Sáralissë - Part One: Chapter Three
-- Mirkwood | III 2941
Legolas loved the Autumn Festival. It was the one opportunity of the year when his people came together to celebrate the season without worrying about the danger of their lands. The grand celebration took place outside the cavern walls and those who did not live within his father's home came from all over Mirkwood to join the festivities. Good food, good wine, plenty of stories and song and dance. Of course, there was always the danger of Spiders or raiding Orcs arriving to upset their merrymaking, but the Wood-Elves were well prepared for such an attack. Guards patrolled the perimeters, ready to sound the alarm at the first sign of trouble.
However, Legolas had his own troubles this evening and, unfortunately, the festival would hold no comfort for him until his plan was followed through. He had discussed the plan with the hobbit and together they seemed to have every step laid out. They had spent the past few days perfecting it as best they could, deciding who would do what. Of course, anything could go wrong, but there was not much one could do it that case. They would just have to keep their eyes open and the rest, they would have to leave to luck. It suddenly dawned on Legolas just how defiant this course of action was. If his father ever found out that he had helped a band of Dwarves escape... Legolas cringed at the thought of the sound lashing he would receive.
He sat, now, in the large chair next to his bed, his right leg bouncing up and down in anticipation. Why was he so anxious? It was not a life or death situation for him. This was not his daring escape. No. But it was life or death to the hobbit and his companions and he had promised to help. Legolas was nervous for them. He watched the hobbit as he napped in his own bed. He looked so small lying in the great bed that even Legolas found huge.
He wanted to more about the hobbit. Where he came from, what his people were like, did all of them have this ability to make themselves invisible? But despite the brief summary of the events that had led to him being here, the hobbit had been rather reticent and guarded when Legolas had queried him about these things and Legolas decided to let it be. They had talked enough about the hobbit's adventure with the Dwarves, from how they had met Lord Elrond of Imladris, to how they had been captured by Orcs and then Spiders. Legolas delighted in hearing the first hand accounts and the hobbit had a natural flare for telling a good, dramatic story.
Finally, Legolas got up and went to the bed to rouse the hobbit. They had waited long enough. It was time for them to leave. When the hobbit was ready, they headed to the cellar. Although no one was inside--they were all outside merrymaking--Legolas walked quickly down the corridors of the caverns as the hobbit struggled to keep up.
They descended the stairway that led to Thranduil's Hall and Legolas paused, looking around cautiously to make sure that no one was present. Often times the festivities wandered into the feasting halls during the later hours of the night. When all was clear, they crossed the large room and descended another flight of stairs and down a long corridor before reaching the wine cellar.
Legolas stopped outside the door to brief the hobbit on their plan once more, not only for the hobbit's sake, but for his own as well. "Now, the old butler is named Galion. He'll be coming in here soon to ready the barrels for departure. I'll try to convince him to take a drink and I'll slip this into his cup." Legolas pulled out a vial from his pocket. "Water," he stated, his eyes glowing, "from the river that runs near our home. The tiniest drop of this will put him to sleep in no time. You'll grab the keys and free your friends. But, you must be quick about it because others will arrive soon to help Galion load and unload the barrels. I've counted... there should be enough barrels for the lot of you. I'll stand guard until you are safely downriver."
The hobbit nodded, looking anxious but ready. Legolas smiled assuredly and then a feeling of sadness crept over him as he realized he would have to say farewell to the hobbit. Although they did not know each other well, Legolas had greatly enjoyed the hobbits company and considered him to be a friend. "I suppose this is our formal good-bye," he said. "I wish you luck on your journey. Perhaps we shall meet again, one day..." Legolas stopped, not really knowing what else to say. He was rather sad to let the hobbit go when he still had so much to learn about this rather amazing little creature and his people.
"Thank you for everything, Prince," the hobbit replied graciously, taking Legolas' hand in both of his. "I shall never forget your kindness. And yes, perhaps, just perhaps, we will bump into each other on another adventure." Legolas clapped the hobbit on the shoulder in one last friendly gesture before turning to leave.
He exited the palace through the great doorway and stood at the top of the stairs, gazing out into the forest. Torches lit the entryway and continued snake their way along the path and into the woods, leading to the great woodland clearing not but half a mile off the main road. There were various Elves dawdling down the dirt road, chatting merrily to each other, their silver wine goblets sparkling randomly as they reflected the light of the torches. But, Legolas knew, most everyone was already at the festivities. He pulled at his collar and smoothed out his tunic before bounding down the stairway and across the bridge to the pathway.
He entered the clearing where lanterns and torches lit the area spectacularly. It was the most light Legolas had ever seen within Mirkwood, and although it was no substitute for sunlight or moonlight, it was most certainly welcome in this ever-darkening realm. Many tables and tents were set up and decorated with lovely green leaves and rusty-colored berries, both of which were hard to come by in the gloomy reaches of the forest. A large bonfire roared in the middle of the clearing, there were minstrels and instrument players, and an area had been cleared for dancing. He wished he had time to admire how wonderful everything looked, but he reminded himself that he had to set a serious mind for the task at hand. There was no time to be distracted by the festival. He took a deep breath and initiated step one of the plan: find one of his parents and give them reason to believe that everything was perfectly normal.
He searched the crowd of people for his parents and spotted his mother with a group of other Elves. She was caught up in a dance involving a string of tiny bells tied around the wrist so that there was a delightful jingle-jangle ringing in the air. Legolas marveled at how lovely she looked, a line of leaves and berries entwining themselves throughout her dark hair. His eyes had also found his father on the far side of the clearing, mingling with several other men although he constantly shifted his eyes to the dance, watching appreciatively as his wife moved gracefully to the lively rhythm of the music. The dance soon finished and there were cheers and laughter.
Lothelien caught her son's eye and came towards him, a radiant glow alighting her face. "Legolas! Where have you been? I haven't seen you at the festivities all evening," she said, laughing and catching her breath.
Legolas just smiled naturally, and said, "I was getting ready for tonight."
Her smile faded slowly and she gave a tiny, slightly exasperated sigh. "Legolas, are you all right?" she asked earnestly. "You've been acting rather strange lately, so I've noticed and so others have pointed out to me. You're so secretive and you've hardly left your room in the past few days. And now you look incredibly sad. Is anything the matter?"
At that moment, Legolas felt like telling her everything. About the hobbit, about the plan to help him and the Dwarves escape, and how sad he was that he couldn't spend more time with his new friend. But, he fought the urge, knowing that he could not do anything to endanger his friend. "No, mother," he answered, forcing his tone to be cheerful. "I'm just fine. I don't know why you are so worried when there's no need to be. Come now, lets enjoy the festival."
Lothelien smiled and kissed her son on the cheek, chuckling as he darted his eyes around, embarrassed that his mother would do such a thing in front of all these people. He brought a hand up to his cheek and rubbed it vigorously as she sent him off into the droves of people. A wave of relief swept over him. Step one, complete. Now, on to step two: find Galion, the butler.
A daunting task, given the number of people present. But luck seemed to be on his side tonight for with one swooping glance he found Galion almost immediately. The butler was overseeing the deliverance of several platters of food that were being laid out upon the tables, ordering his helpers to place the platters down, then frowning at the display and ordering them to rearrange them, only to frown again and have them rearrange once more. His helpers made impatient faces as they were anxious to join their friends in all the merrymaking.
Legolas pushed through the crowds of people and called out, "Good evening, Galion!"
The butler looked around among the crowd of faces and smiled widely as he spotted Legolas. "Ah, greetings young Prince! A grand festival, is it not?"
"Oh, indeed," Legolas answered as he came up beside the butler. "It only grows better every time. But, alas, Father is hollering for more wine, Galion," he said, almost apologetically.
Galion smiled knowingly. "I could have guessed as much. Well, I was just going down to send the empty barrels back to Esgaroth. I'll bring some full ones up on my was back." He turned and called out to two of his assistants who had stole away and were laughing and enjoying the festivities. "You two, come with me. We need to get rid of those empty barrels and the King calls for more wine." At this point, Legolas realized that if Galion recruited more Elves to help him with the barrels, the plan would be lost. But luck came through for him again.
"Oh, but we were just about to join in the dance," they whined. Galion sighed and rolled his eyes, wondering why he was cursed with such lazy workers.
Legolas made his move. "I'll help you, Galion," Legolas offered.
"Ah, no," Galion said kindly. "You must stay here and enjoy the fun."
"It's all right. I'm not busy at the moment," Legolas said casually. He did not want too seem overly keen on lending a hand lest the butler become suspicious.
Galion looked down at Legolas, a skeptical look on his face. But, he gave in. He looked back at the two partying Elves. "Fine, you two. One dance, then come down and help." He turned back to Legolas. "All right, come if you wish," he said.
The two Elves walked into the caverns together and down the many hallways and stairs to the underground cellar. When they had nearly reached their destination, they heard a voice call out to them. "Galion!" They stopped and turned around to see Armeldir, the Captain of the Guard. "I saw those two giving you trouble," he said as he came up to them. "I can give you a hand."
Blast! What luck, Legolas thought. The plan has already been sabotaged and we haven't even begun. Of course, Galion was glad to have the help and Legolas could do nothing but follow the two older men down into the cellar. Their footsteps echoed as they entered the large area. The cellar was cool and dimly lit but not damp as one might expect. The wine would never keep if the cellar was too damp.
Legolas' nerves were settling in. This was it; the plan was in full effect now. Step three: convince Galion and Armeldir to have a sip of wine. He tried to act utterly normal as he helped Armeldir and Galion stack the large barrels, lining them up so that they could easily be dumped down the trapdoor into the running river below. Then, he took a breath and put on his most innocently curious face. "How do you know the wine is good?" he asked.
"Well, the cellar should be kept clean and dry so the wine wont spoil so easily. But, you really don't know the quality of the wine until you taste it," Galion replied as he counted the barrels to be brought up for the feast.
"Shouldn't you taste it before it's served to everyone? You can't have bad wine at the Autumn Festival," Legolas said, feigning great worry. Galion gave him a dubious look. "Father would be terribly embarrassed and angry if his wine were bad," Legolas added.
"Well, I suppose a little taste wouldn't hurt," Galion said, looking at the Captain who just shrugged.
"I have some cups here somewhere," he said as he rummaged through the shelves. Several silent moments passed as the butler searched for some drinking vessels. Armeldir and Legolas exchanged glances as Galion muttered frustratingly to himself.
"Let me help you," Armeldir said.
In the meantime, Legolas wondered how he would be able to slip the sleeping drought into their drinks. Inspiration hit him as his eyes fell upon two empty flagons on the table. Quickly, as both Elves backs were turned to him, he undid the lid of the vial and splashed the tiniest amount of liquid into each flagon. His hand fumbled as he scrambled to put the cap back on the vial, aware the Galion and Armeldir could turn around at any moment, and he dropped the little container on the floor. It made a clinking noise as it bounced on the ground, but the sound was magnified as an echo throughout the room.
"Did you drop something?" Armeldir asked Galion. The butler shook his head and Legolas quickly kicked the vial under the small table.
"Here, there are two flagons on the table," Legolas said, gesturing to the two flagons. "Why don't you just use those?" He hoped he didn't sound too desperate as he suggested this.
"Ah, might as well," Galion said, giving up his search. "I don't seem to have any goblets here anyhow." He took the flagons and poured a little wine into each, handing one to Armeldir before sitting across from him at the tiny wooden table. "To the King, and his glorious Autumn Festival," he said, raising his flagon for a toast. The two men clinked their vessels together and each took a deep sip. Legolas watched all of this keenly, witnessing his plan unfold brilliantly before his eyes.
Galion turned to Legolas. "My lord, you have nothing to worry about," he said, nodding towards his drink. "The wine is excellent! The best I've tasted in years, as a matter of fact." Galion went on talking energetically, as he was prone to do, and Armeldir sat and listened quietly, nodding his head every once in a while in agreement. Soon the eyes of both Elves began to droop heavily and Armeldir gave a long yawn before dropping his head to the table. Galion remained talking to himself for a few moments longer before his voice faded and he, too, nodded off into a deep sleep. Legolas was greatly surprised at how fast the drought had taken effect. He only hoped that he would be able to rouse them later on. But now, it was time for step four: retrieve the Dwarves for departure.
"All right, hobbit," Legolas called out softly. "I've done it. They're asleep now." He heard soft tread of footsteps and suddenly the keys on Armeldir's belt were unhooked and began to float down the hallway. Legolas followed, but stopped at the doorway. "You know where your friends are kept. Good luck."
Legolas leaned against the doorway and waited. And waited... and waited. What is going on? he wondered. He could hear the low voices of the Dwarves drifting down the hallway. He glanced back at the butler and the chief guard, listening for a moment to their heavy, even breathing. Deeming it safe to leave the two sleeping Elves unattended, he went up the corridor and peeked his head into the holding area. The last Dwarf was being freed from his cell and they all stood around, murmuring to each other, awaiting the hobbit's explanation. Legolas called out to the hobbit.
"What are you doing?" he asked exasperatedly. "That sleeping drought isn't going to last forever, you know."
The hobbit gave a start and whirled around, relieved to see that it was only Legolas. "I'm sorry," he said sheepishly. He shot an annoyed glance at the Dwarves. "But, I told you it wouldn't be an easy task."
The head Dwarf, called Thorin, let out a loud snarl. "What is that Elfling doing here?" he grumbled. He took a defensive stance, his feet set firmly on the ground, fists clenched. "Stand your ground, men! We're not about to be taken again."
Legolas entered the room fully and stood tall. Even at his young adolescent age, he stood nearly a foot taller than all of them.
"No, no," the hobbit exclaimed, coming between the two and waving his arms. He put a hand on Thorin's arm and lowered it gently. "This is the king's son and he has offered to help us," he explained soothingly.
The Dwarves eyed him warily and Legolas stared back at Thorin right in the eye, not willing to feel threatened by a gang of dwarves. Meanwhile, the hobbit explained the plan in full detail to the Dwarves. "It will be a bumpy ride," he finished, "but it's our only chance."
Thorin scrutinized Legolas. "And the boy is going to help us escape?" he said, turning to look at the hobbit skeptically.
"Yes," Legolas said, answering for himself. He gestured towards the hobbit. "Although, if it wasn't for my friend here, I would never be helping you in the first place."
"I don't need any help from a pointy-ear," Thorin replied darkly, obviously secure in his own abilities.
"I would like to think otherwise."
"Gentlemen, gentlemen, please!" the hobbit pleaded. "As you can see, we are pressed for time here. We have already wasted most of it, so lets be off."
Thorin gave Legolas another highly scrutinizing look and grunted in acceptance but remained sulky. The hobbit led them out of the dungeons and down to the wine cellar, Legolas taking up the rear. Some of the Dwarves were startled as they saw the two Elves seated at the table but the hobbit assured them that they were asleep. He gestured to the empty barrels that had been stacked and ready for departure. The Dwarves looked apprehensive at first, but relented when the hobbit pleaded with them, telling them that this was their only way out. Together, he and Legolas helped each of the Dwarves into his own separate barrel. They were just about to fit the lid on the last barrel, containing Thorin, when Legolas heard footsteps and voices floating down the corridor. Panicked, he shoved Thorin down into the barrel and slammed the lid shut before the Dwarf had time to protest.
"Hide!" he told the hobbit who obliged quickly. Legolas turned around just as the two Elves entered the room. These were the two Elves that Galion had asked to help him before. Certainly not ones for punctuality, he thought. But that was a blessing for his plan anyway.
"Good evening, your highness," they said, surprised that the young Prince was not outside. "What are you doing here?"
"I was... looking... for... Galion!" Legolas said slowly, trying to come up with an excuse. "But I see that he is asleep now so, uh..."
"Asleep?" one of the Elves exclaimed. They followed Legolas' gaze to the little table where Galion and Armeldir were dozing happily. "How did that happen?" He turned to his friend, a confused look on his face. "We didn't take that long, did we?"
The other Elf walked over to the table and picked up the toppled flagon. He grinned. "Drank himself to sleep, I see. Why, I don't believe it. And the Captain, too! The wine must be extra potent this time if it can make two Wood-Elves fall asleep like babes."
The other Elf crossed his arms over his chest and pouted. "Well, wake him!" he said impatiently to his friend. "We're missing all the fun above!"
Galion was not very happy to have been awoken so roughly, especially by this particular pair of Elves, which only made them laugh. "You're late," he grouched, wiping the sleep from his eyes. "I've been waiting for ages." At this, the Elves laughed a little harder. "What's so funny? Go on, get those barrels rolling!" The Elves exchanged amused looks and did what they were told as Galion scratched his head in wonder, trying to figure out how he had fallen asleep.
A few moments later, the Elves called for the butler's attention. "Galion!" they exclaimed as they leaned the barrels on their sides.
"What?" he snapped moodily.
"You've had so much to drink that you've lost your wits. These barrels are full. You've stacked the wrong ones!"
Legolas' heart caught in his throat. This was it; the hobbit and his friends were done for! He was just about to speak up--to do or say anything to keep them from opening the barrels. Fortunately, Galion and his newly coarse disposition saved the day.
"Oh, get on with it!" Galion growled. "I stacked those barrels myself--no help from you two--and they are empty. Now the least you could do is push them into the river, so just get on with it!"
The Elves, eager to get back to the festivities and undaunted by the butlers foul mood, smiled skeptically. "All right, whatever you say, Galion," they replied and one by one they sent the barrels rolling down the trapdoor with a splash. As Legolas watched, he hoped that the lids were on tight. He cringed to imagine what would happen if a lid popped open and out tumbled a dwarf. Although, it would rather of funny, he admitted.
"Can I raise the portcullis?" Legolas asked, eyeing the rope that lifted the portcullis at the watergate so that the barrels could travel downstream to Esgaroth.
"Go ahead," Galion said through a yawn, still shaking off his sleepiness.
Legolas ran over to the rope and pulled with all his might. It was much heavier than he had expected and he strained as he brought one hand over the other to haul the metal gate. He looked over his shoulder to see if the others were watching him and was surprised to see the hobbit still standing behind some of the barrels, looking frightened. Legolas was so jolted that he let go of the rope and he winced as he heard the loud splash as the portcullis dropped back down into the water. Startled, the others looked up from their tasks. Then one of them frowned at Legolas, pushing him aside and hauling the rope himself with long, fluid pulls.
Legolas raised his eyebrows at the hobbit in a desperate questioning gesture but the hobbit just shrugged. He had been so concentrated on getting the dwarves situated that he had forgot to put himself into one of the barrels!
"Legolas, are you sure you're all right?" Galion asked, genuine concern creeping into his voice. "What is it that you are looking at?"
Legolas kept his eyes on the hobbit as the last barrel was about to be sent downriver. Do something! he urged the hobbit silently. He suppressed a gasp as the hobbit grabbed on to the last barrel in desperation before disappearing altogether from view. Finally, Legolas turned to Galion, his heart pounding in his chest. "Nothing... its nothing," he said assuredly, although the crack in his voice suggested otherwise. He watched as the barrel rolled bumpily over the edge of the doorway, disappearing down the river.
The Elf who had rolled the last barrel sighed as he turned to the rest. "Well, that's the last of them," he announced happily. They were eager to get upstairs to rejoin the ongoing revelries. And at this point, Legolas was too.
After awakening the Captain, who had slept throughout the whole ordeal, the group of Elves grabbed the full wine barrels and made their way out of the cellars, back to the cool fresh air of the outdoors. Legolas walked behind the others as they hurried to join the festivities above. As he did so, he couldn't suppress a wide smile and sense of pride. He could hardly believe how lucky he had been. His plan had been successful, even if it had not worked out perfectly.
But he hoped that the hobbit and his companions would end up all right.
« Author's Notes »
Armeldir » "friend of the king"
The water that Legolas used to put Galion and Armeldir to sleep is from the so-called Enchanted River that runs through northern Mirkwood. That is the same river that Bombur fell into on Bilbo's journey through Mirkwood, for those of you who have read The Hobbit.
In the next chapter we'll be heading back to Rivendell to check up on Ereselle and her siblings. These first few chapters will continue to bounce back and forth between Legolas and Ereselle but not for long! Stay tuned...
Comments are very helpful and most appreciated! Thanks to all of those who have been kind enough to leave comments!