his life.
1. JRR Tolkien is of course the mighty bard who wrote of Legolas's fair face in "The Return of the King," Chapter IX, "The Last Debate."
2. "Baruk Khazâd! Khazâd ai-mênu!" - "Axes of the Dwarves! The Dwarves are upon you!" JRR Tolkien, "The Return of the King," Appendix F, "Of Other Races."
3. Legolas's battle strategy derives from principles in "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu, Shambhala Pocket Classic Edition, 1991. Translated by Thomas Cleary. Personally I think Thranduil wrote "The Art of War" and gave it to Mortal Men.
4. "Hamlet," W.Shakespeare, - Source of the captions "What Dreams May Come" (Act III, Scene 1) and "Good-night Sweet Prince." (Act V, Scene 2. )